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i feel you reflect in me

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It starts on a Tuesday with tacos and fireworks.

The tacos were planned, the fireworks were not, and Neil definitely considered it a date. Sure, they were sitting on the back curb of a closed down gas station, but Andrew had bought dinner and they’d held hands in the car. From their perch, they could see someone setting off fireworks in their backyard.

Neil didn’t watch the fireworks but rather what the colors did to Andrew’s hair. He shoved the second half of his taco into his mouth and reached out to brush a shiny lock of flashing hair behind Andrew’s ear. It left behind a tiny smear of sour cream and he smiled around his mouthful at the thought of Andrew finding it later. 

“You will walk home if you leave that there,” Andrew said without looking at him. He ripped at his tortilla to eat, making a mess of his lap. 

Neil couldn’t say anything as he chewed so he brought a napkin up to wipe the cream away and then cleaned his hand so he could trace his thumb over the shell of Andrew’s ear. It glowed red from the fireworks and stayed that color as the lights changed. Neil swallowed and tried not to smile when he took his hand away from the warming skin. 

There was only one taco left that belonged to Andrew, a slow eater next to Neil’s overzealous tendencies. Neil was practically bouncing with pent up energy by the time Andrew unwrapped and refolded it. He’d had ants in his pants for days without the foxhole court and even at this late hour, he wanted to go run do something

“We still need to pack,” he told Andrew. It was a poorly hidden prod to go faster that Andrew saw right through. But instead of being petty and going slower, he got up and walked toward the Maserati with his taco.

And Andrew… Andrew must have been in a very good mood because not only did he get in the car with his messy food, he got into the passenger seat. Neil dug his crowded key ring from his pocket and drove toward home. He turned the radio up and the windows down and smiled at the mess the warm wind was making of their hair. Andrew would be able to brush his out but Neil resigned himself to a rat’s nest. It was worth it for the rush his body craved. 

He pulled into the driveway of the Columbia house and practically jumped out of the car. Andrew followed leisurely, slow on purpose because he knew it would annoy Neil. Instead of going to the door, he came up to Neil and hooked one arm roughly around his waist. Neil jostled into him, spine straight and surprised. He breathed out, “Hi,” and settled his hands on Andrew’s shoulders. 

Andrew looked to his mouth and then back up. When Neil nodded, he pulled his arm tight and kissed him hard under the porch light. Neil couldn’t not smile into it, lips pulling so wide against Andrew’s they could barely kiss anymore. 

“Disgusting,” Andrew bit into the side of his mouth. It only made the problem worse. 

“You’re not the only one in a good mood,” he reasoned. 

“Don’t say stupid things.” 

Neil kissed Andrew once more and spun away to unlock the front door. It was almost a challenge with Andrew so close, so so close but not touching. He barely locked the door behind them when Andrew pulled him in again, two hands on his sides and lips demanding. It was dark but he could hear Kevin snoring on the couch and pulled away so that they could go upstairs. 

It was a little  bit of a rush, a little bit naughty and exciting as Andrew followed on his heels. The summer night was hot and electric and they wouldn’t go far tonight in a crowded house but Andrew had no qualms about feeding into Neil’s excited jitters.

Packing was full of teasing touches and avoided glances. Andrew would brush his fingers along Neil’s spine as he passed and then go on, back turned, as if nothing had happened. Neil almost forgot to grab extra jeans, so distracted by the sight of Andrew tossing his pair of navy blue shorts on top of their duffel bag. 

“Sit,” Andrew said, finally looking Neil in the face. He did, plopping right down onto the edge of the bed, eager and curious. For a moment, Andrew stood between his knees, towering over Neil even as he bent to bring their lips close, not kissing, just there. Neil didn’t touch, barely even tilted his head into him as he struggled to keep his breathing steady. 

And when Andrew sank to kneel on the floor between his legs, breathing was no longer a struggle. It was impossible. 

Andrew still did not kiss him.

His breath was hot, everything Neil could not get out of his own lungs. He brushed his lips over Neil’s, over his jaw and down his neck. His fingers dug into his thighs and dragged , ten points of pressure down past his calves. At his ankles, he turned his lips to Neil’s ear, teeth at his lobe. 

“I need these,” he said lowly and ripped the sneakers off Neil’s feet. 

Neil sat on the bed, mouth hanging open. He had to laugh, he had to , because it was so ridiculous and he felt like a helium balloon had inflated in his chest. Happy . This was happy. 

They continued packing and getting ready for bed with little incident. When Andrew took too long brushing his hair, Neil bothered him through the door until he was allowed to come in and brush his teeth. Their eyes met through the mirror, Neil in a ratty shirt and frothing at the mouth, Andrew in a black tank top and hair shining like a halo in the harsh lighting. 

Neil chewed on his toothbrush thoughtfully. 

“Wi’ ‘u goo mi’ koo?” he asked, only partly because Andrew hated when people talked with their mouths full but would never admit it. The distaste was there in the vein above his expressionless eye. He finished and wiped his face on whoever's towel was on the back of the door so he could ask again. “Will you do mine, too?”

Andrew considered Neil’s hair through the mirror. It was not curly but not wavy or straight either. The dyed damage had grown out but it still looked puffy and dry. At least the color was nice enough. It was impossible to deal with but so were they so Andrew grabbed three brushes from the cabinet and ushered Neil back into their room. 

This time, it was Neil on the floor between Andrew’s legs, though he was facing away. He expected it to be a painful process given that he couldn’t get his fingers through, but Andrew had a way of pinching each section to brush without tugging at his scalp. 

It took a while. It was far later than they should have stayed up, but Niel was glad for the moment. Sometimes they were quiet, sometimes they talked about the apocalypse or the best kind of German cookies (Neil argued Printen, Andrew called him an idiot), sometimes they talked about tomorrow. Their tentative plans were a long drive before an evening in Palmetto and a night at some campus motel. Neil felt like he was being showered with romance and said so to Andrew. His fingers paused for just a second.

“Romance,” he deadpanned.

“Yeah, you know. Tonight was nice-”

“Nice.”

“Yeah, Andrew. Nice.”

Andrew tugged at Neil’s hair until he tipped his head all the way backward to look at him upside down. His face was blank yet he still exuded a sense of woefully unimpressed.

“Nice.” How one word could be completely empty. Neil huffed at Andrew’s distaste for romance.

“Yes nice. We held hands and everything.”

“We ate at an abandoned gas station.”

“There were fireworks. It counts as nice.”

Andrew drew his fingers through Neil’s hair, blunt nails scratching at his scalp from forehead to crown. When he didn’t catch on a tangle like usual, he tugged once and pushed his head back up to finish brushing.

“Nice,” he grunted after several quiet minutes. Neil rolled his eyes.

Andrew signaled that he was finished by tossing the brushes to the ground and backing up to his side of the bed. Neil touched his hair as he got up to turn off the light. One of the brushes had made it feel smooth, almost silky, in places over his ears and at the back where it was shortest. He hoped it would last into tomorrow. He wanted to look nice.

Crawling into bed, he pulled the sheet up over them and tucked his toes into Andrew’s ankles. Tomorrow was going to be a good day, just like everyday had been a good day.

 

Tomorrow was a good day. 

You know sometimes when you wake up sad for no reason? (Elias called it depression. Whatever.) This was the opposite of that. Neil hadn’t dreamt of anything special but he woke up with Andrew at his back and the sun at his front. 

He stretched out his legs to flex his hips and groaned at the tingly pull of his muscles. 

“What the fuck was that sound,” Andrew grumbled into the back of his neck. It was already almost too hot for the proximity but Neil didn’t care. In fact, he leaned back further until their bodies were pressed together head to heel. Andrew’s arm came around his waist, palm pressing hot and flat over his belly. Neil hummed. It felt good despite the warmth of the room. He indulged in a bit of laziness, sacrificing jogging at the coolest part of the day for the feel of Andrew’s knees behind his, the arches of their feet interlocking. 

He was happy, though, and happy meant awake . Neil rolled over under Andrew’s arm and resettled when they were nose to nose. The air between them smelled like morning breath and old deodorant and it wasn’t particularly pleasant but it was the smell of closeness. If he wiggled his face just so, their noses brushed. 

