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fic: Ceasefire

Title: Ceasefire
Author: fengirl88
Fandom: BBC Sherlock
Pairing: Sherlock/John
Rating: R for themes
Warnings: implied incest, implied past sexual abuse, traumatic memory
Wordcount: ~1600
Disclaimer: They're still not mine.
Summary: Nothing he can do about the past. That much was clear after he'd seen Mycroft...
A/N: Final part of the Invasion series (Invasion; Reconnaissance; Reveille Ambush; Intelligence; Mosaic; Minefield; Incendiary); please note the warnings for the series as a whole.
Heartfelt thanks to the heroic and indefatigable blooms84, ginbitch and kalypso_v for their beta wisdom and support throughout the writing of this series; to shefa for her encouragement; and to marysutherland, for conversations about the shape of the narrative, and particularly here for her suggestions about outings.


Ceasefire


They're at the zoo, watching the leafcutter ants at work, and they've been standing in the same position for the past twenty minutes. John's leg is starting to ache, but he doesn't want to break Sherlock's concentration by moving away. He shifts his weight to the other leg as unobtrusively as he can.

The ants march to and fro, carrying their huge burdens along the lines of rope that serve in place of South American rainforest. It reminds him of an assault course, but without a sergeant-major shouting orders and threats (“Move your fucking arse, Watson, or I'll move it for you!”). According to that article Sherlock made him read, though, the ant world is less like an army, more like an office that communicates by meaningless text messaging.

Next to humans, the notice tells him, leafcutter ants form the largest and most complex animal societies on earth. Up to eight million of them in a colony, apparently, which must be about as far from the nuclear family as you can get. He doesn't know if that's why Sherlock's so fascinated by them.

Sherlock is completely absorbed, oblivious to the milling schoolchildren who come and go, the parties of tourists, even a pair of squabbling entomologists. You'd never know, to look at him, that there was anything different about him. Certainly couldn't deduce the turbulence of the past few months.



Fourteen weeks into the therapy now, and it's just as well Ella had warned John it gets worse before it gets better. Some days, it's all he can do to hang on in there.

He has no idea what goes on between Sherlock and the therapist – can't imagine it, and Sherlock won't talk about it. He doubts it's anything like his own experience with Ella. All he knows is that Sherlock is still going. That, and the pattern of the week: the way Sherlock withdraws into himself after each session, becomes tense as the next one approaches.

Right now, they're mid-way between sessions, in that period of calm that John longs for more each time: a chance to catch their breath before the next big push. He's learning to make the most of these quiet intervals, to think of new things to do that Sherlock might like. Spending hours looking at Chinese pottery in the British Museum, or going to a Bach concert in one of the City churches. Or watching an ants' nest.

Finding ways to connect with Sherlock.

It's all he can do.



Nothing he can do about the past. That much was clear after he'd seen Mycroft: no justice or retribution to be had when you're dealing with a dead man. Which let John off the hook, but also left him full of violent emotions with nowhere to go.

Realizing it wasn't Mycroft after all had been like running into a brick wall. Looking at that photograph through Mycroft's eyes. What Mycroft had told him, in between choking and retching.

“They were always so close. Always having little jokes and secrets. I never dreamed –”

Mycroft couldn't see that relationship for what it was. Maybe nobody could have. But it was obvious how much he'd longed for their father's love. He must have envied Sherlock, thought he was the lucky one. Christ.

John can't imagine what that's like. How do you cope when everything you thought you knew about someone you loved turns out to be a lie?

Never thought he'd feel sorry for Mycroft Holmes.

Sherlock still refuses to speak to Mycroft. About this, or anything else. John thinks he blames Mycroft at some level for not being around, for leaving him unprotected when the abuse started. It's not as if being sent away to school was Mycroft's choice, any more than being hospitalized was Mummy's. But that doesn't stop Sherlock blaming him. Blaming them both.

He can't see any hope of a reconciliation between Sherlock and Mycroft at this point. But at least Mycroft's still alive, so it's not closed off completely, the way it is with Mummy.

People always say “Oh, the wife must have known.” Which is rubbish, obviously. But she must have found out at some point, and John's pretty sure he knows what she did about it. The Holmes brothers aren't the only ones who can read between the lines of that coroner's report. It's not that difficult if you know what you're looking for, if you know about the abuse. But it seems as if nobody else knew, back then.

He wonders how she found out. Sherlock might know, but what Sherlock knows is blocked off, inaccessible. Only time will tell whether the therapy's working, or how much of the past it will reveal.



“You blame her, don't you?” Clara had said.

