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What Am I Doing?
Winter in London - Part VIII 
3rd-May-2010 10:23 pm
Oh God What the Fuck

Part I

Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V
Part VI
Part VII

At length Watson asked, “How did you find out?”

I told him, though doubtless not very lucidly, about Lestrade’s report, and the clock, and then stopped, realising I had no idea how to tell him about what had followed. I could not possibly repeat to him what Gilfoyle had said.

“You went to Wandsworth. You saw Gilfoyle.” I could hear him forcing himself not to avoid the name. “And he told you the rest. Yes. He would probably find that an interesting thing to do.”

“I shall kill him,” I said, involuntarily, bowing my head over our joined hands and staring down at them.

Watson looked at me with a brief, lopsided smile. “I have had similar ideas myself,” he said. “However they don’t seem particularly practical.” He took a breath and, to my regret, drew his hand away. He sat up, and began visibly reassembling himself. He asked carefully, his voice tense but even, “Does anyone else know?”

I shook my head, and whispered, “Do you wish to tell me any more than I know already?”

He got to his feet. “I must try and forget about it,” he said flatly, his back to me. “So must you.” He drained the rest of the brandy quickly, refilled his glass and found a second one for me.

I took the drink, discovering I wanted it badly, and did not answer this at once. After making such a bad beginning I did not want to contradict him, provided he did not return to such insane topics as leaving. And there have been episodes in my own life I have striven, if not precisely to forget, then to push to the very periphery of my vision.

It was at this point, while the alcohol began to smooth its way into my bloodstream and I considered the practicality of forgetting, that I first thought of the contents of my morocco case. And once I had thought of it it tugged at me with a stronger than usual promise of comfort, and not only for myself. I turned my eyes sharply from the mantelpiece where it rested, recoiling from myself.

“Watson,” I said, slowly, “Of course I will not try to compel any further confidence from you. I will be directed entirely by your wishes. I only ask that you do not try to force anything upon yourself either. If it would ever be a relief to speak to me of anything – if silence is ever a burden, then please, do not try to subject yourself to it.”

He was still on his feet, standing turned half away from me, but watching me sidelong.

“I know you never meant me to learn this,” I said. “And I regret very much that I was so... clumsy in revealing that I had. But I cannot be sorry that I do know. I wish to God I had known it before. “

He faced me again, with an impatient flex of the shoulders as if struggling against an invisible, tight-drawn net, and asked, “Why? What good is it for you to be dragged into this too?”

I said, “I wish you had not been alone with it all this time.”

Watson’s lips parted on an intaken breath; his eyes went wide, and then blinked hard against tears that had not appeared in all the turmoil that had gone before. He turned away with his hand to his face, but only for an instant. He managed again to smile at me.

“You are so kind,” he said, an absurd thing to call me for at last approaching the minimum standard of decent behaviour. “But no, I can’t talk of it. How could I?” I stayed silent, in case he should, after all, find a way. But he exhaled heavily and said, “Might we ... change the subject?”

I had to contain a throb of panic which seemed to be trying to shake me apart from within; all I could think was how unfitted I was for this. I did not see how we could hold an ordinary conversation, or how we could do anything else, come to that. But I had said I would do as he wanted. And time had not stopped as I had fancied it should, the minutes went on and we would have to go with them. So I said, thinly, “Well. What have you been doing today?”

He dropped into what is usually my armchair. “I still haven’t finished this bloody baptisia article.”

“No? What is the trouble?”

“Oh, the substance of it is done. It is rather the connecting passages, the structure... I am afraid you are right that I do not always order my ideas as meticulously as I should before I begin something. I have ... found it difficult to concentrate.” For a moment his eyes seemed to empty, but he gathered himself again quickly. “I never could have believed I should be hacking away at such a simple thing so long.”

“May I see it?” I suggested.

He sighed. “Where it is at all coherent, I’m afraid you’ll find it very dry.”

