Will closes his eyes and holds still while Jem wipes the blood and muck off of his face. Will is wounded -- not gravely, but badly enough to be moody and uncooperative -- and winces when Jem wipes the wet cloth over the cut in his brow. He pushes the fair-haired boy's arm away from him with a grunt and surveys the damage in the lavatory mirror.
"I'm hideous," Will says to himself. "Absolutely hideous."
Jem rolls his eyes at Will's reflection. "Must you be so melodramatic?" he asks his friend, folding slender arms across his chest. "It's a few cuts and bruises; in a day or two you'll be right back to your handsome, glorious self."
Will raises a dark brow at Jem's reflection. "Please don't be sarcastic, it doesn't become you."
Jem struggles to suppress a smirk. "And who says I'm being sarcastic?" he asks innocently. "You are handsome and glorious, Will."
Will waits for the punch-line. He knows there'll be one--with Jem there always is. Still, it's difficult for one to tell when Jem is being humorous or not, and Will despises not being able to read Jem the way he can read everyone else; it's always disoriented him. If he wasn't able to trust Jem with his life, his heart, with everything, he'd want nothing to do with the boy. People who keep secrets, who are able to hide their true intent, are of no use to Will.
"And rude and crass and vain, too. You're all of those things." And there it is.
Will narrows his eyes at Jem and, whirling around, snatches the damp cloth from him. "I'll have that, thank you. If all you're going to do is make snide remarks and poke around in my cuts, you might as well go to bed. I can play nurse all on my own."
Jem lets out a laugh that bounces off the stone and says, "Oh come on, Will, you know I'm only teasing you. Let me help you, come on." Gently, he places his hands over Will's, which are still tender and sore to the touch, and tries to take the cloth from him. "You're always so dour and sulky when we come back from a hunt," he adds quietly, and they're so close Will can see the sparkle in Jem's pale eyes. It touches his heart to see the other boy look this way -- alive and happy -- even if he'll never admit it. And so he relents.
Will lets go of the cloth and allows Jem to resume taking care of him. Secretly, he likes it. If things could always be this way -- Jem taking care of him, staying here and out of harm's way -- he'd be happier. Content. Sometimes he thinks everything would have been easier had Jem been born a girl.
Jem watches Will from the corner of his eye, a small half-smile on his lips, as he cleans Will's wounds and dabs a foul-smelling ointment on them. "What are you thinking about?" he murmurs. "You've got that look on your face again."
Will watches Jem just as closely. "I'm thinking about you," he confesses, as Jem unbuttons Will's shirt and sets to work on the cuts and bruises on his chest. "I'm thinking about how much easier things would be if you'd been born a girl."
Jem pauses, the smile fading from his lips. "A girl?"
"Yes," Will murmurs. "At least then I'd be able to keep you out of harm's way. I'd claim you as my own and lock you in your own private chamber, day and night. At least then you'd be safe. I wouldn't have to worry about you the way I do now."
Jem lets out a low breath. "You can't protect me," he says finally. "I don't want to be protected; not by you or anyone else. I can take care of myself." He re-buttons Will's shirt and sets the jar of ointment down beside the basin. His fingers are shaking.
Will puts a hand over his. Jem's fingers are cold as the air outside. "I never said you couldn't," he says seriously. "But look at you -- you're too sick for this. You can't be a Shadowhunter anymore; not the same way you are now. It's taking a toll on you, you know. You're weakening by the day. You know you should be resting--"
"And what would you have me do?" Jem snaps, voice wavering with emotion. His silver eyes blaze into Will's. "Give up on life altogether? And it's comforting to know what you'd do with me if I was a girl, Will. Marry me to enslave me; to stop me from doing what I was born to do." Will can hear the fury in his tone. Usually, he's rather good at keeping a lid on his temper. But not tonight. Tonight, Will has gotten underneath his skin, and over something as seemingly insignificant as this.
"That's not why I'd marry you," Will tells him simply, and feels his skin burn hot with unwelcome embarrassment. He doesn't know what he's saying. Telling unbridled truth has never worked out particularly well for him.
Jem turns an unhealthy shade of pink and clears his throat. "I should go to bed. I'm tired," he adds, pinching the bridge of his nose. "I'll see you in the morning. Are you all right now?"
Will avoids Jem's eyes, not wanting to confront what he may see there, and nods. "I'll be fine. I've dealt with worse. Stupid bloody vampires," he mutters.
Jem hastens to get away from him.
"Goodnight," Will says, without turning around. He can't believe where his big mouth has landed him.
"Goodnight," Jem returns, pausing when he reaches the door. "Just so you know I ... I understand. If it was you I'd feel the same way. But please stop worrying about me. Everything's going to be all right, Will. I promise."
No, it's not, Will feels like saying. You're going to die and leave me all alone. You're all I've got.
Instead he says, "I know. I'm sorry."
The door closes behind Jem, leaving Will in silence. He turns to look at himself in the mirror, where his reflection is all tanned skin, messy dark hair, blood and blue-glass eyes. He feels like putting a fist through the glass. But he won't. He knows Jem will be left to clean it all up -- to clean him up -- and Will can't hurt do that to him; can't hurt him any more than he already has.
And this is what he lives for, he thinks; even if he never does the right thing, never says the right thing, never is the right thing.
Will does, and always will, live for Jem.