Forging New Paths

CanaryCry

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Floating on his back. Luca was sure he had done that before, as he watched Anthony lay flat out and float easily with his face out of the water. He wasn’t sure how it could save his life, right then, but he nodded a little and tried to copy the way Anthony moved, until old memories took over again and he figured out how to get himself floating on his back as well. It felt strange, and vulnerable, but he was safe with these people, he was sure, so he closed his eyes and just listened to the way the world muffled through the water covering his ears.

Evelyn drifted a little closer once he wasn’t moving anymore, though not yet close enough to touch. "I’m fine." She said with a shake of her head, the tiniest bit sharper than she’d really meant to, and took a moment to breath before trying again. "I think we should go rest for a while."

Luca had lived a mostly sedentary life for the past ten years. He didn’t have the lung capacity or the stamina to swim for very long, and she did not want to find out exactly how long it would be until he couldn’t keep himself up anymore and would just sink without coming back up. As much as she didn’t want to ruin his fun, it was probably time to go back to shallow water for a while, or even to the grass.
 

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"Yes, all right," Garrett agreed. He waved an arm. "Luca! Anthony! You two want a snack break?"

Anthony flipped right back up in the water and grinned. "Snacks?! Yeah! Come on, Luca, want to come eat?" he asked happily. He waited near Luca, both to make sure he got safely back and to see whether he actually wanted to eat.

Garrett was hopeful that offering snacks would make it seem less like he and Evelyn were trying to force the pair to stop swimming. He didn't want to ruin the fun, either. But he knew just as well as she did that Luca didn't have nearly the energy everyone else in the group did.

Only once the pair began making their way back did Garrett follow behind them. And once he'd sat down and dried off a bit, he picked up his phone to text Evelyn. I think this is the first time I've seen Luca push himself like this. Especially physically. I'm wondering if swimming would be good physical therapy for him, to get his stamina and lung capacity back. I'd be more than happy to take him out here - and maybe you could take the time to rest up at home?
 

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Luca didn’t respond at first, listening to the water rather than specific words, but after a moment his eyes fluttered open and he refocused on Garrett as he realized the older man had spoken to him. He was careful in getting himself vertical again, though the change was a bit jarring and he had to spit more water out of his mouth when he dipped down too far, but having Anthony within grabbing reach in case he needed help was strangely calming.

He was slow going, but when he was close enough Evelyn offered to take his hands and pulled him until his feet could touch again, worried about his strength. She was happy, at least, that when the water wasn’t holding his weight up anymore he managed to stay on his feet, though she held his arm still in case he needed her. On land again, she got him a towel and made sure he was stable before grabbing one for herself to dry off a bit before sitting down.

She glanced at her phone even as she pulled out the snacks shed brought with her other hand, frowning for a while before finally responding once Luca was eating an apple already. Thank you for the offer. I have to think about it. Was the only answer she could give him, right then. They could talk more about it later on, but for now she needed to just breathe and think. She didn’t like the idea of Luca being out of her sight, in a situation where he could be so quiet he exhaustEd himself without anyone knowing and have something horrible happen. On top of that, she knew she also trusted Garrett to do everything to keep Luca safe. It just didn't sit well with her and she couldn’t make that decision now. She needed time to think herself around the worry before she could decide.
 

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Garrett smiled and nodded, replying back to the text with, Of course. There's no rush. And he settled back against a tree to enjoy a few of the snacks himself.

"Hey," Anthony realized as he took a bite of an apple himself, "If you're not too tired, we could sort our rocks after this, Luca! They're probably good and dried off now." He blinked as a yawn suddenly left his lips. ". . . Heh. Then maybe we should call it a day. I'm going to need a nap after this," he admitted softly.

The detective leaned over to ruffle Anthony's hair. "Rock sorting and a nap sound great, kiddo."

"Yeah. Hey, you could all nap at the office too, if you want. I wouldn't mind," Anthony added.

Garrett chuckled. "Kind of you to offer. But I think the rest of us will probably want beds."

