Will isn’t sure when he first notices it, just that he does.
He’s not sure when he realises his heart beats just that little bit faster around George, that his hands shake and his voice wavers sometimes. That maybe this is more than some crush, more than a blip on the radar. More than something that he can just ignore till it blows over.
He’s not oblivious, and he knows George is pretty. Will isn’t so uncomfortable in himself to admit it, to admit that George is pretty. Because George is. And he would be stupid to deny that.
It’s just a matter of how pretty, he supposes. Because George isn’t exactly like anyone else, not like any of the girls or the boys that Will has found pretty before. They were all long legs and scratchy nails, and hair falling in eyes, and sugar sweet perfumes, and maybe George could be that too, but he isn’t. And Will knows he isn’t it. And maybe that’s why it feels so weird.
It feels weird, thinking that George is pretty. That George is that pretty. But he’s not sure what happens next. Because George is prettier than anyone before him, Will thinks. And he’s not sure if he’s entirely come to terms with that.
Alex is there when Will wakes up on Tuesday, sitting cross legged at the foot of his bed with a mile wide grin.
“Your mum let me in,” he says, as soon as he sees Will open his eyes. “I have something to show you.”
“I just woke up,” Will says, blinking sleep out of his eyes. “Can’t it wait?”
“No, it’s important,” Alex says, pulling out his phone and tapping through it. “Here, look.”
He shoves the screen in Will’s face, close enough that he can’t even make anything out. Will grimaces, squints, moves Alex’s arm back and focuses in on some guy’s Instagram page. “What’s this supposed to be, then?”
“It’s a guy,” Alex says, matter-of-factly.
“Well, yeah. What guy?”
“My guy,” he says, like that explains everything.
Will sighs. “You’re giving me half of a puzzle and telling me to make a picture. Who is he?”
“His name is James,” Alex says. “I met him last night at a bar, and he said he liked my hair. And then he gave me his number and his Instagram.”
“Why were you out drinking on a Monday?” Will asks. He doesn’t want to even think about whatever else Alex said.
“Was with George,” Alex says. “He’s celebrating… something. Dunno what. Anyway, what’s important is, I need your help to text James. Because I don’t know what to say.”
Will exhales, sitting up. “Can this wait until I’ve eaten breakfast?”
Alex makes a face. “No. I need this now.”
“Al, it’s really fucking early and you just woke me up - how long have you been here, anyway?”
He shrugs, “A while. Doesn’t matter. What does matter is what I send to James. Will, you have to help me.”
“It’s not the end of the world, man,” Will says. “Alright, fine. Have you followed him in Instagram yet?”
Alex nods. “Yeah.”
“Well, did he follow back?”
“Not yet. Do you think that’s bad?”
Will shakes his head. “Nah. He’s probably sleeping, like a normal person .”
Alex just grins excitedly. “So I should leave him a cute text to wake up to!”
“Jesus Christ,” Will says. “Yeah, whatever.”
“What should I say?” Alex says, ignoring all shade of frustration in Will’s voice.
“I don’t know,” Will says, “Like, ‘Hey, it’s Alex from last night. Hope you slept well. Would love to see you again’?”
Alex hums, tapping out the message word for word. “Yeah. That’s good. Is it too much to put a kiss on the end?”
“Go mental, mate,” Will says. “You’ll probably end up shagging, nothing is too much.”
Alex blushes. “Will-!”
Will chuckles, reaching over Alex to snatch his glasses from the nightstand. “Oh, please, like you're such a blushing virgin. Come on, just send that and show us his Instagram properly. It’s the least you could do for being here so early.”
“Oh, shut up. It’s like, ten. And it’s not the first time I’ve been here when you wake up, so I don’t get what you’re making a fuss about,” Alex says, tapping through his phone. He turns the screen around to show Will a group photo. “Look, that’s him.”
“The tall one on the left,” Alex says, like Will should have known. He pulls his phone back before Will can get a proper look, swiping across to another photo. “Is this better?”