“My dear fellow,” I said, finding it was after all becoming easier, and indeed, how should a discussion of poisons with my closest friend be difficult? “The principles and methods of toxicology have been a delight to me since I was at my mother’s knee.”

“You must have been a very disquieting child, Holmes.”

Somehow we passed about an hour sitting on either side of the fire talking about the ghastly havoc the juice of a little American flower may wreak upon the human body if administered in sufficient quantities. I read his draft of the article and suggested he reverse the order of two sections and omit one of the passages that was giving him such trouble altogether.

I was conscious of him watching me while I turned his pages, and looked up once to see an odd, nervous, contemplative look just leaving his face. As if something had occurred to him, but he had then dismissed it.

He leaned over my shoulder to look at his own work and murmured, “-All things are poison and nothing is without poison.

“What?” I said, unnerved.

“Paracelsus,” he said. “One of my old lecturers at university was very fond of quoting that. I can’t give it to you in the original German. Only the dose makes a thing not a poison, that was the rest of it. Baptisia can be used to treat enteric fever, you know.”

Mrs Hudson brought in supper, and looked anxiously at us both. She is a commendably unmeddlesome woman, but inconveniently kind-hearted and despite our joint efforts to appear as usual I suppose we neither of us quite succeeded, and she had probably been alarmed earlier by the sound of me racing up the stairs as if the devil were after me. She asked if all was well and we answered, in muted unison, “Yes.”

He ate less than usual, but more than I did. Afterwards he went back to his desk and began to work again, and I reached tentatively for my violin and asked, “Is there anything you would like to hear tonight?”

“No,” said Watson blankly. Feeling slightly shattered by that, I nodded and put down the bow, but he shook his head, “I meant, I can’t think of any specific piece at present. Not that I don’t want you to play.”

I tried Haydn. I wanted something in which peace and radiance and order still shone untouched. But my fingers stuttered on the strings and the music died in an ignominious squawk after the first few bars. I shook my head, uttered a grunt of confusion and apology and tried again. This time I got a little further, but stopped before I ran into the emptiness looming ahead of me where the cadenza should have been. I let the violin dangle from my hand as I turned away to face the windows, considerably shaken to find that I could not, for the life of me, remember how to play a piece I have known for eighteen years.

I turned back to find Watson looking at me, tense and questioning. “It’s nothing,” I said, and I set the violin under my chin again and started playing without thinking, without any conscious choice. For a while the wounded cries that came from the strings seemed not of my making at all, the sound seemed pouring into the room and into my skull from somewhere else, burning away language, everything, even the name of the music. It was perhaps half a minute before I was even able to say to myself – Bach. Partita in D minor.

What are you thinking? I reproached myself, though I could not have stopped. Playing such a tormented piece at such a time. But anguish was all I could get from the violin that night. The most I could do was coax the sadness in it towards calmer, softer regions: Mendelssohn, which I know he loves. Gluck’s mélodie from Orphée et Eurydice.

When I looked at Watson, I found he had stopped working, moved soundlessly back to the settee and put his head down on his arm, like an overtired schoolboy, his eyes shut.

He went to his room an hour earlier than usual, more for the sake of solitude than anything else, I must assume, for I am sure he cannot be sleeping well. I felt reluctant to let him out of my sight, which I suppose is stupid. He is a grown man, and the author of all this is not, at least, a continued threat to either of us. But I cannot stop myself dreading... I hardly know what. Being needed and being absent.

Alone, with neither Watson nor the violin to distract me, I became even more painfully aware of the syringe. It would not matter very much if I took a dose of cocaine, I thought. A temporary respite from the wretched consciousness of my shortcomings was not so much to ask. It might still be in my system the next morning, when I next saw Watson, but its effects would have dissipated; I should be myself, for whatever use that was, so where was the harm in it?

And I would be wanting more, even more intensely than I did already.

