Summer break, Andrew reflected as the lot of them pulled their bags out of the trunk of his car and started towards the house. Finally, some time away from the relentless schedule of Exy-this and Exy-that. Well, at least a month or so before they had to return for pre-season conditioning.
Allison had advised them on he best deals to secure the lot of them another ‘rustic’ cabin up in the mountains, though the mountains were actually mountainous this time. And the cabin was as tricked-out as his car was, all the modern conveniences and a fuck-ton of luxuries too. Andrew spared a moment to wonder that if (and it was still a very big if) he followed Kevin and Neil into a life of professional Exy, he would ever earn or amass enough money that something like this would feel normal rather than ridiculously excessive. For now though, all he had to think about was getting a drink, having some food, and maybe breaking that bed in with Neil before going to sleep; it had been a really long drive, on the road since daybreak, but he had flatly refused to fly. His energy was flagging, though. Maybe just a few kisses before bed.
After all, they had plenty of time, he reminded himself. They had the cabin for two long, long weeks. And nothing to do but relax. No gym, no practice. No classes, no homework. Real time to themselves.
And he planned to spend plenty of it either asleep, doing nothing, or wrapped up in Neil.
The object of his thoughts turned around as if he could see Andrew’s plans written on his face. He smiled vaguely. “What is it?”
Andrew was about to reply when a jaw-cracking yawn overtook him. Neil’s smile got softer and he edged closer, curling his hand around the zip of Andrew’s jacket. He lightly brushed Andrew’s hair away from his eyes, a sweet little touch that was always permitted now, unless it was a super terrible day. It made Andrew’s chest feel warm and full every time, without fail.
“Maybe you should get some sleep,” Neil suggested.
Andrew grunted agreement and rubbed his watery eyes.
“I told you I should have taken the last leg.”
“Shut up,” Andrew muttered, then raised his eyebrows in question. Neil nodded with a grin, and leaned down to let Andrew kiss him; he had gained an annoying extra three inches of height in the past two years. Who knew regular meals and comparatively stress-free days could help with a long-overdue growth spurt. It certainly hadn’t done the same for the twins. A fact which Neil enjoyed endlessly.
Andrew allowed the teasing when he remembered that all the height had gone into Neil’s legs, making them even longer and nicer to have wrapped around himself. He enjoyed that immensely.
Andrew sucked gently on Neil’s pouty lip for a moment at the thought, then sighed into his cheek. “I’m going to bed,” he admitted defeat.
“I’ll join you later,” Neil promised and kissed his temple. “Sweet dreams.”
Andrew ran a hand down Neil’s chest in the guise of pushing him away, and walked into the house. He wandered around until he found one of the bedrooms, saw no one had claimed it yet, and only just about took off his shoes before curling up under the sheets.
He woke up a few hours later when Neil came in and closed the curtains, the rattling noise of the wooden rings on their pole stirring him.
“Sorry,” Neil whispered when he realised Andrew was awake.
Andrew mumbled into his pillow and gestured vaguely. Neil pottered about getting ready for bed then slid in beside Andrew. Andrew rolled onto his side to face Neil and made the motion again. Neil blinked at him a few times, then turned onto his side too. Andrew shuffled closer and wrapped an arm around Neil’s waist, his hand splayed out on his scarred stomach. They shifted and shuffled until they found a comfortable way to lie, Andrew curved around Neil’s back, their legs tangled. Neil’s head rested on the pillow Andrew had his other arm tucked under, and a hand curled around Andrew’s wrist.
Andrew grunted in satisfaction and kissed the nape of Neil’s neck, and Neil went limp with a shuddering sigh.
Good, Andrew thought vaguely to himself as he drifted back to sleep again. It was a new thing they were trying, but they had both gotten very attached to the position whenever they had enough bed-space to try it out. Neil had said being held like that made him feel safe and secure, that it made him happy. Andrew could admit he liked the security of having Neil in his arms; safe from running, safe from anyone trying to hurt him. Here with him, as promised. And the body warmth and feeling someone else’s slow breathing in sync with his own was stupidly soothing.
Good, he thought again when he woke with Neil’s firm warmth still in his arms. No nightmares for either of them; another bonus of sleeping in the position that Andrew refused to refer to as spooning, though he knew it was accurate.
He stroked his fingers lightly over the raised scars on Neil’s abdomen, feeling how his pyjama shirt had ridden up from the minute adjustments they’d made in their sleep through the night. Neil sighed and started to stir, stretching out in a long, catlike motion that pressed him more firmly back against Andrew. Andrew grazed the back of his neck with his teeth, and heard Neil’s raspy chuckle.
