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Even if this was the cave, you wouldn’t be the person to see fire

Chapter Text

   Leon noticed Matthew picking at the frayed armrest of the couch. It was designed to look hospitable, less like the office of a therapist and more like something out of a friend’s home. Leon sensed the therapist not trying to judge them. Well, judgement was the wrong word. He could sense the therapist trying to understand their situation, but things were different for them compared to most. Most people saw a therapist when something had already happened. They were seeing a therapist for something that hadn’t even occurred. It wasn’t that Leon didn’t think that going to a couple’s counselor was necessary. He didn’t mind, especially if it helped Matty out, but people rarely sought help for when they were in a great relationship. 

   And they were. The problem was Matty was convinced that it was going to end. The first words that Matthew had said to him weren’t on his body, but Matthew had had his words. 

   The thing was, Leon hadn’t met his soulmate, they just knew they had mismatching marks. The success rate for couples with mismatched marks was low and those who made it were seen as extraordinary. It was just easier to be with the people they were predestined to be with instead of fighting against nature to be with others. 

   Leon would catch him staring just a moment too long at the words on his hip, when they had sex. The words that hadn’t been Matthew’s own first words. The only reason he knew is because Matthew had recognized the words indelibly etched onto his body when Leon said them. They’d met in a lecture hall and Matthew had sat towards the back, flanked by some of his hockey friends that were in the introductory philosophy class. Leon never sat so far in the back, but never too close to the front that the teacher could call on him if the class stalled. 

   Matthew had said something to the class about the reading, comparing this class to the Allegory of the Cave and clearly making a joke at the professor’s expense. The class had erupted in laughter and even the professor looked like he was trying to suppress a smile. 

   Leon had turned around and rolled his eyes at Matthew, “Even if this was the cave, you wouldn’t be the person to see fire.”

   Matthew’s eyes had widened at first, but his lips curled back in a grin. 

   Leon had turned back around, settling back in his seat as he felt Matthew’s eyes on him for the rest of the class.

   Leon probably wouldn’t have even remembered it if Matthew hadn’t chased after him after class. 

   “Can we talk? I’m Matthew by the way,” Matthew had said.

   “Sure..? I’m Leon,” Leon had replied. 

   “Uh, can we talk privately?” Matthew had said. 

   “Sure,” Leon had said as he followed Matthew back to his dorm room. 

   Matthew had dropped his bag to the floor and hastily took off his hoodie. Leon waited for an explanation as to why they were there. Except Matthew didn’t stop with his hoodie. Instead, he lifted his University of Calgary hockey T-shirt over his head.

   “What are you doing?” Leon had asked as he looked away from Matthew. 

   “Look,” Matthew had said. Leon had blinked hesitantly and stared as Matthew turned to face him. 

   Even if this was the cave, you wouldn’t be the person to see fire.

   The words were inked into Matthew’s skin, right above his heart in clear, black lettering. Sure enough, those were unmistakably the words that Leon had said in class. 

   “You can touch it,” Matthew had said as he noticed Leon’s curiosity. Leon’s hand trembled over Matthew’s chest. It seemed too intimate that Leon could just reach out and touch him, the man who just an hour before was only known to him as his philosophy classmate. 

   “I don’t have yours,” Leon had blurted out. 

   And Matthew’s easy grin slipped, “Shit.” He lifted his shirt off of the floor to put it back on and cover up the words. The cocky hockey player that Leon had seen in class had disappeared and this version of Matthew just seemed shy, embarrassed and dejected. And Leon didn’t really know him, but he hated it. 

   “But I’m also not waiting around for the words either,” Leon had said and shrugged. It was different in Germany and even though he’d been living in Canada for years since high school, he’d internalized the German view of soulmates. Anyone could be a soulmate, you could have multiple, they could be platonic, they could be in a best friend, or they could be romantic. Leon had always assumed his soulmate would be romantic, but he certainly didn’t subscribe to the North American viewpoint that the only person you could be happy with was your soulmate. Matthew did. 

   That had been four years ago. Leon hadn’t understood it at the time, they were just undergrads in college, but Matthew had entered their relationship with the belief that he was bound to be in a tragic love. Maybe if Leon had noticed it earlier, that underneath the surface of the loud, chatty hockey player, there was a young man petrified of rejection, he could have intervened earlier before the seeds of insecurity grew. Sometimes, Leon wondered if he’d said the right things back then if they’d be seeing a couple’s counselor. 

