The inspiration for this story originally came from a conversation I had with a friend about the responsibility one has as a bigsister or bigbrother. Please note that English is not my first language – feel free to correct me, but please do so gently.
Written for my little sister whom is subjected to the same kind of rule as expressed in this story – just because I can whack her on the back of the head when she's behaving stupidly does not mean that anyone else has that right…
It all happened so fast, actually. One minute James was sitting quietly, sipping a pint with Siegfried and enjoying a night out at the Drover's with his two colleges – and the next, peace was broken by loud voices and Tristan sprawled on the floor, nose bleeding. The younger man had long had a good eye for the redheaded Pippa, but had lacked the courage to speak to her in spite of the fact that James had given up counting the number of times he had seen her gaze longingly at Tristan. Tonight, Tristan had finally found the courage to approach Pippa, but the sight of the two of them talking quietly together and holding hands under the table had apparently been too much for Brian Ferry. Brian, whom was a couple of years older than Tristan and worked at a farm outside of Darrowby, loudly proclaimed that Pippa was with him. When Tristan in his usual fashion stated that the lady had obviously chosen her company, Brian had taken a swing at him, sending Tristan to the floor with a bloody nose. Before James had the slightest opportunity to say or do anything, Siegfried was on his feet, across the room and landing Brian Ferry a right hook square between the eyes. Finding his own legs, James quickly checked up on Tristan whom seemed alright and was already on his feet again, being tended too by Pippa. Leaving Tristan in capable hands, James crossed the room where two of the men had already separated Brian and Siegfried. Coming up to stand behind his friend, James placed a hand on Siegfried's shoulder, but the older man did not even seem to acknowledge him. He just starred menacingly at the younger man in front of him, and then leaning over in a deadly quiet voice said,
"In the future, Mr. Ferry? Stay away from my brother if you know what's good for you"
Then he turned and went to pick up his hat and coat, before collecting his brother and heading for the door. James quickly gathered his own stuff and followed his two colleges, not really sure what had just happened.
"I sometimes don't understand you Siegfried" James said with a thoughtful look at his partner later when the three of them were back at Skeldale, nursing a night cap and a moment's peace after the night's turbulence. Tristan was out cold on the settee, sleeping with his head on a pillow resting against Siegfried's left leg, James in the armchair by the fireplace and Siegfried studying the local paper. Siegfried looked up at him with a questionable look in his eyes, and James continued,
"You correct and reprimand Tristan all the time and more than once I have witnessed him getting a pop on the back of his head from you. Why the big fuss today? He is a big boy and perfectly capable of looking after himself?"
Siegfried did not even blink before replying,
"The first rule of brotherhood", as if these word explained everything, but somehow only managed to confuse James even more. The confusion must have been obvious on his face, because Siegfried titled his head like he usually did when considering the best way to explain something and then asked,
"My dear James, you don't have siblings do you?"
Taken back at the change in conversation, James only shocked his head no, not really seeing what his status as an only child had to do with the whole thing.
"No, I don't", he replied.
Siegfried nodded and spared his brother, moving restlessly in his sleep for a moment, a glance, but shifting his attention back to his partner again when he was certain that Tristan was resting peacefully.
"Well, let me then explain to you the First Rule of Brotherhood. It is quite simple actually – He is MY brother, you hurt him, I'll hurt you"
The words were said in Siegfried usual quiet tone of voice, but his steel grey eyes were hard as diamonds and the way he stressed the word 'my brother' made James certain that he never wanted to be the one deliberately hurting Siegfried's little brother.
"Just because I can boss him around, stick him with the worst jobs and whack him on the back of the head does not mean that anybody else has that right" Siegfried continued, "I can because I, James, am his big brother and it is my duty to see that he is brought up well"
"I see" he said. Siegfried nodded and once again turned his attention to the paper he had been reading before James had asked him the question. James observed Tristan while going over the things Siegfried had just told him. The younger man was still curled up and fast asleep, looking every bit a young child with his spiked blond hair and relaxed features of sleep. The peaceful image was broken when Tristan's hand twisted and a distressed mumble escaped him. Without even putting down his glass or shifting his eyes from the paper, Siegfried reached out his hand and gently rubbed Tristan's back.
"Hush now Little Brother, hush now", he mumbled, and to James' great surprise Tristan immediately calmed and with a soft, mewling sound settled down again.
"There's a good lad" Siegfried continued and let his hand rest on his brother's back as he continued to read. James quietly shook his head at the sight. Usually, the two brothers were like cat and dog: Tristan was always testing the boundaries, seeing how far he could push his brother and Siegfried was just as bad, reprimanding Tristan or stating his superiority by excluding his younger brother from conversations or punishing him with lousy jobs. And in spite of all this, James, with his own eyes, had witnessed the fierce protective strike of Siegfried's when someone else had messed with his brother. Again, James found himself shaking his head in wonder: He understood every word his partner had said and he had seen it practiced with his own eyes, but somehow he believed that maybe one had to have a sibling in order to fully understand the structures and meaning of brotherhood.