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Sympathy for the Devil- Epilogue

 

 

Epilogue

 

So if you meet me
Have some courtesy
Have some sympathy
And some taste
Use all your well-learned politesse
Before I lay your souls to waste




It was a while, a week or two of unhurried to-ings and fro-ings, before Danny's flat was finally emptied. All the boxes, the clothes, kitchenware, and other assorted junk that Danny had collected over five years of bachelor life were loaded piecemeal into the back of the Jetta and ferried across the village, leaving nothing but empty furniture and elderly carpets. The one in the living room was imprinted with dozens of square and rectangular shapes where the boxes had been, and when the phone rang just as Danny was half out of the door for what he intended to be the last time ever, he was pretty sure it was going to be his landlord, who for some reason didn't understand the logic that the carpet wasn't actually damaged,
because it was actually cleaner and less faded under where the boxes had been. He'd practically been preserving it.

At any rate, the unexpected shrill of the phone in the hollowed-out space nearly made him drop an entire stack of magazines, already precariously balanced against his paunch. He maneuvered them onto the coffee table, and grabbed at the phone on the fourth ring.

“'Lo?”

"Is this Daniel Butterman?" A woman's voice, unknown, and since she'd asked, she obviously didn't know him, either. Not the landlord, then.

“Yeah?” Danny frowned and sat down on the sofa, trying to unwind the phone cord out of its stubborn grey knot. He wasn't sure where Nicholas had got to; last time he'd seen him he'd been standing looking rather despairingly at the scrubby biological catastrophe Danny called a front garden.

"This is Diane–" she sounded like a Diane "–from Buford Abbey General. We've tried contacting you about your father, recently, but your phone doesn't seem to have an answer machine, and his contact sheet doesn't have any other numbers…?"

“Oh.” Danny left the cord alone, struck with the stomachy-chesty sensation that always caught him out whenever his father cropped up unexpectedly in conversation these days; a sudden lift and a sudden drop, a bit of hope and a bit of panic, all mixed together. 'Diane' didn't sound apologetic or anything, but for all he knew, she could be one of those slightly scary people who delivered phrases like 'you've won the lottery' in exactly the same tone they used for phrases like 'I'm sorry for your loss.

Yeah, I'm, I'm moving at the moment, actually?” It came out like a question. “Is he alright?”

If you've never known, it is possible to make an audible smile on the telephone. Diane made one now. "Yes, he's doing much better now, fortunately. He's taking his meds, starting to take his therapy seriously, which is major improvement in itself. Still a few sleeping issues here and there, but we're working on it. Could I have your new number, please?"

Danny let out a breath he hadn't even been aware he'd been holding, and told her Nicholas's– their– number. “Is he off… y'know… watch, yet?”

"Very nearly. But it all depends. We even think he might be ready for a few family visits."

“Visits?” Danny gave the stack of film magazines in front of him a bewildered stare. From the top front cover, a slightly crumpled Hayden Christensen gazed rather unhelpfully back. “I din't think he wanted…”

"Well, he was the one who requested it. Would you be available, say, next Sunday?"

“Er… yeah.” He felt a touch dizzy, sucker-punched, unused to having to make such an effort to work out how he felt, the edges of his voice twanging oddly in the empty acoustics of the room. “Yeah, 'f course… he requested it?”

"He also asked if you wouldn't mind bringing along a, uh, significant other, if you had one. He didn't sound too sure about that part."

Danny blinked. All right, now this call was officially in Silly Buggers Joke Land. Except, quite clearly, it wasn't.

“This is Frank Butterman we're talking about here, right?” he said, carefully, getting up off the couch and peering through the window-netting to see if he could spot Nicholas in the garden. “Tall bloke? Glasses?”

"–Currently fifty-eight years old? Er, yes. Look, if you're not available, we can just tell him–"

Nicholas tapped at Danny's shoulder, thinnish eyebrows raising in question. He'd snuck in the back door, having removed his grubby shoes and padded silently across the carpet in his socks.

"No! No, no, that's fine, Sunday's fine. Tell 'im–" He flapped at Nicholas, pointed at the phone, mouthed DAD. "Tell 'im we'll see him then."

She gave him a time and a thank you, and hung up.

Nicholas hugged him one-armedly, unsure what the hell was going on. "Everything all right?"

