Hero & Witch (Part 5) – A Heroine Falls – Act 3

Preparations are made for heroic and magical forces to collide.

Act 3

Jon’s smile was even faker than usual, putting on a good face for the staff when he wished he’d taken the day off to be just by himself for as long as he could. It was another small miracle that he saw no sign of the women who caused him distress, directly or indirectly. Every chance he got to be alone for the first half of the day, he took it. He spent his break alone, trips to check on things in other parts of the buildings were excuses to not hear anyone else’s voice. He ordered his lunch for take-out, something the restaurant wasn’t used to, but decided to make an exception for as he wasn’t the “loud American” they’d thought he’d be. He smiled and gave the excuse that it was a busy day and he wanted to eat and work with their shepherd’s pie, tipping them generously for indulging him.

Under a tree with good shade, he sat and ate his pie, coming to terms with Psiana’s thoughts of him and Scryer. Much as he didn’t want to admit, he did make concessions for the witch that he shouldn’t have, but did anyway. Attraction was there for sure, and it was more than just her being better at it than Psiana, it was more than the mystery behind the woman who toyed with her, who never revealed much about herself except for how much she was into him. He didn’t let himself dwell too long, still fearing where his thoughts might take him. The rational part of his mind told him he should focus more on the case, the reason Striker was there in the first place. He wanted to dismiss it outright for the time being, expect his mind pulled at a thread he just realized existed.

Filled with renewed energy, he happily returned to the restaurant again and asked if they knew of a stone masoner in town. The rest of the day Jon didn’t have to fake enthusiasm as much because he was late returning from lunch due to a visit to the town masoner, inquiring about the designs he said he curiously found in the area, asking if it was custom work. Apparently it was, and the stone masoner made mention of a red-haired beauty who paid well for his work, actually getting him back into his love of crafting after talking with her. He even had a contact number for the hotel she was staying at in London.

Everyone at the office was finally glad Jon decided to join them for a round of drinks. He laughed with Mark and all the others about how the progress stared to make it feel more like a paid vacation, and how they considered a career change along the lines of “global office construction builder,” pending the salary of the average high-level contractor. They spoke of all their dreams, and Jon was happy to report he negotiated something special for their hard work, that on the last day, if everything was finished timely enough, it’d be a paid day of sightseeing around London or wherever close by before the trip home. Jon had to endure a round of badly sung “for he’s a jolly good fellow,” but still loved seeing anyone under him happy. It was the perfect way to send everyone back early to get an early start, to keep them from bar-hopping like they wanted to.

He told them he wouldn’t be taking his own advice and wanted to stroll a little through the city. Mark’s look made it clear he thought his true intent was looking for companionship. “What will Jesse say,” he asked, already a little tipsy. Jon didn’t comment as he sent his friend on his way, waiting before he called his own taxi.

Less than a half-hour later, Jon had entered the room Scryer was using after “borrowing” a key from the front-desk. He waited for a while to listen in and make sure the it sounded vacant from with before, and was surprised to find he wasn’t alone.

“Psiana?”

He found the plain-clothed heroine on the other end, looking like she’d been caught with her hand in the cookie jar.

“What are you doing here?”

“Me? What are you doing here?”

“I asked first,” he replied. “How did you even find this place?”

“Stone masoner?”

Jon shook his head. If he found it using her inquiry, he shouldn’t have been too surprised that she would’ve found it too.

Both seemed at a loss for words for being in the same room again, Jon a little more so for being in a room filled with Scryer’s scent.

“Ok,” the hero righted himself. “What did you find?”

“Look, first. Let me get this out of the way. I need to apologize for last night.”

“Don’t worry about it.”

“You saying ‘don’t worry about it’ isn’t going to cut it. Seriously, let me get this off my chest.”

“Now is not the time,” is what he should have said, but what ended up coming out was “be quick.”

“I messed up. Real bad, I know that. I was out of line, about everything I think.”

“I shouldn’t have questioned you like that, and I shouldn’t have violated your thoughts like that; they are your own, and they told you what you really wanted. I should’ve respected the fact that maybe I’m not what you want. I mean, I guess I can see why; I’m kind of plain Jane-ish. The straight, blonde ponytail can’t stand up to fiery red hair. She wears the mystery better than anyone. You have a bit of mystery to you, the sort I never expected to be attracted to.”

He couldn’t help but look at her strange.

“Don’t ever tell anyone, but I wish I could talk like her sometimes, the way her voice could descend just to that slow whisper that slows down thoughts to where you’re analyzing what she’s saying word for word, letting your subconscious parse the words together, and finding out how receptive your subconscious, and by extension all of you is to her words, and before you know it, you’re relying on her words to function, because otherwise, you’re just still, stuck in place, waiting for more words to tell you what to say, to think, to do, to feel, to be, able to enjoy the oblivion in-between.”

Somewhere along the line, she’d gotten closer to him, speaking slower gaining an accent as unmistakable as the scent covering “Psiana.” He’d caught her arm at the wrist before it could reach him. He stared at her at the smile he knew on a face it didn’t belong to. How she wasn’t deterred by his anger proved is fears correct, and he waited for the charade to end.

She snapped her fingers, making him blink several times, and he found Scryer’s hand in his grasp, and the rest of her covered in a pink satin robe.

“Nice to see you too, Striker.”

“Why do you all keep…” he stopped himself before he’d have to explain his words. “Did you do that to her?”

Scryer gave her trespasser a surprised look, knowing exactly what “that” meant.

“‘That,’ was all her,” answering as directly as she received it.

“Why I should believe you? You knew enough of what happened-”

“I don’t care if you believe me about that,” she forcefully wrenched her hand out of his grasp, standing off against his looming posture with one unwilling to kowtow. “Especially since that’s not the answer you’re looking for. A number of spells could’ve already been cast on you to make you swear of my innocence and her guilt in everything, or even ones to make you forget why you heroes or here, and I bet you’ll never ask yourself why I haven’t cast them. You don’t want to believe she’s fully capable of what she did, just because she’s a hero. Sorry to break this to you, but not everyone who call themselves hero or heroine will ever fully aspire to the standard you set. Power can corrupt anyone, virtuous or not.”

“Is that why you revel in messing with me? Because you think I’m a standard, or virtuous?”

“One reason of many. You’re the only one worth giving any attention to. Positive attention, as opposed to what heroines crossing lines they shouldn’t will receive.”

“Jesus, what is it going to take for you two to bury this thing?”

“More than you think. Witches can be very unforgiving, and don’t take well to-”

“Encroaching on what yours?”

“Exactly.”

“The big assumption being that I am yours.”

“Something you haven’t really refuted. That plus how you kicked her out of your room was the only thing keeping me from paying her a visit she’d regret.”

