Of course Kevin recognizes Shinji on the shitty security cam feed, but it still takes him a moment before the meaning of it actually sinks in.
“Oh my god,” says Piszczu, as Kevin gapes at the screen. “Oh my god, open the gate--someone get Kloppo--”
He looks exhausted. Even on the feed Kevin can see the dark circles under his eyes, the beginnings of stubble coming in patchy along his jaw. There’s a dirty bandage tied tightly around one arm and he appears, Kevin notes vaguely, to be holding a toddler in the other. In fact it looks like there are four more kids huddled around him, each clutching at the hem of Shinji’s threadbare Man United jacket with their grubby fists.
It’s him. It’s really fucking him.
Things kind of go fuzzy after that. At some point someone takes Kevin by the shoulders and gently guides him out of the security room and on down to the mess hall. The rest of the team is already there, crowded around Shinji; Kevin catches a glimpse of the toddler, industriously picking her nose above the sea of black and yellow.
“Manchester was--it was bad,” Shinji is saying. He’s always been soft-spoken; it’s even harder to hear him above the barrage of questions, the shouts, the cheers. Kevin tries to get closer, but he doesn’t make much headway. “Rooney, you know.”
The room gets even louder, if that’s even possible. What happened in Manchester was inspiring, for a couple of hours, especially when even the City fans had joined in. But then the ships had appeared over Old Trafford, and--
Only Mats and Kehli and Kloppo know for sure what happened after that, because they make it their business to know. The rest of the team can guess, except for Kevin, who doesn’t have a clue. In fact he’s been trying very hard not to think about what happened at all, and when he accidentally thinks about it he usually goes and finds something to do, like washing dishes or scrubbing toilets or punching walls, until he’s forgotten about it again. The fact that he’s spent the last two weeks in the security room staring at the outside feed is just a coincidence.
“Anyway, I ran,” says Shinji. “Before they knew I was gone.”
“So that’s where you got the kids,” says Mats, and Shinji shrugs, suddenly embarrassed.
“I couldn’t leave them,” he says. “I am sorry to bother you with them, I couldn’t think of anywhere to go--”
“Don’t be fucking ridiculous,” says Kuba, at which point Kloppo bursts into the room, the crowd parting before him like he’s Moses in a tracksuit, and Shinji and his little brood all vanish in an enormous bear hug.
“Go on,” says a voice behind Kevin, and when he turns Marco is there, grinning.
“Okay, no, wait,” says Kevin, and, “I don’t,” and Marco says, “Ah, shut up, Fisch,” and shoves him, hard.
And the crowd hasn’t closed up after Kloppo, and Kevin stumbles through the gap like some amateur forward who doesn’t have a fucking clue what to do with all this space, and when he finally gets control of his feet back Shinji is--there.
Kevin hasn’t thought about this moment at all. He has never even considered the possibility of this moment, especially not while staring at a screen until his eyes hurt. He has absolutely never rehearsed what he might say in a situation like this, with Shinji tired and hurt and surrounded by small children and the toddler in his arms solemnly presenting Kloppo with the contents of her nose.
“Hello, Kevin,” says Shinji. He’s smiling.
“It took you long enough, you bastard,” Kevin says. “You’re lucky anyone recognized your tiny ugly face on the security feed.”
Or he tries to, but something in his chest swells suddenly and gets in the way of his throat. What he actually says is, slowly and a little stupidly: “You came back.”
And Shinji smiles, and smiles, and smiles. “Yes,” he says, “I did.”