There are some days that the urge to run was an itch Neil couldn't get rid of. Too many people looking at him, prying reporters, and his mother's voice in the back of his head yelling at him to Run Abram, grab your bag and don't look back.
It was those days he could feel his father at his back, the Moriyama's looming over him, and everything became too much. He felt like he was drowning, and he couldn't stay above water long enough to catch a breath. He could look at his apartment, Kevin's apartment, Andrew's apartment and instead of comfort it was a reminder he had gone complacent and he needed to run rabbit run run run. The thought clung to him like a jacket, seeping into his pores and filling him with dread.
The absolute worst was when he was alone, when he didn't have Andrew and Kevin behind him, reminding him they would rather let the world burn than let their Neil leave them. Those days Neil Josten felt like a facade once more, and Nathaniel Wesninski was choking him. He couldn't out run his past, couldn't be more than the Butcher's son so why was he even trying?
Though they came less and less, those days never failed to completely topple Neil over. He couldn't focus during practice, he could feel the urge to run and hide like an itch under his skin. The urge to run warred with his urge to call at least one of his boyfriends and fighting it left him exhausted.
So when he got back to his empty apartment it slowly got worse. He trailed inside and dropped his bag by the door and shoved his shoes off impatiently. He paced his apartment, not trusting himself to even go for a run. He finally made his way to his bedroom and went in the closet, pulling a worn duffle bag from the closet. He couldn't bring himself to get rid of it, a reminder of who he had been. Maybe he should get rid of it, but Neil would deal with that hurdle later. He tossed the bag on his bed and stared at it before forcibly turning himself away. He went through his dirty clothes basket and found one of Andrew's shirts and Kevin's hoodie they had left last time they visited. Maybe that would make him feel a little better.
He threw them on and felt a little more centered. He closed his eyes and inhaled the combined scent of his boyfriends, reminding himself he had something he could call home.
As he sat down on the bed and drew in a large breath to try and calm down his phone chimed. He glanced down and saw a text from Kevin.
You home yet? We're ready to call when you are.
Yeah, let me grab my laptop. Neil responded. He reached over and sat his laptop on the bed and opened it, immediately opening Skype and calling Kevin. Kevin answered and Neil couldn't help but smile. Andrew was sitting in Kevin's lap and leaned against his chest.
"Hey." Neil greeted. Andrew and Kevin took one look at him and frowned.
"What's wrong?" Kevin asked. Neil shifted under Andrew's sharp gaze and Kevin's worried expression.
"I'm fine." Neil answered on habit. He shook his head and ran a hand through his hair. "Wait, no. I'm not fine. But give me a little, and I'll try to explain. Can we just talk first?"
"Yeah, sure." Kevin agreed. Neil could tell that they wanted answers, but were going to wait until he was ready to talk.
"So how have your days been?" Neil asked. Andrew shrugged noncommittally while Kevin laughed softly.
"Well, Andrew sat at practice and waited for me today. Someone tried to say he was trying to see what we were doing so he could tell his team." Kevin answered.
"And what did you say?" Neil asked, directing the question at Andrew.
"I told him I didn't have to try and figure it out, he was so slow and obvious with his moves that even a child could tell what he was going to do."
Neil couldn't help but laugh, imagining the look on the person's face.
"Needless to say, he wasn't happy." Kevin laughed though. "But it's what I've been telling him, he just didn't listen to me."
"Is there a team that's ready for all of us together?" Neil asked.
"No. But they'll either get over it or complain the entire time." Andrew adjusted himself in Kevin's lap and leaned his head against his chest. Neil felt his heart swell with affection for them both.
"They're still trying to figure out what we are. They still think we all hate each other." Kevin laughed. Andrew snorted and shook his head.
"I hate you both, that much is true."
"Of course." Neil answered, a small smile crossing his face.
"Absolutely despise us." Kevin agreed. Andrew huffed and closed his eyes.
"Maybe I should come visit, just to confuse them." Neil teased. Kevin nodded and smiled.
"You know I always want you to visit."
"This is gonna be so much easier when we're on the same team." Neil complained.
"Just a year longer." Kevin promised. Neil nodded again, feeling something in his chest loosen. He should have known that talking to them both would make him feel better.
"It'll be nice to be on the same team again, but I will miss kicking your asses." Neil grinned, knowing it would rile the other two up. As expected they both bristled and turned a look to him.
"Really? You kick both our asses? I saw your last game, it seems like you're getting sloppy." Kevin replied, looking unimpressed.
