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sherlockfest Bi-Weekly Challenge Entry: [Oct. 12th, 2010|11:40 pm]
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Title: Two's Company
Prompt: Folkloric stories of ghost soldiers / encounter with John Watson as witness
Medium: Fic, as I'm useless at everything else.
Setting: Sherlock (BBC 1)
Rating: PG-13
Characters/Pairings: John/Sherlock
Genre/Warnings: Paranormal with a side of wry humor. No warnings.
Summary/Notes: After a case, out in the wilds (i.e. somewhere that's emphatically not London), our heroes take a walk after dark.




Of all the places they could've been stuck on a Saturday night, John wouldn't have picked York. He hadn't been there in years, and hardly anything had changed.

"Charming," said Sherlock, pocketing his phone. "We've missed the last train."

"Everything closed up around five," John sighed. "Do you even know where we are?"

"It's a small city. If I'm not mistaken, we're still in front of the Minster."

John rolled his eyes. Right. Sarcasm was the answer to everything.

That and the sheer obviousness of the gothic monstrosity looming at his back.

"No, I meant more along the lines of...where should we go from here?"

Sherlock shrugged. "Not a clue. How about that way?"

That way involved stepping out from under the tree they'd been huddled under for roughly twenty minutes, as it had begun to rain no sooner than they'd departed the Minster Close with profuse thanks from the Dean and Chapter for having recovered an irreplaceable piece of masonry. A large portion of the building was in bits out back, behind high chain-link fences, as part of the ongoing restorations project. Someone had seen something they liked and gotten greedy. Sherlock had not only been able to track down that someone, but had also earned him a hefty fine and a spell in prison.

They were now standing in front of a columned building, next to a fountain.

"Sherlock, this is the Art Gallery. It's not open."

"King's Manor over there," Sherlock said, pointing to a complex of historic-looking buildings off to their left. "The gate's open, probably to let students come and go."

"Thank you, that's all very interesting, but what are we going to do about this?"

"About what?" Sherlock asked, smiling ever so slightly. "We're stuck in the middle of nowhere, but at least it's the scenic middle of nowhere." And there was the spark, that glint of mischief that Sherlock normally reserved for crowing about murders and Scotland Yard's misery. "Do you want to see something? Might be dangerous."

John sighed. "I don't see how anything out here could possibly be dangerous."

"Involves some breaking and entering," Sherlock said, already on his way through the Manor's open gates. He stopped mid-stride and looked back at John expectantly.

"Am I going this one alone?"

"No," John said, rushing to catch up as Sherlock started walking again, damn those long strides of his. "Of course not, just...explain what you mean."

"By what?" asked Sherlock, innocently. He was leading them back a dark paved walkway lined by some very old-looking sections of wall. Roman? Norman? John couldn't tell, but Sherlock probably could have based on a mere scraping.

"Breaking and entering," replied John, severely. "This building here has got a porter, by the look of it. Couldn't we just bluff our way in?"

"What I'm going to show you isn't in the courtyard," Sherlock said. They had passed through another gate and were now standing in a sort of tiny parking area under some low-hanging trees. They cast eerie shadows against the broader stretch of light-polluted darkness. Another gate beyond that, shut and locked.

"I'm sure I needn't remind you, but you're mad," John said. "I can't climb that."

"Nor can I," said Sherlock, frowning. "We've gone around the wrong building."

No use in asking questions as they backtracked, crossed in front of the larger building and cut around the back of the smaller one. Copse of trees, stretch of grass. Something that looked like a broken-down wagon. A stone barrier that looked...well, promising. If Sherlock gave him a leg up, he might just make it over.

"What's over there? More elaborately-carved rocks?"

"After a manner of speaking," Sherlock said, stepping up to the vine-covered sandstone. He took John's hand and kissed it—how easy he was with such gestures; it made John's cheeks burn—and knelt down. "Up you get."

It took a lot more effort than John had been expecting If there hadn't been enough flora and weathered edges to hang onto, he might've fallen the whole way down. As it was, he fell the final third and hit his tailbone, hard. Sherlock was beside him in an instant, all flying coattails and wide pale eyes, crouched low and light as a cat.

"Are you all right? Did you hurt yourself? John, tell me—"

"I'm fine," John said as Sherlock helped him to his feet. "Shaken."

And that was when he looked around, saw the ruins everywhere.