Andrew tightened the circle of his arm and eased his hand higher up Neil’s chest, smoothing over the scars until his palm could feel the slow, happy beat of Neil’s heart. Neil sighed again, soft and quiet, and linked their fingers together firmly over his chest.
Andrew nosed up into his hairline, resting his forehead against Neil’s cowlicks for a moment before pressing closer to kiss under his ear, just because he could. Neil hummed quietly and slumped a little under Andrew’s weight, his legs shifting lazily so Andrew’s knee slipped forward, his thigh wedging between Neil’s own. Andrew shifted his leg higher, curling tighter and tighter around the bend of Neil’s taller torso, and they sighed in unison as they found the best way to be smushed up together, as tight and snug as they could.
“Good morning,” Neil whispered, somewhat redundantly.
Andrew took an earlobe gently between his teeth for a moment in reply, making Neil chuckle. His heart always went a bit unsteady when they did this, making his bones quake and his pulse pound. This thing between them was still so precious, so raw and new every day. Wanting someone held so tight against himself, no distance between them, no physical boundary at all… it still scared him sometimes. But he’d worked so hard to get here, and now he had managed it, the feeling was almost intoxicatingly good. He didn’t want to let Neil go at all, would stay curled up like this for the whole two weeks if they could. He rubbed his nose lightly into Neil’s hair for a moment, trying not to think of how empty his bed would feel once he graduated next year, when he had to adjust to being on his own again after so much goodness and togetherness.
He squeezed Neil tighter out of reflex, feeling the impending distance like another countdown. Neil squeaked quietly from the pressure, then gave another shuddering sigh and ran appreciative fingers over the swell of Andrew’s biceps.
Andrew kissed his neck again softly and watched as sunlight spilled over the pillow from a crack in the curtains, breathing together and touching with quiet gentleness as the sunny stripe eventually wobbled down through Neil’s curls and over the curve of his shoulder, exposed from slow kiss after kiss. There was no need to talk. Simply breathing together and holding fast was more than enough for both of them, content in the sleepy warmth of each other’s bodies. Andrew knew they had to get up at some point, if only for the bathroom, but was loathe to hurry the moment along. He would take every greedy minute of Neil snug in his bed, for as long as he could. It was the choice he’d made years before, and the one he made every day when he saw Neil’s ‘good morning’ smile. He had a feeling it was a choice he’d be making for many years to come. And while that thought should be terrifying, with Neil sweet and content in his arms, fear was far away.
“I can smell bacon,” Neil remarked vaguely after some time, and his stomach growled enough for Andrew to feel it through his own body with how tightly they were pressed together.
“Mm,” Andrew agreed. He could smell coffee, too, and hear Nicky and Matt laughing downstairs.
“We should probably…”
Neither of them moved, except to cling tighter. Neil made a pathetic whining sound.
“You’re making this very hard,” he complained half-jokingly.
Andrew raised an eyebrow against the back of his neck and nudged his thigh up again, pressing against Neil’s groin. “Really?”
Neil laughed quietly and rubbed over his fingers fondly. “Not like that. Though – another time? Already a yes. I meant you’re making it difficult to want to get up.”
“I like you like this,” Andrew admitted very quietly into Neil’s hair. “I like this.”
Neil reached back with a free hand to gently card through Andrew’s hair, cradling the back of his head. “Me too,” he sighed. “So much.”
Andrew let their joined hands slide down until they pressed over Neil’s core, pulling him back and keeping him in tight. “So stay,” he murmured. “Fuck the rest of the team. Stay here.”
Neil groaned quietly. “But, breakfast…”
Andrew sighed. He stroked his thumb against Neil’s stomach for a moment before peeling himself away with a grimace, untangling their limbs and sitting up. His body felt cold and off-balance where Neil was no longer pressed like a key in its lock, and he swallowed against the little flare of unease. Neil smiled softly at him and kissed his cheek. It was an alright commiseration, Andrew supposed. That had better be some god-level bacon, though.
They traipsed downstairs in their rumpled pyjamas and bedheads, Andrew tethered to his fingertips. No one mentioned it, just let them get their plates of bacon sandwiches and mugs of coffee in peace. Neil gestured to a two-seater sofa under a huge window that took up most of the wall, with a great view over the spectacular mountain range. Andrew hummed approval and took up residence there, tucking his legs under himself and propping his plate on the arm. Neil followed him and easily slotted himself back into Andrew’s side, propped up against his chest with his legs flopped over the rest of the couch. Andrew let his arm curl loosely around Neil’s waist again, unwilling to show the rest of the team how desperately he could cling, the white-knuckled grip of his inconvenient wants. They’d seen it metaphorically, sure, with Aaron’s old leash. No need to show them how real it could actually turn.