   It just seemed unfair that the world had reaffirmed Matthew’s love for Leon while it seemed to mock Leon’s own. The words on Leon’s hip seemed to taunt both of them every time they made love. Are these meetings always this boring?  

   They weren’t the words that Matthew had said to him and Leon didn’t care, but Matthew did and Leon didn’t know how to make it better.  

   “I just have this constant worry that he’ll meet his soulmate,” Matthew told Dr. Feeny, unable to make eye contact with either Leon or her. 

   Leon reached his hand over to rest supportively on Matthew’s knee. He knew it wasn’t easy for his boyfriend to open up, let alone to a stranger. 

   “It hasn’t happened yet, has it?” Dr. Feeny asked.

   “No, but it’s going to, it always happens, right? What’s the point in having a soulmate if you never meet them?” Matthew asked bitterly.

   “But you don’t know when that could be,” Dr. Feeny said patiently. 

   “How do you feel about this, Leon?” Dr. Feeny asked. 

   “I love Matthew,” Leon shrugged as if it was that simple, “I’ve loved him for years, I want to be with him, and I don’t see anything or anyone changing that. Whether or not I meet the person who says my words I don’t think that I’ll fall in love with someone else, especially not because they say the words on my hip.”

   “I know he thinks that, but when he meets them I just think everything is going to change."

   Leon frowned, knowing that their time was going to be ending soon and they were still at an impasse, rehashing the same conversation that they’d been having for the past three years. 

   “Let’s try living in the present,” Dr. Feeny said, “I want you to work on trying to appreciate each other right now. Enjoy the physical intimacy of being with each other and have conversations about the present and then we’ll see how it goes for next time.” 

   “I’m pretty sure Dr. Feeny told us to have sex,” Leon whispered to Matthew as they walked out to the elevator holding hands. Matthew smiled faintly.

   “That was rough, wasn’t it?” Leon said as he gently rubbed his thumb over the back of Matthew’s hand.

   “Yeah,” Matthew replied. 

   “Why are you so convinced that I’m going to leave you?” Leon asked as they headed home. 

   Matthew shrugged, “There’s someone out there who is perfect for you. Why would you pass that up, I wouldn’t want you to.”

   “There is nobody out there who is perfect for me,” Leon said, “Not the person who says the words, not my exes, and not you. That’s not what a soulmate is, that’s not what a relationship is, but that doesn’t mean that what we have isn’t good or isn’t important.”

   “Yeah, I guess,” Matthew said and stared out the window. 

 

   Leon felt like for the rest of the weekend, they were dancing around each other, careful not to step on the minefield in their relationship. He kept telling Matthew he loved him, trying to show him with his body, too. Leon loved Matthew and he knew Matthew loved him and that should be enough. It just wasn’t. Going to work on Monday was a slight reprieve from the conversation that they just seemed to put a pause on every now and then.

   “How was your weekend?” Ryan asked.

   Leon shrugged, “Fine, hung out with Matty. How was yours?”

   “Good,” Ryan filled him in about what he did over the weekend. “Oh, have you met the new guy yet?” Ryan asked Leon as he leaned over the edge of his cubicle.

   “Not yet, why? Does he seem cool?” Leon asked. 

   Ryan shrugged, “His name’s Connor, he seems fine, he’s a transplant from the Edmonton office, you’ll get to meet him at the staff meeting later.”

   Leon didn’t think much of it until he showed up a few minutes late to the meeting and noticed a new face he didn’t recognize. 

   The guy, Connor, leaned over towards Leon, “Are these meetings always this boring?” 

   “Always,” Leon smirked, “But you get to daydream in them.”

   Connor blinked and smiled, “This meeting just got a hell of a lot more interesting.” 

   Leon’s throat dried up. Those were the words on his hip and based on Connor’s reaction, he was pretty sure Connor had his own words somewhere on his body. He knew almost immediately that he wasn’t attracted to Connor, but he could see them becoming good friends.

   When the meeting ended, Connor stuck around, “Want to grab beers after work?”

