kindkit: Tintin with his arm around Captain Haddock (Tintin: embrace)
[personal profile] kindkit
All the recent talk of Yuletide 2011 made me realize that I'd better hurry up and write a New Year's Resolution story (I dropped out of the last Yuletide and I want to be sure I'm eligible to sign up again this year). One nice thing about NYR is that you can pick a prompt that suits you; probably no one will be surprised that I picked Tintin.

This is for [ profile] miss_morland, who requested a story dealing with the grimmer political implications of Tintin and the Picaros. I took the bleak and cynical undertones of that comic and ran with them.

Title: On a Darkling Plain
Fandom: Tintin
Pairing: Haddock/Tintin (but this isn't primarily a shippy story)
Rating: Teen
Warnings: None
Word count: 1318
Summary: There's news from San Theodoros, and it isn't pleasant.
Notes: Title from Matthew Arnold's Dover Beach.

Because Tintin is fascinated--or, in Haddock's private opinion, obsessed--with world events, they take newspapers in four languages from five countries. As a natural consequence, there's always a towering stack of them at the breakfast table.

This morning, Haddock is digging through them in search of the London Times; if he doesn't get it first he won't see it for hours, as Tintin reads it with a dictionary to look up every unfamiliar English word. Before he finds it, the headline in Libération grabs his attention. It could hardly fail to. It's huge, like screaming, like skywriting. The Disappeared of San Theodoros, it says, and Amnesty International Condemns Alcazar Regime. Below the headline are a good fifteen small, grainy photos of faces: journalists, communists, trade union leaders, Indian activists. They've all vanished in the last year and a half, the caption informs him, along with at least a couple of hundred others.

Everyone knows what vanished really means. Haddock takes a hot gulp of coffee, then wonders if it came from San Theodoros.

"What is it?" Tintin asks, jam-covered knife paused above his bread.

"Nothing! Nothing at all." Some idiot reflex makes him cover up Libé with a copy of Le Monde.

Tintin sets his knife down, bread still jam-less, and stretches out his hand. "Come on. Show."

A hundred thousand cannonballs. Damn all newspapers forever. "You may not want to know, lad."

Tintin frowns, a crease forming between his eyebrows, the muscles around his eyes going tight. It's not the boyish look of eagerness he used to have at the prospect of adventure. That look got frozen out of him in Tibet. "Then I'd definitely better see it, hadn't I?"

The captain hands over the newspaper and waits while Tintin reads the whole article and his own coffee grows cold. If he could still drink whisky, this would be a good time for one. It was pleasant, that bottled stupidity, that ability to turn off his mind for a while.

Finished, Tintin folds the newspaper neatly, pressing down hard with the heel of his hand until it's creased like a new pair of trousers. "This is my fault. I put him into power." Beside his chair, Milou whines; Tintin pats him once, absently.

"We did, thank you very much. And what he's doing with the power is hardly our fault."

"Do you think so? Did I have one reason, any reason - " the knife is back in Tintin's hand, and he gestures with it, sharp and stabbing " - to believe that Alcazar would be better than Tapioca? That he wanted justice, not simply the palace and the power? And the money, let's not forget the money, it seems the banana company people value him awfully highly."

"Well, he always seemed like a good chap . . . "

"Yes. I liked him, and I thought that was qualification enough to run a country."

"I doubt he's any worse than Tapioca. Who had our friends in prison, by the way, let's not forget that either. And La Castafiore, although locking her up might be a human rights advance." Haddock regrets the joke before it's out of his mouth, but Tintin doesn't seem to notice. He's all turned inward, his eyes blank and his hands gripping the table's edge, white-knuckled. He seldom gets angry--he's patient, gentle, a sweet-natured lad for all his daring--but when he does, it's terrible. And now he's angry at himself. Blast that vicious tyrannical banana-merchant of a neanderthal cannibal of an Alcazar.

"Captain," Tintin asks, still with those strange distant eyes like his soul's floating before him and he's giving it a good looking-over, "am I a fascist?"

"Are you a what? Thunder and lightning, don't be absurd."

"What did I like about Alcazar? That he's strong. That he's determined, and bold, and a good soldier, and brave. That he has charisma. I liked him because he's the kind of man that other men follow, and apparently for me that's virtue enough. It's a fascist's instinct, to love the powerful."

