Lilly watched as the others filed out and then Clara left, clearly upset, only for Marissa to go out after her. Maybe by showing her showing Marissa willingness to move past, well, the past, and come together things had finally made a turn with the Jauntsen twins. Only time would tell.
Lilly walked over the small, metal box that Clara had put the bracelet in and inspected it.
"Huh. That's new." she said and then opened her pack and put the box inside.
Things seemed to be going well, so Lilly decided to press her luck. Maybe it would help with talking to Jase about... things. He was not too hard to find. The bleachers were generally where he was found at lunch if he was not at the table with other others. She could see him at the top of the bleachers, laying back and staring up at the sky rather than his usual reading, which was just slightly unusual.
Lilly took a breath and exhaled. She was not terribly looking forward to some of what was coming, but like it or not, some thing need to be said, if not resolved.
She walked up the stairs on the side of the bleachers, effortlessly hopping a few steps at a time until she reached the top and walked down the row, finally stopping to sit by his feet, which she patted, getting his attention.
Jase, deep in his thoughts, was surprised by it and lifted his head to look down the length of his long, lanky body to see Lilly sitting by his feet. Her presence intrigued him as he considered that it had actually been days, Friday morning, in fact, since the two of them talked alone. No doubt she would have things to say about what was said that morning, and the events since then. In fact, after the Liam incident, he had been surprised that she hadn't yet even approached him about it.
"Hey." he said with a nod to her, tugging on the cord to remove his earbuds as he pressed 'pause' on his music player with but a thought. "Hey." she replied back simply, her mood a little more subdued than her usual upbeat self. "I wanted to talk to you about a few things, if you have time."
Jase simply nodded, holding his earbuds in his hand, which Lilly glanced down at.
"Seriously. No music or book reading or, I dunno, re-reading a book from memory or whatever. This, or these things, are important. Well, mostly." she said.
Jase considered her for a moment and then tucked to earbuds into a smaller pocket on his bag.
Lilly sighed, ordering her thoughts a bit and then proceeded.
"You know the Heaths? Lori and Lacy? Well, Lori's family's property borders Grainger Road. Lori and her dad were fixing their fence line over the weekends and saw... well.. more heard than saw my truck heading down Grainger Road both days, and seeing as the only thing down Grainger Road is your family far, it wasn't too hard for her to figure where I was going.
So that lead to a few things. The most obvious being that the farm might not be as, I dunno, secure as we thought. People are watching after all. And yeah, we're all friends... mostly... but it does probably look a little unusual for us to be spending that much time at your place suddenly.
Second, Lori and Lacy came to me this morning, thinking that because my truck was spending so much time at you place that... they thought we were going out, and asked if we were to make sure." Lilly sighed.
"So, like, things seem to at least look a certain way to people, which will only feed the rumor mill. I nixed it though, so there was not doubt.
Because, you know, how could we possibly be going out when I am not supposed to care that much about you?" she added.
Lilly slipped her phone out of her pocket and held it in her hand, looking down at the dormant device.
"And to make things even better, now I am getting creepy, anonymous texts like Lona did, which I assume is the Dark, or Cody as the Dark's pawn, doing it to mess with me or us as a whole. It seems, based on what's happened to pretty much all of us just today and the Man In Black Friday night and his comments to us,, that the Dark is now very aware of us and probing for weaknesses."
He was silent for a long moment, face impassive and his green eyes - shining as they caught the light from the sky - studying her face. She wondered, and not for the first time, what it was like to look out on the world with that chilly, crystalline lack of self-doubt, fear or remorse. Probably lonely, except he didn't feel loneliness, now did he? As smart as Jason was, he likely had full awareness of his isolation, but without the attendant sadness or angst. She'd never thought of it in those terms, but it was low-key horrifying as much as saddening.
"So they heard your truck, but saw nothing." he stated rather than asked, calmly. "They are aware that we - as in the group of us - hang out at my place a lot. There is a possible danger there - they might decide to drop in on us socially. Weighed against that is the fact that if we suddenly stop, they might suspect we have something to hide."
"Right." Lilly nodded. Jason smoothly sat up, folding his long legs Indian fashion as he faced her.
"We should probably not cancel power practice. But look for alternate venues so we can vary where we do it. I know a hidden, out of the way place." he mused, thinking of his lab and the old mining buildings there. "We can discuss it at practice this Sunday, but otherwise cut down the amount of time we spend there" His eyes, which had gone a little distant, focused back on Lilly's lovely features with the clarity of a bird of prey's gaze.
