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I'm Not the Villain I Appear to Be

Chapter Text

Stepping out of the stifling undercover police car and into the freezing October night didn't make Andrew want to continue with this assignment anymore than he had previously. Woefully, it was Minyard’s job. 

He pulled his black peacoat closer to his body as he observed the Plaza Exhibit Hall. It was extraordinarily over the top. Bright lights illuminating all 20 stories of the building, a large fountain in the middle of the round about and Roman columns at the entrance. Andrew would have scoffed if Wymack hadn't strided up next to him.

The police chief was gruff at best and downright terrifying at worst (if you were a person who could feel fear over that type of thing that is). Andrew respected him but loved to step on his toes whenever it was conveniently possible. The chief was keenly aware of this. 

“You remember you're assignment Minyard?” 

He debated on responding with unfortunately but decided to slide a bored look over to Wymack “Don’t ask questions you already know the answer to David.”

Wymack scowled, clearly hating being called by first name. It had nothing to do with professionalism, that Andrew knew for sure. 

Wymack had come to him with this assignment a week prior, not giving Andrew a lot of time to prepare but Wymack knew he only ever worked in the spur of the moment anyways. Too bad those types of moments were surprisingly slim to none in his field. 

Detective Andrew Joseph Minyard was on a case. Rumors say an infamous criminal by the alias of “Jack” has been eyeing the Plaza as his next hit. Thievery, arson, even murder were on the table. No one knew anything about Jack other than his preferred line of work had been in the first of the listed crimes, but the other two were things he was just as familiar with. Andrew didn't doubt Jack probably committed many more in his career. 

Authorities of the Plaza had been strongly advised by the Denver Police Department that they bring in undercover detectives to scout the place. Most likely it wouldn't be as enticing as Andrew had hoped but...

Andrew needed this case. All his previous assignments had been dull jobs for a DPD detective. He needed a thrill. He just hoped Wymack wasn't wasting Andrew's time playing nice with a bunch of snooty rich people for nothing. 

He started heading in the direction of the Hall, not bothering to wait for anyone. At the door, security guards assessed him and whoever was behind his shoulder, probably the Chief. Andrew flourished his badge with a blank expression and was let inside.

Tall ceilings and marble floors greeted them in a large main entrance. Both sides had wide halls that presumably lead to whatever event was going on. 

A woman gestured for his coat and he gave it over as Wymack eyed the place with distaste. Andrew felt much the same. They started heading towards the third largest exhibit hall, being hosted there was a showing of rare and incredibly expensive artifacts or art. They were much more a show of status than of an appreciation of aesthetic and history. This was immediately evident once they entered because the price tag of the items was much easier to spot than a description of what was on display. 

Chief hadn't assigned anyone to a specific spot yet because all of his detectives had specialized skills that would be helpful depending on the situation. He took one long sweeping look at the place then nodded decisively.

Wymack quietly spoke into his ear piece while leaning over towards Andrew to look like they were speaking. “Alright, Reynolds you take the left side, I'll take the right. We need to milk as much information from these snobs as possible.” 

He heard Detective Reynolds give confirmation in his own ear piece then saw her emerge from another entrance across the hall in a gold slim fitting gown. 

“Knox, you take Moreau and talk to the sellers, get me eyes on what is the most likely to get taken.” He waited for their confirmation before finally addressing Andrew “Minyard, you and Boyd take the Dining Hall. Get me eyes on anything suspicious”

Andrew nodded and started to head down the hallway bordering the large exhibition room that lead towards his location. The flooring changed  from marble to lavish red carpeting while the ceiling swooped at an arch that made it look like a theatre. Andrew figured the stage at the far right of the room was the cause for that. 

He waited by the wall for Boyd while making sure his suit was in appropriate condition. Minyard had a preference for black, but the suit Wymack had gotten him was a dark rich blue. It had a black accented collar and tie while the undershirt was white.

Boyd came soon enough wearing a regular black suit and he smiled widely at Andrew. Nodding, Andrew lead them to a table for Boyd that had convenient sight of the whole room. Andrew looked behind him and saw that at the direct opposite corner next to the stage there was an open table that he decided he'd take for himself. 

“I'll take to checking the buyers and you take the employees, sound good?” Detective Boyd asked. 

Andrew looked around for a second before shrugging and heading towards the stage.

He was gonna need something to happen, he could feel his brain melting from the boredom of it all. As Andrew sat down in his seat a waiter almost immediately approached him, asking him for his drink order. “Whiskey, no ice.” he answered. 

Just as Andrew was debating on starting a scene just to create something interesting the stage curtains opened up. There was a band there, and an empty microphone. Not a lot of people seemed to notice, probably well accustomed to the shows the Exhibit Hall held.

A man with startlingly red auburn hair stepped out. Andrew was fairly close to the stage, so he could see his eyes were a bright azure blue. He wore a patterned grey suit, a black undershirt, and a red tie. It was a loud outfit for sure, but Andrew figured he was a performer so that was the point. 

Andrew was slightly startled to find that this man was definitely his type. He wouldn't mind asking him for his number for when he needed to get off someone with a pretty face. 

Then their gazes caught. The man's eyes seemed to widen just a fraction, a detail most wouldn't have noticed if they weren't Andrew Minyard. The performer kept his face neutral though as he looked away and out towards the rest of the room. Andrew felt a small spark of suspicion and intrigue. The man had noticed something about Andrew. The primal part of him said it was attraction, the much more logistic side said it was infamous danger everyone told Andrew he was. Either way this- he - could make things more intriguing.

The waiter broke his heavy stare off of Mr. Gorgeous with his order of whiskey. Andrew dismissed any suggestion of dinner and the staff member left him alone. 

Suddenly the room filled with the instrumental intro of a song. Andrew turned his attention back to the stage and watched the singer close his eyes and begin to sing

Sometimes when I, wanna run away and hide

Smooth was the first thing Andrew thought of when hearing his voice. It sounded like he was trained to lure you in, fitting the man's general aesthetic nicely. Alluring.

Andrew knew his brain was going to memorize this song for later. 

Minyard had this… condition. In complement to his eidetic memory Andrew had what Bee had called Musical Hallucinations. It meant that sometimes in the back of his head he heard music like the radio was on. Except there was no radio. And it wasn't all encompassing either, Andrew could hear everything else just fine. It was almost like a soundtrack in a movie. 

Though this never happened randomly. It seemed whenever Andrew was very interested in something, be it detective work or a good puzzle, music would play. Andrew found the lyrics or the tone of the songs that play in his head from hearing it out and about in the world usually fit whatever he was focusing on. It usually wasn't that big a deal, sometimes even comforting. It was like what books did for him, transport him somewhere else. 

Yet, just like his memory, there was an unfortunate catch. The music also played in times of extreme stress. Andrew would struggle to call it music . It was banging and out of tune notes and horrifyingly loud chords and screams- or maybe that was just Andrew himself. He was never sure. He always thought learned to stay quiet like Jessie had told him to back when-

Andrew prepared to start feeling phantom hands on him from his train of thought but it never came. Instead his brain was very conveniently distracted with memorizing the new song. Andrew struggled to hold in his sigh of relief just as his ear piece crackled to life. 

Boyd’s voice sounded through “Got anything?”

Andrew assessed the situation then responded “I have eyes on the singer… could be nothing but I'll let you know if I get a hit.” 

With that Andrew turned his ear piece off so he could listen. 

 


 

Two hours had passed without much of anything. They still had at least an hour left before the exhibit ended and another two of staying behind to make sure no one tried anything after the showing. 

Andrew tried not focusing on that. He would surely try something if he did. 

No one on their squad had gotten any kind of hit. Chief switched people around to see if he could get the different perspectives of everyone. Andrew was with Moreau in talking to corporate cronies, something that Andrew severely hated. It wasn't that much worse than the dining hall though. After a five set song list wonder boy had left the stage with a polite and charming thank you, then left so some other inferior singer could replace him. 

After that Andrew lost interest. He debated following the singer to see if he could get anything but security was tight around here, and he couldn't afford to be waving his badge around when they were undercover. 

Lucky for Andrew he didn't have to. He glanced to his left and then did a double take. Right there one item over was wonder boy, seemingly inspecting an obnoxiously large jewel. This immediately raised a red flag because why would a staff member be so interested in buying from the exhibition? He didn't want to get too suspicious too quickly because maybe he was just wandering around but then the performer flagged down a seller and started to ask them for information. Interesting.  

Most the staff worked here because it was good money. But not good enough money like some of the rich assholes here. Even if he was some hit singer why would he be singing in some dining hall in Denver, Colorado? No. This guy wasn't looking to buy. 

Suddenly the performer felt eyes on him and glanced at Andrew. He was nodding to the seller like he was listening but he kept their eye contact. Andrew raised his eyebrow in challenge. The man only seemed to smile a little bit wider and his eyes glinted mischievously before the entire looked was wiped away as was his gaze. He thanked the seller politely before striding over to Andrew. 

Andrew dimly registered that without the illusion of the stage this man was short . Only two inches taller than Andrew. 

He also registered that his suspicions were correct. Andrew was just speculating when he saw the man’s minuscule reaction a couple of hours ago. But then that look he just gave him paired with his sudden approach meant that this man knew Andrew wasn’t looking to buy either. 

“How are you liking the exhibition?” the singer asked casually, voice dripping like caramel. 

That was certainly one way to start a conversation with a stranger, Andrew mused. He definitely knew what he was doing though. It was hard not to immediately feel drawn in by the auburn haired man even if Andrew knew it was just a tactic. 

Andrew gave him a slow purposeful once over before settling back onto those startlingly bright eyes. “There's a couple things that have caught my eye.” he responded.

Over the years Andrew’s flirtation tactics had transformed from exclusively death threats to the occasional suggestive line. It didn't seem to make much of a difference though. With Andrew's blank face and dead stare everyone thought he was either mocking them or being sarcastic. 

There's been a couple people to see through that in the past but Andrew sure as hell wasn't expecting the man’s gaze to light up with understanding. He chuckled sweetly. Andrew's stomach flipped a little. 

“Well performers tend to do that don’t they? Catch people’s eyes?” 

“It wasn’t your performance that got my attention” Andrew responded. He wasn’t just alluding to wonder boy’s looks. 

The man seemed to catch on. His gaze darkened ever so slightly and his smile widened a fraction “I’m sure you’re a man with an excellent eye then?” 

Andrew shrugged “You seemed to have already figured that out now haven’t you?” he asked back.

“I have,” The stranger answered matter-of-factly “I'm sure you have figured I have a good eye as well then?”

“I have.” Andrew parroted boredly “You’re not subtle. Better luck next time.” he gave him his signature two finger salute.

They kept their heavy stares on one another, each assessing what to do next.

Then blue eyes’ mischievous glint was back, his smile turned almost devilish “I’m sure you haven’t been looking as closely as you think you have detective.”

Andrew was going to respond but noises to his left caught multiple people's attention. Andrew picked up a loud brazen voice and what was undoubtedly Moreau’s quiet words. He didn’t want to look away but before he could decide, something flashed across the singer’s face and he turned away. Andrew had not even a second to react before a large body was pushed hard into him. He almost fell over if it weren’t for the unknown person releasing their weight on Minyard almost immediately.

Andrew turned quickly towards whatever touched him, knife out and on the ready. Moreau was the mystery body that nearly crushed him and it was because this large drunken man had pushed him, looking to start a fight. 

“Listen here-” The french detective started.

“No fuck you! They told me what you said, I’ll kill you!” the man slurred. His thousand dollar suit was wrinkled and his gelled hair was a mess. 

Andrew grabbed the man by his tie and forcefully dragged him down to introduce his neck with Andrew’s knife. They were surrounded by the other buyers in the Hall and dramatic gasps emitted from many of them at the sight of a weapon. Andrew knew he was blowing his cover with this show, but they were compromised the second this idiot decided to mess with a detective.

The security that was previously so abundant in this place was conveniently absent. Andrew leaned in close towards the mans now nervous face and growled “You better get the fuck out of here before I devalue all these items with your blood” 

Before the man could even so much as flinch a shrill alarm sounded. It wasn’t the security breach Andrew had been keeping an ear out for all night, but instead the fire alarm. Minyard knew immiediatley this was a set up. He shoved away the drunken man and yelled to be heard over the blaring sound to Wymack in his ear piece “Chief this is a set up, we need eyes on everything in the hall-”

“Knox and I are being hauled away by the crowd- Reynolds, Boyd! Get to Minyard’s location immediately-”

Reynolds interrupted “No good Chief, Boyd just passed out- someone slipped him something and I’m taking him to Abby right now”

He heard Wymack curse just as Andrew tried his damndest to stay in the exhibit hall but people were touching him in the rush to get out of the building. A suddenly present security guard grabbed his arm and just as Andrew brought his fist up to punch them another strong body snatched it away before he could make contact. Andrew viciously fought to get out of their grasp but they were hauling him out with everyone else.

“Let go of me-” Andrew snarled as they dragged his kicking form.

“Jesus- Diaz keep him steady goddammit” The moron to his left said.

“Listen to me you fucking piece of shit I’m an undercover detective for the DPD, I need eyes on that room-”

“A DPD detective wouldn’t have tried doing our jobs and pull a knife on one of our guests” the other guard- Diaz- responded. 

Before he could argue the weight on his left suddenly freed and Andrew immediately drew one of his other knives to plunge it into the leg of Diaz. He turned around to run back into the building and saw that Allison had incapacitated the other security guard. She gave him a thumbs up as he started sprinting back into the exhibit hall, alarms still blaring. 

He blasted into the room and was greeted with two other security guards unconscious on the ground. Just as Andrew suspected the display case holding the jewel was wide open and the jewel was gone. He just barely caught the sight of the swivel door to the employee’s only hall swinging outward. He felt his lips twitch into a smirk. Finally.

Andrew could sense it.  His auditory defect started to act up due to his growing amusement. The thief’s song from earlier slowly started to play in the back of his mind as he ran across the large exhibitionist room to the still moving door. Entering through showed storage closets and offices along with a set of stairs. Andrew continued down the hall and turned the corner to see a dead end with a window. 

And low and behold, halfway out of said window was wonder boy himself. The patterned suit jacket was abandoned and the black dress shirt sleeves were rolled up to his elbows. He had a newly acquired duffel bag around his body that probably held the polished stone, and a olive green winter jacket slung over his arm. Andrew noticed the duffle bag was old and used, the strap right where the man’s hand was looked frayed and on the verge of breaking. The bright red tie fluttered in the breeze as Mr. Mischievous snapped his head back to see who followed him. Andrew had already been running the second he saw him but the man was already escaping. Right before the singer jumped out of the two story window he grinned at Andrew and gave him a two finger salute. 

The music got louder. 

Andrew stuck his upper body out to see where the man went and he saw him running north. No way in hell was Andrew going to jump out but looking around he saw a fire escape just a window over. He took off his suit jacket and tossed it aside before getting out the window to ride the wall. At least this way he had a vertical view of where the man was heading. Ignoring the intense sinking feeling in his gut he sidled across a narrow ledge of the building and quickly grabbed the railing of the fire escape.

As he was making his mad decent down the stairs Wymack’s voice invaded the music “Minyard where are you-”

“I’m on pursuit Chief. I’ve got a hit on Jack” Andrew didn’t know if this was for sure the Jack but it didn’t matter. Andrew was too far gone in the chase to care. 

“Detective get back here now , you are not going in pursuit-” but Andrew turned off his earpiece before he could hear the rest of Wymack’s tirade.

Belatedly Andrew just realized how fast this guy was. Andrew had clocked in a lot of hours at the gym but not many of those were based on cardio. Still, he had impressive times. A bit above average for a cop. Even then he'd just barely been able to keep his eyes on the man right before his figure disappeared into a crowd. Right outside of a bustling and large casino. Andrew had a feeling wonder bread (he was definitely not that drab but Andrew was feeling petty so wonder bread it is) was going to use the seconds Andrew was behind to slip on that jacket he was carrying, so Andrew was sure to look for the olive green instead of the black shirt. 

But Andrew wasn’t fond of crowds. Too many people at his back he couldn’t keep his eyes on. Before his body could get too locked up in tension he spotted a black beanie and a faux fur hooded green jacket. He reached for the figure and grabbed their shoulder to turn them around. 

The teenager that turned to face him was clearly confused and slightly terrified at Andrew’s undoubtedly crazed look. Swearing, Andrew practically threw him to the side before spotting a flash of red from the corner of his eye. He didn’t have time to catch what it was but Andrew’s gut told him to follow. 

Doing so was the right call because he got to see classic ol’ wonder bread go into one of the side entrances of the casino. Andrew decided on a different tactic and ran around to the other side of the building through an alley. He got to the back door where he theorized the man would be trying to reach from the inside.

True to said theory he emerged silently out the back door, not realizing Andrew was hidden in his blind spot. Andrew also emerged from the wall he was pressed up against to slam his fist right into wonder bread’s gut as he turned. 

The man wheezed pathetically before dropping to the ground. According to protocol Andrew should have tackled him, but he figured incapacitating him would be best since the thief was so fast. He was just about to detain him when Andrew realized the man was not nearly as incapacitated as he thought. Most people couldn’t last through one of Andrew’s uppercuts, they were brutal, but this guy must have flexed at the very last second to lessen the blow. Andrew was figuring this as he himself was falling to the ground. 

A stifled grunt made its way out of Andrew’s throat as his back hit the pavement. Andrew looked up just in time to see the thief start to- 

Andrew’s face was disbelieving as he watched the thief start to fucking parkour up the fucking wall to get to a high up ladder. Andrew started cussing him out under his breath, but soon realized there was a very precarious tool box hanging half off the ledge right above the ladder on the roof. Some worker must have left it on there and forgot about it. Lucky break Minyard.

Andrew pulled out his gun from under him and took careful aim at the toolbox. Andrew shot the bottom corner of it perfectly in order for it to shoot up from the force and then tip downwards. Wonder bread had just barely looked up in time from recoiling at the sound of a gunshot to see it hurtling down towards him. 

“Jesus!” he yelped as he swung his body horizontally to narrowly avoid the box. With only one hand on the ladder supporting his body he glared at Andrew, regaining his grip. Andrew could feel he actually had a smile on his face, which made the thief’s glare only deepen bordering on a scowl.  

But the chase wasn’t over yet.

In that time that the man had avoided being smashed by falling objects, Andrew had gotten up and immediately headed further down the alley, keeping an eye on wonder bread. While the thief climbed the rest of the ladder, Andrew used the hidden view to his advantage and climbed up the neighboring buildings fire escape. As he made it up onto the roof he saw the singer running across the tops of the snuggly fit buildings, his profile facing Andrew. 

Minyard knew he wouldn't be able to catch up with him, so he took out his gun once again. Usually shooting people in the legs (even if they were cute) wasn't a concern for Andrew. Hell he'd just stabbed a woman in the leg earlier no problem (he’ll have to replace that knife). But as the last bits of the song in his head wrung out Andrew hesitated. 

He'd have to question his own motivations later but in the moment Andrew made a rash decision and shot at the fraying duffle bag strap instead. If there was anything Andrew was praised for by the other detectives, it was his deadly accuracy. He saw the bags strap completely tear off and fall towards the ground.

Even though they were a couple of buildings away from each other Andrew saw the man trip over himself. Andrew was already sprinting to catch up, and as he was doing so he saw the thief then jump down in between a small divide of the roofs. Andrew hadn't known this would happen but in shooting the bag he managed to have it fall perfectly in between the divide of the buildings.

It must have caught in something like a balcony or ledge because just as Andrew was fast approaching the edge the bag fell off of, wonder boy was getting up on the ledge of the next building. He had the fallen duffle in his hands as he couldn't sling it over his body any longer.

When Andrew caught up to him-close enough that if he was just a little quicker he could snag his shirt-the thief looked over his shoulder. To Minyard’s surprise he had the same crazed look that was similarly residing in Andrew. And a huge grin, like this was just as much as a rush and a high for him as it was for Andrew. 

Suddenly he turned super sharply to the left, and to that left was a neighboring building. With about 15 feet of space in between. Andrew assumed he was going to ride the side of the current building they were on down to the streets below but wonder boy didn't stop. Andrew slowed down and his jaw actually dropped a small amount as the man jumped that distance of space and made it to the other side like it was nothing. 

Andrew was… not particularly fond of heights. He would rather get shot that have to attempt what he just witnessed so he stopped at the edge.

Andrew also realized he was screwed. This particular building he was on only had a roof entrance and exit from the inside. No ladders, and no fire exits off the side of the building. He had no way of getting to this man. 

Seemingly realizing this, wonder boy turned around to face Andrew. 15 feet was not a preferable length for Andrew when he wanted to check out men, but this would have to do. 

The chase had made the singer's auburn hair much more unruly. Andrew wanted to run his fingers through the curls. He looked to his lean body, and now that he was paying attention his thick thighs and tight ass made sense as it correlated with the ridiculous speed. His shirt managed to come untucked on one side and there was a tear in his pants that he was bleeding from. His chest went up and down while he panted from the exertion. It made Andrew want to have him pant like that for a different reason. Just imagining it slightly killed Andrew on the inside. The thief’s eyes were playful and he had a smug face like he knew all along this was going to happen. It frustrated Andrew, but in the best way possible. What a puzzle this motherfucker was. 

Just to torture Andrew it seemed, he spoke up. “I told you you weren't looking closely enough.”

“I will get you Jack.” Andrew responded.

The man cringed slightly, his signature grin still in place “Are they still calling me that? I never understood why they chose that name.”

“What is your name then?” 

He looked at Andrew with assessing eyes for a moment before answering “You can call me Neil. Neil Josten.”

“Neil Josten huh?” Andrew repeated skeptically “Afraid of what I'll do with your real name?”

“Oh no no no.” he waved his hand like that was the most ridiculous thing he's heard all day. “You and your pigs couldn't do anything with it. The people I'd prefer not giving my name away to are the few folks looking for it.”

“Seems like you've pissed off a lot of people. I bet that little stint you just pulled is nothing compared to how many ‘folks’ are looking for you.” 

Neil's gaze and smile sharpened to look much more sinister than mischievous “You have no idea.” he hinted at. 

There was a pause as the wind picked up very subtly. It just barely ruffled his copper curls and the moon seemed to cast on only half of him. He looked two toned. Andrew figured that made sense with all of what Neil seemed to be. Always part of him hiding in the shadows but still somehow catching the spotlight. 

Neil was the first to break the silence. 

“Well, this has been a lovely find and a fun chase. I doubt we'll ever meet again-”

“I will catch you.” Andrew interrupted with such resolve that it even surprised himself.

Josten didn't show that he noticed because he continued on like Andrew hadn't even spoken. “So I wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors.”

He turned around to leave but Andrew yelled out “So what are you gonna do now huh? Live your life stealing and conning but never truly free? Always running like a rabbit?” 

Neil turned his body to look at Andrew again. His face was shockingly honest. No facade. No grin. Just a deadly blankness.

But then the cutting smile slowly came back once again “Ding ding ding. Gold star detective.” 

Neil slipped in a quiet “Ciao.” before he disappeared. As if the wind finally took him away. 

As if he was never really real in the first place. 

Chapter Text

There were two weeks after Andrew had had one of the best nights of his career that were filled with research. And nothing but research. 

When Andrew said he would catch Neil he wasn't just blindly spouting nonsense. It was a promise. And Andrew is deathly serious on keeping his word. 

He turned around and sighed, rubbing at an oncoming headache. He was currently in his tiny studio apartment, and he had cleared off an entire portion of his wall to pin up information he had on Josten. 

For how well Neil hid himself, two weeks of pouring over this information day and night had Andrew finally pinpointing a pattern. Old aliases, that took days to find the right ones, revealed themselves to be the same wonder boy he'd chased that fortnight ago. Thanks to Andrew's eidetic memory he had no problem remembering exactly what his face looked like . He had aliases up until Neil had turned 15, after that the trail seemed to be too cold. Andrew was curious how long he had been keeping this up. He clearly had something big after him, but was staying in Denver for the moment mysteriously. Why he hadn't gotten up to leave yet, Andrew didn't know. 

All the better for Andrew to keep his promise then.

Minyard collapsed into his desk chair and he hadn't even a second to breathe before the Chief's ringtone invaded his headache. 

“What.” he said sourly when he answered. 

“Morning asshole. You forget today is the day you get to come back to plague me with your existence?” Wymack asked him gruffly.

Minyard had been on a suspension ever since the pursuit. Turns out stabbing a security guard in the leg could get you in serious trouble. But Andrew lucked out because Neil had tipped off 90% of the staff in order for his plan to work. A lot of the security-mainly the ones in the exhibit hall-where fired and even jailed for acting as accomplices. Even so Andrew should have gotten at least 6 months worth of suspension but thanks to Wymack pulling a lot of strings, he'd only gotten the two weeks. Which Minyard used to his full advantage. 

“Oh joy.” he said dryly. Looking out the window he realized Wymack was right in his ‘good morning’. It was already 7:30. Another night of no sleep. 

“Stop by my office when you get in. We need to debrief” he hung up the phone afterwards which Andrew was grateful for. 

The only thing Andrew had said to anyone after he lost Neil that night was after Wymack had finished yelling at him back at the station. He looked him dead in the eyes and said “I've got my case now Chief.” 

At the time, Wymack actually looked surprised. He knew Andrew was ready to jump out of his skin from the monotony of his cases. He'd either solve them in under an hour or spend days on some simple chain robbery case that was really just a matter of waiting for the dumbasses to fall into the traps he set up. 

But this- Neil-  he was always a step ahead. Never enough for it to be impossible to get him, but always enough for him to be so tantalizingly close. In more ways than one. 

Wymack had sighed and pulled out a string of rants as to how Minyard was going to kill him before finally letting Andrew take the case. 

Getting out of his head Andrew got up and unpinned the most important of the documents to show the Chief and then headed out. He hadn't bother to shave that morning or style his hair, that of which had a very subtle curl to the strands when he did nothing with it. It made it look messy but it went well with the garbage aesthetic Andrew decided to go with that day. The old big black wire rimmed glasses he was wearing brought the whole look right into the “I'm this close to being evicted because of my alcohol problem” category. 

