Fandom: All for the game
Riassunto: Sometimes Neil doesn't want to be touched and, other times he craves physical contact like his life depends on it. He tries to hide it as best as he can, but Andrew notices.
Note: Scritta per la M2 della 6° settimana del COWT9 per "Falling asleep against someone’s shoulder"
Andrew knows he has his limits when it comes to being touched and it's not something he will apologize for, not something he will have anyone make him feel bad about. Andrew has his scars, some more visible and some that linger under his skin, and he refuses to feel inferior because of them.
There are some who have tried, of course, who have looked at Andrew's preference of avoiding touch and tried to use it against him, manipulate him into giving it up or straight ignored his warnings thinking they could take advantage of him. Andrew has made sure that none of them would ever make that mistake again. He's sure they listened.
There are others who have accepted Andrew's preference and treated them like a quirk. They didn't make much sense to them, but they played within the rules without really understanding why the rules were there in the first place. That was perfectly fine with Andrew who didn't want to explain himself or really care too much or too deeply about any of them. Their deal, as impersonal as it was, was exactly what Andrew wanted from them and nothing more.
Neil isn't like them, has never been.
First of all because Andrew, for all that he tried very hard not to, cares for him. He can say it at least in his own mind because he's not in the habit of lying to himself.
Second of all because Neil had started accepting Andrew's no easily, even before he knew what was behind them. Even the silence hadn't been taken as maybes or tentative yes, Neil waited for Andrew's consent and never seemed disappointed when it was slow to come or never came at all.
Neil notices Andrew's needs, the subtle hints that he doesn't want anyone near, that he wants to be ignored. He also notices when Andrew doesn't mind touching without Andrew having to say anything, but he always asks anyway.
The same way Neil can understand Andrew, he knows how to read Neil. And what Andrew noticed first when they started this nothing between them is that unlike him, Neil sometimes craves physical touch.
There are days where Neil is perfectly content avoiding any kind of physical touch, and others in which he sticks closer to Matt and Nicky. Never asking, but always ready.
It seems to be a itch, something that makes him twitchy and incapable of staying put.
On those days, Neil runs even more than he usually does, and never sits down for too long.
The thing that Andrew notices as well is that Neil never asks him to touch him when he feels that way. He recognizes his own need, but never seeks out Andrew for help. Someone might think it’s because he doesn’t want Andrew’s touch, but he knows that it’s because is the complete opposite.
Andrew sees the way that, sometimes, Neil extends one hand towards Andrew’s before stopping himself. The way Neil’s body arches slightly towards Andrew’s when they sit next to each other and the way Neil tenses the moment he realizes.
Neil wants to touch him more than anyone else, and exactly for that reason he refuses to ask, so he doesn’t have to burden Andrew with this need.
A misguided decision, really, since Andrew will never regret or hesitate in saying no if he needs to, but also… appreciated.
Still, Andrew decides to take matter into his own hands.
After this, he tries to make Neil ask him to touch him wherever the other starts twitching too much. He tries one time while they’re in bed but the other just smiles at him and tells him he’s going to go running. He tries one day while they are in the dorm, but Matt is spooned with Dan and Nicky is in the other room talking to Eric, but Neil simply smiles at him and starts watching videos with Kevin, sitting far too closely to him.
He tries other times, but Neil who has always been extremely perceptive when it came to anyone beside himself, doesn’t seem to realize what he’s doing.
It’s incredibly frustrating.
Andrew is thinking about giving up, after all it seems that Neil has found ways to cope on his own, when he arrives on the roof and sees Neil walking back and forth, a ball of nervous energy. He looks at him for a couple of seconds, studying his movement, before sighing.
Andrew needs to do something about this now, he thinks, since Neil is too fucking stupid to do on his own. It seems that even if he likes to pretend to be an adult, Neil still doesn’t know how to use his voice whenever he needs something.
Surely, if Andrew were to ask him how he was, the Junkie would reply fine and simply walk away.
“180%” Andrew says, and that finally seems to attract Neil’s attention.
He turns towards him, surprised to see him there.
“Andrew? Sorry. I didn’t see you there, are you here to smoke?” he asks, stopping his pacing. His leg, Andrew notices, is still moving, almost without his control.
It annoys him to no end.
So Andrew sighs and walks towards the wall beside the door, for once away from the edge of the roof and points beside him. “Sit here.”
Neil hesitates a couple of seconds, looking at the door, but in the end he follows Andrew’s command and he sits down beside him. It doesn’t seem that this calms him down any, however.
“I was thinking of going for a run,” Neil tells him, almost standing up again.
Andrew finally gives up. It seems that Neil will never ask him to touch him and for everything Neil does to accommodate Andrew, it seems that this time Andrew might have to give in.
“Yes or no?” he asks then, sounding bored.
Neil stops completely, turning towards him. Surprise and a little bit of confusion color his eyes, but it doesn’t take much for him to reply with a “You know it’s always yes.”
Normally, Andrew would reprimand him for that answer (it was never always yes, but always yes until it was a no) but today he has a plan to enact and so the moment Neil says yes, Andrew leans and puts his head on Neil’s shoulder.
The other freezes, his muscle contracting under Andrew’s head, but Andrew doesn’t move. If Neil wants him to, he only has to say no and Andrew will move immediately.
Instead, little by little, Neil relaxes under him. The tense lines of his shoulder soften under Andrew’s hair and it’s what compels Andrew to say, “You can touch my hair and nothing else.”
Neil takes a moment to comply, but after a couple of seconds Andrew feels the other’s hand combing through his hair. It’s nice and Andrew is glad that today seems to be a good day and that he can actually give this to Neil.
“Sometimes it’s like I can’t sit still if I don’t touch someone,” Neil explains. He doesn’t sound regretful, or like he’s apologizing for it. He’s simply telling Andrew something he already figured out himself but it seems important for Neil to say it, and so Andrew lets him.
“I don’t know why it happens,” Neil continues. “I mean, my parents weren’t the most affectionate. When my mother touched me…” he stops, but Andrew knows how he was going to continue.
Neil might not talk too much about the abuse he suffered at his mother’s hand (nor consider it an abuse) but Andrew has had some rather violent thoughts about her.
“So I really don’t know why. But I can’t seem to shake it off,” Neil finishes, continuing coming through Andrew’s hair.
His leg isn’t twitching anymore, and he seems more relaxed than Andrew has seen him in weeks.
There’s nothing Andrew can tell him that would help him make sense of this. Andrew doesn’t understand this craving, after all. He might actually want to touch Neil, sometimes, but it’s a rather new feeling and never something so overwhelming that he has to start moving to shake it off.
Andrew can’t even promise Neil to always be up to this kind of touching, really.
So Andrew just closes his eyes and tells him: “Wake me up later. Kevin snored and I need to sleep.”
They both know that Andrew would have preferred sleeping in his own room, where he was more protected, but they don’t point it out.
Neil simply smiles and laughs.
He doesn’t say thank you, he doesn’t acknowledges Andrew’s kind gesture in any way, and so Andrew can finally relax and actually take a little nap.