Actions

Work Header

The Giraffe Notes

Chapter Text


2002

Jesse is a mouse. He is so insignificant that he could just as well be invisible. He has curly hair, sharp elbows, panic attacks, and an unrequited love for stray cats. He sits in the very front in class because he knows all the answers. When the other kids are busy having friends and going to parties, he does his course work and enjoys it.

Jesse is a mouse. He is small, insignificant, and scared.

--

Andrew is a giraffe. He has long skinny legs and a long skinny neck and the other kids pick on him constantly. He's British – well, half – and they make fun of his accent, his neck, his hair (huge and wild like a lion's mane) and everything else about him. He's a late transfer, three months before graduation, and he lives with his aunt and uncle.

Andrew is a giraffe. He is tall, subdued and British, and there's always a storm brewing in his eyes.

--

Jesse thinks he's the only one who actually sees Andrew, which is probably the universe's idea of a joke since no one sees Jesse. He sees the awkward grace in Andrew's movements, made stuttery by the constant fear of being ridiculed. He thinks that in his element Andrew moves like a dancer, fluid and sure.

He sees the beauty in Andrew's troubled eyes, in the downturned curve of his mouth and his pale thin cheeks. He sees the beauty in the wild mop of Andrew's hair, in his slender hands, and narrow hips. He hears the melody in Andrew's accent and the brightness in his words. He sees when no one else is looking.

Andrew wants to be an actor; he said that once in the first few days, before he stopped talking all together. They laugh about that too. Jesse thinks he'll be brilliant once he breaks out of his shell.

Jesse wants to be a writer; no one laughs about that because no one cares, but it's okay. He remembers what it was like in middle school before they grew tired of pushing him around. His family believes in him; he thinks that's enough. He wonders, sometimes, if Andrew's family believes in him. He hopes so.

--

The first note is an impulse, a quick scribble and a badly drawn giraffe, slipped into Andrew's locker when no one is looking (as if anyone ever looks).

-

Giraffes are strong enough to kill a lion. You are stronger than them.

-

Jesse barely makes it to the downstairs bathroom before he throws up.

--

The second note is deliberate and much more elaborate. He spends hours drawing and re-drawing the giraffe, coloring it and writing down his message. It's still just a crappy cartoon, but he thinks that maybe it's the thought that counts.

-

I know that they mean it as an insult but I think giraffes are beautiful.

-

He signs this one mouse and draws tiny little ears on the o. He's not sure why, maybe he's trying to mislead Andrew into thinking he's a girl, or maybe he wants to give Andrew a clue.

--

Jesse isn't going to write a third note, he feels weird and panicky enough about the first two, but then Kyle (the biggest asshole of them all) cuts Andrew's favorite shirt (at least Jesse thinks it's a favorite, he wears it often) to pieces during PE and he just has to.

-

I bet you wonder what this is all about. I just want you to know that someone out there thinks you are beautiful. /mouse

PS. You should tell Mr. P about what Kyle did.

--

After that the notes just keep coming; some silly, some serious, but always with the same lame cartoon giraffe and sometimes with his little grey and mousy self. Jesse employs a level of stealth in delivering them that he honestly didn't think he was capable of. He probably would have given himself away by now if he ever stayed to watch Andrew find them, but he never does.

Sometimes he is tempted but he's constantly plagued by guilt for not doing more and honestly doesn't think he could take watching Andrew ball them up and throw them away. The notes might not be much, but Jesse spends hours poring over them, trying to find the right tone and the right words, drawing giraffes until his hand aches.

--

With three weeks left to graduation and tens of notes later Jesse accidentally sees Andrew finding one (this one stuck into the pocket of his jeans before he got out of the shower after PE). He looks around furtively before pulling it out of his pocket and cupping it in his palms to read it, as if he's afraid someone will tear it out of his hands and use it to mock him.

-

Your hair is like a lion's mane… AWESOME. /mouse

-

When he looks up again he's smiling and his entire face transforms. Jesse watches him from across the yard and his breath sticks in his throat with the beauty of it. Andrew should always be smiling.

--

You are so pretty when you smile. You should do it all the time. /mouse

--

Jesse has a crush, a hopeless, helpless crush, and if this were a high school comedy he would be brave enough to ask Andrew to meet him somewhere neutral and then one of them wouldn't show up but that would be okay because they'd still get each other in the end. This isn't a high school comedy, it's real life, and Jesse is nowhere near brave enough. He doesn't even know if Andrew is gay.

He writes more notes instead; silly and serious, awkward and funny, self-deprecating when it all gets to be too much, but always heartfelt. He dreams about kissing Andrew at night, imagines it, hopes for it, but he knows it's a pipe dream. Life doesn't work that way.

--

Andrew's parents show up for graduation and Jesse accidentally gets the full story as to why Andrew transferred. Andrew's mom has been very sick and they wanted to spare him that burden, but she's better now, on her way to being okay. Andrew smiles a lot, shaking everyone's hand as if everything is forgotten. Jesse hangs back, he has one last note to deliver and he's just waiting for his chance. His heart feels stupid and heavy, and his mom keeps throwing him worried looks.

Andrew shakes his hand too, eventually, after Jesse has managed to slip the note into Andrew's copy of the yearbook. He looks straight into Jesse's eyes, as if he's trying to find something there. Jesse stares back, tongue thick and cheeks flaming.

"Goodbye, Jesse," Andrew says and Jesse's heart stutters because he didn't think Andrew even knew his name. They never actually talked before.

"Good luck," Jesse says, too fast. "Uh… with the acting and… uhm… stuff."

Andrew throws his head back when he laughs, exposing the gloriously long line of his neck. Jesse heart pounds and his dick twitches and he's so very grateful he's still wearing his robe. He pulls his hand back, realizing his sweaty palm is still pressed against Andrew's and licks his lips.

"Have a safe flight home," he mumbles.

He turns to leave, doesn't want to ruin the moment even more, but Andrew grabs his arm. "I read your story," he says. "In the school paper. It was really good."

"Oh." Jesse flushes some more, terrified and exhilarated, and he manages an awkward smile. "Thank you."

Andrew looks as if he's going to say something more but after a moment he lets go of Jesse's arm. It's not quite the happily ever after Jesse dreamed of, but it's way more than the nothing-at-all he thought he'd get.

--

I WILL MISS YOU!

You probably won't miss your besotted stalker but if you do, know that I will think of you often and with fondness. Have a good life, Andrew!

It's signed with a cartoon drawing of the mouse, a small heart suspended above its head, while the giraffe looks down in consternation.

--

The last time Jesse sees Andrew he's sliding into his aunt's car. He lifts his hand in an awkward wave when Andrew spots him and the way Andrew waves back makes his heart lurch painfully. They could have been friends, Jesse thinks, if he'd just been a little braver. He curls his shaking hands into fists and stuffs them into his pockets. He doesn't watch the car drive away.

--



2010

Sometimes Jesse feels as if he's swimming in words; verbs, adjectives, substantives, conjunctions and too many adverbs. He has reccurring nightmares of choking to death buried underneath a mountain of terrible drafts and sometimes he takes to the Sunday paper with his ruthless red pen, but most of the time he loves his job.

It's not what he planned on doing when he graduated high school, it's not even what he planned on doing when he acquired his Master’s but he's good at it and spending all day correcting other people's mistakes placates his OCD to the point where it almost never crops up otherwise.

Jesse is a copy editor with one of the country's biggest publishing firms and he spends eight to ten hours a day poring over someone else's words. He has an office with two windows, one facing the open office landscape and one facing the street, a state of the art computer and an uncomfortably large desk.

Three plants live on his window sill, soaking up the sun that periodically falls in through the slanted blinds, and a lone leather chair stands before his desk. A simple black frame stands at the edge of his desk where other people might keep pictures of their family. It holds a simple white card with make it say what it means and mean what it says written in simple black script. Aaron Sorkin, the editor-in-chief gave it to Jesse on his first day and Jesse's done his best to heed that advice ever since.

Jesse is good at his job and he takes pride in his job and if he sometimes uses his job to excuse the fact that he has yet to send his own novel out for consideration then no one is the wiser. Jesse might no longer be invisible, but he's still an insignificant grey little mouse in a very big world and he has a lot to learn about taking chances.

--

From: Emma Stone (emma.stone@randomhouse.com)
To: Jesse Eisenberg (jesse.eisenberg@randomhouse.com)
Subject: Are you watching the Oscars???

Are you? Are you? Are you? He WOOOOOOOON!!!!!!!!!!!

-

From: Justin Bartha (doyathinkimsexy@gmail.com)
To: Jesse Eisenberg (jesse.eisenberg@randomhouse.com)
Subject: Best Actor In A Supporting Role

Your boy's all famous and shit now!!!!

-

From: Joe Mazello (joe.mazello@randomhouse.com)
To: Jesse Eisenberg (jesse.eisenberg@randomhouse.com)
Subject: Oh, look at that precious face…

-

From: Emma Stone (emma.stone@randomhouse.com)
To: Jesse Eisenberg (jesse.eisenberg@randomhouse.com)
Subject: HOMG HIS SPEEEEEEEECH!!!!

YOU HAVE TO WATCH HIS SPEECH!

--

Sometimes the fact that Jesse has friends now feels like a wondrous almost magical thing but sometimes, not so much. Jesse stares at the number of emails that dropped into his inbox overnight, there is one from Aaron and two from his authors, but the rest are all exclamation point filled messages about Andrew winning an Academy Award.

He is never ever drinking alcohol again.

It's been eight years and the fact that Jesse still has a crush the size of Texas is frankly embarrassing, but if it wasn't for alcohol it would have been a quiet personal embarrassment and not one publicly shared. But all it took was three pitchers of margaritas, a party hat, and some one-hit-wonder from the late nineties and suddenly Jesse was blabbering incoherently about the hot guy he went to high school with for a few months who is an actor now and still so very hot and talented and seemingly amazing just like Jesse knew he'd be.

At least Emma is the only one that knows about the notes because she was the one saddled with the task of making sure that his increasingly drunk and foolish self was tucked in safely and didn't choke on his own vomit and was therefore subjected to even more incoherent babbling and vaguely pornographic musings that Jesse thankfully doesn't remember in detail. He doesn't think he'd ever live it down if Justin found out about the notes. Justin is ruthless.

It's possible that Jesse didn't think of Andrew every day in the past eight years. He has a life now and he was actually quite busy in college, but since Andrew's fame exploded it's been very hard to avoid him. It's difficult to not think about someone who is regularly plastered on billboards all over town and whose face adorns the front of half the magazines in the grocery store checkout. Jesse knows because he's tried.

He scrolls through the inbox again, deleting all of the emails about Andrew without responding, but he allows himself a smile and one moment of fierce pride. Andrew made it, just like Jesse knew he would.

--

Emma drops into his office before lunch, flopping down into his visitor's chair and staring at him until he starts to feel uncomfortable.

"What?" he asks.

"The notes," Emma says. "Did you sign them?"

