"I’m not sure I’ve conveyed exactly how sorry I am for being a cowardly, unforgivable flake,” Andrew says seriously over breakfast the next morning.
Jesse thinks that the number of times that Andrew whispered sorry and I missed you into his skin last night probably makes up for a lot. But there’s still this small, hurt part of him that feels permanently dented so he just says, “No?”
Andrew stops fiddling with his coffee cup and says, “You agree? Oh god.” He leans over the space between their stools and presses their shoulders together. “Can I take you out to dinner tonight?”
“How will that help?” Jesse asks. “Surely the way to make up for disappearing is to, I don’t know, handcuff yourself to me or something?” Andrew’s breath hitches a little at that and Jesse files that away to be explored later. “But dinner sounds nice. Do we have to leave the apartment?”
“Not if you don’t want to,” Andrew says uncertainly. “But I really can’t cook anything that doesn’t feature chips as the main ingredient and takeaway doesn’t exactly have the romantic, apology factor I was going for.”
Half of Jesse is incredibly nervous of the idea of going outside with Andrew, having the world know that they’re on an actual date, but the other half doesn’t like that look of disappointment on Andrew’s face.
“Sure,” Jesse says, “Just not one of those pretentious places with the tiny portions, okay?”
Andrew grins, looking pleased which helps to convince Jesse that he’s made the right decision. “No pretentious portions, got it. I’ll go and have a chat with our dinner and if it puts on a French accent, we won’t go there.”
“Idiot,” Jesse says, laughing. “And that’s not what I said.”
Andrew leans closer, kissing the top of his ear, which is dumb but still makes Jesse shiver. “I know,” he says, “but I made you laugh, so.”
“My laugh sounds like a hyena having painful sex,” Jesse tells him, turning toward him in the hope of getting Andrew to stop kissing random facial features and also to stop trying to make him laugh again.
Both parts of the plan go pretty well when he finds Andrew’s mouth instead and kisses him slowly and with intent.
In the end, Andrew takes Jesse to Penelope’s on Lexington, which just so happens to be one of Jesse’s favourite restaurants.
Jesse suspects his friends - for all that Andrew is surprisingly committed to finding out everything there is to know about Jesse, there’s no way that he’s actually psychic. Hopefully.
“Is this okay?” Andrew asks, pulling out Jesse’s chair for him.
They’re here for dinner so the lights are dim and there are candles on every table. It’s a tiny place, cosy, with all of five inches of space between Jesse’s elbow and the elbow of the lady sitting at the table next to theirs.
“It’s great,” Jesse says, trying not to think that at least there won’t be room for any paparazzi to come in, even if they do find them. “I can pull my own chair out, though.”
“Sorry,” Andrew says, snatching his hand back from the top of the chair. “I wasn’t trying to... I know you can.”
“No, hey.” Jesse squeezes Andrew’s hand, but only quickly in case anyone’s watching. “I just meant, you’re spoiling me.”
“But that’s what I’m trying to do,” Andrew says, sounding honestly baffled.
Jesse waves it away, because he doesn’t want to explain how that wasn’t what he meant, he meant that Andrew’s doting on him and people are going to notice that.
Their server turns out to be from England and she and Andrew spend ten minutes talking about places in Surrey that Jesse’s never heard of. They’re not quite flirting but Andrew’s doing that super interested and attentive thing that he does with everyone he talks to.
Jesse watches with his chin propped on his hand, trying not to marvel that this boy he’s somehow dating is really, really charming.
“Can I get you anything to drink?” the server asks, turning to include Jesse in her smile. He wonders if she knows they’re on a date; something about her expression makes him think that she does.
“Um,” Jesse says, “Pepsi, please.” Andrew makes a soft, sad noise and Jesse frowns at him. “What? Were you hoping to get me drunk?” He bites his lip as soon as he’s said it because he didn’t mean to in front of the server. She just laughs.
“No,” Andrew says, “but I wanted to order one of their silly, fancy coloured drinks and now I’m going to look ridiculous.”
“You always look ridiculous,” Jesse tells him but changes his order anyway. “Fine, I’ll have a sangria.”
She nods and flicks her pad, turning around in the minute space between the tables to take the next order.
Andrew reaches across the table to slide the candle to the side and slide his fingers between Jesse’s. Jesse glances over at their neighbours and finds that the man next to Andrew is looking at their joined hands. Jesse is pretty sure that it’s more an older man’s aversion to seeing two guys hold hands rather than because he’s recognised Andrew. Stubbornly, Jesse keeps holding on.
“Well, now I feel guilty,” Andrew teases, clearly not noticing anything. “I don’t want to drive you to drink.”
“If I didn’t start drinking from the shittiness of last year, I don’t think I’m going to now,” Jesse says without thinking about it and has to grab Andrew’s hand before he can pull it back. “Sorry, wait, I didn’t mean that.”
