Important Things to Know
By Auburn Red
An Only Fools and Horses Fanfic.
Disclaimer: I do not own these characters. They belong to the late great John Sullivan. This is for entertainment purposes and not for profit.
Derek Trotter was driving his red Coupe De Ville down Sunset Blvd. at lightening speed. He was on his way to his fancy mansion heading for a three-way with Sophia Loren and Ann-Margaret. He couldn't ignore them. After all, he was a famous Hollywood producer how would it look? The sounds of Motown blared on his stereo merging with the loud wail behind him. He glanced through his rearview mirror as the wail got louder and louder. He revved the car to speed up but still the wail from the siren continued to surround him...
... Del Boy poked his head up taking a moment to get his bearings. He was no longer in the middle of his wonderful dream of driving down Sunset Blvd. being chased by a copper. Instead he was in his bedroom at Sir Walter Raleigh house in Peckham finally achieving REM sleep. However, the wail was certainly real. It had bled into his dream and now resounded from the room next door. Now the wail changed to a loud sob and a cry of "Del Boy! Del Boy!" in a strident high-pitched and very terrified four-year-old voice. Del sighed and staggered out of bed.
First, he crossed the hallway to his grandfather's room and rapped on the door. "Granddad," he yelled. "Get up, you've been announced!" Del wanted his grandfather to deal with his hysterical younger brother so he can get back to sleep. He had been out most of the day on a very unsuccessful grafting job and returned home late and exhausted. Plus, he had to get up early for another one, one with some very posh professional types so he had to look his best. It wouldn't do for a young handsome all-around knock-about-town lad to approach these people with dark circles under his eyes and wearing a hang-dog expression from lack of sleep. He rapped again, but the only response was a loud snore. Del removed his fist from the door. He could knock until doomsday and Granddad still wouldn't listen.
Meanwhile Rodney was crying louder and screaming "Del Boy! Del Boy, where are you?" Del Boy sighed and staggered into his little brother's bed room and flipped on the light.
"There now, Rodders," the 19 year old said to his brother. He leaned down next to him and wrapped one arm around his shoulders. Rodney's small face was flushed as the tears fell down his cheeks. His fair hair was wet with perspiration. "What's all the fuss for? If you don't keep it down, I'm gonna sell you!"
Rodney sniffled as his large eyes widened even further and his lip trembled. "You gonna sell me?" The four-year-old's serious expression wanted to make Del laugh, except he started to cry again.
Instead, the teenager shook his head and smiled. "No, Little Bruv, I ain't gonna sell you. I couldn't get a bob off you." He managed to get Rodney calmed down long enough for Del to go into the loo and grab a face cloth and cup of water. He returned to the bedroom and wiped Rodney's face with the cloth and put the glass through Rodney's clenched teeth. The water dribbled down Rodney's chin onto his pajamas, but he managed to put most of it in his mouth. "Now what's this you going on about?" Del asked his little brother.
Rodney managed to stop wailing, but he sniffled quietly. Del dried his brother's tears with the cloth as Rodney talked. "I was in this bad place and-and there was these mean people. They said I was bad and was being pun'shed." His body shook as he was overcome. Del steadied his little brother with a firm hand on his shoulder. "They said you and Granddad was gone and was ain't never coming back and it were my fault."
Del put the glass on a nearby table and cupped his brother's face into both hands. "Well that's a stupid thing to think isn't it," he tried to tease but the real emotion in his voice showed. "Does it look like I and Granddad are gone and ain't never coming back? I'm in the next room and Granddad's across the hall. Listen for the snoring if you don't believe me." The brothers could faintly hear their grandfather's snoring punctuated by an occasional wordless cry of exclamation during the night. "You could hear that catastropic symphony all the way from Charing Cross!"
A giggle escaped from Rodney's lips, but his face turned serious. "Mum and Dad were across the hall and now they're not." He reminded his big brother.
