Chapter 10 : Falling in Love
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Over the next two weeks we went out another four times, bringing our total number of dates up to seven. We also began spending time at each other's flats, but never spending the night. Yet, somehow, I didn't mind. As Ashtyn pointed out after our sixth date, I was learning that a relationship is a lot more than sex. It was probably slightly pathetic that I was just learning this at the age of 29, but better late than never, I suppose.
What I liked best was that Matt was such a good listener. He was always willing to listen to my rants about work or my family or basically anything else, and always seemed interested, no matter how trivial the matter. I'd never had a boyfriend so willing to just sit on the couch and talk before.
We seemed to be moving fast in some senses and slow in others. Without the added baggage of having to learn about each other's families and past we jumped right into the comfortable stage of the relationship, skipping over all the awkward beginnings. Yet, we didn't seem to move past cuddling in terms of the physical side of things. The longer that went on, the more I was okay with it, despite the lingering question in my mind of why Matt was stalling.
Albus returned home from his latest mission shortly before our one month anniversary and the two of us sprung the news on him the day after his usual day of sleep, showering, and food. We'd already told Becca the week before, when she came home.
Albus seemed surprised to see me sitting on his couch with Matt when he emerged from his room mid-afternoon. Apparently he had needed another half day of sleep.
“Lily?” he asked, crossing from his room to the living room. “This is the second time you've came to see me as soon as I've gotten home.”
I glanced quickly at my right hand, which was clasped in Matt's left hand. Clearly Albus hadn't noticed.
“Matt and I have been going out for nearly a month now,” I explained. Might as well just tell him. No point in beating around the bush.
Matt nodded, yawning as he did so. He'd been exhausted the entire day, although I had no idea why since it was Sunday.
Albus grinned. “Awesome. I'd forgotten you two went out. I suppose it's working, then?”
“Very much,” I said.
“Great. I really am happy for the both of you, but I don't want details.”
Matt laughed. “Don't worry.”
“Excellent,” Albus said as he disappeared into the kitchen. He returned moments later with a bag of crisps. He settled onto the armchair to eat them. “So, now that I've slept for 36 hours, do you two want to go to the pub tonight? Becca should be back in a few hours and we could all go together.”
“Yes!” I exclaimed. “It'll be a double date!”
“I think I'm too exhausted,” Matt said, giving Albus some sort of look that I couldn't read.
Realization seemed to dawn in Albus's eyes. “Oh. Okay. Maybe in a few days, then? Both of us should be here for at least another week.”
I turned to Albus and then to Matt, who still looked tired. His face was unusually pale and there were bags under his eyes.
“Do you mind waiting a few days, Lily?” Matt asked.
“Not at all,” I said. “Are you okay, though?”
Matt nodded. “I will be. I'm just coming down with something.”
“He's ill all the time,” Albus explained. “Best to just get used to it.”
“Hey!” Matt said. “Not all the time.”
“More than the average person,” Albus said. “I'll put it that way.”
“I don't care,” I said, cuddling even closer to Matt. “I still like him anyway.”
“Okay, I don't need to see that,” Albus said, shuddering. “I'm off to the Ministry to do paperwork.”
I laughed as Albus left. There were definite benefits to dating your brother's best friend and one of the top ones was grossing your brother out by cuddling with said best friend on the couch.
Matt and I stayed in his flat for the remainder of the day and most of that was spent cuddling on the couch. He fell asleep mid-afternoon and I snuck out to get chicken noodle soup and was back before he even noticed I was gone. I'd contemplated making chicken noodle soup from scratch, but figured it'd be a bad idea to do that while Matt's immune system was already compromised.
“You going to skip work tomorrow?” I asked as we sat on the couch listening to the Kenmare Tutshill match on the wireless after dinner.
“Probably,” Matt mumbled.
“Do you want me to come over after I get out of work?” I reached over and felt his forehead with the back of my hand. “You're a bit warm.”
Matt shook his head. “No, I don't want you to get it. I'll let you know when I'm better.”
