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04 December 2012 @ 11:53 pm
FIC: Go Not To Lethe  
Title: Go Not to Lethe
Series: A Kind of Natural Phenomenon
Author: joonscribble
Fandom: Cloud Atlas (film)
Rating: PG
Timeline: Set a few months after the conclusion of the Frobisher segment
Spoilers: Only for the ending of the Frobisher segment
Disclaimer: I most definitely do not own the characters Robert Frobisher or Rufus Sixsmith. They belong to David Mitchell. The ones that appear in this story are the versions brought to life by the Wachowski siblings & Tom Tykwer with the help of Ben Whishaw and James D'Arcy.
Summary: The Cloud Atlas Sextet must be published.
Author's Note: This post is for guardian_chaos who read an early draft of this story and was gracious enough to offer feedback and join in on my rambling mix of squeeing and flailing over the characters. I'm maybe slightly shocked that this film inspired fic from me when the novel did not. But perhaps it just felt too impossible to write fic off a work I adored as much as the novel. In any case, the title for this fic comes from a poem by Keats. The series title comes from a quote from the film. And yes, a series means I have a few more oneshots written.


1936 – Cambridge

It had been something of a minor miracle or rather a series of minor miracles that had allowed for the light parcel to now be sitting in Sixsmith’s hands.

His father had been confused at first at his insistence that he be advanced his monthly allowance for the entire term in a matter of days. The confusion had rapidly melted into anger once his father had gotten wind of the reasons and had categorically refused. It had been one thing to pour his hard earned resources into sending his son to Caius. It was quite another for the money to be poured away into funding some “musical enterprise thought up by a disinherited wastrel.” Or so his father had said in their last argument.

In all the years Frobisher had complained bitterly about his pater’s lack of appreciation for anything worthwhile that nicely complemented the man’s oafish cruelty, Sixsmith had listened with a sympathetic, if ignorant ear. A handful of months after Frobisher’s death, standing in front of his own immovable, unsympathetic parent, Sixsmith considered this stone he felt inside his chest where just underneath lay a bed of burning coals was probably how Frobisher had felt all the time when the subject of the elder Frobisher came up.

**

Asking Frobisher’s family for the funds was clearly out of the question. The funeral had been a rapid affair and all the money lavished upon it had been in the name of brevity rather than contemplative sorrow. Only blood relatives had been invited. And Sixsmith distinctly did not belong in that category.

Sixsmith wondered if tears were shed. He had met Frobisher’s parents only once during their last year at Gresham’s when he’d traveled with Frobisher back to his home for the winter break. Months after that horrible weekend, when Sixsmith could tell himself he had truly forgiven Frobisher for it, he had tried to imagine his friend growing up in that house. What it must have been like for Frobisher, no doubt bright, impulsive, and over brimming with emotion even more so as a child, to be with a mother who smiled so little and a father who demanded something Frobisher had no hope of ever giving.

Frobisher had asked specifically in his last letter, the one that sat nestled within the strings that tied together the pages of the precious Sextet, that his family not gain control of his one and only creative legacy. Even if the family was inclined to commission a thousand copies, Sixsmith would decline. It was the only thing left of Frobisher’s that he had left to guard as possessively as his friend would have.

**

It was later in the evening, the day of the funeral that his brother found him in his rooms, pouring over the manuscript.

“Do you even know how to read that?” asked John. He peered over Sixsmith’s shoulder, taking in the scatter of black notes, the dipping swirls of treble clefs.

Sixsmith nodded, though distressed that he was largely lying. He could follow the rudimentary notes, the switches from major to minor key. But he knew the music he was attempting to hear in his head was faltering, hesitant, and nothing like the way Frobisher had intended. His fingers tapped a rhythm on his knee, trying to pick up the pace. He fought the urge to hum the notes, knowing it would only sound off key. Frobisher had more than once winced theatrically at his lack of vocal prowess.

