Hi everyone! Thanks so much for reading. Most of these have been one-shots - but I decided to follow up the last story with this one - and they pertain to one another. hope you like it.

Story Six - The Dinner

Jade knocked lightly on the open bedroom door and waited for Violet to look up. She entered, closing the door behind her and perching on the bed next to her eldest daughter. "What are you doing up here?"

Violet held up a book – Plato's The Republic. "That looks hideous," Jade commented. The teen nodded in agreement.

"It's not good."

"Violet, we need to talk." The younger girl looked up again from her book and set it aside but her expression was one of reluctance.

"We talked a lot yesterday," she said, her voice straining as she tried to hide her frustration.

"No," Jade said, shaking her head. "Your dad and I talked and you nodded a lot. Good form – but I'm not sure how much of it you actually heard."

"I heard everything. I shouldn't lie, I'm too young to go to college parties, and you're disappointed in me." Violet detailed the highlights quickly.

"We're disappointed you lied," Jade responded. "Not disappointed in you. There's a big difference. We couldn't be prouder of you, Vi. There's just a lot that you're not ready for – you've been so far ahead of the game your entire life – but there are some things that you can't jump into early. Or at least you shouldn't."

"I know," Violet answered glumly. "Why are we talking about this again? I apologized – and I really don't want to talk about it."

"I do," Jade responded pointedly. Her voice softened. "Tell me about Brandon." She sat back against the headboard and pulled a pillow into her lap and got comfortable. Violet looked at her hesitantly and Jade raised her eyebrows, clearly waiting.

"We have stats and philosophy together," she said, beginning generically. "He's in the honors college too. He eats lunch with Lily and me a few times a week. He's nice, mom. I like him."

"Why do you like him?" Jade asked.

"I don't want to talk about this with you," she objected uncomfortably.

"You know, once upon a time, I liked boys. Well, a boy. Your dad was really the only one I ever paid attention to – but we were young once."

"You're not that old," Violet muttered.

"Thanks for noticing," Jade responded with a smug smile. Her face became serious again and she made a quickening gesture with her finger. "Now, continue."

Violet sighed and gathered her thoughts. "I like him because he's nice – and he's funny. But not the kind of funny where he puts down other people – the smart kind of funny. And he's intelligent, which is nice."

"As intelligent as you are?" Jade asked, curiously.

Violet stifled a laugh. "No. But he works hard to make up for it – he's normal smart. Not creepy smart."

"You are not creepy smart."

"I don't feel like it when I talk to Brandon."

"That's a good thing," Jade agreed. She knew that from a young age, even though she worked to fight against it, Violet's mind had made her feel isolated from her own peers. "What else?" They talked for a good half an hour. As she spilled more secrets that she'd been keeping, Violet detailed how they had met, how Brandon had approached her, and their meetings ever since. He did seem like a nice, smart, funny boy – if he was everything Violet described him to be.

It was quiet for several moments. Violet was done speaking and simply waiting for her mother. She knew the older woman had other questions. "Have you slept with him?"

"Mom!" She cried. Her cheeks turned a violent shade of red.

"It's a fair question – I don't know where you've been all of these evenings when you said that you were studying with Lily."

"I'm not ready for that," Violet mumbled. Jade jumped for relief inside but kept it to herself – she didn't want Violet thinking that she needed to keep it a secret when it did happen.

"Has he tried to push you into doing anything you don't want to do?"

"No," Violet answered, almost angry now. "He's not like that mom. He's respectful. And he's never – done that either." Jade smiled lightly. She dropped a kiss on the top of her dark, loose curls and put her arms around her eldest daughter. Violet was grumpy from the inquisition, but she soon relaxed into her mother's arms and calmed down.



"Just a baseline rule – if you can't say it – you're not ready for it."

"I know I'm not ready, mom."

"When you are ready, you know you can talk to me, right?" Violet nodded, then realized Jade couldn't see her and gave a quiet yes. Eventually, Jade kissed her again and left her alone, giving the teen much-desired breathing room. It had been an uncomfortable conversation, but Jade left feeling as though she had a handle on the situation – she knew that Violet was not sexually active – and she could worry about the rest as it came.

