L O C A T I O N: Somewhere in New York City
T I M E: Present Day ( July ) Sometime Around 8 PM
The sun began to set over New York's skyline, drowning the restless city in growing darkness. Cars zoomed by as they flooded the streets with zooming lights and sounds. It was a backdrop that comforted any city dweller. Lamp posts illuminated the sidewalks with pale yellow light. In the area where Benjamin lived, only Athena and he was important. He tuned out the humming of night owls flocking into clubs, bars, and more to focus on her.
He could talk for hours with her, just because he missed her so much. These moments in their lives were fleeting, and he cherished them. Distracted by their conversation, the hair on his neck abruptly bristled. Benjamin's lips pursed then turned to the right, his eyes gazing upward.
A large, aged house towered over them. He recognized it as the old Jefferson's place. Abandoned for several years, rumors of haunting figures and strange suicides surfaced. When things were normal, he never really believed any of those tall tales. The wild imaginations of his fellow students.
As he tightened his vision on the third story, a curtain moved ever slightly. The hazy image of some small figure stared back at him. His breath stalled in his throat. Benjamin's feet grounded to a stop, unable to move. Something was off with that house.
Athena, in mid-conversation, stiffened much at the same time as Benjamin did, but she looked toward Benjamin rather than where he was focusing his attention. The hairs on the back of her neck lifted, prickling her skin as a shudder shook her, and her heart both raced and fell at the sensation of something cold washing over her.
Pale, she slowly lifted her gaze toward where he was looking at, sensing something was incredibly wrong with the house they were staring at. "Benjamin?"
she called out to him, in a soft voice. "What-What are you looking at?"
Benjamin watched the figure flow backward and fade into the darkness. The curtain falling back to shroud the interior. Athena's voice brought him out of his distracted focus. His attention shifted to her, his nostrils flared at the fear. He took a moment to calm himself. "I thought I saw something in the window."
He chided himself for scaring her more. "I just never paid attention to the rumors about this old place until now. Thinking back... I'm now wondering if there was any truth to them.”
She shivered, as though cold, gooseflesh appearing on her skin as she regarded the building. Athena wrapped her arms around herself, trying to find where he was looking. Blue briefly flashed in her dark eyes, sensing energy much darker than she had ever experienced before entered her view. Copying Benjamin, she took her own breath to steady herself. "That's—"
Athena laughed nervously, "not scary, at all, nope."
After a moment, she turned to Benjamin, when she couldn't see anything, the negative energy disappearing from view. "What are the rumors?"
Instinctively, Benjamin curled his arm about her shoulders and pulled Athena closer. Letting her draw warmth from his elevated body heat. His hand rubbed her outer arm to give her comfort.
The gooseflesh stayed on Athena's bare arms for a moment, letting him rub her skin until the bumps faded to smooth skin once more. Athena sighed, sounding comforted by the touch. "You're lying."
He tried to sound teasing, but the effort failed. The teenage boy sighed then moved on. "It's rumored that a really long time ago, a family moved in. They had a single kid who suffered from depression. During those days, they didn't understand how to treat a mental condition like that. The parents got fed up with the boy's moping and it drove him to commit suicide."
He paused for a breath. "They say he still haunts the house and that any children who moved in, would suffer the same fate. Often driven to it by the ghost."
Dark grey eyes flitted to the house once more, shimmering to that faint luminescent blue again, bleeding in from the edges of her iris to her pupil. "There's something dark there, something dark and..."
She trailed off, wrapping her arms around Benjamin's torso for reassurance.
She blinked, shaking her head. "We should get going—"
She tugged on his arm, trying to move away from the building, giving the impression she was afraid of the house.
But her eyes remain focused on the building.
Benjamin had been about to say a thing when he felt her tug him. He frowned but didn't resist. Without much resistance, he started to move and follow her lead. His worry peaked at the back of his mind upon seeing Athena's reaction to the house. Her eyes were naturally strange to watch the shift from normal to blue. "All right, no problem. It's giving me the creeps too."
He easily caught up to her side then reassured her. "Duff and I will check it out later. He's got some experience with this stuff."
