The Fine Print: I could say something witty here. Or something vaguely pervy about Lis Sladen. Or I could just say what we all know, that I obviously do not own The Sarah Jane Adventures.
A Teen's Guide to Coming Out
Clyde Lager often complained that most people their age didn't come straight home after school to have tea 'round the kitchen table.
But then most folks their age didn't spend their evenings and weekends stopping the Slitheen from siphoning off the Earth's ozone layer to sell to the highest bidder or convincing the manager at ASDA that the rampaging Barillian delegate was really their crazy Uncle George who just happened to have a strange predilection for canned peaches either.
So he supposed it was a fair tradeoff that once again today he was waiting for Maria to do the tea and had a chocolate biscuit.
Still, he thought as Maria set out four mismatched cups, at least he and Luke had better things they could be doing right now. Especially since Sarah Jane was out. And especially since Luke was wearing his favorite jeans today, the one's that clung real low to his hips.
The object of his less-than-chaste thoughts was leaning against the counter, engrossed in what looked to be a brochure. A bit of hair had fallen into his face and Clyde could tell he was chewing the inside of his lip the way he did when he got nervous.
Yes, definitely better things they could be doing with their time than having tea. And maybe Luke could be convinced of that too.
Clyde slid up next to Luke, bringing them hip to hip with a jolt. When Luke only flashed him a half-hearted smile, he looked over his shoulder to see what he was reading.
"What's this then?"
"It's a guide to coming out to your parents. You're supposed to answer these questions to know if you are ready."
"Are you sure you want to do this today, Luke?" Maria asked. She poured three cups of tea and sat down at the table.
"I think so." Luke hovered around the table. "No, I do," he said with more resolve, finally settling down into his chair. "But it says you have to be prepared. Because they might not react well. It says that most parents don't react well, at least at first."
"But Sarah Jane's not most parents."
Clyde grinned, grateful for the opportunity to lighten the mood—and as always to torment Maria. "And she's the expert on Sarah Jane."
"No one finds that funny, Clyde," Maria snapped.
Clyde laughed as the faint blush started to creep up her cheeks, despite her protest. Maria had a huge crush on Luke's mum, Sarah Jane, had done for years, not that she'd ever admit it. Clyde wagered everyone knew about it though, except Sarah Jane herself. Maria was so obvious. "I do, Maria," he said solemnly. "I find it hil-lar-i-ous."
"But, Clyde," Luke interrupted, "you said it wouldn't be funny when Maria ended up as your mother-in-law."
"Right, let's see that list then." Maria snatched the paper from the table, anxious to change the subject as Clyde kept laughing. "'Number One: Are you sure about your sexual orientation?'"
"'Are you comfortable with your sexuality?'"
"'Three: Do you definitely want to declare it at this point in your life?'"
Luke glanced over at Clyde, who had just licked his thumb and was rubbing at a spot on his left trainer. He smiled. "Yeah."
Maria shook her head—no accounting for taste—and went on: "'Do you have the support of family and friends?'"
"I don't have any family except for Sarah Jane."
"Well, you have friends," she reassured with a small smile, her patented let's-reassure-my-daft-best-friends smile which worked in situations of mortal peril or social miscalculation.
"Awww. You're loved," Clyde teased. He leaned over and pulled Luke towards him by the sleeve of his jersey, planting a playful kiss to Luke's neck.
"'Number Five: Are you knowledgeable about the challenges that LGBTQ people face?'" Maria continued, soldiering on despite the fact that more than once a quick peck like that between her two best friends had led to a full out snog before she could let herself out of the room.
She could almost see the gears turning in Clyde's mind as he leaned away from Luke. "What's the Q stand for?"
"Queer. Or sometimes questioning," Luke answered quickly.
"Questioning?" Clyde laughed. "That's you."
To Luke's credit, he didn't ask quite as many questions as he used to.
"I don't think that's the kind of questioning they mean," Maria corrected.
