The air inside the club is heavy with smoke and sweat and Neil keeps shifting in his seat, like somehow if he moves far back into the booth he won’t feel as choked by it. It’s not too bad, just enough discomfort that it sets under his skin and makes it impossible to sit still.
“You still don’t drink,” Andrew points out casually after a few minutes of silence between them.
It’s Friday night and they’re at Eden’s Twilight for the first time since Spring Break; Nicky and Aaron are both down by the dancefloor and Kevin is nowhere to be found—presumably attempting to get drunker away from their judging gaze.
“I drink with you sometimes, don’t I?”
“You don’t get drunk,” Andrew specifies.
“Well—no. I don’t.”
“You can lose control from time to time, Abram. It’d do you good.”
Neil considers the words for a moment, then eyes the drink sitting in front of Andrew. It’s most likely whiskey, he knows, and he still can’t really stomach the taste, but he wants to impress Andrew—or at least startle him—and he’s got the element of surprise on his side, so he reaches for it and downs it as fast as he can. The glass clatters against the table when he sets it down and then it falls over, and Andrew’s face remains impassive because he’s Andrew, but Neil doesn’t miss the way his eyes light up.
“You can’t do things just the normal way, can you?”
Grinning, Neil shrugs and leans closer, “I like to keep it interesting.”
For a second, he thinks Andrew is going to shove him off, but instead he nods in acceptance and gets up from their table. Neil debates staying but ends up following Andrew after glancing at the bar and seeing how crowded it is.
He keeps being shoved back as he tries to approach—he’d blame it on his height but Andrew is shorter than him and has managed to make it to the front already—and his frustration grows until a hand circles his wrist and tugs him forward and Neil all but stumbles into Andrew’s space. Andrew manoeuvres him around so he’s standing behind Neil and moves his hand from Neil’s arm to the back of his neck, applying pressure for a few moments and then just resting his hand there.
Roland spots them right away and skips over six different requests to make his way to them, “Well if it isn’t my favourite couple! Hello guys.”
Neil nods and offers him a smile, and he doesn’t need to see Andrew’s face to know that the he’s ignoring Roland’s salute. Instead, Andrew orders three things that Neil has never heard before and Roland produces six drinks in front of them in record time.
The bar is loud enough he can’t really make out what anyone is saying, and the people shuffling around them has moved Neil away from them, so he is only half paying attention to the conversation Andrew and Roland are having; something about cars or motorcycles that Neil couldn’t be less interested in, anyway. Instead, he focuses on the way Roland pours their drinks, how his hands grip the bottles with such ease that he doesn’t need to look as he switches from one to the other and flips it in his fingers before opening it.
It isn’t something he’s ever paid attention to before, but Neil remembers Nicky talking about Roland’s hands earlier—and really, what is it about Roland that has everyone drooling over him—and now he’s fixating, trying to figure out what about hands could possibly be so interesting.
He’s got short, thick fingers, and wears rings on three of them, his left hand. His hands are rustic, calloused, like he spends a lot of time working with them—the flat spot next to his finger suggest the use of some sort of tool, could be anything from a shovel to an axe, and Neil can’t stop himself from wondering what Roland’s life is like outside of Eden’s Twilight.
The question pops up in his head out of nowhere, so fast Neil has no way of stopping it, and suddenly all he can wonder is whether Andrew knows, whether he’s a part of it himself. He remembers Nicky’s question, almost a year ago, and the realization that Andrew and Roland had had something. What something entailed, Neil didn’t know. He’d never had time to ask back then, and had never found the confidence afterwards, so he’d always be left with the doubt.
It had never bothered him before, because he’d never taken the time to really think about it, but now looking at the way Roland’s cocked his hips to the side and how has a playful smile plastered on his face as he talks to Andrew, it’s all he can focus on. It’s a too flirty stance for Neil to dismiss it as nothing, now that he’s hyper aware of it—all of it—and he can’t help looking over at Andrew to asses him as well, but Andrew’s face is impassive and his body is turned slightly towards Neil, so he breathes out and tries to not stop liking Roland.
