This is an odd story, mildly fantastical and not T&M canon! It assumes Sarah and co. have moved up to the Sonnalpe for the Christmas period, or that they're living there, or something, and that Rafaela is staying with them. It doesn’t fit with canon, and it’s not T&M canon either - just a bit of holiday silliness. Hope you enjoy!
St Agnes' House Characters:
Minor character(s), OC, Robin Humphries
Tea and Militancy
22 Dec 2012 Updated:
28 Dec 2012
1. 24th December, late evening (22-12-12) by Finn
2. Very early on Christmas morning (23-12-12) by Finn
3. Christmas morning, at a rather more sensible time (24-12-12) by Finn
4. Christmas morning, after present-opening has finished (25-12-12) by Finn
5. Christmas day, just before lunch (26-12-12) by Finn
6. Christmas Day, in the afternoon (27-12-12) by Finn
7. Christmas Day, dusk (27-12-12) by Finn
8. The end of the day - almost midnight (28-12-12) by Finn
9. An Alternative Ending (28-12-12) by Finn
24th December, late evening (22-12-12) by Finn
24th December, late evening.
“Rafaela, Evelyn! Put down those toys and get into your coats before I come and get you into them myself!”
Leaving the salon door open, Sarah rattled along the corridor and into the kitchen.
“I’m just off to Mass with the girls,” she said to the two men who were sitting either side of the kitchen table. “Either of you want to come?”
“I’ll pass, thanks,” said Matty over his book. “Not really one for Popery.”
“Why are you taking Evelyn?” asked Tristan, who had been fitting a new string to his violin and was frowning in concentration.
“When she heard Rafaela was going she wanted to go as well,” said Sarah. “You know how she follows her around.”
“But could Captain Humphries not have taken our girls as well as Robin? There is surely no need for you to go.”
“Oh, I couldn’t ask him to do that,” said Sarah with a slight blush. “It wouldn’t be fair. Anyway, I don’t mind. One Mass won’t hurt! Well, if neither of you want to go…”
She hurried out before the men could change their minds and went back up the hall, to find the girls buttoning up their coats and letting Susie cram their woollen tams down over their hair.
“I thought I might come with you,” said Susie. “I’ve never been to Mass.”
Sarah’s disappointment must have shown in her face, because Susie looked momentarily confused, then smiled knowingly.
“That said,” she said, “I expect you’ll be alright with Captain Humphries to look after you. And I suppose someone needs to keep an eye on those two.”
She jerked her head at the kitchen and Sarah lit up with relief.
“That’s right,” she said. “I don’t mind going alone.”
“Alright then.” Susie grinned good-naturedly and went back into the salon, and Sarah and the girls prepared to go.
“When we come back we can have our presents, can’t we?” said Rafaela.
“You may have your presents tomorrow,” said Sarah absently.
“But it will be tomorrow when we get back,” Rafaela said insistently, and Sarah scowled.
“When you wake up tomorrow morning!” she corrected herself. “Now come on, or we’ll be late.”
“Jesus wouldn’t want us to wait for our presents,” said Rafaela rebelliously as Sarah shepherded her to the door.
“Jesus had to wait until Epiphany for his presents,” said Sarah, “and if you don’t stop nagging me, I’ll make you wait as long for your own!”
She opened the door as she spoke and stepped back in surprise, as did Ted, who was standing on the other side with his hand raised to knock. He recovered himself first and beamed his warm smile.
“Good evening,” he said politely. “All ready?”
“Absolutely,” said Sarah, taking a firm grip of herself, and of the hands of the two girls. “Let’s go!”
Very early on Christmas morning (23-12-12) by Finn
Very early on Christmas morning
“Evelyn! Evelyn! Meu Deus, wake up, girl!”
Evelyn opened her eyes in a sudden panic and pushed herself up.
“What is it? What’s happened?”
Rafaela laughed incredulously.
“Nothing, silly! It’s Christmas! We can open our presents! Auntie Sarah said we could when we woke up.”
Evelyn blinked and looked around. The curtains were pulled tightly shut, but nonetheless she could see it was very dark outside.
“What time is it?” she demanded suspiciously.
“It’s definitely morning,” said Rafaela, with a certain degree of haste, and she pushed Evelyn’s watch over so the younger girl couldn’t see the face. “Come on, let's go down!”
Evelyn scrambled out of bed and tugged back the curtain to look out at the morning. The sky was clear and the moon shone down with a silvery glow, glinting off the crisp snow and throwing the shadows of the garden into sharp relief. High above her she could see stars glittering in their myriad constellations, their lights twinkling crystal-like above the sleeping earth. It was a sight to gladden the sternest heart, full of heavenly charm and splendour, and yet it held a certain wintery cruelty, for it was bitterly cold and a heavy frost lay on the trees and frost patterns decorated the window.
“I think it’s still night,” Evelyn said after a moment's peering through the fingers of frost upon the window.
Rafaela scrambled up to join her.
“No,” she said. “See that light over there? That’s dawn!”
“I don’t think Auntie Sarah meant us to get up at dawn,” murmured Evelyn.
“She said morning!” protested Rafaela. “I’m going down, anyway.”
“Rafaela - no!”
But Rafaela had slipped out of the room. Evelyn leapt out of bed and made to follow her, but she had to stop and put on her dressing gown and slippers, for it was a cold night. Rafaela was already warmly clad and, by the time Evelyn was wrapped up and had run downstairs to join her, she was in the salon rooting about under the tree for her presents. The clock on the mantlepiece revealed to Evelyn that the precise hour was half past four. She swallowed nervously.
Evelyn spoke rather more loudly than she had meant to and her voice echoed in the hall.
“Shh!” Rafaela turned on her. “Shut the door, idiot!”
“Don’t call me an idiot!” said Evelyn heatedly, but she saw the sense of Rafaela’s remark and closed the door carefully. She came over and the worry crept back into her voice again. “Rafaela, I don’t think we ought. Auntie Sarah really didn’t mean us to get up at 4.30.”
“She said in the morning.” Rafaela was clinging stubbornly to her story and Evelyn sighed in mild frustration.
“Well, you can open yours,” she said. “I’m not opening mine.”
Rafaela turned round, a wicked glint creeping into her eye. Evelyn’s good example had had some effect on her over the last half a year, rounding off some of her rougher edges, but when tempted she still reverted to her favourite game, namely corrupting another’s good intentions.
“Not even this little one?”
“No, I…is that for me?”
Rafaela made a show of checking the label.
“It says so,” she said. “‘To Evelyn, from Uncle Matty’.” She squeezed the package gently. “Oh, it’s soft. Feel it!”
Evelyn reached out and touched the parcel, but then her conscience caught up with her and she snatched her hand back as if the parcel were bubbling hot.
“No!” she cried. “I won’t!”
Rafaela shook the package gently.
“It’s very light,” she said. “A very small present, actually. I bet they wouldn’t notice if you opened it.”
“I…do you think?”
“I ‘spect so,” said Rafaela. “I ‘spect they wouldn’t notice at all.”
“Really?” Wistful longing was beginning to replace caution. Evelyn crept a little closer and knelt beside Rafaela, feeling the sharp pine needles in the carpet prod into her knees. “But we really shouldn’t - we oughtn’t, Rafaela! I’m sure we’re supposed to wait.”
