“I’m telling you, Speirs smiled, it wasn’t a big one but it was there!”
“Nix, leave the poor guy alone.”
“I’m serious! Lip, have you even seen him smile? Is he always this moody even during-,”
“Finish that sentence and I’ll cut your tongue out.”
“Oh, hi Ron, forgot you were with us.”
Lipton and Winters laughed at the younger man, as he looked back and grinned cheekily at the guy he was going on about. “Do you smile when cute puppies run around your legs?”
“Nix.” Winters warned, rolling his eyes at Lipton who was smiling in enjoyment beside him.
“What?” Nixon looked innocently over at his boyfriend who was walking in front, before catching up to them and leaving Speirs to huff behind them. “So, Lip, I’ll ask you, does he smile with puppies? Kittens? Easter eggs?”
Lipton shook his head. “Nope, never does.” He answered, slowing down to walk beside Speirs, taking his hand in his own. “Isn’t that right, darling? Your face is just stuck that way to scare the criminals away.”
“Yeah,” Speirs said in all seriousness. “Couldn’t have been a policeman without it.”
Nixon snorted. “I actually think that’s true.”
Lipton and Speirs shared a smile behind the other two’s backs, Speirs may have acted like it annoyed the hell out of him, but actually, Nixon and his random babbling never failed to amuse him to no end. Winters had casually changed the subject much to Nixon’s disappointment, and he was about to say so until he looked up into the apartment window on their right.
“Hey, Webster’s lights aren’t on.” He said, as everyone followed his gaze. “That’s strange.”
“Maybe he’s getting ready in the bathroom or something?” Lipton suggested, as they all strolled up the path to the entrance of the building.
“Yeah, but Liebgott should be there by now too.” Nixon said as they went inside. “I swear if they’re both in that bathroom… not getting ready for dinner...”
“I’m sure they’re ready,” Winters assured him, leading them up the stairs. “You know Web, he likes to be on time.”
Their questions were answered of course, as they knocked on Webster’s door, and Nixon led the way inside, leisurely walking into the hallway. Webster and Liebgott definitely weren’t in the bathroom. The apartment was in complete darkness, no lights coming from anywhere, not from under any doors or lamps, or even the television in the living room. Nixon turned to share a look of confusion with the other three who looked just as baffled as them.
He wondered if the two had gone already and thought they were meeting them at the diner, or if they’d popped out to grab something from the shop like the last time. But when they turned the corner at the end of the hall, the silence filling the room was broken as they all heard slight sniffling and sobbing coming from the sofa by the window. Everyone’s eyes landed on Webster who was laying on the lounger, undeniably not ready to go out for dinner. He was wrapped in a blue blanket that he clutched onto for dear life, shark teddy tight in one arm, tissue jumbled up in his other hand as he cried into it. His hair was an absolute mess, sticking up at every angle, not to mention his eyes were puffy and red with tears, and his nose just as rosy. If they could have guessed, they’d say he’d been like it for hours.
“Jesus Christ.” Nixon mumbled, before he was by his friend’s side in seconds. “Web?”
Webster gasped in shock, through his crying and snivelling he hadn’t even heard them walk through the door. “Nix?”
“Hey, yeah,” Nixon frowned, reaching out a hand to rub at the other man’s arm gently. “What’s wrong huh? We thought you’d be up and ready when we got here, you didn’t watch a bad shark movie again did you?” he smiled.
Webster didn’t smile back, instead he suddenly looked guilty and tried to get up as he saw the other three standing by him looking down. “Shit!” he groaned, sniffing loudly and rubbing roughly at his eyes as his stuffed toy fell to the floor. “God, I’m so sorry, I’m… fuck… I’m sorry I totally forgot about… about dinner.”
“Don’t worry about that, David.” Lipton said, sitting next to the youngest, as he and Nixon helped him sit upright.
“Is everything alright?” Winters asked, mentally hitting himself for even asking such a stupid question. “Where’s Liebgott?”
They knew at that very moment that that was the wrong thing to say. Out of nowhere Webster began crying uncontrollably, hiding his face in his hands, body shaking and juddering as each sob left him. His four friends gave each other concerned looks, wondering what on earth had gotten the writer so upset in the first place. Nixon rapidly got up to sit beside him, wrapping an arm around his shoulders and holding him tight.
“It’s okay, Web, shh now, it’s alright.” Nixon comforted him, as the younger man sobbed heavily in his arms.
“Web?” Lipton spoke up, having put two and two together at Webster’s sudden meltdown, and hoped he was wrong. “Is it Liebgott? Has something happened?”
Webster nodded as he took a deep breath and tried hard to stop crying, bringing the tissue to his eyes and wiping at them furiously. Nixon grabbed his hand, and yanking the tissue into his own hand he gently wiped away the tears staining his friend’s face. Webster’s lips quivered, his eyes beginning to water as more tears threatened to escape. Nixon tossed the wet tissue onto the coffee table, Winters already at hand to pass him a new one, which Webster accepted gratefully.
“Spill.” Speirs said, earning a glare from Lipton. Speirs didn’t even flinch, he was already planning five thousand ways to make Liebgott pay for whatever he’d done to make Webster so distressed.
