Notes: I know you're all probably ridiculously tired of seeing me in your inboxes, but I promise this will be the last one for at least a few days. This is yet another one written during PWD (Which, for those of you who have been asking, was a speed-writing competition I did at the end of June) for the prompt 'Orpheus' or, more specifically, aspects associated with him: Music, charm, and poetry. This one focuses mostly on music, although I suppose there's something vaguely poetic about it, and it has charm. ;)
Again, I'm posting this mostly as-is from the competition, although I'm not nearly as dissatisfied with the end result as I was for One Night In Paris—possibly because it's shorter and it doesn't have any sort of long, drawn-out sex scene for me to be insecure about.
I hope you enjoy!
Warnings: Adult situations, mild swearing
Disclaimer: I do not own Sherlock. Sherlock, John, and all other characters and concepts as depicted in this contemporary universe of Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes series are the property of Mark Gatiss, Steven Moffat, and their associates. The only thing I own is the story below as you see it written.
Sometimes John thinks Sherlock must touch the violin like he touches his lovers.
Or is it that he touches his lovers like he touches the violin? It would make sense that Sherlock would think of the people as coming secondary to the instrument. Yes, definitely. The way he caresses and smoothes his fingers over that thing, one would almost think he got some kind of sexual pleasure out of it. John's not entirely sure he doesn't, but hey. To each his own. He does wonder though, sometimes, why he plays violin like he does.
He's seen orchestras. When he was in primary school they were taken to the symphony every year near Christmas. It was stuffy and terribly boring to eight/nine/ten-year-old John, and more often than not he ended up falling asleep, leaving his trust in whatever friend was sitting closest to wake him. He just never got into it; the people sitting rigid onstage, their instruments held at the ready. Perfect posture. Crisp notes. There was no excitement in that whatsoever.
Then he met Sherlock Holmes and his opinions on classical music began to change. Sherlock is fluid, seeming to flow along with the bow on the strings, rather than yanking it across like so many professional violinists. Hardly ever does he stay in one place, either. Hardly ever does he sit. Like he always is, he moves. Even when he's standing mostly in one spot, his feet move, he lifts himself up onto the balls of his feet for high notes and crescendos, and slowly rolls himself backwards onto his heels on the decrescendo.
His long toes curl into the carpet when he plays pieces he particularly enjoys—John knows which ones these are, because he plays them often and usually when happy—and John can't help but liken it to someone experiencing the throes of ecstasy.
Sometimes he will have the smallest of smiles on his face, and his eyes will close and John will think he has become one with the music. That Sherlock is now floating with the notes, all around the flat, every little molecule of him attached to its own note. That the Sherlock he sees before him, softly smiling and swaying gently, is just a husk now. That the music has taken Sherlock and ran with him.
Should that scare him, the idea that Sherlock has been kidnapped by sonatas and concertos, and his soul scattered to the four winds, to wherever the notes are needed next? Does that happen to other players? Is every note a culmination of the vibrating atoms of thousands of people who have played it before?
"What would you have done if you hadn't been a detective?" John asked once, for lack of anything better to do or talk about. One question could lead them on a conversation lasting hours.
Sherlock gave that smile—the one he reserves for thoughts of the violin and charming young women out of their secrets and Mrs. Hudson. Said, "I imagine I would have played violin."
"You mean in an orchestra?"
The look on Sherlock's face could have suggested that John had asked him if he was going to play violin at a whore house. "No. What would make you think that?"
"I just thought…where do people go when they want to play violin?"
"Where do the talentless go, you mean." He picked up his violin and John's stomach clenched in anticipation. He wondered when that had started happening. "Those who flee to the orchestra only do so for confirmation of their own abilities and lack of self-esteem. When you truly know how good you are, you don't need five hundred other people to hide your sound in theirs…nor do you want to. Do you ever wonder why soloists are much more popular than choruses?" With that, he lifted the bow to the strings and began to play.
"So then," John said afterwards, "Why do so many people who can't sing think they can? You see solo vocalists all the time, but not solo violinists."
Sherlock drew closer, standing in front of John. For a minute, John thought he was going to straddle his lap. Might have been hoping for it. But he merely knelt in front of him and placed the violin and bow in his lap. "The violin and bow are both separate entities. From each other and from yourself. You must learn to make all three work in harmony. The violin and bow are brother and sister. They are different but have learned to work together. It's you who must learn how to work in tandem with them. You have to let the violin and bow teach you, not the other way around." He lifted the violin, placed it under his chin, lifted the bow and played a measure or two. It was almost obscene, having Sherlock between his knees playing that violin like that. Sweat gathered underneath his collar and his testicles became oversensitive.
