Neil woke with a start.
A split-second after he opened his eyes, he was filled with a hot, blinding terror that tore through him, not knowing where he was. His body's first instinct was to run, to get as far away as he could from wherever he was, and he started rolling over to kick his legs over the side of his bed before his body responded by screaming in pain. He was forced to lay motionless, praying that his captor, whoever it was, didn't notice his panicked movements.
Seconds later, though, he slowly began to realize where he was: safe in his dorm room in Fox Tower. Matt had eagerly let him borrow his bed -- pushed him to take it, actually -- in the bottom bunk after Neil's bloody return from Edgar Allen. Fragments of his memory began returning and he pushed the pieces together like they were part of a puzzle. Some of the pieces were still missing though, but eventually he knew he'd find them under the couch cushions of his mind and he'd have to face his two -- three? -- weeks with the Ravens in full color. But until then, he was content to move in and out of consciousness as he recovered and adjusted to the time he missed. It was easier and less painful this way.
Neil slowly reached under his pillow and searched for his phone, ignoring his aching muscles and the pull of his stitches. He flipped it open and blinked blearily at the screen, trying to get his eyes to focus and adjust to the bright light as he read what time it was. Eight o'clock on a Tuesday. It had only been an hour since he had told Matt he was going to bed early. He held his breath so he could hear the sound of the TV over his ragged breathing. Nothing. He was alone in the dorm.
Neil felt like he had been sleeping for a lifetime, but that lifetime of sleep still wasn't enough. His mind was groggy and he shut his eyes, rubbing his lids with the backs of his hands. He dropped his phone onto the carpet by his bed and reached under his pillow a second time to get another dose of pain medication. Neil clumsily shook out two small pills and swallowed them dry, choking a little on the second one. He sat up instinctively, sputtering, before he realized that wasn't a good idea. He could feel scabs breaking and cracking across his back and stitches yanking against his skin and he gasped out in pain. Slowly, in agony, he laid himself back down in the bed and shut his eyes miserably. He fell into a numbed sleep as the pill bottle fell to the floor.
He woke up to the sound of the bedroom door opening.
Neil's eyes opened slowly and everything he saw was very blurry, probably due to his fatigued state because of the pills he had taken. His slow, sleep-deprived mind came to the conclusion that it must've been less than an hour since he woke up last since the worst of the pills' side effects still hadn't worn off.
He yawned, then grimaced at the smell of his breath. When was the last time he'd eaten? He didn't remember. Carefully, Neil turned onto his side and shook out the arm that he was sleeping on. He was facing the opposite wall now, and he could see that the bedroom door was cracked open. He didn't think anything of it until he remembered that Matt wasn't home and Neil had definitely shut the door before going to bed. His heart began pounding in his chest as he realized that someone else must've been in the dorm with him. He squinted, trying to force his blurry eyes to focus on what he could see through the crack of the door, but to no avail. Neil's watery eyes were useless to him, and his mind was too sleepy and numb to come up with an escape plan. He just laid there, useless and vulnerable.
Suddenly, a shape appeared in the doorway.
The man that was walking towards him couldn't have been very large, but the bulky black clothes that he was wearing made him look bigger. Neil's eyes strained to focus on the man's face, but all he could see was pale skin and dark hair. Riko. All at once, Neil's ability to breath and think completely left him. He laid there in his deathbed, gasping pathetically and completely paralyzed.
The man continued towards him, but he was walking faster now after seeing Neil's panic. The man knelt beside him by the bed, and Neil was able to get a better look at this face and noticed blond hair peeking out from underneath a black hooded sweatshirt, giving the man the appearance of having black hair. Andrew. Neil tried to relax, tried to take deep breaths, but even though Andrew was a much better visitor than Riko, Neil was still confused and wary.
Andrew had barely talked to him since he had came back from rehab (besides their time on the roof), and Neil was worried that breaking his promise to Andrew would end with worse consequences than he originally planned for. He suddenly regretted everything he'd done since Andrew had left before remembering that he had saved Andrew's life. Riko surely wouldn't have stopped his abuse until Andrew was dead if Neil hadn't done as he'd asked. He repeated this thought over and over in his drugged mind while he stared up at Andrew, blinking his eyes and trying, pointlessly, to get his them to focus.
