Liam noticed a difference in Will that night after Will's meeting with the Headmaster when they were finally alone in their room together. It wouldn't have been apparent to anyone else, but Liam spent a great deal of time looking at Will and knew him head to toe. Yes, there was something different.
"How was your meeting, then?" he asked him.
Will lay back on his bed after propping his pillow against the headboard as a cushion to sprawl against. "It was, well, not what I was expecting. It was hard, but I'm awfully glad I went. Thank you for that. In fact, thank you for everything."
Liam was taken back by the depth of sincerity in Will's voice. Looking at him, he could see it in his eyes as well. He quickly spoke again, not wanting the atmosphere to become heavy.
"But what happened? You were gone for ages."
"He talked to me like a father. I've missed that, you know. I found out how much. He got me to talk, too. Didn't think I could, really, but when I started, I couldn't seem to stop. Didn't want to. It hurt, thinking about everything, but it felt good, like I was getting rid of a lot of it just by talking about it. Then, the Headmaster talked about what I said. He's very smart, you know, and not at all what boys say he is. I quite like him now, and don't feel scared of him at all. He wants to help.
"Anyway, we talked about what I told him. He had some clever things to say, and I'm still mulling them over in my head. He's right; he told me it'll take me a while to accept some of what he said, and I can see that. It's easier for me to rationally accept what he said than emotionally accept it. But he said we'll work on that. Oh, and I'm to go to tea with him."
"When, tomorrow you mean?"
"No, no, I'm to become his regular tea companion, several times a week. I imagine he finds it quite dull there, having tea alone in that house or just with his wife, and he needs me there to cheer him up."
"Will!" Liam was looking at him with wide open eyes. "You went and talked to the Headmaster for a few hours, and now you're lying here, saying more than I've ever heard you say at once, and you're even making jokes? What did he do to you? You're different, you know. I saw it when you came back, I saw it when you came into the room just now. And I can see it in your eyes. They're more alive, somehow. What happened? What caused all this?"
Will lay in his bed, and a smile crept over his face. This time, Liam saw it reach his eyes. Will just looked back at him, smiling at his friend for a few moments, thinking how to answer.
"Liam, what happened, really what happened, is you cared enough about me to get me help. You went and found the person that could do that. I've got a long way to go, I realize that, but I've taken the first few steps, and I took them because you were behind me pushing. I tried not to let anyone help, I resisted, but you pushed. This is your doing, Liam, and I'm going to be grateful to you forever for it."
Liam felt tears collecting in his eyes and turned away so they wouldn't be noticeable. While he was looking the other way, he heard Will continue.
"Liam, I can't tell you what I said to the Headmaster. How he got me to tell him what I did I'm still not sure, and I don't have the courage enough to say it again, not now at least. Maybe someday. Someday soon, I hope. But there is something I can say right now. But I need you to come over here and sit on my bed with me. Please?"
Liam tried to be surreptitious as he wiped his arm over his eyes while standing up. Then he took the two steps to Will's bed and sat on the side of it, looking at Will. Will then sat up so he was sitting straight on the bed, looking at Liam. He reached out and took his hand.
"Liam, a big part of why I'm feeling better is that I realized that if you care for me, and I can tell you do, then there must be something inside me to care about, something I was refusing to acknowledge. Just knowing that, just thinking about that, is helping.
"But there's more I have to say. Liam, remember when you asked me if I was gay, and I said I wasn't anything, I wasn't interested in sex at all?"
"That was true. And it was only part of the whole. I wasn't interested, I hadn't been for months. But before that, I'd gone through a period where I was intensely interested in sex, it was about all I thought about. And I had some experience with it. When I came here, everything was different for me. The Headmaster told me today I was severely depressed, and that had robbed me of all interest in sex. He said being interested in sex is a normal, healthy thing for boys. Since I've known you, and you've been here for me, I think I'm getting better. Because, Liam, in the past three weeks, since we've been together, it's got so you're about the only thing I can think about." Liam couldn't take his eyes off Will's, who was staring into Liam's eyes just as fixedly. When Will continued, there was greater emotion in his voice and his eyes appeared to grow darker.
