Finally! The Green Diamonds heroes had calmed down on their search for criminals, and life got a little easier in the Lizard household. Jason tried to follow Khalid's example and be a good student so his parents wouldn't have any reason to suspect him. He still hated doing chores, though.
Then one Monday night Jason felt like the walls were closing in again, and called Khalid to suggest they sneak out. It'd been weeks, after all. Secretly, he was hoping it would be maybe just the two of them, and he could maybe kinda sorta say something about, y'know, stuff. Although he wasn't really sure what he was going to say, given how much trouble he had just trying to frame it in his mind.
Of course, Alvin or some of the others might come along, in which case Jason would just have to wait again anyway. He didn't know how to tell Khalid that he just wanted it to be, y'know, the two of them, alone and all. The waiting was killing him.
He checked himself out one last time before saying he'd be going up to his room to do his homework (yeah, right!) and then go to bed. He almost used his dad's cologne again, but it was starting to run low, and who was gonna put it on if they were going to bed?
Jason still almost didn't get out. Somehow everyone was up late that night - Charles had a big school project he was finishing, his dad was making candy in the back room, and his mom was fixing the dishwasher. So when a long black limo pulled up, Jason almost panicked that his family would see it and wonder what was going on.
He raced out to the limo and got in as fast as he could. Khalid was at the wheel, looking stressed. "C'mon, man!" he said unnecessarily to Jason.
"Dude! How'd you get this?" Jason asked, sliding onto the black leather seats. Oh, yeah. Lots of room to... get close to someone. Too bad he was in the back and Khalid was driving. Maybe if he suggested pulling over to talk...
"Long story," Khalid said, driving off as fast as a quiet getaway permitted. "How come your whole family's up? The place looks like - "
"Hey," Jason interrupted, "Khalid, um, somethin' I wanna talk to you about."
"Uh... okay?" Khalid steered the limo toward the north end of town, where the business district was.
"So you wanna, like, pull over so we can talk?"
"I can hear you just fine up here. Plus we've got to pick up the others."
Dammit! Jason sulked. He'd rather handle this face to face. By the time he figured out what he wanted to say next - with Khalid looking curiously back at him via the rearview mirror - they were at Alvin's house, and it was too late.
~ ~ ~
Several hours later, the Lizards' house was dark when the police car containing Jason pulled up to the curb.
What a horrible night. They'd tried to bust into a warehouse, but somehow either the cops were tipped off or just lucky, and everything had gone to hell in moments. And now his folks were going to find out, and, and -
He stayed out by the road as the female officer knocked loudly on the door and the lights came on in his parents' bedroom. Oh, Gawd, could he maybe just start running?
But instead he stood there as his parents came to the door, and heard what the officer had to say, and looked at him with shock and anger and disappointment.
"Your son was caught in acts of vandalism," he heard the officer say.
Vandalism had a lesser weight than burglary, didn't it? Jason knew the basic thing about keeping your mouth shut until you had a lawyer. He was pretty sure his folks weren't gonna accept that, though.
While his dad talked to the lady cop, his mom came out to talk to him. Jason braced himself for the yelling.
Except she didn't yell. It would've been better if she did. But she talked softly and sadly about how disappointed she was, what did he think he was doing, didn't he know better, of course he did, how could he act this way after all she and Dad had done for him, on and on.
Jason apologized and even managed to work up a few tears to make it look better.
"Jason, I don't think you're sorry at all," she said, some anger creeping into her voice for the first time. "I think you're just sorry you've been caught. How long have you been doing this?"
If he told the truth, he'd get in big trouble right now. If he outright lied, he was gonna get in big trouble later - if she ever found out. "This was the first time, Mom. It won't happen again, I swear."
"Who were you with?" she asked next. He didn't answer.
Nightkill threw her hands in the air. "You'd rather defend these - these delinquents? You were with someone else, Jason, you had to be - we don't have a car and it's too far for you to walk. Who else was there?"
Again, Jason didn't answer. He didn't know if any of the others had been caught - they'd all scattered when the cops showed up. He couldn't say anything about Khalid. If he did, the red-haired boy would never speak to him again, and Jason's heart hurt just thinking about that. But if he identified any of the other kids, one of them might rat out Khalid too. Better to just say nothing.
"Young man," Nightkill said sternly, "you are in a lot of trouble. Get in the house right now."
~ ~ ~
He was grounded. He expected that. It was an indefinite grounding, since there was still the whole court thing to do. Plus his mom trying to keep the news under wraps that he'd been out doin' stuff, and his dad wanting it under wraps because it might not help his own career.
No communication with others unless his parents vetted it first. So he couldn't talk on the phone to anyone. That really sucked, because he couldn't find out what happened to Khalid, or the rest of them.
Lots of lectures. Not real surprising. Jason got the talks about proper behavior, about responsibility, about blah blah blah. He tuned it out after a while, except when it looked like he'd get more punishment piled on top if he wasn't paying attention. He did ask if he would be tried as a juvenile, and the answer was "probably", seeing as how he was sixteen.
"Son, the only reason you didn't spend a night in the lockup is because your mother is a Diamond. If not for that, you'd've been left in the tank with whatever scum they'd rounded up that night, and you would've been mighty sorry by morning. I don't think we have to tell you how disappointed we are."
Not that it stopped Dad from telling him anyway.
They couldn't control who he talked to at school, or so he thought, as he and Charles headed for the bus every day. Except somehow there was always a teacher or adult around. He couldn't even pass notes without getting caught, and all the gang avoided eye contact with each other as though they barely knew each other.
Actually, Khalid tried to act normally to all of them as though he hadn't any idea that anything had even happened that night, much less that he'd been involved. But Khalid also didn't send any messages, even with his eyes, so Jason didn't know what was going on. Maybe Khalid was under observation too? Maybe Khalid was trying to protect him somehow.
After a week the loneliness really hit him hard. Cut off from all his friends, with the 'rents still mad at him, and he didn't even know what was going on - a couple times someone had tried to call but Jason never got to the phone in time. Mom and Dad kept their eyes on him all the time, whether he was doing homework or chores or studying - the walls were closing in more than ever.
About the only time he got a moment of privacy was either in the bathroom (which he couldn't hide in forever, obviously) or taking the trash out to the curb. So one night as he did so, he took a moment to feel very sorry for himself.
Dammit! It wasn't fair, man! And if he'd just managed to get Khalid to pull over that night instead of goin' to the business district, maybe they wouldn't'a gotten caught. Maybe instead they'd still be, y'know, free and all. And maybe he and Khalid -
- Aw, he didn't know if "he and Khalid" would ever, y'know, be real. It wasn't like the Jeffries kid ever acted like it. Maybe he should just give up on the whole idea.
Except what if he gave up, and it turned out Khalid did, y'know, feel like that?
His punishment couldn't last forever. He just had to wait it out. That was all. And move out as soon as he legally could. He knew Khalid planned to skip college; he could do the same. And next time he saw Khalid, whatever the circumstances, he was gonna say what he felt, no matter what.