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Chapter 82: "You think I'm a nutter"

After the police left, Marlena dragged Andrew into one of a guest rooms.  "Let me look at that," she demanded, pointing at his side.  She had decided to use his wound as a pretense to talk to him.

"It's really nothing," he protested.  "I can barely feel it."

"But it's still bleeding and I'm the doctor."  She had pulled the first aid kid out of the kitchen and was now pulling antiseptic and bandages from the case.   Sit," she ordered, and Andrew relented.  He sat down on the edge of the bed and raised his left arm so she could check the gunshot wound.  She crouched down and examined it.  He was right; it was just a crease.  "I don't think it needs stitches," she said.  Andrew said nothing and had no reaction at all when the antiseptic touched the wound.  Marlena packed it with some gauze, put a thicker bandage over that, and taped it up.

"Done?" Andrew asked.

Marlena shook her head, as she stood up.  "Not in the slightest.  Now we're going to talk about what happened out there."

He sighed.  "Aunt Marlena--"

"Don't 'Aunt Marlena' me, Andrew Donovan."

"It really wasn't anything," he said.  "I just reacted to Phillip pulling the gun on me."

"You nearly killed him."  Marlena crossed her arms. 

He stood up and began to pace.  "Bollocks, he'll be fine.  And what should I've done when he pulled that piece on me?  Let him shoot me?  If I hadn't moved when I did, he'd have shot me right here."  He pointed to his chest.  "And what do you think he would've done if he got inside?  I was protecting you and Mum, too."

"Andrew, I know you think what you did was right.  Maybe it was."  Marlena knew he was right, but she did not want to concede the point fully.  Andrew was too young to be that violent.  Was that what the army had done to him?  Was it the ISA?  She thought about John and everything he had gone through.  "I just know what this kind of life can do to a man.  If you get out now--"

Andrew shook his head.  "I know what you think--"

"Do you?"

"You think I'm a nutter, that I've got PTSD or I'm mental for some other reason."  He looked at her, and she saw no sign of the cold, unemotional man from earlier.   "I'm sure Mum is sitting downstairs trying to come up with a diagnosis.  Either that or finding some way to blame Father.  But I'm perfectly fine.  Don't you think the ISA psych tests would've found something?"

Marlena sighed.  "That doesn't make it any better.  Is this how you want to live your life?  Flipping some switch between normal guy and super-soldier mode?"

"I'm very good at what I do," Andrew said, evenly.

She was getting nowhere.  She wished John were here.  He might be able to talk some sense into the boy.  He knew the kind of toll it took on a man when he tried to shut off his emotions, and that's what Andrew had done earlier.  It wasn't PTSD; it really wasn't any kind of mental illness.  It was conscious and deliberate, a way to avoid processing things he might see or do.  Eventually, however, no matter how hard he might try, the things he tried to block out would come back, and he would have to face a lifetime of horrors and regrets.  Nobody came away from such a life unscathed.

Marlena just shook her head and turned away.  As she headed out of the room, she said, "You have a chance, Andy.  I just hope you realize it before it's too late."