Original Story Title: All Over the Street
Original Story Link: http://seems-madam.livejournal.com/10194.html
Original Story Pairings: Sherlock+John
Original Story Rating: PG
Original Story Warnings/Content Notes: none
Remix Author: holyfant
Remix Story Title: Chaff that the Wind Blows Away
Remix Story Pairings: John/Mary, John+Sherlock
Remix Story Rating: PG
Remix Story Warnings/Content Notes: none
Remix Story Beta: pasifile
Remix Story Britpicker: N/A
Summary: John and God.
Chaff That the Wind Blows Away
1) Cracking through the thin overnight crust on the snow, John felt the soft-frozen fluff beneath melt unwillingly into his trouser legs.
Is it because a child's vision of the world is always dusted with snow, dotted with flowers and dreamed full of wonder that this is what he most remembers? Winters were sterner, summers sunnier. He remembers, without having to try very hard, sitting behind a window and seeing fat flakes flick against the glass. He traced them with a finger, their soft melting descent into water, and hoped, and hoped, and hoped, and it is the strength of children's wishes that they are often grantable. The snow didn't melt. The next morning, tumbling towards it before it was even fully light, it was a glowing, untouched paradise.
“Johnny!” his mother called, following at a distance, a safety mechanism ready to spring if needed. “Keep your gloves on, love!” (But he wanted to touch.)
Harry, at nine years old four years his senior and still his compass star at that point, raced ahead on longer legs, ploughing snow. He waddled after her, burning with exertion and the fear of being abandoned. Snow is a soft cushion when you fall, and your mother an even softer salve.
“Harry,” mum scolded as she wiped John's red face clear of white snow, “wait for John!”
“He's too slow!” his traitorous sister called out cheerfully, and skipped away, kicking up showers of frost. Keeping up with her was his sole objective in those days, but his mother picking him up and putting him on her hip was solace enough.
“Good Lord, Johnny. You're soaked.” Concern in the way her fingers pushed his wet hair back into his cap. “You're going to get a cold this way.”
Later, in a shimmering haze of fever, the sounds of his mother and father arguing quietly but vehemently. And his mother's hand, cool, drawing a little cross of protection on his forehead.
2) The streets of the desert village they were camped out at had been bombed before their arrival: the houses were like crumbling teeth in an ancient, gaping mouth. Some of the villagers were still there, going about their daily chores with no indication that anything had changed, except for maybe the briskness of their conversations and the bent-head way of their walking. The desert had smelled and seized its opportunity: sand dunes were slowly moving in, sucking at the edges of the houses like patient monsters. John wondered what it was like to live in a country where your house was always in a constant process of being swallowed by the earth.
They were waiting for the arrival of a returned hostage they were escorting back to Karachi. The convoy was late, unexplainedly so, and everyone was a little nervous. He was patching up small wounds and giving out remedies for sand rashes and insect bites, restless with inactivity and hating himself for it, feeling guilty over essentially wanting danger to return to him and to everyone who was here with him.
His mates, in disheveled uniforms, playing cards. The land around them was too bright to look at, could only be observed indirectly, through the dilution of sunglasses or squinted eyes with hands shaded over them. He understood now the need for turbans that kept the sand and light out. In this country the elements were of a higher, more aggressive order than he was used to, having been born of a temperate, wet climate that diluted emotion, or at least kept it wedged deeper under the skin so it had to travel a longer way to get out.
He had never said it out loud, but he liked Afghanistan. The sun glinted off the sand when he stood to go join the card game, and he took a moment to let the spark hit his eyes, making everything dance in wobbling splashes of colour.
3) His mother, in the end: pillar of love turned to salt (and lime, and tequila). She was, had always been, of the opinion that being family meant sharing burdens, shouldering weight together, so she took on refined versions of her husband's demons, hoping to relieve him of some of them.
(Demons, sadly, have a way of multiplying.)
It must've been present when he was young, but only as he himself became vulnerable to his family's collective curse did he fully understand his father's grief, his mother's joined sadnesses. She was a woman who was sure that undoing your bonds before God was worse than following someone down a path of sin; making each other worse was still better than being apart. He wanted to take her shoulders and shake her, but never did, of course. Sometimes he had to squash a twinge of sympathy, as though a small part of him agreed that taking on your spouse's alcoholism as your own was an act of true devotion.
“John,” she sighed, “when you're married you'll understand.” (For a long time this is what made him suspicious of marriage. And when he finally gave up his misgivings – well. The future of course seeds itself in the now, but we can't know what plants we are watering.)
His parents died, drowned people at the bottom of a soundless lake, one quickly after the other. Harry, unanchored, suddenly cut loose from what she had devoted her life to rebelling against, was a prophetic mess. God is a hard rock when you fall.
No, John thought as he stepped out of the church doors, his mother's coffin on his shoulder. No, you can keep it, and he was sure he could feel her rolling in her grave.
4) Sherlock, the initial tense vibrato of his post-chase body settling into a deeper, thinking calmness, nudged his shoulder almost imperceptibly against John's in the taxi.
“John, when we get home you should sleep for a few hours,” he said, without turning to look at John.
“'m fine,” John said automatically, but looking through the window he realised suddenly that the taxi had crossed Piccadilly without it having registered. He must have nodded off. He blinked, and now Sherlock did turn towards him. John thought he saw his mouth twitch into an almost teasing half-smile, but when the orange street light travelled over him next, his expression was blank.
