Andy stretched his legs out in front of of the patio bench and watched the mosquitoes getting zapped by the Zapper. The resolution to Jill's pregnancy scare had left him relieved, and yet somehow empty. Even though there had never been an actual pregnancy, he felt the loss of the possibility of being a father.
He had long since accepted that his role in life (well, in this life, at least) was with this family – his brother's family. This was as close to fatherhood as he ever expected to be. His brother's family was his family. His nephews were his children. His sister-in-law was his wife.
Well, not really his wife. Not completely. Nancy did love him, even if not in 'the good way.' Andy knew that the unconventional relationship they shared was probably the most that she was capable of actually feeling. He had come to terms with it over the years. He still enjoyed the flirting, and the touching, and the teasing – even when he knew it was just being done to manipulate him. Underneath it all, she really did love him. As a brother. Or as the oldest son. Or a co-conspirator-slash-confidant. Or something. Whatever he was, it was enough for him.
He was content.
There was a lot less of the manipulation going on now. Nancy was really trying to change. She was trying to differentiate between "before" and "after," not just in terms of her career choices, but in how she treated those around her.
The "after" Nancy was a familiar but strangely fragile version of her earlier self. He could see through to her internal frustration when she couldn't find a vocabulary word; the disgust in her eyes whenever she tripped; and the shear panic when she went to introduce herself to their Quebecois neighbors and found that not a single word of French would form in her mouth. His heart ached for her and for her losses.
But he did miss the flirting. He missed the light touch of her hand on his chest when she was making a point; the half-hug on his shoulders when she wanted his undivided attention; the nuzzling on the couch for no real reason except to keep him tethered.
Granted, his circumstances had changed too. Andy was sure that the The Wrath of Living With Jill Under the Same Roof was enough to keep Nancy from getting too cozy. Even now that he and Jill had officially split, Nancy was still careful to choose her battles. So far the sisters had limited their overt war to Stevie only. Andy was just the subtext.
He felt the cushion beside him move as Nancy sat down. "Penny for your thoughts," she said.
"I was watching the mosquitoes," he said. "How they are attracted to the light, and then they get zapped. They keep falling for it, despite all the evidence of how it will turn out. They see their friends getting zapped. They are actually right there, witnessing it. Hearing it. Smelling it. That is, if mosquitoes can hear and smell... and still, they go for it. It's like they can't resist the light, even though all evidence is that it will kill them. What do they think? That somehow it will be different for them? That they, somehow, will survive? That they won't get burned, even though their brothers just did? I just don't get it."
"Well, they are pretty dumb," Nancy summarized. "Not a lot of brain power there. Maybe it's just instinct."
"But what about the one that doesn't fall for it?" Andy asked. "What happens to him? One day he's out with his buddies, having a zippy guy's night out, and suddenly they all start heading off the cliff and getting zapped, one after the other. So he's smart enough not to follow them; good for him. He still dies of natural causes within what, 24 hours? So what did he accomplish? What did he do with all that extra time? How does that help anything or anyone? How does that contribute to the universe?"
"I'm sorry about the pregnancy," she answered. "I mean the perimenopause-slash-pregnancy. It sucks."
"Yeah," Andy sighed, and looked at the porch roof. He forced the words out, "I think maybe I was really ready this time."
"You were already ready last time," Nancy countered. "You did a great job with Stevie - you are doing a great job."
He shook it off.
"Andy, listen to me. I couldn't have done it without you. You raised my sons. All of them. You kept them safe. You took them to Copenhagen. And you made them the men they are. They are as much a part of you as they are of me and Judah."
"And Lars. And Esteban." he added.
Nancy swatted him playfully, "Cut it!"
Andy chuckled. "I miss this. The togetherness. You and Me Against the World."
"It's still 'You and Me'," she countered. "It's just the World that's changed. It's a New World, and we have to figure out what that means to the rest of our lives."
Nancy reached up and held his chin and his gaze, as she had done so many times before. "The one thing that is certain, absolutely certain, is that we have to do it together." Her face melted into vulnerability. "I can't survive it any other way," she whispered.