Andrew manages to spend the next week behaving like a proper grown-up human being. He goes to two auditions and a call back, he sells his old X-Box so he can pay his phone bill, and he drops his CV in at the Starbucks down the road to see if he can get some part-time work.
It’s a cliche maybe, but it would be nice to have some money again.
Then, eight days after the Orwell Incident, Andrew finds a small, brown paper-wrapped parcel taped to his front door. There’s a new pair of fingerless gloves inside, clearly knitted by Jesse because they don’t match: one is grey and one is blue. There’s also a note:
I’m very sorry that I was a bad cat. Jesse says I’m not allowed to do that again because you’re nice and I’ll scare you off. Jesse also says that he probably should have said yes when you asked him out for coffee... but don’t tell him I told you that, because he’s embarrassed.
I’m sorry I ripped your gloves. I asked Jesse to make you some new ones but he ran out of wool half way through. Hopefully odd colors are cool in the human world.
Orwell The Devil Cat
“Oh my god,” Andrew says, and pulls the gloves on straight away. They’re a bit scratchy, but they’re warm and Jesse thinks he should have said yes when Andrew asked him out, so Andrew wouldn’t actually care if the gloves had switchblades sewn into them.
He spends all of ten seconds second-guessing himself then turns away from his door and knocks on Jesse’s. Jesse actually opens the door this time and Andrew beams at him. “Hello,” he says, “I came to see Orwell.”
“He’s napping right now,” Jesse tells him seriously. “But I could tell him you came by?” There’s a soft meow from behind him and Jesse laughs. “And that’s Wednesday, making me look like a liar.” He pulls the door a little further open and picks up a tiny tortoiseshell kitten which starts to purr as soon as it’s in his arms. “She’s the angel to Orwell’s devil.”
“Aw,” Andrew says, automatically reaching out. “Can I stroke her? I still have a few undamaged fingers to sacrifice.”
“She won’t bite you,” Jesse says and he actually turns toward Andrew, offering the kitten for petting.
“I wanted to thank Orwell for the gloves,” Andrew tells Jesse, brushing his fingers under Wednesday’s chin. “They’re very stylish.”
Jesse looks at Wednesday rather than at Andrew. “I’ll tell him,” he promises. “Did, um. Did he leave you a note?”
Andrew’s heart soars. He wasn’t actually going to bring up the date thing yet, not wanting to scare Jesse back into the flat. “He did, actually. But I’m not supposed to tell you what he said.”
Jesse’s quiet for long enough that Andrew starts to wonder if maybe he should say something more specific after all. Then, “Andrew,” he says softly. “I would like to have coffee with you.”
Andrew senses a but there, but he still can’t help the way his head snaps up and he starts to smile. “But?” he asks, just to check.
Jesse’s curls are flopping into his eyes and he looks up at Andrew through them. “But I, um. I don’t really go outside much? Or at all really, if I can help it.”
Fuck, Andrew wants to wrap Jesse up in cotton wool and hug him forever. Jesse probably wouldn’t appreciate that though. “Why not?” he asks. “Is it something I can help with?” Not that he thinks he can magically cure Jesse’s agoraphobia or whatever the problem is, but there must be something he can do.
Jesse shrugs tightly. “Probably not,” he says. He smiles slightly, the tip of his tongue just poking between his teeth. “Thank you, though. I’d like... Maybe we could have coffee here one day?”
“Here?” Andrew asks and watches Jesse’s face close down. “No, sorry, I didn’t mean to sound doubtful. I was just confirming. Honestly.”
“Never mind,” Jesse shakes his head. “I’m glad you like the gloves.” He steps back, starting to close the door. Andrew puts his hand out before he can.
“Wait,” he says, mind whirring. “I have an idea. Will you meet me on the balcony in ten minutes?”
“My balcony?” Jesse asks, frowning.
“Yes.” Andrew nods enthusiastically, holding up a finger. “Ten minutes. Don’t be late.” He dashes back into his flat, leaving Jesse watching after him with a confused, but not unhappy expression on his face.
Nine minutes later, Andrew stands at the back of his flat and leans over the waist high railing that separates his balcony from Jesse’s.
“Here,” he says, handing Jesse his best and least cracked mug, smiling encouragingly when Jesse takes it and wraps his hands around it.
