“Faggot!” the voice was loud and harsh, and followed by a hard shove that sent the innocent boy whirling across the hall to slam up against the lockers. He crumpled to the ground as the students laughed at him before walking away like nothing happened.
The boy sniffed and choked back his tears, reaching into his bag and hiding the object under his coat as he staggered to his feet, continuing down the hall to his classroom. It had to be done, he reasoned with himself. If someone didn’t do it, these people would never learn. They would never understand the impact of their words if nothing was done.
So the boy continued on, holding back tears, pushing his emotions down to the pit of his stomach. He felt sick with the thoughts of his future actions, and he unknowingly slowed his pace, looking around the school that had been his place of torture for the past four years.
He couldn’t take it anymore. From freshman year he was harassed and bullied relentlessly. His best friend didn’t even realize it, because he himself was liked and popular. That was alright though. It’s not like their relationship could have gone anywhere. This had to be done.
The boy stopped at his friends locker, pulling out an envelope and slipping it through the grate in the door, then turned and continued walking, step by step abandoning his emotions, until he felt completely numb, tired almost.
As he turned to enter the hallway towards his classroom, he held his left hand out, dragging his fingers along the wall, staring straight ahead at the door he was walking towards. That room. That room is evil. Sitting at his desk were curses and suggestions of suicide. How happy his tormentors would be.
Reaching the door, the boy reached out a hand, turning the knob and pushing in before shuffling through. Immediately eyes fell on him, scoffs resounded, his best friend gave him a smile, and the teacher scolded him for being late.
The boy ignored everything and closed the door, stepping to his right and standing in front of the wall, his eyes falling over the faces in the classroom. Every eye was on him, the tension in the air was strung out like a glass wire. One note and it would shatter. These people hated him. They didn’t want him there, because of his personality, his character. His existence was resented by these people. Except for one.
His weary gaze fell on his friend, who was frowning in concern, and slowly rising to his feet, his lips forming to speak the boy’s name. He didn’t hear it. He wanted to apologize, wanted to cry and run to his friend, but that would lead to harassment for him as well. The boy didn’t want that. He loved his friend dearly, more than anything else in the world, but it wasn’t enough. It wasn’t enough that his parents loved and supported him. It wasn’t enough that his best friend would giggle about cute guys with him. It just didn’t matter.
What was the use of living when you’re already dead and in hell?
A broken smile appeared on his face, and suddenly the students were screaming. The boy’s friend cried out and stumbled over chairs and desks, trying to reach him, but it was too late. Cold metal pressed against his temple, the weight in his hand comforting to say the least. His finger curled, caressing the trigger, and he shut his eyes, hearing his friend call his name for the last time, before pressing down.
A high, choked gasp left Seth’s lips, and his green eyes snapped open, focusing on Cal, who was leaned over him on the bed, concern on his face, “C-Cal....,” Seth breathed out and lifted a hand, covering his face, “N-nightmare, I’m alright.”
“That’s the fourth one in a week,” Cal said nervously, pushing his friend’s hair back, “What’s happening?”
Seth just sighed and rolled onto his side, hugging the pillow at his head, “I don’t know,” he admitted quietly, “Lately......l-lately I’m just....falling back into that time. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”
Cal sighed heavily and nudged Seth, “Scoot over, I’ll sleep with you.”
Seth rolled his eyes in irritation, “No thanks, I like being alone.”
“Sure you do,” Cal chuckled, slipping into the bed beside Seth, who slid over to the other side and rolled so he was facing Cal, “Now,” he smiled, “get some sleep.”
Seth nodded slowly and closed his eyes, honestly finding comfort in Cal’s presence. He was a good friend, a good person. A little arrogant at times, but he wasn’t self-centered or prejudice. He loved his friends more than anything else, and would do anything for them. The fact he’d attack the people at school just for saying the word “faggot” proved his protectiveness. Which Seth honestly found quite funny, seeing as Cal was actually the youngest in their group of four.
