Title: A Quiet Recollection
Fandom: Cabin Pressure (Radio Drama)
Word Count: 1369
Warnings: Minor mentions of non-graphic child abuse
Summary: Martin and Arthur talk after St Petersburg, and come to the conclusion that people are really a little bit like snowflakes. Friendship fic.
Prompt: Arthur and Martin have a conversation post-St. Petersburg, about Arthur's father. Basically, Gordon couldn't deal with having a child with a mental disability, and was always snapping at Arthur, saying there was nothing wrong with him; he was just lazy; he wanted the attention; he could do better; etc.
Bonus: Arthur doesn't (usually) mind Martin and Douglas (and Carolyn) making fun of him or insulting him, because he likes being treated like everyone else. But not the way Gordon tried to treat him - the MJN crew realize he has his limits, and they know what's too much to ask of him.
"Arthur? What are you doing out here? It's freezing."
"Oh, I'm just thinking, Skip."
"Snowflakes actually. See, every single one is meant to be completely different, and special, and there is never another one like it, and... I simply can't imagine imillions of snowflakes, all being unique. You think some have little families, say where they've all got the same number of little spiky bits or those shapes in the middle like when you cut triangles out of white paper? And what happens if you could get twin snowflakes? Are they the same then or not?"
"I...I don't know, Arthur. I've never really thought about it."
"Oh. Ah well."
"Are you... are you ok now? I mean, since Gor – your dad's gone?"
"Oh yeah. I'm fine now."
"But... you weren't when he was here?"
"...Not really no. Gosh, that sounds like a horribly mean thing to say doesn't it? I mean, even after I bought him a Toblerone and everything."
"You've got that look on your face Skip."
"Well, according to my course in Ipswich, it's the concerned one people pull when they want to talk about something but don't know quite how to do it. Which is a bit silly, isn't it? If you want to say something, unless it's really nasty, then you should say it. I always wonder what would happen if all your life you bottle up all the words you want to say but don't. You'd be walking around with a mouth filled with words, like a hamster. And then, you'd think one day you'd all store up too much and they'd just explode out. Like throwing up, but with sound... Oh – sorry Skip! There you are trying to talk to me about something you really don't know how to say, and here I am distracting you about word volcanoes in your mouth."
"No... no, it's fine, honestly... it – it's fine. I was.. I just wondered, whether... your dad, did he... was he not very nice?"
"You've got a look on your face again, Skip."
"The one the people from Ipswich taught you about?"
"Nah, it's different. It's the one people pull whenever I talk about dad, when they're trying to figure out whether he ever hit me, or wondering how to ask. 'cause that's what everyone always thinks."
"And... and did he?"
"Only once. He mostly just shouted at me. I was always a bit slow, and he got mad a lot when I couldn't do the things everyone else could, like tell the time, or work out what big words meant. People would tell me and then I'd forget afterwards. Took me forever to learn how to tie my laces, 'cause they're really hard aren't they Skip, what with the knotting and the looping and the twisting, and some of it all at the same time. Mum taught me this little rhyme to learn it, and I'd sing it under my breath while I did it... round and round, and loop the loop... but Dad thought it was silly. He was always... I think it was disappointed, said he wished he didn't have such a stupid son. He liked that word. He said it a lot."
"You aren't stupid – "
"I am though Skip. I know I am. I-I know that sometimes I can't remember my postcode, and I only know my telephone number since Mum made me memorise it, but then I know all these clumps of facts, about bears and Doctor Who. I tried to learn the proper stuff like they taught in school, but it doesn't stick. There's something wrong me with, you see..."
"No, really, it's got a proper name and everything. Mum took me to a doctor's and they took some blood from my arm, not like Dracula, but with this little needle, and right after, I got a plaster with a smiley face drawn on, and a curly wurly. Then they told Mum I had this thing, not really badly, but enough for it to affect my learning things, and that it was why my ears stuck out a bit and why I couldn't learn how to tie my laces in a loop like everyone else. A-And then we went back home, and Mum told Dad, and he got really mad, and said I was making it up for the attention, that it was just that I was so stupid. And then he, just, hit me."
"It wasn't hard. I mean, it was more a slap."
"What happened then?"
"Mum hit him back."
"Yeah. I don't remember much, because my face really hurt, and the world was a blurry for a bit, but she used a lot of bad words and broke my favourite plate – the one with the pirates on it – when she threw it at his head. Then he left so he didn't get anymore plates chucked at him, and Mum knelt down and said she was sorry about my plate, and that she'd get me a new one, only now I needed to go upstairs and pack, because we were going on a surprise holiday and Dad wasn't coming with us. And then she hugged me, and said Dad shouldn't have called me those names and slapped me, and I said it was ok, 'cause I was stupid and he was right... and then her face went all wobbly and she hugged me again, one of those really nice tight squishy hugs, so it wasn't so bad."
"...She was right though, Arthur. You aren't stupid."
"Skip, I am – "
"No, listen to me... please, for a minute. I-I know Douglas and I... tease you about it, and Douglas calls you a clot, b-but we never mean it. Not like your dad did. You... You don't get some things, but that's ok, because everyone's good at some things, like remembering about bears, and not so good at others, like you and your numbers, and me and my flying exams, and Douglas and his... well, I don't know about Douglas, but I'm sure he has some sort of secret weakness."
"Yeah, Arthur. Like Kryptonite. A-And so that's why you shouldn't believe anyone, when they tell you you're stupid. I mean, I know it's hard, because they say it so often that you start to believe in it, and then you start to doubt in yourself and think maybe they might be right, that you are stupid, and then if they hit you, you start thinking you deserve it because you're such a failure, that they wouldn't have to hit you if you weren't so pathetic, if you didn't try harder, if you weren't so stupid..."
"Are we still talking about me, Skip?"
"... The thing is, Arthur, that everyone... everyone is a bit like a snowflake."
"Cold and made of tiny crystals and eventually we melt when we fall on someone's gloves?"
"I was going to say made to be unique."
"Oh. I think I like yours better... So do you think we're all like a family of snowflakes then? Me, you, Mum and Douglas? All the same in little ways on the inside and falling at the same time?"
"Yeah... I.. I like that idea."
"Brilliant. That means you can be part of my snowflake family, Skip!"
"That... That'd be nice Arthur. Thank you."
"You want to go inside?"
"I think I'll stay out here for a bit. I've got my gloves and woolly hat, so I'm not really that cold. I think I might watch the snow for a bit. See if I spot any identical snowflakes."
"Mind if I join you?"
"Go ahead Skip. We'll see if we can find little snowflake-versions of us."
"I doubt that Arthur. But we can try, if you like."