Jason was frustrating them. Aversion therapy didn't work very well when the subject was capable of retreating deep enough into his mind to barely feel the negative stimulus. 'Counseling' sessions did no good when the subject of the counseling was not only quite convinced of his own mind, but capable of arguing every point the counselors brought up and winning. Sleep deprivation barely affected him. And drugs just didn't work on him.
All in all, the torturous treatment they wanted to hand out fell flat on it's face. It was far from a picnic -- it was, in fact, a hell-hole -- but two days hadn't done anything but solidify his will. Over time, malnutrition, sleep deprivation, and the constant denigration might have had an effect, but they didn't have that time. Jason could sense the full breadth of his powers, just at the edges of his mind. Not quite active, but no longer fully suppressed.
"Time for your pill," a warden said, opening the door behind Jason. Jason didn't deign to respond. Almost... so close... In his mind, the power of his rage guttered and spat like a fire without quite enough fuel. Almost. So close.
Biting seemed like a wonderful idea. When the guard tried to make Jason take the pill, he gave up his former passivity and snapped outward, almost taking off the guard's finger. "Fuck!" the guard swore, holding his mangled hand to his chest. "You bastard!"
Jason spat to clear his mouth of the coppery taste, and smiled. "There's more where that came from!"
"You were warned about biting," the guard growled, pulling his billy club out from his vest. "Let's see how you do it without teeth."
Jason was bound, held in place so he couldn't dodge in the any direction. But that didn't stop him from ducking his head away from the first halfhearted swipe of the club. Twitching his head left at the last second, he felt the sting as the club slammed past his ear. The guard swore and came up behind Jason, grabbing his hair to hold his head in place. Again the blow was halfhearted, without the full strength of the guard's arm behind it. It slammed into his face, mashing his lips against his teeth painfully. It didn't quite knock any of his teeth loose, but it succeeded quite well in splitting his lip. Blood flowed, and Jason felt power thrum in the air. This power wasn't anything he was familiar with. Like called to like; blood called to blood; and with the power of God flowing through him already, Blood called to Blood.
"Now is the Hour," Jason said, his voice filled with a power, a presence, not his own. "I change not, for Vengeance is mine; I will repay."
The guard sensed something was different and released Jason as he staggered backwards in fear. Swallowing, he raised his club and brought it slamming down on Jason's head with all his strength, a blow fit to shatter granite boulders that succeeded in breaking his club in two.
Jason wasn't there. His bonds weren't even severed, he simply moved and they didn't matter. They could no more restrain him than they could God, not now. Jason didn't understand entirely how he did it, only that he moved outside the normal framework of reality, somehow slipping around bindings that had seemed to cover all three dimensions of motion. He stood, unhindered, and turned to face the guard who was backing into a corner, desperately fumbling at his belt for a canister. As he finally raised it to try and spray it into Jason's eyes, Jason just flicked his wrist and sent the canister flying. Jason grabbed the guards shirt and lifted him by it, effortlessly pinning him against the wall, two feet above the ground. Not entirely understanding why, he met the guards gaze. For a few seconds nothing happened, and then something clicked. Jason seemed to dive past the guard's face, through his eyes, and deep beyond. Jason took a measure of the man's very soul, and the man took a measure of Jason's. The filth he found within that man's soul made Jason want to retch.
Self-doubt, confusion, fear, guilt, those were the dark things the guard saw in Jason's soul. But in the guards soul Jason saw hatred. Hatred of that which was different. Hatred of those that dared to disagree. A desire to do violence chained not by ethics, but fear of the consequences. A desire to dominate everyone around him, and a loathing of 'weakness' -- weakness merely being a lack of that desire to dominate, or the inability to do so.
It wasn't Evil, it was all too human, but it was intolerable. And events had progressed far enough for now. Jason was here. Jason's power, derived from outside reality, flooded his very soul. And Jason was ready to say 'enough'. And the Power beyond was more than ready, impatient even.
The guard saw all that. The guard saw his death, his doom writ certain. Yet still he wasted time pleading for mercy. "Mercy?" Jason growled. "You had your chance for mercy."
