William is so fucking beautiful it takes so much effort not to run his eyes all over his body in this Ralph Lauren t-shirt and jeans. He is seriously considering calling Ralph and telling him that this fit and design is not acceptable because it can cause car crashes. He wants to linger on that face for more than two seconds, but unfortunately he has to keep his eyes on the road while this man sitting next to him in his car is creating a savage hunger deep within his mind and body he can barely contain.
He remembers last night at the bar with Liam, how William was staring at him, his eyes two blazing blue crystals in a confused face. Lennon almost left without saying goodbye, which would be rude to his best friend Liam, but his anger was stronger than feeling guilty. But he stayed.
He was not going to make this easy for him, why should he. He wanted to shame him. He showed no sign of emotion from the last time they met, he is all business. William apologized to him last night but he didn’t buy it. He didn’t actually know what he was apologizing for.
And it hurt him so much, he could at least say that he heard the song but couldn’t answer back because his phone broke down. By the way thanks for that song, it was crap, but thank you. By the way the queen stopped by, and her corgi ate the envelope before I could open it, sorry. Anything. The stupidest lie.
He would feel better if William just acknowledged the end of their relationship. Or whatever that was - a fling, sex adventure, one-two-three-four-five-night stand, stupid crush.
- Why did you say you’ll drive me today Lennon?
Tricky question, Lennon thinks - Because I fucking want you more than anything or anyone I’ve ever wanted in my life. Because you fucking broke my heart and even now don’t understand what that did to me. Because after you I barely let another person touch me just so they don’t try to erase invisible marks that your touches left on my body. Because I will never be hurt that way again. You will be my ultimate test of control, that’s why. Because by the end of this stupid work commitment I will care nothing for you and I’ll finally be free of the fucking pain that I caried for the past year.
- Because I was thinking of getting another tattoo as well, so why not, right? - he chews on his gum and manages to stay calm.
- Right. I guess.
- And we have to get along if we’re supposed to work together. Your words. - Lennon’s voice firm and determined, William moves his gaze from the window to Lennon’s hands on the steering wheel, then on his face, but Lennon keeps his eyes on the road.
- Yes. - he replies.
He rolls his precious vintage car he purchased half a year ago to a stop outside the tattoo parlour and attempts not to attract attention.
- So many people in this area, fucking hell. - he grumbles. William shifts in the passenger seat. - Won’t be easy without my bodyguard.
He parks in a space several feet away, hoping to blend while William flicks a lighter and lights the cigarette between his lips.
- What now? - William’s knee bounces with unusual anxiety. It’s strange to see him lose his composure, maybe being in a small space with his past affects him as much as affects Lennon and he wants to get out of the car as soon as possible.
- We wait. Just for a few minutes. Hopefully it will clear up. Sorry, I just hate bringing my bodyguard to every little thing.
Relieved to see the empty street, they silently agreed it’s time to go. Lennon moves his gaze around the area one last time, both relieved and nervous about the quiet atmosphere, while he wipes his sweaty palms on his trousers.
Like most tattoo artists, Dom is covered in body art. But his is rather unusual. It is completely done in solid black ink. There is no shading or colours. There is not a single word, person, object, or animal in the design. His arms and neck, the only parts visible under his tank top, are covered with tribal looking patterns. Intricate line detail and symbols combined together to create a beautifully complex work of art. Lennon finds himself wondering how long it would take to sit for that much work.
- Let’s get this started.
Dom sat William down at his station. Dom made a stencil from the sketch William sent him already and puts it in place. He places the stencil perfectly so all the elements are in just the right place as William had envisioned. As he sits in the chair so Dom could work on his chest, Lennon feels like he should go somewhere else because seeing William’s naked chest and those defined abs splayed out on the reclined chair is more distracting than he wanted it to be. And what’s with all that new ink, there must be at last seven or eight tattoos on his arms and torso.
- I’m gonna go look around Dom. - he turns around with hands in his pockets looking at the wall full of photos of people who Dom tattooed before.
- Sure buddy. Help yourself with some beers? You know where the fridge is.
- Do you have tea? I’m driving. - and Lennon can hear William laugh at what Lennon said. His stomach drops. Lennon turns his head slightly and caughts sight of William’s smile.
- What? - he says a bit shyly.
