Sideways Swap
Chapter 5


Jason woke up the next morning, feeling a headache. He sniffled, then groaned. The worst part about hangovers, he mused, was the way they made him feel like he had a cold.

This time, Kazie was in bed next to him. He smiled, remembering what they'd gotten up to, then resolutely got out of bed. He shuffled into her shower, feeling more awake after the hot water massaged away the slight ache in his shoulders.

She had a spare comb she'd let him use the last time ("Nobody else has touched it. I swear."), and he knew about the spare towels, so he was able to make himself look fairly presentable. Back in her bedroom, he tried waking Kazie, only to be answered by a muffled, "Five more mins, mom," as she buried herself deeper in the bedsheets.

Jason snapped his fingers. Coffee! Of course!

He was able to work the machine without making a mess, and pretty soon the machine was bubbling away; as Jason hoped, the aroma eventually coaxed a very hung-over Kazie to shuffle into the room. She smiled slightly, then put her hand to her head. "Gonna take a shower, okay?"

"Take your time," he said reassuringly.

Even so, there was something off about Kazie's mood when she returned, fully dressed and looking reasonably awake. Something he couldn't quite put his finger on as she sipped her coffee in the chair next to him at the table.

"Everything okay?" he asked.

Brusquely, she said, "Yeah. Fine."

As he finished his coffee, he tried again. "Do you wanna get breakfast, or something?"

Distractedly, she said, "No. Don't feel like it."

He sighed. He got up and put his mug in the sink, then feeling a bit out of place, he lamely said, "You wanna… I dunno, do anything else today?"

She shook her head as she got up and put her mug in the sink. As she passed Jason, she put her hand on his shoulder, unmistakably steering him to the door. "I drank too much last night; I'm not gonna be good company today, okay? Get some bus change from my purse and call me sometime later, all right?"

Her kiss seemed perfunctory, but the offer of bus change seemed a good omen to Jason. He bid her goodbye, then left the apartment building.

-=[]=-

Jason finally broke down on Tuesday and hesitantly texted Kazie just before his sociology lecture started. He reasoned she was very busy as she didn't answer that night. By Wednesday night, he tried calling her, and only got her voicemail. He left a quick message, then rang off.

When Friday night rolled around, Kazie hadn't called or texted, and he had no idea what he should do. He ended up distracting himself with some games.

By Saturday, worried and anxious, Jason ended up telling the story to his sister, leaving out the more intimate details. In self-disgust, he finished by saying, "I think I screwed it up, Sarah. It's the only thing that makes sense."

Sarah said reasonably, "This girl, Kazie, you said? She was making it pretty clear to you she wasn't interested in anything long-term. Maybe this is just her way of telling you, you know, she's not interested anymore."

"I get the feeling she'd have told me very loudly to 'fuck off' after I called her, though," Jason muttered ruefully.

"Well, here's my phone. Call her now, and if she answers and tells you to die in a fire, that's a pretty plain answer, I'd say."

To Jason's surprise, Kazie didn't answer. He heard a click, then "Hey. You've reached Kazie Watson. Leave a message; I may or may not get back to you." The strident beep at the end of it cued the dulcet tones of the well-modulated female voice: "Please record your message…"

Jason ended the call at that point and glumly handed the phone back to Sarah over his half-eaten breakfast. "Just voicemail."

Sarah said, "Hey. C'mon, forget about Kazie whatshername. Hang out with me and Andrea for a bit, huh?"

"You sure I won't get in the way?" Jason frowned. He'd had a bad experience with a girl who insisted on dragging along her nice, albeit somewhat socially inept, brother to a party.

He was not going to be That Third Wheel Guy.

Sarah shook her head. "She's been wanting to meet you. She thinks you're 'sweet', to use her words. Even telling her about the time you tried blaming your fart-a-thon on me didn't change her mind."

That forced a laugh from Jason. He'd eaten something that seemed to give him gas, and he'd blamed it on his sister when he'd accidentally let one go in front of his parents.

"As I remember, Sarah, you got your revenge after you managed to lock me in the bathroom for five minutes."

She smirked. "All because I found out the door had a key slot on both sides. Go me!" In a more serious tone, she said, "Come on. Join us! We can just talk, or play cards, or whatever. And if you feel like you're intruding, I'll drive you back to rez. Okay?"

"All right," sighed Jason.

