The first time William Herondale saw James Carstairs, he was three days into his residency training under the watchful eye of Henry Branwell in the Alicante General Hospital.
Will was walking between the receptionist's desk (really, Tessa Gray was too perfect—sweet and fiery, with a streak of stubbornness to match Will's own) and the little room he'd been working in all week with Henry when a silver-haired man in the waiting room caught his eye. He looked tired, lines around his eyes (though he couldn't have been any older than Will) and dark bags below them. His long, thin fingers were folded together in his lap, and he had a faraway, pensive look on his face as he stared into the distance.
And Will thought he was beautiful.
As he passed the man, the man glanced at him. Will - smooth, suave, sophisticated Will - nearly tripped over his own feet as their eyes met. For the first time he couldn't remember, he blushed furiously. A smile curled up the corners of the man's lips, before he averted his gaze.
Will tried to piece his dignity back together, before he looked over his shoulder to the silver-haired man. Now, he was talking to the guy to his left, rolling his eyes at something he said. They seemed close. Unbidden, Will wondered which one of them was sick, whether it was serious, and, more importantly, whether he'd ever get to know the silvery man's name.
And, whether he'd ever get to tell him that he'd spiked his interest on so many levels with just one look.
The second time Will saw him wasn't in the hospital, and it was nearly a month later. He'd almost forgotten about the beautiful man who'd sat in the waiting room, until he smashed into the very same person in the coffee shop on his way back from work, causing the man to slosh his drink all over the floor.
He cursed, snatching his drink away from the collision before he had the opportunity to spill it over the poor guy.
"Damn, I'm so sorry," Will said sincerely. He remembered this guy - and he still thought he was beautiful. Maybe he'd get his name today.
The man smiled. His eyes had lost their colour, too, though not quite so starkly as his hair. "It's alright," he said. Will tried to be subtle as he studied him, but he was quite sure he failed. "Heaven knows I can be clumsy enough."
Inadvertently, Will smiled back at him. He'd just caused him to spill his drink all over the floor, and yet, somehow, they were both smiling.
The moment was broken when a worried-looking barista came over, mop in one hand and a 'Warning! Wet floor!' sign in the other.
"I apologise," the man said to her. Will liked the way he spoke. Not quite formal, but just a touch old-fashioned. There was a touch of colour in his cheeks that hadn't been there before, and Will realised that he was embarrassed at the scene.
"It was my fault," Will interjected. The barista looked surprised, as though she'd have more expected Will and the silver-haired man to start punching each other rather than apologise for each other. "I knocked into him." A thought occurred to him, and he nearly let out a sigh of relief when it did. So far, he'd managed to get himself into a mortifying situation twice in front of this man - maybe this would gain him back a few points.
As the barista put the warning sign down and disappeared, he turned to the man. "As I made you spill your first drink, how about I buy you another one?"
The man looked surprised, but not displeased. Will admired the elegant arch of his prominent cheekbones. He didn't look as tired as the last time he'd seen him. Maybe it had been him who was sick, not his friend, and now he was recovering.
"Thank you," he said after a moment, cautiously.
Will grinned. "No problem. I'm Will, by the way. Will Herondale."
The man took his outstretched hand. "James Carstairs. But everyone calls me Jem."
Jem, Will thought, has anybody ever told you exactly how beautiful you are?
Instead, he merely said, "How about that coffee, then?"
"It was tea," Jem replied, "and it's really not necessary."
"Oh, it is," Will told him, daring to throw in a wink for good measure. It was a good way to test the waters.
Jem choked, looking torn between running away and laughing - humorously, not cruelly - at Will's antics. In the end, he merely said, "No, it's not."
Will pursed his lips. "Okay, then. How about I buy you a drink and we sit over there–" he motioned to a table by the window "–and chat?"
Jem raised an eyebrow. "Chat?"
"That's the one," Will said. "Also, in this case, a synonym for 'flirt'."
"Hm. I suppose I can take you up on that, just this once."
Will smirked. "Trust me, when we're done, you'll be desperate for a little more of my amazing company."
What Will didn't say, was that he might just be desperate for a little more of Jem's.
The first time Will kissed Jem was outside his small, rented house in the cheaper areas of the city. It had been only the second time Will had met Jem's best friends, Magnus and Alec, and it was raining when they left the strangely-fitting pair. (It was a definite case of opposites attract.)
