Ronan opened a bottle of champaign for the occasion -- ignoring his usual rules on alcohol and minors. "To Jason's acquittal!" he held his glass up high, and everyone else followed suit.
Jason just smiled. It had been a long three months. A long, tiring, nasty three months since he'd gone in. As they'd worried, the cops had jumped on him as a chance to close a very nasty case... but they just couldn't make it. In fact, they'd admitted that the DA was screwing up even as they slapped the cuffs on him as lightly as they could.
Said DA was on his way out, with half the civil liberties organizations in the city baying for blood, the other half settling for just kicking his ass out of office, and enjoying the surprising amount of help they were getting from sources as diverse as the news media, to the cop groups they normally clashed with! He'd tried his best to take Jason down with him, but even with a solid motive that Jason freely admitted to, he had no evidence towards means, and only a very shaky theory on opportunity. Jason's lawyer had barely had to push to shred the case to pieces -- not that he'd held back. Mr. "Call me Nick!" Brown was one of the best lawyers in the city, and when he exerted himself on behalf of a friend he didn't do things half way. No sirree!
The publicity sucked, in a way, as newsmen hounded him for interviews and reactions and anything they could get in the way of a sound bite from him. But the flip side... all the support notes from people who knew what he was going through (right down to the "blame the victim" mentality that was so painful), invitation to support groups for those who'd been raped (Lara insisted he attend meetings with at least a few of them, against his strong resistance -- as usual, she'd proven right), invitation to support groups for gays (Ronan suggested he attend at least the one for "Gays of Catholic Families" or one of the similar ones, but accepted his demurral so readily, Jason ended up going out of guilt). Paul had helped Lara convince him to attend her church -- both Paul and Lara thought that the love based message would fit him far better than the sin-hating message that had driven him from the Catholic Church. Predictably, they too were right.
Between his regular therapy sessions with Lara and his attendance of the group sessions -- agonizing as they were -- he'd started to bring his mood swings under control long before the trial had started. By now, he understood what she'd said early on. "You'll never get over what that bastard did to you, but you will heal."
The scars, mental and physical, would be with him for the rest of his life. But, as he was about to acknowledge...
"Thank you, everyone," he began, in response to the demands of "speech, speech!"
"Thank you from the bottom of my heart." He looked at Ronan, "Thank you for giving me a place to heal," he turned to Lara, "the strength to put myself together," he looked at Eric and whispered, "a chance for love."
He turned to Sam -- who had insisted over his parent's vehement objections on attending, even if he was stuck in a wheelchair. "Thank you for a chance at life I might not have had, and the sacrifice you made to get me here." Finally he turned to his brother, "and thank you for reminding me daily that even if Dad's a complete and utter ass, some of my family love me. You would die for me bro, and your constant assurances of that love have kept me sane while I got my shit together."
He let his gaze dance across the entire room, all of his friends new and old. "Thank you all! Thank you so very much for a chance to live, instead of just survive."
Little did he know how much his words that night would come back to haunt him.
Jason let his hand rest on the case for a minute. He hadn't played in months -- not since before he'd been raped, to be specific. Ronan had finally asked him point-blank about the guitar, and forced him to confront his decision. He undid the clasps with shaking hands, and opened the case. Inside a guitar gleamed with years of care and polish. Turning around, he closed the door, and began to set up. Finally he was ready. His hands hovered over the strings, waiting.
He stared out into space, tears rising. Here was why he hadn't played, why he couldn't. He couldn't hear the music anymore. The rape had torn part of him away, and that part had held the music. He held his hands ready, waiting, but nothing came. He thought about the beauty he'd called forth before, but there was nothing there. Only the aching, empty void left by that bastard. Pain and horror. Beauty and joy. Never the twain shall meet. He thought about the events that led to the rape, about all the time he'd spent preparing to talk to his parents. He thought about that talk, and didn't notice as his hands began to lightly stroke the guitar. He thought about what happened after, and muscles remembered their duties even if he couldn't call them to it.
