Will was a little sloppy that evening. He understood that I was trying to take him home, but he kept stumbling over himself on the way to the truck. I essentially dragged him most of the way while he grumbled incoherently.
We drove home in silence, and I couldn’t help wondering if he was upset with me or just tired. I knew we needed to have a talk eventually, but he needed to be in his right mind for that. So we just went on being awkward, even as I all but carried him into the apartment.
He flopped down in exhaustion, and I wasn’t far behind. I wasn’t particularly well equipped for supporting almost his entire body weight. But before I could even think about getting a quick nap in before dinner, he sat up clutching his forehead.
“Hey, are you okay?” I asked, trying my best to be attentive despite my lack of energy.
He shook his head and held up a hand so I’d stay back. He leaned against the wall with his eyes squeezed shut and took several long breaths. All I could do was watch. He was trying so hard. Why wouldn’t he just let me help him? I could get him out of here. I could really, actually save his life, but he wouldn’t let me.
Finally, he sighed, relaxing a little but staying upright. “I’m okay,” he mumbled unconvincingly.
I moved to sit next to him. “Really?”
He nodded without looking at me. “I just got dizzy.” He offered me a dopey grin, but I didn’t buy it.
“I hate seeing you hurt,” I said gently. “It kills me.”
His smile vanished and I saw a little glimmer of guilt in his eyes. “I know.”
“But that doesn’t mean you have to hide it from me. Will, I want to help you.”
“You are helping me.”
“I want to do more.”
He turned away from me, pressing his face against the wall. I was only making things worse. I sighed and tried to keep it together.
“You know, I get it,” I said. “I really do. You don’t want to seem weak. You don’t want to be a burden on me. You think you’re doing me a favor by not letting me in, but you’re not. You’re just pushing me away… I told my mom I got selected. I lied to her not because I didn’t love her but because I didn’t want to disappoint her. Will, if you’re hurting, I want you to tell me. I want you to believe I’ll be here for you no matter what. And whatever sacrifices I make to help you, that’s my choice. You’re not forcing me to put myself at risk. I would gladly do anything for you because I really, genuinely care about you.”
He didn’t respond. He sat perfectly still except for a little shaking. I knew I couldn’t expect anything right away. He had to work through this, whatever it was. He had to learn to trust me on his own. And much as it pained me, I had to let him take as much time as he needed.
I leaned in and kissed his forehead, hoping it wasn’t still sensitive or anything. He suddenly wrapped his arms around me and held me there for a long time. I could feel him crying as he kissed my face over and over again. I longed for a way to fix everything, a way he’d approve of that wouldn’t terrify him so much. But everything in the world was wrong. There was no easy solution.
I shut my eyes, let him cry himself to sleep, and hoped for a miracle.
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