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New Fic: "Muscle Memory" - John Watson - PG13/Rish [Mar. 1st, 2011|10:55 am]
(she lives between pages)
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Title: Muscle Memory
Fandom: Sherlock
Rating: PG-13/Rish (mostly for a violent situation/very frank internal monologue)
Character: John Watson (and Sherlock is also present, in a way; can be pre-slash)
Word Count: 500
Notes: With a challenge like Love and a word-limit window of 500-750, this was probably the trickiest short piece I've written in a long while. The first version clocked in at only around 230 words, but it took forever to write, so expanding it out to this second version, at almost twice that many words, was trickier still. I'm quite obsessed with the moment before John pulls the trigger and shoots the cabbie, so I used this piece as an exploration of what might've been going through his mind in that instant.
Summary: There's a split second between the give of the trigger—


There's a split second between the give of the trigger—


You've learned that it's in this space the reasons lurk, where the last-minute countdown unwinds. Self-defence is first and easiest: it bears the least guilt, costs less breath than the ghost of a blink to decide. No one will ever blame you for choosing to spare your own life. Easy, when you know that your prayer is a lie. There's no shame in shielding his spark for the meaning yours has yet to find.

Next, you think of others: those who would save you if you yourself were unable. And although your raison d'être here is to save them should they need saving, you've nothing to lose in cutting to the chase. A stitch in time covers any lack of grace. You're a sharper shot than the lot of them combined. You're a betting man, and he's no better. It's impossible to think that this might not matter. That, and you're in it for what you hope comes after (the look of abject wonder on his face).

This instance, though, this place: it falls too far outside every well-worn line. You don't know him, but you'll come to. You don't trust him, not yet, but that's fine. It's taken so little to bring you here: a devastating smile, an understated wink, and the slightest hint of marvellous things (more promised than implied). The skull's on the mantel and the bread's in the bin, but you've no idea how much trouble you're really in. Set-ups like this one don't come with fair warning. The tea was excellent, sure, but this thrill's incandescent. You'd never have chosen to sit this one out. You never will in the endless shock-filled nights to come, not when you think of those eyes.

There will come a time when the gun's not in your hand. A situation in which you're either both or neither on the wrong side of luck. When it does, you'll count the seconds and wish for God or fate or the stars whatever to make up its bloody mind. You'll want him to pull the trigger, for his resolve to unwind. It will be anything but easy. The safety could get stuck. One of you might slip away, leaving the other behind.

You once dreamed that what the heart knows is the only thing that the body will never forget. They say emotions travel forward, never back. You've lost enough blood and bone to love, but it won't be enough to make you stop. You've been on this spot before, and you'll trip into it over again. Whether he'll follow you down is the question, but the answer's returning your gaze. All systems go; the glass is cold. You want to smash it, tow him straight out of the maze. It's as if you've done the deed already, but can't remember when (his glance gone grey to gold). This is muscle memory, then.



—and the bullet escaping the twitch of your finger.
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Comments:
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[User Picture]From: seaweedie
2011-03-01 11:07 am (UTC)
Gorgeous and insightful. I also find that split second pause fascinating - in fact that whole scene is one of my favorites: John shooting the cabbie, Sherlock's darker side coming out as he tortures an answer out of the dying man, the look on Sherlock's face as he was about to take the pill... Anyway. Beautifully done, as usual. /thumbs up
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[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2011-03-02 07:39 pm (UTC)
I haven't done much prose poetry/spoken-word influenced work, so I thought I'd give it a try. I've always had a thing for second-person narrative, although I save it only for somewhat unusual circumstances. Glad to hear this works for you; thanks for reading!
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[User Picture]From: lavellington
2011-03-01 12:00 pm (UTC)
This is wonderful- very lyrical, and somehow fragmented and ordered at the same time. Great insight into John as a character. I love the idea that this all went through his head in the split second before he let go of the trigger. The last line is perfect.
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[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2011-03-02 07:40 pm (UTC)
I wanted to attempt what's essentially a piece of prose poetry for this entry, and it seems to have worked out well. I'd very much love to know what was going through John's head in that moment. Thank you for reading!
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[User Picture]From: llaras
2011-03-01 12:23 pm (UTC)
I enjoyed this very much.
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[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2011-03-02 07:40 pm (UTC)
Thank you :)
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[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2011-03-02 07:43 pm (UTC)
Anyone who knows my poetry background will have guessed it in a heartbeat, I think! I wanted to attempt a piece of prose poetry, which is something I've done next to never (maybe only two or three times before). This wasn't so much writing verse in paragraph form, though; it felt almost more like crafting a spoken word piece (something at which I've never particularly excelled). The internal and slant-rhymes are quite intentional, and I hope not overkill. I would never have gone that far in my usual structured verse. All in all, though, I think I'm pleased with it :)

