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fic: Human For A While (parts 6-9 of 9)

Title: Human For A While
Author: fengirl88
Fandom: BBC Sherlock; fairytale AU
Pairing
: John/Selkie!Sherlock
Rating: NC-17
Warnings
: None.
Wordcount: 12375
Disclaimer
: They're still not mine.
Summary
: Written for this anonymous prompt on sherlockbbcfic: John comes home from a trip to the seaside with a pale-eyed young man in tow. Sherlock is tall, brilliant, and strangely sad, and seems incapable of leaving John's side. One day John brings a seal skin to Harry's house and makes her promise to hide it, and that she will never, ever tell Sherlock where it is.
A/N: Thanks to blooms84 and kalypso_v for their encouragement and suggestions, to the OP for the wonderful prompt, and to everyone who commented at the meme.

Parts 1-5 )



Part Six: Lestrade


Lestrade had known Sherlock for years, on and off. The man was still a mystery to him, though. Brilliant, sure, with a knack of seeing connections nobody else could, pulling solutions out of the air as if by magic. But Lestrade was no closer to knowing what made him tick than he'd ever been.

John Watson's appearance in Sherlock's life had been a hell of a shock. Just turned up to a crime scene out of the blue, cool as you like. He's with me, Sherlock said, even more full of himself than usual, and Lestrade was gobsmacked. Never expected to see Sherlock involved with anyone.

Never expected this, either.

Bloody hospital chairs. Lestrade's arse was going numb. Not surprising – must have been sitting there for hours. He didn't know why he was still here.

Or why Sherlock wasn't.

John's lips were moving but Lestrade couldn't hear what he was saying. Probably wouldn't make sense anyway.

He wondered about that thing John's sister had said: Maybe he doesn't want to wake up.

Really ought to go home in a minute or he'd be fuck-all use tomorrow. Too many short nights this week, even before the explosion and the sleepless night that followed.

Still no idea whether that bastard was alive or dead. He tried to tell himself they'd catch him eventually, but he knew the odds didn't look good.

John started whimpering, a drawn-out, shaky sound that made Lestrade's gut knot with anger. Bloody Sherlock couldn't even be arsed to visit, when he must know it was his fault John had got hurt.

Sometimes I swear he's not human.

He'd said that to John once, after some more than usually spectacular emotional failure on Sherlock's part. Had to apologise, seeing the stricken look on John's face.

You love someone that much and he abandons you when you need him most. Fuck it.

Lestrade reached out to smooth John's hair back from his forehead. Probably shouldn't be doing that, but it seemed to quiet him, and the whimpering stopped.

“That's better,” Lestrade said. “Sounded like you were having a nightmare.”

Talk to him, try to maintain contact.

“The doc says you're going to be OK, so you'd better prove him right, hadn't you? Can't go against professional medical advice... Your hand feels hot, must be running a temperature again. Do I call the nurse or what?”

John's fingers tightened against Lestrade's and his eyelids fluttered.

“Come on, yeah, that's it, wake up. Wake up, Watson. John. Help me out here, I can't just keep talking to myself. First sign of madness.”

John was muttering again, louder than before. Lestrade caught snatches of words, lost, Sherlock, no. More puzzlingly, Hector.

“Who's Hector, John? Did he have something to do with the explosion?”

John's hand gripped tighter; he was trembling all over. Good sign or emergency? No idea. Fuck.

Better not chance it. Lestrade struggled out of the chair to push the call button for the nurse, but John opened his eyes and clung on to his hand, pulling him back down again.

“Lestrade.” His voice was hoarse.

Lestrade blinked and swallowed. Stupid lump in his throat. No witnesses, fortunately.

“About bloody time, too,” he said. “Gave us all a fright.”

John managed a weak grin. “Thirsty,” he said.

“OK,” Lestrade said, pouring water into the plastic tumbler. “Careful – don't overdo it.”

He knows that, you pillock, he's a doctor.

“Thanks,” John said.

His hands were still shaking. Lestrade held the tumbler to his lips, tilted it carefully. John swallowed and shuddered.

“More?”

John nodded and drank again, then lay back against the pillows.

“Your sister was here but she had to go,” Lestrade said.

He could have bitten his tongue out the next minute. Didn't take a genius to spot what was missing from that sentence.

“Sherlock?” John said, so quiet it was almost a whisper. His face was even paler than before, which took some doing.

“He's alive,” Lestrade said quickly. “Got off with a few cuts and bruises, thanks to you.”

“But he hasn't been here,” John said, after a pause.

