The van was silent on the drive back from the courthouse.
It had taken three and a half days of back and forth questioning and statements for the jury to come back after less than twenty minutes of deliberation.
Excerpt from the Columbia Post Crime Column:
The entire courtroom breathed a sigh of relief at the statement. Since his death, the LAPD had concluded their investigation into Drake Spear. The number of horrific acts Mr. Spear had performed the court heard were plenty, but the number that came out of the investigation was unbelievable. More than a few people left that courtroom, labeling Aaron Minyard a hero rather than a monster. None of this played any part of the not guilty verdict, that came because it was clear that Aaron Minyard acted to save his brother in the quickest way possible and had intended no major harm to Mr. Spear. The fact that he only swung once and then dropped the racket as soon as Mr. Spear was no longer a threat solidified that point both to the jury and to the public. The only person not relieved by the verdict was the victim’s mother, Cassandra Spear. Mrs. Spear was escorted out of the room by security as she became distraught. Her husband, Richard Spear, followed her out of the room, looking both relieved by the verdict and embarrassed by her actions. While Mrs. Spear maintained her son’s innocence against the evidence, Mr. Spear had a different reaction. In an interview outside of the courthouse, directly after they gave the verdict, he said: “My son was a disturbed man, and Mr. Minyard did the world a great service.”
While both Aaron Minyard and Andrew Minyard can start to heal and move on with their lives, there is no doubt that this experience will shape them forever. All parties associated with the Minyard’s refused an interview, but after the week they have had no one can blame them. The Foxes are on summer break for the next few weeks, hopefully, that will be long enough for them to piece their lives back together after this unfortunate ordeal.
Neil followed Andrew straight into the house while the others stayed outside to celebrate and hug. Andrew walked through the first floor to the stairs without slowing down, Neil had to jog a few paces to catch up with him. Once they hit the first landing, Andrew turned into the bathroom and turned on the shower. He climbed in, still dressed in his suit, and stood under the spray.
He didn’t seem to notice the water soaking his clothes or the drops making their way onto the bathroom floor. The shower curtain was wide open, so Neil pulled it until it was halfway closed. Andrew didn’t look away from the spot on the wall or acknowledge Neil in any way.
Neil climbed onto the countertop and settled down for a long wait. He didn’t want to leave Andrew alone when he was like this, but he didn’t think there was anything he could do to help. Silent support was the best option, he was there is Andrew needed anything, but he wasn’t making a show of himself.
Water dripped from the tip of his nose onto this brand new shoes. Couch had paid for them all to get new suits and shoes just for the court case, claiming they were a team expense. He also informed them that anyone who came to the hearing would burn their clothes in a bonfire at the end of the trial. Another drop made its way down Andrew’s face. Neil managed to track it down his neck and into his suit jacket before a knock on the door interrupted him.
“Who is it?” Neil said.
“Aaron. Do you know where Andrew is?”
Neil jumped down from the counter and opened the door slightly. “He’s in the shower. Could you grab us some clothes?”
“No. I just came up here to tell you that it’s just Katelyn and I now. Everyone else left to go get lunch,” Aaron said. As he looked Neil over relief flooded his face. Seeing Neil still dressed while Andrew was in the shower seemed to relax him. After what they had heard over the last few days Neil wasn’t surprised. It would probably be a while before Aaron was truly comfortable seeing Neil and Andrew interact as a couple.
Neil lowered his voice to make sure Andrew couldn’t hear him over the shower. “Aaron, I don’t want to leave him alone right now, could you just grab us some clothes?”
“Fine. Where’s your shit?”
“Just open drawers and grab two of everything. It doesn’t matter.”
Aaron turned and left without another comment. Stomping his feet as he made his way over to Andrew and Neil’s room. Neil closed the door again and turned back to Andrew, who was in the same position he had been the last time Neil looked at him.
“Aaron’s getting us some clothes,” Neil said. Andrew nodded, showing he wasn’t completely locked away in his own head yet. “Do you need help changing?”
Andrew nodded again.
“Umm… okay.” Neil hesitated, he didn’t know if he was the best option for the job. “Should I ask Aaron to do it?”
Andrew shook his head and cleared his throat. “He can supervise.”
