Part 5/7: So this is Christmas…
About: Walkers, Wandells, McCallisters, Harpers, Whedons, Holdens, the whole gang
Disclaimer: B&S doesn’t belong to me. Written with love, not for money.
Summary: First afternoon and evening at the house.
ETA: I am AWARE that Paige acts out of character...VERY MUCH out of character
Nora and Saul are the first to arrive. Their car is filled with food and Christmas decorations, but they leave everything in the car to start their first look-around. They have told the others to get to the house around 2 o’clock in the afternoon, but Nora and Saul decided to be here earlier, and get things done, make coffee and sandwiches for those who were to arrive.
The first sight takes their breath away. Though the path to the house has been cleared, the house is surrounded by trees, with their branches heavy with white snow. Untouched snow as far as the eye can see. There are no traces of anyone having been here except for the steps to the door. And Nora takes in the ice-cold air and enjoys the little shiver it gives her.
Suddenly curious Nora opens the door, nervously praying the house is not a disaster, but she’s pleasantly surprised by the little hall and the really huge living room. This house was built for a big family. Although Janet has but 2 children, she would always invite her entire family up here to show off how well she was doing.
And the living room has a huge fire-place and Saul swears to get to work so it will be nice and warm in here. Nora and Saul admire the practical kitchen with a cooking range still working on gas. There are two big fridges and in the pantry Saul finds 3 deep-freezers. They continue their investigation and find the dinner-room with enough space to seat everyone.
Pleased so far, Nora goes up the stairs, to find the bedrooms. There are 10 bedrooms upstairs.
One very large one, that Nora assumes to be the master bedroom. That room, she decides, will be Tommy’s because they brought a small folding bed with them for Elizabeth. She sticks a sheet of paper, with Tommy’s name on it on the door, with tape.
Satisfied with her decision she moves on to the other bedrooms. The other rooms are small, but cozy and practical. Saul checks if all the lights are working as they should, while Nora designates rooms to Justin and Rebecca, Kevin and Scotty, Kitty and Robert, immediately next to them is the room for Sophie and Jack. Then she chooses one for Sarah and Paige and another one next door for Cooper and Gabe. The 3 remaining rooms go to Saul, Jason and herself.
The rooms have detachable beds, so for the couples they can stay together, but for the children the beds get split up. It’s quickly done and Nora looks around with huge smile on her face.
“Oh, Saul, this will be the best Christmas ever.”
“Everything seems to be alright. Let’s get ready for the others.” Saul smiles.
Nora heads down the stairs to go to the kitchen and make coffee. Saul lingers in front of the window. Looking at the beautiful view outside, he remembers how he told Justin about having met someone. And he wishes he had the nerve to tell the whole family yet, but he doesn’t. He is afraid of their contempt.
To know they have a gay uncle is one thing. Seeing him with his lover, would be another. Sure they are used to Kevin and Scotty, but that was a process they went through with Kevin. For them to see Saul with a man might shock them or appall them. But Saul misses him. Not that he could have been here, if Saul had told the truth.
He has his own family to go to. Their relationship is not yet an open one, they are just exploring their possibilities and Saul is still nervous and shy and wants to take things slow. Although he’s grateful for the time and space given, Saul discovers that he would have loved to share his room with his ‘friend’.
“Saul, will you help me with the groceries?” Nora yells.
“On my way, Nora.” He calls back and with one last look at the view outside, he lets out a huge sigh and goes downstairs to help Nora take everything out of the car. Then he will get the fireplace ready and wait for the others.
“It was so nice of your mom to give us the biggest room.” Julia says. Tommy mumbles something that sounds like “yes”, while he fights with the folding bed. Julia watches with interest. What is it with men that they can’t unfold a folding bed, she wonders.
“Shall I do it?” she asks carefully… Tommy looks up, his head red with the effort of trying.
She hands over Elizabeth to Tommy and with a bit of shaking and pulling unfolds the bed to a nice place for Elizabeth to sleep. Tommy looks defeated for second, but then says:
“You won easily, because I already wore it down.”
“That must be it.” Julia laughs.
Tommy puts the sleeping bags on the bed and laughs now too.
“I didn’t even know we still had those.”
“I had to look everywhere for them.” Julia admits, “I came this close to buying new ones and then I found them…. I mean, when was the last time we went camping?”
“Six years ago?” Tommy tries. Julia counts.
“Make that eight years ago.” She then says.
“It would be nice to do it again, once Elizabeth is older.” Tommy suggests and Julia finds herself agreeing. There was something about sleeping in a tent that was so romantic and adventurous.
“What do you mean, you had to buy a sleeping bag?” Justin asks.
“I didn’t have one anymore.” Rebecca replies. “I threw it away when I moved back in with mom.”
