Neil ignored the irritated look Andrew shot him as he slipped through the bedroom door, padding on light feet to the chest of drawers. Dropping the towel wrapped around his waist, if only to tempt a reaction from the blonde bundled under the duvet cover, Neil dug through the drawers and pulled out clean briefs and one of Andrew’s sun-bleached t-shirts.
As much as Neil enjoyed spending a morning tucked up in bed with Andrew, warm from two bodies pressed close, once he was awake there was a restless energy sizzling in his legs which could only be doused with a morning run. Columbia mornings were always lazy, the occupants of the house held in sleep by copious amounts of alcohol from the night before. It was rare for anybody else to be moving around the house by midday, unless Andrew had dragged them out of their slumber, keen to get back on the road.
Changed into clean clothes after his shower, Neil slipped back down the stairs to pour the coffee he’d begun making when he returned to the house after his run, and carried both mugs up to the bedroom. He chose to leave the bag of food on the counter, knowing the chocolate-chip pancakes huddled inside would snag Andrew’s attention and wanting just a few minutes of the man’s focus as he woke, sleep-warm and grumbly.
“I think we need to take Kevin to a sleep clinic,” he commented, closing the door with his foot and walking to the bed. “His snoring is getting worse. I swear the floor was vibrating last night.” He passed a mug to Andrew, lured out of the cocoon of blankets by the smell of caffeine.
“Take him to an AA meeting, that’d probably sort him out.” Andrew said, voice still rough from sleep. He sipped from his coffee, squinting bleary eyes at the taste before relaxing back into his pillow, satisfied with the amount of sugar. It was a routine test Neil had been learning to ace over the past several months, and he flipped back one corner of the duvet to settle into the still-warm bed with a content feeling curling up in his stomach.
“Think you’d be able to handle a sober Kevin?” Neil asked curiously, propping his pillow up against the headboard and letting his knees fall towards Andrew as he got comfortable, drawn in by his lingering bubble of heat.
“Better than one with liver disease. He’d be insufferable if he couldn’t play his precious stickball.” Andrew offered, scrubbing the sleep out of his eyes with a rough hand. Neil hummed his agreement and picked at a scab on his knee until Andrew swatted his hand away. A moment later he closed his warm palm over the split skin, sealing the scab from Neil’s picky fingers.
Sighing, Neil pulled out his phone to text Wymack a warning, thinking it only fair to alert the man to Kevin’s impending sobriety. The fact Andrew had mentioned it meant he’d been considering it for some time, and was only now including Neil to help push the issue. Depending on Kevin’s reaction, they’d need Wymack’s support to referee the ensuing battle.
Closing out of his messages, Neil had just begun scrolling through online exy forums when he was hit with a pillow. Andrews expression was impassive, but the fact his eyes were on Neil’s face was evidence enough that he wanted attention. Huffing at the rude interruption, Neil dropped his phone on the mattress and took a deliberately slow sip of his coffee, holding Andrew’s gaze.
“Did you want something?” he asked, raising an eyebrow and quickly lifting his coffee out of harm's way as he was thumped again. “So fucking immature.” he said, placing his mug on the bedside cabinet and turning in time to be caught by Andrew’s hand, tugging him into a kiss. Despite his irritation, he fell into the kiss with his usual eagerness, opening to Andrew’s tongue and the taste of sweetened coffee.
He slipped a hand round the back of Andrew’s neck, fingers carding through the shorter hair at his nape and inhaled Andrew’s exhale greedily. The kiss grew fierce, Andrew’s teeth nipping and pulling, tongue pushing past Neil’s and stealing his breath, laying claim to every inch of his mouth. Pulling back to breathe, Neil soothed the frantic energy with small soft wet-sounding kisses along Andrew’s lips, sucking on the plump skin and flicking his tongue to catch the taste of his skin. Andrew’s fingers gripped his chin tightly as Neil pressed a kiss to the corner of his mouth, the cupid’s bow of his upper lip, grazed his teeth across his swollen lower lip.
“Can I mark you?” Neil murmured into the hollow of Andrew’s cheek, pressing a kiss into the morning stubble before trailing kisses back to his ear and sucking lightly on his earlobe. He was awarded a shuddering breath and pulled back to meet Andrew’s heavy-lidded gaze. It had been a low-humming desire pulling at his consciousness for the last couple of weeks, ever since Andrew had coloured his neck with his mouth. He'd been sporting marks ever since, migrating to other more hidden spots of his body, but always returning to his neck. Knowing how good it felt, and how much Andrew liked having Neil's mouth on his neck, Neil had been itching to reciprocate. His eyes, easily drawn to Andrew as it was, had been lingering on his throat, the shadow of his Adams apple, the thick muscles stretching up from his shoulders. Picturing him splattered with Neil's bruises, colours blooming across his skin.
