Will heard the keys in the door, but he didn’t look away from the TV. He wasn’t even sure what was on. He couldn’t get himself to pay attention. A skinny woman was drinking a cup of coffee talking to guy who was supposed to be obviously out of her league. She said something about Salsa dancing and the laugh track roared. Will rolled his eyes then closed them. He had a headache but felt too lazy to get some Ibuprofen. It felt like an insurmountable obstacle to get himself into his chair. He willed the pain reliever to fly from the kitchen cabinet to his outstretched hand. It didn’t work.
He was slumped over on the couch and had been for hours—it wasn’t like him. Usually he’d have gone to the gym, grocery shopping, maybe even done laundry. He loved Sunday afternoons because they charged him up for the coming week. He’d always been someone who needed a strong routine, and lucky him because that was one of the things being a paraplegic was all about. But that Sunday his motivation hadn’t shown up.
Will had honestly forgot that Pete was coming home, and he wished he wasn’t. He needed one more day—just one more to get himself back together. He’d wake up tomorrow, shower, get dressed, go to work, get back into the rhythm of things, and pull himself out of the little pit he’d fallen into ever since Scottie slammed the door in his face. He was absolutely helpless to chase after her, and he couldn't help but think she'd known that as she'd hurried through the front door of her building. His resentment at his lifeless legs was flaring white-hot, and nothing he had tried had been able to quite dull it.
On days like this one, seeing Pete was like a fucking punch in the face. It was equivalent to looking in the mirror at himself had he not gotten behind the wheel that night. He had no one to blame but himself and his exhaustion and his weak resolve to keep his eyes open. He supposed he could blame Cory for not keeping him awake, but Cory had been drunk. He probably had fallen asleep as well. It was all blurred on the edges. He remembered almost nothing from that night. It had all just been a terrible chain of poor decisions and unlucky breaks. Will closed his eyes and tried to push the thoughts out of his mind. But every so often he’d be transported back there, the crunch of metal and glass, Cory shouting his name. Coming to with a stranger hovering over him. He shook his head back and forth, thinking the literal movement of his skull would clear it all out. How wrong he was.
“Having a seizure, are we?” Pete asked smoothly, his voice a little bit hoarse, as Will opened one eye while keeping the other one scrunched closed. There he was—his twin brother—in all his glory, all commanding six feet, four inches, of him. Will's throat clenched. They were truly, in every sense of the word, identical. Deep olive skin, courtesy of their Greek lineage on their mom’s side, strong lean build, wiry with muscles, dark wavy brown hair, with sharp bone structure, a strong nose, but not too strong, and pale blue eyes that crinkled when they laughed.
“What the fuck is with the apple?” Will asked, trying to bury his frustration by shifting the focus to his brother and the lack of fruit in his diet.
“Lise,” he said between bites. “She wants me to eat healthier.”
“Lise” Will replied, interest piqued. He used his arms to yank himself to sit up straight, his lower body sluggishly cooperating. “Doesn’t know what she’s up against.”
“Piss off,” Pete retorted, little apple bits flying everywhere. He smiled, knowing that kind of thing, little bits of food all over the floor, drove Will nuts. Pete was, for lack of a kinder word, a complete slob.
“Oh, you go to England for three weeks and you start talking like them?” A smirk curled around Will’s face as Pete tossed the apple behind him and missed the trash can by about seven feet. “Good shot, chum,” Will sniped. Pete sneered back.
“You look like hell,” he chirped, sitting down in Will’s wheelchair. Pete was the only person that could get away with it. Oddly when Will wasn’t sitting in it, people viewed his chair as a piece of furniture rather than a working pair of legs for Will. Pete’s face was pinched as he pulled his phone out and looked down and absently rocked the chair back and forth with one foot on the footrest and the other on the floor. Will was used to Pete's addiction. Will himself worked hard—really hard—but he didn’t have an issue unplugging over the weekend. Pete was a lawyer. He was with a big firm, Taylor, McDowell, and Finnerstrom, and had recently gotten a promotion. He was now handling quite a few clients in London, which was why he’d been stolen away from being the best man at Cory's wedding to play firefighter last minute.
