Let Evening Come

"All great and beautiful work has come of first gazing into the darkness."

Fic: To Stand and Serve
shades_shadow

Title: To Stand and Serve
Authorshades_shadow
Rating: PG-13
Fandom: BBC Sherlock
Characters: John Watson, Sherlock Holmes, Harry Watson
Summary: John knows he is a survivor.  Some days it's all he knows.
Warnings: Includes references to drug/alcohol overdose and possible suicide attempt.  Also past spousal abuse.
Word Count: 1,200
Author's Notes: Standard disclaimers apply.  Not Brit-picked.

AO3 mirror here.



John knows he is a survivor.  Some days, it’s all he knows.

 ~

After Sherlock's death, John is labeled a stupid fool, a gullible dupe, even a suicidal widow by sensationalist media.  He asserts, with bedrock certainty, that he is, and was, none of these.  He will never doubt the veracity of Sherlock's genius nor will he ever dishonor his best friend’s already-tarnished legacy with more senseless tragedy.

John is, however, in peril -- a soldier without a battlefield, a doctor without a patient, an exiled adventurer drifting at sea with no North Star to guide his way.

His friends and acquaintances all ask “How are you?” with varying tones of concern. “Surviving,” he replies, never faulting anyone for posing the wrong question. 

“Who are you?” is the right one, but John doesn’t know the answer.

He only knows who he used to be.

~

Children have a predilection for constructing forts from bed sheets, waging battles from behind swing sets and firing plastic pistols filled with make-believe ammunition. 

John's childhood introduction to violence is not imaginary. 

He remembers every detail: the shattering sound of his father's fist connecting with his mother's face; the number of steps leading to his parents’ bedroom; the heft and weight of the metal vase John carries with him. He can chart a map of the resultant ruby swirls dripping from his father’s bloodied temple, and he can taste the copper bitterness filling his own mouth after kissing his mother's wounds. 

Most importantly, John recalls with perfect clarity the weight of the mantle of responsibility falling over his shoulders as he promises “Never again.”

~

When John is in his last month of medical school, his sister overdoses on alcohol and painkillers.  Not Harry’s first dangerous indulgence, but certainly her closest call to date.  John follows hospital protocol and remains outside the treatment room, watching as harried personnel work to save his sister from herself. 

Once Harry is stabilized, John enters her hospital room to read her chart and check her treatment protocols. Standing at the foot of her bed, he spends a minute counting each of his sister’s abrasive, challenged breaths.

John then contacts a rehab center to arrange psychological care and inpatient status and begins the requisite paperwork to have his sister involuntarily sanctioned.

Harry may never forgive him, but she will live to hate him.  John may not be the perfect brother, but he is a very good doctor. 

~

John’s service in Afghanistan is simultaneously heaven and hell.  Both soldiering and doctoring skills are fundamentally necessary given the very nature of the conflict.  He shields comrades from physical harm and saves injured men from certain death.

Then John and his unit are captured.

For 11 days he is surrounded by gut-wrenching howls of pain erupting from men he is sworn to protect.  For 11 days John drowns in a cacophony of human suffering with no recourse for action.

Six of the 13 captured soldiers are rescued; seven are buried.

The bullet wedged in his own shoulder is meaningless compared to the futility and self-recrimination raging through John's soul.  A virulent infection spreads like wildfire throughout his body, and John is discharged from Camp Bastion to return to London.

John never knew Limbo was so centrally located.  

~

John is delivered from purgatory into the hands of the world’s most unlikely angel --Sherlock Holmes, whose razor-honed cheekbones house an equally sharp tongue, and whose lightning-quick intellect strikes begrudging admiration in some, but more frequently extreme dislike and rampant doubt in others.   

Within 24 hours John is reborn.  The doctor is asked to diagnose something outside his own damaged psyche.  The solider fires a flawless sniper shot in his new comrade’s defense, instead of turning the same deadly weapon on himself.