I gave him a withering look. “I've been with you all day. I'm already exposed. Plus, I rarely ever get ill.”
“Still, don't come over,” Matt pressed. “I'll sleep all day anyway. There'd be no point.”
“Okay,” I said, sighing. It was really odd that he let me stay all day today and doesn't want me there tomorrow. “Well, there's extra soup for tomorrow.”
“Thanks,” Matt replied, yawning. “I think I'm actually going to go to bed.”
I nodded. “I should go home and clean my flat a bit. I hope you feel better soon.”
“Thanks. I'll see you soon.”
“Yeah. Good night,” I said, kissing him. “See? I don't care about germs.”
Matt gave a small laugh. “Good night, Lily.”
Maybe Matt was one of those types of people who hated when anyone else saw them ill, I thought on my way out. That would explain why he didn't want me to come over tomorrow. Either that or he simply just didn't want to hang out with anyone and just sleep. It was probably that. Oh, well, having time to myself would certainly be beneficial to my very messy flat.
It was very difficult not to go over to Albus and Matt's flat the next two days. I wanted nothing more than to surprise Matt with another tub of chicken noodle soup and the offer of cuddling on the couch all evening. I loved nothing more than being lazy after work and reading all night, except perhaps going to the pub. But I knew if I did that Matt would be upset and he'd possibly kick me out, just judging by how adamant he was about my not coming over until he was better.
Which was why I spent all of Tuesday evening sitting by my fireplace, hoping that the flames would turn green and Matt would show up, proclaiming his perfect health. I'd done the same thing Monday, but with less certainty that it would happen. And it didn't. But today, Tuesday, was two days after he first got ill. Yet Tuesday night went by without a Floo call and the urge to go over to his flat on Wednesday was overwhelming.
“You've been distracted,” Bradley commented as he refilled his mug with tea for the tenth time.
“So have you,” I said. “You've been pounding tea all day.” It was odd that Bradley noticed my distraction. Usually he was too absorbed in his work to notice what I was up to.
Bradley shrugged. “I'm always distracted by something or the other. But you're usually focused.”
I tried not to laugh. That just showed how clueless Bradley really was; I was always distracted by something as well. It just wasn't usually so...distracting.
“Well?” Bradley prompted. “What's up? Does this have to do with your new boyfriend? Did you find out he spends all his money buying Quidditch memorabilia and lives in his mum's basement?”
“No,” I muttered. “He's perfectly lovely, actually. What has you drinking ten cups of tea?”
“I heard back from Shawna Gordon. She's made an appointment.”
“So?” I asked. “Isn't that sort of the point of what you do?”
“It's a month from now. She insists on bringing her parents. She needs the time to muster up the courage to tell them. At least that's what I think. She told me that they're going on a cruise for their anniversary and won't be back for a few weeks,” Bradley muttered.
I grimaced. Bradley hated when the adoption case kids brought their parents to meetings because they almost always got extremely defensive and blamed the entire situation on Bradley, as if he was forcing their kid to find their birth parents. That's why Bradley had been so excited that Shawna was of age. Usually when the kid was of age, they hide the entire thing from their parents. Probably not the best idea for the kid, but Bradley could be a bit selfish that way.
“Nor has she said whether she's told her parents what she's been doing behind their backs, in terms of hiring me,” Bradley added. “So I'll be going in blind.”
“I'll sit in on it, if you'd like,” I offered.
“That'd be great,” Bradley said. “Thanks.”
At that moment an owl collided with the glass window, which I'd just cleaned. It reappeared and sat on the ledge, pecking at the glass. Bradley opened it and the tiny brown bird flew over to my desk, landing on a fresh stack of bills.
“Who's that from?” Bradley asked, sipping his tea.
I picked up the letter and glanced at it. “Matt,” I said, trying not to blush.
Bradley grinned. “I'll leave you to that.”
“See you in a half hour for your next cup of tea,” I teased as he returned to his office.
I opened the letter. It was short.
I'm better. Meet me at the Rusty Bludger
at six? Rose, Al, Becca, and Hugo will
be there, too. Can't wait to see you!