“So, do you think that she’s going to care?” Will asked. Pete grunted. “Yeah?” Will pressed. Pete mumbled something that Will was sure even he couldn’t understand, but his eyes remained securely on the touchscreen, thumbs flying. One way that people used to tell them apart was the fact that Pete bit his nails down to the quick—disgusting little nubs—while Will had never touched his. Of course, there were more obvious ways to tell them apart now—one of them had a much more muscular upper body than the other, for example. Will laughed at his own joke. Pete still didn’t look up.
“I guess I’ll text her and tell her,” Will said slowly. Pete nodded a couple of times.
“Huh? Yeah, okay,” he replied absently.
“Okay sending it now,” Will replied.
“Huh?” he asked, “what?”
“What?” Will asked back, immediately reminded of Scottie asking him the same question in bed. He felt his face flush slightly, but not enough for Pete to notice.
“What are you babbling about?” he asked, his eyes leaving the screen alone for a second.
“Oh, you just gave me permission to tell Lise that you’re married already—to your job,” Will snapped smartly, flashing his own phone screen to show him a draft of the text.
“Piss off, Will,” he replied seriously, but a smile lingered.
“There it is,” Will teased.
“Piss,” he said sharply, “off.”
“She has a right to know,” Will shrugged, “plus, if she’s going to stick around, she’s got to know that you’ve got another woman to please.” Pete lunged for the phone and swiped it from Will in one swift move.
"Ha!” he shouted, victorious. Will was at a serious disadvantage on the couch, his inability to hold it over Pete’s head glaring.
“Yeah way to go. You bested a gimp,” Will huffed, leaning back on his elbows.
"Got to take advantages where I can get them," Pete countered, throwing himself back down in Will's chair and reading the text.
“You know I don’t even have her number right?” Will asked, sneering. Pete stopped deleting the message and looked up, embarrassed. Pete’s face went more flushed than Will was used to seeing it. Will had always had a more sensitive reaction to temperature, alcohol, and humiliation in his face than Pete did. This was a Will level flush.
“Goddammit,” he muttered, pressing his forehead into his hand and tossing Will’s phone back on the couch.
“You've got it bad,” Will teased, desperate not to see Scottie's face in his head when he considered who else really had it bad. Pete had decided to ask Lise to join him in London for the last weekend and she’d agreed. They’d met at work and had only been dating a few months before he left. She lived in a one-bedroom right by their office in the Financial District, so Pete spent most nights there these days. He nodded slowly, scrunching his eyes closed.
“You love her then?” Will continued, jokingly, laughing but feeling it dry up in this throat, as, to his surprise Pete nodded again slowly and looked up at him, his eyes shining a little, mouth tight, and face a fucking beet. “Oh,” Will gasped, leaning back and crossing his arms in disbelief. Pete had never been one for commitment. Neither of them ever had trouble getting girls. At least, Will had never had trouble before, but after his injury, his entire perspective on dating changed because people changed their perspective on him. Not only did he have to redefine who he was, on so many levels he didn’t even consider, but he had to adjust to who people thought he was. Will was pretty used to the way people looked at him, the stares that lingered. Plenty of girls still looked at him, both for his looks and the chair, and he’d been with women casually since he’d been paralyzed, but no one seemed to want to stick around past the novelty. Most people didn’t know that being a paraplegic affected more than just your ability to walk. He was used to the questions and preconceived notions that came with dates and sometimes sex. He knew he would be asking them himself if he had been out with a girl in a wheelchair. He didn’t even know if he would want to date a girl in a wheelchair, especially knowing everything that came with it. And that, in particular, felt super fucked up to him. He just had to keep reminding himself that it wasn’t about him. It was about a lack of knowledge. It was about living in a world that wasn’t made for him. The doctor had told him that his disability would become part of his identity eventually, just a trait he had, like blue eyes and dark hair. He hadn’t believed him then, but he had been right. Will had a hard time imagining himself as able-bodied anymore, as much as he wanted it back. But Pete, telling Will that he loved this girl. That, well, that was something real.
