42 + andreil? :)
It only took me all month to answer this! So sorry!
42: “I swear it was an accident.”
Andrew hasn’t even made it into the apartment and already he knows there’s trouble. His first hint is the smell: smoke. Not cigarette smoke, but a gross, acrid, burnt smoky smell. The second hint is the wail of the smoke detector and indistinct shouting. The third and most telling hint is that the door is half open, a definite no-no in the Minyard-Josten household.
I am so done with this shit Andrew thinks and then What the fuck is Neil doing? He pushes the door open, wrinkling his nose at the smell, which is almost overpowering.
“Honey, I’m home,” he calls out, voice heavy on the sarcasm.
Neil comes tearing around the corner, shirtless and inexplicably covered in blood.
“Oh my god! Andrew!” Neil yells. He’s holding a bloody towel and trying, ineffectually, to keep the blood from dripping on the floor. “I swear it was an accident!”
Andrew drops his bags and strides forward, checking Neil over. The wounds are superficial and look a lot like scratches. But that doesn’t explain the bloody nose.
“What the fuck happened?” Andrew demands.
“Neil, I can’t find Sir anywhere—oh…” Andrew stares hard at the man who has just walked out of the bedroom—he and Neil’s bedroom. “Andrew! Hey, uh, wow. This is awkward.”
Their landlord, Aubrey, is for reasons unknown also shirtless and covered in scratches. Andrew looks at Aubrey, then at Neil, his face as blank as always.
Neil looks on the verge of a breakdown. “Aubrey, can you shut off the damn smoke detector? I swear to God I am about to lose my mind…” Neil hops up on the kitchen counter, head tipped back to try and stop the bleeding. “Christ. This is what I get for trying to be romantic.”
Aubrey snorts and Andrew shoots him a nasty glare. The snort turns into a terrified meep. Aubrey busies himself with the smoke detector, climbing on top of one of their chairs and unscrewing the covering to remove the batteries. The ceiling fans, Andrew notices, are circulating at top power and all the windows are open, letting in the muggy summer heat.
“So, what had happened was,” Neil starts. “I wanted to make you dinner.” Already Andrew is shaking his head. “I know! I know I’m not supposed to use the oven while you’re gone but I was just going to heat up some bread while I microwaved a lasagna. But I got distracted by the game… you know… and the lasagna blew up in the microwave.” Neil waves his hand to indicate the mess dripping out of the microwave onto the counter and floor. It looks like something from a horror film. “I started trying to clean that up,” Neil continues, “but I forgot I had the bread in the oven.”
“You forgot to mention the salad,” Aubrey interrupts. He looks like he’s enjoying this story too much, or maybe he’s just enjoying the view of Neil without his shirt. Andrew places a protective hand on Neil’s thigh and squeezes.
“Right, the salad. I bought a salad in a bag and I put the glass salad bowl Allison gave us on top of the stove so I wouldn’t forget.” Andrew already knows where this is going. “But I didn’t realize that I had accidentally turned on the burner when I turned on the oven? So the bowl got super hot and exploded!” Neil spreads out his fingers to mime an explosion. “Some of the glass sliced me. It scared the crap out of King and Sir. I stepped on some glass trying to go look for them. Then the bread I don’t know caught fire? Or something? It started smoking and set off the alarm.”
“Meanwhile I was getting calls from y’all’s neighbors about the noise and came up to check,” Aubrey interjects. “Neil answers the door covered in blood so I, uh, took off my shirt to staunch the bleeding.”
Andrew literally cannot believe Aubrey. He just stares at him. Stupid Aubrey and his 5’5” and his stupid football player build.
“While we were talking King snuck out,” Neil points at the door. “Aubrey chased him and brought him back but King scratched the shit out of him. We managed to get him in the bathroom. Which, okay, everything was fine but my feet were bleeding and I slipped on the linoleum and Aubrey tried to catch me and we both went down and I hit my nose on the side of the tub. Hurt like a motherfucker.”
“He swore a lot,” Aubrey adds.
“Right, so, that’s it. In a nutshell. Totally an accident, all of it.”
Andrew surveys Neil, bloody and with bruises already blossoming on his skin. He takes in the wrecked kitchen, the bloody footprints leading everywhere. The oven is open, the last of the smoke drifting out of the apartment. Through the open window he can see two charred baguettes smoldering on the balcony. Lastly, he looks at Aubrey, still clutching his blood stained T-shirt to his obnoxiously waxed and muscled chest.
“Well,” Andrew says, “this is a cluster.”
After Aubrey leaves Andrew takes care of Neil, cleaning up his injuries like he’s done time and time again, though this is the first time that Neil has ever sustained culinary-related wounds. Thankfully the scratches and cuts are shallow but Neil will have black eyes from the nose job.
Once Andrew is done with First Aid he carries Neil back to the bedroom, settling him down on the bed. Sir, who has been hiding on the high shelves in the closet, jumps down and joins Neil. Andrew lets King out of the bathroom and King gives an indignant merow before getting on the bed. All four of them form a pile of bodies, human and feline. King settles on Andrew’s chest, kneading him and purring, sharp claws poking through his shirt. Sir licks the side of Neil’s face.
“I’m really sorry, Drew,” Neil sighs. “I wanted to do something nice for you and it ended up a disaster.”
“That’s what you get for breaking house rules,” Andrew grumps, flicking Neil’s ear. “But… thanks.”
Neil looks at him, blue eyes wide and startled. Andrew flicks him again. “But I better not catch you in our bedroom with another man, again.”
Neil laughs, head tipped back on the pillow. “Can you believe Aubrey took his shirt off? Who does he think he is, Magic Mike?”
Andrew groans. “Never should have let Nicky pick that one for movie night.”
They’re quiet for a minute; the only noise is the sound of the cats purring. Andrew scratches behind King’s ears and then does the same thing to Neil. Neil squints at him but smiles and leans into his touch.
“I’m glad you’re back,” Neil says.
Andrew tugs at Neil’s earlobe. “Glad to be back.”