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Good Old-Fashioned Lover Boy

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Andrew’s hair is getting longer.

Neil’s fingers itch to fret at the black hair tie Andrew uses when he sucks him off, scrabbling for something to hold on to as Andrew swallows him down. He’s been laid out on Andrew’s bed for what feels like hours, flushed and straining, and his voice is starting to get hoarse from constantly clamping down on all the noises that want to escape.

Andrew slides off slowly, suckling on the head of Neil’s desperate cock and peering up at him from where he’s nestled so comfortably between Neil’s legs. The velveteen shock of his gaze rubs Neil against the grain, making him shiver with heat. Then Andrew pops off, laps up a fresh surge of precome that beads at the tip, and pushes himself up on flexing arms.

“How close are you?” he asks, head tilted like he’s studying a moderately interesting experiment.

“Close,” Neil gasps, breath gushing helplessly. He curls his toes; if he thinks about coming too much, he will.

“Don’t,” Andrew says, as if reading his thoughts. “Not yet.”

Neil grits his teeth and nods, hands scoring deep lines into the sheets where he grips them. Andrew touches the desperate snarl of them, curious, fluttery brushes of his fingertips over Neil’s blushing knuckles. Then he mercilessly unhooks them one by one and lifts Neil’s hands, inspecting their trembling, before nosing into the sensitive palms. Neil nearly jumps at the unexpected intrusion. He feels wide open, exposed; taut and loose at the same time.

“Turn over,” Andrew instructs. “I want to eat you out.”

Neil’s body flushes even hotter. Andrew has cottoned on to the fact that Neil always cleans up for him. It’s a vulnerability, this habit, because it confirms that Neil thinks about this when they’re not together. The first time Andrew asked him to, Neil had been unsure if he’d enjoy it, but willing to try. Now the sheer anticipation of it gives him goosebumps some days.

He eases onto his front with Andrew’s guidance, legs melting apart of their own accord. Andrew curves his thumbs into the soft space just under his ass cheeks that seems to be made just for him and Neil’s cock throbs where it’s trapped against the sheets. A full-body shiver ripples through him when a wet, pointed tongue licks a joyride from the base of his spine down to his balls. At least like this he can muffle his moans in Andrew’s pillow.

Andrew arranges him the way he wants him, dips his thumb into his hole as if to test his resistance. His mouth is warm and wet and demanding, and Neil is willing to give him everything. He feels shameless and cracked open, gives himself over entirely to the silky slide of Andrew’s tongue, the low vibrations of his hums, the faint friction of the bedsheets underneath him. The world narrows down to Andrew’s room and Neil’s body. Andrew licks him clean of everything else, leaving him bare and wanting. Neil is mewling, pushing his face into the pillow and filling himself with Andrew’s scent until he can almost taste him on his tongue. Andrew hasn’t yet let him reciprocate, and the mere thought of Andrew’s cock in his mouth is dizzying at this point. He’s marginally aware of the stunted rocking motion that his body is soothing itself with, pulling away from Andrew and then pushing back, urging him deeper, something steadily building up inside him.

Then Andrew pulls away with slow, sticky licks and briefly presses his thumb into Neil’s hole again, pushing down against the slick rim as it slips back out, and says, “One day, if you let me, I’m going to fuck you like this,” and the scattered threads of Neil’s orgasm abruptly pull taut all at once.

He comes, a great big rush of it, his mouth boneless against the pillow and a groan stuck in the depths of his throat.

-

Neil is not an idiot. He knows that he’s demi, knows what follows, logically, from the irrefutable fact that he’s grown attracted to Andrew. He’s just—electing not to think about it, since there’s no chance Andrew feels the same.

His friends would probably have something to say about that. This is why Neil tries to keep them as separate from his thing with Andrew as possible.

Which isn’t easy, considering they have roughly the same friends.

For example, “What are you up to this weekend?” is both a normal, innocuous question and a loaded trap whenever Andrew is present. Invariably, Neil will walk right into the snare of Andrew’s gaze, the promise lurking there, only “Get gloriously, deliciously laid” is not a valid answer for this question. Both because the mere thought of admitting it out loud sends a fever sweat of terror down Neil’s back, and because the others know Neil’s brain isn’t wired for casual sex.

“Just the usual,” Neil says instead, picking at his fries and avoiding everyone’s eyes. “You know. Nap. Procrastinate on my thesis. Contemplate the vast mysteries of the universe.”

They laugh, like Neil’s funny, and Allison tries to persuade him to go out with them, like she does every week. Neil digs his grave a little deeper by protesting that there’s no point, because all they do is drink and dance and hook up, and Dan wrangles him into Sunday brunch instead. It’s a familiar game by now.

He feels Andrew’s eyes on him the whole time.

On Saturday, Neil goes over to Andrew’s dorm and Andrew puts on Pacific Rim while he sucks him off on the couch. Neil comes to thoughts of drift compatibility and the nagging presence of that tiny bun Andrew has scooped his hair into. He finally gives in to the urge to undo it and snaps the hair tie around his own wrist like a trophy while Andrew buttons his jeans back up for him. Edge taken off, they make out for the rest of the movie, and then Andrew kicks him out with a smirky kiss on the doorstep and a hand fisted in the front of his sweater.

He leaves a lingering taste of sugar and salt in Neil’s mouth. Neil crawls into his own bed, sheets cool under his heated touch, and softly snaps the hair tie against his wrist until he falls asleep.

“What’s that?” Dan asks him over eggs benedict the next morning, snatching his sleeve and pulling it back to expose the damning thing before Neil can stop her. Next to her, Allison gasps.

“Neil! Do you have other friends besides us?” she exclaims.

“Of course not,” Neil says, winding out of Dan’s grip to steal the decorative orange slice from Matt’s plate. “I wouldn’t dare.”

“Is it a girl?” Dan asks conspiratorially, cheek dimpling with unshed laughter. “It’s okay, you can tell us.”

“No,” Neil says truthfully.

“Look at his ears,” Allison says and points her fork at him. Neil self-consciously rakes a hand through his hair, hiding his red-hot ears, and they laugh.

When he looks up, Andrew is there.

Andrew never comes to Sunday brunch. Whatever he gets up to on Sunday mornings doesn’t involve Neil, except apparently now it does, because he plucks a chair from a nearby table and plops himself down next to him, forcing Renee to scoot a little further down the table.

He looks at Neil’s wrist, where the hair tie is still snug against his skin, and Neil thinks he might spontaneously combust.

“Andrew,” Allison says. “What a surprise.”

Her tone indicates it’s not necessarily a pleasant one.

Andrew wordlessly snags a quarter of Renee’s maple sweet potato waffle off her plate and bites into it, the crunch of it between his teeth snapping Neil out of his momentary stupor.

“Here,” he says, “you can have the rest of mine, I’m not hungry anymore.”

He pushes his plate a little bit into Andrew’s space and stands, balling up his napkin. Andrew’s eyes follow him, though his body remains lax and hunched in his chair.

“Leaving so soon?” he asks.

His voice a scrap of rough lace, setting Neil’s skin ablaze.

“I have a hot date with a half-finished essay on combinatorial optimisation,” Neil says as blandly as possible.

“Just the essay?” Allison teases. Neil throws his napkin at her and she ducks behind Dan’s shoulder, cackling.

“Leave him,” Matt grins. “If he has something to tell us, he will. Right, Neil?”

“Right,” Neil lies. “See you tomorrow.”

“You coming to Pride Soc?” Matt asks hopefully. “Monday is pizza and movie night. We’re watching Hedwig.”

“I’ll try,” Neil lies again. Matt holds out his hand for a fist bump and Neil sighs and meets it.