Danny plunked the phone onto the couch with a weird sense of unreality. “S'Dad. He… she said he wants to see me.” He paused, himself unsure how Nicholas was going to take this. “Us.”

"What? Both of us?"

“Both of us,” repeated Danny, hesitantly. “Me 'n 'a significant other,' which's got to mean you, right? He didn't think I had a girlfriend or anyfin', before…”

Nicholas grinned and turned the one-armed hug into a full-blown one. "What, not even your crush on Eve Draper?"

“Yeah, well. He used to get in the occas'nal dig about Eve, wasn't serious, I didn't think he'd ever get to that sort of stage about you. Sort of different. I mean, he never had a go at murderin' Eve… that I know of, anyhow. Before she got in the way.” Danny flumped into him, into the comfort, giving up. “I don't understand him any more, Nic'las. Always thought I did, I mean, 'smuch as you ever understand your parents, an' now I don't, an' I don't know how much any of what I thought was… I dunno, real.”

"Well, for one thing, I'm not about to go running off with Martin Blower or Marcus Carter's big brother." Nicholas squeezed. "We'll figure it out."

“Mmm," said Danny, into his shoulder. “So you… don't mind coming?”

Nicholas kissed the back of his neck. "Anything you want."

*

Buford Abbey General Psychiatric Detention Centre was not, actually, in Buford Abbey. It was a low, sprawling complex of modern buildings a few miles past the town, built on the site of an old private airbase. A institution which had been reclassed several times since its opening in the late seventies, from minimum to medium security, from prison to probation centre to hospital ward, it had the patchwork, untarnished air of a place which has finally settled on its own identity after several false starts.

Inside, it was mainly beige. An orderly, who looked a damn sight more capable of administering an armlock as well as medication, if necessary, than the ones who had tended to Nicholas in hospital, checked Danny and Nicholas's identification, and got them to sign in and initial a form which was slightly familiar to Nicholas– his own signature was the last entry, dated nearly a year ago.

"You going to be alright?" asked Nicholas, threading his fingers through Danny's hand at an angle that couldn't be seen by the orderly, as they were led down the hallway to the visitation room. "You haven't seen him for over a year, now."

“I'll be fine,” said Danny, a bit more confidently than he really felt, squeezing Nicholas's hand. His throat was bone dry, and the air in here didn't help, slightly overheated and tasting of unfamiliar cleaning products. A year. Christ, it felt like longer. “Long as he doesn't flip his shit again like when we were tryin' to process the lot of them…”

"I'll take you home if he does," promised Nicholas. "But I don't think he will. He asked to see you, remember?"

“Didn't say why, though,” mumbled Danny, as the orderly showed them into a long, mainly empty room with a table running the length of it. Everything in it was in some way a representation of the dual nature of the institute, the balance of security and care. In a prison, there would have been uniforms, restraints, some kind of visible barrier between visitor and inmate. In a hospital, there would not have been such watchful attendants, or the polite, severe signs that reminded guests not to hand over anything that hadn't been approved by staff.

Frank was sitting at the end closest to them, although he stood up, when he saw them approaching. Danny drew in a breath so quick and suppressed that it hurt. His dad had lost weight, needed a haircut, but… he looked okay. At first glance, he looked fine. Human. Fatherly.

And smiling, at least a little, and
that made it easier to sort of grin back.

“'Lo, Dad.”

“Hello, Danny,” said Frank, quietly. “Nicholas.”

"Frank," nodded Nicholas. He hadn't wanted to let go of Danny's hand upon entering the room, but it probably wouldn't be the best start to something that was supposed to be for Danny's sake by rubbing Frank's nose in something that might set him off.

He wasn't even sure if Frank remembered anything. It could be that his memory of the week had been lost when he'd come back, or maybe he hadn't gone back in time at all, and the person Nicholas had interacted with was actually nonexistent. Out of Nicholas's head.

Even if Nicholas Angel didn't have the imagination to make up something like that.

But Danny Butterman the First had written about him, hadn't he? The letter existed. The book existed.

They sat down at the long table. Up close, Frank looked as if he wasn't entirely sure where, or if, to begin, an uncertainty that jarred with his usual robustness. His shoes were laceless, and the crinkles beneath his eyes were smudged pale and blueish.

