Andrew hasn’t slept since Thursday night. It’s the only fact with any physical weight to him at the moment, as he sits on the windowsill with his forehead against the chilly glass. The living room is mostly dark, tinted with the the greenish hue that comes before pre-dawn, and he stares out over the park as the sky steadily lightens with morning.
Friday night’s game had tired him out, but somehow he’d gotten only an hour of sleep before his brain dropkicked him into reluctant consciousness. There hadn’t been any nightmares, for once. He just couldn’t sleep. And now he feels the crash coming upon him, an unwelcome reminder of over a decade ago when his life had been dictated by little white pills.
He doesn’t even have enough energy to be properly maudlin. The only things on his mind are his aching eyes, his warm bed, and Neil sleeping peacefully. He lurches into standing, and heads for the bedroom.
Their condo is large, larger than the two of them need really, but the cats appreciate the extra space. It’s paid for mostly by Andrew, but it’s the one he wanted, even though Neil had tried to reason him into one of the more modest choices their realtor had prepared for them. Andrew had figured that if he could afford the best choice, why not get it? Neil had issues when it came to spending a lot of money on things for himself, issues that Andrew didn’t have the patience to work through so he put it all on his account and dealt with the fallout later.
Their bedroom is the largest one; it sits on the corner of the building with large windows along two walls that offer a gorgeous view of the surrounding area, according to their realtor. Andrew hadn’t cared for the view and instead had hung up blackout curtains to allow him to sleep in without interruption from the sun.
Neil had pulled open one of the curtains sometime in the night, or maybe before he’d gone to sleep. Andrew hadn’t even gone to bed last night, so he didn’t know. The window adjacent to the bed is uncovered, letting in the bluish light of the very early morning. It makes the scars on Neil’s body look softer somehow, less harsh and more like they’re a part of him instead of remnants of his past that linger unwanted in his skin.
Andrew likes Neil’s scars. He’s never told him, and he never plans to. They don’t repulse him or make him uncomfortable. They’re badges, trophies that show this is what was done to me and this is what I survived. Neil doesn’t hide them anymore, and Andrew’s glad for it, both because his shame was intensely aggravating and because this way he gets to see more of Neil’s body on a regular basis.
Neil has mellowed out since their college days, and usually Andrew can sneak into bed without waking Neil up, but today he’s exhausted and more clumsy than usual. The bed bounces more than planned as he finally lays down and pulls the comforter over his cold body, and Neil makes a low sound and scoots closer to Andrew. He always runs warm and only ever covers up with the sheet, which now is pooled across the small of his back, leaving everything above open for scrutiny by Andrew.
Andrew lifts a trembling hand and sets it in the middle of Neil’s back, his eyes roaming over the patchwork quality of his skin. The scarring isn’t as severe as his front, but it is still very significant. His eyes half close as his fingers move unchecked, following along the seams in his skin as if trying to find the proper route on a roadmap. It’s soothing to him, somehow, like petting the cats is to Neil. Neil makes a noise low in his throat again in contentment, and Andrew almost rolls his eyes at how apt the comparison is.
“Why are you playing with my back?” Neil asks, voice rough from sleep. He’s been awake since Andrew got in bed, Andrew knows, and anyway there’s comfortable amusement in his tone.
“Not your back,” Andrew replies, voice uncooperative in his tired haze. “You gave it to me.”
“And then you gave it back, remember?” His face is still turned away from Andrew, but there’s something more in his tone now that Andrew can’t parse at the moment. Later.
He drums his fingers on Neil’s shoulder blade. “No takebacks,” he says, childishly. Neil shifts slightly, and switches which side of his head is pressed against the pillow so that he faces Andrew. He’s more awake and functional than Andrew is at this point, but the look on his face makes Andrew pinch his back and close his eyes in irritation.
He can feel Neil’s back move as he laughs his weird little hitching-breath giggle. Maybe he’s not as awake as Andrew thought, but that only makes the idea of falling asleep better. Who needs a space heater when Neil Josten is laying right next to you?
The blankets rustle. “Are you asleep?” Neil asks, right in front of his face.
Andrew runs his hand over the expanse of Neil’s back once more before letting it rest across the small of it under the sheet and tugs him closer just enough that their noses brush. “Not yet,” he breathes, and then falls asleep at last.