“With Sherlock Holmes you see the battlefield,” Mycroft tells him at their first meeting.

John allies himself with Sherlock irrevocably.

~

During the Baskerville case, Sherlock calls John “a conductor of light.”  The analogy is apt for their maturing partnership.  The detective’s incandescent genius can be blinding, luminous to the point of near decimation.  Accordingly John serves as a focusing lens and a filter, both directing his friend’s kaleidoscopic brilliance and tempering his abrasive personality. 

But in his own opinion, John stands as Sherlock’s front line of defense.

As a solider, he positions himself an immovable front between his best friend and the cruelty of humanity, shielding the detective from incoming harm. John the doctor serves as Sherlock's resident medic, treating physical wounds certainly, but also dispensing unconditional acceptance and moral guidance to a madman deficient in both. 

Two sides of the same coin, working in perfect symbiosis.

~

A dangerous jump from a fire escape (“John, is there ever a safe one?”) finds the doctor kneeling before Sherlock repairing a raw, jagged wound on the seated madman’s thigh.  John carefully weaves his surgical needle through opposing edges of skin, while Sherlock explains his deductive process in the case.

“I’ll kill anyone who tries to hurt you,” John realizes, the thought scrolling ticker-tape fast across his mind’s eye, “even at the cost of my own life.”

When Sherlock’s monologue abruptly ends, John glances up to find a piercing, assessing stare aimed his way.  John wonders, not for the first time, if his friend is telepathic.

~

From Moriarty’s first reappearance, John is filled with a sense of inevitability.  He knows he misses much of the data Sherlock’s sees, but John is well trained in analyzing threats and creating attack plans. He reluctantly realizes there is no threat more damning than the one the detective is facing.

John doesn't miss the considering looks Sherlock throws his way as the two men dress for the consulting criminal’s trial.  He is fully aware of the many dangers surrounding their home, even before Mycroft tells him.  He glimpses what can only be called regret on Sherlock’s face in the lab.   He identifies the complete lack of predictability inherent within Moriarty’s insanity. John understands the life and death choices challenging his friend.

What John doesn’t know is how to change the course that lies before them.

So John remains consistent -- he stands as protector, defending Sherlock to the best of his ability; he serves as caretaker, pledging his absolute trust and faith in the genius; and then, at the journey’s tragic end, he appears as a companion, seeking one more miracle from the best man, the most-human-human-being, he has ever known.

~

John is a soldier.  He has spent hours, even days, waiting for action in a combat zone.  He is a doctor, and has witnessed impossible improvement in seriously ill patients, has seen the terminally ill defeat the demands of death.  Above all, he is warrior, and he knows when to forfeit the battle, recognizes when to accept defeat. 

Now is not that time.

He will never doubt Sherlock's veracity or the bottomless depths of his genius.  He will never dishonor his best friend’s memory by abandoning his post, by relinquishing his faith in the detective.

Yes, he grieves. But he also believes.

So he waits.

He waits.

~

John knows he is a survivor.  Some days, it’s all he knows.



The Cabin: chapter fragment
shades_shadow

Title: The Cabin

Theme: July Writing Prompt #3

Prompt: the word “game"

Rating: PG

Universe: BBC

Characters: John, Sherlock

Word Count: 665

Summary: In this chapter fragment, Sherlock and John find a cabin filled with clues.

(note: This is a short fragment I intend to use in a much larger piece, and written for a prompt challenge using daily prompts. Not a complete anything.)


The Cabin

"Well, damn."

That was John's first thought when he and Sherlock stepped through the cabin door.

Every exposed surface within the cabin was covered with paper – from typewritten pages to newspapers, to photographs. John could even see excerpts of what he thought to be hospital records and government forms. Literally hundreds of pieces of paper were in the one room shack, taped to the walls, covering the floor, lining the ceiling. Even the few warped beams supporting the ceiling were enveloped by paper.

