Also, just a head's-up that we'll be going out of town April 22-29 and there will be no posting that weekend. The schedule will stay the same until then, ATU next week and one more Love and Other Headaches the day before we leave, but the posting schedule will pick back up on May 5. With the crazy insanity lately, we just need time to recharge and do some SERIOUS plotty goodness. Thanks for understanding in advance!
Sebast found his way home at four in the morning, exhausted but pleased with his lot in life. The little meet-and-greet with the bands had ended up with not one, but two very handsome young men who were quite interested in getting to know him better. Sven, tall and blonde and chiseled, and Daniel, who was mouse-brown and more rounded, were both obvious fans of more than just the music. Sebast had gone out to a club with them, he’d had a couple drinks and some dancing with the couple, and then back to their apartment for a few hours of energetic fun.
Now, though, all he wanted was sleep, and he wouldn’t have gotten it if he stayed the night with Sven and Daniel. Sebast grinned a little, anticipating giving Kala all the salacious details over coffee in the morning. She was much more conservative about her love life than he was, but that was her prerogative and they respected each other’s choices.
The room was pitch-dark when he let himself in, and Sebast considerately kept the noise level down, tiptoeing into the shower. He washed up quickly, dried himself off, and threw on a pair of boxers to sleep in. Considering the warm night, a shirt wasn’t necessary. Still trying for ninja-like stealth to keep from waking Kala, who tended to startle easily at late-night noise, Sebast slid between the sheets and snuggled up to her, his arm sliding around her waist.
Something was wrong.
That wasn’t Kala he was curled up to—the shoulders were too broad, bare skin met his naked chest, and Kala for sure didn’t have any damn back hair. Sebast gasped in surprise, and only then caught the whiff of sex that wasn’t coming from his own pores.
The man in his bed woke up then, kicking out in surprise and banging painfully against Sebast’s shin. “¡Mierda!” he yelped, launching himself out of bed.
“What the hell…?!” Alan’s voice was sleep-rough, and he thrashed around to grope for the light switch, illuminating the room. Kala was just then sitting up, all eyes and tousled hair, yanking the sheets up to cover herself.
Sebast had seen it all before and didn’t particularly care—about that. He’d figured Kala would eventually sleep with Alan; their relationship had been heading in that direction for a while. What shocked him was the fact that they’d decided to cross that threshold here, where he had to sleep, too. “Chula, what is this hairy bastard doing in my bed?” he asked, forcing his voice to tones of sweet reason.
“Kala,” Alan said, and maybe he was getting ready to say something else, but to Sebast it sounded like an answer to his question, and speaking crassly of Kala was like waving a red flag before an already-irritated Spanish fighting bull.
“Yeah, I noticed that, hijo de puta. I can smell the sex-funk. Now shut up, the grownups are talking.” With that he turned his attention to Kala, crossing his arms and glaring at her. To her, he spoke Spanish; for all its wonderful variety, English just didn’t convey his aggravation. “Seriously, why the hell is he here?”
She replied in the same language, with an easy fluency that clearly startled Alan. “It was late and we were tired. I didn’t know if you were ever going to show up, Chupi. I thought the Goth Viking and his boyfriend carried you off for good.”
Sebast sighed. “Come on, Kala. You know our rule: never in our bed.”
“Alan’s sharing a room with his drummer. Where else were we supposed to go? The pool? That’d be great when it shows up in the newspaper. I’m sure Mom would love explaining that one around the office.”
“Well if you’ve gotta get your freak on in our room, at least use the couch. I don’t wanna sleep in his fuck-sweat,” Sebast complained.
“Sebastiáno!” she yelped, blushing furiously.
Kala never used his full name, so he took it as his cue to calm down a little. “Look, I almost had a heart attack just now, Kala. I thought I was snuggling up to my favorite internally-heated pillow slash best friend in the whole wide world, and it was him instead. So forgive me if I’m a little worked up about it, okay?”
She softened, and they shared a smile. That was the moment when Alan decided to interject, “It’s extremely rude to speak to each other in a language I don’t know.”
“So learn Spanish. There’s fifty million Latinos in the U.S., and you’ll wanna understand the names we’re calling you,” Sebast shot back in English.
“Guys, stop,” Kala said sternly. “Alan, I’m sorry, but I shouldn’t have let you stay over. Sebast needs someplace to sleep too.”
“Are you seriously kicking me out of bed for him?” Alan asked, with a hint of anger.
Sebast couldn’t resist responding hotly. “Listen, cabrón, I’ve been her best friend since we were fourteen. I was here long before you, and I’ll still be here when she realizes you don’t deserve to polish her goddamn boots. Kala is mi alma, my soul—nothing comes before that. Nothing. Not her men, not mine. You understand?”