“And what if you wanted to go camping or something?”
“You never did that?” Justin is obviously shocked.
“My mom doesn’t like that.” Rebecca answers stiffly. “And I did go camping with friends. No fun.”
“We should go together, just you and me and a tent,.. you’ll see, it’s great!” Justin suggests enthusiastically, but somehow Rebecca doubts it.
“The place looks nice though.” She says.
“Yeah! Can’t wait to cover you with snow.” Justin laughs and Rebecca enjoys the smile on his face, which is a welcome change. He’d been quiet and very withdrawn last night and a bit down this morning and she doesn’t know why.
“Like I will give you a chance.” She now laughs.
“You’re no match for me.” Justin says and he gets up to stand behind her. He wraps his arms around her waist and easily lifts her off the floor. She yelps and he throws her on the bed, easily pinning her underneath him.
“See how easy it is?” He boasts. But Rebecca grabs the pillow and hits him with it, pushing him of her and quickly turning the tables on Justin, ending on top of him.
“You were saying?” She grins, her eyes alight. Justin slides his hands up along her arms.
“I like this position too.” And pulls her into his arms.
“This is stupid, stupid…. Stupid!!!” Sophie angrily pushes her clothes around in her bag. Jack looks up from his videogame. He can’t figure out why his sister is so angry. It’s fun here. There is snow, lots and lots of snow and there will Cooper, so that will be fun. There will presents under the Christmas-tree and lots of food and candy. All that Jack needs to make these Christmas-days perfect.
But Sophie is too busy being angry. She wanted to spend Christmas with her latest best friend, Melanie, and instead she is stuck in this boring house, with boring people and their boring plans. The fact that uncle Jason is here, doesn’t make a difference, because Kevin will be here too and he’s the one who hurt Jason by cheating… Oh, she shouldn’t know this, but she overheard a conversation between Jason and Kitty.
How could Kitty and dad be so cruel as to invite Jason to the same house as Kevin, with his new husband? She hates the idea of being stuck in a room with her stupid brother and she hates the Walkers in general and she’s determined to hate Scotty and Kevin even more. She takes her hairbrush and toothpaste and toothbrush and goes to the bathroom.
“Hey, watch it!” She hears from behind the door as she throws open the door to the large bathroom. A young man, about 14-15 years old looks at her with a surprised look on his face.
“Who are you?” Sophie asks annoyed.
“Gabe Whedon.” Gabe answers. “I’m Sarah’s stepson. And you are?”
“None of your business.” Sophie snaps. Gabe isn’t sure if he should be angry or amused.
“Sheesh, you’re an arrogant little b…” but he holds his tongue just in time, having Cooper for a kid-brother sure taught him to be careful with his words.
“And you’re rude.” Sophie lectures him. And this time Gabe knows what to do, he starts to laugh.
This makes Sophie even angrier and she yells:
“Get out! This is my bathroom and you shouldn’t be here.” Her high-pitched voice travels across the 1st floor, grabbing the attention of Robert who immediately recognizes his daughter distressed voice.
“Oh, grow up. This is not your bathroom, it belongs to all of us.” Gabe’s low voice is loud enough to make Sarah curious and come out of her bedroom.
“You! Get out!” Sophie screams. And Gabe’s smile turns into a frown.
“Listen, you stuck up brat. I was here first, I am not going anywhere and if you want to throw tantrums about it, do it somewhere else.” He pushes her away and slams the door in her face.
“Open that door! Now!” Sophie kicks the door and bangs on it loudly. Gabe throws the door open again and Sophie nearly tumbles into the bathroom, Gabe catches her before she falls and pushes her back onto the corridor, where by now, all the Walkers are watching the scene unfold before them.
“Someone ought to teach you some manners, little diva. And if you are going to continue being so hysterical, I’ll slap your face.”
“You wouldn’t dare!” Sophie bitches back. For one moment Gabe is SO tempted, but he meets Sarah’s eyes and sees her worry and he immediately calms down. Seeing Gabe back down, but not knowing why, Sophie starts taunting him.
“See, you’re afraid, you’re a coward, you’re a….” A loud slap across her face silences her. Shocked she stares at Paige’s furious face.
“No, he is not allowed to hit girls.. but I am! Now leave my brother alone or I’ll scratch your eyes out!”
Sarah looks in shock at her usually so gentle daughter, wondering if she should intervene or not. Basically she always feels the kids should fight things out amongst themselves. Now, she’s not sure. Her temporary concern makes she doesn’t fully get what Sophie says, but it’s enough to make Paige launch into her again.
But before Sarah can do anything, someone else steps in. Gabe catches his baby-sister by the waist and yanks her away from Sophie, putting her firmly on the ground and holding her at arm’s-length, he warns:
“No!! She….” And he points at Sophie. “... is not worth the trouble you’ll get into.”