Being friends with people is hard. He has to constantly keep track of all the lies he tells, make sure they don’t contradict. Worst of all, he feels bad if one of them ends up hurting someone.

He leaves the restaurant, still weighed down by Andrew’s gaze on his back.

-

Monday night finds him deep in the Pride Soc headquarters, a stupid badge with the demi flag pinned to his sweater and a stale, familiar feeling of detachedness in the pit of his stomach. Pride Soc has a lot of out and proud people. Sex is a big part of their identity, and while Neil doesn’t begrudge them that, his own convoluted otherness is more defined by an absence of all the things that everyone else in this room has in common. He feels both like a freak and a fraud whenever he comes here, so, as a general rule, he tries not to.

The second movie of the night is on, but most people have either left or broken up into smaller groups to chat by now. There’s leftover pizza and beer, and the disco ball that Allison mounted to the ceiling keeps throwing confetti of light around the room. Neil is on the outskirts, dozing, waiting for everyone to leave so he can help Matt clean up and go home.

He looks up reflexively when someone comes in through the door and his lips skid sideways on the mouth of his bottle at the sight of Andrew, bedazzled by light, looking around the room. Like Neil, Andrew doesn’t mix well with the Pride Soc group, but for some reason he’s here tonight, squinting at the selection of different pride flags on the table by the door. He chooses a rainbow wristband and uses it to tie his hair back instead—Neil still has his black hair tie, and he wonders if it was the only one he owns. He remembers his own pathetic demi badge with a jolt, gropes around for it and yanks it off his sweater, nearly tearing a hole in his panic, and shoves it deep into his pocket just as Andrew zeroes in on him.

Always finding him first. Like a compass pointing due north.

Neil tries to rub the sleep from his eyes and pushes himself a little more upright as Andrew wanders over and drops onto the couch next to him. It’s an old thing, rescued from a dumpster, saggy in the middle and scuffed around the edges. It tilts them close together, and Neil holds his breath when Andrew pinches the fabric of his shirt between his fingers and inspects the noticeable pinpricks left by the badge.

He looks curious, like he wants to ask him why, but he doesn’t, and Neil isn’t going to tell him. He feels the smooth surface of the badge in his pocket and hopes Andrew didn’t see. Though the demi flag isn’t exactly one of the more well-known and recognisable ones, there are labels on the jars by the door, and Andrew’s memory is good.

They don’t talk.

Andrew eases the bottle of lukewarm beer out of Neil’s hand and takes a few sips before handing it back so Neil can go back to fretting at the label. They watch the end of the movie. A few people leave. Matt and Dan start tidying up, so Neil helps, and Andrew follows. Between the four of them, they have the place spotless in no time.

“Hey man, good to see you around,” Matt says to Andrew when they lock up and leave. The air outside is cold and sharp, it spins their breath like puffs of cotton candy. “You know you’re always welcome to join us.”

Dan elbows him. Matt looks sheepish, but doesn’t take it back.

“I’m going home,” Neil announces, bouncing in place. He didn’t bring a jacket and he’s freezing his balls off.

“Want me to walk with you?” Matt asks. Some days Neil feels safer with him by his side. He’s alright tonight, he thinks, but before he can say so Andrew speaks up.

“I’ll do it.”

Matt and Dan both blink at him. Neil shoves his hands deeper into his pockets, feels the badge still crammed at the bottom there, and breathes out through his mouth.

“It’s fine,” he hears himself say.

They still look dubious, but also, maybe, a little relieved, since Neil’s dorm is at the ass-end of campus. Come to think of it, he and Andrew have never gone there before. The unspoken rule is that Neil comes when he’s called (in more ways than one), never the other way around.

Or maybe Neil just made that rule up in his head.

“Your teeth are chattering,” Andrew says after a bit of walking side by side in silence. He’s too honed in on Neil, always picking up on the little tells. The soft, skeletal rattling of Neil’s teeth shouldn’t have been so noticeable to him, and yet.

“Yeah,” Neil says stupidly. He doesn’t have anything else.

He sees movement out of the corner of his eyes, and then something warm and heavy drapes itself over his shoulders. It’s Andrew’s duffel coat, imbued with his body heat and his scent, not just the clean, subtle hint of his cologne but a more intimate skin-smell that Neil has grown to associate with Andrew.

“Thanks,” he says haltingly, slipping it on. It’s not the first time one of Neil’s friends has forced a jacket on him—he’s notorious for underestimating the weather, or the time he’ll get home, or his own hardiness—but it feels different. Like there’s meaning woven into the fabric of the coat that Neil can’t decipher.

Or maybe he’s just thinking too much into things again.

Andrew walks him all the way to his dorm, and there’s an odd moment where Neil hovers over inviting him up in the pumpkin-splash of orange street light outside the door before Andrew stifles it with a kiss. He’s long gone by the time Neil realises he never gave his coat back, and Neil pulls it up over his nose and inhales deeply before shucking it off and draping it over the back of the chair that holds his own measly jacket.

-

On Wednesday, Neil returns the coat and gets a handjob in exchange, rushed and clandestine against the kitchen counter while he mouths over Andrew’s neck. Andrew’s perpetually absent roommate isn’t home, but there’s a possibility they might be back soon, so Neil doesn’t linger afterwards.

Neither does Andrew. They head off in the same direction, look questioningly at each other, then fall in step without speaking about it. The library is warm and drowsy, and they set up at the same table, working in comfortable silence for a while.

Neil chews on his bottom lip and sneaks glances at Andrew over the top of his laptop. He never used to get off this many times a week before Andrew took care of it, never felt the need as keenly as he does these days. He worries sometimes that sex with Andrew has spoiled him for any other kind. Can’t imagine it being this good with anyone else.

And then there’s moments like this, where they just share space, and it’s as easy as breathing.

It makes Neil question things. There’s that chicken-or-the-egg kind of conundrum of what came first: sex with Andrew or feelings for Andrew, and whether he can still be demi if he got it the wrong way around but eventually arrived at the same conclusion.

Maybe one day he’ll figure it out.

That day is not today.

-

For a while, homework and classes pile up, and the weather gets colder, and Neil pushes himself a little too hard. He gets some kind of stomach bug, and it’s awful and inconvenient, but especially so when Andrew texts him about hooking up and he has to say no.

He’s just left his bathroom for the fifth time that day, feeling gross and hollowed out, when there’s a knock on the door.

His own roommate, a broody French exchange student, hastily vacated the premises at the first sign of Neil’s sickness. Neil figures he forgot his keys or something and opens the door, but finds himself face to face with a pink-nosed Andrew and a plastic takeaway bag instead.

“Soup,” Andrew says, like he’s the delivery guy of Neil’s fever dreams, and demonstratively rustles the bag.

“Uh,” Neil says. “Thanks.”

He holds out his hand, but Andrew just stares at him until he steps aside to let him in. There’s a brief moment where he takes in the generic layout of the dorm, the sparse decorations, the crumpled blanket on the sofa, then he finds the kitchen and starts unpacking several containers of soup from the bag. He peers underneath lids, chooses one, and pops it in the microwave.

“Your roommate is hiding out at Renee’s,” he informs Neil, slipping off his dark beanie hat and brushing out the knots in his hair with his fingers.

“Oh,” Neil says. He didn’t even know they knew each other.

“They are watching artsy French films,” Andrew continues distastefully.

“Yeah,” Neil mumbles, at a loss.

“My roommate is having people over,” Andrew slips in, possibly even more distastefully. “Your soup is done.”

The microwave beeps a second later. Neil takes out the container of soup and fishes a spoon from a drawer. His empty stomach rumbles as the savoury steam tickles his nose.

