Warnings: some very oblique allusions to violence and rape/attempted rape.
Summary: Phillipa has known her Uncle Eames and Uncle Arthur almost all her life, but she doesn't think she'll ever really understand them.
Disclaimer: Just playing, really I am.
Author's note: since my brain has decided my time off is going to be spent writing rather than tidying the house or any of the many many other things I have to do, here's another one for you all. This started out as pure unadulterated fluff and it maybe went a little darker towards the end, but on the scale of my writing, this is firmly in the sappy fluffy terroritory.
The story does make allusions to events from, 'The Man who Had None of the Luck' but you really don't need to have read that one to understand it at all.
Phillipa has known Uncle Arthur all her life, he was there since the day she was born, Daddy and Mommy's work mate and best friend. He babysat for her, and then James too, when he came along, all cries and squealing and taking away all of Mommy and Daddy's attention. But Uncle Arthur always made time for her when he was visiting and brought her back presents from whereever he went in the world. Because, he said with a small secret smile as if it was the most obvious thing in the world, he was her Godfather, and that was what godfather's did.
So even though her cousin Sarah, who always stole her toys and was a poppy-head anyway, insisted that Arthur wasn't her real Uncle, he would always be Uncle Arthur to her.
So its not surprising after Mommy had to go away for ever and Daddy had to go away for what he promised was only a little while, but Grandma said was going to be a long time, that Uncle Arthur would still come to visit. He brought them presents from Daddy, and presents from himself, her own present always wrapped in pink, because he always knew she liked pink.
He told her stories of all the places that he and Daddy had visited, strange exotic places so that by the time she started school she felt ever so proud for knowing where places with funny names like Bahrain and Kuala Lumpur were.
Uncle Arthur never promises her Daddy will come back home, because he never lied to her, but he never said he wasn't either. But he did promise her that Daddy was trying ever so hard to be able to come back and that Daddy wanted nothing more than to see her and James, and because Uncle Arthur never lied to her, she believed him.
And Phillipa thinks that's ok, because if Uncle Arthur is helping Daddy 'try' then it means he will succeed, because Uncle Arthur is strong and tough and invincible and there is nothing he can't do.
Grandma doesn't like Uncle Arthur and Phillipa doesn't understand why. She doesn't understand what Grandma means when she says people like that shouldn't be alone around the children, because Phillipa knows that Uncle Arthur is the best and would do anything to protect her.
Phillipa is three when she first meets Uncle Eames. Mommy isn't feeling very well and is having a lie down and Daddy is busy with James who's crying because he's a baby and that's what babies do, so it is Uncle Arthur who is watching her when the doorbell rings.
Uncle Arthur doesn't look happy when Eames, not Uncle Eames then, just Eames, comes in. And he is loud and boisterous and seems to take up all the room and Phillipa isn't certain she likes him either. So she hides behind Uncle Arthur, knowing that he will protect her, he always did. It's not until Eames is kneeling down, pulling a shiny coin out from behind her ear and making silly faces and she thinks maybe Eames isn't so bad, even if he does talk funny.
Uncle Arthur is less convinced and though Uncle Eames, and he is starting to be Uncle Eames by then, only stays for a week, he annoys Uncle Arthur for every moment. But Phillipa notices that Uncle Arthur has a small smile when he thinks Uncle Eames isn't looking and she is confused because not five minutes before Uncle Arthur had been telling Uncle Eames that “When I said go away, I meant 'remove yourself from my presence' not 'annoy me further'”.
Uncle Eames doesn't visit when Daddy is gone, but if he had, Phillipa knows that Grandma wouldn't like him being around them either, no doubt calling him a bad influence with all the heaviness that adults think children are too stupid to notice. Phillipa doesn't understand why this would be because Uncle Eames is funny and makes her laugh.
