Fandom: X-Factor UK 2010 RPS
Pairing: Matt Cardle/Aiden Grimshaw (scattered others)
Word Count: 3833
Disclaimer: THIS DIDN’T HAPPEN. REALLY. REALLY.
Summary: AU. Aiden knows something Matt doesn’t. He knows a lot of things Matt doesn’t, actually.
Author’s Notes: I don’t want to say too much about this fic because, to sound pretentious, I want it to speak for itself. It’s surreal and it’s unhappy and it’s born of being very very tired and a little bit out of sorts, and it wasn’t supposed to be the first Maiden fic I put online after Christmas but, hey, it is. So if you want something fluffy then this... won’t fit the bill. (Also When We Collide just came up on shuffle and it fits oddly well with this story. Hmmmm. That wasn't intentional.)
“Go home, kid,” Matt says, hands in pockets, rucksack on his back.
It’s raining and it’s August and Aiden is soaked to the skin and shivering a little. The cigarette between his lips is nearly burned down and he didn’t enjoy it anyway.
When he doesn’t move Matt sighs, tips the peak of his cap back a little. He looks tired, the post-show adrenaline drop. His eyes are bright even in the dark, and the only sound is the rain hitting the pavements, cars swishing past. The red one in the right lane of traffic will skid off the road later, eight stitches, a later black eye that will have nothing to do with the initial accident.
Aiden shakes his head to clear it.
“Do you have a light?” Matt asks.
Aiden holds out his lighter. It’ll fail the first four times Matt tries it, but it’s alright: Aiden’s brought two.
Aiden has a mum and a stepdad and a sister, two and a half ex boyfriends – one of whom hates him, one of whom smiles at him when they pass in the street, and the half, well, the half is the interesting bit – a few too many cardigans, a haircut he sometimes feels unsure of, the ability to take all the oxygen out of a room when he sings – not literally – a handful of A-levels whose grades don’t match his potential and a smoking habit he should really give up.
What he doesn’t have is Matt Cardle.
Matt somehow manages to be cooler than everyone while still being the sort of loser mothers hold up as an example; it’s a complicated combination. He repainted their dining room the summer Aiden turned sixteen. He’s repainted everyone’s dining room.
Aiden was never in the house at the same time as Matt; he spent that summer doing things that were stupid and things that were self-destructive and a couple of things that were actually illegal, but he could still feel Matt when he came home, seeping into the walls along with the paint.
Louis brings him three cakes that his friend Harry provided. Harry works in a bakery. One of the cakes has hash in it, but Louis doesn’t bother telling Aiden this; they both know he knows already.
“So,” Louis says carefully.
“So,” Aiden replies.
Louis has a graze on his left forearm and his hair is growing too long and the first time he had sex with another boy it was Harry and Harry wasn’t sixteen yet.
“You’re worrying people,” Louis says, pulling at a loose thread in his scarf. The whole thing will unravel in three and a half weeks.
“More than usual?” Aiden asks lightly.
He reaches for the carrot cake. Harry made this one, he can feel him in it. He bites into it and it crumbles apart against his tongue; he can taste Harry in it too, his mind reaching back to Louis’ mouth against Harry’s throat, Ikea bedsheets tangling between their legs, both of them getting off on the illegality as much as on each other.
Aiden wasn’t there and Louis has never told him but it doesn’t matter.
Louis sighs. “You make it quite difficult to be friends with you, you know.”
In twenty-two seconds he’s going to get up and slam the door behind him. He won’t text Aiden for a week. Aiden knows this and he shouldn’t open his mouth but he does.
“You’re only friends with me because you still kind of fancy me,” he says.
“Don’t you have something better to do?” Matt asks him, when Seven Summers have packed up their instruments. He hasn’t shaved in three days and Aiden wants to touch the stubble, feel it prickle against his fingertips.
“No,” Aiden says.
He knows something Matt doesn’t. He knows a lot of things Matt doesn’t, actually.
Matt considers him carefully. He’s wearing a flannel shirt and the collar is just a little torn and he’ll go home to his girlfriend tonight and they’ll fuck to Jimi Hendrix. Matt will try to hold her afterwards but she won’t want it.
“Are you at least old enough to drink?” he says, sounding weary, like Aiden’s forced him into something.
