Sherlock told the story of the last six months as if it were a fairy tale, embellishing and hyperbolising as he saw fit. John let himself relax into the sound of Sherlock’s voice, against his body and the hum inside his chest as he spoke. If he could have chosen a way to go, this felt as close to perfect as he ever could have imagined. He remembered doing the same for Mary, laying with her in the hospice bed and murmuring sweet nonsense into her ear until she slipped away, holding her until she grew cold and the other doctors came to take her body from him. He looked up into Sherlock’s face, the deep lines around his eyes crinkling fondly as he returned the gaze.
“You love me,” John said.
- A Beginner’s Guide to Apiology by VictoryCandescence
Is this about something you like getting no hits at all, or is it getting less attention compared to something else? Is something you think is poorly-written popular, and you think it’s because it has sex in it, and something you think is well-written isn’t popular, and you think it’s because it doesn’t, and it’s annoying you? Something else?
Fan writers aren’t required to write what other people want to read, and in turn, everyone in fandom is free to read the things they want to read and not read the rest. Romance in general is a very popular genre. If someone decides that they want to use their time in fandom to read romance, because that’s what brought them into fandom in the first place, that’s okay. There’s no guilt required there. You shouldn’t feel badly that other people are reading what they want to read. You shouldn’t feel guilty. No one needs to read things that don’t interest them no matter how great it is.
Fandom genuinely isn’t a meritocracy. If you get fannish attention, it doesn’t mean you’re better at things than anyone else is, and no one deserves fannish attention because they wrote something objectively great. If something someone’s written happens to hit a sweet spot with more or less people, that’s just how it is. Lots of fan writers prefer not to hit that sweet spot, because that sweet spot is what is derisively called mainstream. Lots of people feel that mainstream means bad, and they’d rather be cool, intellectual, challenging, and fringe. I get that. Each to their own. Lots of people strive to get as much fannish attention as possible, thinking that means something about them as human beings, but it doesn’t.
What we can say for sure is that some things get more exposure than other things, for whatever reason. Whim, really.
There are many roles in fandom, and fandom is a big, giant, sprawling place. Lots of people like lots of different things. One of the biggest challenges in any fandom is to find things you love. AO3 has made that a lot easier to do, but it hasn’t erased the critical importance of the reccer in fan culture.
If AO3 is the publisher/distributer, reccers are the booksellers/librarians who select and arrange the best books they find for other people who share their tastes to find and enjoy. Everyone loves reccers. Writers love reccers, readers love reccers. The more idiosyncratic, the better. Reccers are, I’d say, some of the most powerful and important people in a fandom, and the most valuable. They find treasures and bring them in front of the people who will love them best. They share the things they like because they like them, not because of what and who deserves something. If you find a reccer who likes what you like, your world is a million times better.
If you find things that aren’t getting the attention you think they deserve, rec them so they can find their audience. But don’t feel guilty about what other people do, and don’t feel badly. Opt out of living in a world where we should feel shame for not wanting to read something that doesn’t contain an element we really enjoy, even if it’s well-written. There is no required reading in fandom, thank god. It would suck if there were.
Write what you love, read what you love, love what you love.
If I see something that I think is brilliant but doesn’t get enough recognition I go and rec it wherever I can. Might not be much, but if it’s really as good as I think it is, people who read it because I recced it will rec it as well. It might never get as many kudos or comments as I think it deserves, but as long as people keep finding, reading and enjoying it, I’m glad for it.
So if you see something you like, why not rec it?
I’ll be in Japan for a few days and wondered if any Sherlock fans would like to hang out? I’ll be in Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka (Comic City), Okayama, Hiroshima, Matsuyama, Naruto and Takamatsu this time around :)
Sherlock Holmes takes a deep breath.
Smell is the first human sense to develop.
Even in the womb humans recognise different odors.
Sherlock takes another chest-filling breath.
Our ability to discern odors is higher at night than in the morning.
The small, humid room in which he stands alone smells like a clean, straw-filled stable.
With six million scent receptors, a human being remembers scents more accurately than sights.
As his brain frantically retrieves olfactory facts for which he has no use, Sherlock Holmes presses a fist to his chest and for a long moment he does not breathe.
"—I was very young, but I remember the smoke always smelled like cherries."
John Watson bends over the glass-topped counter, gazes at the display of gleaming pipes. The sales clerk lingers a polite while, then just a little longer. Finally she turns toward a less nostalgic, more well-heeled customer.
John smiles to himself. If he’d been fractious, very gloomy with his important four-year-old problems, the scent of his grandfather’s pipe smoke always soothed him.
It was years before John realised that grandad Ideal would come seek him out on those childish, ill-tempered days. Then he’d light his pipe, John would cuddle close, and surrounded by the smoky-sweet scent of cherries, together they’d grow calm.
Standing in the tobacconist’s glass-walled humidor, Sherlock opens his mouth wider, takes a ragged breath, then does it again, again, againagainagainagain until he’s woozy with the scent of pipe tobacco and cigars. But it still isn’t helping. This time it doesn’t calm.
Because it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter how much he tells them about how much he sees, they still don’t believe him, they still refuse to see.
Sherlock fists at his shirt, and moaning he thinks I could do it, who would care? I could buy a thousand pounds worth of cigars and I could breathe and breathe and breathe until I couldn’t breathe.
No one stops John from roaming, grinning reminiscent, touching pricey lighters, deep-bowled pipes, shiny wooden boxes.
Drawn to an earthy scent and the amber and russet glow of open cigar boxes, John enters the tobacconist’s humidor and—
One stride across the tiny room and John’s got his hand on the gasping man’s belly, whispering in his ear. “Breathe here, right here. Breathe deep until you feel it here.”
Bent double, sweaty hands sliding slick on his knees, Sherlock tries, he tries to breathe but he—
John pushes him to his knees, then his back, lays his other hand on the man’s chest. “Look. Look at my hand. Do you see it? Make it go up. Do that for me, make my hand go up. Slow. Slow.”
Sherlock grunts, he can’t, he—
John grabs Sherlock’s chin, turns him so they look right in each other’s eyes. He makes a hissing sound through pursed lips and nods like this, like this.
Sherlock presses at the small hand on his chest, mimics with his mouth, pushes out a long, wheezy…slow…slower…slowest breath.
"That’s it, just like that. Can you get it down here?" John rubs at a suit coat-covered belly. "Right on down, deep and slow and…"
"…yesssss." Sherlock’s eyes drift closed on the exhale and he counts the heartbeats thrumming away beneath their hands. OneTwoOneTwoOneTwo…
Long minutes later the small man shifts, sits back on his heels. “Good job,” he murmurs. “Good. Thank you. Thank you, that’s good. I’m John.”
Sherlock breathes deep, lets it out sibilant and slow, “Shhhhherlock.”
Another long minute, two. Sherlock releases the hand on his chest. The one on his belly withdraws. Sherlock sits up, looks around.
"I know where I am.”
John nods, pulls into himself in a way no one ever sees because no one sees the doctor who saves them, not really. And it’s fine, it’s all fine, John understands that people need plausible deniability of their own fragility.
"Good. Good. Well, I’m going to call—"
"No." Sherlock frowns at the open boxes of Nicaraguan cigars, then at the Cubans, too. He stands slowly, looks at the wall.
After several silent seconds John nods again, rises. “Right. Good. You should—” He stops. Starts again. “I’d—” No. Never mind. He knows when people will hear.
Another nod at nothing and John takes hold of the humidor’s brushed silver door handle, tugs, feels the soft whoosh of cool shop air.
John turns. The door whispers closed again. Sherlock’s still looking at the wood paneled wall and it’s to it he speaks. “Why did you thank me?”
John knows when people will hear. Yet even when he knows they won’t, sometimes he talks anyway because sometimes it’s he who needs to hear what he has to say.
"Because you let me help. It’s good you know, helping."
Sherlock wants to say things right now. A dozen things about helping, about trying to help and how they don’t let him they don’t want him and Sherlock wants to talk about the stupid spot on his stupid lung, the one they thought for months was cancer, the one that made him finally stop smoking but sometimes he can’t stand it, sometimes, sometimes he just can’t breathe unless there’s smoke and fire and—
Sherlock puts a hand on his belly, another on his chest, and he says small and soft between small, soft breaths, “Help me.”
John steps close, his hand settling over one with long fingers. And gently, gently they tell one another…
Previous: Pardon My French
This was inspired by a wee line about tobacco shops in chapter two of MyCapeIsPlaid’s marvelous Corpus Hominis, and then later by an hour-long visit to a London tobacconist where a lovely young man told me all about cigars. Note: All The Day They Met, are on AO3, too.