Andrew blinked open sleepy eyes, unguarded after their late night and unfocused at such close proximity. 

“Good morning,” Neil whispered. He felt like the happiness in his chest could burst out at any moment, first through his heart where it beat hard against his sternum, and then through his cheeks where they squinted into his eyes. 

Andrew blinked again, slow and cat-like, and said, “Must be,” as he brought his arm between them and pressed his fingers against Neil’s mouth. Neil pursed his lips against them in a not-kiss. 

“Do you remember what we talked about last week?” Andrew said quietly. Neil might not if it weren’t for the determined way Andrew forced eye contact. Not many things made him do that and only one thing recently. He nodded and kissed Andrew’s fingertips with purpose. “Have you done it?”

It was vague and falsely casual. Neil nodded again, kept his words to himself because he couldn’t yet gauge how far the conversation could be pushed. 

“Tell me.” He meant what did you think . He meant did you like it . Neil squished his hands between them so that he could take Andrew’s palm and kiss his fingertips again. 

“It was efficient,” he said, because it had been. The fingers at his lips dug their nails into his bottom lip. 

“Not exactly a glowing review.” 

“Yes it is.” He pulled Andrew’s hand down so that there was nothing between them anymore. “I told you how I only did what was necessary before. Unless I’m with you, I don’t care all that much about it. So when I say efficient, it means something.” 

Andrew’s stillness was practiced and perfect, so blank Neil had trouble reading him. But the tell was in the color of his ears, the single shift of his legs. 

“And if it were with me?”

Neil considered how to answer. He knew the truth, and saying it was easy for him, but he didn’t know how to phrase it in the moment. Sometimes Andrew could speak bluntly, even crassly, about sex. Sometimes it wasn’t so easy. Neil could recognize by now that it was situational, he just couldn’t find the pattern of those situations. 

“With you… it would be very good. That’s what I thought about when I tried and I keep thinking about it.” 

Andrew’s ears were dark red but no part of his face gave anything away. “Brain,” he said, a reassurance he needed to call for more often now that they were pushing so many boundaries. The deal was honesty, asked whenever and answered no matter what. 

“Uh- I was actually kinda bored when I first started. Felt a little vulnerable after. Embarrassed maybe?” Embarrassed wasn't the right word but it was as close as he could get. Andrew nudged him in the back with the hand trapped under his ribs- go on . “I guess, I think maybe if we did it together I would want you to stay for a minute after. If you could. But it wasn't a strong feeling and I would be alright if that couldn’t happen.” 

“Body,” Andrew said. The hand behind him contoured into the dip of his lower back, fingers teasing the top hem of his shorts. 

“Like I said- efficient.” Andrew blinked at him. “It didn’t hurt,” he said, because that was what he was really asking. “It’s a really odd angle, I couldn’t get it right.” 

“Tragic.”

“Mmhmm. It was, actually. I wanted more and I couldn’t do it by myself.” 

It was borderline too much to say, not for Neil but for Andrew. He pulled his head back slightly and rubbed his face into the pillow. It was a subtle tell disguised as a tired tic. Careful, careful . Neil let the quiet settle again. He had observed these hang ups with others, too, not just Andrew.

It was like everyone was in on some big secret- what was allowed to be said and when and to whom. Neil understood and appreciated privacy but he also didn’t understand why his questions made Matt choke. It was just about lube. He hadn’t even said why he was asking. 

Matt, best friend that he was, had pointed Neil in the right direction for information with a red face. It had been good advice, too. 

Andrew was not embarrassed now, but Neil could tell he’d only started the conversation as a bridge to consent. Neil was the one who had taken it just too far, trying to give what he thought was needed and tripping. 

He didn’t want to start a good day with a misstep.

“Sorry,” he whispered, so quiet it was more breath than apology. Andrew reopened his eyes in question. “I was weird again,” he guessed. Apologies were never a requirement between them but the tension Neil could sense but not understand drew it out of him like a compulsion. 

Andrew adjusted his head on his pillow so that both eyes could focus and frown at him with a barely there crease between his brows. 

“How were you weird?” he asked, voice low but not quiet, a tired gravel.

“I went too far.” Talking about talking about sex was harder than just talking about sex. 

“I asked. The deal is honesty.”

“You were asking if I liked it or not, not how it went.” 

“Honesty is the whole truth. Not omission.” 

They’d talked about lying by omission often in different contexts. Neil knew honesty and withholding were mutually exclusive to them but he hadn’t thought that had been the question. 

“Neil.” He looked up, not realizing he’d been staring at Andrew’s cheek instead of his eyes. “Being able to talk confidently about sex is not a bad thing.” 

“It’s not confidence, it’s ignorance,” he argued. 

“It’s the only good thing to come out of your isolated upbringing away from heteronormative bullshit shame being shoved down your throat from every angle.”

“It’s because I don’t care ,” Neil groaned. He sighed through his nose in frustration. “It’s like talking about grocery shopping or laundry. It feels good and I like it but I don’t care about sex outside of being close to you.” Immediately, he knew he’d done it again when Andrew didn’t have a biting comeback. Always a second too late. “ See . I did it again-” 

Andrew’s hand tugged from Neil’s grip between them to cover his mouth, effectively cutting off Neil’s words and train of thought. He moved on a beat later, pinching Neil’s chin and pulling his mouth open. “That’s not what you’re doing.” He paused to consider. Neil waited patiently, thoughts quickly becoming preoccupied with the thumb dragging over his bottom lip. “I like the way you talk about sex.” 

Like . That was newer than the shorts, Andrew acknowledging that he liked something. A type of pizza. A song. Neil was pleased to contribute to the short list. He gave the barest of nods, desperate not to dislodge Andrew’s hand. Andrew took it for what it was and kissed Neil’s open mouth, heedless of their morning breath and deeper than Neil thought the mood warranted. This time, he was glad for not reading it right and kissed back just as hard. He was barely given time to sink into it before Andrew pushed him back and slid his arm free from under his waist. 

“Go take a shower.” 

Neil rolled out of bed, body filled to the brim with energy, and only noticed how he didn’t actually want to get out of bed until he was standing in a room that was humid-hot and not lying under covers that were body-warm. Oh well. 

“I’ll be a while. Join me if you want,” he said over his shoulder on the way out. Andrew was smart enough to understand what Neil was going to be doing in the shower. He didn’t feel embarrassed by it, but he wanted to know what Andrew was thinking about all this. He could ask, would ask later. 

Alone under the hot spray, washing himself didn’t do anything extraordinary for him. He was more preoccupied with ruining his nicely brushed hair than anything his fingers did behind him. 

Some minutes later, there was a single bang on the door. Neil called Andrew to come in. There was the oddest sense of mundanity as Andrew used the toilet with him in the room. It was almost funny up until he flushed and Neil had to jump away from the flash of scalding water.

“That was unnecessary,” he grumbled. Andrew didn’t respond. In fact, he was suspiciously quiet for a long time. Neil didn’t say anything, just ducked his face under the water. He still didn’t say anything when the curtain moved behind him. He didn’t say anything when he felt a cool hand between his shoulders.

He didn’t say anything when he realized that Andrew was naked, though that was more out of surprise than anything. He’d made the offer so casually- join me - not fully connecting the dots that showers were typically done in the nude. 

“Stop hogging the water,” Andrew said, sounding completely unaffected. 

“Can I turn around?” Neil asked. The hand on his back slid down and then all the way up to the side of his neck. 

“Yes.” 

He turned and at the same time they spun so that the water was now hitting Andrew’s hair and shoulders. Neil didn’t look down, didn’t take this for blanket permission. He brought one hand up to cover Andrew’s on his neck and the other to brush his hair back into the spray. Andrew closed his eyes to it, let himself relax into the touch and heat and offered up this great trust that Neil hadn’t realized he’d asked for. 

It was a lot. It was everything. 

With his free hand, Andrew grabbed the shampoo and nudged it at Neil. The hand on Neil's neck came down to rest at the center of his chest, keeping exactly enough distance between them. It was closeness and self-defense all at once. Neil washed his hair clumsily, the angle feeling wrong to his hands. He massaged longer than needed, pressing his fingers into the base of his skull and working at where he often got headaches. There, he cradled Andrew’s head and tipped it back to rinse. 