“What would mom say?” Will asked him, eyes gleaming.
“I can’t even begin to imagine,” he scoffed, looking down at his bitten nails, but there was something hopeful there. Like he was looking forward to the question firing squad he’d get from their mother, looking forward to the moment they met each other, anticipating the future, even.
“I’m happy for you,” Will replied simply.
“Thanks,” he said quietly.
“When do I get to meet her?” Will asked tentatively. Pete had been very private about Lise. It wasn’t like him. He had always loved flaunting any action he got to his brother, ever since high school. Will fondly remember that they both had chased Beth Hart and ultimately, she made out with Pete at the sophomore fall dance. Will had initially been crushed, but then he realized that Beth hadn’t known which brother she had been making out with, since she found Will later on the dance floor and whispered something suggestive in his ear, then licked him on the cheek.
“Soon,” Pete replied eagerly, almost too eagerly. Will didn’t push it. If she was really changing his brother’s perspective, then Will knew he shouldn’t interfere. It felt incredibly invasive and incredibly fragile.
“Maybe at our 30th birthday party,” Pete dropped casually.
“What 30th birthday party?” Will asked harshly. He had no intention of having a 30th birthday party.
“You know, the one I’m having Cory plan for us.” Will stared at his brother in disbelief. He had explicitly said no to the birthday party idea months ago.
“No,” Will said firmly without breaking eye contact. “No.” Pete shrugged noncommittally. “I mean it,” Will warned. Pete rolled his eyes.
“Okay, okay,” he slurred, “Jesus, you don’t need to get all worked up about it.” Will dropped it for the moment, but he had a feeling that this would come up again. Their birthday was next Friday, so there was plenty of time for Pete to scheme. He loved partying and being the center of attention. Will felt quite a bit differently—always had, even before the chair. But now with the chair? He preferred to be a background dancer, movie extra, sidekick, benchwarmer—anything to keep him out of the spotlight.
“So, how was the wedding?” Pete asked, a swift pivot.
“Oh,” Will hedged, “It was good.”
“Yeah,” Will replied nebulously. “Good.”
“You’re being vague,” Pete accused.
“I’m not being vague,” Will protested.
“You’re being vague,” he insisted.
“Fine, I’m being vague,” Will conceded, laughing. He still had no intention of giving more details. Pete had a way of needling things out of him, though.
“You’re being vague,” he confirmed. “So,” he pushed, pumping the wheels of Will’s chair back and forth a bit.
"Cory sure let things get down to the wire before asking me to fill in," Will said sharply. He had no doubt it had to do with the complexity of their relationship. Things had never felt quite even keeled since the accident. It flipped everything upside down, dumping things out—feelings, questions, insecurities—for everyone to see. Cory never got used to seeing Will broken. And Will never quite forgave Cory for his post-accident vanishing act.
"Yeah," Pete mumbled, shaking his head, "I think he was hoping I'd reappear. I kept telling him I wouldn't be able to be there because we were closing yesterday, but he isn't always great at listening."
"Cory gets what he wants," Will said plainly, looking down at his hands in his lap. He was wringing them.
"But that went fine?" Pete pushed.
