Jason Blood in the Cat-Tales Universe from Lady Dien
Author's Note: Blood and Glass
takes place sometime around the "Such An Idiot" story of Cat-Tales...
Correction; it took place at such a time--retroactively.
It’s a ‘splinter' in time, an event that did not exist in regular continuity until Catwoman made use of Jason Blood’s Tempus Stones in the story Red Cape, Big City. Such is the price of time travel and debts incurred when you are out of your natural timeline.
Part I: Whose Walls Are Mirrors
"Life is for each man a solitary cell whose
walls are mirrors."
--playwright Eugene O'Neill, Lazarus Laugheed, Act ii. Sc. 1.
A f'r instance: Catwoman is not, she simply is not, accompanied on thefts by those who are hiring her to accomplish said theft. Ever. If a customer wants to come along for the thrill ride, they can damn well steal the item themselves. Yet, not five feet away… Mr. Jason Blood.
In truth, she knew his presence was necessary-- magical wards were something she did not have the lockpicking tools for. And if, for God only knew what reason, he said that she had to be the one to carry the book out as he wasn’t permitted to touch it just yet-- well, that was all right too, especially when you were getting $25,000 for said privilege.
And things had gone well. Remarkably well, in fact. Book in hand-- the security systems dealt with easily and quickly-- no troubles, no interruptions-- she felt like grinning, but knew that until you were out of the building and officially away, you didn’t count the paycheck or let down your guard.
The office building was dead quiet, lifeless monitors sleeping on desks amid a labyrinth of cubicles. She remembered thinking it had been a strange place to keep a mystical artifact, but according to Jason, the man who owned the office building was not just a businessman. Jason had been sketchy in his details-- purposefully vague, she thought with slight professional annoyance-- but the fact that Denis Rochester, head of Rochester Firms, Inc., was a magician, seemed assured.
Fine; Jason had handled the magic, she had handled the more routine technology, and now the green of the EXIT sign glowed up ahead, not too far away. The two moved silently through the deserted office building, and Catwoman was already considering if there was enough time tonight for another little job when the lights went out.
It hadn’t been all that bright to begin with-- a few glows here and there from office machinery left on, the aforementioned exit sign, and the moonlight spilling through the building’s windows-- but suddenly all those lights were snuffed out as swiftly and surely as a blown-out candle.
Instantly, the thief dropped into a crouch, turning her head vainly for some sight of the darkness’s cause. There had been the grey fuzzy wall of a cubicle only inches to her right-- she felt for it-- her fingers encountered only air.
A beat. Listening to her veins, loud in the dark, and then she risked a whisper. "Jason?"
"Right here. Hold on. I can make us some light," he said softly, and she relaxed a fraction. Whatever force had hit the switch, so to speak, hadn’t whisked him somewhere else. In the ensuing quiet, she heard him muttering under his breath in a language that she didn’t recognize.
Another beat, while she waited, and realized with a strange sense of disorientation that the floor didn’t… feel right. Carpet, a second ago, that ghastly nubby stuff office buildings must buy by the mile… yet now, whatever was under her feet was hard and smooth and unyielding. She ran the tip of a claw over the surface, confirming what her feet had told her. If she didn’t know better, she'd almost say she was standing on… glass…
"It’s not working," Blood’s voice said, faint surprise in his tone. She couldn’t resist the tiniest of smirks-- there was such a thing as being over-dependent on magic-- before whispering back, "I've got night-vision lenses. Wait a sec while I pop them in--"
"Don’t bother." New voice, musical, a woman’s. "There’s no light for them to pick up, miss. And Jason Blood… do you honestly think I’d deal with you without taking suitable precautions? You're standing in a ring of hawthorne."
Blood let out a soft curse, under his breath but just loud enough for Catwoman’s ears to pick up. "Lyle. May I ask what on earth you're doing here?" he said guardedly.
"Denis Rochester is one of my students, Jason. He arranged for the news of the Leabhar Seun to get out, to you. You came as I thought you would. …though I had hoped you'd be alone. Still. No matter."
"This was a trap?" Jason hissed, no longer quiet. Selina grimaced. It had been too easy. Damn. Damn. Damn.
"And Emrys always said you weren’t that bright," murmured the voice with faint sarcasm. "Yes. A trap, with a bait you took."
A second’s pause, then Jason said, in a weary voice, "Why? We've never been enemies, Lyle. Morgana, I would expect this of, but you? Do you also have some malice against me, then?"