The guard screamed as Jason lifted his left hand. The link between them broke as the guard thrashed and howled, trying desperately to break Jason's iron grip. Jason's hand plunged forward and reached into the guard's chest, and he squeezed. The guard's eyes bulged, and then he fell limp. Jason slowly pulled his hand out of the guard's unmarked chest and then let him fall to the ground, dead of a massive heart attack.
Jason turned to face the door. The guard hadn't locked it behind him. There wasn't any need for Jason to blow it off it's hinges. But... No two stones left standing. So had he sworn.
Pressing his fingers against the door, he extended his senses and reached out through the entire building, mapping it with his mind. The guards; the inmates; the 'guests'. Fixing their locations in his mind, he took a step back and looked at the door. Disdaining the perfect efficiency of pure will, Jason collected fire around himself, gathering pure white heat towards his hands until they glowed with an unearthly aura of raw power. Pointing at the door, he unleashed a mere fragment of that power. In an instant that seemed to last hours a spark leapt from his finger and impacted against the center of the door. The wood glowed for a fraction of a second, the grain illuminated from within, before exploding outward in a hail of splinters, slicing through two guards just passing through the corridor.
As fire alarms went off, triggered by the smoke generated by the explosions Jason left in his wake, chaos spread through the facility. Jason rode the crest of that chaos, channeling it towards his purpose. Guards spread out to try and generate a cross-fire and he dodged sideways, taking their formation on its flank. A guard died as a whip of fire strangled him, while another screamed as his body was slowly consumed by incandescent energy that fueled itself on his very flesh. Another guard found his bones reduced in an instant to ash, while another had a microscopic hole drilled straight through his forehead. Jason didn't channel his power the same way twice, constantly mixing and matching, experimenting ruthlessly.
He sent a wave of pure fire at a guard, a wall of red-orange flames leaping upward from the white hot rage of his powers, only to watch it bend and twist around the guard. Snarling, Jason tried again with a gout of carefully directed power that would reduce the man to ash in an instant. It guttered and faded to nothing as it impacted.
Jason tried whips of fire to slice off limbs, stilettos of power to smash through defenses, and with a snarl even tried to bring the roof down around the man. Nothing worked; his attacks failed just as they reached their culmination, either twisting aside at the last moment or the very power fading out of them.
A trio of guards opened fire from the side, their bullets ripping down the corridor at supersonic speeds. Jason turned and sneered, watching as each shot came near him only to be consumed in a flash of white light, pumped so full of energy in an instant that it exploded into an incandescent burst of harmless gas. The light was so bright it cast stark, unforgiving shadows across the room, leaving the guards themselves blinded, but Jason could see clearly as he sent a wave of fire at them just like he'd started with the other guard. This time the attack worked perfectly, leaving nothing but charred remains.
Jason turned back to the first guard and ran. Catching the man by the shirt he threw him against the wall and lifted his hand. As he prepared to drive it into the man's chest by strength alone, their eyes met. Again Jason dove past the face and through the eyes and took a gestalt of the man's very being.
Jason shook his head in shock, trying to disbelieve what he'd seen. Slowly he lowered the man to the ground. "Leave," Jason ordered. "Leave, and never come back."
"Thank you," the man whispered. "I'll-"
"Go," Jason ordered. "Or I will kill you."
The man scampered away, as Jason looked out of a nearby window. Flames rose to the sky, the grounds a scene from hell. Not one inmate had been harmed; the flames seemed to flick aside as an inmate approached, leaving them free to continue. Load bearing materials remained untouched even as the walls around them were consumed, and the heat swirled through the air in coherent masses, sucking cool air in where the inmates still remained to run or be let loose. Jason watched as a major structural member collapsed outward, taking down three guards while leaving unharmed in the inmate they'd been carrying between them.
The power Jason had summoned would not harm an innocent, or anyone even close to it. Jason closed his eyes and looked inward and felt his stomach churn. Setting aside the power he had gathered, he called again to the energies of the mystic arts, only to find the divine energies he'd summoned earlier shouldering them aside. Jason opened his eyes in horror and looked outward unto the horror he'd summoned.
