Fandom: All for the Game
Riassunto: Neil is on the run and Foxway City might be his only option.
Note: A BNA!AU. Scritta per gli esploratori del poliverso e il prompt "Giungla"
Neil runs, ducks under a branch, jumps over a root and tries not to think of the steps following him. From what he had gathered, they were only human hunters, trying to stop anyone from escaping to Foxway City.
He needs to remind himself that he didn’t see any of his father’s men, that in all fairness, they didn’t seem all that competent. If Neil wasn’t starved and weak from the last few sleepless nights, he could have overrun them by now.
Alas Neil is starved, and so tired that any step feels weighed down by all the mistakes he’s trying to escape. He’s not really that surprised to hear that the hunters are gaining on him, but he’s disappointed all the same.
He imagines his mother would be even more disappointed in him. Mary never had anything but disappointment for him, after all.
Well, that was unfair, Neil thinks, after all there must have been some reason why his mother risked her own life to save Neil’s time and time again. Let alone making the difficult decision to run with her child in tow.
Neil has no romantic notion about their time on the run, he knows perfectly well that as much as he had tried, he had always been a burden on his mother. She could have fled his father easily on her own, instead of dragging a child with her across the world. Especially considering what Neil is and how he looks.
So maybe there had been a time where Mary even loved her son, but that time had passed, beaten down by years of fears.
Now… Now Neil is alone, and he doesn’t know if he’s making the right decision, but all he can hope is that Foxway City will be an easier hideout for a while. His mother would have called him stupid and reminded him that Foxway City was the last place he should have gone to, but… Neil doesn’t think he has other options.
Human cities have become too hateful, and as much as he tries to stay hidden, the fact that he’s not human becomes too apparent.
It might be easier if he could revert to his human form, but…
Yeah, Neil tries not to think about that too much.
In any way he can’t turn back now, he’s gone too far to stop and the only way for him is now Foxway. He tries to pick up some speed, but when he tries he hears a whistling and ducks just in time to avoid an arrow, before he can sigh in relief however he trips, sprawling all over the jungle’s pavement.
Neil curses while he feels the dirt scrape his fur.
“Not so fast now, are you?” One of the men asks, having finally caught up to him. And Neil bares his fangs at him while the other points his crossbow in his direction.
“Look at him, he really is a monster,” another says, with a vicious grin.
They really don’t know him. Impossibly, after years on the run from his father, he’s caught by some stupid, no-name hunters looking for some fun at a beastman expense.
Neil would love to scream in their faces that they don’t know what he has survived, who he’s overrun in his life. They better kill him now.
Of course he doesn’t really want to die, so he tries to think of a way out of the situation.
“Don’t you know that all you animals that try to flee to Foxway city always come this way? It almost makes it too easy,” a woman says, giggling like there’s really something so funny about it. It doesn’t look like she’s talking about hunting and killing living people.
But, Neil supposes, that’s not what it is to them. To them he’s nothing more than an animal.
“Don’t you have anything to say?” the first one asks, and then with an obnoxious laugh. “The cat got your tongue?”
Everyone laughs, and Neil watches and thinks that he really should keep his mouth shut but… oh well.
“I’m a fox, you idiot, but really should I be surprised that someone that doesn’t have anything better to do than wait on the side of the interstate for Beastmen to pass has the intelligence of a toddler?” Neil asks, deciding that if he has to die he won’t do it quietly, not groveling in the dirt. He stands up before continuing. “Or maybe, it’s just that your life is so pitiful because you can find noone that can look over your hideous face and find in themselves the strength to love you?”
He sees the moment he struck some kind of nerve, and the hunter raises his crossbow, pointing it directly at Neil’s chest. Well, his mother always told him that his mouth would the the death of him.
(That or his father).
Before the human can shoot, however, a voice stops him. A female voice that says, with some irritation, “Will you ever learn?”
“I don’t think so,” says someone else, “I mean, I think humans are just too stupid.”
Everyone turns at the same time, and they can see a group of… humans? No, Neil sniffs the hair and amends, Beastmen, looking in their direction.
They all look completely human, all beside one who seems to have already reverted to his beastmen form. He’s smaller than the others and from what Neil can gather he looks like a hyena. His stance seems relaxed, almost bored, but his eyes.. They’re feral.
“What did you say? Say that to my fa-” one of the hunters asks, but before he can blink the transformed beastmen is on him, clawing at him with his hands.
The human goes down, and Neil hears the first woman say: “Don’t kill them, Andrew, it’s always more trouble than it’s worth.” Neil isn’t sure if Andrew has heard her, since he doesn’t slow down on his assault.
Neil must be staring at Andrew for far too long, fascinated by the pure raw and animalistic aggression, because he almost doesn’t hear the rest of the group sneaking up on him.
“Don’t worry about Andrew,” a guy says, with an easy smile on his face, “seeing human attacking beastmen always puts him in a mood. But he’s… well, I wouldn’t say harmless, but he usually protects beastmen. I’m Nicky, by the way.”
Neil blinks, trying to absorb all the information and then nods. “Neil. I’m…”
“Headed to Foxway, right?” Nicky continues, with a smile. “We know, we rescue a lot of beastmen from this jungle. Don’t worry, little fox, you’re safe now. We got you.”
Neil nods again, looking at the group and then back towards Andrew, who seems to have completely destroyed the hunters’ group on his own.
Andrew, almost feeling his gaze, looks up and their eyes meet for a second. Neil doesn’t know if he’s imagining it, but for a moment he thinks that Andrew’s looks turns almost inquisitive, like he’s interested in Neil. Whatever it is, it passes quickly, and he looks back towards his prey.
“As Nicky said,” the woman says, with a smile, “don’t worry too much about Andrew, you’re one of us, now. You’ll be safe at Foxway. Besides, Andrew only really hates humans. I’m Dan.”
Neil nods in her direction as well, and then he accepts their company on the journey towards Foxway.
He gets to know the rest of the group, apparently a volunteer group that scours the jungle every couple of days in order to save any wayward beastman from the hunters.
Andrew doesn’t speak to him, but Neil notices he never goes back to his human form, unlike everyone else. Neil doesn’t either, of course, but that’s because he can’t.
He wonders if maybe Andrew is like him, but he makes sure to erase that stupid fantasy before he can even finish the thought.
Dan had been clear, after all: Andrew hates humans and Neil…
Well, Neil now has a secret he will never tell to these people. Who would believe him, after all. Who would bevelie him if he told them that the day he was born he had been a completely normal child.
A completely normal human child.
He just needs to hide inside Foxway for a while, long enough to decide his next destination, and as long as he doesn’t give them reason to suspect… well, Neil has fox ears, fangs and claws, and red fur instead of skin.
He’s a Beastman in everything but birth, and no one really needs to know who Neil was before.
“You’ll love Foxway,” Matt tells him, while the city gets closer on the horizon.
Neil could tell him that he’s not going to stay long but instead he shrugs and says: “Yeah, I’m sure I will.”
Matt seems happy, unaware of Neil’s lie. And if Andrew looks up then and their eyes meet again… well, Neil doesn’t really plan on ever seeing Andrew again once they reach Foxway.