Kevin’s heart beats with nervous excitement, and he can feel Connor’s breath on his lips. But before he can get any closer, there is a hand on his chest pushing him back, and he freezes.
“What are you doing, Kevin?”
“Uh..I was, I...I...uh, I - kissing you?” Kevin mumbles, his face heating up an embarrassing amount, “I’m sorry, I’ve never - it’s embarrassing, but I’ve never actually...you know,”
Connor sighs, “Kevin, I am...I’m flattered, but I don’t think that this is such a good idea,”
Kevin jerks away from him, pulling his knees up into his chest.
“It’s nothing personal!” Connor says hastily, “I mean, you’re a lovely person but-”
“Please leave me alone,” Kevin whispers, tears blurring his vision, “Please,”
But he doesn’t want to hear it. He wraps his arms around his knees and rests his forehead on them, his breath tumbling out of him in strained gasps.
“Please talk to me, Kevin,”
Kevin grips onto his knees even tighter, desperate to make himself as small as possible; desperate to make himself invisible.
“Do you want your notepad?” Connor asks, somewhat desperately, “I can get that for you, if you want. I know that you’re - you’re probably just confused and I don’t want to feel like I’m taking advantage of you! You are a little... fragile ,”
Kevin jumps at these words, his head snapping up to face Connor.
“Fragile,” Kevin repeats.
“Well, you aren’t-”
Connor blinks at him, “What?”
“I - how could you? I’m not going mad!”
“I know, I -”
“God, I’m not - I’m not fragile ! I’m struggling a bit, sure, but wouldn’t you if you had a book shoved up your ass?” Kevin snaps, taking himself by surprise, “Is this - is this why you’ve been so kind to me? Because I’m fragile? If none of that ever happened, you would have just left me alone at the bus stop, wouldn’t you? All you gave a shit about is how many baptisms we had! You never gave a shit about me! You don’t even give a shit about me now! You just feel...you just feel guilty!”
“No, Kevin, that isn’t true!” Connor says tearfully, “I do care about you, I -”
“Is everything OK? I heard loud voices?”
Kevin turns around to find Arnold hovering awkwardly by them.
“Fine,” Connor says, “everything is-”
“-not fine!” Kevin yells, jumping up, “Nothing is fine because clearly no one actually gives a shit about me!”
“Kev,” Arnold says quietly, “You know that isn’t true,”
“I just want to be alone,” Kevin says quietly, aware of the tears that are streaming down his face, “I don’t want to - I don’t want to talk to anyone. Please. Leave me alone.”
“Alright. Alright. We’ll leave you alone. Come on, Elder McKinley,”
“I don’t want to leave him when-”
“Elder,” Arnold says firmly, “he wants to be left alone,”
Muttering something about how he should be the one giving out instructions, Connor gets to his feet and slowly follows Arnold back into the hut. Shaking, Kevin slowly sits back down again, his fingers going straight to the skin on his arm: pulling, plucking and twisting.
Suddenly, the moon isn’t quite so pretty.
The thought that he was actually getting better is laughable. Or, it would be laughable if Kevin had it in him to laugh. He doesn’t really have it in him to do anything. He spends his days lay in bed, staring blankly at the ceiling. His notepad usually sits on his chest but is never opened. He’d thrown the pen out of the window one particularly bad night, anyway, so even if he wanted to use it - which he doesn’t - he wouldn’t be able to.
Deep down, Kevin knows that he isn’t helping himself and he certainly isn’t helping anyone around him. He sees it in Arnold, whos eye bags are deeper than they should be. He sees it in Nabulungi, who always seems on the verge of tears on the rare occasion that Kevin sees her. Hell, he even saw it in Elder Church who he accidentally bumped into one night in the kitchen. Church had tried for a conversation, but Kevin had very quickly shot him down. It was too much.
Everything is too much.
The door swings open, and Kevin turns his head to see Arnold and Nabulungi walk in.
“Can we sit?” Arnold asks.
Kevin shrugs his shoulders and moves up the bed, sitting with his back resting against the headboard and his knees drawn up to his chest. The two of them awkwardly perch at the very end of the bed, and Kevin feels like they’re about to have a conversation he doesn’t really want to have.
