What Lies Beneath

 

Chapter 1

 

Some called them hunters.

 

Some referred to them as psychos.

 

Especially Brooklynn. 

 

From the time Brooklynn was a little girl, she could see and talk to spirits. 

 

Her whole life was devoted to helping the supernatural, understanding their world, and destroying those who tried interfering with the balance between the living and dead.  There were five other individuals just like her, who could do similar things.  Brooklynn was the only one who could both see and talk to the spirits, as if they were another person, as if engaging in a conversation. 

 

Her mother died when Brooklynn was just an infant and her aunt Sophia took her in, raising her, teaching her the ways of her gift.  Some gift.  Brooklynn was special indeed.  Her aunt died shortly after she graduated college with a journalism degree. 

 

When she wasn't hunting spirits or trying to help them crossover, Brooklynn spent her time writing novels, secluded deep within a dark forest in an unknown destination.  Only when she knew it was time to go hunting again did she leave.  It'd been three years since their last hunt. 

 

The time was at hand once again.

 

The ten, the circle, knew when the time arrived because every one of them had the exact same dream.  It always involved one of them dying in the end, which is who the spirit would be haunting.  Currently, it was Brooklynn.  He was in his mid-thirties; soaked from head to toe, pale with a cut over his right eye, yellow teeth and wore a pure black suit. 

 

Brooklynn looked in the mirror, pulling on her black fingerless glove, flexing her hand slowly before making a fist.  It was time to go find the others; this spirit was evil, demonic and sometimes drained the energy out of her.  Earthbound spirits lived and flourished on earth by being around the living. 

 

Brooklynn wore blue jeans with a black tank top, black hair swept up in a high ponytail.  She wore very little makeup, not really needing it, not caring about her appearance.  Walking out of her house, Brooklynn threw her duffel bag in the backseat if the Ford Focus before sliding in the driver's seat, driving away moments later.

 

~!~

 

During the 'off season', Mark Calaway tended to just...dick around.  He did a little of this and a little of that.  Most of the time, he just tinkered with motorcycles or did tattoos.  Occasionally, he went off 'hunting' on his own, though truth be told; a group was actually needed most of the time for this shit.  The occult and supernatural crossed paths way too often for one person to make the attempt at going it alone.

 

“Hellfire.” He muttered, using the heel of his black steel toed boot to raise the kickstand of his Harley Davidson motorcycle and sped away from the bar he had been all but living in, feeling change coming in the air.

 

Again.

 

Mark was not surprised in the slightest when he reached the basement apartment he was renting to find Steve Austin sitting outside on the porch steps. “You know...I live UNDER the house.” He commented, after parking his Harley.

 

“More like in the damn bar.  You smell, son.”

 

“Hey, the more I drink the fewer dreams I have to worry about.”

 

Steve snorted, shaking his head; the fading sunlight glinting off his bald scalp. “That's why you're sober?  And here?”

 

“Can't escape it all the time.  You're feelin' it too?”

 

“Yep.”

 

~!~

 

Trish bit her bottom lip, looking at the phone, raking a hand through her dark auburn hair nervously.  The dreams were getting more intense by the second, sitting in her comfortable bed.  Sometimes she hated what she did, what she could do.  Trish sighed, closing her eyes, and dialed the number.

 

“You feel it don't you?” Mickie's voice sounded somberly over the line, sighing heavily. “Have you heard from the others?”

 

“No, not yet.  I'm sure I will though.  Where should we meet?”

 

Mickie was quiet for a minute. “Nobody can ever find Lynn.  She'll show up at Mark's so we need to head there.  At least we know Steve and Glenn will be there too.  John will be going with us.”

 

Trish raised a slow eyebrow, groaning. “Mickie, tell me you didn't...”

 

“I did, be ready in an hour.” She hung up.

 

~!~

 

Steve and Mark were still sitting on the porch steps when Glenn Jacobs showed up, working their way through a case of beer.  These things took time.  First off, everyone had to assemble and, as they usually wound up all over the southern United States, it could take a day or two.  And Brooklynn was never anywhere to be found, so she usually found them.  Generally, wherever Mark was is where she'd pop up, so naturally the group migrated to Mark.

 

“Hey there, Jacobs.” Steve greeted, tossing Glenn a beer.

 

“Austin, Calaway.” Glenn popped the top and downed it, wincing. “My head is pounding.” He groaned, settling down alongside them.  His 'thing' was a headache when things started going downhill.  The worse whatever was happening was, the worse his headache got.

 

~!~

 

Beth had visions that usually helped them find who the dark spirit or force was.  She currently rode in the passenger seat, Randy Orton in the driver's, staring out the window.  They weren't together per say, more like best friends, who used each other every now and again for comfort.  Beth had dated his friend, Cody, but broke it off after catching Cody in bed with another woman.  Randy took her in and they were currently roommates. 

 

A lot had changed in three years.

 

“Do you think they're all going to Mark's?” She asked quietly, finally breaking the silence.

 

“That would be my best guess.” Randy grunted, rubbing his temples.  The force was dark indeed with unimaginable power, possibly the most lethal yet.  Randy had to focus, gripping the steering wheel. “We have another day before we get there.  Just relax and lay back, babe.”

 

“Call me babe again and I'll put your head through that window.”

 

~!~

 

Melina glanced at John, frowning. “Pay attention to the road.”

 

“I'm nervous.” He shot back, drumming his fingers on the steering wheel. “Well?”

 

She stared down at her hand. “I don't know; my lines are changing.” Her frown deepened.  She had grown up using palm reading as a way to make money off of tourists, at least until puberty.  Then her own palm had started showing her interesting things, scary things.

 

John didn't ask, trying to focus on the road instead of the urge to start writing. “I need a pen.” He said finally.

 

Melina didn't question it, just held out a pen and, after he had taken it, extended a yellow notepad, holding onto it while he automatically began writing nonsense, his eyes still on the road.  He was an automatic writer.

 

From the backseat, Mickie and Trish peered over John and Melina's shoulders, trying to read what John was writing.

 

~!~

 

After taking a redeye flight to Texas, refusing to drive all the way from Colorado, where she was currently located, Brooklynn drove the two hours to Mark's place.  It was near daybreak when she arrived.  The ghost hadn't shown himself since her last dream, so she had virtually nothing to go on.  She had to get it to appear somehow to at least reveal the name.  Sighing in frustration, Brooklynn took a swig of her coffee, pure black. 

 

She'd gotten used to the taste over the years from a lot of sleepless nights. 

 

That was until she could handle the spirits coming to her.  Brooklynn pulled in the parking lot of Mark's apartment building, putting it in park.  This was it.  They were about to go on another hunt and she felt both scared and excited at the same time.  Slowly stepping out of the car, Brooklynn retrieved her bag and turned around, only to stare at a chest.

 

“Hello Mark.”

 

“Brooklynn.” He rumbled, staring down at her, emerald green eyes glittering at her in the darkness; the only light coming from the porch and it was flickering, threatening to go out. “Everyone else is here.” He informed her, where else would they be?  They all wanted to stop having nightmares and, the only way to do that, was to settle whatever was going on with this spirit.

 

“I had a feeling and how many times do I have to tell you it’s Lynn?” She sighed when he simply shrugged; knowing Mark would never call her by anything else. 

 

He was the ONLY one who got away with calling her by her full birth name, shutting the door, pressing the lock button on her rental.  Brooklynn was born and raised in Texas, though she hated the heat.  Her Aunt agreed and moved her to Florida when she was still young.  The woman was always a few cans short of a six pack, but Lynn loved her regardless.  Brooklynn met Mark shortly after her graduation from high school, on a chance meeting while he was in Florida for a tattoo convention.  They became instant friends, understanding each other and the darkness they both dealt with.

 

“I-” She sighed again when he simply took her bag, shaking her head. “Could've gotten it.”

 

“It's quicker this way.” Mark said with a half grin, ribbing her for a moment, before his expression turned serious. “Glenn's downstairs drunk off his ass.” He informed her. 

 

This wasn’t anything unusual when his migraines struck.  When the pain reliever stopped working, he resorted to whiskey until he couldn't feel it anymore.  Thank the stars for Mickie; she had countered any mean drunkenness with some sort of concoction she whipped up, though it smelled like manure.

 

Brooklynn simply nodded with a leather jacket on, feeling a chill in the air.  This was Texas and she was cold, something definitely wasn't right.  She followed Mark up the steps and back down again, glad he had a lower floor.  It would be easier to escape, not to mention if she had to leave suddenly to talk to a spirit. 

 

She was the only one out of the group who could see and communicate with them so, naturally, most questions went to her.  Brooklynn took a deep breath before entering the apartment, which was bigger than it looked on the outside.  She didn't say a word, surveying the surroundings.  It was a habit of hers, finally relaxing when she didn't sense or feel any spirits, walking into the next room where everyone waited.

 

“Well, look who finally decided to grace us with her presence.”

 

“Randy...” Mickie's tone held warning, shaking her head before walking over, staring into Brooklynn's deep amber eyes. “It's so great seeing you again, my sister.”

 

“Likewise...” Brooklynn was distracted, letting her other bag slip from her shoulder, turning the corner past everyone and staring at Glenn, nodding. “Sorry, I thought I felt something.” Maybe she was more tired than she thought from the trip, shaking herself mentally.

 

Steve smiled at her from his place at the table where he was keeping Glenn occupied with a game of cards, distracting him from the migraine that was threatening to break past the whiskey. “You felt Mark.” He informed her. “He's got a familiar prowling around outside, honey.”

 

Mark rolled his eyes, ignoring the knowing look Beth and Melina shot him.

 

“That cat I kicked was his pet?”

 

Glenn started laughing when Mark began kicking John.

 

“Don't.  Kick.  My.  Cat.”

 

“Right, of course.” It had been three years, Brooklynn would have to get used to Mark's creatures, shaking her head.  They weren't ghosts, more like concoctions he created to help keep them safe, to stand guard. “Though I highly doubt an earthbound spirit will have a problem getting past his pet.” Smirking, she walked over to give Steve a hug, frowning at Glenn, feeling terrible. “It is good to see you if it's any consolation big guy.” She winked when Glenn just cracked a painful smile, turning around. “Before any of you ask, no, I haven't spoken to the spirit yet...and I'm going to tell you right now this one doesn't need to be crossed over.  It needs to be destroyed.  I think it's helping Nemesis.”

 

Nemesis was a leader, so to speak, who controlled evil spirits that tried breaking the barrier between the living and dead.  He was worst battle they ever had with a ghost, not to mention Nemesis was still lurking in the shadows and John had nearly died.  Brooklynn would never forget that as long as she lived, shaking herself again, needing to keep her focus on the task at hand.

 

As if on cue, John groaned and not just from pain, after suffering those heavy kicks from Mark's wicked steel toed boots. “No...no...no...”

 

He remembered that night with Nemesis all too well.  He had been trying to write out a spirit's thoughts, as it hadn't been able to communicate with Brooklynn, though she could see it.  Instead, he had gotten stuck writing so fast, his hand had literally started burning through the paper; Nemesis had been involved in that one.

 

“Relax.” Trish advised, pushing her brunette hair over her shoulders. “If the cat-”

 

“Bastet.”

 

“Bassie senses something, or Lynn does, we're all here and more prepared this time.”

 

“That will not happen again, John.  Nemesis is weakened right now, but he is building an army.” Brooklynn took the bottled water Melina handed her, nodding her thanks, and began pacing back and forth slowly.  It’s how she got her thoughts straight and helped her think clearly. “I had a dream the other night and Nemesis told me we're about to open hell's gates.  He warned me that he would have his revenge...” She could still feel the invisible restraints, remembering how cold her blood ran when he touched her face, the dream in a black and blue swirl of nothingness. “The spirit came to me soon after and all I could get from him was a description...Mid-thirties, pure black suit, soaking wet, pale, cut over his right eye, yellow teeth...He died near water, that's all I know for now.”

 

Beth arched an eyebrow. “Water?” That was her territory, though not in the usual sense.  When focusing her energies on water, occasionally oil would do it too in a pinch, she could see past events.  This was odd, but sometimes useful when trying to deal with a spirit and needing to know information about the person it had been while living. “Do you want to-”

 

“If Nemesis is involved, you'd be sucked right into the water more 'n likely.” Steve pointed out, watching Brooklynn curiously.

 

“Maybe if I touched Brook, I could get a glimpse of this guy and see what's up?” Randy suggested, holding up a black gloved hand.  A necessity, if he didn't want to be overwhelmed if he by chance picked up a pencil or something.

 

Chapter 2

 

Brooklynn did not like being touched, unless she initiated it, but knew this was for the best.  Beth saw reflections of the spirit's past when it came to water, but she would have to touch the water the spirit died in order to see something.  Randy had to touch objects that associated with the spirit, but sometimes he got lucky with the mind.

 

“I don't know if it will do any good, but you are more than welcome to try.” Brooklynn spread her arms out, everyone giving them room because if Randy got overwhelmed, he sometimes lashed out without realizing it.

 

Hesitantly, Randy stood in front of Brooklynn, seeing her eyes close.  He closed his eyes as well, pressing his black gloved hand to her forehead, both of them tensing as images flashed through Randy's mind.  Brooklynn knew, just by the way Randy was trembling against her, it was working.

 

Mark, Steve and John were all standing around them, ready to stop Randy if by chance he did lash out.  Brooklynn was tough when it came to handling ghosts and all that.  She could hold her own in a fight, but Randy was not a small man by any means.  Actually, none of them were.

 

Glenn groaned, burying his head in his arms on the table. “Stop it; no more…you're pissing it off...” He muttered.

 

“CAT!”

 

Brooklynn used all of the strength she had to shove Randy away, flying back and landing on the floor, grunting.  Randy flew back into Steve, who caught him thankfully. “I'm fine, I'm alright.” She waved hands away, slowly getting to her feet and seen Randy was blinking rapidly, knowing he saw something from how pale he was. “What did you see?”

 

“A man...jumping off a bridge...and a woman screaming at him not to do it...I-I think he committed suicide...”

 

“Did you get any names?” Sometimes the visions and images they got together gave them the answers they were seeking.  When Randy shook his head, Brooklynn immediately went to her bag and pulled her laptop out, beginning to research anything and everything.

 

“Honey, what are you looking for?” Steve asked gently, sitting down beside her and watched her fingers flying. “We don't have a name, a location...do you have any idea how many suicides there are in this state?  Let alone the rest of the country?”

 

“Brooklynn, relax.” Mark advised, now sitting in his leather chair, Bastet curled on his leg comfortably and staring holes through John out of her yellow eyes. “We're all tired from today, let's rest and crack this in the morning.”

 

“That and Glenn's passed out.” Melina said, draping a blanket over Glenn's hunched form.

 

Sleep. 

 

Mark was right; she had to sleep in order to get in touch with this spirit again.  He wouldn't come to her any other way, he as a dream spirit, only haunting her in her subconscious.  Though Brooklynn remembered everything she dreamed about usually. 

 

Brooklynn closed the laptop, knowing she wouldn't find out anything more until she got the name.  The name was the key and then the rest would follow.  Stretching out on the couch, Brooklynn folded her hands on her stomach and closed her eyes, exhausted from her long trip here.

 

Mark arched an eyebrow, watching as she made herself...well, he was going to assume she was comfortable, on his couch. “Up, Bas.” He gently nudged the feline aside, watching her instantly head for John, and snorted.  The cat was almost human and definitely out for revenge for that kick. “C'mon, darlin'.” He knew Brooklynn didn't care much to be touched, but was probably the one person who could get away with it. “You're sleeping in a bed.”

 

“You mean with you.” She murmured soft enough to where only he heard, leaning her head on his chest, feeling his chest rumble.  He was chuckling, that motion being the only indication.  Mark liked Brooklynn sleeping with him because he could not only put her to sleep in the blink of an eye, but was the only one who could help her when she had nightmares.  Brooklynn sighed when her back hit comfortable bedding, slowly opening her eyes to stare at Mark.  “Thanks.”

 

Brooklynn rolled over on her side as he joined her moments later, both of them facing one another.  She missed him, always did, and probably always would.  Brooklynn sighed as he ran his hand up and down her side, cracking a small smile, starting falling into the dark abyss.

 

Mark lay awake, listening to the others talk quietly, as they sorted out sleeping arrangements.  He never claimed to be a good host; in fact, he had once said they needed to stop congregating at wherever he was living at the time.  Like roaches, they all kept coming back.  He snickered quietly when he heard a yowl, giggling and a shriek of pain.  When things settled down, he relaxed completely, draping an arm over her side and pressed his lips to Brooklynn’s forehead, kissing her gently before allowing himself to drift off as well.

 

~!~

 

Brooklynn walked through the long, narrow hallway, doors on either side, opening them and seeing images with every step she took.  It seemed as though this spirit was tormented from the time he was born.  It was a man, she was certain of that.  Brooklynn wore a white nightgown, following the spirit as it moved from side to side, going invisible, messing with her.

 

“Wait!  Please, I can help you!”

 

The spirit was suddenly in front of her, his pale blue eyes locking with hers, the cut over his eye deeper as blood ran down the side of his face.

 

Brooklynn stared back at him, arms at her side, absolutely no fear in her eyes. “Who are you?” She asked softly, causing the spirit to slowly back away. “No wait please, please I can-”

 

“Wake up.”

 

~!~

 

Brooklynn bolted upright in the bed, staring back at the spirit she saw in her dream, amber eyes wide with wonder.  When the spirit began floating out of the room, Brooklynn immediately slid from the bed and walked out of the room, knowing she had to communicate on the spirit's turf so to speak.  When he stopped and turned to face her, they were in the dark parking lot.

 

“Who are you?” She asked again, feeling a little dizzy from the energy the spirit radiated. “Please, I can help you.  What's your name?”

 

How can you see me?  Am I dead?

 

Bastet had watched all of this with interest, debating on waking her Master, but didn't, sensing the spell would be broken if she did.  With the quietness and stealth only a cat had, she made her way outside.  Paws made no noise as she padded across the parking lot, finally sitting beneath a car, watching through slanted yellow eyes.  To her, the thing was like grainy film, flickering in and out of focus.

 

“Yes, you are dead.  What is your name?” She asked softly, kindly, having a lot of patience as she crossed her arms in front of her chest. “You're a little confused, do you see a light?”

 

No...No, I can't go into it!  I can't!” The spirit shouted, anger clear as day in his tone, gripping his hair with his clammy fingers. “I can't...”

 

“Okay, alright, calm down.” Brooklynn took a step toward him, eyebrows furrowing together thoughtfully. “Just tell me your name.  Please?”

 

The spirit looked at her for a moment, almost as if wondering why she wanted to know, finally deflating momentarily. “Kyle Winters.” He looked around, then down at his hands, running them down the soaking wet suit. “How can you see me?

 

“It's...complicated.  Kyle, you have to go into the light...”

 

NO!” The lights streetlights all cracked and smashed at once as he disappeared, blowing her back against the building, his energy strong due to being around so many living beings.

 

“Damn...”

 

The moment this spectral had gone beyond the normal quiet haunting and showed it could manipulate physics, directing it against her Master's favorite, Bastet had used the link Master had set up, wincing when he did.  A second later, Mark appeared in the door of the apartment building, eyes in the back of his head as he cast a protective shield around Brooklynn.  It wouldn't interfere in her association with the spirit -that he could not see, which was discomforting, to put it mildly-, but it would protect her from it.

 

“Mark, he's gone.  Put the shield down.” She could feel the aura around her, taking another deep breath, and slowly stepped away from the wall.  She was in the same white nightgown as her dream, which sometimes happened. “He won't be back for the night.” Brooklynn sighed when he stopped her, turning her around and lifted the nightgown, smacking his hands away or trying to at least. “Mark Calaway...” She sighed resignedly when he wrapped an arm around her waist, inspecting her back. “He just blew me back a little, nothing major.” She pulled the nightgown back down, knowing he enjoyed the peek he received, shaking her head. “Come on, let's go back to bed.  We'll talk in the morning when everyone's awake.”

 

“Woman, if you insist on leaving the bed in the middle of the night...” Mark trailed off, looking down at Bastet, who was following Brooklynn and nodded. “Then she'll go with you.”

 

Bastet made a noise that sounded quite like a human snort, sauntering past them, her tail in the air.

 

“She's jealous.  Did you get the guy's name?”

 

“I don't need a protector, Mark.  I've been doing this all of my life or have you forgotten that part?” Brooklynn scowled, knowing sometimes the man could be overprotective, walking back inside his bedroom. “Yes, I did.  I'm not telling you until the morning so I don't have to repeat myself.” She slipped back in bed under the comforter, hoping she could fall back to sleep, feeling Mark pull her into his arms. “I know you do this to cop a feel.” Smirking, Brooklynn snuggled back against him, sighing in contentment.  His arms felt wonderful, three years was far too long to stay away from him. “I'm sorry for disappearing like that, but I go where the spirit guides me, you know that.”

 

“Apology accepted.”

 

He yawned, not offering one in return.  Mark was just like that.  He was Mickie's counterpart, in the sense that she was a Wiccan.  She was a 'good' witch; she couldn't cast any negative magic or do anything that might harm someone else; otherwise the 'rule of three' would bite her in the ass.  He was a Warlock and, once many years ago, he had been...a little...wicked, to put it mildly.  For the most part, he was reformed; though he never hesitated to use his considerably 'dark' resources if called for.

 

“Smartass.” Brooklynn muttered, smacking his arm lightly, shaking her head. 

 

Mark was her best friend; they could joke around with each other like this all the time.  Brooklynn knew Mark would never hurt her; they meant too much to each other and knew each other too long to long to let something come between them.  Not to mention when she slept in Mark's arms, it was for the most part very peaceful and restful.  Within moments, both were fast asleep, not knowing what awaited them when they woke up.

 

~!~

 

“Brooklynn, Melina is freaking out.  Her palm just...kinda...disappeared.”

 

Mark pulled the blankets over his head, as well as Brooklynn's, wondering if John had a death wish, since he had just walked in without knocking; glad he didn't sleep in the nude anymore.

 

“My LINES disappeared, you moron!” Melina shrieked from the living room.

 

“Alright, I'm up.”

 

Brooklynn slipped from the bed, having been up for about fifteen minutes now; knowing coffee would have to wait until later.  She had no idea what no lines on a palm meant, though it could only mean one thing.  Death.  Was this one of Kyle's tricks?  Was Nemesis involved?  He had to be; Kyle was evil, she could feel his energy radiating, especially when he admitted he could see the light, but refused to go into it, refused to crossover.

 

“Is everyone up?”

 

“No.  Steve and Trish are in the guest room.” John sounded disgusted.

 

“Cena, go put coffee on.” Mark ordered, rolling onto his back and stared up at the ceiling, groaning as he rubbed a hand down his face. “One of these days, I'll murder him, you know that right?  Then it'll be his dumbass you help crossover.” Grumbling, he pulled himself out of bed and looked at her. “Rough night?”

 

“Yes, nothing I can't handle though.” Brooklynn said distantly, slowly walking out of the room and went to her laptop, starting it up.  Kyle Winters.  She would never get that name out of her head as long as she lived.

 

“What are you looking up?” Mickie asked, walking over to sit next to Brooklynn.

 

“Kyle Winters.” She answered, eyebrows furrowing together in concentration.  Brooklynn hadn't slept more than an hour, but she stayed in Mark's arms for the comfort.  She couldn't get the ghost's image out of her mind, knowing there was a lot more to this puzzle that had to be pieced together. “That's the spirit's name.”

 

“You saw him?” Beth was the next to ask, sitting in a nearby chair, followed by Melina and Glenn.

 

Brooklynn nodded, finally finding him and turned the laptop to face everyone. “Kyle Winters, 33 years old.  He jumped off a bridge about a year ago and killed himself.” She stood up, raking a hand through her hair. “I was right, he did kill himself.  There was a suicide note left at the scene of the crime and his then girlfriend, Julia Avery, found it.  Julia is the woman you saw in the vision, Randy.”

 

“The woman I heard.” Randy corrected, wishing he did have a face to match the scream, eyes widening when Brooklynn turned the screen, showing a shot of this Julia.

 

“Okay, so we need to go to this bridge and let Beth find out WHY he killed himself.”

 

“Because he's a moron?” Melina snorted, rubbing Glenn's head. “How's the headache?”

 

“Bareable, thanks to Mickie.”

 

“There's one problem, Avery went missing shortly after Kyle killed himself.” Brooklynn rubbed her temples together; remember the dream she had briefly the night before. “Kyle showed me a long, narrow hallway in what looked like a mansion.  There were doors on each side and when I opened one, I saw the woman on an operating table.  There was a doctor and he was letting her...bleed to death.” She whispered that last part out, wondering if that's what Kyle was trying to tell her. “I think Kyle is trying to tell me that Julia was murdered, but I'm not for sure.  I couldn't get a good look at her face in the dream.  I have to talk to Kyle again.”

 

“What makes you think he'll tell you?”

 

Chapter 3

 

Brooklynn sighed at Trish, accepting the cup of coffee John handed her. “Spirits communicate anyway they can.  Last night was the first time I wasn't in a dream and Kyle came to me.  I have to gain his trust first and then he'll tell me what I need to know.  Though, he won't come here again.  We'll have to move someplace else.”

 

“Go to the town the bridge is in, he has connections there obviously from both his past life and death.”

 

“Exactly and it's somewhere on the outskirts of Phoenix, according to what the newspaper article says.”

 

“And I want to see the water he died in.” Beth said firmly. “It'll help us figure out what made him jump to begin with which is bound to be helpful in figuring out how to get him to...”

 

“Crossover.”

 

“What makes you think we can get him to crossover if Nemesis is involved?  Seems like this spirit doesn't WANT to go into the light.”

 

“He told me he couldn't go into the light, which means something is holding him back, unfinished business.  Nemesis is more than likely trying to get Kyle to join him, filling his head with empty promises.  The look in Kyle's eyes last night showed me two things:  Fear and love.” Brooklynn explained, remembering the haunted look in Kyle's pale blue orbs, how he was panicked when she mentioned going into the light, crossing over.  He had unfinished business and they had to help the spirit any way they could.

 

“So basically, what you're saying is, we're going to be battling Nemesis again to try crossing Kyle over.”

 

Brooklynn nodded mutely, sipping her coffee.

 

“What if Kyle is already working with Nemesis and they're just fuckin' with you, Lynn?”

 

“That's a good point, considering everything Lynn has already seen.”

 

“Then why would Kyle show me that room with the woman on the operating table?”

 

“It's what I would do if I was trying to get into someone's head.” Mark stated bluntly, ignoring the uneasy looks the women shared, while the guys all rubbed the backs of their necks.  His past, while not often discussed, -openly and in front of him at least- wasn't a secret.  They all knew who he had been and what he had done. “Beth made a point and you should keep it close to mind the next time Kyle comes to you, darlin’.”

 

“I don't trust Kyle, not by a long shot, and I will.  We have to leave immediately and head to Phoenix, try to find a place.”

 

Brooklynn was well off financially so she could buy a house for all of them easily.  Being a writer and bestselling novelist had perks, though she knew everyone would chip in.  They were a team, a family, and brought together to keep the balance even.

 

Trish nodded, biting her bottom lip, deciding not to say anything about the vision she had the previous night. “I'll go get ready to leave.” She walked out, seeming troubled, Steve following.

 

Randy and Melina walked out next, followed by Glenn, who was still rubbing his temples.  He couldn't imagine having migraines to where it was ear splitting pain.  He somewhat was blessed to have the power to touch things and receive images.

 

Brooklynn walked past Mark into the room, grabbing her bag, and immediately pulled out an outfit.  She was still in the white nightgown from the dream.  Leaving John, Mickie and Beth to their musings, Mark followed Brooklynn, kicking the door shut behind him as he peeled off his shirt, having slept in his clothes.  This was disgusting as he did smell like a brewery and made a face, knowing she had probably suffered.

 

“I'm getting a shower before we leave.  Want to join me?” He was only half teasing; glancing at her, he pulled a fresh shirt and a pair of jeans from the bag he always kept packed, for obvious reasons.

 

“You know what will happen if I cross that line, Mark.” Brooklynn replied with a cracked smile, glancing at him, not believing how incredibly gorgeous he was. 

 

The man dripped sin and sexuality, it was simple as that.  His chest and muscles flexed, arms sleeved with tattoos.  She turned around, not able to stare at him any longer, and felt him walk up behind her.  Since they first met, every time the gang was together again, Mark had tried getting Brooklynn to sleep with him.  Somehow, someway she always managed to keep her sanity and say no.  Hell, she was insane for declining, but didn't want to ruin the bond and friendship they created together. 

 

Though as time went by, it was getting harder and harder to resist him.

 

At this stage in their friendship, propositioning Brooklynn had become a habit that he did more out of...habit than anything else.  Sure, if he thought she might actually succumb to him, he'd really make the attempt to seduce her, factoring in that it wouldn't destroy their relationship.  As it was, he was attracted to everything about her, but he knew she saw him simply as a friend and nothing more. 

 

Hell, given his past, Mark really didn't blame her.

 

“Your loss, darlin'.” He drawled, winking at her and turned his back, pushing down his jeans. 

 

Once he was naked, he threw the clean clothes over his shoulder and walked into the bathroom, closing the door behind him.  Brooklynn simply sighed and removed her nightgown, only for it to evaporate before her very eyes.  She pulled out a blue jean skirt with a black halter top, brushing out her black hair, having showered the previous day.  Not concerned with makeup, Brooklynn pulled on socks and black tennis shoes to finish the outfit off, nothing special about it.  She walked out, giving Mark his privacy with bag in hand.

 

“Thank god, my headache is finally gone...” Glenn groaned in relief, leaning his head back, which meant nothing was surrounding them at the moment.

 

Brooklynn knew the nightgown had been a partial factor in it, but didn't say anything, hearing bickering coming from the kitchen.  Randy and John were at it again, as always. ‘Damn fools.’ She thought, shaking her head.

 

“Okay, how are we doing this because I have to tell you, if I have to ride in the car with THOSE two,” Mickie paused, throwing her thumb over her shoulder at John and Randy. “I'm going to probably kill them.”

 

“I'm riding with Steve.”

 

“That's not surprising.” Randy snorted, glaring when John popped him upside the head. “Hit me again and I'll-”

 

“What are we, 5 now?” Melina snorted, walking past them, sitting beside Glenn, who simply shook his head.

 

John wasn't amused at all, especially since Randy had removed his gloves in order to start touching things…like him, for example.  It was surprising since Randy usually did not like touching or being touched because he'd wind up seeing a million and one things.  However, on occasion, Randy had a mean/prankster streak and he usually liked to inflict it on...John.

 

“That was PRIVATE.”

 

Steve choked on his coffee, looking at Mickie incredulously. “On top of the car?”

 

“Steve, don't read my thoughts!”

 

“It wasn't on purpose, son, though if you got any others like that...”

 

“He has several.” Randy said smugly.

 

Mickie was beat red by now, glaring at Randy, ready to hex him into the next century but refrained, for several reasons. “You're such a bastard, Orton.” She growled, sitting on the couch next to Melina.

 

“I just got over a headache; I'm gonna smash your heads together if you don't stop it.” Glenn looked up when the door opened and Mark stepped out, in his usual wear, standing up slowly.

 

Brooklynn winced when a second later, Randy and John's head did collide, without Mark touching them, causing curses to resound around the apartment. “I'm surprised you haven't been kicked out yet with how much noise we're making.” She remarked seriously, shaking her head. “We should try taking no more than three cars.  That should be plenty for 10 people.”

 

“Are you serious?  That's-”

 

“Come on Steve, whoever wants to ride with us, follow.  He has his big black truck we're taking.” Trish took Steve's hand, flashing a smile, guiding him out of the apartment.

 

A mind reader and a woman who seen visions; seemed like the perfect couple if Brooklynn didn't say so herself.

 

“Cena rides with Brooklynn.” Mark said flatly, watching as John rubbed his head, Randy and Beth following, Randy rubbing his own skull.  Sometimes, being wicked had perks. “In case he gets the urge to write.”

 

“Good, I brought him crayons.” Glenn snorted, tossing a bag at John. “Mickie, you riding with them then?”

 

“As if she would let him go by himself.” Melina rolled her eyes, looking down at her palm and smiled; the lines were back, which meant she wasn't in danger of dying at the moment nor her friends. “And Mark...?”

