New Winslow S6E26
“It’s one leak, how hard could it be to find?” Noah muttered to himself as he lay on his back underneath the enormous three basin sink in the back of the Limerick. “Oh yeah, I’ll be done in twenty minutes.”
It had been an hour and a half by this point and he wasn’t sure if he was more frustrated with the leak or with himself. Noah had chased that fucking leak down to the pipe connections to just before they went into the wall. He was deeply hopeful that this was where it was coming from, otherwise they’d have to pull out the wall and chase it even further. But if he just tightened that…
He twisted his wrench on the washer, feeling the slight shift as it tightened. That was promising, maybe this was where the leak came from. He twisted again, pushing until he met resistance.
Success! Noah rested his head against the filthy tile floor. He was sweating bullets, even in the late-winter chill, but his bandanna was back on the service counter where he’d forgotten it before his supposedly quick task of fixing this sink. Not that he could blame anyone but himself for the fact that it had taken longer than he’d expected. Andrew and Liv hadn’t said anything to him, he was the jackass who decided to do it all himself.
His wrist gave a slight twinge as he set down the wrench. He squeezed his fist, then let it relax. It had to be still healing and he knew he was putting too much pressure on it lately. Plus, it probably needed all kinds of physical therapy and other things he knew he wasn’t capable of keeping up with.
There it was again, that assumption that he just couldn’t do something. That giving up was the solution because he was too much of a fuckup to put in the effort. He’d been sober for almost six months now, out of rehab for just under four. He was capable of doing things for himself, he didn’t need to just get dragged along with whatever his emotions were doing that day.
The echoes from his therapist were so loud that they might as well have been spoken out loud. Noah blinked and tried to focus. He was moving forward with his life. And if Roman came home to his sponsee bitching and moaning that he had to have physical therapy for his busted wrist, then Noah was pretty sure he was going to get more than a little tough love for that.
If Roman ever came back to town. Even the thought of leaving New Winslow made a bit of homesickness swoop through Noah’s body. But Roman had been here twenty years before getting out. He had a whole life here that Noah knew he wasn’t capable of just deserting. They’d talked some the other night and Roman was settling in at the creepy bed and breakfast in Petersham. But there were so many questions that couldn’t be answered yet.
The pipe seemed solid now, after a few moments of not leaking. Noah laughed, then immediately regretted it as a drop of stale water fell directly into his mouth.
Right. Break time.
He pushed himself out from under the sink and stood up, knees creaking as he did so. His shirt was soaked and he pulled it off, balling it up in his hands. There was so much more to do today, but it was filthy and he had another shirt out on the front counter. Plus, it wasn’t like they were open for business yet. He’d been alone in the building for about two hours now and as far as he knew, neither of the others would be in soon.
So of course as he stepped out front, he immediately saw Andrew at the end of the counter, marking off something in a small notebook.
Noah went to duck back into the kitchen, but he had to get his shirt anyway. So he mustered up his dignity and started walking out.
“Morning,” he said, moving purposefully toward his shirt as though he’d planned this whole thing.
Andrew looked up and Noah at least got the satisfaction of seeing a red tinge come across his face. “Morning,” Andrew said, looking from Noah to the notebook, then back again.
Noah grinned at him, resisting the urge to wink. Flirting with Andrew was a habit from their teenage years, but with everything that had happened in the past decade, he’d made a very deliberate point of stopping. It wasn’t appropriate anymore. Not after they’d had one night, Noah thought it was the start of something, and Andrew made it very clear it was the end.
And it was still the end. Even if he still got butterflies like a teenager when they were alone in a room together. He wasn’t interested. And he’d just keep telling himself that until it was true, no matter how good it felt to be around Andrew these days. That was just because they were friends again.
Besides, even if he’d just bought a building in New Winslow, Andrew was going to leave someday. Like with Roman, something would break the curse and Andrew would be out of town with no warning at all. Again. Noah could go visit him maybe, but the idea of leaving town sent that unpleasant sensation swooping back through him, making his breath catch.
