Andrew rapped lightly on Noah’s door before opening it and stepping inside.
“Just me,” he called softly as he walked into the kitchen and nudged the door shut behind him.
“Noah?” He called softly as he set down the soup on the kitchen table.
“Couch,” Noah called softly from the living room.
Andrew walked in, not sure what to expect. But the scene that greeted him was tame. Noah was stretched out on the couch, propped on a couple pillows with a soft blanket over him and Gray Lady curled up beside his legs. He smiled at Andrew as he came in.
It was about noon. Cleo and Edie had gone back to the hospital and Olivia was at work. She’d been upstairs earlier, helping Noah with anything he needed before she left. Andrew had promised to check in on him, so here he was, hoping that Noah wouldn’t need anything more intimate than a glass of water.
“Hi,” Andrew said, walking further into the living room. “How are you feeling?”
“Tired,” Noah said with a small laugh. “And sore.”
“You have tablets, yeah?”
“Yeah, they set me up with some oxys,” Noah said. “I don’t like them, but they help.”
Noah fumbled awkwardly on the couch with his good hand and picked up the remote. He paused the movie that was playing quietly on the TV, then laid his head back and looked up at Andrew.
“Liv made you more soup,” Andrew said. “She’s still at work so I brought it for you. Want some now?”
“Sure, thanks,” Noah said. “There’s a clean mug by the sink if you don’t mind. I think I’ll pour it on myself if I use a spoon.”
That hadn’t occurred to Andrew. He walked into the kitchen and carefully poured the soup from the bowl into the chipped red mug he found on Noah’s counter. He brought it back to Noah, who took it gratefully.
“Thanks,” he said, slowly lifting the mug to his lips and taking a sip.
“Want something more solid?” Andrew asked. “I can make some toast if you want.”
“No, I’m good,” Noah said.
Andrew’s skepticism must have shown on his face because Noah looked up at him. “Everything hurts right now, don’t worry about it.”
“When are you due more meds?”
Noah gestured vaguely toward a piece of paper on the table. “Ummm, not sure.”
“Have you taken them since you got home last night?”
“Yeah, last night.”
Andrew resisted the urge to roll his eyes. He picked up the medication schedule from the table at the end of the couch. “You can have one now.”
Noah grimaced. “I don’t want to use them too much.”
“You just had two broken bones reset, you knob,” Andrew said lightly. “It’s all right. Come on, I’ll get you some water.”
Noah’s water glass was empty, so Andrew went in the kitchen to refill it. He came back, opened the pill vial, and tipped one into Noah’s good hand. Noah grimaced, but took the pill with a sip of water. He set the cup down on the table, then laid back, again breathing heavily.
“Are you good?” Andrew asked. “Need anything?”
“Can you please turn on the radio?” Noah asked softly.
Andrew flipped on the radio and staticky music started playing, a quiet country song Andrew didn’t know.
Noah closed his eyes, and Andrew pulled the blanket back into place. “Anything else?”
“Nah, I’m good. Thanks.”
Andrew hovered awkwardly for a moment. He felt a little bad leaving Noah on his own, but didn’t want to be overbearing if the other man wanted privacy.
“Don’t feel like you have to stay,” Noah mumbled. “I’m not doing anything interesting.”
Andrew laughed awkwardly, shifting on his feet. “One of us will pop in later,” he said. “Text me if you need anything.”
Noah nodded and took a shuddering breath. Andrew frowned. “Are you okay?”
“Fine,” Noah replied.
Andrew knew that was bullshit. “The pain meds will kick in soon,” he said.
Noah nodded, but his expression didn’t change. “Hey,” Andrew said, sitting down next to him. “What’s going on?”
Noah sighed, opening his eyes. “I did this to myself,” he said. “This shouldn’t be your problem.”
Andrew wasn’t quite sure how to respond to that. “Hey,” he said again.
Noah laughed a little, then sniffled. “You and Liv do too much for me. This is my fault.”
His voice was suddenly thick and as he looked at Andrew, his eyes were bright with tears. “It’s fine,” he said, shaking his head.
He swiped at his eyes with his good hand. “This is stupid,” he said, voice breaking.
“Nah, it’s fine,” Andrew said. “You’re looped up on painkillers and need to get some rest. It’s okay.”
“Mate, I got my appendix out and cried for three days after, it’s fine.”
Noah huffed a laugh, still wiping at his eyes. “Listen,” Andrew said. “What do you want? Do you want me to stick around or would you rather have time alone?”
“I didn’t know you got your appendix taken out,” Noah said.