“You… need a place to stay?” Neil guesses, lowering himself on a kitchen chair and blowing on his soup. Andrew makes a little bingo gesture and puts the rest of the soup away in the fridge.

“I might be contagious,” Neil warns. That aside, he can’t really think of anything less sexy than a booty call with diarrhea, but Andrew doesn’t seem deterred.

“It’s just for a few hours,” he says. “I borrowed one of Kevin’s weird video games.”

“Does he know you borrowed it?” Neil asks immediately.

“Does it matter if he will never know it was gone in the first place?” Andrew retorts.

So, once Neil finishes his soup and a tentative cracker, they play Kevin’s weird video game, and then Andrew attempts to play it in single-player mode to see if he has any more success, and they don’t even kiss once but somehow it’s fine. Andrew makes him eat more soup and roots through their medicine cabinet and jogs down to the pharmacy when he doesn’t find what he’s looking for. Neil makes use of his temporary absence by locking himself in the toilet and wanting to die. By the time Andrew is back, with medicine and extra toilet paper and one of those bright blue isotonic sports drinks, Neil has managed to change his sweaty shirt and open a few windows.

The medicine helps, but it makes him even more tired. Or maybe he’s just exhausted, or dehydrated, or both. He falls asleep on the sofa while Andrew plays through another cryptic level of his game, and wakes up with his feet in Andrew’s lap.

“You’re still here,” he mumbles, nuzzling the couch cushion. It’s late—dark outside, in any case. Might still be four p.m. this time of year, and Neil can’t trust the sleepy weight of his limbs enough to accurately tell the time.

“Renee texted,” Andrew says. “Your roommate is staying over.”

“What about yours?” Neil yawns. “Still extroverting all over your space?”

“Most likely,” Andrew says vaguely.

Neil doesn’t know how to say stay, then. Instead he stretches and flexes his feet which are still in Andrew’s lap, covered by Andrew’s big warm hands, and reaches for the glass of water on the coffee table. He’s parched.

“Sofa’s not bad for sleeping,” he finally says. He should know—he routinely spends nights here, when his bedroom shrinks in on him.

“Okay,” Andrew says, and turns off the TV, which Neil now realises has been muted the whole time he slept.

-

He feels better in the morning.

Andrew is awake, though still swaddled in blankets in a patch of morning light, blinking at him like a cat when Neil tiptoes past. Neil scoops water into his mouth straight from the kitchen tap, then roots around in the cupboards until he finds his roommate’s fancy coffee beans.

He doesn’t know how to say thank you out loud, so he makes a cup of coffee for Andrew—two sugars and a shot of cream, and when he finds a tin of equally fancy cocoa powder, also courtesy of his roommate, he stirs in a spoonful of that, too. Andrew wraps both hands around the mug, sleeves pulled up almost far enough to count as sweater paws, and looks the happiest Neil has potentially ever seen him.

He counts that as a success.

It occurs to Neil, then, that this is the first time one of them has spent the night. Only they didn’t even have sex.

This thought is weirdly unsettling, and he distracts himself from it by tidying away the coffee things. Wiping up a spill turns into wiping down the entire counter, and then the table as well, and before he knows it he’s got a broom in his hand.

“I think I’m gonna take a shower,” he says to the broom.

“It’s a free country,” Andrew says. He likes to say that whenever someone announces what they’re about to do, and he always manages to infuse it with a hint of sarcasm that goes straight to Neil’s head.

(One memorable time Neil caught him off-guard by saying it back at him when Andrew told him he was going to blow him. It’s one of his favourite things to think about.)

“Right,” Neil says, putting the broom back in its niche behind the fridge. “I don’t think we have any breakfast. Other than soup.”

“Soup is not breakfast,” Andrew scoffs.

“Not with that attitude it isn’t,” Neil says, smiling to himself, and picks a few clothes up off the floor on his way to the bathroom.

He hates being sick. It’s so damn messy.

-

When he gets out of the shower, Andrew is gone.

Neil heats up some soup for breakfast and goes back to bed.

-

Back before Neil really knew Andrew, they sometimes ran into each other at the local Planned Parenthood just off campus.

In their first year, the girls used to take Neil along for emotional support—not that he’d ever expected those two words to be used in conjunction with his name, but he suspects they didn’t really need it all that much, being the badass women they are. Still. He’d sat with Allison through her pregnancy scare after an ill-advised one-night stand with Seth, and let her hug him when it turned out to be nothing. He had gone with Dan when she thought she’d felt a lump in her breast and wanted to get it checked out just in case. Hell, one time he’d held Matt’s hand through waiting for an HIV test, and he’d even accompanied a drunk Kevin there once to get free condoms and brochures that he still likes to quote from every now and then just to make Neil laugh.

Allison still likes to call him their “designated Planned Parenthood driver”, since he never really went for himself.

He knows that Andrew regularly gets tested there, though. After the first time he offered Neil a blowjob and before the first time Neil took him up on it, Neil finally went and got tested too, because it seemed like something that was important to Andrew. He felt a little silly doing it—unlike Andrew’s, his own sex life was virtually inactive at that point—but he still goes every now and again and makes a point of letting Andrew know.

He suspects the look on Andrew’s face that always follows a casual mention of an appointment means I know you’re doing this for me and I can’t decide if I hate or love it but I sure have feelings about it.

Neil also suspects people don’t usually go out of their way to do nice things for Andrew.

Case in point: the reciprocation thing.

“I want to get you off,” Neil says, for maybe the hundredth time. The answer has been no the last maybe-a-hundred times, and it will likely be no again this time. But Neil isn’t even asking a question, he’s just stating a fact.

He wants to get Andrew off.

“Stay,” Andrew says, pushing the heel of his palm against Neil’s chest. Neil is propped up on a pile of pillows in Andrew’s bed with his hands pinned behind his back. They’re kind of numb at this point, but it’s worth keeping them there when Andrew slides his own sweatpants down, hooks them under his ass, and wraps a fist around his cock.

A sweet thrill goes through Neil at the rare sight.

Andrew always keeps his clothes on. The tip of his cock is flushed pink like the skin on his neck, and Neil would give anything to know if it’s one continuous blush all the way down. They’re both breathing heavily, Neil from just having come, Andrew from being about to. His grip is tight, his brutal pace eased by a lube-slick palm, and his other hand bunches in the fabric of Neil’s t-shirt, sliding it up a few inches to reveal his stomach.

“Want to kiss you,” Neil blurts out messily, curving forward. Andrew tilts his head down to meet him, their mouths working against each other, and then Neil feels his way carefully down Andrew’s throat like he’s navigating a familiar room in the dark.

There’s a sharp inhale, and Andrew’s whole body trembles the way a taut bowstring does.

Neil nibbles blindly along his jaw, mouths over the delicate jut of his Adam’s apple, and suckles devotedly on his pulse point until Andrew jerks away. Neil drops his head and his gaze, watches the furious movement of Andrew’s hand on his dick for a moment, then ducks further down and gently rolls a clothed nipple between his teeth.

The reward is a half-chewed moan, full of teeth marks and anger, but Andrew’s other hand comes up to fist in Neil’s hair and push him into his chest. Neil keeps his arms firmly twisted behind his back but takes it as permission to pull the loose collar of Andrew’s sleep shirt down with his teeth and suck, lap and bite at Andrew’s nipples, until they’re swollen and pink and glittering obscenely with his spit.

Andrew comes all over the triangle of skin he so meticulously revealed under Neil’s t-shirt earlier, warm spurts of it dripping down his abs, and Neil hides a smile in the soft, sweat-damp crook of his neck.

The shirt is probably ruined.