“For now though, you taking a shower would be enough to satiate me. You smell of bad omen, stronger than usual. Or, I’m told a sexy musk can clear that right up.”

“What are you doing here? Seriously.”

“These are my accommodations, hero. What are you doing here, technically uninvited?”

“I meant this area. London, the countryside. Why are you out here?”

“Is there flexibility on heroes being heroes across international waters? Breaking and entering is grey area off your home turf?”

“I could ask the same about witches being wicked worldwide.” Deep into the exchange, he wondered how they slid so easily into the banter they shared everytime.

“The difference being heroes have a reputation to uphold. Witches don’t have to care what other people think, especially when thoughts tend to be so subjective. But back to the issue of your unlawful entry…”

“Something you started at my hotel.”

“Again, significant difference. Can you persuade the lodging staff of who belongs where like I can?” She casually walked over to the room phone, picking it up and dialing.

“Front desk, can you contact security for me? Someone’s broken into my room and is still here. I have a feeling it’s one of those heroes from America. Yes. Which one? Hold on please.”

“Are you going to answer my question?”

“He won’t say,” she spoke into the phone again.

The uncooperative phone sounded off a dial tone just as she was about to describe the hero so security could identify who to take care of. Her honest unprepared reaction got Striker to smile a little, even utter a quip.

“I suppose next comes the spell get me to believe you actually did call security, or will it be the one that makes me forget that I can take them?”

“Striker the brawling vigilante making jokes instead of baseless threats? I’m starting to think all those suggestions of pleasure are actually rubbing off on you.”

As if on cue, his expression fled right back to serious, and her smile turned rueful as a result.

“Just for showing me this side of yourself on your own, I’m going to indulge you a little bit. For an undetermined length of time, you may ask questions which I will answer honestly.”

“The catch?”

“‘Undetermined length of time,'” she repeated.

“Why are you suddenly being honest with me?”

“Hmm, good question to start with. I think you’ve earned honesty.”

“What are the stone formations?”

“The best term to give them is ‘portals.'”

“They do more than transport things or people, right?”

“Yes, consider them hubs for witches, of sorts. Long-distance communication, essence-boosting, scrying, long-range spell-casting; they have all sorts of uses. Anyone who trespasses on them get a joyride of pleasure in the circles, and a visit from a witch to help them forget about such things, as you well know.”

“Why are you out here?”

“Witches like to travel, the countryside is beautiful this time of year.”

Striker stared hard at her as if expecting a more thorough answer, which gave way seconds later.

“And this is pretty close to my ancestral homeland.”

“Ireland.”

“Yes, the accent of course.”

He continued staring at her, his face growing in consideration. She was about to speak more to elaborate, but was interrupted.

“Do you have a name besides Scryer?”

It was the last questions she expected to be asked, neither expecting the naked interest on his face.

“Sabrina.”

The corners of Striker’s mouth tugged, almost producing a smile. He remembered her saying something about her name being impossible to pronounce, but it seemed like she was more insecure. It created some levity as she didn’t even try guarding that part of herself.

“Nice name,” he spoken in a voice softer than she’s ever her him use, while conscious and aware.

Scryer enjoyed the moments of silence that followed as he had another, more intimate name to put a face to the seductress.

“What’s your end-game with me, with Psiana, with anything?”

“Pleasure and adventure, for anything. I have no end-game with the psychic as long as she leaves you be.”

“Begging the question…”

“And I so love when you beg,” she couldn’t help but add. “I want you to want it what we have as much as I do. Willingly, of your own volition. Toying with you, setting that resistance in you aside will probably never not be fun, so there will always be that. But sooner or later, you’re going to have to admit to yourself that it’s not just me drawing you in.”

“Can you even name a relationship that’s worked out, similar to the one you’re proposing?”

“Batman and Catwoman,” she said without missing a beat.

“Fictional characters,” he complained

“That are still an apt example. You’re familiar with the comics?”

“Vaguely. Catwoman wasn’t the only love he had. There was Zatanna, Talia, Wonder Woman, probably others I’m missing. They didn’t even stay together, did they?”

“Depends on the writer. But anyway, in your narrow view, heroic Batman and villainous Catwoman should have never been a thing to begin with, no matter how much she flaunted and sashayed at him. Yet all that stubbornness, determination, and strength still gave way to her offering, over the offerings of other villainesses offering the same, sometimes with more persuasive means. He had to want it too; no other woman, other villain, other person period, got to Bruce Wayne like Selina Kyle did. That’s how they became and stayed a thing for as long as the writers allowed, which if I’d gotten to the writers in charge would’ve been forever. Go ahead and try to tell me some of these circumstances don’t sound familiar.”

“Over-imaginative head-cannon.”

“And you had a good imagination when it came to me before I was in that head of yours, you proved that the night we met. Throughout the night.”

“What are your plans for the distant future?”

Scryer yawned involuntarily.

“Sleep.”

He hesitated, hearing the single word, questioning whether he or his body would respond to it, but nothing came as she walked toward her king size bed.

“And…”

“And I’ve determined that we’ve reached the conclusion of asking questions tonight.”

“You can’t answer that simple question, or you just don’t know?”

“You are insatiable at night, you know that?”

“Persistent,” he corrected.

“I might reward that persistence upon the insistence that you tuck me in. Maybe you’d prefer it that way since you get fussy with my invitation.”

The covers on the bed were pulled, and the robe was tossed on a nearby chair, revealing her evening negligee. Temptingly standing next to it, one hand at her side expectantly, the charming witch awaited his response. She let his eyes take in the near-naked sight of her from head to toe, noticing every descriptive detail on his face. Eventually he walked away without a word and closed the door behind him. Slightly frustrated, but still smiling, she turned off the lights and tucked herself in. Her last thoughts were of how much longer he hesitated in deciding whether to resist, before dreaming of when he’d finally succumb.

***

Sunlight gleamed into Jesse’s room through the narrow gap of the almost-closed curtains, shining in her eyes. Shifting avoid the brightness, she tried forcing herself back to sleep, before the alarm clock sounded and her eyes popped open automatically. The psionic slumberer yawned and stretched, pulling the covers off of her, and setting herself in the middle of her bed, legs crossed for her morning meditation. She closed her eyes and scanned her surroundings as usual, getting her usual lay of the land, sensing people, animals, anything she could sense. It was a necessary mental exercise she needed when she first found her power. A quiet moment alone to orientate herself with having powers, to secure a moment where she could block the thoughts of others out completely for literal alone time. Once she got a handle on them, the meditation time was used to stretch them out and see how far to she could see with her mind. Miles upon miles she could see without it being a strain.

