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02 July 2007 @ 07:40 am
Fic: Side With the Seeds (Nick/Danny) (1/7)  
Title: Side With the Seeds
Rating: R, to be on the safe side
Summary: Set about a month or two after the NWA's reign of terror, Nicholas Angel plants bodies and buries seeds. Nick/Danny
Notes: A lot of different things was swirling in my mind when I started this fic. It's a tiny bit more grim than my other fic, though really, I'm just dealing with the grimness inherent in the movie. Special thanks to gigglestheblood for holding my hand on this one. The fic is thisclose to being complete, so I'll be posting the chapters regularly.

Crossposted to pepperlandgirl4, fregg_love, sandfordpolice

Embracing the situation
Is our only chance to be free
I’ll side with you
If you side with me
--"Side With the Seeds" Wilco

Chapter 1

It’ll take time to heal.

That’s what Nicholas Angel had told Danny in the hospital.

It would take time to rebuild the village.

It would take time to rebuild the station.

It would take time to excavate the castle.

They just needed time.

The sun beat down on the back of Nicholas’ neck. It was too hot for that time of year. It should have been overcast, the temperature mild, but there was nothing shielding him from the sun. In sharp contrast, the soil around his fingers was cool and damp, rich against his skin. Dirt wedged beneath his fingernails and stained his palms and wrists.

It felt good to be working in the dirt. It felt good to be doing something, anything, that might be useful. It felt good to worry about weeds, and proper pH balances, and bugs. Somebody had hung up wind chimes on a nearby grave, and the softest sound of bells drifted through the cemetery. He’d been listening to the chimes for nearly a month now, and he kept meaning to investigate, find out where they were, who they belonged to. Maybe buy his own chimes, but he never got around to it.

Tending the plants took most of his free time. There and in his own garden. Not that he had a great deal of free time. Two or three hours a week were really all he could spare. He had so much to do. So much to oversee.

The alarm on his watch sounded, warning him that he only had twenty minutes to finish what he was doing, clean up, change his shirt, and get to the church. The normal Sunday services had been temporarily suspended to make room for the much more pressing matter of funerals and wakes and memorial services.

Nicholas straightened and wiped his forearm across his brow, catching some of the sweat before it could roll into his eyes. There were already people drifting into the church, a few sending furtive glances up to the roof. It was fixed now. It had been fixed first thing, but it made people nervous. They gamely walked through their village, lived their normal lives, but they were jumpy now. Scared of something. Scared of him, some of them.

He put his trowel and his tiny shovel, hoe, and rake in the bucket. The items laid on the bottom, with seeds and weed killer, and his gloves. He never wore his gloves, and now he had blisters on his thumbs and forefingers, but they didn’t bother him so much. They seemed to bother Danny, for some reason, but he stopped nagging Nicholas about gloves weeks earlier, and now Nicholas rarely gave them a second thought.

A clean shirt was waiting for him in the boot of his car. He hadn’t counted on the weather being so unseasonably hot, and now he knew he needed to shower. But there was no time. The service would begin in ten minutes, and he needed to be there.

Nicholas changed in the rest room, taking the time to splash his face with cold water and run his wet fingers through his short hair. He scrubbed his hands and arms thoroughly, but he still couldn’t quite get the black soil from beneath his fingernails. It clung to his cuticles, too, and filled in the little cracks in his skin. Once he was clean, he pulled on a fresh white shirt. His fingers felt a little thick, a little uncooperative as he slowly buttoned it. It was an automatic and natural reaction to the task in front of him. After two months, he should have been used to it, but he wasn’t.

He’d never get accustomed to it, but he doubted that was a bad thing.

There were only ten people in the church when he emerged from the restroom, his bag slung over his shoulder. They were all sitting in the front. He pulled on his blue jacket—though it was much too hot for that and he knew it—and hid his bag in the corner, out of sight. Then he took his place in the back, near the door, holding his hands in front of him.

The victims with identities always attracted a larger crowd. Whoever was resting in the urn at the front of the church hadn’t been named. Usually, Nicholas wouldn’t allow the remains to be released until they had something, anything, but sometimes, there just wasn’t enough. This had been an unidentified female, somewhere between eighteen and twenty-four. The coroner’s report indicated she had given birth at least once. Her son or daughter could be one of the children Nicholas saw every day on the streets of the village.

But they couldn’t make a positive identification with dental records. And he knew they could have reconstructed the face, created a composite image, and just posted the picture around town until somebody stepped up with information, but there were two obstacles. First, it was expensive and time-consuming. An expense that could be justified if they were trying to find a suspect, but they didn’t need one more ID for one more murder charge against the members of the NWA. The second obstacle was less concrete, harder to identify.

