Angels were singing, their voices clear as the music swelled, the choir welcoming her. Siren’s voice rose sweet and high, weaving a harmony to the main song and Cassie struggled to open her eyes to see as her body ached and throbbed in pain. Not dead, she thought to herself, tho’ lord I kinda wish I were. Her body was alive with pain, jarred and shaken like she had been in an explosion.
Groaning, she opened her eyes to a black liquid void so dark you could fall and drown with the stars within and gasped with alarm. But abruptly, she realized that she was being tenderly cradled and just as abruptly knew who it was. Like a child, she snuggled into the vast chest of the Beast and whispered, "Don’t change.”
Once he was over the shock of being back in the Brute’s body, Jason felt able to mentally stretch. It was a little like being buzzed on alcohol. A feeling of freedom, a feeling of independence, being freed of a burden. Like a buzz, things seemed funnier, prettier, and even random ideas seemed clever and clear. So the music filled him with a sense of awe, and wonder; the beaten, but still beautiful body in his inhuman arms felt soft and warm. He was in no hurry to do anything. He did glance around at the small crowds of onlookers gaping at him in astonishment.
He knew his appearance was unsettling at best, and horrifying to most people. His skin never seemed to stay still, instead it was like looking on the reflection of a starry night in a dark pool. Looking himself over, this body seemed to have changed and mutated, become more grotesque than before. He wasn’t any bigger, but the claws, horns, and other boney protrusions from his body seemed more prominent. He tried to cradle Cassie in a way less likely to hurt her. He considered briefly changing back to human form, tending to her wounds, and those of the boys, but her voice stopped him.?
Instead he tried to whisper in a soothing voice. It came out like metal on gravel, but a tad gentler than it might
She nodded, burying her head into the endless night of his chest. The man may not love her, but the Beast did and she clung to him, not wanting to let go.
“Don’t change,” she pleaded softly. That being would be Jason again, not the man, but the emotionless entity. She couldn’t bear it. Not now, not while everything hurt so badly. She would be the child. And the child wanted love.
Jason held her as the songs rose and fell, as the sky revealed in the distance the planet-sized ship. The crowds were exuberant, and the party atmosphere spread through the area. The Brute was reasonably well known, or known of, but not widely seen, or experienced in close proximity. Jason took a little pleasure from the discomfort of the onlookers, he liked making people nervous, and in other days he might have given them a little scare, but this time, something pulled him away. Holding Traveler as he did, might provoke questions, that he didn’t want to answer, and he felt protective of her. Jason strode through the crowd to an opening, and leaped into the air away from the mall, in the rough direction of the hills to the East of the city. He felt Cassie cling tightly, not from fear, just for comfort. A few minutes later they were in a rural area dominated by tumbled down rocky hills. He found a small ancient quarry and wandered in. With his massive claws he scaled a small cliff and perched up on an outcropping. He too felt comfort from her body pressed against his, her heart beating against his.
There was a buzz in his ear.
“Quotient?” It was Siren.
“We’re fine. Talk Later.” He said brusquely, then he yanked the comm-piercing out of his ear, splattering a little blood on Traveler’s uniform. He flicked the stud into the small pool at the base of the quarry. His wound had healed already.
“Heh.” We’re fine. Talk Later. He wondered if that could possibly work.
Cassie laughed, then moaned as her head pounded. “Now she’s gonna buzz me,” she complained with a smile. But she pulled her comm off and dropped it to the ledge. Pulling a bit away from him, she gently shook her head ruefully. “Where have you been and why can’t you all get along in there?”
“I’ve been here the whole time.” He tried to explain. “It’s just me. It’s hard to explain. I am here, and not here. Together but separate. Awake and asleep at the same time. You know the feeling when you foot or your arm falls asleep? It’s like you know it’s you, but it just doesn’t feel like you. Well, it’s kinda like that, but if the arm could still move. And then it ‘wakes’ up, and it is your’s again. Only it’s your whole body. And when it’s asleep for one part, it’s awake for another…” He stared off into the darkening sky. “I don’t know. Sounds pretty crazy.”
Her hand slipped onto his cheek, gently stroking the little horns there. “I want all of him, Beast. You, his ID, that new guy. All of him. Nothing less, nothing more. I’m tired of just the pieces.” Her eyes sought his and she looked hard into the black endless and liquid depths. “You guys need to share, become one.” Her fingers strayed to his vast mouth, tracing the lines of his lips, and Cassie grinned. “I’ve never gotten to touch you so much before. Not this form.”
