Actions

Work Header

The Dark Side Of Royalty (王子)

Chapter Text

Charlie caught the heavy glass door that led to the inner court before it fell shut, carefully trying not to make any unnecessary noise. Practicing was loud enough as it was, he didn’t need the additional risk of not being cautious.
Charlie closed the door slowly and made his way back into the empty locker room. His bag was still sprawled out on a bench, exactly as he had left it there two hours ago. A wave of relief washed threw him at the sight of it.

Without wasting another thought Charlie rushed over to the bench and picked out the clothes he needed to change. It took him less than a minute to get fully dressed, another 30 seconds later he had pulled the zipper shut and hauled the strap over his left shoulder.
Charlie made his way through the locker room. He was about to leave the building as he briefly noticed a figure standing somewhere to his right. Freezing dead in his tracks, a hand still reaching out just barely a couple of inches away from the doorknob he slowly turned his gaze towards the figure, hoping it was nothing but his own shadow after all.

“What the fuck are you doing here?” Nope, it clearly wasn’t.

Charlie watched as a man stepped out of the shadows, still not moving an inch. He recognized him the moment light fell onto his face, soon after lighting up the rest of his body as he stepped further into the faint light of what the cheap lights on the ceiling could provide.
Before he knew it Charlie was caught up in trying to figure out what the hell David Wymack, Class I Exy coach of the Palmetto state foxes, was doing in the locker room of a random high school court at what had to be not earlier than 4 am in the morning.
Wymack raised an eyebrow as Charlie stayed quiet before speaking up again.

“Do you know what time it is? What the hell are you up to in here, kid”

This time Charlie intentionally chose to ignore him as he grabbed the doorknob and twisted it. He barely registered Wymack closing most of the distance between as he was about to take a step out of the door.

“Charlie?”

He froze. The cool air of the night hit his face, blowing faintly into his flushed face. Still, not a single word could get past his lips.
“You know you shouldn’t be here-”

“How the fuck do you know my name” Charlie interrupted him before Wymack could finish the sentence.

“Coach Davis”

Wymack said the name as if it should be clear to Charlie who that person was, but no matter how hard he thought about it, his mind couldn’t connect the strings to who the hell that was and why it felt like the name should at least ring some bells in Charlie’s mind.

“Coach who?” he found himself asking.

Wymack didn’t even seem to be surprised by Charlie’s lack of knowledge. Instead, he gestured around the locker room with one hand.

“He’s this team’s coach, an old friend of mine. Judging by the way you just reacted you don’t seem to know that he knows you.”

“He… what the fuck?”

Charlie went through all the memories he had of breaking into this court for the past 2 months, trying to search for a sign that someone had seen him but his mental search came back blank. When he thought about it, he didn’t even remember why he had kept coming back for so long. Usually, Charlie switched courts after barely longer than a month, not wanting to risk making a mistake, no matter how tiny it was, and drawing too much attention to himself.
He mentally cursed himself for being so stupid and not even letting himself think about the risks twice this time. Now he was paying for his stupidity.

Wymack seemed to observe him having a mental hassle which only fuelled his rage even more. Charlie considered just leaving without another thought, never to come back to this court ever again, but something held him back.
That something was the thought that if David Wymack wanted something from him enough to be this far away from Palmetto, it didn’t matter which court he chose to spend his nights on.
Charlie would be found anyway.

So he let his tensed up muscles go limp and waited for Wymack to break the silence once again.

“He saw you practice at night.” Of course, he did, there was no other time Charlie could be found on a court.

“So what? Not all of us have the time and money to afford choosing the time they want to play” he snapped back.

Wymack huffed but didn’t reply.
Deep dow Charlie knew that the time wasn’t the only important detail about why any of this was happening, but it sure added to the strangeness of the mystery that revolved around Charlie Drake.

“That doesn’t explain the fact that for some reason you seem to know my name.”

Wymack pulled out something from his pocket. It didn’t take Charlie long to realize what he was now holding in his hand.

“You forgot your purse,” Wymack said throwing it at him.
Charlie caught it not daring to move his gaze.

“Why the hell are you here?” He was the one asking that question this time.

Wymack seemed to consider his words for a moment before he sighed.
“Coach found your purse one morning and since he didn’t recognize you as one of his players or someone who is supposed to be here, it seemed pretty suspicious. He thought you broke in at first, which” Wymack pointed at him with a lazy gesture “I can confirm.”

“And? Get to the fucking point,” he said getting more and more ticked off by the second. “Why are you really here? I doubt it’s because of a fucking burglar, you don’t look like the police to me.”

“He saw you play. He said it’s insane.”

Charlie waited for Wymack to continue, his own words having died deep in his throat after that statement.

“This is rather sudden and odd-”
“You coach the foxes, everything about you seems off to me”

Wymack paused for a moment, seemingly trying to figure out a better way how to word what he had meant to say.

“Apparently you know the foxes, so maybe you have noticed that our striker line may be a little bit short this year.”

“So you want me to play” Charlie concluded, “I’m 17 and by the way, may I remind you of the fact that you haven’t even seen me play yet?”

“That’s why I’m not asking to sign you yet”

“Forget it, no way I’m playing for a team like yours.”
No way I’m playing for any team he meant to say but didn’t.

“Charlie” Wymack said, putting more power into his voice this time.
“We’re desperate”

Those words caught Charlie off guard. He had expected anything but that for some reason.

“We need one more player, if we don’t sign someone by the time the new season starts, ERC isn’t going to let us play.”

Charlie paused for a moment, keeping quiet for longer than he was comfortable with.
“Trust me, you don’t want someone like me to play for your team.”

“Someone like me? You’re aware that statement basically screams “fox” to me?”
“I’m not a fox”
“Not yet”

This was going down a road he so desperately wanted to avoid and the result of it crashing down on him fast.

Wymack sighed “You say you’re not a fox. Ok, tell me Charlie, who are you then? Who is “someone like you”?”

“Someone who isn’t supposed to play for a class I exy team.”
Or someone who isn’t supposed to play at all.

This time Charlie couldn’t hold himself back anymore as he walked out of the locker room out into the cold air.

“You have a day to change your mind, come back tomorrow if you do” Wymack yelled after him.

“I won’t” Charlie mumbled.

He did.

Chapter Text

Bruised and covered in blood from his face all the way down to the bright red stains drenching his pants, Charlie broke into the door of the locker room. It was strangely empty, the hollow feeling stronger than usual, as he struggled to get to one of the benches closest to him. He was about to collapse onto it as he noticed a paper, hastily thrown onto the wood.
The surprise was enough to keep him upright.

In his drained mind, Charlie would have expected Wymack being here again as a more likely possibility, if he had let himself think about it at all. Which he didn’t until his brother had decided it would be a perfect day to bother him again.
But a simple piece of paper in a clearly, now that he had taken a closer look, empty locker room hadn’t crossed his mind once.

Charlie picked it up, trying to figure out if it would be to any importance to him. As he took a closer look at the paper, he realized it was a note written in a messy handwriting. It could be Wymacks, but it could be anyone else’s just as likely.
It took Charlie about half a minute until he could force his eyes to focus on the words well enough to make out what they said.
An address. The address of a hotel about 2 streets down from the court to be exact.

Before Charlie could change his mind his tired legs were already carrying him out of the building and down the road. It took him about twice as long to get to the hotel as it would’ve taken him in a better shape, but he didn’t let that lessen the feeling of relief wash over him as he arrived in front of the entrance. He was met with his ghastly reflection in the glass of the door.

