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Devin & Jase: Coming to Jesus Meeting

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Thursday, August 29th: Bannon Residence

Gar and Hank were out in the driveway, they had the hood of the truck up and were listening to some classic rock as they decided where they were going to begin the tune up.  The plan was to get the farm up and going again by next season, but that wasn't going to be easy to do with the performance issues they had hauling the equipment back from Gray Falls the day before.  They were engaged in a small game plan as to where to start when the air suddenly collapsed in on itself in a purple pocket and Devin appeared already in stride.

"Christ, son!" Hank nearly choked on his beer.  "The hell is wrong with you?  You can't just-"

"Yes," Devin said tersely.  "I can.  I just did.  Perhaps I shouldn't, but that doesn't change the fact, that I can.  And I did.  Jase around?"

"He's not been feeling much like company," Gar didn't seem phased one bit by Devin's appearance.  Almost numb to it.  "Now, I don't care so much as how you get here, son. Keep in mind though that the moment you're no longer on that road, you're on my land.  On my land, you're gon' curb that mouth of yours.  Am I clear?"

"You've got t-" Devin began a protest but it didn't make it to far.

"It's a 'yes,sir', 'no,sir' sort of question," he glared hard at Devin, begging the boy to test him.  "Have I been clear"?

Devin stood there looking Gar up and down then side eyed to Hank.  He decided now was a good time to pick his battles.  "Yes, sir."

Gar pointed to the house, "He's inside, let yourself in."  The air started to waver around Devin until Gar rolled his eyes.  "Damn, son, walk.  It's fifty feet for cryin' out loud."  The air reverted back to normal and Devin sheepishly about faced and walked to the house.

He knocked anyway, then walked through the back door into the kitchen he was familiar with.  "Jase!?" he shouted.  "It's Dev, bro, your dad said to come on in.  Where you be?"

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He stood on the edge of the Pit, feeling the warm breath rising up from beneath him.  His entire life he had struggled with an urge towards aggression, with an instinct for violence and even cruelty that was as uncompromising as it was seemingly limitless.  He had built a palace in his mind, not just as a repository of his memories, but also to hold the oubliette in which he caged what he'd thought to be the impulses of a human psychopath.  Roped and chained and weighted down in the Pit by his code, replacing instinct with cerebral restraint that slipped and settled but held firm.  But what was in the Pit was part of him as much as his intellect, as much as his hands and eyes and hair.  He was a killer from the cradle.  A species designed to hunt, to kill, to war without compunction, and to enjoy it.  He was not even human.

His existence... was a lie. 

The construct of Jason Bannon was built on the foundations that a psychopath could be socialised to an extent, could be part of human society, could blend in.  And now that foundation was sand.  But his friends...

His clan.

Yes.  His clan.  He would walk into danger for them, toil, fight, and kill for them.  He might even die... for some of them at least.  They were fractious, unpredictable, sometimes by turns frustrating and amusing, often seemingly weak from emotional distractions and considerations.  But they were his.

Foundations could be replaced.

"Jason of the Fellowship, born from Catheen by Gar." he whispered to the Pit, testing the words, and he felt something stir down there.

"You are not a Teulu." his mother's voice floated to him from the halls of his memories above.  "You were not raised by them."

"A tiger does not need to be raised by tigers in order to hunt and enjoy the kill."  the Pit whispered back on Jason's behalf.

"I am more than merely a tiger."  Jason spoke to both voices, feeling them go silent as he heard Devin's voice from Outside.

--------

He opened his eyes, looking up at the ceiling of the lounge from where he'd been reclining on the couch.  He heard Devin clomping out of the kitchen into the bookshelf lined hallway, and his green eyes narrowed as he silently rose from the couch and padded barefoot to the lounge's entranceway.

"JA-eesus fucking Kehrist!"  Devin had been standing at the foot of the stairs, peering up them, and only looking round as he started to call Jason's name once more, just as the lean shape of the other teen stepped soundlessly from the lounge doorway.  Reflexively Devin 'jaunt'ed a few feet back into the kitchen, eyes wide for a second before he realised that Jason was just standing there, watching him from the gloom of the hallway with his glittering eyes.  They stared at each other for a moment, then Jason's mouth twitched at one corner in a wry smile.

"Wrong house for him." he said calmly as he walked into the kitchen, keeping one eye on Devin as he moved to lean against a counter top.  Apart from that predatory watchfulness, he didn't seem tense or nervous at all, but Devin was familiar enough with Jason's 'vibe' to know that this, for him, was wary behavior.  Not so much fearful as expectant, ready for trouble.  "You want a drink?  Juice, soda, water or coffee."  Jase listed what was on offer absently with his head cocked a fraction to the side, his attitude one of weighing and studying Devin, trying to interpret his presence.

Edited by GDP_ST

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"Coke's fine," he replied.  He knew there was a few in there and the smug prick in him almost just jaunted one to his hand, but he decided against it.  "Guess you're wondering why I'm here?"

"Crossed my mind," Jason replied, cracking the door to the fridge and tossing Devin a red can of caffeine.  "What's up?"

"Well," he popped the top and the hiss echoed for a moment.  He sipped his drink and pressed on.  "There's bad blood right now Jaybee.  Tween you and me, tween you and my sister, so the way I see it, those things need to be handled.  Whether through us hashing it out like adults, or like men."  Jason understood exactly what Devin meant and a part of him could respect this path he'd chosen, they would either talk and be civilized, or they'd just let all their frustrations out on a battlefield.  Who was standing at the end was in the right.  "So, let's start with my sister."

He paced about the kitchen for a second.  "She likes you, but like you, she's retarded.  She's like a three year old with a new toy when it comes to guys, all she does it stick them in her mouth without bothering to figure out how they work.  Now, I'm not sure how you are with guys or how many you've had in your mouth, but he point is, neither of you understand people very well."