John cleared his throat. He dragged the extra chair over to the desk before settling awkwardly on it. His elbow scraped along an opened envelope. Sixsmith’s head shot up at the crinkle of paper, the jerking music in his head coming to an abrupt stop. “Sorry,” apologized the younger Sixsmith hastily before carefully settling the slightly bent paper to the sideboard. From his coat pocket he pulled out a padded envelope of his own and slid it toward his brother. “Go on. Open it,” he urged Sixsmith.

Inside the envelope was a slim stack of crisp notes.

Sixsmith blinked at the sum. “John, I can’t accept this.”

“It’s from father,” his brother insisted. “Granted, it’s from father regarding the bit of investment I told him I would do for him.”

“I can’t-“

“It’s only a partial sum,” John explained. “What he’s given that I will invest will more than bring back the returns.”

Sixsmith skimmed his fingers over the money, his eyes falling from the notes to the still scattered pages of the manuscript, the familiar slopes and curves of Frobisher’s handwriting dancing across the pages. Quite suddenly, Sixsmith realized he was crying. Carefully setting the envelope of funds aside, he raised a hand with the intent of rubbing away his tears, but found himself merely dropping his head into it, a terrible wretched sound escaping his lips.

He could practically feel John stiffen beside him, awkward and unsure of what to do. It was a rather tentative hand that clumsily patted his hunched shoulder. “Father won’t know about the money,” John assured, attempting to somehow ignore and yet comfort his brother’s grief. “He won’t notice.”

“He will when the Sextet is released,” Sixsmith murmured, forcing his voice to steady.

The relief from John at this attempt at stoicism was obvious. The hand on his shoulder patted him with greater confidence. “He won’t. He’s a mental midget when it comes to music. We get that from him.”

**

Sixsmith contacted Charles Briars at their college. Briars had been one of the few at Caius who expressed some genuine feeling at the news of Frobisher’s death. The don had once told Frobisher that he had the talent to become a fine composer and a lack of focus that would guarantee it would never happen. Still, he had held a certain fondness for Frobisher’s brand of joie de vivre. It was that fondness and a genuine curiosity that propelled him to look over the manuscript Sixsmith brought to him.

Briars sat with it for two hours before agreeing to assist in getting it to the right publishers as long as Sixsmith was willing to fund the expenses. A fresh faced student of Briars’ carefully copied the manuscript at Sixsmith’s insistence to be sent out. The original copy Sixsmith took back with him.

**

Carefully, Sixsmith tugged at the string wrapping the flat parcel. The brown paper unfolded, revealing “Robert Frobisher” written in simple, blue lettering, hovering above the more elaborately scrawled script of “The Cloud Atlas Sextet.”

It had taken a great deal of convincing on Briars’ part to get a publisher to agree to record and press a symphony by a complete unknown. In the end, with the only ones who would do it for a reasonable enough price had been a company in Holland. It had taken every penny that John had given Sixsmith plus a substantial cut from his own funds to produce the precious 500 copies. A handful of which would now sit in the very same shop Frobisher had once dragged Sixsmith.

“Even a musical dolt such as yourself should own a copy of something by Handel.” Frobisher hastily pulled on his coat, throwing Sixsmith’s faded garbadine in his direction. “We’ll get you one with some vivacity. Perhaps an oratorio. You could play it in your lab and frighten the others into believing you’ve given up science for hedonism.”

“I’m not certain Sawle’s heart could taken an oratorio,” Sixsmith mused, contemplating the old man’s reaction to the sound of anything beyond the scratching of pencils in the lab.

“Ah, but he would die with such music to guide his immortal soul,” proclaimed Frobisher with a dramatic sigh. Sixsmith laughed as the smaller man clutched at his lapel, tugging him forward.


The needle of the player gently scratched along the black vinyl grooves. The familiar hiss of static filled the room before the first notes of the violins came in.