He was also the tallest, irritatingly enough. Standing at 6′, Calvin Shaw was the blondie in the group. His hair was dark gold, blonde with shining highlights of platinum that moved in a natural wiping wave over his forehead. His skin was just a tone darker than that of Seth’s or Lex’s or Casey’s, and his muscles were more defined. He was as tall as Lex, but bulkier. Not in a gross way, like the body builders you see in magazines. No, Cal’s body was toned quite nicely, with creases in his muscles and smooth skin with no blemish or flaw. His eyes were a lovely baby blue shade, but they tended to get very dark when something was upsetting him, or if he was angry.
Cal was a good person, despite being neglected as a child. He came from a rich family who lived on the east side. His mother was CEO of a microchip company that mass produced technology for iPods and cellphones and laptops, and his father was a lawyer for some of the most prestigious politicians in California. Besides Cal, there were four others in his family. His oldest brother, who was currently studying in Europe, his two older sisters who were both married, one to a politician, the other to the son of their mother’s boss. Last was Cal’s younger brother. Because of the large family, his parents would tend to neglect Cal and instead focus on his younger brother or older siblings. After all, Cal was normal. He wasn’t extremely smart or gifted, he was an average kid with average grades. When he was younger, the servants and maids of the house would look after him because his parents wouldn’t, so he was a rich kid raised by the poor, in a sense. That’s why he grew up so empathetic, humble, kind, and loyal.
He wasn’t the only one in their group to have gone through a painful childhood though. Lex was like Cal, in a way. He was the oldest son of a rich family who lived just down the street from Cal. As a young child, he had been raised to be a vain, prejudice, narcissistic, fascist boy with an arrogant self-centered attitude and a holier than thou character. Needless to say when he grew up the complete opposite of what his parents wanted, they rejected his existence. After the death of Lex’s brother, he openly changed, admitting he hated the fact he was born to the wealthy family he was, and that if they wanted to do good in the world they should attend charities and give to the less fortunate. His parents had other ideas. They wanted to immerse themselves in wealth. They wanted to separate themselves from the lower and middle class so far that they were practically considered royalty. The thought itself made Lex physically sick.
He indeed grew up much different than his parents had intended. Although he had the same colored hair as his father, dark brown, silky to the touch, golden, almost molasses colored highlights naturally weaved in with the rest of his hair, and his mother’s eyes, sharp and silver, a piercing gaze that could be mistaken as blue if you didn’t know any better, he was anything but. He was passionate, kind, loyal till death, and loved unconditionally, though it could take ages to earn such an emotion from him. His heart was warm, his emotions were resolute, and if he cared about you, he’d move the mountains for you, and protect you with every fiber of his being and more.
This characteristic of his applied to each of his friends, but more so with his boyfriend of six months, Casey Ryan. Unlike Cal, Seth, or Lex, Casey had a relatively calm childhood. His parents loved him, his older brother adored him, and he had many friends. This changed in his freshman year, when he came out to his parents and his best friend, openly admitting he was gay. His life changed drastically afterwards. His mother and father became neglectful and abusive, pushing Casey so far as to hurt himself physically with a silver blade. At school his friend had spread rumors about him to the entire student body, leading to school wide bullying and torment. Constant physical, mental, and verbal torment flew at Casey, and more than once he tried to end his life, slitting his wrists to make the pain stop. Scars covered his body, dark and disfiguring, and although it had been a while since he last used his destructive coping method, he still sometimes fell into darkness, crying hysterically or scratching at his skin, thinking he was much less than what he actually was.
Lex protected him. From the moment they met, Lex immediately bonded with him, falling in love with him as their friendship grew, until it became more than just friendship. Lex didn’t just love Casey, he adored him. Every part of him was beautiful in Lex’s eyes. His hair was jet black like a raven, falling to hang just at his shoulders, brushing the top of his shoulders in an almost mocking way. His bangs swept over his head quite adorably, usually pushed off to the side to reveal his incredible violet eyes. He once hid those beautiful eyes, but after dating Lex for a few months, he stopped worrying about it. Casey was shy, quiet, withdrawn, mentally and physically scarred. He shied away from physical contact, hid behind Lex, and avoided most social conduct with people outside of his small circle of friends. But he was also loyal as anyone, passionate about what he loved, honest, humble, compassionate, and he loved Lex with all his heart and soul. The bond the two of them shared was evident, and was shown physically as a silver band around Casey’s ring finger. Sure they were still young, but Lex had voiced before he didn’t care. He’d wait forever to hold Casey, to be able to tell people that Casey was his in matrimony. After all, that was the engraving on the ring. Forever. That was the one word that described their relationship. Forever.