“How's… everyone at the station getting on these days?” This, addressed to both of them, but implicitly, questioning Nicholas. His replacement.

"I think they've been getting on alright in my absence," said Nicholas, evenly. "Still trying to convince the Andes that yes, it's not just me anymore, that smoking indoors in a public building is a criminal offence. I think they'll get the message around the third time I dock their pay for the fines." And, because he couldn't contain himself; "Still craving Silk Cuts?"

Danny blinked, confused. “You don't smoke, d'you, Dad?”

But Frank didn't seem to hear him. He looked across at Nicholas, sharply, the shock of realisation and relief jostling for space with a remaining fragment of reticence in his eyes. “I… wasn't going to say anything,” he said, after a moment. “Too easy to write it off as… as my mind. Playing tricks. And I had no proof…”

Nicholas leaned back in his chair. "Well, it wouldn't be something I'd recommend that you'd talk about much, here." He eyed the orderlies. "Considering."

Danny looked between the two of them, baffled.

“I wouldn't,” said Frank. “That's the unfortunate thing about about this place being only a few steps removed from a lunatic asylum.” He smiled. “People tend to be a little bit predisposed to think you're crazy.”

"On the other hand, they're not trying to set you on fire."

“No. There is that.”

Nicholas smiled, and tried to cover it up by rubbing his jaw, and slid across the table a crisp, printer-white sheet of paper. "I brought you a photocopy of some proof, if it'll help at all. It's a bit… well, just ignore the bits about me. He does go on a bit."

Frank took up the photocopied letter, his eyebrows rising as he read through it. The sense of improvement which Danny had noticed at once was not physical; outwardly, he still carried all those little telltale signs of having been very ill, from the shadows under his eyes to his faintly careful, conservative movements. Instead, it was in his expressions that it showed most, a sort of warmth and greater understanding, and when he spoke to Nicholas it was without the cold removed hostility that had shuttered his face like a haunted house. Now, he burst out laughing.

“Gary Cooper?”

Nicholas didn't try to cover up his grin this time, letting it curl outwards from his steepled fingers. "Thought you'd enjoy that. And it's a little more in-keeping with the village's rustic aesthetic, than, say, Clint Eastwood or John Wayne. Better actor, too."

Danny's mouth was slightly open. “How'd–”

“Just a minute, Danny,” said Frank, gently, sensing that his son was close to exploding with unanswered questions. He scanned the letter again, then folded it. “I wondered how you got back, in the end,” he added, to Nicholas. “I didn't see you go. I think I got out just in the nick of time, myself.”

Not a lie, this time, just an understatement, a gentle glossing-over. The details were just window-dressing, after all. How he'd slipped quietly off into the dark, his thoughts ebbing away with a little bit of pain and panic but mostly peace. How he'd opened his eyes on a blinding, beeping, antiseptic-smelling world, an empty curtained space occupied only by an orderly who'd slipped into the one place he'd thought would be safe to smoke a sneaky fag, and ended up receiving the shock of his life instead.

“But... here we are, eh? In the end I just blinked, really, and I was back. Very quick. Very little drama.” He inclined his head. “I did tell you not to fuss.”

"Well, forgive me for being concerned," sulked Nicholas. "I didn't know we were going back at all."

“It's a good thing we did, don't you think?” Frank paused, tentatively, uncertain how best to put this. “Sandford needs you, and besides… the two of you need each other. I don't need to be CID to spot that. And… I wanted to thank you, in any case, for being concerned.”

He gave Nicholas a wry smile. “After everything's said and done, it's more than I could have asked for. You two coming to see me today is more than I could have asked for,” he added, after another pause. “There's no changing what I've done, but I can at least do my best to make up for it. I can do that much."

Nicholas put his hand on Danny's shoulder “Earn it. I’m still earning this."

“Yeah, an' don't– don't you soddin' dare scare me like that again,” interjected Danny, sure of what he wanted to say at least, even if he wasn't quite up to speed on what anyone else was referring to at the moment. “You know what I'm talkin' about. I'm gonna bring you some of your magazines an' papers an' s– an' that next time, an' I don't want them to have to go through an' take out every bloody staple, all right?”

“Point taken, son.”

Nicholas coughed, and stood up, his hand still on Danny's shoulder. "Alright, I'll just… leave you two to it. Can I do anything else for you, Frank?"

