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Shoot Me Now

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The truth of the matter was this: No one ever talked about what happened with Bee. She was a therapist-- admittedly one of the coolest, nicest ones-- but a therapist all the same. They went to her with their issues, their dreams, their nightmares, and they came back with advice and sometimes even a plan to set in motion that would get them back in control of their lives.

 

But it was also horrifically personal to be in that room alone with her, telling her everything and having to trust that she was never going to tell anyone else about what your daily issue was. It was a relief to some-- to most actually; Neil was just a dramatic.

 

It happened that after Neil’s initial shove at the twins, both the blond boys had been spiraling downwards at a crazy speed earing bumps and bruises and headaches from the screaming matches, the fights, and the frustrations. Andrew and Aaron were twins, but they were not the same at all. Their joint sessions with Bee happened once every week, on Wednesday, lasting well into practice time, and they would both come in sometimes glaring, sometimes not, and they wouldn’t acknowledge one another for the rest of the practice, however long it was.

 

Despite this, the entire team had begun to notice some changes-- small most insignificant things. Moments where the twins would surprised the others in the room by being slightly less stoic, and slight more like decent human beings. Even Kevin, after a while, ceased grumbling about how much practice the two missed with their therapy sessions.

 

Bee was a miracle worker on an average day; A true being of massive power on a great day. If anyone could help the twins mend their relationship it had to be her: the one that Andrew trusted, and Aaron didn’t hate on principle.

 

But despite the growing pot of what Bee actually said during their sessions, the rule was always the same: no one talked about what happened with Betsy Dobson, and Bee, bound by her honor code, told no one what she said.

 

***

 

Nicky was the first to act on their pot of money, clearly impatient and using the complaint that he needed more money to save up to see Erik again for Christmas that year as an excuse. He struck when they would least expect it: when both Andrew and Aaron were getting coffee at the little cafe on campus with Neil as his witness. (When Neil had first heard of the betting he had warned them that what went on between them was none of their business and insisted on staying out of the pool-- like a buzzkill if you asked Nicky).

 

“So….” Nicky started off, holding his hot chocolate close, despite the fact it was nearly one hundred degrees outside. “I went to talk to Bee the other day.”

 

Neil gave him a warning look, and even without much heat the scars on his face made Nicky nervous. But he had also seen Neil wear one of Allison’s dresses in a drunken game of truth or dare, and he dismissed the redhead’s warning with a bright smile.

 

Andrew raised an eyebrow at the name drop, but his focus was on the barista making his drink, probably counting to make sure they did put all eleven sugars in his coffee, before he paid for it. Aaron sighed lightly through his nose, standing with his latte like he was expecting someone to run by and steal it from him.

 

“Yeah,” Nicky went on, “I wanted to talk about how much I was missing Erik. We facetime every other night, but it's just not the same. You know?”

 

“No,” Aaron answered so shortly it could have been Andrew’s response. He leveled his stare at his cousin, and took a short sip of his expresso.

 

It didn’t matter which twin it came from, because Nicky was used to the one word responses and had learned to become excited when they responded at all. As such his smile grew until he was beaming at Aaron. The latter seemed to lean away from him, content to grumble in whatever reason he had to be angry today.

 

“Anyway that got me thinking about how Bee always knows what to do. Like how she’s helping the two of you.”

 

Aaron tilted his head to the side, ever so slightly, with his eyes narrowed like he knew exactly what Nicky’s intentions were and was having no part in winning his cousin a good deal of money. Andrew on the other hand, seemed to lose interest at the statement.

 

The blonde goalkeeper pulled a few bills from his wallet to pay the patient cashier, and in the fold a simple business card size piece of paper slipped out. Nicky let out a startled “ohh!” and dove to catch it, beating Andrew by barely a millisecond.

 

“Laser tag membership?” Nicky read, “I didn’t know you played Laser tag!”

 

Andrew rolled his eyes, another reaction that made struck Nicky so as amazing, he nearly forgot to give the paper back.

 

“You know they have a couples laser tag, right? We could do a double date!” Nicky exclaimed turning to Neil, “Neil have you done, laser tag? It’s really fun!”

 

Surprisingly, the redhead offered a slight nod, “I have.”