Seth yearned for that. Secretly he wished for a relationship like Lex and Casey’s. Many times he tried to see Cal as something more than his friend and brother, but doing that only made him laugh hysterically. That was like trying to date your dog or a tree or, yes, your brother. It just didn’t work. Seth’s past was much different from his friends. As a child he was abused harshly, violently, by his father, and neglected by his mother. Scars littered his body from the wounds his father inflicted upon him, and he shared in Casey’s scars as well, over his wrists in cuts and burns that healed to be nothing more than dark reminders of when he was constantly trying to die. Because of his harsh family, he had joined a juvenile street gang, to blow off steam and hide the fact most of his injuries came from his father. He started drinking at twelve, was almost always drunk with his “gang friends”, but he never fell into the dark world of recreational drugs. Why bother when your mother and sister were already hopped up on everything known to man?
He knew what that kind of lifestyle did to people. His mother disappeared when he was fourteen, and not long after his sister killed herself. Immediately after that, Seth left. In fact, the exact same day his sister passed away, he left that house forever. Granted he thought he’d return, but after getting beat till the point of unconsciousness by his own gang, Lex found him and brought him to the flat, where he and Cal nursed him back to health and started on his long road to recovery.
Seth looked nothing like his parents. His hair was a curious shade of cinnamon blonde that looked almost creamy like a brown eggshell, like cocoa powder. It was naturally soft, and was cut just below his ears, the bangs sweeping over his head to drift in front of his eyes. His eyes, too, were unlike his parents. While he came from a family of blue and brown eyes, his were green. A sharp, neon green, that darkens into a glowing emerald when he’s afraid or angry. His personality was almost bipolar, considering how often it changed. Most times he was quiet, calm, almost motherly the way he scolded Cal and Lex and Casey, a strict, firm tone, yet also warm and loving. Other times he slipped into his old ways as a street wise, abused gang member. He would become cruel, vulgar, and suicidal. Those were the times that Cal, Lex, and Casey feared the most. Not because they were afraid Seth would hurt them, not at all! Even in that state of mind, Seth would never injure his friends. They hated it because those were the times when Seth started to fall, spiral back into a suicidal state of mind that usually led to new bleeding wounds on his wrists.
When Casey first met them, Seth was doing well. You’d never guess just by looking at him that he had gone through such a violent childhood, but ever since Christmas, things had gotten shaky. Seth’s nightmares had returned, panic attacks were frequent. Luckily he hadn’t had another back flash since that day while decorating the tree, but it was only a matter of time. Cal and Lex had removed the razors from the bathrooms and kitchen, and wouldn’t allow Seth in the kitchen alone. Lex held the ibuprofen and other pills hidden in his room, and someone had to be with Seth at all times.
It was annoying, yes, but also necessary. Seth knew that. He couldn’t argue with the fact if he was alone he’d hurt himself. He knew he would. That didn’t mean he had to like it.
Unlike Seth, Casey was doing extremely well. Yes he still had bad days, but much less than before. Especially now that his older brother had returned.
Keiran Ryan is a twenty-three year old police academy graduate working at the local PD as a detective. Like Casey, he has jet black hair, usually combed neatly or pushed back away from his face. Reading glasses often perched on his face, magnifying his gorgeous blue eyes. His build was tall, 6′ 3", a little taller than Cal and Lex, who were the same height. His body was lean with muscle, not quite like Cal, but just as strong, if not stronger. He’s loyal and capable and a dedicated older brother who adores Casey with all his heart. Granted he’s still a bit iffy on the whole “living with his boyfriend” bit, but he’s slowly grown accustomed to it.
