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I'm Not the Villain I Appear to Be

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After visiting Kevin at the police academy a couple of times, Andrew deduced two things from observing him. 

First was that the man was a pretty sharp shot. He managed to shoot down every target given to him, making him almost as good as Andrew. Which wasn't too overly surprising considering his past. Speaking of his past, Kevin had been worriedly nagging Andrew that he thought all the cops training would hate him because of what he used to be involved in. But in actuality, they were all very accepting of Kevin. 

At least at first. They soon hated him for a different reason entirely. 

When Day started going from widened awe to narcissistic criticism, a lot of the cops in training there grew quickly tired of his superiority complex. 

Which brings Andrew to his second deduction. Kevin was a pain in the ass. Looks like he finally found his calling because Day had been doing nothing but researching and bitching at Andrew to do stupid shit to be a better detective. He had a fire he hadn't once possessed. Neil called it passion, Andrew argued obsession. 

Either way, at the end of the day it was a distraction. Which is what Kevin needed. 

Kevin was in the gun range and Andrew was behind the bulletproof glass, boredly looking through his phone. Neil was beside him, tagging along because he had nothing else better to do. 

Andrew glanced at the man to see him intently studying Kevin. He had that dreamy look to him that said he was contemplating something. 

"You thinking about joining the pig pen too Josten?" Andrew asked, half joking half serious.

Neil smiled and simply looked from Kevin to his lap "Hmm, I dunno. I think I'd miss you chasing me around."

Andrew rolled his eyes "You don't need more people after your sorry ass." 

The man hummed "I guess you're right…" His tone was somber, an undertone of something dark lurking nearby.

Andrew put a hand on the back of his neck and Neil didn't even stiffen. He smiled slightly, sadly, gaze still glued to his lap. 

Andrew didn't know what else to do, so he took his hand away and offered a silent presence at Neil's side. 

Once Kevin was finished about 30 minutes later he entered the viewing area and motioned to Andrew and Neil that he was ready to go. 

They followed him out and all piled into the Maserati, Kevin ranting about different shooting techniques while Neil politely listened. Andrew rudely ignored him but Kevin seemed used to it at this point. 

The sun was starting to set as they drove to Andrew's (and now Kevin's) apartment complex. Kevin babbled all the way to their door until Andrew opened it and went inside. He would have slammed the door to shut the man up, but Neil was behind him so he left it ajar. Andrew still sauntered inside without a word of response though, leaving Neil to take care of the child.

After a couple of moments Neil clicked the door gently and heaved a large sigh. 

"Tired of babysitting?" Andrew commented dryly while he took off his coat. "Now you know how I feel."

Neil rolled his eyes and started taking his jacket off as well. 

Josten looked more tired than usual, had been looking that way all week. Andrew was feeling a bit sluggish at the moment as well, so he rolled his shoulder and suggested "Nap?" 

Neil nodded while hiding a yawn with his fist. 

They changed into some sweatpants and crawled under the covers, the late sun casting the room in a bright gold. 

Once Andrew got comfortable, Sir decided then was a perfect time to climb the covers and lay on top of Andrew's chest, purring ceaselessly. No matter how many times Andrew insisted he didn't care about the dumb cats, he couldn't really make up an excuse for the music that slowly came into his brain . It was probably also a combination of how comfortable Andrew was and the fact Neil's warm body lay close by.

"Pest." Andrew whispered to Sir, but contradicted himself by petting her anyways. She purred harder and pushed her forehead onto Andrew's lips in request for kisses.

He rolled his eyes but kissed her soft head anyways. 

He felt eyes on the side of his head so Andrew turned to look at Neil. He was staring at Andrew with a gentle smile and sleepy eyes.

"Go to sleep idiot." Andrew chided with little to no heat. 

Neil ignored the command "Can this stray get kisses too?"

He was clearly joking, but Andrew started turning on his side, causing Sir to jump off and walk over to join King who was laid down in between their legs. He looked into Neil's eyes, and before he could ask Neil said "Yes."

They slowly leaned towards each other. When they kissed, it was soft and gentle. Neil pressed in a bit more, tapping a finger to Andrew's jaw in question. He guided Neil's hand with his own to the side of his face in permission.

With Neil cradling Andrew's cheek he deepened the kiss, but not to heat up anything. In fact there was a moment where he stayed still and held his breath in his nose, as if he was trying to commit the moment to memory. 

