Incarnations of Love


His heart leapt into his throat when he found the very object of his planned evasion leaning against his front door. Well hell.


Kara rubbed her hands together to warm them, while she watched him walking up the street towards her. He was completely lost in his thoughts as he strolled closer. She took in his sweatshirt and pants, and the beanie on his head and smiled. He looked much like he had back when they were all in college, only it would have been his attire for class, not just his morning run.

She shook her head at the changes in him. In school, he never would have bothered with the workout. In fact, up until the accident he wouldn't have been dragged out for a morning run for all of the coffee in Columbia.

During her research she had found that although such extensive memory loss was uncommon, it wasn't unusual for such a victim to show drastic changes to his or her personality. In his case, he would have been starting over, forming himself anew. She had to admire him for his courage in the face of something so overwhelming.

Kara saw the moment he realized she was there. He froze, and for a moment, there was warmth in his eyes, before he tamped it down, leaving his face inscrutable. He pasted on a polite, if impersonal, smile. It was that little spark that gave her the courage to continue forward with her decision. She could see the question forming in his mind and saved him the trouble of asking.

"You're a hard man to track down Will."

Her tone was a teasing scold that suggested he'd been naughty. It was a trick she'd learned with boys early on, and it had served her well over the years. Even Rick hadn't been immune to her obvious feminine charm. Will hadn't either, but maybe more than his fitness regime had changed. Enough was at stake that she felt no guilt at using any weapons readily available in her arsenal.

"Yeah, there's a reason for that."

Kara studied him for a moment and nodded her head.


Will's eyebrows drew together.

Kara blew into her hands.

"So, you going to let me freeze out here or what?"

The blatant reminder of his inhospitality spurred him out of his scowl and he jumped to open the door.

"Uh, yeah. Sorry..uh, come on in."

She stepped into the foyer of his house and looked around. It was a little brownstone with hardwood floors, obviously renovated. The décor was simple, but elegant. Again, not what she expected from him, but he could have hired a decorator.

"Here, have a seat while I run grab a shower. I'll be right back down."

He walked her into the living room and was gone before she'd even removed her coat. Hmmf. Still trying to avoid her. She shook her head again. If any of his memories of her were indeed floating around in that swamp of a brain of his, he should realize that running was exactly the way to engage her considerable perseverance.

She heard the water start up and wandered lazily through the room, trying to glean something of the man Will had become, from his living environment. She realized that there was nothing really personal about the room. It was sterile. No, not sterile, pre-packaged, she decided, which pretty much confirmed her theory about the decorator. There were no photographs displayed, although she could understand why he wouldn't want the constant reminders. Even though he was starting to regain some of his life, she was sure it was still difficult. Wasn't that why she was here? She wanted them to be able to help each other.

Hearing the water stop, she went and sat on the sofa. Will came in a few minutes later in jeans and a sweater, his feet bare, and his dark hair damp. He looked at her for a long moment with those piercing blue orbs, and then his eyes darted away. He cleared his throat. She thought he looked for all the world like a little boy trying to avoid punishment. Kara had to hide the smile that tried to spring to her lips as an image of him shuffling his feet flashed into her head.

"So, uh why are you here?"

Kara arched a slender eyebrow.

"Surly, see what I mean?"

A little blush crept into his cheeks, and she watched a fascinating play of emotions pan across his face. Remorse, confusion, panic and finally acceptance, well, more like surrender.

He ran a hand over his face.

"I'm sorry Kar, I don't mean to be such a prick, it's just a little overwhelming for me right now."

She nodded her understanding.

"That's kind of why I'm here, actually."

She smiled, and Will couldn't help responding with one of his own.


Damn. Where was his stone cold resolution to keep her at a distance? At this rate, he'd be sending her flowers and candy any day, not that flowers and candy were her speed. In the name of self-preservation he plastered a scowl on his face, and watched her eyebrow slide up in question.

