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it's almost halloween

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They pull up to a pop-up Halloween store and Neil groans, throwing his head back against the headrest in the Maserati. Andrew rolls his eyes and kills the engine.

 

“Do I really have to dress up?” Neil asks. Halloween was a stupid holiday. People hide behind masks and costumes and pretended to be psychopaths, killers, and the dead. Neil had been on the wrong side of razor-sharp blades and heavy pistols too many times and he couldn’t count the number of times he had seen the light leave someone’s eyes. He did not enjoy the trivialization of murder, torture, and general terror.

 

“Mhm,” Andrew nods. “You can’t go to a Halloween party without a costume.”

 

Neil frowns and crosses his arms. “I could just wear my old clothes and dress up like a fucking runaway,” he grumbles. “Maybe roll around in the dirt a bit for good measure.”

 

“And you call Kevin the drama queen.” Andrew raises an eyebrow at Neil and reaches for the door handle. “Mope to someone who gives a shit. You’re getting a costume.” He steps out of the car and heads inside, knowing that Neil will follow.

 

Neil hates that Andrew knows that he’ll follow.

 

They make it inside and an animatronic Frankenstein makes neanderthal-like noises at them in greeting. Neil sighs and looks around. The children’s section is overflowing with princess dresses. There are adult couples costumes that almost make him grin. Electrical Socket and Plug! and Hot Dog with Bun! are honorable mentions, for sure. He picks up the socket and plug one and holds it up for Andrew to see.

 

Andrew is not amused. Neil starts to snicker.

 

“You are a child,” Andrew says, taking the costume bag out of Neil’s hands and shoving it back onto the rack so roughly that three other costumes fall to the floor.

 

Neil really starts to laugh then. “What, not brave enough to wear a sexy costume with me? You told me I had to wear a costume. That’s a costume,” he gestures to the costumes again, now lying in a heap on the floor.

 

Andrew hooks his fingers in Neil’s belt loops and Neil promptly goes quiet. “Neil?” Andrew mewls, his voice suddenly as smooth as honey. It makes Neil’s stomach flip.

 

“Yeah, Andrew?” Neil asks.

 

Andrew takes a step closer until he’s leaning into Neil’s space, giving him a very intense look.

 

“Do you really want everyone to know that you’re a bottom?”

 

Andrew pushes Neil away with a shit-eating grin and turns on his heel to go find the men’s section.

 

Andrew’s not wrong. But still.

 

Neil walks to a different aisle in the men’s section just to be contradictory and soon enough, Andrew appears at his side. “If you wanted to do a sexy couples costume, you should have picked something more interesting, like a nun and a priest. I’m sure your legs would look fantastic under a miniskirt.”

 

Neil narrows his eyes at Andrew. “Who said I was going to be the nun?”

 

Andrew gives Neil a look and then shifts his attention back to the accessories in front of him. “You’re too pretty to be the priest, and my shoulders are too wide for a dress.”

 

Neil gives Andrew a playful shove and rolls his eyes. “Flattery will get you nowhere, Minyard.”

 

Andrew doesn’t hide his smirk.

 

---

 

Andrew decides on a bright orange prisoner costume for himself and forces Neil into getting something, too. Neil eventually settles on a blind referee costume complete with a white cane and sunglasses. Junkie. (He tried to get a fox costume, but Andrew spent ten minutes explaining exactly what a ‘furry’ was to him and Neil decided that he would pass on that.) They were last-minute costumes, but they would work for the night’s festivities.

 

The upperclassmen from Neil’s first two years at Palmetto State had graduated, but that didn’t stop them from coming back to South Carolina to spend a weekend with their Fox family. Neil was a senior and the cousins and Kevin were second-year seniors. Soon, Nicky would marry Erik and go back to Germany, Aaron would go to medical school, Kevin would go to the pros for exy, and Andrew would do whatever Andrew was going to do.

 

Naturally, Nicky forced his family to go to Eden’s Twilight at every opportunity because of the limited time they had left together, and tonight he had an excuse to drag all the other Foxes into it, too.

 

---


Fox Fam

 

Thu, Sep 27, 12:12 AM            

 -   EVIL TWIN changed KEVIN’s name to BITCHBOY.     -

 

icky nicky: we should have a fuckin party soon

icky nicky: guys...come on. it’s almost HALLOWEEN. nothing is scarier than being old and having to down half a handle of vodka to get drunk because you’re highkey an alcoholic. sorry kev, i know that got too real for you

utter bastard: yeah guys i miss you @ upperclassmen

icky nicky: do you not miss me neil :(

utter bastard: i see you every fucking day nicky

icky nicky: but you can still miss me!

utter bastard: i’ll let you know if i ever start

head cunt: fucking roasted lmao

head cunt: but you know im always down for a fucking party bitches so its a yes

icky nicky: allison don’t encourage BULLYING IN THIS GROUP CHAT

evil twin: poll time who supports bullying in the chat y/n

utter bastard: y

head cunt: obvi support

dr. straight: Why am I still in this chat?