- Nothing. Just Lennon I know would not refuse an alcoholic beverage when offered. - William jokes and both him and Dom laugh at that. Lennon really should have gone with a banter, it felt good to joke around, just mates having fun. But something just won’t let him. Anger rolls over him like a blanket. He continues to walk towards the kitchenette to make tea.
- Well this is not Lennon you know anymore. - he bites out.
- You good? - Dom asks Lennon when he comes back from the kitchenette in the back of the studio. He made three cups of tea and puts two cups on the small table next to Dom and William. The tiny needles of the tattoo gun are rapidly going in and out of William’s skin and he instantly feels the urge to look closer.
- Does it hurt?
- Umm, no not really. I always get unbearably nervous prior to getting inked. But the moment I feel that first bite, I calm down completely. The hard part is over. Now all I have to do is sit still and wait for him to complete the job.
Lennon just nods and blows on his tea. He feels the same about getting tattooed. The pain grounded him. He loved it, the process and what they represent. Tattoos on his skin are a wall that prevent others seeing what’s inside. And no one really doesn’t know how to read them. When the fans or journalists ask him he never explains what they really mean, yeah, some of them are stupid and purely aesthetic like a palm tree that he had done in Los Angeles. But others, like a large picture frame on his back, translate his past.
- Are you getting one too, Lennon? - Dom looks at him over the shoulder.
- Maybe. There is something I saw on your desk back there while I was making tea.
- Oh yeah? Let’s do it. - Dom smirked.
- Maybe. - Lennon says.
- What made you get this piece? - Dom asks William conversationally, like artists always do.
- I was reading this book and it just stuck with me...Find what you love and let it kill you. I just think we only live this one short life and it can end tomorrow or next year or in fifty. So we have to stop playing it safe. I’ve been playing it safe all my life basically and I don’t know if I can stop. But I know I have to take risks to actually live life. Real life. And most of the time the best things in life can sometimes get ugly, messy. You don’t get good without bad. You don’t get love without pain. And if you’re lucky to find that one thing that makes your heart race, whether it’s a person, a job, you should have it no matter the consequences.
- Wow. I love that, man. Even if it kills you it’s alright because you’re doing what makes you feel alive. - Dom says.
- Yeah, exactly. I’m so predictable. Most of the time I want to be someone else, somewhere else and that sucks. So I’m getting this just so I’m reminded not to lose myself completely. Think that is the message. - after saying this Lennon finds William staring at him with a sober expression on his face. Nevertheless, the beautiful view of him made him blush. Lennon glared at him, seemingly speechless.
- I think I will get a tattoo today after all Dom. A bee.
By the time Dom was done, the tattoo on Lennon’s stomach looked amazing. It took a couple of hours, and also a couple of beers later William was now looking more relaxed. Lennon hated to admit to himself but he liked that look on him too.
- You know, I created those two tattoos as one piece initially. When Liam sent me your idea William, for your tattoo, I was making a sketch of it and it sort of went from there, I ended up drawing the wings of an insect and it ended up being a bee... You two will always have that connection, and it was done in the same day? How cool is that?
Dom laughs from beside Lennon, taking his gloves off and throwing them in the bin. When William extends his hand to touch the edge of a wing of the bee on his stomach he can’t quite detect the emotion that dances in his blue orbs. All he can tell is that it is intense. He is barely touching him and yet a touch had never felt more powerful. Lennon tries really hard to not let this affect him. His heart is acting weird, all tingly and light, when he is supposed to be pissed off. He stands there, paralysed by his own confusion. Part of him wants to leave, another wants to remain in precisely the same spot. Fuck. He is trying to break the connection with William not create new ones, like doing matching tattoos. What the fuck was that all about? He can’t quite believe what Dom just told them.
- Um.. think it’s time we go. - Lennon clears his throat and steps away from William’s touch.
- Yeah. - William sighs. Lennon is caught in the past for a moment. His body was. William turns to Dom. - Thank you so much for today.
- No worries, mate. So nice to meet you and lets do this some other time, yeah? - Dom adds softly. They go to his desk where they pay.
- Oh I almost forgot. Can I just snap a quick photo of the tattoos so I can put them up on my wall? - Dom says as he reaches for his digital camera and both of them agree. - This looks amazing. Thanks lads. - Dom observes photos on his camera clearly proud of his work.
When they leave, it is dark outside and they walk in silence towards the car.
- Well... I... This was nice. - William says, walking behind Lennon.
- I guess. Would you like me to drop you off home?
