There was very little in life that gave Will pleasure, lately - not counting his husband, of course - so he gladly took advantage of the things that did. He could appreciate the first cup of coffee on a cold morning or the news from his stockbroker that he'd been fortunate enough to only lose a fraction of his investments rather than the majority. Now, as he hiked along the outside of the island, he was savoring the sound of the sea and the smell of winter. In the past, he would have hiked this self-made trail with both Lani and Benji. The big dog's absence made his heart ache, and he could tell that even Benji didn't seem to be enjoying the outing as much as he would had his friend been there. Will whistled for Benji to get away from the edge of the drop off and crouched down to hug him close when he ran over.
"That's a good boy," he said, trying to sound cheerful as he scratched him on the scruff of his neck and behind his ears. Ever since Jake and Lani had been killed, Will swore that he could see the other dogs questioning the boys' whereabouts every time he looked into their big, trusting eyes. It might have just been his imagination, but he was sure they had to know something horrible had happened that September day. "You miss your buddy, don't you?" he whispered. It was the same question he asked every time they were out here. Will knew he'd only stop asking once he'd stopped missing Lani so much. And he knew he'd stop focusing on how much he missed his dogs when he was ready to face the fact that he had lost Shy.
The sound of boots crunching in the snow made Benji's ears perk up, and Will rose to his feet. From the way the animal's tail was wagging, Will knew it had to be either Orli or Shy, and since Shy had been avoiding him since he'd moved back in, Will knew it had to be his better half.
"I hope you brought cocoa and extra whipped cream," he called out, grinning. "Nothing warms a body better than..."
Will's voice trailed off when Shy emerged from the cover of trees, arms crossed as if hugging himself to keep warm.
"Oh," Will said dumbly.
Shy stopped in his tracks. "Sorry to disappoint," he said softly, watching for the cue to tell him that the older man wanted to be left alone.
Will blinked, then shook his head. "No, no, it's... I just didn't expect it to be you."
"I figured," Shy said, his eyes glancing uncomfortably at Will. "I did bring cocoa, though."
Will noticed for the first time that Shy's arms hadn't been crossed in his effort to keep himself warm. He was cradling a thermos in them. Standing there in his snow suit, fur cap pulled down on his head, scarf practically hiding his face, Shy looked so small and fragile to Will. He wanted nothing more than to sweep him up in his arms to protect him from every bad thing in the world.
"Do you want some?"
Will nodded. "Thank you, baby. I'd love some." He gestured towards a log where they could sit. "Let me just..." He brushed off the snow, then nodded. "Okay."
Shy gave him another wary look before taking a seat. Without a word, he carefully removed the cup from the top of the thermos, the task made a little awkward by the heavy ski gloves he was wearing.
"Want some help?" Will asked, already removing his own gloves.
"Sure." Shy handed Will the thermos and watchd him unscrew the lid. He held out the cup to him and said, "I only brought the one cup, but I don't have to have any if you don't want to drink after me."
"We'll share," Will said, giving Shy a pointed look. He knew what his one time lover was thinking and needed to reassure him that he would never see him as some infected freak. If they were going to have to wait six months to be sure that Shy and Orlando were all right, Will knew that he had to be careful with the way he acted towards the kid.
"Okay," Shy nodded. "It's just, I wasn't sure after..."
Will filled the cup. "After what?"
Shy held the cup between both of his hands and appeared to be staring at the steam rising from the hot liquid. Will remembered what Shy had told him about Kevin drugging him using chocolate milk and wondered if something had been triggered. Before he could ask, Shy spoke.
"I read your journal, what you said about me."
Will felt his heart drop. He remembered the rant and had meant to go back and make it private. As much as he might have publicly declared his indifference to Shy's feelings, the truth was he regretted saying what he had.
"Do you hate me, Will?" For the first time since Will had come home, Shy was looking at him unflinchingly, the big brown eyes begging to be told the truth whatever it might be.
