carry you to broken ground

I’m having a bit of a tumultuous relationship with this fic, Learning Curve, which was recommended by…Quesarasara, I think. Well, I liked some of her other recommendations, and this one sounded cute and harmless, soooo…

One of those things is true.

I don’t know if I should blame Chuck Palahniuk’s writing advice, or my own discriminating tastes for picking up on the poor, poor authorship behind this story. (Which was apparently nominated for some kind of award at FanFiction.Net? I guess it was posted there first, but it’s not there now. Anyway.)

I mean like…

Henry’s eyes were wide with uncertainty and fright. John knew that sensation well. His father had not been a nice man, and John had listened to his mother cry more times than he cared to count. It was terrifying when your parent was crying and you were too young to know how to help.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with that passage, I guess, but it just reads so dull. The whole thing is like that, spelling shit out without really demonstrating it, and a lot of it assumes that the reader is familiar with Sherlock and the common fanfiction tropes (which I am, but I shouldn’t have to be). There’s a kind of sex scene that isn’t (it sort of jumps from the lead-in to the pillow talk with a weird description of the moment of climax in the middle), and I wasn’t aware their relationship had gotten to quite that point, and then Molly shows up despite never having textually met John before, and then John and Sherlock have to break up temporarily so John suddenly has a limp? I mean I know where the limp is coming from, and why being around Sherlock cures it, and I know who Molly is and her relationship to Sherlock and John, but I watch the show and read enough fics to know how people tend to write those things in non-canonical settings. (And that obviously tacked-on romance between Mycroft and Lestrade? Like, I’m a fan too, but a little context, please! Just a bit!) (Oh, and then here’s Moriarty all of a sudden out of nowhere because we need some conflict in this blossoming relationship! I… What?)

Oh, and I forgot, she misquotes The Lion King:

“He’s your son before sunrise,” John mumbled as he rubbed a hand over his face.

“What?” Sherlock asked, quirking his only visible eyebrow.

“Lion King quote. Don’t tell me you haven’t seen it,” John replied, rolling to face Sherlock.

Nope nope nope. “Your son is awake.” “Before sunrise, he’s your son.”

And John’s “really good present” from Sherlock and Henry is…a complete collection of M*A*S*H DVDs? That’s a little…impersonal, don’t you think?

Basically I guess my summary is that the premise is cute enough, but even taking it at face value, I have a lot of trouble imagining Sherlock 1. sleeping around, 2. impregnating a woman, 3. taking custody of the child, 4. being a responsible single father. That’s just not plausible. So I’m blazing through this story to the end, but I’m decidedly not impressed. Not even enough for a worthless little kudos.

(Honestly, The Sexual Awakening of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson was pretty stupid too, but at least it was written well and genuinely fun. Like a chocolate bar, or a piece of cake, whereas the other was more of…bubble gum? Briefly satisfying but then you just have a big wad of it in your mouth until you bother spitting it out.)

remaining power!

Somewhere near the middle of Chapter 19:

His legs stopped swinging and he glared. “And then you had to go and blow the fucking place apart!” he sounded outraged. “I thought we understood each other,” he complained. “I thought we were on the same page… it was your suggestion that we meet, after all.” He sounded resentful. “You seemed as intrigued by me as I was by you.” He raised his hands in query. “What did you think was going to happen?”

That’s not narrative, those are fucking stage directions. This writing is so dull.

“I should thank you,” he said, his voice very clear and echoing around the room. “If you hadn’t kidnapped John, I might never have realised what he meant to me.”

FALSE.

John glanced round and smiled at him, but he didn’t release Molly. “Look, he even fooled Sherlock,” he said, turning back to her. “What chance did we mere mortals have?”

Not this again. Was the bloody woman never going to get over it?

Oh, for fuck’s sake! If anything, the one Molly has trouble getting over is Sherlock!

“So, what about you?” she [Sally] asked, nodding towards Sherlock, who was waving an image plucked from one of the files and demanding to know why they were employing a visually impaired photographer. “Do you have his heart?”

John smiled again as Sherlock glanced round for one of the ‘Where’s John?’ checks he still hadn’t completely shaken off.

“Oh, yes,” he said. “I’ve got that, all right.”

Oh, good, more wildly out-of-character dialogue from Sally, because that’s been sorely lacking. (That’s the proper end of the whole mess, by the way; fittingly cheesy and awkward for such a cheesy and clumsy story.) And a nipple piercing? John suggested Sherlock get a nipple piercing? And then Sherlock got one? I, I, I… What the fucking fuck.

introduction to 6.00

Excerpt from near the beginning of Chapter 15:

“How did you… How could you possibly know this?” John’s voice was sharp with disbelief. “I never told you about my dream, other than it was about kissing you. I never told you where, or how, or… That was exactly… Well, almost exactly…”

Sherlock quirked a brow at him. John would get there, eventually.

“Did that… Was that… It wasn’t a dream?” He sounded dazed. “That first time… It really happened?”

Sherlock nodded. Was John going to be angry now? “Should I have told you, John?” he asked. “I wanted to tell you, but I was af-… I thought you might be disappointed.”

John was still working it out. “So it was that night, after the park, when you snuck onto the sofa with me. And then in the morning you made that comment about my not minding at the time – this is what you meant.”

It wasn’t a question so Sherlock remained silent, still unsure how John was going to react. Perhaps it had been a mistake to try to duplicate it, but it had been his first kiss and he had wanted to share it with John, in a way that they would both remember.

“So all this time, when I’ve been saying ‘No kissing on the mouth’… right back before we had that conversation in the taxi… I had actually already kissed you?” John didn’t sound upset, just surprised, perhaps a little embarrassed. Sherlock raised his hand to check – yes, that fit his expression.

