The game was almost over they were going to win, they were going to be court champions again. Seconds ticked by and Neil scooped and threw the ball to Kevin who was ready for it. Neil wasn't ready for the body slam or his head smashing against the wall. He didn't hear the buzzer go off, he didn't hear the cheers or his teammates. He could only hear his blood pulsing before he couldn't hear anything at all.
Alex woke up to a pounding headache and no idea where he was. It looked to be a small room, he heard yelling and movement outside of the room and he feared the worst. His father found him and his mother, she was probably already dead. He looked for an exit, it had a single door and had the bed he was sitting on and a couple of cabinets and a chair. The only weapon like object in the room was a chair. The commotion became louder, he jumped from where he was and grabbed for the chair. His hands shook and it took all he had not to cower behind it. He picked up the chair and moved to the wall where the door opened. He held the chair up and when the door finally opened he slammed the chair into the person who walked in, he pushed it so it pushed him out and he paused when he saw so many people, his eyes shifted to the exit.
“Oh shit” He heard someone say, he moved for the door closest to him, a man with an intense stare stood in his way. He didn't recognize him or anyone in the room. He wondered why he was wearing Exy gear. He looked around the room and saw most of them were, some had gear on and others had it off. “What's going on?” He asked, He was terrified he was going to see his father walk in the room. “And wheres my mom?” he looked around, it didn't look like anyone was going to say anything until a girl with a sweet smile stepped closer. “Neil do-” he didn't listen to her question as he tried to think if he had ever used the name Neil before. He didn't.
“My name is Alex” He told her she looked surprised but nodded as if that was what she meant.
He heard a groan and looked back to see who he pushed with a chair. The man stood up and glared at him, he flinched back. scrambling to get as far from him as possible before he ran into a man behind him he flinched away from him expecting him to pull him to the man for punishment. He moved so his back was against the wall, he looked to the door again until he heard his real name.
“Nathaniel” His head whipped towards the voice so quick he felt dizzy and nauseous. He was terrified when he saw Kevin Day standing there, his eyes shifted back to the man he hit and then to Kevin and back again. He was sure he was going to puke all over the floor. His legs felt like jelly but he had every instinct to run. His eyes shifted around the room again and he still didn't see his father or Lola or anyone he recognized from working with his father. He looked back to the man who was blocking the door and something was familiar but that only terrified him more. “Your father is dead” the man said, he tried to open his mouth but he wasn't sure what to say. He didn't believe him and he wouldn't until he talked to his mom.
“Where’s my mom?” He asked him.
“She’s dead” He said and he heard several people groan and comment but he couldn’t hear anything they said, the man never looked away from him.
“When? How?” He asked, he wished he didn't sound so pathetic. He couldn't remember how he had gotten there or where he was even at. The last thing he remembered was falling asleep in a rundown motel with his mother at his back.
“Three years for your mother and one for your father” he said, nothing about him said he was lying but he couldn't afford to trust anyone.
“I was just with her” Alex said, if he called him a liar he was afraid he wouldn't get out alive. His father was in jail, he would have known if he was killed, they would have stopped running.
“It's true” He turned back to the room and the man he hit had gotten closer, he moved closer to the man by the door. Every step made him sick and he slowly made steps backwards the man was smaller than him and if he was quick he could get around him to the door. His body seized up when he felt the man step closer, he knew they were barely an inch away from each other, they weren’t exactly touching but he could still feel him.
“Fuck off” Alex wanted to but when he looked back to him he was staring across the room. Alex followed his gaze and the man sighed and nodded to the others as they filed out of the room through the door near them. It took a minute and several of them looked back as if they wanted to stay. When they were all gone and the door shut behind them the man stepped back.
“You hit your head in the game, your parents are dead and no one is ever going to hurt you again” It took a minute for him to process it might have been an hour for all he knew. His head was killing him, the other man didn't seem inclined to give him anymore information.
He chose the easiest part to ask, “What game?”
“I don't play that” He said, the man didn't answer and Alex had no idea how to get out without getting stopped, he was also afraid of what was on the side of the door.
