|cymbeline_snape (cymbeline_snape) wrote in snark_n_bark,|
@ 2009-03-02 15:39:00
|Entry tags:||complete, cymbeline, gaius, regulus|
Having The Talk
Characters: Regulus, Gaius, Cymbeline
Summary: Regulus follows through on his promise to talk to Cymbeline, and he drags Gaius along with him.
It had taken a while for Regulus to set aside some time for the talk he'd promised to have with Cymbeline. He had been busy of late, but he had been procrastinating as well; he wanted to help, and he hoped he could provide a different perspective for Cymbeline to think about, but he was concerned that he might somehow make things worse, which might cause tension between himself and the rest of the family. Then, too, Cymbeline was older, and while relating to Etienne was easy - the toddler had simple needs, and he had no qualms about expressing them - Regulus knew Cymbeline was already turning into a complex individual, much like Severus had always been. Thus Regulus had enlisted Gaius' help by promising shagging and special delicacies, so he didn't have to face the eldest Snape child alone.
Rather than have The Talk at either the Manor or Azoth House, Regulus thought more neutral territory might make things easier, and so he had invited her to accompany him and Gaius to lunch. At first, he thought they would take her to a restaurant in London, but then he decided it might help if they indulged her in something special - something none of her siblings or cousins had ever done. Thus he decided to take her and Gaius on a half-day outing to Cairo.
He made arrangements for a private dining room in the hotel where he and Gaius always stayed, and his friend Asar was happy to arrange things to his liking. They traveled by Portkey and went straight to the hotel, since Regulus wanted to get The Talk out of the way and soothe the potential sting with shopping in the marketplace afterward.
Once Asar showed them to their small, cozy dining room, Regulus held out Cymbeline's chair and then Gaius' before taking a seat himself and looking over the table, which was already laden with covered dishes. "I hope you both are hungry," he said as he reached out to lift the lid of the nearest dish. "It appears Asar has gone all out."
"I'm starving," Gaius said, smiling as he took his seat, and then he picked up his napkin and draped it over his lap. He looked at his niece, seeing the sparkle of excitement in her golden eyes, even though she was trying hard to act as though being Portkeyed to another continent was something she did every day. "I think you'll like this, Cymbeline. Regulus has introduced me to some of the wonderful delicacies of Egypt, and now I really enjoy them."
"I suggest trying a little of everything at first," Regulus said as he continued uncovering the dishes and putting the lids aside, out of their way on a sideboard. "Then you can go back and get more of what you like."
Cymbeline nodded, and she looked over the assortment of dishes with curiosity. "That's couscous," she said, pointing to a small bowl. "I remember you made some once when we had dinner at the other half of the house," she added, referring to Azoth House; the children had adapted readily to the two households being joined and generally referred to the house they didn't call their home base as 'the other half of the house', as if it really was one giant, sprawling house now. "I don't recognize anything else."
"There's some lamb and plenty of vegetables," Regulus replied. "Some of it is a little spicy, but not everything."
"The bread is very good, Kliene," Gaius said, passing over a basket with small pieces of lightly toasted flat bread in it. He smiled at Regulus encouragingly; he knew that Regulus had been a bit anxious about talking to Cymbeline, but he thought that his lover's plan to do it in an exotic setting was quite brilliant. He hoped that his own presence would help to ease things and offer support to Regulus, as well as a bit of family security for his niece. "After lunch, won't it be fun to go out to the markets? And it's so nice and warm here. It doesn't feel like winter at all."
"I like it!" Cymbeline said enthusiastically. "I like the sun. It feels good here. What's in the markets?" she asked as she sat back and let Regulus spoon a little sample of everything onto her plate.
"Almost anything you can imagine. Pretty clothes and jewelry, among other things," Regulus said, knowing the mention of jewelry would get her attention, and sure enough, she perked up with even greater interest. "Your Uncle Gaius likes shopping for pretty things there," he added to tease Gaius a little.
