N.B: Because what is a global lockdown for, if not for tidying up old fic you haven't thought of in years?
This is a series that I always quite liked, but I wasn't really brave enough when I was younger to take it where I wanted it to go (e.g. grown-up themes regarding queer relationships in 1950's wartime). With this in mind, I've bumped the rating up to an M (though it's situational rather than wildly explicit). Some chapters have been extensively revised, others only altered slightly. A lot of the modifications have to do with my increased awareness of the geopolitical context within which the series takes place (for example, I realised when re-writing that Hawkeye and Trapper would have been children during the depression era, which gave me an opportunity to re-imagine Trapper's background as rather less generic middle-class). I'm still not an American, so there are doubtless Americanisms that I will have got wrong (American football baffles me utterly. If it reads as though they're playing a game of rugby, it's probably because in my head they really are). For these, and all other errors, please forgive me.
I should also point out that this isn't a "repressed 1950's men struggle with their sexuality" kind of story. I've read a number of these, and they're often excellent (I'd particularly recommend the phenomenal "In All Kinds of Weather" series, by rosiesbar), but in my world, the boys are unashamedly, joyously queer (though not precisely 'out', for obvious reasons). I realise that the repression-and-angst motif is a much more likely scenario, but just let me have this, yeah?
In Crabapple Cove, Maine, Benjamin Franklin Pierce (named after an explorer and a statesman and an inventor all in one) is six years old, and his mother cooks bacon and eggs in the little kitchen every morning, while Benjamin sits by the window to pull on his grey school socks, and watches his breath blow in icy plumes like a dragon's, watches Jack Frost trace silver shards across the window pane. He listens to the bacon sizzling in the pan, and feels warm and safe as he hears the rain tumbling on the roof, the dogs barking wetly in the yard outside. Every afternoon after school he clatter-clashes down the stairs (fourteen stairs, he counts them every time) and helter-skelters outside without his mittens to build snow forts with Tommy, and play soldiers and Indians. Tommy is Chingachgook, with a toy sword that his big brother made for him, and Ben is Hawkeye, with a slingshot made from an old strip of leather. Sometimes, Dickie Barber plays with them too, and he has a real gun that his Dad bought him in town, which fires wooden bullets and bangs like a real soldier's gun. Ben rolls snowballs with Tommy, and they scale the big pine tree to their secret hut to throw them at Tommy's sister Esmae.
When Benjamin Pierce is seven, his mother teaches him the names of stars, his father shows him how to bandage cuts and sprained ankles, and Tommy Gillis acquires a scruffy chestnut pony. Their explorations now limited only by the pony's good nature, they roam further and further afield, way up into the old pine forests past Halligan's farm and beyond. Hawkeye clutches tight around Tommy's waist, and they shriek with laughter whenever the pony breaks a lazy canter.
When Benjamin Pierce is eight, he comes home from school in a rush of wool-scarf -flying, pink-cheeked jubilation, and clatters up the stairs to kiss his mother. Sometimes he sits with her in the big double bed, and she reads to him from large, leather-bound, gold-leaf books - books of Shakespeare, Wilde, Hemingway, Tolstoy, and Tennyson. But she never reads him "The Last of the Mohicans". That belongs to Dad. He sometimes tells Ben with a twinkle in his eyes that it is the only book he has ever read.
When Benjamin Pierce is nine, his uncles teach him how to lay lobster pots, and he spends a blissful summer in the bay, barefoot and clad in nothing but ragged swim trunks, his pale skin freckling swiftly in the Maine sun. If his mother and father seem more distant than usual, he doesn't notice it.
In Boston, Massachusetts, Johnny McIntyre is nearly (but not quite) seven, and he goes to church on Sunday swinging from his big brother's arm. Michael is older than him, ten now, but Johnny is nearly seven, and one day he will be bigger than Mike. His mother stays at home with the new baby, its thin little face looking red and sickly where it peeks out from beneath Mam's shawl. The church is a long, long way away, blocks and blocks to walk in their pinching, too-hot Sunday clothes. Johnny used to ride to church sitting on his Father's shoulders, but now he is almost the oldest, so he walks along the pavement instead, only running a little bit to catch up with Michael, and it is Adam who rides on Dad's shoulders.
When Johnny McIntyre is eight, he likes Sundays best, because he doesn't have to go to school. After Mass, Dad takes them all to the park, and he is allowed to take off his heavy, too-big shoes and his scratchy too-small jumper and paddle in the lake. Michael chases the ducks to make Adam laugh, and then Dad gets out a football and teaches them all how to pass and kick. Johnny loves football. He is fast, faster than Dad, and he can kick almost as far as Mike can.
When Johnny McIntyre is nine, there is a bakery where Dad sometimes stops, where a long queue of dusty men and women snakes out into the street. Johnny never minds waiting in the queue, though Michael hates it bitterly, and often finds a reason to run home instead. Johnny stays, letting Adam and Kathy swing on his arms. He likes to watch the other people - the pretty black mothers with their thin little babies tied up in bundles on their backs, and the old Italian men with their curling moustaches; the handsome Greek factory boys arguing with each other, and the Russians and the Chinese and the Irish and the Jews, everyone all in grey and brown and waiting outside the bakery for their share of yesterday's bread - crumpled to crumbs and crusts and stowed carefully in a sugarbag. Johnny likes the drunks best, because they make him laugh: old, grey men with shambling, stumbling walks, and silly, stumbling words. Two of his favourites have only one leg each, and they sit in the doorway of the repair shop two doors down from the bakery. If Johnny pesters them for long enough, they can often be persuaded to drop their old bottles in his path - and bottles, after all, can be redeemed for pennies.
Johnny McIntyre is ten, going on eleven, and he plays in the bit of scrub beside the railway siding with his brothers while his mother cooks bread-crumb meatloaf for Sunday dinner.
Hawkeye Pierce is ten years old when his mother dies, and his father reads him "The Last of the Mohicans".