Chapter 21: Jacky

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The day just couldn't get any worse

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The day just couldn't get any worse. He'd skipped school, which he had never actually done before. But instead of spending the day alone with Ryan, he had to play host with his arch nemesis.

He knew his mom would be pissed that he skipped school. He knew she'd be more pissed to come home and find half the senior class in the house. So he'd texted her and explained what was going on. Yeah, she was pissed. He apologized and later she sent a text saying she had called the school to excuse his absence.

Luckily, Monica, Matt, and Lance had gone long before his mom got home. "We can stay as long as you need us," Monica had said, but by then they'd been sitting in the living room for over an hour and Ryan hadn't really said much, so they decided they might as well head back to school. "Please call me if you need anything. Please."

"I'm sorry about earlier," Jacky had mumbled as she passed by him.

She just gave him a sad little smile and said, "Take care of him, okay?"

And now it was the two of them. Seeing Ryan there, on the couch, still crying, made him want to call the others back. "Help him," he wanted to tell them. "I don't think I know how."

Or maybe he did, because when he sat down next to Ryan, Ryan uncurled himself and wrapped Jacky up in a huge hug. Jacky didn't say anything, and neither did Ryan, and by the time Mrs. Jennings got home from work, the two of them were wrapped up in a blanket on the couch, with Ryan spooning Jacky, watching TV.

After that, it seemed like Ryan didn't want to let him go. Ryan kept a hand on him even during dinner – they couldn't hold hands, not if Jacky wanted to eat, but under the table, Ryan gripped Jacky's thigh. With relief, Jacky watched Ryan eat all the chicken pot pie on his plate. Even while they did the dishes, Ryan stood close enough for their elbows to be constantly touching.

Jacky knew his mom would never allow him to sleep in Ryan's bed with him. As soon as Jacky peeled himself away from Ryan so that they could go to bed, Ryan's shoulders caved in, and he stared at the floor as he shuffled into the guest room.

Ryan needed him.

It felt like his mom would never go to bed. He lay under his covers listening to whatever edition of CSI she was watching and waiting for it to end. Finally the television went silent and the stairs creaked as she walked up. Jacky rolled over and stared at his clock, wondering how long it might be before she was actually asleep.

He waited half an hour. Too long, he thought. He tiptoed across the hall and opened Ryan's door without knocking. "Hey," he said after he'd closed it, breathing the word.

Ryan immediately rolled onto his back, and lifted the covers, and Jacky climbed into his arms, which then wrapped around him like a human blanket.

It felt nice, being held. They didn't kiss, even though their faces were close enough that Jacky could smell the minty-toothpaste of Ryan's breath on his cheek. The dark wrapped around them, too. In Ryan's arms, Jacky felt all the tension of the day drain out of him. He suddenly realized how much he had been craving touch, these two years since the accident. He had felt so ugly and damaged. The day had turned from what could have been potentially awful – fighting with Matt and Monica – to this.

Face pressed against Ryan's chest, Jacky closed his eyes.

"I'm sorry about earlier," he whispered into Ryan's t-shirt. "Almost getting into a fight with Matt, I mean."

"It's okay," Ryan murmured.

"I was kind of a dick to Monica too. At school."

"It's okay," Ryan said again.

"Was it weird, your friends finding out about your mom?"

For a long moment, Ryan didn't answer, and Jacky was afraid that he would slip back into silence again. "Yeah," Ryan said finally, and Jacky exhaled relief. "I should have told them. I think... I was so scared that I was alone, that I made myself be alone."

"Dr. Greene says that's a 'self-fulfilling prophecy,'" Jacky whispered.

Ryan breathed out a little laugh, then his chest rose and fell evenly again. "They're good friends," he said.

Jacky had a question, and he wasn't sure it was the right time to ask it, even though it seemed the darkness and quiet made the conversation seem more like it was happening in his head and not out loud. So he asked a different question. "Are you still scared about being alone?"

In the space before Ryan answered, Jacky felt the arms around him tighten. "Yeah."

By the way Ryan was breathing, Jacky knew he was fighting back the tears, or maybe he was crying the same silent way he cried earlier. He waited until it passed.

"I'm glad you're here," Ryan said into Jacky's hair, before Jacky could say anything else.

"I'm glad you're here, too."

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I've officially taken Waiting Room down from Swoonreads.  However, before that happened, there was one last review left and of course it was negative.  Basically the reviewer thought the relationship between Jacky and Ryan was unhealthy and "typical of a Wattpad novel."  Please let me know if you think their relationship is or becomes problematic.  Thank you for reading :) 


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