I acted before I could think about it too hard. I packed up my morocco case in brown paper and took it downstairs to Mrs. Hudson, disturbing the poor woman in her dressing gown as she too was about to retire for the night. I’m afraid I was more imperious than apologetic. I handed her the little parcel and told her it was crucial she kept it somewhere safe. Without quite saying so, I gave her the impression it was the lynchpin of some case.

I could have poured out the bottles and smashed the syringe, and I did not. I felt that unless I knew it was there if I needed it I should go out directly the shops were open and buy more.

I have no illusions I shall be able to stay away from the stuff for good. In fact, were I to start making grandiose promises of forswearing chemical consolation from this day forth I should quite terrify myself. It would even seem – perverse as I admit this would surely appear to anyone else – an admission of defeat, like accepting my friend will be in the shadow of what has happened forever. But for now, it will not do for me to be in any way impaired, either by the drugs themselves or by the reaction that follows when the relief has faded.

Of course, having put the needle beyond my reach, I wanted it even more keenly. But I am capable of doing without it, for quite long periods, if I have a problem worth working on. God knows I had one now, though I already knew this was not a case, and that such powers as I have, belatedly as I had begun to employ them, would be of no further use.

So, restless and purposeless, I paced the room, flexing my hands, constructing wild schemes for revenge upon Gilfoyle, trying not to remember the heat of Watson’s lips on mine, and contemplating creeping downstairs to pick Mrs Hudson’s lock and secretly retrieve my syringe. Then, looking across the room at Watson’s abandoned sheets of manuscript, I thought of his absorption when he writes of people rather than of poisons, and it occurred to me that there was one way of occupying myself that could, at least, do no harm. Or none beyond the pain of forcing myself to face the errors I have listed – and the notion of punishing myself was not wholly unwelcome.

So I sat down at his desk, stole a quantity of his foolscap, and I commenced writing this record, or confession, or whatever it is.

* * *

I went to bed some time after two. I did sleep, though not very well. I dreamt I was searching for something through the mud and slush of London, (the wet cobbles at Whitechapel melting eerily into the dirty sands at St Katharine’s Dock at low tide), but my vision was obscured by the coarse cloth mask over my face.

I had made a sequence of mistakes. Watson and I were watching each other through the partition in the visiting room at Wandsworth, and I did not know which side of it was which. He was as monochrome as a photograph, as if his skin and hair had been coated in grey paint. He said, sadly, “Poison.”

>>Part IX
3rd-May-2010 10:04 pm (UTC)
Owwwww, so gorgeous. I love this: I said, “I wish you had not been alone with it all this time.”

And Watson's valiant flash of humour here: “You must have been a very disquieting child, Holmes.”
4th-May-2010 11:04 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much. Those were some of my favourite lines (the first one is kind of the heart of the whole thing, in a way).
3rd-May-2010 10:38 pm (UTC)
Why, hello, there, emotional trainwreck. I have missed you, and yet dreaded your return.

I don't know what part of this were most heartbreaking (beside, you know, all of them), but it might be the violin-playing. Or Watson changing the subject. Or all those little details that just make them so alive, and highlight how lost they both are in this situation.

I love the struggle against the cocaine - and the justification for Holmes writing. Of course he would write at that moment - it's just the most natural thing in the world. I admit, while I do like to know why a character would be writing all this down, the inevitable infodump (I'm writing because yadayadayada) at the start of most slashfics gets on my nerves. And here you go and prove my assumptions wrong, just like the ones I had against any type of rape in fic. I mean that I love how you made the act of writing an integral, and logical part of the characterisation, and not just a poorly covered plot device to get 1st person PoV.

(um, also, do you mind if I friend you? *bashful* I am not well-versed in LJ-etiquette, I'm afraid)
4th-May-2010 10:47 pm (UTC)
Of course I don't mind! Thank you very much!

