morganstuart: (I'll Live to See)
[personal profile] morganstuart
On this day exactly one year ago, my first Sherlock story was posted to an online community. Heartfelt thanks to all of you who have read my work and made me feel so welcome in the Sherlock fandom family!


Title: I'll Live to See Another Day
Author: Morgan Stuart
Fandom: Sherlock
Disclaimer: This universe does not belong to me; I'm just an appreciative visitor. I make no profit from this fan work.
Description: "This," she said with conviction, "was not supposed to happen."
Historian's Note: This takes place during events in the opening scene of the second-series Sherlock episode "A Scandal in Belgravia."
Acknowledgements: Special thanks to [livejournal.com profile] belleferret and [livejournal.com profile] killerweasel for kindness above and beyond the call of duty.
Warnings (Highlight to Read): Spoilers for "A Scandal in Belgravia"! Descriptions of severe injuries and (temporary) death. Science fiction/fantasy elements.




The Operator picked her way through the smouldering rubble with precise, economical steps, slender arms outstretched for balance as the charred debris shifted beneath her feet.

Her presence made for a surreal sight, as if a renowned supermodel had walked directly off a runway and into a war zone.

Concentration forced her gaze inward. She was in the moment, but not of it.

"This one is dead," her partner said. She knew it already, of course, but Steel's even, dispassionate voice provided a welcome distraction from the groans and hisses of the tortured building as it spasmed all around them.

Sirens shrieked in the distance.

There was no need to look behind her, to see Steel's shaggy blond hair turned grey by angry ash and the settling dust of crushed concrete. In her mind's eye she easily could imagine the lifeless body he inspected: the elegant suit, the designer shoes, the gory crater where a smirking face once had been.

After a few more steps she found what she sought.

Framed and pillowed by twisted metal and jagged fragments of breeze blocks, two men lay entwined and unmoving, pasted together by their commingling and congealing blood.

"This," she said with conviction, "was not supposed to happen."

She paused for several seconds before kneeling, balking at the prospect of opening herself to the violent echoes of what had transpired, to the fierce wrongness of it all.

"And what did happen, exactly?" Steel asked from the other end of the room.

Of its own accord, one of her long-fingered hands reached out and brushed against a small patch of short, sandy-coloured hair that wasn't stained dark crimson.

She turned her eyes to the slender man (the detective, she divined) without removing her touch from the older one curled around him (the doctor-soldier-protector). "This one fired the weapon that detonated the explosives. He meant to stop the man you found, and he was willing to sacrifice himself and his colleague to do so.

"And this one agreed with his decision." Reconstructing the scene heartbeat by heartbeat, she considered the second figure, so very still beneath her fingers. "At the moment the weapon fired, he rushed forward, hoping to use his momentum to propel both of them to the relative safety of the pool. His body took the brunt of the explosion. He died… after brief minutes of agony."

Sapphire prided herself on her professional detachment. Usually it was easy enough to maintain distance where these humans were involved. But something about the man breached her defences.

She felt it with him, this doctor-soldier-protector, his awareness and acceptance of his own rapidly-approaching death, his gratitude that the sacrifice held meaning, his relief that his companion survived.

She heard his very thoughts, his emphatic We stopped him, his agonised It hurts ithurtsithurtshurtshurts, his final, earnest mental cry of Please, God, let him live.

For reasons she could not articulate, she felt the need to pause before continuing.

The air smelled and tasted of smoke and chlorine.

"The one who fired the gun survived a few minutes longer," she said, her attention once more on the detective. "He was blinded by the explosion, but he suffered little pain; his back was broken by his impact against the debris, and he felt no sensation from the chest down." She turned her head on one side, straining to catch something fleeting and faint.

In a softer voice, almost a whisper, she added, "His final thoughts were of wonder: at his companion's valour, at the mechanics of his own failing body, at what would come next."

For a moment Sapphire lost herself in the vision of the detective with the sightless eyes and the scalded chin and nose and cheekbones. She observed as he dragged his shredded arm toward the shuddering body that held so stubbornly to his own. The doctor-soldier-protector was haemorrhaging from half a dozen mortal wounds, muffling his sobbing breaths against the detective's shoulder, but Sapphire knew that the dying man had felt the embrace nonetheless, and that he had understood the gesture for what it was before he breathed his last.

