A/N: My little brother graduates high school in 4 days so I guess I'm feeling a little emotional. This is set about 8 years after the end of Lab Rats. Reviews are always appreciated! Enjoy.
Adam walks through the front door with Naomi perched on his shoulders, both of them happily finishing off their ice cream cones. (Naomi's has three scoops because he can't help but spoil his baby sister.)
They're laughing, having fun, until Adam spots Tasha at the kitchen table, her expression tense, her eyes fixed on him. "Okay, Girlie-girl," he says, scooping up Naomi with one hand and depositing her on the couch. She giggles and keeps eating her ice cream. Adam uncharacteristically drops the rest of his cone in the trash and goes to sit across from Tasha. "What's wrong?" he says. "Is it Bree? Is she—"
"No," Tasha says, looking strained and tired. "Everyone's fine." The thick stress lines in her forehead say otherwise. For a second he actually thinks she's not going to tell him anything, and then she slides a letter across the table to him. "This came in the mail for you."
Adam glances down, expecting a bill for damages (he apologized to that hot dog vendor again and again) or maybe the fake FBI badges he ordered for himself and Naomi (they were just for playing dress-up, he swears). Instead, he looks down to find an envelope addressed to him stamped with CCCC. Centium City Community College.
Carefully, trying not to reveal how nervous he is, Adam unfolds the letter and reads it aloud. "Dear Adam Davenport, We want to express our congratulations at your acceptance to… Acceptance. Acceptance? Acceptance!" Adam's face lights up with a grin and he performs a little victory dance from his seat. "I got in! I got in! Naomi, you see this? I got into college!"
Tasha's still staring at him, not celebrating. "Why didn't you tell me you'd applied?" she says, her voice unusually cold and stern.
Adam shrugs, still too jazzed about his acceptance to worry about Tasha. "I never in a million years thought I'd actually get in," he admits. "But I did! I got in! You're looking at Adam Davenport, college student."
"Lemme see," Naomi says, suddenly at his side. Adam hands her the letter and she squints at it, still too new to reading to make much sense of it. "Wow."
"Naomi, go downstairs," Tasha says suddenly, standing up. The girl looks like she's going to argue but Tasha aims a glare at her. "Now." Naomi hands the letter back to Adam and vanishes down the hall. A moment later, they can hear the faint whirr of the elevator in action. "Adam. Why didn't you tell me about this?"
Adam looks confused. "I didn't even know if I was gonna get in," he reminds her. "Tasha, what's wrong? Don't worry, I can cover tuition fine with… with my inheritance. And I already asked Bree, she said she and Skylar and Oliver would help me move into my dorm."
Tasha blinks. Her face makes it look like he told her he's joining the circus, not that he's going to college. "So Bree knew about this before I did?"
Adam shrugs again. "I just asked her ahead of time, just in case," he says. "Hey, remember how you made Leo a cake when he got into Caltech? Can you make one for me? I mean Naomi can pick the flavor, I just—"
"You could have told me," Tasha says, glowering at him. She stands with her hands braced on the table, and if he didn't know better he'd think she was about to throw it at him. "Instead of sneaking around like this."
"I wasn't sneaking around!"
"Why did I have to find out from a letter?" she says, absurdly sounding like she might start crying. "Why couldn't you have told me face to face? Why did I have to find out by reading it in the mail?"
He's done playing dumb; he's mad now. "Because you opened my mail," he points out, staying seated but standing up for himself. "You didn't need to open it, it had my name on it. If you don't want to know stuff, don't read other people's mail."
"I do want to know stuff," she argues. "I want to know what's happening in your life. You live in this house, you're part of this family, you know, you're not just some guy who crashes here when he needs to."
"I know that!"
"Then why did you keep this a secret?"
"I didn't," he says, and it's probably a good thing that she sent Naomi to the basement because they're voices have gotten alarmingly loud. "Jeez, Tasha, what's the deal?"
She shakes her head. "I just… I just don't believe this."
That's the final straw. "You don't believe it? Because I'm too stupid?"
Her eyes soften. "No, Adam, that's not what I—"
"Look, I know it's not Caltech or Mission Creek State, but it's a real school and they really want me," he says, stubborn as always. "I worked hard for this. I don't get it. Are you not proud of me?"
The steel in her shoulders and the set of her mouth melts away for a moment. "Adam," she starts, but he pushes away from the table.
"Save it," he says, grabbing his letter and storming off, leaving her alone at the table with a torn-open envelope.
Adam lies sprawled on the futon in his room, tossing a softball up in the air and catching it, over and over, over and over. When he moved back home, Douglas helped move his capsule into one of the upstairs rooms so Naomi could have her space in the basement. It's nice to have his own space. Sometimes.
