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Unexpected Places

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His pockets seemed to be even deeper when he forced his fists down inside of them, deforming the black hoodie. He wandered around the street, the night nipping at his heels, careless and reckless. The moon was full, beautiful, glistening, bathing the desert suburban street in a pale silvery light in that men and godforsaken hour. It should be around eleven o’clock, maybe midnight in a Tuesday; his long strides made him look like a shadow more than like a lad. But he was a lad. A broken, lost, shattered by love lad but a lad anyway. And God, that had hurt, it was hurting and burning inside his chest. It was overwhelming and immoral but now it was done and it was too late to think about that.

His boy had had no fault at that. It was stronger than him, that he wanted to hug and hold and just be with his little boy so much. He wanted it so badly that he tried by all means to keep it hidden, so hidden that he ended up hurting his boy just to keep from scaring him somehow. It hurt himself too and he hated it enough to want to die if it would buy him half a dozen of words to explain himself in a proper, decent way.

He had stopped in front of a house. The Christmas décor had looked strangely spooky although genuinely upbeat. A vinyl Santa Claus had faced him, the plastic good and condescending look giving him the creeps. Inside the house, a happy family had been smiling and playing with a little six-years-old boy. His little boy. In the fenceless house, there had never been anything to separate him from the window. Unsure, he had stumbled towards the door; his mixed up feelings and senses couldn’t have noticed anything but what happened in front of him. His knuckles had knocked on the hardwood thrice and a very gentleman-like man had opened the door, smiling wide at him.

“Hey, Gabriel, it’s an honor to have you here! Come in, let’s have some coffee together.”

“Thank you, Mr. Beckett, but I can’t. I... I wanted to talk to Will.

“Hm...” He had seemed to hesitate and it had made Gabe freeze. He might have known. Maybe he hated him. “Yeah, sure, I’ll call him.”

A joyful cry of excitement had been heard right before short, bear-pajama-clad little legs appeared in a rush and hugged the boy in a hoodie. William let himself be in Gabriel’s arms, feeling his ice-cold cheek touching his, and smiling.

“You came”, had said him, stating the obvious.

“Yes”, had answered the other boy, solemn. “Mom is waiting for me, Willy... It’s just that... I just wanted to say...” Suffering much harder than he had thought he would, broken in two halves inside, Gabriel had laid a kiss on the smaller boy’s forehead. “Happy Christmas, my boy.”

After that, he had given him a letter and let go of the kid, letting him go back to his warm house, innocent of everything that was happening right there, right then. A couple of hours later, they would be set apart by such a big distance that they’d become strangers under each other’s gazes.

Until that moment.

He moved out of the cities but the roads kept being the same. The Christmas lights were not there but the houses still seemed to be so much happier than him, like they had always been. The moon was the same, the days had changed. The time had changed, it was three a.m., isolated and calm; the dead hour in the civilized world was somewhere between two and four a.m., when the clubs were full but the streets were deserted. It was the way the world worked, perfect for some thinking. Just thinking was fine.

He had to put his thoughts back together. What he had just done had been very reckless, very good and very dumb. He had revealed himself, depths and all, to William, in a very inerasable and indelible way: it’s almost impossible to forget a kiss given by your best friend from your childhood, the boy with whom you used to sleep when little, who could be counted on all the time for anything. He didn’t know what would be his boy’s reaction but he knew it wouldn’t be movie-like; no, William wouldn’t run to him, snuggle himself up in Gabe’s arms and say that he had waited him for all that long. If he did, everything about the chase would be utterly lost. In that moment, Gabriel was still unaware of how important that little show was. How real it was.

Gabe was not nearly as stupid as he tried to seem. He had not gone to William to do what he had done. He had gone after the singer to ask for his forgiveness, to explain what he had thought of about William and Victoria when he had found them in the bath tub, to tell him that he was still that same Gabriel of his childhood, except bigger and lewder. He had wanted to explain why Victoria didn’t tell neither of them who they were, had wanted to tell him that he had not recognized him not because he didn’t care but because he just couldn’t. Besides those reasons, there had been a doubt, a not very strong one, that maybe William wouldn’t remember their childhood. Even if he did, would he understand that the most part of Gabe’s reasons back then had not been just friendship-related? It bothered him to think that his childhood, so pure and orbiting around that boy, would be seen as something dirty by a grown-up William. He had tried to avoid it, but apparently his overall need had thought differently.

