The Barrier: The End- Chapter One

Ethan was on a conference call with the board five days later. “We are taking a break, the whole team,” he stated plainly.

“Why would you do that?” a voice replied.

“We were unprepared for the last case. Mike is still recovering in the hospital from his wounds and the infection they caused, and Riley will be out of commission for who knows how long. I need to make sure my team is prepared for the next time we face a spirit that is so powerful. If we had not discovered the ritual we did, we might have lost at least one person. I refuse to put the team at risk like that again.”

There was a pause with no answer from the board.

“What are your plans?” a woman finally interjected.

“To work with Daniel on making sure the whole team has some protection, and to research as many rituals as we can and all that is needed to make them work. It has been so long since The Event, and I do not think any of us have realized that the more time that passes, the more powerful spirits are getting. This job is only going to get riskier. I am not losing anyone on my team.”

“How long do you think you need?” the woman continued, “And what will you do if an important case comes in?”

“A month or two, possibly more, but I will try not to allow that to happen. I contacted Derek from the UK branch, and he said that any cases that he thinks he can handle, he will bring a small team to do so. They will also be working on being better prepared for events like this in the other branches. I need to let my team emotionally recover though.”

“If you can get it down to a month, we would appreciate it. If you need to go over two, we will have problems,” the first man said, and Ethan heard a click.

He slumped over into his chair and put his head in his hands. Everything had gone so wrong during the last case. When they got Mike and Riley back to the hospital, Mike was fading from the blood loss. Once they solved that, he then got an infection from everything that had gotten into the wound. Riley’s issues were spiritual and emotional, so the hospital could not do much for her. Timm had come to collect her, and the two had flown home so that she could stay with him. They had finally transferred Mike, and Ethan had returned home with Gabrielle, Caroline, and Emily. Daniel and Josh were getting the vans carted home. He knew they would need a break just as much as everybody else. While Josh was cheerful in nature, and Daniel was not close to the team, the weight of what had happened on the case was crushing all of them.

Gabrielle hadn’t been back to the office saying she needed some time, but to call her when Riley’s emotions had settled. Caroline was sticking close, shockingly enough. Emily was naturally taking it all the hardest. Ethan had dropped her off at her apartment, and other than the occasional text to say she was alive, there hadn’t been word from her. Ethan felt guilty, assuming that she was in the apartment dwelling on her worry and upset, but Ethan needed to get as much done as he could, especially before telling the board they would be taking a break.

Ethan looked up when he heard a knock on the door, and Timm walked in. Ethan jumped up quickly, starting to panic.

“Calm down, she’s fine. I left her in my office. She is shifting between crying or being completely zoned out. But I think she is ready to go home. I would recommend that you or I be close at all times though, preferably you.”

“Me?”

“She doesn’t need a trainer right now, she needs someone who provides emotional support and comfort. A Sentinel.”

“And that is me?”

“Don’t play dumb, Ethan, not right now.”

“I am not playing dumb I am just genuinely surprised. Especially after the last case. She does not trust me at all right now.”

“She has some doubts about you, yes, but she was being influenced by a powerful shade. You cannot let your insecurities take over right now.”

“What can I do for her?”

“Watch over her, make sure she eats and cares for herself. Mostly we have to let her feel it, though, and work through it. It won’t be pleasant, but it is necessary. Call me if she gets too far gone.”

“I will be able to keep a better eye on Emily too. She is not dealing with the same thing, but you know how emotional she is prone to getting.”

“When Riley is better, the three of us need to have a talk.”

“Several probably,” Ethan agreed.

Timm gave the man a nod and then helped him to escort Riley to Ethan’s car. As they drove to the apartment, Ethan called Gabrielle asking for her to bring him a few changes of clothing and necessities, informing her of the plan to stay with Emily and Riley.

When they walked in, Emily was on the couch crying, and Ethan quickly helped Riley to her room and pulled out a change of comfortable clothing for her before giving her her privacy to deal with Emily.

