Reverse Mode II - Popular Monster

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Possession - Day 7

Early Monday morning, Spark sent a group text to the other team leaders (via a personal message, not the official groupchat with Professor Willow in it) stating that it had been a week since Arlo's performance review, he'd gone through with getting the tattoo, and he'd only been getting worse. It was time for them to schedule an intervention, destroy the headband, un-hypnotize him, exorcize the possessing spirit, or do whatever else was necessary for Spark to get his boyfriend back. They rendezvoused at the main lab and got into its white van, Blanche driving and navigating towards Team GO Rocket's building in the woods. When they arrived and were buzzed in, they entered to find that evidently, Cliff, Sierra, and Arlo's Pokemon had also decided that a week of Arlo in his present state was enough for them and had scheduled their own intervention. When Sierra saw the team leaders, she waved them in, where they waited on the sidelines while Cliff attempted to get Arlo to see reason, outstretching his arms for a hug, which didn't seem to be working too well.

"Now, Arlo, I understand this is a confusing time for you, but Sierra and I are very worried about you! If there's anything you need to talk about, don't bottle it up and lash out at people. You can tell me! After all, you're my little guy and I love you no matter what."

"Shut up! I'm not your little guy! I'm the motherfucking King Of The Music Scene and I don't need to take any shit from any of you! Once Giovanni goes through with promoting me, I'll be higher-ranked than any of you and then you'll all pay for this disrespect!"

Sierra approached and nonchalantly examined her nails while carefully not looking in Arlo's direction. "Yeah, about that? Giovanni saw your karaoke videos too, and decided that someone who behaves that erratically would be a liability to have in a department head position. You're not getting the promotion."

Arlo opened his mouth for a retort, but nothing came out but an incoherent squeak, and his body tensed up all at once, him shaking, fidgeting his arms, and seemingly preparing to physically attack Sierra for the slight to his honor. Just as he seemed to be preparing to crouch down, his Charizard swooped in from the corner of the room, ripped the headband off him with his talons, returned to his position, and held it in his mouth until it was reduced to a twisted lump of plastic, which Ronnie proceeded to tie into a knot.

"Ronnie! No! What do you think you're --" Arlo stared at the Charizard in disbelief, reprimanding him before he suddenly cut himself off, grabbed both sides of his head, and sat down, looking around in confusion. "What the...where am I? What's everyone looking at? And what are Blanche and Candela doing here?"

"You're back!"

Spark rushed towards his boyfriend, enclosed him in a tight hug, lifted him off the ground to a much more enthusiastic response than he got when Cliff did that sort of thing, and the couple shared a passionate and rather lengthy kiss before Spark took Arlo to the common room couch, where they held him on his lap and ran their fingers through his hair. The other leaders and Pokemon decided to quietly take their leave so the couple could catch up. Blanche and Candela looked at each other, decided Spark could make his own way back, and headed back out to the parking garage for the van. Once Spark's initial shock and relief had worn off, Arlo drew back from him, glanced down at his current attire, or rather lack thereof given that he was entirely shirtless other than an array of chains, and quizzically tilted his head?

"What...happened? What the hell am I wearing? And what are you so choked up about?"

"Do you not remember anything from this week?"

" Did something weird happen like that thing with my T injection again?"

"Not exactly. I think you were possessed or something."

"Spark, come on. You don't see any Ghost-types around here, do you? Well, whatever happens, I've got a killer headache. I need a nap. Want to join?"

"Yes, absolutely. I'm pretty tired, too, besides."

