Dan was sitting in the waiting room of yet another E.R. She was surrounded by her foxes - her family. Well, all except the new batch of freshman as they didn't really give a shit. Which was fair, they hadn't even known Neil for a month yet.
She was sitting firm as stone. Trying to keep up a strong appearance for her team. Nicky's and Matt's expressions mirrored each other. Which meant that they were trying not to cry. Renee was standing next to Allison with a gentle hand on her shoulder trying to soothe Allisons nerves. Allison had an empty lost look about her that reminded Dan a little too much of how she looked after Seth died. Kevin looked stressed, Aaron looked bored.
Andrew however, looked fucking murderous. He was sitting away from the group. It was jarring, usually he had such an air of apathy about him. But now - you wouldn't have been able to pay Dan to get close to him. He was sitting with his elbows resting on his knees. His hands pressed together almost as if in prayer. Dan might have believed that, given the situation, if he wasn't glaring at the wall in front of him. Not even Kevin was brave enough to bother him right now.
They had been in this waiting room for hours - it may have hit the twenty-four hour mark at this point. They all refused to go home when Wymack had suggested it. They just slept, ate, and waited. Only leaving to go to the bathroom just to come back as soon as possible. Not wanting to miss any news.
Neil was out of surgery but he still wasn't awake. The doctor had told them appendicitis wasn't something that they would normally have to worry about. That it was a very common issue and a very simple surgery. The problem was that Neil 'I'm fine' Josten hadn't told anyone about it which resulted in his appendix bursting in the middle of practice. Dan didn't blame Andrew for looking so mad. The doctor had assured them that everything was okay and that surgery went well, they were just waiting for Neil to wake up now.
As if on cue, the doctor walked out. Andrew was out of his seat and across the room before the doctor even opened her mouth. The rest of the foxes waited expectantly.
"He's awake," she said with a tired smile, "but he's heavily medicated so try not to overwhelm him. You all can go see him now, we just ask that you keep the volume down."
Instead of waiting for the doctor to walk them back to Neil calmly, Andrew just barked out, "room number."
She gave it to him, he didn't wait for whatever else she had to say, just turned and started walking down the long hallway. The rest of the foxes quietly followed.
To say Neil looked out of it was an understatement. He looked pale and clammy and had a glazed over expression about him. That quickly changed when he saw who walked into his room.
He gave them a very weak smile, "hey guys."
Andrew was at his bedside in an instant, gripping the railing on the hospital bed so tightly his knuckles were turning white.
"Hey kid," Wymack gritted out, "you had us worried. How ya feeling?"
Neil grinned wide, "I feel fine."
"Shut up." Andrew spat.
Neil's expression softened when he looked up to him, "I really am. I'm on a lot of drugs right now."
"You just had a major surgery that could have been a minor surgery if you just told me what was going on. You're not fucking fine, Neil." It sounded like Andrew was trying very hard to keep his tone level.
Neil's face fell, "I just thought I had a stomach ache. I'm sorry for scaring you. I'm really sorry."
"You're an idiot," Andrew said, but his tone was a little more calm and his death grip had loosened slightly on the railing, "we'll talk about this more when you're not drugged to high heaven."
Neil hummed and turned to the rest of the foxes, "I'm sorry for worrying all of you."
As if someone had released air from a balloon, the tension seemed to leave the room. Allison attempted to give him her sarcastic scoff but it came out more like a choke, "You know normally I don't agree with the Monster but this time I have to give it to him. You really are an idiot."
Neil frowned, "he's not a monster."
Nicky gave a half hysterical laugh. Even in Neil's state, he was still defending Andrew. Dan could appreciate the sentimentality of that, even though she still privately thought it was misplaced. Renee stepped forward, "is there anything we can get for you, Neil?"
Neil shook his head, "just you guys being here is enough."
That was apparently Nicky's limit as he burst out into tears. Allison let out a very shaky breath. Kevin though, thought it was appropriate to speak, "the doctor says you're out for three weeks but we'll see how you're feeling after a week."
"Shut the fuck up, Kevin," Matt snapped, "if the doctor says three weeks then its three weeks."
Kevin started to argue which resulted in the whole room joining in. Dan noticed that Neil wasn't saying anything, he was looking up at Andrew with a very fond expression on his face. She found that strange. It wasn't as though she didn't know they were together or fucking or whatever they were - it was just that she didn't, no, no one saw them act like it. If it wasn't for the Baltimore situation, they probably still wouldn't have any type of confirmation that they were a thing. They definitely didn't act like a couple. Besides the fact that they were always together, they almost never touched each other in front of the others. Not even to hold hands, let alone kiss. But the way Neil was looking up at Andrew now, was pure affection. It was softer than Dan had ever seen Neil. Andrew was staring back at him with his usual bored expression.