That morning was more of a reorientating period. After scanning the number of people in her vicinity, she looked to see her potential for controlling multitudes at a time, something Psiana had no need of, but Lacine, the current conductor behind the heroines body was very interested in. Lacine as a whisperer to the heroine for the last few days thought she understood enough of the mind to cajole and manipulate, but using Psiana powers, she realized how ineffective whispering seemed by comparison, surprised she could even affect the heroine with such an understanding of the mind. She had struck gold in acquiring this body, a means proving to be as valuable as the end she sought.

A body was sensed approaching her door. She smiled as she got off her bed, hearing footsteps get close. She smirked at surprising the person knocking on the other side of the door with a swift opening of the door.

“Woah,” the man that looked familiar to Jesse said.

“Good morning,” Lacine scanned Jesse’s memories. “Mark. How are you?”

“I’m..good, I’m good Jesse. Didn’t see you down at breakfast, and figured you didn’t want to miss the breakfast service before the grind started.”

“Ah yes. I must’ve overslept. Still feeling a little tired. You know what that’s like right?”

Lacine furrowed Jesse’s brow, trying to access the concentration powers Psiana often used.

“Yeah, I know what…that’s like.” Mark didn’t know a polite way to tell a manager that she looked fussy all of a sudden.

Lacine stopped for a second, and pressed on the part of Jesse tucked away within herself. After a moment, a smile accompanied the furrowing brow, and Mark suddenly stopped worrying about her expression. He knew everything was fine, thanks to her.

“‘Seize the day,’ as they say. And everyone in it.”

***

Everyone at the office was working with the most vigor they’d had since they arrived, back into a groove they not experienced in years, doubling the rate they’d thought they’d be moving, nearing the completion of the last floor of cubicles to build. With a few electricians visiting to do extra checks on the building’s wiring, high spirits were abound as everyone believed they were close, ready to enjoy the day off in London they were earning. Jon or the other managers barely had to help motivate anyone, as they all felt the end within reach.

Lots was done by the end of the morning, and they tried working through lunch even though Bevy and Jon had to force everyone to take a break and get food instead of over-working themselves all day. Jon got a quick lunch from his favorite spot, and rushed back to the office in the middle of their lunch hour, feeling the need to check on things, and to make sure people were actually taking their break. Coming up the stairs to the landing of the second floor, he thought he heard voices coming from the floor they’d already finished. It could’ve been the electricians, or the programmers with headphones on again, he thought randomly. But he was still curious enough to investigate the man’s and woman’s voice he heard as he opened the door to listen in and try to identify things.

It didn’t take him long to recognize Bevy’s voice, and the female one bearing an accent. The Striker prowess in him surged quickly as he stealthed his way toward the sounds of the noise, inside a vacant office. The door slightly ajar, he saw Bevy on his knees, but could barely see the other person. He sounded exactly like someone who’s mind was being influenced, which led him to believe Scryer was having more fun, except the accent sounded stranger than he was used to. Domineering commands of obedience, control, and superiority sounded familiar, yet still odd to him.

“I wouldn’t go in there if I were you.”

A voice whispered in his ear out of nowhere; he rolled his eyes at the advice given, believing Scryer wasn’t looking to be disturbed while she played.

“Trust me, it’s better to just walk away.”

The strange words of caution went ignored. As he stood and looked to carefully identify what he could inside. At the last moment, before he could tell his presence was known, he realized the whispered said “in there” and not “in here.” The manipulator, whoever it was, turned their attention away from Bevy. He diplomatically stepped in the office to begin to negotiate leaving his co-workers alone, only to find the other person technically was one.

“Jesse?”

“Jon!” The accent was gone, making him look around to see if who it’d come from.

“What the hell are you doing to my boss?”

“I..uh…my cover was blown. I was trying to erase his memory of finding out who I was.”

“And he needed to be on his knees for that? And you telling him over and over how much control you have over him, and your superiority?”

“If he’s willing to obey me like that, he’s willing to forget.”

“Right, forgetting about how he’ll obey you ‘forever,'” he quoted. “Obeying Lacine, whom I don’t think I’ve had the pleasure.”

Jesse smiled as she looked away.

“I’m sorry, I’m still getting used to these powers. Given time and more practice,” she told him as she turned her face to concentrate on his, “I think people will just do whatever I want without a word spoken.”

He felt the assault on his mind instantly, pushing back against it, fighting the crude, blunt attack, shaking it off like a punch to the face that caught him off-guard.

“My my,” the accent was back, stranger than ever hearing it so close. “The witch was right about you. You really are special, a bullish mind which there’s more to than meets the eye.”

Striker took a fighting stance, unsure of what strategy would be best served by using his skills.

“Striker, yes? If you fight like you are refractory, you must be very skilled, something I can certainly use soon enough. But I don’t think you’re ready to hurt this form. That must be quite the dilemma, unsure if you should harm her, and at the same time, unsure if you can even reach me the longer you wait.”

The ebb and flow of her pushing and his resisting continued through her talk, weighing down on Striker as he could only put up a defensive mental wall in a hurry. She pounded onto it like a jackhammer, over and over again; the hero had to appreciate how powerful Psiana might be if she didn’t hold back. The blunt hits he couldn’t hit back against made him forget about the option of escaping, just looking for a way to fight back or hold out.

“Who…what..the hell…are you?”

“Just a girl with a dream, who’s closer to it than ever.”

“What’s…that? Corporate espionage?”

“Such a trite ambition, very much beneath me. But you’ll see the big picture in no time at all.”

She took confident steps forward as she saw his knees begin to buckle, some of her control slipping through, assured of having another valuable asset at her command soon. Some of that confidence slipped when a figured instantly appeared behind Striker, wrapping an arm around his chest to support him, the other touching his forehead and whispering to him. “I hope you’ll listen next time.” His struggling ceased and he could only stand, cradled and barely aware.

Lacine nearly jumped back a few feet, as she and the witch pointed hands at each other, invisible energies crashing at a stalemate.

“One way or another, the psychic loves to encroach upon what’s already been claimed. It’s interesting that she has help this time, though.”

“What can I say? It’s a rather perfect symbiosis. The psychic and myself do harbor a deep loathing for you.”

Scryer’s eyes widened, and momentarily couldn’t fight back the giggling from the terrible attempt at an Irish accent from Jesse. Lacine looked confused and nearly incensed from the witch’s regard to her.

“You dare mock me witch?”

The angrier Lacine grew, the more she failed at the attempted accent. Still quietly tittering, on the verge of her eyes welling up with tears, Scryer had to force herself to quickly regain her composure.

“Not at..ehmm..all. It..heh..it’s perfect for me, too. Two birds with one stone, goes the expression. Lacine, is it?”

“Yes, and you’re Scryer. I would extend you niceties, if you deserved them.”

