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Breathe With Me

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When he opened his eyes, his eyelids felt heavy and his body weighed down, like he wanted to stay in bed and sleep on —refuse to get up ever. But he sighed and sat up, rubbing his face tiredly.

Just another day for Kevin to push through.

He got up and got ready for the day, eating minimally. He didn't have much of an appetite, but he ate enough and then dumped his bowl into the sink. Then he headed out of his home and towards the locker part of the area, grabbing his work uniform, putting it on over what he wore, then grabbing everything else he needed afterward.

He set to work on the first of his duties and began his job at the zoo. It would probably be a normal day for him and his life as empty as usual…

Laughter. He heard loud laughter near him while he'd been lost in thought, sweeping the litter that had been left on the ground into a neat pile. He looked up and saw a group of students loitering around near him —probably on a field trip.

But two of them, pretty girls that were staring at him and whispering to each other, was what caught his eyes. Maybe they were the ones that had been laughing…

Kevin immediately looked down, tensing up and feeling self-conscious. He didn't know why they were looking at him or were paying him any attention, but he felt uncomfortable with it and could almost feel himself shrinking back, wanting to withdraw into himself and not be there.

"Hi!"

He jolted into the present, staring nervously at the girls, who had actually approached him. He was tense as a bow now and was eying them anxiously.

"Can I help you?" He put aside the broom, trying to be helpful and do his job.

The blonde girl smiled slyly at him and he had the urge to take a step back. "Do you work here?"

"Yes, I do," he answered hesitantly, wondering what they wanted and wishing they'd get to the point and leave him alone.

"That's great!" the darker skinned girl grinned, leaning in close. "We really need your help."

"O-okay?" His breathing sped up slightly, getting even more anxious for some reason. He didn't like this.

Then both girls leaned in quickly, grabbing his hands and then shoving them under their shirts, pushing his hands against one of their breasts. Kevin's mind screeched to a halt as his eyes widened, starting to hyperventilate.

The two girls moved away and shrieked in laughter, darting from him as they ran back to their class, still laughing all the while.

And yet, Kevin stood there in shock, closing his eyes as he tried to keep himself from panicking. He couldn't breathe. He couldn't even think. He was just standing in the middle of that area, surrounded by the loud noises of people and animals, and losing control of himself.

"You dirty, disgusting child!"

Kevin's breath hitched and his hands clenched by his sides. He could hear his mother's voice echoing loudly in his head. Then other voices joined in.

Kevin, don 't think about her. Let me take over.

Those sluts! God, my blood sugar is going through the goddamn roof right now, motherfuck!

Those insolent children —how crass they are. They should —

Why I never! This is by far the most atrocious act upon us, and ne 'er mind the perversion subjected into our psyche —

KEVIN. Focus, sweetie! Let me take the Light.

Disgusting …just disgusting…Why do I feel so disgusting? I need to clean myself. I need —I need —But they were so soft

KEVIN, PLEASE —

There were hands gently touching his face, just barely there. And then he was hearing a soft voice talking to him.

"Hey. Just breathe with me, okay? Take a deep breath."

And he found himself unconsciously echoing the deep breath he heard her take at the same time.

"That's it. Count to 5 with me. 1…2…3…4…5…Now take another deep breath."

He stayed with her, focusing on the bare touch against his face and her gentle voice, the way he was breathing…the fact they were breathing in sync…the quiet in his head as this stranger helped guide him through his panic attack.

Kevin opened his eyes to see a pretty face and brown doe eyes, giving her a shaky smile and exhale.

He felt calmer but still wasn't ready to be fully present, so he let himself slip away from the Light, only just barely tagging along.

And when there was more awareness, it was Barry who had mostly taken over and stared at the girl who'd helped Kevin.

"Hi," he smiled uncertainly at her, remembering to continue the act as Kevin and not be as blatantly him as his own personality was. "I, uh, should thank you very much for that help, baby doll," he couldn't help slipping out.

She blinked and took a step away from him, giving him a guarded smile. "I saw what Marcia and Claire did and then I saw how you reacted. I…I thought that maybe I could…" She trailed off and didn't finish, still watching him carefully. "Are you okay?" she asked instead.

"I am," he straightened up, offering a grateful smile. "You were a total help, you know. I don't know how I can repay that back, doll! I'm Kevin by the way," he said, introducing Kevin for him, though it would've been nice to have introduced himself as himself to her.

"Casey," she offered her name. "And I'm glad. I should…I should get going then."

Barry's smile fell. Already? After what she did for Kevin, and the rest of them really, he'd wanted to talk to her more, find out more about her…

"Really?" he asked, trying to give her a bright smile. "It's just that was a really helpful thing you did. I wanted to know how you knew to do that? Or what you were doing?"