No point trying to lie about it. “No. No, he hasn't.”

“How long?” John asked.

“Best part of twenty-four hours,” Lestrade said reluctantly.

John was silent for a long time. Hurting badly, Lestrade thought.

“I've lost him,” John said. “He's gone and it's all my fault.”

“Oh come on,” Lestrade said, exasperated. “How can it possibly be your fault, you daft bugger?”

“I took his skin,” John said.

“You what?”

“This is going to sound crazy,” John said.

“Try me,” Lestrade said.

“OK,” John said, “but you won't believe me.”



*~*~*


“Let me get this straight,” Lestrade said, holding his head. He thought it might be going to explode. “You're trying to tell me that Sherlock's actually a seal? When he's not, you know, solving crimes and all that?”

Hallucinating, poor sod. Or cracked. Had to be.

John took Lestrade's hand and put it to his forehead.

“Feel,” he said. “I'm not running a temperature. It's not septicaemia talking. Honestly.”

“Do you think maybe the blast–” Lestrade said tentatively.

“No,” John said, looking at him steadily. “I know what you're asking, but no. Ask Harry if you don't believe me.”

“Your sister?”

“Yeah. I left the skin with her.” John grimaced. “I thought it would – stop him from leaving. Didn't work.”

Lestrade ran through his mental list of useless bloody manuals and training courses. Nothing there about how to handle a domestic involving a mythical creature.

Which left the human angle, and dealing with that as best he could.

“Those other times,” he said carefully, “when Sherlock left, he always came back, didn't he?”

John nodded. “But that was before,” he said miserably.

“Look, I've seen you two together,” Lestrade said. “It's obvious he wants to be with you. But you can't, you can't keep someone against his will.”

“That's what Harry said. She said – I was treating him like an animal in a zoo.”

“Bit harsh,” Lestrade said, wincing. “But yeah, you can't do that.”

John looked washed-out, smaller somehow. Lestrade fought back an impulse to hug him, which really wouldn't be a good idea. Still wanted to, though.

“When he – when I met him,” John said, “I – oh God–”

A choked sound that was almost a sob. Lestrade put his hand gently on John's and left it there. John's ragged breathing gradually steadied.

“Sorry,” John said with an effort. “It's just – I was pretty desperate. Couldn't see the point in going on. And then he came, and – I can't go back to that, I just can't.”

None of the things Lestrade wanted to say seemed like a good idea, so he didn't say anything.

“But I have to, don't I?” John said bleakly.

“You have to give him the choice,” Lestrade said. He felt half-mad, not to mention a complete arse, but he said it anyway: “Give him back his skin.”

He watched the signs of struggle pass across John's face for what seemed like a very long time.

“OK,” John said at last. “Can't use my mobile in here. Let's get that sodding Patientline working so I can ring Harry.”





Part Seven: Harry



She'd told the policeman she had to go, and it wasn't really a lie. She couldn't have stuck it out a moment longer.

Hospitals. History repeating itself with a vengeance. It seemed no time at all since she'd been sitting by John's bed telling him to keep in touch, watching his hands turning the mobile phone over and over. She'd give anything to be back there again, even though they were so estranged then. Just so long as John was alive and awake and going to get well again. Not lying unconscious, unreachable, his mind more wrecked than his body.

You don't know that, H. Don't go looking for it.

Christ, she needed a drink. She'd been sober for the last twenty-four hours, ever since the call came about John. She hadn't dared risk driving to the hospital, she knew she'd be way over the limit. But the shock had gone through her like a cold fire, burning up every last trace of alcohol from her brain. Nothing between her and the slow hours of crawling dread. Nothing to take the pain away.

John's body in the too-big pyjamas looked shrunken and frail. How could he pull through? Fucking doctors, talking a load of crap as usual. They had no idea what he was going through. Wouldn't believe her if she tried to tell them. Well, who would?

She hadn't believed it herself at first.

You have got to be fucking joking.

Some joke.

Her hands fumbled with the bottle, trembled, slipped. A crash of glass and the sharp smell of whisky.

The last straw: she sank to the floor and howled, rocking to and fro, sobbing. Cut her hand on a piece of broken glass, but that was right, that was better, she shouldn't be whole when John was broken. He liked to say they'd never got on, but it wasn't true, it wasn't. Once upon a time they'd done everything together. Till she grew up and started being different and he couldn't handle it. How fucking ironic was that, now?

She'd tried so hard to make him see sense about the skin. Another irony: that she should be the sensible one. No wonder he wouldn't take that from her. He'd always sided with Clara anyway, so he assumed what she said about Sherlock needing to be free was just projection. Or that she wanted the two of them to break up because she and Clara had.

