A while ago when Tori was asked about what she thinks there's in Alex's fanny pack, one of the things she said was “maybe now a little picture of Willie” and I really can't stop thinking about. I'm imagining Julie and her ghosts at the garage going through old sunset curve stuff and when Willie sees a photo of the boys in the 90s, all cutesy he turns to Alex and says "you still look exactly the same, death didn't water down your prettiness."
Alex blushes so hard and all his focus shifts on Willie, the way their shoulders, hips, and thighs are touching where they sat on the floor, the way his cheek is burning from Willie's hand brushing it when he placed the photo next to his face to compare, the way Willie's face glowed and lips quirked upwards before hit bit down on the bottom one, making it so hard for Alex to resist his want to crawl into his lap and kiss him until his cheeks flush the same. Maybe if their friends weren't around he'd have done it, he's already aware that they're sending him knowing looks and it's not like Reggie is stifling his giggles from where he's lying on the couch behind him and Willie.
Later that day Alex makes a comment that implies he wishes he knew how Willie looked like back when he's living, prompting the first thing Willie does when he's back at the club is to go to his room and pull out the photos he took from home when he visited after his passing. Just two photos, one with him and all his family while the other is just him and a stray cat he took in.
The next day, they sit on the bench they perched on the first day they met and when Willie gives the first photo to Alex, Alex's mind goes blank for a moment because Willie rarely talks about a time when he was alive, and now he's showing him and telling him his siblings and parents names.
Alex takes in everything that is being said, and latches his gaze on the photo. He learns that Willie got his cheekbones from his mom, he notices that his dad's hair reaches his shoulder, he realizes that the key chain around Willie's neck is resting low over his oldest sister's sternum, he observes Willie's younger sister wonky braids. "I did her hair that day, I'm sure I gave her a bald spot or something," Willie shares, leaning closer. Alex looks at him with a soft and teary gaze and there's so much he wants to say, but all what comes out is, "you were alive."
He feels stupid but he believes Willie gets what he means.
"Yeah," Willie replies, softly.
"Is there more?" Alex asks, his cheeks turning pink.
"Yeah, just this," Willie says, handing him the second one.
If Alex felt like crying over the first one, then he's about to completely weep, there's a kitten sitting on Willie's shoulder, chewing on a strand of his long disheveled hair and Willie's face is all scrunched up from laughter and the photo is a little blurry and shaky and Alex heart flutters thinking about the person behind the camera laughing with Willie.
"Can I keep it?" He asks without thinking it over, his eyes focused on the light shade of pink spreading across Willie's cheeks and his raised eyebrow.
The more Willie stays silent and just stares at him, the more Alex thinks he should probably backtrack, maybe it's weird to ask that, but then a soft smile stretches on Willie's face and he's knocking their knees together. "Yeah, but be honest the cat did it for you, right?"
"Yeah, yeah," Alex chuckles, tearing his gaze away from Willie to unzip his fanny pack and slip the photo inside where all the things he couldn't live without and needed are tucked.
When his eyes on Willie again, he can't resist the urge anymore, he really wants him to know that he loves him and doesn't want to rely on hoping that Willie knows it by the subtle touches and held gazes anymore.
"It's not the cat, it's you. I wanna keep it because I miss you all the time and I'm in love with you."
and when Willie pulls him into a kiss, they're both smiling and Willie's fingers slip off his cheek to curl around the strap of his fanny pack.
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“This is an intricately constructed blanket fort. It’d be a shame if it went to waste.”- for Willex?
cuddle dialogue prompts ( no longer accepting )
( read on ao3 )
He doesn’t know how to explain it, when Alex finds him curled up — not on the couch, but on the floor beside it, in the tiny gap where the sofa almost meets the wall.
Willie is a walking contradiction. He needs the space to be free. That’s always his excuse, when he takes his skateboard and cruises for miles through the streets of L.A., moving too fast for the wind to catch him. Open spaces, wide streets, the feeling of freedom lifting him up and carrying him away... that’s what he lives for.
(Died for, technically, but that’s a different story.)
Then, there are moments when he feels... small. Painfully insignificant, vulnerable in all the ways he doesn’t know how to handle, and the only solution that doesn’t make him feel like the soul’s about to be smacked out of his body at 60mph is... get smaller. So, he finds a tiny, hidden place, and curls up, curls in on his own body, and hugs himself for as long as it takes for the waves of feeling to ebb away. Just until he can breathe again... until the world doesn’t seem so vast, so terrifying, and he isn’t so unbearably small.
When Alex peers around the couch and finds him there, Willie can feel himself shrinking by the second.
“Willie?” Alex takes in his curled-up pose, his rocking back and forth, the tear tracks on his cheeks. In a second, he’s on the floor with him, cupping Willie’s shoulders in his large, sturdy hands. “Hey, hey,” he soothes, rubbing up and down. “What’s going on? What’s wrong?”
