|Demons or Angels
Author: Jackie Ryans PM
John and Sherlock reflect on life after the war, and what comes later.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Hurt/Comfort/Friendship - Sherlock H. & John W. - Words: 2,771 - Reviews: 1 - Favs: 4 - Published: 11-08-11 - Status: Complete - id: 7534128
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Hey everyone, just edited and fixed the grammar on this fic. There wasn't much to change, but hopefully it's an easier read now. This fic does discuss religion a bit, but it's not meant to insult any belief or push any belief onto you, the reader. It's merely a character study.
The day was normal, cloudy with only the slightest chill. The flat was as usual, untidy and only comfortable for the two it sheltered, Messer's Sherlock Holmes and John Watson.
The two men in question were lounging about at that moment, waiting for another bit of excitement. Watson was preparing a pot of his sweet tea, a cup for himself and a cup for Holmes, even though the man hadn't asked for one. Holmes sat on the couch, watching dust particles floating visibly where the weak light shown through the window. His face was fixed, noticeably pondering. His eyes looked straight ahead at the mantle, his eyebrows were tensed so only the smallest of creases formed between them.
Watson was shuffling around the small kitchen as he waited for the kettle to whistle. Any other would jump, panic, or just question the oddities resting on the counters. Close to the small window rested a Petrie dish, its contents molding, and next to it a beaker full of some dark sludge, emitting a strong scent of decay. Many knives, bent and stained, lay on the counter opposite the stove. On the table, several dishes, plates and beakers were piled high with leaves, feathers, stones and assorted chemicals, with a small pile of mail sitting in the corner, waiting for John.
The kettle began, a silent whistle, that built into a scream. John lifted the metal from the hot burner, and poured the steaming water into the ceramic tea pot. Carefully, he placed the warm kettle on a cool burner, and swished the water in the pot. He did so in silence, looking off as his flat mate was, but with an obvious air of daydreaming, eyes nearly glazing, hands working slowly. At length, he spilled the water into the sink, set the warm pot down, and refilled the kettle, placing it back on the burner.
It was a quiet day, and he didn't have to rush his tea as usual, he had time to make a proper cuppa, just like his mum used to. Contentedness filled the man as he reached for his mail. It had been so long since a quiet time, which was perfectly fine for the men, but Watson did find himself enjoying this lazy Tuesday, with his day off from work; although he wouldn't have if such conditions were daily. He ripped open the first letter, unfolded the papers, wrinkled his nose, and set them aside. His sister's gifted phone was lovely, but the bills were sickening to look at. Watson sighed, tossed a useless advertisement to the side, and picked up the final letter.
It was a thick envelope, a disgusting shade of grey, like the sky on those days of pea soup fog and sticky drizzles, the whole day warm and suffocatingly humid. His name and address were printed plainly in blue ink, the words looking not very unique, as though the writer matched them. John was quick to tear the envelope, revealing two slips of paper within. The first was thin, translucent, and the next thick and crème colored. He read them both and sighed.
"Shame." He said aloud. Sherlock turned to him and squinted his eyes in the smallest amount, analyzing his companion. John said nothing, only slowly setting the papers down.
"What?" Holmes asked flatly when it became apparent Watson would not continue. He needed something to think about, something to knead in his mind, shaping and pressing until he accessed enough information that the thing became unimportant and boring and deleted.
"Mate of mine from the war passed on." John's frame sagged a bit, as though the news exhausted him. Behind him, the whistle began quietly. He went to the cabinet, feeling Sherlock studying him, and lifted a plastic container. Sherlock examined John's motions, taking a spoon, opening the container, gently placing three scoops of the tea leaves it had contained into the ceramic tea jar.
"You knew him well?" Sherlock spoke up. John set down the spoon and headed to the fridge. Finding no milk, as usual, he responded.
"Not really." It was hard to say you knew a man in war, but it was hard to say you didn't. Watson knew the man, knew they entered around the same time. He knew the name, Sam Wellington, he knew the hometown, Manchester. He did not know details, no knowledge of religion, hobbies, what he liked to eat, what his favorite films were. He knew the man liked cricket, his favorite drink was brandy, he was the only one of his family to leave his town since its founding. He knew that he'd catch the man looking at a little picture sometimes, and once he even got to see it. A plain, ordinary girl, not special at all, with no amazing qualities standing out. Yet she was the world to him.
