Jaeh: Last chapter of Ashes to Ashes. I must say, I totally enjoyed writing it. I'll miss writing Devin and his torture scenes, no matter how disturbing that may be.
Lori: Yup, it's been awesome! Writing disturbing scenes is fun!
Ben and Abigail were escorted through the smoldering remains of the carnival, to where their friend was. All sorts of scenarios ran through Ben's head. He imagined Riley, unconscious, bleeding to death, maybe already dead…. he shook her head. He had to concentrate and be there for Riley. And besides. He's alive. He must be. I just saw him earlier and…
"Sir? You're going to have to be looked at too." Ben looked up to see a paramedic staring at him.
"No, I need to see my friend first," he said in a quiet voice.
"It won't take long. We need to check you over. "
Ben looked like he was going to protest again but Sadusky cut in. "Ben, you look horrible. Go get examined before you pass out. You might have breathed in too much smoke,and you need to get your face looked at."
"Let me see Riley first, I just have to make sure…"
"Have you even seen your face in a mirror lately, Ben?"
They reached the edge of the carnival and there was a moment of disorientation by the flashing red and blue of the squad cars. Abigail shielded her eyes for a moment, and Ben squinted as he looked for Riley.
And there he was.
"Oh no… Riley," Abigail whispered, concern and worry in her voice. Riley was on his hands and knees on the ground, looking sick to his stomach. A paramedic was beside him, talking to him.
"What happened?" Sadusky asked quietly. The paramedic looked at them.
"He… well, after he stumbled out of the other gondola, he saw the body. Devin's body. I-It wasn't pretty. I tried to block his view but…" He shook his head. "He won't cooperate with us, and he's in danger of going into shock. We might have to use force but I waited for you. Maybe he'll listen to his friends."
Ben softly knelt beside Riley. "Hey, buddy," he said quietly. He gently rubbed his back as Riley retched onto the ground. There was nothing in his stomach, and nothing more came out from him. He just made retching noises, and Riley wiped his mouth with one hand. "We have to get you to a hospital, okay? You're really hurt right now."
Riley shivered, shaking his head a little. Ben stretched a hand towards him, and Riley suddenly seemed to go limp Ben and the paramedic caught him, and lifted him up. A stretcher was pulled up, and the semi-conscious young man was placed on it.
"Sorry sir," the other medic said anxiously to Ben. "But you can't ride with him. You have to come with us and get those wounds checked."
Abigail placed a hand on Ben's shoulder. "I'll look after him Ben. It's okay. You need to make sure you're okay too."
Ben sighed and nodded. He looked down at Riley, who looked back at him with terrified eyes. He gently rubbed Riley's shoulder. "It'll be okay, Ri," he whispered, barely fighting back his tears. He had to be strong for Riley. "I'll see you in a little bit."
Abigail climbed into the ambulance after Riley. He was beginning to panic again, and his eyes darted around wildly as he kept on trying to sit up. He was held down by the paramedics, but he continued to struggle.
"Riley, Riley, it's okay." Abigail said soothingly, trying to sit as close to him as possible. "I'm right here. Ben's going to follow soon. We're right here."
"It hurts," Riley whispered, looking at Abigail with pain-filled eyes. His hands groped around, looking for something to hold on to, and he found Abigail's. He squeezed as hard as he can, and that concerned Abigail – because she felt only a little pressure.
"I know," Abigail swallowed wishing she could hold his hand, to comfort him in some way. She figured the best she could do was help the paramedics. "Where does it hurt, sweetheart?"
"Everywhere…" Riley moaned.
Abigail paled. "All over?"
"Y-Yeah… " Riley whispered. He looked up, and his eyes widened in fear when he saw a paramedic standing over him with scissors. Riley shook his head trying to edge away.
"No... no! Keep away from me! Keep that away from me!" Riley cried and tried to jump of the stretcher. Immediately paramedics held him down and he began to scream. "Let go of me! Please! Don't touch me please don't touch me…" His voice slowed down a little, but it was still a little high pitched.
"We're going to have to restrain him if he keeps this up."
Abigail couldn't take it anymore. She tightly gripped Riley's hand, trying to get his attention. "Sweetie, you have to calm down. It's okay Riley, these people just want to help you...."
Riley let out a sob and shook his head. "Riley, you can trust them. No one's going to hurt you."
"A-Abby… I don't want them t-to…" Riley's voice was terrified and Abigail felt like her heart was going to fall to pieces. It was disconcerting to see Riley this way, and it actually terrified her a little. "Don't let them t-touch me, please…"
"I'm going to be right here, okay?" Abigail whispered gently. "It's okay, Riley. I'm right here."
Riley finally seemed to calm down slightly, his blue eyes looking at Abigail trustingly. She squeezed his hand once again in reassurance.