Aiden hasn’t. Aiden probably could if he wanted to.
“Yes,” Aiden replies. He tries to sound affronted, like he wasn’t expecting the question.
Matt’s mouth quirks into a smile. He has a prettier smile that that but Aiden won’t see it directed at him yet.
“Ok then,” Matt says. “Ok.”
He sounds like Aiden’s won something. Maybe he has.
Nicolo is better at this than Aiden is. Nicolo’s the half, by the way.
“You’re getting ridiculous,” he says. “And also boring.”
“Matt doesn’t know my name yet,” Aiden replies.
“And you could’ve told him last night and you didn’t,” Nicolo says. “I don’t want to sound like a shitty movie, but the future is not set in stone or whatever. Do whatever the fuck you want, not what you know will happen.”
“Maybe I want what will happen,” Aiden protests.
Nicolo fixes him with a look. “Of course you don’t.”
Aiden sighs. “Fuck you, Nicolo.”
Nicolo rolls his eyes elaborately. “Yeah, because that wasn’t a bad idea at all.”
“We both went through with it,” Aiden reminds him.
Nicolo slides his coffee across the counter, plastic lid in place. Aiden slides it straight back. “I want one you haven’t spat in.” Nicolo feigns innocence, which is a stupid look on him, until Aiden reminds him: “you made this just before I came in. You knew I was coming. I want another one.”
Nicolo turns away to pour his coffee down the sink, muttering you’re going to deserve it when Matt leaves you.
Aiden thumbs through secondhand records, cardboard sleeves bent. Some of them were donated because there were unhappy memories associated with them; he can feel them against his fingertips, ghosts of want that make his stomach flutter.
His mum is worried about him; she says he used to laugh a lot more often.
He bites into his lower lip. There’s a girl an aisle over who’s pregnant but doesn’t know it yet. She’ll have a little boy and he’ll write a brilliant novel that will never be published.
Aiden doesn’t want any of this music. He’s either already got it or twists of things that never happened will haunt his shelves. Things that never happened are the worst and the hardest to get rid of. He bites his lip, worrying it between his teeth until it hurts, and leaves a minute and twelve seconds before Matt walks in.
“I met someone last night,” Louis says when he starts talking to Aiden again.
“His name’s Liam,” Aiden agrees.
“I hate it when you do that,” Louis sighs. He leans further into the sofa, mug of tea held between his palms. He’s got something by James Blunt stuck in his head.
“I know,” Aiden says.
Liam sucked a lovebite into the skin underneath Louis’ collarbone, and another one into his hip. He left toothmarks on the inside of Louis’ right thigh. He left his telephone number in green sharpie on Louis’ left wrist. He made Louis coffee exactly the way he liked it and left it on his kitchen sideboard; it was still warm when Louis woke up and found it.
Louis’ gap year is a little more eventful than Aiden’s.
“So get it over with and tell me,” Louis says.
“I don’t-” Aiden begins.
“Yeah, you do,” Louis says, and his voice is soft where it maybe should be sharp. “You always do. Always.”
I didn’t make Harry break up with you, Aiden thinks, but doesn’t say it aloud. No matter how many times he repeats it it won’t make Louis believe it, not on any real level.
“You don’t want to hear it,” Aiden points out.
Louis smiles at that, a real one. “No,” he agrees. “Am I going to see him again, though?”
That one’s fairly safe, at least. “Yeah,” Aiden says, “you are.”
Louis’ smile involves teeth now. “Awesome.”
He won’t be thinking that in eighteen months’ time, but that’s ok.
“You’re always here,” Matt says. He’s a little drunk already, and his voice cracked on a couple of notes tonight. Up close, Aiden can see all the places where it’s obvious Matt hasn’t slept properly in three days.
“I like the music,” Aiden replies.
He can’t even go in his dining room now; Matt’s still in the walls, and every breath Aiden takes smells and tastes like him until he almost can’t stand it.
Matt arches an eyebrow. “Doesn’t explain why you always hang around afterwards. Always.” Aiden shrugs. “Have I got myself a teenage stalker?” Matt adds, smiling, though his eyes are serious.
