A/N: Wow. I'm so grateful with how much it seems people are enjoying this story...it kinda blows my mind haha. I would like to apologize greatly for the long time in between updates; between work, graduating, trying to find a full time job and...working, not to mention my social life, writing has been kinda moved to the side. Also, the fact that, if I don't feel like I can produce quality stuff, I won't publish it. There's been some I've written, but I didn't feel like it was that good. This, I'm happy with. I hope you will be too. And thank you all who've been hanging with me, cause I really appreciate it. :)
Disclaimer: Not Mine. :p.
It was Danny who had suggested the hometown bar. It was a hole in the wall type of place, one where he and David had hung out in during leave, where Ellie had first gotten drunk at 18 illegally, and where Abby had spent her 21st birthday. It was where, young and old, the local crowds ran. There would be old high school buddies as well as others, who would see Jason, and then they would know; David Webb would be the new Lazarus.
They entered it, finding it decently busy for a Sunday night in a small town. Danny and Ellie had decided to make it an extended weekend, staying until late on Monday, and after the past few emotionally stressful days, a relaxed night at the bar sounded like the perfect solution. Couples filled booths with friends as they doubled, and the siblings with Nicky joining them at one. They could feel the place go still, hear it go silent as they watched, seeing the brothers again together for the first time.
"I don't believe it," A gruff male voice came. "I must be much more drunk than I thought. Danny, I'm seeing two of you."
Danny laughed nervously in response. "No, no you're not. Yeah. Guys, you know David."
"Yeah, we know he's dead." Another male voice said, a man rising from a far booth.
"Uh oh..." Ellie breathed. "Max."
Nicky had heard about Max. He had been the men's best friend until they all went their separate ways, but they still had tried to hang out whenever they were in town together. When David had died, he had taken it pretty hard.
He was also a guy who wasn't afraid to throw a punch when tensions got high.
"Max..." Danny began, rising up to meet the man.
"What's going on here Dan?" He examined Jason critically and Nicky could see him tense, preparing to defend himself if necessary. Nicky grew nervous; not at all for Jason, but for Max. This would be the test of the night, to see if it was time for him to be out and about in the community.
"It's a long story Max. It seems, though, that David here forgot who he was. But he's come back to us; haven't you?" Danny was eyeing his brother, hinting wordlessly to nod and leave it alone.
"Forgot?" Max spat. "Like...amnesia? That isn't real!"
"It is, though." Jason spoke. "I would know, I've had to live it. Now I'm just trying to get to know my family again. Do you mind?"
His tone was sharp and Max visibly flinched, hurt. "Whatever man, fuck that then." He threw up his arms and turned, walking brusquely away without a backward glance. Others in the bar who had been watching the interaction stared for only a moment more, then turned back to each other and the conversations they had been having. Or, more than likely, conversations about the excitement this return would cause.
"10 bucks we start getting phone calls." Abby muttered.
"I call it, and raise you another 10." Danny replied dryly. "I'm gonna go get us a round."
"I'll come help." Ellie offered, quickly following her brother. While she was okay with David's return, she still found herself to be uncomfortable around him.
Nicky and Abby turned to Jason, whose head was hung. "He's gone, right?"
"You looked like you wanted to judo chop him." Abby replied with a laugh, intending it to be a joke. Jason and Nicky exchanged a serious glance and Abby quieted. "Oh."
"I won't let some stupid drunk, or anyone else, hassle me, or any of you." He replied gruffly.
"This isn't Treadstone, Jason." Nicky interjected sharply. "You can't just punch someone because they're doing something you don't like. He's not threatening, or hurting anyone. He's just an asshole."
"There is no reason for the people I care about to be hurt anymore than they already have been." He was staring hard at her.
"Oh, and you think beating the crap out of some drunk is going to make them feel better about you being here?"
"Okay, guys, calm down." Abby interrupted, laying her arm physically in between the two, who were sitting opposite of each other. "David, you will not be punching out anyone. While mom having to bail you out of jail would be the cherry atop this weekend, I'd rather spare her any more stress than she has to deal with."
He sat up straighter in response. "I'm going to the bathroom." He replied, rising from his barstool. "I'll try not to beat anyone up before I get back."
"Was that...a joke?" Nicky asked mockingly as he walked away, a hint of a smug smile on her face. Until Abby turned to her.
