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Eden's Twilight was always busy on Friday nights, and tonight was no different as Andrew pulled up to the front and watched the line grow even longer as his group piled out of the car. He could pick Neil out from the crowd easily now, and watched him as he moved through the line with the rest of them. Neil seemed oblivious to the stares his scars earned him, but Andrew gripped the steering wheel tighter until his knuckles turned white as he imagined choking the life out of anyone who might say something that might make him conscientious of them anyway. When Nicky came back to hand Andrew the parking pass, Andrew hooked it on the rear view and muttered, "Keep an eye on Neil." before tearing out of the lot, sending up a spray of gravel in his wake.


Neil was still waiting for Roland at the bar when Andrew made his way back and through the crowd. It didn't take much to realize that Nicky hadn't listened, so he pressed in beside Neil and stood protectively against him while he imagined how he would punish Nicky later. He'd thought of some pretty creative ways by the time Roland had made his way over to Andrew and Neil.


"Well, if it isn't the love birds," Roland said with a grin as he poured both of them a shot. Andrew stared at him blankly.


"Don't make me kill you." He said, but his voice lacked its usual heat tonight. He was tired of pretending that he and Neil weren't together.


Neil took his shot and threw it back before placing a piece of folded paper on the bar near his glass and pushed it toward Roland.


"Can you do that?" He asked fixing his gaze on Roland as he took the paper just before Andrew tried to swipe it from the bar and made a small choked noise deep inside his throat as he read it. He pocketed the money that had been tucked inside the paper and waved over another bartender. They spoke quietly, just out of range and Roland pointed discretely toward the western balcony. Judging by Roland's expression, he was very pleased. By the time he returned to fill the drink tray, he was grinning ear to ear.


"Consider it done."


Neil smiled and rested his arms on the bar while Roland began mixing drinks. Andrew watched him intently, trying to pry the answers out of him without having to ask the questions.


"What was that about?" He asked after Neil didn't bother to explain.


"You'll see." Neil had a mischievous look in his eyes, and it was the sexiest thing Andrew had ever seen. He'd still didn't know how Neil put up with him, or how he was lucky enough that Neil was fucked up enough to take Andrew's flaws without so much as flinching. He was fully aware that Neil had only seen tiny fractions of his temper, but even those were enough to send most other people running in the opposite direction. There weren't many people who could look a murderer in the eyes, let alone kiss them and talk them off of dangerously unstable ledges. Yet, Neil had done it, and never feared him regardless of what the others said or what he had heard from the vicious way the media portrayed him. More importantly he never backed away, and every day he looked at Andrew like he was something to be wanted.


Andrew had to look out over the crowd to find his group, if only to distract himself from the urge to pull Neil in and kiss him hard enough to make him forget his own name right there at the bar.

Kevin and Aaron had decided to invite the girls for this trip since there were no longer death-locked promises or risks to being seen with them, Thea and Kevin had found a corner so dark that had he not been looking he wouldn't have noticed them and were apparently dancing. Nicky was on the dance floor dancing a little too closely with a stranger, and Aaron was at a table with Katelyn, laughing at whatever she was talking animatedly about. It was the happiest he'd ever seen his brother, and for the first time he found it hard to be angry. It was hard to resent his brother's happiness when he finally had a little bit of his own standing close enough that he could feel his body heat. Admitting to himself that Neil made him happy was a terrifying thing. It allowed room for pain when something went wrong, but perhaps-


Neil's lips at his ear distracted him and his grip on his shot glass nearly faltered as Neil's breath feathered over not only the shell of his ear but over the sensitive skin of his neck too. Neil's fingers worked through his hair, too. Apparently, Andrew wasn't the only one feeling particularly daring tonight. He couldn't resist closing his eyes and enjoying the touch.


"You're smiling," Neil breathed the words like they were a precious secret.


"Am I?" He could feel his lips curving as he opened his eyes and looked over Neil appreciatively. "Better call the police, I hear that means somebody is about to die."