Andrew pulled back to look at Neil, and was right in time to see how much pain was in those blue eyes before he forced on a blank mask.

"What's wrong?"

"I'm fine-"

"Is it a no?" Andrew had a serious tone that said he won't accept Neil to lie, not about this. 

"It's a yes, I promise."

He scrutinized Josten and found no lies hidden anywhere. Andrew nodded, but didn't go back in for another kiss. 

Instead, he pulled Neil to his chest and spoke into his auburn curls that burned like fire in the light "Go to sleep Neil." he reiterated.

Neil shuddered and clutched at Andrew's shirt "Is this okay?"

"Yes." 

And with that Neil finally relaxed. The feeling of warm breath from a sigh escaping onto Andrew's chest made his arms raise with goosebumps. 

Andrew spent the next half hour trying to decipher Neil's weird mood and the stormy waters in those eyes before the music finally lulled him to sleep. 

 


 

It was dark outside when he woke again, and instead of Neil in his arms, it was Sir and King bundled to his chest. Andrew felt concerned that he had somehow not woken up to Neil getting out of bed.

He sat up, there was only one source of illumination, that being from the dim kitchen stove light. He saw Neil with his back to Andrew all dressed to go outside in the kitchen. He was tense as all hell, and looking down at his phone.

Andrew threw aside the blankets and put his feet on the floor. 

“Neil.”

The man jumped and turned around. He must have been spacing out pretty hard if he didn’t hear Andrew’s movements.

“Andrew,” he breathed.

He looked panicked and miserable. Like he was two seconds from falling apart. Andrew got up and headed to Neil, sliding a hand to the back of his neck when he was close enough.

“Tell me what’s been up with you.” Andrew pressed. He hated seeing him like this.

“It-It’s-” he stopped himself, unable to calm down.

Andrew attempted to console him “Abram.” He said. A truth Neil had given him not too long ago.

Neil looked into his eyes. Andrew hadn’t seen him this lost in a while. 

Eventually Neil sighed, the tension loosening only slightly. “It was a nightmare.”

Andrew raised his eyebrow. That might have sufficed for how he was acting right now, but lately Neil had been more exhausted than usual. There was more to it than that.

Neil read between the silent lines and elaborated “I’ve been having them a lot lately…”

He didn't seem to be lying, but there seemed to be something missing. But if Neil didn't want to tell him, Andrew wouldn't push it. Sliding his hand off Neil’s neck, Andrew nodded in acceptance. 

“I have to go…” Neil turned slightly towards the door, the tension back all over again. 

“Let me walk you down.” Truthfully, he wanted to have Neil stay so he could calm him, but if he wanted to leave Andrew wouldn't stop him.

At Andrew’s request Neil opened his mouth like he wanted to argue, but stopped himself and forcefully nodded. Andrew slid into some jeans and put his leather coat on. He put his gun into his inner pocket, just in case. 

They took the stairs with Neil right behind him. The man was so spaced out he missed a step and tripped. Andrew quickly turned and caught him.

He hissed “Be careful idiot,” as Neil harshly wheezed into his shoulder.

Neil clutched Andrew’s forearms, and with a voice coated in grief replied, “I’m sorry.”

Why was he reacting to something so minuscule like it was the end of the world?

“Neil-” Andrew needed answers. This was more than nightmares he knew it-

Neil turned to look up at Andrew. The pain was hurricanning in his eyes, it was filled with desolation and hopelessness and death. But when he looked at Andrew he blinked, and a single speck of light shone through the clouds. He swallowed and mustered just enough energy to smile wobbly. 

Andrew couldn’t look away if he tried, even though Neil’s expression was breaking apart what little was left of Andrew’s heart.

“Andrew… I-” He licked his lips to scratch the thought. 

“Neil,” Andrew stressed. It was the only thing he could say.

Neil searched Andrew’s gaze and found the words he wanted there. He said “Thank you.” He said it like goodbye-  he said it like ‘amen’ 

“You were amazing.”

Before Andrew could even breathe Neil took off past him, running down the stairs. 

Andrew shouted after him and ran as well, but Neil was fast. When Andrew burst out onto the first floor Neil was already out the main doors. 

“Neil!” He shouted.

But when he made it outside Neil was gone. He must have disappeared behind an alley somewhere. Andrew ran, the hellfire of his emotions fueling him in his hunt to find Neil. He went to an alley he thought was closest but couldn’t see any sign of the man. 

