Sideways Swap
Chapter 1


Jason Schreck looked at the news article on the front page of the week-old student newspaper his sister Sarah was reading as they ate breakfast at the campus restaurant.

The lead headline read: "FOOTBALL PLAYER MISSING!"

"Hey, mind if I see that?"

"Sure. Things haven't changed much since I went here; same old breathless bits of campus news that don't make sense to anyone not at this school," Sarah remarked. "Well, except some of the general interest articles," she allowed.

She handed over the newspaper, and Jason munched his toast as he read the lead article, which basically said that Devon Fisher, one of the halfbacks, had disappeared the previous weekend – no, two weekends ago, as he mentally adjusted for the date on the newspaper. Nobody knew where he'd gone; his girlfriend was distraught and pleaded for anyone who knew any information to call the police right away.

The rest of the articles were boring – student politics, faculty administration discussing a possible raise in tuition again, a blurb about a graduate student who'd just been hired by the Vossler Institute, and so on. He set the newspaper down beside him on the table and looked around; the restaurant wasn't too busy. A few people milled around the buffet line for their breakfasts, and there was plenty of room for people to sit down. He and Sarah were seated in a booth along one of the walls.

Sarah had majored in Communications and was now in the HR department of a local advertising firm, having graduated the previous year. Since she lived near the university, and Jason was in campus housing, the siblings had made a point to keep in touch with their breakfast meetings once a week.

Jason, for his part, was majoring in Economics; he remembered the lecture his crusty old professor had given about the 'forgotten greats', in his view: Sidney Weintraub and William Vickrey, among others.

"Anyway, Jason, what's up for the weekend?" Sarah was just putting jam on the last piece of toast.

He shrugged. "Not much. My prof is this Uber-Keynesian; thinks Milton Friedman ought to be burned at the stake. But he's not an easy prof and gives out killer assignments. So no clubbing this weekend."

"Still got your fake ID?" Sarah chuckled as she finished her toast.

Jason made a face. "It's kinda gathering dust. I'm nineteen, and I can't go anywhere because of all the homework."

"Aw, poor widdle Jay-Jay." Sarah grinned at him.

"Oh, shut up," Jason said, annoyed.

"Anyway, you'll get to go some other time. Or you know what? Just play hooky, for tonight. Just go tonight, have some fun, and then knock it all out on Sunday," reasoned Sarah.

"Hmm. Maybe," mused Jason. "Anyway, how's your work going?"

Sarah rolled her eyes. "Oh, fun times. Yesterday, my boss being the usual clueless moron he is, managed to waste half an hour of my time after I found out he, again, tried to work the coffee machine. I think he does it on purpose, so the 'girls' have to do that job and it's as annoying as possible."

"Girls? As in you, and…?" Jason frowned. He should remember, but he was occasionally just terrible with names.

"Well, there's me and Janet, the receptionist, and then there's the accounts payable and receivable – that's Sandra. Between the three of us we've cleaned up more of Patrick's messes than I think even his wife does."

"Huh." Jason was finishing his bacon.

Sarah laughed softly. "I could sit here and bore you for an hour with my corporate adventures, but talking your ear off isn't why I'm here. I wanted to ask if you're wanting to come with me to Mom and Dad's for Thanksgiving weekend in a month?"

Their parents lived about a two-hour drive away; however, Jason didn't have a car and depended on being able to get a ride from his sister or to borrow her car when she wasn't busy. So he said, "Sure, if you'll drive."

"It's a plan. E-mail me the details so I can get them saved on my iPhone." She waved her phone as she spoke, and then quickly checked to see if she had new messages.

Jason grinned. "Someone in your life, then?"

Sarah blushed a little. "Um, this time it's a girl. I met her at this get-together our company had a week or so ago. She's the daughter of the company accountant."

Jason whistled. "You move fast, huh? How'd you two, uh, you know?"

Sarah smirked. "She was wearing her pride ring. She's a lesbian, actually. But she doesn't mind that I'm bi."

"Cool. So you have a date?" Jason pushed his empty plate aside and leaned forward, eager for details.