"I'll take my chances." Neil grinned, and his blue eyes were reflecting such happiness despite his scarred face, that Andrew leaned closer, intent on kissing him. Fuck whoever saw, and fuck whatever they thought, but Roland had finished filling the drinks and pushed the tray forward without realizing that he'd interrupted a moment. Andrew's expression went flat as he pulled away from Neil, both annoyed and relieved and annoyed that he was relieved, but when he looked at the tray he was distracted by the fact that it was missing drinks for Neil and himself.

"Before you skin me," Roland laughed mistaking the annoyance in Andrew's eyes as something else. He pushed an extra shot across the bar toward Andrew in consolation. "The rest of the drinks are upstairs tonight." Andrew's eyebrow quirked up as pieces came together in his head but he said nothing and took the tray to follow Neil through the path he cleared.


"Care to explain?" Andrew asked Neil when he'd set the tray down in front of Aaron. Neil effected an innocent look that Andrew didn't buy for a second, but didn't answer.


"I didn't know what she drank," Andrew said to Aaron, flicking his gaze toward Katelyn. "So you'll have to get it yourself." At the attention from Andrew, Katelyn went pale and became suddenly very interested in the hem of her skirt. Andrew knew by now that Katelyn had no intention of hurting Aaron, but it didn't make her any easier to deal with after the threats he'd made, and clearly she hadn't forgotten his violence either.


"It's fine, I got it. Where are yours?" He asked, looking over the tray. He set one of his drinks down in front of Katelyn.


"Upstairs, apparently."

Aaron's gaze slid to the roped off stairs and the bold lettered sign that loudly stated RESERVED.

He said, "Okay...?"

Andrew just shrugged as Neil jerked his head in the direction of the stairs and started toward them without waiting to see if Andrew would follow.

"I swear to god, if Roland had anything to do with this, I'll kill him." Andrew muttered as he stared after Neil.


Aaron rolled his eyes and waved his hand toward the stairs.


"Whatever. Get out of here, take your freaky shit elsewhere."


"Aaron!" Katelyn hissed in warning, but Andrew ignored it to make his way to Neil, who was patiently waiting at the bottom of the stairs with his arms crossed and a smirk that should have been illegal on his lips.


"Are you ever going to tell me what you're up to?" Andrew asked as Neil pushed off of the wall and ducked under the velvet rope. When he was high enough up the stairwell that he was out of sight from the general public he stopped and turned to face Andrew. He backed up the rest of the stairs one slow step at a time so it took Andrew no time at all to catch up. Andrew fixed a pointed look on Neil, and kept climbing the stairs, pushing him back the rest of the way up.


"The answer depends," Neil murmured as they reached the top step and closed half of the distance between them. "Yes or No?"


After scanning the balconies of the upper level to be sure that they were alone, Andrew closed the rest of the distance with a breathless, "Yes." that had almost been swallowed by the explosion of music from downstairs as a new song started, but he knew that Neil wouldn't have wrapped his arms around Andrew's shoulders had he not heard it.

The rules between Neil and Andrew had been thawing since the Spring championship against the Edgar Allan Raven's nearly half a year ago, but there were still lines that were hard for Andrew to let Neil cross. Andrew trusted Neil more than he trusted anyone, but that didn't make his mental scars any easier to bypass. And despite that, Neil was still here, which felt like a miracle in itself. Every day Andrew woke up before all of their alarms went off and watched Neil as he slept in his own bed, wondering if that day would be the day Neil finally got sick of dealing with him and all of his issues, but it never had been, and he didn't know how to express his gratitude for that in a way that would actually matter.
Andrew pushed Neil back until he could press him against the wall near the empty bar. Between kisses and labored breathing Andrew managed, "I'll take an explanation now." but didn't give him time to answer before he caught Neil's mouth again, his fingers breaching the hem of Neil's shirt and ghosting over the scars on Neil's stomach. He felt the muscles there clench and Neil arched his back in encouragement, as if Andrew needed any other reason to map Neil out with his hands. It was Neil who broke the kiss this time. He pressed his forehead against Andrew's while his fingers lazily raked through Andrew's hair.
They both needed a few seconds to catch their breath, so Andrew spent that time watching Neil's face, and memorizing the way he breathed with his lips parted slightly. He wished he contained a bone in his body honest enough that he could tell Neil exactly what the sight did to him, because the uncertainty in the next expression on Neil's face was unbearable.


