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Fic (Sherlock): This Gold Thread

Summary: Space AU. She had studied the Legend of John more than any other. Now one of the protagonists of that story is standing in front of her in the flesh.
Rating: standard // PG
Pairing: John/Sherlock
Length: ~1984 words
Spoilers: none
Disclaimer: No infringement intended. Characters, so far as they are not in the public domain, belong to the BBC and Hartswood Films. Title belongs to irisbleufic.
A/N: Just when I thought I couldn't participate in consci_fan_mo this year because my new fandom didn't qualify, my brain thought outside of the box. This is the result. My thanks to mad_jaks, for hosting the challenge, to misswinterhill for the beta, to kilawater for the feedback and handholding, and lastly, I owe a debt of gratitude to irisbleufic, not only for her support for this story, but especially for graciously letting me borrow her beautiful words to provide it with its title.

--

A man whose hair is as dark as a raven's,
whose eyes are as pale as the Earth's moonlight reflected on a lake,
a man who is the only one in a room
even if there are a dozen in there with him,
such a man shall come for me.


--

She knew him before he knew her, as he strode into the café with his coat swirling and his scarf tightly knotted.

"You're Sherlock Holmes," she said, swishing her tail off the second seat so as to make room for him. "I think I would know you anywhere."

He did not smile as he sat down, but kept his face blank. So many different variants of his story abounded -- the avenging angel of legend; the searching lover; the petitioner who did not wish to reveal his quest. It was hard to tell what was part of the original tale.

"Salia?" He said her name perfunctorily, the air of a man already aware of the answer.

She merely nodded in reply.

"They told me you know the origins of the story about John Watson."

There was a barely detectable urgency in his tone; she only recognised it because she'd once spent a summer on a cargo ship run by humans. She nodded again. "They call it the Legend of John," she said, and smiled. "There are several variations of it, and in some circles it's told more fancifully than in others."

"You've studied it."

"I have." Not from when it first surfaced, but later, when it proved so tenacious. "I'm a professor at Lentin University," she explained. "It's situated in the better districts of the city, where these tales are told, and not whispered for fear of their being true."

"Is it true?" Sherlock Holmes asked, his dark hair carelessly arranged around his head, not the crown of glory the whispered tales told of, the tales that had made their way up from the slave quarters to the salons of the reputable establishments Salia had her tea in.

"All tales have a basis in fact," she said, and watched the irritated sneer form on his face. "I can tell you the story," she offered.

He started to reply, but stopped when the waitress hovered at their table and clicked a question at them. He shook his head, automatically, not that, she guessed, he understood what was asked. She replied for them both, "Lakerian tea, for two."

The waitress flitted off, the rapid beating of her wings creating a draught over the table, fluttering the napkins and ruffling her tail-fur.

"Tell me the story," said her companion, the skin around his eyes taut with tension.

"The Legend of John," she began, as if she were addressing a lecture hall full of upper class students who had barely heard of so low-class a story, abuzz with starting up their notepads and settling into their seats, "was first recorded some two revolutions ago. It was not the first time the story was told, of course, but the first time someone registered it, because it was new."

The waitress arrived, setting down their tea and crackers before leaving again, off to another table. Salia poured out the tea while she continued her story.

"It was said that in the slave quarters, there was a doctor, and this doctor told a story. A story of how he was abducted, and of the man, the hero, who would rescue him."

Sherlock Holmes picked up his tea cup and gave it a distasteful sniff. He considered it a while before at last taking a careful sip, and then nodding to himself. Then he drank some more.

"That man, I think," said Salia, carefully, not wanting to let her excitement cloud her intellect, "is you."

"Yes," he replied, sounding like he meant, obviously.

Some said he was a cruel man, this hero of legend, a man who would wound without second thought; and some said he was a man destroyed by the obsession of love; and some said he was a kind hero, his actions misunderstood. Most, though, preferred to centre the narrative around the tragic fate of John.

