Lara shoved the e.p.t. box back into Ashley's hands and ran from the room. Jason turned and glared at Ronan. "OK, what do you know?"
"There are some things-" Ronan began.
"Ronan Koken, you contemptible, no-good, devious, plotting son-of-bitch," Ashley swore, "for once in a lifetime answer a straight question with an honest answer!"
Ronan snarled, "Do not address me in such a tone, _woman!"_
"Then give an honest answer when it's called for!" Ashley shouted back, tears in her eyes.
"I will answer in a manner appropriate to the situation, and you will accept that, or I will destroy you!" Ronan answered her, hands and eyes starting to gleam with a dim light.
"Ronan, I don't think violence is the answer here," Paul interrupted, coming to stand between them.
"There are more ways of destruction than the purely physical, Paul, and I will destroy her with three true sentences if she doesn't back off _right now!"_
"Fuck. You!" Ashley swore, tears in her eyes. "I've always supported you, and now when I need you you turn on me? You _bastard!"_
"Lara loves you, as a friend," Ronan said, cracking the phrase 'as a friend' like he would a whip. "Lara has always loved you, as a friend," again he cracked the whip. "Lara will always love you, _as a friend."_
Ashley stared at him, pale faced for a few seconds, before running from the room, sobbing. Jason could feel the waves of sorrow and despair rolling off her.
Ronan snarled, "Do not address me in such a tone, woman!" Jason put his hand to his temple and shook his head, leaning on Paul for support as a wave of disorientation rushed through him.
"You OK?" Paul asked as Ashley demanded an honest answer.
"Just a moment of déjà vu, nothing- oh crap!" Jason bolted upright as Ronan stood taller, threatening destruction.
"Ronan," Paul began to protest.
"Don't you dare Ronan!" Jason interrupted. "That's too far."
"Excuse me?" Ronan said flatly.
"I said that's to far. Some words cut too deep, too far. You will not do this," Jason ordered, instinctively reaching out with more than words.
"And who are you to give me orders? By what right-" Ronan began.
"By the right that you're completely out of control!" Jason broke in. "By the right that I will not allow you to wound Ashley so deeply. By the right that if you push this, I will destroy you. Just as you sought to destroy Ashley," Jason knew he could carry through the threat. He knew it.
"Oh really, and how do you plan to do that?" Ronan sneered. "I know Ashley, you barely even-"
"Justin," Jason said flatly, his magical insight shifting to answer his need. Ronan fell silent, as did everyone else, just staring at Jason. "My Sight extends not just to present, but to future and past Ronan. I haven't dug in, I haven't searched, but when I look at you that name shows even more strongly than your own." Jason could see it now that he looked, now that he needed to see it. Ronan's name was there, strong, but unlike Lara and Ashley and Paul and most others, his own name wasn't the strongest. Another name pulsed at the edges of his vision. It wasn't written over him like text, or a picture... For a moment Jason struggled to define how he Saw a name, something that is only a sequence of sounds, before he gave up. He saw it, and that was that. He Saw... he didn't See the words themselves, but the meaning.
Shame. Guilt. Horror. Sorrow. Now that he looked Ronan shone with shame and sorrow, guilt and despair. "You can't... that's impossible!" Ronan protested.
"Possible, or impossible, I can. Back off, or else..." Jason threatened.
"You can't... that's a secret! I hid that, I hid that so no one could find it! It's dead, dead and buried!" Ronan shouted.
"I haven't looked, but I imagine if I push, if I really look and I sharpen my vision, I can get another name, Ronan. I can find your middle name, that you've hidden so well... What the hell?" Jason blinked. "Your name is Koken, not Joyce!"
Ronan took a step backward, shaking his head and tears ran from his eyes. "No," he whispered. "Oh God, no, please no..."
"What are you talking about, Jason?" Ashley asked, shocked at Ronan's reaction. He was about an inch from breaking down into outright sobbing.
