Forging New Paths

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Evelyn gave a soft chuckle at the idea of things not burning down, but was oddly touched by his insistence that they had cleaned up. After living with only herself to clean up after for so long, it was kind of Garrett to remember that having messes around bothered her and for him to try and keep everything tidy as a result. She wasn't extremely pleased to realize Luca hadn't gotten much sleep, but it was unavoidable some nights so there was no one at fault.

Luca, she could see, was tired still and slow to respond, but he did eventually look at Garrett and offer a small smile, unsure how to respond to thanks but enjoying the idea that he'd done well.

"Thank you," she said softly as she sat at the table. "Was looking at old cases interesting, Luca?"

He thought about it for a moment, more of his concentration on trying to eat than speaking, and finally nodded. "Detective things."

It was probably as good an explanation as she was going to get, but she got the gist of it at least. Anything Garrett did was something Luca wanted to do. "It's nice of you to offer, Anthony, thank you. I was going to clean up a little but it's nothing I can't handle myself. You and Luca could roll out a puzzle on the table once it's clear, if you'd like." It was better for his attention to be on Luca, she thought, than anything she might need for the house. If they strained their eyes squinting at puzzle pieces for a while, maybe he would even nap.
"Oh, a puzzle! Great idea," Anthony said with a grin. "Luca, after breakfast, do you want to do a puzzle together?" He thought he'd better make sure that Luca also wanted to do a puzzle. The last thing he wanted was for it to feel like they were forcing him into it.

Garrett finished his plate, arched his back, and got to his feet. "Well! If those two have a plan already, I suppose that leaves me free to help with the cleaning, hm?" he asked, eyes sparkling. "Suppose I wash the dishes, you dry? Unless we'd rather toss those in the dishwasher, in which case I could try sweeping if you'd be so kind as to remind me where the broom is." He was pretty sure he'd seen one in the house at some point. It was a testament to how truly comfortable he was there; he didn't feel the need to scrutinize and memorize every inch of space. The downside was he still hadn't quite placed where exactly everything went yet.
Luca looked at Anthony when spoken to, finishing the bite he'd taken as he mulled over the idea. He was tired, but lying around doing nothing and continuing to not sleep wasn't any more fun than trying to use his brain when it was exhausted. "Okay," he said softly, nodding once to show he agreed, and poked at the last few bites of his food. "I have a new one. It's all birds." Puzzles were less frustrating when there were a lot of colors, and he liked looking at birds anyway. It was pretty, and he hadn't opened it yet.

Evelyn was a bit slower to finish than Garrett was, but shook her head at the idea of washing dishes. "The dishwasher is just fine," she agreed, with only a little hesitation. The urge to fight him on letting him clean a house that was her responsibility and full of her things hadn't gone away completely but had, almost shockingly, faded over the time they had been together. It was strange, trusting someone to be present in spaces that were meant to be only hers. "You don't have to if you have other things to do. But the broom is in the hall closet. There's a cordless vacuum in there as well, if you prefer that."

He wanted to help, and she was still learning to allow someone to do that rather than fighting to do everything herself. She had to think back to when they had first met. She had taken it upon herself to ask for help even though she hated it, knowing she couldn't accomplish what she needed to on her own. Everything had turned out all right, so far. She was going to have to learn to keep telling herself that, even though her possessive, independent nature made it difficult. She could acknowledge that much about herself.
Anthony's eyes sparkled. "Oooh, a new puzzle? That sounds great!" He thought for a moment while he strolled toward the closet. "And maybe if we have time, we could text Shiloh and Beckett some pictures so they can see, too! Sound fun?" he asked with a grin.

Garrett scoffed playfully and made his way towards the closet as well, ruffling Anthony and Luca's hair when he passed them. "Don't worry. Nothing on my scedhule today besides spending time with you all!" He opted for the broom anyway. It was quieter, and left opportunities for talking should they arise.

