It had been four months and eighteen days since Andrew started acting weird.
It started the day Neil finally graduated and moved in with Andrew (for the summer, at least). He had a few months before he had to head off for summer conditioning, and they'd been lucky enough to be signed to teams not far apart so they could easily drive between their flats during the season and it wouldn't be too much hassle for them.
Andrew watched Neil unpack half his clothes (the other half would be going to his new flat with him), ordered food and then sat with him watching some trash TV that Andrew would never admit he was into. They spent the evening together, and spent the night taking each other apart with hands and mouths and deep kisses that Neil thought said more than he ever could with his mouth.
Then he woke up early in the morning for a run, and Andrew wasn't in the bed. Neil looked around for a while and finally ventured up to the roof where Andrew was whispering on the phone in a mix of German, Spanish and English, shifting between the three so quickly that Neil couldn't tell what he was saying.
He figured then that if it was important, Andrew would tell him and he went out on his run, but when he got back Andrew was in bed as though he'd never left it. He didn't bring it up. If he was really honest with himself, he assumed that it was one weird event that he admittedly couldn't explain but that he ultimately wouldn't lose sleep over.
Then one evening he was on call with Matt and Dan, and when he went to go look for Andrew afterwards, he was gone. He hadn't heard the door close and he wondered how long he'd been gone. Andrew didn't get back until almost two in the morning.
The strange behaviour continued like that for a while: whispered phone calls in a mix of English, Spanish and German, disappearing in the middle of the night for hours at a time, and once, when Neil got up the courage to ask where he'd been, Andrew claimed that he was out at the court. As if that was believable. As if Andrew had willingly gone to the court without him or Kevin in his life. It hurt more that Andrew was lying in the first place, let alone that he was being so obvious about it.
The season started and Neil was glad that he could distance himself from it a little bit to look at the situation with a critical eye but there was no other explanation that he could see other than this: Andrew was cheating on him.
Except they'd never really talked about what their "this" was. He wasn't sure that Andrew had ever referred to Neil as his boyfriend or his partner, and he'd certainly never talked about their relationship, and so he started second guessing himself. After all, he couldn't be mad about Andrew cheating on him if neither of them had explicitly said that they didn't want the other to sleep with other people. It just wasn't something Neil had to consider; he'd never wanted anyone except for Andrew. All of his firsts had been with him. Sometimes he forgot that Andrew wasn't like that.
So it had been four months and eighteen days since Andrew started acting weird, and Neil was sure that what was between them was coming to an end. He could hardly blame Andrew, after all. The last year that Neil had been at Palmetto had, he assumed, been tough on both of them, with lots of late night phone calls and rushed meetings in Columbia or seedy motels halfway between them.
He wondered if Andrew would tell him explicitly that this thing between them was over, if he would ask Neil to come and collect his things or if he would just drop them outside his door. If he really confronted himself, he would see that he was spiralling, just a little bit, but Andrew had been the only thing other that had given him a natural high except for Exy, and the thought of losing him was tearing at his scars.
It had been four months and nineteen days when Neil got a text from Andrew, telling him to meet him at some park near where Neil lived. As he looked down at the message, all that he was capable of thinking was this is it.
He pulled on one of Andrew's hoodies that he'd left at his flat and some black jeans that Andrew had once told Neil never to take off, and as he left he took in the night view. He wasn't all that used to his city yet, but it really did feel like his most days. Especially lately, when he'd been spending so much time doing everything he could to remain busy so that he wasn't thinking about the inevitable breakup between him and Andrew.
He arrived at the park before Andrew did and took the opportunity to look around. In the dark, it was almost eerie or it would be if Neil didn't have prior experiences with real monsters that made the boogeyman look like a bunny rabbit. He sat on a bench with his eyes closed and breathed in the cold air until a weight at his side made him open his eyes.
He thought it was extremely unfair for Andrew to look so good when he was pretty sure he was about to break up with him.
"Have you been sleeping?"
"No." Neil had spent so long mourning the loss of their this that sleep didn't seem like as much of a priority.
Andrew watched him for a moment. "Nightmares."
"My own thoughts are scarier."
He hummed quietly, then reached into his pocket and pulled something out, resting it on the bench between them before standing up. Neil raised an eyebrow at him, then looked down at what he'd put on the bench, and...
"I thought you were breaking up with me."
He looked up again, expecting Andrew to be stood in front of him. Instead, he was down on one knee. Neil heard somebody crying softly and he wanted to call them a coward until he felt the wetness on his cheeks and realised it was him.
"I thought..." Neil looked over Andrew's face, wondering what he'd missed. "I thought you were cheating on me."
"And teach my boundaries to somebody new?" Andrew shook his head. "I'm in this for life, Josten."
His heart raced. He'd never understood when people said that in movies or books, but now that he was experiencing it, he understood. He picked up the ring box and looked at the ring inside it.
"Nicky emailed me this fucking long speech that I was supposed to make," admitted Andrew quietly, "but as soon as I got it, I deleted it. Of course, that doesn't stop me from remembering what it said and trust me, it is for the best that I deleted it."
"I don't want to make a speech," Andrew continued. "That's not us. The longest speech you've ever made in your life was you know, I get it and whilst one of my favourite memories, I don't think it's appropriate for this.
"I want to marry you for the tax benefits. So that when you inevitably get sent to the hospital again, I don't have to wait around to see you or hear how you're doing. So that I can punch whoever's talking shit about you and say that's my husband! But, Neil?" He tilted his chin up to look Andrew in the eyes. "I want to marry you because I want to marry you. Yes or no?"
"Yes, idiot." Neil held the ring box out to him and he pulled the ring out, sliding it onto Neil's finger gently. "Fuck. I really thought this was gonna be the end tonight."
"What would you have done?"
"Probably something stupid." Neil let Andrew tug him forward into a gentle kiss. "I don't know. Get drunk, punch Ichirou Moriyama in the face, call out Kevin publically. I didn't have a plan."
"You're so dumb."
"You love me."
"Yeah." Andrew kissed him again. "You love me too."