"Well, I didn't know his middle name, you yourself said he kept it secret, and I thought if I pushed I could find it without actually digging into that second name. The one he's kept hidden. Leave him some privacy even as I proved my ability to dig," Jason explained. "I wasn't expecting... well, I suppose I should have realized his name was assumed. Koken isn't a normal name, I wonder..." A flash of vision showed Jason a moment of quiet contemplation years past... Ronan flipping numbly through a book... "Ouch!" Jason pressed his hand against his temple again. " I need to get that under control sometime soon... Something about reading a book, a English-Japanese dictionary I think..."
"Please, no more, please..." Ronan begged, falling to his knees. "Please, Jason, I beg you from my knees: no more! Let that past remain buried, and forgotten. I beg you, please."
"Ronan, whatever it is it can't be that bad," Ashley began. The doorbell chose exactly that moment to ring. "Perfect timing, as normal... I'll get that, I don't want the kids overhearing us." Ashley said, moving to the hallway just outside. As she left the room, she announced to the rest of the house that she had the door.
"Ronan, I'm not going to go anywhere else with this," Jason promised, "not unless you make me. You were completely out of control, and I had to yank you up short.
"Please, don't Jason, just... please, don't!" Ronan begged. "Let it die, I beg you!"
"Master Hitoshi!" Ashley exclaimed loudly enough to be heard, presumably having just opened the front door.
"Master Hitoshi?" Ronan asked. "Perfect timing, as usual," he commented rather bitterly, rising to his feet. "Too late to do any good."
"Do my ears hear a student in need of a good thwacking?" a deep, gravelly voice commented. "I may be ancient, but my ears are still sharp!" A short, skinny man walked into the room, Ashley politely guiding him. Jason gaped as he took in the deep lines and spotting of the mans skin, a sharp contrast to the ease with which he moved. "Ah, hello there young ones, we haven't met yet. I presume one of you is Jason, and the other Paul?"
"I am Jason," Jason introduced himself, "and this is my brother, Paul. I take it you've heard of us, Mr... ?"
"I am Hitoshi Seki, called Master Hitoshi by my many students," the man announced. "Such as Ronan, and occasionally Ashley. Lara... we never got along well, but she too has trained under me. And now that you have become Guardians, or so I have heard, you too will study with me for a time." Hitoshi smiled at them and turned to face Ronan and said chidingly, "Now, why did you not introduce-" He froze, mid sentence, as he got a good look at Ronan. Sighing, he asked coolly, "What happened here?"
"Forgive me, master," Ronan whispered, falling back to his knees and bowing his head. "I have failed... again."
"Failure is to be expected, you are human, but never desired," Hitoshi answered. "Your temper, I suppose?"
"Yes master. As always, master," Ronan answered, slightly bitter.
"You are no longer a child!" Hitoshi snapped. "Do not whine as one!"
"Many apologies, master," Ronan apologized, dropping his face to the ground in a kneeling bow for a moment.
"And on your feet, like a man!" Hitoshi added angrily. "Your fa- Others may have insisted on such behavior, but I do not stand on such ceremony!"
"My failure is great, master," Ronan admitted.
"How great, Ronan?" Hitoshi snapped the name. "How great can it be, to deserve this?"
"I would have wounded a friend in heart and soul, with words that cut deeper than my sword," Ronan said.
Hitoshi shook his head. "I taught you better, boy!"
"I have never... this lesson has always been the hardest, master," Ronan answered.
"OK, I hate to break this little reunion up, but who exactly are you?" Jason asked Hitoshi.
"I am a friend, and a teacher, to Ronan and the group he has gathered," Hitoshi answered. "I am a master of the martial arts, skilled with weapons of both mind and body. I have trained many students in many arts over the years. Not the least of which is this lout," pointing at Ronan, "and his difficulty in controlling his temper." Ronan again pressed his face the floor. Jason was starting to get worried, this kind of behavior- "Don't worry about it, Jason, he's always acted like this around me. When I first started training him... such behavior was required by another, and the habit has stuck."
"Required by his 'fah'... you broke off in the middle, but... father?" Jason asked.
"That is a question you should know better than to ask," Hitoshi gently reprimanded Jason. "Many secrets are kept. I will not break them. I do not know why I came so close, but I will not go further."