Andrew handed him the bottle of conditioner and waited. Neil schooled his features as carefully as he could. 

“What’s this one for?” he asked lightly. Andrew narrowed his eyes in suspicion. 

“Are you telling me you don’t condition this ?” he dug his free fingers into Neil’s hair. Even after the brushing, the water made it impossible to navigate. 

“I mean… I wash everything. Isn’t that the point of showers?” 

Andrew didn’t answer. He took the bottle back and massaged a dollop roughly over Neil’s head and then his own. 

“You’re not fucking funny,” he said when he was done, snapping the bottle closed and squeezing it onto his designated shelf. 

“I definitely almost got you with that one.” Neil grabbed Andrew’s body wash before he could and waited with a glob of it until the hand on Neil’s chest gave slightly. 

“Above the waist,” he said and Neil knew he was forgiven for his small joke. He was used to his plain blue bar soap so it took a little experimentation but neither minded. The slide of soap on skin eased his exploration of Andrew’s shoulders. And it smelled good

“I like this,” he said under his breath. Andrew raised his eyebrows, probably because Neil had been rubbing his hands over his collar bones for an absurd amount of time. When Neil opened the bottle again to smell it, both brows fell flat. 

“I hate everything you choose to be.”

“Mmhmm,” Neil hummed absently, getting back to work. Instead of asking Andrew to turn, he reached around and began washing his back. Andrew’s hand between them gave even more, his other coming around to Neil’s own back, resting low where it dimpled. 

Neil wanted him to touch. He wanted his hand to go lower and explore. 

“Did you touch yourself?” he asked, his voice as steady and strong as always but Neil had trouble hearing it over the roaring in his ears. 

“Yes,” he said. He moved his hands down to rub soap over Andrew’s chest, elbows bent close and fingers splayed. “Just to wash.” 

Just ,” Andrew hissed into the side of his jaw. 

“Touch me,” Neil rasped, so quiet the rush of water would have drowned it out if it weren’t for their proximity. He swiped his soapy hands around until they were on the sides of his ribs, palms pressing but fingers carefully relaxed. 

The hand on his back pressed flat, almost enough to pull them closer. Andrew brushed his nose against Neil’s chin. 

It was a delicate, overheated moment. Neil moved his hands innocently, more to feel than to wash as the soap thinned and rinsed away. Andrew mimicked the movements, his hand between them moving to hold his waist and the other rubbing back and forth over the base of his spine. His touch was almost lighter than the water, a tickle as it brushed lower and lower and back up and low again. When he reached down, Neil’s heart began to pound hard enough to feel. Andrew’s height gave him the advantage of angle but he did not take it. He kept his fingers so light that even as they traced down they didn’t so much as breach the crease of his ass. 

Neil thought he might shake apart. He wasn’t familiar with this type of deep want . What his body wanted, what his brain wanted, what Andrew was giving him. It was all almost too much. 

And when Andrew pulled his hand close, flexed his fingers just so, it was too much. 

Neil’s intake of breath was so sharp it hurt. Andrew pulled his hand away in an instant but they didn’t separate, both holding onto each other with bruising grips on hips and ribs. The only thing that betrayed how affected Andrew was were his squeezing hands and quickened breath. 

“I think I… underestimated myself,” Neil panted. He didn’t feel embarrassed of reacting so strongly to a single touch. He liked how he felt with Andrew. He liked how his body reacted to him. 

It was just… a lot . Disproportionate to the thoughts he had. 

Just ,” Andrew said again, this time with a mocking edge to his tone. 

Neil dropped his forehead into the divot created by Andrew’s shoulder muscle so that he could take a moment to breathe and come down from whatever that was. 

“I’m not gonna lie, Neil, I don’t think your use of the word efficient was very accurate.” 

A sound escaped Neil, a surprised, ringing laugh that bounced off the tiled wall. “That was definitely better than by myself.” 

“Why am I finding it hard to believe that me barely touching you had a stronger effect than you valiantly attempting to find your own prostate?” 

Neil laughed into Andrew’s shoulder again, lighter and less manic. “Honestly? This didn’t really feel like anything. It was the… the anticipation, I think. Fuck, Andrew, what the fuck was that?”

Andrew’s laugh was silent but from where Neil was slouched into him, he could feel the shake of his chest. He allowed Neil to indulge in the embrace for a moment longer before rinsing the conditioner out of his hair and kicking him out so he could finish his shower alone. The smile followed Neil all the way through drying and dressing and venturing downstairs. The house was quiet in the mornings and today was no different. Kevin was out on a run, Aaron was probably in his room for his morning call with Katelyn, and Nicky was humming as he cooked breakfast.

It looked like he was making crepes, or at least trying to, as their cookware wasn’t that great. As Nicky bounced around, Neil realized that there was a computer open on the counter, a window open showing Erik in headphones. He saw Neil before Nicky and waved. Neil held up a finger to his mouth to signal quiet and came into the kitchen silently. Schooling his smile away was harder than it used to be. When he felt appropriately blank, he looked over Nicky’s shoulder at the bowl of strawberries he was stirring. He didn't say anything, barely even breathed, just stood as close as he could without being noticed. Erik’s laughter began to rise over the humming and clinking dishes. 

“What are you laughing at?” Nicky asked in German. 

“This sorry excuse for crepes,” Neil answered in kind. The only word to describe the sound Nicky made was a shriek as he jumped around to face Neil. Neil had to bite his cheeks to keep his smile down. 

“You!” Nicky yelled, pointing at him with a sticky spoon. “You! You!

“Give me that,” Neil said, grabbing the spoon and pushing his way to the counter. Nicky leaned next to the laptop, hand clutching his heaving chest as Erik attempted to placate him through his chuckles. 

“You’re a menace . It’s like there’s a direct correlation between height and sanity on this team, I swear.” 

“You’re hardly one of the taller players” Neil pointed out as he tasted the strawberries and cream.

“I stand by what I said. More importantly- what are you doing?” 

Neil considered the consistency of the batter and tasted that, too, to know what he wanted to do. It didn’t need all that much alteration, actually. “I spent a summer helping his old man with his crepe cart.” His dialect was so strong they really just talked at each other without comprehension. He paid Neil in loose coins and homemade meals from his daughter. Neil wondered how he was doing.

Erik and Nicky reminisced about some romantic weekend or another and the crepes they had there. Neil noticed how the ingredients laid out aligned suspiciously with their stories. Somewhere in the back of his mind, without his permission, he wondered what kinds of special food he might share with Andrew in the future.

He did his best to make sure the stack of crepes came out as best they could in the circumstances and prepared a plate and coffee to bring up to the room. The coffee was overly sweet but the strawberries were not. A compromise, he only had two hands after all.

breakfast in bed

Andrew was out of the shower and dressed, laying sideways across the bed and reading a paperback. Neil noticed the way his shorts rose around his knees and appreciated them for a good minute before kneeling on the bed, balancing the loaded plate and full mug as he tried to get comfortable. Andrew took the mug without looking up from his book. With nothing better to do, Neil started cutting into breakfast. After a few bites, he traded Andrew the plate for the coffee.

For a while, they sat in silence, trading food and coffee, drifting closer together with every switch until they were pressed together at the shoulders. Neil’s bent knee overlapped Andrew’s thigh. He swiped his fingers through some leftover cream and sighed around it.

“I have a question…” he started tentatively. Andrew squeezed his knee instead of snarking his assent. “Sometimes when we talk about sex it seems easier for you and other times it’s not.” Andrew finally turned his head but didn’t say anything. Neil couldn’t tell if he was thinking or waiting for more since that wasn’t actually a question. 

“You help,” he said after a long while. “The way you speak about it helps.”

That felt good, a relief, and exhale. Neil kept waiting, sensing that Andrew wasn’t done yet. “It’s… comparable to your approach to therapy.”

Hmm. He thought about that. Elias only worked as his therapist because they approached his mental health in a very clinical manner. Facts were facts and he did not try to be Neil’s friend or comfort him with placations. Six months had loosened those restraints a little, turned their sessions into something closer to conversations, but the distinction was still there.

