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Title: Old Stories and New
Fandom: ACD Sherlock Holmes
Rating G
Characters: John Watson, Sherlock Holmes
Length: 500 words
Alternate Link: AO3
Author's Notes: Written for the watsons_woes JWP Prompt #31: The End in the Beginning. Every story's beginning is some other story's end. Set between chapters 2 and 3 of A Story of Names, and can be read as a teaser for that story and series. Thanks to earlyable for the enthusiastic feedback that inspired me to write this. Unbeta'd.
Summary: Fae know well that some stories ought not be spoken aloud.

On evenings where there was no case to occupy Holmes' quick mind, in the dwindling hours of twilight he would often smoke a pipe and read to me as I drowsed by the fire. From the newspaper he read tales of the bravery of British soldiers on the battlefields of distant Africa. From his journals I learned of miracles of medicine and engineering. The words of men captivated me in their constant search for knowledge.

At times, Holmes would share with me some portion of his research into my origins. Tales of púca were vague and contradictory. Some named them a help, others a terror in the night – and why not, should the mortal deserve such a fate? My memories of that life, of the Underhill, were but dreams, now.

Tonight he read from a ballad – the story of one Tam Lin.

"And ance it fell upon a day,
A cauld day and a snell,
When we were frae the hunting come,
That frae my horse I fell,
The Queen o' Fairies she caught me,
In yon green hill do dwell."

I felt myself a'tremble. The fire flickered high and strange in an un-felt wind, dancing shadows across Holmes' face as he read.

"And pleasant is the fairy land,
But, an eerie tale to tell,
Ay at the end of seven years,
We pay a tiend to hell,
I am sae fair and fu o flesh,
I'm feard it be mys-"

With a snarl I slapped the book from Holmes' hands into the fire. Holmes gave a shout of surprise and snatched up a poker to rescue the book. I grabbed his wrist in warning. The flame hissed and snapped at us as it consumed the pages.

Once I released him, Holmes sat down in his chair, rubbing his wrist. "What was all that about, my dear Watson?" he asked, his voice a mix of a friend's concern and a scientist's curiosity. "I've read you fairy tales a hundred times before, and you've shown no such response."

"This was one too many, Holmes," I said, pacing, my voice a near-growl. "Bad enough such words be written; you ought not speak them. Don't name Her. Don't call Her here. You are not Hers, and neither am I, not anymore."

Holmes nodded gravely. "My apologies. Yet, how else am I meant to learn about your past, Watson, when you cannot or will not speak of it, other than by using what texts are available to me?"

I shook my head. "It's not important. That was ... púca," I whispered what I once was, "not me, not Doctor John Watson. That story is over. Our story, now, that's the only one that matters. Here, tell me-" I scrambled to my desk for paper and a fountain pen. "Tell me again the tale of The Musgrave Ritual, so I might write it down."

He did, and I did, and the fire in the fireplace was calm, and safe, and mortal once again.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 1st, 2014 01:03 am (UTC)
This is a wonderful piece of magical realism! *happydance*
Aug. 1st, 2014 01:09 am (UTC)
Thank you, monkeybard, I'm glad you enjoyed it!
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )