Lori- We would like to thank Cocoa for the AWESOME STORY she wrote for us. Seriously, go read it. It's the only story in our favorites page.
Jaeh-YES! Special thanks to Cocoa for her story. We loved it, and we're sure you guys would enjoy it, too!
I feel like shit. Complete and utter shit. Riley was never one for cursing. But he couldn't think of anything else to describe how he felt. Especially not this early in the morning.
It was three AM. Two hours ago, he tried going to sleep. But every time he closed his eyes, he could see a glint of light from a knife twinkling against Devin's dark eyes.
For hours, all he tried was to go to sleep. Nothing was working, so he went down to the kitchen, opening each and every light along the way, and got himself a mug of warm milk. For a while, it helped him relax, and even helped him doze off lightly. Until the edges of his memories started spilling into his dreams.
He stood, stretched a little, and went out to the front lawn. He turned on the lights to the porch, and Riley sat on the grass. The fresh air did him wonders.
It made him feel less claustrophobic. There were times when he felt like his room was a coffin, and that scared him even further. He glanced at the stars above, and his mind wandered.
Five days had passed since Riley started seeing Renee. His life had settled into a comfortable little routine. Wake up (if he even went to sleep that night), take a shower, brush his teeth, go to therapy, go home and play some mindless videogames or read some book. Or lock himself in his room and stare at the wall.
Riley wished he'd finally crash into sleep. He examined his face in the mirror one morning, while he was shaving. His eyes were sunken, and bags were dark and visible. Ben and Abigail noticed, Riley knew, but they didn't say anything.
He lifted a small prayer of thanks that he had such understanding friends.
For hours Riley sat there, staring at the stars. At some point he lay down, and nestled his head onto his arms. He felt dew soaking his jacket, but he didn't care. He was comfortable.
Until his memories crashed into him again. It was a beautiful night, like this, when Devin had taken him from his apartment and did things to him.
Played games with him. Tortured him. He saw stars out the tent sparkling, one of the small things Riley wished to see before he died. The stars had comforted him with their hypnotic twinkling, and they had eased some of his pain.
Riley shook his head, and rubbed his arms. He winced – he kept forgetting that he had these cuts on his arms, caused by what happened… he let himself go like he just touched something hot.
He slipped back into the house, even if he felt it was stuffy. As horrible as it might sound, at some point in the coffin, he felt grateful that he was in it. That it was almost over, and he did welcome the darkness that he knew would come. But most of all, he was grateful that he was away from that… that demon, who kept on hurting him.
Riley wasn't sorry that the man died. A part of him went wild with glee and jubilation when he saw the man fall to his doom. Devin hurt him. That man hurt him, and now haunted him every dream, every waking moment. Oh, yes. He wasn't sorry he was dead. If Riley was sorry Devin was dead, it would be because he didn't suffer enough.
He sighed, and leaned back on the couch. He heard a creak, and some descending footsteps. Riley jumped, his fingers closing around the remote control beside him ready to hurl the object, and turned.
"Riley?" Ben yawned a little, and headed for the couch. "I keep finding you here."
"Why are you awake, Ben?" Riley asked.
Ben shrugged. "Force of habit."
It was truer than it should be. Ben had caught Riley awake once, and stayed with him that night until he fell asleep, even just for a few hours. The next day, Ben caught him again. And again. And again. One time it was Abigail who caught Riley. She made him drink something for sleep.
He didn't really want to drink anything again today, no matter how good it sounded.
Riley gave a non-committal noise. Ben stood up, disappeared into the kitchen, and brought back a warm glass of milk. "Here. It would help."
Riley shook his head. "Thanks, but no thanks, Ben. I already tried it earlier. Didn't work."
Ben cocked his head in quiet acquiescence, and lifted the mug to his lips. "I hope you at least got some sleep."
"Are you kidding? I'm up at three in the morning. I did nothing but try to sleep." Riley said. He twirled the remote in his palm. "It didn't work, of course. Nothing ever does, these days."