Neil tried to fit this frame around what he knew about Andrew. It was a neat little box, in it he put their conversations over lunch in their dorm between classes, out of it he put ruffled sheets, loose pajamas, and red ears. He considered Eden’s- doesn't mean I wouldn’t blow you - surrounded by hyper-sexual outfits and dancing and alcohol. That one took a moment until he widened his scope- nothing will come of it . Kevin drinking right there, their fragile mental stability. No, there was very little that was truly intimate about that moment.

He looked down at their legs now. They both wore shorts, Andrew with his hard calves and Neil with this scarred, discolored knees. Neither were wearing their armbands or socks and the door was closed but it was morning in a full house. He felt close to Andrew now, intimate, but he couldn’t decipher where it fit in the box. He explained his trouble to Andrew and did not get a look of judgement.

“It is not necessary to decide if every moment fits the bill.”

“No, but we’re close right now, in your bed, and we have plans to go to a motel tonight. If we keep talking about sex I want to make sure you’re okay with it.”

“Oh, Neil,” Andrew said in a way that could have been a sigh but wasn’t. He put their dishes on the nightstand so that they both had free hands and arranged their bodies to lay down. With his head tucked into the crook of Andrew’s shoulder, Neil couldn’t see his face. Andrew did not stroke his fingers like he often had this week, just held his hand still and solid in the dip between his ribs and hip bone. It felt even more intimate. He didn’t get where Andrew was going with it and adjusted himself until he was on his back instead. Looking in the same direction felt like it added the smallest layer of protection. Andrew expressed his approval with a single swipe of his thumb over the just of Neil’s hip.

“The way you speak about sex helps,” He repeated. “If it’s important enough to bring up, do it. I will tell you if it is not a good time.”

Neil nodded, his wet hair mussing up against Andrew’s shirt. “We’re pretty good at this,” he mused quietly. Andrew didn’t ask for clarification, maybe he had his own assumptions about what Neil meant. Just as well- he wasn’t completely sure how he would answer. Good at communication, good at relationships, good at being together.

They were just good at it, whether or not others thought so, too.

“Tonight,” Neil prefaced, giving Andrew a cue to ready himself, “do you want to finger me?” Not being able to see Andrew had no affect on his ability to read him. It was there in the careful stillness of his hand, the twitch of his pec against Neil’s cheek.

“Yes,” he said and left it at that for a while. Neil was happy to sit in silence for hours if it were like this. “What do you want?”

Hmm. He thought. “I don’t know what will be okay, yet.”

“That is not what I asked. You can want things that we will not do tonight. But nothing will happen at all if you never say.”

That made sense, he supposed. Neil considered a world of possibilities and found that it was harder than he thought it should be. “Sometimes… I have trouble thinking of my own ideas when I don’t know everything you’ll want. Does that make sense?”

“To you,” Andrew said. It was an uncharacteristically kind way to say no without making Neil feel like he was wrong. That was another pattern, its own box for these conversations- allowance, acceptance. Snark and bating and teasing comments never seemed to make it past the delicate bubble of sex talk. Neil chewed on his cheek and tried again.

“When I think about having sex with you, it’s more about you than it is the sex. I want to make you feel good but what you want might change between now and tonight.”

Andrew’s silence spoke louder, louder, loudest. Neil focused on the inflation of each breath, the heartbeat against one ear, the fingers that were beginning to press harder into his hip.

Andrew said, “How do you want to make me feel good?” and sounded so falsely bored that Neil almost, almost looked. He wanted to see the effect on his face. He wanted to look him in the eye and tell him he wanted to make him feel good in every way possible. Every way allowed. But it was all at odds with now versus later and all of the things that could happen in between.

So he said, “First,” because he didn’t know what else there was to want, what else he could want more.

“Why first?”

“Because when you feel good, it makes me feel good. When you like it, I get excited. Sometimes when you let me stay while you get off, I feel like I almost get worked up enough to go again.”

“And if we got off at the same time?”

The breath froze in Neil’s lungs. He hadn’t… actually thought of that before. Now, as he built the image in his mind, it was overwhelming. He didn’t even picture what they could be doing to each other with hands or mouths. He pictured Andrew’s face next to his, imagined how his stomach and heart felt when Andrew touched him, when Andrew touched himself. It was the first time one of these conversations had ever had a physical effect, his shorts becoming tight at the thought of Andrew kissing him though their shared release.

“What do you want?” Andrew asked again, voice dipping low and head tilting to bring his lips to Neil’s ear because he knew exactly what he was doing to him. Neil swallowed.

“I want to get off at the same time as you,” he said. It was a truth. It was a want . He wanted that very much. It took a long time to bring himself back down, controlled breaths and distracting thoughts.

“Brain,” Andrew asked.

“I’m trying to think of things to stop being hard,” he said honestly. Because that was the deal.

“Kevin will do that to just about anyone,” Andrew said in a sagely way that made Neil smile.

“If you think Exy is a turn off, we’re going to need to have another conversation,” he joked. It wasn’t true in that way, but Nicky often chided that he was Exy-sexual.

Andrew pinched Neil’s hip playfully.

They left with little fan fair after lunch. Aaron was still nowhere to be seen and Kevin was out so Nicky was the only one around to wave them off with a wink. Neil knew that their plans were transparent but hoped Andrew didn’t mind the crude comments that followed them out to the car. He didn’t react to them, but then, he rarely did.

The plan was this: drive.

The noon July sun was hot enough that the leather seats burned the backs of their knees but instead of using the a.c., Andrew rolled down the windows. The wind was just as hot and did nothing for the sweat beading on Neil’s forehead or back but he wouldn’t do anything to change it. He found a radio station of old songs that he knew from very different long drives and sang along badly, voice lost out the window.

They headed east on 378, no destination in mind but Neil liked the trees this time of year. He had stronger memories of the colder seasons across Canada, leaves turning red and brown and then white, but he liked the green best. Not the heat, just the green.

Sometimes, Andrew would engage the cruise control and lean back, one hand on the wheel and the other on Neil’s thigh. They went south next, circling back on long quiet roads until they found one that would take them, eventually, to Palmetto. Neil didn’t offer to drive, he didn’t want to. He wanted to play his fingers through Andrew’s whipping hair and sing every other line of every other song that he mostly didn’t know the words to. He wanted to sit sideways and make whatever face he was making to cause Andrew to poke his cheek away. He wanted to pull his feet up onto the seat and trap Andrew’s hand between his knees.

So he did.

They stopped at the mall just outside of Palmetto, Andrew peeling off on his own once they stepped foot into the over-air conditioned concourse. Neil wandered to the sport supply store on the second floor to kill time. It was no Exites, but this close to the college meant it was easy to find every accessory he could ever want in bright orange. He stocked up on tape and socks and was debating the merits of end caps for his stick that would drive Kevin mad with their impracticality when Andrew found him again. 

Andrew announced his presence with fingers sliding through the back of Neil’s hair, cupping his head briefly in greeting and then closing in a fist that tugged in a way he liked more than was appropriate in public. He let his head fall back when Andrew pulled him to look. 

“Time’s up,” he said, swatting the end caps to the floor and grabbing the socks. Neil paid and they headed back towards the parking lot. Andrew had a bag as well, brown paper with no discernible logo. He wondered over it idly as they blasted the a.c. and waited for the car to cool enough but the thoughts didn’t linger.

Andrew had him pressed to the inside of the open passenger door before the speculations could take root, tossing their purchases into the back seat so that his hands were free to grab both of Neil’s palms between his own. He slid his grip from Neil’s wrists until he could slot their fingers together, keeping him pinned to the hot glass and black leather. 

He’d been touchy, since yesterday. Grabbing and brushing and teasing and not kissing Neil nearly as much as he wanted to be kissed. And he wanted . Even now, in the middle of a parking lot. It was the look in his eyes, knowing and sure of himself. He looked half ready to fall to his knees right there but didn’t do more than step close enough to brush their hips together. Neil felt the graze of the hem of Andrew’s shorts and wanted him to step further, wanted Andrew to slot their legs so he could feel their bare calves press together. He wanted

Andrew brushed his lips against Neil’s jaw and walked around to the driver side. 

