Andrew was never very interested in reading. he never bought books for himself to read in his free time, and he hardly ever read the books he was assigned to read for school. he only got into reading when Neil asked him to watch Frankenstein with him after he heard Nicky talk about reading it in high school.
Andrew had never read it himself, but he agreed to watch the movie with Neil. Neil hadn't expected Andrew to actually pay attention to the movie, but when he'd look over at Andrew he'd see him with a blank expression looking at the tv. Neil wasn't sure, but he thought it meant that Andrew was enjoying the movie. they hadn't watched a movie just the two of them, and the others they had watched with the other Foxes were awful rom-coms that Andrew would tune out less than five minutes in.
when the movie ended, Neil asked Andrew if he enjoyed the movie. Andrew shrugged in response. Neil felt like that meant that Andrew did like the movie, but he didn't press him further.
they had watched a handful of other movies together, none really keeping Andrew's attention, or Neil's to be honest. they had usually abandoned the movie to smoke on the roof, or make out in the living room while they had the privacy. Neil wanted to see Andrew immersed in something like he seemed to be with Frankenstein, so when he remembered that it was also a book, he asked Renee for help trying to find one of the collector's edition covers that he'd seen people carry of other classics. When they found one, they ordered it, and Neil wrapped it for Andrew to give to him on his birthday.
Andrew still didn't like to celebrate his birthday, so Neil gave him the gift when they were alone in their room. Andrew didn't want to open it, and tried to leave it on the bed where he and Neil were sitting, but Neil opened it for him, offering the book to Andrew, who now stood with his back against the bedroom door, arms folded across his chest.
"look inside it," Neil whispered, holding out the book in Andrew's direction. when he didn't walk over to him, Neil shook the book a little. "there's something in here."
that got Andrew to move. he snatched the book from Neil and opened the front cover.
a polaroid of him and Neil on the couch of the lounge nearly fell from the book. Neil was asleep against Andrew's side, and Andrew had his arm wrapped around Neil, looking away from the camera. he remembered only letting the picture be taken at all was because it was Renee who took it. the polaroid revealed a note written in Neil's messy handwriting.
"maybe you'll like it like you liked the movie," it said. Andrew had the urge to chuck the book at Neil, but the smile on Neil's face made him want to melt. he could barely remember the last birthday he had where someone tried to get him a gift and he couldn't remember the last time he accepted one.
"i think you liked the movie," Neil said. "i thought you might like the book too."
Andrew nodded back at Neil and joined him once again where he sat on the bed. Neil put his hand over one of Andrew's hand, moving his thumb back and forth.
he didn't expect Andrew to actually read the book, but he walked into the dorm after one of his morning classes to see Andrew laying on the couch with Frankenstein in his hands, reading glasses perched a little too low on his nose, and the polaroid on the end table behind his head. Neil smiled, and Andrew looked up at him as he closed the door. Neil had never seen him wear his glasses. Neil reached forward to push his glasses up, and Andrew looked at him with what looked liked murder in his eyes, but Neil knew he didn't actually mean it.
after Andrew read Frankenstein he decided to dive into the world of mystery novels. he liked trying to figure out what happened before the characters in the books did. he had a mental list in his head for how many he did end up solving. he was actually doing pretty well.
whenever Andrew had the dorm to himself he would read. he liked reading in quiet with a hot cup of coffee and a comfortable blanket in the winter, and in the warmer months he'd sit on the roof and smoke while he read.
Neil found comfort in finding Andrew reading when he got back from a particularly boring class. he couldn't get enough of Andrew in his glasses. Andrew pretended to hate the fond looks Neil gave him, but he'd urge Neil over so he could put his feet in his lap while he finished his chapter. even after so many months, he used the polaroid as a bookmark, sometimes looking at the calm on Neil's face when he needed a reminder that he was okay.
after bad days at practice, Andrew would let Neil lay with him while he read on the couch, Kevin and Robin hanging out with Matt and a few other members of their team. he'd pull their comfiest blanket over Neil and himself and put the hand that wasn't holding his book in Neil's hair.
they often fell asleep on the couch together, long after Kevin and Robin had returned from the neighboring dorms, them wishing them a good night where they lay in comfortable silence.
"read to me," he'd ask on hard days, and Andrew would. he spoke soft enough so Neil could doze off if he needed to, and he often did. he would lightly snore against Andrew's chest while Andrew scratched lightly into his scalp, only stopping to turn the page or to fix his glasses.
Andrew would never admit that he loved having Neil with him when he read. he loved reading to Neil when he needed something else to focus on. he loved that he could distract Neil with the past time that Neil got him into.
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neil and andrew play the marble game
“in this game, using your ten marbles … you will compete with your partner. the player who takes all ten marbles from your partner wins.”
neil and andrew stood side by side. two boys who spent their every waking moment on the knifes edge of danger.
“well this will be interesting,” andrew commented, his face devoid of emotion; any hint as to what he might be feeling in that moment was hidden behind his usual wall of apathy.
neil hummed quietly in reply as he turned to watch the other players begin their games. one winner, one loser.
a smirk as sharp as a blade painted his face, teeth bared; he was the perfect picture of trouble.
“let’s play catch,” he said as andrew swivelled round to watch his eyes light up in barely concealed glee. andrews brows furrowed slightly and an almost imperceptible frown tugged at his mouth.
“what are you playing at josten?”
“have a little faith in a man won’t you?” neils smile contorted into a deadly grin. “on the count of three we toss our bags to each other. all you have to do is catch mine”
he watched as andrew began to understand.
“ok,” was all he said
at the same time the pair tossed their bags towards each other and caught their partners marbles.
neil turned to the masked guard staring at them,
“are we done now?” he asked, eyes wide and eyebrows raised, impatience and sarcasm melting together in his tone.
the guard stood frozen for only a split second longer, before turning and leading them through a door, the sounds of gunshots ringing out behind them.
neil had spent his whole life learning the loopholes. he had been taught by the best after all; mary had been vicious in her attempts at survival and neil wasn’t about to let one sick game get the better of him. fuck the rules. he was smart enough to know his way around them.
the game stated you had to take all ten marbles from your partner. they never said anything about winning with all twenty marbles.
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