Charlie didn’t give his bruised and bloody face the attention a stranger would as he reached out and pushed the door open with shaking arms. The fresh air, that was most likely a result of the AC constantly running in South Carolinas hot summer weather, was a shock to his overheated body. But Charlie didn’t let that stop him from making his way through the lobby and over to the staircase as fast as he possibly could.
He checked the note that he briefly remembered picking up and putting into the pockets of his pants for the room number once again. To his relief, the room wasn’t as far away from him as he had thought it would be and it took him only about a minute to reach it.

For some reason, it only now seemed strange to him that not a single person had been down in the lobby or up here in the narrow hallways but he chose not to question it.
Now he found himself standing in front of a dark wooden door. Charlie checked the note one last time, needing the reassurance to calm his racing nerves before stuffing it back into his pocket. After a few moments he finally brought up the willpower or strength, he didn’t really know or care which one it was in the end and reached out to knock on the door.

Silence, then a faint hassle inside the thin walls and barely 10 seconds later the door was thrown open.
Charlie instinctively flinched and took a step back, even though the door didn’t even open in a way it could possibly hit him. He felt his hand reach into the pocket of his pants and hold onto something as a way to ground him while he waited for someone to step out of the hotel room.

Luckily it really was Wymack who had left that note for Charlie to find, he was now standing just a few feet away from him. The relief almost made Charlie collapse right then and there but his willpower kept him upright nonetheless.
Wymack had most likely seen the struggle that he was going through just keeping himself from crumbling right then and there, but Charlie had a feeling that wasn’t the reason his face turned into an unreadable expression. He had almost forgotten how horrible he must have looked before Wymack pulled him into the room as carefully as the situation allowed him to and led him to the couch where Charlie allowed himself to finally sit down.

Everything went by in sort of a haze, not giving Charlie the strength to realize every detail of what was going around him. He could barely take in the apartment, as small and sparely arranged as it was until his eyes fell onto something that was clearly and utterly out of place. Someone, whose presence his mind just couldn’t quite grasp.

Danielle Wilds, or who Charlie thought was standing on the opposite side of the room, was staring him down with a confused glare. When she was finally done studying him, she turned to Wymack and began talking to him. Or Charlie thought she did. He could see both of Dan’s and Wymacks lips moving as he replied to whatever Dan had said, most likely asked, but Charlie couldn’t hear a sound apart from an awful buzzing that was filling up his ears. His mind raced in the hassle of trying to figure out what the hell was going wrong now as he covered his ears desperately trying to drown the noise out. It was as deafening as it was drowning him.
Charlie felt himself letting out a noise that didn’t reach his ears as he bent over in hopes of making everything around him stop.
It did slow down. Or did it?

From one second to the other Charlie found himself having slipped down onto the cold wooden floor with no memory of how he got there. When he opened his eyes that he only now realized were shut in the first place a strange blurry figure was crouching above him. Charlie instinctively tried to back away but strong arms held him in place, not allowing him to move an inch. He hadn’t realized he had been shaking so violently.

As everything around him became too much to handle, too loud but at the same time too quiet, too fast even though in reality nothing was moving and everything from the ceiling down to the floor was caving down on him, threatening to suffocate him, Charlie found himself frozen in place.
Even if he had wanted to move, he doubted his body would let him. It felt like he was a stranger in his own mind, his brain detached from his muscles who had been lead by someone else until that unknown figure had dropped the strings completely. Charlie was lost, trapped in his own mind with no strength left to escape.

The only thing that kept him from going totally insane was a slow but steady sound breaking through the deafening buzzing that was still screaming louder than his thoughts. It took him about a minute to realize that the noise actually was someone talking to him through his panic.
Charlie couldn’t understand what the person was saying but that didn’t stop him from latching onto the hint of comfort that it sent through him and holding onto it for dear life.

Slowly but steadily Charlie's vision sharpened, on his way to returning to it’s natural state, but clearly not quite there yet. It was enough for him to recognize the person in front of him. It turned out to be Wymack, who was kneeling on the ground beside him, still holding him down to the ground with both arms. A spike of shame, that charlie forced into the back of his mind right away, not willing to let himself feel it, shot through him like a needle piercing through his skin.

Charlie felt the pressure on his arms lighten slowly but surely as wymack retreated in favor of offering the space he knew Charlie needed.

“Please don’t tell me it’s too late” he found himself gasping between shaky breaths.

Wymack shook his head. He didn’t say anything, he didn’t ask. Didn’t ask what changed his mind considering Charlie had been so sure of what he wanted last night.
Charlie was happy about it because truthfully, he hadn’t quite figured it out himself yet. Maybe he never would, but reasons never played a big role in Charlie’s life so he just shrugged the thought off as soon as it had struck his mind.

He slowly pushed himself up onto his elbow, avoiding Wymacks gaze. It wasn’t a feeling of shame that kept Charlie from facing him, it was more of the uncertainty that had Plagued his mind since he had made the decision to run, run in a different way than he normally did. It had been just a couple of hours ago, nevertheless, it felt like a lifetime.

“Dan, go get Abby,” Wymack ordered before turning back to Charlie. “She’ll patch you up before we leave.”

Charlie finally forced himself to face Wymack, for some reason It felt like the appropriate thing to do in this situation.

“You’re coming to Palmetto”

Chapter Text

The rest of the night went by in a haze. Abby Winfield, the foxes team nurse, patched him up as best as she could and before Charlie knew it he was sitting in the passenger seat of Wymack’s car, starring into the distance hollowly.

He briefly remembered someone telling him that Abby and Dan were driving in a different car, which would explain why it was only the two of them alone.

Charlie wasn’t used to people actually helping him. Sure he had made his choice based on Wymack’s offer of getting him out of whatever situation he Was obviously struggling with, without even hesitating or asking what was making Charlie’s life hell every day over and over again. But up until now, not even back in the barely lit hotel room, he even dared to let his mind believe that this was actually happening.

But it was. Charlie was on his way to Palmetto state.

Strangely enough, he didn’t even feel the urge to turn back and take a last look back as they made their way out of his hometown, onto the highway to South Carolina.
Leaving behind his past was easier than he had imagined it to be all these years, causing an unsettling feeling to nag at the back of his mind gruelingly. Because maybe, he wasn’t really leaving it all behind, Charlie knew he never could. But he also couldn’t bring himself enough to care anymore.

Charlie spaced out staring out of the window soon after. He watched cities, fields, and trees pass by, losing the count of them just barely over the spare number of 3 each. or 4? He couldn’t remember.

After what could’ve been hours or even days, Charlie would believe any number you could give him and his mind would make it seem possible at this point, Wymack pulled into a small gas station. Judging by the shady vibe the area gave Charlie, Wymack must have had consciously chosen this place. A place that looked it was miles and miles away from any kind of human population, seemed like the best place to avoid any kind of conflict. Charlie wanted to thank him but didn’t find the strength in himself to do so.

Instead, he opened the car door and pulled himself upright using the roof as a crutch. He shot Wymack a glance, silently asking him what he was expecting him to do now.
Wymack seemed to get the note, considering he gestured Charlie to follow after him. He started to cross the parking lot to the tiny building on its other side.

They were in and out of the small store in less than five minutes, Wymack paying for the gas and buying a pack of some weird kind of sweets while Charlie kept his head low, awkwardly waiting at the back of the store.

He got back into the car as soon as Wymack had unlocked the doors, impatient to get back onto the road as soon as possible. The small stop had somehow washed away most of his tiredness, leaving behind a mess made of anxiety but most importantly and dominantly, a racing excitement. Charlie couldn’t wait to get to Palmetto and it was tearing him apart in the best as in the worst way possible. A part of him still refused believe a single part of it.

He was aware of just how much stress it would cause, of course he was. They were talking about the foxes, the definition of trouble in form of a collage exy team.
Charlie knew everything about them, more so than most other teams even. Most other teams meaning every single one except for the Ravens.