“I…” Webster chocked, taking a deep breath as Lipton took hold of his free hand, and Nixon rubbed at his back. “He… Joe he… he broke up…” at this point Webster was finding it hard to keep the tears at bay. “He broke up with me!”
As Webster couldn’t help the fresh tears from falling, the other four in the room couldn’t help but stare over at him in outright shock.
“You what?” Nixon let out after it had sunk in. “Liebgott did what?”
“You’re kidding, right?” Speirs asked.
“Web, are you sure?” Lipton said, finding it hard to believe.
“What happened, David?” Winters added. “Maybe you misread the situation or-,”
“No,” Webster shook his head, leaning his head in his hand, crying into the clean tissue. “H-He made it c-clear… he doesn’t… he doesn’t want to be with me!”
Speirs practically growled. “I’m going to kill him.”
“I’m right there with you!” Nixon almost yelled, up off his seat in a heartbeat.
“Woah, woah!” Winters jumped in, gesturing for Nixon to sit back down and see to Webster. “Take it easy you two, let’s listen to Webster.” He said, taking a seat on the coffee table and leaning forward to talk calmly to Webster. “What happened, Web?”
The four waited and stayed quiet, giving Webster time to take deep breaths and pull himself together. “It happened this… this morning.” He started. “I came home from… from work to pick up a book I’d forgotten a-and Joe was still there…”
Webster put down his bag on the nearest chair, and made his way over to his boyfriend, who was sitting silently on the sofa, staring at his hands.
“What are you still doing here? Didn’t you go to work this morning?” the writer asked, as he sat down next to him and gave him a quick peck on the cheek. “Joe?”
Liebgott sighed quietly, finally looking up at the other man but not moving an inch. “Web, we need to talk.”
Webster felt his heart stop for a millisecond, those words were never a good sign. “About what?” he dared to ask.
“About us.” Liebgott answered. He showed no emotion, just stared at the younger man. “I think we should break up.”
Webster didn’t know what to say as those words slowly sunk in. He waited for his boyfriend to say it was a joke, that he was just trying to wind him up as usual, but Liebgott’s expression never changed, he looked right at him in all seriousness. All Webster could do was let out a laugh.
“Very funny, Joe.”
“This ain’t a joke, Web.” Liebgott said, running a hand through his unruly hair. “I’m serious. We shouldn’t be together, I want to end this. We’re not right for each other, it’s best if we just finish it and you can find someone else.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me.” Webster retorted, feeling his heart hammering against his chest. “Joe, how could you say that? We’ve been together almost a year, you’ve never… you’ve never said anything like that… you… I thought you loved me?”
“I do love you!” Liebgott practically shouted, leaping out of his chair and balling his hands into fists as his tempter got the best of him. “I do fucking love you okay? I just… fuck… I just can’t do it alright? Let’s just leave it at that, I’m breaking up with you, Web! You need to move on.”
“What?” Webster shook his head in disbelief, his eyes beginning to water as his heart slowly began to break at each word Liebgott spoke. “You can’t… Joe, please don’t…”
“I’m sorry.” Liebgott practically whispered, before he was almost running for the door.
“Joe? This has to be some kind of joke?” Webster called after him, diving off the sofa and going after him. “Joe, please!”
“It’s over!” Liebgott bellowed as he slammed the front door shut behind him.
Webster stood in the middle of the hallway, staring at the door for what felt like a lifetime. It didn’t take long for him to collapse to the floor and break out in tears.
“Mother fucking prick!” Nixon yelled as he once again jumped off the sofa, ready to cause a storm. “I’m going to cut that man’s fucking dick off!”
“Nix, sit down.” Winters said calmly, and his boyfriend obeyed, although reluctant to do so. “Web, I’m sorry about what happened, it sounds like Liebgott didn’t really give you much of an explanation?”
“No,” Webster sniffled, wiping his nose. “He just said we didn’t belong together… that I should find someone else. He… he was fine the night before”
Nixon snorted. “Well, he’s talking bullshit, Web. Something’s obviously spooked him!”
“It better had.” Lipton sighed, giving Webster’s hand a gentle squeeze. “I’m sure he didn’t really mean what he said, Dave, there must be a reason for it.”
Webster shrugged. “I-I don’t know. I just... I never thought he’d do something like this. I… I thought he loved me.”
“Jesus, Web.” Nixon cursed, hating seeing his friend this way. “He does love you, we all know that, his life was a fucking mess until you showed up.”
“He’d be lost without you.” Lipton added, making Webster smile a little. “Don’t you worry, we’ll find out what happened.”
“How?” Webster asked, worry etched on his face. “Don’t… you’re not going to-,”
“Oh yes we bloody are!” Nixon cut in, already knowing what he was about to say. “We’re going to storm over to his place and set Speirs on him until he breaks!”
Speirs, who had been standing there silently the whole time, nodded slowly in agreement. He hadn’t said a word, but he was damn ready to set a certain Jewish man straight.