Ben opened his mouth, beginning to form the words 'I'm sorry', but shut it, apparently changing his mind. Just as well. Riley had heard the words 'I'm sorry' so many times now, from those people at the FBI to Emily, Patrick… even Ben and Abby. He was so sick of it. Ben opened his mouth again. "Well then. Would you like some company?" Ben raised his feet on the coffee table, and leaned back in his arm chair.
Riley nodded wordlessly. Of course he'd love the company. He had been miserable most of the night – or rather, early morning, and Ben (or Abigail) soothed him.
Memories inched into his mind, and he remembered fire spreading under him. The gondola above him swung back and forth, and for a moment, Riley was scared that it would unscrew from the hinges and fall. He held his breath as he watched Devin and Ben struggle.
Then he saw Devin fall with his mouth opened in a silent scream. He imagined the fires leap forward to catch that devil, and welcome him into the bowels of hell.
Riley shuddered. His imagination and anger went wild on him again that moment. He turned to look at Ben, who watched him with curiosity.
His mind's eye showed him Ben and Devin's struggle again, and each time Ben stepped down from the gondola, his eyes tired but fiery with anger and determination.
Riley realized that he hadn't thanked Ben for what he had done that night. Ben's eyes were starting to droop when Riley spoke. "Ben."
"Mmm?" Ben opened his eyes a little. "What is it, Riley?"
For a moment, Riley debated if he should even say something. It might open up wounds that he wasn't too keen on opening, and he didn't want to cry. He wasn't even sure if there were any tears left for him to spill.
But… "Thank you."
Ben straightened, his eyes suddenly alert. "I'm sorry, Riley." The older man winced, aware that Riley wasn't too fond of pardons right now. Riley smiled a little. "Were you saying something? I wasn't listening."
Riley shook his head, still smiling. "I remember the Ferris wheel, Ben. I remember what you did. And… and I thank you."
Ben's lips quivered into a smile, but disappeared just as quickly as it formed. "I'm not sorry he fell." He stared intently into his cup, and looked up at Riley. "I'm not sorry I killed him."
Riley nodded, and closed his eyes. The same scene flashed through his eyes again, and he vaguely remembered seeing a glimpse of Devin hanging on the gondola before he fell. "Why?"
Riley opened his eyes, and looked squarely at Ben. "Why did you kill him?"
Ben cocked his head to one side, smiled slightly, and shook his head. "Riley, after what he did to you…" he started gently. His expression then became serious, and his voice hard. He curled his fingers, and his knuckles whitened. "What he did to you, what he did to those other people… He was a monster, Riley, plain and simple. And letting him fall was the best decision I made." He glanced at Riley. "And I will never regret it."
"Thank you." Riley whispered. "Thank you for saving my life, Ben."
Ben smiled. "You're my best friend, Riley. I'd do anything for you."
The fire flickered, and Ben and Riley sat in comfortable silence. Riley sank gratefully in the couch. He relaxed slowly, his memories blurring as his mind was put at ease by his friend's comforting presence. He closed his eyes, and slept.
Ben watched Riley sleep for a moment, and stood up. He thought he needed some air, and he started for the door.
He envisioned watching Devin fall. He had relived it in his mind over and over again, and came to one conclusion.
He would really do it again. And again. And again. Anything to save the people he loved.
He emerged in the front lawn, where the first rays of the sun shot through the clouds.
He thought about Riley, who slept in the living room, comforted by the knowledge that Ben was just there, standing guard over the nightmares. Ben grimaced, feeling a little guilty that he left his friend.
But he needed to clear his mind. Worry flooded him. Riley needed rest. He deserved rest. Ben was grateful that his best friend finally succumbed to sleep. Riley was so tired. Ben could see it in Riley's eyes.
And Ben couldn't do anything direct about it, and that frustrated Ben.
He huffed to himself, and stuffed his hands in his pockets. Something vibrated, and Ben fished out his phone.
What met him was an assault that he wouldn't wish on anyone's ears.
"BEN? Where the hell is Riley?"
For a moment, Ben stared at his phone in disbelief. He tried to place the familiar voice, and then he remembered.
"Jacqui? How did you get my nu-"
"Is he okay? He's not answering my emails, my messages, my calls… what the hell's going on?" Jacqui continued after a beat. Ben pulled the phone from his ear.