Fragments lying haphazard in the grass. Lonely, shadowed columns at intervals (Remnants of a church, he thought, or perhaps he was remembering something he'd read). Explanatory plaques, very easy to trip over (Sherlock caught him), and useless given the time of night. Two imposing walls still intact and standing, complete with high, arched windows and more columns. Sherlock was right about the scenic part.

John tightened his grip on Sherlock's hand as they approached. The damp chill and unnatural silence made the place seem sentient. He paused beside the ruin of a column, refusing to let Sherlock go any further.

"It's more impressive by daylight," Sherlock said, allowing himself to be reined in. "This was an abbey. Saint Mary's. Done in during the same spree as Rievaulx and all the others, courtesy of everyone's favorite sycophantic, syphilitic bastard of a king."

"Best thing he left us was Bess, but that's just me," John said under his breath.

"Agreed," Sherlock said, and John experienced a moment of faint amusement at that, because who would've guessed that Sherlock had favorites amongst the royalty, much less the country's most famous queen? "I don't see why you find it so funny. She was a brilliant and imposing woman. It's a pity that her father was so foul."

John shivered and stepped closer to Sherlock as the moment passed. The wind had picked up again, and he could feel the slightest prick of raindrops against his cheeks. Neither of them had an umbrella. Fleetingly, he thought of Mycroft.

"How do we get out of here?" John asked. "I'd rather see it by day. Seeing as we've got to stay the night, we might as well just have a kick-about tomorrow."

"Same way we came," Sherlock told him, idly trailing his thumb across the back of John's hand. "The main gate is off that way," Sherlock said, pointing, "but it's the street entrance, and any attempts to slip through would be noticed."

John turned to lead the way, and just then, a flash of movement off in the middle of the would-be church caught his eye. A man in a long cloak stood fifty yards off, regarding John with startled eyes. He was nondescript enough, dark-haired, no longer young. And just as John raised his hand to wave, or to ask what the man was doing—

"Stop!" Sherlock called, but the words died on his lips, because—

"Sherlock," John said. "He's gone."

"I'm aware of that," said Sherlock, irritated, but the tremor in his voice was palpable.

"No, I mean," John managed, pointing at the spot, "he..."

Vanished. How was he supposed to say it and not sound like an idiot?

Sherlock was muttering to himself about having to revise his opinion of Martindale.

"What's that?" John asked.

"Harry Martindale," Sherlock said. "The man who claimed to have seen those Roman soldiers in a cellar not far from here, back in the early 1950s. Or was it the 1940s? Not important, anyway, but I'm hard-pressed to deny that we both saw something, and that something disappeared while we were looking at it."

John blinked at him. And then kissed him, because, really, what else was there to do given the circumstances? Sherlock had just confessed to something completely irrational, and that, like everything else about him, was amazing.

"Didn't know ghosts did it for you," Sherlock murmured. "We could just stay here."

"No," John said, tugging at him impatiently. "Dead or alive, a voyeur's still a voyeur."

"Next time you say that, make sure Molly is present," said Sherlock, chuckling as he helped John climb back up the way they'd come. "I'd like to see the look on her face."

"Maybe you'll think twice now about bringing bits of her friends home."

"Not a chance," Sherlock said, leaning halfway over the wall, somehow, still grasping John's hand as his feet hit the grass. "Look out," he said, and gracefully leapt down.

For as long as it took them to find a hotel with vacancies, John couldn't help but track every fleeting shadow out of the corner of his eye. Perhaps he'd have to visit now and again. Soldiering was hard and lonely, but at least he didn't have to go it alone.

He didn't see why the ghosts should have to, either.
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Comments:
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[User Picture]From: random_nexus
2010-10-13 02:05 am (UTC)

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OoooOoOooOooOOooooohhhh!!!!!! *wriggles with quiet, shivery glee* I hate to keep sounding like a broken recording, but I just loved this! The little touches, the subtle hints of intimacy between John and Sherlock, the mood, and man I want to SEEEEEE this place. *chuckle*

Adore this, adore you, as usual! *giggle*

<3
[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2010-10-13 11:33 pm (UTC)

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*hugs* Thank you, dear.

(This was a fun one because, well, I lived there for four years and can still reach it easily now. Once I'm ensconced in London, however, it will be something more of a faff...)
[User Picture]From: darthhellokitty
2010-10-13 03:47 am (UTC)

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That's fantastic. Fantastic. Spooky and strange.
[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2010-10-13 11:32 pm (UTC)

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Strange was definitely one of the objectives. Actually, I doubted it was very spooky at all! I know the setting very well; I used to hang out there at dusk until they kicked me out and locked it up. I passed by tonight and scowled through the gate; you can't really get a good shot of the ruins from any of the entrances, as they're well over the rise of the path.