 

“Is riding his motorcycle.  Bastet will go with Brooklynn.” Mark held out the cat.

 

Bastet's acidic eyes narrowed.

 

“Why do we have to bring the cat with?” Brooklynn sighed when Mark just shot her a look, rolling her eyes. “Fine.” She wasn't in the mood to argue with him, knowing they had to get a move on.

 

“Randy will ride with me; Glenn can join us if he wants.  I personally wouldn't want to ride with a cat or the love couple, if I were you, Glennie.” Trish smirked when he just groaned, walking out with Randy.

 

Brooklynn was the next one out, John and Mickie following with the cat, who had its beady eyes locked on John. “One fight and I'm throwing both of you out.” She warned evenly, directing that to both John and the cat, meaning what she said, popping the trunk.  Mark always went on his bike, which Brooklynn didn't mind as she slid in the driver's side. “Bastet is sitting in front.  I have three rules, memorize them.  As long as I can't see, smell or hear what's going on in the backseat, you're fine.”

 

Mickie turned redder than a tomato, looking down at her lap, glaring at John. “Touch me and I'll hex you.”

 

“Cena, don't touch my cat.”

 

“Yeah, yeah I won't touch your pussy.” John shot back, sliding into the truck, before Mark could do something evil, like perform the hex Mickie couldn't, sighing in relief when Mark couldn't see him anymore.

 

“Bastet, feel free to murder him.” Mark sighed, smirking when she yowled and shrugged at the look Brooklynn shot him. “Don't throw her out, she means well...mostly.” He walked over to stare down into her face, his eyes covered with sunglasses. “Any problems and she'll let me know.” He said softly.

 

“I know; we'll be fine.”

 

Brooklynn still couldn't believe, after all this time, how protective Mark was of her.  She reached out, caressing his face, thumb running across his cheek.  Mark grabbed her wrist, as if to stop her, pressing a soft kiss to it before walking away to his bike.  She sighed and knew it was time to get to work, shaking herself mentally, knowing John and Mickie wouldn't say a word about it.  That's how Mark and Brooklynn were together; everyone knew it.  Nobody ever made a crack because they all feared Mark and for good reason.  Starting the ignition up, she pulled out and headed on the road, playing Kate Havnevik softly.

 

“I know this song, it was on Grey's Anatomy.” Mickie said after a moment, ignoring John's groan and sang along softly. “So do you know what part of Phoenix?” Phoenix...was a big city, one she wasn't familiar with.

 

John was ignoring them now, busy coloring with the crayons and paper Glenn had given him.  Sighing when Bastet perched on the back of the front seat, John could feel her beady eyes on him again over his shoulder. “Damn cat...”

 

Mark followed behind everyone, letting Brooklynn lead the procession as she knew where the hell they were going.  He had quietly cast shields around each vehicle, knowing if they were dealing with Nemesis, anything could happen.

 

“On the outskirts, we'll just have to search every bridge until we find it.” Brooklynn knew that was vague, but at the same time, it was all the newspaper article had said.  It was almost as if someone didn't want people knowing what happened on this bridge.  That just intrigued Brooklynn more, nodding at Mickie. “We'll find it, we just have to be patient and can't rush it.  Bastet, down.” She ordered, knowing the cat was purposely staring at John just to anger him.

 

Bastet's response was to turn and raise her tail upright, back swaying for a moment, before settling down on the seat and curling into a ball.

 

“Why is that thing traveling with us again?”

 

“Mark wanted a link to...us.” Mickie said, almost having said Brooklynn, but figured that'd be opening a can of worms that nobody wanted to dig into. 

 

Mark and Brooklynn's friendship wasn't an open discussion.

 

“Thank you.” She whispered to the cat, reaching over to gently run her hand over the fur, pulling back before focusing on the road. 

 

There was a connection to this bridge, Brooklynn simply knew it.  Kyle wouldn't show her that room with the woman bleeding to death for nothing.  Nemesis wasn't good on playing mind games and Brooklynn was far too smart to fall for anything of that magnitude.  She was 27 years old and dealt with this all of her life, practically a pro.  This woman was the link to possibly crossing Kyle over and getting him out of Nemesis's grasp.  They had a long road ahead of them just as her cell phone rang.  Ten minutes later, Brooklynn hung up.

 

“We have a place on the outskirts of Phoenix to stay in.” She informed them, knowing Bastet would inform Mark.

 

Mark could only IMAGINE where they'd be staying and knew it would, unlike his apartment, accommodate them all comfortably.  When Trish stuck out her hand, signaling they needed to stop, he followed the caravan into a rest area, dismounting in order to stretch his legs. “What's wrong?”

 

“Nothing, I had to piss.” Glenn grunted, sliding from the truck.

 

“So do I.” Melina added, following.

 

Rolling his eyes, Mark went to see how Brooklynn was holding up with Bastet and Cena.

 

Brooklynn stepped out of the car just as Mark walked up, shaking her head. “Bastet was annoying John and I told him to stop.  I think he's angry with me.” She shrugged, leaning back against the car with crossed arms.

 

“I gotta piss.” John grunted, stepping out and rushed to the bathroom, the cat glaring at his retreating form while Mickie laughed.

 

“I don't want to know.” Brooklynn muttered, glancing over her shoulder at John before turning to face Mark again, seeing he wanted to ask her something. “Just ask, you know we have no secrets from each other...much.”

 

Chapter 4

 

“Bastet is a GIRL.” Mark informed her, glad his cat hadn't heard that one.  She would’ve probably pissed on Brooklynn's seat or something.  As it was, Bastet was sleeping…He hoped. “Last night, you said you'd tell everything in the morning, all you told anyone was the guy's name and where this happened.  I want to know what HAPPENED last night to you with the spirit.”

 

“The long hallway was the dream.  Doors on each side, I opened a few of them before he came face to face with me and told me to wake up.  When I did, he was there and led me outside.  He wanted to talk to me alone, as most spirits do.” Brooklynn sighed, knowing there really wasn't much else to tell besides the conversation they had. “I asked him who he was; he finally told me his name.  When I mentioned going into the light and crossing over, he got this panicked look in his eyes, like he was afraid.  Then he made all of the streetlights explode and blew me back against the building, which is when you came out.  The only clear vision I had in the dream was the operating table one, which I told you.” She didn't care if the damn cat was a transvestite; she was still a nuisance to deal with.

 

Mark considered all that; he knew about the streetlights exploding as Bastet had informed him of that and how Brooklynn had gone flying backwards.  That’s when he had come out to make sure she didn’t go through something or wind up dead.  Sometimes spirits could summon enough energy to wreak a LOT of mayhem, even kill.  He had a feeling Brooklynn didn't like Bastet anymore than Bastet liked her, but...it was a necessary inconvenience.

 

“You have to stop being so overprotective of me, Mark.  I can take care of myself.  I-” John's voice stopped her from talking, knowing they were ready to head out again. “Be careful.” Brooklynn whispered before sliding in the driver's seat, buckling up, locking eyes with him briefly as he walked away back to his bike. 

 

Sighing, she pressed her forehead to the steering wheel briefly and pulled back out on the road.  Bastet apparently hadn't overheard her refer to it as a male, so that was a good thing, Lynn guessed.  She swapped CDs and popped in Three Days Grace, needing something to occupy her mind.

 

Bastet had heard and was currently sending Mark images of her ripping Brooklynn's throat out.  Mark chuckled as he swung his leg back over his Harley, waiting until everyone was on the move, before joining the group.  Females were fickle, jealous creatures and he let Bastet know it.

 

John arched an eyebrow when Bastet snuggled up on Brooklynn's lap, purring as she curled into a ball. “I don't understand that thing.”

 

Mark rolled his eyes.

 

She just pet Bastet's head gently, cracking a small smile, while driving toward Phoenix.  If they kept on track, it would take no more than a day at most to get there by car.  Plane rides would've been easier, but there was no way Mark would let Brooklynn pay for everyone's ticket.  So cars would have to suffice. 

 

They drove and rode for 12 hours before finally stopping at a hotel, nightfall having arrived.  They stopped three times throughout the trip for bathroom breaks, food and essentials to help them keep moving, like coffee.  That was Brooklynn's addiction and she currently had a cup in her hand while stretching.

 

There was no way Mark would have flown, her not paying for everything was his excuse though.  Mark did NOT fly.  He didn't do ANYTHING if his feet were not firmly attached to good old mother earth.  Now if he HAD to fly, it was usually for short distances and he could do that without the help of a plane.  If he was going to die in a crash, he preferred it to be because he hadn't moved quickly enough to miss a tree or something.  He wasn't, however, going to lie and say he wasn't glad to see the city lights of Phoenix, legs aching and fairly certain his backside was numb.

 

They got 5 rooms. 

 

Steve and Trish, Melina and Glenn, John and Mickie, Randy and Beth and, of course, Mark and Brooklynn with Bastet.  Melina and Glenn were very good friends, kind of like Brooklynn and Mark were, though they had with benefits added.  Steve and Trish just meshed well together, he was a Texan foul-mouthed redneck and she put him in his place.  It was too cute to watch with how tiny she was compared to him. 

 

Mickie and John were on again, off again, though Brooklynn knew one day they would be settling down.  Beth and Randy...she had no idea how that happened, not wanting to know.  Brooklynn set her bag down in the corner before looking around, seeing one king sized bed, a dresser with TV, though they weren't going to be watching any.  She knew Mark had to be exhausted from all the riding he'd done today.

 

Now that he was up and mobile, Mark was feeling better.  He was, by nature, nocturnal.  But as of late, nightmares had been keeping him up so he had been sleeping whenever, drinking the rest.  Now that life had gone back to 'normal', if that counted ten friends, who got together every now and again, to dispatch spirits either to hell or into the light…he was feeling like his...old self.

 

“Tired?”

 

“No, I know you're not either.” They were night owls at heart, not to mention Brooklynn had pumped herself full of coffee.  She threw the empty cup away and sat down on the bed, pulling her laptop out, sighing when Mark shut it. “I want to do some research.” She had to keep her eye on the prize, which was finding out what happened to Kyle, help him come to grips with the reality of things and cross him over.  Feeling him pull her away from it and turning her around to face him, Lynn couldn't help smirking. “Be careful, your feline will get jealous.”

 

“She's out hunting; she said you didn't feed her.” He replied with a snort, mustache and goatee tickling her skin when he bent down to brush his lips against her jawline, finally pulling back. “You look like you could use a meal in you.” Or something else, but he knew better than to offer that. “Want to order something?”

 

“I tried feeding her, but she refused to eat the chips.  John tried feeding her chocolate, the cat is smart; I'll give her that.” Brooklynn felt a shiver run down her spine at the feeling of his goatee, grabbing his chin gently in her thumb and forefinger, moving his head slowly back and forth. “You already know this, but I'm going to tell you anyway, you are evil.” She leaned back against the headboard, keeping her knees down since she wore a skirt. “Whatever you get, I'll eat.”

 

He was more interested in her evil comment, emerald green orbs sparkling with mischief. “Really?  How am I evil, darlin'?” Mark asked, tone filled with hurt, as his hands skimmed up her calves, feeling her muscles tightening under his palms. “Damn, you’re tense...” He drawled, eyes never leaving her face.

 

“You know damn well how you're evil.” Brooklynn shot back softly, folding her arms in front of her chest.  Trying not to show his touch was turning her on, she slowly sank further back against the headboard. “I'm always tense, it comes with the territory.” She sighed when his hand slowly inched further up, knowing this was slowly crossing a line, never taking her eyes from his. “I did miss you, what've you been doing for the past three years?”

 

She was trying to use diversionary tactics and he'd let her think it was working.  Strong hands shifted from a seductive massage to a plain, straightforward one, working the tension from her legs. “Same old shit, drifting from one place to the other, and hoping nothing literally pops out at me saying boo.” He shrugged, not tearing his eyes from her legs.  Damn, she had beautiful calves. “You?”

 

“I wrote another book and helped a few spirits crossover.”

 

Only when it was treacherous did the circle get together, mostly when danger approached.  She did it all of her life and none of the spirits, until Kyle, had been a potential threat.  Everyone knew what Brooklynn did and didn't have a problem with it.

 

“Mostly writing and wondering when we would meet up again.”

 

Her eyes closed briefly; a man hadn't touched her in so long as she glided her fingers through his hair.  Brooklynn wanted to go see Mark, to visit, but knew that would only complicate things further.  She was the only one who saw the good in Mark when the circle first met, all of them finding out about the other.  However, she met Mark first before any of the others and they’d gone on a few excursions that slowly built the circle to what it was today.  Brooklynn accepted and trusted him, which never changed, even after all these years.

 

“Do you sometimes wonder why we were chosen to do this, to be supernatural hunters?”

 

“Don't say that, it reminds me of that damn show on TV; Tap or some shit.” He snorted, wondering how on EARTH they could determine a place was haunted in the course of one night.  Unless the ghost jumped out and said BOO, it usually took a bit of time to determine a true haunting and these jokers got people thinking they could usually make a decision in one night about it. “No, I don't, Brooklynn.” He muttered in a serious tone. “I'm glad for it actually, because if I wasn't doing this, I'd probably be one of the bad guys you’re always fighting.”

 

“No you wouldn't, don't say that.” She ordered, hating it when he said things like that, slowly pulling her legs away, only for him to yank her on her back, the skirt riding up slowly. “You're different, one of the many things I like about you.” His forehead pressed against hers and Brooklynn felt his hot breath against her lips.  The man was going to make her cross the line she put between them, she simply knew it. “Mark...” Just before their lips touched, Bastet meowed, dissolving their heated moment in an instant.  Brooklynn took this opportunity to grab her bag and went into the bathroom, closing the door behind her, breathing heavily.

 

“Bastet...are you sure you're not a bitch?” Mark sighed, petting her when she jumped into his lap, not missing the possessive look she gave him.  Bastet dug her claws into his thigh.  He winced, apologizing and looked towards the bathroom door, groaning softly. “Damn...”

 

After regaining her composure by taking a cold shower, Brooklynn emerged wearing black cotton shorts and a matching tank top, her usual sleepwear.  Especially since they were nearing one of the hottest places in the country. “Bathroom's free.” She was back to her normal self, the desire gone, feeling pleasantly chilled as she sat on the bed.  She was hungry, but had no idea what she wanted to eat and ignored the cat.

 

Considering he no longer needed the cold shower... Mark wasn't in any hurry. “Ordered pizza.” He yawned, not in the mood to do much anymore besides eat and try not to think about the woman he was sharing a room with. “After it's delivered, I'll shield the room.” He really did not want her having another dream or ‘visitor’, not when they had work to do in the morning.  They had all been up since the crack of dawn, knowing they all needed their rest.

 

“No, you can't.” Brooklynn looked back at him with pleading eyes. “Mark, Kyle will probably come again tonight, I have to let him.  I have to try asking him about Julia.” Sighing when he just narrowed his eyes at her, she shook her head, suddenly not hungry anymore. “From now on, we'll have separate rooms then so you can get your beauty rest.  Excuse me.”

 

She walked out of the room, tempted to slam the door, but knew she would wake the others.  Brooklynn had to keep the communication barrier open.  Mark's shields were one of the few things that irritated her.  Mark snorted, rolling his eyes and almost got up to follow her.  Almost.  She was insane, thinking just by changing rooms he wouldn't shield her.  She needed to sleep, a DECENT night's sleep, not broken with...hauntings.  Otherwise, she was going to be drained in the morning.  He knew because he had seen it happen before.

 

“Well, now she's pissed...”

 

Bastet purred even louder.

 

When she finally cooled off, 20 minutes later, Brooklynn went back to the room, not saying a word to Mark.  She simply walked over and slid on her side of the bed on her side, staring at the wall.  He could put up all the shields he wanted, but that wouldn't stop Kyle from invading her dreams.  Mark didn't have the power to stop dreams from entering her mind and she could communicate with Kyle that way.  The more information she could get from the ghost, the faster this would be solved.

 

No, he couldn't invade her dreams and he wouldn't want too.  Well, with the proper incantations and spells, Mark probably could, but that would have been way too much hassle when he could simply ask and she'd probably tell him.  It was her physical wellbeing he worried about.  Considering Kyle Winters had gotten a bit angry and made lights explode and threw her back against a building, he would’ve really hated to resurrect that spirit just to kill him all over again.

 

“You are too overprotective of me.  How many times do I have to say it?” She accused quietly, after what seemed like hours of silence, refusing to turn and face him. “I don't mind the cat...too much, but trying to keep spirits from finding me is another thing entirely.  I know you're worried, especially after what happened with the first encounter, but a spirit has only so much energy.  The force of him disappearing caused me to fly back, he didn't touch me.” She explained, feeling him turn to where his hot breath was on her neck.

 

“I know how it works, Brooklynn.” He reminded her evenly. “But the fact of the matter is, if this thing is working with Nemesis, forced or not, Nemesis could lend its energies to help it harm you and we both know it.” Mark kissed the back of her neck, sighing softly. “I'm sorry.”

 

“I am too; I didn't mean to storm out like that.” Brooklynn sighed and turned on her back, staring up into his eyes. “You're right; this could be Nemesis up to his tricks again.  I do have to be cautious.  Sometimes I get so wrapped up in this that I don't think and I just...act.  I know you're just trying to protect me.” Wrapping her arms around his neck, she hugged him tightly and kissed his cheek, sinking back down in the bed.

 

“And that is your apology from me for the next three years.” Mark informed her, as he usually did not apologize. 

 

Considering he had probably been overstepping boundaries, like he always did, he felt he owed her one.  Not that it would stop him from overstepping again, because it wouldn't.  So she could apply that apology for the next screw up he did.

 

“You know you love me, even if I am an overbearing ass.”

 

Chapter 5

 

“Yeah I do.” Brooklynn laughed softly when he poked her side, running her fingers through his hair when he snuggled into her chest. 

 

What was she doing?  Brooklynn couldn't get involved with him, no matter how much she wanted too.  But something was pulling her to him, forcing her to feel things she tried locking away every time they parted.

 

“You can deny it all you want, but you love me too.” She kissed the top of his head and reached up, turning the lamp off, the room bathed in darkness moments later. “You smell good.”

 

“I oughta.” Mark snorted, not responding to her 'you love me too' comment. 

 

Truth be told, he loved her in a way she'd probably not appreciate.  Considering she was constantly reinforcing that friendship boundary between them since he was constantly pushing it.  But on the other hand, they had gone three years without seeing each other.  He had to make up for lost time.

 

“Don't get cocky with me, Calaway.” She snorted right back, smacking him lightly when he squeezed her sides. 

 

Brooklynn heard him chuckling and felt his head lift to stare down at her; even through the darkness she could clearly see him.  Her world revolved in darkness, just as his did.  They were so much alike, yet so different at the same time.

 

“Do you remember how we first met?  I think about that a lot.  Not many people can say they fought over a spirit who ended up needing crossed over, not destroyed.”

 

“I think about how you looked, your hair was a mess, your face flushed and splotchy...” Mark trailed off, catching her hand before it could hit his chest and brought it to his mouth, brushing his lips caressingly against her palm. “You were the most gorgeous woman I had ever laid eyes on.” Of course he remembered because they'd both damn near died.

 

Her heart nearly skipped a beat, a flush flooding her body from the top of her head to the tip of her toes.  His lips felt sinful and Brooklynn knew Mark was her purgatory.  He wasn't heaven and he wasn't hell, he was somewhere in between.  She wanted to be with him in every way possible, but something held her back from doing so.  It was fear; it had to be, but he was slowly breaking the walls down that she encased around herself.

 

“I'm glad you got rid of that ridiculous beard you had.  A goatee looks much better on you.”

 

Mark blinked, that was quite the change and then scowled, staring down at her broodingly through the darkness. “I LIKED the beard.” He informed her darkly, trying to keep all humor from his tone. “And as I was living in fuckin’ Montana at the time, I kinda needed something to keep the face warm.” He snorted when she rolled her eyes, catching her hand before she could tug on his goatee. “You do it and I'll have to punish you.”

 

“You looked like a moron with the beard, an old man.” Brooklynn ran her fingertips down his chin, loving how the small hairs brushed against them, smiling. “I'm not yanking on it, though I'm curious, what kind of punishment would I receive?” Mark wouldn't hurt her; she knew that much and trusted him completely as her eyebrow rose curiously. “Or are you just all talk?” She yanked on it gently, giggling when he growled down at her. “As long as you don't spank me, we're good.”

 

She remembered the first and ONLY time Mark tried that.  He'd gotten a broken nose for his trouble, due to her tiny fist plowing into it.  That was one of the only times he apologized to her, after fixing his nose.  There were other ways to punish a person, namely a woman, without physically hurting them.  Factor in Mark was an experienced Warlock and the interesting factor went up several notches.  Snorting, he pulled her out of the bed and sat up, flipping Brooklynn over his lap like he was going to spank her, but he knew better.  Instead, he began tickling the back of her thighs, right where the shorts cut off and the insides of her thighs, debating on adding a bit of...magic.  No, that wouldn't be fair.

 

“Mark, stop!!” She squealed out, wiggling on his lap, trying to get free. 

 

The tickling stopped, only to turn into caressing, knowing he was going to torture her.  Sexual torment was a punishment and Brooklynn inwardly groaned, trying not to let it get to her.  The cat would've been a WONDEROUS distraction at the moment, though she had a feeling Bastet wouldn't make another appearance for the night.

 

“Mark, don't...” She gasped when he lifted her tank top up, running his lips and tongue along her lower back and up the middle.  Directly up her spine, Brooklynn physically shivered against him. “Not fair, so damn evil...”

 

Bastet was currently out patrolling, Mark having sent her packing while Brooklynn was in the shower.  Well, more like politely requested.  She would raise the alarm if anything was happening outside the shield he had cast around the hotel, trying to keep everyone safe since he wasn't a complete bastard.

 

“Mmmhmm...” He murmured, fingers inching higher until he could almost skim her panties…almost.

 

He was lighting her completely on fire, also giving her a head rush.  Before she could say anything, Mark pulled her up to where her back pressed against his chest, sitting on his lap, strong hand pressed against her abdomen.  This wasn't crossing the line, yet...sex would be crossing the line.  Mark and Brooklynn often fooled around, having heavy make out sessions that lasted for hours, but she never let it go past that point. 

 

The clothes never came off, but it was getting harder not to do, not to take this further.  Their friendship would never be the same again and she loved Mark too much to let that happen.  All rational thought flew out the window when his lips began suckling the flesh of her neck.  Moving her black hair over her left shoulder, Brooklynn melted against him, mewling softly.

 

Knowing this was going to reach the point where they didn't stop, Mark was fighting his own body to regain control of himself.  He knew Brooklynn would probably never forgive him or herself if they actually had sex and crossed that barrier.  But he wanted her so badly, he physically ached EVERYWHERE from it.

 

“Fuck...” He cursed in a harsh whisper, pulling away from her. “Tell me to stop, darlin'...”

 

“I-I can't even think right now...”

 

Brooklynn blinked the amount of desire coursing through her very intense, the flame within needing to be put out desperately.  How could he even ask her to tell him to stop?  That was idiotic and preposterous!  Brooklynn slowly extracted herself from his arms, needing to put some distance between them.

 

‘I'm fighting a losing battle.’ She thought, letting him have a few minutes to calm down, her stomach twisting in knots.

 

Mark clenched and unclenched his fists, fighting the desire to pull her back down and take her for his own; to stake the claim on her completely that everyone knew he already had. “Fuck...” He cursed again, raking a hand through his loose black hair and stood up. “I'm steppin' outside.” He said aloud, not directly to her, but… hell, he didn't even know anymore.  Mark slipped out the door, heading down the back stairs that would lead to the parking lot.  He needed...a cigarette or a shot of something stiff.

 

Tears slowly slid down her face as Brooklynn dropped her head, closing her eyes, and wiped them away angrily.  She hated this, feeling her heart slowly begin to crack down the middle. “I did the right thing.” She whispered, walking into the bathroom, and splashed cold water on her face.  She patted it dry with a towel, staring in the mirror. “What am I doing?  I love him, why am I fighting this so hard?” Throwing the towel down, Brooklynn went to lay down, exhaustion creeping up.  For once in her life, she hoped Kyle stayed out of her dreams and Mark entered them.

 

Kyle had watched the entire thing, pale blue tinted lips pursed into an almost childish pout.  The Warlock was distracting her from him; he didn't like that.  He had to make communication, he needed her to hear him; to see him, but whenever this man was present, he seemed to block everything.  But not her dreams...

 

~!~

 

Her eyes opened, sliding off of the four poster bed, wearing a long black nightgown.  She walked to the door and slowly turned the knob, opening it, stepping out into the long hallway, the same as before.  Doors on either side, Brooklynn looked from side to side, searching for him.

 

“Kyle?” She called out softly, slowly walking, bare feet padding against the wooden flooring. “Kyle, I know you're here.  I know you want to talk to me.  Please, I have questions; I need to know what happened to you and Julia.  I can help you.”

 

His anger radiated around her, a stifling; enclosing feeling, like this woman was being pressed in upon.  How dare she mention Julia in front of him?  Julia, who had watched him die.  He hovered behind her, dead eyes staring down at her; though if she were to spin around, she would see nothing.  Feel maybe but not see him.  Dreams were lovely, the rules never applied.

 

His energy was strong and Brooklynn soon dropped to her knees, breathing harder than normal, wrapping her arms around herself. “K-Kyle, please calm down...”

 

She took in another deep breath, not believing how angry he was.  He was dead, so she supposed he had every reason to have SOME kind of anger, this was something entirely different though.  This was scary, could Mark have been right about Kyle working with Nemesis.

 

“Kyle...”

 

“Julia...” He whispered, stale air pounding against her right ear, hair swaying as if invisible fingers had moved the strands. “Julia, come to me, I miss you.” His voice was sad, truly heart breaking. “I miss you, Julia...” He wept; drifting away from Brooklynn, leaving her to the corridor with doors, knowing behind one door was a sight that would haunt her during the daylight hours.

 

Brooklynn felt her eyes widen as the stale air was fresh, breathing it in, not feeling like she was being slowly crushed.  She slowly followed Kyle down the hallway, stopping at the black door in front of her.  Kyle went through here; he wanted her to see this.  Taking a deep, shaky breath, Brooklynn put her hand on the knob and turned it, the door thrown open moments later.  Tears swelled in her eyes at the sight before her, covering her mouth with her hand.

 

“Julia...” Kyle sobbed, staring down at the mess that had once been a human; the floor nothing but a pool of thick, crimson blood swirling at her feet, staining the bottom of her white night gown. “Julia, stay with me.” He pleaded, turning towards Brooklynn, holding out both his arms in a pleading gesture. “Stay with me, please.  Julia, don't leave me.”

 

Brooklynn felt sick to her stomach, staring down at the woman on the table.  It was her.  Tears poured down her face as she stumbled back, slipping and falling in the blood, splattering her white nightgown. “N-No...N-No I'm not her; I'm not Julia...” She could feel Kyle coming toward her and closed her eyes tightly shut, shaking her head, gripping her hair in her fingers tightly. “NO!!!!”

 

~!~

 

Brooklynn bolted upright in bed, screaming when Mark went to grab her, trembling from head to toe as she fell out of the bed.  Her eyes were still squeezed tightly shut, the image of herself on that table haunting her.  It probably would for the rest of her life as the tears cascaded rapidly down her cheeks just as the door burst open.  Steve was in the room, followed by John, then Trish and Mickie, the four having been playing cards as none of them were able to sleep.  It could have been the fact that John couldn't stop writing for more than a few minutes at a time.

 

“What the HELL?” He closed his eyes, groaning. “That's sick...blood...” He made a retching noise.

 

Mark was staring down at Brooklynn. “What happened?”

 

Slowly opening her eyes, Brooklynn stared down at the blood on her arms and hands, legs, the nightgown stained with red strokes.  She couldn't speak, the tears not stopping and backed up when Mark went toward her. “NO!  Stay away from me!!” She shouted, damn near hysterical. 

 

Stumbling to her feet, Brooklynn shoved anyone out of her way and slammed the bathroom door shut before flicking the lock on it, barely making it to the toilet to vomit.  Who wouldn't after seeing themselves dead on a table, their organs hanging out and blood coating the floor?  Brooklynn cried harder than she ever had in her life, not understanding what was going on.  Pinching the bridge of his nose, Mark rolled out of bed and ignored the others as he walked over to the bathroom door.

 

“Brooklynn,” He knocked softly. “Open up, darlin'.” He could hear her vomiting in there and wrinkled his nose.

 

“Move over, homie.” John slid in front of Mark, whipping out his wallet.  He started reaching for a credit card only to stop, his hand moving to the door, beginning to write with his finger.

 

“Here.” Trish held out a marker; they were all carrying one in their pockets.

 

John took it with his free hand, beginning to write.

 

“Julia...”

 

“Don't....”

 

“Leave...”

 

“Me.”

 

The door swung open at that moment as Brooklynn walked out, the nightgown deteriorating on the bathroom floor.  She was glad her bag was still in the bathroom, having changed into a long sleeved black shirt with jeans, refusing to sleep. “He thinks I'm Julia.” Staring straight ahead, her hands slightly trembled. “I-I saw myself...I saw myself on that table.  I-I was Julia...” She took a deep breath, knowing Kyle was very confused. “Sometimes spirits can change the visions in dreams, to make it into something it isn't.  He thinks I'm Julia, the woman on the bridge.”

 

“What the hell...”

 

“What does that mean?” Randy was keeping his distance, though he was aching to touch Brooklynn's forehead, to try seeing her dream. “Brook...”

 

“He's confused, this is his unfinished business.  He's not with Nemesis, but with how much anger he has, Nemesis can use that to his advantage.  We have to hurry and find out who Julia is and what happened to her.”

 

“I'll get the rest of the kiddies up; we might as well start hunting this woman up now.” Steve sighed, watching as Glenn stumbled into the room, a hand on his head. “Migraine?

 

“You could say that.”

 

“I'll get him something for it.” Mickie sighed as well, not understanding what was happening anymore.

 

Chapter 6

 

It was Kyle's anger seeping through; Brooklynn knew it as she pulled her laptop out, firing it up.  Soon, everyone was congregated in Mark and Brooklynn's room, naturally, while she looked up all the bridges in Phoenix.  She hooked her printer up, which was also portable and took the paper to read it over.

 

“We have 20 different spots to look at.  No time like the present.  I need coffee...” She nodded once when Steve handed her a cup. “Thanks.”

 

“Lynn, are you all right?”

 

“Fine.”

 

“Sweetie, how can you be fine waking up covered in blood from a dream?”

 

“I've dealt with this my entire life; it's not out of the ordinary for me.”

 

“But you freaked out, you were screaming and everything.  Are you sure you're alright?”

 

“Yes, I'm FINE.  Stop worrying about me.  I have Mark worrying about me, I don't need the rest of you following suit.  Now come on, we have a list.” She shut the laptop down and slipped it back in the bag.

 

“Groups of two.” Mark ordered, watching the couples siding with each other and shook his head, everyone dressed and assembled.

 

“Wouldn't it be safer if we were all together?”

 

“We'll cover more ground apart.”

 

“Mickie and Glenn, his headache will tell her if they're getting close and she can keep dosing him to keep the pain bareable.  Randy and Melina, if her lines disappear, he'll be able to touch and see just what's coming.”

 

“Lemme guess, you and Lynn...”

 

“Actually, I think Brooklynn has the best chance of finding the bridge than the rest of us, so she should take Beth.”

 

Brooklynn was surprised by that, but didn't show it, nodding, having printed copies of the list for everyone. “When someone finds the bridge, call everyone else.  Come on Beth.”

 

She walked out, not wanting to waste any time.  Kyle wasn't going to stay away from her, especially since he thought she was Julia.  Brooklynn walked to her Ford Focus, unlocking it and felt someone grab her arm, turning around to face Mark.

 

“What's wrong?”

 

“Don't let him fuck with you.” Mark advised bluntly, knowing it was not like Brooklynn to freak out over a dream, no matter how horrible it had been.

 

She had dealt with this all her life.  She knew better. After looking her over once, he walked away, taking John with him as he was the only one, besides Mickie, who could tolerate the man’s mouth.  Brooklynn just sighed, knowing she freaked out over the dream, but seeing herself dead in one was definitely a first.  She slid in the car with Beth waiting and started the ignition before driving away.  They were going to cover the last 5 on the list since both had the better chance of finding it first.