"Which brings us to me," he sipped his coke and pointed a finger at Jason as he started his next point.  "She's scared to death of you.  Not because you kissed her when she didn't want you to, I'm not talking about that, and yes, I know about it.  It's the same reason the rest of the team is scared of you Jaybee, everyone but me."

"And you're not afraid, why?"  Jason was moving about the kitchen collecting the articles he'd need for a pot of coffee.

"Because I'm thinking of the big picture.  I'm holding on to every thread of hope that you are not going to do the things you say you can," his host noticed the the definite lack of Devin's use of 'capable'.  He knew Jason was certainly capable of a lot of things.  This wasn't about capability, it was about culpability.  "I know that you could walk into a room, kill everyone, and go home for cheesecake.  You casually speak like it makes you some sort of intimidating bad ass, but from my point of view, dude, you're doing more harm than good.  I don't threaten you with The Hunt because I'm trying to intimidate you, Jason.  If I go rogue and threaten innocent lives then I full well expect you and the others to hunt me and do what needs to be done to stop me."  He swallowed some of his drink and waved his hand Jason to indicate 'no way, nuh uh'.  "And don't go off on some 'who is truly innocent' bullshit.  You know damn well what I mean."

"The rest of us, Jay, don't have the luxury of going home and having cheesecake," he said calmly.  "For the rest of us, our minds punish us because we have a moral center, we have guilt and we have a sense of accountability.  I'm not dissing you for not having those things, but the rest of us, us regular peeps, trying to get our shit together in a world where things have gone upside down for us, don't want to have to deal with one of their own ripping out hearts or talking about it like it's a good idea.  It scares people Jason, it scares people who are already scared and it makes them terrified.  We're a team, you rip out a heart, then I mat as well have done it too.  You batter a kid, then I may as well have done it too.  Your sins are ours to endure, that how a team, a tribe, a clan, a guild a family works.  Use whatever word fits.  Your actions reflect on all of us.  Your reputation is our reputation, your credibility is our credibility."

"I mean, dude, did you see what Charlie did those guys?" He asked, pointing out the screen door as if they were all lying on the porch.  "I get it, they were the bad guys, they had guns, and sure, he didn't kill them, but holy fuck.  Jason they were private security.  Do you honestly think they were privy to the badness?  Do you think every evil villain hires his guards and just unlocks his computer and says 'here, read all of this, it is my worst ideas yet.  You'll need to know it when the heroes come and need moral justification to kill all of you.'"  He shook his head.  "News flash, no.  He got that from you.  You excel and violence and hurting people as a means of seeking gratification.  For what I have no idea because you shouldn't have an ego that needs stroking.  Charlie emulated your behaviors, and guys who just showed up to work like any other day, who were responding to a threat, are now in wheelchairs for the rest of their lives and Charlie couldn't be happier.  Could we not just knock mother fuckers out?  Do we not do that shit any more?  Did that simplest of solutions never cross your great brain?  If I can do it with a fucking mop handle, why does Charlie need pincers?  I let you handle that Jason, he was your for a night and that's the rod you led him down.  Now I gotta go fucking talk to him.  Great role modeling, Jaybee, that one's on you."

"I get that one day, one day, we are all going to have to cross that line.  This war and we've somehow found ourselves in the middle of it, but we have to live with every face we watch the life pass from, not you, and while I can't stop it, I want to keep it as far from these guys as we reasonably can for as long as we can.  We deserve as much innocence as we can get before the world goes tits up,"  he leaned against the wall as his fire faded in his rant.  "Demons are one thing bro, fuck them, they tried to eat my dick, but we are not trained for war, dude.  Maybe we need to get there, sure, but bloody swaths and you playing hand-chokey-evil-lord guy isn't going to put people minds at ease.  We're a team, we need to move, act, think, react, like a team.  Right now, we don't have that.  There I'm done."  He held up his empty can.  "Can I get another one?"

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He was silent as he went to the fridge, extracted a can and walked it over to Devin.  Behind him the coffee maker was getting prepped, ground coffee poured with exactitude into the rinsed-out mesh filter, water being poured into the reservoir from a jug, containers and implements dancing in the air.  As he handed the coke to Devin, the teleporter noticed a thoughtfulness mingle with the reptilian watchfulness in his strange friend's(?) eyes before the lean youth then took a few steps back, leaning lightly against the counter once more.  The tension in the air had lessened a little, and taken on a different quality.  Jason seemed to be trying to decide something.

"Thanks for explaining that." he started calmly as Devin popped the tab on the second can..  "It does help me to understand - I honestly didn't think my rattling of Cook was going to frighten the others.  I wasn't saying those things to sound like a bad-ass, Devin.  I said them so Cook would understand that he was not in control, that he was not a voice of authority, that he had no dominance or right to speak down to any of us - me included.  I also did what I did to get him to stop thinking about his reputation or station, and start him thinking about just staying alive.  Cutting through his pompous bullshit saved us time."  He paused.  "And, cards on the table, it felt good to terrify him.  He has been spying on us, running experiments and treating this town like an ant farm.  He is the reason I spent a night hiding with Lona and Clara at my drug lab - in case he was pursuing them after they confronted Etienne last Thursday.  He was an enemy and it felt good to see the fear and pain in his eyes." he added with a steady tone that was almost reluctant admission.  "I am not proud of that impulse, and if that had been the only reason I wouldn't have done what I did."

"Still did more harm than good, man."  Devin stated quietly.  "You might have calculated all that, but to everyone who's not inside your head it looked like you were a psycho sadist looking for a reason to show off and hurt someone.  I admit, Cook's a fuckin' scumbag, but you also made yourself, and us, look like out of control teenagers in front of Taggart and Giles."  Jason nodded slowly.

