Song for this chapter: none right now.
Mark Antony narrowed his eyes, trying to look threatening, but there was no denying the dread that knotted his stomach. He opened his mouth, closed it, and opened it again to find it dry. It was infuriating how his words had gotten stuck from the sheer disbelief that had settled over him.
Elijah darkened his glare and began to say, enunciating every word with a prod at the Ivysaur’s snout, “Tell us who you are.“ With a particularly annoying poke, the psychic said, “Our powers allow us to understand you, so don’t try to stay silent.”
Mark Antony growled and backed away, finding his voice again. <Why should I reveal anything to you? My business here is none of your concern.>
“Oh, it isn’t?” the blonde sarcastically ventured. “You are in my
house and dangerously close to my
family. You are in no position for telling me to stay out.”
“And did you forget?” Natalie now started, putting a hand to her chest. “We’re psychics. Do you really want to find out what we can do because I swear I’ll hurt you if you hurt Cleo.” She leaned in with a pointed finger, which Mark Antony just sniffed at. “You won’t get near her if I have anything to say about it. I’ll rip you out of that stolen body myself if you even think of —!”
“Natalie.” Elijah gripped her quaking wrist. He looked into her eyes and slightly shook his head. “Don’t.”
The girl glared, felt the grip tighten, and simply retracted from his touch. Natalie turned her back on the two, which made the silent Pokémon scoff. Elijah then looked back at him, expectantly.
<You kids wouldn’t do such a thing. Neither of you are capable of such cruelty.>
Mark Antony sighed, wishing he could rub his temples to stop the oncoming headache. Why had everything gone from boring to frustrating in a matter of minutes? Natalie turned, still scowling but taking great amusement in seeing the Pokémon mentally scramble for the right words. Sensing an explanation, Elijah sat down and rested his arms on his crossed legs.
The Grass-type glared at the teenagers. Damn them for looking so confident. Damn him
for not foreseeing this, though he couldn’t think of a way he could have. Despite the bubbling anger just below the surface, Mark Antony knew he couldn’t get out of this one.
<Want to know? Fine. Your sister is in danger. She’s about to die, and I’ve been sent here by Death himself to stop it from happening. I can hardly do anything as a spirit, so I possessed your pet. Whether you believe me or not,>
he added upon seeing the raising of an eyebrow, though not without an undercurrent of cynicism, <I honestly couldn’t care less. All I ask of you is to not say a word. If you can do me that much of a favor –>
a favor?” Natalie chimed in with a humorless laugh. Her blue eyes bored into his, her towering figure blanketing him in shadow. “You’re the one coming here without being invited.”
<Do you not understand why I’m here?>
Mark Antony gritted out, his professional mask slipping. Why were the teenagers nowadays a lot less obedient than the ones he remembered? <Cleo is about to die, and I am the only that can do anything to save her!>
“What makes you think you can help her? You know nothing about her!”
<I’ve helped many others before.>
“So you think you’re capable of helping because –!”
“Enough!” Elijah snapped, his voice all but void of his past humor. He stood up and fixed the two with an unwavering glare. “You guys screaming at each other will resolve nothing.” Natalie deflated beneath his ‘I dare you to argue back to me’ gaze while Mark Antony was impressed. Maybe this kid had more sense to him than he thought.
Elijah surprised him again when he got on his knees and softened his glare, though his jaw line was still defined with tension. He held out his hand to a very skeptical Mark Antony.
“Look, we may not have the experience you claim to have, but Cleo is our sister, and we’re worried about her. We want to help as much as we can because honestly, we feel it too.” Elijah dropped his gaze as he thought back to recent memories of his older sister tossing in her sleep, of her looking over her shoulder but never knowing what she was so afraid of. “We can sense that something’s troubling her. It’s like she knows that something terrible is going to happen, but she doesn’t know what. Something within her –her soul, if I may take such a bold guess– is troubled.”
Mark Antony lowered his eyes, deep in thought. He wasn’t surprised that these psychics could sense what Death had, but how much help could they be? Unless they could travel through time and see the exact moment Cleo succumbed to the creeping, unknown assassin, what could they do?
<You still haven’t promised me that you will breathe a word of this to no one.>
Natalie set her jaw, as though afraid she was going to start yelling again. After a calming breath she managed to say, “We’re not going to tell anyone, for Cleo’s sake. She doesn’t need anything else to worry about on top of her studies.”