“I’m not a very good one if I am,” Aiden replies. “There’ve been no declarations of love. I should be getting t-shirts with your face printed on them and finding out where you live so I can sit outside warbling Taylor Swift songs and trying to steal locks of your hair and stuff.”
Matt bursts out laughing. “I’m not worth all that effort,” he says. “But I’m kind of weirdly flattered.”
Aiden glances towards the bar; timing is everything.
“I still don’t know your name,” Matt says. “If you’re going to be my teenage stalker, I should know that at least.”
“I’m Aiden,” Aiden tells him, “and your girlfriend is cheating on you.”
The barmaid stumbles and breaks six glasses; Matt’s head whips around at the noise. When he turns back, Aiden’s already gone.
“Are you here for Louis?” Nicolo asks.
“Louis is here?” Aiden frowns, looking around.
Nicolo rolls his eyes elaborately. “Louis is coming here, don’t you see how I’m making one of those really lame vanilla lattes he insists on drinking?” Aiden belatedly notices this and looks down to find his own hazelnut latte is sitting on the counter for him, still steaming.
“Right,” Aiden says.
“Better at this than you,” Nicolo reminds him. “When are you planning on trying to get rebound sex out of Matt?”
Aiden runs his thumbnail down the side of his paper cup and doesn’t bother saying I’m not because he knows Nicolo is winding him up. Nicolo finishes pouring hot milk into another cup when the door opens and somewhere behind him Aiden hears Louis say: “oh bloody hell.”
“I didn’t know you were going to be here?” he offers, turning, and finds that Louis is accompanied by Liam, who is slightly taller than Aiden expected him to be, his fingers loosely entwined with Louis’. Liam is going to break Louis’ heart in the end, but the important bit is that neither of them know this right now.
“Coffee’s ready,” Nicolo says cheerfully. Nicolo is dreadful at public service and frequently leaves the counter unattended to go for a cigarette even when he knows he’ll have customers, but it’s impossible to fire him because he gets everyone’s coffee right every single time. The best part of this is he gets it right before they’ve even ordered.
Liam only looks slightly interested and not freaked out about this, which is interesting. Most people are freaked out by Nicolo. Aiden’s even a little freaked out by Nicolo, and, well.
“We’re getting it to take away,” Louis says carefully, and Aiden doesn’t blame him.
“I know,” Nicolo shrugs, sounding vaguely offended.
Liam smiles slightly over his shoulder at the two of them as Louis all but pulls him out.
“So, Seven Summers are playing next week,” Nicolo says. “I’m coming with you.”
Aiden blinks. “You are?”
“Yeah,” Nicolo replies. “I’m going to tell you when to duck.”
Matt’s in the walls of Aiden’s house, has been there for the last couple of years, but that’s ok. Aiden’s used to it by now and he’s a welcome ghost for the days when he’s feeling desperately alone.
Louis and Harry and their friend Zayn took Aiden to a Seven Summers concert in May. They didn’t know any better and Aiden didn’t tell them he shouldn’t go.
The first time Matt opened his mouth and sang, Aiden knew that he was going to love him for the rest of his life.
The first time Matt hit a high C, Aiden found out that the feeling wasn’t necessarily going to be mutual.
Matt’s drunk before he even makes it on stage. Aiden knows just how much he’s drunk and it’s kind of impressive that Matt is still standing.
“Silly boy,” Nicolo says.
He’s wearing sunglasses indoors because Nicolo’s a twat. There’s no other explanation; Aiden would know if there was.
“Liam wanted to come tonight but Louis talked him out of it,” Nicolo informs him when Aiden says nothing.
“I know,” Aiden reminds him.
Nicolo is rolling his eyes even though Aiden can’t see.
“He’s going to stop avoiding you eventually,” Nicolo tells him.
“I know that too,” Aiden shrugs.
“When are you going to tell him that the whole Liam thing is going to go nowhere and end in a lot of shouting, a failed degree and a scar?” Nicolo adds.
“I’m not,” Aiden replies, and keeps his eyes on Matt.
“That’s stupid,” Nicolo mutters.
“I’m being kind,” Aiden says. He is, too. He told Louis that Harry was going to dump him in three months’ time and Louis said he didn’t believe it and then let it colour the last months of the relationship. And then he blamed Aiden. There are some things that just shouldn’t be said.
