The afternoon is soft and warm, and Tom can’t summon the will to head home.
The sun hangs low in the sky, warm and soft, and the clouds fill the pale blue sky, and Tom’s struck by the sudden and inexplicable urge to just sit and stare for a while. It feels both peaceful and familiar, and it sends something warm blooming to life in his chest, spreading its delicate petals, soft and warm, and, before he knows it, his feet are carrying him in the opposite direction to home.
They’re carrying him down the street, past the old, stained glass windows of the church he visits every Sunday with his Mam, and his brother; they carry him to the fields he usually passes by without a second glance, and, there.
It’s a meadow; the grass is long and unkept behind the small wooden fence, but it’s green and soft and he’s jumping over before he knows it, wading through it until he reaches a large, solid tree.
It’s oak; gnarled trunk covered in thick, flaky bark, and it’s so familiar to him, on such a deep level, that he’s taken aback. Before he knows what he’s doing, he sits against it, his back pressing into the rough bark, and is hit with a sudden, staggering wave of melancholy, of such bittersweet sadness and longing that, had he been standing, he’d have been knocked off of his feet.
Unsettled, he sits there for hours, until the sun dips below the horizon and dusk falls and shrouds the meadow in a soft, gentle grey.
He gets to his feet, but the feeling doesn’t shift, doesn’t fade, not when he leaves the meadow, and not even when he reaches home and greets Myrtle.
He’s left only with the burning, all-consuming need to return; he can’t explain it, but he needs to go back to that meadow with the too-long grass, and the tall, gnarled oak tree and the yellow dandelions.
So, the next day, he does.
He slips out of the house the next morning, quiet and careful, and steps out onto the street, his battered trainers impossibly loud as he moves, barely toeing the line between a walk and a run as he moves.
And then, it’s there.
The meadow, in all its lazy, sprawling beauty, all of it beneath his feet as he moves towards the tree, a small smile finding its way to his face when he stops abruptly, pulled up short.
There’s a man sat there, against his tree with his head tipped back and hands clasped on his lap.
Tom blinks. Okay- that’s unexpected, but, obviously, not impossible. It’s early enough that the sunlight washing over the meadow is amber, and it spills over the man, warm and golden, caressing his frame, highlighting his soft, gentle features.
Tom blinks again, but this time for a completely different reason, and his mouth turns dry. The light is filtering through his curls, and it looks like a halo; proud and breathtaking.
He’s just sat there, quiet and peaceful, and Tom can’t tear his eyes away.
He can’t describe it, but there’s something in him, something that awakens in the face of his firm jaw and his noble face, and his soft curls, and Tom just wants to reach out and touch. It’s an urge, a need, a fire burning beneath his skin, making his hand twitch with desire.
He’d be warm, Tom thinks, eyes wide as he stands there, completely frozen. He’d be warm and soft and lovely.
There’s an ache in his chest, an ache that stretches out towards the mystery man, something instinctual that recognises him on a level so deep as Tom is struck by one single thought; he has to have this man in his life.
Because, with a striking clarity, and a certainty he feels settle in his bones, he knows that without this man his life will be empty- has been empty, has been missing something, something large and gaping and in the exact shape of this man.
Looking at him, watching him just… sit there, eyes closed and peaceful, Tom can feel the earth shift beneath his feet; the very foundations move under him, aligning themselves when he hadn’t even realised the world was out of alignment, and it… clicks.
It’s like wearing glasses for the first time; suddenly the world’s clear and sharp, perfectly in focus when, before, you hadn’t even realised that it was blurry.
Looking at this man, he feels everything change.
The moment stretches out before him, long and thick and golden like honey, and the weight of it is heady. Significant.
He collapses to the ground, stunned, and then the world keeps on spinning and time snaps back to normal, and he’s still sat there with his eyes closed and hands clasped in his lap.
It should feel awkward, interrupting this stranger, but it doesn’t.
It feels right as he sits by him, far enough away not to spook him, but close enough that he can still see him.
The man doesn’t open his eyes, he doesn’t speak, but his presence is steady and comforting, and, before Tom knows it, hours have passed and the day has slipped away in a beautiful, peaceful stream.
Tom finds himself returning there, returning to the meadow whenever he can, and the man’s always a silent, familiar presence that, for some bizzare, inexplicable reason, settles him. The hours tick by, steady and peaceful, as they sit there.
The man is quiet; he doesn’t speak, just closes his eyes and lets the day wash over him. Sometimes, though, sometimes Tom can feel his eyes on him as he reads, as he fiddles with his uni work half-heartedly.