“You can't keep him locked up like – like an animal in the zoo!”

She'd thought he might hit her at that. He looked sick as she flinched away from him, then angry.

“You don't understand,” he said. “How could you? What the hell would you know about love?”

He'd said he was sorry, afterwards. But he couldn't unsay the words that stuck like a barb under her skin. A blow would have been kinder, healed more quickly.

She fetched a dustpan and brush to sweep up the broken glass, wrapped it carefully in newspaper, tied and labelled the bundle.

Aren't you the responsible one all of a sudden?

Fuck off, whoever you are.

What now? Vodka, gin, something more exotic? For the first time she could remember, she didn't know what she wanted. None of it seemed right. Maybe she should go to the off-licence, get another bottle of whisky.

She was half-way out of the door when the phone rang.

“Harry. It's John. Harry, are you there? H?”

She was crying again, but a different sort of crying.

“Yes,” she said. “Yes, I'm here.”


~*~*~*


The door of 221b was open, thank goodness. Harry struggled up the stairs, clutching the heavy slippery weight of the skin in its green velvet wrapping. She leant against the door of the flat and it swung open.

“Sherlock?”

A noise from the sitting-room but no reply.

“Sherlock, is that you? It's Harry.”

But the tall man standing in front of the fireplace wasn't Sherlock.

“Who are you?” Harry asked.

Her arms were aching under the weight of the bundle but she didn't want to drop it. It felt oddly warm and alive. Well, she supposed it was, in a way. Carrying a part of Sherlock, but not. Better not think about that or she'd get weirded out.

“I'm Sherlock's brother,” the man said. “You must be John's sister.”

“Sherlock never mentioned he had a brother.”

The man smiled. It wasn't a nice smile.

“Nevertheless,” he said.

“Is Sherlock here?” Harry asked. “I've – John asked me to bring him this.”

He's one too, of course he is. No need to be embarrassed, then, or to explain. She put the skin down in a heap on the sofa.

“So it was with you,” Sherlock's brother said. “Stupid of Sherlock not to have thought of that. He turned this place upside down, of course.”

“I'm sorry,” she said. Why the fuck was she apologising for John? Honestly.

“I doubt you could have done much to prevent it,” he said. The emphasis was lightly insulting; she didn't know if he meant it to be. “I'm afraid that Doctor Watson and my brother are both – creatures of impulse.”

Harry got the feeling no-one had ever accused him of that.

“Where is Sherlock, do you know?” she said. “John's in hospital and he's only just come round.”

“The explosion,” he said.

His face darkened, and she had a sudden image of something coiled, violent, beneath the sleek surface. She wouldn't give much for the bomber's chances if Sherlock's brother ever caught up with him.

“I thought John wasn't going to come round at all,” she burst out. “Because of what happened with Sherlock. Where is Sherlock?”

“Running away, as usual,” he said. “Why change the habit of a lifetime?”

The contempt stung, even though he wasn't aiming at her. It was true of her too, wasn't it? She'd run away from Clara because she was scared she couldn't make it work. She wouldn't stay and fight for Clara, fight for the relationship.

“John made a mistake,” she said. “But he loves Sherlock.”

An impatient movement of his hands.

“Yes, yes. It's mutual. That much was clear from the records.”

Records?”

“Sherlock broke the laws of our kind in revealing himself deliberately to your brother.”

She must have looked as baffled as she felt, because he sighed.

“We are enjoined to reveal ourselves when summoned, but not otherwise.”

“Oh right,” Harry said. This was getting crazier by the minute. “And how does that work, exactly?”

“By name, obviously, if the human knows one's name. Hence the taboo on telling it. Otherwise, by crying seven tears into the sea. Sherlock claimed your brother had used the second method. He was – shall we say – mistaken.”

He could say mistaken if he liked; Harry was still too busy thinking What the fuck?

“Sherlock has always been impatient,” the man said. “He didn't wait to count the tears. The summoning was incomplete, hence not legitimate.”

What difference did it make anyway? she wondered.

“A great difference,” he said, as if she'd spoken out loud. “One of the threads that bind him to his own world has been broken.”

“One of the threads,” Harry repeated, bewildered.

“One, yes,” he said irritably. “Two remain.”

“Oh,” she said. “Oh. Is that why you're here? To – warn him?”

“You might put it like that,” he said. “I have something for him. Perhaps you'd be so good as to give it to him when he returns.”

