The noticeboard was filled to the brim with colorful leaflets and posters, just a touch overbearing and a complete eyesore for whoever was sitting in the vicinity of it. Unfortunately for Neil it was a weekly occurrence.
His eyes catch on the newest and most ridiculous addition to the board, a poster highlighting with enthusiasm '10 tips to stress less!'
Neil rolls his eyes and glances back at the front desk, knee bouncing as he looks around and catalogues the other people in the waiting room for the fourth time. Sometimes it's the same people, but sometimes it's not, and the colorful and welcoming air of the clinic does nothing to ease his anxiety amongst strangers. Even if they're all probably here for the same reason as Neil.
Reason being: He's fucked up.
And he goes to therapy.
Well, he’s fucked up and his Uncle Stuart has been forcing him to go to therapy for nearly a year in exchange for money, which Neil believes is forked out due to family guilt. Neil wouldn't take a cent of his uncle's money if he had any other choice, and is all too happy to use it to pay his rent. In no way was he willing to live with Stuart and his heavy conscience, Neil would rather deal with him by awkward telephone debriefs that were sporadic in nature. It's difficult to pretend like his father didn’t kill his mother and send a half-dead Neil to hospital for six weeks.
It has been a year since the kidnapping and the beginning of his new lease on life, but it all still seems unreal, like a big fake dream just waiting for him to wake up from and realise he's still living a nightmare.
One year as Neil Josten wasn't even close enough to making up for twenty years as Nathaniel and countless other aliases
Neil registers the sound of heavy boots coming his way and flinches in his seat, looking up in time to see the back of a blonde stranger stomp past, catches the all black ensemble and heavy combat boots.
Neil feels shaky and curls his hands into fists, focusing on grounding himself to the present. He mentally chastises himself for being so scared at such a mundane sound, the amount of triggers he's come to recognise still makes him feel childish sometimes.
He knows that his therapist would disagree, she would explain that Neil being brought up in a violent household and not knowing safety, made it normal for him to connect a sound or action to his past, when those things were always associated with violence and fear. Still, Neil wonders if he'll ever get better.
"Hypervigilance is tiring," also says his therapist. So says Neil too okay, he's been trying. It's really not his fault he'd been dealt such rotten cards at birth. Born to a gangster father with a penchant for bloody murder and a mother who took him on an eight year run before it all came to an end via their kidnapping.
But what was Neil left with? A body full of scars, a fake knee and a lifetime of memories.
At least his parents are dead now anyways.
And that's why he's here isn't it? sitting in the community clinic on a Thursday morning, reluctantly waiting for the trauma support group to start.
Apparently, six months of weekly and biweekly sessions with a therapist who continuously dissects his 'extreme childhood trauma and complex ptsd' suggests that Neil is more than ready to attend this trauma support group they have at the clinic.
He is so not ready.
But what has he ever been ready for that wasn't forcibly taken from him? So maybe that's one of the reasons why he's allowed his therapist to even bully him into checking it out in the first place. Neil needs to make his own life. And he needs to get used to making healthy decisions. Ones that aren't revolved around avoiding torture or pain. Not anymore.
Neil tries to squash his thoughts, but to no avail. They're repetitive enough to send him out of his seat and straight for the door, craving a rush of nicotine strong enough to ease.
He stands in the corner under the foyer hoping to go unnoticed. The light drizzle of rain matched with strong winds feels refreshing against his face and he takes a moment to focus on the physical sensations, reminding himself that he is still alive.
Neil looks around, notices a few people milling around, just like him and grabs his pack and lighter from his pocket.
He struggles to light the cigarette dangling from his lips with the wind faltering his efforts. Neil tries to make a protective cave and arches his hands, but the heat of the flame gets too close to his skin for comfort.
Close to giving up, Neil takes the cigarette from his mouth but before he can drop it on the ground and stomp out his frustrations, a voice speaks up.
"Here," the stranger says, waving his lighter from a healthy distance and Neil is wary, he just wants a fucking smoke before he dumps himself in a room full of people be doesn't know, but this guy doesn't look like he's aiming to chat, clad in all black and combat boots heavy enough to stomp someone's head in.
And it doesn't take Neil long to realize that this must be the stranger who stomped out of the waiting room. Now that Neil is face to face with him, he's not much to cower over. He's shorter than Neil, his cropped hair a messy blonde, the damp strands framing his face making him look windblown. He's dressed for the weather but there's something about the way he holds himself. There is a heavy air that surrounds him that Neil can feel only a minute into his presence. Neil can't help but be intrigued.