"Next time, I shall try to consider the wider view and ramifications of my actions."  he conceded without any surliness or embarrassment.  "I think, on reflection, I was too narrowly focused on Cook and my distaste for him.  I made a mistake.  I take issue with some other things you said, though.  Firstly, I have never harmed an innocent person - and I'm not using the 'who amongst us is truly innocent' criteria.  That's ivory tower bullshit and should stay there - it doesn't make any practical sense to apply it in the real world.  I mean everyone I've harmed has, in one way or another, brought themselves to that point through their own actions.  Liam - a grown man out of school for a year, not a boy - tried to rape Lona.  Now, Mari pointed out he might have been pushed by the Dark.  I didn't consider that, and admitted to Marissa on Monday I might have acted hastily in punishing him.  Still, we're pretty certain that the Dark can't push someone to do something they wouldn't be capable of - and we know Liam was a scavenger who liked to come to parties filled with teen girls a couple years younger than him and try to get them drunk.  He went after someone who is my friend.  He hurt her."  Jason's eyes glinted for a moment, something primal and savage flashing a scale behind his otherwise cool stare.  Then, just as quickly, it was gone.

"Marissa addressed that too, on Monday.  She pointed out that I should have stuck by Lona, focused on helping her rather than charging off on a mission of vengeance with blood in my eye.  I agree with her."  he relaxed, glancing at the coffee maker, measuring it's progress.  "Which brings us to the armed guards.  The mercenaries working for a morally dubious corporate entity in an underground lab complex that would make Josef Mengele cream his drawers.  Armed with highly sophisticated assault weapons superior to those our armed forces use.  They weren't like my dad, who worked as a janitor in the prison over their heads to earn food for the table.  That place was cutting open people's brains and reprogramming them.  People like Cassandra's dad.  You cannot seriously expect me to believe that they just went to work in the morning, punched their time card, and went through their nine-to-five blissfully unaware that they were part of something questionable."

Devin shifted slightly, but Jase held up a hand.  "Please.  You had your say.  You told me that your condition for me coming along to help was 'no killing'.  I kept my word on the matter.  I incapacitated those who attacked us with the most efficient means at my disposal and without killing any of them.  I helped buy time for our extraction and the rescue of the test subjects they were torturing - again without killing."  He shook his head.  "I am not responsible for what Charlie did, or does.  He is.  He is a sapient creature."  And Jason's lips twitched in amusement.  "By the checklist criteria, anyway.  It is not my place to carry the burden of anyone's actions but my own, and you have no right to try and make me.  If you take issue with his methods, then that is purely between you and him."

"Bull."  Devin said shortly.  "I mean, yeah - Charlie shoulda known better.  But you can't tell me you don't influence him, even if you don't mean to.  Guys are dumb, man.  Especially young ones.  I know - I am one.  He was trying to, I dunno, keep up with your perceived badassery, or something.  If I wasn't already alert to it, I might have gone macho Rambo too.  He's a normal, nice guy, Jase.  Hell, he's barely more than a boy, like most of us who have normal brains.  Don't ruin that like a kid treading on another kid's sandcastle cos they weren't looking where they were going and didn't care anyway."

Jason hesitated, his brow furrowing in thought once more, and turned away to pour himself some coffee from the now-full pot.  He turned back, the black liquid swirling and steaming in the mug, and sipped, reflecting on Devin's words.  That air of decision-making was still over him as he regarded the teleporter over the rim of the mug.

"Perhaps you're right.  I suggest you talk with Charlie about it.  I don't want to damage any of you, accidentally or not, regardless of disagreements.  I'm not suitable to be any kind of moral authority, Devin."  he added quietly.  "Not for human beings."

"Uh...  Right."  Devin sipped on his coke, raising an eyebrow.  "What, you're going to try and teach Buddhism to honey badgers or something?"

"I mean,"  Jason said with a soft smile and a wary cast to his gaze.  "I'm not human."

Devin snorted, raising the can again as he fixed Jason with a skeptical stare... then paused.  Jason wasn't a liar.  He could be cunning with the truth, and play word games, but he didn't lie.  It was, if anything, even more incomprehensible to the male Jauntsen Twin than Jason's capacity for viciousness.  Now and then, over the recently departed summer vacation when they'd been friends and hung out, he would note that Jason could conceal, mislead, word the truth so that one jumped to the wrong conclusion, and do it all with a sort of sly entertainment at the intellectual challenge involved with bending the truth, rather than breaking it.  "Okay.  You're gonna try and claim that 'a human being has a fully functional brain'.  No dice, Rain Man.  People with brain damage are still human."

"What about people that share less base nucleotides with human DNA than Neanderthal Man?"  Jason asked very softly.  "Are they human?"

Devin stared at him.  "Lay that out for me straight, Jason.  There's a lot of weird flying around, but you look like a human to me."

"My mother is in town."

"Right."  Devin nodded, un-surprised, which didn't surprise Jason either.  The Twins were close enough that they kept very little from each other.  "The mom that abandoned you."

"Yes.  Turns out she didn't abandon me because I'm a psychopath.  Instead she was freaked out because I take after her side of the family, an offshoot species of hominids tampered with long ago, probably through technological means, or maybe Shine - who knows?  By human standards, the whole species would be considered to have a broadly psychopathic brain structure.  They have heightened aggression and dominance instincts, intelligence, cunning - are fearless, and if they want to they are capable of extreme and sustained violence without negative psychological effects."

Devin stared at him.

"According to my mother, they live in a technologically advanced clan-based society that prizes savagery, smarts and ruthlessness, so that encourages all the species' natural instincts.  They see everything outside their immediate clan as resources, competition or prey, even each other."  Jason paced slowly back and forth, a strange mannerism from him.  He never fidgeted or paced or tapped his fingers or any of the usual displacement activities that people used to expend nervous energy.  "It always nagged at me that certain aspects of my nature did not fit the psychopath mold.  I can care about and feel for individuals and a small social grouping that I choose to belong to - they do not.  Psychopaths can readily lie, and usually convincingly, and feel no qualms about doing so.  I don't. In fact, it's a hard-coded aversion amongst their - my - species, like the human innate taboo towards incest.  Telling a lie - saying something is true when it is not - or breaking my word bothers me on a deep, gut-deep level.  The thought of it is sickening."   He frowned at the thought.

