Original Story Title: you remind me of a firework, boy
Original Story Link: http://archiveofourown.org/works/147338
Original Story Pairings: Fem!Sherlock/Fem!John (Sherlock/Joanna)
Original Story Rating: Teen/PG-13
Original Story Warnings: None
Remix Story Title: Op. 13 Sonata in A minor, “Cantatio Ioannae”
Remix Author: nox_candida
Remix Beta: kholly
Remix Britpicker: ellieet
Remix Story Pairings: Fem!Sherlock/Fem!John (Sherlock/Joanna)
Remix Story Rating: Teen/PG-13
Remix Story Warnings: None
"Op. 13 Sonata in A minor, 'Cantatio Ioannae'"
Sherlock Holmes is not the type of girlfriend who has a positive opinion of U2 or—for that matter—any sort of music composed after 1940. She once stole DI Lestrade’s Misfits poster so that she had another skull to talk to since Mrs Hudson had confiscated her “friend”. She likes to play the violin at night because it sounds better and she wears her long, curly hair in a braid down her back to keep it out of the way of her experiments, which often involve explosions, noxious fumes, and toxic materials.
Joanna Watson listens to dull music and wears atrocious clothes. She doesn’t know her Bach from her Paganini and has an occasional tremor in her dominant hand. She licks her lips when she’s thinking, and her response to everything is to make tea. Sherlock knows exactly what sort of girlfriend she would be, but she doesn’t care because it doesn’t matter.
Sherlock Holmes is no type of girlfriend at all.
Once upon a time Sherlock was a consulting detective who kept herself—and her mind—engaged with puzzles and recreational chemistry, and lived in a tiny flat until her landlord threw her out and she needed a new place and a flatmate. Then she met a fascinating army doctor named Joanna who had a psychosomatic limp and killed a man for her the second time they met and then moved in the very next day.
After that, there were more crimes, and puzzles, and a mystery which ended in a pool where she and Joanna got blown up.
When she wakes up, she’s groggy and Joanna is there, looking haggard and ragged, mumbling about explosions in the kitchen and her omelet-making abilities.
“Stop talking about omelets.” Really, Sherlock could care less about bloody omelets.
She cares infinitely more about the bright light in Joanna’s eyes, the way they dart around the hospital room but always come back to her, the way her upper lip quivers when her tongue isn’t out licking at her lower lip.
And then it’s gone, covered up by the tightest, most awkward smile she’s ever seen on Joanna’s face. “Hey,” is all Joanna says.
Sherlock feels slow, like a normal person, like there’s muck in the precise gears in her mind causing them to turn fitfully and sluggishly. Her mind creaks ominously under the strain and she wishes for the bright clarity of cocaine, or even nicotine, but she’ll have to settle for the soft-focus of an opiate.
“I could do with a cup of tea and some more morphine,” Sherlock says, and ignores the slump of Joanna’s shoulders and the giddy, overly fond way Joanna tells her no, absolutely not.
The banter is familiar, the script memorised, and neither of them looks in the corner of the room and the small elephant that’s appeared there.
For such an exciting puzzle, the aftermath is rather dull. Sherlock officially has a broken ankle, three cracked ribs, and two sprained fingers in her left hand—along with the rather spectacular concussion. Joanna only has a broken arm, but considering it was her good shoulder and dominant hand, it’s a hardship.
Doesn’t stop her from making tea, of course, and Sherlock is glad for the space. She sits perched on the sofa, her fingers trailing over her violin. It’s her first friend, her best outlet, and that route is barred to her.
With no cases to occupy her mind and Joanna so present and there, she finds herself thinking of Paganini’s Caprices--the thirteenth, the Devil’s Laughter. She imagines playing it, hearing Moriarty’s laughter overlaying the beginning, lilting and menacing—even in B flat major the piece laughs at the violinist, at the audience.