"And you have got to be nicer to him." She began. "I know you're mad at him-more mad and frustrated than any of us, it seems. And wary as well. But this isn't easy for him either, Nicky, and you know that."
"I've been perfectly nice to him!" She defended. "Hell, I've been the one standing by his side this entire week."
"And you've also been cold. And stiff around him. Do you even see how he looks at you sometimes?"
"I do. I feel it. How do you think that makes me feel?" Her voice seemed to raise an octave.
"Maybe you just need to talk to him about that." Abby suggested quietly; he was walking back to the table. "You know you're gonna have to sometime."
"I don't think I will though." Nicky responded, and that was the end of it. Jason joined the table just as Ellie and Danny returned, setting a pitcher and a bucket of longnecks on the table.
And all the while, Nicky was very conscious of Jason's eyes on her, watching. Waiting.
The night went on without too much of problems. As the hours passed, and more pitchers were emptied, Jason seemed to relax and slide into a laidback lifestyle much easier than Nicky ever believed he could. Again, she could see remnants of the man she had once loved shining through, as he laughed and joked with his brother. Ellie's eyes found her own when she was gazing at him at one point and she smiled softly as if to say 'See. It's almost him.'" Nicky had just smiled back.
As the air filled with more smoke and cheap perfumes, more couples were joining the dance floor. Nicky noticed Abby looking in a direction, and then quickly looking away, and when she followed the gaze, noticed a younger group of men on the other side of the room, one doing the same. She grinned softly as he picked up a beer and began walking over.
"Hey Abby." He spoke softly, almost nervously, as he walked up behind her. She spun and smiled, and in the dim light, Nicky could see a soft blush working onto the girl's features.
"Hey Eric. How are you? I haven't seen you in awhile!" She exclaimed. The young man-Eric, apparently-smiled widely.
"Yeah, that's cause you're lame and never come home." He replied, flirting as he leaned in close and teased her. She giggled in response.
Nicky looked at Danny and Jason, who were staring suspiciously at the boy. Ellie, however, was grinning. She leaned close to Nicky.
"Abby has had a crush at that kid for years. I think he liked her too, but they went to different schools." She whispered. Nicky grinned wider.
"Hey so...I was wondering if you might wanna dance? I'll buy you a beer to put up with me." He joked, laughing through nervousness. She smiled, shyly now, and leaned closer. Danny looked like he was sizing the kid up, and surprisingly enough, so did Jason.
"You don't have to bribe me. Dancing sounds like fun, and I'm for sure not going to dance with my brothers." She ended it with a scoff, her tone insinuating that she would rather drink antifreeze than dance with them. Eric grinned wider and looped his arm around her waist leading her away as he began to talk more, their conversation getting drowned out as they moved further into the crowd.
"I can get his social." Jason remarked. "And his address."
"Good, I was gonna ask." Danny replied quickly. Ellie rolled her eyes.
"Overreaction much?" She asked, but a ghost of a smile played on her lips.
Nicky wasn't paying much attention to the exchange. Her eyes were on the dance floor as the two began to sway together, Abby being the bolder of the two and putting her arms around his neck as they moved closer together, whispering and smiling, their eyes holding strong meaning to as how this could be more than simple flirtation.
The next few songs passed with Jason and Danny going back and forth about Eric, and about anything that wasn't too personal. It sounded like casual small talk, like they were talking around something, tip toeing in a field full of mines that at any time could explode simultaneously. Ellie had been pulled away by some friends and soon, came over to Danny, pulling him away as well to join in on some of the conversation. Nicky and Jason were left alone.
A tune began in the air, the opening rifts familiar to all in the room, and earned excited gasps from some. Couples moved closer; Eric and Abby were now practically inseparable.
As the sound hit Nicky, her breathing hitched and Jason's trained ear picked it up. He glanced at her, questioningly, before she raised her eyebrows and he shrugged, looking away. She kept herself from panicking, from saying anything, scolding herself silently as she remained composed. She had heard it millions of times since he had left, many times in Europe even during their missions there, but never before had it impacted her again like this. She knew it was because he was here, sitting with her in a bar and it was almost like she could pretend none of this had ever happened.
"Today is gonna be the day, that they're gonna throw it back to you..."
He turned to her again, something different about him and he held out his hand as other couples had joined the cramped dance floor, minds hazy with cheap beer and smoke. After hesitating, she placed her hand in his and he pulled her to her feet, taking her to the floor. Her heart began to beat and her breathing grew faster, but she controlled it well.
