Chapter 4.3: Andrew

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"Need some help?"

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"Need some help?"

Andrew glared up. "Nope. Clearly I've got this whole thing under control."

The fucking bike lock hadn't wanted to come undone. He'd had the right combination; the problem was not having two fucking hands to pull it apart. In his struggle to get the lock off, he had lost his balance and fallen. He'd had to jerk his body to the right so he didn't fall right on his empty shoulder joint. In defeat, he had flopped spread eagle and stared up at the sky, which was now half-filled with Ryan's face.

Ryan held out his hand.

After a moment, Andrew held his hand out, and found himself flying to his feet like he weighed nothing. "Geez, you on steroids or something?" Andrew asked, rubbing the hip that had taken the brunt of his fall.

Ryan picked up his bike, took off the lock and wound it up around the crossbar. "You're just a lightweight is all," he said finally, holding the bike out for Andrew.

"Yeah, well, losing an arm'll do that." Andrew took the handlebar, trying to ignore how he had to both crowd past Ryan and brush against Ryan's hand to do it. "I got it. You can let go now."

"Sure," Ryan said quickly, and dropped his hand. He shoved his hands into his pockets and began walking.

Andrew hopped a couple of times to get his balance, then pushed off, only noticing at that moment that Ryan was walking in the same direction. He pedaled once, then let the bike drift up beside him. With his bike on street level, he could use his right foot to push along and stay at Ryan's walking speed. "You're walking home?" he asked.


"You don't have a bike or anything?"

Ryan shrugged.

"I can give you a ride home, if you want. I got pegs." He nodded toward the rear tire, which had pegs screwed onto the axle.

With a little look over, Ryan said, "Can you do tricks and stuff?"

Andrew knew what his tone of voice meant. Can you do tricks and stuff... with only one arm? Gritting his teeth, he told himself, His mother is dying of cancer. Shut up. What he said out loud was, "Not anymore. But if you stand on them and hang on, I can give you a ride."

Ryan turned his eyes back to the ground and continued to walk. "You don't even know where I live."

"So? Tell me."

"It's probably not on your way."

"Who fucking cares? I'm offering you a ride."

Ryan looked over at him again. Taking in the pegs, the bike, how Andrew had only one arm.

"I'm too heavy."

"Goddamnit, can't I just be fucking nice to you?" Andrew practically yelled. "Tell me your fucking address. Jesus Christ."

Stunned by Andrew's outburst, Ryan sighed. "Nineteen Mill Street."

"Well look at that. Mill Street. Right around the corner. I live on Adams." It wasn't exactly right around the corner, but the next street down. Andrew realized that when Matt drove by his house the other day, he was probably on his way to pick Ryan up for some stupid jock party. Since apparently, Ryan didn't have a car.

Ryan didn't look up.

"What are you waiting for? Hop on."

"I don't need your charity." Ryan's voice had lowered, and fuck all if the big guy didn't look like he was about to cry again.

"And I don't fucking need yours," Andrew said. He considered pushing his foot off the curb and booking it on his bike. "You helped me, now I wanna help you. That's not charity."

He waited. Ryan's droopy Eeyore face was pissing him off. If he didn't give an answer one way or another in the next five seconds, Andrew was going to leave him here to wallow in his own misery. Five... four... three...

"Fine," Ryan muttered.

Without looking at Andrew, he stepped over. Andrew put his foot down for a full stop and waited for Ryan to climb on. He didn't flinch when Ryan wrapped his arms around Andrew's chest, but it did give him a little pause. Usually, when he did this sort of thing with Cody, Cody rested his hands on Andrew's shoulders. Less gay that way, Cody said once.

Andrew understood why Ryan didn't do that. Ryan would rather look gay than touch a gnarly fucking shoulder stump.

He pushed off with a little more force than necessary, and felt Ryan's arms tighten around his chest as he started pedaling.

It had been so long since anyone other than his mother or physical therapist had touched him, hugged him, treated his body like it wasn't made of glass, that Andrew was already forgetting his anger. The tight grip meant that Ryan was basically breathing against his neck, though Andrew could tell he had turned his face a little to the side.

Back when Andrew had been dating Billy for those brief weeks in eighth grade, they'd done this all the time. Only Billy had been much smaller, his arms closer to Andrew's waist, his chin resting right on Andrew's shoulder. Those had been good days, before Billy dumped him for Tyler.

"It just sort of happened," Billy had said about hooking up with Tyler.

And that had totally sucked, because they'd had a lot of the same friends, and Tyler was on the football team and therefore more popular, so everyone fawned over him. Pretty much only Cody and Darius stuck by him. They were all on the soccer team together. Darius was still on the soccer team - varsity this year. Cody had quit after Andrew's accident. "Team's no fun without you," Cody had told him, but Andrew knew it was mostly because he'd starting hanging out with some pothead upperclassmen. During the months Andrew was absent from school, Darius and Cody had gone in separate directions. But that had been happening since the end of eighth grade, when Darius got himself a girlfriend.

So, yes, this was the most action Andrew had gotten since eighth grade. Or since his physical therapist massaged his back at the end of their session last week.

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