He took something from his pocket and handed it to her. It looked like a small mirror, but so dulled with age that she couldn't see her face in it. Heavier than it looked; she nearly dropped it.

“Don't you want to wait and see him?” she asked.

“He doesn't care to see me,” the man said. It sounded dismissive, but she recognized that underlying note of regret. “Better if you give it to him. He'll know what to do with it. And he knows where to find me if he wants to.”

Harry hadn't expected to feel sorry for the supercilious bastard. She tried not to show it; he wouldn't thank her for that.

He paused for a moment, cleared his throat and then said “Sherlock has a choice now, though he may not recognize it. It won't be easy. But then Sherlock never did want things to be easy.”

They're well matched in that too, Harry thought. John was stubborn as all get out. Thrawn, Hector would have said.

“You seem very sure he'll come back,” she said hesitantly.

He looked at her pityingly. “Oh, he'll come back. His heart is here now. Don't you feel that?”

She shook her head.

“I always forget how much your kind don't perceive,” he said wearily. “Good day to you.”

Harry slumped onto the sofa next to the sealskin in its bundle, holding the heavy mirror and listening to the sound of his footsteps going down the stairs.





Part Eight: Sherlock



He'd been walking without rest for a day and a night and now it was getting light again. He didn't know where he was going. Not that it made any difference. No place offered him refuge; nothing gave him relief from the memories flooding his mind.


The sick dread of that moment when he'd found his skin gone. John not even denying he'd taken it, shouting at him Don't you understand? I can't do this any more!

His own bitter words, flung at John: I should have known you'd betray me. Runs in the family.

All humans were the same in the end, anyway: the stories were true. Take the skin from your back, drain the life from you till there was nothing left of what you'd once been.

The last thing he'd said to John, before the world went mad: I never want to see you again. In his mind the words had a shape, jagged edges pressing into his flesh from the inside.

Even after that, John had saved his life. Put himself in harm's way for Sherlock's sake, standing between Sherlock and the destruction he'd brought on them both through his stupidity and recklessness.

Mycroft would say I told you so. About all of it. That didn't matter now. All that mattered was his skin, gone. And John –

He'd felt the blast like a blow to the head, knocking him flat. Afterwards there'd been sirens and flashing lights and Lestrade saying “Get in the fucking ambulance, Sherlock, for Christ's sake.”

“I can't.”

Lestrade had thought he wanted to track down the madman and Sherlock had let him think it. When the truth was he couldn't face the sight of John lying in the ambulance hurt and bloody maybe even dying. His fault.

He couldn't go near the hospital, either. As long as he stayed away, as long as he didn't know, John might still be alive. Might be going to recover. The words Sherlock had never spoken might still be said, to blot out the ones he couldn't unsay.

His people would say he should be ashamed of himself for still wanting John. Still wanting to be with someone who'd done that to him.

It didn't make any difference. The pain of being without John, the pain of being without his skin overwhelmed him. He couldn't live without either, couldn't choose between them, and now he'd lost both.

He didn't know what drew him back to Baker Street again – it was pointless, he knew, he'd searched every inch of 221b and found nothing. But this was the last place they'd been happy, and some trace of that still clung to the walls, along with the anger and pain.

The hour before dawn, the last time they'd made love. Heartbeats slowing afterwards, limbs still tangled together, the touch of the morning breeze on heated flesh making them shiver and sigh. The way they couldn't stop kissing, fell asleep still pressed against each other...


His stomach lurched. Why was the front door open?

He stumbled up the stairs two at a time, heart pounding.

Harry Watson, sitting on the sofa. And next to her, a bundle wrapped in a green velvet curtain.

Sherlock gave a cry and dropped to his knees, pulling the skin close to him. He could feel the pain blur and soften at the edges, but the core of it was still there, heavy and hard in his chest.

“John said to tell you he was sorry,” Harry said.

The words sounded as if they should mean something, but they were coming from too far away. His throat was dry; he couldn't speak. He hugged the skin tight, waiting for the familiar warmth to comfort him, make everything all right.

Nothing. It wasn't working. He wanted to weep, but weeping wouldn't do any good.

“Your brother was here,” she said. “He brought you something.”

The sight of the mirror made his scalp crawl. His stomach knotted in anticipation: John in the hospital, broken, dying. Or already dead –

He leaned back against the sofa, letting the skin fall across his knees so he could hold the mirror in both hands. The dull metal was so cold to the touch that it almost burned. He raised it reluctantly to his lips and breathed on the surface till it clouded. Lowering his hands, he rested the mirror against the skin, feeling the heat of the contact flare as the mist cleared and the image spun outwards.

