Keeping his eyes downcast while Andrew tended to his hands, Neil felt like an idiot.
It wasn’t hard for Neil to ignore that rational voice at the back of his mind whenever he felt those hot flashes of anger run right through him. From past experience, things that made him this angry had to do with Riko, his fear of being found out, his father, someone hurting Andrew, or a variation of all four.
His anger was all consuming, spitfire and laser sharp words rolled into one; body shaking with suppressed emotions, heat and rage and sweat making up his entire body. Sometimes it got so bad that Neil felt like he’d crack right in the middle, splitting his body into two with no way to stitch himself back together.
Neil always knew he had his father’s vitriolic temper, knew it had gotten him in trouble countless times but, as everyone liked to say, there was much to be said about his unfailing attitude problem.
“Did you do this to yourself?”
“He started it,” Neil said glumly.
Andrew’s voice tightened. “I don’t care.”
Neil’s eyes sharpened and he fought the urge to scowl. He tried to remove his hand from Andrew’s care but Andrew ignored his efforts so Neil pursed his lips and stared at the dented locker.
“I know,” Neil replied, voice blank.
Andrew paused his ministrations to let go of his hand and tilt Neil’s chin up. Andrew searched Neil’s eyes for what felt like the longest time before Neil started to feel his anger simmer back to life.
Neil flung his head away from Andrew’s hold with no resistance. Andrew took that as invitation to grab the bandages beside him.
“You have to show him that he can’t step all over you.”
“I’m not letting him step over me!”
Andrew gave him a dry look.
“What the fuck am I supposed to do here, Andrew? I’m his Vice Captain, I give him directions just like anyone else. I try and help him play better as we’re all part of this team, and what he gives back is- is- this!”
Neil is out of breath by the end, face turning red with frustration. “I need to watch my back on the court enough as it is without having to worry about my own teammate trying to pull me down.”
Neil knew Andrew didn’t care much for his complaining right now but Andrew just continued slowly wrapping up his hands as he waited for Neil to finish.
As if reading his mind, Andrew asked him, “Finished?”
Neil exhaled loudly. “Yeah.”
“Good,” Andrew said, “You need to listen to yourself sometimes.”
Neil gaped at Andrew, part in confusion, part offence. “Excuse me?”
Andrew’s eyes met his as he gave Neil a bored look. “You need to start taking control of this or next time you might break your hand,” Andrew said, “I don’t want to have to hear you complaining about being unable to play your precious Exy,” he finished, the tightening of his hands betraying his apathy.
Neil tensed, hit with the reminder he was never able to forget. His career in Exy couldn’t be delayed or failed, otherwise he’d have Ichirou Moriyama to answer to.
Swallowing down his unease, Neil asked bitterly, “So what do you suggest I do?”
Neil noticed Andrew had paused with hands but continued as soon as Neil noticed.
“You need to make him realize that he can’t just do or say as he pleases,” Andrew said, finally finishing up. Neil didn’t even look down to check, he trusted Andrew.
Hands suddenly feeling sweaty under the light bandages, Neil had a stupid hope that Andrew would continue to hold his hands. He told himself it was only because the warmth of Andrew’s hands kept him steady, but that proved fruitless as Andrew let go of him to lean against the lockers, arms crossed against his chest.
Glancing away for a moment, Neil focused back on Andrew’s words, shaking his head in confusion. He didn’t understand what Andrew was angling at that he hadn’t already done.
Seeing Neil’s reaction, Andrew came closer, once again sitting in front of Neil on the bench. His hands were spread out in front of him and in this position, Neil noticed how Andrew’s shoulders bulged against his shirt, straining against the material.
Hearing a distant cough, Neil snapped out of it. “Maybe stop looking like that and I’ll stop staring. You’re distracting me.”
Andrew offered him no response but he did raise his eyebrows, looking more amused than irritated.
“Anyways…” Neil started, “Um, what were you going to say?”
Andrew pretended to ignore Neil for a moment before he said, “You need to make him fear you.”
Neil flinched. “Uh. No- I-” Neil swallowed past the lump in his throat and looked away from Andrew. “I’m not my father.”
“I need to make him respect me,” Neil concluded. He didn’t want Jack to fear him every time they were in the same room, he didn’t want to instill fear in others. He needed Jack to work with him, with all of them.
“Neil,” Andrew said.
When Neil looked to him, Andrew said, “Yes or no?”
Puzzled and just a little shaky at the mention of his father, Neil nodded. “Yes.”
Andrew brought his hands to firmly rest on Neil’s cheeks, calloused hands cradling his face, grip flexing. “He’s never going to respect you. You need to force him to whether he likes it or not.”
Neil looked away and Andrew dropped his hands. “If you want I know where to hide his body,” Andrew suggested. Neil only half took him seriously, he knew if worst came to worst that Andrew wouldn’t hold back- except Neil didn’t think he’d go as far as to bury Jack’s body on campus property. Neil appreciated the gesture nonetheless.
Neil huffed an unamused laugh and shook his head once. “No.”
He needed better control dealing with Jack, he needed Jack to see him as his Vice, respect his instructions and stop giving him shit on the court. After today though, it seemed like it was going to be harder than Neil imagined; but Neil would try his hardest to make Jack respect him, or at least pretend to respect him as long as he kept his opinions about Neil to himself.
Neil kept his eyes on Andrew and thought of all the things he could say or do to Jack the next time he decided to open his mouth. How he could lose control and use his fists against Jack instead of a locker, how he could let Andrew threaten him into submission-
But he looked at Andrew and the strength in his muscles, thinking of his constant, unwavering support and Neil knew he had to deal with this alone.
“I can handle him, I’ve got this.”