Gadgets & People
Part VII: Friends and Families
My mom found us in the library sometimes later. Sana having texted her our location as I read Vani’s favorite book again, the little munchkin sitting on my lap and following the words with my finger. Despite her young age she could read a few syllables.
“Everything alright Sanjay? You kind of ran away.” My mom asked.
“Yeah, I just needed to look into something so I could get it off my mind.”
As a family we went to the cafeteria, Vani a little overwhelmed by the mass of people. We found Ahti’s family and my mom decided to sit with them. Rowan and their dad was also there and they all chatted together while I focused on getting Vani to eat her fish and chips, ignoring my own vegan chili. After lunch we played in the park for a while as mum finished meeting with all my teachers.
“Mr. Coleman invited Sana and I to dinner, would you be okay babysitting Vani for a few hours?” Mom asked as the afternoon winded down. “Its at a rather posh place and I don’t think Vani would like it.”
“I’d love to spend time with the little munchkin.”
Vani took the temporary goodbye well and we escorted my mum and Sana to the gate.
“Jayjay, I’m cold.” Vani said, turning to me.
“Let’s get you inside then.”
I guided her back to my dorm and we settled in the living room where I gave Vani the toys she had packed for her first trip outside the United Kingdom. Naturally, they were all dinosaurs, her one true passion. Well, she also liked princesses so the previous Halloween she had been the majestic princess t-rex.
As she played, Tyler came toward us a smile on his lips.
“Is she your sister?” He asked.
“I used to love ’em too, I even brought one of my old dino as a lucky charm.” Tyler said before getting up. He came back a moment later with an old stegosaurus toy that had clearly seen better days. He drew Vani’s attention. “When I was little like you, I loved dinosaurs, this one was my favorite.”
“But it doesn’t have feathers…” Vani said, frowning.
“We didn’t know dinosaurs had feathers when I was a kid.” Tyler answered with a smirk. The shock in Vani’s face clearly indicated that her world had been rocked. “Here, you can play with it if you want.”
Tyler handed it to her and Vani took it almost religiously, like it was some mysterious ancient artifact worthy of reverence rather than a pound-store plastic toy.
“Thank you.” I mouthed to Tyler.
“It’s nothing. I’m the baby so I never got to have little siblings but I always liked kids.”
He stayed to watch her for a bit before there was a knock at the door someone came, asking for him. Dinner was served not long after and thanks to the amount of strangers, Vani behaved through it. Since Vani was clearly getting tired, I put her down in my room for a nap. As she slept, I took out my tablet and put the flash drive I’d gotten from Charlie into it. The prompt appeared and I paused.
I just stared at it. Charlie had told me that most of it was redacted, but still… There had to be some confidential tidbits in there… And reading his file felt wrong. Digging into things I’d seen and he’d mentioned was one thing, but stealing private data was something else…
In the end, I closed my tablet and removed the drive. As much as I wanted to know, Jaeger had rights and what kind of friend would I be if I didn’t respect his privacy? I put it back in my pocket and focused on Vani, watching her sleep for a moment. She was clutching her favorite blanket with all her might along with Tyler’s lucky stegosaurus.
I heard some shouting downstairs, obviously it was Charlie and Jaeger. At first I had thought they might get along but the short jokes had ruined any chances of that. As they argued, the noise became clearer, coming closer.
“It worked. If you still need help getting them down, the step-ladder is in Sanjay’s lab.” Jaeger said.
“Fine. Gloves are off, you will pay.” Charlie answered.
“Show me what you got.” Jaeger said before coming into our room and closing the door in Charlie’s face.
“Did you say the step ladder was in my lab?”
“It may have possibly found its way there. I couldn’t possibly comment,” He said, trying to sound innocent and failing miserably. “Are you coming to the club as well?” He then asked, changing the conversation. I’d gotten a text about it but I had a tiny sister to watch over.
“I don’t really do the dancing thing, even when Sana tried to get me to.” I said with a shrug. “Plus, I’ve got this little munchkin over here to watch.” I nodded at Vani’s sleepy body on my bed.
“Oh…Vani, right?” Jaeger double checked.
“Yep. That’s her.”
“Cool,” he said, clearly not sure what to say in this situation.
I smile at his awkwardness. “So, dancing’s your thing?” I asked, not knowing what else to say.
“Ehh, I don’t mind it. Just figure it’s worth having a fun night out. I tend to dance better with alcohol though, which apparently this place doesn’t have…” he trailed off.
“Well, we are underage.” I pointed out. “But eh, maybe I should try the dancing thing sometime, has to be something if two people want me to. I just never really got it, but maybe it’s one of those things that requires friends or— I’m rambling aren’t I?”
“Just a little bit,” he teased, smirking. “Have a good night in.”
I bit my lip, amused at the comment and my own slight embarrassment. “Have fun.”
Jaeger grabbed some clothes and left the room. He came back a minute later having taken a shower and was all dressed up; Ripped black jeans, a grey button shirt and his hair bore some resemblance of care. He grabbed his black jacket and a checkered beanie to complete his look. I gave him one last wave before he went downstairs.
A few minutes later the doorbell rang and I left the room to see who it was from the balcony. It wasn’t my mom and sister, instead being some feminine teen who seemed to know Jaeger. Even from my perch I caught their name and pronouns; Harley, they/them. Rather than spy some more, I went back into my room and focused on finishing up some homework.
The next time the bell rang about a half hour later, I ran downstairs to get it and it was my family.
“Hey, Vani’s sleeping upstairs. Without her afternoon nap she was completely knackered.”
“That’s fine. Let’s go get her then.”
I brought them up to my room and mom woke up Vani who was immediately psyched to see them back.
“Thank you again.” Mom said, giving me a hug with one arm, the other holding Vani. “I hope it wasn’t too much trouble?”
“Of course not, I really missed spending time with her. If it wasn’t for the whole ‘different continent’ thing, I’d still be babysitting.”
“Well, I got you some thank-you baklava. If it wasn’t a bother, guess I can keep them.” She smiled.
“Over my dead body.” I answered.
She smiled and got a cardboard box out of her purse, containing six of them. I took it and placed it in my room.
“Ready to go?” Mom asked, Vani and Sana.
“Wait!” Vani said. She handed me Tyler’s stegosaurus. “Give it to tyty, its his.”
I promised I would before escorting them out of Ravenhold. That done, I decided to go into my lab. After two days of family time, I felt ever so slightly like I was lazing away from work. But first, I had a stepladder to put back in its place…
When I went back inside sometimes later I stopped right before our room. Through the door I could hear ragged breathing, hushed moans and the sound of a bed creaking. Didn’t take a genius to figure out what was going on in there. Rather than disturb them I went downstairs and picked some spare linens and blankets from the supply pantry before settling down on the couch.