Jesse looks dubious but he takes a sip of the coffee, his eyes widening. “Oh,” he says, “That’s. What’s that?”
Andrew grins, leaning against the railing and cradling his own mug. “That’s a honey latte,” he says. “Good?”
Jesse nods enthusiastically. “Really good. Thank you.”
Andrew tries to hide his smile in his mug so that he doesn’t look too unforgivably smug. “Good,” he says. “I’ve applied for a job at Starbucks, so can I put you down as a reference?”
Jesse frowns. “Don’t you have a job? You always seem to be going to work.” He coughs. “Not that I’m watching.”
“I really don’t mind you watching,” Andrew admits. “And, I’m not really going to work. I’m going to find work.” He doesn’t normally feel embarrassed about this, but for some reason he does in front of Jesse. “I’m an actor. Or I’m trying to be.”
“Oh,” Jesse says slowly. “Cool.” The way he says it sounds almost like a question, like he’s trying to give Andrew the response he wants. Andrew laughs.
“Very cool,” he agrees. “Or it would be, if anyone would ever hire me.”
Jesse’s quiet for long enough that Andrew considers changing the subject because it’s not like he wants to spend too long dwelling on his failing career. But then, Jesse says, “Someone will. You’re too, um.”
“Pushy?” Andrew suggests.
Jesse smiles. “Charmingly pushy,” he says. “You’re the sort of person who’ll do really well soon.”
It’s ridiculous, it’s not like Jesse really knows; he’s just trying to make Andrew feel better but Andrew still finds himself returning his smile, believing him.
They fall into a pattern after that. Most afternoons, they meet on their balconies around tea time. Sometimes Andrew makes them both coffee and occasionally, Jesse tries different types of tea out on him, but mostly they bring their own drinks and just meet in the middle.
“How do you buy all your weird teas and things if you never leave your flat?” Andrew asks curiously. Jesse has started spending longer and longer out here with him and Andrew doesn’t think it would be presumptuous to call them friends now. Hopefully that means he can ask questions like that.
“I do leave my apartment,” Jesse protests. He waves. “See, here I am.” He’s sitting on a pillow on his side of the balcony, a book in his lap but he’s twisted toward Andrew, his attention on him.
“Oh yes, how silly of me. You’re miles from home.”
Jesse gives him the finger which makes Andrew laugh, delighted. “Shut up. Don’t you have an audition to get ready for instead of mocking me?”
“I’m not mocking you,” Andrew protests, reaching through the railings between them and waggling his fingers at Jesse.
Jesse reaches up over and squeezes Andrew’s fingers quickly before letting go. “I know you’re not,” he says seriously, then clears his throat, “You could, um. Do you have a script? I could help you prepare?”
Andrew waves a hand lazily. He’s too comfortable, stretched out on the floor of his balcony, the late autumn sunlight on his back. “No, you’d be bored, don’t worry about it.”
“Andrew,” Jesse says, sounding stern enough that Andrew actually looks up. “Go get your script.”
Groaning, Andrew rolls over and crawls over to the open balcony door where his script is sitting, just inside the flat. He really wants this role but he’s trying not to get his hopes up any more. He sits back down and waves the script at Jesse.
“All right,” he says, mock-solemnly, “Prepare to be blown away.”
Jesse laughs. Holding out his hand. “Give me the script,” he says and Andrew carefully squeezes it through the bars of the railings, watching the way Jesse’s fingers sweep over the open pages. Jesse is the sort of person who appreciates words, Andrew has learnt.
“Oh, Arthur Miller,” Jesse says, checking the cover, and sounding interested. “Okay, go.”
Andrew clears his throat, strangely nervous all of a sudden, which is stupid because this is only Jesse; Jesse is the least judgemental person Andrew knows.
He’s also the person Andrew most wants to impress, but that’s a whole other issue.
Andrew takes a deep breath and gives Jesse his best Biff Loman. It’s not bad, he doesn’t think, but Jesse’s quiet enough afterward that Andrew starts to doubt himself.
“What?” he asks at last, unable to help it. “Was I terrible?”
Jesse hums softly. “You were great,” he says, “You’re really good. But I, um. I have notes. If you want them?”
“God yes,” Andrew says, leaning forward. “Please?”
