Part 1 of The Lies We Told Each Other
Top Gun (Movies), Thunderheart (1992)
Tom "Iceman" Kazansky/Pete "Maverick" Mitchell, Sarah Kazansky/Tom "Iceman" Kazansky, Sarah Kazansky/Tom "Iceman" Kazansky/Pete "Maverick" Mitchell, Walter Crow Horse/Ray Levoi
Tom "Iceman" Kazansky, Pete "Maverick" Mitchell, Carole Bradshaw, Sarah Kazansky, Jake "Hangman" Seresin, Bradley "Rooster" Bradshaw, Ron "Slider" Kerner, Ray Levoi, Walter Crow Horse, Grandpa Samuel Reaches, Original Child Character(s)
Trans Male Character, Unplanned Pregnancy, Secret Relationship, Polyamory, Tom "Iceman" Kazansky Lives
The deployment order arrives: Commander Pete "Maverick" Mitchell will report to Norfolk as Squadron Leader on the USS Enterprise on Tuesday, August 7.
They leave on Tuesday, July 31, at mid-morning. The plan is to arrive at the University of Virginia on Friday or Saturday.
"Come back to us, love," Tom whispers as Sarah kisses him on the cheek.
"Always," Pete promises before ending the hug.
"Ready to fly from the nest, baby Goose?"
Bradley can't help but smile as he starts the engine. The answer will be the same always.
"Mav, I'm not a baby anymore. I'm seventeen years old!"
Chapter 14: 2001, July
It's Thursday, and Sarah took Sam, Jake, and Sean to the reservation for the summer solstice ceremony. Brad is with friends from his school. They know their group will fan out to colleges nationwide in the fall, so they rush through summer vacation with poorly concealed angst. They are alone in the house, resting in bed after a long, slow love-making.
Tom is lying on his back, with his hands behind his head and his legs slightly spread. He feels pleasantly tired. His body relaxed after the three orgasms that Pete extracted from him. He can feel the cum slowly dripping out of his pussy. The humidity bothers him a little, but not enough for him to go to the bathroom. Also, he doesn't want to move his husband.
Pete is on Ice's left side, his head, one arm, and part of his chest resting on his torso. The hairs on Ice's chest move back and forth with his breathing, like a miniature wheat field. This morning's energetic activity has left him drowsy, but he is not sleepy. The awareness that this time together will be brief compels him to spend every moment he can touching, observing, saving Ice in his memory.
His fingers outline the tattoo that adorns Tom's pectorals and a memory returns to him.
"Do you remember when you scolded me in the bathroom in Top Gun for breaking the hard deck?"
Ice growls and threads his fingers through Mav's long hair.
"Yeah. I was terrified when I found out what you had done. I was afraid I'd lose Goose with your crazy stunts."
"You sure know how to make a man feel special, Kazansky," Pete replies sarcastically. "I spent fifteen years believing you were worried about me."
"Pete, I didn't know you," the blonde replies in a reasonable tone, "but I owed Goose my life."
Mav makes a noise of agreement and returns to his memory.
"I think I started to fall in love with you that day."
Tom raises his eyebrows, surprised.
"Do angry men make you horny, Mitchell?" -he asks mockingly.
"No," Pete answers without taking the bait. "I like this bunny," -and he gently touches the animal's eye above his right nipple. "You were the first tattooed aviator I had seen."
"And you didn't see any more, I guess."
"No. You are unique, Kazansky," he stands up to turn his head and kiss the left nipple, where the rabbit's tail opens into numerous folds.
"It was Goose and Cougar's idea, you know?"
Pete pulls back a little, puts his elbows on the bed, clasps his hands together, and rests his chin on them to look at Ice.
Tom sits up against the bed head while he gathers his thoughts. He doesn't think much about the adjustments he's had to make to his body. Each surgery was secret, planned between his rest periods, without companions, and paid for in cash. He rarely talks about them. Why? But Pete has shown him that he loves his body, even the parts with which he had trouble coming to terms.
"I had my chest done in 1982 between Introductory Flight Screening and Aviation Preflight Indoctrination. I knew I couldn't get through the two weeks of survival training at API wearing binders or with my chest taped."
Pete nods, remembering well his two weeks in the Florida swamps learning land survival, first aid, physiology, and water survival and exit. API was hard on him, not so much because of the physical demands but because of the harassment. Ice explained that wearing a binder limits lung capacity and puts pressure on the ribs. It must have been challenging to get through Annapolis like this, but no subterfuge could help hide a pair of breasts when it was his turn to be "the dying man" in a first aid exercise at API.
"We left the base to celebrate after passing the FAA pilot test, Goose, Cougar, and I in Cougar's car. We told everyone we'd go to Mobile, Alabama since Pensacola was a small town. Two days later they returned and said that a car had hit me."