Winters and Lipton though, they weren’t having any of it. “You’re not setting Ron on anyone.” Lipton said, looking over at said man who glared his way. “You’re staying right here.”
“You and I will go, Nix.” Winters said, Lipton agreeing with him. “Lip and Speirs will stay here and keep Webster company.”
“You don’t have to,” Webster whispered, snuffling. “I’ll be fine.”
“You don’t have an option,” Lipton told him, smiling sympathetically. “We’ll stay with you until these two get back, okay?”
Webster nodded, too tired and worn out to argue. “Okay.”
“Right,” Nixon clapped his hands together, and stood. “Let’s go Dick, I have a few words to say to a one Joseph fucking Liebgott. Nobody makes my best friend cry!”
Winters wasted no time in following his other half, the two making their way out the door. They left Webster in the capable hands of Lipton and Speirs, who immediately started the task of cheering him up and taking his mind off of the whole situation. If Speirs was banned by his boyfriend from doing anything remotely violent, then the least he could do was make Webster a cup of tea.
“Where’s that god damn, prick of a man at?”
“What? I ain’t pretending I ain’t mad!”
“Liebgott, I have a feeling they’re here for you.” Luz called from the sofa, where he was currently sprawled across Toye’s lap. “Hi guys!”
“Hi, Luz.” Winters greeted, noticing Heffron sitting comfortably on the floor with Roe laying against his chest, and Guarnere and Malarkey on the other couch stabbing at their game controllers. “Evening gentlemen.”
Everyone said their hellos, before Nixon’s patience started wearing thin.
“Where is he?” he asked again, sounding a little angrier than before. And that soon had all the people in the room looking at him in interest. “Where’s Liebgott?”
“Nix, calm down.” Winters said, touching his arm gently. “We’re not here to shout at him, we’re here to talk to him.”
Nixon laughed. “Dick, I think we’ve established I’m here to shout.”
“What’s going on, eh?” Guarnere decided to join in, speaking up for everyone who by now were wondering what the dramatics were about. “Liebgott do something?”
“You bet he fucking did something!” Nixon snorted, about ready to charge into the man’s room. “LIEBGOTT?” he yelled loudly, making Luz fall off Toye’s lap in surprise.
“Jesus,” Malarkey whispered to Guarnere. “He must have done something bad for Nix to be this mad.”
Guarnere nodded in agreement. “What he do?” he asked Winters, who was literally holding Nixon still by the back of his shirt, stopping him from trying to run into Liebgott’s room.
“He’s uh… upset Web.” Winters said, not knowing whether to say anything just yet.
The others in the room didn’t seem surprised, Toye just grunting at the fact. “What’s new? Those two are always bickering like an old married couple.”
“Yes, they are.” Winters sighed. “But this time’s a little different.”
“How come?” Luz asked as he slipped back into Toye’s lap.
“What the fuck do you want?”
Everyone turned to the new voice in the room, one that belonged to Joe Liebgott, who walked out of his room with the look of an angry bull on his face. Not to mention he was dressed like he’d put his clothes on in the dark, his hair was sticking up all over the place like he’d been electrocuted, and his eyes, there was no doubt he’d been crying which was something he never did.
“Shit, Liebgott, you been crying?” Guarnere asked from the sofa.
But before he could get another word in, Nixon was cutting across. “You!” he yelled, Winters keeping him grounded as Liebgott shuffled over, not looking threatened in the slightest. “You selfish, cold-hearted asshole!”
“That meant to scare me?” Liebgott deadpanned.
“Nix!” Winters sighed, stepping in front of the smaller man, before he really got into it. “Liebgott, we’ve come here to talk to you about Webster.”
It was fast, but for a second there, Winters saw the hurt look in the taxi driver’s eyes, before his guard was back up and his scowl was put in place.
“What about him?” he growled.
“You know what.” Winters said calmly. “Do you know how upset he is about what happened today?”
Liebgott looked to the ground and glared a hole into the rug, a slight pang of guilt hitting him.
“What happened today?” Heffron called from the carpet, Roe nudging him hard in the side to shut him up. “What?”
“I’ll tell you what happened,” Nixon said, it wasn’t like they all weren’t going to find out anyway. “Liebgott went and broke up with Web.”
There was absolute silence in the room, literally, nobody said a word, not even Nixon who was glaring daggers at the cabbie instead. Everyone was staring over at Liebgott like he had something stuck to his forehead, like they couldn’t exactly register what Nixon had said. Seconds later the silence was broken by Luz’s loud laugh.
“Liebgott broke up with Webster?” he said with another laugh. “Bullshit.”
“Oh yeah?” Nixon crossed his arms over his chest, eyes not leaving the man in front of him. “Why don’t you tell them Joe? Tell them exactly how you ended your relationship with Web.”
By now Liebgott had already had enough, and just wanted to run back into his room, slam the door shut and not come out for days. “It’s nobody’s fucking business!” he said angrily.
Nixon snorted, as the rest of the occupants of the room stared in shock, coming to the realisation that Liebgott really did break up with Webster. Malarkey and Guarnere were so shocked they even put their game on hold.