"And the Dark - or their agent - is attempting to torment you too. That makes sense. Test the links, find the weak spots. It's what I would do." he noted, still scrutinizing her. "And why are the Heath girls so curious about your or my love life, or lack of it?"
"Because, if you and I weren't going out, then Lori Heath was hoping you would ask her to the Homecoming dance." Lilly answered.
"I dunno if you have a date for the dance, or if you are even going. If you are going, but don't have a date yet, you should really consider her. I mean, aside from essentially knowing she will say yes, she is cute, and sweet, and funny. " Lilly explained, talking up her friend to Jason.
He shrugged, head tilting slightly as he considered her words. He knew Lori Heath by sight - when the Bannons had first moved into the old Wilson Farm the Heaths had dropped round in a neighbourly way, only to find a withdrawn, haggard man and his quiet boy with the keen, too-steady gaze. Though they hadn't been made unwelcome, they generally left them to themselves after that, existing in a polite distant kind of cordiality. And of course he'd seen her around school, shared classes with her.
"I wasn't planning on going." he said, not unexpectedly. Jason never showed up for dances in previous years, had only bothered showing up for games when his friend had been taking part. He studied Lilly's face intently, trying to find visual cues. "You are her friend. Do you think I should ask her? I'm not exactly..." he searched for the right word. "Typical."
"I.. I can't really answer that. Or rather, I am not one that should really be asked." she said.
"She's one of my best friends and the Heaths were some of the first friends I made here. I know I want her to be happy and have a good time, but I also don't want to see her hurt either."
"I mean hell, we are, or were I though, good friends, and look at what you said to me." she pointed out as she looked down at her bag in her lap.
"I dunno. I mean, if you could say that and treat me that way, then maybe you and I never really were friends." she said with a shrug, watching a zipper on her back slide back and forth as she tugged on it in each direction.
"But if she is crushing on your or something, then she'd be even more... I dunno, easier for you to hurt, I guess." she explained, looking back up and to Jason.
"So really, the only person who can answer that is you. Only you know how you'll be."
"I did not intend to hurt you." he told her quietly, his voice softening slightly - something Lilly's logic told her was conscious socialization rather than effective empathy. Still, it could be classed as 'cares enough to make an effort'. His brow furrowed in focus. "I was trying to warn you not to expect me to be other than I am, to adjust your thinking so that you did not walk blithely into a thorn-patch thinking it was a clear path." He glanced down at her hands as they fidgeted with her bag's zipper, then back to meet her gaze. In contrast with her restlessness, he was a picture of composure. "If you were not a friend - if I did not care for your well-being - I would not have warned you."
"I see now that it was clumsily and cruelly done. And that is the problem as I see it - with the finer emotions I am so damn clumsy, Lilly. The emotions I do feel strongest are better described as passions - they rage and rampage around inside me, primal monsters seeking what they want with no conscience to cut in and restrain them." He smiled faintly at her. "I wanted to protect you, and I hurt you instead. I wish I had thought more about my words, and maybe examined the sentiment harder too."
"After all, it's not exactly like you're a helpless idiot." his smile teased into a grin at one corner.
"It was a shitty thing to do, or say, dude." she said flatly, holding him accountable even if she might maybe forgive him.
"Especially the day of a game too." she added with a sigh.
"I mean, you tell me that you like me... like, like me, like me, and then tell me something shitty like that? I was like, 'WTF? Was it because we never went on a date? Because if that was the case, then that was kind on you, not me.' or whatever." she pointed out.
"And you don't get to say who I care about or how much, no matter how well intentioned you may be.
"I care about people, especially my friends. I always have. And that was hard on me when we were moving every few years. I would make friends only to leave them behind.
Like, you know I still talk to my friends from Germany? Most of them were other American kids on base, but I also met some townies. Some of them are even talking about coming for a visit."
"Anyways... You, Sean, and the Heaths are among my first and oldest friends here, followed right behind by Cade, Charlie and Lona and some others. I care about you guys and want what's best for you all." she said as she looked at him again.
"I already knew about you when you said that shit Friday morning. You say it was for my protection, but I think you sell yourself short. I mean, yeah, you might not ever be totally 'normal' or whatever, but you can certainly be a lot closer to it. It looks to me like you kinda use your... condition?... as something to hide behind, or a bit of an excuse to not put in the work. It just takes you making the decision and putting the effort."
"And yeah, I think Liam has a grasp on your 'passions' dude. I..." Lilly paused, considering her own feelings on the issue for a moment.