Sometimes he listens to music, lay on his back, eyes closed and hands clasped on his stomach, sometimes he hums to himself as he works, when the silence between them starts to itch, when he wants to reach out and speak to the mystery man, but he doesn’t- something about the peacefulness that surrounds him, peacefulness intermingled with loneliness and shyness that feels so delicate that Tom’s scared to break it, to smash through it with his usual blabber, that wrestles back the urge and keeps himself from directly speaking to him.
He purses his lips against the desire to befriend this man, this quiet, watchful man; a desire that is, frankly, frightening with its intensity.
His usual methods seem too crude, too blunt for this man; h e doesn't know if it's the place, the sacracy the man bleeds into the air, or if it's the man himself, the way he just sits there, peaceful and quiet, but, whatever it is, Blake can’t bring himself to disrupt it, to disrupt their silent routine, their silent bond.
So, he waits.
Thomas has never been known for his patience; it’s a virtue he doesn’t possess all that much of, much to the chargrain of those that know him. But, he scrounges up every ounce of patience he possesses and uses it to calm himself.
It’s worth it, it’s worth it to preserve this between them.
It doesn’t matter. It doesn't matter because the man is there, his presence large and burning as brightly and all-consuming as the sun. It's beautiful, and Blake finds himself comfortable just being in his presence, bathing in it.
One day, he knows, one day they’ll have to speak, they’ll have to meet each other’s eyes, and he doesn’t doubt that he’ll most likely have to take the first step, step into the sunlight that seems to cling to the man’s skin, radiate from his soft lips, but, for now it’s okay. For now he can wait, can content himself with what he has.
Because, oddly, it feels like home. It feels like he's been missing something, but now, with him right there, he doesn't have to miss it anymore. Miss him anymore.
He can’t explain it, can only accept it.
It all comes to a head when, one warm, lazy Sunday, the man doesn’t show.
He doesn't lope over to his tree, tall and powerful, doesn't slump down on the ground, and he doesn't fill the meadow with his soft, comforting presence
Blake is, understandably, completely befuddled, because he’s not there when Tom wanders into the meadow, and he’s not there when he leaves after noon, feeling slightly sick to his stomach. It shouldn’t affect him this much. He knows that, he knows , but it does .
He’s always been there.
He’s always cracked open an eye when Tom approaches, and he’d even started giving him a soft, warm smile lately. Not with his mouth, but with his eyes. They’d light up with it, a flame of delighted warmth flickering to life in them like a candle in a window whenever he had spotted Tom, and, even now, even just the thought of those blue eyes makes something tighten in his chest, makes his breath catch in his throat.
So why wasn’t he there?
It’s a question that lingers in the forefront of his mind, as much as he tries to dispel it, and it follows him home, casts a dark cloud over the rest of his day, and his brother notices.
“What’s up with you?” he asks that evening, flicking Tom with the tea towel as they wash the dishes together.
Tom’s tempted to ignore him. He can’t explain the emotions he’s feeling to himself, so how is he meant to explain it to somebody else? His brother no less.
He’s silent- uncharacteristic for him, and no doubt what prompted Joe’s concern- watching his hands move as he washes the plates, moving on autopilot. He settles for a shrug. “Nothing. I’m just…” He searches for a word, but there’s none that encapsulates the confusion, the disappointment or the longing he feels. “Tired.”
It falls flat, if the disbelieving twist of Joe’s face is anything to go by, but he doesn’t say anything as he dries the plate Tom hands him, brow furrowed. “You know,” he says carefully, “You’ve been different lately.”
Tom swallows. He’s felt different lately, ever since he found that meadow and the strange, quiet man.
“Yeah?” Is all he says, and Joe nods slowly, narrowing his eyes at him.
“Yeah.” There’s a pause as he dries, then: “Not… happier, not exactly.” There’s a crease in his brow as he searches for a suitable word, and Tom’s heart aches, a soft, distant kind of ache, because it’s exactly how their father’s brow would furrow.
Joe is a lot like their father, and, sometimes, Tom wishes he were more like Joe.
Joe sighs. “I don’t know, I can’t describe it,” he says, and Tom smiles.
“Neither can I,” he shrugs, “But… I think it’s a good thing.”
Joe glances sideways at him, his smile soft and proud, and there’s so much love in his eyes that Tom feels his heart kick in his chest, as if to say me too, I love you so much, too . “Good.” His lips curve into a lopsided grin, and his eyes turn mischievous. “Cheer up, then, yeah? Whatever’s got you down all of a sudden, you’ll figure it out. You always do.” He nudges Tom with his elbow, and Tom grins back, feeling his heart lighten.