Almost two weeks later, Violet and Lily were no longer grounded and the dreaded family dinner had arrived. "Did you really have to invite everyone?" Violet asked as she set the dining room table. Jade was handing her piece by piece a set of bone china, rimmed in platinum and decorated in dainty violets, which Beck had brought down from the attic that morning.

"It's a normal Sunday dinner. Everyone is always invited," Jade told her. She left out the fact that when Andre, Carly, Sam, and Gibby had discovered that Violet was bringing a friend, they wouldn't have missed dinner for the world. "That setting is crooked," she added, nodding to the one Violet had just finished. The teenager sighed and fixed it before moving on to the next place. It was going to be a full evening. Their entire family, the Benson-Vega household, Andre, his wife Ivy, Carly, Sam, and Gibby. Violet was wondering if it might just be easier to break up with Brandon and call it a day.

She was seriously considering that course of action when Lily appeared next to her and began taking plates from Jade, setting the opposite side of the table. Her calming presence rubbed off slightly on her cousin, enough that Violet didn't feel the need to run or explode. They worked silently until the table was finished. Tori walked in and finished it off with a long, low centerpiece dominated be lilies and violets.

"Cute, mom," Lily told her.

"I thought so," Tori answered with a wink. She smiled brightly at Jade, who she thought looked like a cat about to catch a bird. 'Jade – do you need any help with dinner?"

"No," she answered. "Almost done. But can you check on the girls? Beck is supposed to be cleaning them up for dinner – but Coral was pretty dead-set against changing out of her beloved converses. " Tori chuckled, smiled again, and left the dining room.

Jade took one last look at the table and then at the two girls. Violet was wearing a flattering sweater dress in dark purple, her accessories and makeup conservative. Jade knew she was on her best behavior for Beck's sake. Lily wore a light blue sweater and black skirt, her beauty unadorned by makeup. She fussed around the table, fixing things that were perfectly fine, until Jade asked her to find Cat and make sure she was ready for dinner. When Lily left to seek out their eccentric and lovable aunt, Violet followed her mother into the kitchen. She stood at Jade's elbow as the older woman finished the salad.

"Mom, I really like him," she said softly.

"I know, Vi." She offered a smile that appeared far too mischievous for her daughter's liking. "I'll be on my best behavior." Violet doubted that – but she still wasn't particularly worried about her mother. She knew Jade was not nearly as difficult as her reputation made her out to be.

"Can you ask Dad to be nice? Please? He's not a bad guy. I was the one who lied to you guys – he didn't have any idea that I didn't have permission to be there."

"Your dad will behave," Jade promised. "Don't worry. Try to relax."

Relaxing was not in the cards that evening – Violet was miserable. She was pacing the living room waiting for Brandon when he arrived. She saw through the peep hole that he was carrying flowers and let herself outside, taking them from him. "These are for my mom?" He nodded.

"That's nice," Violet answered. She took his wrist and dragged him into the side yard where she proceeded to yank all of the daisies out of the arrangement.

"She doesn't like Daisies?"

"Nope," Violet answered. She fixed the bouquet, retied the ribbon, and handed it back to him. "And just – if she gets really quiet or she glares, stop talking. And try not to make eye contact with my dad."

"Your family isn't like the mafia or something, right?" Brandon asked.

Violet turned and shook her head. "Worse. They're in show business." As if on cue, lively piano music began in the living room. She groaned. She took his hand and pulled him into the room. Andre had arrived – she was assuming that he'd come through the kitchen – and was playing the grand piano. Max sat next to him, looking adorable, watching in awe.

"Hey, Vi," Andre said happily, smiling in her direction.

"Hey, Uncle Andre," she said with a smile. She pulled Brandon in his direction. "This is Brandon – Brandon, This is Andre – "

"Harris," Brandon finished for her, reaching out his hand and smiling excitedly. "I love your music. It's great to meet you."

Andrew laughed and shook his hand. "It's always good to meet a fan. Do you play?"

Brandon shook his head. "No – I quit the piano when I was about 10 – I still regret it – but I thought I was too cool for it at the time."

