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Jason stretched slowly as his brother puttered on the other side of the underground room. "Do you have enough weapons?" Jason laughed.
"I'll probably ditch a few of them, I'm just getting a feel for how they hang," Paul laughed back. "You might be surprised by some of them!"
"Those wheel things are pretty absurd," Jason pointed out.
"I don't think I'll actually use them," Paul said thoughtfully. "They look nice, though, and will definitely make my weapons look more like a collection, and less like an armory."
"There is that," Jason agreed. "Let me guess, as long as you bought them you want to try them out a bit?"
"Pretty much," Paul agreed, swiping them through the air. "Properly used they might be nasty against unarmed opponents, but honestly I just don't see how you could parry or block with them."
"Dodge?" Jason quipped. "But yeah, those... things protruding out of the wheels would probably snap off easily if you tried to block or parry." Jason cocked his head in thought. "Though, now that I'm thinking about it... we strengthen our weapons with our will, so they might not break all that easily."
Paul sighed. "You OK Jason?" he asked after a moment.
"Yeah, I'm-" Jason's attempt to say he was fine was broken halfway through by a huge yawn. "I'm fine, just a bit tired."
Paul looked down. "About last night..."
Jason looked away. "I suppose we had to talk about it eventually."
"Did Dad... did he really?" Paul couldn't even finish the sentence.
"Mr. Bester... your father... did something I can't forgive," Jason said slowly, pain filling his voice.
"He had you kidnapped. Sent to... an asylum specializing in 'curing' gay people of their 'sickness'," you could hear the quotes in Paul's voice just as clearly as the disdain.
"Yes," Jason felt the anger rise in his voice.
"Did you tell the cops?" Paul asked.
"No," Jason's voice was flat.
"Will you?" Paul asked. "Dad..." Paul's voice broke. "Dammit, it isn't right. He can't be allowed to get away with that."
"You can call him... that," Jason forced out. "I can't. I won't. But... I won't mind. He is still... still your father."
"Jason," Paul said slowly, "he isn't. If he did that... he can't be."
"You don't have to do this," Jason told him, throat closing up. "You're my brother-"
"Exactly!" Paul snapped. "Brother. Your brother," Paul quivered with rage. "I didn't believe Ronan when he told me... I couldn't believe that he would do that!"
"Paul, take a deep breath before you do something you regret," Jason said firmly.
"No!" Paul threw the wheels of wind and fire on the table. "No, I will not take a deep breath. I won't take a moment to consider. You didn't, did you?"
"I had an eternity to consider on the car ride there!" Jason snapped back. "Don't do it, not now, not like this. Think about mother!"
"She knew," Paul answered angrily. "There is no way in hell she didn't!"
"I saw her last night," Jason told him. "She was as shocked as you are."
"Then she should have known!" Paul snarled, temper breaking free. "Dammit, what kind of mother lets someone do that to her son? What kind of so-called father does that! The only reason I haven't gone over there and ripped him to bloody pieces is because you deserve that fucking privilege!" Paul upended the table he'd been working on, scattering the weapons laying on it, and kicked his chair across the room. Power began to collect around him, raw and red. Jason felt it radiating outward, hot and deadly.
"Control yourself, both of you!" Lara snapped from the doorway. "Jason, you know better than to let things get this far! Paul, look at yourself!"
"Stay out of this!" Paul snapped, pointing at Lara. The energy gathering around him struck out instantly, knocking her out of the room. The answering azure blast Lara sent back shattered on his defenses, completely unnoticed by Paul.
"What the hell?" Jason swore. Lara hadn't pulled that blow at all, yet Paul had shrugged it aside as easily as he would a fly. "Paul, control yourself!"
"No!" Paul stomped his foot. "I am not going to 'control myself'! I am going to go over there and teach that bastard a lesson!"
"You will not!" Jason rumbled. Power flowed into him instantly. Dangerous Power, he wasn't even close to being healed from the other night's exertions and he risked worsening the wound if he used the power, in any way. But this time it didn't even try to leap to his hand, it was simply there, waiting, filling him. Much as the sheer power built up around Paul had protected him from Lara's blast, so too would the power now filling Jason shield him from harm. And when he reached for power, to have it 'at hand' if he needed it, this Power flowed aside, drawing the mystic arts to his hand as smoothly as it had shoved them aside earlier.