Arriving at the office like this was ultra rare for Andrew. He usually cared about his appearance but he's lost too much sleep to give even a single fuck. Like a sixth sense he tensed right before a certain Hispanic cousin of his shrieked upon seeing him. He didn't even bother to turn around as Nicky abandoned his position at the receptionist’s desk and followed Andrew. He chatted about how glad he was for Andrew to be back and that they can finally hit up Eden's before Andrew slid into the Chief's office and shut the door in Nicky's face. 

The chief raised an eyebrow at him right as Nicky shouted “Someone's in a mood!” and sulked back off to do his job. Minyard sat down in the plush chair right across from Wymack and slid his body down the seat until his head was resting on the top of the chair. He had a feeling the man was going to wait for Andrew to speak first. There was at least three minutes of straight silence. Andrew used this opportunity to close his eyes and maybe the Chief would be stubborn enough that’d Andrew would get some sleep-

“Well?” His husky voice rang out in the silent office. 

Internally, Andrew sighed before tossing the file on his desk without moving from his position. He heard some of the papers fly out, and undoubtedly at, Wymack. He was rewarded with the Chief’s own sigh before he heard him picking up and going through the papers. 

“...Jesus,”

“What.”

“Well considering the top most Denver Investigators have been on Jack’s case for more than a year, this is an unbelievable breakthrough Minyard.”

Andrew raised his head finally to look at the Chief. He was intently studying the photos of Neil’s old selves all lined up side by side on his desk.

“It wasn’t hard. Any dolt with half a brain who knows how to follow a trail could find it.” Andrew didn’t quite believe he was the first to find all this information on Neil, but then again if they had this in the first place they probably would have been able to stop the Exhibit Hall robbery. 

“Pardon me if I seem to be doubtful of what you’re saying because I have a feeling not every single person on this case is that much of an idiot.” 

Throwing his head back down on the backside of the chair Andrew replied “Well clearly that’s the case.” 

The chief paused, most likely assessing Andrew’s lazed form and his far from immaculate appearance. “I wouldn’t sell yourself so short you little asshole. I think there’s a reason you were able to find it and no one else was.”

Andrew felt his face twitch, often was the case when anyone tried to do anything remotely relating to complimenting Andrew. Being a monster he was used to. Being insulted and told he was horrible? Yeah, a walk in the park. But being told he was worth something? That his skills had value? Mm, not so much. 

“And what might that be Chief? ” He pushed as much sarcasm out of him as possible.

Wymack paused again, clearly not willing to answer. Good. Andrew would have walked right out if Wymack went on a fuckin’ praise parade through his office. 

“You know I think you have a problem with acknowledging the work you do here. You’re afraid of looking at what you do because it gives you a false hope of what you think you can never have.” 

Nope. Andrew wasn’t gonna stay for the In-Depth-Andrew-Minyard-Analysis either. 

“I already have a therapist, thank you.” Andrew droned as he started to sit up properly in his chair to collect all the documents. 

Wymack let him but before he could get up and leave he asked “You already know where he’s heading don’t you?” 

Andrew paused. He didn’t want to get any other DPD detectives involved in this. Maybe it was a sense of possessiveness involving this case, but really he just didn’t have the patience to deal with numbskulls theorizing all day. He did his theories already. It was time for action and he couldn’t wait on a team or on approval from higher up any longer. 

“Guess you’ll have to find out.” 

 


 

A large cloud spilled out of Andrew’s lungs and the cherry was still a fresh crimson. He inspected the cigarette stick out of boredom while he waited on Josten. 

Turns out Neil needed someone to sell his finds to, if he didn’t keep any to himself that is. During the two week break Andrew had found out one of Neil’s associates. One by the name of Kevin Day seemed to be waiting for Neil as well. 

Andrew had camped himself on a neighboring rooftop that was one floor higher than the balcony Kevin was situated at. He had only been there for fifteen minutes listening intently before a sliding door opened. 

“Day.” Neil greeted. Andrew positioned himself so he was in their blind spot but could see the backs of them both. 

“Josten, what do you have for me today?” 

Neil didn't answer right away, instead going over to the railing and leaning against it while he lit a cigarette. He inhaled once to get it going but then just let it sit in front of his face. He was wearing a nicely fitting dark blue baseball tee shirt with the short sleeves black. Andrew couldn't see anything below his waist but his imagination unhelpfully supplied an image of what was lower. 

“How’s the fuckhead doing? Still giving you hell?” he eventually inquired instead of answering.

Kevin practically choked before hissing at Neil “He might have bugged my room idiot!”

“You didn’t bother to check?” 

Day paused before shrugging. “I don't know if I was thorough enough.”

Wonder boy didn't respond. He actually took a drag from the cigarette while he rubbed at his temples. 

“What do you have for me Neil?” Kevin asked again, avoiding Neil's question all together.

“A proposition.”

“No-” Kevin said immediately getting put on edge. Andrew didn’t understand why he would react that way, but he quieted the questions in his mind in favor of watching Josten take Kevin's wrist. He let the cigarette fall to the floor as he made harsh eye contact with Kevin.

“Look at this hand and tell me you really mean what you're about to say.” Now that Neil pointed it out Andrew could see pale white scars on the back of Day's hand.

Again, Kevin paused. He didn't recover this time however so Neil plowed on. 

“Riko wants you to stay because he knows you have the ability to leave and outshine him. Even if he did temporarily- ” Neil stressed the word while squeezing Day's wrist and pulling him down further towards his face “-hinder your dexterity. You know you want to go, but it will be hard trying to keep away from him. That's where I come in.”

Finally he released Kevin, but their close proximity stayed. 

“Let me get you out of there Kevin. I'll watch your back until you can heal properly and then we can finally be partners.” Andrew honestly would have thought Neil meant in a romantic sense if it wasn't for Kevin's response. 

“... I would just slow you down… I have only worked on conning with Riko, we have different ways of doing things as Ravens. Plus, both you and I are still Riko's property.”

Neil snorted “Riko's make believe little ‘mafia’ doesn’t have the influence or attention the Moriyama's do. If we can get in with them officially, if we can work for them, Riko wouldn't be able to even look at us without getting a harsh reality check from higher up. And in terms of slowing me down, that’s your inner Riko talking. You’re incredible at what you do.”

Day backed away first, clearly lost in thought. Neil went back to the railing and looked out to the horizon. 

“What if I don't want to be involved in all this for the rest of my life?” Kevin spoke quietly. 

Now it was Josten’s turn to pause. But soon he simply supplied “Then I'd get you out of this way of living.” 

Andrew realized then that this was Josten’s motivation. This is why he hasn't left Denver yet. And the name Riko made much more sense. As in Riko Moriyama. He was not apart of the family officially, but rumor had it he was trying to start a mafia organization that was supposed to be the little sister to the main branch. Speaking of the main branch, if Neil was going to try to attract the attention of them instead of desperately escape Andrew couldn't imagine what other big fish were after Neil. 

He also found it interesting how none of this seemed to dawn on Kevin. Maybe Day didn't know about Neil's situation but he doubted it if Neil was willing to sacrifice so much for him. To stay for him. It meant these two were close. And Neil seemed ready to give Kevin the world if he asked. 

“... I don't think I can do this-” Kevin started to stress again.

“Did you know Jean is a detective for the DPD?” Josten casually stated, going for a different tactic it seemed. 

Kevin stood there in silent shock along with Andrew. He hadn't known much about the Frenchman other than signs of serious trauma. He stuck close to Knox most the time. Andrew surely wasn't expecting Neil and Kevin to have somehow have known him. 

“Siding with the feds? Riko never said anything about this! Is he out of his mind-”

“The department granted him immunity to whatever past crimes he done on account of that he was technically forced. Riko knows he would get in serious shit if the main branch caught wind he wasn’t under Riko’s careful watch so he let Jean go in favor of telling the main branch he now has Raven moles in the DPD. He’s too public and too ingrained in the system now, Riko can’t get him back.” Neil looked up at the stars above him “If he could get out of this life you can too. I won't force you to be my partner but if you still want to con I'll be here for you. Either way the offer is the same. Let me get you out of Riko’s hands.” 

The thing with Andrew is that he worked in deals. And this wasn’t one. This wasn’t an equal exchange, this was Neil offering whatever Kevin needed and expecting nothing in return. This was martyrdom. 

“... I need to think about it.” 

Neil nodded his acceptance at that then said “Oh, and I am keeping my latest find.” 

“Why? You don’t keep trophies.”

“This is was a special occasion.” he said vaguely before turning to leave. Andrew felt a sting of frustration at the smugness of his tone. But he also felt a little bit of pride because he managed grab Josten’s attention to the point that he bothered keeping a memento from the night in the first place. 

Now that Neil was leaving Andrew’s plan could finally start going into effect. He moved away from his spying spot and started his descent down to where Josten would be coming out. When he got down to the street he hid in an alley while also keeping his eyes on Josten by positioning a small pocket mirror in front of him to see. 

Josten had acquired a light brown leather jacket he was wearing and now Andrew could see that he had on black skinny jeans and dark brown ankle high hiking boots. He walked the opposite direction of where Andrew was hidden. Going by the tension in his shoulders Andrew could tell he probably busted his cover somehow. Neil was as attentive as always. 

Andrew speculated Josten was probably going to pretend he didn’t notice someone following him until something attacked him or until he found a proper enough escape route. Going off this info Andrew went further down the alley and turned so he was behind the building he was just on top of. He speed walked down and peeked his head around the corner of the neighboring alley just in time to see Josten casually looking behind him right before ducking into the narrow entrance. Andrew hid his head and listened for the near silent footsteps of Josten. Right as Josten turned the corner Andrew tackled him with the full force of his body. 

Neil’s lungs were punched out of him when he hit the ground. Andrew pinned Josten’s back to the concrete with his legs as he began to detain him. He struggled like hell until he turned around and saw who was trying to trap him. Neil looked surprised to see it was Andrew and for some reason, he relaxed and smiled. “Well hello again.” 

“Hey fuck head.” Andrew responded while tightly winding his wrists together. He pulled Josten up into a standing position before getting his hand cuffs out. 

“Oh my, please never stop whispering your sweet nothings to me.” the smart ass crooned. Minyard was overly suspicious on how calm Josten was acting for having just gotten arrested. And honestly he felt a small pang of something as he cuffed one of Neil’s wrists. Maybe it was the fact that Andrew knew he wouldn’t be finding another intense and musical case such as this one for a long time. It wasn’t over yet though, Andrew still had to bring this bastard to the station-

Suddenly a bullet came flying out of nowhere, just barely missing Andrew’s head. Andrew jumped-while holding onto Neil-into a small cut off in the wall next to them that functioned in housing the vents and electrical boxes of the buildings. Neil was clearly calculating an escape, so in a spur of the moment decision Andrew put the other half of the handcuffs on his own wrist. Josten, hearing the snap, looked down at their hands now attached by a chain. 

He looked at Andrew lividly as they could hear whoever was after them-at least three by the sounds of it-made their way down the alley. “What the fuck are you doing?!” Neil snarled.

“You aren’t getting away Josten, I promised.” 

Neil held his stare, clearly so angry that he couldn’t speak. Andrew didn’t wait for him. He pulled out his gun and waited until two of the men were visible and shot them both. Josten twisted his wrist and plunged his hand down Andrew’s armband to pull out one of the knives there and throw it at the other man coming from behind Andrew. It was so lightening fast Minyard barely had time to flinch at the sudden invasion of privacy. With the immediate threat disposed of Andrew grabbed Neil by the collar with his free hand and spat out “Don’t ever do that shit again. I don’t like to be touched.” 

Instead of holding onto his rage or getting defensive Neil hesitantly nodded after the shock of Andrew’s reaction faded. Andrew knew Neil had to have felt the vicious scarring there but it was too late to take it back now. And soon Josten’s fire from earlier was back. “You need to listen to me, there are people here are after my head and if you don’t let me go you will die in the crossfire. Your life is worth more than catching some ratty jewel thief.” 

Andrew shook his head “I’ll catch you and whoever is trying to kill you. I don’t go back on my word” 

Neil chewed the inside of his cheek with murder in his eyes. He was still seething but he very quietly admitted “I don’t want your blood on my hands if you die.” 

“Your hypothetical guilt isn’t my problem.” Andrew replied simply. 

Neil growled in frustration before assessing his surroundings for a couple of moments. “I know how these people work and there’s more nearby. If we are both escaping this mess you need to listen and follow my lead okay?”

Andrew opened his mouth to protest but Neil leaned in further so their faces were less than a foot apart. His iced eyes tore into Andrew in the best way possible. Drums slowly started to play in the back of Andrew's head as a jazzy voice filled the void . “No. Listen to me. You will not fucking die cause you decided to do something this stupid. Follow. My. Lead.” 

He paused. Neil had some dangerous people after him, ones that Andrew admittedly might not be able to handle alone. He was at a severe disadvantage without the thief. And with how blue and determined Neil’s eyes were, Andrew really had only one answer. “... Fine”

Neil’s gaze shifted to show a sliver of his familiar mischief before he took off running, practically dragging Andrew behind him. Andrew swore as he struggled for a second to match Neil’s speed. They winded around alley’s before he stopped suddenly, Andrew practically running right into him. 

He had no time to readjust however before Neil took a sharp right towards an open door with a man smoking outside of it. They ran through the back of a kitchen, multiple people blubbering and spouting nonsense on how they weren't supposed to be there before they came out to a restaurant dining area. A lot of the customer's gave them odd looks at their intrusion and cuffed hands but Neil wasn't perturbed. They ran towards the door that was housed in a narrow corridor. 

Stopping suddenly yet again in the hall Josten started rifling through the coat hangers. He grabbed a scarf and a hat while he gave a dark blue peacoat over to the person he was currently chained to. 

“Andrew take this. We need to disguise ourselves, they're right outside looking for us.” Neil informed. 

Minyard started slinging the clothing over his shoulders as he couldn't properly put it on with the handcuffs in the way. While he did this he responded “I'm surprised you know my name.” 

Neil raised an unimpressed eyebrow but his eyes glinted amusedly “I'm surprised you assumed I wouldn't look into you.” 

Andrew squinted at Neil before he corrected himself, “I'm surprised you remembered.”

The thief paused for a moment. “I wouldn't forget you. Not after that night.” he stated matter of factly even though he had a wistful look to him. 

Before Andrew could hyper analyze that odd response Neil already started dragging them along with their new disguises in place. Right before they left Andrew grabbed Neil's hand. He seemed to startle but before he could do anything Andrew said “It will look weird if we are still handcuffed. Holding hands makes it look less suspicious.” he didn't say it but the underlying question was still there. Is this okay?

Josten nodded and held onto Andrew's hand in return, making something in Andrew's chest flutter. He violently shoved that odd feeling down to deal with later, or preferably, never. 

They walked out and casually started down the street as if they were a couple. Andrew forced his body to relax and it was easier than he wanted to admit. Neil also took to looking loose and lax, a smile plastered on as if he was enjoying Andrew’s company. He had the audacity to swing their hands a little bit which was rewarded with a glare from Andrew he couldn’t hold back. Josten’s smile took on a knowing and devilish appearance in response. 

They walked a couple blocks, during that time Andrew took to trying to calm his infuriatingly rapid heartbeat. It wasn’t because of his aversion to touch, in fact it seemed to be the opposite. Andrew felt like a middle schooler with a crush and if he could leave his body and beat the shit out of himself he would. 

Finally Neil freed him of this torture by letting go and speeding up down a street that had older buildings lined down it.

“Where are we going?” Andrew asked out of curiosity as he checked to see if they were still being followed. 

“Away.”

“To?”

Neil turned his head to look at Andrew then shrugged. 

“Wow, what a plan Josten.”

Neil smiled and turned back forward “We aren’t dead yet. That’s already farther than I thought we’d get”

Andrew was about to respond but noticed a glint of something in the alley they were just about to pass. Going purely off his gut he quickly snagged Josten’s arm to drag him so he was shielded by Andrew’s body just before the sound of a gun sounded loudly throughout the abandoned area.

Minyard hissed in pain as the bullet grazed through the side of his left shoulder. He heard Neil gasp and then they exchanged their grips on one another so Neil could drag Andrew away. 

He hauled Andrew down the street and into another building that of which Andrew could barely pay attention to due to trying to blink past the spots in his vision. He saw carpeted floors and heard Josten ranting in- was that German?

“Jesus fucking christ” He blabbed in the language. “God dammit, son of a bitch, fucking-” 

“You speak German?” Andrew responded in the same tongue with a strained voice. 

Neil stopped and looked at Andrew in surprise. Andrew finally dragged his head up and started riding off of the adrenaline so he couldn’t feel the pain as much. Opening and closing his mouth multiple times Neil finally settled on shaking his head and continuing onward. Andrew took to looking at where they were and was surprised to see they were in the hallway of an office. No one seemed to be around though. 

Neil opened multiple closed doors trying to find something. Some were meeting rooms, others were locked offices.

“Why is no one here?” Andrew asked roughly in German just to see how far Neil’s lingualcy extended. 

Neil paused as he glanced back at Andrew once again “This place is a cover up for illegal business. It doesn’t have people here on certain days.” his accent was authentic, as if he lived in the country for a long time.

“Why would you tell a cop this?”

Neil snorted as he tried another door to his right “I’m not involved in what they do here so I don’t care what happens to them. Besides,” Neil finally seemed to find what he was looking for and dragged his wounded partner in crime inside “You seemed quite engrossed with another case right now.” 

He closed the door and turned the light on, introducing Andrew to a janitor’s closet. Minyard dimly registered the music from earlier had stopped due to getting injured. Speaking of, Josten’s face suddenly looked very serious as he looked at the bleeding wound. He motioned for Andrew to drop the peacoat. Andrew obliged. Neil looked around the storage closet and started going through some things, forcing Andrew’s non injured arm to extend due to their linked hands. 

Josten had managed to snag a first aid kit and dug through it. He was tense and quiet, something that also put Andrew on edge. 

Finally he broke the stiff silence and asked in English “.. why did you do that” he refused to meet Andrew's eyes.

Andrew knew what Neil meant by the vague question. He took some silence of his own to think. 

“Because. I keep my promises.” he answered eventually.

Josten finally looked at him “I don't need to be in perfect condition for you to take me in.” 

He had a point. In truth, Andrew didn't want to bring Neil in all banged up and broken. Andrew could have said he was protecting Neil from getting killed by that bullet, but they both knew, even in the moment, it wouldn't have ended him. 

“Maybe I don't want you to get hurt.” he stated. It was too honest and raw of a truth that Andrew tacked on “Maybe I want to catch you fair and square, without any handicaps.”

Unfortunately, Neil's knowing eyes saw right through him. “I don't need your protection.” he responded harshly. He grabbed some cleaning solution and approached Andrew, bandages slung around his arm. 

“Can I touch you? I need to tend to your injury.”

Back to business then.

“Yes,” Andrew answered cautiously, clear warning in his voice not to take advantage of that. 

Wonder boy got to work, very gently cleaning up his wound without any unnecessary touches. Andrew took the time to inspect him, zeroing in on his ginger colored lashes. The blue diamonds that were his eyes peeked shyly behind them as they inspected the gash. He had a generous dusting of freckles, that of which made Andrew want to spend hours making constellations out of. His jawline was sharp but his cheeks hid some of his cheek bones, making him look softer than most men. The playful auburn curls acted as a mask for part of Neil's face.

So badly did Andrew want to brush it away and make Neil look at him. Maybe then he could figure out what secrets were behind those fucking eyes. 

There was also something nagging at Andrew's brain. Andrew had always thought Neil looked familiar, but he couldn't exactly match the face with the name. 

Before he could inspect further Neil finished bandaging him up and then stepped a comfortable distance away. He inspected their linked hands for a moment before stating “You need to uncuff us. It makes this whole escaping with our lives thing incredibly hard.” 

Andrew narrowed his eyes at Neil “You are gonna have to try harder than that if you want to get away again.” 

Neil sighed “I'm not trying to get away, I have to help you now that you're involved. I'm not just going to let you sit here to die.” 

“Interesting,” Andrew tilted his head inquisitively “Why?” 

Neil stayed silent and stared at him, his face unreadable. 

Andrew continued on “Last time I checked you didn't care about collateral damage. Is Kevin an exception?” 

The thief immediately tensed “...You eavesdropped.” he averred. 

“That's such an interesting ‘proposition’ isn't it?” Andrew took a step forward into Neil's space. He didn't move away, only kept their intense and electrifying eye contact. “You get Kevin out of Riko’s hands and in return you get… what was it again?” Andrew asked ruthlessly.

A dangerous look was in Neil's eyes. Andrew ignored the warning. “Ah, that's right. Nothing. You're sacrificing so much for Kevin and asking for absolutely nothing in return. Why?”

They somehow migrated even closer than before, the air around them full with the potential of a fight. Then Neil smiled. Cruelly. It was as sharp and twisted as the night they first met. 

“Should you really be asking me that question?” Andrew could feel something dreadful coming. He barely had time to brace for it before Neil delivered the blow “How did Aaron appreciate you tearing yourself apart?”

Andrew shouldn’t be surprised Neil knew about that, he did say he looked into him. And yet even with that in mind Minyard could feel his face twisting in anger. He couldn't get it back to its neutral state so instead he lowly growled “You know nothing-”

Neil’s sharp smile broke “Oh but I do. I finally pieced it all together.” his eyes had a fire-an anger?-that sparked with Andrew's. “why you would ruin a ‘happy home’ with the Spear’s by going to juvie. Why you told Aaron to leave you alone when he tried reaching out. Why Luther Hemmick mentions you two ‘not getting along at the start’.” 

Neil leaned in until finally they were so close that Andrew could make out every detail on his face. “And then Drake died, by Aaron's hands. But you never mentioned one crucial detail in the trial. That back then Drake wanted Aaron in the family too, and you stayed instead to keep him safe. You destroyed yourself in every single way and you expected absolutely nothing in return.” 

He leaned out of their shared space. Andrew hated to admit he missed the closeness even with their little spat going on. 

Neil visibly deflated “You understand self sacrifice. You know why I'm doing this for Kevin.” his voice was firm but much softer than before. 

Andrew could feel his own anger fading as he took his gaze away to the cuffs. He mulled over Neil's request and made a decision. 

“I'll take the handcuffs off on one condition.”

Josten looked at him cautiously but motioned for him to continue. 

“I want a truth.” Andrew said “Tell me who's after you.”

As soon as it left his mouth Neil looked ready to run. Andrew tugged at the cuffs to remind him he couldn't and to pay up if he wanted to. 

Neil bit the inside of his cheek with anxiety lacing his eyes. Andrew internally sighed before slowly reaching his free hand up. He gave Josten plenty of time to pull away before settling his hand on the back of his neck. 

After an initial jolt, all of Neil's muscles relaxed as he let out a small breath. 

Eventually after chewing over his thoughts he spoke up “Its… its my father’s men. They're involved in some shady business and I managed to escape with my mom when I was young. She took some money of his and we've been trying to outrun them ever since.” 

Andrew felt the nagging from earlier getting more and more intense as Neil spoke but it still didn't trigger his memory. 

“What's your real name.” Andrew found himself asking.

Neil tensed under Andrew's hand but didn't move away “You only asked for one truth-”

“You already know so much about me. I'm only asking for your name, I am owed that much at least.” He countered, yet Andrew found himself squeezing his neck in reassurance.

Neil had the audacity to look guilty. Andrew softened his voice and added “You said it yourself, I wouldn't be able to do anything with your name.” 

After a pause in time, during which Neil’s eyes bore into Andrew’s own, he finally parted his lips and uttered “Nathaniel” in an incredibly small voice. 

That was it. It finally clicked and Andrew had a memory resurface of his time at college during one of his classes when they were talking about theories on the Butcher of Baltimore. Nathan Wesninski had a lot of rumors stacked against him, but the police could never pin anything on the man until very recently. Even then it was only tax fraud. Andrew had the memory of them briefly mentioning that Nathan had a son, it was stowed away an unimportant until now.

Andrew’s realization tumbled out of his mouth “You're a Wesninski” 

Josten flinched so hard and pulled so far back he hit the door behind him, freeing Andrew's hand away from his neck in the process. “H-how-”

“There have been theories that you were alive but none that were very solid. In the system you are considered dead Nathaniel.” 

“Don’t call me that.” he spat viciously. After assessing the man for a moment Andrew nodded. Neil hadn't touched him without asking this whole time so Andrew owed him this much at least. 

He also decided to answer Neil's question in the hopes of luring Neil out of his head and to the situation at hand. “... I remember talk of Wesninski scandals from college when I was studying criminal justice.” Andrew tilted his head slightly and looked off to the upper middle distance “I couldn’t place the memory to the information I had on you until now” 

Josten paused, his body clearly on the defensive with his free arm hugging himself. Even so he still looked appreciative at the change in conversation from him to Andrew. 

“You remembered something as small as that?” he voiced thinly.

Andrew assessed Neil for a moment before giving a truth “I have eidetic memory.”

The thief inspected Andrew in turn before nodding in acceptance. 

He still looked ready to jump out of his skin so Andrew lessened their distance and said “I'm going to get rid of these handcuffs now. Are you still willing to get us out of this mess?” 

It wasn't until Neil took a few long and steady breaths that he was finally able to ground himself. He opened his eyes and nodded at Andrew “I think we've done enough emotional unbagging for one day.” he joked lightly. 

Andrew graced Neil with a tiny smirk before resetting his expression. He got out his keys and unlocked their entrapment to one another before gauging Josten’s reaction. Neil no more than rubbed his wrist a bit and rotated his shoulder before raising an eyebrow at Andrew in silent question. Minyard nodded in satisfaction and motioned for him to lead the way. 

They escaped out of the closet after Neil took a sweeping glance at the hall when opening the door. He briskly sped walked out and Andrew followed close behind. 

Neil turned and they started heading towards the fire door at the back of the building. Neil opened it and Andrew wasn't surprised to see the alarm didn't trigger. It was probably a means of quick escape just in case this place got busted. 

They re-emerged out into the cold night, it was relieving after being stuck inside a closet for some time. His arm still ached but he ignored the pain in favor of trying to calculate where to go next. Neil seemed to be doing the same thing but something caught his attention. 

He jogged over to the dead end of the alley and Andrew followed. There was something long covered in a black tarp resting against the wall. Neil pulled it back and it revealed a retro looking but no doubt new and expensive motorcycle.  He supposed this was a nice place to hide it considering not a lot of loiterers hung around this area. 

