Chapter 12: The Morning After – part 4
By Addison’s reckoning, the afternoon passed far too quickly. After they’d napped, she and Shane moved to the kitchen for a snack, then returned to the bedroom. They made love again, then drifted in and out of sleep with minds and bodies entwined. Love and contentment flowed between them, resulting in a sense of completion new to Addison. She relaxed and simply was.
Her daughter’s mental voice interrupted their honeymoon. Look, I don’t mean to be a bother, but can we come home yet? It is dinnertime.
Addison frowned at the digital display on the nightstand. The blue-green numbers read 6:34.
Or we could just go hang out somewhere else, Jake suggested. Especially if you two are going to make moon eyes at each other all night.
Both of you, mind your tones, Addison warned. We’re still your parents and you’re still old enough to be punished. She wiggled into a sitting position despite Shane’s attempts to thwart her.
After slipping out of Shane’s grasp, Addison headed across the room to rummage through her dresser drawers. Yes, you may come home, she told her children, slipping into a pair of yoga pants. Remembering the state of their clothes – most of which were strewn around the kitchen – she added, Jake, please stop off and get your father some clothes first.
She could almost see Jake’s confused frown. What happened to what he was wearing? Then mortificaton surged from her son. Never mind! I don’t want to know.
Addison laughed and pulled a sweatshirt over her head. Shane’s swell of disappointment made her meet his eyes in the mirror. The sight of his toned, nude body sprawled in her bed almost sent her back there. Mustering her willpower, she settled for a playful grin. “I’m sure you’ll get another opportunity to rip my clothes off in the very near future.”
The ardor radiating from Addison filled Shane with happiness and pride. “As am I,” he purred, crawling across the bed while ogling his lover.
A smile played at Addison’s lips as she backed away. “Oh, no you don’t,” she mock-scolded. “The kids are on their way. They may be well aware of our… activities,” she giggled, “but we have to draw the line somewhere.”
“You’re right,” Shane agreed reluctantly. His empty stomach helped his resolve immensely. Sitting on the edge of the bed – and enjoying Addison’s eyes on him – Shane frowned thoughtfully at the door. “I think my pants are more or less in one piece. My shirt’s a lost cause, though, thanks to you.” He grinned the last.
Addison rolled her eyes dramatically. “Thanks to you my librarian suit is ruined.”
“Oh, darn. I’m so sorry,” Shane deadpanned.
Giggling, Addison pinched his side telekinetically, then disappeared with a flash of light. Moments later she returned with the remains of their clothes in her arms. Shane laughed when she dropped the bundle of mostly rags and two twisted copper bands to the carpeted floor. “There you are,” she said, striding to the door. “I’ll make sure the rest of the flat is presentable.”
Shane stood and Addison hesistated in the doorway, raking her eyes over him. After licking her lips she hurried out, closing the door behind her.
Still smiling, Shane fished his pants out of the pile of torn clothing. With only a few torn belt loops and a missing top button they were still wearable. After donning the pants Shane rummaged in Addison’s closet for a shirt that had a chance of fitting him. The best candidate was an oversized pale pink v-neck T-shirt. He pulled it over his head and deliberately avoided looking in the mirror on his way out of the bedroom. He didn’t want confirmation of how stupid he looked.
Shane found Addison in the kitchen peering into the refridgerator. After taking a moment to admire her ass, he quipped, “What are our menu options this evening?”
Addison’s smile grew larger when she turned to look at him. “Pastels are so you.”
“They bring out my eyes,” he agreed.
The sound of the door opening and closing announced Lynn’s and Jake’s arrival. Ashlynn called, “Is it safe to look?”
“‘Cause we don’t want retinal scarring,” Jake added.
“Har har,” Shane retorted. Addison closed the fridge door and took his hand. Together they moved to the living room to face the brats. The kids’ eyes flitted between Shane and Addison, then they burst into laughter.
“Nice shirt, Dad,” Jake chortled.