Andrew looks down at their hands, rubbing his thumb back and forth over Jesse’s knuckles. “My year was pretty shitty too,” he admits, “and I’m so - ”
“Don’t say you’re sorry again,” Jesse says firmly. He looks over Andrew’s shoulder. “Oh, look, here come our drinks.”
The server smiles at them and puts their drinks down near their free hands. “I’m sorry,” she says, leaning conspiratorially, “but the man in the corner is taking pictures of you on his mobile.”
Jesse jumps, instinctively looking over his shoulder. A guy in a waistcoat having dinner with a couple of friends catches his eye and looks away. Jesse doesn’t think he’s a reporter - at least, he doesn’t look much like the type of guy who plagued the store - so maybe they don’t need to panic yet.
“That’s okay,” Andrew says casually to the server. “It’s because Jesse’s so good looking, happens all the time.”
“Oh god,” Jesse mutters, while she laughs and walks away. Andrew is still smiling. “You really don’t care?”
“I...” Andrew hesitates. “I wish they wouldn’t, but I... I’ve decided not to care. Which is almost the same thing.”
Jesse looks at him and remembers that while he was moping around about being dumped without a word, Andrew was having his whole life turned upside down.
“Shit,” Jesse says, “I forgot to say. I heard about Spider-man. I’m real sorry.”
Andrew’s fingers spasm around Jesse’s. “It’s fine. The studio did what they thought was right for the...” he trails off, then pauses, laughs, “and I’m lying.”
“I know,” Jesse says. He can’t image how that must feel, to be told that you can’t do your job because of what you do in your personal life. If anyone told him that he wasn’t allowed to sell books just because he happens to be bi, he thinks he’d probably do things inappropriate for a bookstore owner. Like cut a bitch. “Do you want to talk about it? Or should I tell you about the 1896 edition of Gulliver’s Travels that I picked up for $200?”
“That one,” Andrew says quickly, picking up his drink and looking at Jesse over the rim. “Tell me all about it.”
Dinner is great. Andrew insists on trying all of the most colourful drinks they serve, so it’s also kind of drunken but it’s a good, giggly kind of tipsy that ends with Andrew peaceably agreeing to let Jesse pay half and then tipping the server at least twice the price of the meal anyway.
“You’re impossible,” Jesse tells him when they stumble of onto the sidewalk.
“I thought I was ridiculous?” Andrew asks, wrapping his arm around Jesse’s shoulders.
“Tonight, you’re both,” Jesse decides after maybe a bit too much thought. It’s possible he’s kind of tipsy too.
Andrew reels him in, which Jesse should have predicted when he first put his arm around him.
“Andrew,” Jesse protests, but only half-heartedly.
“Shh, I’m kissing you,” Andrew says, doing so. He tastes of the mac and cheese he ate plus lots of sweet-sticky alcohol.
“Do you think we should worry that we spend a lot of our makeout time kind of drunk?” Jesse ponders, kissing the corner of Andrew’s mouth, catching his lips on the beginnings of Andrew’s stubble.
Andrew pulls back, frowning. “Should we?” he asks, starting to sound a bit worried.
Jesse laughs, shaking his head. “I was joking,” he promises. “I, I only drink when I’m already happy.” Which is as close as he can get to you make me happy.
Andrew beams at him. “Oh,” he breathes, pulling Jesse close, closer than Jesse should let him out here on the street if don’t want to get caught. But Andrew’s eyes are soft and his hands flatten possessively over the small of Jesse’s back so Jesse just leans in, kissing him to say yes, yes I meant it.
The next morning, Joe looks at him curiously when he stops off to buy his first coffee of the day. (By the time he gets to Joe’s, he’s usually looking for his second or third cup, but Andrew kept him in bed late so today he was orgasm rich and caffeine poor - which wasn’t a bad deal, really.)
“What?” Jesse asks, fiddling with the sugar packets while he waits for his coffee to be ready. He starts to worry that maybe he has a hickey somewhere visible and tries to surreptitiously feel his neck to check.
“Well first, there’s a seriously impressive bruise on the other side of your throat,” Joe tells him, smirking when Jesse’s hand flies to cover as much skin as possible. “And second, um.”
He pushes over today’s Post, which is folded to the middle pages. There, sandwiched between a picture of some starlet rollerblading and an advertisement for umbrellas, is a grainy photograph of Andrew. And Jesse.
Luckily, the photographer must have missed them actually kissing because this is from just after that. Andrew’s hand wrapped around Jesse’s wrist, tugging him into a taxi while Jesse laughs at him and tries not to fall over his own feet.
Jesse feels his face heat up with embarrassment. God, he looks ridiculous, all sappy and flushed and happy.
“Oh, shit,” Jesse groans, dropping the sugar packets across the counter and covering his burning face with his hands. “No.”