Neil turned to Andrew with a grin “Jackpot~” he sang. He inspected the make and model and started rifling through his pockets. He pulled out a small 2 inch wire and turned to Andrew, raising his eyebrows playfully as if to say watch this. He circled around the bike and reached through the middle. Andrew heard the uncapping of something and then a noticeable click . Neil straightened backup and then flipped the switch on the bike and it turned on with a low rumble.

“Hot wiring bikes is ridiculously easy.” Neil stated simply before throwing his thighs over the seat and sitting on the bike. Andrew admired the way the position made his ass look before turning an unimpressed stare to Neil's face. 

Josten didn't seem to notice Andrew's lingering attention to other places. He was looking at Minyard expectantly though. Andrew, after some time, shrugged and threw himself around the bike. 

“You ever ridden on a motorcycle before?” Neil asked with an undertone of smugness. 

“No.” 

He turned his head and informed “Keep your arms tightly around my waist. It’s gonna feel like we’re falling off but don't worry, we won't”

Andrew felt the small swoop of excitement. Another song started slowly as Andrew and Neil held eye contact for what was longer than strictly necessary

Then Andrew wound his arms around Neil and squeezed as a signal of go . Neil smiled one last time and kicked the stand, forcing Andrew’s legs to scramble for purchase on the bike. 

Then they went. 

Andrew’s heart beat quickly in time with the music as they sped off and out of the alley. He tightened his grip on Neil and could feel the little devil laughing in jubilation. His heartbeat picked up speed. 

They twisted and twined down empty side streets without slowing down and eventually Andrew got used to the feeling. The timing was perfect because soon Andrew turned his head to see a car was following their speed. They had tinted windows that rolled down and brandished a man with a pistol aiming at them. Neil swerved perfectly in time before the bullet went soaring. 

Fuck it

Minyard leaned up into Neil's ear and said “Keep us steady” and then straightened his legs and slung his arm around Neil's shoulder. His chest was against Neil’s head as he was now standing on the bike. 

“What are you doing!” Neil squawked indignantly at Andrew's sudden boldness. He took his gun out and twisted around to aim at the guy behind them. He took a breath and on the exhale shot the man in the head. The car swerved and Andrew took the opportunity to shoot one of the tires of the car since the windows were probably bullet proof. 

The car fishtailed and was forced to slow completely as the pair of them sped away.

He sat back down and re wrapped both his arms around his current chauffeur. Neil glanced behind them and then back at the road “Nice shot. Thought you were gonna fall off there” he confessed. 

Andrew rolled his eyes even though wonder boy couldn't see it. “Oh really? I couldn't tell.” he responded sarcastically. 

“Oh fuck off” Andrew heard the smile in his voice. 

The music continued as they sped up onto a freeway and Andrew kept an eye out for more of Nathan's men. Eventually Neil went off on an exit and down a couple roads for a while. They seemed to finally have lost them. 

Neil then slowed down and parked in a familiar alley. They were near Andrew's apartment. “Alright. We should have lost them.” Neil said.

Andrew got off the bike with shaking legs and audibly sighed. The adrenaline was leaving him along with the music. But nonetheless it was still there, a distant hum like the TV was on.

Neil stayed on the bike and stared at Andrew. Andrew stared back. 

“Is this the part where you arrest me?” he asked uncharacteristically soft

Andrew turned his face away from Neil's gaze. “I'm giving you exactly one minute to leave.” he said, face turned towards the ground. 

Wonder boy stayed for a long moment, no doubt assessing the man before him. Andrew was giving the thief and out, an escape. Why, he didn’t know or have the desire to analyze his actions. And soon all good things had to come to an end. This one had a remaining life span of 47 seconds. 

“Until next time Andrew,” Neil murmured beautifully.

45 seconds- 

But he kicked off and sped away. The wind whispered gently against Andrew as he looked up and at the trail of smoke from the bike. 

0 seconds. 

Andrew held onto the last words that thief uttered. It was the promise of “next time” Neil gifted Andrew. It sparked a feeling in that hollow chest of Andrew's, something like- like...

Hope

Chapter Text

“Hope is stupid and dangerous” Andrew said honestly. 

Betsy Dobson tapped her pen twice and looked at Minyard with a carefully neutral expression. Andrew had been in therapy with Bee for almost three years now, something that Wymack had forced him to do after an incident on one of his first cases. It was either be put back on medication again or go to court mandated therapy sessions. The choice of being able to irritate every therapist he saw and cycle through them like cheap pairs of shoes appealed to Andrew. 

Bee hadn't budged though. Even after 72 sessions. He'd gone to respect her in that time. 

“Care to elaborate?” she asked and slowly took a sip of the last of her hot chocolate. 

Andrew shifted in his seat and stared at the glass figurines. He chewed on his thoughts for a moment before giving an example.

“Let's say you're falling. Hope is that dumb insistent little child in your brain that keeps saying ‘maybe we'll survive’ or ‘maybe it will only break our bones, not kill us’. But no matter what there is still concrete at your demise. And that tiny annoying kid can't change the fact that gravity is dragging you to it.” 

“It seems you see hope as innocence or naivety.”

“Isn't it though?” Andrew turned back to Bee “the second you listen to that child is the second you feel the pain from the crash. Putting faith in that voice will only cause you more hurt.” 

“But what if the child is right? What if you survive the fall?”

Andrew gifted his therapist with an unimpressed look “People like me don't get to survive the fall. And people like me don’t get to have innocence. That's why I've given up on hope a long time ago. It makes the crash less excruciating.” 

She wrote something down on her notepad then crossed her arms over the desk. “Well unfortunately that's all our time. I made a note to pick up where we left off on this next week. 3 o’clock?” she asked.

“3 o'clock” he confirmed as he collected his coat and got up. Andrew left with no more words and mulled over what he wanted for dinner. 

He stopped by the supermarket and grabbed himself some things he needed for a stew. 

On his way back he heard a shrill sound and then a flash of orange flew by his feet. He looked down at the alley and saw a long and skinny tail disappear behind a corner. Turning his head to inspect where it came from, Andrew could see a stray dog not daring to cross the busy street like the other animal just had. 

Andrew, out of curiosity and with nothing better to do, wandered down the alley. He turned left and an orange tabby cat was in the corner licking its wounds. It froze up when it saw Andrew, not daring to move. Andrew just knelt down and looked passively back. 

Soon after an unnecessarily long staring contest the cat reluctantly went back to licking its bleeding paw. Its tail twitched in annoyance. 

Andrew rifled through his grocery bag and came out with a small section of french bread. He tore it into little pieces like he liked to do with his food and threw it near the stray. The tabby sniffed it suspiciously before finally giving in and eating the pieces Andrew gave it. 

“You know,” the cat looked up at the sound Andrew's voice as it continued to eat “You remind me of a certain someone.” 

The cat swallowed then actually meowed as if responding.

“Mouthy huh? Just like him” 

The cat got up and carefully went over to Andrew, sniffing his hands for more gifts. Andrew upturned them to show they were empty and said “Sorry, I have another stray I need to keep an eye on” before getting up and dusting off his pants. 

Andrew, for shits and giggles of course, saluted the cat and uttered “Good luck” before leaving the animal to its own devices. 

Andrew walked the rest of the way to his apartment and climbed the stairs all the way to the 8th floor. After getting into his small studio he released a sigh of relief at finally being home.

It wasn't until after his dinner and dessert when Andrew went down to the lobby to check the mail that he noticed something. Outside the building was the tabby, waiting by the doors patiently. When it saw Andrew it went up on its hind legs and pawed at the glass. The cat meowed loudly enough for Andrew to hear its muffled and pathetic cries. 

Andrew must've not noticed the brat follow him home in hopes of more food. Andrew didn’t want to reinforce this behavior so he simply got his mail, turned around, and made his treck back up. 

He dropped off his mail and left the studio again, but this time going back to the stairs and up further. He reached the door to the roof and with a careful and forceful shoulder shove it opened easily. Andrew liked to come to the top of the fifteen story apartment building for some fresh air. It also gave him a small rush of fear, which was always a welcome guest in his large mansion of apathy. 

Going over to toe the edge of the building sent a vast swoop to his stomach. Andrew carefully looked down to further the sensation. After adjusting to the feeling Minyard finally sat down on the edge. That was enough to keep the fire of his dread going as he pulled out his cigarettes. 

Andrew liked to sit up here to think. Fear resetted him. A lot of late night revelations of problems he’s puzzled over have been made up here. Just two nights ago, the night that he had last seen Neil, he had roosted himself on this very spot for almost three hours. At that time he had a decision to make, or rather, a promise to rethink. 

Neil was a dangerous game; he could slip through Andrew’s hands at any second. But this hadn’t prevented Andrew from desperately holding on. See because even if Neil was problematic and slippery and smart as all hell, Andrew could keep up. Maybe that’s why Neil allowed their little chase to continue. Maybe he, just like Andrew himself, needed someone to keep up with him and his wild antics. 

But things changed with their last little run in. Old baggage had been dug up from both parties and the game had adjusted accordingly. Now instead of a fun new toy to play with Andrew felt the ever annoying and persistent want to protect the street rat. 

Neil was paying for the consequences of a life he had no say in. It wasn’t his fault he was born . Born with a father who probably murdered for a living. Born with a mother who taught him the only way to live was to escape from people who want his head and change his very person every blue moon. Born with nothing to live for except Kevin Day

Andrew had devised a plan that night. He’d get Neil out of this. And soon after Neil would finally be free, and he would leave Andrew like all the rest had. This was routine. This was solace. This was the only thing Andrew was good at. 

Andrew felt a prickle on the back of his neck, someone was nearby. He instinctively tensed, and listened for any out of place noises. Soon slight scuffling could be heard. Andrew whipped around with one of his knives on the ready.

Speak of the devil and he doth appear

Said devil was all the way at the other end of the roof, presumably having climbed up the edge of the building. Andrew would have been surprised but he knew this dumbass parkoured so he wasn't. Neil had a grey hoodie on with black sweatpants and red running shoes. The hood was up and he stuffed his hands in his pockets, heading towards Andrew. 

Andrew put his knife away and turned back out towards the city. 

Neil stopped right beside him and Andrew could feel those blue eyes on him. Andrew lit another cigarette. The thief took that as his que to sit down next to him. Andrew finally looked back and saw Neil admiring the night lights, a wistful look on his face.

“You know, I never took you as this stupid.”

Neil glanced at him to show he was listening.

“I’ve never had a criminal come willingly to me. You are completely defenseless with nothing to prevent me from taking you straight to prison.” 

Neil looked at Minyard fully and smiled “You won’t do that.” He answered confidently.

Andrew raised an eyebrow “Oh?” 

“If you actually wanted me behind bars you would’ve done it long ago. You’re far too invested in our cat and mouse game aren’t you detective?”

Andrew turned his gaze away as answer. They sat in silence for a while longer. When Andrew rose the cigarette to his lips Neil stole it away and cupped it in front of his face. His fingers almost brushed against his mouth and Andrew almost shivered at the thought. He spoke up to distract himself from where his mind was about to head “I have a proposition.”

Neil stilled to look at Andrew with an unreadable expression. He clearly caught the certain conversation Andrew was alluding to, but he stayed silent.

“You see, that offer you made Kevin wasn't a real offer. What I am putting on the table, however, is.” Andrew leaned closer to Neil, taking back his stolen nicotine. He tapped the stick and the ash was whisked away by the breeze “How my deals work is based on equivalent exchange. Both sides offer something of value that we benefit from in the end.” 

Neil was still frozen, his entire body taut with tension “What do you want from me.” he asked quietly. 

“What you should be asking is what am I offering,” 

Josten didn't budge. His only answer and his only reaction thus far being an unimpressed stare. 

Andrew confessed to him “I haven't decided yet.”

“Okay… and what do you think I want?” his voice was laced with a snark as if he was indulging a child in a game of make believe. 

Andrew refused to take the bait. “I will protect you from your big bad wolves until you figure out how to get Kevin out of his little stink. Once that's done I'll rid of the people after you for good.” 

Neil laughed. It was loud, but dark and bitter. His butcher's smile was back and paired with an emotionally void gaze on Andrew after his little hysterics were finished. 

“You can't help me.”

“Try me.” 

Neil's facade cracked as his smile slowly transformed into a frown. 

“No one can get me out of the trouble I'm in. Don't you think if it was possible I would have done it by now?” 

Casually looking away as if it was unimportant, Andrew took a drag of the Marlboro. “That was before you had the right tools. That's what I'm here for.” 

“You're not a tool Andrew. You are a human being who isn't invincible and can most certainly die by the men after me.”

“Exactly. Which is why I have you offering something on your end as well. There is a price to pay on both sides. I'm not a martyr like you who would willingly die for nothing in return.” 

Neil muttered just loudly enough to be heard “Try saying that to Aaron.” 

Andrew looked at Neil with the coldest and deadliest glare he could physically manage. Neil was traversing dangerous waters, but he looked back knowingly with unafraid and unapologetic eyes. 

Minyard’s head snapped away in annoyance. “What do you have to offer me Neil?” 

“I never agreed to this-”

“We haven't shaken on anything and I'll give you time to think it over you nuisance” he snapped. 

Neil rolled his eyes but gave Andrew the honor of actually thinking about it. 

“... If I were to agree to this- and that is a big if ” he emphasized uselessly “... would you want insider information?”

Andrew inhaled smoke from the cigarette and breathed out “Specify.”

“I'm very aware of what a lot of people and other organizations are up to. I'd be your mole of sorts.”

Chewing over the offer for a couple of moments Minyard responded “I don’t want more work on my plate with trying to solve the other detective's big cases,” 

Neil opened his mouth to argue and Andrew cut him off “ But … I am bored of the small cases I've been getting. If every month you can get me information to start a good case to puzzle over then I’ll take it as an acceptable payment. No big cases that would take more than three detectives work. I'm not looking to take down every mafia organization out there.” 

He gave Neil time to mull it over, yet the silence stretched out longer than he thought it would. Andrew took a glance at him and was surprised to see Neil staring back. Stubbornly, Andrew held his gaze. But soon he started feeling antsy under Josten’s piercing inspection. 

“So?” he didn't bother hiding the bite to his low voice. 

Finally the thief looked away. Almost embarrassed. He had a flush to his cheeks and wide fidgety eyes as if he woke up from a trance and was regaining his bearings. 

“I-I want more time to think on it… like you said.” 

Andrew studied Neil for a moment before he nodded his acceptance at that. He was expecting Josten to get up and leave but he stayed put. They sat in silence for half an hour before Andrew silently went back inside, leaving the man to his own devices. 

He lay in bed that night, his brain ruthlessly playing how Jostens amber hair looked in the night. How the moon washed out his skin in a certain way. How he somehow smelled of bitter tea with ash and also honeysuckle and vanilla. 

Andrew rolled over and sighed.

Get it together Minyard

 


 

The rest of the week had Neil visiting two more times on that same cold rooftop. One of those times being them basking in the night in complete silence, and the other time had them talking a bit more casually. 

Andrew indulged that he liked to read and sometimes even write. Neil said he writes songs but he wouldn't be able to write a good story. They talked more on subjects that meant very little, yet meant everything when said out into the atmosphere of that private little world they shared.

The next time that Neil had waltzed into Andrew’s life was when Andrew was finishing up a book one night. He got a text from an unknown number.

Where are you?

Andrew very rarely got texts from numbers he didn’t know, and usually it would go ignored, but he had a feeling he knew who it was.

?

He set his phone down and got up to make some hot chocolate that Bee said he ought to try. Andrew sat back down after it was done and was greeted with five new unread messages.

This cat seems to like you

It always sits on the stoop waiting for you

I’ve been feeding it 

… 

Maybe it’s actually waiting for me now that I’m thinking about it.

Andrew paused in sipping his drink to reread the messages. Fucking Josten.

Great. Now I have to deal with two strays.

Even if Josten had somehow gotten his number-and his address-Andrew was surprisingly not bothered. It didn’t feel as if Josten would do anything unwelcomed, and even if Minyard hated to admit it, he’d gone to trust Neil a bit.  

Yep. And this stray asked you a question.

I’m not in the mood to come up. It’s snowing. 

It was only November but in Colorado that was practically mid winter. The snow was softly falling in giant clumps of snowflakes, but with the dreadful cold came blissful quiet. Andrew had opened the window earlier with his bulky coat on to get his nicotine fix before slamming it shut and blasting the heat. 

Oh

Well, I made my decision

About your proposition

Can I call?

I dunno. Can you send a text that’s more than 5 words without having to write a new one?

Fuck off

Is that a yes or a no?

Yes.

The unknown number came up into Andrew’s phone and he let it ring for a few times just to be petty. While he waited he got up to turn off all the lights, dragged his chair over to the window, and sat back down with his hot chocolate. The night sky was a pastel orange creamsicle from the light pollution of the city reflecting off of the overcast clouds. With the light from inside his studio extinguished it made the snowflakes turn dark, like ash falling from the cigarette butt of the sky. 

Andrew answered the phone.

“You sure took your time.” Neil amusedly commented.

“I had to get situated for the impending dread your existence brings me.”

“I never knew you were one to get so nervous when talking to boys.”

Andrew cracked a small smirk in the darkness “What can I say, sometimes I get cold feet when trying to execute the murders of the men that I am attracted to.” 

A small, almost indiscernible intake of breath was heard on the other line. Josten said nothing for a while. Andrew waited him out.

“... You- You’re attracted to me? I- I was making a joke-”

“You cannot be that stupid.” Andrew asked seriously. Josten had been flirting with him from the start, he had to have known that Andrew would love to see him keening under his hands. “Tell me you aren’t that dense”

“What!”

“What do you mean what? The night we met we were both very much on the same page on what I thought of you.”

“I mean… I knew you thought I was- hot or whatever but I didn’t think you still felt that way after you found out who I really was.”

“That usually doesn’t change attraction.”

Neil mulled over his words for a moment before admitting “I guess that makes sense… I wouldn’t know.”

A sharp pang of disappointment rang through Andrew’s ribcage at the words. “You’re straight then.” he asked but it came out as much more of a statement.

“I’m not anything. I don’t like boys or girls.” 

Andrew hummed in response. They sat in a semi awkward silence for a minute or two, Andrew used that time to tame his emotions, trying to get his bitterness in check. 

“So… You like me?” Josten really didn’t know when to shut up did he.

“I hate you. 90% of the time I want to kill you.”

Neil's next words sounded much more relieved. This man was surely malfunctioning if he relaxed at the sound of a death threat. “Oh? And what about the other ten?”

“You don’t want to know Mr. Not-Attracted-To-Anybody” 

Neil chuckled and his voice shifted slightly as if he had turned his head away from the receiver. “I feel like this conversation had taken a wildly different direction from the initial reason I called.”

“Ah yes. The decision.” Andrew finished the rest of the hot chocolate before setting it down on his bed stand and resting his head on top of his hand. “So what’ll it be wonder boy?”

Neil snorted slightly at the nickname but made no further comment. After a breath in the conversation he finally answered "... it's a deal. I need someone to watch my back while I help Kevin." 

Andrew nodded, and for once didn't squash the soft feeling blooming in his chest. "Good. Get me my case in the next two weeks."

"Okay." 

That moment would have been the perfect time to hang up, but Andrew stayed. So did Neil. 

"Andrew?" The thief softly called. 

"Hm?"

"Thank you," His voice was so genuine and sweet. Andrew couldn't remember the last time someone had thanked him like that.

"... Yeah." 

So I'll try to talk refined for fear that you find out how I'm imagining you

 


 

“Minyard,” 

Aaron turned his head along with Andrew. Aaron decided to scowl at the mix up while Andrew went with neutrality. Dan Wilds realized her mistake and smiled apologetically “Aaron, what’s the autopsy report on the Jenkins case?”

The doctor boredly listed off his findings while Andrew spaced out. Everyone from this sector of the department, nicknamed “The Foxes” by the Chief, were in the middle of a meeting. Aaron usually wasn’t in these types of meetings but there was a mix up with the forensics databases so they had to resort to documenting everything down in analog. This required the specialists to give the detectives everything they needed in debriefs like this. 

Some of the other detectives, Reynolds and Boyd by the sounds of it, were speculating the case with the new info. Andrew looked at his brother and found him already staring at him. He raised his eyebrow questioningly and the man scoffed and turned away with a glare in response. 

Ever since Andrew let Aaron go to let him chase after his little slut they have been at a stand still. Aaron still resents Andrew and Andrew refuses to apologize for anything he did. Their relationship was slowly dwindling now that they didn’t have a deal keeping them tethered, and Nicky was the only type of mediator that could possibly keep them from ignoring each other entirely. But even then, this connection was just a thin string now. 

Aaron had decided to join forensics, but he didn’t like the field. He did it because he was indecisive at the time of him graduating and just needed a job to keep him afloat. Andrew got him the job, along with Nicky’s secretary position, and soon they would both be leaving. Aaron was going off with Kathy or whatever her name was to Chicago to become their own respective Mother Teresa’s and save lives. Nicky was going to retreat back to his true home in Germany with his lover Erik. 

And Andrew was going to stay here in Denver. Alone. Maybe that’s why he offered Neil that deal. Maybe subconsciously his brain wasn’t ready to be abandoned so he grabbed the nearest charity case and vowed protection. 

Hmm, no. Even with his self deprecative side whispering these theories he knew it wasn’t true. Andrew didn’t offer the deal out of selfishness, he did it for the exact opposite reason. Because Neil needs a rope, and that is the one thing Andrew can provide. 

Dan clapped and said with a smile “Alright, you’re all free to go, thank you for your time.” They all got up and shuffled out. Andrew was heading towards his desk before a voice called after him. “Hey smalls!”

Andrew didn’t stop until he was at his chair. He sat down, took out his lunch, and proceeded to ignore whoever called him before a well manicured hand slammed down in front of him. 

Allison Reynolds had a stubborn set to her jaw and fire in her eyes. Andrew looked to her boredly and didn’t say anything. 

“You still on that Jack case?”

Andrew took out his panini and started tearing it into pieces “What’s it to you?”

“Well Moreau seems to know more about him than he’s letting on.”

Andrew turned to look at her again. If Moreau knew something about Neil, that could mean trouble. After eavesdropping that one night he found out what was undoubtedly classified information, that the Frenchman used to work for Riko. Kevin had said that night that him and Neil belonged to the younger Moriyama, whatever that meant wasn’t good. Neil and Moreau could know each other, and if that french bastard got his hands on Josten, that would mean Nathan’s men could much more easily grab Neil from under Andrew’s careful watch. Even if he was working for the DPD now, buying off cops wasn’t hard in this day and age. 

None of this was voiced to the woman but Andrew at least gave her a nod. “I guess I’ll have to have a little chat with him.”

Allison straightened and waved a hand “Don’t rough him up too bad, him and Renee are friends.”

“Hmm yes. Why are you going behind your girlfriends back and telling me this then instead of asking her about it?”

She raised an unimpressed brow “You say that as if I hadn't tried that already and as if the person I tried that with wasn’t Renee. You know her, she keeps her lips sealed with stuff like this.”

“Why do you care? You never have before about any other people’s cases.”

“Because I don’t trust him. Especially if he’s keeping information from such an influential case like this.”

Ah. There it was. “You don’t trust him around Renee.” He deduced her actual reason for coming to him. “Protective much?”

“Like you have much right to talk you little midget.”

Andrew shrugged and turned back to his lunch “Sure. That will be all Ms. Reynolds” He said as if he was dismissing a secretary. 

Allison knocked over his half full trash can in return and said in a honey sweet voice “Of course Mr. Fuckhead” before strutting away with confidence. 

When he turned and looked up he saw Wymack halfway out the door of his office looking at him. He shook his head and wandered off, but not before muttering “Grown ass adults and you are all somehow children I swear.” 

 


 

After sweeping the hall for any suspects, Andrew knocked on the door twice and waited. Jean Moreau appeared a minute later from the filing room, looking down at his new found guest. Andrew let himself into the stifling space without a word, practically having to shove Moreau to the side. 

"No please, after you." Jean droned sarcastically.

The Frenchman shut the door and as soon as he did Andrew grabbed him by the neck and slammed him against the wall. Jean grunted but made no move to resist Andrew. 

Minyard had a knife out and was twirling it in his other hand with his usual blank face on. Jean looked unimpressed. 

"What do you want Minyard."

"What do you know about Neil Josten?" 

Jean looked to the side boredly "Ah, I see you've finally made some headway in your Jack case. I wouldn't bother feeling accomplished though, that's not his real name. It's as much of a lead as the nickname 'Jack' is."

Andrew cut the theatrics and put the knife tip at Jean's abdomen. That seemed the elicit the slightest flinch, something that Jean tried hiding with a sneer. 

"I don't need leads. I need answers. How do you know Neil?" Andrew repeated. 

Jean kept his lips sealed. Andrew tried a different approach. "Does Detective Knox know about all the fucked up shit Riko made you do under the Ravens?"

That seemed to do it. Jean looked angry, his facade dropping. "It doesn't matter. My past doesn't define me-"

"Yes yes, Jeremy is quite the optimist that one. I'm sure he's told you that many a time in an attempt to soothe your conscience, but we both know that that ointment won't do a thing on a wound that big."

Moreau growled "What do you want you incessant little-"

"What I want is for you to tell me how you know Neil and what the standing between you two is. I'll leave you alone in your pitiful corner with your little puppy if you aren't a threat to what's mine."

"What's yours? What are you-"

Andrew once again interrupted him but instead with words he nicked Jean's stomach in warning. 

Jean hissed, likely not from the pain though. Mafia life was tough, Jean probably has some pretty ugly memories he was keeping from resurfacing. 

"I know about who Neil actually is. I need to know how he fits into all of this with you and the Ravens." Andrew supplied.

Finally, after inspecting Andrew the bastard relented.

"Josten came to us when we were kids. He was going by his real name at that point. His father was going to auction him off to the Ravens but his mother took him and ran before he could." 

Andrew nodded and motioned for him to continue. 

"But Riko got a hold of him when he first came to Colorado at eighteen. He forced him to stay for months, working as a Raven until he escaped. He managed to get me and Riko's right hand man Kevin Day an escape as well. Kevin didn't take his in time. I heard he's paid the price." 

After absorbing this Andrew asked "Are you planning to take Josten in?" 