“You certainly can.” Frank looked up at him over his glasses, mock-stern. Look after them. I'll expect results.”

There might have been clearer, less convoluted ways of asking Angel to come back next time as well, but this one, coupled with his expression, was good enough.

The corner of Nicholas's mouth curved. "I'll file very thorough reports. Sir." He patted Danny's shoulder as if Danny were somehow a physical extension to Frank, or possibly to remind Danny that he had unwavering support from his quarter, and walked out of the room.

“I suppose I could imagine worse son-in-laws,” said Frank, reflectively, as the door closed behind him. “Although I never understood why you went off that nice lass Joanne.”

“She went off me, actually, Dad,” Danny pointed out.

“I thought you seemed to be doing alright with her.”

“I made 'er throw up. That's usually a good indication.”

“Fair enough,” his father conceded. “Maybe this time you should save your party tricks until after you've tied the knot, eh?”

“Daad,” groaned Danny, rolling his head back as if there was a chance he might manage to roll it right off his neck and down the hall, thus escaping the embarrassment. 

*

"He never even knew what it was going to be worth," said Nicholas, standing back from the glass of the display. He'd already gone through every ancient page with a tweezer, but it was the meaning behind the thing, after all.

He'd called up the British Library in London as soon as he'd finished, out of a strangled sense of public responsibility, and a terror that he'd somehow ruin the rare copy for generations to come. In the end, he'd managed to squeeze in a contractual agreement that it would spend a month in the Sandford Historical Society's little museum before being shipped off.

"We haven't even got anything to do with the money yet."

“We could fix the church roof,” said Danny. There were a number of things about all of this that he still didn't really think he believed, but the part that was right in front of him in a glass case seemed real enough.

Nicholas barked out laughter, and immediately had to stifle himself at a glare from Myra Fletcher behind the desk. "Could get you a new pair of speakers. Full surround sound for the films. Every film you've ever wanted, come to that."

"Could put it in savings for university, later," said Danny, as casually as he possibly could, and waited for Nicholas's alert mind to make the connection that it wasn't either of them that the university'd be for.

Up above Nicholas's sudden drawing of breath, up the rickety wooden stairs and around into the room where a stranded William Treacher had once complained about potatoes, now crowded with displays of items most people in from the nineteenth century wouldn't have blinked twice at; on a forgotten dusty stand that Nicholas had never seen and Danny had probably forgotten the significance of, was a stab vest. It was badly treated, burned and ripped in half a dozen places and sewn back together by an inexpert hand. In some parts the stuffing threatened to spew out the stitches, but someone had cared enough to keep it in one piece, and repaint the bits that originally had been white, and put a little placard underneath.


SANDFORD, THE ORIGINAL INVENTOR OF THE MODERN POLICE EMBLEM

AND

THE FIRST POLICE STAB-VEST.

1834

Donation by the Butterman Family,

dedicated to the courageous spirit of

future generations.



*

~The End.~

 

Comments

( 21 comments — Leave a comment )
bakaknight
Jun. 17th, 2009 11:21 pm (UTC)
Abso-freaking-gorgeous ending, there. had been wondering what happened to the stab vests, and that's a good place for them.
My heart aches for that book, though!
waffleguppies
Jun. 18th, 2009 05:58 pm (UTC)
Mmmmm I knowww. I want it. badly. I went and found a picture of it so I could describe it properly, and that made me want it moooore...

http://photos.liveauctioneers.com/houses/pbagalleries/15370/2016_3_lg.jpg
random_nexus
Jun. 17th, 2009 11:52 pm (UTC)
Everything I could've asked for -- and more!!!
OMG OMG OMG! OMFG!! Even Frank and the book and the vest and... *flail* OMFG!

I'm not only memming this, but I'm going to copy/paste all the bits together in a doc so I can reread this regularly. Seriously. Damned Well Done!

<3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3
marshwiggledyke
Jun. 18th, 2009 03:07 am (UTC)
Aw, jeez, I could just email you a copy, if you like it that much.

