Good morning, everyone. 🙂
Since Fred Clark has decided to have some downtime I figured I’d take a bit of a detour myself and begin filling in the possible blanks in canon when it comes to the Jordan family. We learn that Cal is actually the youngest (Deborah is stated to be nineteen, so I deduce Cal to be eighteen), and that Deborah and Cal seem to have a fairly strong sibling bond even though they have made very different choices in life and have differing levels of approval from their parents. Based on things like this and the aspects of Josh’s personality that have come through in the book that don’t show him in a very good light (I really like whoever used the “controlling asshole” line, by the way!), I’ve tried to come up with one possible scenario for Cal’s persistent estrangement from the family, as well as Deborah not only being on decent terms with Cal, but also her chip-off-the-old-blockness.
“Fathers and Sons” is the title I have chosen. It comes from a line of dialogue in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Unification”, when Captain Picard and Commander Riker briefly discuss Spock’s estrangement from Sarek after the news of Sarek’s death. Picard says, “Sometimes, fathers and sons…” and Commander Riker brusquely acknowledges it. The viewer is reminded of Riker’s own problems with his father and how he only got a chance to initiate a reconciliation years after he ran away from home to join Starfleet.
I want to thank those who have looked this over prior to putting this online. Thank you so very much! 🙂
Warnings: Brief mention of homosexual acts between teenagers, some strong language, and possibly upsetting material in the form of the Jordan family’s messed-up dynamics.
The first time Cal Jordan knew what it was like to utterly disappoint his father was when he was just fourteen years old.
– * –
Cal stood in the Housemaster’s office next to Eric Thatcher. Housemaster Scott, a wiry, stern man in his mid-fifties, shook his head as he hung up the phone. He had already called their parents, but he didn’t know who else the man could be calling.
Cal’s stomach dropped as he tried to keep his lip from trembling. Oh shit oh shit oh shit oh fucking shit kept going through his mind as he wondered what was going to happen next.
The Housemaster said, “I’ve just finished talking to the Headmaster.” He balefully gazed at Eric, then Cal. “If it was up to me, you boys would already be expelled from here. Carrying on like that in a broom cupboard!”
Cal’s stomach turned to ice. All the blood seemed to drain out of his face.
Old Scott continued. “Being caught behaving inappropriately is not only an internal disciplinary matter; it also requires us to notify your parents. The code of conduct you boys agreed to when you came here includes not behaving in a manner that is morally objectionable!”
Eric looked like he wanted to cry. Cal wanted to put his hand on Eric’s shoulder, let him know someone was there. But Housemaster Scott would just think it was another perversion.
Damn it, how can it be a perversion when it feels right? Kissing Eric had been amazing. Besides, they were boys and everybody knew it was a phase. Cal knew he was supposed to get married and have children later, but “later” seemed like forever.
“You’re to go home with your parents until the weekend’s over. If we’re all satisfied this conduct won’t resume, you’ll be allowed to return to classes. Otherwise the next time you come back will be to pack and leave. Permanently.”
And with that, Eric and Cal went to sit on a bench in the residence hall’s entrance hallway. Eric leaned his head back against the wall and whined, “I’m fucked. I am so fucked it isn’t even funny. My dad’s probably going to belt me.”
Cal tried to touch Eric’s arm in support, but Eric dashed his hand away, his eyes narrowed in hate. “Just stay away from me, okay? Christ, you’re probably the one that gave me fag vibes in the first place.”
Cal, shocked, growled, “Hey, asshole, you weren’t saying that to me in the fuckin’ broom closet.” He hissed, “You were all ready for me to put my hand down your pants, you shithead!”
Eric’s face flushed and he turned away. Cal thumped his fist on his knee, wondering why it had to be that night Housemaster Scott managed to catch them out of bed past curfew in the worst possible place you could be – well, maybe being busted with drugs would be worse than that.
– * –
The ride back home with his mom and dad took place in complete silence. Cal had actually been relieved when his mother and father showed up to collect him with Deborah in tow from the girl’s hall, but when Dad hadn’t said anything in response, the feeling that his bowels were going to loosen had returned.
It had only gotten worse as Dad said absolutely nothing in the car, and the look he had shot Mom when she tried to chat with Deb made Cal’s stomach twist in knots. And Deb looked confused and worried as all-get-out.
It wasn’t until Dad, Mom, and Deborah all joined Cal around the kitchen table that anyone spoke.
