It starts about a month after Steven moves to New York, or at least, that’s when Andrew first notices. There had been a steady increase in how often Steven made a cameo in Andrew’s subconscious, but Andrew had dreams about Steven before so he didn’t think much of it. It was to be expected when they spent so much of the last few years together on food adventures. So, it wasn’t weird.
But this...this was different. Yes, the dream contained Steven but the dreamscape wasn’t like any Andrew had ever seen.
(Steven couldn’t be older much older than fifteen. His face slightly rounded, glasses pushed up the bridge of his nose and his black hair falling across his forehead. Andrew’s brain recognizes that he’s younger, not his Steven, but he also looks so much like the Steven he sees when he picks Andrew up for the airport at some ungodly hour. It’s...unsettling.
Steven is sitting in the front pew of a church with his family, listening intently to the priest, a bible open on his lap, mouth silently moving along with the scripture.
The rest of the church is empty, save for Andrew, who is standing in the middle of the aisle. He takes a few steps forward and knocks over a candle, biting back a string of curses that are definitely not appropriate for a church
No one but Steven seems to notice the disruption and, even then, it seems like it takes him a moment to realize he’s heard something. He cranes his head, looking around for the source of the noise. When his eyes lock on Andrew, a spark of recognition flickers in his dark eyes and after a moment, “Andrew?” Steven asks, “What are you doing here?”
Abruptly, the floor falls out from under them and they’re on a basketball court, the sky a beautiful, unnatural swirl of violet and silver that match Steven's, his Steven’s, hair. Steven smiles, bouncing the basketball that has appeared in his hands against the pavement. When he speaks, he sounds far away, like when he calls Andrew and puts him on speakerphone. “Hey.”
Andrew opens his mouth to speak, “St —“
His alarm pulls him out of sleep, his heart pounding in his chest. What the hell was that. Andrew pulls himself out of bed and into the shower, pushing any thoughts of the dream from his mind. He has too much to do today. They’ve already been greenlit for a sixth season and he has a few locations to scout. Adam will probably want to have a meeting about Eating Your Feed, not to mention whatever other videos he inevitably will get pulled into.
Twenty minutes later, he’s thrown on whatever’s on top of the piles near his dresser, fed Wellington and is out the door. He thinks about grabbing food, but Adam and Annie will probably be down to grab something to eat with him.
Steven had always been the one to actually bring them breakfast though, usually from the list of places that didn’t make it into the brunch episode. He texts Adam at a red light, telling him to get Annie and meet him by the picnic tables in fifteen minutes. He’ll just have to continue Steven’s breakfast buying legacy.
Work goes by in a blur and just as he thought, he’s too busy to think much about dreams or Steven (he has ultimately decided it was probably all the coffee he had the day before mixed with missing Steven that caused his dreams to get weird not, like, a Dream Matrix) until it’s almost time to go home and his phone buzzes with a text.
Steven: hey, drew. had the strangest dream last night. can you talk later? (4:01 pm)
Andrew: two words: Dream. Matrix. (4:06 pm)
Steven: Andrew, no. (4:06 pm)
* * *
The shared dreams (Steven refuses to call it the Dream Matrix™, much to Andrew’s disappointment) aren’t a big deal. Sure, they’re weird, especially the rare ones where one or both of them are aware inside the Dream
Matrix™ verse, and they don’t know why they’re happening or if they’ll ever stop but things could be worse.
Not that Andrew would ever admit it outloud or to another human soul, but he kind of likes them. Having the shared dreams means seeing Steven every day (night, whatever) and that isn’t something Andrew was going to complain about.
Steven was — is — one of Andrew’s best friends. He’s happy for him. New York has been good for Steven so far. But that doesn’t mean Andrew doesn’t miss him. It’s totally normal.
As the weeks since Steven’s move pass, Andrew watches as his dreams shift from warm, sunny beaches, California sunsets, and breakfast with the crew outside the canteen to bright yellow taxis, the subway, Central Park, and breakfast at his desk alone. It makes the open seat at the picnic table seem even more empty, and his chest unexpectedly aches, with something he refuses to name, while he listens to Adam and Annie flirt over coffee and croissants.
In turn, Andrew’s dreams become an embarrassing parade of Worth It
(Steven) related memories, that, thankfully, Steven never mentions.