"There is a second narrative surrounding the first," she explained, "and some scholars believe that that's why John is real, because the second story is about John himself, about the kindness and goodness that made strangers willing to bear his story, at a grave risk to themselves."

Her companion frowned. "Why?"

"The risk?"

He nodded curtly.

"It is said that the only power John has is to tell his tale, over and over again, in the hopes that it will become legend, and legend is how it will reach you." And reach you it has, apparently, for you sit in front of me in the flesh, a tragedy come to life. "But the man who has abducted John, he would never allow for John to even have the slimmest chance to be freed. If he were to discover John's tales are carried away, the persons doing the telling would face dire consequences."

Sherlock Holmes put down his teacup with a clipped gesture. "Well, did they?"

She smiled slightly in spite of his impatience. Not the kind hero, then. "It is not known. But the story was told, time and again, until it made its way up to the most private salons, the tragedy of tragedies, of a man wronged and a love divided for eternity."

"Not eternity," he said, looking up from his tea, his bright eyes glaring at her.

Did he want that to be true, or was he swearing it now? "The Legend of John is twofold, and the first goes like this." She sipped her own tea to lubricate her throat, and bit into a cracker before continuing. "John was once a happy man, who had a great friend, in service of whom he lived his life. This man was a great solver of puzzles, and he helped his fellow man by finding restitution when they were wronged. One day, he solved a puzzle, and gave someone back something that was stolen, and the thief took exception to having his prize possession taken away."

Her companion's mouth twisted into a sneer again, slowly, as if he were lost in memories and did not know his face was betraying him.

"This thief took revenge in the same way: he took away John, the most prized possession his nemesis had. He took John across galaxies, sold him into slavery, and John was traded across so many planets that even a great solver of puzzles would not be able to untangle the threads. And then, so far away and so alone, John came to realise the one thing their nemesis had already known."

"Yes," said Sherlock Holmes, as if it were an answer to a question she had posed.

"That they were in love." She held her breath for a moment, but he did not speak again. She took another sip of her tea and swished her tail to the other side of her chair before saying, "He began to tell his tale in the hopes that, although he was likely never to see his companion again, the man he loved would know, one day."

She could recite it by heart, this part of the tale, from her favourite written version. "The man whose hair is as dark as a raven's / whose eyes are as pale as moonlight upon a lake / such a man shall come for me / such a man I will never see / again."

There were tears in her eyes when she'd finished. Her companion sat across from her, still like a statue, his face a paler mask than when he'd first come in. Slowly, his hand reached for the cup in front of him, and she saw the liquid in it tremble when he raised it to his lips.

"The Legend of John is considered a tragedy," she added gently, "because he believes his lover will always reach him too late. He believes you are too many steps behind him."

Sherlock Holmes raised his gaze to her, and said nothing. Salia did not know what to offer him in reply to his silent stare.

At last he asked, "What of the second part of the legend?"

She cleared her throat. "John is a kind, good man, who has tried to help his fellow slaves by applying his knowledge. He is a doctor, according to the legend, and he helps those who are in need. In gratitude for that, although he asks no thing for himself, they bear his tale as far as they can, in the hopes he can be reunited with his lost love."

She drank some more tea. "There are variations, and there are stories connected with the legend, about the good deeds John has done and the people he did them for, and there are versions which have attempted to finish it, where he is reunited with his lover, or those..." She trailed off, then forced herself to complete her sentence. "Those that leave him lost forever, where no one ever finds him again."

Sherlock Holmes pressed his lips together. "Those versions are untrue."

"I will disregard them from now on," Salia replied.

Her companion looked at her again, and this time spoke straightaway. "You do not know where he is?"

She shook her head. "No. But the legend originates from around Lentin, and it is believed that that is where John is, or was, for a long time. Or the legend wouldn't have had time to form."

He nodded, folding his hands together in front of his face and leaning his chin on them. "What else?"

"Some stories come from different sources." She saw his sharp gaze brighten. "Some come from the barges that ferry the slaves from the trader's market at QuinQ'ot. There are slaves employed on the barges, too, and I've spoken to at least two people who were told the tale by such a source."