Will looked across at Jem, and, not for the first time, wanted to tell him how gorgeous he was. Not just on the outside, but, now he knew him, on the inside, too. It was now with some hilarity that Will recalled how he'd thought Tessa so perfect. Jem had become the centre of his thoughts far too quickly in the couple of months they'd known each other.
Will had dropped every hint in the book. He'd flirted - Jem had flirted back. He'd asked Jem out - Jem had accepted, though neither one had ever referred to their outings as dates. He brushed hands, made innuendos, taken the time to get to know Jem, and shown a genuine interest in him as a person and his past.
But Jem had resisted. All the time, constantly, he'd resisted. Whenever Will tried to step things up, or talk more seriously about what they were doing, Jem deflected, or shot him down. Will would have given up long ago if the longing wasn't clear in Jem's eyes every time they looked at each other.
That was why he'd asked Magnus and Alec, who were dating, had experience in those who were afraid to admit what they wanted, and knew Jem best, for advice. They'd exchanged a long, hard look, before Magnus had told Will that Jem most definitely liked him, and Alec had, sympathetically, told Will that he needed to be patient, and wait for Jem to explain himself.
Will left that conversation feeling considerably frustrated.
So now he was running down the street with Jem - at some point, they'd taken each other's hands - laughing and splashing at the rainwater, hair slicked to his forehead.
They reached Will's tiny little driveway, and they stopped, both staring at each other, breathing heavily, a mere few inches apart. Will's eyes flickered to Jem's lips, so, so desperate to feel the other man's lips on his.
Jem reached up to his shoulder as though to brush something off it. Will grabbed his hand and held it there. For a long few seconds, they shared the same air, electricity crackling between them. Jem's hand tightened around the material of Will's jacket, he sucked in a ragged breath, and suddenly, Will could bare it no more.
He surged forwards, one arm wrapping around Jem's slender waist and the other cupping his paper-thin cheek, and caught his lips in a hot, fiery kiss that had them both gasping.
Will fisted the back of Jem's sweater, and Jem drew Will closer, tongue plundering between his lips, gasping out Will's name each time they parted, moaning onto his lips each time they pushed back together.
They devoured each other's mouths hungrily, hands sliding across rain-slicked skin; fingers pulling at hair, evoking deep, throaty groans; clothing bunching in fists; tongues flickering together.
Will choked, gasping for breath when Jem dragged hot, swollen lips across his jawline to the hollow behind his ear, before descending onto his neck. Will moaned, far too loudly for a semi-public environment, when Jem nipped at the tender flesh, before sucking it into his mouth and flickering his tongue over it to soothe the sting.
Jem mimicked the same kisses down his neck, leaving Will panting and moaning.
"Jem," Will breathed. "Jem."
Jem pulled his teeth lightly up Will's neck, and licked his tongue along the same path a raindrop had taken. Will shuddered at the sensation. He tightened his fingers in Jem's hair, and drew him up for another hot, heavy kiss.
The scent of Jem's spicy cologne was overpowering when they were so close together (though Will wanted to be closer) and it sent Will further down into a haze of drug-like lust.
Suddenly, their hips were pressed together, and they moaned onto each other's lips. The noise was like sin, Will thought, coming from Jem Carstairs, and it was delicious. He was delicious. Delicious and sinful and unimaginably sexy.
"Oh god," Jem said, the sound almost a whimper. "God."
Will tightened his grip on Jem, pressing them closer together. His jeans had become very, very uncomfortable, and the slight grinding did nothing to take off the edge.
Jem pushed his hips hard against Will's as he gave his neck another one of those tantalising, toe-curling love-bites on his neck, lavishing it again with the tip of his tongue. Will made a keening noise that he swore had never come from between his lips before, pushing back against Jem.
They staggered backwards in the darkness (for which Will was very grateful, else they'd likely have been arrested for public indecency) until Jem hit a wall. Will pressed him back against it, inadvertently shifting his hips as he slid his hands up under Jem's sweater, reaching up over too-prominent ribs and fragile-feeling skin, and—
Jem shoved him back, hard. Will stumbled, barely finding his footing in time to stop himself falling over. Jem had both hands pressed flat against the wall, his eyes wide, and Will could see that he was trembling just a little. He hadn't been shaking thirty seconds ago. Will would have noticed. He wasn't a selfish person when it came to intimacy, of any kind.
"Jem?" he asked, astonished by the sudden turn of events. "What's wrong? Did I do something?"