"No, Blood. No vendetta. I have brought you here to see…. Do not my duties-- as the Lady of Avalon, as the lady of the waters-- do not my duties include the revelation of truth? You are here to learn.
"Let us have light," continued the voice, and a soft warm light that came from nowhere filled the space, reflecting off of-- Catwoman couldn’t hold back a slight gasp as she realized they were now standing within a room of mirrors.
Five walls, each one a perfect pane of silver-backed glass, and a mirror underneath their feet, and a mirror above their heads. The two of them were alone in the room, with no sign either of the speaker or what gave off the light.
Jason seemed, if anything, confused. His expression of mild bemusement was reflected an infinite amount of times in the panes surrounding them. After turning and looking around him, he murmured, "Mirrors, Lyle? I confess… this seems a bit overly symbolic, even for you."
Selina walked up to one and tapped curiously on it with a claw. Definitely solid. The curious cat-part of her wanted to know exactly how they had gotten moved, or how the room had moved around them… but the practical cat-part of her said that getting out came first.
"These are not mere glass. These are the mirrors of Avalon, which show the true soul and nature of a thing. Look to your reflection, Blood," said Lyle’s voice, coming from everywhere and nowhere. Selina grimaced. It would have been nice to know which mirror their new friend was hiding behind.
Jason let out an annoyed sigh. "Lyle-- at the risk of sounding rude-- this is bloody ridiculous. If you want to talk, fine, let’s talk. But there’s no need to stick us in your interpretation of a damned funhouse maze, and certainly no need to drag Catwoman into this. Why don’t you let her out, and if you want, I’ll stay here and stare at the mirrors. How’s that," he growled, with a glare for his reflections.
"I’m afraid I can’t allow that. It’s true I’d rather this… what did you call her? Cat-woman? weren’t here, but you brought her into this, and I can’t lower the mirrors at this point. Not until you see what you're here to see."
Jason rolled his eyes and cast a glance at Catwoman that was both apologetic and annoyed, as if to say, ‘sorry about this, didn’t expect a crazy witch to lock us in a glass box tonight, bear with us just a bit.' Selina half-smiled back, but her attention was more on wanting the aforementioned crazy witch to speak again so that she could try and focus just where the voice was coming from. Had to be behind one of the mirrors.
The demonologist sighed, stepped forward to one of the mirrors, and placed his hands flat on the surface, looking into his own reflection. He said with pretended politeness,
"Alright, Lyle, I’m looking. What, praytell, am I supposed to see?" "…Please don’t be flippant, Jason. You can’t afford the luxury."
Selina frowned and shook her head. There wasn’t any direction on the voice; it was just there. Well, she supposed they could break all the mirrors… Jason sighed and looked resignedly into the mirror. Catwoman watched silently, absently uncoiling the bullwhip and recoiling it, just in case a situation where she could use it arose.
A slow change came over Blood’s expression. His resignation faded, to be replaced by uneasy interest, then apprehension. Without warning, Blood snatched his hands off the glass as if they'd been burned, turning from the mirror hurriedly.
"… an illusion, Lyle. For all your talk of truth, you're a witch the same as Morgana, and you know well how to lie, and how to make what images you wish appear on glass," he said with seeming calm, but it took no mind-reading skills for Catwoman to see that Jason was shaken by whatever it was he’d seen.
"I do not lie, Jason, and I am not Morgaine. And my mirrors cannot be enchanted to lie. You know all this."
Jason swallowed, looked away from the reflection currently staring back at him as if it disturbed him. And then, for a second, Selina thought she saw something wrong in the reflection too. It blurred at the edges, a little shift, and then back to normal-- just Jason Blood, standing in the middle of the mirrors, trying to look anywhere but at his reflection.
A scratching sound? Catwoman turned, looking for the noise--
Not a noise, a voice… a sound… like gravel, driven along a street by harsh wind. Like the niggling voice of doubt. The words were too low to be heard, too low to be understood, but too loud to be ignored. Catwoman felt the hairs rising on the back of her neck, without her permission, and didn’t like it a bit. Jason heard the voice too, if the way he suddenly turned, looking behind him, was any indication.
Again… They felt a brief, bitter wind, in a room where there could be no wind.
Louder. Were there words in that nameless gibbering? Without realizing she was doing it, Selina had raised her hands to her ears to cover them. The voice had to be kept out, it would crawl under your skin if you didn’t, get inside your skull like a cancer and you'd never get it out--
Malice and madness, like a thousand chittering insects on acid, like a hundred psychopaths whispering threats.