Pippa, never Phillipa now, is five and three-quarters when she next sees Uncle Arthur and Uncle Eames. Daddy has been home for six months now, promising to never go away again. They have Tessa who sometimes stays with them now, to help Daddy round the house, because even though he doesn't leave, Daddy does have to work for long hours sometimes and someone has to pick them up from school. But the promise is a lie, because he does go away for two weeks just before Christmas, for work he says, and Pippa doesn't quite believe him when he says he'll be back very soon.
He is though, and he brings both Uncle Arthur and Uncle Eames with him, along with a girl called Ariadne. And Pippa thinks that's a very pretty name, which fits because she is very pretty, like something out of a fairy tale and Pippa decides she wants to grow up just like her. Which is a change, because before she wanted to grow up just like Uncle Arthur.
Uncle Arthur and Uncle Eames argue and fight as usual and Pippa thinks its not really fair that two of her favourite people in the whole wide world hate each other.
She asks Daddy this, “Daddy, why do Uncle Arthur and Uncle Eames hate each other?”
Daddy, who is making dinner because today is Tessa's day off, stops his chopping in surprise. “What makes you think they hate each other honey?”
“Because they're always fighting and saying mean things to each other and yesterday I saw Uncle Arthur push Uncle Eames up against the wall.” The words tumble out of her mouth as she talks, trying to figure out why Daddy can't see how wrong that is.
And Daddy was sitting down next to her and had that look on his face that adults get when they are trying to say something very simple but that they think is very difficult and that Pippa was too young to understand. Which was silly, because Pippa is almost six. “Pippa, Uncle Arthur and Uncle Eames don't hate each other. They just fight because well, sometimes when you know someone really well they know how to do things which can make you really annoyed, but that doesn't stop you liking them.”
Pippa frowned at that and then she thought she understood, because she liked James, even if he was a bratty brother, but they fought all the time because James could be a stupid-head and steal her toys at times. But he was still her brother, maybe Uncle Arthur and Uncle Eames loved each other like brothers, she said as much to Daddy, thinking herself very clever for working this out.
Daddy got a strange look on his face and coughed slightly, “No Pippa, it's not quite like you and James.” but he didn't want to say anything more.
And maybe Pippa was too young to understand what Daddy meant by that, but Pippa was very happy because she now knew that Uncle Arthur and Uncle Eames didn't hate each other at all.
It's not until Phillipa, which she had decided does sound much more grown up than Pippa, is seven that she thinks she understands what her Daddy had been talking about. Uncle Arthur and Uncle Eames are visiting together.
Phillipa has noticed that her Uncles always seem to visit together these days and she supposes its because the other one would get jealous if one of them got to spend more time with them than the other, since they always seemed to compete over things. She remembered this one time at the crazy golf and they had a really big argument and Daddy had ended up laughing at them before Uncle Eames bought everyone ice cream.
Uncle Arthur and Uncle Eames seemed tired when they arrived this time, but waved Daddy's questions by saying something to do with a 'tough job out in China', and Phillipa isn't certain what that means but makes sure to give them an extra big hug. Despite the fact that Uncle Arthur looks like he is going to fall asleep, he still takes the time to give her a present, not pink because he knows she's not a baby any more, and tell her stories about the Great Wall of China, and Uncle Eames still takes the time to entertain James with magic tricks.
Later that evening after she is meant to have gone to bed and she can't sleep because she needs a glass of water, she tiptoes down the stairs to the kitchen. She is very careful to be quiet so she doesn't disturb Daddy in the living room, and she must have been super quiet, because Uncle Arthur and Uncle Eames don't hear her when she comes into the kitchen.
Uncle Eames is making tea, and Uncle Arthur has is arms around him, his back pressed close, his head resting on his shoulder. They both look so happy, as if they were made to fit together and Uncle Eames turns his head to press a small kiss on Uncle Arthur's lips and Phillipa is reminded of a vague memory of when she was little and saw Mommy and Daddy in the same position.
They spot her of course, and after Uncle Arthur scolds her gently for being out of bed and Uncle Eames makes her a drink of hot milk to help her sleep, they take her upstairs and tuck her back into bed and the moment she saw was over.