"I'm worried SHITLESS, so now you give this damned phone to that man and tell him that he's going to answer me this time or God help me I'll - "
"Jacqueline." His voice was quiet, but stern. Ben knew it wouldn't have helped if he yelled.
Ben could almost hear the girl blush through the phone. "I'm sorry. It's just, Ben, I don't understand. Did I do anything wrong? Why isn't he talking to me?"
Ben winced. He didn't really know what to tell Jacqui. He knew why, of course – but Ben couldn't bring himself to actually tell Jacqui. It wasn't his to tell. "How did you get my number?" He couldn't stall forever. He had to figure something out.
"Does it really matter?" The voice on the other end sounded frazzled, and Ben frowned in sympathy. "Look, Ben, I just want to know what's going on. I'm really worried about Riley. It's not like him to just... disappear on me. Can I please talk to him?" The voice took on a more pleading tone. "Please, Ben."
Ben winced. "He's…" He briefly debated with himself if he should tell her, but his mouth just run off on his own. "…trying to work through something. He'll call you when he's ready."
Ben wasn't sure what to do with what happened next. He heard a huge thud and a cracking, crunching sound, and then the line went dead. He blinked at the phone, and frowned guiltily. He didn't want to do that to Jacqui, but he had no choice. It isn't mine to tell, he repeated to himself.
The problem was telling Riley what had just happened. He didn't want to put even more stress on his friend, but he knew Riley would be angry… more than angry, furious, if he didn't tell him that Jacqui was desperately trying to get in touch with him. Then again, Riley was purposely not talking to her, which meant he couldn't face her yet.
Ben wasn't sure what he was supposed to do.
He glanced at the sky again. Clouds mottled the sunlight, and covered the rays, which struggled to break through. Ben sighed, and went back in the house.
Ben knew Riley expected him to be there when he awoke.
Darkness… he couldn't move, something was cutting into his skin… he felt hands cold hands rub over him and he couldn't even scream… couldn't even…
"NO!" Riley sat bolt upright on the couch, shaking hard, panting as if he just ran a marathon. He heard Ben yelp, and a thud followed. "Riley?"
Riley didn't answer. He closed his eyes, holding back the tears, trying to calm down. He felt so shaken; he pulled his knees to his chest protectively and choked back a sob.
"Riley, it's okay. It's okay. Hey, look at me."
Riley raised his eyes to look at Ben. "I-I'm s-sorry for w-waking you u-up, man."
Ben smiled sadly, and cautiously moved beside Riley. "Is it okay if I sit down?"
Riley nodded, not trusting himself to say anything. Ben sank down on the couch next to Riley. He hesitantly put an arm around his shaking shoulders. Riley didn't seem to mind. In fact, he relaxed a little and glanced around the living room. "It's morning…" he sounded relieved. "I slept through the rest of the night."
"Riley, do you want to talk about…" Ben began. Riley sighed, and shook his head. He knew Ben had his best intentions in mind, but he wasn't sure if he could handle telling Ben and Abigail.
"Ben, I… I think I'll save that for the therapist." Riley said quietly.
Riley had been going to see Renee for a week. So far, he hadn't talked about anything of what Devin did to him. He avoided it when he could, changing the conversation to other subjects (and he had a lot of interesting things to talk about). And Renee never pressured him after he made it clear he didn't want talk about those events. They talked about other things, how it felt like to be a treasure hunter, the fame that came with it, Ben and Abigail, a pet dog he had when he was younger. They talked about everything besides what they were supposed to talk about.
Riley was telling Renee about the research project him Ben and Abigail were working on. And it just kind of came out. "We had a lead… on page 47. It would have gone further… but that that was the night when…" Riley swallowed. He looked up at Renee. Her expression showed no eagerness or impatience. She simply looked at him, waiting for him to speak.
"H-He… broke into my apartment." Riley balled his fists. "I can't even go back to my own home! It's not fair, dammit. It's my house, and he defiled it and…" He let out a small sigh, and shuddered. "I'm scared to go back…" he whispered.
"There's nothing wrong with that Riley. Have you considering getting another house?"