   “Sorry, but I have someone waiting for me at home,” Leon said, making it clear that even if they were soulmates, Matthew was in the picture and he wasn’t going anywhere, “See you tomorrow, Connor. Welcome to Calgary.”

 

   So Leon went home. The entire train ride home, Leon wondered if he should tell Matthew. He knew the news would hurt him and he knew not telling him would also hurt him. 

   “Hi,” Matthew said as he heard the door open and Leon arrived back home. 

   “Hey,” Leon said. He sank into Matthew, burying his face into Matthew’s curls and 

   “Rough day?” Matthew asked.

   “You have no idea,” Leon said. He pulled away for a second to study Matthew’s gently curious expression and then he kissed him with passion and fervor that seemed out of place for the post-work greeting. 

   “What was that for?” Matthew asked. And Leon knew he had to tell him, he just couldn’t bear to see the look on Matthew’s face when he said it. 

   “I love you,” Leon said, “I love you so much.”

   Matthew’s smile froze, “I love you, too.”

   Leon held Matthew’s hands in his own, trying to savor the last couple of moments before he shattered Matthew’s world, “I met him today, the guy whose words I have. His name’s Connor.”

Chapter Text

   Matthew’s hands trembled in Leon’s own and Leon clamped down on them. He was pretty sure he was witnessing Matthew’s heart break. 

   “It doesn’t mean anything,” Leon said, “I’m with you and I love you. I love you, Matty.”

   “Okay,” Matthew said and he pasted a smile on his face that was usually reserved for his father after they fought. Leon had rarely seen it directed towards him and certainly never out of the context of soulmates. 

   Matthew pulled away, out of Leon’s grasp and turned back to the stove. 

   “Do you want to talk about it?” Leon asked.

   “What’s he like?” Matthew asked.

   Leon shrugged, “He seems fine.” 

   “What does he look like?” Matthew asked. 

   “Don’t do this, Matty,” Leon warned. 

   “Why not?” Matthew asked. 

   “Because you’re just torturing yourself,” Leon said.

   “Is he amazing?” Matthew asked.

   “No,” Leon replied. 

   Matthew gave a watery chuckle that broke Leon’s heart, “That’s even worse. If he was so extraordinary than I would understand why he was your soulmate, but if he’s just fine, what does that say about me.”

   There was a lot to unpack there and Leon gently pushed the spoon down from where Matthew was vigorously stirring the sauce in the skillet. Leon carefully turned off the stove, prepared to abandon whatever meal Matthew had planned for them in lieu of ordering takeout. 

   “Matty, you are amazing. You are extraordinary,” Leon said, “That has nothing to do with me or this relationship or Connor.” He said the last part a little lower as if Connor’s name was now taboo. 

   “I just want to know why he’s your soulmate, why he was made for you,” Matthew said miserably. 

   Leon pulled him close, “I don’t know. I wish I did, I wish I had your words on me, but I don’t. It would be so much easier if I did, and it would hurt you so much less.”

   “I just want to know who the guy is that you’re leaving me for,” Matthew said. 

   “I’m not leaving you,” Leon said, “Babe, I’m not going anywhere. We’re going to get through this, okay and whether that means we see Dr. Feeny every week from now on, that’s fine.”

   “It just feels like everything that I feared is happening,” Matthew said. 

   “I love you,” Leon said and that was all he could do to try and quell Matthew’s fears. 

   Neither of them had a particular appetite for their dinner but they ordered a pizza from the pizzeria across the street and sat in silence. Connor had thrown a wrench into their relationship and even though Leon wanted to do nothing that would feed into Matthew’s insecurities. They were going to work together. They were going to eat lunches together and commiserate in meetings together and Leon knew that most likely they would eventually end up as friends. 

   They lay on the couch together, Matthew pressed up against Leon’s chest. Neither of them were watching the show that had become their Tuesday night ritual. Leon buried his face into Matthew’s shoulder gently kissing the bare skin and trying to reassure him. It didn’t escape him, the way that Matthew was trembling in his embrace. 

   The worst part was knowing that he had caused Matthew’s insecurities to skyrocket. For a fleeting moment, he wondered if he’d made the right decision to tell Matthew that he’d met Connor. He knew that Matthew deserved honesty and keeping such a secret from him would be a lie by omission. He knew that if, down the line, he had kept things secret and Matthew found out that Connor had said his words through mutual friends or God forbid an office party, he would be obliterated.

