“Did he think it was an April Fools joke?”
They're sprawled against Neil’s too white comforter on Neil’s too soft bed in Neil’s too big apartment when Andrew explains how he convinced (threatened) his coach into giving him the day off.
Andrew grunts by way of response and eases his head into Neil’s lap.
Neil shakes his head, affectionate, content to run his fingers through Andrew’s loose curls, thick like spun gold.
They haven’t seen each other in three weeks, and Neil feels like he’s ready to spin apart at the seams. They had both been on the road in different parts of the country, and shitty internet connection could only do so much when it came to upkeep of a relationship. Neil had missed Andrew and still did. Andrew is in Neil’s lap and Neil still misses him.
He’s one loose thread away from coming apart.
Neil starts braiding Andrew’s short tangle of hair. He thinks it’s weird to think of today as a holiday. Who was April and why is she a fool?
“This has to be the worst excuse for a holiday.”
“Especially if you’re not funny,” Andrew says dryly.
Neil snorts in indignation. “I am funnier than you.”
Andrew turns in Neil’s lap, facing him. “Is that so?” The amusement in Andrew’s voice makes Neil stick his tongue out.
“If you put that out there, I’m going to lick it. Is that what you want?”
Neil bites his lip. “Maybe.”
Andrew stares at him, calculating, and Neil shifts under the scrutiny, something thick and viscous curls in his belly.
There’s a delay in Neil’s “Fuck you.” It stumbles out, clumsy and hurried, like he’s trying to rush past the stone sinking into his gut.
Andrew raises a pale eyebrow. “I’m serious. I can give Dan and Matt three goats in your honor, since they act like your parents.”
“I thought you didn’t celebrate April Fools?”
Andrew rolls off him completely and sits up. “I don’t.”
He looks good, Neil thinks. Blond hair matted on one side, disheveled. Andrew’s shirt is rumpled. Half pulled up. It’s mid morning, and the sun creates a sort of halo, soft and hazy, spreading its fingers through the snarled strands of Andrew’s hair.
He feels wobbly, but Neil’s got a clever tongue. He catches his balance and says, “I may not have had many jokes in my life—”
“First of all, you are the biggest joke, so jot that down.”
“Remind me tomorrow to delete your Twitter.”
“Is that a no?”
“You’re,” Neil starts, unable to identify the twist in his gut. “You… I thought…” Neil searches Andrew’s face for any trace of humor.
Andrew gives him a bored stare.
“Like a shotgun wedding?” Neil says, but he doesn’t feel here, present. His heartbeat roars in his ears. Waves crashing against the shore. Only to drag all of him back out to sea with them. Neil didn’t know whether to sink or swim.
“Are you pregnant?” Andrew asks wryly.
Neil slides a hand over his belly and is rewarded a pillow to the face.
“Why today?” It comes out breathy, like he might allow himself to consider the truth of Andrew’s words.
“It’s the only way I could tolerate marrying you.” It comes out rough, like Andrew’s trying to make it sound less monumental than it really is.
“Because it’s a joke?” Tamped hope.
“Exactly.” A shot in the night.
Neil raises a skeptical brow. “Except, we’d be going to a real courthouse, with a real jud—”
Andrew’s mouth catches Neil’s, effectively putting a lid on Neil’s effort to expose the flaws in Andrew’s plan.
Besides, April is the fool. Neil is the junkie.
“Hey, Andrew and I were thinking of getting married today and we were wondering if you guys wanted to come?”
They decided to call Allison first. If Neil could April Fool her, they could April Fool anyone.
There’s a pause. “Today?”
Neil coughs to hide his laugh. “Yeah.”
“Nice try, Josten. Better luck next year.”
Neil hangs up, a stupid smile blooming across his face. Andrew snorts.
The rest of the conversations are similar, except Nicky’s “Don’t mess with my feelings like that. You know I’m sensitive!”
“I can’t believe they don’t believe us,” Neil says, tapping his cellphone against his chin.
