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Author: Amy Lane



Chapter 1: Nobody Ever Misses the Big City

“ANDY—ANDY, it’s time to get up. Your train leaves in an hour.”

Andy Chambers rolled over in bed and pulled the pillow over his head. “You can’t make me,” he said. “I live here, I pay rent, you can’t make me.”

Eli Engel, boy of his dreams, cosigner of his lease, welcome pain in his ass, smacked him on the backside.

“Andy, you have to. It’s your family. I’m just some schmuck that’s stolen you away for the last three years.”

Andy groaned and eyeballed the man he loved more than life. “I keep telling you they don’t think like that.”

Eli’s mouth—full and smiling most of the time—went crooked. “And yet they don’t visit either.”

“They think New York City is evil,” Andy muttered. “And Brooklyn’s the moon.” With ill-disguised reluctance, Andy swung his feet over the edge of the bed and straight into his moccasins while he reached for the sweatshirt he kept by the end table. Their apartment in trendy Williamsburg had great hardwood floors, but those floors got chilly in December. The whole apartment got chilly in December. Mostly, Andy and Eli fought the cold by wearing layers around the apartment and by fucking like monkeys. Even though he was launching straight into the shower from bed, Andy didn’t want to make the trip without an extra layer.

“Well, family is important,” Eli said. “You go visit your family for Christmas, and I’ll be here when you get back. Now shower. I’ll go make you breakfast.”

Andy watched his retreating back miserably. “Family is important,” he’d said. But Eli didn’t have any family. He’d been kicked out of his parents’ house for being gay and had spent months on the streets before being taken in by Rainbow House, a shelter down in Bedford/Stuyvesant. They’d helped him apply for college and get scholarships—he’d gone to NYU, gotten a degree in management, and turned right back around and started working at Rainbow House, doing everything from fundraising to organizing sports programs for the residents. Rainbow House was open to everybody, but it specialized in LGBTQ youth, and Eli was their biggest success story and most ardent advocate. He loved the employees there with all his heart, but when all was said and done, they all went home to their families for Christmas.

For the last three years, Andy had spent Christmas with Eli, celebrating with the residents of Rainbow House.

Having Eli tell him “Family is important, go visit yours,” was painfully generous—and Andy hated it.

But his mother had been absolutely incessant.

“Two phone calls a day, Andy,” Eli had told him at the beginning of December. “I mean, I get your family is super close, but two phone calls a day? Man, you’ve got to go visit them or they’ll never leave us alone. We’ll be answering their calls in the middle of sex into our sixties!”

Andy had snorted at that unlikely scenario, but he’d also softened.

“Our sixties?” he’d asked winsomely. “You promise?”

Eli had looked away, biting his lip. Andy had done his best to help his lover believe in forever, but Eli had a lot of damage to overcome. That was okay—Andy was up for the job.

“Just go,” he’d said, not looking Andy in the eyes. “Your job practically shuts down during those two weeks. Take the time off, go visit your parents, and come back to Brooklyn.”

Andy had sighed and rubbed the back of his neck. It was true that his job in a local tech firm really did shut down over Christmas, but that’s not what Eli was saying.

Andy knew because Eli had been saying it from the very beginning of their relationship.

Back Then

“OH! HEY! You dropped your umbrella!”

Andy was the kind of guy who bought trench coats with an umbrella pocket and then had an extra spot on his waterproof briefcase for a spare. But this guy, with curly dark hair falling into brown eyes and a bony jaw covered with stubble, looked like the kind of guy who went out in the rain frequently and then wondered why he caught cold. Andy had been watching the guy on the train for the last few weeks, feeling vaguely protective over him. Andy had been rooming in Park Slope then, with a group of new hires for his tech firm. They all commuted to Williamsburg, and Andy had seen this guy getting off in Bed/Stuy and had worried for him. He’d looked so earnest, so focused on being somewhere else. Andy, who had grown up in the country, had loved the city because it meant he had to be focused on the now.

“Oh,” said the sloe-eyed stranger. “Thank you.” He gave a shy smile. “Good luck, this.” He shook the umbrella Andy had handed him. “It looks like rain.”

“Well, stay dry,” Andy had replied awkwardly. “Maybe I’ll see you tomorrow?”

For a moment he saw hope in the stranger’s eyes. Excitement.

“You’ll have better things to do tomorrow,” the stranger told him with a wink, and then his stop had come and he’d been gone. Andy had turned to Zinnia, one of his roommates, and sighed.

“What’s wrong?” she asked. “I’ve seen him on the train before. I think he thinks you’re cute.”

“I thought so too, but he seems absolutely certain I’ll have something else better to do.”

Zinnia snorted. “Prove him wrong!”

The next day, Andy had tucked three kinds of protein bars in his pocket—one with chocolate, one with nuts, and one that was a veganese delight. As the dark-eyed stranger stood to get ready for his stop, Andy held out the breakfast bars and said, “Here, breakfast on me.”

The stranger had gaped at him in surprise. “I, uhm—”

“I bet you skip it, right?” Andy said. “I mean, you look super focused on your job or whatever, but you should have breakfast.”

The subway hissed in preparation to stop, and Andy felt a little desperate.

“Please?” he said. “I’ll bring you one tomorrow too!”

“Tomorrow’s Saturday,” the stranger told him, his wide, full mouth quirking up in a smile.

“Then I’ll bring you one Saturday,” Andy said, pretty much past pride. This man’s brown eyes were fathomless, like the night sky full of stars.

“Okay,” the man said, taking the one with chocolate. “I’ll bring coffee.”

“Lots of cream and sugar,” Andy said, trying not to be embarrassed. Since he’d come to the city, it seemed like all New Yorkers took their coffee black.

The next day, Andy dressed casually, wearing his wool peacoat from his Vermont winters instead of his slick lined trench coat. But he still carried an umbrella—and a selection of protein bars—and took the same train as usual to Williamsburg.

This time when the doors opened three stops before Bed/Stuy, he saw the dark-eyed stranger get in, carrying two paper cups of coffee.

With a shy smile, the man came and sat down next to him, handed him the coffee, and accepted the breakfast bar in return.

“My name’s Eli,” he said, and Andy noted he’d tried to shave in the last twenty-four hours, but there were still patches of stubble like he’d forgotten a lot.

“I’m Andy.”

“So, Andy, where are we going today?”

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