For the next two weeks, Willard was basically ignored by everyone at work except Alice. They still did not accept him, but none of them were quite comfortable giving him trouble once they found out just how he had come to be so badly injured. Every day, Alice helped Willard with his work, causing her to slowly fall behind. That is how, exactly two weeks and three days after the incident, she found herself working overtime in a desperate attempt to catch up. Across from her sat Willard, who was fiddling with his cast to distract himself.

"You can leave, you know? I'm sure your mother needs your help anyway." Willard knew she was right, but he didn't feel comfortable leaving her alone. He'd actually been so concerned for her when he was released from the hospital that he'd insisted on driving her to and from work every day, which ended up making them both late, but no one at the office said anything about it.

"She can wait; besides, you're almost done." She nodded and hurried through the rest of the work, not caring that her handwriting was deteriorating with every line.

Finally, she said, "Done."

"Great," said Willard, standing. "Now let's go."

"Just a minute. I need to put this on Mr. Martin's desk first." She tidied the papers a bit before walking into the boss' empty office and setting them on his desk. "All right, let's go," she said, running out and grabbing Willard's left hand. He groaned lightly in pain, causing her to let go. "Oh, I'm sorry. Does your shoulder still hurt?" He nodded but took her hand in his.

"It's okay, Alice," he said, kissing her lightly on the nose. She blushed and gripped his hand firmly.

"Good." They walked to his car and rode off towards her apartment. Once again, he accidentally groped her thigh instead of the PRNDL. She did not jump this time, but instead shuddered as he rubbed his hand up and down before moving away. "Now if could only get his hand a little further over..." She blushed at the thought. "Naughty, naughty girl..."

At her apartment, they said their goodbyes and shared a chaste kiss before going their separate ways. Once inside, Alice collapsed on her bed, thinking. "We can't just call ourselves friends now, can we? I mean, we kiss more often than friends ever-wait, friends don't ever kiss, do they? And his touch... It's becoming more desperate, more pleading. Then again, so is mine..." She sighed and covered her face with her pillow. "I guess I'll ask him if he wants to make it official next time I see him."

The Next Day(Friday)

Willard did not show at work the next day, so after work, Alice rode the bus and then walked the rest of the way to his house. As she approached it, something felt different. Something was...missing.

She hurried up the steps and knocked on the door, but earned no reply. "Willard? It's Alice. Please let me in." Still nothing. Seeing no other way to get him to answer she cried, "Oh, God, Willard, help me! They're after me!" Almost instantly, the door swung open and out stepped Willard, armed with a butcher knife. "Hey, whoa, wait! It's okay!" He looked around and then looked at her.

"You're not...?"

"No, I just-"

"That wasn't funny," he said coldly. He lowered the knife and walked back in the house, followed by Alice. She closed and locked the door before apologizing.

"I'm sorry, you just wouldn't answer and I was scared and-" The knife fell to the floor and Willard turned, burrowing his face in her chest and knocking her to the floor. "Will...?" He was sobbing. She wrapped her arms around him, rubbing up and down his back as he cried against her, soaking her shirt. After what felt like hours, he looked up at her and incoherently mumbled something. "What?" she asked, laying her head on his.

"She's dead..." he moaned before letting out a heart-wrenching wail. "His mother...? Oh, God..." She held him tighter, whispering sweet nothings to him, trying to calm him down. "Last night.... Oh, the rats... Oh, God!" She nuzzled his scalp and kissed him again and again, unaware that she was now crying. They sat there, crying together, for hours until finally, they had no more tears left.

Willard stood first, stumbling into the living room, and a few minutes later, Alice joined him. He was sitting on the couch, watching the fire crack and burn. Silently, she sat beside him and allowed him to pull her close. After awhile, they laid down together, Alice held close against his chest, and fell asleep, both haunted by dreams of sorrow and death.

Morning

Alice awoke first and found herself staring up at Willard's face. His cheeks and under his eyes were red, obviously from crying. Reaching up, she gently caressed his face, willing his sadness to leave. "It's my fault. If he hadn't stayed after with me, he would've been there for her..." She slowly pushed his arm off of her waist and snuck off of the couch and out of the room. As she reached the front door, though, a voice stopped her. "Alice... Please, don't leave me..." She returned to the living room and sat in one of the armchairs, not feeling it appropriate to lay down-again-with a guy whose mother just died.

Willard curled up, sobbing "Oh, God, I miss her... She shouldn't have gone... Oh, God!" Alice stood and embraced him, holding him close as he cried out for his mother. "He's like a lost child... It's so sad..." She kissed his forehead and nuzzled him, desperately trying to console him. "Please... Don't leave me alone... I don't think I could stand it..." She kissed his forehead again and again.

"Don't worry. I'll never leave you, Willard." He gripped her shirt and pushed himself against her, as if trying to meld with her. His cries became incomprehensible, but she did not let go of him; instead, she held him as tightly as she could. After an hour or two, his cries subsided, but they still sat there, cuddled together.

"Alice..." Willard finally said, breaking the silence. She looked down at him, a questioning look on her face. "Why are you crying?" She lifted a hand to her cheek and realized that she was crying.

"That's easy, dearest," she replied, using a pet name to comfort him, "I sympathize and empathize with you, and your pain is my pain." He clutched her closer, as if afraid she might disappear.

"I love you, Alice..."

"I love you, too, Willard..."