Andrew hasn’t looked at Steven since they left the farewell party.
Steven initially hadn’t wanted to make a big deal out of it, but Jen and Annie sent out the invitations anyway. Adam made speeches—practically unheard of—and they all sat in the bean bags Annie dragged from the rec room watching random clips of Worth It Jen put together in a Goodbye, Steven video. It almost made Steven not want to leave.
The light turns red, and finally, finally, Andrew glances at him, ever so slightly, as if he’s afraid of looking at Steven. His fingers drum against the steering wheel. This is the first time Andrew drives him home. Steven’s own car is currently in a compartment box being shipped to his new two-bedroom apartment in Manhattan. Steven wonders if it will be the last.
“I don’t want it to end like this,” Andrew croaks out. The words sound like they’re being punched out of his chest. “Not like this.”
Steven inhales shakily. “I know.”
The light turns yellow. Andrew’s eyes are so clear, like the ocean in Hawaii when they snuck out of their hotel to watch the sunrise.
“What do you mean?”
Andrew’s teeth are gritted. “You know what I meant.”
The light turns green.
Andrew closes the door behind him and crowds Steven’s personal place. Hands on Steven’s waist, Andrew pushes Steven against the wall and kisses him hard. His fingers dig into Steven’s ribcage like he’s trying to break into Steven, imprint his fingertips on his lungs so Steven never forgets him.
Steven tastes Japan on his lips, remembers the heat and the humidity of their square hotel room and the way Andrew laid him down and took him into his mouth. Steven tastes the snow in DC, the cold seeping into his jacket contrasting with the warmth of Andrew’s mouth on his, Adam rolling his eyes behind the camera in exasperation but unable to hide his fondness. Steven tastes the desperation of their first kiss, the anger of Montreal, the sweetness of their brunch date—Steven tastes the memories he’s made with Andrew by his side and finds himself clutching at the other man just as hard.
“I can’t,” Andrew pants out, gasping at Steven’s tiny bites on his exposed jaw, neck, the hand slipping up his chest. “Steven, please, don’t do this.”
Steven closes his eyes because one more look at those green eyes, he would lose. Steven never wins when it comes to Andrew.
It’s difficult to say what he feels, so he just says it with his mouth.
The job offer would fast-track his career by four years, open up doors to opportunities he could only have dared to dream of before, and it has a better pay. It would be stupid of him not to take it, Andrew tells him as much.
This… thing between Steven and Andrew is undefined. Steven’s not sure what to call Andrew. He is still one of his best friends, but best friends don’t fuck each other into the mattress and cuddle in the morning. Steven is only sure of his own feelings, in that he is falling slowly for the blonde man lying next to him. He can try to deny it all he wants, but he can’t lie to himself. Andrew plays with his fingertips while he reads a book, head on Steven’s bare chest.
Andrew is right, it would be stupid of Steven not to take the job offer.
“We can do long distance,” Andrew says.
At the time, those words don’t really compute. Steven’s more interested in pulling Andrew flush against his chest and kissing the top of his head. But later, after they’re spent and boneless, Steven thinks of the distance. We can do long distance.
He thinks of Ying, how difficult it is to erase the pain that comes with her name and asks himself if he’s willing to go through the same thing with Andrew, knowing full well what the ending is going to be. Long-distance doesn’t work, not right now when they’re at the peak of their careers.
He has spent a better part of his twenties trying to make distance work, and in the end, it all comes crashing down and he’s lost not only a girlfriend, but a best friend. Ying was almost like a life partner. There was a time that he was sure Ying would walk down the aisle to him, but now seeing her picture made his chest constrict in the most painful way possible.
Steven looks at their intertwined hands. He can’t do that to Andrew. He can’t imagine losing someone that important, not for the second time. Ying would be the first and the last.
So he kisses Andrew’s knuckles and begins to think of every moment as the last.
He counts down the days.
“You met her when you were both nineteen and didn’t know any better. We’re older now. We can make this work.”
“It doesn’t change the fact that there is still distance between us.”
“I’m not letting you end this—not when this hasn’t even had a chance to take root.”
“That’s why I had to, Andrew. Do you think I want to do this to you?”
“Then why are you doing this?”
“Because you’re far too important. Look, distance—it takes a toll on you. It will take a toll on both of us. We’ll run out of topics and then we’ll just sit in silence, and it’s only going to make us both anxious. Eventually, we won’t always be there for each other when one of us needs us the most—there’s just too much between us that in the end we’ll stop trying.”
“I’m not her.”
“I can—fly, every week or so, we can always videochat, I’ll even—get a damn Instagram just to feel closer to you. Just—please, don’t do this, Steven.”
“I’m going anyway.”
Traffic in New York is much like that in LA. But New York has so much more grey than sunny Los Angeles. And yellow cabs. Can’t forget about that.
Steven’s hand rests on the empty passenger seat. Second day at work, a week after he left LA.
Andrew hasn’t called, but neither has he.
He looks up just as the light turns green.