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"Hate" Bites

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The hard thump of Nicky’s fist hitting the door of the dorm room cut through the blurry haze of Neil’s thoughts like a sledgehammer. He sighed as Andrew’s mouth left his, chasing after one more kiss with a soft noise of complaint. 

Nicky had jokingly expressed an interest in creating a warning between the roommates in case somebody (read: Neil and Andrew) was getting laid. Both Neil and Andrew had balked at the suggestion of a sock on the door handle, though Andrew's reaction had been more of a bland look and a quick pass of his fingers across his armbands. Both men valued their privacy and the discreteness of their relationship, especially with the addition of several new nosy teammates, and didn’t want to be airing their intimate moments to the rest of the building with the crude sign of a sock, or any other item Nicky had suggested, growing more irritating and obscure by the second.

In its place Nicky had half-heartedly offered to give them a knock of warning and time to get themselves sorted. Kevin hadn’t agreed, but after an unfortunate incident of him walking in on Andrew going down on Neil, he’d adopted the strategy, though he sounded more like a herd of elephants battering the door than Nicky’s rap of knuckles - usually to a jaunty tune. 

Andrew was indifferent to Nicky’s ‘system’ and had left his cousin to stand in the hall for minutes at a time even when Neil wasn’t present. Neil had grown to appreciate the warning, especially with how difficult he found it at times to tug his thoughts back down from where they tended to float off at the touch of Andrews hands and the press of his lips.  

As it was, he squashed down the irritated noise trying to escape his throat as Andrew pulled away from him. He was ever so slightly mollified by the flush of Andrew's face, his swollen and spit-slicked lips and the low simmering burn of frustration in his hazel eyes. 

Sinking into the beanbag dejectedly, Neil sought out the remote from where it was tossed haphazardly on the floor and flicked the TV on before stuffing his fists into the pocket of his hoodie and fighting the sudden bizarre urge to pout. As if sensing his thoughts, Andrew rubbed hard knuckles into the mess of Neils curls and stood to relocate to the window, lighting up a cigarette and getting settled before the door opened.

“Is it safe?” Nicky teased, hands over his eyes as he stumbled his way into the dorm.

“You might be about to walk into a knife,” Neil said, frowning as he watched a couple of bearded rednecks scouring a golf course for bullfrogs. It looked like something Andrew would leave on the History channel for Kevin to get pissed off at. 

Nicky huffed and lowered his hands, kicking the door closed behind him and dropping his keys on the cardboard box by the door. There was a table in the box, but so far nobody had bothered to build it. The box was doing the job already so they weren’t tripping over themselves to assemble it. Neil was secretly eager for Andrew and Kevin to put it together, if only to watch the war that would no doubt erupt between the two men.

Nauseous from the amount of camo on the screen, Neil turned his head to track Nicky’s progress across the room, shoes kicked off haphazardly and jacket draped over Kevin’s stack of catalogues, setting the pile off-kilter and threatening to be its downfall. It was possible they’d be getting some complaints from their downstairs neighbours the day it finally fell, and probably have Dan, Allison and Renee anticipating an earthquake. 

“Oh,” Nicky gleefully exclaimed, eyes catching and holding on Neil. “You’ve been busy.” At Neil’s blank look his smile bloomed into a blinding grin. “Oh, I think it’s a good look.”

“Nicky,” Andrew’s tone was bland, but there was an underlying threat that had Nicky holding his hands high in surrender.

“Possessive bastard,” he muttered, though his mouth was curled protectively around a smile. “I need to grab some notes off Allison, so I'll be next door for a bit. Have you made up your mind what you want for dinner?” he asked, dumping his bag on the kitchen counter and looking between the two men. He sighed at their silence and began riffling through the cupboards, muttering to himself. Neil could have told Nicky they had already agreed to stop in at a diner after night practice, but he was pissed at the interruption and chose to keep the information to himself.

Eyes drawn to the window and sullen man by it, Neil let himself admire the smoke curling from Andrew's mouth long enough to get caught, and turned his attention back to the TV at Andrew's unimpressed stare. He was watching a security officer question why anybody would steal frogs when Kevin’s fist connected with the dorm door, a battering ram if ever Neil had heard one. Nicky yelped and swore, calling out to Kevin that it was safe to enter.

