A/N: I don't usually like to do authors notes, but this probably bears SOME explanation. It was inspired by something that was explored in one of the ClueFinders books- namely that Joni and Santiago usually live together and that both of their parents have reason to be away a lot. Joni's parents are both supposed to be Political Science professors, so that's the reason they would be invited to the 'conference' I mentioned in the story. It's not strictly JxS, or any other pairing, in case you were wondering.
"Summer" - ClueFinders Oneshot
"Okay, it's all clean out there!" announced Joni as she entered the kitchen, broom and dustpan in hand.
"Cool," answered Santiago, his voice muffled by the cabinet he was immersed in. "I've almost got the sink fixed, too."
Joni smiled lightly and gently left the broom and dustpan propped up against the wall near the pantry before approaching her friend, "Need any help?" she asked brightly.
Santiago lifted himself enough to be able to look out of the cabinet, as if he was again surprised she'd asked, which he shouldn't have been given that she'd come in to ask the same question roughly every thirty minutes since he'd started on the "project."
"No. I'm okay. Really, it's almost done."
She eyed the landscape of tools that littered the ground around him, "Okay," she said with a certain amount of cheerfulness, "I'm gonna take your word for it."
She headed over to the refrigerator and opened it, surveying the contents for a while before she took a red apple out of the fruit bin. Balancing it in one hand she moved the broom and dustpan into the pantry and sat down at the table to enjoy the snack.
"When did your parents say they'd be home?" inquired Santiago, voice echoing from under the sink.
Joni looked to the clock that was mounted on the wall nearby, "They should be here soon- another twenty minutes or so, I'd guess."
There was relative silence for the next few minutes, save for the sound of Santiago wrenching a few more pieces of the sink into place.
He shoved both doors open and practically bolted out of the cabinet. Bouncing forward, he swept up most of the tools in his hands and deposited as many as he could carry in one trip back into the toolbox. As he was gathering the rest, the doorbell rang.
Joni laughed, "Just in time!"
She headed for the door while Santiago was getting the rest of the kitchen mess cleaned up. Joni's parents had been invited to a conference overseas and had been gone for the last few days, leaving Joni, for the most part, alone in the house. This was of course except for Santiago, whose parents were also traveling and had left him for the past few weeks with his best friend and her family. It was summer and the kids had officially been out of school for a week. Most of today, however, had been spent preparing for the Savage's arrival.
"Socrates, stay back," ordered Joni to the dog that was trying to weave around her feet to get to the front door, where he could obviously detect a familiar presence. Hearing her words he did as he was told, sitting back a few feet from the entry so that she could pull the door open.
Outside on the front steps was a pile of suitcases and two spectacled adults with the bright red hair and smooth pale complexion that could only characterize the Savages. "Mom! Dad!" Joni called, stepping out onto the porch and throwing her arms around each of them in turn. She then turned and signaled to Socrates that it was okay to come out. The dog promptly dashed onto the front porch where he set his nose low to the ground before the parents, and was happily greeted with a warm reception of hugs and lots of behind-the-ear-scratches.
"So, did everything go okay while we were gone?" Mrs. Savage asked, getting back up to her feet afterward.
"It was fine," Joni replied, assuredly.
Suddenly Socrates jerked out of his submissive posture, raised his ears and uttered a single, startled bark. He then bolted past the parents, down the pavement to where Joni could see Santiago's parents also getting out of the car.
Mrs. Rivera acknowledged Socrates by giving a light scratch on the back of his head, then she started to move up towards the house. "Buenas tardes, Joni. Is our Santiago around?"
"He's in the kitchen," Joni answered, then looked to her parents.
Mr. Savage addressed her surprised glance, "We met up with the Riveras at the airport and offered them a ride home. It's convenient, because we have something we need to discuss with you two."
"Alright," Joni nodded agreeably.
Socrates broke away from where he'd been sniffing at something at the base of the driveway and happily bounded back up into the house, breezing past Joni and making a sharp right turn to dive directly into the plush doggie bed that was lined up against the wall in the entryway. Joni smiled, watching him settle down and drift off to sleep.
"This can't be Joni. This girl is too old." Joni recognized the jovial tone.