Athena nodded, but her hands released his wrist when they were away from the house far enough that she couldn't feel the negative energy reach her. Taking another breath, she relaxed. While she's not entirely happy with the circumstances that soured their outing, she cast one more glance in the direction of the house before they left.
~ x ~ T I M E:
Present Day (
Sometime Around 1 AM
Later that night, once she was certain that Benjamin had gone to sleep, she waited another twenty minutes to feel the energy in the mansion to make certain that all was still.
With a nod, she quickly assembled the necessary pieces and began the call. "Hello?"
she greeted, though keeping her voice quiet.
Morrigan's image appeared in the water's rippling surface. Her lips curled into a smile and eyes narrowed on someone outside the frame. From the corner of her eye, she noticed Athena's image appear on her side. Immediately, she shooed off whomever she chatted with and turned to her follower.
"Athena, it's so lovely to hear from you. I'm ready for your report and I hope it's good news." Her fingers intertwined in front of her lips, patiently waiting for the younger girl to speak.
Athena nodded, eager to get started with sharing the news. First, she quickly broke down the information regarding Baron and Benjamin's strange encounter with someone in Vegas that led to his trip back here. In their time together as they tried to piece together his missing time, she shared briefly information regarding his transformation and the meeting with Baron and Duff shortly after.
Summing up her news, she ended with the negative energy in the house that had ended their day together. "There's a lot of negative energy there that I don't think it'll just stop with the people in that house,"
Athena said with a hum, frowning. "I think Ben and Duff are walking into something really—"
She used a Chinese word, but it roughly translated to "evil."
"My dear, evil is subjective," Morrigan stated, indifferent to the term used. She never really cared for heavy morality. The elder woman quickly moved on as she addressed the root of the issue.
"Still... I don't like what you've told me about that house. Have you done any digging into the history of it?"
Athena nodded but said nothing else for a moment. "Not yet, not since Ben told me about it—I've only learned about it just a few hours ago. I know something's lingering there—a lot of negative…"
she frowned, trying to find the right English word, "darkness?"
She shook her head. "I planned on doing some digging tonight before Ben and his packmate, Duff, go out tomorrow to investigate. I have a bad feeling about this, Morrigan—like Ben is walking into something dangerous."
Morrigan removed her fingers from the front of her mouth. She thumped her nails on the wooden desk as she slipped into thought. Her eyes glossed over in their usual fashion before she rose upright. Her voice continued to speak, though the distance muffled it slightly.
"Umm, I might have something that could help. Was it demonic or other? Did you get a heavy sense of ancient essence?" asked Morrigan, the sounds of her shuffling through her library.
Athena paled as she remembered the feeling of the energy there. "Ancient, like it's been there for a while,"
she said. "It's like a bunch of spirits got stuck together in the darkness and can't leave."
Morrigan nodded. "Go on, anything else to note of it? It's not human at least so a simple banishment spell won't do."
Gooseflesh broke out across the surface of Athena's skin as she continued to remember. "It's like it was trying to take what isn't theirs, and make it theirs and didn't care about the repercussions. Malicious and filled with dark energy that made even Ben see something. I know it wasn't a spirit, but it's pretending to be one."
Morrigan finally pulled a book out of a slot in the bookcase. "Here it is. From what you've described, it's demonic or primal in nature. Something very dangerous."
Athena nodded, watching Morrigan move about the room, curious.
She moved toward a crow and set the book down, the creature hopped from one foot to another in its excitement. Her finger brushed the feathered head causing it to settle down.
"Once we're done here, I'll send a book over to help you identify what it is. After that, contact me again and I'll send you something to deal with it. For now, learn all you can over that house. It's important."
The woman sat down again as she faced the water bowl. "Do you understand me?"
Athena nodded again. "Understood."
She tilted her head in question, thoughtful. Though she looked like she was about to ask a question, she paused, humming in thought. "I'll contact you as soon as I figure it out."
A sense of determination glinted in her eyes.
“Anything else, my dear?” Morrigan asked, her eyes locked onto Athena’s.
