Chucky knows a lot of things, although he doesn't always show it. He knows how to fix leaks in drains and what season Ursa Major and Ursa Minor will be at their brightest; he knows how to cut and sew cloth at just the right angles to make trim for Christmas or other decorations, and he knows how to distinguish the brown recluse from the harmless barn funnel weaver. He knows what time the mail comes in every day, and what time the trash needs to be taken out. He knows how to separate clothes in the wash, and how to blow glass, and how to play piano – even though his hands are a little small for him to brave Rachmaninoff (who loved to use octaves, and he knows about those too).
There's also a lot of things he knows about Andy Barclay, whom he keeps a special eye on – although he won't show that all the time either. He studies and memorizes Andy in the same way he does anything else, except with a little more care and attention, but just enough so that it goes unnoticeable to anyone but himself, which is the way he likes it to be. He knows that Andy can sing when he puts his heart into it, and writes poems in dactylic meter (Accented syllable, two unaccented syllables, accented syllables, two unaccented syllables, and so on, and so on). He knows that Andy is quiet and likes to be alone, but not too alone (or he becomes overwhelmed and frightened of himself), and tires quickly of small talk and social excursions (where as he can stay on and on for hours on end, bantering and chattering if allowed). He knows that Andy has a weakness for sweet drinks and sweet talk, and can be conned into just about anything if either of those are used for bargaining. He knows when Andy gets up for work, and he knows when Andy comes home again, traipsing up the stairs and wearily tumbling into the apartment just above the shop he owns. The shop where he sells guns and their ammo, although Andy is not really the type to fight. He knows that Andy is docile by nature, eager to please and easily made anxious or stressed, should things turn sour.
He knows that Andy is most definitely home too early today, and that settles strangely inside him.
Firstly, the way he tumbles in is different from most days. Andy is tired every day, but today, it is a different sort of tired. The kind that makes the hands shake and the head ache and the heart quake. He's a good three or four hours early, and he comes in with a rush, almost as if he could not wait to escape. He knows that Andy finds work overwhelming sometimes, but never enough so that he should hate it, at least not with the intensity he seems to hate it right about now.
He turns his head from the television, where he had been (ashamedly, he usually changes the channel before the normal time Andy returns) watching the Food Network because this particular recipe for twice-baked potatoes has caught his eye, and he had wanted to try it for himself (because he was bored, and it isn't as if he has anything else to do, anyways). The more he indulges himself in this sort of hobby, the less he indulges himself in less favorable ones, and he is finding that wielding knives in the kitchen has a much more satisfying result.
Secondly, Andy's eyes are different from most days. Andy smiles more now, but there is still a consistent, lingering sadness in them, one that he knows he had a part in putting there, and is determined to find a way to erase and erase and erase. But today, the sadness is intense, almost on the verge of combustion, he can see it from how the light seems to reflect so much brighter from them than usual.
He knows that Tiffany would never let him forget it if he ever told her he could judge Andy's emotions just from the way his eyes reflected. So he knows to never tell her.
Thirdly, Andy is quieter than he usually is. While, in public, amongst a crowd or even two or three friends, he doesn't say too much, when he is home, he talks quite a bit. Even now, just coming in the door, he would usually call out a greeting, followed by a slew of examples of how work went, ended with the question of how his day was. This time, Andy says nothing, and, almost as if he were avoiding him, makes his way for his room, rather than stopping at the couch. Chucky is momentarily grateful – now he has enough time to change the channel before being caught at falling into a traditional housewife persona. But then the uneasiness resettles in his stomach, and he follows Andy with his eyes, curious and concerned.
You're home early, he wants to say. But he knows that Andy is clearly upset, and he knows that this will only upset him more. So instead, he asks, "Was work bad today?" and leaves it at that; no sarcasm, no mocking words, no underlying condescension, the way he usually would. He knows that now is not the time nor the place.
Andy stops in his tracks, which is coincidentally just after the couch's arm. If he noticed the previous channel Chucky had been on, he does not say. Chucky knows that his mind is probably very far away presently.
"A bit," Andy says, but he doesn't say much else, and it is evident that there are things that he is not saying that he should.
Chucky could very well leave it. With his sharp demeanor, there is no doubt that he could botch this up very much and very quickly. But he sees Andy's hands shaking just before they're hidden in his pockets, and he knows that now is not the time for his fear nor his pride – although he very seldom makes decisions without consulting one (or both) of these aspects.
Very quickly, he takes Andy's still exposed wrist in a small but firm grip. Quickly enough so that he doesn't lose his nerve. He knows it takes him less than three seconds to find himself disgusted at how soft he's become for the man in front of him, and so he gives himself only a second before he makes his move. Before he can even think to lose himself.
"Sit down," is what he says, and Andy, surprisingly, obeys. He isn't quite sure if it is the tone of voice that he took, or if Andy is just overwhelmingly exhausted. He assumes the latter. He keeps his grip on Andy, although the hand is now fully out in the open, and he can catch Andy's fingers in between his, if even just to steady them a little bit.
Chucky knows that Andy is not one to cry much. Neither is he. They relate on this subject, at the very least. They would both rather sleep it away, or push it down so deep that it's akin to a hidden spring, one you'd find in a deep cave while exploring. It's dangerous because it only eventually comes puffing up one day in the way a geyser does, suddenly and with enormous power.
Now does not seem like a geyser is on the rise. Andy looks away, not mentioning the way their hands are so close, closer than they usually are, and the way their pulses are connected, even though one beats at a much more rapid pace. Chucky can feel the way Andy wants to leave; he's frightened of the consequences of being vulnerable, and he can't blame him. Were he Andy, he would not want to be exposed to someone like himself either.