 

“Did you really see yourself dead in the dream?”

 

“Yes and he kept saying 'Julia, don't leave me'.  I saw myself on that table and he was calling me Julia.  He thinks I'm his dead girlfriend or whatever.”

 

“Creepy, why do you think he believes you're Julia?”

 

“That's the million dollar question, isn't it?”

 

Beth considered that. “It's possible he's just toying with you.” She said quietly, going with Mark's previous statement of ‘playing a mind fuck if I was Nemesis or working for him'. “Or maybe confusing you with her, you know, maybe she had black hair too.  You seen Julia in your dream the other night, didn't you?”

 

“No, I didn't.  I saw a woman, but that's it.  He might be messing with me, but something is telling me it's more than that.”

 

Brooklynn wouldn’t back down from this.  She'd been in this long enough to know the difference between a mind fuck and a ghost being confused.  Kyle was heartbroken; she remembered his eyes and how they filled with unshed tears, weeping for the love of his life.  He said Julia watched him die, how was that possible?

 

“We're going to figure this out; patience is definitely not a virtue right now.”

 

Beth settled back in her seat and didn't say a word, turning to look out the window.  Brooklynn was like Mark, there simply was no arguing with either one, they were both too pigheaded.  Personally, she wasn't rushing into anything that hinted of the supernatural, of other worlds; simply because one never quite knew what they were going to get.  One spirit was not like the other, each haunting a little different.  The first bridge they went too was too busy, so that definitely wasn't it.  They needed one that was secluded, dark, maybe even closed off.  The last bridge on the list is where they hit the jackpot.

 

“This is it.” Brooklynn stated out of nowhere, driving down a gravel road.

 

“How can you tell?”

 

“Kyle's presence is getting stronger, I can feel him.  This is it, but checking the water will tell us for sure.”

 

Beth nodded, taking a deep breath, and looked up at an old looking bridge.  The car stopped as both women stepped out, the water washing gently on the sandy shore, woods surrounding them.  Brooklynn watched as Beth walked toward the water, clasping her hands in front of her, hoping this was it.  Beth hesitated, knowing this wasn't going to be pleasant.  Being assaulted with memories that weren't hers never was.  Finally, she rolled up her sleeves and bent down, reaching out for the water.  The moment her fingers touched it, she was lost; a million thoughts and memories from the past hitting her.  She had to focus and not drown in them, trying to sort out the ones she needed.

 

Julia...”

 

Brooklynn whipped around, staring back at Kyle, eyebrows furrowed together.  The cut over his eye was gone, his suit still wet, but his complexion was slowly gaining color.  When ghosts found out whom they were, slowly, their appearance changed.

 

“I'm not Julia, Kyle.  I'm not her.  I need you to focus, focus on me.  Tell me what happened here.  How did you die?”

 

I am focused on you, Julia.” He said, frowning as he approached her, walking, though he made no sound and left no dents in the tall grass. “I'm always focused on you.”

 

Beth's eyes were in the back of her head, watching as Julia pleaded with Kyle to get down, to not jump. “Don't do it, Kyle, please, baby...” She pleaded loudly.

 

“But I'm not-” Brooklynn turned around, seeing what condition Beth was in and immediately rushed over to her.  She couldn't touch Beth, raking a hand through her hair, feeling Kyle right behind her. “I'm not Julia, my name is Brooklynn Meyers.  Please, let me help you figure this out…”

 

“Kyle, no!!”

 

“Beth!” Brooklynn wrapped her arms around the woman's waist, trying to pull her back from jumping in the water, grunting as they both fell to the ground with Beth landing on top of her.

 

“Kyle!” Beth screamed, nothing but the whites of her eyes still showing; her face the perfect expression of horror. 

 

She was struggling against Brooklynn, trying to reach something only she could see.  But as her contact with water had ended, the memories all began leaving her.  Finally rolling off of Brooklynn and onto her back, Beth began crying softly.  Brooklynn looked up and didn't see any sign of Kyle, shaking slightly, knowing whatever Beth saw was horrifying.  This was it, this was the lake.  She immediately whipped her cell phone and dialed Mark's number, trying to keep the shakiness out of her voice.

 

“Mark, we found it.” She rattled off the address, nodding when he said he'd make sure everyone got there and hung up to check on Beth. “Calm down sweetie, it's alright.  It's over now.” She touched Beth's shoulder, trying to comfort her, tears stinging her eyes. 

 

What the hell was going on? 

 

She wasn't Julia!

 

“Julia...” Beth cried, sitting up and wrapped her arms around her knees that were drawn to her chest. “She tried to stop him, but he wouldn't...he kept saying he didn't have a choice...”

 

Julia...” It was a distant cry now, coming from the water.

 

Beth wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. “All those people who died in there...”

 

“W-What are you talking about?” Brooklynn looked at the water, hearing the faint cry of Kyle, wondering if he wanted her to go in the water.  She wrapped her arms around Beth, who kept rocking back and forth, shuddering from what she saw. “Just relax, Beth, relax honey.  Everyone will be here shortly and then you can explain.” She was trying to ignore Kyle's cry, closing her eyes, the dream piercing her memory.

 

“People, tons of people have died in there over the years!” Beth shrieked, gesturing violently towards the water.  All those damn memories, she shook her head, trying to clear them out or at least focus on the ones that were good.  Like families out swimming...in water people had drowned or been murdered in. “I want Randy.” She whispered, burying her face in her knees.

 

“Okay...”

 

Brooklynn didn't even know what to say, just held Beth as tightly as she could, swallowing hard.  The water was beckoning her to come, knowing there were more clues to what happened to Julia.  Brooklynn wasn't Julia, but whoever this Julia was she had to find out.  She had to see the REAL Julia, wondering if possibly she died the same day Kyle did.

 

A half an hour later, headlights could be seen and Randy jumped out of the car, rushing to Beth's side as she cried out his name, holding her close. “What the hell happened?” He demanded gruffly.

 

“I don't know.  She said a lot of people have died here, along with Kyle.” Brooklynn immediately closed her eyes, feeling Kyle's spirit surround her. “I'm not Julia.”

 

Yes you are...You can't leave me, Julia...I love you…”

 

“I am not Julia.” Kyle disappeared when Mark came toward her; tears in her eyes, Brooklynn hugged him tightly, clinging for dear life.

 

Mark was all business, wrapping one arm around her, while giving instructions to the rest of the team.  His long black leather duster moved when a breeze rolled off of the lake, feeling a chill penetrating through the thick skin. “Whatever is going on with this spirit, it's getting too personal for Brooklynn.  Trish?”

 

Trish shook her head. “Still haven't figured it out yet.” She looked to Steve helplessly, still trying to decipher her vision.

 

“Migraine is getting worse; I think you just pissed it off, Mark.”

 

“Kyle, stop it!” She whispered, pulling away from Mark, staring back at the water. “He wants me to go in there.”

 

“WHAT?”

 

“Are you out of your damn mind?!”

 

“HELL NO!  Brooklynn, he'll kill you!”

 

“Please, please stop this, Kyle.” She gripped her head, feeling his presence overwhelming her again, closing her eyes tightly shut. “Please, I want to help you, but you won't let me.  Please stop it...”

 

Never...Julia...”

 

“I AM NOT JULIA!!”

 

Mark was beginning to get agitated, especially when he felt something beginning to push him away from Brooklynn.

 

“Oh shit...” Steve pulled Trish down when he seen Mark's eyes roll into the back of his head. “Everyone down, Deadman is PISSED!”

 

John was laying over Mickie, just in case; almost pissing himself when lightning flashed out of nowhere, dangerously close to them.

 

Brooklynn flew back and landed on the ground, eyes wide with both fright and wonder, swallowing hard. “Mark, stop it!  You can't hurt a damn spirit, are you nuts?!” Though, Kyle was gone for the time being.  Brooklynn saw his eyes slowly turn back to normal, heart thundering powerfully against her chest. “Is everyone alright?” She called, hearing everyone mutter 'yeah' and slowly got to her feet. “He's gone.” She knew better than to touch Mark right now, taking a deep breath. “Come on, let's go find our new place and figure this out.”

 

Mark knew he couldn't hurt the damn thing, but he could show this Kyle that he had his own power and, if pissed off, it was deadly.  And could be directed at...Brooklynn, Julia, whoever Kyle thought she was.  It was a strategy move, threaten the one thing that was wanted and see what happened.  Kyle had backed off, simple as that.

 

Brooklynn didn't say a word as she led the way to the house, which wasn't far from the bridge.  What a coincidence.  So many thoughts ran through her mind, mainly this Julia business.  How the hell were they supposed to figure this out if Kyle kept calling her Julia, though?  She could feel a headache coming on, knowing Kyle was scared off for the time being and would only see him in her dreams.  Fat chance of that happening, Brooklynn refused to sleep after the last time, trying to focus.  They pulled up 20 minutes later to an old Victorian style three story house, which had plenty of room and was reasonable priced.  She was renting it, hoping they weren't here for more than a few weeks tops.

 

“You HAVE to sleep.” Mickie said flatly when she realized what Brooklynn was going to do.  Pull an all-nighter. “Look, I'll brew you up something, maybe some belladonna.  You'll sleep so sound that you'll...well, the dead won't bother you.”

 

“Where's Mark?”

 

“Probably lurking outside, you stay put so he doesn’t murder you.”

 

“No, I'm NOT sleeping.  Just stop, he's not going to hurt me.  Mark would never do that.  He did the scare tactic to make Kyle go away.”

 

When Mickie started up again, Brooklynn walked away from her and looked up at the huge house.  After unlocking the door, she went up the stairs, deciding to go on the first floor, just wanting to be alone.  She found a room with a balcony, her style, and stepped inside, letting her bag drop to the floor.  The house had over 10 rooms.  Mark was sleeping by himself.  She didn't need him breathing down her neck.

 

Mark had no intentions of sleeping.  He was in the backyard, bare from the waist up with his head tilted back, long black hair cascaded down his shoulders and back, arms outstretched with his palms turned upwards towards the sky.  He was chanting.  He was also making sure, if Kyle came back tonight as anything but a dream, he'd find out the spirit world was accessible to people who didn't mind risking their souls.

 

She could hear him and walked out slowly on her balcony, staring down at him.  He was putting a shield over the entire house and, for once, Brooklynn was fine with it.  Kyle was dangerous right now and confused.  Brooklynn walked away from the balcony as the wind picked up, storm clouds rolling in.  Sitting down on the bed, she pulled her laptop out, glad the house was, for the most part, clean.  She didn't care what it took, what she had to do...she was going to find out who this Julia was.

 

Mickie was feeling sick, letting John soothe HER instead of her soothing someone else, which was usually Glenn.  She could feel Mark's magic encasing the house and everyone inside of it, sensing the dark tinge to it.  Everything had a venomous green color tinted to it, Mark's personal magical signature.  He was livid and it was seeping into his spell work.

 

He DARED Kyle to mess with Brooklynn tonight.

 

“Mark...”

 

Brooklynn could feel his magic, swallowing hard, tears stinging her eyes.  She blinked them back, knowing Kyle wouldn't come near the house tonight.  Mark was livid, which was never a good thing.  She sighed, wearing blue cotton shorts with a white and blue tank top, hair pulled back in a messy bun while typing in Kyle's name in every search engine available on the internet.

 

Mark walked around the house, just to make sure nothing alive or dead was lurking.  Somehow not surprised when Bastet came slinking out of the darkness and stooped to pick her up, letting her wind herself around his neck and shoulders before heading inside.  He glanced at Mickie, who was sitting at the kitchen table, her head hanging over a pot and inwardly sighed.

 

It was necessary.

 

Chapter 7

 

After two straight hours, Brooklynn finally gave up, closing the laptop and shoved it back in her bag.  She was frustrated.  Why did Kyle keep insisting she was Julia?  She had to talk to him again, knowing the only way to do that was in her dreams.  Mark didn't have the power over them.  But then the dream came to mind, causing her to wrap her arms around herself, shaking her head.  If she could find out Julia's last name, then they would be one step closer to figuring this out.  She tried Julia Winters, but nothing came up, so they weren't married.

 

“Run a search on women in this city who died in the past 10 years, by the name of Julia.” Trish suggested from the bedroom door; where she had been for the past 5 minutes.  She could see the frustration on Brooklynn's face and knew she wasn't getting anywhere. “You know Kyle's age, so search for a woman around the same age as him.  That might turn up something.”

 

“I already tried that.  I tried Julia Winters, nothing.  I tried all the women in this city, looked up their profiles, everything.  It's almost as if this woman doesn't exist.  What if her name isn't even Julia?” Brooklynn gripped her hair in her fingers, wishing Mark wasn't so angry because she needed him right now.  She needed his comfort, his arms, him in general, beside her. “And what's worse, the only image I've gotten of Julia is me.  Beth saw the same thing.  I have to talk to Kyle again; I have to somehow find out what Julia's last name is.”

 

“I don't think you're going to be talking to anybody outside of this house, unless you do it in your sleep.” Trish said with a frown, gesturing around them. “Steve said Mark was outside casting.  Mickie's sick in the kitchen.” Trish rubbed her temples with her long delicate fingers, inhaling deeply. “Are you positive this spirit isn't working with Nemesis?  That should be our FIRST priority, deciding how involved Nemesis is in this.”

 

“No, I don't know for sure, but all of his vibes give off sorrow and despair.  He wept in my last dream when I saw myself on the table...”

 

She turned away from Trish, standing up from the bed, walking out on the balcony.  Brooklynn was scared and that wasn't easy for someone or a spirit to do.  She sighed, lowering her head as she gripped the balcony railing, lightning flashing moments later.  Kyle was just on the other side of the barrier, crying out to her, the rain pouring harder and faster.  He wanted to talk to her, but Brooklynn couldn't sleep and she knew, if she tried leaving, Mark and the others would be on her like white on rice. 

 

As if on cue, Bastet announced her presence with a loud purr, winding herself around Brooklynn's ankles.

 

“That cat is a bit scary.” Trish commented, smiling when acidic eyes fixed on her.

 

“Am I interrupting?”

 

Now the deep baritone timbre of Mark's voice was even scarier. “Nope, night all.” She hightailed it out of the room.

 

“Night Trish.” Brooklynn called back softly, bending down to pick Bastet up, carrying her back inside the room and set her on the bed.  She moved to where she was leaning against the headboard, Bastet instantly following suit, laying besides her, purring. “Are you all right?” She asked softly, finally looking up into his acid green eyes, the emerald gems gone for now.  He was still angry; the dark side having taken over.  Brooklynn wasn't scared though; one of the reasons they got along so well. “I'm glad you're here.”

 

Mark nodded, looking over her bedroom.  He had noticed how...old this house was.  Not old as in old and worn down, needing a lot of repair work, but old as in antique.  The house had been built a very long time ago and the framework and decor was proof of it.

 

“Nice.” He gestured to the balcony, knowing she probably adored it.  The view wasn't anything to sneeze at that was for sure. “Odd, how this place is so close to the bridge.” He commented, though he didn't sound surprised.  He felt like they were rats in a maze, being guided towards something.

 

“We're meant to be here.” Brooklynn had the same thought, looking down at the cat when she purred louder. “What is with you, girl?  You're never this affectionate toward me.  Are you sick?” She rolled her eyes when the cat just yawned before laying back down.  Moving from the bed, Brooklynn walked over and gently rested her hand on Mark's back, staring up at him with wide amber eyes. “You're incredibly tense...”

 

“I wonder why.” He remarked dryly, knowing exactly why Bastet was being so affectionate towards Brooklynn.  Because she thought that he was pissed off with the woman.

 

Bastet gave him a decidedly human dirty look.

 

“Can you feel or see him?”

 

“I saw him earlier outside of the shield you casted.” She pointed at the area, standing in front of him now. “He's not there anymore.  He won't come anywhere near me with you around.  Only in my dreams and I refuse to sleep.” If Mark was smart, he wouldn't question her on that, walking past him to sit back on the bed. “I know you're not angry with me.  I just wish you'd talk to me.  Unless you are angry with me for something else?”

 

“Why would I be angry with you?” Mark challenged, knowing full well he was a tad bit irked. 

 

Mainly because she was letting this get personal.  Of course, it took years of experience to get past that level.  Especially when one had bitch spirits MAKING it personal by toying with her, but Brooklynn HAD years of experience.

 

“Because you let this ghost get in your head?”

 

Her eyes narrowed as Brooklynn slowly rose to her feet again and placed her hands on her hips. “I did NOT let this ghost get in my head and how dare you say something like that to me!  You have no right, no IDEA, what it's like having to live your life with spirits haunting you!  For your information, I've NEVER in my LIFE, in all my years of experience, dealt with a spirit who claimed I was their significant other!!  I've NEVER dealt with a spirit who wanted to play games with me, so EXCUSE ME for letting it get a little PERSONAL!” She was pissed and it showed, amber eyes flashing angrily. “You know what?  Go to hell and take your cat with you!”

 

“I probably will.” He grunted, gesturing Bastet towards the door, watching her slink out. “You're making it easy for him, Brooklynn.  You had better reign in that anger or you'll make yourself even weaker.” Mark warned her gravely, bowing his head to her before following the cat, closing the door behind him,

 

Brooklynn felt the tears slide down her cheeks, not believing how insensitive he was being.  He had no idea what it was like to see herself on a table with blood all over the place, knowing it was HER blood.  She knew there was a connection to this house, to the bridge, to Kyle calling her Julia. 

 

Nemesis hadn't made himself known ever since that night at her cabin in Colorado. 

 

Wiping her tears away, knowing what she had to do; Brooklynn walked over and lay down on the bed, after locking the door.  She wanted to be alone, screw everyone else.  Why did she even bother with Mark sometimes?  Proceeding to cry herself to sleep, Brooklynn knew it was the only way to dive into that dark abyss once again, where Kyle would be waiting for her.

 

Mark was a bastard and the first to admit it, but when 'Kyle' had actually tried to force him AWAY from Brooklynn, all bets were off.  She had been having nightmares about bodies, had been called Julia and the ghost was beginning to think she WAS Julia.  She had to get her emotions in check before a mistake was made. 

 

If being a bastard meant that happened, then so be it.

 

~!~

 

Her eyes opened, once again in that long, narrow hallway, this time in a pale blue nightgown.  Brooklynn looked behind her shoulder, knowing she had to be strong.  No screaming, no freaking out.  She knew this was all connected somehow.  If she had to act like she was Julia, then so be it.  Anything to get the information out of Kyle.  She began walking down the hallway, feet padding, hearing movement.

 

“Kyle, I know you're here.  I have to talk to you now, it's important.  Please, talk to me.  It's just the two of us.”

 

“No.” Kyle said petulantly, refusing to show himself. “Not until you get rid of him.” The word HIM was filled with bitter resentment and anger, the hallway pulsating with his anger. “HE'S trying to keep us apart, baby, don't you see?  He has to GO!”

 

“Kyle, enough!” Her voice was stern and low, eyes narrowing. “Look, I need to know what my last name is.  Can you at least tell me that?  I don't remember what it is.” She was going to play the part, tears burning her eyes.  There was no way she was getting rid of Mark, she loved him and she wasn't Julia. “Kyle, if you love me truly, you'll tell me what it is.  Please.” She whispered, a single tear falling down her cheek. “What's my last name?”

 

Kyle was quiet for a long time, his bitterness drenching the air with its poison, that's how strong his hate was. “Why are you tormenting me, Julia?” He demanded, both mournfully and livid all at the same time. “Why?  Why, Julia?  Why'd you leave me for him?  Get rid of him!”

 

“I'm not with him!  Look, I don't know what's going on, Kyle.  I'm just as confused as you are!  Please, tell me what I need to know.  My memory is vague; please tell me what my last name is.” She was pleading with him, finally throwing her hands up in the air. “Fine, don't tell me Kyle.  You're tormenting me just as much as yourself.” She turned, beginning to walk down the hallway away from his voice.

 

“You forgot me?” He sounded hurt, weak and pitiful, beginning to cry as Julia walked away from him, reaching out for her with one dripping wet, pale, cold and clammy hand. “You're alive, how could you forget me?” His voice was echoing around her now, the torment crashing over her.

 

“I can't forget you because I'm not Julia.” She stared back at him with truthful, hurt eyes, not believing how truly confused this ghost was. “Kyle, listen to me.  Please just LISTEN.  I need your help.  Julia is waiting for you on the other side in the light.  She's waiting for you to join her, do you understand?  The only way we can piece this together is if you tell me Julia's last name.  Please Kyle, please help me with this.  If you love Julia, you will tell me this information.  You are the only one who can help me.”

 

Ghosts were fickle things which poor memory as they floated between times, drifting in and out of the now, the past and occasionally even the present. “You're not Julia...” He echoed after a long pause, fading in and out of sight. “Who are you?  Julia, don't leave me, don't play games with me.”

 

“I'm not playing games with you, Kyle.  My name is Brooklynn Meyers.” She watched something flicker in his eyes, arching an eyebrow, brushing it off for now. “I'm not Julia, but I need you to help me find out who she is.  She's in the light, waiting for you.  She didn't leave you, you left her.  You jumped off that bridge, Kyle, after she begged you not to do it.  You owe her this and I can help you.  Now are you going to help me or am I just wasting my time?”

 

Kyle shook his head, rage taking over. “You liar!” He shouted, disappearing.  Silence reigned until the hallway walls began to bleed, screaming coming from behind every door.  One by one the doors flew open to reveal a Julia in each one, writhing on a surgery table as she was strapped to. “LIAR!!”

 

“KYLE, STOP IT!  I'm NOT Julia!!  That woman is DEAD, I am NOT!  Don't you think that if I was Julia, I would've already found you?  Why would I deliberately lie to you about this?  MY NAME IS BROOKLYNN MEYERS!!” She watched the walls, feeling the blood begin pooling at her feet, and took off running down the hallway. “YOU NEVER LOVED HER!  You never loved her if you don't even want to help her!!” Brooklynn turned the corner, the blood slowly flowing behind her. “Damn it!”

 

Brooklynn was still stuck in the dream, but she could feel herself being pulled, feeling Kyle grab her by the arm, whipping her around, wind hollowing around them. “You have to tell me before I wake up.  What the Julia's last name?” Her black hair whipped around her in frenzy, knowing she had to find some way to prove to Kyle she wasn't Julia. “Look, Kyle LOOK!  We don't have much time!  Look at my neck.” She turned, a birthmark in the shape of a star on it, slowly turning around to face him. “Julia didn't have that birthmark did she?  I told you, I'm NOT her; I'm Brooklynn, now what is Julia's last name?!”

 

~!~

 

Mark stood at the foot of Brooklynn's bed, the other eight surrounding him and the bed as they all watched blood seeping from under the mattress, dripping steadily to the floor. “Randy.”

Nodding, Randy pulled off his gloves, not looking up as Glenn and Steve got into place to stop him, if he went wild.  Blue eyes narrowing, he bent over Brooklynn and placed his hands on either side of her face.  Visions and flashes went through Randy's mind of the doors flying open, each one showing her on operating tables, blood coating everything.  Randy couldn't stop himself from screaming, not aware he was now trying to claw Brooklynn's face off, desperately trying to rip his hands away from her.

 

“WAKE HER UP!” Mark roared, helping Glenn pull Randy away and held both Randy's arms behind his back while Steve was on the floor with a broken nose.

 

Brooklynn bolted upright a second later, sweat pouring down her face along with tears, screaming at the top of her lungs, blood slowly running down her cheek where Kyle struck her.  Brooklynn looked down, watching as the blood dried up from the bed, seemingly disappearing of its own accord.  Whatever happened to Julia, it involved a lot of blood and she still hadn't come any closer to finding out Julia's last name.  What the hell was it going to take?  She felt the back of her neck, closing her eyes.

 

Mark assured himself she was fine, before bringing his fist crashing down on the side of Randy's temple.  He gently lowered his now unconscious friend to the floor, letting the shocked and semi appalled Beth take over. “Put his gloves back on him.” He ordered, glancing at Steve, who was getting back up before sitting on the edge of the bed, staring intently at Brooklynn. “Are you all right?”

 

Brooklynn reached up; touching the cut on her cheek, remembering the amount of hatred and anger Kyle showed her when she revealed the mark on the back of her neck. “He has to be destroyed.” She whispered, staring straight ahead, the pale blue nightgown fading that was literally coated in blood.  The cotton shorts and tank top had returned.  Randy had caused her the injury so that wouldn't disappear, even though Kyle was the one who did it. “He knows now I'm not Julia.”

 

“So he'll try to...kill you?” Trish murmured, frowning.

 

“Look, it's been a… long, very long night.” Melina interrupted, stepping aside to Glenn and John could carry Randy out of the room. “I think we ALL need SLEEP, with no dreams.  So if Mickie would whip us all some tea...We can tackle this in the morning.” Considering they had gone hunting for the bridge, dealt with Mark's fury and now THIS, all in the same night, the enough factors had gone up.

 

“I'm not going back to sleep.  The rest of you are fine for the night, he won't be back.” Brooklynn was sure of it as she slowly stood up from the bed, which had been coated with blood just moments earlier, staring at everyone. “Out, all of you.  I don't want any tea, I don't want anything.” She walked past Mark into the bathroom, everyone else vacating and mumbling.  They should've been used to this by now. “I said everyone Calaway; that includes you.” She was still angry at him for his earlier comments, refusing to look at him as she splashed cold water on her face, trembling slightly from the aftershock of the dream.

 

Nodding once, he walked out of the room, knowing she would probably be even more pissed off if she knew he was the one to order that she was woken up.  Considering this ghost had some serious power inside her dreams, he wasn't risking her dying in one.  If she died in a dream, her brain would very likely register it as reality and shut down, forcing her into a coma.

 

When she heard the door shut, Brooklynn sank to her knees, burying her face in her hands, sobs tearing through her.  Sometimes love sucked, like now.  She cried until no more tears would fall before walking back out in the bedroom part, eyes narrowing at the sight of Bastet.

 

“Get out.” She ordered gravely, walking over to the door and opened it. 

 

When the cat didn't move, Brooklynn finally had it and lifted the creature up by the back of her neck, tossing her out gently but firmly, slamming and locking the door behind her.  Bastet would probably hate her for the rest of her life, but she REFUSED to be spied on by Mark.  Brooklynn walked back over to the bed and collapsed on top of it, exhaustion completely setting in.

 

Chapter 8

 

Three days passed and nothing happened, no sign of Kyle.  Every available tool they had was null and void.  Brooklynn hadn't spoken to Mark and it was killing her, surprised Bastet hadn't tried clawing her eyes out after tossing her out.  Though John didn't have a good night's sleep that night...or any other night after that.  Brooklynn paced the floor in her room, wracking her brain, knowing they missed something.  Julia...how the hell was she supposed to figure this out if Kyle refused to ever speak to her again?  This was just one big mess; it was almost worth aborting, though Kyle was dangerous and had to be stopped.

 

Randy had been silent for those three days, not really speaking to anyone.  He had seen a lot of things in his time, but that was the first time he had seen one of his friends, someone he cared about, being harmed.  Finally, he broke his silence in order to go speak to Brooklynn.

 

“Can I talk to you?” He asked softly, smiling slightly when she looked at him over her shoulder.

 

“Sure, come in.” Brooklynn knew Randy felt terrible for what he did; the cut on her cheek a deep pink, nearly healed.  It hadn't been that deep, thankfully, and it wouldn't scar. “I'm not mad at you, Randy.  We're still friends.” She smiled at him, scooting over on the bed, setting her laptop aside to give him her full attention. “What's on your mind?”

 

Randy settled himself down on the bed beside her, staring down at her intently, his blue eyes thoughtful. “When you showed...Kyle your neck,” He began, reaching out with a gloved hand to brush her hair, studying the birth mark. “He realized you weren't Julia.  You couldn't convince him otherwise until you showed him that.  And that's where the physical resemblance to him stopped.”

 

“That was the only thing I could think of at the time.  Any kind of mark, any proof to show him I wasn't Julia.” She could see the wheels in Randy's head turning, wondering what he was trying to say, though Brooklynn was patient. “I was trying to get him to tell me Julia's last name so I could finally find her, but he was convinced...until I showed him my birthmark.  He flew into a rage and slapped me across the face, which is what caused you to hit me.  It wasn't you doing it, it was Kyle, but I'm sure you know that already.”

 

Randy wondered if she was ever going to reach the point he had already come too, letting her talk with a somewhat amused smile on his lips.  Finally, he reached out to press a finger to hers to quiet her. “You resemble Julia, enough that he believed you were lying, when you said you were not Julia.  It took PHYSICAL proof to convince him.  Maybe we should start looking for a woman who matches your physical description, Brook.”

 

“You mean Julia looks like me physically?” Brooklynn cleared her throat, blinking, staring down at her hands. “How is that possible, Randy?” She whispered, looking back up at him, wondering if indeed it was true.  How could another woman be out there that resembled her exactly, except the mark on the back of her neck? “How should I go about doing that if I can't even find out anything regarding her death?”

 

“Well, we could hack into the city morgue's database.  If her body turned up, it'd be in there.” Randy suggested, trying his best not to sound mean or crass, knowing this had the potential to get very ugly. “Glenn could do it for you, his headache is gone.” As there hadn't been any signs of Nemesis or Kyle lately, which made him worry.  He preferred to know what the enemy was doing.  Sighing, Randy reached out to squeeze her hand. “You know anything is possible, honey, especially in our line of work.”

 

“You're right, come on.  Let's go talk to Glenn.” She grabbed his hand, smiling, guiding him out of her room toward Glenn's.  The man was the hacker of the group, bringing her laptop in the process.  They arrived outside of Glenn's room, knocking once, and walked in when he grumbled out something incoherent.

 

“Glenn, can we talk to you for a minute?” She asked, slowly creeping in, seeing he was standing by the window looking out. 

 

Everyone was on edge.

 

Glenn turned to look at them, his eyes falling on the laptop and knew his...valuable services were needed, for once, not his pain in the skull paranormal services.  Talk about a double-edged sword.  His headaches alerted him to spirits, migraine's told him said spirits were pissed off.  Useful danger tool for everyone except him as the migraines usually floored him, so he was helpless.

 

“Thank you.” She smiled in relief when he took her laptop, sitting on the bed. “Randy thinks this Julia person, that's linked to Kyle's spirit still being here, resembles me.  He's suggesting to hack into the files at the morgue, see if they have anything on a woman named Julia, even a Jane Doe.” She took a breath, having said all that in a rush, rubbing the back of her neck.  Thank god the house had central air.

 

“A Jane Doe...wouldn't have a name.  They're called Jane Does because they weren't identified.” Randy pointed out, knowing she was a bit frazzled at the moment. “Start with a physical description and see what that pulls up.”

 

“Let me get INTO the site first...” Glenn muttered, his tongue poking out from his teeth. “Do you have any idea how hard hacking a mainframe can be?” When they both shook their heads, he shrugged. “For me, easy as cake.  For you, hard as stone.”

 

“Which is why we came to the best, you.  Take your time; let me know if you find anything.  Black hair, amber eyes.  There's not a lot of women with that so it shouldn't be too difficult, if this woman resembles me like Randy thinks.” She turned to Randy, sighing. “That's what I meant, sorry.  My brain isn't functioning properly.  I'll be back; I have to check on something.”

 

She walked out, knowing she had to talk to Mark.  It'd been three days, they were best friends.  Brooklynn was tired of the silent treatment.

 

Glenn arched an eyebrow when Randy deflated. “She loves Mark.” He reminded bluntly, not even looking up from the screen, now sitting on his bed Indian style and reached over to pick up his mug of coffee, sipping it. “I don't know why you even think you have a chance.  Aren't you with Beth?”

 

“In the sense that she needs a best friend and occasional lover.  Not THAT way.”

 

“Time to change that then.”

 

~!~

 

Standing just outside his bedroom door, Brooklynn rose her hand up, then down, biting her bottom lip.  Oh Christ on a damn cross, she was an adult for crying out loud and this was Mark!  Her best friend, the man she loved more than anything, the man who would never hurt her.  He did everything he could to protect her. 

 

Taking another deep breath, Brooklynn knocked three times before opening the door, stepping inside and heard the shower going.  She closed the door and walked over to the bathroom door, which was cracked open.  He wouldn't be able to walk away from her from in here as she pushed it open and stepped inside, closing it behind her.

