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Once more unto the breach, dear friend

BBC Sherlock fanfic , prompted by John being a Philistine (http://sherlockbbc-fic.livejournal.com/575.html?thread=397119#t397119)
Rating: PG, gen

Spoilers: Shakespearean only

[Act 1, Scene 1]

"Why are we going to see a Shakespeare production tonight?" John demanded.

Sherlock smiled: "Surely you can work that out yourself. Our current case-"

 "-involves discovering where the pigeons in the Elephant and Castle shopping centre are getting their cocaine from. What on earth that can have to do with the South Bank, I don't know."

"There is no connection. Carry on with your deductions."

 "You've got a case on currently, so it's not simple boredom. And I...hadn't planned anything for this evening, so you're not just trying to disrupt my life for the hell of it."

 "You've eliminated those explanations as impossible, so what is the only improbable explanation remaining?"

 "That you're doing this for fun? Sherlock, you know less about literature than you do about astronomy. You're not interested in it."

 "And nor are you." It was a statement, not a question.

 "I've had it in for Shakespeare ever since he wrecked my GCSE year." said John.

 "Romeo didn't appeal to you? I suppose not."

 "How the hell did you know I had to study Romeo and Juliet?"

"A guess, but a good one. I know when and where you went to school, there are only a few plausible exam syllabi you could have followed." Sherlock paused. "You might have preferred Julius Caesar. That was Mycroft's set text, he always complained that Brutus was an irritatingly incompetent conspirator."

 "And what did you have to do for your exams?" said John, and then realisation dawned. "Don't tell me, it was bloody Hamlet, wasn't it?"

 "Half-past seven at the Globe Theatre, I'll meet you there." Sherlock winked and was gone.

 

 [Act 2, Scene 1]

 "So why Shakespeare?" John repeated that evening. "And no, I still can't deduce it."

 "Necessary cultural knowledge, John. The Shrewsbury College case last month. I'd have realised Arthur Robinson's guilt far more quickly if I'd picked up the quotation from Othello."

 "Yes, but you don't need to see the plays or read them for that kind of stuff," said John. "That's what you have Cliffs Notes and Wikiquotes for. Much more efficient than cluttering up your hard drive like this. And why the Globe? Does anyone come here but students and tourists?"

 "If we're seeing Shakespeare, we might as well do it properly."

 "400 years of building technology isn't to be sneezed at. So where are our seats?"

 

 [Act 2, Scene 2]

 John was seriously considering thumping Sherlock right where he stood in the Globe's courtyard.

 "Groundlings? We have to stand for the whole show?"

 "Last minute tickets, John, and it's more authentic."

 "Catching the plague would be authentic, that doesn't mean it would be a good idea. That steward told me I can't sit down at all." John paused. "You do remember I've got a problem with my leg, don't you?"

 "It's psychosomatic."

 "Yes, which means it hurts when I think about it. Which I suspect I'm going to be doing a lot this evening. What are you doing now?"

 "Calculating sight lines, best position for us to stand so you can see properly. Let's assume 30% of the audience are Japanese, and shorter than the average Westerner, though not of course you. Then there's the couples' factors, which gives a taller, but narrower profile, add in the design of the set, and I should say we move 3 metres to the right and 70 cm forward." He turned, smiling to John and added: "If your leg does start to hurt, lean on me. I can support you."

 "Sherlock, you know I don't like to do that in public," said John, walking to where his friend was now standing."What will people in the audience think?"

 "John, in just over two hours time, this audience will be watching love scenes played out by members of an all-male cast. They are not going to freak out at the sight of two men holding one another."

 "An all-male cast?"

 "It's authentic."

 "It's bloody pantomime."

 

 [Act 2, Scene 3]

 There were other things Sherlock hadn't warned him about, the bastard. When the soldiers entered the theatre, John had realised something was wrong at once.

 "You see those guys over there, Sherlock?" he said, grabbing Sherlock's elbow. "They're not real troops. What the hell is going on?"

"It's called acting," said Sherlock. "I believe they quite often have some of the cast enter through the groundlings."

 "And they're dressed as squaddies because?"

 "Because it's a production of Henry V in modern dress."

 "So why did you think it was a good idea to bring me to a play about British troops invading a foreign country?"

 "Because the alternative was Love's Labour's Lost and I didn't think you'd find that funny. Now shut up and listen, John, here comes the prologue."
 

