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Fic: "The Half-Open Window" - John/Sherlock, Ensemble - R [Jan. 12th, 2011|09:13 pm]
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Title: The Half-Open Window
Pairing/Characters: John/Sherlock, Ensemble Cast
Rating: R
Warnings: Character deaths, a crime scene, the mortuary, a funeral, and mourning.
Notes: For this piece to fully make sense, you need to have read I Meet You There, and We Go; this is a follow-up. Mycroft in particular seemed rather angry that I didn't let those left behind have a say, so that's the objective. I also wondered what this world looks like now that two of its brightest lights have gone out. Since Tori Amos's "Garlands" (and Chagall, given that the majority of the lyrics are titles taken from some of his lithographs) gave me the title for the first piece and an atmospheric backdrop, I've pulled the sub-section titles of this piece from the song, too.
Summary: I'm off in flight towards another light—


I'm racing there

Sally gets there first, because that's her job. The night air is damp and crisp, the sky just a little too clear. She hugs herself tightly as she hands out orders, pointing when one of the new recruits doesn't seem certain of where the yellow tape needs to go. She only knows two things, and they're the only things she needs to know: one, that this is the work of that nut-job who's been baiting Sherlock, and two, courtesy of the comment threads on The Science of Deduction, that Sherlock is in there.

Her mobile goes off at about the same time one of the team approaches her, hesitantly, from the opposite side of the yellow tape. Her job's to keep the team inside and the public out. She holds up one hand, taking the call.

"Bad news. John wasn't at Baker Street, and the landlady doesn't know where he is."

"What about that girlfriend? Friend? You know, the one from the surgery."

"Sarah was expecting him," says Lestrade, slowly, "but he never showed."

"Fuck," Sally mutters, and the recruit standing in front of her blanches a shade paler. "Sorry, gotta go," she tells Lestrade, "keep me posted," and hangs up. This young man's only been on the job a week, and he already looks as if he's having second thoughts. Understandable, given what he's probably seen. "What is it?" Sally asks.

"We found a body," he says. "Chambers is convinced we'll find more."

"So am I," Sally says, and her throat constricts. "Any ID on the one you found?"

"No," says the young man. "Nice clothes, though. What's left of them."

"Then get back in there," Sally says, "and get me some answers."

He nods and flees.

Sally's mobile rings again, a shrill, panicked descant.

"What's going on down there?" Lestrade demands.

"One body so far," Sally tells him. "You'd better send Anderson and his lot."

"Any ID?" asks Lestrade, anxious.

"Not yet. Sharp dresser, they tell me. Could mean Sherlock or the bomber."

"Jesus," mutters Lestrade, after a few moments' silence.

"Listen, I've got Chambers here," she says. Her heart's in her throat as she watches him approach, and it's then that she realizes she knows something else, something that she wishes she didn't, beyond a shadow of a doubt. John's in there, too.

"I'm coming," Lestrade replies, and hangs up.

"Two more," says Chambers, simply. He takes hold of Sally's hand and places a small, charred rectangular object in it. It smells of burnt plastic, but it slides open easily when Sally tugs on either side. The lens collects a harsh, knowing pool of light.

Chambers is already gone, and Sally is too stunned to wipe her eyes.


Lovers

Getting past Sally, letting go of her, leaving her there to lean bonelessly against the patrol car until Anderson races to her side seconds later, is one of the hardest things that Lestrade has ever done. But it's not as hard as what he's about to do.

He lifts the tape and ducks under.

Chambers is with him inside a minute, explaining the situation. The fires are out. So far, they've discovered six bodies amidst the rubble, one of which is probably the bomber, three of which seem to be accomplices and whose guns suggest that they were snipers. They've found more of the guns, but not bodies to go with. It's possible that a few of the would-be victims had escaped. Snipers on the loose. Fantastic.

"You've left out two," says Lestrade, grimly, donning the mask Chambers hands him.

"I'm sorry, sir," he says, "but I thought you already knew. They're over there, beyond that collapsed wall. We've cleared a path." He shifts to stand in Lestrade's way, as if to shield him from the inevitable. "If you'd rather not—"

"Bloody let me through," Lestrade hisses, shoving him aside.

Lestrade has seen his fair share of devastation. Fires, explosions, shootings, stabbings—but none of it, no, none of it comes close to tripping his way through this brief maze of shattered concrete and tile, with too little time to prepare himself. The team has set up lamps and markers to help them find their way. Almost there.

They're together, he thinks, stumbling out of the shadows and into artificial light.