“Why?” His dad’s face looked like it was made of granite.
Cal floundered. How did you answer a question when you didn’t even know the answer? You might as well try asking “why?” of a cat after it batted around some catnip and then destroyed the flowerbed.
Dad continued, saying, “Cal, we’ve spent a lot of money sending you and Debbie to prep school. Tell me I did not just throw away twenty thousand dollars. Tell me!”
Cal looked at the table and said hollowly, “Don’t do this, Dad. Please.”
“So why did you do it? Why did you end up with another boy, like that? We didn’t raise you to carry on indulging base urges, Cal.”
Cal let out a strangled laugh. “That’s what you call it? Base urges? Dad, me and Eric weren’t hurting anyone.”
His dad shook his finger at Cal. He barked, “Well, you’re about to learn that it is hurting someone. When I spend that kind of money, what I say goes. You’re going to keep your nose so clean it’ll squeak. And if I hear about you with any other boys you’re going straight to military reform school, you hear me?”
Cal looked at his mother and sister, wondering why something this personal had to be shown to them, too. He couldn’t bear the thought that they might hate him now. Deborah’s face was absolutely white, her eyes wide.
“Now you look me straight in the eye and tell me you will not disappoint me and disgrace this family again.”
Cal’s hands shook as he lifted his head and looked at his father. Hating himself for how weak his voice sounded, he said, “I won’t.”
His mother was looking at him sadly. She said, “Honey, go to bed. We’ll take you back to school on Sunday night. All right, Josh?”
Dad nodded with ill grace.
Cal rushed to his bedroom as fast as he could. He swallowed hard, blinking his eyes. He put his fists to his forehead and wished with all his heart he had just stayed in bed instead of sneaking off with Eric.
A slight knock at his door startled him. He whirled around, facing Deborah. Relief coursed through him.
She said quietly, “Hey.”
Cal mumbled, “Hey yourself. You weren’t the one that became a family disgrace overnight.”
Deborah reached out to hug Cal. The simple kindness undid his control, and he sobbed into her shoulder. She patted his head as though he were four, not fourteen, and rubbed his back soothingly. After a few minutes, she released him.
Embarrassed at his loss of control, Cal sniffed and swiftly swiped his sleeve across his nose, then sat heavily on his bed. Deborah sat next to him and said, “Cal? I still don’t really understand. They got me out of bed over in the girl’s hall and said there was a family emergency. Then we’re riding in the car in this totally creepy silence, and when we get home Dad just chews through you like you’re in his gunsights. Did you really… you know… with another guy?”
Cal nodded. “Not like I can deny it. Old Scott caught me and Eric in the broom closet.”
Deborah chuckled. Cal scowled and said, “What? That’s not cool, Deb.”
She recovered and said, “I’m sorry, Cal. Really. Look at it this way: you’ve just gone further with a guy than I have.”
Cal stared, then weakly laughed in response. A smile tugged at his lips and he found Deborah couldn’t stop the answering grin on her face.
Cal, fighting the chuckle in his throat, said, “Ewww. I could have gone the rest of my life without knowing that!”
Deborah reached out and clasped Cal’s hand. “Hey. To be honest, I’m sort of relieved. I mean, it’s just … well, okay, it’s not a little thing ‘cause Dad really blew up at you, but my God, I was thinking, ‘Oh no, there’s been an accident or something and what if—‘ you know?”
“Between you and me, what you do, it’s your life. You sure the other guy was… well, okay with what you both did?”
Cal spat bitterly, “Yeah, until we got caught. Then he couldn’t get away from the ‘fag’ fast enough.”
Deborah firmly replied, “Hey.” She bopped Cal’s shoulder. “Don’t use that word for yourself. It’s just gonna make you feel worse.”
“Okay, whoa. Who are you, Yoda? And when did I get Yoda for a sister? You’re, like, taking this so calmly and dispensing nuggets of advice.”
Snootily, Deborah said, “I like to think girls mature faster than boys.”
Cal whined, “Oh come on. You’re my older sister, so of course you’d be more ‘mature’. That’s cheating.”
“Older by a year. And don’t you forget it, little bro.” Deborah wiggled her eyebrows. She looked at her watch and said, “Hey. It’s past midnight already. You feel up to talking some more or do you want to try and get some sleep? You look pretty wiped out, Cal.”
Cal sighed. He closed his eyes and could feel the tiredness coming on. He nodded and said, “Yeah. I feel like I could stay up all night but at the same time, it’s so tempting to just zonk out.”