"Take us back, Sapphire," Steel huffed as he made his way to her side. "I want to see."

***

The detective aimed the pistol. His friend gathered himself where he crouched, preparing to launch his body forward.

Across from them, on the other side of the Semtex vest, their antagonist stared in something like morbid fascination, his head undulating like that of a snake's.

Everything happened at once: one shot and three gasps, a mighty explosion and a desperate lunge.

Time shivered.

"Did you sense that?" Sapphire asked, her voice all but lost in the din. "The slip in Time."

"Yes," Steel affirmed.

Pieces of the outraged building rained down around them. As three bodies collapsed to the tiles – one instantly dead, one knocked breathless, and one choking in pain – Steel raised a small electronic device in his hand. The contraption began to vibrate and wail.

"I may have found the source of the disruption," he said. "I took this from the pocket of the one over there."

The villain, Sapphire thought.

"A mobile phone?" she asked. "It's an anachronism?"

"The music," he explained, brow furrowing as he accessed the menu of the archaic device. "Yes. A cover version of 'I Will Survive' – recorded, it appears, for the first reunion album of the band R.E.M. in 2015."

"And this is 2010," Sapphire noted. "That's it."

As Steel purged the phone of the problematic file, Sapphire turned her face away from the tableau before her, unwilling to watch the tears leak from the detective's wounded eyes as the doctor-soldier-protector struggled, faltered, and went still.

"There," Steel said at last. "Take us back again."

***

The detective aimed the pistol. His friend gathered himself where he crouched, preparing to launch his body forward.

Across from them, on the other side of the Semtex vest, their antagonist stared in something like morbid fascination, his head undulating like that of a snake's.

Everything happened at once: one shot and three gasps, a mighty explosion and a desperate lunge.

This time, the doctor-soldier-protector's low tackle carried the two men into the pool.

His body absorbed the worst of the explosion before it hit the water. His terrible wounds left him gasping, unable to hold his breath, and he drowned before they once again could claim his life. But as he had hoped, his companion survived.

The sirens grew shriller. Soon others arrived on the scene.

A frowning, silver-haired man, desperate with concern, broke free of the gathering personnel and plunged into the water himself. He bodily pulled the detective clear to safety.

Aside from bruises and cuts and burns, and the obvious inhalation of water, the detective was unharmed.

As the paramedics tended to their semiconscious charge, and other emergency responders began to secure the premises and prepared to search the rubble, the same man retrieved the broken frame of the doctor-soldier-protector from the pool.

Sapphire drifted toward this new arrival as he relinquished his second burden, stumbled to his knees, and failed to regain his feet. Hunching his shoulders and shivering in his dripping clothing, he turned a dark-eyed, bewildered gaze on the ruin all around him.

The seeker, she mused. The man's horrified grief was tangible, a physical presence every bit as real as his own.

"I said," Steel repeated, "something is still wrong."

Yes, Sapphire thought. Very wrong indeed.

Dimly she realised the mobile phone was playing music again – and had been doing so for a good while.

"The song?" she asked.

"'Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough: The 2013 Funked-Up MJ Tribute Remix.'"

"Ah."

"Give me a moment," he said, frustration deepening his voice to a growl as he worked over the device, "and then take us back again."

***

The detective aimed the pistol. His friend gathered himself where he crouched, preparing to launch his body forward.

Across from them, on the other side of the Semtex vest, their antagonist stared in something like morbid fascination, his head undulating like that of a snake's.

Yet another song sounded from the mobile phone.

Ah, ah, ah, ah,
Stayin' alive,
Stayin' alive.


"That is by far" – disdain dripped from each syllable Steel uttered – "the worst music yet."

Sapphire allowed a small smile to tug at her lips. The rightness of the moment flooded her senses, filling her up, making her whole.

She felt an Operator's satisfaction – of course she did; they had accomplished their mission and restored the correct order of Time – but also something more. Indefinable and instinctive.

