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Falling Into a Dream

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The party’s in full swing, Jason however isn’t paying attention to any of it, he’s only a third through his second beer and the blunt in his hand is half burned but only a single drag’s been taken. The sickly sweet smoke is starting to become heavier, muskier, less like marijuana and closer to a fine cigar. Inwardly Jason groans because he knows what that means, he knew when he accepted Riley and Keith’s invitation that he’d be dealing with this shit all night. It’s more surprising that it took them this long to come out and play.

“This is how you rich punks party?” Hoyt’s ragged voice comes from to his right. Jason just continues to stare at the ceiling, if he doesn’t react they’ll go away faster. “No hookers, no gambling, weak as piss drugs and booze,” Hoyt continues smoke from his cigar flowing out the ragged gaping hole in his neck. There are card tables in the basement, people gambling, but it’s for chump change, no guns, no private islands, and no slaves. Hoyt would be just as bored if Jason went down and indulged. Worse he’d be a distraction from the game.

“I can’t believe this is what you came back too,” Jason counts down he doesn’t even get from three to one before a much smoother voice comes in from his left. “I never thought I’d agree with Volker on anything but this is one place where our views align. Jason, look at you,” he doesn’t react doesn’t move, he’s practiced in this, Citra doesn’t care as she continues unabated.

“You are a warrior Jason, you hold the power of the tatau within your soul and on your flesh, here you waste away going soft and fat. Like a farm animal.” He doesn’t he runs, he hits the gym, and sometimes he’ll court danger in a bad area hoping to get accosted so that when he gets violent it’s on someone who deserves it. That violence is a part of him now, embedded in his soul snuggled up next to Citra’s island magic and the devotion he still feels towards her.

“Oh agreeing with me, how fucking magnanimous of you Citra,” maybe he’ll get lucky and Citra and Hoyt will start arguing with each other. He can ignore that easily enough. Maybe he’ll get really lucky and Keith will stay on the other side of the room with Riley. Keith’s been avoiding him since Rook, not that Jason can blame him, because Jason’s been avoiding him too. Though for different reasons, Keith’s lucky he gets to remain oblivious. Jason frowns at that thought, it’s selfish, particularly since Keith endured something he didn’t.

He can see them talking, hear them a bit too, they’re going to send someone over to check on him. What sucks the most is its Keith’s turn, he hopes Keith manages to talk Riley or Daisy into coming over not come himself. He really should learn to stop hoping for things because Keith walks over, and leans on the back of the couch, Jason’s eyes flick over to him and confirm he’s not alone. Bambi fucking Buck Hughes is right behind him, as soon as Keith leans over he makes a lewd gesture and pelvic thrusts. Hoyt glares at Keith’s arms which are currently bisecting his own ethereal ones, his gaze flicks up to Keith and he looks so completely affronted Jason breaks. It’s a small chuckle but it’s enough that Citra, Hoyt, and Buck all have eyes on him now.

He groans, “go away Keith, I’m fine,” he’s pressing his palms into his eyes, Keith sighs, “Jay it’s fine we’re all just wondering if you wanted to join us at…”

He doesn’t hear the rest because Hoyt’s in his ear now, “I know you can hear me Jason, I want you to know that every day I’m stuck in this fucking limbo shit show watching you and your dumbass entitled pissant friends go about your boring tedious fucking lives is a day I plan something new and creative to do to you when you join us on this side. It won’t be long now either ‘Jay’” he uses the affectionate nickname with clear mockery “you’ve been courting this side pretty often. Maybe I’ll let Buck have the first go at you.” The Australian replies to this, “now, now Hoyt, much as I would love that, I have my own piece of property to reclaim once this gets going, and if this is anything to go on he’ll be with us sooner than pretty Miss Snow White.”

Jason looks over to see that some guy looming over Keith. Keith’s shrinking away from him, he’s making some excuse about Keith messing with ‘his girl’ which is bull, Keith hasn’t been interested in anything close to sex since Rook, since Buck, it’s something Jason will take to his grave. He’s seen Keith fake flirting to keep up appearances, the women usually go home alone, with someone else, or occasionally if they’re only in it for a one night stand, with Jason. Never with Keith, Keith can’t even touch or get touched by either sex without freezing a bit. So this guy is not only mistaken but pushing buttons he shouldn’t. The world blurs a little.

“Well looks like this party’s interesting after all,” Hoyt’s voice snaps him back to reality, someone’s screaming, someone else is pulling on his arm, his knuckles have blood on them and the big guy’s holding his nose blood is spilling down the front of his shirt.

“I guess I should go home then,” Jason says blandly, he steps over the guy on the ground and out the door, Daisy, Riley, and Keith following on his heels. “How about I take you guys home?” Daisy suggests, Jason doesn’t care. He’s already getting in his car turning on the ignition and pulling out of the driveway. He probably shouldn’t have left them behind. None of them want to be in the car with him, he doesn’t want to be alone with any of them. He wants to be alone. He’s never alone.

On cue Hoyt speaks up from the back seat, arms slung casually over the back seats, legs crossed in front of him as though this were his limo. “While we’re on the subject of mad dogs, I am curious Citra, where is your worthless fuck-up of a brother? Should he not be with us here?” Citra is sitting rigid with her hands clasped in front of her, Vaas is a poor subject between her and Hoyt.

“I wouldn’t know Hoyt, you were my brother’s keeper not me.” Hoyt laughs, and she glares at him, Jason tunes out her reply, whatever it is it pisses Hoyt off because they’re arguing again.

Jason steps out of the car at a rest stop looking over the pacific and lights up another blunt, this one cut with some special plants from the area around Rook, getting them is expensive and he doesn’t like to use them except when he needs them. Liza has said he’s the worst judge of what he needs, fuck Liza it’s his life.

Exhaling the smoke, the normal smell of weed mixing with the spicy smell of the flora from Rook. Ollie had apparently learned a thing or do from their weird doctor host about his homemade remedies. Liza told him under pain of death not to sell any to Jason, apparently Riley had ganged up with her to do it. Jason frowns, but the sky is starting to look less like a hazy light polluted sunrise and more like a Van Gogh painting, waves of the different light shades blending. Small discharges of light flickering to life and going out across his vision. Where does the sea end and the sky begin?

Who fucking knows, not Jason, Jason doesn’t care, he takes another drag. “You carry the island in you now Jason, this world isn’t yours anymore and never will be.” Citra is perched on the guard rail next to him looking out over the cliff. “Where’s Hoyt?” She looks at him, “shouldn’t you know that answer?”

“Admitting you’re just a product of my irrecoverably fucked brain chemistry? What happened to all that ‘this side’ crap.” He stares hard at her, and the infuriating person she is, the person he fell in love with, the person who used that love to manipulate him, the person who died for him. “What do you think I am?”

Jason looks back out over the ocean, “not here, not in a way that matters.” She frowns, “you could have been a king, brought the new generation into this world, continued the flame of the warrior and been consumed by it.”

“I killed for the Rakyat, I would have died for them and you, in a way I already did,” Vaas’ ranting about being reborn and crucified through Jason echoes in his mind. “But I wasn’t going to kill the reason I destroyed myself, my friends, my brother, I wasn’t going to give up the rest of myself. If you had let them go you would have had me.”

Citra just shrugs, because in the end Jason realizes, it doesn’t matter, delusion, ghost, hallucination, psychic projection, aliens, what the fuck ever she is. Citra is gone, the knife wound in her gut killed her and he’s adrift. He can’t go back, can’t bring her back, can’t bring Grant back, can’t bring anything of himself back. He’s not the wide eyed innocent little party boy anymore. He can’t be, He puts out the remainder of the joint and packs it up.

The Citra of now is gone too and the sun is rising, he’s supposed to be at a job interview in three hours. Citra, Hoyt, and Buck might be gone but they’ll be back they never leave him alone for long. Never long enough.

*


Jason arrives home long enough to take a shower, the hot water cascading over his sore muscles. Citra, Hoyt, and Buck have all been mercifully silent, the first time Citra had ambushed him had been in the shower and he’d avoided taking one for almost a week. It wasn’t until his mom made it clear he was not welcome in the house unwashed that he bit the bullet and ignored Citra’s presence.