"Yep," Will replied quickly, "it went fine." Pete eyed him suspiciously and leaned back in the wheelchair, crossing his arms across his chest the same way Will did. Will felt like he was looking in a mirror, something cracking inside him. “I, well, I,” Will stuttered, trying to determine how much to tell him. What was there even to tell? He brought home a girl who he would have thought to be out of his league, even if he wasn’t in this dumb chair and they laughed, and he saw her naked, and she slept in his bed, but nothing happened. Until he stupidly kissed her when he dropped her off and she had lost herself for a moment, a delirious moment, then fled, recoiled like she’d placed her hand on a hot burner. Will looked over at Pete. He had his face. It was an odd thing about being an identical twin that Will had never quite gotten used to, even after almost thirty years of it.
“I met someone,” Will said simply, after a moment, feeling his face fire up. He shifted nervously on the couch, lifting himself up a bit to relieve the pressure.
“You met someone,” he repeated, stunned. His big mouth hung open slightly as he surveyed his brother’s face.
“I don’t appreciate the incredulity!” Will bit, punching him hard in the arm. He recoiled sharply, rubbing it.
“Hey! Okay, okay, okay,” he granted, holding his hands up. “It’s just been a long time since you’ve talked like that. I know you’ve been with girls and stuff, but you’ve rarely talked about them like this.” Will felt a pang of truth. He tried to guard himself from rejection by not letting anything get too serious. It had been that way ever since Katie.
“I mean, I guess there was Katie.” Pete said thoughtfully, as if he was reading Will’s mind.
“Okay,” Will admitted, “Katie was the one exception.”
“What ever happened with that?” Pete asked. Will knew he knew what happened with that. Was he really going to make him say it? He took a sip of his beer. Katie had been the first girl Will had been with since being paralyzed. It was a girl he’d met in Boston. She had worked in the same office building as him. They were on the same coffee schedule at the little café downstairs. It was the first time he’d lived on his own since coming home from the rehabilitation center and he didn’t even know if would be able to have sex ever again. They never did make it that far, but he’d really liked her. It had been pretty rough coming out of that breakup.
“We just,” Will said, attempting to make his voice light. “We just didn’t click. It was never going to be long term.” Pete nodded earnestly. “She seemed okay with this at first,” he said, gesturing to his chair. “But I don’t think she really thought about the permanence of it, and all the other stuff that comes with it.” Will hesitated, he always felt embarrassed talking about this stuff with Pete, even though Pete already knew all too well about the incontinence and impotence that came with paralysis. It took Will a while to get everything under control after he’d been hurt. Then Pete had found a prescription for Viagra in his pocket when he borrowed Will’s jacket and he’d been absolutely scandalized.
“Fuck, man, I had no idea,” he’d kept repeating, like a broken record, absolutely inconsolable and distant. It was as if he had been the one told getting it up would have to be prescribed for and planned for the rest of his life. Will had wanted to shake him. How had he had no idea? The doctor had explained Will’s injury too many times to count to him, to his parents, to Pete, to friends, to nurses, hell, probably to goddamn strangers. The truth was Pete had just never wanted to think about it too much. It was too painful to see his brother like that. He hadn’t wanted to believe it was the truth.
Will felt nauseous, not wanting to think about her, not wanting to think about how she’d looked at him, her eyes full of something in-between disgust and pity. She had seemed open and okay with everything at first, but it had broken down abruptly and quickly.
“It was kind of like your first relationship all over again,” Pete reassured Will. “You had a lot to figure out. I wouldn’t expect something like that to last.” Will knew he had a point. It still stung though, and it still fucked up his perception of himself as he tried to accept his broken body.
“And Kristin,” Pete added, “that was a shame.”
“I don’t want to talk about Kristin,” Will replied, firmly. He felt shaky even hearing her name.
“Where is she now?” Pete asked. Will shook his head and shrugged. He had no idea where she was and he didn’t want to know. “Okay, okay,” Pete conceded, realizing he had struck a particularly sensitive nerve. “So, then, who is she?”
“She was Nora’s maid of honor,” Will said cautiously.
“Oh, hmm, what was her name again? I remember Cory and her—"
“Scottie,” Will said, snipping his words.
