"Jason, could you please tell me what's wrong?" Ronan asked one last time as they lay in bed. Jason simply shook his head where it rested on Ronan's shoulder.
"I need to think through some things, and I need to do it myself," he said softly.
"Alright, love," Ronan whispered. Slowly his breath deepened, and Jason allowed his own to follow suit.
Jason floated in darkness and watched as the stars rolled by. The darkness wrapped around him and held him close, comfortable, like a warm blanket. He was content. Simply content.
There were things out in the darkness, but he didn't concern himself with them. They were held at bay by the barriers. Those barriers had stood firm and strong for an eternity, and while they were weakening they had yet to break.
Close by he sensed another, and Jason twisted in the warm, soothing darkness to find him. He reached his arms out to find the other, curious. He sensed something try to push towards them and batted it aside as he grabbed hold of the other. Slowly he pulled the other towards him until they were close. Turning the other around, he recoiled in shock and horror as the face of a monster revealed itself to him. He turned and tried to push the other away, to hide in the darkness again, but it was too late. The monster had seen him and had come alive, a thousand tentacles in a roiling mass shooting out to grab Jason and pull him in. They wrapped around him, binding his arms and legs and covering every inch of his body. He didn't want to see the face behind the mask, he didn't_! Slowly the creature drew him in and at it's heart he saw what he feared seeing the most._
Jason bolted upright in a cold sweat, choking a scream back as he tried to breathe. For a few seconds he panted, staring wild-eyed around the room before he recognized where he was. "Ronan's room," he mumbled to himself.
Stumbling out of bed, he managed to find his way to the attached restroom. Turning the taps, he poured some cold water into the sink. Leaning over to splash it in his face, he took a deep breath. When he stood back up, he froze in horror as arms wrapped around him and hugged his suddenly naked form tightly. "Been a long time, boy," Mr. Carpenter whispered in Jason's ears as he wrestled the petrified man to the ground. Only suddenly it wasn't Mr. Carpenter on top of him, forcing his way-
"NO!" Jason screamed, calling his powers. Last time he'd been taken by surprise, and the idea of deliberately causing harm to another human being had been unthinkable.
This time might have been a surprise, but he had the training and the will to make use of it. Even if his body was frozen stiff, he mind most assuredly was not, and the weight holding him down went flying even as his eyes snapped open, a snarl on his lips.
Jason twisted around on the bed, bringing his hands up as he called power into them. Lightning crackled as he prepared to strike, his snarl turning into a scream, a war cry. Never again!
"Rape me will you?" Jason snarled, venting his fury against Ronan, who was still pinned against the wall by Jason's will. Seconds before the blasts of energy struck, Ronan managed to raise a shield and break the hold Jason was holding on him. Ducking and rolling to the side, Ronan threw a quick succession of stun bolts that caught Jason squarely in the chest, clubbing him into unconsciousness.
But Jason refused to go out that easy, and clawed his way back before the darkness could completely claim him. Screaming, he leaped to his feet to find an empty room, one wall charred where his blast had leaked past Ronan's hasty shield. Blinking in surprise and chest heaving, he glared at the empty room as his heart began to slow.
"Jason," Lara called from outside the room a few minutes later, "are you alright?"
"No," Jason said flatly, shaking his head in an effort to clear it. Slowly he was shrugging off the effects of sleep enough to realize that the chain of events didn't make sense, didn't add up. He'd been in the bathroom... a nightmare?
Jason didn't even realize he'd asked the question out loud until he heard Lara sigh and answer, "That fits with what Ronan said, so... probably. Can I come in, or will you try to kill me too?"
"Oh God, I... fuck!" Jason swore as he grabbed a sheet and pulled it around himself. "Come on in, I'm decent," he called out.
Lara poked her head in and smiled at him. "You OK?" she asked as she came all the way in.
"Ronan, did I hurt him?" Jason asked.
"He'll live, both of us are more concerned about you," she answered, sitting down beside him. "Want to talk about it?"
Jason shook his head reflexively. No, he most definitely did not. "I don't want to," he groaned.
"I can certainly understand that-" Lara started.
"But I need to," Jason cut her off.
"Yes," she agreed, throwing an arm over his shoulder and pulling him in close in an effort to comfort him.