 

Nicky blinked, “Wait, so somewhere between running across the entire world, dodging hitmen who wanted to kill you and your mother, and right here at this very moment, you found time to go play laser tag, but not watch the Incredibles?”

 

It sounded weird coming out of his mouth, and from the way Andrew lips tightened, Nicky knew he probably crossed a line. However Neil merely waved it off with a shrug. “I don’t know.”

 

Andrew snatched the Lazer tag membership from Nicky, and shoved it back in his wallet with vigour. “Do you have a reason for this Nicky, or are you just being annoying?”

 

The dark skinned boy took a sip of his hot chocolate, remembering what he had been trying to say, and then before the words had fully been thought out, they were past his lips in the humid air between the four of them. “I wanted to know what you two talk to Bee about in your joint sessions.”

 

Aaron stiffened, while Andrew just snarled. Behind them both, Neil rubbed his head, tugging at the auburn curls that definitely didn’t match his bright orange Foxes T-shirt. Nicky backed up quickly putting space between him and Andrew incase the shorter boy came at him with one of his knives.

 

But despite the sudden blast of anger in his eyes, Andrew held himself back. His fingers wrapped around his coffee cup tight enough to nearly crush the drink. “Aaron and I don’t have sessions with Bee,” he announced, despite the fact that the entire team had been there to notice neither Andrew nor Aaron had been at practice last Wednesday.

 

“But--” Nicky tried again.

 

This time Aaron shut up him with a stare that could have demolished cities, “It’s none of your business, Nicky.”

 

Andrew started storming towards the door, with Aaron only a step or two behind him, almost yawning. Neil waited until Nicky had gained enough common sense to shut his mouth. The Striker offered a small smile, but it was less of a are-you-alright, and more of a I-told-you-so.

 

***

 

Allison was the next to act, and it was out of personal curiosity. She was well aware that she was crossing into unknown territory, when she stalked down the hall and stopped outside the door that lead to the Monster’s room. She knew for a fact that both the twins, Nicky, and Neil were in there. Kevin had mentioned something about a date with Thea, but Allison didn’t need him to be there for her to win his fifty from him: she had both Neil and Nicky as witnesses.

 

She knocked twice, and tapped her foot impatiently while she waited for them to open up. She would never admit to hating coming into their dorm, and it had nothing to do with the fact that the boys rarely kept it clean. She just didn’t like the overwhelming sense of danger that came from the walls. She didn’t know how Neil could stand it.

 

(well she did, but she liked to pretend like she didn’t as she swallowed the anger than clenched in her stomach when she saw Neil absently pick at his scars because he had never deserved anything ever done to him.)

 

Nicky was the one who answered the door, but he wasn’t facing her when he did. He was yelling something at his family, and it sounded like a complaint that would go right over their uncaring heads. He was dressed in casual clothes that could have passed as what he slept in it if wasn’t for the towel in his hand and his still wet hair.

 

“Alli!” He said, obviously surprised by her appearance. It only took a second for his surprised to turn to suspicion. “What are you doing here?”

 

She huffed, “I need to talk to the Monster.”

 

Allison also didn’t give him the chance to argue with her. Despite every part of her screaming for her to turn away, she brushed by him straight into the Monster’s den. Nicky grappled out several syllables but in the end he just shut the door after her.

 

The room was cozy. Unlike with Matt and Aaron’s they had beanbags instead of a well worn couch, an Xbox instead of a movie rack, and several blankets that might have once been perfect for a fort, but now were just tossed in a haphazard pile. Andrew and Neil were curled up on one beanbag each with a controller, while Aaron was seated in another with a control of his own. Allison thought she saw the beginnings of a smirk on Aaron’s normally passive face, as a fourth the TV screen when dark and Neil let out a growl.

 

“Andrew, What the Hell!” the redhead huffed.

 

Andrew wasn’t impressed, keeping his eyes on the screen and his fingers working at the controller. Allison couldn’t tell which one he was but she really didn’t care either.

 

Neil tossed his controller over his shoulder and happened to catch sight of Allison and Nicky. “Oh, Allison.” He blinked, “Is something wrong?”

 

His comment dragged the other two boys from the game. One of them paused, and they both turned to look at her with nearly identical expressions. (But on an average day Allison had a hard time telling them apart with Andrew off the meds and all. It was easier now that Neil and Andrew rarely left each other’s sides.)