“Scottie, yes, I’ve heard about her before,” Pete replied, smiling knowingly.
“Well, that’s who I met,” Will confirmed flatly.
“She’s the same Scottie…” he started but trailed off, busying himself with an attempt at popping a wheelie. His balance was questionable at best.
“Same Scottie?” Will asked slowly, confused.
“Uh, that Cory worked with. She’s the same one,” he said quickly. Will noticed his tone shift but just as he was about to press the issue, Pete went down hard. Smack—head on floor, lying there, groaning. "I thought I had it."
“Narrator: He did not, in fact, have it,” Will contributed, deadpan.
“Piss off,” he moaned.
“You American prick,” Will said, rolling his eyes.
“Help me up brother!” he yelled, raising his hand in the air. Will scoffed and crossed his arms over his chest.
“That sounds like a no,” Pete said, reaching his hand up again toward Will. He had pretty good trunk control with his level of injury, but knowing Pete, Will expected him to try to pull him off the couch, so Will used his right hand to brace himself on the back of the couch as he pulled him up in the chair.
“Better?” Will asked sarcastically, rubbing his shoulder. It had been bothering him lately, which seemed to ebb and flow over the years, but pulling Pete off the floor when he could easily get up by himself wasn’t the best use of his
“Never been better,” he replied, hopping up and walking off into the kitchen. “You’re so good at those wheelies,” Pete said off handedly. His flippancy stung.
“Yeah,” Will replied with a snap of bitterness that he hated himself for and definitely wouldn’t be feeling on a good day. “Definitely something to aspire to. Probably has to do with the months of occupational therapy and years of practice.” Pete didn’t answer. He was too busy rifling through the empty cabinets, humming to himself, not a care in the world.Pete had a knack for poor listening.
Will watched his legs move, the very muscles contract, and hated himself for feeling resentful. He never let himself get into this headspace. He had come to terms with what happened and how it changed things—it had been years. So long in fact, that next week would mark eight. Yet watching Pete, he was reminded that he couldn’t even remember what it felt like to contract his leg muscles to take a step. He glanced down at his thin legs, beefed up a bit by the sweatpants he’d been bumming in, but there was still an outline and it tingled. Some days he was okay. Some days he was great. Some days it crushed him. It was hard to remember himself before it all happened. He saw it in snippets and photographs. He heard it in other people’s memories. But he reckoned that his self-confidence followed the same roller coaster as everyone else’s. It just cut deeper knowing that things could have turned out differently. He knew that was a dangerous path to go down, but he continued to circle the drain.
He knew it could be worse. He absolutely knew that. He could have been dead. His best friend in rehab was a kid name Brian who’d been hit by a drunk driver three blocks from his house, leaving him a complete quadriplegic. He couldn’t move or feel anything below his shoulders. He had to be fed, dressed, showered, and toileted. He would never drive, he had to be turned every few hours each night to prevent pressure sores, transferred in and out of bed by a Hoyer lift, and he had to control his wheelchair by puffing and sipping out of a straw. His life would never even skim the surface of normal. But Brian had a wicked sense of humor—if anyone could handle the cards he’d been dealt, it would be Brian. But, Brian hadn’t had a girlfriend since, still lived with his mom, and had a personal care assistant with him almost all the time. After eight years Will knew that would get to someone. Will hadn’t had a PCA since the first few weeks in rehab when he could barely sit up, and it had mortified him. Since then he’d been taking care of himself. His rehab was oriented around learning exactly how to do that, while Brian’s had been oriented around directing someone else how to do that. Depressing as hell.
But yesterday, when Scottie had pulled away from him sharply, leaving him mid-kiss with his mouth wide open, a car door slam instead of a word, it had been a blow. Like she’d suddenly realized she’d made a terrible mistake. He didn’t know why she did it, but it stung nevertheless. And he didn’t want to assume it had to do with the chair, but it was always the first thing that came to mind. It was an oxymoron of incredible proportions—he had the humility to understand why someone wouldn’t want to get involved with him because of his disability, and yet, he had the unbelievable hubris to assume that could be the only reason that someone wouldn’t want to be with him. It was baffling.
