End of an Era

Disclaimer: I do not own Animorphs.

He had joined The Sharing for a simple, silly reason. A pretty girl he liked was a member. He had wanted to get close to her. He had gone to meetings. He'd played along with them, never guessing the truth. All he cared about was the girl. He had stumbled, accidentally, into a secret leadership meeting. He thought the girl was seeing another boy. But she was one of them. He had followed her, wandered into the meeting and seen Visser Three, Visser Three in his Andalite body.

-Animorphs #6.

I woke up to the smell of cinnamon rolls. I hadn't actually planned on waking up before nine because it was a Saturday and I was a teenager but if I absolutely had to be woken up at 8:45 then I could think of few better ways.

I say cinnamon rolls but my dad actually makes one batch of cinnamon rolls and one of orange rolls. If my mom were making them she might have made them from scratch or at least a little closer to scratch than putting Pillsbury roles in a pan and putting it in the oven. Still, it was really good and closer to cooking than my dad usually got and it was delicious so I have no complaints.

I also steadfastly refused to look at the nutritional information on it because according to my mom it was really depressing which is why we don't have it often. I guess we could eat less than four rolls apiece but what's the point of having cinnamon and orange rolls if you're only going to have a little? And life is short.

I quickly threw on a shirt and went downstairs to eat. My parents and Jake were already downstairs. Dad was just putting the finishing touches on the icing for the orange rolls, Mom was setting the table, and Jake was using his finger to get the leftover icing out of the cinnamon roll icing container.

When we were younger, we used to fight over who would get to lick the icing container. My dad tried to compromise by letting us both have one but for some reason we wouldn't hear of it. We did accept the compromise that the other person got to lick the lid (which had less icing on it but still some) and got both middle rolls. I was a bit past wanting to lick the lids but that wasn't going to stop me from claiming the middle rolls. Those were the best because they had the most icing and because they were completely soft as they were the only ones who hadn't had an edge on the side of the pan to harden it.

"Good morning, Tom," my mom said, kissing my cheek as she walked past. "Get the milk, will you?"

I nodded absently as got the glasses and milk out. My parents liked their milk in glass glasses for whatever reason while Jake and I were fine drinking out of those plastic glasses that had once held kids' drinks at a restaurant and that we had taken home and washed. My glass was from Chili's and Jake's was from Blueberry Hill. My parents also insisted on drinking skim milk while Jake and I got 2%. I'm sure skim milk is healthier for you but surely not by that much (it's only 2%, after all) but I can't stand the taste. It's almost…sour.

It took two trips to take the milk back to the table and when I brought our parents' glasses I discovered that Jake had stolen my glass and I stared expectantly at him.

"It's more colorful," Jake explained.

Even though we always all got two cinnamon rolls and two orange rolls, my dad still asked us which one we wanted first. I got an orange roll while my mom and brother bock picked cinnamon. Dad brought a cinnamon roll back on his own plate and sat down.

"You're on your own for seconds, thirds, and fourths," he announced.

I groaned. "Do you have to call it that? You're making it sound like we're gorging ourselves or something. I mean, seconds are fine but thirds? Fourths?"

"Well if you looked at the calories-" my mom started to say.

"So, Jake, what are you doing today?" I quickly asked. Denial is really the way to go here.

Jake shrugged. "I think Marco's going to stop by at some point and we can do something."

"It must be nice not to have to plan anything out," my dad said wistfully. " 'Might' stop by and do 'something.' You know, Jake, that when you're a grown-up you tend to have to plan things out a little better than that."

Jake blinked innocently. "Why?"

"Because if you make plans with someone then you have to clear your schedule because if you weren't going to hang out with them you'd have a million other things to do," my dad explained. "And so if they don't show up you tend to get very…annoyed. And people like knowing what you're doing in advance."

"Not to mention that if you're planning on going out to lunch or something then most people will just drive themselves and meet you there," my mom added. "So it's almost essential to know where you're going then."

" 'Almost'?" I repeated, surprised.

"Sometimes you get lucky," my mom told me.

"No plan survives first contact with Marco," Jake said seriously. "Believe me, I've tried."

"What about you, Tom?" my dad asked. "What are you doing today? Because I was thinking about mowing the lawn today but if you and your brother both won't be here then I can always wait until tomorrow. I'd just rather do it on the weekend so you two didn't have to rush your homework to rake during the school week."

"And I have basketball practice anyway," I reminded him.

"This weekend it is," my dad declared, nodding. "Jake, you can tell Marco that if he's around then he can either wait for you or help out to make the job go faster."