It’s a selfie this time, of a dark haired guy smiling down the camera. Will hums, surprised. “Huh. He’s hot.”
“I know,” Alex says smugly. Then his face falls. “Do you think I’m good enough for him?”
Will feels his heart soften, perhaps against his will. He can’t tell. “You’re way too good for him, Al,” he says, reaching over to take Alex’s hand. “Seriously, mate. Anyone would be lucky to have you.”
Alex’s lips turn up at the corners for a second, but his eyes avoid Will’s gaze. “You don’t even know him.”
“I know enough, and I know you,” Will says, shrugging. “Besides, his Instagram makes him look a bit like a twat, to be honest.”
Alex giggles. “Yeah, true. He’s not a twat though. At least, I don’t think he is. I hope he isn’t.”
“I hope he isn’t too,” Will says. His heart aches for Alex, sometimes. He doesn’t really tell Will much, but he knows enough to know that Alex deserves the world, and everything after it. He’s not really sure how Alex is still standing, sometimes, but Will thinks he could be molded out of diamond and encased in glass.
“Yeah,” Alex says, glancing down at his phone. “Oh- George told me to tell you, by the way, that he’s doing Fifa and drinks at his later. If you want to.”
“Fifa and drinks? But you both went out last night,” Will says, “How are you both fit to be drinking again?”
Alex shrugs. “I dunno. Only live once, I guess. Besides, neither of us got smashed last night. Just tipsy. We’ll be fine. So, will you come?”
“‘Course,” Will says. “Wouldn’t dare say no, really. Not to you and George.”
“You make us sound abusive,” Alex says.
“Both of you could kill me with no remorse, I’m sure,” Will shrugs. “Not that you would, but I have no doubt that both of you absolutely could.”
“Life is temporary,” Alex says, sounding like he’s talking about something more than himself, more than both of them. “Life is really, really short, you know?”
“Bit early for thoughts like that, Al.”
“It’s never too early to question the impermanence of existence,” Alex says, like this is what he eats for breakfast. “Anyway, we should go for brunch.”
They end up not going to brunch, because Alex reels off a speech about stars dying and grave robbery, and they both end up in kind of happy tears. It’s not entirely how Will expected to spend his Tuesday morning, but he wouldn’t spend it any other way. It’s sort of how things go with Alex. Slow and existential, until all of a sudden, it’s like rushing through white water rapids and he can’t keep his head above water long enough to take a breath.
That’s just how it is, Will thinks. They lounge around in Will’s bed, for longer than they probably should. Will listens to Alex talk, listens to Alex breathe next to him. It’s comforting in the way deja vu is, feeling like a home that has never been his. Perhaps a home that has never even existed.
The morning passes in the blink of an eye, and the afternoon passes even faster, until Will feels like his stomach has been left behind. They leave his house and somehow get to George’s, and Will can’t remember getting there, except that they do. That’s how things are with George.
Things haven’t always been like that, Will thinks. Only since a few months ago, when being around George made his heartbeat pick up and blood flush high on his cheeks. But now, being around George feels like an infinity and less all played out in a second, and Will isn’t quite sure how to adjust to it. He’s not sure if he even wants to, because as uncomfortable as it is, he doesn’t know what the alternatives would be.
He doesn’t even want to think about what the alternatives could be.
He can deal with heartache and heartbreak, and living out a lifetime in two seconds. He can deal with his heart pumping out of time. He thinks he could deal with anything for George. With George.
The thought makes Will’s heart race till it feels like he’s almost dying, and that’s how he knows it’s true.
Sitting on George’s sofa, with Alex curled up against the arm, and watching George fiddling about with HDMI leads and his XBOX, feels more at home than anything else Will has ever felt. It’s almost unnerving, but Will doesn’t think he minds.
He doesn’t mind a lot when George is involved, he realises. Perhaps he should have more of a problem with that, but he doesn’t think he does.
George gets quiet when he’s drunk. Alex gets louder, until he’s hammered, and then he barely says a word. George just sits very still and very quiet, and he watches things, perched on the back of the couch. He looks sort of like an owl, with wide eyes behind his glasses.