Joni laughed, "Hi, Mr. Rivera." Mr. Rivera now joined his wife at the base of the stoop. They looked up, expectantly, then turned to each other and began whispering, the smiles on their faces seeming to fade slightly as they spoke.
"Si, muy bonita..." was one statement Joni thought she caught from Mrs. Rivera.
"Shall we go inside?" Asked Mrs. Savage, turning to the other parents, who seemed highly receptive to the idea.
Joni led the lot of them to the kitchen where Santiago now stood at the working sink, using a towel to dry his hands. He politely smiled at Mr. and Mrs. Savage and then quickly did a double-take as his parents entered the room.
"Mom, Dad... er... hi!" he called out, reflexively. He met up with his mother and father halfway across the room but this did not result in the same kind of embraces that Joni and her parents had shared. In fact, either one could have noticed, had they looked around the room, that all of the adults' postures at that moment had become rather strange and distant.
"Santiago..." Mr. Rivera began, an odd note of warning in his voice.
Santiago surveyed him for a brief instant, apparently both remembering his usual manners, and second-guessing what it was his parents had been about to say. "Oh, right!" He turned to Joni's parents, "Thank you again, Mr. and Mrs. Savage, for letting me stay here."
The response was cordial but accompanied by an odd discomfort as Joni's parents both nodded.
"You are very welcome," Joni's mother answered, though the statement seemed to be directed more towards his parents than anyone else. She studied both of the ClueFinders for a moment, then motioned towards the kitchen table, "Please, both of you, sit down."
Joni and Santiago briefly exchanged confused glances and then promptly took their seats next to each-other at the round oak table that adorned Joni's kitchen. All the adults seemed to gather on the other side, facing them.
"So, what was it you needed to discuss with us?" Joni prompted, breaking the silence that had since enveloped the room.
"Well, on the way home from the airport we had a bit of a discussion of our own..." Mr. Savage began. "About how often we've had to leave you two on your own together. It's been quite a lot, especially this year."
He didn't quite trail off at the end of this thought, but he didn't finish it either, leaving a hole in the conversation that Joni happily filled.
"Okay. Well, we can handle it," she answered confidently. "We are ClueFinders after all."
Anticipating that this might not be convincing enough, Santiago jumped in and added, "and LapTrap is usually here, and Grandma Savage... so we're in pretty good hands."
"Mmm-hmm," Mrs. Savage nodded, tersely. "But as for the times that you two are here, on your own..."
Mr. Savage finished, "We wanted to know if you two still felt, comfortable, with this arrangement - that is, you don't mind spending so much time together?"
"No," chirped Joni with pleasant cheer.
"Not at all," seconded Santiago, smiling gently.
There was an odd exchange of glances that occured among the adults at this moment, and the kids did not miss it.
"What's going on?" asked Joni, leaning into the table as if she were prepared to go into "interrogation mode" on her own parents.
"It's nothing to be alarmed about dear, please sit down," Mrs. Savage assured her. Joni cast a brief, confused glance at Santiago, who shrugged. She then sat down as she was told.
"How much time would you two say you spend together, in a week?" Mr. Savage inquired, seeming slightly more casual.
When Joni didn't answer right away, Santiago was able to jump in, "Well, It'd be about the same as we spend together as the ClueFinders club, wouldn't it?" He turned to Joni, who affirmed this with a slight head nod. "There wouldn't be too much of a difference."
This seemed, generally, to satisfy the inquiry. Mr. Savage leaned back in his chair and folded his arms. Across the table, his daughter did the same.
"And when you're together, do you spend most of your time at the house, in the clubhouse, or do you go out at all?" He inquired.
Joni's brow furrowed as she had to give it some thought, "Um, I guess we spend probably the most time at the clubhouse."
Santiago nodded, "That's where my workstation is set up."
"Right," agreed Joni. "But we go and hang out in town sometimes, I mean, the railcars are right there and there's a really good resturant that just went in a few blocks that way." She tilted her head to the side as she finished, seeming puzzled by the line of questioning. "Why?"
"We just want to make sure you're using your free time in ways that are healthy, and meaningful," Mrs. Savage explained. "You're all getting older, but you two especially are at about the age when a lot of, shall we say, options present themselves as to how you could spend your time, and some of those are certainly less desirable than others. You should know that we place a lot of trust in you, relative to other parents, and we just want to make sure that that trust is not misplaced."