He wonders why he was in the waiting room? Why hasn't Neil seen him before? Neil wonders what his damage is. Is he as fucked up as Neil, is anyone? Why does he wear his outfit like a shield?
Neil turns his focus back on the stranger as he realises he's missed his question. "What?" Neil asks, confused.
The stranger asks back, "Can I?" gesturing towards Neil's unlit cigarette.
Neil nods and hands it over, the stranger taking it from him, fingers pinched at the end to make sure he doesn't touch any part of Neil.
And Neil is grateful for this stranger's strange awareness with touch, but it only makes him all the more curious about him. Germs or boundaries?
Whatever the reason, it definitely isn't the first as he proceeds to place Neil's cigarette in his mouth and quickly cups it with his head bowed. It lights after a few expert flicks and the stranger lifts his head as he takes a long drag, keeping it lit. He cradles it between two fingers before he deftly plucks it out of his mouth and hands it over to Neil.
Neil feels a stir in his gut, if only because he's impressed by this guy's efficiency with his fingers.
Neil makes a grab for the middle of the cigarette, making sure not to touch. He brings it up and quickly takes a long drag of his own, unaware that his eyes have shut until he hears several flicks of a lighter.
Neil has come a long way from panicking at the sound. Using countless nights to stare down at the flame of a shitty small bic lighter, trying to recreate new associations with it and his body. To transfer association so that his hands are the ones in control, not hers . But he still struggles with it in public sometimes, it's always a different story when it's between someone else's hands.
Thankfully the stranger can't hear the sound of his heart picking up speed.
When Neil opens his eyes it's to find the stranger watching him. His eyes are intense, bright, and he clearly doesn't mind being caught as he doesn't look away.
He brings a hand up from his pocket, lighting his own cigarette, still staring at Neil as he takes a drag, exhaling smoke from his nostrils. Neil has the sense that he's showing off somehow, but maybe Neil is letting something show on his face.
Feeling awkward now, Neil clears his throat. Why does it feel like he's given something away? He twists the cigarette between his fingers. "Um, thank you?" Neil says, unsure what to call him.
"Andrew." The stranger responds, "And you are?"
Andrew takes another drag, the intensity of his eyes still unmoving from Neil's own. Neil feels thrown, he can feel himself getting flustered.
Andrew nods as if he's tucking away some important information. "Well Neil, it was truly pathetic to watch you struggle, I just had to come lend my expertise," Andrew states, tilting his head up on his exhale, "Call it my service to the community."
Neil barks out a genuine laugh before he falters at the unexpected sound. This guy's funny, and Neil hasn't felt this confused yet intrigued by someone in a long time.
Neil takes another drag to avoid saying anything else and looks away. He doesn't know what to make of the feel of Andrew's stare searing through him. It makes him want to duck down and hide, he knows what a mangled mess his face is. How anyone can stand to even look at him. Neil surprisingly doesn't feel defensive right now, Andrew's stare is like a balm of acceptance. It's not often people aren't weird about staring, but it's usually with disgust, not acknowledgement.
His thoughts about Andrew are interrupted by the sound of voices picking up volume. Neil turns his attention straight ahead to see a pair walking towards them. A woman with pastel rainbow hair waves and stops walking, dark haired friend following.
Neil hears a sigh next to him and looks at Andrew. His gaze is flatly focused on the newcomers as he tucks away his lighter before walking to meet the pair. He doesn't even acknowledge Neil.
And Neil doesn't know why he feels a bit disappointed at being abandoned by someone he met barely five minutes ago.
It's not like he's ever going to be that person, someone who socialises and has friends , and fuck he's never cared to before. It's always been about never getting close enough to care, because caring is an attachment he couldn't afford when he needed to survive.
But it feels different now. That chapter of his life is done. Since he started therapy It's difficult to pretend what he says in the safety of their sessions doesn't exist outside those doors anymore.
The truth is: Neil is lonely.
But isn't it better to be alone than to trust and no longer know which day could be your last? It's hard to get passed that old fear. People do have the power to ruin you, if you let them.
And for a stranger to be able to give Neil even a fraction of feeling something other than alone, while sharing a meagre smoke, was as unexpected to Neil as it could prove to be disastrous.
