Bittersweet Irish Cream Ch. 14
"I'm actually going to miss this stupid bar," June said. "Although I barely got to drink in it. I feel like all the exciting things happen here."
Jack, who was still struggling to let his little sister go, said hopefully, "Well you can always stay here and keep working for H&R Block."
June rolled her eyes at him. "H&R Block is not paying for my Masters degree and CPA, this accounting firm is." But then reached over and touched his hand, and said lovingly, "It will be just like when I was in college. We'll see each other all the time. Either you will come down or we'll come up. I'm still your Junie, Jack."
"I know," he said not so confidently. "I just want you to be ok, you know?"
"She will be," Liam said. "I'll make sure of it. She'll be a Ferguson soon, and that will be my responsibility to take care of her."
Jack was surprised."I thought you were going to hyphenate."
June laughed. "Are you kidding? June Elizabeth Redmond-Frazier-Ferguson?"
"Ok, that does sound a little crazy," Jack said and they laughed.
"No, I just want to be June Ferguson," she said "Shed all these names and start fresh with something new." She smiled at Liam and he leaned over to kiss her lips.
Toward the end of their dinner Ethan noticed before Jack did that Connor's family was coming in for dinner. "I hate that sonofabitch," he said, glaring at Connor's father. "I don't think I've ever hated anyone as much as I hate him."
Jack, who was also looking at their table, said, "Owen McIntyre is an old man set in his racist and homophobic ways, but he doesn't go after people. Matty is worse. He's a prejudice instigator and antagonizer. Rockville's very own Richard Spencer. He sets little fires and watches them burn, and doesn't care who he hurts. Someone should put that dog down."
When he turned back Ethan, Liam and June all looked at him intently. "I said someone, I didn't say me. Stop it," he said exasperated. They all started laughing.
About 15 minutes later Ethan nudged Jack. "You're bestie is looking a little white girl wasted, don't you think?"
Jack turned to watch Connor walk in with a drunken gait and slouch in the nearest chair at the table with his family. Liam shook his head. "I haven't seen him since your birthday in April. His family still doesn't know?"
"Nope," Jack said. "And after their last family dinner in February I'm surprised Connor even came to this one. He took Ethan's words to heart and hasn't been back to the house or seen any of them since then as far as I know, and it's been four months. So if he's fucked up right now, I don't blame him."
"It's about time he walked away from them," Liam said. "He-"
"Hey guys!" Connor yelled over to their table, just noticing them. He motioned for them to come over and Ethan shook his head no.
"No fucking way I'm going over there," Ethan said. "But you should, Jack. He needs you."
Connor gave them a please sign with his hands and Jack laughed. Liam said, "I'll go with you." They walked over together.
"Hey Liam! Heeeeeeeeeey Jack!" Connor said happily. Liam laughed.
"Hey bud," Jack said lovingly. "You think you had enough to drink today?"
"Maaaaaaaaybe!" Connor laughed making them both laugh.
Jack said, "Wow, ok."
Connor's father growled at them, "Have you forgotten how to address an elder when you come to a table?"
Liam spoke first. "Sorry sir. Good evening, and happy birthday Angie. Hello McIntyre family."
Jack said his hello's, then said to Angie, "That's right. Your birthday is right behind June's. We're celebrating June's birthday too, just finishing up. We're headed back-"
"No staaaaaaay, with meeeee!" Connor whined. He grabbed Jack's arm.
Just then Afia came rushing in. "Sorry everyone for being late," she said. Afia had agreed to come at Angie's request, not as Connor's date. She greeted Angie first and handed her a card, and she sat next to Connor saying very cordially and distantly, "Hello, everyone."
"There's my girl!!" Connor squealed. She slowly turned to him and her eyes narrowed. She knew what Jack and Liam knew, that he was drunk as a skunk.
Jack figured that since Afia was there Connor would be ok and she'd take care of him as she's always done even though she was married now. "We're going to head back. Have a good evening, everyone," Jack said. He and Liam went back to the table.
Ethan watched the whole exchange shaking his head and said to them, "I'm calling, Mel. This is not going to end well."
He stood up and said, "You two," pointing at Jack and Liam, "Keep an eye on your friend and make sure he doesn't do anything stupid. Get him home safe. I don't even want to know how he got here. June, let me take you home."
"No problem," said June. "I've seen Connor drunk and it's not pretty at all."