And Phillipa doesn't understand why Mrs Hendricks down the road always says that two men can't love each other like a mommy and daddy can, because she knows that what Uncle Arthur and Uncle Eames have is more like love than any of the stupid fairy stories they show on TV with twittering blue birds and silly talking animals.
Phillipa has just turned nine when she learns that Uncle Arthur isn't invincible, that adults, even adults as strong and brave as her godfather, can be hurt and scared and do stupid things because of that.
Daddy leaves on a work trip suddenly, after she fell over and had to go to hospital, though he assured her it was just a coincidence, which means it was bad luck, that it happened like that. He had gotten a call from Uncle Eames and it all sounded very serious. He is away for almost a month this time, and when he comes back, he had Uncle Arthur and Uncle Eames with him
Uncle Eames looks very tired, too tired to do more than hug her and give her a quick kiss when he arrives, but Uncle Arthur, Uncle Arthur looks like she's never seen him look before. He's all thin and covered in bandages and bruises and looks like he might break. He still manages to lean down however and give her a kiss and a hello and say he's very sorry, but he didn't manage to buy her a present this time.
A couple of days later, Uncle Arthur is firmly ensconced on the veranda, because he had a broken foot and had crutches and couldn't move around much. She opens to door to ask her if he wanted some orange juice or something, because that's what people are supposed to drink when they are sick, but he doesn't notice her. Suppressing a small grin, she tiptoes up to him, seeing how close she could get. They always play this game, with Uncle Eames too, seeing how close she could get before they noticed her, normally she barely made it into the room. Sometimes, when her Uncles were curled up together and watching TV or reading a book or something, she would make it up almost to the couch or whatever they were lying on before they spotted her.
This time Uncle Arthur must have been really interested in the book he was reading, because she made it right up behind him and he barely even twitched. She worried her bottom lip as she thought about what to do next, then an idea came to her and barely suppressing a grin, she reached up on to put her hands over his eyes.
She isn't sure what happened next, but she was on the floor and Uncle Arthur was crouched by the railings, breaths coming in short, desperate gasps and he was saying over and over again that he was 'sorry, oh so sorry', and really she wasn't hurt, no more so than when they boys pushed her over in the playground, and she said as much to him. But Daddy came running and there were arguments and Daddy was shouting at Uncle Arthur, Uncle Eames was shouting at Daddy and Uncle Arthur wasn't saying anything really, just looking at her with a horrified, guilty expression in his eyes.
Later, once everyone had calmed down, Daddy took her aside and explained that this was in no way at all her fault, but Uncle Arthur isn't feeling very well at the moment and if she was going to touch him, she needed to make sure that he could see her first. Phillipa nodded serious and for the next week she avoided him, in case she hurt him when she touched him, especially after Uncle Eames left and Uncle Arthur locked himself up in his, that's Uncle Eames' not Uncle Arthur's, room barely coming out.
But then Uncle Eames came back, and Uncle Arthur started smiling more, although still only a little bit, and she picked up the courage one day to knock on the door, opening it carefully when she heard the soft 'come in'. Uncle Arthur and Uncle Eames were at the desk together, papers strewn around, and it was obvious they were working, and Phillipa felt a bit guilty for interrupting because Daddy had always taught her not to interrupt whilst he was working.
Uncle Arthur was smiling though, and gesturing for her to come in, and she walked forward, making sure that he could see her, just like Daddy said, and reached out to hug him. The gesture seem to still take him by surprise however and he stiffened briefly before hugging her back and it was like her strong, invincible Uncle Arthur was back again. When she pulled back, he was looking at her with a small, slightly bemused smile, “What was that for?”
“I'm just glad your feeling better, Uncle Arthur,” she said and she could see Uncle Eames smiling behind them at Uncle Arthur slightly stunned expression, his hand resting lightly on the other man's back.