Damn, why do you have to be perceptive?, Del Boy thought angrily. Instead, he nodded. "Yeah, they were weren't they?" He knew that his brother was still struggling with the death of their mother, Joan and the desertion by their father, Reg. Del was still struggling with it as well. The hurts were raw and new for both of them, but Del had to hide it all in his facade of a tough guy, the breadwinner of the family, and now Rodney's guardian. Rodney could be as emotional as he wanted or needed to be, but not Del. He owed Mum that much to be strong for her. As for his father, well he would never give the sod the satisfaction of knowing that his older son would ever shed a tear over him. "But you don't need to worry about I or Granddad. We're always going to be here."
"You sure?" Rodney asked.
"Of course you little plonker," Del teased again tickling his baby brother across the neck. Despite himself, Rodney laughed. "We ain't going nowhere."
"No matter how bad I am?" Rodney asked.
"Rodders, if people left because others were bad, then I would be the loneliest man in the world." Silently, Del hoped that it wouldn't be true. "Sometimes people leave because of themselves. I don't want you to carry around any bad feelings about yourself over Mum and Dad, got it?"
Rodney shrugged as though he were unconvinced. Del Boy folded his hands and lay them on top of his younger brother and looked into his eyes. Rodney looked down at his brother's hands trying to keep from crying again. Del spoke this time with firmness but gentleness. "I want you to listen to me. Look at me and listen to me. You are going to bear the loss of Mum and Dad for the rest of your life. You're going to feel alone, but I want you to know some things that you need to know even when you can't remember what either of them looked like. Remember this because I am going to tell you these things so you will always know them."
Del looked closely at his brother as though he were a businessman addressing contract particulars. He held Rodney at arm's length and looked at him right in the eye. Rodney's eyes watered but he managed to keep from crying aloud. His posture straightened as he listened.
"First, Mum was a wonderful woman who loved us very much and wanted everything that was best for us and we're gonna get it ourselves, yeah?" Rodney nodded his head as Del thought on his words. Wonderful woman was an understatement about their mother. He remembered those last few months and how much his mum had changed through her illness. Joan Trotter was once a vibrant woman with long flowing golden hair-most of the time. She was practically bursting with hope and optimism no matter how bad things got with ideas that she carried out for her family. That illness robbed her of all of that, even her hair which she cut short because it got "too heavy and hard for (her) to manage." Her frame was reduced to a skeleton as she barely ate, particularly towards the end when she could barely even eat the chicken soup that Del had prepared for her. Joan just grew weaker and weaker and all Del could do was tend to her needs, soothe her fears, and barely leave her side. She called her older son her "bestest nurse."
One night, Joan told her older son to send for Rodney. The little boy entered wearing his pajamas and carrying a stuffed animal, that he called Flopsy, which Del always teased his brother saying that he was never sure if it was a bear or a dog because it was so scruffy and missing one ear. Rodney approached his Mum's bed as Joan hugged him. "Good-night Rodney," she said.
"Good-night Mummy," Rodney said. Then looked closely at his mum. "You're crying?"
Joan pulled away, her eyes filled with tears. "I'm just not feeling up to snuff," she assured him. Del Boy turned away from the scene so they couldn't see his emotions. He tried to keep his eyes focused on the window, only occasionally turning towards his mother and brother. He saw Rodney slowly hand Flopsy to his mum.
"You want me to have him?" she asked.
"Yeah, he always helps me feel better," he said. "Anyway, I don't want him. I'm too big for him."
Joan laughed. "But you're still my baby."
Rodney gasped in a comic offended expression. "I'm not a baby, I'm a big boy!"
"Well then you'll always be my big boy," Joan said. She hugged him again. "You just keep growing and mind your brother alright?"
"But he's so bossy," Rodney complained whispering to her as though it were some great secret.