“P’raps,” said Rafaela, “p’raps if you open it really carefully, we can wrap it back up again and no-one will know in the morning.”
“No," said Rafaela with a sudden change of tone. "No, you’re prob’ly right.”
“You prob’ly couldn’t do it carefully enough.”
“I...I could too!”
“Bet you couldn’t!”
“Bet I could!”
“Go on, then.”
Evelyn took the present with some dubious qualms still fluttering in her breast and began to tug at the string. It gave and she snatched her hand away nervously, but Rafaela’s teasing expression made her try again until the knot had almost come undone…and then her very heart stopped within her, for a sudden breeze announced the opening of the door, and a voice was heard to say, in frighteningly stern tones,
“What are you doing?”
It was lucky for Evelyn that it was a soft parcel, for she dropped it in terror at the sound of the voice, and she and Rafaela turned to face Uncle Tristan, who was standing in the doorway with his dressing gown over his pyjamas, eyes half-open and bleary from sleep.
Evelyn's stammerings came to nothing and she could only crouch, crimson-cheeked and horrified, waiting for the blow which she knew must fall. Oh, she wailed inside, as she had so often wailed before, if only she had not listened to Rafaela! She had been naughty, and now Uncle Tristan was cross, and Christmas would be ruined and all because she had let Rafaela tempt her! She huddled, ready to cry, but to her amazement she heard Rafaela speak up as bold as ever she was.
“We’re opening our presents!”
Uncle Tristan frowned slightly, but even in her fear Evelyn could see that it was more in puzzlement than in anger.
“And why, pray, at this hour of the morning?”
“See!” Rafaela shot a triumphant look at Evelyn. “I told you it was morning!”
“It is morning within a very limited definition of the term,” said Uncle Tristan in reproving tones. “A time, indeed, when good little girls, not to mention their adult mentors, ought to be asleep in their beds.” He rubbed a hand across his eyes as he spoke and blinked sleepily.
“But Auntie Sarah said…”
“I feel quite certain,” said Uncle Tristan, “that when Auntie Sarah said you might open your presents in the morning, she did not anticipate you rising at such an…unexpected hour as this. It is far too early, girls! The sun has not even risen yet. Now, put that present back and return to your beds! Come!”
Evelyn rose immediately and went across to Uncle Tristan, but Rafaela stayed where she was, her every move filled with reluctance.
“Mightn’t we just open one?” she said. “Just one, Uncle Tristan? Then we’ll go back to bed, I promise! I promise, honest Injun! But…mightn’t we? Just one?”
Uncle Tristan gave a sigh, but to Evelyn’s surprise his expression was more indecisive than frustrated.
“Well…” he said, and Evelyn realised with a jolt of surprise that he was relenting! “Well…perhaps one. One only, mind you! One small present each, and then you will return to bed and not rise again until at least…at least seven o’clock.”
“We promise!” was the excited exclamation, and Uncle Tristan uttered something that was halfway between a sigh and a laugh and came into the room properly.
“Very well,” he said. “Choose - and quickly! You may not be tired, but I am. Not that one, Rafaela - that is far too big. Here - take this one, and Evelyn, you take this.”
The girls sat down eagerly and unwrapped a present each, while Uncle Tristan collapsed onto the sofa with a yawn.
“Look, Rafaela!” exclaimed Evelyn excitedly as she pulled away the paper. “A skipping rope!”
“Marbles!” Rafaela was no less excited. “For my collection - oh, topping!”
“Look, Uncle Tristan! Look at my…Uncle Tristan?”
Both girls tore their gaze from their presents and looked over to where Tristan was sitting, head resting against the back of the sofa.
“Rafaela,” said Evelyn after a moment, “he’s fallen asleep!”
Christmas morning, at a rather more sensible time (24-12-12) by Finn
Thanks for the comment, Kathryn :)
Christmas morning, at a rather more sensible time
Half-past seven, and young Matty Smith was asleep and dreaming of cakes and pie and other delightful things, when something landed on his bed - or, more precisely, on his legs.
He went from dreaming to sitting in one painful second.
“Ow! Christ! Susie! What are you doing, for God’s sake? You’ve broken my legs!”
“Rubbish,” said his elder sister cheerfully. “‘Course I haven’t. And don’t take the Lord’s name in vain - especially not on his birthday.”
“Then don’t sit on my bloody shins!” Matty protested, dragging the afflicted limbs from beneath his sister before flopping back onto his pillow. “What are you doing up and about so early? And how the hell do you look so disgustingly cheerful at this deadly time in the morning?”
“It’s seven thirty! Hardly the crack of dawn.”
“For you, maybe. I expect you get used to the small hours when you’re a teacher.”
“Small hours?” His sister smiled fondly down at him. “Ah, what it must be to be a journalist, able to get up whenever you like or sleep in if you want to. I always knew it wasn’t a proper job…”
“Watch it,” said Matty, raising a warning finger and wagging it at his sister. “It’s a strange job! You can be up all night and back in the office the next morning for the next assignment - so don’t you try to suggest I’m not pulling my weight!”
Susie grinned amiably.
“The girls were up early,” she said in answer to his earlier question. “They want to open their presents, but we’ve told them they have to wait until everyone is dressed and down in the salon - and you’re the only one left lurking a-bed, brother mine. Even Tristan is up and about, though he looks like he'd rather be in his bed. But I am sent to bid you come down, before the little ones burst with excitement.”
“Ohhhh.” Matty groaned and pulled the plumeau closer about him. “Must I? They can open their presents without me, I don’t mind.”
“Well, I do,” said Susie, and with a swift hand she whisked the bedclothes away from him, ignoring his wail of protest. “Up! Up! Up!”
After a brief, unsuccessful struggle for the return of his plumeau, Matty gave another groan and submitted. He swung himself up and pulled on the dressing gown his sister threw at him, then sat on the edge of the bed rubbing his eyes sleepily. Susie tousled his hair and smiled at him
“Isn’t it funny how things have changed?” she said. “Here we are, with a warm fire and lots of good food and our friends around us - and presents for everyone! When you think about where we came from…”
“True.” Matty’s mind drifted back to childhood days. “Hey, d’you remember the school parties?”
“Don’t I just! Weren’t they marvellous! All that food they had piled up for us, cakes and buns and jelly, and the teachers waiting on us - and we had to bring our own cups for a drink.”
“Didn’t we take jam jars for cups one year?”
“Several years! I don’t think we had our own cups till I was nine or ten. And d’you remember looking at all the birds they had hanging up in the greengrocers?”
“I do! Geese and turkeys and ducks. I used to be so jealous of Bert Fields in my class at school - he always had a nice bit of chicken for Christmas dinner. We were lucky to get the giblets.”
“I’m not! I distinctly remember it.”
“Well, maybe you’re right - when we were little, anyway. Wasn’t it lucky for us when Dad got the foreman’s job?”
“It certainly changed things a fair old bit.”
“D’you remember when we went carolling when I was about eleven? You and me and George and the twins?”
“Fat lot of good they were - they didn’t know any of the words!”
“Well, they were only little. Besides, they were quite good at humming. Anyway, don't you remember that year we had a little conference to see where we should go and carol, and you said that Conservatives had the most money out of everyone and we should go and sing at the Conservative Clubs?”
“God, was I a socialist even then?”