Kevin’s thunderous expression darkened further when his gaze landed on Neil, and he ground out a “You could at least hide them.” before storming through to the bedroom.

“I think it’s sweet,” Nicky called out at his retreating form, and then slammed shut the drawer he was rummaging through. Giving up on his fruitless search for food or takeout menus, he left the dorm with a quick goodbye thrown over his shoulder.  

Neil shot a questioning glance at Andrew, hoping to find an answer to their roommates comments, but the blonde ignored him. Neil chose to watch the episode to its end, a disaster of mud and camo, before stretching his way out of the beanbag and heading to the toilet to take a piss, putting his roommate's cryptic mutterings to the back of his mind. 

His gaze flicked to the mirror above the sink as he turned to wash his hands, and he froze. Eyes locked on the long column of his throat, he leant forward and lifted one hand to graze the bruised skin cautiously. Vibrant violet and maroon bled together in overlapping ovals, the skin plump from blood collecting beneath the surface. The marks chased each other up the tendon of his neck, the colour bright against his skin. Pressing the pad of his thumb to one of the bruises, he was surprised to find the skin sensitive but not painful. Whenever he’d sported such dark bruises before they’d ached and throbbed from pain, tender to any touch. These were tender, but as he dug his thumb deeper into the mark he was rewarded with only the slightest of aches, quickly replaced with the memory of a hot damp mouth, tongue laving across his skin. 

There was a sudden rap of knuckles on the door and it swung open, Andrew taking its place, leaning in the doorway with sharp eyes and crossed arms. His expression tightened imperceptibly as he followed the path of Neil’s fingers, pressing into the dark skin of his neck. 

“They’re hickies Neil, not tattoos.” he said dismissively, but Neil caught how his gaze lingered on the marks before dragging away to meet his eyes. “I won’t do it again.” 

Something like dread settled low in Neil’s stomach, writhing and twisting as he pressed harder at the bruises, rosettes of Andrew’s oft-denied affection. It set his pulse skipping and he struggled to keep his eyes from the dark marks painting his throat.

“Why not?” he asked.

“You didn’t say yes,” Andrew said, and Neil fought the impulse to point out that Andrew hadn’t asked. He stood firmly behind his ‘always yes’ and they’d been working past Andrew's need to ask before every kiss and touch; Neil’s enthusiastic consent emboldening the other man. Neil still checked in before he initiated anything, knowing Andrew’s boundaries could change drastically from day to day, but he was immeasurably pleased with their progress in Andrew’s quest to map out every inch of his skin with both his mouth and hands. 

“I like them, and it's a yes. I was just surprised.” Neil said, turning back to the mirror and the bruises. He fought down a smirk as Andrew moved to stand behind him, always pulling each other into orbit. But he couldn’t hide the shiver as Andrew’s hand circled his throat. One of Andrew’s eyebrows twitched at his reaction. After a moment of consideration on the blondes part, he allowed himself to be tugged back into the shelter of Andrew’s firm chest and strong arms, his left hooked round Neil’s shoulder, squeezing, and right fisting in the fabric of the hoodie by Neil’s hip. 

“You like them,” Andrew said, a statement rather than a question, and Neil felt his Adam's apple bob in the rough cradle of Andrew’s palm as he swallowed. The low tone of Andrew’s voice set the hairs on the back of his neck standing on end, and he melted into the hold, nerves alight at the soft brush of Andrew's breathing.

“Yes,” Neil answered, eyes on Andrew’s in the mirror even as the other man’s gaze dropped to where his thumb was pressing into the dark circles shadowing Neils throat. “How long will they last?” he inquired, arching his neck just to feel Andrew's hand tighten, pressing on his windpipe in warning. 

Neil couldn’t deny he had a slight fascination with Andrew's hands, scarred and strong and veiny after a game, fingers thick and blunt, nails bitten down to the quick. They were a darker shade than the rest of him, golden when compared to the pale skin hidden beneath his dark armbands, and tanned from where they gripped the wheel of the Maserati and rested on the window ledge, a cigarette hanging loose between overlapping digits. He marvelled at how hands so strong and dangerous could be so gentle with him.

“They’ll fade in a couple of days, maybe a week. I’m sure Reynolds would cover them if you asked nicely.” Andrew answered, drawing Neil’s gaze from the reflection of his hands to his face in the mirror.