Devin stared at him.

"My mother is a throwback - more human in terms of her mental structure.  That's why she ran away and came here, to this world.  From another dimension.  When she met my father and settled down with him, she let herself believe that their child would be human.  Unfortunately, my species - the Teulu - have dominant genes.  Apart from exceptions like my mother, any child of human and Teulu will turn out to be utterly Teulu.  There's no such thing as a half-breed."  He looked at Devin's frozen face.  "My father doesn't know yet.  He also doesn't know she's  in town yet.  I don't know how I'm going to tell him, Devin."  Abruptly, Jason abandoned his pacing and sat down on a chair, cupping his mug of coffee between his palms.  "I defined myself as a human with a condition that I could contain and restrain.  When I threatened Cody with the hook at the fair, I felt a surge of enjoyment that... rattled me.  He was an enemy, trying to hurt Cora, who was at least tangentially part of my group.  I liked his fear, and Chet's and Todd's.  I wanted them to attack me, Devin.  That's why I responded aggressively to you immediately afterwards. A real psychopath wouldn't have cared or been provoked, or cared about Cora for that matter.  In hindsight a lot of things make sense that didn't before, y'know?"   

He looked up at where Devin stood, meeting the other's eyes with his own implacable stare that wasn't so much a dominance game as it was simply his way of focusing on a person.  "I'm an alien, is the short-short version of what I'm trying to say.  I wasn't raised as one:  a leopard doesn't have to be raised as a leopard to have claws and teeth."  He paused.  "And yet I have friends who are not like me, and could be harmed in ways that I wouldn't even instinctively consider, but I care about them.  I need advice, Devin.  I'm trying to figure this out and rebuild some sort of... coherent way of thinking to deal with it.  This is not self-pity, but maybe the best thing I can do for my clan - for you all - is to leave.  Which feels like shit in my mouth to even think."  he finished matter-of-factly, glancing down at the half-full mug of coffee in his hands.  "So there it is."

Edited by GDP_ST

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"First thing you do is you do is put this Arrowverse 'it's my fault', no 'it's my fault' bullshit to bed, Jason."  Devin might have been an arrogant pain in the ass, but when Jason was growing up being autistic with his books and dissecting cockroaches under stairs, Devin and his twin were up at the crack of dawn,working out, memorizing routines, practicing dance, instruments, school, homework and more practice.  He knew focus and dedication under all his rebelliousness and he and his sister would not have made it as far as they did if they just accepted the way world as it was.  They learned to fight for the parts they wanted, tackle obstacles and overcome, most of all, how to succeed together.  "Look, dude, last week your excuse was you were a psychopath, this week your excuse is you're an alien."

"It's not an excuse," Jason had bit more attitude beyond what he intended, but let it ride.

"But it is," Devin said sipping his drink and pointing at him with the can hand.  "Because you have a choice.  You are not judge, jury and executioner.  You gonna go round up people who're being bad, fine, be Friendly Neighborhood Jase, I'll even help you, I don't mind getting my Bat-Man on, but you need to let the law do their job.  Because now all the law was doing looking for the man who did that to Liam, not Lona's potential rapist.  They didn't care anymore, because you did was worse than what almost happened.  You goofed, which means we goofed, lesson learned, we move on.  Because whether you think they deserve it or not, you are becoming public enemy number one.  They see what you do, right?  Everyone assumes we're all the same way, now all the normal people think we're all monsters because one of us as a violence fetish.  When you choose, you choose for all of us."

"Now," he shook his head.  "I don't know about this alien stuff, but Jason you could squat and shit a rosebush and I wouldn't bat an eyelash at this point.  I'd be like: 'yup! It's Thursday in Shelly, again!'  You say your a psychopath, my sister and I barely believed a word of it, now you're an alien and you really, really, can't help it.  Now it's all instinct.  Man, I'm not even prepared to eat the chips of this cookie, yet.  Instincts can be trained.  Fight or flight?  You know know much fear I have to swallow to do the shit I do?  Free running, flipping through the air, freeway at ninety, skate boarding, roller blading, biking," He held up his hands parallel to frame his next point.  "Living. With. Marissa.  You know me bro, the more extreme the better.  One false move and it's over for me.  Broken neck, road pizza, Emjay kills me in my sleep.  I'm still afraid Jason, I've just taught myself to recognize it and control it.  The adrenaline is the pay off so keep that shit pushed down."

"Devin," Jason looked at him.  "This is genetics.  I can't just-"

"Tell 'can't' to fuck off and 'what if' to suck.  My. Dick." He let the last three words flow slowly and defiantly.  "I hate 'can't', it's a pussy word.  When people tell you that you can't do something they are drowning you in their limitations, not yours.  What?  You can't be human?  You can't be normal?  What the fuck even is 'normal', and have you looked outside lately?  Most humans don't even now how to be fuckin' human!  That's why there are Laims, and Cooks, and Emjays.  Whatever threats come, we'll face them.  The Dark wants a throw down, oh, we gon' throw down.  If you get all Spaceballs on us, well, we'll just fuck you up to, Pumpkin."  He smirked.  "But, until that day comes, you have a lot of minutes, a lot of friends, and a lot people who are going to have your back.  This is a team, Jason.  A very dysfunctional, fucked up family, but it's ours.  You're never alone.  If you fail, it's because we have failed you."

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"Fine."  Jason stood up, his expression neutral, and moved to set his cup on the counter.

"Fine?"  Devin looked at him askance.  "Wait - d'you mean 'fine', or 'fine'."

"Yes."  Jason turned and leaned his butt against the counter, hands loosely hanging at his sides.  "You're right - I can control my impulses.  I do control my impulses, all the time, day by day. Occasionally I slip when provoked.  I'm going to work on that, because you're right about something else: it hurts the group.  It causes heat we don't need, it upsets people we don't need upset at us, and it causes friction within the group.  You are right about that."

