Feelings of anger were understandable. So was wariness. But Andy experienced an emotion during the remainder of that evening that he hadn't expected in regards to Ethan's return - jealousy. From the moment Dennis greeted Ethan at the apartment door and led him into the living room to his departure in the late hours, Andy said very little to Ethan directly, covering up all he was feeling and tempted to say by engaging in conversations with Dennis as often as possible. He behaved in a civil manner but exhibited no wishes of a greater association with Ethan than necessary. Ethan put on similar behaviour. Occasionally they'd glance at one another with looks that almost screamed, "Stay away from my man". Whenever Dennis went into a discussion with Ethan, Andy couldn't see an opportunity to interrupt, so he watched and listened. He fought back his nauseating disgust as Ethan made sure Dennis hung on every word he said, and he felt his insides plummeting simultaneously whenever Dennis appeared to be relaxing and becoming more and more comfortable with his former partner. In his distrust of Ethan he instinctively wanted to protect Dennis as a good friend would - but on the other hand, he'd already lectured himself about meddling in other people's affairs. As the hours went on, as pizza boxes, wine bottles and inhibitions were discarded, Andy conceded that he was strongly, heartbreaking jealous, although he couldn't understand the reasons for feeling this way. He'd made his concerns and opinions about Ethan clear since his reappearance, and in his presence they only seemed to escalate. But what he was envious of was the way in which Dennis was so vulnerable to Ethan's charms. He knew Dennis well enough to recognise that he was still being relatively cautious about the whole thing, but he could also detect when Dennis was becoming smitten with someone. In light of their history together and the resulting mess it created, being besotted would only lead to more trouble. Both he and Dennis were aware of that. But the more Dennis drank the less guarded he became, and the more relaxed. Ethan, Andy guessed, could see this change occurring in his ex and using it to his advantage. Andy was sure that if he weren't there, Ethan would be putting on his "I'm so sorry, I love you, take me back" performance. What concerned Andy the most about this, though, was he knew that in his friend's current disposition, he would allow Ethan to do it.
"Look at him," he thought, addressing whatever sides of his personality would tune in to his musings. "He's looking so calm and confident. Before long he's going to have D wrapped around his little finger. I can't allow that to happen."
As the owner of the apartment he saw it as his prerogative to look out for the well being of whoever was in his residence at all times. In his increasing dislike of the situation unfolding before him, he saw it fit to take control, even if it was for the wrong reasons.
"I really hate to interrupt you guys, but it's getting late. We all have to work tomorrow," he calmly reminded them, pointing at the wall clock for emphasis and rising to a stand. "Ethan, it was great meeting you, I hope all goes well with your job and such."
'Yip, Captain Bullshitter, that's me. The finest lies have I!' he thought.
Ethan didn't look completely ready to leave just yet, which Andy had expected. But what surprised him was Dennis's agreement with his proposal that they call it a night. He wasn't sure if it was Dennis's alcohol talking, but he liked to presume that Dennis had turned on his ex in some way, knowing that if they were together in a room for much longer both would almost explode. Dennis followed Ethan to the door and spoke to him quietly whilst Andy waited across the room. He couldn't decipher what was being said amongst the mumbles but by body language and the tones in which they spoke, Andy could see that Dennis was ready for Ethan to leave. This delighted him.
Once Ethan had finally left and Dennis had shut the door, Dennis strode over to Andy and sat his glass on a coaster nearby, exhaling loudly.
"Well, that went for a few hours too long," Dennis said. Andy agreed. "Don't get me wrong, it was great to just relax and talk comfortably with him, but if it wasn't for these little drinkies I wouldn't have gabbed so much. I'm not gonna be able to speak in the morning." Dennis giggled, demonstrating that he was tipsy from the alcohol. "I'm usually good with drinking but I guess I lost count. So, Andy, how do you feel about Ethan now?"
Andy was careful in his choice of words for his response. "He's an acquired taste. I'm still not sure about him. I could tell he's ass-over-biceps for you, though. I should ask how YOU feel about Ethan after tonight, really, now that you've spent time talking with him."
