Riley was crying on the floor as she felt both physical and emotional pain move through her.
“Oh, Riley,” Emily said softly and began to move towards her. Josh quickly grabbed her and pulled her back with him to give Riley more space. He noticed that she relaxed a little as he moved them back and was grateful he read that right and stopped Emily. He also noticed that as Ethan moved closer, Riley did not tense.
Ethan lowered himself and got a little closer, he could practically feel a physical barrier where it might be too much if he crossed. She was projecting a lot of emotion. “Damn,” he thought. This all but confirmed his worst fears. But now that the door had opened, he could not ignore it, nor could it be closed again.
He watched her carefully as her crying slowed and spoke. “Riley, can you describe what you are feeling?”
“A lot of anger and sadness that I don’t know where it’s from, I’m guessing it was her’s. I also feel like something has been ripped from me, I know it’s not actually the case, but it feels like real physical pain,” she answered quietly.
“Do you think you can stand so we can go back to the office? I do not think it would be wise for anybody to touch you right now.”
“I need just a bit,” Riley admitted. She took a few moments to settle her breathing and try to stop her limbs from shaking. She slowly stood up, although she was not steady on her feet.
Ethan had to fight the instinct to help and support her, knowing it would only make her feel worse, but damn it all, if everything in him wasn’t screaming to wrap her up. Josh and Emily left first, and Ethan stepped back so that Riley could pass him and then followed her out. When she got to the office, she collapsed on the couch, and the tears began again.
“What is happening to me?” she asked weakly.
“It seems you are possibly an empath,” Ethan answered, sitting in a chair watching her carefully. “If so, you and Abigail connected, so when she passed, you were left to deal with the various consequences of that.”
“Taking on the negative emotions that forced her to remain?” Ethan nodded and watched her as her brows furrowed. “There’s more?”
“When spirits connect with an empath, the severing of that connection always has side effects. It varies from empath to empath, but some type of pain is usually a consequence. The deeper the connection to the spirit, the more painful the severing.”
“So no one knows exactly what is happening?” Riley was troubled to hear this.
“You know how hard empaths are to study and understand. Hell, some people still claim they are not real but just stronger mediums. But know this, if you are an empath, or have any other type of ability, I will do everything in my power to ensure you are taken care of.”
“You are going to accept my job offer, and I am going to get you a trainer, of course.”
“Of course,” Riley chuckled.
“I already told you this was going to happen, and surely Jack knew this was coming.”
“I am pretty sure it was Jack’s intention in inviting you here.”
“Me too,” Ethan agreed. “Even if you do not accept the job, I will make sure whatever is going on with you that you are taken care of. If you do work with me, we can help you develop whatever skills you might have, and you and I could do more research together, see what we can find.”
“You will get me a trainer even if I don’t work for you?”
“Of course. We have never abandoned anybody that we found with supernatural powers; it is part of our job. You are also the charge of a dear friend, and someone I have rather enjoyed getting to know.”
“You could call me a friend too.”
“I did not wish to overstep given our less than perfect interactions.”
Riley chuckled again. “That’s one way to put it.”
“How are you feeling?” Ethan enjoyed joking with her, but did not want to remind her of their disagreements.
“The anger is fading pretty quickly. I think she was more sad than angry, but it just built up over time. The sadness is rather heavy, and the pain is still very present.” She paused. “I think I want to try to sleep.”
“That is fine. We will make what notes we can, and tomorrow Emily and I will have some questions for you.”
“Thank you, you just solved a case rather quickly for me.”
“I think I accidentally made her desperate when I left.”
“Likely, but we can discuss that further after you have slept a little and are feeling more in control.”
Riley nodded and found herself quickly dropping off to sleep. Ethan wasn’t all that surprised as he watched her carefully to make sure she would relax. The emotional drain must be affecting her body a great deal, he realized.
“Ethan?” Emily asked quietly.
Ethan sighed and dropped his head. “Yes?”
“She’s an empath for sure?”
“I cannot say now, but it seems likely. The reaction and emotions are far too present for her to simply be a medium.”
“Oh,” Emily said, sounding a little sad and scared.
“If she is, this will not be a repeat, Emily,” he said, but he knew he was doing so more to reassure himself than her.
Emily looked at him and nodded. “Okay.”
“Now, we just need to convince her to come with us,” Josh said.
“Well, that was the goal before this bit of information was confirmed, so I say we stick with helping her feel welcome, and I will talk to Jack.”
“I really hope she agrees. I like her,” Emily said with a smile.
Ethan gave her a bit of a smile back, but then nodded for her to get back to work. “We have other cases to get to, so I want to be prepared to leave quickly. Even with the extra time, it will take to prepare her.”
