With a thud Tommy’s head rests against the cabin-wall. Tommy winces. Alright, he admits it! Going on about William was not smart. And, yes, he could acknowledge Kevin’s pain. He knows his father really hurt Kevin’s feelings and, yes, he’s not entirely ignorant, he does remember the dinners where Kevin and William would not talk to each other. And when he had avoided looking at Kevin, so he wouldn’t have to chose, between his love for his father and the love for his brother….
Justin has checked the coordinates twice. Everything is alright. He looks down and sees Robert leave the table as well. Scotty and Jason stay together, talking a little longer, before Scotty also leaves. Justin figures Scotty will go talk to Kevin. He sighs. He hates fighting with Tommy, but really Tommy can sometimes hold on to this unrealistic view of William, a view that Kevin and he don’t share with Tommy. But then, he doesn't always agree with Kevin either.….
Robert stares at the ceiling. He knows Jason was very hurt years ago. But that was then. Robert doesn’t dwell on things. And he believed Jason had dealt with the way he was outed. He admits that he made a mistake. And he cannot help but wonder why Kitty never told him more about Kevin. Kitty usually answers any questions he has on her family. But when it comes to Kevin, she becomes protective and evasive. Either she doesn’t know, or she doesn’t tell. And both options seem unrealistic….
Jason sighs. The ocean is not giving him many answers. He guesses he has to go in and apologize to Robert, but it bothers him. Not that he has to apologize, but because somewhere deep inside he feels that Robert is not acknowledging his pain. Of course Robert is right. It happened many years ago. It should be over. But Jason only has to shut his eyes and he can remember his horror when he opened up the papers and saw those badly taken pictures of him and his date for that night. It had been nothing but a kiss on the cheek, but the papers had milked it to no end….
In front of the door Scotty hesitates. He doesn’t know what to say. He still hasn’t thought of anything. But then he smiles. He doesn’t need to know the words, they will come when they are together. He opens the door….
… Kevin’s face lights up when he sees Scotty come in.
“Hey. Needed to get away, huh?” Scotty asks.
“Yes. I was this close to seriously hurting Tommy. I made a complete fool of myself, didn’t I? Bet everyone was talking about the ‘drama’ I was making…” Kevin asks, rolling his eyes.
“No, not really. Tommy and Justin fought. Tommy left. Justin left. Then Robert and Jason argued. Robert left. And then there was just Jason and me.” Scotty grins.
And Kevin starts to laugh.
“Did the two of you fight as well?”
“No, we had a more than civilized conversation.”
“Well, at least I pick smart guys.”
For a moment Scotty sits quietly next to Kevin. He takes Kevin’s hand between his own.
“Kev, can I tell you what I think?... You might not want to hear it.”
“Since when would that stop you from speaking your mind? So, let’s hear it.”
“Kev, I think you cannot deny Tommy the right to have good memories of his father. He had a different relationship with your father then you had.”
“But Tommy is so…. He always wants everyone to admire dad…”
“Let’s be practical here. Didn’t your father work hard for his money?”
“Yes, he did.”
“Did he have high standards?”
“Shh, I’m not asking you if he lived by them, he knew right from wrong?
“And he did teach you values in lives?”
“Are all your memories of him bad?”
“Then why should his be? Why would Tommy not be allowed to see the good things your father brought to your lives? Why concentrate on the negative?”
“Because I cannot even begin to forgive, let alone forget, Scotty. It runs so deep. It just…”
Kevin finds it impossible to explain and Scotty nods.
“I know. But you cannot punish Tommy and Tommy’s memories for that.” Kevin thinks about Scotty’s words for a few moments.
“How did you get to be so smart?” he softly says.
“I married a lawyer, I’d better get smart fast.” The smile on Scotty’s face is so sweet that Kevin just melts.
“I love you, you know.” Kevin wraps his arms around Scotty, ready to kiss him, but Scotty stops him by putting his fingers against Kevin’s mouth.
“And I love you, but first.. apologize to your brother.”
“Everything alright?” Jason asks as he sees Justin gently steering the boat.
“I guess.” Justin shrugs. “Did I see Robert leave?”
“Yes, Robert and I had a bit of an argument.”
“About?.... if you don’t mind my asking?”
“It was about my coming-out.”
“Because Kevin talked about his?”
“Something like that. Like you and Tommy have no real idea what it did to Kevin, Robert has no idea what it meant to me. That is not bad, it just is the way it is.”