She didn't think she'd ever understand exactly what happened to make Uncle Arthur react the way he did, but she now knew that even if Uncle Arthur wasn't invincible and got hurt like everyone else, he would always get better because Uncle Eames would always be there for him.
Phillipa, Phillie now, goes to her first wedding when she is ten, at least the first one she remembers, because Daddy insists she went to her Auntie Aline's wedding to her Uncle Michele in France when she was two, but she was too young to remember that one, so it doesn't count.
It's also a more important wedding than a silly french Uncle and Auntie she's never seen since, because this is the wedding of her two favourite Uncles, or civil partnership but really it's exactly the same thing except they don't do it in a church or with a priest and Phillie thinks she likes it better that way.
The wedding takes place in England, at Eames parent's house. Manor may be a better term really, not a castle like James says though, because there's no walls or defences or any of those things, just large gardens and lots of bedrooms and places to play hide and seek.
Eames family are all there, at least the close ones, though a more distant cousin or two do turn up as the date gets closer and with each and every one Uncle Eames gives his mother a Look. It was the Look that Phillie had seen at lot of times on Uncle Arthur's face whenever Uncle Eames had did something that he had previously promised absolutely not to.
Uncle Eames' family were loud and boisterous just like the man himself and all had a way of saying everything and absolutely nothing at the same time. Uncle Eames' mother, 'call me Lucy my dear', was all smiles and laughs and so very much like Uncle Eames. His brother, 'His Lordship' Uncle Eames had whispered with a grin, was older, and with a disapproving edge and Phillie didn't think she liked him one bit. His sister Emily was closer in age, was more serious and reminded Phillie of Uncle Arthur is some ways, until she started laughing and smiling and then she was as loud as the rest of the Eames. Uncle Eames' father was dead, and They Didn't Talk About It.
Uncle Arthur didn't have any family there at all.
Uncle Arthur and Daddy were talking about it at breakfast one morning, seemingly forgetting she was even there in that way adults do when children are around.
“Have you heard anything back from your brother?” Daddy was asking.
Uncle Arthur got a strange, closed expression, “He's not coming.”
“Why not? If it's the air fare I'm sure we can sort something out.” Daddy had that look on his face that meant he wasn't going to give up. Uncle Arthur was silent for a while, attention taken up with his toast and pouring coffee and for a while Phillie thinks he's ignoring the question, Daddy clearly thinks so too because he says, “Arthur...” in that tone which meant he was very much expecting an answer right now, young man.
“He said that there was no way he was taking time off work to fly to his 'fag brother's fake wedding',” Uncle Arthur had a bitter expression on his face and Phillie thinks it looks horrible on him, “his exact words.”
“I'm sorry” Daddy says, because really what else can you say to that. There is no mention of Uncle Arthur's parents and Phillie realises that this means Uncle Arthur won't have any family at his wedding, and that just seems wrong. Uncle Arthur has that tight, closed expression he sometimes gets and Phillie thinks it's very sad that anyone should feel like when its their wedding.
Getting an idea, she carefully slips off her chair and moves round to where Uncle Arthur is sitting, climbing into his lap to hug him, “Don't worry Uncle Arthur, we'll be your family.” She could see Daddy nodding at that out of the corner of her eye, clearly understanding her idea. She was rewarded with a small, slightly melancholy smile crossing Uncle Arthur's face at that, and even though it wasn't a proper smile which were oh so rare, but oh so nice to see, it was a start.
Phillie doesn't understand why Uncle Arthur's brother wouldn't want to come to the wedding but she knew that the only family that really mattered were the ones that loved him, and they were all there.
When Phillipa is thirteen she learns that Uncle Eames isn't invincible either. That's not quite true, she hadn't thought anyone was invincible since that day Uncle Arthur came home all battered and bruised, because if someone could get to Uncle Arthur, no one was safe. It may be better to say that Phillipa is thirteen when she realises that whatever it is that Uncle Arthur and Uncle Eames do, it has the chance that it could kill them.
She's the one to answer the phone this time, the house phone because Daddy forgot to put his cell on charge.