Thank you!
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[User Picture]From: timberwolfoz
2011-03-01 01:04 pm (UTC)
Brilliant and insightful, as always. *applauds*
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[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2011-03-02 07:43 pm (UTC)
Very glad you enjoyed it - thank you! :)
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[User Picture]From: mysterypoet66
2011-03-01 01:08 pm (UTC)
Gorgeous prose poem. So very, very precise.

You do realise, that I'm going to be required to beg, plead, offer bribes for,(and possibly just write,) the bookend piece that is waiting to happen for TGG from Sherlock's POV?

This is unbelievably, in every beat of it, *JOHN*
"You once dreamed that what the heart knows is the only thing that the body will never forget," kills me. <3 <3 <3
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[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2011-03-02 07:45 pm (UTC)
A prose poem was exactly what I was attempting; I've done it so rarely, and although I've never been good at letting spoken-word style influence my writing, it seems to have done a little bit here (a lot of my friends do spoken word and are very good at it).

Your asking for a Sherlock equivalent is brilliant and only proper. I'll get on it!

Thank you <3
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[User Picture]From: nausicaa83
2011-03-01 01:19 pm (UTC)
Really brilliant. It's *so* John. Great job!
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[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2011-03-02 07:45 pm (UTC)
Prose poetry was something of a risk, I thought, especially given the viewpoint - but I'm relieved it seems to have worked! Thank you very much :)
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[User Picture]From: girlsinkhearts
2011-03-01 01:32 pm (UTC)
... oh my gosh. You are so incredible. When I read the entries, this was the first one I immediately knew was one of the top three.

You don't know him, but you'll come to. You don't trust him, not yet, but that's fine. It's taken so little to bring you here: a devastating smile, an understated wink, and the slightest hint of marvellous things (more promised than implied). The skull's on the mantel and the bread's in the bin, but you've no idea how much trouble you're really in. Set-ups like this one don't come with fair warning.
This is my absolute favourite part.

You are... beyond incredible.

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[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2011-03-02 07:48 pm (UTC)
As I said to someone above - anyone who knows my poetry background probably guessed which was mine pretty easily! Prose poetry's always highly experimental for me, though, because I normally write more structured verse. I'm so glad you enjoyed this *hugs* Thank you for reading; it's rather odd in comparison to what I normally write. I was prepared for a lot of people to say it didn't quite work, but then it went and took first place in the challenge. I was startled, to say the least! Life's no fun without the occasional wacky risk, though.
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[User Picture]From: espresso_addict
2011-03-01 01:55 pm (UTC)
The skull's on the mantel and the bread's in the bin, but you've no idea how much trouble you're really in. Set-ups like this one don't come with fair warning.

Oh, I like this, says she inarticulately. The little rhymes that drag you onwards.
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[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2011-03-02 07:50 pm (UTC)
Oh, the dragging effect: somebody felt it! *dances* That really was the hook, trying to execute that inexorable pull. I wasn't certain I'd done it. In fact, I was more than prepared for a load of people to say WTF is that? It doesn't work.

Thank you very much <3
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[User Picture]From: shefa
2011-03-01 02:06 pm (UTC)
GAH. Loved this then, love it even more on rereading (it calls for rereading over and over again b/c it's so subtly done).

It's taken so little to bring you here: a devastating smile, an understated wink, and the slightest hint of marvellous things (more promised than implied). The skull's on the mantel and the bread's in the bin, but you've no idea how much trouble you're really in.

Muscle memory... oh, yes. And he feels alive again. Sherlock's only begun to realize what he's found in John.

Beautifully done, as always.
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[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2011-03-02 07:52 pm (UTC)
Instinct behaves kind of like memory, a sort of prescience - I was reading an article on a study that was done in the US that has strange implications for the way our emotions lead us to make snap judgments which are usually right; the implication of the study, which was conducted by a quantum physicist (IIRC), is that our emotions quite possibly travel forward in time and sort of "bounce back" at us with information on the outcome of certain situations. Anyway, it sounded highly theoretical, but the concept alone was enough to intrigue me.