"Oh. Yeah, good point," Anthony said with a smile, taking another bite of his apple.
 

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Luca paused after taking a bite from his apple, and for a moment looked like he wouldn’t remember to chew before he finally started to move again. When he’d swallowed, he managed a nod with a somewhat surprised expression. "The rocks." He'd forgotten about them, even though it hadn’t been so long ago that they’d found them.

"I’m sorry, but I need to go home and shower after this," Evelyn said with an apologetic shake of her head. "But I don’t mind waiting if you want to nap here." Luca's eyes were already looking so heavy she wondered if he would even have it in him to focus on the rocks once he'd finished his apple, and hopefully she could get him to eat some protein as well.

Anthony was surprisingly okay with being left alone often, or left out of their plans together. Evelyn wondered if Garrett had explained to him how cautious she was being, or if it even needed saying. She was just grateful to him for being so good with Luca, so far. As much as she didn’t like to admit it, it would do him good to have a friend that wasn’t also a caretaker.
 

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Anthony waved a hand. "Nah, it's fine. We can go home after this. Tell you what, Luca, how about I hide the rocks we found? Then we can sort them next time we come back," he pointed out. Only once Luca had given some form of response did he head down to the roots, bringing his apple with him, and carefully hide the rocks among them. He smiled and nodded before coming back up. "There we go! Time to head home for a nap?" he asked.

Garrett gave a soft chuckle. "That might be a good idea. We could even finish eating the snacks in the car, if it's okay with Evelyn." He figured she'd prefer having the group asleep away from Anthony, anyway, and besides, Luca looked exhausted.

He gathered up a few of the snack bags and smiled. "Ready to go, Luca?" he asked gently.
 

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Luca blinked slowly and tried to focus in on Anthony and what he was saying, then finally managed a nod after he’d thought it over. "Okay. . . Next time." That meant they were coming back, and he could swim again. He wanted to do more now, but his body felt heavy already, and he knew Evelyn wouldn’t want him going back while he was tired.

She let him finish most of his apple as they gathered up the other snacks and blankets, leaving him a ziploc bag to toss the core in when he was finished, and helped herd him to the car. It wasn't as much as she wanted him to eat, after expending so much energy, but it really wasn't surprising either when he leaned against the window and drifted off in the car.

"Out like a light," she murmured, glancing at Garrett and Anthony in her mirror as she drove. "Thank you for helping him. I think he had fun." She had worried he was no longer capable of that until now.
 

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"You're welcome," Garrett said warmly.

Anthony smiled softly, pushing wet hair back from his face. "Yeah. Thanks for letting me come with," he added. "It's nice having friends again." He yawned and leaned against the opposite window, snuggling against the hood of his sweater like a pillow. "Think we could all hang out again sometime? Maybe at the carnival, once I finish making it . . ."

It didn't take long for Anthony to fall asleep, either.

Garrett smiled and let out a soft breath. "Aw. I'm glad they both had fun." He nodded and glanced toward Evelyn. "Anthony's been doing really well recently. All healed up from his injuries. I think I'm going to start letting him go out on patrol again within the next few days."
 

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"I’m sure it will look amazing," Evelyn assured Anthony gently, though she could tell he was well on his way to sleep already. He and Luca were welcome to doze for the rest of the ride. It might be uncomfortable, but she would accept any kind of sleep Luca could get.

"Going outside more might do him some good," she said when Garrett said Anthony would 'patrol' again, whatever that entailed. "He could use something to give him more purpose." It was dangerous, probably, but if left alone with nothing to do she thought he would only gather up any anxious energy inside him until he did something stupid anyway. Most people did, who had been through very difficult things like he had.
 

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Detective Shiver nodded in agreement. "Yep. And don't you worry. His patrol route goes through all the safest streets and alleyways in the city." He leaned back in his seat, smiling. "You know, I've known Anthony longer than both you and Luca. And I know it doesn't seem like it, but I've always done my best to keep him safe." He let out a breath. "He's barely old enough to be out on his own. I mean, legally he is, but he's just - well, you know," he added, gesturing blankly and hoping Lily understood.

