Taking a Breather

(Solicia may be the smartest girl in the MCA but she still asks for tutor lesson from Axl.)

Sol: "The best idea I have is that to memorize all of these? You sure? 'Cause I don't see how that will help me on my Physics exams tomorrow."

Axl: "Do you trust me?"

Sol: "Not one doubt."

Axl: "There you go. Memorize all of these first then we'll get to the problem applications."

Sol: "Will you be really helpful by then?"

Axl: "(Laughs) Trust me. By the time we reached to the first problem, you won't need my help anymore."

Sol: "What do you know? I can't even understand a single ounce of this crap."

Axl: "We'll see. I'll be going out." (Heads to the door) "Have fun." (Mischievous grins) (Leaves)

Sol: "Hmph… Asshole."

Axl: "(Sighs) (Closes the door & headed out) (Leans on the wall) "I always believe in you, Sol. I always will." (Breathes deeply) (His left hand is trembling hard.) "Damn." (Deep breaths) (His hand starts to calm down.) "That's better. Good thing I am a right handed amputee or else I will be surrounded by them. They should be concerned at their own lives, not mine…. I need a fucking break." (Sees the cafeteria) "Probably a good idea. I Haven't had lunch yet."

(Later in the cafeteria)

(Axl bumps to a junior student. A girl student, in fact.)

Axl: "Oof! Sorry about that, sweetheart. Here let me help you with that." (He picked all of her books on the floor and gave them all to her.)

Girl1: "Oh, Thank you! Sorry about bumping into you. I guess I wasn't thinking straight." (She smiled) (But Axl felt something was off.)

Axl: "Oh. Don't worry about that." (He quickly observed her movements discreetly.) (Her arms were clutching tightly to her books. Her long sweater was covering her arms and she smiled with her eyes closed.) (But he assumed that she is like that.) "I am supposed to be one who should be apologizing. (He saw her trembling.) "You okay? Your hands are shaking." (Stood still to look at her expression.)

Girl 1: "Oh…. Yeah. I am fine. Just nervous."

Axl: "For what?"

Girl 1: "For my exams later and tomorrow."

Axl: "Oh, don't worry about that. With that many books you carry around, there is no way in hell you will fail. Just do what you do best and have a little faith in yourself. Having A little faith in your own skills never hurt anyone."

Girl 1: "What do you know? We even barely met."

Axl: "Oh, trust me, sweetheart. I can tell. (Headed to a store but abruptly stopped on his way there.) "Oh, one more thing." (She immediately focused on him.) "Try to open up to someone for once in your life. Who knows? Maybe you will find the right someone that you can finally unload your emotional burdens for once. Ain't that something nice to give you a reason to grin about?"

Girl 1: "I hope so…." (Thinks) "Wait. How did you….?" (Axl already left.)

(Trying to be discreet, She watched him heading to a store and bought lunch.)

Axl: "One tuna sandwich, please." (Axl paid the store clerk and received his warm sandwich.) (He stood still and take a huge sigh.) "You know? It's not really nice when you spy on someone, sweetheart. It's very rude."

Girl: "Though I am liking the way you calling me sweetheart, name's Elizabeth Conway."

Axl: "My apologies but old habits die hard. (Leaves with her) "Anything you want to ask me? Because you wouldn't waste your time being with me If you don't have something to ask."

Elizabeth: "Yeah, How did you know?"

Axl: "Like I said before, I can tell."

Elizabeth: "That is not a proper answer."

Axl: (Looks down, closed his eyes and grins) "I see what it is. Alright. Why don't we head up to the roof? The atmosphere there is more soothing than in here."

Elizabeth: "(Smiles) Never thought of you as a romantic type of a gentleman."

Axl: "I am more of a guy whom you can barely see in the streets and often found in the place where athletes tend to sleep in. In short? Places like the library and the roof. (Elizabeth chuckles) So shall we get going?" (Elizabeth nods)

Elizabeth: "I never got your name by the way."

Axl: "A little too soon to be that kind of your friend, don't you think?"

Elizabeth: "I like to take my chances." (Smiles with a blush)

Axl: "Your choice. Axl."