“How old are you?” He was startled by the question, he paused to answer. Alex was 14, he was actually 15 but he wasn't going to tell him the truth.
“What's your name?”
“Alex Wagner” He didn't move as he was asked questions, he kept his body as still as he could. Even his eyes didn't shift around the room, he knew the exits but it would be hard to reach them before he was taken down by the man.
“Where do you live?”
Alex didn’t like his question, his father’s people wouldn't be asking him these questions unless they were looking for his mom. She was supposed to be dead so why was he interested in where he lived? “Why are you asking me these questions?”
“Whens your birthday?”
“July 8th” Alex swore at himself, it was like his mom was quizzing him as they created new identities, it was habit to answer.
He could see the anger the man was holding back, Alex wanted to step back but he was already against the wall. “I’m sorry” He whispered, the man turned his icy stare to him before stepping back another two steps. Alex was surprised by the action. The man was still angry, but he looked away. Alex looked at the door again. It felt like forever before the man spoke.
“Andrew” He was confused, he had never used that name before. “My name” he elaborated. Alex didn't understand Andrew, he was angry but he wasn't hitting him and he had even given him space and protected him against the other man. He wondered if his mother had found someone to take care of him. He still didn't understand how he was in this room or how she could possibly be dead for so long, he definitely didn't believe that his father was dead.
The door slowly opened and the same guy who had commented earlier looked in. He quickly shut the door when Andrew glared at him. Alex couldn't keep his legs standing any longer he slid down the wall and let his head roll to the side, it felt like he had bricks on his head. He stared up at Andrew who had taken a step forward but no more than that. Alex blinked at him, he didn't trust him but he trusted his mother as much as he could and if she entrusted him to Andrew then he could believe that he wasn't going to hurt him. At least not as much as his father's people would. He lifted his hand out slowly and blinked his eyes open when he felt cold fingers against his. He felt arms move around him but it all faded away. He woke up a few times, he was being put in a car he was ready to run until he saw Andrew and he relaxed as much as he could. He woke up next when he was being carried up stairs. He thought he saw two Andrews but then his mind was hazy and he still felt sick. When he felt his body being laid on a bed he woke up and looked around, Andrew was throwing a blanket on him and moving to leave.
“Wait” he turned around and looked down at him, “will you stay with me?” he asked, it had been a long time since he was alone and he didn't think he could sleep even with the pounding his head was doing. He saw him go for the door and panic shook him even more awake until he was seeing another Andrew at the door, the Andrews were arguing but it was too quiet for him to hear and then one took a deep breath and took his shoes off. He waited till Alex moved back on the small bed before climbing in. Alex fell asleep still feeling confused but knowing he wasn’t alone calmed some of his panic.
He woke up and his head was still pounding, he was alone on the bed and he looked around. He quietly got up to look at the things around the room. There wasn’t much in there but on the wall was a picture it looked like it was just printed on normal paper and taped to the wall. It looked just like his father, but he knew that it wasn’t. This was him, without his hair dye and contacts this was him and Andrew was across from him. He didn’t know where they were and he didn’t understand how he could be in the same coat as Andrew or even in the same room as him. The harder he tried to remember the more his head hurt. He pulled the picture off of the wall and folded it up he looked down and noticed he was wearing different clothes, a sweatshirt he didn't recognize and sweatpants. He put the picture in his sweatshirt pocket and quietly opened the door. He could hear talking but it was distant so he snuck in the hallway and made it to where a small living room and kitchen were. He carefully opened the door and that's when he heard people speaking.
“He is not going to a hospital” Andrew said.
“He needs treatment” a woman said but Alex didn't see or know who she was.
He didn't recognize anyone's voice except Andrew’s. They were talking about him, he only knew that he couldn't stay here too long. If Andrew was telling the truth and his parents were dead then he didn't need to run anymore and his mother must have told him to stay with Andrew. He didn't know why he didn't remember but he wouldn't leave Andrew’s side. He wouldn't let them take him anywhere. He opened the door and saw a whole group of people in a circle in the hallway. All the same people he had seen earlier.