"Alright, I can buy that. But sooner or later, the secret will out. You can't keep it, or any other secret, forever," Jason warned.
Hitoshi laughed, "So I've told Ronan, several times."
Ronan looked away, uncomfortable.
"I think perhaps Ronan is pretending he can," Paul pointed out, "and is uncomfortable with us-"
"Enough!" Ronan snapped, rising to his feet. "It's my prerogative to try to keep this secret. And unless someone blabs," he glared at Hitoshi, "in all likelihood I will!"
"If this attitude of yours were you standing up for yourself as a man, I wouldn't be so concerned," Hitoshi said sternly, "but this is nothing more than a temper tantrum, and I will not tolerate it, Ronan."
"You won't tolerate it?" Ronan sneered, then took a deep breath. Then another. "I'm out of control, aren't I?"
"Yes, you are," Hitoshi agreed sadly. "What's happening?"
"Eric... he and I talked, a lot. He knew... he knew more than anyone else about... about it. I think he..." Ronan looked away. "He did something. I don't know what, but ever since he died it's been fraying. I think that's why I started drinking, not just grief, but..."
"Shit," Ashleys swore, pinching the bridge of her nose. "He could not have been that stupid!"
"What do you... oh fuck!" Ronan swore. "You don't think... he couldn't have been that stupid!"
"What are you two talking about?" Jason asked.
"Eric did something to help Ronan, and now that he's dead it's making things worse," Paul deduced. "And they think it was a stupid mistake."
"It was a stupid... if I could get my hands on that idiot!" Ashley shook her head. "It fits, it fits a little too perfectly for it to be anything else. He was warned not to... damn him!"
Ronan sat down, and stared at his feet. "Jason... look at me. Use your gift and really look. Look for..." Ronan clearly searched for the right words. "Look for a place where a brace is missing, where my psyche is collapsing because it's no longer being held up."
Jason looked, and he Saw. He couldn't have put it into words if he tried, but he Saw. He looked away, sickened, then took a deep breath and faced it again. Crossing the room, he reached out and touched Ronan's face with one hand, fingers spread to touch several separate points. "What are you trying to do, mind meld with him?" Paul snorted.
"Good idea, but no..." Jason whispered. "Ronan, what happened is within you. Completely within you. The braces... they didn't fail because of Eric's death, they were simply overstressed. Too much. They weren't designed... they couldn't possibly handle the stress you put on them. And the signature... I can see the signature of who did it, and it wasn't Eric."
"Who then?" Ronan asked.
"The bracers, the supports... you made them yourself," Jason said with certainty. "They were spun of your own mind, your own essence."
"I wouldn't- I couldn't!" Ronan protested.
"You did. You didn't know you were doing it, but you did. And there's more..." Jason dug deeper. "Oh. My. God. That night, all those months ago... and ever since you've been suppressing it!"
"What are you talking about?" Ronan complained as Jason backed away, shaking his head.
"Remember that night, right after I arrived? When I... offered myself to you?" Jason asked.
"Yes, I remember it! It was a damn fool move, you know, but under the circumstances-" Ronan began.
"Think about it, I mean really think!" Jason ordered. "How did you react? Not the rebuff, but how did you feel?"
"What do you mean? I was upset... I was..." Ronan stammered and shook his head. "God, no... No!"
"Yes, and you have to remember. You're destroying yourself!" Jason warned.
"What are you talking about, Jason?" Ashley asked.
"Ronan is using his powers, unconsciously, to suppress something he didn't want to deal with," Jason said.
"He's... oh shit, you can't do that, not to yourself!" Ashley protested. "It's impossible, if only because..."
"Because our power always tries to act more efficiently. If I find someone... attractive... how much easier is it to change the parts of my personality that make him attractive, that to simply suppress the attraction," Ronan whispered. "I did this to myself? Are you sure?"
"Yes. And when Eric died... not only the grief, but the sudden awareness of my..." Jason looked away, blushing.
"I need... I need some privacy..." Ronan whispered as he got up. "I'm going to go home, and meditate on this for a while. I'll... I guess I'll have to undo this, and I don't want to hurt anyone while I..."