Joan laughed. "I know, but he means well. Now off to bed now." Del Boy turned back to Joan and Rodney as the little boy bounced off his mother's bed. He fingered Flopsy with a longing expression. Joan shook her head. "Do you want Flopsy back?"
Rodney shrugged and sniffed in disdain. "Well, if I weren't so big maybe I'd want him."
Joan smiled. "You know, it would make me happy if he were watched by a brave big boy who could look after him."
Rodney made a show of sighing and taking the stuffed animal "reluctantly," but instead he threw his arms around him. "Well okay, I will for you."
"That will be alright by me," Joan said then kissed her son on the forehead. "Off to bed now." Rodney then skipped out of the room leaving Joan alone with her older son. "Del Boy," she called.
Del Boy walked to his mother's side and leaned on the bed in the spot recently vacated by his brother. He wanted to pretend otherwise, but something told him that this would be it. "I'm here Mum." He held her hand. "I'm so sorry."
"For what?" Joan asked.
"There was so much that I could have done for you, so much I messed up on. We were going to be rich." There was so much that he promised her. They had such plans. Where was the fur coat? Where were the real jewels? Where was the mansion that they were going to live in luxury and she could relax in comfort away from her job at the movie theater and her horrible husband?
"You have done a lot for me, Del," she said smoothing his hand with her's. "No son could do more for his mum than you have for me. For everything that you'd ever done, I'm grateful and I've gone past all that didn't work out. It's a start isn't it?" Del nodded. It was what he told his mother that day when he got her telephone.
"There is something that I need you to do for me, promise me."Then her voice became softer. "Look after your little brother Rodney for me will you?" She also mumbled some other things that Del Boy couldn't understand, because her voice had become so soft and breathing became so labored.
"I will, Mum," the teen said feeling tears coming to his eyes. No, he thought to himself, she don't need to see this. You be strong for her. "I love you, mum," Del Boy said as he kissed his mother's hand. He looked down at her pallid white hand, so she couldn't see his face.
Joan's breath came really slow and quiet. She managed to whisper, "Love you, Del Boy," before she became quiet. She was so quiet that at first Del had thought she had fallen asleep, but one look at her still face told him the truth. He leaned over and kissed his mother on the forehead and let the tears flow at last.
Sitting up with his brother coming back from the memory of their mother's death, Del's voice darkened as he recalled something else. "Second, our father was a miserable bastard who closed the door on us without a second thought and good riddance to him!" If Reg Trotter was useless when Joan was alive, he was damn near impossible when she was gone. He didn't do much when his wife lay ill. Instead he disappeared after he heard that she became ill, only to return shortly after her funeral, drunk as all get out. (Del Boy never told Joan any of that, that Dad was gone, he just said that he found work and wouldn't always be around. She nodded and smiled, but Del Boy could see it in her eyes that she knew her son was lying).
Del realized that his father was just as disappointing present than when he was absent as the two months after his wife's death showed. When he was home, he was morose and taciturn and didn't lift a finger to work or to support the family. He constantly paced back and forth in their small sitting room like a tiger caged in the zoo, angry and waiting to strike in his captivity. More often than not, Rodney bore the brunt of his anger. Whenever the little one would say anything or come near him, Reg would step away as though the four year old were a loathsome insect or some rabid animal that he didn't want to come into contact with. Then, he would yell at and threaten the small boy mumbling some very unintelligble words.
Things went on like that, quiet but dangerous, until they finally exploded less than a couple of weeks ago when Del Boy came home to hear his father shouting, Rodney crying, and the swing of leather in the air. The teenager unlocked the door and saw his father standing over Rodney belt in hand and ready to strike!
It took a half-second for Del-Boy to act. He grabbed the belt from his Reg's hand and stood between his father and his younger brother. "How many times did you hit him?" Del Boy asked.
"I don't have to tell you that," Reginald shot back.
Del Boy turned to his grandfather. "How many times Granddad?"
Granddad turned from a shaking Rodney who was seated on his lap. "Twice, Del Boy, he hit him twice."
