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Prudence, Chapter 25

Because of the possibility that the school might call him there, Mark reluctantly took Kristen back to his house. He'd have rather stayed at Steven's, and she was nervous about the idea of being in the old house, too, but told him she'd be okay as long as he didn't leave her there alone. As he had no intention of leaving her alone anytime soon, that worked just fine for him.

Around noon, when she'd had enough time to grow truly frustrated with her immobility, she asked him, "Couldn't I go ahead and try the crutches? I promise I won't put any weight on my foot. I've got good balance, y'know."

He shook his head. "No. Remember what the doctor said -- I don't want you damaging your foot anymore than you already have."

She frowned thoughtfully. "What if I'm floating?"

"Hmm," he said, considering it. "Okay... that's a thought, but can you control yourself well enough you won't fall?"

"I... think so? I've been practicing, and it's getting easier," she said. She lifted up into the air, hovering a couple inches above the couch, barely quivering at all. "See?"

"Okay, if you promise not to put any weight on it," he said, then smiled. "I thought you liked me carrying you, though..."

"I do, it's just..." She shrugged. "I just don't like feeling totally helpless."

He bent over and kissed her. "I was just teasing you, love."

She grinned. "You've got to tell me these things," she said. "Besides, your arms are bound to get tired."

He shook his head. "Nope. Not if they're wrapped around you."

She snuggled happily against him. "You know, we need to remodel the bathroom here."

"Oh?" he asked, thinking that he might also want to remodel the bedroom... after his dream last night, it made him more than a bit uncomfortable.

"We need a tub like my dad has," Kristen said.

"Oooooh, good idea," he said, remembering Steven's hedonistically luxurious tub. "You up to helping me do it when your ankle's well?"

"Um... I can try," she said uncertainly. "I don't know if I'd be any good at it, though. Kayla would... they wouldn't let her take shop, but she uses her dad's stuff all the time."

Mark nodded. "I think it would be fun to work together. Hmm. We'd have to let her parents know she was doing it, though. Which means figuring out an excuse other than 'we want to work with our lover'. Any suggestions?"

"Money. Hire her to help you."

He looked skeptical. "You think they'd actually go for that?"

"Why not?" she asked. "A lot of kids do odd jobs here and there to make money."

"Well, if it would work..."

"I can't see why not," she said.

"Then you need to get well so we can get a good bathroom," he said, nuzzling her neck.

She giggled. "Well, if you can keep me glowing, and I can float, I don't see any reason we couldn't--" She gasped as she fell abruptly back to the couch. "Oops! Okay. So it's a bit energy intensive."

"Looks like it," he said. "And I'm not sure you shouldn't save your energy for healing."

She sighed. "Well... still... if I use just a touch, just to keep me balanced and light on the crutches rather than totally support me, I should still be able to go to school, right?"

He looked thoughtful. "Possibly. Especially if you wait one more day."

"So day after tomorrow?" she asked.

He nodded. "Possibly. Depends on how you're feeling, love."

"Good. I feel... well, safer among a lot of people. Silly, I know, but I'm paranoid lately."

"Well, I've felt paranoid, too, so I don't blame you," he said, his face growing troubled as the memory of the dream crept back into his mind.

She looked at him for a moment, then kissed him, putting such effort into it that it began a distraction process that lasted quite a while. Their love-making was done on the fold-out couch, though... Mark couldn't stand the thought of going in the bedroom with her, not yet.

All in all, it was actually a very pleasant day. Kristen studied, he worked on class notes, and the two of them cuddled on the sofa-bed and watched movies until it was time to go back to Steven's to meet Kayla after school.

Mark put the remodeling idea to Kayla and asked, "Are you good with tools?"

"Getting that way. Family trait," she replied. "Remodel how?"

"Put in a bigger tub, among other things," he said. "Basically tear everything out and replace it. It'll be a lot of work, but I think it'd be worth it when we're done."

"Hmm... ever done any plumbing?"

He shook his head. "Nope, but I can get books, and I can learn."

"Well... it might be fun. Okay," she said. "Can't get the stuff around here, though. We'll have to either order it or go shopping in the city for it." She looked at Kristen appraisingly, and changed the subject. "Are you not glowing, or have you got better at suppressing it?"

"Um... I don't think I'm glowing. But just barely."

"She was levitating earlier," Mark said, "and I think she used it all up."

"Hmm... someday soon we'll have to do some controlled experimentation to discover rate of consumption," Kayla said thoughtfully. "But, for right now, I think we should go to bed."

Mark grinned, in complete agreement. "Sounds good." And the two of them endeavored to ensure that Kristen had plenty of energy.

Only afterwards did Kayla get around to asking, "So why are we here instead of at your house?"

He shuddered. "Nightmares last night. Really, really, really bad ones."

"Ah. Okay. Y'all both have been having too many nightmares recently. Gotta be a warning of some sort," she said, frowning.

He nodded. "I dreamed about what happened to Emma Barnes. He was... was..." He shuddered again.

Kayla finished for him, "A crazy monster."

Mark shook his head. "Worse than that. Much worse than that." He looked sick again, and pulled Kristen to him, wrapping his arms around her protectively.

Kayla nodded. "Karen wouldn't go near your house. Said getting close to that much pain made her physically ill."

"Karen?" Mark asked.

"Karen Wilson," she said.

"Ah. I didn't realize you'd known her that well," he said.

She looked very sad. "Yeah. I did. We were friends, even if I was just a kid."

Mark reached out and rested a hand on her shoulder. "I'm sorry."