"Okay..."  It wasn't an expression of remorse, but at least Jason wasn't shrugging and saying 'I don't care'.

His lips twitched in a cold smile.  "It's amusing, really, that the guy who has a history of going through life doing exactly as he pleases to whomever he pleases for shits, giggles and status is lecturing me.  It's hilarious that the twins who terrorised blameless kids because it was easy and they could are taking me to task."  Jade eyes gleamed with ironic internal humor.  "You're trying to change, by your own admission and, yeah, your actions bear it out - but your reaction to something you cannot control is still to beat it down or bring it into line."

"Obviously you either don't believe me, don't comprehend what you're hearing, or are trying to comprehend through the filter of your own life.  So you know what?  Forget about it: psychopath, alien, it's all the same shit to you - you don't care.  I'm not making excuses, Devin. I don't need to make excuses for what I am or how I'm made, so fuck you for that."  Despite the words, Jason's tone was level and calm.  "I was explaining - to a friend - why I have my impulses and where they came from because I believe you deserve and need to know, not claiming that I cannot make the effort to restrain them.  Sometimes I fuck up, and that causes problems.  I shall try to fuck up less.  But understand I am never going to care about Liam. Or Cook. Or the guards.  I'm never going to feel sorry for hurting any of them.  All I care about is not causing problems for the gang: you collectively-" he gestured towards Devin, finger making an illustrative circle "-and by extension those close to you, are all I care about.  And for all our differences, I do care.  So yeah, I'm going to try harder to contain that side of me.  To keep it pushed down.  That's pretty much all you care about, right?  That I not make problems.  That I toe your line."  He shrugged.  "It suits my purposes, so I'll play along.  Like you said, we're family."

He glanced at the clock on the wall, then back at Devin.  "It's getting on for dinner.  You're welcome to stay, if you want.  Steak and lobster."  The ease with which he casually switched from the hard-edged tone to polite invitation was a little strange as he looked back at Devin.  "If you have any more to say, we can talk while I'm getting it ready."

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"I'm not asking you to care Jason," he said calmly.  "I'm asking you to take care.  I know you know the difference.  I'm not as smart as you, I don't react with logic, I react with common sense, because for us plebs, Einstein, it's all we have."  He approached Jason extending his hand.  "Bro, look, no one has stepped up to lead this small family.  Everyone, if left to their would have been in trouble or worse by now.  We are all we have, and I trying my best to help give us direction, to keep us from ending in a lab somewhere lock in cells and getting the needle treatment because the world thinks we're all out of control.  It's not that I don't care about who, or what you are, it's just a lot to process and frankly we have so much going on, you being an alien, honestly, unless you're planning on ruining Shelly in the next few days, gets a 'deal with later' sticker while we deal with more important things, like imminent death from a forgotten god.  When I'm ready to deal with that I will, and we will re-visit it."

Jason took his offered hand and Devin pulled him in for a bro-hug.  "I got your back, dude.  Just quit being  pain in the ass, Christ."  They took a step back and Devin let go of the handshake.  "No get off me before you make this weird and step aside while I show you how to make a steak."

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"Me make it weird?  You're the one hugging."  Jason's smile was, as usual, only a slight curve of his lips, but it reflected in his eyes as he disengaged and moved to the cavernous fridge. Opening it, he floated a couple of shrink-wrapped trays out. the first drifting neatly to a stop in front of Devin containing five good-sized tomahawk ribeye steaks while he took the lobsters over to the sink for cleaning.

"Bro-hugs aren't weird."  Devin saw a well-stocked herb and spice rack and started examining the contents.  "They're how we bond on this planet, Spock."

"See?  You're already being a smart-ass about it.  The marvels of human adaptability, Captain."  Jason did a passable Nimoy voice and mock-saluted him with a lobster in hand.  "Good for you."  They smirked at each other and set to work.

"So am I Pine Kirk or Shatner Kirk?"  Devin set his jacket aside and started in with the seasoning.

"Shatner gets more play. Pine has better hair."

"Pine gets play.  There's those catgirls in one movie.  And the green chick.  And-"

"True.  Shatner gets more play, though that does take into account a longer career in the role."  Jason noted clinically as he set a large pot of water on the stove.  Devin, glancing across, noticed with a sense of unease that the legs of the lobsters were still moving on the tray and they were waving their taped-together pincers in the air.

"Uh, they're still alive, Jase."  He looked at them, then at the lean form of his friend.  "You're not going to do that thing where they boil them alive, are you?  Cuz that's sick, bro."

"No, certainly not."  Jason calmly replied.  "Though it's a matter of debate whether they can feel pain.  They don't possess a central nervous system or cerebral cortex to register pain, though oddly their brains do produce serotonin like a human one.  Lobster males who lose out in mating and dominance battles tend to get 'depressed' and will lose more often in the future, whereas the victorious ones are more likely to go on and score a winning streak.  Much like human males."  Devin blinked at him as he selected a thin, sharp knife from the rack, the silvery steel floating to his hand as he laid the crustaceans on the block.  "Dropping a live lobster into boiling water toughens the meat.  There's no real reason to do it except to be edgy.  You do need to kill them right before cooking, though, for the best results."

"Guess these guys are feeling pretty depressed right now."  Devin watched, fascinated, as Jason lined up the point of the knife with a spot on the lobster behind it's eyes then quickly and efficiently drove it through the shell with a thrust.  It wasn't so much what was being done as who was doing it, he mused as he turned back to the steaks.  Odd, that something that seafood chefs at Red Lobster across the nation did dozens of times a day seemed somehow creepy when it was being done by Jason in his own kitchen.

"I heard about Lona moving."  Jason said from behind him to the accompaniment of another muted *crunch*.  "It's a shame.  You two seemed happy.  I suppose she's never too far away though, for you."