Justin needed to think about that. Did he really not know? He had seen Kevin cry. He had heard all the arguments. Not the words that were said, but the sound of them…. It was, above all, the sound that stayed with him. He had never so afraid of his dad before…. Or after. With a sudden understanding he realizes, that he had always known, that his father would never be as angry with him as he had been with Kevin.
Regardless of what he, Justin, did, there was always one in the family who was ‘worse’ than him. And that was Kevin, his gay brother. It gave him an unsettling feeling.
“Justin? Is everything alright? You look like saw a ghost.”
“I’m fine… I just realized something, that’s all…. I hate to run, but I need to go….” His hands flap and he signals that he needs to go below.
“Sure. Go.” Jason says, wondering what is bothering Justin.
Robert knocks and then enters the small cabin Tommy and Justin share.
“Is everything alright? I heard a hard thumping sound.”
“Yes. I’m fine. Just my head.” Tommy says.
“Kevin would say, that there’s nothing in there to break.”
“Oh, I can say that too, if that makes you feel better.” Robert jokes.
Tommy shakes his head.
“No, thanks, it doesn’t.” he smiles. “You and Jason must really think we Walkers are weird.”
“No, by now nothing surprises us anymore. Besides Jason and I had a fight of our own, once you and Justin were gone. So, by now, the only one shocked of surprised would be Scotty.” At Robert’s words Tommy shakes his head.
“I doubt it. Scotty has seen the Walkers and the McCallisters at their worst."
"The McCallisters? When?" Robert frowns.
"At your marriage to Kitty. Your family didn't make it easy for him, anymore then they did for Kevin. Although Kevin made it very clear that Scotty was just there as 'a friend', your family considered Scotty 'the other guy' and were rather unfriendly to him. Not that I would know that personally, I heard it from Julia, because thanks to your 'security', I was in lock-down. As was Kevin, so he could not be a buffer between Scotty and your family and 'protect' Scotty."
"Remind me to apologise to Scotty." Robert sighs.
"I am sure that Kevin more than made up for it. If I remember correctly, they left early. So I doubt, that Scotty will be shocked by anything he will hear and see on this trip.” Tommy grins. “So, what did you and Jason argue about?”
“His coming-out. He got outed in the newspaper, during a campaign 10 years ago. I thought he was over it…. But I guess, I was wrong.” Robert seems lost in his thoughts and even Tommy is quiet for a moment, before admitting:
“I should not have talked about dad like that. I know it makes Kevin angry. Not when he’s sober. He can handle it, when he’s sober. But after a few drinks… He talks about dad with such venom that it worries me…”
Robert nods. Perhaps some wounds run so deep that it is hard to close them. And maybe it is the same thing for Jason. A wound not discussed, best ignored, but occasionally it still hurts like hell. And at moments like that Jason lashes out. Venom. Tommy had used the word ‘venom’. And that was what it felt like to Robert too.
There is a quiet knock on the door.
“Tommy?” it is Kevin’s voice. Robert opens the door. Kevin had clearly not expected to find Robert with his brother and Robert immediately catches up on that.
“I was just on my way out.” He says waving at the door and with a nod at Tommy, he quickly leaves the brothers alone.
“Scotty? Have you seen my brother?” Robert asks. Scotty shakes his head.
“Last time I saw him he was on deck. I suppose he is still there.”
“Thanks.” Robert is about to leave when he turns back to Scotty.
“Did he talk to you… after I left?” Scotty hesitates to answer.
“He told me how he was outed. But I had already that from Kevin, so nothing new.”
“He didn’t tell you anything else? Like how he felt about it? How we, as McCallisters, reacted?”
“I don’t think that Jason would easily confide in me. And even if he did, I wouldn’t betray his confidence.” He replies in a neutral voice. Robert nods in understanding.
“Not completely a Walker yet, are you?” he jokes.
“Are you?” Scotty’s asks in return. And although he is very friendly and smiling, somehow Robert feels reprimanded for thinking that Scotty would casually gossip about Jason.
"Scotty... I wanted to apologize to you."
"I was just reminded of how my family treated you during my wedding-day. I believe some reactions were... uncalled for?" Scotty smiles at Robert's diplomatically chosen words.
"Considering that Kevin and Jason just broke up days before, I did not expect to be received with open arms, but it was indeed a weird day in all... But there is no need to apologize."
"Thank you. And I am glad to see that you and Jason seem to be getting along."
"Me too... I hope it will make things less awkward between Kevin and Jason as well."