As Alan eyed him, Sebast stood his ground, not giving an inch. Then Alan sighed. “Whatever. I’ve got an early slot tomorrow. I’ll see when I come offstage, Kala.” With that he got out of bed, found his pants, and let himself out of the room.
Kala cradled her forehead in one palm. “Well, that was a disastrous end to quite a good night,” she muttered.
That, finally, cooled his temper. Sebast knew he was not a terribly forgiving person by nature; hot-headed and confrontational, he could also hold a champion grudge when irritated enough. But Kala was more important than making his displeasure felt, and besides he’d apparently done that well enough.
“Mira, mi Kala, te quiero, but we have rules for a reason. Our bed is where we both sleep. Neither of us wants to come home to sweaty man funk.” He kissed the top of her head, and she lifted her chin to nudge into the kiss. “Now get cleaned up. I’m calling the front desk to get some clean sheets brought up here. Maybe if you promise not to bring anime-wannabe boy back here, I’ll even put them on the bed for you.”
“What a gentleman,” Kala said sarcastically, swatting at his arm before she took herself off to the bathroom for a shower.
The best part about having kids grow up, Lois decided, was that when they came home to visit they really appreciated home in a way they never had when their belongings were scattered all over. Jason had come in Friday evening after class, and when she opened the door for him he’d hugged her hard enough to lift her off her feet. She might never get used to having her toes dangle a few inches off the floor when her son hugged her, but it was charming nonetheless.
Friday night was dining-out night, and Jason insisted on picking up the tab when they met Richard, Lana, and Kristin at a laid-back but thoroughly delicious pizza place. It had been a fun night, full of conversation about college courses and work and friendships and other good news. What they couldn’t talk about in front of Kristin—and really shouldn’t talk about in front of Richard and Lana, despite their insider status—was the Gotham situation. That had to wait until they were all home again.
Last she heard, Bruce’s Tim was well on the road to recovery, which Lois was glad to hear. Bruce still had Gotham on lockdown, and while Kal-El tended not to bring office politics home, Jason had no problem grousing about it. “Cassie and I are sensible, we’ve worked Gotham before, there’s no good reason not to bring us in,” he’d complained. “Especially with Steph still champing at the bit to go after this guy. I’m worried about her, I’m worried about Tim, hell, I’m even worried about Uncle Bruce.”
Kal-El had paused thoughtfully before saying, “If this had happened to me, Jason, I might’ve reacted the same way. When Kala was kidnapped, I did exactly the same thing Bruce is doing now. It’s a panicked-father reaction. If someone took you from me, if I thought I’d lost you, and you came back to Metropolis so damaged in mind and personality that you attacked your sister—either of your sisters—I would probably want to lock down this city, too. I’d want to take care of you myself, because you’re my son, and if you were that far out of control I wouldn’t trust anyone else to deal with you. I’d be too afraid that you’d hurt them, or they’d hurt you, and besides I would feel it was my duty as a father to find you and stop you before you could hurt anyone else.”
Lois had looked at him quietly, the hairs on the nape of her neck standing up in foreboding. God forbid anything like that should touch this family, but it wasn’t beyond the realm of possibility. Mind control, red k, magic—all of those could affect Kryptonians. They didn’t know what the future could hold, and the situation Kal-El imagined could have come true. She had no idea what she’d do if something like that happened to Jason, and hoped she’d never have to find out.
Jason, meanwhile, hadn’t taken the explanation well, his head still lowered and a mulish expression on his face, one Lois knew well from his childhood. His stubborn moments had been few and far between, but quite memorable. Kal-El merely met his son’s gaze, and after a moment he had continued, “In that situation, I would hope a friend would talk sense to me. And that’s what I intend to do with Bruce, as soon as I can. Keeping Gotham locked down and everyone in the city on high alert is only escalating problems, and he’ll see that.”
“Good,” Jason had said decisively, and they’d moved on to other topics.
Now, Saturday afternoon, he was being obtrusively helpful as he often was on his weekends at home. He’d already walked the dogs with her, taking Bagel so she could walk Chewie. And now he was rummaging through the fridge and pantry, planning to make dinner. Kal-El was out on evening rounds and might not be home to help out, but Jason was a fine cook on his own. Lois smirked to herself; another thing she liked about having him at college was the way all of his strengths and best characteristics kept coming to mind while he was home. The minor personality faults that were part of everyone tended to fade when they didn’t see each other on a daily basis, leaving just the things that made her so proud of him.
“If I can intrude, Mr. Kitchen Wizard?” Lois said, laughing a little, and Jason turned his quick grin on her, blue eyes flashing with mirth. “I’ll set up soufflé for dessert if you handle dinner.”