:B
random_nexus
Jun. 18th, 2009 03:43 am (UTC)
I would think many very happy thoughts about you if you would.
{:D

darkeangelle(at)gmail(dot)com
tis022
Jun. 18th, 2009 03:29 am (UTC)
that was just perfect
waffleguppies
Jun. 18th, 2009 10:50 pm (UTC)
:D Thank youu!
soul_bonnie
Jun. 18th, 2009 07:38 pm (UTC)

Everything's tied up so perfectly, I dunno what to say!

And... I like Frank. ... ... Gosh, it looks even more crazy than it sounds but there you go...

Thanks for giving us this wonderful, wonderful fic!!
waffleguppies
Jun. 18th, 2009 10:50 pm (UTC)
Probably a bit obvious by this point, but I like Frank too. He's resilient and chewable, and absorbs hard knocks twice as well as any other rival-brand crazy.* :D

*Disclaimer; this Frank may have sharp edges. Actual mental state may vary from display model.
alpha_orionis_v
Jun. 19th, 2009 04:45 am (UTC)
Finally finished this damn thing.

I spent a good portion of the earlier bits wondering what was going on in 2007 Sandford while Nicholas was off gallivanting in 1830-something Sandford. I had a feeling it was gonna be a bit of a Life on Mars thing, but didn't want to jump to any conclusions. Mainly, because I tend to get really disappointed if I'm right.

I loved Nicholas' inner-monologue arguments with himself. Those were the best, I think.

Lovely ending. I think it all came together quite nicely. :D
haliyah
Jun. 21st, 2009 02:02 pm (UTC)
WUFFAGUH.

ASPLORADNTUMFLIDWAITHE.

BAZOGORAMNGURFGH.

...ZUH!



Oh. OH. I have so. Muchlove. Forthisstory. Please excuse any incoherency that may follow, because amagah.


You covered two things I really wanted to see in this fandom: Frank starting to heal and Frank and Nicholas reconciling. It made me so unbelievably happy when he turned out not to be the murderer.

Frank automatically fathering Ye-Olde-Danny was both adorable and kind of heartwrenching. Frank really loves his family, and what is more painful than the acts he committed is the shame he has toward them. He believes that he'll never really be able to see his only remaining family again, in the past-present or the future-present, because his guilt won't let him; he won't fight it because he knows he deserves it.

Nicholas learning to not hate him after seeing that Frank does, indeed, still possess integrity and a sense of right and wrong, and seeing that he feels badly over what he did, is a huge relief. Frank taking responsibility for all the lives stolen by the NWA probably went a long way towards that. Probably even more of a relief for Frank is that he found Buttleman Sr.'s actions to be sick and depraved. He saw his own previous actions from the outside and was revolted, and he recognised it.

I also completely squeed over the future!Sandford residents shaping old!Sandford, like Nicholas' shooting up of the cobbles on the High Street being the reason he had a fountain to hide behind in The Incident, the stab vest he showed Ye-Olde-Danny how to make being in the museum, and the reason Danny's last name doesn't paint him as a butler, but rather a maker of dairy products.

I absolutely adored that Ye-Olde-Danny left him Alice in Wonderland and the letter, proving that it wasn't all some strange dream. He'll probably be sad that Daniel is long-dead at that point, but he has his own Danny by his side. WTF-ing Danny in Frank's room made me giggle.

AND OMG SANDFORD IS ALIVE. I think that was one of the most fascinating aspects of this story: that Sandford is a conscious, sentient force that protects itself and its own. That it could have, by some supernatural force built over the centuries, orchestrated Nicholas running onto a piece of unstable ground that may or may not have been there before he stumbled upon it. Spread tendrils of its influence to Buford Abbey General, subtlely colouring Frank's thoughts for its own ends. And the force, what is it, exactly? Is it the soul of every former resident of Sanford infused into every street, every tree, every ancient stone and brought together in a single mind for a single purpose? Is it Daniel's spirit who is the driving force behind it, turned into a timeless being for good, playing the right pieces at the right times to keep Sandford free from true evil?

I really wish you guys collaborate frequently in the future. Your work is wonderful.
waffleguppies
Jul. 2nd, 2009 01:13 pm (UTC)
Wow.

I know K has probably thanked you already for this... comment? essay of utter win? but I wanted to as well. It's so great to get such detailed feedback, and I'm glad you liked it so much- specifically, I'm delighted you liked the things that I liked about writing it, in particular. I did most of the Frank writing in the story, and he's such a great character to develop and write about because in the film you get the sense that it's not just black and white, that here is a man who had to cope with one terrible event too many in his life and was driven to go about it in a terrible way. So I'm v. happy you picked up on that aspect and enjoyed it.

