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To Be

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"Look," Will says. Bran doesn’t want to open his eyes, because the afternoon sun is hot and bright, they’ve been swimming all day and he’s tired. It feels good to lie in the shade on the grass and simply exist. But he does anyway, because Will’s voice is something he can never quite disobey. Will is standing up on the bank and shading his eyes with one hand, pointing upstream with the other. Simon and Jane are still splashing each other in midstream, but something beyond that has caught the Old One’s attention.

Bran looks where Will is pointing and sees the sun glinting off of glass. A discarded bottle floats toward them, swirling in the current. Will extends his hand and whispers a few words, and the water ripples slightly as it shifts toward them. As the bottle dances close to shore, Will leans out and draws it in, but as he moves to stand straight again he slips on a wet rock and loses his balance. Bran knows Will can swim perfectly well, but pure instinct makes him leap up and grab for Will’s wind-milling arms.

They tumble back onto the grass, Will clutching his prize and laughing. Bran is laughing too and then just for a moment his eyes pause on the rosy brown of Will’s nipples, the sweat droplets beaded on the flat plane of his stomach, the faint dusting of brown hair trailing southward from his navel and the curving lines of his hipbones above the waistband of his swimsuit.

Bran has never been as physically close to Will as he is in this moment, close enough to see little yellow flecks in his irises that he never noticed before. The shadow of the late afternoon sun shades the curve of Will’s jaw in a way that makes Bran’s breath catch in his throat; his skin feels cool under Bran’s hands, and soft. He suddenly wants to hold Will like this for a long time, touching him in as many places as he can reach.

Bran pushes the thought away quickly, before Will catches an inkling of it. Bran has no precedent for what he’s feeling now, and he sure what exactly he should do next. There’s a line he doesn’t think he should cross, the invisible division between friends and more than friends. Will might not know yet that the line exists. It will hurt Bran terribly if he loses Will altogether because he followed an impulse that should have been swallowed. He would rather face down the afanc of Llyn Barfog unarmed then the thought of his life without Will in it.

Will’s eyes are fathomless; it is as if there are centuries of knowledge written in them that Bran is too thick to understand, but if he knows what Bran is thinking he does not reveal it. Bran finally lets go and looks away, hoping Will thinks his face is only pink with exertion and not anything else.

When the Drews have joined them on the shore again and Will is distracted, Bran slips the forgotten bottle into his carrying bag. He knows that when he looks at it later, he’ll feel Will’s firm body pressed against his own. Even if it’s only for a fraction of a second, that will be enough.