Welcome to the New Normal

Getting Down to the Bare Essence

Jason and Cassie find the happy medium

A Jason Duncan Story
A Cassie Sutton Story

They drove up the dusty dirt road to an old aluminum gate. The barbed wire fence looked a bit menacing, as did the “TRESPASSERS WILL BE SHOT" sign, but they were both old and rusted. The six foot high gate was secured with a large padlock and chain. Jason got out, and examined the gate. Looking around, he saw no one, so he squatted down and jumped, landing safely on the other side.

“Come on!” he called to the dark-haired girl watching beside the car.

“Dr. Duncan! Trespassing? What would people say?” Cassie laughed as she looked at him from the other side, her arms akimbo.

“Just proving the SuperEgo isn’t in charge for the moment.” he quipped. There was the familiar teleporting sound and Cassie was standing next to him.

He took her hand and they walked up the dirt road. It was a bit of a hike, and the dry winter air burned as they breathed it in and it came out like puffs of steam. It was quiet in the winter morning and dry leaves and gravel crunched under their feet as they climbed higher into the hills.

A happy smile played around Cassie’s lips as she took in the scenery. “Do you think the owner is out patrolling this morning?”

“Wouldn’t surprise me. We’ll just have to explain we mean no harm.” Jason smiled. “And do our best to dodge the bullets.”

She gave a short laugh as she shot him a sidelong look. “Good practice,” Cassie agreed, shrugging.

The hike took them a couple miles into the sparsely wooded hills. It was a steep walk, but no mountain climb. The “road” turned into a couple of deep ruts punctuated with undercarriage destroying boulders in the middle. Clear channels where rainwater and snowmelt ran down them made it clear this road hadn’t been traveled in some time.

They crested the peak and looked down on a small valley tucked into the top of the mountain. It was dotted with trees, and framed by granite cliffs and boulders. In the middle, a small pond was fed from a tiny waterfall that ran down from a steaming hot spring. There were a few patches of snow in the shadows, but the pond was free of ice. A family of deer looked nervously up at the as they came into view, then went back to sipping from the pond, undisturbed.

The two of them stood looking at the scene for several minutes, holding hands and leaning into each other. They were all alone. Abruptly, Cassie gave Jason a knowing smile, and began walking down the winding path towards the hot spring. She shed her small pack as she walked, her pace leisurely.

Her light jacket soon fell to the ground. Jason followed her, picking up her discarded items and losing track of her as he did. But her clothing clearly was leading the way. Smiling, he bent down to pick up her belt, and saw a boot not far away. Its mate was a few steps along with two abandoned socks. He glanced around and saw her jeans draped on a dead branch and went to get them. Then there was a gentle splash. The rest of the way to the hot spring was littered with clothing. Her top, and undergarments hung from more barren trees like small flags.

No sign of Cassie though. He worried for a moment and then saw her head emerge from the steaming hot water. He approached and stood on the rocks. Depositing her clothing on a flat rock, he removed his own pack. Without much thought, he disrobed as well. Standing naked in the cool mountain air, he felt good, free. It seemed time. He reached into his pack and pulled out the bottle and removed the insulating sleeve.

“Champagne?” he asked as climbed carefully over the rocks to the spring. He unwrapped the cork, popped it, and eased himself into the water. It was hot, too hot really to stay very long, but he saw that Cassie has moved a bit away from the deep end where the water was hottest and was watching him with a serene smile. He slid over next to her, and offered her the bottle, finding that she was nestled comfortably on a ledge. The water here was still hot, but pleasantly so, no more than a hot tub. He sat down beside her.

Her blue eyes sparkled at him. “What, no glass?” she asked wryly, her face full of mock insult. “You must think I’m a cheap floozie.”

“Hey this is $200 Krug. I’d hardly consider you cheap.”

She laughed taking the bottle and a long swallow before handing it back. Leaning against him, she looked up at him through her lashes.