He had quite a troubled backstory with the ravens, considering his stepfather basically raised him to be an even better version of them. Always relying on their perfect technique to get him to the top; a path build for him to follow, no room to spare for any deviations from its supposed line.

That wasn’t the way worked for Charlie though. Exy had always been individual for him, something only you could play the way you were meant to. Sure other people could get you to a certain point which undoubtedly could provide one hell of a head start for some people.

But up from there, it was only you and no-one else who could get you to the level you needed to be on to be truly great. You had to be willing to make sacrifices, had to be willing to find your true self and embrace nothing but that.

Of course, his stepfather couldn’t get his mind apart from the Ravens' foolish way of thinking. For him there was no unique part to it, there was always technique and statistics As if exy was something you could just “solve” by calculating the risks and possibilities.
Fucking bullshit.

Charlie shoved that thought into the depths of his mind, not wanting his stepfathers bullshit to drown out the excitement, the only somewhat pleasant feeling he had felt in a while.
He tore his gaze from the road and glanced over at Wymack instead. Charlie considered asking something but his mind couldn’t come up with a way how to ask, or what to ask in the first place.

He didn’t get the chance to though.

“You’re staying at my place for a while, I have a couch that is at least somewhat softer than a brick, will that be a problem?”

Charlie shook his head. To be honest, he couldn’t even quite remember when the last night was that he hadn’t spent on the floor, sometimes even on a bench. But without an exception always outside so he didn’t see a reason in complaining.

“I’m supposed to give you a heads up, the cousins, Kevin and Neil are staying in Andrew’s apartment over the summer, don’t start trouble with them and they most likely won’t start trouble with you either. I can’t promise anything though.”

“Sure”

Wymack and Charlie didn’t talk again after that, but he didn’t mind the silence. He felt his excitement fade into a small buzz in the back of his mind yet again as the hours passed and traffic turned into silence.

He had probably fallen asleep for a while, then when Charlie opened his eyes the sun was rising, lighting up the sign above him in a red shine as they left the highway.

Palmetto State

Charlie felt his mind twist uncontrollably, only now fully realizing that his decision was final. No way to go back, no time to change his mind. He hated and loved it at the same time.
Fortunately, the biggest part of him wanted to stay.

Charlie had barely taken a couple of steps past the door when he was forcefully pushed back into the wall by someone tiny.
He felt the familiar cold metal touch his throat before his eyes could focus on the knife, forcing him to stay as close to the wall as he possibly could.

Charlie was met with a hazel madness barely a couple of inches away from him.
Probably a fox… one of the twins… an unnatural, beyond crazy look in his eyes, Andrew Minyard he concluded.

“Interesting” Andrew mocked.
“totally” Charlie returned his glare with an enduring one of his own.

Without a doubt, Wymack had told the foxes about his arrival. Questionable was only if Andrew had cared enough to listen at that moment, not writing off the information as useless or boring.
His clearly medically induced smile told Charlie he hadn’t.

“What the fuck are you-”

“Andrew.” Wymack’s firm voice interrupted him before he could finish the sentence. His interaction seemed to distract Andrew enough to turn his head to the left and lessen the pressure his knife was putting on Charlie’s throat.

Charlie used the moment to back off to the side, silently watching Wymack’s and Andrew’s interaction go down.
It was less eventful as he thought it would be considering all it took for Wymack to make Andrew retreat was nothing more than just a meaningful glare.

“Good morning coach!” he exclaimed, fake excitement thick in his voice.

“Good Morning Andrew,” Wymack said with an unimpressed tone in his voice before turning back to Charlie. He dug out a keyring out of his pocket and shook it in his hand firmly.

“C’mon kid”

Charlie followed him without hesitating, leaving Andrew behind in the hallway. Surprisingly he made no move to follow the two of them.
Wymack led Charlie up the stairs and unlocked the door with a light motion, making it the number of times he had done this more than obvious.
Charlie followed him inside the small apartment surprised but not shocked by the mess that was unfolding in front of his eyes. He chose to ignore it, waiting for Wymack to give him any kind of hint on how to act.

Wymack seemed to notice his helpless state and pointed at the couch.
“Sit down, I’ll be right back”

Charlie did as he was told while Wymack left the living room.
He came back about 2 minutes later, carrying a spare blanket and pillow in his hands.

“I’m getting them before I forget it later, you ok with that?” Wymack asked.
Charlie nodded as he watched him place everything on the couch beside him before checking his watch.

“Practice is soon, I can give you a ride if you’re ready for it.”

Charlie didn’t need to be told that twice. No matter how tired or stressed, he would always be beyond ready for exy.

He felt his heart skip a beat at the thought of playing now, not alone, not past midnight, without the worry of someone finding out about him having illegally broken into a court. But instead now, with a team, and exactly where he was supposed to be.

The drive to the court was dead silent in contrast to the wild equivalent inside of Charlie that came close to a hurricane raving and tearing everything to pieces in his mind.
Seeing the bright orange colors of the foxhole court appear right before his eyes didn’t make it any better.

It didn’t feel like he belonged here, everything too strange and new and bright, but at least he knew that him being right here made more sense than anything had in a very long time.

For once he was glad for the decision to have run but also glad to have chosen to stay.

Chapter Text

It didn’t take him long to notice that the foxes had arrived at the court before he and Wymack had.
They were already dressed and in mids of what seemed to be Dan trying to get everyone to warm up without killing each other.
Surprisingly it worked in its own, fox way.

Right before Charlie was able to take a step into the empty locker room, Wymack stopped him and tossed a small orange duffel bag in his direction for him to catch.

“Wear that,” he said and left without waiting for him to respond.

When Charlie opened the bag a minute later he found a fox jersey and shorts hidden under a filled water bottle and the remaining parts of a complete exy gear.
The piece seemed rather old and worn down. Charlie couldn’t recall any fox wearing the number 13 in quite a while but it was more than he could ask for and stroke way beyond his expectations.
He didn’t waste a second getting putting on.

Charlie stuffed the clothes he had worn before changing into the bag, filling it up the empty room and grabbed his water bottle before turning on his heel and leaving.

On his way out of the locker room, he passed a mirror, the reflection making him freeze dead in his tracks. Charlie was surprised by the person he saw before his eyes, the picture - him wearing a fox jersey and a fully exy gear ready to play - seeming more likely to be a hazy dream than the truth that he was about to turn into reality.
It wasn’t who he thought he was, it wasn’t who he was yet either. But maybe, just maybe he thought, that was who he could strive to be one day.
Maybe fighting for this would be worth it.

But he had no way of knowing that and his racing mind didn’t give him the time to let himself settle down and think about it, too focused on the court that was so close to him. So close, Charlie’s mind, as sky-high it was in excitement, could practically feel it physically tugging him outside.

So he gave in to the urge and stepped onto the court.

Charlie joined the foxes warm-ups after introducing himself to all of the players. Nobody really wanted to do it so it ended up being incredibly awkward for both parties.
But instead of letting himself think about he settled for following Dan’s instructions.

It was fascinating watching her incredibly strong spirit handle the foxes.
Maybe not without a struggle but she was managing the mess better than Charlie had always imagined her to, and he had always looked up to the woman in a way.

He would have probably paid more attention to Dan if he hadn’t been so focused on exy itself, way past the point of caring about something else.
As soon as everyone had finished warming up, Dan split them into two teams, 5 players each and sent them on their marks.

After quite a long hassle Charlie got teamed up with Nicky, Allison, Renne and most importantly, Kevin, which he didn’t really know how to feel about. They would have to rely on each other for the whole game to be able to succeed, and even though Charlie wasn’t ready to put his trust any of the foxes yet he was beginning to realize that maybe he had to. He definitely had to.