“Yeah,” he says, “Yeah, you’re right.”
And that’s Joe, his big brother who he’s so proud of, who he’s always looked up to, because he gets him, and he always pulls him out of his head and makes him feel like everything’s going to be alright.
It’s the next weekend before Tom gets the chance to go back to their meadow- and when did he start calling it theirs?- and his feet feel leaden as he walks, each step sinking into the earth, heavy and slow, like he’s walking through mud instead of the long, soft grass, and he almost can’t bring himself to carry on, to look towards the tree, but-
The staggering relief nearly knocks him to his knees, but it’s overshadowed by the sheer giddiness, because Joe was right, again, and it bravens something in him, something that drives his feet forward, gathers his courage, and his determination, his determination to finally talk to this man, get to actually know him and figure out why he feels so familiar, so comforting, why it feels like something fundamental and intrinsic in him recognises this man.
Because he’s still there, he’s still in Tom’s life, and maybe it’s an overreaction, but that simple fact is such a relief, such a reassurance, and it feels like yes. He’s meant to be there, and when he isn’t it feels abnormal, feels like a missing limb, because it’s not right .
But, now, he’s fucking there , sat against the tree, book in hand, and he looks up to Tom and he smiles- he smiles, the bastard, like nothing had happened and it lights up his face and it’s almost too much for Tom’s poor heart to bare.
It’s the first time he’s seen him smile like that, a proper smile. He’d seen his lips curve ever so slightly as he read his books, seen his smile in his eyes, but this- this was beautiful . And it was directed straight at him; his heart stumbles in the face of it, and his mouth goes dry and his hands turn clammy because he just wants to kiss this beautiful, enigmatic, mystery man.
He drops to the floor, smiling in return. “Missed you last week,” he manages, and he’s quite proud of the fact that it comes out almost normal.
He turns startled, then sheepish as he ducks his head. “Sorry,” he says, nervously. “I- I was helping my sister move house.” Tom almost doesn’t catch it, too busy watching his tongue flick out to wet his lips, mind blue screening for a second. And then he’s distracted by his soft voice. It’s criminal, he thinks, that this is the first time he’s heard it. Downright criminal.
But then his mind catches up.
He’s not nervous, Tom realises, he’s shy .
Painfully, incredibly, endearingly shy.
Tom clears his throat and his heart fights bravely on. This- this man is more than his poor heart deserves.
“Didn’t think I’d be missed.”
He looks pleased, somewhat, as if the idea that Tom missed him is both a novel and attractive thought.
Tom comes impossibly close to gaping like a bloody goldfish. This man has no idea, no clue at all of how charming he is, of the everlasting impression he’s made on Tom with a few simple smiles and his quiet companionship. He reclines on an elbow, and smiles, slow and lazy. With a shrug, he says: “What can I say? It’s just not the same without you there, all stoic and silent.”
It startles a laugh out of him, and, fuck, if his smile send Tom’s heart fluttering his laugh send it to ruins .
They lapse into silence, a warm smile still lingering on his lips, before Tom clears his throat. “I’m Tom,” he says, scooting closer and offering his hand. “Thomas Blake.”
He blinks at him, something almost like shock crossing his eyes before he takes his hand. Sparks shoot where their skin touches, and Tom almost drops his hand and yells because what the fuck . Something- something’s slotted between them, slotted into place with this man’s hand in his, and his eyes have widened fractionally- he must have felt it too- and his voice is slightly rough when he says- “Schofield.” It sounds familiar, like he’s heard it a thousand times, and when he says it back, the shape of it on his mouth feels as familiar as his own.
Tom blinks, mind running slow, because he’s still holding his hand, and it’s warm and rough and large and it sends something warm and molten crawling down his spine and shooting through his blood. “What,” he frowns, miffed, “I don’t get a first name?”
Schofield’s- and isn’t it nice to have a name to call him by, to put to his face- face doesn’t so much as twitch, but something bursts to life him his eyes, something as awesome and grand and striking as the constellations Tom used to look at with his brother on those long summer nights, and it snatches the breath right from his lungs. “Not yet,” is all he says, and there- there is another smile, small, but amused and indulgent and teasing, and, really, it’s a miracle that Tom’s poor, battered heart hasn’t given up on him already.
He feels his mouth pull into a beam, an embarrassingly sappy, lovestruck smile. He can only hope it doesn’t look as fond and love struck as it feels. “That’s alright,” he says, and then, inexplicably, he turns serious; grave. “I can wait.” It shouldn’t feel as significant as it does.
Schofield’s eyes turn wondrous, and isn’t that nice? Isn’t it nice how expressive they are, how beautiful, how deep.