Jean looked flabbergasted by the idea "No, I have no reason to. I promised to stay silent before he left. Josten said he was going to come back to get Kevin out after lying low for a bit. I… I wanted to help but I can't get near him again."

Andrew stepped back and put away his knife. "Cowards." He said more to himself than to anyone else. 

Jean rubbed his neck and scowled. "Va te faire foutre."

"Yeah yeah." Minyard waved his hand dismissively, "I'm sure you said something super insulting so I'll save you the trouble of translating." He put his hand to his chest before delivering him a deadpan performance "Oh, ouch. My feelings." 

The man slumped and ignored Andrew's retort. "I didn't break my promise by the way." He paused and assessed Andrew as if his existence baffled him "He called me about you. Said that if you came looking for answers that I should tell you. I don't know what he sees in you." 

Andrew took some time to mull over that little tidbit before he shrugged and headed for the door. He left with Jean still slumped against the wall and with the information he had on Neil expanded. 

 


 

Roof. ASAP. 

Is everything okay?

Andrew??

Minyard didn’t bother answering back. He went straight up to the roof after he went to run some errands and opened the door. There Josten was, standing near the ledge. At the sound of the door he turned towards Andrew with a look of worry. Andrew casually went over to the ledge and whilst he did so Neil looked him over to see if there was anything wrong, most likely looking for some kind of injury. 

Andrew rolled his eyes and sat down on the edge of the roof. Neil joined him like he always had. 

After a minute or two of silence Neil apparently couldn't take it any longer. "What's wrong Andrew?" 

"Had a chat with someone interesting today." Andrew said as he looked to the horizon. The sunset was casting everything in fire, and Andrew didn't mind the burn. His own little flame right next to him waited for Andrew to continue.

"Detective Moreau told me about your little mafia vacation." 

Neil scoffed "Yeah what a trip to paradise that was." 

"What did it take?"

Andrew could feel Neil's eyes on him so he turned to look. Josten was clearly confused. 

"What did it take to get them out?" He clarified.

The thief's eyes widened it understanding and then darkened in memory. Andrew leaned over to place a hand at the back of his neck. 

"...I can show you." Neil whispered eventually.

"How?" 

Neil very slowly hovered his hand over the one Andrew had on the back of his neck. Andrew nodded and at his consent Neil very gently took Andrew's wrist. He shifted so he was off the ledge and had both knees on the pavement facing Andrew. 

Carefully, ever so carefully, Neil slid Andrew's hand under his coat and shirt. Immediately Andrew felt scarring on his belly where Neil placed his hand. Andrew didn't dare to move but he didn't need to. Just where his hand lay he'd could feel long stripes across the man's abdomen. Unequivocally knife wounds. 

Rage boiled deep within him. He looked at Neil with his jaw clenched. Neil looked back with empty eyes. 

"Riko?" Andrew somehow managed to get the name past his lips and not have it be tainted in the red hot lava inside of him. 

Neil nodded once. 

Andrew started pulling away before Neil gently tugged in request to stop. Andrew obliged "I… I'll show you my scars if you show me yours." 

Minyard realized then that they were on even ground now. Neil had felt Andrew's scars without seeing them and now the roles were reversed. Andrew thought about his mental state at that moment and decided he could handle it. Only with him.

"Yes."

Andrew pulled away to go first. He took off his coat, even though it was chilly, and then took off the armbands. Imitating Neil, Andrew took his feet off the ledge and onto the roof. And finally he upturned his wrists. 

Neil looked down and his mouth thinned ever so slightly but that was the only reaction. He looked and looked and looked and never once cringed or flinched away. Eventually Andrew felt comfortable enough to very quietly say "You can touch them." 

Neil looked to Andrew's face as if he was looking for the lie but Minyard knew he wouldn't find one. 

Eventually the little flame hovered his hands above the scars but he still waited. 

"Yes, Neil."

Finally, like a petal falling he touched Andrew. And his skin went alight. It wasn't disgust, it wasn't pain, it wasn't discomfort. It was the kind of fire that heals. The kind of fire that cleanses. The kind of fire that makes you ache for more of that warmth. 

Neil was burning away the ugliness, the pain, the darkness. And even though Andrew knew it was only temporary-you couldn't rid of things like this forever-he breathed a small sigh of relief. Neil noticed this reaction and gently traced one of the deeper cut scars. Andrew closed his eyes as a low voice sang like the bells of notre dame throughout his skull. 

His skin was ash. And with Neil here doing this it felt like saplings were finally starting to bloom. Andrew had never in his life felt this much trust and willingness to be vulnerable. 

This could be a problem. 

Neil sat there, fascinated with Andrew's scars, thumbing and pressing and tracing for minutes on end. Until the touch was gone. Andrew opened his eyes and saw Neil looking at him with something in his eyes

Andrew was about to scold him before Neil spoke up first. 

"Thank you Andrew." 

There it was again with the thank you's. Andrew felt too much. There were so many emotions when Neil was around. He put his armbands back on and gestured for Neil to take his turn. 

Neil looked around for anyone who might see him and then back to Andrew when he didn't find anybody. He started to unbutton his coat and then shrugged it off. He was wearing a tighter fitting grey Henley that made Andrew's gut clench, but he shoved that feeling away. This was no time for that.

Neil was clearly hesitant, so Andrew said "You don't have to-"

"No, I want to. Only with you." Neil interjected, unknowingly mirroring Andrew's own thought earlier.

And with that Neil reached back to grab a handful of his shirt and pull his now bare torso out. 

There was-

Too much. Too much for a boy like this to have been forced to experience. 

But Andrew didn't flinch. Andrew didn't do anything besides look. The only thing he felt was a dim shade of melancholy, but mostly a bone deep understanding. 

"You can touch them." Neil parroted.

"You don't have to let me for the sake of being fair. I don't care."

Neil reached over and put a hand on top of Andrew's. His blue eyes invaded Andrew's sight until it was the only thing he could see. 

"You can touch them." He repeated much more softly.

Andrew saw nothing but pure honestly, so he reached out. 

His chest was warm, Andrew kneaded his palm to further the sensation. And with that he started his venture. Andrew gently drifted his thumb over the edge of a patchy scar, seemingly from something rough tearing the top layer of Neil's skin. He ventured lower to the many many knife wounds giving each and every one a gentle swipe. He noticed Neil's breath hitched when he did. 

He went back up and found a bullet scar under his collarbone. "You were shot."

"Mm." Neil confirmed. 

Andrew went up to his shoulder and found an odd burn scar with raised holes in it. Andrew didn't realize he was furrowing his brow slightly until Neil answered his unspoken question. 

"My father. Hot clothing iron. I was seven years old and didn't sit still enough when cops came sniffing." He swallowed hard and Andrew moved his hand up to Neil's chin, gripping and forcing him to look at Andrew. 

"He will pay for this." He vowed.

Neil's lips parted and his blue eyes widened, practically sparkling . Andrew couldn't take it anymore.

"Don't look at me like that." Andrew snarled and took his hand away. 

Neil tilted his head in confusion "Like what?" 

"Like I am your answer."

The thief paused, assessing Andrew, but eventually dropped it. He picked up his Henley and put it back on.

They both maneuvered so they were on the ledge again, both jackets abandoned behind them. Then they started subtly inching closer and closer to share warmth until their shoulders touched. Andrew pretended not to notice Neil looking at him questioningly but he lightly pressed his arm into his in silent assent. In his periphery Andrew saw Neil look away but he felt the man gently press back. 

They sat there for a while sharing a cigarette. Soon Andrew leaned over and dug through his pocket. He pulled out a gold key, a copy to the same one to get into the apartment. Andrew had gone to the hardware store to pick it up before meeting up on the roof. He kept it in his palm for a moment before motioning for Neil's hand. 

Josten upturned his palm and Andrew took a drag of the cigarette before he grasped Neil's hand, putting the key into it. As he exhaled the smoke he held onto Neil's hand, then finally looked at him. Minyard pulled him closer with his hold on him and said "I can't protect you at every point in every second of the day. I understand that sometimes you'll get into shit and I won't be there. That's what this is for. Whenever you need a safe place to hide, to escape, to live- whatever. This is for you." He finally released his grasp, but he still kept his eyes locked onto Neil. 

Neil looked down in confusion then his face exploded into shock, and then a mix of complicated emotions arose right on its heels. He finally tore his gaze away from the key and to Andrew. The wind picked up slightly, gently curling and snaking his fiery hair in front of his face. 

"Andrew… this…"

He trailed off but didn't need to say anything more. This was Andrew's promise in permanent form. This was his word. His loyalty. 

His trust.

Neil knew this and couldn't seem to fathom why Andrew would give him such a thing. Andrew turned away and said "Come by whenever, I don't care. Just knock before you do, it's a shitty little studio." 

His little flame stared at the key slack jawed for an indeterminate amount of time. Andrew eventually stood up silently and went inside. He felt raw and seen and vulnerable, but… safe… and warm. 

It was a good feeling, and went nicely with the guitar echoing throughout his head. 

Chapter Text

Neil and Andrew had spent weeks constructing a plan to get Kevin out. They sat on the rooftop most the time, only meeting in a good café near Andrew's place occasionally. 

They were almost done, probably only needing one more meeting to work out a few kinks. 

Even with how often they were seeing each other Neil still hadn't used his key. Andrew had once asked Neil where he lived and he got a very vague "Off of Colfax," which one, was a sketchy part of town, and two, could easily mean he had a place or was living under a bridge. Andrew's natural protective instinct wanted to nest Neil here, even if it would make his skin crawl to go to sleep with another person in the room. 

But even so…

Sometimes Andrew would allow himself to fantasize. Him coming home, Neil there at that one roomed apartment, sitting at the small dining room table and smiling at the sight of having some company. Andrew would make himself hot chocolate and Neil his tea-turns out he lived in Britain for a while and, just like a stereotype, loved his tea-and they would talk for hours. Andrew would lean over and brush some of that unruly hair out of Neil's face and the thief would blush and go slack jawed like he sometimes did. It would made Andrew irritated. He wasn't deserving of those looks but simultaneously his rapid heart beat always betrayed his wishes. 

Almost every single time the fantasies would send him scowling. When did he become so soft?

Andrew had expected Neil to never visit, he was an idiot who seemed to have thrown his survival instincts out the window after all. But just in popular Neil-fashion he destroyed those presumptions. 

The knock at the door got Andrew's attention away from the lunch he was making. He wiped his hands on his black apron and walked towards the entryway. Opening the door revealed Neil with a jacket suspiciously more puffy than normal. He had a sheepish look on his face.

"Hi,"

"Hi yourself." Andrew shot back boredly. 

The man shifted hesitantly. "Can I come in?" 

Andrew rolled his eyes and turned around back into his place "Get your dumb ass in here Josten. I gave you a key for a reason." 

Neil shuffled in behind him and shut the door. He kept holding the bottom of his jacket and it made Andrew grow more and more suspicious. 

Neil didn't seem to notice. He was looking around with interest and then proceeded to inhale deeply. "Oooh, that smells amazing" he wandered over to the stove to look at the small pot of chicken noodle soup Andrew was cooking.

Andrew rolled his eyes yet again and went over to hip check him aside whilst muttering "street rat."

Glancing over showed Neil grinning "I'm your street rat." He replied before turning away to inspect the bed and other furniture. Andrew was glad because that last comment may not have gotten any sort of facial reaction, but Andrew felt his cheeks heat slightly. Probably from the steam of the soup. Yeah that was it. 

He gave it a couple of stirs before turning around to lean against the counter and observe his guest. 

Neil walked around a bit more and eventually gravitated towards Andrew yet again. But Minyard couldn't take it anymore. Neil was hiding something and he was 90% sure he knew what it was. 

Andrew motioned for Neil to come closer and of course the idiot obliged. Andrew grabbed his chin, pretending to inspect his face. Neil definitely seemed distracted by Andrew's intent gaze because his eyes widened. 

During that peak moment of obliviousness Andrew grabbed the zipper to his windbreaker and yanked it down. 

Out came tumbling the cat that couldn't seem to leave Andrew alone. It landed on its feet and looked around cautiously. Neil looked even more sheepish than before, shrugging at Andrew's subsequent glare. 

"It's the middle of winter and she refuses to leave unless I feed her. I didn't have anything on me this time so I grabbed her to make sure she doesn't freeze to death." 

"Who's fault is that?" 

"She's so cute though!" Josten went over to where she was inspecting the dresser and yanked her up, causing her to meow in protest. 

Josten walked back over and held her up like a doll. "See?" 

It was startlingly clear then how similar they looked. With the ginger hair and mischievousness hiding just beneath the surface. Only their eyes were different, hers being a daisy yellow and his being that infuriating blue

Andrew gave Neil an unimpressed look then said "She's a mongrel and so are you. She better be gone when you are, I'm not watching after her."

Neil put her down and nodded seriously. Andrew went back to his food and had a sinking feeling that that wasn't going to happen. 

They sat in silence as Neil observed Andrew begin to cook small pieces of bacon in a pan on the other empty stove top. He threw in his chicken bits and cooked them fully in the bacon grease, then dumped all of it into the soup broth. 

"When did you eat last?" Andrew asked. 

He was expecting a "this morning" or "last night". What he got was a long pause, an "uhhh", and then the final answer of "Two days ago? I think?"

Andrew physically couldn't restrain himself from pinching the bridge of his nose. "Grab a goddamn bowl before I chop you up with this kitchen knife." 

Neil smiled and responded with a delighted "Yes officer," 

They proceeded to eat in silence while the cat explored around on top of Andrew's various furniture and shelving. Andrew was curious to see if Neil had named her yet, but probably not. He would have told Andrew excitedly since he seems so enamored with the thing. 

After lunch the cat hopped onto Neils lap and fell asleep while the two men started discussing the finalities of Kevin's prison break. 

In a week they'd enact the plan, right when Riko has some important business associates in town. From there it'd be a matter of either ingraining Kevin in the system like Jean, or slipping him into a safe and cruelty free life of crime with Neil. It'd be Kevin's choice in the end. Another issue was that Kevin had no idea. But they couldn't safely give him a heads up, not with Riko's leash on him much tighter than usual due to that important transaction coming up. 

But even so it was all a pretty well rounded plan. Andrew had noticed Neil spacing out a lot lately when they discussed Day and it got Andrew thinking about that night he snooped on them together. 

Neil claims he doesn't swing, and Andrew believes him for the most part. He doesn't seem to look at people in sexual ways. But on that same note Andrew noticed how he looked at Kevin that night. Like there was something a bit more to the equation than just a passionate friendship. 

Now Andrew doesn't know Kevin, but he couldn't find the same something in the cowards eyes. 

Minyard absolutely refused to acknowledge that sometimes Neil gave Andrew that look too. He didn't think that Neil was desperate for companionship, but he couldn't find any reason as to why someone like Neil could like a monster like Andrew. 

So for now he just ignores it to the best of his ability. 

And isn't that bitch when the little thief just loves to rip the rug right from underneath Andrew. 

They finished discussing plans and Neil soon left. He tried to bring the cat with him as promised but Andrew grabbed her from his arms and explained "God knows you probably don't have a proper place to live in order to take care of her, and I don't want the humane society coming to take your dumb ass just when you started becoming useful."

Neil had given Andrew a knowing, very very knowing look before nodding and then heading on his way. 

He left a noticeable absence in Andrew's apartment that the cat couldn't quite fill all the way.

 


 

"Detective." 

Andrew flicked a stray paperclip from his desk  that he held still vertically with his other hand into the air that landed right on the chief's face. He only closed his eyes at the impact then reopened them to give Andrew a very unimpressed and unentertained look. 

Andrew didn't like being disturbed at his desk. He kept a knife right next to his computer to ward away others for that exact reason. Wymack never bothered him without reason though. 

Not like it'd matter, he wasn't scared of Andrew. 

"What can I do for you sir? Are you trying to find your way back to the senior center?" 

"No actually," Wymack replied smoothly, not missing a beat, "I came to see if you were, oh I dunno- doing your job?" 

Andrew gestured to his desk which he was currently reorganizing. He solved the case Neil gave him in a couple days, and it was exactly what he needed. The chief was suspiciously lenient about Andrew taking these new cases instead of working on his Jack one. 

As far as Andrew knows, Wymack doesn't know that he had not only caught Jack but also set him free and offered the criminal protection. Andrew hadn't told him because… well. It doesn't take a detective to know how that would turn out. 

"Nothing on Jack?" His face was mostly unreadable, but he was clearly scrutinizing Andrew. 

"Nope." Andrew said leaning back in his seat and crossing his arms behind his head. 

Wymack stayed silent for a beat then nodded. "I figured you might be having trouble with it. Which is why I decided to throw my hat in the ring and help." 

He pulled an envelope that was tucked under his arm and slapped it on Minyard's table. 

"Found this a while ago." 

Andrew felt his stomach twist slightly as he opened the folder. His face surprisingly stayed blank as the first picture practically punched him. 

There they were. Jack himself in the flesh right next to Detective Andrew Minyard on the rooftop of said Detective's apartment building. Andrew figured this was taken from a neighboring building. Probably by Renee, who was the best at stakeouts. 

Andrew slid a blank look at the Chief, but he could feel the fire of a challenge burning in his own eyes. But Wymack didn't look angry, only intensely studying Minyard, like he could find all the answers right there on his face.

Andrew stood up and grabbed the folder then headed into Wymack's office. If he was coming clean he wasn't doing it where all his coworkers were easily within earshot. 

Wymack followed easily enough and shut the door behind him. Andrew hopped to sit on top of the Chief's desk. 

He looked to Wymack who had his arms crossed expectantly. 

"Who knew Aaron has been hanging out with my perp this whole time." Andrew bullshitted dryly, not at all expecting it to work. If he was admitting to this shit show he wasn't going down without being an absolute nuisance in the process. 

Andrew wondered if Neil can provide him with a new job instead of monthly cases. 

Wymack raised an eyebrow "Uh-huh. Let's cut the crap. You wanna let me know what's been going on?"

Andrew leaned back and looked at the tiled ceiling. "Do I want to? No. Whether or not I tell you anyways would be based on the level of fired I am."

"Did you commit any felonies?"

Andrew had to pause to think. He didn't technically steal the motorcycle, and the people he killed were all in self defense. He could be considered an accomplice, especially with the grand theft auto of the bike but Andrew didn't consider that the level of a felony. It's not like he helped Neil. 

He looked to Wymack and truthfully answered "No."

The Chief assessed him for a bit then nodded. 

"I know what I was getting into when I hired half this team of foxes. You fuckers get your hands dirty. I'll take the fall from higher up as many times as I need to." He reached up to rub his stubbled jaw "God knows the rules and regulations are flawed to the bone anyways. I just need honesty Minyard. We can work this out without me having to shove your ass to the curb."

Andrew squinted at Wymack ever so slightly. He assessed his words and mulled over them for a moment. 

After some time he made a decision.

Andrew began detailing everything that happened after he showed Wymack the old pictures of Josten. He told him only the necessary information, like how Neil belonged to the Moriyama's and was never really granted a choice. Even the crimes he committed were all in a desperate attempt of self preservation.

How, even if he had no choice but to be selfish, he was trying to get someone he really cared about out of a really shitty way of living anyways.

Andrew also let Wymack know of their deal. That Andrew was going to get Neil out of his situation so he could live a normal and healthy life. After that any crimes he commits are on his shoulders alone.

Wymack listened intently, nodding every now and then. After Andrew was done he stewed in his head thinking about what Minyard had just disclosed. 

After some time he looked to Andrew again and said "So you're dropping the case altogether?" He didn't sound disapproving or angry, so Andrew simply nodded. 

"Good. It'd be more dangerous for everyone involved anyhow." 

The Chief circled around to his filing cabinet and unlocked the top one. He was rifling through some things when he pulled out two manila folders, one clearly thicker than the other. He put them on the desk next to Andrew.

"If you know about his true identity and what he's running from… I'm assuming you know a decent amount about the Moriyama's then."

Andrew turned to grab the smaller folder first. It was all evidence Wymack was building up on Riko's organization. The thicker was exclusively on the big sister Moriyama branch. The evidence seemed to date all the way back to the early 70's, probably a compilation of multiple detectives work over the years passed down to the Chief. 

"I think about every crime enthusiast knows a lot about them David, what about it?"

Wymack rolled his eyes but leaned over to look through some evidence Andrew had placed on the desk. "Because I need someone to help me with it."

That was enough to shake Andrew out of his study. He blinked and raised an eyebrow "Your management tactics are pretty shotty you know that? You should be firing me not promoting me just so you know." 

Wymack smirked slightly but his gaze did not waver from the evidence, treating this proposal as casual as he would water cooler talk.

"Yeah yeah, we still get shit done and serve our place in the justice system so I'd like to see higher up try something about it." 

"What would this job entail?"

The Chief finally looked to Andrew, getting down to business "This is your main case. You spend every dime I'm paying you in getting evidence or anything we can use to take these two organizations down." 

Andrew tilted his head inquisitively "And what if we fail?" 

"We won't." Wymack confidently countered.

That was one of the few times that Wymack showed how fit he was in being the leader of a branch of misfits. He was a Fox too. The stubbornness and devote passion in such a shitty and daunting task such as this proved it tenfold. 

That seemed to be the nudge Andrew needed into a decision. He nodded and said, "Let me take a couple more cases from Neilieboy and I'll start getting you what you need." 

And with that Andrew left the Chiefs office, going back to organize his desk. 

He also reminded himself he needed to stop by the pet store later after work to get more cat food. 

 


 

Riko Moriyama’s party at his mansion was nothing short of impressive if not stupidly pretentious. He was throwing it as a cover for his illegal business, and Neil and Andrew were here to crash it. Andrew came up to the back door of the garden in the suit Neil brought for him. He waited by the door inconspicuously for his thief to arrive who already managed to smuggle himself in hours earlier. All according to their plan. 

Andrew lit up a cigarette and inhaled the smoke, savoring the nicotine. He sure as fuck wasn’t going to have time for this later. 

It was finally time.

The night they’d break Kevin free.

The swoop in Andrew’s stomach was followed by electronic bouncy notes starting to ring in his head   and that was followed by the real life sound of a door opening. Andrew turned around to see Neil Josten in the doorway, the light silhouetting him but even still Andrew could make out every god damn detail. His suit was just as fanciful as Andrew's, coming with a couple more extravagances and done in grey instead of black. 

Neil had a smile on his face upon seeing Minyard, and it made the music increase in volume.

Andrew walked the steps up and took a lungful of smoke from his cigarette before standing only a foot away from Neil. He held it for a second before blowing a cloud into his face. Neil laughed lightly but didn’t wave the smoke away, instead it seemed as if he almost savored it.

There was a beat of them just staring at one another. 

“C’mon” Neil finally spoke up.

He turned around and Andrew followed in after him with his cigarette still in his hand. They walked through a back room to where many more people were gathered. Andrew threw his cigarette into a woman’s champagne glass who clearly wasn't paying attention. 

They continued on and leaned against a wall together in the parlor room. They had to wait until they spotted Riko's business partners before they could continue on. 

They had no idea where Kevin would be. At best, chatting up the people but still having a guard with him, and at worst, a constant attachment to Riko's hip.

As they waited and people watched, Andrew saw that it was a mix of both. They weren't expecting to see Kevin in the main hall so early. But it was never that easy was it? Because Riko was right beside him. 

Andrew nudged Neil to get his attention and his eyes widened when he saw who it was. They made a backup plan for this, if Riko was in the main hall out in the public eye, Neil would have to hide. Riko intimately knew who he was after all. 

The temptation to just snatch Kevin away was appealing, but stupid. It'd be too risky. Neil looked like he had the same thought but nonetheless he pushed off the wall to go hide. Before leaving Andrew grabbed his arm and leaned into his ear to whisper. 

"Let me handle Kevin right now. I'll see you in the business meeting." 

Andrew let go and waited until Neil left before heading over to Day. Neil told Andrew some information about Kevin that would be immensely helpful in what he was about to do. 

He walked over and casually inserted himself in a way that made it look like he didn't mean to be there, but there he was nonetheless. He also positioned himself so he was perfectly in Kevin's line of sight. 

As he slowly waded through the crowd he noticed Kevin glancing his way a couple of times. Andrew snatched a glass of whiskey from a tray before he finally made his way right up next to Day. 

Andrew sipped his drink nonchalantly and Kevin finally turned to him with his poster-child grin in place. He was wearing a mostly black suit with red accents, looking just as exorbitant as everyone else here if not more. 

"Hello, how are you enjoying your night so far?" 

Neil had let Andrew know that Kevin was bi. It wasn't something he seemed to care about, only telling Andrew because Andrew himself had asked.

But tonight Andrew was using that info and trying something he was not known to be the best at. 

Andrew turned a bored stare onto Kevin. 

"It's dreadful." He deadpanned. 

Kevin looked taken aback but recollected himself quickly "Oh, I am sorry to hear that. Is there anything I could do to make it better?" 

Andrew saw Riko-who was charmingly chatting up some other guests-briefly glance at the two of them before going back to his conversation. 

Andrew took a slow descent with his gaze down Day's body. Not bad. Maybe a bit tall, but definitely good enough. 

But that was beside the point. 

Andrew had to fake solicit Kevin, not genuinely flirt with him. 

And Andrew felt like it be wrong anyways. Wrong towards Neil.

That thought was quickly shoved away to never see again. He didn't have time to analyze whatever the fuck that was. 

But his examination of Kevin's looks got him the right effect. Kevin noticed and his gaze changed from fake pleasantries to interested scrutiny. 

Andrew responded "I can think of a couple things," 

Kevin smirked ever so slightly "Oh? And what might that be?"

Andrew shrugged "I would show you. But you seem like a busy man."

He made to turn away and Kevin grabbed his arm. Andrew tensed and tried his damndest not to cut Kevin's hand off, but he turned around. 

"Hold on, just wait a second," 

Kevin turned to Riko and whispered something in his ear and Riko's smile noticeably dimmed. He looked over to Andrew and Andrew looked back, trying not to let his anger for what he did to Neil show. 

For what felt like an eternity they stared each other down before finally Riko turned a stern and controlling look to Kevin and whispered something back. Kevin nodded and they both turned away, Riko back to his guests, and Kevin back to Andrew. 

Kevin smiled and said "I have five minutes." 

Tight tight leash. 