"Calm down, it's just me," Andrew said gruffly, as if that was going to help him relax. He grabbed Neil's chin with his thumb and forefinger, scowling. "The fuck happened to your face? No, don't try to answer that, I already know. I'm gone for what, four weeks? What kind of shit did you get into? Don't answer that either." Andrew's scowl managed to deepen as he pushed Neil's face into the pillow and let go of his chin as if he couldn't bear to look at such a pathetic sight any longer. Neil winced at the rough treatment of his tender face but said nothing.
Andrew stared at him for a moment longer before digging a bandage out of his pocket. "Abby said you needed your tattoo bandage changed," he mumbled, trying to open the sterilized package. Neil tried to keep his eyes open while Andrew grumbled about being Abby's servant girl, but he could feel himself slipping back into a drug-induced sleep.
"Jesus," Andrew said, sounding exasperated. He was looking at Neil again. "I don't even want to look at you anymore, it's disgusting," he said with his usual bored countenance and harsh words. Strangely, this relaxed Neil a little as his continued to stare up at him. "I almost left after seeing you laying in bed like a dead fucking corpse." That explained why the door was cracked open like that when Neil woke up for the second time. He was surprised his mind was able to make this connection as he slowly slipped into unconsciousness.
Once Andrew had the bandage out of the packaging, he cupped Neil's chin in his hand, this time using his whole palm and doing it more gently. Neil began to surrender to sleep and he closed his eyes, trusting Andrew not to kill him. Neil could feel Andrews's fingers on his face as he carefully peeled off the old bandage. Andrew's fingertips were warm and soft against Neil's cheek, and so gentle. Judging by the rustling noise, the goalkeeper let the old bandage fall to the floor of the bedroom, not caring enough to pick it up.
"That motherfucker," Andrew hissed under his breath, seething. Neil flinched at his harsh tone and tried to open his eyes. Andrew's own eyes were almost black with anger as he stared at Neil's new tattoo. That's when Neil realized that the anger wasn't directed at him, but at Riko. "Don't squint at me like that, it just makes your face look worse," Andrew snapped. Neil obeyed, shutting his eyes instantly. A new wave of exhaustion washed over him and he fought to stay awake while Andrew's fingers traced over the number four on his cheek, barely touching his skin. Neil shivered.
Soon, a clean bandage was being pressed to his cheek. "You're lucky I don't have my knives with me," Andrew growled. "I would've taken the liberty to carve that revolting thing off of your face." Neil was at once grateful and confused at the same time, but his mind was too tired to try to work anything out. Instead, he resigned to laying there with one of Andrew's hands pressed to the bandage on his cheek and the other creeping up to his jaw from his chin so that he could get a better grip on his face. The task was finished, but Andrew's fingers lingered.
"You could at least say 'thank you,'" Andrew mumbled quietly after at least a minute of silence. "Ungrateful bastard."
Neil forced his eyes open one last time and stared at Andrew's face. For a split second, he was convinced that he saw concern flash through the other man's eyes, but his mind emptied again as he quietly rasped, "Thank you."
Andrew scowled again as he lifted his fingers off of Neil's skin. The spots where his warm fingertips were just a second before felt cold and empty now that they were gone. Andrew reached behind him to pick up the pill bottle that had fallen off of Neil's bed. He shook one out onto his hand and pressed it in between Neil's lips. The pill landed on his tongue and began to dissolve, leaving a bitter taste in Neil's mouth. He was too tired to care.
The effects of the pill were almost instant and his eyelids slowly fell shut on their own. There was nothing Neil could do to stop them. He heard Andrew closing the pill bottle and placing it on top of his phone on the carpet, hearing the glass and plastic tap against each other. There was more rustling in the room, probably Andrew picking up the old bandage and the wrapping of the new one and taking them to the wastebasket in the bathroom.
The last things Neil registered as he fell asleep were Andrew's fingers returning and dragging along his jaw as Neil surrendered to the drugs.
He forgot about the encounter when he woke the next morning.