Thank you very much!
[User Picture]From: woman_of_
2010-10-13 04:26 am (UTC)

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Aw, They are both so sweet. Love how matter of fact Sherlock is about the ghost, just perfect.
[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2010-10-13 11:31 pm (UTC)

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I can't imagine him being any other way! He sees what he sees, and he's got to go on that. To be honest, as supernatural encounters go, these guys aren't the best of targets. Very staid/reasonable reactions, brief bewilderment, shrugs, etc. Hence why the addition of romance was essential, I think. Make Sherlock's frankness something John can get all fired up about ;)

Thank you so much!
[User Picture]From: mistyzeo
2010-10-13 07:50 am (UTC)

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I love them being sneaky and going places they oughtn't be! Teehee. So fun!
[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2010-10-13 11:30 pm (UTC)

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Thanks! And yes, sneaking about is just fun.
[User Picture]From: mumsisdaughter
2010-10-13 08:49 am (UTC)

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Ooooooo, I know where this is, I know where this is! And, yes, it must be spooky at night. Thanks for the 'York at Night' tour. :) If anywhere has ghosts, it's that place.
[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2010-10-13 11:29 pm (UTC)

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I was in York this evening, so after the open mic, I took tearelateddream back there to show her the bit of the wall I'm talking about. I had to laugh, because, right now, there are four huge blocks of stone piled along the wall. If you stand up on one of them, you can just look out over the ruins. Even hoist yourself up. Even contemplate the drop, except when you do that, you realize that getting back out again would be the tough part...

Thank you ;)
[User Picture]From: mushroom18
2010-10-13 10:56 am (UTC)

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Oh, that was creepy--and romantic. But I like how matter-of-fact they both were. I would NEVER have expected that kiss--but I like how the two of them are so enamored with each other that no ghost can ruin the mood!

I also love the historical bits. Very well done! :)

[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2010-10-13 11:27 pm (UTC)

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Well, neither of them was frightened by it, for one, and that's the only thing I think could have ruined the mood. What they have going for them is that they're both relatively down-to-earth (Sherlock may have his flights of fancy/moodiness/deduction, but in the end, his feet are firmly planted).

Thank you so much. Glad you liked!
[User Picture]From: fyrefly101
2010-10-13 11:51 am (UTC)

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It was all so brilliant, but I just *loved* the fact that Bess is their favourite. For some reason, that really, really tickled me :)
[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2010-10-13 11:26 pm (UTC)

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Bess is kick-ass. Who wouldn't love her?

Thank you *hugs*
[User Picture]From: sallycandance
2010-10-13 12:47 pm (UTC)

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It's great! It's got everything: a ghost, dark night, visiting the ruins of an abbey and kissing!! Awesome!
[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2010-10-13 11:25 pm (UTC)

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Medieval abbey ruins...oh, God. I'll be the first to admit that I fetishize them. I've obsessively visited most of the ruins scattered throughout the north, and now I'm aiming to hit the ones down south, given I'm in the process of moving to London.

Thank you so much for reading!
[User Picture]From: glitterary
2010-10-13 05:04 pm (UTC)

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HEE. I've just moved to York, so this filled me with unbelievable glee. And I thought Treasurer's House!!!11! as soon as I read the prompt :D

So apart from the general OMG I LIVE THERE squeeing, really liked this--the sneaking around just for the sake of it suits the two of them perfectly :^D Excellent banter and lovely descriptions, too!
[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2010-10-13 11:24 pm (UTC)

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I moved to York back in 2005 to start a master's degree, and a master's turned into a Ph.D. turned into me marrying one of my classmates turned into...well, five years later, I live in Leeds and I'm in the process of moving to London. York's a very special city, though; I can't think of anywhere else that manages to express all of the layers of its history so elegantly!

Thank you so much for reading. I move to London in late November, but I'm intermittently in York as I'm wrapping up revisions to the Ph.D. thesis that I need to submit in January. If you want to meet up for coffee or somesuch, just say the word and PM me! I'm next in town on 4 November and free after about 5:00 PM.
[User Picture]From: nathcoelho
2010-10-13 05:54 pm (UTC)

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Cute fic! =)
they are great together! ^^
[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2010-10-13 11:22 pm (UTC)

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That they are. Thank you very much for reading!
[User Picture]From: Joy Zhang
2010-10-13 06:17 pm (UTC)

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Ah! Delicious writing! Serene and smooth.

