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******

They were playing the Binghamton Bearcats, which meant that it was just shy of a clusterfuck; it wasn’t as bad as the Breckenridge game had been earlier in the season, not when Neil and Dan were finally beating the freshmen into some semblance of ‘team’ players (more or less, Andrew had a feeling that a couple of them would never grasp the ‘there is no ‘I’ in team’ concept), but the Bearcats were out for blood after last season. And between that little prick refusing to work with Neil and rotating Pris into the goal for part of the game to give her some experience, and that the score was more even than the Foxes would prefer during the second half. Andrew could tell that his boyfriend was frustrated, and it wouldn’t get much better when Jack was finally swapped out for Sheena or Michalyn.

At least one of the Bearcats getting red-carded for trying to start a fight with Matt gave Wymack an excuse to take Jack and Pris off of the court and put Andrew and Michalyn in – he would have preferred if Kevin was subbed back in, but he couldn’t have everything. As it was, Neil flashed Andrew a wide smile before the game started again, and soon enough managed to score another point for the Foxes’ favor since he now had a fellow striker who was willing to cooperate with him. Between that and Andrew shutting down the goal, the Bearcats weren’t pleased.

So it wasn’t a surprise when their backliners started to target Neil, to do their best to block him and got even rougher with him than before. Nicky started calling them on their shit and a few yellow cards were thrown out, but all Neil did was mouth off to them some more, the idiot, and score another goal. Andrew had some dark thoughts about his boyfriend’s lack of survival instincts, stuck in his goal as the game played on, and watched as Neil snatched up the ball from the Bearcats’ dealer. He thought something was said as Neil put that speed of his to good use, and when he had almost used up his ten steps, he spun about to fire off the ball to Michalyn.

The ball was about halfway toward the rookie striker when the one Binghamton backliner plowed into Neil in a blatant foul, having run for a dozen feet or so to build up momentum – momentum he used to slam Neil into the wall. Even as Michalyn scored, the crowd was on its feet and Andrew out of his goal as he ran toward the crumbled figured across the court, while the game came to a halt. Matt and Nicky were right behind him, and only the fact that referees were already in the bastard backliner’s face kept Andrew from ripping off the guy’s head. Instead, he knelt down next to Neil, who was sprawled out unconscious on the hard floor of the court, and fought with himself to not shake the idiot awake, to pull off his helmet.

It only took a few more seconds for Abby to arrive, along with the Bearcats’ team medic, and it was while they were fussing over Neil and there was talk about c-collars and spinal boards and possible head trauma that the idiot woke up.

“Ow,” Neil said as he began to move.

“Don’t!” Abby warned as she pushed a hand against Neil’s chest. “Are you all right? Can you move your feet? Feel all of your limbs?” Meanwhile, Andrew shoved the other medic aside so he could once more kneel down beside his boyfriend.

“Uhhm… yeah,” Neil said after a few seconds, while his feet and hands moved about. There was something odd about his voice just then. “Oh, I’m sore. Everything’s there, but it hurts.”

“Ah, what’s with the accent?” Michalyn asked.

That was it, Neil was talking with his British accent.

Abby frowned as she reached into her medical bag for a pen light. “I’m going to take off your helmet now, okay?” She nodded to Andrew, who helped Neil sit up enough so she could remove the protective gear and check out his eyes. “You’ve got some head trauma, we need to take you in so we can run some scans.”

“But the game,” Neil argued, his voice weak but the accent definitely there. “What about the game?”

“Oh god,” Matt groaned, his face flushed for some reason. “Why is he doing that?”

Yeah, what the hell? “Fuck the game, and what are you doing?”

Neil stared at Andrew in confusion as Wymack and Abby helped him to his feet. “Doing what?” Then he grimaced, probably either from the pain of being moved or nausea, possibly even both.

“Kid, no more game for you tonight, go get checked out,” Wymack told him. “Something’s not right.” When Andrew looked at the man, he sighed and nodded. “Renee and Pris will finish out the night. Go.”

Andrew slipped an arm around his idiot’s shoulder and helped escort him off the court, and past the rest of the anxious Foxes (except Jack and Sheena, of course) clamoring to make sure that Neil was all right. Neil blanched at the offer for an ambulance, so Andrew took him in the Maserati, with Abby promising to come as soon as the game was over and that she’d call ahead with Neil’s symptoms.