“So,” she intoned, her voice a bit more serious, “tell me about your parents and how you think it’s part of this disjointedness mess.” She didn’t know how else to segue into the subject. Her brilliant idea of saving him ruined clothing if he changed to the Beast had been formed when she saw the hot spring and it seemed fair that she be as bare as he was if she was going to ask him to possibly bare his soul. And, she had to admit, damn it all, she was gonna give Reggie a fight for his heart and she could fight down and dirty. But beyond getting both of them naked as the day they were born, she had had no other plan of how to bring up the subject of what was going on in his head and how it was manifesting in his body.

The shock on his face told her that this plan hadn’t been as good as her first one.

Jason stood there somewhat blindsided. I guess the time for small talk is over. “Well. I don’t think I can blame them exactly. Have you ever wondered why you can teleport? I mean instead of sonic powers, or summoning dragons, or transforming into a monster?”

Cassie had to concede, quirking her head. “True.” She bit her lip. “You may not realize this, but I’m not a psychologist. I can make you some money on your portfolio, but. . .” Her cheeks colored. “I’m just feeling my way with you. I’m kinda terrified I’m going to lose you by saying something stupid.” She shrugged. “And the answer to your question is maybe I’ve secretly wanted to get away. From my responsibilities, from my mother’s expectations. Maybe even from being Mark’s sister. He’s always been the star of the family, bigger than life, shining like a supernova. He was always the best at everything and just so charming and full of optimism and life.” She paused and her face went still for a moment before she added, “Mother hasn’t forgiven me that he died.”

Jason looked deep into her eyes. “You hadn’t told me that.” He drew a breath. “I dunno. Maybe just a random mutation. You sensed it, maybe from the beginning. It’s taken me a very long time to come up with anything like that hypothesis. So I wouldn’t worry about saying something stupid.” He stole a quick kiss before continuing and watched the delighted smile play on her lips.

“My parents, were, like me, psychologists, criminal psychologists. My father a Freudian in a time when Freud was long since discredited.” Jason took a swig of the champagne. “I was raised in it, steeped in it. Of course, my father believed that psychopaths were creatures with an out of control ID and an EGO to show them how to stay alive, but no Super Ego, no morals, no shame, no guilt. So when I set off on my own course, my thoughts were similar, though different. You were there at the talk,” Jason paused, remembered that first meeting, “and you read my book. I think my father tried to unleash his ID, and the results were…” He let that thought trail off. She knew.

Her hand slipped to his cheek. “You aren’t him. Your ID is kinda funny and annoyingly childish. Like a horny fourteen year old boy with super strength and no impulse control.” She slid onto his lap and took a drink from the bottle before kissing her way up his neck. “He’s fun, but you’re more fun. And easier to talk to,” she added after softly kissing his lips.

Jason smiled and reciprocated the kisses. “We all have dark thoughts and in the ID there was nothing to keep them from becoming reality. I was never just the ID though.” He dunked his head under the hot water. “For a while I thought I could control the ID. That I could just ride him like a broken horse. When I… accidentally killed Mr. Kirk, I was worried. I was worried that I wouldn’t recognize what I was doing when I was the Brute. I thought what was missing was the SuperEgo. So, I guess I manifested that. That didn’t work so well. But, it all fits.”

He was devilishly handsome with the warm water dripping from his hair. Cassie drew a slow breath to concentrate. “If the Brute had killed poor Mr Kirk with malice aforethought Jason, I’d have agreed that the Brute was evil and uncontrollable. But it was an accident. Neither he nor you could have foreseen that man down there that close.” She sighed softly. “There’s always going to be that chance when we fight. The chance of people getting in the field of fire. We can try to save people from the evil doers. But it damn hard to sometimes save them from themselves. We will never be able to keep sightseers and thrill seekers away from the action.”

His eyes were on hers and she realized that for the first time in a while, she was happy again. Which one of the personalities had slept with Reggie? came the dark and unwelcome thought, but she banished it. They were broken up. Didn’t she kiss her sensei during that very same time? But for the rabid desperation not to make her life any more complicated and to not hurt Douglas, she too would have fallen in bed with someone else.