Vengeance is mine; I have repaid, a thunderous voice whispered through the deepest recesses of Jason's soul. Jason didn't understand it. That power... that power was meant to heal, to protect, to shield. To see it turned to death and destruction, to see the power of love turned towards hatred seemed an unimaginable perversion. He couldn't accept it. He wouldn't.
Jason cast aside his powers as he reached his destination. He'd do this without them rather than use the power God had given him to cause such harm. More such harm. As he did so, he felt it as even his mystic powers shed away. He could call on them, maybe, but it would take time, effort. For the moment he would act as a mortal, and as only a regular human.
He leaned into the kick, purely mortal strength carrying the blow. Kicking doors in, notwithstanding what they show in the movies, is hard work. The door rattled in its frame with a terrible cracking sound, but didn't give way. The second kick actually shook the door, almost opening it. The third one managed it as the frame gave way, a large chunk of wood flying across the room to smack the 'doctor' in charge of the hellhole that used to be an asylum in the face.
That was the only thing that saved Jason's life.
The echoing roar of a firearm hadn't even faded away before Jason was bounding across the room, ignoring the blooming pain that stretched across the top of his shoulder to flip himself over the desk, landing feet first into the doctor's chest.
"I gave you a chance," Jason snarled, knocking the rifle away effortlessly. "I gave you one chance."
The man didn't bother begging for mercy, or saying much of anything else. As Jason's fist slammed down he twisted aside. With Jason having set his power, and the supernatural strength that came with it, aside, he was merely as strong as a normal human being could expect to be, and so there wasn't the enormous, unimaginable gap that would otherwise favor him. His knuckles split open on the bare wooden floor as he fell sideways, away from the doctor.
Ronan hadn't trained Jason merely for situations were everything went right, however, and Jason's foot lashed out, reflexively seeking the doctor and finding him. The doctor tumbled away, his smooth leap for his rifle ruined. Jason crabbed around, somehow bouncing off the wall in a move that made his back ache to land on his feet. Turning his momentum into a dive of his own, he landed on the doctor just as he reached the rifle. They struggled for a moment, but Jason remembered his own relative weakness and fought for leverage and position as much as for the rifle itself. His strength, purely human as it was, was still greater than the doctor's, and Jason ripped the rifle away from him, turning the motion into a smooth spin that smashed the rifle's butt against the office window, shattering it. There was just enough of a gap in the bars to toss the rifle out.
Jason turned, and just barely got his arm up in time to deflect a knife that would have gutted him. Smashing his head forward he headbutted the bastard before gripping his wrist and twisting. The knife clattered to the ground and Jason kicked it out of his way as he spun around, trying to pull his opponent's arm behind his back.
Victory wasn't quite as easy as he'd expected, as the doctor somehow twisted away, breaking Jason's grip. "Once is chance," Jason growled as he took a step back, "twice is happenstance," he kicked for the doctor's center of mass. "Three times is enemy action!" he finished as the doctor brought his arm down into Jason's shin, deflecting the kick.
Jason moved back, no longer risking a grapple. In a grapple, pure chance would play too much of a role, giving the weaker party a better chance of winning. Jason was willing to bet that he was stronger, faster, meaner, and just plain better at hand-to-hand than the doctor. If events proved otherwise, then he'd grapple and move for a quick, and hopefully lucky, decision. In the meantime, he couldn't afford any mistakes. In real life, the first blow to get through unchecked was usually enough to win the fight. So far neither of them had managed it, but sooner or later, Jason would.
Jason didn't try to think, to anticipate the doctor's moves. In a fight, there was no time for that. Speed. Strength. Ruthlessness. Those were what mattered, and Jason dropped into the zen-like state that let muscle memory take over completely. They both knew what they faced now, and the doctor didn't have any weapons left to try and use. The knife was lost in the clutter, the rifle shoved out the window, the desk and chairs to heavy too use as weapons. If one of them could lift a chair, swing it down, it would be devastating, but the fight was too close, too personal. The time it would take to grab a chair, lift, and then attack would leave an opening that couldn't be missed.