It was indeed, far removed from what Sixsmith had heard in his mind all those times he had poured over the notes on the manuscript. The death of his lover had not magically opened up a floodgate of knowledge in Sixsmith, tapping at some until now unknown part of his mind that could hear and understand music the way Frobisher could. Listening to the only work Frobisher would ever produce, a sob clogged Sixsmith’s throat. He was no closer to understanding the sharp, manic obsession that would overtake Frobisher when it came to his cherished music, the one and true love that the composer could and did give his entire life for. He inexplicably thought about their last night in Cambridge. About the way Frobisher’s lips had curved into that unique, overwhelming smile when it had been only the two of them in that suite, pretending for at least a few hours that the world outside did not exist. The smile that had grown more rapturous as the night moved on, hurtling towards its end. For Frobisher had always kept one eye toward the end of all things and loved everything that came before all the more for it.

THE END
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Astoundingly fond of avocados and rainy weather.: BBT_NerdDance!guardian_chaos on December 5th, 2012 07:28 pm (UTC)
OMG, OMG, YOU POSTED IT. I'M SO EXCITED I CAN'T EVEN COMPOSE MYSELF ENOUGH TO READ THIS RIGHT NOW. *flaily hands*

I will be back. I wiiiiilll. *fidgets endlessly*
Astoundingly fond of avocados and rainy weather.: SPN_Rainguardian_chaos on December 6th, 2012 12:14 am (UTC)
You slide so smoothly into both of these characters' headspaces, my goodness. I love that. I'm a bit scatterbrained and lacking in focus tonight, so I'm just going to grab the lines I liked best and say why.

He had met Frobisher’s parents only once during their last year at Gresham’s when he’d traveled with Frobisher back to his home for the winter break. Months after that horrible weekend, when Sixsmith could tell himself he had truly forgiven Frobisher for it, he had tried to imagine his friend growing up in that house.

Hee! Oh, what vivid imagery that triggers, even though the horrible weekend is left to the imagination. I imagine Frobisher definitely did have the kind of family tension that would cause outsiders to lift their eyebrows a little at least.

Frobisher had more than once winced theatrically at his lack of vocal prowess.

And also theatrically fake-fainted into chairs on occasion, perhaps. He seems like the type. :p

Sixsmith skimmed his fingers over the money, his eyes falling from the notes to the still scattered pages of the manuscript, the familiar slopes and curves of Frobisher’s handwriting dancing across the pages. Quite suddenly, Sixsmith realized he was crying. Carefully setting the envelope of funds aside, he raised a hand with the intent of rubbing away his tears, but found himself merely dropping his head into it, a terrible wretched sound escaping his lips.

YOU DID IT. YOU--YOU DID THE THING. THE THING I SUGGESTED. Oh, oh this was beautiful. This paragraph genuinely hurt to read. Great emotional conveyance. A+!

The needle of the player gently scratched along the black vinyl grooves. The familiar hiss of static filled the room before the first notes of the violins came in.

'Scrib, your descriptions have reached a point where they don't even seem like something somebody has written. They have a quality about them as though a room is not being created, but rather a room that already exists is being walked into, and you're just pointing out what's already there. Living spaces and character lives don't feel artificial when you write them, and lines like this just hit that point home. It's quite lovely.

He inexplicably thought about their last night in Cambridge. About the way Frobisher’s lips had curved into that unique, overwhelming smile when it had been only the two of them in that suite, pretending for at least a few hours that the world outside did not exist. The smile that had grown more rapturous as the night moved on, hurtling towards its end. For Frobisher had always kept one eye toward the end of all things and loved everything that came before all the more for it.

Oh wow. That whole part. Just. Oh, I really love that. I've been thinking lately how terrifying the idea of inevitability really is, and this is rather a different way of looking at it, a more...enjoyable trip, perhaps. Which is quite like Frobisher, to be so daring and unrepentant, even when he knows he's nearing an end.

I want to add that I was sitting here for several minutes, wondering where on earth the perfect fire scene was before I realized this was part of a series. So I was relieved that hadn't been removed. And I shall say no more than that! Don't want to be spoilery.

Lovely story! I can't wait to see more of your vision for the lives of these characters. It's seamless, and again I repeat my thought that reading some of what you've written doesn't feel like something being created, but just being given a glimpse of how things actually were. All of this is so plausible I can't even debate any of it for them. It's great!