Neil grinned back at him in a quick flash of teeth, kissed his cheek too. Andrew slipped his fingers under Neil’s shirt again to rest on his stomach and rub at his scars, and turned away to watch the mountains as he ate his sandwich one-handed, ignoring the rest of the team and their chatter. He had breakfast, coffee, and a warm armful of Neil. Everything else was secondary.
He was about to suggest in Russian that they go back to bed – either just to hold, or possibly to explore that it’s already a yes in greater detail – when Kevin came stomping back in. He was panting and sweaty from his morning run, and his dramatic entrance gained him even Andrew’s attention.
“Where were you this morning?” He demanded of Neil in a cross tone. “You missed our run.”
“I know,” Neil replied, and took a long, slow sip of his coffee. He rather pointedly rested his head back against Andrew’s shoulder and Kevin rolled his eyes. Andrew felt his mouth twitch smugly. He’d won the usual tug-of-war between Neil, Kevin, Exy and himself, for once.
“Well the good news is, I found a community sports centre down in the town in the valley,” Kevin announced to everyone, but mostly to Neil. “And they have a free-for-all Exy slot this morning. Get dressed.”
Andrew could almost physically feel the perk of Neil’s attention. Sickening.
He levelled his best flat stare in Kevin’s direction. Eyelids low, mouth turned down, brows drawn too, jaw pushed forward. “We are on vacation,” Andrew reminded him coldly, the first words he’d said to anyone but Neil.
“That’s no excuse to let our skills slip,” Kevin said, and the whole room groaned. “Neil, come on already.”
Neil was tempted, he just knew it. Andrew poured as much disgust and disdain as he could into his stare. “Can you really not go one single day without Exy?” He demanded of Kevin, his hand warm on Neil’s stomach. “And they called me an addict.”
“It’d just be for a few hours,” Neil said hesitantly, “Not the whole day.”
Kevin lifted his chin in determination under the weight of Andrew’s antipathy. “It’s important.” He insisted.
“Why don’t you come too?” Neil suggested, stroking gently over the back of his hand. Andrew knew he’d lost the tug-of-war again and huffed.
He let the full weight of his repugnance weigh down his face as he stared Kevin down and removed his arm from around Neil. “I hate so many things,” he said slowly, precisely, “About what you both choose to be.”
Kevin snorted and turned away to try and persuade the younger team members to come too. Neil shoved him away from them and started talking his ear off about stats this and stats that, and the two of them were once again lost in their own stupid world.
Andrew took a sip of his coffee. He’d liked having Neil in their world, just for a morning. A morning where Exy didn’t dictate every waking moment of their time. He folded his now-empty and useless arm around himself instead and turned back to watch a flock of birds flying near the cabin. He definitely wasn’t sulking.
“Oh, I forgot something,” Neil said suddenly, right as he was about to leave with Kevin, now fully dressed. He darted back into the room and bent down to hold Andrew’s jaw in delicate fingertips. He smiled, soft and tender, and ducked in to kiss him. Andrew didn’t bother to hide how he leaned up into it and caught Neil’s shirt in his fist, wanting very much to yank Neil securely into his lap and keep him there all day, and screw Kevin’s stupid plans. Andrew’d had his own plans, and they’d been neatly demolished with just the lure of fucking stickball.
Neil sighed into his mouth and nudged his nose fondly against Andrew’s cheek. “I’ll spend the morning doing what Kevin wants,” he muttered, “But then no more Exy for the rest of the vacation. I promise. Okay?”
“Okay,” Andrew mumbled back.
Neil lifted a hand and ran it gently through the thick, tangled sheaf of Andrew’s hair where it was flopping forward over his brow and eyes, pushing it back for him. Andrew’s breath fluttered in his lungs in a most embarrassing way. Neil kissed him again, hummingbird-fast, then rushed off to join Kevin.
Andrew slumped back against the couch, once again ignoring everyone else and whatever comments they might have. His hands already tingled with the need to be holding Neil again, so he shoved them in his hoodie pockets and rested his cheek against the back of the couch.
He wondered sometimes, when he thought about the impending separation and distance, whether Exy would finally win and Neil would lose interest in him, once he was out of sight. But if this morning was any indication, it seemed Neil was capable of making other choices. Better ones, involving Andrew and kisses and gentle touches and lazy mornings curled up in each other.
Choose us, Neil had said, after Baltimore. Well, Andrew had chosen. He just had to wait a few hours for his choice to finish running around in circles, and come back into his arms. He’d be waiting. He could be patient.
He’d waited twenty years to find someone worthy of being chosen, after all. He had patience enough, for Neil. They had all the time in the world.