Neil wakes up to the sound of distant car engines, cats scratching at their post, and a tired yawn on the pillow beside his own. And he knows today is going to be a perfect day.
Andrew cracks an eye open against his pillow, his cheek smooshed on his forearm – where it isn’t tucked up under Neil’s pillow, anyway. He squints a bit at Neil, as if trying to figure out whether he should be annoyed by something. Neil thinks it’s far too early for that, so he turns his head to rub his cheek against the bump under his pillow, where Andrew’s fist has long since replaced the gun.
“Did I get another damn cat,” Andrew mumbles groggily.
Neil can’t help but grin and sticks the tip of his tongue out, a little blep like Sir is always doing. Andrew rolls his eyes. Or tries to, it’s hard when most of your face is being swallowed by a pillow. He manages to pull it off, though. He’s pretty amazing that way.
And amazingly pretty, too, Neil muses. Sure, he hasn’t got the big eyelashes or cute blush or anything like that. He’s built like a fortress, muscles stacking on top of themselves over the curve of his broad shoulder, bare and pale and smooth; he could never pass for a slender little thing. His pretty is in the mop of hair spilling between their pillows and sticking up in weird places where he couldn’t be bothered to brush out yesterday’s styling wax. It’s in the soft curve of his lip, the steady look in his eye, the way he’ll stare back just as much if neither of them mention it. It’s in these precious moments where no one else can ever intrude, and the defences are down and the bridge has been extended, welcome flags flying high.
It’s definitely in the way he scrunches up his nose when Neil leans over to kiss his cheek good morning, and pretends he finds the affection disgusting. A little farce they repeat most mornings now, a most beloved part of the routine. He moves his hand under the pillow, making the joints all crack, and cups Neil’s head through the wadding. His other arm reaches out and drapes into the little ledge between Neil’s ribcage and his hip, a perfect dip just the right size, and trails his fingers delicately over the naked knobs of Neil’s spine. Up and down, side to side, circling around each vertebra as if he were mixing paint on his fingertips, slow and curious.
Neil thinks about the number 3650, thinks about all those days slowly building one on top of another, brick on brick mortared with truth and promises until it grew a home, all around them, just for them.
Neil feels like Andrew can read that thought on his face (and of course he must, he knows what day it is just as Neil does), but he doesn’t tell Neil to stop thinking so much. He leans forward instead until their foreheads bump together, and closes his eyes. Neil hears his thank you loud and clear, and runs his hand softly up Andrew’s arm until he finds his neck and then his hair, and very carefully brushes the fair curls off his forehead. He lets his hand wander, and Andrew lets it too, even when Neil pokes his finger into one adorable little ringlet in the very longest part of his fringe. He hears Neil’s answer mirrored back with every touch, a much gentler code than beeps and gaps harsh on the ears, or taps and pauses on a metal nib. Here stop I’m here stop. But never a full stop, because the message still has many years to finish.
They breathe each other’s air and think too many bewildering things, until the joins of their skin get warm and sticky from body heat and Andrew’s arm goes numb under the weight of Neil’s head and all those foolish no-longer-dreams stuffed inside. Neil grins as he watches Andrew heave himself upright and shake out his arm and hand with an annoyed frown that looks more like a pout from this angle.
“Sorry,” Neil smiles as he rolls onto his back to stretch out properly, enjoying the smooth slide of the sheets over his bare skin and the scent of Andrew’s body mingled in with it all.
“Put some clothes on,” Andrew replies, though his eyes linger languorously. Neil reads the tiniest bit of satisfaction in his expression at seeing Neil’s body laid out for him, comfortable and well-known and mellow from the previous night that left them both bare and tired and fumble-handed towards the end.
“What will you give me?” Neil asks playfully, reaching out for Andrew’s hand.
“Don’t ask questions you already know the answer to,” Andrew replies faithfully, quietly. He laces their fingers together.
Neil rubs gently over his knuckles. “One kiss.”
Andrew considers that, then leans down on one elbow. He pins Neil with his gaze from such a non-distance that their noses nearly brush and Neil almost goes cross-eyed trying to hold his look. Neil lets his lips part on the exhale and waits. He’d wait for years, if he had to.
“One kiss always turns into more, with you,” Andrew muses, turning his head just a bit so that the rough stubble on his jaw rasps gently along Neil’s cheek.
“But I’m only asking for the one,” Neil smiles back, remembering contentedly their team’s reaction the first time he walked into practice with stubble rash on his thighs. Very much worth it. “If you want to give me more, I’ll gladly keep them safe for you.”
Andrew sighs as though he’s aggrieved rather than charmed, and kisses Neil slow and careful as if he’s writing a masterpiece on Neil’s mouth. Neil sighs onto his cheek and follows up when he pulls away, sliding his feet onto the carpet and tossing the sheets back off his legs. They pull on some underwear and soft sweatpants and follow each other by the fingers into the kitchen.
Neil kisses Andrew’s shoulder as they lean around each other in harmony. Neil gets the coffee machine going and flicks on the radio, while Andrew retrieves the pint jug of already-made pancake batter from the fridge and starts heating up the frying pan. The cats come out to say hello in their own prickly way and beg for food. Neil smiles fondly when Andrew gives in to the pathetically swishing tails around his ankles and fills up their bowls and refreshes their water before getting a single pancake on the go.
He makes big ones today, dinner-plate sized and nearly thin enough to see through, brown and crisped at the edges and lacy golden everywhere else. Neil stirs their coffee and watches as Andrew calmly flips each one, catching it again easily (what a keeper, Neil laughs to himself) before making a stack off to the side. They cover the table with cut fruit, preserves, syrups, and some other distinctly less healthy things that Kevin doesn’t need to know about, and fold up each pancake with something new each time in peaceful quiet.
Neil taps his fingers along to the smooth beat of the radio music, something classical and vaguely jazzy. Andrew takes a bit longer to finish his pancakes, intent on finding the perfect amount of spray cream to add without making the whole thing a sopping mess in his hands, and Neil is more than happy to watch him and finish off his coffee.
They catch eyes every so often, like saying hello, and let the quiet warmth of their home and their kitchen and their years wrap around them like the softest blanket. The music is something like swing, now, but nice and slow. It swoops sighingly along with a trombone and a saxophone, rippling into the air like a summer breeze. Neil moves his head to and fro without a self-conscious thought, swaying to the music and letting it wash through him. He feels Andrew’s gaze, steady and patient and knowing, and smiles. He knows he must look as happy as he feels, because Andrew has that expression like he’s slightly anxious and slightly confused, though Neil knows those feelings are now only echoes and symptoms of something much larger and sweeter.
“Hey,” Neil says once Andrew has finished and pushed his plate away. “Dance with me?”
Andrew doesn’t bother acting like he doesn’t want to; he stands up immediately and takes Neil by the hands. They find a little spot in the middle of the living room and fold around each other as they know to do; a hand held tight between their chests, Andrew’s arm around Neil’s waist, Neil’s hand on Andrew’s shoulder. Neil tucks his head down into Andrew’s neck and lets Andrew guide them in a slow sway back and forth, turning moreorless on the spot like a careful waltz. He feels Andrew’s soft sigh as they hold each other close and the music weaves about them.
He feels Andrew rest a cheek against his chest, his lips fitting nicely along the lay of Neil’s collarbones.
“Here’s to the next ten,” Andrew says, so quietly, and holds Neil close and secure in his arms.
EDIT: look at this beautiful piece of art by louviart!! Thank you so much ^^ (x)