“It sounds like it! D’you remember it?”
“I do! The first three we tried slung us out on our arses.”
“But the fourth didn’t - don’t you remember? There was a drunken bloke came out and invited us in, for some unknown reason - we can’t have been singing that well. But they let us in and we did them some carols and then Tim took off his cap and started wandering around the room collecting money while we were all still singing. I thought they’d kick us out for being cheeky, but they stumped up alright. We took home quite a tidy sum, if I recall right.”
“First and only time the “blues” have come up trumps.”
“Well…maybe.” Susie gave a sad smile. “We were quite happy in those days, weren’t we, in spite of everything?”
“I’m happy now.”
“Oh, so am I. It’s just…well, sometimes I miss it.”
Matty stood up preparatory to searching out his clothes.
“If you mean Mam and the kids,” he said, “then I might agree. But if you mean the poverty and the misery and Dad being violent, then I don’t miss that in the slightest. Don’t get all rose-tinted, Suze, just because it’s Christmas.”
“I’m not - not really. Honestly! It’s only that I think it’s worth remembering that it wasn’t all bad.”
Matty looked at his sister. She was looking somewhat sorrowful, sitting on the edge of his bed, and he felt a slight compunction.
“Stop being mopey,” he told her sternly. “It’s Christmas! Go and get some breakfast inside you - that’ll cheer you up. I’ll be down in a minute.”
"Or a gin. That ought to see you right."
Susie laughed as she got up from the bed and went to the door. Then she turned back, a wicked look in her eyes.
“Hey - I bet I can get a drink out of Sarah before you can,” she said.
“Bet you can’t!”
“Shilling on it?”
Matty spat on his hand and they shook, grinning like monkeys. Before Susie let go of his hand she pulled him closer, and pecked a kiss on his cheek.
“Merry Christmas,” she said, and then she was gone.
As she went down the landing he heard her voice float back to him.
“You’d better hurry up if you want to win that bet!”
“Oh, I’ll win it,” said Matty, and bent to put on his trousers.
Christmas morning, after present-opening has finished (25-12-12) by Finn
Thanks for the comments, both.
Merry Christmas everyone!
Christmas morning, after present-opening has finished
“Morning, Sarah! Happy Christmas!”
“Matty! Oh, you cheeky devil! Get off me!”
“I only want a kiss! Look, I’m entitled - I’ve got mistletoe.”
“Well, take it away! I’d rather not have young men kissing me while I’m trying to prepare lunch.”
“Lunch already? It’s still early.”
“The sooner I prepare, the sooner I can relax with the rest of you.”
“Shall I send Susie in to help?”
“You can help yourself, if you’re so keen to lift the weight from my shoulders. Start with those potatoes.”
Matty faced the pile of muddy spuds and stared at them for a few moments.
“What do you want me to do with them?” he asked.
Sarah gave a hefty sigh and put down the goose she was manhandling.
“Peel them, you ninny,” she said.
Matty armed himself with a knife and picked up his first potato.
Sarah looked round, and threw up her hands in despair.
“You wash them first!” she cried.
They worked in amiable silence for a few minutes, until Tristan drifted in. He watched them for some moments.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
“Preparing dinner,” replied his sister, quite reasonably, though Matty could recognise the exasperation ringing in her voice.
“I was talking to Matty,” said Tristan.
“Preparing dinner,” Matty parroted, and turned to grin at him.
Sarah huffed indignantly.
“Peeling a few potatoes is hardly preparing dinner,” she said. “And you’ve hardly done any, young man. Get a move on, or the bird will be cooked before they’re even in the pan.”
“Yes, Cook,” he said.
Tristan stood in the doorway, watching them. After a minute or so his sister turned to him.
“Was there anything you wanted?” she demanded.
“Oh, no,” he said. “Only to say that Humphries and Robin have arrived.”
“Ted’s here?” Sarah’s voice rose in a slight shriek and she dropped the goose again. “But I’m not ready!”
“He is with Susie in the salon,” Tristan said, apparently not observing his sister’s agitation. “The girls are tremendously excited.” He grimaced. “Humphries says that a brandy or two should numb the effects of the high-pitched squealing.”
“You were the one who said Rafaela could come to stay,” said Sarah, who had collected herself in the course of his speech. “Now, get out of here and go and play host! Stop lurking in my kitchen!”
Tristan made another face.
“I never know what to say to him,” he protested, but his sister flapped her hands at him and he sighed and retreated.
His mention of brandy had reminded Matty of his bet with Susie, meanwhile, and he turned to Sarah and gave her a cheeky grin.
“Denying the poor man a brandy!”
“It’s far too early,” said Sarah, “and he’s done nothing to earn it yet.”
Matty saw his chance.
“I think I deserve a drink for risking Ted’s wrath by kissing you,” he suggested.
It didn’t get the reaction he’d hoped for. Instead of laughing, Sarah coloured and became rather stern.
“I don’t know what you mean,” she protested, but her tones had cooled off and, feeling that discretion was the better part of valour, Matty busied himself with the potatoes.
Christmas day, just before lunch (26-12-12) by Finn
Thank you for the comments.
The dragon is for Abi, who wanted a dragon.
Christmas day, just before lunch
“Mrs Russell! Merry Christmas!”
“Merry Christmas, Mr Smith. Such a pleasure to see you again.”
“Now, you see what I have here?”
“Is that mistletoe?”
“Russell - with your permission?”
Jem Russell laughed and shook his head.
“Who am I to deny a man his right to kiss a lady on Christmas Day, even if the lady in question is my wife?”
“Matty!” Sarah bustled out of the kitchen and flapped her hands at the young man. “Stop waving that mistletoe around and do something useful!”
“I don’t mind,” said Madge Russell, after Matty had pecked her cheek and been chased away into the house. “Merry Christmas, Sally!”
“Merry Christmas! Dr Russell - Joey - Grizel - lovely to see you all. Do come in!”
“All bets are off,” said Susie as her brother entered the salon ahead of the Russells and their girls. “Tristan’s just opened a bottle of wine to drink with dinner.”
“Doesn’t mean we can’t try to squeeze a gin out of him before then - figuratively speaking,” said Matty.
“You can try,” said Susie. “I’ve been having a go all morning, and it’s been one hell of an effort trying to stop Captain Humphries thinking I’m some sort of gin-fiend.”
“Defeatism, in you?” Matty grinned, and went to the sofa. “That’s not like you and…what the he…the blazes is that?”
He reached beneath him as he spoke and removed the hard object he had sat upon. Susie laughed when she saw it.
“Oh, that’s Rafaela’s dragon,” she said. “You remember how she was asking for one, to burn her toy princess to cinders? Well, Captain Humphries made one for her, bless him. Isn’t it lovely?”
“Looks like a dog with a dodgy hairdo,” said Matty to himself, but he put the carved dragon aside and turned his attention to the party.
“…and the girls were up at half past four this morning, apparently, wanting to unwrap their presents!”
“So Mr Denny says.”
“…I have to say, this is a wonderful room. So cosy!”
“Robin, are you warm enough?”
“Yes, thank you, Tante Marguerite. Joey, come and look at the tree!”
“Oh! There’s the doorbell again.”
“That’ll be Dr Maynard and Mollie. Dr Maynard was still at the San when we were ready to come over and Mollie said she’d wait for him.”