Where is he

Andrew kept looking, kept sprinting through wherever Neil could easily disappear. 

Where-

There was a noise that stopped Andrew dead in his tracks, the alley he was just about to pass had voices talking around the corner. Andrew quietly snuck down til he was right against the edge, still out of sight. 

“Nathaniel, you’ve grown so much.” A woman purred.

“Ugh,” It was Neil- “You haven’t aged well at all you fucking hag-” 

But Neil cut himself off, hissing in pain. Andrew took out his gun and peered around the corner to see Neil with his hands held by a man at his back. He couldn’t see his face. The woman who Andrew heard was visibly blocked by the man and Neil in front of him. Andrew noticed the man was much taller than Neil, so he shot him in the head, thankful the bullet couldn’t travel further to hurt Neil.

Andrew emerged out to take aim at the woman but she was faster. Spinning Neil and herself around, she took a knife that she had in her hand and aimed it at Neil’s neck. 

“Hah,” The bitch breathed out “You’re lucky that wasn't someone important.”

“Let him go.” Andrew warned dangerously, walking towards her with the gun still aimed.

“I wouldn’t do that,” she said, saccharine sweet, and cut a slit in Neil’s neck. Neil gasped and his eyes shut for a moment.

Andrew stopped, suddenly seeing red. But he needed to keep a straight head on or Neil wouldn’t make it out of this

“This boy has caused us a lot of trouble young man. I would keep your grubby little hands out of it, or I’ll see to it that you pay.”

Before Andrew could respond he noticed Neil’s eyes widen and his mouth open to speak. 

“Andrew, behi-”

Then something solid rammed into the back of Andrew’s head, causing an explosion of pain to rush into his skull. Adrenaline quickly followed suit to soothe it away, but Andrew felt himself start to lose consciousness.

He saw Neil shout and struggle against his entrapment before black nothingness consumed him. 

 


 

Andrew awoke to voices arguing. His temples and the back of his skull were pulsing with pain and his eyes cracked open to see a semi familiar environment. He was in Kevin’s apartment. 

Kevin and Wymack were discussing something in the other room by the sounds of it. Andrew’s head was killing him but he sat up anyways.

Neil-

Before Andrew could get up to leave and look for Neil, He saw something familiar on Kevin’s coffee table.

Neil’s phone .

Andrew quickly snatched it up and opened to the home screen. He looked through his texts and saw nothing unusual. Texts from Jean, Kevin, and himself, but there had to be some sort of clue on here. Neil had been looking at his phone like the bells of death had wrung from it before he disappeared. 

He went through the call log and saw a phone number that was unrecognizable. That moment was when Kevin and his father had entered the room.

“Andrew- you’re awake?” Kevin rushed to his side and looked at what Andrew was doing.

Wymack crossed his arms and said, “Kevin told me he followed you because you had left to walk Neil down and hadn’t come up in a while. He went to see what was going on when he saw you pointing a gun at someone in an alley nearby. Then some thug knocked you out.”

“I managed to injure him before he could kill you.” Kevin rubbed the back of his neck “But they got away before I…” He trailed off.

Oho, someone looked a bit guilty didn't they? “They have Neil?” Andrew’s cold voice was coated with the sweet promise of violence.

Kevin flinched and glanced away. 

Andrew ignored the two men and looked through Neil’s deleted messages. There he found a multitude of texts from the same phone number. It was clearly a countdown, they were counting up?

No.

These were deleted in order of when they were sent, they were counting down. With trembling hands Andrew pressed on the message “0” to see the timestamp.

It was from today.

Baltimore has him. Nathan has him-

Andrew was trying to focus but the horror of all this was bringing a twisted amalgamation of noise to the forefront of Andrew's brain. It was an immense challenge to hear anything else. It was just like all the other times when he had no control, when he was being held down in beds and the "music" had become indistinguishable from real life. Sometimes, there'd be ghosts of real sounding music, of real melodies, but all it did was lure him into a false sense of security before going back to something more horrid and twisted sounding.

Andrew had to focus. He had no choice. He pushed passed the unsettling piano keys stabbing into his brain and flaying his skin to look at the time. Neil had been taken about an hour ago. The distance between Baltimore and Colorado was great, so Andrew doubted they'd be taking him there. He had to check anyways. 