“None of our business?” Nixon spoke up, as Liebgott glared right back at him. “Webster’s been my best friend our entire lives, he’s known Dick, Luz and Toye since high school, and the rest of the group for fucking ever! We’re like damn brothers and you’re telling us it’s none of our business?”
Liebgott shrugged, which made Nixon even madder, he moved closer into the other man’s personal space and exploded. “Webster is my family, and I’m not leaving this damn apartment until you tell me what the fuck is going on and you grow some balls and go apologise to him, because I’ve never in our whole lives seen him as messed up as he is right now, and that pisses me the fuck off!”
“Lew,” Winters stepped forward, putting an arm around the smaller man. “Come on, darling. Calm down.”
Nixon sighed heavily, balling his hands into fists. At least now Liebgott looked a tad miserable, his shields were breaking down. “Liebgott, just tell us what the hell happened to make you want to break up with Web, we know you love him, something’s happened to make you do something so damn stupid.”
Liebgott was mute. He eyed up Nixon before looking into the concerned face of Winters, then gazing around the room at his friends, who, not surprisingly looked a bit annoyed at him for what he’d done.
With a sigh, and raking a hand through his greasy hair, Liebgott explained. “He doesn’t want to be with me, okay? I heard him, heard him loud and clear, and so did you, Nix. I heard the conversation you two had on the phone yesterday.”
Nixon just frowned at him in confusion, clogs ticking away in his head. “Huh?”
“You were on the phone to Web yesterday morning,” Liebgott went on, getting irritated at even bringing it up. “I was walking into Web’s apartment, taking off my shoes and then I heard him on the phone to you, I heard him say your name…”
“I know, Nix,” Webster sighed, plonking himself down on the sofa. “I don’t know how much more of this I can take though.”
Liebgott kicked his shoes to the side, as he listened in on the conversation. He knew he shouldn’t be eavesdropping, but something about what Webster was saying was catching his attention.
“I don’t think he realises how fucking miserable and annoyed he’s making me,” Webster groaned. “He probably doesn’t even care.”
Liebgott frowned, he turned around and made his way to the end of the hall, peaking around the corner to gaze over at his boyfriend. Webster stared out through the window as he spoke to his friend.
“I know, I know,” he said. “we’re just not compatible, I mean, we’ve got nothing in common, we never have, I don’t see why we have to carry on as if everything’s perfect.”
Liebgott felt a lump form in his throat, his breath catching, as Webster’s words slowly started sinking in. He was talking about him, he must have been.
Webster groaned even louder than before. “Nix, I don’t want to tell Joe!”
The cabbie knew for sure then, Webster was talking about him. He didn’t want to be with him anymore.
“No, Nix,” Webster carried on. “I ain’t telling him… or should I? I don’t know… he’ll get pretty mad.”
Liebgott wanted to laugh, of course he’ll get pretty mad. Ten months together, of falling head over heels for this man, and this is what he gets? Liebgott didn’t want to hear the rest of it, so he turned around as quietly as he could, slipped on his trainers and left.
“And that’s why I finished with him, okay? I came back that night and stayed over, I tried to carry on as if I’d heard nothing, but I just couldn’t do it.” Liebgott growled, addressing everyone in the room. “So you can all stop being so fucking defensive of him, because he wanted this!”
Nobody said a word. It wasn’t exactly what they’d thought Liebgott would say, and they didn’t know how to react. Heck, the boys in the living room were just down over the fact that the pair were split up. Malarkey was about to tell him so, until out of the blue, Nixon began laughing hilariously.
Liebgott was glad he wasn’t the only one confused at that moment, everyone looked over at Nixon liked he’d lost his mind, everyone except Winters. The red head was standing next to his boyfriend smiling knowingly.
“What the fuck?” Liebgott said, looking at Nixon stupidly as said man rubbed at his teary eyes. “What’s so damn funny all of a sudden? You were yelling at me not two minutes ago!”
“It’s just,” Nixon began, letting out his last laugh before continuing. “I’ve just realised that this whole thing has been one massive misunderstanding!”
“Yeah,” Toye said from the sofa. “Mind sharing with the whole class.”
Nixon chuckled. “That phone conversation was the reason you broke up with Web?”
Liebgott shrugged. “Yeah, he made it pretty obvious he doesn’t think we should be together.”
Nixon shared a grin with Winters. “Liebgott, that conversation wasn’t about you, you bloody idiot.”
Liebgott stared at the younger man, mind muddled as all sorts of thoughts ran through his head. It wasn’t until he caught Luz giggling in the corner that he snapped out of it.
“Sorry, what?” he said, not knowing what else to say.
Nixon was suddenly smiling in relief, like a switch had been flipped to change the mood. “That conversation you heard, Webster wasn’t talking about you!”
“It’s true,” Winters added. “I was there when Nix was on the phone to him, he told me all about it after they’d hung up.”
If Liebgott could frown any deeper his expression would be stuck. He looked around the room to see his friends either smiling in amusement or rolling their eyes at his stupidity, and he didn’t blame them, he had a slight feeling he’d gone and done something tremendously senseless.