 

Allison resisted the urged to snarl at them both. They were getting better as a team sure, sometimes she even thought they might be able to hold a normal conversation. But Allison was out of her element, and she had grown up learning to put on a fierce facade so no one could call her on it. She was not here to start a fight; only to win the bet.

 

“I need to talk to you,” Allison said tactfully.

 

“Too bad,” Andrew said, “We’re busy.”

 

“Drew…” Neil echoed but it wasn’t as sincere as it probably could have been. Allison took that to mean that Neil had figured out why she was here and his disapproving gaze was testimony.

 

Allison walked forward until she was very nearly within their reach but stopping just short. “Listen, I don’t care much that you’re both little assholes, but this is important and I would have come to the two of you unless I had to. It’s about Bee.”

 

Neil sunk deeper in the beanbag, crossing his arms. He was wearing an orange sweatshirt that Allison had a sneaking suspicion was Andrew’s because of how new it appeared. (She was well aware that Neil was always wearing something either bright orange or had the foxes logo on it. He carried enough team spirit that none of the monsters had to wear any anymore.)

 

When it became obvious that neither of the twins were going to reply, Allison plunged on, taking the fact that they hadn’t gone back to playing as an invite to throw her pitch. It was probably as good as she was ever going to get.

 

“Renee, Dan, and I were talking about how this is going to be our last year,” She said, “We wanted to get Bee something for putting up with all of us.”

 

Behind both the twins and Neil, Nicky made a series of faces that ranged from confusion and surprise, thoughtfulness, and then anger. He ended up pouting with his arms crossed in silent irritation at her tricky tactic. Allison resisted the urge to smirk at him.

 

She had tact. As long as she kept up the ploy, the twins would fall to her trap, and she’d be five hundred dollars richer when they admitted that they didn’t actually talk during their sessions. Allison was certain that all three of them sat in silent during the sessions.

 

Matt and Dan had been in immediate objection, because they had to have been doing something in there with her, obviously. After all, the team had been witnessing the results of the sessions all summer. Andrew and Aaron weren’t quite getting along, but they weren’t being cold to each other. Occasionally, they even worked together on things, which Allison referenced the video game behind her for.

 

But she was convinced that the twins didn’t ever talk about their issues out loud. At most they maybe stared at each other until they couldn’t stand each other anymore.

 

“Why does that involve us?” Aaron asked irrite.

 

“Because the two of you see her weekly.” She shot back, “You two must know what she’d like.”

 

Aaron started to say something-- Allison was betting it wasn’t nice, or school appropriate-- but Andrew cut him off with an absent clicking on his controller.

 

“She likes glass figures.” He said, “Get her a butterfly.”

 

(This wasn’t a bad suggestion so Allison kept it noted in the back of her mind for when she actually when searching for Bee’s present.) Still Andrew wasn’t making it easy to get the information she wanted, not that she had expected anything less. This was the same kid who refused to let his twin drive his car just to make him angry.

 

So she turned to Aaron, “What about you? Suggestions?”

 

“It’s not my present to give her.” He reached for his phone which had been on the ground beside his feet. “Go ask someone else.”

 

“You have no ideas?” Allison persisted, “None at all? What do you two even talk to her about?”

 

Nicky scowled at her, twisting his towel between his fingers. It was hard for him to even look angry at her when she was that good at routing a conversation how she wanted.

 

“We talk about how intrusive you are, and she talks us out of killing you.” Aaron sneered at her. He finished whatever text he had been writing and locked his phone again. Then with a huff he launched himself back onto his feet. “I’m going out with Katelyn.” He announced.

 

Last year Andrew would have pulled a knife on him, but now Andrew merely sunk deeper in the beanbag. Allison noticed Neil’s leg bump against his and the tiny smile the two shared. It was a cute, almost perfect moment to catch on camera to put up on the memory wall in the locker room. But it was over in a second and Andrew was facing her again.

 

“Get out of my room.”

 

Allison didn’t take defeat lightly. She couldn’t; not with who she was. “Listen you little--”

 

“Out.”

 

“I--”

 

“Nicky!” Andrew snapped. His voice hit his cousin like lightning and Nicky actually jumped. “Go play with the Upperclassmen.”