Her eyes suddenly kindled and she wrapped her legs around his waist and kissed him with fire. “I missed you Jason Duncan,” she stated once she had pulled away. “Just wanted to make certain that you to knew that before we keep laying ourselves bare.”

Jason let the moment last as long as it could but he felt compelled to answer her statements of before. “The Super Ego isn’t grounded in reality. It is as dangerous as the ID. It condemns, and shames thoughts, even those that are natural. It blames for accidents; it is all about shame. The ID is shameless, the SuperEgo self-punishing. Neither is grounded in reality; they take reality and make it their images.”

“Black and white. The ultimate judgmental god and the worst of the devil constantly at war inside each of us.” Cassie rolled her eyes and looked at him fondly. “Except for you dear, where they manifest as personas.” Tilting her head, she asked thoughtfully, “And the happy medium is found how?”

Jason tried to look hopeful. Part of mind flew back to the day he returned to his family’s house. He insisted on visiting before the blood had dried. Was there a happy medium for him?

“My Father thought the solution was to embrace the ID. He saw morality as a pressure cooker that held back the strong. He imagined it possible to not control the ID, but to make the ID more responsive to reality. That is why he studied serial killers. They were able, for the most part, to interact with reality. You can watch the films of Ted Bundy talking to the police. He is charming, clever, friendly. In many respects it was hubris that got him caught.” Jason smiled ruefully. “I don’t think following my father’s footsteps on this one is the right course. But, if that is what my power created, I am not sure what I can do, except be vigilant.”

Her brow furrowed with a light frown as he spoke. “Of course, of course,” she agreed. “But ‘who’ is the vigilant one? The Ego? What keeps the angel and devil from taking over in the rest of us? Embracing the ID obviously isn’t the answer. It’s like taming a tiger. No matter how cuddly, no matter how much it loves you, it’s still a tiger and it can eat you in the blink of an eye. On the other hand, how many cults were created and people destroyed by those who believed in their own super morality and conscience. The Spanish Inquisition was SuperEgos run amok.” She grinned self-consciously. “Am I using those terms right? I took a crash course in Freud over the last week or so but I’m no expert.”

“I am not sure I fully endorse the Freudian picture, but I guess if my powers manifested that way, I should. I figured I was the Ego. I try to satisfy the Super Ego, control the ID. The problem is the powers seem to manifest as those two. I mean, obviously the powers have done something to me.” He gestures to himself unashamedly. “But, the real power is when I manifest one of those two parts…” Jason drifted off into thought.

Cassie watched him think, taking another swallow of the champagne, taking care to keep the bottle from the hot water. Eventually they would have to get out. With amusement, she realized that Jason would probably be able to withstand the heat for quite a while as she cooked like a lobster. Well, she could just climb out and stand out in the cool air for a bit. Reaching for his face, she turned it to hers gently. “What are you thinking?”
Jason was staring off into space.. His mind reaching back to Freud’s case studies, his therapeutic method. It was always just a historical thing for him; he’d didn’t take it fully seriously and maybe that was the problem. His eyes focused on hers.

“Cassie, maybe that is the problem. Maybe I’ve just assumed I am supposed to mediate the two, that I am supposed to control them, or let them loose. That isn’t the way Freud thought it worked. The Ego is an equal force, as much a part as any other. The stronger the Ego the more… normal… happy… stable the life. If I can manifest the ID, as either the Brute, or that Invisible ID; if I can manifest the SuperEgo, why not the Ego itself?”

She shrugged with a bright smile. “Don’t know. Wanna try? Or are you right now the Ego? And you’ve been letting go when you didn’t need to?”

“I don’t know. When I’ve tried to become the Brute, it is like flexing a muscle. When the SuperEgo takes over, it’s more subtle, but I can feel it too. I haven’t really tried to become it. And I don’t even know how to turn on the Ego. I think it is worth an effort.” He looked around. "Maybe we should get out of the spring first. You look like you might boil if we stay in much longer,” he said as he started to rise from the water.