"I wanted you to myself tonight." Neil mumbled when he'd finally caught his breath, though Andrew didn't miss the way Neil's voice hitched on the word 'wanted'. It didn't take much for Andrew to realize that Neil wasn't sure if this was allowed since most of their rules were unspoken.


"So you rented the upper-bar?" Andrew asked, trying to buy himself time to decide if it was.


"So I rented the upper-bar."


"You are so stupid," He breathed, and yet, there was an excitement in his chest that he hadn't felt since he'd been a child. It was the feeling of having an extra helping of ice cream when he'd been able to go a whole week at school without getting into a fight, or the way he'd felt when the school librarian had given him a pile of used books to keep after she'd found out that he actually did like to read.

Andrew took Neil's face in his hands and kissed him again, slowly. He ran his fingers over each scar and burn and hoped that his touch was tender because for once in his life Neil deserved to be touched like that. He wanted to give Neil the entire world, but because he was only used to destroying things, he had no idea how.
Neil had told him how he'd endured the pain of Lola's torture one of the nights they'd had the room to themselves. They'd each taken a beanbag and held hands in the dark and talked for hours about everything and nothing. He told him how he'd thought of Andrew and everything else that had given him the strength to put himself in danger for the sake of protecting the team. Andrew had thought of how he himself had used Neil's voice as an anchor to his sanity during rehab, but he hadn't been able to bring himself to tell Neil about it. Andrew wondered for a terrifying moment if this was what people classified as love; the burning urge to hand a person your still beating heart and all the rights to destroy it on a whim, and allowed himself to hope that it was, because that would mean that for once he was doing something right.


Now, though, Andrew was hyper aware of Neil's permission seeking hand between them as they fought for dominance of the kiss, and for the first time Andrew didn't tense as he pulled one hand away from Neil's scars to place his hand to his chest and guided it in silent instruction. Neil pulled away from the kiss and leaned his head against the wall, his glazed over gaze slid from Andrew's face to where his hand stayed, unmoving on Andrew's chest.


"Are you sure? What are my limits? What's out of bounds?" Neil's gaze was pleading as the fog of need lifted, and it only made Andrew more sure of his decision. This man in front of him would never hurt him, and that was the realest thing he knew.


"No limits. Not tonight." Andrew answered, running the back of his knuckles across Neil's cheek to feel the too smooth skin of his burns. There were questions in Neil's eyes as they darted around, searching his face for the answers, but Andrew had been thinking about this for longer than just tonight, and the presence of those questions were something he had expected. "I'm sure. Just for tonight. Yes." he said firmly and smiled slightly because he knew Neil well enough to know that he'd just answered all of Neil's questions. In perfect order.


He trusted Neil with everything that he was, he had since day one, and as scary as that had been, he never regret it. Andrew had taken plenty of time to test that trust and Neil had only ever broken it when he was being a martyr, and had been very careful to avoid breaking any promises in the process.

He felt that tearing down his barriers for a night was the least he could do for Neil.
The tears in Neil's eyes as he ran the testing hand over Andrew's chest was a startling thing, but it meant the world to Andrew that Neil understood just how big this was, even if it were only for a night. In time, Neil's touch grew more confident and Andrew stood still as Neil used his hands to memorize every piece of him and everything between them.


A gentle touch wasn't something Andrew had ever wasted his time wanting because he didn't want to be handled as if he were fragile, but had he ever allowed himself to want any sort of touch, Neil's would have been the one he hoped for. Gentle enough not to be threatening, but fierce enough to convey the need behind each caress. Neil kept a close watch on his face to search for any missteps, but for once Andrew wasn't wasting energy keeping his face schooled into a stoic mask. Instead, he hoped he looked every bit of hungry as he felt while his fingers slithered up Neil's stomach and Neil's moved over his chest, back and shoulders feverishly, as if he could truly memorize every inch of him in one night.


