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CHAPTER 20

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Though neither of their injuries were particularly serious, the doctors advised both Dewey and Gale to stay overnight. Dwight had hit his head falling down the stairs and the doctor was concerned that it took him several minutes to regain consciousness, and Gale, having been held prisoner for half a day and not taken very good care of by her captor was quite dehydrated and had a possible concussion of her own.

At their request, they were set up in a room together in the hospital. Dewey had a bed right next to hers, but it wasn't close enough. Instead, he elected to pull a chair up next to her bed and sit there.

Fortunately, Dewey's bullet wound to the shoulder wasn't serious. Gale had a couple cracked ribs and by struggling with the binds around her wrists, she'd scraped them up pretty badly. Her ankles suffered the same fate - but they would heal. As would the bruises on her cheek and arms and legs...

Dewey frowned as he ran his fingers carefully over her arm, stopping at the bandage wrapped around her wrist. Presently, she was asleep, with Dewey keeping watch over her. He knew he didn't have to. She was safe here. The killers were caught... But he couldn't bring himself to leave her side.

As soon as they were brought in to the hospital, they were treated in the emergency room. Dewey had remained in an adrenaline-induced state of awareness through it all as he did his best to watch over Gale while also updating and receiving updates from his fellow police officers. Gale had clearly been exhausted and kept falling asleep in between doctors and nurses coming by to treat her various injuries. Dewey wondered if she'd slept at all during her captivity. Dewey certainly hadn't.

Now that they were away from the chaos of the ER, Dewey was beginning to feel tired himself, but not tired enough to leave Gale's side.

Dewey felt incredibly guilty for this. He had trusted Anthony. He'd talked to the man, worked with him - while he was holding Gale hostage in a basement. Anthony had kidnapped her, terrorized her, and then come back and pretended like he wanted to help him find her. While Dewey was making phone calls and interviewing suspects, asking Anthony for his opinion on the case... Anthony was the culprit he was looking for. Between faking worry and care, Anthony was running back to the house, hurting Gale, scaring her, humiliating her, filming it... He had probably sent the e-mails with the videos from just feet away... and Dewey hadn't caught on.

He felt even worse because when he walked into the room where Anthony had been in the process of attacking Gale, Dewey couldn't even make sense of the scene at first. He saw that Anthony had her pushed down against the pool table. He heard her pleading with him and crying. He knew what was happening was not okay... but he couldn't understand. Why would Anthony do this? And then when Gale told him that his partner was one of the killers, Dewey just couldn't wrap his mind around it. He'd hesitated again, long enough for Anthony to draw a gun and nearly finish the job he started before Dewey could stop him.

Frowning, Dewey ran his finger tips carefully over finger-shaped bruises on Gale's arms. The ones around her forearms were dark and plentiful. Anthony had grabbed her so hard, and so many times. The bruises made that obvious even if Gale hadn't yet told him much about her time spent alone with Anthony. More bruises could be seen on her upper-arms, but the large, loose-fitting hospital gown's sleeves covered most of them up. The gown didn't mask the finger-shaped bruises on her neck.

Dewey put his fingers carefully on the discolored skin stretching over her throat. He felt angry thinking about how those bruises had gotten there. How could Anthony do this?

Still asleep, Gale gasped softly and flinched. Her brows furrowed and a sort of pout formed on her lips.

"Sorry..." Dewey whispered, quickly moving his hand back. Maybe the bruises were more sensitive than he thought. He frowned when he noticed her worried expression did not change.

With a grimace, Dewey put his hand lightly on her shoulder, trying to comfort her - to bring her out of whatever nightmarish thoughts were running through her head, causing her formerly peaceful expression to contort into one of fear and pain. She flinched and whimpered again.

Dewey moved his hand back. He wondered if he should wake her up. She had been fine until he touched her throat. He should have just left her alone. Now he felt even more guilty.

"Gale, you're okay. I'm here with you." Dewey spoke in a calm voice as he debated putting his hand on her arm or cheek. He wanted to be comforting, but the past couple times he'd physically reached out toward her, it hadn't quite had the desired affect.

He swallowed and reached toward her hand, gripping it carefully in his own. Her fingers and palm felt so small and delicate. He almost wanted to cry just thinking about how vulnerable she had been during the past day. Anthony wasn't someone Dewey would have ever wanted as an enemy. He was strong and physically imposing. He was taller than Dewey, worked out a lot more than Dewey did... and Gale was a fairly small woman. She hadn't stood a chance against him - especially not while tied down to a chair.

"Dewey." Gale's small voice whispered as she squeezed his hand back.

"Yeah. I'm here." Dewey smiled as she blinked her blue eyes open and looked up at him. She was smiling too, but still looked exhausted. "You're safe, Gale. Everything's over. You remember, right?" He frowned. She'd seemed almost disoriented back at the farmhouse.

"Yeah." She laughed. "I remember, Dewey. I wasn't drugged... Well, I was, but it was wearing off at the end."

