A happening documented upon the second of August in the year 1883, at the Endicott Residence, and the New Haven Cemetary involving the dutiful Mr. Bartholomew Endicott and the wayward Mr. Alexander Endicott.
Bart had not slept well. But that was to be expected considering the shock of his brother returning after a long absence. He rose early as per usual, though, taking care not to disturb Alexander from his slumber. The suit he'd chosen for the day was dark and sombre of hue, and he'd taken extra care with this grooming. He headed downstairs to set the kettle on the boil, and put out some bread and jam and other items for breakfast. There were some eggs in the larder, but he still hadn't quite mastered cooking them yet, and preferred leaving them for the days Mrs Trentham came. After a quick cup of tea and a piece of toast, Bart went out into the back garden with a basket on his arm to cut some fresh flowers.
Alex, on the other hand, after long days of travel and sleeping for the most part seated on wooden train seats, slept much later then usual, and woke vaguely disoriented. Slowly, still half asleep, he went through the room he'd grown up in. First to orient himself and then, in an effort to find something suitable to wear. After a fair amount of pulling things out of chests, it became obvious that the clothes of his 18 year old self simply no longer had any chance of fitting. It didn't seem appropriate, to visit the grave of his mother in worn and patched sailors clothes - even his best shirt was far from new. She certainly wouldn't have approved of it.
Frustrated, and still without breakfast, he gave up, and wondered down to the kitchen without donning any shirt at all, to make tea and consider the problem.
When Bart re-entered the house, he was confronted by the sight of his errant brother having come down for breakfast half-dressed. His eyes narrowed and he set the basket of flowers (containing mostly irises and azaleas) down on the table a bit abruptly. "This isn't a brothel. Why aren't you dressed yet? And what in heaven's name is that *thing* on your back?"
Alex paused, with the kettle held up and ready to pour, half turning to eye Bart over his shoulder. "Its a tattoo." He answered, blandly, ignoring the previous question almost entirely and saying instead, "Do you think I might fit into one of your shirts?" He turned back to continue his arrested tea pouring.
Bart eyed the tattoo dubiously, having heard of sailors getting permanent markings inked into their skin before. However, he'd never thought his brother would do such a thing. It seemed a distasteful practice to him, and also one that could not be reversed should the recipient change his mind. Alex's tattoo was rather noticeable and unusual in design. Most likely it was meant to be some mark of virility or some such. He wrenched his gaze away, since there was nothing he could do about it now. Unless it were to aid his brother in covering it up. "Probably. But what is wrong with your own? Do you not have a decent shirt to wear?" He began to sort through the blooms and separate them into three piles. One for each of the departed.
Alex sighed, suddenly hating to admit that he did not, "Nothing suitable. Not the sort mater would have approved of, certainly."
The admission caused Bart to relent slightly. "There are several that might suffice. Let me go look." He went back up to his room and searched for something that would fit his brother. He had certainly grown broader than he remembered. At last he found a clean shirt that had a lot of give in it, being of a more billowing style than was fashionable at the moment, and a plain vest that could be loosened around the back. He also rummaged in his wardrobe for a dark long-coat should Alex need it. "Try these on." He instructed when he returned to the kitchen.
Alex set down his tea, and moved to take the borrowed clothes and try them on, draping the remaining garments on the stool he'd been perched on. The shirt pulled tight across the shoulders, but thankfully buttoned easily enough that it didn't seem to risk losing any buttons. The vest was easier, as it was a more adjustable piece of clothing then a shirt. When it came to the coat however, it was something of a lost cause, and Alex gave up on it, feeling accomplished enough at having managed an acceptable shirt and vest. He offered the coat back to Bart with a lopsided smile, "Thank you. My old clothes don't fit it seems."
Bart nodded, resisting the urge to point out that he himself had grown a couple of inches taller. "At least now you can visit the family, without mater turning in her grave." The comment was not without a trace of humour. Mrs Endicott had been a force to be reckoned with when it came to presentation.
"She would have considered it the worst sort of disrespect, I imagine." His brother agreed, picking up his cup of tea again, in an effort to finish it before it cooled. "I was going to make some breakfast, have you eaten?"
"I had a piece of toast which was sufficient." He replied at first, tying some string around the flower bundles he was making and snipping the ends carefully . But then he paused. "What were you going to make?"
"There were eggs in the larder...I couldn't find any bacon. So," Alex shrugged, "I was going to make some eggs, and put them on toast or the like."
"If you can cook them without ruining them, then be my guest." It was rather clear from his remark that he was talking about his own experiences at using a skillet. Invariably he either burnt the eggs beyond recognition or ended up with an inedible glop that turned his stomach.
"I can do a passable job with eggs. How do you prefer them?" He asked the last over his shoulder, as he moved to pull down a skillet from where it hung on the same hook that had been occupied by a skillet since he was a child.
"Edible. I care not how they are prepared." It was a strange thought to think that his brother knew how to cook. "I believe there is still some lard left." He offered, with a more helpful tone. It kept longer than butter and hopefully had not gone rancid yet.