“You alright?” Andrew asked.
Noah realized he’d been standing by the pastry case with his tank top in his hand. “Yeah,” he said quickly, pulling it over his head. “Yeah, just distracted by that leak out back.”
“It’s still going?”
“It’ll be going longer than me.”
He meant it lightheartedly, but Andrew’s mouth thinned and Noah realized that maybe the bleak humor wasn’t as funny to the people who had watched him nearly kill himself with alcohol over the previous year.
“I’ll figure it out,” Noah said quickly. “It might be further in the pipe, or it could be an issue at the joint that I just can’t get right with my tools. I’ll keep working on it.”
“Great,” Andrew said. “Liv is in… I’m not sure which town, to be completely honest. But she’s there to buy the refrigerator for under the counter. She left straight from the house, and I couldn’t go with her for obvious reasons. But she said she had it under control.”
Considering Liv had had her own nerves going anywhere that wasn’t their home or the Limerick, Noah was a little surprised. He had a meeting this afternoon, but he’d be back here afterward, so he’d make sure to help her with anything she needed.
“What are you doing today?” Noah asked.
“Marketing brainstorm,” Andrew said, looking a little self-conscious. “I’ve got a few things ready to go, but I want to have some backup plans in place. And if we’re doing delivery, I’ll need to figure out the best way to advertise within our delivery radius. It’s all the same work I’ve been doing for years, it’s just nice to do it for something I enjoy, you know?”
Noah was suddenly transported back to the night when Andrew and Cleo had arrived in town. When he’d been getting in those poisonous little digs wherever he could.
Does it fulfill you? Doing sales?
But looking at Andrew now, he looked happy. He looked like he had when he’d started writing a novel back in high school, which he refused to show anyone or even tell them about. But Noah would see him sitting in the school library between classes sometimes, typing intently on the old desktops in the computer bank. And he’d take his time letting Andrew know he was there. Because once he did, the spell would be broken.
“See, I’m looking into our options for a soft launch,” Andrew continued, as though Noah had any idea what a soft launch was. “Our marketing budget is not much, but I’ll do what I can with it.”
“Yeah, it’s definitely not on corporate levels.”
Dammit, why did Noah ever have to talk? Andrew’s face fell a little, and he considered trying to apologize. Or maybe digging in deeper as he pushed away the inconvenient fact that what he was feeling definitely wasn’t just friendship.
“I know nothing about sales, so I’m glad you’re here for this,” he said instead. “Liv’s got everything else down. I’m just the muscle.”
Andrew laughed. “You’re so much more than that.”
Now Noah was the one blushing, but Andrew was smiling at him and even the leaky faucet and his ongoing anger at himself couldn’t dampen the lightness in his chest.
Then Andrew motioned toward Noah’s arm. “So that’s what that is,” he said.
“The tattoo,” Andrew said. “It’s nice.”
Noah looked down at the tattoo on his bicep, which was completely exposed in the sleeveless shirt he wore. A simple compass rose, with the main directions marked by small letters.
“When did you get that?” Andrew asked as Noah leaned against the counter, reluctant to return to the broken sink and solitude out back.
“Five years ago?” Noah said. “Probably.”
“Any particular reason?”
Noah shrugged, the movement quick and jerky. “No,” he said. “Just felt right.”
“Find your way home.”
The words were soft, like Andrew hadn’t intended to say them out loud. He glanced down at his own arm and shrugged again. “Never really thought about it like that.”
Andrew looked self-conscious. “Sorry,” he said. “It’s nice, I hadn’t seen the whole thing before. But it suits you.”
Andrew looked like he wanted to say something else. But the silence was broken by the sudden patter of water steadily dripping onto tile in the back. Trying not to think about all the other tasks on his to-do list today, Noah groaned and made his way back to the sink.