He must, Tom thinks distantly, have a very beautiful soul.
Tom isn’t ready to say goodbye when Schofield stands, tall and angelic where he stands backlit by the sun. He scrambles to his own feet. “Wait,” he rushes, “I-” He hesitates. There is, he realises, resigned, no smooth way he can think of to ask this man his number, so, with the typical Blake bravery, he decides that a little bluntness may not be, entirely, amiss. “I’ll give you my number.” He can feel his ears burn and cheeks redden when Schofield stares at him.
Curse his bloody face, Tom thinks, it gives nothing away.
He tilts his head slightly, as if waiting.
“Give us your phone and I’ll put it in,” Blake tries.
Schofield- and, really, that is a bit of a mouthful, as nice as it is- glances away in a display of shyness, or perhaps embarrassment. “I don’t have it on me.” He shifts his weight on his feet, book clutched in his hand. (Tom wishes he hadn’t glanced down at it; it’s still as large and distracting as before) “I’ll remember it, though,” he adds quickly, reddening himself slightly.
On some level, it doesn’t surprise Tom. For Schofield, a man who comes here for the peace it gives him, of course he wouldn’t bring his phone; a symbol, a connection to the outside world that here, in this meadow, he can escape.
“Alright,” Tom says slowly, “Alright, then, Schofield, but you’d better not be the type of man to prefer a phone call over a text.”
Something in Schofield’s shoulders relax, a fractional slump. “Maybe I am,” he shrugs, and there’s something playful, something friendly and familiar to it that makes Tom giddy in a way he hadn’t been since he was a boy with his first crush.
Well, Tom concedes, somewhat breathlessly, it wouldn’t exactly be a deal breaker.
The thought that he’s even considering this man like that, long term, should send him running, but, instead, it just makes something warm and fond unfurl in his chest.
Ah, yes , it seems to say, that’s the Schofield I know .
Schofield repeats his number dutifully, and Tom spends the rest of his day awaiting his text.
It’s Wednesday, and Tom’s neck deep in uni work when his phone dings cheerily, and he dives for it, grinning in relief when, yes, it is Schofield finally reaching out to him.
Tom, this is Schofield .
He types like an old man, and for some reason it makes him want to cry. Tom’s typing a reply, a ‘ Schofield! Hi!’ he hopes doesn’t sound eager when his phone chimes again.
I’m sorry I’m only messaging you now, I’ve had a busy couple of days.
He smiles, almost vibrating with excitement. All the stress, doubt, and no small amount of regret that had been steadily culminating throughout the week washes away with that simple text like words scratched into sand washed away by the tide.
im just glad u rmbrd my nmbr fr so long .
It’s actually impressive, but, then again, Tom’s memory is shite and he has a sneaking suspicion that he’s not exactly hard to impress where Schofield’s concerned.
While he waits, he saves Schofield’s number, and it’s only when he gets another text that he realises he’d shortened his name to Scho. Another inexplicable bolt of familiarity strikes him at the sight, and he’s struck dumb for enough time that Scho sends him another text.
I’m gifted with a memory finer than yours, then, it would seem.
Good thing that you didn’t have to remember my number, then, or I think I’d be worrying all week.
Tom laughs, and as he texts a reply, he can’t remember ever feeling this happy.
Scho, Tom soon learns, is funny and sweet, with a grumpy, sarcastic sense of humour that Tom delights in, and every message, every conversation they now have in the meadow it like unearthing a new, secret layer to the man and Tom can’t get enough.
He doesn’t think he’ll ever be able to get enough of this kind, gentle man.
Now, their time in their meadow is filled with quiet conversation, peppered with comfortable, companionable silence and Tom delights in every small detail about this man he learns, hoards it like a greedy dragon, cherishes each jem, clutching them tight against his heart.
It’s odd, though, he muses, sat next to the very man in question, set of earphones shared between them, sometimes they feel more like he’s remembering the small facts, rather than learning them. It’s like ah, yes of course how could I have forgotten?
Today, they’re listening to Scho’s music. It’s a soft violin concerto, full of swelling notes and steady crescendos. Romantic; fast paced and passionate. It’s so Scho that he finds himself enraptured with it, focused on each note, each pass of the bow over delicate strings, when, normally, music, to him, is just background noise, listened to in passing.
It’s beautiful, and he’s so happy in that moment.
So happy to be sat with this man, shoulder to shoulder, listening to his music, the sun warm and soft on their faces as they sit there together.
Their hands are on their legs, next to each other, and they’re almost touching- Tom would barely have to move his hand to take Scho’s.