The people in Sandford simply did not want to cooperate, or participate, more than they had to. Not because they wanted to go back to the way things were before. Not because they were cold-hearted. In fact, it was the opposite of that. The villagers were exhausted, mentally and emotionally drained.

It would take some time to heal.

So this corpse, this female, this mother had been quietly cremated and put on the schedule at the church. Nicholas kept a copy of the schedule. He had only missed one memorial service. The first one they held, for Arthur Webley, a week after his daughter buried him. Danny had been in the hospital at the time, and Nicholas had refused to leave his side, so he missed the old farmer’s service.

But he didn’t miss the next one. Or the two after that. They had been for the boys he had arrested on his first night in Sandford. Their families had been inconsolable, both mothers and fathers weeping openly. Nicholas hadn’t even tried to comfort them, and something hot and thick wrapped itself around his heart and lungs until he could barely breathe, and he wondered if maybe he didn’t need to check himself into the hospital again.

It turned out, their parents had filed missing persons reports. They should have been given to Nicholas. Frank filed them away, and they would have never seen the light of day again, except their families kept copies of the reports.

All of them had been just shy of eighteen. All of them had died from a sharp blow to the head. There were signs that one of them took three blows before he stopped struggling.

The service for the nameless woman was one of the shorter ones, at just over thirty minutes. Nicholas stood unmoving, noting every detail. By the time it was finished, he felt exhausted. He slipped out the door before the final note from the organ stopped echoing through the church.

“Hey. Who was it today?”

Danny stood on the lawn, smiling slightly, holding his hat in his hands.

“We don’t know.”

“Oh, I’m sorry.”

Nicholas shrugged. “I am, too. What are you doing out here?”

“Looking for you. Doris said you were here at the church, so I didn’t want to use the radio.”

“What’s going on?” Nicholas was instantly alert. “Is there an emergency?”

“No, no, nothing like that,” Danny assured him. “But somebody’s looking for you at the castle.”

They had temporarily moved operations to the castle. It made the most sense, since they needed a place to work, and most of what they were doing these days involved excavating the castle, and identifying remains. Nobody especially liked the solution. The Andies were particularly vocal about their disgust.

“Who?” Nicholas pulled his hat on, low over his eyes. He didn’t miss the way Danny mimicked him with his own cap.

“She said her name was Charlotte. I tried to talk to her, but she insisted she’d only talk to you. So here I am.”

Nicholas walked while Danny talked, and he paused when he reached the car, his hand resting on the door handle. “What are you doing anyway? You’re supposed to be resting.”

“I’m not tired.”

“The doctor said you were supposed to stay off your feet, not wander around the village.”

“I didn’t wander around the village, did I? Doris dropped me off here at the church on her way home, and you’re taking me back to the castle. So, no wandering.”

“Still, I expect you to take tomorrow off,” Nicholas said as he settled into the car.

“I don’t want to. It’s boring. I’ve got nothing to do all day.”

“I just brought a bunch of new movies over to you yesterday,” Nicholas pointed out, putting the car into gear. From the corner of his eye, he saw Danny wince as he buckled his safety belt. “I know you haven’t seen them already.”

“I haven’t, but it’s no fun watching movies by myself.”

Nicholas sighed softly. He knew it wasn’t any fun for Danny to be alone while he recuperated. He didn’t like leaving Danny to his own devises. But he couldn’t allow Danny to come back to work full time. Not until the doctor gave the okay. Nicholas couldn’t risk Danny getting ill, or injured, or anything else.

“I’ll take you home after I meet with this Charlotte.”

“It might be awhile. She looked….”

“She looked what?” Nicholas prompted.

“Serious, I guess. How was the service?”

“It was nice.”

“I saw the schedule on your desk. Becky Thompson’s brother’s wife’s sister’s boy is going to be next week. I think I’ll go.”

Nicholas nodded. He had no idea why Danny needed to go to the service for Becky Thompson’s brother’s wife’s sister’s boy, but he wouldn’t argue with him. “I’ll pick you up for it, then.”
Nicholas parked the car in closest spot to the door. He didn’t walk as quickly as he could have, reining in his curiosity so Danny could keep up with him.

It would take some time for everybody to be whole, again.

The woman waiting in his make-shift office was tall. Nicholas noted that first because she was standing near his desk instead of sitting. She was twisting her purse’s strap between her fingers nervously, absently. Her hair was cut in a short bob around the sharp angles of her face, but it was mussed, like when she wasn’t gripping her purse, she was running her fingers through her hair. Her smart pantsuit was wrinkled. Nicholas imagined she had taken the train from somewhere and didn’t take the time to freshen up or change before finding his office. And she looked very, very serious.

