“All I’m saying is, we really need your paycheck,” Sonny complained, straightening his cuffs for the eleventy-billionth time. “You know Uncle Vic still hasn’t given me full access to my accounts yet.”
“I know,” Will replied, for the eleventy-billionth time. “And I’m sure your mom will give me a new assignment soon.” Or at least he hoped she would. She was apparently so busy cooking all of Sonny’s favorite comfort foods, there was little time to work on the Spectator. And Jennifer was so caught up in her family drama she was barely around anymore, either.
That was the problem with working with family and friends in Salem. They tended to get so focused on who was sleeping with whom, and who was back from the dead, and whether your kid was actually your kid, the job part of life was back-burnered.
And when you were paid by the byline, and not on salary, you were at the mercy of the whims of fate.
He was trying, honestly. But there wasn’t much more he could do, unless he took a part-time job down at the pub to make up for the lack of funds. And Sonny didn’t like that idea. No, Will was better than that.
Will wasn’t quite sure where that attitude had come from. Hell, Sonny had been a barista when they first got together a million years ago. He did what it took to become a business owner. He hustled. He worked so hard to be a success.
Now, Uncle Vic snapped his fingers and Sonny kowtowed. And when his job was taken away, did he try to find something else? Make his own way? Move out of the damn family mansion?
Nope. He just sat around the living room in his button-down shirts and waited for mommy to bring him food and a pep talk.
Will had thought that once they got rid of Leo, and were officially together again, things would be - better. More soulmate, less grown-men-living-in-Uncle-Vic’s-extra-bedroom.
Damn. Apparently Will was more bitter than he’d thought.
“You ready to head home? Mom is making grilled cheese and tomato soup tonight.” Sonny’s eyes shone with anticipation.
Will couldn’t remember the last time that facial expression was directed at him.
“Can we just stop at Grandma Marlena’s for a minute first? I haven’t seen her for a while, plus I wanted to thank John again for helping us out with Leo.”
“Ah.” Sonny shrugged. “Sure, I guess so.”
Will gritted his teeth. Sonny liked to pretend he’d done all the heavy lifting when it came to getting rid of Leo, but they both had to admit it wouldn’t have happened without John’s assistance. Considering Will had broken John’s son’s heart, it was damn decent of him to help Will and Sonny get back together.
Besides, if Sonny got to be ridiculously enmeshed with his family, Will deserved to at least say hi to his from time to time.
“Fine. For a little while.” Sonny shoved his hands in his pockets. “Don’t want dinner to get cold.”
Anything but that , Will thought grumpily. Then he bit his lip, feeling guilty. He didn’t know why he was so out of sorts when it came to Sonny lately. Hadn’t he gotten everything he’d always wanted? His soulmate? Their forever love?
Funny how his memories, when they came back, had been so soft-focus and positive. The bitterness, the accusations, the feeling not quite good enough…
Those memories hadn’t shown up until he’d tossed everything away for a chance at starting over with Sonny.
Not that he regretted it. Of course not. This was what he’d wanted, what Sonny had always wanted. And every relationship had rough spots, right?
Some more than others, though.
Shaking off his mood, he reached out and put his arm around Sonny’s shoulders. “Thanks,” he said, leaning over to kiss him on the cheek.
They were good. He was happy. And if the price of admission was canned condensed tomato soup and undercooked grilled cheese sandwiches from time to time, well, he was willing to pay it.
First love, forever love. Right?
Will knocked again.
“Maybe they’re not home.” Sonny sounded almost hopeful, dammit, but Will ignored him.
“I can hear voices,” he said. “I think they just can’t hear us.”
“Come on, it’s dinnertime,” Sonny whined. “We can try again another day.”
Will raised his hand to knock a third time, but before he could, the door swung open.
Marlena stood in the doorway, a big smile on her face.
Will leaned in and kissed her on the cheek, nudging the door open with his shoulder as he walked past her into the apartment. “Sorry to just drop by, but we were in the neighborhood. How’s it going?”
