Sunday Serial: Giving up the Ghost chapter twenty-four

Chapter Twenty-Four: The chapter wherein our Hero comes to terms with the fact that she too is capable of being a monster.

Jenny offered to get everyone something to drink, and while I hadn’t planned on beer at eleven am, it was a welcome distraction. I guess whatever else she’d done with Vic this morning had also included grocery shopping. Dee never had beer in the house.

Constantine looked uncomfortable, “I can go, if that would be better.”

“No, Kate suggested that maybe you can help,” I managed to pull my eyes away from the unconscious Kyle. I still didn’t understand what I had done or how I had called up the orb-thing that had attacked him. All I knew was that I had nearly killed him – even if he was being an absolute asshole.

Constantine nodded, with his own eyes on Kyle, “Unless I am mistaken, that young man is part of the Smyth clan? Has he broken with the family?”

I wasn’t sure I was following his question, but Jenny saved me by answering.

“No, not at all. He’s been ok until now. He’s developed an interest in Hero, and that manifested today…” She paused, “Unpleasantly.”

Constantine nodded slowly and turned to me, “So you don’t return his affections?”

I wasn’t sure what I heard in his voice, but it really felt like there was more to his question. But maybe I was just overwhelmed by everything. I shrugged, “I don’t know. I think so,” I rubbed my face with my hands, “I only just met him a few days ago. And, ok we talked about it, but today he…” I trailed off.  I wasn’t sure how to describe what Kyle had become, a predator, a danger to me, someone scary at the very least.

Constantine nodded, and I think I detected a faint blush, “Do you know what triggered his change? Were you in danger?”

Vic managed to hide his snicker in his beer. I glared at him, “Um, I think it was you.” I felt my face burning, “He was fine this morning, but after I got home from meeting you…”

Jenny broke into my rambling explanation, “I think he smelled you, or however it is lilus use to sense rivals. And you could easily be considered a rival.”  She paused, “You’re young enough and powerful enough.”

He narrowed his eyes at her comment about his power but remained silent. “I would think that his family would have better prepared him.  Any woman he’s involved with is going to run across potential rivals.”

The tension in the room rose. Vic was still trying not to laugh, and I think Jenny had kicked him under the table. Kate looked like she just wanted to tell him everything, and I just wanted to fall through the floor.

Constantine ignored the tension, “Well if he is to be any help to us, we must help him get his instincts under control. With Katie’s assistance, I should be able to manage that.”

I let out the breath I’d been holding, “So you can fix him?”

He gave me a tired smile, “Fix, no” he shook his head. “I can abate his current state, but this will occur again.” He paused, “I don’t want to overstep, but being involved with a lilu is a dangerous business. Maybe if he felt confident in the relationship, he could better control his response.” 

“We aren’t in a relationship; I mean not really,” I answered.  “If you can,” I tried to remember the words he’d used but couldn’t, “If you can fix it, will it last?”

Constantine shrugged, “That I can’t say. I don’t have a lot of experience with lilus, and they rarely fixate on women of another species.” He looked at me, and I could see his concern, “This is an unusual situation.”       

Kate fidgeted in her seat, “Um couldn’t we bind him?”

I frowned at her, “You mean like tie him up? I don’t think that’ll help.”

Kate shook her head, “Magically bind him. We could,” she glanced at Constantine, “It will make him forget he’s interested in you.”

Constantine raised an eyebrow at her, “There is dark intention behind that kind of working, Katie. Are you so willing to take away another’s free will?”

I flinched a little and watched Jenny grow pale. Vic looked interested and cast a glance at Jenny. 

Kate met his gaze, “Yes, I am. I don’t think we have any other choice. The funeral is in a few hours, and we need Kyle to be there.”

I’d swear that Constantine looked a little sad at her answer. I wasn’t sure what I thought about Kate’s suggestion. I was pretty sure that Jenny wouldn’t like it. And I didn’t even want to think about Kyle. His response to Jenny enslaving Vic had been bad… I didn’t know if he’d ever forgive Kate, or me, for doing this.

Jenny interrupted, “Why don’t we let him wake up first.  Maybe he can get himself under control again.”  Her voice was tight, “I don’t think binding him should be plan A.”

Vic barked a harsh laugh, “Not plan A unless it’s you?”

She glared at him, and his sneer faded.  “Shut up.”

He sat back silently, but his eyes still radiated anger.

I missed rational Kyle. He’d been the meditator in this whole ridiculous mess.  Without him, I was afraid that everything would get out of control, or maybe more out of control. All of this talk about freewill with an enslaved bounty hunter at the table, knowing that Kyle might end up the same way… It was just too much, and I let my temper get the best of me. “Stop it!” I shouted at them all. “Vic, what Jenny did sucks, but you didn’t give her a choice did you? You came here to kidnap me or kill me or whatever.” I turned to Jenny, “And what else were you supposed to do? Let him kill me?”  I took a shuddering breath, “He didn’t give you a choice, and you protected me and HP.”

She nodded her head slowly.

“And you,” I turned to Constantine, “Is there anything we can try before binding him? Something that will get him up and able to help?”

Constantine nodded, “Yes, I believe I can help him cool off, and give him a chance to control himself again.  But, if you are correct about what set him off, my presence alone may be a risk.”

