Allison Reynolds was a bewildering choice for Palmetto State. She looked like a picture-perfect princess, but she could brawl with the best of them on the court. She refused to bend to others’ expectations of her and could be honest to the point of cruelty. She could have inherited her parents’ billion-dollar empire, but she didn’t want the restrictions that life came with. She wanted the right to be her own person. She wanted to prove herself on the court.
Neil is Andrew’s polar opposite, he knows, yet so much of him existsin terrains that Andrew is intimately familiar with. They both know the kind of pain that pushes you to the brink; they both possess the strength to pull themselves back from it, and Neil chose him.
instead of andreil how abt some angsty andriel hcs?
Happy 900. Here is the angst, as promised.
It happened, sometimes, on bad days that got worse.
He’d wake up in the morning and feel it like an itch under his skin, like bugs crawling and biting and burrowing so deep that he’d never rid himself of the phantom sensations of them. No matter how hot the water he ran in the shower, how brutally he scrubbed and clawed at his skin.
He felt dirty.
He felt like a lie.
When he first saw his reflection, it would come as a shock. Everything within him would ground to a halt, and there would only be the brutal realisation of who he was, of what had been done to him, of what he had done. He would stand and stare at that reflection for hours, until shapes and lines blurred, and the icy blue of his eyes turned into an empty pit into which he fell and fell and fell.
It was his father’s face.
When Neil smiled, the Butcher smiled back at him.
Andrew would drag him away, put cubes of ice into his hands and squeeze them around it until they burned. He would talk to Neil, random and pointless things, until Neil looked at him and he could see recognition in those empty eyes, instead of that hollow, blank stare.
His hand on the back of Neil’s neck, clutching Neil’s around ice, his voice filling his ears, the smell of him near and constant, it was comforting. It grounded him, enough for thought to penetrate the incessant chorus of liar liar liar cycling ceaselessly through his mind.
“He was my father,” Neil would whisper. “He made me.”
“He isn’t,” Andrew would say, ferocious, insistent. “He didn’t. He was a killer, and you ran away. You are a fox. You are Neil Josten.”
“Then why don’t I feel that way?”
Andrew would grab his face and force him to meet his eyes, would press his thumbs to the scars on Neil’s cheeks and step in close.
“Because you are having a bad day. That doesn’t change anything. You are still the man I gave those keys to, you are still the man who made this team into something worth a damn. You are still the man I told to stay.”
Coming from Andrew, the truth of those words was a lifeline. Neil would cling to it desperately, as he clung to Andrew desperately, and the blond would allow him this comfort. With Neil’s hands fisted into his shirt, his face pressed into the crook of his neck, Andrew would wrap an arm around his shoulder, another in his hair, and Neil would feel grounded and steady. He would feel safe.
The lingering touch of his father would fall away, irrelevant. The smell of burning rubber and metal, the sting of knives and the stench of sticky blood coating his skin would diminish.
He was not at ninety-four. Ninety-four was the whispered words, “Thank you. You were amazing.” They echoed inside Andrew’s head over and over, like they were an offering, a prayer, a goodbye, like they were pushed out of his body with his dying breath. It was irritating and he was going to bring it up on the bus. He was going to spell it out nice and slow how Neil needed to stop living like he was dying and start living like the exy junkie he was.
Ninety-five was turning around and seeing nothing. Not nothing in the sense that Neil was nothing, but nothing in the sense of panic, of worry, of standing on the edge of the rooftop looking down thinking “Would it hurt if I fell?” The space where Neil should have been filled with emotions that Andrew swore he would never feel again.
Ninety-six was finding his bag. It wasn’t the bag that held his entire life, that was locked away in the Fox Tower, safe. It was the bag that held his future. A future he knew Neil wanted in the way he clutched the key he gave him back in August. A key that was left in the God forsaken bag with Neil nowhere in sight.
For ninety-seven, Kevin was there. The other foxes were there too but the words Kevin formed with his breath passing over his voice box and the movements of his tongue and jaw, were the only things that mattered. Kevin’s mouth moved, sound traveled in vibrations through the air, hit Andrew’s eardrums, and then his hands were around Kevin’s neck. There were lies and half-truths and Andrew hated those. Again not in the sense he hated Neil but in the sense that he hated the word ‘please’ and ‘misunderstanding’. He hated how he didn’t hate Neil because of all the lies. And for that, ninety-seven.
Ninety-eight was the phone call that Neil had been found.
Ninety-nine was walking through the hotel door and seeing him crumple in agony. It was the hissed “Don’t” as he did his best sooth away the pain. It was the eyes that were Nathaniel’s with hints of Neil peeking out behind his irises. It was the look of a man staring helplessly as the executioner readied the guillotine. It was the words “I’m sorry” like he had something to be sorry for. It was his attitude that no matter how beat up he got, remained impeccably intact. And it was the question he still had the gall to ask: “Am I at ninety-four yet?”