“Where?” Andrew asked and Neil inhaled eagerly, tilting his head to eye at the expanse of pale skin on offer. One of Andrew’s hands hooked into the hot, clammy skin of his knee joint, squeezing and pulling Neil’s leg across his thighs beneath the blanket, apparently in a good enough mood to want the extra contact.
“Do you want it somewhere hidden?” Neil asked, lifting a hand to graze his fingers along Andrew’s neck, feeling out where smoothe skin gave way to the scratch of stubble, pressing his thumb into the steady pump of the pulse by his jaw. Where Neil liked to be marked as Andrew's, a nonverbal 'off-limits' to any other lingering eyes, he would't assume the same reaction from his more private counterpart.
“Why would I hide it?” Andrew returned evenly, shattering Neil's assumptions, and he tucked a smile into Andrew's mouth with a kiss, lingering for several slow passes of lips. There was a mixture of excitement and apprehension twisting in his gut, tightening his chest. He wanted to make Andrew feel good, and he dreaded the heavy, hanging weight of screwing up.
They’d been exchanging boundaries for months now, Neil repeatedly baring his scars to Andrew’s attention and allowing the other man to stroke rough hands along the tendons of his legs, still paranoid about the threat his father had promised to slice through his hamstrings. In return Andrew had allowed Neil’s fingers to trace the raised lines of his own scars, bared in the security of their quiet moments on the roof, and the bunching muscles of his shoulders. Their touches had been tentative at first, gauging reactions, and once certain they were welcome had become repetitive and bold, fingers extending to palms and hard gripping.
Sexual touches were still careful, verging on gentle until explicit enjoyment was evident, through words or actions. Neither man particularly enjoyed a hesitant approach, but were self-aware enough to know some days it was necessary. Most of the time, however, Andrew’s hands were hot and heavy and fast, wrenching noises from Neil’s mouth and pulling him over the edge faster than Neil was prepared for.
Andrew’s libido was more intense than Neil’s, though more complicated and hindered by violent memories and his distrust of others. Neil’s consistent respect for his physical space and mental state, although frustrating to Andrew who wanted proof that nobody could ever truly be trusted, was pulling those hard lines apart with careful fingers. Neil hadn’t been obedient a day in his life, rebellious even under heavy hands and his screaming mother, but he found rebelliousness in being obedient for Andrew. Nobody had ever listened to or respected Andrew’s boundaries so soundlessly. Even Roland had to be restrained by biting words, rough hands and harsh warnings. Neil was proving his reliability and worming his way under Andrew’s barbed wire and razor blade guard. He was proving his worth and offering his own insecurities as a promise of safety, throwing his middle finger up at the rest of the world and showing that just because they were both damaged in their own separate ways, it didn’t make them the weapon everybody else claimed them to be. They were proving they had the capability to care, to soothe old wounds and bandage new ones, to guard and protect each other, to never take or expect more than what was offered, to respect and trust one another.
And fuck anyone who dared to question that, or imply otherwise.
Neil would rip them apart with his bare hands.
Reluctantly pulling away from Andrew’s mouth, he met the other man’s gaze and waited. Time stretched like taffy, slow and resistant, until Andrew raised his hand and passed fingers across his neck, feeling out the sensitive skin. Deciding on a spot, he pressed his thumb into the skin until it turned pale at the centre, flushing around the pressure, branding a mark that screamed ‘kiss here’.
“Yes or no?” Neil murmured, approaching with the usual caution he awarded to these new paths revealed on the map of Andrews body.
“Yes.” Andrew said with certainty, hand tightening on Neil’s knee as he tilted his head to bare his throat. Neil hummed in appreciation and leant forward to seal his mouth over the spot. Andrew exhaled slowly as Neil pressed a careful kiss over the skin, feeling his lips catch on the area before sweeping his tongue out to mark the spot. Andrews hand sunk into his hair, pulling him closer and encouraging Neil to apply pressure.
Neil pulled away momentarily to regain his balance, fisting one hand in Andrews pillow and the other linking with Andrews where it still rested on his knee.