“Here they are!”
“Welcome, welcome! Merry Christmas!”
“Good afternoon, Miss Maynard. Now, you won’t deny me on Christmas Day, will you?”
“Oh, Mr Smith! Is that mistletoe?”
“Matty! What have I told you? Put that mistletoe away!”
“Oh, I don’t mind - not in the slightest,” said Mollie Maynard, blushing becomingly, and let Matty kiss her on the cheek.
“I say, shall we have some carols before we begin on lunch?”
“Excellent idea, Joey. You’ll give us a solo or two, won’t you?”
“And you’ll sing, won’t you, Auntie Susie?” put in Evelyn
“Of course, darling. But let’s all sing some songs together first.”
“I won’t,” said Sarah quickly. “I’ve enough to keep me busy getting the meal ready. But you lot enjoy yourselves.”
“If you don’t mind, I’ll pass on the singing too,” said Ted Humphries.
“Oh, Uncle Ted!”
“No, really. Miss Denny looks like she could do with some help.”
“Oh, I’m alright…”
“No, I insist.”
Glowing, Sarah departed with Captain Humphries and the rest assembled themselves about the piano. Madge offered to play, and soon the room was resounding to the old favourites, O Come All Ye Faithful, Hark The Herald Angels Sing and The Little Lord Jesus.
“Sing us a solo, Miss Smith,” said Jack Maynard, and Susie grinned and obliged. Tristan took Madge’s place at the piano and they went through a couple of the old traditional carols. She was about to stand down, when Matty realised his sister was looking a little unsteady.
“Are you alright?” he said, but then a little cry went up from the assembled crowd, for Susie had tumbled down and fainted!
“Brandy, quick,” said Dr Russell, taking charge immediately as Tristan dropped to his knees beside Susie and tried to revive her. Brandy was fetched and a little was forced between her lips, and she coughed and opened her eyes.
“Oh dear,” she said faintly. “What happened?”
“You fainted,” said Jack, who was kneeling at her other side. “Do you think you can sit up?”
“I…think so,” she said. “Oh dear, I’m sorry to be such a fool.”
She caught Matty’s eye as she spoke, and he was the only one to see the little flash of wickedness, like a spark in a fireplace, that glinted in her own eye before she resumed the weak and feeble act. Instantly his concern turned to dismay as he realised the truth. Curse the girl, she’d won the bet! He watched as Dr Maynard and Tristan helped Susie to the sofa and settled her down, watched as Dr Maynard poured her another measure of brandy and, belatedly realising that as her brother he ought to be demonstrating some concern for her welfare, he started forward, took the glass from a rather startled Jack Maynard and handed it to her himself.
“Little cheat,” he muttered as he leaned in, and she flashed him another wicked look.
“Worth it, for a shilling,” she murmured in response, then leaned back against the sofa in weak fashion. Tristan, who had seated himself next to her, much to Jack’s annoyance, took her hand and gave her a most distressed look.
“You must rest,” he said. “Oh, my dear! It is not like you to be taken ill.”
Susie played along beautifully, smiling up at him in wan fashion.
“I’m alright, really,” she said, in tones which protested the very opposite.
Matty, feeling irritated with his sister and aware that the eyes of the room were on the sofa, turned back to the assembled company.
“Well, shall we go on with the carols?” he asked, and was slightly taken aback to see the eyes of the women widen at his callous disregard for his sister’s condition.
“Oh, please,” said Susie’s voice from behind him, “do go on. Don’t mind me! I’ll be fine presently.”
“Stop milking it,” muttered Matty at his sister as he passed her to get to the piano.
“I’ll play for a bit, shall I?” he said. “What shall we have?”
“Oh, let’s sing God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen!” said Grizel, who had been quick to recover from the surprise of Susie fainting and was keen to get back to singing.
“No!” The protest had come from Evelyn, and everyone turned to her in surprise, so that she blushed and stammered her explanation.
“I don’t really like that one,” she said.
“Why not?” asked Joey, intrigued.
“Well, it’s just that it’s nasty about the virgin Mary,” said Evelyn.
The faces of the assembled people showed their amazement. Evelyn blushed even harder and tried to elaborate.
“It’s…it’s that…it calls her a witch.”
Madge racked her brains to think of the relevant part of the carol. She was still trying to remember when her husband suddenly roared with laughter. Joey quickly followed, as did Matty.
“Oh, Evelyn!” he laughed. “It doesn’t say that! It says ‘the which his mother Mary’ - W H I C H! Not a thing about witches!”
Evelyn’s face was a picture - eyes and mouth round, cheeks crimson with embarrassment. She clapped a hand to her mouth, then her face crumpled and she looked about to burst into tears. Madge quickly knelt down and gave her a hug.
“It was an easy mistake to make,” she said.
“I didn’t realise…”
“Of course you didn’t. Don’t worry - and ignore everyone else. They’re just being mean to laugh at you like that!”
At her words everyone stopped laughing, and Matty turned to the piano and struck up “Once In Royal David’s City”, and Evelyn’s embarrassment was forgotten in the carolling.
Christmas Day, in the afternoon (27-12-12) by Finn
Thank you for the comments, both.
Christmas Day, in the afternoon
“What a sweet mistake to make! It reminds me of Sunday school when I was little, when my mother was telling us that God is so great, we cannot know his name, and one of the boys stood up and said, “But Mrs Denny, I know his name! It’s Harold,” and Mother asked how he knew and he said, “It’s in the Lord’s Prayer, you know - ‘Our Father, who art in Heaven, Harold be thy name’”. How we laughed at him, poor thing!”
Dinner had been a success, the children had been driven outside to play in the snow, Fáfnir the cat was tucking into his own Christmas dinner of giblets and scraps, and most of the adults had retired to the salon, where Madge had just apprised Sarah of Evelyn’s earlier mistake over the carol. There was a smattering of amused laughter at Sarah’s own story, and everyone began to remember their own tales of unfortunate misunderstandings. As the talk broke into little groups, Tristan entered the salon, very red in the face, followed by Matty, who was shaking with suppressed laughter. Ted Humphries looked up as they came to join him.
“Everything alright?” he asked, anticipating a story.
Matty gave up the struggle and started to giggle.
“He’s been mistletoed,” he said, indicating Tristan with a jerk of the thumb.
“Sounds painful,” said Ted, chuckling himself. “Does being mistletoed mean you have to wear special footwear?”
Matty stopped laughing and Tristan forgot to blush for a moment as they both stared at him in puzzlement.
“Mistle-toed. I mean to say, is it something like being hammer-toed?”
Ted looked from one to the other with raised eyebrows, waiting for laughter. Alas for him, it never came; Tristan merely looked baffled, while Matty gave a snort and pulled a face at the joke.
“Excellent,” he said. “Humphries, you should go on the stage.”
“It’s just a stage I’m going through,” muttered Ted vaguely, reflecting that if Sarah had been there, and not trapped on the sofa with Mrs Russell, quite out of his reach, she would have favoured him with her laughter. “Well, I’m very sorry to hear that, Denny. Who was it? Not the fair Miss Maynard?”
Matty gave another snort.
“Not she,” he said. “No, it was my sister, of course. She cornered him in the kitchen with the mistletoe when she was supposed to be washing up.”