They were sitting in one of the cafés at St Pancras, on the grounds that it was the least likely place for Sherlock to turn up. He still felt guilty about talking to her, but he had to talk to someone and it couldn't be Lestrade, for obvious reasons. Or Sarah, or Harry.

“For the abuse? God, no.”

He knows some people say it's all about family dynamics. But whatever their marriage was like, Mrs Holmes wasn't responsible for her husband's actions.

“For what then?” Clara asked.

He remembered the look on Mycroft's face when he talked about the promises he'd made.

“Secrets,” he said. “Secrets and silence.”

Clara pulled a face. “What was she supposed to do?”

“I don't know.”

Mycroft's role as secret-keeper had begun early, hadn't it? With a secret he didn't even know he was keeping. He had that in common with Sherlock, at least.

John knows more than he used to about incest survivors and memory. Been reading up on it, though doing that makes him feel uncomfortable, almost as if he's spying on Sherlock. How people can end up with two sets of memories: the conscious ones that match the public record, and the buried ones where the abuse and secrets are kept hidden away. Until something cracks open the vault. The way he'd done with Sherlock, not meaning to, not even knowing there was anything to crack.

“I wish –” He couldn't finish the sentence, but he didn't need to.

“Maybe the memory could surface because Sherlock's safe with you, have you thought of that?” Clara said.

He knew what she meant, but it didn't make him feel any better.

“At least now he has a chance to recover,” she insisted.

“Yeah, you're right, I know, I know.”

Clara glanced at her watch and signalled to the waiter for the bill.

“You're still thinking about it, aren't you?” she said. “Wishing she hadn't killed him so you could do it yourself.”

“Probably just as well I can't,” he said. Didn't stop him wanting to, though.

“Wouldn't help Sherlock if you went to prison,” Clara said.

“Nothing I do helps him anyway,” he said.

“Come on, John, you know that's not true. He knows you're there, and that's the most important thing right now apart from the therapy.”

They sat there a little longer in silence, John trying to brace himself to go back to 221b. Therapy day again.



John stares at the placard explaining that ants can excavate up to forty-four tons of earth to build a nest for their colony. The notice says the equivalent in human terms would be building the Great Wall of China, but what it actually makes him think of is all that buried memory, with no sign on the surface of what lies beneath. Subterranean and labyrinthine.

Every time they get a call from Lestrade, there's the fear that something else at the crime scene will trigger Sherlock's memory. It hasn't happened again, not since that one time with the Airfix models. He hopes that eventually they'll get used to making it through a case without that kind of trauma, be able to take it for granted rather than having it feel like a reprieve.

It's a slow process. Just have to keep going, do the best you can.




Sherlock draws a long deep breath, his shoulders tensing and then relaxing as he exhales. It's a sequence John's coming to recognize as meaning he's almost ready to move on.

He puts his arms gently around Sherlock's waist, holding him carefully, lightly, so that he doesn't startle or pull away. Sherlock's hands come down to grip him, wrapping John's arms around him in a tighter embrace. John tries not to hope for too much, read too much into it, but he can't suppress a shudder of relief. His longing for physical affection is so intense that every touch risks becoming overcharged.

Sherlock turns around in John's embrace and leans down to kiss him. It's not that desperate clinging kiss, craving for reassurance, or that angry impersonal push for oblivion. This one's different and it feels like a blessing, a gentle pressure of something understood without words: You love me and you're still here. And his own wordless response: Yes I do. Yes I am. Yes.

He's not sure if Sherlock's had enough for the afternoon, so he asks “Anything else you want to see?”

Sherlock shakes his head. “Maybe next time,” he says. “But that was – good. Thank you.”

He looks dead tired, but more peaceful than John's seen him for months, and there's something there that's almost a smile. John wants to cry and shout and squeeze the breath out of Sherlock, but he doesn't do any of those things. Not today. Not yet.

“Come on then,” he says. “Let's go home.”


***


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

Invasion;
Reconnaissance
;
Reveille
Ambush
;
Intelligence
;
Mosaic
;
Minefield
;
Incendiary;
Ceasefire



This entry was originally posted at http://fengirl88.dreamwidth.org/44382.html where there are comments.

Comments

( 46 comments — Leave a comment )
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lindentreeisle
May. 13th, 2011 08:21 pm (UTC)
This series has been very hard to read- I expect it's been hard to write as well- but I'm kind of sorry it's done, because it's so beautifully written. It's not an easy ending, but I respect that because I imagine that reflects the reality...that you can't undo things that have happened, you can't murder your way into inner peace or something.