Would Scho notice? Would he mind if he took his hand, held it in his lap?
There’s a feeling, deep, deep in Tom’s chest that tells him no. No, he wouldn’t.
But- not yet, Tom decides. Not yet. There’s no need to rush into this because this? This, this, for now, is perfect as it is.
The final note - an extended perfect cadence - of the final movement finishes, and Scho turns his head, ever so slightly, and his breath brushes Tom’s cheek, so, so beautifully, painfully close and he’s rendered frozen, mind scrambling and heart thundering as Scho’s hand moves. It reaches up, fingers grazing Tom’s cheek and adjusts the earphone in Tom’s ear, and he can feel his amused huff, warm and thrilling on his cheek, before it settles on his knee, palm up.
Tom forces himself to breathe again as he takes it, and he can see Scho’s smile as he interlaces their fingers.
Tom wants to scream.
His poor fucking heart.
Schofield clears his throat sometime after noon comes and goes, and Tom’s pulled from his sleepy daydream of blue eyes and soft lips, of a warm, cozy home and lazy touches with a startle, blinking blearily at him.
“I was wondering,” he asks, eyes not quite meeting Tom’s, and, really, the fact that he’s still so shy shouldn’t be anywhere near as endearing as it is, Tom thinks. “If you wanted to get some food with me?”
Tom blinks, sleepiness evaporating into the afternoon like water on a car bonnet. “Of course,” he says, as if there was any doubt, as if he would ever tell this man ‘no’.
Scho smiles, and this time it's both his eyes and mouth that smile; truly a lethal combination for Tom, who’s only mortal after all, and doesn’t Scho know that his heart’s almost at its limit? Really, the man should come with a warning because one of these days Tom’s heart is going to give out, and his poor mother will have to bury him and his tombstone will read Here lies Thomas Blake, killed by a man’s smile , and how embarrassing is that thought.
He swallows, mouth painfully dry as he allows Scho to tug him to his feet with a single, easy tug of his large, beautiful hands- is there a part of this man Tom doesn’t love?- and, oh , itsn’t that interesting, because he tugs him a little too hard, and now he’s too close, their chests are almost brushing, and his chest is heaving, and Scho’s looking down at him and-
His pupils .
God, his pupils are a massive black hole in the swirling beauty of the galaxy of his eyes, and fuck , Tom’s brain grinds to a halt, because holy shit does that mean what he hopes it means?
But then Scho’s taking a step back and the moment’s over, and he’s left frozen as Scho lopes off, leaving him to scramble after him, half-dazed and half-hard.
Fuck, this man is going to kill him.
The food is almost- almost- as good as the view. They get chips, hot, golden greasy chips and Schofield hums happily as they eat, squeezed onto the small plastic chairs in the outside dining area. Their knees knock, because Schofield has disastrously long legs, and Tom has never been this turned on for this long; it’s its own special kind of torture, he thinks as he tries not to stare as Schofield’s togue darts out to catch a drop of ketchup from the corner of his mouth, tries not to stare as he sucks some off his fingers. Strong, long fingers that really have no business being as attractive as they are, and, really, who knew that Tom, apparently, has a thing for hands?
Certainly not Tom, he thinks almost hysterically, not poor Tom, but Scho must because he’s got to be doing this on purpose, the bastard, because nobody looks that good eating chips.
Scho, who’s smiling, and nudging the chips towards him in offering, because Tom’s been too busy not-staring to actually eat many, and of course Scho’s noticed, because he’s attentive and sweet like that.
Tom offers a weak smile and takes one.
It’s good, and soon they're both dipping into the pile of chips, and he’s actually hungrier than he’d thought, because they’re soon gone.
Too soon, he thinks mournfully. Too soon because now they’ll have to get up and leave and he won’t be able to not-stare at Schofield and the way his hair’s ruffling in the slight breeze.
Schofield must find himself reluctant for their little outing to end. Maybe it's because it's the first time they’re actually, finally, spending together outside of the bubble of the meadow, their meadow, and now that they’re outside together in the real world. Maybe it's because it's real now, but he hesitates, and that is reluctance in his eyes, much to Tom’s relief and delight.
Tom finds himself speaking before he can stop himself. “Ice cream?” It’s not yet too cold for it, although, he thinks, is it ever too cold for ice cream?
Schofield smiles, leaning back in the chair that’s too small for his large frame. “Yes,” he agrees.
A man of few words, but Tom supposes that’s just one of the many things he loves about him.
Tom ends up getting ice cream on his nose, cold and sticky, and it’s almost as sweet as Scho’s laugh.
