Nicole sat swiftly and quietly on the chair, out of arm's reach of the man stirring on the couch. Her head was bowed, concealing her face as she watched him covertly. She felt like a disgusting coward, but she could not muster the courage when she was still in pain and still so sick at heart.
He groaned, cursing under his breath as he observed the wreckage. "Shit... I did it again?"
She nodded swiftly, still not looking at him as she replied in her normal voice, softly accented so that her words came out almost lyrical. "We're going to need another tv."
He swore again. "I feel like I got hit by a bus."
She made no reply to that, getting up. "I'll make some coffee.. do you want something to eat? Its about ten in the morning now."
"The usual, thanks." He muttered, his head hanging low.
'The usual' meant a strong coffee, stronger painkillers and a bacon sandwich.
She'd just put everything on the table and turned to face the sink when he came into the room behind her. Nicole resisted the urge to tense up again, trying to act natural as he came up behind her to put his arms round her. She closed her eyes at the bittersweet sensation of the contact, ignoring the complaints of her injuries.
"Iloveyou." He mumbled, bringing a sad smile to her face.
She hummed in response, carrying on with what she was doing. He pulled back her hair to kiss her, instead cursing loudly, as Stephen had done.
"What the fuck happened?!"
"You got pretty angry last night." She did her best to keep her voice neutral and would have succeeded, if not for the solitary tear that found its way down her bruised cheek.
"I did this?" Matt's tone was one of supreme self-loathing. His fingertips brushed over her injured cheek as he cradled her face as though holding something infinitely fragile. "I hurt you?"
Nicole could only nod, unable to meet his eyes or speak past the tears blocking her throat. Suddenly, she found herself pulled against his chest. Surprised, she was unable to stifle the muffled cry of pain.
It was the strem of apologies that followed that made her look up. For the first time since meeting him, she saw tears on Matt's cheeks.
"I'm so sorry Nicole." He mumbled brokenly. "I love you, I'm so sorry."
"Its okay." She said finally, finding her voice. "I love you too Matt."
She let him gingerly put his arms around her, not caring that it hurt to put her bruised cheek on his chest. She could hear his heart pounding and the little hitches in his breath that let her know this was genuine.
He kissed the top of her head, the only part of her that didn't seem bruised, laying his cheek over the spot. She snuggled into him, burying her face in his neck, planting a kiss there while trying to suppress her own tears. This was what she had fallen in love with. The feeling of coming home when his arms encircled her.
"You're shaking." He said quietly, still clearly upset. He pulled back, his face showing the pain he was in. It was as though he couldn't feel the bruises that his missing shirt showed. Just as deeply coloured as her own, only easily hidden. His face was unmarked other than a small bruise on his temple, showing where she had finally knocked him out.
"I'm fine." She gave him a smile. If anything, his expression became more pained.
"I'm a monster." He muttered in disgust, walking away, leaving his breakfast forgotten on the table.
Nicole flinched at the sound of the bedroom door closing quietly. It hadn't been slammed, but the sound hurt her more than any of the injuries he had inflicted.
"Come back." She murmured brokenly, barely above a whisper, before clearing everything away, her tears finally falling freely. "I don't want to be alone."