icky nicky: n :((((((

daddy matty: y haha!!

dan the mf man: im saying this as ur friend not ur ex-captain guys…… yeah

hardcore peace corps: ;-)

bitchboy: God damn it Andrew

evil twin: get fucked

utter bastard: don’t be a bitchboy and you won’t get your name changed to it kev 

daddy matty: damn buddy!! neil don’t go kathy sullivan on his ass haha

head cunt: damn matt too fuckin soon ://

evil twin: that was literally three years ago

evil twin: riko’s dead af

utter bastard: hey remember when you broke his wrist for me andrew

head cunt: ooh andrew broke riko’s wrist for NEIL guys,,,, tea

evil twin: like hell i did it for neil

icky nicky: hey everyone did you hear that andrew broke riko’s wrist for neil

icky nicky: lov the cronch

utter bastard: god the vine where the kid is like i’m gonna munch

utter bastard: god damn he’s gonna crunch too

evil twin: i will never forgive you for introducing neil to vines

dr. straight: He keeps saying Andrew and I are the ‘welcome to chilis’ and ‘adam’ twins.

hardcore peace corps: That’s rather accurate though, Aaron. :-)

evil twin: i vaped one fucking time

daddy matty: vape naysh!!!!! Haha

 

 -   UTTER BASTARD changed EVIL TWIN’s name to VAPEG0D.    -

 

vapeg0d: choke

utter bastard: <3

dan the man: ...so is the halloween party a yes or

 

---

 

So, here the Foxes are, all squished into one giant, curving booth in one corner of the din that was Eden’s Twilight. Kevin is already probably a handle of Pinnacle deep and Nicky, the menace, isn’t too far behind. From one end of the group to the other, Aaron is dressed as a nurse and Katelyn as a doctor. They’re cooing sweet nothings at one another and Allison is still too sober to be sitting next to them.

 

Allison and Renee are dressed as zombies. Allison isn’t wearing much at all. Last time Neil checked, a tube top and booty shorts aren’t a costume, but she does have her makeup professionally applied, apparently by a special-fx artist. Renee’s makeup is also done very well, but she looks much more reasonably dressed for a zombie apocalypse.

 

Kevin had lazily put on a dollar store crown and cape for his costume. Queen. He had lost his shirt and shoes somewhere on the dance floor and was now back to nursing some bright orange monstrosity of a mixed drink. Nicky was in full-on drag as Ke$ha. When his song request for Tik Tok came on, he flipped most of the drinks on the table over and scrambled out to the dance floor. He was later on the Foxes’ group Snapchat story, slurring every lyric and dripping glitter onto every available surface.

 

Dan is in a devil costume and Matt has a foam fried egg hanging off his torso. Devilled eggs. No creativity points, there, but with a baby back home, they couldn’t afford to care. They wouldn’t stop showing Neil pictures of their child and felt himself grow warm on their behalf.

 

Before, the Foxes were Foxes because of their trauma. Now the Foxes were Foxes because of their ability to recover from it.

 

It almost felt like they were normal people in moments like these.

 

Renee points out that Neil, Dan, and Matt had costumes dedicated to puns. Matt throws an arm around Neil and slurs something about how that happened because they are “ best fucking friends, dude! ” Neil smiles and shakes his head, wrapping his arm around Matt and giving him a squeeze in return to say yes, Matt, we really are best fucking friends. Matt bursts into tears at this rare display of Neil-affection and pulls Dan into his lap, sniffling about how Neil grew up so fast. He then realizes that his own child will grow up quickly, and sobs in earnest.

 

“Now that Boyd is getting existential, I’m going to get more drinks,” Andrew hums, giving Neil’s knee a squeeze before sliding out of the booth to fight his way up to the bar. If Neil stares at Andrew’s back (and maybe his ass) as he walks away, no one need know.

 

But everyone else will always make it their business.

 

“Tell Andrew to hurry the fuck up with the liquor,” Kevin slurs, pointing the neck of a beer bottle over at Neil. “Or I swear--”

 

“You’ll what, asshole?” Neil snaps. Kevin just blinks. “Go find your fucking clothes, bitch.”

 

“I don’t know where--”

 

“Yeah, I know you don’t. So go fucking look. Begone, thot.”

 

Kevin looked as though he was considering that for a moment and promptly passed out.

If he had alcohol poisoning, Neil wasn’t the cause.

 

“So, Neil,” Allison starts, like Kevin hadn’t just passed out right next to her. She holds up her hand when Neil starts to roll his eyes. “Save the theatrics, Bastard. How are things with Andrew?”

 

Neil nods his head and pulls his drink toward himself to take a sip. “Good. Really good,” he answers. Not the tea Allison had hoped for, but she looks genuinely relieved when he seems to be perfectly honest. He actually is.