“What happened between you and Connor?” Arnold asks, “because he wont tell me,”
Kevin remains stubbornly silent, looking down at his knees.
“Kev, buddy, please tell me. You were shouting at him! I haven’t heard you speak that much or that loudly for months!”
Nabulungi reaches forward and picks up the notebook that had fallen onto the bed. She flips it open and hands it to him.
“Please, Kevin,” she says, “We’re only trying to help,”
Kevin takes the notepad and then looks up at her with raised eyebrows, trying to silently tell her that he doesn’t have a pen. Arnold sighs and hands Kevin a pen from his pocket.
“You’re not getting out of it that easily, pal,”
Sighing, Kevin takes the pen and twirls it around in his fingers before scribbling something down.
It’s too embarrassing.
“Kev, it’s fine. I don’t - I’m not going to laugh,” Arnold says, “I promise. I won’t judge.”
“Would it make you feel more comfortable if I was not here?” Nabulungi asks, “be honest. I won’t be offended,”
Kevin shakes his head and writes in his notepad. Instead of looking at the actual page or the words he is writing, he focuses on the tip of the pen, too embarrassed to read what he’s writing.
We were arguing because I tried to kiss him.
“You tried to kiss who?” Arnold asks, frowning.
“He tried to kiss you or you tried to kiss him?”
Nabulungi rolls her eyes, “Kevin tried to kiss Connor, Arnold. Keep up,”
Tears spring to Kevin’s eyes and he draws his knees even closer to his chest, pressing himself against the headboard.
You said you wouldn’t judge.
“I’m not! I’m not! I promise!” Arnold exclaims, “it’s just...well - it’s a shock, that’s all. I didn’t...you never told me you were gay,”
Kevin frowns at Arnold.
I’m not. I just wanted to kiss him.
“That’s pretty gay, buddy,”
Kevin makes a face at Arnold and turns away from him and Nabulungi, lying back down at curling himself into a ball.
“Look, Kev, if you don’t want to admit to yourself that you’re something other than straight, that’s fine. But you can’t ignore Connor. He’s a mess,”
Join the club.
“Kevin,” Nabulungi says, placing her hand on his arm and squeezing slightly, “I know that your mission has been hard, and I know that Uganda has not treated you well but...you can’t torture yourself like this,”
I can do what I want.
“Not if it ends up with you hurting yourself,” Nabulungi retorts, but then her voice softens, “We all want you to be happy, and you’re very clearly not happy,”
I can do this on my own.
“No, Kevin, you can’t. And that’s ok,” Arnold says, “You don’t have to do anything on your own. I’m here, bud,”
Kevin nods, too exhausted to pick up his pen.
“Ok. We’re going to watch the baseball game, are you coming?”
Kevin shakes his head.
“Alright. I’ll be back later,”
“See you later, Kevin,” Nabulungi says, placing a soft kiss on his cheek.
Kevin doesn’t fall asleep like he had hoped to. Instead, he listens to the distant sounds of the baseball game and wishes things were different.
Kevin has always thought that Elder Michaels was odd; his silence was strong enough to rival even Kevins, and he always has a look in his eye that makes Kevin feel like he knows all his secrets. But he thinks that Michaels is even stranger when he barges into Kevin and Arnold’s room - completely uninvited - followed by a rather sheepish looking Elder Zelder.
“What the heck is going on?” Arnold asks. He’s sat on his bed planning a lesson on Arnold 22:23 (What does the Lord say about tolerance of others?).
“I want to speak to Price,” Michaels says.
Kevin looks up from the copy of the Book of Arnold that he isn’t actually reading and frowns.
“Sorry,” Zelder says hastily, “I told him to knock,”
Kevin glances over at Arnold, silently begging him to do the talking.
“What do you want to talk to him for?”
“I want to help him,”
As quick as anything, Kevin is on his feet and on the other side of the room. The size of the room is not on his side, and Michaels and Zelder are still uncomfortably close. He closes his eyes and digs his fingernails into his palms, pressing his back into the wall.
