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sophonisbaworks
has Sophonisba fecit
[fanfic] Cinders (1/x) - Fit the First: Homecoming, by Sophonisba 
30th-May-2011 02:05 am
hmph
-title- Cinders
-subtitle- Fit the First: Homecoming
-fandom- Sherlock (the modern Holmes AU)
-other fandoms- to be announced
-genre- fairy-tale
-warnings- addiction, disturbing themes (as one finds in fairy-tales), references to many, many other takes on the fairy-tale in question and any other ones that present themselves for inclusion, canonical infidelity, creative anachronism, appropriation of characters from Canon and other spinoff canons to fill additional roles
-summary- All fairy-tales have to start somewhere. This is one of them. (Written in response to this prompt on the Sherlock promptmeme.)


Cinders
Fit the First
Homecoming


Once upon a time, quite a long time ago, maybe even last Thursday, there was a soldier. He was a good soldier, as soldiers go, and a good camp-surgeon, which is more; but he was wounded in battle, and when his fellow-surgeons put him back together, they hemmed and hawed and finally said, "Well, we've healed and knitted everything there is to knit, so your limp must be a witch's curse, and there's nothing we can do about curses." And generals don't particularly care to have soldiers with limps when they can have soldiers without limps, so the soldier was turned off, with his kit, a packet of celery-juice cakes, a phial of syrup of poppies should the cakes not suffice, a week's rations, a hatful of vouchers for the king's inns, and a month's pay to take himself off into the wide world or back home again.

A month's pay won't last a soldier very long unless he has no time whatsoever for drinking and dicing and brawling, and a turned-off soldier has nothing but time on his hands; and so this particular soldier sighed, and cut himself a walking-stick, and began trudging home from the wars.

Some things are long in the doing but short in the telling: and so it was that late one afternoon, as the shadows grew longer, the soldier trudged up the long avenue to his half-sister's rambling home with his walking-stick in one hand and an indeterminate mass of long fur attached to a wriggly body that might have been that of a dog on a string in the other.

(If this had been another sort of story, the soldier might have done a favor for a witch on his way home, or an enchanted animal or two, or met a group of extraordinary companions and set out to acquire half the king's treasury; as it was, he hadn't seen the only witch he knew to say hello to for two years, while he'd been polite to every cat he met none of them had deigned even to speak to him, and the only recompense the furball he'd rescued from a drainage ditch had made him was to run at his heels, bark at anything that came within thirty yards, and eat his scraps.)

Said home, as he drew nearer, looked sadder and sadder. The trees of the avenue clearly hadn't been trimmed for years. The house was far more weatherbeaten than he remembered it: several of the windows were boarded up, and the roof of the chapel was sagging. The walls were more ivy than brick, and he rather suspected that more than a few of the shingles had gone missing off the roof. It looked less and less likely that anyone was even still living there, now that his stepmother had remarried.

Still, a roof (even a leaky roof) is better than no roof, and a servant or two might still be about the place, and so the soldier looped his string about his walking-stick and used the great iron knocker: bang, bang, bang.

He waited, but there was no reply.

Three more times he lifted the iron ring and let it fall against the plate.

Still no reply.

He had knocked three more times and backed up to eye the windows, judging which of them would be the easiest to break or otherwise get open and clamber into with his leg, when the door creaked open, leaned heavily on by the shambling, gaping, bleary-eyed lich of his half-sister's husband.

On second glance, adding into account the reek of his breath and the wineglass in his hand, the man was merely very, very drunk; his slurred demand of "Wha's all that racket, then -- John? That's never you?" merely bore out the preliminary deduction.

"Afraid so -- DOWN, Stamford!" the soldier said. "Sorry, Dave, I'm afraid he's convinced that humans are divided into 'old friends' and 'friends he hasn't met yet.'"

He paused for a moment. Dave continued to take up as much of the doorway as humanly possible.

"Can we come in?" John added, and Dave blinked at them for a long moment before turning and reeling back down the corridor. His clothes were wrinkled, and from the scent that hit the soldier as his brother-in-law turned, he'd been sleeping in them. For several days in a row.

Inside the house looked, if anything, worse than it had from the outside. There were cobwebs festooning the corners, the dingy wallpaper was peeling, and dust had settled on everything.

"Come round back next time," Dave said. "Have a drink." He blinked at the glass in his hand as if it might magically duplicate itself.