For a moment he thought it was himself and John standing together on the sands; then he realized it was his grandfather and Hector. Staring at each other as if nothing else existed, or ever could. Kissing and embracing, lying down together. His face flushed with shame, seeing something so private; he was grateful when the mirror clouded again, hiding the lovers' entwined bodies from view.

He pressed the mirror against the skin, and the mist parted. He saw his grandfather overpowered by force of numbers, struggling as he was dragged away, pulled back towards the sea. Saw Hector sink down hopeless on the shore, crying out to call him back as the mist swept in once more.

When the mist cleared for the third time, he saw his grandparents with their first-born, Sherlock's mother. His grandfather looked older now, no longer sleek and shining; he stared out towards the land with eyes that seemed empty and lost.

The mirror grew cold and dull again; the vision was over.

He turned his head and saw that Harry was in tears. He hadn't realized she could see the images too.

“They never had a chance, did they?” she said, wiping her face with the back of her hand.

“No,” he said.

His head was too full; his eyes stung, as if the images were trying to force their way out again.

“He wanted to be with him. Wanted to stay,” he said, feeling half-dazed.

“You wanted that too, didn't you?” she said.

“Yes,” he said.

He set the mirror down carefully on the table, staring at it as if it could show him the future as well as the past. He knew it wouldn't, now.

“Your brother said–” Harry began, and stopped.

“What?”

“He said – you'd broken one of the threads but there were still two left. Something like that. I didn't know what he meant.”

He didn't know either.

“What happens if you break them all?”

“I don't know,” he said. “Death, I imagine.”

She reached down to grasp his hand; the touch was unexpectedly warm and comforting.

He stood up and hauled her to her feet, pulling her into an awkward embrace. She hugged him, so hard he could scarcely breathe.

“I want to see John,” he said, breaking away from the hug. “Now.”

Yes,” she said.

Her face was so full of hope and joy, so like John's, that it hurt to look at her.

“I've got my car,” she said. “I haven't had a drink in – Christ, it's been twenty-seven hours. I'd really like to take you there. I'm OK to drive, I promise.”

He wanted to go alone, but he hadn't the heart to refuse.

“Thank you,” he said, “yes, that would be – good.”

He saw the question in her eyes as he bent to pick up his skin, but she didn't ask it.

Bracing herself, squaring her shoulders; soldier's daughter.

“Come on then,” she said, though her voice was shaking. “Let's get you to the hospital.”






Part Nine: John



He was falling through water stained with blood, plumes of colour billowing around him like smoke. His lungs were screaming for air, squeezed tight, as he sank deeper and deeper till he thought he'd never see the sun again. Strange creatures swam around him, so strange they couldn't possibly be real.

A dark shape loomed up out of the depths and crashed against him, sending him cannoning into a wall that shouldn't be there. The impact jarred through his body and he gasped, water flooding his throat till he thought it would split. Everything went blue-white, dazzling, for a moment; then the lights went out.



His eyes hurt when he opened them, as if he'd been in the water too long. He saw a dark blur with a pale splash in it, gradually coming into focus.

Sherlock.

He must still be dreaming. A cruel dream; when he woke up he'd remember all over again that Sherlock was gone for good.

“John.”

Sherlock hadn't spoken in his dreams before.

He put out a hand and touched the purple shirt-sleeve. It felt real.

“Sherlock,” he said, still half-expecting to wake up.

Sherlock was staring at him; he couldn't read the expression in his eyes.

“How long have you been there?” John asked.

“An hour or so,” Sherlock said. “I'm not sure. Harry brought me.”

Harry did?”

“She said she'd, um, leave me to it. Gone to get coffee, I think. She's been – very kind,”

He couldn't take it in; it was all too much. Then he saw the bundle, and he knew.

“She gave it to you.”

“Yes,” Sherlock said.

“I'm so sorry,” he said helplessly.

Sherlock's hands tightened on the skin, but he didn't speak.

“I know it was wrong,” John said. “I know I had no right.”

“No,” Sherlock said. He looked down at the bundle in his arms, as if he still couldn't quite believe it was there.

“Oh God, Sherlock.” The shame of what he'd done bleached through him, taking his breath away.

“I thought you were dead,” Sherlock said abruptly.

So you know how that feels now. Too late to do any good.

“I should have come before,” Sherlock said. “I was afraid.”

“I'm glad you're here.” Glad wasn't the right word, but there didn't seem to be one for what he was feeling. “I know it's more–”

More than I deserve, he wanted to say, but he couldn't get the words out.

