The Best and Worst Holiday
By Auburn Red
A Four Weddings and a Funeral Fanfic
I do not own these characters, except their parents, Marianne, Will's colleagues and Mr. Alexander. The others are the proud creations of Richard Curtis.
Author's Notes: This shows the formation of the Magnificent Seven minus one. (Because it's set during the gang's university days unfortunately, Scarlett is only briefly mentioned in this story and none of their future spouses, like Carrie, Deirdre, Serena at al. are in this. Too bad, I do like them. ) I love the movie Four Weddings and a Funeral, mostly for the tight knit group of friends, so I thought I'd explore them as youngsters and find out how that bond began.
BTW, they never said any of their last names so I borrowed them from various literary sources. Oh and because I am not familiar with British Sign Language, all of Charles', David's , and their dad's conversations will be written like spoken conversations just with italics.
Chapter One: So This is Christmas
Years later they would describe that Christmas season as the worst any of them ever had, but privately they would think of it as the best too.
Charles Carton, Matthew Breck Stewart, and Fiona and Tom Earnshaw waited by the Waterloo Station to see Matthew off. School had been called off for the holidays, and the friends drove Matthew to the train station. The station was a bustle of travelers who were armed with packages, sobbing relatives, and screaming children. Christmas music played over the loud speaker and the walls were festooned with decorations.
"How does 'Mum, Dad I'm gay' sound to you?" Matthew asked his friends. He rehearsed potential ways of telling his parents that he was gay. Matthew had been uncertain about his homosexuality, but a secret affair with a professor convinced the 18-year-old Scotsman of the truth that he had long kept from himself.
Charles and the Earnshaw twins exchanged amused, but helpful glances. "Well seeing as how you are coming home for the holidays, you may want to cute it up a little," Fiona dryly suggested as she lit a cigarette.
"Sorry, it's my first time coming out," Matthew remarked. "I'm a little new at this."
"As opposed to us who are experts on the subject," Charles sarcastically remarked.
"Don't worry, Matt," Tom said. "I'm sure it will be alright and if not there are worse things like getting your tongue cut out and your entrails removed and your nails torn from your toes and fingers."
"Bugger off Tom," Fiona said annoyed at her brother.
Matthew rolled his eyes, but grinned at the others' comments. Fiona, Tom, Charles, and Matthew had known each other since the beginning of the semester, when Charles arrived late for class and Professor Wotton sat him next to Fiona, Tom, and Matthew. The four became casual friends and study partners. They attended the same group of parties and had similar interests, so they had begun to hang out together.
"Are all of you planning on enjoying this commercialized holiday that is nothing more for people to cling together like lemmings because they share a last name?" a jovial bombastic voice interrupted them. Fiona, Tom, Charles, and Matthew turned to see their professor, Gareth Wotton greet them. Tom and Charles pretended to cover their eyes at the brightness of Gareth's bright red and orange waistcoat.
The friends grinned. "No, they're just here to see me off," Matthew said hoping that his friends wouldn't see the creeping blush that he could already feel forming on his face. "You?"
"Just saying goodbye to the love of my life," the professor replied. The others nodded and smiled. "No, forever. We parted ways." The gang sighed and offered condolences. The older professor turned to Matthew. "And you off to explore new heights then?" Gareth asked.
Matthew shook his head. "Just up North to visit my family."
"Have big news to share?" Gareth leaned closer to the younger Scotsman and kissed the top of his ears.
Fiona, Tom, and Charles sighed romantically. "Awww!," they said and made retching noises.
"Of course we could do without the Greek Chorus," Gareth said. Matthew nodded, slightly embarrassed and pulled away.
"I'm nervous," Matthew fidgeted with his suitcase.
"Now when I told my parents, they were very proud of me, well after they recovered from the initial shock," Gareth replied.
"Yeah, but my folks especially my Dad will probably throw a fit, "Matthew said.
"If they do, you can ring me," Gareth said. He slipped the student a piece of paper. "My home will be tacky ornament and Christmas card free."
Matthew grinned. "Thank you, Professor Wotton."
Gareth grinned. "Please after what we have been through especially you and me, I think we can call each other on a first name basis."
Matthew nodded as the train pulled up. "Alright, Gareth. There it is. Holiday in the trenches." He picked up his suitcase and waved goodbye to his friends. He leaned over to Gareth and wanted to kiss him again, but instead pulled away and walked up to the train waving again.