Perhaps such close proximity to humankind was affecting her in ways she hadn't anticipated.

The dark-eyed seeker would not grieve. The slender-boned detective would not weep. The sandy-haired doctor-soldier-protector would not suffer. These facts were good not only because they reflected the proper, intended chronology of the universe, but also because…

… because the men themselves were good.

Curious. What an odd thought.

"We are needed elsewhere," Steel said.

"Of course we are," Sapphire agreed.

And so are they, these good men, she added to herself, and then she disappeared.

***

"What happened there?" John asked.

After a pregnant pause, Sherlock replied, "Someone changed his mind."


THE END

Notes: The title is taken from lyrics to "Stayin' Alive" by the Bee Gees, which serves as the ringtone for Jim Moriarty's phone in "A Scandal in Belgravia."

This is a stealth crossover with the British science fiction/fantasy series Sapphire and Steel (1979-1982). I assumed not many are familiar with the programme, and so I tried to provide all needed information for this to work simply as a Sherlock story.

This was inspired by the wonderful "The Lost Time Affair" by Maggie Flynn, as published in the fanzine The Kuryakin File #15 (1996).

Vital Stats: Originally written in January 2012.
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Date: 2012-01-07 05:38 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jennetj.livejournal.com
You're my hero - first Bodie and Doyle, now Sapphire and Steel. Well done.

Date: 2012-01-07 12:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] morganstuart.livejournal.com
Oh yay! Clearly we share the same taste in brilliant programming. ;) Thank you so much for reading, and for your lovely comments. I'm delighted that you enjoyed this!

Date: 2012-01-07 09:52 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dt-mad.livejournal.com
OH...I love this!
What a great alternative take on the pool scene and to bring in the frankly ICONIC S&S..brilliant. (I loved that show when it was on!)
I could picture S&S in my mind and it seemed to me to play out just like their show did.

There were some great touches too:
The seeker - for our lovely DI
The perfect description of John as 'soldier-doctor-protector'
But I think above all I love the way you captured the essence of Sherlock in the way you describe his last thoughts...they are what I think he would be like.

Thanks for this

Date: 2012-01-07 12:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] morganstuart.livejournal.com
Oh, you've utterly made my day! I'm so glad to hear that you love S&S too, and that this story seemed to play out like one of their episodes. I'm thrilled that you enjoyed this.

I'm particularly pleased that you liked the descriptions of Lestrade and John, and that Sherlock's final thoughts seemed fitting. (My heart broke a bit, imagining that...)

I'm so grateful to you for your lovely feedback. Thank you so much!

Date: 2012-01-07 10:37 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] k1mono.livejournal.com
Oh wow, Love this, and the crossover fits brilliantly.
I adore Sapphire and Steel, and crossing it with my current favourite fandom is just sublime.

Date: 2012-01-07 12:57 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] morganstuart.livejournal.com
Oh yay! It's wonderful to hear that you love Sapphire and Steel, too. I'm thrilled that you thought the crossover worked. Thank you so much for reading and for leaving such kind comments. I really appreciate them!
Edited Date: 2012-01-07 12:57 pm (UTC)

Date: 2012-01-09 05:52 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] irisbleufic.livejournal.com
*blinks*

I have a friend who used to write in S&S fandom; a crossover between that and Sherlock is the last thing I would have expected, but you've done a marvelous job :)

Date: 2012-01-09 02:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] morganstuart.livejournal.com
Oh, thank you for reading and commenting. I really wanted to have my cake and eat it, too, with regard to the pool scene, and S&S immediately came to mind as the way to do it. I'm thrilled that it worked for you! I appreciate your kind words very much.

Date: 2012-01-09 10:47 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] brighteyed-jill.livejournal.com
Ooo, wow. I like this lots. I don't know Sapphire and Steel at all, but incorporated the characters and the concept into the Sherlock universe so seamlessly that it really felt right. You did a wonderful job of taking this anti-climax and giving a splendid reason for things to turn out the way they did. And guh, you cut my heart out as usual with your descriptions of these relationships, and how good these three (John, Sherlock, and Lestrade) are and how they suffer for each other. You're a marvel, you are.

