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Pizza?

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Meeting done, heading to you rn.

 

The display of my phone lights up for a second as the message pops up on the screen, but I, don’t answer, turning the music on my ears louder. It’s loud but I don’t register it. The screen turns dark. A woman sits down next to me, her big shopping bag bumping against my lower leg, but it doesn’t hurt.

 

My head is aching. Not from the bag.

 

Are you home yet? Should I cook for you?

 

Another message. The fourth one in a row I didn’t answer. my stomach wrenches and a guilty feeling starts knocking in my brain.

‘Answer him.’

But I don’t, although I know it worries him.

 

The tube arrives at the next station and I look up. Two stations to go, then five minutes and I am at home. And maybe I would feel better then. Maybe. Although I don’t know what’s wrong.

 

Today is one of those days, where you just get up and everything feels wrong from the beginning. It started with my favourite pants feeling weird and on my body and my body felt wrong in them, although they looked the same in the mirror. And then I took them off, tried another pair, with the same results. And then another pair. Now I am wearing my favourite pants again, but still, they don’t feel good.

 

Are you ok?

 

Three simple words popping up on my screen, his soft voice echoing in my head. my gut even wrenches more, tears welling up in my eyes. No I am not, I want to write, but I don’t. I don’t answer. And I know it’s worrying him, because this isn’t normal for me. But answering him also meant answering the following question. Why

 

A question I couldn’t answer, because I were trying to whole day while I became worse and worse. Tired - maybe, but also not. Tired of classes, nearing deadlines and the thought of just getting a few hours of sleep every night? Yes. Definitely. I was so fed up with this. And it wasn’t even finals month. It was in the middle of the term, everything should be working fine. Should.

 

Drained. Also, yes. I felt like everything I did was using all the energy left in me. And there wasn’t much, there wasn’t any to be honest. Recharge was strongly needed, but I didn’t have time for it. That’s what I’ve been telling myself the past weeks and it seemed like today was the day that broke me.

 

“You have until next week to finish the paper, remember.” One thing that mostly happens when someone deals with a lot of assignments: they are most likely to forget one. And I did. The essay for my fiction class about constructing an unusual heroine. A paper I’ve been so eager to write about, because creating characters was such an interesting part of a story. And I forgot it, by setting the deadline in the wrong month. A month later. And now the paper that used to excite me so much, seemed to pull me down finally, drowning me.

 

My eyes fall down on my dark screen. Not answering him is not fair, I know that.

 

You’re ok bubs? I am worried

 

A sharp pain stabs in my heart reading the message, my eyes are watering.

‘Don’t cry.’ I bite my lip, swallowing the tears as good as possible. Five minutes. Just five more minutes.

 

The train arrives at my station and I get up. My knees are feeling weak. People are bumping against me, as I get off the train, but I don’t care. I really don’t. The music is overpowering the thoughts in my head as I walk up the stairs, entering a crowded sidewalk. I pull my bag closer to me, pressing it against my chest, my eyes glued to the ground. People are passing me, I pass them, but I don’t look at them. There is this urge in me to run, but I don’t. I am running all the time and although most of this is just metaphorically, it drains me. So much, that I don’t run actually.

 

I turn right, heading into the street I am living in. Just a few more metres. A few steps. I see the familiar tree in front of my entrance. Its leaves are slowly turning into a variety of autumn bright reds, oranges and yellows, with still a few green spots between them. A woman walks past me, a small dog on a leash next to her, greeting with a nod. Cara and her dog Jam.

My feet feel heavy, as I get up the stairs to the entrance. My whole body is heavy and the staircase is dark.

 

Four, five, six, seven, eight stairs. I unlock the door of my apartment and get in. It’s dark in here, too. My hand wanders over the wall, finally reaching the light switch and I click it. And I am back home, in my small apartment.

 

My small, untidy apartment.

 

I turn off my music, pulling my earphones out. Silence. Absolute silence around me. Not in my head. I let down my backpack, leaving it right next to the pile of shoes and I take off my shoes and jacket.

 

A few, rare sun rays are falling through the window over the sink, in which dirty dishes are piling up. It’s dirty, too. The window. I should consider cleaning it at some point. Not today obviously.