He was making an ass out of himself. Smiling, scowling, he must look like an idiot, something that only seemed to happen around her. Jesus, he didn't want her questioning his mental state, at least no more than she probably already was. If there were a wall handy, he'd be beating his head against it, chanting moron, over and over.

What the hell was he doing? He was going to have to make the best of this situation any way he could. He just wasn't sure how to do that and keep his resolve.

"So, uh, why don't we go find some breakfast. After that run, I'm famished."

Kara's eyes narrowed, her gaze assessing. He met her stare, unflinching, willing her to go along. His sanity depended on getting her out of his private space. She was pulling at him like a black hole. He was afraid he'd do something disastrous, like kiss her. Hell, if she reacted like he thought she would, maybe that was the fastest way to push her back. Of course, it would tear him apart, so that wasn't an option.

With a smug smile, she nodded her agreement.

"Sure. I could use a cup of coffee."

He felt the tension ease through his shoulders. He would get through breakfast and then he could leave. The sanctuary of his home was no longer as secure as it had been. Could he truly escape her then? He knew from past experience, fuzzy or not, that her persistence could be a formidable thing. Damn.

"Let me grab some shoes and we can go."

Will forced a casual tone, even as his heart sank. He couldn't shake the feeling of impending doom.


Kara couldn't shake the feeling that things were rapidly careening out of control. It wasn't what she'd had in mind when she'd shown up on Will's doorstep. She could feel the undercurrents flowing through him like an angry river. Although she had known that his emotional state was precarious, she hadn't sensed the depth of it until now.

That surprised her given the turbulence of her own emotions. Why wouldn't he be every bit as damaged as she was, more so even. Had she honestly expected to walk right in and resolve everything instantly? No. She decided. She hadn't. She had committed herself to helping Will through this and hopefully, in the process, she could heal as well.

That he was running from her hurt. She had to admit that the loss of his trust, while natural, was painful. She would have to find a balance between pushing him and regaining his confidence. It was a fine line to walk, and her equilibrium had been off, of late.

She stole a glance at him walking beside her. He looked like the same Will, but there were so many things that were different about him. There were little mannerisms that she couldn't quite pin down, things that were familiar, and not. Perhaps it was more of the personality changes that accompanied the head trauma.

He hadn't spoken a word since they'd left his house and she'd respected that, not attempting to fill the silence with unnecessary conversation. If he needed a little time, she was a patient woman. To a point, she conceded to the mocking voice in her head. For a friend, her patience could be stretched, tested and tried. Will had been like family to her until the accident, until he had seemingly run away without a word to her.

Would things have been different if she'd been allowed to see him two years ago? Would he have suffered eighteen months with no recollection of his life if she'd been there for him? Questions without answers were futile and should remain in the past where they belonged. She chided herself.

They couldn't change the way things had played out, but they could affect the here and now. Kara wasn't one to believe that fate was absolute. It was up to each person to make the most of their own situations.

With surprise, she realized that her thoughts were drifting to the positive, something that hadn't happened in far too long. Perhaps they were already beginning the healing process. She hoped so, for both of their sakes.


He gave up. Everywhere he turned, Kara was there. It was like a full assault. She was giving him no chance to keep his promise to himself. Staying away from her simply wasn't an option.

Added to it was the fact that everywhere he went there were little hearts and flowers posted in the windows of the stores. Little reminders not to forget the one you loved. Christ, could there be a more ruthless holiday?

As a result, he was falling closer and closer to the abyss. He knew his behavior had been unpardonable lately, though if Kara had noticed, she'd been gracious enough to forgo comment. He'd acted like a bear towards her. It was the only defense he had. It was the only thing keeping him from dragging her lips to his and drowning himself in her taste. Well, that and the fear that she would turn horror filled eyes on him and run screaming.

It wasn't that he thought he was ugly, just that he knew she'd never thought of her husband's best friend that way. Besides, she was vulnerable right now, and he could never take advantage of her like that.

If he couldn't stay away, and he couldn't have her, he didn't know how much more he could take. It was like a personal hell created just for him.

He stared at himself in the mirror.