“No, Paige!” Looks are exchanged between Gabe and Paige. Kitty and Kevin look at each other from across the corridor. There have had countless moments like this between them. Where the silent conversation that passes between them, is more important than the spoken words. Paige relaxes a bit and turns to Sophie and almost casually says:
“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have hit you.” Gabe smiles a little, proud of his sister’s quick apology. Sophie however, is not in a forgiving mood. She nags at Gabe and Paige:
“You two are so stupid and the same goes for your family, especially your uncle Kevin and his husband. They hurt my uncle Jason.”
Jason feels terribly embarrassed, when he can see Kevin and Scotty on the other side of the corridor, hearing every word. Kevin looks annoyed, but Scotty seems amused. Great! Jason now remembers why he believed this wouldn’t be a good idea. And now everyone is waiting for the next outburst, but Gabe shrugs and pushes Paige in the direction of her room.
“Sticks and stones…. Go help your mom unpack, Paige. Cooper, come with me.” He reaches out to Cooper, who has to pass Sophie to get to Gabe. In passing he kicks Sophie in the shins and immediately runs past Gabe and Paige to be out of Sophie’s arm-range. There he turns around, sticks out his tongue and goes on to say to Sophie:
“Uncle Kevin and uncle Scotty are very nice. YOU are stupid!” and he flees into his room.
Robert catches the look on his own son’s face and Jack seems delighted at the trouble Sophie is in. That is odd. Usually they fight together or together against ‘the others’, something has changed between his children. He has no way of knowing that Jack resents his sister lately for begin such a cranky, crying …well....girl.
“Puberty is a bitch.” Justin says, squeezing Robert’s shoulder as he goes into his own room.
“Yup, it really sucks.” Rebecca adds, following Justin.
“I’m glad I still have few years.” Tommy grins looking at his two-year old. Sarah quietly follows her daughter into their room.
Kevin and Scotty remain remarkably quiet as well as they return to their room. Kitty and Jason watch Robert and Sophie starts to realize that Robert looks incredibly angry and that she’s going to be in an awful lot of trouble.
“I’ll help Jack unpack, why don’t you talk to Sophie?” Kitty suggests and Robert nods.
Kevin watches with an amused smile how Robert, Jason, Kitty, Scotty, Sarah, Rebecca and Justin are playing in the snow with the children. He wishes he could play along but his wound from the liver-transplant still aches. He has to take things easy for another two weeks at least. He sighs, because it bores him to sit here and watch the others have fun.
They made snow-men and had a snow-ball-fight. Kevin sits on the porch and takes pictures with Rebecca’s camera, as reminders for Nora. Gabe is enjoying himself, for once not being the broody boy Kevin had gotten used to seeing. Jack and Cooper are quite a team where mischief is concerned, and Paige is just her cheerful self again. Sophie is grounded, and somehow Kevin is not sorry for her.
He keeps an eye on Robert and Jason with Scotty, ready to jump in if he has the impression that either of the men is giving Scotty a hard time, but it goes without a hitch. Scotty and Jason are very friendly with each other, there was never trouble to speak of between Robert and Scotty anyway and quickly enough Jack feels as comfortable with Scotty as he does with his own uncle.
And even Gabe has hesitantly adopted Scotty as an uncle and Kevin cannot help but be very grateful for this family who has always accepted him and now Scotty with open arms. If only his father…. But then he shakes his head. This is about having fun, not about crying over his dad. Scotty comes over to him and sits beside him.
“Snow’s cold.” He says, his nose and cheeks red from the cold, the running around and having fun. And he looks absolutely adorable and Kevin teasingly says:
“Do you have any idea how good you look?”
“No. Care to elaborate upstairs? In our room? Near the bed? Or on it, for all I care?”
Kevin is tempted to say yes, but Nora walks out and shouts:
“Hot chocolate and cookies!!!” This generates some loud yells of happiness. And a few minutes later everyone, including Kevin and Scotty, are in the living room. The fire burning is warm and makes everyone notice how tired they are.
Everyone is talking as the hot chocolate and cookies warm up the vocal cords, until Nora comes downstairs with Sophie and Nora taps against her cup to get everyone’s attention.
“Sophie has something to say.” She nods at Sophie with a smile. Sophie clears her throat.
“I’m sorry about my behavior this afternoon and I apologize to all of you, especially to Kevin and Scotty… I had no right to speak like that.”
Gabe looks at her and sees her pale face and how she nervously plays with her fingers and with a sigh he says:
“The tray with cookies is here. You better get one fast, before uncle Tommy eats them all.”
Sophie lets out the breath she’s been holding and thankfully takes a cookie as Gabe pours her some hot chocolate.
