Andy was uncharacteristically silent during the ride home. He sat beside Oscar, hands folded primly, like a nun’s, and refused to utter a word. Even when that god-awful radio station he was fond of began to play recordings from various Broadway musicals.
Oscar could deal with it when Andy got angry, and threw things or shouted. That was who he was, and how he expresses himself. He was used to that.
He didn’t quite know what to do with this death-like silence.
From the beginning, Oscar had wanted nothing to do with Walter Bernard Sr. The man seemed like Andy without compassion. He couldn’t have put up with Andy if he hadn’t been so compassionate.
But Andy had been so desperate for this to work out that, in the end, he shook hands and provided an appropriate amount of attention to Walter and Ellen. Andy deserved to have his garden party run smoothly. Oscar wouldn’t dream of ruining it for him.
It was for the better that Pam had shut off CeCe’s monitor, but he couldn’t help revisiting the little he’d heard. Oscar was dying to know exactly what Walter Sr. had told Andy. (And to give him a kick in the teeth, but that was an independent matter.)
With another look at Andy, he decided to broach an attempt at conversation. After all, talking was the easiest way to get it all out into the open.
”You want to change the channel?” Oscar asked amiably, as they passed the park beside his apartment complex.
With a sigh, Andy fiddled with the dial until they found something that wasn’t a talk show. Oscar sighed. If anything, Andy had only closed up further.
”Are you tired?” he tried, pulling into his parking space. “I’m wiped.”
Andy’s reply was impassive at best. ”You should get some rest.”
Over the years, Oscar had grown accustomed to how Andy wore his heart on his sleeve. Now, his impassive expression startled Oscar. Alarm bells went off in his head.
Oscar shut his car off and leaned back in the seat. He could feel a headache coming on already. “What did he say to you?”
”Can we just go home?” Andy’s voice was fragile. “I’m tired.”
Without another word, he climbed out of the car, expectantly waiting for Oscar, who followed suit. There was no getting anything out of Andy tonight. He was barely even recognizable as Andy, opting for a silent façade, rather than the enthusiasm he paraded for the group’s sake.
The elevator ride was long and uncomfortable. More than once, Oscar debated taking ahold of Andy’s hand. However, it seemed as though Andy wanted space. Space was something that Oscar was infinitely able to provide.
”Do you want takeout?” Oscar began, when Andy seemed more receptive. “I thought we could get some Chinese or something.”
”Whatever you want.”
No five-syllable phrase had ever left Oscar feeling so daunted.
The apartment was in a state of disarray, but Oscar eventually found some clothes for the both of them. They weren’t living together, not officially, but the prominent presence of Andy’s Cornell memorabilia begged to differ.
”You want to shower first?”
A silent nod.
Oscar had never found quiet to be so frustrating. Andy always articulated his desires, and the very notion of his refusal worried Oscar more than it should have.
He opted to burn off some adrenaline by sitting himself at the dining table and reading another few pages of Jane Eyre.
The book soothed him into a less frantic state of mind, until he was able to look at the situation objectively. If Andy wanted space, chances were, he would be alright once he left the shower. He would be the same, old Andy, and Oscar would be able to help him.
Just as he was thinking that, a horrible retching came from the bathroom and Oscar abandoned all notions of thinking logically.
He rushed into the room, and found Andy on the floor, head resting on the edge of the toilet. His face was flushed red, and he looked in pain, gritting his teeth.
Quietly, Oscar skirted past him and sat himself on the edge of the bath. Tears were running down Andy’s cheeks, and he bent forward and coughed.
Gently, Oscar began to rub small circles on his back. Andy’s face contorted in pain, but he said nothing. Most of his energy seemed to be focusing on not puking. Or maybe not puking in front of Oscar. The two were easily interchangeable.
In a voice uncharacteristically gentle, Oscar leaned forward and said, “You have to tell me what’s wrong.”
”Nothing,” Andy told him through a sob. “Leave me alone.”
Then, without warning, he expelled the contents of his stomach into the toilet.
Oscar hushed him urgently, when he was finished, and wet a paper towel to wipe his mouth with. Andy was obviously drained of energy, and no longer protested.
”Sorry,” he mumbled, when Oscar was stroking back his sweat-soaked hair. “I’m sorry.”
Touch wasn’t really his thing, but it was Andy’s. That was the only reason he was keeping any of this up. Andy.
”Don’t be,” he said, and pressed a rare kiss to the top of Andy’s head. “Just try to relax.”
Eventually, Andy’s steady stream of apologies ran out, and he shook insubstantially in Oscar’s arms. Silent tears crept down his face, and it was all Oscar could do to keep rubbing his back and hushing him gently.
”We heard a little,” Oscar said when Andy leaned against his legs.
Almost immediately, he stiffened. “How much?”
No point in sugar-coating it. ”Up until he called you a child. Pam shut it off when that happened.”
”I’m sorry,” Andy said at once, blue eyes glassy with exhaustion. “Fuck, I just let him get the best of me. Again.”
“He’s a dick,” Oscar replied, and smiled when Andy laughed wetly. “Like I said, don’t worry about it.”
Andy smiled a small smile and wiped the tear tracks from his cheeks. “Sure thing, Oscarino.”
They ended up on the couch together, Oscar stroking Andy’s hair as they watched reruns of How I Met Your Mother (Andy’s choice) together. Every now and again, Andy, still slightly subdued, would laugh. When the eleventh episode began, he sang along to the theme, and Oscar didn’t complain.
He knew that Andy was back.