“The conversation wasn’t about me?” Nixon and Winters shook their heads, before he continued, wanting some confirmation. “Then who was it about? He was going on about how we have nothing in common, how I make him miserable and angry all the time, he even said he didn’t want to tell me!”
It was Nixon’s turn to roll his eyes. “He didn’t want to tell you because he didn’t want you involved.”
“Involved in what?” Liebgott almost yelled in frustration.
“It’s about a guy he works with.” Winters jumped in. “Web has been paired with a guy from work for an article, but he’s been troubling him a lot.”
“Yeah,” Nixon said. “He likes to do things his way, and is always telling Web he’s wrong about stuff, not to mention he likes to sit there and google baby hippos instead of doing research.”
“The article isn’t going so well because of it,” Winters began. “and uh… there’s also the fact that…” Winters shared a look of hesitancy with his boyfriend.
“And what?” Liebgott cut in, his heart already beating frantically against his ribcage.
“Well,” Winters carried on, looking unsure about what he was going to say. “He’s been… making Web a little uncomfortable.”
Liebgott puckered his brow. “What do you mean, uncomfortable?”
Nixon took one for the team and said, “He’s been touching him rather inappropriately.”
“WHAT?” Liebgott hollered, once again making Luz fall out of Toye’s lap in surprise. “What the fuck do you mean he’s been touching him? Hasn’t he reported him?” he yelled, hands balling into fists. “I swear if I see that fucker I’m going to fucking murder him!”
Nixon sighed. “And this is why Web didn’t want to tell you.” He said. “And don’t worry he hasn’t touched him like that, he just… likes getting handsy.”
“How the hell is that supposed to make me worry any less?” Liebgott growled.
“He just likes putting his arm around Web, and leaning in a little too close.” Nixon reassured him. “Except for that one time he touched his knee.”
Liebgott growled loudly, running his hands through his hair as he began pacing the room. “Why the fuck wouldn’t he tell me about this asshole?”
Winters quickly stepped in. “Liebgott, he wanted to try and sort it out by himself. He didn’t want you to get involved because he knew you’d get angry and want to storm down there and sort it out yourself. He’s going to report it as soon as possible, Nix has persuaded him to tell his boss.”
“Fuck.” Was all Liebgott said as he came to a halt, practically pulling his own hair out by now. “Fuck, I’ve messed up! Why didn’t he tell me? Jesus fucking Christ, I’m an idiot!”
“No shit.” Heffron snorted from the carpet, earning a glare from the medic beside him.
“Is he okay?” Liebgott suddenly blurted out, coming to the realisation that he’d royally screwed up this time around, and he’d hurt the man he loved in the process. “Fuck, of course he’s not! How bad is he? Is he on his own? Where is he now?”
“Jeez, calm down, Liebgott.” Guarnere called from the sofa.
Nixon sighed, the adrenaline from earlier swiftly draining. “Lip and Speirs are keeping him company in his apartment while we’re here… he’s not doing good at all, Liebgott. You really did break his damn heart.”
“We went into his apartment to meet you guys for dinner,” Winters began, Liebgott sighing heavily as he remembered the groups diner plans for that night. “He was crying on the sofa, looked like he’d been there for a while, he was a mess.”
“Shit.” Liebgott groaned, rubbing a hand down his face. “I need to get over there.” He said determined, the longer he stood there yapping the longer Webster was thinking the worst.
“Yes, you do!” Nixon agreed. “Get ready and let’s go!”
“No,” Liebgott shook his head, practically running to his room and emerging with a hoodie. “I don’t give a shit if I look like hell, I need to get to Web now!”
“Fair enough.” Nixon shrugged, secretly agreeing.
Liebgott didn’t waste any more time, and didn’t even acknowledge his friends watching him as he headed for the door. Nixon and Winters said their goodbyes for him, leaving the rest of the men in the living to get on with their game night, promising to let them know if everything turned out alright.
The couple had to almost sprint behind Liebgott as they followed him out the door, noticing he was already down the stairs, way ahead of them. The entire walk back to Webster’s apartment didn’t even take them that long, as Liebgott was like a greyhound on the racetrack, the two felt like they were about ready to collapse once they’d almost reached the front door to the building.
“Let Speirs and Lip know we’re waiting down here!” Nixon called after Liebgott who was already through the door.
It slammed loudly after him, Nixon and Winters stopping and sharing a worried look. “You think they’ll be alright?” Nixon asked as Winters wrapped an arm around the shorter man’s shoulders.
“Yeah,” Winters answered, sounding unsure of himself. “Yeah, they’ll be fine.”
Liebgott took the steps two at a time through Webster’s apartment building, having run up to the fourth and final floor, heartbeat racing uncontrollably. His mind was all over the shop from the events of that day, he kept muttering to himself how stupid he’d been, how he’d messed up big this time. He wanted to scream at the top of his lungs and pound his fists into the wall, but what kept him going was knowing that he had to get to Webster. He had to make things right again.
It took him seconds to reach Webster’s front door, and he stopped dead right in front of it, staring down at the door handle like it would burn if he touched it. He didn’t know what to expect when he stepped through the entrance, all he knew was that he’d probably not get a warm greeting from his two friends, and maybe Webster wouldn’t even want him in the same room. For what he’d done to him, Liebgott wouldn’t blame him.