Fried chicken in frigid Minnesota. Snowball fights when they finish filming. (Steven’s body beneath his own.)
Brunch. The smear of pink frosting across Steven’s nose. (“Brunch is like the ultimate way to, like, win somebody’s heart, right?”)
Japan. Steven’s surprising display of strength, the unbearable heat. Sushi. (Steven’s hands on his thighs.)
They don’t mean anything. Andrew’s never put much stock in dreams. He just misses Steven. They all do. And if Steven texts him a little more or ends their conversations with, ‘I miss you too, man’, that doesn’t mean anything either.
* * *
There doesn’t appear to be any pattern to whose dream they share. Andrew’s original theory is who falls asleep first, but Steven quickly dismisses it. With the time difference, Steven is almost always asleep first and there’s definitely been dreams that couldn’t be anyone’s but Andrew’s.
Like Andrew’s dream about losing his virginity (that had been pretty awkward) or his seventh birthday party.
He doesn’t have a new theory. This is just his life now and he should get used to it. No use in stressing over something he can’t control. Steven isn’t handling it nearly as well, if the amount of times he has asked what the heck they were going to do about this was any indication, but that was to be expected. Being in control was important to Steven.
It definitely gets a little weirder when they start filming together again and Andrew doesn’t need his dreams to see Steven. He sees him everyday as well as every night. He’s just across the room or pressed against Andrew’s side in a dimly lit restaurant (or worst of all, he’s asleep - half naked, a bed away). It’s almost too much, a little like he’s drowning in Steven.
That’s the reason he gives himself for drinking more than he normally would allow himself when they’re in Nashville and Steven suggests they go to a bar before they fly home in the morning. Well, home for Andrew, Adam, and Annie anyway. Steven doesn’t fly back to New York for a few more days and Andrew’s dreams become the only place he gets to see him.
Andrew’s not drunk, but he’s close to it. It’s the most relaxed he’s felt in months. One more drink would probably push him over the edge. Steven is in a similar state of being on the chair next to him, despite having had fewer drinks than Andrew. Adam and Annie are off dancing, lost somewhere in the crowd. They should head back to the hotel and get some sleep, but Andrew isn’t ready to leave.
He fishes the bourbon soaked cherry out of the bottom of his glass, popping it in his mouth and sinking his teeth into its flesh. He thinks, as he orders another drink, maybe tonight he won’t dream.
That turns out to be nothing but wishful thinking.
(Steven is sitting on the couch, a glass of wine in his hand and his laptop open next to him. He’s wearing a soft, pastel pink sweater that falls past his knuckles. It’s one of Andrew’s favorites. He’s supposed to be working on his presentation for the morning, but he’s distracted by Wellington and Cornichon chasing each other around the living room.
The sounds of Andrew cooking can be heard over the soft music filling the apartment. Their apartment. The scrape of a wooden spoon against the bottom of a pan. The clink of ice going into a glass for Andrew’s scotch. The steady thump of a knife hitting the cutting board as Andrew chops the ingredients for a salad.
Steven places his glass on a coaster and stands up from the couch, walking to the kitchen. Andrew’s back is to him and Steven stops for a moment to appreciate the way the muscles in his back shift and flex as he moves around whatever is cooking on the stove. Whatever it is smells amazing.
He closes the rest of the distance and wraps his arms around Andrew, one hand sliding under his shirt to rest against the warm skin of his belly. “Hey, what if we do an episode on Ukrainian food?”
“Sure, but you’ll need to brush up on your Ukrainian.” Andrew replies as he leans back a bit, sinking into Steven’s embrace. “Your pronunciation is still terrible.”
Andrew feels more than sees Steven’s smile and it warms him like the sun. He’s always loved Steven’s smile. It was one of the first things that drew him to Steven, that softened Andrew’s curmudgeonly exterior.
“Good thing I have you to help me.”
“Yeah, what would you do without me?” Andrew teases.
Steven’s arms tighten around him and he brushes a kiss to his cheek, whispering, “I never plan on finding out.”
“Я кохаю тебе,” Andrew says, clicking off the stovetop and turning in the circle of Steven’s arms. He presses a kiss to the corner of his wine stained mouth and another to his neck, Steven’s soft sigh tempting him to do more. More will have to wait until after dinner. “Я дуже тебе кохаю.”