Outside, Ronan and Paul dropped their conversation as music began to pour forth. "Finally!" Paul smiled. "I was wondering how long he'd... he'd take.." Paul trailed off as he listened to the music. This was like nothing he'd heard before from his brother. It was... It was angry tears, horror, rejection. The tune continued on, a desolate sound that tore Paul's heart. "My God, is this..."
A faint note of joy entered the tune, bright against the darkness, a counterpoint of light to the horror of the rest of the melody. Except in a rending crash of discordance, that melody transformed, dwarfing the rest of the horror with its new ugliness. Paul sobbed as the music evoked the horror of Jason's rape, of the twisting of something meant to be beautiful to something horrible.
Ronan stood awestruck, tears rising in his eyes. The music continued on through the aftermath, leading to a final melody that took the horror, and faced it down with a new ray of light. But where the first one had been faint, and weak, this one... though only a small part of the melody, it soon transformed the entire song, consuming the horror and revealing joy. It ended with a sudden, discordant blat that jarred Ronan and Paul out of their trances. They glanced at each other as Jason stormed out of the apartment. A sudden knocking across the hall told them where he went. "Lara will help him," Ronan said with certainty. "For the moment, there is a college of arts nearby that is accepting applicants. I know some people..." he walked off, muttering to himself.
Paul just sat down, and cried.
Jason waited downstairs after a quick chat with Lara. He wanted to talk to Eric, and thankfully they'd already agreed to go out tonight. Hopefully he'd be willing to make a quick layover on the way out.
"Hey Jason!" Eric shouted from across the lobby area. Jason smiled and ran over.
"How's it hanging, buddy?" he asked.
"One lower than the other, same as always," Eric replied. Jason laughed -- as always -- and shook his head.
"Would you come upstairs for a minute before we go out?" Jason asked.
"Sure," Eric agreed affably. "What's up?"
"I want to ask your opinion about something..."
"Yes, the dress makes you look fat." They traded jibes affably for a few minutes as Jason lead Eric upstairs to his room, where the guitar was waiting.
"Just... tell me what you think," Jason asked.
Eric nodded, and Jason began to strum. Eric listened, eyes closed to hold back tears. Finally, Jason brought the song to a close with a gentle harmony that drifted into nothingness. Eric looked at him, cheeks wet. "I think I've never heard something so powerful."
"Told you!" Paul chirped from the door as he popped in. "Both me and Ronan told you, but no, you had to ask Eric..."
Ronan's hand reached in, snagged Paul by the neck, and dragged him out. "I think the two of us shall leave the two of them alone for a while, Paul. For now..."
Paul cowered in mock fear as he was dragged out of the apartment. "Oh no, not training!"
"Oh, I don't think so. Training is such a... passive punishment compared to what I had in mind." Paul's voice lost all trace of cheer.
"Then what do you have in..." the door closed on their conversation, leaving Eric and Jason alone again. This time without anyone to listen in, Jason was sure. Or interrupt if they decided...
Eric shifted as he caught the change in mood, heart racing. His mouth dried out as he remembered that night, three months ago. This time, though... if he was reading the signals right...
Jason moved with careful deliberation, putting his music equipment away neatly, mind racing. Was he ready? After the first few weeks, when his "slut" reaction had finally closed down, he'd had a hard time even when it was just him around. Lara had told him it would take time... but he didn't want it to. Three months had passed, and now he wanted it again. Oh, how he wanted it. Only this time...
"I think I need to leave," Eric began. Jason shut him up with a single finger to his lips.
"When are you expected back home?" he asked simply.
"I have a few..." Eric broke off as Jason moved in close.
"Yes?" Jason breathed into his friend's ear.
"A few... hours..." Eric tried to get out as Jason got his attention directly.