"How recent?" he asked.

"Those tales are older, and less complete. I'd hesitate to say anything definite, but I'd say the slaves on the barges knew the Legend of John before it was told at Lentin. It is hard to tell, because the versions being told at Lentin now are too refined, and may not bear too much resemblance to the original story."

"How are the earlier versions different?"

"John is less of a hero, and more of a tragic figure. And his companion--" She paused. "-- you," she corrected, "appear as more of a man bent on vengeance. It is not so much a love story yet, not the way it's told now in the salons at Lentin."

For a moment, the man in front of her sat in silent contemplation. She studied him, this man of legend, the proof of truth she had been searching for so long; the dark, tousled hair that was the colour of Earth's ravens, the bright, piercing eyes that were as pale as described, his manner, curt, stern, solitary, a man who stood out in a room, yes, especially if he were the only man you had ever loved.

He spoke.

"I wish to start a legend," Sherlock Holmes said, his eyes on the waitress hovering over a table in the corner, his voice calm and prepared, "a legend to reach my lost lover. Tell me, Professor, how would I go about ensuring my tale reached him in turn?"

She had worked tirelessly on the Legend of John. It was only right she would shape the next chapter of its narrative. She smiled at her companion, swished her tail under her seat, and replied, "There is a way to guarantee a story is told; for the teller to feel the tale burning on their tongue, until they must share it. Such a way is this..."

*

Comments

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irisbleufic
Dec. 2nd, 2010 12:41 pm (UTC)
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: this piece pulls me apart in horrible, wonderful ways. The longing and grief are stunningly palpable, and Sherlock, in spite of this being an AU, remains so stubbornly himself that it can't help but work. I was skeptical about the concept when you first mentioned it, I'll admit - a space AU, what? - but then I read the story and just kind of fell apart because it was so convincingly done. Bravo. Of all your pieces, this is my favorite.

(This piece was the reason I wrote the poem from which you drew the title, so it's come full circle, in a way. It's kind of annoying that I can't post the poem publicly, as I've submitted it for consideration at some journals already. If anybody asks to see the poem, though, direct them to me, and I can send it privately.)
verasteine
Dec. 2nd, 2010 12:56 pm (UTC)
I love that you love it! Seriously, I think I must have done hundreds of versions of this in my head across various fandoms. This is the fandom in which it worked out, I think in part because I had learned enough about storytelling to make a vague idea become real. And yeah, I don't blame you for the scepticism, I think pretty much everyone responded that way at first. I'm super glad it works for you, that you love it. So thank you for that.

(I will. Also, if it appears in print, I shall want a copy of it, because I feel a kinship to that poem now. If you hear back from anyone, please let me know so I can try to obtain it in print.)
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Left Unsaid - verasteine - Dec. 2nd, 2010 01:09 pm (UTC) - Expand
batmanboxers
Dec. 2nd, 2010 01:21 pm (UTC)
God damn, but this was stunning.
verasteine
Dec. 2nd, 2010 01:45 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much!
mysterypoet66
Dec. 2nd, 2010 01:29 pm (UTC)
The most succinct thing I can say is - I need to know what happens next.
This left me breathless.
irisbleufic
Dec. 2nd, 2010 01:33 pm (UTC)
I know, oh God. I want Sherlock to find him. I want to see that moment. I want to see what follows that moment. I hadn't been left so disconsolate by a story in quite some time.
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wintersjuly
Dec. 2nd, 2010 01:32 pm (UTC)
this is achingly beautiful
verasteine
Dec. 2nd, 2010 01:46 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much!
lenap_trap
Dec. 2nd, 2010 02:11 pm (UTC)
alsmost cried my eyes! so heartbreaking
thanks!
verasteine
Dec. 2nd, 2010 03:21 pm (UTC)
::offers tissues:: Thank you very much!
aftercalais
Dec. 2nd, 2010 02:13 pm (UTC)
oh this is beautiful ♥
verasteine
Dec. 2nd, 2010 03:21 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much!
idontlikegravy
Dec. 2nd, 2010 02:23 pm (UTC)
*guh*

