Sometimes he’s waiting for that little crease to appear on his brow, the twitch in his closed eyes, the slight tightening of his jaw. He waits until Will begins to squirm against him, fingers gripping onto the quilt or Mike’s clothes or his own arms, bony fingers staining hia pale skin purple or black. He waits until Will begins to whimper, ever so slightly, ever so quietly, pressing his face into the pillow, muffling the sounds that he makes, silencing himself.
When the pace of his breathing picks up, Mike wraps Will up in his arms, tucking his face into the smaller boy’s shoulder before he’s panicking enough to push Mike away. He rubs Will’s back, palms running up and down the length of Will’s spine, pressing gentle, soothing kisses against his collarbone. Sometimes it’s enough to stop Will from screaming, and he opens his eyes with just a shuddering gasp, eyes darting around the room until they land on Mike.
Sometimes it’s not, though, and Will will scramble out of Mike’s arms, tumbling onto the floor, crossing the carpet to press himself into the corner of the room. He’ll scream and he’ll sob, holding himself until he can bear the touch of someone else. Mike will always stay close, always within Will’s eyeline, because he never wants Will to feel alone, not ever.
Sometimes Will sleeps peacefully, sometimes only for a few hours, sometimes for the whole night. And Mike will just watch him until he’s tired enough to sleep himself. He’ll press soft kisses on Will’s cheeks, and he’ll run his fingers through his mop of soft hair, and he’ll whisper all the things he’s too embarrassed to say when Will’s awake. And maybe sometimes, Will’s only half asleep, and he listens to Mike’s mumble sentences, trying not to smile and give away his consciousness, not wanting Mike to stop.