“Junkie,” Andrew murmured and Neil swept down to flatten his tongue against the flush of red blooming on his neck. Andrew grunted and Neil pursed his lips, sucking gently on the skin and testing Andrew’s reaction. The low noise in the back of his throat was unexpected, but enough encouragement for Neil to pull the pale skin between his teeth, sucking until his mouth felt dry and his gums ached.
Andrews hand tightened in his hair, nails scratching his scalp and sending shivers down Neil’s spine. Neil pulled back with a hard suck, lips tingling and flattened his tongue to Andrew’s skin, laving at the reddened mark and breathing heavily over the spit-slick skin. Shudders racked Andrews frame until he pulled Neil back by the hair, pupils blown and mouth agape. Neil surged forward to press his tongue into Andrews mouth, whining at the hand dropping to his neck and gripping tightly.
Eventually they pulled apart and Neil dropped his gaze to the dark mark bruising Andrew’s throat, feeling a deep rightness in his chest as he raised a hand to brush his fingers along the damp skin. Andrew turned his head to nip at his fingers and Neil smiled, pressing his knuckles into the curve of his mouth to hide it from Andrews calculating gaze, the protective guard of his apathy hovering behind his dark eyes.
Catching his breath, Neil broke the silence. “I stopped by the corner store and picked up those pancakes you like. Want me to go get them?” There was an unspoken offering to give Andrew a moment alone to sort through the maelstrom of thoughts triggered by new intimacy. There would be time later to goad him into an admission, where Neil could work words through Andrew’s phrases and twist them into their hidden meaning and paint them into honesty.
“Why are you only mentioning them now? Get the fuck out.” Andrew said, pushing Neil away with a heavy hand and swatting the backs of his thighs with a pillow as he rolled out of bed. Rolling his eyes, Neil snagged his empty mug and bounded down the stairs to the kitchen.
Andrew would complain later about the chocolate stains on their sheets, but only after licking the taste into Neil’s mouth. Neil preferred the sweet and sour tang of fruit to the sugar of chocolate, but he’d grown to like it when mixed with the taste of Andrew’s mouth.
Nicky was wise enough for once to keep his comments to himself when Andrew climbed into the car later that day and started the drive back to Palmetto. The dark bruising was stark against his pale skin, exposed by the loose collar of his shirt. Neil found it much more interesting to look at than the passing scenery during the journey home, and only relented when Andrew pushed his face away with a finger dug painfully into his cheek.
He allowed Neil to press scarred fingers and sweet kisses to the marks on the roof later that night, interspersed with kisses between slow drags on cigarettes.
Neil caught him ghosting the pads of fingers across the bruising over the next couple of days. It seemed to be an unconscious movement, almost impulsive, as though his fingers were magnetized to the marks and his own willpower was all that could keep them apart. Like a gravitational pull, a quick glancing touch was all that was allowed before they were pulled out of orbit again. The tensing of the muscle in his jaw, a quick twitch, was all the evidence Neil needed that he was just as affected by the bruises as Neil was.
“I like them,” Neil offered as they sat in the Maserati one night, waiting for Kevin. “I like that you like them.” He rolled his head towards Andrew, whose fingers were hooked into the bottom of the steering wheel, face aglow in the low light of the dashboard. The marks on his throat had faded to a gentle brown, almost mistakable for a birthmark, and entirely too enticing. Neil wanted to seal his mouth over them, to lick and suck and bite until they reappeared, bigger and brighter than the first time.
“Junkie,” Andrew murmured, eyes on the street and foot tapping against the gas pedal, the climbing thrum of the engine the only evidence of his impatience.
“Maybe I just need to get it out of my system,” Neil said quietly, watching closely and feeling triumphant as he caught Andrew’s eyes darting from the street to the passenger seat. Neil pulled his legs up and let his feet rest on the dashboard, turning his gaze to the dorms and huffing as he spotted Kevin, finally ready to join them but caught in a conversation with a disgruntled looking classmate.
Andrew’s hand fisted his collar, twisting and tugging until Neil relented and turned back to the other man. Their faces were so close Neil felt himself going cross-eyed, could smell the stir-fry they’d had for dinner on Andrew’s breath, felt the heat the other man exuded.
“You have an addictive personality,” Andrew warned and Neil dropped his eyes to his mouth.
“Want to test that theory?”
By the time Kevin climbed into the back of the Maserati, a snapping complaint following him through the door with a gust of cold air, Neil and Andrew were sporting several new marks.