Andrew shrugged. “It was five years ago.”
They sat in awkward silence for a moment. Noah closed his eyes and grimaced.
“You don’t have to stay,” he said. “I’m fine.”
“Are the meds helping?”
“Are you lying?”
“They’ll help soon.”
Andrew didn’t even bother resisting the urge to roll his eyes. “You don’t need to punish yourself forever,” he said.
Noah flinched. He opened his mouth to say something, but Andrew kept going.
“Seriously,” he said. “You’re acting like you don’t deserve forgiveness. You’re doing the work and we all see it. So please just let us help you. We want to.”
Noah laughed and sniffed again. “You get what I’m saying?” Andrew asked.
Noah nodded and winced. “Do you need anything?” Andrew asked. “Water’s on the table, I’ll make you toast later.”
“I’m all set.”
“Good. Now let the painkillers do their job and get some rest, alright?”
Noah took a shaky breath and closed his eyes. His mouth trembled just a little and Andrew could suddenly see the teenager he’d been when they met.
“I’m sorry I didn’t know about your surgery,” Noah said, voice watery.
His face crumpled. In a moment of bravery or stupidity, Andrew picked up a slightly damp face cloth from the table and began wiping his face, catching tears as they slid down.
“Shh, it’s okay,” he whispered. “You’re okay.”
Noah nodded, eyes still squeezed shut. Andrew ran the cloth gently along his receding hairline and down the side of his face.
“Want me to turn on a tremendously boring cowboy movie for you?” he asked.
“Go to sleep,” Andrew repeated. “You’ll feel better after a rest.”
Noah nodded again and shifted into a more comfortable position. Andrew waited a moment, then ducked out of the room.
Noah woke up to the sound of his apartment door opening. His head was foggy from the painkillers, but his wrist was distantly throbbing as he shifted on the couch and looked up. Olivia was walking in with a plate of pancakes.
“Hey,” she greeted, poking her head around the doorway from the kitchen. “I brought you some dinner. Well, breakfast for dinner.”
Still blinking in the light of his living room, Noah sat up. Andrew was long gone, but the cup of soup he’d brought up earlier was still sitting half full on the table by Noah’s head. The radio was more static than music at this point, which told Noah it was probably about eight at night. But his body was moving like he was underwater.
“How are you?”
He realized she’d asked him that a few seconds ago and tried to get his brain to catch up. “Fine,” he said.
He was familiar with that response from months of her skepticism while he was drinking. But there was no heat in her voice now, just a gentle sarcasm. But that, combined with the drunk feeling the oxys were giving him, still made his face burn with shame.
“I have pancakes,” Olivia said, walking into the room with the plate in her hand. “I know Andrew brought soup up earlier, but you need solid food.”
He was a little hungry, but couldn’t pinpoint if the lingering nausea was more hunger or sickness or shame. But the pancakes smelled good and Olivia’s presence was comforting. She set down the plate, moving the soup cup over to the other side of the small table.
“Before you say a word, I’m happy to help you and you’re not a bother.”
Andrew must have talked to her. Noah nodded, and she sat down in the small spot he’d vacated as he sat up. As the couch shifted, Noah slumped down into her, laying his head on her shoulder. He hadn’t planned to do that, but she didn’t seem to mind. Instead, she shifted and put an arm around him.
“You up for eating?” she asked.
He honestly had no idea, so he just shrugged. “Thanks for bringing it,” he said.
“No problem,” she said. “Just try and eat some, okay? At least before bed.”
“Yeah, I will.”
“Want to watch a movie?”
“Don’t you have to go downstairs?”
She shrugged against him. “No. Andrew has Mia. He knows where to find me.”
He wanted to argue that she had better things to do than babysit him. But she was already up and moving over to his DVD shelf before he could get the words out. She pulled one out and put it in the player as Noah tilted his head back against the couch and stared up at the ceiling. His arm itched inside the cast and he kept absently moving to scratch it.
Seconds later, Olivia was sitting back down as steel guitars began playing. “Yesterday Andrew asked if I wanted ‘a tremendously boring cowboy movie’.” Noah said as she settled back in, mimicking Andrew’s tone.
She laughed. “You like what you like,” she said.
“And that wasn’t yesterday, that was four hours ago.”
He shifted to see the movie. They watched in silence, Noah occasionally dozing only to wake up to the sound of gunfire coming from the screen. Eventually, he woke up to find himself alone on the couch with the TV off. The pancakes were still sitting on the table and he pulled them toward himself, finally hungry.