Word count: 1328
The next few days followed the same pattern as the first. No matter how early Will woke up, David was always already awake, ready to prepare a simple breakfast for him. Will noticed that he never made anything for himself, but then he had plenty of time before and after to eat whenever he wanted. At work, Will spent his time learning his new job, and had a little trouble adjusting to the faster-paced development cycle for web applications. Every evening, he returned to his temporary home to find David fixing dinner. The meals were always very simple and ranged from not particularly tasty to downright terrible. On the second night, David mentioned that he was learning how to improvise while cooking and was rather pleased with the results, enjoying his meal happily, and Will knew better than to complain about the quality of the free food. After every meal, his host retreated upstairs, leaving Will to his own devices. Will felt very much like he was living at a bed and breakfast, and at one point during dinner, mentioned that to David.
Confused, the man arched an eyebrow and cocked his head. "In what way?"
"Well, you've given me the run of the house, and you're providing all the meals, whenever I want them. The only thing you haven't done is made up my room each day."
"Oh, I thought you wouldn't want me poking through your things. I could tidy up, if you want me to."
"No! No, I don't, thanks," he coughed out his reply. He certainly didn't want his host to do any more than he was already doing. "But that's what I mean. You're doing way too much, mate."
David traced his tongue along his upper lip before replying. "Is that... Is that too strange?"
Will was taken by surprise. "What? No. It's unusual, and very generous, but not strange."
Toying with a piece of broccoli, David seemed to be barely listening. "I know I come across as weird. I try not to. I didn't used to be, I think. I can't really remember."
This conversation was taking a fast leap off a cliff, and Will wasn't sure what he should say. "You can't remember how you used to be?"
"No. Do you?" David searched Will's face, as if he were trying to find any connection, anything he could understand in the other man. "Do you remember how you used to think when you were younger? Such as when you were a teenager?"
"Well, no, but that was years ago." A thought occurred to Will and he blurted it out without thinking. "Did you have an accident or something?"
Chewing on the tip of his tongue, David stared at him for few seconds, almost as if he was testing out the idea in his mind. Then he smiled with an air of relief. "Yeah. Yeah, you could say that. An accident. It affected me." He tapped his temple. "I don't think like I used to."
Placing his fork on his plate, Will leaned forward in sympathy. "Hey, I'm sorry, mate. I didn't know. What happened?"
"I'd really rather not."
"Oh, sure. I understand." He nodded. "Are you okay now?"
"Yeah, I'm fine. It's been a while, over two years." He leaned back in his chair and tugged his ear. "You're the first person I've told. Really, the first person I've talked to, well, other than... well, my family. It's kind of why I'm here. My brother thought it would be good for me to be on my own, to start making my own way. Not that I've done a good job of it." He laughed. "Obviously, since you're the only person I've really met. I just stay in the house."
Will frowned. "You're a great guy, David. And you don't seem to have a compulsion to avoid people. Why do you keep to yourself?"
A sheepish smile spread across his face and he gazed down at this hands. "I've tried a little. Talked to people in the queue at the Tesco. At the park. I even tried joining a book club for a while, but that didn't work. People think I'm too weird, I think. They look at me strange and eventually avoid me. I'm probably too much like... Well, I've tried not to be, you know? I've worked really hard to censor the first things that flit into my head."
Will leaned back in his chair, frowning at David in disbelief. "You're doing that now?"
"Oh, yes." He gazed out the window. "I have to."
"No, you don't. You should say what you want." Crossing his arms, he chewed on the tip of his thumb. "Well, unless it's offensive, I suppose. Is it?"
"I mean, there's something to be said for discretion, but you shouldn't try to change yourself based on what you think other people are thinking about you." He paused to catch David's eye, and only continued when the man finally looked at him. "The good ones will like you for who you are."
He shook his head. "Don't try so hard to be someone else. I wouldn't sweat it, mate."
David bit his lip, then threw his hands up in frustration. "I'm trying to not be someone else. I'm trying to be me. It's just that 'me' is a very odd person."
Will shrugged, settling into a stance of mock defiance, determined to bully his friend into standing up for himself. "Yeah? So what? What's wrong with odd?"
David seemed to have run out of arguments and sat back with a slightly defeated air. "I guess you're right."
"Of course I am." Will tapped his thumb on the table. "So, if what I've seen isn't really you, what are you like?"
"What?" David frowned in disbelief, that one expressive eyebrow arching high. "How am I supposed to describe my own personality?" Will simply sat back and grinned at him. "Well, I... I don't know. The word 'bubbly' comes to mind. Excitable. I could run my gob if I let myself." Will managed to hide his first reaction to his description. David so far was anything but excitable and talkative. "But there's a second voice in my head that wants me to be quiet and reserved and solemn. Sometimes that voice is so loud." He snorted a laugh. "Maybe 'mercurial' is the best word."
Will shook his head. "We all have that. Different impulses telling us to act in different ways. No one's consistent. Don't second-guess yourself, mate. Just be you."
David laughed, mopping at his eyes with one hand. "That's harder than it sounds. I don't know who I am."
"You don't need to. Just be whoever you are at the moment." An idea sprouted in his mind, and he wagged a finger at David. "Hey, you haven't been out much since your accident, have you?"
"I didn't think so. I think you need to meet more people. The blokes at work, they head out for beer after work on Fridays. They invited me along, and I think you should come with." David gasped in surprise, and Will could tell a refusal was coming. "It's nothing special, just hitting a pub with a bunch of computer geeks. They said tomorrow's will be at a place called Marco's."
David held up his hands, shaking his head. "Oh, I can't do that."
"Yes, you can, and you should." Will tried to make it sound as reasonable and easy as possible. "It's just a few drinks and meeting some people. I won't know most of them either, so we'll be equal. What do you say?"
"No, I really can't."
Will heaved an overly-dramatic sigh. "I'm only going to ask one more time. Won't you join us tomorrow night?"
David rubbed his fingers in his lap. "I... I guess I can. I guess I should, really."
"Good on you, mate! Come down to Marco's at 6:30, then."