“Sounds like a plan to me. No one makes a soufflé as good as yours, Mom, ” Jason replied, making space for her as he grinned. Lois just ruffled his hair, returning the smile. Mother and son moved around each other easily in the kitchen. Ever since he was little, he’d wanted to help, and Lois remembered with a pang of nostalgia the days when he’d had to stand on a chair to help mix cookie batter. Now, he easily handed her some ramekins from the top shelf without even fully extending his arm.
“I’ve missed you, kiddo.”
“I’ve missed you, too, Mom.”
In the comfortable warmth of shared endeavor, Lois decided to broach a subject she’d been paying attention to, but not commenting on, for the last day. Truth be told, she’d noticed it well before that, but last night at dinner it had become obvious. To her, anyway. The disquieting note was as simple as it was odd: when Kristin asked what Elise was up to, Jason had an immediate and extensive reply.
That worried Lois, just a little, so she followed up on it as she brushed the ramekins with melted butter and coated them with sugar. “So have you heard from Elise lately?” she asked while Jason diced rutabaga and celery root. He already had lentils simmering in chicken stock on the back burner.
“Not really,” he admitted. With super-speed, the dicing process could be reduced to seconds, but Jason often liked to take things slow and enjoy them more.
“She’s really busy with college this semester,” he continued. “She’s taking two labs and a lot of credit hours. And she’s going to take some summer courses, too, trying to get some electives out of the way.”
“So she’s settled in at Berkeley fairly well? I know she was a little nervous when she first left,” Lois asked, leading him on while keeping her back to him. Jason hadn’t yet realized she was using interviewing techniques on him.
“Yeah, fairly well. I mean, she’s not in as many campus activities and stuff because she’s always studying.”
“What about friends? She’s a hell of a long way from home.”
That was the kicker. Jason huffed slightly, and when he answered his voice held an unmistakable note of distaste. “She’s made a couple friends in class and stuff. And she has a boyfriend, some guy named Corrin.”
She gave a silent sigh. Yep, there it was in a nutshell. It wasn’t entirely unexpected, but it made her sad for him all the same. “Really? Well, you two did decide to take a break.”
“Yeah, I just didn’t expect to see her posting all over her Facebook about this guy and how he takes her out to dinner and they go to the movies and stuff,” Jason replied. He kept his voice level, but Lois noticed that the poor rutabaga was getting savagely diced.
Lois asked casually, still working. “You check her Facebook a lot, don’t you?”
“I get alerts to my phone when she updates,” he replied.
At that, she decided it was time to point a few things out to her son. Lois put the prepped ramekins in the freezer and turned to him. That got Jason’s attention, and he stopped his assault on defenseless root vegetables long enough to turn a quizzical look at his mother. “Sweetheart, don’t you think that that’s kind of creepy?” Lois said, as gently as she could.
“Mom, she’s my friend,” Jason protested.
That left eyebrow arched, his mother smiling a little as she crossed her arms. There really were days that her son really thought he could fool her for about sixty seconds. Obviously this was one of them. “Yeah, but do you have any other friends set to alert? Dustin, maybe? How about your sisters or your cousins?”
His lower lip pouted out a little. “They’re different. They’ll actually call me. And Dustin never updates his Facebook status anyway.”
“Annnd if Elise doesn’t call you, or email you, or IM you, do you think she’d be happy to know you were getting alerts every time she updates her status?” Lois asked, crossing her arms. She caught a hint of a glower in his eyes and pressed on, “And if it wasn’t Elise, what if it was some girl you know from class—do you think any of them would be happy to know any guy, no matter how nice he is, was getting alerts on their status while they were dating someone else?”
She knew her son. He wanted to protest; the frown creasing his brow was identical to her own, tenacious as any Lane could be. But he had some of Kal-El’s cooler temper, too, and he didn’t speak up rashly. Instead he hung his head and muttered, “No. No, she wouldn’t.”
Now that he’d seen his mistake, Lois’ job was to help him understand it, and prevent the Kryptonian guilt complex from taking root. Lois took his chin gently and tilted his face up. “Sweetheart, I know you still love her. That doesn’t change the fact that you have to let her go.”
“But Mom, she’s the one,” Jason complained.
Lois chuckled. “You know, when your father was about your age, he thought he’d found The One, too. Since you don’t have red hair, we know he was wrong.” That got a smile from Jason, and Lois decided to continue that line of reasoning a little more. “Lana’s still in his life, and she always will be. I’m even grateful to have her around—but don’t let the cheerleader know I said that, she’ll never let me hear the end of it. Jason, sometimes young love grows up into something wonderful, even if it isn’t romantic. And Elise will always be part of our lives. She knows the truth.”