They started casually, but he pulled her closer soon. "Why are we out here?"
She felt him shrug. "I saw you looking at the dance floor, like you wanted to come out here all night. Since everyone else was coming out here for it, I figured we'd follow." He explained. It seemed valid enough and she accepted it, swaying with him as if he had swayed with her always. It took mere moments before she was comfortable enough to rest her chin on his shoulder, cautiously forcing herself to know that this was merely for fun and didn't mean anything. This was easy to do...until he breathed into her ear.
"And after all...you're my wonderwall..."
"Stop it!" She exclaimed, pulling away, her ear still warm from his whispered breath. "Just...stop it."
She had drawn attention from those around them and Jason merely stood, staring at her, mixed emotions on her face. She knew in that split second before she decided to turn and leave that he hadn't even realized what he was doing, that it had just happened; a misunderstood endearment, picked from the shadows in his head. She wanted to die, but she ran instead. Running was always easier.
The cool night air hit her and she swallowed it hard, keeping the tears at bay. She ran to the edge of the parking lot where an old chain link fence separated it from an old hardware store and stopped, grabbing the fence and shaking it in anger and frustration. Unable to keep them back any longer, she began to sob angrily.
"Nicky!" A few moments later, the voice came behind her. She thanked god for it; she had stopped crying by then, but the evidence was still on her blotchy face. She turned, staring at him from 10 feet in front of her, shadows playing across his face from the streetlight. She crossed her arms in front of her and stood, hip jutted out, a scowl on her face.
"What do you want?"
"I wanted to see if you were okay..." He began, walking closer. She stepped back and he halted his walk.
"I'm fine. I've been fine. I just...was caught off guard."
"We're gonna have to talk about this." He began walking again, slower, and she didn't move, mostly for lack of space. He got just farther than arms reach and stopped; she could see a sadness in his eyes she couldn't place.
"We have nothing to talk about."
She paused, eyes narrowed, but she knew he wasn't going to leave it alone. "Fine. Then what do you want to talk about? How we were happy? How we were together, how it was good, how you just left?" She spat.
He stood there, staring expectantly, knowing she had to vent this out. He had nothing real to say because, sadly enough, he didn't remember anything solid from their relationship. She saw his face, and her fury at his expectations exploded.
"There were kid's names, and marriage talk and...ideas, of where we would live. You even talked about leaving the service, settling in Virginia, starting a life! And then you just left," She had begun crying again to her humiliation, but he just moved closer, grief on his face. "You just left, without any warning, and you had no reason, no real reason! We were happy, but we weren't good enough were we? Me, your family? Why weren't we good enough Jason? Why?!"
He moved to grab her hands comfortingly, but she snatched them away and began to beat his chest with her fists, crying evermore, until he grabbed her wrists tightly and pulled her to him, wrapping his arms around her tightly as she sobbed, losing all control. He lowered her to the ground, resting on a parking block, letting her cry as her attempts to beat him weakened, slowed and eventually, gave out with her frustrations.
"I don't know what it was that led to this." He replied softly, his arm around her with his hand resting on her opposite hip. "I know it wasn't you or them, though. It couldn't have been."
"I guess we'll never know." She muttered caustically, pulling back away from him.
"Unless we go to Virginia. See Hirsch."
She gaped at him. "You've already planned this out." She stated in wonderment. "That's why you did this, because you're gonna leave again."
"Nicky..." He reached for her, but she stood quickly, averted his hand.
"No! I won't have any part in it this time, Jason."
"You don't have to. I'd understand if you didn't want to come, in the end."
"You don't need me."
"But I do." He replied quickly, so fervently it caused her to look up sharply. There was desperation in his gaze that she couldn't understand, and he moved toward her slowly. "You told me you were on my side, even though no one else might be. You're the only one that can understand this Nic."
Her words, which seemed to have been said so long before, came back now in her mind, the memory of her hand around his the day before causing her breathing to hitch. A light feeling of shame washed over her; she had been treating Jason with a tolerating kindness. She was only helpful or nice to him because she felt bad, or guilty. Under those words, though, lay frustrations and anger that simmered as she held it in. The bad things about those kinds of feelings, though, were the longer you held them in, the fiercer they would become and then, there would only be an explosion.