He’d visit daily, arriving at the apartment around five in the afternoon and staying until eight or later. On the days he didn’t show up, he would call or text Casey to tell him so and explain why. Usually it was because he had to stay after for a certain case, or to help his partner with something. Casey didn’t know his partner, they hadn’t yet met. All he knew was her name was Rowan Mitchelle, and she’d been a cop for four years.
Casey wasn’t the only one happy that Keiran was there. Seth, too, found his presence extremely comforting. Unknown to Cal, Lex, or Casey, Seth and Keiran were already acquainted with one another. Five years prior, before leaving for the Police Academy in Colorado, Keiran had met Seth out on the street, beat to shit and barely conscious. They had slowly grown closer as friends, although Keiran never did tell Seth his full name. Which explained why Seth was so astonished to find that he was Casey’s older brother. The only thing that made it uncomfortable was the fact Seth had fallen in love with Keiran before he’d left, but never realized it till after he was gone.
The only one who knew he was gay was Cal, although Seth had a feeling Lex knew as well. In fact he was pretty damn sure Cal and Lex talked about it sometimes, maybe even theorizing that Keiran was the man he’d fallen for five years ago. Seth would never confirm or deny it, even if they asked. If he did, who knew what would happen. Lex could be protective after all. If he found out that Keiran was Seth’s first love, he’d never let the cop through the door. Even if he did, he’d keep them separated, putting them as far away from each other as humanly possible in the flat.
Cal would be accepting, surely. He’d be ecstatic! Lex and Casey’s relationship was already a for sure thing, and the ring on Casey’s finger was a promise of forever. If Seth ended up with Kieran, then that would make him and Casey brother-in-laws, and related to Lex by marriage. Seth knows this because Cal had talked about it. In fact he talked about it a lot. He even added himself into the mix, saying he could always marry Annabelle, Lex’s younger twin sister, so he could be family too.
In all honesty it sounded like the best thing in the world, but Seth was pretty sure it would never happen. With him, that is. He’d be lying if he said he didn’t feel anything for Kieran, but the thought of it going anywhere was quickly shot down by Seth’s self-doubt. He couldn’t say a thing when Kieran left. What made him think he could say something now? Besides, if he was rejected, that would just be awkward, seeing as Kieran was always at the house.
That didn’t really affect him as much, though, when Annabelle and Cal were together. It was strange the way he could completely turn his focus to someone else’s love life to get away from his own, but those two were quite cute together. Seth had poked fun at Cal before because of the bond they seemed to share, but Cal would just turn red and start denying it completely. There was definitely something going on between them though, the way they stood so close to each other, laughing and smiling so much their jaws hurt, or the way Annabelle sat beside Cal and pressed her shoulder against his, or the way Cal would pick on Annabelle’s height by holding something like her phone above his head just to have her jump for it and fall against him.
If that wasn’t a desperate crush, then what was?
Seth wasn’t surprised that Cal liked Annabelle. She was beautiful after all. She had the same hair color as Lex, but longer, reaching down to her back with even side bangs swept over her right eye. She would either braid it or pull it into a high ponytail or bun, but if it was down, that usually meant something was wrong, or her parents were making her do something “business-like” to impress their friends. Her eyes were silver, like Lex’s, but the difference was that around her pupil was an almost golden-red color, but you wouldn’t notice it unless you were right in front of her face. Her lashes were dark and full, and her lips were a natural pink. She didn’t have to wear make up to be beautiful, she just was.
Seth smiled a little and opened his eyes to look over at Cal, who was already asleep. Seth didn’t mind. He reached out to poke Cal’s forehead with his index finger, then laughed lightly, whispering a silent thank you before rolling over and falling asleep.
“Kieran, are you okay?”
Seth looked up from his spot in front of the burner to look over at the two brothers sitting at the counter. Casey was watching Kieran with an uncertain gaze, and Kieran was rubbing his temples with his right hand, his glasses in his left.
The cop gave a small smile and nodded, “Yea, just haven’t been sleeping all that much. Work’s been hectic.”