Oh well.

-

There’s a pub quiz at their usual bar. Neil lets Kevin drag him along and watches him get increasingly competitive and frazzled as the night wears on. One of the other teams has Neil’s French roommate in it. Neil waves at him and gets summarily ignored.

“Okay, length of a marathon, to the nearest mile,” Kevin says, bent low over their paper.

“26,” Neil says absently.

“The average adult human contains how many pints of blood?”

“Nine.”

“How many teaspoons is one tablespoon?”

Neil doesn’t know—he hardly ever bakes—and Matt and Dan have a heated discussion whether it’s two or three while Kevin tries to surreptitiously snag a teaspoon off the neighbouring table.

“Three,” someone says behind Neil, pulling out the chair Allison vacated when she spotted Renee across the room. “Semaphore, Jupiter, thirty letters in the German alphabet, and prostate cancer.”

Andrew looks right at Neil as he says that last one, and it really shouldn’t be hot, but it kind of is. Neil takes a flustered sip of his cider and watches as Kevin scrambles to write down their last answers, then nearly takes down two chairs and an unfortunate freshman in his hurry to hand them in.

“What are you doing here?” Neil asks, feeling frothy and overheated when Andrew scoots a little closer to him.

“Pub quiz,” Andrew says. “Thought that was obvious.”

“Didn’t think that was your scene,” Neil retorts.

“Maybe it is now,” Andrew says, looking at Neil again like he’s the only person in the room.

Neil shivers and looks away. That’s probably just the demi part of his brain thinking wishfully.

(One of these days he is going to have to let go.

Today is not that day.)

“I knew we’d wear him down,” Matt, who knew no such thing, says. The only reason Andrew is nominally part of their group is because he knew Kevin first, and because he’s friends with Renee, who’s friends with Allison and Dan. That’s the extent of what they all have in common.

Well. That, and Neil. Only no one actually knows about that, and Neil intends to keep it that way.

Kevin comes back, trailing doom and gloom, and slams their paper down with an air of tragic finality.

“One point. They beat us by one point.”

“Oh no,” Neil says flatly. “How will we ever live this down.”

“I knew it should have been 1879,” Kevin says mournfully. “Why didn’t I put that down?”

“Yeah, why didn’t you?” Neil says. “You cost us that win.”

“Don’t be so hard on yourself, man,” Matt teases, punching Kevin’s shoulder. “Happens to the best of us.”

“No, Matt,” Kevin says pointedly. “If that happens to you, it means you’re not the best.”

“So who are the rat-faced bastards who beat us, then?” Neil wants to know, craning his neck around. “I thought we were the first to hand in.”

Kevin drops his head on his arms and moans something indistinct. Neil catches sight of his roommate, finally returning that wave.

“Ah,” he says, narrowing his eyes. “Don’t worry. I’ll avenge you by drinking all of his stupid expensive coffee.”

“His coffee?” Andrew asks.

“Uh,” Neil says. Remembers making it for Andrew the morning after he’d been sick.

“What’s the monster doing in my chair?” someone says.

“Allison,” someone else chides.

Neil doesn’t really know. He’s just looking at Andrew again. He needs to stop. Probably.

His cider is gone, so he gets up to order another one, but he’s misjudged the intactness of his legs after sitting in a cramped chair drinking vague amounts of booze all night. His hand lands on the back of Andrew’s—Allison’s—chair, and then Andrew is on his feet, not really touching him but providing a useful example of steadiness in very close proximity.

They make it to the bar, where Neil orders another cider and some of the cheesy garlic bread they make. Too late he thinks that eating garlic bread is probably taboo when the person who tends to get intimately familiar with the taste of your mouth is standing right beside you, but it’s too late now, and it really is very good garlic bread.

“Want some?” he asks around a mouthful, offering the plate to Andrew. To his relief, Andrew takes one of the neatly cut triangles and bites into it. Neil is pretty sure it’s not a faux-pas if they’re both eating it.

Andrew is slower in finishing his slice, and holds out the last piece for Neil. He can’t say what makes him do it—it’s one of those moments where his brain opts out and his body falls back on some basic, feral instinct—but, like a docile animal, he opens his mouth and eats it out of Andrew’s hand.

Andrew stares at him, his gaze a key that seems to unlock secret compartments deep in Neil’s soul. Then he takes his hand back and slowly licks his fingers, suckling on the tips and hollowing out his cheeks.

Neil’s legs feel a little jellied underneath him. Some sort of wild, panicked insect is buzzing around in his spine. Heat washes over him in a steady rush, and then he snaps out of it and nearly pulls a muscle in his neck from looking around to make sure no one saw them. He’d actually die if any of the others witnessed that, but they’re ensconced in a dim corner of the bar, conveniently out of sight of their table, so if Neil is lucky-

His roommate is looking right at him.

Shit.

(Neil really should learn his name. If only so he can… he doesn’t know. Beg him not to go up to the rooftop right now and shout Neil Josten is in love with Andrew Minyard to the world.)

“Want to get out of here?” Andrew asks, possibly picking up on the flightiness in Neil’s eyes.

“I,” Neil says, “yes.”

So they get out of there.

-

“How much alcohol have you had?” Andrew asks him, easing him into his bedroom with a hand on the small of Neil’s back.

“Like, two ciders,” Neil says. Andrew keeps looking at him, so he adds, “I feel a bit buzzed, but I’m good.”

“I want to try something,” Andrew hums. He turns around and walks back out of the room, and Neil goes to sit on the edge of his bed and takes off his socks.

Andrew’s room is always tidy, but not the stark, impersonal kind that Neil remembers from home. It’s a kind of hands-on neatness, where Neil is allowed to pick up a book or run his hands over a surface and leave fingerprints without getting yelled at or worse.

It feels safe.

Neil feels safe here, and warm, and good. He thinks whatever it is Andrew wants to try he’s probably game. Takes off his sweater and holds it in his lap, smoothing his thumbs over the worn wool. He didn’t take a lot of things from home when he left, and he’s never going back, so most of his things are kind of old and threadbare by now.

Andrew comes back with a glass of water for him and Neil says, “Kinky,” with his mouth hovering over the surface, causing ripples with his breath. He drinks it, though. Andrew closes the blinds and turns on his reading lamp and rummages around his wardrobe until he finds a nondescript, crinkly bag.

“Ah,” Neil says when he sees the object Andrew pulls from the bag. “Um. I didn’t…”

“You can shower here,” Andrew says, setting the plug aside and leaning over Neil to kiss him. “We don’t have to use it.”

“I want to,” Neil mumbles against his mouth. Andrew gives him a heated look for that and kisses him again, and they tumble into the sheets together, lost to the familiar push and pull of their mouths, until Neil gathers enough resolve to come up for air.

“Shower,” he says, “then…”

“Then,” Andrew agrees. His pupils are dilated, his bottom lip pink and shiny from Neil’s teeth. Neil needs to steal another kiss before he goes, fills himself with Andrew’s scent as a reminder of what’s to come. What else he’ll be filled by.

It’s awkward, in the shower, but Neil makes do. In his hurry, he uses so much of Andrew’s body wash that he thinks he’ll never get the smell out of his pores again, something milky-sweet, reminiscent of fresh vanilla beans split open and scraped, but with a bonfire-smoky undertone. It smells expensive. Like some sort of delicacy.

Maybe Andrew can lick it out of him later.

He wraps the towel around his waist but drops it as soon as he closes the bedroom door behind him. Andrew is down to black boxer briefs and a loose tank top, scrolling on his phone and playing absently with the toy. He looks good.

Neil is pretty sure that no one has ever looked as good as Andrew Minyard in this moment.