Jesse flushes, tapping his fingers against the computer keys randomly, creating a keysmash in the middle of the document he's putting together. He considers pretending he doesn't know what she's talking about but he's pretty sure that would just end up being incredibly embarrassing.

"Why?" he asks.

Emma shrugs. "Just curious."

Her eyes are sharp, hawk-like, and it doesn't feel like idle curiosity at all.

"Yeah… I…" He lifts a hand and scrubs at the back of his neck. "I signed them with… uh… mouse."

"I fucking knew it," Emma exclaims, catapulting out of the chair and coming around to Jesse's side of the desk, easily shouldering him out of the way. "Holy shit. You're gonna… Jesus."

"What?" Jesse asks, bewildered and alarmed. "What are you…"

Emma hisses and he trails off, watching with trepidation as she brings up a browser window and opens up her email. She goes into her sent folder and brings up an email to him that contains nothing but a link. Jesse deleted that particular email just minutes ago without looking at it.

She clicks the link, bringing up the YouTube video it directs to and hovers with the cursor over ‘play’.

"Okay," she says, sucking in a breath. "We are going to watch this and then I'm going to take you out to lunch and we'll discuss where to go from here."

Jesse’s stomach clenches and he worries at his lower lip. Andrew's face is frozen on the screen, the video title is: Andrew Garfield acceptance speech Academy Awards 2010, and Jesse thinks he might throw up.

Emma hits play. "The first part is just generally adorable," she says, clicking on the timeline below the video somewhere close to the end. "It's the end I want you to see."

Jesse holds his breath while the video loads and then Andrew's face fills the screen again, his eyes big and shining and mouth pulled into a helpless smile. He rattles off a list of names that mean nothing to Jesse, hands shaking as he makes wide expansive gestures. Then he goes silent, bending closer to the microphone and clearing his throat.

"And lastly I'd like to thank someone… Someone who probably doesn't know how much of an impact they've had on my life. Mouse… if you're out there, if you're watching this right now… I just… I just want to say thank you. You… you made my life better at a time when everything sucked… and I… I'm so very grateful and I think about you every day and I wish… more than anything… that I could take you out to dinner and say thank you in person. I… I've already babbled on for too long but thanks…"

He straightens up and smiles, eyes shining. "Thank you. All of you."

Andrew steps back, turns to talk to the host, or maybe the presenter, Jesse doesn't know, and then the video cuts off.

--

Jesse can't breathe. It's like a panic attack but not quite and his stomach can't decide if it wants to be up or down and the restaurant is way too hot. He has yet to say a word to Emma, staring blindly at the menu while his fingers curl around the edges of the table, thoughts running rampant through his mind without any semblance of order.

A waiter shows up and Emma orders for the both of them, or at least he thinks so because the waiter picks up the menus and disappears without even trying to talk to Jesse.

"So…" Emma says, placing her hands flat on the table.

Jesse shakes his head, staring off to the side. He's not ready to talk about it, doesn't know if he'll ever be, but the knowledge that somehow he helped, that somehow Andrew doesn't hate him for being a coward, sits like a warm weight in his chest.

"Okay," Emma says softly, reaching across the table to touch his clenched fingers. "We'll talk about it later."

Jesse nods and manages something that almost feels like a smile. Later is good. Never would be better, but he knows Emma won't let him get away with that. Sometimes she's worse than his therapist.

--

Emma gives him a week. A week during which Jesse rewatches Andrew’s acceptance speech too many times, reads too many Andrew Garfield interviews and watches too many Andrew Garfield movies. His relatively harmless crush on a movie star suddenly feels daunting and dangerous, because his heart picks up speed whenever he hears Andrew's voice and he loses count of how many times he jerks off in the shower coming with Andrew's name on his lips. He's a pathetic excuse for a human being.

"Time's up," Emma says one morning, coming into his office and sliding down into his visitor's chair as if she owns it. "If you don't talk to me I'm telling Justin everything."

Jesse’s fingers falter against the computer keys and he swallows thickly. "What's there to talk about?" he asks.

Emma rolls her eyes. "How you're going to get your guy of course."

Jesse flushes. "Don't be ridiculous," he mutters.

He doesn't mention that most of his 4am thoughts revolve around accidentally on purpose bumping into Andrew and having Andrew fall madly in love with him, because he knows a fairytale when he imagines it and he doesn't want Emma to know just how pathetic he is.

"Come on," Emma says. "He obviously wants to get in touch with you."

"He doesn't know it's me," Jesse points out. "It's… What would I even say to him? Hi, I'm Mouse? That would be ridiculous."

The thing is that even Jesse's fantasies all end in the same pathetic way with Andrew patting his shoulder and saying something that equals 'so long and thanks for the fish' because even in his head Jesse can't imagine a world where someone like Andrew actually falls in love with someone like him. Andrew seems like the sweetest guy, soft-spoken, almost shy, humble and perfect but he's still a super-hot movie star and Jesse is, well, Jesse.

Emma huffs. "I just think you should try. You always talk about being more daring but the most daring thing you did last year was to call Stephanie Meyer a hussy and you apologized like seven million times for that."

Jesse blushes. That was not one of his proudest moments.

"It's like…," Emma makes a frustrated face. "Tons of guys want to sleep with you, okay? You've had boyfriends, you make friends a lot easier than you think… I'm absolutely certain that if Andrew got to know you he would fucking love you, so just… I just wish you'd try."

"How?" Jesse asks, not quite annoyed but getting there. "How am I supposed to even get in contact with a fucking movie star? The world is full of people who think they'd be perfect for someone famous but that doesn't mean they actually are and it's just… I'd rather have him remember me fondly than look at me with disappointment. It's… I…"

He cuts himself off, realizing he's gone too far, and stares down at the keyboard.

"Oh Jesse," Emma says sadly. "Don't sell yourself so short."

Jesse shakes his head and sighs. "I just don't see how it would work," he says, and when he looks up Emma nods, smiling softly.

"Okay," she says and he thinks that's the end of it.

--

Two weeks later Emma marches into Jesse's office and slams a note down on his desk.

"Here," she says.

Jesse frowns. It's a small white slip of paper, wrinkled and stained. If there's something written on it, the writing's on the underside.

"What is it?" he asks.

"Andrew Garfield's email address."

"What?" he squeaks. "How would you even have… What the fuck?"

She grins, crossing her arms over her chest. "I have my ways," she says.

Jesse gingerly picks the note up and turns it over. "You've got to be kidding," he says, staring at the address written in a sloppy script he doesn't recognize.

Emma's grin widens. "Nope," she says.

"This is really his email?"

"Yep."

Jesse traces over the writing with a damp fingertip. "And you're not joking?"

"No."

Jesse looks up.

"Yes? Damnit, Jess, I'm not joking. It's not a prank. That is Andrew Garfield's private email address."

Jesse swallows thickly. "Okay," he says, voice shaking. "Okay."

Emma smiles and leans across the desk to tug on a strand of his hair. "Email him," she says and then she leaves.

Jesse keeps the note in front of his keyboard for the rest of the day. He doesn't email.

--

It's 3 AM when Jesse stumbles out of bed, trips over a cat, and boots up his laptop. He drums his fingers against the worn surface of the desk while he waits for it to boot and then accidentally opens up five browser windows, clicking the icon too many times. He closes down four and opens up the Google Mail home screen in the remaining one.

He clicks Create an account and then stares blankly at the options. One of the cats rubs up against his ankles and he nearly startles out of his skin before he bends down to pat it absently, still trying to think of a name. The cat, probably Austen, bites his wrist and he straightens up, putting his fingers to the keys.

He hits I accept. Create my account. before he can change his mind and seconds later he has a new inbox. He turns the computer off and goes back to bed. If he's going to write an email and if he's going to send it, he's not going to have the timestamp read 3:34. He wants Andrew to think he actually has a life.

--

In the week that follows Jesse writes 432 drafts, does very little work, and sends 0 emails. It's not until Emma threatens to tell Justin (again) and Aaron asks if he's coming down with something that he finally works up the courage to send one off. He figures that the agony of waiting for a reply will at least have him slightly more productive than the agony of writing his own words, and he kind of wants to keep his job.

-

From: Mouse (grayandscared@gmail.com)
To: longleggedgiraffe@gmail.com
Subject: Hello!

Hi,

I'm Mouse. Your hair still looks like a lion's mane and your smile is still pretty.
/M.

-

In the week that it takes for Jesse to get a reply he finishes edits on one medium-sized novel and starts on another. He cuts his hair, lets his stubble grow, shaves, buys a new t-shirt, and reads five books. He doesn't obsessively check his email (he allows himself twice a day, one time in the morning and one time before bed), despair (Emma won't let him), or adopt any more cats (three regulars and a foster is enough; his mom says so).

--

From: Andrew G. (longleggedgiraffe@gmail.com)
To: Mouse (grayandscared@gmail.com)
Subject: Is it really you?

Hi!

-

From: Mouse (grayandscared@gmail.com)
To: Andrew G. (longleggedgiraffe@gmail.com)
Subject: Yes.

You went to Kennedy High. You lived with your aunt and uncle. You had a Spiderman t-shirt (ironic, huh?) that you wore a lot until Kyle Andersen (he works at Wal-Mart now) cut it to pieces during PE. You wanted to be an actor even then. I always knew you'd make it.

-

From: Andrew G. (longleggedgiraffe@gmail.com)
To: Mouse (grayandscared@gmail.com)
Subject: !!!!!!!!!

I am SO happy to hear from you. Really, I am. I still have all of your notes and I take them with me everywhere. I don't think I can ever thank you enough for what you did for me. EVER!

-

From: Mouse (grayandscared@gmail.com)
To: Andrew G. (longleggedgiraffe@gmail.com)
Subject:

Well, if it makes you feel better that was certainly the most impressive thank you I've ever received, most people settle for a Hallmark card. :)

Does this mean I can stop feeling guilty for not doing more? It would make my therapist very happy if you said yes? She keeps telling me that it doesn't qualify as an actual childhood trauma.

-

From: Andrew G. (longleggedgiraffe@gmail.com)
To: Mouse (grayandscared@gmail.com)
Subject: Are you okay?

You should absolutely stop feeling guilty. Why would you be guilty? You were amazing!!! Also, I hate to ask but how did you get my email address? Only like twenty people in the world have it.

-

From: Mouse (grayandscared@gmail.com)
To: Andrew G. (longleggedgiraffe@gmail.com)
Subject: I'm fine but obsessively compulsory neurotic.

A friend of mine got it but I don't know from where. (I think it might be one of those situations where I should consider myself lucky I don't know.) Don't worry, I won't share it with anyone and also, if you grow tired of me don't hesitate to say so. I imagine it's very easy to grow tired of me.

-

From: Andrew G. (longleggedgiraffe@gmail.com)
To: Mouse (grayandscared@gmail.com)
Subject: :D

I'm never going to grow tired of you. You're like my original fan and an enigma, the combination is irresistible. So, tell me something about you?