The whole drive there, Neil murmured in that British accent, and didn’t seem to have a clue that he was doing it. Since he also was in pain and drifting a bit (probably should have ignored him and gone with the ambulance), Andrew let the matter drop and felt a bit of relief when the idiot was admitted.

He wasn’t surprised when most of the Foxes showed up in about an hour, anxious about Neil and smug about their victory. “There was no way we were going to let those bastards win, after what they did,” Nicky crowed.

“We won by one point. One,” Kevin said out with a frown. “After the point lead we’d built up and all.” He shook his head in evident disgust. “We can’t keep on like this if we want to do well in the championships.”

Then someone better have a talk with their little ‘mini-me’, shouldn’t they? However, Andrew wasn’t in the mood to get into things in the middle of an emergency room, especially when Abby had slipped off to go talk to the doctors checking on Neil. He accepted a mocha latte that Renee handed him and sat a bit further away from everyone else while they argued about the game, and was about to go wander around the damn place when Abby showed up around twenty minutes later.

“All right, the good news is that they’ll release him tonight,” she told everyone, which made the Foxes cheer. Andrew caught that ‘the good news’ part and gave her a cool look until she continued. “He’ll need to come back for more tests in a few days, though, because something’s going on.”

“The accent,” Andrew remarked.

“Yes. It’s not unheard of, there’s even a name for it – Foreign Accent Syndrome, or FAS for short,” Abby explained. “Doctor Miller thinks it’s from the head trauma tonight and most likely will fade away in time.”

That wasn’t quite what Andrew wanted to hear – ‘head trauma’ wasn’t good, despite all the times he’d teased Neil about concussions. Also… perhaps it was childish, but he’d enjoyed being the only one who knew about Neil’s accent. Now he had to share it?

It was another half hour or so before the idiot was released, and Abby took Andrew back when Doctor Miller was signing off on Neil so he knew about the final prognosis and all the follow-up. Nothing strenuous for the next couple of days, be mindful of any lapses of memory or sudden lethargy, any dizzy spells or loss of coordination, and a check-up on Thursday before Neil would be signed off to play the next game. Oh, someone was not happy about that.

“I feel… well, I don’t feel any worse than usual,” Neil argued, sounding so odd to be speaking in that accent when he wasn’t drunk. He sounded tired, but not drunk. “And I don’t understand what the big deal is about this.” He motioned toward his mouth.

“You sound like your damn uncle,” Andrew pointed out. “And you don’t realize it.”

Neil glanced at Abby for a moment. “But I used to talk like this all the time.” For a moment his expression grew shuttered, and then he sighed. “Can we just go home?” He fingered the hospital robe he was wearing with evident discomfort.

“I’ll give you a minute to change,” Abby offered, and patted Neil on the shoulder as she left the examination room.

“Webb. Mike Webb. On the list,” Andrew said in Russian as he helped his boyfriend dress, his anger growing at the sight of each new bruise.

“Wonderful,” Neil said in the same language, before switching to English. “Just want to go home and sleep.” Once he was dressed, he slumped against Andrew for a moment; Andrew combed his fingers through the idiot’s hair, mindful of Neil’s sore head.

“We’ll make it a late brunch tomorrow.” Looked like they wouldn’t be going to Columbia for the weekend at that point.

“So thoughtful of you,” Neil complained, but he smiled as he straightened up.

The Foxes were loud when they got out to the waiting room, enough so that the nurses behind the desk glared at them. Nicky came over to hug Neil, Dan to tousle his hair and Renee to smile at him, with the rest hovering behind. “We won!”

“I’m glad,” Neil said with a slight smile. “Those bastards didn’t deserve it.”

“Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god,” Matt took to chanting while staring at Neil with very wide eyes.

“Breathe, baby,” Dan told her boyfriend while rubbing his chest and grinning. “I know, but breathe.”

“I’m declaring it right now,” he told her.

“Yeah, I figured it out on my own.”

Neil frowned at that. “Declaring what?” In that damn accent.

“Oh my god,” Matt said, his face a bright red, while Reynolds smirked and fist-pumped. Meanwhile, Andrew took to glaring at the backliner and began to go for one of his knives, except that Renee stepped into his line of sight all of a sudden.

“Ah, don’t you think it’s time for us to get back to the Tower? Yes?”

“I’d really like to get back home,” Neil murmured to Andrew.

Oh. My. God.”

“I’m going to fucking kill you, Boyd,” Andrew made known, even as Nicky and Renee shoved him and Neil toward the exit.