 

I turn away from my messy kitchen, directly into another mess. My bedroom area. The pile of clothes on the floor. The only thing done is my bed, because I fell asleep on top of it last night, wrapped in my favourite grey thin blanket, which is lying scrunched up at the edge of it, almost falling down. My eyes are falling on the stack of books next to my bed with my laptop on top of it. It looks as stable as my emotional level right now: not at all.

 

I have to start my assignment today. Not immediately, after I ate something, although I don’t feel hungry. The most continuous thing I did take to me today was caffeine. A lot of it. And I still feel tired.

 

I sit down on the edge of my bed, unlocking my phone.

‘Just for a minute.’

 

You want pizza? There is a Pizza Express right here.

It’s just a simple message. A sweet, caring one. Making my heart feel warm.

Or should I leave you alone?

 

Warmth turns into a stabbing pain and tears are welling up in my eyes, making it hard for me to see the screen properly. My breath hitches, a dry sob coaxes over my lips. I feel the lump in my throat, the weight pressing down on my chest, making it harder and harder to breathe properly. I don’t want him to leave me alone. Not now. But I also don’t know if I can bear him. Bear that he is around me when I am like that. A mess.

 

I breathe in sharply, the air hurting my throat and I bite my bottom lip, trying to hold myself together. To not snap. But I feel myself slipping, my thoughts drowning me slowly, creeping around the door in my mind, I was keeping closed so well. Or should I leave you alone? His voice inside my head, although he didn’t even say this to me. Just the bare thought of him saying it. A pain stabs into my heart, ripping it apart, overpowering everything else and something in me tips over, opening the door. And I burst.

 

Tears are running down my face, while silent sobs, desperate breaths are coaxing over my lips. My fingers are running through my hair, pressing against my scalp, trying to calm down the mess inside my head. The sharp pain in my heart is spreading through my whole and I want to scream, but my voice doesn’t work. I don’t work at all.

 

A ring on my door. Once, twice. Breaking through the noise in my head. My legs are trembling, as I get up to walk towards the door. I press the button to open the entrance door, but someone knocks outside my door. My hand on the handle, pushing it down and there he stands.

 

Tom. With a pizza box in his hands.  For one second, the chaos in my head stops. Total silence.

 

“Hey.” His soft, brown eyes immediately wander over my face, my red, puffy eyes. And then he doesn’t say anything at all and just steps to me and I step to him. His left arm wraps around me, then his right one. My body hits his, my face his sweatshirt. The smell of his laundry detergent, the familiar scent of his aftershave mix together and I start to sob again.

“He bubs…” Tom whispers in my ear, pulling my closer, as I wrap my arms around him as tight as I can, wanting to just lose myself in the hug. My sobs are stifled by his sweatshirt, my breath is hitching. “Darling he.” His lips brush over my ear, my neck, peppering soft, tender kisses on my skin. “I am here ok?” I nod in his sweatshirt, my face pressed in the crook of his neck. Gently, his fingers start tracing over my back. Up and down. Soft fingertips on my neck, sending a warm shiver down my spine.

 

Slowly, I lift my head from his shoulder, immediately noticing the black spots on his grey sweatshirt. “I am sorry.” My voice is shaking. “I ruined your hoodie.”

Tom shakes his head, his left hand cupping my cheek. “I can wash it, don’t worry.”

A sobbing laughter coaxes my throat and he leans his forehead against mine. “He...what’s wrong?”

The way he looks at me melts my heart, melts away the pain and I gulp, biting my lip. “I just had a…shitty day.”

“University?”

“Everything.” I sigh, feeling my heart sink down. “I just...I don’t know…I…” My words lose themselves and I look down. A tear runs down my cheek, then another and I feel desperate again.
“Shhshh hey.” Fingertips under my chin, pushing it up a little, wiping away the tears. “Darling…”
My eyes meet his fawn, glimmering brown ones. “I’m here.”
“I know, I…” I bite my lip and Tom pulls me closer again, his lips hovering over my forehead. “Let me take care of you ok?”
“I can’t really object right?”
“No.” The edges of his lips curl. “Although you want it so bad, I know.”
I shake my head slowly. “No, I…” I was all in. For all the cuddles, kisses and stupid episodes he wanted to watch with me for the hundredth time. For not jokingly fighting who was the big and who the small soon. For lying in his arms and feeling absolutely safe.
“You’re in?” Tom’s voice is soft and I nod, slowly, seeing him shake his head a little bit. “What?”