Del Boy then swung the belt in the air and hit his father once. The air stung with the force of the belt on Reg's arm and his cry. Del then hit his father again and was satisfied when he gave cry of pain that was louder than the first. The teenager then dropped the belt on the ground. "There, you ever do that to him again and I will kill you, you hear?"
"Don't you ever talk to me like that!" Reg commanded. Rodney's head was buried in his grandfather's arms. "I'm the head of this family and what I say goes!"
The teenager shook his head. "Being the head of this family means more than just saying that you are!" He then took a very shaking Rodney from his grandfather's arms and then led him to the bathroom to wash his cuts from the beating. He removed Rodney's shirt and began to gently touch the cuts and bruises with cotton and iodine. He gasped when he saw the boy's back, clearly this was more than a one time thing. Reg didn't have the courage to beat Rodney in front of Del, but he obviously didn't mind doing it when Del wasn't around.
"Ow," Rodney complained as Del washed and bandaged one of the bruises.
"Sorry," Del said. He tried it again but once again Rodney screamed. "Rodney, I didn't touch you that time!" Del said. As he dabbed at the boy's back, he continued to speak. "You know you made a fool of yourself, there. You should never have cried. That's what he wanted you to do. Believe me the more you cry, the more he hits you."
"Did he hit you?" Rodney said.
"Lots of times, " Del answered.
"W-why did he stop?" Rodney stammered.
Del shrugged. "I dunno. I guess I got big enough to hit him back then he just threatened me and Mum."
"I wish I were like that now," the little boy whimpered.
Del was silent for a minute, but then he put the iodine away. "Here I'm finished. Wait a bit to put your shirt back on, alright?" He then walked into the sitting room and overheard his father and grandfather talking.
"I won't hear more about it Dad," Reg thundered. "I want him out of here! He completely usurped my authority! You saw what he did to me!"
"I did see that," Ted answered. "But I also saw what you did to Rodney. Anyway, Del is the only one of us earning money what will happen to us if you chuck him out? And what about Rodney? He think the sun rises and sets on Del's laces. How do you think he's going to feel?"
Reg laughed low and gutteral. " I don't care! I can't take much more of this! That little shit thinks he's so superior to me always looking his nose down at me! What does he do, he sells useless trinkets on the Black Market in a van that was probably stolen!" He was silent then grunted. "Ah, I'm finished with him, finished with the lot of you! I can't do this! I can't stand to be under the same roof as him. Can't stand to be under all this-" he kicked at a box sending some of Del's American records to the ground. "-responsibility! One or the other of us has to go!"
Del took the opportunity to enter. "You're right, Reg," Del said.
He glared at his father keeping his anger as in check as he could. "Del," Granddad began. "That wasn't meant for your ears."
"I heard it," Del said. "And he's right. One or the other of us has to go." He calmly reached into his pocket and took out his wallet. "Before this happens, I need you to do some things for me." He reached in and took out some bills. "First, here's about 200 quid. I want you to take it. Second, in the sitting room inside the chest, third right hand drawer there is the rental agreement from the Council. I want you to sign it over to me. I'd been paying rent on this place since Mum's been ill and taking care of the bills. We might as well make it official. I'll take care of the rest. Third, I want you to pack your bags, sling your hook, and get the hell out of here! You don't want it, I'm relieving you of it!"
Reg's eyes flashed. He raised his fist to strike his older son, but Del glared straight at his father with his eyes narrowed and his face determined and defiant. Reg's hand dropped. "You think that you can do better?" Reg retorted.
"Well I obviously can't do any bloody worse," Del shot back.
Reg's voice was low and menacing. "Fine, you want it you can have it! It's all yours, everything-the flat, your brother, your grandfather, the bills, everything-it's all yours!"
"It always was," Del said cooly.