 

“We need to talk and I don't care if you're showering or not.  It has to be now.”

 

Mark was standing in the shower, in the middle of washing his hair and turned to peer out the steamed glass pane, able to see her outline but not much else. “Why now?  Can't it wait?” He asked, irritably finishing his hair and opened the door, not minding his nudity.  Watching her intently, he ignored the water that beat down on his muscular body. “Join me in here then, I'm not finished.”

 

“Is that the only way you'll talk to me right now?”

 

When he nodded, Brooklynn shrugged and peeled her shirt and jeans off, kicking them to the side, leaving her clad in dark red bra and panties.  She refused to ever wear thongs, no matter what, and pulled the ponytail out of her hair.  Mark probably thought she wouldn't do it, but Brooklynn was done hiding and running away from him.  She slid open the glass door and stepped inside, closing it.

 

“There, happy now?”

 

“I'd be happier if you weren't wearing a bra and panties.” He remarked, then took that back as the water made the fabric cling to her body, watching as her nipples began to peak beneath her bra.  Mark wasn't ashamed in the slightest when his body responded, arching a brow when she became aware of his issue. “Sorry.” He shrugged, not sounding sorry at all and reached for the soap, which was behind her, his body brushing against hers.

 

“No you're not and, I know if I was naked right now, talking would be the last thing we'd do.”

 

She sucked in a breath, chewing her bottom lip, staring back into his eyes.  He was so amazing and Brooklynn loved him very much, but was it enough?  Was it enough to stop his ways as well as her own?  For now, yes.  She didn't know what the future held and honestly didn't care.

 

“Give me that, you can't get you back.” She took the soap from him, squeezing some in her hands and rubbed them together in the loofa sponge before twirling her finger. “Turn around.”

 

Turning around was the last thing he wanted to do, especially after hearing that delicious admission from her begging to be kissed lips.  But...as she could very easily still be mad at him, he did, muscles relaxing under her touch.  Mark was quiet while she washed his back, almost suggesting she could also get his legs but refrained, finally turning to stare down at her.  Silently, he took the loofa from Brooklynn, letting it drop to the shower floor.  A moment later, he had her pinned against the tiles under the hot sprays, kissing her passionately.

 

Brooklynn buried her fingers in his wet tresses, kissing him back with equal amount of passion, her legs wrapped around his waist.  The sprays soaked her even further as their tongues danced and she moaned uncontrollably.  Her entire body was lit on fire, melting, steam rising around them as she pressed against him as much as she possibly could.  When she couldn't breathe, Brooklynn finally broke the kiss, her head leaning back against the shower wall, staring back into his darkened forest green eyes that were smoldered over with desire.

 

“I'm sorry...” She breathed out the two words that were hardest for her to say, knowing he was worth it.

 

It took him a moment to realize she was apologizing for the three days of not speaking to him and not because she was about to bolt on him.  Nodding, Mark bent down to nuzzle her neck.  He wasn't apologizing for what he did because he had forgotten.  Nevertheless, his comments about the weak bit came rushing back and Mark should’ve apologized, but it had been the truth, if maybe a little brutal.  Brooklynn sighed in contentment, eyes drifting closed, knowing he was just worried about her.  He was using an asshole tactic; she knew him way too well for his own good.  She also wasn't bolting on him, not this time, content with just feeling him against her.

 

“Let's move on and forget about this, deal?” When he nodded, kissing her again, Brooklynn instantly responded and, this time, Mark broke the kiss. “I love you, I hate fighting with you.”

 

Sometimes, he wished she would clarify just what type of love she felt for him because it would be so much easier. “I love you too, Brooklynn.” Mark murmured, glad they were done fighting for now.  It would come around again, it always did, but they always got past it.  That was the beauty of them. “I want you, all of you.” He whispered huskily against her lips.

 

“No, I don't mean the usual love.” She pulled away again, locking eyes with him, cupping his face in her hands to make him focus. “I LOVE you, Mark.  You drive me crazy with your overprotective ways and make my heart stop with one heated look.  You’re funny when you want to be.  I would do anything for you.  I've walked away from you so many times, but I can't do it anymore.  I can't walk away and I can't fight off how I feel.  So, I don't just mean I love you like a friend.  I LOVE you as in I'm deeply, desperately, passionately, sickeningly, overpoweringly in love with you.  Do you get it?  I've been in love with you for years, ever since that first night we met.  You changed my life that night for the better.”

 

Out of everything she had just spilled to him, Mark's reeling mind latched onto one word. “Sickeningly?  You find being in love with me sickening?”

 

“THEY'RE IN LOVE!” Mickie squealed, shrieking when she heard a low growl and darted off, laughing as everyone else cheered.  The bad mood that lingered in the house was broken.

 

Mark cast a barrier around them, just in case anyone else decided to eavesdrop before claiming Brooklynn's lips again. “I love you too.”

 

She giggled softly against his lips, not caring who found out, though everyone was probably thinking the same thing she was.  It was about time. “I want all of you too, Mark.  Every piece, darkness and all.” She kissed him again before wriggling down, sliding her body along his. “That's all I wanted to say.  You can finish your shower up now.” She winked before darting out, hearing him growl and giggled as she swiped her clothes from the bathroom floor, closing the door behind her.

 

“MOTHER FUCKER!”

 

John wasn't the only one who stopped when Mark let that rip out in a tone that literally shook the house. “Think he's mad?”

 

“I think he's sexually frustrated.” Trish corrected after a moment, smirking when Steve nodded his agreement.

 

“He might want to control his thoughts...Wow...red...Trish, wear red for me.” He ducked when she slapped him.

 

Brooklynn cringed and Bastet actually jumped, which rarely happened, while she slipped her clothes back on.  He would hunt her down, which was fine with her.  She had to check on Glenn's progress though and pulled her wet hair back in a ponytail.  Mark would be in the shower longer, but at least she finally admitted how she felt about him.  Whatever happened from here on out, Brooklynn was going to roll with, knowing she did the right thing.

 

Randy looked up from his place on the bed next to Glenn, both men hunched over the tiny laptop, basically hiding it from view.  They were both staring with wide eyes and slack jaws at the monitor. “Holy...”

 

“Shit, that's...wow.” When Glenn realized she was back, he clicked out of the porn site and cleared his throat. “Oh look, we have a match.” He quickly pulled it up, cursing.

 

“You two were looking at porn on my laptop.” She stated evenly, crossing her arms in front of her chest, causing both men to turn red. “Men.  Well here's the deal, you put a virus on that computer and BOTH of you will be paying for a new one.  Now, what have you found?” She walked over, sitting beside Glenn and waited for him to pull the page back up.

 

“It's interesting, we'll say that much.”

 

“She meant from the morgue, jackass, not that midget and-” Glenn trailed off when Brooklynn gave him a look that said he was going to die a very painful, bloody death, if he didn't get his mind back on work, clearing his throat.  When the page had loaded, they all leaned down.  He clicked on the first 'Jane Doe'. “No… Her eyes are brown, not amber.”

 

“This is creepy.”

 

Slowly taking the laptop from Glenn, Brooklynn stared at the picture long and hard, running her finger down it.  The woman looked exactly like her, minus the eyes, though there were flickers of gold in them.  They were nearly identical.  The eyes reminded her of someone, but she couldn't quite put her finger on it.

 

“This is her.  This is Julia.” She whispered before scrolling down, tears instantly flowing down her cheeks at what she found. “Julia Marie Meyers, age 32, survived by p-parents Katherine and Roy Meyers and boyfriend, Kyle Winters...” Those were Brooklynn's parents, though they died late last year and Julia had died early on. “Oh my god...”

 

Chapter 9

 

Automatically, Randy put his arms around her, unable to tear his eyes from the screen.  The woman DID resemble Brooklynn, except her eyes weren't the same amber, they had specks.  And she was dead.  A pale grayish blue color, her eyes cold and vacant, a tag on her toe.

 

“Oh Lord...”

 

Glenn didn't know what to say; somewhere in his mind it registered that he needed to get Mark.

 

“My parents had...and I...and...”

 

Brooklynn couldn't even speak at the moment, dropping the laptop as Randy caught it while she stood up, covering her mouth with her hand.  Julia was...her sister?  They were the same age; their birthdays were the same…the morgue had all of the information.  The only difference between them was their eyes.

 

“She has my father's eyes...I have my mother's...” Brooklynn couldn't take it and bolted out of the living room upstairs to her room.  Tears flowing, she tripped up a few of them, needing a moment by herself to digest this.

 

Mark walked out of the bathroom feeling MUCH better, only to see Brooklynn go flying by him, tripping over her own two feet and frowned.  He started to call out to her and stopped when her bedroom door slammed shut.  Turning to stare down the stairs, Glenn and Randy stood at the foot of them with horrified expressions on their face.

 

“What happened?” He demanded, green eyes narrowing.

 

Randy couldn't even speak and slowly handed the laptop to Mark, knowing the man was going to probably wretch at the sight of Julia...Brooklynn's sister it seemed. “This is on the internet man, so it's for real.  Brook apparently had a long lost twin and that's why Kyle kept saying she is Julia.  They looked alike except the eyes and the birthmark on her neck.” Randy held up his hands. “I saw it in the vision, she showed Kyle to prove to him she wasn't Julia, her twin.  This is fucked up in more ways than one...”

 

“It's fucking sick, but at least we now know why Kyle keeps calling Lynn Julia.”

 

Mark's frown deepened as he read it, arching an eyebrow. “Survived by her parents...”

 

That made no sense.  Brooklynn had known who her parents were, but she hadn't known she had a twin sister.  Her twin had apparently known who her parents were, but there was no mention of her sister in the obituary.

 

“Give her a moment.” He said when it looked like the women were going to head upstairs, needing one himself as he raked a hand through his hair, unable to stomach looking at that picture any longer.

 

“How could her parents keep something like that from her?”

 

“They're dead, aren't they?”

 

“Yeah, which means she wouldn't be able to demand answers, even if she wanted too.  Her sister must've stayed with someone here in Phoenix.”

 

“Maybe we should track them down, see if they know anything about Julia?” Melina suggested, shrugging when the women shook their heads. “Just a thought.”

 

“No, do it.  Julia Meyers, age 32 when she died.  John, Melina and Steve go out.  Start asking around, check old phone books for addresses and visit them.  Glenn, get back on that laptop and see what you can dig up.” Mark barked orders left and right, knowing now wasn’t the time to go soft.

 

“What about the rest of us?” Randy demanded, gesturing to Trish and Mickie.

 

“Mickie needs to start preparing for a crossover, the usual protection spells.  Trish can help with that.  Randy...”

 

Randy hesitated. “I'll go with Steve and them, if they find something...” He waved a gloved hand and followed the others.

 

Brooklynn stood outside on her balcony, overlooking the land they were on, wrapping her arms around herself.  She knew she'd been right, wiping tears of sadness and anger away.  What happened to her sister?  Why did she die at such a young age?  Was she murdered?  Did she even know Brooklynn existed when she was alive?

 

“Julia...” She whispered, arms at her side, the wind blowing through her hair.  Now Brooklynn had a new mission, screw Kyle.  She wanted to know what the hell happened to the twin sister she never knew about.

 

After giving her 20 minutes alone, as well as going over the grounds, Mark finally made his way upstairs, knowing Brooklynn was probably not done crying.  He softly knocked once on the door before walking in. “Darlin'...” He murmured, walking out onto the balcony and rested his hands on her shoulders.

 

“No wonder Kyle thought I was Julia...” She whispered, leaning back against him, closing her eyes as more tears fell. “Is this really happening Mark?  D-Did my parents actually keep this away from me all of my life?”

 

When he kissed the top of her head, Brooklynn completely lost it and broke down, dropping to her knees, sobbing uncontrollably.  She felt Mark lift her up in his arms, leaning against him and clung to him for dear life, her pain radiating throughout the room.  Mark didn't know what to say and just held her, running his hands up and down her back, over her hair, soothing her the best way he knew how by being there for her.  Her parents had had twins and never told her...either of them for that matter.  That was beyond messed up.  He couldn't even begin to wrap his mind around it.

 

Brooklynn finally calmed down, but didn't have the strength to move, let alone speak, resting her head against Mark's shoulder, face tear streaked.  She looked like a frightened child in Mark's arms, due to his size, but honestly, neither cared at the moment.  Curling up, Brooklynn felt Mark's fingers glide through her hair, sniffling very softly and closed her eyes.  She didn't want to sleep, but knew it was coming.  She didn't want to dream about anything except the man who was holding her, who she loved more than life itself, who she refused to ever walk away from again, even after their hunt was finished.

 

Sleep would probably be the best thing for her, providing Kyle had the decency to leave her alone and let her have a moment's peace.  Mark laid out on the bed on his side, pulling her against him and felt her curling up into a ball, sighing quietly.  He was going to raise her parents and then brutally murder them just for this, for putting her through this pain.  She grabbed his arm, wrapping it around her tighter, lacing their fingers together.

 

“Don't leave me.” She whispered, feeling him increase the pressure, his lips pressing a soft kiss to her neck.  Her eyes closed again, letting out a shaky sigh, not even having the strength to raise her hand to wipe the tears away. “I love you, Mark.”

 

Brooklynn had to say it before welcoming the darkness, though she did hear him say it back.  Somehow, she always knew how he felt.  They were finally together and, no matter how it ended, at least they would have these few precious moments together.  Before she knew it, Brooklynn passed out from sheer emotional exhaustion.

 

Mark couldn't sleep; he WOULDN'T sleep.  He was going to lie awake and watch her, on top of waiting to hear back from one of the teams he had sent out.  If it looked like Brooklynn was having a nightmare, he would wake her up.  Hell, if he had too, he'd dose her with some of Mickie's belladonna.  But tonight, of all nights, she was going to get decent sleep, as much as she could at any rate.

 

Brooklynn did dream, but it wasn't about Kyle or rooms filled with blood and her twin sister.  It was about Mark.  It was filled with passion, love, ecstasy and very erotic.  His hands caressed her, loving her the way he'd always wanted, how she always wanted.  She smiled in her sleep, something Brooklynn rarely did because it usually was a way for spirits to reach her.  Not this time though and it was incredibly nice.  She snuggled against the pillow, tears having dried up, sighing in contentment.

 

~!~

 

“She lived HERE?” Trish wrinkled her nose, staring around the apartment.  It was in desperate need of remodeling, but the people down below had said it had been vacant since Kyle's suicide. “Should we call them?”

 

Steve shook his head. “Not just yet, honey.  Why don't we get Randy and Beth over here first?”

 

“I really think Lynn would want to be here when they start feeling around.”

 

~!~

 

“Mark, wake Brooklynn up.  They found Julia's apartment.” Glenn ordered, opening the door a crack, seeing the man was watching over her like a hawk.  His headaches were completely gone, which meant Brooklynn wasn't dreaming about Kyle or anything to do with this situation.  He felt...peaceful, if anything.

 

“Come on, we only have a few hours until the landlord shows up.” Mickie ran down the stairs and out the door.

 

“Mmm what's going on?”

 

Mark knew if the landlord showed up, Steve was very likely to pay the guy off, so he wasn't too worried about that.  Gently, he pulled Brooklynn up into a sitting position, waiting until she had woken up a little more and cleared his throat. “Julia’s apartment was found.” He said softly. “Nobody is going in without you being there, darlin'.”

 

It took a few moments to register who he was talking about, the smile disappearing from her face, the euphoria she was in shattered to pieces. “Give me 5 minutes.” She murmured, slowly sliding from the bed, going to her bag.  Peeling her clothes off, Brooklynn replaced them with a long sleeved black shirt with black jeans and boots, pulling her hair up in a tight bun, a few tendrils framing her face. “Let's go get this over with.” She felt him grab her hand as they walked out together, Brooklynn well rested and ready to go.

 

~!~

 

Steve had indeed bribed the landlord; the man had left them in peace as they loitered in the hallway of the ramshackle apartment complex.  He kept an arm firmly wrapped around Trish, while Randy and Beth leaned against the wall opposite them.  John and Melina were on their way, having been clear across Phoenix.

 

“Steve said this place looked like a roach motel.”

 

“You'll fit in perfectly.”

 

Brooklynn didn't say a word as they headed to the apartment, driving the Ford Focus with Glenn while Mark followed closely behind on his bike.  They arrived 20 minutes later, pulling up to the dilapidated looking building and slowly stepped out.  Julia lived here?  She zipped up her leather jacket, Phoenix being unseasonably cold this time of year, even though it was close to Thanksgiving.  Walking ahead of them, Brooklynn walked up the stairs and pushed the door open, spotting everyone on the first floor.  She didn't say a word to anyone, finally arriving just outside Julia's apartment, not believing this was happening.  Squaring her shoulders, Brooklynn put her hand on the doorknob and turned it, pushing the door open, coughing as dust blew up at her.

 

“Yeah, we should have warned you about that.” Trish murmured apologetically, her own hair still looking a bit...dusty as they had peeked inside.

 

“Do the lights work?” Melina asked, stepping back into Glenn, shivering and smiled when he wrapped an arm around her.

 

“Probably, though the bulbs might...” Steve flicked one on, not surprised when it blew. “Need replaced.”

 

Mark rolled his eyes, not looking away from Brooklynn.

 

Brooklynn looked around, slowly putting one foot in front of the other and swallowed hard.  This was her sister's place...her twin...Brooklynn felt sick to her stomach, tears burning her eyes.  For the most part, without the dust, it was the opposite of her style.  Julia loved pink, the color was everywhere.  Moving over to the television stand, which was covered in cobwebs, Brooklynn pulled a frame off of it and blew on the picture.  It was Julia and Kyle, his arms wrapped around her, both of them grinning with his face resting against hers.  She had long black hair and nearly the same color of eyes as Brooklynn, though hers were a deeper brown.  She slowly ran her finger down the picture, closing her eyes and set the picture frame on the television stand.

 

“Look everywhere for any clues.  Touch whatever you have too; we all have to find out what the hell happened.”

 

Randy was not surprised when everyone looked at him, sighing and ripped his gloves off.

 

“I'll go fill the sinks and bathtub.” Trish volunteered, knowing Beth would be able to read into the fresh water since it would be resting in basins Julia and Kyle had used.

 

“Mark, I'm seeing a lot of angry red and scary black.” Mickie whispered, looking at the aura of the room.

 

“Me too, darlin'.”

 

Brooklynn couldn't do anything more, unless Kyle revealed himself and jumped when she felt a rush behind her.  It was him, she could feel it and slowly turned around, watching as he stared at the same picture she picked up. “I didn't know about her.” Tears swelled in her eyes as Brooklynn slowly stepped back, wiping her cheek when one fell. “I had no idea I had a twin sister.” She ignored everyone who was stopping, her eyes focused on Kyle. “What happened to Julia?”

 

How should I know?” He shot back sullenly, looking rather strong, but that was because this apartment was a place he had a mortal link too. “I was dead by then.”

 

“Where is he?” Mark demanded tensely.

 

Mickie automatically shielded herself, just in case Mark went 'dark side' on them, so she didn't suffer an upset stomach.

 

“You know what happened to her or you wouldn't have shown me that room with blood.  She died in either a hospital or a morgue.  Was she...murdered?” Brooklynn wasn't giving up, ignoring Mark's demand and saw the danger, the fire, erupt in Kyle's eyes. “Fine, don't tell me.  We'll find out though, Kyle.  Each one of us has a unique ability; your secrets will be uncovered and I WILL find out what happened to Julia.” Suddenly, she flew back against the television stand, catching herself as things began rising and falling, knowing it was Kyle's energy doing this.

 

“Oh great, piss him off on his turf.” John groaned, waving Mickie back when she tried to shield him. 

 

Busy holding his hand out towards where the energy seemed to come from, he tried to pick something up to where his ‘writing’ would kick in.  He held a pen between his fingers, beginning to write in the air.  Mark was getting pissed off, especially since Kyle seemed hell bent on harming Brooklynn, basically ignoring all the others.  This was probably a good thing; minus Brooklynn being attacked.

 

“WHERE IS HE?” He roared, his hair whipping around him as wind seared through the room.

 

“He's moving all around!  He doesn't want us here!” The wind suddenly died, everything dropping, and all the hairs on the back of Brooklynn's neck stood up.  She slowly turned around, eyes widening at the sight of Nemesis. “Everyone stop what you're doing.” She ordered, holding a hand up, knowing Nemesis wasn't a force to mess with.

 

Chapter 10

 

Leave now.” Nemesis hissed, having a snakelike face with beaded black eyes, the pupils completely gone, dressed all in black. “Do not test my patience, Brooklynn.”

 

“I'm not leaving until I find out what happened to my sister.”

 

Your sister...” He cackled wickedly, knowing Brooklynn was the only one who could see him. “Would you like to meet precious Julia?”

 

“Where is she?  Where's Julia, Nemesis?!”

 

That is for me to know and you to find out, sweetheart.” He snapped his fingers, a dark wind whirling around them, causing things to smash to the floor before disappearing.

 

Mark and Steve were both trying to stop John, who was writing on himself so hard, he was tearing at his own skin. “SOMEONE HIT HIM ALREADY!” He roared angrily.

 

Melina was restraining a shrieking Mickie; trying not to scream herself.  They all had seen a lot of unexplainable things in their time, but this was beginning to get insane even for them.  Randy finally brought a bookend on John's head, effectively stopping him and looked down.

 

“He just carved your name in his arm.” He said flatly, looking at Brooklynn.

 

Brooklynn knew she could NOT lose it right now, trying to stay strong, nodding. “Kyle's with Nemesis, I just saw him.  He told me to leave...and if I wanted to meet Julia...”

 

Now they knew, with no doubts, Kyle was with Nemesis and there was no backing down from that.  He had to be put down, vanquished.  If Julia had done the same thing...they would have to do the same thing to her, unfortunately.

 

“Kyle hurt her, I know he did.  Beth, did you find out anything from the water?”

 

“All I could see was blood, a lot of blood...”

 

Whatever happened to Julia was barbaric and cruel, borderline torture. “Tear this place apart.  I don't care what it takes, how long we have to be here.  Look for everything, documents, jewelry, pictures...”

 

Brooklynn was pissed as she stormed past them, heading to the bedroom, kicking the door open as more dust flew at her and coughed.  They weren't leaving until they came to some conclusion; something to help them move to the next step.  Steve stared after her, then looked down at John, then at Mark whose green eyes were still acid.

 

“What do we do with him?”

 

“Help him down to your truck; Mickie...go with him, his arm is going to need tended too.  And he'll probably have a concussion.”

 

Randy, who had been about to start touching things, coughed guiltily, shifting down the hallway towards the bedroom.

 

“Mark, there was so much blood...” Beth had tears in her eyes, watching Randy go down the hall, shaking her head. “Randy's in love with Brooklynn.” She blurted out quietly once everyone else was out of the room. “I just wanted you to know that.  Don't hurt him.” She walked out as well, wrapping her arms around herself.

 

“Do you think that was a smart choice to tell him?” Trish groaned, knowing they had to stick together and work as a team.

 

“If Randy knows what's good for him, he'll leave Brooklynn alone.” Glenn's head was thundering with pain, rubbing his temples. “Mickie, do you have that brew?”

 

“Yeah, once we get back to the house, I'll give you some for the pain.”

 

Brooklynn's back was turned to the door, looking through Julia's closet.  Pulling down box after box, she didn’t hear Randy enter the room behind her.  She was too busy trying to find any piece of the puzzle, tears stinging her eyes.  Something had to be here and she was going to find it, tossing the empty box behind her after emptying it out.

 

Randy knew she was in love with Mark; everyone knew she was in love with Mark and vice versa.  They all had known for years now, it just seemed Brooklynn and Mark were now cottoning onto the fact.  That didn't mean he couldn't love her; it just meant he couldn't make a move on her.

 

“Here.” He said gently, pulling her backwards, careful not to touch her skin since he wasn't wearing his gloves. “Just point and I'll touch.”

 

Brooklynn nodded, knowing Randy could give her the answers that these meaningless objects couldn't.  She could only see what spirits showed her, nothing more.  That's why everyone had their own unique gift, they helped each other.

 

“Thank you.” She whispered, looking to the bed and slowly raised a shaking hand, pointing at it. “Do you want me to hold onto you while you touch it, in case you can't handle it?”

 

When he told her to step back, Brooklynn obeyed and wrapped her arms around herself.  Hell no, he didn't want her touching him!  If he went off, Randy was very likely to hurt her again and that couldn’t happen.

 

“If I DO go nuts, call for Mark.” He ordered, with an attempt at a smile, knowing Mark would probably appreciate the chance to physically damage him a bit; a small warning. 

 

Looking down at the bed, he bent down and touched a pillow, his blue eyes widening almost instantly.  All eyes turned to the hallway when the bedroom door slammed shut; red light pooling from beneath it.  Brooklynn swallowed hard, backing up from Randy as far as she could possibly go, seeing the room was bathed in a dark red glow.  It was blood; she simply knew it and trembled slightly.

 

“W-What do you see Randy?” She asked hesitantly, hearing him growl out, stumbling back until her back hit the wall. “Randy, try focusing and tell me what you see...”

 

Brooklynn winced when he smacked himself across the face.  Randy could NOT pull his other hand off the pillow, slapping himself again, trying to snap himself out of it.  His eyes were still unfocused as he stared at something only he could see, not realizing his mouth was open.

He's seeing Julia, sweetheart.  He IS Julia.  Watch.”

 

Randy started screaming, his shirt beginning to tear right down the middle, angry red welts appearing on his chest.

 

“NO!  Randy!!” Brooklynn felt Kyle behind her, restraining her from moving toward him, struggling.  Kyle was far too strong to break the hold! “Kyle, let go of me!” She watched the angry red welts begin to slowly bleed, eyes widening in sheer horror and watched Randy flop on the bed on his back, smacking himself repeatedly before punching himself in the gut. “NO!!!  RANDY!!!”

 

Randy COULDN'T stop at this point, his shirt in tatters, his back touching the bed, his head.  He couldn't stop himself at all.

 

I think we'll give him internal bleeding, sweetheart.  Maybe even see if we can't get him to punch a hole in his own stomach, wouldn't THAT be interesting? Nemesis crooned cruelly, eyes flashing.

 

Mark was having a HELL of a time getting down the hallway; the wind had picked up into what felt like a damn hurricane, forcing them all back as they tried getting to the door.

 

“NO!  Kyle, please don't do this!  MARK!” She screamed out helplessly, hearing him bellow.  It was useless; Kyle had a lot of anger and energy coursing through him cogently.  She could feel it. “Randy, fight it!!  You have to fight it!!”

 

“What the hell is going on?!” Mickie shouted, being blown back along with Mark. “Mark, we have to get in there!!”

 

Glenn dropped to his knees, holding his head as it pulsated with pain, clenching his teeth. “T-They're in t-trouble...”

 

Trish was crying hysterically, getting visions of a woman being beaten and raped in a bedroom, knowing it was in this apartment.

 

“RANDY!!”

 

Randy!  Randy!  Randy, claw your eyes out!

 

Randy's hands curved, fighting with everything in him not to do as commanded.

 

Mark knew he was about to be in serious pain when him and Mickie both ignited in shields, hers white, his black, representing the different paths they walked and reached through his for her hand.  Steve grunted as she touched his, all the rest of them flying backwards as a mini explosion occurred, forcing the bedroom door open.  Leaving Mickie standing there looking shocked, Mark was currently lying with his feet in the hallway, the rest of him through the wall.

 

Brooklynn had nearly gone through the window, having cracked her head on the wall.  She was on her knees now while Randy was rolling on the floor.  Immediately getting to her feet, she rushed over to him, trembling violently, seeing the welts on his chest and blood coming from his mouth and nose.

 

“Randy...Randy, can you hear me?”

 

She saw his hand, out of the corner of her eye, try to touch her, knowing that would be a mistake.  Brooklynn grabbed the lamp off the nightstand before smashing it over his head, effectively knocking him out.  Mickie made her way into the room and began casting cleansing spells, hearing Steve trying not to laugh from behind her in the hallway.  He helped Mark out of the plaster and debris he had gone through.  Mickie wanted to help Brooklynn and Randy, but first she had to make sure they weren't in any more danger.

 

“What happened to him?!” Beth screamed when she finally got into the room, dropping down beside her best friend.

 

“H-He touched the bed and reenacted what happened to...Julia...K-Kyle held me back...I tried stopping him...I tried fighting...” The red tint was completely gone that happened as soon as Randy's hand connected with the pillow.

 

“Oh my head...” Randy grumbled, holding it as he stared up at Beth, who was crying over him, checking his injuries.

 

Glenn's migraine had gone down considerably, though he was afraid it would start back up again while Mickie finished her charms and spells.

 

“You're bleeding, Lynn.” Trish rushed over to her, seeing the blood on the back of her head when she bent over. “You could have a concussion.”

 

“I'm fine.” Brooklynn went to stand up and immediately stumbled back right into Steve's arms, feeling dizzy. “Mark...” Her eyes closed, instantly passing out.

 

“Oh shit!”

 

Glenn shook his head, watching as Mark tried to push away from the unbroken wall Steve had leaned him up against, holding up a hand. “You're bleeding from the head too.” He sighed, that made a grand total of four concussions.  John, Randy, Brooklynn and Mark.  Tonight had NOT been a good night. “Steve, get her in the truck, I'll get Randy.”

 

“What about him?” Melina pointed to Mark. “If you think we can...”

 

Beth snorted, flexing her muscles. “Between you, me and Mickie I'm sure we can think of something.”

 

“Whatever, we gotta get the hell out of here.”

 

Mickie, Steve and Trish helped get Mark out of there, though the man shoved them away, stumbling of his own accord, demanding to know where Brooklynn was.  They tried telling him, but Mark couldn't hear anything.  That blast had knocked him nearly completely out. 

 

Somehow, they managed to pile everyone back in the cars, Mark's bike being ridden by Glenn.  Mickie couldn't believe what happened, looking up at the apartment, shaking her head sadly.  They would have to come fight another day.  She was still trembling from the amount of darkness Mark coursed through her when their hands joined.  That was a feeling she NEVER wanted to experience again as long as she lived.

 

Mark NEVER wanted to feel Mickie's white light ever again either.  It felt like he had been electrocuted or something WHILE standing in water, no less.  He held Brooklynn in the back of her Focus, refusing to let her ride without him and checked over her head to make sure she was all right.  He tried ignoring Trish's attempts at keeping him awake, wanting nothing more than to close his eyes and get forty winks.  It wasn’t happening since she refused to shut up.

 

“How's Randy?” He asked gruffly.

 

“He'll live, providing he doesn't touch anything for awhile.”

 

“We have to find a way to destroy this thing, Kyle, whatever you wanna call it, before he ends up killing Brooklyn.” Beth said quietly, sitting in the far back of the van, Randy's head resting on his lap while she ran her fingers through his hair.

 

“I agree; no more of this searchin’ shit.” Steve was fed up, cracking his neck, having been blown back from Mark and Mickie joining forces, but he wasn't injured, having shielded Trish as well.

 

Brooklynn lay prone in Mark's arms, the laceration on the back of her head not serious enough to go to a hospital.  She would need it bandaged though.  Mark would probably take care of it considering he wasn't allowing anyone else to touch her. 

 

All in all, it could have gone worse…perhaps. 

 

John had a concussion from being knocked out and would probably have Brooklynn's name scarred onto his forearm for the rest of his life.  Mark had a mild concussion, a slight gash on the back of his head and a healthy respect for Mickie and her brand of magic.  Randy was going to need bedrest for a few days to recover, not only from the psychological trauma he had put himself through, out of his asinine love for Brooklynn, but the injuries Kyle had inflicted on him.  And Brooklynn was in the same boat injury wise with Mark.

 

“Not one of our better nights...”

 

“No definitely not.” Steve agreed, having a beer in hand, scrubbing a hand over his bald head.  He still couldn’t believe what happened with Nemesis, knowing they had a hell of a road ahead of them to solve this. “Need another one, big man?”

 

Glenn grunted, catching the beer with one hand and cracked it open, both of them sharing a moment.  Trish walked in moments later and grabbed a beer, something she didn’t normally drink, but after today she needed one.  Steve pulled her onto his lap and Glenn decided to take his leave, wishing them both a good night.  Trish looked into Steve’s blue eyes and blinked, tears sliding down her cheeks.