"Kevin," Andrew pushed out through gritted teeth "Are they taking Neil to Baltimore or somewhere else?"

The man was thrown off by the question, but didn't waste time to ask for clarification. After a moment of thought he said "Most likely somewhere in between us and Baltimore. They don't have a lot of time since they don't want the Moriyama's finding out they have Neil until they're done with him." 

Kevin was in his analysis mode, so he didn't realize how cruel the last part of what he just said was until he snapped out of it. He flinched when he realized what came out of his mouth. Wymack cursed and rubbed his jaw. 

"They're not going to get the fucking chance to be 'done with him'" Andrew growled. He stood up and started walking closer to Kevin "You're the only one who knows the most about this. Where are they taking him?" 

Kevin backed away, looking nervous. "I- I don't know-" 

Andrew fisted his shirt with two hands and threw him against the wall "That answer won't work. Think ." his anger was spewing all over the place like acid, uncontrollable and calamitous.

Wymack interjected "Andrew. Back off. If he doesn't know he doesn't know-" 

"Ch-Chicago." Kevin blurted out.

Andrew clenched his fists in the cotton of Kevin's shirt " Where in Chicago?" 

"I… I think Nathan has a base there in the near north side he does business with. Ichirou wanted to reclaim it and Riko caught wind. He was going to try to reclaim it first for the main branch but that was around the time I left. I'm pretty sure neither ever got to it."

Minyard loosened his grasp and stepped away.

He turned towards the door but the Chief blocked his way. Andrew looked up to the man with a dangerous glint in his eye "I'd suggest you move. I'm going after him." 

"I know you are. But you aren't going alone. We need a game plan." Wymack turned to Kevin with his eyebrow raised "Are you coming with?" 

Kevin shook his head at first but then seemed to think better of it. After a moment of cowardice debate with himself he straightened then said "Y-yeah."

"Great." The Chief said "How are they going to get to Chicago?" 

Kevin snagged his coat off a chair and walked closer to the two men as he answered "Car most likely," 

Wymack rubbed his stubbled chin in thought "Hmm. We might be able to follow by car as well. We'd be an hour behind. Would we make it in time before they do something to him?" 

There were flashes of images from Andrew's college days of victims found in the bottoms of rivers in Baltimore, making his heart rate spike. Speculation said they were all done by the butcher, but no decisive evidence could pin it on him. If chopped off limbs and tongues and gouged out eyes were anything to go by then Neil wasn't going to come out of this unscathed. 

The thought that every second was a second where Neil was being tortured made the stress careen upwards, the "music" paralleling it horribly. 

Andrew growled "We're taking my car. Let's go-" 

Wymack put a hand up "Hold on Minyard, we need a more decisive plan-" 

Andrew pulled a knife and slammed the man up against the door, pointing the weapon at his stomach. Wymack grunted slightly but made no move to push Minyard off. 

"We don't have fucking time " Andrew spat "We're leaving. Now."

Minyard didn't wait for a response. He threw open the door and started heading down the stairs from the apartment. If these fuckers weren't in the car with him within one minute he was off on his own.

Andrew got into the car. Ten seconds of ear grinding noise coupled with sharp, torturous, agonizing anxiety was enough for him to turn the ignition early and take off down the road. He GPSed Chicago to get a vague direction before heading towards the highway. 

Once onto it he sped up and swerved around cars, his hands shaking. Half an hour passed before he realized he was panting heavily, unable to really calm down. His vision started to tunnel out, the panic making it hard to drive properly. A ring tone coming from his phone startled him enough to grab it. 

"Jesus Minyard. Don't just take off like that." The Chief said once Andrew answered the call. 

Andrew took a deep breath like Bee told him and held it for a moment.

"Andrew?" Wymack pressed. 

He released his breath slowly and managed to get his borderline panic attack under control. 

"We are heading to Chicago by car. Anything else will waste too much time and if we are quick enough we will catch up to them." 

"... Alright." 

Andrew glanced in the rearview to see Wymack's police cruiser. He must not have noticed him before with his lights on. That would have been the only way he could have caught up with Andrew. 

“How much gas do you have?”

“We’ll get off of the highway 385 exit. That has a gas station we can refuel at.”

“Ok. I’ll turn on my lights so it looks like I’m escorting you.”

Andrew swerved around a car that was going too slow and replied “No, don’t. It’s too suspicious. We might pass them and if they see police in pursuit they might change their destination.”