I have a thing about first person narratives having to be... preferably explained, but at least implicitly justified, with bonus points for being worked into the story/charactersiastion in some essential way. (For instance, with all the many things to complain about with Twilight, I also get bizarrely stuck on BUT WHY IS THIS 1ST PERSON? WHEN ARE YOU SUPPOSED TO BE WRITING THIS? AND WHY? OR IS THIS SUPPOSED TO BE HER INNER VOICE OR SOMETHING? BECAUSE NO ONE'S INNER VOICE SOUNDS LIKE THAT.)

I'm so happy you're enjoying this, or at least, approving of all the angst!
3rd-May-2010 11:47 pm (UTC) - Verily, I say WOOT!
The first thing I did after leaving work was check on this story, and I'm SOOO glad I did!

Thank you so much for updating...will review after I've read it again.
And again. And again...

P.S:I do not apologize for badgering you.
5th-May-2010 11:03 am (UTC) - Re: Verily, I say WOOT!
will review after I've read it again.

Do go on.

(To other readers, I would not normally nag for reviews, but gilbygirl here is a special case.)

But really, I'm glad you're still with this! :D
3rd-May-2010 11:55 pm (UTC) - Oh my...
This is, without a doubt, my absolute favorite of all Sherlock Holmes fanfiction. You truly have an incredible gift. To be able to tell of uncomfortable moments, of strained silence, of unimaginable pain is one thing; to make the reader feel it as if they are in that very room is altogether a different sort of talent, and you possess that talent in spades.

The dialogue is perfection. Holmes slash is a tricky one, to be sure, given setting and time, but you manage it without a glitch. The characters mesh perfectly with your pacing as well, nothing inconsistent or forced.

The turmoil of bigger issues pushing them past the discussion of their kiss...magnificent. I cannot thank you enough for posting your work. I eagerly await the next part.
4th-May-2010 11:15 pm (UTC) - Re: Oh my...
Wow. There's some lovely stuff out there, (Katie Forsythe!) so thank you very much indeed for that.

Holmes slash is a tricky one,

NO IT ISN'T JUST LOOK AT THEM oh wait you were complimenting me. Thank you. I'm so happy you're enjoying this.
4th-May-2010 12:58 am (UTC)
Every time you continue to astound me. This is just amazing, and every time it gets more emotionally complex and heartrending. You're really thinking this all the way through, and I appreciate that so so so much.
4th-May-2010 11:31 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much for sticking with this so long! (With the ending ever bounding gleefully away from me...)

4th-May-2010 01:47 am (UTC)
Honestly, at this point I don't even know what to say. This story makes my soul ache in the best possible way. Your writing is so vivid, it is hard to believe that I'm not actually there, watching it unfold, feeling the grief and turmoil that they feel.
4th-May-2010 11:32 pm (UTC)
Oh, thank you.
4th-May-2010 02:53 am (UTC)
More please?
4th-May-2010 02:58 am (UTC) - brb choking on sobs
your writing is so magical IT MAKES ME CRY REALLY BAD
what is wrong with you *SOB SOB SOB*


this was such a wonderful part.. i love the very end. He said, sadly, "Poison."

4th-May-2010 10:54 pm (UTC) - Re: brb choking on sobs
Thank you! I'm sorry, but very touched, it made you cry!

>>what is wrong with you

Hee! I ... don't know! Whatever it is, I fear it's too late to do anything about it.

Maybe something, because I honestly didn't realise quite how sad this was until after I posted it. I mean, clearly I knew it was sad, what with the trauma that can't be put into words and the heartbroken violin-playing and addictive craving and nightmares, but... at least there's hand-holding and brandy!

4th-May-2010 07:05 am (UTC)
Can't talk, heart busy breaking.
4th-May-2010 10:55 pm (UTC)
Oh dear! HERE HAVE BRANDY. Brandy will fix everything!