Charlie chose to see it as a positive thing in the end, after he reminded himself that Kevin’s and his mutual raven past made it easier for him to understand the way he played, helping him adapt to his fellow striker on a deeper level.

He gave himself only a short moment to let his mind act on that, before blending everything around him out and waiting for Dan’s call to break the silence.
When it did, Charlie was running before his brain could catch up with the fact that he was.

A second later his mind had switched from being calm and blank to racing under the effort of locating the ball and choosing the best way to act on what his senses were able to take in around him.

Between flashes of orange and exy racquets, Kevin managed to catch the ball and fight himself free from his opponents. Dan was the one, closest to Kevin, trying to reclaim the possession of the ball in a fierce battle. They had chosen to play without any dealers, only backliners and strikers and the ones subbing as them.
They made it work somehow.

Kevin managed to put a decent amount of distance between him and Dan as he was running down the court before he was forced to pass the ball by Aaron.
Charlie didn’t hesitate to make sure he was in the right place, exactly where Kevin needed someone to be right now.

A moment later the ball was in his own racquet and his heart was racing as fast as his legs were carrying him towards the goal.
He could see Neil in his peripheral vision, catching up with him faster than he would have liked it.

Not even 10 seconds later he did, crashing into Charlie loud, fast and fierce. It was enough to throw him off balance for a moment but not enough for him to let go of the ball by far. Just a few seconds later he was back in the game and fighting against Neil as hard as before, running down the court side by side.
Charlie was surprised by his incredible speed for a moment before that feeling was washed away by the rush in his blood once again.

Neil was smart. He was using his speed to force Charlie closer and closer to the wall, cutting him off of any room to spare. It was crucial in the harsh game between the two of them but not enough for Neil to win.
Charlie tried to fight against the vicious force Neil was bringing down on him, but the striker was simply way too fast for anyone to outrun.

So instead of wasting his strength in trying and without a doubt failing, Charlie gave in to the pressure and closed the gap between him and the wall. He managed to throw Neil off his track in one spare movement.

Charlie didn’t hesitate to fasten his pace, using every fiber in his body and every last bit of strength he had in him, gathering up the power needed to go through with what his mind was telling him to do.
In the brief time of a few seconds, Charlie had pushed himself up on the wall to raise his body off the ground high enough to reach over Neil and passed the ball over the striker's shoulder for Kevin to catch.

A moment later the ball hit the net, lighting up the goal bright red.
Charlie’s blood was wildfire.

He could feel it rushing through his veins, burning and tearing him apart in the best way possible.

Charlie needed this feeling so much, he would give everything to feel it rushing through his veins. Just a week ago he had thought this was nothing more than a distant dream, too foolish and impossible to let himself dream.
Now he was living it.

Charlie strode back to half-court, not giving the rush enough time to fade.
Dan calling on another round was enough to set him on fire yet again, making him feel like he was burning even brighter than before.

Charlie rushed to the ball as fast as he could, catching it a second before Dan was even able to reach for it.
He knew he couldn’t keep it against Dan if she tried to make a move on him now, which she would try without a doubt, so he braced himself and waited, hoping an opportunity would open for a different way to go.

A moment later Dan indeed did crash into him intending to steal the ball from his racquet. He was more than prepared though, letting the ball be thrown into the air by Dan’s hit. Now the door he had been waiting for had opened.

Before Dan could react to her apparent win of the ball, Charlie was moving, snatching it out of the air in a swift movement. He turned away and started to run down the court towards the goal, his eyes already in search for Kevin.
Charlie found him soon after, having already run over and stopped near the goal. It wasn’t exactly where he needed Kevin to be but Charlie could make it work.
For a moment he was amazed by the trust Kevin had put in him to keep the ball but those thoughts were drowned out not even a second later.

Charlie stepped out of Matt’s reach on his way.
He barely avoided most of the hit that would have probably sent him sprawling on the court floor if he hadn’t dodged it, his eyes already looking for a way to pass the ball.
Matt was too big and strong for him to have a chance against in a fight, so his mind left him with 2 other options.
Get the ball the fuck away from this, or lose it.

Charlie chose to go with the first option after seeing Kevin who had run himself free and was moving in a perfect angle for him to pass to.
He slowed down slightly, trying to fall behind Matt a bit to have enough space for a proper pass.
It worked even if not perfectly considering how good of a backliner Matt was. But in the end, Charlie was able to pass and Kevin caught it, so he didn’t let himself worry about how close of a call this move really was.

He watched Kevin play around Aaron, using raven footwork and something that he couldn’t mistake as Kevin being Kevinwhile he followed him down the court ready to take over the ball at any given moment.

That time came sooner than he thought. Kevin had played himself into a dead-end during his fight against Matt who had crossed the court, and desperately needed a way to get the ball into a somewhat safe place.

Matt was trying to hold the defense line alone, balancing between Charlie and Kevin while Aaron needed the valuable seconds he was wasting to get back into the game.
But just like last time, there was no holding their line against the two of them as they broke through Aarons and Matts desperate last attempts of getting the ball away from the goal.

Now it was only Andrew, Charlie, and his unstoppable will to score, this time wanting to make the goal light up by himself.
A moment later it did.

Charlie let the excitement flare up in him again, putting no effort into stop it in any way before looking over at Kevin who was smiling at him fiercely.

It was a strange image to see Kevin smile but it was no surprise to Charlie either.
After all, it was exy that had caused the smile, which he found rather amusing after all.

The rest of the game went by just in the same way. A fierce fight, the foxes and Charlie playing like they had everything to lose. Even Andrew showed signs of taking part in the battle that had turned into something more, right then, right there, on the foxhole court.

Charlie and Kevin managed to break through the defense line 3 more times, only letting their rivals score twice in the whole game.

5:2

Charlie let the satisfaction of the final score burn him to the core. He didn’t care about the two tiny mistakes they had made, ending up in the other half of the foxes scoring. He knew Kevin cared though.

But for Charlie the unconquerable feeling of victory was what mattered the most, drowning out everything else.
Right there at that moment, he decided that was where he needed to be, that this was who he maybe wasn’t supposed to be, but wanted to be so bad.

His past could no longer get to him.

When they were done, Charlie jogged off the court ignoring the foxes reactions to whatever had just taken place on the field. There was no use in waiting for Wymack to dismiss him or listening to Nicky’s excited cheers Charlie knew he would get.

It wasn’t that it annoyed him or anything, he simply couldn’t see the worth in other peoples recognition and appreciation.
Charlie never cared or felt the need for it before, there was no point in wanting it now.
He wasn’t doing this for anyone but himself, other peoples opinions didn’t matter.

Exhausted but and burned down to his bones, but alive more than ever Charlie stepped into the empty locker room. He made his way over to the bag Wymack had given him, still laying zipped close on one of the orange benches.

Charlie picked up the water bottle he found in the bag, desperately trying to get rid of the dry feeling in his throat and took a huge sip. The cold liquid was a blessing for his throat just as much as for his overheated and strained body.
He downed the bottle in such a short time, it almost made him question if it could really be that healthy
.
But just a second later he was ripped out of his thoughts by a staged cough a few feet behind his back.
Charlie shot around, trying to figure out who had snuck up on him without giving away the unpleasant rush of anxiety the sudden noise had caused to flare up in him.

It was Andrew, of course, it was.

“You’re quite… good aren’t you?” he mocked with a slight edge to his voice that Charlie just couldn’t miss.

“What do you want,” he growled.

“Everyone seems to think you’re some kind of legend out there. I’m just checking if there’s any truth to what their saying”

Andrew lifted his hand before his face, examining his fingernails with a bored expression.
The strange tone in his voice made Charlie's blood run cold.