Elizabeth: "As in Axl Castro?" (He nodded) "Oh, that's too bad." (Axl raised an eyebrow at her.) "I thought you are….well… (Axl looks at her with curiosity) "Single." (Axl still holding his eye brow at her) "You know? With your girlfriend?" (Elizabeth still felt awkward with the situation while Axl remained confused.) "With that bomb shell blonde chick you are always hanging out with? Solana I think?" (Axl kept his dead pan gaze on her.)

Axl: "I am in no way have an intimate relationship with Solicia. You guys should seriously stop listening to the gossips. Pointless grudges will be held and I for one don't like that kind of BS going around on my head."

Elizabeth: "Yeesh. You don't have to take it seriously, you know?"

Axl: "Oh, cut me some slack. I already have enough gossips going in my way where I am this close to snap. Now, would you still want that explanation or not?" (Elizabeth immediately nodded to his suggestion.)

(At the roof deck)

Elizabeth: "Now, Spill it out. How did you know?"

Axl: "Liz, I know how to read someone like a book and most of the times, I can even make them understand them and their own emotions."

Elizabeth: "What gives you the right to do that!? It's invasive and creepy."

Axl: "True. But old habits do die hard. Even it is a habit of saving someone from falling into their own emotional abyss. (Looks at her straight in the eyes which made her flinched) "But level with me, Even you can't understand what you are trying to feel most of the times. And that frustrates you often." (She opened her mouth but no words came out.) (Later, she said something for him to argue.)

Elizabeth: "I have friends to have fun with and that's enough for me!"

Axl: "Yeah. Like you said, you have friends to hang out with. That's one thing. But do they understand you? Most of the time, if you wanted to say something, you didn't and you just shut yourself up, preventing yourself saying something that you don't intend to hurt them. The question earlier is something that you will have to answer to yourself with honesty. I know because I had a friend who went there."

Elizabeth: "Had?"

Axl: "Didn't last apparently. But she appreciated me understanding what was she was going through. And I am trying to help you avoid the same mistake."

Elizabeth: "Was it obvious?"

Axl: (Shook his head) "If it was, anyone would have stopped you. How do I know? Because I know how it feels like to be a friend with a person was in dire need of help but couldn't resist putting on a smile in a way to hopefully scare someone off." (Chuckles) "She made me feel crap too after knowing that too." (Looks at her) "It's okay to be afraid once in a while. But it is also okay to be frustrated at the people whom you are around with. Some people don't want to understand things beyond of their comfort zone. But I am not those some people." (Smiled at Elizabeth) "So? Help me understand you so I can help you."

(And that hit her hard. His words managed to shake her at her core. She knew that Axl was right. She has friends. Hell, Everyone in her class, including her teachers, loved her. They always approached her for smarts, beauty and charms. Whatever they asked from her, she can provide the answers and solutions for them. She gets a lot of admirers for all of her efforts. She was among the best of the best. The truly "No. 1" junior student.)

(All day they keep seeing her living up to her reputation and to their expectations. She never disappointed them. Day and night. A reliable student.)

(But they never understood her.)

(Elizabeth began to feel insecure about herself and doubted every moment when she was with him. She was scared of him.)

Elizabeth: "They were right about you. You are the 'Red Demon'."

Axl: "If you don't want where this conversation heading, then leave. I am not stopping you."

Elizabeth: "One more thing before I leave. Of all people Solicia has been with, why you?"

Axl: "Meaning?"

Elizabeth: "Why she trust you the most?"

Axl: "Easy, I understand her. And before that, I wanted to understand her. I asked and she answered me back with all of her emotions on the line. I am honestly glad that I was able to talk to her about it or she would have snapped from her own bottled emotions." (Chuckled) "She even admitted that she was afraid of me judging her based on how many emotions was pour out from the broken dam." He sighed.

"All people in the world have demons to deal with but we tend hide them with a false mask because we don't want to bother them with it. She trusts me more than anyone else because I keep doing my best to understand her. Besides, wouldn't you be with someone who truly understands you?"

Elizabeth: "…" (She held her arm.)

Axl: "Didn't you say you were about to leave?" (Elizabeth was frozen in fear."

Elizabeth: "I. I… I…"

Axl: "(Chuckles) Why don't you sit so you'll be more comfortable talking to me?" (Smiles) (She obliged.)

