Danny met Nicholas Angel in the same way that Nick meets most people, he arrested him. Even though he had had too much to drink that night, Danny remembers quite clearly having a pair of hands grabbing him and pulling him bodily out of the car. He didn’t bother trying to explain or tell Nick who he was, something in his beer soaked brain telling him it was better to just shut up and wait. So he shuts up while he’s being held by the scruff of his neck like some misbehaving kid. In a way their relationship hasn’t changed. Nick’s the grown-up and Danny is still the kid despite being over thirty. As if “thirty” was any way to measure maturity.
Of course this wasn’t the first time Danny knew of Nicholas Angel. He heard about getting a new sergeant, but he hadn’t given the matter much thought until Nick made his first appearance in The Crown. Danny knew who he was as soon as he walked in. You can tell cops apart from other people by the way they walk—arms away from their sides, always hitching the belts of their pants. It’s all that gear they’re used to carrying. Also, direct eye contact, almost always.
And to add to all of this impressive detective work, Nicholas said yes, he was the new sergeant a few seconds later. Not to him, but near him. Nick didn’t particularly notice the fat guy getting pissed by himself. In a way their relationship hasn’t changed.
It had occurred to him to introduce himself, but Danny makes it a rule never to conversify with people more sober than he is. Besides, Sergeant Angel looked uptight and slightly constipated. What on earth would they have to talk about? Just about everything, apparently.
Not tonight though. Tonight he’s in bed alone and that arsehole from upstairs is boinking his girlfriend in the loudest drunkest way possible, just when Danny had fallen asleep.
He’s extremely annoyed and mildly jealous. There’s no sex going on here, except by himself while thinking about the part-time vegetarian who can recite the procedural handbook in his sleep. The Penal Code, ohhh baby.
“Do you like that, baby,” Chet says, muffled, over and over and over again, like he needs some reassurance. Danny grabs a pillow, puts it over his face, and tries to suffocate himself, only slightly disappointed by the fact that he can’t do it that way. Some part of him wants to talk to his Dad about this, even though Danny knows what he would say. Danny misses him and wishes he didn’t.
Some people still don’t believe it, what his Dad did, and have offered their “support”. Danny has relatives that think he’s either mistaken or lying for some reason. People write Dad letters, they had a benefit—insane! He was there! Why would he lie about this? But there it is. People will believe what they want no matter what.
He knew there was something weird going on but asking his Dad about it just got him mad, so he stopped asking. Eventually he had convinced himself it was just a club, a secret society thing. Secret and harmless, not nefarious at any rate, but some part of him knew that Dad wasn’t right. But he just accepted things, rolled with it, and it might have ended sooner if he hadn’t avoided arguing with Dad.
Danny suddenly has the overwhelming need to leave his flat. He’s pretty sure thinking about his Dad while listening to Chet plow into his girlfriend is going to warp his delicate psyche. He will be scarred for life if he stays here. He will not go see Nick, no, no, no, because if he sees Nick he will say something stupid.
Danny sits up, groans. The pain in his side zings across his stomach and around to his back. Slowly puts his feet on the floor, slowly hunches over, hand gripping onto the bedpost. He will get the hell out of here even if it fucking kills him.
Where the fuck is he planning to go, anyway? Pub? It’s the only thing open this time of night. Yes, good ol’ pub, time to get good and pissed. Will not call Nick when he’s drunk at three in morning again. No. Having to listen to drunken rambling at that hour isn’t going to impress anyone.
How does Nick not know? He’s gotta know. He’s like Hannibal Lecter or something, only, y’know…not a psychopathic cannibal.
Danny stumbles out of bed, puts a jumper on, puts on trousers, and runs a hand though his hair. Shoes. Oh bugger, he has to sit down again. Going though the motions again. Shoes on, mission accomplished.
When Danny opens the front door, feels a cool breeze on his face, he feels better already. He decides to walk to St. Vincent’s Centre, his old “beat”. It belongs to Nick now, when he’s not stuck in the office or in a meeting. Walking across the street, watching a few pub crawlers leave, laughing and happy, Danny would be hard pressed to imagine anything going on here except he knows it has before. He passes by the people leaving the pub, knows all of them to varying degrees. They stop talking, watch Danny pass by. Danny can feel their eyes. He’s something of an oddity now, he supposes, and always was.
Out of all the pubs in Sandford, Danny has settled for The Wheelbarrow. It was never as nice as The Crown, but it has its charms nonetheless. Just this little change in location has thrown his whole social life askew, regardless. No another pint, please, Mary. He misses Mary, isn’t that funny? And Roy too, but not as much. Doug Fugit is the bartender here and he’s not nearly as fun. An okay bloke to be sure, but he doesn’t know any magic tricks (Roy) or dirty limericks (Mary). He’ll need to be trained up a bit.
He goes to the bar and orders. There are not as many people here as he would have expected. Looking around Danny spots Nicholas at the far end of the pub, back towards everyone, all moody no doubt. Since he’s too surprised to see Nicholas here, Danny nods to whatever Doug has to say and pays without really paying attention.
Nicholas is not a habitual drinker, or even a social drinker, and he’s never seen Nick drink by himself. And Danny has to wonder why he would go to the pub without asking Danny to come, even if it was for a cranberry juice (Bleh!). It’s not like they have to spend every waking moment with each other. It is a slight betrayal though, especially from someone who keeps insisting he get out more.
Danny scoots into the booth across from Nick. He ignores the pain in his side. If he makes a fuss, Nick will make a fuss. He can bitch and moan about it when he gets home, if he feels that strongly about it.