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"We are," he replied.  He didn't say 'were' as that, for a teenager facing heartbreak placed an air if finality on it all.  Sometimes though, we just have to accept the fact that some people are going to stay in our hearts even if they don't stay in our lives."  He parroted what Maxeen had sad to him prior.  He had a good ear poetry and and profound tidbits of wisdom, even if he was horrible at most other smart things, like thinking.  He'd never been a thinker, he was a do'er and ran on his own, special adrenaline fueled octane.  He left the book smart to the Jason Bannons and Sean Cassidys of the world, but his ear for poerty came from his sister, who spouted is about the house like it was written yesterday and not a hundred years ago when that was all people had to do with their time.

When Jason side eyed him, he laughed.  "Cheesy, I know, but you wouldn't understand.  Everyone to you is data.  Faces.  Names, and a record of important information you can use later to recall them and why they matter to you and what seasonings they'd go best with.  For me, its different.  All the chemistry in my body is doing its thing and I want to be near, close to her, talk to her, I want to be high on that euphoria I feel when I'm around her."  He paused for a moment to set about his work with the steaks.  He had to hand it to the Bannons, they bought big steaks, and considering he was a growing a boy with a heavy workout, he certainly didn't mind the protein.  "We decided that one day, maybe, we'd give it another go.  Maybe when we're done with college or something we'll go looking for one another and if we're both single, who knows, right?"

"Indeed." Jason's calm, one word reply was as dry as Devin's throat.

"I could have killed him, you know."  He said suddenly, changing the topic.  This caused Jason to take a small break and pay a slight bit more attention as the statement seemingly came from nowhere.  "Chet, I mean.  That's why it was such a big deal and the law was so involved at it turned into a shit show.  Because of they angle or something, I could have pushed bone fragments from his nose into his brain or something, I dunno."

"That's a myth."  Jason explained.  "You can not actually do that.  Regardless of the angle of the blow, the nose is mostly cartilage.  Even if there were bone fragments, where would they travel to?  There is no path to your brain from your nasal cavity.  You'd swallow them before they shot through the denser bone of your skull and into your brain.  Whomever told you that was either trying to scare you, or they're a complete idiot."

Devin paused and thought about it.  "Okay."  He shrugged.  "Good to know, the point is though, Jason, that from that day until, well, just now, all I've done is live with the guilt of what would have happened if I had taken his life.  What that would have meant for me, my family.  I think about that for you and the others too.  I'm all messed up and it has been affecting me like a weight, like... this weighted vest I'm wearing that holds all the would-be results of my actions.  Every time we go and do something against the dark, I'm wearing that vest.  I'm the guy who might have to go to someone's family and say 'I'm sorry, 'so-and-so' didn't make it' or sulk quietly in the shadows and watch their family cry and mourn and wonder where their child disappeared to one cold Shelly day because we weren't fast enough, or good enough, or strong enough and we can't talk about demons and dark gods to regular people.  I never thought about it until then.  How the things I do, and now, we do, affect others or their lives, I just sort of... did, and the world be damned, you know?  There's more going on now than 'just me'."

"I guess," he admitted, "That is the calmer, more rational way of me saying that I care about what you do and who it affects because I care about you and those close to you, Jase."  He point to Gar out the window where he and Hank were laughing about something 'that-one-time'.  He's a great dad, bro, wish mine was like him.  I might learn a useful skill for later in life, y'know?  Hearts would break, people would miss you.  I don't know how you 'feel' or how you 'process', only the way I do and they way our friends do, and we would be in a dark place without you, dude.  S'all I'm saying.  S'all I've been trying to say.  This vest dude, it's heavy and no one else seems to want to wear it.  I don't care if the team hates me, I just... I just want them home at the end of the night safe and Dark-free."

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Jason was quiet for a moment, dropping the lobsters into the large pot of now-boiling water and covering it before moving to wash his hands at the sink.  He glanced up out of the window at his father and his friend.  "I want that too."  he said quietly.  "It's literally all that matters.  Conventional moral considerations, how many people I have to maim and kill... even that time last Thursday when I ripped Cora a new asshole because I saw her willful blindness as dangerously obstructive to the group as a whole-"

"Which I admit were some sick fucking burns, dude."  Devin smiled faintly.  "But..."

"But yeah, it caused problems."  Jason nodded.  "I'm largely a pragmatist, Devin.  By wiring."  He tapped the side of his head.  "I can reason out up here that people's emotional vulnerabilities and damage can have knock-on effects.  But I don't intuitively get it the way you do.  You pointed out to me here that, for humans at least, emotional damage can and does happen as a result of actions that I take to prevent or avenge physical harm.  Unless I measure my responses, channel my instinct to protect 'my clan' by any means necessary, I will actually make their lives worse.  So... I plan to be careful now."

"At least you didn't say 'you people'."  Devin grinned.  Jason smirked, nodding.

"You're my people, Deej."  he used the familiar name.  "My father's human.  I thought of myself as human until yesterday, for crying out loud.  I'm not about to go all Ubermenschen on you."

"Thank fuck."  Devin commented with a chuckle.  "I could totally see you busting out some Magneto lines about 'Homo Sapiens and their guns.'"

"Only ironically.  I promise."  Jason glanced back out at his father.  "He is a good man.  Life treated him badly, but he never took it out on me.  Even when he was crying in the bottom of a bottle, he still got himself out of bed and went to work at a shitty job for us.  Did you know he has a Doctorate?"  He glanced at Devin questioningly.

"Marissa said you mentioned he was smart."  Devin replied softly, looking out the window at the two grown men fist-bumping as they got the engine working.

"Biochemistry."  Jason said with the faintest of notes of pride.  "He keeps the certificate in a drawer.  Maybe one day he'll take it out and look at it again, now he seems to be mending.  He turned back to Devin.  "I don't think it's cheesy, by the way.  What you said.  Most people are data to me, sure.  But the ones closest to me live in my head.  All of you.  I even have a chamber in my memory palace-"

"Your what?" Devin blinked.  "Waitaminute.  Like that Sherlock show with that Benedict Cucumberbond?  Marissa loves that shit."  Jason gave the faintest of winces.