"What would you have done, old friend?"

He shook his head. It was no use talking to the dead. He would gain no answers there.


Kara thought about Will's behavior over the last few weeks. He was like Jekyll and Hyde. One minute, he would let down his guard and just enjoy her company, and the next, he was like a bear awakened from his hibernation. He was gruff and foul tempered; snapping at her for no reason.

She gave him no quarter. She knew he was only trying to drive her away, and she wouldn't allow it. Every time he did something to push her away, she just kept coming closer. She could see the difference it had made to both of them. By forcing him to feel, to live, she was doing the same to herself.

She smiled to herself. She couldn't wait to see how he reacted to tonight's activities. A DVD, pizza and beer, just like in their college days. Maybe it would help spark some happier memories for him.

She closed her eyes. Maybe fate would be kind to him for a change.


Fate was a cold hearted bitch. She was a lonely shrew who amused herself with the torment of souls who had done nothing to incur her ill favor. Will had a bitter taste in his mouth when he thought of the game that was being played out by the gods, with him as a simple pawn to be moved and directed as they wished. He was tired of being cheap entertainment.

Damn, why couldn't he regain control of his life?

He was seated beside her on her living room couch, watching a movie. What it was, he couldn't have told anyone for a hundred bucks, but he was trying to pretend he was interested. The only thing in the room that had his attention was her. Her scent permeated his senses and filled the room. He had to restrain himself from reaching over and grabbing her hand. He was terrified. He should never have agreed to come tonight.

Yeah, just like he should never have agreed to any of the time he spent with Kara. He knew that he should stay away, but being with her like this was better than nothing.

He slid his gaze sideways to look at her. Her profile was illuminated by the glare of the TV in the darkened room. Her pale skin seemed to glow, and her eyes sparkled as she laughed at something on the screen. His heart nearly stopped as the rich sound rolled over him. How long had it been since she'd laughed like that? He was thrilled that she felt comfortable enough with him now. But it was still a long way from where he wanted to be.

He tried to turn his attention back to the movie, but he couldn't keep his gaze from returning to her. He was like a starving man who suddenly had access to a banquet. Once or twice her gaze would slide his way and she'd smile. He'd do the same and then pretend he was watching the movie. When he couldn't take it anymore, he muttered an excuse about getting more beer, and escaped to the kitchen.

He took a few calming breaths and reached in the fridge for a beer. Why the hell did he suddenly feel sixteen again? Christ, he should be able to handle things better than this. He was trying to decide how long he could safely hide out in the kitchen, when Kara came strolling in.

"Movie's over."

Her soft tone held no reprimand that he'd missed the ending.

Will didn't look up at her, afraid of what he couldn't hide in his face. He didn't even realize she was beside him until he felt her hand on his arm.


Why did she always have to say his name like that? Why did it always have out come out so sweet and soft?

"Will, please look at me."

He couldn't look at her. She'd see it in his eyes and he wasn't ready for the rejection.

Mumbling some excuse he wouldn't even remember later, he headed towards the front door. Kara caught him just as he reached it.

"Dammit Will! What the hell is wrong with you?"

Her exasperation was evident. Will kept his face averted and tried to move past her. She slammed the door, the angry sound reverberating through the apartment.

"Oh no. You aren't running out this time, not until you at least look at me."

He hated causing her anger like this, but he couldn't do it. Not if he wanted to keep the relationship he had with her.

A nagging little voice in his head reminded him that he didn't want to keep the relationship he had with her. He wanted a very different relationship.

"I'm sorry Kar."

His voice was low and controlled.

"I can't."

He pushed past her and left without looking back. Will was disgusted with himself. When the hell had he become such a coward?

When he knew telling her the truth would ruin everything. He couldn't cause her that kind of pain. He wouldn't cause her that kind of pain.


Kara felt like punching a wall. The man had her going crazy. Every time she felt like things were improving, he'd back away again. She tried to tell herself that it would take time. That it had only been a few weeks, but deep down, she knew that wasn't the reason he was backing away. He couldn't stand to be close to her.

