Andrew looked down at the book that lay open on the desk before him. Looking up and out the window he watched the sky and sighed as the answers failed to appear before him. A sense of confusion and isolation washed through him. He closed his eyes and leaned forwards putting his head in his hands.
"You know they think you're unclean now. They only tolerate you while you're around. They talk about how dirty you are when you're not listening. Come on Andy boy, you're smart you should know that." Whispered a demon of the past in Andrew's ear. His eyes snapped open and he stood bolt upright in his chair. His eyes flew around the room looking for the source of the voice, he failed to find anyone in the room and leaned back against the desk and closed his eyes again.
"Andy, are you ok?" Asked a deep voice infront of him. Andrew snapped back to reality again and jumped. Cameron reached out and put his hands on Andrew's shoulder. Andrew squirmed trying to break free of the steady grasp. Cameron kept hold and waited for Andrew to work out who was holding him. Finally Andrew allowed himself to focus on the tormentor and realised who it was. With his chest heaving he sank back onto the desk. Cameron swung around and sat beside him, a concerned look in his eye.
"What's up bud?" Cameron asked gently. Andrew shook slightly and tried to calm himself further, Cameron waiting for him there, a strong presence.
"I keep hearing his voice when I close my eyes." Andrew said when his breathing had levelled out. Cameron took his hand off Andrew's shoulder and wrapped his arm around Andrew's back.
"He's not here anymore Andy. You know that. He can't be saying anything to you. It's only in your mind that he's alive and it's only because you let him be there." Cameron said softly. Andrew looked up, eyes glazing slightly with fear and confusion.
"You think I don't know that? I've been reading over my text books. It tells me everything about it. I know what's going on, I know what is happening. It's like I know it but am not really appreciating that it's all over." Andrew said. Cameron nodded and waited for Andrew to continue. When he didn't, Andrew pulled him closer and rested his head against Andrew's.
"What's say we go away this weekend?" Cameron asked. Andrew looked at him questioningly.
"We can just go away to the beach, a wooded cabin or just road trip for the weekend. Leave Friday afternoon and come back Sunday night." Cameron suggested.
"Why?" Andrew finally asked, his eyes searching for a motive.
"Well, I thought it might do you good to get out of the apartment. Give us both a change of scene and give us some time together. Just the two of us with no one else around." Cameron said. Andrew looked at the carpeted floor and tried to see a patern amongst the weave.
"We don't have to Andy, it was just a thought." Cameron said, trying to keep the defeat from his voice but not fully able to.
"I want to Cam." Andrew said finally. Cameron turned his head to look at Andrew.
"But..." Cameron asked.
"No but. I want to go. With you." Andrew finally admitted. Cameron couldn't stop the look of joy which washed over his face. Seeing the happiness in his friend's eyes made Andrew smile. In his ear he heard the sinister voice whispering again.
"He's paying for you to go. Like a common whore." Andrew's smile flickered briefly. For the first time in weeks, Andrew decided to ignore the words that came from a mouth with no lips.
Mitch watched Cameron for half an hour while he sat watching the television with the same goofy grin despite the fact that the screen was being invaded by another tear jerking chick flick. Cameron noticed Mitch watching him and glanced over.
"What's up?" Cameron asked.
"I could ask you the same thing. You're sitting there and making out you're Rosie O'Donnell in a Krispy Kreme shop armed with an unlimited credit card." Mitch said. Cameron stuck his tongue out at Mitch who grinned in response.
"Actually, Andy and I are going away for the weekend. Not quite sure where yet." Cameron admitted with the goofy grin returning to his face.
"Say it with me now... smitten." Mitch commented solemly. Cameron ducked his head with embarassment and flipped him off.
"It's the best response I've seen from Andy in over a month. He hasn't been right since he came home and now he's starting to come back to us." Cameron smiled.
"He'll never be the same Cam. He'll always have to fight demons which say he's been soiled. No matter what we tell him he's not. It's a slow progression and it'll take a lot of time and a grunt load of work."
"I don't care Mitch. He can be ruined and soiled to the rest of the world and he'll be prefect for me." Cameron said.
"Ok man, no chick flick moments. I just put away the hallmark cards and kleenex." Mitch grimaced. Cameron chuckled and looked at him.
"So is Tyler coming over tonight?" He asked. Mitch just about melted into the seat as he said yes.
"Ok Goop Boy. Make sure you scotchguard the couches so we don't have random DNA samples appearing."
"Yeah, yeah. Funny. Go schmooze Andy and leave me alone." Mitch retorted, hurling a cushion and Cameron's head. Cameron caught it effortlessly as he got off the couch. As he was walking by Mitch, whapped him in the face with it and then took off down the hall laughing.