Even Stamford seemed subdued by the corridor, and John kept himself from saying I'd worked out you weren't using the front door, thanks.

"Was there anyone?" a woman bellowed from the back parlor, and John jerked violently enough that Stamford whined.

"Sorry, old fellow," he apologized.

"Yes!" Dave roared over him, and then flung open the parlor door, staggering in, tripping over a motheaten rug on the floor, and finally managing to loose-limbedly fall onto a settee without spilling the dregs of his glass.

Beyond him, it seemed as though the room was full of bottles. Dusty, cobwebbed bottles, standing haphazardly on tables in the shadows. Green glass bottles, catching the sunlight on the sideboard. Empty bottles, lying in a haphazard heap under the window (one of them, it seemed, had been jarred loose by his brother-in-law's sudden descent, and went rolling across the floor until the woman on the chaise-longue stopped it with a foot).

"John?" she said, freezing with an unstoppered decanter in one hand and a glass in the other.

"Harry?" John boggled. "Where's Jenny?"

Harry shrugged. "Out, apparently."

"Out with her lover," Dave mourned. "My pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty Jennifer."

"She has a -- who?"

"Oh God, what's this one's name?" Harry put the decanter down and shot a beseeching look at Dave, who had apparently lost interest in anything but the half-full bottle of wine on the corner of the sideboard nearest him. "Aeturnus, Melwas, Lanval, something like that. She's been going through them for years. Nice chinchilla, by the way."

"I think Stamford's a dog, actually," John contradicted as the mutt in question made a mad dash for the chaise-longue and jumped up on Harry's tremendously grand faded-from-black velvet. "Picked him up on my way home."

"You didn't tell us you had leave -- John, what happened?" Harry demanded as he limped forward, nearly rising to her feet before Stamford whined and she settled back down, scratching behind his ears with her free hand.

"Got hit, enteric fever, when I was back on my feet I had this curse dogging my leg, and they blessed me and sent me on my way. It's a shorter walk here than Shapeir, and I had no idea you had leave -- or is Lady Clara visiting?" Although a hasty survey of the room and the archway into the kitchen (which latter was adorned with haphazard stacks of plates and seemed to be the source of a rather peculiar smell) suggested that no matter how Harry interpreted the duties of a lady-in-waiting, it was vanishingly unlikely that they'd include revealing this place to her mistress's eye.

"I've left her." Harry picked up the decanter again and poured herself a nearly brimful glass. After another whine failed to produce the return of the scratching hand, Stamford leapt down from her lap even more awkwardly than he'd jumped up and bounded into the kitchen, beginning to sniff very noisily. Ignoring him, she took a healthy swig; between that and Stamford's actions, John finally noticed that her gown was cut low enough that he could see the aureolas of her nipples through the lace edging.

He sat down heavily in the wing-back chair, determinedly staring at the cobwebs in the corner behind her. "So, er."

"Curse?" Harry interrupted him. "Did you break a witch's heart, Johnny-boy? Or just fail to give her one when she was gagging for it?"

"The only witch I know is old enough to be our grandmother, and I haven't seen her for years -- and even then I got on with her a sight better than I've ever gotten on with you."

"It's not as if you were any prize yourself," Harry told him, swirling her fortified wine and admiring its color. "Really, I'm sure whyever whoever did, you at least half deserved it."

"Snipe, snipe, snipe," Dave rumbled, raising his voice just enough to be audible. "Always at each other, even at the wedding. Knew it was too good to be true, anyway, knew she wouldn't have looked at me if you hadn't put in a word and said I'd take her with this heap as the dowry... would've taken her barefoot in her shift... "

"Oh, that was entirely selfish," Harry reassured him. "Who else would have had us like millstones round their neck, even with Jenny and the house and whatever Roussenbourg might have thrown in?"

"How is Jenny?" John hastily changed the subject. There was blunt, and then there was whatever spirits did to Harry, and Dave at least seemed in no condition to deal with the latter.

"Bright. Sparkling. Absent,"

"Absent -- does Jenny even live here anymore?"

"She comes back to sleep, and primp, and tidy out there -- " Harry waved an arm at the window, in the general direction of the chapel. John gritted his teeth, because really, he was trying to not look, especially when she was stretching -- "and maybe in her room too, it's not like she lets either of us in it any more. And, of course, to stash her more valuable presents."