“Hmm. I guess you’ve got a point.”

Usually Andrew would say some witty comment about strapping for a 15 hour drive but instead he simply hung up. 

Right afterwards he gave Renee a call, the only other person besides Neil that had a spare to his apartment, and asked her to look after the cats before hanging up. 

Now he was simply alone with the sound in his head and the anxiety in his chest. And it was eating away at anything that could have ever flowered or blossomed by Neil's loving hand in the cold dirt of Andrew's heart.

 


 

For the first hour Andrew was in so much panic that he struggled not to have a full blown breakdown while driving. The next 12 hours following he felt so numb that he ended up dissociating most of the drive there. Wymack and Kevin got no responses out of him at the pit stops. 

It was now 10:30 AM Central Standard Time. They were only 15 miles from their destination, managing to shave off two hours from driving so fast. Andrew had a feeling whoever took Neil probably went around the same speed as them. Wymack said Kevin checked every car they passed and he didn’t recognize any of the drivers or passengers. 

When they finally entered the city, Andrew snapped out of his stupor, the anxiety coming back all over again. The entire trip kept Andrew inside his musical hell. A wonderland of gross sound that made the real life noise confusing and strange. Actual music didn’t sound right. 

Andrew would happily stay in this horrible cacophony for all eternity if it would get Neil back alive and okay. 

They arrived in the near north side of Chicago and finally stepped out of the car. Andrew immediately went to asking people around the sketchy neighborhoods where the butchers infamous building was. 

It took a bit of time but eventually a kid on his bike told them It was a couple blocks down in a white brick warehouse. 

When Andrew found it he physically had to restrain himself from just bursting in. Andrew, Wymack and Kevin grouped up in front of the building. 

"Alright. We need to think this through. How many do you think are in here? And where are they hiding Neil?"

Andrew would have listened to Kevin's response to his father but something caught his eye. A sleek black car, one too nice to be in this side of town was parked across the street. The windows were tinted so Andrew couldn't tell if someone was in there. 

"Hey." Andrew elbowed Kevin. "Is that Moriyama?" 

A car like that would have been too suspicious to haul Neil in, there was someone else visiting. 

Kevin rubbed his arm before looking at the vehicle. He scrunched his eyebrows in confusion. "No… they use almost exclusively Japanese brands. That's… I don't know who that is." 

Before anyone could say anything else someone was getting out of the car on the passenger's side. A man in a well tailored grey suit was heading towards an alley on the other side of the building. He seemed content to ignore the three. Luckily no one was in uniform, and Wymack's police cruiser was parked in hiding far off from where they were. Andrew's gut told him to follow. 

He started walking into the alley next to the building that was parallel to the one the man entered and heard Wymack and Kevin hiss at him to stop. 

Andrew turned the corner and hid behind a large and old electric box that blocked out his already short figure from potentially being spotted.  

A middle aged British man's voice spoke up from around the corner. Andrew couldn't see them, so just eavesdropping would have to do. 

"Staurt got 'im?"

Another voice, one much deeper replied also carrying an English accent.

"Not yet."

And exhale, probably from a cigarette.

"... We aren't too late are we?"

"Naw." A pause "Nathan's likes doin a slower job." 

Andrew felt his stomach clench and his vision blur out for a moment as a cruel and gruesome images bulldozed their way into Andrew's brain.

"Stuart won't be happy with that."

"No, he won't. Suppose depending on what the news with Mary is we won't have to deal with him for much longer."

He heard shuffling before a door opened and closed, silence following soon after.

He felt a presence at his back and found Kevin and Wymack sneaking to meet him. Andrew swallowed the lump in his throat and looked at the two detectives.

At their questioning looks, Andrew motioned his head in the direction of the Brits and mouthed the word ' door'. The other two nodded and Andrew gave them the signal to wait while he peeked his head out. 

Finding that no one was there, he quickly sidled against the wall and checked to see if the door was unlocked.

It was. 

Turning back around, Andrew signaled the other two to follow him. 

When all three entered the threshold it was still. The warehouse was full of huge metal storage containers that they haul on boats and not much else. But what caught Andrew's attention was what was in the corner of the room. 

A door that had light shining through the edges was barely visible over one of the crates. 

Andrew stopped Kevin and Wymack by outstretching an arm to block their path. 