WRITE MORE. 8D

Edited at 2012-12-06 12:15 am (UTC)
formerly lifeinsomniacjoonscribble on December 6th, 2012 12:33 am (UTC)
Man, I never get tired of your marvelously long, detailed, lovely reviews!

I imagine Frobisher definitely did have the kind of family tension that would cause outsiders to lift their eyebrows a little at least.

It will be nothing compared to the outrage Frobisher is intent on creating when he goes home. But that's another story (soon to come!).

YOU DID IT. YOU--YOU DID THE THING. THE THING I SUGGESTED.

I did indeed because it was a brilliant suggestion!

'Scrib, your descriptions have reached a point where they don't even seem like something somebody has written. They have a quality about them as though a room is not being created, but rather a room that already exists is being walked into, and you're just pointing out what's already there.

I'll be over there silently doing a dance of happiness that may or may not involve twirling around and flapping of hands. This compliment just...I will blush and squee in private now.

I want to add that I was sitting here for several minutes, wondering where on earth the perfect fire scene was before I realized this was part of a series. So I was relieved that hadn't been removed. And I shall say no more than that! Don't want to be spoilery.

Yeah, nope. The fire bit has not been cut. The 2nd story in this series will be pretty much identical to what you've read already. I haven't added or changed much on that one.

WRITE MORE. 8D

It's happening. Although it's not surprising for me in the least that writing Frobisher is sort of hard. Especially when it's not in flashbacks.

Thank you so much for the review. And always thank you, thank you, THANK YOU, for giving my stories a first read.

Edited at 2012-12-06 12:34 am (UTC)
Astoundingly fond of avocados and rainy weather.: SPN_IDon'tUnderstandThatReferenceguardian_chaos on December 6th, 2012 01:22 am (UTC)
And I thought it was going to be a short review! MY SELF-CONTROL; WHERE IS IT?

It will be nothing compared to the outrage Frobisher is intent on creating when he goes home. But that's another story (soon to come!).

Oh, you tease. *camps out beside your keyboard*

I'll be over there silently doing a dance of happiness that may or may not involve twirling around and flapping of hands. This compliment just...I will blush and squee in private now.

Hee! Well, I'm glad to have made you happy. *squees and dances about with you, just to be a part of things*

Yeah, nope. The fire bit has not been cut.

GOOD. Yes. That is all.

And always thank you, thank you, THANK YOU, for giving my stories a first read.

Psshaw, I'm happy to do so. It's an honor to be trusted for this role. Send writings my way whenever you want! My e-mail inbox is an open door for things you write.
formerly lifeinsomniacjoonscribble on December 6th, 2012 01:29 am (UTC)
MY SELF-CONTROL; WHERE IS IT?

It ran away with my discipline.

Oh, you tease. *camps out beside your keyboard*

Yes, perhaps you can help me in figuring out if Frobisher needs a sibling or not. I'm thinking not but that's just me wanting to not have to juggle more characters in this thing.

GOOD. Yes. That is all.

Yeah, nope. Still there.
Astoundingly fond of avocados and rainy weather.: SPN_Rainguardian_chaos on December 6th, 2012 01:51 am (UTC)
It ran away with my discipline.

Well, I hope they're happy together, those ungrateful bastards.

I think Frobisher thinks of himself a little too much to have had a sibling? That's my gut feeling. He certainly would not be the older sibling, if he did have any. And I feel like if he'd had one, the sibling would have died somehow. Frobisher doesn't seem to have those lingering connections, even bad or disinterested ones, that I'd expect to see in one who has siblings. Am I making any sense? Just my two cents.
formerly lifeinsomniacjoonscribble on December 6th, 2012 01:56 am (UTC)
You're making perfect sense. Yeah, I couldn't really imagine what a sibling of Frobisher's would be like. I thought for a brief moment maybe he'd have a sister but then I started to worry the entire Frobisher family and this 3rd fic was going to come across as a knock off of Brideshead Revisited. WHY ARE YOU EVERYWHERE BEN WHISHAW?

Ahem.

Anyway.

Right, so no sibling for Frobisher. He can be the spoiled, selfish but nonetheless charming only child that we all know and sort of love.