-=[]=-

Jason found out Andrea lived in a subdivided house, which was kind of neat. He hung back at the front door while Sarah and Andrea greeted each other with a hug and a kiss. Andrea smiled at him and said, "Come on in, Jason. It's good to see you again."

She reached out, and he tentatively embraced her. She rubbed his back, prompting him to embrace her more firmly. She squeezed him a bit, then let go and put her hands on his shoulders. "You don't look too happy. Take your coat off and have a seat, okay?"

Sarah led Andrea off to the kitchen while Jason sat in a comfortable chintz chair in the living room. Andrea had placed a small round coffee table in the center, with three chairs equidistant from it, the fourth spot being taken up by a TV set and DVD player.

Andrea came back with some hot chocolate, and handed it to Jason. She knelt down and said quietly, "I hope you don't mind that Sarah and I talked. I just wanted to say it sucks when someone you think you like just drops you like that. Sarah has my number if you'd like to talk to me, okay?"

Sarah came around the other side and brushed his hair with her hand. "And if you wanna talk to me, I'm always available. Okay, little brother?"

Jason stuck his tongue out at Sarah. "Okay, big sister." He looked at Andrea and Sarah, then said in a more serious tone, "Thanks. You know, for offering to lend an ear. I appreciate it."

The two women sat in the other chairs. Andrea sipped her hot chocolate, then said, "Do you want to talk more about it now?"

Jason shook his head. "How about something else? Like, Sarah never quite told me how you two bumped into each other at the company get-together thing."

Sarah jokingly called, "Don't tell him!"

Andrea smirked and blew a kiss at Sarah. "Sorry, sweetie!"

To Jason, she said, "Well, for me, it started when this gorgeous woman walked inside, and I had no idea what her name was…"

Amid Sarah chiming in with her own version of events, Jason learned that Andrea had been absolutely ecstatic at finding out Sarah liked her, and the two of them had gone to the art gallery and found they liked similar things. They also liked Mexican food, as it turned out. Jason, his curiosity piqued, said, "Even that, like, chicken and meat burrito stuffed with avocado Sarah always made us stop for if we travelled anywhere near the border?"

Sarah had blushed, but Andrea nodded. "It's awesome. Just this explosion of flavors in your mouth when you eat. Sarah and I ended up sharing one."

Sarah said, "Jay, would you be cool if I brought Andrea with us sometime to meet Mom and Dad? You know, make a weekend of it before the two of us go by ourselves for Thanksgiving."

"Sure, that'd be cool." Jason grinned. "And then it'll be, 'where's the grandkids, huh?'"

Sarah laughed. "It's all on you, now!"

Andrea somberly said, "You know, I have thought about having children, but… honestly? Even in today's world? A child with 'two mommies'? I'm not so sure."

Jason sipped his hot chocolate awkwardly. Sarah looked at Andrea with some concern and said, "Things can change, sweetie. You just have to hold onto that, okay?"

"I guess." Andrea sighed. "Look, how about we play some cards or something? Jason, do you want to stay?"

"Sure," he replied. He felt comfortable and it certainly beat fretting over Kazie.

The next few hours went pleasantly quickly, but eventually, Jason needed to get back. When Sarah finally drove him back, he said, "Can we go by the Vossler Institute? I looked up the address one time and… well, maybe she's there?"

"We can drive past it, okay?" Sarah temporized.

Jason nodded. "I just wanna... I dunno. Get closure? That sounds kind of lame, even to me."

Sarah shrugged. "You feel what you feel, Jay. C'mon, I'll swing by there before I take you back."

As they drove past the lab itself, a nondescript building with a sign over it which read "VOSSLER EXPERIMENTAL LABORATORIES", Jason said, "Stop for a sec."

Sarah, exasperated, said, "Hey, Jay, wait until I can park! Come on!"

She reluctantly jerked to a stop to let a car merge out of the parking lane, letting Jason jump out of the car and run to the glass doors. He yanked the handles, and growled in frustration as neither door would budge. At that moment, the lights in the building flickered for just a second.

Jason, at the time, thought it was just his imagination and sullenly walked back to Sarah's car. Sarah muttered, "Sheesh!" as she got back into traffic.


Author Notes: I'd like thank my JF friend and beta, ayala_atreides for helping with this fic. :)

Also, comments and criticisms are encouraged - good OR bad. :)