Jason had sensed that Ashley needed time, so rather than have her guide him straight to Lara, he'd convinced her to spend some time finishing the conversation they'd had earlier about how spells 'grew'. So she'd guided him to a nearby living room, one of several in the house it appeared, and started teaching.
"So as long as it doesn't actively violate any of the rules you've placed yourself, your spells will gradually develop new rules to help better act on your original intent?" Jason asked.
"Yes, precisely," Ashely agreed.
"And all that other stuff you walked me through-" Jason smiled as he understood.
"All that other stuff is just the theory you only need to understand if you're actually casting long term spells, yeah," Ashley agreed. "I figured that if no one had covered it yet, we might as well do so at the same time as going over the basic idea."
"And you guys came up with all this... protocols, limits, directions... all this terminology on your own, in just the last few years?" Jason asked.
"We've borrowed, heavily, from fantasy and science fiction concepts when and where they fit, and yes it is amazing how often we find something that does fit," Ashley explained. "What's fascinating, though, is that a lot of the stuff that fits best is old, if not ancient. Ancient dramas speaking of geas or other ways to bind a person to their word frequently follow similar rules to the ones we use; warnings about the power of your True Name hold eerily true, if not in the way they normally show; and of course the Arch... an artifact of pure evil, beyond our power to destroy..."
"It's like something out of a book, I know," Jason agreed, then paused. "Wait, True Name?"
"It's not something as important as you might think, or at least not in the way you might think, but it does hold a certain degree of power," Ashley explained. "Your True Name is the name which resonates in you to the very deepest level of your mind. It's not your familiar name, or necessarily even your legal name, it's the name that at the deepest of levels you know means you, and only you. You respond almost reflexively to Jason, you respond even more viscerally to Jason Bester, and I'm sure there is another name, one with greater meaning and power over you."
"What might that be?" Jason asked.
"Some things are universal: what did you mother call you when you were in trouble?" Ashley asked with a grin.
"Jason Dustin Bester," Jason responded.
"Jason Dustin Bester," Ashley spoke in an authoritative tone of voice. Jason felt a tingle run down his spine as he sat up in his chair. "Do you understand?"
"Yeah, but that's-" Jason began.
"It may be psychology, but either it's psychology driven by metaphysics of it's metaphysics driven by psychology," Ashley interrupted. "Be careful with your True Name -- spoken from your own lips, to give the right tone and cadence, it is a part of you. With it... You'll note that Lara never speaks her full name, nor does Ronan and that's for a reason. It holds power over you, and with the right tone, the right cadence, the right words it can control even a Guardian. Your True Name can bind you to a geas unless you fight, hard, against it." Ashley shook her head. "This is meaningless without a demonstration..." her eyes finished the question for her.
"Go ahead," Jason told her, and steeled his will.
"Jason Dustin Bester, stand up," she commanded.
Jason blinked down at her, bemused. Such a simple thing, and the perfect test. All he had to do was remain sitting, and surely that would be easy! He smiled as he stretched, hands at the small of his back. "Is that all?"
"Jason, why don't you sit back down?"
Jason blinked, then looked down. Then back up at her. "Words, have meaning... and names, have power," she quoted. "Even in modern fiction, there is wisdom to live by."
"That sounds familiar..." Jason frowned, finally sitting back down.
"Ronan watches a show called 'Babylon 5'," Ashley explained. "He loves a number of quotes from it."
"Yeah, I've watched a few episodes myself," Jason agreed.
"At his insistence?" Ashley grinned as Jason nodded. "Well, feel lucky you got away with only a few." Jason grinned and looked away. He'd watched more than 'a few', and while he didn't have the obsession with it that Ronan did, it was a pretty good show. "With time and practice, you can learn to fight against geas, as well as use them. But Jason," Ahsley warned, "do not use them on normal people, use suggestions only. We call it 'suggestion' for a reason, even though it's more than that. A normal person can resist, to a degree, a suggestion to help make it fit in their lives better. Make their actions their own actions, even if not the ones they would have chosen. Unless it's willingly accepted, as part of an oath or promise, a geas may very well destroy the mind of the person it's placed upon as they are forced to follow precisely the terms of the geas, like it or not. Careful phrasing can sometimes get around that, but for the most part... it's just a bad idea to even try."
