A/N: It should be known that this is the last chapter. And that's all I have to say. I hope you love it!
A week passed before Riley could walk, thanks to the broken rib Ian had given him, and another before he as released from the hospital—still sightless. In those weeks I was at his side almost constantly. I couldn't leave him, and not because he couldn't handle my absence, but because I couldn't handle his. I realized that his blindness opened my eyes to just how much I need him.
And, although we had plenty of opportunities, neither of us brought up the whole Ian thing. He was forgiven, and his acknowledgement to pass unspoken between us.
Once we got back from New York, we spent an entire day learning the house. The experience humbled me; watching him struggle around the same home we'd lived in for years made me see just how much I'd taken for granted.
After dinner that night, we were both so exhausted we practically fell into bed, but I got in a moment after he did, and I must have scared him.
"Jesus, Ben!" he snapped, taking a deep breath. "Could you be a little more careful?"
"Sorry," I apologized with a frown that I realized too late he couldn't see.
"Just warn me next time," he said, turning to his face was toward the wall. I sighed and put an arm around him. "I'm sorry."
"Can you please stop with the pity?" he asked, anger and bitterness in his tone. "I got myself into this in the first place, didn't I?"
I wanted to apologize again, but I knew it would help anything. I could feel that his muscles were still tense, as if he was still thinking about him. I felt helpless; I couldn't do anything to comfort him. With a quit sigh, I kissed his neck, and I felt him jump again.
"Damnit!" he snapped, pulling away from me. "At least warn me when you're going to touch me!"
All tiredness was gone—I was too worried about him. "Okay, I'm sitting up now." I did so, and with an exasperated sigh he followed suit.
"You want to talk about it, don't you?" It was more of statement than a question, and his anger had faded.
"Only if you want to," I answered. I'd decided I wasn't going to force him into it.
"Again with the pity," he said, and his voice held some of his former bitterness. "Do you want to hear about it or not?"
I thought about it for moment. I didn't want to cause him any more pain; I'd already done that. But at the same time, my curiosity was nearly untamable. I bit my lip. "Are you going to be okay telling it?"
"No," he admitted. "But I need to talk about it, and I want you to hear it."
I wasn't completely satisfied with his answer, but he wanted me to know. "Then I want to hear it."
He sighed, as if trying to decide where to begin. "I might as well start at the beginning," he muttered. He turned his sightless eyes on me and began.
"I had a…um. Boyfriend isn't the right term, but I'm going to use it. I had a boyfriend when we first met. We'd actually only been…going out for a few months when I met you. Anyways, he broke up with me the day before our one-year…whatever. And I was sad. You weren't with us that night—you were researching or something—but Ian and friends and I went out, and I guess I got really drunk. Not that I remember this, but Ian took me home and put me in bed, and then when I woke up he made me his hangover remedy. I guess it just felt nice to be cared about, because…well, you can guess what happened."
I didn't want to, but I did, and I had to make a face so he couldn't see my reaction. "Go on, please."
He almost smirked, probably amused at the thought of my jealousy. "Anyways. It was an accident the first time, and probably the second time, but it sort of became a habit. It wasn't a habit I enjoyed, but it was a habit I couldn't break for a really long time." He grew somber, a frown set in place on his face. "He didn't want anyone to know about it, of course, and I got tired of hiding it. So I stopped it. That was pretty much it."
"He made it seem like a lot more than that," I said, wondering if he was leaving something out.
"I didn't realize he was that resentful," he said with a shrug.
"And that's it?" I asked.
He frowned and looked away. "I might have said I love you on accident."
I practically had to shove my fist in my mouth to stop myself from saying anything, and although he couldn't see it, he sighed. "Don't react like that. It's not like I was cheating on you. It was a long time ago."
"I know that," I said quickly. "I just…didn't expect it, I guess."
He laughed bitterly. "Did you think I'd never loved anyone before?"
"No," I muttered, feeling naïve. "I guess I hadn't thought about it that much, is all."
"Well if it makes you feel any better, I've definitely never loved anyone as much as I love you, and I never will."
I reached out for his hands, and he didn't even jump when I touched him. We were quiet for a while, sitting there. We were both wrapped up in our thoughts—I was reflecting on everything that had happened, and apparently he was too.
"So tell me something," he said, scaring me out of my reverie.
"Anything," I answered.
He frowned. "I'm never going to see again, am I?"
I sighed. I knew he would eventually ask this; I just hadn't expected the question so soon. "I didn't want to lie for you, for what's it worth."
"I know," he said, and despite already knowing, I could hear the disappointment in his tone. "The doctor wasn't a good liar, anyway. It was painfully obvious."
His blind eyes met mine, and I bit my lip. "I'm sorry."
"I was serious when I said stop saying that," he replied, a sharp edge to his voice. "I'm not going to let this change me."
Somehow, I knew he was perfectly serious. Even if everyday was an uphill battle, even if I was wearing down my last thread of patience, I knew he would be okay. "I know," I said simply.
He nodded, and without speaking, we both laid down again. This time, though, he let me put my arm around him.
And I've got it almost figured out
If I could get you closer to me
'Cause it's a good life for a short time
And you've got me almost figured out
There's almost nothing left to see
You're bringing out the best in me
"The Best In Me" Sherwood
A/N: So there you have it: the end of Better Than Alone. I had so much fun writing this, and I really hope you had as much fun reading it. And it should also be noted that this is my first full-length (if you could call it that) fic for NT =D Yay me. Okay, one last time. …review, please?