She tried not to feel hurt at that realization, but she couldn't help it. She understood that she reminded him of Rick, that it was painful for him, but didn't he realize that it was just as painful for her? She wasn't running away.

She took a deep breath. She was going to have to be more patient. It wasn't as though they didn't have time. She wouldn't be much of a friend if she didn't give him the room he needed. What would Rick have done?

Rick. She waited for the pain to engulf her at the thought of him, and was surprised when it manifested as a dull ache, instead of the crippling grief that usually swamped her. She felt a pang of guilt, but quickly batted it down. Wasn't this what she wanted? Hadn't she spent the last two and a half years trying to get here?

Quietly she walked over to the photo album that sat on a side table in the living room. She traced her fingers over the embossed silver frame and slowly opened the cover. There, smiling at her, were a young Rick and herself, happy in their ignorance. She let a smile glide over her face. He had been so handsome.

She flipped through the photos, pausing as she came to one of Rick and Will together. Her heart stuttered as she gazed at the two men who were most important to her. They were so different in appearance, had been so different in personality. They were like yin and yang, back then. She focused her attention on Will's picture. He gazed at the camera with a lopsided, carefree grin, his eyes a sparkling topaz blue. She looked back over at Rick's face and gasped as she let the book fall from her trembling hands. She pressed a hand to her stomach to calm the sudden panic that gripped her. She grabbed her coat and her keys and raced out the door.


Will downed the shot of whiskey and stared at the empty glass. He looked back at the bottle, indecision etched on his face. Drowning his sorrows in whiskey wasn't the way to go. He knew that. It hadn't helped before, and the hell of his life would still be there when he was sober again. Why he was chosen to endure this misery was beyond him.

He'd considered ending it all, but even a life such as his was a gift. He was trying to make the most of it, but he couldn't get beyond Kara. He couldn't see how his life could ever be complete without her.

He rubbed a weary hand over his face. He needed to get some sleep. Maybe things would be clearer tomorrow. Yeah right. He padded down the hall, turning out lights as he went.

Will was halfway up the stairs to his room when the pounding on the door started. He raced down the stairs and opened the door. Kara stood there, her face flushed and her eyes bright. He resisted the temptation to pull her into his arms and devour her, instead, stepping aside so she could enter.

He regarded her warily, trying to hide the pounding of his heart. Could she see it? He was sure his chest was leaping with each beat. He forced himself to put on an aloof face.

"Why can't you stand to be around me Will?"

Her question was accusing and he felt it like a punch to the gut, but Kara had never been one to pull a punch, not in all the years he'd known her.

"Why do you think I stay away from you?"

His eyes pinned her where she stood, those eyes that made her feel things she thought were long lost.


The word dropped like a stone at her feet. Kara watched him carefully. Watched the emotions play over his face.

"There is some guilt there, but that's not all of it, is it?"

Her voice was barely above a whisper. Will looked away from her, suddenly unable to meet the gaze that saw too much of him, and not enough of him.

"Dammit Will. Tell me. Is it because of the accident? Are those the memories that torture you?"

She was still watching him as the tension began to build in him. Maybe pushing him was the only way to get them both past this.

"I've already told you it wasn't your fault, I'm sure the doctors have told you it isn't your fault. You're the only one blaming yourself."

She watched and waited for it. She was pushing hard and she waited.

"It's what they've told me for the last two and a half years Will. Survivor guilt."

"You don't know the half of it Kara."

She shivered at the quiet, carefully controlled anger. It reminded her of that night with Rick, the night she tried to leave, the night he promised he never would.

"Then tell me."

She walked toward him, her movements slow, soothing.

He looked at her with pleading eyes.

"I can't."

His voice was no more than a whisper.

"You have to tell someone Will, it's eating you alive."

He laughed derisively.

"Do you think this is living?"

She could feel the agony he was in.


She whispered the word to him, tears streaming down her face, her heart breaking for the pain in his crystal blue eyes.

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