Gaius smiled, unrepentant. "I do, very much. But nothing is as pretty as your Uncle Regulus, at least not that I've found." He winked at Regulus. "There are also beautiful rugs and lovely fabrics. A lot of the things I used to decorate Uncle Regulus' shop came from the markets here, and some things in the new sun room at Azoth House, too. You'll like it. Perhaps we can even get your hands painted with henna - it's very decorative."
"Yes, please!" Cymbeline nodded her approval of that idea, and she tucked into her food without any hesitation, apparently willing to take their word that she would like it.
Regulus almost felt guilty for playing on her trust, since they did have an ulterior motive in bringing her here other than offering a special outing, but he knew it had to be done sooner or later, and he preferred to go ahead and give it a try. While she ate and chatted with her uncle, Regulus wracked his brain for a way of broaching the subject of her little sister without dropping it like an anti-fun bomb in the middle of a perfectly nice meal. It might have been easier had she been another adult, but even thought she was already displaying Slytherin tendencies - which at least gave them a basis of relating to one another - she was still a child, and Regulus wasn't accustomed to dealing with serious issues at a child's level.
At last, he turned a beseeching look on Gaius in a silent plea for a little help in getting started, since Gaius was better with children than he was.
There was no way Gaius could miss that look, and he would have chuckled in amusement if he hadn't known how hard this really was for Regulus and how much this might do to help Cymbeline. He thought for a few moments, taking a bite of the couscous as he considered how to begin. Perhaps if he brought up Gaia, but not to Cymbeline, it would introduce the subject without Cymbeline feeling that they'd tricked her.
He looked at Regulus. "Oh, please remind me when we're in the market that I promised Etienne and Serafino to look for stuffed monkeys to go with their camels," he said. "I also thought I might pick up a book on the ancient Egyptian deities for Lysander. I can't figure out what to get Gaia, though. She's a little young for silk, and I don't know that she enjoys jewelry as much as Cymbeline does." He looked at his niece with a guileless smile. "Please help me, Kliene. What do you think your sister would like?"
Regulus rested his hand on Gaius' thigh under the table and squeezed it as he gave Gaius a grateful look; with any luck, the request would appeal to Cymbeline's vanity as well as ease into the subject smoothly.
Cymbeline glanced sidelong at Uncle Gaius, not quite grimacing, but close; any mention of her sister tended to grate on her nerves, and she wasn't thrilled by the thought of helping choose a present for the little troll, but at the same time, she couldn't help but be pleased that her opinion had been sought by an adult.
"I don't know," she said at last, giving a shrug. "She doesn't like jewelry. I don't know what she likes. I don't really care," she added, lifting her chin defiantly.
"Kliene!" Gaius' eyes widened, even though he wasn't as shocked as he appeared given that he was aware of Cymbeline's attitude. Then he sighed. "I'm sorry you feel that way. I care what she likes, just as I care what you like. How unfortunate for you that you don't."
Cymbeline scowled, a blush rising in her cheeks, and she ducked her head; somehow, such admonitions were worse coming from Uncle Gaius than from her parents, perhaps because she was accustomed to hearing disapproval about her attitude toward the troll from them, but not from him. "I don't think it's unfortunate," she muttered.
"No?" Gaius raised a brow, seeming surprised. "I would consider it very unfortunate for me if I disliked your Papa or Uncle Serenus, because then I would be the one to lose out on their affection and company. And before you say that you wouldn't miss it, you can't say that because you've not tried. It's like saying you hate chocolate cake if you've never eaten it. Maybe you would, but maybe you would be denying yourself something you'd like very much. In that case, it really would be unfortunate."
"I don't need her," Cymbeline protested, putting down her fork. Her appetite was diminishing now that the conversation had taken such an unpleasant turn. "I have Lysander, Etienne, and Serafino."