“Emily, you should go lie down for a while. I will order some food for tonight and wake you when it gets here. You look like you have not slept.”

“I haven’t been really,” Emily admitted between sniffs.

“You need your rest.”

“It just all got so messed up,” Emily cried out.

“I know, and I am going to do everything in my power to make sure it does not again. We were ill-prepared, and that was my fault.”

“Are they going to be okay?” Emily asked.

“Yes. Now go sleep,” Ethan insisted.

When Gabrielle came over with some clothing, Ethan handed her money and asked for her to do some grocery shopping for them. She agreed and helped him to put everything away when she returned.

“Thank you, I know you wanted time,” Ethan said as she was preparing to leave.

“Time from work, yes. If you need help with them or anything else that is more personal, you have no reason to apologize or avoid calling me. If they need help with things you are not comfortable with, don’t hesitate.”

“They seem able enough to care for themselves that that should not be an issue, but I appreciate it,” Ethan said.

That night he lay on the couch trying to read a little about various rituals, but was distracted by hearing both women crying. He let out a deep sigh, hoping that Mike would wake soon. He did not believe the dam would break until then.

For the next few days, Ethan would wake up and make sure to wake Emily and Riley. He would cook the tree of them all breakfast then try to get them to do things. The first day he took them for a walk, but when Riley started breaking down, he realized this wasn’t the wisest choice. Especially not as people looked concerned about whether or not to let a crying woman go with him.

The third day he and Emily almost had a fight if Riley hadn’t prevented it.

“You should try to talk to her,” Ethan said while helping Emily fold her laundry.

“Why? It’s not like she is really Riley right now.”

“Emily!” Ethan snapped.

“She’s right,” Riley said, walking in to grab some water. “I am not really anybody right now.” Then Riley left them alone again.

“I am sorry Ethan,” Emily admitted, ashamed, “It’s just hard. I hurt so much over what happened and her being an empty shell like that just keeps it all fresh. I shouldn’t have said that, and I should have been more careful about her overhearing.”

Ethan took a few breaths and let his anger cool. “I understand you hurt Emily, but so does she.”

“You are right, I am being a bad friend,” Emily agreed.

That night he heard Emily tap on Riley’s door and a soft come in. When he checked on them later, he was happy to see that Emily and Riley had fallen asleep next to each other. He hoped it was a step in the right direction.

The fifth day he was about to insist Riley and Emily go back to work, just to give them something to do, when his cellphone rang.

“He’s awake!” Gabrielle said happily.

Ethan quickly hurried them to the hospital and was happy to see that Daniel and Josh had made it home. The whole team was there, including Miller, for the reunion.

“Hey everybody!” Mike said cheerfully when they walked in. Emily quickly ran over to hug him and started crying while everybody else waved. Even Riley managed a smile that seemed real.

“We are so happy to have you back,” Ethan said, squeezing Mike’s shoulder.

“Thank you boss.”

“We will also be shaking things up after some time off. I want to avoid anything like this ever happening again, and make good on the promise that you will not have to be so involved.”

Mike shrugged. “We can talk about that later. I feel torn between my fears being validated and feeling like after confronting this that I am prepared to face more.”

“Alright, we can discuss things,” Ethan agreed, at first surprised but then realizing that Mike had always shown more bravery than the team had given him credit for.

“You okay Riley?” Mike asked.

“I don’t know,” she admitted softly.

It hit everybody then that the team was not entirely back together and wouldn’t be until Riley was better. That night Ethan called Timm and asked for further advice. “I think she should be interacting with people more. She seems close, she just needs a push.”

With that, every night the team, including Caroline and Timm, would come over for dinner and movies. The improvement was there. Riley would silently cry at times, or space out at others, but she did try to talk and be with people. The team also started to trickle back into their work responsibilities. Emily started going to the office for a few hours to help with paperwork and sorting. Gabrielle and Josh started to take smaller cases. Ethan helped Daniel become an official part of the team. It had been a couple of weeks, and Ethan felt like they were so close. They just needed one more push with Riley.

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