 

“Sshhh it’s gonna be all right, honey.” He murmured, setting both of their beers down, kissing her forehead softly.

 

Trish sniffled, clinging to him for dear life, nodding. “I love you.” She whispered, looking up to stare in his blue eyes and kissed him with every ounce of feeling she could muster up, sighing softly.

 

Steve immediately returned the kiss, wrapping his arms around her waist, knowing she was scared about what happened.  He wanted to take that fear away somehow and suddenly lifted her up in his strong arms, carrying her out of the room.  The beer didn’t matter, only her, their lips never leaving each other’s.

 

“You have to promise me something.” Trish whispered, feeling him gently lay her down on the bed, pulling him down to hover over her as their eyes locked.

 

“What is it, honey?” He sealed his lips to her neck, running his hands up and down her sides, just wanting to completely lose himself in her. “Anythin’ for ya.”

 

“If you sense danger approaching, get out and don’t worry about me.” She pulled back to where their eyes met again and cupped his face with her hands, needing him to agree with her on this. “Please Steve, if there’s no hope for me, just save yourself.”

 

“Why are you talkin’ like this?” He demanded, knowing she probably had a vision and kissed more tears away that fell.

 

Instead of answering her, he kissed her and made her forget momentarily about everything except them.

 

Chapter 11

 

Later the next day, Brooklynn's eyes slowly opened, the pain searing in her head, holding the back of it, wincing.  What the hell happened?  She let out a soft groan, blinking slowly and noticed some aspirin with a cup of water on the nightstand.  Slowly sitting up, Brooklynn reached for it, downing the pills, glad the blinds were shut.  When she was fully awake, she suddenly wondered if Randy was all right, wrapping her arms around herself, not seeing Mark anywhere.  She was alone, wondering where everyone else was.  Slowly sliding from the bed, Brooklynn went to investigate.  Only, she didn’t get very far before she was pulled back by Mark, tattooed arms snaking around her waist.  He bent down and nuzzled the side of her neck, relieved she had woken up.  He had honestly tried to wake her up several times, knowing she shouldn't have been allowed to sleep what with having a concussion and all.

 

“Everyone is fine.” He murmured, slowly turning her around and stared down at her. “How's your head?” He asked softly, his fingers gently probing the spot.

 

“Sore.” She murmured, sighing with relief at the sight of him and wrapped her arms tightly around his neck.  Brooklynn should've known he wouldn't leave her alone, kissing his neck and lips softly. “What happened?”

 

She didn't remember past being restrained by Kyle, feeling his finger press against her lips to quiet her.  Brooklynn simply nodded, knowing he didn't want to talk about that and moaned when he captured her lips again.  Mark was glad she was awake and, in truth Brooklynn was too, knowing she must’ve cracked her head good in order for it to be this sore.

 

“I love you...” She mumbled against his mouth, locking eyes with him.

 

“I love you too.” He whispered, lifting her in his arms, feeling her legs encircle his waist. 

 

He knew her head had to be killing her and yet, she had been ready to go out and make sure everyone else was fine.  She hadn't said that's what she had been intending on doing, but he knew Brooklynn too well.  He was her best friend after all and more.

 

“You probably...shouldn't leave the bed...” He suggested, in between kisses, liking the the task of keeping her there with him.

 

“Oh really now?” She kissed him again and pressed her forehead against his. “Why do I feel like I'm going to be held captive in this bedroom for the rest of the day and night?” Brooklynn rolled her eyes when she saw his own glitter impishly, feeling her back hit the bed moments later, his black hair curtaining around her, mixing with her own. “So you're my doctor, what's the treatment plan?”

 

“Rest with some moderate to vigorous exercise later in the day, if you're feeling up to it.” Mark replied with a wicked smirk, keeping his weight off of her by bracing his elbows on the bed and allowed her to feel his body hovering against hers. “Probably wouldn't hurt to get some...food in you.” He said reluctantly and then brightened.  Mickie could probably bring something up for them since she felt bad about him going through the wall. 

 

This meant...they didn’t have to leave the room.

 

“You are evil, have I said that lately?” Brooklynn pouted, though her amber eyes sparkled back at him, glad they could have more than a few hours alone to spend together. “What kind of moderate exercise are you talking about?” She ran her finger up his bare chest, frowning when she saw a bruise on his side. “Mark, what happened?” His lips found hers again, shutting her up, and couldn't stop herself from melting against him.  Only when they couldn't breathe did he pull away. “I hate it when you do that.  Now answer my quest-” He kissed her again, this time a little harder, trying to deviate from her question and it wasn’t working.  She broke the kiss again. “Mark...”

 

There was no way, no force on earth, nothing that would or could make him tell her that Mickie's white magic had actually put his damn near 7 foot, 300 hundred pound frame through a WALL. “Don't worry about it.” He murmured against her lips, running his hands up her sides beneath her shirt. “Fighting the forces of evil and all that.”

 

“There was some kind of explosion...Mmmmmm...”

 

Oh he was an evil man; those strong hands of his worked their magic, slowly igniting her body.  She loved how gentle he was with her, one of the many reasons Brooklynn fell in love with him.  She knew Mark had waited all this time, years, to make love to her and she was ready.  Brooklynn was beyond ready to end both of their torment, but she had to know something first and moaned softly as his lips attacked her neck.

 

“Mark, wait...” She felt him pull back, staring into his eyes and cupped his face in her soft hands. “I need to know what's going to happen once we cross this line.  After this hunt is finished, what's going to happen?  I can't walk away from you again, but I know you're a drifter and...”

 

Mickie walked in at that moment, clearing her throat.

 

“What do you want, Mark?” Mickie demanded, mildly agitated, frowning at the bruise on his side. “You cracked ribs.  That wall did a number on you...”

 

“Wait, what wall?  What're you talking about?”

 

Mark was going to KILL Mickie; now was NOT the time for interruptions and it sure as hell wasn't the time for her to be opening that fat mouth of hers. “It's nothing.” He said quickly, shooting Mickie a dark, dangerous look.

 

That she completely ignored. “He went through a wall when we joined magical forces to open the door at the apartment.” She informed Brooklynn, rolling her eyes when he cursed. “He has three cracked ribs and I cannot believe he's trying to get laid!”

 

“He WHAT?” Brooklynn instantly pushed him away, being as gentle as possible, shaking her head. “No, absolutely not.  You went through a WALL and didn't tell me?” Now she was agitated as well, the mood officially ruined and looked over at Mickie. “Is there anything else he's trying to hide from me?” She demanded softly, rubbing the back of her head tenderly and sighed with relief when Mickie shook her head. “Mark, so help me if you even THINK about any physical activity, I will make you sleep somewhere else.  You have CRACKED ribs, you're insane.”

 

“Now then,” Mickie smiled sweetly, ignoring the stares Mark gave her, the stares all promising a violent and painful, perhaps even prolonged, death. “Steve said you were thinking about me.  So what did you want?  Some salve for your ribs?”

 

She was cracking jokes now, great.  Mark almost told her some ice cubes for the erection he had been sporting and glanced at Brooklynn, who was giving him a death stare of her own. “Food.” He grunted lowly.

 

“I'll get right on that.  Lynn, how are you feeling?”

 

“I'm fine, Mickie.  Just a small headache and a little sore.” She smiled reassuringly at her, not looking at Mark, standing up slowly. “If you want, I'll help.” Brooklynn sighed when Mickie shook her head, smiling sweetly at her now. “Fine, we're BOTH on bedrest, more him than me because of cracked ribs.” Mark was a class A moron in her book right now.

 

“She thinks you’re a class A moron, buddy.” Steve grinned from the door, carrying a tray. “Trish said in 10 minutes Lynn is gonna want this.” He held it out, arching an eyebrow when she stared at him. “Hey, I'm not the one who has visions.  I just read thoughts.”

 

Mark was now ready to go somewhere and just die.

 

“Out back, it's rainin’ and the ground is soft.”

 

“WILL YOU STOP?”

 

“You know he can't.” Brooklynn took the tray with a smile, inhaling the scent and set it aside.  It was potato soup, something she would probably be craving soon.  It was her favorite, but she wasn't hungry...yet. “And you are a moron.  You kept that from me, or tried too.  I'm your best friend and you were going to try hiding the fact you have cracked ribs.  Do you think I'm stupid Mark…that I wouldn't figure it out?” She sighed, watching as Mickie and Steve vacated the room, closing the door behind them. “I'm going to take a shower; don't even TRY getting out of that bed or you WILL regret it.” The bathroom door slammed shut moments later, water following.

 

While Brooklynn understood ghosts, spirits and all that jazz, she was sometimes clueless about the rest of the world, him included.  He had gone around with a broken foot and managed just fine.  Three cracked ribs was a cakewalk, unless of course he inhaled...or walked.  Groaning, Mark rolled onto his back and choked the air with his fists, imagining it was Mickie's pencil neck.  Wait a minute, he was a Warlock, wasn't he?  What the hell was he doing?  Smirking, he got up.

 

Brooklynn was careful with her head injury, though it wasn't that bad and didn't even need stitches.  She sighed, the hot water rushing down her body, just enjoying the peace and tranquility.  Not wanting to think about her long lost dead twin sister Julia or Kyle or Nemesis...or anyone else for that matter.  Reaching for the shampoo, Brooklynn poured some in her hands before beginning to wash it, knowing Mark was probably up and walking around, doing god knows what.  He was stubborn and bullheaded, though she loved him anyway.  She just couldn't believe he would try to deliberately keep the fact he was thrown through a wall, literally, from her. 

 

Didn't he trust her?

 

When she opened her eyes, after rinsing the shampoo out of her hair, he was right there, the bruising gone from his side.  In fact, he was feeling much better.  Mark noticed the unshed tears in her eyes and couldn't understand why she was crying.  Frowning, he reached out to catch one before sprays from the shower washed them all away.

 

“Why are you crying?” He asked softly.

 

“What are you doing in here?  Didn't I tell you to stay in bed?” Brooklynn looked at his side, seeing the bruise was gone, blinking.  She sighed, suddenly feeling stupid. “I keep forgetting you have the ability to heal, if necessary.” It took a lot out of him; at least the last time he tried healing himself.  Though, that was a gunshot to the arm.  This was simple cracked ribs. “Okay, maybe I overreacted a little bit, but I thought you trusted me enough not to keep anything from me.  I don't care how small this was, you still should've told me, Mark.  You tried keeping it from me, why?”

 

“Because you worry and overreact.” He remarked with a shrug and reached for the loofa, along with the liquid body wash, lathering it before beginning to wash her, absolutely nothing sexual about it.  He wasn't in the mood.  Mickie and Steve had effectively killed that off. “And as you are the one without the magical ability, I was more worried about you.” Mark wasn't telling her she had distracted him so well, he'd forgotten about HIS magical ability.

 

“Fine, maybe I do, but that's because I love and care about you.  That's what happens when you're in love with someone, you worry and overreact when they get hurt, magical ability or not.”

 

Brooklynn's eyes slowly closed, the feeling of the loofa sponge gliding over her body magical in its own way.  His strong hands brushed across her soft skin along with it.  It was wonderful and, surprisingly, erotic at the same time.  Though, she hid it well, feeling his arms snake around her waist as he began washing her shoulders, arms, breasts and stomach, leaning against him.  She smiled when he tenderly kissed her head,

 

He was careful about moving too fast, or letting her move too fast and possibly slipping, what with her having a concussion and all.  Mark had been nice and hadn't asked her about what happened in that room at the apartment.  He hadn't been able to ask Randy because the man wasn't really talking to anyone except Beth right now.  Then again, he had also been in bed with Brooklynn too, so he hadn't had the chance to do much of anything, besides memorize the planes of her face.

 

After he rinsed the conditioner out of her hair, Brooklynn watched Mark step out, smiling as he spread out a towel for her to walk into.  She did and received a soft kiss, cupping his face gently in her hand, arms encircling her waist while hers went around his neck, hugging him to her.  Mark was a Warlock with dark powers that could result in evil, but when it came to Brooklynn, he was gentle and kind.

 

“I'm all right, I promise.” She whispered in his ear, feeling him lift her up in his arms and carried her back out to the bedroom area. “I have to get dressed...”

 

“What on earth for?” He rumbled with a wicked laugh, nuzzling her throat before gently setting her down on her feet. “You look perfectly decent to me.” His green eyes glittered wickedly before chuckling when she gave him a look. “All right, get dressed.”

 

He stepped away from her and folded his arms over his bare chest, wearing a pair of jeans that were only a bit wet from the shower.  Though there was water running down his chest from having held her against him.  Those jeans clung to him like a second skin, molding to his strong thighs and legs, the water on his chest only outlining his physique further.  Mark was absolutely delicious and Brooklynn suddenly felt heated, hardly able to breathe.  Thank the stars he couldn't read minds or else she'd be on the bed, with him on top of her, in a most provocative position...or positions.  Walking past him to her bag, Brooklynn pulled out undergarments with a red nightgown. 

 

Without letting Mark see her goods, even though he did in the shower, Brooklynn put the panties and bra on before sliding the nightgown over her head.  It clung to her body like a second skin, unbeknownst to her.  As he had seen her naked before, Mark found that display at first a bit prudish.  However, when he noticed how the panties had covered her…it was like being teased.  Sometimes more was less, fueling his imagination when it already had ample fuel.

 

“I feel much better now.” She grinned cheekily, leaning back against the headboard and carefully brushed her hair.

 

“Eat.” He grunted, turning his back to her before he did something drastic…like pounce her and screw her into the mattress, his usually simmering blood, when it came to Brooklynn at least, threatening to break out into a boil.

 

“Yeah, yeah.”

 

Brooklynn rolled her eyes, finishing up, and set the brush back in her bag before pulling the soup over that was still hot.  She sighed, seeing a warming charm underneath, grinning.  Mickie's doing.  She ate with gusto, devouring the soup, beyond starved after all that had transpired.  She finished 10 minutes later, setting the tray on the nightstand and reached out to pull Mark on the bed, sitting on her knees behind him.

 

“Relax.” She whispered in his ear, beginning to rub his shoulders and pressed a soft kiss to the back of his strong neck.

 

Chapter 12

 

Mark snorted at that one. “Darlin', how am I supposed to relax when you're getting me all worked up?” He asked, trying to keep the sarcasm from his tone.  Miserable fail. 

 

He had already determined anything that wasn't PG would have to wait until this was all over.  Simply because, if it wasn't a ghost interrupting them, it was one of their boneheaded friends.  But...under her skilled hands, Mark did begin relaxing, groaning softly.

 

“Damn Brooklynn, that feels good...”

 

“Good, that's what it should feel like.” She retorted with a smirk, smiling softly as he slowly became putty in her hands. “I've been meaning to ask you this for awhile, but I have to know.  Why do you call me Brooklynn?” Not stopping, Brooklynn moved his hair over his shoulder as she rubbed his neck with her fingers, her other hand running down his arm, massaging his muscles.  He was tense due to stress and anything else he'd been through prior to this moment. “I've told you to call me Lynn for years, how come you're so adamant about calling me Brooklynn?”

 

“You've been meaning to ask me that for awhile now?” Mark remarked, turning his head to look back at her. “You couldn't have asked it maybe 5 or 6 years ago?” He teased, smiling at her before looking forward again. “I don't know, I just do.  Everyone else calls you Lynn.  To me, you're my Brooklynn.”

 

“No wonder I haven't had a date in years.  You've probably scared off any guys who would even attempt at asking me out!” She laughed softly when he just smirked, smacking his shoulder lightly. 

 

In all honesty, Brooklynn hadn't even thought of another man since meeting Mark.  Sex wasn't a huge factor to her, though she did have a drunken one night stand, after their second break from hunting.  His name was Alex; it was short and to the point, not at all memorable.  She forgot how much time went by since her last sexual encounter.  The only man she could think about, even with Alex, was Mark and nothing would ever change that.  She was indeed his Brooklynn in every way and had been for years.

 

“Can you believe it took us THIS long to finally admit to each other how we feel?  We've wasted so much time...”

 

Mark shifted to face her, crossing his legs Indian style and rested his hands in his lap, staring at her intently. “Darlin', in all the years we've known each other...how many of them have we actually SEEN each other?” He asked gently. “We just went 3 years without seeing each other.”

 

He didn't know what she did when he wasn't around and he didn't ask.  If she had a lover or something, it wasn't his business.  Of course...he'd KILL the son of a bitch, but that went without say.

 

“I know...” Her head lowered slightly, shoulders slumping. “At first it was just going through the motions, you know?  Hunting and protecting the balance.  It makes me wonder how we're best friends, but you understand me better than anyone.  You've known me since day one of the circle.  I guess I was just afraid of...I don't know...getting you more involved in what I do in everyday life.  That's why I seclude myself and disappear because you don't need to go through what I do.  Just because the hunt is finished, doesn't mean my job is, Mark.  I have a gift and, although I hate it at times, I do good things with it and help people.  Hell, that's the reason I don't allow myself to attach to anyone, but somehow you managed to be the only one.” Brooklynn took his hand in hers, squeezing it softly. “What do you do when we're apart, Mark?”

 

To anyone else, what she had just said would have made complete and perfect sense.  To him, it sounded like an excuse or stupidity.  He was the one from the group who had a… dark past.  Mark knew exactly what she did, what she dealt with, and respected her for it.  Sometimes he thought she was a bit of a headstrong fool, but that was because he cared for her, so his judgment was a little biased.

 

“I drift from place to place.  Drink a lot, sleep a little and occasionally do a little side work of my own.”

 

“That sounds like a pretty lonely life, but it also sounds like you.” Brooklynn sighed, moving to lie down on the bed, snuggling against the pillow. “I didn't think you felt the same way about me.  I thought we were just friends and your blunt way of asking me to sleep with you was part of an inner joke.  But you meant it every time, didn't you?” That wasn't a question as Brooklynn closed her eyes, feeling his hand run up and down her side. “What happens after this is over with?  Do we part ways again or stay together?” He was a drifter and she liked being totally secluded, which would be a match made in heaven, but they were far from it. “I love you, you love me, but is it enough for both of us to change our ways?”

 

He closed his eyes, thinking about that.  She did her own thing, he did his.  They both were set in their ways and, while perhaps their ways were lonely, they were also comforting.

 

“The only thing we can do is try and see what happens, Brooklynn.” He decided, rubbing the back of his neck. “Even if we're not always together, that doesn't mean I love you any less.” Mark had loved her this long, it wasn't likely to stop now.

 

Brooklynn simply nodded, not surprised by his response.  Changing was highly unlikely for both of them.  Love wasn't enough, it never was, and never would be.  No matter what, she would always love Mark.  He had her heart and nobody would ever be able to take it.  Brooklynn didn't have time to cry; she had to focus on the task at hand, which was ending this hunt.  That meant killing Kyle and Nemesis, who had become a royal pain in everyone's backside.  Enough with the emotion, it was time to get down to business.

 

“What do you suggest we do about Kyle and Nemesis?” Her tone of voice had changed; she was purely business now, staring out the window as it began pouring down rain.

 

If surprised by her sudden change from emotional to pure business, he didn't show it.  Mark expected her feelings to be a bit injured after what he had just said.  The truth was usually painful, but he wouldn’t sugarcoat anything, especially when it came to her.

 

“I suggest we all regroup downstairs later this evening and you and Randy can tell us what happened in that bedroom at the apartment.”

 

Brooklynn didn't want to relive that moment, wishing it was a nightmare, but knew that wasn't meant to be.  It never was, not in their world, especially hers.  Julia had been savagely raped and beaten in that bedroom.  However, that's not where she died.  That was the next piece of the puzzle that had to be solved.  Brooklynn knew she should start distancing herself from Mark, but the truth was, she couldn't.  Not knowing what was going to happen, if they would even be alive before this was all said and done, she knew what she had to do.  Her head slowly turned to face Mark, knowing they had a few hours or so before they would go downstairs.  Slowly gliding her hand up his chest, the muscles rippled beneath her touch.  Brooklynn didn't want to think about anything else except this man in front of her, knowing he wouldn't be here forever. 

 

They would part as always when the hunt was over. 

 

It was now or never; if he pushed her away, Brooklynn would never give the opportunity again. 

 

Swinging one leg over his waist, the nightgown bunched up to her hips since it only went to midthigh.  Her eyes locked on his, telling him silently what she wanted, feeling his hands on her hips.  She leaned forward, their lips meeting in a soft kiss, which quickly turned passionate and hot, the embers within them slowly beginning to spark.  If she was teasing him, he was going to kill her and then lovingly embalm her body himself.  If she wasn't and Kyle or Nemesis interrupted, he'd find a way to destroy Nemesis and he'd simply risk his soul to resurrect Kyle in order to murder him.  Anyone downstairs was fair game.

 

“Brooklynn...” He groaned against her lips, unable to keep himself from arching his hips up against her.

 

It wasn't a tease, not this time and Brooklynn proved it by leaning back, removing her nightgown, tossing the fabric to the floor.  All she wore underneath was black panties and took her bra off, a rush of heat flowing through her. “Take me, Mark, please...”

 

She leaned down, lips pressing soft, chaste kisses to his muscular chest, holding his sides, sweet tongue running down.  His muscles rippled beneath her touch and mouth as a soft sigh escaped her and Brooklynn stopped just at the waistband of his jeans.  Leaning toward him, her hand snaked between her thighs, reaching down and unsnapped his jeans with a flick of her wrist, eyes molten gold burning with desire.

 

For the first time in his life, Mark was speechless.  Hell, he couldn't even move.  All he could do was lay there with his head raised off the pillow and stare at her out of dark green, nearly blackened eyes.  He watched as she undid his jeans, his hips rising automatically off the bed when she began sliding them down his long legs, already barefooted and without socks.  When they hit the floor; he sat up growling and gathered Brooklynn into his arms, kissing her passionately.

 

Brooklynn instantly melted, wrapping her legs around his waist, lying beneath him and returned the kiss with equal fervor.  She gasped against his mouth when she felt her panties being removed in one quick yank, the fabric ripping.  Mark always went commando, so both of them were completely naked as jaybirds.  His hands felt like heaven, running down her body, his lips leaving hers while she ran her fingers through his black hair.

 

“Bury yourself inside of me, Mark...” Brooklynn breathed, needing this more than words could say, more than actions, more than anything on this planet. 

 

Even if this was their first and only time together, she knew it was worth the sacrifice of heartbreak later, hissing when he brushed against her soaking wet sex.  Whatever happened after this, he would risk it.  Just for one moment with her, one slice of time that nothing and nobody could ever take away from them.  Of course, Mark would still love her, still want her and he would definitely fight for her after this, but had a feeling it would be a hell of a fight.  His lips moved down to her throat as he brushed himself against her, prolonging the moment, before taking a deep breath.

 

There was no going back.

 

When he finally did bury himself within her, like Brooklynn requested and craved, it was a feeling unlike any other.  It was earth-shattering, mind-blowing; there were no words to describe it.  Every nerve-ending in her body sizzled, a forest fire exploding throughout her.  A soft cry escaped her, walls burning as they clenched his hard shaft to the point where both were completely breathless as they clung to each other for dear life.  The rain tapped harshly against the window, pouring harder, or maybe it was just the sheer physicality going on between them.  Thunder rumbled, shaking the house down to its foundation, just like Mark was shattering hers, both trembling from how intense this moment was.

 

It was like Mother Nature was playing a sad melody just for them.  He matched his thrusts in time with the rain, somewhat, burying his face in Brooklynn's neck.  She felt so exquisite, so beautiful.  She was a perfect fit to him, his perfect match.  Mark knew she was the only woman for him; the only woman who would ever complete him.  Just like he was the only man for her, her soul mate, whether she knew it or not.

 

“I love you.” He murmured, nipping at the flesh between throat and shoulder.

 

“I love you too.”

 

Brooklynn felt him yank her up, locking her ankles around his waist, sitting on his lap and the hard, powerful thrusting never ceased.  She was well aware Mark was her soul mate and he always would be, even after she passed into the light.  Pressing her forehead against his, Brooklynn gripped his arms and cried out repeatedly at how wonderful it felt.  She hadn't had sex in so long, but this wasn't just sex.  He was making passionate love to her, something Brooklynn wasn't expecting.  It was filled with so much emotion, so much feeling that it nearly took her breath away.  She couldn't even beg him to thrust harder because this pace was perfect, not too fast and not too slow, it was in between.  After what seemed like eternity, he withdrew from her and gently guided Brooklynn down onto the bed, settling himself between her legs again.  He bent down to trail kisses along her jaw line.

 

“I love you...” He whispered repeatedly, beginning to move in her again, his hands gliding up and down her sides. 

 

Memorizing her luscious curves, Mark burned them into his mind forever.  With everyone else, Mark was cold and hard, but when it came to Brooklynn, he was the opposite.  She didn't understand it and had stopped trying years ago.  Why was she so different compared to the other women in the circle?  Maybe it was because they had met first and, essentially, started the circle.

 

“Ohh Mark, I love you too...” She moaned out, soaking by now as he continued thrusting at a slow, steady pace. 

 

Her fingers buried in his hair when his lips attached to her neck, melting her even more, meeting him for every thrust he produced inside her body.  She gripped his shoulder with her free hand, feeling his face bury in her neck as he continued making sweet love to her.  Mark never wanted her to forget this night, this time, wanting it frozen in her mind for all eternity.  With every thrust, every kiss, he was pleading with her to remember him in the long months ahead.  Whether they were together or not, to never forget him.  He loved her; he wanted to be with her, but could they last when there wasn't some force beckoning them?  It was always a spirit that brought them together.

 

When that stopped, would they as well?

 

Refusing to let tears fill her eyes, Brooklynn wanted to enjoy every second of this with him.  No matter what, she would never forget Mark.  He was part of her, inside her mind and heart, and nothing would knock him out.  He was the only man she wanted, needed, in her life, but there were also the questions that brewed. 

 

Was love enough? 

 

Could they both change for one another? 

 

Would one bend for the other? 

 

Would her spiritual connection to the other side interfere, if they tried making this work? 

 

All thoughts and worries flew out the window when Mark sunk himself as deep inside of her as he possibly could, growling out before feeling his seed fill her completely.  She screamed out his name to the point where her vocal cords felt like they were on fire.  Their voices mixed, each tone filled with agonizing ecstasy and pain, knowing this was the only time they would have together.  They didn't have to bend for one another; they didn't need to change.  He knew her life was riddled with spirits and accepted that.  Mark would work alongside her, they did it when they all got together, like now. 

 

What would be the difference if they were together, besides it would be just them, on a daily basis?

 

“When this is over...” He paused, breaking the long silence as both of them laid there recovering, enjoying the afterglow. “I'm not letting you go.”

 

Her head slowly lifted from his chest, staring into his eyes, tears forming in them.  Brooklynn knew exactly what he meant by that, which was a huge step for a drifter like Mark.  They could make anything work, love was strong enough apparently.  Slowly reaching up, Brooklynn smiled tearfully as she cupped his face in her small hand, beginning to laugh.  She was laughing out of sheer joy, the happiness radiating from her, kissing him until both of their worlds spun out of orbit.  No matter how hard she tried, she couldn't stop laughing as Mark pinned her beneath him, wrapping her arms tightly around his neck to hold her close.

 

“I wasn't planning on leaving you again, Mark.  I told you, I can't walk away again.  I'll go anywhere with you.” She was done hiding and being secluded.

 

It was time to live her life, before she did crossover into the light, with the man she loved more anything.

 

“Including hell?  Because that's probably where I'm heading.” He only half joked, elated and amused, loving the sound of her laughter.  Mark pulled Brooklynn off the bed and swept her into his arms, doing something he would only do in front of her, act...normal. 

 

Laughing as well, he started spinning her around in slow circles.

 

“YOU BROKE THE CEILIN’!”

 

“Don't kill him, he's just kidding.” She giggled when Mark growled, though it was playfully and kicked her legs when he blew raspberries on her chest.  Cupping his face in her hands, Brooklynn kissed him softly, resting her head on his chest feeling his heartbeat. “If you go to hell, I'm going with you.  But you will go into the light and I'll be right there with you.” She promised, kissing him again and felt her feet slowly land on the floor. “We don't have to end this yet, they can wait.”

 

He nodded his agreement, more than willing to go back to bed with her.  When lightning flashed, his eyes strayed to the balcony.  Smiling slightly, Mark pulled her back to her feet, tossing the comforter over his shoulder and guided her outside.  The rain instantly began drenching them, but he countered that with a wave of his hand, a temporary shield forming around them.  He settled himself in a chair and pulled Brooklynn down onto his lap, wrapping them in the blanket.

 

Lightening, thunder and Brooklynn.

 

This was his idea of heaven.

 

Chapter 13

 

The following afternoon, Brooklynn sat in the living room with everyone, Mark beside her, Randy on the far side of the room.  The man was scared to death of touching or being near her.  She knew whatever he witnessed at the apartment would be forever burned in his memory, but there was nothing she could do about that.  It was his gift and he even warned her about it ahead of time.  Sighing, Brooklynn felt Mark's hand on her back, cracking a small smile back at him, holding his other.

 

“I know this is going to sound sort of suicidal, but we have to back to Julia's apartment.”

 

“WHAT?”

 

“Are you out of your mind?”

 

“No way in hell is that happening!”

 

Somehow Mark was not surprised and didn't say anything.  He personally agreed with her, but was reluctant to admit it as that place had a touch of hell to it.

 

“Four of ya could have died!  Randy damn near DID die.” Steve growled bluntly. “We're not doin’ it, Lynn.  WHY do you want to go back?” He demanded, looking at Mark for help.

 

“We know what's waiting for us this time, it's not like we're walking in blind.”

 

“You're no help, jackass.”

 

“I don't think Kyle or Nemesis will show themselves again, at least not in that apartment.  Kyle lived there too, which is why he didn't want us prowling around.  That means there's something in there we haven't stumbled upon to help us destroy him.” There was no crossing Kyle over, not anymore, and Brooklynn accepted it.  He was evil; once a spirit crossed over to Nemesis's side, all bets were off. “We have to protect the balance between the living and dead.”

 

“Okay, let's say we do go there, what the hell are we supposed to be looking for?”

 

“We damn near tore that place apart, what could be left?”

 

“I don't know, but my strong instinct is telling me we HAVE to go back.”

 

“No, your 'I'm not going to be beaten and scared off by a dickweed ghost' issues are presenting themselves.” Melina remarked pointblank, knowing Brooklynn was going to tell them all to go to hell and that she'd go by herself.  A lot of balls and little brains. “Unless Kyle was into the occult BEFORE he committed suicide, just WHAT do you think is there to destroy him?”

 

Mark's head swiveled to look at Brooklynn, knowing Melina had just presented a good point.

 

“I don’t know.” That was the truth; Brooklynn had no idea why she had to go back.  She knew she had too though, something was pulling her there. “I don't care if you go with me or not.  I will go by myself if I have too.” She held her hand up when someone went to speak. “I've dealt with this on my own before, wouldn't be the first time.  So you can either go with me or stay here where it's...safe.  Either way, I'm going with my instincts on this one.” Brooklynn stood up abruptly from the couch, walking out.

 

Silence reigned until Steve finally shook his head and ran a hand down his face. “Why are we here?”

 

“What do you mean?” Mickie asked quietly.

 

“This isn't US, this is BROOKLYNN.” Steve said evenly. “We used to be a group.  We'd all do our part and we'd all have our say, and vote on decisions, take everything into consideration.  Now it's Brooklynn's 'go with me or stay here where it's safe' bullshit.  Since when did this group have a leader opposed to us all being a mutual voice?”

 

John coughed, rubbing the back of his neck.

 

Mark was well aware that NONE of them were looking at him.

 

“Steve, Brooklynn isn't our leader.  We each have a gift, she knows this, but she's not going to force this on anyone.  I can't imagine what it's been like for her, finding out she's had a twin all this time that is now dead.” Trish couldn't even begin to fathom how Brooklynn felt, frowning. “Why are we fighting this?  That place is the only link we could find for both Kyle and Julia.  It's the only place there could be clues, anything to help us end this.  Its fear, we're scared that we're going to die, but isn't that what we were put here for?  Fear has never stopped us before and it sure as hell isn't going to now.  I'm going with her.” Trish stood up, having made up her mind. “She can only see and hear them, that's it.  She's our friend, are we really going to abandon her now?”

