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The Degenerate Court

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“Bullshit, no one recruits from Millport, no one knows where it is.”

Andrew could barely hear the words, even if he was standing right next to Sir David Wymack he was sure he’d still catch about as much of the conversation as he was now.

His mind was slipping through his fingers, turning to gel thanks to the pills and making thoughts drift in and out of focus erratically. It was endlessly frustrating and it made Andrew want to laugh. He felt his mouth pull into a smile and disgust curl in his gut but he couldn’t put his finger on why.

Nobody, from Millport, Arizona. Nobody no body bo nody nody slow naughty show slotty blow.

By the time Andrew’s focus spun back around to being clear the conversation on the stadium floor had gone panicked. Voices raised with clear, barely contained fear that Andrew could almost feel choking him. It made him laugh again, and he probably would have smashed a hand against his face for doing it without his consent, but he couldn’t scrape together the energy to care.

“You can’t be here,” Panic said.

Yet here I stand,” Wannabe-Salvation said, “need a pen?”

“No.”

And then the rest of the conversation became a trail of fog, like steam off the hot cocoa in Bee’s room, like warm breath evaporating into the–

“–Kevin.” Panic said, and Andrew’s attention snapped into place, the racquet he’d been spinning in his boredom going still. Kevin Kevin Kevin, spineless Kevin, Kevin bo-bevin Kevin McDevon Kevin–

“And Kevin’s signing you so–” footsteps, running up the bleachers towards them and the only thing in Andrew’s brain that connected was Kevin standing behind him. He remembered slamming his racquet into Panic’s gut, he remembered everything, like a snapshot of the moments in his head. The way Panic’s hair flopped forward as he curled in on himself and around Andrew’s racquet, and for a moment the world slowed a little as Andrew analyzed the picture in his head to try and decide whether or not Panic was a threat to–haha Panic about.

Hahahahahahahaha.

Shrimp, Panic was a shrimp.

He had hair that looked dry and frayed from one too many chemical baths, his skin was tanned–he could probably thank Arizona for that–and he was wearing baggy clothes that looked like they’d been stripped from some homeless vagrant who’d been minding their own business and sleeping off the pills and liquor they kept pretending they were hiding from their family when in actuality it was the reason they got kicked out and–

Hahahahaha

We’re focusing.

Panic looked like Millport: rundown, tired, but scrappy and with nothing to live for but the dirt on the bottoms of his shoes.

Panic looked like danger, but the kind Andrew could handle, so by the time he was back into the real world, Panic was snarling at him from the ground, arms wrapped around his middle and boring brown eyes boring into Andrew.

Andrew grinned.

“God damnit Minyard, this is why we can’t have nice things,” Wymack growled. Always growling, always Mr. Intimidation. He should cut the act, Andrew knows real intimidation, he is real intimidation. Wymack was good intentions wrapped in a falsely hard shell and grouchy old man stink. Wymack wasn’t intimidating–he was annoying.

“Oh coach,” Andrew said, lips still yanked into a bruising smile that felt as sharp and ragged as the inside of his head, “if he was nice, he would be any use to us, would he?”

“He’s no use to us if you break him,” Wymack said, his jaw was tightened and his fists curled slightly at his sides.

No use no use no use. No use for those fists Mr. Mack. You’ve gone soft in your age I’m afraid.

“Would you rather I let him go? Put a bandaid on him and he’ll be as good as new,” Andrew said, that exhausting grin still forced on his mouth.

You’ve had plenty forced on your mouth don’t you think.

Oh, oh dear.

Distract yourself trainwreck, things are about to get bad.

Luckily Panic was earning his name, Andrew could hear him forgetting how to use his lungs, and he looked down into wide, terror filled brown eyes. Then the terror left a little, instead replaced with something like anger as he looked over Andrew. Recognition flutter through his eyes and Andrew had to suppress another laugh.

Oh great Kevin, you’ve either got yourself a fanboy, another exy junkie, or someone I knew from Juvie. All those options would be so much fun in a locked room.

But Andrew didn’t recognize Panic, and he was sure he would have. Panic didn’t look like much but he was still well built, obviously a running with the long, lean limbs and generally short stature. Andrew noticed there was something off about his eyes but he couldn’t focus enough to decide what it was, so he gave up and instead raised two fingers to his forehead in a salute to go with the grin he was suddenly actually feeling.

“Better luck next time.”

“Fuck you,” Panic said, spitting fire and full of brimstone. Andrew’s smile widened. “Who’s racquet did you steal?”

Disappointment tasted like vinegar in Andrew’s mouth. Great, another junkie then.

