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Something To Hold On To

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Aaron was used to being an asshole, it's a Minyard thing apparently, he doesn't care about what people think - except for Katelyn, and now Neil.

Well, he doesn't exactly care about what Neil thinks, but he hate what he decided to call The Butcher's Glare, and, since their little chat at the cabins, that's the only way Neil looks at him.

He wasn't stupid, obviously he could understand that implying that your definitely-not-brother-in-law was taking advantage of his brother was not the best way to say "hey, welcome to our insanely damaged family", but who could blame him?

He was just trying to study and become a doctor, playing that stupid sport with his psychotic brother  and his annoyingly happy cousin, and - truth be told - he was almost at peace, even with Kevin around, being an asshat and bringing his Raven bullshit on them, at least he was sure there was no way their situation could get worse.

But, yeah, he should know better than throw a challenge like that to the universe, and there he was: Neil Josten, first class asshole, pathological liar, bringing the whole fucking mob at them with the smart mouth he just couldn't keep shut, sticking his nose where it doesn't belong, throwing Katelyn against him, and then, after finding out about Andrew's abusers, Neil "I don't swing" Josten is suddenly into Andrew and - apparently- banging him? How was it supposed to sound?

Nicky kept trying to tell him that Neil really cared about Andrew and was actually good to him, but Aaron was not and would never be convinced - or so he thought.

It went like this:

Andrew was in a bad day, he had a lot of these since he dropped his medication, so, when Kevin called him and Nicky to play videogames in their dorm, he wasn't surprised that Andrew didn't even leave his bedroom, locking everyone out - including Neil.

And Neil wasn't happy at all about that, he was walking in circles around the room, checking his phone, that for the first time in forever was charged, eyes flicking to the bedroom door all the time, until his phone finally buzz and he walked into the kitchen before disappearing in the bedroom with a bottle of water and a bowl of something.

For the first time that day Aaron heard his brother's voice whispering and Neil, who had a sharp knife as a tongue, was talking back softly. He didn't even know Neil could be soft.

When Neil came back to the common room,  he seemed less concerned, being capable of finally sit down on the couch and watch Kevin losing shamefully to Nicky, so absorbed in his own thoughts that it took him some minutes longer than normal to realize that Aaron got up from his spot at the floor and was sitting besides him.

Neil seemed tired, too tired to give him The Butcher's Glare, and Aaron was grateful.

"Is Andrew okay?" Neil frowned at him, clearly asking himself why did he care, but Aaron wasn't in the mood for all this bullshit, "Listen, he's my brother, I care about him, you look tired as hell, and it's not like you can talk about this with Matt, so..." he gestured vaguely. 

Neil's eyes were fixed on him, analysing him quietly, and this was such an Andrew move that, for a moment, they almost made sense in Aaron's head, then Neil got up, walking at the kitchen's direction, and Aaron was so ready to call him a asshole for turning his back on him that he got really surprised when Neil looked back at him,arching his eyebrows.

"You coming?" he asked as if it was a clear invitation since he got up - yeah, he and Andrew deserved each other.

He followed the - slightly - taller boy, watching while he sat in the kitchen counter.

"What do you want, Aaron?" said Neil, 'cause he was dumb and snarky, and Aaron couldn't stand him.

"I just want to know what's happening with my brother."

"Lies." Neil said.

"Oh yeah, you would know about that, wouldn't you?"

"I would." he smiled, and that was the smile everyone tried to avoid, it was Nathaniel  Wesninsky's smile, so Neil draw his thumb on his lips, erasing it, "Andrew is tired. He had nightmares and we slept poorly. I'm giving him some space, sometimes he needs to be alone."

"We?" Aaron asked, confused, and Neil was arching his eyebrows again, "you said 'we slept poorly'." he explained,"Andrew shares his bed with you?"

"Sometimes." Neil sighs, "He wouldn't if he didn't trust me, he knows I would never hurt him. Quit looking at me as if I would, I'm getting tired of this."

"You don't swing."

"Oh for fuck's sake, no, I don't." He can see Neil is getting angry, but the younger boy shut his anger down, "or so I thought, until him. Until Andrew came and I finally could trust someone." 

"He'll get bored of you."

"And I'll be here until then."

Aaron stared at him as if seeing him for the first time, and maybe he was.

"You can't be serious, why would I trust you?"

"Because Andrew does."

"Why you?"

"How am I supposed to know? Maybe you should ask him that."

Neil's face was blank, but Aaron knew that face well enough to know he wasn't that calm.

"If you ever hurt him..."

"Aaron," Neil interrupted him, "I would never hurt him, and if I did Andrew would take care of it himself. You don't have to trust me, but trust him."

"I can't, he's fucking blind, blind for these blue eyes and half-truths covering a fucking liar."

"I lied to survive, things are different now." Neil jumped out of the kitchen counter, placing a hand on Aaron's shoulder, "I get it, you don't trust me and I don't care about you enough to try to explain my past actions, but if that will make you stop being a pain in my ass, you have to know I would never lie about one thing."

"And that is?" Aaron asked, not seeing where was his point.

"I love him. I love Andrew."

Aaron felt his world tilt a little, it doesn't seems right, it's not that he never thought someone could love Andrew, if Katelyn could love him, there was someone out there ready to love Andrew.

But he never saw Neil as an emotional person, and definitely never thought that the nothing between Neil and Andrew was this serious.

Neil was familiar with rough, to ruthless, to pain, but he didn't know love or caring, he flinched when someone reached to a hug, and got confused with the word "friend".

How could he love someone? How could he be enough to Andrew?

"Did you tell him that?" was the first thing he was capable to say and Neil laughed.

"Do you even know Andrew or me?" he shook his head, "We're not like that, Andrew doesn't need me to say it, he just know and that's what matters. Three words won't change shit."

" So why did you tell me?"

"Andrew knows, but clearly you don't. Matt and Dan always ask me that, if I love him, if we ever said we love each other, and I just walk away 'cause they would never understand, saying this to them wouldn't mean anything. But if Andrew is as important to you as he is to me, it means something to you. I don't need these words, so I'm giving it to you. You can do whatever you want with it." Neil pulled his phone from his pocket and sighed, "I have to go." he said, "Andrew wants ice cream."

Aaron watched as Neil grabbed the ice cream pint and a spoon, and stood there think, until he realized Neil meant it when he said "I'm giving it to you", he wasn't trying to shut Aaron up, he just knew these words would never get to Andrew, 'cause it was Andrew and he never would admit he was in love with Neil or that Neil was in love with him, and Neil would never confess this again to anybody else. He didn't have to.

He said "I'm giving it to you. You can do whatever you want with it", meaning "you know the truth, you can choose to believe in me or not."

Neil knew Aaron would never trust him, so he gave him something to hold on to.

When Aaron went back to the couch, Neil was already there and Andrew was sitting on the floor, between his legs.

He saw Neil's soft smile and the almost imperceptible  twitch in Andrew's lips when he murmured some bullshit about Neil's bowl of fruit, and Neil rolled his eyes asking "yes or no", sliding his fingers through Andrew's hair when he hummed affirmatively.

So Aaron held on Neil's words, he locked it inside him - they were his now, it was given to him - and, when he looked to the couple again, he felt happy for them.