 

Then like Allison didn’t exist at all, he faced Neil with his narrow gaze and waited for his orders to be followed. The blonde girl had half a mind to stay, but Aaron was faster. He was fast to move, bumping her shoulder in his pace.

 

“You really don’t want to be here.” He told her, “They are about to….” He didn’t finish but his face was one of distress.

 

(However not one of disgust. It was almost as if he had finally accepted that his twin and his cousin were gay. A milestone, Allison noticed.)

 

Allison had chosen a bad time to wear heels-- not that it was ever a bad time to show off her pedicure but-- and when Aaron had shoved her unexpectedly, she had lost her balance. She stumbled back two steps, her shoe catching on the fucking trash can that was in the middle of the room. Who kept their trash can in the middle of the floor? She hit the floor with a thump and a curse, that was borne more of surprise than of pain. She had taken harder hits on the court than tripping over a waste bin.

 

“Allison,” Neil winced, “Are you okay?”

 

She gave him a heated glare, “I’m fine, Josten.”

 

She snatched at the trash that had fallen out of the bin-- crumpled loose leaf papers, notes, broken pens, a few candy wrappers, and a few neon green paper rip-off wristbands-- and shoved it back in the trash can.

 

“Leave it.” Andrew commanded. “Get Out.”

 

Allison did. When she and Nicky joined the rest of the Upperclassmen in their room and Nicky started retelling the story, she for once understood Andrew’s sudden urges to kill people.

 

***

 

“How do you two get out your aggression towards each other?” Kevin’s attempt to get the answer was far less tactical than Allison but it was far less blunt than Nicky’s. It was also so Kevin-like no one would have assumed he had an alternative motive for saying it at all.

 

It was also entirely possible that he hadn’t even intended to get the answer at all, and it was just a rhetorical question he was asking the room. The entire team was there to witness, they were just waiting on Coach Wymack so they could begin their after practice group meeting he had called.

 

Andrew lying with his feet in Neil’s lap, merely looked up at the famous Exy player.

 

“What are you talking about Kevin?” Neil asked, since no one else was about to.

 

“I’m talking about the fact that someone’s immediate reaction to being annoyed is to throw exy balls at their teammates shins!” Kevin snarled, glaring at the short goalie. Andrew for his part didn’t seem bothered by him at all. In the artificial light, Kevin’s chess piece tattoo stood out, along with his angry attitude and the bruises on his knees.

 

“He only did it four times.” Neil pointed out.

 

“He hit me each time!” Kevin retaliated.

 

“Run faster,” Andrew suggested.

 

“The point is you can’t solve every problem with violence!”

 

That seemed to surprised Andrew. The shorter boy gave him a skeptical look, “Are you sure, Day?” He glanced at Aaron then back at Kevin, “It works for me.”

 

“You can’t possibly--!!”

 

“Wait,” Matt said suddenly, “how do the two of you work out your issues?”

 

“I shoot him.”

 

“What?”

 

Andrew seemed to be done talking for the day, now that he had his one line that had left everyone speechless. He looked over the couch towards Coach’s office where Wymack was on a phone call and loudly trying to get out of it.

 

Nicky was certainly pale, and Renee seemed concerned. Even Neil was looking at Andrew in disbelief, because he couldn’t be serious. They would have noticed if Aaron came in bleeding, right? And Bee never would have let them harm each other--

 

“What?” Dan asked turning to Aaron as if she would see him bleeding through his change out clothes. He didn’t respond at first; just finished his text before meeting the rest of their confused gazes.

 

“Don’t look at me,” Aaron said, “I shoot him back.”

 

“What?”

 

Renee suddenly slipped back with a quiet laugh. Her pastel hair fluttered around her ears as she turned to Allison to explain, “It’s a joke!”

 

“Why have our lives gotten to such extremes that I serious thought they were going to go after each other with guns?” Matt whined.

 

“There’s not enough alcohol in the tower for me,” Kevin decided, and although he left the statement open for an ending of “to deal with you”, he didn’t say it.

 

Aaron raised an eyebrow. His lips twitched, almost upward, almost too fast for anyone to catch and be certain it wasn’t a trick of the light and their exhaustion. “It wasn’t a joke.”