“Well if you like it, " he stroked his sharp chin.“I could stay this way. Might be a bit rough on your skin though, maybe we could get you some body armor.” He chuckled, and gave her bottom a playful squeeze. “As to merging all together. Hell, I don’t know where to begin.” He gritted his teeth slightly. “It was easier to wrest control this time, than before. Not that is was easy seeing that boy stuck under there, but maybe that other part of me was weaker than it had been. I think that there was some kind of change back when you were in the hospital. I was pretty down on myself, blamed myself for your injuries. I hate all that self pity. I don’t know how you could stand me when I get like that.” Jason realized as he said this, that in fact she could not. She walked away, into the arms of another man. He had no such excuse for his affair with Reggie. "Anyway. As stupid as it sounds, it seemed the right thing to do, to become my “ideal me.” But, hell, even I can see that wasn’t so great. Maybe being ideal ain’t really the best."
With a sigh, Cassie pulled off her goggles and extracted herself from his grasp. “You, he, the ID and this ideal guy need to realize that you’re one great guy. Flawed and just as normal as the rest of us. He’s not his father, he’s not his mother. He’s the best of them both… wonderful, intelligent, caring and compassionate.” She pushed a lock of hair from her eyes, smiling fondly at the Beast. “Fun and dangerous too. And,” she hesitated a moment and her face became inscrutable, “if that man wants Reggie, I won’t stand in their way.”
In Brute form, Jason felt little in the way of guilt or shame. He understood the concept intellectually, but it’’s power had little impact on him. Still, Jason sensed there was something more to that question. He recalled the night he spent with Reggie, it occurred to him, that theoretically, that might bother Cassie. It was easy to feel things viscerally, even sympathetically. If she were hurt, if she were crying, he would feel it. If she were in danger he’d do anything to save her. But, he had to stop and think to imagine her future pain. It was a strange thing. Inside he knew that as free and calm as he felt as the Brute, he couldn’t really deal with the issues in this form.
He stood up and stretched to the stars. “Cassie I want to transform, so I can talk to you like a normal person. So that I can feel like a normal person.” He panted slightly as his temperature rose, he grasped and pulled a hunk of rock the size of a small car off the cliff beside them, sending a cascade of loose rock down into the quarry. He hurled the boulder into the ground where it exploded in a million pieces at the edge of the pool. “But…. I am afraid that if I transform, then I will lose everything, forget what I want to say, fall back into that mode that got me into all these problems in the first place. I’d be betting my soul on a spin of the wheel. What if it lands on the SuperEgo? Argh!!!” He finished with a scream that sent a flock of birds flying a quarter mile away.
She took one of his giant hands into her own and pulled at him. He resisted at first, then yielded until their faces were at the same level. “Change. But into a whole person.” She kissed the wide, toothy mouth then and quirked her head after. “C’mon then and spin the wheel.”
Stepping back, she waited to see.
Jason looked into her eyes. In Brute form the images of people were always mixed with their auras, and the spectrum of light seemed almost inverted. It was disorienting at first, but over the year he had mostly conquered that. It had been a month since he had been the Brute, and looking directly at people was still difficult, there eyes in particular could be dazzling or disturbing. Still gazing at her, her eyes seemed to sparkle and outshine any darkness. He felt a wave of desire, when she kissed him. In brute form there were no barriers to such sensations, no thoughts clouding the message. the sensations came pure and undiluted. There was no anxiety, no fear, no uncertainty. He squeezed her again as gently as he could and stood. Flexing those hidden muscles and trying to free his mind of any goal or conception, he relaxed, closed his eyes and let go. He had a falling sensation, and then a chill as the winter night air reacted to his all to human and obviously naked skin. He could feel a his mind bombarded with thoughts each vying for attention, if not control. He stood there, eyes still closed, and silently recited a Zen Koan to try to bring him serenity. He opened his eyes, the first thing that caught him off guard was the clarity. It was already a little dark, but his eyes adjusted nearly as well as they did in Brute form. Still, to look on Cassie with his human eyes was almost too much. He felt overcome with emotion and moved to her, grasping her tightly in his arms and pressing her close to him. He held her for a long long time saying nothing.