When Jesse gets back to the store, he spends so long panicking about the fact that not only does he have a date tonight with Andrew, he has a date tonight with Andrew in front of all his friends that he almost forgets to go upstairs to get ready.
He’s still half way through poking at his curls, trying to get them to do something other than explode across his skull like an Hebraic geyser, when someone knocks on the door downstairs.
“It’s open,” Jesse calls because apparently he has a death wish.
“Hi,” Andrew calls up the stairs. “Am I early? Sorry.”
“No, that’s okay.” Jesse stands up. “You’re not, I’m just running late.” Jesse never normally runs late but he does his best to sound like he’s relaxed rather than ridiculously anxious about it.
Andrew bounces up the stairs - walls shaking a little as he goes - and through into Jesse’s living room. “Hi,” he says again, hesitating for a second before leaning forward and pulling Jesse into a hug.
Jesse hugs back automatically, pleased that Andrew doesn’t throw in any of those backslap things that Justin’s so keen on. They always knock all the air out of Jesse’s lungs and he’s never sure how to respond.
“You look fantastic,” Andrew says when he pulls back, which is ridiculous since Andrew is wearing a dark silver shirt with the top few buttons open and a pair of black jeans that are almost as tight as the Spider-man suit was this afternoon. He looks so good that Jesse really wants to demand to know what he’s doing here of all places when he could probably be on a catwalk somewhere, drinking champagne with other, equally gorgeous, people.
“I, uh. You. You too,” Jesse finally manages. “Let’s go, should we go?”
“Is it far?” Andrew asks, following Jesse out of the apartment and waiting while he locks up.
“Not too far,” Jesse says, then remembers that most people don’t like to walk like he does. “It’s twenty blocks, maybe. Do you want to take the subway?”
“No.” Andrew shakes his head. “I’m happy to walk.”
They fall into step beside each other, walking in silence for the first block. Then Andrew clears his throat and starts telling Jesse about his afternoon of dangling off balconies pretending to be a giant spider. In return, Jesse tells Andrew about the fight Emma had a with a guy who tried to jerk off in the history section.
“The history section?” Andrew asks, stopping to turn and frown at Jesse. “The erotica section, I might understand.”
Jesse shrugs. “Maps are sexy,” he says. “I have a little crush on Ptolemy’s Geographia myself.”
Andrew smiles. “I’ll remember that,” he says then keeps walking, leaving Jesse blinking after him.
When he’s not lurking around Jesse’s store, flirting with Emma and scaring the patrons, Justin is the manager of a terrifyingly trendy bar that caters to NYU students. Every year on his birthday, he rents out the VIP area and they all get horribly, disastrously drunk. It’s not like Jesse doesn’t enjoy getting drunk, but the older he gets, the less tolerant he’s growing of hangovers.
“This is nice,” Andrew says when the bouncer nods them inside and they weave their way through twisting bodies to get to the roped off stairs leading upstairs.
“If you say so,” Jesse says. Someone dances straight into him and he stumbles, some strange mix of mortified and delighted when Andrew catches him with an arm around his waist, pulling Jesse against his side.
“Careful,” Andrew says, warm in Jesse’s ear, then guides him through the crowd, arm a warm and solid bar across Jesse’s back.
Everyone else is already upstairs. Emma’s drinking beer and flicking peanuts at Justin, who’s sprawled back in his chair, looking blitzed already. Kristen and Armie are making out in the corner of one sofa, body-bumping against Patrick who’s half in Joe’s lap to get away.
“Um, hi,” Jesse says, clearing his throat. It’s ridiculous, these are his best friends, but he always feels awkward when he arrives somewhere last, like this is going to be the time they turn around and tell him he’s not allowed to join them.
“Jesse!” Emma says, looking up. Then her eyes go wide, looking past Jesse at Andrew. “Holy shit.”
Belatedly, Jesse realises that he probably should have phoned everyone earlier to beg them to please, please not scare Andrew away.
Jesse grabs Andrew’s wrist and pulls him forward. “This is Andrew,” he says, keeping his voice steady (ish). “Andrew, this is everyone.”
“Hello, everyone,” Andrew says, stepping forward and holding out a hand. Jesse watches, bemused, as Andrew goes around everyone, learning their names and having something charming to say to each of them, like he’s fucking royalty or something. He even waits for Armie to take his tongue out of Kristen’s mouth and doesn’t look at all fazed by the twin, wide-eyed stares they give him.
Finally, he circles back around to Jesse and leans into him. “I’ll get us drinks,” he says, “What would you like?”
Jesse asks for a Manhattan because he thinks he’s going to need something strong to face all the questions written brightly on his friend’s faces. Andrew kisses Jesse’s cheek - Jesse doesn’t know why he keeps doing that or why it feels so good - and Jesse watches him walk over to the bar for as long as he can before Joe, Emma and Kristen all grab him and spin him around.
“What the actual fuck, dude?” Joe asks. He waves his hands like he can’t quite push the question all the way out of his mouth.
“What?” Jesse asks, aiming for innocent but probably missing.
“That’s... That’s...” Now Emma’s waving her hands, too.
“Jess.” Kristen puts her hands on Jesse’s shoulders. “Honey, where did you pick up Spider-man?”
“Their meet-cute was both meety and cutey,” Justin slurs, coming up behind her and draping one arm over her shoulders, the other over Joe’s. He leans over and points at Jesse waveringly. “I knew you were banging him. Why’d you have to lie to me, bro?”