Jason stiffened, then very slowly and deliberately lifted the arm off his shoulder. Feeling confined was not something he needed at the moment. "Don't," he told her tersely.
"Sorry," she responded. "I should have remembered."
"Yes, you should have," he snapped, then bolted off the bed to the restroom. He didn't quite make it, and ended up on his knees in front of the door, retching all over the carpet.
"Jason, oh Jason," Lara sighed, rubbing his back.
"Aren't you going to do that thing?" he asked as his heaves settled down.
"Too risky," she told him with another sigh. "What's going on in your skull, both the injury itself and the healing process, are as much chemical as they are psychological; if I mess with the hormones and chemicals your body is generating, I have literally no way to predict the results. Rape trauma is just too extensive, it screws up your mind in so many ways. Remove or reduce the wrong chemical..." Jason could hear her shrug. "I took a big enough risk placing low level, weak suggestions to guide your mind away from flash backs and bad dreams last time. Those were purely psychological, and relatively safe. Now? Between your own powers and the extensive nature of the damage, there is nothing I can do."
"It was him this time, Lara. It was him," Jason started crying, adding tears to the mess in front of him.
"He's in jail, and not likely-"
"No, you stupid bi-" Jaosn swallowed his words and the irrational surge of anger.
"Mood swings are normal, Jason," Lara told him, touching his cheek and slowly dragging his gaze to meet hers. "I won't hold it against you, and trying too hard to control it causes it's own problems."
Jason managed to suppress the snarl that wanted to come out, but ended up weeping instead. "It was Ronan!" he managed to force out as he threw himself into Lara's arms. Lara was very careful to comfort him without actually confining him in any way. An arm rubbing his shoulder, another at the small of his back, but placed so that she had no strength to hold him. Jason felt that freedom and just sobbed harder.
"Shhh," she said softly. "Let it out. Let it all out..."
"So, want to tell me what brought this on?" Lara asked later.
"A nightmare," Jason told her, wrapped up in several sets of blankets as he curled on the bed. Lara had done quite a bit after he'd cried himself out, cleaning up his mess, wrapping him in blankets, and placing a spell over the wall to hide the charred spot where his lightning had struck. He didn't have the heart to remind her he could see straight through the illusion. She'd probably noticed the way he kept his back to that wall, though. There wasn't much she missed.
"That's normal," she told him. "Tell me about it?"
Jason shook his head. "I don't remember a lot of it. There was... more than one," he said slowly. "The first one was bad, but it wasn't... it didn't cause this."
"Take your time," she told him, smiling gently in reassurance.
"The first one... it was Ronan's face. There was... a monster?" Jason shook his head. "Beyond that, I didn't even feel it at the time... something..." Jason's brow furled. "There was something I missed. Something important!" He shook his head. "It doesn't..." Jason shrugged. "It's not important, I suppose. The first dream isn't really that clear at all. It's the second that..."
"Tell me," Lara asked gently.
Jason closed his eyes and shuddered. "I woke up. Do you understand? I woke up! I went to the restroom, splashed some water on my face. And then he was behind me -- Carpenter. And then it was Ronan instead. And I couldn't move, and then I could, and I nearly killed Ronan, but I didn't but he would have deserved it and-" Jason didn't realize he was babbling until Lara shook him.
"Take a deep breath," she ordered him. "Order your thoughts. Concentrate on them, force them into clarity. Then speak."
Jason tried, oh God how he tried. "I woke up. I dreamed that I woke up. I went into the restroom, and it was Carpenter all over again. I was pinned, helpless, powerless. Then, in the middle, it changed to Ronan. And the sheer shock started to wear off, the sheer horror... I lashed out. I struck out. Only I was awake -- really awake -- and it was Ronan just trying to wake me up that I hit." Jason dropped his head into his hands and moaned. "I tried to kill him!"
"It's alright, Jason, he understands. We all understand," she tried to reassure him.
"You don't understand," Jason whined. He knew it was a whine and hated it but couldn't help himself. "I tried to kill him because-" Jason shut his mouth with a click. "I learned something today," he whispered.
"Learned what?" Lara asked.
Jason considered, for about half a second, telling her. "You wouldn't believe me if I told you," he finally said.