“What does that mean?” Steven asks, his fingers sliding up into Andrew’s hair. “You haven’t taught me that one yet.”
Andrew buries his head deeper into Steven’s neck, pressing another kiss there. “I love you, Steven.”)
Andrew sits straight up in bed, like something out of a movie, distantly registering Steven do the same in his own bed. Holy shit. He loves Steven. That’s… well, honestly that’s not entirely surprising, he thinks. Reflecting on the past, he realizes he’s probably been in love with Steven for quite awhile. Maybe he always has been.
Steven —oh shit. fuckfuckfuck , Steven can see his dreams. Steven saw that dream.
“Good morning?” Andrew says, hoping somehow their stupid dream sharing curse had magically lifted itself in the night and Steven didn’t just see the sappiest parts of Andrew’s unconscious.
(Wishful thinking again.)
“Andrew, you...are you in love with me?” He looks beautifully confused and Andrew, even amidst his mounting panic, finds himself wanting to kiss away the confusion, wishing he were allowed.
A sharp knock on the door cuts through the silence, like a knife through butter. Adam’s voice is muffled by the heavy metal door but he can just make out the words, “You guys up? Annie wants breakfast before we fly out.”
Steven looks away from Andrew, picking at a thread of the sheet pooled around his waist. “Yeah, Adam. We’ll be down in the lobby in fifteen minutes, okay?”
Adam mumbles something that is probably agreement and Andrew listens as his footsteps retreat down the hallway until all Andrew can hear is the beating of his own heart, the full weight of what has happened hitting him like a freight train.
His dream. What this means for his friendship with Steven. What it means for the show and, if he’s fucked up the show, Adam and Annie. Fuck you, Dream Matrix ™ .
Steven opens his mouth like he’s about to speak, ask about the dream again, but Andrew doesn’t think he can handle whatever he’s about to say. “I’m gonna jump in the shower. I’ll meet you downstairs,” Andrew says just as Steven says his name. He springs out of bed and doesn’t look back to see Steven’s face fall.
* * *
Andrew wants to sleep on the flight home. Between the alcohol and the dreams, he doesn’t feel like he got nearly enough of it. His eyelids feel impossibly heavy, even with two cups of coffee in his system, and if it wasn’t for Steven and the Dream Matrix™, Andrew doesn’t think he’d be able to fight closing his eyes and sleeping for the next century.
However, Steven is asleep, slumped against Andrew’s side, the seat divider folded up between them out of habit. Steven is almost unbearably warm and it’s only made worse by his breath ghosting over the side of Andrew’s throat and his hair tickling his face. It’s what Andrew imagines being in bed with Steven would be like and that’s definitely not a road he should be going down. Not now. Not ever.
Just a few more days and Steven will be back in New York. Then Andrew only has to see him in his dreams. (The irony that that’s what got him into this in the first place isn’t lost on Andrew.)
Steven shifts impossibly closer, his nose brushing Andrew’s jaw, his lips curving into a soft smile. Andrew wonders, if he allowed himself to fall asleep, would he be able to see what was putting that look on Steven's face?
It was just as rare as one of them being aware, but sometimes Andrew would fall asleep only to be instantly thrust into the middle of one of Steven’s dreams. Maybe there was something to the whoever falls asleep first theory. Realistically though, he’s fairly sure the universe is just fucking with him.
As Andrew’s thoughts drift, so does Andrew’s resolve to stay awake. Maybe this dream thing is a nighttime only kind of thing. It’s not like they’ve ever tested it.
(Steven, ever the scientist, had done his best to convince Andrew to do just one experiment on more than one occasion.)
Andrew lets his eyes close, so tired that Steven’s dream is just on the fringe of his consciousness. He reaches out to touch and -- Steven’s mind is moving at hyperspeed. Andrew at the airport the morning Steven left. Los Angeles. Playing basketball with Ryan. Zach at his desk. Wellington asleep on Andrew’s chest, a long fingered hand scratching under her chin. Andrew is asleep too, his blond hair sticking in a million different directions.
The plane hits a pocket of turbulence, just enough to wake Andrew from his light sleep and shift Steven off Andrew’s shoulder, his soft whine filling the space between them.