What he would have given to run after her, but by the time he would have gotten his chair together, she would have been gone, disappearing up the dark hallway. Instead he put his head on the steering wheel and let out a deep breath then banged his forehead against it a few times. He guessed he should thank the douche in the Dodge Ram with the vanity plate TKOKING who had saddled up behind him and leaned on the horn with gusto. Will hadn’t been anywhere near stopping and he would have hated to crack his skull parked outside of the apartment of the woman he’d just thrown himself at. He owed The Knock Out King a goddamn fruit basket.
Will had gritted his teeth and rubbed his eyes with the heels of his hands, shifting the car into drive. He had known he would feel better after a good night’s sleep, but his mind had been absolutely sprinting since meeting Scottie at the wedding. The bar after the rehearsal had been very fuzzy, but he had switched to water once they’d gotten there in the hopes of sharpening things up. It had worked enough to make a difference.
By the time the bride and groom had left, Will had been surprised that Scottie was standing upright. She was a tank, with the kind of tolerance that he would never have, no matter how much he drank. She hadn’t left his side since they had gotten into the limo at Wave Hill, and he wasn’t ready for her to just yet. She had offered to get a cab for him and had flagged one down in two minutes flat. Then, as he was preparing himself to say goodbye, words sliding sloppily over themselves in his head, she had hitched up her dress and slid in. She didn’t even know where he lived, and he certainly didn’t know where she lived either. But he didn’t question it.
“No, no no,” the cab driver had barked after Will had transferred into the back seat and begun to take his chair apart. “Trunk, trunk, trunk,” he continued, flapping his hands. Will took a deep breath, trying to calm himself, push down the drunken urge to get in the guy’s face. He was about to explain to him that he couldn’t just throw it in the trunk when Scottie slid the little window on the divider open and leaned forward.
“He’ll put that in the trunk if you, sir, also get in the trunk,” she said firmly, with only a slight slur to the last few words. Will blanched and looked at her, his mouth slightly open.
“I’m not getting in the trunk,” the driver said incredulously, face scrunched in confusion.
“Exactly,” she snapped, “you are asking him to put his chair, which is his legs, in the trunk. It’s like you asking him to get in the trunk himself. He’s not luggage.” She held the silence fearlessly, lips pursed, and arms crossed. “I know,” she replied after a full minute of silence, as if they were having a conversation, “it’s a ridiculous thing to ask.” He still didn’t say anything back. “Let’s go,” she finally concluded, nodding at Will to pull the frame into the car. He did and slammed the door. The cabbie didn’t say another word to them the rest of the way. Will watched the little green pine tree air freshener flap back and forth in the wind rushing through the open windows.
It took about ten minutes down the West Side Highway for her to fall asleep, and every time Will tried to rouse her, she smiled and laughed, eyes half open, and leaned into him harder. It was endearing. They were next to each other to make room for his chair and it felt as if he’d asked her to climb onto his lap, she would have. He tried to ask her where she lived, and she kept saying “the village”, and when he asked her to specify which village she would laugh even harder, a thick smile on her face, voice husky, “You know what village.” Will didn’t know what village, but he opted out of telling her that.
So, eventually he just had the driver take them to Brooklyn, which he did, surprisingly, without complaint. Will watched the city and both “villages” clip by and disappear behind them.
When they got to his building he carefully peeled himself apart from her, paid without tip, and transferred into his chair. He was feeling much soberer, but his arms felt like jelly and he didn’t know if it was the alcohol, the long day, or her proximity.