Ethan kissed Jack on the lips and June did the same to Liam, then they headed out. Jack shifted his chair around so they can both keep one eye on Connor. And sure enough, within five minutes they heard Connor yell, "SHUT THE FUCK UP!" Not sure who it was meant for, Jack and Liam looked at each other and got up at the same time to head to the table.
"Connor, leave this table now," his father ordered him, standing up.
Connor stood up and swayed a bit saying angrily, "What, you're going to break my fucking ribs again if I don't?" Jack and Liam exchanged glances at each other again.
"Oh God Connor, not right now," Mary Kate said, embarrassed.
"Then when MK? WHEN?" he yelled at his sister.
Jack touched Connor's arm and he jerked it away from him. Jack turned him around and grabbed both his shoulders roughly but said calmly, "Let me take you home, Connor."
"Oh no, don't do that, you might end up with a finger in your butt," Matty joked.
Jack glared at him but Liam answered nastily, "Matty, fuck off! Fuck all the way off with your bitch ass."
"The only bitches I see are the three of you," he said. "Three fucking butt buddies."
Connor's mother stood up and yelled, "Ok enough! Matthew, shut up. Jack, please take Connor home, he's hurting right now." Then she looked around as her own voice carried. "Oh God, we are such an embarrassment." She slid back down in her chair.
Angie came around the table to Connor and hugged him. "Are you ok, Connor? I'm sorry I asked you to come. I know how you're feeling right now. You don't have to be here anymore, you can go."
Connor said dreamily, "You're so beautiful, Angie. You're the prettiest thing in the world right now."
Liam started laughing. "Fucking A, we gotta get him out of here," he said to Jack. Jack nodded and started pulling Connor away from the table as they heard his siblings talking.
"All this because Afia got married?" Mary Kate whispered to Matty.
Matty nodded. "As if that black bitch is even worth it," he said.
Connor moved at lighting speed. He yanked out of Jack's hand on his arm, reached over the table to grab his brother by his shirt and started punching his head.
"Holy shit!" Liam exclaimed as they both tried to pry Connor off Matty.
But Connor was much stronger than he appeared to be and would not let go of Matty's collar, choking him as he continued to punch him in the face and head, literally growling. It took Jack, Liam, and Sam who had been watching from the bar and quickly ran over, to pry Connor off him as his mother and sisters screamed.
They pulled Connor to a nearby table and made him sit down. Matty sat there with red splotches all over his face and a swollen right eye, yelling and cursing, but smart enough to stay on the other side of the table.
Jack leaned over and looked him in the eyes. "Connor, what the fuck? I'm taking you home, now." Connor just shrugged and looked away.
Afia and Angie came over. "Happy birthday to me?" Angie said sarcastically.
"C'mon, you and I both know he deserved to get punched in the fucking mouth," Connor said, flexing his hand. She laughed and they all kind of chuckled, no one disagreeing with Connor.
Afia ran her hands through Connor's hair. "Still protecting me?" she said softly.
"Always," Connor said seriously, looking up at her.
Connor's parents came walking over and he stood up. His father said to him, "Get your shit together, Connor. You're falling apart over a woman as if her lady parts were made of gold."
He shrugged. "Except I'm not interested in her lady parts." And then laughed hysterically in his father's face saying, "I haven't been interested in lady parts since the beginning of senior year with Mina."
Jack's eyes went wide and Liam busted out laughing saying, "Holy shit!" Jack did not know that Connor was sleeping with him and his own cousin, who is now his sister since her parents adopted him, at the same time.
Connor's eyes went wide too, realizing he said something he shouldn't have. "Oh shit. I'm sorry, Jack. We had that fight, remember, and you stopped talking to me and I just wanted to know how it felt again, but I didn't mean to cheat on you. I'm so so sorry."
He leaned over to hug him as Liam and Afia laughed, her hands hiding her face embarrassed for him. Jack went a little red but patted his back and said, "It's ok, Connor. Just...let me take you home."
Katherine, his mother asked, "Wait, what does that mean? And why are you apologizing to Jack? What are you saying, Connor?"
And in Connor's drunken state all he could think of was, how could they still not know?
"Ok, let me do this with a little fanfare," said Connor. "Hey Mom, guess what?" He did a Fred Astaire type dance, spun around and announced very loudly,
"I'M GAY!" Then he started laughing hysterically again.
"HOLY SHIT!" Liam exclaimed for the third time that night and started laughing with him. Jack's mouth dropped open.