"I'll get Lara, you need... shit, she's not going to be any good," Jason rubbed his face with his hand.
"I know someone else... he's not as good at Lara, but he can help," Ronan looked at Jason sadly. "How much else did... I mean..."
"I didn't get much of anything about what you're thinking, I just... looked at the structure," Jason assured him.
"Good, and... thank you," Ronan whispered as he left.
"Well, that was an interesting visit," Hitoshi said. "I'm going to follow him, have a little talk. Make sure he actually calls Vincent. Farewell." Hitoshi left without another word.
"Well, that was interesting," Ashley said. "Now, Jason... what exactly was Ronan going to say?"
"I don't know what you mean," Jason evaded.
"When you cut him off, he was going to say something. Something nasty, at a guess. What was it?" Ashley didn't let go.
"Ashley, some things cut to deep, too harsh," Jason warned. "Let it drop."
"I'd like to know what could cut so hard, so deep!" Ashley pressed.
"Ashley," Jason said evenly, "he didn't say it, so just let it drop."
"Jason, please..." she sighed. "Oh, you're probably right," she gave in. "I'm going to go check on Mary, she and her son should have been up by now."
"If you see Lara, let her know I'm ready to listen," Jason told her. "Otherwise, I think I need to spend some time thinking about stuff."
"Actually, someone is coming over to talk to you," Ashley said. "Ronan didn't specify who, but they're going to..." Ashley bit her lip. "Even before the revelations of the last few minutes, Ronan has been trying to distance himself a little from your training. He hasn't been handling things well, and, well... he normally doesn't do anything but the martial arts stuff. He just isn't that good at it."
"Ronan?" Paul uttered in disbelief, "Not good enough?"
"Ronan," Ashley said with a little laugh, "has a lot of power, but nowhere near as much skill as he'd like to pretend. He knows it, we know it, and we all let him get away with it."
"Why?" Jason asked.
"Because," Ashley said a little sadly, "for all that he doesn't want us to know, every last one of us is completely aware of his perpetual depression. It doesn't hurt to let him pretend he's a little better than he is, and it does help him feel better about himself."
"Depressed? Ronan?" Paul said, shocked.
"I believe it. He hides it well, but look at his alcoholism at the very least," Jason agreed. "And... what I saw when I looked at him..."
"He's troubled, hell, beyond troubled," Ashley said sadly. "I don't know what it is, no one can get him to talk about it and we can't find any information on his past, but... it must be horrifying."
"The name I used..." Jason said.
"Is a key, but I doubt any of us will be able to turn it," Ashley said sadly. "Ronan Joyce... I have no clue where to start looking for a Ronan Joyce, do you?"
"Google is a good start," Jason said.
"Google?" Ashley blinked. "You know, I wonder why we didn't think of that!"
"Do you have a computer with internet access I can use?" Jason said.
"Let Paul do it, you're going to be busy soon. Cody just arrived, and since he doesn't visit very often..." Ashley shook her head. "Go get the front door, would you Jason?"
Jason laughed and went for the front door. No sooner than he'd reached it than someone pressed the door bell. "Hello, my name is Cody, and I'm looking for Jason," the tall man on the other side introduced himself.
"Jason, Jason Bester," Jason introduced himself.
"Glad to meet you. Come on, we've got some work to do," Cody said, riffling a hand through his fine blond hair. Jason followed him, hurrying a little to keep up with the quick stride Cody kept.
They sat down on a bench in a park playground, of all places, and just watched kids for a few minutes. "What are we doing here?" Jason asked.
"Watch," Cody ordered. "Ronan specifically selected this situation for you, and I have to agree it's a good place to start."
"Situation? What-" Jason frowned. "Aren't their parents going to do anything about that?"
"They didn't see, the kid is very careful to keep it from adults," Cody said sadly.
"We wouldn't have seen it if you weren't veiling us, would we?" Jason asked.
"Probably not. If he could see, well actually I mean notice, us, he would have been more careful," Cody agreed.
"Notice?" Jason asked.
"You see the nature of the veil I'm holding around us?" Cody asked.