"Jason, I'll believe just about anything you try and tell me," Lara reassured him.
"And even if you would, I'm not sure I should tell you," Jason countered. "It's not my place to tell you it."
"So, that shoe is on the other foot now?" Lara giggled. Jason blinked before joining in.
"You've got a point, I don't think I've ever had an excuse to use that line before!" he agreed.
"Well, I'll respect that. But if it's affecting you this badly, don't you think you need to talk about it?" Lara asked.
"How can I?" Jason whispered. "I'd be ruining it. He's spent so much time working on keeping that secret, so much time..." Jason sighed. "And I'm not even sure about it!"
"Jason, with so much hidden I'm not sure what direction I can go without stepping on a landmine," Lara said gently. "But this much I'm completely certain of: you can trust Ronan. Talk to him."
"That's just it," Jason whispered. "I can't talk to him. It would destroy him."
"What?" Lara asked, shocked.
"Pure chance. Pure luck. But... I know about his 'secret past'," Jason told her. "The secret that has eaten away at him so hard, for so long. If I tell him, if he even suspects that I know anything, it would destroy him. He'll kill himself rather than face me."
"My God," Lara whispered. "But... what about Hitoshi? He knows Ronan from way back when!"
"Hitoshi..." Jason whispered. "That's where I need to start!"
"Not yet," Lara told him. "It's the middle of the night, and you need some sleep.
"Do you really think I'm getting any sleep tonight?" Jason laughed, bitterly.
"Yes, actually I do," she told him. "Sleep, gentle sleep, will do you much good Jason. Sleep that knits up the raveled sleeve of care, the death of each day's life, sore labor's bath, balm of hurt minds great nature's second course, chief nourisher in life's feast."
Jason yawned and felt his eyelids droop. "I thought you couldn't suggest me," he commented as he felt sleep pull at him.
"I can't," Lara laughed. "But while I can't plant suggestions with my powers, I can sure use voice to weave a spell like any normal person," she kissed him on the forehead. "Sleep Jason, and let it knit up the raveled sleeve of care. Sleep, and dream no more..."
Jason still felt like crap the next morning. He didn't trust Ronan. He didn't trust Lara. He hurt too much to trust anyone. But at least Lara had given him a direction. A way to go.
"How you doing?" Ronan asked sleepily from the couch as Jason walked through the living room.
"I've been better," Jason said dully. "I'm sorry about last night," he added. "I'll be back later today."
"Jason-" Ronan started.
"I said, I will be back later," Jason told him firmly. "I'll grab breakfast from McDonald's or something. Mind if I borrow the car?"
"It's your car as much as it is mine now," Ronan told him. "We can't really marry, but..." Jason's cold glare cut him off.
"Do you mind if I borrow your car?" Jason asked, tone harsh.
"Go right ahead. Key's are by the door, as usual," Ronan answered, rolling himself back up in the blanket as he got up. "Mind checking the thermostat on your way out, it seems a bit cold in here this morning!"
"I imagine it does," Jason agreed. As he walked out the door, he checked the thermostat, and much to his surprise, the cold wasn't purely psychological. "Ronan, call a technician; looks like the heater is out. Temperature is set right, but the place isn't heating!"
Jason got as far as the car without any real problems. Sitting down in the comfortable seat, he started sobbing again. And then the anger hit. At least this time he avoided being sick, but it was just one more thing to lay at Ronan's feet. If the son of a bitch had at least told Jason already, maybe he wouldn't be dealing with everything at once like this!
On that mental note he pulled out into the road and started driving. "Off my fucking road!" he swore as he cut off a jackass to make a turn. Imagine the nerve, trying to keep him from going wherever the hell he-
Jason pulled over and took a deep breath. "I'm out of control," he whispered, wiping a tear from his eye. If he kept this up, he was going to get somebody killed. But he had to do this himself.
Pulling out slightly more sedately, he managed to avoid any near accidents as he finished his trip. Staring at the house, he tried to draw some semblance of control and strength together, but didn't find any. Deep inside he knew he was running at the ragged edge, but he just didn't care. He needed... he needed to know. And Lara would just be in the way.