As Riley slept, she felt like once again she could hear the voice that she had the first night. Still indistinct and not entirely a voice, but it was there. It was fainter, and felt like there was something different about it this time. It did bring Riley a bit of peace, and almost seemed… grateful.
Riley’s eyebrows furrowed as she tried to process the feeling. She noticed that it must be getting light outside as the base grew brighter. She stretched a bit on the couch before pushing herself up. “What time is it?”
The group turned, surprised to see her awake. “Still fairly early, the sun just came up,” Ethan answered. “I had expected you to sleep longer.”
“Honestly, I’d rather shower at this point,” Riley admitted looking at herself and realizing it wasn’t just the gloves that got filthy last night.
“Understandable,” Ethan replied. “I need Emily just a bit longer then perhaps the two of you can leave together?”
“Oh please!” Emily groaned. “I am exhausted.”
Riley smiled. “Sure, you can even come to Jack and my’s place and get a better shower.”
Emily looked at Riley for all the world like she had hung the moon.
“Hotel showers get old,” Ethan said softly.
“Am I interrupting?” A soft voice came with a knock at the door. Ethan recognized the waitress from the other day.
“Jessica,” Riley said, a little breathless. When Jessica looked at her, Riley felt a wave of sadness and confusion.
“Oh,” Jessica replied, her brows pulling in. “Makes sense, you and Jack must know a lot about this sort of thing. I’m just here because my dad, sorry the mayor, wanted an update on the case.”
“We believe it is closed, however at this point, we want to stay an extra day to be certain,” Ethan answered the group was watching the two women carefully.
“That’s good.” Jessica smiled a bit, although it was clearly not much of one. “He’ll be happy to hear that. Was there any trouble?”
“A bit,” Riley admitted and winced a little as she moved. “Nothing the town will have to worry about, though.”
Ethan hadn’t realized she had been physically hurt last night as well, and was a bit annoyed with himself. He walked over to their mini-fridge and tossed Riley an ice pack.
“Oh my god!” Emily jumped up when Riley pulled up her shirt, revealing a rather large bruise on the side she had fallen on when Abigail pulled her.
“Okay, I guess it’s a bit worse than I thought,” Riley admitted with a bit of defeat. She glanced up and noticed Jessica was still sad but now annoyed too.
“Well, I’ll let my father know that things are going well. He’ll want to see you whenever you are ready to wrap things up.”
“Thank you,” Ethan called out as Jessica quickly made her way out.
“Damn it. Can I go?” Riley asked.
“Yeah, I will send Emily out after you soon,” Ethan agreed.
“Thanks,” Riley said and quickly grabbed her things to jog after Jessica. “Jessica!” Riley called out when she was outside. “Wait, please!”
“You want me to wait?! Really?!” Jessica rounded on Riley.
“Why are you so upset?”
“Why am I?” she let out a groan of frustration. “My friendship, wasn’t okay for you, but this,” she motioned to Riley’s side, “is?”
“It’s not like that.”
“Then what is it like, because you never fully explained to me.”
Riley sighed and took a moment to gather her thoughts. “I cared for you so much, and our friendship meant so much to me, but as time went on and we got closer, it got harder to be near you. You always said it was okay, but I could tell it hurt you.”
“Yes, it hurt. It hurt to be around you and see that I caused you pain. It hurt that we basically stopped touching. But it hurt so much worse when you shut me out like our friendship meant nothing.”
“Oh Jessica, I never meant for you to think that. You meant more to me than basically anybody other than Jack. It was easier to be around other people because I never felt for them what I did you, and it just became too hard to be close to anybody.”
Jessica exhaled and turned away for a few moments. “What is it like?”
“You want to see?”
Riley walked over slowly. “Sorry,” she whispered before grabbing Jessica’s hand.
Jessica hissed, and Riley let out a little yelp as they both jumped back from each other.
“Jeez Riley every time?”
“No, but with you, it was more consistent.”
“You still shouldn’t have cut me off. We were best friends.”
“You’re right, and I regret it.”
Jessica opened her mouth then just sighed. “I guess holding on to how hurt I am isn’t going to help. Will they take care of you?”
“I think so.”
“Better than last night?”
“Last night was a hazard of the job. Can I email you?”
“Yeah, might take me a few before I start responding, though.”
“That’s fair. Will you check on Jack, though, and let me know if I need to come back?”
“Of course,” Jessica said, giving her a little smile and walking to her car.
“You okay?” Emily asked, walking up to Riley.
Emily nodded, “Alright, let’s get you home.”
Riley was crying on the floor as she felt both physical and emotional pain move through her.