 

Dan looked like she was going to to use her authority as captain to fight them both, but Coach Wymack came out of his office them, looking angry and threw his phone on the coffee table in the middle of them with a not-so-nice comment about the caller.

 

“Listen up!” He growled, although it was really clear that they (for once) weren’t the source of his agitation.

 

Whatever Dan was going to say, it was forgotten until she and Matt were in his truck driving back to the tower, and the Monsters were well on their way to Columbia for the weekend.

 

***

 

Wymack got a call about two minutes before practice on Wednesday, and he knew he was not going to like it because of the brief ID that was displayed. Andrew, of course, was one of the one contacts in his phone that didn’t have a picture associated with his name (mostly because Renee and Dan had once stolen his phone and taken pictures of everyone for him.)

 

“Neil’s not coming to practice today.”

 

Wymack tapped his hand on his desk tiredly, “Hello to you, too, Andrew. Why is Neil not coming to practice?”

 

Wymack had seen Neil attempt to get on an Exy court with over fifty stitches, see him play until he dropped, seen him pretend to be fine when he was certain he was going to die. Wymack wasn’t fool; he knew that if Andrew was calling him to announce something so unlikely, that meant that something had happened to the smart-mouth striker.

 

“He’s sick,” Andrew said.

 

“He seemed fine yesterday.”

 

“He’s an idiot,” Andrew said as if that was excuse enough.

 

Wymack wasn’t convinced that Andrew was telling the truth, but at the same time, Wymack had never heard Andrew lie to him. The kid hated liars (which struck a chord in the older man, because how often had someone lied to the kid to make him so viltole against it? How had he managed to find a safe place in the king of lies and half truths that was Neil Josten?). The Exy coach huffed under his breath.

 

“So I assume you won’t be at practice today at all?” He said instead of pushing it. He’d give Andrew this one, because really as long as they weren’t getting themselves arrested or trying to out the mafia, he wasn’t paid enough to dig into them.

 

“Someone has to make sure he doesn’t try to go to practice.” He hung up before Wymack had a response for him.

 

It wasn’t that big of a deal for neither of them to be at practice. Wymack let Dan know before she started running the rest through their drills, and she immediately asked if Neil was okay. Nicky frowned from nearby sharing a look with Kevin.

 

“He seemed fine when we got up this morning.” He said, “Didn’t he?”

 

Kevin pursed his lips, “It’s his lost if they are skipping practice. I will make him run double the drills at our midnight practices.”

 

“You guys still do that?”

 

Wymack gave Dan a pointed look, and she seemed to understand that their time was for practicing not gossiping like little girls. Dan grinned fiercely and commanded her team through their warm ups.

 

Wymack behind the plexiglass when they began their passing techniques, and took the time to update Abby on what was up with Neil. She called a few minutes later.

 

“Do you think he’s okay?” Was the first thing she said, but Wymack couldn’t find it in him to berate her like he did with Andrew. Abby was nothing if not endlessly stressed over the players she tried to keep patched together. Especially after what happened to Neil last year in Baltimore.

 

The kids were strong adults who had beaten their pasts with an Exy stick, but Wymack and Abby both wished that they never had to. He watched as Renee and Allison perfected a pass they had been working on, and their smiles were clear even from under the helmets. This...this would be the year one of his Foxes finally graduated. This would be the year where he got to stand that exhausting ceremony and feel a stupid amount of pride in his chest for these kids.

 

“I’m sure he’s going to be just fine,” Wymack said, “He’s probably better now than he’s ever been in his life.”

 

“He’s a good kid.” Abby agreed, “I’ll drop by with some soup just in case.”

 

Wymack had to smile at her thoughtfulness. She was probably busy now (she had mentioned needing to study for her recertification during one of their dinners), but she didn’t even bat an eye at going out of her way for one of the players.

 

Dan punched a fist on the plexiglass down the way to get Wymack’s attention. He said a hasty goodbye to the nurse and was quick to unlock the door to see what was wrong. Dan could run practices almost better than him now, especially now that the foxes trusted her leadership that had carried them to the Championships. He only came in when healthy doses of assigned laps needed to be given out.