"That's plenty of time..." Jason murmured into Eric's neck as he started to nibble. Eric just gasped, and started pulling his shirt up. Things were proceeding quite nicely until someone started pounding at the door. Loudly, and insistently. Eric swore profanely in a counterpoint to Jason's rather simple "Oh fuck, not now!" Jason grabbed a robe and pulled it over himself. "Stay there!" he pointed at the reclining Eric. Jason could not believe the timing, but put it off to bad luck.
Eric wondered why the hell Ronan and Lara had let this interloper show up at exactly the wrong moment. Ronan rather clearly had a good idea what was going to happen -- only reason to drag Paul out like that was to give them some privacy -- so why the hell the interruption? Eric's eyes grew wide as he got an idea. "Oh no!"
The knocking grew more insistent, and Jason swore under his breath before yanking the door open. "What the hell do you-" he stopped as his father stepped through the open door, mother right behind him. "Not. Good. Timing," he ground out. His father stalked around the apartment, inspecting every detail -- clearly surprised by the lack of kiddie porn, fetish leather, and similar accouterments. "What are you two doing here, and why in God's name didn't you call ahead?"
"Don't take The Lord's name in vain!" his father snapped, moving to inspect the bedrooms. Jason darted over and slapped his father's hand away from his doorknob just in time. "If you want to inspect the bedrooms, father, you'll need a warrant," Jason turned the title into a deadly insult with his tone. "Now, what are the two of you doing here, and what maggot got into your heads that you didn't call ahead?"
"Keep a respectful tongue in your head, boy!" his father snapped back. Giving up on the bedroom, he wandered over to the furniture and sat in a couch, making himself quite at home.
Jason counted to three before continuing. "You two still haven't answered my questions. Do so. Now." Three months of Ronan had taught him how to put real steel into his voice, strong enough to get even his father's attention. Jason's jaw dropped as his father laughed.
"Clearly that pervert, whatever else he's done, has stiffened your spine a little!" his father roared out between the occasional guffaw. Jason started to grind his teeth.
"Father, there are many things I will tolerate. Apply that term to Ronan or Lara again, and you'll find out just how much spine I've got, parent or no parent!" his father just laughed harder.
Jason stepped in front of his father, and leaned over until their faces were inches apart. Staring directly into the eyes of the man who he once called 'dad', he bit off four words. "What. Do. You. Want." Behind him, his mother spoke softly.
"To talk. To apologize. To see where we go from here."
Jason straightened up and lifted an eyebrow at her. "And you thought you'd start your apology by barging in uninvited, inspecting my living quarters for 'suitability', and insulting my host?"
"Who said we were uninvited? That per- Ronan said we could come right up."
"He did, did he," Jason's face was so grim his mother backed up a step. "I'll have to have a little talk with him..." inhaling deeply, Jason bellowed for Ronan, who promptly walked in the door with Paul.
"You-!" he started. "You, you... betrayer of trust! Slayer of my tr-" Jason swallowed back the word "tryst" and started a new sentence. "You Judas of peace and quiet!"
His father laughed all the harder on the couch. Ronan glanced at him for a moment, then turned his eyes to Jason again. "Why don't you go get dressed," he suggested. "Oh, and don't forget the conversation we had the other day about your parents."
Jason froze. That... that... Brilliant! Horrible, but brilliant! This might even be fun! If not quite as much fun as his original plans, it'd make up for it in the long run. Not that that would save Ronan's hide for very long after all this was over. Eric would probably even help out by holding Paul, who was undoubtedly up to his neck in this, until Jason was ready for him.
Slipping into his room, he sidled up to Eric with a grin. "Wanna have some fun?" he asked.
Eric grinned and nodded as Jason quickly outlined his plans.
The living room fell silent as two half dressed young men walked into it, hips together and hands in each other's pockets. Jason's father closed his mouth with a snap when he saw his son's oh-so-innocent grin. The two of them sat down in a comfortable chair, Jason sprawled over Eric's lap.
Oh what fun the two of them were having, with identical shit-eating grins. The conversation resumed, slowly, with Jason's parents keeping a forced smile on their faces.