“I didn’t. I’m not.” Jesse pushes through them and goes to sit next to Patrick. “Hi,” he says firmly.
Patrick smiles languidly and holds out his fist for Jesse to bump. He grins when Jesse doesn’t and gives him a quick hug instead. “So, your new boyfriend’s hot,” he says, because Patrick is quieter than the others but no less nosy.
“He’s not my boyfriend,” Jesse moans then straightens up abruptly when he sees Andrew return with drinks. He stops to chat to Justin, handing him a beer which Justin really does not need, then sits next to Jesse, knocking their knees together in greeting.
“Sorry about them,” Jesse says, taking his drink and touching his ankle against Andrew’s.
Andrew smiles. “Why? Everyone seems lovely,” he says, sipping from the bottle of beer that he’s holding between long, tanned fingers.
“Ha, damn right we are,” Emma says, plonking herself down on Patrick’s lap so she can lean over Jesse and smirk evilly at Andrew. “Now you’ve got to tell us how you met Jesse. Jesse never tells us anything.”
“Oh, Jesse saved my life,” Andrew says easily. “I had a wardrobe emergency and Jesse was lovely enough to lend me a jumper.”
That is possibly the nicest possible way Andrew could have told that story. It’s largely bullshit, obviously, but Jesse still appreciates it. He leans into Andrew’s side a little and admits, “I spilled coffee over him.” He points at Joe. “And this is the guy who made the coffee, so Andrew if you’re looking to sue anyone, he’s the one.”
Joe gapes at him then sits forward. “You wore my coffee?” he asks. “How was it?”
“Very comfortable,” Andrew says, laughing. “Maybe a little hot.”
The night goes on like that. However ridiculous Jesse’s friends get, Andrew is right there, taking it in his stride and getting increasingly ridiculous on his own. He dances with Emma and Kristen and just shakes his head affectionately when Jesse flips him off, hiding behind Armie so Andrew can’t make him dance too.
“He’s lovely,” Kristen says, flopping down onto the sofa, head in Jesse’s lap while Justin drags Andrew back onto the dance floor. Jesse thinks about going to save him, but he’s comfortably drunk and Andrew looks bright and happy when he’s dancing.
“Yeah, he is,” Jesse agrees, tipping his head back and closing his eyes.
Kristen pokes him. “What’s up?”
“What? Nothing.” Jesse has known Kristen forever; she’s sneakier than the others when it comes to making him confess things, always knowing how patient and how pushy to be. “He’s really great, isn’t he?”
Kristen rolls over, elbows pressing into Jesse’s thighs. “And that’s a problem?”
Jesse shakes his head. “He’s just... I’m so...” Jesse is so confused about what Andrew’s doing here tonight.
“You’re thinking far too much,” Kristen tells him, sitting up and handing Jesse her drink. “Which means you’re not drunk enough.”
“I don’t need to be drunk,” Jesse says, taking the glass from her and downing it. “It’s not like anything is going to happen anyway. He’s super famous, or so everyone keeps telling me. Super famous guys don’t date bookstore owners; they’re not even allowed to be gay.” He’s pretty sure that’s true; he read something about Tom Cruise this one time, anyway.
“Jess.” Kristen turns toward the table, looking like she’s trying to find more alcohol to ply him with. “The dude just spent the last three hours getting to know your friends, making moon eyes at you and dancing with Justin. He’s totally interested in you.”
“I, uh.” Jesse pulls her back around before she tries to hand him Patrick’s half-drunk glass of cider. There’s a chewing gum floating in the foam; he’ll throw-up if he even has to look at it any longer. “I guess? When you put it like that.”
Kristen pokes him in the side. “Go take him home. Do naughty things to him.”
Jesse hesitates. The chances of him doing anything that could be considered even remotely naughty with Andrew tonight are very low but he wouldn’t mind a kiss. Or seventeen. “I can’t,” he says regretfully, “It’s Justin’s birthday.”
Kristen looks at him like she knows that’s just an excuse but Emma and Joe come tripping back from the bar just then, carrying a couple of pitchers and a pile of shot glasses between them and she gets distracted, clapping her hands. “Oh hey, drinking games!”
This is usually the point in the evening when Jesse ducks out, but Andrew is here tonight and he’s sliding into the inch of space between Jesse and Kristen, chest warm and a little sweaty against Jesse’s side.
“What are we doing?” he asks, low in Jesse’s ear.
Jesse shrugs, but only gently, not wanting to shrug Andrew off. “Since it’s Justin’s choice, probably playing I Never. It’s his favourite, since he’s done everything.”
“Oh dear,” Andrew says, resting his forehead against Jesse’s temple. “I think I’ve already had more to drink than I meant to.”
Jesse turns to look at him. Andrew’s flushed and his eyes are a little glassy; it’s a really good look on him, but Jesse is always the friend who worries about everyone else’s alcohol consumption.
“Do you want to go home?” he asks, turning to press the back of his hand to Andrew’s forehead like he might have a fever or something.
Andrew smiles at him. It’s wider and a little sloppier than his regular handsome-charming-guy grin. “I’m fine,” he says. “I’m not that drunk. Just please don’t judge me on anything I may say? I really want to make a good impression.”
“On who?” Jesse asks, then wants to smack himself. “Wait, on me?”