Thank you for reading, as always!
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[User Picture]From: red_chapel
2011-03-01 02:13 pm (UTC)
Quite beautiful. The scatterings of pure poetry, lines that scan, the rhymes -- brilliant!
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[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2011-03-02 07:53 pm (UTC)
Prose poetry was an odd decision here, I felt, but I'm glad it seems to have pleased so many people! Thank you for reading :)
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[User Picture]From: mazarin221b
2011-03-01 02:26 pm (UTC)
Oh, I can see how crafting something like this would take so long...each phrase has such impact, and says so much without being superfluous. Gorgeous work.
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[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2011-03-02 07:54 pm (UTC)
Expanding it from 230 words to 500 words took something like an hour and a half: that's unheard of, me spending that long on a piece so short! And the 230-word version took about 45 minutes in its own right, initially, so I'd say a good three hours went into this. In three hours, I'd normally clear a few thousand words if I were writing normal prose.

Glad you enjoyed it - thank you!
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[User Picture]From: mistyzeo
2011-03-01 03:06 pm (UTC)
So fantastic and intense!
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[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2011-03-02 07:55 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much! I was prepared for a lot of funny looks over this, even people saying it doesn't really work. I like it when what I expect will be a flop turns out to be a success :)
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[User Picture]From: sheerpoetry
2011-03-01 03:14 pm (UTC)
Nice name change there. ;)

Oh, wow, but this. I love all the little slips of poetry--it seems accidental, but rather pointed.

There's no shame in shielding his spark for the meaning yours has yet to find.
This line got me, especially. You can tell there's just so much between them.
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[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2011-03-02 07:57 pm (UTC)
Name change? Am I missing something?

The poetry slips are anything but accidental: I set out to write a second-person prose poem. I wasn't convinced I'd succeeded, especially given both versions took a ridiculously long time for as short as the piece is.

Thank you *hugs*
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[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2011-03-02 07:58 pm (UTC)
*blushes* Thank you so much; as I've been saying, prose poetry was a weird decision, and I was fully prepared to accept the consequences (i.e. I expected people to say it just doesn't work). Quite the opposite; it seems to have worked quite well. I'm glad you enjoyed it - thank you!
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[User Picture]From: teithiwr
2011-03-01 04:09 pm (UTC)
Ohhhh, this is wonderful. It reads like a gorgeous prose poem. I love the way it flows.

You once dreamed that what the heart knows is the only thing that the body will never forget.

Full of such gems as this. ♥
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[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2011-03-02 08:00 pm (UTC)
It reads like a prose poem because I fully intended it to be one :) I was prepared for a lot of odd backlash - poetry isn't a medium suited to John, the rhymes are too heavy, etc. I'm pleased that so many people have enjoyed it. Thank you *hugs*
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[User Picture]From: ladymakbeth
2011-03-01 04:43 pm (UTC)
This one is a real masterpiece. You know I tried once do write something like this, describe that impossibly short moment when John pulled the trigger and what he could be thinking right then. And, of course, I failed. Guess short forms doesn't work for me.
So I'm leaving it to you. You are a MIRACLE. There's nothing more I could add to describe your writing. Both the structure of the story and the story itself are perfect.
And again no constructive comment from me.
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[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2011-03-02 08:01 pm (UTC)
It's so fascinating to hear this piece called perfection, because, to me, it was an experiment and maybe even a train wreck (although I was pleased that the tone and the sentiment got across, anyway, even if the language remained flawed no matter how many times I hammered it). Turns out I was wrong, at least according to you lovely people *hugs* Thank you.
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[User Picture]From: nitroglycerin_x
2011-03-01 05:38 pm (UTC)
This is so beautifully written. I absolutely adore the time-framing of this, the fact that so much is on John's mind in that split second. And I love the sense of promise that Sherlock seems to bring to John, how he relishes it, but also the heartbreaking way he is willing to accept it might not always be the same.

Really wonderfully done, memmed!
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[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2011-03-02 08:04 pm (UTC)
I still have a lot of melancholy bouncing around from the previous few fics I've written in this fandom; I do think some reverberation crept in. I'm so pleased people seem to be enjoying this. Thank you!
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[User Picture]From: mushroom18
2011-03-01 05:39 pm (UTC)
I just read this over and over again, drinking in these words, because they have such a lyrical feel to them even if the sentences are short. This is how John loves, and its fantastic.

