Characters: Siger, Mycroft, Grandfather
Warnings/Triggers: a domestic abuse situation
Word Count 2,302
Summary: A crisis at home causes Siger to take Mycroft to London on the train to stay with his in-laws, and he passes on some important knowledge along the way.
Author's notes: Set in the Trio 'verse.
I had this idea as I was falling asleep one night of contrasting the three brothers at the same age, and so I started writing a fic meant to be in three sections, and ended up writing three fics. I decided to place them at age three, since three is obviously an important number in this verse, and when children really start to be able to voice their thoughts and personalities.
It ended up being quite a similar set of stories to the 'What if?' series, and the 'C' theme of that fit these as well, so feel free to consider them in the same universe.
Siger is a bit flippant in this, and I want to make it clear that I don't take domestic abuse lightly. Nor does he, really. He's just very much a Holmes.
“My shoe is untied.”
“Then tie it.”
“I don't know how to tie shoes.”
Siger lowered a corner of his newspaper and glanced down at Mycroft's foot, then at Mycroft. Yes, he supposed three years old might be a bit young to tie one's own shoes.
“We're on a train, Mycroft, you won't need to walk anywhere,” Siger said. “It can wait until we reach London.”
Of course, it couldn't wait. Siger realized this the moment such an idiotic statement had left his mouth. This was the child who needed to change his whole outfit if one speck of dirt appeared anywhere on it, and who arranged his peas in perfect lines on his plate while refusing to eat them. They were only ten minutes out of Lincoln, asking Mycroft to wait two more hours to have something put back in order was like asking him to hold his breath until they reached the moon.
Siger put his newspaper aside and patted the train seat next to him. Mycroft lifted his foot up, and Siger tied the shoe for him.
“Mummy does it different,” Mycroft announced.
“Differently,” Siger corrected, because there was really no excuse for poor grammar, even at three years old. Shoes, perhaps, but grammar, no. “I do it differently to most people. This way is faster. I invented it. It saves time.”
Mycroft examined both laces, lifting up one foot and then the other. He frowned. Siger waited for the inevitable declaration that it was wrong.
“Make my other shoe like yours,” he requested.
Siger really thought that shouldn't be as satisfying as it was. He obligingly undid Dora's shoelace and tied it to match the other. Mycroft smiled and kicked his feet back and forth.
“I will show Mummy,” he said.
“You'll have to wait,” Siger said. “Mummy is staying at the house with Thea. You can show Grandfather and Grand-maman when we get to London.” He picked his newspaper back up again.
Mycroft got on his knees to look out the window. “Aunt Thea is feeling sad,” he said.
“Yes,” Siger said.
“Why?” Mycroft asked.
Now, there was a tricky question. Siger suspected 'because she finally left her abusive, unfaithful, complete arsehole of a husband and for some reason feels bad about it' wouldn't be quite the right answer. Thea had shown up in the middle of the night with Thaddeus in her arms, having left him in Belgium and gone straight to Lincolnshire without stopping. William and Célestine had offered to take in Mycroft and Thaddeus while Dora helped Thea sort herself out, but Thea had thought Thaddeus would be better off with her when things were uncertain. Which Siger was grateful for now, as it meant he only had one toddler to be escorting to London instead of the two. Especially since Thaddeus was a foreign, unfamiliar toddler, and Siger felt it was hard enough to mind the one he knew, let alone the one who he literally did not recognize when Dora hastily shoved him into Siger's arms while trying to calm Thea down.
How to explain that all to Mycroft, however.
“Thea is upset about Julian,” Siger tried. “Because she decided not to live with him any longer, and she's worried it was not a good decision.”
Siger had attempted to be encouraging, but apparently was 'not helpful'. He had been ejected from the kitchen by Dora. Thank God. Thank God he married the sensible Mycroft sister, as well. Dora would never put up with what Thea had.
“Uncle Julian is bad,” Mycroft said, solemnly.
“Yes,” Siger said.
“You don't like him,” Mycroft added.
“No,” Siger said.
“He yelled at Mummy,” Mycroft said. “And you made him leave.”
“Yes, I did,” Siger said, surprised Mycroft remembered that.
In fact, Julian Hollander was lucky to merely be made to leave. Hollander had managed to tip himself right past 'active dislike' and into 'full-on loathing' in Siger's books. Since, with the exception of Dora and Mycroft, all human beings generally placed themselves in the 'indifferent' category, it took quite an effort for Siger to bother to be anything but apathetic towards anyone. The yelling had been quite out of order, but the moment he grabbed Dora's arm, there was no question of apathy. He felt loathing Hollander was an excellent use of energy and well worth the effort.