Thanks for writing this.
fengirl88
May. 13th, 2011 08:26 pm (UTC)
thank you very much for this - I know it's a hard series to read as well as to write, so thank you for staying with it.
I couldn't cut to a happy ending, but I wanted there to be some sign that things were going to get better eventually - I hope that comes through, even though the end of that process is still a long way off.
(no subject) - lindentreeisle - May. 13th, 2011 08:28 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - fengirl88 - May. 13th, 2011 08:45 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - lindentreeisle - May. 13th, 2011 10:20 pm (UTC) - Expand
2ndskin
May. 13th, 2011 08:48 pm (UTC)
My goodness--so many swirling emotions at the end of this. You must be exhausted--I feel a little like John--wanting to squeeze you--but also wishing I could send you on a holiday to rest now that this complex, tragic, but very beautiful tale is over. This was a very satisfying bringing together of all the pieces of the story in John's head. With the sense that for both John and Sherlock--and you really showed them going through the trauma together throughout--there is a likely peaceful, promising future--not right away--but eventually. Thanks to John's stubborness, understanding, and love. I like how you brought both Clara and Mycroft in and gave them their due as part of the story. Loved the ant metaphor. Loved it all really. Thank you for letting me read it along the way and chat a little about it. Onward . . . .
fengirl88
May. 13th, 2011 08:55 pm (UTC)
thank you so much - I am so glad you liked this ending. I believe that good future is there for them, though it won't fit into the scope of this fic.

you know better than most how stuck I got with this series, and I couldn't have finished it without you! I'm so grateful to you for reading the drafts, even at the start when Mycroft's role was more troubling, and for all your support and encouragement since the whole thing started, back in December.

*hugs you*
innie_darling
May. 13th, 2011 09:06 pm (UTC)
This series is so thorny and masterfully written. I'm glad I read it.
fengirl88
May. 13th, 2011 09:11 pm (UTC)
thank you very much - I'm very pleased you feel that way about it. it was hard to write but I'm glad to have done it.
(Deleted comment)
fengirl88
May. 13th, 2011 09:13 pm (UTC)
thank you very much - I'm very grateful for your comments throughout the series, and really glad you liked the ending. I wanted it to be as realistic as it could be but still have some sign of hope for the future.

*hugs*
darthhellokitty
May. 14th, 2011 12:28 am (UTC)
This is such a good ending - as you've said, things are getting better incrementally, a tiny bit at a time, like ants digging - but eventually there's a huge ant colony built.

I'm sort of sorry it's over, as hard as it's been to read (and must have been to write). The amount of warmth and caring there between John and Sherlock is wonderful, and it makes me very hopeful for them.
fengirl88
May. 14th, 2011 12:37 am (UTC)
thank you so much - I'm very glad you think so, and I really like what you say about the incremental progress being like the ants' activity.

I don't think there should have been any more of it than this, and it was hard to write, but I'm sorry it's over as well.

I'm very glad you feel that about John and Sherlock - I have faith in their future even though that's outside the scope of this story.
alextree
May. 14th, 2011 05:14 am (UTC)
i've had a similar experience and this story is amazing. I cant even begin to express how i feel. Thank you. it was perfect.
fengirl88
May. 14th, 2011 10:31 am (UTC)
thank you so much for saying that - I felt very hesitant about posting the early parts of this because I knew some people reading it had had similar experiences. this response means a great deal to me - more than I can easily express.
being_here
May. 14th, 2011 08:00 am (UTC)
That was a good ending. It would be wrong to say I've enjoyed this series - the subject matter and the skill you write with means it is too uncomfortable to enjoy, but I have read and reread each chapter and will continue to do so.

Well done. This is a great piece.
fengirl88
May. 14th, 2011 10:36 am (UTC)
thank you very much for this and all your comments on the series - it has been a difficult one to write, and it's taken a long time, but I'm glad I did it. I'm very pleased that you liked the ending.
(Deleted comment)
fengirl88
May. 14th, 2011 05:13 pm (UTC)
thank you very much - I am so glad you thought the ending worked and that it felt real. it was a difficult series to write and to end, but marysutherland's idea about the outings gave me what felt like the right setting for the ending. despite the difficulties along the way and the doubts I had about writing fiction on this subject at all, I am glad that I did it.



Edited at 2011-05-14 05:14 pm (UTC)
bugeyedmonster
May. 14th, 2011 05:51 pm (UTC)
Loved this series.
fengirl88
May. 14th, 2011 06:17 pm (UTC)
thank you very much - I'm glad you did.
disastrolabe
May. 14th, 2011 06:21 pm (UTC)
I'm not really sure how I missed this series up until now, but I just read the whole thing from start to finish, and it is a tour de force. Not only is it emotionally bold and emotionally subtle at the same time, but the imagery is so lush and beautiful without being "purple", as writerly types say. The metaphors, too, are both striking and intellectually sound; my favorite is the recurring minefield.