It's taken so little to bring you here: a devastating smile, an understated wink, and the slightest hint of marvellous things (more promised than implied). The skull's on the mantel and the bread's in the bin, but you've no idea how much trouble you're really in. Set-ups like this one don't come with fair warning.

That's basically what I thought when John killed for Sherlock: they've just met but the chemistry is electric, and John shoots the cabbie like it's breathing.
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[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2011-03-02 08:07 pm (UTC)
I'll be disappointed if they don't explore this in future episodes, but to face the chemistry would mean facing further subtext, and I'm not sure if they're willing to do that. In any case, I'm glad it worked for you; I was expecting either a load of lukewarm reactions or next to no comments, honestly, and sure enough, it took first place in the challenge. Prose poetry and John Watson aren't necessarily two things that crop up simultaneously in one's mind, but it seemed just outrageous enough to be worth the attempt. Thank you <3
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[User Picture]From: jazzonia
2011-03-01 06:32 pm (UTC)
Gorgeous. I especially love the rhyme and poignancy of this line: "The skull's on the mantel and the bread's in the bin, but you've no idea how much trouble you're really in."
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[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2011-03-02 08:08 pm (UTC)
That line was almost too sing-song for my ear, but I kept it in the end because, if I'd cut it, I would have fallen below 500 words. I couldn't have expanded it the whole way up to 750; there'd have been no way. So glad you enjoyed this, then <3 Thank you.
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[User Picture]From: blacktablet
2011-03-01 06:38 pm (UTC)
I love your exploration of John's in that moment. You've captured well how much there is in that second, how much it is not void of emotions and possibilities and thoughts that aren't quite conscious.

You don't know him, but you'll come to. My favourite line. The whole foreshadowing of their friendship is amazing here. :) Beautiful prose.
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[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2011-03-02 08:09 pm (UTC)
That line was perhaps the lifeline of the original version, so there's no way it was getting cut, re-worked, or added to in and of itself. Thank you so much for reading :)
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[User Picture]From: niphuria
2011-03-01 08:04 pm (UTC)
And here I come to ruin this thread. :( I'm the only moron who doesn't get it.

My hubby promised to search for the series for me so I can watch it, tho whether it will help me here or not, I don't know! (It's okay! No-one needs to explain it to me.)

The language is beautiful and the phrasing is lovely. I just don't get what the heck happened. But that's okay. I'm not smart enough to NOT leave this comment. :) I keep reading because you're so damned good at this and it keeps me nagging the spouse for the videos.
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[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2011-03-02 08:10 pm (UTC)
You haven't ruined anything; you just have yet to see the show. This expands on a very particular moment, so, yes, you do have to have seen the first episode to know what's going on. I hope your husband finds it for you; it's out on DVD now and pretty widely available!

Thank you for reading anyway! <3 And you'll have to tell me if seeing the first episode makes a difference. It really should.
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[User Picture]From: warriorbot
2011-03-01 08:24 pm (UTC)
Beautifully lyrical.
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[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2011-03-02 08:10 pm (UTC)
Thank you, my dear :)
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[User Picture]From: fengirl88
2011-03-01 08:33 pm (UTC)
oh I loved this one! beautifully done.
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[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2011-03-02 08:12 pm (UTC)
I was fully expecting this to be dubbed "the odd one" or somesuch; in fact, I even expected it probably wouldn't work for most people! Prose poetry was definitely an experiment in this instance, and I'm pleasantly surprised at the results! Thank you *hugs*
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[User Picture]From: 7magpies
2011-03-01 10:05 pm (UTC)
This is a great exploration of actually seeing a fraction of a second being stretched into minutes.
Very nice use of rhythm throughout. I particularly adore the rising momentum of staccato wording towards the end until the tension finally breaks with the release of the bullet. I'd love to hear this read aloud! Extremely well written, thank you so much for sharing.
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[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2011-03-02 08:13 pm (UTC)
I'm thinking I might use it as my own first attempt at podfic - something small to see if it works, and because I'm primarily a poet in RL, I'm accustomed to reading my verse aloud. I'm very glad you enjoyed it - thank you :)
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