Between giggles Lynn gasped, “Sweats! Ohmigod!”
Addison shook her head as she and Shane joined the kids’ laughter. Shane said, “Since you like the shirt so much, Jake, I’ll leave it on for dinner.”
“God, no!” he exclaimed. His son closed the space between them with a few long strides, thrusting the folded clothes in his arms at Shane. “Wear this. Please!”
“If you insist,” Shane chuckled, and took the bundle of fabric from Jake. Shock surged from his son, whose eyes were fixed on Shane’s right wrist.
Jake and Lynn exchanged an astounded look before either of them managed to speak. “Where’s… How–”
“You’ve removed them!” Lynn cried.
Addison’s amusement mirrored Shane’s. Believe it or not, dears, the bands removed themselves at some point this afternoon.
Jake’s wide-eyed stare darted back and forth between Addison’s and Shane’s wrists. But how? No one should be able to remove them except–
Although Shane didn’t hear anything telepathically or aurally from Lynn, Jake inhaled sharply and paled. Lynn’s taut expression said that she’d prefer to be anywhere but there at the moment.
Addison exchanged a puzzled look with Shane. “Except what?” she prompted.
A few of Jake’s words from yesterday replayed in Shane’s mind: “We had to do something.” Shane shook his head in disbelief as his expression darkened. The horror on his son’s and Lynn’s faces confirmed his suspicion.
Shane dropped the folded clothes and grabbed Jake’s arm. “You did this,” he growled as anger clouded his vision. Only his son’s cool energy and rush of fear held Shane’s temper in check.
“You… put the bands on us?” Although Shane’s eyes never left Jake’s, he was sure that Addison had posed the question to Ashlynn.
After a moment’s hesistation they answered in unison. “We did.”
“But it was my idea,” Lynn blurted.
Jake’s surprise slammed into her. What?!
Don’t argue! Ashlynn hissed, directing the thought at her brother. She hoped the brat was smart enough to listen. Yes, they’d been caught and would probably be grounded for the rest of their teen years, but the situation could be salvaged. Jake was in for a double dose of punishment because their mischief involved both of his parents. If he followed Lynn’s lead, his sentence wouldn’t be as bad, and she’d only have to deal with their mother’s ire.
“What do you mean?” Mum asked with a calm that made Ashlynn’s stomach knot. That voice hid a quietly contained anger worse than yelling or screaming.
What do you mean? Jake interjected.
Although she wanted to smack her stupid brother in the head, Lynn held still, keeping her eyes on the carpeted floor. Just shut up and trust me, okay? Aloud she said, “We were experimenting with them. Reverse engineering. We had to see if we got them right. So we tested them–but not on you guys. Not at first. We made sure they were safe and then…”
Lynn drew a breath. With most people, lying was easy for her. But Mum and Shane weren’t most people, and she’d never been able to lie particularly well to her mother. She forced words from her mouth. “I thought we’d put them on you two because… you rather deserved it.”
Renewed anger flooded her, prompting Ashlynn to take a step back. “Well, you did. And it worked, didn’t it? You’re happy and everything’s good and–”
“Ashlynn Marie!” Mum shouted. “The end does not justify the means. This is a serious breach of trust, of privacy. It was an assualt on both Shane and me and–”
Jake blurted, “Lynn didn’t–”
She spoke over him, giving him the telepathic equivalent of a smack on the head. “I didn’t think you’d find out. We were going to take the bracelets off after a few days. It’s not as though you were hurt or are any worse off by it.”
The simmering silence was enough to make Lynn peek up at Mum and Shane. They looked at one another, presumably having a private conversation. Then Mum’s mental shields slid into place and she turned her gaze on Ashlynn. Is that really what happened?
“Go to your room. I’ll be there in a moment.” Mum’s tone and expression were unreadable and her mind out of reach. Lynn was certain that she hadn’t been in this much trouble ever. As she scurried down the hall, she heard Mom tell Shane, “I’m going to speak with Ashlynn alone. Try not to kill our son until I’m done there.”