“The legends told of specters being dangerous, they never mentioned rudeness. But it is nice to put a face to the hazard for all those warnings and precautions about the portals.”

“Your covens found a way for us to leave our wretched dimension through those portals, but you were so inclined to become guard-dogs, to act like spoiled children and refuse to share.”

“Indirectly found a way,” the witch corrected. “With what you had in-mind for the world, it’s not like you gave us any choice. The little specters like you exposing yourself so brazenly, your true goal after you all escape, it’s no wonder there’s such a latent, lasting fear of magic or anything supernatural, making it hard on the rest of us. If the portals weren’t so useful, we would’ve stopped using them ages ago, just so we wouldn’t have to deal with your kind.”

“Speaking of exposure, true goals, and hypocrisy, you all just show your unwillingness to share. Someday, I promise you someday, some or many of you will be inclined to do as we do. You needn’t look further than the man helplessly in your grasp.
This form’s knowledge of how you took him is no different from your ancestors and sisters when they see something they truly want, and will not take no for an answer. There is enough for specters and witches to go around; this world could be ours.”

“I am his world, at times. A far cry from taking the entire world he lives in. You assume magic power dismisses conduct; it doesn’t, not for witches. The chaos specters are prone to clashes with our sense of order. The world we’d take together would just end in the war which you’d spectacularly lose; that much you know is a fact. Trust me, you’re much safer in your own realm.”

Lacine smiled as evilly as Scryer had seen anyone manage.

“What you might call elders in our realm, they would be so inclined to agree with you, except for one key discovery I’ve made. Or rather, you’ve made.”

Scryer gave her a questioning look, waiting for her to get to the point.

“Superheroes make wonderful vessels to control, to embody. More than just a means of pleasure, you’ve helped realize the potential just waiting to be abused. This one by herself is too good to be true, as she can keep the most powerful witches amongst you at bay. Imagine an army of spectered superheroes. With their minds already occupied by our commands, I don’t see witches lasting long against such a varied force. Who’s to stop us, really?”

Scryer sighed annoyingly as her fears were realized. “And you didn’t believe me when I told you she was a bad omen,” she whispered at Striker, who was conscious enough to whisper back “I’m sorry.”

“I don’t see a bright future for you dear,” Scryer replied.

“I look forward to seeing you try to show it to me, witch.”

Jon came back to himself standing, searching the room, seeing only Bevy on the ground. Checking his watch, it seemed not much time had passed; it was a few minutes before everyone would return from lunch. Jon moved to begin waking Bevy, who was already stirring out of his stupor.

“Hey boss, you ok?”

“Yeah..I..think today’s building took a lot out of me, or maybe I didn’t get enough sleep last night.”

“Don’t worry; I won’t tell anyone I found you napping.”

They laughed as they left the room to head upstairs, Jon’s eye as watchful as ever for Scryer, or Jesse or Lacine or whoever she was supposed to be now.

For the rest of the workday, he somehow let his body work like an automaton for physical labor while his mind pondered the newest, most dangerous complication yet in his pursuit of understanding the magic surrounding Scryer. He couldn’t remember everything that went on or was said, but the general understanding was clear – Psiana got possessed by a spirit named Lacine, looking to use their powers and probably more, Scryer swooped in to stop her before he got taken too, and both disappeared, maybe to fight elsewhere. He wanted to blame himself for setting things in-motion for this new threat to arise. It was his luck that Bevy seemed to be acting normal now. He could still be under Lacine’s control, but unactivated.

Answers for how to deal with the problem weren’t coming, so he put his all into work to finish as quickly as he could.

In the closing minutes of the workday, Bevy loudly declared work completed to the satisfaction of corporate standards. That they had the rest of the day and all of the next to enjoy as much of the UK and London as they could before the flight home. Cheering and gestures of comradery left Jon genuinely happy to celebrate a small victory. He could fortunately feign being tired convincingly enough to head back to his hotel to catch a nap before any kind of outing.

Locking the door to his room and showering quickly, his hero mind scrambled to think of some kind of solution. Both women had disappeared and stayed out of sight since the office, and he didn’t see or hear a peep from either since. Striker realized the helplessness of his circumstance, how his skills in whatever battle was to come wouldn’t amount to much. The one person that could make a difference, he didn’t know where she was or if she’d managed to exorcize Lacine from Psiana, or if she’d lost, or something else he hadn’t thought of.

Frustration filled him for not knowing where to even begin looking for them, and for not acting against Jesse when he had the chance; rendering her unconscious might’ve made a difference. If it came to it again, he wondered if he really could.

“Dammit, Jesse.”

***

Mark had coaxed Jon out of his room a few hours later, thinking he’d woken Jon from sleep, looking have a congratulatory drink with his friend. As it seemed like it would just be the two of them, Jon was more than fine with that. They both ended up first at Jon’s lunch spot for dinner, Jon doubling down on what’d become his favorite English dish. It brightened his mood a little. Looking toward the bathroom he “escaped” to days earlier, surprised how that had become a fond memory in the scheme of things. He’d keep the fact that it was fond to himself for as long as he could.

After dinner, they headed back to the hotel, enjoying a drink at the bar. Mark didn’t argue with trying to get Jon to have more than one beer, and instead began an inquiry.

“So, what’s your take on Jesse?”

“What do you mean?” Jon asked after a swig of beer.

“Guess, man.”

“She’s…ok.” There wasn’t a better word for it than ok.

“Just ‘ok?'”

“I know what you mean. And yes.”

“Huh.”

“What?”

“You know there’s a silent pool going around, guessing when you two would get together?”

“What!?”

“Yeah, been going on for weeks now. I guess everyone just sees you as…I don’t know. You two look like you fit.”

“Why?”

“Everyone’s got their feelings about it. Mine’s hard to explain, but I just see you two working.”

Jon stared at his friend for long seconds before asking. “When did you place your bet for?”

Mark scoffed before the bottle reached his lips, trying to act insulted, but crumbled against Jon’s hard stare.

“This trip,” he admitted before finishing his beer.

Jon wasn’t really surprised, but didn’t know what to say to that. If what Mark said was true, he had to keep his laughing to himself about how the pool was invalidated for events that already happened. “Can I ask you something?”

“Sure, man.”

“Why the interest?”

“The office, in-general, they like you. Any of the women willing to talk about you, behind your back, think you’d be a catch. I mean, if we were all a family, you’d be that older brother who just doesn’t date for some reason, and works too hard. No one wants to believe you’re as rigid as you seem sometimes. I don’t think you are.”

“Thanks,” Jon said as he finished his beer.

“If you want my opinion, the pool started because people think you’ve been lightening up the past few weeks, and they see a decent guy, wondering why he’s single.”