   But the news had already devastated Matthew, and Leon just wished that they could held onto the normalcy and routine that they had crafted for themselves over past couple of years.

   “I have a couple of days that I can take off of work,” Leon said, “Do you want to maybe just have a staycation?” 

   “I don’t want you to get into trouble,” Matthew said.

   “Work will understand,” Leon said. 

   “You don’t have to,” Matthew said.

   “I want to, but I want you to want me to be home,” Leon said, “I want us to be good.”

   “I just need some time,” Matthew said. 

   “Okay,” Leon said, he just hoped that time and meetings with Dr. Feeny would be enough to get them through this. For the first time in their relationship, despite all the bickering and fights that they’d had throughout the years, he wasn’t sure if they’d make it through.

   They went to bed early that night, crawling under the covers and willing the catastrophic day to be over.

   “I’ll always choose you, Matty,” Leon said, “I love you and nothing and nobody will ever change that.”

   “I love you, too, Leon so much,” Matthew said. 

 

   As promised they took the next couple of days off from work. Leon felt oddly relieved that he wouldn’t have to see Connor for the next few days while he could work on his relationship with Matthew.

   It was nice to be able to stay in sweatpants all day and just hold onto Matthew eschewing all of their obligations and temporarily staying inside their own bubble.

   All of Matthew’s touches lingered longer than usual, as if he was afraid that the minute he stopped, the moment he let go, it would be the last time. When they made love, Matthew looked so tentative and nervous, that Leon found himself stopping and making sure that Matthew was okay. Leon wondered how the introduction of Connor could introduce such a fragility to their relationship that he had considered unshakeable in the weeks before. 

   The worst part was that Connor hadn’t actually done anything except be a new variable in their relationship. Maybe it had been fragile all along and Leon hadn’t realized it. He knew that other couples had gone to therapy before so when Matthew had suggested it, he hadn’t thought too deeply into it, but maybe all along, Matthew had viewed their relationship as temporary, like he was just a stand-in until Leon heard those words uttered. If that was true, Leon’s heart broke at the thought of all the pain Matthew had been in over the years. He just didn’t know how to fix things.   

   He spent the next couple of days trying to make sure that Matthew felt loved and wanted and appreciated even more so than usual. He picked up takeout from the place Matthew always suggested when they were celebrating a job promotion or a birthday hoping that it would cheer Matthew up. 

   “What’s going on in that beautiful head of yours?” Leon asked as he played with Matthew’s curls.

   “Just thinking,” Matthew said, holding his cards close to his heart.

   “Is there anything you want to share?” Leon asked.

   Matthew shook his head, “I just want you to be happy. That’s all I’ve ever wanted.”

   “I am. With you,” Leon emphasized as he pushed their foreheads together. He was certain that there was more going on, and if Matthew wasn’t going to talk to him, he just hoped that he’d talk to somebody. 

 

   “How are you?” Connor asked when Leon trudged into work after he and Matthew had ended their staycation.

   “I’m okay,” Leon said hesitantly. Connor hadn’t done anything wrong and the way with which Leon had abruptly left had had to hurt. And then not showing up for a few days had certainly caused well-meaning speculation among his coworkers who know Leon rarely missed work.  

   “Sorry about the other day, I was just kind of taken aback,” Leon said.

   “I don’t blame you,” Connor said kindly, “I was kind of surprised too."

   Connor saw a picture on his desk catch Leon’s eye. Connor was holding a friendly-looking woman around her waist and smiled in front of some neon sign that Leon vaguely recognized from a hot bar in Calgary.

   “That’s Emily, my girlfriend,” Connor said, “Hey, do you want to, and don’t feel obligated to, but maybe grab a beer later, maybe we can talk about things.”

   “I can only be your friend, Connor, just so we’re on the same page,” Leon said.

   “Good, same,” Connor said. 

   “I have to talk to my partner,” Leon said, “But yeah, I’d like that.”

   “How’s he doing with all of this?” Connor asked. 

   Leon shrugged, not willing to divulge the cracks in his relationship with someone who was practically a stranger. “I’ll let you know tomorrow though.”