"Do you trust me?" Neil asked asked after a while, his hands had worked under Andrew's armbands and his fingers were brushing over the scars that lay hidden underneath. Why he'd put his hands under them when he only had to ask him to take them off, Andrew wasn't sure, but it reminded him a lot of the way Neil had gotten under his skin and under the medication in order to get to truly know him, so he didn't stop him.


"Don't ask questions you already know the answer to." Andrew's own voice sounded foreign to him so thick with desire. He'd heard Neil's sound like this many times, and wondered if Neil was as turned on by it as he always was by his.


"Good," Neil whispered, "because it's my turn."

 

~

 

Neil had lead him by the hand to the small dance floor that took up less than half of the upper balconies, and stood so near to Andrew that there was barely a hairsbreadth between them.


"You don't dance." Andrew said quietly, closing that space by pulling on Neil's belt loops.


"No," Neil agreed while running a hand up Andrew's side. "But Stefan did, and I want to dance with you."


It took a moment for Andrew to realize that Stefan was one of Neil's other personas and not another man. Only then could he release the nasty taste of jealousy that had risen up inside his throat.


"You've really never been with another person, have you?" Andrew asked. Neil shook his head before he answered.


"Not like this, there were a few girls and chaste kisses but they never meant anything." His hands slid to Andrew's hips and he paused. "Are you sure this is okay?"


"It'll get annoying if you keep asking." he warned, "I'll say something if I'm not okay with it." He had to laugh at the look Neil gave him then, because the disbelief in the look was almost loud enough to drown out the music so he added. "I promise."


For a while they swayed and kissed awkwardly to a few songs while they got used to the way their bodies fit together, which, in Andrew's opinion, was pretty nicely, but things took a heavier turn when Neil leaned into the sway to kiss Andrew's neck in slow, lazy kisses that left the burn of his tongue branded into Andrew's skin. After that their swaying built into a slow grind as the songs changed into heavier more seductive things. Neil guided Andrew's hips to the music and lead Andrew through the footwork while they both stole kisses and tried to find their rhythm inside the others eyes.

The way Neil looked at him made him wonder just what it was that Neil saw in him, and he got lost inside his head as he tried to figure it out.


Andrew hadn't been able to stop the moan that left his lips as Neil's tongue brushed over the ghost of a raw hickey he'd left sometime before and Andrew was instantly angry with himself for being so transparent, but remembered that he'd decided not to hide anything. Not tonight.


"If you keep that up," He hissed, "We're going to have a problem."


Neil's lips curved into a smile against his skin before he pointedly did it again.


"I had to bring you back to me. Where did you go?" Neil purred against the skin at the base of his throat. Andrew ignored the question and pulled him closer, giving his full attention by aligning their hips for a small bit of friction in hopes that it might serve to cool the heat that was threatening to burn him alive with each kiss Neil peppered across his throat. It only served to make it hotter, and judging by the vibration he felt from Neil's lips as he hummed his approval, he felt it too.


Whether by mercy or damnation, a song with an easy rhythm spilled from the speakers and it took no time at all for them both to fall under the spell as they moved together. Andrew was sure he could feel his pulse burning through every part of his body, or maybe it was Neil's, all he knew was that all he knew in that moment was heat.

Only Neil had ever been able to do this to him, to make him forget why he hated being touched. Hell, to forget everything except each curve of his body, and the way his own name sounded when Neil tried so hard to stay quiet while being pushed over the edge of oblivion while Nicky and Kevin were in the next room. Soon enough, he was gripping Neil's hips and holding him close while he bit at Neil's lips. He knew Neil could feel him as their hips continued to follow the rhythm of the music. It was fueling his arousal in the worst way, mostly because he could feel Neil's, too.