It would be a relief to play, to exorcise that particular demon, but she can’t and Joanna is still there—some uproar about a kidney in the crisper, as if that even matters—and the middle passage runs along in her mind, drowning Joanna out, frantic and yearning and…
And she’s hopped up to pace in time with the music, but her feet don’t pace quite right thanks to her injuries, so she lies down again, closes her eyes, and tries to think of something else because her mind is running in circles ever tightening, ever faster, the need to move seizing her once again until she’s up on her feet, but it’s not quite right, still.
And, of course, there’s Joanna sitting in front of her laptop, staring intently at the keyboard as she employs her typical hunt and peck method of typing. It’s irritating because there’s no rhythm to her typing, the syncopation off, like a waltz played alla breve. So wrong wrong wrong.
Sherlock flops back onto the sofa. She misses both the hyper focus of cocaine and the fuzzy dreamworld of morphine, so she closes her eyes and retreats into her Mind Palace, sifts through the memories and important information that she’s stored there. Anything for a distraction.
She feels something approaching calm as she catalogues the memories from the pool, from the hospital--sifts and sorts them, assigning them locations and associated objects--when Joanna breaks the silence to ask, “When did you take up violin?”
Sherlock keeps her eyes closed, her breathing even, plays asleep.
Even when Joanna sighs and moves away into the kitchen, it feels like there’s something large looming over her prone figure on the sofa. The semi-calm of her Mind Palace is broken, the supposedly deleted memories of her childhood playing in vivid colour.
The first time that Sherlock sees a violin, she’s five years old and Mummy and Father have taken her and Mycroft to see the Vienna Philharmonic.
In Vienna, naturally.
She enjoys the music, certainly, but she’s enchanted by the concertmaster’s solo, the soaring notes, complex and dizzying, the most fascinating thing she’s heard in her young life. She watches him sway to and fro, his eyes closed and the muscles in his arms tense, sharp.
Something swells in her stomach, bubbling like the chemicals in Father’s lab, rising until it lodges in her throat, choking her.
She can hardly breathe, but that’s all right because she knows--in that moment--that one day that will be her. She will be the most magnificent concertmaster of the Vienna Philharmonic, the most brilliant violin soloist the world has ever seen.
She floats out of the concert hall, her face placid but her heart and mind racing.
When Mycroft--in a fit of twelve-year-old spite, tells her that girls can’t be concertmasters and especially not of the Vienna Philharmonic, because they’re not allowed--she sniffs at him and then waits until Mummy and Father are looking away before kicking him in the shin.
The small glow of satisfaction at retaliating almost makes up for the way her heart freezes in her chest.
The first song that she ever performs—for Mummy’s birthday—is Elgar’s 6 Very Easy Pieces, which her violin tutor has helped her with.
Sherlock, for her part, has taken to the violin quickly and has spent simply hours and hours practicing her fingering, making sure her bow attacks the strings in precisely the right way—a difference in milimetres, after all, is a difference she can hardly fathom—and she wants it to be just right. Just perfect for Mummy.
(It’s Mummy’s first birthday after Father died, after all. She’s sad, and Sherlock wants to fix it.)
After she’s done, after she’s concentrated so hard on every part of her body—the way she’s standing, her breathing, the feeling of the violin pressing hard into her neck, giving her a large red mark that she later discovers is called a violin hickey—Mummy cracks a small smile, her face unfrozen for a moment, and whispers, “That was lovely, dear.”
Mycroft smirks at her from behind his hand, noting every single error, every mistake without saying a word. She ignores him, but she dreams about them later, can hear the mistakes echo in her head.
She has to do better.
"What did you want to be when you grew up? When you were a kid?” Joanna asks her, when they’re watching some ridiculous show on telly. The only thing worthwhile about the entire exercise is being able to criticise how utterly unrealistic it is.
Sherlock wants desperately to ignore the question, but the feel of Joanna’s short fingers in her hair is soothing, after a fashion, and she answers flippantly instead. “A concert violinist, of course.”
“Why aren’t you?” Joanna asks her curiously, innocently.
“It doesn’t matter,” she deflects, closing her eyes as if that’ll end the conversation.