"That sounds... nasty," Jason agreed. "So why practice geases?"
"Because if you practice them, you can fight them, and sooner or later one of us will turn rogue and have to be... dealt with," Ashley answered sadly.
"Turn rogue?" Jason asked, equally softly.
"Yes. Power corrupts... and we posses a lot of power," Ashley answered. "It's one of Ronan's greatest worries, one of the reasons why most Guardians are chosen so carefully, trained and conditioned without even knowing it, before they come close to being offered the choice to become one of us."
Something about this disturbed Jason, but he couldn't seem to nail it down. Still, some of the implications seemed obvious. "So you guys are planning, preparing, for the day someone... for the day someone 'turns rogue'?"
"Always. To quote Ronan:" Ashley answered, and Jason chorused in delighted unison with her;
"Proper Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance!"
They laughed for a moment, despite the seriousness of the situation. Ronan was, in some ways, rather predictable. Of course...
"Ashley, silly question, but what limits are there on what you can do with suggestions? It just occurred to me, but wouldn't they be a great tool for counseling sessions?" Jason asked.
"Well, yes, they-" Ashley began.
"Enough!" Lara thundered from the door as she ran in. "Jason Dustin Bester, you will drop this line of questioning immediately and forget about the connection you just made entirely!"
"Lara Stephens, what the hell are you thinking?" Ashley demanded angrily. "You have no reason to-"
"Shut up!" Lara shouted angrily at Ashley. "I'll explain later, just let it happen!"
Jason shook his head angrily as Lara's words seeped in at the edges. He was not going to forget... he was not going to... he was...
Something deep inside burned, a flame that spread along the veins of his body until he seared in agony from head to toe, the fog within his mind burning away in a sudden rush. He would not forget so readily! Opening his eyes he glared at Lara, body shaking and he took deep, shuddering breaths. "Why?" he breathed harshly.
Lara and Ashley gaped as he, slowly, rose to his feet in rage, drawing upon all the will and strength he could muster to do so.
"This isn't possible, even if he were trained he shouldn't have the strength to just..." Lara gaped.
"Why?" Jason thundered, instinctively placing his will behind the word and then draping the combination over Lara like a net woven of impossibly strong gossamer threads.
"Because..." Lara tried to resist, choking as she fought the words. "Because it would hurt you," the words were dragged out of her by sheer Power. "I used suggestions... dozens of suggestions, layered, over dozens of sessions... to help you heal..."
"So?" Jason demanded.
"They're still active," Lara explained, words flowing more freely as she gave up the fight. "I set them up so they'd expire after a year or so, but for the moment they're still in there. And as a Guardian, you have the ability to snap them like thread if you become aware of them. The problem is, they aren't thread, they're like... think of the tension wire they use to help hold up antennas; they have so much tension on them that when they snap they lash around with lethal force. Imagine something similar, only happening inside the relatively fragile confines of a person's mind. The danger of having them break like that..."
"What... did you... suggest..." Jason asked, falling back to his knees as his Will began to falter.
"Simple stuff mostly," Lara answered, "stuff like it's not your fault. I also threw in some things that..." she chewed her lips for a few moments. "Well, I can't really describe it in words, but it's like a net to catch you when you fall, to help prevent, or at the very least minimize and delay, stuff like throw-backs and flash-backs."
"But strong?" Jason asked.
"When it comes to the mind..." Lara temporized. "The mind is incredibly powerful when acting outwards, but once you're inside, incredibly fragile. The whole is infinitely greater than the sum of it's parts."
Jason bowed his head, and accepted.