Mechanically he goes through the motions of cleaning himself and brushing his teeth, Rook didn’t allow for the amenities of modern life. He’d be lying if he said they weren’t something he’d missed, even something he’d hoped to regain even if he’d stayed. Staying wasn’t an option though. Citra had used him, imposed her cosmology on him, forgotten he was a person who could make his own choices. He still loved her, or maybe it was closer to an addiction, a fixation, not something totally in his control, doesn’t matter. She’s gone, stabbed in his place.

Stepping out of the shower Jason looks himself in the mirror dark bags under his eyes, stubble, his hair flattened against his head, he almost looks how he did after Rook. Sighing he picks up a razor and starts shaving, he realizes with irritation he’s managed to cut himself. Small nicks have gotten easier to notice, but after losing a finger, the small pains just aren’t as noticeable. Still it’ll be marked as ‘unprofessional’ oh well he’s only doing this to appease his parents. He’s allowed to take time off from school but only if he holds an internship.

Fuck this, he thinks as he laces up his shoes, ‘business casual’ interview outfit, he looks almost civilized. Anyone who looks him in the eye can see he’s anything but. Still he might as well go and see if he’s gotten any better at faking it.

*


He hasn’t, the man conducting the interview flinches when he locks eyes with Jason, they shake hands but he hesitates to actually take Jason’s hand. Most people don’t know why they hesitate when Jason’s involved. But they do. Jason doesn’t even know, he suspects, suspects they can see, like his friends could see, the parts of him that were carved away by Rook only for the island to insert it’s savage wilderness into those missing gaps.

The interview goes form there, to the man’s limited credit he schools his expression not letting his discomfort show. Jason still knows though, Hoyt and Sam were much better poker players than this asshole. Hoyt decides to take his errant thought as an open invitation. “Look at this prick, thinks he’s king shit because he’s, what is this position for? Bank or something? Whatever, he’s just a tool a cog in a machine he’s incapable of seeing. I was at the top of an empire Jason, you know that, goddammit I ruled Rook, I operated the fucking machine that eats spineless assholes like this for breakfast.”

He looks at Jason, “you aren’t getting this job, it’s beneath you, frankly, he’s not going to give it to you. He’s afraid of you, you killed me Jason and I was three times the man he is. No simpering little prey animal’s going to willingly invite a lion into its den.”

Hoyt might have a point, and Jason’s feeling kind of malicious right now. “You’re not giving me the job,” he says it bluntly and plainly, cutting off the latest in a string of asinine interview questions. The interviewer is stunned, clearly not used to being interrupted or talked to that way by someone who’s ‘lower’ than him. “You flinched when we met, you hesitated to take my hand to shake it. All this,” he gestures, “this is bullshit pageantry,” hey word-a-day calendars are another point in civilization’s favor, and at this point it needs all the advantages it can get. “This pageantry is just window dressing, you aren’t going to hire someone you’re afraid of. So I’m going to stop wasting my time.”

He stands up doesn’t bother shaking the guys hand again, just leaves the interview and the man sitting slack jawed and embarrassed. Hey who says he hasn’t learned to kill in the ‘civilized’ way.

*


Arriving home comes with it’s own set of trials, because of fucking course it does, he can hear Riley and his parents talking. “I can’t believe he’d be so arrogant!” His dad’s yelling, he’s pissy, probably because the interview toady decided to call them. Fuck them, they don’t know anything, though Riley’s a disappointment. Riley should know better.

“Honey, you don’t know what happened,” his mother. “Oh don’t I? Jason didn’t care about his future before that whole incident,” incident, he can’t even bring himself to say it. It’s almost funny, “after he got back he’s just gotten worse, now it’s not like he’s too fucking clueless, now he just doesn’t care.”

Hoyt’s taken a place next to his mother on their couch one arm casually slung behind her like he’s consoling her. A gross parody meant to infuriate Jason, too bad for him his family’s already managed it. “Incident?” Jason speaks and everyone in the room flinches, fucking typical, “incident’s a pretty funny word for, kidnapped by human traffickers I had to kill my way through to get free.” His father is quietly fuming, his mother sighs, “Jason, isn’t that a little dramatic?”

Jason laughs and it causes everyone to make a sour face, “no, dramatic is asking your boyfriend to kill his friends and family to stay in a relationship with you.” Riley shrinks a bit and his mom looks at him, “Riley sweetie, what is he talking about?”