There’s a half played match on the screen, left on the pause screen, but everyone seems reluctant to pick up a controller and play. Either way, the white-green glow of the screen makes them all look gaunt and sickly, and the loop of the screensaver music is comforting. It fills whatever silence is left between their heartbeats.
“Do you ever think,” Alex starts, quietly, like he’s not sure what he’s saying. Like every word he says is bringing something unknown into the world. It’s almost intangible, but not enough that Will feels like he can’t reach out and take ahold of it. “Do you ever think that love is absolutely pointless?” Alex finishes, fiddling with the zip on one of George’s cushions.
“Not really,” George says. “Nothing is pointless. Or maybe everything is pointless, but then you can’t have things with point or things without, because you can’t have one without the other. Why would love be pointless?”
“It’s human nature to indulge,” Alex says, “and sometimes I think that that’s ridiculous. Just because it’s human nature, doesn’t mean we should.”
Will doesn’t think he understands, but it feels like he does. That’s the thing about Alex and George, when they’re both drunk and it’s late. They speak in tongues, talking nonsense into existence, until it almost begins to make sense. And then Will breathes in, or out, or both, and all of a sudden, he doesn’t understand what they’re talking about.
He should be used to it.
“So?” George says, because he seems to get it, “love is pointless. Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it. Life is slow, and loving is even slower. Falling in love is like wading through tar. Why would we willingly do that to ourselves?”
“Because living is like wading through tar too,” Alex says, and they seem to come to a conclusion that Will can’t see, because Alex sighs and leans further into the couch.
This happens a lot with them. They say words that make sense alone, but not together, and they all pretend to understand each other until Alex and George come to a mutual agreement that isn’t spoken. Will’s learnt their language by now, they’re his best friends, and he knows how to hear it.
Talking about inferiority means George is feeling lonely, and infinitesimal. Talking about love means Alex is sad, and tired, and when Will brings up how slow they breathe, it takes a turn into a territory full of words that he pretends to know.
But its always been like that. And Will knows that Alex barely understands what he’s saying as well, because they’re drunk, and they won’t remember this tomorrow, and that’s okay. So what does it matter.
“Our hearts beat slowly,” Will murmurs, unsure whether he actually says it or not. Neither George nor Alex show any acknowledgement of it, but he knows that means that they heard him regardless. It means they agree, until they say anything else.
After all, they won’t remember this tomorrow, so Will pours another drink and unpauses Fifa, because there’s nothing else to do for it.
They end up staying over at George’s, because Alex falls asleep on the couch, and neither of them want to wake him up or move him. Will supposes he’ll have to deal with Alex complaining about knots in his back from where he’s hunched over into the cushions, but sitting up with George as the night passes around them more than makes up for it.
George is soft, and touchy, whenever he starts to sober up. They’ve only had beer, and George is kind of a light weight, but Will thinks this is his favourite part of being drunk with him. The after parts, where George curls into his arm, and for a second, Will can imagine that they’re anywhere but here.
There’s something vaguely unromantic about falling in love with your best mate passed out on the couch next to you, but Will thinks that maybe, this is where it starts. He’s okay with that. It sounds like a pretty nice place to begin.
George blinks slowly at him, his eyes slow and eyelashes sticking together. “Will?”
“What time is it?”
The thing about George, Will decides, is that he’s so undeniably perfect in every single form, that no one can blame Will for falling too far, too fast. Because it just happens. He breathes in, he blinks once, and then he’s spiralling down a rabbit hole too deep and dark for his liking. But it’s George, and hopefully someone’ll catch him at the end. Will supposes that’s all he can hope for.
He presses the on button on his phone, and white-grey light makes both of them squint. It makes George like almost angelic, lighting up all the highlights and shadows on his face until he looks like he’s glowing from the inside out. “Half one,” Will says, “Not surprised Al fell asleep.”
“Not that late,” George murmurs. “He’s just boring.”