It was when Neil broke the kiss to lean his head on Andrew's shoulder and started whispering the lyrics of the song that Andrew lost all hope of lasting until the two of them left. He hadn't been paying attention to anything about the music except the beat for some time now, but it became very apparent that Neil knew this song.


"Just stay a little longer," Neil's voice was hushed and breathless, and got more so with each word.

"And take, take it further. Make me, oh... Make me your monster, make me your monster, make me your monster."

By the end of the verse, Neil was moaning the words into Andrew's ear and his hands were getting increasingly more adventurous at Andrew's waist.


"Neil," he moaned when he felt a hand at his belt buckle. The hand froze, and so did Neil, but that wasn't what Andrew wanted. He took Neil's hand and pulled him away from the dance floor. They needed to be somewhere more private, and there was no way in hell Andrew was going to wait until they got home. Neil began to protest, probably thinking that he'd done something wrong, but Andrew pulled him inside the bathroom and leaned his back against the door as it closed, and locked it with one hand.


Neil watched him in silence, obviously worried, but Andrew kept moving. He pulled at his belt. His shaking fingers made it hard to get the buckle undone, but when he finally did, he smirked at Neil, pulled it loose from all the loops it and let it drop between them pointedly as the dam that held two long years of desire at bay broke and all of his control slipped away.


"Still yes?" Neil asked as he stepped closer. "To all of it?"


"No limits." Andrew whispered, making his point louder by popping the button of his jeans open. He wanted this so badly he felt like his body would combust right there on the spot. "If I have to invite you any fucking louder, I swear to god, Neil, I will kill you." Andrew growled. His arousal was almost painful now, Neil had completely ruined him by moaning in his ear like that.


Being told twice seemed to work for Neil because he closed the distance at a speed Andrew had only seen Neil use on the Exy court. Annoyingly enough, Neil braced both of his arms on the door on both sides of Andrew's head, but he caught Andrew in a kiss that was so hungry it was as if it were the only thing standing between life and certain death. Slowly the kisses worked to the corner of Andrew's mouth, down his jaw, to his neck, and only then did Neil's arms move. The first thing he went for was Andrew's shirt. It was difficult to pull it over Andrew's head when he could hardly keep his mouth away from him, so Andrew pulled his head up by his chin and bit at his lips teasingly until he finally pulled away. The door was cold against his back now that his shirt lay discarded some where on the bathroom floor, but it was balanced out instantly when Neil's kisses started venturing. First it was his shoulder, then his chest in several different places, but the breath was knocked out of him when Neil took his nipple between his teeth and flicked it with his tongue. Whether it was because the movement sent his imagination reeling with ideas for Neil's mouth or because Neil had struck just the right nerve ending, he wasn't sure, but Andrew sucked in a breath and had to grip the wall for support.


"Christ," Andrew gasped. "Where did you learn that?"


Neil let his nipple go in favor of answering and grinned up at him.


"I've had a very long time to come up with things I wanted to try."


Andrew fought back a laugh, but failed. It echoed off each of the bathroom walls as Neil sank to his knees. Andrew watched him go with hooded eyes, and his mouth suddenly went dry. The cold of the bathroom door against his back wasn't enough to balance to the heat that pooled up in his gut when Neil ran his lips over his stomach. It was his hands though, that drove him really crazy as they got rid of that one last barrier Andrew still had left.

Neil took him into his mouth without hesitation, and though it had been exactly what Andrew had been craving, his entire world came to a clattering stop as he was again seven years old, being touched in ways that he didn't understand. He had to fight against the urge to push Neil away as years of awful memories came flooding back with only a few strokes of Neil's tongue.

In no time at all, Neil's touch meant nothing to him and where a second ago his skin had burned, now he just felt cold all over.
Andrew pushed Neil's shoulder roughly enough for Neil to get the hint and turned away.


"I can't. I thought I could, but I can't." Neil jerked away as if he'd been burned, giving Andrew his space, but stayed on the floor.