Jason glares, “you didn’t tell them? You said you’d take care of it.” Riley returns his glare, “what’d you want me to say? That your crazy girlfriend had us all tied up and you so drugged up you held a knife to Liza’s throat? Fuck you Jason.” His mother is looking alarmed, “at least a version of the truth, that I killed people Riley.”

He looks at his father, “I wasn’t going to get the job, your good buddy was pissing himself being in the same room as me. He wasn’t going to give me jack shit.” He looks Riley in the eye, “I’ve killed people, I’m not sorry, I did that and you all came home safe.” He turns and stalks to the guest room above the pool house.

It used to be Grant’s after he moved out Jason got it. Some of Grant’s things are still in there, he couldn’t save Grant, he couldn’t save Citra, couldn’t even save Doctor Earnhardt, that weird old man that sheltered them. Fuck, he couldn’t save himself. Riley, Ollie, Liza, Daisy, Keith? They’re all home safe and sound, but he might as well be dead to them, they have nothing left in common. Well Ollie at least knows the value of Rook’s flora.

He grabs a signed football, one of Grant’s treasured items, tossing it up and down, up and down, losing himself in the movement of the ball. “Jason?” His mother, because of course it is, did Riley bother to say something to her. Tell her anything about what he’s dealing with? He’s a monster in human skin, and he can’t even say if he dislikes the change. It doesn’t matter, it’s who he is.

“Honey, I want you to see someone,” ah, so either his outburst convinced her that he needs help or Riley did bother to say something. Doesn’t really matter at this point though. “This is doctor Rosenthal’s card, she’s very good, she’s got experience with soldiers coming home.” Huh, maybe this is something his mom actually put thought in herself, it’s a disconcerting notion. His mom usually having been a present but largely passive figure in his life. She encouraged him to follow his dad’s wishes. Is it because they want the same thing or because she’s the ‘good wife’?

“I’m worried about you Jason, so is your father, he just… He just doesn’t know how to show it.” His father’s worried about himself, Jason knows that maybe there’s a bit of genuine worry for his son in there but Jason’s a threat to him. Which, yeah Jason could kill him, easily, but god, he wouldn’t, he’s not the way he was true, he’s killed people, even enjoyed it. But he’s not some kind of rabid animal.

“Okay,” he’s not sure why he agreed to it, then he’s been running on instinct and autopilot for so long it’s not like this will change. Besides, his mom’s taken some initiative, he might as well put in some sort of effort. She smiles, “thank you Jason,” he takes the doctor’s card from her and she hugs him. “We really are happy your safe Jason, I don’t think I could stand losing two of you.”

She did though, the Jason that went to Rook is not the Jason that came home not even close. Still he returns the hug, he’s a monster, a murderer, he’s killed and he’s enjoyed it. He’s not going to torture his family though. He’s going to at least try.

*


The waiting room for the doctor’s office is neat, clean, and utterly inoffensive. He’s flipping through a magazine, he’s been sober for the last forty eight hours, he promised his mom he’d be ‘in his right mind’ for this. “I haven’t been in my right mind for the last seven and a half months,” god he’s counting the days since he’s been off Rook the way an addict counts days he’s been clean.

Eventually a man leaves the doctor’s office, shakes her hand and gives Jason a once over. He’s got a shaved head and angular face, it could easily be called attractive. Even with the large burn scar, fuck especially with the scar. His eyes are striking, bright blue contrasting with the dark stubble on his head. The look in them mirrors of Jason’s own, Jason realizes he’s sizing up this guy too.

There’s a tension in the air, two monsters in the same territory. There could be a fight, instead the man just nods to him and they pass neither breaking eye contact, Jason does get a look at his dog tags, ‘Walker’ maybe he’ll ask about him. Someone who might get him.

“Jason Brody?” The voice shocks him out of his thoughts, the woman in front of him is shorter than him. Unassuming face, reddish brown hair, older than him, in her fifties probably, the thing he notices though is she doesn’t flinch, she doesn’t hesitate. She looks him in the eyes and offers her hand, she doesn’t smile, there’s no patronizing falsehood to her. Jason takes her hand and gives a firm shake. She nods and gestures for him to come in.