John didn't understand why this little cabin terrified him, why the hairs on the back of his neck had assumed full alert status.

There was nothing physical in the room – not a singe piece of furniture, no writing instruments, absolutely no signs whatsoever of human occupancy. If it weren't for the shreds of paper carpeting the entire structure, John would swear not a single soul had ever crossed the threshold.

Yet John felt his protective armor mentally slide into place.

“How do we even start?” John asked Sherlock.

“Thinking.” was his only reply. “But whatever we do, it needs to be soon.”

John understood: following a theme in this convoluted mess of an investigation, the environment was perhaps their worst enemy.

The heat trapped within these four wooden walls was intense, the humidity so thick you could scoop it up like ice cream. John thought he could see paper disintegrating.

“What IS this place, Sherlock?” John finally whispered, feeling an inexplicable need to maintain the surreal silence found within these walls.

“I won't know specifics until I make some kind of order from all this,” Sherlock responded. “I need you to photograph everything, every inch and centimeter that you can, before I start. Remove your shoes and try to stay out of contact with any of the paper while you do.”

“Easier bloody said than done, mate,” John responded, even as he bent to untie his shoes. “Is this some kind of horrifically complicated game? Some kind of overachiever's jigsaw puzzle?”

“This.” Sherlock said, gesturing to include the entire structure covered in words and images. “This isn't a game, John, it's someone's living nightmare.”

Sherlock noticed John's surprised glance.

“This isn't intended to be some kind of intricate puzzle, it's an attempt to find a way out. We are looking inside someone's head, John.” Sherlock answered. “This is someone attempting an exorcism.”

The detective pointed at his own head and said, “My mind palace is where I place everything so that I CAN remember, yes? So that I can reach inside my brain and find what I seek, without having an actual, physical source in front of me. I don't need to physically keep the newspapers, the books, the photographs, the articles, I just deposit it all in here, all the stuff I want to remember.”

“With you so far,” John replied to Sherlock's questioning gaze.

“Then there is also information, memories or such that we remember despite ourselves – traumas, evil, horrible acts, etc – things that we know but wish to hell we didn't remember. Things the human brain, even mine, can't delete.”

Sherlock raised his hand and reached toward one of the pieces of paper stuck to the wall to his right. He stopped his hand six inches from the paper found there.

“This John, all of this, is someone desperately trying to delete, to forget. When this person performed an exorcism of his own memory, this is what came out. We are looking at someone's nightmares made tangible. Things that this person can not forget, that are irrevocably ingrained, but that cause this person significant pain.”

“Jesus,” John muttered. “How do you know all this?”

Sherlock paused, straightened his shoulders, then said in a voice barely above a whisper, “Because I tried this very thing 18 months ago.”


Rivulet JWP#2
shades_shadow

Title: Rivulets
Universe: BBC
Characters: John, Sherlock
Theme: JWP#2 but for larger story itself Southern Gothic case fic
Prompt: Rain picture
Rating: G
Word Count: 247

(note: From this point forward, all my prompt responses are going to be in some way affiliated with a large case fic I'm working on where John and Sherlock are in the United States trying to solve a series of crimes.  I hope to use the responses for this challenge in some way in that larger story.  Some of these may be complete scenes or stories, but some may be leaping points for a chapter  or part of a scene.  The piece as a whole is from John's POV and he comes under direct threat.)

Rivulets

A bolt of lightning breached the sky to the East, and John realized the stupidity of holding a metal umbrella in what was rapidly morphing into a powerful thunderstorm, of a type he had never witnessed before their trip to the deep American south.

He dropped the umbrella and broke into a sprint.

As he approached the ditch, he saw a waterlogged Sherlock, on his knees, huddled over the small piece of land where the fabric pieces lay. He had unbuttoned his shirt and was holding the two sides away from his body as a raven might hold her wings, protecting her young in the nest.