Andrew couldn't bring himself to look at Neil as he fixed his pants and reached for his belt and when Neil tried to apologize, Andrew silenced him with a look he hoped was his usual bored one.


"Don't. This isn't your fault."


"Andrew,"


"No. I'm not talking about this right now, maybe later, but not now."

Andrew's hands shook as he fixed his mussed hair in the mirror without really looking at his reflection. He paused when Neil handed him his shirt, grabbed it without so much as a word and gripped the fabric tightly to avoid punching the mirror where he could still see Neil's reflection. Neil didn't look upset, simply concerned, which was almost worse. Andrew didn't know how to deal with it since he'd only been doing what Andrew had invited him to do. He hadn't expected the flashbacks, and they'd shattered him from the inside out all over again.

"Take care of yourself in here. I'll be at the bar when you're done." He pulled his shirt over his head and left the bathroom knowing that Neil was staring after him.

Andrew sat behind the bar with a bottle of Jack and tucked himself under the counter right between the tap and the sink. He knew it was an asshole move to hide from Neil like this after offering no explanation, but technically he hadn't lied, he really was at the bar. He didn't even want to face himself or his thoughts right now and wanted much less to face Neil with those achingly beautiful blue eyes and questions he couldn't answer without feeling like he would be sick.


He swirled the amber liquid around in the bottle and watched as it spun. The swirls of alcohol caught the lights from overhead and created a bright, nearly opalescent whirlwind inside of the bottle. Andrew thought that if his mind had a physical representation, that his would look the same, except his swirling void would be pure black.
He should have known better than to think that his tryst with Neil could ever have amounted to anything. No amount of trust or even lust was going to be enough get rid of the stain those men had left on him. Andrew let the bottle hang loosely in his hand and let his head drop onto his knee. It would never be enough, and it wasn't Neil's fault.


"Goddamn it," he whispered at first, but kept repeating the words until he was yelling. "Goddamn it, goddamn it, goddamn it!"

The bottle of whisky shattered in a shower of glass and liquid against the other side of the bar, but it wasn't enough to throw just that. He threw everything that wasn't bolted down: Bottles. Glasses. Boxes. Everything. And it still wasn't enough to sate his anger at himself, at the world for letting a life he'd had no control over end up like this.

He'd been about to take the rest of his anger out on tables and chairs on the other side of the bar, but when he'd turned around he found Neil in his way.


Andrew hadn't realized that his chest was heaving with labored breaths, but he was nearly gasping for air, and when he realized that Neil had probably seen everything, he started to laugh because it was just so fucking funny that someone who was dead could continue taking so much from him, as if his dignity and scraps of sanity weren't enough. Now, Neil was also on the list of what ifs. What if Andrew could have held on? What if they had finished? What if Andrew had been normal, could he have kept Neil then?


He was only faintly aware of the pain in his knees and his hands as he fell to the floor, still laughing so hard that he could hardly breathe, much less make any sound at all as he heaved between laughter that was beginning to sound increasingly like sobs.

"Andrew, you need to breathe."

Neil's voice was much closer than it should have been, and that was startling enough to stop the laughter, but now Andrew's eyes just burned. It took several times, opening and closing his mouth to finally find his voice, and he would forever hate how weak it sounded being nearly drowned out by the thumping bass from the speakers downstairs.


"Once, you said you wanted to see me lose control. I bet you regret that now." Andrew's voice was sullen. He picked up a hand and examined all of the glass that had lodged itself in the fleshiest part of his palm and turned it to watch it glitter, but still didn't wince. The pain was the only thing keeping his head clear enough to think.


"I don't," Neil said quietly. Glass crunched beneath his shoes as he crouched down in front of Andrew. "I'm glad I got to see it. It's about time you take off that mask. Andrew, look at me."


Andrew dragged his gaze up from his palm to where Neil crouched. His hand was outstretched, hovering just inches from Andrew's face and his blue eyes were piercingly serious. Andrew turned his head to look at Neil's hand just as Neil said, "If you think any of this," He gestured to the massacred bar with his other hand. "Changes my feelings for you, you're wrong."


