“So, ten more minutes?”
Cam was not entirely certain what his mother was talking about. He was pretty sure it didn’t apply to him, as he was actually up early. Not that he wouldn’t have minded another ten minutes of sleep; in fact, he’d tried to claim just that. For him, though, sleep would not come.
It had been a good party, despite the undercurrent of tension which he did not really understand. The only part he regretted was glass of punch number forty-two. Because that glass of punch made him have to go to the bathroom.
On the way back from the bathroom, he’d overheard a conversation between General Bel Iblis and Commodore Henderson.
The rest of the party had been something of a blur. Young though he might be, even he knew that a General and Commodore didn’t say things like “sixty-five percent of our fighting capacity” in that tone if it was something good.
“But if he thinks he’s showing to see my daughter,” his dad said, snapping Cam out of his reverie, “after getting her in late last night…”
“They were not late,” his mom answered sternly, though with a slight twist to the corner of her mouth. “I keep telling you that your chrono is fast. Good morning, sweetheart.”
“Mornin’, Mom,” Cam said as he sat down at the table and poured himself some cereal.
“Mornin’, son,” Robert said, then turned back to Talia. “My chrono is fast? Did you or did you not synchronize them before we left to the reception?”
He had no idea what they were discussing, though he had some vague notion that it somehow involved Sarah.
“I did in fact synchronize them,” Talia replied acerbically, “so your-”
She stopped and narrowed her eyes at him. Cam poured milk over his cereal.
“You set it ahead, didn’t you?”
“Me?” Robert said, all innocence. “I am hurt – hurt! – that you’d think such a thing!”
Talia frowned. Robert met her gaze. Cam ate a spoonful of cereal. He had a further vague recollection that Sarah had not come home with them after the party, but had been permitted to stay out with Jaq. Until – gasp and wow – 2200. Conflicted as Cam was over the whole deal – he knew Jaq far too well to be fully comfortable with it – he also knew that Jaq would have kept the curfew.
“Okay, fine, I set it ahead by five minutes,” Robert admitted.
Ah. That made more sense. Cam took another bite of cereal, and wished he’d poured from the box of corn by-product with more added sugar.
“Robert! And you gave him a hard time about being three minutes late!”
“It was funny!”
“It was not funny, you nearly scared that poor boy half to death!”
“So? If he wants to hand around with my daughter, then I will have to take the wind out of him a bit.”
“He’s a good kid-”
“He’s a thirteen year old boy,” Robert said flatly, though the corners of his mouth twitched. “I, once upon a time, was a thirteen year old boy. Trust me, when it comes to girls, there is no such thing as a good thirteen year old boy; there is only ‘chaotic evil’ and ‘barely restrained evil’. Am I right, Cam?”
Cam looked up from his cereal and raised an eyebrow.
“Do you really want me to answer that, Dad?”
“Never mind,” Robert said quickly. “Seriously, Tal? If I gotta trust Sarah with somebody… might as well be Jaq Losoda.”
Cam wasn’t too certain he’d agree with that, but he said nothing.
“Because he’s a good kid,” Talia said.
“Because he’s Tag’s kid,” Robert corrected. “So, if need be, I can just pick up the comlink…”
He grinned expansively. Talia crossed her arms and stared at him.
“You are horrible, Robert DeLong.”
“Yep. But you love me anyway.”
But she smiled anyway.
Cam was about to speak up and ask what they had meant by ‘ten more minutes’ when there came a loud bang – and louder cursing – from upstairs. He set his spoon down and watched the door; Robert and Talia looked at each other and shrugged. The cursing didn’t sound like either of the twins.
Which led to only one conclusion, which was confirmed when a very bleary-eyed Johnny came stumbling into the kitchen.
“Mornin’, y’all,” he grumbled with a yawn. “What’s all the ruckus ’bout?”
He picked up a cereal box and studied it intently. Cam was not entirely certain, but it looked like his eyes were not focusing correctly. At the very least he blinked a lot, and went bug-eyed at random intervals.
“Please tell me you’re not hung over,” Talia said after a few moments.
Johnny set down the cereal box.
“I am not hung over,” he announced in very precise tones. “I am, however, very sleep deprived.”
“What time did you get in?” Robert asked, curious.
“I believe the technical term is ‘oh-dark-thirty’. Ran into some of the younger AFFC officers, and got challenged to a game of sabbacc for honor and glory or something like that.”
He turned to Cam and gestured at the cereal boxes.
“Which is the good stuff, Squirt?”
“That one. More sugar in it.”
Johnny picked up the indicated box and eyed it dubiously.
“What else is in it?”
“Works for me.”
Johnny poured a bowl of cereal, then added milk.
“So,” he said after his first bite, “I’ll ask again. What was all the ruckus about?”
“Your uncle is an evil man,” Talia said.
“So he takes after granddad?”
“Please,” Robert scoffed, “I’m not that bad.”
“He tried to prank Jaq,” Cam said.
“The poor lad,” Johnny chuckled. Then he turned back to his cereal, apparently deeming this as being of greater concern.
“So what the whole ten minutes thing about?” Cam asked, once he was almost positive there would be no further interruptions. It was a weekend, and Matt and Sarah both tended to sleep in on weekends.
“Oh,” Robert said, waving a hand dismissively, “we were just wondering when Jaq would show up to ask to take your sister to breakfast.”
Cam thought a moment.
“Why that-” Robert began.
For the next five minutes and forty-five seconds, the only sound in the room was the clink of spoon against bowl, and the crunch of milk-softened cereal against teeth. Then Cam set his spoon down and waited. So did the others.
Fifteen seconds later, there came a knock at the door. Talia got up to answer it. She looked out the window, and then turned back to her boys and grinned. She opened the door and in stepped Jaq Losoda. He looked to have something of a speech prepared, but that seemed to fly out of his head when he noticed who all was at the table.
Robert, Cam, and Johnny three each maintained suitably grave expressions. Talia rolled her eyes at the three of them and patted Jaq’s shoulder encouragingly.
“Umm, good morning?” Jaq began, hesitantly. “Is, uh, is Sarah up?”
“Not yet, dear,” Talia said kindly. Cam fought the urge to grin.
“Oh. I, uh… do you know when she’ll be up?”
“Might be a while, yet. Join us for breakfast?”
Jaq looked at the table and audibly gulped. Cam fought to keep his serious face.
“No, thank you, uh, Miss Talia,” Jaq said, turning a bit red, but still attempting to make a manful go of it. As manful, at least, as a thirteen year old boy can hope for. “Actually, I was, uhm… I was wondering if I could, ah, take Sarah out for breakfast…”
He trailed off, in utter confusion, when Cameron, still wearing an expression appropriate for a close friend’s funeral, held out his hand to his father. Robert, somewhat begrudgingly, fished out two single-credit pieces from his pocket and plinked them into his son’s hand.
Did… I miss something?”