It was just another week, another dinner and Jay at Gloria’s house. They’d already been there quite a long time and the children had disappeared off to the living room, leaving the adults sitting round the dining room table. While food had seemed like a definite possibility at one point, there was no sign of it. Instead the conversation was getting progressively louder as more and more wine was poured.
Somehow, the conversation had devolved into Claire and Mitchell reminiscing about old times, while Cameron, Jay, Phil, and Gloria added irrelevant comments. Because none of them could just listen. It was all “I remember, on the farm” this and “In Columbia” that.
“That was when I was dating Tony!” said Claire. “Remember that terrible dinner with the squid and the -”
“The pineapple!” Laughed Mitchell.
“Was that when you were dating… what’s his name? Y’know, with the awful hair?”
Mitchell laughed more. “Well I wasn’t dating him exactly, we were just -”
“Okay.” Said Jay, cutting across his son. “We don’t need to hear about that.”
Mitchell frowned, and would have said something if it hadn’t been for Phil suddenly saying “Can anyone else smell burning?”
Gloria jumped to her feet and dashed into the kitchen, everyone else following more slowly.
“Jay!” she yelled. “How did you let this happen?”
Mitchell, the last one into the kitchen, saw Gloria waving a tray of blackened something at Jay.
“It’s not my fault.” Said Jay. “Claire was supposed to be timing it!” It quickly devolved into a full on argument, with Gloria blaming Jay, Jay blaming Claire, Claire blaming Phil, and Phil claiming that it had nothing to do with him at all, while Cam tried and failed to be the voice of reason.
Eventually, Mitchell decided he’d had enough of them, and left the kitchen. It was too hot, and too loud. He stepped out into the darkness of the backyard, lit up only by the lights from the kitchen window. The night air was cool – as cool as it got in California at this time of year, anyway.
And then Cameron was behind him, talking, and Mitchell turned around but didn’t really listen. Something about getting a take out. Words. Hand gestures.
“I’m just.” said Mitchell. “What’s Jay’s problem? You heard him, right? ‘We don’t need to hear about that.’ What’s that supposed to mean?”
“I don’t know, but I don’t think it’s a big deal.” And then he kissed him, and Mitchell wanted to keep talking and overanalysing and maybe go confront his dad but he also wanted to be right where he was now, on that patio, kissing his boyfriend.
So he stayed. And for a while, he forgot to be angry. He forgot about Jay.
That is, until the back door opened and Jay and Claire stepped through it.
“Oh jeez.” Said Jay, and at the same time Claire made a surprised, strangled yelp. Mitchell was already springing away from Cam, straightening his shirt. He avoided their eyes, until Jay and Claire turned around and vanished back into the house.
“Oh god.” Said Mitchell. “Did you see their faces? This is even worse than that comment Dad made – they’re going to be so uncomfortable with this.”
“I’m sure they won’t be that bad.” How could Cameron be so over the top all of the time, except when he had an actual reason to freak out?
“Why aren’t you freaking out?” said Mitchell, desperately. “Aren’t you the one who’s supposed to be freaking out? Why doesn’t this stuff bother you? It’s like that time that Dad called you my ‘friend’!”
Cameron grabbed Mitchell’s hands in an attempt to make him stand still. “It’s not like that time, because nothing’s happened yet.” He reminded him. Still infuriatingly calm.
“Oh come on.” Said Mitchell. “You saw them.”
“I’m sure that was just their initial reaction, they’ll be fine once –”
“They won’t be fine, they’re going to be all awkward about it.”
“Wouldn’t you be awkward if you walked in on, say, Claire and Phil making out?”
Mitchell sighed. “I suppose.” He consented.
“Let’s go back and see what happens, okay?”
Dinner was awkward, because of course it was awkward. Mitchell didn’t know if it was because of the whole gay thing, or whether Cam had been right and it was just normal awkwardness; nevertheless, it was uncomfortable. Both Jay and Claire were avoiding meeting his eyes, while simultaneously trying to pretend that everything was normal. Both of them seemed to be overcompensating by talking more than usual. Claire started several long, seemingly pointless, stories about her children, before tailing off and starting to talk about something completely different.
“…and that’s how I found out that Haley and Dylan were going to the… Phil, can you pass the garlic bread?”
“Sure.” Phil reached for the plate, which involved him leaning right across Mitchell. Who was much closer to the bread. It was right next to him.
“Okay.” He said, not sure where he was going with this. “I understand that what happened was awkward, but I’m sick of the way you” he gestured vaguely towards Claire and Jay
“act about… everything.”
“What?” said Phil, looking lost.
Claire rolled her eyes. “Oh, come on!” she said. “Do you seriously think this is because you’re gay? It’s not like we haven’t had time to get used to it. I’m just uncomfortable because you’re my brother – seeing that would make anyone uncomfortable!”
At that moment, Alex and Haley walked round the corner and started refilling their drinks, barely noticed by the adults.
“You know I’m not homophobic.” Added Jay. Anymore, thought Mitchell, bitterly. “But I don’t need to see it!”
“That kinda sounds like something a homophobic person would say.” Alex muttered.
“You wouldn’t be overreacting like this if I was straight, though.” Said Mitchell. He stood up suddenly, in a way that he hoped was dramatic but probably just looked silly. “And it’s not just this, it’s all the little things. It’s your attitude. The way it’s fine as long as we’re just holding hands or whatever, but Claire and Phil can kiss in front of us all the time and it’s fine. It’s such a…”
“Double standard?” supplied Alex.
“That. And out of all of us, we’re the only ones who don’t have any accidental children!”
“Wait… what?” said Haley.
“I think we should go.” Said Cameron suddenly, getting to his feet. “I’m sure Lily’s very tired, she’s had a long day…” He disappeared round the corner, calling for Lily.
Awkward silence descended in the kitchen while Mitchell searched for something to say that would make literally anything better. Everyone else looked slightly shocked by his outburst.
“Look, I just think it’s unfair that-”
“We’re off now.” Said Cam, having reappeared pulling Lily behind him by the hand.
“But why do we have to go? I’m not tired!” she said.
“Thanks for having us.” Cam grabbed Mitchell’s hand with the one that wasn’t holding Lily’s, and led them both out of the front door.
“There was no way you were going to win that.” Said Cameron, in the car on the way home. “They’re both far too stubborn.”
“I know.” Mitchell sighed. “It’s just, I keep thinking that they’re finally fine with it and then something else happens. It gets on my nerves, you know?”
From the back seat, Lily said “911? I’m gonna need a wambulance.”
Mitchell couldn’t help laughing. “We really need to stop her from saying that.”
“She gets it from you. And your family.” Said Cam.
They were quiet for the rest of the short drive back to their house, as Mitchell turned the evening’s events over in his mind. He was right to be angry, wasn’t he? His family reacted to seeing him kissing Cam in a way they never would if he was straight.
But they’d come a long way – especially Jay. He had to give them that.
Lily ran off towards her bedroom as soon as they were inside, leaving Cam and Mitchell alone in the living room.
“Okay?” said Cam.
“Yeah.” Said Mitchell. “I think I overacted.”
“Well, one of us has to.” Said Cam, and kissed him.