"Secrets and Lies"
The fallout does come and boy does it come, quickly. Half the clan decides that since she's not biologically related to them, she's no longer part of the family. They'll remain friends of course; Rebecca has been too privy to their internal struggles to be just another acquaintance now, but a line's drawn and she's on the other side of it.
The other half, the half with Kitty and Nora and absurdly, Tommy, thinks blood is all well and good but she's been part of the family for the last year and a half and that's enough for them. She was one of Kitty's bridesmaids and she's seen them at their worst. She helped pull Justin out of his second battle with addiction and been witness to more than a few family fights. Even without the genetic relation she's become so entwined with them that unwinding all the emotional connection isn't possible or desirable anymore.
Kitty tells her as much when she drops by her place a few days after for a coffee before work; tells her in no uncertain terms she's not getting out of being an aunt to her future child that easily. Then Tommy asks in that quiet, retiring way of his whether she's able to baby-sit Elizabeth so he can take Julia out to a romantic dinner; it's his way of letting her know where he stands.
She's never had much affinity with Tommy, but she's so overcome she hugs him on the spot.
Nora blithely ignores the whole episode; her only concession is to take Rebecca to lunch the day after to tell her, point blank with that frank stare, that they were never related to begin with so this doesn't impact her that much, anyway. They'll go on just the way they always have, and would Rebecca please check on Justin because he's been in a real mood lately and no one knows what's going on with him.
Rebecca brushes past the Justin issue, murmurs she'll try. She gets the feeling Nora prefers their relationship this way. She's no longer the bastard daughter of her cheating husband cast in her face day after day but a sweet, lonely girl she's adopted because, well, just because she can.
So everyone's position is clear. Justin though, hasn't decided. Or maybe he has but hasn't bothered to tell anyone, least of all her. He continues to avoid her which she'd understood at first but now just plain irritates her and now her temper is flaring, just like it always does.
She wishes he'd slap her, do something, anything, beyond that last conversation they'd shared. She can't stand silence from the man who had brought laughter and companionship into her life since coming back to LA; can't stand to think she no longer has the privilege of guessing his thoughts, feelings, hopes and dreams.
She'd thought that given time, he'd come round. To hate or love her, she doesn't know. But he doesn't, and she can't stand it.
Nora's concern gives Rebecca an excuse to invade Justin's territory; she hasn't come to the house except for family dinners but today, she'd decided, is the day.
He can't run from her forever.
She finds him in his room, the music on full blast. It explains why he doesn't respond when she knocks on the door, and even when she unceremoniously bursts into the room, he doesn't look up to acknowledge her.
She strides into the room, pulls off his earphones with fervor. "I'm sorry, you weren't answering the door."
He continues to stare at his CDs, scattered over the bed. Finally looks up, eyes devoid of humor, or anger, or anything for that matter. "I heard you."
She swallows. Okay. This is going to be harder than she'd expected. But she's Rebecca Harper; she doesn't take shit like this, not from Justin anyway. "Oh, okay. Well that gives me an excuse to skip the small talk." She shoves the CDs away from his eye line, forcing his eyes onto her. "Can you start talking to me now?"
When she thinks about it later, she realizes Justin was probably already on the edge. Teetering on it, keeping everything in check, until she'd came along to shove him wholeheartedly into the abyss.
He slides off the bed, straightens to his full height. His face is paler than usual, lips pursed until he speaks. Anger, fury, roll from him in waves. "Oh I can, can I? Talk to my fake sister? Thanks. Thanks for your permission."
He's spoiling for a fight, but guess what? So is she. And they've always been able to push each other's buttons. "What's your problem?"
"What's my problem?" He laughs in derision. "You're not seriously asking me that?"
"If you have a problem with me, just say it. Stop acting like a baby."
"I'm acting like a baby? Are you seriously saying this to me? You lied to me, to everyone and you want to know what my problem is?!"
"Yes Justin, I'm seriously asking you. I'm seriously asking you to talk to me because you've been too afraid to do it for two months!"
So they fight. They haven't fought for a long time. He knows precisely what to say; brings up mean, hurtful, spiteful things that get expelled from him in bursts of anger that grow exponentially with every second they fight. She's caustic and fiery by turns, admits her guilt but refuses to back down until he tells her everything he wants to, tells her exactly what he's thinking and feeling and God, can he stop and look at her, really look at her and tell her point blank how awful a person she knows she is?
