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Prudence, Chapter 30

Kayla had to actually go to her own house that afternoon, having promised to help her father with an unspecified 'experiment', and they'd decided to return to Mark's house, so it was just the two of them. Kristen spent most of the evening catching up on tons and tons of homework, though not without time out for Mark to make her glow.

After one such break, he carried her to the couch and left her there with her books while he went into the kitchen to cook dinner. There was no door between the kitchen and the living room, just an archway, so he was able to talk to her while he chopped vegetables, and wasn't paying that much attention to the peppers he was slicing, when suddenly the knife caught, like it had hit something hard.

He looked down, and the pepper was gone. In its place was a human hand, the knife half-severing a finger, pressed hard against the bone, and the table was awash with blood.

Mark dropped the knife and jumped back, eyes wide, and the ghastly vision disappeared, leaving everything perfectly normal. He stared at the place, shaking, but the pepper remained a pepper. The knife remained free of blood. He swallowed, then walked over to lean on the doorway. "Um, love? Would you object to just having sandwiches tonight?"

"Of course not, Mark." She looked at him worriedly. "What's wrong? Do you want me to cook dinner?"

He shook his head. Then, still shaken, he sat down beside her and told her what he'd just seen.

"Oh god..." She wrapped her arms around him, sounding sick. "Let's just skip dinner."

He saw no reason to object to that suggestion, and they curled up on the couch together. She closed her eyes, obviously tired, but didn't suggest they move to the bed. After the dreams, he didn't really want to do so, either, so when she eventually fell asleep against him, he just closed his eyes and lay back, perfectly content to sleep where they were.

The nightmares found him anyway.

He holds a knife, and a woman's naked body lies beneath him. He feels nothing but lust; intense, overwhelming, mind-controlling lust, but twisted and ugly, full of anger and hatred. He watches as his shaking hand starts to trail the knife over her skin, gently at first, then pressing harder and harder, until the blood began to flow in crimson streaks on her pale white skin.

Kristen's screams jerked him awake.

He sat up, his heart racing, and she screamed again. Her body was unnaturally rigid against him, her hands stretched above her head, as if they were tied there. She jerked, then screamed again, the sound full of pain and despair.

He pulled her hands down and shook her. "Wake up!"

Her eyes flew open, wide with fear, and she jerked away from him, shuddering. "Are you okay, love?" he asked, and she started to tremble uncontrollably, staring at him.

"Mark! God... you--" She squeezed her eyes closed and wrapped her arms around herself, still shaking hard.

A sickening suspicion twisted his gut. "What is it, love?" he asked.

She shook her head. "It... it was just a dream. I don't want to think about it." But she still wouldn't open her eyes, wouldn't look at him, and she hadn't moved back into his arms.

"Tell me what happened?" he asked softly.

She was shivering so hard her teeth were chattering. "It was... a lot like before. But... oh Mark!" She looked up at him, green eyes full of pain, and started to cry. "It was you! It was you hurting me, cutting me."

He felt sick, but he had to know. "Cutting you... how?"

"W-with a knife. It... it started so light, just running it over my skin, but you didn't stop and it got deeper and deeper and your face... the look on your face..." She sobbed, and shook her head, unable to continue as tears streamed down her cheeks.

He was deathly pale. "I think... I think I had the same dream. From the other viewpoint."

"What do you think it means?" she whispered.

He shook his head. "I... I don't know. Maybe Kayla would have an idea."

She reached out, fingertips brushing his arm. "You wouldn't hurt me. I know you wouldn't." She looked up into his eyes, and asked in a frightened little girl voice, "Would you?"

He pulled her into his arms, gathering her close. "No! Never!" He buried his face in her hair, his hands running up and down her back. "Unless you were someone who liked pain, a masochist. I guess I would, then, because there's no way I could deny you something you wanted. But you aren't. And even if you were, I'd never hurt you. Never."

She shuddered, nestling closer to him. "How could anyone like pain? Pain hurts!"

He shrugged. "I don't know. I never understood it, either, but some people do."

"I'll never understand people."

Her trembling had eased, and he relaxed gratefully. "Nope," he said, "That's what makes them so fascinating."

She kissed his shoulder. "Let's go ahead and get up. I can't stand the thought of going back to sleep."

He glanced at the clock, which read 3:13, then looked down at her. There were dark circles under her eyes, visible even beneath the soft glow of her skin. He shook his head. "You need to sleep, love. You really do."

"I can't," she said. "I really can't. I'm scared."

He wrapped his arms around her. "Do you want to go over to your dad's and sleep there?"