He knows a little of Andrew’s history, shared in bits and pieces while laying down boundaries, and a bit more that time they were both bullied into helping chaperone a Pride Soc fresher’s outing organised by Renee. Even if Neil doesn’t have the whole picture, he knows one thing for sure: Andrew deserves to be adored.

“Alright there, lover boy?” Andrew asks, his voice dipping down into a low, teasing note. One of his eyebrows is quirked, beckoning Neil closer, and Neil feels hot all over. He watches as Andrew rolls upright, puts his phone away, and tosses the butt plug into the air before catching it again. Then he places it very deliberately down, and hooks a hand over Neil’s hipbone, and pulls.

Neil goes willingly.

Strangely, he never really worries about his scars when he’s with Andrew. There are always more pressing matters, and Andrew never pays them any more attention than he does the rest of him. He kisses a tightrope line down Neil’s hip, skirting around some scars and getting briefly acquainted with others, then takes him in his mouth with little fanfare, half-hard as he is. Neil stands by the edge of the bed, knee digging into the frame and one hand curled around the bedside table for support, and it doesn’t take him long to get to that delicious point of no return where it feels like he’ll be hard and leaking forever until Andrew lets him come.

Andrew slips his wet dick messily from his mouth as if he can tell that Neil is exactly where he wants him to be. He looks up, still braced casually on one hand, and Neil’s stomach swoops when he sees that the collar of his tank is dark with the same spit that coats his lips and glistens obscenely on his jaw.

He looks so good.

Neil just… can’t get over it.

“On your side,” Andrew says, surprising him. He scoots backwards, picking up the plug and the bottle of lube as he goes, and Neil crawls into the warm space and turns over when Andrew twirls a finger at him. Having his bare back to Andrew always sends a jolt of adrenaline through him first, but in a good way; like his whole body is buzzing with the sweet anticipation of what Andrew is going to do to him.

There’s a hand soothing over his side at first, then the warm weight of Andrew’s body behind him, pulling him close. Neil inhales sharply at the contact—he doesn’t get to be pressed so completely against Andrew very often, and it’s intoxicating. Andrew doesn’t even need to tell him to relax, he’s already boneless just from being in his arms, his hole still wet and pliant when Andrew’s finger finds it.

“Lift,” Andrew murmurs, pushing inside his thighs, and Neil obediently lifts the top leg for better access. It feels a little strange until Andrew is back with the slicked-up plug, and then it feels stranger still when he rolls the smooth, cool head over his hole and playfully nudges it past the rim a few times before pulling out again. Neil reaches down to rub and squeeze at his cock, getting used to the feeling, then Andrew slides the plug in properly and it feels fuller and fuller and Neil keeps breathing in and breathing in and then—out again, the flared shape catching on his rim and stretching, pulling, the tip a ticklish afterthought against the sullen pucker of his hole, like a promise, like a kiss-

Neil isn’t aware he’s got one of his knuckles in his mouth to stifle a sound until Andrew pulls it out, doesn’t notice his other hand moving over his cock until Andrew stills it and takes over. The plug is seated deep inside him again, its base supported by Andrew’s thigh between his legs, and there’s nowhere Neil can go to escape that inexorable pressure, just up up up into Andrew’s hand.

Andrew’s fingers are in his mouth now and he keens a little, desperate and drooling, and Andrew slows down until Neil feels like he could cry from the confusing mix of too-much and not-enough. Both of his hands are fisted in the sheets now, his hips are pinned against Andrew’s, legs almost painfully undone. Andrew thrusts his fingers erratically in and out of Neil’s tight mouth and the hand on his dick dabbles with a rhythm that is so close to perfect and the toy rocks a little with the movements of Andrew’s thigh and pushes just short of his- just short of- nearly- socloseohgodsoclose-

“Fuck,” Andrew whispers, somewhere behind his ear, and he sounds almost as wrecked as Neil feels right now, and it’s that thought that sends Neil over the edge. He’s too out of it to even make any kind of noise anymore, even breathing is too complicated when every single nerve cell in his body is singing at the same frequency.

It takes a long time to reassemble his scattered brain cells after that orgasm.

He is dimly aware of Andrew pulling his fingers out of his mouth and easing the plug out of his hole, both of which is vaguely uncomfortable with how overstimulated he is. The reward comes in the form of Andrew audibly getting himself off, which only takes a moment, but feels like a triumph every time.

They both catch their breath.

Then Andrew croaks, “Good?” and Neil mumbles, “Yes fucking yes a thousand times yes,” and Andrew nuzzles the top of his spine like he’s trying to hide a smile there where no one can ever find it.

They get up without any more commentary—there’s nothing to say that hasn’t already been said in some way—and fall into their usual routine of cleaning up, except this time Andrew has a cup of tea ready when Neil falls out of the bathroom on wobbly legs, and when that’s gone he pushes his nose into the soft hair at Neil’s temple and inhales and says, “Stay.”

So Neil stays.

-

The next morning, Andrew only lets Neil out of his bed to use the bathroom and make toast and coffee. They fool around again after breakfast but with less of the intensity of last night, just sloppy make-outs and murmured conversation and Andrew’s hand in Neil’s pants, messing around. Neil is mid-rant about his robotics professor when Andrew slides his pants down and pulls one of Neil’s legs up and over his hip. He tells Neil to keep talking while he lubes up his fingers and plays with his asshole, still sensitive and puffy from last night, and Neil only makes it halfway through the story before his ability to string together coherent sentences rapidly declines.

Neil is just coming out of the shower, dressed head to toe in Andrew’s clothes, when a hitherto unknown entity belts out a very cheerful hello to him from behind the kitchen counter.

“You must be Neil,” the person says. “So good to finally meet you.”

“Um, yeah,” Neil says, at a loss.

“Don’t worry, I only just got in. Actually, I got a class in ten minutes, and then student council meeting—you know how it is.”

He must be Andrew’s cryptid roommate. Laughing to himself, he adds another shot of espresso to his leopard print travel mug and screws on the lid while humming a jaunty tune. His hair is enormous. He and Andrew are on opposite ends of the blond spectrum—Andrew a fine, pale bone yellow, his roommate a bronzed honey gold, with darker roots showing through. His t-shirt says “I’m PANtastic!” and has a print of a unicorn pooping rainbows. Now that Neil thinks about it, he’s pretty sure he’s seen him around Pride Soc events.

He fervently hopes the guy doesn’t remember him, or the time he got drunk during fresher’s week and said “why frick frack when you can snick snack” out loud to the unfortunate soul manning the snack table.

“Well, toodles,” the guy says, unironically, and clamps a protein bar between his teeth on his way out.

Neil mouths the word toodles to himself as he pours himself a glass of water at the sink and then shakes his head. He should get going, too. Grace his Spanish study group with his presence for once, lest they get complacent.

-

Neil is not a fan of the cold.

It bites his fingers and brittles his bones, it coils tight like a spring in his muscles and hoards starbursts of pain in his joints.

The crunch of dry leaves under his feet as he runs is satisfying, though. The cold air rushes in and out of his lungs, scouring him from the inside, and the streets are blissfully empty early in the morning when the night mists are still curled protectively around the buildings on campus.

“Jean said you’ve been out a lot lately,” Kevin remarks when they reach the top of the hill, pausing at their usual bench to stretch.

“Jean?” Neil asks blankly.

“Your roommate.”

Oh. Right.

“I didn’t know you two knew each other,” Neil deflects. “Isn’t he like, your trivia nemesis?”

“We share some classes,” Kevin says primly. “You used to barely leave your dorm. What gives?”

“Maybe I’m out getting laid.”

