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fic: Incendiary

Title: Incendiary
Author: fengirl88
Fandom: BBC Sherlock
Pairing: Sherlock/John
Rating: R for themes
Warnings: implied incest, implied past sexual abuse, traumatic memory
Disclaimer: They're still not mine.
Summary: “You were having a nightmare,” John says. “Sounded pretty bad.”
Clothes. Why would he be dreaming about clothes?

Eighth in the Invasion series (Invasion; Reconnaissance; Reveille Ambush; Intelligence; Mosaic; Minefield); please note the warnings for the series as a whole.
A/N: Thank you to blooms84 , ginbitch and kalypso_v for continued beta brilliance and support; to marysutherland for conversations that helped to shape the narrative as a whole; and to shefa for continuing encouragement.


“Sherlock. Sherlock. Wake up!”

He struggles out of sleep to find John propped up on one elbow, looking anxiously down at him.

“You were having a nightmare,” John says. “Sounded pretty bad.”

Clothes. Why would he be dreaming about clothes?

Piles of shirts – starched dress shirts, fine linen, check Viyella, pale colours and plain white ones. Ties, so many ties, all silk, dark, bright, striped, one with a crest he recognized but can't identify now. Evening trousers, tailcoat, dinner jacket. Town suits and country ones. A tweed jacket with brown leather-covered buttons quartered like little hot-cross buns. Two dressing gowns, the warm woollen check and the patterned silk one –

Is it him making that noise?

“Shh,” John says, putting his arms around him. “It's OK, I've got you.”

Sherlock doesn't contradict him. It's not OK, but they both know what he means.

The wardrobe doors are wide open and the bed in Daddy's room is piled high. Through the half-open door, Sherlock can see Mummy pulling clothes off hangers that rattle and clash against each other as she adds more and more to the heap. He wonders why Mummy's doing this now: it's after midnight. At first he thought she must be trying to decide what suit to give the undertakers, but it can't be that: the wardrobe's nearly empty now. His head's aching and he feels sick, but he doesn't make a sound. He's supposed to be asleep, and he doesn't want Mummy to be angry with him. He creeps back to his room and curls up under the covers, shivering.

“Clothes,” he says to John. “I was dreaming about his clothes.”

A bonfire in the courtyard. He knows they're his father's clothes, though in the dream they look different. Every time he adds another load to the blaze, he finds his arms bowed under the weight of more. It's like something out of a bad fairytale, though he doesn't know what he did wrong. He must have done something wrong, because that's how it works. If he opens his mouth, a toad will hop out of it. Every move he makes is punished. Every word he utters is cursed. He knows this, the way you know things in dreams, without knowing how.

Snatches of conversation come back to him: a woman's voice, not sure whose, saying “Could have given them away but she burned the lot.” The tone's an odd mixture of admiration and resentment.

“You'd never think it, to look at her.” A different voice, sympathetic but enjoying it. One of those women from the village church, Mrs – Mrs Knight, was it? “All through the funeral and the inquest I kept thinking I don't know how she does it. So brave.”

People kept saying that about Mummy because she didn't cry at the funeral. Mycroft pretended he hadn't cried either, but Sherlock saw him.

“The bonfire was real,” he says, wonderingly.

Bonfire?” John asks.

“She burned his clothes. All of them. The day after–”

He's not sure if the smell of burning fabric was there in the dream or if he's imagined that.

John doesn't say anything, but he strokes Sherlock's hair. Sherlock rolls over and pushes his face against John's chest, breathing him in.

He can feel John thinking, but he doesn't want to ask what he's thinking about. Easier to lie here, warm and half-lulled by the feel of John's skin, let his hand drift down to brush against John's cock.

John gasps and jerks at his touch. Sherlock grasps him tighter and presses against him.

“Oh God, Sherlock. Are you sure?”

He really isn't. “Yes,” he says, because he's tired of being like this. Tired of being treated like an invalid or a fragile object all the time. He wants to feel something here and now for once. Bodies slamming against each other, biting and scratching, kisses that draw blood.

Something real, chosen, not this numbness –

No good. He should have known it wouldn't be.

“Where have you gone?” John says. “Sherlock?”

He doesn't know.

The envelope with the coroner's report lies open on the kitchen table. He knows Mycroft's read it too, though he's not going to talk to Mycroft, about that or anything else.

The woman sounded surprised when he said “I want a copy of the inquest report on my father, Stanforth Holmes.”

“Mr Holmes? We sent you a copy last week and had an acknowledgement from your assistant–”

“That would be my brother's assistant,” he'd said, feeling his scalp crawl with rage. Late again, Sherlock, the voice in his head jeered.

An apologetic flurry at the other end of the line and a hasty request for his address.

Coroners' reports can be patchy, but this one obviously took copious notes. He stares at the words on the page until they're just squiggles.

He knows it couldn't have happened the way Mummy said. And it's not true that she's the one who found Daddy. Why would she lie about that?

Nobody at the inquest mentions Sherlock at all. It's as if he didn't exist.

It's easy to read between the lines of the doctor's testimony. The contortions he goes through in order not to say out loud what everyone's obviously thinking: Terribly sad, he must have been depressed, poor chap, better cover it up...

They're behaving as if the only possibilities are accident or suicide, but he saw Daddy and he knows it couldn't have been –

Mummy's voice echoes in his head: Don't think about it any more. No need to tell anyone. Just forget about it. No one will touch you now.