Pete raises an eyebrow, doubtful.
"Just like that? So easy?"
"Sure, they had the fake police report and the fake documents of my admission to the Mobile Infirmary hospital and transfer to a private clinic. I rented a car in Mobile under my brother's name and drove to San Francisco, where a discreet clinic performed breast reconstruction surgeries. I used the name Rachel Seresin, paid cash, and said it should look like a car accident. The doctors thought it was great and played butcher with my skin. When they did the first change of bandages and showed me the result, I thought I was dying."
"It was like the face of the Texas Chain Saw Massacre killer. They explained to me that most of the scars would disappear over time. One of the interns, Gregory, told me that it was great to disguise the operation as the result of slamming myself into a Buick's chassis."
Mav grimaces as he runs his fingers down Ice's chest. Indeed, most of the scars are almost invisible. They were already so in 1988.
"What kind of comparison is that?"
"Gregory House was crazy, Mav. For him, the patients were puzzles that he had to solve. He was interested in infectious diseases but helped surgeries at Brownstein's clinic because he wanted to meet people who lied for good reasons. That's a quote, by the way."
Pete laughs, spins around, and his hair spreads like a patch of night sky on the bed. Tom takes a strand between his fingers and continues with his story.
"I spent three days in the clinic. Ray came to pick me up in a converted van, and we slowly traveled back to Florida. We did a three-day trip in one week. He dropped me off at a rented house in Pensacola, where I didn't even look out the window for the next six weeks. I ate canned beans until I hated them. A few days before the new API cycle began, I showed up at Naval Air Station Pensacola with documents from the private clinic where I had supposedly recovered. They congratulated me on my commitment to the program and exempted me from physical training during the four weeks of theoretical classes."
"Wow, Kazansky, you really are all cold, no mistakes." -Pete kisses the center of the sternum, right at the tip of the rabbit's ears. "But you still didn't tell me how you got the tattoo."
"Goose was nervous about my scars. I think he was more afraid of being discovered than I was."
"Goose was from deep Texas," Mav remembers. "They still kill people like us there today, Ice. Who knows what he had seen in his childhood."
"Who knows," Tom admits. "The fact is that he said that I had to hide the scars in some way. One day, we met several Marine students. One was a veteran and had a tattoo on his left arm. Goose stared at him… The next day, he proposed getting a tattoo on my chest. I replied that it was probably against regulations, but he said no, there was a loophole in the Navy's rules regarding tattoos: they only said where they couldn't be. It seemed providential to Cougar because he had just met Vivian, who was in Pensacola accompanying her brother at a tattoo convention."
"Oh!" -even Pete must admit it is a lot of coincidence.
"We had the weekend ahead of us, so we went to the tattoo convention. Cougar wanted to impress Vivian by acting like an artist: he said the lines on my chest looked like an Easter bunny. Sarah's brother Robert narrowed his eyes, twisted his neck, and said yes, he saw a rabbit, but not an Easter one. Robert was seeing one of the Watership Down rabbits. He drew it freehand on my chest right there. I was sold."
"It looks great on you. I never thought I would see a bunny that inspired attraction and terror simultaneously. It's exactly like you."
Mav reinforces his statement by going over the lines of the drawing with light, wet kisses. Ice gasps and feels the awakening of his arousal. He grabs Mav by the back of his neck and forces his head up to kiss him on the lips.
"I want to feel you," Pete asks.
Ice nods with bright eyes. He takes the dildo from the nightstand and puts it in his vagina to lubricate it. Then he takes a packet of lube and carefully stretches Pete's ass.
"Yes, yes, go on," her husband stammers. He shakes as if hit by an electric shock. "There, right there. God…"
"Just Tom, sorry," he laughs as he pokes him with three fingers and brushes Pete's prostate again. "Are you ready?"
"I was born ready, Kazansky. Put that cock in me, or I'll get divorced."
Ice kisses his navel, takes his fingers out of Mav's warm interior, extracts the dildo from his vagina, and inserts it into his husband. Pete throws his head back and shakes one leg involuntarily. Tom grabs his leg by the inside of the knee joint and forces him to lift it. Pulls the dildo almost all the way, readjusts the angle, and puts it back in.
Maverick moans, unable to articulate words due to the intensity of the sensations coursing through him. Ice maintains the piston movement with the same precision that he has become famous for in the Navy. He watches his husband with intensity and satisfaction, listening for signs that his body is reaching its limits.
"Ice... Love... I..." -Maverick closes his hands and punches the bed while moving his head from side to side.