Andrew obviously wanted something from him, apart from what he was openly giving away. He was most likely just using this as a way to get to Charlie making him lose his bearings and eventually slipping, Charlie knew that technique.

“What do you want?” he repeated not willing to play any of Andrew’s foolish games.

Andrew grinned.
“Charlie, Charlie… you’re one hell of a mystery aren’t you?”

He stayed quiet, intentionally forcing Andrew to continue.
“I’m just trying to figure out if you are going to be a problem, you know? Just the usual shit.” Andrew said taking a step closer and brushing his fingertips against Charlie’s throat as less of a sign, more of a warning.

Charlie had about 3 inches on him, that didn’t make him any less dangerous though.

After what seemed like an eternity of Andrew grinning viciously and him staring back with an unimpressed expression, Andrew was the first to let his hand drop to his side limply. He didn’t retreat though.

Instead, Andrew leaned to the side, his lips coming dangerously close to Charlie's ear as he whispered his demand.
“You’re going out with us tonight. 8pm in front of our door.” he paused for a split second. “You are going to be there”

It took everything in Charlie not to budge under the pressure Andrew was knowingly putting on him just by being this close, barely more than two inches parting them. He could feel Andrew’s breath as his body screamed at him to move away but his mind forced him to stay.
Charlie didn’t even give in enough to let his expression change.

Andrew finally retreated. He shot Charlie a last smile before making his way out of the locker room again.

As he watched him leave, he knew without a doubt that was going to be there that night.

Andrew hadn’t given him a choice and Charlie wasn’t foolish enough to try and fight him. Not about something as unimportant as a night spent with people that weren’t dangerous enough to make him run as soon as he had identified how much of a threat they really were.

So when the clock turned 8 Charlie was, in fact, standing in front of Andrew’s door, prepared but not excited for the night to turn into shit rather quickly. Only he had no idea of just how much shit this night was going to turn into.

Chapter Text

Charlie knocked on the monsters dorm door, expecting nothing but preparing for the worst.

Just a second later a loud crash was heard from inside and the door flung open, revealing a pissed off looking, Kevin. His expression changed into a confused look that told Charlie nobody except for Andrew was expecting him to be here.

“What the hell are you doing here?” Kevin asked, glancing back into the dorm.
Only then Charlie noticed the mess that once had been and still was the monster’s dorm, even if it looked rather… wrecked.

Kevin seemed to notice where Charlie’s attention went instead of answering his question.
“Andrew is throwing a fit” he stated matter of factly.

Charlie thought it was such an irrational thing for Andrew Minyard to be the type of guy who threw fits, but at the same time, his mind was providing him with a perfectly vivid image of Andrew doing just that.
It was rather amusing, even if he didn’t have enough of a death wish to openly admit it.

But before he even had the chance to answer Kevin was pulled back out of the doorway forcefully and Charlie got replaced by a brightly grinning Andrew.
“CHARLIE! HEYY, YOU MADE IT” he yelled, throwing his arms up in the air.

Charlie didn’t react to him.
Instead, he shifted his gaze to a troubled looking Nicky who seemed to be in the middle of what looked like some sort of a weird mix, probably including a mid-life crisis and what-the-fuck-am-I- doing-here panic attack.
He shot Nicky an unimpressed glare and turned back to Andrew. He who looked like he was about to burst into laughter about the next random thing anyone would do.
It felt like walking on eggshells, it was the monsters day to day life.

Charlie kept glaring at Andrew waiting for him to break the awkward silence that had now settled over the room.
But instead of continuing to talk to him, Andrew turned around and pulled him inside with an exaggeratedly staged movement.

“Charlie is coming with us,” he said and pushed him towards Neil forcefully.

Neil managed to slow down Charlie’s fall just in time to avoid his head smacking into the kitchen counter.
Charlie was glad he didn’t have to suffer through the night with a concussion but pushed Neil off him anyway.

“Andrew… What the hell?” Neil growled.

They were are all genuinely fed up with this whole situation already, Charlie noted.
The night hadn’t even started yet.

Andrew ignored all of them, a bright grin still pulling his features into a creepy expression, and picked up the car key from the counter behind Charlie.
“We” he giggled, playing with the keys between his finger. “are leaving now.

Truth is, nobody had the intention of setting Andrew off even more so they all gathered up at the car rather quickly. Everyone except for Aaron who was more than glad to be forced to stay back due to the lack of room in the car.

Charlie ended up squished between Nicky and Kevin on the backseat while Andrew got into the driver's seat, Neil taking the remaining seat in the front.
Personally, Charlie didn’t think Andrew should be driving like this, and surely at least half of the people in the car would agree to that. But addressing that issue to Andrew seemed like an even worse idea somehow.

He couldn’t recall how long the drive to Columbia took, only that Nicky took over Andrew in the driver's seat about halfway there.
Sitting next to Andrew wasn’t as bad as Charlie had thought it would be, but that was most likely due to the fact that Andrew was dead asleep all through the rest of their way.
Luckily Charlie had picked up on Andrews habit of waking up rather violent after Nicky had mentioned it briefly sometime during their ride so he was out of the car before he could check how true that statement really was. He definitely dodged a bullet there.

They entered the night club shortly after.
Charlie wasn’t really interested in everyone else apart from not getting lost in the crowd as he followed them to a table. He had pretty much zoned out at this point, ending up with him almost bumping into Kevin who had stopped by their table.

Charlie ignored the slightly worried look Kevin gave him. It didn’t bother him, mostly because confusion was still what remained consistent over the rest of the mess Kevin's emotions had turned into.
He didn’t need Kevin’s worry and he didn’t care about his confusion.

So Charlie sat down on the other side. He chose the seat right next to an overly euphoric Nicky, knowing soon he would be alone on this side again since Nicky was most likely going to leave for the dance floor during the next few minutes.
He shifted his gaze again watched Andrew sitting down beside Kevin and Neil choosing a spot beside him.
Just as he had anticipated Nicky was up and going just two minutes later right after Andrew and Kevin had left to get them all drinks.

Charlie wasn’t keen on this night but he hoped alcohol would make it bearable.
Alcohol, a habit he had picked up way too early for anyone to end up with a healthy outcome, probably even earlier than he could recall by himself. Charlie was only seventeen, not even an adult and 4 years under the legal drinking age but it didn’t bother enough to cut short on his habits.

A few minutes later, Andrew was back and already in the middle of passing out the drinks to everyone. He picked up a glass and put it down in front of Charlie, who looked at it with a skeptic glare.

Alcohol was alcohol, but this… was different.

Nevertheless, Charlie reached out and picked up the drink. He raised it to his lips but stopped mid-motion just as the cool glass made contact with his lips. Over the edge of the glass, he shot Andrew a devilish glare before he tipped his head back and let the drink burn his throat as he swallowed. The familiar heat of alcohol filled up his body and flared through his mind.
But there was something more to it. Something expected but strangely unsettling all the same.

Charlie held up the empty glass in the dim flickering lights of the club and studied it with a frown.
„Next time you should try something stronger if you really want to drug me up.“

He hadn't think for long to realize that the strangeness in form of a bitter taste, washed away by the alcohol into barely more than a faint aroma was, in fact, some kind of drug. It wasn’t one Charlie knew, but judging by the way it affected him, barely at all, this wasn’t something strong. Andrew hadn’t taken his unnaturally high drug tolerance into account, because he simply didn't know about.

Charlie was sure it was some kind of regular party drug, expected to give you a small rush but after years and years of frequent drug use surely not enough to set him off more than he was comfortable with.