“Hello, Cobb residence” like the grown-up she now is. She hears heavy breathing on the other end and wonders for a moment if its a prank call, but then the other person speaks and she recognises the voice.
His voice sounded strange, strained, not at all the clam collected one she was used to, “Uncle Arthur?”she has to question, because it doesn't sound anything like him.
“Could you get your father for me please Phillipa. It's... it's important.” and because she never wants to hear that hitch in Uncle Arthur's voice again, she does so. Of course if she listens in to the conversation on the other phone because she was curious and worried, neither of them needed to know that.
Afterwards, once Dad had hung up and was collecting his coat and his car keys, she told him, in no uncertain terms that she was coming with him. He argued of course, but because Phillipa had inherited his stubborn streak and this was important he eventually relented. He called Chrissie, his current girlfriend, who was nice enough but far too serious, because someone had to watch James, and they headed to the hospital.
Uncle Arthur is pacing outside when they arrive, a cigarette burning down in his hand and even if she hadn't heard the conversation, Phillipa knew then it had to be serious, because Uncle Arthur only ever smoked when it was serious. On impulse, she hugged him, because other than Uncle Eames, she was the only one who could.
“Thank you for coming,” he said when she pulled away, his voice calm only a slight, almost undetectable trembling giving a clue as to the underlying emotions.
“How is he?” This was Dad, standing close, arm on Uncle Arthur's shoulder, comforting.
“In surgery. The bullet went through a lung, he almost died on the way to the hospital.” Phillipa could feel tears welling up in her eyes at the thought of Uncle Eames, her bright, loud, laughing Uncle Eames dying. She had no idea how Uncle Arthur could be so calm.
She heard Dad take in a sharp breath, “Christ! What happened?”
Uncle Arthur stepped away before he replied, glancing meaningfully at her when she did, “We got complacent, they caught up with us as we were coming home from dinner.” There was something dark in his tone of voice that, for the first time in her life, made her scared of Uncle Arthur and she was really really glad she wasn't 'them'. “We'll have to get rid of the Los Angeles flat.”
Dad didn't say anything to that, just sighed and clasped the other man's shoulder in a comforting gesture before they all went in to the horrid sterile waiting room, with uncomfortable chairs and peeling paint.
A little over an hour later, a doctor came to get them and told them that Uncle Eames came through the surgery fine, that he would eventually make a full recovery and it was only because Phillipa had known Uncle Arthur her whole life that she saw how he unclenched slightly at that, how the relief washed through him even as he kept his expression impassive.
Finally, after hours of waiting and dozing on uncomfortable waiting room chairs they were finally allowed to see him. Uncle Eames looked so strange, covered in tubes and machines. She felt her father's hand on her shoulder as she was about to go in, holding her back for a minute, wrapping his arms around her in comfort. They stood there outside for a moment to give Uncle Arthur a few minutes alone with his husband.
Uncle Arthur had Uncle Eames hand clasped in his, and they were speaking softly to each other, too quiet for Phillipa to hear the words, but both were smiling, soft smiles of relief and Phillipa knew that Uncle Eames was going to be ok.
Eventually Uncle Arthur glanced up at them, and Uncle Eames tried to sit up slightly, gesturing them to come, arms open for a welcoming hug. “Hey there Munchkin,” he said, as she went over to hug him, carefully of course because being shot had to hurt.
She frowned at him in mock annoyance, “Uncle Eames, I'm thirteen!” She pulled back continuing in a small voice, “are you going to be alright?”
“Me, I'm going to be fine, you know what they say, you can't keep a good man down.” He was grinning as he said it, but Phillipa thought she could see some pain underlying it.
“A good man?” Uncle Arthur commented sceptically, but Phillipa could see that he hadn't moved his hand from the other man's and was smiling even as he spoke.
She might not quite understand what it was that her Uncles did or why people were trying to shoot them, she wasn't sure she wanted to. But she knew that whatever it was, they would face it together and that made it all alright.
