|New Fic: "I Broke Them All For You" - John/Sherlock - R
||[Apr. 9th, 2011|02:27 am]
(she lives between pages)
Title: I Broke Them All For You
Notes: Written for red_chapel in return for her generous donation to the Red Cross as part of the efforts at . She asked me to unbreak her heart and handed me a Brandi Carlile song to bolster the prompt. This piece is intended as an epilogue to the diptych (thank you, sc010f, for drawing that description out of me, and for reccing these difficult stories) consisting of I Meet You There, and We Go / The Half-Open Window. These are the pieces that broke red_chapel's heart in the first place, so I'm offering as much of an antidote as I can manage.
Summary: John wonders if the stories they tell each other after dark are memories.
All of the lines across my face
Some days, Sherlock reflects, I have no recollection of aging.
If he were being honest with himself, which he knows he very rarely is, he'd admit that it's actually most days. And it's not that he's old, not really, not in the strictest sense of the term. It seems like only yesterday that his reflection in the bathroom mirror had been smooth and unperturbed. He frowns and touches the fine lines traversing his forehead, squinting to count them. That's when John wanders in.
"They'll turn into wrinkles if you're not careful," he teases, setting one warm hand on each of Sherlock's hips. It's distracting and perfect. He still smells of sex and sleep.
"How old am I?" Sherlock asks. "I seem to have lost track."
It's John's turn to frown at his reflection over Sherlock's shoulder.
"Christ, I don't know. Thirty-two by now? Does it matter?"
Sherlock shrugs. "You're thirty-six, insofar as I'm aware."
"God, no, I'm—" John's frown deepens. "That's strange."
"Isn't it," Sherlock says, his eyes narrowing, tapping the edge of the sink.
"Don't feel bad about it," John replies, lightening the mood. "I've got loads of them."
"What? Pieces of information you can't remember, for no good reason at all?"
"No," John says, pressing his mouth to Sherlock's neck. "Years starting to show."
While Sherlock picks at Mozart's K. 376, John spends the afternoon working on an article. He never gets any responses from the medical journals, which irritates him to no end, but he's content to keep trying. Sherlock lowers his bow and massacres a difficult sequence, determined just to force it out. John winces and shuts his computer, taking instead to rubbing his temples. Sherlock puts down the violin.
"Would you rather take a walk?" He'd meant to be curt, but his voice is fond.
John smiles up at Sherlock from his chair. "I'd like that."
It's early spring, and already the hives are humming. John hangs back while Sherlock checks on frame after frame, pleased to see that nectar from the hellebores, tulips, daffodils, crocuses, and hyacinths in the garden are being put to use.
Neither one of them knows how the flowers got there.
These stories don't mean anything
John wonders if the stories they tell each other after dark are memories.
"And you're sure you didn't just dream it?" he asks. "Turning up on some poor woman's doorstep with evidence that'd kill her husband for sure?"
"I don't know," Sherlock says, his face half buried in the pillow. "It's quite vivid."
"That sounds like a nightmare to me. How did it end?"
"Mrs. Hudson was relieved. Not the kind of reaction one would expect."
The name sets off a flutter of panic in John's gut.
"Mr. Hudson must've been quite a piece of work," he says carefully.
"Must've been," Sherlock agrees. "I don't remember what he was in for."
"Was it a long time ago, Sherlock?"
"That I dreamed it, or—?"
"That it happened," John clarifies tentatively.
Sherlock makes an annoyed sound, and then rolls onto his side so that his back's to John, tugging John's arm over himself like a blanket. "Not so long ago," he sighs. "Maybe even recently. Isn't it enough that I can remember her name?"
"The trouble is, so can I."
"That doesn't mean anything. Wait, what was the question?"
"What's real and what isn't," John says.
Sherlock turns to him, tucked under John's arm, and gives him a piercing look.
"What else do you remember?"
"Life before this unbelievably sickening bliss. Sickening is fine, by the way."
John kisses Sherlock's eyelids. "I remember the first time I saw your face."
Traveled across the ocean blue
What Sherlock loves most about living here is the nearness of the sea. And John, of course, but John is constant where the sea is changeable. It brings storms and gifts.
"Why don't we ever swim?" John asks, wriggling his toes in the wet sand.
"Because the water's freezing," Sherlock says. "You're welcome to it."
"Some other day," replies John. "We've got all the time in the world."
It's chilly, but not enough to make Sherlock shiver the way he's shivering now.
"Have we?" he asked, bending to investigate an object rolling in the surf.
"Why not?" John's tone is gentle, teasing. "Is there evidence to the contrary?"
Not exactly, Sherlock thinks. There's no evidence at all. He picks up the object and brushes it clean. A vertebra, not human, stained and worn by the waves. His index finger fits through the center. He tosses it with all his strength, watches it vanish.
"You could've saved it," John says, taking his hand. "Run some tests."
Sherlock shakes his head. Shells are one thing, but bones are another. He remembers charred shards beneath his magnifier, blank stares and cracked fingernails, bloodied flesh and tangled hair. More dreams, perhaps. Nightmares, as John had called them.
"No need," he said. "It was from a horse. Death by natural causes, no foul play."
John chuckles, as if he finds this amusing, but falls suddenly quiet.
"I remember water," he says. "Play of light and shadows. Do you?"
Sherlock nods, contemplating the waves' white crests, the rosy glow of sunset.
Crossed all the lines, broke all the rules
There comes an evening when John remembers something else.
The dream—or is it a memory?—unfolds with startling precision. Sherlock's pale, ash-covered face is as vivid as the hot slip of blood beneath his fingertips. Labored breath in both of them; pain beyond bearing. He closes his eyes, sets down his book, and breathes in desperate, shaking lungfuls of air. He can still breathe. Why?
