Original Story Title: Tick Tock, Tick Tock
Original Story Link: http://lotherington.livejournal.com/27791.html
Original Story Pairings: John/Sherlock
Original Story Rating: R
Original Story Warnings: Contains dark!Sherlock
Remix Story Title: More than a Machine
Remix Author: misanthropyray
Remix Beta: thisprettywren
Remix Britpicker: N/A
Remix Story Pairings: John/Sherlock
Remix Story Rating: PG
Remix Story Warnings: Contains dark!Sherlock
Summary: The heart cannot be blamed for that which it does not affect...
"More than a Machine"
I can hear it sometimes.
Sherlock thinks it’s silent, that the sound is carried on the blood that pumps though his ears, but he’s wrong. In the moments between, when the baying beast of London takes a moment’s pause, I can hear it too.
A quiet tick tock, tick tock.
It wasn’t the sound that came first though.
Dusting the kitchen shelves, my hand knocks against glass, weighted and heavy amongst the empty vessels that crowded the rest of the shelf. The heart lies in the bottom of the jar, delicate folds of tissues half-floating almost weightless in the clear fluid capturing them. It’s not just some specimen that Sherlock’s pushed aside and left. Dusty, but not as dusty as it should be. He takes it from the shelf sometimes, I can tell. Wipes the glass clean with his sleeve, peers in to see the tiny organ he tells himself is meaningless. The act of his observation ensures its preservation, concealed by the detritus any kitchen collects. He thinks I won’t find it. A memory amongst the forgotten. I don’t see like him, but even I can deduce that.
The label is old. Ten years? Twenty? Sherlock would be able to tell, but he wouldn’t need to deduce this anyway. Can’t ask him. His name is printed in a Victorian style script. Just the name. The letters curl and sweep across the age-tinted paper with an ostentation not reflected in the tiny fist of muscle and nerve, veins and ventricles, that lies on its side in the jar.
I don’t tell him I’ve seen it.
I can hear it the first time that Sherlock climbs into my bed. Sand and gunfire dissolve into the darkness. There were bodies strewn around the camp and there’s still one there, arms curled tight around me. I move to buck them off, distance myself from the bloodshed that has followed me back to London, when I stop. Warmth. Grip. Alive. It’s alright now. Sherlock moves his body closer to mine, pressing his torso flush with my back and then there’s just breathing. Well, not quite. Breathing and the quiet tick, tock, tick, tock of his heart.
I don’t let him know I’m awake. He won’t stay if he knows. I lie, resisting the pull of sleep, revelling in the heat of his body and the contours of his torso as they press against mine, committing it all to memory. It could be the first and last. This moment would be wasted on unconsciousness.
The next morning, he’s staring at his experiment. Not doing an experiment, staring at one.
Sherlock says it was simply in his own best interest to help me sleep.
I listen to the lie.
The next time Sherlock climbs into my bed, he stays a little longer. I don’t know exactly how long as I fall back to sleep in his arms. The nightmares don’t touch me there.
At the pool, Moriarty threatens to burn the heart out of Sherlock. He has no idea that it sits on a shelf in our kitchen.
A shadow of amusement flickers across Sherlock’s face.
He has no idea that what’s being referred to is not the collection of cogs and springs in his chest, nor the organ in the jar at home.
I’m a doctor. I know the heart is not the creator of emotion; it’s an organ like any other. It’s people who have placed such stock in it; centuries of poems, songs, literary prose on the heart and its endless whimsy, but they’re wrong. Removing the heart is simply a placebo; the desperate actions of a person who no longer wishes to feel.
In medicine, placebos work. Give a group of Parkinson’s disease sufferers sugar pills and 97% of them will experience relief to their symptoms. Tell a person that they are incapable of feeling and they will stop.
But the brain can’t sustain the illusion forever. The shakes will return, the emotion begins to seep through the cracks.
The heart cannot be blamed for that which it does not affect.
So it can’t have been logic. Not that first time, when he crawled into bed with me. Nothing that followed. I’m sure he put it down to that, but it can’t have been. If someone is having a nightmare, you wake them. Maybe give them a cuppa. You might sit and talk to them for a bit while they crawl back to reality.
Logic doesn’t tell you to climb into bed with someone, wrap your arms around them, stay there long after the wracking shudders have dissolved into stillness. Logic doesn’t tell you to press your face into someone’s hair. Logic doesn’t tell you to weave your fingers through theirs when you think they’re sleeping.
It can’t have been logic, no matter what Sherlock wants to think.
The heart will outlast us both. The clockwork mechanism will go on running far longer than the flesh that currently houses it. It will sit in a museum, trapped under glass, gathering dust as its predecessor does now.
There’ll be nothing to muffle the sound of the cogs and springs; a loud tick tock, tick tock, tick tock.
I kiss him because if I don’t, he never will. Well, that’s probably not the only reason, but still. It was manageable when he held me. Manageable to lie awake with his arms around me, fingers eased into the spaces between mine. Manageable stop my hands gravitating to touch him in the daylight.
There didn’t need to be more than that.
I could have dealt with it.
I tell myself that I could have dealt with it.
It’s worse that night. There’s a boot on the back of my neck, hard ridges cutting into the skin. My face is pushed into the river; water and blood and dirt flood my mouth, pour into my nose. I can feel it filling my lungs, heavy, displacing the air until... It’s gone. My lungs heave with water that isn’t there. I’m still held down but it’s different. Sherlock.
There’s expectation (or is it uncertainty?) etched into his face, exaggerated in the shadows of half light. He has me pinned like the little brown moth from his experiment. The lack of magnifying glass makes his scrutiny no less intense. His hands are on me with purpose and it’s not enough anymore. Nowhere close to enough.
Does he know that I’ve been awake all those other nights? Can he read it in the creases of my skin or the angles of my hair or the beating pulse that he holds tight in his fingers?
I kiss him to break the silence. Well, that’s probably not the only reason, but still.
It’s never really silent anyway. Not anymore, not with the quiet tick tock, tick tock.
He watches me when he thinks I’m not looking.
Probably thinking of a way to tell me, let me know that he can’t reciprocate how I feel about him.
It‘s been weeks now. He finds me in my bed. Stays longer every time, though he’s always gone by morning. Afterwards there’s the distance. He tries to detach himself from whatever has connected his heart to mine. Because he can’t make those connections, can he?
I should tell him. Tell him that I know, that I’ve seen. Seen the heart and seen that it doesn’t matter. But I don’t either. Because seeing him like this, watching his struggle to tell me that he doesn’t care, proves my point entirely.
When he finally tells me, or everything comes to a head on his own, then I’ll let him know that those hours/days/weeks were all the proof I needed.
Maybe he’ll get there on his own. Maybe he’ll be wandering through his mind palace and stumble upon the room that he locked all those years ago. A room. A wing. The abandoned gardens that lie just beyond the door that stays bolted, over grown but still there, still alive.
Tick tock, tick tock.
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