And they will break you down
'Til everything is normal now
—Normal Person by Arcade Fire
Alex met him when he was 17.
For as long as he could remember, he hadn’t been normal. How could he be, when he had two names etched onto his wrist?
It wasn’t unheard of. It also wasn’t normal. Alex had spent years reading through books, searching through the internet, and the amount of information he had found was almost pitiful. He had heard the same thing a million times, growing up: you can only have one soulmate.
And he had known his forever, practically since before he could even read the name Gareth Walker on his wrist. They were strike partners when they played football together, best friends at any other time. Neither of them had ever really understood the implication of the words on their skin. Neither of them had ever really understood that it meant more than best friends forever.
Neither of them had ever really understood where "Danny Williams" fell into the equation.
Alex had never wanted to ask.
It happened at the library. He was only there for a stupid research paper for English, one that he was lucky enough to be able to write on the history of football. That was the only plus. So he was leafing through sports books, smiling to himself as he hit a section about Manchester United, thinking that maybe, just maybe , this wouldn't be so bad.
The voice wasn't familiar. Alex looked up with a slightly confused expression, wondering why it mattered to some stranger. And...
"Well, we are in Manchester. Shouldn't be too much of a shocker."
"Fair enough. I've always been a Newcastle fan, myself. We'll be coming back strong next season!"
Alex couldn't help the smile that tugged at the corners of his lips. "We'll have to see about that."
"That we will. I have a feeling we've got quite the rivalry coming on. In that case, it's nice to meet you. The name's Danny."
"Nice to meet you, too. Alex. Alex Hunter."
His throat felt dry when Danny grinned and replied, "Williams."
He watched the other for a long, long moment, trying to judge if he was as fazed as Alex felt. He seemed fine, though, and that rubbed Alex the wrong way, if he was being honest. What if he had spent his whole life worrying about this, and his name wasn't even on Danny's wrist? What if he never saw him again?
"Here, give me your phone number? I know you're busy... reading, and all, so I promise I won't bother you too often."
He gave him his phone number, and they both left. Alex didn't think that he would be getting much work done after that.
The scene was familiar. The two of them were alone at Alex's place, sitting on the couch. There was a movie on that Alex had already forgotten the name of, preferring to lean against Gareth, eyes closed as Gareth rubbed his arm. It was normal .
Alex was quiet for a moment, thinking. He opened his eyes, looking up at Gareth. "Can I tell you something? You won't get upset?"
He could see the immediate worry on Gareth's face, even as he tried to hide it. "Of course. What's wrong?"
"I..." He closed his eyes again, chewing on the inside of his lip. "Yesterday. I was at the library, you know, for that English paper?"
"And I met this guy..."
Gareth tensed up a little bit, hand settling on Alex's arm.
"Hey, calm down. He was a Newcastle fan," he chuckled.
And it was only then that he realised how ridiculous his worries had been. He had spent an entire day thinking about how to bring this up to Gareth, without making things awkward. People had told him his whole life that it was wrong, that if he supposedly had two soulmates, he'd never be able to keep somebody happy. But he and Gareth were happy, right? So what was the problem?
"But, um... He..."
"Alex." He knew that Gareth didn't have the patience for this. "If you have something to say, just say it."
He took a deep breath. "Danny."
There was a long, long silence. They didn't talk about this. They had never had to, Alex had never planned on it, and he doubted that Gareth had, either. Now that the subject was being brought up, he didn't know what else to say.
Alex was starting to regret bringing it up already. No, it didn't mean anything to him, but maybe it did to Gareth, maybe Gareth didn't trust him, maybe Gareth thought that he was broken, too.
"I know." He curled up tighter against Gareth's side, which he seemed to appreciate. "I just wanted you to know... but if it's not a big deal to you, it's nothing to me."
Gareth seemed to consider that. "Okay. Okay."
It took almost a week for Danny to text him. He almost didn't think that he was going to. That had almost been a relief.
Ay Alex. Lucky enough to receive a text from Danny Williams himself: you should be honoured. Maybe I'm lucky enough to score you for dinner tonight?
