Forging New Paths

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Evelyn only patted gently at Garrett's shoulder and let him talk. "Of course. I wouldn’t offer if I didn’t mean it. We don’t have any plans." She would need to start working again, soon, but for now her daily goal was simply taking care of Luca, and slowly helping him adjust to the outside world. She would be fine to continue confirming a therapist for the younger man with Garrett in the house.

When he expressed his theories about Anthony, she only made a concerned, clearly dubious expression, and for a moment was quiet. "Well," she said softly after a pause, gently trying not to shut him down, "the only way we can figure that out is to keep digging, I suppose. Come in and sit down. You should relax for a little while."

Luca only nodded and moved a bit more out of the way, as much of an invitation for Garrett to walk past him towards the living room as he could manage. "Watson has a litter box now, so he can stay longer." Evelyn hadn’t liked it, but it wasn’t like he was trained to pee outside, so when he’d stayed overnight and through the day she hadn’t had much choice but to acquire one.
 

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And Garrett caught the subtle invitation, smiling gratefully and making his way toward the living room. "A litter box, eh? That's very kind of you both. Thank you. I bet Watson feels more at home here than he does at my apartment." So did Garrett, for that matter. He settled down on the pull out couch, which still had his blankets on it from the night before, and leaned back to close his eyes.

"I'll worry more about Anthony tomorrow. I'm sure he'll be fine. For now, I told him I can't let him be my informant, and that we ought to spend time apart until I could figure things out," Garrett explained. ". . . We were both pretty disappointed. I've only made one other friend besides Anthony and the three of you, and it's been a long time since I've lost someone. Even if in this case it was for the better."

He blinked back the glistening tears in his eyes. ". . . I should've known something was wrong when he didn't tell me his last name. I can't believe I made friends with a Lombardi." And there was the crux of it all. In just a few minutes, Garrett had learned that a dear friend of his had been part of his enemy's family all along. And he had no idea.
 

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Garrett was in pain. It wouldn’t help to tell him that no Lombardi was a good Lombardi, or that he was better off without Anthony around. It wouldn’t help to say the boy had never been his friend. What mattered was that he was hurting, so Evelyn was quiet, sitting delicately on the edge of the couch bed beside him and just resting a hand lightly over his forearm. It was strange for her, having no access to her gifts, and she could imagine that over the course of Garrett's life others had felt just the same and had avoided his touch on principle. It was a simple gesture, but she had a feeling, given his declaration of having no friends, he was almost as touch starved as Luca was.

". . . give it some time," she said softly, a quiet concern in her voice though she stayed calm and steady for him. "Maybe you'll find your instincts were right, after all, and he really was your friend. You look for the good in people, Garrett. There’s nothing wrong with that."

Luca could see the way Garrett's eyes were wet with tears, and the way his expression changed to show he felt hurt, but didn’t know what to do about it. How long had it been, since he had let himself feel enough that he’d had the urge to cry? Since he was little, he thought, and he could hardly remember it. It had been easier to feel empty, rather than scared, or sad. But he knew when his body or his mind felt wrong, it helped to hold Evelyn's hand. After he’d settled himself on the bed on Garrett's other side he reached out, slowly and hesitantly, to curl his fingers around one of Garrett's hands.

What should he say? ‘I’m sorry'? People said that when someone was upset, didn’t they? But he hadn’t done anything wrong, he thought, and he didn’t know what other words to use, so he just sat quietly and held onto Garrett's hand even though the way it made his body feel quiet was sudden and strange still. He didn’t want his friend to hurt anymore.
 

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Evelyn was right. The moment he felt a gentle hand on his arm, Garrett leaned into the touch, his eyes nearly welling over right then and there. He swallowed and nodded. He didn't reply at first for fear of breaking out into sobs. But then he felt Luca's hand around his, too, and what was left of the wall between him and the pair crumbled. And he cried.

Even Watson reached up to gently lick Garrett's tears away, meowing softly and purring.

It took a few minutes before Garrett finally took in a deep, shuddering breath. Then he wiped his eyes on his sleeve and nodded, sitting up straighter. "Thank you," he said at last. "All of you. I appreciate your comfort."

Convinced Garrett was feeling better, Watson gave his cheek a final lick. Then he hopped off the couch and ran around the room a few times to get his afternoon zoomies in.

The detective chuckled lightly and watched him go, and a smile finally warmed his face. "Yes, Watson. I dare say it's time to do something productive." He slowly stood up and glanced at Evelyn and Luca. "Suppose I go wash up a bit, and then the three of us can discuss plans for the rest of the day while Watson plays?"
 

