Sherlock fan fiction excerpt
An excerpt, redacted, from The Death and Resurrection of the English Language, part of The Paradox Series by wordstrings. Sherlock Holmes and John Watson are talking after a fight. They fought because Sherlock did something dangerous to cure his boredom.
“I went the wrong way about that,” John amends.
The detective swallows, shifts his grip on the park bench. It’s true, but he’s probably not meant to agree.
“You can agree with me, you know. I’m not that devious.”
Sherlock nods very subtly. John’s right. He isn’t.
“The thing is, I wasn’t asking you the right question, and I’d like to mend that. So. You’re ready?”
“For your one proper question?”
“Oh, get it over with,” Sherlock moans dramatically.
“What’s it like in your brain, when it gets so bad that you pull these stunts? What’s going on in there?”
Shaking his head, Sherlock feels a bitter smile lifting one corner of his mouth. “You don’t want to know that.”
John folds his hands together. He’s not wearing a coat, and he snugs a bit closer under Sherlock’s arm. His hair isn’t blond and it isn’t brown. John has type A- blood. John sleeps curled up like a cat before the sands blow through his mind. John is indispensable. John is too curious for his own good.
“Try me,” John suggests.
“Not to mince words, but what you’re proposing frightens me half to death.”
“You’re not frightened of anything.”
“No? You’re very unobservant for a doctor, and the best of them are none too observant as it is. It won’t work, I tell you. You don’t speak my language.”
“All right. If I can tell you what frightens you, will you try?”
“I’ll take that bet,” Sherlock says viciously. “I’ll even tell you what you’re about to say, save you the trouble, you think I’m frightened because once I’ve explained and you understand, you’ll be afraid of me and you’ll leave. Wrong.”
“Right. Only an idiot would think that. I think that if you try to explain it, for the first time in your life, and to me, and it doesn’t work, you’ll be devastated.”
Sherlock turns his head, tilts his face down to look at John. John’s eyes aren’t blue, and they aren’t green, and they aren’t hazel. His brow is furrowed just now, and he’s five foot seven, and Sherlock finds all of this terrifying at the moment. Because John is right.
“Go on,” John says quietly. “I’m very understanding. It’s a talent of mine. I’m sorry I raked you over coals backwards like that, and not more sensibly, but you’re an impossibility. I want to strangle you sometimes. You’re a walking paradox. Help me understand. You’re a genius, so I know you can do it.”
Sherlock’s mouth parts slightly.
“Don’t look like that, Sherlock, take your time about it. Okay? Just. Breathe a bit, then tell me.”
So Sherlock thinks over ways to say it. It doesn’t seem likely to go well, but he might as well enter the fray with a battle plan.
Microwaves infuriate me.
When all the colours go away, it’s just white, and then I can’t see your hair.
Everything in the world except you would do well by being burnt to a crisp.
I’m incredible, and if I’m not being incredible constantly, I’m merely a sociopath who likes to think about dying.
It’s like Chinese water torture.
It’s like reading a map in Serbian when all you know is English.
It’s a constant battle.
I get so tired sometimes, and I never show it, because it’s not the sort of tired you feel in that sense, the never knowing what’s right.
Then he understands a way he might say it. It has nothing to do with microwaves, and everything to do with John Watson.
“You won’t like what I’m about to do to you, but I need to…hurt you slightly if you’re going to understand it,” Sherlock sighs. “I never intended even to try this, I’d given it up, but you want me to, yes? You’re sure?”
John doesn’t even blink. “Absolutely sure. Do your worst.”
“You’re certifiably mad, you know that, don’t you?” Sherlock asks coolly. “You’re wired wrong.”
“I’ve seen worse.”
“Fine, then–and I’m here the whole time, right here, stop me if it’s too much.” Sherlock wants to close his eyes, but he doesn’t. He’ll keep them trained on John, make certain that John is all right, that he is listening. “Picture a firefight in Afghanistan. You’re in the middle of it, John, just bullets flying and tanks being hit with mortar shells and people screaming. Dark sounds, terrible sounds. A score of people are screaming–some are angry, and some are frightened, and some are dying. Some are wounded, some are killing. Some adults, some women, some children, all in pain, and you can’t understand a word, it’s all in Dari and Pashto. They’re right in your ears, all screaming for different reasons. There are explosions surrounding you to the point that you can’t tell where one ends and another begins, and the heat is excruciating, and your ears are ringing, would be shrieking if the screaming stopped. But the screaming doesn’t stop, and the firefight only crawls closer, and you can’t move. You’re trapped, in the middle of it. Can you picture it? Are you picturing it, really picturing it?”
“Yes,” John says softly, his eyes wide and his hand steady.
“So you go into your head, don’t you? Deep down, where it’s quiet? You’re there now, aren’t you, just from my describing it?”
John nods. Sherlock does shut his eyelids now, and for a simple enough reason. He can’t keep them open any longer.
“What if what was inside your head was worse than what was outside?”
His eyes are closed because he can’t see what John looks like, failing to understand this. He can’t. It will decimate him when John can’t comprehend what he’s saying, the minute John says Have you tried lithium? Sherlock will have a very strong desire to spread his arms and fall off the top of the Eye. So he doesn’t look. So far, John is rapt. For the moment.
“What if it was never quiet anywhere? And then, what if you weren’t you at all–what if you were clever, really clever, the cleverest person you can imagine, and you felt all of it straight through to the bone, and you couldn’t stop being clever or go quiet, what if you had to stay where the screaming was for all time?”
“I’d go insane,” John says.
“Well, that’s what it feels like.”
“All the time?”
“No. But sometimes. When I’m bored. Perhaps…bored might not be the proper term. Then, I mean.”
Another quiet falls. Sherlock can hardly bear to breathe any longer.
“For god’s sake, look at me, you mad wanker,” John requests.
Sherlock opens his eyes. John doesn’t look a bit confused, as it happens. He’s not smiling, as he does when he’s puzzled and ashamed of it. He’s not frowning either, as he does when he’s puzzled by something more serious and isn’t bothering to be ashamed. He looks just the way he does when he understands something perfectly. His thin brows up and his lips quite even and all of him so quiet and so calm.
“You’ve been a comprehensive prick, and as a result I’ve been rather beastly,” John remarks. “I don’t. Just. If you can’t tell me something, then can’t you at least tell me that you can’t tell me? And then I’ll fish it out somehow?”
Sherlock thinks it over. He’s so relieved that this seems to have worked, he can feel his skin tingling. As if it had been wrapped too tight a moment ago, and now it fits him.
“I think I can manage that.”
“And then,” John continues, “when you feel this way, might we first try…alternatives to your usual death wish?”
“Dunno. Firing range.”
“Doesn’t always suffice.”
“Annoying your brother.”