The two had to take a moment to process this. Joni seemed to catch on faster than Santiago, or at least if he had caught on, he wasn't about to say anything.
"Oh my gosh, Mom, Dad, we're not..." Joni began, only to be interrupted as soon as she had started, by LapTrap.
Their robotic companion flew into the kitchen in a torrential rage, apparently so furious that he seemed to literally be steaming under his yellow shell.
"THERE you two are!" He bellowed, ultimately silencing any opposition to his intrusion. "Good! Your parents are home!" he quipped sarcastically, "So maybe you can tell them what you've been up to for the past week and a half! I hope you know there are other recreational activities than the one you've chosen to engage four-out-of-five days this week, and if I have to clean up after you another time my servos are going to give out!"
"Laptrap, please..." urged Joni as quietly and calmly as she could, all the while watching her parents.
"No! I want THEM to hear this! They should know what I put up with on a daily basis around here! You know, you would think eventually one of you would get tired, and want to stop, but apparently all it takes is a quick breather and then it's 'right back into the fray!' I'm SICK of it!"
"Laptrap..." Santiago tried, but he was no more stressful than Joni in getting through to the computer.
"It's like it's been every-day, all-day, twenty-four seven! It's getting so I don't even feel safe coming around a corner anymore!"
There was an awkward inhalation and a noticeable stiffening of posture on the part of the adults in the room, but all of this went unnoticed by Laptrap, who remained intent on continuing his rant.
"In or out of the house! It doesn't matter! I guess I should be amazed by you kids' endurance, but the truth is I actually find it kind of disturbing. Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but I would think that there should be some boundaries to that type of thing."
"Laptrap..." Joni whispered desperately, a heavy note of pleading in her voice.
"I guess to be fair I can always tell when it's happening. It's not too hard when you always leave your clothes discarded in the hallway. I had to pick those up, by the way!"
Santiago spared a nervous glance at his parents. "Er... thank you?" he almost mumbled, running his hand somewhat agitatedly through his hair.
"Oh sure, I guess you could say I should be trying to stop you, but NOTHING ever seems to impede you at all! Like yesterday! I would have thought that you would stop once the thing BROKE, but noooo, you just kept right on going! Didn't seem to care at all!"
The Savages looked at Joni, shocked faces standing testament to the arguable parental nightmare that had to have been unfolding in their imagination at that particular moment. Santiago's parents, for their part, seemed moderately alarmed but mostly confused by these depictions.
"I-it was..." Santiago tried to explain, but he didn't get to finish.
"And all the PLACES you do this, good grief... I guess I should just be glad you had the foresight to put away all the fragile stuff before you tried it in the clubhouse," LapTrap continued.
Buried under the alarmed gaze of both of her parents, all Joni could do was stare down at the table surface while her face and ears turned a shade of pink that clashed heavily with her hair color. Seeing this, Santiago tried, in desperation, to speak up on her behalf.
"Now, Laptrap..." Santiago had started before Laptrap cut him off with devastating results.
"And YOU! The LEAST you could do is figure out how to AIM! I came in at the wrong time and almost got NAILED, right in the cooling fan, too! I would have shorted out, and THEN where would you be?"
That was enough to permanently silence the male ClueFinder, who actually assumed a rather comatose state from then on, keeping his eyes locked steadfastly on the floor.
Joni took notice of this and promptly spoke up, "Laptrap! That wasn't fair! You didn't..."
"No, you're right! It's probably not fair! Especially since -like everything else that happens around here, Miss Savage- it was probably all YOUR idea!"
A brief facial convulsion that seemed to be a mix of fury and horror caused Joni's jaw to fall. She shut it quickly, and returned to silently watching as she had been.
LapTrap continued, undaunted, his attention having long since departed from the actual happenings in the small room, "It's not just that it's inappropriate! It's not just that it's excessive! I would actually go so far as to say you're being inconsiderate of the neighbors, especially what with all the NOISE you two tend to make!"
Joni stood up out of her seat, face glowing red, "Okay Laptrap! That's enough!"