"Oh my God, Connor," Afia said as she slapped both hands over her mouth again, but then she started laughing with him too. She looked at Jack who started laughing and it set off a chain reaction of Sam and even Angie laughing, who Jack now suspects knew about Connor's sexuality too.
The other members of his family remain shocked as Connor's father was stone faced and turning red and his mother was frantically yelling, "Stop it! Stop it Connor, you stop this right now!"
Mary Kate, who was standing between Connor and Matty, told him what Connor said. Matty started yelling, "I knew it! I knew he was fucking fag! Pussy ass bitch!"
Connor continued to laugh until his father came toward him with clenched fists. He stopped laughing immediately and eyes went wide with fear as he stepped back, but BJ came out of nowhere and stood between them shaking his head.
"No way, Staff Sergeant Sir. Not here. Not now. Not ever," he said sternly to Owen and crossed his arms.
Then in his booming voice he said to Connor's brother who was still screaming obscenities, "Hey Matty, SHUT THE FUCK UP!"
When everyone was a little quieter he said, "Now. What's going to happen right now is that Staff Sergeant McIntyre and Mrs. McIntyre, I think you should go. We'll take care of Connor, make sure he gets home.
"Angie, stay, celebrate the rest of your birthday, on us. Afia and Mary Kate, you're welcomed to stay too.
"Matty, get the fuck out of my bar."
Connor's parents glared at him but then his father took his mother's arm forcefully and led her out the bar. Matty paused, but then BJ pointed to him then at the door to let him know he was serious so Matty angrily followed his parents out.
As soon as they left Connor sat in the nearest seat and began to wring his hands, and Afia came to stand between his legs. Without a word, he reached over and carefully hugged her midsection, and started sobbing loudly. Jack put his hand on one of his shoulders while Liam touched the other as he let out a painful cry. They looked at each other over Connor's head, both of them having tears of their own in their eyes threatening to come out.
Jack looked over at Afia who had tears rolling down her face, crying silently in contrast to Connor's loud sobbing. It was as if 12 years of holding onto Connor's secret took an emotional toll on them all. He reached over and grabbed her free hand as she stroked Connor's hair, comforting her best friend. The three of them silently agreed to let him cry for as long as he wanted and needed.
Eventually he looked up at Afia and said through his tears, "I did, Lovie. I told them. Aren't you proud of me?"
Afia continued to stroke his hair and said, "I'm so, so proud of you, Connor. You did great."
When Connor's crying subsided and he was able to stand on his own, Jack reached into Connor's pocket and grabbed his car keys, stunned that he made it from home to the bar without killing anyone with his drunk driving.
After he said goodbye to his sisters, Afia took one hand and Jack took the other, and with Liam behind them they led him out of Red Rock Bar and Grill. Matty was on the phone outside the bar talking angrily to someone and they all just glared at him.
Then Jack heard Connor say his name, "Mel."
They all followed his gaze as Connor's partner Jamel crossed the street from where he was standing. He knew Connor was to see his parents again for the first time in months and had been worried about him all day.
Jamel stopped just short of him, keeping his hands in his pockets and spoke. "I was already on my way here from work when Ethan called me," he said. "Said you were 'white girl wasted' and to come get you before you do something you'll regret tomorrow."
"Too late?" Connor cringed and laughed, making them all laugh again.
Jack told him, "He sort of...came out to his family."
Jamel's eyes went wide. "Oh shit. Okay." He turned back to Connor. "You ok, baby?" Connor did not respond, instead walked up to Jamel, wrapped his arms around his back and leaned into his neck.
Jamel and Jack exchanged looks of surprise at Connor's open affection for him but he quickly wrapped his arms around him and rubbed his back. Then Connor moved his face up to Jamel's, reaching up around his neck giving his lover a drunken, sloppy, passionate tongue kiss in front of the bar, making Jack stifle a laugh and smiling widely as Afia nudged him, also smiling widely.
"Well alrighty then," Liam said and he and Jack stifled laughs again. Connor was officially Out.
Then they heard Matty's voice screaming at Connor, "You fucking faggot! Is that your fucking boyfriend? A nigger and a faggot?" He started walking toward them.