“Hey, buddy, it’s ok,” Arnold says gently, “let’s just...let’s just hear him out, okay?”
“I think you should speak to Gotswana,” Michaels says triumphantly and with the air of someone who clearly thinks they have just said something very intelligent.
Kevin does not feel like this, and even forgets his panic long enough to write a single question mark in his notepad, showing it to Michaels who sighs in response.
“That’s not a bad idea, actually,” Arnold mutters.
Kevin then turns his notepad around to Arnold who just rolls his eyes. Kevin retaliates in the way that any mature 19 year old would, and sticks his tongue out at him.
“Listen, man, I know - I know it sounds like the worst thing in the world but before I came here, I had more panic attacks than I did hot dinners and my mom sent me to a doctor and we had a chat and it helped. I swear it helped,”
Kevin shakes his head so forcefully that when he stops, he can feel the beginning of a headache.
In the end, Kevin agrees to let Michaels talk to Gotswana for him (and only because Arnold had started crying), but point blank refuses to go near the hospital. Luckily for Kevin though, Gotswana is apparently more than happy to come to the mission hut. When Michaels gleefully tells him this, Kevin wonders if they have different definitions of the word lucky.
On the day of his appointment, Kevin lies in bed, his heart beating uncomfortably in his chest.
“Kev?” Arnold says, poking his head around the bedroom door, “Gotswana is here. He’s in Connor’s office,”
Kevin stares at Arnold, his eyes wide.
“Connor isn’t there,” he says hastily, “he’s with Poptarts,”
Kevin nods and hesitantly follows him out of the room, and down to Connor’s office.
“Do you want me to come in with you?”
Kevin shakes his head.
“Got your notepad?”
He holds it up.
“Good luck, bud. I’m only gonna be outside the door,”
Kevin takes a deep breath and walks into the office. Gotswana is sat in Connor’s seat, flicking through a copy of the Book of Arnold and giggling as he does so.
“These Mormon stories are so fucking stupid,” he sighs happily, “take a seat, Elder Price, how are you?”
Kevin shrugs as he drops into the seat in front of the desk.
Gotswana raises his eyebrows at him, “This is the first time I’ve seen you since the day of Nabulungi’s play. And Elder Michaels tells me that you’ve been hiding in your room a lot. Is this true?”
Kevin doesn’t answer.
“Elder, I’m going to have to ask that you answer my questions, or we’re both wasting our time.”
Kevin sighs and turns to his notepad.
You know better than anyone what happened to me, so you shouldn’t have to ask me any questions.
“And I’m sorry that it ever happened in the first place, but you aren’t helping yourself by locking yourself in your room. You’re the palest white boy I’ve ever seen. You need the sun. Even Elder McKinley has some colour to him,”
I don’t like being around too many people.
“Being outside doesn’t mean being around lots of people. If everyone is at the front of the hut, go behind. If everyone is to the right of the hut, go to the left,”
Kevin frowns at his knees, suddenly feeling rather stupid about the fact that he hadn’t thought of that himself.
“But you shouldn’t spend too much time on your own,”
I’m with Arnold all the time.
“I know you boys are close, but I see him without you all the time,”
Kevin shrugs and Gotswana sighs.
“What do you know about depression, Kevin?”
It’s not a real thing.
“Why do you think that?”
My dad says that depression is just what lazy people use as an excuse to not work a day in their lives.
“And when was the last time you did any of your duties, Elder Price? I haven’t seen you walking around the village with Elder Cunningham. I haven’t seen you attend any church meetings,” Gotswana stands up from the desk and goes over to the chart that Connor uses to keep track of who’s doing what jobs. There’s only one empty space, and it’s next to Kevin’s name.
I’m not depressed.
“You’re exhibiting all the symptoms, Kevin. And that’s nothing to be ashamed of,” Gotswana says calmly, “You’ve been through a lot, and you’ve finally reached out for help. That’s the first step on the road to recovery,”
What if this is it? What if I’m like this forever?
“Do you want to be?”
Kevin shakes his head.