“You know,” Tom says one weekend, head close enough to Scho’s thigh that he can feel his hair brushing his trousers, “I think we’re at the stage in our friendship,” and he does not stumble over the word, thank you very much, “That you tell me your first name, don’t you think?”
Scho’s sat against the tree, the tree that Tom has his legs resting on, facing him, reading a new book that he’d been texting Thomas about throughout the week, which was adorable, and when he looks down at him, backlit by the sun, Tom can’t help but think that he looks like some kind of Angel.
He’s smiling. “I’m surprised you haven’t pushed for it sooner,” he admits, and Tom laughs, because Scho knows him far too well far too soon.
They text every day, small, mundane things that Tom cherishes like the soft sap he is, and, excluding their weekends in their meadow, they meet up when they can; Tom’s been busy with uni, much to Scho’s displeasure. Scho, who had taken to arriving unannounced at Tom’s door with nothing but a smile and a book, and. Well. Tom was only human.
The first time it had happened he’d nearly had a heart attack, but now it was a special kind of comfort between them, Tom studying, Scho reading his book, a special kind of intimacy that Tom was trying his hardest not to read too much into.
“I decided to take pity on you and let you keep your mystery for a little while longer” he teases, and Scho’s smile is unbearably fond.
“How considerate,” he deadpans, something lighting up his eyes when Tom laughs and laughs, delighted.
When Tom sobers enough to meet his gaze, his breathing stops because there’s something heavy, something significant threading between them.
And then Scho speaks, soft and warm. “Will. My name’s Will.”
“Will,” Tom mouths around a smile. William Schofield. Yes, yes that’s right. Looking at him, he can’t imagine calling him anything else, and it doesn’t feel like he’s been given new information. It’s more like he’s remembered something he’d long forgotten. “William Schofield.” He smiles, closing his eyes. “See? Was that so hard? You fucking bastard.”
Scho’s- Will’s , and doesn’t that feel like a whole new kind of thrilling intimacy right there- huff is amused. “Suppose not.”
He falls silent, but his hand, his hand that isn’t holding his book, moves to brush some of Tom’s hair off his forehead and then it stays there. Right by Will’s hip, he leaves his hand, almost as large as Tom’s head, just- resting in his hair and it feels nice .
It's hot on his scalp, and the tips of his fingers scratch lightly at his skin, and, slowly, Tom falls asleep.
It’s that night, actually, in the wee hours of the morning, when Tom’s awoken by his phone. It’s shrill in the dead silence of the night, and he jerks awake with a curse, scrambling for it with sleep clumsy fingers before flopping back down and throwing an arm over his eyes, disgruntled.
“ Tom .” It’s Scho, thready and relieved. The sheer emotion in his name alone jerks Tom from half-asleep to fully awake, and he sits up, panic curling in his gut.
“Scho?” He’s never heard Will like this- so uncomposed, so raw.
“I- I just needed to hear your voice,” and is that a broken sob? Tom’s uneasiness grows. “I just needed to hear your voice,” Will repeats, and it sounds so horribly broken.
“Hey,” Tom tries to soothe, “What’s wrong, Will? You’re scaring me?”
“Just had a bad dream,” he hears him sniff. “Just- talk to me?”
He sounds a bit calmer, as if just having Tom on the phone helps, and Tom lies back down, curling up on his side, and he smiles. “Will,” he says softly, “Good luck getting me to shut up .”
That pulls a laugh from his friend, and Tom closes his eyes. “You know Myrtle, right?” His beautiful, sweet labrador. Scho makes a soft noise of agreement, and Tom continues. “You wanna hear about how we got her? It’s a funny story, actually-”
And Will sighs, soft and relieved, and Tom talks and he talks until Will’s breathing evens out in sleep.
“Night, Will,” he murmurs into the phone. There’s something tender and special about the sound of him sleeping. It’s an intimacy that makes his heart ache. “I love you.” It’s so quiet, spoken so softly into the phone that, even if Will were awake, he shouldn’t be able to hear, and he closes his own eyes, falling back asleep to the sound of Scho’s soft breathing and soft huffs.
By the time he wakes up the phone call’s disconnected, and there’s a text from Scho.
Thank you .
Tom has to close his eyes. This man- this beautiful, beautiful man has no idea, no idea at all of what he does to Tom, of what Tom would do for him, does he?
God, but he loves him.
If asked to pinpoint the moment when he fell in love with Will, Tom wouldn’t be able to answer. There’s no striking moment, no sudden realisation, no sunlight falling on him, illuminating him to an epiphany. No, it just… sneaks up on him, until it’s there, comfortable and familiar.
