New Winslow S6E73
The next afternoon, the flat was completely unpacked. Everything was in it’s place, and the boxes had been neatly dismantled and stored in the small closet off to the side of the kitchenette. At first, Andrew had been about to throw them all in the recycling bin. But as he flattened the last one, he’d been plunged, once again, into the reality that he’d be leaving here eventually too, like he’d fallen through a freezing lake. Even in the unusual heat of an April afternoon, he’d still felt the chill and made himself gather them all up and hide them so he wouldn’t think about it again for a little while.
The flat looked nice. It wasn’t his home in Beacon Hill, but nothing ever would be. And maybe someday he’d get past that. But the small living room was clean and smelled like the citrus candle he was burning. He was at the mercy of the general store for any groceries not available downstairs, so his kitchen was still mostly empty. From the couch, he could see the neatly made bed in his new bedroom. It was too small for anything else, even his dresser was in the other closet in the living room.
But now here he was, unpacked and vaguely considering what came next. Andrew had opened the Limerick this morning, possibly the best commute he’d ever had despite the hour. And he had some paperwork to look over with Liv, then they was meeting with Iris again in a little while. But there was enough time between then and now to get something accomplished if he could just find some motivation.
There was a knock at the door at the bottom of the staircase, which made Andrew pause. But he got up and headed down, opening the door to see Noah standing there.
“Did you really just knock?” Andrew asked, leaning against the doorframe with an easy smile.
Noah laughed, looking a little embarrassed. “I don’t know,” he said. “It’s just, it’s your house now.”
It was, whatever that meant. But Andrew motioned for Noah to follow him upstairs. “What’s up?” he asked as they reached the top of the steps.
“Just saying hi before I go home and get ready. This looks nice.”
Noah looked around the room approvingly and Andrew suddenly saw the space through new eyes. “You helped me with some of it,” he said.
“Yeah, but not this. It’s…”
His face changed then, dropping from the approving smile to something Andrew couldn’t quite read. But another chill came over him. “Noah?”
“No, yeah, it’s nothing,” Noah said.
But he clearly wanted to say more, so Andrew waited patiently, motioning for Noah to sit down on the sofa with him.
“I’m sorry,” Noah blurted out after a second of silence.
“Everything. Shit, everything. All the shit I said to you, how much of a prick I was when you came back. Andrew, I’m so sorry.”
This wasn’t the first time they’d had this conversation. Andrew remembered the first night Noah was home, six months ago, sitting together in the dark. And then how the roles had swapped. And swapped again. How they all just kept apologizing to each other and would keep doing so until the heat death of the universe.
“It’s alright,” Andrew said softly. “It’s fine. I – we can’t just keep apologizing to each other forever.”
“So what do we do?”
Andrew moved without thinking. One second they were sitting on the small sofa, with a safe amount of space between them. The next, he was kissing Noah. It had been nearly a decade since the last time they’d done this, but it didn’t feel that way. It was both completely new and warmly familiar. Noah tasted different, but there was something so uniquely him that Andrew was desperate to get more of as he cupped Noah’s chin, running his thumb along the softness of his short beard.
Noah took a sharp, surprised breath against his mouth, then moaned softly, his hand sliding up Andrew’s side, crumpling his shirt as the other hand reached up to tug gently at a handful of Andrew’s hair. It didn’t hurt, but the sensation spiked straight down his spine, setting his whole body on fire. It had been so long since anyone had touched him like this. And it was Noah and he should be panicking. But he wasn’t.
This time it felt right.
Noah was the one who broke it off. Andrew opened his eyes to see Noah right there, his blue eyes soft and open as he looked at Andrew. He smiled.
“Wow,” he whispered, his breath tickling over Andrew’s face.
“Wow,” Andrew repeated, unable to think of anything else to say to that.
“Um, I hate to do this, but-” Noah started as Andrew’s stomach sank. “We need to be at Iris’s shop in thirty minutes. Can we – maybe – discuss this afterward? Tonight?”
“Here?” Andrew asked, trying not to get his hopes up. “Or…”
“Here’s fine,” Noah replied. “Um, anywhere we can be alone.”
Oh God, Andrew had completely misread him and was never so glad to be wrong. “Y-yeah,” Andrew said, nodding his head too quickly as his heart hammered in his chest. “Yeah, that- yeah.”
“I have to go home and get my truck, I have to pick up some packages I forgot about after,” Noah said, standing up. Andrew followed after him, happy to see how flustered Noah was as he looked around the room, then back at Andrew. “I’ll see you there, okay?”
“Of course, yeah.”
Noah leaned down and kissed him again before Andrew realized what was happening. He wanted to savor it, to grab Noah, clutch him tightly and say screw the appointment. Who cared if that was what could get Andrew out of New Winslow? He had more important things to think about right now.
But then Noah ended the kiss again. And with a wink that made Andrew’s knees give out just slightly, he walked out of the flat. Andrew listened to him go down the steps, then sat back down, letting out his breath in a long, shaky exhale.
God, he wanted to do that again right now.
How was Noah possibly supposed to focus tonight? Even if Andrew hadn’t planned to be there in the room with them while Iris poked through Noah’s subconscious for clues, he’d still be able to think about nothing but what just happened. And with the fact that Andrew was going to be there? There wasn’t a chance that he was going to be able to do anything Iris asked him to do.
The uncertainty didn’t start bubbling up until he reached the bottom of the stairs, closing the door behind him. Andrew was planning to help Liv with some paperwork before meeting Noah and Iris, so there was no time to talk seriously about what just happened. And what it meant, if it meant anything at all.
He’d liked it. He’d liked it maybe way more than he should have. There were so many reasons why this was a terrible idea, no matter what “this” ended up being. He was still in early recovery. A relationship – if that was what even happened – could easily mess that up. Everyone said not to do that. He was already opening a new business, that was extra stress already frowned on by at least some of the people in AA. Adding anything else on top was ridiculous.
Maybe he should talk to Roman about it. Though he knew Roman was away for his first vacation in twenty-three years and there was no force on earth that could make Noah interrupt that.
Andrew was leaving. Andrew had hurt him before, specifically when he left. Specifically after Andrew had made the first move. What if it happened again? Was he really putting himself back in that position?
But all Noah wanted to do was go back up the stairs right now.
No, he was going to go to Iris’s. And he’d let her wave a watch around and send him back into his nightmares for a little while. It was worth it, because he was doing it for Andrew. And then later, he and Andrew could sit down and discuss this with clear heads. Everything was fine.
It was fine.