“Then I do not think that you have anything to worry about. I would like to speak to Elder McKinley, though. I have a few ideas,”
Can I leave?
“No. I would like you to be here for it,”
Kevin folds his arms and sits back in his chair as Gotswana asks Arnold to find Connor. The two of them sit in silence until the door opens and Connor walks in.
“Is everything OK, Doctor? I didn’t think that you would be done so-” Connor freezes when he sees Kevin, “Oh. Hello, Elder Price,”
The use of his title stings Kevin, but he ignores the feeling and looks away from Connor.
“Kevin and I were just saying how he should be outside more, but he doesn’t like being around too many people,”
“And I think he should get back into his duties. Is there anything you have in mind?”
Kevin looks up at Connor just as he purses his lips, and Kevin finds himself blushing at the sight. The district leaders turns to face the duty board with his hands on his hips, tapping his foot slightly.
“Let me see, let me see..Ah! We always need someone to pick the vegetables and our patch is tiny - only carrots and potatoes - and Schrader always gets stuck with it,”
“Will Elder Schrader mind swapping his duties?”
“Not at all!” Connor grins, picking up the chalk and writing ‘ vegetable patch’ next to Kevin’s name, “I’ll send him to the market instead. He’ll probably prefer that,”
“I also wants to discuss the General,”
Kevin starts at this; he stands up so quickly that he knocks the chair over. Gotswana is on his feet at once, holding his hands up in front of him.
“Maybe that isn’t such a good idea, Doctor,” Connor says quietly.
“If you want to leave Kevin, that is fine,”
Outside, Arnold tries to speak Kevin, but he just shakes his head and hurries away, slamming the bedroom door shut behind him.
He falls asleep to the memory of the Generals rough hands on him.
Kevin was slightly shocked to discover that he would be working on the vegetable patch on a sunday, but very quickly learned to be grateful for this fact; everyone would be too preoccupied with the baseball game to bother Kevin. He’d be blissfully alone for hours.
He hums quietly and tunlessly under his breath as he works, carefully placing potatoes and carrots into their respective baskets. It’s strangely therapeutic, and Kevin cannot understand why Elder Schrader doesn’t enjoy doing this. Then again, Elder Schrader probably isn’t as fucked up as he is.
Kevin turns around to see Connor stood behind him, his hands deep in his pockets. Kevin shakes his head - partly at Connor, partly at himself - and picks the two baskets up.
“Please, I just want to talk.” Connor says hastily, “We can’t ignore each other for the rest of our mission,”
Kevin tuts and sidesteps Connor, hurrying back towards the hut.
“Elder Price, I just want to-”
Groaning, Kevin thrusts the baskets of food into Connor’s arms and reaches into his pockets, pulling out his notepad.
I’m not a charity case.
“I never for one minute thought that you were!” Connor exclaims indignantly.
Then why did I say that I was fragile? Why did you treat me like a child?
Connor sighs, “Kevin, it really amazes me how someone can be so intelligent yet so stupid at the same time!”
“I like you, you big dope!” Connor exclaims, “I like you, but you’ve never come out to me, or, as far as I’m aware, anyone ! You even told me you weren’t having gay thoughts! I wasn’t prepared to be the creepy gay guy who tries to make out with any guy who just glances his way!”
Kevin stares at him, his notebook hanging limply in his fingers.
“I’m sorry, Kevin, I shouldn’t have said anything. I should have - gosh, I don’t know why - sorry. Turn it off! I’ll just go and -” he sighs and then plasters a very obviously fake smile onto his face, “Thank-you for picking the vegetables, Elder Price, it’s really appreciated,”
“Wait, I-” Kevin says, “I - I...I don’t - I don’t know if I’m gay,”
Connor nods and smiles sadly.
“I don’t want to be that guy, Kevin. I hope you understand,”
Kevin doesn’t think that he understands anything anymore.
Kevin shifts uncomfortably in his seat. He’s back in Connor’s office, who is sat behind his desk and very obviously avoiding making eye contact with Kevin. And Kevin can’t work out whether he wants to make eye contact with Connor or not. Mafala is sat besides Nabulungi whilst Arnold stands besides Gotswana, both of whom look uncharacteristically stressed.