Elizabeth: "Sorry. It's just… I never knew there are people like you capable of doing such thing."

Axl: "(Chuckles) It's called empathy, sweetheart. Everyone knows it but not all has it. And I am as sure as hell that not everyone capable of doing it."

Elizabeth: "So…?" (Leans on her knees) "What else did you see in me?"

Axl: "(Pouts) Honestly? (Elizabeth looks at him) "You are tired of everyone not understand you, sad of being left alone and depressed that no one knows that you too have demons to deal with and no one helping you for it."

Elizabeth: "(Chuckles) Spot on." (Sighs)

Axl: "And I can even tell that you even have injuries underneath those sleeves. And those injuries are self-inflicted, aren't they?" (She nodded and she showed it to him.)

Elizabeth: "You are going to tell me that I am being stupid for it?"

Axl: "Don't you think you have enough problems to deal with it? (Smiles) (She smiles back.) "Here, Why don't I fix you with that? (She was surprised that he had first aid kit with him.) "When you are tasked as Solicia's bodyguard, chances are that there'll be a lot injuries involved."

Elizabeth: "You get beaten a lot?"

Axl: "I never said that there were my injuries." (She widened her eyes.) "Relax, you'll be fine." (He was covering her scars with band aid.)

Elizabeth: "Thanks. I am glad that there is someone like you and sorry for calling you the "Red Demon. They were wrong about you."

Axl: "Let's leave it at that, all right?" (She nodded.) "I don't want to be ignorant of my surroundings anymore. I can be a giant pain in the ass. I seemed to be a terrible person to other people. But not helping someone who really needs help? Let's agree to disagree on that, shall we?" (She giggles) "All better." (She starts to stand up.) "Where are you going?

Elizabeth: "But I thought…" (Axl smirked.) "Fair enough…" (She sat down.)

Axl: "So I will ask you one question but if you don't want to, just feel free to say it, is that alright with you? (She nodded.) "How long have you been fighting them?"

Elizabeth: "As long as I remember? About 3-4 years."

Axl: "Damn. Too long. You are too young for it too. Tsk."

Elizabeth: "Are you going to talk to me about that I have something to live for? 'Cause I am tired of listening to those conversation anymore."

Axl: "I don't work in a suicide hotline. Right now, I am going to be your friend and make you understand what you are trying to feel."

Elizabeth: "So basically, you are going to be my therapist?" (Axl chuckled) "I won't be really helpful what I feel right now. It's not because I don't want to. It's because I don't how to tell you. It's hard to describe."

Axl: "It's okay. There are somethings we can't describe but we feel it anyways."

Elizabeth: "Have you ever felt depressed before?"

Axl: "I have and it sucks. And up until now, It still sucks."

Elizabeth: "(Chuckles) You do know."

Axl: "I never lied when I said that I can understand you. In fact, the feeling of silence where it's so heavy that it starts to overwhelm your emotions? Your sadness starts to get worse where to point that it becomes depression? I know that feeling. People see you as a strong person but what they don't know is that you stayed strong and kept fighting back. Kept pushing it away with all you got. You tried to become better than who you were but it's so goddamn difficult. You couldn't even make a small step because you are so focused about not to think about the worse. You have friends to goof around with but never had any to talk with. Life has given you a hell of a beating but you kept your foot on the ground. You are so deep in that abyss where you are drowning in your own silence and sorrow. It happened too often and too long where you forgotten how to breathe."

Elizabeth: "It's not that I forgotten how to breathe. It's that I don't know how to breathe anymore. And most of the time, people around me wouldn't let me. The only thing I felt different is when I intentionally hurt myself. I am sorry, Axl. It just that…"

Axl: "You wanted to be happy. Yeah. I know. You never wanted to do it but what choice did you have? You have no friends to talk to, let alone understand. You wanted to remove all of those overwhelming pressure on your back because you are so tired of it. You didn't want to die but all of those who surrounded you never emotionally supported you. And funny thing is you were emotionally screaming for their help."

Elizabeth: "I bet you know how the suicide felt when they died." (Axl smirked.) "Wait, really? You died from a suicide."

Axl: "Not really but I almost met death for far too many times. So many that I lost count."

Elizabeth: "Does Solicia know?"