--

In the three days that Andrew and Jesse have been emailing back and forth, Jesse finishes edits on three novels, writes a short story, finds a new home for his foster cat and goes out for drinks with Emma, Justin, and Joe.

He never imagined that talking to Andrew would be this easy and he's still half convinced it's all an elaborate prank. Maybe Emma did tell Justin and they decided to set him up? It's not likely, they're his friends not assholes, but it still seems more likely than Andrew Fucking Garfield actually emailing him on the regular.

--

From: Mouse (grayandscared@gmail.com)
To: Andrew G. (longleggedgiraffe@gmail.com)
Subject: I'm not that interesting.

There's not much to tell. I'm almost painfully boring actually. I live in New York. I have cats. I'm neurotic. Sometimes I write emails to movie stars (well, just the one actually).

-

From: Andrew G. (longleggedgiraffe@gmail.com)
To: Mouse (grayandscared@gmail.com)
Subject: You're interesting to me.

Tell me about your cats.
--

Jesse writes an unnecessarily long email about his cats, their ages, their names, the meaning of their names, their colors, their character traits, etc. etc. It's easily the longest email he’s ever written to Andrew and he kind of expects it to be a deal breaker. He doesn't expect Andrew to ask questions, or follow up questions to his questions, or demand pictures, but he does all three and before Jesse knows it, it's been another week and almost a hundred emails.

--

"You're still talking to him, aren't you?" Emma says one day over lunch, eyes calculating and lips curled into a knowing smirk.

"No," Jesse lies, but he's pretty sure his blush belies his words. He told Emma about the first few emails, before the trickle turned into an avalanche, but since then he's been dodging her questions without really knowing why.

"You so are," Emma exclaims gleefully. "Okay, tell me everything and just the facts, not your woefully inadequate and unnecessarily glum interpretation of them."

Jesse doesn't think there's much to tell aside from a frequent exchange of emails, but he stutters and starts his way through a quick explanation.

"Hmm," Emma says when he's done and he can't tell if it's a good hmm or a bad hmm.

"What?"

"He's obviously into to you."

Jesse rolls his eyes. "Sure," he says. "Except for the part where he has no fricking clue about who I am."

"Let me put it like this… If you didn't know who he was, if he was some random guy from eHarmony who didn't have a userpic… Would you still like him?"

"Of course I would. He's adorable."

Emma grins. "See?"

"It's not the same thing," Jesse says quickly. "I do know who he is and he doesn't even know that I'm a guy."

Emma shrugs. "He's bisexual. It probably doesn't matter to him."

Jesse flushes and pushes his plate to the side. "Well, look at that, time to get back to work. And for the record, I do think it matters to him. He's very… he's… He cares about people."

"Yes," Emma says. "About you, for example."

"You can't know that," Jesse mutters.

Emma tucks her hair in behind her ears and smiles at him across the table. "Just you watch me be right again. Just you watch."

Emma, Jesse thinks, is a terrible friend.

--

Since Andrew is in London, resting in between projects, and Jesse lives in New York, they're almost never online at the same time and if they are it's only for the briefest of moments, which is why Jesse's startled when he sends off an email on a Friday night and gets a reply within minutes. He's even more startled when he reads what it says.

--

From: Andrew G. (longleggedgiraffe@gmail.com)
To: Mouse (grayandscared@gmail.com)
Subject: On your left.

Sign in to the chat.

--

Jesse stares at it. Chat seems more intimate somehow, more real, and he starts sweating just thinking about it. If it wasn't for the second email he might not have managed, but once it arrives he has to.

--

From: Andrew G. (longleggedgiraffe@gmail.com)
To: Mouse (grayandscared@gmail.com)
Subject: Talk to me!

But only if you want to of course.

--

Andrew G: Hi!
Andrew G: :D
Mouse Gray: Hi.
Andrew G: How are you today? How was work?
Mouse Gray: Good and good. How are you?
Andrew G: Awesome. I'm in such a good mood today for no reason.
Mouse Gray: That's nice. I wish that happened to me more often.
Andrew G: It should. :D
Mouse Gray: I should probably warn you I'm not very good at this. The last time I chatted was in tenth grade.
Andrew G: Ha ha. I use it a lot to keep in touch with people. Now, tell me about your day.
Mouse Gray: I don't want to bore you to tears.
Andrew G: Well, I want you to. It's been a while since I had a good cry.

--

After that first time they end up talking on gchat almost daily and whenever Jesse signs on and he sees the little green dot in front of Andrew's name his heart makes somersaults in his chest, fingers shaking as he starts to type. Eventually, he just keeps his gmail open at all times of the day, catching Andrew for a few minutes here and there and his crush grows and grows.

--

Andrew G: So tattoos…
Mouse Gray: What about them?
Andrew G: Got any?
Mouse Gray: No. I'm not a big fan of needles, or tattoo parlors, or Hepatitis.
Andrew G: But you don't like… hate them or anything?
Mouse Gray: They can be pretty.
Andrew G: Good, because I have one. A tattoo, I mean.
Mouse Gray: You do?
Andrew G: Yup. In a secret place. ;)
Mouse Gray: How secret?
Andrew G: Let's put it like this… they only have to cover it when I get naked…
Mouse Gray: Please tell me you don't have a penis tattoo.
Andrew G: Ha ha. I would but…
Mouse Gray: !!!!
Andrew G: Just joking. It's on my ass.
Mouse Gray: Not sure that's better.
Andrew G: Okay, it's on my hip.
Mouse Gray: That's better.
Andrew G: Maybe…
Mouse Gray: Jerk.
Andrew G: But you love me.
Mouse Gray: Maybe…

--

"And you still think he doesn't like you," Emma says, leaning her hands on the back of Jesse's chair to be able to watch the chat grow on the screen.

"Well, obviously he likes me," Jesse mutters because he's had to admit to that much at least. "But that doesn't mean he likes me."

"Do you like him?"

Jesse's flush is his only answer.

--

When they're not chatting they still exchange emails and they grow longer by the day. It's a miracle Jesse actually manages to get any work done and the sudden drop in productivity doesn't go unnoticed. Three months after Jesse first started talking to Andrew he finds himself nervously sitting in front of Sorkin's desk with his hands clasped tightly on his lap.

"Stop looking like I'm going to kill you," Aaron says. "I'm not going to kill you."

"That's a relief," Jesse says, shifting in his seat.

"But if you'd been anyone else I would have been lecturing you right now."

Jesse swallows. "I'm sorry," he says. "I'll work harder, I promise. I've just… I've been distracted lately."

Aaron shrugs. "I'm not going to lecture you," he says. "Do you know why?"

Jesse shakes his head mutely, heart tripping. He might end up getting fired over this and he can't even bring himself to care.

"Because even with your productivity down by almost half, you're still the best damned worker I have. I just want to know if I should be concerned, or congratulate you on getting a life."

Jesse flushes and looks down on his hands. "The latter," he mutters. "Sort of."

"Well, congratulations on sort of having a life then," Aaron says, smiling. "Does this mean you'll be using some of your saved vacation days any time soon? Human resources gives me the stink eye whenever you come up."

"Uhm…" Jesse flushes harder. "Not at the moment, no."

"Well, one out of two is better than nothing." Aaron smiles again. "You're free to go, Jesse, but I feel obligated to tell you that if you start missing deadlines we'll be having this talk again and I won't be nearly as nice."

Jesse nods jerkily. "Won't happen, sir," he says quickly.

Jesse never missed a deadline, ever. Usually he turns his work in months before the deadline, because before Andrew, work was his life.

--

There's an email waiting when Jesse gets back to his computer.

-

From: Andrew G. (longleggedgiraffe@gmail.com)
To: Mouse (grayandscared@gmail.com)
Subject: Please reply instantly.

How did the meeting go?

-

Jesse's heart clenches and he types down a quick answer.

-

From: Mouse (grayandscared@gmail.com)
To: Andrew G. (longleggedgiraffe@gmail.com)
Subject: Just got back.

I wasn't fired!

-

Andrew G: YAY!
Mouse Gray: You're ridiculous.
Andrew G: And I own it. DOUBLE YAY!
Andrew G: Now, get back to work. I wouldn't want to get you actually fired.
Mouse Gray: :)
Andrew G: Talk to you later. <3

Jesse stares at the little heart for the longest of whiles, then he signs out of gmail and goes to find Emma.

--

That night Jesse goes out for drinks with Emma, Joe and Justin, and over a pitcher of Sangria (disgusting) he fills everyone in on the whole Andrew situation.

"Wow," Justin says when he's done. "That's… Wow. Fuck, Jess, I didn't think you had it in you."

"Go Eisenberg," Joe says. "You might not end up a spinster after all."

Jesse flushes and downs the rest of the horrible concoction in his glass in an attempt to drown his embarrassment. It doesn't work.

"It's not… We're not…" He tries but Emma interrupts him.

"They're flirting," she says matter-of-factly. "Definitely."

"It's not…"

"Penis jokes, Jess. That's the definition of flirting."

"It wasn't…"

"Yes, it was. Now, shut up and let the adults work this out."

Jesse consoles himself with another glass of Sangria. It's actually not that bad once you get used to it.

--

Jesse is drunk, very drunk, when Justin leads him home.

"I'm in love with him," he says, tilting his head back to look up at the overcast sky and almost toppling over in the process.

"I know," Justin says, grabbing his arm to keep him upright.

"It's… embarrassing," Jesse mutters. "It makes me feel so stupid."

"Hey," Justin says, shaking him lightly. "None of that, a lot of people fall in love over the internet, Jesse."

But when Jesse looks at him his face is sad, as if Justin knows this is going to end in tears too.

--

In the morning Jesse wakes up to fifteen concerned emails and a migraine. He takes a couple of aspirin, drinks a gallon of water, feeds the cats and goes back to bed. An hour later he throws up what feels like everything he ever ate and his kidneys before dragging himself back to bed. He logs into gmail on his phone, squinting at the brightly lit screen as he types up his message.

-

From: Mouse (grayandscared@gmail.com)
To: Andrew G. (longleggedgiraffe@gmail.com)
Subject:

I don't know if I can do this anymore. I like you too much.

-

He hits send and drops the phone on the sheets, curling up on his side to sleep some more.

-

From: Andrew G. (longleggedgiraffe@gmail.com)
To: Mouse (grayandscared@gmail.com)
Subject:

Please, don't go away. Please.

-

From: Andrew G. (longleggedgiraffe@gmail.com)
To: Mouse (grayandscared@gmail.com)
Subject:

Are you okay? Talk to me, please.

-

From: Andrew G. (longleggedgiraffe@gmail.com)
To: Mouse (grayandscared@gmail.com)
Subject:

I don't care if you like me too much because I like you too much too.

-

From: Andrew G. (longleggedgiraffe@gmail.com)
To: Mouse (grayandscared@gmail.com)
Subject:

Mouse?

-

From: Andrew G. (longleggedgiraffe@gmail.com)
To: Mouse (grayandscared@gmail.com)
Subject:

:(

--

Jesse doesn't even manage one full day away from the computer.