Neil knew better than to take that as an insult. If it made Andrew feel safer, he had no problems with it. Aaron supervising wasn’t something against him, instead, it allowed Andrew to take back some of the control that he had lost. Neil waited until Aaron returned to decide. He didn’t want to get in the shower fully clothed like Andrew, but he wasn’t sure if he was completely comfortable with Aaron seeing all of his scars. Out of anyone on the team, Aaron was probably the best to show, as a pre-med biology major he probably had some experience seeing things that the average person would go their whole life without looking at.
Aaron knocked on the door and opened it slightly, setting the clothes on the counter.
“Can you come in here?” Neil asked.
Aaron poked his head in the room. “Everything okay?”
“Mind being our chaperone for a few minutes?”
“The fuck does that mean?”
Neil rolled his eyes. “Just come in here.”
Once Aaron was in the room with the door shut and locked Neil told him to sit. He looked confused but sat on the closed toilet lid. Neil was thankful that the cousins had such a nice house because the bathroom was large enough that the three of them could be in there without it feeling cramped. Aaron glanced at Andrew, fully clothed in the shower, looking confused.
“Have you taken anatomy?” Neil asked.
“Yes?” Aaron said. He looked even more confused now, brows furrowed and head tilted to the side.
Neil nodded. He took his suit off piece by piece, throwing each one in the corner when he was done. There was no point in treating it nicely when he was just going to burn it later. When he was down to his boxers, he stopped and turned toward the shower. The entire time he had been undressing he refused to look at Aaron, instead keeping his head down and focused on the clothes. Aaron made no comment on seeing him nearly naked, he was used to a locker room so the sight of another man undressing wasn’t unusual, even if Neil’s scars were.
“Ready?” Neil asked, stepping into the shower.
Andrew looked to him then back to the wall which Neil took as an acknowledgment of his presence and not that Andrew was answering the question.
“How are you feeling?”
The only reply was a tense shrug which didn’t give much information.
This time Andrew nodded. Neil thought of asking again to see if he would get a verbal answer but pushing Andrew even more past his limit than he already was seemed like a bad idea. If he wasn’t going to talk Neil was just going to have to pay closer attention to his body language and reactions. He started with the jacket, unbuttoning it and removing it carefully so he never touched Andrew directly. Once it was off of Andrew’s frame he threw it on the floor just outside the tub.
Next, he removed the tie, giving it the same treatment as the jacket. Neil could feel Aaron’s eyes on him, watching his every move waiting for Neil to make a mistake.
Neil reached for Andrew’s arm to undo the sleeves. “Do you want to keep these cufflinks?”
“No,” Andrew said, his voice horse and raw.
After undoing them, Neil threw the cuff links into the growing pile of clothes. When he reached for the top button of Andrew’s shirt he searched his face for any signs of discomfort or hesitation. Andrew didn’t look comfortable, but he wasn’t tensing up either. Neil undid the first button, freezing as his hand touched Andrew’s chest. Andrew, however, didn’t tense up more or freeze, instead, he closed his eyes and sighed.
Neil didn’t want to make the wrong move here. “Do you want Aaron to do this?”
With the next button, he tried to be more careful, but there was no way to undo the buttons when Andrew’s wet button-up was clinging to his undershirt without touching him. Instead of continuing with the futile effort, Neil switched tactics and tried to undo the buttons as quickly as he could to get it over with faster. When he reached the last one he gripped the sides of the shirt and gently pulled it out of where it was tucked into Andrew’s pants. Getting it off of his arms was even more difficult, the wet fabric wanted to cling to Andrew’s skin and Neil peeled it off.
He threw the shirt out of the shower without looking and slowly grabbed the hem of the undershirt. He pulled it with two fingers so he could get a solid grip on it and started to put it up.
“Left your arms,” Neil said. Andrew didn’t move immediately, causing Neil to think he had done something wrong. “Do you want to do this part yourself?”
“I don’t have the energy,” Andrew said. His rough voice sounded exhausted.
“Can you lift your arms?”
Finally, Andrew complied lifting them just long enough for Neil to get his shirt over his head before letting them fall again. The shirt was strung between his arms, trapping his hands inside. Neil pulled the shirt off and threw it out too. The next course of action was to take his belt and pants off, but Neil realized Andrew still had his shoes on. He decided to start with that.
