Noah slept on Olivia’s couch that first night home, not ready to be alone in his own apartment yet. He lay awake for a long time, staring up at the ceiling. After six weeks of the noise in the clinic, the quiet living room just felt too silent.
Olivia’s door was closed. He knew Mia was sleeping in there with her now. Mia, who was scared of him. Who’d looked up at him in fear in her little rabbit costume earlier as Olivia brought her over to her mother’s house to trick or treat.
Andrew was sleeping in Mia’s old room. Apparently he’d officially moved in at some point while Noah was on a three-year bender. That same sick feeling that had been settling in his stomach since he’d arrived home to a happy greeting and a fucking welcome lunch flared back up.
He wanted to be back at rehab. He’d spent weeks wanting to get out and come home, but now that he was home he just wanted to be back there. He wanted someone to tell him what to do next.
He was so tired.
Noah considered going upstairs to his own bed. He hadn’t been up there for more than a minute since he got home. Gray Lady had been nowhere in sight and his hands had shook as he grabbed pajamas to bring back downstairs. But maybe he should go up there right now.
Maybe he should drink the half bottle of whiskey still in his freezer.
His stomach turned. This was wrong. He wasn’t ready to be here. He didn’t deserve to have this support.
The room was dark, the only light coming from the blinking red eye of the smoke detector. Noah closed his eyes.
His body slipping off the ladder and hitting the basement floor. Reaching out to catch himself as his wrist crunched sickeningly.
His eyes flew open and he was suddenly aware of the dull throb in his wrist. He’d never gotten that checked, had he? He’d forgotten all about it at rehab. Yet another thing that wasn’t going to get fixed.
The creaking of a door in the dark caught his attention, pulling him out of his choppy thoughts. Noah sat up and saw Andrew’s familiar outline standing in the bedroom doorway.
“Hi,” Andrew said. “Um, sorry. I didn’t mean to wake you.”
“You didn’t,” Noah said softly, laying back down.
Noah didn’t answer right away. “Listen,” Andrew said. “I’ll be right back.”
He very obviously ignored Noah’s protest as he made his way through the dark living room and disappeared into the kitchen. Noah pulled the blanket back over himself and closed his eyes.
That first night in detox. Fuzzy and nauseous from alcohol withdrawal and the drugs meant to help, lying alone in a hospital bed with the endless sound of beeping monitors ringing in his skull.
He opened his eyes and ran a shaking hand over them. Nope, this wasn’t happening. But before he could feign sleep, Andrew was walking back into the room and came over to the couch.
“Budge over,” he said.
Noah sat up and Andrew sat down beside him. “Doesn’t take a genius to figure out why you’re up.”
Noah wasn’t sure how to respond to this. When was the last time he’d actually talked to Andrew?
“Want to talk about it?” Andrew asked.
“Why are you up?”
“Insomnia,” Andrew replied, waving the question off. “We’re not talking about me.”
Andrew was quiet, and for a moment, Noah thought he’d pissed him off. Then he realized Andrew was just waiting. “It’s just…a lot,” Noah said. “I didn’t think coming home would be easy, but this…I don’t know what I expected. But it wasn’t…it wasn’t all of you.”
“Did you think we wouldn’t be here?”
“No, I thought you wouldn’t want me here. I didn’t think I’d be coming home to a frigging party.”
“It was not a party. It was just us having lunch. You of all people know that’s no party.”
Noah knew that was supposed to make him feel better, but instead he felt even more embarrassed. “All drunks know how to party.”
“You’re not a-”
“I’m sorry,” Noah said.
“No, I’m sorry for everything,” Noah interrupted. “I’ve been such a selfish asshole.”
“Addiction’s a disease,” Andrew said softly.
“That doesn’t excuse the way I’ve treated you all. I know you were all worried and looking out for me. And me hating myself doesn’t make my behavior any better.”
His throat was tight as he finished speaking and he wished desperately to be anywhere else. His own bed, the rehab clinic, dead, Noah honestly didn’t care.
Andrew’s hand on his was so unexpected that Noah jumped. It was barely a brush of fingers, but it had been so long since anyone had touched him with anything other than clinical detachment that Noah’s breath caught.
Andrew paused. “You okay?” he asked.
Noah nodded, though he knew Andrew couldn’t see him in the dark. “Yeah,” he said. “Just tired and edgy.”
“Want to watch a movie?”
“I don’t want to wake up Liv.”
“We can go in my room.”
Noah’s throat went dry. “That came out wrong,” Andrew said. “I have a TV in there. And I won’t be going to sleep anytime soon. So if you want some company, we could go watch something in there.”
Andrew stood up and Noah followed him, feeling unsure. He’d spent a month on a strict schedule. In rehab he would have been asleep hours ago.
So much for getting back to normal. He felt like he was going to get in trouble like a teenager sneaking out after curfew.
The room was barely recognizable from when it had been Mia’s. A full size bed was tucked into the corner where Mia’s crib had been. The room was crowded between that, the daybed that had always been there, and the dresser. A stack of books sat on the floor next to the bed and a dim light was shining on the bedside table. A TV sat on top of the dresser, surrounded by folded clothes.
It was a comfortable room, pretty much what Noah would have imagined an adult Andrew would have. More permanent looking than he would have expected.
“Oh, er…” Andrew glanced between the bed and the daybed. “I didn’t think this through. Um, you can have the bed.”
“No, it’s fine. I’m not kicking you out of your bed.”
Andrew looked at the TV for a second, clearly trying to figure out how they could both see from the bed and daybed. There was no comfortable way of doing so.
“I swear this wasn’t my intention, but there’s plenty of room for both of us.”
It almost cheered Noah up to see how flustered Andrew was. But he was also exhausted and wanted to lay down.
“It’s fine,” he said.
Andrew looked like he wanted to say something else. But instead he slid onto the bed and gestured for Noah to join him.
Noah climbed up, feeling huge and clumsy as he sat next to Andrew, propped up on the headboard with a pillow wedged behind him.
Andrew picked up the remote and turned the TV on. “Is there anything you want to watch?”
Noah shook his head. “I’m good.”
There was a cooking show on the first channel Andrew stopped at. The host, a blonde woman with a comforting smile, was rolling out dough onto a countertop. They watched silently for a bit and Noah relaxed, the sound of the TV and Andrew’s presence making the darkness less ominous. Normally he’d be a tangled mess around Andrew, but right now he didn’t need to do anything but sit here. Even Noah could handle that.
“How are you doing?” Andrew asked.
Noah realized he’d been dozing. “Hmm?”
“Just asking how you are. Better?”
The woman was gone now, replaced by a man in a decadent outdoor kitchen. He was doing something with marinades on an expensive-looking gas stove.
“I should build one of those,” Noah said.
“The kitchen. Out in the yard. I should build that for Liv…”
“I think she’d like that,” Andrew said softly.
It probably wouldn’t be too hard. He’d have to pave part of the lawn, maybe just off of her deck. There’d still be plenty of space for Mia to play, for the swing set he was also planning to get. He’d need some kind of covering too. A retractable awning would probably be best. Cover the appliances but still able to move to let the sun in.
Noah knew he didn’t have the money yet, but he could gradually build it once he found work again. Get a nice stovetop, maybe even get plumbing out there. It wouldn’t make up for everything he’d put her through in the past few years, but maybe it would make her happy. That would be worth the effort.