"Sort of.  I visualise it differently, but essentially, yes.   I put it together over the last few years: everything I've ever read or experienced, every conversation I've ever had, every memory of you, or Mari, or Sean, or Lona.  There's the rooms and libraries of the palace, and the place where I lock down my instincts, but most importantly I have a sort of central garden where the Fellowship, and my dad, and Hank are."  Jason's eyes unfocused for a moment.  "Some of you are sculptures, others are photos or paintings.  I'm never going to forget any of you, Deej. Whatever happens I will always remember every detail.  And, perhaps surprisingly, there is emotional context there, too.  I do feel, Devin.  I just don't feel as... complexly as you do.  As deep, possibly, but not as complicated, not as wide a range and without the conflicts you seem to experience."  He moved over to check the pot on the stove, still talking.

"I will feel the lack of Lona in my life - she was always kind to me.  When Sara tried to punch me and Lilly was waving her finger in my face scolding me over the Cora thing, Lona just hugged me and asked me to try not to hurt people in the group."  He smiled a little  "I once asked her how it felt to be afraid, and she took it seriously and tried to answer.  Much like you did just now, with the weighted vest analogy."  He paused.  "I will do what I can to make that burden lighter on you, even if I can't know what it is to carry it."

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"I appreciate that, and don't getting all 'I used to think I was human'.  You were raised here.  Supes wasn't human, just looked like one.  He had a choice, so do you.  It's just Breakfast Club mentality.  You see yourself as you want to see yourself - in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions, but there is so much more.  Don't be brainwashed.  Your mom shows up, drops a bomb, and now today your like: 'oh, whelp, nope, everything I've done for the last sixteen years is now derp.  I'm an alien.  Read it on the internet, it's gotta be true.'  Dude, I do more research on the women I jerk off to before bed each night.  I expected you, of all people, to not take everything someone said at face value to easily."

He laughed.  "Now, I'm not saying this isn't some serious shit, but the way you're suckling the teet of information she' spewed at you just doesn't seem like you.  I expected more skepticism.  If your Dad bust through the door and barked: 'Son!  You're Santa Claus!  There ain't shit you can do about it!' I guess you'd just throw up your hands, sigh out a Witcher 'fuck' and except your fate come Christmas time, right?  Because, that's what I'm hearing.  For sixteen years this world has taken care of you.  It's people aren't the best, but like you said, your dad shoveled a lot of shit for you, alien or not, I see him going through Hell to keep you safe.  He's a dad, it's what they do.  You don't have to be human to have humanity, Jason, it's not found in the genes, it's in the heart."

He shrugged.  "Just sayin'.  Like I said, we're all human in this dimension and look at us?  We still haven't got this shit down yet.  Your species doesn't sound any different than us, except maybe having better technology and obviously more honest political leaders.  To get the whole spieces to come together like that?  Takes some dashing threads and a lot of charm.  I'm picturing a lot of leather and vinyl in your home dimension.  Lots of cubes.  Pins in heads."

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"You're not wrong to be suspicious, and I'm certainly not swallowing it hook and line."  Jason said with a slightly nettled air.  "I mean, if she's telling the truth and she's like me, then lying is impossible for her.  But then, perhaps that's part of the con too." He pondered for a moment, then smiled.  "The Project has a genetics lab.  It would be easy to test myself - I wouldn't need to involve them other than to use their equipment.  That would be a simple way to see if it's real."

"And if you are?"  Devin asked.

"Then I know something for sure about myself... and my mother.  Other than that, it won't change much about how I view myself."  Jason frowned fractionally.  "A bit of self-awareness which will help day-to-day with things.  And then I can ask my mother for more information - maintaining healthy skepticism.  Like about my assumed species."  He grinned a little at Devin.  "From what she said, they're not really united.  Sort of clannish, compete with each other a lot, and shift alliances often between clans.  Kind of like homo sapiens, but turned up to eleven."

"Shit."  Devin chuckled, as the two teens went back to preparing the meal, Jason getting a bowl of green leafy salad and potato salad from the fridge and setting them on the table.  "So long as there's lots of tight leather and vinyl, man.  Hot alien chicks with prehensile tongues I can teach about kissing.  Wait, do you have a prehensile-"

"No."  Jason sighed, but his eyes crinkled at the edges in a smile.  "Nothing seems to be prehensile."  He and Devin smirked at each other for a moment then turned back to their tasks, Devin slapping the steaks on the cast iron griddle.  They worked in silence for a while, and then out of nowhere Jason spoke, obviously having something on his mind.

"Deej, you know girls."  His air was not one of embarrassment or discomfort, more studious - the apprentice approaching the master for counsel.

"Not all of them - yet."  Devin replied with a shit-eating grin.  Jason smiled slightly, nodding.

"But better than I do.  I'm trying to analyse some behaviour."  he said soberly as he examined the color of the boiling lobsters.  "If a girl always seems to be blushing and awkward around you, but is a good friend and invites you to go hang out together, just you and her, is that a sign of interest?  I ask because my track record deciphering female signals is not the best."  He said dryly, smiling a little once more.

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"Oh, believe me, I know.  I'm still hearing about it," he smirked in reference to Jason kissing his sister.  This could only mean that Jason was still pining for his sister or he'd met someone knew who held an interest in him and that made the teenage teleporter nothing but happy for the guy.  If it were someone else though, it could be bad, as Marissa still sort of had a thing for him and she never tired of her teasing games, never realizing that eventually people moved on.  With the fine tipped brush with which she painted with, people moving on meant that they never cared to begin with, after all, wasn't she worth it?  Devin had a choice: sabotage this now, or wait for the fireworks.

"Dude, women are not that complicated.  IF you want to can't read the signals you need to find the simplest and lowest tech solution to the problem."  He was such a jerk.  Marissa was going to blow a gasket.  That was fine with Devin.  If she wanted to treat everything like it was a game and found herself losing, maybe she'd step it up a notch.  Git gud, scrubSis.  "Take, for example me and Carmen Gold, you know her?  Chocolate colored hair, small chest, tight ass?"