Kevin snorts, his breath pillowing out in front of his face.

“Yeah. Right.”

Neil shrugs, leans a little further into his stretch, savouring the ache.

“It’s,” Kevin says, poking around his molars for the right word, “good.”

“What?”

“You. Opening up. It’s good to watch.”

Neil doesn’t know how to feel about that. Or, he feels a lot of ways about it. Kevin is the only one who knew him before—they don’t really talk about it, but. It’s there. That mutual understanding. Being seen through the lens of his own past is uncomfortable and oddly comforting at the same time.

That, and the fact that opening up is certainly one way of describing what he’s been doing with Andrew.

“Keep going?” Neil asks, nodding at the path. Kevin fiddles with his fitness tracker, and then they’re off, and Neil allows his legs to go as fast as they want to now that it’s downhill, and thinks, this, this is as close to flying as it gets.

 -

On Halloween, the entire campus seems to be out partying, including Andrew’s roommate, who Neil finally learns is named Jeremy.

Neil helps set up for the Pride Soc horror movie night but slips away before people really start trickling in. He’s still picking sparkly black and orange confetti out of his hair when he runs into Andrew outside of the more expensive one of the two grocery stores around campus. He looks the same as usual—studs on his black leather jacket, heavy lace-up boots, purple smudges under his eyes, that one matte silver band around his left index finger that he likes to twist back and forth in a mesmerising rhythm. Somehow though, tonight, he fits right in.

“What are you supposed to be, then?” Neil jokes, pointing at the chocolate bar in Andrew’s hand. “Count Chocula?”

Instead of replying, Andrew offers him the chocolate bar, and Neil nibbles off a tiny piece. Andrew watches him, opens his mouth, then closes it again, and Neil has maybe never seen him so indecisive until he says-

“Cheese.”

“Cheese?”

“Do you like it.”

“Do I like cheese?” Neil repeats, again, and earns himself an exasperated look. “Yeah, I guess. Who doesn’t like cheese?”

“Weirdos,” Andrew answers. If Neil didn’t know better, he’d say he sounds pleased.

Andrew starts walking, and Neil follows, unsure where they’re going but keen on not going back to his empty dorm. They reach a building that looks like any of the other dormitory buildings on campus, and someone buzzes them up. When the elevator doors close Andrew pulls Neil against him and lets him chase after his lips for a bit, a kiss like a rabbit on the run, the white of its tail flashing always out of reach until Neil finally aligns his hands with the sides of Andrew’s face and holds him in place. The elevator stops, and Neil noses briefly under Andrew’s collar and inhales the familiar smoky vanilla bean scent that he didn’t even like all that much at first but now can’t seem to get enough of. Then Andrew pushes him away, with carefully masked smugness, and leads him down the corridor to an open door.

“Oh!” someone says, and then again—“Oh?”—in an entirely different tone.

“Cheese,” Andrew says, pushing a bag at Renee before bending down to begin the laborious process of unlacing his boots.

“Hello, Neil,” Renee says. She tucks a strand of hair behind her ear and smiles, and Neil has the distinct impression of being sized up for edibility.

Maybe Andrew and Renee are secretly vampires, and Andrew has been grooming him so they can drink his blood in a grisly Halloween ritual. That would explain the iron supplements Kevin’s been trying to talk him into taking, and the fancy red juice in Andrew’s fridge that Neil keeps sneaking sips of.

“Hello, Renee,” Neil says. “Are you a vampire?”

She laughs, then shoots Andrew a look that can only be described as deeply fond, then smooths down her black cat skirt over glittery orange tights and leads them into a small kitchen. There’s barely any space, but she’s used every inch of it in a very effective manner, and Neil is slightly impressed.

“I don’t have any alcohol,” Renee says apologetically. “But Jean says my virgin and tonic is pretty good.”

“Jean, huh?” Neil says, leaning against the doorway. There isn’t really space for a second person inside the kitchen, at least not in a way Neil feels comfortable with. Andrew is still busy undoing his shoelaces and, Neil suspects, copping a look at Neil’s ass while he’s down there. He’ll be a while.

“Quite,” Renee says, rather mysteriously, though there’s a pointed edge to it that warns Neil off pursuing the topic.

Instead, he says, “So, what’s all this then?”

“Our little Halloween tradition,” Renee twinkles. She’s unwrapping a selection of different cheeses from the bag and arranging them on a large plate, interspersed with dark purple grapes, quartered fresh figs, little strawberries, and salted almonds. There’s a jar of chutney and a bowl of fancy crackers, and a jug of something clear and fizzy with a rosemary sprig and some lemon wedges that must be her much-lauded virgin and tonic.

“We are watching Nightmare Before Christmas,” Andrew announces, popping his head over Neil’s shoulder to check on Renee’s progress.

“Alright,” Renee says easily. “Do you want to join us, Neil?”

“Oh,” Neil says. “Well. I don’t wanna gatecrash.”

“Not at all,” Renee smiles, though she’s looking at Andrew as she says it, something like triumph in her expression.

Andrew doesn’t say anything in response, just putters off to put on the movie. Neil waits to be handed things to carry over into the small living room, where a comfortable couch and TV nook is already decked out with blankets and jack-o-lantern string lights and Andrew.

Neil puts down the cheese plate and Andrew immediately steals a bite, and they both seem to become aware of the fact that the sofa is not meant to seat more than two people.

After some prolonged sticky eye contact, Neil grabs a cushion and a blanket and settles himself on the ground by Andrew’s feet. He doesn’t touch him, but then Andrew lifts one leg, swings it over him and puts it down on his other side, effectively bracketing him in.

It’s… nice.

Renee comes in with the drinks and crackers and turns down the light. She doesn’t mention their seating arrangement, just curls up on the other side of the sofa and snags a wedge of brie. Andrew starts the movie, and rain is pattering softly against the window, and Neil doesn’t know anything about cheese but enjoys trying all of them. Renee and Andrew can quote parts of the movie and seem to have some in-jokes that Neil doesn’t quite understand, but his input isn’t required anyways, so he just leans back and drifts, safe between Andrew’s legs.

After the movie, there is some odd exchange of not-quite-presents: Andrew gets a second-hand book of spooky, smutty stories annotated by Renee, and Renee gets a framed collage of the last ten years’ winners of the Bad Sex in Fiction Award for her bathroom. Neil goes to pee twice after she puts it up just so he can read them all—they are truly, delightfully horrifying and disturbing, and Neil fully intends to quote some of them at Andrew when they next hook up.

The rain has let up by the time they leave Renee’s, leaving behind damp, mulchy air and a chilly residue in Neil’s bones. It’s especially jarring after the cosy warmth of Renee’s dorm, and he thinks morosely of the long walk back across campus to a cold, empty room. He wants to ask Andrew if he can stay over again, but Andrew hasn’t made any move to invite him. Perhaps it’s Neil who’s the vampire here if he can only go where he’s invited, but Andrew made it very clear in the beginning that this was how it was going to go for them: Andrew would pick the time and the place, and Neil would show up or not, and then Andrew would kick him out again when he was done with him.

One could, possibly, argue that eating cheese and watching a movie with Andrew and Renee tonight is already enough of a transgression that one more won’t matter. Still Neil hesitates, and hesitates still when they reach the intersection where Andrew goes left and Neil goes right, and hesitates all through a goodnight kiss under the street lamp on the corner.

And then Andrew is gone, and Neil walks home alone, feeling more than a little frustrated and confused.

-

Andrew texts him to come over after his last class for the day, and Neil doesn’t wait to be asked twice. The heating is broken in this part of the building—has been for as long as Neil has been studying there—and he feels stiff and achy all over, from his fingers down to his toes. It’s been a long week of classes and homework and tutorials and trying to wring a few extra thesis paragraphs from his brain, and all Neil wants right now is for Andrew to dismantle him.