Tom leans down and takes Pete's dick between his lips. Just two sucks make him cum. Pete makes an inarticulate sound, half satisfaction, and half exhaustion. Tom stops moving the dildo but does not take it out. He lowers Pete's leg slowly and rests his foot on the bed. He looks at him with satisfaction.
Maverick is the perfect image of sensual beauty, with his hair spread out and damp with sweat. The stubble marks the jaw, which extends towards the broad, muscular neck. His ribcage rises and falls due to his labored breathing, which highlights his pectorals and abs, well outlined by the brutal training of aviators. His right leg is extended, the left is bent, and his flaccid penis, which has not yet recovered its usual size, rests in the crease between his right hip and leg as if nestled. The base of the dildo can be distinguished between his buttocks, but it is barely a silhouette. It's like he's decided it's part of his body.
"You're beautiful," Tom exhales.
Pete turns his head and looks at him dreamily.
The deployment orders arrive that day: Commander Pete "Maverick" Mitchell will report to Norfolk as squadron leader on the USS Enterprise on Tuesday, August 7. That he goes to the Atlantic fleet is no coincidence: Ice and Mav have been careful not to be in the same chain of command since they began their relationship. Now that Tom will (finally) be commander of Naval Base San Diego, Maverick is forced to avoid the Pacific Fleet and bases in the area. Of course, he would like to go to Southern Command. It is the most desired post, but that characteristic makes it an unlikely assignment for Pete "Maverick" Mitchell.
Although the Fourth Fleet is one of the most demanding for aviation due to the harsh climate of South America and the concrete, constant danger of narcoterrorism, it is also one of the most desired due to its proximity to the United States. Within the complex internal politics of the Navy, assignments are a reward or a punishment, but never casual. Pete is still the same daring and rebellious pilot, more importantly, the son of Duke Mitchell. It's no secret that the admiralty keeps him only because of his talent. So, no one will be on his side during the US Navy's human resources allocation debates.
Any place is the same at the end: he won't be back home for a year and a half or two years, so they have to take advantage of every hour of this summer.
Each family member takes the news differently.
For Sarah and Ice, it is not the first time. They believe that they can do better than in 1994. Then, the happiness of having all the children under the same roof blinded them a little, and Jake ended up paying for it. They now have experience and the constant support of Dr. Poole.
Bradley nods stoically and doesn't say anything for a few days. Ice corners him one afternoon while taking advantage of his driving lessons. He commands him to get out of the road after Bradley makes an unusual mistake and gets him to confess his visceral fear of Maverick dying in combat, or worse, in an exercise like Goose.
"It's absurd, I know," he repeats while blowing his nose. "All my life, he has been going on deployment. It didn't scare me that much... But he is just a man, Icepop. He is a talented and impatient man in the sky. The enemy is also talented. Nature doesn't care about talent."
Ice waits for Bradley to finish wiping his face with a slight smile and soft eyes.
"And yet, you still want to be an aviator?"
The question surprises Brad, who fixes his eyes on the truck's wheel.
"Right now, yes," he says after thinking about it a little. "I have not experienced anything comparable to flying, Icepop, nothing. You guys are just setting me back four years."
Ice opens his mouth, but Brad stops him with a gesture.
"I know you think you do it for good reasons, and I want to believe you when you say that when I grow up, I will understand. Understand me: I didn't send my Naval Academy application because you scared me, because you are a great manipulator, not because I wanted to."
"I can live with that," Tom agrees. "I am your father, and what matters to me is that you have a better life than mine. That you explore all your options. Sarah and Mav think the same."
Brad nods. His fingers drum on the steering wheel as he tries to explain his feelings.
"This fear that he will not return, is it normal?"
"Yes, it's normal. It's part of being a military family. Carole and Sarah accepted it."
"I remember when I was a child, I never doubted that he would return," - Bradley's voice becomes evocative. "I missed him terribly, of course, but the idea that he couldn't come back was inconceivable." -he clears his throat, and his tone becomes resigned- "I guess… I guess I don't think he's larger than life anymore."
"Because you are seventeen, son, almost an adult. You see us less as divinities and more as people."
Brad twists his lips bitterly and takes a deep breath.
"Tell me the truth. You are all afraid of what may happen to me if I become an aviator."
"Of course! Goose died before he turned thirty. Do you think it was easy to accept such an absurd death? Carole never fully recovered, Brad. Never. You were a disaster: you didn't understand why Mav had returned without your dad. You asked when he was going to arrive. They told you I couldn't come back. You cried. You fell asleep. You woke up, and the cycle repeated. A whole week like this. No one thought to take you to therapy. Damm! It never occurred to anyone that Mav needed therapy, even though Goose had died in his arms."
"Is that why you want me to go to university? So that I don't become an aviator?"