That was heart achingly beautiful and painful and brilliant. So glad you were able to take part! :)
verasteine
Dec. 2nd, 2010 03:21 pm (UTC)
Me, too :). Thank you very much!
fengirl88
Dec. 2nd, 2010 02:47 pm (UTC)
beautiful - this feels exactly right in every way.
verasteine
Dec. 2nd, 2010 03:21 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much!
jenna_marianne
Dec. 2nd, 2010 02:58 pm (UTC)
genius!
verasteine
Dec. 2nd, 2010 03:22 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
eumelia
Dec. 2nd, 2010 04:00 pm (UTC)
Shivers down my spine.

You have such a way with words, the quality of time was so vague and ambiguous. I loved that.

A beautiful telling on the nature of oral story telling.
verasteine
Dec. 3rd, 2010 10:33 am (UTC)
That icon is somehow so appropriate! Thank you very much. I was looking to do something on the nature and power of stories, so glad that came across :).
perriotoi
Dec. 2nd, 2010 04:53 pm (UTC)
Ouch, this is so painful and heart wrenching. I really, really hope Sherlock finds John.

I love the hints of back story and background to the universe you've included in such a small amount of time.
verasteine
Dec. 3rd, 2010 10:33 am (UTC)
Thank you very much!
quantumdoll
Dec. 2nd, 2010 04:56 pm (UTC)
This is absolutely stunning. I love the grip you have on the emotions here, the love story/tragedy about John and Sherlock's reaction to it. Beautiful!
verasteine
Dec. 3rd, 2010 10:33 am (UTC)
Thank you very much!
shezan
Dec. 2nd, 2010 05:23 pm (UTC)
Unexpected and very, very lovely. I don't much go for fantasy, but now I want to read more chapters in this 'verse, because the Legend is pulling at me!
verasteine
Dec. 3rd, 2010 10:34 am (UTC)
Glad you gave this a chance, and thank you very much!
beadattitude
Dec. 2nd, 2010 05:30 pm (UTC)
This is amazing.
beadattitude
Dec. 2nd, 2010 05:34 pm (UTC)
I mean, I can almost hear the rumble of Sherlock's voice as he precisely - but not so clinically that the emotion doesn't come through, the difficulty in *sharing* that emotion doesn't come through - sets his legend in clean, crisp strokes in from of the professor, and can see the blazing eyes, the pale face, one hand clenched into a fist on the top of the table.
verasteine
Dec. 3rd, 2010 10:35 am (UTC)
Wow, that's fantastic to hear, that you can see it happen. Thank you very much!
innie_darling
Dec. 2nd, 2010 05:51 pm (UTC)
This is fascinating and fantastic.
verasteine
Dec. 3rd, 2010 10:35 am (UTC)
Thank you very much!
donutsweeper
Dec. 2nd, 2010 05:55 pm (UTC)
ooooh, this is so fascinating
verasteine
Dec. 3rd, 2010 10:36 am (UTC)
Glad you think so!
lucdarling
Dec. 2nd, 2010 06:03 pm (UTC)
oh wow. this is beyond incredible. so stunning in details & emotions. I want to hold this and never ever let it go, but also pass it on so everyone can see its beauty.
verasteine
Dec. 3rd, 2010 10:36 am (UTC)
That's a great compliment. Thank you very much!
mad_jaks
Dec. 2nd, 2010 06:28 pm (UTC)
Oh my holy god WOW.

I'm so pleased you did this. I really need Sherlock to find John now.

And I loved that little glimpse of something lighter with the waitress hovering - I was just wondering whether you meant literally and then, with perfect timing, you told me she had wings.

*uses Chantho icon, it seems appropriate to use her*
verasteine
Dec. 3rd, 2010 10:37 am (UTC)
I love separation fics, and that love drove this story. The thing with the waitress actually happened because I used the word, thought, hey that could be literal, and created her as someone with wings :).