“Fuck,” Nicolo says, “if that’s being kind I’d hate to see you being nasty.”
Matt’s voice cracks on a note it shouldn’t crack on. He didn’t like his girlfriend all that much but it’s the principle of the thing, the betrayal.
“I’m better at this than you are,” Aiden responds, fingers curling into his palms.
Nicolo just laughs. “Yeah,” he says, “and we need to leave before the set finishes and Matt finds out you’re here.”
“Yes,” Aiden sighs. He knows that, too. He knows far too many things, really.
Harry went back to school a week ago and Aiden sits on the pavement outside and waits for him. He gets occasional looks, but everyone thinks he’s weird anyway.
Harry has another boy with him; he has blonde hair and Aiden’s brain supplies: Niall. Moved over from Ireland last year, became friends with Harry almost instantly. Harry thinks about wanting to kiss him most of the time and when he finally gives into these urges Niall will punch him in the face. What happens after that isn’t quite clear because Niall himself hasn’t made up his mind yet.
Aiden lights a cigarette and wishes Zayn was here; Zayn’s life doesn’t give him migraines.
“If you’re looking for Louis he isn’t here,” Harry says, sitting down next to him. There are other kids streaming out of the school and they’re possibly in danger of being trampled but they won’t be. Niall hesitates and then sits on Aiden’s other side. Aiden doesn’t know what Harry’s told him; he sometimes wonders how his friends describe him, how they sum him up to other people. “I s’pose you already know that,” Harry adds.
“I do,” Aiden agrees. “Good day?”
“It was alright,” Harry shrugs. “Why’re you here?”
“No reason,” Aiden says, even though his stomach is cramping with hunger. He’s meant to be running into Matt in a McDonald’s twenty minutes’ walk from here in three minutes. He takes a drag from his cigarette.
The difference between Harry and Louis is that Louis would question this and Harry doesn’t.
“There’s a party happening tonight,” he says, “You should come.”
Aiden considers this. “Alright.”
His phone buzzes with a text from Nicolo you’re going to regret going.
He doesn’t reply.
Aiden’s standing against the wall nursing a beer and watching Louis dance. Louis’ dancing is nowhere near as bad as Aiden’s own, but it’s not brilliant.
“You don’t like me,” a voice says, and Aiden turns his head to find Liam has joined him.
“I don’t know you,” he replies carefully.
Liam laughs. “Don’t lie to me.”
Aiden looks at Liam and then at where Louis is drunkenly dancing with Zayn. “He doesn’t know,” he says flatly.
“He struggles to like you,” Liam replies. “Of course I wasn’t going to tell him.”
Aiden has drunk too much and the music is bad and too loud.
“You’re going to hurt him,” he says.
“He’s going to hurt me worse,” Liam responds.
Aiden pushes himself off the wall and is about to walk away before he turns and says: “why are you doing it then?”
Liam shrugs. “Because sometimes you just have to.”
Aiden leaves the party and no one notices; he’s unsteady on his feet and out of control and he knows too many things, things that happened and will happen and things that never happened and things that won’t ever happen. Back inside, Liam is kissing Louis and curling possessive fingers over his hips, even though he knows he should walk away. Aiden’s head is pounding.
“Are you actually fucking stalking me?”
Matt’s standing in the front garden of the house next door, cigarette in hand. He looks angry.
“You live here,” Aiden says, and wishes he’d known this earlier.
Matt’s mouth moves like he’s trying to work out what to say; Aiden knows not to open his mouth, he needs to be more sober, he can’t speak to Matt because everything he has inside him are just replies to words Matt hasn’t said yet, won’t say yet. I love you too is one of them, but it isn’t the only thing.
“I don’t want you near me,” Matt says.
Aiden closes his eyes and doesn’t say I never loved you either, of course I never fucking loved you. That one’s for even later.
He walks away without looking back, and throws up in a gutter two streets from his house.
“Told you so,” Nicolo sing-songs when he hands Aiden his coffee the next morning, extra shot, extra syrup.
“Shut up,” Aiden says.
“I’m better at this than you are,” Nicolo adds.
“No one likes you, Nicolo,” Aiden snaps.
“Matt’s repainting the cafe next week,” Nicolo tells him, ignoring the words. Aiden’s said worse in the past. “Are you going to turn up for a fucking coincidental meeting this time?”