"We came here to apologize for kicking you out, Jason, when you told us about your per- I mean, your condition," his father chocked out slowly and haltingly. Wilting under his wife's gaze, he corrected himself. "I'm sorry I kicked you out."
Jason smiled at him. "Apology accepted, father." This time the title didn't come out as an insult, even if the tone was decidedly cool.
Eric decided it was time to start acting and giggled out, "Ah, good, now they aren't going to throw fits about us!" With that, he leaned in and kissed Jason full on the lips. Throwing caution to the wind, Jason decided to contribute to his father's imminent demise by returning the kiss and turning it into a full up necking session. Ronan gave a polite 'ahem' to try and get their attention.
Giggling, they ignored him. Ronan gave a not so polite 'ahem'.
Feeling daring, they ignored him again. With a sigh, Ronan decided to join the fun. "Sorry about this, but boys will be boys. And, of course, your son hasn't had a lot of time with Eric yet, they only just got around to admitting their attraction to each other as you pulled up. I imagine they hadn't even had time to get it stuck in before you oh-so-politely -- you were polite about it, right? -- interrupted them."
Jason didn't have to look to know his father's face was red with anger and embarrassment, and his mother would probably faint dead away if he didn't stop soon. Shifting around, he broke the kiss and looked. Much to his surprise, his mother had a faint smile on her face as she looked at him, almost as if she wasn't bothered. Most unsatisfactory.
His father and brother on the other hand... his brother looked decidedly uncomfortable with the sudden openness about his sexuality (they'd had it out, but the Church's stamp of 'unclean, unclean!' remained), but his dad was livid. Face red, mouth opening and closing like a fish, trying to talk but unable to find the breath.
Jason was enjoying the sweet, sweet taste of his revenge. It couldn't get much better than this! His father had finally been silenced.
"So, when is the marriage?" his mother asked. Now it was Jason's turn to splutter, much to the laughter of everyone else in the room. If he didn't know better he'd have said she'd done that deliberately, just to put him in his place. But this was his mother, not someone with a mind and will of her own! "Well, obviously you must be getting ready to marry if you're getting so... carnal... about things!"
She was teasing him.
His mother was teasing him. And in a manner that was making his father's situation worse.
What the bloody hell had happened at home?! "Who are you and what did you do with my mother?" he asked in shock.
"After your father kicked you out, I had time to think, and not much else to do," she answered. "I... didn't like who I'd been, but I'd never really had time to realize that. Now I do." Jason's father looked decidedly uncomfortable. "I wouldn't pursue a divorce," her tone added the phrase 'of course' to the simple statement, "but your father and I had a long talk, and if a few things hadn't have changed I would have moved out." Jason blinked. His mother had stood up to his father? He couldn't have been hearing this right!
"The end result, son," his dad took up the thread, "is that your brother is welcome back. You, however..."
"We still love you, and you're still our son. But this... problem of yours..." his mother's voice failed her.
"Until you turn away from it and embrace the True Church once more, you are not welcome to live in our house. Visit, yes, live, no. We can't..." his dad faltered off.
"You... you two!" Paul spluttered this time. "This is not why I agreed to let you come over! You told me-"
"I told you the complete and utter truth, we've forgiven him!" his father roared. "Doesn't mean we'll allow this perversion under our roof!"
Ronan stood up with a frown. "I think this is enough."
Jason's father and mother stood as well. "Indeed. We've said what needed to be said. Farewell." They walked out without looking back. Paul sat down limply, clearly shocked.
"I'm sorry bro... I wasn't... they said they'd forgiven you, and I guess I just..." Paul couldn't finish.
Jason took a deep breath, and walked over to kneel by his brother. "I forgave them months ago for what they are. I can easily forgive you for a simple mistake like this," and he leaned in to kiss his brother on the forehead.
"Now that the mood has been completely and utterly ruined, what do you guys say we go out to dinner?" Jason asked humor in his voice again.