Title: Drips in a Bucket
Fandom: Keeping Up Appearances
Pairing/characters: Sheridan/Tarquin, with Hyacinth and much of the rest of the cast appearing
Summary: Life with Tarquin is easy. Dealing with Mum is hard.
Author's Notes: Love to gryphonsegg and tiggymalvern for their beta skills. This was written for lgbtfest this June, and miss_morland suggested I post this here!
"Sher." Tarquin's voice floated through his consciousness. "You awake?"
"Yeah." Sheridan Bucket (plain English "Bucket," never "Boo-kay," not after that incident in First Form when he'd eaten sand for the first time), turned over in bed to watch Tarquin pull his shirt on.
"When does your practical end?"
Sheridan thought. "Um, three. It's Thursday, isn't it?"
"For another nine hours, at least," Tarquin said, scratching the back of his dark hair. "Want me to pick you up? I should be done by then."
"Mmm, that'd be nice." Sheridan reached out to Tarquin, who leaned in just enough to kiss his forehead. "Meet me at the quad?"
"I'll see you," Tarquin said, throwing his jacket on.
Sheridan watched him go. They'd been together for close on two years now, and he still couldn't quite believe he'd got so lucky. That brilliant smile, and those talented hands....
He couldn't start thinking like that or he'd be late for class. He got out of bed instead, sliding his dressing gown on. Mum had sent it for Christmas last year, real Chinese silk with a lovely embroidered phoenix on the back.
How could she understand him so well, and still not really understand him at all?
He sighed and made himself some tea.
"Ah, Sheridan! How lovely to hear from you. I was just thinking you might call; we share such a powerful bond, you and I--"
"Hello, Mum. How are you?"
"Oh fine, dear, simply delightful. I've just been speaking with Emmet, you remember, Elizabeth's brother, the musician-- and I do think we'll be scheduling a musical soiree quite soon. Do you think you might be able to make it? You're so terribly talented, you know--"
"I'm quite busy this term, Mum," Sheridan said, staring into his empty cup of tea. "And Tarquin and I have been working on a new project, it's very exciting, for the University theatrical troupe. I'll be sure to send pictures...."
"Oh, that would be wonderful!"
And then every conversation would come down to this. Sheridan would be ready to say it: Mum, you know Tarquin and I are more than friends, don't you? He's so dear to me, and I want--
...and then the words would catch in his throat again. "Mum, do you think you might be able to donate a few pounds to a worthy cause? It's just that it's a small organization and--"
"Of course, dear, of course. I'll have your father send out a cheque."
"Yes, that's wonderful, thank you, Mum. I'll call again soon. Love you."
He hung up the phone before he could change his mind.
He was a coward.
A coward with twenty more quid, but still.
Tarquin met him after class and they grabbed fish and chips on the way home. There was a nice Chinese takeaway around the corner, but it always reminded Sheridan of the calls they used to get for the Green Dragon, so they didn't get food there that often.
Tarquin licked the grease off his fingers, and Sheridan grinned at him.
"So then he says, 'I've been doing this for thirty years, lad, you might want to listen.' And I say, 'I know you've been doing this for thirty years. You keep telling me. But the fact is, you've got the wrong part.' So he looked again, and said, 'damned if you aren't right, lad.' Like I didn't know that already."
"Mum," he'd said the last time he'd gone to visit, "you have to meet Tarquin, he's brilliant. I just know you two will get along."
"Of course, any friend of yours is sure to be delightful," Mum had said. "I'll be so pleased to meet him. What did you say he was working on in school again?"
"Um, he's doing embroidery," Sheridan said, which was almost ninety percent a lie, but he did embroider in the evenings when they were watching television. He did lovely work.
Tarquin really was brilliant, though. And he, of all people, might admire Mum's lovely set of Royal Doulton with the handpainted periwinkles.
It was just....
Sheridan sighed. It was time to make a plan.
His cousins would be no use. They were off having kids or getting stoned or both, and he wasn't dealing with Aunt Violet for love or money. That left Rose and Daisy, and Onslow, of course.
At least they were almost always at home. Onslow was watching football when he came in, and Daisy was on the couch reading one of her ridiculous romances. Sheridan had tried to read one once, but he couldn't get over the historical inaccuracies to really enjoy it. Imagine women at White's in the Regency era!
"It's lovely to see you, Sheridan," Rose said, handing him a mostly-clean cup of tea. "I was hoping Mr. Vernall might stop by, but--"
"Mr. Vernall won't be seeing you again for some time, I suspect," Onslow said. "What with what his wife said last night."
"Hmph," Rose said, shrugging like a flustered hen. "I don't know what he's thinking, putting that woman ahead of me."
"Well," Daisy said, putting her book down at last, "what matters is our Sheridan's come to visit. We haven't seen you in ages."
"Well, yes," he said, trying to get comfortable on the couch. "I'm sorry I haven't been over much, but I've been busy with university, and Mum--"
"Ah, yes, our Hyacinth," Onslow said, with barely concealed disdain. "How is she?"