Andrew lets him in and listens to his five-minute speed rant while Neil divests himself of his bag, shoes and clothes. He waits until Neil has climbed on the bed and starfished out on the duvet, then tells him to turn on his stomach.

“Wow, no foreplay?” Neil jokes, nevertheless rolling over obediently. “You want to put your cattleprod of love into my Venus fly trap that badly, huh?”

Andrew smacks his ass lightly, and Neil jerks and laughs. He’s glad he jogged back to his dorm during his break to shower now, even if it meant missing out on a proper lunch.

That’s what granola bars are for, anyway.

Andrew settles behind him, still clothed and straddling his thighs, and there’s a click of a bottle cap that makes Neil’s spine sing with anticipation. He jumps when Andrew’s slick hands start at his neck instead, working something herbal smelling into his tightly knotted muscles.

“Oh fuck,” Neil groans, positively melting into the pillow. “Fuck, right there.”

“Hot,” Andrew comments, somewhat dryly, but he leans deeper into the spot, chasing the snarls of pain down to their roots until Neil is emitting what feels like one continuous howl of pleasure-pain-relief.

It’s debilitatingly good.

Neil is drooling into his pillow and doesn’t even care. Andrew’s hands work their inexorable way down his back, finding every pinch and knot, straightening him out with inhuman dedication. He does a thing where he moves one hand up and one down on each side of his spine, coaxing out unholy cracks as the vertebra realign properly, and Neil wasn’t even aware of how wrong and painful everything was until Andrew started fixing it.

Sex is barely a blip on his radar by the time Andrew reaches the small of his back. His warm hands knead over his ass, massaging some more of the nice-smelling oil into the skin, and Neil drinks down a deep breath and wiggles his hips into Andrew’s palms and remembers, distantly, his earlier arousal.

“Better?” Andrew asks, sounding amused.

“So good,” Neil sighs. “I don’t think I can move. You ruined me.”

“Not how I imagined doing that,” Andrew hums. His hands are still resting over Neil’s ass cheeks, warm and soothing, thumbs playing absently at the crease.

Neil stretches, groans again, then pushes himself up on his elbows to look at Andrew over his shoulder.

“Never said I wasn’t up for round two,” he smirks.

Only the brief flex of Andrew’s hand gives away his reaction to that.

Neil nuzzles back down into the sheets and spreads his legs a little. He’d feel guilty about just lying there and letting Andrew do all the work if Andrew ever let him do anything else. Still-

“Hey, Andrew?”

“Hm?” Andrew makes, still, apparently, mesmerised by Neil’s ass in his hands.

“You could fuck me,” Neil murmurs, heart beating in his chest like an open secret. “I’d let you. I’d want you to.”

Andrew’s weight on top of his legs stills and goes lax, then suddenly disappears. Neil almost expects to be kicked out, but Andrew is just shifting down the bed, rearranging him as he goes. A rush of heat goes through him as his hips are pulled up until he’s almost on his knees, ass in the air and upper body still poured into the sheets.

“Fuck,” drops wetly from Neil’s mouth as Andrew’s tongue licks over him, softening him up. Andrew hums, and the vibrations carry, and Neil loses himself a bit. He’s dimly aware of the damp pillow beneath him, the sticky trail of precome that his dick has left on the sheets and his belly from being trapped there for so long. Andrew reaches around him and starts jerking him off in long, tight strokes and Neil feels like he’s leaking, like the last drops of his control are seeping through his fingers.

He comes with Andrew’s tongue in his ass and his pillow between his teeth. His legs are trembling uncontrollably like he’s run too fast for too long, and Andrew has to help ease him down. Then Andrew crawls up and over him and slips his pants down, his cock so thick and flushed it must be near painful, and Neil makes some sort of vague noise in offer, not expecting to be taken up on it.

Except this time, Andrew does.

He takes one of Neil’s boneless hands and curls it around himself, securing it with his own; together they start moving, Andrew’s harsh breaths punching holes through the silence, his mouth a mess, his pupils blown; Neil can’t look away.

“I want to,” Andrew chokes out, pressing their foreheads together and closing his eyes like a damnation, like an absolution. “I want to fuck you.”

“Yes,” Neil says. “Andrew, yes.”

Warmth spills over their joint fingers but Neil doesn’t dare break his gaze away from Andrew’s face. Andrew keeps moving their hands for a bit longer, until he’s spent, then pulls Neil’s away and slides their sticky palms together, keeping him in place.

“Don’t touch me,” he says. He sounds rough and unpolished, and Neil follows an urge down a rabbit hole and kisses Andrew’s forehead, right over the little crease between his brows.

Andrew blinks, then mutters, “Fuck off,” and Neil has to smother a laugh in his pillow.

They just lie there for a little, basking in their messiness, processing what just happened. When Andrew still seems uncharacteristically stunned after a while, Neil leaves him to process some more and goes to clean up in the bathroom. He finds a neat pile of clothes outside the door when he comes out and realises they’re his—the ones he left at Andrew’s the time he slept over, now clean and dry and smelling of Andrew’s fabric softener. Neil’s stomach twists a little—he’s not sure if it’s customary to do your multiple-night-stand’s laundry, but Andrew never said anything about wanting their thing to be more than that, and Neil isn’t going to take what he isn’t offered freely.

He is aware of the irony of him constantly telling people to just ask Andrew when they want something from him, and then not having the guts to do it himself the one time it matters. It’s a conundrum for some future iteration of Neil to sort out, though—right now he just wants to sleep.

Getting dressed takes longer than usual. Never has the prospect of walking home and getting into his own bed been so off-putting, but Neil assumes that Andrew will need some space after tonight. He detours to the kitchen to make a cup of hot cocoa before he goes though, then leaves it on Andrew’s bedside table like a coward while Andrew is in the bathroom.

-

Neil doesn’t see or hear from Andrew the following week.

This in itself isn’t unusual, but after what happened, Neil is a little bit concerned. He types and then deletes a few messages to Renee, tries to ask Kevin if Andrew is okay without using the words Andrew and okay, and goes so far as to buy Andrew’s favourite pumpkin spice latte from the tiny indie coffee shop near the library, but ultimately fails to actually bring it to him.

Andrew finally texts him late on Saturday night. Neil is already in bed, blankets tucked around him and his current on-again-off-again literary romantic affair in his lap, but apparently Andrew is already downstairs, because less than five minutes after Neil replies in the affirmative there’s a knock on the door.

“Speedy,” Neil says as he opens it. Andrew doesn’t waste any time refuting that and instead comes in, checks that Neil’s roommate isn’t around, and kisses him up against the wall.

When they break for air, he notices that Neil’s still holding his book, using one of his fingers as a bookmark. He plucks it out of his hand, inspects the cover, skims over the blurb, then hands it back with a dismissive, “Nerd.”

“Hey,” Neil says. “Cryptography is very sexy.”

Andrew promptly takes the book away from him again. This time, he tosses it in the general direction of the couch, and when Neil complains that he’s lost his page now Andrew just says, “79,” and walks him toward his bedroom.

“Jean isn’t home,” Neil offers helpfully, already taking his shirt off.

“Good,” Andrew just says.

They fool around for a while, and everything feels like always, except that Andrew eventually takes Neil’s hand and pushes it down his pants. Neil giddily jerks him off and nearly gets a cramp in his wrist from the odd angle while still being kissed silly by Andrew. Eventually, Andrew gets fed up with the constraints of wearing pants and takes them off, then makes Neil turn on his side with his back to him again.

