67: “My clothes look really good on you.” Neil/Andrew? Pretty please? 🙏🏻
It’s sickly hot on the day they’re supposed to play their first match of the season, a late summer heat that peels the cold morning away and sweats people out of their layers.
Neil’s mostly used to discomfort, so he puts his head down and gets on the bus. The rest of the foxes complain dramatically and threaten to strip until Wymack blasts the air conditioning and cuffs a few heads.
Everyone zips their sweaters off and ties their hair up, starting the laborious process of nest-making for the duration of the 9 hour drive to Cleveland. Every time Neil looks Andrew is aloof and pristine, like the sun isn’t any better at getting under his armour than anyone else.
If you’re looking properly, you can see sweat turning the ends of his hair up and darkening his temples. It’s a strange indignity that Andrew wears like a calculated choice.
Nicky presses his icy water bottle into the base of Neil’s neck, and he gasps, clutching for the source.
“He lives!” Nicky says. “I’ve been calling you for five minutes.”
“We’ve been on the bus for thirty seconds,” Neil snaps.
“Thirty seconds too long,” Nicky laughs, leaning over the back of his seat so his arms dangle over Neil’s lap. “You wanna come talk strategy with Kev?”
Neil meets Nicky’s bright eyes, overly conscious of Andrew at his back, mussed by the temperature. He feels buttery nostalgia for the three hours they spent talking on the way to Baltimore, teeth pulling his lip in the empty bus, opening doors and considering it a win when Andrew didn’t close them.
“We’ve been pouring over stats for two weeks,” Neil tells Nicky, purposefully looking out the window to avoid his gaze. “We’re walking in ready.”
“Ahh, you’d think that. But apparently we have ‘blind spots’ that need seeing to. So says her majesty.” Nicky smirks, nodding at Kevin over his shoulder.
“Is he vice captain?”
“No,” Nicky says, mouth already curling in satisfaction.
“Then tell him to fuck off.”
“With pleasure, Neil Josten,” Nicky says, overly dramatic, winking back at him as he wanders to Kevin’s seat.
“Are you finally sick of it?” Andrew asks, and Neil lets himself enjoy the thrum of satisfaction he gets whenever Andrew initiates things. He turns all the way around in his seat.
“Of exy? No. Of kevin, yes.”
Andrew’s cool eyes trip over the foxes and windows and coughing AC units, landing on Neil and settling. Neil feels a yank in his gut like someone caught him by the waist while he was running full speed.
“Give me your bag.”
The feeling ebbs in a distracted sort of way, and Neil frowns. “Why?”
Andrew looks away, eyelashes light and fine on his cheekbones when he blinks. Neil knows from experience that another five minutes of heat would have curled Andrew’s hair and flushed his cheeks and neck.
He wants to see that. Like if he could take Andrew off the bus and kiss him in the thick heat, it would fix the feeling in his stomach.
“I want something,” Andrew says simply.
Neil rolls his eyes, but stands anyway. “That’s new.” He sways with the bus as he wrestles his duffel bag from the overhead compartment, dropping it on the seat next to Andrew.
Andrew unzips the top halfway and peels back Neil’s meticulously packed layers. The bus nearly topples him, so he settles back in and watches Andrew work, charmed.
He seems to find what he’s looking for, and Neil sees a flash of black fabric and the blur of Andrew rising out of his seat and into the aisle.
“Where are you going?”
Andrew slides him an unimpressed look and walks to the bathroom installed in the back of the bus. Neil watches him go, wondering wildly if he’s supposed to follow him.
He glances back along the groove of the aisle and finds Kevin ignoring Aaron and Nicky to glare at him. Beyond him, Matt’s grinning at Dan as she talks one of the newcomers through a play, and Allison’s curled up with a sleep mask and Renee’s shoulder.
He sits back against the sun-hot window and lets the jerky motion of the road keep him alert. He looks back towards the closed bathroom door and forward again, curiosity shivering over him.
Andrew emerges a second later, and Neil’s mouth goes cottony dry.
He’s put on Neil’s shirt. It’s the one that goes high enough to cover the scars framing Neil’s collarbones when he’s wearing it, but it leaves his arms open. It was part of this layered ensemble that Andrew bought him over the summer, but he almost only wears it to sleep because it shows the thatched burns on his ribcage. It’s breezy and comfortable and it’s not the first time Andrew’s stolen it.
But he doesn’t usually wear it where people can see, with his sweaty hair pushed halfway back and his arms pink from the sun he caught on the roof yesterday.
He sweeps back into his seat and pulls one knee up to his chest, and Neil watches the orchestration of his muscles matching up and tensing.
Andrew’s finger enters his field of view, too close to focus on. “Get that look off your face.”
“Get my shirt off, then,” Neil says before he can clap a filter on it. Andrew splays his arm all over his lounging knee, and Neil can see a pale triangle of skin under his arm, which shouldn’t mean anything to him. It shouldn’t.
“I didn’t pack for 100 degrees,” Andrew says, voice mild.
“Good,” Neil blurts.“My clothes look really good on you.” He swallows, and Andrew blinks at him, a bored predator.
“That’s the gayest thing I’ve ever heard, Neil!” Nicky hollers from four seats up. Neil’s mouth pinches with annoyance. “I’ve fucked guys, and that’s the gayest thing I’ve ever heard.”
“No one wants to hear that,” Aaron says, putting in earbuds and shoving over to the far end of his seat.
“I thought it was relevant context,” Nicky argues, and Kevin smacks him in the back of the head.
The front of the bus devolves into chaotic conversation, and Neil looks back at Andrew.
“I was serious.”
“I know you were.” This would be where he took a drag from his cigarette, if this was their rooftop. This would be where he kisses him. Neil watches him with that secret in his mouth, and when Andrew looks back, he can tell he’s thinking the same thing.
“It will not be a regular occurrence,” Andrew says. “Your wardrobe is barely fit for one person.”
“Right.” Neil smiles right behind his teeth, where it doesn’t show on his face. “I’m willing to take the hit.”
Andrew regards him over the seat back. “Aren’t you always?”
Neil leans in and drags his eyes deliberately over the column of Andrew’s neck on the way to his face. “I want to kiss you.”
Andrew tilts his head. “I can’t help you.”
Neil takes this without complaint, but he stays folded over the back of the seat. “This is enough,” he says, a foot between them, Andrew’s broad shoulders holding his shirt taut across them.
“Shouldn’t you be obsessing over the court by now?” Andrew asks, cleanly sidestepping Neil’s attention.
“It is a court,” Neil says, smiling. “It’ll still be there in nine hours.”
“And yet you drag us along three times a day to get your fix.”
“No one asks you to come.”
Andrew gives him a look and Neil huffs, looking at the ceiling like it’ll stop the thrill from showing on his face.
“But I’m glad you do.”
“You’re in a sharing mood today,” Andrew says, like he’s commenting on an unfortunate traffic jam.
Neil reaches out to finger the collar of his shirt, and he feels a hollow jerk go through Andrew when his knuckles brush his neck. “It must be the heat.”