The others waved back as the train pulled away. Gareth sighed. "The newly outed are always the shyest," he said more to himself than to the others. He then cleared his throat and turned to his other students. "And you what are the three of you doing?"
Tom nodded at Fiona. "Well we're going to spend our Christmas with our parents. First with the four of us together in awhile."
"Yay hooray," Fiona said unenthusiastically. "We go off to University and now suddenly they decide to have the urge for all of us to be together."
"It won't be that bad," Tom reassured his sister touching her by the shoulder.
"Yeah listening to them fight about one thing or another, won't it be fun," Fiona said blandly. She turned to Charles. "You don't know how you have it to only have one parent to deal with."
Charles smirked. "Yes seeing as how I haven't seen our mother in nine years and my brother has never even known her, it's so much better."
"Sorry," Fiona said.
Charles waved his hand disdainfully. "Old news. Dad and my brother, David, will be there it won't be too bad."
Gareth smiled. "Aww depression, neurosis, and time with people you barely tolerate. It's what the holidays are all about." He looked at his watch. "I must be off, I will spend the holidays with a few good friends particularly Dom Perignon." He waved at the three students.
"Charles," Tom called. "You said your dad doesn't live too far from here. Would you like us to give you a ride?"
Charles smiled. "No, thank you. I brought my car, I will drive it."
Fiona laughed thinly. "You needn't be polite, Charlie. After the last time I rode in that bumpy thing of yours, Tom, I couldn't stand for days. I'm never riding in that again."
"Fifi, your license was revoked," Tom reminded her. "Either I drive you or you walk."
"Well then I guess I will be crippled through all university, then," Fiona said amidst the guy's laughter.
"I'm sure that won't be a problem with some of your dates," Charles riffed. Fiona playfully slugged her friend.
Charles grinned. "Well, I'm off. If I don't show up soon, Dad will be combing the city for a search party. Bye, Fiona; Tom."
"Bye, Charlie," Tom said.
"Charles, wait," Fiona said. She then ran over to her friend, then slipped him a piece of paper. "Ring me during the holiday, if you want to. "
"Sure, Fiona," Charles replied. "Of course." He gave her a friendly kiss on the cheek. "Bye now."
Fiona waved. "Right, bye now." She then turned to her brother. "Let's go, Tom."
"Do you like him?" Tom asked as Charles disappeared in the holiday crowd.
"Bugger off Tom," Fiona glared as they walked to Tom's car.
Charles and David strung popcorn on their tree, which was already crowded with several colorful decorations, while their Dad messed with some of the lights trying to untie the big knot. After awhile, he gave up and put the lights down. "Charlie, I thought Veronica was coming for the holidays." As always, Charles and his father signed all of their conversations. Deaf since birth, David could hear with his hearing aid, but Dr. Carton had always insisted that he and his oldest son communicate in sign language to further include David in conversations.
Charles made a face as he recalled his former girlfriend. "We broke up, Dad," he said. "Since we got back from our trip to India, she hadn't had much of a sense of humor."
"I'm sorry to hear that," Will said.
"Is it because you shirt isn't buttoned and your socks are mismatched?," David asked mischievously. Charles looked down at his clothes and found he was right. His shirt buttons were askew and he had one on black and one gray sock. He was about to re-button his shirt, when David spoke again. "Or is it because you made fun of her when she was vomiting on curry?"
"How would you know that, you little-"Charles glared.
"Last time she was here and you said good-bye, I read your lips," the 9-year-old said snidely. "Even though he couldn't speak, David held his hands to his mouth as if he were giggling and emphasized the sign for retching.
Charles blushed embarrassed, but saw that David continued to laugh. Charles dropped his end of the string and ran after his younger brother. "You little brat!" he signed and yelled at the same time.
David ran through down the hallway, until he collided smack with the wall. Charles seized the opportunity to tackle his still laughing brother. The two tumbled near the Christmas tree. Before he could to too much real damage to his younger brother, Will stood up and clapped his hands. "Alright enough," he said, making a huge emphatic 'enough' sign and slamming his fist into the palm of his hand. Whenever Will made the slamming gesture, Charles and David called it their father's "angry sign" and knew that he had enough. "I would like the tree to remain up for this holiday season if you two don't mind!"