“No.” Neil said quickly, surprised by the hard tone of his own voice, the disappointment working its way through his body as he thought of the marks vanishing. “I don't want to hide them. I like them, I like that they’re from you. I don’t-” Neil made a frustrated noise in the back of his throat, fisting his hands into the sleeves of his hoodie as Andrew rested his chin on his shoulder, breath fanning across the sensitive skin of his neck. “I want to keep them. I have so many permanent marks on my body. So many different hurts, and I didn't get to choose any of them. But I want this.” he said with determination, holding Andrew's gaze, cold blue meeting hot hazel.

“Hmm. Yes or no?” Andrew asked after several seconds of deliberation. Neil’s breath left him in a whoosh, tension leaking from his shoulders. 

“Yes Andrew.”

“Where? Here?” he asked, pressing his lips into the sharp jut of Neil’s jaw and the fine stubble developing after too many days without a razor. 

“Yes.”

“What about here?” Lips pressed to the hyper-sensitive skin below his ear, sending a shudder through Neil’s frame and heat spreading to his bloodstream. 

“Yes.”

“Here?” Lips pressing fleetingly across the skin where his neck met his shoulder, the pale skin of a scar peeking above the collar of his too-big hoodie.

“Yes, Andrew.” Neil groaned in frustration, frowning at him in the mirror. “Just - anywhere you want.” He squirmed at Andrew’s low hum, feeling the vibration snaking from Andrew’s chest into the muscles of his back.

“But this isn’t about me, Neil. Where do you want me to leave a mark?” Andrew coaxed.

“Everywhere.” Neil breathed, meeting Andrew's gaze with heavy-lidded want. He wanted Andrew to mark him from head-to-toe, to pull his blood to the surface with wet lips and hot touches. He wanted evidence of Andrew’s own want, wanted to test Andrew’s self-control, to know what noises Andrew could encourage him to make. Arousal was building a low hum in his blood, easily brushed aside by the sudden need to be covered in bruises that weren’t a result of pain and hate.

He wasn’t running anymore, he might not have a whole cast of characters hunting him down intent on causing him immeasurable pain and death, but Exy was a violent sport. Whether from a collision with an opposing teammate, the swing of fists, the butt of a racquet or hard impact of a ball, he was regularly splashed with a pattern of black and blue and healing green, even protected by armour. And at night, fingers pressed to injuries, he teetered a thin line of Nest-related memories and previous lifes; a swirling mess of hate and hurt and fear and desperation.

But Andrew’s marks, the seductive colours crawling up his throat - when he pressed on them all he felt was safe and respected and wanted.

A contemplative noise brushing across his shoulders pulled him back from his straying thoughts, and he exhaled a slow breath as Andrew’s hand slid from his throat and grasped his hip. He was spun and pushed back a step until the sink dug into his spine, and he fumbled suddenly clumsy hands behind him to grasp the cold porcelain. 

Hazel eyes stroked along the skin of his neck, and he was certain his thumping pulse would be visible battering against the weak barrier of flesh above his collarbone. Heat swept through his body, prompting his legs to fall open around Andrew’s strong thighs, spine melting until the strong grip on his hips was the only thing keeping him up. 

His knees felt weak and jelly-like as Andrew’s tongue darted out to wet his lips, and Neil ducked his head to steal a kiss and centre himself before his thoughts started to slip away under the wet heat of Andrew’s attentive mouth. 

The familiar taste of Andrew, cigarette smoke and artificial sweetner, warmed Neil down to his stomach as he opened his mouth to Andrew’s tongue. These kisses always started out hard and fast, stealing his breath before he could ration his oxygen. Neil gave ground in the beginning, letting Andrew’s tongue fill his mouth until he was a wet, panting mess. 

They’d been ‘nothing’ for long enough Neil knew Andrew needed these few precious seconds to dominate Neil’s mouth and mind in order to convince himself it really was nothing. That this could just be a dirty makeout with a stranger in Eden’s, one encounter that could be pushed out of his mind along with the urge. But to Neil’s continued surprise and pleasure, he kept coming back to him. 

Eventually the kiss slowed, smoothed out, gave enough room for Neil to flick his tongue into Andrew’s mouth and enjoy the sweet and nicotine taste of him, the smooth wet feel of him. 