"I'm sorry, where were we before Lara showed up?" Jason asked. "My attention must have wandered, I can't believe..." Jason rubbed the sides of his head in confusion.
"It's alright, we were just about finished... I think we need to talk about tonight, right Lara?" Ashley hedged.
"Yeah, but for the moment maybe Jason should rest, he looks rather tired," Lara argued.
"Given the way Scotty was burrowing into his mind, I'm not surprised," Ashley agreed.
"I would have thought..." Jason began. As he stood he suddenly felt faint and fell backwards. "Then again, maybe it just took a little time..."
"Rest a few moments, Jason, we'll get you when we need you," Ashley told him as she fetched a blanket out of a closet in the room and Lara laid him down on the couch he'd been sitting on. Jason yawned and stretched a little as he began to fall asleep...
"Lara..." he whispered.
"Yes Jason?" she answered from the door.
"What the conscious mind forgets... the subconscious remembers... I will act... He will not remember, until it is time..."
"Jason?" Lara asked, concerned.
"Not Jason... I am he, but not he... You know of what I speak..."
"The id. The lower mind. The part of us that is us, but doesn't answer to us... The part that all Guardian's control," she replied darkly. "You're... active?"
"He is not like you. I am not like your other half. We are different. I act... In _his will. The suggestions come down... they must! When the time comes... be there for him..."_
"Jason-" Lara began.
"Our conversation is finished! Sleep, self, and forget..."
Jason stretched with a yawn, trying to remember... he'd had a really strange dream, but other than his talking to Lara he just couldn't quite get it to come together. "It's important, whatever it is," he whispered to himself. Suddenly he realized that he wasn't alone on the couch, as two bodies had crowded in with him. "What?"
One of the kids looked up and smiled at him. Well, sideways since they were on their sides. "Heya uncle Jason!" he chirped.
"Hey there little guy, who're you?"
"I'm Tony!" the kid grinned... Jason decided to stick with 'up' even if it wasn't really... up at him. "Momma wanted me to move Scotty in here with you, and I decided I wanted to cuddle for a bit! That's OK, right?"
Jason laughed lightly. "Sure is... I hope he didn't wake when he was moved?"
Tony grinned up at Jason some more and giggled. "Silly, that's why Momma had me move him! He didn't even realize he was being moved until I put him down! I put him behind your legs, I wanted to cuddle up top!"
"I see," Jason temporized as the little guy giggled. "So, little guy, what's a guy got to do to get some water around here?"
"Just ask," Tony giggled. He clearly liked giggling, Jason noted.
"Alright," Jason answered with a grin. He suspected he knew where the little devil was going with this. "Ain'tcha gonna ask for some water?" Tony asked, still giggling.
"Why now that you ask, yes I would like some water," Jason answered.
Pouting at how Jason had turned the tables, Tony arched his body in a boneless stretch that made Jason ache just to look at it and looked at a table across the room.
His attention drawn to it, Jason watched in shock as a covered pitcher lifted off the table and poured ice water into one of the waiting glasses. Jason could see the tiny flecks of ice flashing in the stream of water that filled the chosen glass to full, then without a drop spilled started on one of the others. After both had been filled, the pitcher sat itself down with a thud and the glasses lifted themselves up and zoomed across the room.
Gaping, Jason absentmindedly grasped the one nudging at his hand and took a sip of water. A little difficult to do with one kid tangled in his legs, another cuddled up against his chest, and his body laid out sideways, but he managed to avoid any major spillage. Tony grinned as he slurped his down thirstily, seemingly oblivious to the 'impossibility" of drinking while positioned on his side. "Not so fast, kiddo! This stuff is cold!"
"I'm thirsty too!" the kid said with another giggle. "Well, was anyway!"
"So... did you do that?" Jason asked as he looked for a place to set his glass down for a moment.
"Yup!" the kid said as Jason's glass suddenly lifted itself from his hands. "I'll be your table, just warn me before putting it down," Tony giggled.