“How so?” Casey always seemed quite interested in his brother’s job, and listened intently to whatever Kieran was willing to share.
“Ah, just a heightened amount of domestic disturbances,” Kieran explained simply, rubbing his eyes, not noticing when Seth winced, “Mitchelle is always volunteering us to pick those up. I don’t mind, but it’s interfering with some of my research.”
“Couldn’t your partner take care of the calls alone?”
Kieran chuckled, “No way. If I let her go alone she’d shoot whoever the abuser was, legal or no.”
Casey smiled, his head tilting to the side, “You’re happy enough though, right? You’re helping people, like you always wanted to do.”
Kieran nodded, rubbing his shoulder, “I hope I’m helping people. All that I’ve been doing is drug busts or driving under the influence or domestic assaults that go nowhere,” he sighed, “I’m not complaining and wishing for a serial murder, I just feel like there are more important things I could be doing.”
“That sounds pretty important though,” Casey offered, sitting back, “Drinking and drugs really hurt people.”
“Not like the kids can’t get more,” Kieran muttered, glaring down in frustration, “I hate it, the fact such innocent children are being dragged down to such a low level,” he ground his teeth together, clenching his right hand into a fist on top of the counter, his left elbow propped against it and his fingers tangled in his hair, “You should see some of these kids we bring in. Twelve, thirteen, it’s total bull.”
Casey bit his lip and reached out, setting a hand gently on Kieran’s shoulder, “You can’t force them to stop, and as awful as it sounds, you can’t save everyone. All you can really do is continue with what you’re doing. Focus on one thing, one person. I know you want to help everyone, but that’s just not possible.”
Before Kieran could reply, the door opened, and Cal stepped in with a grocery bag in each hand, “We’re back! Hey, angel, you mind helping Lex and Anna with the rest of the groceries? Anna’s parked out front.”
“Oh, sure,” Casey smiled and jumped off of the stool as Cal set the bags down on the counter for Seth to unpack, then closed the door as the two of them left.
Seth turned the burner off and turned to the groceries, trying his hardest to ignore Kieran’s gaze as he began to pull out the contents, “He’s right, you know,” he said after a moment, “Casey, I mean.”
Kieran sighed again and looked away, closing his eyes, “He usually is.”
Seth smiled a bit as he looked at Kieran, “If it makes you feel any better, you kind of helped me back then.”
Kieran peered out at Seth through one eye, “How so? As I recall I left you.”
Seth bit his lip and looked down, shifting from foot to foot, “True, but.....before I met you, I was a wreck. I was like those kids you’re busting, minus the drug use. I-I mean, even after I met you I still drank, b-but that’s not really the point. The point is you cross paths with a lot of people in your lifetime, and it all depends on how you approach them that makes a difference. When I finally decided to stop drinking, yours was the face I thought of,” his face flushed as he looked down, tugging nervously at his sleeves, “I remembered you talking about your dream to help people, that alcohol is destructive, but it can also be okay in certain situations, as long as people don’t abuse it, and that it can become an addiction that can destroy you, and that you were worried I might be one of the victims and.....,” he swallowed thickly, “I-I didn’t want to disappoint you. I didn’t want you to learn I’d become a victim, so.....,” he reached up and scratched his head, “Um, I-I’ve lost my train of thought.”
“I kind of understand what you’re saying,” Kieran smiled softly at Seth, “Even if it’s only for a short time, if I meet someone like that, I can still make a difference in their life.”
Seth nodded, “Yea.”
“Thank you,” Kieran sat back and Seth shrugged, going back to unpacking the groceries, “Oh, I had a question.”
Seth looked at Kieran a moment before looking back at the task at hand, “Sure.”
“How did you meet these guys? Lex, Cal, and Casey I mean.”