 

   Before Leon had even suggested it, he knew there was a fight brewing ahead of them. The sooner that he and Connor set up boundaries and expectations, the better it would be for all of them. He also knew that meeting with Connor would make Matthew anxious. 

   “I think I’m going to grab a drink after work with Connor, just to set up boundaries and expectations,” Leon said, “If that’s okay with you?”

   Matthew shrugged, though the tension in his frame said that he was anything but okay with it. 

   “It’s just grabbing drinks with a work colleague. If this was Ryan or Oskar you wouldn’t care,” Leon said.

   “But it’s not, it’s not Ryan or Oskar, it’s Connor, your soulmate ,” Matthew spat, “I mean why bother coming home afterwards anyways.” Leon knew, he knew it was the hurt talking but he had never once cheated in their relationship. He knew that Matthew had been terrified of him leaving and despite the work that Matthew had done in therapy, he knew the insecurities were still there, he knew 

   “I’m not cheating on you, this is not cheating, but Connor and I need some time to navigate things especially since we’ll be working together. I’m not going to be a dick and ignore him because that hurts you. I know it does, and I’m trying the best I can here to make sure that you and I are good and that I’m not being mean to Connor.”

   “I know it’s not cheating,” Matthew said, “I just, I don’t like any of this.”

   “I know,” Leon said, “But this is foreign for all of us, okay. I know you’ve been affected by this, Matty. I know that, but I have too and I’m trying to be as open and transparent with you about this as possible, but I need time to figure things out as well.”

   “Okay,” Matthew said.

   “Matty, look at me,” Leon said, “I’m just grabbing drinks with him. That’s all. I’m coming home to you.”

 

   After work Leon texted Matthew to let him know he would be a little late. They picked a bar near work, a place that Leon had been to a few times on the rare occasion they all were willing to stay after work and catch up. 

   Connor had made some easy small talk about not knowing how much stuff you have until you have to move everything across the country. It was a neutral topic, something to ease into the heavy conversation later.

   “My partner and I were unpacking for months when we moved in together and we had both lived in Calgary for some time,” Leon said. 

   “What’s your partner’s name?” Connor asked.

   “Matthew,” Leon said, “Not Matt. Do you want to see a picture of him?” 

   Connor nodded and Leon flipped through his phone to find a photo of the two of them on vacation from last summer. They had been so happy as Leon had taken him back home to Koln for the second time. Matthew’s head was tilted into Leon’s body and his eyes were squinted to try and block out the sun’s glare, but they had been happy. 

   “I thought we were good,” Leon shrugged, “But I guess this whole time he’s been preoccupied with the words on my hip. I wish I had his, but I have yours.” 

   “I don’t like the idea of soulmates,” Connor said, “Or at least don’t hold them as a hard and fast rule.”

   “Emily’s soulmate died before we met,” Connor said simply, “And for a while it really fucked her up, the idea that she was meant to be alone for the rest of her life. And then I hadn’t met you, but I can’t imagine waiting my life to hear those words only to find someone I wasn’t romantically attracted to and pass up my wonderful relationship.”

   “How do you feel about this?” Leon asked.

   “Fine,” Connor shrugged, “Emily and I talked about this, I think she was a little relieved that you were a man because well, you’re not my type, but I do want to be friends with you.”

   Leon smiled, relieved that Connor was on the same page. He’d accept Connor’s friendship, he’d accept anyone’s friendship at this point, and he was just grateful that he wouldn’t have to break anyone’s heart to protect his relationship. 

   “I’m actually going to propose to her soon,” Connor confided in him. 

   “Congratulations,” Leon said.

   “You can save it for when she says yes,” Connor said. 

   Leon smiled, “I’m going to tell Matthew all about this, just so you know.”

   “I’d hoped you would, and if you want me to meet him or maybe go on a double date, if you think that would help, Emily and I would really like to meet him,” Connor offered.

   “Maybe,” Leon said.

 

   Leon headed home, finally feeling some relief that he and Connor were on the same page about what they wanted. They were both in love with other people, but they could be friends. His contentment drained though when he saw a row of suitcases in their apartment the minute he opened the doors.  

   “What’s going on?” Leon asked as his heart sank.

   Matthew was already crying as he stood in the foyer, “I can’t do this, I’m sorry.”

   “What are you talking about?” Leon asked. 