Everything feels different this late, when he can see the stars through the open blinds but can’t tell if they’re stars or street lamps, and when the only light comes from their phones whenever a notification comes through. When it’s early morning cold, but Will feels unbearably warm, like his entire body is filling up with molten lava and he wouldn’t trade it for the world.
He breathes out a laugh, like anything louder will disturb the balance to the universe. Maybe it will. He decides he’d rather not test it. “‘S not boring,” he says, “Just… what happens, isn’t it?”
“Yeah,” George says. “Just what happens.” He sounds tired, slurring his words in the way that Will knows means he’s probably going to fall asleep soon. He’s had that tone of voice memorised since George’s sixteenth birthday and they stole vodka from his parents and got smashed in the sketchy park down the street.
That night was the first time George fell asleep on him, Will thinks, if he remembers it right. He knows that that was when he decided he’d give his life for these boys, and he’s found himself hoping ever since, that they’ll give theirs right back.
The next morning dawns slow, and Alex wakes up first. He usually does, and he’s grown good at sneaking around without waking anyone else up. Will gets shaken awake regardless, because Alex is complaining about how they let him fall asleep on a sofa, which is also a scenario he’s come to expect
“I can’t believe you let me fall asleep.”
“Neither of us wanted to wake you up,” Will says, his voice thick with sleep. This is how a lot of mornings go, because Alex is an attention seeker, and Will is a light sleeper. They both learnt long ago not to talk to George before ten in the morning, because he’s not a morning person, and it only takes so many shattered juice glasses before a lesson is learnt.
“You should have done,” Alex grumps, whispering across George’s head. “Should I put the kettle on?”
Will makes a face, glancing at the time. “If you want to risk George’s wrath, yeah.”
“You keep him distracted,” Alex says, flicking the switch on the kettle and starting the water boiling. “I’m seeing James today.”
Alex nods, blushing. “Yeah. He’s taking me out. On a proper date.”
Will whistles lowly. “Get it, Al. Surprised you’re not panicking yet.”
“Why would I be panicking?” Alex scoffs, “I don’t panic. It’s just a date.”
“Just statistics. Every other first date you’ve been on, you’ve panicked over for at least an hour before,” Will says. “And I know, because I was there each time.”
“I don’t panic,” Alex repeats. He’s silent for a couple of seconds, before his face falls. “Maybe I do panic.”
Will sighs out a smile, untangling himself from George’s legs and shuffling over to Alex. “You’ll be fine, mate.”
“How do you know?”
“I don’t. But you’ll be fine afterwards if it doesn’t work out, and if it does go well, then you have nothing to worry about,” Will says, taking the freshly boiled kettle from Alex’s shaking hand and pouring out two mugs of tea.
Alex breathes in shakily. “You don’t know though.”
“Yeah, I do. Anyone who doesn’t want to be with you is a fucking idiot, mate. And this James tosser doesn’t really seem like that bad of a bloke, even if his Instagram is a bit twatty. If it goes badly, you can come back here and get pissed with us to forget. If it goes well, you come back here and get pissed to celebrate, yeah?”
“What’s this about getting pissed?” George grumbles, shuffling around on the couch. Will and Alex both turn to him. “Fuck, it’s cold.”
“Morning,” Will says. “Window’s open.”
“Why the fuck is the window open?”
“‘Cause it was hot,” Alex says. “And I have a date tonight, which is why we’re getting pissed later.”
“You have a date?” George asks, sitting up and glaring over the back of the couch. “ You have a date.”
“Cheers,” Alex grumbles, taking one of the mugs from Will’s hand and shuffling back over to sit on the opposite sofa. Will takes the other mug and follows, sitting next to George instead.
“You know what I mean,” George says, automatically curling up into Will’s side like it’s second nature. It sets Will’s heart off again, and at this rate he wouldn’t be surprised if he developed some sort of heart problem with the amount of beating its doing. He takes the mug from Will’s hand and wraps his fingers around it, sipping and grimacing when it’s too hot.
