Synopsis, chapter 2: Fully recovered now, Will tries to apologize to Henry. Henry wishes he wouldn't.
Spoilers: Quite a few for everything up to and including Warriors, so don't read past this point if you haven't seen that far and don't want to know what happens.
A/N: I am trying to decide where I want this story to go, I could make it slash, leave it gen or just leave it at this chapter and not write any more. If anyone has any advice, I would love to hear it.
Chapter 2 – Coffee and Sympathy
There were moments, usually lasting no more than a couple of seconds, a minute at the most, where Henry began to believe that he might have made the right decision about the surgery. These moments were few and far between. They punctuated the hours of terror where nightmare thoughts about what was happening to him clawed at the outside of his sanity like a hungry wolf threatening to break through, break down the walls and leave him a panic stricken wreck sobbing on the ground. They kept him from changing his mind, for the time being. And for that, he hated them.
He glanced across the room at Will Zimmerman, sitting at a desk flicking idly through a research paper while a cup of coffee went cold on the desk beside him. The young doctor no longer showed any outward signs of the transformation that had altered his mind and body, turning him into a mindless thug, a creature created only to fight. The difference between his real and transformed selves had been so striking that when he had seen him, Henry had barely been able to believe that he was looking at the same man.
If it hadn't been such a horrible experience, the irony of the situation would almost have been enough to make him laugh. The days, the weeks spent worrying about the possibility of hurting a friend while out of control in his transformed state, and it had almost been Will who ended up dealing with the reality of Henry's worst fear. As he ran into the ring that day, the only thought running through Henry's head had been to protect the other man from that. The physical changes had healed now, but Henry knew that inside there would already be so much to process, to think that he had done something like that, whether he had been in control or not, would almost certainly have destroyed him.
Sensing the eyes on him, Will looked up. Henry glanced away a second too late, “What?”
Henry shook his head, “What, what?”
Will shrugged and took a sit of his coffee, winced and surreptitiously spat it back into the mug.
“That good, is it?”
“Sorry, didn't mean to be disgusting, I just can't stand cold coffee,” Will smiled self consciously and pushed the mug away.
Henry nodded, “Me either. Besides, it's not the worst thing I've seen you do recently.” He regretted the words the instant they left his mouth, and even more as he watched Will's expression change. He honestly had no intention of saying that, it just came out. One of these days he'd have to learn to think before he spoke. By way of an apology, he got to his feet, “Want another cup? I'm getting a bit dry myself,”
“Sure.” Will pushed the mug in his direction and Henry grabbed it and fled.
Once outside the room in the safety of solitude, he stopped, slumped slightly against the wall and closed his eyes. “Stupid,” he muttered to himself. He walked as quickly as he could to the kitchen and busied himself making the drink. That comment had come from another part of himself that he was ashamed to admit existed, the part not so deep down that didn't feel as bad about what had happened as he thought he should. It was petty, he knew that, but every time he had seen Will play the part of Mister understanding, Mister I-know-what-you're-going-through, with Sanctuary inhabitants and guests, that little stab of irritation had flared up.
Henry made the coffee, focusing on what he was doing, steadfastly ignoring any other thoughts that attempted to push their way into his head. It was something he had become used to doing recently, squashing down unwanted thoughts and feelings and concentrating instead on the task at hand. It worked well, until there was nothing left to do, then he lay alone in bed desperately trying to remain in control.
But that would come later. For now he sighed, buried the thoughts as deep down as he could manage and carried the two warm drinks back to the other room.
Will barely looked up as he placed the mug next to him on the desk. Henry walked away, deciding to find somewhere else to be for the moment, but before he could reach the door Will turned around. “Henry, wait a minute.”
Henry frowned, but paused and turned to face him.
“I need to talk to you. About the things I said in the infirmary, when I was... sick,”
“It doesn't matter,” Henry said quickly. “How many times do you need me to tell you you weren't yourself?”