"Staring," Andrew said, the rest of the room fell quiet around them.
The biggest shit eating grin spread across Neil's face, "have I ever told you how fucking pretty you are?"
Matt and Allison sent each other very excited looks. Nicky actually squealed. Andrew shot him a death glare before turning back to Neil, "shut up."
He only grinned wider, "I don't think I can. I am drugged after all. I think it was a good decision to pay that bus boy to knock me out in Columbia. Who knows what I would have told you back then."
Aaron huffed and rolled his eyes. Dan was just confused. Andrew didn't say anything.
Neil raised his eyebrows and looked at Nicky who looked like a kicked puppy, "too soon?"
"Something like that," Nicky said in a pained voice. Neil shrugged and went back looking at Andrew like he was the best thing to ever walk the earth.
"Stop that," Andrew murmured.
"Hmm," Neil mused, "I'll make you a deal."
"Oh will you now?" It could have been how exhausted Dan was but she thought she heard a slight hint of amusement in Andrew's voice.
"I'll stop under one condition."
"And what's that?"
The grin was back, "a kiss."
Another excited look between Matt and Allison. Another squeak from Nicky. Andrew ignored them and rolled his eyes, "I'm not kissing you when you're drugged."
Neil screwed up his face in contemplation, "a kiss on the forehead then? And hold my hand? That seems like a good compromise."
Andrew flicked his eyes over to the foxes. Clearly thinking what they all were - that Neil and Andrew did not do public displays of affection. And that they had avoided questions on what they were successfully for months. Neil pulled on Andrew's sleeve to get his attention back, "hey, yes or no?"
Andrew huffed and bent to press a very quick almost chaste kiss to Neil's forehead and took his hand before turning back to the foxes. He narrowed his eyes as if daring them to say something. Neil looked as if Christmas came early. So did Nicky.
Andrew pushed Neil's chin away. "A deals a deal."
Neil just laughed but obediently turned his face away. Aaron scoffed again, "now that we know he's not dead, can we go?"
"Shut up, Aaron," Nicky spat.
"This was more of them than I've ever wanted to see," Aaron carried on.
Neil let out a very loud sarcastic sigh, "you know it's funny. Even drugged, I can't stand the sound of your voice."
"You know it's funny," Aaron snapped back, "I have the same voice as your boyfriend."
Neil narrowed his eyes, "so you'd think but there's something special about yours that makes my skin crawl. We should let scientists know about you. That must be a very rare gift."
Aaron looked as if he was going to say something else but Wymack cut in, "Aaron has a point, we should get going. You need your rest."
"I'm staying," Andrew said. To no one's surprise. Neil looked back up at him with the softest smile. Andrew scoffed and shook his head, "I should have known better than to make a deal with a drugged man."
Neil didn't look even remotely offended, "so fucking pretty..."
Andrew sighed, "I hate you."
Neil lifted Andrew's hand and pressed a quick kiss to his knuckles, "I love you too."
Besides an audible gasp from Nicky, the rest of the room went very quiet. Andrew's shoulders stiffened and he went extremely red. He turned and glared at the foxes harder than Dan had ever seen, "out."
The foxes didn't need to be told twice and left the room so fast they almost tripped over each other. Because they weren't suicidal, they waited until they were out in the parking lot before they started gossiping.
"Did you hear-"
"I can't believe he just said-"
"I thought they were just fucking-"
"Enough you miscreants," Wymack shouted over the chatter, "we heard something we shouldn't have heard and we're going to leave them be about it."
"No way, I just won two hundred bucks." Matt said. He turned a smug smile on Dan, "I told you Neil was happy."
Dan glared at him, "hush Boyd. You'll get your money."
Allison elbowed Kevin in the ribs, "You're their roommate. Are they always like this or was it just the drugs?"
Kevin scowled, "I already told you guys, I'm not helping settle any bets about Andrew's and Neil's relationship."
"So there is a relationship," Allison said with an air of smugness in her tone. Kevin scowled harder. Allison pressed on, "no need to be shy about it. I mean we did just hear a love confession."
"Kill me now," Aaron muttered. He was ignored.
Kevin let out a long suffering sigh, "you guys just see what they allow you to see. That doesn't mean they don't care about each other."
"Yeah but have you ever seen anything? Are they always that cute together? Do they always say I love you?" Nicky asked. He looked like he had just gotten off of a roller coaster or like he had just been told he had won the lottery. Overjoyed.
"I'm not going to get into their personal business with you," Kevin shrugged, "but no. I've never heard them say that. I didn't know they were that serious."
