Sorry! I usually try to get one part out per day when I'm doing a series, but in the battle between writing and sleep, sleep won. The next part will be coming as soon as possible; I promise (just don't expect it tomorrow)! As always, I hope you enjoy!
I walked down to the living room from upstairs, spotting Riley sitting on the couch, a baseball game play on the TV. Six months had passed since that night on the porch. Summer vacation had ended and school was starting up again, which for me meant college. Quite a bit had changed since spring break; seeing Riley was an immediate reminder of that.
Though the boys had spent all summer at home, I could count the number of times I had seen them on one hand. To everyone's disliking, I was still with Dean, in a relationship that became more and more based on sex as time went on. It also grew to be based on solitude as well. No other guy was allowed to look at me, let alone talk to me. This especially included Jon's friends, but often included Dean's own friends as well.
Riley was a constant source of my arguments with Dean. While I didn't see or talk to him nearly as much as I would have liked, I outright refused to stop completely. Still, Dean did what he could: checked my phone, kept me out, followed me when I wasn't with him. He yelled and belittled. He hit. I worked hard to make sure Riley never found out that he did.
Dean seemed to be content with all the arguing and fighting since he thought make-up sex was the best kind. For me, I had found that no sex with him was the good kind. He always like to have as much control as possible, and was generally more concerned with his own pleasure than mine. I had never had an orgasm.
Most of the time that we fought, it was over something stupid I had done. I forgot to call him, it took me too long to get ready, I wasn't dressed sexy enough, I was dressed too sexy, I disagreed with him on something. If any of his friends even thought to flirt with me, even jokingly, he would get a fist in the face and I would get called a slut. Those were the nights he really seemed to get the most out of fucking me. The nights when he was calling me a slut and saying he was going to treat me like one.
Even while it was happening, I knew it was wrong. I knew it was something I needed to get away from completely, but I didn't. The truth, as I began to understand it, was that I was afraid. Not of Dean, of course, because I had a band of guys waiting for the right chance to beat him up standing behind me. I was afraid of refilling the distance he ripped between me and Riley.
As I hovered on the final step, staring at the back of Riley's head, I thought about having told him I loved him, and hearing him say it back. As much as I didn't understand how I meant the words, I understood his intention even less. For almost a week, the place where his lips touched my forehead burned, a calm, light, glowing burn, not unlike the way a sip of hot chocolate feels in your chest. Things in no way became awkward between us after that, as if we had done nothing more than confirm what the other had already known. It would be impossible, though, to deny that his words left me feeling relieved.
That relief and that warmth scared me, leaving me to wonder if I meant 'love' in the deepest, purest sense. Was I in love with Riley? Was I in love with the boy who swam with me in the shallow end of the lake, who played on my team for everything from beach volleyball to Left 4 Dead? The boy who saved me from my parents fights and picked me up when I got lost? I thought of prom, how good everyone said we looked together and how comfortable I felt on the dance floor with him. All those nights by the fire suddenly had so much more significance in my memory than they had to me when they happened. The answer I had come to in the weeks after that kiss on the forehead, was yes, I was in love with Riley.
The answer I had also come to was no, I couldn't be in love with Riley. The number of times he called me “punk” or “kid” or introduced me as his surrogate little sister ensured that. Surely, to him, I was still that twelve year old girl he threw in the lake fully clothed. Being with Dean ensured that I kept some distance from Riley, and that distance kept me sane, and kept me from falling any deeper than I already had. I couldn't risk Riley breaking my heart and changing everything.
Jon had already left for work, and let Riley come over to watch the previous night's game which he had recorded on our TV. We were the only ones in the house, and though I knew Dean was on his way to pick me up, and getting caught would be a continuation of the endless argument, I needed to take advantage of the few minutes I had to talk to the boy on my couch, the boy I couldn't be in love with.
Moving as slowly as I could off the last step and across the back of the room, I snuck up behind him. “Whatcha watching?” His whole body shifted as he jumped in surprise, whipping his head around to look at me.
“You little... that's not very nice you know. You're lucky I'm nice or you'd be in big trouble.”
“Oh yeah, what would you do, Mr. Police Academy Graduate? Arrest me?” I held my hands out in front of me with a playful pout on my face, as if waiting to be cuffed.
“Actually, I would do something more along the lines of...” before I realized that he was reaching for me, he had leaned backwards over the back of the couch, grabbed me around the middle and flipped me forward over him. With me halfway in his lap, he started to tickle me. For as long as Riley had known me, he had no problem finding the sweet spots.
I was thrashing around in seconds, but he was strong enough to hold me down – preventing himself from getting injured – and keep a steady jab at my ribs and stomach. “Riley... ah! No...Again with the tickling!” My laughter was uncontrollable. It bounced off the walls of the empty house and traveled through the open windows on either side of the front door. Shrieks of obvious amusement went with it. Desperately, I tried to push his hands away. “Riley! Stop...” more laughter, “this is not fair!” I tried to tickle him back, but it was useless. His body was far too solid for such things. “Okay, okay! I suck, I'm sorry. I'll never never never never never ever ever sneak up on you again.”
“Promise?” He spoke through gritted teeth, not allowing his hands to slow.
“Yes. Ah! Yes, yes I promise. I promise!” With a shrug, he let me go. I collapsed across him on the couch, trying to catch my breath while he laughed at me solidly. I gave him a playful scowl and stuck out my tongue.
Returning the gesture, Riley made no move to get me off of him. It had been a while since we had been so close in contact, but it was nothing strange for either of us. He was comfortable; I was euphoric. “So, what are you up to tonight?”
