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day thirteen ; hug.

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It’s on an early, sunny spring day in which Willy declares a brand new, totally legitimate holiday.

National Hug Day. Well- Ericson Resident Hug Day, at the very least. He also realizes that he doesn’t actually know what the current date is, but he’s fairly certain Aasim does. He’ll be sure to not only ask him about it later, but request that he write down this new holiday so they can remember it every single year from now on.

The idea is promptly born as Willy sits upon the admin building’s front staircase, idly practicing the knife tricks that Mitch had taught him over the long winter months. Though his attention only remains focused on twirling the blade around between his fingertips for so long, and eventually, he finds himself looking out across the expanse of the courtyard.

Today is the first nice day they’ve had since the cold weather had finally begun to lessen. The sun is bright and warm, just enough for them to safely ditch their heavy winter gear in favor of lighter, more comfortable clothes. Louis isn’t wearing his trench coat anymore, the sleeves of his baseball tee rolled up past his elbows as he cleans arrows from their earlier hunting trip. Mitch leaves the admin building in a simple t-shirt, ruffling Willy’s already wild hair as he passes him on the steps.

Though, even with how normal everything appears to finally be, Willy can’t help but feel as if there’s a certain something missing. Winter, as always, had taken its toll on everyone. They’d only barely scraped by on their dangerously low food supply, suffered through the bitter cold and heaping snow, forced to all sleep in the common room to conserve body heat that ultimately left everyone largely irritated with one another for several different reasons.

Willy may be used to Mitch’s snoring, but that certainly doesn’t mean anyone else is.

Yet, even as the weather steadily improves and everyone is slowly but surely able to return back to a far more comfortable schedule, they all still seem… off.

There’s not enough happiness around here, Willy eventually decides. And so, he sparks the plan to change that. Besides, everyone likes hugs, right? They’re supposed to make people feel better, and that’s exactly what he intends to do.

He starts with an easy one. While he and Mitch don’t exactly hug each other on a regular basis, they are brothers. It wouldn’t be the strangest thing in the world. Willy approaches him as he’s stacking up freshly chopped firewood, and wordlessly wraps his arms around his waist.

Mitch tenses for a fraction of a second, before realizing it’s just Willy.

“Uh… what’s the hug for, man?” he rasps, patting Willy on the back as he returns it anyway. His voice has improved somewhat over the past few months, but it still sounds different. Scratchy and hoarse, like someone with a really bad flu.

Not that Willy minds, of course. The main thing that matters to him is that he’s here, and not dead like Lilly had very nearly succeeded in achieving. It doesn’t bother him in the least if his voice sounds a little funny, now.

“I decided today is hug day,” Willy explains simply, letting him go after a moment. “I think everyone really needs one. Y’know, after the winter and… everything.”

Mitch instantly gives him a warm smile. “Sounds like a great idea to me.”

Willy nods affirmatively. “Totally! So, you can go hug someone too, if you want.”

Then, before Mitch can formulate a response, Willy is off once again in search of the nearest person. Which, happens to be Ruby as she tends to the horse they’d brought back from the Delta. As usual, Aasim is right there with her, though he keeps a safe distance from the animal. He refuses to admit it, but Willy knows he’s definitely scared of it.

“Hi, Ruby,” Willy chirps, and again, without waiting for a reply, simply goes in to hug her as well.

Oh- ” she exclaims in mild surprise, but is quick to recover. She hugs him back sincerely, one hand still grasping the rope attached to the horse’s halter.

Willy wastes no time between his rounds. Once releasing Ruby, he heads straight for Aasim.

“Wait, wha-” Aasim manages to utter before Willy is enveloping him, next. He may not be much of a hugger - well, towards anyone that isn’t Ruby , of course - but today, Willy vows to make sure everyone is.

Squeezing his arms around Aasim briefly, he steps back in order to clarify, “Today is hug day.”

Aasim quirks an inquisitive brow. “According to…?”

Me,” Willy states proudly, beaming a big smile.

“Is that so?” Ruby says, wearing a smile of her own that’s incredibly fond around the edges. “Well, in that case… We’d better participate, right, hon?”

And with that, she’s leaning up on her toes and wrapping her arms around Aasim’s neck to pull him into another hug of their own. Unlike with Willy, he doesn’t remain stiff and awkward towards the contact, having no apparent problems with returning it in earnest.

Perfect! Willy thinks, grinning even wider. It’s working!

With his trend now catching on, Willy enthusiastically moves onward. Louis gets a hug next, where he’s still cleaning arrows, and it seems to immensely brightens his day judging by how he cheerfully laughs and thanks him. Then, it’s Violet’s turn, who, much like Aasim, isn’t the biggest fan of hugs even though she returns it all the same.

Omar receives his hug as he prepares dinner, Willy even making sure to include Rosie as she begs for scraps next to the large, steaming pot of food.

Finally, Willy reaches AJ and Tenn where they sit upon the ground as they color together. Willy kneels down in order to reach AJ’s level, making sure not to sneak up on him as he remembers the younger’s particular response to such sudden actions.

“It’s national hug day,” Willy tells him as he gives him a quick embrace around the shoulders. “That means everyone gets a hug.”

As he turns to Tenn, however, he finds himself hesitating. While he’s long since expressed his forgiveness towards what happened with Mitch, sometimes, he can’t help but still feel as if it’s technically his fault. It’s taken Willy a long time to come to terms with his big brother’s injury, and after watching him be taken away by Lilly and her people without knowing whether he was even alive or not, it remains a frightening memory.

But, like he said: everyone gets a hug. It’s not like he’s still mad at him, at least.

Tenn tentatively returns the gesture when Willy wraps his arms around him. When they pull back, he’s smiling genuinely, and Willy suddenly feels better about including him. They all deserve to be happy in his opinion, and that most definitely includes Tenn.

“Um, thank you…” Tenn murmurs quietly. Willy gives him a friendly nod.

And as he turns to survey the courtyard once again, he’s met with a promising sight. Louis can be seen moving in to dramatically hug an obviously annoyed Violet, and Willy laughs to himself as he catches sight of her one-eyed glare from around her eye patch.

There’s still one person left, however. As if right on cue, he spots her hobbling out from the dorm building, and Willy races forward to meet her.

He spares a fleeting look towards the prosthetic leg she’s currently balancing on. It’s the newest model, worked painstakingly hard on by himself, Mitch, Aasim, and AJ. He’s happy to see her getting used to it, and he’s sure she’s happy to finally be rid of those pesky crutches.

“Hey, Willy,” Clem greets with a smile.

This time, Willy does at least manage to spare a quick “Hi ” before moving in. He makes sure to be extra careful, however, not wanting to knock her over with an overly forceful hug. Yet even as slow as he winds his arms around her waist, he makes sure to squeeze with an equal amount of force as he showed towards everyone else.

“Today is hug day,” he explains again, for one last time. “We can all celebrate it every year.”

He can hear Clem chuckle softly as she returns the sentiment. “Every year, huh? Then I guess we’d better make sure to have Aasim write it down on his calendar.”

“Yeah! That’s what I was thinking!” Willy exclaims as he backs away.

And with that, his task is done. He and Clementine part ways, and he watches with bright, sparkling eyes as the first thing she does upon approaching Violet, is hug her.

Their first ever hug day? He thinks it’s safe to call it a smashing success.