The sight is oddly comforting, insofar as such a sight can be.

The exit wounds in John's back trip off a sharp, terrible pang in Lestrade's chest, but he doesn't slow his approach, doesn't dare stop until he's able to crouch next to them and study the strangely peaceful tableau. John's body covers Sherlock's protectively—there's no almost here; in life, their pose would be that of lovers. It's like Pompeii, thinks Lestrade, dazedly, tempted to curl their lifeless fingers as tightly together as they must have been before the last spark of life had fled. They're forehead to forehead, Sherlock lying flat beneath John. John's head is turned ever so slightly. Their bloodied lips touch, just a bit off-kilter. Sherlock's mouth is slightly open, and John's lips seem molded to the corner of it—perhaps a cruel trick of the chiaroscuro.

Lestrade covers his face, his eyes stinging, and shouts.

"Chambers! Get Anderson in here! Now!"


Circus

Anderson does his job, because it's his job, and that's that.

For all of Sally's joking that one day it would be Sherlock Holmes who'd put the body there, he'd never honestly thought Sherlock Holmes would one day be the body. Just because somebody hates you and you hate them doesn't mean that they aren't part of it all, doesn't mean you actively wish they'd just vanish. Especially not if they're as useful as Sherlock Holmes. Well. As useful as he once had been.

There's not much evidence to collect, at least not on the bodies, as the situation's pretty cut and dried for such a fucking mess. They're already reconstructing a hostage situation just like the ones they've already seen, except John had been the hostage, and, at some point, the semtex-loaded coat had been removed from his person and deposited on the floor, where a single bullet shot from John's handgun detonated it. Miraculously, the gun hadn't been far from John and Sherlock, although heaven knows they'll have to wait for fingerprint analysis to determine which one of them fired.

Seeing Sally upset isn't what has him shaken. It's seeing Lestrade.

The DI is standing beside Anderson as the last handful of photographs are taken. Now comes the tedious part: separating the bodies, coping with the chaos of notifying family members. Someone's already called John's sister, sounds glad that the parents are long dead. Mycroft Holmes had contacted them almost as soon as the explosion had been reported. And now Lestrade's on the phone with him again, nodding repeatedly, his mouth set in a taut, pained line. Anderson bends to help Chambers roll John away from Sherlock, but Lestrade grabs his arm as he hangs up the phone.

"Wait."

"Why?" Anderson asks, perplexed. "There's nothing left to do."

Lestrade looks at the bodies for a few seconds, and then lets go of Anderson's arm.

"Someone from Bart's is coming to collect them," he says.

Anderson bristles. "But that's—"

"Not their jurisdiction, I know," Lestrade sighs. "But it is now."


Trampled Flowers

Molly's hand starts to shake on the receiver. She fumbles behind herself for the arm of the chair and sinks down in it, the wheels bearing her backwards ever so slightly, light as a feather. She says What? a full three times before the voice on the other end of the line (Priyanka from reception, she thinks) manages to get the message across.

Sherlock is dead. John is dead. They're being brought to Bart's.

Molly blinks at the desk, but it's no use; the whole room is swimming, spinning—

"Who..."

Jim. Jim from IT is a murdering psychopath, and he's dead, too.

"Look, I know that you knew them. That's why they had me ring up to tell you. Bad enough you're on the late-shift alone—listen, do you want to go home? I can send—"

"No," Molly says, firmly, crushing a handful of tissues to her eyes. She hangs up and sits there for a long time, blowing her nose loudly in the silence. She plays back through the information, which, in spite of her shock, she'd got in the end. She'd always been very good at remembering lectures, even when distracted. Sherlock and John and Jim are dead. They're bringing John and Sherlock, but not Jim.

"Just as well," she sobs aloud. "You bastard."

She's put herself back together by the time the doors swing open and the gurneys are wheeled in, one after the other. Once the paramedics are gone, Priyanka stands hovering in the doorway, asking if she can get Molly anything—tea, coffee?

Molly ignores her and bends over the longer of the two body bags, her hands shaking as she works on a pair of gloves, carefully pulls the zipper down just far enough. A whimper catches in her throat, but she doesn't shy from the sight, parting the bag carefully. There's dried blood on Sherlock's lips. His hair's a mess. She strokes it back from his forehead, and then presses her palm gently against his colorless cheek.

Through the thin layer of latex between his skin and hers, he's cold.

"Molly?" Priyanka asks, her voice trembling. She shrinks back into the hall.

"Coffee," Molly whispers. "Two sugars, black."