It, honestly, feels like he’s always loved him, like he’s always had it balled up in his chest, and it's just in his presence that it had unfurled, blooming into the beautiful blossom that Tom’s love for Scho is.
So, there isn’t a grand oh moment.
But, there are moments where it almost overwhelms him, where it swells up in his chest, binding around his heart and searing itself into his bones.
There are moments when it hurts not to say it, moments where he feels that Scho has to know, because Tom’s always worn his heart on his sleeve, has always been an open book, so how can he not?
It’s in those moments when Scho’s eyes are almost wondrous, as if he can’t believe what he’s seeing writ across Tom’s face, but that’s okay. Tom’s not scared of what he feels. It feels too natural, too right for that, and he’s not going anywhere. He can wait for Will to come to terms with it, and then, one way or another, he’ll tell him, and it’ll be okay.
Whatever happens, Tom knows, with a certainty rooted in his very core, that they’ll be okay, that, no matter what, even if Scho doesn’t feel the same, that they’ll still be together, side by side.
Because, he thinks, smiling at how romantic the thought is, how idealistic, he’s pretty sure that they were meant to find each other, were meant to be together.
And loves Scho enough that he’ll be comfortable and content with whatever form of together they take.
One such moment, when Thomas almost can’t contain the sheer love for this man, when it threatens to spill out of his chest, when he thinks he might just die of it, is when he falls off his bike.
It’s nothing special, really. He’s prone to clumsiness, as his Mam’s always telling him, always the first to skin his knee.
Unfortunately, it’s not his knee he scrapes this time. It’s his chin; it’s an ugly gash, bright red and bleeding badly, and he is, he thinks, quite lucky that he didn’t slice right through it. As it is, it’s a simple abrasion, and, after he picks up his bike and limps home and cleans it up, he doesn’t think much of it.
Unfortunately, Scho stops by that night, and he does panic.
Tom opens the door for him, and there’s a small smile on Will’s face, a smile that Tom really wants to kiss, and he’s somewhat distracted by it, which is why he’s surprised when Scho lunges forward, grabbing the base of his chin, tilting his head this way and that, looking so horribly scared that Tom’s stomach clenches.
“Scho!” He manages, trying to slap Will’s hands away, but he’s resolute.
“What happened?” He asks, inexplicably frantic, and Tom frowns, softening.
He grabs Will’s hands, holding them gently in his own and pulling them away. “I’m fine,” he assures him. “Hey, Will, I’m fine, see?” He moves Will’s hands to cup his face. “I fell off my bike,” he admits, sheepish. “Grazed myself pretty bad, but my chin’s the worst. That’s all; I’m fine.”
Will’s thumb’s tracing arcs on his cheek, and his eyes are pinning Tom to the spot. His eyes are wet, Tom notices, they’re wet because he’s on the verge of crying. “Hey, hey what’s up?”
Will bites his lip. “Nothing, I- I just panicked.” He looks as confused as Tom, now that he’s calmed down, and Tom smiles self-deprecatingly.
“Well you’d better get used to it, I’m a bit accident prone,” he admits conspiratingly, and Will huffs.
“Yeah,” he agrees, eyes softening with fondness. “I’d noticed.”
And- Tom’s heart almost bursts because this man can’t be real. His heart is so big , he cares so much and it's so beautiful, and it feels like a privilege. A privilege to be cared about so much, to have wormed his way into this beautiful giant’s heart.
He feels his lips curve into something sappy and soft, but he can’t bring himself to care, because Will’s too busy looking into his eyes, his eyes which are definitely giving him away, with something like wonder.
Scho ends up staying that night. It should be harder to explain to his Mam, but she just shrugs, already half in love with Scho herself, and Joe, the cheeky bastard, just winks knowingly and offers Scho a beer.
Tom and Scho hide away in Tom’s room, huddled together and watching movies on his laptop until it’s late, even for Tom, and he can’t stop yawning, and he’s too tired to stop himself from staring when Scho stretches, his shirt riding up his stomach as he does.
Woah , is all Tom can think. He’s fucking gorgeous .
Their sofa is far too short for Will, and he refuses to let him sleep on it because you’ll do your bloody back in on that thing, I’ll sleep on it, you can sleep on my bed. Look, I’ll even get fresh sheets for you if you’re bothered , but Scho claims he isn’t bothered by that .
“I’m not going to make you sleep on your own sofa,” he protests, and. Well. Tom’s tired. He just wants to sleep, and he can’t be bothered arguing, can’t be bothered coming up with a solution with his sluggish, half-asleep mind, and he’d feel bad if he woke Joe up to crawl into bed with him like they used to do as boys, so he just sighs. “Fine, we’ll share,” and that’s that.
