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la foi est la moitié de la bataille

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There aren’t many things that can scare Jean  Moreau. Fear of falling, drowning, being beaten up, stabbed, shot or even imminent death had been stored in his memory as mere inconveniences that came and went from his life. Fear of bugs, clowns or reptiles were laughable and he barely recognized them as threats. Nothing short of the surname 'Moriyama' could crack his walls and yet…


Yet, he was now shaking with unadulterated fear. 


Because he'd forgotten about the other factor he's always been afraid of.


Soulmate .         




12 hours earlier


Block. Dodge. Get the ball. Don’t let it get near Alvarez. Get it back to Knox. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.


The team, their players, the Stadium, the spectators- nothing matters to Jean right now.  


Block. Dodge. Get the ball. Don’t let it get near Alvarez. Get it back to Knox. 




Until he spots a wayward exy racket rushing at his head and he takes just a second too long to duck. Pain explodes across his head. It's nothing new, nothing he hadn't felt before. But the pain steals his breath, squeezes his heart impossibly tight. He blinks and the world swims in and out of focus, frantic voices calling his name.


(He studiously ignores the voice that is laced with anguish, terror, love-)

He's carried off the court, the team doctor frowning through the diagnostics. An hour and an eternity later, Jean feels more lucid, sight and sound almost fully restored. He has a bit of a concussion, a long gash along his nose and cheek. He needs to take it easy for the next couple weeks. Oh, and no inhibitors.


Jean must've heard wrong.


'Um, pardon ? Did you say inhibitors?'


The doctor (what was her name again?) scrunched her brows at him. 'I know you’re on switch inhibitors, Moreau, and quite a high dose,' she remarked. 'I don’t know why you do that to yourself but you really shouldn’t take it while you have a concussion. Give it a rest. A week, at least.' With that, she wrote a prescription and handed it to Jean, blustering out of the room to attend to the rest of the team who, from the sound of it, had just won another match, even without Jean.          


Jean rises carefully, mindful of the nausea that's making him sweat. The Trojans flock around him and chatter, not too close and not too far. Knox, ever the responsible captain, asks to see the prescription. Jean hands it to him and watches as he reads, waiting.


Knox reaches the end of the paper and blinks, his ever present smile fading.


'No inhibitor?' he asks Jean.


'No inhibitor.'


They both know what it means.




Present day          


Jean grips the small bottle of inhibitor inside his palm so hard it cracks. It's empty. Jean emptied it himself before temptation could take a hold of his mind. He sits on the shower floor wishing he'd left a drop. Half a drop. Anything. But it's empty. The implications of going a week without inhibitor has Jean paralyzed in fear.


Jean found his soulmate the night he was beaten to a pulp inside the nest. Riko had been growing steadily more violent as the years went by and Jean was rapidly approaching his limit.  The unending grief of losing his family, fear for his own life and an unending bleakness had driven him to seek love, help, shelter, whatever. 


He'd woken up in the body of a boy who was loved, had doting parents and a home. Everything that Jean didn’t have. Everything that he could lose if his fate were tangled with Jean's. Jean had stood in front of Jeremy's mother's vanity mirror and touched the face of his soulmate. Kind blue eyes, a mouth that constantly smiled, hair like crushed gold threads. Jean shuddered at the thought of Jeremy being inside the poisonous Nest. It made him nauseous to think what Jeremy was seeing while Jean relaxed in this quaint little suburb house. Was he limping with pain in Jean's body? Horrified at his scars? Disgusted at how vile the Nest was?


Jean slept fitfully, and when he woke up, he found new scars carved in his body with a serrated knife. He didn’t sleep for five days. On the sixth, he started taking the inhibitor. He's never missed a single dose.


Till now , his mind whispered in a voice a lot like Riko Moriyama's, gleeful and malicious.  


Without taking the inhibitor,  he's afraid to even blink. He will fall asleep and then what? What if he switches with Jeremy? Jean has avoided switching for nearly a decade, he can't stop now.




Jean wakes up with a jolt of horror.


What have I done?


