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Equilibrium [Ep. V Side Fiction]

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Early Saturday Evening, The Bannon Farm

"Here he comes."  Hank said to Gar without looking up from the chessboard, taking a thoughtful sip of beer as the growl of the Charger's V8 filled the air.  "$20 bucks."  he added with a wry grin before essaying a hesitant knight move.

"Sure."  Gar's response was swift, both verbally and on the board as he shifted a pawn with a click before sitting back, leaving his friend scowling as he tried to spot the new pattern.

"Why'd I ask you to teach me this game again?"  Hank complained as the kitchen door opened and Jason breezed in, humming something under his breath.  Hank shot Jase's father a meaningful smirk, but Gar just patiently tapped the edge of the chessboard as he looked at his son.

"Have a good time?"  he asked as Jason, noticing the chessboard on the kitchen table, grabbed a glass of water and came over to study the game.  Keen pale icy green eyes examined the board for an instant before moving to Gar's inquisitive stare.

"Yes."  Jason nodded, a faint smile on his lips as he also noted the opened pizza boxes.  "You two?"

"Oh, we got the machinery tuned up.  And one of the Sons has a patented soil mixture he's going to share with us for grow beds.  Apparently he can get a single tomato plant to yield close to a hundred and fifty tomatoes."  Gar explained, Jason's expression changing to one of interest.  "I'm thinking when you get the time you can check it out, see what you think."

"Sure."  Jason nodded, grabbing a slice from the open box nearest to him.  "Might be something I can use for my hothouse.  Provided there's no long term toxicity effects..."

"So what did you guys get up to?"  Hank asked with a smirk that could not be more obvious.  Jason sighed around a mouthful of pizza, chewed, and swallowed.

"We cleared up the camp site, swam in the creek, cooked on an open fire, went hiking and climbing, and then her mom invited me to stay for dinner."  Jase's stare was unwavering as he met Hank's eyes.  "Also, you're about to lose your king's bishop."  He appended as he got up from the table.

"Is that all?"  Hank asked the slender young man's back as he went to refill his water glass.

"No."  Was all Jase answered as he left the room.  Gar stared, then looked back at Hank as the ex-Marine crowed triumphantly and held out his hand.  Muttering, Gar dug a twenty out of his pocket and slapped it into Hank's palm, then got up from the table.

"Jase?"  The utterance of his name brought the young genius up short as he ascended the stairs.  Half-turning, he looked back down at his father's expression of earnest concern.  Gar paused, considering.  This would have been a difficult conversation even with a normal teenage boy, but the shining chips of green ice glimmering from the shadows of the staircase were calm and intent.  "Were you, uh, careful?"

"Yes.  In fact, because I didn't have condoms, we held off from going the whole distance."  Jason answered with a shrug.  "I'll likely be going to get some on Monday."

"Oh."  Gar reflected that, on the whole, it was better than only one side of the conversation feel awkward, right?  "So... Look, I'm not an expert or anything, but if you need someone to talk to..."  His voice trailed off.  Of course his son didn't need anyone to talk to.  "I mean...  Uh, Autumn's a really nice girl." he said, feeling helpless in the face of that calm, expectant stare.

"She is."  Jason nodded, then paused and studied his father's expression intently before appearing to make a decision and turning, coming back down the stairs to sit on one of the bottom-most, his face level with Gar's.  "It's very new for me, this sensation.  Very intense.  It's distracting and odd to me, and hard to control."  He admitted, regarding his father.  "And it just happened, too.  We were talking, and then...  Fwoosh."

"Fwoosh?"  Gar echoed, sitting next to his son and musing that it was strange that the same self-possession that made Jase so daunting at times also made some conversations far, far easier.  Jason nodded, smiling faintly.

"Fwoosh."  he repeated.  "It was like... I had a similar moment with Marissa once but she drew back, so the spark didn't catch fire.  But Autumn didn't draw back - I went to kiss her and she kissed me."

"Right."  Gar nodded, trying to set aside the discomfort of the conversation and focus on being a father.  "Well, I guess it's a good thing, right?  This fwoosh?"  He smiled a little as Jason nodded soberly.

"It feels very good.  Just... it also feels like a LOT."

"Yeah, it can."  Gar chuckled softly.  "It definitely can, with some women.  But that's good, Jase.  That's living right.  Your mother..."  He paused, taking a breath and letting it out.  Jason looked at him, studying his father's face and eyes, a blind man still with an imperfect knowledge of Braiile.  "Your mother made me feel that way.  Like I was the center of a star."  He gave a soft snort of laughter.  "Yeah, fwoosh indeed."

"Do you regret that?"  Jason asked, eyes narrowing.  His father shook his head sadly.

"I regret that she left us.  I wonder why she did it.  But I'm not going to regret loving her, not anymore."  Gar said slowly, his hazel eyes distant.  "I did, for awhile.  But I know she cared about me, kiddo.  You can't fake the fwoosh." he added with a nudge.

"Did you ever upset or hurt mom?"  Jason asked softly, his gaze pensive.  "I ask because Autumn's mom asked what I would do if I hurt her without meaning to."

"Oh, we had some rows."  Gar nodded.  "Worst was before we were engaged.  She was a strong-willed woman, and didn't like to talk about where she came from or her family.  That bothered me a bit, so I pressed, and she up and dumped me."

"What did you do?"