Most of those adjectives could apply to Tintin himself, and he's no Mussolini-in-embryo. "Alcazar was a rebel when you knew him. And what are you going to do, start quizzing all your friends about their views on parliamentary democracy?"

"Before I help any more of them win revolutions, yes, it might be a good idea!" Milou whines again--clever dog, thinks Haddock, good dog, I'll buy you the best bone at the Sanzot butcher shop--and Tintin seems to come to himself a little. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to shout." He leans down and pets Milou with both hands, looking, for an instant, like a child clinging to a toy.

"Bah. If we're going to apologize for shouting, now, every other word out of my mouth would be sorry."

Ahh, that gets a smile. A thin and not entirely convincing one, but maybe there's a chance this political hurricane will blow itself out.

"I've got to do something," Tintin says.

No such luck, then. "What? Overthrow him? Put another lot in power who'll do just the same, so you can sit here in a year's time and flog yourself some more? Or will you take your own turn at the helm? El Presidente Tintin? Generalissimo Tintin, hero of the nation? Thunder and lightning, lad, I don't think it would suit you."

Tintin shakes his head dismissively. "I'm a reporter. Yes, I know I haven't published in a while, but I've still got contacts. I can expose him."

Haddock points to the copy of Libération lying on the white damask tablecloth, as ugly as a toad in a flowerbed. "It seems to me he's been exposed already."

"Once. More articles will keep the pressure on."

"Tintin, you know what's been happening to journalists in San Theodoros. You just read about it!"

"I always wriggle my way out of scrapes. And I was his friend once. That may count for something, if I'm caught."

A cold terror, the worst he's ever known, worse than dangling from a rope off a frozen cliff, catches Haddock up and tumbles him like an avalanche. "You're not going! Absolutely not! I'm putting my foot down this time, you mule-headed self-willed unreasonable boy! You're staying here at Moulinsart where you're safe, even if I have to lock the gate and patrol the fences."

"I should start calling airlines. It might be best to get a flight into a neighboring country and cross the border discreetly."

Haddock's known it would come to this since he saw the headline. Before then, really. He's always known that Tintin won't stop finding one cause or another to risk his life for. That was what Haddock loved first, the hero in him, but now . . . it's so much harder to bear, now. He gets up and comes over to Tintin's chair, bends and wraps his arms around boy and chair and all. "Don't go. For heaven's sake, don't go." If he could only keep Tintin in this knot forever. No generals or torturers can get at him here.

"I must."

Haddock could show a bit more temper, mouth his usual insubstantial refusals, but he couldn't even pretend to mean them. Not standing here like this. "I'm coming with you, of course."

Tintin lets his head fall back, cheek soft against Haddock's, and sighs like a weary man finally lying down to rest. He folds his arms over Haddock's and relaxes into the tangle--less a knot than a nest--that they've made. He's quiet, far stiller than when he sleeps, hoarding peace against whatever they're walking into.

Haddock's back twinges, but he doesn't move. He'll stay here, feeling the warmth of Tintin's body and the rhythm of his breathing, for as long as he can. Pretending he is a shield, and an anchor, and that Tintin will certainly be safe.

on 2011-10-06 12:22 am (UTC)
starlady: roy in the sunset at graveside (no rest for the wicked)
Posted by [personal profile] starlady
Oh, this is so good, dark and realistic and true.

*runs back to read the Tintin in Tibet post*

on 2011-11-13 05:26 am (UTC)
kay_cricketed: (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] kay_cricketed
It's brilliant I found this, and kind of ironic because I was just discussing with a friend of mine how Tintin essentially helped to plot an entire revolution in five minutes flat.

Loved this! The fact they get their newspapers in four languages is so on target and charming. The "Damn all newspapers forever" was... love. XD

But especially, it was great to see those qualities in Tintin that are equally exasperating and admirable: his sense of responsibility, the fixed determination, his absolute disregard for his own safety. That moment when he completely ignores the Captain's rant was fantastic. And, and the ending. Less a knot than a nest. That last line. So perfect.


kindkit: A late-Victorian futuristic zeppelin. (Default)

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