“A frightening experience,” said Ted with due solemnity.
Tristan said nothing, but he was refusing to make eye-contact, and his cheeks were still very red. Matty was watching him and his face was still very amused.
“Of course, it wasn’t just a peck on the cheek she wanted,” he informed Ted, evidently keen to rub it in as much as possible. “No, she really went for it - didn’t she, Tris?” His eyes twinkled with a teasing light.
Tristan made a face and maintained his silence.
“Well, she’s a jolly pretty girl,” said Ted, “begging your pardon, Smith. Cheer up, Denny - it could be worse!”
“I wish she would not,” muttered Tristan, but Ted could tell his heart was not in it. He left them and drifted over to sit on the other sofa with Dr Maynard.
“I’m glad she seems to have recovered from her fainting fit this morning,” said Ted to Matty, and was surprised to note the sneer that appeared on that young man’s face before Matty hurriedly straightened it and nodded.
“Yes - yes, definitely. That was a worry, yes.”
As if in answer to their thoughts, the door opened and Susie and Mollie breezed in.
“Washing up all done,” said Susie. Jack had risen to go and speak with Dr Russell, and Susie collapsed onto the sofa next to Tristan, and swung her legs up to rest them on his knees.
“You don’t mind,” she told him.
“No,” he agreed faintly, and Ted was amused to observe how his whole body tensed up upon contact with her. Susie seemed oblivious, however.
“Let’s sing some songs,” she said, and began,
“As I walked out through Chatham Street, a fair maid I did meet,
She asked me back to see her home, she lived in Bleeker Street.”
“Susie,” said Tristan cautiously, “I don’t think we should sing that song.”
“Some more carols, maybe,” said Sarah swiftly. “Or a parlour game?”
“Call the girls in and we’ll play something,” said Mollie, and Tristan got up quickly, almost toppling Susie to the floor.
“I will play some music,” he said, and went straight to the piano.
“I sometimes think you took up music purely to avoid joining in,” teased his sister as he took a seat, but he merely smiled blithely and struck up with some gentle tunes. Matty stood at the mantelpiece and listened, until the clatter and chatter of the girls entering drowned it out momentarily, and once they were all settled, a strenuous afternoon of games commenced.
Christmas Day, dusk (27-12-12) by Finn
I expect people are still reading and just busy!
This chapter is some gratuitous winding up of Tristan, written for my friend Melissa, who loves seeing him in uncomfortable situations. But he always makes things go a bit serious when I write from his POV, so sorry about that
Christmas Day, dusk
Tristan stepped outside just as dusk was starting to fall, and stood looking up at the stars, relieved to be at liberty even for a short time. The five girls were still at a high pitch of excitement, and their voices were, in spite of Madame’s gentle chastisements, pitched at a similar level - a great trial to the ears. Added to that was the knowledge that there were simply a great many more people in his home than he was accustomed to, which had been pleasant for a while but was now beginning to wear him out. Sarah was serving tea, which meant that the guests would be here for a while yet, though fortunately it seemed that they had all eaten sufficiently at lunch for them to refuse to linger until supper. Assuredly he was grateful to be out in the cold, still air of the mountains, to look upon the snow, the moon and the stars at his leisure, and in complete silence!
It was strange, he thought as he stood leaning against a tree, shivering slightly despite his coat and scarf, but this had been the first real family Christmas he had attended since before the War. Last year they had not known Susie and Matty as well as they did now, and they had not even met Evelyn - impossible though that was to imagine! As for their first Christmas at the Tiernsee, it had not been a success, for they had only just moved in together again after four years apart, and they had not been used to one another’s company. He seemed to recall it had ended in a flaming row and Sarah had gone to bed early. Not a happy memory!
And before that, every Christmas had been scarred with the knowledge that someone was missing. Mother had died so soon after New Year in 1919, and the Christmases that followed that were redolent with her loss, and with the absence of their brother, who had been killed in the winter of 1917. He could not recall much of their “celebrations”, but they must have been awful, especially for Sarah. Certainly she had not even come home from Italy for Christmas once in the four years she had spent there, and he had mostly ignored the festive season and concentrated on his work. As for Christmas during the war - well, he did not care to recall those. Eddie at the Front, and then him…it was not a time for peace and joy to all men. 1913 had been their last Christmas en famille, and even then Dad had been missing, as he had for so long. How strange, to think how suddenly their family had been rent asunder - and how long ago it was, when it seemed only yesterday that they were sitting down to Christmas dinner with Mother, in that grey stone house in Westmorland on the shores of Esthwaite Water. But now they had a new house, and a new family - Evelyn, Matty and Susie, their strange, loving little clan. What a difference it made to Christmas, to spend it with them!
Above him the stars twinkled like so many diamonds on black jeweller’s cloth, and he gazed up at them for some time, picking out the constellations and naming as many as he could. Earlier in the year he had brought Evelyn out here and had sat down with her, and had pointed out the various clusters and constellations and taught her their names, telling her the legends that lay behind so many of them. He remembered doing the very same with his father, one holiday not all that long before he died. Dad had woken him late at night and they had gone out onto the fellside, just the two of them, and had lain down just as he and Evelyn had, side by side on a blanket, looking up at the stars. Later, when his father had died, he remembered that night as a special one, one of several precious moments during that year running up to his death; and he wondered how much the old man had known, whether he had been aware that he was not much longer for this world and had arranged these adventures for his son with that thought in his mind. Had he done the same with Eddie, with Sarah? He must ask her, when they were alone.
Laughter shrilled forth from the kitchen window and he closed his eyes tiredly. Lord! all this clamour! The children exclaiming, the women chattering, the doctors talking in lordly fashion about this or that concerning the San, a discussion which effectively closed him out. And the salon stank of the smoke of their cigarettes. At least Susie and Matty had the grace to smoke outside, or to lean out of the window. He hated cigarette smoke - it irritated his lungs and made him cough - and he refused to believe in its beneficial effects, however much it might be recommended as a remedy for consumption. To him it was the worst kind of pollution, a sure way to ruin one’s lungs and voice. If only Susie would not do it.
He thought for a moment that he had conjured it up from his imagination, for just as he was thinking this a drift of cigarette smoke came to him and caught his attention, but when he turned round he realised that it was no figment. Susie had followed him outside and was standing now, wrapped in her fur-collared coat with a cigarette between her fingers, smiling at him in a pointed sort of way. He smiled back, fondly, feeling no less excited to see her than he had felt at any point in the last six months or so - since he had discovered his feelings for her.
“Have we driven you out?” she asked him.
“Oh, no!” The response was automatic these days - he knew that one should never be rude about one’s guests. But Susie was different. She gave him a knowing smile, and he laughed slightly reluctantly.
“It is rather more…peaceful, out here among the stars,” he temporised.
“Mm. Aren’t they pretty? I don’t know a thing about them.”
“Do you not? I can teach you - I have been teaching Evelyn.”
“Maybe later,” she said as she flung her cigarette away. “As a matter of fact, I had quite a different purpose in coming out here.”
“Yes.” She came purposefully over to him and stood before him, taking the lapels of his coat in her hands and giving him what he thought might be an arch look. He stiffened automatically, wondering what fresh teasing lay in store for him.
“I’ve come for another kiss,” she said.