There was a slight hesitation before I answered. “I'm... hanging out with...”
“Gotcha.” Even the name was an annoyance to him. “Have I told you yet this week how much I don't like that guy?” I shook my head. It'd been almost two weeks since he'd last said this. “Well, in that case, you deserve so much better than that creep, Holls. I don't know how you've tolerated him for this long, to be honest. He and his friends are constantly getting brought into the police station for every possible stupid thing out there. Not to mention the way that he...”
His expression softened, and he offered me his hand, pulling me up to a seated position; I was sitting in his lap. He wrapped his hands around my waist, linking them at my side, to help keep me up at my weird angle. My heart jumped. “Okay. I know you don't like it when I talk about him like that, but... I told you before that I don't like you dating him, and I never will.” His green eyes were looking straight into mine, making my stomach flip. “I don't want you getting hurt.”
I jabbed him in the ribs, “So far today, you're the only one who's brought me any harm.” My expression was playful.
“Hey, don't give me that, Missy, you started it.”
“It's not my fault a grown man, a police officer, is so easily spooked. I just wanted to say 'hi'.” It was easy to see I was mocking him, teasing him, feigning absolute innocence.
Riley chuckled, giving me a shake. “Who are you calling a 'grown man'? Are you kidding? How much have I honestly changed since I was in high school?”
In terms of physical stature, he had changed a lot. Riley looked like a man, a well built, desirable man with all the sex appeal any guy could hope for. “Oh, and what, I'm still that twelve year old girl who used to follow behind you guys all the time?”
“No,” he answered quickly, a corner of his lip raising the smallest degree. “You're definitely not twelve years old anymore.”
Before I could let my brain give meaning to that statement that it didn't have, I sent it in a different direction. “You're right, twelve year old me would have been able to...” without further warning, I wrapped my arms around him and started grabbing at a spot on his lower back, just above the line of his jeans. It was the single ticklish spot on his body, one that, I was almost positive, no one knew about but me.
His body bucked as he mixed a surprised yell with a laugh, almost throwing me off of him. Still, I kept myself attached and continued my attack while I still could. Too soon, he began to retaliate, and I was losing ground.
Ready to admit defeat, I stopped tickling him and started to push myself away. “Oh no you don't. You don't get to run away after that cheap shot.” Ensuring that this was true, he pulled me close and wrapped his arms all the way around my body, tickling my ribs on the opposite side. There was nowhere to go, and he wasn't about to let me move. Our bodies were pressed as closed together as they could be, with me almost straddling him. Had I been able to breath, I may have been overcome by the sensation.
Still not giving up, he flipped him around and dropped us down onto the couch, turning so that we were lying with me between him and the backrest. Movement instantly became impossible, and it was all I could do to laugh and shriek pleading words at him louder than before.
“Get your hands off of her.” Dean was only a few feet away, looking at me in disgust. The new rush of air told me the front door stood open behind him. “Holly, let's go.” Riley stopped tickling me immediately and looked up with a similar expression of disgust.
I pushed myself away from him quickly and stood to move over toward my boyfriend, self-consciously straightening my hair. My attempt to kiss him on the cheek was interrupted when he dodged away from me. “I don't want any sloppy seconds.”
“Dean, come on, we were just...”
“Just shut up, Holly, and get in the fucking car.”
Riley was getting to his feet, looking more displeased. “Hey, you better watch how you talk to her, you worthless...”
“Riley...” I wanted to avoid any confrontation between the two as best as possible, my heart rising to my throat from the looks of pure hatred they both gave. “Don't worry about it, okay? Let's go, Dean.”
I tried leading him out the door, but he resisted, dodging away from my hand as if it were something foul. “Don't touch me, you slut.”
“Dean, I swear to God, if you...”
“Riley, please...” I tried again, but it was useless.
Dean pushed me out of the way, keeping himself between me and Riley. “You got something to say to me?”
Though Riley normally stood up straight, he somehow managed to raise himself in such a way that he grew even taller. Something dark seemed to gleam in his eye as Dean moved me, and he stepped forward. “You do not talk to her like that, and you better not ever ever lay a fucking hand on her again.”
“I'll touch her whenever I damn well please. Don't get in my face just because you're jealous that you don't get to fuck her.”
“You're the only one here looking for a fuck, ass hole.”
Before I understood what was happening, Dean grabbed me and pulled me against him, pinning my arms down. My heart raced in my chest, things moving too quickly to make sense. “I guess there isn't much to be jealous of, anyway.”
“Let her go!” His voice was pure venom, but he stopped moving forward.
Dean's hand dropped to the base of my skirt. “I mean, she's pretty tight, but other than that... look at her.” He was lifting my skirt up, his hand sliding roughly along my bare skin. “Who would want her?”
Riley started forward, but caught himself, not yet blind enough in his hatred to risk getting that close with me in the middle. “Get your hands off of her right now!”
“Fuck you, Riley.” Dean's voice was terrifyingly calm. “You're going to tell me what I should do with my girlfriend. I don't think so.”
“Only a complete pussy would use a girl as a shield. Let her go and fight me like the big shot man you think you are.” The second Dean threw me to the floor, Riley had him by the throat, slamming him into the wall next to the door. “I'm going to fucking kill you, you worthless piece of shit.” The words came out as little more than a growl, but were not lacking in ferocity.