But as he takes stock of his surroundings, he finds that nothing is amiss. He's on the same couch where he fell asleep and his body is his own. He's relieved beyond belief. The TV was blaring with nonsensical music when he fell asleep but has been muted while he slept, and he's covered with a light blanket. 


The sky outside is twinkling with stars, the campus quiet in slumber. Jean tries to be quiet as he enters his shared bedroom, not wanting to rouse his roommate.


His caution was misplaced, though. Knox was awake, watching what looked like cat videos on his laptop, and squinting at Jean, clearly awake through the night. He was still wearing the post-game sweats from yesterday.


Has he not slept at all?  


As Jean gets into bed, Knox quickly gathers his laptop, some books and stationery and slips out the door. 


Jean could call him back, ask if he's slept at all since Jean went off his inhibitors. But they don't talk unless it’s absolutely necessary, Jean has made sure of it since they became teammates, roommates. Knox used to try hard to wheedle out conversation from Jean, but he'd learned his lesson soon enough.         


Jean remembers the days. The weeks. The whole month that Jeremy was ecstatic and the golden chain between him and Jean buzzed with vigor. Despite Jeremy's enthusiasm, Jean stayed perfectly stoic like a brick wall (asshole), and the cheerful captain began to go gradually quieter. 


And now?    


Now Jeremy Knox doesn’t bother Jean unless it's absolutely necessary, and Jean continues to return the favor by not talking to Knox at all. At. All.    


(He was afraid his voice will break, and keep breaking. 

Like his heart.)


The quiet of the bedroom was suddenly too much. Jean could hear every little creak the floor made as he walked, every little rustle his sheets made as he pulled them overhead. The sound of his phone's dial tone was near deafening.




'Jean?' Renee sounded surprised, but pleased. There’s a soft murmur from somewhere around her, and Jean vaguely recalls a woman with blond hair and impossibly high stilettos.


‘Are you okay? I saw the hit you took.’


Of course she did. She had texted right after, Jean had texted back that he was fine. Renee had quipped that he was starting to sound too much like Neil. Jean obviously had no idea what she’d meant. 


‘I’m fine,’ he repeats. ‘It’s just… I had to get off my medicine.’


‘Medicine? Oh! You mean the-?’


‘Yes, the inhibitor.’ Jean sighs. Apart from the doctor and Knox, she’s the only one else he trusts with this. He loves Neil, really. But he’s acted over the moon when Minyard had poured his inhibitor down the drain (such a waste). He never understood Jean’s aversion to switching.


‘It must be terrible for you,’ Renee soothes. ‘Maybe you could come to an arrangement with Jeremy? Take turns sleeping? Or maybe he can take the inhibitor?’


Jean recoils at the thought of actually talking to Jeremy about this. Apart from that disastrous day back in Wymack’s house, they’d never done anything to recognize that they’re soulmates. Talking about it with anyone, especially Jeremy, makes Jean want to throw up. 


‘I should talk to him. I know,’ he says, helpless. ‘I think he’s not been sleeping, since this happened.’


There’s a gasp on the line. ‘He can’t exactly go on without sleep the whole week! You have games!’


‘I know,’ Jean relents. ‘I’ll talk to him. But I..’


‘It’ll be alright, Jean. He won’t hurt you.’


Jean says thanks and hangs up. He doesn’t say what he’s really thinking.


I’m not afraid he’ll hurt me .

I’m afraid I’ll hurt him .




Talking to Jeremy can’t wait. The boy’s listless throughout the day, sleeping in classes and blatantly failing to put up a cheerful facade during practice. The others maybe fooled, but Jean catches the blue under his eyes all too easily. It grates at his nerves. 


Jean’s least favorite class is Statistics, it’s also the one class where he has 100% attendance so far. So that’s the one he decides to skip. Jeremy has a free period, which means he’s at the library. 


Jean finds him slumped against American History, homework strewn around. Not much sunlight comes through to this part of the building, and Jeremy looks pitiful in the gloom. Jean feels a pang of guilt tug at his conscience. You should’ve noticed his condition earlier.  


Jeremy doesn’t stir as Jean sits next to him, idly gathering up the books. Jeremy wakes some ten-fifteen minutes later, looking disoriented. He spots Jean and carefully wipes his face of any real emotions. 