Athena shook her head. Not until she got the book in her hands to study would she have any questions. Even then, the gooseflesh had yet to fade fully from her skin, still spooked from the memories. "No, I think that's all,"
Athena managed to say with a small smile, paler than she had been at the start of the call.
“My dear, if you get any paler… I might have to suggest you take some baby goat’s blood, cinnamon, and mix it in some tea. For now, try to get some sleep. I know you mortals need it.”
Morrigan waved her hand then rose upright. Whether she was intending to send the book right away or later, was unknown.
Athena nodded and ended the call. She sat there for a moment before she stood up. A noise outside of the room startled her, and she couldn't seem to get warm. A little more than spooked, she grabbed her phone and charger and crept out of the guest bedroom toward Ben's bedroom.
She hesitated, biting her lower lip. And then she knocked before she could change her mind. "Ben?"
she softly called out. "Can I sleep with you?"
Her voice airy, wispy, and unlike the strength, she had earlier in the day.
Benjamin twitched, his eyes scrunched and his lips smacked. In a half-sleep state, he pushed himself upright. Propped against his elbow, he rubbed the grit from his half-lidded eyes. "What's the matter? Still spooked?"
Athena padded quietly into the room at the foot of his bed. "Yeah, a bit,"
she admitted. Her energy was distorted since she hadn't expelled her stress yet. "I… can't get warm and I keep remembering…"
Benjamin inhaled then slid over. His hand patted the mattress, indicating where Athena could lay. "Come on, let's see if we can change that."
Walking deeper into the room, she quickly plugged her phone charger in and set the phone in the bed before burrowing herself under the blankets. Even at the distance of how they were on the bed, she could feel his body heat spread through the blankets.
She sighed in contentment. However, it's a different story for Ben since she was ice cold.
Benjamin's arms wrapped about her. Tightly embracing her as he buried his nose into her shoulder, enjoying her scent. His body began to roar to life with a fresh wave of heat. An instinctive response to her ice-cold skin. "Damn, you're cold.
" His warm breath washed over her skin.
Athena shuddered, a soft hum when she was pressed against her back against him. A different sort of gooseflesh broke out across her skin but settled quickly.
His slow, even breathing tickling the skin of her neck tingled down her spine. She tried not to be aware of how his arms wrapped around her waist and idly thought about wearing more clothes than just a t-shirt.
But, with her own personal heater as strong as Ben, she warmed up quickly and fell asleep soon after.
~ x ~ T I M E:
Present Day (
Sometime Around 7 AM
Benjamin's eyes opened slowly. His jaw extended and a long yawn escaped his lips. A small burn rippled across his muscles, leaving a pleasant ache. His arms began to peel themselves back from Athena's figure. It was then... he realized something.
She wore only a t-shirt and no pants. He blinked a moment then groaned at his stupidity. Why didn't he wear more than boxers last night? It was too late to regret now. With a gentle movement, he managed to push off the blankets and shift around her. Noting her cooler temperature, he quickly pulled them back over her.
He needed to get dressed and head downstairs to fix breakfast. Emma wouldn't arrive until around 8 am and it was only 7 am. Rubbing the sleep from his eyes, he moved to the bathroom to complete his morning routine. Secretly, he was lucky not to have 'poked' Athena in the middle of the night.
Fortunately, she wasn't bothered by Ben leaving the bed, but the departure of his warmth let her own body temperature drop again. Having yet to expel the surprising negative energy from the night before, Athena's brows furrowed, her body curling into a small ball.
Benjamin headed downstairs. His feet thumped as he hurried down, skirting into the nearby kitchen. He popped his head into the fridge to see what he had. Bacon and scrambled eggs sounded good, he thought.
His hand reached for the carton and snatched up the bacon. He shut the door with his foot. Setting the items on the counter, he began to prepare the eggs and bacon for breakfast. When he finished, he fixed Athena and himself a plate. His meal naturally had mainly raw bacon due to cravings.
After setting them on a tray, he began to haul it up the stairs.
Images flashed through her mind's eye, flitting to and fro with no certain path or reasoning. All Athena can think about was trying to wake up and hope this dream didn't turn into a real nightmare.