“Really?” Jon asked with more interest than he’d intended.

“Yeah, I thought it was because you’d finally gotten some.”

Mark could feel Jon’s annoyed stare.

“Gotten with someone, whatever. Thought it was Jesse, but the way you talk about her, I guess not,” Mark sounded disappointed.

“You stood to make a lot of money if you’d won the pool?”

“Enough for a good hoo-tin’ tootin’ time.”

Jon shook his head, regarding Mark like a immature younger brother.

“Ok, if not Jesse, who do you see yourself with?”

“Well…” Scryer was the immediate answer his mind gave him. A person he’d never hope any of his “family,” or actual family would ever meet since that would require explaining being Striker. Sabrina, on the other hand, if it really was a different hand, Jon wondered how other people in his life would react to such a pairing.

“I’ll be right back,” Jon headed toward the bathroom, literally having to use it, but also stalling for how to respond to his friend’s genuine question. By the time he was done, he hoped his friend would accept an “I don’t know.”

He exited the bathroom to see Mark talking to Jesse through the crack of the door, chatting eagerly. Jon froze, unwilling to leave his spot to not be found out. For some reason, Mark got up from the bar, paid enough for both of his and Jon’s drinks, and began leaving with the blonde. Before they got out of sight, Lacine looked back deliberately in Jon’s direction, to let him know he’d been seen, and that Mark was taken as bait to lure the hero out. Unfortunately, that gave him some indication of how the fight between the magical beings went. Scryer had either lost or fled before being overcome, he guessed.

Jon quickly asked the bartender if he’d heard anything about where they were going. He spoke of some mention of something at the office. Jon quickly thanked him before heading back to his room to properly dress for the trap set for him.

***

Wayne at the buildings security desk went through all the checks he could, judging whether it was ready to be guarded at night like it was in the states. He was the last person expected to be brought over for such a thing, just being a security guard. But with the confidential software and such, those in-charge didn’t want to outsource much, apparently. He couldn’t complain, as it became his first trip outside the US, something he’d always talked about doing, but never acted on. Things were looking good, and he hoped to be done with his check soon to be ready for a night out and a vacation day abroad he’d never thought he’d be getting.

In one of the monitors, he saw a figure stepped up to the front entrance. He approached the door to inform them that the building was closed, but he looked closely at the visitor to see a familiar face.

“Ms. Marks? You came out here too? I didn’t know.” Wayne unlocked and opened the door for the redhead, dressed in her dark business attire.

“Yeah, it’s a little secret going on. Surprise evaluations.”

“Oh,” the guard said hesitantly. “I hope that’s going well.”

She heard the nervousness in his voice, assuming it meant him as well.

“Not to worry, anyone I am evaluating is getting high marks from what I’ve seen.”

“Heh, that’s a good one.” Sabrina smiled at the pun she didn’t even know she made.

“So..uh, did you forget something at the office here?”

“No, just doing checks like you. Wanted to see if all was quiet on the mental front, you know?”

“Yes….yes, Ms. Marks.”

It had been a while since she’d triggered Wayne. She was fully prepared to re-induce him as needed, but he slowly did succumb. She still gave him a few minutes worth of deepening, and a few more for new instructions to prevent disruption.

***

Through all the observation Jon had done of the building in the daytime, Striker easily got into the building, avoiding all the installed cameras. He kept his steps quiet, and his established mental walls as strong he could keep them while mobile, considering them his first line of defense, alongside whatever physical skills he was willing to use to stop Lacine.

He scanned the first floor carefully before moving to the second, to check the room where he’d first found Lacine and Bevy. Striker found it unoccupied, giving it a quick scan before left it. Checking through the sea of cubicles on the second floor, he thought he heard a growling sound from somewhere close by. From off his person, he pulled rope out and wrapped it around his fists, ready to restrain whatever canine was needed to be.

It seemed to bang around the in the dark, making sniffing sounds, hunting the hunter. Swiftly roaming the corridors, he followed the sound of scanning nostrils, not giving the dog a chance to find him first. Times he thought he found him, he came up short, the dog was on the move as much as he was. After running and nearly tripping on something on the floor, nearly crashing into a cubicle wall with enough force to bring it down, he slowed to a much more careful pace. If he were to be victorious afterwards, he didn’t want to have to celebrate by rebuilding what Jon Task had worked on. And having spent summers with family, running with their dogs, he eventually noticed who or whatever was moving was on two feet and not four. Circling around, thinking he finally had it cornered, he found he was tricked again, the next noise being at the door leading to the staircase. Before opening it, he listened to hear if there was any indication of sounds below or above. Faint sounds from the third floor confirmed the direction he’d be going. Opening the door slowly, he entered the unlit, rear staircase, hearing more sounds from above, listening to make sure he wouldn’t be flanked.

Coming to the third floor, he considered utilizing the roof somehow, but he’d have to have gadgets tech-savvy heroes had, and there was a good chance no hero was more low-tech than Striker, Jon Task’s profession aside. Entering the third floor, he dove and rolled across to the nearest cubicle, expecting a surprise as soon as he entered the room. Nothing was waiting for him upon entry, but there was a light source coming from somewhere, as well as familiar growling, followed by a loud declaration.

“Welcome, Striker,” Lacine’s voice sounded throughout the empty workspace. “Since I have you at a disadvantage, I’ve decided to play a little more fair with you. I won’t use all of my new psychic powers on you, yet. And you’ll have a small warm-up while you try to find me.”

From behind a cubicle, he saw what looked like a zombified, but living Bevy patrolling with a flashlight, searching for the hero. Probably working in-tandem with whatever dog-like creature was running around.

“I wouldn’t take too long if I were you. The more bored I grow, the more I’m inclined to start looking for you, which shouldn’t take long at all.”

“Pac-man,” Striker whispered to himself, trying to remember the strategies he used as a kid when playing the game. The stakes were definitely higher in first-person than overhead, but he hopefully wouldn’t need a power-up to deal with any ghosts the specter cooked up for him. Would’ve been nice if that whispering voice could assist with navigation, but that voice had gone silent since earlier in the day. Knowing he’d be working solo, and that the name of the game was “find me before I find you,” he moved quickly. He relied on his eyes and ears to track the light and growling for pre-emptive takedowns if he could manage. He had to do it while Lacine continued her incessant speeches through Jesse’s awful excuse for accent imitation.

“I must say, having this woman in my grasp has opened my eyes to what you superheroes are really like. So many whispers of a new era of world citizens, humanity’s evolution, the new gods to worship. Specters being known for our whispers, it’s amazing how we can even deceive ourselves sometimes. Not much more of a closer look would be needed before we see all the flaws of humanity, with new abilities. No such evolution in a way we thought would matter. This psychic is as jealous, insecure, and stifled by society as any person I’ve whispered to. She’ll never open herself up to all the possibilities at her….not fingertips, at the edge of her mind.”

