Chapter 10: Andrew

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When the doorbell rang, his mother rushed to answer it.

"Mom!" Andrew complained. She stopped. If Andrew hadn't been struggling with the full trash bin at the time, he would have gone. "Be cool, Mom. God."

"I am cool," she said haughtily, then rushed to open the door.

"Hello, Ryan."

Gritting his teeth, he watched his mom immediately throw her arms around Ryan. "Oh, honey, I'm so sorry about your mother. How are you holding up?"

Over her shoulder, Ryan made eye contact with Andrew. Andrew was baring his teeth at his mother's back. He stopped and mouthed, Sorry.

He managed to tie a knot with one hand – a feat that, when he'd first started physical therapy, had seemed impossible. Then he hauled the trash bag toward the garage. When he returned, his mom was still hugging Ryan, and Ryan wasn't making any motion to end the hug on his own. The guy even had his eyes closed. Andrew decided it had gone on long enough. "You can let him go now, Mom."

"I told Jacky you two could have the run of the living room. I have a television in my bedroom I never use, ha ha, and you do not want to spend more time than you have to in his room. Ha ha."

Ryan made some reply with a "ma'am" tacked on the end and Andrew rolled his eyes and shoved at his mother.

"Okay, Mom, we're going to get started then."

"Let me know if you need anything, honey."

"I think we can manage," Andrew muttered. Finally his mother made her way upstairs.

He had already pulled out his stupid pack of markers and they sat there, lonely, on the cleared-off coffee table. "Is this okay?" he asked. "We can work in the kitchen if that's easier. I just figured maybe we could watch TV or a movie or something while we're working."

"Okay," said Ryan, not really answering Andrew's question, but since Ryan headed into the living room, Andrew figured that was answer enough.

"Any requests?" Andrew picked up the remote and turned on the TV. Sound blared from the speakers and he punched at the volume button. "Geez, Mom," he muttered.

"Um, whatever you want." Ryan sat down on the couch and opened his backpack. He had a nice cardboard portfolio, and he pulled out a sheaf of pages.

Andrew knelt down and opened the cabinet under the TV. "You like action movies? Horror?" With no immediate response, Andrew looked back over his shoulder. "Rom-coms?"

"Sure," said Ryan. Andrew stared at him for a minute, wondering if Ryan was serious. Ryan was sorting through his pages.

Turning back to the cabinet, he decided to make Ryan really uncomfortable. He pulled out Brokeback Mountain, a movie his mom had bought for him after he came out to her. Now that had been an uncomfortable moment. Luckily she hadn't put it on during Family Movie Night. He popped it in the player.

Noticing that Ryan had sorted some inked pages on top of the markers, Andrew asked, "So these pages are ready for coloring?" Andrew crawled over to the table on his knees. Then he really looked at the pages. "Wow, you're really good. Do you take art classes or something?"

Monica had said Ryan was good at art, but this was just as good as the comics Andrew liked to read.

"Nah. I just do it for fun."

"You should. Take an art class. I mean, you're really good."

Ryan shrugged.

The indifference sparked something in him. "You think art kids are losers, is that it?"

Ryan's eyebrows lifted in surprise. "No."

"Then what's your problem?"

"I don't have a problem," said Ryan quietly. "I just..." That was when Ryan caught what movie Andrew had put on, and after staring dumbly at the screen for a second, he blushed and averted his eyes down to his papers. "It's just for fun," he repeated.

Andrew stopped talking. He felt terrible for what he was doing, like being mean was just how he was. Like he couldn't stop being mean, even though... he liked Ryan. Ryan was nice. Andrew wasn't sure he'd ever met anyone as nice as Ryan.

Pulling out a marker, he went to start coloring, then stopped. "I feel like I'm gonna wreck this if I color it," he said through a tight throat.

"It's fine," Ryan said.

"It isn't fine! In case you haven't noticed, everyone thinks I'm a fuck-up."

"I don't."

"Why are you so nice to me?" Andrew blurted out.

"I'm nice to everyone." Ryan finally looked at him. That gaze was so powerful Andrew almost wanted to look away... but he couldn't. Ryan's eyes were so sad Andrew knew that if he could never have said any of those mean things if Ryan had been looking at him. "Sometimes... I wish I could be mean."

Andrew blinked. "What?"

With a sigh, Ryan said, "I feel like if I were to say how I really felt, people wouldn't like me."

"Christ, we already had therapy today," Andrew said.

"See?" Ryan looked almost happy. "That's what I mean. I can never just say something like that. I don't know... I just want people to like me."

"You're, like, the most popular guy in school." Andrew shifted off his knees, they already hurt. In doing so, his foot bumped into Ryan's foot. "Fuck it. I don't know why I'm sitting on the floor anyway." He heaved himself up and plopped himself onto the couch. Now their knees touched, but Andrew didn't pull away. He saw Ryan looking down at the point of contact. "I guess that kind of makes sense. Doesn't explain how Matt Welch is so popular. He's not the nicest guy in the world."

"Matt is nice," Ryan countered. "He's got a temper, but the rest of the time he's nice. Kind of shy, even."

"Shy?" Andrew would never have put Matt and shy together in a sentence. "Come on. Matt is a dick."

"He isn't, though." Turning a little, Ryan sat up and looked over at Andrew. "You don't even know him."

"I don't have to know him. He's an asshole."

"So are you, sometimes."

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Author's Note: Just realized there are 40 chapters in this story, so we're only a quarter of the way through!  Who's your favorite character so far?

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