Alex lifted his brows, "None at all? No over easy? Scrambled?" He gestured with the skillet, "Runny?"
"I've never liked runny eggs, you know that." Bart retorted, giving him the faintest of glares. It wasn't as if one's tastes changed that much. And he didn't like having to admit that there was a way he didn't much care for. "If I wanted them raw..."
"I wouldn't have to cook them for you?" Alex teased, mildly, in response to the glare. "Perhaps you might make another pot of tea, while I attempt to find the lard?"
"Oh, it's in the icebox." He pointed to where it was located, then moved to fill the kettle again, and add more coal to the range. Once that was done, he put the flowers in a large vase with water to keep them from wilting. "There is not much in the pantry, but I did not know you were coming. Perhaps later in the week I'll arrange for more produce to be delivered."
"Never mind me, what do you eat?" Alex settled next to the range, armed with lard and eggs.
Bart hadn't really thought about what he was eating. Often he grabbed whatever was handy and took the least amount of preparation. "Sandwiches. Crackers and cheese. Toast. Canned soup...whatever Mrs Trentham prepares for me. Which reminds me, I shall have to ask her to make meals for two now that you are living here also."
"It would be appreciated, but I can fend for myself if I need to." Lard was melting in the skillet, "If you like, I can show you how to cook eggs. My cooking isn't particularly accomplished, but I can manage enough to keep myself from starving."
Bart wasn't exactly starving either, despite his lack in the cooking area. "Perhaps at another time." Which pretty much meant it wasn't something he wished to be concerned about. "I do know how to boil them, at least." As if that ended the subject. "This afternoon I'd like to take you to the warehouse on Downes Lane, show you the improvements we've made with automation. Now that you have returned, we shall have to determine what part of the business you will oversee."
Because Alex's back was to his brother, Bart couldn't see him frown, or the way his brows drew together at the comment. "I hadn't considered," he said, carefully, "To do more with the family business then was required to settle the estate."He cracked an egg into the skillet, to avoid turning to face Bart's response. "Though, I should be interested in you're improvements."
"There is plenty of time to sort out the details." Bart continued on, somewhat oblivious to his brother's change in demeanor. "What's important is that you are back now for good. Settling the estate is our first priority, of course. But after that, we should focus on strengthening our assets."
"I'm not a businessman, Bart." Alex protested, mildly, trying to introduce the idea without fuss, "I'm a sailor, if I'm anything."
"You're an *Endicott*, Alexander." Bart pointed out with a frown. "You've had the same education and grooming as I once did. I suppose you think I was miraculously equipped to run the business single handed when I turned twenty." There was no mistaking the sarcasm in his tone.
Alex's shoulders tensed under the already tight fabric of the borrowed shirt, reacting to the undercurrent of the topic. "You're always been better at economics then I have Bart. And you know that's not what I meant."
"Well, you can hardly expect to continue to be a sailor now that you have returned. You've always been far more adaptable than I to new situations. I am sure you'll adjust to having more responsibilities." Bart attempted to reassure his brother. "I would certainly appreciate the input."
Alex had never reacted well to being handed definites. But he was much grown from the boy he had been, and now he understood there was something besides propriety and viewpoint at stake, so he spoke carefully. "I enjoy being a sailor, Bart." He moved the skillet off the heat, leaving the implication that he intended to go back to it unvoiced.
"I have no idea what I'd enjoy. Not having had an opportunity to pursue anything different than what I am currently doing." Bart shot back, his own posture stiffening considerably. "Wouldn't the world be a pleasant place if we could all indulge in what we desired and not have to shoulder any responsibility to our family and those relying on our business and employment." He let out a frustrated breath and then shook his head. "Let's not....let's just *not* get into this right now. As I said before, there is plenty of time to discuss this more fully once you have settled in."
His brother bristled at the response, but with a good amount of self control fought down his own answer. It would be an argument, apparently, and now wasn't really the time to have it. "Fetch a plate, for your eggs."
Bart moved to do as he was bid, even though some part of him was thinking of a half dozen more comments to add despite his plea to shelve the topic. Why on earth had his brother returned at all if not to finally accept his place as part of the Endicott family? He took a seat and ate his eggs (which were surprisingly edible) in a tense silence. Alexander's talk of enjoying being a sailor had put him out of sorts. Had anyone ever asked him what he'd prefer to do? What choice had there been but to take over as head of the household and try to keep the family and the Endicott company as secure as possible? What a luxury choice was. To be able to do what he wanted. What a novel idea. He poured himself a cup of tea, and continued to eat without comment. Better that than say something else he might regret.
To Alex, Bart had always had the freedom of choice, and had made his decisions just like anyone else. It had been on the tip of his tongue to remind his brother that the house was empty and a business can be sold, or redirected, if a man desired. He ate, standing, tense with the urge to defend his own choices. As if the jobs he'd done had been any less work, as if he'd been any good for anyone if he had stayed.
