I think it's true what they say about timing. It really is everything.
It's why I'm currently sitting in the bathroom crying instead of laying on my bed out in the room that Illyana and I share. It's why I ignored her when she hammered on the door for a good five minutes, when she was begging me to come out where she could hold me. She threatened to stepping disc inside, but we both know that she would never do that. Not because she'd be scared to find me sitting on the loo with my pants around my ankles while I dab at my damp cheeks with wadded up toilet paper, but because Illyana doesn't like to have people needling her into talking about her feelings. And she knows that if I really wanted to talk about it, I'd be out there sobbing into her arms already.
I think it hurts her that I'm not doing that this time. She has so few friends and so few people that trust her with anything that being the person I turn to is one of the few things she has that make her feel valuable, like there is at least one person in the world who can't live without her. I used to think that that was a lot of pressure to put on just one person. I used to get angry at her for how jealous and selfish she would act with me, because I couldn't reciprocate what she was feeling, because I didn't want to feel trapped or obligated to put my desires behind anyone else's.
I know it's hurting her, but I'm doing it anyway. We'll get to the 'why' in just a second. First, why I'm crying. There's a whole lot of backstory to go with that, too.
I wasn't surprised when she admitted to me one night that she thought she was in love with me.
I can't say that I reacted particularly well. I didn't feel complimented or in any way good about myself for her crush. I felt guilty. It twisted in knots in my stomach and snaked up my throat and made it hard to breathe. I pitied Illyana. But I was also mad at her, that she could dare feel something like that that could ruin our friendship. I didn't know what to do. I didn't know what to say. So I said nothing and listened to her cry herself to sleep and I pretended that I couldn't hear her because I knew that that was what she would have wanted.
I didn't tell Piotr or the professor or anyone else about what she had said to me. I tried to forget she had said anything at all. I acted like it had never happened because I didn't want to lose her.
Again, I know my behaviour hurt her. I know I did the wrong thing. I drove a wedge between us no matter how much I didn't want that, and no matter how often I told myself that it didn't have to change anything.
It was a good couple of months before we were even able to talk about what had happened between us. Illyana had told me how my reaction and how I had treated her since had made her feel, and that she was sorry for what had happened to our friendship. I had cried and sobbed apologies to her until she had had to climb into my bed with me and and rubbed my back until I eventually calmed down. She told me she was going to try and get over me and that night we slept in the same bed.
For a long time after that, I had thought of myself as beyond redemption. I could not make it up to Illyana enough. I stopped telling her about my latest, male, celebrity crushes and who I thought would make a cute, heterosexual couple. I walked on egg shells around her.
Slowly, slowly, we approached normal. We started teasing each other a lot more genuinely, stop watching for reactions to make sure whatever we were teasing about was an okay topic. We started hugging and shoving and tickling and touching each other again.
And somewhere along the way I fell in love. Somewhere along the way I started wishing we could still hold hands like we had in the good old days.
That's why I'm in the bathroom crying. Because telling her that I can finally give to her what she gave to me all those years ago would hurt her, when I know she's tried so hard to move on. Because I think we could have been perfect if our stars had aligned the right way the first time. Because I don't know how I can distance myself from these feelings when they seem intent on pulling me under whenever I so much as catch sight of her hair.
Because God, we could have been perfect.