Moving toward the center of the space, he moved to take Bevy first, but a growl from nearby made Bevy turn around and point in the direction where Striker was, before ducking and hiding behind another wall, nearly ending the game as quickly as it started, even if it was timed one.

“In case you’re worried about her, don’t be. She still safe and sound inside herself, sharing a special bond with a new roommate. To you, her conscious would look like a body wrapped in a chrysalis for butterflies, but a butterfly named Lacine has already emerged. I intend to take good care of her, and this body. Someone with a mind able to easily ignore suggestions of how heavy or light a witch’s stone is, someone who can take a whole sleepy village and have them enslaved, only to be activated at the flip of a figurative switch. Someone with extensive knowledge of those equally useful American heroes, who might find themselves enjoying the space within a few stone circles. The pleasure, the whispers, the inseparable new friends they’ll make. She’ll be greatly rewarded for all she gives me. Funny thing is, she hasn’t asked for very much.”

“I have a connection directly to the basis of what makes her, her, freed from civilized bonds like we want to be free. She was so willing to turn on her good, heroic beliefs and succumb to me with the condition that I give her one thing – you. Mind you I don’t think it’s love or anything, but she is positively mad for that body. And maybe it’s the symbiosis in me, or just having acquired a new body recently, but I can’t blame her. You are quite the fine specimen.”

He tried keeping track of where her voice was coming from, but it nearly echoed through the whole floor. Striker knew he needed to move faster, as that voice could easily begin echoing in the caverns of his own head if she stared concentrating hard enough.

“Jesse and I enjoying what you are and will be for us won’t be as satisfying as the fact that I’m stealing away a specimen from a witch. Taking from her and everything she loves, even you. I bet you’re interested to know what happened to your little crone when you found us gone.”

Hesitation struck as his ears perked up at hearing Scryer’s fate, just enough time for the canine to tackle Striker onto the ground. The vigilante was worried less about the what since he immediately knew it was a man. Rolling over to be on top, he was about to deliver a punch to the dog’s face, finding Mark was the dog. He growled convincingly at him as Striker turned him over to bind his hands and feet together, ensuring he wouldn’t be moving.

“Something tells me you’ve already met my little hell hound. Quite obedient and protective of his new owner, probably met a more peaceful fate than Scryer, for certain.”

The light got closer to the muffled sounds Mark made through a gag Striker shoved in his mouth. In seconds Bevy’s light shone on an angry struggling. Bevy was unable to make out the signs of warning Mark gave, as Striker grabbed him from behind, shutting off the light, and swept him off his feet, grabbing him to soften his landing to the ground. On the floor, Striker held him in a light sleeper hold he quickly succumbed to, as did Mark.

“I hope you enjoyed that little interlude. Figured I’d be nice; giving you a battle you can win before you lose the war. Now, where was I? Oh yes. Scryer’s defeat. Would’ve been a sight if she didn’t take the battle away from you. As it turns out, she underestimated both the psychics own abilities, and a little magical assistance from me. She must have a lot of pride, to think she could win a stand-off which she’s lost more than one, and that was before me. She was stubborn about recognizing my superiority, not to your standard, but impressive enough.”

The hero listened as he searched, trying not to put much stock into what she was saying, knowing it could be nothing more than psychological warfare.

“Psiana’s power opened her up while I whispered as temptingly as a specter can, unyieldingly, until she began to whisper along with me, until she couldn’t tell the difference between her whispers and mine. Until there was no difference.”

He tried keeping himself afloat as Lacine’s words did in fact turn to whispers that sounded like they were coming directly from his head. The walls of the cubicles grew disorientating, as he pushed forward onto what his ears told him might be where she was, before Lacine blocked the connection between his hearing and his mind.

“Witches look more appropriate on their knees, they don’t even realize. It’ll will be fun teaching them all their place. They’re good for information too. Where the stone sites are, how to arrange them properly, she was even nice enough to give me one for this special little occasion; one she arranged herself, just for us.”

Striker used his own concentration to focus on where her voice was the strongest. Turning a corner, he turned the flashlight taken from Bevy on, blinding who he’d finally been looking for. She ceased her talking, covering her face in her hands, giving him the opportunity he needed to close the distance and restrain her. Attempting to grasp her from behind, he didn’t expect her to turn and grasp his face in her hands, no longer phased by the light, look of deep concentration on what was in front of her.

“Hello, naughty boy,” her whispers reverberated against the mental wall, shaking it like an earthquake. “Welcome to the inner circle.”

She tilted his head down to show the trap she’d set for him. So deadset on Lacine, he’d missed the circle he’d walked into, couldn’t even sense it with his adrenaline so high. Most of the stones had the triquetra carved into their faces, probably signifying how powerful it was.

“I’m glad you found me, saves me the trouble of waiting for you mindlessly crawl to me.”

Being so close to her, he could smell what Scryer meant when he said she smelled like a bad omen. It was as if the scent of rust tried to make itself smell sweet, with minimal success.

“Aw don’t be like that. Take a deep breath in. You’ll love this scent before long.”

He glared at her angrily, held in place by her hands and unspoken suggestions that kept him still, while the pleasure slowly got his muscles to relax and just enjoy being. Despite still fighting, he still found himself breathing deeply, in and out. It was so easy for him to do so, that he closed his eyes, forgetting that he was told to breath and just doing so for himself.”

“That’s it, just-”

“You clueless, simpleton specters, so easily bested with your one-track minds.”

A glow from somewhere in the circle grew brighter, enveloping the pair inside it.

The next thing Lacine knew, she found herself in a void of night. Full moon off in the distance, nothing on the horizon but stars. Though reminiscent of the realm she’d escaped from, this was much more beautiful, the kind of place she wouldn’t mind being trapped in for a short time, just for the view.

She turned to find Striker several feet away, upright and lost-looking, like she’d had him at the office, before the light. She used her hands and concentrated on her power to bring him closer, but he didn’t respond. To her horror, she couldn’t even feel her powers working in this place. She talked toward Striker, only to have Scryer show up right next to him, very much not the subdued sorceress she’d thought she’d reduced her to.

Scryer gave the bewildered blonde a taunting grin, while waving her hand at Striker to fill his head with the perfume that made him breath so deeply minutes before, expunging the bad omen scent from his lungs. Heady vanilla in his system, he opened his hazy eyes to see traces of one of the one Lacine would’ve made him forget, sluggishly emerging from a light trance. His heart, mind, hands, began to ache at the sight of her, before she looked directly at him.