When Phillipa, Phill for short and she doesn't care if it's a boy's name, is fifteen she learns that even in this day and age people can still be homophobic dicks. Again, that's not true, she always knew that, she just never thought she'd see it demonstrated right in front of her by class mates who were meant to be smarter than this sort of thing.
Kyle is a new kid at the prestigious, but not exclusive, private school she goes to because teaching people how to stop their minds being invaded pays well, and although not small for his age, he is slight and slender and oh so very obviously gay. Even the morons from the football team pick up on it, which is no doubt why they are here pushing him up against the wall and calling 'fag' and 'fairy' and other such things.
He's pushing back too physically and verbally, because he's obviously no push over, but there are too many of them physically and she's pretty certain that many of his allusions to their brain size – genitalia similarities are going straight over their heads. So she decides to give him a hand, and tells the idiots to 'Piss Off', which always sounded much better when Uncle Eames said it with his accent but still.
The morons, because they really are, don't take the hint, and try to push her away, telling her to mind her own business. But Uncle Arthur had taught her to fight, and no one had taught Tom Bilton to since daddy Bilton usually paid to have those sorts of problems dealt with for him, so he was on the ground before he could touch her. Kyle had taken this opportunity to knee Harry Zartman in the groin and wriggled out his clutches to stand next to her.
She was slightly scared, even if she'd never admit it to anyone, because really they were big and scary and there were five of them and only one of her, well two if you counted Kyle, which she wasn't sure she did. But it seemed that the morons weren't all that good at math, because they scurried away with an ominous 'this ain't over'.
“What did you do that for?” Kyle was shouting at her, and 'What? Hello, just saved your ass here?', she told him as much too.
“Yeah, I get it, very funny. Just cos I'm gay you think I need a girl to step in and save me.”
The thought hadn't occurred to her, since she had seen both Uncle Arthur and Uncle Eames kick everyone asses, and if they weren't gay they sure did a pretty good impression. “No, I think you need someone to save you because you suck at fighting.” and then, somewhat impulsively, because she thinks she likes this new kid, “but if you want I can teach you.”
And that was how she and Kyle became best friends, and it was probably a good thing he was gay because it meant that silly things like sex would never come between them and it stopped Dad scaring him out the house when, after a couple of weeks of practice fighting he'd taken him to the side and asked him very seriously what his designs were on his daughter. She's watched Kyle squirm for a few minutes before putting him out of his misery by saying, “Geez Dad, relax, he's gay.” at which her Dad had just laughed and slapped him on the back and said, “Ok then, as you were.”
Later Kyle had been pissed at her for outing him to her Dad, cos he didn't want to get thrown out the house or anything if he hadn't approved, and she'd laughed and told him about her Uncles and why exactly she knew her Dad wouldn't have a problem with it.
It was several months later and she'd had a late class, which meant that she'd probably have to walk home because Dad had to drop James off at music lessons, when she over-heard the cheer-leading team squealing excitedly about the fact that someone had pulled up outside with a Bugatti. Because even for a private school, that car was way out of anyone's league. More than that, the driver was 'like so totally hot, and cool and sophisticated and wearing a three-piece suit and everything'.
Phill was starting to get a sinking feeling in her stomach, which only got worse when Kyle jumped on her as soon as she got out the door, “Phill, you have gotta see this. There is this really really hot guy, and you know usually I don't go for older guys but I'm totally willing to make an exception in this case. And get this, he's driving a Bugatti Veyron, those things cost like a million bucks or something. I bet he's some skanky senior's sugar daddy or something. Which is really wrong, because he's gotta be in his thirties or something”
She looked over, yup, there he was, leaning stiffly against the car, checking his watch every few minutes. She cut Kyle off distractedly, “He's 41” before answering his questioning 'huh?' “That's my Uncle Arthur.”