Not going to cry in front of Sherlock. Too much crying already. That's what started this whole thing off.

He couldn't be sorry for that. Even though the pain of saying goodbye was much worse than he'd imagined.

“My fault you got hurt,” Sherlock muttered. He still wouldn't look at John, and his knuckles were white.

They sat in silence for a while. He wanted to touch Sherlock, but he didn't dare.

“I was dreaming about your world,” he said, remembering. “So much water, I couldn't breathe.”

Was that how it had been for Sherlock? he wondered.

“I wanted to live in yours,” Sherlock said. “I thought I could.”

“I wrecked it, though, didn't I? Trying to keep you against your will. Like you said, runs in the family.”

Sherlock flinched. “I was – wrong about that,” he said.

“Hardly,” John said bitterly.

When there's nothing left to lose, you might as well face the truth. However much it hurts.

“What happened with Hector,” Sherlock said. “It wasn't what I thought.”

That didn't make sense; maybe he was hallucinating. He put his hand to his head; it felt hot, but no hotter than before.

Sherlock might have been wrong about the past. But that didn't change what had happened between them. What he'd done.

“Harry said I treated you like an animal at the zoo.” The words were burnt into him, ineradicable. His eyes swam.

Sherlock's hand touching his face felt cool and unexpectedly gentle. John clasped it and pressed his lips against the palm, a kiss for all the things he couldn't say. Sherlock made a sort of choking sound, and John let go, trying not to cry out at the loss of that touch. He cleared his throat.

“Thanks for coming,” he said. “I didn't think I'd get a chance to say goodbye.”

Sherlock was staring at him, as if he could see right through him. “Goodbye?”

“You've got your skin back,” John said. “You're free to go now.”

That was how it always worked, wasn't it? Regaining the skin, then returning to the sea. Leaving the human – lover, captor, thief – for good. No other possible endings; no exceptions to the rule.

“What if I don't want to go?” Sherlock said.

He hadn't thought anything could hurt worse than parting from Sherlock. His heart felt as if something was squeezing it, hard. The pain of it made him catch his breath.

“How could you possibly come back to me after – after what I did to you?”

“I don't know how,” Sherlock said.  “But I'm here now, aren't I?  I know it's not supposed to be that way. But it's what I want.”

The lights in the room flickered and buzzed; that shouldn't be happening, John thought, even if there was a storm coming. The air felt heavy and thick.

“My grandfather did what they wanted him to,” Sherlock said. “Gave in, went back to his own kind, continued his line. I don't think he was ever really alive again after that. He didn't have a chance, but I do.”

Whatever was squeezing John's heart gripped tighter. “What chance have we got? I can't live in your world and you can't live in mine. We both know it's not going to work.”

“I'd give anything to be with you,” Sherlock said. “Anything at all.”

His hands moved restlessly against the skin.

“Nobody's going to take it from you again,” John said. “I promise.”

Sherlock's eyes were wild and his face seemed paler than ever.

“I want you to have it,” he said suddenly.

“You – what?” He must be dreaming after all; this couldn't be happening.

“Please,” Sherlock said. “I want you to keep it for me.”

Taking your life in my hands, he thought dizzily. That wasn't how it was supposed to go.

“Christ, Sherlock, you can't be serious!”

“I can,” Sherlock said. “I mean it.” His voice was shaking but his hands were steady as he held out the skin.

“Why would you trust me with that?” John said, stunned.

Sherlock looked suddenly excited, impatient, as if he'd finally worked something out and couldn't wait for John to catch up. “Don't you see?” he said. “It has to be with my heart. And that's with you.”

He felt the weight of the skin in his arms, felt Sherlock's arms around him, Sherlock's kiss like a jolt going through his whole body. There was a sound like thunder and the world went lightning-white, then dark.

*~*~*



He wasn't sure if he'd lost consciousness, or if the hospital lights really had gone out for a moment. And that strange smell, sharp with iodine and salt...

Seaweed. Olfactory hallucinations, now. But not just his; Sherlock was sniffing incredulously as well.

“What is it, Sherlock? What's happening?”

Sherlock put out his hand and touched the bundle lying in John's arms. “It feels different,” he said tentatively. “It – I don't think it's alive any more.”

“What does that mean?” John asked.

“I don't know,” Sherlock said.

They stared at each other, and at the skin.

Sherlock said slowly, “Mycroft told Harry I'd broken one thread but two remained. Maybe I – we – broke the other two.”

Just when you thought it couldn't get any weirder.