Sort of like the scene she had just exhibited, she thought to herself, her cheeks growing warm. She swallowed, searching for something to say and thankfully, being interrupted as Ellie came into her eyesight from behind Jason, stalking towards the two of them, worry etched on her face. Danny followed a few feet behind.
"Nicky? David, what's going on?" As she got within eyesight and could see Nicky's puffy expression, she hurried to a speed walk, pushing past David and touching Nicky's arm. "What's wrong? David, what did you do?"
"He didn't do anything," Nicky defended. "It was just...a misunderstanding. I'm just kind of stressed, that's all."
"Well, let's just head out. Abby's gonna get a ride from Eric, so we'll just take our car." She grabbed Nicky's hand, pulling her close in a sisterly gesture as she rubbed her arm soothingly. She gave Jason a wary look. "Danny wants to talk with you alone."
Ellie led Nicky away as Danny neared, Jason pacing slowly. He stopped as his brother came close to him, a wry smile on his face, the result of the few beers that were still in his system. "Well, what have you done now?"
"I'm like a one man wrecking crew." He replied with a sigh. "What's up?"
Dan shrugged. "I don't know. I have a few beers in me, I'm feeling pretty good. We haven't had the chance to really chat yet. You wanna go get some late night breakfast?"
Jason was staring at him, contemplating it, but he nodded. "Yeah. A cheese omelet sounds pretty good right now."
"Green peppers and onions?" Jason nodded, and Dan chuckled. "Well, some things never change."
They got to the Denny's 15 minutes later and were seated quickly enough, in a booth in the rear of the restaurant. The waitress brought them coffee, and they sat, making their awkward small talk as they had the past two days before their food was brought. And it was Danny who made the first move in the end.
"So what was it like? What you remember of it, I mean?" He asked.
Jason treaded lightly in his answers. He didn't want to be a monster to them, but he wanted to be a liar even less. He admitted to his heinous duties that he carried out swiftly and unemotionally. But what he remembered most deftly was the three years after the Wombosi mission.
"That was you?" Danny exclaimed. "I heard about that vaguely, just because that guy made such a fuss about it. That was you?"
Jason nodded. "That was me."
Conversation carried from there, for an hour or so. Jason had limited memories, and Danny seemed to be enjoying reliving their memories, even if Jason couldn't completely share in the remisinicing.
"...and there you were, with poor Annie Sanderson under the bleachers in nothing but jeans and you, with your hands strategically placed." Danny was laughing, wiping his mouth as he swallowed his last bite. Jason was smiling at the story that sounded like a work of fiction rather than something that had actually happened to him. "Half the rest of the team was out there, truck lights shined right on the poor thing, hootin' and hollering. She grabbed her stuff, slapped you a good one and ran like hell. Man, I thought you were gonna kill me!" Danny was shaking his head at the memory, laughing. "But you don't remember that, do you?"
Jason smiled still, but there was a sad quality to it. "I'm sorry."
"The only thing you should be sorry for not remembering is because you're on the losing end. We had some great times."
"I wouldn't expect anything less." The mood grew somber, and silence stretched for a few moments before Danny spoke once more.
"Wish we knew why."
The hairs on Jason's neck stood up; he had planned on leaving quietly, after his siblings had left, and would've left a note for his mother, promising his return swiftly. But Danny was staring off wistfully, assuming they would never know for certain. Jason sighed.
"Actually, that's something I wanted to talk to you about." He began dauntingly. Every instinct was screaming against it, but he forced himself to ignore it. As an asset, you trusted only those who were linked to the agency, but here was someone who cared and trusted him implicitly. Danny deserved the same feeling; Jason supposed that's what family meant to him, once upon a time.
"You're gonna leave again." Danny guessed.
"It's the only way to find out the root of all of this; to bury this, and hopefully work away from it." He sighed. "It'll only be for a few days, and I will come back this time. I will."
The absence of the awkwardness that usually accompanied silence was obviously not a result of his reprogramming, but a characteristic he shared with his brother. As it carried on, the two sipping their coffee as they thought, Jason mused as to what other personality quirks he shared with his family; he really hadn't given such things much thought since he had been here.
"I don't think it's important to know what happened." Danny began. "But if it's what you need, to make this easier, then go. We'll be here when you come back." The if hung in the air, but he never said it. "What do you need me to do?" Jason smiled at his twin fondly.
"Thank you." And he began to explain his plan, and together, they began working a way to leave the past behind them and work together to continue into their futures.