Nick misses this shining example bravery altogether. He hasn’t noticed anything at all, in fact. He’s got his eyes closed, head tilted back against the backboard of the booth. And Nick is drunk. Danny doesn’t need brilliant deductive skills to notice all the empty martini glasses, or the napkin with a pile of olives on it, speared by little plastic swords.
“Funny. I didn’t know you liked martinis.”
Nick lifts his head up and opens his eyes. A goofy, lopsided smile coming onto his face slowly, like it has to sneak up on him. “I don’t, really. Olive?”
“Nah. The only thing olives are good for is putting them on your fingers.”
Nick comes to a less than sudden realization then, and he gets that disapproving look on his face again. “Wha—what are you doing? Danny, hmm? You do recall your doctor—”
“I’m only having one!”
“—specifically told you—”
“I swear I will stick my fingers in my ears until you are done.”
“—you can’t mix alcohol with your antibiotics.”
“One pint is not going to kill me!”
“Nicholas,” Danny sniffed, crossed his arms over his chest. “See? I can say your name all dramatic-like too.”
“Danny…why are you even in here?”
“I am a perfectly respectable citizen who just happened to be thirsty and I will argue about this all night if I have to.”
“Explain—s’plain it to me why you want to delay your recovery. Never mind the…the chronic liver damage, by the way.”
Oh like he’s one to lecture right now.
“First off, one pint. And I needed some air. Since the museum and opera house are closed, and I thought to myself, ‘Self, where can a good looking chap go to in Sandford?’ And this is it, that and the big rock that the kids like to stand next to.”
“Hmm,” Nicholas tries not to laugh and fails. “I do agree that we are stuck in a cultural wasteland, but next time go see the rock.” He sighs, looks at something past Danny’s shoulder. “You drink too much, Danny. What if something happens to you?”
Danny twists his mouth, tries to think of something to say to that and fails. Just one more thing not to talk about.
“Yeah, well…for your information Sandford is not a cultural wasteland.”
“We do have the Cheese festival once a year. They serve at least thirty-two different kinds of cheese. Then later in the day we have a parade and crown the new Miss Cheese.”
“Are you’re making this up?”
“No, we really are the rubes you think we are. My Mum was a Miss Cheese.”
“I can see that,” he gives this a little thought, “She’s always…what’s the word? Held herself in a certain way. At least in the pictures I’ve seen.”
Danny takes a sip of his lager, and gives the matter of the Cheese Festival some serious thinking, cheese being serious business and all. “I wonder if they’re going to do it this year?”
Nicholas gives a little shrug, “I don’t see why not.”
“It’s an awful lot of trouble to organize. And I sure don’t see a lot of tourists coming this year. Not for cheese, anyway.”
“Things will get back to normal eventually,” Nick says, goes back to drinking the martini he doesn’t really like.
“Oh yeah? When?”
He’s quite serious. When are things supposed to be ‘normal’? How can it go back to being ‘normal’? How can he trust anything? How can he not get fooled again? That’s the question everyone is asking themselves. These things are supposed to happen somewhere else to nobody you know.
Nicholas puts his glass down, sighs, leans forward, “After a lot of pretending. It’s going to take a long time for it to feel right. All the more reason to have the festival. If we don’t have one, they’ve taken something else away.”
Danny goes back to drinking his one pint, the conversation turning much too intense for his liking even though he’s the one who brought it up. If he had some change he’d go put something on the jukebox as some tunage was in order, but judging by the way Nick looks, Danny ought to just take him home. He’s actually drooping.
Nick leans forward again, props an elbow and lets his face slide into his fist. He decides to work on his collection of olives. Danny’s inner Sherlock is telling him something is seriously wrong with his part-time vegetarian.
“Want to have a teeny tiny sword fight?”
“Nah. It’s times to go, I think.”
“Didn’t you want to see the rock? It’s a pretty good rock, let me tell you. Unless you want to tell me what’s bugging you.”
“Fine,” Nick sighs, “Where’s this rock of yours? I can pretend to be one of the cool kids.”
“There isn’t one, actually. Sorry.”
“You great bloody tease.”
Danny slides out of the booth, puts a hand on the table, pushes himself up. And ignores Nick watching him. Whatever you’re thinking, stop it! Danny suspects he’s gone and replaced the damn peace lily. Something for Nick to fuss over, his pet project, easily forgotten about once he gets bored. It’s not fair to think that, but it’s what Danny keeps waiting for. That he only stays here because he feels obligated to do it.
“C’mon then. I’m taking you home.”
Nick slides, stand up too fast, and starts to sway back towards the floor. Danny puts a hand on his shoulder, presses Nick’s shoulder into his chest.
“Oh wow. Is there,” Nick swallows, twirls a finger around, “any spinning for you?”
“Ahhh, nope, that’s all you,” Danny puts an arm around Nick and leads him out of the pub. “If you’re going to be a pillar of the community, Nick, you can’t get pissed in public. You’ve got a reputation to consider.”
Nicholas just blows a raspberry at the idea and easily puts an arm around Danny’s waist, feet moving dumbly. No back flips over the fence tonight. Shame, really. Danny settles his tab after a lot ridiculous protest and they hobble out of there.
When they make it out into the street Danny leans him against the car.
“Listen, if I had a list,” Nicholas slurred, handing him his keys, “of people I wan—wanted to impress it would be a short one…”
“Fine then, don’t bother. But you’re supposed to be the responsible one.”
Nick made a noise of dismissal, fumbled with the door handle, managed to make it inside the car. “You do it. I’m tired.”