By the time it’s grown dark, Andrew has learnt two things. One, he really, really wants this part and two, Jesse is shockingly good at suggesting helpful, clever things that Andrew can do to improve his chances of getting it.
“How do you know about all this?” Andrew asks, even more in crush with Jesse than ever now.
Jesse shrugs, looking away. “I have friends,” he says, “They talk.” He still isn’t quite looking at Andrew so Andrew isn’t totally sure he believes him. He doesn’t push though.
“Well thank god for your friends, Jesse Eisenberg,” he says, earnestly. “And thank everything for you.”
Jesse grins, sliding Andrew’s script back to him. “Good luck,” he says. “Tell me how it goes?”
Andrew rolls his eyes. “Oh as if you’re ever getting rid of me now,” he says cheerfully, picking up his script and bouncing to his feet. “See you tomorrow.”
Andrew almost doesn’t see Jesse the next day. The audition takes up most of the day and then Andrew finds himself dragged out for drinks by some people who he’s met so many times at so many auditions that they’ve accidentally become friends.
He’s a little drunk and it’s nearly midnight by the time he gets home, which means he has no reason at all to be leaning against Jesse front door rather than his own, knocking softly on the off-chance that he’s awake.
Jesse opens the door wearing pyjama bottoms and a t-shirt and looking rumpled like Andrew got him out of bed.
“Oh god,” Andrew says, shifting to lean heavily against the doorframe because standing is a problem right now. “I’m sorry. I woke you up.”
Jesse blinks at him then slides some glasses on. Andrew’s poor, alcohol-soaked brain short-circuits. “What’s wrong?” Jesse whispers. “Are you drunk?”
“I like it you wear glasses,” Andrew says then hiccups, giggling helplessly at himself. “And fuck, yes, I’m horribly drunk.”
Jesse folds his arms across his chest and Andrew can’t be sure because his eyes aren’t really focusing right now, but he thinks he looks amused. “Did the audition not go well?”
“No!” Andrew tries to express with his arms how well it went but finds that he really does need to hold onto the doorframe rather pressingly. “No,” he repeats, quieter. “It went well. Really well. Because you’re amazing and you helped me. Have I told you that you’re amazing?”
Jesse is definitely laughing, which means that he’s definitely amused. That’s nice. “You’re so drunk,” he says. He puts his hand on Andrew’s arm (initiating contact! the Jesse Sensors in Andrew’s brain point out) and steers him across the hall to his own front door. “Do you have your keys?”
“If I didn’t, would you finally let me into your flat?” Andrew asks then shakes his head. “Sorry. I’m not...” He pulls out his keys and hands them to Jesse, deciding that that will be quicker and less embarrassing for everyone.
Jesse fits the key in the lock but doesn’t turn it. “You’re not what?” he asks, doing that thing where he almost looks at Andrew but doesn’t quite.
“I don’t want to rush you,” Andrew tells him, horribly drunk and horribly honest. “I like you so much.”
Jesse freezes. “Andrew,” he starts.
Andrew shakes his head. “No, don’t. I’m drunk and it’s mean to break a man’s heart when he’s drunk.” He’s not really sure what he’s saying and he thinks that he should probably stop but Jesse just unlocks the door and gently nudges Andrew inside.
“Go to sleep,” he says, giving Andrew’s upper arm a careful squeeze. Andrew stumbles over to the sofa and curls up there, feeling the phantom press of Jesse’s fingers all the way into sleep.
Andrew wakes up with a pounding headache and a ridiculously dry mouth. He squints his eyes open, making out the sun-bright inside of his living room. His coffee table seems closer to the couch than normal and there’s a tall glass of water and a couple of white pills sitting at the edge of it.
It’s not until Andrew has taken the pills and downed half the water that he wakes up enough to notice there’s a note sitting on the table next to the glass.
Yes, I broke into your apartment but that’s only because Emma loves me more than you and I was worried you might be dead.
If you’re not dead, there’s tea waiting on the balcony.
Blurry memories of last night start to seep through the fog. Andrew has a sneaking feeling that he said things that he should be embarrassed about, but he’s hungover and Jesse cared enough to break into his flat and offer him tea and those are really all the thoughts he can cope with for now.
