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When I Wake Up To You, I Feel Like I'm Still Dreaming

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It was late. It was incredibly late and Neil was incredibly exhausted. They had just got home from a night out at Eden’s, with Aaron and Nicky stumbling in the door and heading right for their respective rooms as soon as they arrived home. Kevin followed soon after, only slightly tipsy, and Neil was proud. Kevin had been trying to tone down his drinking recently and he was working hard.

Neil had enjoyed himself that night. He sat with Andrew and held his hand under the table, he had a small drink and had a pleasant conversation with Kevin while leaning his head on Andrew’s shoulder. Andrew only allowed this much PDA because of the darkness and crowded nature of the club. It was ambiguous and Neil had no problem with that.

But now Neil was home, and Andrew was guiding him in the door with a hand to his lower back, and Neil’s feet were already dragging. They parted ways at the top of the stairs with Andrew waiting for a nod of confirmation and a soft smile from Neil before giving him a chaste kiss on the lips. Neil headed to the guest room with a fondness in his chest and a weight on his eyelids.

He turned out the light and practically collapsed onto the bed, so relieved to be back, and only wriggled under the comforter after a moment of sinking into the mattress. He shucked off his jeans and placed them on the ground by the bed, stretching out his newly freed limbs. He was just starting to feel himself drift off when he heard the door to the room open again and suddenly his soothing darkness was flooded with what felt like blinding light from the hallway.

He squinted and tried to make out the figure entering the doorway. “What the fuck.”

Kevin closed the door behind him, graciously cutting off the source of Neil’s headache and making his way to the other side of the bed. When he lifted the comforter, Neil finally voiced his question. “What are you doing?”

“Sleeping with you.” Kevin stated like he was already exasperated with him, even though this conversation has just begun. He laid down as carefully as an intoxicated person could and Neil tucked his legs closer to himself to avoid getting laid on.

“I thought you were sleeping with Andrew tonight.” Neil ran a hand over his face tiredly. He felt Kevin shift slightly and only realized what he was doing once he heard the sound of Kevin’s shirt hitting the floor.

“I was. He kicked me out.” Kevin readjusted himself on the bed and Neil felt his elbow bump against Neil’s shoulder.

“What’d you do?” Neil relaxed back into the covers and felt Kevin shift closer to him.

Kevin scoffed quietly. “Nothing. He told us to share some quality time together,”
His voice softened when he added, “It might just be one of those nights for him.”

Neil nodded slowly against the pillow in understanding. The three of them had made tremendous progress over these last few months and Andrew had been trusting them with more and more slowly, but surely. But sometimes the nights were too dark, the room too suffocating, and Andrew couldn’t stand the thought of someone in the room with him. Of being unconscious next to another breathing body. A body capable of doing harm, of taking what wasn’t offered. It didn’t matter who the body belonged to. Sometimes brains were irrational and Neil could understand that far too well. He was in no place to question it.

Neil heard Kevin shift again and felt a heavy arm settle over his side, tugging him closer to Kevin’s bare chest. Neil leaned into the warmth, humming softly. “So we get some personal time then?”

Kevin kissed the cheeky smirk off his face exasperatedly. “We’re sleeping. You’re dead tired and it’s not like there’s a court to stay up late on.”

“Geez, I mention personal time and your mind goes to Exy? I can’t believe Andrew calls me the junkie.” Neil huffed as he tucked his head against Kevin’s neck.

“That’s not-. I knew what you meant, I just-.” Kevin cut his embarrassed ramble short when he felt Neil’s chest shake against him in almost silent laughter. “You’re horrible.”

Neil grinned when he felt Kevin’s neck warm against his cheek, presumably turning a pretty shade of red in response to Neil’s teasing. He pressed a kiss to the heated skin fondly, only letting his teeth scrape a little bit. He wasn’t that bad and he really did want to sleep.

Kevin’s hand tightened minutely on his waist, but other than that, he tried to pretend Neil didn’t exist. Neil fell into the pleasant stillness of unconsciousness soon after, Kevin’s thumb moving to rub calming circles on his bare thigh.

--

Unfortunately Neil knew all too well how quickly a pleasant stillness could dissolve into a swirling blackness. A chaotic mass of memories and nightmares, turning into a raging tornado that aimed to pull up all the progress Neil had made and tear it into bloody pieces.

He saw his father.

Only, it wasn’t his father, it was a giant that twisted into fragments of flesh, torn apart and sewed back together until the lump hardly resembled a human being. The creature’s chest oozed a dark red, a gaping hole opening up where it’d been shot and it stretched wider and wider until it looked like it would swallow Neil whole. Neil could see the stitches holding the body together and his own scars ached with the phantom pain of a needle weaving in and out, in and out, in and out-

“Neil?”