“Yeah,” Joe hums sympathetically. “But like, um. I mean, he is out, right? This isn’t going to cause any kind of scandal like last time?”
“No,” Jesse agrees without lowering his hands. “But.” He doesn’t want to explain it. He just doesn’t want pictures of himself looking happy all over the newspapers. Things like that should just be his and Andrew’s.
The coffee machine hisses but Joe ignores it for the moment. That’s not a good sign. When Jesse peeks at him from between his fingers, Joe wrinkles his nose. “I guess now would be a bad time to point out that there’s also kind of an article to go with it?”
The article, such as it is, is pretty much just a collection of random made up bullshit with a couple of almost-truths thrown in.
The headline is the worst: Spider-man Back With Old Squeeze? it says, which doesn’t even make sense.
“That’s not even funny,” Jesse complains to Andrew later, “If you were Cobra-man, that might be funny.”
Andrew reaches across the table and squeezes Jesse’s fingers. “You write in and tell them that,” he suggests then lifts a hand, quickly, when Jesse starts to consider it. “Or don’t. No, please don’t actually do that. We’d never get out of the headlines if you did that.”
Jesse deflates, resting his elbows on the table. “I’m not actually going to,” he sighs. “But did you read the bit about how we kept up an intercontinental romance by sending each other erotic emails? I have never sent an erotic email. I get embarrassed when my spam filter offers to enlarge my penis.”
Andrew smiles slowly and leans in. Jesse just knows he’s going to say something awful and embarrassing about the size of Jesse’s dick so it’s kind of a relief when his cell phone rings.
It’s less of a relief when he checks the display and sees that it’s his mom, but whatever.
“Hi, Mom,” Jesse says, holding up a finger to stop Andrew coming any closer. Andrew ignores him, leaning in and kissing his ear, before sitting back and picking up the paper again.
“Oh, so you are alive,” his mom says. “I was wondering since you haven’t answered your phone all day.”
“I was working,” Jesse protests, which is true, but the reason he didn’t answer his phone was because he knew that she was going to -
“So, I saw your picture in the paper today.”
“Did you?” Jesse asks, wincing preemptively. He loves his mom a lot but she’s never really very comforting about his choices. “I hope they got my best side.”
She ignores him. “You didn’t tell me you were back with that Andrew boy. I thought he was still abroad.” She definitely sounds disapproving, which Jesse understands since she saw how much Andrew leaving fucked him up. He’s kind of never okay with people disapproving of Andrew though so he finds himself on the defensive.
“He was in England,” Jesse says as patiently as he can, “Where he lives.”
Andrew looks up at the mention of England, raising his eyebrows. Jesse shakes his head.
There’s a pause and then his mom sighs. It’s the sigh of a woman whose children are unnecessarily unreasonable and he just knows that she’s going to be complaining to Hallie Kate about him before the night is out.
“Fine,” she says. “I’m sure you know what you’re doing. When will be bringing him around for dinner, then?”
“Um, never?” Jesse says automatically. That gets him no reply at all, so he caves. Obviously. He likes being a good son but sometimes it’s a hardship. “Soon?”
“That’s right,” his mom agrees cheerfully. “Call me when you fix up a day and remember that I have bingo Friday nights and I’m visiting your aunt this weekend, so it’d better be tomorrow.”
“Mom,” Jesse complains.
“Love you,” she says and hangs up.
Jesse stares at his phone. He’s not entirely sure how much he was even part of that conversation.
“Everything okay?” Andrew asks, nudging their feet together. His bare toes against the arch of Jesse’s foot calm Jesse down for some reason.
“Mothers,” Jesse explains. He’s feels nervous so decides just to get it out there. “She wants you to come for dinner tomorrow night.”
“Oh,” Andrew says, looking pleased. “Really? That would be lovely.” But then his face falls and Jesse thinks right, of course, you’ve remembered you don’t really want to meet my family. “But I can’t do tomorrow night. I have that press thing, did I tell you? I meant to tell you.”
Jesse shakes his head. “You didn’t tell me,” he says, wondering if Andrew just made that up on the spot.
“It’s just some silly function,” Andrew says. “I have to go and mingle and promote myself and other horrible things like that but it’ll be boring and I’d much rather meet your family.”
He actually looks like he means it; sometimes Jesse doesn’t understand him at all. Who wants to meet their um, their boyfriend-ish-type-person’s family?
“It’s fine,” Jesse tells him even though he knows this isn’t going to help at all with his mom’s opinion of Andrew. “We’ll do it some other time. I mean, she has everyone over to celebrate shit like her tomatoes coming into season so it’s not like there won’t be other opportunities. If you really do want to meet her.”
“I do,” Andrew assures him, getting up and coming to kneel by Jesse’s chair, presumably because Jesse doesn’t look convinced. “Jesse, trust me, I’m already planning the easiest way to get you and my parents in the same place at the same time.”