Tom closes his eyes and massages the bridge of his nose. A big truck passes, and the noise gives him a few more seconds to think about his response.
"What we want doesn't matter. What matters is that you take the professional path that makes you happy. Try to live out of the closet for a couple of months and see if you want to go back inside. If you still want to serve your country... you are a Bradshaw. The Navy will welcome you with open arms."
Brad nods and starts the Bronco. He doesn't make a single mistake on the return route. In mid-July, he already had his driving license.
Sam wants to know if Mav will keep in touch. She has vague memories of previous deployments and phone calls that disappointed her. She wants to know if there will be more calls and correspondence this time because she is older and knows how to write.
This is a conversation they have with Sam, Jake, and Sean: the use of email and the possibilities it opens up for them to stay in constant contact. There is a computer in the house for them to type their messages, which Ice will send from a secure terminal on the base.
"Can I send drawings?" Sean asks with rosy cheeks and downcast eyes.
It's an understandable question: he's only six years old and barely learning his first letters. The problem is that Sean is fiercely competitive with Sam, and admitting that he can't sit down and write to Mavdad must really annoy him.
Mav strokes his hair gently and pushes his chin up with a finger until they look into each other's eyes.
"Of course, you can draw pictures for me, čhiŋkší (son). Icepop can also send those through the computer at the San Diego base."
Jake walks over and puts an arm around Sean's shoulders. He has that determined expression that makes his elders proud and saddened in equal measure.
"It's okay, misún (younger brother), I can write your letters to Mavdad. You tell me and I will write it all down."
The little boy's face lights up at the offer.
"Thank you," he looks at Mav again. "Can I send drawings and letters?"
He hugs them, excited.
"Of course, you can send whatever you want. I will always, always want to hear from you."
Jake doesn't seem scared or anxious. He has perfected his mask of impassivity and uses it as a shield. Although Dr. Poole says their son's anxiety is under control, they worry that they won't be able to recognize the signs of a possible breakdown. The therapist reminds them that if she believes Jake is in danger, she will be the first to sound the alarm, but they must respect his privacy, or they will lose the boy's trust.
Pete is resigned to Jake letting him go without a fuss, so he's surprised when the kid comes down to meet him in the garage one warm July afternoon when he's preparing the two Kawasaki bikes for their extended break until he returns in eighteen months.
"Can I help you?"
Mav turns around, surprised by the timid tone of the request. Jake is very stiff, as far away as the space in the cramped garage allows - taking the Ford Bronco to Virginia will make parking easier, no doubt. The man puts the pot of machine grease on the floor, takes a cloth to wipe the excess off his hands, and nods.
"Come, help me with the covers."
Between the two of them, they unfold the pieces of tarred canvas that will protect the machines in their owner's absence.
"Will you let me ride them one day?"
Pete grimaces. That'll be a good fight with Ice.
"In five years, if you prove yourself trustworthy, we will let you drive the light motorcycle. These machines are heavy and fast, son." - it's not a denial, but it's not a commitment either. "That reminds me, now that your brother is going to college, you and Sean won't be able to drive on the streets alone. I'm sorry."
"I figured it," Jake's voice is carefully neutral, and it hurts his father. "I know that iná Sarah and Icepop don't have time to watch me. Don't worry, I won't get into trouble."
"Jake, is there something you want to tell me?"
The boy stares at him with his green eyes as if searching for something. Pete has no idea what he wants, so he just works on projecting calm and confidence, as the therapist instructed.
"I... what will happen if you die, Mavdad? Will I have to go to Virginia with Bradley? I don't want to be separated from Sean. He is very little and needs help with homework. Do you think that…?"
But his father stops him right there.
"I'm not going to die, Jake. I am your father, and I will always return to you, to this house. It is a promise. You understand?"
The boy looks at him skeptically.
"Do you understand?" -Mav repeats.
Jake sighs and nods.
"I understand, you will always return home."
"Good, and if something happens to me, you will never be alone. Ice and Sarah are your father and mother, just like me. They will take care of you and Bradley."
He doesn't have to explain the complex legal fabric they have put together to guarantee their safety. In the unlikely case of Maverick being MIA, custody would go to Ice. Just as they protected Bradley from the Abbot family, Jake is safe from social services.
The boy snorts and crosses his arms.
"Why would Iná and Icepop keep me if you don't pay them?"
Mav sighs tiredly. They've had variations of this conversation several times now. It's abandonment syndrome talking, he knows, but at the same time... It's hard to see his son distrust Ice and Sarah's motives when they've done nothing but show him affection his entire life. Even if Jake doesn't know Ice's true identity, his seven years living in this house should prove that the Kazanskys love him without reservation.
He suddenly sees himself leaning over Sarah on the eve of Sam and Jake's birth. The person is different, but the arguments are the same.