Riley nodded. "Yeah. But Ben and Abigail don't want me to be alone yet." He gestured, and leaned back in his chair. He stared at sky outside, refusing to meet Renee's eyes. "I don't want to be alone, anyway. It scares me. That night, he just broke in and took me. I didn't even see it coming. I thought it was just one of those burglaries I keep on hearing about around the neighborhood." He shivered again. "H-he got me all alone and did things to me… and… I d-don't like thinking about them. I haven't even told Ben or Abby yet…"
"You're scared of how they'll react?"
Riley nodded slightly. "I know them. They would have felt like they should have done something more. Like… they could have helped more. There was nothing they can do - he hid me and I can't even…" Riley fell quiet, trying to calm himself. "They were right there. Maybe that makes it worse. I don't want them to feel like they didn't do enough. It's not their fault, you know?"
"It's not your fault either Riley," Renee said quietly. Riley blinked down at his hands. "You seem like you feel guilty about this. You want to protect them from the ugly truth, but you're just hurting yourself more. And right now, you need their help more than they need yours."
Riley clasped his hands together. "I d-don't think I'll be able to…"
Renee leaned back in her chair slightly, picking up a pencil. "Okay… then you can start by telling me. This is a safe place Riley. Once you tell someone, it will get easier."
Riley closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Then he nodded. "Okay."
"You don't have to start at the beginning if you don't want. Whatever is easiest."
The dream Riley had floated through his consciousness and he shivered. "W-What I hated the most is not that he was hurting me. It was how he did it. How he humiliated me and treated me like I was some kind of toy!" Riley spat out the last word, feeling angry tears in his eyes. "He called me that… h-he called me toy and pet… m-made me play his insane games… and I couldn't do anything! He did things to me if I didn't cooperate - he wouldn't even just let it end…"
The tears spilled free from his eyes. He didn't even know that the body could produce that many tears - he had been crying too much the past days, and he thought he had already ran out of tears. "He terrified me. He acted like he owned me and he kept touching me, like I was…" Riley shut his eyes, and hugged himself. Tears blurred his vision, and he felt his cheeks wet and dripping.
Renee passed him a tissue box. Riley muttered his thanks and wiped his face. He looked down at his trembling fingers. "And…" Riley swallowed. "I stopped fighting him. I gave up. Towards the end. I was terrified - I knew I was going to die and I hated that I didn't even try to stop it. I just wanted it to end."
There was a few minutes of silence in the small office. Riley kept his head down, not wanting to look at Renee.
Renee spoke gently. "Riley, don't be ashamed. You did what you had to do to survive. That's the most important thing. You're alive."
Riley let out a hiccupping sob. "I-It's all over my body, Renee. He cut me everywhere… left his mark and I don't know what I'm supposed to do. Jacqui wants to talk to me but I can't. I just… I can't let her see me like this."
"Jacqui is the woman you've been talking to?"
Riley nodded and crumpled up the tissue, his hand clenching in to a fist. "It hurts. It hurts that I can't talk to her."
"What makes you think that you can't talk to her?"
Riley shook his head helplessly. "What would she think of me? She wouldn't… want anything to do with me. I mean… what happened to me…" He trailed off, not even wanting to finish. It left a mark. I'm scarred. I don't want her to see.
"Riley, I think you're not giving her enough credit. Give her a chance, talk to her. Shutting her out completely isn't going to help anything."
Riley sighed and leaned back in the chair. He knew Renee was right, but he didn't want to face Jacqui.
"Okay. I'll think about it."
Renee glanced at the clock on the wall and smiled at Riley. "We've made a lot of progress today Riley. This was a huge step for you."
"Oh, really? Thanks… I guess," Riley mumbled. He didn't feel like he made progress on anything. He felt more like he was about to be dragged under any second.
Abigail heard Riley come home. He never talked to anyone. He just went on straight to his room. She sighed and put down the document she was reading.
It had been a while since they last had a good talk. She missed him.
She made her way to Riley's bedroom and peeked inside. He was laying on his back, staring at the ceiling. He raised his head slightly when he heard her.
"Hey, Ri," she smiled, sitting on the edge of his bed.
"Hey, Abs," Riley said softly.
"I was thinking we could go somewhere today. We could go to the Air and Space Museum."