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Despite her concern, Evelyn knew she wasn’t quite the best at comforting others. She didn’t know what words would help him, and she wasn’t comfortable enough to give him a more physical embrace like she might have for Luca, so she was quiet and only stayed by Garrett's side, thumb running gently back and forth where her hand rested until he needed his hands back to dry his eyes. If all she could do was keep him company while he felt hurt, she would do it.

"Oh," she murmured softly when Watson finally took off to sprint around the room, a small smile pulling at her lips. "I’ll never get used to that."

She shifted out of the way to let him stand, getting to her feet with the intention of putting the couch back to rights while he washed up. "Take all the time you need. We can run you home, if you'd like to change, and maybe go for a walk after?"

A little sunshine might do them all some good, she thought as she glanced back at Luca, scooting carefully off the bed with his eyes flicking back and forth between Garrett and Watson's mad dash. Was he better now, Luca wondered? How long would it be before he didn’t feel sad anymore?

". . . Watson needs toys." He insisted softly, unsurely, and blinked at Evelyn when she let out a sigh.

"A walk to a pet store, then." She said begrudgingly, and gave her head a little shake. So much for not wanting pets around. She was going to have to resign herself to the idea of keeping a couple small things around for Watson to play with when he visited or Luca was going to keep giving her sad looks about it.
 

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"That would be great, actually. And I could pick up a few pairs of spare clothes, just in case I need them," Garrett decided. He smiled a little. "My line of work often leads to some very dirty situations. Literally. Like when I chased Davis into the river," he added with a chuckle. He wandered off to go wash his face, and returned a few minutes later.

It never ceased to delight him how much Luca cared for Watson as much as he did. And poor Evelyn took so much in stride. He wasn't sure how she managed to put up with both himself and his cat around. He ran a hand through his freshly combed hair, clearing his throat. "Not to worry. I'll pay for Watson's toys," he offered at once. "I'm the one who decided to adopt him, after all."

He straightened out his coat and smiled at Evelyn and Luca. "I'm feeling much more like myself again. You know . . . when it was just me, it sometimes took me days to get out of a funk. You three combined have shortened the process to all of a few hours. I can't begin to describe what a difference you've all made," he added softly.

Watson returned from his zoomies. But instead of heading for Luca or Garrett, for once, he trotted towards Evelyn, meowing and rubbing against her leg.
 

CanaryCry

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The mention of extra clothes had Evelyn wondering if his intention was to leave them at her place, for emergencies, but she didn’t get a chance to ask before he hurried off to get cleaned up. While he was gone, Evelyn ushered Luca off to get his shoes and a light jacket, and with the idea of walking in mind picked out a parasol for herself. For a purple tshirt and light jeans, she chose one in purple with black lace around the edges, and set it by the door as she waited for everyone to be ready.

Luca seemed pleased with the idea that he had helped Garrett in some way or another, though he wasn't completely clear on how, but Evelyn felt a slight flush rising to her cheeks at the notion. She hadn’t done anything special, she wanted to insist, even though she knew at the same time that it was generally best to accept one's thanks rather than try to dissuade them.

Unable to find the words to respond with in the moment, she was grateful for the feeling of Watson pushing up against her shins.

"Don't suck up thinking it will get you more toys," she murmured with a little sigh even as she crouched carefully down to let Watson smell her hand and lightly scratch at his cheeks. "You be good, hm? No wild parties while we're gone."

When she’d given him scratches for a moment, she stood back up and rubbed a hand a bit sheepishly over her arm, hesitant to simply let the words pass without acknowledgement. "I’m glad you’re feeling better, Garrett," she said softly, and gestured towards the front door. "I know it's difficult, but I'm sure a little sunshine will make all the difference." They would just get him away from his cases and his lost 'friend' for a little while, and if their presence was truly enough it would help him heal. He just needed time.
 

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Watson only purred and closed his eyes, setting his entire head into Evelyn's hands to be held. Then he flopped dramatically onto the ground and gave a big stretch.

"Oooh, big stretch," Garrett announced. "Someone's going to take a nap, I bet." He smiled at Evelyn, then, and nodded. "I agree. Fresh air is good for the mind and soul. And it's already gotten far easier thanks to the two of you. Honestly, just the two of you spending time with me - and willingly shutting off your gifts just to comfort me . . . it speaks volumes."