The paramedic seemed to know how sensitive the situation was and used the scissors slowly and carefully, trying his best to keep the metal from Riley's line of sight. He gestured to Abigail to distract Riley as he did it. The medic was very careful about removing the suit. They sat Riley up and cut the black jacket suit off, so he was wearing the long sleeved white shirt underneath.
Abigail's stomach plummeted. Dark crimson had already seeped through the white fabric, on his chest and arms.
They slowly cut through the shirt, exposing Riley's arms and chest. She swallowed back nausea. Multiple, deep cuts went up both his forearms. Both wrists had deep lacerations cut into his pale skin, no doubt from where he was handcuffed for so long.
Riley had his eyes closed. Sharp, ragged breaths escaped his lungs, and he winced as they gingerly peeled off some of the shirt.
"Oh geez," the paramedic mumbled. "He's already lost some blood. It doesn't look pretty."
"Oh God…" Abigail croaked. Angry jagged slashes crisscrossed every which way across his chest. She winced when they applied direct pressure to his wounds, making Riley scream in pain. She knew there was only so much they could do right now. She could only wish she could do more.
After a while, Abigail wasn't even sure if Riley was even still conscious, but she kept talking soothingly, hoping it would help. She watched as the paramedics strapped an oxygen mask around Riley's face, as his breathing became more labored. The tears fell from Abigail's eyes, unwarranted. She couldn't believe what a horrible state her friend was in, and although there was the relief that he was safe, a nagging doubt in the back of her head told her things would never be the same. Ever.
Ben sat in the back of the ambulance as the medic treated his wounds. The medic handed him an ice pack wrapped in a towel, and cleaned something on his face.
He took a glance at a mirror.
I look like a mess.
His face was puffed up, blotchy with red and purple wounds and bruises. The medic poked a wound a little too roughly, and Ben flinched. The medic murmured his apologies, and gingerly placed a bandage on Ben's neck.
Ben's mind kept going back to the fight, on how Riley jumped Devin, and saved Ben seconds before Devin slashed the knife across his neck. At that moment Ben knew he couldn't die, for if he did, Riley would be next, and no one would be there protect his best friend. And he couldn't die because Devin still needed to pay for what he did to Riley.
His ears caught a conversation he probably was not meant to hear.
"It's a miracle the kid even jumped the guy. Heard he's lost a lot of blood."
"Probably adrenaline. His friend got jumped by the same person who actually tortured him near to death. If that wouldn't get you pumped up, then I don't know what would."
"I'll bet you woulda just pissed your pants if that was you in his shoes."
"That kid's got guts, I'll give him that."
Ben glanced sideways as he listened to the police talk about Riley. He's lost a lot of blood? "Can you please call on Agent Sadusky for me?" Ben told the medic curtly. "I need to know what happened to my friend."
"Sir, I'm almost done. Please remain still and –"
"Now, please?" The medic visibly flinched at the steel in Ben's voice, and he immediately approached an agent. Ben watched the agent nod and speak into his mouthpiece.
Sadusky appeared beside him after a few minutes, just when the medic finished with the cuts on his face.
"I need to know about Riley. I need to get to the hospital." Ben murmured. He stared at himself in the mirror.
Sadusky nodded. "As soon as we have taken your statement, Ben. There's still protocol to be followed here."
"Pull some strings or something, then. I need to see Riley." Ben turned to Sadusky. "You know I need to see Riley. And Riley needs to see me."
"We need your statement while everything's still fresh in your mind, Ben."
"You really think I would ever, ever forget this?! I'll dream about this whole ordeal every night. Every. Single. Day. I will relive this, and think about what ifs and how Riley almost died. Every time I'll see my best friend and his scars I'll always be reminded on how I almost didn't save him –"
"It's finished, Ben. Devin's dead. Nothing will harm Riley now." Sadusky said. "Look, okay, I'm going to let you leave, Ben. But I need this statement."
Ben nodded. "I only need to see him, and then you could talk to me. I just need to see for myself that he'll be okay."
The first thing Ben did when he arrived at the hospital was give Abigail a tight hug. She met him outside Riley's room, and her hands immediately went around him. Abigail's eyes were red and teary. "You look like you need sleep." Ben murmured, combing his hands through Abigail's hair.
Abigail nodded. "You too."
It was a simple exchange of words between them, no 'I love you's', no direct questions of how the other was. But it was enough to let them know that everything was okay. But there was one question that hung in the air between them.
Abigail's eyes watered, but tears didn't quite fall. "He's still unconscious. He's… he's more hurt than we thought. I'll never forget how he…. Ben, I can't believe he endured all that."
"I want to see him." Ben made a move to push the door open, but Abigail stopped him.
"Ben, I want to talk about Riley first." Abigail said.