"No." Jem swallowed heavily, and closed his eyes. "Yes. You shouldn't have done that."
Anger spiked in Will's heart. "You didn't seem to be complaining, James. Why don't you tell me the truth rather than some half-assed lie? Why don't you tell me what you want rather than lead me on?"
Jem looked on the verge of tears, only adding to Will's bewilderment. He took a half-step forward, already regretting his words, hand outstretched with the intention of comforting Jem, but Jem flinched, and whispered, "Don't. Don't touch me."
Will dropped his hand. "I don't understand. Please tell me what's going on. Did I read all this wrong?" Will was ninety-nine percent sure that wasn't the case, but he couldn't imagine what else could possibly cause such a violent change in manner.
Jem didn't answer him. "I should go. Goodnight, Will."
He voice shook as he spoke. He stood up straight and hurried past Will into the night, leaving Will standing stock-still.
Don't go, Will wanted to say. Please don't go. Just talk to me. Tell me why you resisted so much. Tell me why you pulled away. Tell me why you're crying. Please, Jem, just tell me. I care about you. More than I should. I want to know what's going on. I want to know what I did wrong. I want to understand.
But he merely stood, staring after Jem, the rain washing over him.
Will didn't hear from Jem for days. And then weeks. And then a month passed, and Will, despite numerous texts and calls to Jem (and also Magnus and Alec, who had been kind enough but also told him firmly to back off and leave Jem alone for a while) and numerous mournful discussions with his brother (Jace had been distinctly unhelpful) had still heard nothing from him.
It hurt. It hurt so much. He liked Jem far more than he cared to admit, and his abandonment that night stung, deep down.
He heard nothing, until his doorbell rang, and he opened the door to find a shivering, shuddering, frail-looking Jem on his doorstep, looking miserable and freezing and sick. The light had gone from his eyes, his lips were down-turned, and the lines and bags were back.
"Jem?" Will heard the shock in his voice. "Are you alright?"
Jem shook his head, arms crossed tightly over his chest against the cold. "I'm so sorry, Will."
Will looked at him for a moment, thinking about how much Jem had hurt him, before pity took over. "Do you want to come in?"
Jem bit his lip, and nodded. Will opened the door wider, and stepped aside to allow Jem to enter. Jem stood in the hallway, hunched, looking even thinner than when Will had last seen him, and the doctor in Will wondered whether Jem was having some kind of relapse, whether whatever illness he'd had that day at the doctor's had returned.
"Sit down," Will instructed him gently as he walked into the kitchen. He flicked the kettle on, and returned to the living room a few minutes later with a hot mug of Chinese green tea—purchased as Will had taken a liking to it after drinking it at Jem's apartment, and he wanted to have some for the times Jem came over to his house. "Here."
Jem took it gratefully, wrapping his hands around it, soaking up the heat. Will watched him as they sat side-by-side in silence. Jem's sudden appearance now only made him more confused.
Suddenly, Jem curled over, coughing fitfully into his hand. Alarmed, Will snatched up a box of tissues from the coffee table. Jem grabbed a tissue and held it over his mouth, and Will took his mug from his hand, standing by him anxiously. Jem had told him, once, that he seemed to be prone to getting coughs, but this was extreme, painful, hoarse.
When Jem's coughing fit ceased, Will saw, with a pang of fear, that the tissue he'd been using was flecked with blood. Jem sat hunched over, shoulders tense as he breathed heavily.
Will knelt down by him cautiously as Jem wrapped his tissue in two others and threw it into the bin across the room. At another time, Will might have been impressed by his accuracy.
He placed a hand gently on Jem's knee, his brain already whirring, trying to diagnose this illness with what limited information he had.
Jem let out a shaky breath, and turned to look at him with agonised eyes. "I'm sorry."
"It's alright," Will assured him.
"Not about this. About...about disappearing. About not talking to you."
Frankly, Will was far more worried about the blood and the coughing and how damn fragile Jem looked. "Forget about it," Will said. "It doesn't matter." And it didn't. Jem was here, and talking to him, and there were clearly more important things going on.
"You deserve an explanation," Jem said quietly. "God, Will, you deserve so much. So much more." He gripped at his hair, face twisted in self-hatred.
Will circled his wrist gently, sat back on the sofa beside him, and tugged both Jem's hands into his lap. "Talk to me."
Jem smiled bitterly. "Please don't hate me when I'm done. If that's at all possible."