Andrew takes a shower and changes into clothes that don’t smell like he slept in them before he goes out onto the balcony, and by then he’s feeling a lot more human. He doesn’t really get hangovers and even when he does, he likes to pretend that he’s fine, so he beams at Jesse as soon as he sees him.
“Hello, good morning. You broke into my flat!”
Jesse is sitting on a deck chair with a laptop on his lap; he shields his eyes from the sun and squints at Andrew. “You look much less dead than expected,” he says, sounding pleased. “And I didn’t really break in. Emma has a key.”
Andrew shrugs easily and comes to sit in his usual spot, right up against the railings between their balconies. “What are you writing?”
Jesse looks down at his laptop for a minute then shakes his head. “Nothing, it’s not important. I think I threatened you with tea?”
Andrew uncurls his legs, stretching his bare feet out into the sunlight. “You did! Can it be one with caffeine, please?”
Jesse tsks. “Well, obviously,” he says. “I saw you last night, remember?”
Andrew winces, leaning back against the brickwork. He watches Jesse get up and disappear inside his flat for a moment before coming back out, holding a mug and a tiny teapot. It takes some manoeuvring to safely take everything from him but eventually Andrew is sighing over some life-giving assam.
“Thank you,” he says, “You’re amazing.” He blinks, remembering having said that recently and much less flippantly. “Oh god, I made a fool of myself last night, didn’t I?”
Jesse sits back down in his chair. He says, “No, of course not,” but he doesn’t actually look at Andrew, which means yes. Fuck.
Andrew puts down his cup and starts to stand up, not really sure how he’s going to erase last night from Jesse’s memory, but sure that he can if he just gets closer to him. His mobile starts to ring before he comes up with an actual plan though and he stops, pulling it out and frowning down at the unknown number.
“You should get that,” Jesse says, offering him a little smile.
So Andrew does. “Hello?” he says, “Hi.” He knows that he says some other things to the person on the other end of the line and he hopes that they even make sense, but by the time he’s hung up, he honestly can’t remember what. There’s a strong, hysterical buzzing in his ears.
“Andrew?” Jesse’s leaning over the balcony, waving his hand in front of Andrew’s face. “What’s wrong?”
Andrew shakes his head. “Oh my god,” he breathes, feeling the smile break across his face. “Nothing is wrong. I got the part.” He got the part. He can’t believe it.
“Wait,” Jesse says, “Death of a Salesman? That part?” He starts to move forward, only to bump into the railing and frowns. “I was going to hug you but, um.” He steps back, grinning at Andrew and bouncing a little on his heels. “Congratulations.”
Andrew physically cannot stop smiling. “Holy shit,” he says, sinking down onto the floor again. He starts to laugh. “How did that happen? I think I’d stopped believing that was ever going to happen.”
“No, you didn’t,” Jesse says. When Andrew looks up, he sees Jesse leaning over the railings, looking down at him. “When do you start?”
Andrew shakes his head, trying to clear it. “Um, Saturday, I think? Yes, Saturday.” He laughs at himself this time. “Sorry, I”m all.” He makes a rocking motion with his hand, trying to convey the crazy floopy elation going on in his brain right now.
“Yeah,” Jesse says softly. His eyes are soft too and maybe sort of sad, though Andrew can’t work out why that would be. “You should call your mom and tell her the good news.” He bends and picks up his laptop. “Congratulations, again.”
“Jesse,” Andrew calls, confused, but Jesse disappears inside his flat without turning around.
Andrew frowns, some of the elation starting to ebb. He has an unwritten contract with himself that he won’t ever push Jesse too far though, so he doesn’t do what he’s itching to do and vault the balcony to follow Jesse inside. Instead, he does what Jesse suggested and calls his mum. Her happiness and relief are enough to remind him that oh yeah, today is a damn good day.
Andrew doesn’t see Jesse for the rest of the day and he doesn’t come out for tea the day after either. It’s worrying but Andrew is busy learning lines and fielding congratulatory calls from everyone he knows back in England so he can’t spend as long as he’d like trying to fix whatever he did wrong.
On the Friday, the day before he has to go down to the theatre and meet with the producer and directors for the first time, there’s a knock on the door and he finds a girl in a white uniform holding out a white panelled box and a clipboard.
“Andrew Garfield?” she says and then, “Sign here,” when Andrew nods.