He nodded. “You didn’t wake up. It didn’t occur to me that you would have any awareness of it, or I would have said something.” He shrugged. “I’m sorry, John; it was my fault. I disturbed you and you – you just kissed me.” He smiled, a little ruefully. “I’ve been nudging you in the night ever since, but you never did it again.”

John chuckled, but then fell silent. “Was that your… Did I take your first kiss and not even know it?”

Sherlock tipped his head to one side. “You were asleep, John. Any taking was done by me. That’s why I wanted to…” How could he phrase this, without sounding unbearably twee? “…give it back,” he finished.

John’s emotions were not clear from his expression and Sherlock moved his hand to stroke his finger around the mouth he’d spent so much time thinking about. “Can we start again?” he asked, his voice low. “I still don’t understand these feelings but I am sure of them now. I’m sure of us.” He could feel John purse his lips.

“What if you wake up back to normal and the feelings have gone, as you feared?” John asked, sounding reluctant yet determined. “What then, Sherlock? What happens to me, then? To us?”

Sherlock found John’s hand and brought it to his chest. “They would grow back, John,” he said. “Whatever happened, they would grow back.” He sat there, holding John’s curled fingers against him and just hoping that the man would accept his words, because he knew now, suddenly with a bone deep certainty, he knew that they were true, but they were all he had to offer.

Eventually, John’s palm flattened and pressed over Sherlock’s heart. “OK,” he said quietly, and Sherlock marvelled at his courage, at his faith, at his love. He was still marvelling when John pushed him back against the sofa and straddled him.

“Now, where were we?” John asked, presumably rhetorically as he seemed to have a definite idea in mind.

[This is a horrible hit-every-branch-on-the-way-down fall out of the cliché romantic trope tree. It’s the tackiest 少女 manga for eight-year old girls. I am baffled by this story’s popularity, nay, celebrity status. This is terrible.]

only at first did it have its appeal

“Well, I’m not trained in massage, by any means, but that’s not what this is about. Let’s call it… an experiment in touch.”

[There is a word for that. That word is “masseur.” As in “I’m not a masseur by any means.” It is a common word. I imagine John would know it.]

A few paragraphs later…

Running up the stairs to his bedroom, he grabbed the bottle of massage oil from the back of his nightstand then headed to the kitchen, where he filled a bowl with hot water and stood the bottle in it, flipping the top open at the same time.

[Why. Why would you have that. Why. The entire story up to this point has been about Sherlock being unaccustomed to and uninterested in touching and being touched by other human beings, which John has understood and respected. There is no one else living at this house. John is not a masseur “by any means.” I really doubt he had any of his previous girlfriends up for a casual back rub. Why massage oil, just why.]

Those excerpts are from Chapter 8 of The Heart In The Whole, which is a very popular fanfic I had been meaning to read for some time (or so I assume, as it’s apparently been in my “Marked for Later” AO3 file for quite awhile). I gotta say, I think I’m missing something, because this work is not living up to the considerable hype. Aside from the aforementioned Convenient Plot Device, I find Sherlock to be wildly out of character and John’s dialogue to be uncharacteristic as well; the author hasn’t “captured his voice,” as they say. Not to mention, and I don’t know if this will change by the time this odyssey culminates in its twenty-first chapter, the writing is just not that good. It’s serviceable, to be sure, but commas are overused like mad, the grammar is fine but not great, and despite all the alleged sensory descriptions (given that Sherlock has temporarily lost his sight and therefore is using his other senses excessively), I don’t feel particularly engaged and I certainly have difficulty accurately envisioning or viscerally experiencing the scenarios.

I’m torn between wanting to finish the story to find out what happens, and skipping ahead to Chapter 17 or something (I think that’s when Sherlock’s sight comes back, or the end of Chapter 16, maybe) to save myself the slog. I think I’ll keep going on course but at a brisker pace; maybe skimming it will make the writing flow better.

ETA: Right at the top of Chapter 9:

Considering how eager he had been to come in to The Yard today, you’d think he could put a bit more effort into being pleasant. Then again, that didn’t really sound like Sherlock.

Count the first: mixed conditional with bonus second person narrative.

Count the second: “that really didn’t sound like Sherlock” should be the subtitle for this entire fic.

Oh god, “au pair” is capitalized in every instance and then Sally looked hopeful as she offered Sherlock information about the case. And then offered to drive him and John to the crime scene. And then said, and I quote: “What?” she demanded. “I’m not a total bitch, you know!”

“So, it’s OK. Yes, you do take me for granted, but only because I let you.” He squeezed Sherlock’s knee and turned to face him. “You can’t take advantage of someone against their will. It’s my choice.”

Dangerous characterization alert! John is letting Sherlock take advantage of him rather than cooperating with him. A big part of BBC!John’s character is that he is willing to accept Sherlock’s eccentricities while still being willing to put him in his place when he is too out of line. They are codependent. This is not that John.

Molly had wheeled in the trolley then burst into tears and disappeared, leaving them with the body.

Molly is a mortician! She is very good at her job and she is not a prissy little drama queen.

ETA: Apparently Molly is feeling “somewhat emotional” because she has the impression that her involvement with Moriarty somehow led to the woman’s death?

I see… After the premise of Sherlock going temporarily blind, the story devolves into maladroit sexual innuendo and experimentation and weird preservation of the sanctity of mouth-to-mouth kissing? Whereas handjobs, blowjobs, and kissing just about everywhere but the mouth are apparently totally fine. Oh, and there’s also a case, and Moriarty does a thing, and apparently there’s some trauma or something.

“How do you feel?” “I feel loved.”

Oh my god.

This thing is a fucking train wreck.

P.S., skimming doesn’t make the writing seem better, it just draws out the clichés faster.