"Lara, this is between us brothers," Jason said firmly, and then waved his hands at the doors. They slammed shut, sealed tight in an instant. Distantly, Jason could feel Lara pounding on the doors, but the seal was tight, and strong. She was powerful, yes. Only Jason and Ronan could match her in raw strength, and neither of them possessed half the subtlety or skill she did. But today Jason used the fact that he didn't simply match her strength, but exceeded it by an order of magnitude. He outright relied on it, with the seal he placed on the doors being simple, but very very strong. Taking it down would be a bitch, even for him. She'd have to spend an hour or two prying at the weak points in the binding before she could work around it. In the meantime, only Ronan held the strength to simply break the bindings.
At least, that's what Jason hoped. Because the power gathering around Paul was growing deeper. Jason felt it in his bones, just like he did when Ronan pulled the full strength of his power to him. It wasn't the sense of power coming off Paul, after a while you couldn't sense the difference. It was simply 'strong'. Jason could see it instead in the way the room seemed to change. Jason pulled more power into himself, summoning every ounce of power he could hold. Just as Ronan could command the room, eyes drawn to him for no reason, a presence that defied anyone to ignore it, Paul and his rage were a fact. Paul, and beyond that his rage, were the center of the room.
Jason didn't know where Paul got the power from, he just recognized it. After tonight, Lara would have to deal with being fourth in terms of sheer strength. And Jason was worried about the possibility that even he and Ronan would have to deal with being bested. The strength emanating from Paul wasn't the subtle strength that Jason or Ronan used. It was something different. Raw, primal, and very, very dangerous, a magic that Jason instinctively understood could never be used to make, to heal, to conceal. It was a power meant for battle, for the unreserved contest of arms. You never pull a trigger on a firearm unless you intend to shoot whatever you're pointing at. You never called this power unless you intended to destroy whatever you faced.
Jason was suddenly glad the wards on the room had been so recently, and powerfully, strengthened. Containing what was happening in here would strain them, but not break them. Probably.
"Stand down Paul!" Jason ordered flatly, crossing his hands over his chest. He focused the power he'd called around his arms, forming it into the basic matrix of a shield without actually 'spending' it. If he came to blows, he could raise the shield as quick as thought, and the power would blunt any attacks that took him by surprise.
"Why!" Paul demanded. "Why the hell should I?"
Jason bit back his first reply. Matching anger with anger would only enrage Paul further. "Paul, he will be punished. He isn't going to get away with it 'scott free'," he said softly. "It'll take time, yes, but-"
"No!" Paul roared. "No time, now! What if he tries it again?"
"He won't. He can't," Jason said even more gently.
"Why not?" Paul demanded, not quite screaming. As Jason had hoped, lowering his own voice had dragged Paul's voice down with it. And while emotions drove physical responses, they were also driven by physical actions. A raised voice raises tempers, a lowered voice helps calm them.
"First, the facility is gone. I didn't simply end the threat it represented; I destroyed it," Jason said sadly. "I tore it down, I burned it to ash. It's gone."
"He'll try and find another one," Paul snapped. "I can't let that happen!"
"Then he finds another one," Jason shrugged. "They couldn't hold me there despite having help. Do you think another facility will manage even that much?"
"What if they kill you trying?" Paul said. Jason released his powers slowly as the energy drained from the room. Paul was thinking now, not simply feeling.
Jason gestured at the table, and Paul helped him pick it back up. "We can worry about 'what ifs' all night long, and not get anywhere. We can only do our best."
"His actions can't go unpunished," Paul repeated. "There has to be punishment."
"His own son disowned him, publicly, in a scene that the entire neighborhood couldn't help but see," Jason shrugged. "Worse yet, I actually took Ronan's offer of marriage in the process."
"You what?!" Paul shouted, glaring at his brother.
Jason flourished his hand, on which a ring rather plainly sat. "Blind much?"
"You... you..." Paul did an excellent fish impression Jason mused. Next thing he knew he couldn't breathe, as his brother caught him up in a gigantic bear hug that make his ribs creak. "Congratulations!" Paul roared happily. "Oh Jason!"
Paul eventually let Jason catch his breath. "Set the date yet?" he asked, grinning.
"No," Jason shook his head, smiling. "Probably sometime soon, but honestly we haven't talked about it much."
"Define 'soon'," Paul laughed. "Next month?"
A massive wave of exhaustion dropped Jason to his knee as someone shredded the bindings he'd placed on the doors. Shaking his head to clear it, he barely heard Ronan introduce himself. "What the hell is going on in here!"
"Bit of a temper problem," Jason groaned. "Next time try knocking?"
"You OK?" Ronan asked, suddenly concerned.