Locking the car behind him, he walked up to the door and pressed the doorbell. It was still a little early in the morning for most people to be up, but some things are inevitable. It took a minute, but a very frazzled Ashley opened the door. "Yes?" she asked, blinking. "Jason!" she said, smiling. "What are you here for?"
"I needed to talk to you," he answered. "I probably could have gotten the information elsewhere, but that would have had complications."
"Information?" she asked as she waved him in, brow tightened. "What information?"
"I need to talk to Master Hitoshi," Jason told her.
"Alright, so why didn't you just ask Ronan or Lara?" she asked. "They could have told you."
"Just once could someone please answer a question when I ask it?" Jason snapped. "I told you, there are problems with asking them!"
"Are you alright, Jason?" Ashley asked, reaching out to touch his shoulder.
"No," Jason barked, flinching away from her. "Don't touch me," he added tersely.
Ashley's eyes darkened as she looked him over carefully. "What happened?"
"I'm not particularly interesting in talking," Jason responded. "Not to you."
"Jason," Ashley said slowly. "Are you really safe to be walking around like this?"
"What is that supposed to mean?" Jason asked, irritated.
"I don't know what happened, but you're jumpy. You don't want me to touch you. You're on the ragged edge of snapping, and I can feel it." Ashley licked her lips. "I don't know much about your past, but I do know a bit, and I can guess a lot from that about what's going on."
"Oh, really?" Jason snarled. "You can make a guess?"
"Yes, and you really should spend some time talking to Lara. Or Ronan, even, I know you two-"
"Don't talk to me about Ronan!" Jason barked, reaching out to shake her.
He wound up crumpled over in agony as a result of a hammer blow smashing into his solar plexus. "Hitting Ashley is a grade A mistake, Jason." Tommy told him angrily as he stalked towards Jason, hands held angrily ready for a fight.
Jason staggered to his feet, so angry he was literally seeing red. "You need to get a hold of yourself before you hurt someone," Tommy ordered him, "and I have no clue how to help you do that. Go talk to Lara. She's your best bet. She's dealt with this herself."
"Like hell I am!" Jason growled. "If I tell her everything that's just as bad as..." Jason's eyes narrowed. Get out of my head!
Tommy fell backwards, clutching his head in agony as Jason's attack ripped through him. Instinctively he rolled away from Jason, who smiled at the sight. "Next time, stay out of my head unless you're invited," he told the prostate teenager.
"Jason!" Ashley snapped, pulling Tommy away. "How could you?"
Tommy panted as he let Ashley pull him back up from his knees. "A light touch only," he gasped. "Just enough to see the decision to attack, but not actually see anything else."
"What else did you see while in my mind?" Jason demanded.
"Jason," Ashley said angrily, "back away slowly." Jason let his gaze lift from the teenager to her.
"He was in my head. Without my permission," he growled.
"Jason," Ashley said firmly, "back away. Slowly." Her arms slowly lifted up as if to ward off an attack. Or, as Jason suddenly recognized, to throw one of her own magically.
"I will find out what he learned," Jason growled.
"Nothing," Tommy told him. "I looked at the structure of your mind only. I know you are in pain, that you're out of control. I could see the pulse of aggression and anger that frame the intent to attack as they formed, but I couldn't see the actual thoughts, the reasons."
"If I find out you're lying," Jason threatened.
"He isn't," Ashley told him, taking a step forward. "Now, go!"
"Fine, I'll leave. Just tell me where I can find Master Hitoshi," Jason asked her.
"Why would I tell you that?" Ashley asked.
Jason chewed his lip for a moment, as Tommy backed away slowly. "You will tell me," he said slowly. "You must tell me. I need you to tell me."
"Don't bother trying that," Ashley shook her head. "You know full well suggestions don't work on Guardians."
"Mom, be careful," Tommy told her. "He's not all there."
"What do you mean?" Ashley asked as Jason just glared at her, apparently lost in thought.
"I'm not sure, I didn't recognize it at first," Tommy said slowly. "There is something wrong."
"I need to speak to Hitoshi!" Jason repeated angrily, shaking his head to try and clear it.
"Then we have a problem, because I'm not letting you near him, not like this," Ashley told him. "Tommy, can you give me a better idea?"