The pesky heart inside his chest had decided to make the jump to Will's throat now. "No, baby," he whispered with a shake of his head. "I don't hate you."
Shy broke the eye contact, then pulled down his scarf so he could take a sip of cocoa. "Then why are you so mad at me?"
Just like that, Will felt the connection between them slip away. He swallowed and took a breath, trying to gather his thoughts so he could answer as honestly as possible. Shy would expect nothing else from him.
"I'm frustrated," Will finally said.
"Because I might have made Orli sick?" Shy continued to drink the cocoa and avoid looking at Will.
"Sure, that's part of it." There was no reason to pretend he didn't feel that way. "And that's because I think the both of you were incredibly stupid." There. He'd said it. "Frankly, I expected more from you two and I'm just as frustrated with Orlando about this. But don't think that I wouldn't be scared as hell for your safety even if you and Orlando had been careful," he added. "I don't want anything happening to you, Shy, I swear."
"Is that it?" Shy glanced at him. "Or are you mad at something else?"
Will suddenly had the impression that Shy was waiting for Will to say something very specific, but he had no idea what it was. The only choice he had was to be as straight as possible with him.
"If you really want to know, I don't understand why you suddenly gave me the cold shoulder after we were making some really good progress."
"When we were writing?"
"Yes. We were getting somewhere, sweetheart, and then you just...changed. It was after I called you."
"You called because you thought I was weak," Shy said softly.
"No, baby, I called because I love you and I was worried that you were going to do something stupid like hurt yourself because of the bastard who took you." The words caught in Will's throat, and he had to clench his fists at his side to refrain from touching Shy in a way that might not be welcome.
"How can you love me after this?" Shy frowned. "Knowing what he did. I can't tell Orli everything because I don't want him to be disgusted. But you know everything. I know it has to make you see me differently. How can you be with me again and not think of what Kevin did to me?"
"Oh god, Shy," Will whispered. "Is that what you think? Is that why you're pushing me away? Because you're ashamed?"
Shy didn't answer but held the cup out to Will, offering him a drink.
Smiling despite himself at how young Shy seemed, and perhaps because he needed to break the tension, Will took the cup with a nod and drank. "Is this the Godiva?" he asked inanely, waiting for Shy to steer them back towards the issue at hand.
"Yeah." Shy reached to take the thermos from Will and then carefully refilled the cup as if reciprocating what Will had done earlier. "Should probably put the lid back on to keep it hot," he said and picked it up from the log where Will had placed it.
Again, the gloves hindered him and before Will could reach out to help, the thermos had slipped from Shy's hands, spilling its contents on the snow. When Will set down his cup and quickly reached down to retrieve the container, Shy cowered and held his hands up as if protecting himself.
"I'm sorry! I didn't mean to!"
The reaction stunned Will. Shy looked like a puppy who expected to get whipped for making a mess on the rug. That was when he understood that the damage Kevin had done to his and Orlando's boy went far beyond the physical.
"Sweetheart," Will said softly, trying to soothe him. "It's okay. I know it was an accident. You don't have to be sorry." As he spoke, he took a chance and gently took hold of Shy's hands, lowering them. When Shy didn't pull away, Will continued to hold on. "You never have to be sorry, baby," he said, tears pricking his eyes at the fear he could still see in Shy's. "And," he continued, "you never have to be afraid that Orlando will stop loving you if you tell him everything that happened to you. The same way I haven't stopped loving you."
Shy looked at him, and Will could see him battling with himself to believe what he was hearing.
"Do you trust me?" Will asked him, squeezing his hands and getting a small nod in return. "Then know that I am so, so sorry for what I said about you. I love you so much, and it hurt me when you said you didn't love me. But instead of being patient and waiting for you to come around, I handled it like a complete ass and I lashed out. I had no right to hurt you by saying what I did."
Shy opened his mouth as if to say something, then flung himself into Will's arms with a soft sob. Will closed his eyes tight and held onto him. If he could have his way, he'd never let him go again.