Taking a deep breath, Liebgott opened up the door and quietly crept inside. The first thing he noticed as he carefully shut the door behind him, was the darkness in the hallway and the hushed chatter from a television in the distance. He made his way down the hall, seeing that the dim lamp in the dining area was switched on, and that the only other light was coming from the television. What he wasn’t expecting was to bump right into Lipton as he turned the corner.
“Liebgott?” Lipton whispered, surprise written on his face. “What are you doing here?”
Liebgott didn’t answer straight away, his gaze falling on the figure that was behind Lipton, the figure of Speirs who was glaring his way from the sofa. Not only that, but Webster was there too, wrapped up in a blanket with his head in Speirs’s lap as the older man rubbed a hand up and down his back as if helping a child to sleep. The writer was fast asleep.
“Liebgott?” Lipton repeated.
The Jewish man tore his gaze away from Webster. “I uh… Nix and Winters they um… they told me about Web and…” Liebgott sighed, running a hand through his already unruly mop of hair. “I messed up, okay? This whole thing was a mistake and I need to talk to Web, Nix will tell you everything, they’re waiting for you both outside.”
Lipton nodded slowly, looking over at Speirs who didn’t look pleased. “Okay, are you sure it’s a good idea to talk to him now? He’s just fallen asleep, he-,”
“He cried himself to sleep.” Speirs cut in, having stood from the sofa and made his way over. “You have the nerve to come here after what you did.”
“Ron.” Lipton cautioned, putting a hand on his boyfriend’s shoulder. “Look, we’ll leave you two alone, Liebgott. But we’re not going far, okay? Let us know if you need us.”
Liebgott nodded. “Yeah, sure, thanks Lip, I… I really am sorry about all this.”
Lipton smiled reassuringly at him, Speirs not quite there yet. “We just want you both to be okay again.”
“Yeah,” Liebgott sighed. “Me too.”
Speirs frowned, not liking the idea of having to leave the place. “If you so much as upset Web again, I’m going to kill you.” He said, dead serious.
“I know.” Was all Liebgott said back, because he knew for sure the other man wasn’t messing around. He flinched when Speirs walked past him to grab his coat. “Thanks again.”
Lipton smiled, patting him on his shoulder as he swung on his jacket. “Don’t forget to keep us updated, okay? We’ll go back to ours with Nix and Winters and be ready if you need anything.”
“I have a gun if Webster needs one.”
“Ron!” Lipton rolled his eyes.
Speirs shrugged his shoulders at the older man, giving Liebgott one last threatening glance before he made his way out the door.
Lipton picked up his phone and turned to the other man. “Try and work on talking to each other, so things like this don’t happen.”
Liebgott smiled a little, knowing Lipton was right. “Yeah. I will, Lip.”
Lipton smiled contentedly, sending the other man a quick nod before he turned and left. Liebgott stood there staring at the floor for way too long, before he finally pulled himself together and spun around, making his way over to the sleeping man on the sofa. Being as quiet as a mouse, Liebgott crept towards the younger man and got down on his knees beside the edge of the sofa, watching him as he slept soundlessly.
Kneeling this close to Webster, Liebgott could now see just how worn out he really looked. His guilt washed over him as he took in the redness around his eyes, the slightly damp tear trails over his cheeks, and the cut on his lip where he’d obviously been biting down hard, a habit he’d always had when he tried to stop himself from crying. Liebgott cursed on the inside, wishing none of this had happened, it was his own fault that Webster was like this, his own fault that he’d not just walked into the house the other day and found out exactly what Webster’s phone call was all about.
He knew he couldn’t do anything to change what the writer had gone through over the past few hours, but he knew he could change things around. With an inaudible sigh, Liebgott reached out a hand, pushing back the lock of hair that fell over Webster’s eye and tucking it back into place as gently as he could. Webster flinched in his sleep, eyebrows furrowing at the tickling feeling. A slight smile appeared on Liebgott’s face as Webster reacted to him tracing his fingers softly down his cheek, drawing patterns over his nose and across his forehead.
Webster moaned soundlessly, dropping the tissue in his hand to scratch at the strange sensation on his face. Liebgott moved his fingers further down, tickling just behind his ear, smiling as Webster’s eyes fluttered open sluggishly.
“Hey beautiful.” Liebgott whispered softly, running his thumb along the writer’s cheek.
Webster’s eyes found his and they widened in shock, he quickly shifted on the sofa to sit upright, looking like a lost puppy.
“Joe?” he said quietly, not quite believing that the man was really there.
“Yeah, sweetheart.” Liebgott answered. “It’s me… I’m here.”
Webster clung to his blanket as he asked, “What… What are you doing here?” he let out in a whisper. “I… I thought-,”
“Web,” Liebgott cut him across, instantly grabbing a hold of Webster’s hands in his own. “Nix and Winters came to see me they… Christ, I’ve made such a stupid fucking mistake.” He said annoyed. “Earlier I… God, I should never have done what I did…Web, I’m so fucking sorry.”
