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Knowing

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The city of Chicago is still in that sleepy sort of haze that settles overnight, not quite roused awake yet as the sun creeps slowly up over the horizon. The only cars out are the dated yellow taxis, a few straggling cars with neon signs illuminated in the window with their respective rideshare company. No one else is out, sidewalks empty. Will opts to walk.

Everyone is still asleep, or just waking, ready to begin their day, but Will is finally going home. Somehow his twenty four hour shift had morphed into something closer to thirty eight, and though he knows he can’t complain, that he was there voluntarily, really, because his patient had been in critical condition, because he didn’t want to leave without knowing she was okay. But at the same time, the hospital sort of feels like a cruel mistress, unkind and unforgiving, sucking him back in even when he desperately wants to leave.

The patient he’d been so concerned for, the reason he stayed an extra fourteen hours even though the time he’s due back remains unchanged, she’d slipped away. And rationally he knows there’s nothing he could have done, that she had come into their care too far gone, that he tried everything he could. But it still feels like a personal failing, and that weight sits heavily on his shoulders as he begins the slow funeral march home to his apartment, twelve blocks and three flights of stairs. It’s not quite cold but not quite comfortable either, and he wraps his jacket around him a little tighter, head bowed to the ground, because he doesn’t need to watch where he’s going. Not when he’s the only one out, not when he knows this walk well enough to do it blindfolded.

Will’s chest aches with the loss, with the helplessness he feels, and not for the first time he finds himself wondering what the point is anyway, the point of medicine if it can’t save people, even when he does everything right. His hand finds the medal of St. Jude around his neck, a single finger tracing the gold relief. Lost causes. Sometimes he feels like he’s the lost cause.

But Will’s home before he realizes it, takes the stairs without acknowledging the elevator as an option, and it’s not until he fumbles with his keys that he recognizes that he’s made it, still lost in his thoughts, in his guilt. Some days are just like this; Will knows it won’t last.

He pushes through the door, drops his coat and bag and shoes in a pile at the door, uncaring about the mess because he has a destination in mind, and he locks the door behind him. He glances around the apartment, takes note of the little bits and pieces that aren’t his own. The pair of shoes at the door far too expensive for his own taste, a stack of open books strewn about the coffee table, a Cubs jersey. Despite the mess, despite the wrong team, a soft smile plays across his lips, just a hint, and he’s already stepping out of his jeans as he walks to the door to his bedroom, stumbling just little, careful to be quiet, because he doesn’t want to wake him.

Will kicks his jeans towards the corner of his dresser, but pauses at the door for just a moment. The morning sun is just starting to peek through slatted blinds, striped rays of amber haze settling across the bed, and all Will can make out is a messy tuft of black hair nestled against a pillow, blankets nearly engulfing him entirely.

Will’s chest aches in an entirely different way than it did while walking home. He feels like he’s being tugged towards the bed, by gravity or magnetism or some other universal force. He’s quiet, says nothing, but Connor stirs anyway, like he can feel Will’s tender gaze even in his sleep.

“I thought your shift ended last night,” Connor mumbles as he rolls over, bleary eyed and hoarse, stretching just a little before he curls back in on himself, sleep threatening to retake him.

“It was supposed to, got caught up with a patient,” Will can feel himself start to choke up, lump in his throat, eyes prickling, so he declines to explain further, doesn’t think he’ll be able to explain that he’d lost her without breaking into tears.

Connor doesn’t need Will to say so, he gathers that much immediately. Maybe because they’ve known each other for so long, maybe because he’s always seemed to be fluent in the language of Will’s facial expressions. Connor just lifts the edge of the blankets, “come to bed,” he adds, eyes half closed.

Will’s helpless to obey, just crosses the room in a few short strides and slides under the covers, jaw clenched as he wills himself to keep the tears at bay. He’s not sure why this one is affecting him so much, why he couldn’t leave this at the hospital steps. Death happens, it’s part of being a doctor, especially in the emergency room. But she had been so small, so trusting, so vulnerable.

Will lays facing Connor, head against the plush pillows that Connor had bought months back, insisting that Will’s were useless, under a duvet with a thread count higher than his weekly salary. He doesn’t want to talk about it, about her. Connor doesn’t ask.

Will can count approximately ten thousand reasons he loves Connor, but this perhaps is the one that stands out the most, the way that Connor seems to know what he needs without asking. How he seems to know even when Will doesn’t really know himself.

“Turn over,” Connor urges gently and Will shifts, rolls away from him. He says nothing else, Connor just presses the length of himself against Will’s back, wraps an arm tightly around his waist, presses a soft kiss to Will’s shoulder blade. They sleep like this often, Connor curled around him, but this time Will feels like he’s been ripped open, like the plaster and bandages he’d patched up to keep the tears at bay have crumbled to nothing and he just sobs, whole body heaving and trembling. It's not sad, not really.

Connor just holds Will tighter as the sobs subside. It’s catharsis. It’s what he needed, even though he didn’t know how to ask.