Dennis lowered himself into a chair at the table. "Well, I'm not going to say I didn't enjoy our chat. I found that I really like having him around when we're not talking about things that have been said and done in the past. You know, after a while I almost forgot anything had ever gone wrong between us." Seeing the look in Andy's eyes as he geared up for an objection and perhaps a lecture, Dennis rushed ahead. "But it doesn't mean I'm willing to start up a romance with him again. I'm still being cautious. If anything, and I'm only saying this at this present stage, but we'll probably end up simply being friends."
"Won't you find that hard considering your history?"
"Oh, sure, I'm not saying everything will just be forgotten. But if I feel that he's paid his price for what he did, and if he's prepared to settle for a friendship, then we can work on forming something better than what we had, just without any romance."
"OK, I'm almost positive that it's not you talking, it's the alcohol. But really, how can you expect that he'll be so willing to 'settle' for something less than what I can see he wants?"
"I know what he wants too, Andy. He may feel regret for hurting me but I'm the one who knows the pain better than he or anyone ever could. Look, I'm probably not making sense, talking in circles, whatever…but my basic point is, I enjoyed his company tonight and at this point in time I'm willing to work towards…what's the word? Healing? Resolution? Is that it?"
"Time may heal wounds but the memories will always be there, and sometimes they can hurt even more. Dennis, I know you think things are all fine and dandy now, but I'm really worried that you're letting your feelings get in the way of your better judgement. I can tell that you have some unresolved feelings from your past relationship with him and you can't let that guide you down the wrong path. He may regret what he's done but I'm fearing that he can see that you're still very vulnerable and he'll use it as a tool to move his way back into your life."
"Hey, Ethan will always be a part of my life, no matter what happens," Dennis launched into a rebuttal, aided by his alcoholic consumption loosening his tongue and sending his emotions writhing. "And yes, I still have some feelings that need to be resolved, I'll grant you that. But in regards to resolving things, I don't want to spend the rest of my life feeling that I could've done something to ease the pain a little. For all we've been through, God help me, I can't hate him. You may forget this but there was a time in my life that I was in love with him. He's hurt me a great deal, I can't ever forget that, but if he and I can take our relationship to an agreeable level, where there won't be any great chance of being hurt again, then later on in life I'm going to feel so much better about all that's happened. Because I'll know that I did something instead of sitting around feeling sorry for myself. Before anything else, Andy, we were friends, and in retrospect that was a better stage for us to be at because much less was at risk. Of course I wish to a degree that we were still together but I'm hoping that in reconciling with him and forming a basis of friendship, I can find a way to deal with what's been done, so that we can get back to what we started out as: friends. I may be vulnerable, but I'm smart and I know myself. I can't simply leave it alone. I need a resolution for myself."
Dennis stood up and stepped closer to Andy, his waves of emotions smoothing over a little. "Andy, I really appreciate what you've been doing, and by the way I've spoken about Ethan it's completely understandable that you're worried for me. But I've needed a supportive friend all this time and I really don't want you to turn on me now that I'm trying to work on this."
Andy waited a moment to take in all that Dennis had said before replying with more truth behind it that he could allow himself to demonstrate, "I only warn you because I care about you."
"I know that, and I wouldn't have been able to come to such a turning point like this if it wasn't for you being such a wonderful friend. In saying that, I need your help to kick-start the process. And this means that I'm asking you to help me reach a reconciliation with him."
"Please. I wouldn't ask this of you if I didn't trust you and have security in what you and I have. You understand this situation and me more than most others do. It's not often that I let down my guard and ask for help, but I feel that I need it. Andy, will you help me?"
Andy was speechless for a while, considering what Dennis was asking of him very carefully. He thought it through and realised that something Dennis had said about Ethan also applied to their own relationship: before anything, they were friends. Andy saw this as meaning that, in order to be the friend Dennis was pleading with him to be, he needed to put aside his secret feelings for Dennis and think of HIS needs in the affair before his own. To be a true friend he needed to be selfless in guiding Dennis to make the right decisions. He hated to do it but he made up his mind: as soon as Dennis wanted his help to seek resolution in his relationship with Ethan, Andy had to forget about how much he cared for Dennis.
He embraced his friend in a demonstrative hug of loyalty and agreed to assist him. In his mind, it sealed fate like the adhesive on an envelope: Andy would never be allowed to love Dennis.