(Thank you.)
4th-May-2010 08:56 am (UTC)
This continues to be heart-shatteringly gorgeous. (Although perhaps one shouldn't describe angst and trauma as 'gorgeous'. Dear me, my inner goth rises from her shallow grave yet again.)
For some reason my favourite bit was Holmes' dream - it slid into ordered confusion and bleakness just as his waking life had - and the last image was suitably disquieting.
Lovely =)
4th-May-2010 10:12 pm (UTC)
Hee - if we all didn't find trauma and angst at least potentially gorgeous we would none of us be here. I'm so glad you think my rendition of it qualifies.

I'm such an angst-fiend I didn't even realise how angsty this IS until people started telling me it made them cry...

I'm very happy you liked the dream, it began as something of an afterthought, though I don't think it counts as one any more after the ludicrous amount of time I spent coming up with dream narratives and images and rejecting them and wondering why not just leave it out and then being all NO HE NEEDS A SPOOKY DREAM WHICH ENDS WITH THE WORD POISON and starting all over again.
7th-May-2010 04:03 am (UTC) - A Long, Rambling Review 'O Love Mach II
Well, what compliments can I give that your hordes of adoring (and much deserved) fans have not already bestowed?

First, I apologize for not reviewing earlier since I've basically been bugging you to continue this for a good week (or two) but RL just hurdled a cartwheeling fireball of crap at me this week and I haven't even had time to get on the kinkmeme until just now.

That being said, this review is a priority (whatever that says about my personal priorities) because goddamn woman, your writing is a balm on my soul.

Wait, that sounded totally schmoopy.
Eh, f*ck it, it's true. You're my favorite writer on this meme. There. I said it.

It's not so much what you write as the way you write it. In the hands of a lesser author (like me) this prompt could have been dreadful, but there's a deftness to your style that makes the reading effortless. I have no idea how difficult it is for you to write, how much wrestling you have to do with your muse but you make it look easy. (and I hop that comes across as the compliment it meant to be.) You manage to portray all the emotional turmoil and drama of a situation without resorting to overwrought melodrama or hyperbole.

You find emotion in the little things; like Holmes unable to play his violin as he would wish. Though you carefully avoid the worn out cliche of detailing his emotions ("I felt like this, I felt like that..") we nonetheless understand exactly what he's experiencing because his violin tells us:

I tried Haydn. I wanted something in which peace and radiance and order still shone untouched. But my fingers stuttered on the strings and the music died in an ignominious squawk after the first few bars. I shook my head, uttered a grunt of confusion and apology and tried again. This time I got a little further, but stopped before I ran into the emptiness looming ahead of me where the cadenza should have been. I let the violin dangle from my hand as I turned away to face the windows, considerably shaken to find that I could not, for the life of me, remember how to play a piece I have known for eighteen years.

"Considerably shaken". That's all he says about his own feelings. But that paragraph tells us so much more. We know he's far, far beyond "shaken". And that's beautiful, m'dear. That's writing. You don't just tell us what happens, you describe it in such an evocative and yet understated way that I can't help but be soothed, even when I'm reading about the most horrific things. I don't know if that makes any sense. I hope so.

If I had one word to describe your style, it would be elegant.
And I love it.
8th-May-2010 12:54 am (UTC) - Re: A Long, Rambling Review 'O Love Mach II
Oh, darling! First things first - I'm sorry about real life throwing flaming crap at you - I wish it would stop doing that. (*bitchslaps life*)

Next - thank you! I wouldn't have poked you if I'd known you had all that to say! And making it look easy is definitely, definitely always a compliment! As for how easy it actually is or isn't well - heh - Watson's complaints about trouble with "connecting passages" are somewhat familiar to me. Also there's also my fussy perfectionist streak. ("He tries to play Vivaldi Mozart Beethoven NO Haydn! But he ends up playing Sarasate Gluck Grieg NO Bach! Wait... Bach AND Gluck! And now - a dream. NOT JUST ANY DREAM. Wandsworth - masks - black and white - Watson...self, if you're going to spend this long over it and reject every other thing you think of as too obvious, maybe you could just leave the dream out? NO. NO I TELL YOU I CANNOT.")