They yell and scream and yeah, it's not really a typical Justin-Rebecca fight anymore, but something else, something more.
"Justin, I lied. I know. I messed up. I'm guilty, I'm bad, I'm a liar, I shouldn't be allowed to live. I know, okay? I know. Just stop avoiding me and talk to me." She can't help it, but her voice breaks, just a little. "Talk to me."
"I'm not avoiding you." As suddenly as his anger flared, it's gone. He sits at the edge of the bed, sagging into it. His head knocks back against the wall.
He looks lost, like a sailor thrown overboard; tethered to emotions he's trying desperately to keep from floating to the surface. "I … want to talk to you. I miss you. But – I don't know how. I don't know how to talk to a you who's not my sister."
She wants to touch him. In bygone days she would've done so, comfort him with a hand on the shoulder, whisper the right words. But she's afraid those days are gone now.
She soothes her helplessness by sitting next to him. "Are you okay?"
Her voice is soft; she didn't know it would come out that way. She sounds brittle, scared even. What is she scared of?
"Yeah." His head ducks down; staring at his hands. They sit there, side by side, never touching, not speaking. She has so much to say to him and yet she knows, knows this isn't the time.
She thinks he's not over the shock yet, the shock of losing a sister. She can empathize because she's lost a brother too. Of all everyone, it goes without saying that Justin is by far the most important member of the family to her.
She admits as they sit in the suffocating silence that she can't lose him, not ever. He'd been the first to accept her into the family, the first to fight for her right to be a Walker. He'd taught her to surf, to laugh at herself, have fun and be nice to others.
She can't lose him.
The rehabilitation of their friendship is slow, awkward even. The casual touches and intimate glances they'd taken for granted as a sibling's imperative are now, if not forbidden, awkward and loaded with meaning.
It makes sense; their intimacy is returning in rapid waves but they no longer have any justification for it. They're in unchartered waters and it shows.
At least Nora is happy that Justin seems to be returning to his normal self. She beams at Rebecca when Justin plants himself in his old seat at the dinner table, like she'd somehow orchestrated Justin's returning mood. He's there when Sarah and Saul and Kevin arrives with Scotty and they all just stare at her like she doesn't belong at a family dinner, though they are (surprisingly) too polite to say it outright.
Well, she doesn't belong. She knows it and would've stayed away but Nora and Justin had insisted she continue to come. Nora has obviously pulled all the strings she could find because it's an atypical family dinner; no shouting or fighting or anything of the sort erupts which Rebecca finds unnatural and unsettling, like the other very large shoe is about to drop.
It doesn't, so she guesses it'll drop another day.
She makes a point the next week to drop by Kevin's office; she'd made an appointment so she wouldn't be ambushing him with her presence. Since his secretary didn't cancel on her, Rebecca figures it's okay to turn up.
"What can I do for you today, Rebecca?" She's so used to him scowling and frowning his way through everything that his chirpiness throws her for a loop. Her expression must betray her surprise because he smiles, self-consciously. "Oh, this?" He points to his expression. "I'm just having a good day. Scotty and I, it's great – don't worry, it isn't contagious. I'll get over it soon enough."
She laughs, nervously and blurts, apropos of nothing. "I want to give back the money."
He blinks. It's the only expression of surprise he betrays. "Oh-kay." He shuffles some papers in front of him, lines them up in order. "What money?"
"Your dad's money. The money he left for me in his will." The 2 million trust fund she'd inherited from William Walker, not at all her rightful dad. It's somehow important she give it back, if she has any chance of being accepted by them, again.
Kevin plays things close to his chest, so she can't tell whether he's floored or not. It takes him a few moments to recover, which is a sign, whether good or bad she doesn't know. "Okay, that's ah – not possible."
"Yes it is." To say she's confused would be an understatement.
"No, I mean, it is – possible that is. Legally, you can just make a gift to a member of the family, but it's – well …" She looks at him, quizzically. "All right, I'm going to come right out and say it. Mom's going to kill me if I let that happen, so, well, sorry. You're not worth incurring her wrath for. I'll need her on my side one of these days."