"Honestly, I wanted to beat the hell outta him myself too. And maybe I would have done it if you hadn't. I dunno. I guess I'll never know, but I like to think I wouldn't have. So, like, on a one hand I know where you were coming from and I cannot really blame you...
But on the other hand, there is is a difference between having certain impulses and acting on them. Look, I know Lona's talked to you, but you should know that what you did kinda spooked most everybody. if I had been the one to do it, they would have still been spooked, maybe even more so, but.. I dunno... You left without a word and beat the hell outta Liam. Like, seriously. My mom works at the medical center and told me about it. I mean, fighting monsters is one thing, but I think everybody seeing you do that to him, especially using you Shine to do it, it was just, I dunno, overkill or crossing a line for many, I think." she explained.
"I understand protecting your friends and wanting to hurt somebody that hurt them. I really do. But you have to temper that." she warned.
"I mean, I have wanted to put Devin and Marissa through a wall for stuff they have said done long I ever had my Shine..." she said as she looked down at her hands, "...or whatever the heck I have."
Then a thought struck her. Something said at the bonfire the night before.
"Huh. Maybe after the bonfire I subconsciously did what you said, and 'defined' myself more or whatever..."
"Possibly." Jason nodded, his expression once more becoming neutral in the wake of what Lilly had had to say. Whatever he thought about her accusation of him hiding behind his condition, or about her lecture on Liam, was shut away behind the impassive mask of his gaze. "I think our gifts are very much defined by our personalities, drives and psyche."
He unfolded his legs, standing and stretching as, distantly, the bell rang signalling the end of lunch. "I'll bear in mind what you said." he told her with a slight smile as he picked up his satchel. "I'm glad you spoke to me about it, and hope you'll consider accepting my apology for Friday morning."
Lilly stood and slung her pack back over her shoulder.
"It's okay. And thanks for coming to the game." she replied, wanting to move past it.
"And Is that an honest, not simply said to placate me, 'I'll bear in mind what you said'? Or is it some 'I'll give it all the consideration it's due' BS?" Lilly asked with an eyebrow slightly raised and the faint hint of a smile on her lips. She knew Jase, and was more or less fluent in 'Jase-Speak'.
"I give everything the consideration it is due." Jason replied with a sly sidelong smile as they walked down the steps. "And I also bear everything in mind that people say. So the answer to your question is 'Yes'."
"Ass." Lilly said with a small grin, giving him a 'playful' elbow to the ribs as the started walking down the bleachers.
"Oh, and WTF with the double standard dude? Like, seriously. I ask Devin a direct question about what he is feeling or thinking, honestly trying to at least start working things out with him, and Clara interrupts, answering for him, for some reason, and you're all mum. Then I, however inadvertently did the same, just trying to support Marissa's idea and contribute and make amends, and you scold me in front of everybody? WTF is up with that? You crushing on Marissa or something?"
"Medically impossible." he shrugged, still smiling under unreadable green eyes. "Crushes are chemical bonds that take place in the pre-frontal cortex. Unlike Oxycontin, which also acts on other parts of the brain and is released primarily during sex to help with bonding, the various neurotransmitters for 'crushes' have no target with me. No fear, no crushing, no sadness, no heartbreak."
"As for Saturday - it was an ugly day with ugly emotions flying around distracting everyone, and by the time it got to your slip my patience was paper thin. The earlier thing I let pass, to try and focus on the actual business at hand. When I thought that we were about to lose a contributor because of your slip, my patience disappeared." Jase looked at Lilly as they headed across the playing field. "I did not intend to appear to be playing favorites. If the two events had happened in reverse order, then Clara would have gotten the rebuke, not you."
"Hopefully people are starting to knit a bit better together. Time will tell."
"Well, I am sure it certainly looked to people, and felt and to me, like playing favorites is exactly what you were doing, unintentionally or not."
"I am not responsible for people's perceptions, or their emotional responses." He stated in his calm, inexorable fashion. "People see what they choose to see, and emote accordingly. If you feel you were treated unfairly, then all the logical debate and evidence to the contrary is unlikely to sway you, even if you have to resort to the position that I am lying to you." He cast a sidelong glance at her, unsmiling. "Is that your position?"
"Dude. I didn't call you a liar. I just said that it looked a certain way to people."
"And yeah, you might not have direct control over other peoples' perceptions, which nobody has, but what you say and do can certainly increase and decrease this likelihood of people seeing things a certain way, of even make it crystal clear or remove other options from consideration. So saying you have no control over how others see things is only partially true, and also lazy. I know you know better than that, dude. You're too smart not to, regardless of you condition."