He licked his lips. "Yeah."
"Some people," Sherlock murmured as he played, "Try to tame the violin, instead of letting it tame them. They fail. Others, the masses I'd say, are not confident with their skills because they try to make themselves and the instrument work as one, when it really must be treated as three." He swept the bow slowly across the strings to finish and set both instrument and bow on his folded legs. Rested his head against John's knee. "That's why there are so few solo violinists. Their confidence is weighed down by the fact that they can't work properly with the violin. Having only yourself to rely on is easy. But in violin playing, and in all instruments, you must lend part of yourself to the instrument. Most of us just aren't programmed for it."
John debated the repercussions of running his hand through Sherlock's hair. Decided not to. Swallowed hard and said, "My, uh…my clarinet teacher never mentioned anything like that."
"That's because she's an idiot," Sherlock said. Finally stood up and put away his violin. John didn't know whether to be relieved or disappointed. "Don't worry, most everyone is."
A small chuckle left John's mouth, almost as an afterthought, and went on to say, "I'm…going to go take a shower."
What Sherlock didn't know wouldn't hurt him, and Sherlock certainly did not need to know that, as he stood in the shower and took himself in hand, all he could see behind his eyelids was Sherlock's cheek pressed against his knee, and the sound of rushing water in his ears was completely replaced by whatever it was Sherlock had been playing so softly.
"He's been composing, you know," Mycroft is careful to mention the next time he and John cross paths. At the deli, strangely enough, where John is trying to eat his sandwich before his lunch break is over. "He hasn't composed since…well, since that Alder woman reared her head."
"Mm." John sucks a bit of mayonnaise off his thumb and says, "Did someone die?" It's a joke, of course. By this point he's certain Sherlock would tell him if something like that happened.
Mycroft, on the other hand, seems less than amused. "He composes to stop himself from using, John. Surely even you must have realized that by now."
The use of the term 'even you' ruffles his feathers a bit, but he knows that engaging in an argument with Mycroft will prove useless in the extreme. Instead he says, "Well, I don't know, Mycroft. As far as I know, nothing's happened that would make him feel the need to use. I mean as far as I can he's been…" His mind flashes to all the times in the past few months when he's noticed Sherlock smiling suddenly for no reason, or the unusually large number of instances in which he actually managed to make Sherlock laugh. Sherlock isn't brooding, per say, but he's never been chipper either. For the first time, he realizes how uncharacteristic his behavior has been.
He realizes his thoughts wandered off in the middle of a sentence, leaving an irritated Mycroft hanging, and quickly says, "Happy. He's been happy." Instead of looking satisfied, Mycroft's lips thin into a straight line and John says, "Surely that must be good? That he's happy?"
"The question is why," Mycroft says cryptically, before picking up his ever-present umbrella and taking his leave.
When he gets home, the first thing he says upon coming in the door is, "I swear, Sherlock, one of these days I'm going to shove your brother's brolly up his arse and open it up."
The noise he gets in return is guttural, rather like a stabbed animal, and a couple of nasty noises from the violin. John comes round the corner in time to see Sherlock sawing angrily at the strings, staring intensely at a piece of paper he has on his stand. "Don't mention him right now, I'm trying to concentrate."
"What's that, then?" John asks, coming up behind him. He's lost all ability to read music in the years since that awful foray into clarinet playing, but he's still intrigued.
"Composition. I'm trying to…get this…" he plays a little bit, fast-paced and the slightest bit frantic, before pausing, playing a few more notes, and swearing. "I know what I want it to sound like but I can't get it out for some reason."
"You'll get it," John says. Squeezes him about the waist and goes into the kitchen and makes himself some tea.
He lays down on the sofa, intending to take a nap for a few hours and then perhaps see about some supper. He thinks he should get Sherlock out of the house because he's been cooped up in the flat for over a week and it's starting to go to his head a bit. He doesn't get far in that train of thought, though, because he falls asleep before too long and finds himself floating in a place where there's nothing but him and the sound of violin music.
Wakes up when a weight introduces itself to his lap. It's his flatmate, in all his blue dressing gowned glory, and he seems to find no fault in their current position. Doesn't even spare a look for John, simply plays the violin, fingers dancing across the strings and bow flowing back and forth. Not like the ferocious sawing motion most violinists have. Sherlock's fingers have all the grace of a dancer moving swiftly and soundlessly across the floor. The fingerboard of the violin is Sherlock's dance floor.