Jason didn't intend to loose. He had no intention of making a mistake. And, technically at least, he didn't make a 'mistake'; he simply discovered the hard way where that chunk of wood from earlier in the fight had wound up.
Jason tried to roll with the kick, robbing it of it's power, but his slip had already set too much momentum into play, and the doctor's shoe sank deep into Jason's solar plexus. He curled up around the blow, suddenly unable to breath. The impact tossed him across the desk, preventing the doctor from following up immediately on the blow, but the sheer pain was too much.
Jason struggled to try and get up, and the process his hand slid under the desk to touch the knife. Pausing for an instant, his shifted to grab the knife. His chances weren't good -- hell, they were outright bad -- but if he got lucky, or the doctor was just a bit too cocky...
The doctor came around the desk slowly, carefully watching for a trap as he moved in for the kill. He saw exactly what he expected to see, Jason curled up into a ball, gasping for breath. He sidestepped around the fallen chair, and then raised his foot to attack.
Jason had set aside his powers, but he was still a Guardian, with a rock-deep determination and a simple refusal to quit that would do a special ops unit proud. In his position, any normal person would be incapacitated, the pain all-consuming. His focus couldn't cut through it, but he did manage to work around it. His kick caught the doctor off-guard, staggering him back for an instant.
Jason was still on the ground, muscle spasms incapacitating him as he tried to regain his breath. There was no way he could keep the doctor from pushing his advantage home eventually. Except...
Jason managed to raise his arm, knife held loosely in a grip that was more of a cupping gesture than anything else. His wrist and arm flicked outward in a long practiced motion he'd never expected to actually need, Ronan's relentless paranoia paying off... again. The knife sliced through the air and sank halfway into the doctor's thigh, causing the bastard to fall backwards, screaming in surprise and a moment later pain. Jason didn't have long, but he managed to use the desk to pull himself upright, thankful that he was finally starting to catch his breath. The doctor, white faced, gripped the handle and tried to pull the blade out. For his efforts, all he managed was a horrifying, gut-wrenching scream as the knife grated on bone, lodged too hard for the doctor to pull it out. After a minute, Jason slapped the doctor's hands aside, gripped the handle, and pulled it out with a swift jerking motion. Tossing the blood covered blade in his hands, he eyed the wound from a safe distance. Bleeding, but not quick enough. Jason hefted the blade again, and took the time to set up properly for the throw.
"Finish it," the doctor ordered, swallowing.
"I am," Jason snarled as his arm turned into a blur.
The knife span almost half a spin, aimed directly at the doctor's throat. At the last possible instant, the white-hot energies Jason had been releasing coalesced, sending the knife spinning to the other side of the room. Jason screamed in rage and jumped on the doctor, fist aimed with lethal intent and power, but the Power flicked him aside just as easily as it had the knife, sending him to land beside it. Jason reached deep, shoving aside the energy that was denying him and demanding that the mystic arts answer. For his efforts all he found was the divine arts flooding in to answer the call, quivering with the desire to be used. Jason gripped the knife and tried to use the power to simply scatter and block the energy defending the doctor, but for his troubles he found the energy exploding in front of him, refusing his frantic efforts to make it let him kill the bastard himself and back-lashing against him.
"Why!" Jason howled as he pulled himself upright.
Vengeance is mine. I will repay.
Refusing to turn the power against his fellow man in such a fashion, Jason turned to leave the room, only to find the power itself holding against him. An Oath made freely before Me must be kept. Justice must be done.
"Please, no," Jason begged. "You can't... You're a kind and loving God, not this!" Jason gestured outward, taking in the entire facility.
Time seemed to slow to a halt. Jason felt his heart rate slow as well, and he knew it was not time stopping but his awareness speeding up. **I am that I am. I was. I am. I ever shall be. Holy is My Name. From Everlasting to Everlasting. I am God. **
"But Your Son!" Jason protested.