He paid attention to the apartments, the houses, and the people inside them. He envied them to the point of jealousy, and how couldn’t he? Those people, most of them, were probably unaware of what it meant to abandon the love of their lives because being around the one was not only illegal but also hurtful. He had been driven into thinking it when he was younger and fairly little had changed about those thoughts: it was not illegal anymore, but it was not well-seen and it was definitely not what William had been expecting. His sureness was not much about anything, but he knew that what he felt about his boy was still too much to be handled by William.

He stopped in front of a building that seemed strangely familiar to him. The apartments were obviously expensive and elegant, all windowpanes and dark glasses, most of them lit at that time in the night. There was a sign that said, in bold red letters, “For rent: 24/7 attendants in loco”, not much unlike one he had seen at his own apartment, back in New York. Finding it a strange coincidence, he walked in to check on it. It was a mixed-building, managed by the same company of his NYC home, where there were apartments owned by people and some that were like big, full-functional hotel rooms, minus the room service. He was dragged to meet one of the for-rent ones by an overly-enthusiastic 21-years-old girl, even though he said he wanted to just look around because it had seemed an interesting system.

A couple of hours later, he had rented an apartment.

It wasn’t really big, but it didn’t have to be: he wasn’t planning on staying there for over a month at all, since they were supposed to be flying to Burbank around the end of July to do the music video. It was just that he needed some space, he needed privacy. Although he trusted everyone in the band, no exceptions, he didn’t want to be accounted for the asshole he knew he was about to become while dealing with that whole William-issue. Decaydance would not pay for that apartment, but he had some money to spare and the people there had been incredibly nice with splitting the payment, adding half of it to the bill for his NY rent the next month when new money would be available in his bank account. He supervised while they changed the locks and handed him three keys, asking him to take extra care with them because a second lock change would not be included. It was a perfect arrangement.

The apartment was very bold, with a furnished master suite, living room, mini-kitchen and bathroom, plus a spare room that could be used as a guest room, although its décor was far behind what would be expected when accounting for the rest of the place. The master suite had a queen-size bed, a large TV, bookshelves, everything pretty neutral-colored and functional. One of the living room’s walls was bright red; a black, shadowy silhouette of a couple having sex had been painted on it. Gabriel had laughed warm-heartedly, appreciating the boldness of whomever it had been who had done that. It felt like home. The bathroom was tiled in white and had a huge mirror on one of the walls. The bath tub could have three people inside without any effort; for a moment, Gabe thought about who had been in that apartment before him, but he soon realized that he in fact didn’t want to know.

He was still slightly excited about the new place when he went back to the hotel, to meet the bed that brought him memories before he could move some of his belongings to the new apartment, early in the morning. He picked up the spare key, thinking about it for a moment before he opened the door to meet a sleepless Victoria sitting on the couch, arms and legs folded. He crashed beside her and elbowed her, smiling faintly.

“Hello, Vy.”

“Hello, my favorite asshole.” She managed to say it in a very smooth voice. “I’ve already been informed. Poor William doesn’t want to see you painted in gold.” She sighed. “You’ve been a hell of an idiot, but I think you knew it already.” Gabriel lowered his head, laughing humorlessly. Yeah, he knew that already. No geniality was required to get to that obvious conclusion. He was not proud, but it was done, utterly and completely done. Victoria waited for a couple of seconds before carrying on. “So what are you going to do to fix it up?”

“I beg your pardon?” He frowned deep. William wouldn’t see him. William would probably kick him in the balls if he went anywhere near.

“Fix. It. Up. Fix it up, Saporta.” She almost spelled the concept, as if saying it slower would make it get any further in that man’s head. “What are you going to do to fix up this horrid situation between you and Beckett now?” Gabriel remained as silent as he could. He had thought of doing that thinking in his apartment, not there, where Victoria could see him and poke him about his decisions and choices. “Don’t you dare telling me that your immediate plans did not include any kind of damage control.” He cleared his throat. He knew he’d have to give some explanations, but did it have to be now? Vicky-T’s eyes widened. “Gabriel Eduardo Saporta, your fucking fag! I can’t believe that you made out with your poor childhood sweetheart and won’t even dare to explain him a shit!”