"You were?" Dewey frowned.

Gale inhaled and exhaled a deep breath. "Yeah... He injected me with something. I'm sure it'll come back in the blood work... if it even matters at this point."

"So that's how he kidnapped you? By drugging you? I should have known he wasn't going to take Gale Weathers down without a fight," Dewey forced a smirk.

"He could have though. He was strong, Dewey." She frowned.

Dewey nodded. "I know."

Gale frowned and looked down toward the foot of the bed. Her brow furrowed as she stared ahead.

Dewey ran his thumb carefully over her palm as he leaned down enough to see her eyes. She looked like she was seconds away from crying. He frowned. "You okay?"

"Yeah." She breathed. Her lower lip trembled as she avoided looking directly at him.

Dewey's heart hurt for her. He wanted to ask her more about what she'd endured. He wanted to know everything, though he wasn't necessarily entirely sure why. It wasn't like he could do anything to change it or even seek any kind of revenge. Anthony was dead already. Even so, Dewey did want to know what exactly Gale had suffered through. Maybe so he would know how sensitive he needed to be about the situation. Maybe just to put his mind at ease, in a way. So all his greatest fears of what might have happened to her could be debunked.

He also wasn't sure how to ask for the full story. Was it his place to request it? This was Gale's trauma, and maybe he needed to sit back and let her talk on her own terms. Maybe pressuring her to talk about it so soon wasn't fair. Maybe he wasn't owed her story at all.

"He kept me in the basement." As if reading his thoughts, or perhaps just in an effort to vent, Gale started spilling details on her own, without him even having to ask. "I was tied to a chair. I guess you saw that part, on the videos he sent."

Dewey frowned and nodded. He chose to remain silent, to give her the space to speak as much as she wanted to.

"It was terrifying, but not necessarily constantly so..." She shrugged. "He only came downstairs a few times. Mostly just to film the videos he sent, so for a while, that was the extent of it. It seemed like he just wanted to scare and humiliate me, and I guess to show you what he was doing. Then the second time he was more violent - to motivate you to find me, I guess."

"I tried, Gale..." Dewey squeezed her hand. "Sheriff Lake recognized the wallpaper. I'd have never found you otherwise."

Gale squeezed his hand back. "He started off being vaguely threatening about the sexual part, pushing my skirt up my legs, pulling my shirt open, putting his hands on me... kind of implying that it would get worse if I fought with him... Grabbing and groping me as a sort of punishment if I fought back. For the most part, it kind of seemed like he wasn't even interested in that as much as he knew it would scare me. I mean, he could have done it... What would I have been able to do to stop him?" She looked back at Dewey and stuck her lower lip out in a pout.

Dewey frowned, but wasn't sure what to say. He had no comforting words to counter what she was saying.

"It didn't escalate too far until he lured Stanley to the house. Stanley found me, untied me... I knew it wouldn't end well." Tears welled up in her eyes again as her voice grew very soft as she looked away from Dewey again. "As soon as he arrived, I knew he was going to die. And I knew you were going to be next. Anthony said as much. That he'd kill anyone I cared about. He started with Stanley, and it was so violent..."

"I'm so sorry, Gale." Dewey whispered, putting his hand on her shoulder and squeezing lightly as he continued gripping her hand with his other hand. "I'm sorry that happened to you. To Stanley..."

Gale finally looked toward him and stared directly into his eyes. Her own eyes betrayed how much pain she felt in telling this story. "Stanley died trying to save me. He didn't have to come. He risked his life for mine... And Anthony killed him."

"You would have done the same for him." Dewey noted. "He was your friend."

Gale shrugged and shook her head. "Maybe I wouldn't have done the same for him, Dewey. I never let myself get close to him. I was determined not to care about him for this exact reason."

"You would have, Gale. You clearly care about him." Dewey assured her. "I know you like to think you're cold-hearted, but you aren't. And that's why Stanley knew risking his life was worth saving yours. He did it because he knew under your exterior you're a caring, gentle person. He made that choice and you don't need to feel bad about it. There was nothing you could have done."

Gale nodded. "As Anthony was stabbing him, Stanley told me to run, so I did..." She looked away again and swallowed back tears before continuing. "I was drugged. I could barely stand steadily. There was nothing I could do for Stanley, so I ran... Anthony chased me, caught me... and he..." She paused and inhaled a shaking breath. "He was really going to do it, Dewey. He told me if I didn't cooperate he'd hurt me..." She inhaled and exhaled a few more shaking breaths, swallowed, and clarified. "He was pretty blunt at that point. He said he was going to rape me, and he seemed to be trying to. He was going to do it. He pinned me against the ground, pried my legs apart... He started pulling at my clothes and everything. I thought for sure there wasn't going to be any way I could stop him. He seemed so serious that time, so mad..."

"What stopped him?" Dewey whispered. "How did you get away?"

Gale looked down further and shook her head. "I just cried, and begged... Told him I'd do what he said. He finally stopped."