“I’m staying with Andrew” he said, he looked and he really did see two Andrew’s. He blinked a few times and they were both still there. Neither of them moved, no one in the whole group moved as if waiting for him to do something. He didn't like the attention so he only focused on the two Andrews he looked between both of them and then finally he knew exactly which one he was. He stepped behind him he didn't say anything but he knew he was right. He looked at the rest of the group and jumped when he saw Kevin next to Andrew he was so focused on Andrew he didn’t even notice him, he took a step back and then Andrew moved so he was between the two. Alex ducked behind him, “go back in the room Abram” Alex knew he was right to stay with Andrew no one knew his middle name, even fewer called him by it.
He did exactly as he was told and went back to the room, he went to the room he slept in and waited on the bed. He pulled the picture out of his pocket and pressed out the creases. He stared at it running his finger over his and Andrew faces. He wasn’t scared in this picture. He wasn't running. The last photo he had taken was for a new passport. He couldn't remember a time when he took a photo with a friend, or if he ever did. He looked older in the photo and he also looked just like his father which made his stomach churn. He folded the photo up and shoved it in his pocket. He looked up when the Andrew’s look alike stood in the doorway. He stayed quiet as he walked towards him, he stood up and moved so he was ready to run if he needed. The man waited and then stepped forward again, he was panicking and let him get closer and then he bolted for the door he ran out to the living room where a couple of people were standing, they looked at him and he ran for the door he ran into Andrew’s body as the door opened. Andrew took a step back but continued standing. Andrew was glaring past him at the people in the room.
Alex turned to see them passing around money until they saw Andrew then they shoved it in there pockets trying to look innocent.
“If you ever bet on him again you won't live to regret it” The others remained quiet, a few nodded. His attention was pulled away when Andrew pulled his chin towards him. He didn't know what Andrew was looking for, he just continued to stare at his face. He let him, as he looked at the doors in the hallway and several other people still standing together talking quietly.
“What's your name?”
“Alex Wagner” He said, even if Andrew knew his name he still was Alex Wagner until he found someone new to be. Andrew wasn't satisfied with his answer but didn't comment against it either. Andrew grabbed his hand and pulled him to the room he was staying in, he glared at everyone as they passed. He shut the door behind them, Alex took a seat on the bed while Andrew stood by the door. His eyes going right for the space where the picture had been hung on the wall. Andrew looked back to him looking him over. He knew he was caught but he didn't confess and Andrew didn't ask. Alex pulled his legs up on the bed holding onto them he set his chin on his knees. He knew something was wrong, he knew that there were things he didn't remember. Andrew had said they were playing Exy, his mother had to be dead for him to be able to ever be able to play it again. He was around here long enough to have a picture of them together. The fact that he even had a picture with anyone meant he wasn't running. If his parents were dead and he wasn't running then what kind of life was he living?
“What’s my name?” he asked Andrew, if he was surprised by the question he didn’t look it.
“Neil Josten” Andrew said, He rolled that name around a few times, he didn’t like it but he didn’t hate it either.
“Who is he?
“You” It wasn't the answer he wanted and Andrew knew that. He had so many questions but he wasn't sure he would get any answers. He pulled out the picture from his pocket pressing down the creases on his legs he stared at it. He didn't understand the photo but it brought him a sense of calm he had never felt before. It felt safe, he felt tears slide down his face. He couldn't remember the last time he cried, maybe when the Iron struck him or maybe when one of the knife cuts went too deep. He looked up at Andrew his face shifted and then he was back to the same stare. He wished he had Andrews ability, he had struggled with keeping his face a stone blank surface. He was good but he could be better. He watched Andrew walk until he was standing directly in front of him. He reached out, tapping the picture. “This is something” Alex or Neil he didn't know what or who he was anymore. He didn't understand what Andrew meant, he looked back to the photo, he wanted to know what the something was.
“I'm tired” he said, sliding down the far side of the bed he stared at Andrew until he climbed in, they were not touching but Neil felt his comfort all the same. He fell asleep holding the picture tightly.