“The questions you must have now,” she regarded the possessing entity making the blonde’s eyes go wide. “The impossibility of this wrinkle in your plans, the crushing disappointment of reaching for the stars, not noticing how the were aligned in my favor. All that time spend ‘taming’ me, the misguided effort confusing whom was really instructing whom. I know it seemed that way with you directly using restricting, harsh words masquerading as soft, whispered suggestions; I wonder if you ever realized that your words were so harsh and restrictive because you were fighting the tide. ‘What tide,’ you’d ask. For your answer, the eyes have it.”

“All the time you looked down at me, you never wondered why my eyes remained open amidst an innocent expression? You never bothered pondering the meaning behind the name ‘Scryer?’ Just thought it was silly sorceress tripe, didn’t you? Witches like myself, we see and give glimpses into the future. Seers always have the standard fare crystal ball or pendant to use, there are so much more creative means. Literally just the reflective surface of my eyes is more than enough to show a person their future. Of course, being a natural mesmerizer as well lends my ability to interpret futures creatively as well. And while specters aren’t easily affected by this, they can share special synergy with those who would be.”

“That’s right. Of course the psychic and I have had our little tussles every now and then, with her scorecard reporting higher wins. But it means little against first impressions and the willingness to experiment after. Psiana was mine for the taking everytime I met her, but every loss was nothing more than a test, to see what new spells and inductions would work on her and what wouldn’t. I could’ve informed her what I was doing, but she made a much better test case thinking she stood a chance. You and I have taught her better than anyone how ‘the mind is helpless to magic,’ about ‘mind over matter, but magic above all,’ and certainly that ‘magic enslaves the mind.'”

Pangs of elation and joy collided against Psiana and Lacine’s weak attempt at resistance from the triggering phrases.

“You can feel those words affecting that body you’re having trouble controlling now, aren’t you? If you only knew the vast number of verbal triggers she responds to, ones she’s unknowingly learned to associate with my eyes if the need arose. I hexpect nothing less from an obedient, less-than-hexemplary hexpert in matters of the mind. And just as Psiana adorably reacts to the freshly-applied weakening spells, so does Lacine. There’s quite the Trojan horse analogy to make there, but it’s rather confusing given possession. Perhaps reverse Trojan horse,” she queried to the silently seething woman, read to dash to do what physical harm she could.

“No need to advance any further than that.”

Lacine managed to get just within arms-length when Jesse’s body just stopped and wouldn’t cooperate in producing forward motion. The finger snap and intense, unblinking stare from Scryer anchored Lacine using Jesse.

“Don’t struggle so much, my spectral friend. Rest on your knees if things get too heavy for you.”

Another condescending suggestion and snap turned Jesse’s legs wobbly, buckling at the knees as Lacine fought for balance, the remainder of her strength keeping her up while Jesse inside herself just wanted to sink down.

“I can’t hexpress enough how glad that we’re finally seeing eye-to-eye, on the same page as it were. And the longer we are eye-to-eye the more that page becomes full and detailed. Specters don’t really have a fixed, tangible body or mind in my plane of existence, but there is a mind with Lacine somewhere. And with every consciousness for a mind, a subconsciousness hexists as well. A necessary counterpart for any being capable of thoughts. Through my eyes, it is the subconscious that has their future revealed to them. My words like ink and parchment, foretelling your future as I see it. And the longer you compliantly stare, the clearer your fate becomes. It is a fate you’ve already begun to live out, defined by the witch you mistakenly bore a grudge against. You plotted against her using superheroes to further your schemes, made choices you thought were sound, but notice how all those choices led you here, under my power, a fate you chose as much as it was chosen for you. You didn’t want to admit that you were assisting in your own humbling, and fought against the tide as best you could. But the tide of fate takes all of us forward, and as it will happen anyway, I can only tell you to stop resisting it. Give in to the tide like you give in to me. Cool blue waters in our eyes, the ocean of my eyes flooding my will into your small pond as you feel it smooth out and become undisturbed, at peace with its fate.”

Whatever storm Lacine tried to produce as imagery to battle Scryer’s suggestions, she couldn’t shake the feeling of being in the eye of the storm, where things were most calm, where she could watch her conjured hurricane fizzle out into exactly what the spellcaster said she should see.

“And unfortunately, I don’t see Striker in your future. His fate leads elsewhere, currently adrift, thrown into the turbulence of a perfect storm, one of concentration, resistance, and irresistibility. Weathering the storm as best he could, the future destined to him, one he wants more than anything, is to return to what he can call home, familiar waters and territory. He has a glimmer of hope on the horizon, to return to the sea that be a hypnotic mistress. My attention turned to you all this time, and he’s just waiting for me to turn my head. My heroic toy taken back under just at the sound of my voice, at the need to search with his eyes. Turning his way must be what fate would interpret as a lighthouse guiding his way home with the luster of my eyes, or the siren singing through my eyes to bid his return to me a safe, inevitable one. You should see how grateful he is when the fates smile upon him.”

After an eternity of waiting, he found the eyes of his owner, blue waves in hers crashing at the sandy brown beach of his, throwing him at her mercy. His forehead fell forward, softly butting hers.

“What do we say now, pet?” Scarlet fingernails traced from the back of his neck to his cheek, teasing his skin after letting his face mask fall away.

“Fuck you….” his voice trailed off after speaking breathlessly, knowing she purposefully swooped in at the last moment to rescue him, knowing how frustrated, hot, and aching he felt for a number of reasons, all of them having to do with her.

Scryer gave her own evil smile, much more satisfied with the expression of feelings surrounding those words that time, the raw need in his voice. Stepping into his eager grasp at her waist, they stared at each other for what seemed like an eternity, taking a journey of azure of his own volition, desperately wanting to embrace the crimson, but waiting for her to give the order. He never noticed the deafened scream from Lacine depleting the last bit of fight from strained muscles, brought to her knees with a final snap of her fingers. Lacine demanded through Psiana’s eyes to know how this had happened, how everything in her grasp had vanished like she never had it. Scryer turned to stare down at her fallen opponent.

rooftop_part2

“Enjoy never having what I possess, who I own, for ever and ever,” she tells her before snapping her fingers at her face to plunge her into deep trance. Scryer merely had to turn her head to face him, to set Striker off. Aggressively pulling her into his arms, he began to devour her lips with a tigerish hunger, passion he’d been holding back and been tempted with since his arrival in the UK. The kiss grew from rough to slow, but the passion burned hotter as Scryer’s hand reached down to squeeze his ass cheek possessively. He gasped and pressed harder against her lips, lifting her off the ground, pinning her to a nearby wall that didn’t exist in that realm, feeling overcome by another trigger Jon Task was yet wasn’t familiar with. The sorceress lost herself enough to let her heels slip from her feet and wrap her legs around his torso, riding the friction he created, edging toward what their bodies screamed for in stimulation. The pair savored each other until they pulled back for the need to breathe. She smiled as she watched the hero fade but his need remain intact, giving him another hypnotic kiss, using the pressure from her legs wrapping tighter to induce a more mindless depth. Quicker than he expected after the second time, she leaned back in but with her eyes to get close to his already-glazed ones.