"Not really?" Sherlock squinted the smallest bit more. John returned to his screaming kettle and poured the hot water into the tea pot. Two mugs sat beside it, already donned with spoons. Next to them, a sugar dish awaited near-emptying.
"Does it matter?" John was used to Sherlock, he knew the man would dissect this. He put the strainer on the first cup, and looked into the murky waters of the pot. "He's in a better place now."
Sherlock immediately brightened. His eyebrows raised to normal height, his eyes regained natural shape, he stood taller. He had something to work on, another thing about John Watson to solve. An eternal mystery, wrapped up in a jumper, and Sherlock had the pleasure to figure it out. Sometimes, he wanted to rush, to learn the whole man in a day. Other times, he wanted information to just leak from him, a slow drip, so he could soak in it, take years, decades to solve the enigma completely.
John saw the man lighten and turned back to his tea, pouring the brown liquid through the strainer atop the first mug. He flicked the tea leaves in the sink, they would go down the drain easy enough, and repeated his actions for the second cup. Sherlock edged closer to the table, peering at the steam rising from the mugs.
"Is he?" John ignored the edge of curiosity in Sherlock's voice, hoping to avoid a few mind games. He spooned generous amounts of sugar in both cups, and handed one to Holmes.
"Well he's not down there." Watson jerked his head as the man accepted the tea. He lifted his own cup and took a sip, determined to enjoy it despite the heat he could feel coming off his flat mate in waves of ominous delight, far too familiar due to working all those cases together. Yet he did indeed enjoy those waves. They were like having his past rush back at him, and for once it wasn't painful and brash, it was only his mother's sweetest tea.
"But he's been in battle. Don't you lot have a rule? Killers going to one place, good men going another?" Sherlock drank his tea, shooing a small smile from his face. He enjoyed Watson's tea far more than he wanted to admit.
John set down his tea, untouched from his first sip. "That's different, Sherlock." His face had gone cross, and he took a defensive stance, crossing his arms and locking his shoulders.
"How so?" Holmes repeated the flat mate's action, and set his tea on the table, beside a beaker containing several dead worms. Watson glared at him, a slight blush of anger forming.
"We kill to serve our country. It is an honor-" He paused, face burning, not wanting to be dragged into another argument. He looked away from the man as he reached over for his tea, when he spoke again.
"You kill only for your country?" Sherlock had an eyebrow raised, and had also reached to his mug, lifting it and taking large gulps.
"Bloody Hell, Sherlock, of course not." John found himself unable to lift his cup, and instead grazed the handle with his fingertips. Holmes looked on, patient. It was a case he had plenty of time to solve. John hesitated before continuing, "I went to war to protect my people, those I love, those I've never known. And yeah, a bit of English pride was thrown in, but war's not about that."
"Then what is war about?" Sherlock's stony look over his mug bore through the veteran, and he found it both horrifying and comforting, much like a not unpleasant mix of the war they were discussing, and the warm tea next to his hand.
"Order," Watson began, lifting his mug once again. "Chaos." He took a large draw as Sherlock's gaze pierced him, deep and quizzical.
"So you went to a world of perfect order," he started, and John was reminded of the academy, of gleaming utensils placed in perfect lines, and then getting to the desert, and making his cot just so every morning, getting up each day 4:00 exactly, the methodic hand washing and rounds about the ward. "And perfect chaos," Holmes continued, and John once again thought of war, but then of young boys, teenagers, being trained to kill, of civilians getting taken advantage of, of ripping a bullet from a man's arm while sand is bursting up into the air around them from flying shrapnel and hand grenades and car bombs- and being shot, and praying for life. "For the people."
"Yes." John didn't know how he got the word out without a shake, but he suspected aid from the warm mug held tight in his fist.
"For Harry and Clara." he stated it as simple fact.
"Yes." John was looking hard at his cup now.
"For Lestrade, for Sarah-"
"Yes." He said it stronger then. Yes, he went to fight for family. And friends. And strangers. And-
"For me." John looked up at Sherlock, and saw, for the briefest moment, more than just an interrogation behind his eyes. He looked down at his tea again. Yes, yes he had been to war for everyone, even Sherlock, and would go back again for him. He sort of did, every night running on the streets in a war against Moriarty or whoever else caused trouble for them.