   “I can’t stay here and be with you anymore,” Matthew said. 

   “Babe, is this because I grabbed a drink with Connor because I’ll tell you everything we talked about, he doesn’t really believe in soulmates,” Leon pleaded as he reached to hold Matthew’s hands, “He has a girlfriend named Emily who he wants to marry.”

   “I just, I can’t stick around and watch you fall in love with him,” Matthew said.

   “I’m not going to,” Leon said, starting to cry now too, “I love you, I want to be with you.”

   “And I know you feel this way, I know that, but I can’t be home waiting for you to come back and wondering if this is the day that you fell in love with him. I can’t wait for you to fall out of love with me or worse stick around and wonder what it would be like to be with Connor.”

   “He’s a platonic soulmate,” Leon said.  

   “You can’t be sure of that,” Matthew said.

   “Why are you so certain that my feelings for you are mutable?” Leon asked, starting to feel angry. 

   “Because he’s your soulmate,” Matthew said.  

   “And you’re my boyfriend,” Leon said, feeling frustrated at the way this conversation was spiraling out of his control. If you leave, that is on you,” Leon said, “You walk out that door and you say we’re done that’s your decision. I love you and I want to be with you and I’ll tell you that every day for the rest of my life if it will make you happy, but I’m not the one ready to walk out on this relationship. We’ve been together for four years, I’m not ready to throw that away because I met someone who talked about how boring the meeting we were in was.”

   “I’ve just always wanted you to be happy,” Matthew said as he picked up his suitcases and gently kissed Leon’s cheek with a finality that he’d made up his mind. Leon was pretty sure that he’d made up his mind before Leon had even arrived home. 

   “No, you’re just being a coward now,” Leon said. The words made Matthew flinch and they were probably both true. Matthew did want him to be happy, but he was leaving out of fear, deciding what was best for Leon and least painful for himself. 

   “Goodbye, Leon,” Matthew said. Leon could have asked where he was going to go, and if he was going to be okay, but he didn’t. They had turned into Matthew’s self-fulfilling prophecy and it was all his doing.

Chapter Text

   “Do you know what Plato said about soulmates?” Matthew asked as he flung his leg over Leon’s waist, trapping him under the covers of their too small college dorm bed.

   “You did the reading,” Leon said. 

   “I’ve just been reading more of Plato lately,” Matthew said. 

   “Tell me,” Leon said, propping himself up onto one arm and turning to face Matthew. 

   “He said that when the gods created us, they made us one soul with two heads, four arms, and four legs, and that we were too powerful, so they split us up. And we were meant to walk around earth to find the other person who completes you to become whole again.”

   “Do you believe it?” 

   “What?” Matthew asked.

   “In soulmates? In Plato’s idea of them?”

   “I think it’s an incredibly sad view of soulmates,” Matthew said. 

   “That’s not a no,” Leon said. 

   “I think soulmates are great for those that work out, but they don’t always,” Matthew said. 

   Leon woke up from his sleep remembering that for the first time in a while. At the time, he’d thought that Matthew had been referring to the people who’d lost their soulmates or couldn’t be with them because of social taboos, but now that he thought back to it, he wondered if Matthew had considered them to be one of ill-fated couples that were predestined to be unhappy from the start. 

   Maybe all along there was so much that Leon had missed, there were so many insecurities that Matthew had had and had hid that Leon had only recently seen. It was easy to blame Connor’s entrance into their lives as the impetus for Matthew leaving him, but the more he mused over it, the more he saw the inherent cracks that had been in the foundation of the relationship that he’d been oblivious towards. The truth was, even if Leon hadn’t met Connor, he wasn’t sure that they would have survived long-term. 

   He’d spent the weekend crying, getting drunk, and picking up all traces of Matthew and putting them in a box at the back of his closet. Matthew had taken all of his essentials and clothes with him, but in case he ever came back for the rest of it, it would be there for him. 

   “How’s Matthew?” Connor said, and Leon had had to excuse himself to the bathroom to not throw up at the mention of him alone. That must have answered Connor’s question enough because he didn’t mention Matthew again. 

   He didn’t ask if Leon was okay or for the sordid details of what happened. Instead, he brought him a mid-morning cup of coffee and set it on the end of his desk which Leon was appreciative of. Leon also suspected that Connor had told people around the office not to inquire about Matthew even though nobody said anything. 