His mind exploding in panic, he sought an escape. It was not easy. His back was against the tree and Susie had him in quite a firm grasp, making it impossible to slide either to left or right - and of course, she was in front of him, so he could not go that way. Oh, damn that mistletoe! Frantically he tried to forestall her.
“Did the last one not suffice?”
“Oh, no,” she said. “No, the last was not quite up to scratch, I’m afraid, my dear. You’ll have to try harder this time, because I intend to kiss you until you get it right.”
“Until…I get it right?”
“That’s it. Come on, darling. Impress me.”
Impress her? He glanced around him, but he saw no escape - and here she was before him, her beautiful face tilted up towards his, waiting for him. His mind turning somersaults, he gave in the fight more willingly than he had anticipated, and bent to kiss her lips. She kissed him back gently, then more enthusiastically, until he pulled back, feeling light-headed, panicky and frighteningly out of control.
“Hm,” Susie said thoughtfully. “Not bad, but I’m sure there’s a bit more passion in you somewhere. Let’s try again.”
This time her arms came up around his neck, and unwittingly he found himself pulling her into his arms. Weakly he tried to break the kiss, but she made a little “Ah, ah!” noise in her throat and kissed him again, harder. She tasted of wine and cigarettes; he could smell her perfume and her hair…his mind swimming, he gave in completely and kissed her with abandon, and forgot the world around him.
When finally they broke apart, he took a deep breath to steady himself. How could simply kissing someone make one feel so faint? Susie seemed no less dizzy, for her eyes were unfocussed and she was half-smiling, gazing into his eyes until he felt uncomfortable and turned his head away, hot and embarrassed. She cupped his cheek with a hand, fingers tangling in his hair, and turned his face back again, and he forced himself to meet her eye. She was smiling bewitchingly, devilishly, terrifyingly.
“You like me, don’t you?” she said.
“No! I mean…that is, I do, but I…not like that…”
“Liar. I know you do. For a start, you’re still holding me.”
He hadn’t realised. He dropped his arms in a moment and she laughed, and wrapped both her arms around his neck. Her face was damnably close. Unconsciously he found his hands creeping to her waist again, and stopped himself with an effort.
“That’s just one obvious fact,” she said. “The other telling point is that I came out here demanding a kiss without actually possessing any mistletoe - and you didn’t notice.”
He leaned his head back against the tree and rolled his eyes heavenwards. She had tricked him - again! She laughed in merry fashion and kissed his neck, his jaw, his lips, and he found himself kissing her again, quite against his will.
God, how he wanted her!
As soon as the thought crossed his mind he froze and pulled away, much to Susie’s obvious surprise. Disentangling himself from her arms, he put her gently aside and hurried towards the house, stumbling a little in his flight, desperate to free himself from her and her entrancing charms. Behind him, he heard her amused laughter and blushed even harder, but he did not observe how the laughter faded away and how her expression lost its humour. He was far too set on escaping her. It was not until the kitchen door clattered shut behind him that he could breathe a deep sigh, close his eyes and shake off the trance. He would not venture outside alone again!
Outside, Susie stood for a while beside the tree. She watched him go, then lit a cigarette and lingered to smoke it, wondering why it was that he always ran away.
The end of the day - almost midnight (28-12-12) by Finn
Unabashed fluffiness now. I hope you all have strong stomachs. I'm not very good with romance and softness, it makes me feel all icky, but it's Christmas and Sarah wanted a happy ending, so I let her have one.
Thank you for reading, and welcome to the last chapter - well, the last one until the alternative ending...
May I just take this moment to reiterate that this is NOT T&M canon :D
The end of the day - almost midnight
Sarah looked up at Matty, who had strolled back into the room after having had a smoke and a think in the kitchen.
“Not sure,” she said. “He disappeared about half an hour ago and I’ve not seen him since. And Susie went almost immediately after him.”
“Oh.” Matty pulled a dissatisfied face. “I suppose they’ve gone to bed. They might have said goodnight.” He sighed, which turned into a yawn. “Oh, well. I’m giving up for the day. I'm well and truly done in. Night, both. Don’t call me till at least eleven.”
He turned and drifted out of the room, pulling the door to behind him. Sarah heard his footsteps receding up the wooden stairs, and then they were definitely alone.
“Last men standing,” said Ted with a smile. He was seated beside the dying fire, a brandy glass resting on the arm of his chair. Robin had been sent back with the Russells, but Ted had stayed on, initially to help with clearing up, then because he claimed he’d drunk too much, and was far too comfortable and happy in the company, to make the walk back to Die Rosen.
Now he smiled at her and Sarah smiled back, a little tremor fluttering within her. Alone at last, and though she was too tired for real conversation, it was pleasant just to be in the same room as Ted, to smile at him and see him smile back. She wished the evening did not have to end, but she realised as she suppressed another yawn that she would soon have to make her excuses and evict him.
Still, they had a little time left.
“It’s been a lovely Christmas,” she said wearily. “Manic, at times - a bit frantic with all the cooking, and the guests, and the children…” She widened her eyes and he laughed at her expression. “But it’s been lovely. It’s so nice to have friends.”
“Isn’t it?” Ted nodded fervently. “When I lived in Cologne…”
He broke off, and his expression said that he felt he had made a mistake. Sarah felt a small dart within her at the thought of Marya, of his happy marriage and sad widowhood, but Ted shrugged and continued.
“Our social circle was small, very small,” he said. “Marya had no relatives living nearby, and most of our German neighbours were not anxious to be friends with an Englishman and his Polish wife. No, we didn’t have much outside the home.”
“But you were happy,” said Sarah faintly, for she was trying not to be jealous.
“I was.” It was a simple statement; he was not going to deny the fact. “But I am happy again now, in a different way - and that’s to do with the people here. The Chalet School, and the San, they aren’t just businesses. They’re a home for stray dogs like Robin and me.”
“And for my brother and me,” said Sarah. “We’ve not had a home for so many years.”
Ted smiled and gave a faint chuckle.
“Where is he, by the way?” he asked. “Has Miss Smith spirited him away to her lair?”
“I’ve no idea where he is,” said Sarah, glad to step away from the contemplation of Ted's former happiness and onto more domestic concerns. “Susie’s terribly forceful with him. Poor soul - he’s not used to it.”
“I think she makes life very jolly for him,” said Ted, and added, unexpectedly, “and I fancy she’d like to make it even more jolly, if she could.”
Sarah looked at him, intrigued.
“Do you think?” she said. “I’d not really thought of it like that. Though now you say it…I mean, she’s always been very fond of him…”
“I ‘spect so,” Ted said, parroting Rafaela’s current favourite phrase. “I do ‘spect so. She teases him something rotten, but underneath that she’s really very fond of him.”
“Well, that would make life easier,” said Sarah, mostly to herself, but Ted heard her and leaned forward, his expression interested.
“How do you mean?”
“Oh!” Flustered, Sarah hurriedly cast around for an acceptable explanation. “Only that if they got married he’d be off my hands and onto hers.”
“Leaving you free for…other things?”
Sarah’s treacherous cheeks flushed.
“Something like that,” she muttered.
Ted saw her embarrassment and his eyes lit up briefly.
“I suggested to him that we could move onto Christian name terms,” he said in cheerful tones, “but he does seem to be struggling with it.”
“I can understand that! Why did you suggest it?”