"Yes, even you." John looked back up, in a vain attempt to catch a smile from him, see a bit of gratitude or any rush of emotion (he sometimes hated how little of it Sherlock had, but other times understood it perfectly), and, finding none, took another gulp from his mug and walked into the living room.
"But you haven't answered my question," Holmes said, turning to him. John stood, looking at the little specks of dust in the sun, just as Sherlock had done only moments before, and slowly turned to him.
"What question." He already knew it, he was stalling. John knew, the moment he met the man, that all this would come bubbling up, that something he'd try to perceive as nothing in his mind would be investigated by this near-stranger, and be turned into a question. This question.
"Do you think he's going to hell for killing in the war?" Do you think you're going, too? The unspoken question lingered in the air.
"No, Sherlock, that's not what it's like." John took a small sip of tea. It was cool now, and the cup was almost empty. Sherlock had already finished his own, his mug sitting next to him on the table.
"What do you mean?" Sherlock's investigative look pushed him forward.
"Heaven. Hell. It's not clear cut like that, there's a blurred line, things you can manage." John took his last gulp of tea. It was all sugar, and a stray tea leaf that escaped the strainer. He took a few steps over and sat where Sherlock had been, lying the mug on the small table beside the couch.
"Isn't that the purgatory, then? Some sort of waiting room?" Sherlock left his position next to the table and stood over a chair across from the couch. John dodged the question.
"Shouldn't you know all this?" Sherlock looked directly into his eyes, holding contact for far too long, and John felt heat from his analyzing. But Sherlock looked down before John could blush, and pulled a thread from the chair before responding.
"I was raised with it, but later found it unimportant. I've since-"
"Deleted it." John finished the sentence, and the room went oddly quiet. He turned his head to the right and examined the mantle, staring at the skull, the clock, his gun. "You must not think it's unimportant now."
"Well how was I supposed to foresee this?" Sherlock pulled another thread, a slight anger in his voice. John felt irritated, and his next words were far too sharp.
"Foresee what, investigating my life story?"
"Foresee getting a friend." And those words were soft. He stopped pulling on the chair, and looked down at his fingers. John took a deep breath, and silence took the room again. This time, it was several minutes, with Sherlock hunched over the chair, touching but not pulling threads, John staring at the mantle. One went too far with his investigation, one told too much. Now they were afraid to continue. John gathered his bravery first.
"So you don't believe in all that. An atheist." John looked at him patiently, waiting for an answer he completely expected.
"Logically, there's no-"
"No way to prove it's there, no way to prove it's not there." John stepped in, feeling a small guilt for interrupting the man. "But it's all fine. You can think...believe...whatever you like." Sherlock nodded to himself, then finally crossed in front of the chair and sank into it. A final silence fell, a nagging one that begged the conversation be finished.
"And you believe..." Sherlock said it slowly, looking at the man directly across from him, eyebrows furrowed, eyes squinted, the investigative look. John answered quickly.
"I don't think he's going to Hell, even if he did go to war and kill people. He was a good guy, from what I knew of him." They kept eye contact.
"And as for you?" The question he'd pushed away so long rang in the air, and the dust quivered, as if heaving with anticipation. Sherlock was leaning forward in his chair, eye's still on John's.
"I believe in a merciful God. An understanding one." Sherlock gave a half nod, but it was clear he did not understand. "He knows me, he's seen my life. In the end, I don't know where I'm going, but I know wherever he puts me will be the best choice."
"And how is that merciful? How is that understanding? If he sends you to Hell, you burn, you live among demons. Where is that fair?" Sherlock sounded merely curious, not angry, not confused by his doctor's religion. He wanted to know about dear Watson, he wanted to solve his enigma. John, for the first time, gave a small smile.
"He's seen my life, Sherlock. Wherever he puts me, he knows I'll be fine, so long as I have my friend. The one man I can spend an eternity of demons with, and actually have fun with it." Sherlock opened his mouth, about to ask who this friend was, then closed it, and a blush and smile formed on him, before he gulped nervously. Eyes still squinted, still leaning forward, he made his final statement, wrapping up his case.
"But you don't know if you're getting demons or angels." John kept his eye contact, and spoke softly, a wry smile on his features.
"Well that's the fun in it." Sherlock relaxed his face, and the two nodded in agreement.
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