Andy fidgets, kicking his foot around against the rug (which is old and torn, and Chucky is sure Andy has scuffed it under his shoes plenty of times before), when he finally decides to speak again.
"What do you need?"
He can hardly recognize his own voice, really. The last time he had been so gentle was when he had tried to woo Tiffany back, and it had failed. In his defense (and in hers), it had been after they'd tried and failed several times to find love in each other again. It's almost a whisper, because he's afraid of his own voice, he's afraid that he'll sound too rough, too jagged, and that he'll scare Andy away, and all of this will be for nothing.
All of this being him holding Andy's hand. But for him, it is a very big step indeed. He's almost shaking himself, from the sheer amount of humility and selflessness it took. He is reminded, once again, of how much more Andy deserves than him, and tries to steel himself against another long trip through guilt and self-depreciation.
"I…" Andy is struggling himself, he can hear it in his voice, in the way it shakes. He can feel the way his heart stutters, the way his fingers still quake in his hand. There is already a hidden guilt of his own creeping its way across his cheekbones, and Chucky wants to push him, wants to ask what could be so embarrassing, but if he were in Andy's place, he would want no pushing involved. So he waits instead, until Andy finally finishes what he had started to say, slowly and quietly, voice trembling:
"It's stupid. But I had to leave. I couldn't…" Chucky believes for a moment that he will finish, unprompted. But Andy just stops talking, and stares at the television, eyes bright. A little too bright.
Chucky faces the television too, but only because he can't stand to look at Andy when he squeezes his hand. He can't see Andy's reaction to his silent comfort, because it will be too much.
"I won't think it's stupid," he says, although he's sure he might. But he wouldn't tell Andy that it was. There are things that are not menial to him but he is sure they are to Andy, and Andy never complains. He recalls more than one embarrassing moment where he'd lost himself, despite his greatest efforts to not do so, and the way Andy would always, always, calmly come through for him.
Andy takes a deep breath, and Chucky feels himself doing the same. Then, there's a soft sigh, and Andy says, "I wanted to come home."
Chucky snorts before he realizes that he's done exactly what Andy thought he would.
"I told you you'd think it's stupid."
"I don't think it's stupid," he responds, but Andy is eyeing him reproachfully.
"You just laughed at me," he says, hurt but not hurt enough that Chucky feels bad. He knows that Andy finds it somewhat humorous that he had laughed just after he had said he would not be demeaning. He can feel it in the way that Andy's hand has already stopped shaking, the endless quivering faded away to a steady tremor of his heart.
"Everyone wants to go home from work, Andy," he says. He knows that Andy's explanation was not the full one. He knows that he is right when the color on Andy's cheeks only heightens.
"Chucky," Andy says, and his voice is so soft, and so vulnerable, and Chucky does not know what to do in these kinds of situations, and so he keeps quiet.
He does know what to do. He just doesn't think he can do it. He keeps ahold on Andy's hand, and focuses on the television, and he waits for Andy to open up again, slow and in his own time.
"I wish I knew why – I just got so overwhelmed."
Chucky knows what a panic attack is. He has suffered them before, and has suffered them alone before. He's also fallen prey to them back in the times when it was just he and Tiffany and Eddie, three vagabonds running wild in the night, committing petty crimes and eventually worse. He knows how the air seems to fall out of your lungs, and how you just cannot seem to breathe fast enough, and the brain short-circuits because nothing is connecting or working as it should be, and he knows how all that can just make things worse. He knows the cycle has to be broken.
He knows Andy has had them too, late at night, waking up panting and running to the kitchen to drink and to groan in misery. He knows Andy must have had one just now, and he is still waving off the side effects. He is surprised that Andy is not resorting to a drink now.
"Do you need a drink?" he asks, gesturing towards the beer on the coffee table. He had just cracked it open, so he knows it should still be cold, and full enough to at least bring Andy's panicking to a pause. He is again taken aback when Andy does not take the offer, and shakes his head instead.
"No, I…" Andy stops. But his body wavers, and leans Chucky's direction, and he doesn't need to say it, because Chucky knows. He knows what Andy needs. He also knows he has two choices. He can either just give Andy what he needs with no trouble, and they can move on, or he can make a fuss because he feels embarrassed about it, and cause a commotion.
Andy whimpers, and he makes his choice. He leans back against the couch arm, tugging at Andy's arm. "Well, c'mere then," he murmurs, looking towards the television, face heating. He knows he shouldn't be ashamed, but he is. Andy shivers at his touch, still wavering, as if he is unsure. He pulls harder until Andy finally falls on top of him, heavy and weary. Chucky can feel himself sinking into the couch, but he does not dare move. The television blares on. He wishes he had not left the volume so high up. It is as if he can feel Andy's anxiety coursing inside himself.
Andy adjusts his head slightly, and he now has learned something new: he now knows that Andy's head under his chin is one of the best feelings he has ever felt. He can feel Andy's heartbeat slowly settling against him, his breath evening and deepening, almost as if he were falling asleep. The only giveaway that he is awake is that his eyes are still open, mindlessly watching the colors that cross the screen.
Chucky knows about oxytocin, and how it slips inside the bloodstream and how it comes from the pituitary gland. He knows how it's used for different purposes, and he knows that it is released during moments of closeness, such as right now, as he wraps his arms around Andy, who has settled on top of him. He knows that he and Andy both are more than likely releasing it now. He knows that it can calm and soothe, and he doesn't like to think too highly of himself when it comes to his importance to Andy, but he cannot help but think that maybe he is this very stimulation for Andy. Calming, soothing, even though he is anything but by nature; he is wild and chaotic and all the things that should leave Andy running for the hills, and yet it is he that Andy chooses to rest his head on, close his eyes, and breathe until it is not such a difficult thing to do anymore.
And he knows that that is the nicest thing of all to know.