Neil’s last year everyone is gone, and sure he has the new baby foxes but no one is around:
Allison- Of in France or something sending ridiculously beautiful selfies
Renee- Peace Corps then mountain trekking
Aaron- got dragged to Germany because Kaitlyn thought it would be fun
-And obviously Neil’s emotions are wacky because of the trauma he suffered and suddenly everyone who was there to hold him up? He started losing them and obvs he didn’t actually lose them they’re still there but he lets himself sink to the corners of their attentions and lets himself lose them (even if they think about him all the time they don’t realize how distracted they get from the original foxes).
-And Andrew reinforced that Neil needed to talk to Bee over the years because he (they all have TBH) gone through too much not to.
-Neil actually likes being around Bee more as the upperclassmen go and when the monsters finally leave Neil subconsciously clings to Bee because she’s another constant he doesn’t want to lose (he ends up with Wymack and Abbey a lot too for dinner and stuff).
-And Bee watches as Neil has to try harder for exy and running and everything. He’s totally gone to the opposite end of the spectrum- at the beginning he had so much anxiety he ran to get it out and he was always ready for exy and classes he enjoyed.
-Now he’s kind of… wilting. And she’d seen it since the girls left, this slow descent in Neil’s mental health. And he’s had years to get used to talking to her, to make Andrew happy. Relaying facts about his day and venting about any shithead baby foxes.
-But after the monsters leave he kind of hits the bottom of it.
-He doesn’t go to class often enough.
-He practices when he has too, and he thinks if the baby foxes weren’t depending on him he wouldn’t at all. He only runs out of habit. And he can’t really recall what he does with free time unless he was talking to one of the original foxes, because he just kind of checks out when he’s alone with no distractions.
-He hadn’t told Andrew, because he knows Andrew would understand but he doesn’t know how to say it without it sounding like blame, without giving Andrew a reason to give up on his team and the foundation for being happy Kevin and Neil and everyone had worked so hard to give him.
-Bee suggests things when Neil lets something slip, something that isn’t fact but emotion:
-“I can’t breathe when I’m alone.”
-“I have nightmares, waking up back in Baltimore or about Andrew in the next room with… him and I jerk awake looking for a weapon. And then I can’t stop even when I’m awake, looking for something that isn’t there because no one’s in danger but I’m alone.”
-“I think when that happens I’m the danger.”
-And Bee makes suggestions:
It makes him think of Andrew, threatening Nicky with a knife and a smile. Neil says no.
-“Talk to Andrew?”
Neil denies that too.
-“What about a Service Dog?”
Neil stares at her.
-Bee explains Service dogs and tactile stimulation. At first the idea that a dog may persistently lick or nudge or whatever sounds irritating. Bee pushes a little harder, over the course of a few appointments. Finally Neil caves.
-Her name is Dana and she’s a Labrador retriever.
-She’s got a big smiling face and white blonde hair and within minutes of meeting her in Bee’s office Neil’s clothes are covered in hair.
-Within minutes of meeting him she has her head on his knee and is looking up at him with soft brown eyes and he slowly moves the tips of his fingers through the softest fur behind her ears.
-Bee has talked to the necessary people for Dana to stay in the dorms with him and all the baby foxes were warned (under the pretense that Dana was Neil’s pet, nothing more. Except for Cross, the baby fox Neil had been closest to due to Andrew’s obvious favoring of her) so when their session is over Neil walks Dana out to the car he had to buy when Andrew left with the Maserati.
-He doesn’t tell any of the original foxes.
-He doesn’t want to tell them he needs something to help him, he doesn’t want them to worry, he doesn’t want them to be disappointed if it doesn’t work.
-The same night he takes her home he jerks awake in a cold sweat at 4 am. But instead of empty air and a cold room and darkness he has a warm head on his chest that moves with his as he sits up, pressing a cold nose into his neck and licking his face.
-It’s so strange that the image in his head, his father and Lola looming over him, fractures and his head swims as he jerks out of his dream. She stops licking him obsessively when he pets her, and gives her one of the treats Bee told him to when the panic passed.
-Neil falls back asleep and wakes up to Dana’s head heavy on his stomach.