Jesse’s heart jumps at that, some kind of combination of terror and pleasure. “Really?” he asks, voice too high.
“Mm hmm,” Andrew promises, leaning up to kiss him. His hands are warm on Jesse’s thighs and Jesse’s just contemplating losing himself in that when Andrew pulls back.
“Will you apologise to your mum for me?” he asks, which is the last thing Jesse wants someone to say while kissing him. “Or, wait, should I talk to her? I don’t want her to think I’m just making excuses or something.”
“Oh my god, no,” Jesse says weakly. “No, you don’t ever get to speak to my mom.”
Andrew makes a confused face. “That’s going to make dinner difficult then,” he says then looks away. “Oh. I mean, um. Do you not want me to meet your family? I thought you were just doing that thing where you worry about stuff, but if you really don’t, um.”
Now Jesse feels bad. He keeps forgetting that Andrew isn’t as self-confident as he wants people to think he is.
Sighing, Jesse picks up his cell and hands it to Andrew. “She’s speed dial one,” he says. “Don’t say anything too embarrassing.”
The smile he gets as Andrew takes the phone is - probably - worth it.
The next evening, Jesse is sitting on the bed in Andrew’s hotel room while Andrew tries to find something to wear to his function.
(Apparently it is a real function, not a made-up emergency excuse one.)
“Oh wait,” Andrew says, head in his closet. “Did you want to come?”
Jesse freezes. Panic spikes through him and he thinks he might throw up.
He opens his mouth to say no but the sound he actually manages is more like, “Bazrumph?”
“Pardon?” Andrew asks, turning away from the closet with a red shirt draped over one arm. “Jesse?”
“Nothing,” Jesse says quickly. “Is that what you’re wearing? That’ll look good.”
Andrew drops the shirt on the bed and puts his hands on Jesse’s shoulders. “What did I say wrong? I meant it; I’d like you to come. Should I have asked sooner?” he asks. “I meant to ask sooner, I just got nervous.”
“Yes,” Jesse says, trying to sound breezy. “It’s way too short notice, I don’t have a thing to wear.”
Andrew just waits, looking at him with those stupid, wide eyes of his. He looks hopeful. Ugh.
“That’s not fair,” Jesse complains. “You don’t really want me to go. I’m a disaster at social things, I’ll, um, I’ll accidentally say something ridiculous to someone important and - ”
Andrew leans in, hands tight on his wrists and kisses him. “But I like ridiculous,” he says, pouting.
Jesse closes his eyes, breathing in the smell of Andrew’s shower gel and the aftershave he just splashed on. His blood is pounding with nerves and he thinks he might pass out. “Okay,” he hears himself say, his brain yelling no, no, no, don’t do it, at him. “I’ll come.”
Andrew kisses him again, bare back warm against the circle of Jesse’s arms, which rise to hold him automatically. “Yay,” he says quietly, a little puff of breath over Jesse’s mouth. When he pulls away, he’s smiling so hard that Jesse can’t regret this (stupid) decision.
Jesse has to go back to his apartment to get changed since he’s apparently just agreed to go a star-studded reception thingy and he probably can’t get away with wearing scruffy, too-big jeans.
He can’t really think about it too hard; if he tries, he loses control of his tongue and walks into things.
He spends ten minutes sitting on the floor of his shower, warm water pounding down onto his back, full-on freaking out then makes himself dry off and change into the nicest clothes he has.
They’re probably still not good enough, and he clings to a tiny hope that Andrew will take one look at him and refuse to be seen in public with someone wearing the same suit he wore to his college graduation.
Andrew smiles very slowly and says, “I always suspected you’d look amazing in a suit,” and then leads him to the car. (They’re not even taking a taxi; Andrew or his studio or his agent or someone has hired an actual Aston Martin complete with driver.)
“It’s all horribly pretentious, isn’t it?” Andrew asks, with an embarrassed shrug. “I think it’s the English thing? My agent is convinced that I get more work because I’m English so she likes to remind people all the time.”
Jesse stares at the back of their driver’s head. He sort of wants to lean forward and apologise for something; he isn’t even sure what.
“Maybe she wants you to be the next James Bond?” he manages.
“Ooh,” Andrew says, perking up. “That would be amazing, wouldn’t it?” He reaches over and squeezes Jesse’s knee. “Would you be my Bond girl?”
The driver doesn’t so much as twitch but Jesse is still somehow sure that he’s laughing at them. He puts his hand on top of Andrew’s, holding it against his pant leg in case it gets any ideas about wandering.
“I’d look terrible in a leather cat suit,” Jesse says. Normally, he’d tell Andrew about the horribly sexist attitude to women in most of the James Bond novels but he honestly doesn’t trust himself to be coherent right now.
Andrew leans into him. “I’m really not sure about that,” he murmurs.