(Jean hates it.)


‘Hey,’ he says, smiling through a yawn. ‘Did you need anything?’


‘Yes, kind of,’ Jean is uncomfortable. ‘I wanted to ask you for a favor.’


‘Oh, yeah, yeah. Jean. Anything. Anything I can do to help.’


‘As you know, I can’t take my inhibitor for a while,’ Jean starts. Jeremy looks more alert now, apprehensive. ‘I mean… you don’t have to stop sleeping. That’s ridiculous. Why don’t you take the inhibitor instead? It’ll be easier.’


Jeremy discreetly scoots away from him, not quite managing to hide his flinch. ‘ I’m gonna be alright, Jean. I don’t want to take the inhibitor.’


‘But you can’t just skip a week’s sleep,’ Jean fights to keep his voice down to a whisper. ‘You’ll get sick.’


‘Then we’ll figure out something. But I’m not taking the inhibitor.’


‘Why on earth not? It’s harmless!’


Jeremy’s soft, sunny demeanor is entirely absent for the first time Jean’s known him. He glares at Jean. ‘I hate how it feels.’


‘What do you mean? You’ve never taken it, have you?’

‘No, but you have. All your life since-’ Jeremy cuts himself off with a palm over his mouth and closes his eyes. Jean is horrified, he’d hoped Jeremy would avoid talking about the past entirely. But it was bound to happen sooner or later. 


Jeremy breathes deeply and tries talking again, ‘Look, Jean,’ he implores. ‘You’ve been on the inhibitor for a long time. I don’t know if you even remember how this feels without an inhibitor.’ 


This , he says, Jean is suddenly lightheaded. Here comes the soulmate talk . ‘Can’t you feel it now that you’re not taking it anymore? I sure do!’


Jean wants to say what are you talking about, I don’t feel anything . He wants to say nothing’s different . He wants to say, what do you mean by ‘this’


But he knows. He knows. As soon as his inhibitor wore off, the almost unbearable rose-wine-sunshine burn inside his rib cage flared on, chasing out the almost omnipresent chill in his bones. The gash on his face nearly stopped hurting when he was in the same room, and the tug he felt, like an anchor sunk into his innards, it was too substantial to be his imagination.


(Even if it felt entirely too good to be true. Even if it felt better than absolutely anything Jean has ever felt in his life.)


‘Okay,’ Jean relents. ‘You won’t have to take the inhibitor. But we have to do something! How does taking turns to sleep sound to you?’


Jeremy smiles instead of answering, clearly relieved and quite pleased. He stands up, brushes off his jeans and extends a hand towards Jean.


‘Up you go,’ he says. ‘We gotta make a sleep routine.’




It took a little tweaking, but sitting down with their respective class routines and practice schedule proved to be useful. Jeremy needs at least half an hour to fall asleep, while Jean goes out like a light in three minutes sharp. Jean has ‘nap’ scheduled all through the day in scattered pockets between classes and practice. Jeremy has a chunky six hours at night, waking up just before daybreak to give Jean the chance to rest up before morning practice. It all looks very pristine on paper. 


Actually implementing the list is much harder. Jean’s nap is often interrupted by other roommates barging into their dorm. Once or twice he ends up missing classes due to oversleeping. The sporadic sleeping leaves him grumpy and irritable. On the other hand, Jeremy keeps forgetting to go to sleep and is glared at by Jean. He laughs it off. 


The week goes by haphazardly. The pair of them (or their teammates suffering from their combined bad mood) can’t wait for it to end. 


Jean wakes up Jeremy at 4 am on the last day, the blond boy groggy and grumbling. Even after Jean settles under the cover, Jeremy doesn’t get up. The fact that tomorrow he’ll take the inhibitor again and they won’t have to juggle sleep comforts him. But there’s something he’ll lose, too. This easy camaraderie with his soulmate is a thing he’ll miss, he thinks. This is the first time they’ve done something together apart from exy, and Jean wants to keep the knowledge hidden in his soul, keep it free of taint. The soulmate bond is another comfort he’ll lose, but he survived that once when he was a mere child. He can do it again. 