“Who was that?” She doesn’t stop or turn, “none of your business Jason, if you want to meet people in the same boat as you I can give you that kind of information but I somehow don’t think that it’s what you want.” She’s right, Jason doesn’t want a support group, there’s only one person who really understood him. Citra he thought she did but she didn’t, it’s why he left ultimately, why he didn’t go along with her plan. That person killed his brother, killed him, and was in turn killed by him. God isn’t that just fucked up. Some circle jerk of violent insanity. It’s almost funny.

“Nah doc,” he says, he throws himself on the couch, “so where do we start?” She takes a seat in a chair, “where do you want to start?” He laughs, “I don’t want to start anywhere, but that sounds like a shitty way to spend an hour.”

He looks at her, “how about you tell me what you think? I know my mom’s probably called you, given some tear filled heartfelt spiel about her son who came back changed.” She nods, “I don’t know if I would phrase it that way, but yes, she is worried about you. Though I don’t think she understands that anyone who’s been through what you have will be changed by it.”

He gives a derisive snort, then he looks at her, really looks at her, her eyes are calculating, she’s observing, she’s not intimidated by him. “What have I been through doc? Kidnapped by human traffickers and drug lords? Managed to escape from them and get most of my friends and family home right? How do you think I managed it?” The two stare each other down, the doctor blinks first but it’s not a flinch so much as an acknowledgment.

“You killed people, I’m not going to ask how many, but you have blood on your hands Jason, you did what you felt you had to and robbed more than one person of their future. I wont pretend I know the situation, I don’t know it’s necessity or lack of. I’m not judging you I’m stating a fact, you saved your younger brother, your girlfriend-”

“Ex girlfriend” he interrupts, she nods, “not surprising, most relationships wouldn’t survive that kind of trial.” Jason shrugs, “it was probably on it’s way out before Rook.” She nods, “you killed people but you saved others.” Jason smirks, “I didn’t just do it because I had to, doc, I learned something on Rook, and coming home from Rook. I liked it, I was free there, everything was life and death there, it was kill and survive or not. None of this,” he gestures to the office.

“No fakeness, no, I don’t know, responsibility? Nah, more like, you were responsible for you, if you couldn’t take it you died.” She leans back and looks at him he smiles, “so how fucked up am I doc?”

“You can’t shock me Jason, I’ve met people who’ve been through and done what you’ve been through and done. Your honesty is refreshing but not surprising, you’re testing me. I don’t doubt that you enjoyed your time on Rook.” She stares him down and this time he’s the one who acknowledges her, “you weren’t free of responsibility though, you were responsible for at least five other people. You also aren’t fooling anyone, you were responsible for the people you killed. Though let me say this, you aren’t responsible for the people who you couldn’t save.” Jason glowers, “you haven’t adjusted, it will take a lot of time and energy to adjust, and you’re right, I don’t think you would be capable of a corporate job how you are. I’d recommend something outdoors, something relatively solitary, until you can comfortably be around people.

“No military service?” He’s mocking he knows that’s what he’s doing. She doesn’t rise to the bait it’s annoying, “no, you wouldn’t be eligible for service, you’re mental state bars you from service.”

“What if I told you I want to go back?” He asks, now she’s glaring, “Going back? you might want that, but you want it the same way and addict wants a fix. You need to distance yourself from it, not wallow in what you did but grow past it.”

“I felt free there, I felt... whole.” She nods, “there are better ways to get that feeling.”

He nods, “yeah I know.”

“Logically you do, but nothing about your situation is really logical is it?”

*


The bar is dark, it works for him, it’s also quiet, very exclusive, there’s rumor about organized crime meeting in here. He hopes it’s true, he worked his ass off to get an invite to somewhere there wouldn’t be an actual bar crowd and if there was dangerous elements keeping people out? So much the better. Jason smiles to himself turning away from the embers in the fire place set in the center of the bar. He himself qualifies as a dangerous element, even if he is trying his hand at being tame.

Citra is hanging off of him, he can smell her, the oils she anointed herself in, the heady smell of her. He stares down into the glass of whiskey in front of him, one small sphere of ice in the middle of it, it makes a satisfying clink whenever he rotates the glass. He listens to Citra rant about the doctor and her medicine.

Clink, “I can’t believe that bitch!”

Clink, “She knows nothing of you, of us.”

Clink, “Yet she thinks she’s in any position to judge us?”

