I read your Aaron and Neil post about them slowly becoming friends and I wonder what your headcannons would be if Neil and Aaron ever bonded over their mother's deaths?
Hi there! Thanks so much for this, and sorry it’s taken me a while to reply. The post was actually as much @gadelingsofthegalaxy‘s as it was mine, so this might not be as clever, mostly because it’s lacking her genius. I still had a lot of fun coming up with it, though. The problem is that his mother’s death is a very touchy subject for Aaron - and I imagine it’s not very pleasant for Neil to talk about, either. I don’t see them having a heart-to-heart about it, not while there’s still so much resentment between them. I do see the similarities between them though, and I thought that was very interesting to work with… I just hope it’s enough for you!
They’re not friends, not really. They don’t have to be.
They’re team mates; they have to play together. That’s enough.
So when Aaron finds out about it from Nicky - really, that surprises no one.
Nicky tells him about the bullet, the car, the blood and the burning; the remnants and ashes buried somewhere along the Lost Coast.
He looks so grief-stricken, so close to tears that Aaron wonders if it should mean something to him.
(It doesn’t. Not at first.)
He lies in bed that night and thinks that Neil’s mother, on the run and bleeding to death, still put her son first.
Thinks about his own mother, her drunk yelling, the sharp pain as her hand connected with his face, and resents Neil a little bit more.
It doesn‘t make that much of a difference, really. He’s always disliked Neil and already avoids him as much as possible, but now something quietly burns in his gut when he sees him, and he clenches and unclenches his fist when he sees his face.
He raises an eyebrow at him, but doesn’t comment on it.
It goes on like that for a few weeks, both Aaron and Neil avoiding each other - Aaron because the mere sight of Neil makes him want to punch a wall, and Neil because he instinctively knows who to keep away from.
The change happens like this:
They’re in the locker room, just before practice.
Neil pushes his hair back, hidious orange bandana in his hand when Andrew stiffens beside him.
Only Aaron and Nicky are close enough to notice, and only Nicky reacts with “Andrew?” and then “oh.”
Both he and Andrew shift, moving closer to Neil, and Aaron finally looks up.
Andrew has a hand on the back of Neil’s neck, tilting his face down and away, so he gets a better look at - something.
Aaron can see the faint outline of a scar, usually hidden by Neil’s hair. It’s thin but long, reaching all the way along his hairline from his forehead to his temple.
“I thought you had nothing left to give,” Andrew says.
Aaron has no idea what that means, but Neil clearly does, because he says “this was never a secret. I’ll tell you, if you want to know.”
Andrew says nothing, but doesn’t move away.
By then, all the Foxes are listening.
“I got this from my mother,” Neil says. “We were on the run. She always told me girls were a distraction, but I got curious. It didn’t do much for me,” he adds with a grin towards Andrew, and Andrew scowls. “But my mother was still furious when she found out.”
He doesn’t elaborate, but they all understand, anyway.
Aaron thinks he sees Andrew’s grip on Neil’s neck tighten just a fraction, before he releases him and steps back.
There’s a look on his face Aaron has seen before, three years and a lifetime ago, when his own mother was still alive.
(He knows, if Mary Hatford was still alive, she would not be for much longer.)
He leaves the locker room before the others, and doesn’t comment on it on their drive back to the Fox Tower.
He shouldn’t think about it.
It shouldn’t matter to him.
Aaron lies in bed that night and eventually decides that thinking about it that much is crossing a line.
That’s why, the next day, he calls Katelyn and pospones their library date in favour of intercepting Neil after his Spanish class.
He doesn’t say anything when Neil sees him, but turns, fully expecting him to follow.
“Your mother hit you,” Aaron says, when they’ve reached a less crowded hallway.
Neil makes no attempt at hiding it, “Yes.”
Aaron doesn’t know what he’s looking for - denial, maybe, or clarification.
Neil’s mother died for him even though she used to hit him (or maybe she used to hit him even though she would die for him in the end) and Aaron’s own mother…. well.
She, too, ended up dead in a car somewhere.
Neil seems to see something in his expression, because his own closes off, eyes narrowing.
“Don’t be an idiot,” he says, and crosses his arms over his chest as he leans against the wall.
In that moment, he looks a lot like Andrew.
“My mother did what she thought was necessary to protect me. It made sense to me at the time.” He pushes away from the wall. “It still makes sense to me even now. But I also realised that even though I was… well, as safe as possible under the circumstances, I never would have been happy with that life. Your mother didn’t do it for you. She beat you, she drugged you. She paid the price.”
“She was my mother.”
“Look, I know you have some issues to work out, and clearly, it’s taking you some time. But she abused you, Aaron. Don’t make this about Andrew, and don’t make it about me.”
“Go to hell.”
“Tried that. Didn’t agree with me.”
Aaron spends a long time being angry after that.
Katelyn asks him about it once, but respects his privacy when he tells her he doesn’t want to talk about it.
It takes a couple of weeks before he is ready to tell her, and when he does, Katelyn is there for him.
He doesn’t tell her everything (not yet); leaves out Andrew’s interference with his mother’s death, but doesn’t lie to her, and she listens. Doesn’t interrupt him even once,
When he is finished, she asks him, carefully, “Was Neil so wrong?”
She doesn’t elaborate - she doesn’t need to.
And Aaron… Aaron is so mad - not her, but in general, because he knows, deep down, that Neil wasn’t.
He loved his mother, because she was his mother, but mostly, he wanted her to love him back.
It hurts to admit that she never did.