Kneeling in the tub was new for him, but brought back memories of the first time Andrew had knelt in front of him. Neil wished the situation were under different circumstances, he hated that Andrew had been pushed past his limits over the last few days to that point that he was too emotionally exhausted to move or talk.
Aaron cleared his throat, reminding Neil he was there and drawing him out of his own head. He hadn’t realized just how long he had been frozen since he knelt down, but it was clearly long enough for Aaron to have a problem with it. Andrew put his hand on Neil’s shoulder for balance without looking down at him. Neil reached forward and untied both of Andrew’s shoes, pulling them off one at a time. The socks were next, and more difficult to get off than he had expected. After fighting with them for a moment he rolled them down and off of Andrew’s feet.
With that done, the only things left were the belt and pants. Neil stood up, rubbing at his knee for a moment and assessing the situation.
“Andrew,” Neil said, waiting until he looked him in the eye to carry on. “Can I do your belt?”
Andrew nodded and Neil carefully undid the latch. He pulled on the end, causing Andrew to tip forward for a moment and grab onto his arm.
“Sorry,” Neil said. He was more careful the next time he pulled on the belt, guiding it out of the loops instead of tugging on it with brute force.
“Pants?” Neil asked. When he was met with only a nod, he asked again.
“Yes, Neil,” Andrew said after the third time Neil asked.
Aaron cleared his throat again. Neil looked back at him and met his eye, his face screamed ‘tread lightly’. He turned back to Andrew and slowly undid the button, guiding the fabric down his legs and onto the floor. Andrew had to grab his arm again to step out of them, but he let go as soon as his foot hit the ground. Reaching around him, taking care not to touch, Neil turned off the shower. He held his hand out and Aaron handed him a towel which he wrapped around Andrew’s shoulders. They stepped out of the tub together.
Standing on the rub Neil didn’t know where to go from there. Andrew was still soaking wet and standing in his boxers, looking too exhausted to do anything about it. After a short pause, Neil grabbed the towel and gently rubbed Andrew’s arms and hair dry.
“Is this okay?”
Andrew cleared his throat. “Yes.”
“Can I keep going?” Neil wanted to be sure he wasn’t crossing any boundaries, especially when the results would be worse than normal.
Neil quickly leaned down and dried Andrew’s legs off, avoiding touching his boxers at all. He did another swipe of the towel over Andrew’s chest and back, then called it good.
“You need to do your boxers yourself,” Neil said. There were some lines he needed to draw for himself if Andrew wasn’t going to.
Andrew looked past Neil, to where Aaron was sitting. Aaron seemed to read his mind. He stood up and came over to him, shoving Neil out of the way in the process. Andrew held onto Aaron’s arm while he slid the garment off, Aaron handed him the replacement and he quickly put it on. While this was happening neither Andrew nor Aaron looked at him. Aaron chose a spot on the wall behind Neil, while Neil chose a spot on the wall behind Aaron.
Once Andrew was done he let go of Aaron and looked at Neil again. As much as Andrew took comfort in Aaron being there, it was clear that he needed Neil to be the one helping him.
It surprised Neil how unaffected Andrew seemed to be about changing in front of him. Sure he had seen Andrew change in the locker room before, but that differed completely from Neil doing it for him.
Neil didn’t want Andrew to feel exposed for any longer than he had to, so he quickly dried himself off and grabbed a pair of sweats that Aaron had brought in. He knelt down and held them open for Andrew to step into. Getting Andrew dressed was significantly easier than undressing him had been. Without the water making everything cling to him it was easy to pull the sweats up and settle them on his waist. Aaron had grabbed two shirts and two sweatshirts, which was only possible because Nicky kept the AC at 70 degrees no matter how hot it was outside. It took less than a minute to get Andrew situated in both his shirt and sweatshirt. With Andrew good to go Neil could finally dress himself.
He traded his wet boxers for dry ones as fast as he could, ignoring that Andrew and Aaron were both in the room, then shoved his legs into the sweats. He thought about going to the shirt first, but Aaron had seen his scars for the last fifteen minutes, it didn’t matter if he saw them for a few more. As he was pulling his shirt on there was a knock at the door.
“Do you guys know where Aaron is? The food is here,” Katelyn said.
“I’m in here noodle,” Aaron said. Neil had to force himself not to laugh at the ridiculous nickname. “Could you go grab me some clothes to change into?”