Alex hums. “Yeah, I guess. It’s with this guy, James.”
“He’s hot,” Will says. “Al, show him the Instagram.”
Alex groans, pulling out his phone and opening up James’ Instagram page again, turning his phone around to show George. Will watches his face change as he scrolls through James’s photos, and a spike of jealous shoots through his heart. He’s not sure why, and he hates that it’s there.
He had no right to be jealous over George finding James attractive - because honestly, James is attractive, and they’d be blind not to see it. And he has no claim over George either, but thinking about it feels like nails on a chalkboard. Will hates it.
“He’s alright,” George shrugs. “How’d you meet?”
“In a club,” Alex says. “The other night. When we went out.”
“Where was I?” George asks.
“Dunno. Shagging in the bathroom?” Alex suggests. It makes the jealous monster finding a permanent home in Will’s brain rear up.
George makes a face, considering. “Yeah, maybe. I don’t remember much, anyway. When are you going?”
“He’s picking me up at twelve,” Alex says. “From here. I hope thats okay.”
“Does this mean we get to meet him?” Will asks, perking up.
Alex shrugs. “I guess you’ll have to. But he said he booked a restaurant for one, so it won’t be for long.”
“Alex is going on a fucking lunch date,” George says, almost teasing but mostly genuine. “I can’t believe Alex got a date before any of the rest of us.”
“Oh, fuck off, mate,” Alex says, slouching down and balancing his mug on the arm of the chair. He starts tapping on his phone, withdrawing from the conversation.
Not that there’s much of one going on, really. Will loops his hand around George’s ankle absentmindedly, and they sort of fall into a noisy type of silence. It’s normal, for them, Will thinks, which is why it feels so relaxing. Listening to Alex’s fingers tap on his phone screen, and George make the occasional hum in reaction to something he sees on Twitter, and hearing each of their hearts beat out of time with each other, feels normal.
James is tall, is the first thing Will notices when Alex opens the door. Taller than his Instagram makes him look. Alex has flushed all pink, red on the tips of his cheekbones. It makes Alex look younger, Will thinks.
But James is taller, taller than Alex and George, and a few inches taller than him too. Wider, as well, with broad shoulders and long arms. The sort of guy Will wouldn’t want to mess with, if it weren’t for his brightly coloured sweatshirt and the grin he gives Alex when he sees him.
“Alright, mate?” George yells, from the sofa.
Will watches Alex bite his lip and glance at the floor. “Sorry,” he says, “Just… ignore them. That’s what I do.”
James laughs, which makes Alex giggle, which makes Will and George share a knowing look and roll their eyes. “Cheers, Al,” Will says, “It’s nice to know you’re loved, you know? Now, come on, introduce us all, yeah.”
Alex huffs out a breathy laugh. “This is James-”
“We know,” George says, like he’s deliberately trying to embarrass Alex. “We did stalk his Instagram earlier.”
“George!” Alex says, mouth falling open. Will jabs George with his elbow, grinning. “This is George, then, and that’s Will,” he says, more to James. “Really, just ignore them. You’ll be much better off for it.”
“Oh, stop it,” George says. “It’s not very good manners to ignore the person who supplies you with drinks and an apartment whenever you want it.”
Will laughs. “Can’t help that you’re the richest of us, mate.”
“You could be if you got off your arses and worked for a bit,” George grumbles, sticking his bottom lip out and pretending to be grumpy. “Do you know how many six packs I have to buy for you?”
Alex smiles, laughing out through his nose. “Stop it. You’re making me look bad.”
“Couldn’t look bad if you tried,” James says, quietly, like only Alex was meant to hear. It makes him blush, again. Will feels his heart loosen up, James seems to be hitting all of the check points.
“Fucking hell,” George says, sliding off the sofa and heading towards the kitchen. “Where’re you taking him, then, James?” He calls, filling the kettle with more water.
“Uh… just a little place down by the Thames,” James says, bashfully. “Family owned. You probably wouldn’t recognise it.”