In Addison’s mind the lying was worse than the stunt her children had pulled with the bracelets. This wasn’t the first time Ashlynn had lied to protect her brother. What surprised her was that the girl thought she’d get away with it. And what did she think she was gaining?
While Shane dealt with Jake, Addison went to the kitchen. She poured herself a glass of water and nibbled on some grapes while her daughter stewed for a bit. When she’d finished her snack, Addison padded down the hall and let herself in to Ashlynn’s bedroom.
They girl lay on her bed with Miss Primy, the many times washed and repaired teddy bear that Shane had given her years ago, tucked in her arms. Addison’s ire waned momentarily, then returned full-force. She closed the door and leaned against it. “Tell me why you did it.”
“It needed to be done.”
“You’re in enough trouble, Ashlynn. Smart alec remarks won’t help your situation at all.”
Ashlynn shrugged and sat up, plucking at the bear’s battered tutu. “Because it was just… You and Shane, it made Jake miserable and all he wanted was for you to like each other and not fight so much. We– I thought it would be like walking a mile in each other’s shoes. Maybe if you knew what the other thought and felt, you’d be nicer and that would make things better. And it worked. You’re together like you should have been years ago. And that’s not bad, is it?”
“No,” Addison agreed quietly. “It’s not bad. But what you and Jacob did was wrong. Very, very wrong. And given your arguments, I don’t understand why you did it at all.”
Ashlynn frowned. “What do you mean?”
“You told me all the reasons that Jake would come up with a stunt like this. I know that the two of you are close, but you don’t have the vested interest in my relationship with Shane that Jake does. So why are you claiming responsibility?”
“You think I’m making it up?” Ashlynn’s indignant act was impressive. “Why would I do that? I’m like in super trouble, so why would I make it worse?”
“All the same reasons that you’ve done it before,” Addison reminded her. “It never worked then either. Lying is only compounding the issue and you know it. Now, tell me the truth: was it your idea?”
Addison wanted to take her daughter by the shoulders and shake her until her teeth rattled. Instead she took a deep breath and reached for the door knob. “I can see we’re done here.” She turned to leave, adding, Your punishment will be worse if you persist in this, Ashlynn. Encouraging Jacob to go along isn’t helping him.
She was halfway out the door when Lynn cried, Wait!
Addison faced her daughter. Yes?
It wasn’t … it wasn’t all my idea. I lied about that and I told Jake to lie, too and that’s the truth. He would have told the truth right off if it hadn’t been for me. I just thought it would be better.
Better to lie?
Better for punishment. You’re both his parents, but you’re only my mother. It’s like Jake is going to get double punishment because he’s going to have you both ganging up on him. I only have you to worry about. I mean, Shane’s not my father. I’m the third wheel.
Although Addison doubted that she was supposed to hear that last thought, it was the one that gave her pause. She studied Ashlynn for a long moment, unsure of how to respond. Letting instinct guide her, she said, A few days ago, your argument might have held water, but not now. And if you think that Shane isn’t as disappointed in you as he is in Jacob, I think you need to re-examine your interactions over the last few years. She’d certainly been resentful of Shane’s and Ashlynn’s almost father-daughter relationship. The whole situation had been buggered-up.
Rather than contemplating that further, she issued her daughter’s immediate punishment. “You’re confined to your room until I – or Shane – call for you. No telephone, no television, no music. Above all, no teleporting. Stay right here, or you’ll find out just how much hotter the water can get.” Then she stepped into the hall, closed the door behind her, and headed back to the living room.
“I’m going to speak with Ashlynn alone,” Addison stated after Ashlynn disappeared down the hall. “Try not to kill our son until I’m done there.”
Shane sniffed. Easier said than done. He turned to Jake, who stood fidgeting in front of him. “Sit,” he said, nodding at the sofa.