"We have a problem indeed," Jason told her. "Because you don't have a choice. I'll go ask someone else if you won't tell me."
"Jason-" Ashley began, only to be cut off by a voice behind Jason.
"Jason, you and I need to talk," Ronan said firmly.
Jason closed his eyes and tried to concentrate. But nothing seemed to come into focus. "What are you doing here?"
Ronan spread his hands. "The Guiding made a suggestion that I show up. Fast."
"Tell the Guiding to shove its advice up its ass, sideways!" Jason snapped angrily, barely controlling the urge to turn around and slap Ronan.
"Under the circumstances, I think not," Ronan answered him. "What's the problem?"
"She won't tell me where to find Hitoshi!" Jason growled.
"Alright. I'll take you to him," Ronan said agreeably.
"No," Jason told him.
"Why not?" Ronan asked.
"I have my reasons," Jason told him. "I have my reasons, and you're going to accept them."
"I think not," Ronan told him. "In your current state you're a danger to yourself and others, and I made a mistake letting you leave the apartment like this."
"Let?" Jason asked, turning slowly. Ronan took a step back, horror on his face as he met Jason's gaze. "You 'let' me?"
"Jason, calm down," Ronan said slowly. "Calm down, please. Think it through. Deep breaths."
"You didn't 'let' me, you don't 'let' me," Jason sneered.
"Ashley, don't try it," Ronan warned. "He's far too powerful for you to do more than tick him off. Unless you try, and I mean really try, to kill him, and I don't think that's appropriate."
"Same for you, Tommy," Jason added without even turning around. The two looked at each other and beat a hasty retreat. Jason stared at Ronan. To tell, or not to tell, that was the question. Whether it was better to suffer the discomforts of knowing in secret, or to admit to his knowledge, and by admitting destroy Ronan?
"I don't see what's funny," Ronan asked.
"I shouldn't have watched Hamlet the other day, whatever you thought," Jason told him. "I'm thinking in Shakespearean!"
"Must be fun... which scene?" Ronan tried to defuse the tension.
"To be or not to be, that is the question... for Hamlet, anyway."
"Suicide isn't an answer, Jason," Ronan told him.
Jason shook his head. "I wasn't talking of suicide. Hamlet's question was to be or not to be, mine... is something else."
"And what might that be?" Ronan asked.
"Ronan, Justin, Jason; Jacob, Alfred, Dustin; Joyce, Brown, Bester," Jason recited. "First, middle, last."
"What is... that..." Ronan's eyes widened. "I thought you weren't going to look. I thought you weren't going to look!"
"To see or not to see, that is the question," Jason recited in sing song. "To do or not to do, to kill or not... to..." Jason shook his head. "What... what are you doing?" Jason fell to his knees.
"Not... me..." Ronan shook his head as he staggered backwards. "So... tired..." he whispered. "No! Focus! Jason, stay with me!"
Jason forced himself back to his feet. A quote, half remembered, rose from memory. "I cannot be caged. I cannot be controlled. Know this as you die, ever pathetic, ever fools," he snarled, rending at the spell that was working its way over him with talons formed of pure rage. He felt the fabric of the spell rend and tear, but something else wound around it, holding it together.
"Lara?" Jason asked, infuriated. "And Ashley?"
Jason's eyes widened as he sensed a third presence, impossible, beyond those two.
"Lara..." Jason 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..."
"And me?" Jason whispered as sleep dragged him under. This time he had no strength, no will, to resist it.
Jason opened his eyes and remembered. "Hello," he said into the dark, dim void that surrounded him.
"It's been a while," Jason replied. "Have a seat," he gestured at a table and a set of chairs that appeared.
"This isn't real, why bother?" Jason laughed as he sat down in the offered seat. His doppelganger was dressed in the skin tight black leather that formed the Guardian 'uniform', and looked rather handsome in it. Buckled on either side of his belt were pistols, and the hilt of a katana stood out over one shoulder. Somehow Jason knew that the figure... his figure... should radiate menace and danger, but all he felt was the comfort, the self-assurance that would go with wearing that ensemble.