Clink, “Jason, you are a warrior, you are not some pet to be paraded around or kept in a pretty little nature reserve.”

Clink, he’s about to tell her to shut up, consequences for talking to himself in public be damned when someone behind him says, “Jason Brody?”

He turns and scowls at the newcomer which is usually enough to make people go away, another nice thing about the shady types. They keep to themselves. The guy is in a nice suit, obnoxiously he isn’t the least bit intimidated by Jason which only worsens Jason’s mood. The guy has short brown hair and a completely uninteresting face, bland office worker type, probably one of his dad’s lackey’s. “Yeah?” He responds, throwing every ounce of annoyance into the word.

“I’m agent Reynolds from Interpol,” Shit Jason’s scowl deepens. There’s a tension in the air now, the shady types in the bar are watching them warily, great now he’s going to have to work at getting back in assuming he can.

“The hell do you want?” He’s not drunk, but he is getting close to angry. He’s been exonerated for anything he did on Rook, and he wants the people here to know this is not his choice. The agent lays a file down in front of him, “when you returned from Rook Island,” the tension in the air gets even thicker and now the shady types are focused. Yep Jason’s prospects in this bar and all affiliated establishments just got torpedoed.

“You mentioned the deaths of three prominent figures on our watchlists,” he lays down pictures, Hoyt Volker, Bambi ‘Buck’ Hughes, and Vaas Montenegro.” The photos are old, the latest time stamp from a year before he’d landed on Rook.

“What’s your point?” He takes a swig of his drink and motions for a refill, fuck this guy he might as well enjoy the last few minutes he has in this fine establishment. A fourth photo is placed before him this one of a funeral being held, Hoyt’s wife in black with two kids, “we’ve confirmed the death of Mister Volker, while Mister Hughes hasn’t been confirmed he’s remained missing since the time you left the island.” Aw, no burial or funeral for Buck? How sad. Jason’s not bitter, not really, the look of fear he saw on Buck’s face once her realized that this was one person he wouldn’t get away fucking with was satisfying. Hearing he’s going unmourned? That’s just icing.

“However,” a fifth photo, this one makes Jason’s pulse quicken, it shows Vaas with a number of his pirates directing the unloading of a bunch of cargo. The date on it is from earlier this month. “Would you like to change your story?”

Jason looks up at the guy, sure he’s rattled finding out that Vaas is alive but that doesn’t mean this slick little turd needs to know that. “Nope,” he draws the word out and pops the ‘p.’ “Like I told your buddies in the feds, I was blitzed out of my brain when I confronted Vaas.” He waves the man off like he’s a pest and it clearly annoys the agent. “If he’s alive then good for him, sucks for you, but it’s got fuck all to do with me. Now I’d like to finish my drink before these fine gentleman encourage me to vacate the premises.”

“Are you saying that you were unaware that the person in this photo was alive? If it is discovered that you were lying here it would go quite badly for you in court.” Jason stares him down and the man flinches, he doesn’t look away but he doesn’t hold his ground.

“Heh, my fucking shrink has bigger balls than you, I’m saying I didn’t know jack shit, now fuck off.” The agent makes a sound of annoyance but collects his photos and leaves. “This isn’t the last time we’ll see each other Mister Brody.”

Jason gives him a jaunty wave, “alright it’s a date, don’t worry sweetheart I’ll bring protection.”

He slams the rest of his drink and gets up as soon as he’s sure the agents gone, waving off the bouncers that come in to stare menacingly at him. They don’t even have chain guns he’s not intimidated, “yeah, yeah, I’m leaving untwist your undies.”

*


He’s spooked, not by the fed, fuck that pansy ass, but by Vaas being alive, he was almost certain he’d killed the fucker. Seeing Vaas’ eyes with the knife, the knife who’s comforting weight is planted in the middle of his chest, still burn in his vision every time he falls asleep.

“What are you going to do about it?” Citra’s laying next to him, the bed has no sign of her weight, the cigar smoke wafting through the room belying Hoyt’s presence in his desk chair.

“Can’t believe that scrawny fuck managed to outlive me!” Hoyt sounds more offended than outraged, but a lot of things offend Hoyt so Jason decides not to give a fuck.

Citra reappears over him, her face hard and unreadable, no warmth from her closeness, “Jason. What are you going to do about it?”