The cab driver watched smugly in the rearview mirror as Will tried to coax Scottie into climbing out of the cab. She kept laughing and shaking her head and pulling him toward her, victim to sleep and gin in equal measure. He thought about asking for help, for a second, but he couldn’t bring myself to need the driver. It felt like a particular brand of humiliation and he couldn’t swallow his pride. So, he did what any gentleman would have done—he carried her.
Given, there was little grace in it, and he was slightly glad she that she had been only semi-conscious to save her his embarrassment. He led her out of the car and onto her feet as she wilted like a dying flower. Slowly he coaxed her onto his lap and she relaxed into him, legs draped over the side of his chair, arms around his neck and head on his shoulder. He backed up carefully, his wheel catching her dress a bit, undoubtedly getting it dirty, but he suspected she wouldn’t mind that too much. Will bit his lip to keep from telling the snickering cabbie to fuck off. He hated that he felt embarrassed in front of the prick to begin with. She handed him her phone and purse which he wedged in-between his leg and the other side of the chair and slammed the door. The cab sped off and left them completely alone on the quiet street.
Will took in her scent—peppery and floral, but fresh above all else. She smelled like gin too, but he didn’t mind it. Mixed with the smell of her skin and hair it was intoxicating. Carefully navigating the curb cut, arms burning, he awkwardly steered both of them into the building. The night doorman, Louie, mercifully, ran to open the door for him. Will had thanked him profusely and he had offered to carry Scottie up to Will’s apartment, but he couldn’t let him do it. He didn’t want her head off his shoulder. He didn’t want her warm breath off his neck. He just had Louie press the elevator button instead.
Will had a little trouble with the door, but he managed to swing it open, roll over the threshold, and catch it with his elbow as it swung back. The apartment was dark and undisturbed. It felt good to be home. It felt even better to be home with her.
After successfully getting her up onto the couch with her shoes off, he laid a knit blanket over her, making sure her bare shoulders were covered. She mumbled something about guacamole and Will stifled a choked laugh. But her breathing quickly returned to a deep and serene drumbeat. Will did a quick shift to relief the pressure on his butt and lower back then took her in, biting his lip.He hadn’t known how to feel.
Putting her purse on the kitchen table and, seeing that her phone was dead when he’d tried to check the time, he plugged it in. It had immediately started vibrating but he didn’t stick around to see. Flipping the lights off, he left her there, breathing evenly, in the quiet dark.
And forty minutes later she had appeared, like a siren, in the doorway of his room asking him to take her dress off. Will shot up in bed, pushing himself up on his elbows, shaking sleep from his eyes, unsure if he was hearing her correctly.
“I need you to take my dress off,” she had slurred. He had sat in stunned silence as she took a step into the room and smiled. He couldn’t tell if she was more or less coherent than before. “Please,” she had asked gruffly. Will had swallowed hard and said okay, feeling like he was in a dream. Sitting down on the end of the bed, she turned to face away from him as he scooted forward as best he could.
“I need you to come back a bit,” he’d had to ask, his voice coming out awkwardly as he pulled his legs up and folded them in front of him to make room for her.
“Of course,” she had agreed. Reaching for the zipper he had begun to pull it down, but realized quickly, much to her amusement, that the dress was completely full of pins.
“Um,” he had hesitated, furrowing my brow and tilting his head. She had doubled over with laughter and turned to face him.
“Which would be why I need help,” she whispered through giggles, her mouth grazing his cheek. Will had felt his face go hot and scooted a little bit closer to her. Turning on the bedside lamp, he had begun the meticulous process of removing each pin, one by one. Working in silence, fingers nimble, she had started to wriggle free. And as he revealed more, he noticed that the pins had poked her all over her back leaving a smattering of red dots on her otherwise perfect freckled skin.
“Jesus, Scottie,” he’d said, “You look like you had a run in with a cactus.”