- Only if it’s not a problem for you. I can get a taxi. - he quietly replies. Lennon turns toward William and shrugs his shoulders.
- No, it’s fine. - Lennon actually smiles while opening his door. William makes his blood tickle.
Most of the drive they spend in silence but it isn’t uncomfortable. It’s like they silently agree that it’s the best for everyone to play nice. Lennon is still bitter, confused and proud.
But he can’t help but admit that having William back in his life can only help him get over him. It is a strange logic, but he decides he will be above the situation. He has grown so much in a year, he can be friends with an ex.
Ringing of William’s phone makes him flinch. He can’t see who it is but William stares too long into the phone before picking up. There’s some history repeating. William answers but doesn’t say much. A voice on the other side is the only one speaking and it seems it’s shouting because William tries to say something but he’s not allowed.
- Calm down, I will be at Charlotte’s in 5 minutes. Yes. - he exhales, exhausted after only a minute of this conversation- Yes! Literally 5 minutes. We will talk.
And then he hangs up. Lennon knows. That was the fiancée. He didn’t forget that fact, the front page of the magazine did say they are engaged. It’s all good, Lennon thinks. He moved on and that fact that William is now definitely going to belong to her forever is only making things easier in his plan to only stay friends with him.
- Nina I presume? - Lennon says without emotion and William stays silent running a hand through his hair. Lennon looks up at him, his brows furrowed in confusion. William doesn’t say anything and starts typing something on his phone.
- Dom posted our tattoos on his Instagram. And tagged both of us. It’s everywhere online now. Fuck.
- Oh. - is all Lennon can manage.
He definitely doesn’t want any attention from the media, he was so careful all day knowing he didn’t have a bodyguard. As big as the bend is now, he definitely has to avoid unnecessary exposure in the media that can do them harm. Now he also has to endure all his friends’ questions about getting tattoos with William Hamilton-Smith.
- I’m going to kill Dom. He should have asked for permission before posting.
- No no, he is a nice guy, he couldn’t have known that this would... escalate. And we did agree to have our pictures taken and put up on his wall, people would have seen.
- Yeah but nobody would guess we were there on the same day or together.
- It’s my problem. I’ll fix this. Thanks for the ride Lennon. I had fun tonight - William meets his eyes but is unapproachable at the moment. Lennon knows that much. Then he stops in front of the house of his sister and he watches him leave his car. With just a brief lift of the hand goodbye, Lennon drives away.
As soon as he closes the door of Charlotte’s house behind him William can hear Nina’s footsteps descending the stairs.
- What the hell were you thinking? - Nina finally snaps. She stalks up to William and makes him meet her furious eyes, her perfectly styled hair falling down her shoulders. - How long have you been seeing him? What does he want from you now?
- Nothing! - the word rips from his lips mercilessly. William looks down at her with something that feels like hurt. Like anger. - I didn’t even plan this. His band is going to work with our record label, it wasn’t my idea!
- And why didn’t you tell me about this? You promised me, William.
It seems like she is not even listening. It’s usually like this when they fight. And they fight a lot now, ever since he decided to give it another go, to fix things, to try to be happy with her. There are nice moments still, fragments of the blissful old relationship they had in the beginning but arguments are more frequent than not. And he tries, he tries so hard to just ignore her when she starts her monologues, because his words don’t matter anymore. Not after what he did to her.
- You promised me he was out of our lives! - she is shaking her head in disbelief.
- There’s nothing going on babe, you have to believe me. Just calm the fuck down! - he stares down at her. William has never ever raised his voice like that at her, at any woman.
- No, I just, I just can’t...
- Calm. Down.
- Why did you go out with him to do tattoos? What does that have to do with him being in your record label?
- Well if you stop shouting like a crazy person and let me explain then maybe you would find out. - William simply replies and grips her shoulders trying to steady her. Make her listen. - I met Liam at some party yesterday to say goodbye and Lennon showed up, totally by accident, and then he offered to take me to this tattooist that both Liam and he know, that I had an appointment with. Remember, I told you the other day I’m getting a tattoo?
- Yeah... - she whispers thinking about what he just said.
- Believe me darling, the guy hates me, and I was not particularly happy to see him there in my office after everything that happened. After all this time. But we have to work together and we were just trying to be friendly in order not to make the whole thing awkward.
- Can you not work with him?
- I probably won’t see them all that much to be honest. Couple of meetings here and there. This was... this was just this one time. It was nothing.