(Aaron realises, somewhere in the back of his mind, that part of the reason he’s resented Andrew all this time is that he blamed him for taking away his chance to get to love him.)
(It hurts worse to realise that even without Andrew, she never would have.)
It’s a while before he’s ready to admit that to himself though, and even more time for there to be another conversation between him and Neil.
The moment comes when they’re playing a game against Notre Dame.
During half time, he vaguely notices Neil emptying his bottle of water and throwing it in the trash, even if that doesn’t register until after the game..
(They win by one point; another fact that Aaron only really registers by the upperclassmen’s shouts of triumph.)
And then Neil is there, breathing heavily, sweating - they all are - but his grin stretches from cheek to cheek has he and Kevin clack their racquets together.
They all leave the court, and, before reaching the locker room, Aaron throws his water bottle at Neil who catches it with a strange look.
“It’s not poisoned,” Aaron informs him.
Neil shrugs, takes a few gulps before handing it back.
He takes another step toward the door where Andrew is already waiting, raised eyebrows at seeing the two of them talk, but then Neil halts.
“I love my mother,” he says, looking over his shoulder. “Even now. Even after breaking every promise I made her. But I will not let that keep me from what I want.”
With that, he leaves and joins Andrew.
“Stay hydrated, asshole,” Aaron calls after him. “I’m not dealing with your headaches or irritability.”
(He doesn’t miss Neil’s smile before the door closes behind him and Andrew.)
They’re not friends, not really. They don’t have to be.
But there’s an understanding between them, somehow, and Aaron would be lying if he said there wasn’t.
Once Aaron is back from the hospital, he practically has to ask Rob to leave him alone just so he can breathe. He loves that Robert cares so much, but it’s a bit stifling. That evening he’s been dropped on the sofa and there’s a full medicine cabinet, a stack of magazines, a new phone, a laptop, a snack, a cup of tea, and the remote scattered around him, all within arms’ reach. Robert thinks he’s not obvious, it’s endearing really, but Aaron’s not blind. Robert keeps popping upstairs to get or do something, and comes down with something else he thinks “Aaron might like”.
Robert likes to act cool, but he’s a serious worrier when it comes to his little family. If he hears any sniffles or coughing his ears perk up and he starts stocking the cupboards with lemons and honey.
He’s also even easier to fool with period related business than Aaron, because he worries so much. But Liv learns the hard way that it’s better not to play him, because when she told him her tummy ached to skip school, he decided to work from the pub and kept checking up on her. He made her soup for lunch, and went out to get her some chocolate and the fancy crisps she loves. In the end, she felt bad for lying and even suggested a Star Wars marathon, much to Robert’s surprise. And Aaron’s, when he got home to find Liv and Rob asleep next to each other on the sofa. She loved that day, though.
He’s also that super annoying food guard, that always reminds everyone of what they shouldn’t eat. “Aaron, easy on the jalapeño, you know you’ll regret it.” “Liv, maybe don’t order the fried ice cream, you remember what happened last time.”
The only thing he doesn’t fuss over at all is bruises. He’s been hit far too many times, and knows Aaron is pretty familiar with them too to think they’re worth worrying over. Except if they’re on Liv, that’s entirely different, of course.
Rob would never admit it, but he doesn’t mind too much when Adam and Aaron decide to get bladdered, because as grumpy as he may get, hungover Aaron is actually adorable. Robert always feels like being a little cruel for the fun of it, and making as much noise as possible, but one look at Aaron’s little hungover face and he’s getting him paracetamol and frying up bacon for a sarnie. Liv makes enough noise for the pair of them.
One time Chas gets a really nasty cold, that last ages. Cough sweets and herbal teas made in her special mug that Liv had bought her start randomly popping up everywhere around the pub. She figures it’s Marlon at first, but when she thanks him he doesn’t know what she’s talking about. Neither does Vic, or Liv. Neither does Aaron. She even tries Noah and Charity. Until she walks in on Rob making himself a coffee and a cup of lemon tea as well. Rob blushes red as a lobster. Chas pats his arm and takes her cup of tea with her without a word.
Rob knows he practically has to force Aaron to stay home if he’s sick. So he does. That’s one of the perks of being self-employed, they get to take a day off or work from home if they need. He practically locks Aaron in with him, and looks after him. Even if Aaron grumbles all the way through it.
When Aaron gets food poisoning once, after the only time he actually listened to Robert and ordered something he’d never tried at a restaurant, and Rob spends over 24h changing sick bowls, Aaron is even more certain that he’s doing the right thing marrying Robert. He’s not sure he’d have done the same if the tables were turned. The next day, when Aaron is done throwing up but still too ill to go into work, Rob stays in bed with Aaron, rubbing his tummy when it cramps up and making sure he’s actually resting.
Robert became the saddest kind of self fulfilling prophecy. He made terrible choices so that he could protect what he thought he wanted/was afraid to lose but because of those actions he corrupted and then destroyed the thing he ended up needing.
He was so resistant to loving Aaron, to letting Aaron get close enough that he had the power to hurt him. He had so much fear and anger inside and it made him do stupid, hurtful things. Things that he lied about and tried to hide. But while he was busy covering his tracks, Aaron got in, he loved Robert so much that he was powerless not to love Aaron back.
He fell so hard that Aaron became like air. Breathing him in became a release from all of the pretending and the lies. But breathing is a two part kinda thing, you have to exhale at some point. While he was taking in joy and love he was letting out so much anger and shame that it left Aaron choking on poison.
Just as Aaron was becoming the thing that Robert can’t live without, Robert was becoming what Aaron had to escape in order to survive. He drove Aaron away and now he can’t breathe.