"There is going to be someone outside the door guarding it. We need a distraction." Andrew whispered. 

"A distraction?" Kevin protested quietly "Whoever is there will kill us if they find out someone's in here."

Andrew shook his head and motioned at the copious amount of graffiti on the walls. "This is a sketchy neighborhood. People sneak in here all the time. They put someone out there to guard the door but also to ward away any passerbies." He squinted as he snuck forward and hid against one of the large metal transportation crates. Kevin and Wymack followed obediently. "If they decide to shoot then they'd have to flee quickly as to not get spotted." 

"And they want as much time as they can get." Wymack guessed. 

Andrew didn't bother affirming. He turned his head around the corner and saw a different man-probably the one grey suit was talking to-stationed outside the door. 

"Distraction. Now."

There was silence before Wymack sighed and said "I can go and do it I guess."

"Fine. Go."

The man mussed his hair and took some dirt that was nearby to rub it on his face and clothes. Kevin gave a disgusted scoff. 

Wymack glared at his son before going back to the entrance and signaling that he was ready. Andrew and Kevin navigated closer to the door but still out of sight of it. They gave Wymack a thumbs up and he opened the door they came through loudly and shut it, sitting up straight to stumble around in a drunken manner. 

"Who's there?" The suited man quickly walked around the storage containers to Wymack.

"Whut'r you askin' for fuckface?" The Chief slurred. 

"Get out. Now." 

Before Wymack or the man could do anything more, Andrew approached the suit's back and slammed the hilt of his gun into his neck, hitting the pressure point there to knock him out. Who knew he'd be doing that move so often.

The man fell and Andrew immediately turned around, uncaring about the body.

He put his ear up to the door as Kevin and Wymack reconvened and walked towards him. The voices were strained, Andrew was unable to make out the words. Then a gunshot with a silencer sang deeply from the other side.

No.

Before he could register his movements Andrew was already yanking the door open, throwing caution to the wind as his brain screamed with worry. 

What if they shot Neil-

What if-

But then Andrew was in the room and there was only one thing that he could focus on.

He looked past the blond man in a dark blue suit swiveling his head and pointing his gun at Andrew. Didn’t care to see the corpse of someone with familiar features but a body that was far too broad and far too calloused from gruesome work. Didn’t see the two other suits pointing their weapons at Andrew’s entrance along with blondie.

Andrew didn’t care that he surely would have been shot on the spot if it weren’t for a distinct shout and Kevin and Wymack coming in with their guns ready as well. 

No. None of that mattered.

Because a man with blood covering him and matted auburn hair and hauntingly alive and blue eyes lay sitting in the corner. Clothes torn to shreds, stained almost black with oxidized blood, and new wounds that were fresh and oh so deep.

Andrew felt his own deep wound begin to sting, a slash of anger so raw and bleeding that he went charging forward without a care in the world.

“Andrew!” Neil shouted in protest. Kevin grabbed Andrew’s arm as did Wymack while still pointing their guns. Andrew would have easily broken free but the microscopic part of his logical brain that was left amongst all the panic said if he initiated a fire fight now, Neil might not make it out alive.

“Who the fuck are you?” The blond man asked in warning, ready to kill at any second.

“Don’t do anything Stuart, they are friends of mine.” Neil breathlessly provided the answer.

The man turned to Neil with a confused look to his eye “‘Friends’ you say? Are they with the Moriyama’s or your father?”

“Neither” Neil growled, attempting to stand and failing. “They are trying to take down the bastards.”

The man-or rather Stuart-turned back to his surprise ‘guests’ with a disgusted snarl to his lip “Pigs? Oh come on Abram, you should know better than that. They black mailing you? We can get rid of that right here right now-”

“Stuart if you and your men don’t put down your weapons right fucking now I swear to god I will hunt you down and rip out your throat myself.”

Stuart threw over a solemn look to Neil “Just like your mother you are…” he muttered.

Slowly, everyone put their weapons down at the same time, the dangerous tension letting up only gradually. 

Andrew ran over to Neil as the other man attempted to crawl closer. He collapsed in front of him and put his hands near the sides of Neil’s face, not touching because of the injuries there. There were burns on his right cheek, like someone held a flame to the side of his face and let the heat climb it's way up. The other side had two deep gashes that looked burned and inflamed on the edges. Like someone had heated up a knife redhot to carve into Neil's face with-

Who did this-” Andrew spilled his fury out through clenched teeth.