He moves closer unconsciously, his body pressing against Andrew’s side, and automatically a hand flies up to his hip, holding him close.
“Everything good with your boy?” Roland asks then, and Neil perks up at the words.
Andrew shrugs like it’s nothing, Neil can’t help the scowl that sets on his face and Roland watches them, amused, his lips pursed into something between a smirk and a real smile.
“Ignore him,” Andrew says and again says something about horse power and four wheel steering and Neil tunes him out again, his eyes roaming over Roland’s face.
Roland’s got green, honest eyes surrounded by dark lashes and equally dark eyebrows, plump dark lips and too white teeth that makes his smile look almost creepy in the club’s black light. He’s taller than both of them—though that’s not exactly an accomplishment—and his shoulders are broad and strong looking; Neil assumes that if he knew how to look at people that way, he could think of Roland as handsome, but he still doesn’t understand what the hype is about.
He’s not expecting the conversation to be redirected at him again, but it’s not long before Roland turns from Andrew to look straight at Neil and asks him if he’s going to drink tonight.
“Peer pressure,” he says, shrugging, and then has an idea, “Actually—do you have any empty shot glasses we could borrow?”
Two seconds after he’s uttered the words, two small glasses are deposited on the tray next to the rest of their drinks, and Roland is smiling at them with such friendliness that Neil feels a little guilty about it but he still wants to punch him in the face.
They go back to their table then—Neil is secretly relieved—and Andrew hands him one of the drinks with no explanation, taking an amber looking one for himself and drinking half of it in one go.
Neil sips his own, which looks a little greener than Andrew’s, and is surprised to find that it isn’t too sweet or too bitter, and it doesn’t burn his throat as much as the whiskey did. Once he is halfway through his drink—and Andrew has finished his—he shares his idea.
“I want to play a game,” he announces, “You want me to drink and I want to ask you a question so—to ask a question we have to take a shot. What do you say?”
He clinks the shot glasses right in front of Andrew’s face, but Andrew gives him no answer. Instead, he reaches for a shot glass, pours the content of one of the glasses into it and swings it back, “Are you always this childish?”
“Is that your question?” Neil smirks.
“Don’t be a smartass. I can still outdrink you.”
To prove his point, Andrew grabs the drink he used to pour the shot and gulps it down. Then he turns around to look at Neil and places a hand to his chin, tilting it towards him.
“Yes or no?”
Neil nods, and his vocal yes is swallowed by Andrew’s lips as he kisses him, deep; his tongue cold and sweet from the drink he just finished, and it makes Neil melt against him with every stroke. As it tends to happen whenever they kiss, Neil is panting by the time they break apart. Andrew seems unaffected, but he slides the hand that isn’t still clutching Neil’s face to rest on Neil’s thigh, and squeezes. Then he lets go of Neil’s chin and goes back to his drink.
“What was that back at the bar?” Andrew asks after a few minutes of silence have passed between them, “And yes, that is my question.”
Taking a sip from the drink in front of him, Neil contemplates playing the fool and pretending he doesn’t know what Andrew’s talking about, but he knows Andrew would see right through him. He scratches at his brain, looking for an excuse, or a distraction, or a reason that won’t make him sound like a fourteen year old in front of Andrew.
Instead, because Neil is shit with words and always picks the wrong ones, he takes a shot without thinking and blurts out, “How did Roland know about your hands off rule?”
Andrew gives him an unimpressed look, “You know how.”
“Did you two—?”
“You’re going to have to be more specific.”
Neil takes another shot and looks down at his lap, avoiding Andrew’s eyes when he asks, “was he like this?”
He signals between their bodies with his hand and braces himself for the “there’s no this” that he’s managed to steer clear of for a while, but Andrew moves closer until they’re barely a couple inches away and utters a definite, “No.”
“What was it like?” Neil asks, and Andrew gives him a blank stare until Neil takes another shot.
