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fic: Winter Afternoon

Title: Winter Afternoon
Author: fengirl88
Fandom: BBC Sherlock
Pairing: Sherlock/John pre-slash
Rating: PG-13
Warnings: none
Wordcount: 1759
Disclaimer: These characters are not mine.
Summary: He didn't know then how indelible that impression would be; that he wouldn't be able to delete John Watson from his hard drive even if he wanted to.
A/N: Sequel to Signs For The Distant And Disconsolate Heart, and written as a fill for the square "Unforgettable" on my love_bingo card.

this one is a late birthday present for blooms84; I promised you a happy ending! thanks to kalypso_v and kate_lear for beta wisdom and encouragement.

Sherlock is lying curled up on the sofa, listening to the same aria for the sixth time this afternoon. The winter sun is low in the sky; it'll be dark before John gets back. If he is coming back today.

The volume's lower than he likes it, but after the third time Mrs Hudson had come up to ask if he was all right and he can't stand her fussing over him.

He checks his phone again. Nothing.

Nothing from Lestrade since they closed the case on the greenhouse murder last week. And nothing from John.

He's not even sure why he thought there might be, after the row. John had made it abundantly clear when he left that he couldn't bear to be in the same space as Sherlock a minute longer. No doubt bloody Clara must be telling him he ought to stay away, ought to move out. John might be thinking that anyway, now he knows how Sherlock feels about him.

He can hear John now, that night at Angelo's, saying Do you have a boyfriend? Which is fine, by the way, and himself saying I know it's fine.

Fine, unless the one you want doesn't want you back. Unless you fall in love with someone who thinks of you as a friend, and isn't interested in anything else. Unless you make the mistake of showing your feelings and he laughs at you.

Here, nothing is pure, Ariadne sings. Everything is confused.

He's so full of rage and self-loathing he doesn't know where to turn. He'd like to break something, smash something up, maybe himself...

But if John is coming back Sherlock doesn't want to make him angry. And he would be angry if Sherlock harmed himself. So he tamps down the rage and it glows in his chest, a hot tight knot of misery and pain.

He doesn't know why it happened, doesn't want to know. Self-analysis is boring and pointless anyway. There was the moment of seeing this man he didn't yet know, seeing him and reading everything about him, from the tan lines on his wrists, the way he held himself, the limp, the look in his eyes. As if time stood still and there was nothing but this flood of data pushing into his mind. He didn't know then how indelible that impression would be; that he wouldn't be able to delete John Watson from his hard drive even if he wanted to.

There was the pleasure of showing off, of flirting. The pleasure of this man's admiration for his brilliance, like the hit of a drug coursing through his veins, bright and pure. He wanted more of it, much more. Never cared about anyone's good opinion before, not since childhood anyway. Never looked to anyone to see what they thought of him; they'd usually leave him in no doubt anyway. Freak. Weirdo. Piss off!

But this man... This man gives him back to himself, beautiful and whole, precious and amazing, in a way no-one ever has before. And he craves that, his whole body and mind aches for it, stronger than any drug craving he can remember.

The moment of realizing what John had done for him, realizing John was the shooter – like suddenly recognizing someone you'd thought was a stranger and knowing you'd found the person you were looking for, not even knowing you were looking. Talking to Lestrade about the killer's strong moral principle and nerves of steel, the words dying on his lips at the sight of quiet, unassuming John Watson licking his lips and blinking in the flashing blue light.

Still he hadn't known what this was – only that the exhilaration of the discovery was intoxicating. Giddy with pleasure, he'd carried off his own private assassin for dim sum in Baker Street, ravenous as if he hadn't eaten for days. (He hadn't.)

He hasn't eaten since John went away. Hasn't wanted to. He tried, in a fit of duty last night, but his throat closed up and he couldn't swallow. Never knew before what people meant about food turning to ashes in your mouth.

Ariadne sings about the wondrous silent god, Hermes, who drives all souls before him, like frightened birds or leaves in a wind: darkness will come over my eyes, and your hand will be on my heart.

Stupid and self-indulgent, John would say, no doubt, to be lying here listening to a woman sing about her longing to be freed from the burden of this life, calling on death: give me over to myself.

John was the one who gave him back to himself. But John's not here. Sherlock's lost him now, and nothing makes sense any more. He feels scattered, in pieces, unable to gather himself up again. What's the point, anyway?

That moment in the hall, coming back from a case, laughing at something he can't even remember now, looking down at John and John looking up at him. Feeling desire slam through him so hard he nearly staggered with it. Wanting to grab John and kiss him till he couldn't breathe, to shove him against the wall, push his thigh between John's legs and rut against him, wanting to pull his clothes off, wanting to be naked in bed with him right there and then. Feeling all that written all over his face. And John standing there still laughing. The shame of it bleached through him even as he turned away to hide his face from John's mockery.