"Liam, the sex I had when I was younger was with a man. And I liked it. I liked it lot. I see how wrong that was now, how much harm it's done me. I've thought about that, and I've thought about you, too. I've done a lot of thinking, a lot of wondering, why when I was so down about everything, when I didn't have much life in me, I saw you and something about you drew my interest. No one else affected me that way. But I saw you, and something inside me responded. I've never known why, but it was so odd for someone to break through my defences that way, that I've thought about it a lot. And in the past three weeks, I've come to recognize what it was. It's very simple, really. I'm attracted to you. You aren't just interesting, you excite something in me, and you did right from that day I scowled at you at tea. You turn me on, and now that some of the fog seems to be lifting, it's easy to see. I'm sure what it is now. I was attracted to you from the first, I was drawn to you, and now, now I'm falling in love with you, Liam, and somehow, my soul seemed to recognize you before my mind did.
"I'm sure now I'm gay, Liam. I know it. I don't think about girls at all. The ones I met at my old school didn't interest me. I found boys interesting, but not girls. And I find you more than interesting. I follow you with my eyes, I think about you constantly, and I can barely stand it when we're apart.
"I don't want to put any pressure on you, Liam. If you don't have these sorts of feelings for me, I understand. I don't see how you could. But that's my old way of thinking, that the Headmaster told me I had to work to change. I still feel like I'm pretty worthless, though, and don't see how you could possibly have the feelings for me that I do for you. But I had to tell you what I feel. It just felt right to do so, and I'm feeling so different tonight. I had to tell you."
Liam was silent. He stared into Will's eyes. As the seconds passed, Will finally dropped his eyes. The emotions he was feeling were too intense, and he didn't know what Liam was feeling at all.
And then he found out. Liam's voice was breaking when he spoke, but he spoke through it, determined to speak from his heart.
"Will, Will, I fell in love with you when we spoke together on the bridge. And my feelings have just grown since then as I've got to know you. I should be grateful for you for saving my life, and I am, but that's not why I love you. It's because of who you are, your courage, your compassion, the fact you fought for me, you cared that much about me, just, just because of who you are. Will, I love you, and never thought you'd love me. Never. Oh, Will."
Then he was overcome with emotion, as was Will. They fell into each other's arms, and holding each other, both wept. After a time, when their emotions had become less intense, Liam pulled back slightly, looked into Will's eyes, and then kissed him. It wasn't a kiss of passion, it was a gentle kiss of love. When they separated, Liam said, "I've wanted to do that for ages. You're the first boy I've ever kissed. That was my first kiss. We're going to have to do that a lot more, aren't we? Oh, please say yes!"
Will smiled, a deeply contented smile. "I still have a lot of healing to do, Liam. And I think kissing you is going to be one of my most effective therapies. I'm ready for my second dose right now." He moved back into Liam's embrace, and this time their kisses were soon anything but gentle.
- - -  - - -
"Please sit down, Hogsford. Thank you for coming. I have made my decision. Would you like to hear it?"
"Yes, sir. Before you speak, though, sir, can I just say, I'm very sorry if I caused any problems, and I now realize I may have overstepped the mark by becoming unpleasant with Blake, but I knew none of us wanted him here. I should have left that to you though, sir, I understand that now. I should have let you expel him instead of getting involved in it. It wasn't my place, sir. I know now that he and his kind should be left for you, sir."
The Headmaster sat up, his back stiffer than ever. "I'm not a bit reluctant to say, Hogsford, that what we don't want here is your kind. Bigoted great louts who try to sow their hatred and use their fists when their tongues won't suffice. There is no place for you in this school, and I am very sad that I didn't recognize you sooner. You are hereby expelled, Hogsford, and your parents will be notified of the cause. You are to leave now. Any of your things that have been left behind will be collected for you and sent to your home. We won't be seeing you again, Hogsford. You and I will not be shaking hands. Please leave now. I don't want to look at you. I have assigned someone to accompany you off the grounds. Good bye, Hogsford."
Hogsford's face went slack. He was stunned. He started to speak, saying what he didn't know, but the Headmaster held up his hand, then swivelled his chair so he was facing his desk. All the time it took Clive to stand, and then walk from the room, the Headmaster stared at the photograph on his desk.
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