Once out of the hospital, Andrew got Neil into the Maserati and drove off without anyone else, and refused to let anyone else in the dorm room he shared with the idiot and Kevin. That led to some unhappy texts from Nicky and a few others, which he was fine with ignoring for the night while Kevin drank and Neil got ready for bed; the two of them climbed into their bed, Andrew with a fifth of whiskey in his hands.

“Don’t know why everyone is acting so strange,” Neil said as he stretched out next to Andrew.

Right. Because Neil didn’t know how he sounded just then, with that accent. With his looks, despite the scar across his nose and through his right eyebrow – dammit, if anything the fine white lines just made him stand out more, just drew attention to his startling eyes and high cheekbones. Andrew knew that Neil saw himself as a pale reflection of his father and so found himself as repulsive, but he was anything but that. Throw in that almost cultured accent and… fuck. Fuck.

“Go to sleep,” he ground out, and huffed when Neil just closed his eyes and did that.

He went to sleep eventually, and woke up to find Neil out of the bed, to coffee prepared for him and Neil already dressed and waiting to out for their brunch. To Neil still speaking in that damn accent, and their server gawking at them the whole time, gawking at Neil, who tugged his hood over his head and hunched his shoulders, obviously uncomfortable at the attention to the point that he couldn’t eat all of his meal.

Some things never changed, even if some others did, Andrew thought as he dragged the plate toward him to finish off the eggs and sausage. Despite being vice-captain, despite being on a championship team, Neil still hated having attention on himself.

And Andrew hated the way that people stared at his boyfriend, enough that after running a few errands, they went back to their dorm room with the intent to stay there. What the hell was the fascination with a British accent, huh? All right, he liked it when Neil was drunk, he could admit that. But it grated when coming from a certain limey prick, and he didn’t care if anyone else did it. So why couldn’t they go to buy some fucking ice cream or anything else without people drooling over his idiot?

His.

“This is…. I don’t like it,” Neil complained as he tugged on his bangs. “I keep trying to change things, but it doesn’t work.”

Of course the idiot didn’t like drawing attention to himself. “We’ll see what the doctor says on Thursday. Hopefully it’s just temporary.”

Neil stared at Andrew as he tangled his fingers in the hem of Andrew’s sweatshirt. “I don’t like this,” he repeated. “I could control it before. Now… I did it to blend in, to be like my mother.”

A mother who had abused him, even if the idiot didn’t completely acknowledge that fact. “It’ll work out,” Andrew assured him. “It’s… it’s not that bad.”

That made Neil smile. “You like it?”

He thought about what he was going to say before he spoke. “I think it’s not too bad… when we’re alone.”

That made Neil tilt his head to the side. “Okay, that’s… hmm.” His smile widened. “You like it.”

“When we’re alone,” Andrew repeated.

“Okay.” Neil tugged him closer. “When this is all done, just let me know when you want it,” he breathed out against Andrew’s lips.

Well, that took out some of the fun of ‘drunk’ Neil, but if the idiot was willing to do it on demand? That had possibilities.

They had just got down to some serious making out when the banging on their dorm room door started. Andrew was perfectly willing to ignore it, but it wouldn’t stop. He let out a frustrated growl as he pulled away from Neil, and just as he went to go over to eviscerate whoever was causing the ruckus, Kevin came through the door.

“Oh, you’re back,” he said with a frown. “Why didn’t you answer the door?”

“Why are you letting them in?” Andrew gritted out as Nicky, Matt, Dan – as half of the fucking team came in behind his soon to be dead roommate.

“We got snacks,” Reynolds announced as she held up some sort of box. “And alcohol.” That explained how Kevin was won over, the traitor.

“Uhm, okay.” Neil gave a nervous glance at Andrew.

“Oh, wow, it’s still happening. Say something, like… ‘the rain in Spain stays mainly on the plains’,” Nicky insisted.

Neil stared at him in confusion. “What are you talking about?”

“Oh god,” Boyd babbled, but Dan got in front of him before Andrew could stab him.

“So this got anything to do with him being half-British,” Michalyn asked. “I heard about his hot uncle.”

Andrew glared at her. “Never mention the limey prick unless you want your ankles broken in the next practice.”

“That would be a ‘yes’,” Pris murmured.

“Oh yes,” Reynolds said while she fanned herself. “Oldie but goodie.”

Neil latched onto Andrew’s arm before he threw something at the three of them. “Ah, please don’t speak of my uncle like that.” He shuddered a little. “Just… don’t.”