"What are you—?"
"Shh." Sherlock frowns, looking reprimanding for a second. Turns his head in John's direction but does not actually open his eyes to look at him. He inhales a great lungful of air as the crescendo of the piece hits, as though he needs breath to play the violin. His mouth drops open and his toes begin twitching in time.
The climax of the piece is three staccato notes, all in quick succession, followed by a rapid decrescendo. Then it stops.
"That was lovely," John says, once Sherlock is done and has set the violin aside. He dares, with held breath, to place his hands on Sherlock's thighs. He doesn't know what he's doing, is concerned that he's reading everything wrong, but Sherlock's there and he's in his lap for God's sake, and even Sherlock, with his lack of respect for personal space, must realize what that implies.
"It's not finished yet," Sherlock tells him. "There's still a part yet to be written."
"I figured." He moves his hands over Sherlock's thighs, smooth cotton pajama pants doing nothing to mask the warmth radiating off his skin, and the firm muscle laying underneath. He thinks he would like to have Sherlock's legs wrapped around him, squeezing about his waist and twitching in pleasure.
Sherlock grabs his hands and moves them up, up to his waist, and wraps John's arms around himself as he lowers his torso flush against John's, leaning on his elbows. He murmurs, "Will you help me finish it?"
"How would I do that?"
"Do you want to kiss me?"
"Then do it.'
Although he has no idea how it will help Sherlock compose, there's absolutely no way in heaven or hell John is going to ignore a request like that. He cups the back of Sherlock's head in his hand and pulls him down, lips meeting lips. Sherlock's are wet and plump, tasting of tea. It's a good feeling, to be kissing someone. To be kissing Sherlock. A few minutes ago he hadn't even known he wanted to but God is he ever glad he did.
Sherlock breaks away, to rest his forehead against John's and to catch his breath. John says, "Do you know that the violin was the first clue I had that you might be alive?"
"After you…After Moriarty. And you went into hiding. I had a feeling you might still be alive. The violin disappeared when you did; I knew that had to mean something."
"Did you?" Sherlock presses his lips to John's chin. "Then why, pray tell, did you punch me when I arrived home?"
"Because I was still pissed." He sighs and closes his eyes, smoothing his hands down the plane of Sherlock's back, over the swell of his bum and back again. He doesn't ever want this feeling to end; floating warmly and serenely with Sherlock in his arms and violin music in his head. Wonders if, this time, his soul has been scattered with Sherlock's and this is what it feels like to be truly weightless.
"Do you know, John…I think I'm happy." He makes a sound that can only be categorized as a purr and presses his cheek against John's chest, above his right nipple. "I mean, not momentarily, like just after a case or when I win an argument with Mycroft. I'm…happy with everything."
"That's good." John can feel himself starting to fall back asleep. "That's very good, love."
"I'm wondering when it will end."
With a chuckle, John squeezes Sherlock's waist and kisses his forehead. "It doesn't have to, love. It doesn't have to."
There's a kind of tingling that starts in the small of his back and spreads all the way to his fingertips and toes, almost like a spike of a adrenalin and much longer lasting, that stays with him for the next few days as he and Sherlock settle into this new thing that's happened. Mycroft is more suspicious than ever, as evidenced by the fact that he drops by not once, but twice in that week, when usually he only deigns to present himself every few months.
"Mycroft hasn't looked this worried since the US invaded Afghanistan," Sherlock tells him over dinner. The dining room table is monopolized by a large pile of papers Sherlock swears are relevant to a cold case Lestrade has given him for lack of any other case. So they're eating Chinese on the sofa, side-by-side. John sets down his take-out carton and presses a kiss to Sherlock's cheek, just because he can. God, he feels fifteen again and doesn't even know why.
Sherlock hums and turns his head to catch John's lips, then continues, "He's convinced himself that the only reason I've been cheery is because I've started using cocaine again."
"Why does your brother find it so hard to believe you're happy?"
"It's…complicated." He takes another bite and sets down his own carton, then curls himself up against John's side. John, whom still is not used to Sherlock's new, cuddly (for lack of a better term) side, again feels that sensation rise up in him. Can't help but rest his head atop Sherlock's, press his lips into his hair.
"He's paranoid. He thinks all good things must come to an end, and he doesn't want me to crash when it happens." Sherlock presses his lips together in the dissatisfied look that both Holmses wear when they're conflicted. "Mycroft lives a very sheltered life. Emotionally, that is. Obviously he subjects himself to danger every day. But he never opens himself up to emotional vulnerability. He once tried to convince me that caring wasn't an advantage. And perhaps he was right. But I think it's better to care and be hurt than to live life lonely and alone."