 

   There was a tremendous guilt and sadness that Connor carried in their friendship that was reminiscent of the way that Matthew had felt, and it wasn’t his fault. 

   Leon thought back to Plato’s opinion of soulmates, he was pretty sure he’d found his other half in Matthew even if they weren’t predestined by the universe to be together. If Plato was right, and people spent their entire lives searching for their other halves, he wondered what Plato would have said for those who lost them. Plato would have probably been so damn disappointed in them.  

   “I’m really sorry about Matthew,” Connor said when they were finally able to talk about him a few weeks later. Leon had invited Connor over after work to watch TV and drink beers. He was the first person that Leon had had over to their house since that night that Matthew had left.

   “It’s not your fault,” Leon said as he played with the rim of his beer bottle, “We had problems beforehand, I just didn’t see them until it was too late. But tell me about Emily, have you decided how to propose?” 

   “Probably over the holidays,” Connor said. “We’re heading to her hometown the week before Christmas to spend some time with her family.”

   “Let me know how it goes,” Leon said. 

   “I will,” Connor said. 

 

   Christmas Party? Leon sighed at the invitation from Sam. He’d been a friend of Matthew’s who had become a good acquaintance of Leon’s over the years. He’d left Matthew’s workplace a little while ago and had probably missed the fallout of the breakup, hence the invitation that he extended to Leon. 

   Thanks for the invite Sam, but we broke up. So probably going to miss it this year.

   You broke up with Matty? Sam replied almost immediately.

   No

   Then come anyways, and fuck him. Leon almost laughed at the way that Sam’s loyalty shifted in the text conversation. 

   I don’t know, maybe.

   Please, I can even make out with you to make him jealous . Leon rolled his eyes but smiled at the message.

   Okay. I’ll stop by for a little bit

   Leon almost chickened out when it was time for the party. He knew that Matthew was going to be there, there was no chance that he wouldn’t be. Leon wasn’t sure if he was ready to see him.

 

   Leon grabbed his Grinch ugly Christmas sweater and talked himself into taking the Uber to Sam’s apartment. He tried to tell himself that it was to see the mutual friends that he’d missed seeing after the breakup. Sam had invited him and even after knowing that Matthew and he had broken up, he had still wanted Leon to be there and well, that meant a lot. 

   “Hey,” Sam said as he hugged Leon in greeting, “Glad you could make it.”

   Leon caught Matthew’s eye across the room from where he stood talking to Mark and his wife. 

   “I may have to take you up on that offer to make out with you to make him jealous,” Leon said. 

   “I’ll have to have a few more beers for that,” Sam laughed. 

 

   Leon mingled around the room, saying hello and catching up with some of Matthew’s friends that he hadn’t seen for a while. This whole apartment was full of Matthew’s friends who had become his own over the course of their relationship, but Leon knew where their loyalties lay. Nevertheless, despite surely having heard Matthew’s side of the break up, they still treated Leon like he was meant to be there. 

   “Hey,” Leon said as Matthew sided up next to him later in the evening, “I was wondering if you were going to come over and talk.”

   “I wasn’t sure if you’d want me to,” Matthew admitted. 

   Leon shrugged, “We have the same friends, we can’t avoid each other every time we show up in the same place.”

   “So how are you doing?” Matthew asked.

   Leon shrugged, “Been better.” 

   “How’s Connor?” Matthew asked. 

   Leon rolled his eyes, “He’s fine.”

   “Are you…?” Matthew trailed off uncertainly, but Leon was sure of what he was implying. Are he and Connor together now? 

   “I can’t do this with you, Matthew, not here, not again,” Leon said as he set his cup down on the table, unable to spot a trash can nearby and hoping that Sam would find it to clean up later, “Merry Christmas,” he said as he pulled on his coat and hastily left the party, not even bothering to seek Sam out to let him know that he was leaving and to thank him for the party.  

   “Wait,” Matthew called after him as he ran out of Sam’s apartment and caught Leon waiting for the elevator.

   “Can we talk?” Matthew asked, “Please.”

   “Do you really think that after four years together, I would just move on?” Leon started to fight back but took a deep breath and paused, “Look, I don’t want to rehash the past and have the same fight that we’ve been having,” Leon said, “I just want to go home.”