Andrew cocks his head at him, eyebrows drawing together. “Of course,” he says, “Who else?”
“Oh, anyone,” Jesse says then ducks his head when Andrew just frowns harder at him.
“No, no,” he says, all drunken sincerity. He reaches out and presses his hands to Jesse’s cheeks. “No one else.”
There’s a strangled sound from behind Andrew and, when Jesse manages to drag his gaze away from Andrew’s earnest brown eyes, he finds Kristen urgently mouthing naughty things at him while pointing frantically at Andrew.
Jesse blushes and deliberately turns around to face the table where Justin is setting out the shot glasses. “I Never?” he asks.
“Actually,” Justin drawls. “I was thinking Truth or Dare.” He holds up a slightly wavery finger before Jesse can argue. “C’mon, dude, it’s my birthday.”
Jesse sighs. “Fine,” he says, “Fine. But I hold you responsible for anything emotionally scarring that may take place.”
“Don’t you like Truth or Dare?” Andrew asks while Justin finishes filling the shot glasses and Emma and Joe start doing that thing that they do where they sneak sidelong glances at each other. It’s a prelude to going home together but for some reason, neither of them will ever just come out and admit it.
“I don’t like dares,” Jesse admits. “They’re always humiliating and I’m not good with public humiliation. Truths are fine though, because I tell everybody everything anyway.”
Andrew puts his hand on the centre of Jesse’s back, hot through Jesse’s t-shirt, fingers plucking gently at the fabric, little nips of clumsy nails against Jesse’s skin. “If anyone tries to dare you to do anything you don’t want to do, let me know and I’ll do it for you,” he promises.
Jesse stares. “Really?” It’s potentially one of the nicest things anyone’s ever offered to do for him.
Andrew shrugs. “Hey, I’m an actor. I get paid to make a fool of myself in front strangers so I might as well get some practice in.”
As it turns out, no one tries to dare Jesse to do anything much for once; they’re all too busy trying to ply Andrew with truths.
“Leave him alone,” Jesse says, putting a protective hand on Andrew’s thigh when Emma leans forward and earnestly asks Andrew if it’s true that someone called Keira Knightley is really involved in a threesome with someone or something else called the Beckhams.
Andrew chokes on the shot he was drinking - even though he didn’t need to since he hadn’t refused to answer the question. Jesse isn’t convinced Andrew actually knows how to play this game.
“I really - . I really don’t think so,” Andrew manages between coughs. “That would be really strange, so no.”
Joe shifts around on the sofa, arm falling around Emma’s waist and asks Andrew, “Is it true that you’re dating Shannon Woodward? Because, you know, dude.” He waves a meaningful hand between Andrew and Jesse and Jesse stiffens. If Andrew has a girlfriend, this isn’t how Jesse wants to find out.
Also, if Andrew has a girlfriend then he thinks that one of his friends could have mentioned it before now.
“Joe, it’s not even his turn,” Jesse tries but no one listens to him.
“No,” Andrew says quickly over Jesse’s protest. He turns to Jesse. “No,” he says again, seriously. “I’m basically pretty much eternally single.”
Justin makes a disbelieving sound. “Right, looking like that and being famous like you are, you can’t find any chicks who’ll bang you?” he scoffs.
Andrew bites his lip and picks up another shot. “I’m not interested in girls at all,” he says, downing the drink and slamming the glass on the table.
There’s a pause, like everyone is waiting for someone else to start asking the next invasive question.
Andrew groans, slapping himself on the cheek. “And now I’m definitely drunk and I’ve told you the one thing my agent says I mustn’t ever tell anyone so I’m done. Jesse, it’s been lovely.”
“No, wait.” Jesse scrambles out of his seat, standing up at the same time that Andrew does. “I’ll come home with you.” He groans inwardly and amends quickly, “I mean, I’ll walk you home.”
He has no idea where Andrew’s staying, he realises, or if it’s in walkable distance, but Andrew doesn’t argue, just goes around all of Jesse’s friends again, saying goodbye this time. He gets more hugs than Jesse does, but that’s probably because Emma and Joe have progressed to making out and they’re the ones most inclined to hug Jesse.
Jesse does end up with an armful of sloppily drunk Justin though, who clings to him, mumbling, “It’s my birthday,” and something connected to Britney that Jesse really doesn’t know how to deal with. He passes Justin off to Kristen who pets his hair and says, “Maybe she called you at home? Did you check your voicemail?”
“Come on,” Jesse says quietly and grabs Andrew’s sleeve, pulling him down the stairs and out of the club.
Andrew stops out on the sidewalk, swaying a little, then shakes himself. “Fuck, it’s hot in there,” he says, sweaty bangs flipping across his face. It’s late January in New York, they’re not going to be hot for long, so Jesse tries to hurry him along.
“Is Justin all right?” Andrew asks. He tucks his hand into the crook of Jesse’s elbow and Jesse doesn’t complain.
“Yeah, he’s - ” Jesse shrugs. “He’s been on again, off again with this girl since they were fourteen and they’re off at the moment so he’s mopey.”
“Oh no, that’s so sad,” Andrew says. He sticks his free hand in his pocket and looks down at their moving feet for a couple of quiet minutes. “Your, um. Your friends seem lovely,” he manages eventually.
Jesse shrugs awkwardly. He thinks they’re great, obviously, but then they’re his friends; he’s never sure how well they translate to the rest of the world. “They’re not going to out you,” he settles on eventually. “You don’t need to worry about that.”