“Will! Sonny! What a surprise!” Her voice was pitched a little louder than usual, carrying into the rest of the apartment.
Will turned back and looked at his grandmother. The smile was still there, but there was a hint of - was that panic in her eyes?
“Is everything okay?”
“We can come back another time,” Sonny said, standing right inside the doorway, like he was a vampire waiting to be invited over the threshold.
“No, no, it’s fine.” She glanced over her shoulder at the kitchen. “You know you’re always welcome.”
“Hey Doc, who is it?” John called from the kitchen. “And are they staying for dinner?”
“Oh, thank you, but we have plans,” Sonny told Marlena immediately.
Will swallowed down his irritation. John and Marlena’s apartment smelled amazing - he was pretty sure they were having Thai tonight. But no, grilled cheese and tomato soup from a can were waiting at the Kiriakis mansion. “I’ll just pop in and say hi to John, then we’ll be out of your hair,” he said as he walked toward the kitchen.
Behind him, he could hear Marlena start to say something, but by then he’d rounded the corner into the cozy, spice-scented room.
“Hey John,” he started to say, before noticing that his step-grandfather wasn’t alone.
Paul was sitting at the dining table with him.
“Hello, Will.” Paul’s voice was low, a hint of a smile tugging at one corner of his mouth. “It’s been a long time.”
“Paul.” Will swallowed, his throat suddenly dry. He coughed to clear it. “When… how…”
John stood and clapped him on the shoulder. “That was my reaction, too, when he showed up on our doorstep this afternoon.”
“Brady asked me to help out with a charity auction this weekend, and I couldn’t say no.” Paul shrugged, his long sleeve henley shirt stretching at the movement. “But I didn’t want to get Dad’s hopes up, in case it fell through, so we kept it quiet. You should have seen his face.”
Will could believe that. He’d never seen a father-son duo who so obviously loved - and liked - each other.
Sorry, Brady, but Paul was clearly the favorite.
“Hey, Will, we’d better get going --” Sonny stuttered to a stop right behind him, staring at Paul. “What - what are you doing here?”
“Sonny. Nice to see you.” Paul’s expression was friendly and earnest, like he was genuinely happy to see Sonny. And maybe he was. Paul was just about the most decent person Will had ever met, even in the face of the two people who had broken his heart.
Forgive and forget. Paul was definitely good at the forgiving part. Forgetting? Even a former amnesiac like Will figured that would be difficult at best.
“Just here for the weekend, huh?” Sonny looked hopeful.
Marlena came around the corner. “Paul’s here for the charity auction on Saturday,” she said. “Such a delightful surprise.”
No wonder she’d been acting so oddly at the door, Will thought. Probably hoping she could help everyone avoid an awkward situation like the one they were in right now. Better here, though, in the relative privacy of John and Marlena’s apartment, rather than … He stopped and looked over at Paul. “Wait, the hospital auction on Saturday?”
“Yeah, for the new spinal cord injury treatment center,” Paul said. “After all they did for me there, I figured it was only right that I help raise funds for people in the same boat as me.”
That was pure Paul. He was always so generous, always looking for ways to give back.
“Well, we’ll see you there,” Will said, ignoring Sonny’s little side-eye. “We’ve got tickets, of course.”
“Right,” Sonny said. “But we should really get going. Dinner’s probably ready.”
Will nodded, pressing his lips together. “It’s so good to see you again,” he said, reaching out to shake Paul’s hand. A spark of electricity jolted up his arm at the touch of Paul’s hand against his. The impulse to pull Paul into his arms for a hug startled him. He swallowed hard.
The smile faltered on Paul’s face as well. Despite the fact that he was with Sonny now, Will was slightly pleased that Paul wasn’t unaffected either. It probably made him a bastard, but oh well.
He’d felt like the world’s biggest bastard for months now. Why should this change anything?
“Well, that was awkward,” Sonny muttered as they walked away from John and Marlena’s apartment.
Will didn’t say anything. His hand still tingled from the aftereffects of touching Paul again after so many months.