“Try me-” George starts to say, but Will interrupts.
“Shut up, G,” he says, because George has taken on the bad cop role in their good-cop, bad-cop technique, it seems. James seems nice enough, and Will knows more than well enough how to throw a punch if he ends up not so nice, so George has nothing to worry about. But he gets it. Gets why. “Don’t get too drunk then, yeah? It’s only midday.”
“Will, I’m not that easy,” Alex says, exasperated. “I should have met James outside your building, honestly.”
George grins, hanging round the door to the kitchen. “It’s fine, Al. Just looking out for you. So far, James is doing a bang up job at tolerating the three of us, so he seems alright.”
“Thanks,” James says, looking confused. “I think?”
“‘S’alright,” Will says. “George’s just weird. I think you’re alright, mate.”
“I wasn’t looking for your permission-” Alex starts.
James covers Alex’s mouth with his hand. “They’re just looking out for you. I get it.”
Alex looks disgruntled, pulling away and grabbing James’s hand instead. “We’re leaving. I feel like you’re interrogating him.”
“We don’t have a booking for another forty five minutes,” James says.
Alex interrupts him, “We’ll go snog by the river, then. I’ll text when I’m coming back.” Then he leaves, before Will or George can say anything, dragging James out of the door (who looks all too happy to follow along) and slamming it behind them.
Will looks at George over the back of the couch. They’re silent for about five seconds before George starts giggling, and then they can’t exactly stop. Will can’t look away from the shine in George’s eyes, anyway.
Something about sitting with George makes time pass faster than it usually does. Will breathes in and the sun sets before he breathes out. He doesn’t remember the afternoon passing, but it’s not particularly eventful, so he supposes it doesn’t matter.
George drinks his way through a litre of cranberry juice (a phenomenon Will has seen before, and isn’t surprised by any more), and beats him twice on Fifa before one of the controllers runs out of battery. He turns on Netflix with the other one, mindlessly putting on a sitcom that Will doesn’t recognise. They let it play until the ‘Are You Still Watching?’ screen comes on, and then they bask in the dull light it provides.
Alex lets himself into George’s apartment when the clocks are edging on seven, grinning softly. His hair is windswept in a way that looks like he was dragged through a hedge backwards (which is about on par for Alex, so Will just looks past it).
He looks infinitely younger like this, Will thinks, leaning against the doorjamb after he’s pushed it shut, blushing high in his cheeks. It’s nice, seeing Alex happy and in love.
“So?” George says, expectantly. “Did you pipe behind a bush or something, then?”
Alex’s eyes widen, bright and innocent. “What?! No! Why would you think that?”
“You have a leaf in your hair,” George says.
“Oh-” Alex says, running his fingers through his hair frantically. “Well, no, we didn’t pipe behind a bush, thank you.”
“What did you do then?” Will asks. “You were gone a long time.”
“And you forgot to text,” George says.
“My phone died,” Alex explains, toeing his shoes off and shuffling over to sit next to George on the sofa. “Well, James took me to that restaurant like he said he would, and we just… talked. And then we walked down the Thames and sat by the river for a bit. It was really windy, so he gave me his coat-”
“On the first date?”
“Yes, Will, on the first date,” Alex continues. “Anyway, we sat by the river and talked more, then we went to Lidl, and I got us rolls from the bakery, and we ate them, and then he kissed me goodbye.”
Will chokes. “On the first date?!”
Alex giggles, tucking his legs under his chin and shrugging. “Yeah. It was nice.”
“I’m glad,” Will says, feeling his voice soften. “You deserve that, mate.”
George nods. “Yeah. You do.”
“Yeah, right,” Alex scoffs, redirecting his attention to the TV screen. “Have you two eaten yet?”
“Nah,” Will says. “Were going to wait for you, but I should prob’ly go home soon.”
Alex frowns, pulling the sleeves of his hoodie over his hands. “Oh. Sorry for making you eat late.”
“Not your fault, mate,” George says. “Are you staying here tonight, then?”