P.S. Congratulations on your fandomversary! I feel so lucky that you're writing Sherlock, because you are not only a thoughtful and courteous member of the fandom community, but a supremely talented author. Also, you're a pretty great human being.
Edited Date: 2012-01-09 10:52 pm (UTC)

Date: 2012-01-10 01:35 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] morganstuart.livejournal.com
Oh, I'm so happy that you liked it! It's wonderful to hear that it worked for you despite the fact you weren't familiar with S&S.

And guh, you cut my heart out as usual with your descriptions of these relationships, and how good these three (John, Sherlock, and Lestrade) are and how they suffer for each other.

Thank you for this! *flails a bit* It means a lot to know that the characterizations worked, and that you found them to be moving. I just couldn't give up the pool scene without revisiting it one more time (trying to have my cake and eat it, too), because it seemed such a great opportunity to try to underscore how amazing these characters and their relationships are.

I'm most grateful for your lovely words about my "fandomversary"! Truly, the best thing about becoming involved in this fandom has been getting to know brilliant people and enjoy their writings. And you, my friend, are at the very top of that list! (I knew you, of course, but I've so enjoyed getting to know you better, and to savor your haunting, gorgeous stories!) I look forward to what 2012 will bring.

Thanks again for your encouraging words about this story. They're most appreciated. *hugs*

Cheers!

Date: 2012-01-11 02:49 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] machshefa.livejournal.com
THUD

Awesome. Simply awesome. As others have already said, this ending was EARNED. Well earned.

Date: 2012-01-11 05:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] morganstuart.livejournal.com
Oh, thank you so much for this! I'm so happy the ending felt earned; I just couldn't help myself from revisiting the "what ifs" of the pool scene one last time. I'm really thrilled that this worked for you. I appreciate your kind words so much!

Date: 2012-01-13 02:04 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] derry667.livejournal.com
OMFG!!! Saphire and Steel!

I have to admit that I haven't seen any of it in ages and I don't think I saw it all, but what a truly awesome crossover!

Firstly, you actually made a crossover with Sapphire and Steel work and work well. Secondly, the characterisations are spot on (as always with your fic). And thirdly, the songs just totally kill me! "I Will Survive" cover from a future REM reunion album? Just brilliant!

BTW - did you ever see the Sapphire and Steel episode about photographs and The Man Who Wasn't There? I think he was faceless too. Kinda reminds me of Mycroft, for some reason. Just saying...

Date: 2012-01-14 12:58 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] morganstuart.livejournal.com
Oh, you've absolutely made my day. Thank you so much!

I'm delighted that you like S&S, too, and that this crossover worked for you. I'm so pleased that the characterisations seemed right! Thank you for your kind words about that. I do love these characters so much, and I want to try to do them justice as much as I am able.

I had fun coming up with the anachronistic songs; I hope that the R.E.M. reunion album is the first of many! *fingers crossed* ;)

BTW - did you ever see the Sapphire and Steel episode about photographs and The Man Who Wasn't There? I think he was faceless too. Kinda reminds me of Mycroft, for some reason. Just saying...

I did see that one! I wouldn't have made the connection with Mycroft, but now that you mention it... OMG, you're so right! It does indeed remind me of him. Great catch. Hmmm...

Thanks again for this. You've put a huge smile on my face.
Edited Date: 2012-01-14 01:00 pm (UTC)

Date: 2012-02-21 07:37 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tartancravat.livejournal.com
Sapphire and Steel crossover! This is excellent. It all makes perfect sense, and it's not a crossover I ever would have thought of, but I got so excited to see it, and you did it so well. :D :D :D

Date: 2012-02-22 12:15 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] morganstuart.livejournal.com
Oh, I'm so tickled that you liked it! I'm so glad the crossover aspect made sense and worked for you. Thank you so much for reading and for your kind comments. You've made my day!