“Although I guess it was good we saw him there, instead of out in public. Can you imagine the reaction if we’d run into him at Doug’s Place? Or in the square?”
“Or at the auction,” Will added, shoving his hands in his pockets. “At least this way we’re prepared to see each other publicly.”
“You can’t be serious. We can’t go to the auction now!”
Will turned and stared at Sonny. “Of course we’re going. We have tickets. I’m supposed to write about it for the Spectator!”
“Someone else can write it,” Sonny said. “And I’m sure Uncle Vic and Maggie would go in our place.”
“I thought we needed my paycheck,” Will reminded him. “Besides, I’m not giving up a byline just because Paul is going to be there. We’re all adults. Let’s act like it.”
“Fine,” Sonny finally grumbled as they reached the front door of the Kiriakis mansion. “But I don’t have to like it.”
*Fine.” They walked inside, the smell of grilled cheese and soup filling the air. Will sighed internally. This was what he’d wanted. Who he’d wanted. Right?
“Oh, honey, you look so handsome.” Adrienne straightened Sonny’s tie and then brushed his already-slicked-back hair behind his ear. “You’ll be the best looking young man at that auction.” She glanced over at Will, standing awkwardly to the side. “You look nice too, Will.”
“Thanks,” he said, checking his pocket again for the tickets. He was oddly nervous, but trying desperately not to show it. Bad enough that Sonny had been pouting all damn week about having to go; if he knew Will was feeling more than the typical ennui about yet another charity event, he’d flip his lid.
Good Lord, it was exhausting having to manage Sonny’s emotional state. He didn’t know how Adrienne had done it all these years.
“Ready to go?”
Sonny gave his mom a hug. “Yeah, sure. Let’s get this over with.”
“Now, honey, be nice. This is an important event for the hospital.” Adrienne patted him on the back. “Go have fun. I can’t wait to hear all about it!”
“I’ll be sure to write a great article for you,” Will said, feeling like he had to add something to the conversation.
“Of course you will,” she said, patting him on the back, too. “You two have a good time!”
Will headed for the door, Sonny trailing behind. Will could already tell this was going to be a long evening. With Sonny in a snit, he was going to have to spend the vast majority of his time placating the man. For once, he’d like to enjoy an evening out without having to figure out ways to make sure Sonny felt like the most important person in the room.
“Glad you two could make it,” Brady said, taking their tickets at the door. “I understand you’re going to write an article about it, Will.”
“That’s the plan.” Will patted his breast pocket, notepad and pen ready to be deployed. “I figure I’ll interview a couple of guests, get some details, maybe meet up with you tomorrow for some of the specifics?”
“Sounds good to me,” Brady said. “Oh, wait, maybe the next day? I’d like to spend some time with my brother while he’s in town.”
“Yeah, we saw Paul a couple days ago,” Sonny muttered, looking around the room. “He’s leaving tomorrow, huh?”
Way to be subtle, man. Will sighed quietly.
“Unfortunately, yes,” Brady said. “I miss having him around. And I have a feeling I’m not the only one who feels that way.” He gave Will a pointed look and clapped Sonny on the back. Then another patron arrived in the doorway, and he turned his attention to them.
Sonny stormed off, dragging Will by the elbow. “What the hell did he mean by that?” he hissed as soon as they were far enough away to not be overheard.
“I don’t know,” Will protested. “Probably that John misses him. And Marlena. And most of the town. He’s a good guy, Sonny. He has a lot of friends here. Family. And it’s too bad that he felt like he had to leave.” Because of me , Will thought. My idiot self is really good at messing things up. For other people, and for me.
“It’s for the best,” Sonny opined. “Too complicated having him around.”
Will knew it wasn’t worth it to argue. Might as well get working on his article, and let this conversational grenade lie.
“So you’re hoping to break ground on the new addition when?” Will held his pen over the notebook, waiting for Kayla’s reply.
“It depends on the success of this fundraiser, actually,” Kayla said. Her party dress sparkled under the lights of the ballroom. “The more money we raise, the earlier we can get started. That’s why it’s so wonderful that Paul was able to come back and help out. A little star power is always a good thing at charity events. And with how things turned out…”
Will looked up. “What do you mean?”