Walking into the bedroom, he found Andrew sitting on the bed and looking out the window vacantly. Cameron decided to wait for Andrew to come back to earth before saying anything. Gradually, Andrew became aware of someone else in the room and glanced over at Cameron standing there. A soft and gentle smile came forth on his lips.
"Hey." He said quietly.
"Hey yourself." Cameron said just as quietly as he sank to the bed beside Andrew. Andrew sat quietly for a moment before speaking.
"Did you mean what you said before?" Andrew asked. Cameron's mind thought back.
"To Mitch I mean. When you said that I could be ruined and soiled to everyone but not to you?" Andrew clarified.
"Eaves dropping were you?" Cameron chidded lightly. Andrew looked down and blushed.
"Yeah, I was." Andrew admitted guiltily.
"I don't mind. Yes, I meant every word." Cameron told him. Andrew looked up and smiled. Cameron saw something in Andrew's eye and it reminded him of who he had known. The man who he cared for. The man he loved. Andrew leaned forwards and hesitated a moment before pressing his lips against Cameron's. Cameron was a little surprised by the act but after a moment, returned the kiss.
When their lips seperated, Cameron tilted his head forwards and rested his forehead against Andrew's.
"Are you ok?" Cameron asked gently. Andrew made a slight 'uh huh' noise which satisfied Cameron. Cameron closed his eyes and just enjoyed the closeness he felt to Andrew at that point. He opened his eyes and lifted his head from Andrew's.
"You want to lie down with me?" He asked. Andrew nodded and stretched out as Cameron toed off his shoes and went to lie at Andrew's side. He stopped when he felt Andrew directing him to lie half on top of him.
"You sure?" He asked and Andrew nodded, obviously enjoying the physical promiximity as much as Cameron. Cameron kissed him lightly on the temple and then laid his head on the pillow beside his friend.
Mitch blinked as Vanessa breezed past him through the open door. As she dropped her handbag on the couch and turned to face Mitch.
"So where's the dynamic duo?" She asked.
"They've been in the bedroom for the last couple of hours." Mitch told her. She arched an eyebrow questioningly. Mitch shook his head.
"Nothing like that. I checked on them before when I was thinking about ordering in tonight and they're just asleep. Fully dressed too I may add. I don't think Andy is ready for anything more really." Mitch told her.
"So are we ordering in?" Asked Vanessa as she smacked her lips lightly. Mitch snorted at the refocusing of her attention.
"Itallian or Chinese?" Mitch asked.
"Surprise me Fairy Dust." Grinned Vanessa.
"Indian it is then Billy Ray." Mitch grinned back.
"Hey! Everyone knows Achy Breaky Heart when they're drunk!" Vanessa replied.
"You'd had one beer. We all know that the only person who can outdrink you is a fish." Mitch countered and wandered off to order the food.
"I thought my ears were aching from the whine of an ebony goddess, now I know it's just a burnt angel." Came a voice from behind Vanessa. She turned to find Andrew wandering by towards the kitchen.
"I thought I heard something that resembled a quip but now I know it was just the breeze and to be ignored."
"Let me treat that retort with the disdain it deserves because God knows, they don't have a cream to treat it with anything else." Came Andrew's voice from the kitchen.
"Are you really going to start a battle of the wits with me?" Vanessa snapped.
"God no, my opponents unarmed." Shot back Andrew wandering back with a steaming mug of coffee in his hand.
"Is that coffee made the way I like my men?" Vanessa asked peering at the coffee mug
"No it's taken."
"I meant black and strong."
"I made it the way I like my men. White and sweet."
"Shall we really go into your men?" She asked and regretted it when Andrew paled. The voice was back in his ear whispering it's success.
"See, she thinks your past has tainted you. She sees you like they all do." The voice whispered in his ear and Andrew shrank back further. He was still going back when he ran into something and jumped.
"What's going on here?" Asked Cameron's voice behind him. Andrew lifted his head and then lowered it and pushed back past Cameron.
"It's nothing. I just... I left... I need something from the bedroom." Andrew got out and all but ran back to the bedroom, shutting the door soundly behind him. Cameron looked at Vanessa quizzically who couldn't quite meet his eye.
"I fucked up Cam. We were bantering and I just went to far. We were talking about coffee and I asked if it was like my men, black and strong. He said no, it was like his men. Being white and sweet. I asked if we really should go into his men and he freaked."
"I can't imagine why he would do that Ness. One boyfriend gets him hooked on drugs and another beats him..." Cameron said.
"And the other one cheats on him." Vanessa interrupted glaring at Cameron.
"Vanessa, I think it's time you left." Said Mitch from behind her. She turned to look at him.