 

She wasn’t sweating yet, but when she pulled off her helmet she hair was a glorified mess. “Is Aaron planning on showing up? Matt said he was fine earlier. I know it’s Wednesday, but if Andrew’s with Neil there’s no reason for Aaron to go to Bee.” She winced at own words recognizing how offensive they came off as, “I mean, Aaron never goes to see Bee unless he has too.”

 

Wymack frowned looking back at the foxes on the court. Sure enough, he was missing three out of his nine players. The fact that he hadn’t even noticed Aaron wasn’t there… He checked his phone for his recent messages, but he hadn’t gotten any texts from Aaron. For all intents and purposes it seemed as if Aaron didn’t even exist-- like his twin he had no picture icon, no recent messages, no phone calls recorded. Aaron kept to himself.

 

“I’ll call him,” Wymack said, motioning for Dan to go back to the practice. She had dubious expression on her face but she left. Wymack leaned back against the glass, and listened to the phone ring and ring as the exy balls began to be tossed back and forth. Allison and Kevin got into an argument about her footwork, which prompted Matt to get between them before either struck out. Aaron’s voicemail was automated and annoying.

 

He debated sending a text to the backliner, but before he could even think about the appropriateness of “ you better be sick or dead ”, Renee’s yell broke out. “Nicky!”

 

He looked up just in time to see the boy take an exy ball to the chest. Nicky didn’t go down-- a miracle of the exy-approved chest armour he was wearing-- but he stumbled back a few steps and bent forwarded as if he could breathe. Wymack took off across the court, cursing because he did not need a player injured before the season even started.

 

Renee beat him to Nicky ripping off her helmet and dropping it on the ground as she got closer to him. “I’m so sorry! I thought-- you were looking--!” Her normally composed self seemed to evaporate at the thought of hurting one of her own teammates.

 

“Hemmick, what happened?” Wymack demanded.

 

Nicky coughed out a breath, “Sorry Coach.” He gave a watery smile, “I was distracted.”

 

“I got that far!” Wymack shot back, “Distracted by what ?”

 

Nicky merely nodded across the polished court to a lone figure who was standing at the doors with a worried expression. She was dressed like she was running errands which was slightly jarring since we was used to her practical formal outfits. Her hair was loose, held back with a bandana that Wymack was sure Renee had made and gifted to her.

 

Betsy didn’t often come to the court unless there was a game. Wymack had told her before that she wouldn’t be that much of a distraction, but apparently-- like with most things-- she was right. Nicky insisted he was okay, and Wymack gave all his players a stern look over when he went to go talk to her.

 

“I am so sorry, David,” She said as soon as the glass was open, “Is he okay? Does he need--”

 

“He’s alright, Doc.” Wymack smiled slightly at her, reassuring, because really no last damage had been done. “Just winded, and he probably deserved it for getting distracted in the first place.”

 

“But coach!” Nicky whined from somewhere behind him.

 

“Be glad I’m not making you run laps!”

 

Betsy tapped the side of her glasses with an apprehensive look. “I didn’t mean to--” She tried but must had realized from his expression she’d get nowhere with her apologies. “Renee left her jacket in my office during our lunch in a few days ago. I was out running errands in the neighborhood, and I just thought I’d drop it off for her. I really didn’t mean to disrupt your practice.”

 

She showed off Renee’s bright red jacket, which Wymack thought would have been impossible to lose but here they were. Not to mention he had seen his players forget all sorts of brightly colored jackets, shoes, socks, and shirts over the years.

 

“So Aaron’s not with you?” Wymack asked.

 

“Aaron?” She repeated startled, “No. Why would you think that?” She glanced past him at the foxes offering a wave to those waving cheerily at her. “Neil and Andrew aren’t here either?”

 

Wymack raised an eyebrow, “Andrew didn’t tell you? Neil’s sick apparently.” They shared a dubious smile, before his frown came back. “Usually he lets you know before he cancels his sessions with you doesn’t he? If Neil really is sick and its bad enough that he forgot to tell you and Aaron--”

 

“Wait,” The psychologist said, “What appointment with me?”

 

“The joint sessions between the twins.” Wymack peered down at her, “The ones that happen every Wednesday.”

 

She gave a confused laugh, but it quieted when she realized he wasn’t making anything up. “David, I haven’t seen the two of them together since you won the Championships.”