Alex shakes his head. “No, I… should go home too. Mum’ll probably want me there tomorrow morning, so.”
“What’s happening tomorrow morning, then?” Will asks.
“She has a coffee morning,” Alex replies, making a face. “At the house. I have to be there to hand out coffee to loads of old people.”
George raises his eyebrows. “Good luck, then. Come round here after, I’ll get some of the expensive beers.”
“The expensive ones, eh?” Will says, nudging George with his elbow. “You spoil us, mate.”
George huffs, glaring at him but glancing away within the second. “S’not like I have a choice, is it.”
“‘Course you have a choice,” Alex says, grinning. “Just whether we’d still be friends with if you made the wrong choice, isn’t it?”
“Wow,” George says, sort of under his breath, but sort of not. “Wow.”
It goes all kinds of wrong, Will thinks, when he can’t get to sleep that night. He wasn’t expecting for things to fall apart so fast, but they do. Because they always do. He’s had two good days, and maybe he’s getting cocky, maybe he needs to be brought down a peg or two, he doesn’t know. But he’s lying awake at three am, staring at his ceiling and thinking all sorts of thoughts that he’d rather not think.
It’s how things go, he supposes. One step forward, two back, or some such philosophy. It sounds like the sort of thing Alex would whisper in his ear when they’re drunk at midnight, and their brains are pouring out of their ears.
Maybe that’s why he doesn’t pay it much mind, but when he’s lying in bed and staring at the ceiling at three in the morning, there’s not much else he can focus on. Other than thinking of things that Alex would say when he’s drunk, and thoroughly ignoring any thought of George at all, maybe this is when he realises that yeah, things are getting bad again.
Will isn’t sure what to think about that, but he’s sure he’ll know tomorrow. Hopefully, he’ll know tomorrow.
He wakes up and everything feels darker, heavier. There are texts on his phone from George, and Alex, as well as a new groupchat, but he doesn’t open any of them. The blinds are open, window open, but everything feels like he has blackout curtains over it.
He hates how fast the winds change, sometimes. How fast he can fall. Because his highs are too high, so his lows are too low.
It’s how it goes. Will should be used to it by now. His phone pings with another text and he rolls over in bed, dragging his phone up to his bed by the charging cord.
13 unread messages from: Alex, George, Unnamed Groupchat
He opens the ones from Alex first, because they’re least likely to tear his heart in two, he thinks.
Alex: morning mate i added u to a group with james and george hope u dont mind
Alex: thought we could all meet up again today if ur up for it just lmk
Will sighs, feeling his eyelids droop. He taps out an agreeing reply, hoping he’ll be able to move his legs by one o’clock. He sends it, moving into the groupchat Alex mentioned.
Alex: hi everyone
Alex: is Will up yet
George: no idea mate
Alex: well if anyone wants to meet up today just say something
George: sounds good
Alex: cool :D
Will: what do u want to do then
Will sends that, moving back out of the thread and into the one from George. It’s one message, but still it sets his heart off racing. It’s ridiculous, he thinks, how affected he is now. How monochrome everything must be if this is what it takes for him to see in technicolour for once.
George: hope ur okay
He wants to send a reply, but he doesn’t know what to say. He never does, not when he’s like this. His room feels cold and dark, even though it’s not, and Will doesn’t know what he can do about it. He doesn’t know if he’d want to do anything about it, even if there was something.
He supposes George won’t mind being left on read. Supposes he’s used to it now, what with Alex as well. Between the two of them, George has probably been left on read more than anyone in the world. And maybe one day he’ll feel bad about that.
If worst comes to worst, George’ll call him. Will knows this. George probably knows this, too. Or at least, Will hopes he does. He’s not sure what he’ll do if George doesn’t know this.
It’s why he’s surprised when Alex’s contact shows up on his screen instead. Because Alex doesn’t call people unless he has to, and usually he doesn’t have to, so he doesn’t. But he is now, so Will supposes he ought to pick up.
“-Will?” Alex says, right in his ear. “Oh, thank God. Are you okay?”