They headed for Palmetto. 

Neil wasn’t sure he would ever feel for therapy the way Andrew and some of the other foxes did, but he could safely say that going was a bit of a mood killer. Andrew left down the longer hall to go see Bee while Neil let himself into Elias’s dark green office and he didn’t want to do this. Not… not the way he didn’t want to do it all those months ago when he first started. He didn’t want to do it in their normal, clinical way. He didn’t want to talk about anything but Andrew and he didn’t want to talk about Andrew here and he didn’t want to talk about Andrew that way

When he told Elias this, he got a shrug in response. 

It felt very anticlimactic. 

“I’m saying I just want to talk today,” he tried to clarify. 

“Yup.”

Chit chat .” 

“Sounds good to me,” Elias said, putting his pen down and leaning back in his chair. Neil narrowed his eyes. 

“You’re not gonna… tell me what a breakthrough this is?”

“We talk every time you come here.”

“Yeah but we don’t chit chat . That’s kind of our whole thing.”

Elias opened a side drawer of his obnoxiously ornate desk and pulled out a paper wrapped sandwich. “If we’re just chit chatting today, I’m assuming you don’t mind if I eat this? I missed lunch.” 

Neil flicked his fingers to signal for him to go ahead. The rest of the hour went by pretty much exactly like that and Neil… didn’t hate it. They didn’t talk about anything from the past further back than the last Exy season and Elias even talked about his own life which was the farthest from their norm. 

“Is it really okay that we did this?” Neil asked towards the end. “You’re totally fine wasting an entire session when we missed last week?” 

“The way I see it,” Elias said, sitting forward for the first time since they began, “I still get paid by your insurance, I got to eat a delicious sandwich, and 6 months ago if I suggested that we chit chat you would have walked out yet here you are, chit chatting . I’d say it’s a win.” 

Neil didn’t want to give him the pleasure of agreeing so he bit down on the satisfied smile that tugged at the corner of his lips. 

“And now I’m wondering if I can convince you to leave 5 minutes early so I can go home.”

That victory, Neil would grant him, and only partially because it was self serving. 

Andrew was waiting for him by the car, leaning against the rumbling engine and smoking. Neil slowed his approach to look, to appreciate the shorts that so rarely made an appearance, to watch the hot summer breeze press his hair flat on one side and go; wild on top. He walked until he stood flush with Andrew’s side, wedging himself between his hip and the car so that he could rub their bare calves together. 

Reddin

“This a new fetish of yours?” Andrew said, bringing his hand holding the cigarette around Neil’s neck until he could take a drag right in his face. Neil closed his eyes when the smoke hit and tried to take in all of his senses- the smell of nicotine and Andrew’s faint cologne, the scorching relief of the sun after the over air conditioned office, the barely there catch of Andrew’s leg hair against his own that made him shiver like he had a fever, the hand that came up to fold over his hip. 

He probably should have shot the shit with Andrew- would have under any other circumstances. But he felt like he’d just woken up from a long nap and wanted to pretend for just a moment, here with his face buried under Andrew’s ear. And Andrew let him as he smoked lazily against the shuddering of the car. 

“Don’t fall asleep on me now, Junkie. It’s time for dinner,” Andrew said quietly into the side of his head. 

“Not sleeping,” Neil argued, though he wasn’t entirely convinced of this himself. His relaxation was bone deep. Andrew was right, though. Abby and Wymack were expecting them, not to mention it had been hours since their light lunch back at the house. Neil peeled himself upright and blinked the world back into focus. Everything was surprisingly saturated for how fuzzy he felt around the edges, the same sort of shock as opening your eyes after washing your hair for a long time. Andrew unstuck a lock of hair from his cheek and hip checked him out of the way. 

They drove a little aimlessly for the timing of it all. Neil occasionally watched neighborhoods change with mild curiosity, more interested in the way Andrew’s hand looked on his leg between gear shifts. Every once in a while, he would place his hold on the top of his knee instead and slide his fingers under the hem of his shorts, down the bare skin of his inner thigh. 

As distraction methods went, Neil put it right at the top of the list. He barely even registered when they pulled into street parking instead of Abby’s driveway. 

“What are we doing here?” he asked, but Andrew was already out of the car and circling around to open the passenger door. When he held out his hand, Neil took it automatically and hefted himself up onto the sidewalk. He vaguely recognized the area as the high street two towns over from Palmetto, quaint but trendy and offering nothing of particular interest. 

“Eating,” Andrew said, and pulled Neil by the hand into the large open wall that was the entrance to a restaurant. Neil followed, because he always would, looking around at the dark industrial space as the hostess guided them to a table at the back corner. When they were finally situated, close enough to touch and each with a wall to their back, Neil stopped analyzing the patrons and exits and raised an eyebrow at Andrew as high as it could go. 

Andrew didn’t even bother to shrug when his voice did all the work expressing how little he seemed to care. “Nicer than an abandoned gas station.” 

“Nice,” Neil echoed, disbelieving. The word hung between them, unacknowledged. He went to open his menu and realized that he was still holding Andrew’s with his left. Andrew, who was tossing the pages of his without pausing to actually look at any of the meals and absently stroking his thumb over Neil’s knuckles. “ Nice ,” he repeated emphatically, remembering their conversation from last night. Andrew gave no indication of having heard him for several long seconds. 

“Better than sidewalk tacos?” he asked at last, looking intently down at the dessert section. Neil bit back a smile, something he’d been needing to do more and more lately. 

“We’re holding hands and everything,” he said because he knew Andrew was remembering, too. 

Romantic

He didn’t bring up that they’d been expected elsewhere, knowing that Andrew likely spoke about this with Bee who would have been in attendance as well. He couldn’t say that he minded the change of plans, even if he couldn’t beg the court keys off of Wymack. This was better. Somehow. The location meant nothing to either of them and they didn’t care about any of the few strangers around but it felt different . It felt intentional. 

Neil squeezed Andrew’s hand back. 

It was nice .

This place had a side salad with strawberries on it that Neil inhaled before their main dishes even arrived. Don’t get him wrong, it had been great having so much quality time in Columbia, but Kevin and Andrew took their bored frustration out on food and every other meal was a disgusting mix of hyper-healthy greens and grains or cavity-chunk ice cream (possibly not actually called that, but it was accurate). 

Aaron complained more than he did anything about it and Nicky coped by attempting to perform culinary experimentations.

Food, food everywhere and not a crumb to eat enjoy. 

“Do you need a minute alone with your salad?” Andrew asked around his straw. Neil dragged the back of his fork through the remains of the sweet-tart dressing and sucked it off. 

“Might, yea,” he said, going in for another taste. “There’s no marshmallows or raw kale in it so I plan to savor.” He nabbed the last slice of strawberry and very obviously enjoyed it. “Now that I think about it, breakfast was pretty good. I don’t know where Nicky was hiding the strawberries but that was an experiment that paid off.” 

“Maybe he went out to get them this morning,” Andrew said. Neil squinted at one of the far away T.V.s over the bar. 

“Why would he do that?”

“Maybe Erik found himself particularly nostalgic. Nicky’s a sucker for sentiment.”

Neil side-eyed Andrew in suspicion but Andrew was staring blankly at the T.V.s. The pieces were there, fitting so nicely into place but he could only barely make out the picture. 

“It really bothered you, didn’t it? What I said last night.” Maybe bothered wasn’t the right word. Neither was annoyed. But Neil couldn’t bring himself to think of Andrew as ever being flabbergasted

“I was disturbed by the seemingly unending well of stupidity you possess. Consider this your continuing education.”

So. Flabbergasted. 

And it continued to be nice. 

Neil wasn’t surprised to find that Andrew had ordered dessert while he’d been in the bathroom but he was surprised when a dish was placed in front of him, deep purple where Andrew’s was all shades of brown. 

“What’s this?” he asked, spooning up a bite of syrupy berries and yellow sponge. 

“Short cake.” 

“Yea, honey bun?” 

Neil never thought that one of his proudest moments would be making Andrew choke on whipped cream. But Andrew inhaled around his spoon and coughed into the back of his hand and Neil found himself letting out a single bark of laughter. 