Andrew was so far a mostly silent man. He thankfully made no moves for small talk, and seems to be filled with an intensity of unspoken issues that Neil isn't sure what to make of.
But it didn't matter what Neil felt about this. He can't just latch onto an idea of someone he's just met. Yes, Andrew seemed different, and Neil's gone so long without anyone, but just the sight of him, covered head to toe in black, makes Neil think that maybe Andrew wouldn't flinch at the darkness that filled Neil. Maybe he knew what it was like.
But again, it didn't matter. Neil would probably never see him again.
Except… except Andrew is looking over at him as he talks to the pair. The rainbow haired woman has her hand lightly on his arm. Maybe she was his girlfriend? The thought of Andrew, in his all black ensemble, kissing the rainbow haired woman made Neil feel slightly nauseous at where his thoughts had taken him.
He struggles to imagine a love like that exists for him. His mother had loved him, in her own maternal way, but it was stripped of any kindness, her version of love kept him alive in the end.
He thinks it's only been two minutes but suddenly the three are approaching Neil's direction. He can only hope that they haven't noticed him staring, Neil thinks as he straightens up.
They land to a stop a polite distance in front of him and rainbow hair smiles, "Hello there, I'm Renee." She says kindly.
Neil nods in acknowledgement and is grateful when she doesn't extend her hand out to shake.
Renee gestures towards the man next to her and says, "This is Jean, he and I are part of the support group here, and I hear that you've already met Andrew," Renee adds fondly. "Will you be coming along to the group today?"
How do these strangers suddenly know about him? Neil grows tense and tries not to give anything away. His wide eyed look must have, despite his efforts.
Renee must have noticed as she sends him an apologetic look, "Oh, I'm so sorry if I startled you. I help Betsy out with the support group," She states patiently, as if Neil would know who that is.
At Neil's continuous confusion she quickly adds, "Betsy runs the group." Renee twists her finger through her necklace, a medium gold plated cross. "She was told to look out for someone with red hair who may be coming along today."
That does nothing to soothe Neil's anxiety so Neil takes a step away from them. He's feeling increasingly paranoid at the thought of anyone expecting him and pointing him out by his most recognizable feature.
Renee grimaces and slants a look at Andrew, "I'm sorry if I frightened you, we weren't told your name or any other information. I co-facilitate with Betsy to coordinate the group and I just wanted to introduce myself as a hopefully friendly face," Renee says, smiling ruefully, "Although now I realise I've come on quite strong. My apologies again. We will just be inside, please come by whenever you feel ready," and with that said, Renee angles her head at Jean and with a parting wave at Neil, they turn to walk into the clinic.
Neil exhales. Fuck . maybe this wasn't a good idea anymore, maybe he should leave, he could always try another week. It all feels too much now, and why has his therapist been mentioning him at all, was this some sort of tactic?
Neil jumps, "Fuck, Andrew," his hand against his heart as he wills it to calm the fuck down.
Andrew stares back with the same dark intensity as earlier. "Calm down," he says, moving closer very slowly, as if Neil would run if he moved too quickly.
"What do you want?" Neil grits out, not even bothering to hide the crack in his voice.
Andrew sighs and says, "Renee is harmless. Stop freaking out."
Neil's eyes widen and he can feel his temper surge, "Excuse me? Don't tell me what to do." Neil bites out.
Andrew just blinks at him. "Oh no, why did I think to say anything to make you feel better," he says derisively, pushing his hands into his pockets for another cigarette. "My bad, what do I know. Run away little rabbit, or go in. I don't care," he finishes, shaking his pack out.
Neil gapes at Andrew and he's not sure whether to be insulted, but he's being rude as fuck though and that, Neil knows how to be.
"So are you going in then or running away?" Neil asks, turning the tables.
Andrew looks at him humorlessly but Neil thinks he sees Andrew's mouth quirk up before his face smooths out. "Me?" He scoffs, flicking ash towards Neil.
"Well you seem to have got me all figured out so what's your deal?" Neil antagonizes. "Is standing here chatting me up your way of deflecting?" Neil spits out. He doesn't know why he's this angry. Perhaps it's because Andrew can clearly see what a mess Neil is.
Neil feels a thrill at the sight of Andrew's eyes widening, unable to hide his surprise. Andrew nods and points his cigarette at him. "Touche, Neil," he says, "You might be interesting after all."
And why does Neil get the feeling that statement is anything but a compliment? Neil deflates nonetheless.
