Avery helped David with the dishes and Riley took a bowl of ice cream out to Abby who was leaning against the railing on the porch.
"I hope you like vanilla." She said, offering the bowl.
"My favorite actually." She smiled gently as she tasted it.
"Abby…" Riley sat on the porch swing, "I think I'm ready to talk now."
"Riley you don't have to…"
"I know, but I need to." She closed her eyes, "I feel like it's…it's festering inside me. I have to bleed the wound you know?"
"Honestly? No, I don't know what you mean." Abby sat next to the troubled woman and lay her ice cream aside.
"It's like getting a snake bite…you have to get the poison out or…or you could lose a part of you…forever…" Her gaze was distant as her words faded to a whisper.
"Riley what they did to you is something horrific. Cupids train vigorously to keep this exact thing from happening." Abby pulled her knees to her chest and sighed heavily, "Energy Arrows are meant to hit the heart. They amplify the emotions there, and bring the truth…the realization of love, to the forefront. If we miss…we can amplify other emotions. In some cases this can even lead to suicide or insanity."
"Abby I…I was engaged." Riley began, "Her name was Gwen Donovan." Abby frowned in confusion.
"My last name used to be Harper. I had it changed after…after she…." Tears spilled down the older woman's face.
"Riley…" Abby breathed instinctively, taking her into her arms and holding her tightly.
"She was murdered. The bullet was meant for me but…" The sobs cut off the rest and Abby felt her own heart breaking for the strong woman crumbling before her. They stayed that way for some time before Riley calmed enough to continue.
"I've done horrible things Abby…I've killed people. I killed the ones that murdered her." She pushed away from the young cupid, "I saw it all, over and over again. It was like loosing her infinitely." She buried her hands in her hair and took a deep shaking breath. Abby rested a tentative hand on Riley's back.
"Riley I have no words to…"
"Abby today…I shouldn't have left you alone with Avery like that. I'm so sorry, I just…I went to her grave." Riley interrupted.
"Avery mentioned a grave when we arrived." Riley looked up with surprise.
"I didn't think she'd tell you about that."
"She didn't really, as I said; you all really should have asked me if I knew sign language." Abby offered a hesitant smile. Riley smiled weakly.
"I see…I go there sometimes when something is bothering me. Sometimes I can feel her there…" She trailed off once more.
"You love her very much." Abby said gently.
"Yes." She nodded, "She was such a huge part of my life…and losing her…she was my compass, my heart, my world…and to be taken from me like that…I don't know how…I want to explain but…" Riley stopped talking and stared at her feet.
"Riley, I know this is painful for you. I really don't want to make you relive this…again…" Abby murmured the last word sadly and pulled away.
"Abby?" Riley looked up with confusion swimming in her tear filled eyes.
"I'm sorry Riley; my parents never should have gotten you involved in this." Abby stood at the railing and gripped it tightly, her eyes dark and angry. Riley stood and gently laid a hand on the younger girls shoulder.
"Abby…you can't blame yourself for…"
"Riley you can't even see the energy! How are you supposed to defend yourself against them let alone me?" Abby asked heatedly. Riley removed her hand as if she'd been burned.
"Riley, I'm tired. It's been a long day. I just need…"
"Space?" Riley offered quietly. Abby nodded. Riley sighed softly.
"Very well, but we aren't done talking." Abby closed her eyes against the evening breeze and let Riley's parting words sink in.
"I'm done talking…"
"Sy, I really think this is a terrible idea." Ali reasserted.
"Do you have a better plan love?" She asked. Ali sighed.
"No…I just don't like putting her in the middle of this…she's our daughter."
"She's in capable hands." Sy reminded her wife.
"True, but if I know my daughter like I do…" Ali gently took the binoculars from Sy, "She's about to do something stupid…something…Sy-like…" Sy rolled her eyes.
"Sweetheart she isn't a baby anymore." Sy replied as she took the binoculars back, "But I do think you're right."
"Really? It's not like you to cave so…"
"She's on the move…sneaking away…" Sy interrupted.
"To protect Riley no doubt." Ali shot a mischievous look at the older woman.
"Oh one god damned time! Am I ever living that down?" Sy muttered as they gathered their supplies. Ali secured her backpack and smiled broadly.
"Nope…besides you died on me…twice…I owe you some good natured ribbing." Sy hung her head dejectedly.
"Yes dear." Ali leaned over and kissed her cheek.
"I love you, you know that…"
"I love you too Ali…" Sy smiled. Ali turned as she saw a light come on from the cabin.
"Well look at who can't sleep…" Ali grinned, "Up for some mischief?" Sy grinned wickedly.