"I hope so too. With Jason being my only other immediate family, it would be nice to be able to invite him to family dinners without Kitty having to worry how it will affect you and Kevin."
"No need to worry from my side."
“Good, happy to hear that, I will now go and find Jason.” Robert says and Scotty nods.
Kevin is about to apologize, when the door gets opened again. Justin comes in. Kevin, Justin and Tommy stare at each other for a few seconds, none of them wanting to be the first to say something. Each of them waiting for the other one to take the first step. Kevin shakes his head.
“This is ridiculous.” He says. “Tommy, I’m sorry. I had no right to talk to you the way I did…. You…” He suddenly doesn’t what else to say, then he remembers what Scotty had said earlier:” I cannot deny you the right to have good memories of our father.”
Tommy was a bit taken aback by Kevin’s easy apology, as was Justin. Usually Kevin would compare his difficult relationship with William to their own, easier, ones and express his disappointment, but not this time. Kevin kept quiet, he didn’t intend to say anything more than this. He didn’t want a discussion on who’s right or wrong. He agrees with Scotty. Tommy had his memories of William and Kevin had his own.
“I.. I was really shocked to hear what dad said about you… and staying away from Justin…” Tommy tries and Justin chimed in:
“Yeah, as if you ever would… hurt me.”
“Thanks for the vote of confidence here, guys… You know, I could understand dad being disappointed. I could have forgiven him if he had spoken in anger. When you are angry you say things you don’t really mean. You just ….” But Kevin decides it doesn’t matter, what could have happened, instead he continues:
“But dad, … you see, what you don’t know is that I asked mom to talk to him, tell him, because I just… I couldn’t do it… I was too scared… So when I went into his office with him, I knew that he knew... about me... about my being gay.. so when he asked me if I was gay, I confirmed it.... I had expected a speech, I had expected anger, I had expected a sense of betrayal. What I did not count on, was that dad would, in his inimitable way, completely mow me down. But what he said to me about Justin,…. That had nothing to do with me being gay...he all but accused of praying on child. That is sick...” Kevin shivers.
“....See, dad was no longer angry, he was passed that point. He was calm and very deliberate. And he deliberately set out to hurt me as hard and as deep as he could. He meant to completely humiliate me. And it wasn’t even the words, as painful as they were, that hurt me the most, it was the way he looked at me… Like I was the dirtiest thing that he could EVER find under his shoe…. Over the years I have tried to reason it away, but I can’t. I cannot forget the look on his face. The sheer disgust when he saw me standing there.”
Justin keeps a close eye on his brother, he is looking for tears, for something that reveals Kevin’s inner turmoil, but his mask is impeccable. Kevin talks, but at the same time it is, as if he not really there, as if this is not about him. And it reminds him of how it used to be in rehab. Like there were two different Justins, one who was rational and in control, the one who would talk. Talk about what happened, who he did things to, who he had been with, who had died, who had survived. Calm, calculated, matter-of-factly.
And there was the other one who experienced it all. The one who was emotionally instable. Unable to handle life and desperately looking for ways to dull an inner pain. The one who would be in bed at night and feel the tears on his cheek after the angry words his father had yelled at him. The one who saw the disappointment in his mothers eyes, when he came home stoned, and felt his heart sink because he was unable to reach out to her to ask for her help. The one who felt the blood of his fellow-soldiers on his hands, warm and sticky. The one who would feel the eye-lids under his fingers, when he closed the eyes of those who had not survived an attack.
He looks long and hard at Kevin. They are more similar than he thought. And it frightens him, because it means, he doesn't know his brother as good as he thought he did, because they don't know him as well as they think they do.
Tommy feels uneasy. He has heard more from Kevin than he cares to know. And Justin stares at Kevin as if he has never seen his brother before. Tommy slides of his bed and sits on the floor. Kevin sinks down next to him and Justin also sits down but opposite of Kevin and Tommy. It is all narrow, but huddled together, like they used to in the tree-house at the ranch, it gave a certain feeling of old-fashioned intimacy.
“Kevin, I know dad screwed up with you and how he handled your coming out. Screwed up big time.” Tommy started. His voice is calm and low, soothing. “Justin, I know, he tried to dictate your life at a time you didn’t need or want it. Dad was not perfect. But he was my dad and I want to respect him. But I agree that he a very negative side as well.”
“Yes, he did. But maybe Scotty is right and I should not just focus on that, but also on the positive things about him.” Kevin concedes.
