Neil is having one of those days. The kind where their chest hurts a little too much for a binder and they are living for the sports bra and hoodie aesthetic. They even just had the sides of their head shaved down, and yet -
Neil is honestly going to hit the next person who calls them ma’am, or miss, or “this girl was waiting in line before me”. In regards to that last one part of him feels he can’t even be that angry at because the person at the Burger King had been trying to be nice and helpful and Neil probably looks a little like death. They blame finals, of the educational variety that is.
Neil slumps into a cheap plastic chair in the corner of the place, their shoulder pressing up against the window. They’d borrowed the Maserati to come over to the mall. Giving gifts wasn’t their usual way of showing gratitude but Aryn has been so helpful and patient when helping Neil with figuring out their identity. Andrew was amazing and supportive, but it was Aryn that helped Neil come out of their shell more.
Neil finishes their burger and wipes sauce from the corner of their mouth. Neil was always a messy eater, it probably came from having to devour entire meals in roughly three seconds while on the run with their mother. “ We don’t have time to slow down Anna” Neil clenches their fist by their side and throws the rubbish from the meal into the bin and walks out into the mall.
Neil has no idea what to buy for Aryn. There’s a banquet coming up so maybe a nice new dress, but she’s more of a jeans and t-shirts kind of a person, and jewellery wise she pretty much wears the same simple earrings and not much else. A new video game might be an idea or some cool new stationery for her classes. Neil hadn’t particularly thought about a budget for the gift. They wander around for a bit trying to find absolutely anything that catches their attention. Finally, Neil walks passed a Hot Topic store and thinks why the hell not. The store is larger on the inside than he’s expecting. Neil spots a bunch of soft-looking blankets and makes a beeline for them. They start to look through them trying to find the perfect one. A few are pretty promising -- one of Pikachu and Eevee for example. Neil doesn’t care much for Pokemon but both Aryn and Andrew love it. The one that really gets their attention is a black blanket that simply says NOT TODAY in white writing with a simple flopped-down cat. Neil actually giggles out loud. It sounds so much like Aryn.
Neil picks it up and takes it up to the front counter to pay, the person smiles at them and Neil notices they have a couple of badges on the front of their vest. They pay for the item, not even listening to the price. The person tells him to have a nice day and Neil automatically echoes the words. They’d really liked those badges.
Neil walks out to the Maserati and puts the blanket into their backpack. They want to make it less obvious there’s a present when they get back to the dorms. While stuffing the gift into the new bag something falls out of the one provided by the store. Neil frowns he picks up whatever it is from the floor of the car. A “Fuck your gender norms” badge. Neil runs a thumb across it and pins it to their hoodie. It’s a shock to be known by people, especially strangers, but a welcomed one.
It takes barely any time to drive back to campus and Neil parks the Maserati in its usual spot. It isn’t official reserved or anything but for some reason, all of Fox Tower has collectively, somewhat subconsciously, decided to never park there. Neil turns off the engine and steps out. Andrew is standing just outside of the lobby waiting, a burning cigarette in hand.
“I thought you’d be on the roof,” Neil says by way of greeting. Andrew takes a drag of the smoke and leans forward to kiss Neil. Neither of them are big on public displays of affection but no one is in the carpark or can be seen inside the building.
“I felt like a change of scenery,” which is Andrew speak for “I was waiting for you”
Neil can’t help but smile a little and Andrew scowls at them. It’s Andrew’s fond scowl and makes Neil smiles even wider. Neil links Andrew and their pinky fingers together for a second like kids do when making promises and tugs him into the tower. The two of them have pulled apart by the time they reach the elevator but Neil appreciates the small allowed act of intimacy. The other foxes still sometimes don’t see what Neil and Andrew see in each other, but this is one thing in particular that their opinions don’t matter on.
“I got the goods,” Neil says.
“You’re an idiot,” Andrew responds, “I’m sure she’ll love whatever you got.” The doors open into the general chaos of people walking and yelling down the halls. Kevin is having some sort of argument with someone from the girl's soccer team and she looks about ready to throw hands.
“Should we break that up?” Neil asks.
Andrew glances in that direction and shrugs. “He needs to learn to fend for himself sometime.” He pushes the door to the suite open leading Neil inside. Aryn is already there, half hanging off the couch and reading medical jargon. There are at least three energy drink cans lined up neatly on the small coffee table in front of her and her hair is falling in her face. Neil walks past and grabs a hairband from the bathroom and hands it over. Aryn looks at them in a daze before accepting the offering.
“Hey so I want to talk to you about something important,” Neil says. Aryn looks up at them in surprise, closing her book in the process.
“What’s the matter Neil?” she asks, her voice filled with genuine worry. It's a testament to far both of them have come since they first met a couple of years ago.
Neil sits down next to her, they still aren’t good at all of this emotional bullshit. “I got you a gift for being there for me when I need someone to talk to and I didn’t really know how to say it with words.”
“You literally could have just said hey thanks, you emotionally constipated moron,” Aryn tells them and Andrew makes a sound in the background that might possibly be laughter. “Oh shut up Andrew,” she tells her twin. “You’re so much worse.”
“Sure, but it didn’t actually feel sincere or tangible in my head like I could just take away my gratitude on a whim,” Neil tries to explain and Aryn gives them a weird look.
“Alright then you weirdo let’s have the physical manifestation of your appreciation,” Aryn says holding out her hands. Neil pulls the blanket from their bag and dumps it unceremoniously on top of her. She splutters a little in surprise.
“Ah, I can feel the love from over here,” Andrew says from his perch on the kitchen counter. At some point, he’s even made himself hot chocolate. Aryn pokes her tongue out at him which for the twins is actually pretty tame. Neil had been halfway expecting her to launch over the couch and tackle her brother off the bench.
“It’s so soft,” she says burying her face in the material with a happy sigh. Neil can’t help the happy little smile that crosses their face. They’ve been smiling more and more lately.
“You’re both pathetic,” Andrew complains coming over the couch and squeezing himself between Neil and the arm. He reaches out a spare hand out to touch the blanket and grunts a little in a somewhat agreeable manner. Neil’s leg settles against Andrew’s. Andrew looks at them for a moment and then continues to drink his hot chocolate.
“I’m glad you like it,” Neil tells Aryn, “I was so nervous about getting the wrong thing. You know, I think I was more freaked out than when I was on the run.”
The twins both turn to look at him.
“A joke, it was a joke!” Neil protests right before they both punch them in the gut.