There is a man sitting in the study. His sleeves are rolled up and he has wild hair, white teeth, dark eyes. There is another, standing by the doorway. He is taller, has dark hair, blue eyes. A thousand words and years of longing lie gutted between them. You should have let me go, we could have done so much, I'm not sorry—the silence thrums like a violin string drawn too tight. Look at the light coming through the windowpane. It throws their shadows over the table, the papers strewn over the floor, the dog that looks up at them and wags his tail. There is an ending here somewhere.
The man on the chair tears facts open and puts them back together. It's what he does. He takes the truth and twists it until it does what he wants it to do. Under his fingers truth smiles, truth is a weapon, truth hurts, truth betrays. He calls it Friendship, when he calls it anything at all.
The man at the door has not smiled in a while. He has a surgeon's hands, but there are some people he cannot help. Unfortunately for him, he still tries. Oh, how he tries. Not everyone wants to be fixed. The pocketwatch under his hands ticks and tocks the passing minutes, the unravelling seconds. You know this man. You see him every day from behind your window, your mirror, your eyes.
You try, you really do. You roll your eyes when he jumps out of the window and you put some order in his—your rooms, you walk the dog and patch him up when he comes back with his knuckles bruised and his ribs cracked. Under your hands his skin is a map, scars like train tracks and each cut a souvenir. You know bodies the way a watchmaker knows clockwork, but when it comes to him you feel like you're learning something new every time. His heart beats as steady as the rain that falls against your windows at night.
And it's three in the morning when you jolt awake. Breathe. There is no one here but you. Ah, but perhaps that is not true. You can still hear the gunshots, the screams. Maybe that makes them real. Maybe it does not. The rain pitter-patters at the windowpane and paints dappled shadows over the bedcovers. A violin sings in the dark, the notes rising like a wave to die as foam upon the shore at your door. Close your eyes. Listen. You're still alive.
Some people are too broken to be fixed. He is not one of them. So you keep on trying, you can't not try, and he lets you. His smile is a small thing, but you know him. You know the edges of his moods, you know the barbs laced in his words. This—this you are not sure of. Truth is his, now and always. But you find a piece of it in his smile, pick it up, and do not know what to do with it.
You are—angry, or maybe just tired. Three thirty in the morning and the rain hasn't stopped, but the violin has. There is a taste of sand at the back of your mouth. Your lips are dry. The man in the mirror has eyes like a desert sky, blue and cracking at the edges. In the silence isolated notes take flight again. They part the shadows. The door beckons. The man in the mirror has a surgeon's hands and a madman's smile. Open the door.
There is a man sitting in the study. Open shirt, wild hair, dark eyes, bright teeth. There is a man at the door. Nothing between them but a strain of music, a sliver of night. This is what it always comes back to. Two men and the shadows over the floor. There are stories, you know which ones: you were the one to write them.
Imagine two men standing before you. They are brothers: dark hair, dark eyes, bright teeth. One will take you apart, break you open and make you his. The other will sew you back together, make himself the thread and needle, hurt you. One will toy with truth and wound you with it, the other will smile promises and make of truth a lie.
It's one or the other. You could love either of them. Choose.
Consider that door. Consider the dark wood, the polished knob from which the man with the blue eyes looks back. You could turn that knob, cross the threshold, walk that extra distance to see the man you might love. You could stay here, where the rain illuminates the room. You could keep on loving him. The man with the blue eyes has surgeon's hands and sand and blood stuck at the back of his mouth. You wish you could fix him too.
Also, that was a lie. They're not brothers, they're the same man. You knew that, just like you know him. He has picked you apart a thousand times. He has dragged you down in the depths of crime and injury and you've made it all into stories. The manuscripts still lie across the apartment, by your bed or in the sitting room or in the attic. All those silences, those instants of brilliance, of fear—you've ground them down to words, paper, ink. This is your story, and his. This cannot be the end. Not now. Not like this. They're not brothers, they're the same man. There is a choice to be made, but not the one you think. Now choose.
Listen, you say to the man on the chair. Life for you isn't life; it's an experiment that simmers and bubbles under a magnifying glass. And love in all of that is just a stray spark, an unknown factor. It's the missing gear in the assembly, the one that's small enough not to make that much of a difference, so you notice because you have to and that's it. You say to the man with wild hair and fingers that never stop moving, I'm tired. I am tired of waking up at night, of cleaning up your messes, of never knowing how to tell you what I think. I am tired of coming back to your jokes and your smiles which I cannot refuse. And I am tired of dancing around the issue, so here it is: I love you.
Somewhere over your heads, where you cannot see, a bird comes to perch on the chimney. Under the moonlight it preens its feathers back. Then it chirps, very softly. You can not hear it. A cab horse snorts, four streets down, and shakes its tired head amid reins and harness. You can not see it. From a window rises a song, trailing like smoke in the cold air. You are not there. Outside, on the pavement, the stars shimmer from the bottom of a puddle. Inside there is you, the words now free from your mouth, ugly and fragile in the dark. This was a mistake, you know that already. But you've made your choice. Look. The world is still standing. The dog wakes up and wags its tail.
And alright, we'll say it's your dog. You've fed him, played with him; you've almost killed him too often to count and I guess that makes him yours, all this—life and all the things within. This is what you do—you take things apart and you stitch them back together, except the pieces are never exactly the way they were before. It could be tragic, but when you smile it's so easy to forget about it. The dog likes you. And all those things between us—the breaking, the fixing, the smiles, the dog—I guess they make me yours too.
Consider the door. Consider all the choices, all the words. Consider all the years, all the failures, all the successes. Now close your eyes. Breathe. The sand on your tongue has melted to glass, sharp and fragile. The shadows are drifting across the floor. So many things come after this—the apologies, the regrets, the shouts. But that comes later. You are here now. Swallow the glass, swallow it all. Taste the blood. Forget about tomorrow. Forget about what happens next. Cross the room. Kiss him.
Four thirty in the morning, when the world is asleep and the violin forgotten. Rain beats like a song over the windows. He lies still beside you. Under your hand his heart is like a bird about to take flight.
Forget about tomorrow. You haven't written that story yet. Write this one instead.
A/N: written for the sherlockkink meme on LJ, in answer to this prompt: anything holmes/watson, as long as it's written in the style of one richard siken.