“Vy, it’s far more complicated now.” He breathed in, deep and tired. “He’s not six anymore.”

“Thank goodness he’s not, or I would turn you in for pedophilia, you son of a bitch!” she got up, looking furious while she grabbed him by the collar of his shirt, pulling him along to his room. “I can’t believe you! He trusts you!”

“I don’t think so. You didn’t see the way we argued, Vy. It was pretty bad.”

“He does.” She wouldn’t lose that battle, so she shoved him to his soon-to-be-former room and made him sit down. “Gabe, do you remember that day, a couple of weeks ago, when you took part in that kind of… sort of… sexual little happening”, she said the words with a hint that made it pretty clear where she was heading to, “which was, by the way, your own doing?”

“Remember me to stop telling you the dirty details, Victoria.” Gabe rolled his eyes and sighed in a mean way. “You have the awful habit of throwing them back at my face in the most inopportune moments.”

“Which means you remember”, said she triumphantly, ignoring the sarcasm in the comment. “You hugged him, Gabriel. You cuddled with him. You took him in, you made him believe that nothing of that accident would leave that room.” The other raised an eyebrow, but Victoria discarded the implicit censorship expressed in that gesture with a wave of her hand. “I can’t be counted, I pretty much made up your bed.”

“Yeah. Because you knew. You and your fucking photographic memory.”

“Yeah, me and my fucking photographic memory. You and your fucking dissimulation and jerkiness. And Beckett and his fucking innocence. We all have our fucks and we gotta learn how to handle them, but none of it can be forced upon the others. It took me years to understand how dissimulated you can be and how fake your self-assurance is sometimes. Gabe, I had to sleep with you to understand how much of a jerk you are. I can finally say I know you but I’ve paid the price, the whole lot of it. Beckett didn’t. He was willing to, yes, but it was ages ago. Even if in that body there is still that little boy you protected from the older boys in school, even if there’s still that tiny kid that won your heart, Beckett is probably suppressing him very hard now, Gabe, because it’s been so long.” She sighed bitterly. “Time doesn’t heal anything, it just opens the wounds wider. And you have to remember you left him, Gabriel. You’ve left him that day, that Christmas’ Eve, and you’re leaving him now, right before the recording of a soundtrack that can launch his band, like it’s doing to us. You’re associated to loss, Gabe, in his mind, you ruin everything that matters. Don’t you think that Christmas was important to him? His parents split up shortly after, Gabe. Three years, maybe four. Don’t you think those supposed-to-be-happy memories are tainted by the absence of his best friend?”

The sureness with which she said those things was not making things easy for him. He couldn’t ignore the depth of that issue now. He didn’t know the Becketts had divorced too. That was a trend among that era’s parents, apparently. It had probably made Beckett much more wary of losing people. He lowered his head.

“It sounds so much worse when you say it.” He was regretting it already. Oh boy, should he be regretting that? He didn’t plan on leaving that time. He didn’t, he swore to himself that he did not.

“It would sound much worse if he was the one to say it.” She was pulling her dry and truthful persona, one that Gabriel knew was only used in certain situations. “Gabe, Beckett doesn’t have the emotional stability required to face the ghosts of his past right now, even the most stupid of all beings is capable of saying so and be about 99% sure.”

He gulped. “Do you think I have it?” Her eyes rose to focus intently on his. “I may look more stable but you said so yourself, my self-assurance is fake. Do you have any idea of how hard it is? As far as I knew, he could be dead, in Russia, enlisted on the army, turned into a hippie, God only knew! It’s not easy at all to meet him here, beautiful as fuck, just a few steps away from me.” The hurt was surging against him again. Victoria touched his shoulder as he felt the taste of William’s lips on his. It had not been bittersweet. It had been like dreaming. It had been like finally belonging to someone else, even if for so little time. It had been all he had always envisioned it would be. “It hurts like fuck. I had to control myself not to jump over him and get him naked before he could complain. He’s my ghost too, Vy, he’s the one that’s been haunting my nights for ever now, don’t you think it’s this way about me too?”