“Joe…” Webster let out, feeling slightly confused by what was happening. “I don’t… I don’t understand.”
Webster cut him off, his eyes already starting to tear up. “Joe, you… you broke up with me… you-,”
“I know.” Liebgott sighed, giving his hands a little squeeze. “Web, it really was a messed up mistake, I swear to you… I never meant to hurt you like this, I thought… I thought you didn’t want me and I was stupid to think-,”
“What?” Webster gasped out, not quite certain of what he was hearing. “What do you mean you didn’t think I wanted you? Joe, how could you say that?” he said as tears fell, clutching the older man’s hands in his like a lifeline, afraid that he’d walk away again.
“David, listen,” Liebgott began, getting up off the floor to sit on the edge of the sofa, reaching out to run his thumb along Webster’s cheek to brush away the tears. “What happened this morning was because of something that happened yesterday, something I should have talked to you about instead of being an absolute dickhead and thinking the worst.”
Webster frowned. “I don’t understand, what happened yesterday? Did I do something wrong?”
“No, no sweetheart, fuck.” Liebgott cursed, as Webster looked like a kicked puppy in that moment. Liebgott couldn’t help but wrap his arms around the writer and hold him tight. “You didn’t do anything wrong, mein engel. I did this, I put you through this and I swear I’m going to make it right, I promise.”
Webster hesitantly hugged him back, letting his head rest against his lover’s shoulder. He couldn’t quite get his head around what was happening, after all that went on that afternoon, and the evening he’d spent thinking he’d never get to be this close to Liebgott ever again. He clung to Liebgott, hoping this wasn’t a dream.
“What happened?” Webster whispered after minutes ticked by.
Liebgott sighed in Webster’s hair, planting a kiss on his shoulder. “Remember when you were on the phone to Nix yesterday?” he felt Webster nod. “Well… I may have come over to surprise you and heard the conversation.”
Webster pulled back, gazing at Liebgott in confusion. “I… I don’t…” Webster’s eyes grew as the realisation hit him like a ton of bricks. “Oh… oh Joe.”
Liebgott let out a short laugh. “Yeah, yeah I know.”
“You thought… you thought I was talking about you?”
“Yeah,” Liebgott confirmed, starting to feel just a tad embarrassed. “I thought everything you were saying about having nothing in common, saying you were miserable, and when you said you didn’t want to tell me I thought-,”
“Jesus, Joe.” Webster interjected, bringing his hands up to rub his watery eyes. “Why didn’t you just talk to me about it? You could have… you could have stormed into the room and demanded I tell you what’s going on at least!”
Liebgott had thought about that. “I know, fuck Web, I know! I just… hearing what you said, thinking it was me, my heart fucking broke, okay? I just couldn’t take it.” he said, running a hand through his messed up hair in frustration. “It’s all my fault and I know I’ve been a fucking asshole, and it kills me that I’ve hurt you!”
Liebgott felt his own eyes begin to water, he couldn’t stop himself, the overwhelming emotions he’d had that day were catching up to him and breaking him apart. He leant forward, hiding his face in his hands and rubbing harshly at his eyes, he’d never in his life cried in front of anyone, always masking his weakness with a straight face and sharp tongue. Webster was shocked himself to see Liebgott break down like this, and he knew then that what had happened must have been even worse for the other man.
“Oh, Joe.” Webster breathed out, moving over to hug the skinny man around his waist, and rest his head on his shoulder, the tables suddenly turned. “It’s okay, it’s all okay now, it was a huge, stupid mistake like you said.”
Liebgott sniffed, face still hidden. “I’m so sorry, David.”
“I know,” Webster whispered, planting a kiss on the cabbie’s cheek. “I know you are, and I know you’d never hurt me.”
“But I did.” Liebgott mumbled, sitting up to face the younger man, eyes red and blotchy. “I hurt you, and I-,”
“Joe,” Webster cut across, pulling Liebgott’s hands into his lap. “You didn’t mean to, you thought I’d said those words about you and you were hurt yourself, I understand.”
“Fuck, Web.” Liebgott shook his head, staring at their hands. “How can you be so forgiving?”
Webster shrugged, smiling a little. “It was a mistake.”
“I was expecting more shouting, you know.” Liebgott smiled back. “I was ready for you to scream at me, throw shit at me, kick me out.”
“I’m not that dramatic, Joe.” Webster snorted. “Okay…maybe I am but… I’m a little too tired.”
Liebgott chuckled softly, squeezing the writer’s hands gently. “I’ll make it up to you, okay? I’ll do anything you want, I’ll even spend a whole day at that aquarium with you, you can tell me everything about the weird looking sharks with stripes and I swear I’ll listen to every word!”
Webster grinned, the sight making Liebgott abruptly feel more at ease. “First of all, they’re called Tiger sharks, secondly, I would never put you through such a thing again, and thirdly, buying me pizza and some ice cream will do. I’m starving.”