Andrew shakes his head quickly. “I’m not.” His hand tightens around Jesse’s elbow and Jesse wonders if he even knows it’s there. “I mean, I should be, but I just, sometimes I just can’t be bothered to... Ugh, no, let’s talk about something else. Let’s talk about something happy. I really do like your friends and they seem to love you, you know.”
“Yeah, I guess they tolerate me,” Jesse says, wondering if he should warn Andrew that he’s rambling. “I think you’re their favourite now though. You really won them over. In fact, they’ll probably invite you to things and forget all about me now.”
“Do you think?” Andrew sounds pleased. “I wanted them to like me.” He laughs softly. “I want you to like me.”
“I do,” Jesse admits reluctantly, and doesn’t stop walking, definitely doesn’t look in Andrew’s direction, because if he does, he thinks his face might explode with embarrassment. Embarrassed Face Explosion: the number one cause of death among socially awkward bookstore owners in Brooklyn.
Andrew doesn’t make him talk about it, which is nice, just slides his hand down from the crook of Jesse’s elbow to curl around his wrist, almost but not quite holding hands.
They walk quickly because it’s cold and the air smells like it’s going to snow.
“I wish it were summer,” Andrew says out of nowhere. “I’d ask you to stop and show me the area. Places that tourists don’t usually see and places that you like, things like that.”
“It’s the middle of the night,” Jesse says. “Even if it were the height of summer, the places I like are full of drug dealers and addicts at this time of night.”
Andrew sighs. “That’s a shame. I suppose you’ll just have to show me your bookshop instead, then.”
“Now?” Jesse asks, frowning.
Andrew shrugs - Jesse feels it in the movement of his arm. “Unless you have something else to do?”
It’s three a.m. and Jesse needs to open the store in five hours. “No,” he says, “Nowhere else to be.”
The bookstore always looks different in the middle of the night: even with the lights on, it looks emptier, bigger. This isn’t the first time that Jesse’s unlocked the door long after closing, slipping inside like a burglar, but it’s the first time he’s done it with someone else in tow. Usually, he comes down here when he can’t sleep and the walls of his apartment move beyond just closing in to threatening to crush him.
“How long have you owned this place?” Andrew asks, leaning against the travel fiction section while Jesse relocks the door.
Jesse slips the keys back into his pocket and pulls Andrew along, removing the back of his jacket from the front of Jesse’s books. “Ever since a woodland book nymph materialised in my living room and bequeathed it to me.”
Andrew blinks slowly, looking like he’s slightly too drunk to work out what’s wrong with that sentence.
Jesse takes pity on him. “I bought it with my ex-girlfriend,” he says, “before she became my ex-girlfriend, obviously.”
“Oh,” Andrew says, biting his lip and leaning in like he wants to give Jesse a hug. Jesse is theoretically fine with Andrew hugging him, but he doesn’t want it to be because he thinks he’s still heartbroken over Anna. That would be weird.
Jesse steps back, catching Andrew’s sleeve when he doesn’t manage to regain his balance of his own accord.
“Um,” Jesse says when he’s sure Andrew isn’t going to fall over. “So this is the store. Again. Why did you want to come back here?”
Andrew reaches out and touches Jesse’s wrist. “Isn’t that obvious?” he asks. “I was sure I was being obvious.”
He is being obvious. At least, Jesse thinks he’s being obvious. But what if what Jesse thinks Andrew’s being obvious about isn’t what Jesse thinks it is at all? What if Kristen’s wrong and Andrew doesn’t like him? What if -
“Or maybe not,” Andrew says slowly. He takes his hand away and starts to step back. “Should I leave? It is pretty late, I suppose.”
“No,” Jesse says quickly. “No, no, that’s. Come on, I want to show you something.” Jesse doesn’t really know what they’re doing here; now that he’s learned how to google, he knows that Andrew is friends with the guy from the Twilight movies and he parties with models and the new Doctor Who - this can't be his idea of a fun Saturday night.
Except, when Jesse leads him up to his favourite corner of the store, the one on the low-level mezzanine where you can sit and see everything in the store, Andrew beams at him and takes a seat, sitting cross-legged on the love-seat and propping his elbow on his knee and his chin on his hand.
“This is lovely,” he says. “It must be so peaceful.”
Jesse laughs. “The whole store is pretty peaceful, we don’t get many customers. Well, except when random famous actor guys decide to give us some free publicity, anyway.”
Andrew has the grace to look abashed. “Sorry about that,” he tries. “Did you really mind?”
Jesse shakes his head. “No, it was nice of you. I was just surprised, that’s all. I mean, I wasn’t really expecting you to remember me, um the store, I mean. I wasn’t expecting you to remember us at all and then there you were telling reporters about us.”
“Do you always refer to yourself and your bookshop as a single entity like that?” Andrew asks curiously. He seems to sense that Jesse’s about to blush before Jesse’s cheeks even get hot because he says quickly, “Which I think is lovely by the way. If you care at all what I think.”
Jesse does. It would probably be easier if he didn’t, but apparently his stupid emotions don’t know that.
“Can you keep a secret?” he asks instead of answering.
“Yes,” Andrew tells him, tipsy and earnest. He leans in. His lips are ridiculous, all full and wet from where he’s been licking them; Jesse wants to abandon conversation and make out with him, right here in front of the Chaucers and Hemmingways.