 

“Nothing, I….” He licks over his bottom lip, pulling it between his teeth. “I am worried. A lot.”
I want to say sorry. I want to say it so bad that it hurts. “Tom…”
“I’ll try to make this better.” A soft kiss on my forehead. “As best as I can.” Another kiss on my forehead. “Cuddles or pizza first?”

“Cuddles.” Right now, I want nothing more than to lay in his arms, under my soft blanket.
“Ok.” Tom backs up just a little. “Then take off your pants.”
I frown. “That’s not what I thought of when you said cuddles.”
“Look.” His hands grasp my waist. “I love those pants, really. I mean…” A little whistle. “But they are not comfortable for cuddles.”

“And what about yours?” My fingers glide over the waistband of my jeans, slowly unbuttoning it. “Not that I love those on you, but…”

Tom chuckles, his fingers opening the top bottom of his jeans. Then the second one and his hoodie rides a little bit up, showing the waistband of his Calvin’s. “Eh.” He stops, smirking at me. “What did we say?”

“Nothing?”

“Pants off.” A soft kiss on my lips, leaving a tickling behind. I open the zip of my pants, pulling them down and leaving them on the floor. Tom’s hand grasps my waist, pulling me with him, onto my bed. My body sinks into the sheets, head in the soft pillow and I sigh silently. “C’mere.” Soft mumbling next to my ear, he wraps his left arm around my waist, pulling me closer. “Big spoon today ok?”

I nod gingerly, grabbing my soft blanket to drag it over us. Under the blanket, our bodies find together, my back pressed against his chest, his left leg squeezed between mine. His warm skin on mine. Tom pulls me even closer, both of his arms wrapped around me tightly, his face nuzzled into the crook of my neck and his lips hitting my sweet spot softly. A warm, pleasant shiver runs down my spine and a quiet moan escapes my lips.

“You’re comfortable?”

Again, I nod. “Hmm.”

“Good.” His breath brushing over my skin leaves a sweet tickling and I close my eyes, both of our breaths and heartbeats aligning. Tom’s left hand, resting on my stomach, carefully slips under my hoodie, starting to trace over my skin. Hundreds, thousands of soothing shivers run through my body and I sink against him, melting down in the bed. Fondly, his fingers hug the curve of my hip, over the lace waistband of my panties, down my legs and up again. Goosebumps on my skin and I feel his smile pressed against my skin, tears welling up in my eyes. This was exactly what I needed, but didn’t know about until now. Feather light kisses peppered on my neck, wandering up to my ear. Warmth, soothing breath next to my ear, Tom snuggles his face even closer into the crook of my neck, his left hand still under my hoodie, setting my skin on fire. And I just want more of that. More of him.

"Tom?"

"Hmmm?" A soft humming next to my ear, his lips vibrating over my skin.

"Can you rub my back?"

The humming turns into chuckling. "Turn around."

I shift around, straddling myself onto him, my leg now between his, nuzzling my head right on his chest. My left arm around his body, my right hand resting on his chest. He moans slightly and I look up. "You're ok?"

"Yeah." A soft smile on his lips, releasing a few butterflies in my stomach. "My arm just got a little bit squeezed."

"You could have said something."

Tom shakes his head, a few curls falling into his face. "No."

"Tom..."

"No." A kiss on my forehead. "Back rubs."
His right hand slips under my hoodie, under the shirt I am wearing underneath, on my skin. Drawing small circles, his fingers move upwards, gently massaging along my spine, hitting all the right spots. A light moan coaxes my mouth.

"Feels good?"

I nod, my right hand following the example of his, slipping under his hoodie and he sighs a little at my touch. His fingers stop at the back of my bra, unclasping it, then working their way over the spot. Pleasant shivers are running down my spine and every single one of his touches melts me even more.

"Guess who jumped right into a puddle of mud today?"

"Tessa?"
Sighing. "Right. And now she is mad at me."
"Why?"

"Because I had to bathe her." Tom's fingers grasp over my neck, carefully massaging it. "And didn't let her be dirty."