Will frowned at him, and brushed hair back from his face. "I could never hate you."
Jem didn't push the point, though he looked like he disagreed. He just looked too tired, too emotionally drained, to argue. "I'm sick," he said with a sigh.
Will squeezed his hands. "I know."
"I've been sick since the day you first saw me in the hospital."
Will was, for a moment, too caught up on the fact that Jem remembered that day to register his words. Then he stilled. "You mean you've been sick all the time, or you were sick, got better, and now you're sick again?"
Jem shook his head, looking like he wanted to cry and punch something at the same time. "The first one."
Will ran his thumbs over the back of Jem's hands. They'd never sat like this before. Will had never touched Jem like this before. It had been slightly flirtatious, mostly-platonic, until they'd kissed that night. They'd never been like this. Tender, reassuring, caring. But it felt so right, so natural, to be with Jem in this way.
"Okay," Will said, continuing his gently stroking of Jem's hands.
Jem took a deep breath. He didn't look at Will as he spoke, instead fixing his gaze on their hands with a terribly sad expression on his face. "Lung cancer," was all he said.
For a moment, all Will could do was stare at him. Lung cancer? That was impossible. Jem was twenty-four! He couldn't have lung cancer.
But, the more Will thought, the more his logical, medical brain put the pieces together. The coughing, the blood today, his occasional shortness of breast (though he tried hard to cover it up), the way he'd wince sometimes, his skinny form, his slight fragility... It all made far too much sense.
"What stage?" Will asked him.
"Two," Jem said, voice hard. "But nothing's been very successful so far. Not surgery or chemo..." He trailed off, and Will realised why his hair was so white. Chemotherapy. Stupidly, foolishly, he'd thought it was genetic, or dye. How wrong he was.
God, how dense had he been? It had been so obvious.
"Jem," Will whispered, unable to keep the horror out of his voice. "Jem."
Jem blinked rapidly. "That's why I tried not to get involved with you. That's why I ran when you kissed me."
Will frowned. "What do you mean, that's why?"
"I'm dying, Will."
"Don't say that."
For the first time in their conversation, Jem looked at him. "I am. Maybe they'll get rid of this tumour, maybe it won't spread, but the likelihood of me living another ten years is still low. And that's still only ten years. I can't become involved with people. Ever. Because I could die in a month, and I can't - I won't - hurt everyone around me. I won't let someone fall in love with me, and condemn themselves to a few years of pain and worry before I die and leave them. I refuse to do that to anyone."
"But you came back," Will whispered, cupping Jem's cheek in his hand as a tear rolled down it. "You came back."
More tears slid down his cheeks. "Because you deserve an explanation. Because you deserve everything I can't give you. You deserve so much more. You don't deserve this."
Will's expression hardened. "I think that's my choice, not yours."
"No, Will, it's not." Jem yanked his hands away and stood up, tugging his hands through his hair, looking the very picture of pain and frustration. "Because I care about you. Too much. Way too much." He laughed bitterly, dropping his hands to look at Will again. "And I care about you enough to make sure that you never feel the same way about me, because it'll hurt you."
Will stood up, reaching out. "Jem—"
Jem side-stepped him, backing up, tea forgotten on the table. "Goodbye, Will." He swallowed. "I'm so sorry. For everything. I was being selfish, thinking I could have this, have you, as a friend or- or as anything else." He bit down hard on his lower lip. "I'm sorry."
And then Jem disappeared, the sound of the front door slamming ricocheting off the walls.
Wait, Jem! Please, please stop. I can't watch you leave. Not again. Not now. Because I think- I think I'm falling in love with you. And it doesn't matter how much it might hurt me in the end. I want you. I need you.
But, yet again, he stayed silent while his heart shattered in his chest.
There was no way to describe how Will felt other than depressed. Severely and truly depressed. He summoned a smile for his patients, a laugh for Henry Branwell, a grin for his friends, but, deep down, he craved something that had been snatched away from him right when he'd thought things were going in the right direction. Twice.
He missed him. So much it hurt. Remembering their last conversation made his heart ache, and thinking about the broken look of part anger, part despair, part steely determination on Jem's face as he'd left only made it more painful.
Even if Jem didn't want to be in a relationship with him - that was Jem's choice, regardless of the stupidity of his reasons - then surely, surely they could still be friends?
It had only been two weeks since Jem had left his house. Two weeks since Will had cried for the first time in years. But it felt like a century.