“They’re dead.” Neil interrupted with an uncharacteristic blank voice.

Andrew’s brow furrowed slightly as Neil’s eyes widened. “They’re dead…” He repeated as if the words sounded foreign.

“They’re dead- They’re-” suddenly Neil was clutching at his throat-his bruised and raw throat - and choking on his words.

Andrew took the man and tucked him into his chest as Neil gagged on air that he couldn’t get into his lungs.

“That’s enough, get away from him-” Stuart was growling but Andrew already had a knife out and pointed at the man.

“You touch him, and I skin you.” Andrew hissed.

Big suit looked surprised, but what was more shocking was the fact he backed off with an assessing look at Andrew. 

Andrew turned his attention back to the trembling man.

“Neil.” he whispered in his ear. He was shaking, clutching at Andrew’s shirt like a lifeline. 

"I want to go home." Neil muttered whilst trying to come down from his panic. 

Andrew lifted the both of them up to a standing position. Neil seemed to have a hard time with it, having to lean on Andrew completely. 

Andrew asked "What did they do to your legs?" 

"It's only cuts, nothing permanent." Neil swallowed and shivered violently "... My father was gonna sever my hamstrings, but uncle Stuart came before he could."

Andrew looked at the body of Nathan Wesninski for only a moment before shifting his eyes to Stuart. The man was already scrutinizing Andrew. After a brief stand off Andrew started to lead Neil out of the room.

"Hey, where do you think you're taking him you prat." Stuart reached out to grab at Andrew but surprisingly it was Kevin who interjected, stepping in front of Andrew and Neil to shield them. 

Stuart opened his mouth to undoubtedly tell him to fuck off before he paused, recognizing the ex-moriyama.

"... Abram, you said these arseholes weren't with the Moriyamas's."

Kevin swallowed and replied "I'm not. Not anymore." 

The British dumbass looked over to Neil, one eyebrow raised in a demand for an explanation. His nephew huffed, half from annoyance and half from pain-filled exhaustion "Listen, I've just been tortured for fourteen hours straight. I'm going home. If you want answers you'll get them later, but for now, just let us leave Stuart."

Neil looked like a mess, and Andrew just wanted to take him home. And well, maybe also to a doctor.

Stuart seemed to see the same exhaustion emanating from his nephew, because he visibly deflated. 

"... Alright, alright, fine." he finally resigned "Just- keep in contact alright? I'll call tomorrow to check on ya. And don't worry about the debt to Ichirou, we're gonna have a talk with big sister."

Neil nodded, leaning his head on Andrew's shoulder as he was led out into the main room of the warehouse. 

Stuart stopped Wymack to talk for a moment before the mafia men left the building through a back entrance. 

Kevin walked in front of Neil and Andrew as Wymack caught up to the group. 

"He gave me the contact for a doctor just outside the city that won't ask questions. They'll patch Neil up then we can leave for Denver." The Chief informed the group.

Andrew squeezed Neil's shoulder and asked in a hushed voice into the side of his head "Do you want to go somewhere else or to whoever this doctor person is?" 

There was a long pause from Neil, as if it was a struggle for him to think "I don't care," He slurred "Whatever you think is best 'drew. I trust you,"

Ignoring the heart aching clench of his chest, Andrew mulled over his options. Andrew didn't at all trust Stuart, even if he did save Neil from being detrimentally maimed. But Neil needed medical attention right away, and Andrew knows Neil would hate being in a hospital (as would Andrew himself, no thanks to Easthaven). So this mysterious doctor was the better option, even if the thought of going to some random stranger made his hackles rise. 

In the end it didn't really matter. No matter what, Andrew wouldn't let his sight off of Neil.

He won't let him get taken ever again.

 


 

The extent to Neil's injuries were more than Andrew could have imagined. 

Neil was struggling to stay conscious the entire ride to the address Stuart gave them, and when they arrived to a quaint house right outside Chicago, he had to completely lean on Andrew.

The doctor was a Korean woman that, apparently, Neil had met before. When the woman saw who she was treating she spoke hushed French to Neil in a slightly panicked voice. Neil was tense and clearly uncomfortable, so Andrew shielded Neil from view of the woman with clear warning in his eyes. 

Neil pinched the fabric of Andrew's jacket and tugged twice. He was smiling, despite the horror of this entire situation. 

