Welcome to the New Normal

Eve's Eve

Jason reflecting on the Battle of Pueblo

A Jason Duncan Story

Jason was in a foul mood all day, and in no mood to celebrate christmas, solstice or any other holiday. He was originally planning to skip the festivities claiming he needed to be at the command center. Deirdre pointed out that since the majority of the command center staff was going to be there, it might look a little suspicious. Besides she claimed, people look to you as the leader, if you aren’t there, what are you saying to them? So he was there, he stood mostly on the sidelines, keeping to himself occasionally signing his plans to leave the party to Deirdre, who scolded him and told him to stay. So he did. He shook hands, he snacked, and nursed a cup of spiked punch. He’d like to say he wasn’t watching Cassie, but he was. If she smiled, he felt sick and jealous. If she frowned, he felt guilt and sorrow. He had made quite a mess of things, and selfishly couldn’t just let her go, though he knew he should. Working side by side would be a challenge.

Reggie on the other hand, met him the other morning with a cup of coffee, dressed and ready to go. “I have to fly to Washington, a working holiday.” She said putting on her boots. “You’re welcome to join me. There will probably be some after-parties once the boring stuff is finished. When Washingtonians let down their hair, you’d be surprised.” When he frowned, she added. “No pressure.” Then adding “I’ll let you know when the pressure builds up again.”

Jason tried several times to talk to Reggie, but she didn’t seem interested. He wanted to explain that he had this conflict inside him. That night, the Brute won, like it did before. But, she wasn’t willing to talk about it. Not that she wouldn’t talk to him, just that she wouldn’t talk to him about what they did, or what they were doing. “That doesn’t release the pressure.” She had said. Honestly he was somewhat relieved. Reggie took control, she didn’t let him speak, didn’t let him think. And for a brief moment, it was tremendously liberating. He began to understand some BDSM relationships. But, it was ultimately hollow. Kind of like his experience with Pantheon. It felt great, liberating and empowering until it was over, then it left him a hollow husk. But, he was glad the drama would not extend to Reggie, at least she didn’t seem overly affected.

Jason was loathe to put her down. He’d carried her from the research building, her skin burned, and peeling, her hair charred by the flames. Time seemed to have a mind of its own. When Hot Head blew up, time seemed to slow down. The blast engulfed them all, blinded them. When he recovered from the blast Jason saw Paragon pulling the unconscious form of Cassie out of the blaze. Luckily for Hot Head, Rosie knocked him unconscious. Had he still been a threat Jason would have transformed and ripped him to shreds. He remembered picking her body up from the ground. She looked so fragile, so inert, so unlike her vibrant powerful self. The time he carried her to the sick bay, seemed but an instant, and now the nurses were asking him to set her down. Reluctantly he gently lowered her to the exam bed. He did his best to be a doctor, and treat her wounds, all the while calling for Miriam, and Hospitiler anyone who could save her. All the while the others were talking about how to deal with Black Kettle’s men, Jason could think of nothing but Cassie.

Please be okay. I know we are heroes, and heroes get hurt. But I don’t think I can face this world without knowing you were okay.

He stood there stroking her cheeks, wiping the ash and smoke smudges from her face and forehead. He felt almost like he was stealing these gentle touches from her without her consent, but right or wrong he couldn’t stop. The stern voice of his conscience might have tried to deter him, but he wasn’t having it. He knew, in his mind that she would wake up, that Miriam or the Hospitaler would heal her, and she’d be fine, fine and gone from his sight. In his heart, he felt this more powerfully than he could have imagined. If he had said it out loud it would have elucidated some shame given all his lectures on perspective and commitment. But he realized right there, that if saving her meant condemning the world, he’d have done it. If healing her required bargaining with Black Kettle or the Swarm, he’d do it. He wasn’t the moral ideal. He wasn’t the cool leader measuring his responses, considering the costs and benefits. He was a man deeply in love. If she asked him, he’d be the Brute forever.
When he pulled himself away from her, after Miriam fixed the worst injuries. He found himself alone in a neighboring office with a small washroom. Looking into the mirror, he tried to wash away some of the grime from the fight. As he rubbed at the greasy residue on his face it seemed to expose only more darkness. Beneath the veneer of his skin was the starry night flesh of the beast. His teeth replaces with the ghastly fangs, his hands, with boney claws. Behind the reflection of the Brute stood his form, only different. Brighter, older, more stern. His eyes scolded the man in the reflection. And the Brute seemed to writhe in pain under his gaze.
“I think it is time you gave up control.” The figure said.
“I can’t give up,” the Brute spoke in raspy tones.“I can’t let him, let the Brute hurt anyone.”
“You were ready to give in to it today. As you gave in to Reggie before. You’re a cheat, a coward and a fool. You really think she’d want the Brute? You really think she’d take you back after how you defiled her with your ex-wife, not days after your fight?”
“What can I do?”
“You know what to do.”
“I’m afraid. I am weak.”
“You are, which is why you need to let me take control.”
“But she won’t love you…”
“I am everything good about you, if she won’t love me, then do you really want her?”
“You’ve done her wrong. You will continue to do her wrong. It is time for you to be a man. Accept responsibility and do the right thing. Let her go.”
“I can’t….”
“I can.” The voice was firm. It was comforting to be so sure, to let him decide. With the Brute the temptation to give in was the expectation of pleasure, power, and freedom. With the SuperEgo, it was something else, something equally tempting.
“I can’t decide..” He managed. “You decide for me.”


Malificent Stephen_Scholz

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