Jesse smacks him lightly. “Behave,” he says and he really, really means it. Maybe he can get through tonight, but not if Andrew is going to be all over him. Obviously, he’s happy that Andrew wants to touch him so much, but if he tries it in front of other people right now, Jesse thinks he might die.
“Okay,” Andrew says cheerfully, leaning in and kissing him quickly on the mouth. He sits back on his own side of the car before Jesse can think about either reciprocating or complaining and Jesse is left to panic in peace, nothing to distract him anymore.
If anything, the party is somehow worse than Jesse thought it was going to be. People take their picture and Andrew clings to Jesse’s wrist, refusing to let him run away until so many flashbulbs have gone off that Jesse can’t blink without seeing the night sky across his eyelids.
“This way,” Andrew says, leading him through a set of double swing doors into a huge reception room full of people in expensive suits and gorgeous dresses sipping champagne.
Jesse’s palms go clammy and his shirt collar feels too tight.
“Okay?” Andrew asks, smiling at him.
“Yes,” Jesse lies, somehow managing to smile back. He accepts the champagne that someone offers him and bites the lip of the glass wondering if he could engineer just a minor tongue laceration to get himself out of here.
“Ooh, look, there’s Ellen,” Andrew says happily and waves across the room at a tiny, brunette in a long red dress. “Thank goodness,” he whispers to Jesse while she makes her way over. “I wasn’t sure we were going to know anyone.”
Jesse doesn’t point out that he doesn’t know this Ellen person either, because that would be rude. Andrew is clearly enjoying himself for all that he claimed he wouldn’t and Jesse is pleased, he is, he’s just sure that Andrew would be having at least as much fun if he’d come on his own.
“Andrew Garfield, where have you been?” the Ellen person says, punching Andrew in the arm before hugging him hard.
Andrew has to lean down to hug her and his face breaks into a huge smile. “Cobble Hill, mostly,” he says, letting go of her and waving to indicate Jesse. “This is Jesse. Jesse, this is Ellen, she was my Gwen Stacey.”
“Your - ?” Jesse asks, frowning, wondering if that’s some sort of celebrity code. He wouldn’t have pegged Andrew for someone who used celebrity code but then Andrew seems to have slotted in here so easily that he thinks he’s going to have to reassess a lot of things.
“In Spider-man,” Ellen explains, rolling her eyes affectionately at Andrew. “Or I was. After the bullshit they pulled with Andrew, I’m not going back even if they double my salary.” She shakes her head and holds her hand out to Jesse. “It’s great to finally meet you.”
“You, um. You too.” Jesse says while Andrew says, “Ellen,” like he wants to argue her out of standing up for him.
“Shh,” Jesse says at the same time that Ellen says, “Shut up.” She grins conspiratorially at Jesse while he ducks his head, flustered.
So that’s not too bad, but then Ellen gets stolen by some guy called Leo who Jesse also doesn’t recognise and Andrew is accosted by someone who’s clearly important and Jesse doesn’t really know where to put himself.
He tries standing awkwardly next to Andrew but the important person keeps shooting him curious looks and Jesse’s sure that she’s going to direct her next sentence at him.
“I’m going to get a drink,” he tells Andrew quietly and steps away, even though the glass in his hand is still full. He keeps walking, no idea where he’s going until he finds some doors that lead outside.
It’s a cold night, but that’s okay. Jesse leans against a stone wall, looking out across a decent sized grassy area, one of those private little parks that dot the city, and tries to steady his breathing.
You’re okay, he tells himself. Only a couple more hours of this. That doesn’t calm him down at all. He’s not sure why he feels so freaked out; no one’s calling him names or blaming him for Andrew being dropped from Spider-man, he just can’t seem to calm down.
Fuck, he texts to Emma, Justin, Kristen, Aziz, and anyone else who he can send curse words to and who might be near their phone.
Take a minute and read your book, Kristen texts him back right away. He blinks at his cell, wondering how she knew he’d tucked a book into the inside pocket of his suit jacket. It’s a good idea though so he doesn’t freak out about her telepathic powers, just goes with it.
He sits down against the wall, as far into the shadows as he can get and still see, and pulls out his book, planning just to lose himself in a couple of chapters of Iris Murdoch, just until he feels calm enough to go back inside.
Jesse has no idea how long he reads for but when he looks up, he realises that he’s too cold to feel his fingertips and Andrew’s standing over him.
Andrew’s expression is strange, a little fond, a little annoyed, but mostly really sad.
“Sorry,” Jesse says, scrambling to his feet. “I was just - ” There’s no good way to say you brought me to this event that other people would kill for and I hate it.
“You’re miserable here,” Andrew finishes for him. He sounds really disappointed and Jesse hates himself a little bit.
“No, no, I don’t,” he lies, tripping over his own protests. He closes his book guiltily, tries to tuck it behind his back but it’s too late.