He gave a quick response to the woman in the same tongue as her, not bothering to take his eyes off of Andrew. 

The woman nodded solemnly in understanding then led them to a separate room. It was a home office that felt sterile and medical.

Neil was sat on top a stool and Andrew pulled one up right next to him. Kevin had left to take a call from Jean in the hall and didn't return, choosing to sit out on observing. Wymack had stayed in the room while the doctor started patching up Neil's more obvious face and arm injuries. But for the more exposing ones he left to give some semblance of privacy.

There were more red hot knife cuts patterned in X's all along his knees and thighs. Andrew saw an all too familiar u-shaped bite mark on Neil's left thigh and his vision almost blacked out from the frothing wave of rage careening upwards onto the jagged cliffside of his chest. 

"What did they do?" he spoke in deceptively quiet German, but the darkness lacing his voice he knew Neil noticed. 

Neil's eyes clouded, confirming the worst possible scenario in Andrew's head.

"It… Lola she… she didn't do anything to me." Neil bit his lip hard "She was talking dirty just to fuck with me. Cutting my legs. She only bit me once- that- that was it." 

Most people would interpret this as a lie to downplay a harsh reality. Andrew is not most people. He knew Neil was telling the truth. When Neil lies he doesn't stammer, doesn't trip up. He says everything perfectly like an actor reading off a script. He holds precise steady eye contact. This is how Andrew knows when Neil is lying.

When he tells brutal truths he stumbles and avoids eye contact, like talking about his past and trauma is something he doesn't have much practice with. 

Neil's tone when he spoke this truth however was trying to make it seem insignificant, even though it clearly affected him.  

"Neil. Look at me." The man turned his blank gaze to catch with Andrew's identical one "If anyone touches you with this kind of sexual intent and no consent, it is sexual assault. Don't try writing this off as nothing just because she didn't try fucking you."

Sometimes Andrew wished he was less harsh, but Neil didn't look bothered. His brow furrowed as he inspected Andrew's unwavering gaze. He was searching for something. After finding whatever it was he was looking for he nodded in understanding, his eyes a little more clear. 

He continued to inspect Andrew's face for the rest of the time the doctor patched him up. 

The last of his injuries were on the upper part of his body.

Andrew documented bruises and scrapes on his neck, now having a closer look it was clear someone used a rope to strangle him. There was another injury where some sort of boiling liquid was poured down his back, the blistering wound large like his gravel scar. Finally, Andrew memorized the wounds on his wrists, raw and basically cut down to the bone from being restrained in handcuffs, as well as cuts and lighter burns all over his forearms. 

Andrew wanted to rip his own skin off if it would have saved Neil from this pain. 

Neil eventually started dissociating. Hard. He wouldn't respond and he moved around like a puppet on string. Andrew held a hand to his neck and put his mouth up to Neil's ear, whispering about everything and nothing that came to his head as to reel Neil back into reality. 

When he came to about ten minutes later he did so with a violent jerk and a gasp. But Andrew was already there, whispering in German about a book he read recently. Neil panted and put a bandaged hand to Andrew's cheek slowly as if he was expecting Andrew to pull away. Andrew gently put his free hand on top of Neil's as he stopped talking about random things. 

He instead whispered "You are Neil Abram Josten. We are going back to Denver soon. You have two cats named Sir and King and they're waiting for us back at the apartment." 

A shuddering sigh escaped Neil as his shoulders finally relaxed. Andrew realized then that Neil had finally lost consciousness. 

The doctor looked at Neil with pity "He didn't seem to suffer any brain injuries… for him to pass out like this, it must have been a lot for him mentally."

Andrew ignored her and picked Neil up carefully, trying not to jostle him too much. He carried Neil out of the house, Wymack and Kevin both paling at seeing Neil's current state. 

The two were asking questions, but Andrew spent his words for the day, the week, fuck- for the rest of his life probably. 

He gently deposited Neil into his passenger seat and went around to the driver's side of the Maserati. 

Wymack cursed and palmed his neck, then him and Kevin reluctantly went into the police cruiser to follow Andrew back to Denver.

When Andrew got into his car he looked at Neil and realized then the horrible noises in his head had stopped. He didn't feel good. Not by a long shot. But now that Neil was back into Andrew's life again, the panic could finally ease up some.

He turned the key in the ignition and set off back to Colorado.