The Barrier: The End- Chapter Two

Three and half weeks after Ethan had told the board that they would be taking a break, it finally happened. The team got together, as they had been, and Ethan rented some old comedies. Halfway through one of the Abbot and Costello Meets series, Riley finally came back to herself. Riley ended up folded over, practically falling off the couch laughing.

A wave of relief passed over the team; she was finally releasing it all. When another joke happened, and Riley lost it again, everybody laughed, their own emotional release spilling over.

“Oh man, this one took way too long,” Riley admitted when she had calmed down. “There is still a pain there, but I am just so happy to not feel like I am drowning anymore I don’t care,” she said, wiping away a few tears, mixed from humor, relief, and still some sadness. “I am so sorry, everybody.”

“Nothing to apologize for, you were healing,” Gabrielle dismissed

“I did not behave the best on the case though,” Riley admitted, ashamed.

“No, but it was a tough situation,” Ethan said. “I have been working with Timm and Daniel on measures to prevent things like that from happening again, at least to that degree. We will also be shifting focus as a group to research more rituals. I have a feeling that powerful spirits will no longer be as rare for all of us.”

Ethan dropped the subject, knowing they still needed a bit more time, but was happy the group was making progress. He also knew that Riley coming back to herself would be that final needed push. He was pleased when Riley moved closer to him between movies, and he was able to rest his arm around her shoulder briefly. She was still overly sensitive to touch, but he got a few brief ones in, and it made him happy, happier still that she seemed pleased too.

The group dinners did not stop right away. They wanted to make sure that Riley was completely fine, and the need for reassurance that they all were was still present. It also helped them to bond more. It helped strengthen the bond that they already had, and also gave the team a chance to get to know Daniel better. The tension with Miller was still present, though.

“Do you know how old I was when I first started seeing them?” Miller finally spoke one night, knowing she needed to reach a better understanding with the group. “I was eight.”

“That young?” Riley asked, shocked. Most mediums did not come into the ability until their teen years, sometimes older.

“Yes. I was so scared at first. More frightened than I could ever put into words. Then most people did not believe me. My parents sent me to doctors, therapists, specialists. None of them were looking for confirmation of what I was saying I saw, but that something was wrong with me. When nothing worked, my parents started to get angry with me every time I told them I saw something. It became easier to just hide it. Deal with it on my own. Most were nice, which helped, but I was so young and alone with it. I started to turn inward. I hated the spirits for scaring me and causing me to be isolated, and I did not trust people for doubting me and turning me away.”

No one was eating, just watching her closely.

Miller looked directly at Emily. “It’s not that I don’t want to be part of the team. It’s that I don’t know how.”

“You don’t have to be alone anymore,” Emily insisted.

“It is hard to undo over twenty years of practice.”

Emily sat back and thought over this. She wasn’t completely placated, but she couldn’t deny that it made a lot of sense that these experiences shaped Miller into who she was now. She also couldn’t deny that Miller seemed completely aware of her behaviors, something that Emily hadn’t realized before. Now it would just be a matter of whether or not she would try to overcome these problems.

“I apologize for not making it easier, and if you try, I will too,” Emily offered. If Miller could admit her guilt, then Emily needed to do the same.

After that, the team dinners ended up being once a week. Ethan allowed everybody freedom and space to come back to work on their own, but for the most part, they were restless. Ethan had gone home, believing that Emily and Riley were fine on their own, but he still returned every night. It was one of those nights with just the three of them when Ethan pulled Riley outside.

“You are taking cases without me again,” Riley said before he even had a chance to speak.

“Not right away, but yes. The team is ready to get back out there, and I think if we take it slow, we can still make good progress on being more prepared for any other bad ones that might arise.”

Riley swallowed but nodded. “I understand.”

“Riley,” Ethan said softly.

“No, Ethan, it’s really okay. You all need to work, and I clearly need to recover more. This is one time you don’t have to worry about me doubting you.”

“Still. I never want to hurt you, Riley, and I know that you are, even if you understand why. I want you and Timm to work hard because the moment he says you are ready to come back, I want you there with us.”

Riley smiled at that and nodded.

Two days later, she waved goodbye to the vans while Timm stood near her, tears in her eyes. “We will get you ready again, I promise,” Timm said as he pulled her in for a hug.

Riley spent a lot of time working on Ethan’s research to help him organize it while they were gone on cases. He gave her access to his files and computer and was grateful every time he returned for just how good she was at it. In between cases, she worked with Emily to transfer notes and keep up with paperwork. All other time was spent with Timm in intensive training. The more normal she felt though, the more some of her doubts started to come back to her. That Ethan still did not fully trust her, and that he and Timm were keeping something from her. She kept trying to tell herself it had just been the shade, but something remained nagging at her.

The first night after the third case without Riley, Ethan came over alone. Mike, Emily, and Josh went out, hoping that if they gave the two time, the dancing around each other would finally stop.

“I believe you will be ready to come on cases again soon, and Timm agrees,” Ethan said as they sat on the couch together after dinner. “I also want to prepare you because Derek from the UK office is going to come observe us soon.”

“Problems?” Riley asked.

“The board is concerned, but I think we will be fine. Derek agreed with me that we had all been doing a poor job of properly realizing that more spirits were gaining power and stronger spirits are more noticeable. All of the PIRI teams should have been more prepared,” Ethan said, shifting a little as Riley moved closer. She was having issues with touch tonight, but he accepted them leaning closer at least. “Derek also clearly has Emily’s best interests at heart, if not my own.”

Riley just hummed.

Ethan softly moved a piece of her hair, enjoying the moment.

“You know Timm had a suggestion about the touch thing.”