Deborah clasped both of his hands in hers. “Well, before you zonk out, remember that I’ll be here for you. G’night, okay?”
Cal squeezed her hands gently. “’Preciate it. I’m gonna try and get some sleep.”
Deborah stood up, releasing his hands. “Okay. You want the light off?”
Cal nodded. He yanked his shoes off and let them clatter to the floor somewhere. The light blinked out as he crawled under the covers, wishing everything had been just a dream.
– * –
The next morning, Cal woke up feeling like a big rig had landed on him. He stumbled through his morning ablutions, not wanting to look at his face in the mirror. As he walked out to the breakfast table, he felt like he was in molasses. Every thought, every movement seemed to take twice as long as it should.
Deborah was already up, and she shoved the cereal and milk over to him, reminding him he needed to get a spoon and bowl, which he brought back to the table before he sat down. Cal noticed the air over New York in the penthouse suite was clear, with not a cloud in the sky. The kitchen’s patio doors opened out to the secluded covered balcony they had sometimes used for barbecues in summertime.
The cereal tasted bland in his mouth as he chewed half-heartedly. He mumbled, “Morning.”
Deborah briefly grasped his arm and smiled a bit uncertainly before she let go, resuming her cereal.
The heavy footfalls entering the kitchen made Cal’s heart race. He swallowed his mouthful of cereal with an effort and waited for round two.
To his surprise, all Dad said was, “Good morning.”
Cal’s brain felt as though all its gears had seized. Dad wasn’t going to rake him over the coals some more?
Thank God for small favors.
Mom entered the kitchen soon after that, and the Jordan family enjoyed the passing semblance of an ordinary morning breakfast. Yet for some reason the tension kept mounting in Cal’s stomach. Something was gonna happen, he knew it.
Deborah broke the silence, saying, “Mom? Dad? I have something to tell you.”
Dad looked a little wary, while Mom seemed unfazed. She’d been a lawyer once, and Cal knew from past experience that when she wanted to she could make you think one thing and then another.
Deborah continued. “I was going to tell you anyway later, but I wanted to join JROTC instead of waiting until college for ROTC. And Dad? I want to go to West Point.”
Betrayed. Cal could only stare, hurt and stunned, as Dad practically preened. He even looked at Cal smugly as if to say, see? Deb’s not going to disappoint me and if you knew better you’d bust your butt twice as hard to match her.
Dad smiled radiantly at Deborah, and Mom’s face was relaxing into an expression of contentment. Cal felt ill as he watched his Dad enjoy Deb getting on his good side.
Dad boomed, “Well, sweetie, you’re going to have to work hard for it. But mark my words, if I have anything to say about it you’ll be in the military straight out of school. You want me to talk to the JROTC recruitment center for you?”
Deborah cut a nervous look at Cal, then turned back to Dad and seemed to dredge up a confident smile. “Sure! Can I meet them? Today, even?”
That was enough. Cal let his spoon clatter in the bowl and ran back to his room. “It’s just a phase he’s going through, Abby,” echoed in Cal’s ears as he slammed the door. How could his own sister stab him in the back like this? How could Dad just… not care about how he felt?
– * –
Deborah Jordan hated herself. The cereal aftertaste felt like ashes in her mouth as she saw Cal’s hurt and dejected expression before he took off. But she forced herself to go through the motions of being the Happy News Child.
Dad was leaning back in his chair, reminiscing about his old superior, a man named General Rocky Bridger. He was saying, “—and there I was, a hundred feet off the ground, snapping picture after picture in my U-2 as the Iranians got ready to fire at me.”
He went on to begin regaling her with other tales of his life in the Air Force, while Mom finished up her cereal and listened without chiming in.
She could tell how much it buoyed Mom and Dad to hear their child had her heart set on serving the nation. Chip off the old block and everything. But God, what she’d just done to Cal—!
They had a name for people like her: Judas. The Betrayer.
She prayed silently to a God she was still unsure even existed. She prayed that she could still make it right with Cal then and there.
Dad’s interminable sermon on his derring-do adventures in the Air Force was abruptly cut off as his phone rang. He yanked it out of his bathrobe pocket and barked, “Jordan!”
Mom began clearing the table and Deborah whispered, “Can I leave? I’ve got to pack for school.”
She was waved off, and left the room as she heard Dad say, “The prototype? It’s capable of sending laser signals…?”