"Well, actually, that's why I stopped by," Sheridan said. The tea was...not that bad, considering. "I need to talk to her about something, and...well. You know Mum."
"Finally going to tell her you're a poofter, eh?" Onslow said.
"Onslow!" Daisy reached past Onslow and thumped him on the arm.
"What?" Onslow said, offended. "Well, he is, inn'e?"
Daisy sighed. "That's not the point--"
"No," Sheridan said, less surprised than he thought he'd be by Onslow's insight. "No, it's fine. He's right. You know Mum; I've tried to tell her, but she just...." He sighed.
Onslow cracked open a beer. "She don't listen."
"She don't listen," Sheridan repeated, relieved to have it all out at last.
Onslow's brow furrowed in thought. "What about your dad? What's Dickie say?"
"I haven't talked to him."
"Well, you should," Rose said. "He's about the only person who's ever gotten through to our Hyacinth."
Sheridan put his teacup down. "But I think he knows, Aunt Rose. And I think...he's disappointed in me. And even if he's all right, it's not just--"
Daisy leaned forward. "Well, what?"
"It's my boyfriend. Tarquin."
"The lad with the silk pajamas?" Rose said. She would remember that detail.
"He's-- he's wonderful, and I think Mum will like him, it's just--"
"What?" Onslow smelled blood.
"He's not at university with me," he said. "He's...he's at a trade school."
"Oh, nice!" Onslow almost cooed. "What for, plumbing?"
Sheridan put his head in his hands. "Yes."
"Well, that's a perfectly respectable profession," Daisy said, putting a hand on his shoulder in an attempt to console him.
"Good money, too," Rose added. "Maybe you could afford a country estate with room for a pony."
Daisy snickered, and Sheridan couldn't help smiling.
"Look, she's your mum," Onslow said. "She's mad, but she thinks the sun rises and sets on you, Sher. Just tell her the truth, and she'll find some way to make him into something posh enough to suit her."
"Yeah," Rose said. "Piping expert."
"No, posher," Onslow grinned. "An adept in the aquatic arts."
Sheridan laughed at that.
They spent another half hour coming up with ridiculous ways Hyacinth would define Tarquin's profession, and armed with their enthusiasm and a can of Boddington's, he drove to his parents' house.
Dad got the door. "Sheridan!" He grabbed his son in a tight hug. "It's so good to see you. Everything all right?"
"Yes," Sheridan said, squeezing him back. Things always seemed more managable when Dad was around. "I just need...."
"I can't give you any more money this month," Dad warned. "Now I'm retired, it's not as easy as it was."
Sheridan swallowed and hoped Mum hadn't already told him about the twenty quid. "It's not about money, Dad. Could we...just talk for a bit?"
"Of course, come in," he said. "Your mother's at church, 'advising' the vicar on their fall festival. Would you like some tea?"
"No thanks, I had some at Aunt Daisy's."
"Ah, you've been to see Daisy, then?" Sheridan followed his father into the house. He seemed older than the last time Sheridan had seen him, even though it wasn't that long ago.
"I stopped by. Look, Dad-- you know, Tarquin and I--" He was too miserable to say anything more. Dad turned around and looked at him. "I love him, Dad. I don't want--"
"I know," Dad said, and moved forward to embrace him. "Oh, Sheridan. You know I love you, don't you? You're the most important person in the world to me. And I'm sure Tarquin's a fine young man."
Sheridan wanted to say something. He hugged his father instead.
"Now I hate to say this," Dad continued, "but we might have some trouble where your mother's concerned."
Sheridan laughed through his tears.
The problem, Elizabeth reflected, with having flowers in the front of the house was that they were so terribly close to Hyacinth. Still, she'd almost done her weeding, and in just a few moments--
"Ah," Elizabeth said, trying not to jump. "Hyacinth. How...nice to see you."
"I just got off the phone with Sheridan," she said, in that overconfident please validate me tone she got when she was unsure of something. "He tells me Tarquin is doing absolutely pioneering work in tuyauterie. He's an absolute genius!"
"Well, that's just wonderful, Hyacinth." Elizabeth got up off her gardening mat and dusted off her knees. "I'll just be--"
"You'll stop by for coffee, won't you?" Hyacinth insisted.
"I--" Elizabeth summoned her will and found it lacking. "...of course, Hyacinth, just let me get changed."
"Of course, dear, you do need to put on something more appropriate."
Elizabeth resisted the urge to roll her eyes and went back in the house.
"So how's Hyacinth's son-in-law?" Emmet asked, as she went in her room to change. "Still plumbing?"
"Now, now," she teased back, as she pulled off her gardening trousers and scanned her closet for something that would suit Hyacinth. "He's a professional in tuyauterie."
"Ah, yes," Emmet said, and pounded out a triumphant chord on the piano. "Of course."
"At least she's happy for him," she said, taking her lilac dress out. "That's something, anyway."
"Yes," Emmet agreed. "That's something."
The Bouquet Residence
- "Drips in a Bucket"