Afia who was the closest moved toward him to block his path saying, "No Matthew, go ho-"
It happened in slow motion for Jack, in three seconds. In the first, he saw Afia stand in Matty's path. In the second, he watched Matty shove her hard and Afia fell to the ground. Very few people knew that Afia was pregnant and that push alone enraged him. In the third, he saw Matty hawk-spit and it landed on her. Jack saw red and instantly reacted.
Matty looked down at her and said, "You stupid monkey bitch," and was immediately met with a fist to the jaw, and then another one right behind it as Jack began plummeting his friend's older brother in the face, repeatedly.
Matty grabbed Jack's shirt and started fighting back but Liam gave him an elbow to the face and tripped him. Then he stood back as Jack punched and kicked the shit out of Matty while Connor, Jamel, Afia and other Red Rock patrons watched.
Someone called the police and they came to break up the fight, arresting all three and taking statements from their friends.
* * * * *
Ethan was laying on the couch watching TV with baby Jackie on his bare chest sleeping and waiting for Jack to get home when his phone rang and it was Jamel. "Hey, what's up? Connor's ok?" he asked.
"Sooooo, you should meet me at the police station on Roosevelt Avenue. Do you know where it is?"
Ethan sat up a little straighter with one hand on his three-month-old daughter's back. "What the fuck happened?"
Jamel explained about Connor's coming out which ended in Jack beating Matty up with Liam's help and getting arrested for disorderly conduct. Ethan listened, shaking his head the whole time. "I'll meet you there in 20 minutes," Ethan said, then called Jack's mother.
"Ma Marie, I'm so sorry to bother you at this late hour, but do you mind coming back over and keeping an eye on the kids again? They're both asleep, but I have to go and bail your son out of jail."
Marie sighed. "Oh Ethan, if I had a dollar for every time I heard that.... I'll be right there."
Ethan and Jamel went to the police station and were ushered down to see Liam and Jack laying on the benches behind bars. They both stood up and came toward the gate as the officer opened it. Liam walked out first but Ethan stood in Jack's way and leaned against the gated doorway with his arms folded across his chest. They stared at each other then Jack rolled his eyes and walked back to the cell wall with his hands in his jeans pockets, and leaned against the wall.
Ethan started, "All you had to do was take Connor home and keep him out of trouble. What the fuck, Jack?" Liam and Jamel looked at each other, then quietly left the room.
"What do you want me to say?" Jack said. "He spit on Afia, called her a monkey bitch. And that was after he called Jamel the N word and Connor a fag. If I had my gun on me I would have shot him in the fucking neck," he said seriously.
"You cannot go around beating the shit out of people, even if they really deserve it," Ethan said sternly. "Why the fuck do I have to tell you this at 27-years-old?"
"Fuck off Ethan, you almost beat the shit out of Connor's father that day in his house and you know it," Jack said hotly.
Ethan sighed. "Yea, you're right. But instead I took my son and I left. Because as much as he deserved me putting my foot in his ass for the shit he was saying, EJ was right there and I couldn't let one asshole take me out of my character."
"Well maybe this my character," Jack said. "Maybe I'm my father's son. Maybe I am Red Jackie and always will be."
Ethan was quiet for a moment, then said, "You're a father now, Jack. You have to set an example for your son and now your daughter. If that's not enough reason to not be Red Jackie, then I don't know what is."
Jack softened and sighed. Ethan moved closer to him and put both hands on his neck, rubbing his cheeks with his thumbs. "I'm just asking you to think for a quick second before you react violently. I'm just asking you to find the non-violent way most of the time, not even all of the time, but just most of the time. Can you do that for me? For EJ? For Jackie?"
"I hear you Ethan. I do," Jack said. He leaned into Ethan's shoulder and Ethan held him. "It felt good though. It felt good to punch a prejudiced asshole. Repeatedly. You should try it."
Ethan laughed and kissed him on the lips. "Let's go home so I can put some ice on that obvious shiner you're gonna have for a week."
* * * * *
A couple of days later Ethan was feeding Jackie with a bottle while he and Jack, and EJ were watching a TV show right before dinner. Jack's phone rang and it was his father.
"Jack," Henry said. "You'll never believe who is sitting in front of me. Christopher Jennings."
Jack sat up straight on the couch, his heart pounding out of his chest. Ethan thought something was wrong and asked him, "What happened?"
Jack said in the phone, "Chris Jennings? Sam and BJ's cousin Chris? From Albania?"
"The very same one. He wants to talk to you." And before Jack could say another word, Henry passed along the phone.
"Jack," Chris called his name in his European accent.