Willie takes a deep breath, and tries to reply. All that comes out is a humiliating little whimper. Words escape him; he’s left mute, wondering if he ever knew how to talk at all. Cheeks burning, he tries to bury his head in his knees again... but Alex gently stops him.
“No more of that. Come on, just talk to me.” He pauses. “Or... don’t, that’s okay. You don’t have to. We can figure this out together.”
Willie exhales through his nose, furious at his mouth’s sudden inability to form words — but Alex’s soothing massage quells the simmering tension.
“It’s okay. I’m right here with you. Can you, uhh... nod and shake your head?”
Of course he can. Willie nods, just to prove it, and is rewarded with a smile.
“Great. Okay, let’s go down the list. Are you... hurt? Like, physically?”
Willie shakes his head. Alex’s shoulders relax slightly.
“Okay. So you’re just feeling upset, then.” A nod. “Are you... having a panic attack, do you think? Some kind of anxiety —“ A shake of the head. “Okay. Okay. Umm... are you sad about something?”
Willie gives a wet sniffle. Alex grimaces.
“Right, dumb question. Next... uhh, do you miss someone? Something?”
Willie shakes his head, and feels a burst of guilt for that — because he should, of course he should. What kind of ghost doesn’t miss what it was like to be alive? (A ghost who barely remembers anymore.)
“Okay...” Alex’s hand slowly travels up, cupping the side of Willie’s face. He coaxes him into looking at him. “Are you scared of something?”
Willie shakes his head — then hesitates. A shadow flickers across his face, before he lowers his head and nods.
“Okay, see? That’s a start. You’re sad, and scared.” These words set in. Alex’s throat bobs, his brows creasing deeply. He leans a little closer, testing the boundaries of Willie’s space. Willie doesn’t lean into him, but he’s definitely not pulling away.
“Not what I was hoping for,” Alex admits with a soft huff. “A stubbed toe would be easier to deal with. But, Willie...” His thumb caresses Willie’s cheekbone, tracing the sharp ridges. “You know I’d never let anything hurt you.”
He knows. He knows. Willie wants to say it, but the words stop in his throat, and he just ends up whimpering instead.
Yet Alex’s eyes are so kind, without a hint of judgement. It’s more than Willie can bear.
“It’s okay,” he says softly, and Willie at last leans into his touch.
“Alex,” he whimpers... and once the silence is broken, he finds he can speak once more. The words return in a tidal wave, dragging him under. “It’s not okay. It’s not, it’s not, I — there’s so much, and it’s so loud, and it’s everywhere, Alex. It’s too much...” He swallows hard as the world around him seems to blur. His breath grows ragged, desperate. A full-body tremor rolls through him. All he wants is to vanish inside himself. “I feel like I’m disappearing...”
Alex’s hand is steady, rubbing circles into his back. When Willie focuses on the pressure, he feels stronger. Thinking about the sensation makes it easier not to think about anything else — about the storm in his head, or the way his entire body feels wrong. He closes his eyes, leaning into it. Alex’s free hand cups the back of his head, gently smoothing down his hair. When Willie whimpers, he hushes him.
“You’re right here, Willie,” he says softly. “I’m right here with you.”
When Willie’s brain ventures out of Alex’s embrace, though — when he pulls himself away from those sweet sensations, even for a second — he feels like he’s shrinking all over again, can feel himself detaching from the world. Alex can’t understand. (How could be? This isn’t a normal feeling, people aren’t supposed to feel this way.) It terrifies Willie down to his incorporeal bones, and he has no way to express it... so he can only shudder, and try to hold in another sob.
He feels Alex moving around him; hears his breathing stutter, can almost hear the wheels in his head whirring. Alex is a problem-solver. When he can break out of his own mental racetrack of anxiety, he wants to fix things. Nothing feels better, to him, than being able to make the world make sense. To make it steadier, safer, in whatever way he can. It’s his way of protecting others… maybe even himself.
But this is a problem no one knows how to solve. Willie doesn’t blame him for his hesitance.
Alex suddenly pulls away, though, and Willie is left feeling like his skin has just been ripped off of his body. He gasps — a ragged, agonized noise.
“I’m here, I’m right here,” Alex hastens to say. In the next second, a blanket is tossed over Willie’s shoulders, being pulled tight around him. “Here... just give me two minutes, okay, Willie? I’m right here.”
Don’t go, don’t go, don’t go… his mind is spiraling, and Willie can only focus on what he knows. Alex is right here. Alex will never leave him. He tugs the blanket tighter around him, tries to seek out Alex’s scent in the soft fabric, to imagine his embrace in the tight constriction. From a distance, he can hear Alex moving — can hear a lot, actually, furniture shifting and Alex cursing to himself under his breath. He doesn't let it interrupt his talking, though... because he hasn’t stopped talking, a running stream of dialogue to let Willie know that he’s here.