It doesn’t, though nothing Joanna volunteers is new information. Of course she wanted to be a doctor, of course she wanted to be a soldier, and even the scorn of her cousins didn’t get in her way.
She allows herself to wallow in the silence, in Joanna’s soft, soothing touch.
“You wanted to be the best and you weren’t.”
The one (and only) time that she ever performed in a recital, she is fourteen years old and nervous. She knows she’s good—of course she is, she’s had the best tutors and been playing for years longer than the other girls—but everyone is going to be there. All the girls who said words about her when they pretended she couldn’t hear, all the boys who laughed at her gangly limbs and nonexistent chest, even the professors who sent her worried looks and cornered her after class to ask about her feelings and is everything all right at home, dearie?.
Even Mummy and Mycroft—home from university, the smug git—are going to be there.
All of those eyes on her, and she has to be perfect.
She’s to go tenth—next to last—right after Amanda Williams.
Amanda Williams, who is plain and not very intelligent and wears her straight brown hair down her back. Amanda Williams, who wears glasses and still has a bit of baby fat around her cheeks.
Amanda Williams, who has dark brown eyes and is quiet, who has one friend named Miryam, and whom everyone agrees is nice.
There is nothing particularly special about her, which reassures Sherlock because she knows she’s more talented.
She’s reassured until Amanda strides onto stage—head held high—and plays Spanish Dance by Bohm. It isn’t bad--but there’s a weight to the air, the crowd completely enthralled, even though the choice itself is so simple and imperfect. But even she’s forced to admit that the Amanda Williams who takes the stage and plays is a vastly different creature than the one that sits in her Maths class. Her eyes are closed, her cheeks are flushed, and she looks like that concertmaster who played in front of a professional orchestra.
There are clearly hidden depths to Amanda Williams, which is fascinating.
The wild applause doesn’t faze Sherlock--even though the piece was far from perfect--and then it’s her turn. She moves to take her place in front of the audience. Her hands, her fingers, know exactly where to touch, how to move to play Paganini’s Sonata in E Minor near perfectly. Her heart thumps in her chest and it’s an adrenalin rush unlike any other.
When the final note soars over the crowd, Sherlock lowers her bow and is confused by the polite clapping, the tepid response to her brilliance. There’s a hollow sensation in her chest as she goes backstage and clutches her violin to her, a lifeboat in a sea of uncertainty and disappointment.
No one says a word to her, all their praise saved for Amanda Williams--even Mrs Davenport, the violin teacher. Only Mummy and Mycroft approach her. Mummy murmurs that she played beautifully and Mycroft nods imperiously at her, making something inside of her cringe.
But it’s nothing to what happens later, when she overhears Mrs Davenport speaking to Mrs Williams, cooing over Amanda, how she’s much better than Miss Holmes because Amanda Williams has passion and emotion in concert with technical achievement, whereas Miss Holmes has, “No feeling. Extraordinary technical competence, but no feeling.”
The words ring in her ears for days, and she tells herself it doesn’t matter because she knows she’s technically brilliant and that she’s a much better violinist than Amanda Williams.
But she stops telling people that she wants to be a concert violinist, after that.
“‘No feeling. Extraordinary technical competence, but no feeling,’” she mumbles, ridiculously grateful that she doesn’t have to face Joanna right at that moment.
She expects pity, maybe, or silence--Joanna does silence well--or perhaps tea.
She doesn’t expect disbelief.
"Whoever said that has never heard you play."
It’s suddenly warmer in the room, cozier. The sofa, Joanna’s lap, they’re softer, more comfortable places. Having her eyes closed isn’t completely avoidance--though it’s still that, too. It’s something else, something she has a name for but has never experienced.
"I didn't play like that for them."
Sherlock knows all about the biochemistry involved in love and emotion. She does her best to stay above it all, but it’s no mystery to her.