The hours seemed to pass all too quickly before it was time for the therapy appointment. Garrett glanced briefly at a clock while he finished setting a few dishes away after running the dishwasher. Then he glanced at Evelyn and nodded. "About that time. I'll be here doing dishes, and I'll be on hand if either of you needs anything," he promised softly.

Anthony had gotten completely sucked into the bird puzzle. His favorite were the peacocks; they were so colorful. He held up a piece and laughed. "Aha! Finally found his butt, Luca!" he announced.
Luca smiled a little and nodded along, getting carefully up to stretch his legs out a little and follow after Anthony to get the puzzle from his room. Having everyone together in the house, bustling around and doing things that were mundane or normal, was strangely soothing. He and Anthony got to settle at the table when it was cleaned off and start sorting carefully through puzzle pieces, and while they worked he could listen to Garrett and Evelyn moving around the house, cleaning here and there. He wanted to help, but he wanted to spend time with Anthony, too.

Evelyn checked in with the two of them off and on while she did housework, not only cleaning but tidying up Luca's bedroom to be sure everything was ready for his appointment. She made sure he had paper and pencils next to the laptop used for his videoconference appointment, a fidget on the desk as well for him to hold while he was talking, and a thin blanket over the back of the chair in case he needed something to wrap up in. Besides making sure the space was an inviting and comfortable one, there was little she could do to make his appointments more bearable.

Luca was engrossed in the puzzle enough not to think about it, as he usually was, though he and Anthony made little bits of conversation off and on. He made a soft, amused little sound when Anthony held up his found piece, smiling and reaching out to take it and look at it before handing it back. "Those are his tail feathers," he said, but was clearly entertained by Anthony's assessment. 'Butt' was somewhat accurate, at least, only a funny way to say it.

Evelyn had been hovering between the dining table and kitchen, having finished cleaning the appliances and stuck around just to watch them play. She didn't want to interrupt, but Garrett was right. "I'll tell him," she said with a soft sigh, and walked over to the table to run her fingers gently through Luca's hair to get him to look at her. "It's time for your appointment, Luca. Let's leave this on the table for now, all right? I'm sure Anthony won't finish it without you."

He frowned a little at her, not liking the idea of doing therapy again but knowing he had to, and with a soft huff set the pieces in his hands carefully down and scooched his chair back to get up. "Okay. . . Can Watson come with me again?"

"I'm sure he would love to sit with you. Why don't you get him, and I'll go set up the computer, all right?"

It was something else to distract him for a moment, at least, and while he went to retrieve his furry friend she went to his room to start the call with Dr. Morrison.
"Ohhh. Tail feathers," Anthony repeated. He laughed and put the piece in place. "I still think it looks more like a butt!"

Eventually Evelyn came over to let Luca know it was time for his appointment. Anthony smiled gently and nodded. "Don't worry, Luca. I won't work on the puzzle without you. And me and Garrett will be right here after your appointment!" he added.

Garrett smiled and waved a hand. "C'mon, Anthony. Why don't you and I text Beckett and Shiloh while we're waiting? I'm sure they're having all sorts of adventures."

"Sure!" Anthony replied. He slid off the chair, and once Garrett put the broom away, the detective joined him on the couch. "Evelyn, you wanna come over too? Bet we're gonna see some fun pictures! Don't worry, Luca. We'll text them to you so you can see, too," he promised.

Garrett eased back into the couch and pulled out his phone, and once Evelyn returned, he texted Beckett and Shiloh in a group chat. [Hey, guys. Up to anything fun this morning?]

Shiloh was the first to text back. [Yeah, we've been exploring the lighthouse! Want to see some photos?]
Luca was quiet as he found where Watson was resting and gently pulled the cat away to keep him company while he talked to the therapist. It made him uncomfortable and tired, so it was nice to have Watson around to make him feel more calm. As much as he didn't want to do it, he remembered what everyone kept telling him. If he wanted to get better, he had to 'do therapy', even if it was hard, and he wanted to. He didn't want to cause so much trouble for everyone anymore, and he didn't want to feel so bad all the time.