“Inspector Angel?”

“Yes.” He removed his hat and politely held out his hand. “How can I help you?”

“Inspector Angel, my name is Charlotte Peoples. I’m…well, I’m hoping you can help me. I don’t really know who else to turn to, and then when I heard what was going on up here…Well, I had to try. I suppose I should have called, but then I might have lost my nerve. Sometimes it’s better not to know, I think.”

“If you’d have a seat, I’ll do my best.”

Danny still hovered in the doorway. Either Ms. Peoples didn’t notice, or she didn’t care. But she didn’t even spare him a second glance as she sat in the chair beside Nicholas’ desk.

“Did I come at a bad time? I wasn’t sure, since it’s Sunday and all. But I couldn’t leave Liverpool until Friday after work, and it took so long to get here, and I got a bit lost yesterday.”

“No, it’s not a bad time at all. Sergeant Butterman, can you get Ms. Peoples a drink?”

“I’m not really thirsty.”

“Sure,” Danny said, as though he didn’t hear her. Nicholas watched him for a moment, noting the stiff, slow way he moved. He wished Danny would just give himself the time he needed.

“Well, then, Ms. Peoples, what can I help you with?”

“I…It’s hard to know where to begin. I saw you on the news. It seems like every week there’s more information about Sandford in the newspapers. About the…about the bodies being removed. Where were they buried, by the way?”

“Here. I mean, not right here. On the other side of the castle. Our situation here is only temporary.”

“Ahh. Well, I’ve been following the story because…well, I have reason to believe my family is among the missing.”

“Excuse me? Your family?”

She nodded.

“Your entire family?”

“Yes. My mother, my father, my sister, her son, and my husband. You see, I was…well, I wasn’t with them when they went on holiday. My mother wanted to see the gardens here. She read about it in some magazine or other. I spoke to my sister the night they arrived in Sandford. They were staying at The Swan. And well, that was the last I heard of her.”

Nicholas had reached for his notebook while she was talking, and immediately began scribbling. Five missing persons. Sandford was their last known location. “How long ago was this?”

“It was about six years ago. I don’t know if that would put them in the right time frame…”

Nicholas glanced up, noting the faint trace of hope on her face. “It would, actually. The murders date back to 1993.”

“Oh.”

“Did you report them as missing?”

“Yes. The trail went cold as soon as they reached Sandford. I actually…I spoke to Inspector Butterman when it happened and…” Her voice trailed away as Danny set a bottle of water in front of her.

“And?”

She glanced up to Danny, clearly nervous. “Well, he just…told me he would keep an eye out for them. That he would do everything he could to find them again.”

Nicholas nodded, his gut twisting. It was hard enough to keep the trust between the service and civilians without the specter of Frank Butterman and his insanity hanging over them.

“Yes, I understand.”

“I brought photos.”

Nicholas held out his hand to accept her envelope. The pictures wouldn’t be any use to him, of course. The bodies, if they were down there, would be so far decomposed, they would need something more than photos. “Thank you. Do you have any thing else? Medical records? Dental records?”

“Yes…I brought my husband’s records, and some stuff on my parents. I don’t have access to any of my sister’s or nephew’s records.” She fished through her bag and handed him another envelope. “I just put everything in there that I had. I didn’t know what would be useful.”

“Thank you. That’ll be a great help to us.”

Charlotte looked over her shoulder, eyeing Danny again. Danny’s face was pale, and Nicholas didn’t think it was from the pain of being out of bed and moving around too soon. He didn’t understand why she was so anxious about Danny. He was hardly a threatening presence. Maybe she recognized him from the last time she visited Sandford looking for help? Maybe, in her mind, Danny was already guilty by association.

“I…how long do you think it will take?”

Nicholas studied her for a long moment before he answered. “I don’t know, Ms. Peoples. Honestly, there are…well, there’s an exceptional number of bodies that have been excavated, and still more waiting.”

“Is there anything I can do to help?”

Nicholas hesitated. There might have been something, but he didn’t know if she’d be willing to do it. She must have seen the answer in his eyes, because she leaned forward.

“Inspector Angel, I’ve come to terms with the fact they’re not coming home. It’s been six years, and I’ve…well, I’ve had the chance to grieve. Now, I’ve just got to honor them, if I can. Please, don’t worry about sparing my feelings. I’m willing to do anything it takes.”

Nicholas nodded and offered an understanding smile. He could see she meant every word, could see the strength in her eyes. “I suppose there is one thing. I’m sure if you’ve been following the story, you’ve heard their…motivation for what they did.”

Charlotte inclined her head. “Yes, they wanted the perfect village. Inspector Butterman went crazy when his wife died.”