She swallowed hard, then shook her head. "No... it doesn't seem to matter where we are, really. The dreams still find me."

"I don't know then," he said. "You need to sleep. Are you having these every time you sleep?"

She thought for a moment, then shook her head. "Tuesday night I didn't."

"Okay," he said thoughtfully. "What was different about Tuesday night?"

She blushed. "Well, Kayla came over, and we had a lot of sex."

"Hmm. I wonder if it was the sex, or Kayla?"

"That was the night I fell asleep while both of you were with me," she said.

"Hmmmm... Do you want to call her, and ask her if you can spend the night?" he asked. "Yeah, it's late, but I know she'd understand."

She shook her head again. "No, I don't want to get her in trouble with her family. I'll be okay. I really don't need much sleep."

He frowned. "Love, you do need your sleep."

"Please, Mark? Please? Just tonight?"

"But love, it's three a.m."

"That's just two and a half hours earlier than I usually get up," she said. "I'll be quiet, I promise."

He shook his head. "It's not that. You need the sleep. You're still healing. Hmm. I don't think you've ever had these dreams when you were really glowing." He sighed. "But by the time we could make you glow that much, it would be time to get up anyway. Alright, love. Just this once. But you stay right here with me, okay?"

She shivered. "Trust me, I'm in no hurry to leave your side. I'll just lay here and read, okay?"

He nodded and she cuddled up to him as he closed his eyes again.

It seemed like no time at all before she was kissing him awake. "C'mon, get up! You said I could go back to school today. Up!"

He smiled despite the crick in his neck and his cramped muscles. Her bounciness was infectious. "Okay, love."

She was good on the crutches, balancing easily. When he looked closely, he could tell that she was using her hovering ability to assist her rather than moving completely naturally, but only because he knew what to look for. She was happy and had way, way more energy than anyone who'd got up at three in the morning ought to have, and her happy giggles echoed through the house as they got ready.

The mood at school was a marked contrast, though. People were close to panic, with everyone looking at everyone else suspiciously, and no one going anywhere alone. The houses that had been marked the night before had all had 'presents' left on their doorsteps that morning -- dismembered household pets, one of which was a cat that never left the house.

"Ugh," Kristen whispered to him after Kayla filled them in on the gossip. "It's never got this bad before Halloween before."

He grimaced. "Frankly, I'd like to get you a couple hundred miles away from here, if I could. Be careful, love, please."

"I will. Promise."

He watched her unhappily as she maneuvered the crutches through the crowded hall.

It actually turned out to be a fairly calm day. The students were quite reserved, particularly for a Friday. There was some talk of the Fall Festival that was coming up in a couple of weeks, and several of his students were on the planning committee and so ended up late to class after lunch. It was also a gloomy, cloudy day, and Mark fought a headache the entire time he was at work, but his mood was brightened up a bit by Kayla going home with them at the end of the day to spend the night.

Kristen was exhausted by the time they left, and kept yawning and nodding off in the car on the drive home.

He took them into the living room and pulled them down to sit on the couch as soon as they got home. "Kayla, we've got a problem," he said bluntly. "Kristen and I are having horrible nightmares, every night -- but we didn't have them on Tuesday night. And the only difference then was that you and I made love to her until she was glowing like a torch."

Kristen sighed and nodded agreement. "That's all I can think of, anyway. And I really am tired. I kept falling asleep in English this morning."

"Shit," Kayla said, with a sigh. "Okay. How much have you read of Buckland's?"

"Not a lot, yet," Mark admitted. "Why?"

"Well, if her glow keeps the nightmares away, then maybe it's acting like a kind of natural shield. If they really are coming from an outside source, that is."

"Why am I having them, too, then?" he asked. "Mine are not the same as hers."

"Different sources, maybe. Or just a different point of view. And if you're sleeping with her, if she's glowing brightly enough, it would protect you, too."

"Okay, that makes sense," he said. "So we need to keep her 'charged up' so to speak."

Kayla shook her head. "Actually, I was thinking of something different." She looked away, fidgeting nervously.

"Oh?" he asked.

"Um. I was thinking you could do unnaturally what her glow does naturally," she said hesitantly. "Try building a shield."

"Umm... okay, how do we do that?" he asked.

Kayla glanced at Kristen nervously, then started to explain. "It's really a matter of visualization," she said. "You picture your... ah, 'energy'... forming a protective shell around you. Some people picture it as just a wall of color, or light, others think of a thing, like a brick wall, or a steel door. Whatever makes you feel safe. You concentrate on it, fix it solidly in your mind, put some real effort into it, and then you work on holding that image in the back of your mind all the time. It's hard at first, but once you get used to it, it becomes second nature and you don't even have to really think about it."