“Noodle?” Neil asked.
“Oh, fuck you,” Aaron said with no venom. His cheeks and ears were turning red, making his scowl less than effective.
Katelyn knocked again when she came back and Andrew opened the door letting her in. He closed it behind her and locked it. While the room was big enough for Aaron and Neil while Andrew as in the shower, it was feeling crowded with all four of them standing there. Katelyn set the clothes down and turned to leave, only to have Andrew standing in her way. She turned back to Aaron and sent him a look.
“I’m going to take a shower,” Aaron said as he took off his jacket and added it to the pile on the floor. “Would you mind staying here?”
Katelyn looked from Aaron to Neil and back again. “Do I have to?”
“No noodle.” Aaron sent Neil a look when he coughed back a laugh. “We aren’t ready to face the celebration committee downstairs. I guess you can go back to them if you want to.”
“Oh,” Katelyn said. “Ummm… I don’t really want to deal with them either.”
She sat on the toilet lid, stealing the seat Neil was hoping for. Instead, he climbed onto the countertop, digging around in the drawer between his legs for a brush while Aaron undressed and climbed into the shower. He pointed the brush at Andrew for a moment, then started in on his own hair when Andrew didn’t step closer to him. When he finished, Andrew stood in between his legs. Neil reached the brush toward him, but Andrew caught his wrist.
“Gentle,” he said firmly.
Neil smiled. “Of course.”
He took his time brushing through Andrew’s hair, putting as little pressure as possible on any one spot. By the time he was done Aaron was climbing out of the shower with a towel wrapped around his waist. Aaron dried himself off quickly and got dressed with no fuss. It was still weird to Neil that everyone else seemed to be used to changing and showering in front of other people. He knew that they were all used to locker rooms and showers without stalls from away games and high school, but he could not fathom being that comfortable with himself.
With everyone changed, showered, and dressed there was no reason for them to stay in the bathroom any longer, but Aaron was right, Neil didn’t feel like celebrating.
That was a win for all of them, but it didn’t feel like something to celebrate. It wasn’t that kind of win. It was the kind of win where a man was dead and the courts aired the deepest secrets of a survivor in front of the entire world for them to judge. Going downstairs to be met with cheers and smiles from Bee, Coach and Nicky didn’t feel right.
Aaron hugged Katelyn tightly, squeezing her until her back popped. He buried his head in her hair and took a deep breath.
A knock on the door made them all jump.
“Who’s all in there?” Nicky asked.
“We’re all in here,” Neil said dreading that they’d been caught. “We’ll be out in a minute.”
“Are you hiding?”
“No,” Neil said. Aaron snorted and Katelyn gave him a small smile.
Nicky sighed, the door muffling the sound, but still loud enough for them to hear it. “Coach is going back to his hotel room. If y’all are going to stay in there all night, I can just go with him. I totally get it if you all want to decompress with your partners.”
Neil looked at Aaron and Katelyn, who both nodded at him, then to Andrew. Andrew had bags under his eyes from a week of barely sleeping, his eyes looked dull, and his usually blank expression was slipping into fatigue.
“Okay,” Neil said, letting some of his own exhaustion slip into his voice. “That might be best. I don’t think any of us are up for celebrating right now.”
“I’ll bring the food up.”
It didn’t take long for Nicky to return.
He knocked on the door once. “It’s out here when you’re ready. Try to eat something soon. I know Aaron and Andrew didn’t eat breakfast this morning. I’m going to stay at the hotel with Wymack tonight, but text me if you need anything. I love you.”
Nicky didn’t wait for a reply, footsteps going down the stairs let Neil know he turned and left as soon as he finished talking. Aaron went to the door, opening it just enough to grab the Subway bag and pull it in.
Eating in the bathroom was gross, but after so long in there it felt like the safest place to be, the world couldn’t touch them in there. Neil wondered if eating in the bathroom brought back any bad memories of his detoxing days for Aaron, but he didn’t bring it up. The events of the last week had been bad enough there was no reason to pick at other old wounds too.
They ate in silence. Aaron sitting on the edge of the bathtub with Katelyn sitting on the floor between his legs, and Neil sitting on the counter with Andrew standing between his legs. They were all close together, but none of them were touching. There was too much for each of them to process to add touching into the mix.
For now, that’s all that mattered.