"YouTube," she said, a faint smile briefly crossing her lips. Then her cautious look was back. "There's a lot of breathing exercises there. You should look them up and learn them, maybe try to learn some of them yourself? Could, um, help you push through an…attack like that on your own…"

"Ah nah, baby doll —I'm not much for learning stuff like that on my own on the web. Anyway, can you try to teach me that before you leave with your class?'

He had to find a way to repay her in that time too. Kevin had been really freaking out and he had a feeling things really could've gone to shit had this Casey not stepped in and helped when she did.

She looked hesitant but shrugged slightly. "I guess I can try…?"

Barry watched her tug on her sleeve in thought and he finally noticed what she was wearing. He made himself not wrinkle his nose, but oh —the clothing she wore was atrocious. Layers and layers of shirts and sweaters, it seemed. A plaid shirt kept open to show that she seemed to have long sleeve after long sleeve covering her. Her jeans were worn (and not stylishly so) and her combat boots seemed to have seen better days.

He could see her wearing a nice top…Maybe something dark red or even purplish, maybe even burgundy…She cut a really elegant figure actually —

"So uh, we just go sit there? Or do you want me to teach you right here?" she asked, voice confused as he'd spaced out.

He gave her a laughing smile, rubbing his closely shaven head in amusement. "Sorry, I was just thinking! Yeah, there sounds about good," he started walking in step by her and they reached the bench she'd pointed out quickly. "I really mean my thanks. Things were really getting bad there, baby doll, so I want you to know I really appreciate what you did," he said honestly.

Barry remembered the rush of voices from the others bouncing around Kevin's head, the way Kevin himself was closing off and beginning to start drowning in his own despair and memories. She'd reached him just in time and Barry couldn't be anymore thankful for it.

"It was nothing," a faint blush covered her cheeks. "I just…I saw how you were and I couldn't help walking over. You looked really upset."

"And I was," he said gently.

She cleared her throat awkwardly and began to start him through the first breathing exercise, which Barry listened closely to. He was going to have to teach it to the others after all.

Later, when she was leaving to meet her class in time to leave, he called out to her. She turned back to him and he felt himself already memorizing everything about her fondly.

"Hey…you ever need help or something…You can always come here for me, okay? You could even ask for one of the workers here for me, and I'll be there to help you," he promised.

She looked startled for a moment before she gave him a tired smile that took him aback.

"Thanks," she said quietly.

Then she turned and walked away, leaving Barry feeling off about her goodbye.


The bus had long left the school after dropping them off. In fact, school was long over by then. It was just Casey at the front of the school, watching the sky turn gray, droplets of rain coming down sporadically.

Uncle John had probably forgotten about her or was passed out at the house.

"Of course," she said bitterly. She sighed and picked herself up, shrugging on her backpack.

The rain began to steadily trickle then and she felt exhausted and miserable as she walked through it to head home. Things was always like this after all. Why had she expected anything different? Uncle John gave her either no attention or too much attention.

It seemed like there was never an in-between.

The rain started getting heavier then and Casey hunched in on herself, grabbing onto the straps of her backpack miserably. By the time she'd reached her home, her feet hurt, her body was chilled, and she was absolutely soaked.

Grabbing her key, she unlocked the front door and slipped inside, closing it behind her before she headed to her room. She ignored the living room where she could hear the TV going and instead dumped her backpack on the floor, grabbing fresh clothes before going to the bathroom. Gritting her teeth at the missing doorknob (Another screaming fest from him. Detention again? Of course. Anything to get away from him. But goddamn, being thrown against the bathroom door hard enough to cause cracks hurt like a bitch.), Casey entered the bathroom and placed her clothes on the sink counter. She turned on the water nice and hot and stripped down, entering the shower stall and trying to warm up.

She felt herself sniffle and cursed at herself, turning to face the shower wall and place her face against it.

She missed her father so much.

Casey took a deep breath and was drawn into her memories, missing hearing the bathroom door open and the heavy footsteps that followed. It was only after she felt the bulky body of her uncle leaning heavily into her that she was unfortunately brought back into the present, feeling his hand groping for one of her breasts while his mouth laid sloppy kisses against her back.

"You're home, Casey-bear…"

She bit down on her lip and pressed her face harder against the tiled wall of the shower, tears finally leaking out of her eyes as she gasped out her silent sobs. She cried to herself then, and curled her hands, digging her nails into her palms.

Casey took a deep breath and counted to five.

Then she repeated the pattern over and over again.

Started 2/3/19 — Completed 2/3/19