I considered that. Getting rid of Constantine was an option, but I doubted that Kate was strong enough to take care of Kyle alone. And if he couldn’t fix Kyle, at least I’d have Constantine on my side at the funeral. I decided it was a risk worth taking. “Fine, we try that first,” I looked at Kate. “If this doesn’t work, we can talk about the binding.”

She nodded, “Ok, but if he already lost control this easily, what’s to stop him from doing it again?”

I shrugged, “I’m willing to risk it.”  I glanced around the table, “Now, how long is this gonna take because I need to try and talk to my mother before the funeral?”  I pushed aside the surreal feeling of everyone in the room taking for granted that I could call my decades-dead mother and tried to keep my thoughts on getting Kyle under control.

“It shouldn’t take long,” Constantine said, “Maybe a half-hour.”

“Can we start now?”

He nodded, “I will need you there. He’ll need to see you, so he knows you haven’t been stolen away from him.”

“Fine,” I replied, my voice tight. “Let’s do this.”

I walked into the living room, with HP at my side.  I pulled a chair next to Kyle and sat down. HP rested his head in my lap. 

Constantine and Kate followed me into the room.

“Katie, I’ll need you to be ready to stun him again if needed.” He pulled his chair up to Kyle’s feet. “But give him a minute to recover before you zap him.”

Kate nodded.

HP lifted his head and started to growl.  I shushed him, “HP, this is good magic.  It’s going to make Kyle better.” My voice held more confidence than I felt.  I stroked HP’s head, but could still feel the tension in him.

Constantine looked at me, “May I begin?”

I nodded, afraid to speak again.  Afraid my voice would betray how scared I was by all this.

Constantine took a deep breath and placed his hands over Kyle.  Not touching him, just resting them above him. 

I watched him move his hands around and blinked. It wasn’t my eyes; it was something he was doing. I could see a shimmer between his hands and Kyle’s body. Constantine kept moving his hands around and slowly let them curl into fists and then he pulled.  The shimmer snapped out of Kyle.

Constantine sat back a moment; his hands still fisted. He reached forward and laid his hand directly on Kyle’s forehead.

I could see Kyle’s eyes moving under his closed lids.

“Talk to him,” Constantine said to me, as he took his hand away.

“Um, Kyle? You need to wake up now.” I whispered.  “Kyle?”

He opened his eyes and looked at me. I saw the horror fill his eyes. And I knew he remembered what I’d done. How I’d called up some soul-eating orb and let it attack him.

“Kyle, are you ok?”

“Oh god, Hero.” He whispered.  He swallowed and looked away from me. He saw Constantine and tensed but said nothing.

I started to reach out to touch him, but Constantine shook his head. I let my hand fall to my side, “Um Kyle, are you ok now?”

He closed his eyes, “I don’t know.”

Constantine got up and went back to the dining room. I don’t know if he was trying to give me and Kyle privacy or just trying to appear like less of a threat to Kyle. I glanced at Kate and nodded at her to follow him.

“Kyle, it’s ok now,” I said.

He opened his eyes and looked at me, “No it’s not, Hero.  What I did, what I tried to do isn’t ok.”  He struggled to sit up.  I wanted to help him, but Constantine’s warning was still in my head.

“I understand, kind of. It’s not your fault.”

Kyle shook his head, “It’s entirely my fault.”  His gaze dropped to the floor, “I lost control. And don’t try and tell me it’s not my fault.”  His voice was harsh, “I can’t lose control, not around you or anyone else.”

I heard a chair slide on the floor and looked up to see Jenny coming over. She sat next to Kyle.

“Hero, you need to call your mother.  Let me talk to him.”

Kyle kept his head down, “She’s right, Hero. You should get as far away from me as you can.”

I opened my mouth to object, but Jenny shook her head and pointed upstairs, “Go. And this time, use HP to help you.”

I nodded and walked away. I didn’t want to. It seemed awful to just walk away like I was admitting it was his fault. And it wasn’t his fault, was it? I wasn’t sure anymore. I was capable of causing my own mayhem and harm, and I still wasn’t sure how I felt about that.

I walked into my old bedroom and sat cross-legged on my bed. I patted the spot beside me, and HP jumped up next to me. 

Kyle hadn’t meant to hurt me.  It was just like his nature or whatever. But that small voice in my head kept reminding me that this was exactly what Jenny had tried to warn me about. If me having coffee with some guy could set him off like this, what would happen if we started dating?  If we broke up? This wasn’t restraining order bad; this was morgue bad. Or maybe he had some lilu mind control that could make me stay with him. I shuddered and felt HP lay his head in my lap. 

“Oh Hellpuppy, what have I done?” I whispered to him, blinking back tears. 

He wagged his tail and licked my hand.

I gave him a tired smile, “I’m not going to get any advice out of you, am I?”

He licked my hand again.

I sighed, “I guess I should call my mother.”

HP yipped at me.

I sat up a little straighter and took a deep breath. I tried to remember what it had felt like the last time I’d tried this.   

“I call Thana Dorothea Fortier.”

I admit, saying it aloud still felt goofy. But I felt the woozy feeling coming over me, but only for a moment. I felt a tingle from HP and the woozy was gone. And my phone rang. I was sure I’d turned off the sound – and I hadn’t set my ringtone to “Age of Aquarius.”

I pulled it out of my pocket and glanced at the display. Instead of a name or number, the display was cycling through numbers and letters.

HP yipped at me and rubbed his nose against the phone.

“Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me,” I hissed and answered the call.


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