Andrew nodded and gestured for Kevin to lead the way. They went only one room over but it was private enough and they were alone, so Andrew closed the door and Kevin made to caress his arm. 

He didn't make it far. 

Andrew slammed Kevin against the wall and pulled out his knife. Kevin paled and made it seem like he was about to call for someone but before he could Andrew spat out.  

"Neil Josten is at this party, and he's here to break you out."

That sentence alone shocked Kevin enough into silence. His mouth opened and closed like a fish before he finally settled on a weak "What?"

"During your little business meeting is when it is going to happen. Be prepared and for the love of god listen and follow directions or you'll end up fucking this whole thing up and landing right back into Riko's hands." Andrew backed away but didn't put away his knife. 

Kevin looked confused and a multitude of other emotions crossed his face before he finally settled on anger.

"How do I know it's actually him? What if this is a trap-"

Andrew pulled his phone out and called Neil, putting the call on speaker. Neil picked up but didn't say anything. 

"Neil, what is Kevin's favorite food?"

Neil paused before saying "Uhh, I don't know," Kevin looked like he just seen the boogeyman but something also akin to relief passed his face. "something pretentious I'm sure," 

But then it morphed into anger.

Kevin snatched the phone and told Neil "Tomato bisque is not pretentious you little-"

He didn't even finish before you could hear Neil gasp through the receiver. "Kevin- did Andrew get you out?"

Kevin looked to Andrew and scowled " No. He lured me into the next room over with a promise of something sexual and then pulled a knife on me. He was spouting nonsense about how you're here. I was just about to tell him how he's delusional-"

Andrew interrupted "First of all, I never promised anything, second of all tomato bisque is pretentious, and third of all, Neil is here. Isn't that right?"

Neil was too busy laughing to respond immediately but eventually he said "Yeah… I am."

Kevin looked lividly at the phone like it was Neil himself and he was about to strangle him "You idiot-" he hissed "Riko will have you pay for escaping, have you learned nothing-"

"I should be asking you that you spineless coward." Neil snapped. "What I learned was that that psychopath isn't something to be afraid of. That he's just playing dress up with his daddy's clothes but he has nothing and he is nothing without it."

Kevin opened his mouth to argue but Andrew pointed his knife at him in a clear warning to let him finish

Neil continued, "You are the only thing left to save from that shit hole and I'm not going to sit back and watch Riko tear you apart." 

Kevin paused, assessing the floor "... I didn't accept your deal to get me out… why are you doing this." 

Why indeed. 

"Because Kevin" Neil answered, "You don't deserve this. You never have." 

There was a thick silence in the air from all three of them. 

Neil finished the call by saying "Be ready when we come for you. I'll see you then."

The call ended and Kevin robotically handed the phone back to Andrew. Andrew pocketed it then gestured to the door. "After you Mr. Day" 

Kevin still had it in him to glare at Andrew before leaving the room. Before he made it back to Riko he turned a judgmental eye to Minyard and asked "Who are you anyways?" 

Andrew looked off to the far side of the room and said "That's a good question," He saluted the princess in goodbye then left to go find the associates. 

 


 

The plan was going smoothly so far.

Andrew had found Riko’s business partners and told Neil, who-with his clever fingers-initiated the key element to this plan. 

And now Andrew stood next to the stairs of the parlor room, waiting for the meeting to officially start. Neil was currently hiding in one of the many escape routes in the many rooms of this mansion. After all, there needed to be a quick way to leave if the feds ever busted the place.

Problem was that they weren’t counting on someone to know every trick in the book to running away and where that type of thing would best be placed. That someone being Riko’s (and many others) biggest pain in the ass, Neil Josten.

He had easily found the best escape tunnel that lead straight from the very secured meeting quarters to the outside that would suit perfectly in swiping Kevin and getting the hell out of dodge. 

Andrew's job was more… messy. 

He got a message from Josten that read "Its time." Andrew tapped the tip of his polished shoe twice on the marble flooring before pushing off the wall. He called Neil on his phone then put the device immediately in his back pocket. Neither of them said a thing. 

Andrew made his way up the stairs and there were two very burly looking Moriyama men, standing outside a closed door. Andrew made his way to a separate hallway and into bathroom without either of the guards seeing him. 

Andrew locked the door and pulled his phone out which read a minute and three seconds that he was on the phone with Neil. 

He put the phone to his ear and quietly said, "I'm in the bathroom. Tell me when I need to do clean up a bit earlier before all hell breaks loose so I can get rid of the two guards at the door."

Neil whispered back into the receiver "Okay." 

They stayed silent but Andrew didn't put the phone away. 

Even though Andrew really shouldn't be sticking his nose in things that aren't his business-he didn't want to think about Neil and his stupid looks filled with somethings -Andrew opened his mouth anyways. 

"What is Kevin to you Neil?"

The silence shifted to something much more stiff than comfortable. 

Neil's voice was carefully neutral when he asked "What do you mean?"

"You know what I mean."

The quiet grew once again, but this time it was more thoughtful. 

"... I… I don't-" he cut himself off and sighed "I don't know… I know it's something I haven't really experienced before- it never happened when we were kids, but then suddenly I'm feeling weird shit I've never felt before."

Andrew stayed quiet, listening to Josten as he vented this in what was most likely the first time ever out loud. 

"I don't want… whatever this is as something purely sexual. There's more there I guess- I just… I know he doesn't feel the same." 

Neil stewed for a couple of moments "So I haven't done anything. There's no point." 

"Even if he's bi?" Andrew couldn't help asking. 

Neil snorted quietly "Kevin wouldn't do anything remotely close to something romantic or sexual with me even if it would kill him. I'm a friend, hell even his family. But, that's all." 

A low hum came from Andrew's throat. He tilted his head towards the window as he questioned "Does it hurt? Being rejected?" 

Shifting was heard from the other line "Mmm, comparatively? To all the other shit I've had to put up with? Not horribly. But it is a different kind of sting I guess.." 

Andrew understands, it's a familiar feeling when he's reminded that he could never has someone as amazing as Neil. 

He didn't bother smothering Neil with words like you'll find the right one eventually or you're a really great guy because that wouldn't change anything. It wouldn't change that Neil had never fallen for someone before and the first one he did fall for didn't feel the same. And yet even so, Neil is still doing his damndest to get Kevin out. Andrew supposed that's what it meant to have a something for someone. 

And maybe even Andrew had one too. 

Ugh. 

Before Andrew has the chance to retch into the toilet at his own thoughts he hears Neil whisper "It's starting, Andrew its time-"

But Andrew had thrown his phone into the pocket of his inner jacket the second the sentence started. A second song in the playlist of his mind began and he relished in the anticipation.

He pulled out his gun and sidled against the door frame to peak out. The guards were inspecting the door they were guarding, looking as if they were about to intervene. Even all the way out here Andrew could hear shouting from the inside. 

One of the guards turned fully with his back facing Andrew and he used that opportunity to fire the first shot. The silencer on his gun helped, but it was still loud enough for plenty of people close by to hear. 

The second guard starting pulling his weapon out but didn't have the chance before Andrew picked him off as well. 

His first shot meant Riko's men heard and were opening fire from the inside, so Andrew rushed to the door and opened it slowly as to not get shot on site. 

Riko had been collecting the cash he needed to fuel his empire from the new local drug lords who now worked for him. The plan was to switch the real money with counterfeit bills, then use the real money for Kevin or possibly even donate depending on what Kevin wanted to do. 

Either way, giving Riko counterfeit was the ultimate insult, and Riko is probably so blind sighted by rage that he wouldn't notice them plucking Kevin out of his nest. 

Andrew finally threw open the door when he saw a table fall over onto its side from the crack and bolted behind it. There were definitely enough dead bodies already, but the fire fight was still going on.

Riko's men would have tried dragging the tiny lord away by now, but looking over his shoulder showed that his bodyguards must have been shot dead. Riko still remained seething and killing with deadly accuracy. Yet he was slowly making his way to the door of one of the many escape routes. Andrew did a quick sweep of the room and saw Kevin unaccounted for, which meant Neil had him since Andrew didn't see his body. 

Riko seemed awfully ignorant to this fact, either so angry that he forgot about Kevin, or that they had already established a plan for something like this happening that of which Kevin would retreat immediately. The latter seemed much more likely due to Riko being pretty calculating and also due for his love to control his pets. 

Andrew saw his opportunity and aimed to take the shot at Riko. Just before he was about to shoot the fucker in the skull one of the slum lord's men shot a hole through the table right next to Andrew's head. Andrew flinched hard before taking out someone who had a better cover and claiming it. That had gotten Riko's attention on Andrew but it didn't seem to matter since he recognized he needed to leave. The people at the party most likely have already called the police. The snake snarled, and Andrew almost did to, trying and failing to shoot Riko one last time. But the asshole ducked into an escape route and disappeared. 

Luckily it wasn't Neil's, and Andrew took his cover and his time in picking out the last of the remaining brave hearted men that have yet to retreat. The ending scene was a bloodbath that only had Andrew as the sole survivor. His suit and face and most likely his hair was covered in splotches of blood. He made his way over to the fake bookcase door that lead to where Neil would be hiding. He heard sirens in the distance that implied he needed to hurry up.

He pulled the book that Neil had told him about an hour previously and the case swiveled horizontally. Andrew slid in and was greeted with a tight hallway, the only light coming from the lower emergency floor lights. He walked through the hall and soon heard faint sounds of voices. They quieted down when Andrew's footsteps were clearly heard. Andrew turned a corner with his gun ready just in case, but only saw Neil protectively positioned in front of Kevin with his own gun out. 

"Andrew," Neil breathed as he lowered his weapon and speed walked up to him. Andrew lowered his gun as well and looked to Neil for a moment. The thief had his hand out in between them but then he seemed to think better of it and lowered it. 

Andrew reached out and held his wrist as he quelled Neil's unspoken concern "The blood isn't mine, I'm fine." 

Neil visibly relaxed and that's when Minyard let go. Finally he looked to Kevin who seemed to be inspecting the two of them intensely. Andrew raised an eyebrow and Kevin scowled at him in response. 

"Problem Day?" Andrew prodded. 

His face twisted into something looking more like disgust before he turned to Neil, tugging on the cuff of his sleeve, "We need to leave." 

Neil had his eyes glued on Andrew this whole time, but he tore his gaze away to nod at Kevin. 

They made their way down the tunnel, Andrew at the back, Neil at the front, and Kevin in the middle. Neil and Andrew had their weapons drawn and were keeping an ear out for anything out of place. 

Kevin was a bundle of nerves, despite his earlier superiority complex. Andrew kicked the back of his heel and rolled his eyes and Kevin yelped and whirled around terrified. Neil glanced behind him and then back forward unconcerned. He very uncaringly said "Don't bully him Andrew," 

Kevin scowled at Neil and glared at Andrew for good measure before turning around and moving forward again. 

They neared the end of the tunnel, the exit being a staircase leading up to two doors at a diagonal angle in the ceiling, looking almost like the exit from a cellar. Neil opened it very cautiously, slowly peeking his head out. 

Andrew shoved past Kevin to stand at Neil's side in case shit went sideways. His impulse to yank Neil down and look for himself instead was strong, but he had a feeling Neil would react sourly to that and they didn't have time for tantrums. Neil gave the signal that is was clear and they all emerged out. They were at the side of the mansion, right in the middle of what appeared to be a dead end in the hedge maze of Riko Moriyama's garden. 

They could see police lights reflecting off of the tops of the tall hedges of the maze, and by the sounds of it there were a lot of reinforcements at the scene already. 

Neil lead the way to the exit that was furthest away from the house. Suddenly he stopped short and took Kevin's arm to drag him to the side. Andrew followed quickly after and they all could see a cop inspecting the garden, who luckily hadn't spotted them yet. 

"It looks like it's just him" Kevin whispered "You're clear to take him out,"

Neil raised an eyebrow at his companion "I generally don't kill people unless they are trying to kill me first."

A haughty scoff escaped Day's throat "C'mon, he's a pig, who cares."

Seems as if it would take some time to wean off those nasty Raven tendencies.

Neil seemed two seconds from throttling Kevin but Andrew interrupted by stealthily sneaking past them, spotting an opportunity when he noticed that the officer's back was to them. 

He could hear Neil vehemently whisper something at Andrew's tactlessness but nonetheless Andrew got behind the man and quickly slammed the side of his gun to a pressure point in his neck. The man dropped like a sack of potatoes, temporarily knocked out.

Andrew stood up completely to raise an eyebrow at the two idiotic men. Kevin was gaping but Neil looked almost mad. Josten walked carefully towards Minyard, looking around to ensure no one else was nearby before furrowing his brows at him. 

"That was risky." 

Andrew shrugged "It worked didn't it?" 

Neil opened his mouth then shut it, seemingly deciding to drop the matter before continuing to lead the group. 

Kevin was sizing Andrew up and the entirety of his conceited personality was starting to grate on Andrew's nerves. 

"If I knew how willing you were to kill a police officer I wouldn't have tagged along." Andrew said. 

Kevin stewed on that for a moment before turning a disbelieving gaze onto Josten.

"You can't be serious," he said to the man.

Neil didn't bother responding, only continuing to lead them along the fencing of neighboring rich people homes. 

Day's back was suddenly right in Andrew's face due to the idiot stopping in the middle of the grass. Andrew stepped aside to glare at him but all of Kevin's attention was on Neil. Looks like throwing tantrums was going to be inevitable by the look on Kevin's seething face. 

"You brought a fucking cop with you?" Neil turned around at Kevin's tone "was this all a set up to turn me in?" He accused. 

Neil snorted at what he very clearly thought was a joke. After a tense moment of silence he could then see Day was 100% serious. 

"You're joking." Neil fired back blankly. 

"I knew it. This was all too good to be true. This was all an elaborate plan to rat me out, this-" 

Neil cut him off with a hand on his collar, dragging Kevin down to his level. 

"I made you a promise ." Neil spat, now fuming. Not that Andrew blamed him. He felt a spark of anger too on the thief's behalf. "I got Jean out of there and I told you I'd get you out too. After all we've been through- you have the balls  to accuse me for doing all of this to turn you in." 

Neil practically shoved Kevin away "I don't need any sort of appreciation from you, but you better get out of my face with that shit. If I wanted to hand you over to the cops I would've done so months ago."

Day opened his mouth to undoubtedly argue some more but Andrew grew tired of listening to this. Plus there were still too close to the scene of the crime for comfort. 

"As much as I love listening to you two argue," Andrew intervened "I have an appointment with myself and book in about two hours that I really cannot cancel on. You two are already been driving me on the brink of insanity. So we could get the cliffnotes version of this absolutely enthralling conversation that'd be great."

Neil still looked pissed, refusing to look at anything else but Kevin. Andrew took a step and put a hand out in between them to break the eye contact.

Josten slowly looked to Andrew and Andrew gave him a look that said: just let it go.

Neil took a deep breath and then let it out in a huff, seeming to finally ground himself. He turned back around without another word and Kevin noticeably relaxed a bit now that he wasn't getting chewed out.

They were all sneaking around the corner of the cul de sac when a dog started to bark. Andrew turned around right as a man shouted at them. He saw three police officers running towards them, two with their guns pointed and one with a german shepard on a leash yapping away. 

Neil was the first to break out into a run and Kevin and Andrew were quick to follow after. Bullets started flying but none made contact as Neil broke in through someone's backyard. A man's voice echoed through Andrews mind, the tension and anticipation of this escape adding to the fire of Andrew's interest. 

"Do you know where you're going?!" Kevin yelled after Neil.

Josten graciously ignored him as he hopped over some fencing and onto a busier street. Andrew practically pushed Kevin's ass over the barrier to get him to move and made a jump for it right after. A bullet went soaring past his leg from his left as more cops tried surrounding them.

No, not more cops-

For fucks sake. 

"Looks like someone else came to crash the party Neil," Andrew called out as electronic bassy notes pounded rhythmically in his head. 

Neil took a quick look behind him to see two of what was undoubtedly his fathers men also chasing after them. He barked out a hysterical laugh before taking a sharp right turn into the alleyway of some apartment buildings. 

They followed after and saw Neil kneeling down to squeeze through a narrow window of a parking garage below the building. 

While waiting for Kevin's turn Andrew knelt down and waited with his gun aimed at the entrance of the alley. A man followed after them like an idiot and got shot before he got the chance to shoot Andrew. 

A hand reached through the open window and grabbed the bottom of Andrew's jacket. It tugged as Neil's voice commanded "Andrew get in!" 

Andrew waited for a second for the other much smarter man to peak his head past the corner. He did but as soon as Andrew tried taking the shot he pulled it back just in time, the bullet just barely missing. 

Andrew swore before he conceded to Neil's demands and slid through the window. Neil closed it and looked to Andrew to scold him "Jesus Andrew you're too reckless-"

"Oh sure, it's just me." Andrew fired back.

Neil started to head down the downward slope of the garage as he replied, "I'm not the one who is actively trying to get himself killed."

Andrew was about to respond before he saw something he never noticed before around Neil's neck. A long chain necklace that at the end of it held Andrew's key that he gave Neil. It had to have been hiding under Neil's shirt this whole time and come undone with all the physical exercise they were doing.

H e didn't have a chance to stamp down the feeling that sparked within him because Neil suddenly stopped in front of a car parked in the garage. 

A black Maserati to be exact. 

Surprisingly, he took out a pair of car keys instead of a slim jim to unlock the car. He popped the trunk and inside of it was bundles of spare clothes.

Andrew looked to Neil and questioningly asked "Who'd you steal this from?"

Neil glanced at Andrew and answered "Didn't steal it." 

A raised skeptical eyebrow was Andrew's only response.

The corner of Neils lips twitched as he started to strip off his suit jacket-looks like the circus had arrived in the town of Andrew's abdominals because his stomach was doing nothing but acrobatics at that sight-and quelled Andrew's doubt by saying "Someone owed me a favor." 

He tossed clothes to both Kevin and Andrew and started undoing his black button down, revealing a white wife beater underneath. 

Andrew forcibly tore his gaze away and Neil continued his explanation "You said that you've always wanted a Maserati, and since you're helping me so much with this I'd figure I'd give you something fun,"

The music increased in volume. "Well you better tell your buddy he isn't getting his car back." Andrew responded sarcastically.

Neil smirked and said "I mean who'd be the wiser?"

Andrew took off his own suit jacket, not having to change his shirt due to him wearing a simple black turtleneck instead of a dress shirt. Minyard wondered if Neil planned that. 

After the two other men slipped into their new shirts they all put on hats and accessories to disguise themselves next. Josten having a baseball cap, Kevin with fake glasses, and Andrew with a black beanie that he used to pull his bangs back and out of his face.

Josten tossed the keys over and Andrew felt a small smirk settle on his face as he unlocked the rest of the doors and slid into the driver's seat. Neil went into the passenger's side and Kevin begrudgingly went into the back. 

Andrew adjusted his seat before he remembered something. He looked at Neil and waited until the man returned his gaze. Josten looked to him and raised a questioning brow. Andrew purposefully glanced to the key then back up at Neil in return. 

Understanding lit up Neil's eyes but he didn't even have the decency to look embarrassed. Instead he simply looked back with an eerily unwavering confidence and answered Andrew's unspoken question. 

"It's important to me. I don't want to lose it."

Those words sparked that god forsaken warm fondness and a simultaneous revulsion at said fondness. Andrew clenched his jaw and had no choice but to look away. What was swimming in the ocean of Neil's eyes was too much. 

But wasn't it always

There was only one way to drive away those emotions and that was to well… drive. 

Andrew turned the key and revelled in the smooth purr of the engine. He palmed the steering wheel for a moment before reversing out and quickly shifting into drive. 

A startled yelp sounded from the backseat as Andrew floored it out of the garage. Once onto the main road he slowed down just a bit to avoid drawing too much attention, but for godsake he was in a fucking  Maserati. 

They continued on and Andrew decided to take the highway; less chance of him getting pulled over that way. Right as he was about to get on the ramp however is when Neil turned around in his seat and groaned out in frustration.

"My dad's men caught up to us."

That other man Andrew couldn’t kill must've seen them getting into the car. 

Andrew floored it and they zoomed onto the highway, he smoothly winded past the cars. Neil had a wild grin on his face and he reached down to the floor where he placed his gun earlier. He rolled the window down and stuck his torso out. 

Maybe Neil did have a reason to be mad at Andrew for doing reckless shit because Andrew himself wanted nothing more than to protectively pull the man back into the car. Kevin was skittishly slinking in his seat, most likely to prevent himself from getting shot through the back window. 

Andrew just focused on going as fast as possible while Neil shot at the car following them. 

Kevin finally had the spine to look behind him, which made Andrew glance in the rear view and see the car down one passenger. The driver was still kicking. 

Neil slid his torso back inside the car swearing. "I'm out of ammo."

Reaching under his thigh Andrew pulled out his own gun to hand Neil. The thief blinked at the weapon for a second then grinned. He took the gun and winked at Andrew before turning back towards the window. 

Andrew almost swerved the car into the median on the account of them realizing the car had caught up to them and was driving parallel to Andrew. Neil and Andrew just barely dodged in time at the drivers attempt to shoot them. Somehow it perfectly passed through both open windows, not injuring the Maserati. 

Neil quickly aimed the gun, but the man slammed on his breaks to avoid getting shot. This seemed to work against him however since the car behind him rear ended his vehicle. 

That gave Neil the perfect amount of time to aim his gun and shoot the driver. 

Andrew slammed the gas pedal and swerved over all five lanes to get to the nearest exit. They needed to get lost before too many witnesses reported them. 

Neil had the same idea because he rolled up his window and told Andrew "Drive us to where your brother and cousin work." 

Andrew raised an eyebrow at Neil but he just stared calmly back, clearly not willing to elaborate. Seems as if he didn't want Kevin to know where they were going. Understandable, it wouldn't help Kevin's paranoia of getting turned in. 

Andrew wondered why they were going there though. Possibly for Jean? He wasn't working this hour though. 

Even so Andrew trusted Neil, and followed his instructions to the precinct.

He took a back way so Kevin wouldn't get suspicious. Even when they got there Andrew made sure to park in the alley behind the building. 

Kevin still didn't seem to catch on to where they were, even though it would make sense for someone in the mafia to be keenly aware of exactly where the pigs were. 

Maybe he didn't have to deal with whatever happened outside Riko's nest. 

They parked and got out, Andrew inspecting the car to insure nothing was damaged. It came out just as gorgeous as when they left with it. Not like it'd really matter. There's no way Neil's guy would let him keep it. 

A man can dream. 

Before Andrew was about to open his mouth to ask Neil what they were doing here Neil beat him to it. 

"Take us to your boss." He requested in german.

Kevin scowled at Neil, starting to get more and more antsy. They had to be careful or Kevin might make a break for it. 

Andrew lead them to a back door, in which he entered a code in a keypad to get in. The back of the building was a lot of barren hallways with storage closets and meeting rooms. 

Thanks to Neil's semi misleading comment earlier, Kevin didn't know this was a precinct yet. He had no idea Andrew's brother and cousin worked with him as well. 

And luckily for them, Wymack's office was just after one of the hallways. 

Andrew went up to the door and looked behind him to tell the two to wait there. 

He didn't bother knocking before he waltzed into the Chiefs office. Wymack was there, along with Allison and Renee. Andrew boredly looked at Allison and said "You. Leave. Now."

Reynolds scoffed and Renee turned a scolding look onto Minyard. 

"Minyard why the fuck do you have blood on you?"

Andrew changed clothes but he forgot he still has blood in his hair (at least that was tucked inside the black beanie) and on his face. He waved off the chief and said "Not important. I have guests-"

Right as he began that statement he heard yelling from the other side of the door and a slam. Wymack was getting up from his seat to no doubt play officer when Neil burst through the door, dragging Kevin in behind him. 

Day was vehemently spewing French before his gaze settled on Wymack. His eyes widened like saucers and the Chief himself stopped dead in his tracks. 

They all stood frozen in the room except for Neil, who let go of Kevin to close the door. The air was thick with tension. 

Surprisingly- or not- it was Allison who broke the silence. 

"Is that fucking Jack?" 

Reynolds reached to her belt for her gun but Renee grabbed her wrist and shook her head in warning. 

Renee was the one who took those photos of Neil and Andrew on the roof, so she at least had some context as to why "Jack"  was here. She had to have put some more pieces together. Maybe Wymack filled her in on what was happening. 

But from what Andrew could glean no one else in the department of foxes had any idea as to what was happening with Andrew's "case"

Wymack recovered and his gruff voice said "Kevin? Is that you?" 

Kevin closed his open mouth and worked his jaw. He hesitantly nodded. 

"God, you look so much like Kayleigh," he said as he walked around his desk to stand in front of Day. 

Kevin's eyebrows scrunched slightly "Really?" 

Neil sidled up to Andrew and whispered in german "I dunno, I think he looks much more like his father. Especially standing side by side like this."

Andrew's brain took a second to put the words into some semblance of something that made sense. He turned to Neil, his face blank but Neil picked up on his confusion nonetheless. 

"There was a reason I brought him here." 

Andrew turned back to the two and saw what he meant. They had the same stubborn set to their jaw, the same odd cowlick at the back of their heads. They carried their bodies in a similar way, yet Wymack's stance was strong while Kevin's was much more passive.

Allison looked between the two and asked "Uh, Chief? You mind explaining why you have a diamond thief and the right hand man of Riko's gang in your office?"

Wymack looked at Allison and answered “Look, Andrew’s case has gotten a lot more…”

“Complicated.” Renee supplied helpfully.

“Yeah. It’s a long story but I’ll be willing to tell you about it after as long as the rest of the precinct doesn’t catch wind.”

Allison mimed zipping her lips, then she motioned with her arm for the group to continue as she made a show of getting comfortable in her chair.

Neil was scrutinizing Reynolds, who seemed to take notice and scrutinize him back. Meanwhile Kevin said something quietly to Wymack that Andrew couldn’t hear that got the two talking again.

Andrew landed his eyes on Renee who was already looking at him. He raised one eyebrow at her and all she did was smile serenely back at him. 

“So. Neil Josten,” Wymack addressed.

Neil immediately tensed, his face blank as he looked at Wymack’s chest and not his face. 

“Andrew told me only a little about your plan, what happens from here?” Wymack had that I’m a cop undertone to his voice that Andrew could never grasp himself. He had a warning glint to his eye that said he wouldn’t appreciate Neil dragging Kevin from Riko only to place him into his own care-free life of crime. 

