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Dyspnea

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At first he thinks the tightness in his chest is leftover terror.

He's quivering, cheek pressed against the cold floor; limbs leaden and useless. He can smell himself; rank and awful with sweat and God, he hopes for one cold moment that no one can smell what else his shorts grew damp with, around four am by his internal clock.

He'd watched the sun come up and thought he was going to die and the mix of humiliation and fear had been sickening like nothing he'd felt before.

His hands and feet feel slick and swollen, like all the blood in his body has pooled there, and tiny pinpricks of sharp hurt tell him that blisters are forming from the rub of his shoes against wet skin.

Jules is still apologizing, in that half-mocking, vaguely impatient way she's had about her lately – he prefers the tolerant affection she used to show him. He can't breathe.

He's soaked on the outside, chilled and chafed, but his throat is full of dust and air. His lungs seize again and he coughs, a useless sputter against the ground. Tries to inhale and wheezes instead against the stab of pain and airless panic in his chest, oh, he can't breathe he can't breathe he can't why aren't they helping him Gus where are you please I'm dying --

God, please not alone down here, soaked and crying and curled up shivering like an animal…

Hard hands grip him by the biceps, pulling him up to sit with his back against something warm, and before his head lolls down against his chest he sees Gus in front of him, worried face saying something in weird, echoing tones. Gus has strong, dark hands; one rests against his belly, spreading warmth there and unlocking rigid muscles.

"Shawn," he says insistently. "Shawn, calm down. Breathe out slow."

He breathes out. Slow.

"I'm sorry Shawn," says Juliet behind him. She doesn't sound impatient anymore; just scared.

"That's good Shawn," Gus says to him. He sounds less like an echo now, his voice weighted down by relief and reassurance. "Now breathe in, nice and slow. You're okay. You're okay."

Shawn breathes in. Nice and slow.