Title: Occluded Front
Fandom/Pairing: Sherlock BBC; gen
Characters: John, Sherlock, a snippet of Mrs H, and mention of Greg & Molly.
Length: ~1,600 words
Disclaimer: I neither own nor seek to profit from any aspect of Sherlock.
Summary: A study in temperature. Occluded front: A front formed when a cold front overtakes and merges with a warm front; represents the final stage in the life cycle of a midlatitude cyclone.
A/N: Thanks to quarryquest for the britpick and beta, also f_m_r_l for pointing out the obvious. :-)
People think Sherlock is cold.
They see his eyes glaze over when they give him the ‘normal’ smiles of greeting and offer their hands to show they have no weapons hidden away. They do not understand that blades and guns are not the weapons which have made Sherlock wary. Artifice is stripped away; fear results; fear turns to anger; piss off.
They see him dismiss their gestures of gratitude with flat declarations of fact; they are offended and hurt. They do not realise the fault is their own; they have failed to observe even the most obvious of facts about the man they are attempting to please. A gift which is thoughtlessly chosen is no gift at all; Sherlock neither needs nor desires gifts, but he is capable of being pleased by them and he knows the difference.
Some people do prove just observant enough to pick up on the fact that when he does say, ‘thank you’ or lies that he is, ‘pleased to meet you’ he is simply going through the motions, at times responding solely because he has been prompted. They are sharp enough to recognise his smiles are perfunctory rather than friendly. They are not observant enough, though, to understand that his mind is already busy forming eight distinctly separate images from the puzzle pieces which they cannot even see exist.
Sherlock just wants people to do something interesting. Is it his fault that only the criminally-inclined denizens of society seem inclined to oblige him?
…and Dr John Watson, of course.
…though perhaps the two are not as mutually exclusive as most might believe.
Despite his coat, scarf and gloves, Sherlock was cold. This was hardly surprising, as one of his arguments against undertaking this activity had been that they were bound to become cold whilst doing so. (Other objections had included but were not limited to: there is no point in going round in circles, there would be all sorts of idiots also engaged in this idiotic activity, and it would mean donning footwear which had previously been worn by others.) John had insisted that being cold was half the point; apparently you weren’t allowed to have the hot chocolate afterwards if you didn’t get cold during the activity. That didn’t make much sense to Sherlock, but he’d stopped arguing after John had resorted to saying, ‘Because that’s the way it works, Sherlock.’ for the third time because he didn’t have an effective counter statement. Instead he had shifted tactics and insisted they schedule an indoor activity first, and since they would be in the neighbourhood…unfortunately, he had failed to find an escape route during the intervening hours.
“Come on, make a bit of an effort and you’ll feel warmer.” John was suddenly in front of him, skating backwards and grinning madly.
“I’m timing this precisely. I refuse to spend a second longer out here than we spent inside the museum.”
“And I’m tacking on twenty minutes extra because that’s how long you spent trying to convince the volunteer guide that fossil was misdated. You really need to learn to pick your battles.”
“Yes, so you told him.”
“I’m cold,” he complained petulantly.
“If you owned even one jumper you’d be warmer. Come on, you really will warm up if you actually skate instead of lagging like a stroppy toddler.”
John grasped Sherlock’s hand in his and set off, tugging him along until they were skating side-by-side at a reasonable pace. After half a circuit he looked over to find his friend’s face just a bit flushed with the exercise. “That’s better, isn’t it?”
Sherlock turned to meet his gaze and accused, “My toes are still cold, and my fingers.”
John just rolled his eyes and swung round so that he was skating backwards again. He took each of Sherlock’s hands firmly in one of his own. “Two hands are warmer than one,” he said.
Later, when they were home and Sherlock was heating up the milk for the hot chocolate in a boiling flask (thoroughly checked for residue by John beforehand) over the flame of his Bunsen burner, John was rooting through the kitchen cabinets. “I’m sure we’ve got marshmallows, I just bought a bag the other day. I don’t suppose you’ve stolen them for something?”
“I take issue with the categorisation of ‘stolen’.”