Axl: "Nope, She'll feel guilty and I do not want to make her feel that way again. She has been through far enough."

Elizabeth: "(Chuckles) You are not her bodyguard. You are her guardian angel."

Axl: "(Laughs) Let's not exaggerate that part, shall we?"

Elizabeth:" (Giggle) Okay if you say so. (Breathes) How does it feel like?"

Axl: "Feel what?"

Elizabeth: "You know? Having a fresh pace once in a while. Wanted to know from someone who went outside of the social circle."

Axl: "Can't blame you for being curious about it." (Chuckles) "Honestly? Relieving."

Elizabeth: "That good?"

Axl: "Nope. Just relieving."

Elizabeth: "Meaning?"

Axl: "It's not bad but at the same time it's not good. It's like all of the emotions you felt are gone."

Elizabeth: "So good then?

Axl: "It feels empty."

Elizabeth: "So bad?"

Axl: "No. Just relieving. Being tortured by your emotions for god knows how long can be a hellish feeling so it will make sense that it will feel good when those emotions are gone. It's like you felt a slight breeze in a hottest dessert or warm heat in a coldest blizzard."

Elizabeth: "And having to struggle to stay alive?"

Axl: "You felt something."

Elizabeth: "That's it?"

Axl: "That's it."

Elizabeth: "How is that helpful?"

Axl: "It means something. To me, it's anything. To you, it means something special. Besides, you will be surprised how much that something made an impact on anyone. Especially to you."

Elizabeth: "And why is that?"

Axl: "I don't know, to be honest. But that answer is something you have to figure out on your own."

Elizabeth: "That's not fair. I thought you said you are going to help me."

Axl: "I am but I can't have you rely on me forever…" (She pouts) "I can however guide you to someplace where you are more comfortable staying. All you have to do is figure it out."

Elizabeth: "What am I supposed to do then? Fight for it?"

Axl: "No. You needed a breath of fresh air. You were surrounded and intoxicated from that atmosphere."

Elizabeth: "And then what?"

Axl: "Take a long break. After that, it's up to you." (She pouted)

Elizabeth: "I am really tired, Ax."

Axl: "Don't worry. I will be there for you. Just promise me that you have to figure out on your own."

Elizabeth: "I have fighting it for too long."

Axl: "Okay. (Chuckles) "Let's speed it up a little. Just a little." (Breathes) "When you start to fight, what's the first thing that comes out in your mind?"

Elizabeth: "I don't know."

Axl: "Just think deep for me. Just do this one. I assure you that you will feel better."

Elizabeth: "Okay." (Closes her eyes) "Uhmm….." (Thinks Deeply) "I don't know. The only thing that comes out in my mind is that you deserve something better since that's basically the point why you keep fighting." (Looks at his smirking face) "Thanks for letting me know." (Hugs)

Axl: "You are welcome, sweet heart. Just promise me that never forget to breathe. If you ever want someone to talk to, you know what to do." (She nodded)

(Later on)

Sol: "Ax, you were right. All I need is to memorize the formulas. I even finished all of the problems without you. Speaking of which, where were you?"

Axl: "I just needed to take breather. That's all."

Sol: "I see. You want to help me with this next lesson?"

Axl: "Sure. Why not?"

(A week later)

Sol: "I passed with flying colors. Yeah!"

Nik, Spec, Annie, Ro and Sher: "(grumbles)"

Axl: "Oh, don't feel bad about it guys. You will get it next time."

Nik: "Oh shaddup, man. You also passed with flying colors." (He shrugged.)

(Elizabeth came in running.)

Axl: "Hey, Eli. What's wrong?"

Elizabeth: "I got excited, that's all." (All of the student council looked at him.)

Axl: "What?" (Sol was about to say something but she was interrupted by this scene.) So what made you so excited?"

Elizabeth: (She came to him.) "This." (She hugged him.) (Axl was about to say something but….) "And this too." (She kissed him on the cheek.)

Axl: "A little too soon, don't you think?" (He smirked)

Elizabeth: "Like I said before, I like to take my chances." (Blushes)

Axl: "You are one bold girl, you know that?" (She giggled as he smiled at her.)

(And all of the student council members were left wondering what the hell just happened.)