Neil woke up, he had a headache but it was dull so he ignored it. He turned to get out of bed but froze when he saw Andrew sleeping next to him. Neil shifted around so he could stare at Andrew, they didn't always share a bed. He knew Andrew had woke up the moment he moved but Neil took the moment to stare. He enjoyed the moment while it lasted. Somedays Andrew said yes and some he said no. Neil loved the days he said yes. They were more frequent and Neil hoped they would eventually all be yes. He never pushed when he said no and he never asked why. He didn't remember asking Andrew and he never remembered them going to bed. They had a game, they were at the game he tried to remember but the dull headache was becoming sharper. Instead of the game he stared at Andrew, it was hard in the light. It was almost dark outside and just enough sunlight was left to see the room. He shifted a little more and heard paper crinkled he pulled it out from under his arm and stared at it, he looked for the picture on the wall but it was gone. He didn't understand why it had been folded or why it was in his bed. When he put it down he saw Andrew’s eyes open. He wasn’t expecting Andrew’s question, he also didn't understand it.
“What's your name?” Andrew asked, Neil didn’t hesitate when he answered.
Andrew sat up, Neil mirrored him. “Neil Josten” Neil shifted so he was facing Andrew, he didn’t move to turn on a light or ask Andrew to do it for him.
“How old are you?”
“Where do you live?”
“Here, with you in South Carolina why are you asking me-” Andrew cut Neil off, Neil didn’t understand the questions but he understood Andrew’s last one.
“Yes or no?”
“Yes” It was barely out of his mouth before Andrew moved pulling him into a crushing kiss. Neil didn't understand the questions but he understood desperation. He didn't know what caused it but he gladly gave him whatever he wanted. It was a while before Andrew pulled away and then another minute before he was out of the bed. Neil followed him out into the living room. The tv was on the news and he paused in the doorway as it played.
“We are still awaiting news on the Foxes Striker Neil Josten who was last seen being carried off of the court after an amazing win” It switched from the reporter to the clip of him being slammed against the wall at the same time as the red buzzer for a goal and cheers from everyone except the losing team. It showed Andrew pulling off his helmet and gloves moving down the court towards Neil, he was the only one to notice he had not moved from the ground. When he made it there the one who had pushed Neil was gone and Andrew had murder in his eyes. Everyone else's cheers died down as Andrew pulled Neil’s helmet off and he was out cold. Blood was coming down the side of his face and his other teammates were moving around him, blocking the view of the cameras. It soon switched to see him being carried off in a stretcher. Neil walked further in the room, Nicky, Aaron, Kevin and Renee were staring at him like he was a ghost.
Neil stretched and wondered how long he slept, he felt better than ever. “Only two more games and we’re in the finals” Neil said looking at the tv, it had switched to the scores of all the teams and the brackets they were going to play.
“Neil!” Nicky cried as he launched himself out of the bean bag chair and right towards him hugging him tightly. Neil was confused at the reaction but let it go and waited for him to finish. “I told you he’d be better by tonight, pay up” Nicky said turning to the others, his smile slid off his face when he felt the knife at his neck. Andrew was standing behind Nicky, neither of them moved. Nicky swallowed and it barely touched the knife, it nicked him anyway.
“I mean yay Neil’s back isn't it great guys?” His voice was less than enthusiastic and it took another second before Andrew pulled the knife back. Neil was confused and before he could ask Renee spoke up, “You hit your head pretty good, nothing damaged but you thought you were Alex” Neil remembered Alex, he remembered all of his alias’’. He was Alex when he was 15, he was beat by his mother a lot when he was Alex. His eyes wandered too much.
“How long?” Neil asked,
“The game was last night, so about half a day” Renee said, Neil nodded at the information. He looked at Andrew who was staring at him. “I didn’t run”
“Yeah you did, right to Andrew, you could still tell him apart from Aaron” Nicky was going to continue but Andrew was staring at him so he stopped.
Neil turned and took the one step to Andrew, Neil smiled at him. Before Neil could ask Andrew whispered yes. Andrew pulled on his wrist to their room. Memories of his mothers fists were brought to his mind but he pushed them back. His mother wasn’t around anymore to beat him, his father wasn’t around to torture him. He had everything he needed right in front of him.