Jake laughed. "Marco will have fun watching me rake and complaining that I'm doing it wrong."

"That's not very nice," my mom said, frowning.

"Marco doesn't like nice," Jake replied, shrugging.

"I am actually kind of busy today," I announced. "I mean, it's nothing really that important so I can ditch it if you need me here but if you don't then I'm planning on going to the Sharing again."

I actually wasn't sure that I wanted to be there today. The Sharing is…weird. I feel bad for saying it – thinking it – but it is. Everyone's so absurdly friendly and inclusive and how can anyone have any issue with such warm and genuinely friendly people? I guess I'm still not used to it because sometimes I have to wonder what they're really after. I never see any signs that it's anything nefarious, though, so it's probably just that I'm not in the Sharing mindset.

I'm only going for Rose anyway and things with her are…ugh. Complicated. I trust her but I don't trust that friend of hers, Christopher, and while I know he'd never force her…I don't know. It's kind of driving me crazy, actually, that I can't be sure. Things are great with Rose but there are times when I have a reason to wonder. Sometimes she isn't where she says she'll be or she spends far more time than I feel is sane at the Sharing. She tries to get everyone to join and seems to take it personally when people say no…not that she'll let them get away that easily. And she and Christopher joined together so it's always sort of been there thing and…I don't' know. I really don't.

But I'm going to have to confront her sooner or later or I'll go nuts. The problem is that I'll either find out that she is cheating on me with Christopher or I'll have wrongly accused her and I just know that she won't take something like that well. Who would? Certainly not me. I've never been accused of cheating but I still get angry when I think about that math test incident. At least the truth finally came out there. We'll have a fight either way and our relationship will probably end (due to her actions for cheating or mine for suspecting her wrongly) and I don't want that.

I'm going to try to get some more information before having that conversation and the best place to get it is at the Sharing. She and Christopher will probably be there today anyway.

Jake made a face. "It's like you practically live at the Sharing."

I rolled my eyes. "I do not, Midget."

"You were there yesterday when I wanted to play basketball with you and last week when Mom and Dad were busy and I wanted you to drive me someplace and-" Jake began.

"I've always been busy," I interrupted. "I spend half of my life at school or on a basketball court, remember?"

"Yeah but that's basketball," Jake said as if that made all the difference. "This is some stupid club."

"It's not that stupid," I told him unconvincingly.

Jake seized on that. "See! Even you don't like it."

"Well, I don't dislike it," I said, shrugging.

"Oh, I know what's going on," my dad said, grinning.

My mom rolled her eyes playfully. "Teenage boys."

"Ah to be young again…" my dad teased.

I could feel my cheeks burning and I avoided eye contact.

"Hey, what's going on?" Jake asked, pouting at being left out.

"Your brother is spending all his time at the Sharing not because he really likes the Sharing but because he really likes a girl at the Sharing," my dad explained.

"Dad!" I protested.

"What?" my dad asked innocently. "Was I not supposed to say that? Sorry. I was just trying to answer Jake's question."

Jake wrinkled his nose. "Really? That's why he's going?"

"No!" I said vehemently.

"Mom?" Jake asked, tilting his head. Traitor.

"I think your father's right," my mom replied. She glanced at me. "Sorry, Tom."

"That's stupid," Jake declared.

"Don't call your brother stupid," my mom chastised.

"I'm not!" Jake insisted. "I just think that going somewhere or doing something because of a girl you like is really stupid."

"Teenagers can be quite stupid," my dad said wisely. "Sorry, Tom."

I rolled my eyes. "Don't even worry about it."

"Teenagers?" my mom asked pointedly.

My dad pretended not to hear her.

"What about Cassie?" I challenged. "You're always over there helping her around the farm."

"That's because farms take a lot of work to run and Cassie and her parents need all the help they can get," Jake said virtuously. "I'd do the same for Marco."

"Would you?" my dad muttered. "Oh my…"

My mom swatted him on the arm. "Steve!"

"What?" he asked innocently.

"I don't get it…" Jake said, looking from our mom to our dad in confusion.

"You don't want to," I assured him.

"If you say so…" he said doubtfully.

"Besides, Jake, if it really concerns you so much then you should know that there's a chance that I might not be spending very much time at the Sharing in the future," I told him.

"Really?" he asked hopefully.

My mom frowned. "Oh, I hope there's nothing wrong."

"Nothing I can't handle," I promised.

Note: Too bad finding the truth was so costly.

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