They fall into silence, tension ebbing away as quickly as it began. Not for long though as Neil's nosiness gets the best of him.
"So are you?" Neil asks curiously.
"Am I what?" Andrew taunts back innocently. As if a man like him could look innocent.
Neil rolls his eyes, "Are you going inside?"
"No," Andrew says blankly, tension returning as he steps away from Neil, "I don't go to those things."
"Oh." Why? "Too good for the rest of us?" Neil asks. He's only partly joking
Andrew turns back to him, walks even closer until Neil can feel the warmth of his breath. "Too damaged," he whispers conspiratorially
"Wouldn't that make you the perfect attendee then?" Neil asks, a little breathless at Andrew's proximity.
Andrew huffs, drawing back to catch Neil's eyes, his gaze leaving heat over Neil's, and Neil wonders what he sees.
"No, Neil," Andrew starts, backing away a couple steps, "I'll just eat all their food and provide unhelpful comments, I've been told," he says flatly.
It wouldn't surprise Neil if that were the case, though he asks, "Who told you that?"
Andrew doesn't answer for a moment, content to stare off into the distance. "Myself," he says, abruptly.
Neil debates over a response. He's not in the mood to go inside, but he also doesn't want whatever this is to end. He's felt more alive trading barbs with Andrew than he's felt in a while.
"Do you…" Neil starts, faltering when Andrew looks at him, "Would you like to go somewhere else," he asks, hesitantly adding, "With me?"
Andrew's eyes darken, tone turning serious, "And why would I want to do that?"
Neil tries to not let that sting and says, "Well you're still standing here talking to me," Neil retorts and tries not to fidget, good question .
Just when Neil decides to take it back and say nevermind, Andrew interrupts, "Okay, let's go."
"Lets- let's go?" Neil stammers out.
Andrew nods and thrusts his hand inside his pocket to grab his keys. He twirls the keys around before clenching his hand around them. "My car is parked around the corner."
Neil nods and follows Andrew. Listening to the keys jangle, Neil hopes he isn't about to find out that Andrew is someone who likes to bury bodies of stupid strangers who decide to get in his car with him.
"Expensive ride," Neil says appreciatively when they arrive, caressing a hand over the roof of a sleek and obviously expensive black car.
Andrew sends him a smirk from the drivers side and unlocks the car, "My egg donor's insurance money," Andrew turns on the ignition as Neil buckles in, ignoring Neil's look of surprise, "May she rest in peace," he adds dryly.
"I take it that you're not sad about that?" Neil asks, his words filled with intrigue.
Andrew casts him a quick glance, "God no. Good fucking riddance," Andrew says, darkness coloring his tone, "Some people should never have children."
Neil swallows heavily, Andrew's statement resonating too much for comfort. "Agreed," Neil says.
They drive for a few more minutes and Neil finds out that being in a car with Andrew is… distracting.
His car smells like somebody who smokes too much and it's seeped into everything they own, but not in a bad way. It's comforting. Neil can also smell lingering notes of something sickly sweet, like air freshener or open candy. There are two miniature baseball bats crossing over each other hanging from the rearview mirror, which Neil grimaces at for the obvious lack of taste. And then there's Andrew. He is the most distracting, tapping his fingers along the steering wheel, his gaze a sharp focus on the road ahead as he alternates between resting his palm on the gear shift and stroking it. Neil can't help but stare.
"Are you hungry?" Andrew asks suddenly, and Neil jolts to the side, smacking his shoulder against the door. Neil glares when Andrew sends him a knowing look.
Not really. "I could go for a coffee?" Neil answers hesitantly, not sure if that's what Andrew wants to do.
Andrew doesn't answer and continues drumming at the wheel. It's only a couple minutes more before they reach a small parking lot and Andrew turns the ignition off. "Shall we," he says, and Neil takes it as his cue to unbuckle and meet Andrew at the front.
The cafe looks small on the outside with a blackboard sitting off to the side detailing special menu offers for the day. They walk through the door one by one and find an empty table towards the back.
It's a quaint looking cafe, wooden beams on the ceiling with colourfully warm bunting, rainbow pride flag on display behind the counter, there's also a bathroom with an exit sign for staff on the opposite side. There must be a heater in here because Neil can already feel the sweat gather under his bangs as he takes a seat. He wants to unlayer, but decides not to shuck off his hoodie, lest he gives off the wrong impression of settling in.