Within an hour, Reginald Trotter had packed his bags, took the money that Del offered, threw the paperwork at his son, and closed the door behind him never looking behind him once.
Del continued to speak of the family members to his baby brother."Third, Granddad, well he's the old fool that there ain't no fool like. But he's a right good 'un," Del said to his laughing younger brother. Even though he teased Granddad, Del Boy was grateful that he had moved in with them. During Joan's illness, when Del Boy was preoccupied with doing his scams to earn enough money for mum and nursing her through her illness, Granddad looked after Rodney. The two had developed a close bond because of it. Though he wouldn't ever admit it, Del felt a slight burden being lifted whenever he would come home and see his brother and Granddad laughing and joking about something and watching the telly. The elder Trotter made a good sitter for his grandson and was a good mediator when things got rough, even if he didn't always know what day it was or even where he was.
Once after a particularly rough day, shortly after their dad left, Del returned home exhausted. The bills had been piling up and his grafting hadn't been paying off as much as he liked. He munched on the burnt toast that Granddad had prepared, while Rodney played with a toy fire truck with a real alarm which Del managed to get (okay steal) for his little brother. It aggravated Del that night as he was trying to figure out how to move the bills around before they piled up too high. "Turn that bloody thing off Rodney," Del warned as he returned to the ledger but Rodney didn't listen. He continued to play as his brother once again told him to turn off but again Rodney didn't listen.
Rodney approached his brother fire engine in hand just to be ornery and turned it on, this time it knocked against Del's drink and spilled his food all over the ledger and Del's lap "Gor Bennett Rodney!" Del shouted and tossed the fire engine against the wall where the it fell and shattered against the wall. "When I tell you to do something, you do it the first time you hear?"
He grabbed his brother's arm too roughly and Rodney screamed in pain. The little boy's eyes widened in fear."Maybe you'll learn, then!" Del raised his hand to strike his younger brother, but then dropped it upon seeing a wide-eyed fear but also a resigned acceptance- as though he were used to getting hit. Del sighed his voice quiet and threatening. "Go to your room! I'll deal with you later!" Rodney sprinted to his bedroom slamming the door behind him.
Granddad clicked his tongue as Del Boy grabbed a sponge and wiped the mess that his little brother made. "What?" Del asked severely. "I suppose you think that I was too hard on him?"
Granddad shrugged. "No, you're absolutely right. All he needs is a little discipline. It worked when I did it to your father, and your father did it to you and later for Rodney. Well maybe not that well on you and certainly not on your father and of course you both got yourselves in trouble. All Rodney did was have an accident, which is something that all children do. Ah, he'll grow out of that. A few swats could do him some good. After all you want something to remind you of your old man don't you?"
Del threw out the remainders of the mess in the rubbish and turned back to his grandfather. He sighed and glared at the old man. "Damn you, Granddad," he swore realizing that Granddad had made a point with him. He then entered Rodney's room and apologized for losing his temper and swore that he would never physically hurt Rodney again.
Rodney relaxed enough for Del Boy to lower him on the bed and hand him Flopsy. "The fourth and most important thing that you need to know is we're stuck together, right? I ain't never going to leave you, never." Even though he could have had his chance to get away, Del knew now that he would never take it.
A couple of days ago, the Trotters had been visited by concerned women in bland beige and gray suits. Someone had heard about the "poor orphaned Trotter brothers," and told someone who rang Social Services. They poked around the flat and asked a bunch of questions. Mrs. Burrell, a woman who looked like she had been a social worker since 1911 had suggested that Rodney should be put in care "where he could live with two parents who can adopt him."
Del Boy smirked. "So, you think that after losing half his family, you think that the best thing for him would be to lose the other half?"
Mrs. Burrell stammered. "It's not like that, Derek, may I call you Dereck?" She didn't wait for his answer. "You're a young man, this would be a very difficult burden for you. You also can maybe have some opportunities of your own that you wouldn't dream of if you were disadvantagely saddles with this task."