“Christ, Neil,” Andrew rasped into his knuckles, carefully keeping his face turned away. Andrew never smiled with his mouth, only with his eyes and only when Neil was very, very lucky, and there was little Neil wouldn’t give for him to look back in that moment. 

Andrew turned. 

The dessert was delicious. 

 

The downtown area was still relatively quiet as evening began to set in. It was too hot to stroll, a Thursday, and all of the students had scattered to the wind weeks ago. But it wasn’t deserted. 

Neil wanted badly to kiss Andrew when they stepped out onto the sidewalk after their long dinner. The sun had turned from bright white to deep yellow and made every part of Andrew glow. He looked good in every light but Neil liked pre-sunset the best, when his hair turned orange and his eyes turned gold and the barely-there freckles across the bridge of his nose became visible. 

So engrossed was he in cataloging those freckles that Neil almost didn’t catch on that Andrew was staring back. They’d left Columbia for privacy and had pushed the envelope so many times already today- the mall parking lot, outside of Reddin, the restaurant. But Neil couldn’t not ask. 

“Yes or no?”

Andrew didn’t outwardly react to that. No raised eyebrow, no pointed glances up and down the quiet but still very public sidewalk. He stepped into Neil’s space, hooked his hand around the side of his neck, and pulled them together into a shallow kiss. It was… softer than Neil was used to. Slower. Andrew kept an exact distance between them with his thumb tucked into the corner of his jaw. 

It was short, too. Andrew pulled away and Neil had to squeeze his fists at his sides to stop himself from leaning back in. 

“You can touch,” Andrew said lowly. Neil’s hands instantly came up to cup behind his ears. The move drew a huff. “Later, too. You can touch.” 

“Can we go right now?” Neil asked. Had he been a bystander, he would probably feel uncomfortable. In the moment, in Andrew’s grip and under his gaze and after a day of looks and touches , he didn’t feel anything apart from wanting. “Can we go right now ?”

“Right now?” Andrew echoed, this time a single brow betraying his amusement. 

“Right now.”

“Eager?”

Yes, Andrew ,” he said with an urgency that had been building for the last full day. Every touch, teasing and casual, every caught glance. He’d been on the edge of vibrating out of his skin since the shower that morning and facing down the drive and check-in still ahead of them made Neil realize how god damn horny he was. 

“Right now,” Andrew said again, maybe seeing something in Neil’s eye, maybe falling prey to his own games. Either way, they were in the car and speeding away in record time. 

The vibrations of the car seemed intentional. Neil didn’t know how, but he could swear Andrew was doing it on purpose. He pressed his heels down into the footwell, attempting to alleviate some of the shocks of it by lifting himself out of the seat. 

Andrew’s hand traced a firm line from Neil’s bare knee to the top of his thigh, forcing him back down. 

“Problem?” he asked. 

“Not yet but there will be . If you keep this up I won’t be able to go into the lobby with you.”

Andrew hummed and removed his hand. Neil had barely let out a sigh of relief when it was back, palm pressing firm into the fly of his shorts and fingers cupping between his legs. 

The engine revved. Neil cursed. They pulled into a parking lot. 

“Guess you’re carrying the duffel.” 

Neil’s jaw dropped at the slamming driver side door. He didn’t have it in him to be agitated, too caught up in the thrill of it all and the delight Andrew was obviously taking in it. He jumped from the car, grabbing the bags from the backseat and holding them in front of himself as he jogged after Andrew to the front entrance of a hotel that was distinctly nicer than their original plans to just have some privacy for a night. 

“Part of my continuing education?” he asked as they waited for a receptionist. 

“This one’s for me. I prefer to sleep without the threat of scabies.” 

“Ah, yes, of course. Gotta protect that delicate skin.”

“I’ll show you delicate skin,” Andrew muttered. 

“I sure hope so.” 

Andrew’s scathing look was interrupted by the hotel worker coming to the desk for their check-in. Neil wondered idly if they were being obvious about their intentions. He decided immediately that he didn’t care. 

(Though he kept the bag firmly at his front the entire way to their room.)

Their room was all whites and light blues, bright and cool and clean. Neil tossed the duffel barely a second before Andrew was crowding him into the nearest wall. He fell forward into the kiss even as he was pressed harder, legs parting to make room for the thigh nudging between them. It was all the bruising, hot rush that their earlier kiss lacked- a fight to show who wanted it more, who liked it best, who couldn’t get enough. 

Neil touched. He slid his fingers over the hard muscle of Andrew’s shoulders and threaded them into the short hairs at the base of his skull. He clung, dropping until he was practically sitting on Andrew’s thigh, shamelessly taking every inch of pleasure he was being given. Despite the layers of clothes between them, it felt worlds more obscene than their shower that morning. Weeks. It had been weeks since they’d touched like this, and not for lack of desire. Not because they were busy or tired from a full Exy schedule. They were just too crowded in the Columbia house with three other people and perilously thin walls.

Neil kissed his way to Andrew’s ear, sucking the lobe between his teeth before burying his face in his neck, mouthing at the patch of skin that had some give, tucked just under his jaw and above the straining tendon. He wanted to hear Andrew. Andrew so rarely made any noise but Neil wanted to hear him, hear how much he liked this, liked Neil. 

He was rewarded with a hiss, with hands running down his back, down his thighs. Andrew pulled one up onto his hip and oh wasn’t this an angle for the centuries. His other hand pulled Neil in as he pushed forward, cock hard against Neil’s and the single best place to be in the known universe. 

It was new but not. It was boundaries being nudged and redrawn with a desperate want that fueled both of them in equal measures. Neil’s hips were twitching forward of their own accord, completely separate from conscious choice. Or maybe that was Andrew’s hand, pulling him in over and over again. Or maybe it was just Andrew , rolling his hips into Neil, chasing that same friction. 

The hand moved to his other thigh and Neil felt himself being lifted clear off the ground. The shock of it pulled a gasp out of him, arms coming to wrap snug around Andrew’s neck and shoulders and his shoulders , his arms bulged against the sleeves of his t-shirt and in an instant Neil was distracted from holding on. Holding on was redundant with Andrew here. 

“Do you even have to try ?” Neil asked, hands running over Andrew’s taught forearms. 

“You’re dense in more ways than one,” Andrew said, but there was something in his voice that gave the impression of amusement more than strain. 

“You could probably squat me, couldn’t you.” 

“If you have an exercise fetish, we’re not going to explore it tonight.” 

Neil thought on that as Andrew walked them across the room. His steps landed heavier with the added weight but he was still able to kneel up onto the bed and fall forward with something resembling purpose. Neil pulled him back down to hide his smile in a kiss. It wasn’t an effective strategy if Andrew’s reaction was anything to go by; he nudged Neil’s head to the side with his chin and snapped at the skin below his ear. Neil almost laughed. This was good. He felt good and he could tell it was the same for Andrew. 

When Andrew collected himself enough to pull back, he sat on his heels between Neil’s knees and held up both of his arms between them. Neil hooked two fingers under the hem of each band and pulled them up and over his hands. He presented his own for the same treatment. It felt meaningful, that those were the first pieces of clothing they shed, yet at the same time it felt like nothing, just a normal occurrence between them. Andrew tossed the two pairs aside and tugged at Neil’s t-shirt. Neil pushed himself up onto his elbows, then his hands, bringing his face right into the hollow of Andrew’s throat so that his shirt could be yanked up and thrown away. 

The humor of the moment began to get edged out by heat. Neil no longer had to fight back a smile, too distracted by Andrew ripping off his own shirt like it had offended him. Every part of him looked warm and soft, the muscles relaxed and posture slouched. His face was bored but his eyes were hot as he nudged himself further between and under Neil’s thighs, bending himself forward until Neil had no choice but to fall back into the cloud of puffy bedding. 

When he lowered his weight onto his hips, Neil’s eyes closed of their own accord. 

“You like this,” Andrew said, close enough for the bland observation to brush over Neil’s lips. It smelled like chocolate. 

“Why do you sound surprised?” He didn’t sound surprised. 