“That I should just feel it and deal with it,” Riley said. “I have never really tried to just push through.”

“I do not want to cause you pain, Riley,” Ethan’s brows furrowed.

Riley shrugged and turned toward him, bringing her hand to his cheek. When she hissed, Ethan went to jerk away. “Please let me do this.”

Ethan sighed but sat still and allowed her to touch him again. Her eyes seemed pained for several beats, but the tension around them finally started to settle, and Ethan smiled a little. He cupped her cheek too, and felt his heart swell when she leaned into it. Then a surprised look crossed her face.

“Oh. I didn’t realize,” she said.

“What?” Ethan asked but was interrupted by a kiss. He fought the urge to pull her in and deepen it. They needed to go slow until it caused her less pain. Until he knew what it all meant lest he get his heart broken by assumptions.

She pulled back and smiled. “I am sorry I read your emotions; it just sort of happened. I thought you were at least a little attracted to me, I didn’t realize the feelings were so mutual.”

Ethan felt his heart drop. “Mutual? As in, to the same extent?”

“I mean, I can’t tell that much, but your feelings for me are stronger than I suspected.”

Ethan let out a harsh, angry chuckle, “Damn it.”

“You can’t be this mad at me for reading your emotions. I wanted to try the sustained contact because Timm said it would help us, and I can’t always control what I read, you know this.”

“That is not what I am mad about Riley.”

“Then what is happening here?”

“I have been feeding you my emotions without realizing it, and that is what is happening.”

“What are you talking about.”

“Our feelings for each other are on the same level, my level.”

“Ethan, that is not how it works, and you know it.”

“Then why now?”

“Like I said, I knew there was some shared attraction, just not that you felt as strongly for me as I do you, so I was holding back to let things play out. I was scared to push you too far because it’s been building since the night we met.”

“Yes, the first night, when I was attracted to you, and we both hid behind anger. Building because my feelings have been building. Strong because my feelings are strong.”

“Are you pigheaded or insecure?” Riley snapped, getting angry.

“Do not turn this on me.”

“And why not? You are the one adding other variables to this equation, not me. I knew our trust issues were still there, but I didn’t think you trusted me so little that you don’t trust me to know myself. Reject me if you want, but don’t hide behind some excuse that I don’t know my own feelings to do so. That is just wrong.”

“I am not completely denying your feelings; I just believe mine have influenced you. You said yourself in New Mexico that you were worried about the influence of others’ emotions.”

“And you said that I would learn to control it. Also, why don’t I have feelings for Mike?”

“There is a lot we do not know about you Riley. You are completely unique. In our lifetime I do not know of another empath that comes even close to your power level, and I do not think you are just an empath either. We also know that we have a deeper connection that was proven by my being able to reach you when other’s can’t. That could be influencing you as well. I am thrilled at the idea of my feelings being returned, but I think we should be cautious.”



“Get the hell out of my home. You are unbelievable, and clearly have some issues of your own to sort. Issues I would be happy to help you with. But I will not sit here and be insulted and doubted because of them so go.”


“Go!” she yelled.

Ethan quickly made his way out, slamming the door. He passed Emily, Josh, and Mike on the way out.

“Hey, boss,” Mike said.

“Not now,” he growled at them and quickly left.

They all stared at him in shock and ran to the apartment. Riley was pacing around clearly angry, and they paused, confused and worried. Riley was filled with frustration, and anger as well as overwhelming heartbreak.

“What the hell happened?” Emily asked.

“I don’t even know how to explain it,” Riley said.

“I kind of thought tonight was going to be a date for you two,” Emily said approaching her. “That’s why we went out.”

“He told me that the feelings I had for him were just a byproduct of my being an empath and feeding off of his emotions,” Riley finally said.

The group was stunned into silence and more than a little anger. “He’s being dumb,” Josh said with a sigh. Riley only shrugged in reply.

Riley laid in bed that night staring at the ceiling, trying to decide what to do. Was it worth fighting with Ethan over, trying to get him to see better, or should she just give up? It was hard constantly feeling for him but also feeling like they were throwing roadblocks in their own way.

“Oh, empath, you are hurting again; I am so glad,” a familiar voice sounded in her head.

Riley sucked in a harsh breath and shot up.

“They forgot that I said I would never leave. It is not much of a link, but one I can use every so often. I wish I could do more with it, but they were effective in that way. Still, I am glad to know I can still torment you.”

“Go away.”

“That did not work before, why would I let it now when talking to you is the only source of amusement I have. Besides, I came to remind you.”

“Remind me of what?”

“That you couldn’t fully trust that man. You haven’t forgotten, have you?”

“No, but that was just you influencing me.”

“Was it?”

Riley paused, the doubt creeping in again. “Why should I believe you?”

“You shouldn’t, but it is not a matter of believing me. Doesn’t he do research?”

Riley’s heart started to race a little. She threw off the covers and quickly changed and called for a cab. When she got to the office, her hands were shaking, and a sick feeling was in her stomach. She let herself into Ethan’s office and pulled up his computer. She ignored the files he had told her about, and started to look through other pieces of research he had said he didn’t need help on.

As she looked, one folder seemed to call to her, and she opened it.

Empaths: The Mystery Behind These Rare Abilities


Ethan Hill

He was writing a book on empaths. It was the only reason he wanted her on the team. It was why he never trusted her. It was why he rejected her. She was here as a project, not a desired person.

Riley opened a tab and found a plane ticket for the next day. She left the title page of the book open when she left; he would sort out why she was leaving. She only hoped she could get enough packed and out of the apartment without waking Emily. She didn’t want anyone trying to stop her.

It was foolish, she thought, to think she had finally found a place for herself outside of her small town.

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