 

Beth closed her eyes, knowing Randy was terrified to go back to that place, slowly standing up. “I'm going too.” She ignored Randy's head snapping up toward her. “Every time Brooklynn has had a feeling, it's always led us in the right direction.  I'm not turning my back on her now.”

 

“Well neither am I.” Melina turned to Mickie, smirking. “Well?”

 

“Well what?”

 

“Are you with us or not?”

 

Mickie groaned, sighing reluctantly. “Yeah, I'm in.  You know I'm in.  I hate it that I'm in because I KNOW we're going to be in danger and-”

 

Beth put her hand over Mickie's mouth, shaking her head. “Let's go find Brooklynn and prepare.”

 

The girls walked out, leaving the guys sitting there flabbergasted.

 

“I hate women.  They always succumb to peer pressure.” Steve groaned, looking at John. “What?”

 

“You're going, aren't you?”

 

“If he ever wants back in Trish's panties...” Glenn snickered with a smirk.

 

“Well SOMEONE's got to be there to save their stupid asses when this backfires.”

 

“Panties.”

 

“Yep.”

 

“John fair warning, if Mickie even THINKS about touching me tonight, I'll kill her.” Mark warned as he and the guys assembled supplies in the kitchen.  Supplies being medical, in case something bad happened, like flying through a wall for example.

 

“Be my guest.”

 

“You going, kid?” Glenn asked, passing Randy a roll of bandages.

 

Randy nodded, stuffing them in a bag.  He was going simply because he loved Brooklynn, whether she was right or wrong.

 

~!~

 

Meanwhile, the girls headed up to Brooklynn’s bedroom, all four of them walking in.

 

“We're going with you.”

 

Brooklynn turned around, raising a slow eyebrow, and actually smiled when the women walked over. “I'm not a leader.” She said quietly, having overheard everything Steve said. “I need your help, you know that, but I'm also not going to force anyone to do this.”

 

“We know sweetie, it's all right.” Beth sighed, walking over and wrapped an arm around her shoulders. “We're going to figure this out together and kick some ass, like we always do.

 

“You know damn well we're family.  We don't leave anyone behind.”

 

Mickie grunted when Trish nudged her, nodding. “Yeah, what everyone else said.  I'm warning you right now though; I am NOT by ANY means mixing powers with Mark again.  That was just...no, it's not happening.”

 

Brooklynn wasn't surprised when the men met them coming down the stairs. “I want to make it clear that I am NOT, in no way, shape or form, your leader.  We are a team, but I'm also not going to force any of you to do something you don't want to do.  So, Steve, the next time you decide to talk behind someone's back, make sure you do it quietly.” That's all she would say on the subject and walked past them out the front door, keys to her Focus in hand.

 

“You had that one coming.” Trish stated evenly, angry at her boyfriend for being insensitive.

 

“Men...can't live with ‘em and can't shoot ‘em.”

 

“Well technically you could, but that would be a waste, especially with these 5.”

 

Melina giggled, eyes flashing at Glenn, who just rubbed his temple with a groan. “You guys have more balls than we thought.  Hmmm…” The women were banned together and it was all thanks to Steve's mouth. 

 

How truly uncanny.

 

That left Mark musing people and remembering why he drifted from place to place usually.  He remained silent.  Steve wasn't saying anything either.  Women were dangerous creatures and he figured sex wasn't something he was willing to give up.  John was trying not to laugh his ass off right about now.

 

This was just...amusing.

 

The women all piled into the Focus, which was bigger than it looked, Mickie, Melina and Trish in the back, Beth in the passenger seat.  They blasted Three Days Grace and made fun of the guy's faces, especially Steve's.  Sometimes Brooklynn wondered what it would be like just to hang out with these four, knowing unforbidden things would occur. 

 

In her rearview mirror, Brooklynn saw Mark following them on his bike, the other four men piled into Steve's truck.  Mark never rode with anyone, loving his motorcycle.  They arrived at the apartment 20 minutes later, the rain not stopping.  Amber eyes narrowed thoughtfully as Brooklynn slowly stepped out of the car and squared her shoulders.

 

“What is it?” Trish was looking up at the building too, knowing Brooklynn saw something in the window.

 

“We're about to find out.” Mickie felt sick, which meant they were already in danger.

 

Brooklynn began walking toward the building and up the stairs out of the rain, being summoned it seemed, the women following suit.

 

“Would it HURT them to be traditional and let the guys lead?  Honestly?  I don't think my ego can tolerate those 5 on the same page, really I don't.” John moaned when Steve parked behind the Focus, joining the three on the sidewalk as Mark roared right on by. “What is he doing?”

 

“Who the hell knows anymore...”

 

Mark was curious about the cemetery that was a block away from the apartment.

 

“Lynn, wait!” Trish whispered, grabbing the woman's hand, nodding at the others to do the same. 

 

Trish grabbed Mickie's, Melina Beth's, and so on, all the women trekking up the stairs toward Julia's apartment.  Something was different and Brooklynn had no idea what it was, swallowing hard.  It wasn't heavy like Kyle's presence had been or dripping evil.  Confused, her hand landed on the doorknob and, with a quick turn, the door pushed open as the women looked around, gaping at the sight of the apartment. 

 

It was clean, immaculate, the cobwebs and dust before completely gone.

 

“What the hell...?”

 

“Who ordered housekeeping?” Melina joked nervously, the women filing in one by one and took in the apartment.  It looked...lived in, comfortable, and definitely had a woman's touch. “I smell candles...”

 

“The aura is...soft, it's nice.” Mickie murmured almost dreamily, the good vibes kind of affecting her in a positive way. “Lynn, do you see anything?”

 

Brooklynn blinked, looking around, slowly walking on the polished wooden floors. “No, not yet...” Who had come in here and basically cleaned the apartment from top to bottom?

 

I'm so glad you're here!” A voice sounded, causing Brooklynn to jump out of her skin, whipping around and stared back at… herself… or so she thought. 

 

The brown, golden speckled eyes locked with hers.  Julia's black hair was up in a ponytail, wearing a jean skirt with a white halter top.  Tears stung her eyes as Brooklynn stared back at who she knew was her sister, her long lost twin, watching Julia do the same thing simultaneously.

 

“Julia...” She hadn't crossed over after all and Brooklynn could barely breathe by now.

 

“Julia's here?” Trish blinked, looking at the others; that made sense considering how immaculate the apartment looked.

 

That's also why the sick feeling Mickie had felt when they pulled up to the apartment had abruptly vanished.

 

“Julia's dead.” Glenn corrected tactlessly when he walked into the apartment, the guys trailing behind him. “Mark's...did we call for a maid service?” He halted in the doorway, groaning when John plowed into him.

 

“No, she's here.” Steve said, catching a flitting thought from Trish and frowned. “She didn't crossover?”

 

Trish shook her head, staring intently at Brooklynn. “Want us to step outside sweetie?” She asked softly.

 

No, please, tell them to stay.” The door shut as Julia walked away from the woman who looked exactly like her, sighing almost sadly. “You're the one I saw in the picture.”

 

“What picture?”

 

One floated from the stand in the living room and landed in Brooklynn's hands.  Julia smiled sadly. “That's us when we were infants.  I found it a year ago...”

 

Brooklynn looked at the picture, seeing two beautiful babies in a woman's arms. “Do you know you're dead?” She asked softly, knowing sometimes spirits were confused.

 

That picture is the reason I'm dead.” Julia walked over to stare out the window, pointing at the cemetery that was down the street. “I died knowing the truth about everything...”

 

Brooklynn tucked the picture in her jacket pocket, walking over to stand beside her sister. “What do you mean?”

 

I was murdered for knowing the truth.  What's your name?” Julia turned to face the woman, arching a slow eyebrow.

 

“Brooklynn.”

 

Brooklynn...”

 

To the rest of the crew, it looked like Brooklynn was basically talking to herself.  Mickie could see a faint white pulsating aura where she guessed Julia was, but that was it.  Trish’s power wasn’t helping her at all.  Personally, Glenn wanted to marry Julia as his head felt clear...totally empty and pain free.  Which is not what he had expected when he found out they were coming back to hell's apartment.

 

“Lynn?” Glenn murmured quietly.

 

These are your friends?” Julia smiled, flitting over to them, examining each person individually before finally arriving in front of the man with brown hair and blue eyes.  She reached for his arm, seeing the name Julia carved into his skin, scowling. “Kyle did this...That bastard...”

 

“What happened to you Julia?” Brooklynn slowly walked over, watching John's arm lift, his eyes wide as saucers as the letters seemingly vanished, the carving a mere memory.

 

John stared down at his arm, knowing this wasn't Mickie and it sure as hell was NOT Mark.  He could only reason it was Julia and didn't even know what direction to look in to say thanks.

 

I was tortured to death...in this apartment.” Julia was suddenly in front of Brooklynn, her hands pressing against the woman's forehead, a flashback happening. “I found the picture and called my parents, or who I thought were my parents.  They told me to calm down, that they would be over shortly.  So I waited.  I cleaned the apartment from top to bottom.  Kyle was arriving home shortly and I wanted to know who the other baby was in the photo.  Kyle got home and started complaining about his work, like he did every night, so I waited for my parents to arrive.  But who arrived instead was a strange man and woman...” Julia stopped, releasing her sister, tears streaming down her pale cheeks. “They knocked me out and...Kyle helped them...They told me it was for my own good, that the secret would die with me...they dissected me slowly...until I could feel no more pain and then buried me in the cemetery down the road.”

 

“Do you know what happened here, Lynn?  Did she tell you?” Melina asked quietly, not wanting to intrude on this...very odd family reunion.

 

“She was tortured to death...to keep me from finding out about her...” Brooklynn was in shock and had to sit down, hands trembling from all that Julia told her.  It was all coming back to her now and everything fit together like a puzzle. “You were dead on that bridge when you begged him not to end his life, weren't you?”

 

Chapter 14

 

Julia nodded solemnly, looking down. “He didn't help with the torturing.  They knocked him out.  It happened so fast...”

 

“My parents...killed her...Kyle had nothing to do with it.”

 

Trish blinked, covering her mouth with her hand.

 

“That's why they were so distant from me the last few months they were alive.” Brooklynn looked up at the others, tears glistening in her eyes. “They didn't want her finding out about me so they...killed her...But why is Kyle so evil?”

 

Nemesis.  He's the reason why I can't cross into the light.  I can't go without Kyle.”

 

“Nemesis is preventing her from crossing over.  She can't do it without Kyle.” This was seriously the most bizarre hunt they'd ever been on and Brooklynn felt her head spinning, feeling a ghostly arm wrap around her shoulders. “I'm sorry I wasn't there...”

 

You have to help me find Kyle, Brooklynn.  It's the only way I can fully find peace is if he's with me.”

 

“We have to find Kyle; she said she can't find peace without him.”

 

“Kyle's the reason John carved himself up and Randy damn near died and she wants him to crossover with her?” Steve was confused beyond belief and shook his head, throwing his hands up in the air. “I think I need a beer.”

 

“I'll second that.” Beth echoed his sentiments.  Of course, it might help if things weren't being relayed through Brooklynn, but none of them could actually see spirits.

 

“Wait…now Kyle is the good guy?”

 

“Kyle was knocked out and Nemesis is controlling him.” It sounded simple to Brooklynn, though she knew it was hard to relay messages spirits told her, including her twin sister. “It was Nemesis that did it, but he was using Kyle to do his dirty work.” Brooklynn's eyes narrowed to slits, slowly standing up. “You will open Hell's Gate…” She murmured more to herself than anyone, beginning to walk around.

 

“What do you mean?” Mickie was looking around, wishing they could see Julia.

 

“That's what Nemesis told me when he paid me a visit prior to meeting up with all of you.  He said 'you will open Hell's Gate' and disappeared.” Brooklynn was just as confused as the others, turning to stare at her sister. “Do you know where Kyle is right now?”

 

No, I haven't seen him since that on the bridge.  I was lost and found my way back here, probably because of what happened to your friend.” She pointed to Randy, frowning. “Please tell him I am very sorry for what happened...”

 

“She says she's sorry for what happened to you, Randy.” Brooklynn relayed, raking a hand through her hair and looked up when the door opened as Mark stepped in.

 

Will you help me find Kyle?

 

“Yes, Nemesis has fucked with us for the last time.”

 

Mark had caught the last bit of the conversation from the hallway. “How does a spirit get possessed?” He asked quietly, noticing the white aura that Mickie had and assumed it was Julia.  She was also making him physically ill, a side effect to his...aversion of light, but he pushed it aside. “How do you possess something that doesn't have a corporeal form?”

 

“I don't know.  Honestly, I've never come across something like this before.  Nemesis is powerful and he's also a spirit...of sorts.  Maybe a spirit can control another spirit if they're dominated?” Brooklynn was guessing, rubbing her temples with her fingers. “I know for a fact Nemesis can trap souls, he's done it before.  Maybe he can also force them to do his bidding…”

 

Julia nodded, a smile crossing her ghostly lips. “Just letting you know, I could see them too.”

 

“Really?” Brooklynn wished her sister wasn't dead because nobody else, that she knew of, could do what she did. “It must be in the family genes.”

 

“So how the hell are we supposed to get Kyle away from Nemesis long enough to help him?”

 

“If we could get him to appear and show him Julia, maybe that would be enough.”

 

“Let's not forget who we're dealing with.  This is the same fucker who nearly killed John in our last hunt.  He's smart; he won't fall for anymore traps...”

 

“Unless he met Lynn in another dream...could Julia possibly join them?”

 

“I'm going to have to make a call and ask for advice.” Brooklynn had one acquaintance out there, who was fascinated with the spirit world.  If anyone had the answers, he did.

 

“Nemesis is not like any other spirit we've encountered.” Mark reminded them all gravely. “He's the one who's almost killed each of us at one time or another.” He took in their pale faces, beginning to back out of the apartment. “Julia,” He grunted, speaking to the entire room since he couldn’t see the spirit. “Don't be offended, darlin', I just can't...”

 

“He's feeling ill.” Mickie said with a sardonic grin.

 

“Mark has a point.  Nemesis isn't like Julia or Kyle, so that would make perfect sense that he could control Kyle.”

 

“So basically, we're going to have to lure Kyle out somehow, without Nemesis.”

 

“No with, we have to destroy him before he ends up destroying the balance.”

 

It's all right, I understand.” Julia smiled, looking over at Brooklynn, eyes sparkling. “He is your other half...as Kyle is mine.”

 

“I know he is.  It took me a long time to figure it out.” Brooklynn knew she couldn't go near Mark, not until they were away from Julia. “She said don't worry about it, she understands.”

 

He lives in darkness, much like you.  Kyle was the same way, only he didn't have powers.”

 

Out in the hallway, it was tolerable.  Mark no longer felt like he would vomit at any rate. “Ask her about the cemetery down the street.”

 

“What cemetery?”

 

“The one that's almost right next door to here.”

 

Randy shuddered, wrapping his arms around himself.  This was completely mind-blowing; it wasn't like anything they had encountered before and he had been fairly certain he had seen it all by now.  How wrong he was.

 

That's where I'm buried...and Kyle.”

 

“They're buried there.” Brooklynn didn't know if she could visit her sister's gravesite, wishing they could swap places, trying to will the tears to stay in her eyes.

 

Do not cry, I am happier this way because I know Kyle is out there somewhere.” Julia reached out, wiping the tear away from her sister's cheek.

 

“I always felt like a piece of me was missing, all of my life...and now I know what it was.” It was a twin connection she felt all this time. “This isn't fair.”

 

I know, but you have to believe me when I say everything happens for a reason.” Julia looked over at Mark and all of Brooklynn's friends, smiling. “You have a family and they're standing right in front of you.  Kyle is mine, please help me find him.”

 

“Hellfire woman, if ya think that again I'll-”

 

“Steve...” Trish's tone held warning, eyes narrowing.

 

Steve snapped his mouth shut, sighing. “So are we goin' to the cemetery now?”

 

For once, John was the voice of sanity. “Um folks, one problem with all that.” He blushed when all eyes rounded on him, wondering if Julia was giving him the same 'what's he going to say now' look his friends were. “It's the middle of the night and that cemetery lies on one of the main roads...Someone's going to notice if we um, start poking around and digging things up in there.”

 

John had a point as Brooklynn sighed, nodding. “We'll have to wait it out then, though there's no harm in going to visit it during the day.” Brooklynn saw Julia smile. “We have to try luring Kyle out of Nemesis's shadow.” Amber eyes suddenly lit up as Brooklynn stared out the window. “There's something I read a while back regarding spirits being linked to their burial plots.” She had to call her friend. “Nothing can be done tonight, so we might as well go back to the house and chill out.”

 

“Spirits are usually strongest where they loved and where they died, if there was plenty of violence.” Mark pointed out quietly, not understanding why he was getting strange looks from everyone.  He hadn't been there for the part of the one sided conversation where Julia had told Brooklynn how she had been tortured to death in her apartment. “What?”

 

“Smooth, jackass, smooth.”

 

“What?!”

 

“Julia died in this apartment, Mark.  She was...tortured to death...by our parents...” Brooklynn felt sick, feeling Julia's arm wrap around her shoulder again, sighing as it quickly vanished. “Thank you.”

 

You are welcome.  Please stop feeling sad for me.  I just have to find Kyle.”

 

“How can you expect me to not feel sad over what happened?” She demanded gruffly, rolling her eyes when Julia smacked her on the arm.

 

Chin up, it will solve nothing for you to cry and carry on when it's been over a year since my death.”

 

“If they were alive, I'd...”

 

I know, Brooklynn, but they're not.  They're dead and, let's just say, I've gotten my revenge.” She smirked, eyes flashing wickedly, before turning to stare out the window. “Maybe Kyle is in the cemetery.”

 

“She thinks Kyle might be there.”

 

“Hate to burst your bubble, but um...His body was never recovered.” Glenn said quietly, really hating it when Brooklynn turned her amber eyes on him. “Honey, face it, most bodies in that water were never recovered, it happens.  But if Julia's...remains...are in the cemetery, he might be there haunting HER grave.”

 

“In a really morbid way, that is so romantic.” Melina sighed, leaning into him.

 

“Ew...”

 

He's right, Kyle's body was never recovered, but they did bury an empty coffin for him.”

 

Brooklynn knew Glenn had a very good point, suddenly needing to feel Mark's arms around her, but there was time for that later. “That's why Kyle can't come here because of your peaceful aura.”

 

Julia nodded, walking over to press her ghostly hand against the window. “Is he there?  Do you really think so?

 

“It's worth a shot, honestly.  What harm could it possibly do to check it out?”

 

“Not like we haven't been in cemeteries before.  It makes perfect sense considering Kyle was the love of Julia's life and vice versa.”

 

“He felt the strong connection with me because we're twins.” It was all making sense now and Brooklynn sighed with near relief, glad Kyle really wasn't evil after all. “We'll figure this out, I promise Julia.”

 

I know you will, Brooklynn.  I'll do anything I can to help out.”

 

“Just show up.”

 

“Mind fillin’ us in on what's going on?” Steve asked good-naturedly, the vibes in the apartment relaxing and putting everyone except Mark in a good mood. “Not all of us...” He arched an eyebrow when John began writing. “What're you doin’?”

 

“Since I can't HEAR them...” John held up the notepad. “I'm letting her vibrations take over and writing out what Julia says.” He grinned, pleased with how smart he was being tonight. “I agree with the tall, bald one.  We should go to the cemetery, Kyle could be there.  I will do anything I can to help you all out, thank you for doing this.” John relayed while continuing to write.

 

Brooklynn smiled genuinely for the first time, walking over to sit on the couch while Julia controlled John momentarily.  If spirits could control the living, in a way, could spirits control spirits?  She had to find out.

 

He's cute.” Julia smirked, finally finishing up, and walked over to sit beside her sister. “Though, he looks more like her type.” She pointed to Mickie, who was looking around the apartment in wonder.

 

“She thinks you're cute John and said Mickie belongs with you.”

 

Mickie blushed.

 

John did the same.  The last spirit who had said he was cute was a maniac in an abandoned prison Brooklynn had to crossover…to hell. “Thank you.” He looked at Brooklynn; Julia was identical to her.  He smiled widely, then deflated when Mickie gave him a 'don't think it' look.

 

“Are you kids back again?”

 

“We're finishing up.” Mark stepped in front of the landlord.

 

“Yes, I'm deeply sorry, sir.  Would it be alright to come back here for my sister's things?” The landlord nodded, telling them it was time for them to leave though.  Julia was probably going to stay here, feeling attached to the place since she lived and died here. “I'll be back tomorrow.” She whispered while Mark distracted the landlord, nodding when Julia agreed. “We'll go to the cemetery and try to figure the rest of this out.”

 

Thank you.” She whispered as they all filed out, Julia closing the door behind them.

 

“Well...THAT was interesting.”

 

“That was awesome!  Lynn was right to come back here!”

 

Beth smirked, having stayed quiet for the most part. “I hate saying this, but I'll never doubt her instincts again.”

 

“I'll meet you guys in the car.” Brooklynn turned as Mark walked up to her, staring into his eyes. “Are you all right?”

 

“I'm fine.” He said quietly, knowing while all the rest of them felt like they had just gotten back from the weekend at a seaside resort, he felt like he was recovering from the flu or something. “Just one of the side effects of being who I am and doing what I've done.  Steve, Glenn and I could probably handle the legalities and get a permit allowing us to dig up the graves, if you would like, Brooklynn.”

 

“Why would I want to dig up her grave?” Brooklynn asked, raising a slow eyebrow, not understanding. “If Julia had something hidden, she would've told me about it, Mark.  I don't want to desecrate where she's laid to rest.  You look terrible.” She murmured affectionately, reaching up to press a soft kiss to his lips, pulling away. “I'll meet you back at the house, then we can get some rest, all right?”

 

“Brooklynn...chances are...she was buried with something personal.  And there's another strong chance that something of Kyle's is buried with her.  Or possessions of Kyle's in his own casket as we know it's empty.” He said gently, though he nodded at her final words.  Rest sounded good right about now. 

 

Actually...never leaving the bed again sounded good as well.

 

“But wouldn't she have told me about them?” Brooklynn sighed, knowing deep down Mark was right. “We're a team, I'm not the leader, remember?  If you think its best, we should converse with the others and make a decision.”

 

She stifled a yawn, beyond exhausted, and knew he was too.  They separated as Brooklynn slid in her car, firing up the ignition, and pulled away moments later.  Randy was in the passenger seat, Beth, Mickie and John in the back.

 

“Are you all right?” Randy asked softly while she drove, ignoring the sounds of John and Mickie kissing in the backseat, along with Beth telling them to get a room under her breath.  He was still in a calm, peaceful mood, thanks to Julia.  What he wouldn't give to bottle that feeling up and be able to market it. “You know, I think we ought to consider making this a business.” He yawned, leaning his head back against the seat.

 

“Yes, I'm fine, just exhausted.” Brooklynn felt very peaceful, like nothing could harm her, knowing Julia would look out for them. “I can hear it, remember my rules?”

 

“Sorry.” Mickie giggled, feeling chipper due to Julia's aura, shoving John away gently. “Wait until we're alone.”

 

John scowled, though one look from Brooklynn made him decide he liked his balls where they were.

 

Chapter 15

 

“Mark thinks we should dig up the graves.  I don't know what to do.”

 

“Makes sense when you think about it.” Beth agreed thoughtfully. “Your parents died after everyone else, so there's a chance they stashed something into one of the coffins.  Or Kyle did since he committed suicide AFTER Julia's...death.” She didn't want to say murder and break the spell of good vibes that still infused them. “Mark's got more experience in...”

 

“Diggin' up coffins?”

 

“Then we do...”

 

“I know it has to be done, as much as it'll probably infuriate the dead because desecrating the graves is a huge sigh of disrespect to them.” She sighed, stopping at a stop sign before going again, tapping her fingers on the steering wheel. 

 

What would her parents hide with Julia though, bury with her?  Mark knew something, she was sure of it, but Brooklynn was too damn exhausted to figure it out at the moment.  She just wanted to sleep in Mark's arms, knowing this had to be Julia's doing.

 

“Let's just figure everything out tomorrow.”

 

Considering Mark had openly admitted to desecrating plenty of graves in his lifetime and had lived to tell the tale, John wasn't too worried and settled back comfortably, wrapping an arm around Mickie. “Hey, I had a thought...” He said suddenly, ignoring Brooklynn's warning growl…Her rule and all that. “Considering Mark's...history, think maybe these spirits can sense it and might think we're ALL assholes?”

 

“More than likely yes.”

 

Brooklynn couldn't help laughing, shaking her head, turning down the road that lead to the house.  Everyone started laughing in the car, releasing tension.  She smiled when Randy grabbed her hand, giving it a gentle squeeze.  Pulling it away, she replaced her hand with Beth’s, nodding with a smile.  They arrived a few minutes later, still chuckling at John's blunt statement.  Brooklynn was dead on her feet and trudged inside, stretching her arms above her head, knowing Mark would join her shortly.

 

“Hey asshole...”

 

Mark groaned loudly, letting it be known he wasn't in the mood and arched an eyebrow when Beth and Mickie giggled as they walked on through to the kitchen. “What, Cena?”

 

“About this grave digging...What are the odds we're not all going to get in some shit because you used to rob from the dead?”

 

“Well,” Mark rubbed his chin. “They'll probably go after you first.”

 

“Me?  Why me?”

 

“Even ghosts like pretty boys.” Mark slapped his open hand twice against John's face before following Brooklynn.

 

Everyone in the house started laughing while John gushed red, holding his face from where Mark smacked him.  Brooklynn was near tears by the time she arrived in the room, holding her stomach, feeling more alive than she had since this whole ordeal started.  She peeled her shirt off, tossing it to the side and removed her shoes.

 

“Close the door.” She requested softly, still giggling somewhat, not even needing to turn around to know Mark was there.

 

“Why?  Are we going to get all hot and bothered?” Randy clamped a hand over his eyes when she spun around, resisting the urge to peek through his fingertips. “Sorry, Lynn, I just wanted to talk to you and you weren't exactly slowing down.” He apologized quickly, reaching back with the other hand to feel for the doorknob, fumbling and then frowned when he grabbed something warm.

 

Mark grunted, picked Randy up by the back of his neck and flung him bodily from the room.

 

“Mark...” Brooklynn sighed as she walked past him, having slipped into a black lace tank top. “I'll be back.” She promised, kissing him. “Get some rest.” Walking out, she closed the door behind her and helped Randy up. “Sorry about that, Randy.” She smiled hesitantly, releasing him. “What did you want to talk about?”

 

“I don't remember...” Randy grumbled, rubbing the back of his head because, when he had landed, he had cracked his skull against the hardwood floor. “I'll remember eventually and try again, preferably while you're dressed.” He cleared his throat quickly. “Not that you're ugly or anything, because you're not.  You're very beautiful and you’re...” His eyes dropped to the front of her black top, groaning. “Sorry…”

 

Brooklynn knew what she had to do, narrowing amber eyes back at him. “You are a fool Randy Orton.” When he stared at her in almost shock, she planted her hands on her hips. “You are the biggest idiot on the face of this earth!  What the hell are you doing?  You have a wonderful, beautiful, vibrant, smart, funny, sexy woman PINING for your affection and you're using it on someone who isn't and never WAS available!  Get your ass in gear before you lose the best thing that's ever happened to you!  Life is too damn short, Randy.  You have to grab love where you can get it.  I waited way too long to tell Mark how I felt about him.  I know you think you love me, but honestly, you're scared of committing to Beth and you're using me as a front.  Enough is enough; take your balls out of your damn pocket and just SAY something to her.  You love her, I know you do, and she loves you.  So stop running away, stop being a pansy.”

 

Randy got to his feet, his usually warm blue eyes suddenly turning to pure ice as he stared down at her. “Coming from the woman who hid her feelings are these years...who the HELL do you think you are trying to lecture someone else?” He snarled coldly. “You are the biggest hypocrite I have ever met, Brooklynn, you know that?  Beth loves CODY, she always has and I'm her best friend.  If he wanted her back, she'd go back to him because she still loves him.  So DON'T presume to KNOW us.  You might know spirits, but you sure as hell don't know a goddamn thing about the living.”

 

“Get away from her.”

 

“Or what?”

 

Mark raised a fist.

 

Randy pulled off his glove, wiggling his fingers. “Go for it, we'll find out everything you've ever tried to hide then, won't we?”

 

Mark's acid eyes narrowed.

 

“Stop it, both of you!” Brooklynn was standing between them, thankfully, or else Mark would probably tear Randy's head clean off his shoulders. “You don't even see it, Randy, that's what saddens me.  I know the dead, you're right, but I also know the living.  And I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that Beth thinks of you as MORE than a friend.  Trish has SEEN it; Melina has felt it along with Mickie.  You're blind as a damn bat.” She grunted when Mark began pulling her away from Randy. “Have you even TRIED asking Beth how she feels, Randy?  No, you haven't because if you did, she would probably tell you that she isn't in love with Cody anymore.  How could she be when the bastard cheated on her multiple times?  You can stand there and yell at me all you want, but I'm telling you that you're wrong when it comes to how Beth feels!”

 

“What's going on?” Beth demanded, having overheard the entire conversation. “Randy Orton, put that glove back on right now!  How dare you threaten Mark like that?  You are supposed to use your power for GOOD, not evil, remember?  Come on, it's time for bed; we're all exhausted from the past few days.”

 

“Fuck you all, I'm out of here.” Randy grumbled, pushing past Beth and stormed down the stairs.  When John cracked a joke, he pushed John so hard John went stumbling backwards into the entertainment center.

 

Mark was not surprised when the door slammed shut, every picture in the house rattling from the force and took in the expression on Beth's face.

 

“What the HELL happened up there?” Mickie shouted, helping John up.

 

“I have no idea.” Beth sighed, knowing she had to go after him. “I know this isn't your fault Brooklynn.”

 

Brooklynn just nodded, feeling tears burn her eyes, and walked back inside the room with Mark following. “I'm fine, I just need a minute.”

 

What the hell had come over Randy? 

 

Did he really feel that strongly about her? 

 

Brooklynn didn't feel the same way and knew this was bound to cause a problem sooner or later.  She knew how Randy felt about her, he told her the last time they went on a hunt.  He kissed her and pressed his hand against her forehead, showing her exactly what he wanted to do to her.  Brooklynn told him she didn't feel the same way...things were never the same between them ever since that night, that moment, though Randy tried being civil.

 

“I don't love him like he wants me too Mark.  I can't give him what he wants.”

 

“That boy is in love with you, Brooklynn.” Mark said gravely, closing the door behind them. “And what you just said to him, about him loving Beth he just doesn't know it...He knows exactly who he wants and sadly it's not her.  You just hurt his feelings, his pride and pissed him off on top of it.” Enough that Randy had actually had the balls to consider touching Mark, which was the ULTIMATE dismay between them.  He did not need Randy seeing every aspect of his life, past and present. “He'll cool down, darlin'.”

 

“I know...and what's worse is Beth is in love with him.” Brooklynn sank down on the bed, lowering her head as a few tears slid down her cheeks, wiping them away angrily. “I know he loves me, he told me.” She stood up, knowing she never confided this to Mark before.  They NEVER kept things from one another, but Brooklynn thought it best at the time. “He touched me, showed me what he wanted to do to me, and confessed how he felt.  I shot him down...I told him I didn't feel the same way, that I never would.” Sighing, she slowly turned around to face Mark, biting her bottom lip nervously. “I'm sorry I didn't tell you, I just figured that's one thing you didn't need to know.”

 

She was right, he didn't want to know.  He wanted to kill any male she had been with during their 'off time' and he didn't even KNOW them.  Mark wanted to brutally torture and THEN murder Randy at this point.

 

“If you knew honestly how he felt,” He did not have an easy time saying of this, congratulating himself on doing it calmly and even gently. “Then why would you try telling him otherwise?”

 

“Because I know how much Beth loves him.  She hasn't said it out loud yet, but Mickie, Melina and Trish have all seen and felt vibes from her.  You can tell when a person is in love with another.  Everyone here has known we've loved each other for years, Mark.  It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure it out.  I figured I could try to sway his attention from me to her, but all I did was made things worse.” Brooklynn slowly walked back over to the bed, not surprised when Mark didn't join her right away, drawing her knees up to her chest, resting her chin on them. “I'm sorry...” She whispered, not sure what else to say, hoping Beth could persuade Randy to come back.