"Well then," Jason joked, "if you're my table does that mean Scotty is my chair or something?"
"You're being silly!" Tony accused Jason.
"Ayup!" Jason agreed, grabbing his glass off it's mid-air 'table'. It resisted for the barest of moments before giving away. Taking another sip, Jason watched Tony carefully as he set it back down in mid-air. The way the kid's eyes never left it, and the look of concentration on his face, certainly suggested that he was the one responsible for the flying objects in the room. Though the boneless grace which he bent with to keep an eye on things was rather disconcerting, to say the least.
"So, Tony," Jason asked, "how exactly did you pick up this little trick of yours?"
"Just did," Tony said. Jason couldn't have pointed out what told him, but it was rather clear this was a subject Tony would rather not discuss. All things considered, Jason was willing enough to go along with that.
"Tony, do you know what time it is?" Jason asked.
"Sure, it's time for you to get a new wa-" Tony was interrupted by a coughing fit, breaking both his speech and concentration. Jason grabbed for the glass when he saw it stop to wobble, but was to slow to catch it before it fell. Bouncing off his leg, it sent ice water flying everywhere, including over an unsuspecting Scotty.
Scotty started thrashing around. spluttering in shock and not a small bit of pain from the stabbing cold. As he woke up enough to realize that he was not only in a strange place but also trapped, wrapped up tight in the combination of afghan and Jason's legs, panic was added to the mix.
Jason tried to get the three of them loose of each other, and only resulted in leaving his crotch wide open to Scotty's thrashing legs and heels. Groaning in sudden agony, Jason managed to roll off the couch and onto a suddenly screaming Tony. "Gedoff me it hurts!" the kid complained bitterly. Jason rolled again, this time knocking a coffee table over and pulling the afghan away with him. Unfortunately, Scotty was still tangled up in the afghan and got pulled off the couch with yet another thud.
"What is going on in here?" Ashley demanded as she burst into the room, Lara hot on her heels. Jason was still curled up in a fetal position, tears in his eyes, Tony was the same only clutching his chest instead of his groin, and Scotty was still thrashing around, panicked. And all three were soaking wet.
"We had... a bit of an accident..." Jason gasped as he struggled upright. "God, that hurts," he swore.
"Oh dear..." Lara murmured as Ashley ran over to comfort Scotty. "One of them caught you in the balls?"
"Yes," Jason snapped. "And it still hurts!"
"The pain will take a while to go away, just as normal," Lara told him. "The injury itself will heal, but certain body parts don't like getting hurt, and they let us know it."
"Oh, great, so all someone has to do is kick me in the balls and my healing goes out the window?" Jason complained.
"Not quite," Lara grinned as Jason's discomfort faded. "But I'll explain after this mess is dealt with. Tony, are you OK?" Lara suddenly noticed the boy was still crying and clutching his side.
"When we fell out..." Jason started to say, shocked. "Oh fucking crap!" He flipped over and pulled the boy to him. Closing his eyes, Jason focused his concentration like Lara had shown him earlier and dove his awareness into Tony, seeking the injuries he'd caused.
Most of what he found was easy enough to deal with, a cracked rib and the start of a cold, but another injury mystified him. The kid's groin was too small, and no energy flowed into the bits and pieces that belonged there. He could see them, too small for the boy's body, but the energy and effort he tried to direct into them just bounced off.
Fine, so that approach won't work he thought furiously, but maybe something else will! He couldn't generate that instant healing flood that Lara could, but he had watched it closely. The major difference in it, other than strength and speed, was the way it traveled. Rather than just sending his power straight into the injury, Jason sent it in slow 'spirals', diffusing outward before moving towards it's destination, starting from the inside of the body. Slowly, oh so painfully slowly, the spirals set right thing's he'd missed completely as they worked their way out. Where his earlier efforts had simply bounced off the dead zones, he felt these efforts rebuild the body ahead of themselves. One layer of cells at a time the body was re-written to correct whatever injury Jason had done to the poor kid.