"Jake, you will always have a space wherever Tom and Sarah Kazansky live. They will always be there to care for and protect you because they love you. Although we don't share a surname, we are a family, and love does not depend on money. It does not work like that. Tom, Sarah, and I will protect you, your sister, and your two brothers from everything. You can be sure Social Services will never come for any of you."
Jake looks at him a little longer, as if trying to find a trace of duplicity or doubt in his father, but finally nods.
"Okay. But don't die anyway, okay?"
"Promise. I will always return home. Meanwhile, play with Ice in the Cessna 152."
Jake's eyes shine just remembering that day.
"It was great, Mavdad. Brilliant."
Pete laughs, pleased with how he handled the conversation.
"Come on, let's go up. Your iná won't let me sit at the table if I don't get all this machine grease out from under my nails."
Sarah wants Pete to contribute to Tom's brand new office at the Naval Base San Diego before he leaves. Of course, it can't be anything explicit, but something they can recognize as his. To do this, they visit several stores specializing in film memorabilia. They finally excavated an original "A Few Good Men" poster in mint condition. The 1992 film, starring Tom Cruise, is about the tension between due obedience and honor in the army. It's one of Tom's favorites because of the theme and because Mav resembles Cruise a lot.
Of course, if it's about stars and likenesses, the "Heat" poster they also bought should go on that office wall. It is a collector's item, a limited edition whose design focuses on the homoerotic subplot of the film: in the center of the image, Val Kilmer - Ice's double - stares in Cruise's gaze on a red and black background. Al Pacino and Robert De Niro look down on them with disapproval and paternal tenderness, respectively. The caption at the bottom couldn't be more provocative - although it has nothing to do with the central plot - "For me, the sun rises and sets in that man's eyes." But as long as DADT rules their lives, "A Few Good Men" will be in Rear Admiral Kazansky's office, and "Heat" will stay at the house's solarium, safe from prying eyes.
One night in July, as they get ready for bed, Sarah watches Mav brush his hair at the bedroom vanity. He decided to stop cutting it while he was a civil consultant for Lockheed Martin, and in these three years, his hair has grown maybe seventeen inches. The black, slightly wavy cascade reaches the lower half of his back. With Sarah's help, Pete learned to braid it to keep it clean and knot-free. It doesn't match the complexity of the hairstyles they make for Sam, but his braids are even and resistant.
Now, seeing him from behind, with his torso bare, his head slightly tilted, and the curtain of hair hiding his face, Sarah has an epiphany.
"Don't move, Mav!" -she exclaims as he runs to look for her camera.
She comes back bright-eyed and starts moving around the room. Through the mirror, Pete follows her movements with curiosity.
They have become accustomed to those creative bursts: moments when Sarah sees something and has to photograph it. Although she has never thought about exhibiting, she has a perfectly equipped developing room in the basement and many boxes of photos in the attic. Many are from his decade of family life. Sarah documented the wedding between Mav and Ice on the plains of the Oglala Sioux Nation in March 1991 and, over his parents' fears, made the only portrait of Jake on Ice's chest when he was just twenty-four hours old.
Family isn't the only thing that draws Sarah's lens. In her archives are hundreds of studies of the human body, animals, rural, urban, or forest landscapes, and airplanes - of course -. Many planes.
Some of those photographs, the less intimate ones, hang in abundance on the house's walls.
No matter what Sarah saw now, her expression of joy is unmistakable, and they have learned to respect it. So Mav stands still, his hair loose behind his back and the wooden-handled hairbrush over his left shoulder.
From the bed, Ice observes his wife. He's almost sure he knows what she saw but doesn't want to interrupt her moment.
Sarah moves behind Mav, pleased that her husband stopped when she told him to. Both of the man's hands are hidden, as is his face. His back is at rest. There are no undulations under the skin to reveal the strength of his muscles. The pajama pants are sagging so that the line of the buttocks is visible, but barely. Now she just has to find an angle to avoid the mirror's reflection, and she'll have Maverick like no one has ever seen him, smooth and androgynous. Unrecognizable to everyone except the three people in this room.
Except for Ray. But his brother has "powers," so it doesn't matter.
After moving left and right in slow but increasingly shorter oscillations, the photographer slightly bends her legs and presses the shutter.
"Perfect. Just two more for good luck. Done."
Pete drops the brush, tired of the pose, and turns in his seat with a surprised expression.
"Can I know what that was for?"
She smiles and looks at Ice, who returns an admiring and grateful expression.
"In a few days, you will be at Rear Admiral Kazansky's desk, Mav."
He looks at her with surprise and fear. He then moves his eyes to Ice, who doesn't seem worried.
"Are you two crazy?"
"Na," -Tom gets out of bed, hugs Sarah, and kisses her. "Only in love," she nods with a dreamy smile.
Ice goes to Mav, puts his fingers through his locks, and looks into his eyes.
"Letting your hair grow was your best idea in years, Commander Mitchell."
Mav doesn't understand what Sarah and Ice saw - he will realize days later when he sees the developed photo - but does recognize his husband's voice when he is excited.
"Well, then you must reward me for my achievement, Rear Admiral Kazansky," he replies with a purr.
In the last days of July, Brad struggles to select what he will take to college. He will go by road with his father in Nick Bradshaw's Ford Bronco. A truck his family has kept in excellent technical condition for fifteen years. It's a legacy: one of the few things he has from his biological father, and he knows his mother kept it so Goose could “accompany him” when he left home. Brad prefers motorcycles, but he must admit the practical advantages of a roof over your head when it rains or, as in Virginia, snows.
So he has a defined maximum space but deciding takes work. As he puts "Orlando" in the box of what goes to Virginia, returns "Stone Butch Blues" back in its place – he doesn't want the conversations it provokes, thank you very much – and tries to remember when he last read "The Three Musketeers," Jake sneaks into his room and closes the door. The sound alerts Bradley that he is not alone. He turns around and finds his brother looking at him intensely.
"I have to ask you something," he says while clutching a manila envelope.
Bradley swallows dryly.
A week ago, he had a very awkward conversation with Iná, Mavdad and Icepop. One of those "you're almost an adult, and that brings responsibilities" sessions that have nothing positive about them. They finally explained why Jake keeps going to Dr. Poole's office, even though he hasn't wet the bed or woken up screaming in the middle of the night in a while. In short, Carole's death broke something inside Jake that had already been cracked since he found out he wasn't his biological brother. It's called abandonment syndrome, and he will need to be treated for it for a long time, perhaps the rest of his life. The family must stay alert so that Jake is not abused.
They explained it to him because he is almost an adult, and they don't want him to talk more than necessary in the middle of some drunkenness or, worse, in front of officers at something that Slider organizes. Also, Jake is likely to confide in him for things he won't tell his parents since he's his brother.
Don't let Jake be abused.
Whenever he remembers Ice's stoic expression, Sarah's moist eyes, and Mav's seriousness as they explained abandonment syndrome, Brad simultaneously feels nauseous and wants to bang his head against the wall. They assured him it had nothing to do with him. It was their fault. They didn't plan how to tell Jake about Rachel before the boy made up his own mind. White lies. Bradley knows he's not innocent in all of this.
He is adult enough to understand that Mavdad and his mother should have told Jake where he came from. He is also mature enough to realize that he bears some responsibility. He promised Mav that he would take care of Jake. It was the first mission he was assigned. Instead, he told him, “You were almost a month old when Mavdad brought you,” as if they had bought him at the store.
It was Bradley who broke the world of a four-year-old boy. And then, those horrible months when all he could hear every night was Sean and Jake's cries. He didn't understand the origin of that pain. This is how he gave him the final blow: "I don't want to hear you anymore! You are an ungrateful, weeping brat. At least your mom isn't dead." As if his mother wasn't important.
He deserves this task since he failed in the previous one. He will always be his brother's best friend to ensure no one abuses Jake with romantic excuses. Because he's seventeen years old, hell, he knows what "abuse" means.
Maggie won't go to college because her stepfather "abused" her, and now she has a baby.
Aunt Vivian, Cougar's wife, works at a shelter for "abused" people who are homeless.
Icepop is working to improve the mechanisms for reporting "abuses" within the Navy and complains about how slow everything is.
There will be no "abuse" in the story of Jacob Raymond Mitchell. Bradley Bradshaw will take care of those who even dream of it.
So he nods, sits on the bed, and pats the space next to him, inviting Jake to join him.
"What do you need?"
The boy goes to the bed, sits beside him, and keeps his eyes on the floor.
"You're going to Virginia, that's far from here. I have thought…"
Jake bites his bottom lip, huffs, and shakes his head. He looks up at his brother, determined.
"I thought that perhaps my first mother, Rachel, is there."
"At the University of Virginia?" -even for the imagination of a ten-year-old child that is too much, right?
But Jake vigorously shakes his head.
"No. I mean, I don't know. It would be too much good luck." - he moves his hand as if he were removing an imaginary object. "I mean, my mom Rachel could be in Virginia. Mavdad told me that she is military, like Icepop and him. Did you know that there are twenty-seven military bases in the state of Virginia? All branches of defense have at least one base there. Virginia is so far from San Diego. If she doesn't want to see Mavdad or me, it's a good place to work. Right?"
Bradley forces himself to nod as he feels a stone form in his stomach. Suddenly, his promise to protect Jake from abuse is much more complicated than keeping an eye on crushes.
"Aha," he says like an automaton.
Jake smiles, opens the envelope, and spreads its contents on the bed. A map with numerous points marked, a sheet of paper with a list of names, and a copy of the photo of Rachel that Mavdad gave to Jake when he returned from the Balkans in 1996.
"So, the state's military bases are marked on this map. Oh! I also marked the CIA headquarters. Because when Mavdad said "defense," perhaps he meant something broader. The CIA also defends us, right?" -again, Bradley forces himself to nod. "I want to ask you to visit those places and look for her. I know you can't go ask at the door with her photo, but I thought that maybe when you pass by, you could see her. After all, she met Mavdad, she might meet you too."
"Jake..." -just the doubtful tone of his voice makes the boy's lips tremble, and tears come to his eyes.
"Please, don't tell Mavdad! He doesn't like me talking about Rachel. He won't scold me if you tell him, but he will be sad. I don't want him to be sad." He quickly folds the map and begins to put it all back in the envelope. "Forget all this. It was stupid."
Bradley stops him. He notices that his hands are almost twice the size of Jake's and feels a warm tenderness on his chest.
"Jake, it's okay, I can do it."
"Yes, but you must understand that success is not guaranteed. Just because I pass by a place doesn't mean I can see everyone working there."
"I know," the boy admits very seriously.
"And she might not work in Virginia. America is a huge country."
"I know," he repeats, but now he sounds slightly doubtful.
"Also, fourteen years have passed since this photo. Rachel may have changed a lot."
Jake is on the verge of tears again, but Bradley doesn't want to start this new stage of their relationship with impossible promises. If his brother is going to trust him, it must be because he believes that he will always tell him the truth, even if it hurts.
"Do you think... Do you think it's not going to be of any use?" -asks the boy while caressing the photo of his mother.
"I don't know. It seems like a well-intentioned plan to me," - Bradley looks at the work on the map with admiration - "and it shows that you worked hard on this research, but," - a silent tear slides down Jake's cheek - "there is a lot here that is out of our control."
"So you're just saying you'll do it to get rid of me?" -he faces him with a hurt expression- "Do you also think that I should forget about my first mother?"
"No, Jake, I didn't say anything like that. Come here."
Bradley picks him up easily and places him on his lap. Jake lets himself be cradled, puts his face in the space between his brother's shoulder and neck, and cries silently. Bradley strokes his hair and rocks back and forth.
"I remember when you were a baby. Mom taught me how to put you to sleep, give you milk, and change your diapers." -Jake makes a noise of displeasure, but Brad doesn't flinch- "Did I ever tell you how you changed my life? I was alone with my mother. Mavdad, Icepop, and Slider visited us, but I felt alone. Mav brought you on a Monday at the end of April, and suddenly, we were a family again: Mom, Mav, you, and me. Thanks to you, Mav became my father. Thanks to you, Ice and Sarah decided to move to San Diego. Everything we have was built around you. You are…"
Bradley stops. He was going to say, "You're what ties Ice and Mav together," but he stopped himself in time. Jake, Sam, and Sean are unaware of the relationship between their father and Kazansky. With good reason, the responsibility for a DADT process cannot be placed at the discretion of infants.
Bradley has thought several times about the strange chronology of that relationship. Ice and Mav have been together since November 1988, but Sam and Jake were conceived in July 1990. What happened? A fight seems to be the most reasonable explanation, but... what were the chances that both of them would end up impregnating their occasional lovers? There's something there, a missing piece. Probably Rachel's true identity.
Ice always looks at Jake first. Locating him is instinctive for the man whenever they enter a new space. When they go out together, Ice hides his constant desire to keep Jake within reach quite well, but Bradley has noticed how his fingers tremble, how he clenches his hands into fists every time the boy moves away a little. The strangest thing is that he doesn't act like that with Sam and Sean. Yes, Jake brings Ice and Mav together in a way that Bradley recognizes but doesn't understand. He knows he can't say that to his little brother anyway, so he concludes with something a little more hyperbolic.
"You are the most loved among the most loved. I am sure that Rachel, wherever she is, also loves you and thinks about you every day."
"Do you think?" -Jake mutters without leaving his chest.
"Sure. She's probably a super spy like Simon Templar or Ethan Hunt, and she watches you go to school via satellite. Like they did in the final sequence of "Mission Impossible 2" last year, remember? To find Nyah on the beach."
That elicits a sheepish laugh from Jake.
"The dads didn't like it. They say it's impossible," - he remembers.
Yes, that resource made Ice and Mav gasp in disbelief. Upon leaving the theater, Ice complained bitterly about the expectations that these types of films create.