He hands it to her with a smile and she says more quietly:
“I’m sorry…. I’m Sophie McCallister.” She tries and holds out her hand. Gabe hesitates for a second, but then takes her hand into his:
The dinner goes better than planned. As Nora had most of the food prepared the day before she left, she only has to warm everything up. The meal is simple and yet delicious and everyone agrees that the cold mountain air, must make them hungry and thirsty. And after a few bottles wine, the tales appear.
Tommy recounts how Justin once ended up skinny-dipping in the pool after a rather adventurous party and Justin immediately replied by recalling an April Fool’s joke that Kevin and Tommy had concocted and that ended with Kevin and Tommy covered in paint. Nora remembers that vividly, as well as the way Tommy and Justin, after an argument, had ended up locked in, in the basement at their grandmother’s place.
Kitty laughs uncontrollably at the memory of Justin’s face after all the horror stories Tommy had told him about never being found and how after a few years all they would find was were two bags of bones….
“I was only seven… and Tommy was very convincing.” Justin defends himself.
As the banter goes on, Sarah decides it’s time for Cooper and Paige to go to bed and Robert agrees it’s time for Jack as well. Sarah gives her children some space to get dressed for the night and brush their teeth, but when she comes upstairs, she’s surprised to see Gabe brush Paige’s hair, while giving Cooper instructions to brush his teeth again, and when Cooper protests, his ‘don’t make me come in there….’ Is enough to make Cooper change his mind.
Sarah watches with fascination. Gabe used to dislike chores and usually steered clear of her two kids, but now he watches over them like a mother-hen and it gives her an uneasy feeling. Paige takes her book and sits down next to Cooper and reads him a bed-time story, while Gabe picks up and straightens his room.
“Gabe?” Sarah calls out softly and she motions him to follow her to her room and sit down on the bed. Gabe looks up at her with big eyes. “Gabe, I wanted to thank you for this afternoon. You acted rather maturely.”
“Not really, I shouldn’t have let her pick a fight with me.”
“No.” Sarah concedes. “But you stopped it in time and you stopped Paige as well, so I’m still impressed.” She smiles. Gabe gives her a ghost of a smile.
“Thank you.” He says and gets up to leave the room.
“Gabe? Is everything alright? ….At home?”
“Yeah, sure.” Gabe replies, but Sarah knows he’s lying.
“Gabe, if you need to talk to someone. I’m here. The family is here. You’re still Paige’s and Cooper’s brother and …. I still love you.” Sarah sees him swallow hard and his voice wavers a bit when he lies once again, that he is fine. Sarah nods. “Alright. Fine. No pressure. Just know my door is always open…” This time he nods.
Downstairs Kevin is getting restless. His wound aches a bit and he’s tired. The medication and the heat in the room, make him sleepy.
“Sorry, guys, but I’m off to bed. I’m too tired…”
“Honey, is everything alright?” Nora asks, with a worried look.
“Yeah, sure. Just been a long day.”
“Coming with you.” Scotty says.
“Oh, if you want to stay here…?”
“No, I’m tired too. It was a short night and a long day. I’m done.” Scotty replies and after they said their goodbyes they quickly go to their room.
In their bedroom Scotty helps Kevin get undressed, Kevin is obviously in pain and Scotty gives him some extra pain-killers to help Kevin (and himself) through the night. Kevin fights with his sleeping bag, remembering now why he hates those things. Never enough room to move. Scotty seems to have the same problem.
Finally after some wrestling they are lying beside each other looking at the ceiling. Kevin feels strangely isolated from Scotty.
“This feels weird.” He hears Scotty say in the dark.
“I know…. I miss you.” Kevin agrees.
“We can always hold hands.” Scotty offers.
“Somehow that just doesn't feel the same….” Kevin replies.
“I know…..” Scotty turns on the light. “Get out of your sleeping-bag.”
“I just got IN.” Kevin objects, but with a sigh he unzips the bag.
He watches Scotty grab their two bags and zip them up differently so that they form one big sleeping bag.
“Scotty, you are amazing.” Kevin says in awe, snuggling close to his husband, letting his legs entwine with Scotty’s.
“Wait, I brought something.” Scotty says, grabbing a box from his side of the bed.
“Condoms? Really, that is unnecessary.”
“Good, because it’s something else.” Scotty replies smugly and shows Kevin the mistletoe he brought along. He hangs it over their bed.
“… And you know the tradition…” Scotty says.
“Can’t beat it.” Kevin seeks Scotty’s lips, gently at first, but then with more passion. Lying on top of Scotty, Kevin forgets his pain and discomfort.
“Do you know how much I love you?” Kevin asks softly and Scotty moans in reply.
“Show me.” And he spreads his legs somewhat to give Kevin every opportunity to show him…
END OF PART 5