Will shook his head, “Probably a few more, I'm still not sure you're completely right about that. But it doesn't matter. I still want to tell you that I didn't mean it.” He spoke hesitantly, with an uncertainty that made Henry's heart lurch, “Now I'm thinking properly again, I just want you to know that I'm sorry.”
Henry sighed and sat himself back down. “Please stop apologizing. I'm not exactly the innocent victim here. You weren't as wrong about me as you seem to think.” And there it was again, his mouth running away with him before the words had chance to filter through his brain. As he spoke, the initial horror at what he had confessed was quickly soothed by a feeling of relief, as though he had finally let go of something heavy that he had been carrying around.
Relief changed into panic and Henry looked at the other man, trying to figure out what he was thinking. On the surface, he sounded conversational, as though he was just having a chat with a friend, but on the other, did he detect a hint of hostility underneath? He wouldn't have blamed him if he did.
He took a deep breath. There was no going back now, he was going to have to either finish what he had started or avoid Will for the rest of his life. “Okay, that might have sounded bad. Look, don't take this the wrong way. I'm not proud of it, okay? But much as I'm glad you're yourself again, part of me is pleased it happened. Because, well, now you get it, don't you?”
Will didn't reply, he sat and waited for Henry to continue.
But Henry couldn't. The words wouldn't come. He knew what he wanted to say. That until now, the psychologist had no idea what it had like. That unless he was hiding an abnormality of his own somewhere underneath those boyish good looks, he couldn't possibly know how it felt to be so different from everyone else. He couldn't know what it was like to feel as though the world had been pulled out from under you as you were betrayed by your own DNA, your own body. Well, now he did. Now maybe he would think twice before telling people he knew what was best for them. Or at least his advice wold come from a new position of understanding, actual understanding, backed up by the memory of the lack of control, of the horror of looking in the mirror and not recognizing your own reflection. Shit. He felt bad even thinking these things, he couldn't say them.
“You get it,” he repeated, folding his arms across his body in a subconscious signal of insecurity and willing the other man to understand.
Will nodded, “Yeah,” his voice cracked. Just slightly, but Henry heard it, “Yeah, I do,”
Henry ran a hand through his hair and edged his chair slightly closer so that he could lower his voice, “Don't go thinking I'm gloating or whatever though. I'm sorry it happened, but looking back, now you've recovered and everything, all I mean is that it might not have been the worst thing in the world.”
“It's certainly given me a new perspective on some things,” Will's voice sounded steady on the surface, but Henry still detected a hint of emotion underneath. “But all things considered, it's an experience I could have done without,”
“Yeah,” Henry whispered. He looked away, unable to maintain eye contact, suppressing the urge to move closer still.
“When I realized what they'd done to me, what was about to happen to me, I thought...” Will's lips turned upwards into a strained imitation of a smile, “I thought about you.”
“But when it started, when I started to change, do you know what I said?”
Henry shrugged, “Hulk smash?”
“I asked how I looked. Ridiculous, isn't it? The first thing I worried about was my appearance. I never knew I was that vain.”
“You learn a lot about yourself when you're faced with turning into someone else. Trust me, I know what I'm talking about.” Henry took another sip of his coffee, before he forced his eyes to meet Will's and asked, “Do you, y'know, want to talk about it?”
Will half smiled and shook his head, “Isn't that supposed to be my job?”
“Can't analyze yourself. Not like you can go to anyone outside either, is it? You'd end up getting yourself committed. Look, if you ever do, you just have to ask. I've got a good idea what it was like, and I know you're probably still a bit freaked about it. And by the way, that choice of words? Completely deliberate.”
The smile following that was completely full and genuine, he nodded, “I'll bear that in mind. And if you ever want to talk about your own situation, I'm always available.”
Henry shook his head, “I've got it covered, but thanks.” He grinned as he got to his feet, “Hey, I was thinking of watching a movie tonight if you want to join me. I rented the Incredible Hulk.”
“Hilarious,” Will deadpanned, but as Henry left he room he laughed. And if he could laugh about it, he knew he was going to be okay. Eventually.