Finally looking Wymack in the eye, Andrew could tell there was a spark of anger there from the way Neil’s blue eyes squinted slightly. Sadly though it diminished rather quickly as Neil lost his nerve and looked away, his jaw working nervously.

“Well it’s Kevin’s decision from here. I’m not here to force him to do anything.” He purposefully glanced at Wymack then at Kevin. 

Day saw whatever Neil was insinuating and he himself got nervous. Andrew was confused for a moment before he remembered that Wymack never mentioned having kids. Which means either the chief was lying (unlikely) or that he didn’t know that Kevin was his son. 

By the loaded look Neil gave and Kevin’s antsiness, Andrew could guess it was the latter. 

Wymack could sense the tension in the room as he looked between Kevin and Neil. Finally Kevin opened his mouth to say "I… I need to talk to you alone."

Everyone stood, still watching as if they hadn't been dismissed. It wasn't until Wymack gave them all a warning look that the three cops and one thief got the hint and left the office. 

Allison was the last to come out and she stood in front of Neil with her arms crossed. Neil boredly looked up at her. 

"So, are you going to tell me how the hell you aren't in prison right now?" She threw a glance in Andrew's direction, which he ignored. 

"You'll get your answers from your big pig if you can wait five seconds." 

Reynolds cracked a smile at that which Neil squinted at suspiciously in return. 

She opened her mouth to no doubt give a snooty reply when they heard a voice call out "Reynolds what are you doing here so late at night?" 

Matt Boyd sidled up to the group and didn't recognize Neil at first. Neil sure did though. He paled and Andrew remembered right in time that way back during their first run in Boyd got drugged. Most definitely by Neil. 

Andrew took a step forward and stood in front of Neil, shielding him. Matt seemed confused as to why until he looked at Neil for a few seconds before it finally snapped into place. 

He looked more pained than angry. "Oh- uh… is that uhm…?" 

Allison nodded amusedly and said "Yep, Wymack is allowing him to be here for some reason."

Renee nudged Allison, Reynolds wasn't supposed to let anyone else in the precinct know anything about Neil, so Walker was reminding her. Allison looked to the christian girl and defended "Well he already saw him, there needs to be some sort of explanation." 

Neil was warily eyeing Matt, trying to gauge his next move. 

However Matt, ever the optimist and extrovert, grinned and extended his hand saying "Well if Wymack approved you being here then its for a good reason. Matt Boyd."

Neil looked very confused. "... I know." He didn't reach out for the hand. 

Matt took it in stride and pulled back without so much as a blink and said "Haha yeah, you gave us quite the goose chase." 

"I-" Neil took a moment to collect himself most likely to gauge if Matt was crazy or if he was crazy. "I'm the one that drugged you, you know that right?" 

The pained look returned as Matt reached back to rub his neck awkwardly "Oh right. That. Well if it makes you feel better Andrew drugged me too and he wasn't even trying to steal anything, " Boyd said it with such casualness that bordered on self deprecating. 

Neil curiously looked at Andrew but only for a moment. 

Renee decided to join the conversation by putting a hand on Matt's arm comfortingly "Let's not dwell on such things. Neil here doesn't mean any harm to us." Matt didn't really seem bothered by Neil drugging him, happy to move past it. “Just be sure to not let anyone else know okay? Wymack wants to keep it under wraps for now.”

Matt nodded in easy acceptance. All the while Neil tensed at Renee's sudden intervention, sensing the Natalie within her. To him though something was just off. 

She sent a friendly and unimposing smile towards Josten but it only put him more on edge.

Neil's body language Andrew could read like a book at this point, and this one read 'Get me the hell out of here and away from these many people I've pissed off'. 

This shit show was becoming tiring to watch on Andrew as well.

Switching to german he said "Let's leave."

"But Kevin-" 

"Call Jean and tell him to pick him up. He can handle Day right after the father and son bonding time is over right? Kevin's on his own now." 

Fidgeting his bottom lip with his teeth- the bastard- Neil considered Andrew's proposal. Minyard could tell the man was warring with his want to leave this place (god knows how long a sudden Maury Show "You are the father" conversation would go) and his want to protect Kevin. 

In the end he looked to Andrew and something in his gaze changed. Changed enough to put resolve on his handsome face and a decision on his tongue. 

"Okay. Lets go."

Andrew, for some godforsaken reason, reached over to grab Neil's wrist and lead him out of the facility. He lead him all the way to the Maserati while Neil spoke hurried French into his phone. 

He snapped it shut as Andrew let go and they both slid into the car.

Andrew started the engine but only leaned back in the seat, not in any rush since they had no reason to be at the moment. Neil relaxed as well and let out a sigh, the tension from both their shoulders falling off like water from an icicle. 

Almost as if they could read each other's minds they turned to look at one another simultaneously. 

"You want to go home?" Andrew asked carefully, mindful of if Neil needed a break. 

"Do you?" Neil shot back calmly. 

"I don't care."

Neil for some reason smiled at that and said "Then I don't either. As long as I'm with you."

This motherfucker.

"I hate you." Andrew said with a hint of passion that he thought he'd lost years ago. 

 


 

They had been driving for an hour now. Neil asked only once where they were heading and when Andrew didn't respond, only got more comfortable in his seat and stared peacefully out the window. 

Eventually they pulled onto a gravel road that lead through a thick blanket of trees. After driving down it for a bit it finally opened out to reveal a grassy field. The gravel kept going until it ended at a large patch at the edge of the forest. 

Andrew parked and got out of the car. 

The stars were bright, abundant, and playful in the sky, pulsing with vibrant energy and life. It reminded Andrew of Neil. He took his eyes away from the sky and towards said man. Neil was inspecting the mountains in the distance and the forest that stretched just beyond the field. 

Circling around the car towards the hood Andrew sat on top and took out his cigarettes that he purchased from the store earlier. Neil followed suit and sat right next to him. He reached atop his head to remove his baseball cap and throw it carelessly to the side. 

They sat there in companionable silence, Andrew filling his lungs with sweet nicotine and Neil filling his with bitter secondhand smoke.

However the mood shifted. Neil grew suspiciously still, and when Andrew looked over to inspect, his eyes were glued to his cherry, clearly thousands of miles away from this moment.

Andrew placed his hand at the back of Neil’s neck and he jolted slightly but finally let out the breath that seemed caught in the cobweb of his lungs. 

Neil looked over gratefully but something still seemed off.

“Spit it out” Andrew prodded boredly.

“...Andrew I... “ He sighed heavily and kept his tired and empty gaze in his lap. He seemed shy to look anywhere else than there. Like he was scared that if he gave what was in his eyes to Andrew that Andrew would react badly. Like giving him pity. “... What do I do now.”

“You keep going. That will get easier to do once I dispose of the Senior” 

Neil looked like he wanted to tell Andrew something, yet he stopped himself. Andrew waited him out but that moment passed and a new thought tumbled out of his mouth instead. 

“My days have always been to lie and cheat and steal. I guess after years and years of that I grew used to it. It became my life." He finally looked up and out to the horizon, a horrible blankness in his eyes "But Kevin gave me a reason to stay. And you gave me a home. I don't think once in my life have I ever had a place to go back to. Someone to go back to."

Andrew found himself curling his fingers slightly in the muscles of Neil's nape at that someone comment. Without his say so music slowly started in Andrew's head. Odd sounding tones made to sound as if they were distorted stretched like taffy in the more subtle background while melodic and chirpier notes played in the foreground. All of it slotted perfectly together.

"Things are getting riskier Andrew. For both me and you. But I… I'm so tired of running. I'm…" he finally looked at Andrew "I'm tired of being nothing." 

His eyes said it all. That blue looked so meaningless when there was no emotion inside them. 

Every part in Andrew's body settled. It settled into someplace bone deep and dark there since he was seven years old. Somewhere Andrew thought no one could adjust their eyes to except him. 

Not until now at least. 

Andrew knew him and Neil shared demons. Not the exact kinds, but he knew Neil had some trailing him at all times, both figuratively and literally.

But this. This was Andrew's final realization. That Neil might be the one person who could waltz into the black recesses of Andrew's messy head and see that he had that same space as well. He could navigate the museum of ugly truths and say Ha. Looks like we have the same muse.

"You will always be nothing. And so will I, and a lot of others too. But maybe all the shit us nothings do to make this world a little less hellish," Like Andrew testifying against Drake so other kids wouldn't have to endure what he did, or Neil's stone cold resolve to get Riko's men out of his abusive grasp. "Will add up to be something in the end."

The bleak nothing in Neil's vision finally sailed anyway. His sapphire eyes spoke poems that wouldn't come out of Neil's mouth. Andrew felt such an intense want to hear them, even if it would only make him angry. Cause those poems were for fools who loved the feeling of falling. 

"I hate you" he said to the poet singing inside Neil's eyes. He meant it at Neil himself too for allowing such a thing to occur. 

The man smiled, warm like hot chocolate. "I'm starting to think you're a pretty bad liar." his voice- Andrew wondered what his voice would taste like on his tongue. Would it be soft and wispy like it sounded? 

"Who made you the judge of such things." Andrew practically whispered, only Neil and the stars above hearing him. 

The feeling inside Andrew was eating him alive. And just like that he was falling-

He was leaning in. 

He was falling-

He was a breath away from Neil's lips.

He was-

I want to hold you like you're mine.

Andrew slotted his lips with Neil's and everything felt right. He felt light, he felt grounded, he felt dizzy, he felt focused, he felt hot and tipsy and wild and reckless. He felt, he felt, he felt. 

The chorus was exploding in his head in something so beautifully perfect. There was singing but no words, melodies that felt grand and amazing and also very melancholic. 

Neil exhaled into his mouth and it was then Andrew realized Neil was kissing him back.

Andrew's lungs practically collapsed at the sensation, only adding fire to his chest and turning the music up louder. 

Then Neil's hand grasped at Andrew's sleeve and the chorus of the song melted into the second verse as Andrew forced himself to pull back. 

What the hell was he doing-

"Tell me no,"

Neil only bit his own lip then inhaled Andrew's breath as if it was the only oxygen available.

Andrew put a hand to the thief's chest and pushed him back. He ran fingers through his own hair and put every ounce of his energy into getting his breath under control. 

"...Why'd you stop?" Neil sounded as out of breath and lost as Andrew felt. 

Andrew put the back of his hand to his lips, trying and failing to get the phantom feeling of Neil's mouth off. 

Finally after a moment Andrew opened his eyes and answered "I won't take advantage of you like this, what with your crumbling psyche."

"But-"

"I won't be like them. I won't let you let me be."

Eyes bore into the side of Andrew's head and he really tried to not look, he really did. But this was Neil Josten. He glanced over to see Neil with that expression. Something that seemed like maybe he was falling too. 

"What did I tell you about looking at me like that?" 

Neil ignored him and replied instead with "The next time someone says you are a monster I may break my rule about not killing people until they try killing me first." 

"94%" Andrew snapped while standing up from the hood. 

"94? I thought I was at 90?"

"Yeah well, when you hit 91 and 92 you weren't with me at the time"

Neil grinned "Did I climb a whole 2 percentage points with that comment?" 

Andrew glared at Neil and leaned down to pick up the idiot's hat, putting it back on his head and pulling the rim down and over half Neil's face. Neil laughed jubilantly as Andrew climbed the Maserati to lay on top of the roof. 

The thief continued to sit on the hood. They chattered about stupid shit and stared at the stars for hours. Andrew wished he didn't have his eidetic memory (for the millionth time) only so he could forget the taste of Neil. 

Chapter Text

After Kevin's escape, New Years passed without much significance. Andrew stayed inside most days as Neil had been frequenting Jean's place where Kevin was currently crashing at. 

Seems Kevin was still unsure on what to do with his newfound freedom. Only issue was that he was technically still Moriyama property, but Wymack had been steadfastly assuring Kevin that he could negotiate something. 

It had something to with familial ties Kevin's mother Kayleigh Day had with the main branch, and the Chief was positive they could work a deal without chopping Kevin off at the knees. But they had to be careful, both Wymack and Andrew were still trying to take them down. But sometimes playing the game with thugs was how you destroyed them in the end. 

Andrew thought on how a deal like that would go about while he waited in line to get coffee at the cafe right next to his apartment. Suddenly he heard an all too familiar shrill shriek. Almost instinctively Andrew ducked out of the way right before Nicholas Hemmick could come to undoubtedly hug the life out of him. 

That didn't seem to deter his attitude though as stood next to Andrew in line and started talking. 

"Oh my god, what a coincidence I'd see you! What are you doing here?" 

"Getting coffee." Andrew answered boredly.

"Well yeah that's obvious you smart ass." He laughed then said "I just mean that I've rarely seen you out of your apartment aside to go to work or Eden’s." 

Andrew didn't grace that with a response. Nicky kept chatting away as Andrew got his coffee and started heading towards his apartment that he never left aside to go to work or Eden’s. Or to get coffee. 

Nicky followed him, and before Andrew took the first step up to the entrance asked "Hey, can I come up? I haven't seen your place in awhile and I wanna hang out with you!" 

Andrew walked up the stairs to his building and opened the glass door. He held it open for his cousin which meant a yes to his question. Nicky smiled brightly and followed Andrew. They took the elevator even though Andrew hated being in confined spaces, but it would keep Nicky from whining about having to climb eight flights of stairs. 

Opening the door to his apartment brought upon the thought much much too late that no one besides Neil knew he had a cat. Nicky expressed his ignorance of this knowledge by screeching, effectively scaring the mongrel under the bed.

“Ooooh no! Don’t be like that!” Nicky dropped onto all fours and bent down to coo at the cat. Andrew rolled his eyes and took off his coat to hang up in the closet.

“When did you get a cat Andrew? What’s his name?”

Andrew strolled over to his tiny dining room table and sat in one of the chairs “It’s a girl and it doesn’t have one.”

Nicky was still practically halfway under the bed laughing at whatever the little street rat was doing. He finally wiggled free from underneath but stayed kneeling on the floor. 

“You haven’t named her?!” he gawked “Why?”

“Because I had the thing thrown onto me unexpectedly. I didn’t plan to get a cat. ” And he did not care about the thing. No matter how accustomed he may have gotten to her sleeping on his bed with him. 

Andrew pulled his phone out, a text from Neil had pinged in. Nicky was trying yet again to coax the cat out from under the bed as Andrew read a text that said you home?

Yes. Nicky is here.

Right. Well I’m in a bit of a pickle

The fact that Neil Josten was saying he was "in a pickle" probably meant he was shot in the leg and almost bleeding out in an alley somewhere and this was a last ditch attempt at survival. Andrew ignored how quickly he pressed the call button and also ignored his suddenly rapid pulse. 

“Hey,” Neil answered, clearly out of breath.

“Where are you.” Andrew demanded darkly. Nicky popped his head out from the bed and looked at Andrew with a mix of concern and surprise.  

“Uh..” There was wind whipping through the receiver which most definitely meant he was running. “I’m pretty close to your place. Can I come over?”

“Yes you idiot. Get your ass over here or ill kill you before whatever is after you gets the chance.”

Of course because Josten is insane, he laughed. “Alright alright I’m on my way”

“Do I need to do clean up?”

“No. I’ll lose them. I’m not putting the two of you in danger”

“I have a gun Neil,” Andrew started “I do know how to use it.”

“That’s not the problem-” Neil cursed and rough rustling was heard. Andrew had a death grip on his phone and was this close to bursting out the door to hunt Neil down himself. “Ugh, fucking assholes. I’ll be there in ten. Sit still I swear to god Andrew.”

“If you aren’t here in ten minutes exactly I’m looking for you.”

“Aww, I can’t be fashionably late showing up at your door with a bouquet of roses?”

Ten minutes. ” Andrew stressed before hanging up. He was tense as all hell and couldn’t stop restlessly shaking his leg.

“Andrew?” Nicky questioned carefully “Is everything okay?”

Andrew got up and started to pace the tiny length of his kitchen, ignoring Nicky’s question. Nicky attempted only two more times to get answers but eventually gave up once the cat emerged. He picked her up and sat on the bed, soothingly petting the tabby.

Finally a knock came at the door and Andrew went over and threw it open. He grabbed Neil’s shirt to throw him into the apartment and looked out into the hallway to make sure there was no one else there.

The thief sputtered at being manhandled like that. He then rolled his eyes when Andrew shut the door, locked it, and began to thoroughly inspect Neil. He was breathing hard from exertion but clearly trying to hide it. His hair was a disheveled mess (that of which was bringing a lot of unnecessary and incredibly unhelpful imagery into Andrew’s head) and he had a small scratch on his cheek. 

Nicky (not being a detective) didn't know who Neil was. And was also seemingly baffled that Andrew associated with people other than who he worked with. 

"Ohoho? And who is this?" Nicky got up and put the cat down, wandering over to Neil with his flirty voice in place. 

"Ah-" Neil turned to Nicky, seeming to finally notice him "I'm Neil" the man replied.

"Oh wow, Neil, you are such a cutie. I never knew Andrew had other friends."

Neil blushed slightly and looked away. Feeling shy it seems. 

Andrew started walking to the kitchen and on his way pushed Nicky a comfortable distance away from Neil and warned "Don't try anything." 

"What!" He squawked "It's harmless!" 

Andrew riffled through the cabinets for a cup and started filling it with water. He handed it to Neil and said "Drink." In a voice that wasn't to be argued with. 

Neil did as he was asked and Andrew used that time to look him up and down further in case he missed anything. Neil didn't look to be limping or favoring a leg over the other of any sort. His left hand was wrapped in some bandaging though. Andrew noticed Neil looked more tired than usual, the bags under his eyes fairly pronounced. 

He finished off the water and handed the plastic cup to Andrew, who threw it in the sink to deal with later. Nicky sat on the bed as Andrew leaned against the counter and Neil took off his ratty jacket to hang up in the closet. 

Nicky, ever the chatterbox, asked “So how long have you known Andrew?” 

“We had the same criminal psychology class in college.” Neil lied smoothly.

Andrew figured he didn’t want Nicky to somehow piece together that he was Diamond Jack, being that a lot of people at the precinct already knew. God knows what it would feel like having your identity revealed to a mass of pigs to someone who had spent their entire life lying to protect their identity.

“What?!” The pest cried out “How have we never met?! Andrew, Aaron, and I all went to the same college!”

Neil sat down at the dining room table and the cat jumped down and hopped into his lap which put a small smile on his face. “Ask Andrew,” he simply replied.

When looking to Andrew expectantly brought no answer Nicky simply sighed and continued to make small talk with Neil. After a bit Andrew started making Neil the tea he preferred as he sipped on his own coffee periodically. The man smiled when he set the mug down and nodded once in gratitude. Andrew sat down across from him and right then Nicky seemed to remember something. 

"Andrew! We need to name your cat!" He pointed at the thing as if Andrew didn't know what a cat was.

Neil tilted his head and questioned "Why?"

"What do you mean why? Because Andrew probably just calls it 'cat' like a mad man." 

"It is a cat Nicky." Andrew simply chimed in. 

"Well you need a better name than that! What if you had another cat in here huh? How would you differentiate which ones which?"

"I'm never letting another stray pass this threshold." Neil snickered at that comment. 

"Even so. If you have a cat it makes the relationship more personal if you name it."

Andrew looked to the tabby boredly "If you're so obsessed with the idea you name the gremlin then." 

That was a mistake. 

Nicky looked like someone had just told him Erik was going to burst through the door in 2 minutes. Then the glee morphed into something much more mischievous and almost demonic. Huh. Maybe Andrew and Aaron did share genes with him. 

"Hmmm, well since you seem fine with calling it just cat… how about Sir Fat Cat McCatterson!" As soon as it left Nicky's mouth he started laughing. 

Neil looked confused yet amused at the same time. As Nicky began to break down psychologically from his laughing fit Neil start grinning. Until Neil himself was looking down at the cat and chuckling along too. 

Andrew couldn't take his eyes off him. He looked so- so-

A steady beat and calm melodies grooved together  as Andrew frustratingly couldn't find the word. He supposed he should be grateful. He only ever gets more mad when he can recognize those god forsaken emotions.

"I like it." Neil decided. 

"Great. You call her that then." Andrew grumbled. He got up and looked to Nicky "Me and Neil are going out somewhere. You need to leave." Nicky pouted but surprisingly didn't argue. He said how he was glad to meet Neil and gave a quick lecture on how Andrew needed to hang out with his cousin more. Andrew shut the door in his face and turned towards Neil, who raised one eyebrow amusedly. 

"You takin' me out on a date finally?" The thief asked.

"No. But we are getting dinner. I don't feel like cooking and you look like you haven't eaten in a week." 

Neil looked up to the ceiling in thought "No, I think it has only been-"

Andrew held up one hand and interrupted "I don't want to know." 

They put their jackets back on and left the apartment. Both men wandered downtown for a bit until they found a ramen place and walked down some stairs to the bustling restaurant. 

Neil and Andrew got seated and ate the plentiful and savory soup while in companionable silence. After Neil was finished eating he started talking about Kevin and what he was up to. 

"He doesn't think he wants to go back to the crime life. He said he wanted a break at least." Neil rested his head on his hand and looked into Andrew's half eaten soup bowl that he was still slowly working his way through. "I think Wymack is making an impression on him." 

Andrew hummed in consideration "You think he would want to be a cop?" 

Neil shrugged "I don't know. Jean has been talking about how much it helped him personally, so Kevin is definitely considering it, even if he won't say it." 

Some part of Andrew didn't want to have to work with the man, but maybe he'd finally calm down if he wasn't so enveloped in the cruel ways of mafia life.

Neil went on a bit more about Kevin and Jean before Andrew finally finished his meal and the waiter came over with their check. Neil was in the process of taking his wallet out but before he could Andrew handed cash to the server. 

Neil scowled at Andrew and mumbled "I do have money you know." 

"Maybe you should use that to feed yourself. Or at the very least pay me for babysitting your sorry ass." 

"I just tried to pay for the meal-" 

"Shhh" Andrew soothed with fake sympathy "I know you get grumpy before your nap time."

Neil rolled his eyes and muttered something in another language but Andrew didn't miss the way he was struggling to hold back a smile. 

They got up and Andrew pulled out his cigarettes and lighter, putting an unlit stick between his lips as they walked back up the stairs and to the outside world. 

He lit up as they walked out the door and down the street. Neither of them said where they were heading, both content to just be in each others company. Andrew couldn't help his continuous glances at Neil, especially since his usual hidden necklace was now out from under his shirt. 

He couldn't wrap his head around how Neil would keep his key on him like that but never actually actively use it even once. Andrew told him to knock before he came in and Neil would,  but he never passed the threshold unless Andrew answered the door and told him to come in. Almost as if he was a guest. As if Andrew hadn't given him explicit permission in physical form to become a more permanent figure in Andrew's life. 

It bothered Andrew. 

And that's a first, he realized. How he was somehow annoyed that someone wasn't invading his personal space. 

While lost in thought Neil took the cigarette from Andrew's mouth. Andrew simply turned to Neil and raised an eyebrow in question, making no move to take the nicotine back. 

"Well you weren't using it" The bastard slotted the stick in between his lips and inhaled slowly, holding excruciating eye contact the whole time. Andrew looked at Neil's lips as he exhaled the smoke and he could feel his stomach clench along with feeling the ghost of that kiss he stole.  

He swallowed and looked away "Like you have much room to talk. You just let them burn." 

They turned a corner onto a darker and less busy street. Neil chuckled "Well I wanted to repurpose this one since you seemed so distracted." He said it nonchalantly but there was concern miraging behind the statement. 

Andrew shrugged and was about to answer but they were approaching an alleyway that was a little too narrow and a little too dark. He was on the side closest to it but nonetheless he leaned towards Neil protectively. He slid out one of his knives with one hand in his pocket. 

Neil sensed his tension and leaned a bit closer as well, keeping his eyes forward as he discarded the cigarette. Someone was in fact in the alley, but they didn't come after the two men. Andrew didn't relax though. 

Neither did Neil once they realized whoever was in the alley waited a bit to emerge, now following them. 

Andrew turned left and then took another left and saw the person was still behind them. After passing an alley that was across the street, who from it emerged another freak that joined in, Neil had looked to Andrew and Andrew to Neil. They both shared a moment of confirmation that the other knew who these people were. 

The cross street ahead of them was the road they exited the ramen shop out of, Andrew knew if they passed it, it would meld into a small but sketchy neighborhood. Neil must've known this too because he gestured with his head subtly that direction. Andrew nodded and they continued like everything was normal until they reached the intersection. 

Cars were zooming down the road making it so they couldn't cross, but Andrew saw a breath between vehicles. They could make it if they ran. He snatched Neil's hand and they waited for the last car to pass before bolting it across the street. The cars wouldn't have enough time to come to a complete stop for them, but that's what Andrew needed. Their feet hit the other side of the sidewalk right as the closet car came barreling past, their car horn shouting at them. 

Andrew and Neil didn't stop however, continuing to sprint into the darkly lit neighborhood. They could hear shouts of the people behind them as they were forced to wait for the large swaths of vehicles to pass.

Neil looked behind him but didn't look relieved "They're going to have a car nearby to track us. Let's go through the yards." With their hands still intertwined Neil used that to guide Andrew through the backyards. A distorted electric guitar started strumming one chord continuously in Andrew's head from the thrill of the chase coursing through his veins.

Andrew looked at Neil as they ran and saw the determination on his face. Felt the protective edge to his hold on Andrew's hand. Could almost taste the thief's precious songs on his tongue-

You know that you're dreaming about being loved by him .

Great. Now the music in Andrew's own head was cruelly mocking him. 

Too bad your chances are slim.

Great .

The two maneuvered through other people's properties and jumped fences (they had to break their hands apart a couple times but for some reason they always found themselves reattaching to one another) before finally emerging at the other side of the neighborhood.

Neil's hand felt so warm and holding it felt so right , and as they slowed down to a walk again he couldn't find it in himself to let go. Yet when Neil relaxed his fingers to break the contact Andrew drew back as well. 

"They're probably still nearby." Neil panted. Andrew nodded and they walked down the less populated street, scanning for anyone that could be following them. 

One of the men was turning the corner on the other side of the road and Andrew spotted him just in time. He grabbed Neil's arm and hauled him into an alley to hide. 