“Alright,” Connor says, “Elder Gotswana has...he has an idea that I am happy to say yes to as district leader, but I don’t want to say yes to anything without the rest of you agreeing, especially since Naba and Mafala basically run this district with me,”
“What is it?” Arnold asks.
“It’s about...it’s about the General,”
Kevin’s head snaps up to look at Connor, already halfway out of his seat.
“Elder Pri - Kevin , please, I know this will be difficult for you but it is really important that you are here for this. I don’t want to do anything in relation to the General without your permission. Your opinion is very important to me,”
There’s something about the way that Connor looks at him and speaks to him that makes Kevin sit back down.
“Gotswana has suggested that we send the General on a mission , so to speak,” Connor explains, “that we sent him to another village to...’ spread the word ,’”
“I know of a place close to Kampala. The police would be able to watch over him, should they need to,” Gotswana interjects.
“I don’t see a problem with it,” Arnold says, casting a wary look over at Kevin.
“No, neither do I,” Nabulungi says.
“Kevin?” Mafala asks, “What do you think?”
“Would he really be gone?” he asks, his voice quiet.
“Yes,” Gotswana says, “for two years,”
“Then - Then yes. I think that it's a good idea,”
Two days later, the General is gone, and when Kevin is sat outside at night, he thinks that the moon is shining a little brighter than usual.
Kevin sits in his new favourite hideout: down the side of the mission hut, behind bushes that are so overgrown, they hide even him. He can hear and see everything around him and it makes him feel in control.
Only today feels different because he can’t hear the sounds of the baseball game, even though it’s Sunday. He isn’t exactly sure what compels him to go and investigate the lack of sound, but he finds himself walking to their makeshift baseball pitch, anyway.
“It’s not my fault we have to cancel it!” Connor snaps at Neeley, “Poptarts and Church aren’t here! We’re two people down!”
“We’d only be one person down if you played!” Neeley snaps back.
Connor rolls his eyes, “There’s no point in me playing because first of all, I’ve never played baseball in my life. Second of all, even if I could, it wouldn’t matter because we’re still a person down!”
“I used to be the captain of my school's baseball team,” Kevin blurts out.
Connor turns around to face him, “Oh...I, oh...”
“Are you gonna play, buddy?” Arnold asks excitedly.
Even though Kevin doesn’t really want to play and regrets ever speaking in the first place, it’s a bit hard to say no when Arnold looks so happy. Quite the contrast to the way that Kevin had grown used to seeing his best friend looking in the past few months.
“Uh...I...yes. Yes - I’ll - sure,” Kevin mutters, running a hand through his hair, “I’ll play,”
“Hey, District Leader, looks like you’re first up to bat!” Zelder says brightly, handing him the bat.
Connor takes the bat, holding it away from his body as though it might hurt him and Kevin can't help but laugh at the sight.
“Are you laughing at me, Elder Price?” Connor asks, raising his eyebrows and smirking.
Kevin blushes and looks away, hurrying over to where Arnold is stood giggling. Immediately knowing what he was giggling about, Kevin punches him in the arm, but that only makes Arnold laugh louder.
“No, I really can’t do this!” Connor exclaims, cowering slightly as Kimbay throws the ball up and down, “I have no idea what I’m doing!”
“Scared, Elder?” Kimbay asks.
“Yes, actually, I’m terrified,” Connor says bluntly.
“Kevin can show you!” Nabulungi says, shoving him forward, “Can’t you, Kevin?”
“Oh, I, uh-” Kevin stammers, “I - OK. Sure. I can...I can help, sure,”
More than aware of the fact that his face is burning, Kevin walks over to Connor and awkwardly places his hands on Connor’s hips, twisting him around slightly. He moves as quickly as he can, moving his hands from Connor’s hips and to his wrists pulling his arms up.