Liebgott felt himself grin, the tension in his shoulders relaxing. Just like that they were okay again, like the entire ordeal hadn’t even happened, and he’d thought he would have been at home by now after being kicked out by an angry ex-boyfriend who didn’t want to see him again. But once again, Webster had surprised him. Liebgott looked into Webster’s eyes and knew that he was forgiven, and he felt like the luckiest idiot in the world.
“So,” Liebgott began, moving his hand up Webster’s arm. “Does this mean we’re okay? I can still call you mine?”
Webster smiled softly. “I’ll always be yours, Joe.”
That’s all the confirmation Liebgott needed before he leaned forward, capturing Webster’s lips in a gentle kiss. Webster moved a hand behind the older man’s head, pulling him forward to deepen the kiss, showing him that nothing had changed.
“Web,” Liebgott sighed, as they parted. “I love you.”
“I love you too.” Webster replied, giving him another quick peck on the lips.
Then Liebgott remembered what Nixon had told him, and he held tight to Webster’s hand. “Web, who’s the guy you were talking about? Nix told me everything.”
Webster sighed, looking glum at the thought of it. “How much did he tell you?”
“The fact that he’s been feeling you up.” Liebgott said angrily. “I swear to God if he does it again, Web, I’m gonna-,”
“Joe,” Webster smiled slightly, feeling like everything was back in its rightful place again. “It’s okay, I’m going to report him, I promise. You know my boss, he’ll make sure it’s all sorted.”
“He better,” Liebgott grumbled. “If he’s been making you feel that way, I don’t want him anywhere near you, you got that?”
Webster chuckled softly. “I know, Joe.” He sighed, suddenly feeling exhausted. “Can we just forget the last twelve hours ever happened and just deal with all this work crap later?”
“Fuck, yes!” Liebgott agreed. “I’ll never do anything like that again, Web, I fucking swear on my life.”
Webster smiled. “Let’s just work on our communication, huh?”
Liebgott laughed, glad that they could smile about it. “Not a bad idea, Web.”
The two grinned at one another, before Webster fell forward and wrapped his arms around Liebgott’s neck, squishing him in a hug. Liebgott held him just as tight, even if he couldn’t exactly breathe, but it was worth it. They stayed that way for ages before Webster spoke up.
“I wasn’t kidding about the pizza.”
Liebgott chuckled, pulling back from the hug and kissing the writer’s forehead. “Anything you want, prinzessin.”
The next morning…
“Do you think Liebgott’s still alive though?”
“Nix, you’re exaggerating, I’m sure they’re fine.”
“But Web never text me back!”
“He hasn’t text anyone back.”
Winters sighed, putting an arm around his boyfriend’s shoulders as they approached Webster’s apartment building. “Lew, he probably hasn’t got back to anyone because he and Liebgott went to bed or something.”
Nixon hummed, opening the door with force. “Well I can tell you one thing, if Webster’s still on that couch crying I’m hunting Liebgott down and chopping his balls off along with his dick.”
Winters couldn’t help but smile to himself as he watched the younger man storm up the stairs, looking like a bull ready to charge. He shook his head, Nixon always did have a protective side when it came to the people most important to him.
“Jesus, who painted these walls?”
“Were they always that colour?”
“Nix,” Winters warned as they walked down the hall. “People are probably still in bed, it’s a Sunday!”
“Don’t be silly, Dick.” Nixon snorted, knocking on Webster’s door. “People live in church on Sundays. Yoo-hoo, Kenyon!” he yelled, knocking a couple more times.
Winters cringed, hoping to God nobody was about to come out of their homes and start scolding them. It wouldn’t be the first time.
“He’s not answering.” Nixon frowned.
“You’ve got a spare key.” Winters said, putting his hand in the shorter man’s trouser pocket.
Nixon’s eyebrow furrowed, he smirked up at the red head. “Dick, if you wanted to get jiggy with it, all you had to do was ask.”
Winters chuckled, pulling out the key and sticking it in the lock. “Get your head out of the gutter, Lewis.”
Nixon just grinned, pushing the door open as it clicked. The two went inside, quietly shutting the door behind them, before they made their way down the hall and into the living room. It wasn’t until they turned the corner that they realised the TV was on, the room was slightly dark, and there were pizza boxes and ice cream tubs littering the coffee table. That was when they both noticed the sofa.
Laying across it was Liebgott, sprawled on his back like a starfish, mouth agape as he let out soft snores. In Liebgott’s arms Webster slept on his side, one arm draped around the cabbie’s middle, as his head rested comfortably on Liebgott’s chest. The two looked peaceful, like nothing bad had happened the day before. Nixon and Winters shared a smile.
Quietly, Nixon creeped over to the two sleeping men, and knelt down to pick up the blue blanket that was spread out on the floor. Carefully he placed the cover over Liebgott and Webster, before picking up the shark teddy under the table and placing it on the arm of the sofa.
“I think they’re okay.” Winters whispered to Nixon as he walked back.
“Yeah,” Nixon whispered back, smiling at the two. “I’m glad I don’t have to cut anyone’s genitals off today.”
Winters grinned, shaking his head at his other half’s joke, before taking Nixon’s hand and pulling him away and out the door. Everything was right with the world again.