Seth slowed his movements and gnawed his bottom lip, looking anxiously off to the side, “Well, uh,” he coughed into his hand, “See, what happened was I, uh, left my house and got in a fight with my, uh, my gang. They kind of beat me up till I was unconscious and Lex found me. He carried me back here and he and Cal helped me out. I never went back home,” he shrugged, “Um, I met Casey around six months ago. He, uh, at school was pretty shy and quiet and I thought it was odd but I never really knew how to approach him, so I never really bothered until Lex introduced him to Cal and I. After that we kind of got used to him being around, and ended up pretty protective of him. All three of us,” Seth couldn’t help but smile.
He really did like Casey. Hell, he loved him! Granted not as a lover, but Casey was like his best friend! Though he’d never say that to Cal. Poor guy would be crushed.
“What are you laughing at?” Kieran asked, seemingly quite interested in watching Seth, who giggled again.
“I was just thinking. I see Casey as my best friend, but if I told Cal that he’d start crying or pouting like a baby,” Seth giggled again. It was a truly amusing thought.
Kieran gave Seth a huge smile, “I’m really glad you and he get along so well. How’d you get so close?”
Seth just shrugged, “We have a lot in common.”
Kieran looked a little startled at that, “Like what?”
Seth tapped the toe of his shoe against the ground and scratched the back of his neck, “Well, I understand his coping better than Lex or Cal. We all love him, and I’m not trying to sound conceited. You can ask him yourself even, if he’s feeling that darkness, he knows he can talk to me about it. Lex protects him, I let him vent. In fact I vent with him. We exchange experiences.”
Kieran’s smile turned into a small frown, and he felt his heart skip a beat as he stared at Seth, who was pulling out a small box from the bag, and turning to put it away, “Seth....,” Kieran started, his tone showing his concern, “....do you self-harm too?”
Seth let out a strange noise as the box slipped from his hands, and he spun around to face Kieran, his eyes wide and his face pale, “What? N-no! Y-you can understand self-harmers without being one yourself.”
Kieran got a hard look on his face, and Seth tensed up, “Don’t lie.”
Seth kept Kieran’s gaze for a long moment before he sighed heavily and picked up the box he’d dropped, then walked back to the counter, “I.....yea. I’ve had my own experiences with self-harm.”
Kieran inhaled sharply and watched as Seth tugged at the hems of his sleeves, his green eyes looking down in guilt. Why he felt guilty, Kieran didn’t know, “Show me.”
Seth noticeably winced from the words, and looked up at Kieran, eyebrows furrowed in confusion, “Wh-why?”
Kieran locked his jaw and clenched his hands into fists, “Because I want to see just how many times I failed to save you.”
Seth breathed in sharply, his face flushing. Kieran probably noticed, but he didn’t seem to care. He was looking at Seth with a hard look of guilt and regret, but also a burning determination that Seth recognized from Lex.
A minute passed by, and Seth averted his gaze, his face still burning with his blush. He really hated the fact that he had so easily fallen for Kieran yet again. Five years ago it had taken much longer for Seth to develop his crush, seeing as back then he had been untrustworthy, cynical, and pretty much a dick, but now that he’d allowed his emotions to flow freely as a balanced lifestyle, instead of focusing anger and rage and resentment as his main characteristics, he realized why he’d fallen for Kieran in the first place.
Not only was he good looking, but he was just an all-around nice person. He was passionate, kind, if not a little vain, but that was okay. He took so much joy from helping people, he was protective and loving and affectionate. He seemed very brave and courageous, and selfless enough to push aside his own life to help another. His expression was always so strong and kind, and the fire in his blue eyes was mesmerizing to say the least. He was gentle, but also quite firm. He knew exactly what to say to make Seth feel better, but he also knew when to be the older brother, scolding Seth or Casey for something that to others would be stupid, like not getting enough sleep, not drinking enough water, not brushing their teeth, not eating the right amount.
Every part of him was just completely amazing; and Seth was in a free fall.
“I....don’t want you to see,” Seth whispered out after a moment, “Th-they’re not like Casey’s.”
“Please,” Kieran’s voice was so quiet, so soft and gentle.
Seth hesitated before lifting his eyes to Kieran. He tugged at his sleeve and bit his lip, looking away as he pulled his sleeve up and away from his wrist. Kieran’s face contorted into an expression of sorrow and rage, and Seth swallowed thickly as he stared down at his arm. The scars were different from Casey’s.