Chantho is very appropriate, yes!
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ends_of_time
Dec. 2nd, 2010 07:31 pm (UTC)
This is utterly inspired. This is brilliant, and wildly original from not only anything I have read in this fandom, but honestly in any. This is fabulous. Also, a fabulous look at the origin of legends, and a very Willian Gibson-esque approach to a futuristic-society with no explanation as to how it came about. Loved it. It felt so natural.

And now, I need to know more, if it ever possessed you to continue this. It's lovely.
verasteine
Dec. 3rd, 2010 10:39 am (UTC)
Thank you, thank you, thank you. I think this may be my favourite comment! I've thought about continuing this, to be honest, and in my head, it's part of something larger, but I've not yet had the courage to see if I could sit down and write it. If I did, it would have to be equally good, or I would not ever post it, because I don't want the sequel to be a let down.
morelindo
Dec. 3rd, 2010 12:13 am (UTC)
This is just... beautiful. You have made a literature student and sci-fi and Sherlock Holmes geek very happy indeed.
It works so well as an AU. See, I was thinking about the myth of Sherlock Holmes immediately when I first watched the new show. But it never would have occurred to me to try and work it into fic. You have done it, and you have done it so well. The emotion is stunning, the timeless tragedy makes me clutch my heart. Their pain is so evident and believable.

I would quote my favourite line, but the truth is, I love all of it so much that that's pretty impossible.

Thank you.
verasteine
Dec. 3rd, 2010 10:41 am (UTC)
You're welcome, and thank you. Really, I tried this in a 2010 setting, and it didn't work. Then it popped into my head to make the universe bigger, more epic, and this was the result. I'm glad it's worked out, because "Sherlock Holmes space AU" makes most people raise an eyebrow (or two). Thank you for reading.
Left Unsaid - morelindo - Dec. 3rd, 2010 11:17 am (UTC) - Expand
Left Unsaid - verasteine - Dec. 3rd, 2010 11:33 am (UTC) - Expand
eightnoon
Dec. 3rd, 2010 12:18 am (UTC)
Beautiful! I really feel like this is Sherlock's Odyssey. I hope he finds his John.
verasteine
Dec. 3rd, 2010 10:41 am (UTC)
I had Homer in mind when I wrote it. Thank you very much!
x_ray_sherlock
Dec. 3rd, 2010 12:51 am (UTC)
Beautiful and heartbreaking.
Would love to see the whole poem irisbleufic wrote
that created this wonderful story.
verasteine
Dec. 3rd, 2010 10:42 am (UTC)
Actually, it's the other way around -- I wrote the fic and she wrote the poem in response. If you really want to read the poem, you can PM her and ask; she mentioned upthread that she'd be happy to send it privately to people who wanted to see it. Thank you for reading & commenting!
Left Unsaid - irisbleufic - Dec. 3rd, 2010 10:49 am (UTC) - Expand
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Left Unsaid - verasteine - Dec. 4th, 2010 05:03 pm (UTC) - Expand
topgeargirl2
Dec. 3rd, 2010 01:53 am (UTC)
This was very good.
verasteine
Dec. 3rd, 2010 10:43 am (UTC)
Thank you!
hoc_voluerunt
Dec. 3rd, 2010 01:54 am (UTC)
ASDF;LKJ

Well this was all kinds of heartbreaking and brilliant. And I really, really want to know what happens next.

I love the whole thing about the formation of legends - how they change and spread and grow. And Sherlock wanting to create his own legend in return. It's all so fascinating.
God, please tell me they find each other again. Tragically separated lovers are sad enough, but when it's Sherlock and John, it's just too horrible to comprehend.

Absolutely stunning, very well done.
verasteine
Dec. 3rd, 2010 10:44 am (UTC)
In my head, they find each other again. That's all I can say for now, because I am still contemplating a sequel to this, although I make no promises :).

Thank you for reading & commenting!
Left Unsaid - irisbleufic - Dec. 4th, 2010 03:29 pm (UTC) - Expand
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