"Because the formalities should be observed?" his doppelganger offered. "Because this is going to be a long conversation, and sitting is more comfortable than standing, even inside the confines of our mind? Ours, yours, mine, whatever," the doppelganger rolled his eyes at the grammatical quandary.
"Why did you drag me here?" Jason asked. "Better yet, how?"
"I am you," the doppelganger shrugged. "I have the keys to your mind because I am your mind. Part of it, anyway. Add in Ashley's little protection and healing spell to give things a little push, and..."
"That covers the how," Jason said as his doppelganger shrugged. "Why?"
"To talk," came the slow answer. "This whole thing is confusing for both of us, but it's necessary."
"Confusing?" Jason asked.
"I am you. I am Jason. But you think of me as other. As a copy. So I think of myself as a copy despite knowing I am Jason" the doppelganger said angrily. "I'm sorry, it's... difficult."
"But you aren't... I mean, I am Jason, you're... you're..." Jason shrugged.
"And until we resolve that, I'm stuck feeling that confusion along with everything else that I've taken off your shoulders. Temporarily!" the doppelganger told him.
"Alright, pysch 101, you're my subconscious, my Id, right?" Jason asked.
"Yes, no, maybe..." the doppelganger rubbed his face miserably. "I'm not trying to be difficult here, but you're grasping around the edges of something that no one else has had to deal with in a very long time," the doppelganger told him. "You know, or, I know, that that's only part of it, and.." the doppelganger's face kept scrunching up. "I really didn't realize how unpleasant this would be!" he complained.
"We knew it would be when we set this up, but it's necessary to-" Jason started. "Wait, we... we set this up?"
"Memory's a bitch, and language doesn't cover this very well," the doppelganger agreed. "I am you, you are me..."
"OK, why don't we just stop worrying about this for a while and move onto what we set this up for?" Jason asked.
"Because, it's time to undo a very nasty knot, and the first rule of undoing knots..." the doppelganger started.
"Always start with the easiest section that presents itself at any given moment," Jason sighed. "Or if not easiest, then... most obvious."
"This is obvious, and, relatively speaking, easy," the doppelganger agreed. "Unpleasant until we've dealt with it though, so please hurry up!"
"Alright, obviously you've had time to think about this," Jason gave up. "Any thoughts?"
"Let's go over what we know," the doppelganger told him. "I am a part of your mind. You are the conscious, central aspect of the mind that is theoretically in control of daily actions. In essence, what most people think of when they think 'I', or 'me'. The logic, ethics, and other things that make up the 'core' of a person. Except emotions; those are handed 'up' to you, and I'm filtering those out for the moment. Mostly."
"I'm with you so far," Jason agreed, "mostly."
"There are other parts of the mind to worry about, however. The conscious mind can be thought of as both the tip of the iceberg, and the bridge of a ship. I -- the version of you sitting across from you -- am a representation of several other aspects of your mind. So the 'I' sitting across from you isn't a single entity. Yet much as a mind is composed of many parts, one whole, I am singular."
"No wonder I have a headache," Jason groaned and rubbed his temples, his doppelganger mirroring his actions precisely. "Did I do that?"
"I'm part of you," the doppelganger complained. "Sometimes we reach the same point at the same time."
"OK, if you're part of me, how do you know things I don't?" Jason asked.
"Isn't that obvious? Tip of the iceberg. You know it because I know it, but until I 'hand' it up to you you don't realize you know it," the doppelganger pointed out.
"You know, in books this kind of scene never goes like this," Jason complained.
"Books insist on thinking of the subconscious as a singular entity. You know full well that I am an amalgam of various instinctual layers of your mind, various suppressed desires, your 'genuine' subconscious, and the various helper layers that you aren't utilizing yet."
"Helper layers?" Jason asked, then felt his eyes cross. "OK, what the hell?"
The doppelganger dropped its head into it's hands and groaned "That hurt!" he complained.
"You're telling me?" Jason growled. "Where did that come-"
A third chair materialized, with Ronan sitting in it. And across from that, a grey mist coalesced most of the way into a fourth figure and chair, blurred past recognition.
"What the hell?" Ronan said, looking at himself. He looked good. Black skin tight leather was definitely a plus when you were as fit as he was. And the way it hugged every curve was distracting. "I do not look this good!"