Neil swore he looked away from the thing for only a second, but suddenly the scent of burning flesh saturated the air and Neil could only stare in horror as the blood travelled up the body and started dripping into the air as if gravity itself were no match for such a power. The liquid melted the color from the atmosphere and all Neil could smell was gasoline, the body burst into flames and Neil could hear screaming.

His mother. His mother was screaming for help, what happened? What had he done? Why was she burning, he thought that-

“Neil!”

Neil flinched away from the voice, seeing his mother’s face stretch out and twist in the writhing flames, berating him, mocking him, protecting him. He wanted to reach out, to help, to do something, but the fire burnt his hands and the smell was smothering him and he was sure he touched the fire with his hand, but now his face was burning and-

“Neil, hey-”

His hand flew to his face desperately, trying to stop the fire from spreading, but his skin was melting. He tried to hold it together, but it was dripping like wax between his fingers and it hurt and he was asking her to stop, but his hands were cuffed behind him and she had a knife and he said stop, he was asking her to stop, he swore he tried, he didn’t want this, he said stop-

“Okay, okay, I’m stopping, alright? Look. Open your eyes, I won’t touch you.”

Neil’s eyebrows furrowed as his dream drifted away and he tried to place the voice. It wasn’t his mother’s, but his brain was scrambled and he didn’t know what else to think. As the red edges of his unconsciousness faded, he found himself reaching out for it. He didn’t want to go, this was all he had known. This was what he was used to, the pain, the fire, the fear. This was all he was good for. This was all he had. Wasn’t it?

“No, no, stay here. Come back here, Neil.” Neil felt a hand brush his shoulder and he jerked away from it, sitting up straight and preparing to run. His eyes opened of their own accord and he scanned the room quickly. There’s a door to his left, but it’s probably locked. There’s a window in front of him, it’s big. He can make it out, just like that night years ago. They needed to move quickly though, he could hear his father footsteps in the hall, and his mother urging him to move-

He grabbed his mother’s wrist and scrambled out of the bed, gaze fixed on the window. It locked from the inside, this would be easy. They couldn’t be higher than the second floor, they could make the jump. His mother wasn’t moving though and her arm stayed loose in his grasp. She was always the one pushing them forward. The one with harsh hands and hissed words. He turned back in confusion to see what the problem was, was she okay, was she injured? No, not again, she can’t be-

His eyes met green and his reality twisted on its head. He blinked once, twice, mind racing to catch up with the unanticipated image laid in front of him. He looked down at his hand and found it clutching the man’s wrist and for a moment he couldn’t recognize who sat in front of him now. Who sat looking at him with concerned eyes and messy hair.

“Neil.” The man said slowly. Carefully. “Where are you right now?”

Kevin. It was Kevin. Obviously it was Kevin, he had been at Eden’s, he was in Columbia, it was- “I’m… I’m here.”

And he was. His hands were tingling oddly and he was lightheaded, but he was here. He let go of Kevin’s wrist hesitantly and slumped down suddenly to the floor. Kevin reached towards him, eyes wide, likely assuming he’d stumbled or passed out, but he just-... He was tired. He was sat on the floor heavily, legs feeling like a million pounds, hands hardly strong enough to hold him up on the wooden floorboards.

Kevin looked down at him briefly before lowering himself to the floor with him. He sat cross legged and folded his hands in his lap uncertainty. “It’s 5:30am. We can go back to sleep.”

Neil nodded slowly, his head feeling like lead only loosely attached to his shoulders. He whispered hoarsely, his throat raw, “Sorry I woke you up...”

Why was his throat so sore? Come to think of it, his chest ached as well. Did his nightmare accompanied panic attack already happen? He didn’t remember it. Neil blinked at his hands, mind feeling a bit far away, his surroundings fuzzy.

“Don’t apologize for that. I’d rather stay up all night if it meant you could be spared these dreams. Did you want to talk about it?” Kevin kept his distance, likely still remembering the Neil that begged him to stop and jerked away from his touch, just minutes before.

Neil made a humming noise that vaguely registered as a no. “Let’s go back to sleep… I don’t feel good.”

Kevin nodded and moved to get up, then paused when Neil stayed put.

Neil rubbed at his eyes, biting his lip in hesitance, before- “Can you help me?”

It was said so softly, Neil was surprised Kevin registered it at all. He knew how much it cost Neil to admit weakness, to accept help. Even in his dazed state it left a bad taste in his mouth. But he trusted Kevin. That was what mattered.

Kevin helped him up and to the bed gently, and tucked in the covers around them as he slid in next to him. Kevin’s hands faltered after that. “Touch okay?”

It wasn’t something they had to discuss often. Kevin and Neil weren’t bothered by non verbal consent as much as Andrew was and when they did practice verbal consent, it was mostly for Andrew’s sake. But with Neil in such a vulnerable state, it made sense that Kevin would hesitate. Neil tried to keep from berating himself for making Kevin treat him this way. Instead he simply hummed and scooted a bit closer, “Yes.”

