Author's Note: This chapter takes place not long before the events in the 1983 Christmas Special, The Lord God Made Them All.
While standing on the edge of the train platform, Siegfried was almost able to forget how many years had gone by.
His currently surroundings certainly made it easy to do. Standing near the tracks was old Mr. Scott smoking his pipe. Scott had been the station-master ever since Siegfried could remember. Across from him was an iron bench that was covered in crackling black paint. Siegfried was a little surprised that it hadn't been taken away and used for scrap metal. Maybe it had been forgotten about or maybe whoever was in charge of such things thought it would be an excessive step. Either way, Siegfried was glad that another piece of the Darrowby he knew before the war still remained. Swinging above him was the same wooden sign that had splintered along the bottom during a torrential thunderstorm back in '34. None of the major storms since had had any effect on it.
Still, the errand that had brought him here and the feelings of longing, of anticipation and excitement, and of growing impatience were enough to remind him of how he had lost five years of his life to this last war.
Five years. Five years away from Darrowby, from the green hills and heather-covered fells of the Dales. Five years without doing the work he had studied for, trained for and imagined doing for the rest of his life. Five years away from the farmers, the clients, and the friends he had made and continued to cherish.
Five years since he had last seen his brother.
Siegfried consulted his pocket-watch and then shoved it back into his vest with a frustrated huff. The train should have been here by now. The last thing he wanted to do was extend this separation for even a few minutes longer. He stared down the length of the tracks, a scowl on his face.
Of course, while he and Tristan were separated physically, they hadn't been completely cut off from each other. There had been numerous letters sent back and forth between them. Lengthy passages about what Siegfried had seen and experienced along with plenty of advice for his little brother had alternated with Tristan's brief, breezy tales of finding new pubs to visit around the world and the occasional request for an opinion about some aspect of large animal medicine.
Still, letters were never the same as being able to enjoy his little brother's company. Nor could any number of letters ease the worry Siegfried felt whenever Tristan mentioned being transferred to another base or whenever Siegfried heard about the fighting moving closer to wherever Tristan was stationed currently. Granted, Siegfried did have the comfort of knowing that Tristan was a vet, not a soldier, in this terrible war. His little brother would not be expected to take up arms and engage the enemy directly.
However, war often did not respect the boundaries between the battlefield and non-combative spaces. As long as Tristan remained at any military complex while the world was at war, there was always a risk to his safety. Nights spent worrying over Tristan's well-being had made those five years stretch out even further than their natural span.
Even when the war was over and Siegfried had returned to Skeldale, he knew that he wouldn't be able to truly feel like a part of civilian life again until Tristan had been released from the military and had come home as well.
A week ago, the letter that Siegfried had been waiting so anxiously for finally arrived. Tristan had been released and would be coming home by train in a few days.
It hadn't been easy for Siegfried to put aside time to pick up Tristan at the station. He was currently alone in the practice, and it hadn't taken long for the citizens of Darrowby to realize that Siegfried Farnon, their popular and trusted local veterinary, was back in business. It meant plenty of work and plenty of opportunities to fine tune his professional skills again. However, it also meant that he had very little time to himself these days.
Still, Tristan's return was far too important of an event to miss. He asked Ewan Ross to handle any emergencies that came up and persuaded one of the ladies at the local WI to handle answering the phone for the day so he could be here to greet his little brother the moment he got off the train.
Five years. For five years, the war had torn Tristan away from him. Not even the time Siegfried spent at veterinary college had separated him from his little brother for that long. He used most of his spare weekends, holidays, and periods between terms to visit Mother and Tristan. And when it was Tristan's turn to go to college, his little brother almost always spent his free time back in Darrowby, back in his elder brother's home and practice. The time they had spent away from each other usually could be counted in weeks and only occasionally months.
Siegfried's scowl deepened. It had had been easy to tell himself and anyone who cared to listen that he was getting a well-deserved respite from his little brother's childish antics, his lazy habits, and his inappropriate fits of humor. It'd been much harder to actually believe that he had ever wanted this respite.
A rumble along the tracks shook Siegfried out of his reverie. He squinted at the train approaching, his entire attention fixed on its slowing arrival. Eventually, it stopped, and less than a minute later, people began to emerge onto the platform.
Siegfried raised himself up onto the balls of his feet, his head craning back and forth as he searched for his brother within the crowd.