Phill couldn't help but feel somewhat smug at the shocked expression on Kyles face and the soft 'damn, you didn't tell me your Uncle Arthur was hot!', even though she knew she'd never, ever hear the end of it. Deciding to give all the stuck up gossiping cheerleaders who were watching her Uncle with their tongues almost hanging out something to really talk about, she strode over to gave him a massive hug and kiss on the cheek.
Once the greetings where over and he'd stepped away again she said with a slight smirk, “Really Uncle Arthur did you have to bring the Bugatti?”
It was slightly surprising, because although the Bugatti was the car they kept in the US, and Phill didn't really find it strange any more that they kept a house and a car on pretty much every continent, the Bugatti rarely made it over to LA since they'd moved to New York after the Incident two years ago.
It wasn't surprising that Uncle Arthur was driving it however. Despite what people might assume given their respective styles, the Bugatti was very much Uncle Arthur's baby.
He grimaced slightly, “Eames insisted on taking a road trip. In style.” his expression conveying his feelings as to that idea with crystal clarity.
Her classmates were all looking at her now with open jealousy, and it was strange because she'd never really thought of Uncle Arthur, of either of her Uncles, as being physically attractive but it seemed that even in their forties they could still make teenage girls swoon. And, she thought looking over a Kyle, some teenage boys.
After promising Kyle that yes, he could still come over this evening, and yes, she would tell him everything, they set off home, Phill chatting aimlessly about classes and school and ordinary stuff which she figured must be really boring to Uncle Arthur but that he always seemed to ask her about with genuine interest.
Uncle Eames was waiting outside when they pulled up, cigarette between his lips, despite the fact she knew he'd sworn to give up at Christmas. He was staring strangely at them when they got out the car. No, Phill corrected herself, he was staring at Uncle Arthur strangely, with a sort of wide-eyed amazement.
“You're staring” Uncle Arthur commented drily, “I've met your mother. I know she taught you it's rude to stare.”
Uncle Eames got up and, swear to god, stalked over to him, “Darling, have I told you how gorgeous you are?”
“Not since this morning, no” the reply was dryer than the Sahara, but Uncle Arthur was grinning and leaning forwards to capture his husbands lips in a searing kiss. And really, ewww, Phill did not need that mental image of her Uncles in that way, because they may technically not be related but she had known them all her life and thinking about them that way was just wrong.
But even as she turned her head away with a disgusted, “Get a room guys” she was smiling. She may not understand how people could think about them and sex in the same sentence, because really that was like thinking about her Dad and sex, and hello childhood trauma, but she knew that no matter how many heads they turned they really only ever had eyes for each other.
Phillipa, and its back to being Phillipa, because she's older now and only Kyle is allowed to call her Phill any more, never really appreciated exactly what her Uncles did for a living. Oh, in some way intellectually she knew what they did had to be dangerous, because she'd seen them shot and bruised and beated up, and she suspected it was probably illegal, because Dad always changed the subject whenever she asked. In fact, since she knew her Dad had met them through work, it meant he'd probably done illegal stuff too, and that was kinda scary as much as it was really really cool.
It's not until she's seventeen, backed up against a car, crying and very very scared, terrified even, because some drug dealer has a gun to her head and a hand up her skirt and his friends are all watching and shouting obscene, horrible things, that she really appreciates exactly how downright dangerous her Uncles can be. This was because within less than a second of them turning up and seeing the position she was in, they were dragging him off her, and about a minute after that he and his friends were either on the ground moaning in agony with broken limbs or running away as far as their feet could carry them.
She was still in shock as she watches Uncle Arthur draw his gun and point it very coldly at the head of the guy who'd had his hand up her skirt. The cold, hard, almost dead expression on his face scares her almost more than the situation they'd just rescued her from. Uncle Eames has obviously seen it too because almost in an instant he was up next to Uncle Arthur, moving around him, she notices, so he wouldn't approach him from behind, and calmly, gently telling him that as much as he'd like to do the same, the man on the floor really wasn't worth the trouble of having to get rid of the body, even as he gently lifted the gun out of the other man's hand.