Winter

Early the next morning, Mike visits the mortuary, because it's an honor.

Molly has already phoned in sick, which is unsurprising, given what she'd been through the night before. Mike has lost his fair share of loved ones, but he can't really imagine losing someone with whom he'd never even got a chance. Someone with whom he'd never even had a chance. Priyanka claims Molly had hardly cried at all, had gone about her duties to both of them with quiet dignity long into the hours after midnight.

Mike closes his eyes. He can't imagine it, which is part of why he's here.

He can't remember the name of the intern who greets him with downcast eyes, leads him to where his friend's body is being kept. He hadn't been prepared for the bone-numbing chill, but then, that's cold storage for you. He ought to have worn his coat. The intern uncovers John's head and shoulders without a word and leaves quietly.

When he's finished paying his respects, Mike can see himself out.

"Can't think of anybody who deserved this less, hey?" he asks, trying his best to smile, but it's really no use. John's features were never meant for such unnatural stillness, but, cleaned of blood and whatever else, he at least looks peaceful. Mike wonders if it would've been better if he'd never made it home at all.

Your fault, says a voice in his head. You should never have introduced them.

Mike knows that's not the way of it, not really, but the fact remains that John Watson—and Sherlock Holmes, come to it—might not be dead now if he hadn't set them on course for utter ruin. He rummages in his pockets for a handkerchief, finding them empty. His sleeve will have to suffice. He lays a hand on John's covered arm.

"I'll see you again sometime, mate. God willing. You take care now."

And take care of Sherlock, the mad bugger, rest his soul, he thinks, and goes out.


The Marriage

Sarah doesn't have a black dress, and she hadn't been about to go buy one, either.

It's strange to be here, more strange than sad. John had been a dear friend, but for such a short time, and she'd never got the chance to find out if he could have been something more. To her right, hatted and veiled, Mrs. Hudson sniffles quietly into a handful of tissues. To her left, sober and silent, Harry Watson stares at her hands tightly folded in her lap. It's the first time she's ever met John's sister.

Sarah wouldn't have expected a single funeral if it had ever come to this; she'd always imagined—and, yes, she'd imagined it a fair few times, what with the introduction she'd got to the kind of danger they'd courted on a regular basis—that the families would have wished for separate, private affairs. She hadn't known the Holmes family were Catholic, although she had known that John's family were Anglican. It's a wonder, then, that the parish priest has even permitted such an arrangement.

From his vantage point at the pulpit between the parallel caskets, Sarah can't help but think the poor man is performing a marriage of sorts, what with the way his outstretched hands seem to join them to silent assent shot through with the soft sound of sniffling and the occasional muffled sob. That's Molly, Sarah knows, just behind her, and in the front pew, Sally Donovan is leaning heavily on DI Lestrade's shoulder.

She's still not listening to what's being said when Mycroft Holmes replaces the priest. If she listens, she'll fall to pieces. Instead, she listens to those assembled around her and thinks about why, tentatively reaching over to take Mrs. Hudson's hand.

"I'm dreaming this," Mrs. Hudson says, scarcely a whisper. "I've just got to be."

Sarah squeezes her fingers, at a loss for words.

Harry steals a glance at both of them, and what Sarah sees in her eyes is resentment.

You're loved, Sarah thinks. And you loved each other more than we'll ever know.


The Mimosas

Mrs. Hudson knows she's not fit to be entertaining, but, bless them, they've got nowhere else to go. She can't imagine that Mycroft would have been up to hosting such a thing; as it was, he'd drifted out of her flat at least twenty minutes ago and she'd seen neither hide, nor hair of him since (although she'd heard his footsteps on the stairs and had tried her best not to think about what he's doing up there).

Not many have come, and that's a relief. There's the Detective Inspector and Sally in the corner, talking quietly to that poor young lady from Bart's. Such a pretty thing, Mrs. Hudson thinks, taking another sip of her drink. She'd have done for one of them, anyway, if they'd not been so set on each other.

Sarah, always so helpful, has taken a round of plates off to the kitchen. Mrs. Hudson hadn't set out much, just some crackers and cold-cuts and cheese, although for drinks she'd turned out the whole cabinet, and for that, everyone seems grateful. Especially John's sister, although she knows she ought to be concerned about that.

Harry is sitting alone on the sofa, drinking a glass of red wine. Before Mrs. Hudson is aware of what she's doing, she's on her feet, swaying a little at her hip's protestations, making her way across the room. She's on her third mimosa, and it's almost gone.