Evelyn was waiting for him when he came, having already pulled up Dr. Morrison's video on the screen, and after Luca had greeted her he was left alone in the room.

On her way out Evelyn left the door slightly cracked to keep Luca from feeling as if he were locked in or not allowed to leave, and walked out to find something to keep her hands busy while she waited, feeling nervous despite it not being her own appointment. Beckett and Shiloh, at least, were a welcome distraction for once.

I'd love to see where you're staying. Evelyn sent back to the group chat as she sat down with them on the couch, tucking her feet up next to her and settling in with a soft sigh. Is it very cold next to the ocean?
Watson was more than happy to go with Luca. He let out a soft "mmmrp," stretched a bit, and then made himself comfortable in the young man's arms with a deep sigh.

[Not during this season,] Shiloh explained, sending a few selfies near the lighthouse and some pictures of the different areas inside. [But Dad says during the fall and winter it gets really cold. We'll have plenty of blankets, heaters, and warm gear by then, though! And I'm pretty sure I can just shift and make myself nice and furry.]

Garrett smiled at the pictures and texted back. [These are great. Who's that in the back of the fifth picture?]

Shiloh sent a laughing emoji and a zoomed in photo. [Oh! We call him Mr. Moo. He's an old suit of armor that someone gave to Dad, and he has a taxidermied cow head that he added because he thought it'd be funny. He was right. We make up all sorts of stories about him!]
Her relationship with Shiloh and Beckett was tenuous enough that Evelyn hadn't quite expected their exchange to be so entertaining. It was strangely nice, sitting together with Anthony and Garrett while they all received the same group messages from the others, able to chatter and laugh together in real time rather than having everything delayed as it was passed on. It was easy, for a while, to forget how much time was passing, to try and push her worries aside.

At least it was, until a crash from down the hall had her instantly on her feet.

It wasn't fair. Luca was trying his best, but it wasn't fair. Talking was hard enough in the first place, but as the appointment went on the questions he had to answer made knot after knot inside his stomach. Questions about things he did his best never to think about, about people he couldn't remember without feeling pain anymore. Did he remember anything about the night Davis had come to take him away? Did he remember what had happened to his family?

It wasn't your fault.

He barely heard the words before he couldn't take it anymore, slamming the laptop shut and shooting to his feet so fast his chair was flung over behind him. Watson hopped free of his lap with a startled yowl as Luca got to his feet, lurching back away from the desk as if burned and toppling backwards when his legs only hit the fallen chair. Falling against the chair and then the ground would have hurt more if his Shadow hadn't sprung up between him and it, cushioning some of the blow but unable to fully stop the impact without any input from him, and the last thing he wanted to do was reach for it. If he hadn't had his Shadow, no one would have taken him away, no one would have made him hurt so many people, no one would have died when -

Luca scrambled back to his hands and knees enough to lurch forward and slam his hands into the door, putting the only barrier he could think of between himself and the rest of the world. His eyes darted in quick, panicked flickers from corner to corner of the room, his heart pounding in his chest, and he managed to push to his feet just long enough to stumble to his closet, bury himself in the clothes inside and pull the door shut behind him. Hemmed in on all sides with no light only made his heart beat faster, only made it even harder to breathe, but nowhere else felt safe either - pressed into a dark, suffocating corner, he pressed his hands over his ears as hard as he could and squeezed his eyes shut to try and make the world go away.

Evelyn was already coming to a stop when she reached the door, a hand snapping out towards Anthony and Garrett to make them stop just as she did, knowing too many running feet coming towards him would only set Luca off, if he hadn't been already. They had to be more calm, stay quiet and unthreatening. She was just beginning to take a breath to steady herself and signal as much to them when the door suddenly slammed the last inch closed right in front of her.