They curled up next to each other in Arlo's bed, where he abruptly fell asleep, probably because he hadn't gotten much of it over the last week. Once he'd fully fallen asleep, the swirling darkness filled his vision once more, only for him to find a figure standing in the distance, muttering to himself. Said figure was, well...Arlo. Or at least, someone occupying his body in its state from the past week, complete with full permanent marker tattoo designs, the wolf ear headband, and an assortment of pleather strips linked together by chains that could only generously be called a "shirt". Upon seeing himself, a rapid-fire slideshow of various horrible actions in seedy locales ran itself across Arlo's vision and his body tensed with rage as he looked at the figure wearing his face. He ran towards the other him, who didn't seem to resist, leapt onto him, knocked him over, and started repeatedly punching him in the face, screaming profanities and questions at him the whole time. He stopped when, despite his glasses having broken over his face and his nose being visibly broken and actively bleeding, the other him smiled at him, licking the blood off of his face and gazing up at Arlo longingly.

"You know, you're pretty good at this. You're really getting my blood flowing, eh, babe?"

"Shut up! Give me back my body!"

"Yes...let the hate flow through you...of course, it's going to be difficult to give you back your body, since it's my body too. Don't let that stop you, though. I love it when you get rough."

The other Arlo let out a salacious purr, which disturbed the real Arlo enough that he promptly got up himself. The other him's injuries faded and he sat up, no worse for wear, and smirked at him.

"So, I believe some thank yous are in order?"

"Thank yous for what? You nearly got me beat up multiple times, alienated me from my friends and boyfriend, and ran my life for a week without my consent!"

"Yeah, but I also would have gotten you a raise if you hadn't blown it."

"What the fuck are you talking about? You're the one who threw that mic stand! You're the one who fucked up our raise! And you've got nothing to do with my job anyway. What the hell are you, anyway? Are you some part of me taking Ronnie's form, my personal perception of him, or a projection of the man himself who just looks like me because he's in my headspace?"

"What do you want me to be?"

"I don't have time for this bullshit."

"Look, I'll happily claim to be Mr. Radke if it's philosophically easier for you than admitting that I'm you."

The other Arlo reached out and placed his finger on his counterpart's nose, in a gesture that would have been affectionate if not for everything else about the situation.

"You are not me. You're a band I listen to. I like his songs. That's it! Maybe in the past, I was being an asshole because I wanted to be like him, but I'm better than that now!"

"Are you, though? I'm not the most high concept of artists, Arlo. Everything I write comes from experience. Really, when you relate to the songs, you're relating to me. And every time you hit play, I gain more power over you."

"Shut up! I can separate the art from the artist! I like the story he's telling. That doesn't mean that I want to be him in real life, or believe the whole 'I'm the victim' narrative in the slightest! I'm allowed to like him as a symbol without liking the real guy! And I'm sick of you trying to turn me into him."

"Right. You just keep telling yourself that. So, it looks like you've gotten the whole moral quandary business off your chest. Want to make out? It's the in thing to do when you meet another you."

"What the fuck? No. You're gross and mean and that's probably incest and you really need a shower."

"That's you, dude. Should probably wash off the permanent marker before you poison yourself~"

As the dark version of him's statement trailed off, Arlo's eyes shot open, his entire body tense and Spark looking over at him from the other side of the bed with concern.

"Are you okay? You were kinda thrashing around a lot."

"I was...having a bad dream. Think I was beating myself up."

Arlo came over to Spark's side, where the other leader pulled him close to them and held him against their chest until he stopped shaking, and then maintained his hold while petting Arlo's hair.

"It's okay. I've got you, and whatever that cosplaying asshole was, he's not going to hurt you again. He did have a good sense of style, though. Maybe we can go get you a new headband that isn't cursed?"

Spark kept Arlo held against him, murmuring reassurances while his boyfriend nuzzled up against his chest. The situation had been resolved. Arlo's inner demon had been conquered. Whatever the hell had almost ruined Arlo's life, it wasn't going to happen again. From the corner of his eye, Arlo looked toward the plushie Ronnie on his nightstand, its unassuming smile coupled with the tattoo designs he'd seen on his own bleeding face in the dream making Arlo feel like it was mocking him. He glared at the plushie and briefly broke away from Spark to knock it off his nightstand, before returning to the embrace and eventually going back to sleep.

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