Frowning, Andrew takes the box back into his flat and sits down on the sofa. He can honestly say that no one has ever sent him flowers before. Although, when he rips the box open, it turns out that no one has quite sent him flowers this time either. It’s a squat green plant with narrow waxy leaves in a simple terracotta pot.
A rectangle of cardboard floats down out of the box and Andrew picks it up, turning it over to find a message neatly printed in handwriting he doesn’t recognise; the florist’s probably:
Andrew grins down at the plant. It no longer looks little and waxy and confusing; now it’s making his heart perk up with renewed hope.
Dropping his script onto the sofa - because, well, he must know it by now and, if he doesn’t, he can blag his way through for one day - Andrew bounces to his feet and turns the card over.
Finding a pen, he draws some swirls and stars in the corners then writes across the centre in his neatest possible handwriting:
You are cordially invited to dinner at Chez Garfield at 7 pm this evening. Please be on your balcony at 6.45 pm for pre-dinner drinks.
Please RSVP ASAP: I will/will not able to attend.
He slides it under Jesse’s front door, stopping to say hello to the cats through the door when they meow at him, then he grabs his wallet and runs down to the shops, because he’s an optimist and if he keeps acting like there’s no way that Jesse will turn him down then maybe he can make it true.
When Andrew gets back, the invitation is stuck to his door. Jesse has crossed out the will not option and scribbled underneath, dress code?
Andrew finds a pen in his trouser pocket and writes back: I’m sure whatever you’re wearing now is lovely. See you soon. xxx
Andrew is really not that great a cook - as evidenced by the amount of effort it took him to whip up those brownies - but he is an expert at ordering take away and then arranging it nicely on a china plate.
When he gets out onto the balcony, he finds that Jesse has pushed his patio table up to the side of his balcony and that’s a great idea so Andrew does the same thing then pops back inside, picks up enough cutlery for the two of them and leans over the railing so he can set Jesse’s table with the fancy napkins and the glasses that he bought this afternoon.
Jesse comes back outside when Andrew is just setting down a wine glass so Andrew adds a little flourish and a grin.
“You do know that we share a hallway so I watched the takeout guy come, right?” Jesse asks. He’s wearing a nice, dark blue shirt that brings out his eyes and black jeans that do amazing things for his legs. Andrew knew that Jesse was attractive, but he hadn’t actually realised that he was hot before.
Andrew clears his throat. “Sorry, what?” he asks, not his smoothest moment, then catches up with what Jesse said. “Yes, I was going to come clean about that, honestly. I think it’ll be better for both our stomachs if I’m not the one cooking.”
Jesse nods. He hesitates, hovering rather than sitting. “Is there anything I can do to help?” he asks.
“No, no,” Andrew says quickly, waving at Jesse’s seat and wishing he was over on Jesse’s balcony so he could pull out his chair for him. “Have a seat. I’ll just grab the plates. Oh and wine. Do you drink wine?”
Jesse sits. He picks up his knife and fork and starts toying with them for a moment before he visibly forces himself to stop and puts them down. “I do drink wine,” he says, nodding quickly. “But just beer’s fine. I don’t want, um. Please don’t go to any trouble.”
“Jesse,” Andrew chides gently. “Nothing is too much trouble for you.” Jesse is blushing and Andrew feels like maybe he should be too, so he adds, “Besides, as you so expertly pointed out, the most effort I did with the food was pick up the phone to order.”
“Okay,” Jesse says, so quietly that Andrew almost doesn’t hear him. “Thank you.”
It should probably feel stranger than it does to sit down to eat dinner with Jesse at separate tables with the balcony railing in between them, but Andrew is used to spending time with Jesse like this now and if it’s what Jesse needs to feel comfortable then he’s fine with it. It’s a little tricky to have to lean over so far to top up Jesse’s wine glass every now and then, but they manage it and the dinner is... it's lovely.
Andrew feels like just ‘lovely’ is selling it short, that he should be imagining fireworks exploding overhead while they talk, but it isn’t like that; everything with Jesse feels quiet and easy and this is no exception.
They talk about Andrew’s play and all the auditions that he didn’t get, but for the first time, Andrew doesn’t feel bad about all that wasted time. Jesse doesn’t look like he’s judging him, like he thinks a twenty-seven year old should have given up on these silly dreams by now; Jesse just sips his wine and nods in the right places and eventually starts to tell Andrew things in return. By the time they finish eating the ice cream that Andrew conveniently found in his freezer, he knows about Jesse’s parents and his sister and most of the cats that he’s ever owned.
