It was the sound of footsteps on creaking wooden stairs that woke Noah up later that night. The ground was pitching underneath him, the waves nearly tipping the ship. Or was it? No, that was a dream. Disoriented, he looked around in the dark as the footsteps got louder.
Was that Liv? What was she doing in his apartment? He blinked and realized he wasn’t in his bedroom where he’d fallen asleep. But where was he?
“Hey, what happened?” she asked.
He sat up slowly, untangling his arms from under his head. What had happened? He’d been in bed…there’d been water…a flood? No, a dream. And then…
“Noah, are you drunk?”
It was like he’d touched a live wire as Liv’s words sank in. Noah sat straight up, looking around until his gaze landed on Liv’s face as she crouched beside him. She looked… concerned? Yeah. And angry?
“N-no,” Noah said, shaking his head. “No, I’m not. I’m…”
He’d been sleepwalking again, hadn’t he? Still trying to get his bearings, he sat up and looked at her. “No, I was sleepwalking.”
“Is everything alright?”
Fuck, now Andrew was here too. There were footsteps and he appeared a second later. Noah saw him take in the scene and immediately reach the same conclusion Liv had, face falling in clear disappointment.
“I wasn’t drinking,” Noah said, voice rough as he desperately wished he was back in bed. “I was sleepwalking. I-”
He was on the landing outside of his apartment. As he set his hand down to brace himself, a familiar flash of pain went through his palm, right along the spot the cast had covered until just yesterday.
No, no, this wasn’t happening. He wasn’t drunk. He was clean, he’d been clean for three months now. He’d moved on, he wasn’t drunk, he wasn’t.
The light came on, flooding the narrow hallway with yellow light. Noah looked around and realized that the vase on the table outside his door had fallen and shattered. It was the broken glass that was cutting into his palm. He wasn’t in the basement and he wasn’t drunk.
“I swear, I’m not drunk,” he said desperately, heart racing in his chest as he looked from the blood on his hand to Olivia’s crushed expression.
“Look,” Olivia said, voice soft. “Relapses happen. It’ll be okay, we’ll just-”
“I’m not drunk!”
He looked over at Andrew, who looked away, then back at him.
“I’ve been sleepwalking,” Noah repeated, the words tumbling out in his desperation to prove himself. “I’m sorry I never told anyone, but it’s no big deal and it’s not like it matters. But apparently it does, because I’m not drinking, I swear.”
His hand was bleeding freely now, the coppery smell of blood combining with a sour feeling of guilt and abrupt waking in his stomach. He wanted to throw up, but that would make him look even worse.
“If you were drinking, just tell us,” Andrew said. “It’s alright, really.”
“I wasn’t fucking-”
Noah squeezed his injured hand, the bolt of pain making him catch his breath. “I’ll prove it,” he said. “Smell my breath. Search my apartment. I was sleepwalking, I swear. Call Jude, I did it at his house a few weeks ago. I’ve been doing it since I got home and I don’t know why.”
He was trembling now and his eyes burned as he frantically tried not to cry. He was sober, wasn’t he? He hadn’t been drinking, there was nothing in his apartment. He’d gone upstairs after they put out the fire and gone straight to bed. But the other two still looked unsure in the yellow light.
Noah blew out a breath and locked eyes with Liv. “I swear,” he said helplessly.
After a second, Liv looked down at his hand. “You’re bleeding,” she said. “You’ve been sleepwalking?”
He nodded, throat tight. “I swear,” he managed to choke out. “I wasn’t drinking.”
Olivia nodded, and he realized with overwhelming relief and shame that she believed him. “I’m sorry,” she said. “It’s just…”
She trailed off as though she didn’t know how to finish the sentence. But Noah knew exactly how it should end. And he realized how fucking stupid he’d been. Three months weren’t enough to earn back anything he’d lost. He hadn’t thought things were back to normal, but of course they were watching out for any signs of relapse. They had to protect themselves from him.
“No,” Noah said, shaking his head as he stood up. “No, no, it’s-”
Now he didn’t know how to finish it. Olivia reached for his hand and Noah flinched. “There’s probably glass in it,” she said. “Come on, I’ll-”
“I’ll get it,” Noah said. “I’ll get the glass on the floor in the morning too. Don’t step in it. I’m sorry.”
“Noah, come on,” Andrew said.
He shook his head. “It’s fine,” he said. “I’ll clean it up. I’m so sorry.”
He could tell by both of their expressions that they knew he wasn’t talking about the glass. But he couldn’t stay out here. He needed to be alone before he had the breakdown he knew was coming.
“Can I clean up your hand?” Olivia asked.
He shook his head. Too hard, he knew that. “No, I’ll get it. I’m gonna… I need to – there’s nothing in here, I just need to go. There’s nothing in my apartment, I swear.”
Part of him wanted to stay and accept her help. But he’d seen that fear on her face. How could he have thought things were going fine?
He reached for the doorknob and hissed in pain as, again, he forgot about the glass cuts in his palm. Not looking either of the others in the eye, he opened the door and hurried back inside, closing it behind him just before he slid to the floor and broke down, hugging his knees tightly as he buried his face in his arms and tried to stop shaking.