Experiment completed, not just a nighttime thing. When the flight attendant passes, Andrew requests what he expects is his new best friend: coffee.
* * *
Steven tries to talk to him when they land, and when they meet at BuzzFeed the next morning, and when they reach The Oinkster, and while Adam and Annie are setting up shots in the kitchen.
The thing is, Andrew doesn’t want to talk about it. Not now. Possibly not ever, if he can help it. He knows Steven would do his absolute best to try and not hurt Andrew, to let him down easy, but it’s still rejection. Rejection sucks.
The way Andrew sees it, if they don’t talk about it, then it’s just a dream. Nothing has to change. ( If you don’t ruin your friendship by ignoring him off camera , his mind supplies.) He’ll put his feelings inside a box, behind a door covered with caution tape until he can forget about them.
Thankfully, years of practice and natural chemistry that comes with great friendship has filming run smoothly. They eat delicious pastrami at an absurdly small table. It’s almost normal. Except Andrew is hyper aware of Steven’s every movement, every brush of Steven’s leg against his own, every time Steven bumps their hands together. It’s beautiful, painful torture. How had Andrew been so unaware for so long? Maybe the box, door, caution tape plan wasn’t going to work.
The kicker though, is when Steven offers him a bite of his lemon bar, holding it out to him on his fork. “Isn’t it time somebody feeds you?” Steven jokes.
The camera isn’t even running. Andrew should definitely point that out.
His lips part under the tines of Steven’s fork, eyes briefly closing in delight. Steven was right - the lemon bar is amazing. Crisp and sweet. It reminds him of the Lemon Coolers he used to eat as a child.
Maybe it’s the nostalgia, but Andrew thinks everything’s going to be okay. At least, until Steven gets up to use the bathroom and Annie slides into his place. “Dude, what’s your problem?” she asks. “You’re being super weird. Whoever edits this episode is going to hate you.”
Andrew sighs, scrubbing his hands down his face. So much for everything being okay. “I’m just tired. Not enough sleep.” It’s not a lie, Andrew thinks. He is tired after the last night.
(It’s nearly three am and Andrew is still up. Too afraid of what he might dream if he lets himself sleep. He knows there’s a chance the Dream Matrix ™ would select Steven’s dream, but the chance that it could be Andrew’s. That it could be about Andrew’s feelings . He can’t risk it, not if he wants this to blow over.
He’s watched a movie, cleaned out his fridge, scrubbed the bathroom from floor to ceiling, alphabetized his books, cleaned and changed Wellington’s litter box, and tidied up the rest of his apartment. Short of rearranging his furniture, he’s out of things to do.
If he waits a few more hours, Steven should be waking up and Andrew can safely squeeze in a catnap before he has to be at work.)
“We’re all tired,” Annie insists. “C’mon, you can talk to me. I won’t tell anyone that you have real, human emotions.”
The truth comes spilling out against Andrew’s best judgement. It sounds ridiculous even to himself and he’s the one living it but it does make him feel a bit better to say it outloud. "Steven and I have been having shared dreams for a few months and this morning I dreamt we lived together and told him I love him."
Annie rolls her eyes, slipping out of the booth just as Steven returns. “Alright, fine. Don’t tell me.”
They’re done filming for the day, so Adam is working on packing up the equipment and bringing it to the car, leaving Andrew alone with Steven.
“You ready to go?” Andrew asks, at the same time Steven says, “You didn’t sleep last night.”
If Andrew looked up, he would have noticed the slump of his shoulders and the bags under Steven’s eyes, but Andrew was careful to look anywhere but Steven. “Yeah, I...uh, I couldn’t sleep. Too much coffee when I got home from the airport.”
“Andrew, can’t we talk about it?” Steven pleads, reaching out and placing his hand on Andrew’s, their fingers interlock like two pieces of a puzzle. It feels right , which makes it so much harder for Andrew to pull his hand away. “I missed--”
“It was just a dream,” Andrew lies, sliding out of the booth. “It didn’t mean anything. Let it go, please .”
He thinks he hears Steven whisper, ‘I just missed seeing you’, as Andrew walks away to help Adam. With only a few hours sleep, he can’t be sure it’s not an auditory hallucination.
When they finishing packing up Andrew’s car, he can’t help but notice that if Annie thought filming was awkward, it’s nothing compared to the drive back to BuzzFeed. Steven makes up a flimsy excuse about the passenger seat making him carsick and slips into the backseat, staring pointedly out the window.