"I understand," Regulus said sympathetically, and she turned a hopeful look on him, clearly seeking an ally. "I never had much use for my brother either when I was your age. I would have been quite happy if he had gone away and never come back so that I could be an only child, so I know how you feel." He stopped there, deciding not to hit her with the 'but' quite yet.
"I didn't get to grow up with my brothers," Gaius replied sadly, shaking his head. "It was only me, and it was lonely."
"In a sense, you and I had a lot in common," Regulus said, turning his attention to Gaius. Perhaps if it didn't seem they were lecturing her, they could get their point across more clearly. "You didn't have the opportunity to grow up with your brothers, and in a way, neither did I. Our parents contributed to our mutual dislike instead of trying to heal the rift, and as a result, it only got worse. I thought I didn't want a brother, but in a way, I was just as deprived as you were."
Gaius thought he understood what Regulus was trying to do, and so he picked up his glass, taking a sip of water and talking directly to Regulus as though Cymbeline wasn't there. "I can say that you both were, really. From the things Sirius said to me, resentment of you was part of what motivated a lot of his actions as a young man, but I don't think it was entirely healthy, if you know what I mean. I think he was searching for something his whole life, even if he didn't know it."
"Really?" Regulus couldn't help but look surprised at that, and he wondered if Gaius meant that or if he was exaggerating for effect for Cymbeline's sake. "I never imagined he felt the lack all that much. I didn't want to admit it myself," he continued, sighing quietly and leaning his chin in his hand. "Things might have been different had we not been so at odds with each other. I didn't realize how much I'd missed out on until there was so much damage done, it was almost too late."
Cymbeline listened quietly, glad their attention had turned away from her, but she was paying attention. She remembered Sirius, although he hadn't come around very often, and she was surprised to learn he was Uncle Regulus' brother. She remembered Uncle Regulus had once told her about how much he'd hated his brother when she'd run into him during her attempt to run away from home, but he hadn't said as much about it then as he was now. She knew how close Papa was with his brothers, and she thought it was sad that they hadn't gotten to grow up together and that Uncle Regulus had been so lonely too.
"I don't know that he would have admitted to feeling the lack, but I believe he did," Gaius replied, then sighed. It was getting easier to talk about Sirius than it had been, although it still made him sad, mostly because he didn't think Sirius had had a chance to live. "Whether we love or hate our families, it does affect our lives. Sirius seemed to spend a lot of his youth trying to prove that he didn't care, but while the words are easy to say I don't believe they are as easy to feel. I think Sirius ended up spending his whole life from then on not wanting to be tied down, because of the hurt. If you reject people and leave them first, then they can't leave you, right? Of course, it isn't that simple, but nothing ever is."
"No, definitely not," Regulus said dryly. "If protecting your heart was easy, I might have been more successful. As it is, it sounds as if I fell into the same sorts of traps as Sirius, only I dealt with them differently. I cared too much what my parents thought and tried to convince myself nothing else mattered, but I finally realized it wasn't true. In the end, I needed a connection with him, no matter how long or how hard I fought it," he said, glancing away as he made the difficult admission. "We did connect, but now he's gone, and I will never have the chance to find out how close we might have been."
Cymbeline gnawed on her bottom lip, unsure of how she felt about what she was hearing. On the one hand, she didn't want to have anything to do with her stupid little sister, who had encroached on her life unwanted. On the other, she felt distanced from the rest of her family, who all liked the troll, even Etienne and Serafino. She was the only one who didn't, and it definitely made her the outsider, which she didn't like, not after being in the middle of things for most of her life. Her dislike was affecting every other part of her life, and she was old enough to feel it - and not like it at all.
"What's so great about having a brother when you're a boy?" she asked at last.
Gaius glanced over at her, smiling sadly. "Well, in my case, it would have been nice to have someone close to my age to share things with. Where I grew up, everyone had siblings, or at least cousins, and they knew they had each other to rely on. It's like... a connection, I guess. I was the outsider, the one who didn't have anyone, not even a father or a real name, and I wanted a brother, someone who would be like me, who would be my blood and feel that sort of connection with me."