“Really? ‘Cause George said you left him on read, and you seemed kind of off in that groupchat,” Alex continues. “And if you don’t feel like going out today, that’s okay. We can do something another day, if you want.”
“I’m… fine,” Will says, cringing at himself, at how much he sounds like he’s lying right now. “Just woke up badly, is all. I’m fine, Al.”
“Good. I’ll take it,” Alex says, interrupting him. “Now tell George the same thing.”
Which makes Will’s heart drop. “What-?!”
“Are you sure you’re okay?” Comes George’s voice, loud and abrasive and all pitches of perfect. “‘Cause you don’t seem okay.”
“I’m okay,” Will says again, feeling like a broken record. “Seriously.”
“Hm. Okay. Can I come over?”
“‘Cause I don’t believe you,” George says. “I’ll see you in ten minutes.” And then he hangs up. And Will lets his eyes fall closed, letting the heavy smog flood over his brain until George arrives in time to dissipate it.
Will doesn’t remember drifting back to sleep until George’s arrival wakes him again, and he opens his eyes to George’s silhouette against the window. The light bleeding out around him makes Will think of some kind of ethereal being, like one of Heaven’s higher ups sent down. It blurs out around the ends of his hair, making it look like he has a halo. Will blames his sleep addled brain on the thoughts, and his inability to stop them.
“So?” George says, sliding onto Will’s bed and crossing his legs. He looks small like this, swamped in what looks like one of Will’s jumpers, one that he’s sure he lost ages ago. “What’s up?”
Will sighs. It feels like he’s breathing out an entire universe in one breath, like a thousand lives are pouring out through his hands. “I’m fine.”
“No, you’re not. What happened?”
“I don’t know,” Will says. “I just… woke up feeling like shit. It’s not a big deal. It happens. You know it happens.”
George fiddles with one of the hoodie strings. “I know, mate. But you know that you can tell us whenever you feel like this, right? That we want to know when you’re struggling, so we can help.”
“Do you, though?” George asks, looking up to meet his eyes. “Really?”
“Yeah,” Will says. He can taste the lies as he says it, bitter and sour. It brings bile up to the back of his throat, turns his eyes away from George. “I think.”
“You think?” George repeats. Will watches his fingers twist together out of the corner of his eye.
Will doesn’t reply, staring down at his bedclothes. His eyes trace over the pattern on it, willing his brain to quieten down. It feels almost like his insides are setting alight, like gasoline is pouring through his body and a raging fire is chasing it.
George reaches over, brushing his fingers under Will’s chin and lifting his head up to meet his eyes. It feels painfully intimate. Looking for too long will break his heart, Will knows, but he can’t force himself to look away.
“I need you to know,” George says, uncomfortably sincere. “Will, I need you to know this.”
“I do. I do,” Will starts, shifting so his body faces George’s. “Really. It’s just… hard to believe, sometimes.”
George’s hand moves to cup his cheek. His fingers are cold against Will’s skin, leaving numb, tingling patches wherever he touches. It’s burning cold and uncomfortably warm at the same time, Will thinks, like flames curling up and around, hot enough to freeze.
But even fire needs to breathe, Will knows. He blows out a thousand thoughts and breathes in a million more. “George…”
“I know,” George says, whispering, like talking too loud will throw everything off balance. “I know.”
Everything before now hasn’t felt real, Will decides, but suddenly everything feels tangible. He feels present, like he can reach out and touch it, taste it. George’s fingers on his cheek are everything he’s been waiting for, his missing puzzle pieces. Everything is falling into place.
Will never thought he’d kiss George for the first time in his bedroom on a Thursday morning. He never thought he’d kiss George at all, not really. But his heart beats properly for the first time in a while, and George kisses back, and Will feels his lungs breathe in and out for real this time.
It’s good. Better, really, than he expected. Maybe this is when he falls in love with George. Maybe he’s fallen in love more times than he can count.
Maybe he’s just falling deeper. Maybe George’ll catch him.