Kristen looked skeptical, but Mark said, "Well, it's worth a try. You really think it will help?"

Kayla shrugged. "I don't know. Some people it will work for, others it just won't. Like you said, it's worth a try."

"Okay, let's try it," he said. "If you're okay with it, love?"

Kristen shrugged. "I can't see that it would hurt anything. I just don't think it'll work." She blushed, and glanced at the other girl guiltily. "Sorry, Kayla."

"Don't be," Kayla said. "It wouldn't work for me. But it really does for some people."

They set to work, and to Kristen's surprise, when she tried it her glow brightened a bit, taking on a hint of color. That was the only visible effect, though, and it quickly faded back into her skin. Mark produced no effects that could be seen, but he felt instantly better; the nagging headache faded almost completely away, and a feeling of security washed over him.

"Whoa," he said, blinking in surprise.

"Problem?" Kayla asked.

He shook his head. "My headache just went away. I've had it all day."

"Good!" She smiled. "That's an indication that it worked. Just try and keep the image in the back of your head. Practice a lot. We'll make our pretty Kris into a Kris-mas tree ornament this weekend, and by the time the glow fades, hopefully you'll be able to hold the shields in your sleep. You might also consider warding the house, though I'm not sure what that'd do to your ghost."

"Um, warding the house?" he asked curiously.

"Uh..." she hesitated thoughtfully, then said, "Like, putting a shield on the whole house, but making it permanent. Like a security fence. Usually, though, if you're warding something, you're asking some god to look after things, so I'm not sure..." She glanced guiltily at Kristen out of the corner of her eye.

Mark was watching for Kristen's reaction, too, so he saw her shifting uncomfortably, and said, "Up to you, love."

"Um." She frowned. "I don't know. That's kinda creepy. What kind of gods?" she asked nervously.

Kayla shrugged. "Any kind, really. Whatever ones you want. Nature gods, gods of wisdom, gods of war, mother-goddesses. Ummm... you could call on the Archangels, I guess? Angels are okay, right?"

"I... guess so," Kristen said hesitantly.

Mark looked thoughtful. "Kayla, just how powerful are wards?"

She shrugged. "It depends on the person setting them."

"Is it possible for them to, say, keep someone out of the house if he wants to hurt us?"

"Um... maybe," she said, "But not usually. Usually, it's a pretty mild thing. It defends against psychic and magical attack, not physical. It can make someone not want to come in, but if he's really determined, it can't physically stop him."

He sighed. "Okay. I've just seen Kristen levitate and go halfway into a wall, so I was wondering."

"Um. Well, yeah. That does kinda make you wonder," Kayla admitted. "I really don't know."

Mark turned to Kristen. "Well, love? Do you want to ward the house?"

She nodded slowly. "If we don't have to call on any weird gods, yeah. Angels are okay."

Kayla showed him the section of the book with a basic warding spell, and helped them set things up, with Kristen assisting nervously, and then Mark read the incantation and performed the short ritual.

Again, there was nothing visible, but the house immediately felt different to Mark. Kristen seemed to feel it, too, judging by the startled expression on her face.

Kayla grinned at her. "Must have worked. You look too surprised."

Mark nodded. "The house feels more... relaxed."

"That's good," Kayla said. "That's the way it's supposed to feel. Safer. Um... healthier."

"Healthier?" he asked.

"It's hard to describe. It's been a long time," Kayla said wistfully.

"Oh?" he asked.

"It's like... if the place is sad, or something bad happened there, it'll feel like it does when you clean a nasty cut and put a bandage on it. It might still hurt, but you know it's cared for."

Mark looked thoughtful. "So this place..."

"Knows that someone gives a fuck now," she finished for him. "It feels better."

He gazed at her steadily. "Good."

She shrugged. "Anyway, that should help your nightmares."

"You seem to know an awful lot about this stuff. Anything else we should know?"

She shook her head. "Not that I can think of, anyway." He continued to look at her thoughtfully, and she fidgeted and changed the subject. "Anyway... about charging up that night-light..." She leered lasciviously at Kristen.

Mark didn't take his eyes off of Kayla, and Kristen glanced from one to the other speculatively. "Um," she said nervously, "I'm going to fix us some dinner. I'll be in the kitchen if anyone needs me." With one more worried glance back and forth, she left Mark and Kayla alone.

"Why haven't you told us?" Mark asked softly, once Kristen was out of the room.

