New Winslow S6E56
Andrew tried to avoid Noah the next morning. Olivia’s words were still ringing in his head as he got ready for work, his hands shaking as he buttoned his shirt. There were still a couple hours until his shift was supposed to begin, but he couldn’t think of anything that would keep him occupied here, so he may as well leave early and try to keep researching solutions for when all of Iris’s ghosts failed her. He needed to be prepared, especially now.
He didn’t want to run into Liv either, not when she was as mad as she was. And he felt horrendously, horribly guilty. He’d been up all night, tossing and turning until he’d given up on getting any sleep sometime around five. That wasn’t anything particularly new, but his thoughts had been occupied with what he’d done to Noah eight years ago now. How he’d just left. He’d left the day after telling Noah he was leaving. And he’d waited to tell him until a day after they’d… fuck, that was low of him.
Since he was trying so hard to avoid Noah, of course Andrew ran into him in the hallway as he was getting his shoes on. Noah’s heavy footsteps were coming down the stairs and Andrew briefly considered ducking back into the flat, but it was too late. Noah rounded the corner with a smile.
“Morning,” he said. “Where are you headed?”
“Work,” Andrew said, his face searing hot.
“Already?” Noah asked. “I thought you weren’t going in until noon.”
Andrew shrugged and tried to think of a way to gracefully exit this conversation without offending Noah. But Noah looked at him and Andrew knew that wasn’t happening.
He stepped close to Andrew, right into his personal space. Andrew flinched and Noah stepped back like he’d burned him.
“I’m sorry,” Andrew said.
“What’s wrong?” Noah repeated.
He wasn’t going to tell Noah about the fight with Liv. Hell, he was actually a little surprised that Noah hadn’t heard her yelling at him. He’d figured Liv must’ve woken him up and was dreading that conversation as well. But Noah clearly had no idea what was going on.
“Are you sick?” Noah asked, putting a hand to Andrew’s forehead. Another of those casual, yet intimate gestures Andrew had seen nothing wrong with lately.
“It’s nothing,” Andrew said, trying to smile and knowing it looked terrible. “I’m going to go to work. Um, I know you probably want your space for a bit, so I’ll see you in the next couple of days?”
None of that was the least bit subtle, and he wasn’t surprised when Noah didn’t fall for it. “No?” Noah said. “I don’t need ‘my space’ and you aren’t bothering me at all. Did I make you think you were?”
“I…” Andrew flailed helplessly for an answer but there was none to be had. So he just took the plunge. “I hurt you,” he said as Noah’s eyes widened in surprise. “I didn’t mean to, but I did. And I’m sorry about that.”
Noah was quietly alarmed for a second and Andrew wondered if maybe the awkward retreat would have been the better option after all. “Did something happen?” Noah asked him.
Despite everything, he wasn’t going to tell on Liv. “No.”
Noah raised an eyebrow. “What possibly happened between the game last night and right now?” he asked, and Andrew knew he was cornered.
But before he could say anything, Noah looked past him at the closed door. “Did Liv say something?”
Fuck, how did he do this? Andrew went to lie, but he couldn’t. “I hurt you last time I left, and I don’t want to mess with you again,” he said. “I’m sorry, I really am.”
“We already talked about it,” Noah said, but Andrew was aware of the last time they’d talked about it. And Noah hadn’t seemed like he wanted to dissect their emotions then. He had to hope it was the same case now, at least so he didn’t die of shame.
“What did Liv say?” Noah asked, though he seemed to have his suspicions already.
“It’s fine,” Andrew said. “It was… she was right. I don’t want you and I to spend all this time together and then I just leave again. It’s not right. I’m not trying to use you. Especially not right now.”
He was dancing around a sensitive topic, especially because they hadn’t actually talked about what they were to each other right now. It was a lot like the months leading up to Andrew leaving last time, when emotions and labels had gotten so tangled that it was hard to express what it was. Only that he’d liked it.
Though last time, he hadn’t liked it enough to stay. And he would be leaving again. And yeah, he’d thought about that, but he hadn’t had to confront it as clearly as this until Olivia’s anger yesterday.
Noah ran a hand through his short hair and shook his head. Andrew could tell he was carefully choosing his words too. “I like spending time with you,” he said, and despite everything, Andrew smiled. “I’m not lying, I’m not hiding anything. I mean it. And it’s my decision, no one else’s.”
“I don’t want to hurt you again.”
“You’re not responsible for me.”
Despite everything, Andrew felt a ridiculous flash of hurt at that. And apparently, yet again, it was obvious. “No,” Noah said, shaking his head. “What I mean is, I’m not your problem.”
Was he trying to make Andrew feel better or worse? Noah groaned, looking away from Andrew, then back at him. “I’m fucking this up,” he muttered. “What I’m saying is that you aren’t responsible for any decisions…”
He trailed off, looking more uncomfortable than Andrew had seen in a long time. “If I drink again, it’s not your fault,” he finally finished. “That’s what you meant by ‘especially right now,’ wasn’t it?”
Great, now he’d ruined Noah’s day too. Andrew tried to protest, not that it would be true or useful to say that wasn’t what he’d meant. But Noah shook his head and smiled and some of the ice in Andrew’s stomach thawed, just a little. “It’s fine,” he said. “This isn’t even the most embarrassing conversation I’ve had this week. Are you sure you’re okay?”
Not at all, but Andrew nodded. “I’ll talk to Liv later,” Noah said. “This is… I’m not going to say it’s not like her because it absolutely is. But there’s a lot more going on. Don’t worry about it, okay?”
Of course he was going to worry about it. It was like Noah had never met Andrew and the anxiety that had been simmering away within him for weeks, getting ready to boil over when it was most inconvenient for everyone. But Andrew nodded anyway.
“Are you really going to work two hours early?” Noah asked him.
Andrew shrugged. “We’ve got inventory to unpack,” he said. “And if it’s slow, I can just work on Limerick marketing ideas while I’m at the cash register. Where are you going?”
“AA meeting,” Noah said. “Is Liv home?”
“No, I think she’s at the Limerick.”
“I’ll talk to her later today.”
Andrew had a ridiculous moment of fear, where he considered asking Noah not to talk to Liv. Let her be mad at him, she might be overprotective of Noah, but she was right about Andrew. But there was no way that was going to happen. So instead, he slid on his shoes and started buttoning his jacket.
“Are you okay?” he asked Noah, feeling a little silly.
Noah waved him off. “I’m fine,” he said. “I’ll see you later.”
A moment later, Andrew was alone in the hall again. He wasn’t sure if he felt better or worse.