Benjamin smacked the door, hoping to get Athena's attention. He realized fairly quickly, he hadn't thought it fully through enough. He pressed his head against the door. "Athena, can you hear me? I need you to open the door and I got breakfast,"
he stated loudly.
She jolted awake, sitting upright with her heart suddenly racing as though she had been running. Athena was ice cold again, but the sound of Ben being on the other side of the door had her run a hand through her hair, quickly combing it out. It took another second before her racing heart calmed to a more reasonable pace.
Quickly, she swung her legs over the side of the bed and ran to the door. Seeing the breakfast, she made a wane smile. "Breakfast?"
she murmured, hiding a yawn behind her hand. Her nails weren't painted this time around, revealing purple-tinted nails, indicating how cold she was. "Gimme a sec."
Scurrying off to where her things were set aside, she pulled on a pair of shorts, and then, after two minutes of washing her face and cleaning up, she was back in his bedroom for breakfast, looking refreshed.
Benjamin balanced his tray as he slid through the door. He gritted his teeth, wondering how Emma did this so easily, before setting it down on the bedside table. "I hope you like scrambled eggs and bacon. I couldn't remember if you had special diet requirements or not."
He passed her plate over then taking his own, the scent of raw bacon causing his mouth to water. His figure lowered to the bed, sitting close to Athena.
Realizing how it might look, he averted his gaze and explained, "Raw meat is better for me. Dig in, you look like you need it."
Athena nodded, sitting cross-legged as she tugged the tray over to her. Watching Benjamin for a moment more, she couldn't help the small smile again. "It's fine as long as I go for a run after this,"
she said, picking up a fork. Snickering, she nudged him with her elbow. "Not like last night told me anything about the raw meat—"
Another snicker as she popped some scrambled eggs into her mouth. "Thanks for the breakfast."
Benjamin chuckled as his hand gripped a strip of bacon in his fingers. He raised it then lowered it into his mouth. The raw texture of the meat and fat coated nicely against his teeth. It slid down his throat, drawing a small pleased growl.
Between bites, he smiled then spoke. "I figured you needed something after yesterday. You were cold as ice."
Athena shrugged between bites, already half of the meal near finished. She seemed hungrier than she looked. Lifting her hand and gaze to him, she pressed the back of her fingers to his arm, still ice-cold as she was late last night. "I need more than a 'something,'"
she said, seemingly amused. Withdrawing her hand, she resumed eating. "It's what I'm hoping my run will help me fix it."
Benjamin's skin rose and accelerated his heat into her skin. His fingers stopped half-way from picking up another strip of pork as he watched her. Eyes locked on her with concern and worry.
He opened his mouth to say something when a loud smack hit the window into the loft. Instinctively, Benjamin jumped and shot his head into the direction. "What in the hell was that?"
He set the plate down then rose onto his feet, moving to the loft’s only window.
A small crow pecked at the glass. It cawed and fluttered, eager to get inside.
Athena visibly flinched at the noise, glancing around to find the source. When she saw none, she tapped her fork to the plate for a moment before recollecting the conversation the night before.
Quickly, setting aside the food and utensil, she left the bedroom after Benjamin. Upon approach in the loft, she spotted the crow. "Oh!"
Athena reached forward, opening the window and let the crow in by gesturing for it to hop onto her outstretched hand. Tugging off the parchment and the small vial, she tucked those into the small little pocket of her shorts. "Benjamin, this is a friend of mine, you could say,"
she said and turned to him. "I believe they got worried about me."
She sounded sheepish.
Benjamin looked completely baffled. His eyes shifted from the bird to Athena, watching the creature. It cawed then gently pecked her hand seeming to want something.
At the peck, Athena shifted, moving to the bedroom to grab a few pieces of bacon and egg before walking back out to the loft to feed it from her hand. "I was about to ask if it was a friend of yours—I guess I got my answer. Does this have anything to do with the house yesterday?"
He stood there, waiting for an answer. Though he wasn't angry in the least. "Yes, sort of."
Athena furrowed her brow as she let the crow continue to snack. "I didn't like the energy that the house had and it left an impression on me. So, I consulted with Morrigan about what it might be. But, since I just had a vague feeling, it's not a lot to go on."