“I know, I know,” she’d replied shaking her head, smiling shyly, her hair falling looser and looser, framing her face. Will had to keep checking that he didn’t have a hard on. Because he had a complete injury—meaning his spinal cord severed clean—he couldn’t feel anything below that point. He had no idea if and when it was happening. It didn’t happen like before—it couldn’t happen by just looking at something. There had to be stimulation. Still, he had to keep reminding himself that was the case because he felt so turned on by her that his very skin seemed to be vibrating.
Finally, she had slid out of the dress and there she stood in nothing but a leopard print thong, all long limbs and silky skin, tight stomach and ass, small but perfectly pert breasts. Will felt his breath catch and he wanted to go to her, or at least reach out and pull her to him. Instead, he had taken a deep breath and folded his hands in his lap because he knew she wasn’t totally with him. She was still coming down from earlier, emerging from the haze. She wouldn’t have been standing there naked if she wasn’t. And that was what made him offer her a shirt.
Then, she asked if it was okay if she laid down on his bed.
“Of course,” he had said, watching her slip the t-shirt she’d grabbed out his top drawer over her head and climb under the covers. She had rummaged around for a minute, insisting on finding a grey t-shirt in the mess. Sliding back, Will laid back down on his pillow as she slid the duvet up over her shoulders. They faced each other in silence for a few minutes, her green eyes trained on his. A smirk hung impishly on her lips.
“Hi,” she whispered throatily.
“Hi,” he’d replied. Then, “what?” when she didn’t react.
“What?” she’d mimicked.
“I said it first,” he’d pushed.
“Said what first?” she’d asked.
“What?” he’d replied, playing right into it.
“What?” she’d said, swelling at her own cleverness. Will felt himself reach for her hand. She let him. Rubbing his knuckles with her thumb she told him sleepily that she felt like she’d known him a long time. Will nodded thoughtfully in agreement. There was something comfortable there that should have felt unnatural, given how little time they’d actually known each other.
Her eyes were hooded with sleep and drink, but she had kept talking. He didn’t even know what she had been saying, but he knew he was listening and he knew he was laughing. And so was she. He didn’t even remember falling asleep, the conversation slipped into silence undetected.
And then Will had woken up in a blistering panic a little bit later, confused about where he was, face and back covered in perspiration. When he had finally got his bearings, he studied Scottie for a second, face washed of lines, anxiety, and laughter, dark hair tumbling down over her shoulder in his t-shirt. He ran his hand down the side of her smooth face without thinking. He was relieved when she didn’t rouse.
Afraid this had been some kind of drunken anomaly, an intimate encounter that existed and breathed for a few shining hours only to be pocketed and ignored in the morning, Will had carefully extricated himself from her, slipping his hand out of her small, warm grip. He didn’t want her to wake up across from him repulsed, shocked, confused, or anything else.
So, he’d slipped into the bathroom, clicking the door closed behind him. Staring at himself in the mirror for what felt like an hour, he had lost track of the early morning time. His dark hair had been sticking up everywhere and he had dark circles hanging like plums under his blue grey eyes. He splashed cold water on his face and dried it off with a towel, unsure if he was in a dream or not. After he had found himself in the living room, taking up her old spot, ignoring the pang in chest from Scottie and the pang in his back from the couch.
The same pang that was acting up as he heard Pete cracking open two beers in the kitchen.
“Beer!” he called from the kitchen absently. Will’s gaze went from the beer on the counter to his wheelchair, which Pete had considerately left in the middle of the room, just out of his reach.
“Hey asshat,” he yelled back, “how about some goddamn table service?” Pete groaned and came back into the room, carrying two cold cans and setting one down on the coffee table, sitting back down in Will’s chair and leaning back. He tried to do another wheelie, putting the beer between his legs and jerking the wheels backward, sending the casters up in the air.
This time when he hit the floor the entire can of beer spilled.
“If you get beer on my chair I’ll kill you,” Will threatened. Pete snorted and pushed himself up on his elbows, a large stain growing on his green t-shirt.
“You better kill me then.”