He ran a hand through his damp hair. "I know he can look after himself on those streets. I know he can. Do you think he'd be mad if I tailed him the first few days, though? Just to be safe?"

Anthony shuffled a bit in his sleep and let out a soft sigh, and Garrett's eyes shimmered.
 

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Evelyn was quiet, just listening, letting him speak his peace. Their voices weren’t loud enough to wake up the other half of their little group. Garrett's bleeding heart only became more and more apparent as they spent time around each other.

"Not if you’re stealthy enough." She said finally, trying a small smile if only to attempt to cheer him up a little. "Even if he found you out, even if he was irritated, I think he would understand. After what happened with his parents, and given certainly rising tensions, it's not as if your worries are unfounded." Anthony was young, maybe even foolish, but he wasn’t stupid, and he had lived a hard life. He would surely be fine, and would understand if Garrett just wanted to make sure.
 

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Garrett returned the smile gratefully and relaxed. "I guess you're right," he agreed at last. He fell quiet for a few more minutes, enjoying the scenery outside the window. Finally he spoke again. "By the way . . . you did a really good job letting go today. I Imagine it was hard for you to let Luca push himself like that. But I really do think it was good for him."

He glanced back at Evelyn, raising an eyebrow and smiling again. "I think the only reason I wasn't more hesitant is because I've been through this with Anthony already. You're on your first kid. Luca's my second," he teased with a slight chuckle. "Not that they're actual kids, of course. But sometimes they seem like kids."
 

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Evelyn only made an uncomfortable face when her panic from before was brought up, fingers tightening a little around the steering wheel, but having Garrett call them his kids at least startled a little huff of laughter from her. How was it he so easily pinned down the way that she had felt? Luca was grown, but with everything that had happened it felt like he needed her, like he was still small and inexperienced and needed protection from the world at large. All she wanted was to keep him safe.

"He - He just scares me," she managed finally, shaking her head and glancing at where he slept in the passenger seat beside her. "I couldn’t help feeling, if no one was watching him closely enough, he would keep going until he was tired and couldn't make it back to shore." It made her feel almost sick to think about. "But the last thing I want to do is stand in the way of his recovery."

It didn't feel fair. How was she supposed to make that sort of choice? Was that what it was like, if she had a child of her own? To constantly feel torn between letting them experience life and holding them close where they were safe from any possible harm? It was awful. But Luca had been happy. She would have to stomp down hard on the anxiety that 'letting go' made her feel, if she was going to keep herself from ruining him forever.
 

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"I understand, a bit," Garrett said gently. "And I know I was relaxing out in the lake. But I promise you, I was watching how he was doing. And so was Anthony. If he'd started to have trouble, we would have been right there. We want him to stay safe just as much as you do."

He took a breath and glanced back at the sleeping pair. "There are going to be times when he does push himself too far. All you can do is make sure you're there to help when it happens. Or at least close at hand." He looked back to Evelyn and smiled gently. ". . . I seem to recall you telling me that no matter how hard we try, there will be days that are hard and times he's going to get hurt. We can't protect him from everything, Evelyn. But we can be there for him to help him heal."

He glanced out the window a few minutes later, tossing his head. "The office is right down the street to the left there. I can carry Anthony in by myself, I think."
 

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Oh, how dare he use her own words against her. That wasn’t playing fair. Physical dangers felt so much more different than mental or emotional ones, but she knew that it made little difference in the grand scheme of things. He was right - or she was, or she had been. Luca was going to get hurt, sometimes, just like anyone else in the world was. If she tried to keep him safe from everything, he would never get to experience anything. It was just more difficult to accept in practice than in theory.

At the office, she waited in the car while Garrett took Anthony inside, watching to be sure Luca didn’t wake up. The sound of the door opening and closing only roused him briefly, before the sounds of the car lulled him back to sleep again. He was too big for carrying, though the thought was amusing, but it would be all right to wake him from his nap when they got home. If he didn’t have the energy for a quick shower, she would just lay a blanket over his bed and let him sleep on top of it for a while.
 