"Presents," John repeated. There was a flurry of barking from the kitchen. He hoped Stamford hadn't found a rat.

"From her men." Harry's voice turned low and venomous. "I've warned her that toys are nice in their place, but they're no kind of an apology and less of a penance; a true penance is supposed to come on the heels of actual repentance, after all, and gifts -- no matter their market value -- are no substitute. Want a locket-watch?" She set her glass down for a moment to untangle the chain of, presumably, the aforementioned item from the chatelaine's chain about her waist, and threw it at John once she'd got it free.

It was an elegant gold watch and chain, set with diamond chips and adorned with the engraving "Harry FitzWalter, with Clara's regards," as well as numerous dents and scratches from either the keys, etui, and so forth of the chatelaine or from mere banging into doorframes, chair arms, and the like. John opened it automatically; the watch face was set with more diamond chips (and badly needed winding), while the other side contained a miniature of Lady Clara as, presumably, Diana.

"Precisely," a voice agreed from the kitchen. John gratefully turned in time to see an elegant black cat, short fur white on the underside spreading up to the chin and down to the feet, stroll into the small parlor. "Once let them think that a few fish heads or a saucer of cream will relegate bygones to bygones, and in no time at all they will believe themselves the masters and yourself a pet; as the Cinder Heap says, if you don't take yourself at your own valuation you can hardly expect that anyone else will." He wound himself around John's legs and those of the chair. "I do hope that now we've been graced with the presence of your little friend..."

"I'm Harry's brother John, sir cat," the soldier introduced himself as the cat jumped to the armrest of his chair and then leaned up and set his forepaws on John's right shoulder, "come home from the wars." Nobody has ever learned whether the cats of Carabas are magical in any way beyond the obvious, but by the same token -- and given the general temperament of all cats -- nobody really wants to be the one to find out.

"Langdale Pike, dear boy." The cat rubbed each cheek against John's chest before dropping to pace back and forth from one armrest to the other across the soldier's lap. "And I do hope -- I trust -- that another person in the house means that the catmint beds will finally be weeded? So distressing, to be peaceably browsing and suddenly have one's nose assaulted by an incongruous smell, or worse, prickles."

"I'll... see what I can do?"

"I am all anticipation, my dear John. All. an.ti.ci...pation." Langdale Pike crouched on the soldier's lap and then sprang, heavily pushing off of John's aching leg, to the sideboard, which he took in a quick dash and used the momentum to leap out the open window into the herb-garden.

"Harry," John said firmly. Really, he hadn't had this much trouble tearing his gaze away from her since the time she had the centipede in her hair when she was thirteen. "Where are the servants?"

"Gone," Harry shrugged.

"They wanted... " Dave rumbled, each word drawn out of him as on a spider's thread... "something. Wages. I dunno."

"But hey," she said brightly, "we have a cellar! Dave's hardly gone down to the pub since I unearthed it, and you wouldn't believe how much that saves for buying meat pies or the like." She leaned forward, dropping her voice to a loud whisper. "If you don't drink it soon enough, it goes off."

"Yes, in a century or near that," John pointed out.

There was a crash and a flurry of barks from the kitchen.

"Right. Well, then." John set his hands to the ends of the armrests, levered himself out of the chair, and took up his stick once more. "I'd actually rather borrow the chatelaine, if you don't mind; the broom cupboard might be locked or something."

"Keep them both," Harry urged him, twisting about to unhook it from her waist and pressing it into the hand holding the watch-chain. "What are you doing?"

"Cleaning," John told her, stumping to the kitchen. "And maybe cooking -- "

Possibly every plate in the house and a number of pots were either stacked on the kitchen tables or in pieces on the floor. An assortment of honest-to-goodness leaves were scattered across half said floor. In the massive fireplace, a remarkably large assortment of cinders were heaped at the back, and various scraps, torn meat-pie-wrappings, corks, and other trash had been tossed in on top of or around them -- or tossed at the fireplace and let fall where they'd missed. Next to the great fireplace, the high cooking fireplace was in a similar state of disorder, made more poignant by the presence of a rusted trivet. There were more cobwebs. There was a broken table in a corner, and another had its foreshortened leg propped up on a square-built base of bricks. There was a massive water stain under the icebox, whose door was ajar. The cellar door was off its hinges and leaning up against the wall. As John watched, Stamford bounded up the cellar steps, something that looked like a dried pig's trotter in his mouth.