Andrew gives a shaky sigh. “You do.” He rubs a hand over his face. “I’m sorry, I knew you’d hate it but I just, I really didn’t want to come by myself.” He shrugs. “You make everything easier.”
God, now Jesse feels worse. How is that even possible?
“Look, let’s leave,” Andrew says before Jesse can make any more empty protests.
Jesse swallows, guilty and relieved and then even more guilty for feeling relieved. “I thought you had to mingle?” he asks lamely.
Andrew shrugs it off. “I’ll mingle later,” he says dismissively. “All I ever do is come to things like this.”
The way he says it, it sounds like he’s saying more. Like... Oh. Jesse nods stiffly, folding his arms across his chest because he thinks that if Andrew holds his hand right now, he’ll never be able to make himself let go.
If Andrew’s life revolves around these kind of parties and Jesse couldn’t even make it through one, it’s pretty obvious that he’s not cut out for the life of an A-lister’s boyfriend. Jesse feels kind of sick.
They’re quiet on the way home - Jesse keeps wanting to apologise, promise to do better, but that’s not going to happen so he stays quiet. He doesn’t invite Andrew in.
The next morning is awful. Jesse keeps replaying last night in his head, wishing he’d done something different, been someone different.
“No,” Emma says, completely serious and giving him a little shake. “No, honey, come on. Andrew loves you and he’s a sweetheart; he’s not going to want you to do something that makes you miserable.”
Jesse shakes his head, keeping his eyes on the accounts ledger as though he’s actually taking any of it in. “You didn’t see him,” he says dully. “I really disappointed him.”
He feels terrible about that, more than anything else. Andrew had wanted to show him a good time and Jesse hadn’t even managed to appreciate it.
“Of course you didn’t,” Emma says brusquely. She glances over when the store doorbell dings but Jesse doesn’t, not until she says, “Hi, Andrew,” and then he almost falls out his chair trying to stand up and look up and put down his pen all at the same time.
“Morning, Emma,” Andrew says, smiling at her. He looks awful, like he hasn’t slept and his hair’s in tufts the way it gets when he’s stressed and pulls on it.
Jesse knows these things; it shouldn’t be possible that he can know these things and still be such a failure as a boyfriend.
“I... will leave you guys to it,” Emma says and picks up her coffee, disappearing back into the stacks like she won’t still be able to hear every word.
“Hi,” Jesse says, watching Andrew’s face and unable to think of a better place to start.
“I know, I know that you had a rotten time last night,” Andrew starts haltingly. “I’m sorry.”
“No.” Jesse shakes his head quickly. “It’s okay. I wasn’t, there wasn’t anything wrong with it. It was lovely. It’s just really not - ” He shrugs, helpless, deciding he might as well be honest. “It’s not me. I can’t do that.”
“I know. And I’m not, I’m not such a selfish bastard that I’m going to make you be with me even though it makes you miserable.” Andrew taps the paper bag he’s carrying against his leg. Then he stops and holds it out to Jesse. “I bought this in London. I was going to give it to you for your birthday but we won’t... This isn’t going to work, is it?”
Jesse swallows hard. He wants to grab Andrew and promise him that of course it can work; Jesse will just get over his issues and be the best date Andrew could possibly want. It’s not true though, so he doesn’t.
“I’m sorry,” he says, feeling his throat try to close up and not letting it, not right now.
Andrew nods. His eyes are bright and he looks as miserable as he did that horrible afternoon when he came to hide out at Jesse’s. Maybe Jesse should never have kissed him that night; maybe then they’d both be happier.
“Here.” Andrew waves the paper bag and Jesse takes it automatically. It’s a couple of inches thick, rectangular; Jesse knows a book when he feels one and he smiles slightly without meaning to.
Andrew nods jerkily. He starts to turn away then stops. “You know,” he says then clears his throat, tries again. “I’m not going to be famous forever. Celebrity’s really fickle and people forget who you are in a couple of years.”
Jesse doesn’t answer. He’s seen Andrew act; no one is going to forget who he is.
Andrew obviously takes Jesse’s silence as... well, something, Jesse isn’t sure what, but it can’t be anything good because Andrew trips over his next words. “If I were just some boy and I’d wandered in here and I’d met you, I’d still... I’d still have fallen in love with you.” He bites his bottom lip and looks at Jesse sort of desperately. “And maybe then you’d have been able to love me too?”
Jesse can’t say anything. He feels like his brain has shorted out and all he can do is open and close his mouth like an idiot.
Andrew’s whole face falls, this little spark that Jesse suddenly realises was hope, dying out of his eyes. “Okay, then,” he says and turns around, walking out of the store without another word.
The quiet ring of the bell sounds like the end of everything.
