As soon as Luke walked in the door, he sneezed. His roommate had obviously been cleaning, judging from the strong scent of Pine sol. That, and the house was spotless. Smiling, he called Mark.
His friend sauntered in from the kitchen, carrying an apple and his cell phone. He dropped down on the couch and looked at Luke. "How was school? Do you want something to drink?" He seemed to be a bit apprehensive.
"No, I'm fine. Thanks," Luke groaned and settled in one of the overstuffed chairs. "School sucked, as usual. The printer started smoking when I was using it. It must have been old, or something." He had decided not to mention the boxes catching on fire, since he didn't know what had happened. He wasn't sure how to explain it, even to Mark.
Mark furrowed his brow. "That's weird. Work was hell," He almost told him about hearing the girl's thoughts, but he knew his friend would think it sounded stupid. There was no way he could have heard her thoughts. He had probably just imagined it. He chose a slightly safer subject. He took a deep breath and spoke quietly. "Hey, you know how my sister was gonna move out here with friends? Well, there was a problem." Mark looked at Luke.
"Yeah, what happened?" Luke urged his friend to continue.
"Her friends decided not to come, so that means she'll have to find another roommate," Mark paused. "Remember when we talked about her moving in last year? My dad thinks it could still be a good idea, and I agree. It's just that I don't want to make the two of you uncomfortable. I mean, if it's too much..."
Luke shook his head. "I don't think so. I mean, we left on good terms. It wouldn't happen again. I think we're both past that."
Mark looked uncertain. The last time Luke had really spent much time around Jackie, it had ended up a one night stand. They hadn't meant for it to happen, but had managed to use protection. Things had been really awkward between them since then. They hadn't talked very much, and Mark had almost kicked Luke out of the house for it. It had nearly destroyed their long friendship, and had taken a long time for all of them to get over it. Jackie had felt guilty for almost ruining her brother's friendship, and had told Luke it would never happen again. They had still been friends when she had gone home, but had not had much contact.
Mark stared at his half eaten apple. "You really think you can handle that," he said it as a statement, not a question.
Luke caught Mark's eye. "Yes, I do. You can trust me."
Mark stared at him for a long moment, then nodded. "Alright, then. I'll call her and let her know."
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Two days later, Jackie arrived. Luke had been going over what he would say to her, but nothing sounded quite right. When he saw her, he just smiled.
The awkwardness was broken by Mark, who started asking questions about work and such, as they were unloading her things. It turned out she was transferring her job, and was eager to start. The conversation remained on work and school until all her things were loaded into the living room.
Jackie turned in a slow circle, staring at the arrangement. "Damn, this place looks different from the last time I saw it. It looks nice."
Mark grinned. "Thanks." He glanced at Luke, who had gone silent as soon as they had walked in the house. "I'll show you to your room. Luke, can you run the groceries to the kitchen? I'm gonna help Jackie take this stuff to her room. It shouldn't take long."
Luke's eyes flicked to the two of them, then the groceries. "Sure. Go ahead." Smiling at Jackie, he grabbed the box of food and headed to the kitchen.
"Thanks, Luke," Mark called after him, then motioned down the hall with his head. "Come on," he said to his sister.
Once they were in Jackie's new bedroom, she turned to Mark. "Okay, that was a bit awkward. He was fine until we walked in. He's okay with this, isn't he? I thought you guys talked about this."
Mark started unloading a box. "Yeah, we did, and he's okay. He just...I think he's afraid. It's not that he doesn't want you here. He'll chill out."
Jackie sighed. "I hope so."
Mark glanced at her. "Hey, you can talk to me about anything you need to about him, and how you feel about this. Just don't try to pour your feeling out to him," he smiled. "He's not sentimental."
Jackie smiled. "I know. Hey, you trust me, though, right?" She glanced at her brother tentatively.
Mark swallowed hard. "Yeah, I trust both of you."
Jackie hugged Mark. "I'm glad I decided to still come. I've missed you." After they had pulled apart, she grinned. "Hey, does Uncle Daniel still have his horses?"
Mark thought about it for a moment, then nodded. "Yeah, he does."
"Good," Jackie said. "We should go riding tomorrow after work. It might lighten things up a little."
Mark grinned. "That does sound like a good idea. I'm gonna go find Luke. You can come if you want." Mark walked out, with Jackie following him.
They found Luke in Mark's room at his computer. When Mark saw what his friend was looking at, he cleared his throat loudly. Luke closed the document and looked at them. "Hi, guys."
A smirk tugged at the corner of Mark's mouth at his friend's reaction. "Hi. We have a plan for tomorrow."
Luke raised his eyebrows. "And what would that be?"
Jackie glanced at her brother. "We're going riding."
Luke nodded. "Okay," he smiled at her. "Sounds fun." He paused for moment, thinking. "Hey, Mark...can I talked to you for a second?"
Mark glanced at Jackie, his face sober. "Okay. Jackie, could you..."
Jackie smiled. "Sure. I'm gonna go work on my room some more."
"Thanks," Mark said, sitting down. Once she left, he glanced at the computer, sitting down on his bed. The look on his face sent chills down Luke's spine. He wasn't quite sure why.
Mark was the first to speak. "I had another dream last night. It was like the other one and had that same strange, eerie feeling. I can't explain it very well."
Luke leaned forward, noticing that this was really bothering his friend. "I wouldn't worry about it too much. You're probably just under a lot of stress, this is your mind's way of dealing with that. Dreams are never reality, and that's the good thing about them."
Mark shook his head, looking confused. "I wake up in a cold sweat, with chills going down my spine. It almost feels like someone is reaching for me."
Luke could see that he wasn't getting through to his friend very well, and he wasn't really understanding him. He couldn't think about any other way to help Mark except to get his mind off these dreams. He knew what might. "Hey, we should go out to eat, instead of cooking. What sounds good?"
"Ask Jackie. Anything sounds good to me," Mark stood up, mildly irritated by the interruption. "She just got here, so she should decide."
They found Jackie and decided on Chili's.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The next morning, Mark made a large breakfast of scrambled eggs, hash browns and bacon, with a side of cantaloupe. It was going to be a long day, and he figured they needed at least one well balanced meal. He had always been a great cook, a trait he had inherited from his mother that Jackie had not. She hated cooking.
Once they had finished eating, Luke grinned at Jackie. "You invited Megan and Casey, right?"
"Yeah. I hope you don't mind," Jackie replied, helping him load the dishes in the dishwasher.
Luke just smiled. "No. Not at all. That's cool."
They were waiting for Mark to get back from walking Luke's dog, Sirius. The large German shepherd was going with them.