“Oh.” Kayla coughed discreetly. “That he was able to recover from his fall from the window, of course. It could have been so much worse.”
Yes. It really could have been disastrous. Will remembered those first few days after the accident, the sheer terror at Paul’s situation, mixed in with his confusion over the rush of memories that were overwhelming him at the same time.
He regretted, now, that he’d split his emotional energy then, rather than focusing everything on helping Paul get well.
At least he’d had family around to fill in the gaps that Will, his supposed boyfriend, had left during those days.
“Yes, it could have. So much worse.” Will smiled awkwardly. “So, how will the new wing change how cases like Paul’s are treated?”
He nodded and took copious notes as Kayla talked, dimly noticing the ballroom filling around them. The noise level rose as people gathered at the round tables, drinking champagne from gold-rimmed flutes and enjoying the hors d'oeuvres the wait staff brought around on serving trays.
Kayla was deep in a monologue about new stem cell treatments the spinal cord injury wing would be able to try when Brady walked up to them. “Sorry to interrupt, Kayla, but we’re ready to start.”
She smiled apologetically at Will. “Sorry, that’s my cue. Did you get everything you needed?”
“Sure, I think I’m good. I appreciate your time.”
Kayla reached out and patted his shoulder. “Any time, Will. If you discover you need any more info, just stop by my office on Monday.” Then she and Brady walked off, deep in conversation.
“I don’t know how you do it,” Sonny said, suddenly appearing at Will’s side. He drained his champagne flute and set it on the table. “I’d be bored out of my mind listening to that all day long.”
“I enjoy learning new things. That’s part of why I love being a journalist - it’s something new every assignment.”
“I guess so. It just seems mind-numbing.” Sonny looked around the room. “I want some more crab puffs. Do you see the waiter anywhere?”
Will shook his head. “I think they’re getting ready to start the auction,” he said, gesturing at the raised dais at the front of the room. The lights in the ballroom dimmed as Brady strode to the microphone.
“Good evening, everyone. I’d like to welcome you to tonight’s fundraiser for University Hospital. I’m especially excited to be hosting because the money raised tonight will be used to open a new spinal cord injury treatment center. Spinal cord injuries are of particular interest to me, as you probably know, because my little brother fell out of a window a year ago. Thanks to the expert medical support at University Hospital, he survived the fall, but was paralyzed.”
Brady cleared his throat and took a sip of water, composing himself. “Sorry. I get a little emotional about that.”
The crowd murmured their sympathy. Next to Will, Sonny nodded along.
Suddenly, Will wanted to be anywhere but here. In this room, surrounded by all these people who knew - in the way small towns always know - that he was the asshole who chose Sonny over Paul while Paul was fighting for his life in that hospital bed.
Oh, maybe they’d paid some lip service to doing the right thing and supporting him through this struggle, but everyone knew he’d given his heart back to Sonny without even thinking about the man he’d been in love with just the day before.
He’d been so overwhelmed with the memories, so flooded with emotions he hadn’t felt in so long, it had washed away everything else. And for a long time, he’d believed that what he’d felt for Paul hadn’t been as real as his feelings for Sonny. That Paul had been a placeholder, a shadow of his true love.
But once the rush of new-old memories had slowed, he had to admit that while his feelings for Paul weren’t the same as what he’d felt for Sonny, that didn’t mean they were less, or wrong, or fake.
When he’d been with Paul, he’d been a different person. And that different person was a good and strong and right match for Paul.
He’d liked who he was, back when he was with Paul. He’d felt stronger, more confident, willing to go after what he wanted. He wished he could feel that way now, with Sonny.
But that seemed like something else he’d thrown away in the heady rush of getting himself back. Too bad he didn’t much care for this version of himself anymore.
“We have a special surprise for all of you tonight,” Brady was saying as Will brought his attention back to the present. “We weren’t sure if he’d be able to make it, but luck was on our side. Well, luck, and a lot of hard work. Ladies and gentlemen, my little brother, Paul Narita!”