"Yeah, I'm just not sure what it does. It's... complex," Jason admitted.
Cody laughed. "You have no idea how long it took Jericho to figure this out. It's really low energy, and all it does is make us a part of the background. We're here, but people don't actually notice us. If we wanted to make out, or more, every single person here would see, but no one would actually pay the least bit of attention."
"Make out!?" Jason's voice cracked, leaving Cody laughing helplessly. "It's not funny!" Jason protested. "I didn't even... you said you had a wife!" Cody laughed harder for a moment before getting himself under control.
"Gotcha," he giggled, then shook himself. "Now, back to business. Take a long look at that bully."
"I see him," Jason said. The kid looked to be eleven or twelve, just old enough to be moving off from playgrounds, but not quite old enough to not belong. "What should I be looking for?"
"Why is he a bully?"
"How should I know?" Jason asked.
"Ronan taught you to touch other's minds, didn't he?" Cody asked.
"Yeah, but it's not like I can march over and grab hold of him!" Jason protested.
Cody shook his head. "Physical contact is helpful, but you shouldn't need it. Just reach out with your will and touch him like that." Cody gave Jason a quick review of the process, then let him loose.
"I... I can't!" Jason gave up, sweat dripping off his forehead.
"We all have our blind spots, though this is an unusual one," Cody sighed. "I could feel you trying, it's like something is blocking you from doing it."
"Can... do you mind if I try something else?" Jason asked.
"Like?" Cody asked, curious.
"Well, I have this... insight. One of the ways it works is... well, it's like touching their minds, only I look at them instead of using my will," Jason tried to explain. "It's like a second way of looking at things, a Sight that uses the mind instead of the eyes."
"Try it, it might just be you have some kind of Gift I don't know how to train," Cody admitted. "Not all of us have Gifts, but... they sure prove useful!"
"Gifts are those extra abilities that crop up every now and again, right?" Jason asked, as he turned back to the bully.
"Yeah, pain in the rear to train sometimes, but usually very useful," Cody said. "Doing any better?"
"It's... too much!" Jason complained. "I don't think I can restrict this the way I can mind touching, I'm getting too much info to sift through, and I-" Jason broke off his gaze and rubbed his temples. "So much... just too much..."
"You OK?" Cody asked, rubbing Jason's back.
"Not really," Jason complained. "I saw... I think I saw everything that answered my question, not just the bits I needed."
"So, how bad is it?" Cody asked.
"Well, I'm still trying to make sense of what I saw, and the headache is killer, but..." Jason frowned as he reviewed what he'd Seen. "I think part of the problem is his home life. There are other things, but... I'm not sure what him, ah, well... her was... er..." Jason stammered, not sure how to say it.
Cody gazed at the kid in question for a few moments before shaking his head. "I'm going to guess David -- that's his name, by the way, David -- was masturbating?"
"Yeah, I have no clue what that has to do with anything though," Jason blushed as he answered.
"I do," Cody said, "but try and figure it out on your own. See if the information is in there somewhere. Let the Guiding guide your thoughts if you really need it."
"I think it's staring me right in the face, but I just can't seem to..." Jason paused. "Oh damn. Isn't he a little young to be worrying about his... oh, his father, of course!"
"So, tell me the problems, all of them, and then tell me how you think they can be fixed," Cody ordered.
"First, his home life sucks. Abusive parents, with no other family to speak of, no uncles or aunts or grandparents that he thinks are going to intervene. His bullying is a cry for help or attention or something. Second, he's starting to think he's gay and he's trying to assert his masculinity in the way his father wants him to."
"Anything else?" Cody prompted when Jason paused.
"I'm not... There is something, I'm just not sure what it means. It isn't his mind I was looking at, it was something... in the past..." Jason closed his eyes for a few moments before shaking his head. "I have no clue what it is, but it's important. I saw, for a few seconds, two people in bed. One is his mother, another I don't recognize, and then his father..." Jason blinked. "His father, staring at it. His father was... a metaphor, or something. He wasn't physically there, but somehow... he knows about..."