Riley tossed and turned. No position she settled in comforted her. Finally she got up and put on her jogging pants and tennis shoes. She quietly left the cabin, only turning on the living room light to find her keys, hoping she didn't wake Avery. She made sure to lock the front door and took a deep breath. The night was crisp and cool and almost immediately Riley felt better as she stretched before her run. The ground was soft from a heavy rain a few days before and felt spongy as she jogged. She focused on her breathing and tried clearing her head of the thoughts that were plaguing her. Endless circles of arguments were all shouting at once, but in the night's calm, they seemed somewhat quieter. She was jarred from her peaceful state by the sound of a snapping branch. Riley halted immediately and listened carefully. Her heart was pounding and she forced her breathing to slow. With a sinking feeling she realized she hadn't brought her gun with her. She carefully approached the sound, hoping that it was a deer or raccoon. Then she heard the sound again from behind her. She tensed recognizing the sound of retreating footsteps. Cautiously she moved closer. Suddenly a figure ran past, dashing through the forest recklessly. Riley followed, catching glimpses now and then of the person just ahead. She reached a clearing, and stopped. There was no sign of the mysterious runner. Suddenly from the other end of the clearing she heard footsteps once more. Riley ran as fast as she was able and stopped short when she recognized Abby standing there looking bewildered.
"What the…" Abby muttered as she looked around frantically.
"What are you doing running around like that?" Riley asked angrily, "If I'd had my gun I could have shot you!"
"Me! What the hell do you think you're doing dropping down on me like that from the fucking trees?" Abby shot back.
"What? I didn't drop down…I chased…you?" Riley blinked.
"If you weren't the one I was chasing…"
"Someone else is out here…" Riley murmured, "Damn…I'm really missing my gun right now…"
"It has to be more than one person…how could they have found us up here? I thought you said we were safe?" Abby said.
"It is safe…at the cabin which I can't help but notice you aren't in!" Riley fumed.
"I…I…" Abby looked at the ground sheepishly.
"Look now is not the time or place for this argument." Riley rubbed her temple, "We need to get back to the cabin without leading them there…"
"Ok so we'll split up and…" Abby began.
"What kind of idiot do you take me for Abby? You'll just run off again once I head for the cabin. It was damn lucky we ran into each other." Riley replied as she began to think of the best route home.
"What did you say?" Abby asked softly.
"Don't act all hurt, you were running away, you've got your damned back pack and I…"
"No after that!" Abby interrupted.
"…I'm lucky I ran into you?" Riley said slowly, not quite following the Cupid's train of thought.
"Lucky…yeah lucky…" Abby muttered as she stared into the trees absently.
"Are you okay?" Riley was beginning to be concerned at Abby's behavior.
"Yeah, you're right though we should stick together." Abby said.
"I…I am? I expected more of a fight…" Riley hesitantly began jogging. Abby followed suit.
"No, I was out of line Riley; I shouldn't have tried to run off. I mean as I said, you can't see the energy, and you're already mixed up in all this…" She began.
"And…?" Riley prompted.
"Well someone has to protect you." Abby said with a small grin. Riley tripped over a root and almost face planted a tree. After recovering she continued the trek back to the cabin. Abby shook her head and smiled. She kept her eyes scanning the trees but laughed softly, after all she didn't really expect to find what she was looking for.
"I think she knows love…" Sy said with a grin as she watched the two girls making their way back.
"Hmmm well most likely she does…" Ali replied, "But I think that will help, and not hinder. She can be so hard headed…I can't imagine where she gets it from."
"Hey that's all you." Sy laughed and poked her wife playfully.
"Riiiiiight." Ali rolled her eyes. They fell into an easy silence.
"Sy…" Ali said at last, "She's going to be ready for this isn't she? I mean…"
"She's our daughter, she will be fine Ali." Sy squeezed the dark haired woman's hand reassuringly.
"It takes everything I have to stop myself to from going down there and barricading her inside the cabin and fortifying it with steel plates…" Ali muttered.
"I know the feeling…but you and I both know this is the way it's got to play out." Sy wrapped her arms around Ali.
"And what about Riley?" Ali asked, "You're putting an awful lot of faith in that girl." Sy grew quiet.
"She reminds me of someone," Sy replied as she squeezed Ali tightly.
"…Sy honey I'm sorry I didn't realize…"
"It's ok sweetheart…" Sy kissed the top of Ali's head, "They'll be ok…eventually anyway. It'll take some patience on both of their parts."
"I just hate all this waiting. I want to find those bastards and…"
"I know…I know…and we will make them pay," Sy murmured. "But until then we have to focus on Abby and keeping her safe."
"It just makes me sick to think of what they…I mean how could they?" Tears welled in Ali's eyes.
"It's easier with Hatelings…they aren't alive…they aren't human…" Sy said darkly.
"The people doing this don't qualify as human to me…" Ali said.
"Look, until we can get at them…" Sy began again.
"I know…keep Abby safe…" Ali paused, "We did the right thing…taking off like this?"
"Yes. It's better for her if we keep our distance. I don't want them getting all of us." Sy said. Ali laughed.
"God help them if they did."