“Riley, stop.” I stood quickly and latched myself onto his free arm. The look in his eye was terrifying, and I wasn't sure how far he was going to go. “Please.”
Breathing heavily, eyes wild, Riley looked down at me, “Give me one good reason not to kill him, Holls.”
“Because you're better than that.” I reasoned as best I could, fighting my own desire to see exactly what Riley was hoping to do to Dean. But I know, deep down, once they start hitting it would be hard for either of them to stop. “You guys don't need to fight, okay? I'm fine. Everything's fine.” He wasn't convinced. “I'm asking you to please not do this.” Hesitantly, Riley released his grip and began to step away.
Too quickly, Dean's arms were around me again, pinning me to him around the middle, but purposely facing me towards Riley. “I knew you'd be on my side, baby.” His lips scratched behind my ear.
I pushed against him, annoyed more than afraid. “Dean, stop...”
“I think it's time to go, Holly.” He started walking us towards the door. “As much as I'd love to stay and play with Riley a little more, I have a date with my girlfriend.”
“She's not going with you!” We were halfway out the door, Riley matching our steps inch for inch.
Finally raising the edge of fear in me, Dean chuckled, a deep short chuckle that said he knew exactly how much trouble he was causing, and only planned to cause more. It said he was in control, and he knew it. “I think she is, and I think, if you know what's good for her, you'll wait here like a good little dog for me to decide when it's time for her to come home.” The sidewalk was underneath us now, his car getting closer and closer.
Riley hesitated, taking in Dean's words and conflicted on how to react; his face said he was pained and sorry. It was exactly what Dean wanted. “I'll be okay, Riley.” I wanted desperately to reassure him. “Don't worry. I'm just going to go with him for now, and then I'll be back. I'll be fine.”
“Shut up!” Dean shook me, making Riley take a quick step forward, but only one. “You know what you're problem is? You're problem is that she's always just out of reach, and you can't save someone you just can't get to.” The driver's side door was open and he pushed me inside, keeping a hold on my wrist. “If you weren't so worried about hurting her, you might have actually helped her.” He shoved me to the side and sat down, slamming the door.
Just as he turned the key, Riley ran for the passenger door and grabbed at the handle, not knowing the door was broken and couldn't open from the outside. “Holly!” Dean had me pinned against him, and I there was nothing I could do to fight against his weight.
“Don't worry, I'll have her home by midnight.” Departing words. He slammed his foot down on the accelerator, leaving Riley behind on the sidewalk, his hand stretched out as if he were still trying to pull open the door.
“He'll follow us.”
“Don't be a fucking moron. Did you see his car at your house?” I knew the answer without having to think about it. Riley's apartment was only a little over a mile away from our house. With the weather still nice, he would have walked or biked over, but not have taken out his car. “And don't go thinking that he knows where I live. I never tell anyone that.”
“You have a criminal record.”
“With my mommy and daddy's address on it. That apartment isn't in my name, so don't worry, we'll have plenty of alone time.” The words weren't even teasingly sarcastic. They were bitter with an underlying promise of 'alone time' being anything but good.
Before I knew it, a retort crossed my lips. “You don't have to be such an ass hole.”
Pushing me away from him, he whacked me in the back of the head. “Watch how you talk to me, you useless, ugly bitch.”
I looked to the floor of the car, trying to keep my breathing under control. “Dean, take me home.”
“Stupid fucking slut.”
“Dean, take me home.” Despite the tears rising in my eyes, I managed to push the words out with confidence.
“No, I don't think I will. We had a date tonight and I want to keep it.” Just then, my phone rang. The tone told me exactly who it was, but I could have guessed anyway. “Don't even think about answering that.” From his tone, he had been able to guess to. For the absolute first time, despite all the yelling matches and fights we had had before, I was completely scared of him.
Within minutes, we pulled into the dark parking lot to the apartment that was completely off the radar of anyone who would try looking for me. Before I could grab the handle of my own door, he wrapped his hand around my arm and dragged me out the driver door. “We have lots and lots to talk about.”
The second we were inside, he pulled me to his bedroom and threw me to the wall, planting himself inches away. He started yelling. Slut. Whore. Bitch. Skank. Useless. The words flew from his mouth. I had let Riley put his hands all over me. I was rolling around on the couch with him. I would have let him fuck me if Dean hadn't showed up. I was ungrateful. Easy. Cheap.
My heart beat rapidly, but I put forth all effort to keeping myself calm, relatively speaking. Talking back was always a mistake, but his rage showed how much more than a mistake it would actually be. Angered mixed with my fear. I held it in.
When my phone rang again, he slapped me. The third time he slammed me into the wall. Finally, he ripped my phone from my pocket and threw it to the other side of the room. “Don't...” It came out before I could stop myself.
“What was that?” He slammed me against the wall. “What did you say?” Slapped me across the face. “Maybe I should remind you who you're boyfriend is. What do you think about that?” Grabbing me solidly by the arm, he whipped me backwards, making me trip and fall onto his bed. He was walking toward me.
“No.” Disoriented, my attempted to roll away from him only got me wrapped in the sheets. “No, Dean!” He clasped a hand over my mouth and lowered the weight of his body against mine. “Stop it!” I screamed against his palm, pounding my hands against his chest. My efforts did nothing.
Once I realized there was no way I could fight him off, I closed my eyes and willed myself away. Every few minutes, the muffled tone of my phone broke through to my thoughts making Riley's face come in to view. Why had I pushed him away?