<And the paranoia she recently acquired,>
Mark Antony added, frowning, not liking this new piece of information.
“Yeah,” Natalie quietly agreed, her anger completely gone. She gripped her arm, eyes downcast.
Elijah glanced at his sister with a sad smile before turning back to the guardian. “Now will you accept our help?”
A vine snaked into the air and shook the teen’s hand. <You have my trust, kid.>
“It’s Elijah. Elijah Sorensen,” the young man corrected, still gripping the green appendage.
“And Natalie,” his sister supplied, daring him with a scowl to call her anything but.
The creeping plant now wrapped around her hand, firm and unwavering. These humans were with him now, for better or worse, and he wasn’t going to let them forget it. <And I am Mark Antony.>
Natalie flexed her fingers once the vine retracted. With pleasantries exchanged, she regained that usual sparkle in her eyes. “Mark Antony?” she echoed with a teasing smirk. “Sounds a bit too fancy for an Ivysaur.”
So that’s what it is,
the sergeant mused, casting a glance at his body.
<If you must know I lived in the early 1700s.>
Mark Antony smirked upon seeing Natalie’s widened eyes. <Such names weren’t uncommon.>
Natalie watched him go towards the door, floundering for a response that didn’t show her shock. Instead, she blurted out, “Where are you going?”
Mark Antony turned his head as the vine from his bulb gripped the doorknob. <Downstairs. Cleo is my charge after all, not you.>
Elijah chuckled as Natalie was forced to follow the Pokémon out the room. She got too easily flustered, especially when she didn’t get all the answers she wanted. In front of him he saw her stomping behind their new ally, hands fisted at her sides. Mark Antony slowed down his pace, curious.
“You’re just going to watch her until something happens?” she demanded, motioning wildly with her hands despite the fact that his back was to her.
Natalie drew her eyebrows together at the flippant answer.
Mark Antony snorted, somewhat amused by her ignorance. Natalie quickened her pace. <That’s all I can do. That’s all
we can do as of now.>
He was forced to stop when Natalie bounded in front of him and planted herself firmly in his path. Mark Antony was about to plow right on through until he caught sight of her ashen face. She bit her lip and was shaking from everything but anger. Even Elijah abruptly stopped in surprise. “Could it be the Huntington’s?”
Her eyes were so bright with unshed tears that Mark Antony redirected his curt reply to the carpet. <Nonsense. Cleo is much too young. Besides, I only get sent to those who are going to die in a matter of days. This is something else.>
Natalie wasn’t sure whether she should feel elated or heartbroken. While her sister wasn’t going to die of Huntington’s she was going to die of something they couldn’t even guess at. And sooner, much sooner than she had first thought.
the guardian told her, a notch less harsh. <Death wouldn’t have sent me if he thought there was no hope for your sister. Whatever is rearing its ugly head, we’ll find it.>
“We just have to keep an eye on her wherever she goes, right?” Elijah proposed. Before Natalie knew it he had walked up behind her and put a comforting hand on her shoulder. She offered him a distracted smile.
<Basically. The more eyes on her the better.>
“And,” Natalie started hesitantly, “have you ever lost someone…? Someone you were supposed to save?”
There was a beat of silence where only faint talking downstairs could be heard. Mark Antony’s face clouded with something the siblings couldn’t quite make it out. He turned his back to them and merely replied, <No, I haven’t, and Cleo will not be the first, not as long as I’m able to do something about it.>
Natalie and Elijah mutely watched Mark Antony turn the corner and descend the staircase. Natalie frowned, not exactly sure what she was supposed to feel. Angry that some stranger had barged into their home? Relieved that he was going to do whatever in his power to save Cleo? Frustrated that all they could was wait and watch?
“We’re going to keep an eye on him, you know,” Elijah assured her, misinterpreting her frown.
Natalie turned on her heel towards her room. She raised a hand in farewell. “Yeah, yeah. Just give me an excuse to throw him out the window when you see one.”
When she closed the door, the brunette leaned against it and put a hand to her forehead. Her scowl was gone, and her mind was a myriad of emotions.
What were they going to do?
Later that night, while Cleo was studying and Mark Antony laid at her feet, it seemed some unnamed deity had heard the guardian’s complaints about Cleo being as dull as dull could be.