"I apologised."  Gar said with a smile.  "With a lot of flowers, right there in her college classroom in front of everyone.  I tried to get a buddy of mine to play a guitar so I could serenade her, but in retrospect that would have probably made it worse.  I apologised, and told her I didn't care about her past, and that I only cared about being in her future."

"But your curiousity was natural."  Jason stated.  "She could have been hiding something dangerous to you."

"I chose to trust that, if there was something that could hurt me, she'd care about me enough to tell me."  Gar replied quietly.  "And if I couldn't trust her that much?  Well, then I had no business saying I loved her."  He looked at Jason's thoughtful expression and smiled a little.  "I'm glad you had fun this weekend, Jase.  Are you and Autumn dating, now?"

"Yes."  Jason nodded, eyes still deep in thought.  "She's agreed to come to Homecoming with me.  And we'll probably be dating a little before that, too.  If we can stop kissing each other long enough."  he added with a sly grin.  Gar coughed, the cough turning into a laugh.

"Christ, son!  That is too much information."  He nudged Jase, smiling, and stood.  "I'm going to get back to the chess game before Hank eats the pieces."

"I heard that!"  Hank called from the kitchen.

"I know!"  Gar shot back, grinning as Jason, still thoughtful, stood and moved up the stairs.  He glanced up at the lean shape of the youth as it eclipsed the stair light, and hoped that, whatever was going on inside the expanses of Jason's mind, it was not beyond his baffling son's ability to handle.

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The distraction was proving more than he could handle.

After showering and throwing his laundry into the washer, Jason had tended to his hothouse, spending a good hour wandering the rows of flowering plants, testing soil pH and nitrogen levels, before giving a brief examination to the tiny kitchen garden plot he'd recently planted for fresh herbs.  As the last of the day's light faded into evening he'd roamed back into the house, grabbed a book and settled down on the porch to read "A Romance of the Three Kingdoms."  At least, that had been the plan, but without some necessary task to busy himself with he found his mind's eye drifting from the epic prose detailing a turbulent period in Chinese history and dwelling instead on pale ivory skin, stained with rose and dusted with flecks of bronze.

He'd frowned as he'd caught onto the disruption of his focus, a certain wry amusement warring with the sensation of unease similar to that he'd noted when he had become aware of the sheer physical draw Autumn had possessed following that first passionate kiss.  That temptation to abandonment, the sheer strength of the struggle against his normally insurmountable - or so he'd assumed it to be - Will had been concerning.  And then, later, he had lost all sense of Self - surrendered it, in fact.  And yet, the notion didn't trouble him as much as it should, when he considered the memory of desire-darkened blue eyes and kiss-reddened lips breathing his name...

Jase sighed, setting aside the book as he realised he'd once more drifted.  Rising from the porch bench, he paced a little, stopping at the rail and gazing in the direction in which lay, he knew, downtown Shelly.  And the Old Town Hall.  Which Cassandra and Autumn would be investigating tonight.  And why should they not?  Both girls were capable.  They had uncovered Cook's kidnapping of Etienne, had found their own way down into the Project's underground facility without aid from anyone else.  Between Cassandra's clairsentient gift and Autumn's ability to detect and influence biology, as well as their more practical skills, they should be fine.

Just fine.

"Fuck."  Jason swore softly, unusually agitated.  Autumn was capable.  She wasn't helpless or lacking in wit or bravery.  But Cassie's description of the monster Cody had become was not a pleasant image.  And yet...  To insist on being present, to insist on protecting Autumn, was that to imply a lack of trust in her own ability?  Of course it wasn't, he told himself as he paced back and forth.  It was a natural desire, to protect that which you cared for.  He'd felt similarly, albeit less strongly about it back when Cass and Autumn had announced their scouting mission, before the revelations of Friday evening, before that first kiss...  Only now the feeling was more urgent, as was the sense that if something did happen, he would be too far away to help.  It was frustrating, and it was easy to isolate that the simple significant difference was that now, Autumn was more than a friend.  Possessiveness?  Care?  Or just a strong desire to keep her healthy and well so that he could experience more sensation with her?  

All three, he decided, letting out a snort of self-directed wry amusement.  Scooping up his book, he moved back indoors, past the kitchen where his dad and Hank were drinking beers and bickering over their chess game and upstairs, to flop back onto his bed and stare at the ceiling.  Obviously reading was out right now, with the memory of her so strong and demanding in his mind. He could practically feel her weight against his arm and her breath tickling his skin as she rested her head on his shoulder, could smell her hair and the warmth of her skin...

This was, putting it mildly, crazy.  He, who prided himself on his Will and focus, to be affected by another person in this way.  Witchcraft!  It has to be!  he mused ironically, amused at the way that such feelings -and they were feelings - seemed to bypass his icy self-control.  He closed his eyes, attempting to focus, to clear his mind and to walk the hallways of his memory palace so that he could set things in order-

-and found himself back beside the campfire on Friday evening, feeling the warm silken glide of Autumn's skin against his, the press of her lips and teeth against his neck as her hips undulated-

"Shit." he groaned quietly as his eyes shot open.  He sat up, staring at the far wall as though the blank paintwork would provide a solution.  "Shit." he said again, with more feeling.  He wasn't going to quit.  He would get this distraction under control.  He would process the memories and perfectly recalled sensations, and store them somewhere in his memory palace where they would not be able to break out and wreak havoc on his focus.  His wry self-observation noted that the processing would probably call for several cold showers.

It was going to be a long night.

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