Pulling out, Jason opened his eyes and shook his head. Tony was looking up with yet another grin on his face as he lay there in Jason's arms. "Thanks!" he giggled.
"Your welcome, kiddo," Jason whispered as tears threatened to overwhelm him.
"I'm sorry!" Scotty cried out as he tried to crawl into the embrace. Jason shifted his arm to allow him in. "I di'nt meant ta hurch you!" he cried through his sniffles. Jason increased his hug's pressure for a moment in response.
"It's just about dinner time," Ashley announced, "why don't you guys go ahead and clean up? Tony, you're close enough to Scotty's size that he can wear your clothes, and your brother brought some of yours over Jason."
"Alright, time to pay the piper," Jason whispered to himself as he helped the two kids stand up.
"What?" Scotty asked.
"Nothing, just thinking out loud," Jason reassured the kid. Scotty crossed his arms and scowled at Jason as Tony 'helped' him up. "I suspect the ladies will be upset with me over what happened," Jason finally gave up.
"It's not your fault!" Tony insisted, only to have the laser eyes of the ladies zero in on him. "Um, er," he stammered, clearly looking for a way out.
"And how, young man, might that be?" Ashley asked.
Tony gulped and hid behind Jason's legs. "It's completely my fault, I was the adult in the room, so it is my responsibility."
"I'm waiting for an answer, Tony," Ashley ignored Jason.
"I was showin' off," Tony answered dejectedly, coming around to stand in front of Jason.
"I see," Ashley answered icily as only a mother can. "Please, do tell."
"Well, I didn't want to stop cuddling with Jason," Tony answered. A few icy moments and an arched eyebrow later he continued, "So I used my trick to grab the water."
"And spilled it all over the place?" Ashley asked, shaking her head. "Well, so long as you weren't doing that table trick, I'm not going to make a fuss. God only knows the same thing could have happened if you did it the normal way!"
Jason kept silent, poker face firmly in place to avoid a smile while Tony put on a rather nonchalant expression. "Oh, do you have something else to say. Tony?" Ashley asked.
"Well, um..." Tony temporized.
"Jason, perhaps you have something to add?" Ashley switched tracks, never taking her eyes off Tony.
"Only that the way this little guy bends makes my back ache just to think about!" he ad-libbed.
"Alright, fine," Ashley smiled as she gave up. "In that case, after the three of you clean up you can go ahead and eat. Shower first, then clean up in here. Oh, and Jason... Tommy will be terribly hurt if you decide to skip the meal he's spent so much effort on!"
"I understand," he told her. "Alright, someone show me where I'm going!" The kids giggled as each of them grabbed an arm and started dragging him away. "Help!" Jason cried out as he 'struggled', "I'm being kidnapped by Lilliputians!" The giggling paused for a moment as the two kids glanced at each other.
"Lilly-whats?" Scotty asked, wrinkling his nose.
"Little guys," Jason grinned back. "Shrimps even smaller than you!"
"We ain't small!" Tony protested, "We're big boys now!"
"Oh really, are you sure of that?" Jason asked with a grin. The rapidly bobbing head that he received as an answer threatened to fly off as the kid nodded. "Then why can I do... this!" Jason exclaimed as his arms twisted around to the the hands holding onto him by the wrist. Then he lifted straight up, slowly and carefully. Tony giggled as he dangled at the end of his 'rope', but Jason's grin vanished as he noticed Scotty's increasingly horrified expression.
Releasing his prisoners, he stared Scotty in the face. "Is everything all right, little guy?" Jason's soft questions had an unexpected result as Scotty burst into tears and ran off. Tony followed, scowling at Jason as he ran after his new friend.
"I'll talk to them, Jason," Lara told him as she followed after. "Just go clean up!"
"I'll take you to the restroom and grab some clothes," Ashley ordered as she grabbed his arm. "Don't worry about the mess, I'll handle that."