Too soon, Andrew was pulling away, teeth latching onto Neil’s lower lip with a bite and a suck. Neil heaved in lungfuls of air, and allowed Andrew to turn his head with the press of hard fingers to his jaw. Any oxygen he’d managed to reclaim was almost immediately forced out of his lungs again as Andrew’s mouth sealed over the skin of his collarbone. 

Gripping the sink behind him until his knuckles creaked, Neil tried to hold back the breathy sounds working their way up his throat, vaguely aware they weren’t alone in the dorm, even as he turned his head and arched his neck and shoulders into the feeling. They had been consistently quiet lovers at first, with Neil’s fingers pressed against his mouth to hold back any incriminating noises that occasionally creeped out, but Andrew had admitted grudgingly one night that he liked hearing him, liked knowing that he was enjoying himself and not just enduring Andrews attentions. Since then Neil had gradually been allowing himself to voice his own pleasure, encouraged by Andrew’s reaction.

The sudden press of teeth around his collarbone had his mouth falling open on a whine. 

Muffled cursing from the bedroom caused Neil to open his eyes, unaware of having closed them, and he clenched his hands to keep from grasping at Andrew as the other man pulled away. Neil pressed a fleeting kiss to Andrew’s swollen, spit-slick lips and shivered at the brush of cool air across the wet skin of his collarbone.

“Nicky will be back soon,” Andrew warned, pulling back and inspecting the new mark, one hand rising to sweep his fingers across the plump skin, eyes sparking with something Neil was too disorientated to put a name to. 

“Do you want-” Neil started and paused to tug on the string of his thoughts. “The Maz?”

“If you ever call it that again I’ll confiscate your keys and make you walk everywhere.” Andrew said, pulling back and tugging on the uneven strings of Neil’s hoodie.

“But then where will we make out when the dorm’s busy?” Neil smirked, peeling his hands from the sink and stretching out his stiff fingers, wiggling them at Andrew’s unimpressed stare; only slightly ruined by the flush of his cheeks. 

“You overestimate your value.”

Neil wasn’t ashamed of his scramble to find his shoes and keys, could admit he took a sense of satisfaction in showing his eagerness to spend time with Andrew; whether it was for kisses, sex, conversation, or silent company. There were few things Neil was straightforward about, he enjoyed running circles around others with word-play and manipulation too much to change, but he was straightforward about sex. He took what was offered and never expected more, was happy to learn what Andrew liked and what made his own body thrum and he was very rarely embarrassed. They were a contrast with Andrew’s transparent opinions in every day matters but cautious approach to sex. Neil knew why they were different, he had next to no experience and Andrew had mostly bad, but so far he’d found they worked well together; balanced each other out. 

Andrew caught him by the hem of his hoodie the next time he passed, and Neil allowed himself to be tugged out of their room and the building, down to the parking lot.

Unlocking the Maserati with the press of a button, Neil hesitated at the passenger door, eyeing the seats. They’d kissed in the car enough times for Neil to lose count, but the centre console was just wide enough to make it uncomfortable after a couple of minutes, and god-forbid Neil accidentally touched any of the buttons and changed their settings. He’d been subjected to that rant only once but it was enough to put him off touching the thing ever again, even though he’d found Andrew’s pissed off gesticulating and biting voice frustratingly attractive. Frustrating because Andrew wasn’t in the mood to be silenced with Neil’s lips, and no matter how much Neil had wanted to scoop the words from the other man's mouth with his tongue, he wouldn’t push where it wasn’t wanted. He'd satisfied the attraction later that night on the roof between nicotine breaths.

Andrew huffed from the other side of the car and opened the backdoor, quirking a pale eyebrow at Neil. Climbing in the back, Neil had a moment to grimace at the tight fit and tilted seats, but settled in, leaning forward to move the passenger seat forward so it wasn’t so cramped before turning back to Andrew as the other man slammed the door behind him.

“Where do you want me?” he asked, turning to face Andrew. 

“Don't try to be sexy.” Andrew warned, tilting his head against the seat and eyeing Neil.

“You think i'm trying?” Neil asked with a smirk.