"We can talk about him inside. He's unconscious. He wouldn't hear us." Ben insisted, and moved towards the door again.
Ben gave up, and sat on one of the hospital's chairs. "Abigail, please let me see Riley."
Abigail sat beside him. "Ben, I don't like seeing him that way. He looks so… vulnerable. You didn't see the cuts on… everywhere, Ben. Everywhere. It was like watching a horrible surreal tv show – you can't take your eyes away from the wounds and I can't…" Abigail broke off into a little sob, which she swallowed down. She turned to Ben. Tears already escaped her eyes and flowed down her cheeks. "Ben. How did this happen to Riley. Why him."
Ben did what he could only do – give Abigail a kiss on the forehead, and an affectionate hug. "I don't know, Abigail." He gave a sigh. "All I know is it's over. It's all over."
At least, that was what Ben tried to tell himself.
Abigail was right. When Ben first walked into the room, seeing Riley so hurt was like a horrible dream. He was pale and still, the blankets pulled up to his chest. A vent was under his nose to assist his breathing, but Ben could see his chest rising and falling evenly, which was a relief. But his relief was short-lived. Ben's stomach twisted when he saw the bandages wrapped around Riley's exposed arms effectively hiding whatever might be under there.
He could only imagine the worst, and Ben would rather not even try to think about it. He was tempted to pull down the sheet to see how extensive the injuries were, but Abigail shook her head no. "Trust me, Ben. Please. You don't want to see this."
Ben glanced at her and swallowed. "I need to see for myself." Abigail covered her face in her hands and let out a small sob as Ben gently tugged the blanket down to his waist. White bandages crisscrossed over Riley's chest and torso. Ben could see some pink where the cuts began to bleed through. It seemed that he had cuts everywhere. Ben couldn't look anymore.
"God," Ben whispered. He tucked the blankets around Riley again. And buried his face in his hands, and let out a sob. Abigail hugged him in and they remained in each other's arms for a while, not saying a word.
The looked up when a doctor with a clipboard entered the room.
"Mr. Gates, Ms. Chase? I'm Dr. Spencer, Mr. Poole's doctor. I understand you're his friends?"
Ben nodded, gingerly touching his swollen cheek. "Yes. How is he, doctor?"
Dr. Spencer sat down, and took off his glasses. "Mr. Gates, I want to be straight with you."
"Please call me Ben, Doctor. It makes things a little easier."
"Okay, Ben." Dr. Spencer sighed. "Mr. Poole's injuries are mostly cuts and bruises and burns – and there are a lot. We had to stitch up a few of them, especially in his wrists. We're watching for infections, but he's already out of danger. His breathing was labored so we gave him an oxygen mask, and once he breathed easier we put him on a vent. He lost some blood, but we already took care of that, too. He's also dehydrated, but it's nothing to worry about. He will heal. They'll be some scarring, but the quick first aid; will help things get a little better.
Ben smiled a little. "That's... that's good, right? He's going to be okay. He's going to be fine." Ben said more to himself than the doctor. He looked up for confirmation, but the doctor didn't look at him.
Dr. Spencer fiddled with his pen, and looked up. "Physically, yes. Psychologically, no. Whatever happened to him, Mr. Gates, the cuts, the bruises... especially where some of them were placed… They were all done deliberately. "
"How excessive are they?" Ben asked, afraid to hear the answer, but he had to know.
"I'm not sure if I should get into specifics about that… we still need to consider patient confidentiality."
"He's not a patient to me," Ben snapped. "He's my best friend. And I need to know i-if…." Ben swallowed. "If there's something that…"
The doctor sighed. "Since you two are his support it's probably best if you know. He's been cut everywhere. Not only his upper body, but his legs and feet as well."
"His legs?" Abigail's horrified expression mirrored how Ben felt. He felt rage boil inside of him and he almost wished Devin was still alive so he can make him feel double the pain he put Riley through.
The doctor nodded grimly. "He might not be able to walk right for a while." The doctor looked at his clipboard and adjusted his glasses.
"He's traumatized, Ben. He... I would recommend for him to see a psychologist."
Ben knew that he would hear this, but it didn't make it any easier. "No." He whispered. "Riley's going to be fine. He's going to be fine." He said, more to convince himself. "Oh God... he should be just fine."
"Mr. Gates, speaking other than your doctor," said Dr. Spencer. "I don't know how hard your position is, Ben. I can only imagine it. But the only thing you can do is to help Riley through this. And the rest is up to him."
Ben wanted to do more, but he knew the doctor was right.
He could only hope and pray that Riley would pull through this.
Jaeh: ON TO THE AFTERMATH!
Lori: Thank you to everyone who reviewed this twisted tale. Things are not going to be easy on Riley, let's just say that. Riley angst ahead in our next story.