"Bit tired. Not much of a headache from the backlash, but it took a lot of energy out of me," Jason forced himself to his feet.
"Alright, what kind of 'temper' problem are we talking about?" Ronan asked, still angry. "I don't appreciate having Lara tossed halfway down the hallway, or finding the doors sealed so well she can't even try to get back in."
"I was rather upset over what my..." Paul closed his eyes. "I am extremely angry over what Mr. Bester did to my brother."
Ronan closed his eyes and sighed. "One of those conversations, was it?"
"Yeah," Jason agreed. "Paul, you don't-"
"No!" Paul snapped, cutting Jason off. "If he could do that to you, then he is no father of mine. Deal with it."
"Mother is not going to be happy," Jason conceded, shaking his head. "Two of her boys disowning her husband, practically on the same day?"
"Going to give up the name 'Bester' as well?" Ronan asked. "You don't have to, you know. You can keep the name and make it your own, just disown the source."
"I..." Paul shook his head, unsure. "I don't know. I'll have to think on it."
"Take as much time as you need, there's no rush," Ronan told him. "Do you want to go tell him today? Or do it over the telephone? Or just ignore him until it comes up naturally that 'that man isn't my father,' and rub it in his face that way?"
"You," Jason growled, "are seriously nasty when you get peeved off."
"He hurt you. He's lucky I didn't 'fix' him in the same way you 'fix' a dog," Ronan growled back.
"That would be my privilege," Jason answered, starring at him.
"I am getting out of here before you two go all Klingon on me," Paul laughed.
"Klingon?" Ronan asked, startled.
"Yeah, Klingon," Paul laughed. "You two are talking like you're about to fight, when honestly it looks more like you're going to jump each others bones." Paul grinned. "I'll just close the door on my way out."
"No," Ronan said. Jason grinned seeing the fire there. "You have a bit of a mess to clean up here."
"I really shouldn't..." Jason began, but when Ronan grabbed him he didn't resist being dragged off.
"You know," Jason said as he reclined against Ronan's chest, "Paul brought up a good point. We need to set a date."
"We don't need to... I mean..." Ronan rested his chin on the top of Jason's head. "You're in pain. I'd rather not, well..."
"I wish I could turn back the clock on all this," Jason sighed. "The timing of how I accepted your proposal is going to haunt me forever, isn't it?"
Jason felt more than heard Ronan laugh. "Probably. It really is too bad we can't... turn back..." Ronan's voice died off, and Jason could just feel him thinking.
"What is it, Ronan?" Jason laughed.
"Why not..." Ronan thought out loud, amused with himself. "It's brilliant."
"What is brilliant," Jason laughed.
"You just gave me an idea. Get dressed," Ronan ordered mysteriously.
"Alright, but mind telling me what's going on?" Jason asked.
"You'll see," Ronan grinned. "Can I have the ring back for a few minutes?" he asked, tossing Jason the jewelry box it came in. "Wait, don't do that yet. I'll get it later. I need... I need to go shopping..." Ronan was dressed and out the door before Jason could even get his shoes on. Jason poked his head out and watched as Ronan picked up his jacket and headed for the door.
"I take it I'm not going?" he laughed. Ronan paused and turned around. Running back, he grabbed Jason by the arm and dragged him over to the couch.
"I'll be back in a few minutes. Just sit... stay right here!" Ronan ordered, laughing. Jason couldn't help but grin back at Ronan's rather infectious smile. Picking up the remote, he surfed for a little while before finding a documentary on lemmings, of all things. It proved interesting enough entertainment for the twenty minutes it took Ronan to come back. "Don't look!" Ronan called, poking his head around the corner. Jason laughed and firmly turned his back as Ronan paraded through two or three times, carting something to the bedroom.
"Alright, can I have the ring back now?" Ronan asked a half hour later.
"I dunno, this might not be a good time," Jason teased. Ronan's jaw dropped, and he opened and closed his mouth several times in shock. Jason fell back laughing, just pointing at Ronan. "You look like a fish out of water!" he giggled. "What has gotten into you!"
Ronan started laughed and shook his head. "You'll see. Can I have the ring back for a minute?"
"Alright," Jason put the ring in the jewelry case and tossed it back. "What is up?"
Ronan sat down beside Jason and pulled him close. Jason went ahead and snuggled into his love's side. "Jason, I have a present for you," Ronan said. "I want you to understand, you don't have to take it. I won't be hurt, or upset, if you don't want it. It's just... I love you, and I want you to know how much I love you."