As the seconds ticked by with no sign of Tristan, an irrational dread started to creep in. What if Tristan wasn't on the train? What if something had happened and his little brother wasn't coming home after all?
Siegfried felt his chest tighten. At that moment, he couldn't imagine anything worse than for both of them to make through the war only to have Tristan taken away by some random accident or illness before he could come home. Another couple of minutes passed by without Tristan appearing which only worsened his worry.
He was about to march over and start a search of the train when a lanky figure near the engine caught his eye. Siegfried pushed his way through the crowd and let out a sigh of relief at the sight of Tristan maneuvering his duffel bag and suitcase off the train.
Then Siegfried paused and took a long look at his little brother. His first thought was that Tristan looked older. Yes, he still had the same boyish features overall, but lines of maturity had appeared as well. And it wasn't just his physical appearance. Something about his demeanor, the way he carried himself, also bore the mark of years gone by.
Then again that was to be expected. No one, not even someone as feckless and carefree as Tristan could spend years serving his country without it leaving some sort of impression. Still, this was something Siegfried hadn't considered.
Had the war changed Tristan? In some ways, that was inevitable. Siegfried had seen changes in himself which were surely due to the war. Thus, it was bound to be the same for Tristan. However, Siegfried was troubled at the thought that his little brother could have lost some vital part of himself during this war, even though he rarely had any direct contact with the actual battles.
Suddenly, Tristan glanced in his direction. The wide grin, as cheerful and cheeky as ever, made those fears begin to melt away.
Tristan strode over to where Siegfried was standing. The grin on his face was soon mirrored by the smile that appeared on Siegfried's lips.
"Hello Siegfried," he said, sitting his bags onto the platform.
Siegfried moved closer to him. "Tristan…."
For a second, both of them stood there, as if in shock that this moment, the moment when they were reunited, had finally come.
Then, the affection that had swelled up inside Siegfried took over. He reached over and enveloped Tristan into his arms for a firm embrace. Tristan responded with a laugh and a tight hug of his own, his head leaning down onto Siegfried's shoulder.
Siegfried closed his eyes and patted Tristan's back. It hadn't happened again. The pattern of separation and then loss had been broken. Neither of them would have to bear the heartache of losing family to the bloody machinations of war. It was an outcome that Siegfried was deeply grateful to avoid experiencing a second time. He was even more grateful that Tristan would continue to avoid experiencing it at all.
He allowed himself one more firm squeeze before finally letting go and pushing Tristan back so he could get another look at him.
"That…is a ghastly suit. Couldn't you have chosen something else?"
Tristan looked as if he was going to pout, but then his features relaxed into a smirk instead. "It not like we were getting these suits from Savile Row, Siegfried. This was the only one they had in my size."
"So you say," Siegfried said, putting a finger to his chin. "But anyone can see that it's not your size at all, is it? I mean, look at that jacket. The fit is atrocious."
"All right, so it wasn't actually my size, but it was the closest they had," Tristan said.
Siegfried waved a hand at him. "Well, never mind about that. Now that you're back, I can offer you my sound sartorial advice again. And I can see that it's sorely needed."
Tristan snorted at him, but Siegfried ignored it and picked up Tristan's duffel bag while Tristan retrieved his suitcase from the ground.
"Now then, little brother, how about we make a quick trip to Skeldale so we can drop off your things and you can change," Siegfried said. "And then we can stop off at the Drovers for a few rounds."
"Sounds marvelous," Tristan grinned again. "But couldn't we just go straight to the Drovers and worry about changing and dropping off my stuff later? I've had a long journey, you know, and I am feeling rather parched."
"No!" Siegfried barked. "If you think I'll allow my own brother to traipse around Darrowby while wearing that abomination then the war must have truly addled your brain. No, the thing to do is burn that suit as soon as possible to avoid even the smallest chance that someone could think that that is an acceptable fashion choice."
Tristan rolled his eyes. "Siegfried…."
"No, my mind is made up," Siegfried said. "Unless you'd rather pay for the drinks yourself, Tristan."
Tristan scowled at him for only a moment before shaking his head. Then a smile appeared on his face and he laughed softly.
Siegfried's eyebrows furrowed as he cocked his head to the side. "What are you thinking about?" he asked, genuinely curious.
"Nothing," Tristan laughed. "It's just…It's good to see you, Siegfried. And to be back."
Siegfried chuckled and gave Tristan's shoulder a light cuff. "It's good to see you too, little brother. Let's go home."