-

From: Mouse (grayandscared@gmail.com)
To: Andrew G. (longleggedgiraffe@gmail.com)
Subject: I'm sorry.

Still here.

-

Andrew G: Please, don't ever worry me like that again. I thought I was going to DIE.
Mouse Gray: Don't be ridiculous.
Andrew G: You have to know, by now, how I feel about you.
Mouse Gray: Please, don't ever assume that I can read between the lines. It has to be spelled out, in capital letters, preferably bold.
Andrew G: I REALLY REALLY LIKE YOU. YOU'RE THE BEST THING ABOUT MY DAY.
Andrew G: Sorry, I don't know how to do bold on here.
Mouse Gray:
Mouse Gray: I'm blushing, right now.
Mouse Gray: Also, I'm a guy.
Andrew G: I figured, but thanks for telling me.
Mouse Gray: And I really like you too.
Andrew G: :D:D:D:D:D
Mouse Gray: I'm imagining you doing that face now.
Andrew G: I am doing that face. :D
Mouse Gray: <3

--

For the most part Andrew respects Jesse's decision to not reveal his true identity. Oh, he'll needle and wheedle and try to get Jesse to slip up, or play hour-long games of Guess That Name that Jesse pretends he doesn't understand, but he doesn't push, not even after their awkward confession of feelings.

He does ask for pictures though. Not of Jesse, he knows better than to ask for that, but of everything else and Jesse obliges. He takes pictures of his cats, his breakfast, his books, his bed (that one makes him blush), his desk, his computer, the view from his balcony and his shoes.

Andrew does the same for him, including the occasional picture of himself making dorky faces, and sometimes Jesse looks at them and feels as if he's right there, as if he's sitting on Andrew's couch with his feet kicked up on Andrew's coffee table, drinking coffee out of Andrew's Dr. Who mug with Andrew's afghan thrown over his legs. It's probably not healthy, but his therapist says he's making remarkable progress so it's probably not bad either.

And before Jesse knows it August turns into September and it's been five months.

--

From: Andrew G. (longleggedgiraffe@gmail.com)
To: Mouse (grayandscared@gmail.com)
Subject: :D

I'm going straight to New York from New Delhi to start filming the Spiderman sequel, so I'm just gonna leave this here, do with it as you please:

555-237-9894

I'll send you a copy of my schedule when I have it. You're free to stalk me. ;)

--

"Call him," Emma says.

"Call him," Justin says.

"For fuck's sake call him," Joe says.

"You should definitely call him," his mom says.

"If you don't call him you're no longer my brother," Hallie says.

"There's something seriously wrong with you," Kerri says.

"Call him," his dad says.

Jesse buys a second cell phone and a new phone card. Then he spends three days just staring at it.

--

Andrew G: Ugh, New Dehli is so hot. I'm dying.
Mouse Gray: Take your shirt off and send me a picture.
Andrew G: <3
Mouse Gray: :D
Andrew G: hotstuff.jpg
Mouse Gray: Okay… now I'm blushing.
Andrew G: If that's the only thing you're doing I did something wrong.
Andrew G: hugecock.jpg
Mouse Gray: Wow, that's a large chicken. It's like the hulk of chickens.
Andrew G: And I'm a god of men.
Mouse Gray: That you are. 25 million teenage girls agree with me.
Andrew G: <3
Andrew G: Gotta go. Needed on set.
Mouse Gray: See you. <3

--

Jesse finally works up the courage to call Andrew on a Friday night. They've been chatting back and forth for an hour about absolutely nothing and suddenly Jesse is dying to hear his voice in real life.

-

Mouse Gray: I'm going to call you now.
Andrew G: OMG!!!
Andrew G: Wait. I'm not ready.
Andrew G: Okay, ready now.
Andrew G: NO.
Andrew G: Shit, this is nerve-wracking.
Andrew G: Okay, call me.

-

Jesse stares at Andrew's little freak out and suddenly he's not nervous at all. He picks up the new phone, the one that has only one number in the contacts and can't be traced back to him and hits call. Andrew picks up after the second ring, sounding breathless and nervously excited.

"Hi, hey. Oh my god. Hi."

Jesse laughs, throat too tight and heart thundering.

"Uh… hi," he says, cheeks heating up.

"Oh my god," Andrew says again. "Hi."

"I think we already covered that part."

Andrew laughs, high-pitched and delighted. "I can't believe I'm talking to you. Shit, this is so weird."

"I can hang up," Jesse says.

"No, please don't. Please. Stay. Talk to me."

"Okay," Jesse agrees, letting out a slow breath in an attempt to calm down his raging everything. "Hi."

Andrew laughs again and Jesse lips pull into an answering smile. He sounds amazing, a little hoarse, a lot tired, and amazing.

"I like your voice," Jesse mumbles, embarrassed and awed. He's talking to Andrew fucking Garfield, he's making Andrew Garfield laugh and act like a dork and hum, low and pleased.

"I like your voice too," Andrew says. "You should use it to say things to me. Everything."

"About what?" Jesse asks, his cheeks hurt from smiling to widely but he can't help it.

"I don't know… How's Biscuit doing? Still limping?"

"No, he's a lot better actually. Yesterday he even managed to climb onto the bed. Uh… then he threw up on my comforter so I kinda wish he hadn't but that's… uhm… that's progress, I guess."

"If I were there I'd help you do laundry," Andrew says.

"Uhm… that… yeah… that would make me feel bad. If you were here you'd be a guest and you shouldn't make your guests do your laundry. That's not nice."

"But what if your guest kind of, maybe, wanted to be more than a guest and was trying to impress you, or like… woo you with household chores… then what?"

Jesse's heart trip and he licks his lips. "Yeah… uhm… I would still…. It would still make me feel bad."

Andrew laughs. "You," he says happily. "Are delightful."

Jesse has serious doubts about that, but with Andrew on the other end of the line, somehow making even his breaths sound happy, he can almost believe it.

--

One phone call turns into two and then three and then four, five, six and within a week they are a daily occurrence. Jesse still goes to work, he keeps up with his deadlines, and hangs out with his friends, but most of the time he feels as if he's not really there, as if maybe he's floating on a rose-colored cloud above everything.

Occasionally that feeling makes him freak out and his cloud disintegrates and he tumbles back into reality with an imaginary thud and a panicked spike of his pulse. He's in love with a voice on the phone and words on a computer screen. He's in love with a real person, but in Jesse's life he's fiction, no more real than a stalking vampire, or a boy in a cupboard under some stairs.

"Sometimes you're like Harry Potter to me," he says one night, trying to put words to his feelings the way his therapist told him to.

"Because I'm British?" Andrew asks.

"No, like… You could as well be Edward. You know, from Twilight."

He can almost hear Andrew frown. "Why?"

"Because you're not… you're not real. You're… you're the best book I ever read."

Andrew is silent for a moment. "That's the sweetest thing anyone ever said to me," he says.

Jesse bites down on his lower lip. "You deserve a lot more eloquent compliments than that," he murmurs.

"Maybe someone should draw a cartoon in my honor, where I'm a sweet looking giraffe and every punch line is about my awesome… Oh wait."

Jesse flushes and rolls over on his back, pressing the phone closer to his ear. "You make me sound like someone I'm not," he protests.

"No," Andrew retorts. "I'm making you sound as exactly who you are to me. Mouse, you're the best thing that ever happened to me."

"You don't even know who I am."

"Yes, I do," Andrew says calmly. "I know exactly who you are. The only thing I don't know is your name."

Jesse squeezes his eyes shut and sucks in a harsh breath. "I want you to know my name," he whispers.

"Then tell me," Andrew murmurs.

--

"Did you tell him yet?" Jesse's mom asks a few days later when they meet up for lunch at one of the many restaurants close to Jesse's job.

Jesse shakes his head. "But I'm going to," he says, determined.

"Good."

It's weird to have everyone know about his fictional boyfriend (okay, maybe not boyfriend, they never put a label on it, but that's what he is in Jesse's head) but Jesse was never able to keep a secret from his mom.

"So, I've been wondering," she says, taking a delicate bite of her sandwich. "Are you sexual yet?"

Jesse chokes on his water and sputters out a shocked, “mom”.

"I'm just asking," she says, shrugging.

Jesse's cheeks burn and he can't even look at her. "No," he mutters.

There's been… they're definitely toeing the line and Jesse thinks it's going to happen soon but he wants Andrew to know his name then, he wants Andrew to choke out his real name, not the alias he created so long ago.

Amy reaches over the table to pat his hand. "There, there," she says airily and Jesse loves her kind of ridiculously much; nosy, inappropriate questions and all.

--

From: Andrew G. (longleggedgiraffe@gmail.com)
To: Mouse (grayandscared@gmail.com)
Subject: I'm late for my Stalkers Anonymous meeting.

There were 136 boys in our graduating class. Two passed away, 47 are married, and three are catholic priests. 52 were Jewish, me included, and out of those only 34 still live in the NY area.

Out of the thirty-four that live in NY, twenty are married, two are in jail, four are impossible to track down, and one is stationed in Mogadishu. That leaves only seven boys, unless you are secretly married, but I don't think you are.

Only one person admits to having given my email address out in the past six months and he gave it to a terrifying woman who works at Random House because he's hoping that she will, at one point, agree to date him. Only one person from my graduating class works at Random House and funnily enough I used to have such a crush on him.

Jesse Eisenberg, if you're out there. Why don't you give me a call?

--

It's embarrassing that Jesse's gut reaction to reading Andrew's email is to burst into tears. It's even more embarrassing because Emma and Joe are currently sitting in his office, bickering about where to go for lunch.

"Hey," Emma says, eyes wide. "Jesse, what's wrong?"

Joe just blinks at him, looking worried and uncomfortable.

"It's… nothing," Jesse manages. "Really, it's…"

He swipes at his eyes and gulps in a breath and he didn't even know it was possible to feel this relieved. Emma rounds the desk to hug him hard and reads the email over his shoulders.

"Oh," she says breathlessly. "That's… oh."

"Justin Timberlake wants to date Emma?" Joe asks after he's rounded the desk as well, curling a hand around Jesse's wrist and squeezing it lightly.

"Justin… what?" Jesse asks, still breathless and giddy and stupidly choked up.

"That's who I got Andrew's email from," Emma says airily. "It's not important. This is important." She stabs a finger at the computer screen.

"This guy is definitely a keeper," Joe says, as if he's some kind of expert on guys to keep.

Then he reaches out and before Jesse's managed the presence of mind to stop him, he has copied the body of the email and sent it off to Justin. The reply is instant.

-

From: Justin Bartha (doyathinkimsexy@gmail.com)
To: Jesse Eisenberg (jesse.eisenberg@randomhouse.com)
Subject: Seriously!!!!!

Jesse,

If you don't marry this guy, I WILL.

McGee's tonight. 8 PM. Don't be late. Drinks might be on me.