"Tentatively. I'm just waiting for Andrea's call so we can decide where to go tonight."

"Awesome. Lemme know how it goes and all," said Jason as he gave the thumbs up.

"Will do," replied Sarah. "You wanna get out of here?"

"Yeah. I think I might do what you suggested, so I'm gonna get all my homework out of the way first."

Since they'd already paid for the buffet breakfast, Jason and Sarah got up, bussed their plates and cutlery, then left the campus restaurant and headed outside to begin walking to the residence halls, where Sarah had parked her car.

Jason put his sunglasses on as he remarked, "Nice day. Probably the last good day of sun we'll get for a while, I think."

"Hmm. Yeah." Sarah nodded.

The wide tree-lined walkway offered some shade, but even so, Jason could see that the sky was an unbroken blue, with no clouds in sight. Were it summertime, it would already be uncomfortably hot, he thought.

He spotted some other people enjoying the day, jogging along the sidewalk or just sitting on the grass expanse between the campus dining extension of the administration building and the residences, which were clustered at the north end of the campus.

Sarah's phone beeped, and she eagerly pulled it out of her pocket and put it to her ear.

"Andrea? … Yeah, listen, I just finished eating breakfast with my younger brother … I think he'd approve of you – you do approve, right, Jason?"

Jason stuck his tongue out at Sarah.

"I'll take that as a yes … Okay, where? … Sure. I'll be over in about twenty minutes or so. Bye!"

She squealed, just like she had when she was a teenager and dating the basketball team captain. "She wants me to come over to her place! Oh my God. I'm smitten. Look at me, Jason!"

"I'll make sure to tell her you acted with mature grace and aplomb," Jason noted, "and not like a seventeen-year-old."

Sarah giggled and put her hand to her mouth. "I don't know why I'm like this for her. I wasn't like this for the last person – you remember Daniel? He was nice."

"Yeah, but you told me he just didn't seem to have that spark, you know?" Jason frowned as he remembered.

Sarah shrugged. "I guess that's it. Andrea has the spark, I think."

By now, brother and sister were at the entrance doors to the residence hall Jason lived in. He said, "Next week, then?"

"Sure thing. C'mon, gimme a hug for good luck."

"Not that you need it, but here." Jason embraced Sarah, then stepped back and said, "Gotta go. Homework calls!"

"Take care!" She waved at him, and then walked off to the parking lot.

-=[]=-

Jason was happy he'd decided on an early start to his homework. He had only just managed to finish the last question by the time the sun was starting to set. He looked at his computer, and pulled up his emails and instant messages that had backed up in the queue while he'd been incommunicado.

Sarah had sent a quick email saying the date had gone well and she and Andrea would be out clubbing. If he wanted to go to the Enchantment, they'd be there around ten o'clock at night. He'd been there before; he liked the atmosphere. Sure, it was mostly young people out for a good time, but because they catered to all sexual orientations the management had a really strong no-harassment policy, which meant the 'meat market' feelings he sometimes got didn't really happen at that club.

Jason, for his part, hadn't anyone in his life at the moment. He was in his sophomore year of university, and had briefly dated in freshman year, as well as in high school. But none of the girls had really clicked with him, so the relationships quickly petered out.

He wasn't a prude and had had a few one-night stands, as well, but not since the summer when he'd briefly hooked back up with Jennifer, a girl he'd known from high school.

He figured it wouldn't hurt to head out and see his sister's new girlfriend. The club was about a half hour walk from the university, and it wasn't likely to rain.

As he regarded his clubbing outfit in the mirror, he tugged at his hair, remembering how he'd dyed it black earlier that year. His blond hair had pretty much come back, and no traces of the dye job were left since he'd had a haircut a couple weeks ago.

He brushed some lint off his shirt, pleased that his summer workout regimen still held up even though he'd been forced to dial back some of the weightlifting due to school.

Well, he thought, can't go wrong with a tight blue shirt and dark blue pants. Especially when the shirt shows off my chest.


Author Notes: I'd like to in particular extend thanks to my JF friend and beta, ayala_atreides for helping with this fic!