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Title: Doth feast in our Crossbones Graveyard
Author: timberwolfoz
Fandom: BBC Sherlock
Characters: Sherlock Holmes
Words: 926, including John Constable's poetry.
Rating: M for off-screen murder, accidental death, suicide, rape and drug use.
A/N: Not mine. Sherlock Holmes originally created by Arthur Conan Doyle: the modern version copyright by Mark Gatiss, Stephen Moffat and the BBC. The poetry from The Southwark Mysteries is copyright to John Constable. All used without permission.
Information on John Constable, Crossbones Graveyard, and the campaign to preserve it, can be found at http://www.crossbones.org.uk/
Many thanks to ohcute for the extremely fast turnaround on the beta, and for reminding me that the day I wrote and posted the story, the 23rd of April, is not only St George's day but Shakespeare's birthday; both significant events in the Crossbones rituals.
Remembering Sammy and David. May you rest in peace.
Summary: Sherlock is often out and about on unnamed errands. John is yet to mention the fact that he always disappears on the night of the 23rd.



For tonight in Hell
They are tolling the bell
For the Whore that lay at The Tabard,
And well we know
How the carrion crow
Doth feast in our Crossbones Graveyard.


John Constable, The Southwark Mysteries.


"Spirits of the dead. Spirits of the living. Kindred. Welcome."

Sherlock rested his hand against the wall of the Cross Bones burial ground as he listened to the familiar words.

He knew he was regarded as an automation, a freak, a crime-solving machine, by many of those he met in the course of his work; even John Watson accused him of not caring.

And while he took care to cultivate the illusion, it stung him that even John didn't realising divorcing yourself from your feelings didn't mean you didn't actually feel them.

During the case or afterwards, in the quiet of the night when you couldn't sleep. Or didn't dare let yourself sleep.

Carl Powers.

The boy whose murder had sparked his interest in detective work and between the facts of the case and the dismissive attitude of the police, had inadvertently started him on the path towards his life's work.

Emily Antrim.

Someone he'd vaguely known at Cambridge, who after a night out drinking had aspirated her own vomit in her sleep. Sherlock had just stepped out into the passage when they'd wheeled her body past on a stretcher.

James Armitage.

The real name of his first boyfriend's father. Being blackmailed over his past had brought on a stroke, and Sherlock hadn't put the pieces together until it was too late.

Jules Wrenn.

During the time after his mother's, and then his grandmother's, death, within six months of each other – the time when he'd first started to use drugs aside from the occasional party – they'd known each other from patronising the same dealer. When Sherlock had found he'd been out he'd gone to Jules's place with the vague idea of splitting their supply – only to find him writhing in agony from injecting a bad batch.

Sherlock had called an ambulance, but nothing could save him. Perhaps mercifully.

Pippa Ackroyd.

During the time he'd lived homeless, she had been one of the youngest to fend for herself entirely on her own. They'd all kept an eye out for her as best as they could. But somehow no one had seen her, or no-one had claimed to see her, the night she'd been found beaten, raped and strangled on a bench in Lincoln’s Inn Fields .

Rob Henderson.

Another young man living homeless, on drugs and prostituting himself to survive. Until the night when he'd picked the wrong john.

He could only be identified by his tattoo – his face was too badly beaten to be identifiable.

Teresa Green. Jo Wood. Becca Greeves.

A group of girls in their early teens who banded together to survive, and had been found together, frozen, after a bitter winter night. Not even their shared body heat had saved them.

Russ Greaves.

A man who would have had a promising future if not for schizophrenia that either could not be controlled or the NHS didn't have the resources to control. In the end, Russ had thrown himself into the Thames.

Rachel Howells.

One of his earlier 'cases', before he'd joined Lestrade, in the period when he'd been doing odd jobs, on and off cocaine.

They'd never found a trace of her, even after they'd dragged the lake; officially she was missing.

Thomas Brian.

The first case he'd solved for Lestrade, even high as a kite. Too late to do anything but have his killer apprehended.

Julia Stoner.

He'd been unable to save her, but he had saved her sister.

Emma Watts.

He'd kept her waiting, caught up in his game of one-upmanship with Moriarty, until she'd spoken – and died for it. There were nights when he heard, in his dreams, her trembling voice over the phone, his own admonition – and then silence when the phone signal cut out as it had been blown to bits.

And other names. So many others. Names Sherlock had written on a sheet of notepaper which he'd tucked in a crevice of the Cross Bones gate, along with the ribbon with the name they'd given him; the name of a woman who lay within, buried in unhallowed ground.

