PAIRING: Tristan/James, Siegfried/James, Implied Siegfried/Tristan if you stare at it long enough
FANDOM: James Herriot
RATING: PG13. Parental Guidance is advised for younger viewers. (Only not really, because if your parents knew you were reading this-! ;P) Angsty.
SUMMARY: Tristan realises just what is what around Skeldale House, too late to do anything about it.
WARNINGS: Slash. Implied brother incest. or brother worship. its a tough call.
DISCLAIMER: So not mine. And yes, they are (based) on real people, with, alas different names. They completely exist somewhere but this did not happen. And if it did, well... HOORAY! >.>
NOTES: I felt like writing Tristan angst with a side of unrequited love and incest. Go me.
X-posted to my journal.
He's not sure when it happens, actually.
One night, they're smoking in the den, his brother sitting in the comfortable chair, leaning back in a kingly fashion as if to say This is mine. See what I have accomplished.
Considering the fact that there is still mud on his face from a troublesome horse less than an hour ago, and Tristan knows that those stains on his shoes are not something anyone would want tramped into the carpet, it takes a genuine amount of talent to pull of the air of condescension while Siegfried lectures him and James.
And James is sitting on the couch, brow furrowed as he measures out the right amount of tobacco for his pipe, nodding and murmuring listening cues for Tristan's older brother like he really cares.
And it strikes Tristan, between one inhale and the next, that Jim actually does care.
The thought chokes him, leaves him sputtering in the quiet calm of the evening and both turn to look at him, Jim with an expression of amused concern, friendly and earnest and so bloody beautiful, and Siegfried with his eyes bright blue and cutting holes into Tristan's chest like the surgical steel knives he handles so expertly well.
"Uh, swallowed wrong," Tristan makes up an excuse and dashes out the room.
He stops for a moment after slamming the door behind him, pausing just outside to listen, but the heavy oak wood muffles any real sound, and he can barely hear them return to the topic at hand.
Tristan imagines they shrug off the episode like it's nothing new.
And really, it isn't.
He remembers the first time it happens quite clearly.
It's not something he likes to actively remember, but it's there and it happened and sometimes when the sun is shining really brightly and it hits his brother the same way it did then, it hits Tristan again.
And again, and again, like a slamming punch trying to prove a point, or a hammer knocking in a nail, solidly driving it deeper with each glimpse he sees of Siegfried's blonde hair, shining gold in the sun (god, what a bloody cliche he's turning into a girl) and his eyes cutting through him, seeing into his soul and he wants it to be good enough- wants his brother to be so proud of him, and Siegfried smiles in greeting and makes Tristan's chest burn.
They're eating supper one night, and James looks up from his plate and politely enquires after a girl.
Tristan's not sure which one Annie is anymore, he remembers girls by the way their skirts flow around their legs, how they tease and flirt and eventually give in. He remembers girls by taste and scent- but never by name. (Too intimate)
James isn't impressed by Tristan's jocular reply, he shakes his head and mixes his gravy in with his rice a little more, playing with his food. "You shouldn't be such a skirt chaser, Tris. One day a father's going to catch you."
"Or a brother?" Tristan teases back and shrugs at James' look. "It's okay, Jim. It hasn't happened yet." (The girls know he's not serious about any of them. He's never led them on, to be fair, and they've never led him on.)
James just arches both eyebrows. "You're sure about that?"
Tristan grins and leans in daringly, chancing the whisper. "You worried about me?"
He isn't expecting the slight flush that stains the other man's face, surprising to see over the ruddiness the clear farm air has given him anyway. Tristan blinks.
James looks down at his food, and scoops up a forkful of beef. "They are bigger than you," he points out wryly, and pauses to consider. "Most of 'em."
Tristan can't grin to save his life at that moment, but he manages a very slight smile, startlingly uncertain because if James is worried about him- if it's like that-
"James," he starts, and Siegfried crashes in through the door, calling all hell down upon farmers who ignore the most obvious signs that their animal is sick until it's all but too late.
Tristan sits back, and pushes his food around his plate.
Suddenly, he's not hungry.
Siegfried's hand is warm on his shoulder.
"It happens," he says, and his voice is gentle like it hasn't really been since years ago, when they were little and Siegfried had to tell him that their pet goldfish hadn't gone to the veterinarian like he'd been told, but was, in fact, dead.
Dead, like this dog is.
Dead, because he hadn't figured out what was wrong in time.
He'd expected Siegfried to get mad, to scream and go bright red, purple in the face, blaming him, blaming the world, blaming everything that had happened to cause the dog on the table to die. The little terrier had been a favourite, staying with them in case of complications, but there were no complications- he'd just never fixed the original problem, had overlooked it for another big one that had seemed to be the only problem and now the dog was dead and his brother's hand is scorchingly hot on his shoulder.
"It happens," Siegfried says again, his voice still gentle.
Tristan had expected his brother to be furious.
He thinks the sympathetic understanding is worse.
He goes up to his room, alone.
James is still with Siegfried in the den, still smoking their pipes, still listening and talking with all the ease of people who have done the same thing a thousand times before but there's a familiarity in the pattern that he hadn't recognised till now.
He doesn't know who to be jealous of, or who to be mad at.
James, for stealing his brother from him, when Tristan still hasn't proved how good he can be, when Siegfried's smiles on sunny days cut him in half from the spine out, tearing his chest open until his ribs are spread like butterfly wings and his heart is on the table ready to be dissected (his hand was so warm on his shoulder)
Siegfried, for stealing James, who worries like an old mother goose, scuttling around to get her goslings in from the cold bite of the sudden spring showers, tucking them in where it's warm and soft and dry, and he knows he's not a goose, and neither is James, but sometimes he thinks (James' blush, rising up over his cheeks, the soft stare of unbroken eye contact for just a moment) and he almost thought he could see...
But he'd lost it.
He'd lost both battles and he hadn't even known he'd been fighting.