I was glad Bradley had gone back to his office. I blushed even harder and the room felt ten degrees warmer. What was wrong with me? I was like a giggling schoolgirl again and it didn't make sense. Blokes didn't normally have this effect on me; they were just blokes. And here I was with Matt, nearly a month into our relationship, and I was acting like a fourteen-year-old. Wait, nearly a month?
I turned to check the calendar behind me. It was exactly a month since mine and Matt's first date. Personally, I didn't think of the one-month anniversary as anything special, but that didn't mean Matt wouldn't think so. I should at least mention it later tonight.
The Rusty Bludger. That meant Matt was ready to throw us to the three-headed dogs, so to speak. We'd be at the mercy of both our families in terms of our relationship status and that meant we were serious. I so rarely introduced any of my boyfriends to anyone besides James, Al, Rose, Hugo, and Ashtyn because they almost always turned out to be arseholes. But the thought of introducing (reintroducing?) Matt to the rest of my cousins didn't scare me in the slightest.
Work went by very slow for the remainder of the day. When five o'clock arrived I ran out the door with hardly a goodbye to Bradley, who was staying late to work on a case. I hurried to my flat, showered, debated over my outfit for a half an hour, and headed to the pub at six.
The Rusty Bludger was far from crowded so it was easy to spot Matt, Al, and Becca in the booth furthest from the door. I slid in next to Matt and he greeted me with a kiss.
“I missed you,” he said, breaking apart.
“I missed you, too,” I said as I wrapped my arms around his neck and kissed him again.
“Hey, hey!” Al shouted. “No one wants to see that.”
“Sorry, mate,” Matt said, ending our kiss abruptly.
I sighed, but used the time to take a good look at Matt. He looked significantly better. Pale, but better. Nana Molly would say he just needed a good meal.
A waitress brought me a bottle of my favorite beer. An identical one sat in front of Matt.
“I figured that's what you wanted,” Matt said.
“You figured right,” I replied, taking a sip. “Thank you.”
“Happy one month anniversary,” he said as he took my hand under the table.
“You, too,” I said, smiling. I was very happy that I remembered.
“So,” Albus said loudly. “Are Hugo and Rose coming?”
“Hey,” I said, shrugging. “You're the one who wanted to have all of us come out for drinks with you. You're going to have to deal with us being coupley.”
“That doesn't mean I have to like it. Anyway, about Hugo and Rose?”
“Hugo Flooed while you were in the shower and said he might be late because Cassie might get out of work late,” Becca said. “Haven't heard from Rose.”
“She'll be here,” Matt said. “But she's Rose, so she'll probably run in late in healer robes because of work-”
I glanced up and saw Rose standing at the table, not dressed in healer robes. Matt burst out laughing.
“Scoot over, Lily,” Rose said, tapping my shoulder.
I slid closer to Matt and squeezed his thigh under the table. He jumped, knocking his knee into the table, and nearly knocked over Albus's still full beer.
“Lily!” Rose shouted. “I saw that! No shenanigans under the table. What are you, sixteen?”
Possibly, I thought. “What are you, my mother?” I joked.
Hugo chose that exact moment to appear, looking thoroughly confused having caught the last bit of our conversation.
“Hugo!” I exclaimed. “Thank God. Cassie got home?”
Hugo nodded as he sat down next to Becca.
“How's the brood?” Al asked.
Hugo sighed. “Ill. Well, the twins and Oliver are. I won't be able to stay too late because of it.”
“Maybe they've got what you had,” I said to Matt.
“I hope not,” Matt muttered as he exchanged a glance with Albus, who seemed to be trying to conceal a smirk behind his beer. Weird. I swear, I had the weirdest brothers, and now apparently a weird boyfriend to go with them.
We ordered everything fried off the menu along with a pitcher of beer and shared it all around. I'd feel thoroughly ill later, but it'd be worth it. So long as I didn't subsist on fried food like I had at age nineteen, I'd be fine.