Outcasts, like all of them. Like him, in his own way.

Perhaps that was why he felt so at home with this ritual. Why, one evening when he'd been prowling, unable to rest, brain spinning, he'd felt drawn to investigate the sight of the candles and the grey-haired man declaiming, instead of walking past.

Why he felt that to place the names of those he hadn't helped, either by mischance or inaction, was a fitting memorial, a fitting atonement. A fitting acknowledgement; and in a strange way it eased his burden.

Which was why he joined the ritual, month after month. Why he stood there, candle in hand, joining in a ceremony that in other circumstances he would have found quaint at best and ridiculous at worst. Why he sometimes went out of his way to walk down this back street and press his hand to the wall in silent acknowledgement.

Why he joined the others in a toast, at the end.

Here hang your hopes, your dreams,
Your Might Have Beens,
Your locks, your keys,
Your Mysteries.


John Constable, The Southwark Mysteries.

Comments

( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
mcicioni
Apr. 23rd, 2012 12:05 pm (UTC)
I looked up the Crossbones. Interesting, if a tad morbid. But YES, perfectly in character with the BBC Sherlock. And for all the paupers' graves in his memory. As an Italian poet wrote during WWI, "in my heart/ not one cross is missing./ My heart is/ the most devastated country."

And your own writing in this piece is spare, essential, and so very effective.
timberwolfoz
Apr. 23rd, 2012 12:17 pm (UTC)
Have you seen the History Cold Case episode that references it? Laurence Fox narrates it.

Thank you! This one effectively wrote itself this afternoon, though the idea was turning over in my brain yesterday.

Not all of them have paupers' graves, but the majority do: Rachel Howells probably doesn't even have a grave. In Sherlock's mind, they're all the people he could have helped, should have been able to help, if he'd just seen more.

It didn't make it into the story, but at present when Sherlock dies, he wants to be cremated and his ashes either scattered or interred at Cross Bones. Either he 'died' intestate or Mycroft chose not to honour that request.
eglantine_br
Apr. 23rd, 2012 12:17 pm (UTC)
Heart hurting, in the best way. Thanks for writing it.
timberwolfoz
Apr. 23rd, 2012 12:22 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I'm not sure I can take all the credit, though; it seemed to write itself.
missyvortexdv
Apr. 26th, 2012 06:50 pm (UTC)
Really interesting idea and setting.
timberwolfoz
Apr. 26th, 2012 11:07 pm (UTC)
Thank you! This one just popped into my head and demanded to be written, as you can see from my comments to mcicioni. And we know he feels more for the victims than he lets on, even to (especially to?) John; look at his expression in TGG when the old blind lady is blown up and listen to the panic in his voice when he's telling her not to say anything else.
missyvortexdv
Apr. 26th, 2012 11:28 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I agree. I think that's why my favourite line of this is "divorcing yourself from your feelings didn't mean you didn't actually feel them."
timberwolfoz
Apr. 27th, 2012 05:06 am (UTC)
I did like writing that bit myself -- and didn't he say in TGG that he needs to divorce himself from his feelings to work? Ergo, he has feelings -- and ones strong enough that he has to shut them away. Hmmm. Time for a rewatch.

I don't know whether John honestly doesn't see past the pose of 'I am a detecting machine' or if he's playing along with the persona that Sherlock uses. Mind you, Watson in ACD was always contradicting himself on the question of Holmes's emotions...
keerawa
Apr. 27th, 2012 07:02 am (UTC)
Why he felt that to place the names of those he hadn't helped, either by mischance or inaction, was a fitting memorial, a fitting atonement
This was powerful. One thing I've always respected about Sherlock is that he doesn't only take the cases of the rich and powerful. This glimpse of Sherlock remembering the lost people he'd failed, the ones who'll never make the front page, will echo in my mind for quite some time, I think.
timberwolfoz
Apr. 27th, 2012 08:19 am (UTC)
Thank you. In fact, it's the exception rather than the rule he takes on a case for someone rich and/or powerful; Sebastian Wilkes (because John needed the money) and the British Royal Family (because Mycroft pretty well shanghaied him into it) and possibly Henry Knight, though the money wasn't a factor at the time he took a case. And as he said in TRF "they're [cases] all pressing until they're solved."

This glimpse of Sherlock remembering the lost people he'd failed, the ones who'll never make the front page, will echo in my mind for quite some time, I think.

Thank you; that's quite a compliment.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )

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