He never told anyone. Not about that or about the other thing.

He'd said it once, leave me alone or I'll tell, but a child's threat is no match for an adult's.

A part of him still believes what Daddy said, even after all these years. If he opens his mouth something bad will happen.

Something bad did happen. Even though he never told.

Now he's supposed to tell, week after week in that room with the woman. Some days, it feels as if the effort will split him in two. But the split happened long ago, and he's been living with it ever since.

He imagines Mycroft reading the coroner's report. He wonders what Mummy told Mycroft. Wonders what he knows, what he understands, whether Mycroft sees the same things that he sees. But he's not going to ask.

He can hear John tapping away at his laptop in the sitting-room. Working on his blog, probably.

Sherlock goes on staring at the lines of print, watching them shift from words to squiggles and back again.

ETA: Links to all parts of this now complete series are here:


This entry was originally posted at http://fengirl88.dreamwidth.org/44002.html where there are comments.


( 16 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
May. 5th, 2011 08:54 pm (UTC)
thank you so much - I am very glad it worked for you, and those things in particular.

I'm so grateful for all your help and encouragement throughout the writing of this. hoping that we're nearly there now.

May. 5th, 2011 08:57 pm (UTC)
Beautiful, beautiful. Fabulous use of dream imagery both for mood and to convey the sense of surfacing emotion and memory... Sherlock is moving closer, step by step. And this:

Now he's supposed to tell, week after week in that room with the woman. Some days, it feels as if the effort will split him in two. But the split happened long ago, and he's been living with it ever since.

THIS. In a nutshell.

You are handling this with a gentle hand and just the right pacing, I think. Sensitively done.

Lovely. :)
May. 5th, 2011 09:13 pm (UTC)
thank you so much - that's lovely to hear. I'm particularly glad you thought the part about the split was right, and that you liked the use of the dreams. your encouragement means a lot to me.
May. 5th, 2011 09:16 pm (UTC)
This is such a hard read, but it is brilliant and haunting and obsesses me.

Well done.
May. 5th, 2011 09:33 pm (UTC)
thank you very much - the idea has been haunting me since December and it feels strange to be getting near the end now (which I think I am). thank you for staying with it and for your comments - they are much appreciated.
(Deleted comment)
May. 6th, 2011 07:51 am (UTC)
thank you very much - I'm very glad that you thought the same as shefa. the encouragement is much appreciated.
May. 6th, 2011 12:42 am (UTC)
God, the dreams and flashbacks in this fic are breathtaking.

The bonfire is striking - like John, I'm amazed that it was real. Mummy really wanted to erase him completely. She was very determined to protect her children, once she knew what was going on. (And Father had fabulous clothes, that much runs in the family.)

I like the neighbors talking about it, with admiration and resentment, sympathetic but enjoying it.

Sherlock's so angry at Mycroft through all this. Mycroft might have figured out how Father died - both those boys were so observant and smart, nothing could get past them. Maybe he did, but put it out of his mind - what could he have done? Everyone trying to protect Sherlock, and Mummy too. Everyone meaning well, and look what it leads to.
May. 6th, 2011 07:55 am (UTC)
thank you very much - I'm very glad you thought so and that you liked those things in particular.

there should be more in the next part about why Sherlock blames Mycroft, but I haven't written that yet, though I think I know what to say about it.
May. 6th, 2011 03:13 am (UTC)
ugh! i need more. this is amazing! it's brilliant how you balance sherlock's memories and what he's doing with john. it's just wonderful.
May. 6th, 2011 07:58 am (UTC)
thank you very much - I'm very glad you think the balance works here, and I really appreciate the encouragement.
May. 6th, 2011 09:45 pm (UTC)
I can't believe I've only just got round to reading this series. I've read it all in one go now. You've dealt with all these big issues really well, and I think your characters are spot on. Thanks for sharing, you're a wonderful writer :-)
May. 6th, 2011 09:57 pm (UTC)
thank you very much for such a nice comment on this series - I'm very pleased that you had that response to it.
May. 9th, 2011 07:28 pm (UTC)
I think this might be one of the most moving stories you've written in this series. I don't know if it's because of Sherlock's nightmare, the additional knowledge we gain about Sherlock's past, or the fact that Sherlock is so numb and fragile that he can't connect to his lover. I think the disjointed way in which you've written the narrative (e.g. going from Sherlock's thoughts/flashbacks to the here and now of the present) is really effective because it's almost a reflection of the confused and helpless state of Sherlock's mind.
May. 9th, 2011 07:38 pm (UTC)
thank you very much indeed - I am so glad you think that about it, and particularly that the disjointedness worked for you. I'm working on what I think is the final part of the series at the moment.
May. 19th, 2011 11:04 am (UTC)
I read this a few days ago and didn't know what to say, except: my father had a cardigan with buttons like that, and you're right, they're like hot cross buns. It's the quiet details in this that are so good - the gossiping villagers, and Mycroft's voice in Sherlock's head, and the toad from his mouth like in the old fairy stories. It's that accuracy that makes the whole restrained tone of this series so poignant - the sense that the world goes on despite one family's disasters.
May. 20th, 2011 12:09 am (UTC)
thank you very much - I'm so glad that you like those things, and that you think the detail works. my father had that sort of cardigan as well and I was always fascinated by the buttons as a child, so inevitably they turned up here.
( 16 comments — Leave a comment )


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