“He was seven, you were twelve. You’re always gonna be…” She hesitated, but better words didn’t come up to her head. “You’re the lead in this relationship, even if it may sound like a terrible thing to say. The head of it. You have to take the steps, Gabe, like you did in kindergarten.”

“I don’t even know what to do yet. You’ve interrupted us when I had the chance, and now I fear he won’t stop and listen to me again. It was hell to make him look at me and not feel like coiling up.” He ran his hands through his hair and collapsed on his back on the bed. She sat beside him. “Should I run to him again and tell him I’ve never lost hope? Should I try to condensate all I’ve felt in a couple of words? And that’s it? Just let him try to move towards me after knowing how I feel? What if he never does, Victoria? What if he decides to let me go forever? I can’t handle a forever now. I can’t. Not again.”

“You have to look him in the eyes and tell him what you feel, Gabe.” She caressed his soft curls, caring and tender, worried about her favorite asshole. “It’s the only way he’ll know. Did you apologize?”

“I’ve tried. He didn’t accept it.” He snorted a laugh. “Apparently, leaving your best friend on Christmas’ Eve is not something that can be forgiven that pronto.”

She nodded slowly, thinking of what he had just said. Finally, she sighed.

“You have to keep on trying to win his forgiveness.” Gabriel stared at her, wide-eyed and confused. “You have to do something, anything. Apologize again, if you will, or ask him out, or make him new promises. There’s a lot more than just your prostituted love-life at stake here. Think of the guys in TAI. Damn it, Gabe, think of us! Think of me! How do you think I get any time you’re close to each other? I feel like an incompetent radioactivity doctor leaving an atomic bomb unattended! It’s horrible!”

It was true. He could feel it in every single one of Victoria’s words, but nothing grew any simpler when he realized it. All he felt now was that he needed to check on William, as fast as he could. He held his new key and stared at the door.

“You’re right as usual. I’m gonna talk to him.”

“Right now?” She held him as if he was crazy. “It’s six in the morning, Gabe. No one can think straight at six in the morning, except for Wentz and we both know that the word ‘straight’ does not define him in any way. Get some sleep now and talk to Beckett at a decent hour.”

Gabriel sighed and nodded, staring again at the ceiling. “But I will talk to him no matter what.”

“I know you will”, said she, kissing his forehead. “You’re going to do the right thing” Or, thought she, very gravely, the less wrong, I hope.

She left him to sleep, but Saporta rolled a lot in bed and slept in fact fairly little. At nine in the morning, he couldn’t stay still any longer. He had waited and the waiting had built-up his anxiety to the point where he was mentally organizing the new songs he was composing, brand new material to be featured God knew in which album. There was a nice one that he wanted to put in that one they were producing, but it had no title yet and he was really close to let it go with the working title anyway. The choruses were not really finished yet too, so he’d have to refine them in the end. Nate and Ryland had once gendered Cobra’s style as porn-dance-rock, and so it had stuck. Saporta was referred to as the band’s porn-maker, the pimp and other nicknames equally lovely. He, of course, did not care. In fact, he found the idea terribly nice, since some of their songs were so bold-faced that every possible album cover had granted their “parental advisory – explicit content” seal. It was wonderful that their first album was clear enough to receive it without being straightforward, meaningless pornography.

He got up to the sight of very neatly arranged magazines on the center table of the living room, where Victoria had crashed after probably reading a couple of articles in one of them, tired from the conversation and the full day. Gabe knew she had not been sleeping enough lately but he didn’t know yet how serious it was. Perhaps he would be able to fix everything before it got really bad. He took a glance at the magazines. They were the promotional ones and none of them seemed to be actually interesting. As daily press focal-points, every person in a band under the tight command of FBR, DecayDance and “that ruthless fucker Wentz” had right to a weekly supply of the main magazines in the business – which included a cheap, very hipster and terribly non-trustable one that was champion in publishing rumors and overall non-verified facts about the members of the world’s music scenario. That magazine was called Gossip and counted with two other divisions: GossOnTour, a band-chaser that followed everyone who thought of touring anywhere in its reach, and Remembering Gossips, one that would go through several old articles about music icons, such as Michael Jackson and Freddie Mercury, from any magazine and republish them whenever it was deemed reasonable by the actionists.

If he had read that week’s edition of Gossip, he’d probably have refrained from talking to William so soon.