An hour later, Jesse is ensconced in a booth at Justin’s club, cradling a whiskey morosely, even though it’s hours before opening time. He’s considering getting very drunk, but he doesn’t think that will help.
“Okay,” Justin says, pointing at the as-new, first edition, signed copy of The Clockwork Orange that’s sitting on the table in front of Jesse. His hands haven’t stopped shaking since he opened it. “I know I don’t have your appreciation of like, books and words and shit, but this is basically your dream gift, right? The famous movie star knows you well enough to buy you exactly the right thing and yet you let him break up with you over something so stupid as you having one tiny freakout.”
Emma leans over and refills Jesse’s glass. “He said he loved him, too,” she adds casually.
Justin slaps the table. “Oh for fuck’s sake. Jesse, come on.”
Jesse thinks he means it metaphorically, like come on Jesse, get yourself together, which Jesse would love to do, thank you very much, but apparently Justin means it literally because he starts trying to pull him to his feet.
“Where am I going?” Jesse asks.
Justin pulls on his arm again. “We’re going to find your boy and...”
“No.” Jesse shakes his head and sits down hard. “This isn’t a movie. I can’t fix this with some stupid, romantic declaration.”
Emma looks at Justin who looks back at her and shrugs. “Um, dude,” she says, apparently speaking for both of them. “Yes, you can.”
No matter what Emma and Justin insist, Jesse isn’t going to try to change Andrew’s mind about him using some stupid, romantic gesture.
Mostly because he can’t think of one.
What he does do is let them get him very drunk and then drive him home. It doesn’t help, obviously, but at least it numbs the gnawing pain throbbing somewhere around his heart.
Despite the hangover, he still wakes up early. The cats are clearly worried, scratching at his closed bedroom door, Tommy’s cry rising above all the others’.
“Oh god, be quiet,” Jesse begs. “I’m sorry. I know you miss Andrew.” He stares blankly at the ceiling. He misses Andrew too.
He’s waiting outside Joe’s cafe when Joe opens up. Joe obviously knows what’s happened because he squeezes Jesse’s elbow and hands him a free cookie along with his coffee.
“Dude,” he says before Jesse can leave. “I just want to say something real quick, okay?”
“Okay?” Jesse says warily. “If it has anything to do with boom boxes, running through airports or declarations of love via flashcards, I don’t want to hear it, okay?”
Joe nods slowly like he’s worried about Jesse’s sanity. Jesse thinks he should be more worried about Emma and Justin’s since those were some of the least traumatic of their suggestions.
“You love Andrew, right?” Joe asks, not waiting for Jesse to do more than nod before he carries on. “Well, I love Emma and like, what we have isn’t perfect but if she ever tried to break up with me for my own good, I would fight like hell to change her mind.”
Jesse blinks. “Yeah, but he still broke up with me,” he reiterates because in his experience, that’s kind of a deal breaker.
“Because he thought that’s what you wanted,” Joe says, waving a hand energetically. “It was dumb as shit which is why you were supposed to fight for him, not just say okay and be miserable for the rest of your life.”
“So.” Jesse frowns. “You, um. What do you think I should do?” He’s not necessarily going to do it, he’s just a bit less numb and bit more likely to listen to other points of view than he was yesterday.
Joe hands him a second cup of coffee and another cookie. “See if you can win him over with caffeine and sweets, okay? It’s how you got him in the first place, right?” He holds the door for Jesse when Jesse follows him across the shop floor, thinking hard. “Just don’t spill it on his this time.”
“Right.” Jesse nods, distracted. “I’ll, um.”
Joe shuts the door in his face. “You can thank me later!” he calls through the glass.
No one looks twice at him when he walks across the lobby of Andrew’s hotel, either because they recognise him from coming here with Andrew or because he looks like a crazy person clutching coffee and cookies and they’re too scared to stop him.
Jesse has no idea what he’s doing here really, and no idea what he’s going to say. Which turns out to be a problem when he gets to Andrew’s door and finds he can’t actually make himself knock.
He presses his ear to the door but can’t hear anything - it’s just past eight in the morning, so Andrew’s probably still asleep. Jesse only had three mornings of crawling out of bed for work while Andrew was still asleep, relaxed and cosy under Jesse’s comforter - he’s starting to think that Joe was right; he kind of can’t believe he just let that go.
Instead of waking Andrew up, Jesse decides he can wait, and sits down outside the door, drinking his coffee and nibbling on a cookie, trying to think of what to say.
Hasn’t really gotten anywhere with that by the time he hears someone start to move around inside the door. He jumps up, still not sure he’s going to knock, except his knee decides for him, banging into the door in a horribly unsmooth move.
“Coming,” Andrew calls, sounding surprised and Jesse takes three seconds to contemplate running away but he doesn’t. He grips the cold coffee and remaining cookie and tries to keep his cool.