-

They all look up when Aaron walks in without knocking, Jesse still with watery eyes, flushed cheeks and a helpless smile stretching his cheeks. Aaron stops, blinks, and gives Jesse a concerned look.

"You're not pregnant, are you?" he asks.

Jesse shakes his head.

Aaron nods, looking hopeful. "Vacation?"

Jesse blushes redder and bites at his lower lip. "Maybe," he mutters.

Since he started working at Random House he's taken all of two vacations days to attend a family wedding; maybe it's time he took a couple of days just to be. These last few months have been pretty overwhelming in more ways than one.

"Awesome," Aaron says and wanders out again without divulging why he actually stopped by.

Emma starts giggling and soon they're all laughing hysterically still caught in an awkward group hug.

--

Jesse does call but it goes straight to voice mail which means Andrew is either sleeping, on set, or doing an interview.

"Call me," he says to Andrew's voice mail, voice still a bit choked and cheeks aching.

--

Andrew calls back at 1 AM nearly startling Jesse right out of bed because he fell asleep with the phone on his pillow.

"Urhm," Jesse manages by way of greeting, trying to blink himself awake.

"Oh, I woke you up…" There's a moment of silence and then a muttered curse. "Shit, sorry, of course I did. It's 1 AM not PM."

"It's okay," Jesse croaks. "I don't mind."

His head feels sluggish and his limbs heavy, but that might be the drinks he had earlier and it doesn't stop his heart from picking up speed.

"So…" Andrew says meaningfully. "Did I… Am I… Jesse?"

Jesse feels the weight of his name, lets it surge through him, lightening him from inside.

"Yeah," he whispers.

"Yes," Andrew hisses and Jesse can imagine him punching the air victoriously because Andrew is ridiculous and animated like that.

"I can't believe you had a crush on me in high school," Jesse mutters. "There's obviously something wrong with you."

"The only thing wrong with me is that you're too far away," Andrew says promptly. Then he adds, "Jesse," almost as an afterthought.

Jesse laughs. "You don't even know what I look like now," he points out. "Maybe I'm fat, or bald, or repulsive."

"I don't care," Andrew says. "Jesse, you have to know how much I don't care."

Jesse bites at his lower lip, pressing his face into the pillows. "You're ridiculous," he says, voice muffled by feathers and fabric.

"What was that? You're awesome? I'd like to think so. Jess… can I call you Jess?"

"Are you going to use my name in every sentence from now on?"

"Probably, yes, and you didn't answer my question."

"Yeah," Jesse says, chest tight. "Yeah, you can call me Jess."

Andrew silent for a second. "Can I also have a picture?" He sounds hopefully, as if he really, really wants to see Jesse's face.

Jesse thinks about his collection of pictures, of all the ridiculous faces Andrew immortalized just for him, and says, "Yeah, okay. Yeah."

"Awesome," Andrew says and he sounds so sincere, so stupidly happy, that Jesse can't even bring himself to worry too much about it. "I'll let you sleep now, but call me tomorrow, okay? Or I'll call you and yeah… I… yeah."

"Night," Jesse mumbles.

"Night," Andrew echoes and Jesse falls back to sleep between one breath and the next.

--

In the morning Jesse knocks on Joe's office door. Joe's on the phone but he waves Jesse in, pointing to the chair before his desk. Jesse listens idly to Joe's conversation, it's something about accounting that he couldn't care less about, and stares at the pictures that line Joe's wall. Joe fancies himself something of a photographer and he's actually really good.

"What can I do for you, Jesse?" Joe asks, when he's put the receiver down. He sounds incredibly formal but his eyes are sparkling.

Jesse flushes, still looking at the pictures rather than Joe's face. "Andrew wants a picture of me," he says.

"Okay."

"So I need you take a few and then we will show them to Emma and Justin and together we'll pick the best one, or you will as I'm likely to vote for none of them."

Joe smiles. "Okay," he says.

--

Joe takes too many pictures and the debate as to which one is the best gets heated within minutes but eventually the combatants manage to narrow it down to three different shots, all of them from lunch. Jesse stares at them and wishes he'd thought to wear something cooler than a brown t-shirt and tries to not be offended by his own face.

"This one," he says eventually, stabbing his finger at the screen. He's staring off into the distance, holding a toothpick to his mouth and it looks ridiculous, but so do the rest of them.

"Good choice," Emma says smugly, she was rooting for that one.

--

Jesse doesn't send it off until later that night when he's on the phone with Andrew.

"Okay," he says. "I'm gonna send you a picture now, but you have to promise not to laugh."

"I won't," Andrew promises.

"And… uh… if you're repulsed you probably shouldn't tell me or maybe you should… I don't know."

"Don't be ridiculous," Andrew says and Jesse wishes he had half of Andrew's faith in him.

"Okay," he says. "Okay… I'm just gonna…"

He hits send on the email that contains nothing but the stupid picture, then he holds his breath.

"Oh," Andrew says.

"Is that a… no wait, don't tell me."

"Shit, you're hot," Andrew says and Jesse blushes. "I mean it," he adds. "Jesus."

After a moment of consideration Jesse forwards the two runner-up pictures; one where he's looking straight at the camera and one where he's laughing.

"Your fucking mouth," Andrew says, sounding a little shell-shocked. "And your hands… I…"

Jesse flushes and fidgets and he's really fucking hard which is nothing short of incredibly embarrassing.

"I feel obligated to point out that these pictures will provide me with jerk-off material for months," Andrew murmurs, voice husky.

Jesse shivers and sucks in a startled breath. It's hard to imagine being anyone's wet dream, let alone Andrew's, but the tone of Andrew's voice is… yeah.

"You'll uh…" Jesse trails off. "Uhm… you'll be in New York before that."

"I can't fucking wait," Andrew says. "I mean… I couldn't wait before but now… holy shit."

"Yeah," Jesse breathes, because he returns the sentiment.

"I'm so fucking attracted to you," Andrew says and he sounds almost surprised as if this whole thing is as miraculous to him as it is to Jesse.

"Yeah… yeah, me too," Jesse whispers, pulse thundering in his ears.

"Two weeks," Andrew says.

Jesse squeezes his eyes shut, something huge but at the same time inexplicably fragile growing in his chest. "Two weeks," he repeats, half prayer, half promise.

--

Jesse wakes up in the middle of the night with his breath stuck in his throat and sweat beading on his forehead. He sits up straight, startling Biscuit off the bed, and sucks in a shallow breath. He realizes with sudden clarity that he's been going about this all wrong – instead of trying to present his best self to Andrew, he should be showing his worst – that way, if Andrew decides to stay around, he will be prepared.

-

To: Andrew
From: Jesse

I'm not nearly as nice as I've made myself out to be. I'm more trouble than I'm worth. Really.

-

To: Jesse
From: Andrew

Go back to bed, baby.

-

To: Andrew
From: Jesse

I mean it.

-

To: Jesse
From: Andrew

I know you do. You can tell me all about it tomorrow. Now, sleep.

-

Jesse stares at his phone, trying to think of a reply, but in the end he puts the phone down on the nightstand and lies back down. After a moment he sits back up and sends one last message to Andrew, then he curls up on his side and promptly falls asleep. He'll need his strength if he's going to convince Andrew that dating him is a horrible idea (but would he please, please do it anyway).

-

To: Andrew
From: Jesse

<3

--

Jesse takes a picture of himself first thing in the morning. It's a terrible picture. The bathroom lights make him look green, his hair is a tangled web of crazy, his mouth is puffy and his nose red. He captions it with: Imagine waking up next to this every morning.

Andrew replies within minutes, even though it ought to be in the middle of the night for him.

-

To: Jesse
From: Andrew

I'd never get out of bed. <3

-

There is obviously something wrong with him.

--

"I'm trying to convince Andrew not to date me," Jesse says over lunch.

"Why would you do that?" Joe asks with a frown.

Jesse rolls his eyes. "So that he'll be prepared if he decides to date me anyway."

Emma pats his hand and shakes her head. "Oh Jesse," she sighs, but Jesse notices that she doesn't try to talk him out of it.

--

Jesse's chest is nothing to write home about. He suffers from a chronic case of skinny and pale with small nipples and no hair. When he gets home from work he sets the phone up and tries to take a picture of his not-very-exciting chest. The first five frames end up empty, the next two have his elbow, but the eighth frame turns out decent, if by decent you mean bad.

Satisfied, he sends it off to Andrew and hums all the way through his nightly routine of feeding cats and cleaning litter boxes. Andrew calls just as he's about to have dinner.

"Are you trying to kill me?" he asks. "Is that it? I almost ran my car off the road."

"You shouldn't drive and read texts," Jesse says. "Are you okay?"

"Am I… You sent me naked pictures, Jess. Naked. I'm not okay. I'm dying from sexual frustration."

"Andrew," Jesse says sadly. "There's something wrong with you."

"Yes," Andrew says grumpily. "You and the fact that you are too far away and criminally adorable."

Jesse flushes, secretly pleased. "Go make a movie, or something," he says airily. "Call me when you've come to your senses."

Andrew laughs. "Yeah, okay," he says.

"And drive carefully. No more reading texts and driving."

"Promise," Andrew says and that's that.

--

From: Jesse (grayandscared@gmail.com)
To: Andrew G. (longleggedgiraffe@gmail.com)
Subject: Reason #974324

I've ruined every relationship I've ever been in with my insecurities.

-

From: Andrew G. (longleggedgiraffe@gmail.com)
To: Jesse (grayandscared@gmail.com)
Subject: Re: Reason #974324

Funny, so have I.

-

From: Jesse (grayandscared@gmail.com)
To: Andrew G. (longleggedgiraffe@gmail.com)
Subject: Re: Reason #974324

See? That's reason #974325 right there.

-

From: Andrew G. (longleggedgiraffe@gmail.com)
To: Jesse (grayandscared@gmail.com)
Subject: Re: Reason #974324

No, that's the reason it's going to work. Takes one to know one and all that.

-

From: Jesse (grayandscared@gmail.com)
To: Andrew G. (longleggedgiraffe@gmail.com)
Subject: Re: Reason #974324

Yeah, I'm pretty sure that's not how it works.

-

Andrew G: That's exactly how it's going to work because I say so.
Jesse: Crazy person.
Andrew G: Yes, for you.
Jesse: I'm trying to discourage you.
Andrew G: I've noticed. It's not working.
Andrew G: I happen to think you are fantastic.
Andrew G: Insecurities and all.
Jesse: Ugh, stop being adorable.
Andrew G: :D:D:D
Jesse:You're doing that face, aren't you?
Andrew G: Yup.
Jesse: Dork. <3
Andrew G: <3

--

About once every six months or so Jesse thinks he should treat his body more like a temple and he lets Justin drag him to the gym. His resolve usually lasts until the next morning when the ache sets in, but he figures that working out twice a year is better than not working out at all. This time, though, he has a hidden agenda that has very little to do with his body supposedly being a temple.

"So this is a terrible look for me, right?" Jesse pants.

His shirt is soaked through with sweat, his face bright red and his hair sticks to his face. Justin glances at him sideways; he's barely sweating, the bastard.