Instead, Jesse points at the knee-heigh little bookcase curved in a semi-circle opposite the love-seat.
“I put all my favourite books up here,” he says. “Sometimes I take the last copy off the shelf and hide it here instead.” He ducks his head, wondering why he’s volunteering extra reasons for Andrew to think he’s weird. “I hate it when there’s a book we don’t have in stock.”
“Oh,” Andrew says, sliding down onto the floor so he’s kneeling in front of the bookcase. He’s practically sitting on Jesse’s feet, which means that Jesse can’t avoid meeting his eyes. For some reason, he doesn’t look like he thinks Jesse’s weird; he looks... Jesse isn’t sure, but he thinks the best descriptor is ‘charmed’.
“What do you do if someone finds one of these and tries to buy it?” Andrew asks, fingers hovering over the spines, but not touching.
“I go all Gollum on them and bite their fingers off,” Jesse tells him seriously. “Or if they’re very polite and I’m feeling softhearted, I sell them the book and then weep non-stop for the next forty-eight hours.”
Andrew laughs, pressing his forehead to Jesse’s knee. Luckily, it only lasts a couple of seconds because Jesse can’t breathe while they’re touching. When Andrew looks up, his eyes are bright and he looks happy as he tugs on Jesse’s pant leg.
“Come down here?” he asks.
“I don’t know,” Jesse says, “What if the dust bunnies eat me?”
Andrew tugs harder, smiling widely when Jesse gets up from the love-seat and folds down awkwardly next to him. “I’m Spider-man,” he says, whispering like that’s a secret too. “I’m not sure what a dust bunny is, but I’m sure I could take one on.”
“I don’t know,” Jesse says, “They have huge teeth made out of shadows and lost bobby pins.”
Andrew gasps in exaggerated horror. “That does sound truly terrifying.” He leans in, head on Jesse’s shoulder. “Maybe we’d best protect each other.”
Andrew’s head is heavy and warm on Jesse’s shoulder. Jesse is repeatedly shocked every time he realises that Andrew is real, not an impossible fantasy that he’s made up in his head. “Yeah,” he manages, “Sounds like a plan.”
At just after four, they drift up to Jesse’s apartment for a minute because Andrew says his hangover’s kicking in and he really needs a cup of tea. By mutual consent they don’t stay up there, carrying a tray back down to the store instead, because Andrew’s right, it is peaceful.
Jesse thinks Andrew should be flattered that he’s breaking his own no food or drink rule for him. They sit by the counter, shooting each other looks over the teapot.
“Jesse,” Andrew says at the same time that Jesse says, “Andrew.” Jesse doesn’t usually use people’s names much in conversation; he likes to give them reasonable doubt that he’s talking to them specifically, just in case the words coming out of his mouth stop making sense.
Andrew laughs, turning the pot around on its mat and pouring for both of them, Jesse first. “Sorry,” he says, “What were you going to say?”
“It must be hard,” Jesse tries, wondering why he’s doing this, why he’s initiating an awkward conversation when he could have just let Andrew say whatever he was going to say instead, “not being allowed to date.”
Andrew’s gaze drops to the counter top. This is the only thing Jesse’s seen that stops Andrew from smiling, that makes him look uncertain. Jesse wishes he hadn’t said anything.
“I am allowed to date,” Andrew says. “Or, at least, I would anyway, if the right boy wanted to date me. It’s just that no one would be allowed to find out because being gay is the worst thing it’s possible to be.” He shrugs, jerky and a little angry-looking. “Apparently.”
Jesse doesn’t think, just covers Andrew’s hand with his. “That’s shitty,” he says, “I’m sorry.”
Andrew shakes his head, squeezing Jesse’s hand then pulling away, picking up his mug and fiddling with the handle. “It’s okay,” he says, putting the mug down again without drinking from it. “Other people have bigger problems, don’t they? I get to do this job I love every day and it’s not... I still meet people. I get to pretend.” He’s looking at Jesse full on now, eyes wide and liquid, licking his bottom lip until it’s shiny.
He’s going to kiss you, Jesse’s mental alarm system warns him but Jesse doesn’t need to be warned, Jesse wants to be kissed. “Yes,” Jesse says, either to himself or to Andrew. Either way it doesn’t seem to matter because Andrew leans forward over the cash register and fits their mouths together.
It’s a light kiss, gentle, but Jesse still shifts forward, fanning his hand across Andrew’s stubbled cheek because he doesn’t want it to end.
Andrew makes a breathy little laughing moan straight into Jesse’s mouth and then they’re both moving at the same time: Jesse dragging his chair closer and Andrew clutching his thighs, holding on tight to each other while they kiss again and again, lost in the dark and the quiet.
“Oh wow,” Andrew says, when they pull back after an unknown number of thoroughly enjoyable minutes. Jesse thinks he might know the whole pattern of Andrew’s teeth by now and he feels shaky, a bit off-kilter; if that’s what Andrew means by pretending, he’s not sure he’d survive it happening for real.
“Yes,” Jesse agrees, pulling experimentally against Andrew’s hip and trying not to expire from lust when Andrew immediately comes out of his chair, climbing onto Jesse’s lap instead. The shape of his hard-on presses against Jesse’s belly and Jesse’s so shocked, he nearly pushes him straight back off.
He reconsiders that plan pretty damn quick and holds Andrew’s hips hard instead.