"'Six: What's the emotional climate at home?'" She looked at Luke over the paper. "You and Sarah Jane get on great, like strangely well," she answered before Luke had a chance. "And no one's tried to take over and/or destroy the planet in going on four weeks." She cocked her head, calculating. "Actually we're probably due for one so you might want to get on with this—before the panic sets in."
"'What's your motive for coming out now?'"
"I don't like lying to Mum."
"We haven't been lying . . . exactly," Clyde clarified.
"'Number Eight . . .'"
"How many more of these are there?" Clyde interrupted.
"' . . .Do you have available resources to care for yourself if your parents decide not to because of your sexual identity?'" She paused and looked at Luke. "Can you care for yourself? Well, it's been about four weeks since we had to have the stranger danger talk. Again."
"'What are your parents' views about sexual orientation?'"
"We've never talked about that exactly."
"Sarah Jane is one of the most open minded people I know," Maria stated.
"You certainly hope so."
If Maria had been an inhabitant of Risis IV, the look she shot Clyde would have severed his head from his ears and deposited them in separate rooms of the house.
As she was simply an Earth girl, the look was merely nasty and she continued: "Most of your mum's friends are gay. Except for Dad and me--not a word, Clyde--I mean, there's probably some rule at Torchwood saying you have to be bisexual to work there."
"Gwen's not. She's married to some bloke."
"Jack," Maria started to count them off on her fingers.
The boys sighed, all moon-eyes and naughty grins. They got that way every time the head of Torchwood Cardiff was mentioned.
"Jack. Ianto. Tosh."
"And what about the Doctor?" added Luke.
Clyde nodded. "There's no denying it in that suit."
"Or the way he kissed Jack goodbye," Luke said.
"Yeah, but did you see the way he snogged Sarah Jane before he left?" Clyde said.
Luke screwed up his face at the thought of his mum snogging the Doctor and Maria frowned—at the thought of Luke's mum snogging the Doctor.
"Why would I be?" Maria covered. "Besides he's with Donna."
"And sometimes Martha," Clyde added.
"And occasionally Rose," Maria finished.
"Those are called hags," Luke chimed in happily. "Straight women who enjoy hanging out with gay men. Fruit flies. Queer Dears. I've read about them."
Clyde inwardly cringed. Despite great strides—and Clyde considered Luke's current relative coolness to be credited entirely to his own efforts—Luke still didn't quite have the hang of using slang.
Still he did love that goofy look of delight on Luke's face.
Without warning Clyde snapped his head around to face Maria. "Yeah, what you'd be if you weren't a lezzy."
"Shut. Up. Last one. 'Is coming out your own decision?'"
Luke turned to Clyde and Clyde shrugged. "I'm certainly not pressuring you."
"Yes, it is my decision. But parents are angry when their children are gay."
"If you're so worried about it, then don't tell her now."
"But I want to."
"Then tell her. Just give me fair warning."
"Because she'll be angry and there will be shouting and crying?" Luke was beginning to look more and more panicked.
Clyde shook his head. "It's not her shouting at you I'm worried about."
"Listen, Luke," Maria cut in. "She accepts that you were grown in a lab to help the Bane enslave humankind. Why would she have a problem with your being gay?"
"But the parents in movies are always angry and disappointed. I don't want Sarah Jane to be angry or disappointed."
"As often as it may seem like we live inside some low-budget sci-fi--"
"Mum's home," Luke rushed, looking frantically between his friends.
Although Maria was opening her mouth to reassure him, Clyde beat her to it, catching and holding his gaze. "It'll be okay, Luke. Promise."
Sarah Jane appeared, dumping an arm load of folders down on the table—all rather conspicuously marked "CONFIDENTIAL: DO NOT REMOVE FROM U.N.I.T. HEADQUARTERS."
"Hello, you." She pressed a quick kiss to the top of Luke's head, silently thankful that he was, well, different. Any other boy would have shrugged away in utter mortification, but not her Luke. Clyde, on the other hand, recoiled when she threatened to hug him, so she settled for a playful smack to his shoulder.
"Tea?" Maria hopped up to grab the kettle, pausing just long enough to receive her customary hug—no recoiling there—as Sarah Jane sat down across from Luke.