"You've looked better," he admits.

"Awesome," Jesse says, throwing him his phone. "Take a picture."

Justin rolls his eyes, but he does as he's told, snapping a couple of pictures before he hands the phone back. Jesse looks at them, flipping back and forth until he settles on the one where he's also making a face. He sends it to Andrew.

-

To: Jesse
From: Andrew

Boner alert.

-

To: Andrew
From: Jesse

I'm sweaty, gross, and seriously out of shape.

-

To: Jesse
From: Andrew

You're sweaty, hot, and I want to bend you into shapes.

-

To: Jesse
From: Andrew

PS. I like your shirt.

-

"So how's your plan working out?" Justin asks innocently.

Jesse frowns at him. "Not so well," he says, but he can't help the stupid smile that takes over his face.

--

Jesse gets jealous. Whenever he sees a picture of Andrew with someone, or reads any of the dating rumors that surround him like a crowd of black ugly flies, his stomach clenches with unease and he feels an upsetting need to punch someone in the face. It doesn't matter that he actually trusts Andrew when he says there's no one else because jealousy isn't always a rational emotion.

It's something he's going to have to learn how to deal with, if they're actually going to do this, because Andrew is a public figure; there will always be pictures and there will always be rumors. The only helpful part of his jealousy is that he's actually looking forward to those pictures and rumors eventually being about him, a concept that would normally have him breathing into a paper bag.

--

"I get terribly jealous," he tells Andrew one night while he's cooking dinner with phone clenched between his shoulder and ear.

"Okay," Andrew says simply and Jesse kind of loves him for it.

"It's not… I don't want to… but I still… yeah."

"If it's ever an issue we'll deal with it together," Andrew says.

Jesse adds a splash of wine to his sauce and contemplates chugging from the bottle. "You sound like my therapist."

"Well, your therapist seems to be a sensible woman so I don't mind."

Jesse gives in to the urge to sip from the bottle and leans back against the kitchen counter, closing his eyes. Andrew will be in New York in three days and he doesn't know what happens next.

"Andrew…" he starts, but then he trails off, because he doesn't even know what he wants to say.

"It's not going to be easy," Andrew says. "My job will be a problem, the distance will be a problem, our insecurities will be a problem but I… I want this. I really, really want this… you. I want you and I think we owe it to ourselves to try."

"Yeah," Jesse agrees, breathing slowly. "Yeah."

He presses the phone closer to his ear and finally admits to himself how desperately stupidly much he wants Andrew, and not the Andrew he used to dream about, the movie star he only knew from pictures and movies, but the real one. The dorky one. The adorable one. The one who gets insecure sometimes. The one who cries at sad movies. The one he drew all those pictures for because he was so hopelessly in love. The one who makes him want to draw again because he still feels the same way.

"Andrew," he whispers.

"Yeah?"

"I really want this too."

--

From: Andrew G. (longleggedgiraffe@gmail.com)
To: Jesse (grayandscared@gmail.com)
Subject: HELP!

I'm such a wreck right now. How high are the chances that what I wear will make or break our date?

-

From: Jesse (grayandscared@gmail.com)
To: Andrew G. (longleggedgiraffe@gmail.com)
Subject: Re: HELP!

Slim to none. I can't dress myself out of a paper bag. You know that.

-

From: Andrew G. (longleggedgiraffe@gmail.com)
To: Jesse (grayandscared@gmail.com)
Subject: Re: HELP!

So jeans and a t-shirt is fine? Carey says I should put in an effort.

-

From: Jesse (grayandscared@gmail.com)
To: Andrew G. (longleggedgiraffe@gmail.com)
Subject: Re: HELP!

Don't listen to her and also, stop hanging out with her. She's adorable and looks like a pixie.

-

From: Andrew G. (longleggedgiraffe@gmail.com)
To: Jesse (grayandscared@gmail.com)
Subject: Re: HELP!

She's also engaged, but I'll tell her you said that. She's going to want to talk to you again.

-

From: Jesse (grayandscared@gmail.com)
To: Andrew G. (longleggedgiraffe@gmail.com)
Subject: Re: HELP!

Did I mention that my mom wants to meet you? Because she does. And she's going to ask about our sex life. Be prepared.

-

From: Andrew G. (longleggedgiraffe@gmail.com)
To: Jesse (grayandscared@gmail.com)
Subject: Re: HELP!

Oh god.

-
From: Jesse (grayandscared@gmail.com)
To: Andrew G. (longleggedgiraffe@gmail.com)
Subject: Re: HELP!

Stop emailing me, you're going to be late, and I have to go breathe into a paper bag for a while.

-

From: Andrew G. (longleggedgiraffe@gmail.com)
To: Jesse (grayandscared@gmail.com)
Subject: Re: HELP!

Don't be nervous!!!!!! I'm a nice person. Leaving now. See you soon. <3

-

To: Jesse
From: Andrew

I'm outside your door but I'm too nervous to ring the bell.

-

To: Andrew
From: Jesse

I know. I've been watching you through the peep hole for the last ten minutes. You look good.

--

 

Andrew in real life is about ten million times more beautiful and breathtaking than Andrew in a movie. He's taller than Jesse expected and tanner, and he smiles much wider and his hair is much crazier.

"Hi," Jesse says, feeling stupid and inadequate and like he just won all the lotteries there ever were.

"Hi," Andrew says, smiling even wider.

They both worry at their lower lip and then they both laugh and blush and shift their feet and Jesse can feel his smile stretching out his face. Andrew's wearing skinny jeans and a fitted t-shirt and he's got a backpack slung over one shoulder.

"Can I come in?" he asks, still smiling.

"Yeah, yeah, of course, yeah," Jesse says, stepping aside to let Andrew into the tiny entry. "I'm sorry about the…" He looks around. "Everything.

Andrew pushes the door closed behind him and toes off his shoes. "I think it's nice," he says.

Jesse swallows and stares up at him and thinks about touching the spot where his arm meets his t-shirt, maybe pushing the sleeve up a little to see how far the tan goes.

Andrew steps closer, reaching out to touch the sides of Jesse's face. His hands are trembling and his fingertips are damp against Jesse's flushed skin.

"I'm going to kiss you now," he announces.

Jesse meets him halfway, because he thinks he might die if he has to wait any longer. Their noses bump and their mouths won't align right, but it doesn't even matter because it's perfect. Jesse feels the first electrifying touch of Andrew's tongue down to his toes and he gasps into Andrew's mouth, unable hold back.

"Yeah," Andrew murmurs inanely and kisses him again.

Jesse fists his hands into Andrew's t-shirt and Andrew slides his hands into Jesse's curls and they kiss and kiss and kiss and kiss. They kiss until Jesse's lips are numb and the kisses turn too wet and messy. Jesse can hear Andrew's heart beating, he can feel the way his ribcage expands with his rapid breaths and the tremor of his hands, he can smell the cologne Andrew put on after his shower and the heady scent of his skin, and it's the best thing that ever happened to him.

"Fuck," Andrew gasps when they finally pull apart, clenching his hands into Jesse's hair. "Jesus."

"Yeah," Jesse murmurs, tipping forward to let Andrew take his weight and hiding his face into the crook of Andrew's neck.

He slips his hands around Andrew's waist, hugging him hard, and thinks about begging him to stay forever.

"We should… uhm… dinner," Andrew says.

"Uh huh," Jesse agrees.

"And I want to meet the cats."

"Absolutely."

"And I want to stare like a star-struck teen at your impossible face."

Jesse does look up at that. "What a waste of your time," he says, but he can't help his grin.

Andrew looks even better with his mouth puffy and his cheeks flushed.

"What an excellent way to spend my time you mean," Andrew says, tugging lightly on Jesse's hair.

Jesse forces himself to let go of Andrew, which is made a lot easier by the way Andrew immediately grabs for his hand.

"Give me the tour," Andrew says and drops his bag on the floor by his shoes. "I want to see everything."

Showing Andrew around takes about five minutes because Jesse's apartment is tiny. There's the living room, with a huge climbing tree for the cats, a couch, and a bunch of bookshelves. The bedroom, with his bed, and a desk, and more bookshelves, and finally the kitchen with their hopefully not ruined dinner and the usual table and chairs.

"It's lovely," Andrew says, because he's that sort of person and then he crouches down to coo at Biscuit who's sitting by his food bowl, hoping for a snack.

Jesse stares at the way his shirt rides up to reveal the small of his back and feels like a pervert.

"This is Biscuit, right?" Andrew asks, grinning at Jesse over his shoulder. "And that's Austen." He nods towards the black cat staring balefully at him from the counter. "Where's Koala?"

Jesse looks around. "Uhm… hopefully around somewhere," he says.

"Oh," Andrew says, straightening up. "I'll look for him while you get the food ready."

Andrew disappears into the living room while Jesse arranges the food on their plates, vegetarian lasagna with spinach and goat cheese and a light salad.

"Found him," Andrew exclaims happily, coming into the kitchen with Koala hanging like a big gray lump over his shoulder, tail swishing slowly.

Jesse's never had anyone get excited over his cats before, so naturally he has to kiss Andrew, which naturally leads into another make-out session until Koala grows tired of their shenanigans and digs his claws into Andrew's back.

"Ouch," Andrew says, pulling away to let Koala down on the floor.

"I'm sorry," Jesse says quickly. "Did he hurt you?"

Andrew shakes his head, grinning happily. "But I think our food might be cold."

"Oh." Jesse turns to look at the table. "Yeah."

Andrew plants hand at the small of Jesse's back, urging him forward. "I'm sure it's fine anyway," he says. "I didn't come for the food."

Jesse smiles and looks at him over his shoulder. "Then why did you?"

"For you," Andrew says. "And the cats and to sit at your table and to drink my morning coffee out of your cat mugs."

"How awfully presumptuous of you," Jesse says, but he can't hold back his smile.

"Oh, you know you're going to ask me to stay the night."

I might ask you to stay forever, Jesse thinks.

--

After dinner, which is nice if cold, they move to the couch with their wine glasses and a bowl of strawberries.

"Stay the night," Jesse says because he can't bear the thought of Andrew leaving.

"You'll have to kick me out," Andrew promises, smiling sweetly.

It's not like any other date Jesse’s ever had. There are no awkward silences and no false pretenses. They both know exactly how and where the night is going to end but while they're eager to get there, it's okay to just be, too. They talk and laugh, and talk more, and laugh more, and in between they make out, languid and sweet and hot and wet.

"I really want to blow you," Andrew murmurs after yet another make-out session, breath hot against Jesse's face. "Can I?"

Okay, so maybe they're a little eager.

"Yeah," Jesse breathes. "Fuck, yeah."

Andrew laughs, pressing a kiss to Jesse's cheek and biting lightly at his jaw. Then he slides backwards off the couch, fitting himself into the narrow space before the coffee table.

"Like this?" he asks, hands warm on Jesse's spread thighs.