In fact, that’s the reason she finds the whole thing so dull. It’s not a mystery. It’s no mystery why Sabrina Wilkes was interested--the way her pupils dilated, the way her breath caught in her chest--and it wasn’t a mystery why she denied her interest, denied that she wanted anything to do with the Freak. It’s simply a neurochemical reaction in the brain--testosterone and estrogen translated as lust, dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin converted to attraction. And then psychological factors for the denial. Simple. Dull.
It’s also no mystery why Victoria kept coming back to visit her after Fifi attacked Sherlock’s ankle, why she seemed so fond of Sherlock even when Sherlock did nothing to encourage her. That’s simply different chemicals at work--oxytocin and vasopressen.
She’s had that worked out for years and it’s never interested her.
Sherlock knows she’s not immune to it, if the way her breath hitches when Joanna’s hand brushes her breast is anything to go by. Her body is just transport and even though her brain conspires against her, her mind is more than formidable enough to rise to the challenge.
No, the mystery is why Sherlock wants it. All of it. The incidental touches, the Looks, the feeling that she knows Joanna Watson better than anyone, that Joanna knows her in return.
She doesn’t understand those physical responses, those neurochemical reactions. The warm feeling she gets in her stomach when Joanna smiles at her, the way her throat closed when Joanna threw herself at Moriarty while strapped to explosives.
Doesn’t understand why she wants to play her best, most passionate music at night when Joanna’s up in her room, touching herself.
She pictures it, sometimes, while she plays. Joanna, naked, legs parted on her bed, fingers sliding smoothly, rubbing vigourously. Imagines the scar she’s never got a good look at, its shape against Joanna’s pale skin, imagines what it feels like, tastes like.
When that happens, she closes her eyes and tightens her grip on her violin, wills her pounding heart to slow, to be in tune with whatever she happens to be playing, rather than the pace Joanna sets in her imagination.
The wanting is a mystery, but it only leads to a larger one, something Sherlock is unable to articulate, much less begin to solve.
That is, what on earth she’s supposed to do about it.
The answer, in the end, is simple.
It’s nighttime and she’s already finished working through Paganini and started on something new, something she’s tentatively calling Cantatio Ioannae. Joanna has got out of the shower and is coming down the stairs; even while tuned into her music, Sherlock can still feel her presence across the room.
Joanna moves, comes up behind her, quiet and warm. Sherlock holds her breath, uncertain, and then stops playing when she feels gentle fingers in her hair, pulling it free from its bun atop her head.
Still not sure what to do, she stays still until Joanna carefully pulls her hair aside, leans up and breathes across the nape of her neck, teasing the short, sensitive hairs there.
She shivers, her breath stuttering in her throat, choking her. “Joanna...”
“Were you afraid?” Joanna asks her, kindly, quietly. Something unknots in her chest, shakes free. "Sherlock. You only had to say the word, and I—"
Sherlock turns and leans down, presses her dry lips to Joanna’s. Her shoulders relax, the tension leaves her body bit by bit, and she moans when Joanna’s warm hand rests lightly above her breast.
This thing, this mystery, is still a mystery, but a necessary one. Like the air she breathes (and shares), like the pounding of her heart (no longer in her chest).
Like something vital, necessary.
Sherlock is not the type of girlfriend who will remember anniversaries or make grand gestures of love--whether they be through roses or remembering to purchase milk at Tesco’s.
Sherlock is the type of girlfriend whose adventures in recreational chemistry have blown the kitchen up twice, and who brings body parts home from the morgue to stash in the refrigerator without a care for safety or health. She still plays her violin at night because the music sounds better and refuses to return Lestrade’s Misfits poster because it’s another skull to talk to and because it looks far better in her bedroom.
Sherlock is slowly becoming the type of girlfriend who will watch Merlin and James Bond without (much) complaint and grudgingly admit that U2 isn’t horrible. She’ll let Joanna make her tea on any occasion--even during a case--and she’ll wear her hair down because Joanna likes to run her fingers through it.
And when Joanna tells her, “Come on, it’s late. Let’s go to bed.” Well. She’s the type of girlfriend who will.
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