Thanks so much for sharing this! I love your work. :D
fengirl88
May. 14th, 2011 07:17 pm (UTC)
thank you so much - that's a really lovely comment to get. you know I love your work as well, so I'm very glad you thought those things about the series.

I didn't post the earlier parts to any of the comms on LJ - I was quite uncertain about writing on the subject at all and I knew progress would be very slow - but now that it's finished I feel happier about posting it more widely.
meredydd
May. 15th, 2011 02:50 am (UTC)
This series has been hard to read but in a weirdly good way. I'm an adult survivor of childhood sexual abuse by my father so it's almost like a cathartic thing... My abuser is still alive but I think it's every survivor's dark fantasy to want the person who harmed them to die. Reading the story (which is very IC for Sherlock and John, I think) and the very realistic actons an reactions of the characters has been cathartic. So thank you for writing it on that level and also this is amazing, very well written and just a very intense read.
fengirl88
May. 15th, 2011 11:53 am (UTC)
thank you very much indeed for this. I had serious doubts about writing and posting the story at all, partly because I knew there would be readers who had had that experience themselves. so to get a response like this is much more than a relief. I am more pleased than I can say that you found it good as well as hard to read this, and very grateful for your comments.
(no subject) - meredydd - May. 16th, 2011 01:32 pm (UTC) - Expand
casey_bee
May. 15th, 2011 09:55 am (UTC)
Aw, such a lovely end to a great and difficult series. And of course Sherlock loves the ants! That was a great little touch. :-)
fengirl88
May. 15th, 2011 12:00 pm (UTC)
thank you very much - I'm glad you thought the ending worked and that you liked the series.

the ants' nest idea came from marysutherland - she thought the outings would be a good way for John to support Sherlock, since John couldn't be involved in the therapy, and I adopted her suggestions for what those outings might be. when I found a YouTube video of the leafcutter ants at London Zoo, I realized that was where I wanted to end the story.
rusty_armour
May. 17th, 2011 01:59 am (UTC)
Congratulations on completing this excellent series! I like the way Sherlock seems to made peace with himself and John, even if he hasn't completely healed yet. However, I think it would have been highly unrealistic if Sherlock was ever completely healed, not to mention Mycroft and even John.

I know I'll sound like a broken record, but your description (as always) is so vivid and beautiful. I found this one passage particularly moving:

Sherlock turns around in John's embrace and leans down to kiss him. It's not that desperate clinging kiss, craving for reassurance, or that angry impersonal push for oblivion. This one's different and it feels like a blessing, a gentle pressure of something understood without words: You love me and you're still here. And his own wordless response: Yes I do. Yes I am. Yes.
fengirl88
May. 17th, 2011 09:33 am (UTC)
thank you very much for this and your comments throughout - I've appreciated them a lot. I wanted there to be some sign that things were shifting and that some kind of healing was possible, so I'm glad you thought that worked and that it was realistic. and I'm very glad you liked that passage in particular.
marysutherland
May. 19th, 2011 06:38 pm (UTC)
I know I suggested the ants originally, but the way you've taken that vague suggestion and turned into the precise detail of the leafcutter ants and the hidden excavations is brilliant. The effect on Sherlock's relationship with Mycroft is sad, but I think it's realistic - that things can't be easily put back together. And it felt right having Clara back again, because John would need that kind of support himself if he was going to get through the situation. The whole thing is a very honest end to a movingly done series.
fengirl88
May. 20th, 2011 12:16 am (UTC)
*glows happily*
thank you very much - I'm so pleased you liked the ending, and that you thought those things felt right. and thank you again for all your ideas and suggestions about the direction of the story - they really helped me to get this series moving at a time when it was badly stuck.
ginbitch
May. 21st, 2011 09:59 pm (UTC)
A standing ovation! This was so perfectly handled throughout - beautiful eye for detail, respectful eye for consequences: the fengirl hallmarks! Just amazing writing. Brava!

<3 <3 <3
fengirl88
May. 21st, 2011 10:16 pm (UTC)
thank you so much - for this lovely comment, which makes me very happy indeed, and for all your support and betaing throughout. I remember very clearly our exchange about continuing Invasion past the oneshot I'd assumed it was; I don't think I could or would have done it without your encouragement.
*hugs you*
(no subject) - ginbitch - May. 21st, 2011 10:23 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - fengirl88 - May. 21st, 2011 10:36 pm (UTC) - Expand
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