"You have to make it cool," Andre answered, moving off to do some kind of riff that did, they admitted, sound cool. Violet waved her hand toward Max.

"And this is Max. He's Aunt Tori and Uncle Freddie's son."

"Hi!" Max chirped, waving.

"Hey, Max," Brandon answered.

"Do you want to see my Legos?"

"That would be really cool," Brandon agreed. "Legos are awesome. But I don't know if we have time." He looked at Violet who shook her head.

"Not before dinner, Max. Maybe later." The five-year-old looked pacified and returned to watching Andre's fingers dance across the keys. Violet decided to bite the bullet and pull Brandon directly into the fire. She headed into the kitchen where her mother was finishing up the meal preparations with Tori's help while Ivy, Carly, and Sam watched on with full glasses of wine. Cat was searching for something in the refrigerator, only her blue heels and the frill of her purple skirt visible at first.

Violet swept her arm across the kitchen. "Brandon, this is the female part of my family – most of them at least." Cat pulled her head out of the refrigerator, closed the door, and giggled happily. "This is my aunt Cat," she said, gesturing as the redhead took a few steps toward them. Brandon stuck out his hand and Cat ignored it, hugging him.

"Hi, Brandon. It's nice to meet you."

"You too, Ms. Valentine."

Cat giggled but then turned serious. "Don't call me that."


"It's okay," she chirped. She returned to the refrigerator and Violet pointed to Carly and Sam, who were closest. "This is Aunt Carly and Aunt Sam." They both waved and smiled. Brandon did the same. Violet continued quickly. "This is Uncle Andre's wife Ivy. That's Aunt Tori with the heavy pot," she added. Tori looked up just long enough to smile before returning to her task of moving meatballs from the pot into a huge bowl that matched the china.

"You've met my mom," she said, gesturing to Jade, who was moving pasta into a gigantic bowl of its own.

"Nice to see you again, Mrs. Oliver. I'm so sorry – "

"You don't have to apologize again, Brandon," she told him. "And you can call me Jade."

"Thank you for having me."

"You're welcome," she told him with a softening smile. He remembered the flowers he'd brought and handed them to her and she thanked him, moving across the kitchen to put them into a vase. He saw Lily then, coming down the stairs with two younger girls at her heels.

"Hi Brandon," she greeted.

"Hey, Lily. And this must be Coral and Scarlet – I've heard a lot about you," he said. "Nice to meet you." Both girls greeted him, Scarlet much more shyly than her sister.

Beck and Freddie didn't appear until Jade was calling them to sit at the table. Violet hoped that meant that her much calmer and more reasonable uncle had been talking sense into her father.

"Hello, Sir," Brandon said politely, holding out his hand.

"Definitely don't call me sir," Beck told him, shaking his hand. Violet could see that he was probably being too rough, but Brandon didn't make a sound or noise in complaint.

"Dad," Violet hissed. Beck let go of the younger man's hand.

"Sorry, Mr. Oliver," he corrected.

Beck shrugged his shoulders. "I guess that will have to do." Before he could say anymore, Jade appeared and sat to his left side. Beck sat and Violet pulled Brandon toward the middle of the table for their own seats. Tori began passing the bread and before she knew what was happening, a normal and hectic family dinner had begun.

Some of her favorite people were on their best behavior – Carly and Tori tried to smooth over anything that was abrupt or overbearing. But other – such as Andre, Beck, and surprisingly Freddie – were going out of their way to ask Brandon 201 uncomfortable questions. Violet barely touched her food as she tried to intercept questions that she felt were too personal or awkward, but Brandon easily meshed with her family and was soon engaged in conversation with Freddie and Gibby about the Brothers G restaurant – which was about to become a chain – and the type of accounting software would be most beneficial for them to use. It bored Violet silly, but at least it didn't give her father or Andre room to ask any questions that might embarrass her. Sam could also usually be counted on to be a loose cannon, but she was quiet that night.