Jesse nods reaching down to touch the side of Andrew's face, his neck, his hair. He traces his thumb over Andrew's wet lips, gasping when Andrew nips at it before letting it slip into his mouth. Jesse's hard already, cock straining against his pants, and he flushes when Andrew gets them open and down, his dick arching up against his stomach.

"Gorgeous," Andrew murmurs, fitting a hand around the base as he shifts to lean forward, making Jesse groan loudly.

"I'm not going to… This is gonna be over real quick," Jesse warns.

"That's okay," Andrew mumbles and then his mouth is on Jesse's dick and Jesse is going to die.

Andrew's good, he's really good, mouth tight and fingers limber. Jesse buries his hands into his hair and tries to force himself to not thrust. He makes so much noise the cats run to hide in the kitchen, which he would be embarrassed about if he could think about anything but hot, tight, wet, oh my god.

"Andrew… I'm gonna…" He tugs on Andrew's hair. "You have to…"

Andrew pulls off with a slick pop, tilting his head back to smile at Jesse. His mouth is red and wet with saliva and he's goddamned gorgeous.

"You can come in my mouth," he says. "I want you to."

"Oh God," Jesse breathes and then Andrew's mouth is on him again. His lips stretch around Jesse's dick and his eyes flutter shut as if it's good for him too and Jesse is done for, coming so hard his toes curl and his vision whites out.

Andrew keeps sucking him through it, throat bobbing as he swallows and it's been three minutes but it's already the best sex Jesse’s ever had.

"Bedroom?" Andrew asks hoarsely when he lets Jesse's dick slip from his mouth and Jesse nods so vigorously he's in danger of whiplash.

--

Jesse kicks off his pants by the couch and leaves his shirt on the floor halfway to the bedroom and for once he doesn't feel embarrassed. It's hard to feel anything but beautiful with Andrew's hands all over him and Andrew's mouth murmuring encouragement against his ear.

They kick the bedroom door shut, plunging the room into darkness, but Jesse turns on the bedside light because he wants to see Andrew, all of him.

"I want you to fuck me," he says, sliding his hands in under Andrew’s shirt and pushing it up. "Will you?"

"God," Andrew groans and bends down to kiss him, tangling the shirt between them. "Yes."

It's not flawless, not even close – they bump noses and clack teeth, Jesse elbows Andrew in the head and Andrew’s stupid jeans tangle around their feet – but it's amazing. Jesse never laughed during sex before, but he laughs now, free and happy.

He laughs when Andrew spills lube all over the bed and when their bony knees bump together and when Andrew's dick drools against his thigh. Then he moans around a blissful smile as Andrew carefully works two fingers into him and presses soft kisses along his neck.

"Okay?" Andrew asks breathlessly and curls his fingers.

Jesse arches up with a groan, pleasure singing along his nerve endings, and it takes a moment before he can answer.

"Fuck yeah."

Andrew laughs and curls his fingers again and again and again, until Jesse is a writhing sweaty mess against the soiled sheets, legs splayed and dick drooling.

"Please," he begs. "Please, please, please. I want… Oh. Oh."

-

Jesse forces himself to look while Andrew slides the condom on and slicks himself up, to see the way Andrew's fingers tremble and the delicate way he bites at his lips. Then Andrew's fingers slip back inside him and he groans helplessly.

"You ready?" Andrew asks, shifting to rest between Jesse's spread legs.

"Yeah," Jesse moans, reaching out to slide his hands over Andrew's sweaty chest to his sides. "Please."

-

It hurts at first, the slow burning stretch of too much and not nearly enough. Jesse pulls at Andrew's back and forgets how to breathe, trying for more and less at the same time.

"Shhh," Andrew whispers and Jesse realizes he's whimpering under his breath. "Are you okay?"

Andrew's arms are trembling and his voice dark, but his eyes are so very, very soft and gentle.

Jesse nods and sucks in a breath, smiling helplessly. "Absolutely," he mumbles.

Andrew bends down to kiss him, shifting slightly, and Jesse groans into his mouth, digging his fingers into Andrew's back.

"Again," he demands.

Andrew laughs hoarsely, kissing Jesse again and again, while his hips pick up a stuttered messy rhythm. Jesse digs his heels into Andrew's back and gasps helplessly into his mouth, sliding his fingers into Andrew's hair because he needs to hold on to something.

It's been a while since Jesse did this, been a while since he even wanted to. He enjoys sex as much as the next guy but this is more, it touches him deeper, and he’s never ever done it on a first date before, but it feels just right, as if this overwhelming rightness is how he's supposed to feel all the time and not only when Andrew's inside of him.

"I'm not going to last," Andrew pants, dragging his lips along Jesse's cheek. "I'm not…"

Andrew shifts and fumbles in between them, wrapping his hand around Jesse's dick and getting his knees under him to thrust harder, faster. Jesse groans, and arches up, and thinks he might be broken in half or simply die from sensual overload. It's never been this good or this incredibly intense and he's pretty sure Andrew has already ruined him for all other men.

He frees one hand from Andrew's hair and brings it down to help Andrew jerk him off, fingers slipping through precome and sweat. Pleasure coils at the pit of his stomach and pulses through his limbs, noises slipping continuously from his lips.

"Andrew," he gasps. "Andrew."

Andrew fucks him harder and jerks him faster, hips losing their rhythm and breaths turning into whimpers. Jesse feels as if he's been on the edge of coming for years, everything pulled tight and waiting but Andrew is the one that comes first, dripping sweat onto Jesse's face and letting out a string of unintelligible words that begin and end with Jesse's name.

Jesse pries his eyes open to stare at him, to take in the way his face scrunches up and his mouth goes slack. He's beautiful, flushed and slick with sweat, and Jesse's heart swells and swells. Then he's pulling out and shifting down and Jesse comes so hard he sees forever with Andrew's mouth around his dick and three of Andrew's fingers buried deep inside.

-

Afterwards Jesse feels like a wrung-out dish rag, but he is filthy and Andrew is filthy and the bed is an unbelievable mess. So he lets Andrew guide him to the bathroom and into the shower and they kiss slow and sweet under the lukewarm spray.

"I'm usually better at this," Andrew murmurs, as he wraps a towel around Jesse's shoulders after the shower.

"Better at what?"

"Sex."

Jesse gives him an incredulous look.

"I can do better," Andrew says stubbornly. "I promise."

"I might not survive better," Jesse says weakly.

Andrew doesn't answer and when Jesse looks up he finds Andrew looking at him in a way that can only be described as incredibly fond.

"Idiot," Jesse grumbles, but he pulls Andrew in for a kiss to soften the blow.

"I'm just so happy to finally be here," Andrew murmurs against Jesse's ear. "In New York. In your apartment. With you."

Jesse relaxes into him, tucking his face into Andrew's damp neck. "I'm so happy to have you here," he admits and it doesn't feel scary at all.

--

It's not until they're back in bed, now with clean sheets courtesy of Andrew that Jesse remembers about the tattoo. (Apparently he was serious about his resolve to woo Jesse with household chores.)

"Hey," he says, pushing himself up on one elbow. "Do you really have a tattoo?"

Andrew laughs, but his cheeks turn curiously red. "Yeah… uhm… but you have to promise not to be mad."

Jesse frowns. "Why would I be… Oh…"

Andrew pushes the sheets down to bare his hip and there it is; Jesse's little mouse counterpart etched permanently into Andrew's skin.

"I got it with the paycheck from my first movie," Andrew says, reaching down to trace it with a fingertip.

Jesse swallows thickly, unable to stop staring.

"I don't think I'll ever be able to explain how much your notes affected me," Andrew says. "And not just… not just because they said nice things about me but because… sometimes something that small can make such a huge difference in someone's life and I just… I wanted to remember that… because I think everyone should… and uhm… you're not mad are you?"

"Are you insane?" Jesse asks, heart beating triple time and stomach fluttering all over the place. "Andrew, it's… I'm… Holy shit." He reaches out to touch his shaking fingers to it. "I don't… I don't even know… you're…"

Andrew reaches out to touch the side of Jesse's face, cupping his cheek. "Now, do you believe me?" he asks softly.

Jesse bites down on his lower lip and nods. He could have done more, he could have done so much more, but maybe he did just enough. He squeezes his eyes shut when Andrew kisses him, and he doesn't protest when Andrew pulls him down to rest with his head on Andrew's chest. He keeps his hand on Andrew's hip, the tattoo hidden underneath his palm, and lets himself be happy.

--

Jesse wakes up before the alarm. Andrew’s still asleep next to him with his face pressed into Jesse’s shoulder and one arm carelessly thrown across Jesse’s chest. He takes a moment to appreciate just how much he doesn’t feel trapped -- Andrew’s arm comforting rather than restricting -- and promptly doesn’t freak out. It’s quite upsetting actually.

One of the cats is scratching at the door, meowing dejectedly and Andrew’s breath is hot and wet against his skin. He still doesn’t freak out. Carefully, he reaches out for his phone, abandoned on the nightstand and sends off a text to Emma.

-

To: Emma
From: Jesse

I’m not freaking out.

-

To: Jesse
From: Emma

Fantastic. Congratulations. Now go the fuck back to bed.

-

”What are you doing?” Andrew asks, voice sleep rough and grumpy, shifting to dump his head on Jesse’s shoulder.

Jesse touches his hair, sliding his fingers into the thick depths of it. ”Nothing,” he says.

Andrew shifts, and mutters, and pushes himself up to look at Jesse properly. ”Are you freaking out?”

Jesse shakes his head and Andrew narrows his eyes. ”I’m not,” Jesse mutters. ”And it’s freaking me out.”

Andrew laughs, and noses a kiss against Jesse’s cheek. ”Let it go,” he says. ”I’m just that special.”

”But I always freak out,” Jesse protests. ”I don’t handle intimacy very well. Also, you’re all over me.”

”And?”

”I don’t mind.”

Andrew laughs again and collapses back down on the bed, his hair tickling Jesse’s neck. Jesse blinks up at the ceiling, the same cracked white as it was yesterday and the day before, yet it seems different somehow, brighter. His chest swells and clenches, his stomach flutters and his cheeks heat, but it’s not a panic attack. Not even close. He’s happy.

”Andrew,” he mumbles, sliding his fingers over Andrew’s shoulder.

”Yeah?”

”Stay.”

He can feel Andrew’s lips curl into a smile against his skin. ”I have to work,” he says, pushing himself up again. ”But I’ll come back. I swear.”

Jesse nods and touches the stubble on his cheek. ”I want you to,” he murmurs.

--

They eat breakfast in the kitchen and Andrew drinks coffee out of one of Jesse's cat mugs with both hands wrapped tight around the cup and a sleepy smile curling his lips. He has his feet tangled with Jesse's under the table and his hair is a disorderly mess. It's all terribly domestic and it just might be the best morning of Jesse's life. Unfortunately, he's not emotionally equipped to handle the best morning of his life at 6 AM. Andrew's call time sucks.

"You should go back to bed," Andrew says, reaching out across the table to touch Jesse's hand. "You don't have to be up yet."