Sleep is elusive, even though Jean is exhausted down to his teeth. Jeremy is in a similar predicament. He rolls over to face Jean from across the room, fairy lights glinting off his messy hair. 


‘Can’t sleep?’ he whispers. Jean almost lets out a scoff. 


‘Neither can you,’ he reminds Jeremy. Knox , Jean reminds himself. He’s always Knox and never Jeremy . It’s a fact Jean has told himself since his first switch, but tonight’s the first time it felt like a lie. 


‘Will you tell me something? I’ll never have the courage to ask you again, so I’ll just have to say it tonight. Or not, if you don’t want to hear.’


Jean’s sleepy brain sifts through the babble and comes up without making any sense out of it. ‘What? Just ask. How bad could it be?’


Jeremy’s eyes look straight into his. ‘Don’t you wanna know what happened that night?’


The too warm dorm room suddenly fills with cold and dread. Guilt and shame rises up to block off Jean’s windpipe and yet Jeremy doesn’t release him from the prison of his stare. Jean is too frightened to look away. He’s afraid, so afraid of Jeremy right now. More afraid than death or blood or torture.


‘What’s there to know,’ Jean manages to rasp out. ‘I saw what they did.’


‘Did they tell you?’ Jeremy persists. Jean feels impatience replace some of his fear. 


‘I still have the scars,’ he says. 


Jeremy smiles, a little sad. ‘I didn’t tell them, you know? I tried to stay out of their way so that they won’t figure out I was the switch. I didn’t say anything even when they brought out the knife.’


‘Stop,’ Jean begs. He doesn’t like to remember. Doesn’t like to feel the black helplessness from his past. He was better off not knowing.

‘Did your parents know?’ he asks, despite himself.


Jeremy shakes his head, remnants of the sad little smile still lingering on his lips. Jean feels little relief. It doesn’t matter anyway. All that matters is that Jeremy was hurt, he was beaten, he was cut and it was all Jean’s fault, Jean’s fault-


Belatedly he hears Jeremy’s frantic calls, trying and failing to draw a breath inside his burning lungs. Jeremy is right there, gripping hard to his arm and cupping his face, counting out loud. Jean forces a breath in, then keeps count with Jeremy till he’s finally out of the dark recesses of his mind. 


Him and Jeremy are both breathing hard, and without thinking Jean buries his face in Jeremy’s neck, the touch flooding him with relief, slow and soothing like the glide of wine down his throat. Jeremy freezes for a second, then relaxes into the bed, hands settling more securely around Jean. 


Without a word, they both drift off to sleep. 




In the morning, they both slept past the alarm.




The incident is not discussed, or mentioned. In the morning, Jeremy hands Jean a bottle of inhibitor. Collected from their team doctor, he says. It’s the duty of a captain to ensure the well-being of a teammate, he says. 


To anyone else, it would seem normal, not like Jeremy taking care of their other teammates. But as their hands brush, Jean relishes in the heat that snakes up his arm and settles deep in his chest, the subtle blush that blooms on Jeremy’s neck, and the shy smile that he offers after. Something’s changed between them, in between bickering for a chance to nap, waking each other up, on that last night and Jean’s panic attack and in the mutual comfort afterwards, something has settled like dust after a violent storm, and Jean thinks he can finally breathe free.


He says as much to Renee when she calls and she’s happy (when isn’t she?) about it. She asks him if he’s back on his inhibitor again. He doesn’t answer. 


The bottle burns a hole in his pocket


Chapter Text

Having an eidetic memory is like having an earworm on steroids. Sometimes a memory gets stuck on loop and Andrew can't block it out, can't fucking forget. The sight and sound takes over his brain so much that present has no place to trickle in. 


He's aware that Neil is close. Close enough to catch Andrew if he starts to fall off the roof, but far enough that Andrew feels safely alone.


(Being alone isn’t the same as loneliness, and Neil doesn’t let him be lonely these days.)


Andrew doesn’t even have to try to feel the blue of Neil. It's like a constant blip on his radar, a flash of color at the edge of his vision. He's usually happy with just having the idiot next to him. But after the night he's had, he wants to actually see.