Leaving a note to Victoria telling where he’d be and begging her to go look for him in case he went suddenly missing, for William could have reacted pretty badly and maybe even injured him, he left the apartment he would no longer share with his bandmates. He was willing to just talk to Beckett, to explain that he didn’t want to force anything but it was not being possible, like it had never been, to forget that little boy he had loved before anyone and anything, so he’d want to go for it if he wouldn’t object. Being sensitive was not the biggest of his qualities – he was much more prone to action anyway – but he’d give it a huge shot.

He knocked at TAI’s room, trying to keep himself as worry-free as possible. After deciding something, following what he had thought was not that hard. It could have been fairly easier if he had not been so thrown off-balance by the sudden comeback of a human being he thought practically dead to his daily life. The one to answer to the knock was Sisky, curled hair intertwined and untamed like a bird’s nest, his red, bloated eyes screaming and begging for a decent night’s sleep. Holy God. So Gabe was the one to spend a sleepless night and the others were those that showed hangover’s signs?

“Hi, good morning, Siska.” He smiled as sympathetic as he could. “Can I talk to Will?”

Sisky seemed to wake up completely and out of a sudden when that name was mentioned. He blinked in a brand new non-sleep-related haze before he could manage to answer the question, hesitating as if he had a gun pointed at his back.

“I don’t really think this is a good idea, Gabe.” He cleared his throat. He wasn’t the most difficult guy to convince in the band and, apparently, he was the only one awake. “He’s kinda… tired, you know? Really tired. Really not in a good mood to talk right now.”

“C’mon, Siska, lemme in.” He stepped a friendly step towards Siska, smooth but unquestionable. “I’m just wanting to talk to him for a couple of minutes. It won’t take long at all.”

Siska seemed to consider the idea for a time that felt like quite long to the over-excited body of Gabe. The taller guy took another step, not so friendly this time. It was not in Siska to argue that much and he knew he could not wake the other guys up, or else he’d be in actual trouble, so he took a step back, inviting the taller guy in with a very decidedly unpleased face. Everything was a mess inside that place, somehow like the remnants of a hurricane disaster. There were several bottles of beer and vodka on the floor, alongside with a half-dead Tom who hugged a red-haired girl that Gabe was sure was one of Peter’s assistants. For a moment, he considered if William’s room would be in that bad a state, but he knew better than that.

Just like his inner, trustful-self thought, Beckett was sound asleep, well-behaved and completely alone except for a second pillow which was being asphyxiated by the tightness of his grip. He could count about half a dozen bottles of beer and nothing else, everything clean and very organized, put aside with care and precision. Saporta was pretty aware that William had never been one for OCD, so it had been probably a drunken game or diversion of some – lonely – kind. It didn’t seem to be much fun but the way in which William’s body was curling around that pillow stated that fun had not been what he had wanted that night. With a smile that pretended to be sweet, revealing a threatening and unavoidable undertone, Gabe waved Sisky out, noticing how much that kid didn’t want to leave them both alone. William’s sleep had remained undisturbed.

Cobra’s frontman sat on the mattress, his body as close as possible to the sleeping boy’s. Beckett kept the same angel-like, delicate, serene face from when he was a kid while asleep. The taller man touched his face, remembering the hot, sexual urge that had almost got over Gabe when they kissed, and slammed his own knees together to stop it. That was not the time or the place. With a candid smile, he lowered his face, almost touching William’s ear with his lips.

“Will… Willy… Come on, my dear, wake up… I wanna talk to you, my boy…” It all felt like time-travelling to fourteen years ago, for that was the way he used to wake up little Beckett when they were young. His heart filled with warmth and pride when William muttered something and rolled in his sleep, objecting weakly to stop sleeping. Apparently, he had not forgotten Saporta’s ways anyway. “Come on, Willy, wake up, sweetheart. Let’s talk like good boys do…”

William woke up with the recognition of the Uruguayan’s voice, sitting up and straight, eyes still hazed with sleep. Gabriel couldn’t help but to laugh.

“What are you doing here?”, asked the younger guy vehemently, while Gabe got up and locked the door.

“I came here to talk to you. Again. Are you ok enough for me to even try it?”

“It doesn’t matter what I am or not. I want you to leave. We have nothing else to say each other.”