"Jason," Cody asked carefully. "His father, you keep talking about David's father. Is he the father of the boy, or just the guy the boy calls Dad?"
Jason blinked, then groaned. "I'm an idiot for not seeing that, aren't I?"
"Not really," Cody admitted. "I've seen the pattern before, though I usually don't recognize it until I see the parents."
"His 'father' knows David isn't his son, that's why he's abusive to both the kid and his mother!" Jason suddenly understood.
"Yeah, and I bet that's why the mother isn't as close as she should be, she blames the kid for her marital problems," Cody agreed. "What's your solution?"
"Well, the second 'problem' can be dealt with by simply talking to him," Jason said thoughtfully. "I'm not sure how to solve the first, though."
"Do you have any ideas? And don't forget to listen to the Guiding if it says anything," Cody reminded Jason.
"Well... I think I need to take a closer look before I can decide anything," Jason said. "I'll trail David home and take a closer look?"
"That works. I'll hold the veil while we do that, just to keep you free to pay attention to other things, though," Cody decided. They waited for a while as they watched the kids, with Jason taking the occasion to look at some of the other troublemakers. The one he'd picked out first was the only real trouble spot, the others were just mischievous kids who needed reigning in by parents more than willing and able to do the job. All they had to do was draw the parents attention to the kids at the right moment, for those parents who were there, or some adult who knew the kids parents. Jason couldn't read minds at a distance, but he discovered he was more than capable of planting light suggestions from a distance, just enough to draw attention where he needed it. "In all probability, the reason you can't read minds from a distance is because your 'Sight' wants to be used for the task, and is jumping in," Cody theorized.
Then David moved off, and they followed him home. Jason kept a distant eye on him as he chatted idly with Cody. Cody kept throwing him theoretical problems and walking Jason through the magical means of how to deal with them, and the associated ethics. It was educational as they followed David's wandering path home. "He's trying to avoid going home, isn't he?" Jason asked.
"You're here to try and help him, Jason, there's nothing unethical about reading his mind for that information," Cody pointed out.
"Yeah, but when I look I see so much, not just what I'm looking for," Jason complained.
"You'll have to work on that," Cody admitted. "Going and digging around his entire mind, rather than just the information you need to help wouldn't be quite as ethical."
"Still, I can't help but feel that it isn't right to push at all, I mean doesn't he have the right to privacy?" Jason asked.
Cody smiled and shook his head. "Weighty thoughts, but we -- the Guardians as a whole, that is -- faced that question a while back. You don't know him, you aren't involved in his situation at all, so you can look at the stuff you find from a 'neutral' perspective of sorts. So long as you never use the information except to help him, you're clear. Just like a doctor or headshrinker gets to know everything about the patient, because they need to to help him, but are bound to secrecy regarding it."
"Doesn't seem right, but... I'll take your word for it," Jason conceded the point. "I think this is his home up here, look he's turning into the apartment building."
"Alright, how do you want to play this?" Cody asked.
Jason looked around quickly. "I don't see anywhere to hide, so... enter the building and follow him up the stairs?"
"Sounds good enough," Cody admitted. "But look there, and there, and there," he pointed out several spots on the street, "we could hide easily enough there. But the stairs are better for our purposes, we'll be closer if we have to intervene." Jason led the way to the apartment building and opened the door, fooling the electronic locking mechanism by pulling the push-bar on the other wide towards him. Slipping in, they found the stairwell and trudged up it, listening to the kid tromping on the stairs a floor or two above them. Pretty soon he exited the stairwell and they were left, standing by the exit and straining their senses to follow them.
"This is always the hardest part for me," Cody admitted. "It's hard for me to keep a touch on the mind of someone I can't see, and I can't let go because I'll have a hard time finding him again."
Jason looked at Cody through half-lidded eyes and smiled, "I'm actually not having too much trouble with it, my Sight doesn't require line of sight."
"We all do better at some things," Cody said philosophically. "Just keep an eye on the big picture, not just the kid."
"Will do," Jason acknowledged as he watched what was going on inside the apartment, careful not to loose himself in the kid's mind.