"Out there you don't," the doppelganger agreed. "In here, you do."
"OK, two Jasons? What the hell is going on?" Ronan asked.
"That's what we were working on," they told him. The doppelganger inclined his head in submission to Jason, allowing him to take the lead. "This was a safety net of sorts. Somehow, at some level, when my powers activated I became aware of the compulsions Lara had woven around me in an effort to help me deal with things. And I knew it couldn't work for long."
"Part of the problem is sorting out the various parts of his mind and what came from where, which impulses were which," the doppelganger took up the thread. "So, Jason took his core mind, the 'I' of his mind as it were, and wrapped..." Jason and the doppelganger looked at each other. "Barrier isn't right."
"Shield is definitely wrong," Jason agreed. "Boundary?"
"Not strong enough. And too definite," the doppelganger disagreed. "Whatever you call it, it's wrapped around Jason's 'core' mind. It protects it against the rape trauma, but also interferes with daily functioning. Every time he goes to remember something, it has to process through me first, and that's just plain slower than normal. And then it has to process through the... border? Whatever. It has to process through that thing to reach 'him'."
"The upside is that for the moment, I can 'function' without having to deal with the trauma I've been suffering under," Jason explained.
"Well, no, you can't. In order for this to work large sections of your mind had to be firewalled off and run through me instead. You can't even tell if you're hungry or thirsty, much less know that we just wet the bed we got put in," the doppelganger pointed out.
"Oh God, I didn't," Jason moaned.
"Don't worry, someone else is already cleaning it up," the doppelganger told him. "Thought I don't know what they'll do about food and drink if we take too much longer. Which is why-"
"No, he can help," Jason pointed out. Ronan froze.
"You know full well why he can't," the doppelganger argued.
"Can I ask who he is?" Ronan pointed at the fuzzy mass across the table.
"I know he can't stay in here, but maybe he can help run my body for a little while, handle a few of the things we can't," Jason suggested.
"Excuse me," Ronan asked testily, "but I asked a question! Who is that?"
"That might work," the doppelganger agreed after a moments thought.
"Don't bother," the misty figure told Ronan as Jason and his doppelganger nattered on. "They aren't allowed to recognize my existence. It won't help even if you bring someone else in here, either. Those who could get in here won't be able recognize my existence, or any reference to me, either."
"What the hell is that supposed to mean?" Ronan snapped.
The figure sighed. "It means what it means, and I can't say anything further. Just take my word: you are the only person out of all the Guardian's who could see me. You can't recognize me, identify me rather, but you can recognize my existence."
"And why is that?" Ronan asked.
"That, my old friend, is something that you will figure out on your own, or not at all," the figure told him. "Now, you might want to pay more attention to Jason..."
"Earth to Ronan, Earth to Ronan!" Jason tried again.
"Sorry, I was a bit distracted," Ronan told him.
"Alright, whatever," Jason smiled. "Me and Doppy over here-"
"Doppy?" the doppelganger complained. "Couldn't you come up with something more original than that?"
"Give it to me then, after all we're one!" Jason pointed out.
"Fine, fine," Doppy agreed.
"Anyway, Doppy and I think you can help us out," Jason continued. "It's going to take us time to sort through everything, and while we're doing it time is passing in the real world. Lots of it. But having you here sped things up a bit because your mind is helping mine to do the background stuff I'm not really paying attention to. You can't stay here; some of the things we need to talk, to sort out..." Jason sighed.
"You can't be here for that. Some of it's private, secret. Other stuff," Doppy said unhappily, "well quite simply you don't want to be here to hear about it."
"That bad?" Ronan asked, looking at his impressive physique. "I mean, if this is how you view me..."
"Don't argue, Justy," the blurry figured ordered. "Just let them do it their way."
"What did you call me?" Ronan asked, suddenly ashen.
"Is something wrong, Ronan?" Jason asked, concerned. "You don't look so hot."
"I'm a bit tired, and the link almost slipped," Ronan lied hastily before turning to the shadowed figure. "No one has called me that. Not in a long, long time."
"Maybe one day you'll understand what happened; what is happening," the blurry figure told him. "For now, Justy-boy, just do as they ask!"
"Alright, it's important that you hold that link, Ronan, but not as important as your health. If you can't hold it-" Jason started.