“Sorry, I didn’t call for - ” Andrew starts to say then visibly checks himself, staring at Jesse with growing wide eyes. “Hi.”
“Hi.” Jesse hands him the coffee and cookie. “You bought me a fantastic, ridiculously expensive gift and I’ve brought you cold coffee and a slightly squashed chocolate cookie. Take me back?”
“Wait,” Andrew says. He scrubs a hand across his face, looking like he’s trying to wake himself up. “Am I dreaming?”
Jesse shakes his head quickly. “No, but can we pretend you just dreamed that very last bit? I didn’t mean to say it like that. My, um. My friends all decided that I needed to make some huge romantic gesture, but I think we can both agree that I’m not very good at public displays of, well, anything.”
Andrew is still staring. “But what are you...? I thought. Do you want to come in?”
Jesse shakes his head. “In a minute,” he says quickly, scared of losing his nerve. “When you said you loved me. I... I’m sorry I didn’t say it back. I don’t know why I didn’t.”
Andrew looks away. “It’s okay,” he says softly. “You’re under no obligation to love me.”
Jesse grabs his shoulder, wanting Andrew to look at him. “But I do,” he says desperately. “So much. I just freaked out the other night. I’m... I have some anxiety issues, you know that, but I thought, I thought you need a boyfriend who can support you at shit like that. Which you do, I know you do, but if you...”
“No,” Andrew interrupts. “I need a boyfriend who’ll put up with how crazy I get when I’m learning lines and who won’t mind that I fly half way around the world a dozen times a year and who’ll...” He looks up, eyes bright. “Jesse, I need you.”
This is too easy; Jesse thought he was going to have to beg Andrew to take him back. “I can do all those other things,” he offers hesitantly.
Andrew looks like he still doesn’t believe he’s awake. Jesse can sympathise. Between them, they’ve been so stupid and wasted so much time; it seems impossibly simple that all they need to do is actually talk to each other to make it okay.
“And will you?” Andrew asks, biting his lip.
Andrew kisses him, right there on his doorstep in front of anyone who might be coming down the corridor. It’s not a sweeping, romantic sort of kiss because this would be a terrible place for that; it’s quick and hard but Jesse has no doubt that he means it.
“Are you sure?” Jesse asks, pulling back. “You have to be sure. I’m going to make the worst WAG ever, so you really do need to be sure.”
Andrew chokes on a happy laugh, kissing Jesse again. “I love you,” he says, which isn’t an answer at all.
“Why?” Jesse asks, suspiciously. “Did I get that wrong? WAG is the term, right? Abigail has been teaching me about British celebrity terminology. Why, I have no idea.”
Andrew curls both his hands around Jesse’s and leans against him. He’s warm and heavy and Jesse would be happy to keep babbling forever if this is the result.
“You don’t ever have to come to another industry party with me, if you don’t want to,” Andrew promises. “Well, I mean, if I ever get nominated for some important award or something, it might be nice to have you there, but that’s not going to happen, so.”
“I think I could make an exception for that,” Jesse says quickly, even though he has no doubt that Andrew will be nominated for everything important eventually. He just hopes it’s not for another twenty years or something; maybe awards ceremonies will all be virtual reality by then.
“I love you,” Andrew says again.
Jesse laughs, feeling shaky and much, much happier than he thinks can possibly be good for him. “Stop saying that,” he says, “You’re using it up. It’s my turn now.”
Andrew pulls back. His eyes are bright like they were yesterday in the store, but it’s happiness now, Jesse’s pretty sure. “So say it then,” he says. “Or, wait, don’t.” He puts his fingers over Jesse’s lips. “Come inside with me first? I really do want that to just be mine.”
Two Years Later
Jesse’s palms are sweating and he can’t quite swallow right.
“Hey,” Andrew says, taking Jesse’s hand across the back seat of the limo and squeezing. “I’m sure I should be the most nervous out of the two of us, here.”
“Yes, maybe, no.” Jesse not-agrees. It’s his own fault, he knows. He’s the one who said he’d come to award ceremonies if Andrew were nominated. In his defence, he hadn’t expected Andrew to be nominated for an Oscar; at least not this soon.
The car stops and their driver gets out, but Jesse can’t move. Andrew leans over and kisses the corner of his mouth.
“How many books did you bring?” he asks softly.
Jesse pats the inside pocket of his stupidly expensive suit. “Only one,” he says. “I have to pay some attention. I mean, since you’re going to win and everything.”
Andrew beams at him for a blinding second then the driver opens the door and camera bulbs start flashing. His smile fades and his bites his lip. “Fuck, I’m nervous.”
Jesse squeezes his fingers hard. He’s closest to the door so he gets out first, leaning in to help Andrew out, not letting go of his hand.
The camera flashes get brighter but Jesse keeps his eyes on Andrew and Andrew looks back at him and right, okay, Jesse thinks firmly, they’re going to be fine.