She started to port and then just unashamedly watched him get out before climbing out herself. Porting was faster, but there was something to taking one’s time and enjoying the view. She inhaled sharply as the cold air struck her skin, but shivered a little and smiled. “Okay, showtime.”

Jason was already enjoying the show. He watched as she rose like Venus from the waters, steam rising off her tight skin, water running down her curves in the most delightful way. She gave him a little look and he blushed a little at his leering.

“Sorry. I keep forgetting how beautiful you are. And how lucky I am.” As the words left his mouth he felt a pang of guilt. There was feeling of losing control. He tried to remember how he controlled the Brute, hold reins but let it run. He didn’t try to hold it in. But the look on his face may have revealed his inner struggle. She was smiling at his compliments, but her eyes were pinned to his face.

“Cassie, wait, before we go on. I need to tell you something. I am not proud. Back before Christmas. Reggie visited me at the base. I… am ashamed to admit it. I slept with her.” He had trouble looking at her, but he knew he needed to lest he fall under the SuperEgo’s power. “I also want to apologize for telling you like this. Confessions are… well… relationship counseling isn’t really my thing, but common wisdom is that the urge to confess is a pretty selfish one. I just need to let it out, or it might…” He struggled for words.

She ported to him in haste, putting a finger to his lips to stop the tumble of words. “I know. I came over to talk and kinda caught Reggie in the kitchen. I don’t think she saw me, but I saw her in your shirt and nothing else. I should’ve told you that I knew. And it hurt. It hurt a lot. But not as much as the thought of losing you.” She looked up into his eyes, earnest and sincere. “We were broken up. I knew that she wanted you. That there was a chance giving her permission to try to help you. But you’re here now. With me. And I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure that your night with her pales to the night we’re sharing tonight.”

She pressed into him, savoring the heat of his body, the hard muscles and ran her nails lightly down his back. “Practice now before I decide that I’m not waiting anymore to get you in bed,” she said softly, her voice husky.

Practice, what? Manifesting the Ego or… Jason wondered, gathering her in his arms and holding her tight. “Okay. I am not entirely sure how to do this.” He released her but held both her hands. “The Ego looks outward and inward. It is where the person navigates the world. Powered by their passions.” He gave her hands a squeeze. "Guided by their morals.” He looked her in the eyes. He wanted her to see the sincere regret he felt for his mistake. When she nodded, he closed his eyes and took a deep breath.

Jason stood there, eyes closed for a long while, minutes passing, and the chill began to sit on their naked skin. He tried to imagine the Ego in his minds eye as he did the ID and Super Ego. He heard Cassie’s breath coming shorter as she stood stoically against the cold. He could no longer hear the sound of water dripping from her body. He let his eyes open slowly to the light.

She was shivering in front of him her eyes opened widely in anticipation and he noticed that she had pulled her hands from his to tuck them under her armpits for warmth. Her arms were hugging herself to ward off the chilll, goosebumps covering her skin. Her lips were slightly redder than usual, and her faced was slightly flushed, from, he surmised the beginning of arousal. Her weight was born slightly to her left foot, and her right curled inwards. A faint white line above her ankle marked where she had scratched herself with her toenail. She was getting impatient. He was getting nowhere. The shadows on the ground showed it was close to five in the evening, and the winter evening was already beginning to settle, the golden light fading. He stroked her arm gently and watched the results it elicited. He could see her buttocks tremble slightly. He gently held her forearm gently, and felt her weight shift a little.

“I’m sorry Cassie. I don’t feel anything changing.” He shrugged. "And it’s getting cold. We should probably get dressed. He steered her back towards their clothes.

She couldn’t help but be disappointed a little as they quickly dressed. She had allowed herself probably higher hopes that she should have. Ever practical, Cassie scolded herself lightly as she knotted the lacings of her boots. “Ok, done,” she announced, straightening. The beauty of the surroundings caught her anew and she spun slowly to look at the land. “This is so pretty Jason,” she announced, her eyes sparkling even as she still shivered lightly. “We can warm up by hiking a little.” She winked at him. “And dodging bullets.”