“When I worked at Eden’s Twilight, we used to hook up during our breaks. We’d kiss, I’d blow him, and we’d go back to serving drinks.”
“You’d blow him,” Neil deadpans, before he can stop himself.
“Why are you so shocked? I’ve blown you, too.”
Neil shifts in his seat, trying to shield his face from Andrew’s inexpressive analysing stare. They’re too close for him to hide, but he keeps his eyes away from Andrew’s and tries to force his feelings down so they’re not written all over his face.
“You’re jealous,” Andrew says, not a question, and Neil shakes his head, but can tell by the way he’s looking at him that Andrew doesn’t believe him.
They stay silent for a moment, just watching each other, before Andrew closes the distance between them, crashing their lips together in a bruising kiss. Neil’s arms automatically go above his head, letting Andrew lead him, but the kiss is over before he can slide them in Andrew’s hair.
“Jealousy is a petty feeling, Abram; and it implies caring,” Andrew shakes his head, “I thought you knew better than that.”
“You’ve always known that I’m stupid,” Neil grins, ducking his head to peck Andrew’s lips, but there’s a sudden urge to reclaim, and he suddenly needs to put his everything into the kiss.
Andrew allows it for a moment before he pushes away, his mouth in a tight line but amusement hinting in his eyes.
“What are you even jealous of? It was nothing.”
“This is supposed to be nothing too, remember?” Neil challenges, raising an eyebrow at Andrew, who’s back to looking as bored as ever.
“How many times do I need to tell you not to say stupid things?”
“They’re your words,” Neil shrugs, “Did you have a change of heart?”
“People don’t change, circumstances do,” is all the explanation Andrew offers.
“Back to Roland,” Neil says, and pours himself another shot, and Andrew rolls his eyes, “Did you ever end up letting him touch you?”
There’s a flash of something unidentifiable in Andrew’s eyes. It’s so brief Neil has no time to even consider what it could be, and he would have missed it completely if he hadn’t been staring into Andrew’s eyes.
A part of Neil knew, before he heard the words, but it still surprises him. It shouldn’t bother him, he should be happy that there’s been others before him, other people in Andrew’s life that he’s been able to trust enough to let them close, but it does. It’s the selfish part of him, the part that’s still itching to run out the door sometimes, which wishes he could be the only one. The best one.
He freezes at Andrew’s words, if only for half a second, and Andrew notices. “Is that what this is about?”
One of the shots in front of Neil disappears and then Andrew is slamming it against the table. Neil considers denying it, but ends up shrugging instead.
“You’re an idiot,” he says, pouring another shot and placing it right in between them on the table, “That was nothing like this.”
Neil knows better than to throw Andrew’s words at him again, so instead he nods. He’s not expecting it when Andrew closes the distance between their lips and kisses him softly, sucking lips lower lip between his and pulling him as close as he can. When they separate, Neil feels dizzy, and he wonders if it’s Andrew or the alcohol that is to blame.
“Comparing yourself to others is pointless, and stupid.”
“Okay,” Neil says, and reaches for the glass that Andrew poured him.
Andrew watches him silently, and maybe if Neil were sober he would try to find meaning in the way his eyes gleam as he stares, but he’s not and he can’t, so instead he takes a deep breath and takes a hold of the drink he just poured, knocking it down as fast as he can and spilling some on his shirt in the process.
“Why Roland?” Neil asks again, after he sets down his shot. His head is starting to feel too tight around his brain, but he’s fine.
For the first time since Neil has known him, Andrew looks surprised by his question, “Because he’s hot.”
It sounds more like a question than a statement, like Andrew can’t believe Neil is asking something like this.
“Is he?” he asks, thinking back to Roland’s green eyes and strong arms, because he truly doesn’t know what hot entails, and Andrew rolls his eyes at him, “I told you I didn’t swing.”
Andrew sighs, then nods, “Ask Nicky.”
“No, thanks,” He’s heard enough of Nicky gushing about men to last him an eternity.