“We can’t have sex tonight,” Andrew says, like he’s trying to convince Jesse of an argument he doesn’t buy into himself.
“No,” Jesse says, because he knows Andrew’s right. He just wishes he weren’t.
Andrew groans and puts his head on Jesse’s shoulder, tucking himself around Jesse. Jesse slides his arms around Andrew’s waist and holds on.
“I really, really want to,” Andrew confesses in Jesse’s ear. “But we’re drunk and you might wake up in the morning realising that I have far too much baggage.”
“Wait.” Jesse pulls back just far enough to be able to look up into Andrew’s face. “You think you might have too much baggage for me?” He can’t help laughing incredulously even though it probably makes him sound unhinged. “Trust me when I say that the rest of the world would see things the other way around.”
Andrew kisses him, hard and quick. “Then the rest of the world are idiots,” he says firmly. He sways forward again like he wants to kiss Jesse some more - Jesse’s already tilting his chin up; he wants to be kissed - then leans back, stumbling over the chair leg and ending up sitting back in his chair with a bump. He giggles. “I meant to do that. And I really need to call a cab or I’m never going to go home.”
Don’t go home, Jesse thinks wistfully. “I’ll get you the number,” is what he says.
Jesse calls a cab and Andrew borrows a scarf, winding it around his neck once then draping the rest artfully over his shoulders like the warm glow of fashion will keep him warm. Then they just stand in the dark store, looking at each other.
“How long will it be?” Andrew asks. In the glow of the street lights outside, Jesse can see Andrew’s eyes dip to look at Jesse’s mouth again.
“Ten, ten minutes?” Jesse says, having to clear his throat half-way through. He feels flushed and turned-on and Jesse never normally gets like this, not easily. He normally wants people abstractly; it’s rarely visceral like this.
Andrew breathes out a gusty breath. “However will we fill the time?” he asks slyly. “Maybe I could kiss you again?”
“You had better,” Jesse says. “Traffic’s notoriously bad at four in the morning and I’d hate for you to get bored.”
“Public service,” Andrew agrees and then they’re kissing again.
By the time the cab pulls up outside, flashing its lights across the darkened street, Jesse is kissing the underside of Andrew’s jaw and Andrew’s hands have slid up the front of Jesse’s shirt. Jesse doesn’t just wish he’d ask him to stay the night; he wishes he could ask him to stay forever. Which is dangerous and so, so stupid.
When Andrew suggests dinner the next night, Jesse doesn’t even have to think before he agrees.
Jesse arrives at Andrew’s hotel twenty minutes early the next evening and manages to waste the first ten freaking out and trying not to hyperventilate. What is he doing? He’s deliberately walking into a situation where he’s going to be alone on a date with Andrew. Sure, conversations with Andrew have been surprisingly easy so far but Jesse is notoriously bad at dates; he’s pretty sure Justin is still running a Facebook page thingy dedicated to Embarrassing Shit Jesse Has Said On Dates.
Andrew’s hotel is monochrome steel and hardwood floors, sleek and expensive-looking and the doorman has been giving Jesse funny looks since he started muttering to himself by the front door so Jesse pulls out his cell and calls Kristen, since she’s the most terrifying of his friends and the most likely to tell him to grow some and just go inside.
Sometimes Jesse needs external validation; he’s not ashamed of that.
What Kristen actually says is, “Do you have wine? Have you flossed? Are you wearing clean underwear?” and then, when Jesse says yes to all the above, she laughs and says, “Then get the hell upstairs, Eisenberg,” and hangs up on him.
“Right,” Jesse says aloud. He manages something like a grin at the doorman who looks at Jesse very dubiously but still holds the door open for him.
Andrew texted Jesse his room number this morning when they both woke up sober enough to remember that they hadn’t worked out logistics like that last night, but Jesse still checks it six times during the elevator ride to Andrew’s floor.
He checks it twice more before he knocks on the door he hopes is Andrew’s and then once more before Andrew answers. His phone buzzes while he’s holding it, meaning he’s reading a text from Justin (go get em tiger! c if u can make him shoot his special web) when Andrew opens the door.
“Hi,” Jesse says, shoving his phone into his pocket and trying to look like he only has eyes for Andrew. Which isn’t hard, not at all, since Andrew looks fantastic. He’s wearing a dark green button down and tight blue jeans and his feet are bare. Jesse’s wearing his best jacket and he ironed his jeans but he still feels totally underdressed.
“Hi,” Andrew breathes, beaming at him. He reaches out and touches Jesse’s cheek then drops his hand and pulls Jesse into the room. Jesse finds himself pressed up against the closing door and then Andrew is touching him again, kissing him this time, light and careful.
“Hello,” Jesse says, like they haven’t already done the greeting part of tonight to death. He feels his cell vibrate against his ass but ignores it. “I, um. I think your doorman thinks I’m here to murder you.”
Andrew laughs, resting his forehead against Jesse’s. “Are you?” he asks. His hands are on Jesse’s waist, stroking his hip bones with his thumbs and Jesse sort of wants to melt right there.
“Yes,” Jesse says, “I’ve been sent here by...” He trails off. “Fuck, I need to read Spider-man, don’t I?”
“The Green Goblin,” Andrew supplies for him and either he’s doing a good job of not laughing in Jesse’s face or he genuinely doesn’t care that Jesse has the pop culture knowledge of a snail. “And yes, why don’t you stock comics? Comics are great; they have pictures.”