“Borrow,” Andrew corrected, tossing the racquet at Panic who was still on the floor, “Here you go.” Panic caught the racquet and clutched it like it was a lung.

Andrew was suddenly bored.

The other coach was saying something, helping up Panic, Panic was still glaring at him, Wymack was apologizing. Andrew wasn’t sure why he bothered at this point. Everyone knew he was a monster, why apologize for a dragon burning down towns if you know that’s just what they do?

Why apologize for cancer if you know it just kills?

“I’m fine Coach, I’m leaving, let me go.”

Let me go let me go lemme go lemme go lemme go lemme go.

“We’re not done here.”

Anger curled around Andrew suddenly like coils of rope, tangling his limbs and cutting off his air. He stuffed it down, tying it in suffocating knots and tried to drag his muddled brain back into focus.

“Coach Wymack,” the other coach tried, but Wymack didn’t let him finish, he held up a hand and looked over to the man with a pleading expression.

“Give us a second?”

Mmmmmm, don’t let him leave, get him alone, get him–get him get him get him.

No, Wymack’s smart enough not to pull anything, not with Andrew still on the team, not with Andrew not with Andrew not with Andrew.

“–I won’t sign with you,” Panic was saying.

“You didn’t listen to my whole offer,” Wymack said, as insistent as always.

Insistent insistent, I insist, no–I really do, Andrew I insist.

“If I paid to fly three people out here to see you, the least you can do is give me five minutes. Don’t you think?”

Oh, and then Panic was back at it again and for a second Andrew thought he might just pass out right there. He paled so fast that Andrew almost laughed, and it looked like his world had been flipped upside down.

“You didn’t bring him,” he whispered, eyes darting and then freezing on Wymack like if he didn’t see Kevin he couldn’t be here. It sharpened Andrew’s mind into focus, and he gripped tighter to hold onto it. Trying to take in the conversation, trying to grab at smoke and steam as it dissipated tried to–

“Is that a problem?”

“I’m not good enough to play on the same court as a champion,” Panic said. It was true, a fact, not a lie, but it still tasted bitter in Andrew’s mouth. Any praise for Kevin’s already over inflated ego made Andrew’s mouth taste bad.

“True, but irrelevant,” oh and speak of the devil, always one for dramatics.

Andrew watched Panic turn around like a robot, (beep boop exy) and then watched his face drain with fear and flashes of something Andrew couldn’t recognize.

The image of it was already in Andrew’s mind and he paused on it, searching the expression to try and read what the hell was going through Panic’s mind as he stared at the great Kevin Day.

Recognition? Dread? Panic? Panic was panicking again.

There was something else Andrew couldn’t decipher, but before he could look anymore the picture was replaced with one of Kevin, hunched over his bleeding hand, and then one of a house and a bed and blood, then just blood, then–

“–saw your files,” Wymack was saying, and Andrew realized he’d skipped through an entire conversation. His face grinned but

“I won’t play with Kevin,” Panic said, Andrew vaguely wondered how much easier everything would be if he could memorize sounds and voices as well as silent snapshots.

“You will,” Kevin said.

Get him get him get him get him get him.

Andrew gave up trying to focus, he let his mind slip completely through his fingers and drag his consciousness off to wherever it was going. Focusing this much, fighting the drugs this much, was already giving him a headache and Panic and Spineless and Salvation-Wannabe weren’t enough to make him use the energy to push through.

He drifted back into the conversation long enough to get the idea that Panic’s parents probably weren’t in the picture, and to catch Wymack’s pitying look.

Mr. Intimidation.

And then him and Kevin were excused, and Andrew left, content to sit in the car and not be bothered by annoying, circular conversations.

You will join I won’t join you will join I won’t join you will I won’t you will I won’t you did I don’t you can I can’t.

“This wasn’t a mistake, there’s something about him–he’ll be worth it,” Kevin said from the backseat of the car. Andrew crossed his arms and leaned back in the front seat.

“Mmmm, sure hope so, we didn’t have to fly out to recruit anyone else personally, it would be a shame if Mr. Josten said no, wouldn’t it,” Andrew said, letting the tiniest bite of anger into his words. It was all Andrew could feel anyways, everything was foggy but there was just a snippet of anger in there.

He hadn’t wanted to fly out to Arizona, hadn’t wanted to fly at all, Andrew didn’t want anything. But this was pointless, they were chasing a ghost, a rabbit, all this effort for one fox. Andrew didn’t see the point in it, but he didn’t have the energy to talk anymore, so he ignored whatever Kevin said next and stared out the window until Wymack sat down heavily in the driver's seat.

“Which one of you is picking him up on the twelfth?”