Andrew is under no such preconception and proceeds to shed off his jacket and sweater, leaving him sitting there with a tight, long black shirt that shows off his muscular biceps. Neil watches as they bulge further as Andrew rests his elbows on the table, a hand to his chin as he surveys the menu.
For a man that short, Neil has no idea how Andrew could be so bulky. He looks safe. Like he could take on anyone without any effort. Neil fiddles with his menu and tries to swallow his thoughts away past the dryness in his throat.
Andrew ends up ordering a gingerbread hot chocolate- two sugars, with marshmallows and a side of pancakes with maple syrup and whipped cream. Neil looks on in awe, and orders only a black coffee. "Where do you put it all?" Neil blurts out. Fuck why did he say that.
Andrew smirks as he cuts into his drowning maple pancake, "I have my secrets, you have yours," he says plainly, gesturing with his fork.
If there is one thing that Neil learns from today, it's that Andrew is incredibly dramatic.
Neil rolls his eyes, "I highly doubt any of my secrets are equivalent to your eating habits," he says, taking a sip of his coffee.
"Oh," Andrew says with intrigue, although his eyes are teasing, "Truth for truth then?" he asks, placing his fork and knife down.
"Fine," Neil agrees. He just hopes he isn't making a mistake. He can't help but be driven by this pull of desire to know more.
Andrew leans back in his seat, posture lax, but his calculating gaze doesn't fool Neil for a second and Neil feels a tingle of nervous excitement run through him. He tries to play it cool and mirrors Andrew's position.
"Go on," Andrew encourages, his gaze heavy.
Neil purses his lips and decides to ask a thought he had earlier. "Why do you wear all black?" Neil asks.
Andrew raises his brows and although he doesn't make a sound, his chest puffs out in amusement. "It's an easy color, easy to buy, easy to wash," he says facetiously, before taking a sip of his overly sweet drink.
That doesn't sound true to Neil and his eyes narrow, "Really? I thought we were exchanging truths," Neil says with a tilt of his head.
Andrew turns serious, "I didn't not not tell the truth. But I did answer your question," Andrew says bluntly, "Perhaps ask better questions."
Oh it's on . But before Neil can open his mouth, Andrew interrupts, "It's my turn now," and lifts his fork to take a bite of sodden pancake. He has a bit of cream forgotten on the corner of his lip that Neil only notices because Andrew takes the time to chew as he stews for a question.
"Why did you scan for all the exits when we came in here?" Andrew asks.
Neil feels the heaviness of the question crash over him and finds that he can't meet Andrew's gaze. He couldn't forget where he came from for even one moment, could he? Neil turns to the coffee for answers, the scars on his hands stark as they cradle the cup.
The silence is stilted and Neil feels shame start to crawl up his spine as he meets Andrew's blank expression. He tries for an answer but how can he just talk about-
"I got used to wearing black when I was younger," Andrew interrupts, "People would find it intimidating, paired with myself. And it kept people from bothering me," Andrew adds, "I got used to it." He shrugs like it's no big deal.
It is to Neil.
"And now?" Neil asks softly, hesitant, watching Andrew's throat work as he swallows.
"And now…" Andrew starts. A shadow forming behind his eyes, something that Neil can recognise. "As I said, it helps." He finishes, pushing his plate away from him.
Andrew's honesty wasn't something he was going to take for granted, even in the short time they've known each other. He wanted to give Andrew his answer.
"I've had…" Neil starts, and stops, trying to find a way to explain without rehashing his entire past, "I guess you could say a lifetime of bad experiences have made me extra vigilant to who could be watching me," Neil admits grimly.
Andrew nods, seemingly in understanding. His eyes hold no pity for Neil to find. No softness, or sympathy, just acceptance.
So they sit there, and it's not awkward or tense, it's weirdly calming and Neil feels more settled than hours ago. He wants to find out more about Andrew. Why did he feel the need to shield himself? Why wasn't he pressing for more details after Neil's answer?
"Are you done?" Andrew asks, gesturing at his coffee. Neil nods and Andrew brings out his wallet, pulling out more than enough cash and leaving it on the table.
"Wait," Neil says, quickly pulling out his wallet as Andrew stands, "You don't have to pay for mine-" but Andrew stops him with a glare and Neil reluctantly concedes.
Neil stays seated and watches Andrew layer himself back up, his sweater tousling his hair further and Neil has a sudden unexplainable urge to touch, to feel if it's as soft as it looks.