My Son and I are One. I am in Him, He is in Me. The Spirit is with Us both. We are One, and I Am the Lord.
"But he would never do this!"
When the Time comes, the Lamb of God shall open the Seals. He shall bring the End. He shall wade in blood until His robes be stained red. He shall wield his Two Edged Sword and slay with a Word. My child, do not split who I Am. I Am both Justice and Mercy. Vengeance and Love. Wrath and Peace. I have not changed, nor will I ever change. I have been patient and I have held my wrath back from these here who harm the harmless. But not now. The chances have been wasted, and My patience has an end.
"I do not understand, Father…"
Pharaoh hardened his own heart seven times. I hardened it thrice after. I allow many chances for those who reject righteousness to turn from their evil ways, but all men have a limit. Once you harden yourself to a point, you can never turn back. Not because you have gone beyond my reach, but because you have reached the point where My grace can not enter you. And so, when those who have sealed their hearts away from me forever reach that point, I hand them over to their wickedness, so that when judgement comes they have no excuse. Such is this time.
"Then you waited for my promise? My oath? Why me?"
Why my Son? Why the Cross? Why this world? Why this time? Everything has its hour. Life and death, joy and sadness, mercy and vengeance. You are my servant… and above all, my son. You are my Hand for this time.
"I don't think I can… not again," Jason wept. "It is just too much. You've asked too much!"
Who made your heart to know its limit? Who made your shoulders to know their strength? I am no man's debtor, child. You are capable. You have the strength. Now put your trust in Me as you have ever done. Justice is all that this man can now accept, for he is beyond My grace through his own free will.
It is time. Finish it.
Jason wept for a moment more; still unable to stomach the idea of turning a power that he thought had been meant to heal, to protect.
As he felt time begin to speed back up to normal, he remembered a conversation he'd once had with Ronan. 'Causing harm isn't evil, in and of itself. Violence is violence, bloodshed is bloodshed. But not all violence is created equal, Jason. Some seek to cause pain and suffering, while some use violence to shield others.'
Jason pulled the power in, closer and tighter, drawing more and more until he glowed with unearthly brilliance. The power of it, the joy of it, the wonder of it as it flowed in, more and more and more, seemed to defy the very idea of using it to harm others. It was of a reality where such things weren't necessary, where everything was good and kind and precious. Here, now, it would be turned to harm, but it could only be turned so because it was upholding the very things it stood for. Here, now, it was used not to kill, though that was the end result, but to cancel out and destroy evil.
Jason saw the man before him. This time he didn't need eye contact, the lowering of barriers and the opening of the windows to the soul. He simply Saw. Filled as he was with the brilliant, unimaginable power of his Lord his Sight changed, and showed him the filth that coated the creature in front of him. Jason raised his hand, nearly blinded by the brilliant light forming in it, and applied the power directly against that filth. It reached out, slowly, and wrapped around the figure before him. Slow at first, then ever more quickly it wrapped around and around, layer after layer.
The 'doctor' didn't have a chance to scream. In an instant, in an eye blink, the power tightened into a crushing embrace that ripped away his soul while leaving his body untouched, an empty vessel to bleed out unto the wooden floor.
Jason turned, and this time was able to leave the room unhindered. Pausing, he turned back to check something in the office, hurrying; he had questions to answer, and not very much time. The building was falling apart around him, and soon enough would be a pile of rubble. He felt the power flowing through him begin to ebb, the tide slacken as the job finished. The prisoners he'd rescued had congregated out front, unsure where to go, what to do. As Jason left the building at a calm walk the last vestige of restraint vanished from the fire. It erupted with a thunderous roar, unleashing a shock wave of pure heat against the vicinity, sending the former inmates staggering back from an inferno capable of instantly incinerate a body.