Shane kept his eyes on his rebellious, disrespectful, brilliant son. He crossed his arms and remained standing, letting Jake feel every ounce of his anger and disappointment. Jake wisely didn’t shield himself. The emotions that flowed back were a knot of contrition, indignation, and pride. Between that and his and Addison’s reinvented relationship, the entire situation was damn confusing.
Addison and Lynn had been gone for several minutes when Jake broke the silence. “Say something!” he exclaimed, meeting Shane’s eyes.
It took a few moments for Shane to come up with something not cliche. “Have I ever done anything that disrespectful to you?”
Jake was the picture of guilt. “You pinned me to the ceiling telekinetically in front of Cheryl.”
Shane shrugged. “Because you were this close to blowing yourself up with your homemade nitroglycerine.”
Silence stretched again. Shane broke it this time. “Why? And don’t say because Lynn made you, because we both know you worked together.”
Jake nodded miserably. “Because it was the only way we could get you and Mom to be together.” Self-righteousness sparked in his eyes. “And it worked!”
“You’re right,” Shane acknowledged. Swallowing his pride he admitted, “Right now I’m glad that you did. You and Lynn. But you shouldn’t have.”
“Why?!” His son’s frustration came through loud and clear.
“How many people have you seen in our quarters, Jake?”
Jake blinked. “Uh, Lynn, Rose, Mom, and the housekeepers.”
Jake frowned and thought hard. “Dr. Gibson a few times… and Dr. DiPhillipo and his husband once.”
“Right. Why do you think that is?”
His son frowned pensively again. Sorrow crept in as realization dawned. “‘Cause you don’t have any friends.”
Shane was grateful that it was a simple statement with no scorn or criticism. Probably because Jake has a few acquaintances at best, he thought bitterly, then pushed the notion aside. Now was not the time to question his parenting skills. “That’s right, and it’s by choice. Mostly,” he grudgingly amended; he was as truthful as possible with his son. “The fewer people who are close to you, the safer you are. I trusted you and Lynn implicitly, Jake. But not anymore. You’ve — both of you — have planted a seed of doubt. It’ll take time for you to regain that trust.”
“But Dad, we only did it so that–”
“Like your mother said, the ends don’t justify the means.”
Jake crossed his arms. “They don’t? What about your trials on human subjects?”
“That’s different,” Addison replied as she entered the room. Despite Shane’s anger over the kids’ stunt, the sight of her made his heart leap. She stepped up beside him, resting her hand on his shoulder before staring down at their son. “If your father and I want to be test subjects, we’ll volunteer.”
Jake threw his arms up in exasperation. “But you wouldn’t’ve if we’d asked!”
“Damn straight,” Shane agreed.
“But– It–” Jake sputtered. “You don’t make any sense!”
“Most people don’t,” Addison remarked.
Jake took a deep breath, visibly resigning himself to weeks of punishment. “But we made them. The bands. Doesn’t that count for something?”
Shane’s eyes widened in amazement before he schooled his expression. He shielded himself from everyone but Addison, then turned to her. Her pride and awe mirrored his. They made them?!
Looks like, Shane replied with the empathic equivalent of a grin. We can tell them we’re proud — and pick their brains — after they’re done being grounded.
If we live that long, Addison quipped while maintaining her stern facade. Shane nodded, and they both turned to their son. “You’re grounded until further notice,” Addison told him.
“Go to your room,” Shane added. “No computer, no TV, no games, no phone, no talking aloud or otherwise to anyone but your mother and I. And no dinner.”
Although Jake’s sulk deepened as Shane spoke, the last bit really got to him. “No dinner?!”
“You’ll live,” Addison assured him. “In the meantime, you may do your homework. When that’s done, you may read.”
Jake scowled, but thought better of whatever he’d wanted to say. “Okay.” He headed toward his room, but stopped halfway to the hall. “Mom, Dad,” he said over his shoulder. “You’re happy, right?”
Shane and Addison exchanged a look. “We are,” they said.
Jake smiled, then disappeared down the hall.