"How could you..." My eyelids flutter a little and he chuckles. "Yeah, I am the worst."

"She loves you anyway."
"Yeah, she is my baby."

He chuckles, pressing a kiss on my forehead. "We could take her to her favourite spot tomorrow?"

"You're free tomorrow?" I prop myself up a little, looking at him, hair strands falling into my face.

"Yepp." He nods, putting some of them back, his fingertips tracing over my cheek. "Maybe I pushed through everything in the meeting today so that I am completely free tomorrow."

My lips curl into a happy smile. The whole day tomorrow. "Seems like we're both free tomorrow."

"No classes?"

From one second to another, my gut wrenches and I feel the nauseous, drowning darkness coming back. "No. I..." I pull my bottom lip between my teeth, biting it lightly.

"Darling..."

"It's nothing...I just..."

The anxiety is creeping up in my body again, reaching for my heart, tightening around my throat. I sink down on his chest again and Tom pulls me up a little. "Talk to me, please." His voice is trembling slightly, cracking my heart.

"I just... it's giving me anxiety." My hand clutches the fabric of his shirt. "Like...all the assignments and the deadline I forgot and then there is work and I feel like I am drowning totally and..." Words stumble over words. A tear runs down my cheek. "I am just...so tired."

Tom stops massaging my back, I feel his silence pressing on me.

"You know I am fucking proud of you?"

"There is nothing to be proud of right now." My sobbing laughter is stifled by his hoodie. "I messed up."

"You didn't." Small circles on my back, fighting against the tiring, overwhelming feeling in my body. "When is your assignment due?"

"Next Thursday."

"Ok." Tom shifts a little under me. "How about we take time for us tomorrow. No alarm clock, breakfast, we take Tess for a walk." For a second, his fingers stop, then continue massaging my back. "And then we go at my place, you can start working on your paper and I'll be there to help you, making coffee and food."

 

A lump forms in my throat and I just want to cry because he is so sweet. "You don't have to..." I look at him. "I mean..."

"Shshshsh." His fingers draw over my lips. "Remember when I had to learn lines and I wasn’t able to?"

I nod.

"You stayed up until three with me, learning those stupid lines." Tom shakes his head, smiling. "Let me help you."

My heart grows so big, pushing away the anxiety. "Ok."

"You can do this, I know this." His fingers grasp my cheek, cupping it. "And for the rest... I won't go. Don't worry. I'll support you wherever I can."

 

Again, tears are welling up in my eyes. "Tom..."

Words are leaving me and I just lean to him, placing a soft kiss on his lips. He kisses me back, our lips melting together, releasing even more butterflies in my stomach. My hand wandering in his neck, burying my fingers in his soft hair.

A soft chuckle against my lips as we part to catch breath. "You taste a little salty."

"Sorry." I wipe over my eyes.

"Don't." Tom smirks. "Not that I don't like that you taste salty sometimes..." A wiggle with his eyebrows and I groan, making him chuckle.

"Sorry." A soft kiss on my nose tip. "Wait..." His fingers gently rub over my cheeks. "You kind of looked like a raccoon."

"So, I am human again?"

"No." Tom shakes his head. "Still a raccoon, but a cute one."

"Thanks." I mumble, nuzzling my head into his crook, feeling the soft laughter vibrating under me. "Idiot."

"My pleasure."

 

Both of his arms wrap around me again, pulling and pushing me, so that we are lying next to each other, our bodies intertwined, my left leg wrapped around his. Tom mumbles something, scooping me closer, into a big hug and I feel like I am drowning in his arms. In a good way. I close my eyes, my hands resting under his shirt, on his warm skin, feeling his heart beating under my fingertips. His steady breath brushes over my skin, his lips ghosting over my skin, sending tickle after tickle through my body. I open my eyes, sneaking a look at him. He has his eyes closed, looking so calm and soft with the curls falling into his face. His lips slightly opened, a light shade of beard stubbles on his cheeks and chin.

I lean to him, placing a soft kiss on his cheek. "I love you."

So much. More I could ever put into words. His lips curl at the edges. "I love you, too."
A soft mumble. His eyelids flutter, fawn brown meeting mine. "Pizza?"