There was a little crook in one of the buildings that when Andrew had spotted it had put a hand to Neil's chest and pushed him into it. It was just barely deep enough to hide two people, so Andrew crowded up against Neil with his back to the alley. He looked over his shoulder to see how well they were hidden and put his hands on the wall next to Neil's body. Just to be safe Andrew leaned in closer to make sure they weren't sticking out at all. Minyard listened out for any voices but what he heard instead was a hitch in Neil's breath.

He turned his head to see what was wrong and realized they were only inches away. Neil looked wide eyed and awed, his lips parted. Andrew's own lips involuntarily split open. Their mouths were trading exhales and Neil's eyes sparkled like fucking diamonds. 

Like the stars in the night sky of that first and last kiss-

But then Neil closed his eyes leaned in. The lips that softly placed onto Andrew's was in perfect sync with a cymbal exploding in the song. 

Neil pulled back to inspect Andrew's face, but Andrew was still in shock over what just happened.

And then it hit him.

Here he comes. 

An explosion of intense music sounded off as Andrew reconnected their lips in a desperate attempt to feel again. He cradled Neil's jaw and Neil hummed in reply. 

Andrew slipped his tongue into his mouth and found just as eager of a response. They kissed and Andrew fell and they kissed maybe Neil might have fallen too and they kissed and maybe they were just going to drag each other down and wind up with a brutal and excruciating end- 

But Andrew couldn't finish that thought- he couldnt because he couldn't think- he couldn't think, he couldn't think and goddammit he needed to fucking think. 

Even though Neil's kisses were more intoxicating than Andrew could have ever even feasibly imagined-he was biting Andrew's lips, and putting tiny little sounds into Andrew's mouth-Andrew had to pull away. 

The music slowed from a brutal onslaught of hallucinogenic noise to a higher pitched short break in the instrumental. Andrew looked at the thief and wanted nothing more than to lean back in. But he forced himself to find his voice that got dislodged somehow by Neil's tongue. 

"Neil, I need a yes or no." Andrew rasped.

It looked like it took a couple seconds for Neil to process what he said, but when he finally tore his gaze from Andrew's mouth he found his answer. 

" Yes Andrew, God yes." 

They met in the middle-crash went the cymbal-and Andrew could feel himself settle into this after getting proper consent. The music was back to its intense and loud onslaught with sultry melodies and deep silk like bass lines. It matched the feelings hurricanning inside Andrew's heart. This second time kissing Neil was more than feeling dizzy or hot or reckless. This time was feeling like his chest might cave in. Probably because it needed to make room for Neil. 

Andrew felt more than heard Neil mutter "Can I touch you?" 

He did a mental check on himself like Bee taught him and exhaled the test results into the little space between them "My shoulders up. Nothing below that." 

"Okay, you can touch me wherever you want" 

Andrew nodded and Neil threaded his fingers through Andrew's hair. 

And oh, did that feel good.

He could feel a shiver running down his spine, so he snuck his tongue to meet Neil's before the bastard could say anything about it. 

Neil smiled smugly into the kiss but it turned into a gasp when Andrew hooked his hands under Neil's thighs and hoisted him up. Andrew was fine with Neil's legs touching him so he guided his calves to wrap around himself for support. Neil moaned in appreciation and Andrew felt his lower belly coil in heat. 

Andrew's head was tilted upwards to meet Neil's and Neil's hands were cradling his neck and the space between them wasn't anything more than atoms. Only because they physically couldn't get any closer than that.

This moment felt like a glass barrier had shattered that Andrew hadn't even known existed. Because Neil wanted this too, and that was something Andrew did not expect. 

Suddenly Andrew heard something nearby and he broke the kiss to look over his shoulder. He lowered Neil slightly-enough so that they were eye level-but didn't set him down. The music actually quieted in time with another break as Andrew listened. He didn't hear anything else.

And then Neil's lips were on his neck.

A single kiss sent a bolt of pleasure through him. He froze, not knowing what to do with such a good feeling. When Neil landed another lower down it caused Andrew to shudder. The music was back to full volume and more profound than ever before. 

Andrew growled in frustration and smashed his lips with Neil's again. After a few heated moments he kissed Neil's jaw and nosed the collar of his jacket aside to get access to his neck. Andrew kissed and mouthed and licked and Neil panted helplessly as one of his hands gripped Andrew's shoulder and the other twisted in his hair. 

Andrew could have stayed like that for hours, days, months

But Andrew had heard a sound earlier for a reason because now a voice was talking on the phone very close by. Andrew dropped Neil onto his feet immediately and peeked his head out of the crook. One of the men that was chasing them earlier was facing with his back to Andrew and Neil, but he was at the entrance they entered the alley through. Andrew grabbed Neil's hand and they quietly managed to sneak to the other end without alerting him.

They broke into a jog to put a few blocks of distance between the man and that place.

Once far enough away, they stopped at a peopleless street and looked to each other. The song in Andrew’s head was finished, and the sexual tension from earlier had bled out of them, but there was still something in the air. Andrew couldn't properly read Neil's expression but before he could say anything Neil was coming closer. Not for a kiss, but to touch their foreheads together. He reached out and gently held one of Andrew's hands.

"I need to go Andrew" he murmured, voice smooth and perfect like an angel's "I can't lead them back to your place." 

Andrew could feel himself tighten with protective need "I will be there with you, no one will hurt you with me around." The resolution in his voice was ironclad. 

"I know," Neil bumped his nose with Andrew's "But you might get hurt, and I refuse to have that happen." 

"Neil-" 

"Yes or no?"

Andrew paused and stared at him, looking for the words that will make him stay on his face. He found nothing. 

"Yes." 

Neil kissed him so softly Andrew was convinced that he wasn't human. Andrew kissed back with something more firm, something that reminded Neil of Andrew's promise, something that spelled out how he was feeling.

Neil seemed to understand. He pulled away and said "I'll swing by tomorrow okay? I'll be fine." 

Andrew narrowed his eyes at that but eventually nodded his head in acceptance. Neil smiled so genuinely in response. It was full of sunlight and honeybees and sugarcane and Andrew finally had a taste. And no amount of rehab could get him unhooked from it. 

Neil leaned back and started walking away. He waved goodbye as he headed towards another unknown dark alley. 

He left Andrew alone and with firm confidence that he was not going to be able to get any sleep tonight.  






Goddammit… he did take Neil on a date. 

 


 

It had only been 16 hours since Andrew and Neil kissed but it was all Andrew could think about. For 16 hours

To be fair , he had not even an inkling of an idea that Neil liked him back that way.

Well, that wasn't totally true was it? Andrew knew Neil was looking at him like he looked at Kevin, and he was always flirting and being so damn obnoxious and not at all subtle , but- but…

That didn't mean anything

That wasn't supposed to mean anything. 

Some part of Andrew felt as if Neil might've changed his mind since they kissed. The only way for Andrew to know was to wait for when Neil said he would visit him.

He was slowly making his way through a tub of ice cream and petting Sir- dammit, the mongrel , when his phone began to ring. His stomach involuntarily started to swoop with excitement, but when he took out his phone to answer, the caller ID was not Neil’s.

Andrew narrowed his eyes in suspicion before hesitantly answering. He didn’t say hello or give any indication that he answered. And soon Dr. Aaron Minyard slipped in a quiet but firm “Andrew?”

Andrew grunted in affirmation, feeling on edge that his brother was contacting him first without Nicky somehow getting involved. Aaron was usually content to ignore him, thus Andrew followed suit. So this surprise phone call was nothing less than unsettling.

“I talked to Betsy, and every Wednesday you see her I’m going to be there too. We are having joint sessions every session up until I leave for Chicago.” 

Andrew had to take a few moments to collect himself so he wouldn’t hang up on his bastard brother and ship him to Chicago early. Aaron had said the statement in that matter of fact way of his, the same tone that insinuated he could boss Andrew around. 

The balls his brother had to invade his life like this almost made Andrew impressed. After he broke his promises to Andrew, forced him to break their deal, and then ignored him for months on end, now he wanted to take away his time with Bee too?

He tried to take a moment to wrangle his anger down, but he couldn’t keep the coldness from his voice as he responded “What makes you think I want to see you?”

Andrew could practically hear Aaron flinch. "I don't care if you don't want to see me. If you are going to see Betsy I'm going to be there too."

"Why do you even care? You never seemed to give a damn about anyone but your whore ." 

His twin’s anger started to bleed into the receiver at the snide way Andrew spoke of the slut. “Because-” He cut himself off for a moment as if he almost let something slip “Because you killed mom and I refuse to leave without an apology.”

“Well looks like you’ll rot in Denver then.”

“Andrew-”

He didn’t want to hear anymore of it. He hung up and shoved his spoon into the ice cream to keep his hands from trembling. When he was about four spoonfuls deep he picked up his phone and dialed Bee.

“Andrew?” the woman answered almost immediately.

“Explain.” Was all Andrew could get out.

The woman paused for a moment, clearly picking up what he meant. She mulled over what she wanted to say before speaking “Andrew, over the long hours I've talked with you and guided you I have picked up a lot. That being you are truthfully a very caring man, despite what others say and what others have done to you in the past. And I think you still care for Aaron. With what you’ve told me, it seems as if you didn’t want things to end like this.” Rustling on the other end was heard. She was probably in her office and with the way she spoke to him, it felt like he was there with her. “But in the end you are your own person, so I wasn’t going to overstep my bounds and force you to reach out to your brother. Aaron came into my office yesterday. He said he wants to have these joint sessions with you, but I told him this was your time, and ultimately we needed your consent in order to do them.”

She paused to let Andrew process. “I’m assuming the reason for this call was because he tried asking you?”

Hah, ask was such a pretty word wasn’t it.

Andrew’s jaw worked as he took a deep breath, “Yes.” he ground out.

“And what do you want to do?” Bee, ever the picture perfect therapist asked.  

Truthfully? Andrew didn’t know. He couldn’t decide on it right this second. He was mad at Aaron, especially for what he said over the phone. But part of Andrew knew it was his brother just lashing out. That still didn’t make it okay, but he guessed that’s what the therapy sessions were for.

“ … I need time Bee” 

“Alright. Take as long as you need. I’ll talk to Aaron to try to get him to give you some space”

He grunted in understanding then hung up, done with words for the moment. He looked at his phone and noticed Neil had texted him during his call with Bee.

Can I come over?

Not now, I’m going out for a bit. 

Come over at 6.

Ok

Hey

Andrew

You left something. I dropped it off in your mailbox.

?

;)

Andrew was even more confused than before but decided to leave it. He grabbed his coat and a beanie as it was cold but thankfully not snowing. On his way through the main lobby he opened his assigned mailbox and in it found a single key. 

Specifically a car key. 

Very specifically a certain Maserati car key.

Andrew was sure Neil was taunting him but when he turned to head outside he saw the same black Maserati they kidnapped Kevin in parked right in front of the building. Andrew pulled his phone back out.

You said your buddy owed you a favor, how much did you put him in your debt that he would let you keep this?

Andrew leaned against the hard brick wall of his apartment building, refusing to touch the jewel of a vehicle before he got an explanation.

Not me, you

No. No way in hell. 

Why not? 

I thought you liked sports cars?

I do, which is exactly the reason I say no.

Do you understand how much these things cost? Is your buddy going to try hunting me down for it back?

You know I wouldn’t do that Andrew. I would never risk your life like that.

Andrew’s eye twitched in annoyance.

You have one more chance before I’m taking it. If anyone so much as breathes on it wrong I will shank them. 

That includes you.

Have fun Drew <3

In response Minyard opened his camera app and took a picture of his hand giving the middle finger with the car clearly visible in the background and sent it over. With that Andrew put his phone away, unlocked the door, and stepped in. 

You know what. It was time to have some fun.

 


 

After driving his demons away with his new car, Andrew came back to his apartment calm and grounded. Andrew thought of what he wanted to do now. He could have some more ice cream, maybe read that new book Renee was raving about-

But then his mind wandered over to the delicious memory of Neil's lips, and suddenly Andrew lost his appetite for anything else.

Andrew looked at the time and realized it was 5:57, and the thought of Neil arriving soon had Andrew's belly heat with an odd warmth. He made his way to the fridge, pulling out leftovers and setting them in the oven to heat on a low temperature. Neil probably hadn't eaten today, the street rat. 

But suddenly there was a tap at the apartment window. Andrew whipped his head around already reaching for his knives, but he stopped when he saw what made the noise. 

Josten was outside his window crouching on the ledge of the building that was just barely wide enough for his feet. Neil Josten. Outside his window. A window that was 8 stories high.

Andrew almost had a fucking heart attack. And for once it wasn't because of the warm smile Neil had on his face. 

Marching over to the window he threw it open with so much force it creaked. Neil leaned his torso inside but his legs were still on the ledge.

"Thanks-"

"What the fuck is wrong with you." Andrew growled. He found himself putting one hand on Neil's shoulder and the other gripping his shirt tightly in a fist. He didn't want this fucking skeleton of a man to get whisked away by the wind. 

"Well I went to the roof for a bit to relax and figured this was the quickest way to get here from there." 

Andrew noticed Neil's key was out of his shirt at the moment. He grabbed it and pulled, forcing Neil to lean further into the safe and warm space. And lean in closer to Andrew. Neil still had his hand outside the window, holding the frame so he wouldn't fall. 

"How about, oh I dont know, the fucking stairs to get to the front door of the apartment you have a fucking key to."

Neil smiled mischievously "Aww, that's not as romantic though."

Andrew would beg to differ. It'd make it feel like they were a couple or something-

"95%" 

Neil grinned a bit more widely, but then he kept looking. And looking and looking and Andrew was seeing those damn poems in Neil's eyes again. 

The thief's smile slowly melted as his eyes roamed to Andrew's lips. "Is there a prize for getting to 100? Other than my cruel demise of course." 

A drum beat steadily through Andrew's skull at the words.   Andrew decided to answer Neil's question by showing him. 

He tugged twice on the necklace in time with the music and a guitar slid its way into the instrumental right after. Similarly, Neil finally gave in and slid into Andrew's home. Andrew took his hands off Neil to close the window and turned back over to him. 

Andrew walked close, close enough to feel his breath, and asked "Yes or no?" 

"Yes." 

Slowly, ever so slowly, Andrew leaned into Neil's mouth. It was cold, but Andrew would heat him up soon. 

The kiss was like taffy, soft and languid. Andrew poked the tip of his tongue to Neil's bottom lip in question, and Neil tilted his head in answer. They deepened the kiss and Andrew slid a hand into Neil's hair. Andrew took Neil's lip in his teeth and pulled, unhurried. His voice hitched on his breath as a result, a tiny sound but one Andrew would possessively keep to his chest for a long time. 

They went back and forth, but something was missing. 

"You can touch my hair." Andrew whispered. 

Neil opened his eyes to look into Andrew's as he slowly threaded fingers through his hair. He toyed with it a moment, feeling the softness, even though this wasn't the first time he had felt it. 

Andrew dove back in to taste Neil and had his own hands move to skate onto the man's waist. He migrated to Neil's coat to help him take it off, then slid his finger tips under the long sleeved cream colored Henley he wore. Andrew started to explore the scared torso once again. This time instead of his hands carefully studying past trauma, Andrew wrote hot and weighted stanzas with his palms into Neil's skin. He couldn't weave beautiful webs of words like Neil, but he could carve intricate marble statues with touch. 

Neil's moans were getting caught in his throat, but when Andrew pinched his nipple it let one loose into their kiss. 

In response Andrew started walking Neil back to the bed without breaking any of their connections to one another. The back of Neil's knees hit the bed and Andrew pushed him down into the plush mattress. He pulled back to look at Neil. 

His hands were now at the side of his head and his eyes were lazy with pleasure. He was looking at Andrew like Icarus would the sun. The bottom of his Henley was hiked up to the top of his ribs, Neil's  abdominal and knife scars on display. 

Neil's key was pressed against his sternum, a constant reminder to them both of what this had become. 

Andrew ignored the warnings in his head. Instead he let the woman in his brain sing about heaviness and want while he paid a well earned visit to Neil's neck. 

He placed soft stamps of desire onto Neil's pulse and felt his throat swallow. Neil wove his hands into Andrew's hair again to most likely anchor himself if his panting was anything to go off of. 

Wandering his hands all around Neil's chest made Andrew want to bury himself inside it. So he could feel Neil's breath, his emotions, his heartbeat. So he could stay there and feel warm and safe and satiated for the first time in his life.  

Andrew nibbled teasingly on Neil's ear and lowly purred "I want to jerk you off."

The man's responding shiver made Andrew's pride grow, the resulting smirk being completely involuntary. 

"I-I uh…" he seemed distracted by Andrew's hands teasing the skin right under his belt. "I think I'd like that." Neil breathed out shakily. 

Andrew went back to Neil's neck to bite down gently. He asked "Are you sure?" 

"Yes Andrew," Neil turned his nose into Andrew's hair to place a kiss to the top of his ear. 

Andrew sucked slightly to invite the hint of a hickey before sitting up fully. He looked at Neil and when the man looked back, Andrew found nothing but pure certainty in his eyes. 

He kissed him on the lips before undoing Neil's belt and unzipping his pants. Neil fidgeted more with Andrew’s hair, most likely nervous. When Andrew pulled back to see if it turned into a no, Neil read his intent and tugged at Andrew’s hair “It’s still a yes, it’s just…” He paused, his already flushed face becoming a little bit more pink “I’ve never done this before. I probably won’t be too exciting..”

Andrew highly doubted it. He’s hasn’t ever felt this worked up from just kissing. “You don’t have to be anything. If you want this then I do too.”

The thief looked into his eyes for a moment before nodding in understanding.

Leaning down Andrew licked Neil’s naval up to his sternum, migrating a bit further up to kiss his fluttering heart. Then he tugged the man’s belt loop so Neil could lift his hips, tugging the pants off once he did. 

Neil bit his lip as Andrew looked at the black boxer briefs he wore, admiring how the man was already hard. Andrew could tell Neil needed a distraction, and honestly Andrew did too, so he leaned in and caught Neil’s lips once again to get them both on neutral territory. After a couple moments of grounding themselves, Andrew slid his finger tips down Neil’s chest and placed a firm hand over his groin. Neil gasped slightly and pulled Andrew in closer with his hold on his hair.

The kiss grew more heated as Andrew rubbed at Neil’s clothed erection. When Neil was gasping, he pulled him out of his underwear and got to work. 

Neil grew helpless breaths out of the garden of his lungs and Andrew did his magic. With a flowering moan escaping into their kiss Neil came and could barely kiss back in his euphoria. 

Andrew turned to bite his earlobe as floated down from his high. 

“That- That was-” He interrupted himself to kiss the side of Andrew’s face “Do you want me to…?”

“No. There’s towels in the far left drawer, clean yourself up. I’ll be right back.”

Andrew got up to go to the bathroom and closed the door behind him. The thought of locking the door crossed his mind but he decided against it and undid his own pants.

Escaping into the warm and freshly baked memory of how Neil looked, felt, and sounded made quick work of Andrew. He sighed afterwards, washed his hands, then went back out into the apartment.

Neil was dressed, loose, lax, and content as he brewed Andrew a pot of coffee, and himself some tea. Andrew came up beside him to check on the leftovers. They were warm, so he took them out, set them on a plate and slid it over to Neil. “Eat.” he ordered with a knowing stern look.

Neil looked surprised but smiled and took the plate. “Wow, you’re just spoiling me today.”

Andrew huffed and looked away, muttering “Don’t get used to it.”

Chapter Text

When Andrew approached the building that housed Bee's office, he felt a spark of anger at seeing Aaron waiting at the front entrance. 

He shouldn't. He eventually agreed to meet with his brother because Bee was right. He didn't want things to end like this. 

But it still pissed him off that it had to encroach his private time with Bee. 

Andrew ignored him as he entered the building, knowing Aaron would stubbornly follow anyways. When they entered Bee's office, Andrew sat down in his usual arm chair while Aaron looked around. This had been his first time with Bee, even though she was a friend of Wymack's. 

Eventually he settled his eyes on her and tensed immediately. 

Funny. This was all his idea and he's already getting second thoughts. Probably because Aaron just assumed Betsy could just magically fix their relationship. That there wouldn't be so much ugly shit to trudge up. 

Strap in oh brother of mine. 

Aaron hesitantly took a seat, Bee's warm smile and "Hello Aaron, how are you?" doing nothing to get him to lower his guard. 

He shrugged in response, so Betsy turned her attention to Andrew. "And Andrew? How are you?"

Andrew looked at her and replied "Better. Last night I tried out the recipe you sent me. Its not nearly as good as the last batch." 

Bee chuckled "I think I agree as well, which is why today I stocked up on that brand." She turned her swivel chair to the mini fridge behind her. "Hot chocolate Aaron? We also have apple cider and tea,"

Aaron was eyeing Andrew like he's never seen Andrew have a civil conversation before. "... Cider I guess." he finally requested. 

While the beverages where heating up Bee offered more small talk that Andrew took the most advantage of, with Aaron purposely not participating.

Once everyone had their drink situated Bee got down to business. 

"So, gentlemen. I've heard territory is rocky between the two of you. Where do we want to start for today?"

Aaron, the one who dragged Andrew into this mess, was conveniently ever the shy maiden. What with the fidgeting and looking at anything else but the two other people in the room. 

It was irritating. 

So Andrew did what he does best. 

"He's butt hurt I killed his mother even though she beat the shit out of him." He sipped the hot chocolate and used a tone that was as casual as talking about the weather. 

Aaron's flinch was full body, and then that familiar rage set in. 

"You forgot to mention that you killed her for your own benefit, not mine." he said as if he just got the upper hand on Andrew. 

In response, Andrew turned a bored stare over to his angry brother "Oh Really? I had no idea. It's not like I made you a promise that if she laid a hand on you again I'd do something about it."

"That was months after the fact! I saw how she hit you when she thought I was you. You reacted by murdering her-"

Now Andrew's anger started to flare up "I didn't give two shits what she did to me. I told you I'd protect you, and I did."

"How was I supposed to know that that promise meant you would kill my mom. I was thirteen!"

"I keep my word. It's not my fault you got surprised that I followed through." 

Bee interjected then "Alright. This is a good starting place. Let's all take a moment to process what's been said and what we are feeling, and we'll go from there. Sound good?"

Andrew took a deep breath and leaned back into his chair. He nodded. 

Aaron, ever the petulant child, slouched in his chair and spat out "Fine." 

This is going to be a long time from Chicago.

 


 

Arriving at the precinct the next day, Andrew saw Wymack chatting with Dan. When the two saw him pass by Dan called out "Minyard!" 

Andrew stopped but didn't turn around, instead taking a sip of his to-go cup of coffee. "You sure you remember which one I am?" 

Wymack scoffed "We know its you Andrew." 

"Ah. That's right," Andrew finally turned around and boredly looked at the Chief. "I'm not wearing a lab coat. That's the only way anyone can tell anymore right?"

Wymack rolled his eyes "Quit the tantrums. We need to talk case business in my office" 

Andrew followed obediently, closing the Chief's office door behind him when they got inside. Turning around revealed none other than the sole lineage of Wymack's cursed blood in that very office. 

Kevin Day sat looking out the window, nervously shaking his leg. Wymack didn't seem fazed he was here, instead going through files that were spread across his desk. 

Kevin looked at Andrew with assessing eyes, but Andrew kept his face unreadable. 

"What is he doing here?" Kevin pointed at Andrew like a two year old.

"Working." The chief supplied helpfully. 

The man scowled at his father. "I meant why is he here . And what does he do ?" It came off as incredibly snobby, but Andrew suspected it was in actuality genuine curiosity. It's just Kevin Day couldn't replicate any tone other than paranoid or judgmental.

The Chief turned a more sober look on Kevin "He's working on the you know who case with me." 

Day turned back to Andrew, yet again scrutinizing him. Minyard finally returned the look, raising a judgmental brow at Kevin's entire existence. Kevin stood his ground though, not flinching or glaring back like people usually did

Andrew spoke up then "Have you finally sold your life away to you know who ?" 

"That's not what he's doing-" Wymack defended. 

"I'm going into police training and becoming a detective like Jean." Kevin cut the man off. He turned to look at the ceiling, his head hitting the back of his chair "But as soon as I graduate and start getting paid, part of my salary is going to them. As well as any info I can salvage from what the police have gathered."

"So you're their mole?" 

Kevin shrugged "Yeah. But I'm not doing that. Wymack told me what you guys are doing, and it's going to take a lot more than what you have to take them down." He looked away from above him and at Andrew yet again.

"Having Neil testify would be incredibly helpful." He said with a note of seriousness in his voice. Andrew didn't quite understand why until Kevin starting sending more significant looks. 

"You think he'd listen to me?" Andrew asked, semi incredulous "You know Neil would sooner jump off a building than testify right?" 

"But you-"

Andrew put up a hand, effectively stopping Kevin's undoubtedly wrong assumption about what Andrew was to Neil. "There has to be another way. What else can we do to get more leverage?"

The man paused, but soon accepted the change of subject. "We were going to get Jean under the same deal I have. That way the main branch knows Riko messed up, and will likely have him be severely punished if not completely stripped as his status of leader of the little sister branch." 

"That'll leave a weak point in the process." Andrew deduced. 

Kevin nodded. Wymack came back into their conversation by adding "Riko knows this, which is why he has been threatening Kevin nonstop for him to come back." 

At the mention of Riko, Kevin barely suppressed a flinch. He fidgeted some more and his gaze became distant. 

Andrew said "Come on chief, we wouldn't be that lucky. Not being forced to work with Kevin Day is going to take a divine miracle." He closed his eyes for drama.

It got Andrew his desired effect. Day snapped out of his stupor and bristled "You little-"

"Ugh, the both of you are wishing I get early onset dementia." Wymack rubbed his temples, stopping Andrew's fun before it could even begin. "Maybe then I'll get shipped far far away from here so someone else can handle this shit show of a precinct." 

Andrew cocked his head "Oh David, not to worry. Early onset is much too rare, however you are definitely in the age range for when it starts becoming much more common for old folks-"

"Shut it Minyard or we'll see how Aaron reacts when he has to perform an autopsy on his twin." 

"Gee, I'm trembling." Andrew shot back flatly. 