There was no concept of time in that room, leaving me unable to even grasp how much time had passed between the fight at my house and when I was left lying there, naked, trying desperately not to cry. Dean sat near his window, smoking a cigarette. “Get the fuck out.” He finally said, not even looking at me. “We're done.” Just like that. I got up slowly and pulled on my clothes, feeling sore all over. Even after I stopped fighting, he had been extraordinarily rough. I would no doubt have bruises before morning if they hadn't already begun to form.
A foul taste hung in my mouth as I realized how filthy I felt. Vile and disgusting. Finally grabbing my phone from the corner of his room, I rushed from the room, out the apartment and into the air.
It was dark, making me not want to walk the three miles home by myself, but I also had no money and didn't want Riley or Jon to see me as I was. There was not doubt in my mind as to how I looked, and no doubt what them seeing me would bring about. Instead, I walked to a bar a few blocks over where I had been several times with the boys. If I remembered correctly, one of them even worked there, though it was unlikely he would see me.
Walking in the door, I bumped into someone. Looking up, I saw he was a larger guy with a lot of facial hair. Even so, he didn't look too much older than my brother. “Sorry,” I mumbled, keeping my head down and continuing on my way. The first thing I did was slip into the bathroom to fix myself up as best I could, splashing cold water on my face and running my fingers through my tangled hair, ripping more than untangling. Fifteen minutes later, I was satisfied and headed back out to the bar. Tim stood behind the counter. I was about to call out to him, but stopped myself, suddenly afraid of how I still looked and who Riley might have called trying to find me.
Instead, I roamed into the crowd, trying to find a quiet place to call Jon so that he would come pick me up. Finding a relatively free spot, I flipped open my phone. Before I could even begin dialing John's number, I saw the message on my phone. “21 Missed Class: Riley”. It was all I needed to make me realize Jon was not the one I wanted to pick me up. Despite my fear of Riley's reaction, I needed it to be him.
I cleared the message and started typing in Riley's number. Just before I hit the green call button, someone stepped closer to me. “Hey there, kitty. All on your own tonight?” It was the same guy I had knocked into on my way in. In a strange way, he had an air of familiarity about him.
“N-no...” My voice was shaky, and I focused on keeping my thoughts singular and not slipping back to any of the events from the night. “My brother is around her somewhere.” Before waiting for a response from him, I hit the call button and started moving away. It only rang once.
“Hey, Holly. Are you okay?” His voice was instantly concerned.
I took a deep breath and hoped my words would come out clearly. “I'm fine, just...”
“Come on, cutie, don't be like that. I think I know someone who would love to see you.” His hand was on my arm pulling me back towards him.
“Let me go.” I pulled away sharply and remembered my phone. “Riley?”
His voice changed to a deeper concern with an edge of anger. “Who is that? Who's there with you?”
The guy leaned toward me so that his face was very near the microphone of my cell, almost as if he were trying to speak straight into it. “Let's have some fun, baby. Put that phone away.” He was grabbing at me, trying to wrap an arm around my waist.
“What's going on?” Riley's voice raised to panic.
“Get off of me!” I pushed the guy further away as hard as I could and finally got a full look at his face. Immediately, I understood why he seemed familiar. “Oh my God.” He was Dean's older brother. Back peddling, I headed straight for the closest door.
“Holly talk to me. What is going on?” I looked behind me, relieved to see the guy didn't follow.
“I need a ride.” It took all of what was left of my control to speak clearly and calmly. He was obviously getting worked up as it was. When I got to the back of the bar, I pushed through the large, steal door and went outside into an abandoned portion of the parking lot surrounded by other abandoned buildings. It was a bit bigger than an alley way, but not by much.
“Holly, what happened? Are you okay? What's going on? Where are you?” There were too many questions, but through them I could hear that he was getting up and getting ready to leave. Through the phone, I heard the front door close and the jingle of keys.
“I'm...yeah... Dean and I were fighting and...” The words stuck in my throat and refused to come out.
“Did he hit you?”
“No,” I lied.
“Is he with you?”
“No...no. I'm by myself.”
“Who were you talking to?”
“I don't...” I couldn't lie again. “It was Dean's brother. I just ran into him, and he started grabbing at me. I'm at the Last Chance.”
“That bar on Church Street?” It sounded like he was moving faster.
“Yeah, that one.”
He was in his car and the engine started. “Listen, this is not a good time to be in that neighborhood, especially for you. You shouldn't be there by yourself. Is Dean's brother still around?”
“No. I don't know where he went.”
“Is Tim working tonight?”
“Stay inside and stay by him. I'll be there in five minutes. Do you want me to stay on the phone with you until I get there?”
I was shaking my head before realizing he couldn't see that through the phone. “No,” I said out loud. “It's fine. I'll be fine. I'll go back inside right now and stay close to Tim.”
“Okay,” he didn't sound to be in too much of a hurry to let me off the phone. “Five minutes. Stay inside; I'll come in and get you... and maybe break that guy's arm.”
Just as I was about to reiterate my promise to do what he asked, the back door swung open. “Shit.” My hand dropped slightly, lowering the phone from my ear as I saw the person walking towards me. On the other end of the phone, Riley was calling to me, but I couldn't understand his words. “What do you want, Dean?”
“Holly!” With the single word, I recognized his slur. Less than half an hour had passed since I'd been in his room, but he was already drunk. “Just the girl I was looking for. You know... when my brother called and told me you were here, I realized there were a few things I forgot to tell you.”
“Get away from me...” My voice was far from demanding, too drained to be strong.