They straightened up, much further back, and then had to face another shock. Jason strode unharmed from the fire, swirls of it reaching around him but never quite touching him. As he finally left the flames the unearthly glow that had shielded him faded away, leaving him changed. No one could draw such power, so deeply, and come away unchanged. For better or ill he wasn't the same man. It had reached deep inside him and twisted his very humanity. He would recover, in time. God wouldn't have handed him more power than he could handle. But it would take time before he dared wield such powers on such a level again. Weeks, at a minimum, maybe months. And it would be years, he knew, before he was truly 'healed'.
And that was as it should be, he acknowledged. He had killed dozens tonight, unleashed a power beyond comprehension against individuals who had no way to resist. It had almost certainly been justified, probably even been necessary, but it wasn't 'right'. It was simply something he'd had to do. And it was right for that to change him, to harm him. There had to be consequences for his actions, he had to pay for what he'd done.
"Follow me," Jason told the former inmates, and led them out into the street. Many of them didn't have shoes, or proper clothes, and he couldn't help them. But he could guide them towards the road, where they could try and flag down a passing car, or maybe call the police.
For a few moments, something about his thoughts bothered Jason. And then he understood.
You do what you have to do, and then you pay the price. And once paid, the accounts are settled. You don't continue to pay.
Jason nodded. Punishment for him... but the concept was, perhaps, redemption for another. As he led the inmates out, he checked again that the folder was tucked safely under his arm for later reading.
Ronan paced back and forth in his office. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. They had looked up and down, they had combed the city three times and for all their efforts had caught not so much as a hint of a lead to Jason's location. Quentin was perhaps the worst; while he'd needed time in the past, never had he simply failed to find someone for Ronan. Never had he failed to find so much as a trace, a lead, a scent, a mere hint!
Other powers were becoming involved, aligning their efforts with the Guardians and finding... nothing. Even the faint sense of future horror had vanished from the council's scrying efforts. Either it had already occurred, or the possibility of it had been turned aside. And nothing remained. They couldn't even try to track Jason more directly without a something of him to use, and those had all vanished.
Worse yet, this was planned. Ronan had contacted Jason's doctor, trying to get a sample of Jason's blood, only to find that it had vanished. Ronan had dug through their belongings, but couldn't find anything with Jason's blood or hair trapped in it -- perhaps a case of good housekeeping, but surely there'd be something to find. The meal they'd eaten the other night might have been a source for saliva, but Mary had 'thoughtfully' cleaned up for them after she'd heard the news that Jason was missing, eager to help Ronan in his time of need.
There was nothing left. No clues. No sources of information, no-
Ronan paused in his pacing. Something felt... he closed his eyes and extended his magical senses outwards, seeking for whatever had set him off.
It was distant, so faint he almost couldn't sense it. But it was Jason. More important was what Jason was feeling, the sheer unimaginable strength of it. Ronan could only just barely sense it and it still sent him reeling. Jason had been angry in the past. Jason had been enraged in the past. Jason had been betrayed in the past. But this... this was beyond that, as a bonfire is beyond a candle. A betrayal that had cut so deep, a rage that went so far beyond 'all consuming', that Jason had turned cold.
Ronan swallowed. Jason's emotions were cold, so cold he almost expected the room to frost over. Shock, in part, but beyond that was the sheer strength. They were too strong to be hot. If they were to run hot they would consume Jason in an instant, destroying him from the inside out, and so he wasn't allowing them to be hot. But while a glacier is much slower, it can be much more devastating than a raging firestorm. A firestorm could clear the land; a glacier shaped it, unstoppably gouging it's way through rock and dirt. It's very slowness made it impossible to resist, to deflect, to turn aside.
Such a thing was Jason's rage. Deep. All-consuming. And headed this way.
Ronan ran out the door and sprinted for his car, not even bothering to take the time to tell anyone he was leaving. He didn't have too; others, dimly sensed, were responding to his motion. They couldn't sense Jason directly, but they were all too keyed up to miss it when Ronan started moving.
If support was needed, it was already on the way. Ronan pressed the pedal to the metal and ignored niceties like speed limits, one way roads, and stop signs, frantic to find Jason. The sense of him was still very distant, very weak, and he pulled onto a highway without hesitation. He had a long drive ahead of him.