"I'll be fine," Ronan told him with a smile. "Just tell me what you need me to do."
"Ease up, slowly, on the link until you can't hear or see us anymore. You should still be partway out of reality, but close enough to reality to handle things like eating, drinking, and the like," Doppy told him. "Then... just hold it, for as long as you can. Don't let the link drop unless you really need to."
"Alright, easy enough," Ronan said as he began to fade into the black. "Don't take too long..."
"Alright, back to our discussion," Doppy said. "Lets start with the obvious: you are still ashamed of being raped."
"I know, I shouldn't be. I couldn't have stopped it-" Jason began.
"Lie," Doppy broke him off. "You could have stopped it."
"Excuse me?" Jason snapped.
"I'm not here to hold your hand, I'm here to make you face the truth and accept it," Doppy told him. "Your statement was a lie. You know, full well, that physically you could have stopped it. Maybe not easily, but you could have."
"I don't have to sit here and listen to this," Jason snapped, walking away from the table and into the darkness.
"Yes," Doppy said from behind him. "You do," he finished as he reappeared in front of Jason.
"What the hell?" Jason swore.
"This isn't a physical place; it's state of mind and you can't walk away from it," Doppy told him. "Now, let me finish. You could have stopped it, physically. You could have brought a heel up into the bastard's balls, or thrown him off you, or a dozen other things. The problem wasn't that you couldn't do it physically. You know full well that you could have stopped him, physically speaking. What you need to understand and accept is that your inability was mental."
"You're saying I'm crazy," Jason snapped.
"Hardly! Well..." Doppy shrugged. "How many people talk to themselves?"
Jason opened his mouth to rebut, then closed it slowly. Doppy had a point. An annoying point, but...
"But that wasn't what I was aiming at. What did you feel, what was your state of mind, when he snuck into your bed?" Doppy asked.
"I was horrified, ashamed-" Jason began.
"No, not then. When you woke up to find him in the bed, holding you. What held you immobile?"
"I was... surprised. Shocked," Jason said slowly. "I didn't do anything because... I couldn't figure out what was going on. I was still half asleep and didn't really recognize anything."
"So you couldn't act because you were emotionally and mentally locked in place by surprise and confusion," Doppy said.
"But that didn't last! I could have-" Jason started.
"You could have what? Don't forget what your mother always told you, Jason-"
"Violence never solved anything," an eerily familiar voice said, and Jason could see -- literally see -- his mother wagging her finger at him.
"You were raised not to bring violence to anyone, to-" Doppy continued.
"Remember, son," Dad's voice reminded Jason, "Jesus turned the other cheek. As a good Christian, you should always strive to do the same." Jason could almost feel the black eye he's had when that conversation occurred.
"Turning the other cheek is something you were taught. Peace and acceptance is something you were taught. Yes, you were taught to stand up for your beliefs, but not violently," Doppy finished.
"So I wasn't physically... it was psychological ..." Jason whispered.
"And understanding that, means that when you say you couldn't stop it you aren't lying, even to yourself," Doppy smiled. "At first, surprise and sleep disabled you; and by the time those wore off, only direct and ruthless violence would have worked, he was too heavy for you to lift him up or toss him over."
"Wait, you're saying it wasn't a lie, I couldn't-" Jason started.
"You didn't believe it; that makes it a lie. To yourself, yes, but still a lie. Now it isn't," Doppy told him. "You'll have to go through it again and again, but... now you know."
"Why didn't Lara make me?" Jason asked.
Doppy sighed. "At a guess? She didn't realize she needed too. Don't forget, with her rape, and probably most of the rape victims she's counseled, it was patently obvious that she was physically incapable of stopping her attacker. What she had to deal with was the shame of being in a position to be raped, of not being prepared to somehow stop it. She fought. You didn't, not really. Not until it was too late, and then not very effectively."
"Alright," Jason nodded his head. "I guess that makes sense..."
"Next up is the fact that you put yourself in the way of that rape," Doppy said.
"I get the feeling this is going to be a long night," Jason groaned.
"But profitable. And remember to talk to Lara and Ronan about most of this once we're done!" Doppy told him. "But we really should get to work..."