“I’m barely even touching you yet.” This was not true. Andrew brushed his lips over the corner of Neil’s mouth and rocked forward. Neil’s brain couldn’t decide where to focus, the hard line of Andrew’s cock baring down onto his own or their naked chests sticking together, bellies trading off inhales and exhales. 

“You could touch me more,” Neil kissed into Andrew’s cheek. Andrew hummed. 

“I could,” Andrew said but did not make any move to do so. He just pressed kiss after kiss to Neil’s jaw. “I could do a lot of things.” 

The way his voice vibrated down through Neil’s chest made goosebumps raise down his arms. He could feel it all the way through to his spine. “Will you?” he asked, if not to be touched then to feel his voice again. 

“Yes,” Andrew said and still did not do anything more than kiss his ear. Neil tried to lift his hips to urge him along. He could feel how much Andrew wanted this. But Andrew’s way to tease was to exercise his iron control, to post himself as an immovable object for Neil to rut against. And that was what he was doing now, teasing Neil with his stillness as Neil tried to take and take and take enough pleasure for himself but there never was enough. 

Andrew ,” Neil bit out, keeping the whine out of his voice by sheer force of frustration. 

“I said I will. I will… I didn’t say when .” 

Several very colorful, very unfavorable names ran through Neil’s mind that he did not vocalize for fear of feeding into Andrew’s amusement. Instead, he grabbed Andrew over the ears and twisted their faces together in a hard kiss. This Andrew did respond to, always responded to. He kissed Neil back just as hard if slower. No, not slower. Deeper . Neil thought he might actually die, devoured here and now. 

They kissed and kissed and kissed until cotton filled his ears and he couldn’t remember what it felt like to open his eyes. He didn’t want to remember. When the kiss turned soft, he kept his eyes closed and let it happen. Not quite as gentle and intentional as their kiss outside of the restaurant, it was still a different world than their usual approach. Neil didn’t put any thought into how to kiss this way, simply let Andrew do all of the work if he was going to be a brat. 

It was a decade later that Andrew finally, finally tilted his hips with purpose. Neil’s mind cleared in an instant, cleansed by a fire that had him reacting nearly simultaneously, arms coming around Andrew’s ribs and mouth tearing away from the kiss to bite into his neck. 

“Now?” he asked as Andrew hissed above him. 

“When did you get so impatient?” Andrew asked. Neil relished the rasp of his voice, knew that if he could bear any distance between them he’d see a wrinkle between his brows. His faux frustration couldn’t- had never- fool Neil. He could feel Andrew’s amusement like he could feel gravity. It was so obvious and affected every twitch and touch. 

“I’ve been thinking about this all day , Andrew. I nearly got a head start in the car.” 

Andrew held Neil down with a hand splayed between his collar bones as he sat back on his heels, panting. Neil’s legs followed the movements, hips springing back from the unnatural angle. He massaged the joints absently, eyes trained on the subtle tells of Andrew’s expression that gave away how quickly that when was approaching. Neil played it up, just barely, just enough to get across what he wanted. He probably didn’t need to roll his hips as he pulled down his zipper, but he didn’t not have to and he liked what it did to Andrew’s pupils. 

He did it again when he pushed the hem of his shorts down, lifted his hips with more flourish than necessary to get them as far down as he could without releasing Andrew from the confines of his legs. 

“I can do all of the work if you want,” Neil said, mostly because he knew exactly who was actually going to be doing most of the work. Still, he shoved his hand down into his underwear and curled his fingers as far back between his legs as he could reach under the tension of his shorts. He didn’t get far before Andrew was shoving Neil’s knees up so that he could pull off his shorts and briefs in one rough move. Suddenly, Neil was naked and pressed back into the bedding. 

Andrew kissed down his chest, hands petting his sides and teeth tracing scars. He kept Neil’s legs up and around him, bracketing his ribs as he dragged his tongue over Neil’s belly button. This was familiar. This was good and it was always good and always followed the same formula. Next, Andrew would pin his hips down and suck his cock until he was a flushed, spent mess and then he would get himself off in some way that Neil couldn’t see. 

Except. Except they had planned this. They had planned for something new. Neil was okay if those plans ended up changing but he didn’t think they had and he didn’t want to be the wrench to mess it all up by coming too soon. He was just about to say something when Andrew redirected his course, redrew the map. Instead of pinning Neil down, he lifted up, drew his knees over his shoulders, pressed his face into the meat of Neil’s thigh, and breathed. Not a grounding breath, a soft little sigh. 

And suddenly, Neil didn’t care about any plans or how badly he wanted them. He relaxed into the pillows and let Andrew do whatever he wanted. What Andrew wanted, apparently, was to squeeze Neil’s thighs over his ears and kiss a line down Neil’s cock. Neil focused on his breathing as much as he could without missing out on… whatever this was. Experimentally, he flexed his legs and reveled in the harsh breath it rewarded him. 

“Do you want to get off like this?” Andrew asked and if Neil thought his voice had been rough before it was nothing compared to now. 

“Do you ?” he countered, because nothing could hide how much Andrew liked it when he gently squeezed his thighs around his head. 

Andrew kissed his thigh with a slack mouth. “Maybe later.” 

When Andrew came back up to kiss him, it was with stiff, awkward movements that Neil too-late realized was him taking off the rest of his own clothes. The next time he laid on top of Neil, there was nothing between them. Unlike the shower, he didn’t try to keep any space between them. In fact, it was like he was trying to push himself further and further until Neil had to roll his hips forward just to open them wide enough to accommodate him. And- and when Andrew braced his knees and rocked up, when he ground his cock into Neil’s, hot and hard and smooth, Neil felt his mouth drop open, cheeks hot and red and feverish. 

Yes ,” Neil said. Not to any question, not because reassurance was necessary, just because it was a yes . “Andrew, Andrew, yes- I want.” He wanted . He wanted now and he wanted faster and he wanted more . Andrew dropped his head into Neil’s throat and kept rocking, measured and steady and perfect. Neil could easily come just from this. 

But…

“I want you to finger me,” he whispered right into Andrew’s ear. “Do you still want to?” 

He wasn’t nervous but that was the only word he had for the shivering feeling in his belly. He thought it was just a phantom feeling until Andrew lifted himself up and smoothed his hand over his stomach, stretching his fingers until they nearly eclipsed his entire waist. 

Andrew met Neil’s eyes and said, “Yes,” and the next few seconds were a blur. Blankets were moved and Andrew got lube from somewhere and Neil’s abs were trembling with want and nerves and anticipation. 

He was so turned on his thoughts couldn’t connect into any coherent thread. Even when Andrew methodically poured globs of lube over his fingers, a distinctly un-sexy action, his brain was offline. And when Andrew used those wet fingers to slowly pump both of their cocks together in a tight grip, sanity became just as fleeting. Neil didn’t look down, some instinctual part of him recognizing that Andrew hadn’t given him explicit permission to look. Instead, he watched Andrew watch his hand and quirked his hips. His eyes darkened and Neil almost smiled. 

“W-when you said same time-” he started, but couldn’t finish the thought. There was a point there, ideas that could be connected with logic that he was not in possession of. 

Andrew didn’t say anything. Maybe he didn’t have anything to say. Maybe he was feeling similarly to Neil. He just hummed and slid his hand down, down. Neil watched him watch his own hand, tried and failed to imagine what he was seeing as he felt wet fingertips massaging small, exact circles. What did he see when those fingers found flesh that gave? The same stars that danced in front of Neil’s eyes?

“You’re unbelievable.”

Neil blinked his eyes into focus. Andrew was watching him back, now, impassive as ever save for the red across his cheeks and ears. Neil didn’t know how much time had passed, nor did he notice that Andrew’s hand had stilled again and the friction was coming from his own gyrating hips twisting desperately for any sort of reprieve. 

“I want it, Andrew,” he pleaded. How his body craved this so badly after such mediocre practice, he didn’t understand. But he wanted

“I know,” Andrew said, and pressed one finger forward. 

It was more sensation than concrete feeling, an odd pressure his brain couldn’t parse, a relief valve on the anticipation that had been mounting for hours. His hips bucked once by accident. A gasp. Nothing was happening yet. Andrew smoothed his free hand down the inside of Neil’s thigh, placating. 