I found it difficult to concentrate on what everyone was talking about while sitting so close to Matt. His leg pressed against mine and the warmth was making me warm and my face was probably red. I leaned over and kissed his neck, earning me a glare from Albus. Matt turned and pressed his lips to mine, sending a shiver down my spine. I kissed back, tuning out Albus's protests, Hugo's laughter, and Rose's groaning.
I wrapped my arms around Matt's neck and tried to ignore the fact that we were in his brohter-in-law's pub surrounded by my cousins. We continued kissing, accidentally knocking over my empty beer bottle in the process. Even if it had been full I don't think I would've cared.
“I'm going to the loo,” Rose suddenly announced, jabbing me in the ribs at the same time. “Lily?” She looked pointedly at me.
I jumped and Matt and I broke apart. I rubbed my side as I slid out of the booth after her. We walked to the loo, which was thankfully empty. Rose locked the door with a quick Alohamora.
“Lily, what the hell is your problem?” she exclaimed.
“What?” I asked.
“You two are like a couple of teenagers out there,” she seethed. “You realize you're out for drinks with other people, don't you?”
“Yes,” I said, looking at my hair in the mirror. “Sorry, we haven't seen each other in a few days.”
“I know,” Rose said.
“Yeah, I know Matt was ill. Albus told me.”
“Right,” I muttered.
“Lily, what else is it? You've never been one for PDA. Ever. What's going on?”
I averted my gaze and hoped someone knocked needing to use the loo. I had had no issues confessing to Ashtyn that Matt and I hadn't had sex, so why couldn't I tell Rose? Was it because she was one of Matt's best friends as well as my cousin?
Rose's eyes grew large. “You two haven't had slept together yet, have you?”
“Er, no, we haven't,” I muttered. Well, that solved that. It was difficult for me to lie to Rose, but impossible for me to deny something she'd figured out on her own.
“And that's why you're acting like a pair of teenagers,” Rose said, nodding. “It all makes sense now.”
“Is it weird?” I asked. Might as well get her opinion.
“That you two haven't had sex yet? No, that's not weird.”
“That's what Ashtyn said, too.”
“There are people who wait until they're married,” Rose pointed out. “So, no, you're not weird.”
“He always says no when I invite him inside after dates,” I confess. “I mean, is he one of the wait until you're married types?” That would be new for me, I thought.
“No,” Rose said. “God, this is awkward because he's one of my best friends and you're my cousin.... Look, he hasn't had as many girlfriends as you've had boyfriends. He's taking things slow because he doesn't want to screw it up. He really likes you, Lily, and he doesn't want to do something that will cause you to have second thoughts.”
I nodded. That made sense. But at the same time, I sort of wanted things to move faster. “Should I talk to him about it?”
Rose shrugged. “That's your call.”
Sometimes I hated Rose giving me advice and other times, like this, I wish she'd just tell me what to do.
When we returned to the table a few minutes later Hugo was on his way out, Cassie having Flooed the pub requesting him to return home after purchasing an entire apothecary's worth of stomach flu potions. We wished him luck, and after he left we discussed how thankful we were we didn't have children.
The rest of us stayed at the pub for another hour, laughing and talking about everything going on in our lives. Matt and I managed to keep our hands above the table and I abstained from anymore alcohol.
Matt walked me home afterward and we walked slowly, neither of us wanting the evening to end. But we did eventually reach my flat and seeing that both of us had to work the next day, I didn't invite him inside.
“I want to take you out on Friday to celebrate our one month anniversary,” Matt said at my door. “Tonight doesn't count.”
I smiled. “I'd like that.”
“I'll pick you up at seven.”
“Okay.” I leaned in and kissed him. “Good night, Matt.”
“Good night, Lily,” he said.
I lingered in the doorway, watching him leave. At that moment I decided I wouldn't bring up the sex thing. If he wanted to wait, that was okay. I liked him, really, really liked him, and it would happen when it would happen. It hit me then that I was falling in love with Matt Eckerton.
A/N: Thanks for all the lovely reviews!
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