Startled, she looked back at it again and pressed a hand to the wood, the other on the knob but not quite turning even as she heard his footsteps moving away. He hadn't locked it, but something was wrong. He was panicking. He needed them.

". . . Luca?" She called softly, hesitating to open the door right after he'd closed it on them, though Insight was enough to tell her that the they were not the demons chasing him if she hadn't guessed as much herself. "Are you all right? Can I come in?"

She would only give it a moment before she opened it without him answering.
Garrett's head snapped up when there was a crash down the hall. His immediate thought was someone might be breaking in. "Luca?" he called out worriedly. Then he saw Watson bolt down the hall, and a pit formed in his stomach. He got to his feet immediately and hurried towards Luca's room - only to stop in his tracks when Evelyn held up a hand.

Something was wrong.

He swallowed and watched the door tensely, glancing briefly at Evelyn from time to time. ". . . Anthony?" he asked quietly.


"Wait in the living room for a moment, already? I'll text or call you if we need help."

"Right," Anthony replied, heading off to wait on the couch with Watson.

Garrett nodded and turned back towards Luca's door. This didn't seem like a normal panic attack. If there was any chance of danger, intended or not, he didn't want Anthony getting hurt. "Luca? It's Garrett, I'm here, too. We're going to come in and check on you, okay?"
Telling Anthony to leave was smart, Evelyn thought. If something went wrong she didn't want him around, not only because she thought he might let his friendship with Luca get him in trouble, but because he would be in their way. As much as Luca liked him, Evelyn couldn't say for sure he would be safe. She couldn't say she would be, either, but it was a risk she would take for herself.

"I'm going to open the door." She said loud enough for Luca to hear, and after a glance at Garrett turned the knob and pushed it carefully open. The closed laptop, scattered pencils and toppled chair painted a good enough picture of what had happened even if Insight wasn't already telling her. She picked the chair carefully back up, wincing a little at the little bursts of information touching it gave her, and settled her eyes on the closed closet door. "Luca? Are you all right? It's me and Garrett. We came to check on you."

She approached the door first, but stopped before ever touching the knob. With how silent the house had suddenly fallen, she could just barely hear his voice from inside, as small and hushed as it was, only murmuring one word over and over. No, no, no, no. Her heart ached for him even as it beat faster inside her chest, and with a shake of her head she took a step back to make room.

"You first." She said, looking meaningfully at Garrett and letting him pass her by. Luca was not okay, and even if he didn't mean to be she acknowledged that he could be dangerous. As much as she wanted to go in and console him, it was safer for someone immune to Luca's gifts to take the lead.

When the door opened, Luca was still sitting huddled in the corner, long legs drawn up tight to his chest, hands pressed hard over his ears and head pressed down to his knees. Thin tendrils of his dark powers crawled over his skin, as if looking for a way to fight off what was hurting him, but there was no target to find. It twitched and writhed at Garrett's presence, but didn't rise from his skin. The light drew his attention up, his eyes glassy and far away and faint lines of tears shining on his face, and he threw his hands up to shield his face as if he were being attacked.


Evelyn flinched back, not truly afraid of their dear friend but hurting for him, a hand pressed tight to her chest as if it would settle the volatile sadness seeing him so strained brought on. They had to calm him down before he hurt someone, or himself.
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The detective heard Luca before he saw him - whispering to himself, in a small, shaky voice from inside the closet. The scattered pencils, overturned chair, and closed laptop told him the same story they told Evelyn. Something during the session had set Luca off and pushed him into a panic attack. His heart sank, but when Evelyn instructed him to go first, he nodded at once and slowly moved forward.

He was the safest option. In the event seeing another person might startle Luca into attacking, he'd rather it be him, who had the option to at least block the shadow attack even if he couldn't block Luca's arms or legs. "Luca," he announced quietly. "I'm coming in to check on you."