... And fanfic was sort of meant to be an escape from that kind of carry-on but eh, you can't escape WHO YOU ARE.

Anyway - I love that you find this soothing. And I do think I see why - this part is about tension released, after all, even if there's now shock and exhaustion and more tension where that came from. And sadness can be a release to read about, like sad music can be cathartic to listen to - hence Holmes and his violin o'pain. And it's great to think that you've found this at all relaxing to read while you're having a bad time.

I hope things get better for you soon.
7th-May-2010 09:48 pm (UTC)
I've been following this story, and just want to say, thank you. This is great. Do you write original fiction of your own? I would love to see some of it if you do.

(Also, your icon "... wtf and other incredible tales" is glorious. Where did you find it? I really wish I had a book like that on my shelf!!)
8th-May-2010 12:15 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! And yes, I do - worst kept secret EVAR, though I'm trying to keep the specifics off the open internet. I'll send you a PM about it if you want.

I wish I could read "WTF and other incredible tales" too. Stupidly, I can't remember where it comes from. It wasn't an icon when I found it, it was a gif/macro (uh, you know, a PICTURE - *fails at computer speak*) maybe on some branch of ONTD or somewhere like that? And I just saved it -and left it on my computer for ages. Then I uploaded it and cropped it into an icon on LJ a few days ago - hopefully not wronging the original creator too gravely.

Though I did see someone on Fanfic Rants using a differently cropped version of the same picture.

8th-May-2010 07:01 am (UTC)
You are brilliant. I was distracted from the Holmes kinkmeme for a while, but I'm glad I came back, if only for this.
8th-May-2010 12:18 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I'm glad you came back.
15th-May-2010 10:06 am (UTC)
I apologise for the lateness of this comment but I lost track of this fic for a while in all the shuffling of the memes. I'm so glad I found it again! It's painful but wonderful, as ever. Holmes at a complete loss as to how to proceed and Watson wanting to move on, all the awkwardness that follows - perfect. I still love this :D
18th-May-2010 07:39 pm (UTC)
No apology necessary! I'm glad you found it again - the meme situation is certainly fiddly. Thank you!
9th-Oct-2010 02:10 pm (UTC)
I set the violin under my chin again and started playing without thinking, without any conscious choice. For a while the wounded cries that came from the strings seemed not of my making at all, the sound seemed pouring into the room and into my skull from somewhere else, burning away language, everything, even the name of the music. It was perhaps half a minute before I was even able to say to myself – Bach. Partita in D minor.

I'm embarrassed to say that I started crying after that. Bach's Chaconne would not leave my mind as I imagined the utterly heart-wrenching way Holmes must have played the piece - heck, it's heart-wrenching to play already without increadibly intense pain storming within oneself. And Haydn is the perfect, perfect contrast - the feeling of being so choked up by an emotion that you cannot direct your own playing, you must follow, you must release it into your music... often times I have tried to make myself more cheerful by playing a Mozart Concerto, and it just doesn't work.

Forgive me, I'm rambling. What I really meant to say is that your fic is just sublime. I forsee myself typing something along those lines for all future chapters, but there you are.
9th-Oct-2010 04:30 pm (UTC)
Your comments as you read through this have all been absolutely lovely, but I was particularly touched, even kind of floored by this one -- oh, wow, you're a musician, and this rang true to you...? And you cried? OH GOSH. I'm very unconfident and rather self-conscious about classical music; I love it, but it's a rather underinformed, awkward, *stare at shoes* *mutter "dunno much but I know what I like. I... like Vivaldi?* *run away* sort of love.

I spent ages agonising over what he should play, (and exactly what he should find himself unable to play, but I was pretty sure Haydn would work for that) I went round and round the Chaconne about five times but it just seemed right.

Thank you so much for this, and everything else you've said.
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