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The Funeral
1879 — Just After The Funeral
Barclay Darrow was dead.

Their father was dead, and it had taken until today for the truth of it to really sink in. The coffin had been lodged on his shoulder as they walked up the lane with it, and now it had been lowered into the ground, where it would stay. Evander would feign otherwise if asked, but he hadn’t heard a word of the whole service, had only been mouthing the words to the hymns, instead stuck on an ungodly thought seeing the coffin had lodged into his brain.

Eaten by a dragon, it had been, the moment they’d heard the news. The horror had come on at once, the sorrow crashing over, the despair - their father had died, and that was all that had mattered. But: eaten by a dragon. Evander could hardly fathom it. His brain had fogged over the facts, he supposed, for his own sake, until ambushed by the thought here and now today. But he couldn’t move on from it now. Barclay Darrow had been eaten by a bloody great monstrous dragon, chewed up and rent limb from limb - so what was left in the coffin? What had been salvaged of him, in the end? He hadn’t asked, and the coffin was solidly shut. He could picture the lining of it inside, a flat headcushion, everything about it suggesting a body in its tapered shape. And he could picture his father as he might have looked, eyes closed and pallid with illness or gone in his sleep... But that would not be the true picture, would it? What would it be, in there? A few scattered teeth the creature had spat back out, a bone or two with the meat all gnawed off? Just a leg? An arm? His decapitated head? 

(Forget being food for the worms, then. The dragon had gotten there first. The worms would get nothing of him.)

He’d had to find something to get his mind out of this rut. Shared memories of his father’s exploits and character couldn’t scour away the gruesome vision, and nor could any talk about God or heaven. Mechanically, methodically, his gaze had sought out the figures around the graveside, flitting across the family members, one by one. Evelina was at their mother’s side, gripping tight at her hand like she had when she was a girl.

Evander felt a little like a boy again, standing here. Perhaps that was only natural, when one lost one’s father - feeling lost oneself. Perhaps that was how everyone felt when they lost anyone. He ought to be glad, really, that he had gotten so far in life without experiencing the feeling before. He’d just turned thirty, after all, and this was the first true crippling blow that had been struck him... maybe that was almost enough to count oneself lucky.

It might have been enough, if his father’s foolishness was something Evander could forgive.

Still, he had family left, and he could be grateful for that.

He’d glanced across at Johnny to see how his younger brother was coping - and that was when he had noticed the missing button. On the bright side, he had forgotten what he’d been thinking about before.

On the not so bright side, he hadn’t been able to un-notice that godawful yawning gap on his brother’s coat since. It was driving him mad. It had been pulled loose and fallen off, perhaps, during the day, or maybe John hadn’t even noticed when he’d put it on in the first place. That’d be just like him, wouldn’t it? Evander would bet anything that he’d be dressed good and proper on duty in front of his Captain Peppermith, wouldn’t he? Wouldn’t have a toe out of line, socks all a-darned. And today? Everyone in their most sombre mourning clothes, on the most sombre occasion of their lives, and Johnny didn’t care to have his own bloody buttons in place?

His mouth had been pulled into a tight line from looking at it so long, his brow furrowed so intently at that particular pronounced place where there was no button, that Evander had not realised, immediately, that the service had drawn to a close, and the attendees, his family included, were making their way slowly down the hill.

Evander hurried after them, pacing up to his brother and grasping briefly at his arm to get his attention without alerting anyone else to the button fiasco. “What happened to your button?” He hissed in Johnny’s ear.
[-] The following 1 user Likes Evander Darrow's post:
   Ophelia Devine

To say that this was a surreal experience would have been an understatement. Three days ago, he'd been onboard his ship, with hardly a care in the world that extended beyond the wooden walls of the hull. Two days ago, he'd been pulling into port and looking forward to a nice reprieve, a few days away from work to just relax and walk around open-air markets, trying new types of food he couldn't pronounce and maybe buying a trinket or two for his mother or Evelina. Except when he'd disembarked the ship, he'd been greeted by a relative — one he nearly hadn't recognized at first, given that he was so entirely out of context in a foreign port — with a portkey to England and a dour bit of news. Looking back, he supposed this particular relative had been chosen because he was distant enough that he wasn't really needed for the planning of all of this — he had no direct connection to John's father. Go fetch Johnny was probably the task that he'd been given; important in its own right but by no means necessary for the funeral to progress. It was strange to hear it from him. Not from his mother, or Uncle H, or Evander or Evelina — not even from a letter. Just a uncomfortable and out-of-place cousin who had, apparently, drawn the short stick in the funeral preparations.

Someone had remarked yesterday that it had been lucky that he'd been able to come back for the funeral, that the schedule had aligned and the portkey had worked properly. They didn't say whether it was lucky for John or for the family that he was here, but privately he had his doubts about both. He supposed he ought to be doing something for his mother or sister, offering them some kind of comfort, but he was hardly eloquent at the best of times, and now he had no idea what to say. And as for himself — was the funeral supposed to have helped him, somehow? Brought him some closure? He'd only heard the news two days ago — he was still in shock. Nothing could provide closure at this point, and by the time he was ready for it, he honestly didn't know where he was going to find it. Visiting a grave, maybe? That was a thing that people did when their loved ones died — did it help?

His mind was wandering in that direction as he followed the funeral crowd down the hill. He hadn't really even looked at the head of the grave — did it have a stone, or did that come later? What would it look like? Had someone designed it, and if so, who? Or was it something that had been sitting in a shop somewhere and merely needed to be engraved, and it would look just the same as any other. Merlin, what if he couldn't find it when he came back looking?

Distracted as he was by such morbid thoughts, Evander tugging his sleeve caught him totally off-guard, and his question even more so. John was convinced he'd misheard him — Evander couldn't possibly have just asked him about a button. "What?" he asked, blinking at his older brother in confusion.
Even on the rare occasions when John was here these days, he was never really here, was he? He might as well be half a world away. It was like he had up and left England once, and had taken to leaving half of himself on his ships even when he came home, like he’d splinched himself.

Might’ve splinched that button off, Evander thought darkly. If one could splinch buttons, that was. He supposed it should have been only a small space, a discreet enough loss, nothing anyone would notice - but if Evander had noticed, he was sure someone else would. And Evander had noticed: the asymmetry of the lines of buttons now, that loose, frayed end thread trailing there pointlessly, and the idea that his brother apparently hadn’t noticed, or (worse, possibly) didn’t care, was driving him up the wall. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he was aware, quietly, that the button issue was spinning out of proportion. He should have glanced at it, recognised that it irked him and moved on, but - back to what? That their father was dead? That who-knew-how-much of him was stuffed in that coffin under the dirt? That the world was not right and could never be right again and there was nothing he could do about it?

The missing button was not right, either. One might suppose it almost an affront, really, to their father’s memory. To anyone’s memory, to show up at a funeral in anything less than one’s best. Merlin, a housemaid would have shown up looking smarter; even a footman would have checked his jacket buttons.

It would not take a scene to fix this issue, of course. Certainly not. John hadn’t heard him, because of course he hadn’t, he was away with the fairies (naturally, the changeling child he was), but Evander found himself compelled not to simply let this slide without repetition. He slung his arm in front of his brother to slow his walk, so he wouldn’t amble off before fixing the glaring problem, and turned on his heel to face him. “I said,” Evander stressed, wanting to keep the conversation to a murmur but not about to let Johnny neglect to hear him twice in succession, even if he had to enunciate like he was speaking to a dunce of a child, “what did you do to that button?” He jabbed at the air at John’s front, where the button ought to be.

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