Charles and David pulled away sheepishly and returned to their previous activity, but not before David stuck his tongue out at his older brother, and Charles clipped him on the back of the head. Will was about to say something else, when his pager beeped. Charles glanced over at his father's direction. David followed his older brother's glance to their father. Will held up a finger as if to say "wait a minute" then walked into the kitchen to return the pager.
David rolled his eyes. "Dad's got to go into surgery again?" Charles asked.
David nodded. "Fourth time in the past two weeks. Sometimes, he's the only surgeon they call."
"Budget cuts?" Charles guessed. He had heard in his classes and in the news that budget cuts were cutting back on many services including the hospital where their father worked as a Chief Trauma Surgeon.
The younger brother shrugged. "They let go quite a few doctors and nurses and reduced the salaries of the ones who stayed, including Dad's. Last week, Dad was one of the few surgeons who operated on a 10-car pile up."
"My God," Charles said. "I knew things were bad, but I didn't think they were that bad. No wonder Dad's been sounding so tired lately."
Will returned to the sitting room. "Sorry, boys. I have to go. A little girl needs a surgery."
Charles and David sighed. "How long you going to be gone this time, Dad?" David asked.
Will shook his head. "I don't know, David. But, hopefully I'll be back in plenty of time. We'll still have a lot to do, go to the Carole and the Panto. It will be fun."
David gave a sad smile. "Okay, I guess."
"We'll just have our Christmas dinner a little later, I promise," Will said. He gently hugged both his sons across the shoulder and waved good-bye.
Matthew glanced outside of the car window at the modest home he had grown up in. His father and brother had removed some of the rubbish from the front lawn, but otherwise the house was the same as all the others in the neighborhood, threadbare, gray, worn and joined to the other buildings that looked just like it.
Tommy opened the car door, while Matthew waited patiently. "What's the matter?" Tommy sarcastically asked. "Expecting the chauffeur to open the passenger seat for you?"
Matthew rolled his eyes and walked out of the car door, pulling his bags from the boot of the car. The snow fell on his dark hair that cut to near his shoulders. His older brother, Tommy hadn't said much on the trip from the train station, but that didn't surprise Matthew. He was usually taciturn, unless he had something rude and abrasive to say. Matthew just didn't expect the comments to start so quickly. He shrugged and followed his brother into the house.
Matthew opened the door to see the withered gray couple that he knew as his parents. They were standing by the tree, which had very few ornaments mostly wood, and devoid of color or character. A few plants hung on the windows here and there to demonstrate some Christmas spirit. Tommy and Matthew were born when their mum and dad were in their forties, so they always seemed old to Matthew. His mother stood up with the same colorless face. She walked up to her youngest son and hugged him. "Welcome, home, Matthew," she said.
"Thanks mum," Matthew said. He turned to his father though in his sixties, no one would ever make the mistake of calling John Breck Stewart frail, his skin was tanned from continuous exposure to the elements during his long days as a longshoreman. He also had a face that Matthew always felt was chiseled in marble, because it constantly glared imperiously and almost never showed a smile. "Hello, Stranger," John said to his youngest son. "You're well."
Matthew nodded. "Fine, Dad."
"They teaching you at that school anything useful?" John asked snidely.
Matthew bit back an urge to say something snide to his father, when his mother stepped in. "John, don't start," she said. "I'm sure Matthew will answer your questions later. Right now let him put his things away." John sighed, but waved his hand as if the boy wasn't worth the trouble to argue with.
Taking the hint, Matthew gathered his bags and walked back to his old room. "Thanks mum," he whispered. Mary Breck Stewart kissed her younger son on the cheek and whispered. "Welcome home, Matty," Matthew blushed at the childhood nickname she gave him, but somehow felt comforted by it. He walked into the bedroom that really hadn't shown much difference than when he had been there before. Nope, the Monty Python and Fry and Laurie posters still hung on his wall. The bookshelf still teemed with the books that Matthew either forgot or were too large to bring with him to university.
Matthew plopped his suitcase on the bed and slowly removed his clothing. He gingerly opened the bedroom door and glanced back and forth to see if anyone was watching. Then, he reached into the bottom of his suitcase and pulled out a small framed picture of Gareth. The man had an impish smile on his face and that was about all he wore. Matthew laughed when he remembered when it was taken; a month after the two of them accidentally kissed during a study session and their affair began. "If you wish to be gay, the least that I can do is give you a visual aid to either enchant you or turn you to women faster than you can blink." Matthew laughed and placed the photograph by his bedside making sure that it was far from interfering eyes, but close to his vision.