He headed for the car and cleared his throat, pausing to text Evelyn. While I was cleaning up, I did check out my files on the pet shop. It should be safe enough. But as a general rule of thumb, I think we ought to come up with a nickname for Luca to use in public. And we need to be mindful of who might be watching. The entire city is swarming with Lombardis, and while not all of them are fully involved with the family, word spreads like wildfire around here.

"I think I'll walk in the back of the group, if that's all right with you both," Garrett said as he headed outside. "Then I can act as a sort of lookout. A rear guard, if you will. I'm quite experienced in looking behind me without making it obvious," he added as he stepped outside and held the door open.

It was Luca's first outing into a populated area, as far as he knew, and he wanted to make sure he was as safe as possible.
 

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It didn’t feel like such a big thing, foregoing her own abilities for just a moment, though Evelyn could assume it was a bigger deal to Garrett. Luca, perhaps, would have a harder time with it in public, when he unconsciously relied on his Shadow to keel him safe rather than actually looking out for anything dangerous. For her own part, none of her gifts were offensive, nor truly defensive, so when they were alone and her Insight already didn’t work on him, it wasn’t such a huge burden.

She looked at her phone and was reading as they walked out the door, only stopping to lock up behind them. She supposed Garrett had a point, given that Luca was not an extremely popular name and could turn heads if the wrong people heard. Still, she wondered if it mattered, since they weren’t making any attempts to hide Luca's face. We could just call him Lu?

"We're just going for a walk," she said with a questioning expression as they made their way out. "We stick to the nicer parts of town, where there are usually a fair amount of people. Do you really think we need to worry so much?" With Davis gone and the risk of people seeing, would someone be so bold as to try and snatch Luca off the street? She didn’t think so, but Garrett was more used to the Lombardis' particular brand of crime.

After a thought, she paused, glancing back at Luca when stopped beside her but content to let him be quiet for now. He usually was, when they were out and about. "Do you want to drive, or shall I?" They could go and stop by Garrett's place, then drive to the pet store and walk around from there.
 

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With anyone else, it would have been different. The Lombardis would have no trouble replacing any normal human. But Luca? Luca was special. And they had only ever used a fraction of his power before, under strict precautions; who knew what he was actually capable of? Then it occurred to him Luca's face would be out in broad daylight.

Lu could work. Also, how do you think he'd feel about a wig, or dying his hair? Only a few people have probably seen his real face - and one's in jail - but I'm wondering if there's a slight chance he could be recognized. He's probably all right though, unless one of the higher ups makes an appearance in public to try and find him. he texted.

Garrett pulled in a breath. Evelyn had a point. ". . . No, I suppose not. I just tend to be paranoid, I suppose. Especially over people who are close to me." He let himself relax a bit; maybe he was making a mountain out of a molehill. "And it is a nicer part of town. I'm sure we'll be fine. Either one of us can drive, I'm not picky."

A short while later, Garrett had collected his spare clothes and a few supplies, and the group headed off to the pet store. The car rolled to a stop, and Garrett glanced at Luca with a smile. "How are you feeling, Luca? Are you excited to check out the pet shop?"

For all his worry, he was happy Luca finally had the chance to get out and see more of the outside world. Especially an area as relaxing as a pet shop.
 

CanaryCry

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I don’t think he would do well with a wig, Evelyn sent back, hands free as she drove them towards Garrett's house. She didn't mention that having to wear something on his head every time he went out could be triggering to Luca and his memories of a helmet, even though a wig wouldn’t cover his face. Too uncomfortable. A one time deal like hair dye might work, but his hair is dark, so we'd probably have to go to a salon if we don’t want to hurt his skin with bleaching. I don’t think he's ready for that yet.

"Try to relax just a little," Evelyn suggested as they went, gentle and undemanding. "I won't stop you if you'd like to stay on watch, but between your instincts, my Insight, and Luca's Shadow, I think we're rather safe." It wasn’t as if she never looked around as they walked, after all. She knew that there was a chance of trouble, and kept an eye out for it, but she was reasonably confident that Insight would warn her of danger, despite its unpredictability.

When they came to a stop at the nearest parking spot she could find to the pet store, Luca only made a thoughtful noise, eyes aimed out the window as they always were when he was in a car, curious to see what was going on around them. He was used to not being able to see outside when he'd been transported to different places before. "I don’t know. . . Stores are loud. . ." It had been a very, very long time since he’d been inside one, but Evelyn had warned him before that if they went inside it would be louder than normal. But he wanted to find things for Watson, so it was okay. He would just be quiet once they left the store.

It was a short walk to the pet store, so Evelyn left her parasol closed and dangling from one wrist, waiting on the pavement for Luca and Garrett to fall into place before starting to walk. "There’s going to be a lot of animals inside making different sounds and smells, so if you don’t like it anymore just let me know and we can wait outside while Garrett picks out toys, okay?"