Andrew sees the look Adam and Annie exchange, but at this point he’s too tired to care.
* * *
‘what's the longest you can go without sleeping?’
‘is it possible to stop dreaming?’
‘how much caffeine is too much?’
‘dream sharing curses’
* * *
Adam: I don’t know what happened in Nashville, but it’s obvious something did. Do you want to talk about it? (8:00 pm)
No, what Andrew wants to do is repress his ass off until all of this is a distant memory.
Annie: steven’s sad. get your head out of your ass. (11:17pm)
He doesn’t see the text from Annie until he’s on his third cup of coffee, when he decides to get a book from his bedroom, even though his eyelids feel so heavy it’s like they’re made of lead and reading will be all but impossible. Andrew has to do something with his time.
Something other than think about Steven. That had been going remarkably well, because honestly Andrew is too tired to form real thoughts anyway, even with all the caffeine coursing through him. He is so tired he can feel it in his bones.
He wonders if Steven is sleeping yet or still out catching up with friends. Is he as tired as Andrew is? And why is Steven sad anyway? He wasn’t the one who couldn’t sleep because of his feelings. Maybe he’s sad because Andrew ruined everything. Or Annie’s wrong and it has nothing to do with Andrew.
It nags at him until he’s reaching for his phone and texting Steven.
Andrew: hey, are you up? i’m sorry for what i said this afternoon. (12:03 am)
Andrew waits nearly a hour, with no answer from Steven, before making his decision. He doesn’t like the idea of Steven being sad, not when Andrew himself could be the cause. He shouldn’t have snapped at him today. It wasn’t Steven’s fault. If Andrew was going to yell at anyone, it should be the universe.
Putting his own feelings aside and fully expecting rejection, Andrew closes his eyes and lets sleep take him.
(He opens his eyes and the world is monochrome. The typical Los Angeles sunshine hidden behind a heavy layer of clouds. Steven is halfway across the lot from him, sitting at their picnic table, like he used to every morning. Before New York. He doesn’t have breakfast. He’s just sitting, staring blankly ahead at the side of a building.
Andrew tries to take a step towards him but his legs are held in place by decaying roots and the more he struggles the tighter they bind his legs. He almost wants to laugh when he makes the connection.
Devil’s Snare, from Harry Potter. Steven’s dream has its own version and he hopes, like its fictional counterpart, it can be defeated by remaining still. Andrew stops all movement and the roots retreat back under the asphalt.
“Steven?” Andrew voice echos unnaturally off the surrounding buildings, gaining volume as it comes back.
“Go away, I know you’re not the real Andrew,” Steven sounds as grey as the world around them looks. “Real Andrew wants nothing to do with me.”
A lone tear travels down Steven’s cheek and hits the ground, making the skies open up and rain pour down around them, soaking Andrew to the skin.
Andrew opens his mouth to tell Steven that’s not true. That he’s sorry. That he was afraid. But when he does, no sound will come out. Fuck .
So, Andrew does the only thing he can think of. His shoe hits Steven in the shoulder and bounces on to the picnic table behind him.
Andrew knows the exact moment Steven gets it. That he wasn’t another dream version of an Andrew his mind has conjured up.
“Andrew?” Steven’s eyes lock on his and the whole world shifts. A brilliant flood of colors replace the various shades of grey and the sun comes out, brighter than ever. He smiles, jumping up from his seat to close the space between. Steven fits his hand to the curve of Andrew’s jaw, his thumb tracing along his cheekbone.
The only things that give away this is still a dream are Steven’s watermelon pink hair and the vines of flowers cascading down the sides of the canteen.
“You’re really here,” he says, his voice impossibly soft, filled with affection Andrew’s only dreamed of. Or affection that maybe he’d been too stubborn to notice. To wrapped up in his own head to see that while he was falling for Steven, Steven was falling for him. “I’ve been waiting for you.”
“Why wouldn’t you let me tell you?” Steven whispers.
“Tell me what?”
“I love you too.” Steven’s free hand tangles in the front of Andrew’s sweater and tugs until the space between them is nonexistent. “I love you so much.”
