Will was lying in bed, motionless, staring at the ceiling. Sean was quite unable to speak. He stood at the edge of the curtained-off cubicle, with its transparent illusion of privacy, staring at Will. Will hadn’t turned to look at him. Sean stepped into the space around the bed, and dragged the plastic chair over the bare lino tiles towards the bed. Will heard him, and turned his head briefly towards the sound. His eyes met Sean’s, and held for a moment. Sean stared into the toffee-colored depths, a lump in his throat, his eyes pricking. Still Will didn’t speak.
Sean swallowed hard. “Will.”
Will stared at him. Clear as pebbles on the bed of a mountain stream, Sean saw the emotions flow through Will’s face. Overwhelming and profound love. Grief. Unbearable pain. Anger. Indifference. Despair. Oh God, most of all, despair!
Will turned his face away. He swallowed. “Go away.” His whisper was almost inaudible.
Sean’s heart dropped, and sorrow filled his being like icy water. It had never occurred to him that Will wouldn’t welcome him back with open arms. His misery and anguish gave him the courage to speak, to say what he realised now, too late, that he’d thought so often, but never expressed in words, though he had in every other way that mattered. Except when Will had been unconscious – then he could say it. His cowardice sickened him. Not one moment’s further delay. He would say it now.
“I love you, Will.” His voice cracked. This wasn’t how Sean MacDonald was supposed to be. He was a boy’s home graduate, and then there had been prison – and he remembered the General’s shrewd face as he questioned him about his record, and how he hadn’t been able to meet the General’s compassionate and wise and tough old eyes – and his parents, and oh God, his mother. Sean would have sworn he was hardened against this. He knew better now. Almost, he was angry with the man in the bed in front of him. Unable to articulate these feelings and judgments, he repeated the words, wanting to take the other man into his arms, knowing that if he could he would be able to make it all right.
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