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Hurdles

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Will shuts the door on the cameras. The medics are sitting Cooper down on the bed and prodding at his wrist. Cooper sits still under their attention and shrugs at Will when their eyes meet. Will leans back against the door and digs his fingernails into his palms when they realise the cost is in weeks and not days.

 

He drives them to the hotel from the hospital. Dislocated wrist. Out for five weeks. Cooper had kicked the wall in frustration when the doctors had told them. A rare display of emotion from Cooper before the painkillers had kicked in.

But Cooper stays quiet and still in the car, staring out the window and at the hotel, he meets Billy and JT's worried questions with calm, but tired placations.

"I'm okay. I'll be okay. I just need to get some sleep," Cooper says. Will wraps an arm around him and Cooper leans into him tiredly. Billy meets Will's eyes worriedly. Will smiles at him reassuringly. He's going to look after Cooper until he gets better. Not like he has got anything better do.

 

He walks Cooper up to their room and lays him down on the bed. Cooper refuses to let him go.

"I hate this," Cooper growls. "Hate it." His hand tightens around Will's wrist.

"You'll get better." He sits down on the bed and runs his hand through Cooper's hair. "You'll be back for the 3rd game for sure."

Cooper smiles slightly. "Why are you so optimistic?"

Will leans down and kisses Cooper on the forehead. "Because it's you. Because you're amazing."

Cooper closes his eyes. "No…" He whispers, "I'm not."

Will realises that Cooper has fallen asleep and gently disentangles their hands.

“You are.” He pulls up the blanket around Cooper and tucks it in. “Amazing.”

 

"Is he okay?" Jharal asks, walking up beside Will. Will's eyes land on Cooper, in deep conversation with Cam and Daly, probably about something serious and game related.

"He'll be fine," Will says. "Where's Justin?"

Jharal points out towards the oval. "Running drills with GI."

"Did they make some stupid bet again?" Will asks, remembering the last time they had made a bet about who could stand on their hands for longer. GI hadn't lasted 30 seconds.

"Nah. I think they're on a self-motivation phase," Jharal tells him and his voice sounds almost wistful. Will slings an arm around him and Jharal smiles at him gratefully.

 

Cooper doubles his training after the second loss. Given that his hand is not entirely healed and that his normal training regime is quite daunting, the new schedule should be impossible. But then, this is Cooper.

"It's important," Cooper tells him when Will asks him at the end of a hard day. Cooper is lying back on the grass, one hand loosely wrapped around a drink bottle and the other extended towards Will, sitting cross legged by his side.

"Cooper-"

"I'm not going to miss it," Cooper says firmly, turning his head to look up at him. "It'll be your first game," Cooper continues in a softer voice.

Will stares down at him wordlessly. Cooper smiles slightly. "I want to be there."

Will blinks to get rid of the tears in his eyes and links his hand with Cooper's.

"Okay."

 

Cooper looks over him. Will swallows and forgets the rest of the room, the thousands of people out there in the stadium and that his heart should be beating so fast for another reason entirely.

"It looks good." Cooper reaches over and pulls the jumper firmly down over Will's hips. "You look good."

Will swallows. "Yeah?"

Cooper looks up at him with dark eyes. "Yeah."

 

The unspoken rule of the team: protect Billy, protect Cooper, protect JT. Not only because they are the smallest players on their side but because their loss would be far too detrimental to their game plans. They are irreplaceable. Will grips his hand in Cooper's jumper during the national anthem and dares any NSW player to target Cooper.

When it happens, it comes in the shape of Ryan Hoffman. Anger burns in the pit of Will's stomach. Of all the people on the opposition, Ryan should know better.

"Keep away from him," he hisses, fists clenched in Ryan's sky blue jumper. Ryan looks taken aback at Will's anger. "Take it easy, Will."

Will bares his teeth.

"Will," Cooper calls. "Get back to the game."

Will shoves Ryan back and turns. Cooper is already walking away. He runs a hand through his hair and gets back in position.

 

It feels good to win. He knows they've lost the series but they won the last game. His first. Right now he has a hundred percent winning record in Origin. He smiles to himself as he makes his way to the hotel bar where the team is hosting their end of Origin party.

"You look happy." Will grins at Justin who claps him on the shoulder. "Come have a drink." Justin nods towards one of the couches at the back where Jharal is sitting with GI and Ben.

"Yeah, later," he answers and Justin smiles at him knowingly.

"Good luck, mate," he says and heads over to Jharal, who shifts on the couch to make space.

Will looks around the room. There is a large crowd gathered around one of the centre tables where Dave Taylor is playing some kind of a drinking game with Sam Thaiday. By the looks of it, Sam is winning, and winning well.

"Hey." Will turns around and Cooper is there. He looks tired. But he is smiling.

"Hey."

Cooper's smile widens and he slips a hand around his wrist and pulls him away from the commotion. They end up on the balcony. Will can still hear the team and the indistinct sounds of their revelry. But he forgets about it all because Cooper still has his wrist caught in his hand, rubbing circles onto his skin with his thumb.

"I'm going to do something now," Cooper starts and his voice is slightly breathless. "If it's not what you want, if I've made a complete-"

"Do it," he says, stepping closer.

Cooper lets out a shaky laugh. "You don't know if I'm going to punch you in the face."

"Kiss me."

The amusement fades from Cooper's face and he cradles Will's face with warm, careful hands.

"Okay."

 ***