“Hmm... you know, I think you'll really really want to hear this. It'll really explain some things that I don't think you fully understood.” I stepped back as far as I could, stupidly putting my back against a brick wall. “You really are a fucking dumb shit. A back alley, by yourself, at night. How much dumber could you get?”
“What do you want?!” It was a nightmare. Worse.
“Just to explain why a guy like me would be caught dead with a stupid bitch like you. It was prom, remember, when I first saw you, hanging all over Riley like he was God's gift to women, and man do I hate Riley. And then I find out, not only were you and Mr. Do-Gooder close, but you were Jon Winters' kid sister. Two for one. I could piss both of them off at once. I corrupted the innocent little girl they had tagging along, and even took her away from them. You are so fucking stupid if you ever thought I actually gave a shit about you. You were only good for stories to tell my friends.” He kept walking forward, but I had nowhere to go. Too soon, he was only inches away.
The phone now hung limply from my fingers, yet to be closed. “Okay, so I was nothing. I am nothing. You said what you wanted to say...”
“You know... I haven't really decided if I want to be done with you or not. You were good for a personal little emotional punching bag. You just always came back for more.” He put his hand on the wall next to my head. I closed my eyes and could only think, 'not again. Not twice in one night'.
White lights reddened my vision, and I opened my eyes to find a car spinning around the corner into the alley. The tires squealed, making Dean turn over his shoulder just as a figured, outlined behind the bright lights, stepped from the car.
“I'm going to rip your fucking throat out, Dean!” The intensity in Riley's voice was even more frightening than it had been earlier.
“Easy there tiger. Wouldn't want to risk this one getting hurt or anything, now would we?” He moved closer, putting his hands on my waist.
“Holly, get in the car.” The anger was deeply rooted in his voice.
Dean gripped tighter, pulling me up against him. “Aw, come one. We're not quite done playing yet. You're really going to ruin our fun?” Struggling against him did nothing, he only held tighter. My own eyes found Riley's furious ones, desperate for any amount of reassurance.
He stepped closer, leaving the door open and the car running. “This is your last chance to get your fucking hands off of her.”
“Mmm... and if I don't?”
Riley covered the area between us in less strides than should have been possible. Grabbing Dean by the shoulder, he pulled him off of me easy and slammed him solidly against the brick wall, pinning him by the throat with his forearm. “If you don't, I rip your fucking throat out.” His breathing was labored, intensified by his anger. “Holly, get in the car.”
“What are you going to...”
“Get. In. The car.” Not willing to argue with him, I slowly moved away, not taking my eyes off of them as I backed toward the car, my shadow playing against the wall and across they faces. “I told you not to hurt her, to never ever lay your hands on her.”
“You can have the bitch. I don't need her anymore.”
Rearing back, Riley hit him square in the gut. Once. Twice. “Riley!” I couldn't let him lose control. It was a stupid thing to do. He's attention broke to me for only a second, but it was a second too much. Pushing him off, Dean took a swing, narrowly missing Riley's jaw. Quick to retaliate, Riley took a swing of his own, landing right on target, and threw Dean back into the wall.
Too much was going on, one pushed, the other pushed back. One hit, the other hit back. I stood rooted in place, unable to do anything more than watch. Finally, Riley pulled back and hit Dean square in the temple, throwing him off balance and to the ground. He spat, clearing the blood from his mouth.
Picking him up by his shift collar, Riley pulled their faces in close. “You don't come near her ever again or Jon, Me, Tim... all of us... we will kill you.” Another hit to the face. “And we'll take our time.” A final blow before throwing in against the wall and letting him slump to the ground.
Riley stood and turned slowly, catching me staring at him, wide-eyed and breathless. “Get in the car, Holly.” He said one last time, voice rough and breathing heavy, still furious.
I clung to the seat, trying to not look as the road whizzed by faster than it should have. “Riley?” I breathed out, pushing through my panic. His jaw was set in a definitive line, and his eyes didn't leave the road for even a second. “Riley...” I tried again, this time with a bit more conviction.
“Give me a second, Holls.” I nodded, knowing he couldn't see me, and continued to watch his face. Finally, we began to slow. Until that moment, I was not aware of what direction we had been heading. Then it was obvious that we were pulling up to his apartment complex. He pulled into a spot and killed the engine, but made no movement to get out. His breaths were deep and forced. “Are you okay?” He finally asked, slowly. It was hard to see him in the darkness, but the shadows made him even more frightening.
“Yes,” I answered truthfully, “but you're scaring me.”
He sighed heavily and took a few more deep breaths before turning to look at me. His green eyes had softened with concern, and there was very little left to frighten me. “I'm so sorry, Holls.” Even in the given circumstance, I loved it when he called me that. “I am. I'm usually a lot more even tempered, but that...” He couldn't find the proper word to describe Dean the way he wanted. “I should have made sure you were okay earlier, but I was worried that if you started to cry or started telling me what really happened, I wouldn't be able to stop myself from going back there and...” He shook his head, unable to finish what he wanted to say. “Do you want me to take you home?”
Too quickly, I shook my head. Jon was the last person I wanted to see me in my current state. Riley was bad enough; the pair of them would be a million times worse. “Okay, come upstairs then and warm up.” He opened his door and got out; I did the same. Before I could take a step away from the car, his arms were around me, holding me tighter than I ever remembered, clutching me to his body. Instinctively, I buried my face against his chest as he wrapped one arm around my lower back and the other near my neck, his head dropping down nearer mine.
