Most of the time John publishes his blog with gleeful disregard for Sherlock’s opinion, but this time he seems to need a response. Bit odd. The fifty-odd pages Sherlock holds in his hand only cover the first third or so of his time away, but it’s in good shape: the egregious violations of grammar smoothed out, and the style almost unrecognisable compared to the first clumsy days of John’s blog.
“Are you going to post it?” Sherlock asks.
John looks vexed: not his angry look, but the one that means they need the dictionary, and the phrasebook, and it may end up in Charades again. Sherlock continues to work on his Watson but it isn’t quite up to his Basque or even his Georgian yet. Thank heaven John’s Holmes is better than his French or his Dari. “No, good God, no, it’s too full of things from your letters—“
“And things you made up—“
“Things that are reasonable conjectures—you haven’t told me how much you hate it yet.”
“I don’t hate it, not for the usual reasons. It’s still sensationalised and sentimental and somewhat oversimplified but I have to consider the source (thank you John, very eloquent gesture); it’s accurate so far as it goes and surprisingly coherent. There are things I can fill in for you if you’re not posting it, classified rubbish. If you like.” Sherlock watches John’s face, which is complicated. “Will you write up the rest?”
“I need to have a bit of a break, catch up on what we’ve been doing lately.” Sherlock watches shadows chase one another across John’s face. The story breaks off just before his time in ____, which had gone rather badly and might have been harrowing to a lesser man. (Strike that; John had in his possession written affidavits of Sherlock’s having been harrowed.)
In John’s case, learning the events following Sherlock's death had resulted in shouting (not at Sherlock, just shouting), whiteness around the mouth, and, after a while, a lot of quiet swearing. Sherlock has never had time before to watch John absorb information about emotional minefields. He knows John has emotional reactions to the dead, particularly to the innocent or disadvantaged dead, and sometimes to the actions of the living. John subsumes them to the demands of the case, for the most part, until it’s over. He says he does. The dead nag at him, as persons, in a way they have never tugged at Sherlock. Yet of the two of them, he knew John had seen the greater number of bodies. Whether John wants his heart to show or not, the way he tells the story of each case tells Sherlock more than the detective really needs to know; much more than John would be happy to know he has revealed.
But despite the dangerous softness of John’s heart and the emotions all over his sleeves, Sherlock had missed him terribly. And now, after the time together and the time apart, he understands that all the 'irrelevant' reactions John displays are not irrelevant—not to understanding John. On the days Sherlock feels particularly self-aware he knows that sometimes John’s responses help him identify his own, the responses he has preferred to allow to go unnoticed, slipping around in the undergrowth that edges even the best-landscaped mind.
“You really don’t hate it,” John says again. He uses repetition to imply a need for more details, or perhaps an entirely fresh explanation. (Usually the repetition goes something like: “You did that. Did you really do that? I cannot believe you did that. Did you know you were really doing that?” until the kernel comes out of the rhetorical shells and he explodes with: “What the HELL were you thinking when you did that?” It’s a good ritual. Sherlock has missed it, too. John’s exasperation with Sherlock is unique; there may, very rarely, be physical assault. In less extreme cases, John may slam one or more doors and pace off down Baker Street; but he has always come back. He’s even said he always will. )
“Not very much. Hardly at all if it stays in a sheaf of typescript, sorry, ‘print-out,’ “ which isn’t linguistically so different from ‘type-script’ really. If the electrons stay at 221B. “But I don’t understand why you went to all the trouble if you aren’t publishing it.”
Because Sherlock knows it has been trouble, or at least time and absorption. John has been focussed on it in their off-time for the better part of a month: ignoring most television; swearing at websites rather than his computer personally (that would have to be ‘impersonally’. Perhaps ‘individually’? ‘In particular’ rather than ‘in aggregate’?); apparently close to weeping once or twice (which was unnerving, though not related to any current distress); talking to Mycroft; and completely overlooking some notably foul experiments in putrefaction.
John shrugs; not evasion, he’s not sure either. “Maybe I’ll leave it for Polly to put up after we’re both dead.”
Both dead? So it is self-revelatory, although everything John writes is self-revelatory. It isn’t enough his face and life are a mostly-open book. His book is an open book. Is it a book? It could be a book, if it’s this long already.
John continues, “I wrote it, I think I wrote it, for you. Or me. But also for you. Somehow.”
“But I lived it, why would I need… a narrative?” Even though it’s in fluent Watson and concerns one of Sherlock’s favourite subjects as well as one of John’s--actually a very useful source that will repay more attention than John needs to know Sherlock will give it. “You’re not going to give me a tedious psychological explanation, are you?”
He definitely is.
“Yeah, actually, I am. I don’t know whether you knew how much I hated it when Ella told me to start the blog—“
(‘The blog that ate my life’ [John]; ‘the blog where common sense goes to die horribly’ [Sherlock]; the blog that makes a routine trip to Tesco’s a living hell upon occasion; the source of as many interesting puzzles as the Met (generally much less bloody ones); the blog whose followers seem to have offered John as much support as he could withstand while Sherlock was dead, a crowd-sourced kindness Sherlock will never be able to repay)—
“And nothing was worse than trying to write it when I had…nothing to say. But writing it down forces me to make sense of things; then they don’t just coil around inside me being obscure and threatening. And I know—“ he puts up a hand, though for the moment Sherlock has not really been waiting to interrupt—“that enforcing a framework on them limits the number of possible interpretations—“
Which seems to Sherlock, who believes in an objective truth, a very good thing--
“—but I can’t live in ‘quantum’ all the time. Sometimes I’ll write them again from a different point of view to see what happens—“
“Non-fiction?” Sherlock finds himself horrified. Though, since he complains regularly that John’s write-ups are subjective and unscientific, it makes a certain amount of sense (unpleasant though it is to consider) that his experience should be multivalent. Cubist, perhaps. It could be worse: abstract expressionism, one of those ‘word-clouds’. Oh, merciful, nonexistent God: it might be poetry.
“Not that different things are true. The way different things can be…highlighted inside of my head make a different pattern.” That, Sherlock understood, though he’d never liked the synthesis of his observations crystallising more than one way. A result of inadequate data, usually. “Call it what you like, Sherlock. But I can’t see things going on unless I pin one down and look at it hard.”
For once one of John’s metaphors clears things up, pulls the Watson-words into focus.
“You’re giving me a type specimen?” Scientific as anyone could wish. The blog is a shelf in one of those very old displays of natural history specimens in jars. Of Sherlock-history. He is so moved he hardly knows what to say. He doesn’t need it. But it’s…
“Yes,” says John, happy in their shared space of scientific expression. “You can look at it and tell me how I have things in the wrong genus. Or let me know if I get something right, that would be a change.”
The ancient oracle bade everyone to 'know thyself'. Sherlock has seen enough to know that almost no one does. He tries to pay attention, but the longer he lives the more he knows he's no better: no more than anyone else can he see his own back, or know his speed and his position simultaneously. He's done nothing to deserve John's study, but here's John spending time he could be using other ways, many other ways, to observe Sherlock. To make sense of him in words someone else can understand, as Sherlock has failed so often as to despair of anyone's comprehension, or his own ability to communicate.
Sherlock spends intervals for the rest of that afternoon--for the rest of their lives--with a vision of John in a flowing white shirt on the deck of The Beagle, pulling up bathymetric readings and unknown fish and netting finches, trying to get clear information amid the milliard instances of data. Refining his hypothesis, loving because he learns, learning because he loves. Natural philosophy.