“Because I was hoping that he and I might become better acquainted over the next year or so.”
“In what sense?”
Ted was smiling and shaking his head affectionately. He got up from Tristan’s armchair and came to sit down on the sofa beside her. Sarah’s heart flopped pathetically as he took her hand in his and she willed herself not to lose her grasp on her self-control.
“Because of you,” he said simply. “I do hope you’ve noticed that I’ve been courting you for the last six months.”
“Um…” Rather embarrassingly her voice seemed to have shrivelled into a squeak. She cleared her throat. “I suppose so.”
“I’m not the sort of man to court unnecessarily, Sarah,” said Ted. “I took my time because I wanted to be sure…but I am sure, and there’s no sense prevaricating. I love you, and I want you to be my wife. I want you to come up here and live with me and Robin, and I want you to bring Evelyn with you, and I want us to be one big family. I won’t say a happy family, because families are too dynamic for simple emotions like happiness…but you would make me very, very happy at this moment if you’d accept me.”
“I…” Sarah realised she was gaping like a dead fish, and she tried vainly to pull herself together; but her heart was beating rather too furiously for coherent thought. “I…”
“Yes?” asked Ted, smiling hopefully and rather nervously.
“Yes!” The word came out as an explosion, and then Sarah clapped her hands to her mouth and stared at him, before laughing suddenly. “Yes! I will! I will…”
She took a deep breath to steady herself and dropped her hands.
“I never thought I’d say yes,” she said in a much more normal voice. “I’d planned to turn you down gently. But when it came to it…”
“I’m irresistible?” said Ted, who was smiling hugely.
“You are!” The delight sprang back into Sarah’s face and she laughed.
Ted reached out and took her hand again. He couldn’t stop smiling and his cheeks were dimpled with pleasure.
“You’re a wonder, Sarah Denny,” he said. “The only thing I’m amazed about is that someone hasn’t snapped you up before.”
“There wasn’t anyone to do the snapping,” said Sarah, ever honest. “Not after the War. I was always one of the ‘superfluous’ women.”
“Well, you’ve never been superfluous to me,” said Ted, and then there was a confused fumble and somehow he got his arms around her and she found herself cuddled against his shoulder. He kissed her hair and she closed her eyes, her heart thundering like a runaway carriage.
“I want to wake up the whole house and tell them,” she said after a few moments. “I want to shout it from the rooftop."
"You'll cause an avalanche if you do," said Ted.
"I don't care. It's worth it. Oh Lord, how am I meant to sleep tonight?”
Ted laughed and she heard for the first time how different laughter sounds when you are cradled against someone.
“Before you do - if you do - there’s something I want from you,” Ted said, his voice resonating deeply through his chest.
Ted released her briefly and reached behind him, then brandished something above her head.
“Is that Matty’s mistletoe?”
Sarah smiled gently.
“Oh, Ted, you silly,” she said. “You don’t need mistletoe to get me to kiss you.”
“I didn’t think so,” said Ted. “But then I got worried. I wondered if you might need some persuading. Actually, I was going to wave the mistletoe at you first and then ask you to marry me, but I seem to have got it all in the wrong order.”
Sarah pushed the mistletoe aside.
“Not in the slightest,” she said, and kissed him.
“Ever kissed a man with a moustache before?” asked Ted a minute or so later.
“No, I haven’t, actually.”
“What’s it like?”
“Rather fun. A new experience, anyway.”
“Want me to get rid of it? I would, you know, if you wanted.”
“Don’t change yourself for my sake,” said Sarah. “I love you just as you are.”
Ted’s eyes lit up brilliantly.
“So you do love me.”
“Haven’t I just agreed to marry you? What does that mean, if not love?”
“It could mean anything,” said Ted honestly. “But I didn’t doubt you, not really. I doubted myself, but not you - never you.”
“Will Robin mind having a stepmother,” asked Sarah suddenly.
“How can she,” said Ted warmly, “when it’s you? No, she won’t mind.”
“I won’t try to take Marya’s place.”
“You couldn’t,” said Ted, then added swiftly as he registered the sudden hurt in Sarah’s eyes, “because you’re not the same person. Marya was a simple soul - sweet, yes, beautiful, and I loved her very much - but not a scholar. I married her when I was a young man, when youth and beauty made the most impression on me. Now I am older, hopefully wiser, and I appreciate that there are far finer things than a delicate face. Not that you’re not beautiful, Sarah - you are, but in your own way. You have a beauty that comes from within, that shines through everything that you are and do, and it comes from your wisdom and your intelligence, not just from the structure of the bones in your face. I hope you understand what I mean and that I haven’t just made a complete fool of myself and dug myself into a terrible hole.”
“If you’re a fool, you’re an eloquent fool,” said Sarah shakily, and her eyes were brimming with tears, “because I think that is probably the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me.” She swallowed and blinked. “Oh, now I’m the fool - I said I wouldn’t cry, I was bloody determined I wasn’t going to cry…”
“I’m rather pleased you are,” said Ted, and pulled her back into his arms.
Sarah hid her tears against his shirt, much to her relief. They cuddled companionably until the clock on the mantelpiece chimed midnight, and then, reluctantly, Ted straightened up.
“They’ll be wondering where I am,” he said.
“Don’t go back,” said Sarah, her voice muffled against his jacket. “Stay here tonight. I’ll make you up a bed. It’d be so nice to come down to breakfast and have you sitting there at the table.”
“Much as I’d love to, I really think I ought to go back,” said Ted. “Robin will wonder where I’ve got to when she comes running into my room tomorrow morning.”
He kissed Sarah’s hair, then her lips as she turned her face up to him, and then he kissed her again, and quite a few more minutes passed before either of them moved. Eventually Ted pulled away and smiled down at her.
“Well, come along, Frau Hauptmann Humphries-to-be. I must be off, and I think you ought to go to bed after such a long and busy day.”
“I won’t sleep,” said Sarah, letting him pull her upright with considerable reluctance.
“I’ll come over tomorrow, bright and early,” he said, “and we’ll announce the news.”
“I’ll see you then, then.”
“Till then, then, then.”
“Oh, stop it!”
But she was laughing, and then she kissed him again.
The clock was ticking loudly in the darkened hall as Sarah waved Ted goodbye and closed the door. The house was quiet, the girls asleep, the others presumably in their rooms if not asleep themselves. She heard a rather strangulated cry, quickly muffled - Susie’s voice. Probably a nightmare, and no wonder, after all the cheese they'd eaten. She pondered going to check on her, but though she paused in the hall for a moment there was no further sound. Hopefully she had gone back to sleep.
Poor old Tristan, Sarah thought as she mounted the stairs to bed. I hope he doesn't take it too badly. I wonder how he’ll manage without me. But I can’t take it back now, even if I wanted to. And if Ted’s right about Susie…
She was passing Tristan’s door now, and she paused there for a moment. He was probably not asleep yet - he seldom slept before midnight. She could go in and tell him - break the news gently before they told everyone else tomorrow morning. She raised her hand to knock on the door, but then she heard her brother’s voice from within, speaking urgently but quietly.
“Are you alright? You’re not…you’re not crying?”
“Oh, God, no. I’m laughing, you idiot! I can't quite believe this has happened. Oh, Tristan, darling, I’m pathetically happy!”