He pressed further and sensation became almost but not quite . Neil grabbed the blankets for leverage, writhing towards that something he could tell was there, disguised, hidden where he hadn’t been able to reach on his own. 

Andrew would be able to. There was never any doubt. But he was going so slowly . Neil tried to tell him he could go faster, give more, but he wasn’t sure his mouth moved quite right. Andrew pet his thigh, his stomach. 

“Tell me how you feel, Neil,” he said quietly, evenly. Neil breathed deeply, focused on the way his belly expanded under Andrew’s hand to center himself. 

How did he feel? He felt like he was lying on a warm ocean, water in his ears. “Floaty,” he managed. 

“Will you open your eyes?” 

Had he closed them? That wouldn’t do. He opened them, finding the room brighter than he remembered even though they’d never gotten around to turning on any lights. Andrew was further away than he remembered, too, and that definitely wouldn’t do. 

“Kiss me?” he asked. He let go of the blanket to welcome Andrew into his embrace, held as tightly as he dared. Andrew’s arm remained pinned between them while the other braced his weight on an elbow by Neil’s shoulder. He could feel Andrew’s cock again, slotted perfectly into the crease of his groin. It was everything. Neil kissed as well as he could with his attention splintering onto every point of contact. 

And when Andrew moved his hand- on purpose or to adjust his wrist, who knew- something happened . That something . An electric current that seized his muscles, clenched his eyes, squeezed the air out of his chest. 

The seconds that followed were disproportionately quiet. Neil pried his eyes open ( again ) to find Andrew staring down at him, looking distinctly ruffled . His hair hung down to shadow his face but it did nothing to hide the wideness of his eyes. 

“You like this,” he repeated, still not surprised but undeniably awed. Neil opened his mouth to retort, sex-brain unable to cut off that part of him, but whatever he could say was cut off when Andrew flexed his hand, curled his fingers back into that same electrical socket. This time, Neil heard and felt the moan that ripped from his throat, surprised out of him as he tensed. 

Kiss me ,” he begged. 

Andrew obliged. 

He kissed Neil fiercely as he moved his hand in tandem with his hips, taking pleasure from Neil’s body as he gave. The shock of it wore off with time but the pleasure never waned. Neil found he could think, but just barely. He couldn't coordinate his movement, going back and forth between meeting Andrew’s movements and matching his kisses. 

bone town

Somehow, he managed to ask for more. Andrew added another finger, his thumb pressing up behind his balls. He never pulled them out to thrust in, instead kept his fingers poised exactly so and used his hips to rock his entire hand back and forth. It was like- it was like-

“Andrew,” Neil pleaded, pulling away only enough to breath the words between them, to gasp out a warning. His face felt like fire, his skin was burning up, his eyes were going to melt, his lungs were full of smoke he needed to shout clear. “And- And- And- I- I -” 

It had never happened like this before. It had never happened so forcefully. Neil came on Andrew’s fingers, cock caught between their bodies and hands squeezing desperately, compulsively at Andrew's ribs. His legs straightened, bearing down onto the backs of Andrew’s as he thrust up into him and back down onto his fingers uncontrollably. 

And it didn’t stop , he couldn’t stop , even as he felt Andrew add to the mess between them, felt him go still and pant roughly into his neck. He couldn’t stop until Andrew removed his fingers, stilled him with his weight and hold. 

“Neil,” he rasped. “Tell me.” 

“And-” 

Neil could feel the mounting tension in the words and Andrew’s shoulders. Through sheer force of will, be inhaled deeply once, flattened his grip to soothe. 

“Good. Andrew, I’m-” he found himself almost giddy, actually. “I’m really good.” He rubbed Andrew’s sides for several minutes as they laid in the quiet, coming down and back to themselves. Another first, staying together for this part. Neil didn’t know how to be what Andrew might need so he just kept still, breathed. 

Sometime later, Andrew’s arm reached out for a piece of clothing that hadn’t quite cleared the bed and used it to scrape away what he could from their stomachs. He sat on his feet between Neil’s shamelessly spread legs, bundle of soiled shorts over his lap, and stared Neil in the face. 

“Efficient,” he deadpanned. 

Neil lost it.

He covered his face with both hands to hide what could only be called a giggle , ugly and high and relentless. 

“I don’t know if I’ve ever come that fast before,” he wheezed. He lowered his hands to see Andrew still staring at him, eyes and mouth pinched at the corners suspiciously. 

“Go clean up,” he said, patting Neil’s splayed leg and scooting back. Neil took stock of his lower body when it didn’t move exactly as it should. 

“Hey... do you remember that time Wymack was bullied into trying yoga?” he asked. Andrew gestured as if to say, ‘Really? Now?’ which... fair. “Might need your help straightening out my legs.” 

Andrew got up from the bed and put on his underwear before taking Neil’s left leg between his hands, cradling his knee and rubbing circles into his hip as they stretched it out together. Neil groaned with the twinge and relief of it. 

The ache was minimal to begin with and faded completely in no time. Neil went to get up only to find… an even stranger issue plaguing his legs. He called Andrew’s attention back from where he was fixing his inside-out shirt. 

“Watch this.” He tried to move his legs, only as soon as he engaged the muscles, they began to quiver dramatically. He relaxed and they stopped. He tried again and they shook, the soft little inner part jiggling wildly. 

“Can you come so hard you break your legs?” 

Andrew abandoned his shirt to put his clean hand high on the inside of his thigh. Neil went to lift it so that he could feel just how deep the tremble went. 

“I would have placed good money on your larynx being the part to break,” he said and went back to fixing his shirt. Neil paused. 

“Wait. What?” Andrew didn’t elaborate. “Was I loud? I’m not loud.” Neither of them were ever loud. Not on purpose, they didn’t intentionally hold back or anything. Because they weren’t loud. 

Andrew gave him a look. It was impressive how he could ooze such smugness with absolutely no expression. Neil touched his mouth. It took all of ten seconds to decide that he didn’t care, wasn’t embarrassed. The whole reason they were out of the house was to not care. 

It only took a few minutes before Neil could get up without risk of falling. Andrew, already cleaned and reclining, watched him closely. He probably saw that something was off before Neil had noticed it himself. 

“What’s wrong?” he asked. Neil shuffled on his feet and made a face. 

“This is gonna be the kind of sex that needs a before and after shower.” Andrew blinked expectantly. “My butt is wet.” 

“Astounding.” 




Thursday morning didn’t dawn because the hotel room came with blackout curtains. It was early, though, and Andrew was awake because they hadn’t paid much mind to the time last night and had fallen asleep before nine. 

He got out of bed to pee and throw open the curtains, washing the room in bright yellow light. East facing, he was met with an unobstructed sun right to the face. 

Was it habit or did he just like it? The undeniable start to one more day that he didn’t regret. A reminder that he was still here and that that was acceptable. Okay. Good. Preferable. 

The day had started but that didn’t mean he had to. Andrew went back to the bed and laid down in the same spot. The mattress didn’t transfer any of his movements; Neil still snored softly into his monster of a pillow. He’d collected the entire duvet around him at some point in the night, always running a little colder in sleep than awake. That was fine. Andrew was more likely to have hot flashes and didn’t prefer the heavy weight of overstuffed blankets anyway. 

Neil, however, loved them. 

He was still learning these things about himself, new likes and dislikes, habits and ticks that had nothing to do with his upbringing. He liked huge, squishy blankets. He hated sleeping with socks despite his icicle toes. The first thing he did every morning was stretch his hips and make a sound somewhere between a whisper and a groan. 

Half a year of therapy meant that he could accept these traits without panicking over his identity. Starting the process might have been a top five contender for hardest thing Andrew had done for his family but, like everything else he’d ever done for them, it had paid off. Especially in moments like this, when Andrew could watch him turn his face into the pillow. When he flexed his hips and whisper-groaned. When he lifted his face back to squint through the morning light reflecting on all of their white bedding. When his cheeks pushed up at his eyes and his lips pulled ever so slightly wider.

“Good morning,” Neil said, quiet enough not to disturb the atmosphere but so, so solid. Andrew reached out over the fluff and cloud to press his thumb against that smiling mouth. 

“Must be,” he said. 

 

must be