Neil dragged his feet as he walked through the door. His body ached from the countless drills and Neil thought his arms would fall right off from the rigorous practice his coach subjected the team to. He dropped his duffel by the door and trudged into the living room, debating whether he should take a nap or not. It only took a couple minutes to decide that, yes, he very much wanted to take a nap.
Usually Neil would go with Andrew to get groceries, but Neil really didn’t think he could stay standing for another five minutes. Andrew seemed to agree. He had sensed Neil’s fatigue during the ride back to the apartment and dropped him off with orders to rest.
The apartment was quiet, disturbed only by Neil rustling around the living room, taking his shoes off and shucking off his jacket. It would be better if he napped in the bedroom, on the large fluffy bed with sheets that still smelled like the fabric softener and Andrew’s shampoo, but Neil didn’t want to take another step forward. Instead he spotted Sir and King curled up under the window in a golden patch of sunlight. Neil nodded approvingly, the cats had the right idea, and stumbled the last couple steps, fell to his knees, and stretched out on the floor.
One of the cat’s licked Neil’s hand and starting purring. He absently ran his fingers through the Sir’s soft fur and sighed when the sunshine warmed his back. Despite the scratchy carpet under his cheek and the lack of a pillow and blanket, Neil already felt himself being lulled to sleep.
What felt like seconds later, Neil woke to the apartment door opening and closing. He heard footsteps approaching behind him, pausing, and then passing him by to get to the kitchen. A rustle of bags as they were placed on the counter. Cupboard doors opening and closing. More footsteps. Another pause.
“Neil,” Andrew said.
Neil tried to respond, but all that he got out was a quiet “Hmm?”
“Why are you on the floor?”
“Warm,” Neil answered and curled up even more in the patch of sunlight. When Andrew opened the door, it brought in a draft of cold air from outside and Neil didn’t want to get the throw blanket from the couch.
Neil heard a sigh right above him and then hands were gently easing him up. Neil blinked open his eyes, trying hard to keep them open. He let Andrew pull him up and hook an arm around his waist to him to the couch.
“I think we’re going to do nothing for the rest of the day,” Andrew decided as he sat on the couch and eased Neil down so he had his head pillowed on Andrew’s thigh and his feet stretched out across the cushions.
Neil started to protest weakly but Andrew already had his favorite TV show on and was lazily skimming his fingers up and down Neil’s back. Neil decided to let the protest die in his throat as he hooked a hand around Andrew’s calf and ran soothing circles along his skin. He was so comfortable, it was only a matter of time until he was asleep again.
Later that night Neil woke by himself on the couch to find Andrew making dinner in the kitchen. It was Neil’s favorite – chicken alfredo. Neil kissed Andrew on the cheek in appreciation as he passed by to load up his plate. After dinner Neil washed the dishes while Andrew dried them. Outside, the sky was growing dark.
Neil probably shouldn’t have napped for so long because now he didn’t feel tired at all. They didn’t have practice tonight since their coach wanted them to rest up for the game tomorrow, so Neil couldn’t spend all of his extra energy doing drills and taking shots on the goal. He supposed he could have gone for a run, but he was warm and sated after the delicious dinner and he didn’t feel like exercising. He’d much rather spend a quiet night in with Andrew.
Neil poked his head out the balcony just as Andrew was finishing up his call with Bee. Andrew acknowledged him with a flick of his eyes in his direction, said goodbye, and hung up.
“Everything okay?” Neil asked.
Andrew nodded. “Bee was just checking in. She says she’s started knitting another sweater that should be done by Christmas.”
“Oh no,” Neil teased, smiling. He remembered the last sweater Betsy had sent them. It was lumpy and one of the arms was longer than the other. It was technically for Andrew but Neil had stolen it immediately once he discovered how warm it was. “Should we be worried?”
Andrew rolled his eyes. “You say as if I don’t catch you wearing that sweater all the time.”
Neil snorted and offered his hand to Andrew. Andrew accepted it and Neil tugged him inside before one of the cats could make a run for it. Neil led him back to the couch, already worn and sagging in some places from the years, and settled onto one of the cushions. Andrew disentangled his hand just long enough to grab his book from the coffee table before he slotted his body between Neil and the couch.
This apartment, their home, had been theirs for four years now. The walls were lined with pictures of the cats and the former Foxes with their growing families, scattered all across the country. A younger Neil was afraid that they’d lose contact. That the family he found wouldn’t be as close as the years went on. And while they lived miles away from each other, they were still here. They were still family.
“Neil?” Andrew’s voice drew Neil from his thoughts. Neil hadn’t realized he’d spaced out.
“Just thinking about life,” Neil said.
Andrew tipped his head to the side.
“I’m okay, promise. Just happy.”
Andrew stared at him for a long moment before he craned his neck to place a soft kiss to Neil’s lips. “Me too,” he said.
Neil smiled. Years ago, Andrew would have scoffed or outright dismissed his feelings. Years ago, Neil wouldn’t have even admitted to being happy. They’ve both come so far.
Andrew shifted so that his head was in Neil’s lap as he read. Neil placed one hand in Andrew’s hair and ran his fingers through the soft blonde strands as he watched an Exy game on the TV. It was a rerun, but it was a good one and Neil was instantly enraptured. No matter how much time had passed, he’d always love Exy.
Minutes had passed, and Andrew was basically putty in Neil’s lap, melting more and more into the cushion with each slow stroke of Neil’s hand. Neil knew that Andrew loved having his hair petted, even though he’d never admit it. Once, when Neil tried to bring it up, Andrew had narrowed his eyes and said, I’m not a cat, Neil. But he still never asked Neil to stop so Neil didn’t.
The announcer spoke rapidly into the microphone as the goal lit up red with another point for the Boston Bulldogs. The crowd exploded with cheers and the screen above them replayed the move in slow motion, highlighting the impossible move pulled by the striker. It was amazing. Neil felt a match strike in his chest, lighting up his veins as he watched the ball hurtling to the goal, the goalie missing it by an inch.
The replay was over and the excitement on the screen died down. Neil down to see if Andrew saw it only to find Andrew glaring up at him. Neil blinked, wondering what was wrong before it hit him. The excitement of the game had distracted Neil, making his hand pause in Andrew’s hair. Neil bit back a smile and continued the soothing strokes. Andrew huffed and went back to his book.
Neil bent down and kissed the top of Andrew’s head. He was much better than an Exy game anyway.