It’s one of the best and least stressful dates Andrew has ever had. He hopes that Jesse feels the same, since he gets the feeling that Jesse gets stressed by general everyday living most of the time.
“Would you like the last of the wine?” Andrew asks, lifting the bottle. Somehow they’ve managed to drink the whole thing between them and Andrew hadn’t noticed.
“No, no.” Jesse puts his hand over the top of his glass then frowns suddenly. “Actually, yes. Do you mind?”
Jesse has a smudge of colour across his cheeks, and he’s been talking more and more, getting his hands involved in the process. Andrew doesn’t mind at all. “I’m working tomorrow; I really shouldn’t be hung over for it,” Andrew tells him, leaning over and pouring the last few drops from the bottle into Jesse’s glass.
Jesse picks up his glass and blinks at Andrew slowly. “What was I saying?”
Andrew smiles and reaches between the railings, straightening the wine glass in Jesse’s hand before his sleepy fingers drop it. “You were telling me about the time your very first cat got locked in the wardrobe.”
Jesse frowns. (It’s an adorable frown. Andrew is allowed to think so as long as he keeps those thoughts to himself.) “Why on Earth was I telling you that?”
Andrew has no idea, but he still wants to know. He wants to know everything about Jesse. “It was relevant at the time,” he lies. “And I was fascinated, so.”
Jesse makes a face, sucking his cheeks in and looking down. “Don’t make fun of me,” he says quietly.
Andrew sits up so fast that the whole balcony feels like it’s tilting. “Jesse,” he says, grabbing Jesse’s hand where it rests on the railing between them. “Jesse, I would never.”
“No?” Jesse asks slowly, looking up at Andrew from under his eyelashes.
Andrew can’t form words right now due to how lovely Jesse looks so he just shakes his head.
“Okay.” Jesse pushes his chair back, wincing at the scrape. “Okay, I’ve got to, um. Bed. This was great, but I should go to bed.” He stands up then sways, catching himself on the wall. “Oh, I’m kind of tipsy.” He sounds surprised.
Andrew watches him, trying not to smile too widely. It’s hard though, because he’s a little tipsy himself. “Can you manage?” he asks.
Jesse raises his eyebrows. “Are you offering to put me to bed?” he asks.
Andrew hadn’t been. Well, only in the purest form. He has every hope of getting into Jesse’s bed one day – or Jesse into his, he’s not fussy – but it’s not going to be a day when either of them have had too much to drink.
“I had only the best intentions,” he says, pressing a hand to his chest. Somehow, and he doesn’t know how because usually he has much better balance than this, he sends his chair rocking backwards into the wall. The brickwork huffs in protest, sending a cloud of orange dust Andrew’s way and, “Oops,” Andrew says, feeling himself flush.
Jesse is laughing. Not just the soft little smiles that Andrew has been collecting like he used to collect pogs, but genuine laughing. His cheeks curl up toward his eyes and he has actual dimples. There’s really nothing else for it.
“Stand aside,” Andrew instructs, planting both hands on the railing keeping them apart.
“Oh my god, Andrew, you’re going to fall to your – ” Andrew vaults and lands (fairly) neatly in front of him. “Death,” Jesse finishes faintly.
Andrew straightens up. “So this is what the other side looks like?” he says, looking around. Jesse is looking at him with big eyes, but he doesn’t seem scared or intimidated, just curious. “The grass is certainly greener.”
“Are you being metaphorical?” Jesse asks. “Because I have no grass. I barely even have gra.” He points at the lone potting tub that leans against the wall by his balcony door. Whatever plant was supposed to be in there appears to have shrivelled into some odd-looking single-petalled mutant. Andrew is charmed.
“Oh, that’s lovely,” he says. “What is it?”
Jesse shrugs. “I have no idea. My therapist suggested that I get a plant, so I did. But then it turned into that and gave me nightmares so now it lives out here.”
Andrew bites his lip so he won’t just give in and fucking beam. “You could throw it away?” he suggests, but Jesse shakes his head straight away.
“No, no,” he says. “Have you seen it? It’ll come back and eat me in the night.”