“Okay, you're right,” John said. “I'm knackered.” With the words the feeling of it came, the downward-pulling ache of his limbs. He yawned, his jaw cracking satisfyingly. “You should get some rest yourself,” he added, even though the few short weeks he'd been Sherlock's flatmate had already taught him that particular effort was futile.
“After I solve it,” was all Sherlock said, and he turned away again as he touched his fingertips to his chin, his peculiar profile sharp against the crown of city light. John, blank with exhaustion, watched him for a few long moments, then realised he was staring and looked away. But looking out of the window at his own side, he suddenly felt strongly compelled to watch some more – to see more of Sherlock at such an interesting moment. Sherlock was grand and mad and just the pedestrian action of him thinking managed to be fascinating. It'd been a while since John had met anyone he'd wanted to know this much.
He glanced back at Sherlock, and – unexpectedly – Sherlock was looking at him. John blinked, a little startled by the sudden eye contact. Sherlock held his eye, his eyebrow raising quizzically.
John opened his mouth to say – something? what? – when the taxi shuddered to a halt and Sherlock's eyes clicked away. They were at Baker Street.
5) Not much was needed to dream Sherlock into a falling angel. John hated his subconscious for reverting to symbolism he hadn't found meaningful in a long time, but it was the truth: in his nightmares Sherlock was the darkest sort of outcast, casting himself off the roof of his paradise. It was the arms, John decided drily, as he sat in 221b in the dead of night after dreaming, feet pushing up against Sherlock's empty chair. Sherlock's arms, the outstretched hand as he reached for John, the clumsy wind-mill motion of his limbs as he fell as though he had surprised himself by actually taking that final step. As though he were shocked his wings didn't unfold themselves at that moment. John rubbed his eyes but the cutout of Sherlock against the cloudy sky had imprinted itself on the inside of his eyelids. He felt sucked dry. At certain points in the night he always, predictably, got to hating Sherlock, then to hating himself. He poured himself drinks he then proceeded to pour down the sink, aware of the bottomlessness of the abyss yawning just in front of his feet.
The street shreds your skin when you fall. Dreaming, John could hear the sickening, organic crack of Sherlock's skull on the pavement, which – he was sure – he hadn't in reality.
6) Mary's belly was like an island around which the bath water lapped. Curiously, her belly button had popped recently, as though the baby had pushed a finger into it from the inside to create more space for itself.
John paused in the act of shaving to watch the mirror to see his heavily pregnant wife and his still invisible child, both swimming in nurturing, watery bubbles of their own.
Mary's pregnancy-full breasts glowed, her nipples breaking the surface of the water. She had both of her hands on the skin of her sides, at the point from where her belly bulged forwards. Her eyes were closed, her mouth curved into a secretive smile that told John she knew of things he didn't. She looked like that more and more often lately, as if she were already holding private conversations with the small person growing inside of her. He often saw how she could suddenly feel something happening inside her and her eyes would go soft and far-away. Sometimes she'd invite him to be part of it (“Quickly, John – put your hand here. Can you feel it?” He could, and he didn't know why it was so touching for Mary's body to be such a fragile thing under his hand when it never had been before). But often it was something that passed in a few moments, something that only the sudden otherworldliness of her smile would betray.
He was still angry with her, of course. He was still rearranging in his mind what had happened and what he should do. Still trying to weigh her actions against her love, which he didn't doubt was real. He was on his own with this; Sherlock's easy and quick forgiveness didn't factor into it. It had been bewildering at first, but now John suspected that Sherlock was playing a game of his own – or no, game wasn't the proper word anymore. Sherlock was carrying out his own plans, large-scale plans, dangerous plans that no longer felt playful. Sherlock was usually deadly serious these days, shocked into a grim sort of adulthood by Mary's pregnancy in much the same way that John had been.
John could be deadly serious too. He was deadly serious about wanting to know his child. That he wasn't sure about other things yet was, for now, secondary.
Mary, small goddess of the mundane Tuesday morning light, of the water vapour clouding the bathroom mirror, slid her hands up over her blushing belly to interlock her fingers on top of her child taking shape – she almost looked as if she were praying.
She smiled without opening her eyes.
7) He kissed Mary's cheek as a goodbye, and the strained smile they shared as he withdrew was proof that they were both trying.
“I'll pick her up at eight,” Mary said, re-shouldering her bag. She looked tired and harried, and John experienced a pang of intense love at the sight of her.
(He wondered sometimes, and then made himself stop, if that was ever going to go away.)
He watched her go, watched the absolutely normal figure she struck on the street, and tried not to think about what she might be up to professionally these days. She'd sworn to him she would never let their daughter see any of it, and he was still capable of believing her.
He shut the door and scaled the seventeen stairs, feeling the last tendrils of discomfort fade as he ascended. From behind the closed living room door of 221b, he could hear Olivia's enthusiastic toddler talk, as well as the unintelligible, deep hum of Sherlock's voice answering her. He waited for a moment with his hand on the door handle, listening to them. He stopped to wonder quietly, for one moment only, why this made him so happy – then discarded the thought, reminding himself that he had decided a while ago to take happiness in whatever form it came. He opened the door and stepped inside. The living room was washed in bright, unseasonal September sunlight, making everything in the room step outside of its boundaries just slightly.
“Daddy,” sun-spotted Olivia garbled happily, putting out her chubby arms towards him from where she was sat on Sherlock's lap on the sofa. Sherlock, for his turn, guiltily grimaced at John, and tried to hide the pictures of the murder scene he'd been showing her.
John sat down beside them, let his daughter grasp his hand, and sucked on the inside of his lip as not to laugh out loud.
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