Luca only nodded, and stayed close to her as they walked towards the doors. Even if it was loud, he wanted to see the animals inside.
 

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Good point, Garrett texted back, And you know, now that I'm thinking about it . . . most of the Lombardis will only have a written description to go off of. I doubt they allowed pictures of him to circulate if they were trying to keep his identity hidden. He relaxed further and nodded. I don't think we'll need to disguise him at all if that's true. Or his name. Thank goodness.

He nodded to Luca and stepped out of the car. "Yes, they certainly can be. But I like pet stores more than normal stores in some respects - they're smaller, and usually it's animals making most of the noises." As the group arrived at the doors, Garrett pulled one open and held it so the pair could walk inside.

"Welcome to the Parrots n' More Pet Store!" a cheerful young woman called out. She had purple and aqua hair, a silver nose piercing on one side, and warm brown eyes. She gave a sudden gasp and waved an arm. ". . . Garrett?!"

The detective blinked and raised an eyebrow. Then his face filled with recognition, and he smiled warmly. "Why, Lottie! So good to see you." He turned to face Luca and Evelyn and nodded. "Luca, Evelyn, meet my other good friend, Lottie."

He turned back towards her and chuckled. "I had no idea you worked at a pet store."

"I just started last week. I haven't had a chance to tell you yet," Lottie said cheerfully. "You all in for something in particular? A new pet?"
 

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I hope you’re right and their own secrets will work against them. Evelyn sent back as she walked. We'll table it for now and discuss it some other day.

She reached back for Luca's hand as they walked into the store, and after being greeted was glad she had. It was more of a welcome than she had expected, but despite her worries Luca was more interested in looking into the store after the sounds of birds and other animals than the young woman that tried to flag them down.

"Nice to meet you," she said politely, with a little nod in way of greeting, and didn’t bother Luca into paying attention to her for now. "Just looking for some new cat toys, thank you. I can find them myself if you’d like a chance to chat, Garrett."

She wouldn’t stop him from talking to a friend, especially not after he’d just been so upset over losing a different one. She would be fine to wander a bit with Luca to explore their first store together.
 

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"Well, I - " Garrett started, but Lottie cut him off for a brief moment.

"Oh, I'm sorry, Garrett. I don't have time to talk at the moment," Lottie said, spotting another young woman waving at her from the back of the store. "I'm about to go on my fifteen minute break, and one of my uh, friends wants to chat before she heads out for the day."

Garrett followed her gaze and nodded, smiling. "Ah. Right. That friend. Do tell her I said hello," he said happily.

Lottie smiled back and nodded, heading off to the back of the store to meet up with the other young woman, and then they disappeared behind the employees only door. Evelyn probably wouldn't need her Insight to tell her the two were very clearly dating.

The detective turned back to Luca and Evelyn with a shrug. "Oh, well. I suppose I can chat with her later on another patrol. Or when I come here to get supplies for Watson. So! Where to first, Luca? Which animal should we look at?"
 

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Evelyn watched the exchange calmly, trying to decipher the relationship between Garrett and Lottie. Was she another informant, she wondered? Or just someone Garrett had met and made friends with like the average person? Impossible to tell at this point, and she supposed she wasn’t too concerned with it if her Insight gave her nothing about it - though, really, that could be Garrett's usual interference at work, still.

Regardless of who she was, when Lottie left Evelyn at least gave her a little wave goodbye, focusing more on the way Luca's eyes wandered around the store. "I’m sure there will be other times she’s free." She agreed, a bit distractedly, and gave Luca's hand a gentle squeeze and pull to get him moving forward. "Let's take a look around."

". . . I want to see the birds." Luca answered Garrett finally, having spent the pause in between thinking about it. He could hear them making noise, but not see them from the entryway, and he wanted to know what they looked like. Birds came in so many different sizes and colors, and he usually only saw them in books or on tv, unless they were the few kinds that he could see from his window.

Evelyn only nodded and turned to head that direction with the two of them in tow. "Birds first, then," she said agreeably, though she hadn’t anticipated exploring the entire store rather than getting what they needed and getting out. Maybe it would be a good thing for Luca to spend time here and get used to being in public spaces, since it was sparsely populated inside the pet store.
 

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Lottie was, in fact, Garrett's other informant. And similarly to Evelyn, she'd felt bad about the detective not having many friends and resolved to take him under her wing. But she was a bit more reserved with him than Anthony was, and while she'd told him about her girlfriend, there were a few other secrets she hadn't yet divulged that were on a need to know basis.