Mr. Davenport's desk rests up against one wall, the surface littered with Adam's sketches, gum wrappers, a fidget spinner, and empty coffee cups. He remembers the day he hauled it in here, explaining patiently to Naomi that when he was a kid, he slept in a capsule facing Mr. Davenport's cyber desk. So now he wants to sleep in a capsule facing Mr. Davenport's regular desk.
He didn't tell her that it's also nice to feel like he has a piece of Dad in his new room.
Adam gets jerked out of old memories by a knock on the door. "Can I come in?" Tasha's voice, muffled through the door.
"Yeah," he says, not looking up. He catches the softball and studies it, avoiding looking at Tasha as she walks in and sits in the chair by the desk. She has a shoebox with her, and Adam's curiosity gets the better of him. "What's that?"
Tasha purses her lips and opens up the shoebox, pulling out object after object. "This is the macaroni art you made for me and Donald as a late wedding present," she explains, laying it on the desk. "This is the program from that play you and Janelle were in. This is a news clipping from the day you stopped Donald's high speed train from hitting Welkerville. I mean, you're not even mentioned, but I know. This is the bus ticket from the day I got stuck in Fresno and you were the only one smart enough to call me on my cell."
"How could you think I'm not proud of you?" she says, tears welling up in her eyes. "Adam, I am so, so proud of you. I'm proud of everything you do, everything you've done, the man you've grown up to be…" She wipes at her eyes, setting the shoebox on the desk and moving to join Adam on the futon. "You're so brave and kind, and you work so hard. Of course I'm proud of you."
Adam blinks, sitting up to face her. "Then why were you so mad about me going to Centium?"
She sniffs, scrubbing at the tears as they roll down her cheeks. "Because I don't want you to grow up," she says, voice hitched. "And I know, I know, you are grown up. But I don't want you to leave. Leo and Chase are graduating from Caltech next year, and Bree's off saving the world. Daniel's always on the island. I just… I thought you were sticking around."
Beginning to cry too, Adam leans forward and wraps Tasha up into a hug. "I'm sorry," he says, rocking back and forth with her. "It's just… there's so much I can do, still. Fight crime and stuff, sure, yeah. But I could be an animator. I could be a veterinarian. I could be a kindergarten teacher. There's a lot I can do, but I have to go to college."
"I know, I know," she assures him, clutching him close to her. "And I want you to do all those things. I mean, not all at once. You know what I mean."
"I'll miss you so much if you're in Centium City," she sighs. "But… it's selfish, honey. I want you to be successful and I want you to stay here and never grow up. I can't have both."
"Well, I can clone myself again."
"No," she says, pulling away to laugh and wipe her eyes. "No, Adam, you're going to college. You have to grow up sometime. And I… I guess I have to let go." She smooths his hair back, thinking about his first day of school, about the day he and Bree paraded around with pompoms for hours on end, about the day he ran all the way home to tell her he'd been named Student of the Semester. "Your father would be so proud of you. You know that, right?"
"Yeah," Adam says, swallowing the lump that suddenly appeared in his throat. "Yeah, I know that."
"And I'm so proud of you," she reminds him. "You know that too, right?" Adam nods. "Okay," Tasha says, pulling him into another hug. "Just let me hang on for a little while longer, though."
The day Adam leaves for college, Tasha prepares an extravagant breakfast with a little help from Naomi (basically she just cracks the eggs). Tasha cries a lot all morning and Naomi keeps adding on to her list of souvenirs she wants Adam to bring her from Centium City.
He packs up the car, his capsule strapped to the roof. It looks a little ridiculous and it's sure to get stares on the road, but hey, it works.
"Study hard," Tasha says, bracing her hands on his shoulders. "And call me when you get there."
"Sure thing, Tasha," Adam promises, pulling her in for a hug. He leans down next to Naomi. "You take care of Mom, okay?" he says, ruffling her hair. "She's gonna need a lot of help."
"I will," she says solemnly.
Naomi giggles and wraps her pinky around her big brother's. "Pinky swear."
Adam starts the car and pulls out of the driveway, watching as Tasha and Naomi wave goodbye to him. It's a little hard to check his mirrors with the car jam-packed the way it is, but he manages. And he begins the long drive to Centium City Community College.
He makes it about 400 feet down the road before he stops the car, gets out, and runs back up to the house. "I don't wanna go," he says, hugging Tasha again, tears springing to his eyes. "I don't wanna go."
"Yes you do," she says, laughing and crying at the same time. "Tell him, Naomi."
"You wanna go to college and do cool college stuff," Naomi says, actually pushing him toward the car. "Go!"
"Go," Tasha says, but she hugs him again one more time.
Finally, Adam says goodbye for good and gets into the car. And he leaves.
"Now, don't you go growing up, too," Tasha jokes, planting her hands on Naomi's shoulders as they watch Adam's car disappear into the distance. "I don't know if I could go through this again."