Sherlock, perched over at the table, looks up from his microscope.
"Are you all right?"
John waits until his heart rate has slowed before responding.
"Losing you would be...the worst thing imaginable. I don't think I have words."
Sherlock fixes him with a concerned look. "John, I'm not going anywhere."
"It's not a question of you going. It's a question of you being taken."
Sherlock stares past him and out the window, towards the orchard and the hives.
"I'd bring you with me," he says. "Or you'd come. Just like always."
John took a slow breath, scarcely daring to trust his sense of relief.
"Sherlock, do you dream—"
"Yes," Sherlock said. "But I don't dwell on it. We're here."
The greatest mystery of all, thinks John, and he's content not to ask questions.
Hiding the words that don't come out
Sherlock exists for these moments most of all: press of skin against cooling skin, John's breath ghosting evenly past his ear. One of Sherlock's ankles is tangled in the sheet, and the other is still hitched up to the small of John's back, drifting downward by the second, slicked with sweat. John sighs and slips free of him, collapsing.
"How is it," John marvels, "that I haven't done my back permanent damage?"
"Where you're concerned, I'm remarkably ergonomic," replies Sherlock, yawning. They're a mess, the bed's a mess, everything's a mess, and he doesn't care.
"Everything fits a bit too well sometimes," John murmurs.
"It fits a bit too well all the time," Sherlock says. "Not that I'm complaining."
"Does it bore you?" asks John, softly.
Sherlock snorted, pinching John's side.
"I won't dignify that with an answer. It's beneath you."
"That much is true," says John, laughing.
"That wasn't quite a pun, so I'll overlook it."
They lie in silence for a while, forehead to forehead, John's mouth pressed to the corner of Sherlock's. Neither one of them will say what they both know.
To acknowledge it would mean surrender.
They don't know what I've been through
The scar on John's shoulder is proof of past trauma that he's not meant to forget. Sherlock runs his fingers over it in endless circles, never asking when or how. He must already know. Their dreams, if not the same, tend to overlap.
"Another thing you haven't got," John says, running his fingers up Sherlock's arm.
"What do you mean?" Sherlock asks, lowering his mouth to John's shoulder.
"Proper scars. There's hardly a mark on you."
Sherlock shifts against him. "I had my appendix out."
"Surgeries don't count."
"Then you have only one proper scar. That's not an overwhelming lead."
"Next thing I know, you'll be claiming bee stings count."
"Maybe if I scratch my next one enough—"
John swats his backside. "Sherlock, no."
"It won't do any harm," Sherlock insists. "And then we'd be even."
"I like you as infuriatingly perfect as you are, thanks."
John kisses Sherlock soundly, and he hums into it, pleased. As they draw apart, John traces one high cheekbone with his thumb and wonders if the wrinkles will ever show, if devotion and belief are enough to bind them exactly as they are.
"Like me?" asks Sherlock, his brow furrowed dubiously.
"Love you," John corrects, smoothing Sherlock's hair.
Another strand of the knot in his chest unwinds.
Where I've been, how I got to where I am
"Why the middle of nowhere?" John asks, edging nearer to the hives than he ever has before. "Why a house with a back garden and fruit trees? Why beekeeping?"
Because it's where I can keep you, Sherlock thinks. Keep you safe.
"Doesn't everyone dream of something like this? A fine and private place?"
John's lips set in a firm line as Sherlock sets aside another frame for harvesting.
"We're not most people, Sherlock. You're not most people."
"I never got the chance," Sherlock snaps. "We never got—"
"Would you have taken it, then, if you'd found it?"
They stare at each other, the space between them filled with lazy buzzing.
"You quoted Marvell," says John, wonderingly.
"You asked for it," Sherlock tells him, not quite smiling.
"So you saw your chance, and you took it?"
Sherlock resumes smoking the hive, pulling up the next frame. They'll have honey for a month or two, and John will try his best to pick out the scents and flavors of the orchard and their garden. He'll be wrong, of course, and Sherlock will correct him.
"Better late than never," he says, and means every word.
And it's true that I was made for you
The sea isn't as cold as Sherlock had been fearing, not now that it's late summer and there's hardly any rain in sight. Still, Sherlock clings to John as if he's convinced the waves might carry him away. John doesn't mind, though. It'd be mad if he did.
"I didn't imagine the sea," Sherlock admits. "I'd never thought beyond the orchard."
"Surprising," John says, tangling his legs with Sherlock's. "You seem to enjoy it."
"I never did as a child. One too many close calls."
"Little wonder, that your first case was an apparent drowning."
They drift in silence for a while, pitched up to the precipice, yet content.
"You don't find it lonely, do you?" Sherlock asks.
John shakes his head, plucking a strand of seaweed out of Sherlock's hair.
"I came to you out of nowhere," he says. "None of the pieces fit, really fit, until now."
Sherlock tightens his arms around John's shoulders, his eyes anxious.
"I preferred it when everything fit a bit too well."
"Still does," John replies, "but the difference now is that I understand why."
Sherlock gives him a questioning, frightened look. It's achingly familiar.
"Then tell me," he sighs, "and hope we don't fall apart at the seams."
"Isn't it obvious?" John says. "I was made for you, and you made this place for us."
"It defies all logic," Sherlock mutters. "Flies in the face of everything—"
"Let it rest, Sherlock. I will if you will. For the rest of our days."
Sherlock widens his eyes, smiles bright enough to outshine the sun.
John no longer wonders if they're in a story or a memory, a dream or eternity.
What matters, he thinks, is that it's true.
- Epilogue: I Dream a Highway (Back to You) -