Maybe he wasn't mocking you, says a voice in his head. Maybe he didn't know.

Sherlock grimaces in self-disgust. It's pathetic, the way that people try to fool themselves about these things.

He'd said... something to John. He doesn't remember what it was now, only that he felt he was dying inside and lashed out, trying to push this man away from him, to regain control of his emotions. Not realizing that it was too late for that. That John was already so deeply embedded in his mind that Sherlock couldn't tear him out of it.

And then John had left, saying something about Aldeburgh and Clara and a concert in September, which didn't make sense. Sherlock couldn't take it in properly, too much noise in his head from the pain of John going away, John lost to him.

He imagines John and Clara walking on the beach at Aldeburgh in the February wind, the shifting crunch of shingle under their feet. Clara saying I told you so and You're better off out of that one, and John –

No, he can't imagine what John's saying. He's afraid to. It hurts too much.

The aria's ending. He reaches for the remote to stop Zerbinetta and her troupe from interrupting, ruining the mood with their ridiculous antics. He doesn't want to hear Zerbinetta's mocking laughter, hear her telling Ariadne to pull herself together and stop being an idiot.

It's quiet in the room now; too quiet. A lull in the traffic, not quite time for rush-hour yet. If John were here, it would be pleasant to light the fire.

He hasn't slept since John went away, either, and the sense of exhaustion is so strong he can't fight it any more. He closes his eyes and feels the heaviness pulling him down into sleep.

It's dark outside when he opens his eyes, but the table lamp's on, which he's sure it wasn't before. There's a mug of tea, still steaming, on the coffee-table, and next to it an envelope with his name on it.

He looks from the mug to the envelope and back again, trying to read the signs. The mug of tea says that John's back (John's home), that life can go on again. But the sight of the envelope starts a cold knot of fear inside him, turning and twisting.

John comes back in from the kitchen. He looks tense, as if there's something he's nerving himself to say, or to do. Please don't, Sherlock wants to say. Please stay. I won't ask for anything. I just want more time with you.

But he can't say that. Can't speak at all. He looks at John, waiting for the sentence to fall.

“You're awake, then,” John says, sounding almost like himself but not quite.

Sherlock nods.

“Tea there,” John says.

Taking refuge in the obvious. Whatever this is, it must be really bad.

Sherlock picks up the mug and drinks. Wanting to please John, to do the right thing. If there is a right thing left to do. He's not sure there is.

“Wrote you a letter,” John says, not looking at him.

“Do I have to read it?” Sherlock says agitatedly.

John flinches as if he's been struck. Wrong again.

“I'd like you to,” he says, still not looking at Sherlock.

Sherlock opens his mouth to say Please don't make me do this, I can't, but the words won't come. He picks up the envelope and opens the letter. Notices automatically the quality of the bed and breakfast's notepaper (mid-range, ill-advised design), the cheap gel pen ink, the myriad small signs of John's personality in the writing. The words on the page.

Dearest Sherlock

That can't be right. He looks again, thinking he must have misread it, but it's still there. He can't take in what the letter's saying, but words and phrases leap out off the page at him, sorry and I didn't know and love.

The words are swimming before his eyes; he can't see properly any more. He looks from the letter to John, and John finally looks back again. John's face is blurred too, but it looks kind and familiar, tentative and strange. And whatever he sees in Sherlock's face makes him kneel on the sofa and put his arms around Sherlock.

Sherlock clings to John as if he'll never let go. He finds he can't stop shaking, which is ridiculous, but John doesn't seem to mind.

“Did you read it?” John asks, his voice unsteady.

Sherlock shakes his head. It's not enough; there need to be words.

“Couldn't,” he manages. “Sorry.”

John kisses him, very gently, and says “I'll read it to you later.” He kisses Sherlock again, not so gently this time, and hugs him tighter.

“Thought you weren't coming back,” Sherlock says, when they finally come up for air.

“That's because you're an idiot,” John says affectionately. “Don't worry, most people are.”

“Shut up and come to bed,” Sherlock says, still not quite sure if he can get away with this.

But apparently he can.


What Sherlock's listening to: the aria "Es gibt ein Reich" from Richard Strauss's Ariadne auf Naxos; version with subtitles here.

Also posted at http://fengirl88.dreamwidth.org/75142.html with comment count unavailable comments.


( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Mar. 24th, 2012 02:48 am (UTC)
thank you very much - yes, it had to be Ariadne! the idea of Sherlock listening to that was the first thing that came to mind when I thought seriously about writing a sequel, more than a year ago now. I always knew John would come back and that it would be all right, even when I wasn't sure if I could write this story.
Mar. 23rd, 2012 09:55 pm (UTC)

Oh, I liked this very much!