All was quiet. The rubbing of eraser against paper and the occasional annoyed grumble made themselves known. Mark Antony thought it couldn’t be better. Of course there was that nagging part of him that hated everything peaceful and quiet when a storm was on the horizon, but like he had told the Sorensen siblings, nothing else could be done. Plus, such a peaceful time was needed for him to better understand who exactly he was guarding.
(Well, for one, Cleo could be scary when she was studying. That poor eraser had seen better days. As for her, the girl was so concentrated on the written words of the textbook that she wouldn’t have noticed an incoming meteor. Mark Antony didn’t know whether to be amused or worried.)
Then Cleo gripped the pencil hard enough for her knuckles to turn white and let her forehead meet the desk. She was exhausted, and it was this that allowed the day’s worries to flood back into her mind. Natalie had brought up that stupid ‘why don’t you embrace your roots?’ thing again, and while she normally brushed it away, her mother’s slip of her name minutes later made it sting like a slap to the face. Jenna.
Her mother had corrected herself a beat later, but it hadn’t helped.
How could she know if the mistake was the Alzheimer’s or a genuine slip of the tongue? It kept nagging and nagging at her until the question was like a never-ending mantra in her head.
Without a second thought Cleo sat up, turned in her chair, and threw the pencil to the wall. She turned back to her work and stared at her textbook without really understanding what she was reading. It wasn’t until her hand automatically turned the page that Cleo realized she never heard the thunk!
of pencil hitting wall. Slowly, she turned back.
Cleo stared at the floating pencil, not wanting to believe– refusing
to believe –what her frantic mind was telling her. Mark Antony, colored surprised, made to investigate it. He turned to the college student and curiously noted that her jaw was shut tight and one fisted hand was shaking at her side. Cleo caught his gaze and, frowning, batted the pencil to the floor.
“Stupid powers,” Cleo muttered, running a hand through her golden hair as though to dispel the image of the suspended pencil from her mind. “Stupid, stupid, stupid.
Then a disturbing thought came to her, and, hesitantly, Cleo grabbed her eraser and threw the poor thing to her bed. It never made it. The eraser floated a foot from her still-outstretched arm, taunting her, mocking her.
While Mark Antony looked from the eraser to the pencil, the gears of his mind churning, Cleo got to her feet and yanked open the door. In a flurry of hair she could be heard walking down the hall.
“Natalie!” Cleo’s footsteps stopped, presumably in front of her sister’s door. “Did you bewitch my things?”
As Mark Antony fished the eraser from the air with a vine, Natalie’s voice could be heard asking, “Bewitch…?”
It seemed Cleo missed the genuine confusion because her voice climbed in volume. “Yes, bewitched, as in make things float of their own accord.”
“Cleo, I didn’t ––”
“Natalie just stop fooling around, okay? I don’t have time for it.”
“Cleo, what are you talking about?” Elijah stepped into the conversation, his voice a bit more distant as he stepped out of his room.
“Just - just.” A deep intake of breath echoed in the hall, and Mark Antony could clearly imagine Cleo snaking a hand through her already-tousled hair. Then, pained, “Just stop messing with me, okay? Just… stop.”
They’re not toying with you,
Mark Antony mused as he inspected the eraser — were those nail indentions in it? The energy I still feel is neither Natalie’s nor Elijah’s.
When Cleo returned and shut the door against the wave of questions her siblings were throwing in her wake, that anguished face said she knew it, too. With the weight of the world on her shoulders, she fell heavily on her chair. Her eyes found the abandoned pencil on the floor. A hand went to her mouth as nausea rolled in her stomach.
“This is not happening…” she mumbled into her shaking fingers. Tremors scaled up and down her spine. “You’re kidding me…”
Mark Antony abandoned the eraser. A vine was held aloft, unsure whether he wanted to wrap it around Cleo’s shoulder as comfort.
One small, tentative knock broke the silence. Cleo tensed and looked towards the door, a hand now clenching the chair’s arm for support. She wasn’t sure if the sudden dizziness that had washed over her was going to let up anytime soon.
“Cleo, I know you’re not alright, so open the damn door.” Natalie’s voice, despite the order, was subdued.
“I’m sorry, okay?!” Cleo shouted at the door. She shut her eyes, hating the slight break in her voice. After a beat, she quietly amended, “I’m sorry I lost my temper back there.”