“Because comics aren’t books,” Jesse tells him, scandalised. And then, just in case Andrew’s about to get offended, he adds, “I brought wine.”
“You’re fantastic,” Andrew says, kissing him and making Jesse wonder if he really likes wine or something. “And so is wine, come on.”
He takes Jesse’s free hand and pulls him into the room. Or, not a room, it’s more like a suite. Andrew has an honest-to-god living room in his hotel room and there’s a table in the centre which has been set for two, plates covered by silver cloches which Jesse hadn’t thought really existed anywhere outside Tom and Jerry cartoons.
“I ordered pasta,” Andrew says, pulling out a chair then waving for Jesse to sit down. “It felt weird and presumptuous to order for you but then I thought that we aren’t really at a restaurant, it’s more like I’m cooking for you and it wouldn’t be weird for me to decide what we ate then and... Oh god, make me stop talking.” Andrew covers his face, laughing in helpless little hitches.
Jesse’s glad he’s already sitting down because he feels wobbly with how much he likes Andrew’s babbling. He catches Andrew’s hand and - because apparently he’s been reading too much Austen - kisses the inside of his wrist.
Andrew stops laughing and looks down at Jesse with wide eyes. “I’m sorry, I’ll stop talking now.”
“It’s fine,” Jesse says, “And so is pasta, by the way.”
“Oh god,” Andrew says, sinking into the chair opposite Jesse’s. “I don’t know why I’m so nervous, I’m usually much more suave, I swear.”
“I don’t like suave,” Jesse tells him, truthfully. “Suave people make me feel inadequate.”
Andrew flashes him a quick, grateful smile and reaches for the wine Jesse brought. “When I woke up this morning, I swore I was never drinking again but, well, ten hours is similar to never again, right?”
“Totally,” Jesse agrees, putting his hand over his glass once Andrew’s filled it half way. “Although I don’t think I should be allowed to serve customers hungover ever again. I nearly let someone buy The Da Vinci Code this morning.”
“Would have have been a disaster?” Andrew asks, lifting the covers from their plates and setting them on the floor.
“Completely,” Jesse agrees, nodding so hard that he nearly clacks his teeth on his first forkful of pasta. “Leaving aside the catastrophe of the plot and writing style, it isn’t even properly punctuated and it’s - ” He makes himself stop. “Sorry, you don’t care.”
“I do,” Andrew tells him, eyes wide. “I’m just starting to worry about my own punctuation skills at this point. You don’t make people take a grammar test before they date you, do you?”
Jesse probably would if he could, but he’s pretty sure he’d do his best to grade in Andrew’s favour. Even if he turns out not to be able to use semi-colons. “We’re already on a date,” he points out.
“Yes, I know.” Andrew twirls his fork between pasta shells. “Saying ‘before they become your boyfriend’ seemed really arrogant.” He glances up at Jesse. “Although, if you do have a position open...”
Jesse’s heart is pounding so hard he can’t swallow. He takes a gulp of wine then puts down his glass. “You don’t need to say that,” he assures him. “I’m not expecting anything; I know things are awkward for you.”
Andrew reaches over and grabs Jesse’s hand. “I’d like to try,” he says. “If you would. Jesse, I - ” Across the room, a cell phone starts to ring. Andrew swears. “Ignore it, I don’t care who’s calling me right now. I was trying to say that if there’s any chance that you’re interested then I definitely am.” His cell finally stops ringing and Andrew sighs. “Depending on how tonight goes, obviously. I’d hate to rush you.”
Jesse already knows what his answer is going to be, but he’s nothing if he’s not cautious. “Right,” he agrees, “I mean, you might turn out to be boring or something.”
Andrew gasps, clutching a hand to his chest. “Take that back,” he exclaims, “I’ll have you know I am the master of sparkling charm and wit.”
Jesse doesn’t doubt it. “Yeah? Well my Great Aunt Milly once said I was a delightful young man.” He pauses for effect. “I mean, sure, I was eight at the time and I think she was blinded by my curls.”
Andrew laughs. “I can imagine,” he says, “I’m rather blinded by them myself.” He reaches out. “May I?”
Since no one ever usually asks before they try to tweak Jesse’s curls, he says yes without meaning to. Andrew strokes his fingers through Jesse’s hair, winding strands around his fingers and pulling slightly. Jesse can’t help leaning in to it, letting his eyes close.
“God, Jesse,” Andrew murmurs. “Have you finished eating?”
Jesse had forgotten he’d even started eating. “Sure,” he manages then takes Andrew’s hand when Andrew offers it, following him over to the long leather sofa in front of an unnecessarily large TV.
“This thing is sort of squeaky and uncomfortable,” Andrew apologises, “but I’m not sure if it’d rude to buy myself a new one to replace it.”
Jesse sits down cautiously and the cushion beneath his ass exhales, making him sink down a couple of inches. When nothing more disastrous happens, he looks up at Andrew, smiling. “I have successfully thwarted your devil couch,” he says, proud.
Andrew grins at him and sinks down next to him, arm sliding immediately around his shoulders. Jesse isn’t sure if he’ll look embarrassingly eager by leaning straight into Andrew’s side but, before he can work it out, Andrew’s leaning into him.
