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all the stars in the sky

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Andrew woke up in the middle of the night. This wasn’t an uncommon occurrence, for him or Neil. Their pasts were checkered with enough trauma to drive a man insane, and there were nights they weren’t sure they had escaped that fate. The only thing unusual about this night in particular, was that Andrew hadn’t had a nightmare. His dreams were unusually silent, offering no explanation for his abrupt awakening. He turned over and comprehension dawned. His unconscious mind had registered an absence. Neil wasn’t in bed. Andrew reached out a hand, touching the sheets Neil usually occupied. Still warm. Neil hadn’t been gone long.

Andrew sat up, stretching his arms over his head before getting out of bed. The cats were piled onto each other in a corner, sleeping peacefully. Andrew envied them. He grabbed a sweatshirt off the ground, pulling it over his bare torso. It was big on him, reaching the bottom hem of his boxers, and it smelled like cigarette smoke and Old Spice. Neil never hung things up in their proper places, and had a tendency to leave clothes lying around the bedroom, leading to a lot of clothes-swapping. Andrew didn’t complain. He wasn’t willing to admit it, but there was something annoyingly comforting about being surrounded by Neil’s scent, like he was always there with him.

Andrew left the bedroom, picking his way through the miscellaneous cat toys and oddly placed furniture that littered their shared apartment to the balcony. He could already see Neil through the window, reclining on the lawn chair they had placed out there. Andrew had known exactly where Neil would go. This was their go-to place when nightmares wouldn't let them go back to sleep right away.

Neil didn’t react when Andrew opened the door and stepped into the night air. He had probably been expecting him.

“One of these days, Josten, I am going to tire of your disruptions to my sleep cycles, and on that day, you had better start running,” Andrew said, in a poor facsimile of a threat. There was no heat behind the words, no matter how much Andrew like to posture. Neil kept his eyes focused on the night sky.

“Sorry I woke you,” Neil said, and Andrew rolled his eyes.

“You forgot to put on clothes, idiot,” Andrew admonished. Neil looked down at his bare chest, as if he only just then realized he was only wearing sweatpants. He smirked.

“If only there was someone around who could keep me warm,” he responded in a teasing voice, cutting his eyes to Andrew and looking up at him from under his long lashes. Andrew flipped him off, but moved closer and folded himself into Neil’s lap. The lawn chair would hold their combined weights. It had before.

Neil waited for Andrew to make himself comfortable before wrapping his arms around him. Neil’s chin hooked over Andrew’s shoulder, and his arms kept their bodies flush against each other. Some tension in Neil’s body melted away, leaving him pliant.

“You get five minutes to wallow, then you come back to bed with me,” Andrew stated, in no uncertain terms. It wasn’t a question, but Neil nodded his acquiescence anyway. Andrew slid his hands down Neil’s uncovered arms, chasing away his goosebumps before intertwining their fingers. Neil dropped an absentminded kiss on Andrew’s shoulder. It was a more peaceful tableau than either of them had ever deserved or expected. There wasn’t justice in the world if Andrew got to have this.

“Do I want to ask which of your numerous issues caused this escapade tonight?” Andrew asked after a long period of silence.

“It wasn’t anything new,” Neil said after brief hesitation. “My father, Riko, losing you, being back at Evermore. They all tend to blend together on bad nights.”

“And that merited the balcony?” Andrew asked again, but Neil was already shaking his head.

“I just really wanted to see the stars tonight,” Neil said. “When we were on the run, we would drive through the countryside, and the stars would always be so bright. The cities didn’t really have the best view, but those long drives- It was like you could see every star in the galaxy. Just like this.” Andrew didn’t say anything.

A minute passed. Their shared heat was enough to make Andrew drowsy again, and Neil’s steady breaths in his ear and his heartbeat keeping perfect time lulled him into relaxation. One of Neil’s hands drew lazy shapes on Andrew’s stomach over his pilfered sweatshirt.

“Can I ask why you’re wearing my favorite sweatshirt?” Neil asked, breaking the silence.

“No.” Neil huffed out a soft laugh at Andrew’s terse response, before gently nipping at Andrew’s neck.

“I’m definitely not complaining. I like you in my clothes,” Neil said in an undertone. Andrew could feel his smirk against the skin of his neck, and he absolutely did not shiver.

“There are no words for how much I want to strangle you at any given moment,” Andrew said. Neil’s smirk widened into a full grin. Silence reigned again.

Five minutes passed quickly. As soon as time was up, Andrew broke Neil’s hold on him, spinning around gracefully in the lawn chair to straddle Neil. He put his hands around Neil’s face, thumbs on his scarred cheekbones. Neil stared up at him, utterly trusting from his vulnerable position.

“Pay attention to my words. Riko is dead. Your father is also dead, and his organization was destroyed. I am here, I am not going anywhere, and I am not letting anyone else have you” Andrew said. Neil already knew all of this, and Andrew had recited this speech to him enough times that they could say it in synchrony. It didn’t matter. Andrew would say it as many time as he needed to.

“You are mine, and mine alone. Do you understand me?” Neil nodded, staring up at him with that one stupid look on his face, the one that drove Andrew crazy. Andrew pressed a kiss against his lips, partially to wipe the expression away and partially because he could. Neil responded eagerly, but Andrew kept the kiss brief, if not completely chaste.

He pulled away, and stepped off the lawn chair, waiting for Neil to clamber off as well, before offering his hand. Neil grabbed onto it like a lifeline, allowing Andrew to lead the way back to their bed. They kept the lights off in the room as they stripped back down to their boxers, careful not wake the cats. They both slid back under the covers, Andrew curling into Neil’s side with a hand on his heart, just enough pressure to keep him grounded. Neil pressed a lingering kiss into Andrew’s hair, before relaxing into the sheets and pillows. Andrew was almost asleep when he heard Neil’s voice.

“You know, you’re a way better view than all the stars in the galaxy.” Andrew felt his face heat up against his will where it was pressed into Neil’s shoulder.

“Shut the fuck up,” Andrew said, before following his own advice and succumbing to dreamless sleep.