First off, there weren’t as many. Casey shredded his arms to make himself stop hurting. The cutting scars on Seth’s arm existed because when he created them, he did so with the intention of feeling.......and hurting.....and dying. The discolored burn scars from matches and other heated objects covered the back of his arm and hand, while the thick white scars were over his arm. They had definitely been deep enough to die from, to need stiches, but strangely enough, he never bled to death. The cuts had been gruesome, gaping slashes, and healed they were a strange white color several shades lighter than his skin. They were thick, long, and his eyes landed on the one just under his wrist, below the cut he’d made after reuniting with Kieran.
Vertical. It was the only vertical scar he had. He’d created that during a particularly bad back flash, unknowingly grabbing a broken shard of something, he couldn’t remember what, and slitting his wrist vertically, screaming and crying and cursing. How Lex and Cal had managed to save him, Seth still didn’t know. There were seven large scars in total on his left arm, with more attempts on his right.
Seth didn’t realize he was shaking and panting, tears pooling in his eyes and his vision tunneling. He was slipping into a back flash, but he didn’t know how to stop it, so he just whimpered.
Seth’s eyes snapped wider and he looked up, expecting to see Cal and Lex and Casey, but instead seeing Kieran, his face just inches away, panic burning in his blue eyes. Seth could feel his hand on his neck, his fingers tangled in his hair.
“You’re okay, it’s okay,” Kieran whispered gently to Seth, caressing his cheek with his thumb, “You’re safe, you’re okay, take deep breaths.”
Seth tried to do as Kieran said, inhaling, but found himself choking instead, and started to panic. Kieran tightened his grip and started to hush Seth with soothing words, his warm, gentle hands holding his neck, his fingers slipping through his hair.
“Easy. Inhale through the nose, exhale through the mouth. Slowly. Focus on my voice, alright? Just my voice. Nothing else. Look at me, not at your memories. Listen to my voice, not his.”
Seth felt slightly confused. His. Did Kieran somehow know about his father?
“Calm yourself, relax your body,” Kieran soothed, his fingers massaging circles along the base of Seth’s skull.
Eventually he did calm down, and blinked at Kieran, shocked and embarrassed. His cheeks burned and Kieran smiled in relief, “H-how did you....?”
“Calm you down?”
Seth nodded and Kieran pulled his hands away, sitting back down, “That research I was working on was about panic attacks and blackouts and flash backs. Cal mentioned that you had those,” suddenly his face turned beet red, and he looked away, coughing into his hand, “Um, I mean, Casey might have a panic attack, and I want to be able to help him.”
Seth blinked a few times, then rubbed the dry tears away, “Well, that should be easy. Cal and Lex say I’m the hardest person to calm down in that state of mind. If you can make me relax, helping Casey should be easy.”
Kieran looked both grateful and uneasy at Seth’s words, but didn’t have time to reply, as his phone was ringing. He pulled the green cell phone from his pocket and answered the call, pressing it to his ear.
“Hey, Mitchelle,” he greeted his partner, smiling, “Need some help with something?” he frowned a little, “What’s the problem? Sure, where do you live?” he pulled a pen from the bag lying at his feet and scribbled something down on a yellow post-it-note, “Alright, I’ll be there in a few minutes. Is Mr. Mitchelle there, or can I walk in unarmed?” Kieran chuckled, “Okay, okay, I’ll be there in a little.”
He hung up and tucked the phone back into his pocket, then stood up, “Hey, my partner needs my help with something personal, so I have to leave. She and her husband are waiting for me. I’ll see you later, alright?”
Seth nodded and watched Kieran leave, then looked back down at his scars, his fingers feeling over the vertical line. Kieran hadn’t said a thing about them. Seth wasn’t sure if he should be upset or thankful for that. Thankful for sure that Kieran had stopped his back flash. How he had managed that, Seth had no idea. It scared him, actually, the fact that Kieran had such a strong effect on him.
He couldn’t decide if it was a good thing or a bad thing.