They were seated in a row, Jasper in the middle flanked on his right by Henry and on his left by Maggie, all three sets of eyes following Jasper's dad around the room. They'd become accustomed to this, as a similar situation occurred almost every week. Bryan Bartlett was delivering his post-crazy adventure lecture, which he'd been doing without fail since the incident with the Fortuna ruby. They never listened to him, though, which was why, week after week, they ended up back in his office, forced to listen to his chastisement.
"Henry," he began, "one of these days, you're going to have to stop poking your nose into everything you stumble upon."
"Yeah, that's likely," snorted Jasper, earning a glare from his father. Nevertheless, Bryan continued.
"And Jasper, you should know better than wandering around in the DOUM rooms, given all the rogue maniacs that seem to turn up there." He was probably referring to people like Agent Fitzgerald and Joshua Greenwood, but Jasper took his words to be a snide jab at Henry, a frequent inhabitant of the DOUM rooms and as maniacal as they come. "Maggie," he said, turning to her. She glanced up, guilt evident in her eyes. It made Jasper smile. After all this time, she still managed to feel guilty when the three disobeyed the dean. He and Henry, on the other hand, were only sorry they'd been caught. Sure, they could see where it might have been a better idea to let the police handle it when Maggie disappeared, but where was the fun in that? The cousins still didn't think they deserved all this blame, but apparently, Maggie was ready to own up to the heinous crime she had committed by being kidnapped. It was as if Bryan thought they brought all their trouble upon themselves. "I understand your need for privacy, but if something important is going on with you, don't try to keep it completely to yourself. Especially from these guys."
"I'm sorry," she mumbled to the floor, apologizing for… what? Dancing with Joshua? Jasper shook his head, glad that his dad's speech was about to wrap up.
"And Jasper," added Bryan, "quit leaving your laundry basket out in the middle of the hall, I keep tripping over it." He smiled. "I know that last one had nothing to do with the Smithson Specter fiasco, but it was really bothering me. Okay, you're free to go."
Later that afternoon, Maggie, Jasper, and Henry were lying exhausted on the couch in the Bartlett living room, staring with glazed eyes at the bearded man in sunglasses jamming out on the television. "Why," said Maggie, "are we using your super cool plasma 3D TV to watch a rabbi play electric guitar?"
"Couldn't find the remote," grunted Jasper. Everything was so natural, so easy, as if just last night Jasper hadn't been held at knife point. Joshua was in the hospital, still under surveillance in case he had a concussion, and then he was on his way to the Department of Corrections for assault and attempted kidnapping. (Jasper was disappointed that "potential girlfriend stealer" didn't factor into his arrest.) He still hadn't been able to get a moment alone with Maggie, what with her parents fussing over her almost being taken to California. He'd managed to avoid a conversation with Henry about the events in the DOUM rooms, but he knew that his ability to evade closure would be short-lived.
"I should go," sighed Maggie, pushing herself off the couch. "It's getting late."
"Of course it is," said Jasper without looking away from the television screen. "Can't get earlier, not unless we're living inside Benjamin Button." He could practically hear her rolling her eyes as she grabbed her jacket off the back of the couch and headed to the door.
"Hey, Jazz?" she said, craning around the corner from the foyer. "Can I talk to you for a second?" Bracing himself for a letdown, Jasper took a deep breath and stood up, his legs carrying him around the couch faster than his mind would have liked and giving him no time to prepare. Henry smirked as he stretched out, now having the whole couch to himself.
"Jasper," said Maggie quietly when he reached her, "what you said in the DOUM rooms-"
"Forget it," he shrugged self-consciously. "In-the-moment thing. Hostage mentality, or whatever."
She raised an eyebrow, doubtful. "Really?"
"No." There was no hiding now, he'd ripped off the metaphorical Band-Aid when he'd admitted his true feelings to her yesterday. All that was left to do now was deal with the stinging wound. She leaned closer to him and, to his utter shock, kissed him. It was quick, too quick for him to react, and he could feel her smiling.
"All I ask of you," she whispered, punning on one of the songs in her musical, "is that you let me be valedictorian." She pulled away, grinning, and with a last goodbye wave to Henry, she left. Jasper stood there, gazing at the door through which she'd just walked, and despite her kidding nature, he somehow knew that whatever interaction they had tomorrow would be more than friendly.
"Unbelievable," he sighed as Henry walked up behind them.
"She is, isn't she?" he grinned, clapping his cousin on the shoulder.
"Well," said Jasper, the dreaminess leaking out of his attitude now that Maggie was gone, "I think that was an adventure we won't forget."
"You forget the other ones?" he said, sounding a bit offended.
"I try," he said, not afraid to admit it. Henry was always dragging him into dangerous situations that he would rather avoid, and if he couldn't avoid them, he might as well pretend they had never happened.
"Come on," said Henry, sounding a little hurt. "You don't remember when we shot Sputnik on a rocket? Or when we tracked down those screaming triplets?"
"No, I remember those," he said.
"Hey, remember the time I broke into the Army Medical Reserve to save all those sick kids?" Henry said excitedly as they walked back into the family and room and collapsed back on the couch.
"No," said Jasper confusedly. "But I remember people telling me about it."
"That musical thing was kind of cool," Henry admitted. "I think Smithson is doing Rent next year. Might be fun." Jasper grunted something noncommittal and kept his eyes on the TV screen. It wasn't until Henry started to sing that he turned to look at him. "Five hundred, twenty-five thousand, six-hundred-" Jasper lobbed a pillow at his face.
A/N: Well, it took a little longer than expected, but there it is, the final installment of "The Phantom of Smithson." I want to remind everyone to "like" the Facebook page for the DVD Release of Unnatural History, Season One.
http: / / www. facebook. com / pages / DVD-Release-of-Unnatural-History-Season-One /183490668333917 # ! / pages / DVD-Release-of-Unnatural-History-Season-One / 183490668333917
And make sure to tell everyone you know to like it, too!