Nicholas looked to Danny again. His face was still pale, but otherwise, he didn’t have any visual reaction to what Charlotte said.

“Yes. The people they targeted often were, in their view, a public nuisance. Or blatantly broke the law, and it didn’t matter how small the offense. If there are no offenders, there’s no crime.”

“You want me to….provide a motive?”

“Yes,” Nicholas said gently. “I know this can’t be easy for you, but if you can think of any habits your family had…or anything like that, we might be able to figure out if they would be targeted.”

“How?” She looked at Danny again. “How would you do that? Would they tell you? How would you know?”

Nicholas opened his mouth to answer, but Danny stepped forward. “We’ve created psychological profiles to explain and predict their behavior.”

“Oh. I can…I can probably have something for you tomorrow. Is that okay?”

“Yes. Please, work on this in your own time. We’ll understand if it takes you longer than a day.”

Charlotte moved to stand and Nicholas followed suit. “Thank you, Inspector Angel. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate this.”

Nicholas nodded in acknowledgment. It was just his job, but it was more than that to her. “Are you staying here?”

“Yes. There’s a hotel at the edge of the village…Will you be in tomorrow?”

“Seven sharp.”

Charlotte nodded, and then ducked her head and hurried out of the office, as if she was afraid of staying in that place for a moment longer than she absolutely had to.

“How did you know about the psychological profiles?” Nicholas asked softly, once they were alone.

“Cartwright brought it to me. Said I might want something interesting to read while I was stuck in the hospital.”

“Were they?”

“Interesting?”

“Yeah.”

Danny shrugged. “I suppose so. It helps that maybe there’s an explanation.”

“They’re not explanations,” Nicholas said gently. “Just descriptions.”

“Yeah, I know.” He stepped back, leaning against the door frame. Nicholas knew he wouldn’t complain, but he could see the strain in Danny’s eyes.

“Why don’t I take you home now?”

“I don’t mind waiting, if you want to do some work.”

“No. I told you we’d watch some movies tonight, didn’t I?”

Danny watched him for a moment before nodding. “Yeah, I guess you did. Can we go to your cottage instead?”

Nicholas tilted his head. “Yeah. Why?”

“Just feel like it,” Danny said, with a shrug.

And that was good enough for Nicholas. He grabbed his keys again and herded Danny out to the car.

 
 
 
Señorita Major English, Esquire: flowers | photo by mike doughtymajorenglishesq on July 2nd, 2007 07:15 pm (UTC)
oh, this is really fantastic. eagerly awaiting the next part.

the scope of this is pretty stunning. i like to wander off in different directions and wonder what happened to sandford after the events, but usually (as is the case with a lot of fic, as well) the station is all we worry about. and then life seems to go on as if the shootout and takedown were nothing more abnormal than the disappearances and the reign of terror of the NWA. but this is a more necessary look, i think, at the aftermath. and it's a real sort of aftermath, a deluge of bodies they have to deal with. it makes me wonder if the castle was the only place they hid bodies. it makes me wonder how many empty and rotting properties there are within the town. and, this story especially, makes me wonder how many lost their families outside of sandford.

the whole sober angle on this is pretty refreshing, too, and that it encompasses what will be come nick/danny is interesting.

excellent start, i really can't wait for the next part and it's good to know you've already got the whole fic pretty much figured out (sometimes WIPs just kill me).
pepperlandgirl: Hot Fuzz Nick Gravepepperlandgirl4 on July 2nd, 2007 07:31 pm (UTC)
it's good to know you've already got the whole fic pretty much figured out (sometimes WIPs just kill me).

WIPs kill me, too. Especially since I've got WIPs that are six years old, lol. I know I have the tendency to post stories before they're finished and then lose interest, so I wanted to wait until I nearly had it finished! (And I do.)

I thought maybe it might be a little too sober given the source material, but you know, they dealt with things pretty realistically in the film, mostly. Things didn't get too cartoony, and they did present some pretty grim stuff. I figured that couldn't have been an easy year for anybody...
Pandonkey: HF blue skypandonkey on July 3rd, 2007 04:47 am (UTC)
This is truly exceptional, and I'm very glad that you've decided to tackle this untold part of the story. The thought of how many "lost" missing persons reports there must have been in Sandford has crossed my mind before, so I'm interested in learning Charlotte's family's story. I'm looking forward to the next chapter -- and would be even if this were gen, so its eventually becoming Nick/Danny is rather a nice bonus. Your characterizations feel very natural, and I like the thoughtful, melancholy, slow-summer-day tone you've created.
fierce_bear on August 27th, 2007 04:16 am (UTC)
Absolutely wonderfully amazingly done, you are brilliant.