He let out a sluggish laugh and shifted his gaze, starring down Andrew with no hesitation.
„This is just gonna make me tipsy.. at most“

„Just tipsy?“ Andrew asked calmly. His voice almost sounded bored, had Charlie missed the slight edge that turned it into an unsettling tone.
Andrew wasn’t particularly confused, nor surprised but Charlie didn’t have the nerve to dig deeper into it and find out what he was really thinking beyond the obvious mask.

He found Andrews blatant apathy to this whole situation all the more amusing this way.

„Yup, “ he said not caring enough to hide the slight slur that had mixed into his voice. It didn’t bother him.

Judging by Andrew’s reaction, Charlie was sure he knew, just how little of the expected effect this was going to cause. Andrew grinned anyway as he rose to his feet.

„Game on, charlie“

„Don’t kid yourself, we’ve been playing since the day I arrived“

Chapter Text

Charlie put his drink down and skidded around on his seat trying to find a more comfortable position to sit since wasn’t planning on getting up or following Andrew any time soon.

„Is that all you’ve got?“ he found himself yelling after Andrew. He had without bothering to say another word turned on his heels and was already on his way to the bar.

Charlie lost sight of him in the crowd soon after.
So he shifted his focus back to Neil and Kevin who had watched everything go down without intervening.

Charlie caught Neils gaze first who for some reason seemed more unsure and worried about this situation than he himself. Kevin was probably already too drunk to understand what had happened, despite the fact that their night had just started.

Charlie let his mind slip into a blank state of voidness as he waited for nothing in particular to happen.

Just a few minutes later a fresh tray of drinks was placed between them and Andrew lifted himself onto his seat again.
Due to Kevin’s sluggish help, the drinks were handed out in a matter of seconds.
Charlie didn’t think Andrew was stupid enough for this to be another one of his attempts but he also couldn’t quite put the pieces of where he was aiming with his actions into place.

He chose to ignore the fact that this was probably exactly the way Andrew expected him to react and pushed at the glass in front of him hard enough to make it tip over.
The alcohol ran over the table and stopped only at the edge where it started soaking into Andrews shirt.
Andrew watched it happen with just as much apathy as before.

Seeing that expression, Charlie was distraught enough to find himself having changed his mind. He didn’t waste another second at the table and walked away, making himself disappear in mids of the crowd.

Andrew was right, the game was on and Charlie wasn’t willing to lose it.
He wouldn’t bother if it was “just a meaningless game” between them but nothing was meaningless when it came to Andrew.
Truth is, Charlie didn’t want to take the risk and play by Andrew’s rules because the consequences might be giving up more of himself than he intended to.

After a while, Charlie spotted Nicky with a couple of strangers. They were standing apart from the main crowd seemingly having gotten bored of being squished between a million bodies on the dance floor.

Charlie didn’t get why people thought it was a good way to spend their time in the first place; he nearly died more than once just on his way there.
For a moment he considered walking up to them but couldn’t see the point in starting a conversation that would end up in useless small talk no matter which way he chose to take it. Instead, Charlie forced himself through the remaining crowd that had built up between him and the exit.

Just as Charlie was about to push the heavy club door open a familiar voice behind him made him stop dead in his tracks. He turned his head just barely enough to see who had walked up behind him and dropped his hand back down to his side as he noticed Nicky standing there. He had who had most likely seen him struggling through the crowd, Charlie figured.

“What is up between you and Andrew?” Nicky asked.

Charlie was caught quite off guard by that question, he hadn’t expected Nicky to say something only remotely similar to that.

“What?” he found himself asking.

Nicky shook his head and ran a hand through his hair. “Forget it, it doesn’t matter”

Obviously, it did matter, he wouldn’t have asked if it hadn’t, but Charlie couldn’t bring his mind to care enough to dig deeper anyway. Instead, he remained silent as he watched Nicky shift his gaze from his feet up to Charlie, locking eyes with him.

There was something strange to Nicky’s expression but Charlie didn’t know the guy enough to figure out what it meant so he just kept his distanced and chose not to think about it any further.

This time it was Kevin who caught him off guard. He stumbled out of the crowd, obviously drunk even though not enough to set off Charlie in the slightest. What he didn’t expect though, was him slinging an arm around Charlie's shoulders and pulling him closer.
Without even thinking about it, he pushed Kevin off firmly trying not to lose his cool but with drugs running through his veins it got harder and harder to even see the point in doing that.

“What the fuck?” he yelled loud enough so Kevin could hear it over the music which’s bass was practically shaking the club to its core.

Charlie could see a faint spark of drunk hurt settle into Kevin’s eyes as he distanced himself. There was something more to that look but he couldn’t figure it out until he was pulled to the ground by someone behind him.

That person wrapped both of his arms around Charlie's throat fiercely and knocking the breath out of his body with a single blow to his gut. Charlie found himself gasping for air on the ground before he could even register what had happened. The guy that was holding him down finally lightened his grip, giving Charlie the impression of him letting go.

But instead, he used one of his now free hands to hold Charlies head down with a strength nobody would have expected. Before he could even move the guy was shoving something down his throat, forcing him to swallow with his other hand. It reminded him so much of the times his mother had unwillingly drugged him when he was younger, Charlie felt the bile rise up his throat threatening to choke him as his body fought against the urge of throwing up instinctively.

He rolled to the side, desperately trying to get enough air into his lungs.
Charlie focused every inch of his body to stay calm so it didn’t feel like he was dying right there on the floor of that god damn club.

He smashed an elbow into where his attacker's ribs seemed to be as hard as he could but instead of throwing the guy off Charlie hit the air. Trying to get back his bearings, he pushed himself up on shaky arms and forced his gaze up.

As Andrew’s devilish grin broke through his blurry vision, the feeling that rose up from his gut was almost enough to make him throw up on the spot.

“You fucking-” Charlie spat as he put everything he had into getting to his feet. The anger rushing through him, turning his blood and bones into wildfire was enough to make him stay upright, even if not without a struggle and fight.

“Who are you and what are you doing here?“ Andrew asked.

Charlie could barely make out the words in his haze of rage and drugs.
“Fuck you“ he slurred.

Andrew stared at him with an unimpressed glare that only fuelled Charlie’s anger even more. He would have lashed out right that second, hadn’t he already been in enough trouble just staying on both feet without crashing.

“Who are you?“ Andrew asked louder.

“Nobody.“

Charlie felt someone coming up behind him, probably trying to pull him farther away from Andrew for his own sake but instead of letting it happen, he slammed a shaky elbow into the person's chest. It was enough to make them retreat.

“I repeat, who are you?“ 

“And I repeat that I am a no one.“  

 “Apparently,“ Andrew mocked “Now tell me what you are doing here.“

Charlie gave himself a moment to respond, trying and keep himself as steady and calm as possible. „Trying not to die.“ He couldn’t resist the anger that was burning him to death from the inside and pushed Andrew away, not quite sure of what else to do.

Andrew replied to his actions with an unimpressed glare, studying Charlie from his face all the way down to his feet. „Oh, oh...“

Charlie knew that it was supposed to do nothing but provoke him and that it was childish to act on it but he couldn’t hold himself back from launching at Andrew once again. This time Andrew took the attack with more than just a glare. Before Charlie was able to anything, he caught his wrist and punched him in the face. Charlie's vision blurred due to his eyes tearing up, and everything began to spin yet again. Before he even realized he had lost his balanced, Charlie was crashing into a group of people to his left.

It took him longer than he had expected to struggle out of the crowd again. He pushed himself free with the intention of striking back at Andrew violently.

“You’re a fucking coward,“ he growled, wiping the sweat off his forehead with shaking fingers. „You want answers? Go get fucked.“

„Funny coming from someone like you, you barely have the guts to do anything.“ Andrew shot back without missing a beat.