After dinner, Max asked again if Brandon wanted to see his Legos, so the three of them tromped through the yard to his house and up the stairs to his bedroom. Violet had seen the collection many times before and it was enviable. Max's cheeks flushed with pink from excitement as he told Brandon about everything he had built. Violet sat on the bed while her boyfriend followed Max around the room, giving appropriate reverence and compliments to the villages, trains, airplanes, and other pieces he had built. Freddie had built a train track that traversed the walls at Max's eyes level and had hung each airplane from the ceiling after helping his son to build it. The room itself was a masterpiece, as far as Violet was concerned. Brandon seemed to agree. He sat on the floor and helped Max work on the replica of Hogwarts that he was currently building.

Violet didn't know how much time had passed until she saw her mother and aunt in the doorway, watching. "Max, it's getting late," Tori told him gently. "It's almost time to get ready for bed – it's time for Brandon to go home."

"Mom – he figured out the tower. I was missing this piece," Max said, holding another similar piece for tori to see."

"That's awesome," Tori agreed. "But it's still time to say goodnight, okay?" She stepped into the room, avoiding dozens of Lego vehicles and buildings, and stood beside her son, ruffling his hair. Max said nothing – Violet could see he was disappointed.

"I'll come back another time, okay buddy?" Max looked up hopefully at his mom.

"Sounds good to me," Tori replied. "Say goodnight."

"Goodnight Brandon. Thanks for helping me with my Legos!"

"Thanks for inviting me, Max. Good night." He stood and looked over at Violet, who got up from the place where she was now lounging on Max's bed. She stopped and kissed Max on the cheek and hugged her aunt.

"Good night," she said softly.

"Good night, Vi," Tori said, hugging her back. She looked over at the teenaged boy. "It was nice to meet you, Brandon."

"You too," he said politely. He followed Violet down the stairs and out into the backyard. Jade followed not far behind. When they entered the kitchen, Violet realized it was empty. She turned to her mother.

"Everyone went home?"

Jade smiled. "It's almost nine," she told her. "Most people have to work in the morning. Tori gave Max some leeway on his bedtime." Jade gave Brandon a plastic contain full of leftovers and one with dessert. "It was nice to meet you, Brandon."

"You too, M – " he stopped himself. "Jade," he finished. She smiled and turned to her daughter. "I'll see you upstairs."

Violet walked Brandon to the front door. "Thanks for coming. I'm sorry if my family came on too strong – "

"They were great," Brandon told her. "I mean, your dad is terrifying, but I think I would be too if I had three daughters. So, I get it."

"I am not grounded anymore," Violet reminded him as they stood in front of the door.

"Then I'll see you for lunch tomorrow?" She nodded. He leaned down and kissed her – on the lips, but chastely. She was disappointed and tried to deepen it but he pulled away and chuckled.

"I'd like to see you tomorrow – and that won't happen if your dad kills me."

Violet sighed. "Fine," she answered. "Good night."

"Good night," he answered, kissing her one more time. She watched him reach his car and then closed and locked the front door. She turned around to find Beck standing in the living room entryway.

"We didn't do anything wrong," she told him testily.

"I know," he responded, his voice empty of the hard edge it had carried all night. "He seems like a decent guy. I'm sorry – this is hard for me, Violet."

"You had to know that eventually I would start dating," he said, leaning against railing at the bottom of the staircase.

"I don't have to love it," Beck responded. He sighed. "But if you're honest with me and your mom – I'll try harder to accept it."

"Thanks daddy." She hugged him and stood on her toes to kiss his cheek. She disappeared up the stairs and Beck closed up the main floor, setting the alarm and grabbing a glass of water before going to his bedroom. Jade was ready for bed, curled under the covers reading a book and waiting for him.

"I'm proud of you," she told him several minutes later, as he crawled into bed next to her.

"I hate this," he responded.

"I know you do – but we raised her well – she can handle this."

"You do everything right – and they grow up and leave you. Doesn't that seem a bit backwards?"

"If you let them leave – if you're good to them – they come back," Jade told him softly, kissing his cheek. She curled up against him, her head resting on his chest, her hand over his heart. "Try not to worry too much – she's only sixteen.

Let me know what you thought. Thanks for reading and reviewing! Happy Holidays to you and yours!