“You need to, uh, you need to move your feet apart and b-bend your knees,” Kevin chokes out, “and move from your - your hips, or you’ll hurt your back,”
“Thank-you, Elder Price,” Connor says in a strained whisper, “This was - this was very helpful,”
“Clearly not that helpful,” Kevin mutters to himself when Connor swings the bat too early and completely misses the ball. Though, Kevin is quite sure that he hasn’t ever seen anything as adorable as Connor, shamefaced, puts his head in his hands as laughter rises up around him.
“Elder Price, please, take over,” Connor says, shoving the bat into Kevin’s hands, “I should just stick to being a cheerleader,”
“I don’t think I’ll be able to concentrate if you start dancing,” Kevin says, before he can stop himself. He feels his face heat up again, “Oh, no, I’m - I’m sorry. You said you didn’t want to - I shouldn’t have-”
Connor shakes his head, “Hey, Kevin, it’s fine. We’ll just talk about it later, OK?”
Kevin nods, “Yeah. OK,”
When Kevin hits a home run, he acts like Connor cheering for him doesn’t make him feel ridiculously good about himself.
The moon is shining brightly in the sky, surrounded by it’s audience of stars. Kevin Price sits in it’s light, feeling at peace. Peace is a feeling that he’s gotten quite used to feeling over the past few months, and he’s eager to keep it that way. Smiling at nothing in particular, Kevin takes a sip of his coffee and stretches his legs out from underneath him. Playing baseball every week had made him achy, but in the best way.
“Kevin, are you feeling up to talking?” Connor sits beside him, keeping a careful distance.
“I haven’t used my notepad in two weeks, Con,”
“Con?” Connor repeats.
Kevin blushes, “Sorry. I just...sorry,”
“It’s - It’s fine,” Connor says hurriedly, “I - um, I like it,”
They fall into silence and Kevin has to resist the urge to rest his head on Connor’s shoulder.
“Can we...can we actually talk?” Connor asks, turning to face Kevin.
“What about?” Kevin asks, trying to act as normal as possible even though he is quite sure that he knows exactly what Connor wants to talk about.
“You know what, Kev,” Conor sighs.
“Kev?” Kevin asks, raising his eyebrows.
“Don’t be smart with me, Price,” Connor mutters.
Kevin laughs, “I’m sorry,”
“Look, Kevin, I’m just going to be completely honest with you. I really, really like you and I would really like to try at something a little more than a friendship, but I do not want to force you into anything. I know that you’re a little confused about your sexuality and that you’ve been through a lot and that you’re still...you’re still recovering, but if you are...I just -” he groans, “Look, the last time we were in this sort of situation, I was in the wrong. I shouldn’t have called you fragile, because I don’t think that you are. I think that you’re one of the strongest people I've ever met and...and...well, you’re also quite attractive, which...you know, not the most important thing in the world but...well...I also like guys who are taller than me,”
“Isn’t everyone taller than you?” Kevin asks quietly.
“Kevin, please ,” Connor sighs, “I didn’t just pour my heart out to you for you to be sarcastic about it,”
“Connor, I - I, um...I -” Kevin takes a deep shuddering breath as his mind starts to go into overdrive, his thoughts tripping over themselves in his mind, “I - I want to, um - you’re very - I think you’re - oh, god...” he groans and runs his hand over his face, “I’m sorry.”
“It’s fine, Kevin,” Connor says, “It’s OK if you don’t feel the same,”
Kevin shakes his head and holds his hand up. He squeezes his eyes shut and forces himself to calm down, trying to force his thoughts into some sort of coherent structure.
“I agree with everything you just said,” he says finally.
“You agree with the fact that it’s OK if you don’t feel the same?” Connor asks.
“No. I...I like you,” Kevin mutters, his face burning, “and if that makes me gay, then I think I’m gay,”
“Congratulations, Kevin Price, you’re the first Mormon to come to that realisation that easily,”
“I don’t think I’m Mormon anymore,” Kevin admits.
“Does that mean you won’t feel guilty about kissing me?” Connor asks, shuffling towards him.
“Are you going to push me away this time?” Kevin asks, reaching out to place a hesitant hand on Connors knee.
Connor smiles and puts his hand on Kevin’s, squeezing it slightly.
The moon is pretty, but it has nothing on Connor McKinley.