The last time they went to the Smithsonian, Ben and Riley had actually fought over which museum they would spend the day in. Ben wanted to go to the American History Museum, but Riley insisted on the Air and Space Museum. Abigail stood back a little as Ben and Riley fought like kids back then, she feeling a little embarrassed. They ended up with compromise of half-a-day for each.
Ben had a lot of stories to tell about each part of the museum he chose, of course. But what Abigail remembered the best was how excited Riley looked as he pointed to all the different planes and shuttles in the Air and Space Museum. His expression was just filled with child-like wonder that Abigail had not seen in a while.
"It's a nice day out… and you know, it'll help get your mind off… things."
"I don't really feel like going out," Riley said in a barely audible voice. His eyes were wet and he blinked a few times.
"Please. I'm sorry… I-I don't want to go anywhere…"
Abigail bit her lip, and blinked to stop the tears that threatened from falling. She hated seeing Riley like this. "Okay. Riley," she whispered. She stood to go but was stopped by a weak grip on her hand.
"Don't go yet. I just… I don't want to be alone right now."
Abigail sat back down, studying her friend's tired blue eyes. "Do you want to talk about something?"
Riley pressed his lips together and nodded. He sat up and leaned against the wall. Abigail noticed suddenly that he was wearing short sleeves. She could see the bandages wrapped around his arms, covering the ugly welts and scars. He hadn't worn short sleeves in a long time.
"Is it better to push someone away and spare them the pain?" He rubbed his arms absently, frowning a little.
"This is about Jacqui, huh?" Abigail asked quietly.
"She's been trying to contact me. I don't what to say to her. I mean what can I say. 'Yeah, Jacqui sorry I didn't call you for a while but some sadistic psychopath decided to use me as his own source of personal entertainment'."
"Do you love her?"
Riley looked up at Abigail, startled. "Huh?"
"Do you love her."
Riley closed his eyes again. "I… do. I love her. I haven't told her yet. Think how well that's gonna go over now."
Abigail narrowed her eyes and pointed a finger at him. "And I know she loves you. She cares enough to try to contact you weeks after you stopped contacting her. You owe it to her to at least talk to her after dropping off the face of the planet."
"I… suppose I should do something about it." Riley murmured, rubbing his eyes. "I hate this."
Abigail smiled empathetically. "I know, Riley. But you'll know what to do. Trust me."
Ben jerked awake, raising his head from the pile of papers in front of him. He needed to catch up on his research. He had been spending a lot of time taking care of Riley lately that he had been neglecting his work. Riley was more important than the pieces of paper he pushed around. Ben knew he would get answers to what he was looking for eventually, anyway. Page 47 would be there waiting for him, no matter how long he took to take care of Riley. It had been there for years, and it wouldn't disappear anytime soon.
Must have dozed off… He of them were getting that much sleep nowadays. He rubbed his eyes and heard knocking coming from the front door.
Ben blinked in disbelief. "Who the heck…" He heaved himself out of the chair and went over to the door. The knock came again, more urgently.
"All right, all right," Ben muttered, and unlocked it.
And there on his doorstep was a redhead, freckled, and extremely pissed off looking Jacqui.
"Hi, Ben. Is Riley here?"
Lori- O_o Well, please review and tell us what you think.
Jaeh – YES, REVIEW PLEASE!
Oh, and for that teeny tiny announcement I was talking about, guys…
I plan on doing a separate story based on prompts that you, yes, YOU, guys would provide. Just PM me the prompt, on whose POV it should be, and I'd do a drabble on it. It could be ANYONE, yes, anyone, even Riley's car. Seriously, go nuts. You could even give me an exact number of words, if you want (no more than 200, not less than 50), and I'll do it! I'll even credit you! If you can't pm me with it, drop a line as a review (on *my* stories or *my* account, not on this account, please ;)
I prefer PMs, though. Exceptions and further rules would be on my profile, but I'm posting it here anyway: if you give me a prompt, you can't tell me what it should be about. I'll be the one to figure it out. And you cannot give me a deadline. Real life doesn't agree with deadlines. Heh. That's all. Send away. And, again review please! Tell us, indeed, what you think!