'Come closer,' he says. The voice makes him lose his breath for a second. He shifts to sit sideways, and Neil comes into his field of vision, sitting down in front of him. The sight is a shock to Andrew's system.


He's looking at himself, but not really. They're switched, and Neil holds Andrew's body in his carefree slouch. He's wearing his own clothes, a ratty pair of shorts, a threadbare tee shirt, at least he's wearing Andrew's armbands and shoes. The expression he wears is his own, as well. Andrew hasn’t had so much emotion on his face in years.


(Stupid foolish heart-on-sleeves junkie)


They haven’t switched for months, not since Baltimore. Andrew poured Neil's inhibitor down the drain the night Riko died and they hadn’t switched since. After months, this switch feels as jarring as their first ever. 


Neil speaks first, tells Andrew about how they're excused from practice today, excused from class as well thanks to Wymack. He talks about how the other foxes reacted. He doesn’t wait for Andrew's response, and Andrew watches Neil, listens to the cadence of his voice. And then, when Neil has ran out of words and satin-soft silence falls between them, Andrew climbs onto Neil's lap, wrapping his arms around the other man and hiding his face in his neck.


'Tomorrow, I'll tell you,' he promises. 'But don't you dare leave my sight tonight.'



Andrew might be in the wrong body, but right now that hardly matters. Right now Neil is in Andrew's arms and Andrew is in Neil's. The rest of the world can fucking wait.




Neil wakes up to a face full of sunlight and a body sharing his bed. He squints and turns his face into the pillow, the spicy scent of bergamot hitting his nose. He squints through his lashes and finds Andrew half an inch away, lounging in Neil's bed as if he does this everyday.


(They don't. Neither is comfortable in the other's bed. Or so they thought. Except right now Neil is completely fine with Andrew next to him. He wonders what Andrew feels.)


Andrew looks like he's been awake for hours. They've switched back into their own bodies and Andrew looks like he's freshened up and changed into his own clothes. Neil leaves the bed for just a few minutes to use the bathroom and brush. He gets back to the bed and waits for Andrew.


He's already half asleep when Andrew speaks, and what he says manages to kill the last traces of sleep from Neil's mind.


'You always die in my dreams.'




Andrew had a variety of nightmares that plagued him. Some were actual memories, some were twisted versions of his dreams, and some were his worst fears. Included in the last sort were Tilda rising out of her grave to inject Aaron with poison, Nicky getting hurt in various situations, Kevin being tied up and beaten by the Moriyama and lastly, Neil dying, always dying. Sometimes the killer was his father, sometimes Drake, sometimes it was Andrew himself who pulled the trigger. 


Last night, the dream had started with Neil already bleeding out on a frozen river. His blue lips kept calling Andrew's name while Andrew tried desperately to staunch the wound on his chest. He realised the substance leaking out wasn’t blood, but the blue light if their bond, and even as Andrew tried to hold on to it, the light slipped past his grip and disappeared. Andrew had woken with panic freezing his blood, and found himself in Neil's body.




By the time Andrew finishes talking, Neil is plastered to his side and has a death grip on Andrew's t-shirt right over his racing heart.


'Is it a bad time to tell you I have these dreams too, sometimes?' he asks in a small voice, face half hidden in a pillow. Andrew sighs.


'We should have some joint sessions with Bee. This is probably something unhealthy like PTSD.'


Neil looks queasy with the prospect, but he agrees. 'Not today though,' he's pouting a little. 'I wanna stay in bed today.'


'Okay,' Andrew says and straightens to leave the bed. Only, Neil clutches at him. 




Andrew relaxes back onto the covers. 'What exactly do you want, rabbit?'


Neil is a little red. 'I- I thought you’d have a better idea.'




This is quite a can of worms that Neil is trying to open. They've talked about this, sure. Actually attempting, though... 


'I want to- to-,' Neil says, or tries to say. He's flushed, eyes fluttering at Andrew and then away. 


'You sure?' Andrew asks.




'Absolutely sure?'


Neil groans. 'You're killing my buzz, Minyard.'


'So impatient,' Andrew mutters. But he's relieved at the turn of events. He wants Neil close. Closer. The fact that Neil wants it to only adds to the pool of warmth gathering in his chest. 


He kisses Neil with care, noticing the slight sting of mouthwash. They keep kissing with seconds of interval to get rid of each other's clothes till only pants remain. Andrew growls at the first touch of bare skin against bare skin. 


'The door?' Neil gasps.


'Locked,' Andrew answers. He tips Neil's head back with a fingertip on his chin, kissing down Neil's neck. Another choked gasp escapes him.


'Never,' he grits out. 'Never felt like this. No one's ever- oh, mmm, yeah, Andrew. So good. You feel SO good-'


Andrew bites down hard to shut him up, and whatever Neil was saying turns into a moan. He bucks up into Andrew and- hmm. It's time.


Andrew sits back, straddling Neil and examining his work so far. Neil's eyes are dilated, check. Lips raspberry red and swelling from kisses, check. A standard hickey blooming on his neck, check. 


'I'm going to blow you now,' Andrew tells him, examining his black nailpolish. 'Yes or no?'


Neil grabs a pillow and screams into it.



Andrew is nothing if not prepared. At Neil's yes, he fishes out a tube of lube and a pack of condoms from the side of his bed. Flavoured condoms, Neil notices. 


'I didn’t know condoms need to be used for that,' Neil confesses.


Andrew kisses him before answering. 'It's good to be safe even if you haven’t been with anyone before.' His voice has a different feel to it, rough, husky. It makes goosebumps break out all over Neil's body. He's never been so hard before, it’s maddening.


Andrew takes his time. He puts his mouth to work from Neil's neck to his hips till he's near incoherent with pleasure. Only then, he pours lube in his palm and shoves that hand down Neil's underwear. His touch is sure and firm, the lube making his motion flow like a dream and Neil jerks into the circle of his fist, crying out indecently loud. He slaps a palm on his mouth, heart hammering. 


'Let me hear you,' Andrew coaxes. Neil wants to come just from the sound of his voice. Andrew picks up Neil's hand from his mouth and drops a kiss on it, before deliberately placing it on his bicep. Neil holds on for dear life and lets his voice loose.


When Andrew decides to actually go down on Neil, he's so caught up in pleasure that he doesn’t even notice Andrew's hand missing, at first. The sound of the condom wrapper crinkling makes him open his eyes a fraction, right in time to see Andrew meticulously rolling an electric blue condom over Neil's dick. It's a little funny and somehow, arousing as fuck. His attention wavers and zeroes on Andrew, who's parting Neil's legs for better access and hovering over his dick. Neil is pretty sure he's about to faint.


'Still yes?' Andrew asks.


'Yes,' Neil answers. Yes, always yes to him, this one man who's Neil's as much as Neil is his. 


If Neil thought Andrew's skilled with his hand, he's a hundred times better with his mouth. Neil's brain whites out for a minute or maybe a few days. When he's more aware of his surroundings, he finds himself clean and the condom nowhere in sight. Andrew's next to him, watching him. He looks more settled than he has for the last few days and Neil is glad.


'Hey,' he says. Andrew narrows his eyes at him, but leans in to kiss him anyway. He tastes vaguely like artificial vanilla essence.   


'You?' Neil gestures at the general direction of Andrew's crotch. He rolls his eyes. 'I took care of it.'


'Can I help next time?'


'No,' Andrew says. But he's got a contemplative look in his eyes. 'But you can look.'        


'Okay ' Neil whispers, smiling.




'Yeah,' Neil reaches out to touch his fingertips to Andrew's lips. 'I'll take anything you're ready to give me, whenever you’re ready.'


Andrew nods slowly, his breath warm on Neil's skin. 'Was this- was today alright for you?'


Neil searches his face and finds traces of concern. But Andrew need not be concerned, honestly.


'I agreed to everything, didn’t I?' he admonishes. 'You didn’t do anything I didn’t want you to. Trust me.' You're not Riko, Neil thinks. You'd never hurt me. Andrew needs the assurance, Neil knows. He scoots closer and adjust himself that his face is pressed to Andrew's heart. He whispers as Andrew's arms close around him.


'It's always yes with you.'