“I don't like him, me either,” Mycroft said.
“Then you are a very sensible child,” Siger said. He turned the page of his newspaper.
“I hope he falls down a hole,” Mycroft added.
Siger let out a deep chuckle at that. “Me, too,” he said. “A six-foot deep one. I might even dig it for him.”
Mycroft contented himself playing with what Dora called a 'busy book'. It was a little notebook in which she'd drawn outlines of letters, numbers, and animals, and to which Mycroft happily stuck colour-coding label dots to make pictures with them. He was precise and removed the dot and re-affixed it if it was slightly off-centre of the lines. The time passed peacefully until the food trolley came by. Mycroft got on his knees again to see out the window into the corridor.
“Anything from the trolley, loves?” the trolley lady asked.
“No,” Siger said.
Mycroft pawed at his arm and looked hopeful.
“One thing,” Siger allowed.
Mycroft frowned in thought. It took several minutes for him to make his choice. He selected a slice of Battenberg cake, the sight of which made Siger feel a little ill. Cake, jam, and marzipan, all in one bite. Clearly, Mycroft had Dora's sweet tooth. Siger bought a coffee for himself while the lady was there. Mycroft settled in with his cake. Siger went back to his newspaper, pausing to sip at his coffee, which was rubbish, but suitably caffeinated.
“I like trains,” Mycroft said.
“Oh?” Siger said. He'd discovered that the trick to having a conversation with a child was to keep asking questions. They conversed with themselves that way.
“A little bit,” Mycroft amended. “You go places on them. I don't like going places.”
“No?” Siger said.
“I don't like walking,” Mycroft said, his nose wrinkling. “Mummy walks a lot. It's not fun.”
“Yes, Mummy is a keen walker,” Siger said. “It's annoying, isn't it?”
Mycroft nodded. “And trains make us go to London,” he continued.
“And you like London?” Siger asked.
“Yes,” Mycroft said. “You live in London, in your house. And I like the windows that see things, not trees. I like to look at things that are not trees.”
Siger chuckled. “Me too,” he said. “I've no idea why your mother prefers the house, in the middle of nowhere, with the creaking floorboards and the trees. I never liked that house.”
“Is that why you don't live with us?” Mycroft asked.
“I do live with you, just...separately,” Siger said. “I have to work in Gloucester, and it's too long a trip to come home every day, but a commute back and forth to London isn't too bad.”
“But you like us,” Mycroft said.
Siger dropped his paper to look down into Mycroft's very serious face. “Of course. You are the only people in the world I like.”
Mycroft smiled, the corners of his mouth crummy from his cake. “What about Grandfather and Mamie?”
“Well, they aren't bad,” Siger said.
“What about Grandpa and Grandma?” Mycroft asked,
“No, they are awful,” Siger said.
“I like them,” Mycroft said.
“That's because you have not yet put up with them for thirty-three years and realized how much you hate them,” Siger said. “With any luck, they'll die soon, and you'll never have to learn.” He lifted his paper again and then lowered it. “Don't tell Mummy I said that.”
Mycroft nodded. He licked his fingers. “And trains have cake,” he concluded. “So, I like them.”
“Well, you've made an excellent case for the rail system,” Siger said. “You have me converted. You should go into politics, Mycroft. You'd make a fine MP. They love to talk about the trains.”
He managed to get through his newspaper and folded it up, putting it on the seat next to him. He took his notebook from his pocket to do a little work while they travelled. This affair with Thea had put him behind on what he'd been planning on for the weekend. Mycroft picked up the newspaper and pretended to read it.
“I know that letter,” he said, pointing to a headline. “That's a M.”
“An M,” Siger corrected. “What do you know about M's?”
“You make two sticks holding hands,” Mycroft said. “And it says 'mmmmm', for Mycroft.”
“Two sticks holding hands,” Siger repeated, with a shake of his head. That must be Dora's work.
Mycroft seemed to take this as a challenge to his knowledge and tried to take Siger's pencil. Siger snatched it away, before realizing this was a childish response and handing it over. Mycroft slipped under his arm into his lap and put his pencil to the notebook while Siger held it, a bit baffled as to what was going on. Ah, a demonstration. A big, wobbly M appeared after some effort.
“M, for Mycroft,” Mycroft said.
“Well done,” Siger said.
“It's not straight,” Mycroft said, rather apologetically. “I can't write it good yet.”
“Write it well,” Siger corrected. “You've done very well, I think. What other letters do you know?”
“H for Holmes,” Mycroft said, and drew an H, which was apparently, two sticks reaching for a hug. “Hhhhh.”
Siger took the pencil back and drew an S. “What about that one?”