“You’re a smart boy, you know we do.” Gabe sighed deep. “You have to want to know something. To clear something up. I am here now. You can ask me anything.”

“You want to explain your reasons?” William seemed to gather strength from the bottom of his guts to face Gabriel and keep his voice low. “You want me to believe that you want to explain any more than you’ve done already?”

“I meant everything I said, Willy”, murmured Saporta, apologetic. “I swear I did.”

“I don’t care, Gabe. I’m not a child anymore.” He managed to laugh a heartless, humorless brief laugh. “You can’t just say you’re sorry and keep doing the same thing. Not even my girlfriend has ever made me suffer as much as you did.”

“I know I can’t apologize enough, but--”

“You’re right, you can’t.” William sucked his lips in for a moment before continuing, as if making a decision. It was a decision, in fact. A pretty difficult one. He wanted to ask so many things and to talk to Gabe because his inner child was almost jumping to the taller man’s arms. “Good thing is: you don’t have to. We don’t need to be anything apart from what we are right now. We’re coworkers. That’s all.”

Gabe shook his head. “But I don’t wanna be your coworker only.”

“You have to stay away, Gabe.” He threw a magazine at him. “Page 72.”

The headline was beyond big: it was huge, colorful, attention-seeker. It read “The provocative backstage of a soundtrack making: what’s going on between TAI’s singer William Beckett and Midtown’s ex-frontman Gabe Saporta?” and the article that followed it was long enough to fill three text pages, not to count two full-page pictures. Reading it like a professional, he let his eyes run the lines and apprehended some small pieces of very weird sentences, such as “provocative poses”, “Gabe’s knowingly sexy personality”, “William’s pretense shyness”. There was nothing good going on in that article, but Gabe had had enough of those to know that they never lived on for long. It was incredible that they had been so close to the truth in such disgusting a way, and so fast. Gabe could bet his eyes that the article had been assembled in a couple of hours, right after the photos they had taken the day before, and sent to print in hyperspeed. It smelled like rushed rumor-selling speculation, like the one thing you put to make sure the magazine will sell despite the rest of it. Gabe couldn’t help but to thank briefly that they were not serious about searching and didn’t go as far as digging out their childhood together.

“It’s editorial trash, Willy. It fades away.”

Beckett seemed to take his words as a personal offense. “No, it’s not, Gabriel. It’s my career and I don’t want it sinking because of you.”

“It won’t. You’ll live.”

“Not if you keep haunting me.”

“Listen, kid, you can’t let it get to you that deep.” He was serious enough to draw attention to himself. “You’re famous now. There will be people willing to track your every step and putting up shit like this in the speed of light to see you freak out for it. If you fall for every shit that goes out about you, you won’t succeed in the industry.”

William’s face went blank. “So now you’re giving me advices?”

“I’ve always done so.” He bended over the slender singer, touching his shoulder and pressing him softly against the mattress. William shivered, his hands trembling, eyes widening. He was a step from raising his knee and hitting Gabe full-forcedly in the groins. “You have to believe me, Willy. I am the same guy, only adult now.”

“I can believe you’re the same, but I know I’m not. I got over you, Gabriel.” He didn’t even blink to say so. “It took me forever but I did.” His shaking hand found a spot on Gabe’s chest and pushed him in an admonishing way. “Don’t come crashing this whole childhood sweethearts shit on my head again. I’ve stitched it close but it’s still too raw a scar to be poked by you.”

“I don’t want you to get over me, William. I want you to stay by me and love me like I love you.” He gulped and his eyes filled with sorrow. “I know I never got over you. I’ve never even tried.”

The other singer’s voice sunk. “You never hurt like I did.”

“The thing is that I did, William!” He squeezed the younger guy’s shoulders with enough force to bruise them. “I cried every single hour of every single day for three weeks, every night for over a year! I wore the pair to that ring I gave you until it snapped because it got too thin! I went berserk looking for you and monitoring you from a distance because your mother said to my father that if she ever saw me around your place again she’d file in for a restraining order.”

“My mother would never do so”, murmured him suspiciously.