Date: 2012-02-21 11:41 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] laurab1.livejournal.com
Oh, fabulous :) Of course she looks like a supermodel - it is Joanna Lumley, after all ;)

Date: 2012-02-22 12:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] morganstuart.livejournal.com
Oh, I'm so happy that you liked it! Thank you so much for reading and for your kind words. I really appreciate it. And of course you're right: Joanna Lumley would look fabulous even in the middle of a collapsing building! :D

Date: 2012-06-11 07:28 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] phiso-kun.livejournal.com
Fascinating. Like fengirl88 said, the ending really does feel earned, like they tried on multiple things until they got something they liked. Until they got something good.

Ohhh, Lestrade, I don't like him being the one to pull John from the water, I can feel his heart breaking from here ;_;

All in all, absolutely lovely.

Date: 2012-06-14 12:11 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] morganstuart.livejournal.com
Thank you so much!

I was a bit worried about the crossover here, as it's rather a niche taste/interest, so I'm especially pleased that this worked for you despite the nature of the story.

I broke my own heart a bit, imagining Lestrade pulling John from the water, but I couldn't imagine anyone else risking himself for a corpse; and I suspected Lestrade would lay this duty on his own shoulders. I agree with your assessment, though: it would break his heart.

I'm sooooo relieved the ending feels earned. I really appreciate your reading and commenting on this. You've given me a new shot of energy and enthusiasm, thanks to your responses. I owe you one - no, many! :D

Date: 2012-08-01 06:36 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] trishkafibble.livejournal.com
Well, that was certainly original! =D I love how you've had a bit of fun with the songs and the time element, and at the same time produced such a deeply touching piece. You're being the benevolent deity again in full force, and I love it!!

One more thing: could that be a wee call-back to ACD canon that I see there? Doyle described Moriarty as creepily reptilian, and your image of Jim's head "undulating like that of a snake" very much formed that connection for me. It was a nice little bonus!

Date: 2012-08-08 06:26 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] morganstuart.livejournal.com
LOL! Thanks! I should feel guilty about doing the "stealth crossover" thing, I know, but I feared if I admitted up front that this was a crossover with Sapphire and Steel, very few would read it. And the S&S premise really was more of a device to get where I wanted to go, namely the different ways this might've played out. I'm so happy you found this to be a "benevolent deity" piece. :D

I'm also ridiculously pleased you liked the ACD reference! That was indeed intentional. I try to work them in every once in a while (in "Triage," for example, Sherlock's exclamation of "Oysters" was a nod to "The Adventure of the Dying Detective"), and I'm always beside myself with glee when someone picks one out. I'm so glad it felt like a little bonus.

Thanks ever so much for giving this admittedly eccentric story a go. I'm delighted you felt it was moving.

Date: 2012-08-14 04:12 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] trishkafibble.livejournal.com
Ach, I just may have to read Triage again, just to enjoy the reference! ^^ I just finished reading the complete ACD canon about a week ago, and I'm sure I hadn't read DYIN yet when I read Triage.

Apart from simply wanting to read a boatload of stories that I knew would be fun and interesting (I loved the Holmes stories that I read as a kid), a large part of my reason for reading the full canon is that I love being party to fandom in-jokes and obscure references, and I wanted to be sure I got the full effect from both the Sherlock series and its fanworks. It was indeed great fun reading the original stories, both those I was familiar with and those I hadn't encountered before--and it's been even more fun discovering many (but likely not all!) of the canon references made within the series. Of course, now there'll be no stopping me--I'll be finding Holmesian references everywhere I look, whether they're there or not! ;P

Date: 2012-10-13 02:56 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] morganstuart.livejournal.com
a large part of my reason for reading the full canon is that I love being party to fandom in-jokes and obscure references, and I wanted to be sure I got the full effect from both the Sherlock series and its fanworks

Yes, I know exactly what you mean! Isn't it fun? I did a canon re-read-through myself after the first series, and it was such a joy to be reminded of how fantastic ACD was, and to see how brilliantly and lovingly "Moftiss" and various fans are playing in his sandbox, as it were. :)
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"To trace the remote in the immediate; the eternal in the ephemeral; the past in the present; the infinite in the finite; these are to me the springs of delight and beauty."
- H.P. Lovecraft, 1921

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