The Foxes traipsed in from the rain, laughing and rough-housing good-naturedly. Practice had been cut short when the rain started really pouring so they could all get home before the roads got bad, and they were all breathless with the joy that comes from running in the rain.
They climbed the stairs up to their dorm rooms, Kevin and Dan grabbing the alcohol while Renee started a pot of water for tea (or cocoa). They’d mutually ended up in the girls’ rooms, after shedding sopping clothing and returning in cozy pjs and soft socks.
Andrew was sitting on the floor under the window, looking bored as ever but rosy cheeked as the rest of them (even Andrew couldn’t control his weather-induced blush through sheer force of will). After a moment’s deliberation, Neil plopped down against the corner next to him, and after a soft “yes or no” he shoved his cold sock-covered feet under Andrew’s thighs.
Andrew didn’t even blink, but he did lift an eyebrow at Neil, which he counted as a victory.
“Andrew-cocoa, right? Neil, you want any?” Renee peered at them from the kitchenette.
“Just tea for me, thanks.” Neil sighed happily when he was handed the steaming mug, noting with pleasure the way Andrew was sticking his pink nose into his own drink.
The rest of the Foxes slowly eased into comfortable spots in the living room, with Dan sitting on Matt’s lap, Allison sitting on the couch with Rennee’s legs swung over her lap, and the monsters spread out around the room on beanbags they’d dragged in from their rooms and holding mugs of their own.
Kevin turned on a game, and they sat in comfortable silence for a bit, drinking their warm drinks and listening to the rain pounding outside. Neil couldn’t seem to keep his eyes away from Andrew, and he knew he was smiling faintly, no matter how hard he tried to tug the corners of his lips down.
It was just. The last time he’d ran through the pouring rain, it had been with a knife wound dug deep in his side and his mother’s breathless orders to keep moving, for God’s sake keep moving. It had been dark and cold and breath had ripped itself out of Neil’s lungs as he tried to keep conscious. He could hear laughter behind him in the distance, as Lola chased after them.
Andrew leaned forward and grabbed Neil’s mug, drawing him back to the present. He stole a sip, making a face at the lack of sweetener, and handed it back to Neil a second later.
“Disgusting,” he said, sniffing, before drinking from his own mug as if to rid himself of the taste of unsweetened tea.
But his eyes flicked back to Neil’s, narrowing a little in a silent question.
Neil smiled at him, small but genuine. I’m ok, thank you. It never ceased to amaze him how Andrew could pull him out of his memories so effortlessly. He wished he was as adept at handling other people, but it sometimes felt like the best he could do was be there for Andrew.
“Aww,” Nicky piped up, but his voice was soft, and the comment that was sure to follow somehow wasn’t as annoying as usual. “You two are just precious.”
Andrew’s eyes snapped to Nicky and he glared, but his hand rested on Neil’s shin and Neil blinked in surprise before turning a lazy grin to Nicky.
“I know,” he said, the admission coming unbidden, his voice betraying how warm he felt. Andrew’s fingers tightened a little before consciously relaxing.
The rest of the Foxes stared in surprise at the unexpected statement, before they devolved into quiet giggles and teasing, Matt just smiling silently and happily at Neil. Neil was blushing, he knew, but he couldn’t stop the warm feeling in his chest. Their comments were harmless, and they weren’t as bad as usual, whether because of the weather or how they’d progressed as a team.
And besides, Andrew didn’t get up and leave, for which Neil was profoundly grateful. It also meant that perhaps Andrew didn’t mind Neil’s slip as much as he’d feared.
“That was so fucking cute,” Dan said, sighing against Matt’s chest.
“You two are gross, is what you are,” Allison said good-naturedly.
Nicky swooned a little against Aaron, who quickly shoved him off with a scowl. "Oh Neil, you’ve grown so much! I could just kiss you!”
“Ugh,” Neil foux-winced. “No thank you. Twice was more than enough for one lifetime.”
The conversation staggered to a halt around him, the pounding of the rain more jarring this time, and it took a moment for Neil to catch up. He looked at Nicky in confusion, seeing his face pale and the smile slip off, before turning to Andrew with the intent of asking him what the hell was wrong with everybody.
The question died in his throat. Andrew had an expression on his face halfway between disbelief and murder, his head turned toward Neil but his eyes on Nicky. His typical brand of apathy seemed washed away.
“He did what?” Andrew’s voice was calm, quiet, but everyone in the room knew the danger in his tensing shoulders.
“You didn’t know,” Neil said a little breathlessly. This was bad. “You didn’t know, I thought you knew. It was the club, that night—”
Andrew didn’t believe in regret, didn’t believe in revenge, but the murder in his eyes said otherwise. He took his hand off of Neil’s shin, pushed himself off the ground, and left the room silently. The click of the door closing broke the tension in the room, leaving everyone shocked and a little uncomfortable.
Nicky let out a shuddering breath and leaned against Aaron, looking pleadingly at Neil. “Please, Neil, talk to him. We had to give you the dust. I’m so sorry I did it, but we had to.”
Neil looked at Nicky’s face, and felt the goodwill he’d had toward him earlier sour a little. Andrew didn’t like that word. And besides, Nicky had never apologized for his behavior until it looked like consequences were imminent.
Neil wasn’t angry about the incident anymore, not really. And he’d thought Andrew was in on the whole thing until two minutes ago. But some part of him still twisted at the thought of Nicky forcing his chin up and sticking his tongue down his throat.
He stood, giving a sort of half nod at Nicky, before leaving the silent room after Andrew. It wasn’t very reassuring, but it was the best he could do.
He knew exactly where the blond would be, despite the weather, and he grabbed two coats from their room before heading up the stairs after him, making sure he had a packet of cigarettes with him (though he doubted they would even light in the storm).
Sure enough, when he pushed the door to the roof open he found Andrew leaning against the wall beside it, sheltered a little from the sleeting rain.
Neil silently offered him a cigarette and a coat, which Andrew took and held tightly but didn’t light or put on. Neil did the same, fiddling anxiously with the stick and staring out into the rain.
“I’m sorry I brought it up in front of them. I thought you knew—“
A hand came up in front of his mouth, but didn’t touch him. Neil fell silent anyway, turning his face to meet Andrews intense stare.
Neil couldn’t read his expression, a surprisingly rare occurrence, and he cocked his head in question. What are you thinking?
Andrew clenched his fist, throwing the unused cigarette onto the ground in front of them, before putting the coat on.
“I told him to make sure you took the dust.” He said finally, his voice a little rougher than usual, his face still unreadable.
Neil didn’t wince, but it was a close thing. Nicky always did as Andrew told him, and he didn’t have the same experiences with consent that Andrew did. But that didn’t excuse it.
“I’m ok, Andrew,” Neil said quietly. He leaned against the wall and stared at Andrew, hands deep in his coat pockets so he wouldn’t be tempted to reach out. They’d progressed to silent acquiescence sometimes, but Neil knew that Andrew wouldn’t want to be touched right now. And he felt vulnerable enough himself at the moment that he wasn’t sure he wanted the touch either.
“I would never—“ Andrew broke off in a rare display of emotion, shoving his fists into his coat and closing his eyes.
“I know. I know, Andrew.” Neil tried to put all the love he felt into those words.
“He did it because I told him too,” Andrew said again. It was my fault, he didn’t say.
“He didn’t have to kiss me. You didn’t tell him to do that. He did that because he thought it was the best thing to do. It doesn’t make it ok, but I understand. I forgave the lot of you a long time ago.” It wasn’t your fault. It’s not your fault.
“He did it twice,” Andrew choked out.
“Twice,” Neil agreed softly. There wasn’t really anything he could say. He knew how Andrew felt about this. And Nicky had shoved his tongue down a drugged Neil’s throat. It wasn’t the same as what Andrew had gone through, but Neil knew that didn’t matter.
Andrew took several calming breaths, before reaching out finally and hovering his hand over Neil’s ruined cheek.
Neil nodded, and Andrew rested it there. It wasn’t an apology, but it was as close to one as Neil was going to get, and it was enough. It was perfect.
“You should talk to Nicky,” Neil said, bringing his hand up to gently hold Andrew’s when he started to pull away. “I know, I know, but if you don’t this is just going to get worse. You know how he is. He feels terrible.”
“He feels terrible about getting caught,” Andrew’s fingers twitched against Neil’s cheek. “I have nothing to say to him.”
“If nothing else,” Neil edged a little closer to Andrew, until their faces were half a foot apart. “We should talk to him about consent. He needs to know never to do something like this ever again, to anyone else.”
That did the trick. Andrew closed his eyes for a moment, the anger coming back into them briefly, before he nodded.
There. conversation over.
“Yes or no?” Neil asked, staying perfectly still.
“Yes.” Andrew pulled him in for a deep kiss, thumb brushing over Neil’s scar and other hand coming up to cup the back of his neck.
Neil pulled away regretfully. “I’m freezing.”
Andrew nodded thoughtfully, eyeing Neil with a heated gaze, before pulling him by the hand downstairs and personally warming him up.