   “Okay, just, I didn’t ask that question because I thought you’d moved on,” Matthew said, “I just, I really hoped that you and Connor had gotten together so that I could say that my decision was justified and that I didn’t make the worst mistake of my life by leaving you and us.”

   Leon snorted, “You’re looking for absolution for hurting me and ending our relationship.” 

   “Yeah, maybe, but I meant what I said earlier, all I’ve ever wanted was for you to be happy. I was just scared that I wouldn’t be able to make you happy.”

   “Matty, being with you was the happiest I’ve ever been,” Leon said sadly, “I’m kind of fucking miserable lately.”

   “So am I,” Matthew said, “So maybe we could not be miserable together.”

   “You broke my heart, Matty,” Leon said. 

   “I’m sorry,” Matthew said, “For what it’s worth I broke my own heart.”

   “But you weren’t the only one at fault,” Leon admitted and Matthew looked at him stunned, “Do you want to go back to my place so that we can talk?” It was his place now instead of theirs. 

   “Yeah,” Matthew said. They Ubered back to Leon’s place and he could see Matthew trying to figure out how and what to say in the privacy of the apartment. 

   “Can I get you anything to drink?” Leon asked.

   “Just some water, please,” Matthew answered, “You removed the photos of us.”

   “Yeah,” Leon said, “They’re in a box if you want them, they were too hard to look at.”

   “Um, I wanted to tell you how sorry I was for ruining things between us and for being jealous of Connor. You did and said everything right and that wasn’t fair of me to act like you shouldn’t get to know Connor or be friends with him. All I could think about was how amazing he must be and I felt so fucking inadequate and useless and then I hurt you so badly and you didn’t deserve that.”

   “I didn’t know how bad it was,” Leon admitted, “I didn’t know how much you were struggling even before I met Connor or we started going to Dr. Feeny and I wish I did. I would have done so many things differently.”

   “You did everything right,” Matthew said. 

   “I couldn’t keep you,” Leon said sadly.

   “You could still have me, if you want,” Matthew said.

   “I can’t go back to the way that things were,” Leon said. 

   “I know,” Matthew agreed.

   “You can’t punish me for not having your words on me,” Leon said, “That’s not fair to me.”

   “I know,” Matthew said. 

   “And Connor and I are friends and that’s not changing,” Leon said.

   “I wouldn’t ask you to not be friends with him,” Matthew said.

   “I actually think both of you would get along really well if you met,” Leon said.

   “Maybe we could all have dinner together some time,” Matthew said.

   “I’d like that,” Leon said, “and I know that Connor and Emily would too.”

   “You know, it took me about two weeks to realize I’d made a horrible mistake. Dr. Feeny was so fucking disappointed in me and so were Brady and Taryn even though they never said it and I just wanted you back. I drove past here so many times thinking about coming to see you and beg for you to take me back,” Matthew said.

   “Why didn’t you?” Leon asked. 

   “I didn’t think I deserved it,” Matthew said, “Not after throwing away a four-year relationship because I was insecure and jealous.”

   “You deserve to be happy, Matty,” Leon said, “and you deserve a second chance we both do. But things have to be different, we have to keep seeing Dr. Feeny and you have to promise me that you’ll tell me if things are starting to get bad again.”

   Matthew visibly relaxed and pulled Leon close to him, wrapping his arms around Leon’s neck and pressing their bodies flush against each other, “Thank you, I promise.”

 

   “Do you remember when we first started dating you told me about Plato’s idea of soulmates? That humans had two heads, four arms and legs, and then were split, having to spend the rest of their lives searching for their missing halves?”

   “I remember it,” Matthew said. 

   “All I could think about was how and I had found my missing half in you and lost it,” Leon said, “I don’t care about my words, I don’t really even care about soulmates, but I know that if soulmates are real you’re the closest thing I’ll ever have to one.”

   Matthew’s eyes had become watery and glistened in the dim lighting. 

   “I think Plato would be pretty proud of us,” Leon said.

   “We found each other and then we lost each other,” Matthew said.

   “Yeah, but then we found each other again and you forgot why people were split in the first place because they were too powerful together. I think we’re the strongest we’ve ever been.”