“Threads? What threads – how?”

“I'm not sure,” Sherlock said. “I'm not dead, am I?”

“Not unless we both are,” John said.

He didn't know why that was funny, but Sherlock was laughing, and then he was laughing too, laughing and crying all at once as Sherlock hugged and kissed him.

“It doesn't matter, does it?” Sherlock said, breathless and exultant. “None of it. Living or dying.” He kissed John again. “I'm with you now and they can't part us.”

“No,” he said. He was shaking, he found, teeth chattering.

“Are you all right?” Sherlock said. “John. Are you all right?”

“Bit cold,” he said. “I think it's probably shock.”

“Should I get the nurse?” Sherlock asked anxiously.

“In a minute,” John said. “I'm not letting go of you yet. Not now I've got you back.”

“Can I lie down with you?” Sherlock said.

The words and the look together made his heart almost too full.

“Mind the drip,” he said. Once a doctor, always a doctor.

“Obviously,” Sherlock said impatiently.

He laughed at that, relieved. “Still you, then.”

“Still me,” Sherlock said, stretching out carefully next to him. “Are you still cold?”

“Bit, yeah.”

“Here,” Sherlock said, pulling the sealskin up to cover them both. He put his arms around John and kissed him again.

The warmth and weight of the skin felt comforting, like the warmth and weight of Sherlock's body against his in the narrow hospital bed. He let the tension drain away, let sleep claim him, lying close and safe at last, wrapped in the sealskin and his lover's arms.


***

Note: the title comes from Robert Wyatt's Sea Song. “The Goodman of Wastness” is a real folktale, but I haven't come across any legends that suggest it's possible for a selkie to become fully human.


Also posted at http://fengirl88.dreamwidth.org/50142.html with comments.

Comments

( 62 comments — Leave a comment )
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jan_rea
Jul. 23rd, 2011 01:02 pm (UTC)
*flails like a mad person* Oh, oh! This is just gorgeous, like breathtakingly so. It was like I could feel the intensity of their love and desperation for one another, and I almost cried at the angst.

The ending had me sniffling happily, and I just adore how you told the story in all the characters' different perspectives. <3

Love this so, so much! *showers you with confetti*
fengirl88
Jul. 23rd, 2011 01:08 pm (UTC)
thank you so much - that's a lovely comment!
*twirls in shower of confetti*
very glad you liked the different perspectives, and the ending.
anarion
Jul. 23rd, 2011 01:48 pm (UTC)
Oh, this is beautiful. Well done!
fengirl88
Jul. 23rd, 2011 08:05 pm (UTC)
thank you very much - I'm glad you liked it.
fawsley
Jul. 23rd, 2011 02:52 pm (UTC)
Absolutely fan-bloody-tastic! I've always adored the Selkie tales, and this is such a wonderful reworking of the old story. I don't think I have words enough to describe how beautiful it is, full of love and desire and desperation, and poor poor Hector made me sniff. Love Lestrade ran through his mental list of useless bloody manuals and training courses. Nothing there about how to handle a domestic involving a mythical creature especially - and how Lestrade somehow manages to take it all in his stride. All in all I have to say this one seriously gets my Seal of Approval! Thank you so much for posting such a glorious story.
fengirl88
Jul. 23rd, 2011 08:09 pm (UTC)
*glows*
thank you very much! I love the Selkie stories myself and had been thinking about them in relation to Sherlock because of Robert Wyatt's Sea Song (which kalypso_v reminded me about), so I was very excited when I saw the prompt. I feel a bit guilty about poor Hector...
very glad you like the bit with Lestrade, and thank you for the Seal of Approval!
(no subject) - kalypso_v - Jul. 23rd, 2011 08:10 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - fengirl88 - Jul. 23rd, 2011 08:16 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kalypso_v - Jul. 24th, 2011 10:58 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - fengirl88 - Jul. 25th, 2011 01:21 am (UTC) - Expand
delilahdraken
Jul. 23rd, 2011 03:06 pm (UTC)
This story was beautiful. Just beautiful.
fengirl88
Jul. 23rd, 2011 08:09 pm (UTC)
thank you very much! I'm very glad you liked it.
r34dinglight
Jul. 23rd, 2011 03:11 pm (UTC)
really beautiful working of classic fantasy and canon elements into an extremely compelling romantic tale. love your use of details, the imagery was so clear it was as if it was seamlessly playing out in front of me!
fengirl88
Jul. 23rd, 2011 08:12 pm (UTC)
*beams*
thank you so much! I'm really glad you thought the mixture of fantasy and canon elements worked - it was tricky to decide how to bring those together - and that you liked the details and the imagery.
imriebelow
Jul. 23rd, 2011 04:00 pm (UTC)
Slow OP is slow and de-anoning!
I've been remiss in commenting on the kinkmeme, so let me keysmash here for a moment:

sdfghjkajsdxcnjdvb cnv n ♥♥♥♥♥
This fic has been perfect from the first word to the last! Thank you so much for filling my prompt!
fengirl88
Jul. 23rd, 2011 08:20 pm (UTC)
Re: Slow OP is slow and de-anoning!
thank you so much - I'm really pleased you liked it! I've been fascinated by the Selkie legends for years, and I just loved writing the story. thank you again for prompting it!
lawless523
Jul. 23rd, 2011 04:15 pm (UTC)
This is truly compelling and captivating. It's interesting to see the characters through a supernatural prism, especially when the character who's canonically the most scientific in outlook is the one who's supernatural here. Sherlock's status as a selkie makes an interesting alternative explanation of his personality and family background.
fengirl88
Jul. 23rd, 2011 08:26 pm (UTC)
thank you very much! it was quite tricky to make the supernatural and canon elements (including Sherlock's personality and family background) come together here. I'm very glad you thought it worked and that you enjoyed the story.
zevbaldwin
Jul. 23rd, 2011 04:30 pm (UTC)
The most beautiful fairy tale, what I read. This poem in prose. Excellent! And so romantic!
fengirl88
Jul. 23rd, 2011 08:28 pm (UTC)
thank you very much - that's a lovely comment! I hadn't written anything quite like this before but I loved doing it. I'm very glad you enjoyed it.
(Deleted comment)
fengirl88
Jul. 23rd, 2011 08:30 pm (UTC)
thank you very much! I love the selkie stories and it was great to have the chance to write one - I'm very glad you enjoyed it.
(Deleted comment)
fengirl88
Jul. 23rd, 2011 08:31 pm (UTC)
thank you - very glad you liked it!
stupidmuse_hate
Jul. 23rd, 2011 07:20 pm (UTC)
Wow! When I saw this posted and realized it was a selkie tale I was prepared for lots of tears, heartbreak, and a sad ending. But you made it all work out! :)

This was amazing. You really made the POV switches work out and the story was so seamless--even when you skipped around in time. I loved it. Thanks for writing this <3

SM
fengirl88
Jul. 23rd, 2011 08:33 pm (UTC)
thank you very much! I really wanted to write a happy ending, but it was quite hard to work out how to do that. I'm very glad you liked the POV switches and that the story worked for you.
(no subject) - stupidmuse_hate - Jul. 24th, 2011 03:58 am (UTC) - Expand
ciaranbochna
Jul. 23rd, 2011 09:08 pm (UTC)
Anything with selkies, and you writing it--I knew it would be glorious. Everything about this is wondrous, thank you:)

Edited at 2011-07-23 09:10 pm (UTC)
fengirl88
Jul. 23rd, 2011 09:16 pm (UTC)
*glows*
thank you very much - that's a lovely comment! I love the selkie stories, so the prompt was a real joy to find. very glad you liked this.
emmajane14
Jul. 23rd, 2011 09:33 pm (UTC)
This was totally fantastic!!! I don't often come across Sherlock AUs that I really enjoy and fine believable. This was perfect though and I love how angsty it was. Amazing work!! :)
fengirl88
Jul. 23rd, 2011 10:10 pm (UTC)
*beams*
thank you very much - I'm glad you liked it. AUs are tricky and I really never expected to write one, but I couldn't resist the prompt!
ashnight_1214
Jul. 23rd, 2011 10:03 pm (UTC)
This is amazing! I had a near pass-out-like-a-fangirl moment when I read that you made Sherlock a selkie! Incredible!
fengirl88
Jul. 23rd, 2011 10:13 pm (UTC)
thank you - well, that was imriebelow's idea! I'd thought of Sherlock as being like a selkie before, because of the Robert Wyatt song, but would never have thought of making him a real one if it hadn't been for that wonderful prompt. I loved writing it and I'm very glad you enjoyed it.

edit to add: I love your muses' voicemail message icon!

Edited at 2011-07-23 10:14 pm (UTC)
kaalee
Jul. 24th, 2011 01:00 am (UTC)
This was really beautiful; I was really drawn in and mesmerized from the beginning. :)
fengirl88
Jul. 24th, 2011 01:05 am (UTC)
thank you very much - I'm so pleased you liked it!

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