Maria poured the cuppa and was rewarded with a wide smile and a "Thanks, luv."
Just the right combination to ensure Maria would have to turn to hide her returning blush and that Clyde would have to eat another biscuit to hide his giggle.
"I am a gay, homosexual teenage boy. I am sure about my sexual orientation. I definitely want to declare it at this point in my life."
For a moment everything seemed to hang frozen in space. A bit of biscuit hung suspended from Clyde's gapping mouth. The kettle falling from Maria's hand balanced contrary to all laws of gravity on the edge of the sink. Sarah Jane's cup was poised at her lips, the liquid swelling out just over the rim by a second miracle of physics, as her eyes widened exponentially with each word coming from her son's mouth.
As people who had traveled in both space and time, the current inhabitants of Number 13 Bannerman Road recognized the phenomenon for what it was: a moment of pure, unmitigated awkwardness.
That is everyone except for Luke, who appeared to be on a roll.
"I am comfortable with my sexuality," he continued. "And Clyde says I'm improving every day. He said . . ."
"Luke!" Clyde and Maria's voices were punctuated by the metallic clank of a kettle and a spray of biscuit crumbs. The look of horror on Maria's face was surpassed only by the sheer terror that currently graced Clyde's.
"I've done extensive reading on the subject, starting with Plato's Symposium all the way through Todd Gregory's Every Frat Boy Wants It."
Sarah Jane calmly sat the cup of tea down in front of her.
"Well, okay then."
"Maria, Clyde." She glanced around at the pair. "I need information on the Davros Institute. That name can't be a coincidence. See what Mr. Smith can come up with?"
"Sure." Maria's hand lingered on the back of Sarah Jane's chair as she looked between Luke and Sarah Jane.
Clyde, nodding, hovered near Luke. "Okay?" he whispered, squeezing his shoulder. Luke nodded and Clyde followed Maria for the attic.
"And Clyde, I'll want to have a word with you later," Sarah Jane called.
In the hall, Maria and Clyde exchanged a look.
Alone in the kitchen, Sarah Jane looked across the table at Luke. She wasn't sure what she was supposed to say in a moment like this. Most parents have 16 years to come up with profound wisdom for such situations. But she'd only had three.
"So." Very profound that.
Luke nodded, but didn't meet her eyes.
He looked up, confused.
"Then good for you, Luke."
His forehead screwed up in confusion. "You're not angry or disappointed?"
"No, of course not. Why would I be?" She reached across the table and took his hands into hers, rubbing them gently. A few years ago she would have laughed at the thought of finding herself part of such a picturesque moment, but it seemed the most natural thing to do when it came to it.
"But you have to go through six stages of understanding to reach true acceptance."
"According to the literature I've been reading." She almost laughed. Almost. Luke was so earnest, his eyes filled with such sincerity.
"More of your research." She allowed herself a bemused smile. "Let's see it."
She looked at the back of the brochure. It read: "The stages of understanding are 1)shock, 2)denial, 3)guilt, 4)expressing feelings, 5)making decisions, and 6)true acceptance."
She looked at Luke again, then back to the brochure in question.
"Your announcement was a bit shocking I suppose. Startling in its bluntness if nothing else," she trailed off.
"Right, then." She cleared her throat and smiled at her son. "Oh, this can't be," she started, the affection in her eyes belying her words. "This is all my fault for letting you spend time with Jack last summer. That's three."
"I love you. That's four. As for five, no more sleepovers with Clyde. You sly little. . . But I do love you, Luke. No matter what. I loved you when you turned your iPod into a homing devise and a fleet of Geminese raiders trampled the geraniums in the front garden. And I still loved you after you stowed away on the Tardis, didn't I? And I'll love you no matter who you decide to love."
She loved it when Luke smiled.
"So Clyde . . ." she began, lifting her cup of tea once again.
"Yeah, Clyde," Luke beamed.
She winked at him over the rim. "I admit I figured it wouldn't be Maria."
"But Maria will make an excellent step-mother for me."
This time Sarah Jane did spill her tea.