"Shut up and let me enjoy the moment," Jesse grumbles, then he flushes and grabs for Andrew's hand. "Sorry."

Andrew laughs and squeezes his fingers, obviously unconcerned by how very much Jesse is not a morning person. "I love you," he says simply.

Jesse's heart stutters and his cheeks flush darker and his stomach turns inside out and upside down. He wants to say it back, because he feels it back, but the words stick on his tongue and clog up his throat and he stares helplessly at Andrew, like a very small mouse at the feet of a beautiful giraffe.

Andrew smiles brighter and pushes himself up to kiss Jesse across the table. "It's okay," he says softly. "You don't have to say it back."

Jesse tries to force his mouth open, force the words out, because he doesn't want Andrew leave thinking Jesse doesn't love him back, but he can't.

"I know it's too soon," Andrew says, sinking back into his chair and picking up his discarded coffee cup. "But I always thought it was silly to wait for some kind of moment when you already know how you feel."

He takes a mouthful of coffee, looking thoughtful. "I think Savage Garden wrote a song about this, actually."

Jesse stares at him blankly.

Andrew smirks. "Google it at work. You'll know which one."

--

When Jesse follows Andrew to the door he still hasn't gotten the words, or any words really, out, but Andrew still bends down to kiss him with one hand cupped underneath his chin.

"I'll see you tonight," he murmurs.

Jesse nods.

--

Jesse is a mess. He sits at his desk staring blankly at the document open on his screen while he tries to wrap his mind around last night and especially this morning. Occasionally, he moves the cursor to highlight a word love on page 42, emotion on page 63, surreal on page 13 and so on, but he can't bring himself to do any actual work. He's not freaking out, exactly, but he is incredibly overwhelmed.

He jumps when his phone beeps, fingers trembling as he picks it up, bringing the message up on the screen.

To: Jesse
From: Andrew

I miss you and that thing I said this morning? Still true.

-

Jesse stares at it for the longest time, the tight knot in his stomach slowly unraveling. He takes a deep breath and then another one and lets himself believe that this is going to work out. He's not going to ruin this by being himself. He's not going to ruin it by being clingy, or overbearing, or too much, and he's definitely not going to do it by being too distant.

He opens the topmost desk drawer, the only one that locks, and takes out a folded paper nestled at the top. He smoothes it out on his desk and carefully reads it through. It's a list of all the things he's done wrong in a relationship, all of the awkward moments he took on himself, and every failed date he ever went on. It's a mess of contradictions: too clingy, too distant, too early, too late, too open, too closed. Reading through it now it's quite obvious that the only thing he never tried with anyone is the one thing he's had with Andrew right from the start: honesty.

He let Andrew know him in a way he never let anyone know him before. He let Andrew peel away at his layers until he made it to the very core and it's the most terrifying thing to ever happen to him, but also the most exhilarating. He gave Andrew an unfinished map to his heart and instead of seeing a chore, Andrew saw a treasure hunt, carefully jotting down lines and paths, mapping Jesse out like no one ever cared to do before.

Jesse looks down at the list again and sees it for what it really is; a number of desperate attempts to mold himself into frames that didn't fit him. His therapist once told him he had to stop looking for people that would love him despite who he was and start looking for the one who would love him because of who he was. Jesse didn't get it then, the concept of someone loving him for him too ridiculous to contemplate, but he gets it now. He really, really gets it now and it's terrifying and exhilarating and absolutely fucking wonderful.

-

To: Andrew
From: Jesse

You know me like no one’s ever known me before. I don't think I will ever be able to fully express how much that means to me. And I miss you too, which is ridiculous.

-

Andrew calls ten minutes later when Jesse has relocated to the floor beneath his desk. He does that sometimes when he feels overwhelmed; his therapist says it's a uterus thing but Jesse tries to never think about that.

"What are you doing?" Andrew asks, sounding warm and happy and wonderful.

"I'm hiding under my desk," Jesse answers truthfully, pressing the phone a little tighter to his ear because it makes it sound almost as if Andrew's under the desk with him and that would be even better.

"Oh… Are you still freaking out?"

"I'm not freaking out," Jesse says petulantly. "I'm just feeling a bit overwhelmed."

"Is it… Was it me? I know I can be a bit much sometimes, a lot of the times actually…"

"It's not you. You're perfect, kind of amazing really. Please, don't ever think you make me unhappy because you don't… I make me unhappy, but I'm getting better with that."

"Okay… uhm… I think you're amazing too and I really do miss you."

Jesse's cheeks heat up but mostly he's incredibly pleased. "I used to think that I didn't deserve to have wonderful things happen to me," he says. "But then you happened and now I think that maybe… maybe you don't have to deserve it, maybe sometimes you just get lucky, and that's okay… Right?"

"Yeah. That's… yeah. You… You deserve all the wonderful things."

It's not the kind of conversation Jesse expected to have when he picked up the phone, but maybe he should have because they've never skirted the difficult issues. It's part of what makes them so good together.

"I should send Emma a flower shop for getting me your email address," he says, smiling up at the underside of his desk. There's a note taped to it that says: You're not as horrible as you think you are. Today, he believes it.

"Yes… Absolutely. Let's do that and we should send one to Justin too, for giving it out."

Jesse can hear someone shouting for Andrew on the other end and Andrew makes an annoyed sound at the back of his throat.

"I have to go," he says. "And I don't know when we'll be done here, but I'll come by later, okay?"

"Yeah," Jesse says. "It's more than okay."

Andrew hangs up mid-chuckle and Jesse keeps smiling up at his desk.

--

Jesse doesn't hear the door open, but he sees the open toes of Emma's shoes as she walks up to the desk to peer over it.

"Is it a good overwhelmed or bad overwhelmed?" she asks.

"Good," Jesse answers. "Definitely good." He crawls out from under the desk and pulls himself up to sit in his chair. "Really good."

Emma grins. "So I take the date was a success then?"

Jesse picks up the paper still on his desk but instead of folding it and putting it back in the drawer, he crumples it up and drops it into the trashcan.

"It really, really was," he says.

--

One week later Andrew cancels his hotel room and moves in. It's only temporary, while he's filming in NYC, but it feels huge.

"I didn't think I'd ever get to see the day you moved in with someone," Jesse's mom says fondly, ruffling Jesse's hair as if he's five, completely ignoring the fact that Andrew's sitting on the other side of the table.

"Me neither," Justin says.

"Me three," Kerri adds.

"Me four," Jesse's dad mutters.

"It's only temporary," Jesse whines, but Andrew beams at him from across the table and tangles their feet underneath it and it doesn't feel temporary at all.

--

Two weeks after that the first pictures of them pop up online. Jesse doesn't cyber stalk Andrew anymore and he cancelled his Google alerts, but he doesn't have to be a stalker to see this one.

-

From: Emma Stone (emma.stone@randomhouse.com)
To: Jesse Eisenberg (jesse.eisenberg@randomhouse.com)
Subject: !!!!!

Andrew Garfield out and about with new beau?

-

From: Joe Mazello (joe.mazello@randomhouse.com)
To: Jesse Eisenberg (jesse.eisenberg@randomhouse.com)
Subject: You know you've made it…

When Perez Hilton draws come on your face…

-
From: Justin Bartha (doyathinkimsexy@gmail.com)
To: Jesse Eisenberg (jesse.eisenberg@randomhouse.com)
Subject: I didn't know you did PDA. I feel cheated somehow.

You look kind of cute though.

-

To: Jesse
From: Andrew

Please, please, please, please don't freak out. I'm so fucking sorry.

-

To: Jesse
From: Andrew

And I love you a lot, lot.

-

To: Jesse
From: Andrew

And my mom REALLY wants to meet you now.

-

Jesse takes a deep breath, pointedly doesn't read any of the innuendo-laden articles, and puts that damned Savage Garden song on repeat on his iPod. He's not freaking out, but he still moves to lie down under his desk for a while.

It takes him a while to notice that his positive reinforcement note has an addendum –

You're not as horrible as you think you are.

YOU'RE NOT HORRIBLE AT ALL. YOU'RE PERFECT AND ADORABLE AND I LOVE YOU.
STOP HIDING UNDER YOUR DESK AND CALL ME. /A.

- but when he does, his mouth curls into a smile and he takes his phone out to answer Andrew.

-

To: Andrew
From: Jesse

Did you have to wear the red jeans? Now everyone knows I'm dating a hipster-dork.

-

To: Jesse
From: Andrew

Are you okay?

-

To: Andrew
From: Jesse

I'm listening to Savage Garden under my desk and smiling like a silly person, but other than that I'm perfectly fine.

-

To: Jesse
From: Andrew

<3

-

To: Andrew
From: Jesse

<3

--

Jesse still hasn't said it back, but he will.

--

Five weeks later Andrew has to go to LA for a couple of weeks to do green screen work.

"The cats will miss you," Jesse says, tangling his fingers into Andrew's shirt.

"I will miss them too," Andrew says sadly. "Austen might never talk to me again."

"She doesn't talk to you now."

"But she might have, if hadn't gone away. She's delicate like that. She can sense these things."

Jesse smiles stupidly and pushes himself up to kiss Andrew's adorable mouth.

"I will miss you too," he admits.

Andrew hugs him hard and kisses him again. "Tell me about it," he mutters.

They cling to each other for a moment and Jesse thinks very hard about the words he hasn't said yet. He could say them now, he's certain that they would flow off his tongue ever so smoothly, but he doesn't want to ruin the surprise.

"I love you," Andrew says fiercely, squeezing him harder.

Jesse hums in agreement.

"And I'm… uhm… I'm considering relocating to New York City… permanently."

Jesse lifts his head, heart stuttering happily.

"You are?"

"Yeah, uhm… you see I found this place that is really kind of perfect for me. It's not very big but it… it has cats and uhm… a Mouse and I'm hopelessly fond of the Mouse and I kind of think I might not survive not living on the same continent as him… So I thought I'd move in permanently… if he'll have me, or I could get my own place but close and we could keep some distance while we…"

"Don't get your own place," Jesse says quickly. "Stay. Stay with me."

Andrew's breath hitches and Jesse's eyes feel wet and they kiss slow and deep and desperate.

"Your… your taxi," Jesse stutters when they pull apart. "You have to…"

"Yeah," Andrew says, kissing him again. "Yeah."

Jesse laughs and pulls away and shoves lightly on Andrew's chest. "I would feel horrible if I you missed your flight. Go."

"Okay," Andrew says, shouldering his backpack and picking up his carry on. "But I'll be back."

"Permanently," Jesse says and he really likes the sound of that.

Andrew smiles so wide the corners of his mouth almost touch his ears. "Yeah," he says. "Permanently."

"I love you," Jesse whispers when he has pulled the door closed behind Andrew. "I really, really do."

--

Note hidden in Andrew's suitcase:

I LOVE YOU! /Jesse

On the picture the mouse has found a ladder to reach the giraffe's face and a number of hearts float above them as they kiss.

-- THE END --