Rebecca's flabbergasted. It's an ugly word but there it is, nothing could have described her reaction at that moment. "I want to give you money and you're saying no? It's 2 million, that kind of money doesn't just – grow on trees. You of all people should know that."
"Yeah, yeah … I know. But … yeah. Just … I don't know, give it to charity or something if you feel guilty about it. Or invest in Ojai. That's kind of like giving it to charity."
"No – no …" It made her pause. Did she feel guilty about inheriting money that now isn't rightfully hers? She isn't sure, really, whether her need to give the money away is motivated by anything other than a desire to clean the decks or the slate or whatever thing it is that needs cleaning.
He stands, signaling the meeting's over. But at least he's smiling, eyes twinkling even. "I'm sorry Rebecca. I get where you're coming from, but I can't help you. But if you want to start being a do gooder and set up a charity, I can draw up the papers for you."
She returns his smile, still bewildered. "Thanks Kevin." Something in his demeanor, a curious mixture of chagrin and amusement, gnaws at her.
"Did you know I was going to come and ask you about this?" She doesn't know how; she hadn't told a soul, not even Justin or Nora, that she was planning it.
There's several moments of sheepish silence, before Kevin finally breaks down. "Okay, okay. Under no circumstances are you to tell him I said this, but Justin totally called it."
It's Rebecca's turn to look confused. "Excuse me?"
"Justin totally called it with Tommy when they were surfing the other day. He said – in Tommy's words, which I admit isn't the most reliable in the world but hey, what can you do –"
"Oh, right. Actually Tommy didn't say much, just that Justin mentioned how he expected you to do something, prove you're not a gold digger or whatever word he used. He thought you'd try doing something out there to makes things better or okay … or something."
She smiles despite herself, but takes care to frown and cross her arms. She closes her eyes in seeming exasperation for dramatic effect. "You guys bet on this, didn't you?"
His shrug is the only answer she needs. "In my defense, I'm a lawyer, I can't imagine anyone wanting to give money away –"
She can't help it, she laughs. "Okay, okay. It's okay. If you guys can accept –" Is there even a word for what has happened? "If you guys can accept the unrelation, then I'm okay with you … doing whatever you guys … do." She pauses. "I can't believe you bet against me."
She's grinning and even Kevin's smiling and wow, this is a weird course her life is taking. "I know I shouldn't have bet against Justin. You guys are tight. But the odds were so good."
Instead of taking offence, she sticks her tongue out. "Serves you right. I hope Justin and Tommy won big off you."
"I can't believe you wanted to give that money back."
"I can't believe you bet against Kevin that I wouldn't!"
"You're too easy to read sometimes."
They're at the beach, surfing. Or more accurately, Justin is surfing and Rebecca only attempting to do the same.
She should cut herself some slack. She's only a beginner, a veritable novice and Justin, like all the elder Walkers (according to him anyway), had been reared with a surfboard in their horizon, even if they hadn't actually taken that well to it.
She remembers that morning when he'd taken her out to surf. It'd been god awfully early and all she had wanted to do was to sleep and sleep and forget about the horrible nightmare of not being part of that family. But he'd promised and coaxed and charmed, and in the end his smile and enthusiasm had won out. She'd stood on a surfboard later that day and got crushed by wave upon wave, but she'd done it because she was a Walker and that's what Walkers do.
She couldn't believe that was three months ago. Time flies even when she isn't having the least bit of fun.
She wants to know how he guessed what she'd do, but maybe that's a question for yet another day. "It felt like the right thing to do." Her voice is airy and unconcerned, but she suspects he knows how big a decision it had been for her.
He murmurs agreement, but doesn't say anything else. Instead, he helps her with her wetsuit, not brushing fingers against bare skin as he zips it up for her. His eyes are bright and twinkling in the dawning sunshine when he spins, surfboard in hand.
"Come on, Harper. Surf's up and you need to get a lot better if you're going to get a voluntary induction into the Walker family."
It's early, way too early to stir Rebecca up like this. He knows it and she knows he knows it, but she guesses that's the point. "Oh no, you didn't just say that."
"I did." He doesn't resort to sticking out his tongue, but she knows it's the sentiment that counts anyway. "What're you going to do about it?"
What is she going to do about it? She doesn't know; only knows that if Walkers surfed, even though she knew that wasn't strictly a hundred percent true, then by god she'd surf and be great at it.
Because that's what Walkers do.