"He cares about you."
"That's the strange part," Sherlock chuckles. "He's put himself in more danger in the pursuit of keeping me safe than he would in a normal relationship."
"So you'd call our relationship normal?"
"Absolutely not." Sherlock gets off the sofa and turns off the television. "May I play for you?"
"If I can make tea while you do and not seem rude," John says, getting off the couch and heading into the kitchen. Apparently that's fine, because Sherlock begins playing anyway. The music starts on an up note and soars even higher, and John's spirits go with it. He doesn't think he'll ever be able to hear violin music again without feeling incredibly content, and very slightly aroused.
"I was thinking," Sherlock says when John comes back in with two cups of tea. "That I might finish that composition tonight."
"Yes." He sets down the violin and takes the cup of tea. "I was also thinking I may fellate you, but that will be later."
John can't help but burst out laughing, even as the statement itself shoots right to his groin. He pulls Sherlock towards him and says, "Okay. Sounds good."
When later, he wakes up alone in his bed, he at first is not surprised. Until he realizes that Sherlock was with him in bed when he fell asleep, and there is still a warm spot in the bed where the detective must have been less than ten minutes ago. Concerned, he gets out of bed, slips on a pair of pants, and treks downstairs in search of his wayward flatmate. (Lover? It would be lover now, wouldn't it?)
He finds him. He's facing the window, naked as the day he was born, and has the violin under his chin. John recognizes the piece; the composition that Sherlock has been focusing on so thoroughly that even Mycroft had noticed. He's at a slow part; a low, sad, haunting melody that seems almost dreary compared to earlier parts of the song, which are fast-paced and joyous. Some are more frantic than others, and some even have an air of desperation, but none create the effect of melancholy and desolation quite like this portion.
Even Sherlock is standing still as he plays this part, head tilted downwards and eyes closed.
Then the song rises, to that three-note climax that had so impressed John the first time he played it, and decrescendos. It continues, he's added onto it. It's a soft, gentle thing that makes Sherlock smile and sway gently, murmuring under his breath what John can only assume are the notes. Ends on a low note, slowly fading into nothingness. It isn't an end, although John can tell that it's the end of the composition. It's meant to imply that the note goes on forever, just under the radar. Happily coexists with the noise and action and silence of everyday life.
That note will stay with him for days.
"You're naked," he says, "In front of the window."
"It's four o'clock in the morning and no one will be trying to see in them," Sherlock replies, setting the violin in its case and closing it. John comes up behind him and wraps his arms around him, loving the feel of Sherlock's bare skin underneath his hands. Runs his hands over Sherlock's stomach, the joining of thigh and torso, hips, testicles and flaccid penis. Sherlock's breath stutters out of him.
"That was beautiful," John tells him, hands coming to a rest folded over Sherlock's chest. Rests his cheek between his shoulder blades. "What's it called?"
"I'm calling it Ode to a Friend."
Notes: Thank you for reading!
For those of you who aren't following me on Tumblr, but who are following Peril or Unlocking Sherlock: They are going on a hiatus until early August. My beta is on vacation and I don't feel comfortable posting those without her, mostly because they get a lot of attention and I want to make the reading experience as smooth as possible for the larger audiences.
In the meantime I will be developing the plot on US, probably into the sequel, and I will also be focusing on the Omegaverse story I started posting last night. My intention is to have all of it done by the end the month so that I have something to put into the filler between when Peril and US update—I'm fully aware that there will sometimes be a month between updates, and I'm trying to smooth the gap as much as possible.
I'm going on my own vacation week after next. Internet access will be limited, although I promise I'll be writing. If I make it to the internet-enabled café in town, I'll be sure to let you all know what's going on. :)
As always, feel free to follow me on Tumblr (Detective inspector narwhal, no spaces) to get information on when your favorite stories will be updated, and assumptions on scheduling as such. And as always, feel equally free not to.
Thanks once again!
EDIT: Please note that the opinions expressed by Sherlock on the orchestra and professional violinists are not my opinions. I have great respect for every artist, and that includes those men and women who play in orchestras and symphonies. I myself am a flute player in a high school orchestra. I'm sorry if you took offense, but this is a work of fiction and not to be confused with the author's opinions. Please don't accuse me of being uncultured or ignorant, as it's not appreciated.