Thank you!
Mar. 24th, 2012 02:49 am (UTC)
thank you - I'm very glad you did!
Mar. 23rd, 2012 10:35 pm (UTC)
This is lovely. I do like the image of Mrs Hudson, listening to the same aria for the third time and then sighing and coming up to see what's wrong. And then Sherlock finally giving in and falling asleep to wake up to find a mug of tea. And of course the final happy ending.
Mar. 24th, 2012 02:50 am (UTC)
thank you! I'm very glad you liked the story and those things in particular. I always knew there was a happy ending, though for a long time I wasn't sure if I could actually write it!
Mar. 25th, 2012 10:18 pm (UTC)
I should have also said how much I enjoyed the original story and the image of John at Aldeburgh in February is very powerful. (Never having been to Aldeburgh I just imagine a deserted beach in February).
Mar. 26th, 2012 03:46 am (UTC)
thank you - you should definitely go to Aldeburgh and see the Scallop! it's shingle beach, which makes a big difference to how it feels when you walk on it - very shifting and unstable, so it felt right for what was happening to John.
Mar. 23rd, 2012 11:39 pm (UTC)
This is so perfect. Spare like the winter's branches, black against a gray sky. Sherlock is a creature of winter, the dark and pale.

He keeps his pain so small, a little ball of helpless hurt, that he curls around on the sofa. When he tries to make it bigger and louder, Mrs. Hudson comes so he must dial it down. So much of the teenage angst and the Romantics, the adolescent period of English lit. "I fall upon the thorns of life, I bleed."

When he is shaking and John holds him, I can't even tell you how much I needed that. So beautiful and real and raw. Hurts in a good way, glad I took the trip.

I have missed this feeling I get from your words. Thank you!
Mar. 24th, 2012 02:53 am (UTC)
thank you very much - I'm so pleased you liked it! yes, Sherlock does seem to be a creature of winter (and I don't think it's just because of The Coat!). that's very interesting about the Romantics - I hadn't thought of them in connection with him but it makes sense, with this version of him at least!

Mar. 24th, 2012 04:15 am (UTC)
This was lovely.
Mar. 25th, 2012 05:06 pm (UTC)
thank you very much - I'm glad you liked it!
Mar. 24th, 2012 04:49 am (UTC)
Mar. 25th, 2012 05:06 pm (UTC)
thank you!
Mar. 24th, 2012 01:58 pm (UTC)
So lovely. *sigh*
Mar. 25th, 2012 05:07 pm (UTC)
thank you very much!
Mar. 26th, 2012 02:02 am (UTC)
Oh, this is such a wonderful sequel to Signs For The Distant And Disconsolate Heart, which I just re-read in order to appreciate this properly. It's incredibly beautiful and moving. My eyes filled with tears around the same time that Sherlock's did -- and I'm sure it's not just because of hormones. ;-) In any case, it's great to get Sherlock's perspective on what happened in the hallway, that he's angry and miserable because he believes John laughed at him and he feels like a fool. And although they don't reunite until the final scene, the depth of Sherlock's love for John comes across perfectly in your amazing description:

There was the pleasure of showing off, of flirting. The pleasure of this man's admiration for his brilliance, like the hit of a drug coursing through his veins, bright and pure. He wanted more of it, much more. Never cared about anyone's good opinion before, not since childhood anyway. Never looked to anyone to see what they thought of him; they'd usually leave him in no doubt anyway. Freak. Weirdo. Piss off!

But this man... This man gives him back to himself, beautiful and whole, precious and amazing, in a way no-one ever has before. And he craves that, his whole body and mind aches for it, stronger than any drug craving he can remember.
Mar. 26th, 2012 03:52 am (UTC)
thank you very much for such a lovely comment! I'm particularly glad you liked the description of Sherlock's feelings for John - and very glad also that the story moved you. I wasn't sure if I would manage to write a sequel to Signs... but I knew pretty much right away what Sherlock was listening to, and what was going to happen with the letter if I ever did write it!
Apr. 10th, 2012 10:17 am (UTC)
I really like the contrast between this and Signs, given that they're essentially the same situation - Sherlock's fierce curling in on himself as opposed to John's restless consciousness of the landscape. And that at the core of the misunderstanding is the believable fact of Sherlock's inability to explain himself and his presumption that John will simply deduce what he feels. Which turns out to be right, after all. I think this is a wonderful companion piece to Signs, as well as a perfect happy ending.
Apr. 10th, 2012 01:27 pm (UTC)
thank you very much indeed - this comment makes me really happy! I'm so glad you think this works as a companion piece to Signs - that's what I wanted to achieve, and I think it's also why I took so long to get round to writing this. I knew over a year ago what Sherlock would be doing, as well as what would happen with the letter, if I ever did manage to write a sequel, but I just couldn't find the right frame of mind to do it until a few weeks ago.
( 19 comments — Leave a comment )


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