"Thanks, Ashley," Jason told her.
"This is delicious!" Jason proclaimed as he dished up some more.
"Thanks," Tommy grinned, "Mess is one of my favorite foods!"
"Mess?" Jason asked.
"American version of a stir fry," Lara explained between bites.
"It's jus' as good as stir fry!" Jason agreed around the food in his mouth.
"No talking with your mouth full!" a chorus of voices 'reprimanded' him cheerfully. Jason grinned and shoveled some more in.
"It's a reasonably healthy and very easy meal to make," Tommy explained, "so we have it fairly often." He grinned before adding, "Of course, the kids are convinced that has more to do with the taste, and for all I know they might be right!"
Finally tasting it after a long staring match which, for obvious reasons, the food won, Scotty blinked and started shoveling it into his mouth. "It'sh good, it'sh really good!" Scotty said through the food. The chorus giggled in agreement before repeating their reprimand.
"You said this is easy to make?" Jason asked. Ronan wasn't a bad chef, mind you, but he wasn't even close to versatile, and meatloaf three times a week quickly got boring. Even if all Paul could do was burn water, and Jason wasn't much better.
"Oh, yes, a little more difficult than something like grilled cheese sandwiches, but not much," Tommy agreed. "Biggest problem around here is always volume, we've got twelve bazillion... wait," Tommy interrupted himself to 'glare' at Scotty, "Make that twelve bazillion and one vacuum cleaners to make it all vanish!" The chorus of giggles answered what was rather obviously a long standing complaint. "Anyway, most of the food around here is fairly simple, just so I can conscript the rug rats into helping me with it."
"Slave labor!" Jason gasped in mock horror, eliciting another round of giggles.
"Pretty much the only way anything gets done around here," Tommy laughed back. "As oldest, I'm exempt from a lot of it, though."
"More like he takes on such a burden already I wouldn't think of adding more!" Ashley complained. "I might 'run' this place, but he's the one who keeps it running!"
Tommy grinned as he filled a plate up before passing it back to the redhead who'd handed it over. "I don't do that much, Ashley!"
Ashley, laughing, started ticking off items on her fingers. "Laundry, cooking four or five nights a week, keeping the rugrats in line when I'm not around, tucking most of them into bed, reading Michelle her bedtime story, convincing Franklin to stay in bed and go to sleep, helping Peter when his dia-" Ashley broke off as the red-head Tommy had just served up blushed, "Um, I mean helping Peter when he has his night-time problems," she corrected rapidly. The giggles this time were rather subdued and died rapidly to the glares from various adults and a few of the kids.
Jason shared a confused glance with Paul before shrugging. Whatever it was must be embarrassing, but that's as far as they could figure. "Alright, Ashley, I think we get the idea," Lara announced around a smile. "Though it was hardly fair to bring up some of that! Do it again, and I might just have to mention that one sleepover, when-"
"No, no need!" Ashley cut Lara off hastily, leading to a fresh round of laughter.
"So, I think we were discussing cooking?" Paul tried to redirect the conversation.
"Yeah, we were," Tommy agreed. "Specifically, volume. Cooking for this many people is no joke! I have to get a couple of kids to help me with the unskilled labor parts. Of course, this does result in them going from 'unskilled' to 'semiskilled' fairly quickly."
Jason laughed, "So they learn to cook like it or not!"
"Pretty much," Tommy agreed. "Everyone who comes here helps with the various household chores, so they should be able to handle living on their own without too many problems when the time comes."
"So no putting dish-soap into the clothes washer," Jason grinned.
"I'll get you for bringing that up!" Paul threatened while everyone laughed.
"We get mistakes like that once or twice a year, but it doesn't repeat often!" Ashley laughed. "Especially with a teenage boy who does not want to explain having pink undies!"
"Hey, no fair!" Jason and Tommy exclaimed at the same time. Glancing at each other in realization, they shared a nervous laugh while everyone else giggled.