Jason noted the slightly asymmetrical length of Cassie’s bootlaces as she laced up and reached to rub her shoulders to warm her up a bit. Straightening, she grinned at him and went towards the rocky hillside and began to climb. Jason marveled at Cassie’s ability to hop from rock to rock as they scaled the small peak overlooking the pond. As she launched her body towards an outcropping Jason darted to the left and went down into a crouch. Cassie’s foot landed expertly on the rock, but the fragile rock gave way causing her to tumble backwards.
Cassie felt the rock give and hissed a curse. Instinctively, she twisted in the air to get her bearings and started to port. But she caught Jason’s body crouched out of the corner of her eye.

Here’s a chance to prove to him that you trust him, she thought to herself and let herself fall. She could port at the last moment. Good practice. If she didn’t kill herself.

Jason caught her in his arms. “Sorry” He said as pulled her into a tight hug and kissed her on the lips. “I didn’t have time to warn you.”

The lightest of frowns caressed her brow. “Did you know that would happen?” she asked, an eyebrow rising.

“Look” He maneuvered her to slightly face the rock, “You can still see the fracture line. And that greenish sediment is ground limestone. With the cold you can expect a little stress on the rock. I don’t think you could see it from your vantage point.” As he spoke he rubbed her calf exactly where muscle was sore from the twist.

She nodded as he spoke, relaxing in his arms, his fingers perfectly easing the little bit of pain in her leg. Abruptly, she stiffened, her eyes widening. “Jason,” she blurted, staring into his eyes. ""How do you know all this? And where I hurt?" Her mouth opened and then she began to laugh.

“I’ve been reading up on science to keep up with Tyler. And…well, I could see it happen I guess.” Jason struggled for a moment with the thought. “That does seem a little odd doesn’t it?”

“Yes, and alarming. You’re gonna know what I want before I want it. That could be bad, or good.” She bit her lip and blushed. “Tonight should be very interesting. But more interesting is how you’re doing it.”

Jason smiled warmly at the suggestion. He pulled her close to him and nuzzled her neck. “I hope you are not looking a gift horse in the mouth.” He could smell her warming slightly. He adjusted his hold slightly. He nibbled her earlobe and whispered softly “I have a hunch.” And he let his hands roam over her curves. “If I am right, then I think I may have been wrong.”

Cassie whimpered softly, his caresses making a little shiver run over her body. She shifted against him, her lips caressing his neck. “Explain,” she murmured into his ear. “But fast. I’m having trouble keeping a coherent thought that doesn’t involve doing things to you that will make a sailor blush.” She let her fingers wander and stroke his body, a little revenge as her body screamed to port them both to a soft, warm surface.

“I was wrong when I said I didn’t feel any change. This is a change.” He looked away to scan the environment. He could estimate the distances between the rocks and the trees. He could ascertain the depth of the pond from one place to another. He saw three starlings sitting on a branch of a spruce a hundred feet away. “I can see… no perceive better. Better isn’t the right word. It is like I am in tune with my environment, with you, with the air and my own body. I think I did transform into the Ego. Do I look any different?” He put her down then, standing back a little to let her look.

Cassie shook her head, taking his cheeks in her hands to look him over. “Nope,” she answered with a shrug. “A little more relaxed, a little more confident.” She paused, studying him more intently, and then relaxed. “Nope. No judgment, no void, no dark, no horns, no too nice, no too wicked.”

Jason pondered this for a moment. Then looked at Cassie. “Test me.” He asked, almost commanded, and he dropped back a few paces.

“What? How?” she stammered. She gracefully balanced to attack, stripping off her jacket for better movement.

“Attack me.” Like you did our first date. Jason thought to himself. He needed to know that he could control himself. He knew she could handle the Brute, if he couldn’t. “Throw a rock or something if you don’t want to get too close.”

Her grin was quicksilver and wry. “I’ll get close to you. It only hurts ’cus I care.” She ported and round-housed her boot upside his head, sticking out her tongue as she flowed through the strike and vanishing in a lightning streak of purple light.