The only time I saw one of these supernatural things was several years back. My home was in a tall building that had two lifts. One night I walked into the hall and saw the lift on the left was somewhere busy upstairs, and the one on the right was just closing as a man in blue went in. I was 10 steps away, but I was too lazy to shout "hold the lift" so I kept my pace and intended to wait for the next one. What's strange was that as the door closed, the digit on the panel did not change, it remained 1. Maybe that man forgot which floor he wanted to go to? So anyway, I walked up to the lift and pressed "up", fully expecting to see the man in blue confused inside the lift. But then the door opened, and the lift was EMPTY...

I would have dismissed it as hallucination or whatever, had my father who was standing right next to me not turn his head and look at me wide-eyed and ask "did you see a man walk into it??"

I stared at the ceiling of the lift the entire 30 sec ride up. I didn't know how that could ever happen. I still don't. Whenever people talk about inexplicable events, I tell this story. There was no other way out in that lift...none whatsoever. But well, it's just seeing things, nothing scary, except there's no explanation.

Eh...sorry about babbling. Nice fic!
[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2010-10-13 11:22 pm (UTC)

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The ramble is perfectly fine; I understand. I've seen a few things that I still can't explain, and all I know is that I'm quite certain I saw them. There's no use trying to explain away something strange or startling, is there? The world's full of mysteries still, and I'm glad of that.

Thank you so much! Glad you enjoyed it :)
[User Picture]From: hobbylobby
2010-10-13 06:20 pm (UTC)

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God, this is PERFECT! Their voices? It's like I'm listening to Cumberbatch and Freeman in an episode.

A lovely story and while suitably spooky I couldn't help but squee at the intimate parts when Sherlock kissed John's hand (AWWW!) and John later kisses Sherlock (HAWT!)

[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2010-10-13 11:21 pm (UTC)

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I wanted to see if I could make it both a spooky encounter and just a little bit romantic. Glad to see it's gone over well! Thank you for reading <3
[User Picture]From: quantumdoll
2010-10-13 06:42 pm (UTC)

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Wow, this is a gorgeous fic. Love the idea of bringing a supernatural element into Sherlock and John's path, something which for once Sherlock wouldn't really be able to deduce at! Also, I adore the tender little moments between these characters. The kiss to John's hand and Sherlock's worry at John's injury were particularly lovely.
[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2010-10-13 11:20 pm (UTC)

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Well, John has quite a history of injury, so I don't blame him in the least for being concerned. No harm done. It's not the worst drop, believe me; if I wasn't so afraid of the night patrol catching me, I'd have done it by now ;)

Thank you for reading!
[User Picture]From: fieryredqueen
2010-10-13 07:53 pm (UTC)

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Perfect. I always thought Sherlock would definitely be one to say exactly what it was he saw or didn't see, if he came upon the paranormal, and wouldn't ever rationalize it as a 'trick of the light' or whatever. No matter how irrational it seemed. I can see why that turned John on. I love crumbling stone walls and hidden ways...not much of that here in Florida. *sigh*
[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2010-10-13 11:19 pm (UTC)

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I always thought Sherlock would definitely be one to say exactly what it was he saw or didn't see, if he came upon the paranormal, and wouldn't ever rationalize it as a 'trick of the light' or whatever.

Exactly. He places so much faith in his ability to observe the world that he wouldn't attempt to make any excuses. Then again, if more people than John were present, I can imagine him remaining tactfully silent, or slightly evasive.

Thank you very much. Glad you liked this :)
[User Picture]From: breathe_me27
2010-10-13 10:42 pm (UTC)

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First of all, as a student living in York, you should know that this fic made me RIDICULOUSLY EXCITED!!! But that's just me being a dork. *cough*

The whole story was fantastic from start to finish, and you totally nailed their voices. Perfect! <3
[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2010-10-13 11:17 pm (UTC)

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I arrived in York as a postgraduate student in 2005, lived there up through December 2009, and then moved to Leeds, which is where I am at the moment. However, I'll be living in London by the end of November; my partner's already there, and once 26 November hits, I'm down there, too. Quite excited in my own right!

