When I saw the new challenge topic, this little idea attacked me and I wrote it as it came, like a sketch on napkin. It is random and small but indulges my love of dreaming up Gene's backstory...
Title: Make Do and Mend
Rating: Green Cortina
Pairing/Characters: Gene, Stuart
Summary: 'In 1942, when Gene was a teenager but before teenagers had been invented, he went to school in what clothes he could find about the house.'
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Make Do and Mend
In 1942, when Gene was a teenager but before teenagers had been invented, he went to school in what clothes he could find about the house. Might not be clean, certainly wouldn’t be ironed, always smelt of Dad’s whiskey, but what could they do? No washing machines, not in them days, just tubs and mangles and other bizarre contraptions he and Stuart had no chance in hell of figuring out, let alone acquiring.
Stuart was working in the factory, then, night shifts mostly. The equally desperate people he worked alongside didn’t care about how others looked – or how they looked, or what day it was, or much of anything. So Gene got the clothes first, wore them to school as clean and pressed as they could get them, and later Stuart put them on and sweated them through, drilling holes in shell casings. Munitions work was underpaid and dangerous, but as an essential worker at least it meant he could stay in
Gene’s classmates teased him about that. Well, they were twelve and thirteen year-olds, what did they know? They couldn’t understand that there was more than one kind of bravery.
Gene beat them up, of course. The bigger ones, anyway. But that didn’t get you any more respect, just fear. Even then he’d known the difference.
In the evenings, when unrecognised, un-uniformed, unranked Stuart stepped out into the night in a rumpled shirt and fraying trousers, Gene would sit at the kitchen table and wait for Dad to get in from the pub. He worked hard at his homework, because although he had no idea what the future held, all he really cared about was getting away from his past. Or at least, what would someday be his past, when it had finally stopped being ‘now’.
If the siren went, he’d crawl down to the
He used to – and see, this is a secret he never told anyone – he used to sew, down there underground, all alone with nothing but the distant sounds of explosions and screams. The socks, the shirts, the trousers - they all had to last and so they had to be mended. Stuart must have noticed, but he never mentioned it, just like Gene never mentioned the way Stuart’s girl had broken up with him after he refused to voluntarily sign up to the army. Like neither of them mentioned what had happened to Mum.
That was in 1942, when Gene was teenager and still thought there were things he could fix. Thought that parts of life could be mended, altered and made to look new.
But, just as when he’d stitched the fabric, his clothes were still unwashed and un-ironed; when Gene had left his Dad miles and years and acres of bitterness behind him, his house was still filled with empty whiskey bottles.