“I don’t know,” Aiden replies.
Nicolo sighs. “Fine. I’m out. Fuck your shit up on your own, see how you like that.”
Aiden deliberately bumps into a table on the way out, but the china places and cups on it don’t move. He looks down to find a post-it; do better next time is written in pink sharpie.
“I’m assuming Liam and Louis aren’t going to end in puppies and rainbows and adopting of lots of babies,” Harry says.
“You’re not legally old enough to be in here,” Aiden replies.
“Matt’s hot,” Harry shrugs, sitting in the empty chair beside Aiden. “I’ve got a band, you know. I don’t think we’ll make it big but Liam said he enjoyed our stuff, which was cool.”
White Eskimo have a record deal and being groped by hysterical teenage girls ahead of them, but Aiden hasn’t seen the point in telling Harry this yet.
“Sounds cool,” Aiden says carefully.
Harry sighs. “You’re really, really bad at being subtle, which is terrible, you’d think necessity would’ve made you better.”
“I’m not going to talk about this, Harry,” Aiden tells him.
Harry shrugs. “Alright.”
Matt’s more cheerful tonight, more on top of his game. Aiden’s never going to get over him and it’s maybe the most horrible thing he’s ever known and he could walk away now before it’s too late and instead he makes sure to catch Matt’s eye after the set. It’s raining outside again, bitter and brutal, September sliding into October. Harry’s ducked out into the downpour already, citing school in the morning, and Aiden puts his hands in his pockets and tries to smile.
“I’m sorry,” he says, when Matt comes over.
Matt shrugs. “It’s not your fault,” he replies. “I mean, I should be thanking you, really. I guess.”
“You don’t have to do that,” Aiden says. “And I’m really not stalking you. I just like your music, that’s all.”
Matt smiles, and it’s nice. It’s not the private smile he’ll have just for Aiden yet, but it’s enough to be getting on with.
“Thank you,” he says, and it sounds sincere, and: “I know.” He breathes out, slow and heavy, and adds: “let me buy you a drink?”
“Yeah,” Aiden says, “yeah, I’d like that.”
Liam and Louis are holding hands over the table in the corner, laughing at some kind of private joke. Knowing what he knows, Aiden has no idea how Liam can just be sitting there, but then he’s here today so he’s no better.
“You’re all fucking masochists,” Nicolo says, as he makes Matt’s coffee.
Aiden doesn’t look at Matt as he comes in three minutes later, just hangs around the counter and talks to Nicolo and drinks maybe a little more coffee than he meant to as Matt gets the wall he’s going to start painting first sorted, masking tape around the edges, sheets on the floor, stepladder and everything. He paints it a dull white, the base coat; Aiden watches him work from the corner of his eye. Liam and Louis sneak out the door, Liam’s hand in the back pocket of Louis’ jeans.
“I’m going for a cigarette break,” Matt calls to Nicolo, and then hesitates on a breath before adding: “come with, Aiden?”
Aiden has two lighters in his pocket again, but he shrugs like this had never occurred to him. “Sure.”
Nicolo sighs heavily and maybe sympathetically behind him, though Aiden knows he’d deny it if asked.
They’re going to grow apart and it’s going to destroy them.
The years before that, though, oh, they’re going to be wonderful.
“You confuse me, Aiden,” Matt admits, cigarette almost burned down. Aiden stubs his out but doesn’t bother lighting another one.
“I’m really not that complicated,” Aiden says, with a self-deprecating duck of the head.
He isn’t complicated; everyone else is. There’s a guy buying a coffee from Nicolo inside who’s going to end up pushing his girlfriend down a flight of stairs in six months’ time. He’ll bury her body in the back garden and leave for Mauritius. Nicolo made his coffee a few minutes ago and he pissed in it.
“You’re interesting,” Matt concludes at last, and Aiden’s running out of time to extricate himself from this intact.
Aiden laughs, keeping his eyes on his shoes, worrying his lower lip between his teeth.
“No,” Matt says, and Aiden raises his head at Matt’s tone of voice, “really.”
Matt’s going to kiss him in exactly eight seconds. Aiden thinks about running but instead he closes his eyes and waits.