"Stop! Stop it, Lyle, NOW!"
"I’m not doing it, Jason Blood. Not me. You. The real you."
"Damn you to hell, I am not him."
"That’s not what the mirrors say. That’s not what they see."
"Fuck your mirrors! I’m not him!"
Catwoman opened her eyes, that she couldn’t recall closing, to see Jason looking as close to losing control as she'd ever seen him. He was breathing raggedly, nearly hyper-ventilating, sweat beaded on his forehead. The look in his eyes was fear, definitely; fear like a wounded animal’s, ready to lash out at anything that came near. His gaze flickered around the room, refusing to settle on one thing.
As she watched, he made a visible attempt to regain composure, standing up straight and wiping his face. "So… so what. So I see him as my reflection. Nothing new, Lyle, nothing original, find someone else to fuck with, will you--"
"Haven’t you considered it? Considered that Etrigan is not your reflection, Jason? That you are his. Created when--"
"That’s not true--"
"--created when Emrys needed a cage. The older legend, Blood, the older legend that you refused to give any credence to, when trying to chart the blank places in the map of your life--"
"Is. Not. True."
"How sure are you?"
"How sure am-- I’m damned sure! I had a life before Etrigan--"
"That you do not remember. That you have never found conclusive proof for."
Jason fell silent, staring at one of his reflections the way a rabbit stares at a cobra.
Catwoman shook her head, trying to ignore that voice that still seemed to echo in the air around them. This was… whatever this was, it wasn’t what she had signed up for, and it damn sure wasn’t good. This was something she wasn’t supposed to be involved in, and, shrieking hell-voice hall-of-mirrors not withstanding, it would probably be a damn good thing if Jason wasn’t involved in it either.
She and Jason needed to get out of here. Like right now. He could explain all the crazy later-- maybe-- Selina stepped forward, ready to tell Jason that 'hey, maybe now would be a good time for us to work on breaking some glass,' but found herself distracted by the reflections.
She showed up herself, in all the mirrors. Purple skin-tight leather catsuit-- check; tail-- check; the loot still firmly gripped in one hand-- check; … but Jason wasn’t in the mirrors. The reflection, where he should have been, was… most certainly not human.
Skin the color of a yellow bruise, eyes the color of lava. A muscular figure draped in a cobalt blue cape was staring back at Jason from the other side of the glass, smoke wafting from between fanged lips. The demon-- for so it was, so it had to be, with the horns on the forehead for crying out loud-- smirked, though Jason’s expression had never changed-- threw its head back-- and laughed noiselessly, clawed hands flashing in five mirrors, in an infinitude of reflections.
"Oh, shit…" Catwoman heard herself mutter.
The devil in the mirror lowered his head after his laugh, stared straight at Jason, opened his mouth, and breathed fire.
It wasn’t real outside of the glass, it wasn’t even warm, but damn, it looked real, and Selina found herself cringing in anticipation. She saw Jason clutch at his forehead and fall to his hands and knees, an expression of pain contorting his face.
All right. All right. I've had just about enough of this, the Inner Cat growled. Selina Kyle tried yelling back at it, And what do you suggest we do about it?
Something, dammit. We're Catwoman, remember? Cat. Woman. Catwoman. Not 'the girl sidekick who stands around hoping for something to happen or someone to show up and rescue her!' Yes, the situation is freaky. And? We've dealt with freaky before. Clawed it up pretty good, too.
And with that, she uncoiled the whip in one smooth motion-- instantly feeling better, feeling more in control with just that familiar action-- and took a step forward. She wasn’t quite sure who she was going to use the whip on, but often the best beginning was to thrash your tail, make it clear that you can whip and scratch, you WILL whip and scratch, and then see who stepped forward to stop you.
"`Scuse me," she said to the ceiling, which was as good a place as any for where the voice was coming from, "but I’m feeling a bit like an extra with no lines here, and that’s not a part I play well. How about you stop with the light show on the mirrors for a sec, let the man over there up from the floor, and maybe we'll talk without the whip. If not…"
Selina twitched the whip once, the end flicking lightly against the floor, and left it as an unspoken threat.
"This does not concern you, mortal. This is something that has been fifteen centuries in the coming, and you would do well to stay out its way," said Lyle’s voice, hard as the glass of the room.
Catwoman paused. Oh. No. I do not take that 'foolish mortal' shit. Not from anyone, and certainly not from you, lady. She raised the whip in one hand, flexed the claws in the other, and…. realized, again, that 'Lyle' was nowhere to hit.