For less than 30 seconds, Del actually considered it. This could be his big chance. He would be free from looking after Granddad and Rodney. Rodney would be much happier living in a more financially secure family with two parents and Granddad well he could live in a retirement home and as for Del, he would finally be free, free to pursue his ambitions to the fullest. He could leave the squalor of his life and painful memories behind and being responsible for everyone else. He could be the millionaire that he dreamt of, that his mum dreamt of. It wasn't guilt, after all he wouldn't be leaving them to fend for themselves the way Dad did. He was doing this for them, he told himself.
Those thoughts didn't last long. All it took was a pair of innocent four year old eyes glancing wide at him as their owner looked up from the crayons and join the dots book and smiled at him. Del smiled back and winked. He knew what choice that he had to make. "Thanks mum," he said Mrs. Burrell. "But nothing doing. Rodney's my kid now and I'm going to bring him up."
"Derek," the social worker said icily. "I understand, but it would not be fair for either you or Rodney to live like this."
"Ma'am," Del said trying to keep his temper down. "Nothing about this is fair. Fair would be that my mum would still be alive. Fair would be if I had a better father than the one that I got. Fair would be that I wouldn't have to do this at all! But since this is what ended up, this is what I'm going to do. Now ladies, bonjour and good-day!" The strong-willed young man held the door open to wave the confused ladies out of the house. They never returned.
Rodney yawned as Del Boy tucked him in and picked up Flopsy which had fallen on the floor earlier. "So you got all that yeah?" Del asked his baby brother. He wrapped him up in his blanket and Rodney held onto the stuffed toy by the neck "Mummy was a wond'ful woman, Dad was a miserable ba'tard, Grandad is an old fool but a right good 'un and you'll never leave me," the little boy's voice could barely be understood because of his yawns and because his face was buried on the top of Flopsy's head.
"Yeah that's it," Del encouraged. He reached over to turn off the lights and leaned on the bed next to his brother. He decided to stay with him until he could be sure that Rodney was asleep. "You know you're lucky you got someone to hold onto," Del whispered as he smoothed back his brother's hair. "Ain't too many people got that." I should know, the teenager thought.
"You really never gonna sell me, Del?," Rodney droned as his brother continued to smooth his hair.
Del chuckled. "Nah. What would I do if I couldn't carry the weight of you on me shoulders?"
Rodney seemed satisfied with the answer as he buried his head on Del's chest so close that he could probably hear his older brother's heartbeat. "Del," Rodney said.
"What?" Del asked beginning to fall asleep.
"You forgot about number five," Rodney whispered.
"What's number five?" Del asked.
"I will never leave you, " Rodney said. "Never."
" Cheers, Rodders," Del smiled touched. "Now get some sleep alright?"
"I love you, Del Boy," Rodney whispered.
"I love you too, Little bruv," Del whispered back as he wrapped his arms around his brother's torso.
The next morning, Granddad woke refreshed from the long sleep and pleasent dream. He knocked on Del's bedroom door. "Del how do you want your eggs cooked?" When he received no response, he continued. "Would you go out and buy some?" He expected to hear a snarky answer, but heard nothing. He tapped on the door again this time opening the door to an empty bed. Well his older grandson wasn't in the sitting room or the kitchen, since Granddad had just come from there and he wasn't in his bedroom. He shrugged and knocked on the door of Rodney's bedroom.
"Del how do you want-" He opened the door to a peaceful sight. Del Boy and Rodney were asleep on Rodney's bed. Rodney had his arms around his stuffed animal but leaned against Del's chest and his head pinned against Del's left arm. Del Boy had one arm draped around his younger brother's front torso and another on top of his head so his fingers spread across his forehead. Granddad smiled and approached the two sleeping brothers. Rodney's blanket was only draped across him, so Granddad picked up the other half and wrapped it around Del as well. He then tip-toed out of the room letting the two boys sleep in.