But she was always willing to help him when needed and checked in once a week or so with any information she'd found out she thought he might find useful, like events in town, what people were talking about, the latest new fashion fads. Anthony provided Lombardi specific information. Lottie was his go to for social context.

Garrett smiled warmly and nodded at Luca once he'd made a decision. "Birds it is, then! Excellent choice. They're quite beautiful to listen to." He followed after Evelyn alongside Luca, enjoying how much the young man seemed to be comfortably observing the store around him. He wasn't sure if it was just his perception or whether Luca was adjusting to the world faster than he'd thought.

The first cage of birds was as tall as Garrett, and it held a variety of parakeets that flittered and bustled around. The two cages next to that one contained larger parrot species, which were both sleeping, and one cage on the end had a macaw that was cleaning his feathers.
 

CanaryCry

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"They’re less fun to listen to when they’re screaming at your window at 6 am," Evelyn said with a little smile, and just made sure she kept Luca's hand in hers when they got to the birds, in case he needed the reassurance - and also to keep him from trying to touch the cage.

Luca made a soft, awed sort of sound at all of the parakeets, but after a moment of standing still watching them rubbed his head with his free hand almost like it hurt. "Too loud. . ." He murmured softly, and only followed when Evelyn instead pulled him closer to the bigger, quieter birds. "Oh -" Luca paused almost shyly, lowering his voice just a bit more and looking between Garrett and Evelyn. "Are they sleeping?" How did they sleep with all the little birds tweeting so loud and smacking their feet onto the things in their cage? He wanted to let them all out.

Evelyn nodded, smiling a little to herself, and held a finger up to her lips as if to reinforce that they should be quiet. Really, with how loud the store could be, she was sure they knew how to sleep through noise. "You're right, we should let them rest. Let’s look at the pretty red one, Hm? But keep your fingers away from the bars, or he might bite."
 

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Garrett chuckled. "Yes, I suppose. But they're good company if one already happens to be up at that hour." Mostly due to his horrendous sleep schedule, but he was pretty sure Evelyn already knew that about him.

He nodded when Luca said the birds were too loud and put into words what Evelyn was subtly telling Luca by pulling him onwards. "Well, if it's too loud, we'll just head over to another area," he explained. "You don't have to stay in a place you don't like, unless there's an important reason. You can just leave."

His eyes glittered when Luca mentioned the sleeping birds. "I suppose they either like the noise, or they've gotten used to it and know how to work around it. If you like quieter animals, would you like to see some of the turtles or fish? Turtles and fish are nice and quiet." He didn't even think of mentioning the tarantulas in one corner. He didn't mind them, but he knew they were a common phobia.
 

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"See, this is why you have Watson," Evelyn said with an amused glance Garrett's way. "He shares your horrible sleeping habits." She joked, but it probably was good for Garrett to have another living thing around to keep him company when he was otherwise home alone. Watson wouldn’t mind playing or sleeping no matter what hour of the day it was.

Luca made a thoughtful hum at the thought of the big birds being used to the noise, but looked at Garrett suddenly when he mentioned other animals to look at. "There are turtles?" He liked watching turtles in videos, and fish swimming were always very pretty. They would be quieter than the birds.

Evelyn only nodded along. "You can't touch them, but we can watch them walk around if you'd like." Garrett was probably right back when he made his list of things to do. Once they worked up to crowds, Luca would probably love an aquarium.
 

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The detective couldn't help but snort and roll his eyes, but he didn't have a good comeback. Evelyn was absolutely right. Watson did often match Garrett's sleeping habits, the poor cat. "Yes. But he's quieter than a bird," he said at last with a smile.

He nodded when Luca asked about the turtles. "There sure are," he told the younger man. "This store has all sorts of pets - turtles, fish, hamsters, snakes, lizards, spiders. Maybe even some cats and dogs." He waved a hand and headed towards the turtles; he'd seen them past a few rows over towards the back row.

The turtles had a large tank to both swim and crawl in. There was a sandy area on the right side, some half submerged logs beneath a basking light, different small caves to hide in, and of course turtles. The turtles seemed indifferent to people approaching, for the most part. One or two swam up to the glass to examine the group. One of the larger turtles was basking on a log and sleeping, and a few others were swimming or crawling.

Garrett knelt down near the tank to get a better view. He had to admit, he enjoyed animals and it was fun observing something that wouldn't try to hurt him or someone else. The turtles looked so relaxed and peaceful.