"It doesn't matter. The important thing is that it is impossible not to love you, Jake. Always remember that. I'll take a tour around Virginia's military bases. After all, Ice doesn't control how much I spend on gas.
They leave on Tuesday, July 31, at mid-morning. After a massive breakfast, they finished loading the Ford Bronco and again checked the route. The plan is to arrive at the University of Virginia on Friday or Saturday. Ice and Sarah didn't want to hear about sleeping in the car or roadside motels. Mav pouted in disappointment but accepted that a road trip to college was not the time to "discover" deep America. So, they have reservations at the Hiltons in Albuquerque, Oklahoma City, Little Rock, and Nashville.
In Virginia, they will stay at Slider's house, now commander of the Norfolk base.
The whole family gathers on the porch of the house. They exchange hugs and kisses. There are the occasional tears. If the triple hug between Ice, Sarah, and Maverick is a little longer than conventional, none can see anything from the street.
"Come back to us, love," Tom whispers as Sarah kisses him on the cheek.
"Always," Pete promises before ending the hug.
He then crouches down to be level with Sam, Jake, and Sean.
"I have a task for you," he announces. "I want you to keep an eye on that pair," -and points to his spouses. "They will be sad now that they don't have someone to wash the dishes every night. It's your turn to make them happy. Can you do it?"
Three little hands rise to give the military salute.
"At your command, Commander Mitchell," they respond in an out-of-tune chorus.
"Very good. Now, we hug."
Pete hugs the three small bodies to his chest and holds back tears. He knows that when he returns, Sam and Jake will have already begun the growth spurt of adolescence.
"Take care of yourselves too. Tell me about everything that happens. Yes?"
He separates himself and advances decisively towards the truck. At his back, Sarah gives Bradley final advice.
"… and don't forget to brush your teeth."
"Yes, iná. I promise."
Maverick climbs into the passenger seat and waits for his son to get behind the wheel.
"Ready to fly from the nest, baby Goose?"
Bradley can't help but smile as he starts the engine. The answer will be the same always.
"Mav, I'm not a baby anymore. I'm seventeen years old!"
"Oh! Sorry," -his voice is mocking. "You've grown up too fast."
Maverick's cell phone notifies him of the arrival of a text message. So he stops paying attention to his son to take the device out of the back pocket of his jeans. It comes from an unknown number, but after reading, "You won't return soon. Be careful with the buzkashi champion. I don't know what buzkashi is. Have a good trip.", he understands that it is a message from Ray Seresin.
In the rearview mirror, he sees that Ice has his cell phone open, and his face is a gray mask. Mav starts typing immediately.
Ice, what is buzkashi?
The answer is almost instantaneous.
Buzkashi is a traditional game from Afghanistan. It was banned by the Taliban.
Ah! So, he will fly over the Caucasus.
Si vis pacem, para bellum. ;) <3
"We're not even five minutes from the house, and you're already texting with Ice?"
Mav closes his phone and looks at Bradley in surprise.
"How do you know who I'm texting with?"
The young man rolls his eyes.
"You make the same face as when you look at him at home. You relax your eyes and smile a little, a shy smile. Seriously, I don't know how I didn't realize it before."
Mav bites his lips and sighs. Whatever awaits, it is not immediate. He should take advantage of his time with Bradley.
"I thought you weren't interested in your parents' sex life, but I can show you the messages if you insist." He holds out the cell phone to him and pretends to open it.
Bradley grimaces in disgust and pushes him away.
Maverick bursts out laughing.
"I'd better put on some music," Bradley suggests and starts turning the dial.
The first station is news, the second has grunge music, and the third just begins some chords that Maverick recognizes.
"Leave it, leave it. We loved this song."
"Goose, Carole, and me."
Bradley nods and turns up the volume. Marietta Waters' voice surrounds them. Maverick starts singing with her.
I see life
And it's passing right before my eyes
And the past is the past
Don't regret it
Time to realize
I need to walk on the wire
Just to catch my breath
I don't know how or where
But I'm going it's all that
I have left
Bradley is surprised to realize that he remembers the chorus. They continue together:
It don't matter where it takes me
Long as I can keep this feeling
Running through my soul
Never took this road before
Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh
From Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, an F-18 takes off and heads towards the sea.
of part one
"Si vis pacem, para bellum." is a Latin maxim meaning "If you want peace, prepare for war." Although sometimes erroneously attributed to Julius Caesar, it derives from a passage by the Roman military writer Vegetius, which reads: "Igitur qui desiderat pacem, praeparet bellum.
"Destination Unknown" is part of the Top Gun soundtrack. Sings: Marietta Waters. Lyrics: Franne Golde, Jake Hooker, and Paul Fox.