Once he was done, Bart put his plate in the sink, washed his hands and began to don his coat. Then he gathered up the flowers he'd prepared for the graves. The cemetary was not so far away as to require a carriage, but it was still quite a walk. "We should go. I have a lot of work to catch up on this afternoon." He urged impatiently, clearly in no mood to be tolerant of further delays.
"As you prefer." Alex answered, refusing to rise to the tone, and finishing his cup of tea before standing. He had no coat to don, but it seemed like the day would be warm anyway.
Bart waited for Alex to follow him outside and then locked up. He led the way down the path and out onto the road. The New Haven cemetary was on the hill, only a quarter mile from their residence. Many prominent families had burial plots and mausoleums there, the Endicotts being no exception. As they made their way to the cemetary, several people paid their respects with a hand wave or doffed hat. There were also some surprised and speculative glances tossed their way, at the sight of another Endicott walking alongside Bart.
The other Endicott was glad to walk in silence, and offered polite gestures in response to any lingering interest in his presence. It was, he thought, to be expected. No doubt there would be gossip about it within a day or two, if not by the evening.
No doubt word would spread of Alexander's return and would be talk of the town soon enough. Bart ignored the pointed stares and instead focused on the fact that his brother was finally beside him, paying respects to his family, and his departed mother as was proper. "The groundskeeper doesn't maintain the place as well as it should be kept. I have already written letters of complaint to those who employ him." He murmured as they approached the plot. He bent down to pull up a weed with his gloved hand, which had slightly encroached upon the area. The grass was cut unevenly, to Bart's mind. And the troughs for flower bouquets never seemed to have been filled with more water to keep them as fresh as possible. Bart handed Alex a bundle, and then knelt down at the headstones of his family, placing flowers down for his father and his sister, leaving Alex to place his down for his mother. He spoke to them quietly, laying his hand upon the monuments. "Mater, Pater, Isabelle...Alexander has returned. He's come to see you at last."
Alex might have said something in protest but he wasn't actually listening. Isabelle's grave gave him an unexpectedly strong pang, on top of the fact that he was seeing his mother's grave. He bent to place the flowers without really hearing anything Bart was saying.
Bart stepped back, letting Alex have a moment to himself. He watched his brother, perhaps for the first time really taking him in. Noting how much he'd changed since he'd last seen him. And not just physically. The man, though his kin, was a mystery to him. Had experienced a vastly different life in the past eight years. He was like a stranger in a familiar skin to him, and that was unsettling.
Alex said something, under his breath so that the only sign of it was his lips moving, and then stepped back, glancing sideways at his brother for a moment. For his part, Alex wasn't sure what he had expected to find at his childhood home, or what he'd expected to be greeted with, but it felt very much less like a homecoming then he had expected. The length of time he had been gone, which had felt much less when he considered it on the train across the middle of the countryside, had suddenly stretched out to its proper length with the distance that existed between Bart and himself.
"It was a nice service." Bart offered awkwardly, needing to fill the silence and distance with something. "Many people came to pay their respects."
"She would have appreciated that." Alex answered, less awkward only by virtue of the solemnness with which he regarded the graves.
"Even the Pattersons. Which she might not have appreciated quite so much." He confessed, a faint trace of sardonic humour in his tone which, though out of place in the setting, was still fitting considering their departed mother's less than charitable feelings towards that particular family.
"They wouldn't have missed it," Alex muttered, shaking his head.
"Of course not." Bart agreed, stealing a glance at his erstwhile brother. "Sometimes I like to think she's over at their residence, haunting them. Breaking the china. That sort of thing. It's comforting."
Alex smiled, a little, at the comment. One of those little glimpses of connection he felt to Bart. "Generations plagued by a disapproving poltergeist?"
"It seems apt. Considering mater's strength of will. She kept telling me she wouldn't die until -." His expression grew a little stricken at having almost said too much. The implication being that she'd hoped her other son would return in time for a final farewell. "...until she was ready."
Alex frowned, looking away, "I always expected if she had her way, she would live forever." Maybe Alex had expected the same thing of her.
If anyone one could from sheer determination, it would have been her." In the end, though, while he would never admit it, Bart had felt some measure of relief when she'd finally passed. Four years of failing health had not just taken its toll on the mother, but on the son as well.
"May she rest in peace." Alex murmured, because it seemed appropriate and he was frankly at a loss for anything else to say.
"May she indeed." Bart intoned, then taking that as a sign that they were done, he turned to head towards the gate again.
"Bart..." Alex paused then said, quietly, "would you mind going on ahead? I would like some moments alone. Isabelle...I haven't...." He shook his head, "Just a few moments to pay my respects."
Bart hesitated, but then finally nodded. "I'll wait till you return before calling for the carriage." He still had errands to run downtown, the warehouse to visit. But, he understood why his brother might need more time with Belle. He turned away, leaving Alex to his thoughts and memories...and perhaps his regrets. But what man didn't have those?