"I'm sorry we're not all perfect, Mr. Son of Exy." Neil smirked. He couldn't help it, he loved antagonizing people. It didn't help that these two were his favorites to antagonize.
"How many shots did you fire at me and how many landed?" Andrew asked. It made Neil ecstatic to see Andrew actually get competitive with them, knowing he enjoyed the game.
"If I remember correctly we won the match against your team."
"Not what I asked."
"Still. How does it feel knowing my team won?"
Andrew didn't bother with a response, settling for glaring instead. Neil repressed laughter, knowing that wasn't the end of this discussion.
"Okay, want to tell us what's wrong now?" Andrew asked. Neil sighed and shrugged. He bit his lip and paused for a moment in thought.
"I don't know? I just. Woke up and everything felt wrong." Neil admitted. Their sharp expressions softened marginally, turning to concerned. They waited for him to explain, so Neil took a deep breath.
"I just. Some days I wake up and I just have the urge to run away. I'm making too big of a place for myself, I'm supposed to be able to run at minute. I mean, everything I owned used to fit in a fucking duffle bag. And now I can't even fit half of my clothes in one. And no, I don't want this to end. I love what I have. But it feels like, fuck, I don't know. Like I'm just waiting for shit to hit the fan? Except I'm wildly unprepared. And that scares me."
They were silent as Neil went on and Kevin was the first to break the silence.
"Babe." He said softly. It looked like it pained him that he wasn't there with Neil.
"And it feels like I'm not even real. Is Neil real? Am I the person you both fell in love with? Or is he the biggest lie I've ever told? What if." He took a deep breath and clutched his hands into fists. "What if I wake up and I'm still on the run. What if i wake up all of this is gone?" He said weakly.
"Neil." Andrew said firmly. He glanced up at the screen and saw Andrew frowning.
"What's your name?" He continued.
"What's your name."
"Neil Abram Josten." Andrew nodded once and sat there for a moment.
"What do you do?" Kevin asked a moment later.
"I play professional exy."
"Where did you go to University?" Andrew asked next.
"Palmetto State." Neil wasn't sure why they were asking these questions, but it felt like the only option to respond. Kevin looked smug and Andrew looked satisfied, but they didn't give Neil a reason as to why they were doing this yet.
"Who's your best friend?"
"What do you like to do?"
"I like to go on runs."
"Play exy. Play with our cats. Watch history documentaries with Kevin, smoke with Andrew."
"Who are we?"
"Andrew Minyard and Kevin Day."
"Goalkeeper and Striker. And my boyfriends."
"You know what this all sounds like?" Kevin asked.
"It sounds like a man who doesn't have to run anymore. Who doesn't have to lie about everything they are. Neil Josten sounds like a real person to me." Kevin said firmly. Neil huffed quietly and finally looked at them both. His heart panged in his chest when he saw the looks on their faces. Kevin looked concerned, like he wanted nothing more than to go and see Neil and it hurt him that he couldn't. Andrew's expression was more schooled, but Neil could see the same thing reflected in his eyes. It was that moment King decided to jump in their lap and stared at the screen. He meowed and batted a paw at the screen, upset that Neil wasn't there to pet him. Sir could be heard meowing faintly as well, and Neil let himself smile.
"Thank you." He said softly.
"What's to thank us for? We're pointing out the obvious." Andrew replied.
"Well, I told you ages ago I needed things spelled out for me."
Andrew snorted and shook his head. Kevin wrapped his arms more firmly around Andrew and rested his head on top of his.
"Neil, we love you. Neil Abram Josten is a real person. You don't have to run anymore. You're safe here. I think I can speak for both of us when I saw we won't let anyone take you from us. Or give you a reason to run." Kevin said this with such conviction that combined with Andrew's heavy stare, he couldn't help but finally let go of the strain he had been holding all day.
"No one, not even your own mind, will take you from us." Andrew added. He was absentmindedly petting King, who finally curled up in his lap.
Neil felt like his heart was about to beat out of his chest with love and adoration for the other two. He couldn't put that feeling into words, so he nodded again.
"I don't want to run anymore. I'm tired of feeling like my past is going to take me away from you two." Neil finally said.
"Then don't run." Andrew said simply. Kevin nodded his agreement. Neil knew it wouldn't be that simple for a while, and he knew the other two knew as well. He thought about Andrew and his steadfast nature, solid and strong for the two of them. Of Kevin's determination and strength, enough to drive Andrew and Neil hurtling towards their goals as well. He thought maybe, just maybe, it would be okay to let go of his fears. It wouldn't happen overnight, nothing ever does. But with them at his side, he knew he could overcome this someday.