Rolling his eyes, Andrew says, “It’s April Fools, and you are notoriously bad at jokes.”
Neil makes a face. “You only picked today because you knew no one would show up.”
“What can I say,” Andrew drawls, mocking. “I’m a simple man.”
“Well, we did invite them. It’s not our fault they don’t believe us.” There’s a lilt to his voice. Something caught in his throat. Maybe it’s because he’s getting married today.
The courthouse smells like floor cleaner and freshly printed divorce papers, or at least that’s what Andrew whispers as they walk through the hallway. Neil can’t believe he’s marrying this man.
The fluorescents are bright but warm, blending into the floor and giving the hallway a dreamlike appearance.
This is, after all, a dream.
Neil’s hands twist further in his pockets. They decided to dress nice, but comfortable.
They already applied for the marriage license and picked it up. All that's left is to fill out the paperwork, kiss and say I do.
They walk up to the clerk and Neil’s smile is polite, but he’s wired. Uneasy, a restless energy. Bones liquified, he’s ready to melt on the floor. Andrew grabs his hand. He’s steadied.
Neil is going to get to be with Andrew for the rest of his life.
Andrew hands the clerk their paperwork and required documents.
Neil whispers, “It’s till death do us part.”
“I’m glad you know your lines.”
They walk into the judge’s chamber. She’s dressed in khakis, and Neil’s inner Allison sneers.
It’s like Andrew can read his mind. “Who owns 12 pairs of jorts here?”
“My secretary will serve as your second witness. Eleanor, if you wouldn’t mind?”
When the room is filled, Neil looks down in a panic. “We don’t have rings.”
“You didn’t buy me a ring? Excuse me, your honor...ess, after this would you mind pointing me in the direction of divorce court?” Andrew’s voice is dry, but he pulls two gold bands out of his pocket.
Neil’s mouth goes slack. “You really did plan—”
“If I may start,” the judge clears her throat and begins.
Neil puts the phone on speaker. “Hey, is there a way to get everyone on?”
Allison sucks her teeth. “Yeah, we’ll just have to switch over to oovoo.”
“I don’t know how to do that.”
“Of course you don’t,” Allison sighs. “Andrew, download the app.”
She logs off before Andrew can refuse.
“Why must I do everything. First it was the rings, now this.”
Neil smiles in response, pressing a kiss to Andrew’s brow.
The Foxes trickle in one by one, and soon Neil’s too big room is filled with laughter. “Who won the bet?” Neil asks when everyone quiets down.
“What bet?” Aaron asks as Allison and Nicky say “No one!”
“You’re right, no one did. I did.” Neil snags Andrew’s left wrist and intertwines their hands, their rings flashing in the light.
It’s dead silent for a beat.
Allison’s voice is dangerously low. “You motherfuckers. Say April Fools or I’ll kill you.”
Aaron snorts. He and Katelyn are drinking wine, he quietly tells Andrew he’s happy for him.
“Finally, you know he bought the ring the same time I did, right?” Aaron’s confession sets half of the Foxes off again.
“Congratulations, you guys,” Renee smiles, talking over the rest of the Foxes.
“I can’t believe Neil beat us,” Matt says, laughing.
“At least we were engaged first,” Dan smirks. She’s got a rock the size of Australia on her finger.
“And I’m still over here waiting for Erik to propose,” Nicky shouts. Neil hears Erik grumble in the background.
“We literally invited you all,” Neil says.
“I’m so mad at you,” Allison sneers. “Andrew, tell me you burned the jorts. I swear to fucking God."
“It’s a work in progress,” Andrew says, rolling his eyes.
“All that matters is I won,” Neil says, smug.
“Alright, that’s enough.” Andrew ends the call.
“Hey,” Neil laughs as Andrew pulls him closer.
“Hmm,” Andrew hums, nosing along Neil’s collarbones. “Yes or no?”
“How about “I do?”
Andrew kisses him.