"Gabe, c-c-can I c-come over?" He stuttered, voice breaking over the phone.
Gabe's heart ached. "What's wrong?"
Silence, followed by shuffling. "I'll t-t-tell you later. Can I c-"
"Yeah," Gabe cut him off abruptly. William didn't even have to ask: he was always welcome.
"Thank you...I'll be over in a sec-c-cond." William said quietly, then hung up.
Gabe knew it was Tom. Tom hurt him again, yelled at him again, whatever else he chose to do to William. Gabe huffed, willing himself out of bed and into his living room, tidying up his apartment as he went. He'd rather not have William in his digusting house. Not that it was that disgusting: just messy.
Gabe held his breath when he heard the knock on his door, bracing himself to see William. He always had to brace himself to see William. Gabe pulled open the door and gasped, eyes going wide.
William's pale arms were littered with fingertip-sized bruises. The left side of his face was reddened with an apparent handprint, and he had dried blood on his face. His eyes were tinged red, and he burst into tears the moment he looked up at Gabe.
"William, baby-" Gabe breathed, pulling William into his apartment and into his arms, making sure to shut the door. William shook against him, his face buried in Gabe's shoulder. Gabe stroked his tangled hair absently, whispering to him. "Baby, you need to leave him." He said.
William's entire body tensed. "He just left me." He answered, voice muffled by Gabe's hoodie.
Gabe bit his lip, taking a step back to look at his friend. William's eyes were downcast, his breath coming in sobbing gasps. Gabe put his index finger beneath William's chin, coaxing him to look up. "Let's get you cleaned up. C'mon," Gabe said softly, going to hold William's wrist.
William jerked his arm away, but his face softened. "Ok-kay," He nodded. He seemed drained, his feet dragging behind him as Gabe lead him to the kitchen.
Gabe ran warm water on a cloth whilst William leaned against the counter, his arms wrapped around himself. "Can I asked what happened?" Gabe asked, walking over to William and beginning to lightly wipe away the blood.
William took a shaky breath, shutting his eyes. "What do you think happened? He beat the shit out of me and then he broke up with me." He said, a certain venom in his voice.
"Why? What caused that?" Gabe pried gently, his eyes searching William's face. He ran the cloth across William's cheek, and he flinched away. Gabe backed up immediately, setting the cloth aside.
William swallowed around a lump in his throat. "He...he said I was cheating on him w-with Pete. I tried to expl-pl-plain, but he called me a liar. He said I'm worthless, a whore, a-"
"Shh," Gabe hushed him quickly. He didn't want to hear anymore. He was absolutely fuming now. "How dare he do that to you?! I'll-"
William shook his head, his eyes opening. "No, you won't. You won't do anything, okay?" He rested his hand on Gabe's cheek and his lips twitched into the tiniest smile. "It's okay."
Gabe's shoulders dropped. William's hand was warm against his face, and the way William was looking at him was enough to completely melt him. "It's not."
"It will be." William barely even whispered, his voice breaking a little. The smile had faded and his eyes were shiny again, threatening to spill over.
Gabe didn't like the 'threatening' aspect. He wanted William to be okay, finally okay now that Tom was gone. If William could stay away from him once and for all, he might be fine. Live to be twenty five without getting beat. Gabe wouldn't let it happen. He'd protect William. Or, he'd try his hardest.
On one hand: William was twenty one, he was an adult, and therefore in charge of himself. On the other: William was twenty one, he was a fucking baby, and was naïve.
Gabe took William's hand off his face, holding it tightly in his own. "I hope so, I really do. You deserve it, y'know? You deserve everything. I lo-" He cut himself off. No, no. Not yet. That's the last thing William needed tonight.
William blinked hard, squeezing Gabe's hand. "Thank you," He said brokenly, then cleared his throat. "I should go home. Fix things."
Gabe shook his head. "No, not if Tom's there. You're staying here tonight. Please." He tried to gauge William's reaction, but he remained unreadable.
William finally nodded. "Okay." He gave in, defeated.
"You look tired." Gabe noted, tucking William's hair behind his ear with his free hand.
William managed a short giggle. "Yeah, I am." He replied, putting his arms around Gabe's neck and hugging him close.
Gabe hugged back, holding William tight. "Let's go to sleep," He said, picking William up bridal style. William squealed, surprisingly loud, but didn't fight back.
"Gabe! Put me down!" He protested, but laughed all the way to Gabe's bedroom.
Gabe dropped him on Gabe's bed and stepped back to look at him. William looked smaller than usual, utterly drained from the night's occurrences. William pulled his boots off and set them by the bed, laying back onto Gabe's pillow and sighing. "Thank you, really."
Gabe smiled fondly, getting into bed with him. "It's no problem. You know you can stay any time, honestly." He answered, laying beside him.
William turned onto his side, facing Gabe. He didn't speak, just looked at Gabe whilst Gabe looked at the ceiling. William took in his profile (a very lovely profile, if William was honest (which he wasn't, not about this)), and the way his chest rose and fell with his breathing. It was different way of looking at Gabe. Gabe was his best friend, and William never thought of him as anything more. But tonight was for 'different', tonight was for fresh starts.
Gabe turned his head, brown eyes meeting William's wide hazel ones. He rolled to mirror William's position, and tentatively wrapped his arm around William's little waist, pulling him against Gabe.
William inhaled softly, letting his head fall to rest on Gabe's chest. He felt warm and was thankful Gabe hadn't tried covering them with a blanket. "Mmh," He breathed, putting his arms around Gabe.
Gabe's heart was racing. He'd never been this close to William, not like this. William was bony and sharp and unbelievably warm against him. Gabe slid a hand to William's hip, which was thankfully exposed. He felt William shift at that, burying his face deeper into Gabe's chest. His breathing slowly evened out and he relaxed further, finally falling asleep.
Gabe rubbed the soft skin of William's hip and knew he'd never be Gabe's.
Gabe woke up far before William's eyelids fluttered open. Their legs were tangled together, bodies pressed against each other. Gabe watched William, even though it was sort of creepy. William looked ethereal when he slept, long eyelashes fanned against high cheekbones. His breathing was slow and shallow, and he hardly even moved. Gabe pushed his hair away from his face and behind his ear, stroking it gently. It woke him up, no matter how softly Gabe did it.
William frowned blearily, but it was quickly replaced by a smile when he recognised Gabe. "Hey," He whispered, voice rough.
Gabe returned the smile. "Hey," He said back, equal in tone.
William sat up, nudging Gabe away. "I'm sore." He informed Gabe, looking at the contusions on his own arms. "God," He hissed.
"He fucked you up." Gabe nodded, rolling onto his back.
William stood up and slid his boots back on, then leaned over Gabe's supine figure. "I'm gonna go home, Gabe, okay?" He said.
Gabe shook his head. "Stay here for today at least. You need to give Tom time to calm down and leave your house. It's over, and he needs to leave."
William pursed his lips, thinking. He inspected Gabe: his eyes were wide and pleading, and William huffed. "You're right."
"Come back to bed, kiddo. You still look tired." Gabe reached up, locking his arms around William's back and pulling him down.
William fell on top of Gabe with a startled gasp. "Gabe-"
"Shh," Gabe hugged William close, and William loosened in his grip. "William, I hope you know you're my best friend." He said into William's ear.
William nodded a bit, moving to Gabe's side again. "Yeah. You're mine, too."