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Gladly Beyond Any Experience

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i. somewhere i have never travelled

The drip of water on black stone echoes, insistent. The air is deathly still. Sherlock Holmes straightens and looks Hades in the eye, claims hospitality.

Hades examines the visitor with a curious eye. He has blood on his face and a wildly beating heart, but his gaze is fierce and sharp enough to cut. “Yes,” the god says, amused. “What do you need?”

Sherlock lays out his plan. Hades approves of its simplicity and allows an indulgent grin for the motive at its core.

“Who is it?”

A blank look.

“The one you’re doing this for.”

Sherlock swallows, hard; his eyelids flutter. “John,” he says, tasting the sounds carefully. “John Hamish Watson.” His head is held stiff, defiant.

Hades waves in dismissal; Sherlock hesitates, then stalks out.

It’s been a long time since a story has moved Hades enough to intervene with the Fates. Luckily for Sherlock Holmes, the god doesn’t have to.

 

ii. your slightest look easily will unclose me

Iris is mist, is vapour, is a whisper on the wind. She is prismatic, she is transparent, she flickers with brilliance. Then with a whim of the breeze she stops at 221B Baker Street.

“Sherlock is alive,” she breathes as she stands on the stoop. “Alive. And coming back.” The dark green paint on the door seems to brighten; the “221B” shines a little more. And with a small click the lock relaxes, a welcoming sound.

With a careful “thank you” she slips inside. The house shivers awake at the presence of the goddess.

“Sherlock is alive!” she sings, down the hallway, up seventeen steps, through the door into a darkened flat.

Alive, the last word echoes. Alive.

“He’s alive,” she informs the skull on the mantelpiece. “Did you miss him?” It creaks faintly; its smile gleams through dust.

“Alive,” she hums at the smiley face on the wall. Its yellow, faded grin stretches a tad more upward.

“And he’s coming,” she proclaims, passing the closed door of Sherlock’s bedroom. Inside, the periodic table straightens, its colours deepening in satisfaction.

“Sherlock’s alive, John,” she murmurs over John Watson’s sleeping form. “Wake up.” He shifts uneasily, letting out a sigh, and opens his eyes.

Iris vanishes in a flurry. “What?” John blinks.

Someone knocks at the door.

 

iii. the power of your intense fragility

Sherlock pauses at the top of the steps, suddenly unsure. He runs a hand through close-cropped hair and wonders.

“Faith, Sherlock Holmes,” says Athena, half-chastising, half-teasing, “your battles are over.” She straightens the hem of his shirt and lends a touch of colour to his face. “Now go, my detective. You’ve earned your rest.”

She gives a clear rap at the door and fades. A tremor runs through Sherlock’s frame, as taut as a violin string.

The door opens.

“John.” One step forward, then Sherlock sways, is falling. (He is so tired.) John’s arms automatically curve up to set him on his feet.

“Sherlock,” John breathes, as if a louder sound may shatter them both. (It may.) “Sherlock?”

Sherlock unravels at John’s voice, plaintive with a thread of hope. He has no control left, no rules, no reality.

He kisses John Watson. And pulls back in shock. “I’m sorry,” he says faintly, looking away. “I didn’t mean—” (In profile he is pale like porcelain, as uncertain as the first hint of Spring.)

It’s Sherlock who’s on the verge but John who bursts into tears. “You ridiculous prat,” he says, and tugs Sherlock forward.

Into life, into light, into the open.

 

iv. rendering death and forever with each breathing

John tucks a blanket over Sherlock’s thin form, curled up as he is on the sofa. “Just sleep,” he says. “We can talk in the morning.” (I’ll be here if you need me.)

Sherlock blinks slowly and drifts away before he can reply. John settles into a chair to watch the rise and fall of Sherlock’s shoulders, each breath a minor miracle.

***

Someone is speaking to Sherlock.

“...burn the heart out of you,” a voice says.

“No!” Sherlock gasps, and finds James Moriarty sitting by his side. “You’re dead.”

“So are you,” says the man. He shimmers at the edges and re-forms into a woman with sharp eyes and blood-red lips. “But somebody loves you.” She shifts, too, and now he is an ordinary-looking man, save an outstretched pair of wings.

“Sherlock Holmes,” pronounces the god of dreams. “An interesting path you’ve chosen to travel.”

“Interesting, yes,” Sherlock agrees, with a disdainful curl of lips. “Far less dull than the immortal life.”

Morpheus cocks his head in wonderment. “Is he worth it, then? Your John?”

Sherlock thinks about all he’s lived through, all that he might have lived through. “Yes,” he says. “He is.”

 

v. something in me understands / the voice of your eyes

Sherlock wakes up before the day breaks. At his stirring, John’s eyes open. “Hello,” he says, muzzy with sleep. “You owe me one hell of an explanation.”

Sherlock sits up, looks at the space beside him in invitation. John pads over to settle into the warm hollow left by Sherlock’s body. And with a sigh of contentment, Sherlock begins to speak.

***

Only after all the words are spoken, and even the unspoken is understood, does Eos rise up to trail her rosy fingers across the sky.