Something inside of Charlie snapped, before he knew it he had Andrew pinned to the wall with a knife to his throat. „Don’t fucking assume anything about me or I will make you pay for that.“

The words came out more slurred than Charlie had wanted them to be but he couldn’t bring himself to care nonetheless.  

 Andrew pushed him off effortlessly, making him crash and hit the ground once again. The knife fell out of Charlie’s hand on impact, he lost sight of it soon after.

Trying to get to his feet again, not willing to give this fight up yet but, he struggled with every bit of strength left in him. But as soon as he was only close to being upright the whole room twisted and blurred.

Before Charlie knew it he had stumbled back into Neil who caught him with a surprisingly fierce grip.

Charlie turned his head back just in time to see the same confused but worried expression he had seen Neil wearing before. The only difference was that now it was directed at Andrew. He barely registered Neil’s lips moving but no sound coming from them.

Before Charlie could think about it, he had pushed himself away from Neil and was launching back at Andrew once again, anger taking over him. It felt like this time Charlie was able to put up at least a bit of a fight. But that illusion burst into pieces the second a blow to his gut hit him too hard to be able to withstand it, especially drugged up, sky-high like this.

He found himself sprawled on the ground for hopefully the last time that night.

This blow had been too much for him to handle, judging by his attempt at getting back up and into the fight which ended with him collapsing onto his knees, gasping for air.

His lungs were on fire but he only felt the heat in his mind, burning and screaming and roaring at him for a different kind of blood.

But Charlie couldn’t find the strength in himself to get back up one more time. The only thing that he managed to muster up was a cold laugh and a vicious grin.

„Coward,“ Charlie slurred his vision slowly going darker and fuzzier by the second.

“What are you doing here.“

“Exy.“ he choked out.

truth

“Where did you come from?“ 

“Random small city, why the fuck do you care?“

mostly the truth

Andrew seemed to consider his words for a moment. “Because I can’t have someone randomly show up at the foxhole court, not doing anything but being a fucking bitch“ 

 Charlie knew it wasn’t smart to speak his mind, and he knew he didn’t, but his mouth didn’t quite oblige to what his brain was telling him. “Sounds just like Kevin to me“

Andrew didn’t tell him to shut up but his gaze was enough to make him not want to go into that much further.

“Wow, “ Charlie laughed instead. “Protective Much"                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

“Is that why you drugged me? To listen to me give you dumb answers to even dumber questions?” he paused for a second trying to catch his breath before he was cut off by Andrew speaking up again.

“What are your intentions? From what I know you could be a raven sent out to get Kevin back or kill him, the hell do I know.“

So that was what Andrew was going for all along. He saw Charlie as a threat to his family, of course, he did. So Andrew decided to bring Charlie along to see what he was really up to. Despite the drugs trashing his thoughts and mind, somehow it made sense to him. 

"I’m not... a fucking raven.“ he growled.

Was that the truth?

Charlie knew it was but he couldn’t bring himself to believe in it.

 

Chapter Text

„Stay away from Neil and Kevin or I will not hesitate to kill you.“

Charlie couldn’t hold back a cold laugh „Oh, please do.“

He couldn’t decide if it was a childish or smart thing of Andrew to do, but he watched him walk away and disappear into the blurry crowd anyway.

Time passed by in a hazy rush, giving Charlie the impression that the minute he had spent on the floor before making another attempt at getting up could have just as easily been 10 or even 20. This time he let himself take the time he really needed to slowly get to his feet, which paid off by his legs not giving out on him.

It was an incredibly straining thing to do especially for his nerves and muscles as they were still raging and burning with fire if not as strong as before by a great deal. Despite that tiny boost, Charlie had to put everything he had left in him into getting through the crowd and to the bathroom without crashing. But as soon as he had pushed the door open and was standing inside, his body didn’t seem to be able to stay upright any longer. The strength seemed to have been knocked out of him by the shaky breath he took in causing his legs giving out on him once and for and his limp body to fall.

The sink was what kept Charlie from crashing into a wall or collapsing completely. Charlie tightened his grip as the slippery metal made him come dangerously close to losing the only thing that was keeping him upright, if not steady by any means.

He turned on the tab with shaking fingers. Before his mind could shake off the slight shock his hands were already reacting to his needs, desperately trying to get as much water into his system as he could in the short amount of time he allowed himself to waste.

Charlie knew it wouldn’t cause all the effects to go away or even fade enough for him to feel fine again, but it could surely lessen them by a great deal. And from then on he could at least pretend to be fine, that had to be enough.

Despite basically being a drug addict, Charlie only ever used drugs when he felt like he needed them to drown out everything that seemed to swallow him whole if he couldn’t find a crutch to lean onto. To keep it simple, he only ever got high when it felt like the right time to him - when the symptoms would do him more good than harm. Charlie knew how thin that line was, he recalled every single time he had stepped past it before. It had always seemed like the only thing keeping him afloat back at that time.

It clearly was  not  the right time today.

When Charlie felt like drinking more water would cause him to throw up or even faint, he turned off the tap and let himself slip down on the wall beside the sink. He was too exhausted to care about the disgustingly dirty floors that he knew were there, sticky and wet, but couldn’t feel or see or smell any of it.

It was all just white tiles mixed into a dark haze, fading and fading and blurring from second to second.

Charlie didn’t even notice he had passed out until he was forcefully woken up by the bathroom door slamming shut and two people loudly arguing in front of him. It took a moment for him to realize that it was, in fact, Neil who was yelling at Andrew instead of two random strangers.

That was different  he thought. 

But not being in the right mind to act on what he saw or felt, didn't give Charlie’s mind a choice instead of rising to his feet, ignoring how sick it made his stomach feel and blending out the way it made the whole room twist and spin and warp in front of his eyes.

He rushed out of the bathroom, the air too hot and thick to let him breathe. Not a single breath, a single gasp - no air, no air.

Charlie’s mind was working on autopilot, only he wasn’t sure if acting the way his brain told him it would be the smartest, was the going to work in this particular situation. It was yet again more than strange, different from what he was used to.

But there was no use in this anymore, his brain had already shut off leaving his body to run and move and push with only one goal.

Out. Breathe.

In his rush, Charlie barely noticed the way his hands were already moving, reaching out and pulling at the door with a force he couldn’t believe he had left in him.

The fresh air, a cool shock, was what made him realize he was outside, Charlie’s lung acted before his brain set in, not wasting a moment to suck in a shallow breath that tore him apart from the inside.

He felt the cold air flood through his body, making it a little bit easier to function, a little bit easier to keep going.

It didn’t clear his mind enough to see the huge figure of a man standing in his way before he was already crashing into him at full force though.

Charlie barely registered being thrown down and hitting the floor hard, before his brain seemed to throw everything he needed into place. His vision was just sharp enough to allow him to see a fist move in front of him, about to crush his face under its force.

It hit the ground instead.

Charlie found himself up and moving just in time to make the man miss and cry out in anger and pain.

He pushed and kicked himself free, not wanting to think about the violence his actions were displaying.

Charlie was acting too fast for the reality to catch up with him anyway.

Taking in his surroundings in a red, angry rush he found himself longing for the fight right in front of him, the miserable state he had previously been in already drowned out and forgotten by a different drug.

T he fight. Oh, he needed it.

Charlie found a steady pulse of something he couldn’t quite place in the depths of his mind and held onto it tightly as he struck again, only to hit the ground again barely a few seconds later.  

 But no matter what, he couldn’t bring himself to rip his focus away from the man that had made him fall as he rose to his feet for what felt like the millionth time that day. Charlie promised himself he wouldn’t stop getting up, as long as he was aware, breathing and conscious. As long as he was  alive.

Every movement made him aware of every strained muscle, every bruise burn and ache in his body. But the pain was more of a fuel to him, screaming and crying for a fight. So that was what he did as he saw another hit flying straight at him.