 [Act 2, Scene 4]

 John got through the first half without collapsing or dying of boredom, which he was proud of. And he hadn't needed to lean on Sherlock, which was just as well. Because when he had his head on Sherlock's shoulder, and sometimes even Sherlock's arm around him, he could almost feel Sherlock thinking, hear what was going on in his mind. And it always hurt when what he could feel, hear there, was Sherlock's mind rapidly calculating, with no consciousness of John.

 What was he thinking now, wondered John, turning slightly to look at Sherlock's rapt face. Sherlock would have worked out who every one of the characters was and how they were related right from the start, unlike John, and the complex floods of language would give up their secrets to him. Was it the acting he found enthralling? If you were a sociopath did you need performances like this to learn how to mimic hate, fear, war weariness...love?
 

 [Interlude]

 The interval at last. A bench by the Thames to sit on, a tub of ice-cream and the blast of Sherlock's pent-up conversation. It was actually enjoyable, and it was only for fifteen minutes. If only he'd thought to ask Lestrade to text Sherlock with an urgent problem.
 

 [Act 3, Scene 1]

 The second half was better. Maybe he'd found a better position for his leg, maybe his ear was getting attuned to the language. Or maybe it was just that Shakespeare, that civilian, somehow seemed to know what war was like, how once you were on campaign you made what seemed like sensible military decisions that could suddenly end up being rather too much like war crimes.

 And he found the scene between Henry and Katherine oddly, even disturbingly entertaining. That last speech had included a singularly dirty pun, hadn't it? He supposed that the acting was rather broad, a few too many coarse gestures, but when Henry kissed the slim dark youth in drag playing Katherine it was somehow...right.

 It was because he was concentrating that he was so abominably slow in reacting when someone attacked Sherlock. Thank God it had been such an amateurish attack. Who in their right mind tried to strangle someone in daylight in the midst of a crowd? But it was because John had been slow off the mark, desperately trying to catch up with the danger, that he thought the figure he saw from the corner of his eye, standing up in one of the boxes had a sniper's rifle in his hand, not a walking stick. Which was why he'd rugby-tackled Sherlock to get him out of the firing line, which was got the stewards so upset, which was why, by the time they got out of the theatre, Sherlock's attacker was long gone and they'd both been barred from the Globe for life.

 Not that that bothered John. In fact, as they headed for home, he wondered  whether he could get his ASBO conditions altered again, to ban him from entering any theatre or concert hall in future. That'd teach Sherlock.
 

 [Epilogue]

 Sherlock was silent all the way home and went straight to his bedroom. Trying to work out who had attacked him and why, John supposed, and still at the stage where he preferred no-one to breathe near him. Later, of course, he'd expect John to be his Yorick substitute (John might not care for Shakespeare, but he wasn't completely ignorant).

 But for now he had some free time. He went to switch on the telly, but then abruptly decided he would try a spot of web-surfing. Somewhere out there, there must be a site that would not only have the text of Shakespeare's plays, but also notes explaining them, so that someone ordinary could actually work out what all the speeches meant. Because, to his own surprise, he did suddenly want to know how Henry V ended. 

 

 


Comments

( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
warriorbot
Aug. 30th, 2010 12:24 pm (UTC)
I love you so much right now it hurts! Everything I could have hoped for:

Mycroft, éminence grise "'he always complained that Brutus was an irritatingly incompetent conspirator.'" Love!

Sherlock, and his endless self-improvement: "'...I'd have realised Arthur Robinson's guilt far more quickly...'" Love!!

Long suffering John: "'Catching the plague would be authentic, that doesn't mean it would be a good idea.'" Love love love love
love!

Shakespeare love: "Shakespeare, that civilian, somehow seemed to know what war was like," *UNF* So. Much. Love!

Thank you so much for filling my prompt. With 100%, triple distilled AWESOME.
et_cetera55
Aug. 30th, 2010 12:36 pm (UTC)
This is brilliant! I love Sherlock assessing where precisely they should stand! And you've written so brilliantly John gradually coming to appreciate Shakespeare.

This is such a great fic!

:D
ginbitch
Aug. 31st, 2010 05:46 pm (UTC)
I love this so much! Memmed!!
illezabeth
Sep. 1st, 2010 01:21 am (UTC)
This is excellent, and I love the matching of Shakespeare plays to the characters XD.
Wonderful characterisation and the little things, like

"John, in just over two hours time, this audience will be watching love scenes played out by members of an all-male cast. They are not going to freak out at the sight of two men holding one another."