The applause was deafening as the gathered guests rose to their feet.
And then claps turned to gasps as Paul Narita walked out of the wings and onto the stage.
“What the hell?” Sonny turned to Will, an accusing look on his face. “Did you know about this?”
“No...I…” Will stammered through the sudden rush of tears. How did this happen? How was Paul walking again?
It was a miracle.
He moved slowly to the podium, leaning on a cane as he took each faltering step. A crooked smile grew as the applause grew even louder. He reached the podium, adjusted the microphone, and waited for the room to quiet.
Will brushed away tears.
“Are you crying ?” Sonny stared at him.
“Why aren’t you?” Will waved a hand at the podium. “I mean, Paul can walk again. Aren’t you thrilled?” When Sonny didn’t say anything, he added in a low whisper, “You were going to marry him. Don’t you feel anything at all?”
“Of course I do,” Sonny protested, glancing around to make sure no one else was listening. “I’m thrilled for him. I’m just - surprised, that’s all. He didn’t say anything the other night. Why wouldn’t he tell us first?”
“There’s no reason he should tell us first,” Will reminded him. “After everything we did to him…”
“We hid our love because he was injured!” Sonny looked shocked. “We sacrificed our happiness for him!”
“I don’t think that’s how he saw it,” Will said. “And it’s not like the three of us stayed friends afterward. Have you even heard from Paul since he left? Other than running into him at Grandma and John’s place?”
Sonny’s silence was answer enough.
“Besides, if either of us was paying attention, we’d have noticed that he was sitting in a chair at the kitchen table, and there wasn’t a wheelchair in sight.”
Because now that he thought about it, the evidence had been right there. Some investigative journalist he was.
No wonder Paul always argued against letting him tag along on his PI work. He was crap at it.
The applause finally slowed, and Paul spoke. “Thank you, everyone, for the warm welcome. It’s wonderful to be back in Salem again. I’ve missed… so many things… about this fabulous town. Most of all the people.” He took a sip of water and smiled. “I’ve got so many friends and family here, people I love. And I want those people to have the most advanced medical treatment available if, like me, they happen to fall out a window.”
He laughed, and the crowd laughed politely along with him.
“Come on, you know it’s true. It’s not like that’s an infrequent occurrence here in Salem.”
He looked around the room. “When I was injured, the staff at University Hospital did everything they could to save me. I have no complaints about the job they did. It was their swift action and immeasurable skill that saved my life. But I know how frustrated they were, wishing they had the latest technology, the newest setup that could get me - and others like me - closer to full recovery. Eventually, I had to move to San Francisco to have the resources I needed to walk again.”
Getting away from Sonny and me, that was just a bonus, Will thought regretfully.
“But I know not everyone has the ability - or the budget - to pick up and move. Or to pay for months of grueling physical therapy. So I’m here, tonight, to ask for your support. To ask you to open your wallets, just a bit, to help University Hospital build the best, state-of-the-art, accessible to all, spinal cord injury treatment center. So that the next time someone you love falls out a window, or is hit by a car, or whatever tragedy occurs that puts them in need of those services, they’ve got access to the best medical help in the entire country.”
He continued speaking, and Will found himself falling back into that voice, that enthusiasm, the positive attitude that imbued everything Paul said and did. He missed that. He missed him.
The applause started again, and he startled back to attention, clapping along with the rest of the crowd. Paul stepped back from the podium, leaning on his cane, as Brady took his place.
“That’s my brother, folks!” Brady beamed with pride. “Let’s honor his request and dig deep for these wonderful auction items. First up…”
Paul took a couple steps toward the edge of the dais, then stumbled, gripping the cane as he struggled to stay upright.
Will surged to his feet. He took two steps forward, then stopped cold.
A handsome black man had already rushed to Paul’s side, wrapping an arm around him.
Paul grinned bashfully and kissed the man on the cheek. “Thanks, honey,” he said. To the crowd, he added, “I’m still not quite a hundred percent. But I’m getting there.”
“You do better when you’re not pushing yourself too hard,” the man scolded him. He helped Paul off the stage and to the nearest table, where a seat was waiting.
Will sat down slowly. Sonny rolled his eyes. “Always wanting to be the knight in shining armor. But it looks like Boy Wonder has a new knight.”
Will sighed. “I just wanted to help out a friend,” he said, but it rang false even to his own ears. Because if the pit in his stomach was any indication, this was how it felt to see the last vestiges of a possible future happiness swirl down the drain.
The event was winding down, but the crowd around Paul’s table was still thick as ever. Will pocketed his notebook and looked at Sonny. “You ready to go?”
“Didn’t you want to say goodbye to Paul?”
Will looked at Sonny. “More passive aggressive comments? Please, keep them coming. Because I haven’t had my fill tonight.”
Sonny glared back, hands slicing through the air as he spoke. “What are you talking about? I was being sincere. He was my friend first, you know!” Then he stalked off, taking up position near Paul’s table.
Yeah, he’d been friends with Paul first, lovers with Paul first, engaged to Paul first. And right now, Will wasn’t sure which of the two men he was jealous of.
Or maybe he was mostly jealous of the new boyfriend. Because it meant that Paul had moved on, found happiness, and it wasn’t with Will.
Maybe Will was incapable of making any man happy in the long run. Least of all himself.
Will walked over to the head table, his heart aching as he watched Paul holding court. The man was so comfortable in his skin, so open and friendly to everyone around him. No wonder he’d been a superstar on the baseball mound - talent mixed with charisma and decency made for a lethal combination.
He remembered those crazy first days here in Salem, when he hadn’t known who he was or who he was supposed to be with. Everything was so confusing, everyone wanted something from him that he didn’t know how to give.
Except Paul. He’d been drawn to Paul like a moth to a flame, and wanted nothing more than to be consumed in that fire. And he’d pursued Paul, for months, knowing only that this was someone he wanted to be closer to, someone he felt a pull towards. Someone he wanted more than anything.
And he didn’t know why getting his memory back had washed that all away.
Or had it?
Because now, with the benefit of months of settling in to his new reality, Will realized that pull wasn’t gone at all. Maybe it had been there all along, but it was swamped by the flash flood of memories. Memories that were still there, still part of him, but not all-consuming.
Maybe if he’d kept on getting his memories in bits and pieces, rather than all at once, he would have been able to put everything in perspective. Make choices that considered all the sides and consequences.
Instead, he’d jumped headfirst into the maelstrom of memory and left everything he’d built with Paul behind.
And now, of course, Paul had moved on as well.
“Will! Sonny! I’m so glad you could make it tonight.” Paul waved them over, his smile open and genuine. “I can’t believe how much money we raised for the new treatment center.”
“I can,” Will said, looking at the remaining crowd. “Surprising everyone with the fact that you can walk again? How could people not open their wallets for a success story like that?”
“Way to keep it a secret,” Sonny added, just a hint of reproval in his voice. “I had no idea when we saw you at John and Marlena’s that you weren’t paralyzed anymore.”
“That was the other part of the surprise,” Paul said, laughing a little. “I couldn’t let the news out before tonight. It would have ruined the impact.”
There was an awkward moment as the three of them - no, make that four - looked at each other.
“We haven’t met your friend yet,” Sonny prompted, gesturing at the man sitting next to Paul.
“Oh! That’s right. I think only John and Brady met you before tonight, didn’t they?” Paul looked at his boyfriend, his expression softening. He placed his hand on the man’s knee. “Sonny, Will, this is Luke.”
“Nice to meet you,” Luke said, holding out his hand. “I’ve heard so much about you both.”
“Uh oh,” Will said jokingly. “That can’t be good.”
“Oh, come on.” Sonny elbowed him with a short laugh. “We’re not all bad.”
“You’re not bad at all,” Paul said. “You’re both great guys.”
Luke added, “And if things had worked out with either of you, I wouldn’t have the most amazing man in the world by my side now. So, all in all, it’s a win for me.”
Paul leaned over and kissed him, a warm grin on his face. “Me, too,” he said softly.
Will shifted, a little uncomfortable at the affectionate gesture. He turned to Sonny. “We should go.”
“No, please.” Paul turned back to them. “I’m leaving in the morning. Just a few more minutes to catch up, okay?” He gestured at the chairs across from him and Luke, finally empty.
Sonny and Will exchanged a look, then sat.
“So, how have things been?” Paul leaned forward. “You guys are happy, right?”
“Absolutely,” Sonny said, putting an arm around Will’s shoulders. “Living the dream.”
Will smiled awkwardly. “And you? You’re happy?”
Paul paused for a moment, then nodded. “I am. I think … I think everything worked out for the best, you know? Not that I would have chosen to take a dive out that window, or put myself through months of grueling physical therapy with this ogre.”
Luke grinned at him. “Just doing my job, babe.”
“And I love you for it.” Paul leaned in for another kiss. He turned back to Sonny and Will. “You know, if you two hadn’t gotten back together, I never would have met Luke. So I guess I owe you both.”
Will glanced at Sonny, who tightened his arm around Will’s shoulder. “You don’t owe us a thing, Paul. You saved my mom’s life. Among other things. If anything, we owe you.”
Sonny laughed briefly. “Well, everything turned out the way it’s supposed to be, right? We’re back together, you’ve got a great guy, everyone’s happy. Right?”
Will nodded absently, watching the man he once loved practically glow in the presence of his new boyfriend. Paul was definitely happy.
Luke was obviously happy, too, hardly able to keep his hands off Paul.
Sonny was happy, with his home-cooked meals and family togetherness and having Will right where he wanted him.
He’d gotten everything he’d ever said he wanted. His memories back. His first love back. His writing career back.
“Will? You’re happy, right?” Paul’s voice held a subtle note of concern. Will wondered if he was the only one who heard it.
“Of course,” he said, shaking off the melancholy. Of course he was happy.
Or he would be, again. Someday.
“You sure you don’t want breakfast? Mom made french toast.” Sonny lifted the container of syrup in Will’s direction. “It’s amazing.”
“Thanks, but I’m not really hungry this morning.” Will slid his messenger bag onto his shoulder. “I just have to get some final information from the hospital, and I can file my story from last night.”
“Well, get on it,” Sonny said, digging in to his stack of french toast. “The sooner you turn it in, the sooner we get that paycheck.”
“Yep,” Will said, gritting his teeth. He thought about asking Sonny what his plans for the day were, but had a feeling the answer would just irritate him more. “I’ll see you tonight, okay?”
“Okay.” Sonny turned the page on the newspaper, not even bothering to look up. “See you.”
Will waited to sigh until he was outside the Kiriakis mansion.
The last person Will expected to see when he knocked on Kayla’s office door was Paul’s new boyfriend, Luke.
Luke smiled and turned back toward the office. “Paul, honey, Will is here.”
“I - I thought you were both leaving today,” Will stammered out.
Paul came up behind Luke, leaning on his cane again. “We are, in a little bit. Kayla just asked us for some input on the design of the center, so here we are.”
Will nodded. “Oh, of course. I don’t want to interrupt, so if you could just let Kayla know I stopped by…”
Paul shook his head. “Kayla had to run. Some kind of emergency. We were just killing time in the hopes that she’d make it back before we have to leave for the airport.”
“I guess I’ll come back later.” Will tapped the doorframe twice. “Nice to see you both again.”
Luke glanced back at Paul. “Hey, hon, why don’t I run down to the coffee shop on the corner and grab a couple of muffins to take on the plane?”
“Sure, that’d be great.” Paul gave him a kiss.
Luke smiled at Will. “You guys can have a chance to talk that way.” Then he headed down the hall, hands in his pockets, whistling.
They both watched him go. Will finally said, “He seems like a great guy.”
“He’s the best,” Paul said simply. Then he held the door open wider. “Come on, keep me company.”
Will hovered next to Paul as he made his way slowly to the couch across the room. He didn’t want to treat Paul like an invalid, but the memory of Paul almost falling at the gala last night kept him close at hand. Just in case.
Paul sat, sighing as he set the cane to the side. “It’ll be nice when I can walk across a room without getting winded,” he joked, patting the cushion next to him. “Sit down, I won’t bite.”
Not without enthusiastic consent, Will thought wistfully.
“So. How are you, really?” Paul leaned forward and looked Will in the eye. “Be honest. I worry about you.”
Will laughed. “Me? Why would you worry?”
Paul just raised one eyebrow and waited.
Will looked away. “I’m fine,” he said. “I am.”
Will took in a deep breath. For most of their relationship, he’d been nothing but honest with Paul. And Paul was leaving soon. What would a little more honesty hurt? “It’s just some … money issues. This is my first article in a while, so things are a little tight.”
“Not getting many assignments from the Spectator?”
Will shrugged. “I’m at the mercy of Adrienne and Jennifer’s divided attention. I try to dig up stories on my own, but they don’t always want to publish stuff they haven’t assigned.”
“Huh.” Paul rubbed his chin. “And what about Sonny? I thought once the situation with Leo was cleared up he would be back at the helm at Titan.”
“Well, Uncle Victor has different plans. Sonny’s working his way back into Vic’s good graces. But until that happens, no paycheck for him, either.”
“And you’re still living at the mansion?”
Will nodded, his jaw clenched.
“I’m sorry. That must be hard.”
“It doesn’t help.”
They were both quiet for a little while.
“Can I ask you a question?” Paul cleared his throat. “You can tell me to go to hell if it’s too personal.”
“I - I guess.”
“Why are you still only writing for the Spectator? If you’re not getting the big stories or the steady paycheck, why aren’t you freelancing anywhere else?”
Will opened his mouth, paused, and shut it again.
“Seriously, Will, you’re a fantastic writer. Why tie yourself to one paper? I mean, let’s face it, journalists have to hustle these days. Expanding your portfolio could only be a good thing.”
“I never really thought of it,” Will said finally. “I mean, I see your point. But I don’t know if Adrienne would be okay with it.”
“I hate to be harsh, but would that really matter? You said yourself that you’re not getting many assignments lately. Might as well put yourself out there, diversify your writing credits. Take your career to the next level. Because honestly, I think you absolutely can and should do it. Your writing is too amazing to be left on the shelf like this.”
“No,” Will said, shaking his head bashfully. “I’m not a bad writer, but I don’t think amazing really fits.”
“I do.” Paul’s voice dropped lower. “In every possible way.”
Will looked up. “You constantly surprise me,” he said. “I don’t know how you can even stand to look at me after - everything.”
“I always told you, all I ever wanted was for you to be happy. That hasn’t changed.”
Will swallowed hard. Heart pounding, he put his hand on Paul’s knee. “Paul,” he said softly.
Paul sighed. Reaching out, he grasped Will’s hand gently and lifted it away. “I’m sorry,” he said.
Will snatched his hand away, fighting the urge to hide it behind his back like a child caught doing wrong. “No, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have… sorry.”
“I have to go.” Paul looked at his watch. “Luke should be back soon, and our flight is in just over an hour.”
“I wish… I hope… “ Will stumbled over his words, his face hot with embarrassment and shame.
Paul cupped his cheek briefly. “I know. I miss you, too. I just hope you’re happy. Or that you will be, someday soon.” Then he stood, picking up his cane and taking a step forward.
Will jumped up, ready to offer his arm to help Paul, but Luke was back, and he rushed to Paul’s side. Will stepped aside and watched the two of them walk toward the door together.
At the doorway, Paul turned and flashed Will that million-dollar smile one last time. “Take care of you,” he said. “And think about what I said. You deserve it.”
Will nodded, unable to choke out goodbye.
And then they were gone.
He stood there for long minutes, with nothing but an empty room and his memories. Then he shook himself and headed to Kayla’s desk, leaving her a quick note.
He could get her comments later, maybe over the phone.
Right now, he had some thinking to do.