Andrew wants to kiss Neil.
Correction: Andrew wants to kiss Neil’s scarred cheeks.
It starts with Andrew coming to a realization.
While they were on the roof watching the last light of the day draining away, Andrew realized he felt calm. It was different from his usual kind of calm detachment, because he wasn’t distancing himself from anything. There was the purple hues in the gamut of the sky, the smudges of fading orange from the sun, the weight of Neil’s head on his shoulder, the warmth of Neil’s body leaning against his, and he felt – soft. At ease.
It made him angry.
He had shoved Neil away and left the roof. Neil kept his distance, allowing Andrew space without asking for any explanation. It made Andrew angrier.
Not unkindly, Bee told him, it’s because you’re unused to this.
Andrew didn’t tell her, there is no this. He told her, I want to try to be gentle. But I don’t think I am capable of it.
She told him, you are. She told him again, Andrew, you are.
Andrew has kissed other parts of Neil that aren’t his lips. His hipbone, his thighs, his navel. Neil has kissed other parts of Andrew too. His forearms, his chest, and of course, his neck.
But Andrew has never kissed any other parts of Neil’s face, and he realizes that he wants to. He wants to press his lips to the pleats of knife scars on his right cheek, to the whorl of burn marks on his left cheek, to the tip of his freckled nose. He’s dug his teeth into the defined corner of Neil’s jaw, but he wants to kiss it too.
In the dorm room, when they are by themselves, Andrew tells Neil, I want to try something.
Putting his pencil down and closing his textbook, Neil tells Andrew, okay.
In the bedroom, Andrew says, I want to try something, but I need you to close your eyes.
Neil looks at him, then says, okay.
Andrew looks at him, then closes the space between them. The light from the bedside table skims off Neil’s eyelashes and splatters over his skin in gold.
Andrew asks, yes or no?
With his eyes closed, Neil says, yes.
Andrew tucks Neil’s hair behind an ear, leans forward with his chin tilted, and kisses Neil on his cheek. He feels the bob of muscle under his lips, but Neil keeps his eyes closed. Andrew strokes his thumb over the spot he just kissed, and thinks, yes.
He shifts a little and kisses the knot of pink skin on Neil’s other cheek. He does it once, twice, thrice. He does it again and again, each kiss softer than the last.
He falls back flat on his feet. He didn’t realize that he was standing on his tiptoes.
He tells Neil, you can open your eyes.
Neil opens them, blinking slowly, eyelashes fluttering.
He asks, may I?
Neil raises his hands and cups Andrew’s face. The tips of his fingers glide into Andrew’s hair. The blueness of his eyes is annihilating.
He asks, may I?
Andrew says, yes.
Neil leans forward, and kisses Andrew on his forehead.
Eyes falling shut, Andrew exhales softly.
He thinks, yes.