"Sometimes, two people have to fall apart to realize how much they need to fall back together."
"When did you learn how to make chocolate-chip cookies?" I asked in pleasant surprise as I watched him measure and mix all the ingredients together from my place at the barstool.
"Lorraine made me take a baking class as a date one time," he said, throwing in the chocolate chips. "Later on, after everything blew up, James helped me perfect the recipe when he caught me making them one night. I make them whenever I need comfort food. Or cookie dough. Or both. Whichever comes first to be honest. I'd say you could have cookie dough, but it's probably a bad idea after having stomach surgery."
"Probably, but it's a risk I'm willing to take for cookie dough."
"I'm not." Seeing my disappointed expression, he added, "I'll make you an entire batch once you're healed up to make up for it."
"Fine… offer accepted," I said. Will kneaded the dough, carefully folding in the chocolate chips.
"Can I ask you something?" Will asked hesitantly, briefly glancing up at me. I nodded. "Do you have those nightmares often?"
"Only when I let myself fall asleep…" I confessed, unable to look at him any longer. Instead, I shifted my attention to the cookie dough being placed on the cookie sheets.
"But no one else has noticed this? I find that hard to believe."
"I haven't had one around anyone else. I think it happened this time because I woke up alone and convinced myself my attacker was in the room with me. I also don't let myself sleep much. I doze off for a bit, but I always wake myself up before the dreams start. I'm… I'm scared to fall asleep because I don't want to relive that night again."
Sympathy etched itself onto his face. "We need to find a way to help you start sleeping again because it's going to take your body longer to heal if you're not sleeping. Is there anything I can do to help?"
I shook my head. "No, but thank you. If it doesn't get better soon, I'll talk to a therapist."
"I think you should start now before they do get worse."
"What about you?" I asked, desperate to switch the topic of conversation away from me. "Why aren't you sleeping?"
"Because I know you. Plus, Everly mentioned you weren't sleeping a lot. So, what's on your mind?"
"Oh, the usual-" Will shrugged deceptively nonchalantly- "my dad's death, your near-death, Everly's near-death, Lorraine's death, my mom's near-death, your assailant still on the loose, preparing to be King, and running the country to name a few."
I frowned. "I'd hate to see the full list if that's just a few of them."
"I've fallen behind on a lot of work, so I've been staying up late to try and finish it and get caught up."
"What all does it entail?"
"I've managed to get all the paperwork done. Now it's mostly emails. Why?"
"What do you say, when you finish these cookies, we take them up to your study, and I help you with the emails?" I suggested. "It's not like I'm going to bed anytime soon, nor are you, and all I've done is sit on my ass in the hospital. I'm not allowed to work yet for Mrs. Trifle until I can meet with clients without feeling like I'm going to pass out from pain or exhaustion, so I'm desperate to find something to do. Please let me help?"
"Are you sure?"
"Positive. Please?" I begged.
"Okay… I'll write the emails if you help me word them?"
"Sounds like a deal." I extended my hand, and Will shook it, staring at me curiously. "What?"
"It's… nice to see you smile at me again. That's all."
"It's nice to be friends again," I admitted. "Despite not answering your calls or texts, I did miss you horribly. I was just so upset and angry, and I knew if we worked it out, I'd still have to deal with Lorraine, and I couldn't stand her. For the longest time, I couldn't understand why."
"Probably because she was using me, and you unconsciously picked up on that. You're very intuitive about people, did you know that?" Will remarked as he poured us each a cup of tea.
"It wasn't only because I didn't trust her…" I trailed off, wondering if now was the time to tell Will I had feelings for him back then.
That I still did.
"What do-" The timer went off, beeping obnoxiously. "Hold that thought!"
Grabbing a mitt, Will took the cookies out of the oven, setting them on the stove. The smell made my mouth water, and I couldn't wait to take a bite. Will flattened them down with a spatula before moving around the kitchen, gathering utensils and containers for us to bring the cookies upstairs. Between doing all that, letting the desserts cool, and fixing up the tray, Will forgot what we'd been discussing. I took it as a sign that now was not the time to mention my feelings. He had enough on his plate without having to know how I actually felt about him anyway.
"Ready?" He asked, helping me out of the barstool. Taking the tray of goodies, Will lead me to his study, where we took a seat on the floor between the couch and the coffee table.
"Okay, first of three hundred emails. How long do you think this will take?" Will queried, shoving a cookie into his mouth. "Three hours? Five?"
"If it takes you roughly a minute to do each email, and there are sixty minutes in an hour, then you've got-" I swiftly did the math in my head- "about five hours, which means you'll finish at three in the morning at the earliest."
"I forgot how smart you are," Will remarked. "All right, let's get going."
And we did.
For the next three hours, I watched Will type email after email. I chimed in occasionally when he forgot a word or two, but he seemed to have a solid grasp on answering them all. Truthfully, he didn't need my help at all. I suspected he'd only wanted my company, but I hardly minded. I'd missed spending time with him alone.
I rested my head on his shoulder when my eyelids became heavy. Will glanced at me out of the corner of his eye. Unless I was mistaken, he smiled at the contact. He said, "If you're tired, I can escort you to your room, so you can go to bed."
"I'm good," I murmured.
Will kissed me on top of the head. "Whatever you say, Annie."