Jason watched her eyes before she ported. He knew her strength and reasoned he didn’t need to elude the blow entirely to avoid damage. In an instant, he was able to lean away from the blow; he got hit, but his normal resilience made the blow no worse that a hard slap. The impact was enough to momentarily destabilize Cassie. He turned to where he heard her feet land a thirty feet behind him. He raced to her with a flying kick. That was a feint, and used his off hand to send her spinning to the ground, tripping her off her feet. She sprang back to her feet and he watched her stance, the way her legs prepared to transfer the power of her blow. She grinned, blowing a piece of hair from her eyes and her arms flexed, preparing to pepper him with blows. Her eyes sparkled and she glanced to his side, trying to lead him to her left. There was a easy grace to her, he noted, that backed the power behind the attacks, and her arms, bare again to the air, rippled hotly with restrained strength. He grinned at her, unashamedly ogling her, and gestured for her to come at him again.

Her eyes blazed, her competitiveness coming to the fore as she studied him studying her. His intensity and cocky demeanor made him all the more attractive. She exploded at him and then ported in the middle of her barrage, only to appear behind him to punch him squarely between the shoulder blades and port again.

They darted back and forth. Her ability to teleport in attack and port away was a challenge. He settled on a strategy of endurance. He could regenerate, she could not. So long as he fought defensively, she could get many good hits in. He wasn’t landing many hits himself, but after twenty minutes of the melee they were both sweating and panting. Neither particularly hurt, both were alive with energy. He wipes the sweat from his brow, and admired her form. She was stalking him like a panther. He was feeling an animal arousal, but he was still in control. He could keep the ID in check.
This was a new day.

He took a moment to congratulate himself. A moment he didn’t have. She appeared three feet above him, and drop kicked him in the face. He flipped backwards from the force but managed to grab her wrist on the way down. They both landed awkwardly on the hard rocks, and tumbled and rolled a bit into the pine straw near the pond behind him. She crashed atop him. And then lay for a moment panting hard.

Jason grinned. “Okay. Maybe I need to work up to someone of your caliber.”

Cassie laughed breathlessly. “My caliber? I’m exhausted dear,” she stated between pants. “But now at least, I’m warm.” She rose up so that she could look him over. Already the cuts and bruises were almost gone. She kissed the remnants away with fond amazement and then gently licked a bit of sweat from his lips. With a soft sigh, almost growl, she stood and reached down a hand.

“Take me home Jason Duncan,” she commanded, licking her lips. “I want you. ID or Ego, Beast or SuperEgo or all of them.” Her hair, long freed from its ponytail, tumbled dark and wild, a bit covering one cornflower blue eye.

Jason rose and brushed off the dust and pine straw. They collected their bags and her jacket and walked hand in hand back down the path as the evening sun began to fade. They got to the gate and Cassie teleported them to the car.

“Pity, we didn’t get a chance to dodge bullets. I guess the owner is home for the winter,” she joked.

“Actually he’s right here.” Jason smiled, looking out towards the gate.

She looked around quickly and seeing no one, gave him a quizzical look. “What?” And then, “Are you serious?” She squealed softly, dancing in place a little. “You own this land?”

“It took pretty much all my salary to make the down payment. I figured, if the world ends in three months, a 30 year mortgage was a pretty good investment. The only problem, I don’t have enough left to build our house,” he said dreamily imaging the mountain home by the pond.

She had gone to the gate to survey the rugged scene, her lips parted with happy disbelief and wonderment. Her back stiffened, Cassie turned to face Jason slowly. “Our house?” she repeated, her lips quirking with the hint of a smile. “You and me?”

“Can’t live in that base forever.” Jason walked up to her and put his arm around her waist. “I know I am a risky investment. And you might not want to sink good money after bad. But, I love you. And I don’t want to waste any more time.”

She just blinked at him, her face going still, and then the serenity was broken by a brilliant smile. “I love you too. I’d love to share a home . . . a life with you Jason. Here, at the base, wherever. But I can’t live without you.” She kissed him lovingly for a moment and shook her head with amusement. “Bad investment. Pah! Rock solid. I get three for one return.”

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