Fiona and Tom waited in the sitting room accepting drinks from Mrs. Williams, the family housekeeper facing their mother. The house was decorated with fine Victorian patterns on the antique glass ornaments. Green and red decorations shone around the kitchen with their cold and glowing brilliance. Emilia Earnshaw quizzically glanced at each child, then at her watch. "Well, your father had better get here so we can get this blasted holiday over with." She glanced over at Tom. "Really, Tom don't slouch. If you are going to inherit anything, how can you look like a ruffian?" The fact that Tom would mostly be inheriting the Earnshaw family estates in the country and would have to be somewhat scruffy looking missed his mother by, but Tom figured that his mother was not in the mood to be corrected so he wisely held his tongue. Instead, his mother turned to Fiona. "And Fiona, you should really cut your hair. It's treated so much, it's starting to dry up." Fiona ran her fingers through her permed hair and up her sprayed bangs. She actually was thinking about getting it cut, but she didn't want to give her mother the satisfaction of knowing that. Instead her mother held up her teenage daughter's hands noting the singe marks on her fingernails. "Smoking again? You know that behavior is improper, not to mention filthy. Why must you do it?"
Fiona's face broke into an impish grin. "Sorry, mum, you told me that I needed to lose some weight before I left for university. I heard that cigarettes were an appetite suppressant."
Tom glanced down at his shoes so his mother wouldn't see the amused grin forming on his face, but he couldn't resist letting out a chuckle.
"That will do, Tom," Emilia corrected her son, then she turned to Fiona. "Far be it from me, Fiona to encourage my children to achieve some level of perfection in their lives. It appears that I cannot do anything about your mouth. "
Fiona ran her fingers along her mouth. "What's wrong with my mouth, mum?" she asked.
"It's always open and there is always something rude coming out of it," her mother shot back. Fiona rolled her eyes and fixed her brother a look that clearly said 'you see why I didn't want to come?'
The front door opened and a man with salt and pepper hair and a winning smile appeared. "Hello, Fifi, Tom," Fiona and Tom walked up to their father giving him a hug, though Fiona with less conviction. He glanced at his ex-wife. "Hello Emilia."
"Stephen," Emilia nodded curtly.
"How is university, you two," Stephen asked his son and daughter.
"Fine dad," Fiona said not offering more comment.
"Great, Dad," Tom said. "You won't believe what I am learning in agricultural and business school."
Stephen Earnshaw nodded. "Yes, I'm sure that's nice son." He said barely listening. He approached the door. "Children, there's someone I want you to meet. " He opened the door and waved the person inside. She was a petite woman, girl really no more than 20, with soft blond hair and large blue eyes. Her light pink knee-length dress made her look younger. Already, Fiona had a bad feeling about this. Stephen took the girl's hand and held over to them. "Tom, Fiona, Emilia, I would like you to meet Marianne Silversleeves. She is to be part of our family."
"It's nice to meet all of you," Marianne said with a soft Cockney accent. "Stevie has told me all about you, I'm sure we'll all be great friends."
Tom and Fiona exchanged surprised glances. Tom was just as upset as his sister, but he covered it up by shaking the girl's and his father's hand. "Uh, congratulations Marianne; Dad, it's nice to meet you. I wish he told us more about you, I mean, oh bugger."
Fiona shook the girl's hand very cool and detached. "Yes, that is so typically generous of Dad. He is always thinking of others. Imagining him opening his home and heart to a foundling girl and wanting to adopt her."
Marianne and her father offered a tense laugh. "That's not what I meant, Fiona," Stephen said to his daughter his voice tightening. "I mean we are to be married."
Emilia's face was nonchalant, but she shook the other woman's hand. "Welcome, I'm sure that my former husband will do his part to make your marriage as fortunate and happy as ours was."
"Thank you," Marianne said not missing the irony in the older woman's voice.
"Yeah, congratulations, Dad, Marianne," Tom said. "I'm happy for you, really." His flat voice betrayed his real feelings.
"Thank you, Tom," Stephen said. "Fiona." He prompted.
Fiona stared at her father for a long time, pale and silent. She managed to choke out a "Congratulations, dad," before she turned on her heels and walked out of the large house.