What Will wasn't prepared for was a highly-tattooed man grabbing his forearm as he walked down the street one day. He whirled to face Alec Lightwood, shocked at the normally-placid man's behaviour, and took in the anger in his eyes.
"What did you do?" Alec demanded, letting go of his arm but looking no less menacing.
Will stared at him. He wasn't intimidated by Alec, and he knew how to throw a damn good punch, but if it came down to a fight, he wasn't sure who'd win. They were very equally matched. "I don't know what you're talking about."
Alec glared at him. "Like hell. What did you do to Jem?"
Will felt his shock increase. "To Jem? I didn't do anything to Jem!"
"Ever since that night he spoke to you—"
"He told you about that?" Will asked, frowning. Had he mentioned the way he'd held Jem's hands? Or the way he'd cupped his face, and brushed away his tears?
Alec seemed to soften a little, and he sighed in defeat, shoulders slumping. Will felt sorry for him. Alec had been Jem's friend since they were kids, and it was obvious that they cared a lot about each other. It had to be hard to watch Jem so sick.
"No," Alec said. "Not really. He just said that he'd had to talk to you, and that he wouldn't be seeing you again. This was about half an hour after he turned up at our doorstep crying." Alec frowned. "Magnus persuaded me not to kill you immediately, though I was tempted."
Will cracked a smile. "Please don't."
Alec ran a hand through his hair in a mirror image of what Jem did. The movement was like a knife to Will's heart. "You look just as miserable as he does. I just don't understand what happened between you two. I mean, Jem..." He hesitated, then said slowly, "I've never seen Jem work himself up over someone the way he does you. I've seen him care about people before. I've seen the way he fights forming new relationships. He tried to hard to hate Magnus the first time he met him, because he thought maybe then I'd want nothing more to do with him, either, and he'd kill two birds with one stone. It didn't work." Alec smiled wryly. "And that was right when he was first diagnosed. But you... You're different."
Will swallowed. "That's exactly what happened. He told me he refused to get near me because he didn't want to hurt me. He didn't listen to anything I said."
Alec looked confused. "But he... You're not... That's not the same."
Will raised an eyebrow. "Explain."
Alec shot him an irritated look. "No. That's not my place. Look, you need to talk to him."
"I tried that. It didn't really work. He just sort of stormed off. Twice."
He threw his hands up, the tattoos curling up his (remarkably fit) arms making it that more an impressive gesture. "Then make him talk! God knows you should know how to."
Will narrowed his eyes. "What exactly is that supposed to mean?"
"Only, y'know, you could talk your way out of a run-in with a Great White and get out with all your limbs still attached."
He grimaced. "I think I'd rather take the Great White."
He pounded on Jem's apartment door, having slipped up through the grungy foyer when a woman walked out. Luck, it seemed, was on his side. There was light coming from under Jem's front door, so Will knew he was there. Besides which, Alec had made a hasty call to Magnus to check whether or not Jem would be at home.
Will felt like Magnus and Alec were match-making.
"Jem!" He thumped his fists against the door again. "Open up! I know you're in there!"
He paused for a moment, heard a rustling inside, but the door didn't open, and Jem didn't call out.
He resumed. "James! Open this door! I will keep shouting until you do, and I will cause a scene, and DAMN YOU James Carstairs, we need to fucking talk about—"
The door swung open so suddenly that Will stumbled, and nearly fell into Jem. Jem scowled at him - an expression Will wasn't used to seeing on his face. "Please be quiet, Will."
The sound of his name coming from between Jem's lips made Will's stomach flip over. "Don't you dare shut this door."
Jem looked like he wanted nothing more than to kill him. He also looked less sick than the last time Will had seen him, but more tired, and more miserable. Alec had been right, then.
"I suppose you want to come in," Jem stated.
"We can talk in your doorway if you'd rather." Will shrugged diplomatically. "I don't really care where I tell you how stupid you are, or how much I'd like to hit you right about now, or that you're a complete—"
Jem cut him off by putting his hand over Will's mouth. A smile tugged at the corners of his lips. "Far be it from me to curb your fun, but maybe you could continue this inside, before my neighbours think I'm a mass-murderer and you've escaped from the nearest psychological healthcare facility?"
Will grinned, and nodded. Jem removed his hand, and allowed Will in. Instantly, Jem's cat, Church, slunk into the room, regarding Will with distrusting eyes. Will reached a tentative hand to the often-unfriendly cat, and was surprised when it nuzzled into him, allowing him to stroke it for a few seconds.