Andrew has no idea if this is an appropriate moment to fall in love, but he thinks he might be doing it anyway. “How about we move it over to my balcony?” he asks. “I promise not to let it climb back over and get you.”
Jesse pauses, apparently considering. “Okay,” he says. “If you’re prepared to risk it.”
“I am,” Andrew tells him seriously. He tries to focus on the plant but it does look a little vicious. “Although maybe not right now.”
“No,” Jesse agrees, shaking his head. “Not right now.”
When Andrew looks up at him, Jesse is looking straight back. He blinks when he catches Andrew’s eye but doesn’t look away.
“Um,” Jesse says, licking his lip. “Thank you, thank you for dinner.”
Andrew’s fingers itch to reach up and push Jesse’s curls back, kiss him for the first time. If this were a conventional date, he’d definitely try it, but he’s terrified of fucking up with Jesse; he feels like he’s teased and tricked Jesse into letting him in a little and he doesn’t want to do anything to make him regret it.
“You’re welcome,” Andrew assures him. “I’d like to do it again, if you’re interested?”
“Yes,” Jesse says slowly. “I am, I’m.” He swallows. “Interested.”
Andrew takes a deep breath and refuses to let his hopes grow too high. “Any time,” he says seriously, “Whenever you want.”
Jesse reaches out and curls his fingers in Andrew’s sleeve. Don’t jump to conclusions, Andrew scolds himself, just stay calm.
“I want to see you all the time,” Jesse says, “It’s terrible. I don’t know how to deal with it at all.”
Calm. “Why is it terrible?” Andrew asks. “If you’re interested in my opinion, I think that’s fantastic.”
“But I don’t know what to do,” Jesse says, eyes a little wide. He pulls on Andrew’s sleeve and Andrew steps closer automatically. He can feel the heat of Jesse’s body now. He’s very warm.
It’s hard, but Andrew manages to say, “You don’t have to do anything, if you’re not comfortable. I’m happy to wait.” If he had the promise of someday, Andrew’s not embarrassed to admit that he’d probably wait forever.
Jesse shakes his head. “No, you should kiss me.”
Andrew swallows convulsively. “Really?” he asks, hearing his voice edge toward squeaking. “I mean. That wasn’t what dinner was about, I promise.”
“I know.” Jesse shifts closer then sways back a little like he can’t decide where to put himself. “But, um, kissing. Now. If you’d like.”
Andrew reaches out and tucks Jesse’s curls back behind his ear, just like he told himself not to. “Of course I’d like,” he says, “but you’ve been drinking and I don’t want to do anything you wouldn’t do sober.”
Jesse’s cheeks flush dark. “Well I’d never have to guts to suggest it sober, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t wanted to do it,” he confesses. “But you don’t want to and that, that’s fine. I’ll just - ”
“Jesse,” Andrew says quickly, “Don’t be silly, of course I want to.” It’s just a kiss, he tells himself, Jesse wants to and Andrew would love to. He cups the back of Jesse’s head and moves in quickly, brushing his lips against Jesse’s.
Jesse freezes and Andrew’s hands turn cold with worry, but then Jesse pushes into the kiss, parting his lips and leaning up on his toes. Andrew curls his hands around the backs of Jesse’s upper arms, holding him close but not too tight while they kiss, warm and wet, lips slightly parted until Andrew can’t control his smile. He feels Jesse’s mouth start to echo the shape until kissing doesn’t work any more and they have to pull back.
“That was nice,” Andrew says, still grinning and Jesse laughs, ducking his head.
“You’re nice,” he mumbles.
Andrew wants to reel him back in and kiss him all night. Instead, he makes himself step back. “I should go,” he says, “Or I’m going to ask to kiss you again and you might get fed up with me.”
“I wouldn’t,” Jesse says, smiling shyly, “but I’m not going to stop you from going home. You have to be wide awake tomorrow so you can dazzle the directors.”
Andrew presses close once more, kissing the corner of Jesse’s mouth and the place where his dimple sometimes appears. “I’ll come and see you tomorrow,” he promises. “Shall I meet you on the balcony or am I allowed to knock on your door?”
Jesse nudges his toes against the floor of the balcony and then, again, this time against Andrew’s socked feet. “Knock on the door,” he says and it sounds like a promise.