Maybe God still granted favors. Even to sisters who hurt their brothers.
– * –
Deborah took a deep breath before she knocked on Cal’s bedroom door.
After a few seconds, she heard a muffled, “Go away.”
She said, “Not until you hear what I’ve got to say, Cal.”
The door whipped open, revealing Cal staring at her with hatred in his eyes. “What’s Daddy’s Golden Girl going to tell me? That I should join JROTC too? Make the old man proud?
“Please. You saw the way he ignored me as soon as you made yourself out to be his little robot. Don’t drag me into this, Deb. Just don’t.”
Desperately, Deborah grabbed for Cal’s arm. “Listen to me! Cal, I’m asking you as my own flesh and blood to listen.”
Cal’s eyes went wide. He breathed sharply and harshly whispered, “Of all the—of all the nerve! I can’t believe what you just said! After sucking up to Dad like that, too.” He shook her hand off and threw himself on his bed, crossing his arms as he propped a pillow up to sit against.
Deborah was close to cracking. “Do you want me to beg, Cal? Do you want me to plead? Damn it, Cal. This wasn’t easy. Let me talk to you.”
Something in the way she blinked back tears must have convinced Cal, because he wearily waved and said, “Fine. Sit somewhere and close the door.”
Deborah guardedly sat on the bed near Cal’s feet. She took a deep breath. “Cal? I did a lot of thinking last night. I’m going to tell you something and please don’t tell Mom and especially not Dad, okay?”
Cal muttered, “As if I’d tell Dad at this point.”
“Still, promise me. All right?”
Deborah swallowed. “You know what happened last night. Dad as good as told us he thinks it’s more important to not mess up the family reputation than to support what we want to do. Right?”
Cal’s jaw set. He looked off to her side and said, “Yeah, and?”
Deborah looked into his eyes. “Last night, Cal… it was the first time, ever, that I have been scared totally out of my mind by Dad. I was sitting there thinking, ‘Oh my God, I’m next, I’m next and I haven’t even done anything…’”
Cal blurted, “But—you haven’t! You pull straight A’s and you’re gonna be in ROTC in college and everything. Well, you were until you told Dad this morning about JROTC.”
“But I was so terrified that he might look for something, anything he might think I did wrong, too. I didn’t even have to be in the kitchen for what he did to you. I don’t want you to hate me for this but I’m going to make so sure it never ever happens to me. I am asking you to please understand. If Dad ever did that to me, it would just break me.”
Grudgingly, Cal nodded. “Yeah, I got the full force of that, all right. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. So you’re doing this thing…” Cal’s brow furrowed. “Sort of like… camouflage?”
“Yeah, that’s it. Camouflage.” Deborah sighed and let her hands fall to her sides. She laughed bitterly. “That’s what they call it in the military, you know. Protective coloration so you fool the enemy.”
Cal shifted so he was sitting next to Deborah, like they sat the night before. Cal put a hesitant hand on her shoulder. “I don’t have to like what you just did. But I think… I think I can forgive it. You know?”
Deborah sniffled as she put her arms around Cal. She rested her head against his for a moment and said in utter relief, “Thank you. Thank you so much.”
Cal’s answering hug told her all she needed to know. Cal still loved her, and still was willing to talk to her even after all she had done.
Slowly, they both disengaged from the embrace. Deborah said, “All this – well, I just hope it doesn’t mean Dad starts in on you all the time now.”
Cal patted her on the shoulder with bravado, but it didn’t quite ring true as he said, “I can handle it. You do what you gotta do, sis.”
Deborah kissed Cal on the cheek. She clasped his hand in both of hers and brought them to his chest, against his heart. She looked in his eyes again. “You gotta do what you gotta do, Cal. Keep that heart of yours. Don’t let anybody stomp it into the ground, little brother.”
Cal returned her gaze with a wan smile and said, “I’ll try not to.” He cast his gaze down to their hands. “You better go. We’re supposed to be bad boy, good girl, right?”
Deborah released his hand and said, “But we’re still flesh and blood. For real, right? You talk to me any time you want. Call it my penance.”
Cal chuckled. “Yeah. You’ll do some real hard time, Deb. Go on. I gotta be alone for a while anyway.”
Deborah quietly left the room and entered her own. As she closed the door, she put her fist against her mouth and stifled a sob. She hadn’t deserved Cal’s magnanimity. But she’d gotten it anyway.
Thank God for big favors.