"You've upset Andy and taken one hell of a cheap shot at Cam. I won't have that in my home so I think you need to leave." Mitch said. Vanessa arched an eyebrow.
"Fairy Dust grew a back bone. Who'd have thought?"
"Funny Billy Ray. Come back when you're ready to apologise." Mitch said firmly. Vanessa snatched up her bag and started to leave when she looked back at Cameron.
"Tell Andy I said goodbye and I'm sorry." With that she was gone. Mitch and Cameron looked at each other.
"Indian will be here in twenty minutes." Mitch told Cameron.
"I'll go coax Andy out of the bedroom then." Cameron said.
Cameron knocked lightly on the door.
"Andy?" He called out.
"See, he's come to agree with her." Said the voice in Andrew's ear. Andrew covered his ears so both voices would be blocked out. There was a knock again and again Cameron called out.
"You can't block me out Andy. I'm here and you have to listen. I tell you the truth don't I Andy. I told you I'd never leave, that you'd always carry part of me. You can carry what I taught you." The voice taunted. Cameron's knocking became more insistent along with calling out Andrew's name.
"Listen to how he's calling out for you. He needs to make sure you're still where he wants you. Wants to make sure you haven't done something he'd call foolish. Make sure you haven't taken the easy way out like the nothing you are. Maybe you should take the easy way out. You'd do them a favour if you did. They wouldn't have to worry about you anymore. It could be over so easily if you did." The voice continued in his ear.
"You just said there was a way out. You just said there was an easy way out. I won't kill myself which is the easy way out. So there's only the hard way out. I can get out. You can't keep me forever then." Andrew said outloud. The voice didn't reply and all Andrew could hear was Cameron knocking again.
"Come in." Andrew called out and Cameron carefully opened the door and peered into the room. Andrew half smiled at his friend. Cameron came and sat down and looked at his friend.
"You doing ok? I heard what Vanessa said." Cameron said. Andrew nodded his head and reached for his coffee again. He stopped and sighed then stood up. Cameron rose quickly beside him and Andrew put a calming hand on his shoulder.
"It's ok, I'll be fine. I just wanted to talk to Mitch." Andrew said. Cameron nodded understanding that there were somethings that only Mitch could help his friend with.
"I'm here if you need me Andy." Cameron said. Andrew looked at him and nodded.
"I know you are. I appreciate it." Andrew replied. Cameron wrapped his arms around Andrew's shoulder and kissed him gently.
"I love you Andy. Let me know if I can do anything to help." Cameron said quietly, kissing Andrew's cheek softly.
"I know you do." Andrew kissed him briefly on the lips and left the room.
Andrew found Mitch out on the small balncony they setting out plates for the food he'd ordered. Mitch turned as he saw Andrew coming and walked inside to wrap an arm around his friend.
"You doing ok now?"
"Yeah... no... I mean... I don't..."
"The world's still twisting in ways you can't tell?"
"Something like that and... no, never mind." Andrew said looking a little lost. Mitch put his finger under Andrew's chin and lifted his face so that they were looking into each other's eyes.
"You can talk to me. I know where you are because I've been there. I know you need to talk and I know you aren't talking to Cameron."
"Yeah well if you know it all so well, why don't you tell me what's going on?"
"I'd guess that you're still believing that you're dirty and that you can feel his hands on you. I'd also guess that you hear his voice in your ear telling you that everyone thinks you're disgusting. That you are nothing. That people think you'll just take the easy way out. That maybe you should." Mitch said evenly. Andrew blinked in surprise at all the words coming out of Mitch's mouth.
"I heard that voice saying those things to me for three months after I came here to you and Cam. It wasn't easy and at times I thought about it. I thought really hard about it. I didn't because I wanted to make it up to you and Cam first for taking me in. Then things started to go right and the voice started to quieten. I still hear it at night sometimes. Then I realise I have friends around me and that Tyler loves me. You've got Nessa, you've got me and you've got Cam. There's one guy I'd want on my side. He loves you like nothing else." Mitch kept talking straight over the top of Andrew every time he opened his mouth.
"So I don't want you to think of the easy way out. I don't want you to disappear and I don't want you to think that the voice is right and no one cares. We all care and we all love you." Mitch said finally slowing his monologue down. Andrew looked down to the floor again, a place he was becoming too accustomed to looking. Mitch slung his arm around Andrew's shoulder.
"It'll work out Andy. Just let it happen. Now go let your guy know that food's ready." Mitch told him and smiled as Andrew trudged down to the room where Cameron was waiting. He smiled inwardly hoping that maybe things would now begin to heal and all the bruising across Andrew's heart would fade and he could learn to love freely once more.