Garrett cautiously opened the door. And there was Luca, crying and shrinking back in terror. It was enough to make Garrett's eyes shimmer. "Luca. Luca, it's me. It's Garrett." He slowly knelt down beside him. Then he set a hand on his shoulder. "Can you hear me?" he added. If Luca was in shock, he might not even be able to register Garrett and Evelyn were there.
It was all very new, as far as Evelyn was concerned. Luca's panic or anxiety had always been quiet, prone to staying very still and pretending as if the world didn't exist at all - but despite the way he had only raised his voice the once, she couldn't help but feel it had become much more loud. He had never cried before. He had never thrown his things, or slammed doors, or seemed so afraid of just them.

She wasn't sure how they were going to help him, but they had to. She couldn't rest until he felt better.

Luca's voice had gone quiet again after the first outburst, panicked still but hardly above a whisper. "Sorry. Sorry. I'm sorry. I'll be good. I'm sorry." Over and over, like if he said it enough whoever he thought was there to hurt him would leave him be.

It was difficult, being able to see him in the present and the past all at once, and Evelyn stood stock still with the image of him in mind, thinner and alone in a room that was more prison than home. If he disobeyed, he was locked away. Sedated. Control of his own body and mind taken away. If he just said sorry enough, maybe it wouldn't happen again. If he just promised not to be bad, maybe he would get to stay awake. It made her feel sick to her stomach.
Garrett wasn't sure if Luca was apologizing to him, or just saying sorry to whoever he thought was attacking him. He blinked back a few tears and moved closer, carefully pulling Luca into a hug. All he knew was that Luca needed him. And maybe if he kept talking to him gently, and sitting with him, Luca would eventually realize he was there. He ran his hand gently through the young man's hair. "You are good," he said softly. "You are very good, Luca. You're brave, and kind, and sweet, and gentle. Evelyn and I are right here. You're safe."

At the very least, Luca didn't seem violent now. But he was still just as scared. Tears rolled down Garrett's cheeks, and he lowered his voice even more. "It's okay, Luca. It's all right. You're safe. You're safe."

In the other room, Anthony and Watson peered anxiously around the hallway. Both were hesitant to get too close, but they waited with baited breath, anxious to make sure Luca was okay.
"Please." It was the last thing Luca managed before there were arms around him, smothering his voice into only a faint gasping for air through the tears. Please don't make me. Please don't send me away. He didn't want to be frozen inside while his body did things he couldn't stop. Every day was spent waiting for it to happen again, shaking at the mere thought of it. It never ended.

The arms that tried to hold him still pulled a faint sob from his throat, just waiting to be taken somewhere he would hate, to be held down while someone forced medicine down his throat or a needle into his skin. But nothing happened. Even though he tucked all his limbs in close to try futilely to keep himself safe, no one tried to pull his hands away, to force him down, pull him free of the safety of his closet or else push him in and lock the door. There were hands but they were gentle, words but they were soft. No one was yelling or pulling on him so hard it hurt.

"It's going to be all right," a woman's soft voice said, a smaller, lighter hand coming to rest on his knee. "Just breathe. We're going to keep you safe."

He had never heard been told those sorts of things in the past, that he would be okay, that he would be safe, that he was good. He knew the voices, he realized slowly, like finding his way out of a fog. He knew the arms around him, and the soft, careful touches. It was okay. It was safe.

When Luca's hands moved gradually from guarding his head to hiding his face as his shoulders shook anew, Evelyn put a hand on Garrett's arm and squeezed, concern and pain in her expression despite the fact that her eyes were dry. If they were patient, if they were gentle, she was sure he was coming back to them.
When Garrett felt Evelyn's hand squeeze his shoulder, he glanced up with a small smile, tears still streaking his cheeks. Luca's shoulders were shaking. And he couldn't tell, but he thought maybe he was finally crying. At long last. He'd never seen the young man cry before, but he knew it was an important step in healing and he was relieved Luca could finally release his emotions like that.