 

Sighing, he tugged off his denim vest and removed the heavy necklace from his throat; laying it out gently on the table.  It bore an amulet he had started wearing when he had walked away from his old life, well as much as he could at least.  Mark slid into the bed behind her and stretched his legs out around Brooklynn's body, beginning to massage her shoulders much in the way she had done for him the other night.  He personally hoped Beth didn't go after Randy as there was no telling what the young man would do in his current state.

 

“I have to go help Beth.”

 

Brooklynn began standing up, only for Mark to pull her back down, staring up into his beautiful green eyes.  Usually they were acid, though at the moment, two emerald gems were staring down at her.  That's how she knew he was content and happy, though the worry was clear as well.

 

“Mark, this is my fault.  Please, I don't want him to hurt her because of me.  I...” She sighed when his hands slid up her arms, lacing his fingers with hers, hovering over her so he wasn't crushing her with his weight.

 

“Beth will be fine, she's a tough woman.”

 

Honestly, Mark didn't think Beth was going to get very far as Randy was probably running at this point, knowing that was something the man did when he was angry.  Just so he WOULDN'T hurt someone.  And if by chance he was wrong and Randy DID hurt Beth, well...He'd kill the man, plain and simple.

 

“Relax, Brooklynn.” He murmured, brushing his lips against hers.

 

A huge sigh escaped her, knowing Mark was right.  Beth could take care of herself, she damn near beat the hell out of Cody when she found out he was cheating on her.  Brooklynn ran her fingers through his hair, loving how soft and silky it was, even though it was still wet from the shower and rain.

 

“I do want you to get those permits.  Maybe you're right; maybe my parents did bury something with Julia.”

 

Or Kyle, he mentally added, knowing there wasn't a body in that casket, but usually people put SOMETHING into an empty casket.  Mark did not fancy the idea of digging up Brooklynn's dead twin sister.  Not that he was averse to seeing a corpse, but he had a feeling that whatever was in Julia's coffin, was probably not good.

 

“I'll get them in the morning.” He murmured softly, running the tips of his fingers along the side of her face.

 

Brooklynn nodded and closed her eyes, the feeling of his fingertips both soothing and major turn on at the same time.  She loved him more than life itself and if anything ever happened to him, Brooklynn didn't know what she would do. “Did you mean what you said?” When his eyebrow rose, she slowly sat up, their lips mere inches from each other's. “Did you mean it when you said that...you wouldn't let me go even after this was over?  Or was that just in the heat of the moment?” She cupped his face in her hand, swallowing hard, kissing him softly. “I won't hold it against you if you didn't, Mark.”

 

Leave it to a woman to dig deeper into a man's words and try to analyze every little facet.  Mark tried not to laugh at her, honestly he did, but chuckled anyway.  When Brooklynn tried pushing him away from her, he caught her hands in one of his and pulled them to his chest.

 

“I meant it, darlin'.” He said sincerely, all traces of humor gone as he stared down at her. “When this ends, we don't end with it.”

 

“I love you.” She whispered softly, pressing a soft kiss to his lips and smiled when he said it back. 

 

Why she had walked away from this man all these years, Brooklynn would never understand.  He was the reason she couldn't get close to anyone, fall in love, because nobody else would understand what she could do, what she felt.  Brooklynn felt him remove her clothes slowly, kissing every inch of her body, loving her the only way he knew how...without magic.  He made slow, passionate love to her, showing her with his actions that he meant what he said, even though she believed him.  When they finally came down from the clouds, Brooklynn curled up against him, loving the feeling of his arms tightened around her, sighing in contentment.

 

Chapter 16

 

“I'm not asking how you got those because I don't want to know.” John muttered, the next morning, sipping a cup of coffee with Steve. 

 

They had assumed Mark was upstairs with Brooklynn, how surprised they had been when he came in through the backdoor with a permit to dig up the graves.

 

“Probably fucked the mortician.”

 

“Or maybe I AM the mortician.” Mark said dryly. “You know, Deadman and all that.”

 

“What are those?” John pointed at the window, seeing what he assumed were long poles.

 

“Shovels.”

 

“Beth is back.” Mickie announced, walking inside the kitchen, raising an eyebrow at the shovels. “Randy is gone, he's nowhere to be found.”

 

“What the hell did Brooklynn say to him? “Melina demanded, narrowing her eyes slightly. “Beth is beside herself with worry.”

 

“Not to mention Randy is the only one who can touch things and see visions.” Trish piped in, rubbing Steve's shoulders, sighing. “It's not Brooklynn's fault.  We have to remember that.”

 

“Then who the fuck's fault is it, Trish?  When is Brooklynn going to take responsibility for her actions?”

 

“When bitches like you stop talking behind my back.”

 

Hey guess what, it's not talking behind your back because I'll repeat myself.  What the hell did you say to Randy to piss him off?” Melina demanded coldly.

 

“And I am not a bitch.” Trish added, her own eyes narrowing.  She had been sticking UP for Brooklynn.

 

“Round two.” Steve sighed, finishing his coffee.

 

“I told him that he needs to stop putting his focus on someone who isn't available and on someone who is, like Beth.  We all know she loves him.  I'm with Mark now, nothing will ever change that, and if he wants to get bent out of shape about it, that's not MY fault.  That's on HIM.  For ONCE, this is NOT my fault and I didn't call you a bitch, Trish.  I called Melina one.” Brooklynn explained coldly, amber eyes flashing, wearing a simple black dress that went to her knees, the neckline V shaped, with short sleeves.  She was going to her sister's gravesite and wanted to pay her respects before the digging commenced.

 

Melina rolled her eyes. “Brooklynn, you can't TELL him to think of Beth the way she does him.  People don't work that way.  You should have just told him you didn't return his feelings and leave it at that.” She loved Brooklynn, really she did, but the woman was better at dealing with spirits than actual people. “It's Randy, we all know he has a temper.”

 

“A temper that's going to get his ass knocked down if he don't lose it.”

 

“Exactly and he needed to know how Beth felt about him.  That's just the bottom line.  He's going to end up getting himself hurt if he doesn't control that temper.  You can think what you want, maybe I am better with spirits, but guess what?  That's all I've known since I was seven years old.  How can I know the living when the dead are more a part of my life?” She didn't wait for anyone to answer, looking at Mark, softening her features slightly. “Whenever you're ready, I'll be outside waiting.” She walked out, half of her hair up in a black ribbon.

 

Melina threw her hands up into the air exasperatedly. “And that's why people wind up talking about her behind her back, she thinks when she ends a conversation and does her little sweeping out of the room thing that's the end of the story.” She glanced down at her palm. “I'm seeing all my lines so apparently things are going to go good today, I'm not going with you guys.”

 

Mark arched an eyebrow at her.

 

“I'm going to go find Randy.”

 

“I'm going to go check on Beth.” Trish sighed, heading upstairs.

 

They could think what they wanted, Brooklynn had more important things to worry about, clenching her fists tightly at her sides.  She knew why Randy wanted to talk to her the night before and, honestly, Brooklynn knew someone had to put him in his place.  She was just tired of the hovering, tired of everything in general.  This whole situation with finding out she had a twin, and her parents actually killed her, had gotten to Brooklynn; she was sure of it.  Brooklynn heard something behind her and turned around, staring back at Randy.  She didn't say a single word, wanting to wait and see what he would say first.

 

Randy snorted and flicked away the cigarette he had been smoking, not wearing his gloves.  Truth be told, he had ripped them off and hurled them over a bridge.  His 'gift' was his curse.

 

“You know,” He said evenly, his eyes cold, refusing to let her see the vulnerable side of him ever again. “I've touched you, I've seen things about you Mark will NEVER be able to understand or appreciate, not like I do.  I KNOW you.” He tapped his head and then his heart. “I have for years.  If he makes you happy, fine.  But don't ever presume to tell me who I do and do not love.” Randy turned, nodding at Mark, obviously not caring the man had overheard everything and walked into the house.

 

Tears filled her eyes, knowing Randy was right.  Randy did know her because of his gift.  He touched her that night he kissed her and saw everything, every feeling coursing through her.  The more she thought about, the angrier she became, and Brooklynn was physically shaking with hidden rage.  She couldn't even talk, that's how angry she was with his words.  Brooklynn held her hand up when Mark went to touch her, shaking her head and went down the steps toward her car.  She peeled away moments later, squealing tires, and headed to the cemetery alone.

 

“What the hell was that all about?” Steve asked, stepping out the door and stood beside Mark, both men watching as Brooklynn hauled ass out of there.

 

“Something Randy said pissed her off, apparently.” Mark replied evenly, dissecting what he had heard and tried figuring out just what part had really bothered her.  He sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose, tempted to go pound that little bastard into dust on principal.

 

Pulling up to the cemetery moments later, Brooklynn had calmed down on the ride here.  She hauled ass because she didn't want to say something that she'd regret later.  Not to mention she wanted a few minutes alone to pay respects to her sister.  Brooklynn had secrets, though Mark knew most of them, but Randy knew them all.  He did the moment he touched her and hated it.  He loved her, but there was nothing she could do about it.  Randy would probably love her forever, but that was his own fault for pining over someone who wasn't available.  She was taken, always had been, and always would be by Mark.  Brooklynn trekked through the cemetery until she located Julia, tears instantly filling her eyes, staring at the stone.

 

“I'm so sorry I wasn't there...” She whispered heartbrokenly, bending down to run her fingertips down the hard stone, sniffling.

 

There is no sense in crying about it, Brooklynn.”

 

~!~

 

“What're the odds she's not going to let us do this?”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“You want to cast around them graves.”

 

Mark was regretting actually agreeing to ride with Steve and John, they didn't need the whole crew for this; though Mickie was in the back with John, just in case they needed some 'good' magic. “Just to make sure there's nothing...”

 

“Odd.”

 

“There.”

 

~!~

 

By the time the others arrived, Brooklynn had stopped crying and stared down at her sister's stone, almost in a trance.  She jumped when she felt Mark's hands on her waist, taking a deep breath. “Sorry.” She murmured, pressing a hand over her racing heart. “You would think after all these years of dealing with this shit, I'd be used to it.”

 

Nobody could ever get used to the spirits, me included.”

 

“Where's Kyle's grave?”

 

Over here, follow me.” Julia began walking toward it, knowing Brooklynn and the others were following.

 

Mickie trailed behind them all, not at all comfortable surrounded by tombstones.  Brooklynn seemed all right and Mark looked like he was in his element, sick bastard.  When he actually started whistling, she made a face and shook her head, trying to pretend the three men were not carrying shovels and they weren't intending on digging up two graves.

 

“There's nobody in this one, right?”

 

“Wouldn't that suck if there was?”

 

“STEVEN!”

 

Julia pointed, causing Brooklynn to stop, the stone before them reading Kyle Winters.  This was it.  Mark strutted forward and began digging up the earth without preamble.  Brooklynn wasn’t surprised since he used to rob graves in his teen years, which didn't bother her since it was his past and he no longer did it.  Hell, she didn't care if he murdered, which she knew he did.  Mark hadn't told her everything, but she knew.  He used to be consumed with the darkness and she accepted that, just as he accepted her.  When Mark finally hit something hard, he began scrapping the dirt off of a pine box.

 

“My god...”

 

Julia just lowered her head. “His parents couldn't afford anything else...”

 

John and Steve began helping Mark raise the casket up, it was obviously light.  It was wooden and empty. “Oh shit...” John groaned when he let it slip, hearing something rattle around in there.

 

“What was that?”

 

“A fucking skull, Mickie.  How should we know?”

 

Steve snorted.

 

Brooklynn slowly walked over to the casket, once it was before her, both her and Julia looking at each other before back at it. “What do you think it is?” She asked quietly, causing Julia to shrug.

 

I don't know.  What could Kyle have been buried with?” Julia was more confused than ever, finally touching the coffin with a sigh. “Open it, Brooklynn.”

 

Nodding, Brooklynn lowered to her knees and took the crowbar Steve handed her, silently thanking him before beginning to wrench it open.  She finally got it, dust and dirt flying up at her.  Coughing as she dropped the crowbar, a shiny object stared back at her.

 

“What is that?”

 

Oh my god...” Julia felt tears slide down her ghostly pale cheeks. “That's the necklace I gave him on our first date.”

 

Mark stared down at the necklace, really wishing Randy was here right now.  That little prick's gift would have come in handy at the moment.  Steve apparently was thinking the same thing because he was sliding on a plastic glove, bending down to pick it up and stuff it in the zip lock baggie John held out.

 

“Isn't that grave robbing?”

 

“Yes.” Mark muttered with a shrug, then looked at Brooklynn. “Ask Julia if it's all right we take it.” He implored, realizing she might not be too appreciative of this. “And what its connection to Kyle is.”

 

“It's the necklace she gave him on their first date.  She said its fine that you take it, but when this is over, she wants me to have it.” When Mark nodded, Brooklynn raked a hand through her hair, sighing shakily. “Julia, do you think we should dig up yours?”

 

It cannot hurt.” Julia nodded, knowing that was a smart idea, looking over at her own grave. “Just please, try putting it back the way it was before after you're done.”

 

“She said to dig up her grave, that there might be something in there.”

 

John looked at his woman, who was turning a delicate shade of green.  She had been queasy about opening a casket they knew a body wasn't in.  He knew damn well she'd be blowing chunks over this one.

 

“Why don't you go sit by the car, Mickie?” He suggested softly.

 

Nodding, she hightailed it back to the truck.

 

“All right, let's get this done.” Steve sighed, not too keen on digging up a rotting corpse either.

 

Brooklynn took the shovel away from John, nodding at him solemnly, and began digging the grave up with Mark.  Everyone was silent while they did the deed.  She tried to be as careful as possible, not wanting to damage anything, including the stone.  Mark was being careful as well, which she appreciated.  When they finally arrived at the beautiful silver casket, John decided he couldn't handle it, going back to the car with Mickie. 

 

Steve and Mark pulled it out as Brooklynn stared at it with tears in her eyes.  She took a deep breath, looking back at Julia, and closed her eyes before opening it.  Mark was the only one who didn't turn to gag when the lid was opened; the scent that came at them wasn't roses.  He wrinkled his nose against it, staring down at the decomposing body.

 

“Dear lord...” Steve coughed, pulling a bandana from his back pocket and held it over his mouth and nose.  Finally glancing inside as well, his blue eyes were unreadable. “How long has she been...dead?” He asked quietly.

 

“A year, a little over.” Brooklynn wasn't worried about the scent so much as the blood that coated the insides.  She looked closer, eyes narrowed, swallowing hard. “You were...buried alive...”

 

Yes, I was knocked out when they buried me.  I was nearly dead already, but they didn't want anyone else to know.”

 

“So they marked your grave?”

 

They had a closed coffin ceremony, refusing to let anyone near it.  Our sperm donors had a lot of money, Brooklynn.”

 

“Oh god...” Brooklyn was going to be sick, covering her mouth with her hand and suddenly spotted what Julia’s body was clutching, which now rested on her chest.

 

Mark seen the locket the corpse was grasping, immediately reaching it with his own gloved hand to gently pull it out.

 

“Man, that is SICK.” Steve swallowed down vomit when he heard something...juicy.

 

“Tell Julia, I'm really…really sorry about this.” Mark said gruffly; Rigamortis had set in, obviously.  Sighing, he began bending the fingers back, the sound startlingly familiar, which was not a good thing.

 

Tell him it's all right, I'm dead, no other harm can be done.”

 

Brooklynn nodded, trying hard not to vomit, having too much respect for the dead.  Mark was used to this and she was glad he was here to take the evidence.  He walked over, dropping it in her hand, and Brooklynn felt the fresh tears gush down her cheeks.

 

Open it.” Julia whispered encouragingly, nudging her sister forward.

 

Brooklynn inhaled sharply and nodded, doing it, clutching it to her chest as soon as she saw what was inside the locket.  It was a picture of both of them, at the age of what looked like 5, looking nearly identical.  Mark left her to converse with her sister since they couldn't, turning back to the coffin and bent over it.

 

Now I remember what they buried with me...their secret, though they didn't get rid of all the evidence.  That's what happens when one panics.”

 

“Man, what the hell are you...” Steve trailed off when Mark literally lifted Julia, or more like her body, up into a sitting position, hoping it didn't...come apart. “Mark, come on, man...”

 

“Hold on...” Mark grunted, pulling out a clear bag. “Murder weapon.”

 

I was wondering what was stabbing my back...”

 

“Oh god, I can't...” This was too much for Brooklynn as she ran over to the nearest tree, away from graves, emptying the contents of her stomach.  She could feel Julia's ghostly hand on her back, rubbing it up and down, whispering soothing words in her ear.

 

You knew it would probably be like this, Brooklynn.  They were heartless bastards.  They're dead just like I am now.”

 

“I-I can't breathe...” Brooklynn cried so hard, she had to press her hand against the tree to keep her balance, the crying turning to violent sobs.

 

Just to give himself an excuse to walk away from Mark and his...casket exploring, without being called a pussy, Steve muttered something about checking on Brooklynn, trying not to break out into a run. “Honey, breathe.” He urged, rubbing her back as well, unaware her ghost sister was doing the same thing. “Breathe, Lynn, come on.”

 

“I-I-I just c-can't...”

 

She huffed sharply, dry heaving and finally turned around, hugging Steve tightly around the neck.  Her shoulders shook from how hard the sobs tore through her body, the sound heartbreaking and wrenching all at the same time.  Her tears soaked his neck, knowing he didn't mind, or at least hoped.

 

“W-Why w-would t-they do this...?  Julia...” Brooklynn wanted her sister with her, alive, and wasn't sure if she could cross her over after all.

 

Chapter 17

 

Steve didn't have an answer for her, knowing saying 'because sometimes people are sick fucks, even the people who are supposed to love you unconditionally and protect you, no matter what' wasn't the right thing to try to soothe her with.  She was grieving for the sister she had never known, hurt by the parents who had lied and murdered her twin.  It was a twisted and disturbed tale, one he didn't try to dwell on.

 

It was just...unnatural.

 

After her meltdown, Brooklynn slowly pulled back from Steve, wiping her tears away, eyes bloodshot and swollen.  She felt Julia's ghostly hand on her cheek, trying to wipe a tear away, and touched it as her eyes closed. “Julia, I swear to anything and everything I believe in, no matter what, I will help you find peace.  I promise.” She wouldn't break it either, looking down at the locket in her hand and closed it, before placing it around her neck. “We have to find Kyle or somehow make him come to us.”

 

“Let's not do that here.” Steve suggested, glancing back at Mark who was beginning to cast. “He's probably going to piss off whatever other spirits are lurking in this place with that.  We don't want a ghost with an attitude adding to it.”

 

Mark was HOPING he didn't attract any unwanted attention, especially considering he had permission to do this.  He had replaced Julia's body exactly how it had been, minus the locket and the knife in the bag, which was now evidence.  With Brooklynn's permission, it could be turned into the police, especially since Julia's murder had been a 'cold case'.  Perhaps now they could close the chapter on that still unfinished book.

 

“He's right Mark, not here.  There are spirits everywhere, I can feel them.  We have to focus on the task at hand, which is finding Kyle.  Julia, do you have any idea where he is?”

 

No, I really thought he'd be here...” Julia lowered her eyes to the ground, sighing heavily. “It's hopeless...”

“No!  Don't ever say that, do you hear me?  It's never hopeless!  We WILL find him and you WILL find peace!  Say it!” Brooklynn ordered, wanting to shake some sense into her sister's spirit.

 

But how?  How are we supposed to find him?

 

“I'll do some research, make a call to a special friend of mine.  We will figure this out.”

 

Mark strolled over to them, carrying both his and John's shovel, passing Steve his.  The bag was held in his free hand.  He looked down at Brooklynn, taking in how pale she was and knew she had been sick, concern shining in his green eyes.

 

“Are you all right?” He asked softly, allowing Steve to take everything from him in order to pull her into his arms, kissing her forehead. “Let Julia know I put everything back the way it was.  I don't want to offend her.”

 

He didn't offend me, tell him he's helped me more than he'll ever know.”

 

“No I'm not all right...” She whispered, hugging him close and buried her face in his chest while he rubbed her back. “S-She said you didn't offend her, that you helped her more than you'll ever know.”

 

Brooklynn felt Mark kiss the top of her head, more tears falling, hearing his heart beating against her ear.  That sound was always soothing to her, not to mention he was moving back and forth, trying to calm her down.  Now, she was just softly crying and soaked his shirt.  Steve left them to their moment, spotting someone standing by the fence on a phone and sighed, walking over to explain what they were doing.  Mark had given him and John each a copy of the permit, along with a story, to tell anyone.

 

“Damage control...”

 

Letting Steve handle business, Mark swept Brooklynn up into his arms, carrying her princess style back to her car. “Come on, we'll go home and I'll draw you a hot bath.” He murmured in her ear, knowing she needed time to calm down.

 

She could only nod, leaning against him, knowing someone else would take her car back to the house.  She felt Mark pluck the keys from her, tossing them to John and felt him slide in the truck.  Brooklynn simply buckled up, staring out the window, feeling and hearing the truck roar to life moments later.  The wind picked up since the window was open when he began heading back to the house.  She knew she was becoming too emotionally invested in this hunt, but this was her family, her DEAD family, her long lost sister...this went WAY beyond the boundaries of what she was used too.

 

Steve stared at her car, arching an eyebrow, not believing Mark had just taken off in his truck and left him and John to scrunch their large asses in her car.  Mickie started giggling insanely, feeling much better now.  She had put on her MP3, turned her back and pretended grave digging wasn't going on.

 

“You need to take a day off from this.” Mark directed, after a while, knowing her usual detachment wasn't happening this time around.  It was personal, obviously.

 

“There's no time for that.  I can't let this get to me.  I can do this, I can...” She closed her eyes, leaning her head out the window, the air feeling great against her face. “I have too.” Brooklynn whispered that last part out, feeling him take her hand, lacing their fingers together. “I know I'm getting too emotionally involved with this, but it's my family, Mark.  It's the sister I never knew I had that was brutally murdered by our own flesh and blood, the people who created us and brought us into this world.  I can't help NOT getting emotional over this.”

 

Mark would have said 'yes you can', but she had been through the wringer the past few days.  With Julia and finding out all that heavy, disturbing information she had along with everything Randy had laid on her.  Not to mention the nitpicking with the girls.

 

“You need to step back from the situation and regroup, Brooklynn.” He demanded firmly. “Otherwise, you're going to make a mistake and wind up insane or dead, you know this.”

 

“I'd rather be dead...” She had to catch herself with the dashboard when Mark slammed on the brakes, actually squealing tires, feeling her heart lunge in her throat. “What the HELL, Mark?!” She shouted, trembling slightly, looking over at him and immediately swallowed hard by the look in his eyes.

 

Mark was silent, ignoring the cars that zoomed by them blaring their horns. “You'd rather be dead?” He echoed in a cold, hard voice. “Would you like to see what death is, Brooklynn?  Feel what it's like to truly die instead of seeing and feeling your spirits death?” Guiding the truck down an empty road, Mark exited and dragged her with him roughly. “Because it's a VERY different thing to feel your own mortality slipping away from you, I can assure you of that!” He spat, enraged with her. 

 

She wanted to DIE?!

 

“Let go of me!!” She shouted, trying to rip her arm out of his grasp, but it was no use.  He was much stronger than her. “Yes, I wish I was dead, so my sister could be alive!!  I wish I could've been there to stop them, to find out before they killed her!!  I wish I didn't have to cross her over, knowing I'm the ONLY one because she had the same fucking gift!  I wish I could've gotten to know her and now I NEVER WILL!  SO YES, I WISH I WAS DEAD SO I COULD AT LEAST BE WITH HER!” Brooklynn was beside herself with grief and wasn't thinking clearly, only saying what was in her mangled heart.

 

“You, of ALL people, should know that crossing over isn't the end, that there's more on the other side!  Where you WILL be reunited with your sister and have all the time in this world and beyond to know her!” Mark snarled, trying with everything in him not to be angry with her, but...she wanted to be dead. 

 

His heart had suddenly felt empty and cold at those words.  If Brooklynn was dead, then what purpose in life would he have?  She was the reason he had turned from the darkness.  She was his REASON, period.

 

“Live this damn life and don't be so eager for your own crossing over!”

 

“I-I just feel so guilty because I'm living and she's not.” Brooklynn murmured, exhausted from all the emotional turmoil she'd been through the past few days, wiping tears from her eyes. “I'm sorry, Mark...”

 

She did want to live, but the guilt was eating away at her, though Brooklynn knew deep down inside she wasn't to blame.  Her parents lied to her for years, decades, never explaining why she felt so empty.  Now she knew why, it was because of Julia.

 

“My grief is overshadowing everything else, I'm sorry.  I love you, I don't know what to do, what to feel, what to think anymore with everything I've found out.  I-I didn't mean what I said...you're right, there is more and she'll be in the light when it finally is my time.  I was wrong, I'm sorry...”

 

Nodding gruffly, he helped her back into the truck, not trusting himself to speak right now.  Mark shouldn't have been surprised by this outburst.  She had gotten too 'involved', too damn emotional.  He knew she had every right to, but given their profession, it wasn't wise.  Brooklynn needed to step back and regroup, this was proof.  Hell, she might even need to let this one go, but he knew automatically she would never do it.  Again, the too personal bit came into play.

 

The rest of the ride back to the house, all Brooklynn did was bury her face in her hands and cry.  She cried harder than she ever had in her life, feeling sick to her stomach.  When the truck stopped, she stepped out and walked inside the house, not even waiting for Mark.  She wanted to be alone right now, not speaking to anyone as she headed up the stairs.  Mark would be hot on her trail and Brooklynn did not care, tears falling on the hard wooden floors with every step she took.  Once inside the room, Brooklynn slammed the door shut and collapsed on the bed, curling up in a tight ball on her side, clutching a pillow against her chest.

 

He wasn't hot on her trail.  He stopped right there in the kitchen and took the bottle of whiskey that was set before Steve, taking a long swallow right from the bottle.

 

“Everything all right?” Steve asked warily.

 

He hadn't missed the tears still wetting Brooklynn's face or the stormy expression on Mark's face.  What was really concerning him was the acid pouring from Mark's eyes.

 

“No.” Mark grunted, dropping down and gestured for Steve to pass him a glass. “Where's Trish?”

 

“Girl's night with Beth.  I got kicked out of the bedroom.”

 

Snorting, Mark slammed the shot.

 

~!~

 

A knock sounded at Brooklynn's door hours later, Mickie walking in with a tray of soup and crackers. “Brooklynn, sweetheart, I thought you might want something to eat...”

 

“Please go away.” She whispered, motionless on the bed, having no more tears to cry and clutched the locket in her hand. “I'm not hungry.”

 

Mickie sighed, nodding. “I know, but you have to keep your strength up.  Julia wouldn't want this...”

 

“Mickie, I appreciate what you're saying, but this is my grieving for my dead sister.  I want to be alone and I'm not hungry, do you understand?” Brooklynn closed her eyes when the door shut, though Mickie had left the tray for her. 

 

She wasn't eating; she wasn't moving an inch.

 

Brooklynn, this isn't worth it.”

 

“Like hell it isn't!  You're my sister, even though I don't know you.”

 

Honey, you have no reason to grieve.  There's no reason for you too.  You have to eat something.” Julia sat on the bed, placing a hand on Brooklynn's shoulder. “Please, eat something for me.”

 

“NO!” She shoved the tray on the floor, food splattering all over, not caring as she clutched the pillow harder. “I want to be alone.  Please, just for one night, I want to be left completely alone.”

 

Julia nodded solemnly, sighing. “As you wish.” She vanished moments later.

 

“What the fuck was that?!” Steve's head shot up from the table, a card plastered to his forehead.

 

Mark looked up at the ceiling. “Brooklynn screaming at a ghost.”

 

“Why'd ya call her Brooklynn instead of just Lynn?” Steve yawned, scratching the top of his head, his eyes closing again. “Ya think yer special, don'tcha, ya shit...”

 

Mark waited until Steve was passed out minutes later before using a tube of superglue to attach the entire deck of cards to his bald head.  Whistling evilly, he went upstairs.

 

The door opening caused Brooklynn to just close her eyes, inhaling raggedly.  Why couldn't people leave her alone?  Seriously, why couldn't they just give her a little bit of time to grieve?  She didn't even reach for the Kleenex, the garbage can already filled and felt dead to the world.  That and her hatred grew for her parents, not believing they murdered their only child by torturing and burying her alive.

 

Given that he was quite...drunk, if Brooklynn wanted him out, she better be saying something before he finished getting naked.  Mark dropped down in a chair and began tugging off his boots, grunting as he tossed them aside.  His eyes landed on the garbage can for a moment, blinking.

 

“Still cryin', darlin'?” He asked, his natural drawl coming out, thanks to copious amounts of whiskey.

 

It was Mark, the only exception to the rule of people bothering her. “I can't anymore...”

 

She seriously couldn't, having shed more tears than she probably had her entire life, swallowing hard.  Mark was angry with her and Brooklynn honestly didn't care at the moment.  She knew he was drunk, not even wanting to know how much he'd drank.  She just stared at the wall, blinking slowly, sighing raggedly.

 

“Figured you'd be sleepin' by now.” He rumbled, next peeling his vest off, scratching his bare chest before yawning. 

 

Tilting his head back until it rested against the wall, Mark surveyed her out hooded green eyes.  He would have thought sheer exhaustion would have gotten to her again, considering the day she’d had.  He didn’t want to think about that anymore, it'd piss him off all over again and, after drinking Steve under the table, beating him at cards and then playing WITH the cards, Mark felt marginally better.

 

“Tired?”

 

“Very.” She whispered, not moving to look at him or anything, knowing Julia was probably hurt by what she said. 

 

She just needed some time alone to think things through, to get her emotions out, knowing the others didn't need to see her like this.  She wanted to ask him if he had fun with whomever he drank with, knowing it was probably Steve, but refrained.  Honestly, she didn't care.  The only thing she cared about was trying to fall asleep, closing her eyes.

 

Grunting, Mark stood up and stretched his arms over his head, yawning as he stared down at her.  Finally, he shed his jeans, kicking them aside after a few attempts and snorted at himself.  He measured the bed, wondering if he could make it there in three steps without falling on his backside.  A second later, he joined her, automatically reaching out to pull Brooklynn against him and buried his face in the crook of her neck.

 

“I love ya, darlin'...” He murmured in that rare southern accented, husky voice.

 

“I love you too.” She whispered, rolling over to face him, burying her face in his chest with heaving breathing. 

 

Her body was sore from trembling and being tense.  She knew Mark had to be obliterated, smelling the whisky on his breath, but it surprisingly soothed her.  He would never hurt her, drunk or not, so Brooklynn didn't have a problem with it.  She didn't want to die, she wanted to be with Mark, and felt bad for sending her sister away.  Closing her eyes, Brooklynn felt his hand glide up and down her back, finally allowing sleep to succumb her with Mark quickly following. 

 

Maybe he was right; maybe Brooklynn had to take a day off and regroup.

 

Chapter 18

 

“WHAT THE FUCK DID HE DO TO MY GODDAMN HEAD?”

 

Mark was woken up to that, followed by a lot of giggling.  Groaning, he rolled onto his stomach and pulled a pillow over his head.  He wondered briefly if Mickie would brew him up something for the hellacious hangover he was now currently suffering.

 

“I'M GONNA KILL THAT SUMBITCH!  HE SUPERGLUED- OUCH, GODDAMN IT THAT HURT- CARDS TO MY -MOTHER FUCKER TRISH, THAT HURTS- HEAD!”

 

“Oh yeah...”

 

“I'm sorry, but they have to come off!  Now hold still!” Trish was trying very hard not to laugh at her better half, shaking her head, wondering what Steve said to make Mark do this.  She knew it was Mark; the man was evil enough to pull a prank like this. “Steve, stop bitching and just let me fucking do this!” She ordered, mildly irritated, using a butter knife with some olive oil on it. “Come on, it'll all be over soon and then you can attempt to kill Mark, now HOLD STILL!”

 

“You've taken 2 outta 52 off, this ain't-”

 

Steve let out another yelp of pain, fairly certain his head was bleeding from the cards being removed.  This was ALL Mark's handiwork.  The sick son of a bitch would find it amusing to do something like this to a bald guy, especially three sheets to the wind.