Kevin pulled him close again, though his arms felt more protective now than they did earlier. Neil tried to settle back into the blankets and finally began to relax when Kevin’s cool fingers made their way to his heated forehead. His eyes drifted closed to Kevin’s fingers combing through his hair and even breathing lulled his body into a dreamless sleep.

--

Neil woke in the most cliche way, with birds chirping outside and warm sunshine spilling over him. He figured it must be late morning and it took him a minute to decipher why his limbs felt so heavy. It was, in fact, because Kevin was tangled with him so thoroughly, that Neil didn’t think he could move if he tried.

He wondered for a moment, if it would make him panic, considering the night he’d had. Wondered if the feeling of being trapped would overtake him, snuff out any light coming in the windows. But all he felt was fondness and warmth and the entangling, helpless sensation of safety.

He blinked drowsily and smiled lightly at Kevin’s closed eyelids and soft, relaxed facial features. He had looked so worried last night and Neil hated seeing him like that. He knew he caused that emotion in others a lot and he hated it every time, but he tried to stop and it never worked. He appreciated the fact that they cared though, and he would do anything for them, most of all for Andrew and Kevin.

Neil leaned forward slightly and gently kissed Kevin’s nose. It scrunched up cutely, but his breathing remained even. Neil took to peppering every inch of his face with small, light pecks, quick as butterflies and fleeting as a summer breeze. After all, his hands were trapped under and around Kevin, so what was a man to do?

Kevin eyelids fluttered as he returned to the world of the living, eyebrows scrunched together and nose twitching from the kisses it endured. Neil grinned a bit despite himself, drinking in the morning sleepiness as the world shifted from a dark buzz and calmness permeating the cool air to dew staining the grass and creatures stretching out their paws to greet the day. His own creature here was struggling to wake up and greet the day himself.

“Mm..Time?” Kevin grumbled out, eyes still having yet to open themselves.

“I don’t know. You haven’t exactly given me much space to move,” Kevin’s eyebrows only scrunched tighter at this. Neil amended, “But I can guess about 10am?”

Kevin’s eyes finally blinked open and his gaze fought to focus as he fought off last night’s weight of dreams. He traced Neil’s face with his gaze thoroughly then pulled him impossibly closer, ducking his head to rest against Neil’s upper chest. Neil huffed a breath of exasperation, lips still pulled in a smile by strings of enamorment.

He pressed his lips to the crown of Kevin's head, his queen seeming to want to stay in his royal bedchambers a little longer. “We should probably get up soon. I bet Nicky will be back with breakfast by now.”

The promise of food, especially greasy takeout breakfast, didn’t seem to deter Kevin from his wanted snuggles. Neil freed up an arm to run his fingers through the dark hair in his reach, remembering vaguely Kevin doing the same to him last night. “And Andrew’s probably up by now…”

Kevin finally moved then, looking up at him with a glare that was about as intimidating as a puppy sulking over being denied a treat. “That’s a dirty trick.”

“Did it work?”

Kevin didn’t deign him with a response, only squeezing Neil’s thigh playfully before untangling them carefully. He got up, ran a hand through his hair, then held out a hand to help Neil up. They redressed and shared a couple more lazy kisses in between, dressing taking only slightly longer than usual. They made their way to the kitchen with their fingers intertwined.

Nicky was just setting down bags of takeout on the kitchen island. He looked them over and took in their tired eyes and uneven steps. He smiled mischievously, “Long night?”

Neil rolled his eyes, but Kevin spoke up, almost absentmindedly as he made his way to a stool, “You would know if it was. Neil’s loud as shit.”

Neil flicked a look at Kevin, mortified, as he sat down next to him. Nicky, however, delighted in this new information and blackmail material all in one. “Are we discussing your sex life now? Do tell.”

Neil groaned and leaned heavily against Kevin’s shoulder. “You idiot. What have you started?”

Kevin looked a bit confused, as if oblivious to the world of teasing he had just opened up to Nicky. They were saved from more questions by the arrival of Andrew in the room. Both Kevin and Neil perked up at his presence and habitually tilted their jaws for their expected morning kisses. Andrew huffed in amusement, the sound only loud enough for the two to pick up.

He came close and laid a hand on each of their jaws, thumbs stroking over pillow-lined cheeks. He adjusted Kevin’s head just so and kissed him firmly, before shifting over to Neil, Kevin’s body instinctively leaning forward to chase Andrew’s lips when they moved on. Neil eagerly accepted his kiss, leaning in appreciatively and savoring what he could get. Andrew finally leaned back of their space and looked over the two of them critically. “All right?”

It was a small, vague question, it’s meaning could be varied across a hundred circumstances, but the two of them could read Andrew’s meaning just fine. Neil nodded and gripped Kevin’s hand tighter, smiling contentedly, “All right.”