Going the speed limit, the drive should have taken him over an hour and a half. But speed limits were for pussies, and he made it in just under an hour. Slowing down, he approached at a slightly more sedate speed and pulled over.
Glancing both ways first, Jason darted across the street. Walking around the car he got into the passenger seat and looked at Ronan, unable to speak. "Are you alright?" Ronan asked, and Jason simply shook his head. Pulling a folder out from under his arm, he opened it up to show Ronan a page.
Ronan felt his own rage boil up, as hot as Jason's was cold. Jason saw it, and shook his head. "Mine," he managed to force out. "Mine!"
"Now?" Ronan asked, barely managing to say it.
Jason nodded and put on his seat belt.
Ronan managed, somehow, to take an hour and fifteen minutes to make the return journey. It was hard. Hard. He understood Jason's betrayal now. He understood Jason's rage.
And when Jason was finished, Ronan would chop up the remains and dance on the fucker's grave.
Jason didn't bother with niceties like knocking on the door. Or kicking it in, or simply pulling the entire house down around the head of the man he'd come for. This wasn't a time to be subtle... and besides, others lived there too. "You bastard!" he screamed, letting his power amplify his voice until the house shook with its fury. "You God-damned, cowardly, misbegotten son-of-a-bitch!"
Dogs started barking and alarms went off as the shock wave of sound rocked the 'quiet' city suburb. There would be plenty of witnesses to tonight's events.
The door flew open. "Jason!" someone shouted, "oh God you're safe!"
"Don't," Jason growled, holding out a hand, ordering her to stop as someone else came through the door. "Don't touch me. Not now." He looked past her.
"How could you?" he demanded. "I don't know you. I don't want to know you."
"I did it for your soul, son," Jason's father told him, holding his head high. "You've been carrying on with that fag, and someone had to stop it."
Ronan felt something inside Jason snap. It was almost physical, like flipping a light switch... or closing a door. Jason's parents took a step back, clearly sensing it.
"Ronan," Jason said. "The answer is yes."
Ronan blinked, confused. "Huh?"
"You were going to give me something," Jason prodded him, still starring at his dad. "Sorry to ruin your surprise, but the answer is yes."
Ronan felt his forehead crinkle up. What the hell did that have to do with anything?
"Because," Jason answered the unasked question, "that little gift of yours was well timed. I need a new name."
"New name?" Jason's mom asked. "What is going on?"
"He didn't tell you?" Jason growled. "You didn't know?"
"Know what?" she asked, waspish. "You show up in the middle of the night, screaming fit to wake the dead, and you make it sound like your father did-" Her eyes grew wide. She span around to face her husband, eyes accusing.
"Yes," he told her. "He wouldn't go. So I made him."
She shook her head. "I didn't know. Jason, I swear, I didn't know."
"I believe you," Jason said at last. "Step aside." She did so, practically scurrying to get away from the two of them.
"I did it for your soul, Son. I had to do it! You wouldn't go, so I sent you, I did-" Jason's blow was precisely calculated not to cause any harm. Permanent harm, anyway. His dad curled up around Jason's fist, gasping for air that wouldn't come. And then Jason's knee rose, also precisely calculated. Blood splattered as a very carefully calculated broken nose introduced Mr. Bester to an entire new vista of pain.
"I don't know you. I never knew you and I never want to know you," Jason snarled. "You are nothing to me. Nothing, do you hear?"
His mother gasped in understanding. Ronan had already pulled the ring box out, and Jason walked over and held out his hand. Ronan fell to one knee and held it out. "I didn't plan to ask you like this, but will you marry me Jason Dustin-" Ronan shook his head. His planned speeches didn't work, not now. "Excuse me. Jason, will you marry me?"
"Yes," Jason said, taking the ring and putting it on his finger. "From this day forward, I will be Jason Dustin Koken."
He turned and faced the man he'd assaulted. "You are nothing to me. Stay out of my life, Mr. Bester. You aren't welcome in it." His eyes flickered over to his mother. "I'm sorry," he told her, and then got back into the car.