New Winslow S5E53
Noah woke up early, blinking up at the ceiling from what he quickly realized was the floor beside his bed. He’d been sleepwalking again, but at least he hadn’t gotten too far this time. Though, judging from the wide bruise forming on his thigh, the thing that had stopped him was the small table he’d brought in there while recovering and never remembered to bring back out to the kitchen. Beyond that, though, everything felt fine. He stood up and headed to his dresser to find some clothes. As he was sorting through a pile of tee-shirts, he noticed a text alert blinking on his phone screen. It was from Jude and had been sent around midnight.
Talk in the morning?
Noah answered quickly, then set his phone down. He didn’t expect an answer just yet, but his phone buzzed as he was pulling on a shirt.
Saw Sarabeth last night
He headed to the bathroom to brush his teeth, keeping an eye on the three dots that showed Jude was typing.
Yeah. She said she wants to be exclusive. And I think I’m going to go for it.
So was that his way of saying he and Noah were done? Not that Noah minded. If Jude changed his mind and decided he wanted a relationship after all, just with this other person, that was his business and Noah was happy for him.
That serious huh
He added an emoji to show he wasn’t concerned. Then he went out to the living room and pulled up the window shades. It had snowed a little last night and the trees and backyard were covered in a new thin layer of snow, atop the slightly browned previous layers. A single rabbit track ran across the new snow, zigzagging through the yard before vanishing at the stone wall.
The coffee was already brewing in his fancy new coffee maker, and he went into the kitchen to pour a cup, glancing at the new message on his phone as he went.
I hope so
So that was that then.
Are we ok?
Of course they were. Noah poured a cup of coffee and took a sip as he typed.
Of course. I’m happy for you
Sometimes he felt a little sleazy when he dated people so casually. But they were all upfront about it so it wouldn’t be like he was stringing anyone along. And if they ended up going their separate ways, there were always others out there. Soulmates were bullshit, he knew that. Even at his most romantic, Noah had never believed in the idea of soulmates. Relationships took work and commitment and he wasn’t interested in either of those right now. Partially on the advice of the therapists at rehab and the leaders at AA, all of whom said it’s best to wait a year before getting into a relationship. But he also wasn’t dying to hit that milestone. He wanted to focus on himself and the relationships he already had. And if someone else wanted to share a little physical affection, he wasn’t going to say no.
Thanks for understanding.
All that firewood he’d cut was soaked now. How had Noah forgotten to put a tarp over it? Oh well, it’d dry.
Good luck. Not wishing you anything bad, but if you’re ever single again, give me a call
I’m still helping Cleo with her music licensing, so I’ll see you.
That was true, and a relief. He genuinely did like Jude. It would be a shame to lose him as a friend right now. But that text reminded him of one he’d meant to send yesterday. If they were still friends, then there was nothing weird about it. And he did need help.
Speaking of legal help, can I hire you? I just need a couple papers looked at for the shop.
You’re not paying me
Yes, Noah absolutely was.
Andrew walked into the living room and immediately wanted to walk back out. Noah and Jude were sitting there together. No sign of Liv or Cleo, so he wasn’t sure why they weren’t up in Noah’s living room, but whatever. He didn’t care.
“Hey,” Noah said as he walked in, smiling with a wave.
Andrew knew his smile looked tense, but he couldn’t get it to relax. Instead, he just gave them both a nod. “Hi.”
Jude smiled broadly at him. “How are you doing, man?”
That voice was going to kill Andrew. He knew it. And as unreasonable as it was, he couldn’t get over it. “Fine, thank you,” he said instead.
If Noah noticed anything but pleasantries, he didn’t mention it as he looked back down at the papers on the coffee table in front of him. But Jude lifted an eyebrow slightly and looked like he was trying to hide a smirk. Andrew wanted to hit him, but instead, he was going to go into the kitchen and get some dinner. Because it was late, he was tired, he still wasn’t done with his day, and he wanted to be left alone.
“We’re looking over a few things for the shop if you want to take a look too,” Noah said to Andrew. “Jude’s making sure we’ve got the legal permits lined up correctly so that we can hit the ground running when we get the keys.”
“Don’t we already have a lawyer?”
“Yeah, but he’s busy,” Noah said, picking up one of the sheets and squinting at it. He handed it to Jude. “I have no idea what the fuck that means.”
Jude laughed and took the paper, his hand brushing Noah’s as he did so. Swallowing the contempt, anger, and shame that was targeting everyone and no one all at once, Andrew shook his head. “I’ll wait,” he said. “I’ve got to meet Iris in a bit.”
“Oh yeah,” Noah said, looking up at him. “What’s tonight?”
“A potion,” Andrew said, hating the word as it came out of his mouth. “It’s a load of disgusting ingredients, all stirred together and waiting for me to drink them.”
Noah laughed, but Andrew still felt tight. “Fun,” Noah said. “Come upstairs when you get home if you want to go over these. I’m just trying to get some of it out of the way for Liv tonight too.”
Andrew walked into the kitchen, feeling petty and stupid yet again. Why was he letting this man get under his skin? It was entirely his fault that he was in this situation, anyway. But that didn’t make the dull ache of anger fade every time he had to see Jude’s bloody face.
He put the electric kettle on and went into the cupboard for a mug. There were about two hours until the moon would be right for this ritual and he needed a cup of tea before he did anything else. It was just him and Iris tonight. Roman was at his own shop and they’d promised to call him immediately if it worked. Not that it would, but Roman could play along as well as either of them.
He heard the front door open and close and wondered vaguely if Liv was back. Maybe that would cut some of the tension.
Jude’s fucking voice, that infuriating California boy casualness. Andrew wanted to punch him, but set down the mug and turned around. “Yes?” he asked, voice icily polite.
“Listen, have I done something to you?” Jude asked, the first signs of frustration that he’d finally directed at Andrew in his voice. “Like, I feel like we’ve only met three times? Maybe? And I don’t know what I did. But if I did something, can we talk about it?”
“You didn’t do anything,” Andrew said, turning back as the tea kettle finished. He hadn’t even gotten a tea bag yet, but Liv had a few tucked aside in a bowl on the counter, so he ripped the wrapper open on one and started making tea as Jude walked further into the room.
“Tea?” Andrew offered.
“No, I’m good,” Jude said. “Thanks though.”
The door opening must have been Noah leaving. But why? And why did that mean Jude had to come in here? “So you’re not mad at me?” Jude asked.
Of course he was. “Nope,” Andrew replied, without looking at him.
He couldn’t just fucking wait in the living room. Then they could finish up whatever it was they were doing and go have mind-blowing sex somewhere else where Andrew didn’t have to think about them. He turned to get the milk, but Jude was standing in front of the refrigerator.
“Can you just answer one thing for me?” Jude asked, stepping aside so that Andrew could pull out the small carton of milk.
“How long have you been in love with Noah?”
Andrew dropped the milk carton. It landed on the floor, miraculously upright, with only a few drops flying out the top and onto the tiles. Face furiously hot, he grabbed a washcloth off the counter and crouched down to wipe it up.
“I’m not,” he said, focusing all his attention on the small white specks of milk dotting the worn kitchen floor.
Last of the milk cleaned up, Andrew stood up. Jude was looking at him, skepticism and a degree of something – not compassion, fuck off – in his eyes. He looked like he was about to say something else, but then the door opened again.
“Back!” Noah called in. “I found it.”
“I’ll be right in,” Jude called over his shoulder, still looking at Andrew.
Andrew was trapped in his gaze, everything obvious on his face and he knew it. But Jude didn’t say anything, and finally, Andrew was the one to look away first. As he did so, Jude walked out of the room.