“He had good sides according to you?!” Justin makes a shocked face and after a few seconds Kevin smiles:
“He gave a pretty good imitation of a bear…” Tommy looks at Kevin as if Kevin has gone nuts, but then his laughter roars.
“Am I missing something?” Justin asks. Tommy laughs even harder and Kevin joins him. And just when Justin believes his two brothers have lost their minds, Kevin calms down enough.
“Dad, Tommy and I went camping. And dad told us that there was a wild bear on the loose. So, in the middle of the night, Tommy and I were asleep in our little tent and we woke up, because of some rustling sound and we hear Dad call us and tell us to be very, very quiet, because there was a huge bear next to our tent…. Of course, later, we found out that he was just scaring us half to death.”
“But Kevin wet his pants anyway.” Tommy hiccups. Kevin frowns.
“The only reason you knew that, is ‘cause you were so scared you crawled into my sleeping-bag.”
“Really??” Justin asks. “I cannot remember dad ever taking me camping.”
“He did that once. You were six years old.” Tommy replies and Kevin sighs.
“You cried from Friday-night until Sunday-morning because you wanted to be with Mom. Dad even cut our trip short so we could go home…”
“We hated you.” Tommy grins. And Kevin cannot help but laugh again when he sees the small blush on Justin’s cheeks.
“We should go back to the others.” Tommy slowly gets up. He helps Kevin and Justin up.
“I agree.” Kevin says.
“No hard feelings?” Tommy asks as he reaches out to Kevin. Kevin takes his hand and pulls him closer. Tommy answers the embrace and Justin shakes his head:
“You guys are so gay, sometimes.”
“And you are so jealous, sometimes.” Kevin replies and he yanks Justin into his embrace with Tommy. Justin laughs.
A few seconds later they break the embrace. They are ready to face the others again. The intimacy is stored away. What happens behind closed doors, stay there. And when the Walkers-brothers, Tommy, Kevin and Justin, leave the room, they are once again a united front.
Robert finds Jason with the fishing gear. He is so busy checking the lines, that he startles when Robert says:
“Jason, here you are!”
“Robert! Don’t creep up on me like that. You used to the same when I was a kid. I hated it than and I still do!” Robert laughs a bit at Jason anger and then a smile comes to Jason’s face. He loves his brother and he can never stay mad at Robert for long anyway.
Sitting down on the railing Robert watches Jason struggle with some hooks.
“I’m sorry. I should not have walked away.”
“’s Alright.” Replies Jason, he shrugs.
“I have always tried to protect you.”
“And I have never thought any less of you because you were gay.”
“I have always been proud of you, of who you are, of what you have accomplished in your life, of the good work you’re doing. I have supported you as much as I could…”
“… and no one wants your happiness more than me. I would love for you to find a man who will complete your life…” Robert speaks more softly now. “… and I am sorry that Kevin was not that person. I know I had reservations, when I should have been supportive, but I really believed, in the end, and despite me, you were happy with him…”
“I was. I caught a glimpse of what I could have had.” Jason acknowledges.
“… so if it hadn’t been for Scotty…”
“Scotty was not the issue…. I was.” Jason sits down next Robert, balancing on the narrow railing.
“Do you know why I could not admit to myself that I was gay?...” Robert shakes his head. “Because it would destroy everything for me. Ever since I was about 12 years old, I knew I wanted to work for God. I just knew. I never doubted my calling, Robert. I concentrated on religion in all it’s facets, not knowing exactly what I wanted, but having a sense of where I wanted to go. I wanted to help people, preach the word of God and make a difference.” Robert is hardly surprised by the passion in Jason’s voice.
“And then I noticed that there was something ‘off’ with me. When the boys were talking about a girl, I just didn’t find her that interesting, but I believed that I was just looking for that ‘special one’ and when I discovered that I was more interested in men, I was shocked. I thought of all the repercussions. I was SO confused that I went to talk with our priest. I didn't know what else to do, where else to find an answer. And he told me clearly that there was no way I could serve God and be gay. I had to make a choice. But how do you chose between what, you know, your destiny must be and who you are?"
“So what did you do?” Robert asks.
“You take the easy way out. You pretend you are not gay, but just too dedicated to your cause to date girls. And then one day, some guy you find interesting, shows he wants you too, and asks you on a date and you nervously say yes…” Jason looks away, his eyes on the ocean as if he doesn’t dare to look at Robert. “And this boy makes your stomach flutter and his smile makes you blush and you just… you just want to know how it feels to touch him, to kiss him… Just a kiss on the cheek, because you dare not ask for more. Not on the first date…”
Jason looks back at Robert, this time his look is confrontational.