Instead of letting the punch throw him off, Charlie dodged it, taking ahold of the man's arm and using the power behind the blow as an advantage.

He threw a quick glance back, registering two men who were storming right at them. Probably the friends of his current rival or as what he saw them, two more opponents he had to deal with.

Without wasting a single thought on it, Charlie ended up smashing the man's head into the club wall and stumbled back to avoid being pulled under the collapsing body.

He barely got his breath back before it was squeezed out of him yet again. Strong arms wrapped around his throat, cutting off his airways painfully. Apparently, this was how this fight was going to go down, them trying him striking back.

Charlie didn’t give himself the luxury of a single second wasted thinking this through and let his body act instead of his mind. Feeling drunken sluggishness in the man's grip was enough for his body to set back into action.

Drunk fights -  unsteadiness, sloppy movements, lack of balance … Charlie’s mind followed his actions with a slight delay.

But his legs had already pushed his body up from the ground violently before the thought could be of any worth.  

 Charlie threw himself back, using his own weight as a crucial advantage. The man being caught by surprise, stumbled back under the sudden change of pressure, causing him to lose his balance and hit the floor.

The impact knocked every bit of air out of the man, as much as Charlie’s lungs painfully. He could have sworn to have heard or felt some of the man's ribs crack underneath his weight, it could have been the sound of their crash just as likely though.

Anyhow, he rolled off the mans now unconscious body onto the rough asphalt.

Charlie felt every bit of his strength leave his body as the adrenaline died down, quicker than he had hoped it would. A drop in energy, stronger he was used to and would probably ever be.

His vision switched in and out of focus occasionally turning pitch black for a second, then a couple, then a moment of hazy darkness without any impression or feeling for time.

Between the bright and dark periods, his mind was putting him through, Charlie could hazily make out Andrew appearing in his sight. He seemed to come closer and closer every time Charlie could see his figure move in the dim lights shining outside of the club.

Andrew crouched down beside him with the same bored expression he had worn back in the club.

The irony of this situation, mixed with the strange sensation of feeling himself slip and fall deeper and deeper, as if he was drowning in himself, rattled Charlie to the core. He couldn’t hold back a cold laugh, choking and tearing him apart before darkness took over his vision and a bleak strangeness of nothing flooded his mind and took over him.

He didn't get the chance to get back up this time.

Chapter Text

Kevin pushed himself through the crowd, desperately trying to get to the exit. He could feel the alcohol rushing through his system, if not as strong as before but it was certainly making him tipsy.
Not wanting to deal with the consequences of overdoing it tonight, Kevin decided that getting some fresh air would be a good idea.

After what felt like an eternity he had finally made it through the crowd and pushed the door open. The cool breeze felt like salvation after hours of being forced to inhale the horrible air inside of the club.
Kevin closed his eyes for a moment taking a deep breath. When he opened them again a short moment later what he saw knocked every bit of air out of him in an instant.
The sight of Andrew crouching beside an unconscious Charlie was enough to make him forget how much alcohol was still rushing through his system.

All at once, he was sober.

“WHAT- What the hell?!” he found himself yelling as he closed the distance between them.

Andrew’s cold laugh only set him off further, turning confusion into rage.

“Did you-” Kevin didn’t dare to finish the sentence.

“Oh Kevin, nope.” Andrew shot him a mocking glare. “No, I didn’t. Look around.” Kevin shifted his gaze, finding two more seemingly unconscious men on the ground.
“They did.”

Kevin couldn’t trust the fact that Andrew wasn't at least partly responsible for this, but he forced himself not to focus on that aspect of the situation yet.

He took out his phone, already trying to decide who would be the best person to call, and who he was most likely going to be able to reach.
His mind chose Nicky, as Neil's phone had to be either dead or back in their dorm considering how well he knew his teammate.

Nicky picked up after barely five seconds.
“Kevin?” his confused voice came from the other side of the line.
He didn’t seem too drunk or high thankfully.

“Get out of there now, we’re leaving. Tell Neil." Kevin's words were short and clipped, but he couldn't bring himself to form a full sentence now.

”What? Why?”

Kevin took a breath, trying to come up with the best way to describe the situation. He felt Andrew's gaze piercing into the back of his head sharply.
“You’ll see, just hurry up”

He would indeed see, Kevin just didn’t know how he would react and he wasn’t particularly keen on finding out.

Nicky sighed on the other end. “Sure, sure we're coming" he had to have sensed the urgency, that it wasn't a question, more of an order. "What about Andrew?”

“He’s already here”
Kevin didn’t waste a second to hang up. He let himself crouch down beside Charlie the same way Andrew did and began taking a closer look at him.

“He’s breathing, don’t worry,” Andrew said carelessly.
Kevin trusted his words but checked anyway.

“What happened?”

“Why are you asking me?” Andrew laughed “I came out here like five minutes before you did, it’s not like I know anything.”
Kevin shot him an angry glare, which only seemed to amuse Andrew more.

“He passed out, what do you want me to tell you?”

Kevin paused. “Did he… beat them alone?” He gestured behind him limply.

Andrew threw his hands up in the air.
“It certainly wasn’t me”

Kevin rolled his eyes and turned back to Charlie, who was still unconscious. He shook him roughly, trying to get the other to wake up.

“He’s not waking up,” he stated the obvious.
“Sure he isn’t.” Andrew turned his head away, failing to hide a smile that spread over his face. Kevin doubted he had even meant to in the first place.

“What-” the realization hit him, making his blood run cold. “Did you-”
"Calm down, Calm down Kevin” Andrew interrupted him.

“What did you do”

“It’s just a little something, it’s not gonna kill him don’t worry.”

“What did you give him” Kevin felt anger rush through his body. If this was going to be a repeat of last year, their line up would be truly fucked. Especially because Charlie was without a doubt currently one of their best players. With most of the foxes lack of skill, Kevin's broken hand that didn't say too much but it was something
Kevin couldn’t tell how good he really was yet, considering he had never even seen him during a real game, but what he knew was the fact that Charlie represented a crucial part to their line up, had been crucial since the first time they all played as a team.

“Drugs.” Andrew turned back to Kevin, smile bright and psychotic. Kevin didn’t dare to ask any further.

He didn’t get the chance to anyway since Nicky’s loud “Jesus fucking Christ” made Kevin, just as Andrew snap into his direction.
Neil followed right behind him, wearing an expression Kevin couldn’t quite read. But it was enough to tell him, Neil knew.

Andrew shot to his feet almost immediately not saying a word as he strode over to Neil.
Kevin had to force his gaze away from them, knowing it wasn't the right time and place to snap. Instead he focused on Nicky’s worried expression as he fell down to his knees beside him.

“What the hell happened… is he ok?”

Kevin nodded, “He will be.”
The foxes couldn’t afford this season to turn into as much of a shitshow as last year, they needed Charlie to make the difference this time, to get them out of this whole alongside of Kevin. There was no time for this.

“We’re leaving, now,” Kevin said following Nicky’s gaze back to Andrew and Neil, who seemed to be done with their conversation by now. Neil seemed angrier than before, Andrew, on the other hand, didn’t care enough to let go of his amused expression. He dug out the car keys from his pocket and spun them between his fingers, signalizing the others to get their shit going.

Nicky carefully picked up Charlie from the ground, then made his way over to the car after Kevin, where Neil and Andrew had already claimed the drivers and passenger seat.
The two of them ended up in the backseat, no one daring to say a word.
Nicky put down Charlie’s still limp body on the middle seat, then pulled the boy towards him so most of his upper body was resting in his lap.

This was going to be a wild ride back to Palmetto, Kevin could already tell and Andrew hadn’t even started the engine yet.