"Thank you Ronan, I'm sure I'll love it," Jason played along, not really understanding. Ronan was acting just like he had the night Kyle... showed... Jason went slack with shock as he understood. "You're turning back the clock," he whispered, tears in his eyes. "Oh Ronan, I love you."
"Come on," Ronan pulled Jason to his feet. "It's in the bed room."
Jason let Ronan lead him to the door to the bedroom, both of them grinning like loons the whole time. When Ronan opened the door and Jason walked into the room he didn't see it for about half a second. There were rose heads all over the bed, spelling out...
Jason's hands flew to his mouth as he suddenly understood the words. It wasn't the message itself, but the sheer romance of spelling out 'Marry Me" using the heads of roses for 'ink' that took his breath away. He turned, and Ronan was on one knee, ring box held up. "Jason, you are the sun in my sky, the stars in my eyes, the rock beneath my feet. I live each day to love you. There is darkness in my past, darkness you can't dream of. But there is light in my present, you. I want to declare my love everlasting, to you and the world. I never wish to part. I wish to give you all that I am, all that I may be, all that I own is yours to take. In token of love, I give this ring and humbly beg you for your hand in marriage."
"Love of my life, light of my soul, will you marry me?" Ronan smiled softly.
Jason fell to his knees and smiled softly. "Ronan Koken or Justin Alfred Brown, by whatever name you choose to be known, I love you. You are the wind in my wings, the strength of my heart. You rescued me from darkness. You are the strongest man I have ever known, and though you hide it so well," Jason touched Ronan's cheek, "the sweetest. I love you. I love you. I love you." Jason dropped his right hand to his side and offered his left instead.
Ronan's hands were trembling as he removed the ring from the box. "I love you," Ronan whispered as he slipped the ring onto Jason's hand. Jason smiled, and leaned to kiss him. "If we hadn't already had our fun in bed, I suspect we'd be heading there right now."
"What use is turning back the clock," Jason smiled, "if you don't do it right."
Ronan smiled back.
Mary wasn't exactly thrilled with them missing dinner that night, and kicked them out of the kitchen. "I'm trying to clean up from dinner, and having you make a mess defeats the purpose," she growled. Jason got the distinct impression she was less angry with them, and more making grounds for what came next. "If you want to turn back the clock and redo your interrupted proposal, fine! Seal it by going out to dinner. Shoo, shoo!"
Laughing, Ronan and Jason let themselves be kicked out of the apartment, with an order not to return until they had thoroughly enjoyed themselves. They weren't exactly very dressed up, so they decided on a nearby steak house. They grabbed themselves a drink at the bar as they waited for their table to be ready. "I'm sorry things got interrupted, Ronan." Jason said softly. "It was... beautiful. Perfect. Thank you."
Ronan took a deep breath. "What is it you're always saying? If it was meant to be, it will be. One way or the other."
Jason almost choked on his drink. Ronan didn't exactly hate religion, so much as he detested the idea of letting it control your life. For him to sound so... accepting of the intervention of Providence, which was Jason's usual inference with that line, was completely out of character. "A leopard can change his spots, sometimes," Ronan had the slightest of smiles on his face as he spoke. "Or at least steal a good line."
"You timed that deliberately, didn't you?" Jason's eyes narrowed. "That's why you took such a deep breath first, you were timing it for me to take another sip from my drink."
Ronan's smile broke into an outright grin. "I did not!" he tried for outrage, but the giggle that broke though a moment later spoiled the effect. "It worked," he added.
"Payback's a bitch," Jason warned as the little buzzer thing they'd been given started going off. "That was quick."
"A little too quick?" Ronan asked, hand drifting towards his coat to check that it was loose.
"You're paranoid," Jason warned him, checking that his own coat was loose. "We probably just got lucky." Still, Jason shifted his coat around a little, making certain he could pull it off in an instant if necessary. Across the table Ronan was going through a similar routine, checking that his clothes were sitting right and wouldn't bind up at the worst possible moment.
"Paranoid is better than dead, after the other night," Ronan sighed. "But you're right. Has to be luck."
As the greeter guided them to their table, Jason glanced around the room. It was actually a fairly full house tonight, making their table being open so quickly rather strange. As they reached the table, Ronan grinned and pulled Jason's chair out for him. "Now you're just being cruel," Jason laughed as he settled down.
"Oh?" Ronan said as he sat down.
"Did you see our greeter's eyes bug out when you did that?" Jason laughed. "I may be over the whole 'making a woman of me' thing," Jason grinned as he growled the next part, "most of the time anyway, but that was just cruel of you to do that to her."