“And then your whole life falls to pieces. Because your innocent kiss is splashed all over the newspapers and the boy calls you to tell you he never wants to see you again. And your mother is upset and crying and your brother doesn’t talk to you for three days. Your church tells you that you can no longer preach God’s word because you a sinner. And everybody start to whisper behind your back.”
Jason takes a deep breath. “… And you know why this happened to me? Because someone doesn’t like my brother’s political choices… And I know I should get over it. And I am over it. But way back then…. Robert, you lost a campaign, but I lost my job, my first boyfriend, the trust the family had in me, my reputation…. My dreams. My destiny… I thought I would never be able to do what I wanted to do. To preach… And though eventually everything fell into place, I found another church where I was welcome, in spite of my being gay. I got other boyfriends. Mom forgave me and so did you and I don’t really care about what others thought of me. But those days, when I was desperate,... because I lost everything… I cannot erase them.”
Jason slipped of the railing, back onto the deck. “And I cannot blame you. You didn’t know what the papers would publish. You didn’t know I was gay. You didn’t know the impact it really had on me. I do know that you love me, that you wanted to protect me. But just because you want something, doesn’t mean it’s possible. It was impossible to protect me. And I had to go through it… And it was a hard lesson. For both of us.”
“But it still hurts? What can I do to stop that?”
“Honestly?” Jason thinks about the answer and then says: “Can you please stop talking about my coming out as if it was just a small bump in the road. No, not in public. In public, keep up the story of it being a little bump, but between us…. With Kitty, Kevin or the other Walkers or even Scotty, realize that what happened to me then was a life-altering experience. Respect that and don’t wipe it under the rug as if it were insignificant, because it wasn’t. It nearly destroyed me.”
Jason smiles and grabs Robert’s shoulder, giving it a little squeeze, before he walks away. This time it is Robert who is staring at the ocean. He feels a strong desire to talk to Kitty, but suppresses it. He has a lot to think about. But not now.
“Robert!” Robert turns to Jason.
“Are you coming? Scotty made coffee for all of us.”
“Yes, I’ll be right there.” He smiles.
So there they all are, slightly embarrassed over the turn of events. Tommy, Kevin, Justin, Robet and Jason. Scotty seems to be the only one who has no reason to be embarrassed. Kevin smiles at him as he comes on the deck with a large trey filled with mugs.
“Some strong coffee to clear our heads and … perhaps clean some slates?” Scotty gently suggests and Kevin nods.
“Good. With the Walkers fighting in one corner and the McCallisters in the other, it is difficult enough to keep track of what is going on.”
“Well, we decided to gang up on you.” Robert says with a grin. Scotty is not impressed, but Kevin says:
“Don’t worry, sweetie, it will be over my dead body.”
“That can be arranged!” Laughs Tommy. “But would it not be stupid to gang up on Scotty? It would be biting the hand that feeds you. Literally. Let’s be honest, he cooks better than anyone of us.”
“Point taken…. Motion off the table.” Robert decides.
“Phieuw…” Scotty, overly dramatic, wipes his forehead..”And here I was, really NOT worried at all.”
“He doesn’t scare easily, does he?”
“Face it, Jason, he dared to marry Kevin and …. Ouch!!!” Justin rubs his upper-arm where Kevin punched him.
The strong coffee clears their heads where it wasn’t clear yet and they talk to each other as if nothing happened before. They are laughing and the mood is once again good. And at one point Tommy suggests they go for the beer, which they have a large quantity of. An idea that Kevin, Jason and Robert support. Justin helps to bring the beer on deck, but sticks to his own drinks.
Everyone now has his own bottle and Robert suggests:
“Not again!” Scotty looks worried and the others start to laugh.
“Robert and Jason already had a toast. Your turn, Scotty.” Decides Tommy.
“Advice: Nothing political.” Scotty gives Justin a smile and shakes his head. Also nothing that will spark the argument again, but what could there be ‘neutral’ enough for everyone to agree?
Scotty raises his bottle and after looking at the others he calmly says:
“To Nora.” Jason nods in agreement and after a look at Robert, both he and Robert follow:
“To Nora.” Kevin looks at Tommy, who answers by seeking Justin’s eyes. A smile curls around Justin’s mouth, followed by Tommy’s grin and Kevin’s smile and with an intensity that scares the living daylights out of Scotty, Jason and Robert, they simultaneously yell:
END OF PART 4/6