Steven leans down a few inches, his lips are a hairbreadth away and Andrew lets his eyes flutter closed--)
When his eyes open, he’s alone in his bed. It seems like mere seconds since he fell asleep, but the sun streaming through his windows tell a different story.
The clock on his wall reads 7:00 am. Not as much sleep as he’d like but he feels surprisingly well rested. Just thinking about Steven makes him smile, which would be totally embarrassing if anyone but Wellington were there to witness it.
He picks up his phone to text Steven (and Annie, he really should get her something as a thank you) to meet him outside of work but he already has a text from Steven waiting for him.
Steven: call in late to work. i’m coming over. <3 (7:03 am)
‘Yeah,’ Andrew thinks, ‘that sounds pretty good too.’
* * *
Thirty minutes later, Andrew has showered, made coffee, told work he wasn’t coming in, changed his outfit twice (which is ridiculous, it’s just Steven), and is in the middle of fixing his hair, when Steven finally knocks on the door.
Andrew takes a deep breath and opens the door. “Hey.”
Steven hasn’t bothered to put in his contacts and his hair looks soft, free of product. It’s something Andrew has seen so many times, but never in his apartment, never in a way that made his stomach do somersault. Never when he was allowed to run his fingers through it and feel the softness himself.
“Can I kiss you?” Steven asks, fisting his hands in the collar of Andrew’s shirt and tugging him forward, just like in his dream . “I know we should talk, but I’ve wanted to kiss you for, like, forever.”
Andrew laughs. Maybe he’s still dreaming. Should he pinch himself? “Forever, huh.”
“Yep. You know, you’re spectacularly dense when you want to be,” Steven says as he walks them backwards until the back of Andrew’s thighs hit the edge of the bed.
Steven pushes at Andrew’s shoulders until he sinks down on top of the blankets and climbs into his lap, his knees pressing divots into the mattress on either side of Andrew while Andrew’s arm find their way around his waist.
“It’s a gift really,” Andrew replies, pretty impressed with himself for getting a sentence out with a lapful of Steven.
Steven laughs quietly, ducking his head down to rest his forehead against Andrew’s. “It’s something .”
When Steven kisses Andrew - his world doesn’t stop and fireworks don’t explode behind his eyes, but that doesn’t stop Andrew from thinking that kissing Steven is the single best thing he could ever do.
“I’m still tired, wanna take a nap with me?” Andrew asks, when Steven pulls away for air, dipping his fingers beneath Steven’s waistband.
He’s rewarded with a full body shudder and a roll of Steven’s hips. While he is still tired, he doesn’t have any intention of sleeping for the next few hours. Even if they don’t progress passed kissing, Andrew wants to savor the time he has left with Steven, before he’s relegated to FaceTime and dreams.
Steven brushes a kiss against the corner of Andrew’s mouth and uses his weight to push him flat onto the mattress, working open the buttons on Andrew’s shirt. “I think I’d rather make up for lost time.”
“Can’t argue with that.”
Andrew slips his hands under the hem of his shirt onto the soft skin of Steven’s belly, pushing the thin material up so he can kiss between his ribs and across his hip bones, whispering his love into Steven’s skin.
* * *
It might not be perfect. Steven still leaves for New York in the morning but they’ll see each other every night in their dreams.
Until the day Andrew’s dream can comes true or they build a new dream. Together .
(Wellington is batting an ornament around the apartment. Cornichon watching distastefully from the arm of the couch.
The whole apartment smells like ginger and cloves from the cookies baking in the oven along with the fainter smell of chocolate from the hot cocoa Steven has simmering on the stovetop.
“Do you think we’ll have a white Christmas?” Steven asks, looking out the window at the crowds of last minute shoppers bustling on the street below, green and red lights twinkling throughout Central Park.
Andrew wraps his arms around Steven’s waist, pressing a kiss into his hair and resting his chin on Steven’s shoulder. “The forecast doesn’t call for snow, but we have a better chance here than we did in Los Angeles.”
He turns his head until his lips catch Andrew’s in a soft, slow kiss. Andrew’s lips taste like cinnamon from the candies they bought for the gingerbread men and Steven chases the taste with his tongue.
“What was that for?” Andrew asks, smiling and breathless.
Steven brushes a kiss to Andrew’s temple, pointing at the small green spring hanging above them. “Mistletoe, duh.” )