“Even my mother would. I was eighteen, you were twelve; you were a kid, for fuck’s sake! I was a grown man. She was scared. This is what mothers do, William, they protect those they love. Then you found that girl and I… I couldn’t stay around anymore.” He tried to smile, but his will failed him. “I never got the chance to approach you again. I knew I’d have to leave again and I didn’t want to.”

“You’re lying.”

“I am not! I’ve waited for your sixteenth birthday to be able to start looking for you without having to worry that I’d be harassing a child. You vanished. You completely vanished. I couldn’t reach you for the world.”

“My parents divorced. I moved.” That was not a lie, despite Beckett’s first claim that he had never moved. When his parents divorced, William had already lost hope of seeing Gabriel ever again so he didn’t even bother trading houses. “I went to Barrington High. It had been ten years, don’t you think things would have changed?”

“I still wish they hadn’t.” He took a deep breath and buried his face in William’s neck. The younger guy startled, but didn’t hit him while he breathed in William’s scent, something skin-like, no cologne or aftershave to conceal it. “Oh, God, Willy, Willy, Willy…”

“Why are you doing this?” He gave up keeping his composure, letting his body slouch and shake. “Why are you here? What do you want, Gabriel? What do you have to tell me that’s so important that you can’t keep your fucking hands off of me?”

He said that trying to break loose from his hands, failing since the attempt had Gabe’s body weight working against it. He felt Saporta breathe on his neck once more, lowering his voice to a whisper when he called his childhood’s nickname once more. He couldn’t do that again. He couldn’t hurt like that again but it was Gabriel. He had waited for him for years. He had done so many things to keep his heart from breaking and now he had the chance to get it over with forever but he didn’t really want to. He wanted to be safe and his mind was having a hard time trying to convey the fact that Gabriel was no longer safe and that being away was the best thing to do. It was somewhat like oxygen: it destroyed everything inside you but you couldn’t even think of trying to live without it. He knew he had never tried to live without Gabriel. He had learned to miss him less, to put him in a dark corner of his mind, but he had never left. He could never leave.

“I am so sorry for that awful Christmas’ gift, Willy.” It was still a whisper, so low that it was hard to listen. “I meant something else entirely.”

William felt his body shiver in fear and anticipation. Gabe relaxed both his hands and let them move, one arm going to the mattress to sustain his weight and the other going down to William’s waist. He moved swiftly, trapping William’s knee gently and terminating his possibility of assaulting Saporta’s groins. He didn’t hug him or hold him close, but a weight went straight to William’s stomach when Gabe’s hand moved back from his waist to the back of his neck, where it lay for a second too long. He blushed like a child when he saw what Gabe was about to do, distressed with the lack of malice in the gesture and the inevitability of it. He could run away if he wanted to. He could hit Gabe’s nose. He could but he wouldn’t.

As expected, Gabriel’s lips met his in a chaste, childlike kiss. There was no passion, no permissions asked, no invasions to be done. It was as pure as a kiss could be. It was love and thankfulness and William felt his heart sink like a broken ship while it lasted. That was a kiss like the ones from his childhood. That was the kiss he had longed to have again. That one kiss.

“This was your Christmas’ gift, Willy.” Gabe touched William’s face with tenderness. “It’s over fourteen years late… But it’s here.”

William clenched his teeth together but couldn’t keep his lips from trembling. That was too much. That was beyond what he was willing to take. That was everything.

“Why, Gabriel?”, asked he, finally regaining enough self-control to push him with both hands, too devastated to even cry. “You should have come so much earlier.”

He stopped a sob before it could emerge, but Gabriel’s long arms could still touch him from the little distance interposed between them, and they did. He shoved them away with a little more force than planned. Staring at him, William found enough voice to murmur:

“Go away, Gabriel. I can’t do this right now. You’re ruining me.”

Those words were probably the most difficult thing he would ever have to say to him, but they were true to their core. He wouldn’t keep up with being shattered and putting his pieces back together every day. If they wanted to get back together, in any way, they’d have to find time and space to do so. They’d have to do it in another way. They’d have to meet each other again, to grow acquaintances again. That thing, that suddenly, was too much. Gabe nodded sorrowfully and got up, something tingling in his hand when he put said something on the closest drawer, right before unlocking the door and closing it behind him. William turned his face to the opposite side of the door and his hand wandered mindlessly to where Gabe had been. His heart throbbed. It was too much.