"Well, if we can get off the discussion of underwear," Barney asked, "can I steal the recipe for this stuff?"
"Sure!" Tommy grinned. "It's actually pretty simple. Just dice and cook the bacon, drain and then cook the rest. Whatever else you're cooking goes in in the order of what takes longest to cook. Generally you either use potatoes or scrambled eggs as a 'base', but I'm sure there are other things."
"That's it?" Jason asked, shocked.
"As recipes go, it's a pretty loose and simple. Mess is more of a food type than a specific recipe!" Tommy grinned as he refilled his plate. "Of course, having to cook for this many people is quite a hassle, I have to stick with easy stuff to up-scale. Stuff like tater-tot casserole or grilled cheese... Well the kids love it but don't get it very often. Not unless they do the work themselves, which most of them can, if they really want to."
"I see," Jason said as he took the opportunity to dish some food up for himself. "Well, this stuff tastes good and at least there's plenty of it!"
"Yeah, I hope it reheats well!" Paul commented. The laughs and giggles he got in reply told him he'd made a mistake. "What?"
"By bedtime tonight, there won't be any left over," Ashley predicted. "What little we don't finish now will become the late-night snacks of hungry little kids... and not so little ones, too."
The kids started making growling, sucking noises, and a second later Jason started laughing his head off when he saw one kid literally suck the food off his fork. "What is so funny?" Paul asked crossly as he glared at the noise makers.
"The little vacuum cleaners are going to take care of the leftovers!" Jason got out between guffaws. Paul blinked for a moment, then he and Barney joined in the general laughter that broke out.
Jason couldn't remember the last time he'd had a meal like this. Good friends, good food, plenty of laughter... food for the body, but medicine for the soul.
It didn't last long enough to suit him, but that was alright. He'd be back, someday. He couldn't have kids of his own, but... he could hold, hug, love these kids. And if he didn't get the joy of firsts, of first steps and first words, of being called Poppa or Dad or any of a dozen other titles, at least he didn't have to deal with dirty diapers and all the little messes kids like to make.
Jason smiled as he helped one of the littler kids scrape his plate off into the trash before loading it into the dishwasher. Yeah, he'd be back. He'd be back.
After the dinner mess was cleaned up, Lara snagged his sleeve and guided Jason outside for a chat. "You want to talk?" Jason broke the ice for her.
"Yeah," Lara sighed, staring up into the darkening sky. Evening was coming quickly, and the sun had already set. "It's about earlier," she started, hesitantly.
"Lara, I'm so sorry about hurting Tony," Jason told her. "After Scotty caught me in the balls, I didn't know what I was doing, and-"
"Jason, enough. No one is hurt, and it was an accident," Lara interrupted. "I'm not concerned by it, and you healed Tony's ribs, so no harm done anyway."
"Yeah, I healed his ribs, but I'm not sure if I healed the other injury," Jason worried. "It wasn't like anything I felt earlier, when you were teaching me."
"A dead area, with bits and pieces that don't quite match up with the rest of his body?" Lara guessed. "And your efforts at healing went nowhere, just bounced off?"
"Yeah," Jason agreed, "How'd you know?"
"You didn't do that, Jason. What you felt..." Lara sighed. "What you felt was phantom limbs... only it wasn't a limb that was missing."
Jason blinked. Wait, was she saying... "You don't mean his... well..."
"His mother didn't like him wetting the bed, and when she lost her temper..." Lara shook her head. "There are many things we can do, but we cannot hope to regrow his body."
"I think I'm going to be sick," Jason said. Lara touched his shoulder and suddenly the sensation vanished. "How did you do that?"
Lara smiled slightly and answered, "Retching is a physical reflex, in this case caused by your body producing a couple of chemicals as a result of the psychological distress you were under. Breaking those chemicals down and making sure your body doesn't produce more is easy."
"For you, maybe," Jason laughed for a moment. "Poor kid," he whispered. "Funny thing is, I thought I found a way to heal it!"