Andrew went still, and for a long moment, he stayed silent. Those words strung together like that were such a foreign thing that he had to put serious effort into understanding what they meant.


"There you go again with wasting your time," Andrew said at last. He sneered up at Neil and pointed to his palm. "This is what you feel like to me."


His head pounded in response to the lie, but Neil didn't deserve this. He deserved something stable and someone who could tell him how much he was loved.

This had been the flaw with Cass, too. No matter how much she told him that she wanted to adopt him, how much she may have actually loved him, it wasn't like that was going to fix him. Having everything he wanted dangling right there in front of him was certainly enough to make him toe the line and play nice and try so hard to be fixed but it didn't change the fact that everything inside of him felt black and hollow. It didn't change the fact that he couldn't be fixed. It was better to push everyone away before he became too attached, he'd learned his lesson. Hope was ridiculously painful.


"Good," Neil said, breaking him out of his thoughts. "That means you finally let yourself feel something."


"Neil, I swear to god." Andrew's voice broke, and tears threatened to slip down his cheeks. "Get out of here."


"No. I told you already. I'm not going anywhere. Since you won't talk to me, just listen, okay? I have a pretty good idea of what happened back there and I'm sorry, and it's okay. Pull back if you need to, because I get it. I get that you aren't okay, and I'm sorry if I made you feel pressured by bringing you up here, that wasn't my intention."

Andrew's entire body was so cold as he listened, shaking. If Neil apologized one more time, he was pretty sure he would hit him if he said sorry again when he continued.

"The only things that matters to me, Andrew, look at me. The only things that matter to me in this relationship, and yes, it is a relationship, is this," Neil touched his fingertip to Andrew's head and then dropped it to touch it to his chest, right over his heart. "And this."


Andrew only stared at him blankly, so he kept talking.


"I'm not the poster child for love, but I'm pretty sure that I love you, and if my understanding of love is correct, that means taking everything that you are." Neil stopped there, and Andrew readied himself for the rest, because he knew it was going to hurt when Neil told him he couldn't take it anymore, just like everyone else, he was sure that even he had a limit to how much bullshit he could take. Andrew's gaze fell to the floor and he stared at the glass and resented the way it glittered through the annoying tears that he was trying so hard to prevent from falling. A finger on his chin directed his gaze back to Neil.


"Andrew, look at me, be honest with me, with yourself. Do you want me here?"


He made the mistake of closing his eyes and the tears spilled over. He'd never be able to truly tell Neil how much he did.


"Two-hundred and thirty-four percent, going on thirty-five." Was all Andrew could say, even that sounded strangled. Neil made a noise that was soft and triumphant, and Andrew knew that he understood.


"And I want to be here." He said softly. "I want you, Andrew. It doesn't have to be sexual. It doesn't have to be about Exy or any other stupid superficial thing. You and me against this fucked up world together. That's all I care about."


"You really need to just stop talking." Andrew breathed. He leaned forward, and stopped a few inches away from Neil's lips. "Yes or no?"


"No." Andrew must have looked startled because Neil laughed. "There's glass in your hand, Andrew. Kiss me when we've fixed you up."


Andrew studied Neil's face, wondering for the nth time how he'd gotten so lucky that Neil "always on the run" Josten had stayed in once place long enough to put roots down inside his heart.


"Being with me is never going to be easy you know," Andrew said as he got to his feet, okay enough for now.


"I'd be disappointed if it was."


"I'll never be able to treat you like Aaron treats Katelyn, or Matt treats Dan. Are you sure you're okay with that?"


"I've been shot, stabbed, tortured and burned, Andrew. Your worst is nothing compared to that, and your best is worth enduring all of it all over again. I've never been more sure of myself about anything in my life." Except Exy, but Neil was smart enough not to say that part outloud.


Andrew watched him and knew that he wasn't lying, because he had done those things already for him. Twice.


"Three-hundred percent." Andrew said with a small smile. Luck felt like the wrong word for it now. It felt more like Fate.