"Neither did Andrew it seemed," Dan muttered, remembering the look of surprise of Andrew's face followed by a deep flush. But as much as she didn't want to admit it, as much as she still thought Andrew wasn't good enough for Neil, something warm had settled in her chest. Even though Neil wasn't her youngest fox anymore, she still felt like a type of older sister to him. She wanted to know that he was happy and loved. She didn't want to admit it and definitely wouldn't be talking to Andrew about it but she had to respect whatever they had.
To say that Neil was in pain would have been an understatement. He had been in the hospital for three days now and he was finally allowed to go home. Andrew, who had been quiet even for him the past couple of days, helped him get dressed. Neil only half listened to what the nurse was telling him. It was a bunch of huffing and puffing about rest and making sure he took his medication.
The ride home - of course, was quiet. And the ten minute drive seemed to last for hours. When they pulled up to the tower, Neil groaned. The memory of his first day at the hospital came back to him. He and Andrew hadn't talked about it. Neil had woken up a few hours after the foxes had left feeling mortified about what he had done and said. He politely filed the issue away for future Neil to deal with.
Fuck past Neil.
Andrew parked but neither of them made any move to get out. It was Neil who finally broke the silence, "they're going to be unbearable."
Andrew shrugged, "think of it as your punishment for not telling anyone what was wrong until an organ literally exploded."
Neil looked at Andrew, he didn't look back. They needed to have this conversation as much as Neil didn't want to. He cleared his throat, "I'm sorry… by the way. I know we don't - we haven't said- We don't act like that in front of them."
They really didn't act like that at all. At least not obviously. Neither of them were used to tenderness but it was clear that they were both working on it. Their kisses were less rushed and more soft. More frequent and not just foreplay. They held hands when they were alone. They kissed each other's foreheads and rested their chins on the other's shoulder. Once, when Kevin was out, Andrew pulled Neil to lay on his chest on the couch. But these things were always done with extreme hesitation and they never talked about it beyond an 'is this okay'.
Andrew still wasn't looking at Neil, "it's fine. You were high. You said and did a lot of things you didn't mean."
Neil frowned at that. Yeah, he would have preferred that he didn't say or do anything in front of the foxes but that was because Neil was a private person as was Andrew. Not because he didn't mean it.
So he pushed a bit, "you think I didn't mean it?"
"I know you didn't."
"Uhhu," Neil turned in his seat to fully face Andrew, "because you can read minds?"
He tried to keep the annoyance out of his voice but he didn't think he quite succeeded as Andrew scoffed, "don't be stupid."
"I'm not being stupid," he could hear himself getting louder, "isn't it your method of drugging the truth out of people?"
"You've brought that up twice in the past three days," he flicked a glance at Neil, "if you're looking for an apology you're not going to get one. You were acting suspicious. I don't regret doing it."
Neil almost groaned in frustration, "I'm not looking for an apology. I know why you did it. But the point still stands. Don't try to change the subject."
Andrew didn't say anything and continued looking at the steering wheel like it was the most fascinating thing in the fucking world. Neil sighed, "fine. You don't feel the same way. Whatever. We can forget about it. But don't you dare think I didn't mean it. I told you I was done lying to you and I meant it."
Neil turned to get out of the car but stopped when a hand pulled on his wrist. He looked back to see Andrew looking at him. The sun was streaming in through the windshield making his eyes turn to molten honey. Neil swallowed. Andrew raised an eyebrow, "you think I don't feel the same way?"
Neil's stomach dropped. He could feel his palms start to sweat. He… well he hadn't expected that, "I… what?"
Andrew narrowed his eyes, "but I'm not going to say it back. Its a stupid, nothing, meaningless word. In fact, I should kill you for saying it. It should just go without saying-"
Neil cut him off, "yes or no?"
Andrew narrowed his eyes even further, "yes, idiot."
Neil grinned before he pulled Andrew into a kiss. He hoped that he conveyed all of his feelings into it. Andrew was right. Neil had never meant to say it. Not because he was afraid of Andrew's reaction, it was just that the word really was meaningless to him. He never even heard it directed at him until he came to PSU. Nicky never let a day go by without telling Neil at least once how much he loved him. It had taken him weeks to even figure out what he was feeling towards Andrew because to be completely honest, it felt bigger than one overused stupid word. But the stupid drugs had made his tongue loose.
Andrew broke the kiss and leaned his forehead against Neil's, "if you ever say it again I will kill you."
Neil grinned, not being able to resist poking the bear, he said, "I promise I will never tell you that I'm in love with you again."
Andrew huffed and pushed Neil away but Neil's smart mouth didn't stop Andrew from linking their fingers together as they walked towards the tower.