[Note: I know, I know. It's been a while. I wonder if anyone subscribed to me is still active. I grew up reading Tintin, so here's a vignette which I began in January and left incomplete until now. I hope you enjoy it.]
Captain Haddock and Tintin's first meeting had been unquestionably odd.
'Shh! Not a sound!'
'Who – who … who are you?'
'Someone forced to sail in this vile tub …'
An alliance born out of necessity. Tintin had needed to escape the Karaboudjan – but, the Captain mused, so had he, only in another way. Their tenuous relationship, distant because of Tintin's boundless energy and the Captain's drunkenness, was forged in fire. It had to be, or else they would have gone their separate ways.
Now, it was a short time after the Alph-Art affair – Tintin's closest call yet. Tintin had gone out, taking Snowy with him, and the Captain was spending a lazy day at home in Marlinspike Hall. He'd just got up for a drink – not caring to bother Nestor, whom he knew was gardening – when he saw that the library door was ajar, which reminded him of Tintin.
Tintin was always reading something or writing something or uncovering something, so long as it was doing something. Bloody kid didn't know how to sit still without meddling in nefarious affairs with the help of a small clue and his quick brain.
The Captain hesitated, then crossed into the library, where he scanned the shelves – Tintin, who used the library most, had organised them impeccably – finally alighting on an inconspicuous set of thin, matching volumes in a corner. He ran his finger along the spines. They had titles like The Blue Lotus, The Secret of the Unicorn, Red Rackham's Treasure, Prisoners of the Sun …
Blistering barnacles, he'd forgotten there were so many. How was he supposed to find what he was looking for? On that note, what was he looking for? The Captain sifted through his brain, clutching at a dusty memory. What made him jittery was the knowledge that Tintin could return at any moment.
Tintin was a reporter, and a famous one, at that. Although his travels and especially the discovery of Red Rackham's treasure had made him well off, he still enjoyed a quiet life. The offer of a comic strip series (later to be compiled into books) based on his adventures had been a surprise to both Tintin and Haddock, but Tintin had initially been reluctant.
'It's got potential, lad,' Haddock had coaxed. 'You're not exactly a nobody anymore. People will want to read about you – and what's better than comics? Blistering barnacles, if it turns out any good, I'll read the entire set myself!' He put his pipe to his mouth and breathed in, waiting for Tintin's answer.
Tintin's laugh was impish and contagious. 'The entire set, Captain? There could be a dozen, at least!'
'Why not? I used to be a big reader, back in the day.' Okay, maybe that was stretching the truth a little, but Tintin didn't need to know.
Tintin raised his eyebrows, but didn't otherwise respond. Elbows on the table, his face was resting in his hands as he gazed into space, and the Captain was struck by how young the lad looked. But perhaps looks were deceiving. Tintin's pose was that of a child's, and his skin was fair and young, but his solemn eyes were those of an adult's.
He's got a good head on his shoulders, at least, the Captain thought comfortably.
He decided not to bring up the offer again for a few days, to give Tintin time to make up his mind, but was pleasantly surprised at dinner the next evening.
'Captain, I'm going to agree to the comics offer,' Tintin said, without preamble.
'That's …' The Captain fumbled with his thoughts. 'A good choice,' was what he settled for.
But he was puzzled. A project of this scale would mean a lot of research and perhaps some casual interviews, in addition to digging into Tintin's past. Tintin could be stringent when it came to the privacy of himself and those he was close to.
'He's going to start with my Soviet visit,' Tintin answered one of the Captain's unspoken questions. There was that self-assured smile again. 'And I hear you're going to make your own appearance later, Captain. What role will you be assigned? The bumbling sidekick?'
'Cheeky sod,' the Captain grumbled. 'I'll leave the bumbling to the detectives.' But he was secretly relieved. Tintin's light-heartedness meant that the comics would present a fictionalised, perhaps slightly sensationalised, version of events, edited to remove any private or overly embarrassing details. More than anyone, Tintin knew the importance of a good story. These comics would be telling one, but they would also be made to sell.
That had all been several years ago. Now, the proud Captain kept copies of the well-known volumes in Marlinspike's library. He'd kept his initial promise to read them all, but it still took him a little while before he found what he was looking for.
Cigars of the Pharaoh, the title read. In the scene that the Captain was reading, Tintin had been caught by a sheik who was out for his blood and had demanded to know who this young man was.
'My name? It won't mean anything to you, but at home, they call me Tintin.'
And there it was. The Captain closed the book, sighing deeply.
He knew Tintin wasn't the boy reporter's real name – they'd travelled together often enough, and glimpses of often-stamped passports had told him the truth – but he didn't know where the mononym came from.
'At home, they call me Tintin.'
And maybe it was just a figure of speech, a slightly decorated way of saying, 'My name is Tintin,' but the Captain couldn't help wondering.
Tintin came from Brussels. He was young and strong and determined and inventive, and he had a small white dog he called Snowy. But further details were quickly obscured by change of topic or deflecting the question back to the asker. So much remained a mystery. How had Tintin become a reporter so young? Who had brought him up? Had he ever had a family?
'Captain!' Tintin appeared in the doorway.
Speak of the devil …! The Captain hurried to put Cigars of the Pharaoh back on the shelf.
'Captain?' A light frown crossed Tintin's face, and then he smiled. 'What are you doing in here?'
The Captain became acutely aware that he'd never actually got the drink he wanted.
'I must be getting nostalgic in my old age, Tintin,' he excused himself. His eyes fell on the calendar Nestor had hung on the wall. 'Blistering barnacles, it's nearly Christmas!'
'It is,' Tintin agreed.
'I suppose …' The Captain paused and fixed his eyes on Tintin. 'You don't have any family to go home to, lad?'
He had not meant it to come out that way – so casual, so callous. But Tintin merely frowned.
'I've got you and Snowy and Nestor and the Professor.'
A warmth spread from the Captain's fingertips, down his spine and to his toes. But, at the same time, there was a strange melancholy that overwhelmed him for an instant. Why? He had no reason to be sad.
'All the same …' He coughed. Tintin peered at him.
'Are you feeling all right, Captain?'
'Yes. Of course. I was just going to say … I suppose most people we'd want to share Christmas with are here at Marlinspike already. Makes it simpler than you staying in that tiny flat, that's for sure.'
And maybe his words came out clumsier than he intended, but Captain Haddock was sure he spotted a smile flitting across Tintin's face. He suddenly felt immeasurably proud of this young man – of his character, his accomplishments, his loyalty and his steadfast strength – and grateful for this friendship which had withstood so much.
Tintin smiled, stepping forwards and throwing an arm around the Captain.
'There're all home, is that what you mean?'
The Captain could feel Tintin's steady breathing, could hear Snowy barking downstairs as he chased the cat. He could picture this Christmas and the years after that, with his friends by his side and happy (if too exciting) stories to look forwards to. Stories which belonged to the future and not the past.
And that, he thought, was enough.
'Aye, Tintin. I suppose I do.'