Selina exhaled in frustration and turned to the nearest of the panes of glass. "I’ll take what’s behind Door Number One, thank you," Selina muttered, and glanced back to Jason to tell him to pull his jacket over his face, or something equally self-preservatory… But Jason was talking. To himself, or to Lyle, or to the monster in the mirror Selina wasn’t sure, but--
"Not true. Separate. Myrddin…. bound… but we, we each of us… you lie, witch, you lie…."
"No. I’m sorry, Jason, but you know I do not lie. History records no Iason Blayse. And Jason Blood exists only as a mask."
"That isn’t true!"
"Is it not? Tell me, Jason, what are you without him? What are you without him to create you? For fifteen centuries, he has been your purpose and your reason; you have taken no action that was not calculated with him in mind, you have said no word without the backdrop of his presence, you have had no identity but that which derives from him as his jailer.
"You do not breathe and your heart does not beat, save these serve the purpose of warring with your demon.
"His existence defines yours."
Jason stared at the reflection between his hands, that stared up at him from the floor, and the only sound he made was his breathing, rapid and shallow.
"Can you deny this, Jason? Can you? Do you?"
"I do. I do deny it." Ragged, wretched whisper.
"No. In your heart you do not. If you did… if you truly did believe that you were something separate from the demon, that you were a being whole and complete without Etrigan and that you could survive without him-- if you believed that you were more than a monster pretending to be a man-- then you would…
"…then you would find it no hard task to destroy the mirror.
"If he is your reflection, then you can break the mirror without consequences. If…. on the other hand… you are his reflection… then you dare not destroy that which creates you.
"Which is the mirror, Jason? And do you have the strength to break it?"
Selina watched, motionless in spite of herself, as Jason abruptly raised a fist, aiming at the mirror directly in front of his face. The fist hovered, pausing in the air before the smooth, mocking plane of glass.
"Five mirrors. And you cannot even break one."
The fist swung forward with sudden violence-- only to drop open-handed onto the glass, doing no more damage then the smudge of fingerprints it left. Jason Blood closed his eyes, his head dropping in despair.
Catwoman found her breath again, evaluated herself, and found she was mostly pissed off. This-- whatever the hell this was-- this bitch, talking from somewhere she couldn’t be reached and sounding so goddamn arrogant and satisfied that she'd just gone and brought Jason to his knees, like you went around and destroyed souls because it was your fucking duty--
She breathed deeply, looking at the mirrors and noting her reflection looked exactly as pissed off as she felt, and when she felt like she could manage to speak calmly, she said, "Jason."
There was no response, no twitch in the slumped shoulders. Catwoman pursed her lips, stepped closer, and said in the voice she only used when someone-really-better-oughta-listen-up-unless-they-want-their-eyes-scratched-out-NOW, "Jason."
He started slightly then, lifting his head and managing to look at her. She ignored the ice that threatened to form in the pit of her stomach at the desolate look in his eyes and lifted the whip handle in the I-mean-business pose. In a loud voice, for Lyle’s benefit as well as Jason’s, Catwoman said, "One."
She swung her fist in a backhand, the butt-end of the whip’s handle crashing into the nearest mirror. The glass splintered, shattering with ease.
"Two." The handle cracked into the next mirror, a spiderweb of cracks appearing for a second before the glass shattered there too.
"Three." The third mirror.
"Four." A rain of silver-backed glass cracked and gleamed on the floor.
She paused, in front of the last one, and made sure Jason met her gaze before lifting the handle once more.
The light went out in a slow fade. Lyle’s voice did not speak again, did not disturb the silvery fragments of glass and jagged shards that lay in a ring like pieces of fallen stars. In the darkness, the green glow of an EXIT sign shone overhead, not too far away.
Selina extended a hand to Jason, who was sitting very still. He had flinched at every broken mirror. "They were just glass, Jason. Just glass. She did some decent special effects on them, I’ll grant, but nothing that Industrial Light and Magic couldn’t do better.
"Want to know what I’m thinking, Jase? I’m thinking that right now, I’d just as soon get the hell out of here. What do you say?"
His eyes slipped from hers down to the wreckage of the mirrors. Like a sleepwalker, he reached out and picked one small fragment up, closing his hand about it.
He stood, a few splinters of glass falling from his clothes as he did so, and without a word headed for the exit. She coiled the whip again and followed him out. No force appeared to stop them, no voice spoke from the darkness.
A pity. Catwoman would have welcomed a physical fight.