 

There was silence so loud Wymack thought he might have gone deaf. Even Kevin had been quieted by the statement, his loud insistence of getting back to practice cut off mid word. Wymack glanced back at the of his players, as if the twins and Neil would have appeared in the meantime. But as it stood the court held only the reaming six, equally, obviously confused Exy Players.

 

“Well then where the Hell have they been going?!”

 

***

 

The truth of the matter was this: No one ever talked about what happened with Bee. Even Neil, who went there to rant about Exy stats and sit in silence, didn’t tell anyone else what he did, except to mention that he wasn’t a fan of Betsy Dobson.

 

The pot had held five hundred dollars worth of bets, between the six foxes with a variety of ideas that seemed reasonable. It had been made when half the group had been drunk and the other half getting there (with the exception of Renee, who joined the bet after much persuasion from Allison, and Neil, who would only have one drink unless Andrew was with him).

 

Not one of them had even considered the notion that the twins really did not go to see Bee at all.

 

“We are going to get in so much trouble for this.”

 

“Shut up.”

 

“Really, Andrew, is this even necessary?” Neil twisted the laser gun in his hand with an unimpressed look. It was too gaudy to be anything like a real gun, but the space theme was just weird enough for him not to complain. It was for fun. And, as Nicky had pointed out, Neil had never really gotten to do dumb stuff like this during his life on the run.

 

“I need to beat him.” Andrew said, picking at the armour he was wearing.

 

“Isn’t this cheating then?”

 

“He’s bringing Katelyn.”

 

Neil blinked twice, taken aback. “Wait really?”

 

“Wipe that stupid look off your face, Junkie.”

 

“So this is like…. A double date?” Neil half grinned, half grimaced. As if he wasn’t sure if this was a good thing or a bad thing or if they would be wanted to a real murder at the end of the day.

 

“Yes.” Andrew answered shortly, “A date where I get to shoot her, and you get to shoot Aaron.” He narrowed his gaze at Neil, “And you will not mention anything about Exy the entire time.”

 

The statement was both unlikely to be fulfilled and sent a jolt of panic in Neil again. He glanced towards the glass door as if he was going to go running out them all the way back to the court.

 

“What if they find out?” Neil asked as if he hadn’t been asking all morning, “Coach will--”

 

“--will do nothing.” Andrew fired his gun at Neil, but the sensors weren’t activated yet. “You are his second Striker. He can’t bench you--it’s off season--and any laps he assigns you will enjoy, Josten.”

 

“I still cannot believe that both you and Aaron have been blowing off practices to play Laser tag.” The redhead smiled, “That’s so...ridiculous!”

 

“It’s a good way to vent anger.” Another voice added to the conversation with all the eagerness of “trust me, I’m a doctor!”

 

Aaron was wearing all black, so he matched Andrew almost completely. He had found a black beanie to cover his hair so it wouldn’t give him away in the darkness of the room. But for now he just looked like a fifth grader attempting to go through an emo phase. (It was Neil’s opinion that Andrew pulled off all black far better)

 

“Scientifically proven!” Katelyn said, with a bright smile, “Hi Neil, Andrew!” Her fingers were intertwined with Aaron’s in a bold display of their relationship. She looked as if she had gone laser tagging a million times before. Neil guessed that despite her manicure, she was most likely a really good shot.

 

Both Neil and Andrew nodded to her, which was surprising because Andrew had sworn never to acknowledge her at one point. Neil smiled at him. Andrew scowled, like he knew exactly what Neil was thinking.

 

Neil offered his hand, “Yes or No?”

 

Andrew flicked him in the forehead, but his other hand slipped into Neil’s and held tighter than the neon green, rip off wristbands on their wrists.

 

It was a moment more before the Attendant called for their party to enter into the prep room. He closed the door right after the four of them were inside, which suggested that one, or both, of the twins had insisted it be a closed party. He went over the rules boredly, but Neil didn’t pay much attention because he knew from playing with Andrew before that they would be breaking most of them. When he was finished with the rules, the man sighed once.

 

“Okay, Mr. Aminyard, Mr. Pipedream, Miss IWillWin, and Mr. DeathsahdeofDarknessandDeath, are you all one team, today, or are you splitting up?”