"Not the words I would use, but I know of her, yes.  Shy, with dazzling eyes." Jason added.

Devin snapped his fingers and pointed at his friend.  "That's her.  Dem eyes, doe, hhnnnng."  He bit his lower lip and offered a thrust into Jason cabinets.  Jason half smiled and shook his head.  "So, yeah, her.  We were talking at the end of the school year.  Hung out a lot, she seemed alright.  Tight body, fun to talk to, and them eyes, bro.  See, the problem was that she was shy, so all of her signals were all over the place.  I knew she liked hanging out because she was always hanging out with me, but whether or not she wanted to take it up a notch, I couldn't tell.  So I'd put out a signal here and there she was so shy they all shot over her head.  We were dancing in circles for a couple weeks."

"That's sort of what I'm hoping to avoid,"  his friend offered in his typical monotone.  "I don't want to confuse this.  How did the two of you resolve the communication issues?"

"Simple and low tech, Jay-Bro," Devin smiled.  "I asked.  Sometimes the simplest solutions are the hardest to see.  We went for a ride one day, and I took her back to her house afterward where we watched an episode of something on Netflix for about an hour so, Black Lightning, I think."

"Was the gy black, and shooting lightning?"  Jason asked.

"Yeah!" Devin offered, like Jason was now clairvoyant.

"Chances are good it was Black Lightning then, continue."  He shook his head and went to listening and meal prep.

"So I just ask: 'Carmen, I don't want to sound forward, but I really like you and the last few weeks have been awesome, but, I can't tell if you like me the same way and I don't want to make a play that might screw up what we got going here.'  Bam, seed planted.  She's either listening and is now going to ask you to clarify, or she's going to give a straight answer.  Straight up, to the point, you're being honest, and always keep this mind: the worst she can say 'no'.  That's it."

Jason took a moment and considered the simplicity of the approach.  "So, how did she respond?"

"She was absolutely relieved.  She was so shy that she felt the same way, but didn't know how to express it with risking screwing up what we had going.  We were both just confused or too shy to simply go for it.  Then we went up stairs and spent the first month of summer break third basing it in her parents bed when they were at work."  His eyes glossed over in memory of the sins he committed with her on her parent's bed on numerous occasions.  He shook his head to vanquish the thought as at the time it didn't seem all that odd to him.  "She had this weird fetish with being freaky on her parent's bed."  Jason just shook his head at the Fellowship's Barney Stinson, and continued with his work.  "Anyway, the point is, dude: women are not that complicated.  You want to know something, ask.  If you ask if she likes you, and she lies and you move on, well, that's on her.  She had a chance to be honest, she didn't, plenty more nani for your eating elsewhere.  Oh, and if she says 'no' or that she's not interested, don't try and make out with her anyway, genius.  Putting that out there for no particular reason at all..."

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"Oh, that lesson is learned, sensei."  Jason's voice was only really monotone compared to the expansive, expressive range Devin possessed.  Understated, the teleporting teen thought with a click of mental fingers - that was the word.  Like his expressions, where a tightening of the eyes or a faint arch of a brow might communicate worlds of non-verbal content: provided one had a sensitive enough receiver.  Sometimes though, as now, he was a master of dry irony, accompanying his words with the clasp of his hands before his face and a bow.  Devin smirked and nodded, mimicking the gesture.

"You are wise to seek wisdom at my feet, grasshopper."  They shared a grin, then Devin peered at the steaks, flipping them one final time.  "I think we're close to done.  Want to call your dad and Hank in?"  Jason nodded as he lifted the lobsters barehanded from the pot of boiling water to lay steaming on a tray, then came the sound of a bell being struck three times from the porch.  Devin looked askance for a split-second, then quickly realised that Jase must have struck it.  The comfortable ease his friend possessed with his psychokinetic gifts jogged a memory.

"Hey, real quick: you mind if Tawny sits in on the next training sesh?"  he asked.  "I had a talk with her - she was pretty freaked and hesitant at first, but I got her practicing and she's not as hopeless as Cook and those Project dweebs think.  Just basic Yoda moving rocks shit, but she's getting some confidence."  He started plating up the steaks as he talked.  "My own brand of impressively awesome can only take her so far, though."

"Meaning you need my brand of impressively awesome?"  Jason asked with a sly smile.  Devin made a rude noise.

"Wouldn't call it that, dude.  More like 'your brand of strictly narrow Rain Man talent in certain fields'."  He chuckled as Jase shot him the bird, then turned more serious.  "She's still a little nervous, man.  I wasn't in on the last sesh, but people seem to have made some progress.  Just so's your training method ain't like the drill sergeant in Full Metal Jacket, y'know?  No sandblasting her the way you did Cora or throwing wrenches at her till she can catch them."

"Nothing like that."  Jason reassured his friend.  "Cassie was incredibly nervous about letting her expanded awareness unfold - I helped her without any drill sergeant nonsense.  Besides, wrenches are the advanced class."  he added with a small smile.  "Not sure when the next group session will be, but of course I'll help Tawny."

"Shibby."  Devin offered a fist which Jason, after a moment to register the gesture, bumped with his own as the two adults came in from outside.  "Let's eat, then."

The four guys settled down around the table, passing dishes, cracking shells, jawing about their day at school or on the farm.  It was an oddly centered, calm gathering, punctuated by the occasional explosion of laughter at a joke or one-liner, or the occasional more thoughtful conversation when the topic skirted the Weirdness around Shelly.  There was an unspoken, but recognised agreement that seemed to naturally fall into place about that, though.  The mealtime was sacred, not for business or war-planning or discussion of secret conspiracies.  It was just hanging out, shooting the shit - zero drama, just Dude Time where no holds were barred in the banter and no fucks were given.

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Spoiler

Side-fic wrapped.  +2 XP (Solid writing, good characterisation, and large steps taken towards resolving differences.

 

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