 

“I'mma kill him!!  I'm gonna rip his fucking balls off and feed them to-”

 

“Here, use my nail polish remover.  The acetone will eat through the glue.”

 

“Well at least I can be fuckin' high instead of in pain!”

 

“Thanks Mickie.” Trish sighed, shaking her head, gripping Steve's chin as she began applying it. “Stop bitching, it won't hurt as much now.  Now close your eyes.” When he did, Trish proceeded to pour the entire bottle of nail polish remover over his head, watching as one by one the cards fell from his skin, not tearing or anything. “Just peel them off now, it won't hurt.” She assured him, plucking one off with a smirk just to show him. “Cry baby.”

 

Melina stared at Trish in awe. “You just poured a bottle of nail polish remover over his head...Wow, that is brutal.” She arched an eyebrow when Steve began literally whimpering. “The SMELL of that shit burns my eyes, I can't even imagine...”

 

“Well they're closed, he's fine.”

 

“It's liquid.  Liquid always gets in the cracks.”

 

“STOP ANALYZIN' AND HELP ME TO THE DAMN SINK!”

 

Mark was listening to all this with a shit eating grin on his face.

 

Trish shrugged, not knowing what else to do and grabbed Steve's hand, guiding him over to the sink. “What did you want me to do?  Spread it on them one by one?  This was the only way to get them all off and without hurting him...much.” Trish smiled apologetically, running the cold water, splashing some on his face before handing him some soap. “I'll get you some lotion too.  That will help put moisture back in your pores.”

 

“Yes, because my head needs to be soft and silky...” He growled, busy cleaning the acetone from his eyes, plotting all sorts of horrible revenge on Mark.

 

“Well...at least it doesn't look too bad.  Skin only came off from the first cards.” Mickie pointed out helpfully.

 

“Gee...thanks...” Steve fumbled for a towel, finally mopping his eyes dry and blinked, watching the room slowly come into focus. “YOU!”

 

“Damn, Austin, not so loud...I have a hangover...”

 

“A hangover...?  FUCK your hangover!”

 

“You are not right in the head, Calaway.” Trish said as sternly as she could, though the amusement clearly registered in her beautiful brown eyes, biting her bottom lip. “Steve, just let it go.”

 

Mickie had to leave because she was cracking up.

 

“Mickie, let me come help you!” Trish called out, hightailing it out of there and started laughing as soon as they were in the next room.

 

“What is so damn funny?” Melina demanded, walking out, wearing a red spaghetti strapped nightgown with the middle part see through.

 

“S-Steve...M-Mark...glued...cards...”

 

“In English please?”

 

Once Mickie could regain her composure enough to speak, she told Melina exactly what Mark did and pretty soon all three were laughing their asses off.

 

“Alright now fellas,” John held out his hands, having overheard everything and was trying his best not to grin.  Steve looked ready to bash someone upside the head with a shovel, but it was so hard not to find this situation hilarious. “Let's not fight.  We all know drinkin' ain't the smartest thing...”

 

“Let alone pass out before the other person.” Mark snorted.

 

“Man, fuck you!  I didn't think you'd do this to my head!”

 

“Next time you'll know better, won't you?  Any coffee?”

 

“On the counter, Mark!” Melina called, still giggling.

 

“WHY ARE YOU BEIN’ NICE TO HIM?”

 

“Because it's Mark.  He doesn't pull many pranks and this one was a steal.” Trish was giggling as well, walking inside to pour a cup of coffee and handed it over. “Come on, admit it if it wasn't you, you'd be laughing too, Stevie.”

 

Mickie and John snorted at the same time, covering their mouths with their hands.

 

“Stevie?” Glennn was trying to keep a straight face. “Since when are you referred to as a pussy?”

 

Trish completely lost it with everyone as they all started laughing, even Mark.

 

Steve was NOT happy.  Sure, maybe if he hadn't been the one to wake up with a full deck of cards superglued to his goddamn skull he would've found the whole shebang funny.  As it was...he was pretty pissed off.

 

“One of these days, you're going to wake up with a cheese grater glued to your dick.” He cautioned angrily.

 

“Oh that was low, Steven.”

 

Even Mark winced, one hand moving down to protect his boys.

 

“Okay, okay calm down.  Come here, let me make it all better.” Trish pulled Steve with her by the hand, winking over her shoulder at everyone, hearing Steve grumbling the entire way. “Either stop it or I won't show you what I have under this robe...” The grumbling instantly stopped and Trish giggled, the door shutting moments later upstairs.

 

“She has him wrapped around her damn finger.  How uncanny.  Who woulda thought a petite blonde could do that to Steve, of all people?”

 

“Hey as long as it shuts him the hell up, I'm good to go.” John snickered, watching as Mark made himself a cup of coffee. “What the hell made you think it'd be a good idea to do that to the guy?”

 

“I was drunk enough to think skull fucking would have been a good idea.” Mark shrugged, not turning from the counter, busy adding liberal amounts of creamer and sugar to his mug.

 

Brooklynn slowly walked out of the bedroom, looking like complete and utter hell, black hair tousled with bloodshot eyes, red and swollen from how much crying she'd done.  She heard the women giggling in the living room, honestly not caring.  Coffee, she needed coffee and slowly headed down, wearing black cotton shorts with a matching tank top.  Not saying a word to anyone, she passed a talking John, heading straight for the coffee.  She poured a cup slowly, adding some creamer and sugar, sipping it.  She had to wake up before any clear thoughts came to mind, walking right back out, heading for the stairs.

 

“She still...moody?” Mickie asked hesitantly. 

 

They all knew something had happened at the cemetery.  Something also transpired between her and Mark afterwards, but neither had said a word.  Nobody knew yet.

 

“Mmm.” Mark rumbled, turning and sipped his coffee, wearing a pair of black shades over his eyes. “She needs the day to herself, no tryin' to cheer her up.” He ordered everyone gruffly.

 

“A-Are you sure that's wise?” Beth asked hesitantly, immediately lowering her eyes when Mark shot a dark look her way, hoping he knew what he was doing. “Sorry, she is our friend though.”

 

“How can leaving her alone help?” Melina wondered aloud; her and Brooklynn had differences, but they were still family, regardless.

 

“That's exactly what I was thinking.  I think you're wrong, Mark.  The darkness isn't always the right road.” Mickie stated evenly, folding her arms in front of her chest. “Closing herself off from everyone isn't healthy.  I'm going up there...”

 

He shrugged, sinking down into a chair and sipped his coffee. “Go for it, when she kicks your asses out...” He snorted and then inhaled, regretting that instantly.  Mark smelled like whiskey and was in need of a shower badly. “Well go on.” He waved them off when they all just stared at him. “Go cheer her up.”

 

“You're not friendly today, are you?”

 

“Cena, shut the hell up and let me suffer my hangover in peace.”

 

A few minutes later, all the girls came trudging down the stairs, a door slamming shut moments later echoing throughout the house.

 

“Hey Mark?” When he turned around, Mickie splashed the luke warm coffee in his face, scowling angrily. “Cheer her up your own damn self!”

 

John and Steve gaped as the coffee dripped off of Mark's chin, looking at each other, before both started busting out laughing.

 

“What the hell are you laughing at, cue ball?” Trish splashed her coffee in Steve's face moments later.

 

“You know what?  You men can all go fuck yourselves!  We're going shopping.” Beth announced, eyes narrowed and stormed out along with all of them.

 

Mark sat there wondering WHAT THE HELL; he had TOLD them to leave Brooklynn alone.  Sighing, he wiped coffee from his face, contemplating his revenge. He smirked when it came to him.  Those bitches...

 

“You goin’ up there?” Steve asked, wiping coffee from his own face.

 

“Hell fucking no.”

 

“Smart man.”

 

~!~

 

“Get out, I don't want to be bothered.” Brooklynn ordered gravely, staring out the window, arms wrapped around herself.  She didn't care who it was, she wanted to be left completely alone, to reflect on everything.  When the door closed, she turned around and immediately felt her heart pound faster. “Randy, I don't have it in me to fight with you right now.  Please just go.” Turning back around, Brooklynn continued staring straight ahead, pressing her forehead against the window.

 

“I'm not here to fight with you.” Randy muttered dryly, wearing a pair of skintight faded blue jeans, a white beater that hugged his muscular chest with an old brown leather bomber jacket. “I'm here to let you know that I'm leaving.  Steve asked me to handle a locket.  I'm going to do that then I'm gone.” He knew she was hurting, but he also knew he wasn't the one she needed to help her through this.

 

“I'm sorry for what I said.  You're right, I don't have any right telling you who you love or how to feel.  I don't know the living as well as the dead.” Brooklynn had accepted that fact years ago, fingering the locket around her neck, wondering if that's why he was here.  He said locket, there was only one they found in the grave. “Please don't leave.” She whispered, finally turning to face him, the amount of turmoil and heartache clear as day in her amber eyes. “You are my family and we had a fight and it was my fault.  I'm admitting it, I was wrong.  I-We can't do this without you and you know that.  We need to protect the balance and, if you leave, we won't be able to do that.” He had a very powerful gift that was used almost as much as her own and Mark's; though in her eyes, everyone's power was equal. “Don't leave us.”

 

Randy shook his head, his eyes fastened on the locket she was playing with. “The balance will be fine without me, Brooklynn.  Besides this...family...only gets together once every few years for a week or two.  You guys will get along without me just fine.  I HAVE to go, I can't do this anymore.  I can't keep waiting for some ghost to pop up just so I can see you.  That's...stupid of me.  I need to find my own way and hopefully get over you.” He whispered remorsefully.

 

Brooklynn knew no matter what she said, there was no changing his mind, nodding silently.  She knew what he wanted and unclasped it, setting the locket in his gloved hand.  Without Randy, they were doomed because he was the only one who could see visions by touching items.  The circle was broken and that showed vulnerability.  This wasn't good and Nemesis already knew what happened.  Brooklynn was sure of it.  She sat down on the bed, leaning back against the headboard, waiting. 

 

Randy stared down at the locket, sighing.  Steve had told him exactly where it had come from; he was not looking forward to this at all.  Sighing, he used his teeth to peel off his other glove and hesitantly reached down to touch the locket.  Instantly, his blue eyes became oddly distant, the blue expanding until his pupils were nothing more than little black pin pricks.

 

Five straight minutes passed before the locket slipped out of Randy's hand, crashing softly to the floor below, his eyes going from black to blue seconds later.  Only when his eyes returned to normal did Brooklynn attempt to go near him.  Slowly walking over, she picked up the locket, clipping it back around her neck and stared back at him with saddened, solemn eyes.

 

“What did you see?” She asked quietly, crossing her arms in front of her chest, seeing Randy hesitating. “Randy, just tell me.  Nothing you can say, or even do, won't add up to all I've been through lately.”

 

Randy shook his head, holding up a finger, silently asking her to give him a second as he processed what he had seen.  It never came in a straightforward manner, always flashes he usually had to decipher. “How she died.” He spoke finally, trying to keep emotion out of his tone, but that had been brutal to witness. “How she was buried alive with the locket...she clutched it...” He squeezed his hand, as if he was still holding the jewelry. “To her, even as the last air was used...”

 

“She must've found the locket, one of the many clues that they were hiding something from her...” Brooklynn looked to her right, seeing Julia, and felt her grab her hand as their fingers laced together.  To Randy, it looked as if Brooklynn was clutching air, though he knew better because of what she could do. “Anything else?” When he shook his head, she nodded, turning around to stare out the window again. “Be safe, Randy.”

 

“You too.”

 

The circle would be just fine without him, including Brooklynn She had managed all these years when the group was together and when she said she, they, needed him now; he knew the truth.  They needed his powers, not him.  Randy loved Beth only as a friend and nothing more.  The woman he did love was happy with someone else.  He would be happy for her, far AWAY.

 

“Goodbye, Brooklynn.” He said before closing the door behind him.

 

“Goodbye Randy.” Brooklynn whispered, not turning toward the door, more tears sliding down her already scorched face. 

 

She pressed her hand to the window, watching him walk out into the rain, feeling her heart shatter in her chest.  He broke her heart because he was her family and he couldn't stand the sight of her while she was with Mark.  Maybe someday he'd get over it and come back, but right now, Randy needed time away from everything, from everyone, from her.  Brooklynn understood that, which is why she hadn't fought him on it because, honestly, she needed the same thing.  Only, not to leave completely, just one day to get away from it all, including helping spirits.

 

Deep down, Brooklynn knew she'd never see Randy again. 

 

That's probably what hurt her the most.

 

She might be sad now, but Randy knew she'd get caught up in the hunt again, trying to solve this thing with Julia, Kyle, and her parents.  Not to mention Mark would distract her.  He knew this time they wouldn't go their separate ways; those two would be together now after this was over.  He wished her well. 

 

Mark didn't even say a word when Randy's duffel bag smacked him on the back of his already aching head, knowing the little prick was leaving and for good.

 

Chapter 19

 

Brooklynn wasn't surprised in the slightest when she was informed, by Mickie, that Beth had left to go after Randy.  So now they were down to eight and she wondered who was next to leave.  The night drew near and Brooklynn was finally ready to face everyone, taking a shower first since she smelled of tears and sweat.  She pulled on a pair of blue jeans with a long sleeved maroon top, knowing Beth probably hated her for making Randy leave.  Brooklynn didn't blame her and sighed heavily, brushing her hair back before finally walking out, stopping at the sight of Mark sitting on the bed.

 

Mark was feeling much better by now.  The hangover long gone, thanks to Mickie finally brewing something to help his migraine.  Several mugs of coffee and lots of Tylenol later, along with a shower, he was in quite a good mood.  It helped knowing that Randy was gone, even if his talent would have been useful.  Beth's talent was useful as well, but also limited, thanks to the water thing.  They'd survive without them just fine.  Brooklynn walked over and sat on the bed beside him, shoulders squared, taking a deep breath.

 

“You were right.  I have gotten too emotionally involved.  Family or not, I broke my own rules and I won't do it again.  Thank you for giving me time to sort it out.”

 

She knew Mark had to be happy Randy was gone; one less headache to worry about.  However, Brooklynn was anything but.  She missed Randy, knowing she destroyed what friendship and bond they had.  She wasn't that upset about Beth, though she knew the woman would end up with a broken heart pining for a man who didn't want her.

 

“Time to stop hiding out, we have to lay this to rest and move on with our lives.”

 

“Got a plan?” He asked, laying back on the bed and folded his arms beneath his head, enjoying the relative quiet. 

 

He had spent the day surrounded by everyone, giving her space.  Boy did he regret that.  Mark was not a social creature, especially with Mickie, Melina and Trish in a room together.  Factor in John...He was surprised he hadn't killed someone today.  Must be he was still elated over Randy running off.

 

“Yes, somewhat.  There has to be a way to lure Kyle out.  I know if he just reveals himself and sees Julia, he'll immediately see the light and both of them can crossover.  As far as Nemesis goes...” Brooklynn turned to face him, eyes cold and even, no emotion whatsoever in them. “That's where you come in.  I don't care what you have to do, or how you do it, Mark.  You can fight dark with dark.  There's only so much we can do, but you're the one who has to finish him…by any means necessary.  First things first, we have to cross Julia and Kyle over before even attempting going after Nemesis.”

 

Mark shot upright, staring at her incredulously.  He was wondering if he had just heard Brooklynn correctly. “You want me to get rid of him, by any means necessary?” He echoed, already knowing what that was going to mean, wondering if he would be able to return from the darkness, if he delved down that path again.  At her firm nod, he nodded as well. “So be it.”

 

Brooklynn knew what she was asking of him, also knowing she could lose him at the same time, but it had to be done.  There was no other way to get rid of Nemesis besides fighting dark with dark.  She'd gone over this in her head for nearly half the day, the other half wondering how the hell she was going to get Kyle to reveal himself.  Losing Mark to protect the balance would be a sacrifice, but that's what they were put on this earth for.

 

“Until this is over and done with, we're sleeping separately also.” This was so hard to do, to say, but Brooklynn had no other choice, closing her eyes. “I love you, I will always love you, but I also know what kind of risk you're going to take doing this request.  We have to break the attachment between us, the bond, until we're no longer worried about Nemesis.” Deep down, Brooklynn knew this was the right thing to do, slowly standing up from the bed with her bag already packed and sitting by the door.

 

Somehow, Mark was not surprised.  He wanted to point out that the chances of him coming back to the neutral side of the line, after this, was slim to none, providing he lived.  Dark magic was dangerous, what he was going to have to do, and on Nemesis himself, it was suicidal.  That instead of separating, they should enjoy their time together, but...emotional attachment would botch this.

 

“Don't leave, you stay.” He stood up, his southern drawl fading and his tone became a little harsher, though not with anger. “I have to go prepare anyway.  You have my cell number.”

 

WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?

 

Brooklynn nearly jumped out of her skin, clutching her chest, eyes widened as she whipped around to stare at Julia. “Some WARNING next time would be nice, Julia...” She grunted, setting her bag down by the door.

 

No!  You can't do this!  You can't detach from him!  HE IS YOUR OTHER HALF!

 

“Do you think I WANT this, Julia?  Do you think I don't KNOW what he's about to do?” Tears swelled in her eyes as Brooklynn looked away, blinking them away and took a sharp breath. “The balance has to be protected and if that means...”

 

OPEN YOUR EYES!  THE BALANCE ISN'T WORTH LOSING HIM!!  NO!” Julia actually shoved Mark back with her energy, feeding off of them and he stumbled back to land back on the bed. “NO, BROOKLYNN!

 

Brooklynn was slammed back against the wall, not expecting her sister's wrath to be so powerful. “Julia...” Her tone held warning, feeling as though she couldn't move.

 

You tell him you love him, that you can't live without him, that you can do this WITHOUT losing him!  I lost Kyle; do you honestly think I want my sister going through the same pain and heartache?  TELL HIM BROOKLYNN!

 

“He knows I love him.  He loves me too, but sometimes love isn't enough...” She cringed when the lamp levitated and hurled against the wall, smashing into a million pieces.

 

I will NEVER crossover, not with you feeling this way!!” Julia felt the tears sliding down her pale ghostly white cheeks, eyes narrowed and spitting fire back at her sister. “Don't give up on him like I did Kyle, Brooklynn.  Tell him before you never see him again.”

 

“No because more than likely I WON'T!”

 

Mark could hear Brooklynn's side of the argument, gathering Julia was present.  Brooklynn did not usually talk to herself and Julia had actually pushed him back, which was mildly annoying. “What's going on?” He demanded darkly, not appreciating being left out of the loop.

 

“She's telling me not to let you do this, to tell you that I love you, that I can't live without you, all mushy shit.” Brooklynn scowled darkly, amber eyes locked on her sister. “Try to understand, Julia, this is the ONLY way.”

 

Then you will live the rest of your life cold and alone because losing Mark will end YOU.” Julia vanished, shattering the window in the process.

 

Julia was right and Brooklynn already had it planned out.  If Mark didn't survive, she wouldn't either, though nobody had to know that.  She simply turned to stare at Mark, clearing her throat.

 

“She's gone.”

 

Mark probably already knew that given the window shattering into pieces, but felt she had to tell him anyway.  She cried over the possibility of losing Mark, knowing it was more than likely going to happen.  Brooklynn would meet him on the other side, refusing to cry, not until he was gone.  Her cold words actually broke his heart, the pieces becoming like ice as soon as they broke.  Like shards of broken glass he swept under a rug to be ignored until later.

 

“You've made it clear that you can live without me, Brooklynn.” He said flatly. “Call me in 2 days; I'll need some time to...prepare.” Mark inwardly snorted at that one, already throwing his stuff into his duffel bag. 

 

When he was finished, he turned to look at her, his eyes blank.  Brooklynn was fighting everything within her heart, mind, body and soul not to tell him to stay, that she couldn't live without him.  It just wasn't possible.  He was the greatest thing that ever happened to her.  He was the love of her life, her best friend, and she was basically sending him to his demise.

 

“I can't live without you, Mark.” She whispered painfully, not able to hold it back.

 

Quickly, Brooklynn went into the bathroom and slammed the door shut, flipping the lock on it.  Her sobs instantly followed as she slid down the door, burying her face in her hands, her heart shattering harder than the window.  Mark stared at the door, fighting with himself.  He knew to truly end Nemesis, this was the best and most likely way to work.  However, on the other hand, all he wanted to do was settle down with Brooklynn and be...happy.  Well, as much as two people like them could be.  Sighing, he walked over to the door and pressed the palm of his hand against it.

 

“I love you.”

 

The door opened as Brooklynn stared back at him, allowing him to pull her into his arms, reaching up to wrap her arms around his neck in a tight hug, never wanting to let go. “I can't live without you; you HAVE to come back to me safely.” She stated passionately, pulling back as she unclasped the locket around her neck and put it around his. “You need a piece of me to take with you, to make you remember that you CAN love and be happy.  You HAVE to come back to me, Mark, because I can't live without you.  I can't and I won't!  So you can't die because I'll go right along with you.”

 

Brooklynn didn't want to let go of him, an iron grip clinging to him for dear life.  Distancing herself from him went out the window, along with the coldness.  She couldn't be cold towards him even if a gun was pressed to her temple.  She would take the bullet gladly.  Mark nodded, gathering her in his arms and pulled her roughly against him, bending down to claim her lips.  He still had to leave, but now that he knew she did want him, no matter what, he had something to come back for, to fight for, to pull out of the darkness, once Nemesis was taken care of.

 

“Three days.” He murmured against her lips. “I'll be back in three.” Knowing if he didn't go now, he never would, Mark stepped away from her, shouldered his bag and walked out the door.

 

Brooklynn ran over to the window, ignoring the glass, glad she was already wearing shoes and watched Mark roar away on his motorcycle, tears streaming down her cheeks.  She hoped he came back to her, covering her mouth with her hand and felt a ghostly hand on her shoulder.

 

Well done, he'll be just fine.” Julia said confidently, a soft smile on her lips.

 

“Do you really think so?”

 

He loves you and will go through the gates of hell for you, Brooklynn.”

 

Brooklynn nodded, knowing she had to believe that, and wiped her tears away before turning to face Julia. “We have to find Kyle; we have to lure him away from Nemesis.”

 

I know and I think I might know where he is.  Go back to the bridge, I'll meet you there.”

 

Before Brooklynn could say another word, Julia vanished.

 

“What's going on?” Trish demanded, once she saw Brooklynn come down the stairs with Melina and Mickie flanking her. 

 

The guys were contemplating going after Mark, but as he had also punched John in the mouth for making a moody comment...They'd probably stay put.

 

“Mark looked like he was going to hell.  Did you two fight?”

 

“His eyes...they were scary...” Melina shuddered violently.

 

“Because he is.” Brooklynn stated in a monotone voice, not looking at them, wiping a few tears away with the back of her hand.  She felt empty without him, but knew this was for the best. “He'll return in a few days.  He has to prepare.” She slowly turned around, seeing Steve, Glenn and John had joined them. “He's going back to the dark side in order to destroy Nemesis.”

 

Glenn immediately shot to his feet. “What?!  No, he can't!  That's suicide, Lynn!”

 

Steve held up a hand to shut John up before John could start asking his usual million and one questions. “Randy and Beth are gone, Mark's about to switch back to the fuckin' Undertaker...Lynn, this isn't exactly goin’ in our favor, honey.” He rationalized calmly.

 

“I know.” She whispered softly, walking over to stare out the window into the night, feeling a hand on her shoulder. “It's the only way to get rid of Nemesis, once and for all.  Mark agrees, but we'll still need to put our own effort into it.  He can't do it by himself.  I need everyone's help to find Kyle and I'm going to call an acquaintance of mine who studies the supernatural, see if there's anything of value he can tell me.  Once Kyle sees Julia and I cross them over, we can turn our attention to Nemesis and vanquish him.”

 

“I love how she says that, vanquish him.” Mickie said to the room at large, talking to a wall. “Like it's going to be easy when we all know we're going to die.” She nodded at her shadow. “I thought so too...”

 

“Uh, Mickie?”

 

“Busy working on being crazy, John.”

 

“Nice to see she's got her sense of humor in place...”

 

“We're not going to die...unless we make a mistake.  This isn't our first barbeque and I doubt it'll be our last.  But we also have to be realistic.  With both Beth and Randy gone, which is partially my fault, we're not as strong as we used to be.  Mark returning to the dark side will ensure our strength.” She looked at them all, tears burning in her eyes.

 

John said what everyone was thinking, with his usual oblivious bluntness. “That's all well and fine, but this isn’t any ordinary rodeo.” He said, going with the metaphor thing. “This is NEMESIS, am I the only one thinking we're fucked?”

 

“Oh no, I'm thinking it too.”

 

“You’re also talkin' to a damn shadow on the wall.”

 

“Hey, I told you, working on crazy.” Mickie sighed and turned to look at Brooklynn. “Mark said he'd NEVER go back to that, what made him?”

 

“I-I asked him too...”

 

“WHAT?”

 

“ARE YOU INSANE?”

“WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU THINKIN’, LYNN?”

 

Brooklynn sighed, waiting for them all to shut up so she could speak, burying her head in her hands. “Believe me, if there was any other way to defeat him, I wouldn't, but there isn't.  Nemesis is growing stronger...I did what I had to do and Mark respects that.  He'll come back, he has too.”

 

“Or maybe you could have asked ME to talk to Mark!” Mickie exploded, turning away from the wall. “Brooklynn, I love you, but you don't know a damn thing about the paths Mark and I walk.” She didn't use dark magic because it went against her Wiccan Crede, but that didn't mean she didn't know about it. “Oh my god...” She shook her head, holding out a hand when John opened his mouth. “No, just...no.  I need air.  Seriously...” She ran from the room, a hand over her mouth. 

 

The chances of Mark coming back a second time...she didn't see it happening.

 

Brooklynn knew when Mark returned, he wouldn't be the same man she once knew.  He would be the man she first met, the purity of evil.  She walked out of the living room and upstairs and stared out the window once more.

 

Brooklynn, is this really worth it?  You need to go after Mark and tell him you changed your mind.”

 

“It's too late for that, Julia.  I will suffer the consequences and, if Mark dies, I will die along with him.  I might be joining you sooner than you think.”

 

Julia could only cover her mouth with her hand, eyes wide.

 

“Steve...what was he like?” Trish asked hesitantly.  She had joined the group shortly after Mark's turn from the darkness.  Her brown eyes widened when Steve groaned and sank down into a chair, not missing the look that had crossed his face.

 

“Where do I even begin?” Steve laughed dryly, the sound humorless. “He wasn't Mark, he was...”

 

“A monster.”

 

“A monster.” Steve agreed, nodding at Melina. “He had no morals, there wasn't anything he wouldn't do to get what he wanted and, if he couldn't get it with his power, he never had a problem resorting to violence.”

 

“Lynn changed him.”

 

“How?”

 

“He fell in love with her.”

 

Chapter 20

 

Three days passed slowly.

 

Brooklynn paced back and forth outside, wearing black Capri's with a tan colored top, chewing her thumbnail nervously.  She hadn't heard a word from Mark since the night he left, wondering how he would truly change.  She only knew his dark persona briefly, not like the others.  They refused to come out to greet him and Brooklynn instantly knew this wasn't good.  Her heart began pounding, stopping in her tracks, hearing a motorcycle roaring in the distance. 

 

It was him and Brooklynn felt the wind pick up a little.  Glenn and Steve heard it as well, both men exchanging looks.  They glanced at John, who nodded and rounded the girls up, forcing them into the living room.  With Mark, nobody generally knew what to expect.  This was...the Undertaker and he wasn't...well, he was volatile.

 

“Let's go.” Glenn sighed, shouldering his shotgun, just in case and led the way out onto the front porch.

 

Sighing, Steve followed, both men shutting their eyes in order to avoid being sprayed with gravel as the black Titan came peeling to a stop. “Mark?”

 

Dark, sinister laughter floated up from the darkness, penetrating the dimly lit porch and them.  That sound caused Brooklynn's heart to ache with pain, feeling like a dagger was stabbing it repeatedly with no remorse.  This wasn't Mark; she knew it was coming, but couldn't believe this was actually him.  He looked completely different, but she had to be strong.

 

Brooklynn...” Julia's voice actually held fear, blinking, not caring if she was a ghost or not.  That wicked laughter even sent tingles through her body.

 

Brooklynn stepped back a little bit, giving Undertaker plenty of space, swallowing hard along with everyone else, even her sister.  They hadn't come close to finding out where Kyle was and Brooklynn found out her acquaintance had died of a mysterious illness over a year ago.  Trish was point blank taken back by the change.  He looked downright evil.  She instinctively cringed against a wall when he entered the house, seeming much larger than before, but that was just her mind playing tricks with her.  As if he was in her head, Taker's head swiveled in her direction, his lips curving into a very cruel grin.  She let out a gasp when he peered at her over his sunglasses, his eyes were...pools of acid.

 

“God...” She almost made the sign of the cross.

 

Mockingly, he did it for her. “The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.” He bowed his head for a moment and then snorted, turning in a circle to survey them all.

 

Brooklynn, what have you done?” Julia whispered, completely mortified by this...this CREATURE.

 

“I don't know...” Brooklynn whispered, raking a hand through her black hair, breath catching in her throat when his eyes locked on her next. 

 

They were pure acid pools, the emeralds gone.  Mark had acid eyes when he was angry, that was the darkness within him slowly leaking out.  Now...now he was fully in the darkness; Mark wasn't here anymore and it broke her heart.  No matter how hard she tried, Brooklynn couldn't move toward him or speak.

 

Slowly, Taker removed his sunglasses, that wickedly amused smirk still on his thin lips as he now stared at her.  He was aware Glenn and Steve were waiting for one sign to stop him, shoot him if need be.  Now THAT was hilarious.  He tucked the shades inside his black leather vest and began walking towards Brooklynn, each step measured carefully, purposefully.  Finally, he backed her into the wall and rested his palms on either side of her head.

 

“Is this any way to welcome me back, Lynn?” He asked sardonically.

 

“Julia, don't!” Brooklynn ordered, watching as her sister went to shove him back, knowing he wouldn't think twice about destroying her. “It's fine, he's on our side...” She could only hope, wishing there was some sign of similarity in those green orbs, trying with all her might not to tremble. “Welcome back, Undertaker.” She knew better than to call him Mark.

 

One black eyebrow quirked down at her, the smile never fading. “Welcome back, Undertaker, that's it?” He rumbled, sounding amused, which sent chills down everyone else's spine. “No kiss?” He leered, bending down and snorted when she turned her head, catching her hair. “Mmm...” Taker breathed, pushing away. “I see.  Well, Lynn, I've upheld my end.  Where do you...people...stand?” He demanded, stepping away from her and glanced at Steve. “Pull the trigger and you'll wind up eating the bullet.” He cautioned darkly.

 

“Stop it, he's on our side.” Brooklynn looked at Steve and Glenn pleadingly, standing beside Undertaker, though she put enough space between them to feel somewhat comfortable. “We stand nowhere.  I don't know where Kyle is and neither does Julia.” She felt helpless, still in shock by her acquaintance's untimely demise. “The only person I can think of, that could help us, is dead.  If anyone has any ideas, please say it.  I'm willing to do just about anything to find Kyle.”

 

What about the bridge?  You never met me there, remember?

 

“The bridge?  You honestly think it's that simple?”

 

Why not?” Julia shrugged nonchalantly. “Mark said that the dead lingers where they lived and died, right?  The apartment is off limits so the bridge would be the next spot.”

 

“But we've been there already and I nearly drowned because of him.”

 

You didn't go with me though.  Maybe he'll somehow feel my energy there and come looking.”

 

Brooklynn sighed, knowing everyone was staring cluelessly at her, even Undertaker. “She wants me to follow her to the bridge.  The last time we went, she wasn't there.  She thinks Kyle might be.” She related quickly, staring at her sister. “What if he's not?”

Then we'll just have to keep searching.”

 

“We went down and Beth touched the goddamn water, there was-”

 

“You are a moron and you need to shut the hell up, Austin.” Taker growled scathingly, interrupting the smaller man, shifting so he was facing Steve, his feet apart in a fighting stance. “Come on then.” He raised his hand, bending his fingers.

 

Steve was more than tempted, but he then spotted the acid flashing at him and knew it wouldn't be a fair fight, backing down.