The quivers from his chest told me he was either near tears or still shaking with anger. “I'm sorry, Holls,” he whispered into my hair. The warmth of his breath caused goosebumps to grow up and down my arms. “You're safe now. I promise you're safe. I'm never going to let him hurt you again. I promise.” His arms were so strong and warm. I tacitly believed him. “I'm so sorry.”
I wanted words to come, something to tell him he didn't need to be sorry, but my brain was too foggy and clouded with emotions I couldn't understand. “Come on, let's get you inside.” He pulled away from our hug and wrapped an arm around my shoulders, keeping me close and leading me into the building.
Once we got in, he closed and locked the door behind us. For some reason, being in his apartment made me feel even worse, almost like I was walking into the home of someone I had just cheated on. He started to say something to me, but I cut him off, “Do you mind if I take a shower?”
He was watching me, rather intently, and most likely noticed the change that rippled through me. “Of course,” he spoke gently, giving my shoulder a small squeeze, “go on into the bathroom, I'll get you something to change into.”
As I stepped away from him, he seemed almost reluctant to let go; his grip lingering for only a fraction of a second longer than necessary. I was in the bathroom for less than a minute before he walked in with a pair of his shorts and a t-shirt for me. “They'll probably be a bit big for you, but they're clean.”
Taking them from him, I felt even more saddened. An 'I told you so' would have been deserved from him, but I couldn't imagine that even crossing his mind. Instead, he was doing everything he could to take care of me after Dean proved that everything Riley had ever said about him was all too true. I tried to say thank you, but where could I even begin? Before I could even open my mouth -- “You can use the towel on the rack, and the wash cloth on top of it. I just put them out, haven't used them yet... I'll leave you alone. Take as long as you need.” – he walked out and closed the door behind him.
I set the water to a comfortable level and started the shower, stripping off my clothes and stepping into the tub. The water felt good as I began to scrub myself, but all at once it was not good enough. Dean's face came into view and I scrubbed harder, turning the hot water up a bit more. There were red patches on my skin where I scrubbed, and the heat of the water was almost too much, but I needed it.
Then, I could hear Dean's voice, the names that he called me and the vile things he grunted into my ear while he fucked me. I could feel him hitting me, touching me. I could feel the weight of his body on top of mine. All at once, I was crying, having to lean up against the side of the shower to support my own weight. Then I was falling, sliding, my body slowly slumping toward the base of the tub until I curled myself into a ball, bringing my knees up to my chest and burying my face in them, sobbing uncontrollably.
The hot water rained down on me as I sat, naked and vulnerable. Had five minutes passed since I had collapsed? Ten? All I could do was cry as the room filled with steam, wrapping me in a blanket of warmth that provided no warmth.
There was a knock, just one, gentle and timid. “Holly?” A tiny creak and an even smaller surge of cool air told me the door was cracked. “Holly, are you okay?”
The sound of his voice was calming, reminding me that I wasn't alone. “I'll be done in a second, Riley.” My voice was clearly choked and shaken with my sobs, something I knew he couldn't not notice.
I could feel his hesitation as he lingered near the door. “Alright. I'll be out here waiting, but take your time.” His words were purely without subtext. He was not annoyed or trying to rush me. Instead, he was only telling me that he would be there when I got out. He would be waiting to comfort me.
It was only a minute after he closed the door again that I turned off the water and stepped from the shower, wrapping his towel around me. Looking down at my hands, I saw how pruned the skin was. No wonder he was worried, I must have been in for a lot longer than I had been aware of. Once I was dry, I pulled on the shorts and t-shirt he had lent me. As the shirt came over my head, I noticed how strongly it smelled of him, giving me a tickle of warmth that had nothing to do with the foggy air.
When I emerged, he was sitting on the couch in the living room, looking disheartened and concerned. He looked up at me as I walked in and attempted to give me a comforting smile, though it came out quite pained. Without hesitation, I went and sat beside him where he wrapped his arms around me and pulled me against his chest. His fingers massaged their way through my wet tangles, calming me significantly. His body was warm and comforting, welcoming.
“What happened tonight, Holly?” There was reluctance, as if he were asking a question to which he did not want to know the answer. I had my own reluctance, but slowly, word by word, the entire story started to fall out of my mouth. Halfway through, I was crying again, causing him to hold me closer, though, from the sound of his breathing, he was close to tears himself. I could feel his heart beat against his ribs and the sound was soothing. He stroked my hair and ran his fingers up and down my arm as I spoke, relaxing me even more.
Once everything was out, he pressed his lips against the top of my head, not kissing, but simply resting himself there. It brought a whole new wave of emotions and guilt, making me wish I were still scrubbing myself in the shower. An uncomfortable feeling rose in my chest. “Today wasn't the first time he hit you, was it?” The words were calm and even, but I could feel the fury behind them.
“I'm sorry, Riley,” I choked out, unable to properly answer the question. Even more, I felt that he already knew what it was. His hand tensed into a fist on my arm.
“You have nothing to be sorry about, Holls. You've done nothing wrong.” He looked down at me and moved his hand under my chin, urging it up gently. Our eyes met for the first time since I stepped out of the shower. His own eyes were stained red with tears, though it didn't look like he had allowed any to escape down his face. “You have done absolutely nothing wrong,” he said again, slowly, as if explaining something very important.
“I should have listened to you and to everyone else, you all have been telling me that...”
“Shh,” he moved his hand to the side of my face, his thumb covering my lips. “It doesn't matter.”
I started to protest, “But what if you get into trouble for what...”, but he shook his head.
