Original Story Title: Big Fat River In Flood
Original Story Link: http://archiveofourown.org/works/217309
Original Story Pairings: Sherlock/Sally
Original Story Rating: PG-13
Original Story Warnings: None
Remix Story Title: Beginners
Remix Author: sciosophia
Remix Beta: wordquandary
Remix Britpicker: N/A
Remix Story Pairings: Sherlock/Sally
Remix Story Rating: PG
Remix Story Warnings: None
It begins in Paris.
All of Sally’s romantic life so far has been conducted on the rainy shores of England, and most particularly in the rainy and unromantic streets of Islington in dry but unromantic coffee shops and KFC, so an A-Level trip to France can’t really be anything but the beginning.
It’s his hair, Sally decides later when she’s half-asleep on the coach back to England, still grinning. She’s always had a thing for dark and curly hair; it catches her eye and makes her turn back to look, or watch shyly from the other side of the road. It’s what she sees first, a shadow under the arches of Notre Dame, and she stops paying attention to her art teacher and watches him instead, the way his hair catches the light from the stained glass windows.
“Sherlock Holmes,” he tells her later, when she asks what his name is. She lost the school party long ago, and now the sun’s starting to set against the skyline, glinting off pointed towers and glass domes and golden statues, and the lights on the Pont Neuf are coming on. Sherlock has been rolling a cigarette with absolute precision for the last five minutes, and when he lights it he offers it to Sally. She takes it because young love makes you do stupid things, and so she chokes on the smoke, eyes watering and face screwed up into something not particularly attractive.
“I’ve seen worse,” he says. He takes the cigarette back, a sequence of gentle touches that makes Sally’s heart beat quicker than she was aware it could, and they walk a little closer together than before.
Sally’s never been in trouble at school before, but it feels worth it as the teachers punish her on her return to the hotel, drunk and dizzy with the feeling in her chest. There are new pieces of information stored inside her head—a family made up of a mathematician and a ballet dancer, a brother he can barely stand, the early entry into Cambridge that he’s running away from and the encouragement from his mother that means he’s done this at all—that mean far more to her than lessons on French architecture and drawing Rodin statues in her sketchbook. She’s only vaguely aware of the way she looks, lips plump and hair a little tangled, but she’s completely, agonizingly sure of the way her skin feels, as though it’s something new for the touches that are echoing on her wrist, her arms, her face.
Rant over, she disappears upstairs and falls into bed, and in the dark she clutches the number written out on a cigarette paper. The digits are slanted, a little spindly, and she finds that she can’t stop smiling as she traces them.
It begins in Paris.
She’s a police constable the next time they meet.
It’s a bad day, rain slanting over the house and the police car parked in front of it, and Sally wraps her arms around herself to try and get away from the cold. She’s thinking about coffee and about how long it will be until she can have some when Lestrade’s shout echoes out across the street, and it’s a few seconds before what he’s said really sinks in.
“Sherlock!” he cries again, and Sally turns just in time to see someone sweep out of the house, to see dark and curly hair around a face that has gotten thinner and paler since the last time she saw it. Paris. Her heart stops for a moment as if to say what a surprise, then starts again with a balance-threatening rush of either anger or joy. She can’t tell.
He doesn’t look the same, and Sally knows that she doesn’t—she still had another half-inch to grow between seventeen and eighteen, and her hair is much shorter—but it’s a little agony when he looks at her, straight at her, as though she’s a stranger. She doesn’t look away (can’t) and for a long moment he doesn’t either, face blank as he marches past, and then he turns away and Sally is presented with the first silhouette of him she ever saw.
She still has the cigarette paper at home. It’s tucked inside the pages of her sketchbook, and when she gets it out from the back of the cupboard it smells of charcoal pencils and smoke. She’d waited a week to dial it when she got back, a combination of fear and being banned from the telephone in punishment for “wandering off,” and when she’d finally managed to do it the phone had rung and rung and rung, and every time her heart had broken a little bit more.
She almost dials it now, wonders if it belongs to the same house, the same phone, same family, but—she tucks the paper back inside the sketchbook, tucks the sketchbook in the very back of the cupboard.
She makes a cup of tea, uses the bright lights of the kitchen to draw herself up and out of the past. It’s dark outside now, window reflecting an almost-opaque version of herself. Her hair is neat and freshly washed, free of tangles, and her mouth is the same as ever. The last of her ex-boyfriend’s things are still lingering in the flat, but he’s already pissed off to Canada so Sally supposes that she’ll just have to keep them. She’s torn between shoving them away somewhere and taking them as free household appliances—especially the blender, though she doubts she’ll be using it to make health-freak smoothies—much better off with milkshakes—and she’s almost made up her mind to take it back out of the box when her phone vibrates against the kitchen table.
She almost drops it when she reads the text. Unknown number, and underneath it: We moved away unexpectedly. SH.
She dithers for a moment, hands shaking a little with long forgotten teenage hormones flooding back in sense memories, and finally she says, What happened?
The reply doesn’t take long. My mother died. SH.
“You weren’t hard to find this time.”
They’re walking along Embankment. It’s cold but the sun is shining, brightly enough for Sally to squint when it hits her eyes, and she wishes again that she’d brought sunglasses with her. Her eyes are watering a little with the effort and she blinks. Sherlock is rolling a cigarette with precision, and he stops without warning to light it. When he offers, she shakes her head.
“You can’t just nick my number out of my boss’s phone,” she replies, but she’s learning quickly that these days Sherlock will do whatever he wants, and he just shrugs and inhales, looking thinner than ever. Their pause plays out, soundtracked by Westminster traffic, and when the cigarette smoke drifts her way Sally is annoyed to find that the scent is exactly the same. It’s intensely annoying. “What happened to your mother?” she asks, finally. She looks at the ground when she asks, at the paving stones bathed in sun.
“It doesn’t matter.” A pause as he inhales again, and more smoke drifts across Sally. “It was a long time ago. We were pushed off to an aunt and my father would never pick up the phone. Bad timing,” he adds. Sally looks up, takes the blatant reference for what it is. “And nothing intentional.”
Sally smiles for the barest moment against her will, and Sherlock just looks ahead, but they don’t realise that they’ve slowed, that they’re walking a little closer than they were before. A pack of tourists flood around them and then away like water around an obstacle.
“Alright,” Sally says. “Alright.”
It begins in Paris and ends in Islington, and begins to begin again in Westminster at three on a Tuesday afternoon a decade later.
And then, after the bits of life that have gotten in the way in the meantime—death and drugs and work and ex-boyfriends who live in Canada—after all of that, it’s time for the beginning.
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