He pours himself another shot, the bottle suddenly too heavy for his loose hand, and spills the reddish drink all around the glass as he does.
“Are you sure you want to drink another one?”
“I have another question,” Neil says with determination and downs the shot, grimacing at the taste, “Ok, last one. When did it stop?”
It’s not obvious enough to be a blush, but the skin around his cheeks takes a slight pink tint and Andrew’s eyebrow twitches, and it’s partly because he’s curious but mostly in anticipation that Neil’s eyes widen and she scoots closer, his leg sliding over Andrew’s in the process.
“It stopped after I got sober,” Andrew says, “But Roland knew before then, and he would tease me about it.”
Neil’s brain jumps to his memories of Eden’s Twilight before his thing with Andrew had begun; he remembers Andrew and Roland talking, Roland eyeing him curiously, especially when he’d gone back after that first night, but he can’t identify anything that’s changed about the way they interacted then. He can’t help wondering if they were different in private, if Andrew maybe was softer with Roland, the way he is with Neil sometimes, or if it was only about getting off. Just thinking about it makes a bitter taste crawl up his throat, and he has to swallow it down.
“You’ve known him for years now. Was it—was it the entire time?” Neil doesn’t take a shot this time, but Andrew doesn’t say anything about it, and takes one himself instead.
He nods, then adds, “It wasn’t a regular thing. We just passed the time whenever we could. Then we stopped.”
“Can I—“ Neil stops himself, and reaches for a shot glass, but Andrew’s fingers close around his wrist and when Neil looks up at him, Andrew nods, “If it wasn’t a thing, how did you end up letting him—“
“I thought that maybe, without the meds, I’d want it again, other people’s touch. I wanted to know for sure, if it was because I was sober,” Andrew locks his eyes with Neil’s, “or if it was because of you.”
Dryness sets in Neil’s throat, and it feels like all the water in his body has migrated behind his eyeballs, making them sting, but drunk or not, Neil doesn’t cry, doesn’t even remember what crying feels like, so he forces the uneasy feeling down his throat and swallows twice before he trusts himself to speak.
“It’s a little bit like with me,” he offers at last, and is surprised when his words come out slurred, “In that I don’t want anyone else to touch me. And I don’t want to touch them. Just you.”
Even in his drunken state, Neil is fast enough that he manages to duck his head and start kissing a trail down Andrew’s neck, but Andrew grabs him by the neck and yanks him back.
“Because I’m drunk.”
Neil nods, understanding, “Okay,” he says, and smiles, “but for the record, I really want to.”
Andrew squeezes his thigh again but doesn’t say anything, just continues sipping at his drink—the last on their tray—and places it back on the table when it’s done, looking over his shoulder as if he’s looking for something.
Less than a minute later, Roland materializes by their side, holding two bottles of water. He doesn’t say anything to them, but he gives Neil the same friendly smile that he had at the bar, and then his gaze slides from Neil to Andrew and he notices the hand on Neil’s thigh. Keeping his face as neutral as possible, Neil places his hand on top of Andrew’s and locks his fingers into his. Andrew doesn’t move, but Roland looks back from their joint hands to Neil’s face, and his smile widens even more. He picks up the tray with their empty drinks and winks before spinning on his heels and walking away, and Neil almost feels guilty for wanting to hit him earlier.
“Dumbass,” Andrew whispers in his ear, and then he’s standing up, reaching a hand to help Neil climb out of the booth, and they’re heading outside.
They go out the back, because Andrew doesn’t want to go across the sea of people just to smoke a cigarette, but he insists that Neil needs air, so they head to the back door. Neil stumbles over his own feet before Andrew has to place a hand to the back of his neck and the other to the small of his back, manoeuvring him through the crowd.
Technically, they shouldn’t be allowed in the back lot, not as costumers, but Andrew knows his way around well enough that no one questions them as they go through an ‘Employees only’ door and take a long hallway that leads him to the back entrance.