“Shut the fuck up.” Andrew said in a familiar monotone, motioning to Neil’s hoodie. Stripping out of the clothing, Neil felt smug satisfaction as Andrew’s eyes dropped to the stolen t-shirt. 

They wore relatively similar sizes of clothing, but Andrew’s shirts varied depending on his mood. Neil had found on good days he wore smaller, tighter shirts which hugged the hard coil of his muscles, showing off his strength and distracting Neil while warning others away. On bad days his shirts were bigger and looser, hanging off him but careful to cover as much skin as possible.  On this particular morning, in something that might be becoming a dangerous habit, Neil had borrowed Andrew's sleep shirt from the top bunk while the other man was in class and Neil had returned from a run, freshly showered and hunting for something soft and loose. He still preferred to keep his scars hidden, but knowing he had one of Andrews shirts pressing into his skin beneath the cover of a hoodie or sweater settled something in him on days where his legs itched to run and the prospect of being a real person was overwhelming.

Andrew flicked his fingers at Neil’s smug smile and Neil kicked his shoes off, attempting to find a more comfortable position, but the lean of the chairs kept pulling him lop-sided.

“Fuck this is uncomfortable. Who made these fucking seats? Is that a happy meal-?”

“Stop your fucking moaning.”

“You like it when I moan.”

“I swear that fucking mouth.” Andrew growled, placing a hand on Neil’s chest and pushing him back roughly to lean on his elbows beneath Andrew’s looming figure.

“Better find a way to shut me up, huh?” Neil goaded with a cocky smile, pulling his knees up and letting them fall open on either side of Andrew’s hips.

“I'm going to kill you, and nobodys going to be surprised when they find your body.” Andrew warned, words completely at odds with his actions as he hooked a hand beneath Neil’s leg and pulled it round his waist, cradling their hips together.

“Where you gonna dump it?” Neil inquired, tipping his chin up for a kiss and narrowing his eyes when Andrew ignored the silent request.

“The Chipotle parking lot.”

“Fuck off, at least leave me somewhere nice. The raccoons will have eaten my face off within an hour.”

“And they won’t be able to identify you. By the time they do, I'll be long gone.”

“Really thought it through, haven't you.”

“What do you think I do when Kevins talking?” At Neils huff of laughter, Andrew pushed him flat on his back and braced one arm beside Neil’s head, the other slipping beneath the borrowed shirt at his hip. “Now shut up and let me focus.”

“You gonna paint me?” The hand by his head covered Neil’s lips to shut him up, and he smirked before pulling two fingers into his mouth, sucking and swirling his tongue around the digits suggestively. Andrew hooked them behind Neils bottom teeth, tugging in warning and setting his own tongue to work on Neils Adam's apple. 

Neil sighed into the feeling, losing track of time as Andrew’s mouth sucked and nibbled and bit on the previously unmarred skin. He keened at the first hard press of teeth, slipping one hand through the teasing half-curls of Andrew’s blonde hair to reassure the other man that it was still a yes. He whined at the wet stripe Andrew licked up his neck on the search for another spot to bruise. Andrews rough voice sent a shiver through his shoulders as he was ordered to lift up, Andrews fingers leaving his mouth to slip under his arched spine, pulling him closer as he sealed his mouth over the skin below his ear. 

They weren’t soft men by nature, too many sharp and jagged edges, harsh words bleeding from angry mouths. Neil could accept they never would be soft by others standards, but he wasn’t disappointed. Andrew could meet him word for word, could look in the eyes of a tortured dangerous soul and see his own reflection. He didn’t want to be coddled or petted or remade into something kinder. There was a part of him that enjoyed the attempts of his teammates, that they believed he could become something more. He enjoyed being pulled into their lives, cemented into existence by their inclusion. But a larger part of him enjoyed the caution that many awarded him, flinching away from his scars and feral smiles. He took satisfaction in the warnings whispered behind his back. 

But in moments like these, with Andrew pressed close and baring a new part of himself, trusting Neil not to turn into a weapon, Neil could admit there was a thrill in being soft. He was at Andrews mercy, baring his throat to teeth and a hard mouth, it wouldn’t take much at all for Andrew to hurt him, to kill him. Instead he was being marked in reds and purples and browns, colours he had always associated with pain, by a man he was captivated and enamoured with, pressed into his skin purely for enjoyment and because it felt good. 