He looked back at Luca and carried on running a hand gently through his hair, hugging him with his other arm. "That's it," he said softly. "L - let it all out. We're right here with you. You're okay."

Garrett finally felt safe enough to where he could call Watson in, and he did so softly. "Watson, want to come over?"

There was a meow from out in the hall. Moments later, Watson trotted in, tail held high, and he hopped into Luca's lap and leaned against him with a purr.
It was difficult to watch, the way Luca's body shook and his breathing gasped and stuttered like he wasn't getting enough air, but like in all things he was very quiet. With one hand on his knee and the other on Garrett's arm, she sat still and sure, doing her best to ground them both despite the pain in her own chest. If there was nothing else she could say for it, living her whole life with the burden of knowledge had at least given her the experience needed to be strong for them while they struggled.

"It's all right," She murmured softly, her voice pitched gentle and soothing. "We're right here. We're going to keep you safe. No one is going to hurt you." For as long as it took, they would stay by his side.

Luca hardly stirred when Watson squeezed his way between his legs and stomach, barely aware enough to relax his body sufficiently so the cat could make it in, but the warmth and the purring helped soothe the panic in his chest. With Garrett holding him, his Shadow couldn't hurt anyone, just like when they had come to save him. It was safe. If they were with him, he wouldn't have to watch anyone die again.

It was a long while before the tears gradually stopped, his body shaking still but his eyes beginning to dry. He had taken to holding on to Garrett, leaned into the detective's body and hiding his face in his shoulder. Exhausted and trembling, he was beginning to feel a bit more like himself again.
The detective eventually began rocking Luca back and forth, holding him gently while his own tears subsided. "It's all right. Don't you worry. You're safe, and it's okay to cry. Evelyn and I are here for you," he added. At the very least, Luca was slowly but surely calming down again, though it didn't matter how long it took. Garrett was willing to sit with him all night if that was what it took.

Eventually, Watson poked his head up and gently licked at Luca's cheek to clean his tears.

"Aww. Very kind of you, Watson," Garrett murmured. "Watson's here, too, Luca. And Anthony's in the living room nearby. Did you get hurt?" He didn't think so, but it seemed like a good idea to double check.
Watson had always been his comforter, but when Luca turned his head away from the cat's kisses Evelyn had to reach gently over and pick Watson up. He was overstimulated. She would wait a few minutes and then let them come back together. At the very least, Luca did give his head a tiny shake when asked if he was hurt.

"Do you feel up p to standing?" She asked gently. "If you think you can, why don't you and Garrett go and splash some cool water on your face. It might you feel a little better." At the very least it would give him something to do that was not continuing to hide in the cramped space of his closet. "I'll get you a big blanket so you can curl up on the couch when you're done, and Watson can sit with you again if you want him to."

It took a long moment, but they were patient. Eventually, Luca began to slowly settle his knees further away from his chest, and timidly stopped hiding his face. He was shaking still, stiff and exhausted, and she wasn't sure where his head was yet, but it was progress. If he wasn't somewhere small and cramped, and he could curl up as comfortably as possible with a soft blanket, maybe it would be easier to remember that he was somewhere safe.
Watson didn't mind. He turned and licked Evelyn's cheek instead, and then settled in her arms and purred. Everyone was tense and stressed, so he would comfort whoever he came into contact with.

Garrett waited patiently while Luca took a few moments to uncurl his legs and reveal his face. Then he smiled, slowly stood up, and held Luca's hand gently. "I can help you up, if you'd like," he said quietly. "If you're thirsty, we could drink some water, too. Whatever would help you feel more comfortable."

If Luca eventually stood up, he led him to the nearby bathroom, where he turned the water on and checked the temperature with his hand. It was cool, but not cold. He nodded to himself and glanced at Luca with a smile. "All right. Want to give the water a test with your hand first and see if you like the temperature? If you need it warmer or colder, just let me know."