“I love your shirt,” Andrew tells him, fingers toying with the top button, a barely there pressure just below Jesse’s throat. “But if I may just make one suggestion.” Slowly, giving Jesse plenty of times to object, he starts to unbutton Jesse’s shirt. Jesse’s disappointed when he stops after only three buttons. “There.”
Jesse glances down. He can see his collarbones and a V of pale chest, not very inspiring but if Andrew likes it, well. “Thank you,” he says, “for your expert fashion advice.”
Andrew laughs, pressing his face into Jesse’s throat. “Just call me Gok Wan,” he agrees. (Or, Jesse assumes that’s agreement. He has no idea who or what a Gok Wan is.)
“I’d rather call you Andrew,” Jesse says, which doesn’t make a lot of sense, but it gets Andrew looking up at him so Jesse can kiss him, anyway.
Twenty minutes later, they’re sprawled out on the sofa - which is just as uncomfortable as Andrew warned, but it doesn’t matter - their legs tangled together and Jesse’s shirt lying discarded on the floor.
Andrew’s shirt has somehow gotten open too and Jesse can’t stop touching his chest, mostly because Andrew’s chest is ridiculous: wide shoulders, hard pecs and solid abs and, shit, Jesse wants to touch him forever.
“I don’t usually look quite like this,” Andrew says, ducking his head. “This is all Spider-man training. Usually I’m just a skinny boy from London.”
Jesse drags his thumbs across Andrew’s belly towards his navel. “I like skinny boys from London, too,” he says. He’d like Andrew however he looked; there’s no doubt about that.
Andrew leans down, kissing under Jesse’s chin then fixing his mouth to Jesse’s adam’s apple, sucking and lipping the skin carefully until Jesse is shifting under him, trying to work out how to subtly slide a hand between them to relieve some pressure on his aching cock.
“Oh god,” Andrew groans. “Do you have any rules about sex on a first date?”
“This is our second date,” Jesse says, “and no. Not particularly.”
Andrew sits up slightly, grinning down at him. “Well in that case - ” His cell phone starts to ring again, closer and louder now they’ve moved across the room. Andrew groans. “Oh fuck off.”
“Maybe you’d better answer it,” Jesse forces himself to say, kind of selflessly, he thinks.
Muttering to himself, Andrew rolls off the sofa and over to what Jesse guesses is the bedroom. Jesse is kind of proud of the fact that Andrew staggers a little bit, less graceful than normal.
The ringing cuts off and Jesse sneaks a look at the doorway but when Andrew doesn’t come back immediately, he slides a hand down and readjusts himself, groaning when his zipper is no longer digging straight into his hard-on.
At first, he can’t hear Andrew saying anything but then he gradually becomes aware of Andrew’s voice rising higher and louder and then it becomes awkward to be lying on Andrew’s sofa, waiting for makeouts to resume while Andrew argues with someone, so he sits up, trying to decide if he should go try to be supportive or wait here.
Luckily, the decision’s made for him a couple of minutes later by Andrew snapping, “Go to hell, then,” and storming back into the living room area.
“Um,” Jesse says then can’t think of anything else to say. Andrew’s still flushed, but from anger now, not the delicious sex flush he had going before.
Andrew sighs and slumps against the doorframe, looking tired. “Sorry,” he says, “I’m sorry. Did you hear much of that?”
Jesse shakes his head quickly. “Nothing. Should I... Is everything okay?”
“Yes,” Andrew say shortly then, “Sorry. Again. It’s just, it was just my, um, ex. He’s being an arsehole but it’s nothing you need to worry about.” He makes a visible effort to perk up, drawing his shoulders back and all Jesse can think is actor. “Now, where were we?”
Jesse really wants to press for more details - Andrew looks so drained all of a sudden - but he’s not sure if he’s allowed. He doesn’t even really understand what he’s doing here, making out with this gorgeous, ridiculous man.
Before he can work out the words to ask, Andrew’s cell starts to ring again.
“Oh my god,” Andrew explodes, thumping his heel back into the wall hard enough to make them both wince. “Never mind; I’m not talking to him again.”
Jesse stands up. “Do you need me to go?”
“No,” Andrew says quickly, shaking his head. “No, I don’t want you to.” His phone stops ringing then starts again immediately.
Jesse bends and picks up his shirt, shrugging it back on. “I’m going to go,” he says firmly. He puts his hands on Andrew’s shoulders and Andrew looks up at him, expression so lost that Jesse wants to fix this, whatever it is, offer whatever it would take.
“I’m sorry,” Andrew says sadly. “I’m going to kill him if that’s any consolation.”
“Lots,” Jesse promises, nodding. He kisses Andrew’s already kiss-bruised mouth. “I, um. I’m not mad or anything.”
Andrew’s fingers tangle in Jesse’s sleeves for a moment but then his cell rings again and he groans. “I’ll call you tomorrow,” he says. “I’ll hire a hit on this arsehole and then I’ll call you.”
“Let me know if you need an alibi,” Jesse says, kissing him one more time before letting himself out.
The door hasn’t closed all the way before he hears, “What, Alex; I don’t have any-fucking-thing left to say to you.”
Jesse folds his arms across his chest, cold in the sudden change in temperature between Andrew’s couch and the hallway. He presses the call button for the elevator, too distracted to worry about potential germs, and tries not to read anything into the fact that Andrew’s ex is calling him. Andrew hadn’t sounded pleased, he tries to console himself; that’s something. Hopefully.
Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five