Neil frowns, That's- that's strange isn't it? He can't think much more on it because a more troubling thought plagues Neil, the two of them are parting ways.
Once again Andrew throws his entire thought process out the window with his words, "You coming?"
Neil readily follows Andrew outside, they walk back to the car and buckle themselves in. "I've got a couple things to do today, where should I drop you off?" Andrew asks him a couple minutes in.
Oh. Okay, of course Andrew has things to do, what did Neil think, that Andrew was going to entertain him all day? "Um yeah," he says, "You can just drop me off where we met. I don't live too far from there." Neil murmurs.
"It's raining worse than earlier, is your leg okay for you to walk home?" Andrew asks shrewdly.
"How.." Neil croaks out, clears his throat, "How did you know about-" but Andrew cuts him off.
"I noticed your limp. Not to mean that others have," Andrew reassures, "You hide it well. But I still noticed," he states, casting a quick look towards Neil as he sets the car in park.
Neil didn't think this conversation warranted a stop but he glances out the window to notice that they've already arrived back at the clinic and are just idling by the curb.
"Thanks," Neil forces out, "I'll be okay to walk though."
Andrew just looks at him for a moment and doesn't say anything. But with their bodies in such close proximity again it reminds Neil of something.
"Hey, you've got a bit of cream," Neil says, gesturing at the corner of Andrew's lip, where the cream from earlier stuck. Andrew wipes at it with his sleeve but manages to miss and Neil lifts his hand up to clean it for him. At the last second, Neil pauses before his thumb can touch Andrew's jaw, his hand floating an inch away, cradling air. "Um sorry," Neil says, embarrassed and red cheeked, "I'll just-" Neil gestures towards the door and unbuckles.
"Wait," Andrew says, and Neil looks back clumsily enough to cause a crick in his neck. Andrew looks at his mirror and wipes away the smudge of cream before asking, "Give me your phone?"
Neil fumbles and nearly drops his phone on the floor against the tan interior. Andrew looks amused and quirks his lip, holding out his hand.
Neil deposits it in his open palm and hears the press of numbers before his phone is flipped shut and handed back to him. "I put my number in for you and sent a message back to my phone," Andrew says, eyes sharp on Neil.
"Okay," Neil breathes, "I'll see you?" he asks.
Andrew's face seems to soften around the edges, "It'll be someone's turn to buy me something next time," he says, full of cheek.
Neil rolls his eyes for the hundredth time today, "Of course, it's the least I could do," he retorts, a small smile forming on his face. He notices Andrew staring at his lips and feels his stomach flip, "Well I'm gonna," Neil says, gesturing at the door.
"Nice meeting you, Neil," Andrew says, hands already on the wheel and Neil lets his smile loose, a very small and nervous thing.
"You too, Andrew," Neil responds, closing the door gently behind him.
He takes a few steps away and turns back to wave, but instead he finds Andrew watching him, his focused intensity not making Neil wary like earlier, but hopeful.
Later that night when Neil gets ready for bed, placing his glass of water on his bedside table, his phone makes a beep.
Neil frowns and flips it open, eyes widening as he reads
[Andrew: what are u doin on saturday?]
Neil bites his thumbnail as he deliberates over a response.
Neil waits for Andrew to respond by staring at the open message and willing another one to appear.
[Andrew: grab lunch w/ me?]
Neil is pretty sure w/ means 'with' but just to double check, he googles it.
[Neil: yes, okay]
Is that too… dull? It's too dull isn't it, Neil worries. He's trying to be cool about this, whatever this is. He's all... itchy now, like his skin is stretching, he's… giddy. Why is he giddy?
Andrew doesn't respond right away so Neil makes himself comfortable in bed and places his phone on the table next to his water. Maybe he won't respond? Neil didn't ask anything to be answered. "Fuck," Neil groans.
He's too tired to stay up much longer, it's been a long day and for once he's going to bed excited for the next day. As Neil drifts off, he can't help but hope it's a date.
Unbeknownst to Neil, Andrew sent his final reply two hours after he asks Neil to lunch on Saturday. He couldn't find it within himself to look at his phone to see if Neil had sent a response or worse, ignored him.
It was 11pm though, Neil would see his response in the morning, along with an attached photo of a cat in a chef's hat, sitting in front of a plate that held a single date.
[Andrew: its a date then]