David hoped he wasn't too early. Mother had sent him out earlier, when Jared had come over, telling him to go to the playground for a few hours.
David wasn't completely sure what Jared was doing here, but he had his suspicions. He was twelve, not stupid, and the fact that Mom absolutely did not want dad to know about Jared was rather telling. Oh well, at least she wouldn't be beating him for those few hours, and would probably be in a good mood all night unless Dad ruined it.
Dad. It always came down to Dad. If only Dad loved him a little more, maybe mother wouldn't be so mean. David almost wondered, at times, what Dads problem was. It was like... It was as if... Well, Dad just didn't love him.
David froze, hand on the doorknob to the apartment. That was absurd, but... but... Never once had he gotten a 'good job son', or 'love you' from Dad. Not once. Dad's were supposed to love their sons, and he'd always assumed that Dad loved him, but what if... what if...
Did he dare just ask? Dad was mean, but he did like David being direct about things. If he was in a good mood, anyway. But something like this... did he dare? How would Dad react, how would Mom react?
David opened the door and glanced around. "Hey Mom," he called out.
"I see you're finally back," Mom snapped at him. "Set the table for dinner already!"
"Right away, Mom," David breathed a sigh of relief. Not too late today, or too early, so no beating for now.
Jason felt like throwing up. "I want to march in there and kill them. Both of them!" he said angrily.
"That makes two of us, but it isn't right. There are, for now, other options," Cody pointed out.
"That's the only reason those two bastards are still alive!" Jason snapped. "Thank God in Heaven that we got here in time!" Cody snorted. "What?" Jason asked defensively.
"I just didn't expect you to be so much of a Bible-thumper," Cody answered a trifle wary. "Not after your parents used religion to kick you out like that!"
"I can hardly blame God for their actions," Jason said with a small smile. "He gave us all free will to do with as we please, and blaming Him for the actions of people, or even one of His churches, is unfair and wrong."
"Perhaps, but a lot of people do it anyway. Especially when they've been through as much as you have."
"Perhaps," Jason allowed, "but I'm not most people. Now, we have a job to do and this religious discussion is useless."
"Yeah, it is," Cody agreed.
"To the job, it's useless to the job not in general!" Jason snapped a few moments later.
"As you say," Cody said with a slight grin. "But it would have been fun to needle you with it."
"Perhaps. Now, back to work..." Jason felt his mind strain as he oh-so-gently reached out and probed the mother's mind with his new trick. For a second a million images cascaded uselessly through his mind, washing over it like a tsunami.
"You OK?" Cody asked as Jason staggered under the impact, memories washing out like a tide save for the few that answered his questions.
"It can't be that simple!" Jason exclaimed as he recovered.
"What?" Cody asked, confused.
"I've been doing it bass ackwards the whole time!" Jason exclaimed with a grin.
"Could you start from the beginning, please?" Cody requested.
"When I use my trick to see into others minds, it works... differently than you guy's trick does. I've been trying to control what I see by focusing on what I want and only letting the related images in but it doesn't work. It's draining, at best, to try and it doesn't really work. So don't bother!"
Jason grinned. It wasn't completely right, he'd Seen Ronan earlier that day and controlled it differently on pure reflex, but it was close enough for now.
"Jason, going in for the information we need to help is one thing, but taking their entire mind!" Cody protested.
"That's not what I'm doing," Jason laughed. "I focus on what I need, and let the images wash over me, and I only hold onto the ones I need. Think of it... think of it as me standing in front of a wave and letting it crash over me. Most of the water goes right back into the ocean, while a little of it gets trapped in my clothes and my hair and on my skin."
Cody shook his head in confusion. "I won't even pretend to understand what you're talking about, but at least you've figured out how to control it," he sighed.
"Well, I'm going to try it again on both of them, the right way this time," Jason said with a grin. Closing his eyes and taking a deep breath, he reached out... and started swearing.
"What's wrong?" Cody asked. Jason's eyes popped open and he looked at Cody sadly.
"We're too late, far, far too late," Jason said with tears in his eyes. "You guys should have taken care of this a week ago, when you still had time."