"I did not say I had no control over it. I said I was ultimately not responsible for how they choose to process what they perceive." Jason's tone had dropped several degrees in temperature. "I act as I choose to act, speak as I choose to speak. If people have a problem with it, they can take it up with me, as you have. I will then factor that into my next set of choices. But I do not define myself through the eyes or expectations of others."
"Also..." he paused, eyes narrowing. "That is the second time you have implied that I am somehow lazy, or using my condition to hide behind so as to excuse some deficiency of character. I wonder, Lilly. Would you accuse someone in a wheelchair of using their condition to hide behind so they would not have to walk up stairs? Or, and more apt, would you accuse a blind man still learning Braille of using their condition to hide behind so they did not have to read a textbook on nuclear physics?"
Though his voice did not raise, there was a quiet fury to his tone. "I come out from behind my mask. I confide in my friends. I make every effort to try and see the world through the eyes of those I care for despite my condition actually making all of those things hard. It's not perfect: some things I am just not capable of - you can describe a painting to a blind man, and he can build an image on your words, but he will never see the beauty you do. Is any of this sinking in? Or should I perhaps accuse you of using your lack of intelligence to excuse your insipid willful ignorance?"
Lilly stopped and looked at Jase wide eyes for a few moments as the corners of her mouth turned up. Slowly her mask of composure was failing as she snorted once, trying to control herself, and then burst out into infectious laughter. She often had a smile on her face, but with events over the last several weeks, Jase had seen her face sad far more often than ever before. It had been a while since he had seen her so joyful, as this was clearly not sarcastic or taunting, but true, honest laughter.
Jason had stopped in tandem, half-turning towards Lilly with an icy hardness in his eyes, his stance shifting slightly, almost autonomically in preparatory defense against a possible attack - something the trained athlete noticed and evidence that he had been getting some training from somewhere. At her laughter his eyes had narrowed even further, but curiosity gradually replaced the guarded wariness. Curiosity, and puzzlement.
"And what the hell," he asked, not as much of the previous fury in his tone, but with an edge there still, "-is so funny? Or perhaps your mind just went 'ping' like an elastic band snapping?" His head tilted slightly, trying to read her expression, obviously suspicious that the laughter was a sign of impending madness. "Are you okay?"
"Oh yeah. my 'small mind' from my 'lack of intelligence'." she laughed in a silly, deeper, more masculine voice as she rolled her eyes, her beautiful features contorted into a mask of mirth as she doubled over from laughter.
Straightening back up, she lifted a hand and rested it on Jase's shoulder, an act that to any onlooker he seemed apprehensive of, but Lilly seems to pay it no mind.
"Dude." Lilly laughed, "Do you ever listen to yourself? You sound like a Bond villain or something sometimes." she managed to get out as she began to gradually regain her composure.
"Chill, dude." she chuckled. "I'm not attacking you or anything. I'm just saying that I know you can be better. I can see it in you. You do not need to be alone on an island all the time. And yeah, you might not even be the exact same as the rest of us, hell, I am sure you wouldn't even want that..." she chuckled, "..but with some work, I know you can be closer, but still be yourself." she said with a smile.
"Trust me, I work daily at being 'better'. Primarily on the 'forbearance with fools' part. Oh, and having a vocabulary and using it doesn't make me a Bond villain." Jason said, relaxing a fraction, the look in his eyes going from icy to merely cool. "That would take also having zero imagination or common sense and using my genius to try and hold the world to ransom with an improbable superweapon rather than, oh I don't know, just founding a Fortune 500 company with the patents I can churn out."
As Lilly snorted and let out a giggle at that, Jason's lips twitched in a tiny smile. "Plus what is it with the death trap thing, or telling the hero the plans 'because they're going to die anyway'? Why kidnap the sexy female agent and force her into an exploitative outfit when, with a little imagination, you can make the hero seem like the preening fuckwit he usually is and have her volunteer to wear a bikini for you? Or indeed, nothing at all."
Lilly was in a full on gigglefit now. Jason's smile was sly, the gleam in his eyes the downfall of saints. At least, female ones.
"Point being, Lilly, Bond villains ain't got nothing on me." He finished with a half-step back, slow spin and an understated stage magicians's flourish, ending with a slight bow in her direction. "And with that, class awaits."
"Sooo, what you are saying is... that you want to get me in a bikini." Lilly laughed as she started walking again.
"Who wouldn't?" Jase asked in a dual confused and yet matter-of-factly tone.