Willie would prefer he sing. He loves Alex’s singing voice — it’s low, and steady, and rich as cherry wine — and it’s easier to focus on music than words, anyways. He can't begin to comprehend what Alex is saying… but he’s talking, and he’s here, so that’s enough.
No. It's not. He's too far away.
Willie's too far away.
They're going to drift... they're going to get lost... oh god, it feels like he's drowning...
A sudden hand on his knee jolts him, pulling him back. His eyes snap open, wide as dinner plates, even though he knows it’s Alex. He must look as startled as he feels, because Alex's eyes go soft and gentle, his touch turning into a caress.
“Come on,” he whispers. “I have something to show you.”
Willie doesn’t want to move… but Alex is steady, and his eyes are calm and his arms are safe. He gives himself over to him without thinking twice. With Alex’s arm wrapped around his shoulders, Willie pulls himself out of the alcove.
He’s startled by the sight of the living room — lit in a dim, warm glow from the tableside lamps, and otherwise total chaos. All the pillows have been stripped from the couches and chairs. Furniture has been shuffled around, throwing the entire room into disarray; chairs are turned backwards, the coffee table’s been moved, and somehow (somehow!) Alex shifted an entire couch. Sweat prickles on Willie’s neck just thinking about it… but more than anything, he’s thinking of Alex, always such a conscientious house guest. He’s never at ease in other peoples’ homes; even the Molinas’, which has become home base for all the boys at this point. He’s slow to make himself at home… and he’d never, ever trash an entire room, just for the heck of it.
Except for Willie, apparently. He’d do that for him.
“Alex…” Willie is so surprised, he forgets his existential crisis. This feels like one of those sweet relationship moments that mean something, one of the ones that’s supposed to make him feel treasured and important… and he would, if he had any clue what he's looking at. “This is… so…"
He tossed a sheet over the back of the couch, and stretched it across the chairs. As Willie watches, the sheet caves in on itself.
“Ambitious,” he finishes.
Alex hisses, rushing forward. He hastily readjusts the sheet, and shifts the chairs a little closer, like he’s trying to make it fit. Beneath the sheet, Willie glimpses a mess of pillows and blankets laid out on the floor.
“It’s — come on, will you just stay —“ He finishes wrestling with the sheet, and turns back to Willie, breathless. “A blanket fort.”
That wouldn’t have been Willie’s first guess.
“It’s so good. You really tried.” It’s structurally unsound and going to get someone killed. Alex glows at the compliment, anyway, and Willie doesn’t have the heart to tell him. “I — uhh, do you mind if I—”
“Please,” Alex says quickly, and steps out of the way.
It only takes a few adjustments. Willie’s got more experience in these things than Alex, is all… and focusing on building a safe blanket fort is a welcome distraction from the storm still raging in his own head. He just moves the chairs around a bit, tucks the hem of the sheet inside the pillow cushions, pulls it down a little more… and, there. A working blanket fort, that actually doesn’t look half-bad.
“We did it,” Alex declares, grinning.
“Yeah.” Problem solved. Distraction over. Willie’s breathing is starting to get ragged again.
Alex notices, because he never misses anything. “Hey,” he says, and pulls Willie close again. Willie leans into his embrace without meaning to, seeking out the familiarity of Alex’s body. Alex just holds him, and lets him, with more patience than he deserves. “This,” he murmurs into the crown of Willie’s head, “is an intricately constructed blanket fort. It’d be a shame if it went to waste.”
“You’re so weird,” Willie says softly.
Alex smiles against him. “I know.”
Without protest, he lets himself be guided inside. The blanket flap closes behind them; he and Alex hunch on the floor, knees digging into a frankly uncomfortable nest of pillows. There’s hardly room for the two of them in here. They share each others’ breath, limbs brushing and shadows melding with each other. If their hearts could beat, they would pound in tandem.
Alex cups the side of Willie’s head, gazing intently at him. He looks so earnest, it leaves Willie’s chest filled with champagne bubbles. He isn’t used to someone caring so much, for all the right reasons. It’s enough to bring tears to his eyes all over again.
“Hey, hey…” Alex smooths back his hair, face contorting in worry. “Is this better?”
“It’s —“ Willie swallows the words. It’s so cozy in here, so intimate; on a good day, he wouldn’t love the confined space, but on a bad one…
“It’s small,” he says, and manages a shaky nod. “Everything feels small in here.”
From the blankets around them, to their shadows, to Alex’s body pressed against his… Willie is grounded to the moment, and too himself. The world is outside, locked away. It can’t get at them in here. No matter how big it is, how vast and unknowable… it can’t swallow Willie up, when he’s safe, in Alex’s arms, in the tiny space they’ve created for themselves.
He leans in, and Alex embraces him. He fits against his chest like a missing piece. It’s the safest he’s felt in decades.
Willie closes his eyes, and breathes out slow. “It’s perfect.”
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