"A wide open mind is more likely to catch a little wisdom when someone dribbles it their way," Ronan said primly. "It's my duty to help widen those horizons a little, even if it's by forcing them wide open with a jack."
"You are mixing your metaphors," Jason accused.
"Do you care?" Ronan asked.
Jason thought for a moment. "Not really." For some reason that set both of them off into gales of laughter.
"May I take your drink orders, gentlemen?" a pretty young lady asked. "I'm Melanie, and I'll be your server this evening."
"Hello Melanie," Jason answered her. "I don't know about this great big lug, but I think I'm in the mood for something sweet. Do you have root beer?"
"I sure do," Melanie smiled back. "And you sir?"
"Sweet sounds good. A coke, if you would be so kind," Ronan asked.
"Alright," Melanie marked down their requests. "Would you care to hear our specials?"
"Yes please," Jason asked. The list wasn't too special, and she quickly moved off, promising to bring their drinks 'soon'. Jason and Ronan busied themselves with the menus, deciding what they wanted to order. "I brought up setting a date earlier," he brought the subject back up.
"And I promptly avoided it," Ronan agreed with a sigh.
"I kinda assumed you'd want to get one set, you were the one who asked after all," Jason quipped. "I know you're concerned about my timing, but honestly the answer would have been yes anyway."
"On one level I understand that," Ronan said slowly, "but I can't help but feel worried about pressuring you into setting a date."
"Let me get this straight," Jason forced himself not to laugh. "You're worried about pressuring me into setting a date, when I'm the one bringing it up?"
"Well, when you put it that way it does sound rather silly," Ronan agreed. "But it doesn't negate the second half of the concern."
"Second half?" Jason asked.
"I asked you to marry me," Ronan said slowly. "I didn't set a date or any conditions. I don't want... I would prefer a date that is sooner, rather than later, myself, but it isn't fair to pressure you into that if it isn't what you want."
"Ronan," Jason reached out and took his lover's hand, "how 'soon' are you thinking?"
Ronan took a deep breath. "Honestly? I'd love to do it tomorrow."
"Tomorrow!" Jason shouted. "Are you crazy?!"
"As I said, I don't want to pressure you-" Ronan started.
"Next Monday," Jason offered. "No, wait, I have a test... a week from Monday."
Ronan's jaw dropped. "Ronan," Jason smiled, "I don't want to wait either. I'd say go do it tonight, but Paul would kill me, Lara would kill me, my mother would kill me, and your brother wouldn't be too happy being cut out of the loop days after finding you again either." Jason frowned. "Thinking of which, didn't I promise to talk to his girl friend?"
"She's seen Lara a few times," Ronan reassured Jason. "Kyle... Kyle doesn't know the details, but he is aware that you vanished for a few days."
"Oh God," Jason shook his head. "The last thing I need is to give the police any more evidence against me. They still haven't actually dropped the murder charges, you know."
Ronan growled. "I am well aware of it. The DA isn't too terribly happy with the ADA in question, either. Apparently she's still 'investigating the situation' before making a decision about dropping the case the previous ADA brought."
"Let me guess, she's going to investigate into perpetuity until she can find some other kind of dirt on me," Jason sighed.
"That is the general consensus," Ronan said unhappily. "Though things have... changed a bit."
"Changed?" Jason asked.
"We're certainly ranging far afield from our discussion on dates," Ronan laughed. "A week from Monday you said?"
"Yeah, and don't change the subject on me," Jason laughed.
Ronan sighed. "Jason-" their drinks naturally chose that moment to arrive. Melanie was very quick and efficient with taking their orders before moving off again. "As I was saying, I'm not trying to change the subject. I'd just like to finish with one before moving on."
"All right, a week from Monday," Jason said. "I do have classes, but it won't kill me to miss a few days. I don't have any tests or major projects due that week. Does it work for you?"
"Nothing could work better," Ronan smiled. "I love you, Jason."
"I love you, Ronan," Jason whispered back.
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This story is also available at Castle Roland, courtesy of 'Lord' Roland, and additional stories by this author can be found there, not all of which will make it to Nifty. I also maintain a presense at GayAuthors, and additional stories may be found there not available elsewhere. You can also visit my website, www.RilburSkryler.net for information and a selection of my works. If you wish to purchase a copy of this work, Lulu.com provides both a print and e-book edition, and you can find additional copies of my work through various other self-publishing websites. Thanks to my editors for helping sort out all the many typos and other stupidities that creep into my writing!