Above where he'd crouched down, Jem watched them with a faraway look in his eyes. "Church missed you."
Will scoffed as the cat got bored and slinked away. "Only because I fed him once."
Jem regarded him with warmth in his expression as Will straightened up. "You sound like Alec," he said softly.
"What, slightly insecure and pretty introverted and grumpy if you don't know me but with enough badassery and a secretly-huge heart to make up for it?"
Will wanted to map the image of Jem's face into his mind forever. Eyes shining with amusement, lips curved upwards, hair in complete disarray, and so, so perfect. "Alec used to feed Magnus' cat more than Magnus."
"Let me guess, because Magnus always forgot?"
"That, or Alec wanted to get into his good books."
Will saw the opening. "And what about you, Jem? What do I have to do to get into your good books?"
Jem's smile dropped. He sighed, averted his gaze, and looked so, immeasurably sad. Will wanted to wrap his arms around him and never let go, but he couldn't. He wouldn't.
"You're already in my good books, William. You always have been."
"Then why won't you hear me out? Why won't you accept that I don't care about how long you've got to live? I don't care if you live a month or year or ten years. I just want to be there while you live out whatever time you do have. I don't want you to keep pushing me away."
Jem clenched his jaw. "You're not getting this."
"No," Will snapped, "you're the one who's not getting this. I understand that you're ill. I understand the implications. But I could just as easily get run over by a bus and die of a fatal head wound tomorrow, so there is really no point in spending your entire life thinking about the what ifs. And being in a relationship with you, being friends with you - whatever it is you really want from me, noble bullshit aside - would be worth the pain of, possibly, losing you one day."
Jem still didn't look convinced, though his fight seemed to be wavering with every word Will spoke. "It's just... I'm not sure this is a good idea. You deserve everything that I can't give you. You deserve a future."
Will, abruptly, slammed his hand against the wall. "James."
"I am in love with you."
Jem's lips parted. His eyes went wide. There was silence between them, save for Will's heavy breathing and the faint scratching coming from Church in the bedroom. Jem looked equal parts joyous and horrified.
"Will..." He took a careful step forwards and brushed the tips of his long, slender fingers along Will's cheek. "Will."
Will watched Jem, feeling a touch of fear. He couldn't predict what he was going to say.
"You should go," Jem murmured, though he didn't stop touching him.
"Are you kicking me out?" Will asked through numb lips.
Jem dropped his hand with visible effort, and took a step back. "No. But you still should."
"I'm not going to."
He smiled sadly. "I know."
"Please don't ask me to go," Will implored him, hating the hint of desperation in his voice. God, what was Jem doing to him? He didn't get this close to people. He didn't care about people this much. He didn't give his heart away like this.
"I won't," Jem promised with a sigh. "I can't. I think I'm in love with you, too." He laughed a little. "That's what I told Alec, when he demanded to know why you were getting under my skin so much."
Will's heart did a little summersault. He held out his hands to Jem. "Come here."
Jem stepped towards him, looking reluctant, and allowed Will to take his hands. Will slid his hands up Jem's forearms, over his hips, and then around his waist, holding him close. He slid one hand a short way up under the back of his t-shirt, and traced circles into his spine.
"You don't deserve this," Jem muttered, leaning forward and resting his forehead against Will's shoulder. "You deserve so much better."
Will smiled a little, and pressed his lips to Jem's temple. "You're the best man I know, James Carstairs. And I want you. Nothing else matters."
Jem lifted his head to scrutinise Will's expression. Will looked back at him steadily, trying to convey everything in one look.
Apparently, whatever Jem found put him at ease, because the next moment his hands were knotted in Will's hair, and they were kissing, messy and hard and eager, pushing and pulling and gasping and moaning.
When they pulled apart, Jem could barely breathe. At first, Will felt sheer panic race through him - the simple act of kissing had made him that out of breath? Was he more sick than he was letting on? - but then he realised that Jem was also crying, and the combination of the two had left his body no space for taking in oxygen.
"I'm fine," Jem choked, looking part embarrassed, part plain ashamed. "I'm sorry."
"Sh." Will shook his head, and drew Jem back into his arms.
Silence fell between them, Jem curled tight into Will, Will drawing strength and hope from Jem's unfailing supply. This time, Will felt like things were right. This time, for the first time, Jem knew everything.
This time, he had faith that things would be okay.