When he arrives back at the apartment, everything is dark. It's a little odd, because Andrew should be home, but it wouldn't be the first time he'd fallen asleep fully clothed on the sofa. A cat meows softly and rubs against his legs as he steps inside, shutting the door gently behind him. He crouches and murmers, "hey, Fluff," as the cat headbutts his hand, demanding affection. He smiles and gives an obliging scratch behind the ears before standing again.
Neil loves coming home; he doesn't think it will ever lose its novelty. It's not a huge apartment, because they don't need or want a lot of space. It's not fancy, or beautifully decorated (neither of them care enough). But he loves it, because it's theirs.
He flicks on the hallway light and toes off his shoes before walking through to the living room. It's just as quiet and dark as the other rooms seem to be, and the sofa is empty. He checks his phone again, but the only message he has is one from Dan asking if they're going to come to her team's next game. He snaps his phone shut and slips it back in his pocket, going back to the hall so he can peer into the bedroom. Empty.
It's only when he finally heads into the dark kitchen to start making coffee that he sees the lazy trail of smoke drifting by the window. So he finishes adding the water in the gloom, switches the machine on and heads back to the living room and balcony doors. It's a warm evening, but Andrew is still wearing a jacket, leaning with his arms resting on the rail and a cigarette dangling loosely between the fingers of his right hand. He's staring off into the distance, eyes half closed, and Neil knows his mind is off somewhere else.
"Hey," he says softly, shutting the door behind him and moving to stand beside Andrew, leaning his back against the rail, hands in his jean's pockets. Andrew doesn't move but his gaze does, flicking suddenly and darkly to study Neil. "So Dan's asking if we're going to go to their game next weekend," Neil offers, and waits until Andrew finally responds by lighting another cigarette and passing it over.
"Okay." The reply is quiet and flat, and so unexpected that Neil freezes for a moment, cigarette halfway to his lips. The smoke curls between them, warm and familiar, and Andrew's half-lidded gaze is still on him. "You're staring again." Andrew continues, and Neil has to laugh.
"Fucking hypocrite." He takes a drag and smiles around his cigarette; Andrew rolls his eyes, letting out a deep sigh. He watches the breeze push Andrew's hair around, and his chest feels tight.
"Is there coffee?" Andrew's tone is bored as he stubs out his cigarette, but his eyes are not, and Neil wordlessly holds out a hand. For this, at least, Andrew has finally accepted it's always a yes. Andrew's hand is hot but his mouth is even hotter, and even as he pushes Neil back roughly against the balcony railing, the kiss is unexpectedly gentle. Neil can't help but make a soft noise; Andrew is kissing him so carefully, and clutching his hand so tightly it hurts.
When Andrew pulls back there's a small twist to his reddened lips, and his pale eyes look angry. "I hate you," he says it with intensity, gaze never moving from Neil's face as he reaches inside his jacket and pulls out some folded papers, "so fucking much." He shoves them at Neil's chest and just says with a steady look, "yes or no?"
And then he's gone, slamming his way back indoors, and Neil is alone in the darkness with crumpled papers clutched in his left hand and an almost burnt out cigarette in his right, which he flicks away as he unfolds the papers. He sees the lights in the kitchen go on as he slides down, back pressed against the railings to sit on the floor. Neil's not sure what he expected, but it certainly wasn't this. There's just enough light to make out the title text, but it's hard to read the rest of the details when his hand is shaking so much. But it's enough, and it's obvious what Andrew has given him, what Andrew has asked him.
As the shock dissipates, a steady warmth spreads through his chest, and the soft glow of the lights from inside the apartment calls him to where Andrew is. He stands up and smooths out the crumples in the license form, before folding it carefully and moving back inside. Andrew is still in the kitchen, leaning against a counter with both hands wrapped around his mug of coffee. He doesn't look up when Neil enters, just stares at the steam rising from his drink.
"Yes," Neil says immediately, because he can almost see what's been running through Andrew's mind, and suspense would be cruel. He puts the forms on the table as he crosses the room to stand in front of Andrew, pulling the coffee from his hands and setting it aside. The moment he'd spoken Andrew's gaze had shot up, and all Neil can do is bury his hands in blond hair and press their foreheads together. "Yes," he says again, and he can hear Andrew breathing unsteadily. "But no ceremony."
Neil grins and kisses the side of Andrew's mouth as he hears again softly, "I hate you so much."
"Hmm, how much?"
Andrew licks into his mouth and tugs roughly at Neil's hair. "Three hundred and forty-seven percent."
"That's quite a lot," Neil moves to kiss his way along Andrew's jaw and down to his neck.
Andrew just says, "yes."
It takes a few months for anybody to notice. They didn't feel the need to tell anyone, and during games they always wear gloves.
But eventually, the others notice the small tattoo on the underside of his ring finger, just at the base. They're out having drinks when it's Renee who catches a glimpse of Andrew's, a small '10' that's out of view again so soon it might have been imagined. "Should I be offering belated congratulations?" she says quietly, expression carefully blank. Andrew just stares at her for a moment and takes a drink of his beer. He shrugs, and she beams.
Dan is sitting across from Neil when she says slowly, "'347%'. Care to explain?" He just smiles at her raised eyebrow and shrugs. There's probably a bet going, after all.