She tried to smile. "I'm okay. It's been a long time."

He squeezed her shoulder gently. "Well, all I know is... I'm terrified for Kristen right now. I think... I think he's back."

"I... don't know, Mark," Kayla said. "It's been 20 years. I mean, I believe in going with your instincts, but surely he's dead by now?"

"There was a warning the other day," he said, "written on the mirror. 'Beware. He is near.'"

Kayla shivered. "Oooookay. Gotcha. Fuck. That does sound bad."

Kristen nodded. "But... it was from a ghost. Maybe she meant his ghost was near."

"Why would she warn us about a ghost, though?" Mark asked.

"Well... she seems to be able to affect the real world," Kristen said, "so... maybe he could, too?" She nibbled her lower lip. "Maybe we should talk to the preacher," she suggested.

Mark raised an eyebrow. "I never figured you for the religious type, love."

She blushed and shrugged, embarrassed. "Just because they don't want me to come to church doesn't mean I don't care," she said defensively.

He sighed. "I don't think the preacher would really work, love. We'd have to tell him about us."

"No, not really," she said. "Just tell him you think an evil spirit might be near your house."

Mark sighed again. "Damn it, I really wish I'd paid more attention to Melissa when she was talking about this sort of stuff. But I didn't believe in magic, so..."

Kayla grinned. "Apparently, magic believes in you."

"Apparently," he agreed, with a wry look. "She was pagan. She'd probably be able to help, if she was here."

"Not necessarily," Kayla said with a sigh. "Pagan is a pretty generic term, really. Basically, it means 'non-christian'." She glanced uncomfortably at Kristen, then went on, "Practicing takes a talent, um, I would think. But believing is hard not to do when a ghost leaves you warnings on your bathroom mirror."

Kristen nodded. "What she said."

He raised an eyebrow. "True," he said, then looked at Kristen. "If I were to get some information from Melissa... how would you feel about it? I mean... how do you feel about pagans?"

She shrugged. "I don't know. It's not really any of my business what anyone wants to believe, right?"

"True, but some people are really uncomfortable around pagans," he said. "I mean, how would you feel if I started practicing magic?"

"Um... safer? I mean, if it's going to happen anyway," she said, "better to be in control of it. Besides, I'm going to hell no matter what."

He leaned over and kissed her. "I can't see you ever going to hell, love."

She shifted awkwardly. "Yeah, well, don't worry about it. I don't anymore."

Mark realized suddenly that she was serious, and glanced at Kayla in confusion. Kayla shrugged helplessly, and he sighed a bit, deciding to reserve that argument for later. "Honestly, though," he said, "I'm not sure she could teach me enough over the phone to do us any good right now. I suspect I'd need to have been practicing for a few years to be any good at it."

"Um..." Kayla hesitated, then said, "That's not necessarily true. Karen said that some people just have, like, natural talent."

"Oh?" he asked, curious. "How do you find out if you do?"

"Well... remember it's been a long time since I talked about this sort of thing... but, like, you'll be able to just sort of sense things. Spirits and things will be attracted to you. Your life might be really weird. When you try something, it'll work. That sort of thing."

He looked thoughtful. "Try something? Like what?"

She shifted uncomfortably. "Like a spell, or a divination, or something. Not an Ouija board, though, or any kind of channelling. Those are... Karen said those are really dangerous, especially if you do have the gift."

"Okay. So if I wanted to find out I was talented, what could I do?" he asked.

She hesitated for a long time, then offered, cautiously, "Look... I have a book you could read that Karen gave me, but you've got to promise to be really, really careful and not let anyone but me and Kris see it."

He nodded. "Okay. What is it?"

She nibbled at her bottom lip, glancing again at Kristen who was just waiting curiously. "Um. Okay. Um. It's called 'Buckland's Guide to Witchcraft'. It's, like, Magic 101."

And it's got spells and things I could try?" Mark asked.

"Yeah, and some pagan religious type stuff. But you've gotta know that the religious part isn't, like, a bible or anything. Just one way of looking at things," Kayla said in a rush.

Mark glanced over at Kristen to see how she was taking the discussion. She looked a little bit uncomfortable, but also rather intrigued. "I think I'd like it," he said, "if Kristen's not too uncomfortable with the idea."

Kristen shrugged. "Like I said, it doesn't matter what we do. I mean, I won't hurt anyone or anything, but if it doesn't hurt anyone, it doesn't bother me. Scary, yeah, and not just because of what it is. If you were to get caught..." She shivered.

He nodded. "I'd be very careful," he assured her.

Kayla sighed. "Okay. I'll bring the book to school wrapped up, and you can open it when you get home."

"Okay, just be careful, Kayla," he said.

She laughed. "Hah! You're telling me? Damned straight." She grinned. "Well, kinda crooked, actually, I guess."

He completely failed to suppress his smirk. "I'd say you are hardly straight, given where your head was an hour ago."

Kayla stuck her tongue out at him.

Kristen said, seriously, "It's more fun not to be straight, Mark. You should try it!" Then she blushed brightly.

This time, he didn't even try to suppress his smirk. "You'd like to see that, would you? Well, if Aaron's still interested..."

Kristen was bright red. "I'm just going to shut up now," she mumbled, and Kayla giggled.

"Yeah, he is," Kayla said. "Though... um... there's something I needed to talk to y'all about," she said nervously.

Mark looked at her, surprised to see that she was now blushing just as brightly as Kristen, and sat up. "Oh? What's that?"

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