Crikey, I don't even think we thought so hard about the spirit of the village. I guess my take on it is that it is an amalgamation of everybody who's ever lived there and made Sandford, Sandford, so it can influence and 'think' without having a mind of its own in any physical sense- but I love the idea that there could be some benevolent element like Danny Sr.'s spirit in the driving seat...
haliyah
Jul. 2nd, 2009 10:06 pm (UTC)
Heehee!

Yes, she did. :)

I'm glad you're happy with it. I missed a whole bunch of other stuff I wanted to say because you melted my poor widdle bwain.

It's perhaps a bit worrying, but I understand why Frank ended up the way he did. So many bad things happening one after another really affects a person. Too many drives them over the edge. Your sense of what is true and what is right becomes warped at such a level that you wonder if your perception was ever different.

It's quite frightening if you can see it happening to yourself, like you're outside looking in. I'm wondering if Frank was like that at the beginning, before the monster took over, and at the end, when he was observing Frank Buttleman. It's at that point, when you realize what you've turned into and what you've lost, that you really hate yourself; it's worse when you feel the hate is justified, whether it is or not.


I love the village spirit so, so much. I really want to see you guys write some sort of follow-up or sequel story.

Not long after flailing over my comment, K made me watch Stardust, which I loved, and then I ended up dreaming the sequel to your story where the spirits of Sandford were presented like the seven brothers. It made me LOL, but it could so work, and writing that out just gave me a huuuuuuge plotbunny. @_@;
waffleguppies
Jul. 5th, 2009 11:45 am (UTC)
OMGZ

Perfect opportunity for a Mark Heap cameo!

I wrote once that Frank believed that people like him were necessary, people who have the strength of will to do what has to be done, in situations where others who claim to believe in the same ideals didn't have the stomach to actually follow through. It's not that he ever thought that being one of these people with the capacity to go that far for the greater good was in any way a great thing, just a necessary one.

And yeah. At the beginning before he became numb to it I'd imagine he couldn't believe what he'd become. It's why it hits home so hard in the film when Danny says Irene would be appalled at him.
haliyah
Jul. 5th, 2009 07:53 pm (UTC)
MARK HEAP FTW! I love Mark Heap. So talented, and so, so hot. Rawr. Do want.

Those kinds of people are necessary - they just usually go about doing what needs to be done in a way that doesn’t involve killing dozens of people. It’s almost like Catholicism, really: the values are good, but people warp it to their own ends to justify what they do.

Yeah. That part made me sadface. :(
waffleguppies
Jul. 5th, 2009 08:27 pm (UTC)
When I watched Spaced the first time around I was a major, major Brian fangirl. Awful fic and everything. I squeed hard when I saw him in Stardust.

Yeah. Frank unlocked a lot of potential for seriously evil crap in the other members of the NWA. Most of them had their own selfish motivations- James Reaper wanted rid of Arthur Webley, for example, and I think Joyce had quite a bit of professional jealousy for Leslie that might have affected what happened to her. Frank's motivations might, in an awful way, been purer than his colleagues, but since it all ended in people dying just the same, it was hardly any more laudable.
haliyah
Jul. 5th, 2009 08:35 pm (UTC)
HEEEEE. Tertius! <3

Exactly. :( In a way, the whole rest of the NWA was far more evil than Frank will ever be. He may have been mentally ill, but he was trying to do right by his town, his family, and his community, however warped his methods had become.

snarkydame
Aug. 19th, 2009 10:21 am (UTC)
I love this. LOVE. You're a genious! ♥
waffleguppies
Aug. 19th, 2009 01:23 pm (UTC)
Thanks, matey! :D I'll pass it on to K, too.
snarkydame
Aug. 20th, 2009 03:28 am (UTC)
Please do! There is praise to share. ♥ (Also, that icon is fantastic.)

Edited at 2009-08-20 03:28 am (UTC)
silentstep
Apr. 21st, 2017 04:52 pm (UTC)
man, I love this story so much. & I always tear up at the end! Thank you for it.
( 21 comments — Leave a comment )