Phillipa lets out a shaky breath and almost collapsed as she felt her legs give way from under her but Uncle Eames was there to grab her and help her into the car that Uncle Arthur was driving and Phillipa just wants this night to end.
It was stupid really. A stupid party she didn't want to go to, with a stupid boy who pretended to be more 'street' than he really was, who she was only going out with because she knew her Dad didn't like him. Kyle didn't like him either and she was beginning to think they were both right. The only reason she'd even gone to the party is because Dad was on holiday with that skank Sarah, although in her more generous moments she would admit that Sarah was actually quite nice and genuinely did seem to make Dad happy, and before he'd gone he'd expressly forbidden her to go.
Then to make matters worse, he'd asked Uncle Arthur and Uncle Eames to stay over whilst he was gone so they wouldn't be in the house on their own, and really she was 17 and more than capable of looking after herself. Then Uncle Arthur and Uncle Eames had also said there was no way she could go to the party. And that was just really unfair because she was willing to bet that they'd done far worse things than go to some stupid party when they were 17.
So she'd snuck out, dragged Kyle along with her of course so that he could have a chance at getting it on with Chris Hutchins who he'd been making googly eyes at all year, and she may have drunk a little too much punch. So that when boy-stupid had suggested that they go see some friends of his who could get them the 'good stuff' it had seemed like a good idea. Of course what he hadn't said was that he owed said friends money and, well, it had all gone down hill from there.
Phillipa was brought back to the present as they pulled into their drive way, and Uncle Eames helped her into the house on shaky legs, murmuring reassurances, and got her sitting down at the kitchen table whilst Uncle Arthur made coffee. He still hadn't said anything to her and she wondered if he was really really mad at her.
The way the man's hands had touched her, making her feel dirty flashed through her mind and even though she knew that there was no way Uncle Eames would ever hurt her, his touch was still too much, too close and she pulled away. She hesitated before looking back up at him, expecting him to be hurt at his rejection or something, but he just looked at her with a sad, sympathetic expression, patting her hand gently before moving up to say something to Uncle Arthur in the kitchen.
She was contemplating the patterns of knots in the wooden table when Uncle Arthur placed a mug of coffee in front of her, sitting down opposite her, distinctly careful not to touch her and looking at her with that calm, impassive expression of his. She was babbling almost before he'd finished sitting down, wanting, needing for him to say something, for him to make it right, “I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I know I shouldn't have gone, I know I should have trusted him. God, I'm so stupid for trusting him, so stupid for going there and I'll never ever do it again, I promise”
He cut her off mid-flow, carefully taking her hands and looking her straight in the eye, “It's not your fault. Whatever they did, whatever they tried to do, it's not your fault.” his voice was calm but held a sense of urgency to it.
She had trouble believing it, because really why else would they do that, try that unless she'd done something to lead them on, something to believe she deserved it. She snapped out at him, “What would you know about it...” but then trailed off, remembering how her Uncle Arthur had come home one day, battered and bruised and flinching when touched and suddenly things became a bit clearer.
When exactly she'd started crying, Phillipa wasn't sure, just that the tears were falling as the events of the day caught up with her, and her Uncle Arthur, her strong, invincible Uncle Arthur was holding her in his arms and she felt safe.
Eventually when the tears had dried, and she could speak again she asked, “How did you know where to find me?” She was quite proud how her voice only trembled slightly as she spoke.
Uncle Eames answered, leaning against the kitchen counter watching them, “Kyle called us, worried about you. He's a good lad that one, going to make some boy very happy one day.” And that figured, because Kyle was always sticking his nose into other people's business, and she'd never been happier that he did.
And as they sat there, in the kitchen, drinking coffee and talking softly about nothing, everything, to keep her mind away for the events of the evening, Phillipa knew that there were a lot of things she would probably never ever understand about her Uncle Arthur and Uncle Eames. But that really didn't matter, because she knew they would always be her Uncles and they would always be there for her, and really that was all that mattered.