The back and forth between Andrew and Wymack made Kevin's shoulders relax and his posture loosen. As of late, he was always fidgety, ready to lash out or shrink away at anything, but he had been looking more hopeful occasionally despite that. Right now he hesitantly held that very look in his eyes. 

Even though Andrew didn't like Kevin, some part of him was a little proud. He could move past his trauma. It was hard and messy and you needed time, but this, at least, was a good sign. A sign that Kevin Day will heal. 

And Riko would not win this war. 

 


 

"Andrew-"

"No." 

" Andrew,"

Andrew took Neil's jaw in his grasp and turned his head forward to face him. Neil was grinning and his eyes were sparkling with hope, mischief, and amusement.

"But it's so cute, you clearly like Sir-"

"That creature I tolerate. Just like I tolerate you. But I'll put your ass in a psych ward if you're crazy enough to think I'll get another cat." 

"Oh c'mon you're being dramatic." 

"You love drama."

Neil's smile grew. "I do," he turned his head and landed a small kiss to Andrew's thumb while holding eye contact. "That's why I like you," 

Covering Neil's face with his hand, Andrew shoved him away with a disgusted ugh

The cat that was hiding from the cold underneath the Maserati was hissing and swatting at Neil's shoe laces while he laughed. He turned away as Andrew put his hand back in his pocket and then Neil crouched down yet again to try and lure the vermin out.

"Pspsps, c'mon lovely."

The cat hissed harder at Neil's outstretched hand, and scratched him when he touched its arm. "Its okay," he soothed as he went around the cats body and scooped it out from under the vehicle.

The cat freaked out a clawed some more, managing to get some scratches on Neil's face. But quickly, it lost its fight and just stuck to pathetic hissing and groanings. 

"See? Not so bad." Neil said with multiple bleeding cuts.

Andrew hated seeing Neil with blood on him-he was close to just grabbing the cat and chucking it aside as it was slicing Neil up-so he went towards the drivers side door and said "Now we have to get you cleaned up idiot. Do you know how much shit is underneath a cat claws? You dying you get an infection Josten?" 

Neil went to his side of the car and smiled over the hood "Drama queen~" he sang. 

Andrew didn't comment when Neil brought the cat into the car and let it onto the passenger side floor. He focused on his cuts instead. 

Andrew pulled a mini first aid kit from his center console and got some sanitizing wipes from inside. He opened a packet and turned to Neil, taking his jaw and turning his face toward him once again. He cupped the mans cheek and started cleaning his small wounds.

Neil let him, with his eyes hooded in contentment and a dopey smile on his face. After Andrew was done he threw them into a bag to deal with later and turned back to Neil. 

"Thank you." Neil said softly.

Andrew really didn't know how to say the words you're welcome without it sounding sarcastic or ingenuine, so he asked "yes or no" got an equally as soft "yes" then leaned in to kiss Neil. 

Andrew used the hand he had cupped on Neil's cheek to tilt his head. He only kissed him for a short moment before pulling back and opening his eyes. 

"So, about the cat-" Neil inevitably brought back up again. 

Andrew lightly flicked his nose and said "I don't have the time to take care of two cats, the Moriyama case is already making it hard to care for the other street rat." 

Neil grinned "Are you talking about me or Sir?"

Andrew didn't grace that with an answer. Instead he leaned away from Neil and settled into his seat. 

Looking down at the cat at Neil's feet, Andrew could see it was dirty and possibly even had fleas. Its long matted fur was striped white and grey, and its cool blue eyes stared in fear at Andrew. 

Neil outstretched his hand slowly and the cat hissed, but when Neil did nothing more than keep his finger bent as offering, it relaxed a minute inch. 

Soon it slowly leaned forward to smell Neil's hand before leaning back and licking its nose. 

"Looks like you're too stinky." Andrew commented. 

A simple hum was Neil's only response.

"Let's take it to a shelter." Andrew suggested, looking at Neil's face for some sort of reaction.

Neil turned back to Andrew "What if I took care of them?" 

Andrew raised a skeptical eyebrow, surely Neil wasn't insinuating he could take care of two cats while living in either a shithole or under a bridge. And also with Nathan's men constantly on his tail. 

Neil read his expression and shook his head "I mean while they are at your place. I'll take care of them in your stead."

Andrew was tempted to shoot him down. He wanted to argue this more for some reason, but then he actually thought about it. If this meant that Neil would be at Andrew's or with Andrew way more often, that means Andrew himself could keep a more careful eye on him.

This deal, compared to the others he kept in highschool and college, was much more outside Andrew's comfort level. He always had Aaron and Nicky close, in a dorm or at the house so he was able to make sure they were okay at all times. With Neil, he found himself itching to call him to see where he was. The thought that he was either in a bad area or being chased a lot of the time made Andrew's skin crawl. He just wanted to keep Neil safe.

So this flea bag might be the key to keeping Andrew's promise intact. 

And if Andrew had more opportunities to kiss and tease and coax more pleasures out of Neil with him so close by, that was just a bonus. 

Andrew turned forward and started the car. Without looking away from the windshield he told Neil "Since you apparently have money you're paying for the supplies." 

"Wait- really? Just like that?" Neil asked, surprised he won the dispute so easily. 

"Stop wasting my breath and make sure the flea bag doesn't get carsick and vomit on my floors."

Andrew couldn't see Neil's smile, but he could sure as hell feel it in the air. 

They went to the nearest pet store and got more cat food along with more toys. A quick visit to the vet showed the cat had already been vaccinated and neutered (a male then) which meant he used to be domestic before getting thrown out onto the street.

That struck an even further chord with Neil. He put a gentle and protective hand to the cat's side when he held him after the visit. The thing didn't seem to mind Neil's touches as much anymore, relaxing more and more with the man around.

Sound familiar? Andrew's mind pointed out.

Out of curiosity (and to distract from his thoughts) Andrew asked if Neil was going to name the vermin when they got back into the car. With a mischievous grin Neil suggested they get Nicky to come back and name this one too.

Andrew rolled his eyes "Do what you'd like, they're yours now."

Neil didn't respond but Andrew could see in his face he was holding back correcting yours to ours. 

When they got back home Andrew made Neil wait outside while he took Sir and put her in the bathroom to avoid a cat fight. 

He went back out to let Neil in and they let the flea bag walk around, watching it sniff at the scent of the other cat in the threshold. 

Neil sat on the carpet next to the bed to observe the animal, so Andrew followed suit. Instead of looking at the new addition however, he chose to study Neil. Neil had an at ease aura about him, a relaxation that had Andrew himself loosening up just from looking at him. His mind started to wander and he found a song following in its wake.  

He thought about the domesticity of all this, about how Neil filled up the empty space of the studio. He thought about having a bigger place with a bigger bed, a bigger kitchen, a lease with two names. Thought about a man coming home with a nourished stomach and a healed, uncut, unbruised body. Fantasized about kissing scars, kissing cheeks, kissing hands, kissing Neil. Thought about things that were much too soft for someone like Andrew, yet these thoughts bloomed and flourished in the salted soil of his head anyways. 

Neil turned his head and saw whatever was in Andrew's eyes, even if Andrew pried his gaze away at the last second. He wisely didn't make a comment on it. 

Andrew stood up and slid into the bathroom, to which Sir greeted him by rubbing against his leg once he closed the door. 

The next hour was followed by them trying to get the cats acclimated to one another. They let them sniff each others toys, then put up a baby gate to see how they'd react to being able to see one another. The flea bag stayed under the bed while Sir sat at the very front of the gate, curious about the new cat. 

After thirty minutes, they switched the cats locations and Andrew took the baby gate down and shut the door. He left the new mongrel water, food, his new litter box, and a bed while he let Sir reclaim his living space. Andrew was in need of a break, so he snatched his pack of cigarettes and went towards the front door. Neil followed, texting on his phone before putting it away and looking at Andrew expectantly. 

They took the stairs to the roof. It was cold, but it burned away the last of Andrew's stiffness he got from the hectic day. The two of them took their place on the ledge of the roof like they always did. 

Andrew lit two cigarettes, passing the second one to Neil.  Josten accepted it with a nod and looked at his phone again, laughing when he saw what was on there. 

Andrew looked over curiously. Not like he had much of a choice, he couldn't help it when Neil's laugh sounded like tulips singing songs of appreciation to the rain. 

"Nicky says his name should be 'King Fluffkins'"

Andrew rolled his eyes "Why can't you heathens just pick a normal goddamn name." he muttered. 

Neil smiled, putting away his device "Oh yeah? What would you name him? Street rat? Or would flea bag suit your tastes better?" 

"How about N.T.S.K.N.J."

At Neil's confused look he clarified "Note to self, kill Neil Josten" 

He laughed once again. Andrew would honest to God dedicate his life to preserving that sound. 

There was a breath of quiet, and instead of looking out into the setting sun, or above them at the gem colored clouds, or at literally anything else , Neil decided to rest his gaze onto Andrew. 

"Hey." He said after a swath of silence. 

Turning to him brought the sight of Neil with his head rested horizontally on his knee which was brought up while the other leg tangled off the ledge. He always looked so calm around Andrew. As if the only thing Neil needed from him was just simply for him to exist. 

As long as they were together, no matter what they did, it was enough. 

And Andrew was beginning to realize he felt the same way as well.

"Andrew," Neil started, uncharacteristically serious "I need you to break our deal."

Whatever was on the roulette wheel of wild shit Neil could say, that was one Andrew could not have guessed. 

"No." Andrew almost immediately shot down. 

"Andrew I'm not able to give you anything anymore. With the Moriyama investigation you can't take any other cases. I have nothing more to offer you." 

"We'll figure something out-"

"Andrew." Neil said much more gently. 

Andrew looked into the sea of Neil's eyes that he thought he finally understood how to navigate. But right now he had no idea how to read the new map he was just handed.

Even lost, Andrew responded anyways "I can't let you get hunted all by yourself. I need to protect you." 

Neil's gaze softened to something much more familiar. He smiled ever so minutely and sat up completely, putting his hands onto the pavement behind him. 

"My father is in prison for the moment. While there, Kengo had passed away. Ichirou is still unsure what to do with my father, since he was Kengo's right man, not his. And there is a very large chance Ichirou will eradicate him and his circle in case Nathan gets any ideas." 

"But until then I need to make sure you don't die." Andrew said, trying to keep the desperation that was clawing at his throat from showing. 

"My father's men have prioritized trying not to get erased. They have been focusing on me much less as of late. It's enough to where I can handle it on my own." 

Whatever was on Neil's face was perfectly neutral. Andrew's instinct told him that meant he was lying, but he wasn't sure if it was just his own clumsy emotions taking the reigns of Andrew's ability to read Neil properly. 

Andrew looked away, not saying a word. 

Neil seemed to understand the silence, and dropped the subject for now. 

The truth of it was Andrew didn't care if Neil's end of the deal couldn't be fulfilled. He just needed to get Neil out of this way of life-

And oh. 

Oh.

A perfectly preserved memory of Neil being a goddamn martyr and giving Kevin whatever he needed mercilessly played at the forefront of Andrew's brain. 

How the pot calls the kettle black.

Andrew's own hypocrisy was too much to analyze at that moment. So instead Andrew very slowly inched his hand towards Neil's. His pinky slid on top of Neil's and Andrew looked inside the man's eyes to see what his answer was. 

Neil smirked sweetly and glided his hand closer so their ring finger tips touched. They continued this bit by bit dance until Andrew pivoted his wrist and laced their fingers together. 

It still wasn't enough to distract from his earlier revelation, so he opened his mouth to murmur "Yes or no?"

"Yes Andrew."

He maneuvered closer to Neil and lifted their joined hands so their palms could connect. Then as gruelingly slow as Andrew could manage, he threaded his fingers into Neil's hair. Neil hummed and his eyes fluttered close as Andrew rubbed at his skull. 

Then Andrew paused, causing Neil to open his eyes halfway to look at him again. He leaned in and just barely brushed their lips together. Neil sighed wistfully into his mouth and Andrew finally gave in and pressed into Neil. 

Neil kept his free hand in his lap, but Andrew could feel his other one squeeze in appreciation and joy from the kiss. He was like a cat, kneading Andrew's palm. 

The kiss spoke so many stories and words that they'd never be able to tell out loud to each other. Tales about two men who accidentally fell. Two men who'd burn the world to keep the other safe. 

Maybe this wasn't the best method Andrew chose to distract himself from realizing he had accidentally fallen in love with Neil Josten. 

 


 

In Wymack’s office is where Andrew had been spending most of his days at work. Sometimes he’d be out on the field, getting further info from rats and even low member Moriyama’s thugs. Other times he was staking out, trying to gather information in a much more secretive manner.

The investigation was going smoothly so far with the pace Andrew was working at.

So when Wymack came in stressed to all high hell, it had Andrew wondering what exactly got caught in his ass so early in the morning. When he asked as much the chief scowled but didn’t kick Minyard out of his office.

“Riko’s threats have gotten much more out of hand.”

He took his phone out to pull up a photo and show it to Andrew. The picture was of someone’s front yard, presumably Jean’s, with two dead raven carcasses in the grass. The next photo was of the garage, which had you will pay for this written in blood on it. 

“These messages are getting really cheesy. Where does he get his ideas from? Harry Potter?”

The Chief sighed, seemingly expecting that type of response. 

“So what’s the problem?” Andrew probed, failing to see why Wymack suddenly became a cop who couldn’t stomach blood. 

“Kevin is losing his mind .” He answered while pinching the bridge of his nose. “He needs something to keep him tethered here, or he’ll just go running right back.”

Andrew hummed in response, turning to look out the window in thought. 

Seems he would be paying Jean another visit.

 


 

Knocking on the door of the french detectives house had Andrew already doubting his decision to come here. It was taking an ungodly amount of time for an answer, and Andrew guessed it was because Jean looked out the peephole, saw who it was, and called Wymack to demand an explanation. 

When he did finally answer Jean looked pained. “Are you here for…?” he paused, possibly referring to Neil.

“Kevin.” Andrew answered.

Jean’s face changed to something more protective. “What do you want with him-”

But before he could finish the man of the hour himself appeared in the hall behind Jean. Andrew leaned his body to make eye contact with him. Kevin somehow didn’t look surprised. Or maybe it was the fact that he looked like someone hung him up outside in the middle of a hurricane and then let him dry out in the desert right after. 

Day walked to the door and gently tapped Jean’s arm so he’d move aside. Jean looked concerned, like he was leaving a child out in the middle of a lion’s den. 

Maybe he was.

“You can go inside Jean.” Kevin’s voice was scratchy and tired, like he hadn’t used it in some time. Moreau hesitated but eventually gave in and closed the glass door, but not the front one. He went further into the house and to another room to give some privacy.

Andrew looked to Kevin and Kevin stared tiredly back, not bothering to ask why he was there. 

“Your father told me about the threats.” Andrew looked to the garage and noticed the blood was gone but there was still a faint stain of red. 

“And?”

“And,” Andrew turned back to Day, assessing his empty gaze “I’m here to help.”

Kevin scoffed and leaned against the porch railing. “Oh really?” he said disinterestedly.

Andrew rolled his eyes at his dramatics and turned to face him “Yes. I’m here to offer you a deal.”

At that Kevin turned his eyes to Andrew and squinted suspiciously. He didn’t respond though, so Andrew continued, “My deals aren’t like Neil’s,” he purposefully ignored the revelation with Neil from a week ago that was mocking him in his head  “We both have to offer something on both ends.”

“...What’s the deal?” Day asked hesitantly.

Andrew leaned on the railing right next to the man, his back touching it. “I’m offering you protection. I’ll keep Riko off your back. This war is only going to get bloodier the longer it continues. It can't end until you graduate police training and strike a deal with Big Sister.” Andrew dug through his pocket and took out a cigarette, lighting it and taking a puff to get it started before continuing “Your end will entail helping me with said Big Sister’s case. I need names of people who can testify, evidence, and everything you know.”

When Kevin opened his mouth to protest Andrew held up a hand to interrupt “I know you haven’t told Wymack everything, so don’t give me that bullshit.” He boredly shot down.

Kevin looked guilty for a moment then doubtful. “How are you going to go about protecting me?” Andrew took a drag “Riko could take me back at any moment, you’d need to be very close to me all the time .”

When Andrew turned his head to exhale the smoke in Kevin’s face the man scowled and coughed, waving away the cloud. “There’s an apartment right across the hall from mine that just opened up. You need a place, so stay there. That way if anything ever happens, I’m close by. While you’re in the academy you're literally surrounded by cops, so you’re fine there. And when I’m at the precinct working on my investigation, you’re with me when you have nothing else to do. That also goes in hand with satisfying your end of the deal.” 

When Andrew was done talking-it felt like he just explained a fifty page terms of service document-Kevin actually looked impressed that Andrew had thought this far ahead. Andrew didn’t know why. He wouldn’t have offered a deal if he hadn’t thought out the logistics of it all. 

After laying on the glass plate under Kevin Day’s microscope of scrutiny, the man eventually nodded to himself and pushed away from the rail. 

“Okay. You got a deal.” 

Andrew nodded and took another drag of his cigarette. Kevin watched him and commented “You know, those things are awful. If you’re really trying to be a good cop-”

“Aaand that’s my cue. Goodbye Kevin, I’ll send you the leasing office’s number. Our deal starts as soon as you move in.” he flicked the still burning butt at Kevin’s shoes and watch him squirm away in amusement.

 


 

The diner Neil was at was one Andrew had never been to before. The thief had texted him and asked him if they could get something to eat after Andrew was done with work. He complained how he was home all day with the cats and Andrew didn’t have anything that was healthy in his pantry. Andrew had texted him telling him he needed to talk with Kevin, and said he’d meet him after.

When he arrived and sat across Neil in the booth, Neil smiled and set his chin in his hand. “Hey. How was the princess?” he asked lightheartedly.

“As spoiled as always.” Andrew said as he grabbed Neil’s coffee to take a sip. It was much too bitter. He scowled slightly and got five of the sugar packets and four of the mini cream cups and poured all of it in. 

Neil rolled his eyes and when the waitress came over he asked for another cup of coffee. Andrew tacked on a large stack of chocolate chip waffles. 

Once the woman left Neil scrunched his nose “Waffles? At seven pm?”

“Not all of us can get their thrills from stealing diamonds Jack .”

Neil cringed at the name but it morphed into a smile. After a bit of silence and Neil staring, Andrew raised an eyebrow in challenge.

“Do you mind me asking what you needed to talk with Kevin about?”

He didn’t sound suspicious or protective, just plain curious. Because of this, it was the only reason Andrew opened his mouth “I made a deal with him.”

Josten was clearly caught off guard by that. “Really? Why?”

Andrew simply looked at Neil, taking a sip of the now acceptable coffee he stole. Neil assessed Andrew’s expression then nodded in understanding. He knew that Andrew needed people under his wing to protect, he was a sucker for lost causes after all.

The waitress came over with their food. Neil had ordered some sort of healthy omelette before Andrew arrived it seems. The woman also put Andrew’s order in front of him, and then they began to dig into their meals.

Halfway through, Neil asked “Hey, truth for truth?”

Andrew nodded without looking up from his waffles.

“Can you tell me something that no one else knows about you?”

Andrew paused, picking at one of the half eaten waffles. The only one he really had was I’m in love with you but Andrew could barely keep that in his own head without violently curb stomping the thought away, so saying it out loud, much less confessing was out of the question. 

Andrew had another idea, but it technically wasn’t something no one knew about. It would have to do. Andrew switched to German to avoid eavesdroppers and boredly stated “I have this condition that makes me hallucinate music when something interesting is happening.” 

“Oh?” Neil simply replied.

Minyard looked up from his food. “I told my therapist about it, so she’s the only one who knows.” 

“What song was playing the first night we met?” Neil asked in German as well with an intrigued look to him. And the fact that he immediately assumed that Andrew found that night interesting made Andrew’s eye twitch in annoyance.

To be petty, he said “Not your turn,”

Conceding with a nod, Neil motioned for Andrew to ask his question while he sipped his coffee. Andrew sat on his inquiry for a moment before finally speaking up in English.

“Why do you want to break the deal?” It wasn’t something Andrew really wanted to bring up again, because Neil was stubborn and Andrew knew he’d keep pushing it. Andrew didn’t want to lose him yet, as selfish as it was. But the why’s of it kept nicking at Andrew. He needed to know if Neil was tired of him, and just using and uneven playing field as an excuse to leave.

Neil looked down at his hands, his expression solemn. “I shouldn’t have made that deal. I knew you could be in real danger but I was so caught up in helping Kevin, I almost didn’t care. Almost. ” He emphasized “Now I do. And I don’t want you to keep risking your life for me, especially if I’m in a place where I can stand on my own more easily.”

He looked up at Andrew “Andrew, I want to stand with you. Not use you as some sort of ballistic shield. I don’t want to run, I want to stay here with you and with Kevin and Jean and the cats-” he cut himself off with a small exhale “I can’t do that if I’m hiding behind you. It's not fair.” 

Neil slid his hand across the table to Andrew’s that lay relaxed next to his plate. He let their pinkies touch, a phantom reminder of the kiss and their joined hands on the rooftop that short time ago. “Andrew, I need you to let me go.”

Inexplicably, Andrew felt a pang of sorrow. But it was nothing compared to the wave of relief that washed over him right after. 

He looked into Neil’s blue eyes for a moment. There, in that wide expanse of ocean that poets loved to sail, is where he found his answer.

“Don’t go getting yourself killed idiot,” He mumbled while interlacing their fingers and squeezing “I don’t want to have to deal with Kevin and Jean bitching at me because of it.” 

Neil smiled. So so sweetly. “Thank you.” he spoke kindly.

Andrew looked to his waffles so he wouldn’t drown by the hands of poets with the voices of sirens.

After they finished their food the two left together to go back to Andrew’s place. When Andrew opened the door Sir greeted him at his feet with plentiful meows, while King simply looked at the two of them contentedly from the bed. 

Neil smiled and went over to the bed to collapse on top and curl up next to King. King meowed in complaint but didn’t move. No matter how annoyed he seemed he couldn’t hide his purring as Neil kissed his neck and head multiple times while petting him.

Andrew went to the kitchen to pour himself a glass of whiskey. He leaned on the counter and watched as Neil got up to walk over after he was done smothering King. He propped himself on the fridge and assessed Andrews hands, seemingly spacing out but still calmly present.

Very slow and distorted sounding notes from a guitar  entered Andrew’s brain as he placed the back of his head on the cabinet. Neil eventually asked jokingly “Do you ever dance by yourself when you hear the music?” 

“I usually don’t hear music when I’m alone.” Andrew didn’t realize what that implied until it was already out of his mouth.

Neil grinned smugly and Andrew rolled his eyes.

“Oh shut it. Why do you ask? Can you even dance? You’d probably look like a monkey on PCP.”

“I don’t know how to dance full stop .” Neil confessed.

“No? Surely a jazz musician would know how to ballroom at least?”

Neil shook his head “Nope.” He looked off to the far corner of the room in thought "I've been to a couple ballroom dances and had to bail on heists because I didn't know how to dance. It would've blown my cover and made things too risky, so I'd just leave." He shrugged, and looked back at Andrew "I never got the chance to learn." 

He said it casually like it didn't bother him, and the clarity in his eyes showed that it really didn't. But, inexplicably, it bothered Andrew. 

"Really? No prom night with the high school quarterback and prom king Johnny Hodgkins?" 

Neil laughed brightly and looked at Andrew "I never went to prom," his smile dimmed slightly "Mom never let me go to things like that in highschool. And I was never at one long enough for anyone to notice."

Andrew felt an itch to do something about it, and for once, Andrew considered the impulse. With large sigh he bounced away from the edge of the counter and walked in front of Neil. Andrew held a hand out with a put upon bored stare, even though he could feel his cheeks flush slightly.

Neil looked at the offered hand to Andrew, confused. 

“Yes or no?” Andrew clarified.

When Neil’s eyes lit up with understanding, he slowly took Andrew’s hand and said “Yes,” in child-like wonderment.

Andrew pulled him in and more towards the center of the kitchen. He grabbed Neil’s other hand and put it on his shoulder, adjusting their already held hands to the proper position. “Leave your hand right there,” then Andrew held the side of Neil’s waist and looked to him to make sure this was okay.

Neil looked a little flustered, but mostly in awe over what was happening. It’s just a stupid dance Andrew said in his head to Neil and also to his own stupidly rapid heartbeat. 

“Then you just move like this,” He instructed gently. Andrew took the lead and stepped to the side slowly, unintentionally moving to the music in his head. They moved in pivoting circles and soon Neil’s clumsy feet got used to the pattern.

“This is nice.” Neil whispered once he looked away from their feet to Andrew’s eyes. 

Andrew couldn’t put in a lot of effort into a sarcastic or biting remark when he couldn’t stop looking at Neil’s face. “There’s not even any music playing.” Andrew reminded him, his voice much softer than he wanted. 

Andrew slid them closer so his hand on Neil’s waist could navigate to his lower back. Neil wound his arm around Andrew’s shoulder so his elbow rested there instead, putting his hand in Andrew’s hair. 

“Not for me, no.” he agreed, his breath wisping onto Andrew’s lips. The feeling gave him goosebumps.

Andrew couldn’t try denying him, not when the music was so loud. They were simply swaying now, unable to look anywhere else other than each other. 

You’ve been locked in here forever and you just can’t say goodbye…

Before Andrew knew it he was leaning in, and Neil was too. The music paused perfectly in time with when they touched. Then it continued as they started kissing with the same leisurely slowness that Helios uses when pulling up the sun every morning. 

Every now and then, Neil would slow the kiss down enough for them just to breathe each other's air. He’d playfully nudge Andrew’s lips with his own and nip at his bottom lip. In response Andrew would enter his tongue to meet Neil’s, and they’d take turns licking the sighs out and into the space between their mouths. 

Andrew didn’t realize they stopped moving, their bodies completely glued together. After thinking about it Andrew gave in to his want and maneuvered them towards the bed. King jumped off when they both collapsed on top. 

Neil was below him, and when they broke the kiss, Andrew asked him in a low voice, “Yes or-”

“Fuck yes,” Neil rasped. 

Andrew kissed Neil one more time, biting his lip to scold him for interrupting. It didn’t seem to work very well as punishment because Neil’s reaction was to moan.

After a quick there and gone again smirk, Andrew took his sweet time in methodically taking Neil apart bit by bit for the remainder of the night.

Chapter Text

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.