"I don't need her for that," Cymbeline replied, thinking of her brother and cousins.
"No, you're lucky that you have more than one sibling as well as cousins," Regulus agreed. "However, there is something different about having a sibling of the same gender. Right?" he asked, turning to Gaius for back-up when Cymbeline gave him a dubious look.
"Definitely," Gaius said, nodding. "I don't think I could have shared some things with a sister the way I could have with a brother. Not because I wouldn't have loved to have had a sister, mind you, but I think boys understand boys and girls understand girls better when it comes to certain things, especially when you are young. Because boys go through the same thing as other boys, just as girls go through the same thing as other girls. For instance, you like things that Lysander doesn't, like pretty dresses and jewelry, but Gaia might be able to appreciate them. You may think some things that Lysander likes are too boyish, but he has Etienne and Serafino to share them with."
Cymbeline frowned slightly, remembering the times Lysander had played rough-and-tumble wrestling games with Etienne, Serafino, and sometimes Uncle Tybalt. She didn't like to play like that; it was undignified, and she preferred to outsmart someone rather than to overpower them. But seeing them play together had made her feel left out in a way, even though she really didn't want to join them. She probably could have, but that wasn't her idea of fun, and she had to find something else to do by herself when they began playing like that, which seemed to be more often as they grew older. Of course, the troll was tomboyish, so there wasn't any guarantee she wouldn't want to play with them their way rather than with Cymbeline.
"She's boyish," Cymbeline said slowly, still thinking over what she had learned. "She might like the boys better."
Gaius smiled gently, reaching out to stroke Cymbeline's hair. "Sweetheart, did you ever think that she might be boyish because she doesn't have any connection with you? Lysander and the twins let her play with them, and so of course she's going to play more like a boy because that's all she knows. You have never tried to teach her, have you? So how can she be expected to learn? It's like being a wizard who grows up among Muggles. You're still a wizard, but you won't know how to do magic because there isn't anyone to show you how!"
Regulus squeezed Gaius' leg again and gave him a look of pure gratitude; he was glad he had coaxed Gaius into coming with him, because he doubted he would have done half so well on his own. "Exactly so. I imagine Sirius and I might have taught each other much, and I have finally reached the point of being able to admit I wished I could have turned to him, especially when I had no one else. My parents were not there for me, and I had only one friend I trusted when I was a young man. I could have benefited from having an older brother to help me along. No doubt Gaia would enjoy exploring the joys of being a girl if she had someone to help her."
It occurred to him abruptly that both girls were surrounded mostly by men on a regular except for Nanny Stella and now Nanny Deb along with occasional input from Tybalt's mother and grandmother and Remus' assistant. Perhaps Serenus and Tybalt having a girl was a good thing, since it would change the gender dynamics, if only a little.
"I guess..." It was the first concession Cymbeline had made, and even though she still sounded dubious, Regulus counted it as progress.
Gaius smiled at Regulus' look, patting Regulus' hand under the table. "Perhaps she and Serenus and Tybalt's new daughter will teach each other," Gaius said softly, taking a risk in saying something that might make Cymbeline angry. He felt it was worth the risk, however. "Since they'll probably end up as close as sisters, with the two families joined the way they are." He looked at Cymbeline inquiringly. "I assume you won't have anything to do with Etienne and Serafino's little sister either, right? Since she's a girl."
Cymbeline didn't have an answer for that; she knew Uncle Serenus was having a girl because Etienne and Serafino had been bragging about it and squabbling over whether they were going to name her "Puddin'" or "Purple", although Cymbeline didn't think the new baby would end up with either of those names. She hadn't really thought about how she would feel, because the new baby would be her cousin, not her sister, but she supposed she didn't really care what kind of babies Uncle Serenus and Uncle Tybalt had. Then again... their two families were a lot closer now that the houses were connected; there was hardly any clear divide any longer.