“Ssss,” Mycroft said. “S for sssnake.”
Siger smiled, finding this more entertaining than he thought he would. He knew Mycroft was learning his letters, but he had yet to have any proof of this. He felt the same way as when Mycroft first showed him he could walk, and when he first said 'Father', or sounds that indicated that's what he meant, anyway. It was pride, though he wasn't sure what he felt proud about. His only contribution to Mycroft's existence was his DNA. He didn't think he'd taught Mycroft any skill. That was all Dora.
“S for Siger as well,” Siger said. “What's this one?” He drew an E.
“Ffff,” Mycroft said. “F for fox.”
“Not quite, try again,” Siger said. “It has one more bar than an F, which one is that?”
“Three?” Mycroft guessed.
“No, that's a number, this is a letter,” Siger said. “A, B, C, D...”
“E,” Mycroft said.
“That's right, well done,” Siger said. “E for Edward, that's a name we have, isn't it?” Dora had insisted at least one of Mycroft's names carry on the Edward tradition from his side of the family.
“No, I'm Mycroft,” Mycroft said. “E is for elephant.”
“Ah, I beg your pardon,” Siger said. “Do you want to see a trick with letters?”
“Yes, please,” Mycroft said.
“I'll show you what I do with letters,” Siger said.
Siger wasn't very good at dumbing things down—that was one of the major complaints against him at work. He had to think for a moment or two before attempting to explain ciphers to Mycroft. He did a very simple Caesar cipher, to begin with, explaining how some letters could be other letters if you were trying to tell secrets.
“So, E can be F, if we move one over,” Siger said, drawing a line between the two letters on the alphabet he'd written on the top of the page. “And when I see an F, I would know it was an E. How about M, for Mycroft? What letter do you think that would be?”
Mycroft guessed several, but it was clear he wasn't getting it. Siger drew lines between all the connecting letters, but Mycroft was still confused. He grew frustrated with himself. Siger moved away from the subject, and they practised their numbers instead, which Mycroft was much better with than letters. He could get all the way up to twenty in order, which Siger, although no expert on children, thought was impressive.
“What if,” Siger said. “I had a thirteen, what comes after that?”
“Fourteen,” Mycroft said, promptly.
“Well, M is the thirteenth letter of the alphabet,” Siger said, writing '13' over the M. “And N is the fourteenth.” He marked that as well. “If I had an M, thirteen, what would fourteen be?”
Mycroft puzzled over this. “That one,” he said, putting to the N.
“That's it,” Siger said. “You've cracked the code. That's very clever of you.”
Mycroft gave a big, happy laugh at this, which Siger once again found unexpectedly pleasing. He did not find his legs going to sleep under Mycroft's weight pleasing, though, and gently slid him back onto the train seat.
Mycroft got down from the seat and went to the other one, pulling out a French activity book from his 'briefcase' (which was a rucksack, but Mycroft insisted it was a briefcase). Dora's solution to get a bilingual child was to read in French at least once a day and to designate lunchtime as a French-only meal, which she had done right from breastfeeding. Siger had to pull out his O-Level French any time he had lunch at home. Including when she had been breastfeeding. It was some sort of passcode to access conversational privileges.
Apparently working on a French activity book meant one had to speak French as well, as Mycroft nattered happily en français as he filled out mazes and connected dots. Siger got by with a few 'Oui?'s and 'Vraiments?'s, and, when all else failed, “mmmm”, which was a bilingual word. Mycroft kept himself busy until they pulled into Paddington.
“Nous avons arrivés,” Siger said.
“Nous sommes arrivés,” Mycroft corrected.
Siger made a face. “No one says 'we are arrived' anymore. It's archaic. The French should keep up with the times. Come on.” He held out a hand, but Mycroft refused to take it. He was a big boy, he was going to carry his own briefcase, like Father, and his own ticket, like Father, and he didn't want to be lifted or helped in any way. Like Father.
Siger compromised by putting his hand on Mycroft's head to guide him through the crowds. Mycroft objected to this in both languages, but Siger could not care less. It was far better to have an angry child than no child at all. Mycroft made his heart stop cold when he managed to dash away from him on the platform, but thankfully it was only to reach William and not to throw himself onto the tracks.
William scooped Mycroft up and threw him over his head with roar, making Mycroft shriek with joy. Siger had always thought William to be the most father-like father he'd ever met and was now the most grandfather-like grandfather.
“There's my lad,” William said, settling Mycroft on his hip. “What adventures have we been on today?”
“I rode the train with Father,” Mycroft explained. “I learned how to use secret letters. Father is fun.”
And, for some reason, that was an unexpectedly pleasing thing to hear, too.