" -- although I wouldn't hold your breath on that last."
Comments 
30th-May-2011 06:18 am (UTC)
oh my God, I haven't even read it yet and already I'm excited.

One of my fav authors has discovered the Sherlock fandom! You're writing Sherlock BBC fic! (Am wondering about certain crossovers here in which he and Rodney and House may share a certain genome sequence... :)) Okay, off to read (and then review.)
3rd-Jun-2011 11:00 pm (UTC)
//You're writing Sherlock BBC fic!//

I actually have been for the past few months now; it just hasn't been showing up HERE.

//Am wondering about certain crossovers here in which he and Rodney and House may share a certain genome sequence...//

Well, given the way my head works, I'm pretty sure any crossovers would have to involve a quantum mirror at least.

(Or, you know, be a fairy tale, in which anything can happen... ^_____^ )

But in any iteration of Sherlock that takes place in a universe where that gene sequence occurs, if anyone's got the responsibility of that inheritance on their shoulders, it's Lestrade. (Or possibly Mike Stamford.)
30th-May-2011 06:29 am (UTC)
when stamford turned out to be a dog, I was Highly Amused. And Sherlock is Most Definitely a cat. (And the watch! Hee!I couldn't quite remember if Dave was in canon, or which universe he belonged to if he isn't. Am curious about the witch. I liked the details of what they sent John home with (the celery-juic cakes made me chuckle and the syrup of poopies made me very sad, which I suppoed you intended. Still- poor John. It's a detail that really strikes home. I liked the practicality and humor in john's apprasail : "generals don't particularly care to have soldiers with limps when they can have soldiers without limps." Something of John's voice bleeds through the narrative while still retaining a fairy-tale style, which I think is wonderful.

Glad you're writing for this fandom!
3rd-Jun-2011 11:36 pm (UTC)
//when stamford turned out to be a dog, I was Highly Amused.//

Originally I was going to give him Pike's role, and then I realized that considering that the plan is for John and Sherlock to meet a fit or two later because of John's dog, the dog HAD to be Stamford.

//And Sherlock is Most Definitely a cat.//

Well, he kind of really is. It makes it tricky to cast anyone else as one, because you can't have him show them up. I finally had to drop back to Canon.

//And the watch!//

We don't really know the details of how Harry gave John her mobile, but I imagine that even in-universe it was something like this.

//I couldn't quite remember if Dave was in canon, or which universe he belonged to if he isn't.//

Well, it's certainly canon that Jennifer had a husband of some kind. I'm pretty sure we never got his name, although he's likely to share her surname. I was toying with the idea of calling him Art when I happened to remember that somewhere, at some time, I read something that contained a bum called Dave Wilson. (This happens to me a lot. Usually it's lines, not characters, which makes it tricky when I want to quote them.) And legendary kings are at least mildly fungible (plus I got to transfer the joke to Harry's trying to remember the current boyfriend, which is inherently funnier anyway).

//Am curious about the witch.//

She is only and utterly herself, by way of a computer game I spent far too much time playing back in the day; I wouldn't dare try to cast anyone else as her.

(Or is that not what you meant?)

//I liked the details of what they sent John home with//

I tend to find that the fairy-tales I like best, as well as being general in many ways, will give you very specific details in places where you weren't necessarily expecting them.

Technically, the former might as readily be referred to as celery-oil cake, but as it's made from the fruit of the celery plant -- and besides, I first ran across it as "juice" in a historical novel sometime.

But yeah, especially given the scripts I'm nominally working from, John's life is going to revolve around cleanup and painkillers for a while.

//Something of John's voice bleeds through the narrative while still retaining a fairy-tale style,//

Huh. I actually thought it was very like the voice I used in "Peaches," myself.

Thank you so much for all your detailed feedback!
30th-May-2011 11:08 am (UTC)
*cheers*

Something new from you! And a very promising start to the story, too. John'll make for an interesting "Cinderella" (that is, if I'm reading the signs correctly).
3rd-Jun-2011 11:44 pm (UTC)
Thank you for commenting!

I'm planning to have fun with this.

(And you are. So far. Cf. above.)
31st-Jul-2011 06:35 am (UTC)
Oh, great! It's very interesting what will happen next!
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