“Is there nothing in this godforsaken place that won't erode?” Sherlock shouted at John.

Their only evidence was in danger of disappearing into the rivulets of the July downpour, and with it, John feared, Sherlock's patience.

The frustration that John knew his companion felt with this case was nearing a breaking point.  The two men were completely out of their element: strangers in an even stranger land. They were forced to rely on evidence and information from local law enforcement officials who even John would label “Idiot!”

Combine the animosity from their “co-workers” with the frankly ominous knowledge that a clan of serial killers watched their every move, and John felt that he was witnessing the very threads of Sherlock's sanity stretching under the pressure.

The detective's mood had become as volatile as the schizophrenic North Carolina weather.  

Sparkle
shades_shadow
Title: Sparkle (JWP #1: Watson's Woes community)
(next two sections will be up later tonight)
Author: shades_shadow
Rating: G, gen
Characters(s): Sherlock, John, OC
Summary: Lydia wants to plan her sixth birthday party, but the two grown-ups won't move.  Challenge entry for Outsider POV.
Word Count: 630

Sparkle


Lydia Michelson, who was finally five-and-three-quarters, had decided her sixth birthday party would be a sparkle party.

Sparkle was anything with glitter, of course, but more so anything with glitter that she could wear, and more-more so anything with glitter that she could wear on her face. She knew there were still lots of days before her actual birthday but she had convinced her parents to take her to the toy store so she could begin planning.

Holding her father's hand, Lydia dragged him (chatting on his mobile, again) through the store. Rounding the corner to the right area, Lydia was surprised to find two men directly in front of her number one favorite, the Cupcake Girl makeup set.

She looked up to her father who mouthed a “wait your turn” back to his impatient daughter. Lydia moved to stand in front of a different make-up kit on the same aisle; this one, she remembered, had a mirror in the top. If she stood just right she thought she could watch the two men in secret.

She knew it was rude to stare but she didn't think this counted. Plus, she had never seen two grown-up men by themselves – ever – in the sparkle area.

The man she saw first in her mirror was kneeling in front of the Cupcake Girl set with a small square thing held up to his face.

The other man stood behind him, facing out into the store, with his arms crossed across his chest. He was short but solid-looking, and he kept glancing around as if expecting danger. The standing man suddenly reminded her of Brutus, her family's bulldog, who was so serious about his guard dog responsibilities.

Then as she turned the mirror a little, the standing man caught her eye and grinned at her in the reflection. Lydia was surprised how his face changed so completely within those few seconds.

Feeling she had been discovered, Lydia pretended to study the different eye shadows in the kit before her. She could hear the two men talking and could see them out of the corner of her eye if she turned sideways.

“This kit alone has 34 shades,” the kneeling man said. “I need to test all the colors until I find the right one.”

“Fine, get whatever you need,” the standing man replied. “But you are not testing any more of that stuff on me.”

“But John...”

“Nope. Not happening.”

“But I need to see how the colors look on actual lips!” the kneeling man said. “You can't expect me to solve this without all the data.”

At that Lydia dared a glance to the man named John.

“Get the data from your own face then,” John said, pinching the bridge of his nose, but Lydia saw him smiling behind his hand. “None of these are my shade.”

The kneeling man barked out a laugh, adding, “Oh fine,if you insist on being difficult.” But as he turned to rise, Lydia saw a smirk cross his face.

She watched the two men head for the trolleys.

The man who had been kneeling was tall and thin and dressed in dark shades from his head to his toes. Lydia watched as he practically flew through the store on his long legs with his dark coat flowing behind. He reminded her of Bolt, her family's greyhound dog, who could move so fast all you saw was a grey blur after he disappeared.

She wondered if these two men were best friends like Brutus and Bolt. She hoped so.

Wait, she could have a pet party.

Lydia pulled her father toward the animal section and left the sparkle behind.

Sherlock's Character wallpaper
shades_shadow

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