Only it didn’t just feel good, it was overwhelming. He was drowning in Andrew's scent, the weight and feel of him, the wet sucking heat leaving his skin raw and hyper sensitive. Here was Andrew allowing himself to enjoy something, to enjoy someone. Pressed closer than Neil could remember them ever being, trusting and pleasant and something . He wasn’t ever going to let this slip through his fingers. 

The sudden vibration of a phone pulled Andrew away and Neil tightened his fingers in the other mans hair for a moment before reluctantly letting go. He let his eyes drift to the roof of the car, pressing his fingers to the achy wet skin of his neck, plump and thrumming with blood. Heaving a breath, he rested his knuckles in the dent of his clavicle and soothed his thumb along the skin stinging from the rasp of Andrew’s stubble. 

“I’m going to shove an exy racquet up his ass,” Andrew growled, and Neil felt a smile tug the corner of his mouth as he dropped his eyes to Andrews dishevelled form, kneeling between his thighs and glowering at his phone.

“Kevin? He’d probably enjoy it.” he said, tugging on the collar of Andrew’s shirt to coax the other man back down. Andrew braced a hand on the headrest of the seat, holding himself away from Neil and Neil - well. Neil loved exy too much to ever wish any damage, but for a brief moment he considered snapping Kevins racquet in half. 

“Your teammates are causing trouble.” Andrew said, stuffing his phone back into the pocket of his jeans. Neil pressed a finger to the line between his brows, the only left-over sign of his irritation, emotion tucked quickly behind an indifferent mask.

“They’re your teammates too.” Neil said, allowing his hand to be caught and pulled away from Andrew’s face. Twisting his wrist, he linked their fingers together and squeezed, pulling their joined hands to rest on his stomach where his diaphragm was jumping from his heavy breaths, still feeling light headed from Andrew’s attention. 

“They’re a bothersome pest. We should be thinning out their numbers.”

“How many do you want to kill?”

“All of them. I'll start with you.”

“Be gentle, it’s my first time.” Neil smirked, taking far too much enjoyment out of the disgusted curl of Andrews lip. He slapped Andrews hands away as he pinched the skin of his stomach, and planted a foot on his chest when he went for another pinch to his hip. “And you say I’m the annoying one.” Neil bared his teeth in a mock smile and Andrew grabbed his socked toes, curling them until Neil yelped at the impending cramp twitching the tendons in warning. 

Andrew climbed out of the Maserati as Neil flexed his toes and hunted for his shoes beneath the front seats. Neil checked his neck with a cursory glance in the rearview mirror and felt his next breath catch in his chest. The majority of the bruises were on one side of his neck, climbing from his collarbone to the curve of his jaw, the shadow of one stretching behind his ear almost impossible for him to catch no matter how he turned his head. Lower down, a path followed the collar of his shirt, looking like somebody had tried to strangle him, just high enough he wasn’t going to be able to cover them. The more he looked the more certain he was that he wasn’t going to hide them though. He hadn’t lied when he told Andrew he liked them. He could put up with the teasing from his teammates, if only to see how often the marks would catch Andrew’s eye. The dark colour should have been violent and dangerous, a warning painted on his skin. Instead Neil felt warm and shivery, like a claim written on his skin telling others that he was Andrews. 

Andrew was almost back to the dorm by the time Neil caught up with him, his hoodie wrapped purposefully around his waist to show off the hickies. Lovebites, his brain regurgitated. As Andrews eyes darkened on the bruises, Neil inwardly renamed them. Afterall, Andrew hated him, it was only fitting that they become Hatebites. 

“Were you hoping to give me something a bit more solid than your metaphorical collar and leash?” Neil asked innocently. Andrew’s expression twitched almost imperceptibly before he by-passed the door to their dorm and headed to the roof, shuffling a pack of cigarettes from his pocket without answer.

Neil was beyond tempted to join him, but Dan had been impressing on him the importance of handling team issues as the future captain. Cursing the new responsibility, and bracing for the inevitable comments about the bruises on his neck, he headed to deal with the issue, wanting to get it sorted as fast as possible. He had a date with a surly blonde, pack of cigarettes, and the threat of a fall.

Andrew might not be ready yet, but Neil didn't need to be pushed - he'd already fallen.



Chapter Text

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.