Kayla sighed. "I'm not hiding anything, Mark."

He raised an eyebrow. "You aren't?"

"No. I'm not."

It was his turn to sigh. "Okay. Maybe you aren't hiding anything, but you aren't exactly being forthcoming about it, either, are you? You're pagan, aren't you?"

She shrugged. "Sort of. It doesn't really matter."

He reached out and took her hand. "I think it does. You need someone you can be yourself around. Kristen and I can be that for you, but only if you let us."

She smiled sadly. "I am myself around you two. I'm really not hiding anything. I don't do anything different when I'm alone."

"What are you doing for Samhain?" he asked.

"Same thing I do every year. Burn a couple of candles. Remember."

"Alone?"

"There hasn't been anyone else," she said.

He squeezed her hand. "I can't speak for Kristen, but if you wanted company..."

She shook her head firmly. "No. Thank you, but no. There shouldn't be anyone else. It's way, way too dangerous."

"Why is it too dangerous?"

"It could get you killed, you know that."

"So could what we're going to be doing in a little while," he pointed out.

"It's not as dangerous. Really and truly."

He smiled. "Maybe not for y'all, but it is for me. I'd be blamed for turning you into lesbians, and you know that's what they'd say. If you'd like to have a ceremony here, you're welcome. I don't know if Kristen would like to participate or not, but I would."

She shook her head stubbornly. "I've already endangered you enough with this, but you needed to know those things."

"Are you more likely to be discovered here, or where you'd normally do it?" he asked.

"Here. Definitely."

"Why?"

"Because I normally do it at home, and my room's in the basement, and has no windows and a titanium deadbolt lock on the door because I have a little brother."

Mark stood up. "C'mere. I want to show you something." He lead her to the basement. It was fairly large, floored in stone, rough-finished sheet rock walls with a few exposed pipes. Good stairs. Good lighting. "The door is a solid wood door, not hollow-core like most; I think maybe it was an exterior door originally. I can set it up with a crossbar to keep it closed, and it will be even more secure than yours."

She smiled up at him. "Darlin', you're very sweet, you know."

He kissed her. "If you don't want company, that's one thing -- but don't worry about security."

"Why is it important to you, though?" she asked. "You're not pagan."

"Because it's important to you, and I..." He stopped himself from finishing the sentence, and said, instead, "I want you to be happy."

She looked down, scuffing the floor with her toe, then peeked up at him with a shy smile. "I'll think about it, 'k?"

He hugged her tightly, planting a kiss on her soft curls. "Okay."

They joined Kristen in the kitchen, and the rest of the evening was spent playfully, with a very light mood persevering. Later, as the three of them lay sprawled on the sofa-bed in the living room, Kayla yawned and said, "I have to get home earlyish tomorrow. Aaron's going to pick me up at noon."

Mark grinned. "What do y'all have planned?"

"Not much," she said. "A picnic down by the lake, maybe rent a canoe."

"Does he know about tomorrow night yet?" he asked.

Kayla blushed. "No. I did tell him I wanted to talk to him about some... stuff... but I really thought it'd be better to do it with real privacy."

Mark nodded. "Good idea. Does he even know he might get lucky?" he teased.

She blushed brighter, and muttered, "You're just awful, you know. I doubt it."

He shook his head. "That's not awful." He bent down and lapped across her clit, then sat back up. "That's awful."

"Hmf. I'm ignoring you." She grabbed Kristen, who giggled and obligingly began caressing her. "Who needs men, anyway?"

He smiled and slipped up behind her, sliding his cock into her wet cunt. "Anyone who wants this, for one."

"Mmmm... well, okay, maybe I'll talk to you a little bit," she conceded, and Kristen giggled again, sliding down to suck on her nipples.

Hours later, the three of them fell asleep with Kristen glowing brightly in the middle. She slept soundly for a change. Soundly enough that she slept right through the alarm and Kayla drowsily waking Mark up to take her home.

He looked at Kristen, torn. He didn't want to wake her, because she was sleeping well for the first time in days... but he didn't really want to leave her there alone, either. He sighed. "Wake up, love."

"Mmm?" She didn't even open her eyes.

"We need to take Kayla home."

Kristen yawned. "c'n i sleep inna car?" she murmured, and he smiled and picked her up. She curled against his chest trustingly, and didn't wake even when he set her in the back seat.

Kayla crawled sleepily into the front seat beside him. "No nightmares?" she asked.

He shook his head. "Nope."

"Nifty! 'Course, she was glowing like a torch, so not that surprising, but we'll see."

"True," he said, but somehow, he was sure that the spells had worked.



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