Will seems happy; it’s a double bed so they’re not too close to each other, but Tom’s hyper aware of Scho next to him. Each of his shifts sends his heart racing, and it’s almost too much in the best possible way.
Eventually, and he honestly doesn’t know quite how it happens, they fall asleep with their backs pressed against each other, reaching behind them with their pinkies interlaced.
It’s fucking adorable, and honestly Tom’s poor heart is almost at its limit.
Before Tom knows it, it’s been six months and his exams are here, and he’s barely able to break away to go to their meadow, to spend time with Will.
He barely even has time to text him, but Will’s patience is legendary and he honestly doesn’t seem to mind.
He misses him though, and it's a slightly bitter taste at the back of his throat, a longing bruise on his heart, but when his exams are done, spending time together is all the sweeter for it.
Scho takes him out for beers to celebrate his freedom, and the moon is high and bright when they stumble out of the pub, drunk and happy, all tangled up in each other as they stagger to their meadow and fall down into the grass, laughing like children.
God, Tom thinks, he loves Will’s laugh.
And then Will’s laughing even more, and he’s promising that he loves Tom’s laugh, too, but that can’t be right, because he said that in his head , not into the thick night air, but then Will’s face is crinkling in amusement, and he’s shaking his head because apparently Tom didn’t say it in his head, but that’s okay because Scho deserves to know that he has a beautiful laugh.
He can’t quite make out his blush, but it’s there. Warm and red, just like the love he has for this man that’s all bundled up in his chest because otherwise it would overflow and he’d drown in it-
And Scho’s kissing him.
He’s kissing him, and it’s somewhat messy because they’re both drunk, and it takes a second for Tom’s brain to kick into gear and kiss him back, but he does, and then their laughing against each other’s lips, warm breath mingling into something shared, and Tom’s drunken brain thinks it's appropriately symbolic.
He kisses Will, his lips warm and soft against Tom’s own, and it feels like the man’s crawled into his heart, and something slots into place and it feels so right and good that his eyes tear up, and Scho’s chuckling, wiping at his eyes, all fond and gentle as he kisses him again.
It feels like they’ve joined as one, like two halves coming together to make a whole.
And Will’s murmuring his agreement as he takes his hands and pulls him to his chest.
They stare up at the night sky, side by side, and he barely has to turn his head to kiss Will again; it’s thrilling being able to kiss him, and he doesn’t think he’ll ever get over the way that Will’s lips part for him, the way his skin’s so warm and soft under his hand, the way his hair feels under his palm.
The stars bear witness as they kiss, as they love, and it feels like a freedom, an escape.
They become one, all hunger and need and love, and it’s beautiful and it's right.
There’s no grand declaration of love because they can feel it between them, alive and swirling and thick, and it's enough to get lost in. Maybe they would, Tom thinks drunkenly, a whole new type of drunk, if they didn’t have each other to guide them through it. If it didn’t feel so goddamn familiar.
The next morning, after they’d stumbled back to his house, Tom’s got a killer headache, but he’s also got Will wrapped around him, so it’s not a bad trade off, if he’s honest.
Their honeymoon period is soft and sweet. They barely leave each other’s side; long days spent in each others arms, Tom finally being able to appreciate Scho’s size, and it’s a few days before they go back to their meadow where it all started, lay curled up together, Tom playing with Scho’s hand as Scho dazes, eyes blinking sleepily like a cat.
“I love you,” Tom sighs, clasping the hand to his chest. “So fucking much.”
It’s actually anticlimactic, because Scho just smiles.
“I know,” he says with a smirk, and Tom laughs. “You already told me,” he adds, and Tom smiles. “Everytime you smile at me it’s written all over your face.”
Tom huffs, but he can’t exactly deny it.
“But you’ve also told me before. On the phone.” He rolls his eyes. “Really sweet, that, thanks.”
Tom frowns. “You heard that?”
Will smiles, and leans to kiss him. “I did,” he murmurs.
“Well,” Tom sighs, “I guess it's not anything you didn’t already know.”
Will hums in agreement, and he pulls Tom down to his chest.
Tom might not believe in soulmates, but, he thinks as they let the day pass them by, if they were real, William Schofield might just be his.
JULIAN MURPHY: To be fair, we did, very genuinely, think of… [it] as a love story between two men. Which is what I think it is… I think it’s a love story, it absolutely is a love story … the man he loves is dying, so he is holding him
(- About Merlin and Arthur in BBC Merlin, 5.13)