There was a sound and a thump; Natalie had slid down to sit, back to the door. “Cleo, I didn’t come for an apology. I came for you.” A thunk!
as the girl tilted her head back in thought. “Something happened with your powers. Right?”
“You think?” Cleo sarcastically snapped. “I’m suddenly levitating things. Without me doing so. Whatever powers I have are breaking out.”
“Cleo, me and Elijah will help you.” A nervous shifting. “You don’t have to do it by yourself.”
“I don’t want
to control them.” The venom in the words shocked Mark Antony, but Natalie was silent, already expecting such a reaction. Cleo glared at the doorknob, eyes bright with held back emotions. “I want to ignore them.”
More shifting. The door shook slightly as Natalie hit her head on it, as though blaming herself for not expecting this. “You know you can’t do that, Cleo. Remember what happened when me and Elijah were kids, when we skipped out on Mom’s little sessions for more than a couple of days? Things flew off the shelves. The windows would rattle, Cleo. They would rattle
. Dad thought they were going to kill someone.”
“And you were only eight,” Cleo whispered to herself, remembering the incident all too well. Louder, she said, “Don’t you think I know that, Natalie? If it doesn’t stop here at pencils and erasers it’s just going to escalate until someone gets hurt.”
“Then let me help you!” Natalie all but pleaded behind the closed door. “If we start now–”
“It’ll take me years to get this under control. It’s a distraction that I can’t afford right now.” Her gaze was to the textbook on her desk, and it suddenly seemed much heavier and foreboding, like a towering mountain peek after she had fallen back to the bottom. There was a noise behind the door as Natalie knew all too well what she was talking about.
“You can still study…” came the hesitant words. “I mean, you won’t have to give up school or anything…”
As Natalie struggled with her words, Cleo stood up and wrenched open the door. The girl on the other side uttered a yelp as she fell on her back.
“If I take you up on your offer,” she spoke slowly, cautiously, down at her stunned sister, “do you honestly think I’ll get the grades I need to enter medical school?”
Natalie looked away, the brimming tears in Cleo’s eyes much more frightening than the scathing tone of her words. “I wouldn’t know.”
Cleo lifted her head and saw Elijah leaning against the stair’s banister, arms crossed over his chest and face void of expression. But she knew her brother. Those eyes were full of concern and trepidation. His stance, though relax, would allow him to go over to her in a heartbeat if she broke down. The tears in her eyes burned even more at the sight.
“Elijah, you understand, don’t you?”
Her brother straightened. “I know your powers can cause harm. I know learning how to control them might cause your grades to drop. What do you
think is more important?” Seeing Cleo’s mounting rebuttal, he hastily continued, “This is not our choice, Cleo. It’s yours. We can’t help you if you don’t want us to.”
Whatever words Cleo had died away. She looked to her feet, feeling sudden wetness on her cheek. “Look, don’t tell Mom and Dad, okay? They shouldn’t have anything more to worry about.”
From where she laid on the floor, Natalie was about to point out that it was Cleo
that did all the worrying in the house, but Elijah, ever the knowing brother, cut her off with a glance. She pouted up at him, though she knew Cleo didn’t need any prodding. Those usually wise eyes were glittering with tears she stubbornly tried to her hide, and unless it was the waning afternoon light outside the window, her skin seemed pallid. Right now was not the time for snide remarks.
Natalie inclined her head to glance at Mark Antony. As was his habit in such missions, he was merely a watcher and a listener, taking everything in with that thoughtful shadow in his eyes. The Pokémon caught her gaze and discreetly nodded to show that yes, he would keep an eye on Cleo. With that small assurance the girl got on her feet and gave her sister one last hug. Cleo jumped, too lost in her troubling thoughts to understand what was going on.
“Tell us if something else happens, okay?” Natalie ignored the voice in her head that said Cleo was going to do no such thing. She was much too prideful to come crying to them, ready to spill every secret and worry.
Cleo almost laughed. Wasn’t she, as the older sister, supposed to be the one doing the comforting? She returned the embrace instead of thinking how the changing of roles signified the slow crumbling of her world. “Thanks, Nat.”
It wasn’t until Elijah gently tugged at her arm that Natalie let go. As he did so, his eyes found Mark Antony’s. Tell us what happened later. Keep an eye on her. Please,