He read the text a few times. He had talked to the guy for less than a minute, he thought, yet the text was still so Danny that it almost hurt. Alex already hated it.
Sorry. was all that he could bring himself to text back.
He got one back almost immediately.
That a no? Do you not...?
When the next picture came in, accompanied by a gritty picture of Danny's wrist, he wanted to throw up. He almost didn't answer.
Sorry. I can't. If that's what you want from me, I'm sorry .
Alex turned off his phone.
They didn't ever talk about it again, until they did.
He winked open an eye drearily, quickly closing it again when he saw light. He snuggled more into his blanket, not wanting to get up.
He still didn't move, just listening to Gareth's familiar footsteps as the other walked over. It was still crazy to think that they were going to uni together. That this was their reality, being together every day, every night. Alex hadn't thought that it was possible to be more enraptured by Gareth than he had been in high school, but every day here proved him wrong. "Hm?"
"Hey. Get up."
Alex finally stirred when he felt Gareth's thumb rubbing his cheekbone. He sat up slightly, opening his eyes to look up at Gareth.
"Why are you even up? It's Saturday," Alex mumbled, leaning up slightly into his touch.
"I know. I'm sorry. And I know it's early, but can we talk?"
Alex blinked, thinking. He hadn't done anything, had he? He scooted over slightly as Gareth sat down on the bed beside him, eagerly taking the opportunity to curl up against his side. Gareth didn't stop him, which he took as a good sign. He sounded so gentle, too. More so than he normally was with Alex, at least.
"Have you and Danny been seeing each other?"
Alex's heart stopped.
"You heard the question."
"I... of course not, Gareth." He wished that he weren't so suddenly awake. "Why would... I haven't even talked to him."
It had been over a year. He tried to sort through his memories immediately, wondering if he had done something to trigger this.
"Just asking." Gareth ran the palm of his hand over Alex's back and he relaxed, just a bit. "He texts you a lot. And calls."
Alex swallowed hard. He didn't want to remember.
"If you haven't talked, why haven't you just blocked his number?"
He didn't know. He didn't want to say that he had read everything that Danny had sent him. Texts about football. Updating Alex on how his education was going. He played on a football team, too, he had learned, and he got updates on that. The occasional, Please text me back. Please. The occasional drunken cries of Please love me.
Alex never knew how to answer, so he never did.
Was it possible to fall in love with somebody without ever talking to them? He knew all of Danny's mannerisms through the millions of messages that he had sent him. And he had never given up, even after over a year. Alex had lost count of the number of times he had almost answered.
"I don't know," he said.
And they didn't talk about it again.
He blocked his number.
He didn't know what made him do it. He genuinely liked hearing from Danny, liked hearing about how he was doing, about how much better than Manchester United Newcastle was. He hadn't known how much he would miss it.
Alex looked at Gareth, asleep next to him, and reminded himself that this was what he wanted.
He blocked his number, but he didn't stop himself from sending him a message, first.
Danny. I'm sorry.
My whole life I've been told that I'm not a normal person. That I'm broken. That I'll never be happy.
But I have a wonderful boyfriend named Gareth Walker who I've known my whole life, and I am happy. I think that I always have been, with him, no matter what they said. When I met you, I didn't know what to do. I've read every message you've sent. I think that you're a great guy, I'm sure you'd be a great friend. I know better than to think that friends is what you want.
If I'm broken, maybe you are too. I'm sorry. Guess if this is what society wants, we have to deal with it, mate.
IT was harsh, he knew, but it said everything that he wanted to say.
And under that, of course, a neat picture of Alex's wrist.
He let out a heavy sigh, eyes damp as he nuzzled up against Gareth.
He didn't know why. He didn't know about a lot of things, anymore, it felt like.
"Alex?" He swooned at the roughness of Gareth's voice as he shifted, barely awake. "Are you okay?"
He smiled slightly.
He could tell that Gareth was already almost asleep again.
"I love you."
Alex brushed a kiss against Gareth's lips. They had known each other forever, and he knew that this was what he wanted.
With Gareth at his side, it was too easy to ignore the hole in his heart that he already felt opening up. The feeling that something was wrong.
"Love you, too."