Harry doesn't even look up as Mrs. Hudson takes a seat beside her.

"Where's your lovely girl, then?" she asks kindly, having at least had it on good authority from John that Harry and Clara had begun to patch things up.

"Home," Harry says, and it's clear she's trying to smile, but her eyes are raw and it's not working. "Up north. Her sister's having a baby. I've been waiting to hear."

"That's wonderful news," says Mrs. Hudson. "Sorely needed at a time like this."

"I used to think," Harry says, lowering her eyes again to her glass, "that I'd get a letter or a phone-call. That it would've been different. That he'd have been over there, not here at home, and that I'd at least have a reason to hate him for it. I never wanted him to leave. I never wanted him to leave."

Suddenly, Harry's wine is on the floor, and she's sobbing on Mrs. Hudson's shoulder.

"Hate him a little," Mrs. Hudson murmurs. "If it makes you feel better, I suppose. It's an awfully foolish thing he did. Both of them did, really."

"Sod that," Harry hiccups, and, to Mrs. Hudson's surprise, she's laughing. "How can I bloody well hate my own brother for having fallen arse over teacup for some brilliant wanker who made him feel more alive than he'd felt in years?"

Mrs. Hudson cradles her, rocks her like a child.

"You can't, love. Forgive me. Neither can I."


The Half-Open Window

Mycroft stands motionless in the doorway of 221B for quite some time.

The flat is precisely as they'd left it, save for some signs of tidying-up that can only have been Mrs. Hudson's doing. John's laptop is open on the desk, and Sherlock's violin lies abandoned on the floor next to the sofa. A slight breeze steals in through the window—the plastic they've taped in place has come loose, flaps eerily like a disembodied wing—and stirs some loose papers on the floor. Mycroft crosses the room, finally, and gathers them up, knowing there's some chance that they might be important. It wouldn't do for his brother to have unfinished business.

It's a curious sensation, his reason for so many years of worry slipping away.

Devastating, too, of course. Their mother has been in hospital ever since Mycroft had broken the news; she'd been at high risk for a heart attack for quite some time as it was. They'll have a private service on the grounds after the cremations have been carried out, for family only. Mycroft will extend an invitation to Harry Watson, but he expects that she'll refuse. And she would be right to, Mycroft supposes, given that he will have covertly spirited away a handful of her brother's ashes.

Mycroft steps up to the window and tugs the plastic free, breathing in the scent of not-too-distant rain and the sounds of Baker Street below. What brought Sherlock to this point he knows in part, of course, but John will in many respects remain the one piece of the jigsaw for which Mycroft grudgingly admits he may never find a place.

What matters is that Sherlock had.

And Mycroft cannot begrudge him that, not as long as he lives.



- Epilogue: I Broke Them All For You -
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: uwsannajane
2011-01-14 06:42 pm (UTC)

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Thanks for the tip! Will read SPQR Blues.

Meanwhile - and this is in response not to this reply, but to other replies you've made to comments on this story - please please please don't be sorry you wrote this! It's too good for apologies, seriously. Sometimes life is dreadfully sad, and being unflinching about it is the mark of a real writer. I still remember reading Jim Harrison's novella Legends of the Fall for the first time, while on a romantic vacation in Big Sur, and hitting an early scene that reduced me to huge public sobs. In public, at breakfast. There was no point in being embarrassed, because it was art, and art deserves a genuine response. What you've done here is also art, not just entertainment. Graham Greene divided his work into what he felt was serious and what he felt was entertainment, and most fanfic falls into the latter category, which is great, really, but - once in a while a fanfic writer steps into the next room (as it were), and it's amazing when that happens.

I too lost someone dear to me not long ago, so you have all my sympathy. The missing doesn't go away, but it becomes ... not easier, exactly, but much more bearable, because it's no longer in the foreground. And love is what survives, and love is never wasted.
[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2011-01-14 06:47 pm (UTC)

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I'm apologizing not so much for the stories (I'm very, very glad I wrote them!) and more for the fact of so many people breaking down crying in public; I really ought to have realized that the potential for such should have merited some kind of NSFW designation *headdesk* Then again, that may be all one and the same. I'm flattered that you find them worthy of a label beyond that of entertainment, certainly! Wreaking emotional devastation is an odd sensation for me, in that I don't do it very often. I mean, maybe strong emotional reactions, yes, but the reactions I'm seeing to these pieces are above and beyond the usual strong emotional reactions I'm accustomed to, if that makes sense!

*hugs*