“I want to fuck your thighs,” he murmurs, and it sounds almost bashful, the way it is spoken directly into the soft, tousled hairs at the back of Neil’s neck.

“Yes,” Neil says. “I have very good thighs. Knock yourself out.”

Andrew pinches him, then pats around for the bottle of lube Neil started keeping down the side of the bed. Neil shimmies out of his pyjama pants and opens his legs, waiting for the first slide of Andrew’s cock between them, sighing when it’s finally there.

“Feels good,” he says. “Keep going.”

Andrew scoots closer, until he’s pressed flush against Neil’s back. Everything is warm and slightly sweat-damp and shiny with lube, and Neil’s tiny room already smells like sex, and then there are the slick, squelchy sounds when Andrew starts to thrust, and the shock of their hips meeting, and the firm grip of Andrew’s hand around Neil moving in tandem with his dick pressing between his thighs, breaching, sliding, rubbing-

“Fuck yes,” Neil babbles, “Andrew, god. Imagine if you were in me.”

Andrew makes a wounded noise, and Neil can feel him pulse between his legs, and suddenly everything is even wetter and more slippery, and Andrew’s hand stills.

Neil lies there, unfinished still but feeling like a million bucks, his dick twitching slightly in Andrew’s hold. He bites his lips on all the things he wants to say, just waits for Andrew to recover, to decide on the next step.

The next step, apparently, is for Andrew to lick his own mess off Neil’s ass and thighs.

Neil comes with two of Andrew’s fingers inside him, roughly jerking himself off, then collapses bonelessly into the sticky sheets. Andrew bites a kiss into the meat of his left ass cheek before hogging the bathroom, and Neil almost dozes off, until a wet washcloth hits the side of his face.

“Thanks,” he mumbles, cursorily wiping himself down. The sheets are soiled anyway, and he mops half-heartedly at the wet spot before deciding it can wait until tomorrow, he can just sleep on the other side tonight.

Except Andrew is still there, pantsless and waiting for something, and it takes Neil an embarrassing amount of time to understand.

And, well. Maybe this he can ask.

“Want to stay?”

-

Sunday morning comes fast.

Neil snoozes his alarm until he remembers that he promised the others he’d show up to Sunday brunch after putting them off several times this week. He drags himself into the shower, where he stands and stares at the wall like a zombie, then puts on a pair of jeans that are soft with age and a fleece-lined hoodie he snaffled from Kevin.

The clothes he once borrowed from Andrew and never returned have since been washed, but the sweater has definitely been worn again and incurred the unfortunate wrath of a tomato sauce spill, so Neil supplements them with one of his own. Andrew doesn’t complain, and to Neil’s surprise tags along to brunch without a word.

When they arrive, only slightly unfashionably late, their usual table has expanded to include both of their roommates. Neil has a brief but intense conversation with Jean via eye contact, though he’s not sure if Jean’s side of the conversation was really supposed to be yes, I am indeed acquainted with this complementary donut of a person, and what of it? or rather I want you to die a long and painful death. Both are equally plausible here.

Renee, weirdly, doesn’t seem perturbed by Jean’s sudden lack of interest in her at all.

She notices Neil’s curious look and smiles at him, fiddling with the cross pendant around her neck.

“There are more important things in life, don’t you think?” she murmurs. Then her eyes flit to Andrew and back and she adds, “Although, to be frank, you strike me as more of an all-or-nothing type of person. Just like someone else I know.”

Neil’s ears feel hot. He doesn’t know what to say to that, so he stays silent, picking at a dog-eared corner of the menu. A strange, restless anxiety buzzes around in him like static discharge, and he tries to follow the different loose threads of conversation around the table but doesn’t really manage to clue in to any of them.

Eventually, Jeremy the human golden retriever hails him from across the table and says, very loudly, “Neil, can I ask you a demi question?”

It’s not quite a record scratch, but it’s close. Either way, Neil very urgently needs to get up and leave this table right now. He upsets a lot of cutlery on his abrupt way out of his chair, effectively drawing everyone else’s attention, and then stands there with a pounding heart and sweating hands and all eyes on him, including Andrew’s.

Perhaps he mumbles some excuse, perhaps he just leaves without one. The cold wind stings his cheeks as he flees, blindly, without his jacket. He remembers too late that his keys are in there, but going back to the dorm bears the risk of running into Jean at some point anyway, so he veers left towards the library building instead.

The library is open on Sunday, and warm and quiet. It still doesn’t feel safe enough though, and Neil slips unseen through a door marked staff only and up a narrow flight of stairs and up another to the roof of the building.

There’s a small nook tucked out of the way of the big winds, overlooking the campus to the east. Neil folds himself down small, gasping and shivering, and wills himself to stop panicking.

Andrew probably didn’t even hear what Jeremy said. And if he did, he might not care enough to put two and two together, or he might, and then at least Neil won’t have to tell him. He has to do that eventually, anyway. This just means it has happened a little sooner than Neil planned.

Not that anything about Andrew was ever planned.

Not having regular sex with him, and certainly not developing feelings for him. It just happened. Easy as catching a cold.

“Of course you’re here,” huffs a voice behind him. “Of course, out of all the warm, sensible places you could have picked, you went for the first roof you found.”

Neil’s head shoots up, neck protesting at the sudden movement.

“Andrew,” he blurts out. “I. What.”

Andrew huffs again and drops Neil’s jacket on him.

“You forgot this.”

“Oh,” Neil says, deflating. “Thanks.”

Andrew stands there for a moment, arms crossed against the cold, looking around a little uneasily. Then his focus narrows back down on Neil, a net or maybe a noose, and Neil tries to swallow but can’t.

“You’re not as subtle as you think you are, you know,” Andrew says quietly.

“I, Neil says again, “what?”

“You don’t hook up with people,” Andrew says. Neil raises an eyebrow at him and Andrew raises one back.

“Well. Fine,” Neil huffs. “I don’t hook up with people. Just you.”

“Just me,” Andrew repeats, meaningfully.

Neil picks at a loose thread on his jacket and doesn’t say anything.

“Me, too,” Andrew finally says, and Neil frowns.

“But…”

“Not anymore,” Andrew clarifies. “It’s just been you.”

“You know,” Neil says, frustrated, “you’re a lot more subtle than you think.”

Andrew, in an uncharacteristic show of emotion, scrubs both of his hands through his hair and then over his face.

“I introduced you to Renee,” he says in a strangled voice.

“I already knew Renee,” Neil replies, confused.

“Neil,” Andrew growls.

“Yes,” Neil says reflexively. Andrew looks at him, long and deep, and maybe a little bit fond. Then, slowly, Neil repeats: “Yes?”

“Yes,” Andrew confirms. “Now can we get off this godforsaken rooftop?”

-

After their conspicuous exit, people kind of know.

There’s nothing Neil can do about that, but he still refuses to answer any questions related to him and Andrew. Eventually, they just drop it, in a bemused sort of manner.

It’s… not as bad as Neil thought it would be.

A lot of things are nowadays.

“You should have just asked me,” Andrew tells him, between kisses, when they’re in bed one night and Andrew’s old hair tie is wrapped around Neil’s wrists, trapping them in a very benign way.

“I really should have, shouldn’t I,” Neil laughs, straining a little against the tie. He really wants to bury his fingers in Andrew’s freshly-cut hair. “I’m an idiot.”

“At least you’re self-aware.”

“So,” Neil hums, licking Andrew’s lips, “will you fuck me now that we’re b-”

Andrew cuts him off with a kiss. Then moves away a fraction of an inch, hot breath blowing over Neil’s wet mouth, and murmurs, “Maybe.”