Benjamin exhaled, his crossed arms fell to his side. "I guess some help is better than going in blind. Is this why you're out of sorts?"
With a bit of rowdy playfulness, the crow nipped Athena's finger. Its sharp beak broke a bit of the skin causing her to bleed slightly. Another gleeful caw escaped its mouth as it darted side to side, like some feathery dog.
Despite the new cut, Athena seemed used to it and smiled at the crow. Her fingers rubbed on its form, giving it the affection and love it deserves for coming all this way. "There's always a balance, something I noticed when my abilities came to me. With so much negative energy, it'd take all of my yang energy to compensate. Or positive, I suppose."
Looking over at Benjamin, she tilted her head in thought."Just give me a bit and I should warm up soon,"
she said with a smile.
Benjamin took a sharp inhale before his body relaxed. His eyes still fixed on the crow, tensing a bit at the drawn blood and fighting down his primal urges. It was mainly to rip the thing's head off for hurting her. Thankfully, only her reaction gave him a reason for him to hold back. The teenager's discomfort faded. "All right, do you need anything?"
Once the crow was satisfied with the affection, she let the crow go and shut the window. Sticking her cut finger into her mouth, she gestured for them to head back to the bedroom and finish their breakfast before going about the rest of the day.
In the next few hours, after some tea and asking Benjamin for a run, Athena was successfully balanced again. Now, they were hanging out in his gaming area, watching a movie.
~ x ~
Benjamin's arm began to tingle before he shifted off the couch back. He rubbed it a bit to get some feeling back into it. His eyes watched the conclusion of the action movie as he leaned over and reached for the remote. He clicked the DVD off and set it down.
He rose upright, stretching then looked at her. "I'll call Duff after the run. It gives me time to think and sort out how we should approach this. We might have to wolf out and explore the property at night."
His arm already reached out for his pair of shoes. With an easy heel hook and toe tap, they slipped on easily. "You ready to go?"
Athena nodded, listening as she grabbed some clothes. "Sounds good—lemme get changed and we'll go,"
she said as she disappeared into the bathroom, only to quickly reappear sporting a black sports bra, accents lined in hot pink, and black-camo colored leggings. Slipping her phone into a small pocket lined into the leggings, Athena's lilac sports t-shirt slid over her chest to hide toned abs.
After slathering sunscreen on all of her exposed skin that had the scent of something faintly beachy, she grabbed her own sneakers to slip on. "I'll be following your lead so lead the way, Benjamin,"
she said with a grin. Popping a wireless earbud in one ear and a black sweatband around her other wrist, she looked prepped. Coupled with her faded pink baseball cap and her long hair pulled into a braided ponytail, she looked ready to challenge whatever run he was going to take them on.
Benjamin just finished trying his shoes when he rose upright, catching sight of her. Surprise sparked in his eyes as he looked her over. He never recalled her looking so... appealing before. His heart rate quickened briefly before he shook away the thoughts. Coughing a bit, he cleared his throat enough to speak clearly. "Right—I'll take us past the house so you should brace yourself. I want to make sure it's completely abandoned."
Gesturing for her to follow him, he took them downstairs and out the back door. They encountered Emma searching for lunch. She pulled out of the fridge and spotted them. Flashing the escaping pair a smile, she asked a question at their retreating backs.
"Before you two leave, how's chicken and avocado wraps and a side of fruit salad sound for lunch?"
Benjamin stopped then turned around. "That sounds good to me, what about you Athena?"
Athena nodded with another smile at Emma. "Sounds fantastic."
Moving to the fridge, she grabbed a water bottle and grabbed another to throw it in Benjamin's direction.
His arms raised, not expecting it. His fingertips managed to catch it and spare his foot a bit of pain. A brief look of annoyance had been spared in at Athena.
Closing the fridge behind her, she moved to Emma to give her a quick hug. Her eyes glinted with amusement when she caught Benjamin's look of annoyance. He'll live. "Morning and we'll see you later!"
And then quickly moved to Benjamin to follow after him.
Emma chuckled as she smiled, preparing the chicken for the meal. “Don’t be late coming home.”