John sighed and gave up the search. “I’ll be right back then. Mrs Hudson will have whipped cream.”
People think Sherlock is as cold as the vacuum of space.
John, of course, knows better; he has met Mycroft. The elder Holmes brother is the one who is vast, all-encompassing and could freeze you to death if he so pleased.
He has seen (though not technically with his own eyes – plausible deniability is a friend of long standing) Sherlock nearly kill a man because he laid a finger on Mrs Hudson. He has seen his friend walk (fall) away from his home and everyone who cares for him in order to keep them safe. He had once been forced to physically restrain him from running into the exploding building DI Lestrade had entered just moments earlier.
Sherlock is the sun; he is anything but cold.
He burns with all the attendant heat of nuclear fusion and must somehow channel enough of it out of himself to keep from being consumed.
John finds (to his own amusement) that he has been cast as the moon in this cosmic equation. He gentles, tempers and reflects the raw, harsh light of Sherlock back on the people of Earth who will never understand the indirect genius in which they are basking.
John glows with the light of Sherlock; he channels it, absorbs it, drinks in as much as he can, and it makes him feel alive.
Sherlock had, at first, flatly refused to go. Even if he had felt like indulging John’s whim, it would be cold, and that would be uncomfortable for him since he wouldn’t be able to wear gloves; the cold could also make for a more temperamental violin.
John, however, had learnt a thing or two by this time about how to go about getting Sherlock to do things he didn’t necessarily want to do.
It had all started when a chatty Molly had casually mentioned over a dead body that she had roped Greg (these two had been eyeing each other in a subtly different way lately) into joining her and a friend of hers for an evening of carol singing. John had idly responded that it sounded like fun; when he’d been little his parents had taken Harry and him along with a group of friends and their kids, and they had always had a really fun time. Molly had smiled brightly and said, “You should come with us, the more the merrier.”
Sherlock had then barged in with some ridiculous demand and John hadn’t had a chance to say yes or no, but the idea had been planted and his brain insisted on pointing to it several times over the next day or so. It would be fun, actually, he thought; it would be nice to have some new happy family memories which reminded him of past happy family memories. So he’d mentioned it to Sherlock, who had looked at him as if he’d grown a second head. Apparently it was one thing to make a concession to Yuletide spirit within the flat, but doing so outside of it was an entirely different matter. John hadn’t pushed, he knew better; instead he had simply dropped the question completely, and he had begun to plot.
The key, he decided, lay with (as so many things did) Mrs Hudson. So the next time she popped upstairs (and Sherlock was at least present in the room, though whether or not he heard anything being discussed was always a toss-up) he’d casually inquired, “Fancy a bit of carol singing this year, Mrs H? Greg and Molly are getting some friends together.”
“Oh, what a good idea,” she had exclaimed. She had then turned shining eyes upon Sherlock and gushed, “It’s my favourite time of the year, Sherlock, when you play carols for us; won’t it be fun to be out in the city with all the pretty lights and decorations?”
Without raising his head from his microscope, he had replied, “I wouldn’t expect so, no.”
And, though he hadn’t seen it, Sherlock had felt his landlady wilt from enraptured to crestfallen. Internally, he had sighed and then cursed John roundly. “But, if you would like me to go as well, then of course I will.”
The resulting squeal of pleasure, he had decided, would have to be his only reward for cold hands and a subsequently sub-standard performance.
It is a lovely tableau. On an enduring London street corner which has seen the passage of monarchs and been shaken by explosions in its time, a mix of citizens of this immortal city have gathered to serenade her. They are illuminated by a streetlight, and the darkness which encircles that glow is tempered by merrily twinkling Christmas lights. Their voices may not get every note precisely right, but they are happy to be together and happy to be alive in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and the joy shining through the carols more than makes up for the odd tonal slip.
The tallest man, wrapped in shadows even in the direct glow of the lamp, provides a violin accompaniment which is alternately sweet and solemn; the passers-by do not realise, but perhaps the city does, that he finds his hands aren’t so very cold after all.