Michalyn gaped at him for a moment. “Wow, it’s like… a fucking PBS special or something, yeah?”

Pris nodded, her dyed blue hair flying about her face. “Oh yeah, he sounds just like Sherlock. I’m in love.”

“No, you’re not,” Andrew gritted out. “Fuck off.” What was it with the damn accent?

Meanwhile, Neil stared at the two rookies with growing horror. “Really?”

Pris gave a slight shrug. “I’ll just close my eyes and think of Benedict, it’ll work out.”

Michalyn gave him a toothy grin. “I’m perfectly fine of thinking of either about Benedict or Natalie while you speak. Though you’re pretty enough for both.”

Neil gaped at them for a moment before he turned toward Andrew. “Alcohol, now.”

Before Andrew could drag his idiot off toward his private stash, Kevin stepped forward while shaking his head. “You should have better control of the team than this.”

“Oi! You’re just jealous because you’re not pretty enough, Princess,” Michalyn called out. “We’re not gagging over you, yeah?”

Kevin stood there with his mouth wide open, until Reynolds chuckled and nudged him in the side. “That’s not a good look for you.”

“I don’t know, I think I can get some good hits on this,” Nicky said as he held up his phone to take a picture – at least until Renee tugged his arm down.

“Please tell me this is all part of the lesion thing, yes?” Neil pleaded with Andrew as he went into the kitchen in hope of some alcohol. “This is all one mass delusion?”

“I think we’re going with a daily word quota until you’re back to normal,” Andrew informed him, especially since he noticed the way that Boyd was still gawking at Neil. “And that it’s a good thing we have some spare Foxes.” Because they might be losing one or two ‘upperclassmen’ very soon.

Neil stared at him for a few seconds, before he shook his head and then hit up Kevin’s stash of alcohol for a bottle of vodka. Meanwhile, in the main room, Nicky and Michalyn were arguing about where Neil’s accent fell on the ‘doability’ scale and Boyd was talking to Dan about some ‘agreement’, and Reynolds smiling with joy as she tapped away on her phone.

Andrew looked at his teammates for a moment, at his boyfriend willingly drinking alcohol and then at a blank-faced Renee. “You’ll get them out of here within the next two minutes or I won’t be responsible for anything.”

“I understand.” Renee sighed with something resembling weariness as she glanced at Neil. “I hope he goes back to normal soon.”

She wasn’t the only one. Andrew knew that Neil needed the Foxes so he could prove to Ichiro that he was on a winning team, that he was a good investment… but right then? Andrew was hard-pressed to find reasons for Neil being on this team.

Neil stumbled against him with the bottle of vodka held in his left hand. “Why is everyone still here?” he asked in that accent as he breathed in Andrew’s ear.

A very good question. Andrew glared at everyone as he straightened up. “Get the fuck out,” he called out as he snatched the vodka away from his boyfriend, not about to have Neil get any more inebriated at the moment. It just occurred to him what he was able to enjoy it while Neil was like… well, that, and not drunk. Well, not any more drunk than he was at the moment, and not drunk in the future. He was able to enjoy Neil and the damn accent, all right?

Boyd and Pris glared at him for a few seconds, until he glared back. Then Renee began to push people toward the door, with Reynolds and Dan grinning while Michalyn shook her head and Nicky just chuckled. As soon as it was just Neil, Andrew and Kevin, Kevin stared at the two of them and went into the kitchen to grab a bottle of whiskey.

“I’ll be in Nicky’s room.”

“Wise choice,” Andrew told him. “Don’t come back for a few hours.”

Kevin’s shoulders hunched forward as he hurried from the room. “This sucks. Can’t you just… never mind.”

Neil watched everyone leave and then turned to Andrew. “Uhm….”

“Come on and tell me what you think about our chances are for the championship season,” Andrew told him as he tugged his boyfriend toward the bedroom.

“You want me to talk about Exy?” Neil gave him a suspicious look.

“I want you to talk, for now,” Andrew said. “Until I don’t want you to talk anymore.”

That earned him a narrowed look. “How thoughtful of you.”

“Isn’t it?” Andrew got the idiot into the bedroom. “Just keep talking.”

“What if I say how much I hate you?” Neil asked in that accent.

“Hmm, works for me,” Andrew admitted as he pushed the idiot down onto the bed. All that mattered was the accent.

He had to say, he’d miss it when it was gone.

*******