“Journey of azure, lover.”

He’d already taken it, but smiled helplessly at enjoying the command of being told to. Uncoiling herself from him, she guided the twice-triggered fighter to the floor, and produced another cloud of her perfume to get lost in, letting his body and mind know beyond a doubt that he was in Scryer’s trance again. There was no place on earth that made him happier as he dreamed of more coupling and service for his witch.

Scryer regarded the defeated woman before her.

“Two beings of animus, contained in one space
let your inclinations, leaning toward me and mine, efface.”

Jesse’s face was drawn upwards, blankly staring at the victor of their conflict, while Scryer told her to look deeply into her eyes, to be shown her future the witch would lyrically narrate to her. Through mesmerization of an astonishing depth, both Psiana and Lacine were subdued even more, their sense of selves shrunken subatomic. Her words isolated one from the another with precision, and the heroine was removed from her cocoon. The specter was sent back to her own realm, seen as a flare from Jesse’s eyes, evaporating into nothingness. Scryer helped Jesse come to terms with the fact that Jon and Striker could be nothing more to her than comrades at best. She was convinced of her disinterest for the hero, and respect the measure of power the witch had was too high to confront. It could’ve been easy to convince her of being a fellow heroine out on her own, but posing herself as neutral in the heroines mind would be more fun; the look of Psiana’s uncertainty and inferiority would be reason enough to play villainess every once in a while, and then resetting her character back to neutral.

When she was satisfied with her work, Scryer returned to the office with two hypnotized heroes lying at her feet. After gathering the stones, she had everyone follow her to the exit, thanking Wayne on her way out with a suggestion of forgetfulness of that night would feel like a warm massage. Before reaching the hotel, they were commanded to return to her hotel room and forget all that had transpired, remembering a night preparing for their day off. They all did as they were told, except Jon, following a special command to pack his overnight bag and spend the evening at her hotel in the city.

***

Unlike the rest of their co-workers, Sabrina and Jon had spent the entire day in bed, enjoying room service and a series of afterglows, preceding and following loud screams and orgasms that garnered at least one noise complaint. The bellhop that asked them to keep the noise down was nice about it, and as he admitted, envious of what he’d heard on his way to their door. Jon almost blushed in embarrassment as he apologized for the noise wearing just a bedsheet, unable to fully hide his erection under the sheet, or to ensure he could keep their excitement down. The sounds of other people in nearby rooms caught their ear, Sabrina wondered if some of her suggestive commands during love-making had been received outside the walls of her room.

It was near dusk when they waited for dinner to be delivered, laying by each other to see the sun setting from the great view she had from her room. They hadn’t talked too much. He had a lot of questions. He was sure he asked when she made it out there to visit, but she hadn’t answered. All day, they let their bodies do the talking, and when they didn’t sleep, they enjoyed silence. It was an unspoken pact between them, something they enjoyed together.

“The view from the room at my hotel was terrible. How much did this cost you?”

She smiled to herself. “Not as much as you’d think.”

“Thank you,” he told her in earnest.

“For what?”

“I guess…everything.”

“Everything is a lot.”

“Well, you’re everything to me,” his words came honestly and reactively, not giving himself time to parse whether it was a good idea to say something that strong. She gave him a sideways view of almost taking it seriously, but was prepared to laugh it off. He’d made the mistake of speaking his feelings too soon with women before Sabrina at least once, he was about to correct it when he realized the differences between her and whom came before her – they tended to be more honest with each other, and she knew his thoughts well-enough anyway. Refusing to consider it a mistake, he took her hand and kissed the back of it, supporting his statement.

Blush crept into the redhead’s cheeks, a nice compliment to her hair, and a rare one since she wasn’t often surprised.

“I have to say, as of recently,” she kissed the back of his in kind. “I’d need to thank you too.”

She felt the smile of his kisses creep up her arm, ready to move past her shoulder when a knock on the door interrupted them.

“Room service.”

He sighed and gave her one more kiss before picking up his sweatpants from the floor to get the door.

“Hey,”

“Evening sir. Thanks for wearing pants this time.”

Sabrina waved at the bellhop she’d seen throughout the week, and for a third time that day. Jon thanked him and tipped generously as he pulled the cart inside.

They shared each other’s meals, agreeing his burger tasted better than her club sandwich.

“I’m tempted to make a clichĂ©, hamburger-eating American joke.”

“Go ahead. Americans like good food. It’s not like America doesn’t get everything the rest of the world has, authentic or not.”

“You got me there,” she dipped a few fries into ketchup.

“What would you be ordering in Ireland?”

Sabrina paused for a moment.

“I’ll have to see when I get there.”

Jon looked up to meet her face.

“There’s a family wedding coming up, which could double as a big family reunion. I’m expected to go the day after tomorrow.”

“Alone?” he inquired.

“I’m not sure you’re ready for my family. If I’d belonged to any other family, I wouldn’t hesitate.”

“Intense, huh?”

“Probably will be. My cousin is getting married; sort of a crowning achievement considering the who and the lifestyle she’s had before.”

Jon felt like he could infer what she didn’t say, how her family probably looked at her the same, and to bring this guy to a wedding out of the blue might imply more than she meant to.

Jon reached into his overnight bag for his cellphone, and walked to the window to look at the dimming sky.

“Bevy…uh..Peter. Yeah, it’s Jon. Look, I won’t be on the jet flying all of us back. Yeah, I’m extending my time out here a little while. About a week. Yes, I’m Jon Task. No, I haven’t been abducted by bodysnatchers. Ok, yeah. Got it. Yeah, you can text me if anything big comes up at work. See you later, Peter. Yeah, have a safe flight back. Thanks.”

Sabrina looked over in surprise, wondering why she didn’t stop him in the middle of his call, wondering if he should erase the call from both the caller and receiver’s mind. Jon tossed his cellphone back in his bag, walking back to the bed with confidence, smiling a curious smile in her eyes.

“I’m not missing the chance to meet a coven of a family that can produce a witch like Sabrina Marks.”

She eyed the growing smile on his face carefully.

“Hello Scryer,” he whispered against her lips, enjoying the blushing, moaning reaction to her pet remembering what he should’ve forgotten. The hero took his hypnotic damsel and conqueror for another round of engagement while their dinner grew cold.

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