Andrew takes out two cigarettes out of his pack, lights the first one and hands it over to Neil.
“If I smoke right now I might puke,” Neil says, and takes a swing from his water bottle.
“Disgusting,” Andrew says, taking a drag of his cigarette, “See if I kiss you then.”
Neil makes a face at him and drinks from his bottle again, long gulps that leave him gasping for breath but feel amazing to his overly dry throat. They sit on the curve and Andrew lets Neil rest his head on his shoulder, and it’s nice. The sky is clear and it’s not yet chilly enough for them to need a coat, and despite his heavy head and the twisting feeling in his stomach from all the alcohol, Neil feels amazing, which is probably why he opens his mouth to ask Andrew another question.
“I know you said it was a petty feeling, and you probably haven’t anyway, but,” Neil starts, “Have you ever been jealous?”
He doesn’t say over me, but he’s sure the way that he looks into Andrew’s eyes is enough to convey what he’s asking.
“Once,” Andrew says, “Of Kevin.”
Neil almost chokes on his own spit at that, “Of Kevin?!”
He skims through his memories of Kevin, trying to find anything that could cause Andrew to be jealous. The idea of Andrew being jealous seems impossible enough, but the fact that it’s of Kevin is unfathomable; Neil can’t even begin to understand why, because Kevin is a pain in the ass.
“You two share this thing, this obsession with Exy,” Andrew explains before Neil has to ask, “You’ve always had this weird connection because of it.”
It doesn’t necessarily feel stronger than the connection he has with Matt or Dan, and they also love Exy. With Kevin there’s the added factor that they’re both playing for their lives, but so is Jean, and Neil still has a hard time reconciling his mixed feelings for Jean.
“He also knew the truth about you before I did. He knew your name.”
Neil turns his body to face Andrew and buries both hands in his hair, forcing their eyes to meet again. He leans in to press a kiss to Andrew’s jaw, letting his lips rest for a few moments before pulling away.
“My name is Abram,” he says, “And you’re the only one I gave it to.”
Not a muscle in Andrew’s face moves, but Neil moves in again and places his head on Andrew’s shoulder, and when he presses a gentle kiss to Andrew’s neck he can feel Andrew’s shiver and the way his heart is racing.
He smiles, and Andrew pushes him off his shoulder and pulls him into a kiss that should be bruising but instead is muted and almost sweet. They press their lips tightly together, Neil’s slipped in between Andrew’s, but they don’t move. Both of Andrew’s hands go around Neil’s neck, and he tries to shuffle closer, their chests bumping as he does.
It doesn’t move past that, because Neil is still drunk, even if the water is helping dilute his thoughts, he’s still intoxicated enough that he knows Andrew won’t allow it. The thought makes him smile against Andrew’s lips, and Andrew breaks the kiss to study his face.
It’s been well over a year of this, of kissing until their lips feel raw and rubbing against each other whenever they get a chance, of stolen touches and unspoken words and never needing to make up excuses because they understand each other. It’s been long enough that Neil doesn’t doubt this anymore, no matter how high his percentage gets or how many ‘I hate yous’ Andrew utters his way; he’s learnt all the places he can touch Andrew and get a positive response; he’s learnt how to identify the days even a hand on his shoulder can send Andrew jolting across the room, knows which touches require permission and which are okay most of the time–there’s no Always with Andrew. They’ve learnt each other, their voices and their thoughts, and Neil thinks his favourite thing about Andrew might be the fact that he always asks, even if he knows the answer.
“Idiot junkie,” Andrew says, his breath tickling Neil’s lips because of the proximity, and Neil smiles.
“That’s my name,” he grins, and ducks his head to kiss Andrew’s cheek.
Andrew lights a new cigarette, his old one long forgotten, and Neil goes back to resting his head on Andrew’s shoulder, shuffling closer as the chilly night air starts creeping into his bones. They don’t say anything else, and they stay like that until Andrew’s phone vibrates in his pocket with a message from Nicky, asking him to pick them up.