"I don't know," she said at last, wringing her hands as her internal agitation grew. She hadn't thought about these things in so long, and she wasn't happy that a perfectly good trip had turned into this.
"Well, no one can make you accept her, anymore than they could make you accept Gaia," Gaius said soothingly, smiling and stroking her cheek. He could see how agitated she was getting, and he was mindful of pushing her too far. In many ways, she really was Severus all over again, and if they backed her into a corner, the spines would come out, and she would no doubt dig in her heels. Better to have given her something to consider and let her think about it for a while before starting a fresh assault. He glanced at Regulus, raising a brow. "My, how serious we've become, and all from a simple question about gifts! Ah, well, I hope I find something Gaia will like. Now, more importantly, what should we take back to Serenus? We might find a few more of the loose tunics, perhaps, to add to his maternity wardrobe?"
"I think that's an excellent idea," Regulus said, accepting the change of topic easily. He knew a thing or two about dealing with Severus, and he knew Cymbeline was very much her Papa's daughter. Pushing her would no doubt work as well as it did with Severus, and they had given her quite a lot to think about already. "Let's finish our meal, shall we? Then we can go shopping and see what we find for the poor souls we left behind. They deserve a small consolation prize for not sharing this experience and being in our company."
Cymbeline relaxed a little since it seemed the conversation was turning away from her at last, much to her relief, but she watched them warily for a minute just in case.
Gaius caught the expression on Cymbeline's face, and he had to suppress the desire to laugh. "Yes, they're missing a fantastic time. Not to mention that it's so nice and warm here. Ice cream would taste very, very good after we've been shopping for a time. What do you think, Cymbeline? I think ice cream tastes best when you're really hot and then it's so cold and delicious. Maybe we'll even find some special flavors here. Something exotic that no one else in the family will have tasted, and you can tell them all about it, and they'll be jealous."
Cymbeline nodded and picked at her food, no longer very hungry. She was having strange, unfamiliar thoughts about the troll, namely about trying to tolerate her a little. Cymbeline was too old to be friends with the new baby girl Uncle Serenus and Uncle Tybalt were having, but the troll wasn't, and if they became more like sisters than cousins, it would leave Cymbeline as even more of an outsider than she already was. She was tired of feeling distanced from everyone and feeling angry and resentful every time Lysander made over the troll and not her, but she wasn't ready to let go of her dislike of the troll yet either. She didn't know what to do, and that annoyed her.
Glancing up at Regulus over Cymbeline's head, Gaius raised a brow, silently asking if Regulus thought they had done enough.
Regulus gave a brief nod in response to the silent question and squeezed Gaius' leg again - and then slid his hand up to give Gaius a preview of the reward Regulus intended to offer him for being so helpful. "We can ask Asar to pack up our food for later if we are ready to visit the market," he said. Perhaps a distraction would help since he didn't doubt that Cymbeline needed some time to sort out what she had learned today and come to terms with it in her own time. "We can also ask him to procure some ice cream and have it waiting for us when we return. How does that sound?"
"Okay," Cymbeline agreed readily. Perhaps if the adults got distracted by shopping, they wouldn't keep talking about difficult things!
Gaius had to suppress a moan as Regulus tormented him in sensitive - and arousing! - areas, and he gave Regulus a heated glance to let him know that he fully intended to collect on his promised reward. "That sounds like a good plan," he murmured, silently plotting a way to torment Regulus just as much as they were walking through the market. He pushed back his chair and rose, then laid a hand on Cymbeline's chair, pulling it back and smiling down at her. "Come along, then, and I'll show you where the loo is so that you can wash up."
Cymbeline hopped off her chair and followed along willingly while Regulus went to speak to Asar. He wasn't sure how well they had managed to get through to her, but it seemed they had made some progress at least, and time would tell how much influence the conversation had had. As long as they hadn't made things worse, Regulus would consider it a job well done for now.