Thank you very much for reading <3
[User Picture]From: tardis_stowaway
2010-10-13 10:52 pm (UTC)

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Sherlock amuses me with defining being in the city of York as "the middle of nowhere." *eyeroll*

Lovely little story.
[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2010-10-13 11:16 pm (UTC)

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York's a strange place: it's a city, but it feels more like a town or even a large village sometimes. I lived there for four years (I've lived in Leeds for a year now, though, and am in the process of a move to London), and I loved every minute of it. However, it's amazing what a small world it is. Planet York, a friend of mine calls it.

Thank you very much for reading!
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[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2010-10-14 12:46 am (UTC)

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Not anyone I know! Thank you so much for reading :)
[User Picture]From: rabidsamfan
2010-10-14 02:16 am (UTC)

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I'm with the people who want to go and see this place -- although you describe it so well I practically can now. Lovely.
[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2010-10-14 07:25 am (UTC)

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Very worth a visit, York, as is the entire little section of town containing all of the things listed above. It's a small city centre, to be honest; easily done in a day or two. A week if you quite thoroughly would like to dig into every obscure corner :)

Thank you!
[User Picture]From: spacedmonkey
2010-10-14 07:42 pm (UTC)

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Was in York not that long ago. Lovely.
[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2010-10-14 07:45 pm (UTC)

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Thank you very much! And yes, it's a gorgeous city.
[User Picture]From: silver_cyanne
2010-10-14 09:39 pm (UTC)

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This is lovely and so very them. You've got just the perfect amount of romance.
[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2010-10-14 09:45 pm (UTC)

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Thank you! Glad you enjoyed it :) York's one of my favorite places, and I'd like to imagine they'll make it there sometime.
[User Picture]From: originally
2010-10-15 08:06 pm (UTC)

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Ooh, I really liked this. I love ghost stories and York is definitely one of those 'otherworldly' kind of places, I think. My brother is at uni up there and I know the city reasonably well, so I enjoyed the familiarness of the descriptions here (reminded me a bit of when my beloved Birmingham is drawn in Gunnerkrigg Court, haha)
[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2010-10-15 08:09 pm (UTC)

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Oh, wow - I don't know what's going on in that web-comic, but it's beautifully drawn. I think I'll have to backtrack! And as for York and York Uni, yes, it's a lovely place. Although I live in Leeds, I lived in York for four years, and I'm just wrapping up my Ph.D. in the English Department there :)

Thank you for reading!
[User Picture]From: lei_che_sogna
2010-10-19 10:45 pm (UTC)

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I THOUGHT THIS FIC WAS AWESOME. OF COURSE SHERLOCK HAS A FAVOURITE QUEEN. HIS MIDDLE NAME IS ELIZABETH.


P.S. DON'T TELL ANYONE, BUT I VOTED FOR YOU. ICHIBAN!
[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2010-10-19 10:47 pm (UTC)

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SHERLOCK ELIZABETH HOLMES. OMFG, THAT IS FABULOUS.

P.S. I TOTALLY VOTED FOR YOU, TOO! AND NOW I SHALL GO COMMENT LIKE A PROPER HUMAN BEING.
[User Picture]From: ristrettoette
2010-10-21 01:46 am (UTC)

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I would not have said prior to reading this that I liked the idea of Sherlock kissing John's hand. In fact, typing it makes me cringe. But I do like it here-- it seems so courtly and utterly appropriate. The whole piece is very courtly...

Also, for some reason this made me want a Sherlock/Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell crossover. Sherlock is an English magician? Sherlock and the Raven King?
[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2010-10-21 05:59 am (UTC)

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York is a very courtly city; it did seem appropriate under the circumstances, and yes, I doubt I would have had him do so under any others. He's being sort of tongue-in-cheek, I think, but affectionate at the same time :)

I love that book so much, and it would make a fascinating crossover. Hmmm. I'm going to think on this. But if you get to it before I do, believe me, I'll be first in line to read it!
[User Picture]From: verasteine
2010-10-23 07:58 pm (UTC)

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Ooh, this is rather sweet. You write them in established relationship so well, and that rather spooky courtyard, I could see it come alive. Nice job!
[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2010-10-23 08:45 pm (UTC)

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If you ever come to the UK, I'd love to show you the place. The abbey ruins are surreal and beautiful in daylight, and in the evening, they're even more so. Thank you, my dear :)
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[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2010-12-05 09:37 pm (UTC)

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I lived in York for four years, and then Leeds for one year, and I've just this past week moved to London :) I'm set to be in York at least once a month for the next few, however, so if you'd want to meet up for coffee or any such thing, do let me know. It's a very special city, no doubt.

Thank you so much for reading!
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