"Have you given any thought to what you're going to do after graduation?" Manisha asks.
"Of course I've thought about it. I want to go into game design. Even when I was a kid, I was always making up worlds in my head, adventure stories, heroes and monsters. The problem is, I worry that my passion for games will get lost in the bureaucracy of a money grubbing big game company. I've thought about starting my own company: my family certainly has the money to get me started, but I'm really not a leadership type. I'm just not sure which is the best path for me."
Manisha taps her finger on her chin, deliberating her next move. "I actually know a couple of people who are starting their own game company. They're out in Cape Garner Islands, not far from here. They're looking for people to join their team. I could introduce you, if you're interested."
"Cape Garner?" Kai asks, surprised to hear that name again in such a short span of days, "My Dad just took a consulting position there. He and my Mom are scouting out for a new house."
"Well, I guess you won't want to relocate out that way then?"
Kai's brows knit in confusion, "What? Why not?"
As much as he'd loved his university experience, immersed in learning, preparing for his future, the separation from his family had been hard on Kai. Even having Alejandro with him, while it had helped him feel not so utterly alone, had not been the same as being in his childhood home, with his parents always there when he needed encouragement. Without them, the world seemed a little less safe, and he'd found himself worrying about whether he'd left the stove on or the faucets running, and he was driven to check them over and over, like a compulsion.
"Well, the way you and Alex pretend to keep separate bedrooms like you are just housemates, I just assumed you'd want to live away from your parents after graduation so you wouldn't have to hide your relationship anymore," Manisha says as she takes Kai's queen. "The game is mine."
"Alex and I went to prom together," Kai answers with a laugh, getting up from the chess table to walk with Manisha toward the Student Union, "My parents have always known about us; his parents, too. Hell, the whole school, and the whole town knows we're a couple. That's never been an issue. The separate bedrooms isn't about pretending we're not lovers. It's just...Alex..." Kai sighs, wishing he hadn't started as Manisha looks up from the board, meeting his gaze, expectant, waiting to hear his story.
"Alex has trouble sleeping," Kai says, fumbling over an explanation he doesn't always quite understand himself. "And he's just...he needs space. He prefers to sleep alone, most nights."
When he falls asleep, holding Alex after they've made love, Kai reassures himself that it's all okay, that even if Alex slips out of his before morning to sleep by himself, that it doesn't mean he doesn't love him enough, that their relationship lacks some essential component that all other couples possess.
But when he awakens, alone yet again, he cannot deny the emptiness he feels, the longing for the inseparable bond his parents share, a partner to share his bed, his life.
"I see," Manisha says. But, clearly she doesn't, not really. No more than Kai does. "What, ah, what kind of consulting work does your father do?" she asks, changing the subject to something less uncomfortable than her friend's love life.
"He's an expert in genetics."
Manisha's eyes grow wide as she makes a connection she'd failed to see in all the time she'd known Kai. "Your father is Julian Brannon?" she gasps, "The Julian Brannon?"
"I guess," Kai answers, "You've heard of him?"
"I've read all his articles, followed his research...I can't believe you never told me!"
Kai laughs, "I really had no idea anyone even knew his name. Back home, it's my Mom who's the household name and local legend."
"Really? What field is your mother in?" Manisha asks, clearly expecting a renowned scholar like his father.
"Scuba diving. She beat up a shark. Everyone in Isla Paradiso still talks about it."
"She...beat up...a shark?"
"Yeah, I guess my Dad's research is ultimately more important than my Mom's contributions to society. But beating up a shark makes for a better story to tell the tourists. And I think my Dad actually prefers not being famous. At least, outside the kind of people that are interested in genetics."
Kai comes home to find Alex in his bedroom, reading his comic books. Alex scoots back a little to make room for Kai to sit beside him on the bed.
"I was talking to Manisha after class today," Kai says, "She says she knows some people who are starting up a game company. Out in Cape Garner Islands. She wants me to meet them. Maybe join their team."
"That's great," Alex enthuses, "You'd be able to be near your parents, then. I know that's important to you."
"I do want to be with my family," Kai answers, "But that's not the only, or even most important thing, Alex. You are. We are. If I go to Cape Garner, will you come with me?"
"Of course I will," Alex says, and Kai lets out the tense breath he'd been holding in, "You know I want to be near you, always."
"Near me?" Kai asks, "As in, not 'with' me?"
"That's not what I meant," Alex answers, "I am with you, you know that. And I will always be with you. I just need my space."
Kai turns away. "So what you mean is you want to be my boyfriend, but it's never going to be more than that," he says, the bitterness of his doubts finally coming forward.
"We already are more than that," Alex insists, sitting up to caress his shoulder. "I know it's not a normal kind of life, and I know you want what your parents have. But we aren't them. I've been trying, mi amor, to live like every other couple does, together all the time..."
"But we aren't living like every other couple," Kai protests, "We don't even share a bed half the time."
"I know, that's my point," Alex says softly, "Even having my own bedroom, it's not enough. I need a place of my own that isn't just one room in a shared house. I need a place where I can be really and truly alone, the way you need to be close to your family all the time. We've both been a little crazy here, haven't we? You need your family, I need solitude. We both have to work around that, and I'm willing to live anywhere in the world you need to go for your career, to be near your parents. But wherever we do go, I am yours and yours alone, even if I do need to live on my own."
It comes down to a simple choice, as Kai understands it, take Alex on his terms, learn to live with the compromise, or give him up and hope to find someone else someday, someone who wants the same things he wants from a relationship. But that's something Kai cannot imagine, finding anyone else in this world that he could open himself to as he has with Alejandro.
"I wish I could be that guy, for you," Alex whispers as Kai turns into his embrace, "If I could change myself for you..."
"I don't want you to change," Kai sighs, "I love you, Alex, not some imaginary guy who will fulfill all my fantasies."
"I hope I fulfill at least some of them."
Sorry for the very long hiatus I took there! But I'm back, and I hope the sudden jump forward in time isn't too jarring.
As I expected, I'm not a big fan of the university experience, but I felt that doing it would be a necessary transition to set up Gen. 2. I sent Kai for 2 terms and he had 18 units from taking the aptitude test, but it wasn't enough to get him a degree in just the one trip. I'm really not interested in going back, so if he has enough points, I'll buy him a degree with points later. Meh.
If it's not obvious yet, Kai is the heir, and the legacy will be moving to Cape Garner Islands, where Kai will start on his rolled career of Video Game designer (artistic branch, I forget the official name). And Julian and Jillyan will be coming along. Dylan will be left behind. I intend to play her and Luther separately in a non-legacy game so I can try out the Lifeguard career with her. I will likely document that on my tumblr, though I might make occasional mention of her life here. Since I used Traveler to move the family, Dylan still exists as an out of world relationship, so I may even be able to invite her as a houseguest.
Once the move is official and I get a nice picture, I'll update the header image and the sidebar to reflect the generation change.
Kai's YA trait (rolled randomly) is neurotic. I made mention in the chapter about the compulsive stove and faucet checking that comes with his new trait. He maxed his Nerd status while at Uni and picked up the Handy trait from that.
The Misc Fun for his generation is the Opposites Attract/Perfect Match. Alex actually fulfills both of those, with a matching Loner trait, and an opposing Absent-Minded trait to Kai's Genius. I'm making a bigger deal about the Loner trait in the story.
Interestingly, while Kai is a loner, too, he rolls social wishes all the time to interact with his family members, and Alex. So that's where I'm getting his clinginess from, character wise.