It's just so perfect for the two of them XD
marysutherland
Sep. 1st, 2010 04:34 pm (UTC)
Just to say - bonus points for anyone who can work out where I've nicked Arthur Robinson and Shrewsbury College from without Googling them. And also to point out that if we're trying to get John into culture, someone needs to take him to a classical concert, possibly the Proms. But I'm afraid it's not going to me, because I don't know the classical background well enough. I think Tate Britain may get a brief mention in a future fic of mine, though.
(Deleted comment)
marysutherland
Oct. 17th, 2010 08:00 am (UTC)
Glad you enjoyed it - though I must confess that the 'singularly' was not a specific nod to the canon, but a word I still actually have in my vocabulary. But Sherlock's lack of knowledge of literature is pure canon, down there in Watson's list in chapter 2 of A Study in Scarlet with his lack of knowledge of astronomy.
ophymirage
Nov. 8th, 2010 01:21 am (UTC)
The Shrewsbury College case last month. I'd have realised Arthur Robinson's guilt far more quickly

BLESS. *grins madly at the reference* Placet ne, domina?
marysutherland
Nov. 8th, 2010 09:48 am (UTC)
Placet. I'm a big Dorothy L. Sayers fan, and although that's the only specific reference I've made so far, there are some other themes lurking that have parallels to her books. Particularly some of the stuff with Harriet Vane trying to work out how you have a relationship with a genius without losing your own identity. Mind you, Sherlock is far less sensitive than Peter, especially about criminals getting hanged (not hung).
2ndskin
May. 15th, 2011 06:30 am (UTC)
This was pure pleasure to read--a fun surprise in every scene, and I ALWAYS love your John pov--and his observations of Sherlock.
disassembly_rsn
Sep. 2nd, 2011 11:41 am (UTC)
Re: Once more unto the breach, dear friend
I enjoyed this. :)

discovering where the pigeons in the Elephant and Castle shopping centre are getting their cocaine from

Good one. I can think of two images for this:
  1. that they're picking it up where it's lying around somewhere (a la Catherine Aird's Harm's Way and the crows), and it's affecting their behaviour and/or winding up in their nests, or

  2. something that is figuratively crack. :) (Doubt you meant that one but it would make interesting art.) :)


I know when and where you went to school, there are only a few plausible exam syllabi you could have followed.

Nice one - I actually buy this line of reasoning for why Sherlock could work out which play did the damage. :) Good call that he would have preferred Julius Caesar, and I love the bit about Mycroft, for his part, hating *that* play - excuse me - *complaining* about that play because he didn't like *incompetent* conspirators.

*That* sounds like something Mycroft really would do, speaking as someone who has heard computer geeks mocking Independence Day because somebody was able to interface an Apple with an alien computer. (Don't tell the guy who maintains the network how easy *that* kind of thing is with computers built by different human companies...)

the Shrewsbury College case last month. I'd have realised Arthur Robinson's guilt far more quickly if I'd picked up the quotation from Othello.

I glimpsed a reference to this in the comments before reading this line, but I claim partial credit because I have read the book and ought to have gotten it anyway: Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers, only you seem to have swapped out Virgil for Shakespeare. (Come to think of it, that suggests a somewhat different motive, if he were quoting *that* play and not the harpy quotation.) If you ever feel moved to write up that case (or have written it and I missed it), you have an audience...

Catching the plague would be authentic, that doesn't mean it would be a good idea.

I get the feeling historical re-enactments aren't John's area... :)

The bit about acting in modern dress is a nice touch - it didn't occur to me until the soldiers came in what *that* would mean, and of course John would spot that they weren't genuine. (That is, unless they were *really fantastic* actors and/or had military experience, which isn't the case here.)

Because the alternative was Love's Labour's Lost and I didn't think you'd find that funny.

Good; Sherlock did think about the issue in advance.

It's a believable note that it'd hurt, knowing that in some scenarios he might as well not exist for all the effect he has on Sherlock. Well done.

(Also good that John's kicking himself now for not having set up an escape plan with Lestrade. He should know better next time, e.g. if Sherlock takes him to see Wagner or whatever. At least, he should if he realizes how *long* those operas can be.)

Or maybe it was just that Shakespeare, that civilian, somehow seemed to know what war was like

Yes, that would work for John. :)
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )