Title: Into the Dark StreamAuthor: lbmisscharlie On Ao3Pairing:
John/Sherlock, OFC/OFC are the main pairingsLength:
Graphic Depictions of Violence, Minor Character Deaths (including children, as happened during the war)Verse:
Sherlock BBCAuthor's summary: Ireland, 1920.
There's a war on, but no one seems to be playing by the rules. John Watson, injured and unemployed after his time at the Front, joins up with the special forces sent over to keep the peace, but when he meets Sherlock Holmes, the second son of the local lord, he begins to lose track of which side he is on.Reccer's comments:
True history AUs are rare indeed in any fandom, primarily because it takes so much research and practice to richly communicate a complex foreign culture and
tell a good fictional story. Most history AUs require years of research to get to the point where the author can adroitly share the cultural and social realities of the peoples living in the past. Therefore, it's no surprise that most authors find it already challenge enough to skillfully create a genre AU like a Western. It's frankly a miracle that this fandom has been blessed with more than one history AU, let alone more than one that is as beautifully wrought as this one.
That lbmisscharlie loves 20th-century Irish and British history is made abundantly clear from the first chapter. John Watson, soldier of King and Country, is not patrolling Afghanistan, but another restive part of the British Empire, Ireland, just as England's grip is slipping. Although BBC!John never has reservations about his deployment to Afghanistan or what he did there, the John of this story will grow to question what he does in Ireland. Without slipping into overt preachiness, the author makes vivid the cultural clashes and how the characters choose to navigate them. Both sides commit atrocities, leaving one wondering who really is in the right.
John and the other canonical characters like Sherlock and Molly are deftly smoothed into their AU roles. For the most part, the political, social, and cultural beliefs and values they express and act on as English and Irish of the 1920s are blended skillfully with the traits of the BBC characters. Alterations to characters are made purposefully. For example, John is a not an officer or doctor in this fic, something that allows the author to play with class differences in England and in Ireland. Him not being a doctor is, more than once, subtly presented as a lack; something John could be, but never had the opportunity given his social class (several rungs below ACD's Watson for sure and maybe below BBC!John as well).
Of the many OCs, Eva stands out. Both Eva and Molly demonstrate the challenges of women living in Ireland during the troubles of the 1920s. They might support Irish independence, but the violence is personally painful, compelling them to look or hope for alternatives to the high costs of war. These women might risk themselves for Sherlock at different moments of the plot, but it is clear they have lives and concerns outside of Sherlock's Work.
Apart from the layered portrayals of major and minor characters, there is the vibrant sense of place throughout. From the bloody fields of the Continent near the end of WWI, to London and many locations in Ireland (primarily in and around Macroom), the scenery is beautifully rendered, often amplifying the mood of a particular scene. One of many examples is a cinematic rendering of the interior of the Honan Chapel on the grounds of University College in Cork, a setting that conveys the menace and mystery of what is facing John, before suddenly inspiring a brief moment of wonder and nostalgia:
Scrubbing his hands through his hair, John looks around the small chapel once more. The weak candlelight barely penetrates the dark corners, its flickering light producing strange, monstrous shadows in the lurking depths. Bracing one hand on the pew, John hauls himself to his feet and makes his way to the wall. Thrusting the taper in front of him, he traces the walls with his hand as he surveys the perimeter, noting anything that could be used as a weapon: this heavy candelabra, that bible stand, the blunt granite edge of the font. The altar is bare but for an embroidered altar cloth; underneath is empty.
From the altar, John walks down the steps back into the nave, testing the stability of the pews as he passes down the centre aisle. Dead ahead, St Patrick in his emerald robes offers a benediction, while down each side of the nave saints less familiar pass judgement. Pausing in the middle of the aisle, his eye is captured by a brilliant column of blue, its deep tones blending to amethyst in the fading light, which leads to an imperious face with a sharp, beaked nose. But for the long mass of crimson curls, the face, with the haughty set of its eyes and the thrusting, stubborn chin, could be familiar. Some forgotten ancestor of Sherlock’s, perhaps? Amused, John steps closer, craning his neck to examine the details, when his eye focuses and he frowns.
Surrounding the figure, at feet and head, are sparkling, crimson bees, their wingspan the breadth of a man’s spread palm. In one hand, the figure holds a miniature of the chapel, formed from golden beeswax, and John is startlingly thrown back to the summer. To Sherlock’s outstretched thumb, coated in honey, to his caring hands on the hives. John’s laugh, when it breaks the silence, is hoarse, peculiar and cracked. Beekeepers, watching him.
I could go on and on about the many virtues of this lovingly crafted fic, but I urge you to see for yourself!