“It doesn't matter. Just know that I'm never letting you out of my sight again.” A smile flickered to his lips, showing me that he was teasing.
“I think I'm okay with that.” I snuggled closer to him, finally feeling at ease. There was more I wanted to say. I wanted to tell him how sorry I was that he had to take care of me, sorry that he might get into trouble for what happened. Sorry that I hadn't listened to him in the first place. Yet, I felt that everything could wait.
Leaning forward, he pressed his lips against my forehead. “I'm just so glad you're okay. I mean, I know you... but you're here. You're back and safe.”
“And sleepy.” Until the words slipped out, I hadn't even realized how true they were.
“You're always sleepy.” I knew immediately that he was referring to the wide range of times I had fallen asleep on him, and couldn't help but smile.
“It's your fault for being so comfy and warm.” My body was relaxing in to his, slowly, yet without restraint.
He chuckled shortly. “I'll be sure to stop that immediately.” A sigh escaped his lips as I dropped my head against his chest, desperately wanting to hear his heartbeat again. “Do you still not want to go home?” There was a hint of strain in his voice as he whispered the words.
Nothing short of him telling me to leave could have made me go. “If you don't want me to stay...”
“Didn't I just say I wasn't going to let you out of my sight? I called Jon while you were in the shower to let him know you were here, so if you want to stay, you are more than welcome to for however long you want.”
Pulling my knees up onto the couch, I slumped ever further against him. “For the night?” Saying it out loud made me nervous and self conscious, but he had to know my intentions were purely innocent.
“If that's the plan, kid, we should probably get you settled before you fall asleep out here and I have to carry you to bed. I'll take the couch tonight.”
I started to sit up, feeling even worse about how far out of his way he kept having to go for me. “I can sleep on the couch.”
“Nope nope nope.” Putting his fingers against his ears, he turned away from me. “La, la, la, la, I can't hear you!”
“Really? You're how old?” I grabbed at his arm, trying to pull his hands away from his ears. “Riley... You're being ridiculous.” Suddenly, the mood was completely lightened, and all the problems of the night seemed a million miles away, simply because Riley acted as if he hadn't a care in the world. “Fine, well, as long are you're not listening, you won't care if I say that I'm just going to go outside and sleep in your car to make sure I don't trouble you any more than I already have tonight. So I'll just see you later.” I stood as if about to leave.
The second I turned away, arms came around my middle, “not so fast.” Just as effortlessly as he had when I was twelve, he picked me up and slung me over his shoulder. “Looks like I'm carrying you to bed.” With his arms wrapped around his thighs, he moved toward the bedroom.
“I thought you weren't listening.” Between his shoulder being lodged in my gut and the blood rushing to my head, my voice came out strained.
“I have ESP. Can be quite inconvenient sometimes, especially if you're trying to ignore someone who is just talking nonsense.” We reached his small bed room, and he immediately plopped me down onto the bed.
To my great displeasure, I let out a groan of pain as my back hit the mattress. All of the laughter drained from Riley's face. “Oh God, are you okay? I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to... I didn't even think...” He was frantic, desperate to apologize. In an instant, he looked ready to cry, eyes full of guilt.
“It's okay. I'm fine. I landed on a sore spot, that's all.”
“...Can I see?”
“Riley, it's not a big...”
“Please, Holly. Just let me see.” I understood immediately that, for whatever reason, it was something he needed.
Sitting up fully, I moved over on the edge of the bed to give him room to sit next to me. He was hesitant before lowering himself down. With my back to him, I grabbed the bottom hem of my shirt and pulled it upward, exposing my back to him. I knew, from experience, the blocks and lines of bruises that would be starting to form. “Oh...” He breathed sharply, and I watched him over my shoulder as his eyes scanned every inch of my bared skin.
Slowly, he reached forward and placed the very tips of his finger across my spine, tracing the outline of purpling skin. He barely brushed a few inches before pulling his hand away sharply and closing his eyes. It wasn't until I lowered my shirt and turned back to face him that he opened them again, tears far too obvious in them as he hung his head. “How could anyone hurt you, Holls? I just can't understand that.”
He wasn't looking for an answer, not one that could be expressed in words, anyway, and it was all I could do to wipe a tear from his face. “Payback for all the zombies killed in the making of my high scores, I guess.”
“How can you joke, Holls? After everything tonight...”
Leaning forward, I put my forehead up against his. “I can joke because my big brother's best friend makes me feel safe. I know that as long as he's here for me, things will be okay, and I trust him more than anyone else in the world.”
He sighed. “I feel the same way about my best friend's little sister.”
I chuckled lightly at his response, feeling vaguely as though we had had the exchange before. “You feel safe with me?” I teased, referring to how small and nonthreatening I was.
“Absolutely. Safe to be myself and to be honest. Safe to make mistakes. Safe to...” He stopped, but rather than wonder what he was about to say, I focused on keeping my heart steady. I needed to keep my thoughts in the right place.
“Safe to go into a zombie apocalypse and come out alive?”
“You and your zombies.”
“It's a safe topic, I guess.”
“You are so not twelve years old anymore.”
I was laughing lightly. “In what ways are you referring?”
“Several.” I looked at him in a way that said he needed to go on. “You can actually functionally play video games, you dive off the dock, I have photographic evidence that shows you wore a dress...”
The last one left me chuckling. “Anything else?”
He paused, chewing his words. “One more.”
I gave him a second to go on, but he didn't. “And that would be?”