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Anthony didn't even stir when Garrett scooped him up from the car seat - or when the detective carried him up to the office, got him changed into pajamas, tucked him in, and turned on the night light with the main lights off. He was absolutely exhausted. But at least he'd had a fun day.

Garrett returned to the car and slid back into his seat with a smile. "He's still sleeping," he announced quietly. "I don't think he's had this much fun in weeks. Thanks for letting him come along, Evelyn."

When they got back to Evelyn's home, Watson was ready at the door to greet them. He meowed loudly and rubbed against Luca's legs. Then he paused and sniffed, ears flicking back. Luca smelled different - they all did. Like lake water. And they were muddy. He shook his paws off distastefully and stared at the group. He liked regular water, but not dirty lake water.
 

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"He deserved a little rest," Evelyn said when Garrett was back in the car, and didn’t press the issue of her own continued caution. She didn’t need to bring up again the fact that she didn’t allow him in her own home, or wouldn’t come to Garrett's if he was there. It was still a risk she hadn’t assessed, and Garrett understood that it would take time. Some day, perhaps.

When they were home Evelyn woke Luca gently and guided him inside with a hand on his arm, confused at first by Watson's hesitation. "A cat after my own heart." She said with a little smile when she figured it out, and gave Luca gentle pulls towards the hall bathroom. "Let's get you cleaned up, hm? I’ll bring you some clothes while you’re in there, and Watson will say hello when you don’t smell like algae."

Luca was frowning, sleepy and bothered by Watson not coming up to him anymore, but accepted her explanation and let her lead him away. As much as he’d liked the water, he didn’t want to keep feeling like there was a layer of dirt on his skin either.
 

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Garrett - and by extension, Anthony - had already accepted that Anthony couldn't be in Garrett's apartment or Evelyn's home. It wasn't even an issue to be considered for them any more. If Anthony needed more space, Garrett might look into helping him rent his own apartment. But for now the boy was perfectly content to live in the office. It was basically an apartment, anyway.

He couldn't help but chuckle a bit at the faces Watson made. "Don't worry, Luca. It's the smell of mud he doesn't like. Once we're cleaned up, he'll come right back over," he promised the young man.

Sure enough, as soon as everyone was cleaned up and back to normal, Watson came running over to meow at Luca and hop up onto his shoulder.

"There, now," Garrett said with a smile. "Why don't the two of you head off to bed, huh?"
 

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Evelyn was just glad when they were all clean and she could finally relax. She made sure Luca was comfortable and that he’d drank some more water before sending him to bed. He was too worn out still to do more than nod along with the plan and go lay down, unused to being tired from physical activity rather than just lack of sleep.

When he was curled up in his bed with Watson, Evelyn came back out to make sure Garrett had all he needed, though she was sure at this point he knew he could help himself to anything in the kitchen. "Should we decide on what to make for dinner?" She asked, picking up the towel she’d left behind on a kitchen chair to wring more water out of her hair. "I’m sure he’ll be starving by the time he wakes up." If they didn’t have what they needed to make whatever it was they wanted, she could always have groceries delivered.
 

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"We'll probably want to make something filling, with lots of calories and nutrients," Garrett said, nodding thoughtfully. Then he grinned and snapped his fingers. "I know! How about a shepherd's pie? Plenty of meat, vegetables, and grains - and it pairs great with sides of fruit."

Watson rubbed against both Garrett and Evelyn's legs briefly to greet them. Then he ambled off to join Luca again, hopping onto the bed and curling up beside him to purr and close his eyes. Watson was getting very accustomed to seeing everyone so often. Especially Luca.

Garrett had leaned down to pet Watson before washing his hands and heading for the cupboards. "I think we should have enough supplies for that. Wasn't there some canned chicken I saw here earlier? Oh! Remind me to pack some in a Tupperware to bring to Anthony later. He'd love this stuff."