 

“That’s good. Really good, Neil,” Allison smiles. She means it.

 

Renee chimes in. “He allows himself to feel for you, even if he hates it, you know. It’s in his eyes. They’re less dead when he looks at you.”

 

Neil supposes they do. His heart gives a little flutter and he closes his eyes to imagine Andrew’s early morning gaze. Beautiful hazel eyes with a flicker of gold. Alive. For him.

 

He’s getting sentimental.

 

“We’re both doing better, I think,” Neil says, then diverts the topic before Allison tries to pull specifics out of him. “How are you two, now that Renee is back from the peace corps?”

 

Alison and Renee both turn to one another and smile then. Renee brings Allison’s hand to her lips and gives Allison’s knuckles a kiss. That’s a good enough answer for Neil. He congratulates them and asks Renee what her time in Guatemala was like. Before she can start explaining, they are interrupted by Nicky, who now reeks of Malibu rum.

 

Allison immediately has her phone out to film him.

 

“Neil, Neil, Neil. Neeeeeiiiiiiiiiil. Neil, there’s a cop, hitting on. Boyfriend. Yours. Andrew.”

 

Neil tilts his head to one side. “Andrew is capable of taking care of himself.”

His calm words don’t quite match the severity of his expression. There’s a bitter stab of jealousy in his chest.

 

Neil knows that Andrew is good looking. Neil knows that Andrew’s absent gaze is more than intriguing. Neil knows that he might be a little protective of Andrew and hates the thought of someone trying to chat him up. Especially a drunk someone.

Someone who might touch Andrew.

 

Neil is out of the booth before Allison stops recording, so her camera follows him and zooms in and out on his ass until he disappears into the throng. It’s easy to spot Andrew--His orange jumpsuit is practically fluorescent under the blacklights. Neil stops by a table and takes an empty seat, just to keep an eye on him from afar first. Andrew isn’t looking his way, but he is looking down at his armbands. He’s probably considering how quickly he could cripple the man dressed as a cop that stands beside him. Neil smirks a little at that.

 

Neil can’t hear what the “cop” is saying, but Andrew’s right-hand trails down to the wrist of his left arm, feeling for the tip of the blade sitting just under the fabric. The stranger props a hand against the wall and shifts his weight onto one leg. Andrew’s eyes go to the man’s ankle. Neil knows Andrew’s thinking about how easy it would be to knock it out from under him. The last straw is when the officer leans over into Andrew’s space with something unmistakable in his eyes. Want. Desire. Lust.

 

Neil doesn’t realize he’s walking until he’s at Andrew’s side.

 

Andrew wraps his fingers around Neil’s wrist in a silent yes.

 

That’s when Neil slides an arm around Andrew’s waist and pulls him close. “Can I help you, Officer?”

 

The cop raises an eyebrow. “So you two are--”

 

“Spoken for,” Neil interrupts him, daring him to say another word.

 

The cop isn’t intimidated, likely too drunk to see the murder in Neil’s eyes. “Looking for a third tonight?” He asks, giving both of them a very slow once-over. “I know a few referees I’d like to see behind bars. Maybe we could slip behind this one…” he trails off, gesturing towards the hall behind the main bar that leads to the back of the club.

 

Neil smiles a sweet little smile and moves away from Andrew to reach for the plastic baton at the stranger’s waist. Neil takes it with ease and uses it to brush the underside of Officer Twink’s jaw, maintaining eye contact with him. “If you say another goddamned word to my boyfriend, I will shove this baton so far up your dick that it comes out of your mouth, and while you’re choking on it, I’ll crush your windpipe under my foot and throw you in the dumpster out back like the trash you are.”

 

Andrew fists his hand in the back of Neil’s shirt. In Andrew-speak, that means the following:

As soon as this is over with, I am finding a wall to pin you against for the next hour.

 

The two of didn’t have to worry about any more law enforcement that night.

 

“So I’m your boyfriend, am I?” Andrew asks, pulling Neil between his legs from his perch on a barstool. He reaches up to thread his fingers through Neil’s hair, because God, he loves it when Neil scars shitty people for life.

 

Neil smirks and quickly changes the subject. “Kevin’s waiting on his drinks, you know.” He looks for an okay before he rests his hands on Andrew’s knees.

 

“Mm, you know what I have to say about Kevin?”

 

“Fuck Kevin?”

 

“My boyfriend is so smart,” Andrew mewls, pinching Neil’s side.

 

“Oh, really? I thought I was a fucking dumbass,” Neil raises an eyebrow in question and Andrew pulls him forward by the collar to shut him up. It’s brief, as their kisses go, but it leaves Neil reeling. Andrew has never kissed him in public like that.

 

Neil opens his mouth to say something stupid.

Andrew hops off the stool to pull Neil into one of the back rooms and take him apart.

Andrew does just that.

 

This time, Neil takes Andrew apart, too.