Susie’s voice. Evidently it hadn’t been a nightmare after all. Well, that was unexpected! But it made things a little easier, at least.
Sarah smiled to herself and stepped away from the door, then carried on down the landing to her own room. Her mind was all a daze, but a very happy daze.
Pathetically happy. That makes two of us, my dear! Tristan and Susie - well, that solves some of my worries, anyway. I can get married in peace, now. Married! Imagine me, married! Whatever would Mother say? Oh, I do hope she can see me now. Wife and mother in one step. But it’ll be alright, with Ted there. Dear, dear Ted. Oh, I shan’t sleep a wink - I’m too excited! What a Christmas! What a jolly, happy, wonderful Christmas!
An Alternative Ending (28-12-12) by Finn
I'm posting this chapter here now, but I'm not going to put it over to LGM until someone comments, as I'm sick of spreeing!
This is the alternative ending, and it is a Christmas present for Kathryn, who plagues me frequently requests a certain scenario. I've told her and told her that I can't write it in real T&M, because that's not the way the characters are, but since I'm not in T&M canon at the moment, I can do what I like!
So here it is - the alternative ending. Just to let you know, Kathryn - you may have one or the other, but not both... ;-)
Merry Christmas, and thanks for reading!
An alternative ending especially for Kathryn - and this one is really, definitely not T&M canon!
“It’s not fair,” said Tristan.
Matty looked up at him. They were alone in the salon. The room was lit by the warm glow of the fire, which was slowly dying down in the stove, and Tristan was sitting close to it, leaning forward in his armchair with his hand propped against his chin. He was looking directly at Matty, and the young man felt a shiver run through him, despite the warmth, when he gazed into those dark, expressive eyes.
“What’s not fair?” he asked.
“The mistletoe,” said Tristan.
This was a new tack of conversation. Matty frowned in puzzlement.
“No,” he said, “I suppose it’s not fair. It does rather force people into things they probably don’t want to do.”
“It certainly does,” agreed Tristan. “I do not wish to offend, but I can think of people I would rather kiss than your sister.”
“Oh?” Matty flushed hot, and was grateful for the dim light which hid his embarrassment. “Such as?”
Tristan didn’t answer. He looked into the glowing remnants of the fire for a few moments, then up again at Matty.
“Anyway, that was not what I meant when I said it was unfair,” he said.
“I meant that you were being unfair. You pursued the women and got a kiss from each of them, but you left someone out.”
“But I don’t think I left anyone out.”
The crackling of the wood filled the silence, as Matty stared at Tristan in amazement.
“But I thought you weren’t…I mean…my sister…”
“Your sister likes to tease me,” said Tristan quietly, “but that does not mean I desire anything more. My interests lie in…quite a different area.”
“Yes! I mean…yes. Yes, I am.”
Tristan held his gaze for a moment, then heaved a great sigh of relief.
“Oh, thank god,” he said. “I was worried I had made a fool of myself.”
“Never…never to me…”
Matty had practically leapt from his seat at Tristan’s sigh. He dived across the room and collapsed onto his knees in front of Tristan, taking the elder man’s hands in his.
“Never to me,” he repeated.
Tristan looked down at him, then lifted a hand, cupped Matty’s cheek and smiled.
“My dear boy,” he said.
Matty rose to a half-crouch and was about to lean in and kiss Tristan, but the elder man held up a hand.
“Aren’t you forgetting something?”
Tristan raised his eyebrows.
“Oh! The mistletoe!” exclaimed Matty. “Wait there - don’t move!”
He was back in moments, the mistletoe in his hand and his heart in his mouth.
“I’m ready,” he said, and held up the mistletoe. “Are you?”
“Always. Always, for you.”
They were rather preoccupied for the next minute or so, though despite the distraction each kept an attentive ear for any footstep on the stairs or any creaking of a door that might herald the arrival of someone to disturb them. Fortunately, no-one came, and eventually they found themselves on the sofa, Matty curled up against Tristan’s shoulder with an arm snug around him. He closed his eyes, his heart beating very fast, and yet feeling the most comfortable he had for years.
“My dear,” said Tristan quietly.
They sat like that for some minutes, as the fire died lower and the room threw out long shadows across the patterned carpet. Then Matty gave a sudden snort of laughter.
“I suppose, to make things even, I ought to go and offer Ted a kiss too,” he said. “It’s not ‘fair’ otherwise.”
Tristan laughed too.
“I’d not distract him,” he said. “I feel sure he would not be interested.”
“Good. Because I’m fearfully jealous. I’ve been jealous of Susie all this last year.”
“Really? I haven’t shown any preference, have I?”
“Oh no - but she can flirt with you, and I can’t. Dammit, I want to flirt with you.”
“It doesn’t matter,” he said. “I have never been successful at flirting. I would probably not notice.”
“That’s true. But I’d still like the chance.”
“Then we shall flirt outrageously whenever we have the opportunity,” said Tristan generously, and hugged Matty closer to him.
“Like now, you mean?” said Matty.
Tristan considered this.
“I suppose so,” he said finally, though he did not sound sure. Matty grinned to himself.
“It’s a cold night, isn’t it?” he said after a pause.
“I can stoke up the stove a little if you like?”
“No, just cuddle me a bit more.”
“Mm. Of course, it’ll be even colder when we go up to bed.”
“I can find you a hot water bottle?”
Matty suppressed his laughter manfully.
“You really are hopeless at flirting, aren’t you?” he said. “No, darling, I was rather hoping that you might help me keep warm in a different way.”
Tristan frowned briefly, then enlightenment suddenly dawned in his eyes.
“I presume you do not mean me to suggest finding you some extra blankets?” he said, but his voice was merry. He kissed Matty’s head and stroked a hand across his hair.
“So, sir,” he said in bright tones, “since it is so cold in your own room, would you perchance like to come and sleep in mine?”
“Oh, not sleep, darling,” said Matty with a winning smile. “But I’ll come and spend the night with you, if you’re offering.” He disentangled himself from Tristan’s arms and stood up, taking Tristan’s hands and pulling him up too.
“You're very eager,” said Tristan, with just a shade of the old bashfulness coming back into his voice.
“I’ve waited long enough for this,” said Matty quietly, and gave Tristan’s hands a tug. “Come on - come to bed. In the words of the old song, let’s ‘turn this cold December into spring’.”
Five minutes later and the stove had died away into nothing. The clock on the mantel ticked loudly, the last of the embers hissed in the fireplace, and there was the occasional faint rustle as needles dropped from the Christmas tree onto the shreds of wrapping paper below. The midnight chimes struck, a door creaked closed upstairs, and the house, at last, fell quiet.
Outside, soft and silently, the snow began to fall.
Merry Christmas to Kathryn and any other Tristan/Matty shippers! Hope you like this little effort. I’m sorry that the “real” Tristan isn’t what you want him to be - I tried, believe me, I tried to make him be, but he refused and there’s no way you can force characters to be untrue to themselves. Anyway, I’m starting to think he’s rather more interesting as a non-typical heterosexual male than as a rather typical homosexual one, and that it leads to more intriguing situations and scenarios and tension and suchlike. I mean, obviously Matty is far more suited to him than Susie is, but that just adds to the story, I think! A little tragedy in itself, especially for poor Matty.
Merry Christmas, everybody!
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters and settings are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.