Dewey swallowed and watched her staring down at her feet.

"I was so scared, Dewey..." She whispered.

"I know you were..." He frowned, squeezing her hand lightly. "It's over now. You're safe."

"Stanley didn't deserve that. And he was going to do the same thing to you. I was so scared he'd kill you, Dewey. When Stanley tried to save me, Anthony killed him so violently. I tried to help him. I couldn't. Anthony had drugged me with something. I could barely think, barely walk on my own... He was going to kill you too." Gale went on. "I don't know what I would have done... how I could live with myself..."

"I'm okay, Gale. So are you. We're gonna be fine." Dewey assured her.

"I know." She glanced toward him and offered a tight smile. "I was stupid to investigate on my own." She continued, shaking her head and looking down at her lap again. She squeezed his hand in hers. Dewey wondered if she even realized she was still gripping his hand. She hadn't acknowledged it, and didn't seem to be paying attention to anything but her thoughts. "Last night, after Cody was killed... I tried talking to you, and it didn't work well... Anthony offered to take me to coffee. I went with him all by myself. I barely even considered that it was a terrible idea. I had no idea, Dewey. I was an idiot. I should have learned by now not to trust people."

"I should have learned that too, Gale. I let you go off on your own the whole time you were here. I should have expected you'd be a target. I was so careless with you. I mean, I never would have thought Anthony could do something like this... but I should have worked with you. We work better together. We always have." Dewey told her.

Gale smiled. "We do. I wonder if it could have made a difference. Henry was a suspect in my book, but Anthony wasn't. I knew he was a creep right away though." She closed her eyes and shuddered.

"Really?" Dewey frowned.

"Yeah. On the way back from the coffee house... I guess you could call it flirting, but it was so awkward, and he looked almost mad when I got out of his car. Maybe he wanted to talk more? I guess I see now what his aim was... but in the moment, I just thought he was kind of creepy. I didn't know he had some master plan to steal me away from you." Gale offered a forced, tight smile.

"I wish we had a chance to discuss that, because in hindsight... he did seem to have a weird obsession with you. It wasn't obvious at the time, but he kept asking about our relationship, making comments about you being cute... If you'd told me he was being creepy, maybe we could have figured it out sooner."

Gale shook her head. "It doesn't matter. We can't change what already happened..."

"I wish we could." Dewey whispered.

"We can't. But we work with where we are." Gale looked up at him.

"Yeah? And where's that?" Dewey stared back nervously. He loved Gale. He cared about her so deeply it physically hurt. He wanted to be dating her for real - not this sorta kinda seeing each other while not talking for weeks at a time thing they'd got into the habit of recently. He wanted to be able to call her his girlfriend and know she wouldn't find any reason to disagree with that statement. He wanted them to be official.

"Right here, Dewey. Together." Gale squeezed his hand again. Dewey stared into her eyes. She actually looked nervous. Could it be the fearless Gale Weathers was more uncertain about where she stood with him than he was about where he stood with her? He always thought maybe he wasn't good enough for her, but she looked like she was wondering the same about herself. "I'm sorry I'm insensitive... that I reported on Cody's death like a vulture instead of being there for you. He was your friend." She sniffed back tears and looked away.

"Gale..." Dewey stood from his chair and settled on the mattress next to her. He put his arm around her shoulders and pulled her close. "We were both kinda mean this time... We both took our jobs too seriously. But I'm not mad if you aren't... Gale, I'm not mad even if you are. I love you."

"You do?" Gale's eyes shone with tears as she looked up at him.

"Of course I do!" Dewey put his hand on her cheek and leaned in closer. "Only ever since the first second I laid eyes on you, Gale. You're so confident and beautiful and smart..."

"And cold-hearted and ruthless and-" Gale started.

Dewey leaned in closer, pulling her into a kiss that she gladly accepted. She kissed back, closing her eyes and leaning into him as he let one hand rest on her back and the other run carefully through her hair. When he leaned back, he saw she as smiling.

"Let's be together for real, Gale." Dewey suggested. "As an official couple. No more wondering if we're actually dating... No more distancing ourselves when we both know it's not what either of us want. Let's be honest. You mean everything to me. When I thought I might have lost you, when I saw those videos - had to watch him hurt you... I could feel my heart breaking. I don't ever want to be apart again."

Gale nodded, laughing a laugh that shook slightly with unshed tears.

"So we're official?" Dewey asked, putting his fingers on her chin and looking into her eyes. "And if something like this ever happens again, we'll work as a team. Solve it together. If one of us gets kidnapped, we both will."

Gale nodded and laughed again. "Yes, and yes."

Dewey smiled and pulled her into another hug. He leaned back against the pillow and smiled as she cuddled against him. Although they were in a hospital bed and Dewey had a bullet hole in his arm, he finally felt content. For the moment, this was exactly where he wanted to be - right next to Gale, seeing and feeling that she was safe and sound, and knowing their futures would include each other.

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