-Dana sits and waits for him in the stands while they practice, and it helps Neil go running when she’s next to him and he feels the responsibility of taking her out.
-The responsibility doesn’t make him feel heavy it feels like purpose.
-She sits quietly under his desk in class, sometimes with her head in his knee, and every time he thinks he might just stay in bed and do nothing she sits by the door and whines like she has to pee, but inevitably their walk gets him to class on time.
-He gets her midway-late in the season and before he knows it the season is over. And suddenly The Day is looming over him. The foxes had decided a day that they would all be free on and they’d use it as a day together, a day to make up every missed birthday and holiday.
-It comes quickly and before he knows it he’s going to a park (dog friendly) that they’d picked for this year and he’s twenty minutes early throwing a ball for Dana.
-Renee, Dan, and Matt get there first with a, “cool,” and a pet from Dan and a, “What’s her name?” From Matt.
-Allison shows up next and says, “what the hell is that,” until Dana licks her hand and Allison looks charmed.
-Kevin shows up next, right on time, and avoids Dana with a wary look until Neil falls over laughing at the noise he makes when Dana drops the slobbery ball in Kevin’s lap.
-Kevin looks a little more open to the dog if she makes Neil happy enough to laugh like that.
-The monsters show up a few minutes late, punctuated by Nicky yelling, “oh my god!” And Dana responding to him flinging himself to the ground with equal enthusiasm. Aaron just blinks as Kaitlyn joins Nicky in rubbing Dana’s belly. Andrew looks scornful.
-“Where did that thing come from?” And a part of Neil shrinks away, but he says in a level voice, “I brought her.”
-Andrew assesses him and only Kevin and Renee really hear when he asks, “why?”
-Dan and Allison are finally unpacking the food on the picnic table and Aaron, Kaitlyn, Matt, and Nicky are sifting through it for what they want.
-Neil looks at her leash bunched in his hands and shrugs, twisting the black rope around his fingers.
“Abram?” Andrew says and with one hand tilts Neil’s head up with his fingers, and rests the other on the back of his neck.
-It’s sounds plain and bored but Neil knows this man and there’s concern lacing his voice and in the shadow of his hazel eyes.
-Neil shifts his head to push it into Andrew’s palm and says lowly, “Bee got her for me,” and Andrew’s hand that had slid to his hair stills.
-“She’s a service dog for, like. Depression. And panic attacks,” he forces out and Renee’s eyes shoot to him before quickly away and Kevin is utterly still and not looking at them as he listens to Neil speak.
-Andrew’s hand doesn’t move for a minute until finally he says, “get her to come here.”
-Neil whistles and she’s there in a second, pushing her nose into his side and his hand and checking on him.
-Neil debates for a second before saying in a level voice, "she’s helping me.” Matt’s head snaps up and Dan slaps him gently and shakes her head telling him not to interrupt him.
-Andrew kneels and cups her face, holding the ball, in his hands. He scratches her ears a second and then opens his hand to ask for the ball, which she gives him. He turns toward the empty hill space behind them and whips it, the ball flying high and far and Dana entirely happy to go after it.
-“Good,” Andrew says and puts the hand without slobber and grass in Neil’s hair again.
Julie, onde tu está? O que foi que eu fiz? Ah, que droga, eu a machuquei, foi isso? Eu quebrei algumas promessas e isso te feriu. Eu sei, as pessoas não gostam de promessas quebras porque elas doem e isso te faz desacreditar das outras. Eu sei que nada justifica mas, prometeram que iriam me fazer feliz e veja bem, eu estou triste.
I promise you this, when you find your person you’ll know. Because you find them in every little thing you do and you picture doing everything with that one person. Every song becomes about them, every movie or tv show ends up being relatable to them. You start to feel more than just butterflies in your stomach but you get a feeling in your heart that makes everything feel as if it’ll all be okay. They’re voice is your new favorite sound and they’re eyes are your new favorite color. You can’t get enough of them in a day and you can’t picture anyone else by your side. Whether it’s miles or minutes apart you just know deep down that they are your person. And if you ever find that person, you’d be damned if you ever let them go.