"Oh really?" Lara asked.
"Yeah," Jason said. "I created an energy that acted kinda like your quick-heal approach. It diffused across an area, then slowly moved towards the injury. It corrects the cells in front of it and slowly builds outward, never quite hitting injured tissue because it heals and restores ahead of itself."
Lara blinked for a few moments. "I think I'm going to need to examine Tony and see what exactly you did!" she exclaimed at last. "But... that's not really what I wanted to talk to you about."
"Oh?" Jason asked.
"Yeah, it's about Scotty," she told him.
"The panic attack?" Jason asked sadly.
"Yeah," Lara admitted. "He was on the verge of a flashback and scared out of his mind," she said sadly. "He ran and that just made things worse, because his father would hurt him if he tried to get away from a punishment."
"Shit," Jason swore softly.
"It gets worse, Jason," Lara said equally softly. "You've taken the role of 'father' in his mind, and whether we like it or not you must be his daddy. No one else can."
"Well, I guess I get to spend a lot of time here," Jason said with a ghost of a grin.
"No, you don't," Lara said with a sigh. "Even if your own life didn't keep you busy, and we both know it will, he associated 'daddy' with rape, and breaking that isn't going to be an overnight process."
"So, Doctor Lara," Jason asked, "what do I do?"
"I don't know, Jason, I just don't know," she answered. "Too many imponderables, and the way his powers have activated and fixated him on you is outside my psych training."
"Well, do you at least have some advice?" Jason asked.
"Continue as you have begun," she suggested. "He enjoyed the game you were playing, right up until it reminded him of the things his father had done. I don't know why, but I think he craves the normal rough-housing and dominance type games any child would engage in with their parents."
"Wait a second," Jason shook his head. "He wants me to do the things that trigger his flashbacks?"
"Not so much that, as..." Lara shook her head. "Human development 101: children like to play-fight, or rough house as it's commonly called. When parents, other adults, or significantly older or stronger children are involved, this usually involves a kind of dominance game where the larger individual pins or otherwise controls the younger."
"Alright, and where are we going with this?" Jason asked.
"Scotty's father abused him, badly, and turned that play-dominance into the real thing. But from what I can tell, that may be a relatively recent thing," Lara explained. "I still haven't come close to doing a detailed case study or anything like that, but I think Scotty remembers the 'good old days' and wants those back."
"He wants to be pinned... because he used to enjoy it? But the rape trauma... I mean, if anyone tried anything like that with me!" Jason protested.
"Different situation, Jason. You're an adult now, full adult stature and you just don't expect to be dominated by anyone. Whereas he's a child, stuck with being dominated every day of his life for a very, very long time," Lara argued. "Sure, it isn't a physical dominance, but at some level he remembers how much fun he had when his parents controlled him, and so long as the more recent memories don't come to the fore, he enjoys it now."
"OK, this just seems sick to me Lara," Jason said angrily.
"Jason, think about it!" Lara begged. "Back when you were a kid, didn't your parents play games with you? Something where they were in control, and you enjoyed it?"
Jason took a deep breath to deny it, then paused. "Jason sandwiches..." he whispered with a slight smile. "God, it's been so long..."
"Jason sandwiches?" Lara asked, confused.
Jason smiled as he nodded, "Yeah, that's what we called them. They'd take the pillows off the couch and stick me between them, threaten to eat me all up. If Paul was around, sometimes they'd toss him on top and add another pillow!"
"Ah, yes," Lara smiled. "My parents just took me by the arms and legs and threw me onto the couch again... and again... and again!"
"Sounds like fun!" Jason commented.
"Yeah, until I grew 'too old' for that type of games, because 'girls shouldn't play rough'," she commented sourly. "Eric..." tears welled up in her eyes and she broke off and started sobbing.
"I'm sorry, Lara, I'm so sorry," Jason told her as he took her in his arms. "We'll finish this conversation later, for now just cry..."