"I guess I should just be glad that Leslie and Owen haven't also joined in in all the..."
"LAPTRAP!" Joni and Santiago screamed in unison. The droid stopped ranting just long enough to get a good look at all the shocked, offended, or alternately mortified faces of the humans seated around the table.
"What?" was all he could seem to say.
Hours later, after the adults had either departed or gone to bed, Joni and Santiago stepped out onto the back porch with their robotic companion.
The latter still did not understand the kind of trouble his interruption caused the kids.
"Okay, so it was BAD timing! I get that much! But WHY did they react like that? I don't get it... Guys?"
Joni and Santiago just looked at each other, apparently deciding without the need for words that they were just too tired to explain right now.
"I'll go unlock the shed," Joni announced dully, before heading off in one direction.
"What aren't you telling me?" Laptrap demanded, only to be largely ignored again.
Santiago wandered over to a spot in the grass where no less than five Super Soaker water pistols had been lined up to dry out from that afternoon's use. He picked them up, cradling two in one arm, balanced one lightly on his shoulder, and held one up to the light where he could inspect the crack that had developed in the holding tank when he had tripped over it at one point during their play. He ran two fingers over the spot now, pleased to note that he could no longer feel any jagged edges, and responded to Joni, whom he noticed approaching out of the corner of his eye.
"The epoxy really set up nice. It looks like it will be completely waterproof!" he announced cheerfully, feeling a slight sense of satisfaction from his accomplishment.
She said nothing, only nodded, and he noticed her direct what he thought might have been a fleeting, embittered glare in LapTrap's direction. Then she sighed and stepped forward, "Here. Give me some to carry. The shed's open. We can just put them right in."
He nodded as he passed a couple of the medium-sized water guns off to her. He then followed a few steps behind her as they made their way to the shed.
Remembering the events from earlier, he felt a little awkward saying it, but still had to ask, "Hey Joni? What did you do with my trunks?"
"Huh? Oh, I just rolled them up in my towel and put it in the laundry hamper. I didn't think you would mind."
"Thank you," he replied, good-natured.
Obviously reminded of something else, she then cast a brief glance over her shoulder and added, louder, "And I picked up all the clothes from the hallway, too!"
LapTrap's voice came back, distant but jovial, "Thank You! That's all I could have asked for!"
Santiago heard her sigh in response to this and couldn't resist silently chuckling to himself.
"You know, at least this will be a funny story someday..." he offered, trying to sound reassuring.
She paused at the entrance to the tool shed, giving him a look that said plainly at the moment she didn't quite agree, but she smiled a small half-smile, heaved the water guns she was carrying up onto the top shelf and delicately brushed his shoulder with her hand as she passed him on her way back to the house. "See you inside," she said softly. She headed back into the house, stopping first to grab her bathing suit off the railing where it had been lying out to dry. Then she quietly shut the sliding-glass door and disappeared up the stairs. Santiago placed the Soakers he had been carrying inside on the same shelf, took a moment to rearrange some of the things around him, then stepped out, locked the shed and headed back towards the house himself.
"Will somebody please tell me what's going on?" LapTrap whined as Santiago passed him by.
Santiago paused, "Don't worry about it, Laptrap... uh... we'll explain it tomorrow." He pried open the door and slipped inside, leaving the flustered T.U.R.T.L.E. alone and all the more confused.
"What? I don't get it! All I said was..."
As he slowly recounted exactly what he had said, suddenly their parents' reactions began to make a lot more sense. All that stuff about needing chaperones on missions, moving the guest bedroom down the hall, calling their teachers, and even potentially dismantling the clubhouse had, at the time, seemed to be rather harsh reactions to a simple -if somewhat long and unruly- water-gun fight, but now he shuddered, nearly skipping a disk, when he realized what the actual implication was.
"Oh gross," he muttered, a deep sense of unease welling up within him. He glanced around the yard, feeling embarrassed and guilty as he noted that they had actually done a good job of cleaning up this time. He sighed.
"It's going to be a LONG summer."
A/N: There you have it. Despite the choice of subject material, I tried to stay as "in-character" as I possibly could, so let me know how I did. With the understanding that the fic is supposed to be a little odd, I hope you enjoyed it. :)