- You should have told me.
- I know. I know. I’m sorry. I didn’t want to upset you.
- But you did make it worse by not telling me. I had to find out from The Sun. How William Hamilton-Smith is best mates with Lennon Lewis all of a sudden and getting tattoos together and whatnot. Honestly...
William saw some glimpses of the articles about their ‘bromance’ in the car and hopes they will go away as soon as possible for the sake of Nina and some peace. He can see that her eyes are beginning to water. He stares at her face until sympathy washes over him.
- Please, lets... lets go to the bedroom. Yeah? I don’t want Charlotte and Jack hearing us fight like this.
William turns away and takes her by her hand, leading her upstairs. Once in the room he takes his jacket off and looks at her, she is still crying. - Nina.. - He wipes her face and she is in his arms before William could say anything else.
- Nina, I am so sorry. Fuck...I... I don’t know, don’t know what to say when you’re like this. It’s so hard seeing you upset.
William arms come around her and he buries his head into her shoulder. - I fucked up, but I don’t think I will ever know how not to fuck up when it comes to that topic. I always feel like everything I do is wrong.
- It’s hard to trust you after...you know. But, I just want us to get married and then I will be at peace. William, that’s the only time I will be able to trust you.
- Nina, we are getting married. But you have to trust me. It’s not normal to...
- I can’t! - the sound that escapes her is almost not human. Her eyes are dark and evil and he’s struggling to understand her like this, a woman he has known for so long and yet there are dark parts of her personality that he obviously doesn’t know. - Now you spend time with him, and I just can’t get it out of my head! I keep imagining you two...
- No,n-no Nina, listen. Nina, look at me.
- Promise me. I love you, Will.
- I l- love you too.
- Promise me we will get married. Let’s get married. M? Let’s pick a date now.
- W-what? Wow Nina, w... - William pulse skyrockets.
- Yeah, why not. - he gulps hard, trying to hold back the emotion that overwhelms him now. The conversation had taken a turn,and William stares at her speechlessly.
- Um... Why rush now? Just because of a stupid fight? Come on, let’s talk about it tomorrow, yeah? I know you want a big wedding,darling, we need time to organize it, and...
- I don’t want it. It doesn’t have to be big. We can just get married, I already found a house that is perfect for us. The relitor said we can move in a month.
She says and all at once his world freezes.He staggers backwards and stares blankly at Nina.
- My dad would never approve of this short notice, you know this wedding is a big thing for my family too. We said it will be next year.
Why is she acting like this? What is he supposed to do now? He does want to marry her, he does. It’s right thing to do. But not yet. Not right now. It was supposed to be in a year, just enough time to mentally get ready. A thousand questions spirals in his head.
- But you can talk to him, baby? Talk to your father and say it’s important.
- I guess I can.
This entire day has been a roller coaster of emotions. From his frustration about having to spend the day with Lennon after wanking to the memory of him in his bed, realisation that Lennon obviously hates him, dealing with Nina and her jealousy that is completely justified, to mentioning the word wedding. But what he feels now is infuriating because it makes no sense - no sense at all.
Guilt creeps up through his fingers. He feels it crawl up his spine and along his jaw, gnashing his teeth together as he squeezes his eyes closed. He doesn’t deal with disappointment well. He doesn’t do well with not living up to expectations. And while he managed to distract himself with life in New York for a couple of years, he is now back to the place that expects him to exceed all the time, no exceptions.
The night is long, and so is the next day. And the day after. And the one after that. The air is warmer, the flowers blossom in parks and trees colour the city in green, English summer is here. William throws himself into his job and the rest of his time he wears himself out in the gym. The office of a record label firm will never be the most fun place to work for him, but it is busy and distracting, and for that he is thankful.
Friday rolls round. He manages to avoid Lennon so far, just sending an email to their manager about three concerts they have scheduled this week, a part of summer festival in London and a couple of TV shows the band has to attend next month.
He also manages to avoid Nina so she doesn’t have an opportunity to ask more questions about Lennon or the wedding.
He’d had time and space to think. And think he’d done. He is going over and over the things in his head. Thinking endlessly about his reaction to Lennon, how he felt when he was with him. He knows how he feels, he isn’t stupid enough to deny it to himself. Analysing it would be silly, he likes Lennon, and he turns him on. End of. The thing he isn’t sure of is how to deal with it and he will have to if Nina keeps insisting that the wedding happens as soon as possible.