His lips pressed against mine suddenly, sending all the air from my chest. Just as quickly, his hand found the back of my neck, pulling me closer to him. Without hesitation, and without allowing myself time to think, I returned his kiss, eagerly. His lips were sweet and gently firm. I pulled him closer.
Shyly, his tongue brushed against my lips, as if unsure, but I met it with my own, hoping he would understand that as encouragement. Rising to my knees to turn myself more towards him, I was surprised when he hands found my thighs and slid me up against him, my legs on either side of his, and pulled me back down. Our lips never separated as his kissing intensified and deepened, tongues exploring each other's mouths.
One hand weaved through my hair as the other braced my lower back, keeping me against him, as if I would ever consider wanting to leave. I couldn't think, not knowing what to do with myself, continually moving my hands across his back, arms, neck, through his hair. He rocked gently, rubbing himself up against me through the thin fabric of my shorts. I met his movement, immediately intoxicated by the sensation. With his palm flat on my lower back, he guided me, bringing me down and in, slowly, sensually.
Letting out a sigh against my lips, he lifted me slightly and lowered me backwards onto the bed, never allowing his body to lose contact with mine for even a second. He lay on top of me, body still between my legs. With my knees pulled up, the loose legs of the shorts slid down toward my hips, exposing more of my skin to him. Still kissing me deeply, he gripped my thigh in one hand, sliding along my smooth leg until his fingers brushed just under the short legs. Without venturing any farther, he lifted his hand and resettled it on my covered hip, this time toying with the hem of my shirt.
My hopes alone of what he planned to do were enough to elicit a small moan. He began rocking against me again, very lightly, while slipping his hand underneath my shirt on onto my bare stomach. His skin was erotically warm against my own, and I pulled him closer, gripping onto his t-shirt as if it were my final lifeline.
His hand slid further up, slowly following every curve until just below my breast, then back downward. Our lips pressed together with more force, almost frantically. Once his fingers came back to my hip, he gripped me with both hands and rocked me downward against him. His firm body pushed against me in all the right places and I wrapped my fingers further into his shirt, maintaining what bit of self control I had left to keep from calling out. Not loosening his grip, he rocked me downward again, bringing himself up to meet me.
“Uh!” No longer able to hold it in, I moaned against his lips.
Quickly, too quickly, he pushed himself away from me, “shit...” and stood from the bed. “Oh, shit. That didn't just... that... Shit.” Covering his face with his hand and shaking his head, he started toward the door. “Goodnight, Holly.”
Torn from my euphoria, I couldn't understand what had just happened, only that he was walking away. “Wait! Riley, I'm sorry. Please don't go.”
“Just go to sleep, Holls. I'll be on the couch.”
“Wait! Don't go. Please. Don't leave me alone. Not tonight. Please.” He stood in the doorway, weight slightly forward as if he were readying himself to leave at any moment. “You can't let me out of your sight, right?” A wavering smirk raised the smallest portion of his lip, and he settled himself back onto his heels.
“Sounds about right.” His tone gave the feeling of defeat, yet not unpleasantly. “Just... let me shower, okay. Five minutes and then I'll be right back.” I nodded, still trying to maintain my composure, and watched him leave the room.
Nothing made sense. What had just happened? I spent the first couple minutes of his shower hitting my head against the pillow, trying to straighten out at least one thought. When that didn't work, I flipped off the light and curled myself into a ball. He was mad at me. He had to be. Was he in the shower washing me off of him the way I had washed Dean off of me? Unable to take the thoughts, I squeezed my eyes as tightly as I could and silently begged for sleep. “Holly?” His voice was soft in the darkness. I heard his bare feet on the carpet as he walked into the room. I did not open my eyes.
The mattress shifted underneath me as he sat and then lowered himself down onto the bed, laying on his side toward me. “I know you're still awake. You breathe differently when you sleep.” He smelled like perfection, and I couldn't ignore him.
Opening my eyes, I saw him looking right back at me, his every feature gentle and kind. There was no anger or annoyance. It was the same face I had known for years. “I thought you might not come back in.”
His hands closed around mine, bringing them close to his chest.“I'm right here.” His nearness was comforting, though my head was spinning in confusion and conflicting feelings. My lips tingled, my heart was unsteady; I didn't know what to do. One of his hands found my cheek and brushed the hair off of my face, making me feel light. “Just go to sleep, Holls.” The soft voice, just as it had always been. “I'll be right here.”
Closing my eyes, it didn't take long before I felt myself being dragged into sleep. Slowly, my body grew limp, but he still held firmly onto my hand, a constant reminder that he was still there for me.
Dean grabbed me, pulling me away forcefully, screaming things at me that I couldn't hear, before throwing me to the ground. His brother stood over me, too, smiling in the most frightening way. Scrambling, I tried backing away, but immediately hit a wall. They came forward, closer and closer, both starting to laugh.
I jolted awake, immediately recognizing where I was but still feeling exposed. “Riley?” I whispered gently, desperately hoping he wouldn't refuse what I was about to ask. “Riley, will you hold me? You can say no if you want, and...”
“Come here.” There was no hesitation and no annoyance. There was only concern. He opened his arms and pulled me into him. Flat on his back, he guided my head to his chest and secured me in his arms. Draping my arm over him, I couldn't help but sigh in relief. The warmth of his body, the solidness of his arms, it was exactly what I needed. He ran his fingers through my hair and slowly massaged the nape of my neck. “I told you I'd always be here to hold you. I'm never letting you go.”
Still confused, my lips still tingling, I fell asleep.