28 January 2011 @ 05:43 pm
fic: sherlock - "equivalence"  

[Original author's note redacted.]

12/2011: I have gotten about fifteen PMs asking whether this fic will continue to stay around on the internet, and the answer is yes. It can also be found here on AO3 in the case that this journal is taken down. Anyone is free to save my fic to their hard drive, but I ask that you please do not repost it anywhere on the internet.



Equivalence
Sherlock | PG-13 | Anthea/Mycroft | 2,000 words | mentions of transphobia
Sometimes you're Anthea, sometimes you're Anthony, but you're always still you.


i

John Watson asks, is that your real name, and you pause for a second and say no.


ii

You were born Anthea Westermarck, christened in a pink dress with bows on the collar. Anthea, Greek for flower: you were livid when you found out, jealous of all the other girls whose names meant strength or courage or power. Your very name condemned you to femininity, to short skirts and the demure flutter of eyelashes, because it was what was expected of you.

You were born Anthea Westermarck and you lived as Anthea Westermarck for over two decades before you ever realized there was an alternative. Your life was a series of thought-you-weres: at seven, you thought you were a tomboy; at thirteen, you thought you were a lesbian; at eighteen, you thought you were a freak, caught between two extremes, confused and unable to compromise.

At twenty-one, you found a sort of equilibrium. You dressed androgynously, trimmed your hair, pressed yourself into the liminal space between male and female where you fit, almost perfectly, for years. When you started to outgrow it, when the compromise became erasure instead of freedom, you panicked: you picked a direction, and you fled.

At twenty-three, you started to live as a man. You threw out your old wardrobe and quit your job and picked your brand-new name out of the paper: James Moore, round and smooth like a glass marble on your tongue. You rented a tiny flat and got hired as an office boy; your coworkers drew their own conclusions, and you let them. You taught yourself how to walk with your hips stiff and your shoulders squared, how to knot a tie around your own neck, how to give up your seat on the tube, how to buy a woman a drink. You thought you had finally found who you were meant to be.

You were James Moore until the morning you turned twenty-five and the name fell to sand in your mouth. All that remained was Anthea, and you tucked her close to your heart and held her there, still and quiet and scared.


iii

You never expected to end up working for the British government.

But then again, you've never expected most of the things that have ever happened to you.


iv

The first day you came to work as Anthony went like this:

You woke up, brushed your teeth, took a shower. Made a quick breakfast and checked your Blackberry for any new messages, thumbed perfunctorily through the Times. You took only eight steps from your front door before suddenly the outfit you were wearing felt abhorrent, felt wrong; you nearly broke your ankle in your rush to get back inside, to toe off your heels, to unzip your skirt and fling it hastily to the floor.

For one and a half years, you'd kept a box taped shut in the back of your closet, covered by your spare duvet. You'd never needed a label to know exactly what lay inside.

You arrived at the office wearing an extra layer under your shirt, sharply-pressed trousers instead of immaculate, run-less stockings. Your passcard let you in (a face that wasn't yours, not that day), and you made your way up the endless staircase to your boss's office, feeling something vaguely akin to fear in the pit of your stomach.

You took a breath, and knocked once before walking inside.

If he was surprised to see you (and he must have been—or perhaps he wasn't, perhaps he'd read this in you from day one and was simply waiting for it to happen), he didn't let on. He regarded you with the same cool, calm interest with which he had always regarded you, taking in the low ponytail at the back of your neck, the minimized swell of your chest that you'd never completely be able to hide without surgery, the way you stood with your feet shoulders' width apart, just so.

He folded his morning paper crisply along the lines, rose behind his desk, said: Mycroft Holmes. I don't believe we've met.

You tried not to shake as you held out your hand. Anthony Westermarck, you said. The pleasure is mine, sir.


v

As Anthea, you look nothing like your mother.

As Anthony, you look everything like your father.


vi

Your last girlfriend thought it was cute, at first. She ran her hands over your lapels and down into the waistband of your altered trousers, leaned up to kiss you with a laugh in her mouth. My charming man, she said; two weeks later she was no longer charmed, and she cried for the remainder of the month before finally handing back your spare key, entirely willing but entirely unable to understand.

Your last boyfriend loved men. He adored the outside of you, your sharp sense of style, your low-pitched laugh, your precise mannerisms; but he would only fuck you in the dark, hands searching in vain for the nonexistent sharp edges of your body. You asked him to move out four days shy of your one-year anniversary, sat at your kitchen table with your head in your hands, your chest heaving underneath your bonds.

Your last boss claimed he fired you for the quality of your work. You had never been anything less than perfect, and this you both knew.


vii

You're given a substantial bonus a few months afterwards, seemingly for no reason (the date bears no significance, but only within your own personal knowledge). Your salary is already far above that of a typical PA, but your employer is eminently practical, and you've never been one to question generosity. That weekend you buy Chanel pumps, two new dresses, and a handbag to match; one weekend later you blow the other half of the cheque on a new suit and a set of Yves Saint Laurent loafers. The first time you wear them, you end up glancing at your feet so often you nearly trip down your own front steps.

Gradually, the closet in your flat begins to split: neatly divided like that of a married couple, one side hers, one side his, a row of delicate blouses across from starched shirts. The harmony pleases you in a way you can't define, the two halves complementing each other perfectly. Each item is quietly stylish and extremely well-crafted: you're expected to look your best at all times, no matter which one of you shows up to the office on that particular day. Appearances are everything, after all.


viii

There are certain people you are constant around. You know their susceptibility to a flash of cleavage or a whiff of cologne, or you might see them so infrequently it's an inconvenience to have to explain. You are female for instances when it's to your advantage to appear approachable, submissive, or even vulnerable; for the sake of boarding airplanes unimpeded. You are male for the authority it gives you, for the way people take your words more seriously, for the greater distance afforded to you by strangers.

The younger Holmes brother is callously misogynistic, and you learned early on that you had to be Anthony to merit even the barest courtesies. In a skirt you're invisible to him; even when you're wearing men's clothes he still calls you Miss Westermarck, smirking with one side of his mouth, daring you to correct him. You've learned to cope with it: to tamp down the bile rising in your throat when someone uses the wrong pronouns; when you're Anthea and someone asks if you're in drag; when you're Anthony and someone calls you beautiful instead of handsome.

You are always Anthea to your mother until the day you choose not to be. (The two years that you were James, she thought you were travelling abroad: you weren't ready to break her heart just yet.) You sit across from her in your parents' kitchen, wearing your finest suit, as she cries delicately into a handkerchief; you are expecting the worst and it surprises you when she reaches for your hand, says, I always knew you were a boy, asks if she can be there for the surgery.

It takes a second, but then the disappointment materializes: it's only a shade of what might have been, but still it weighs heavy in your chest. Your shared blood hasn't given her insight; she can't comprehend that what you are trying to explain is something bigger, something more vast and complicated than simply choosing which road to take, which door to open.

You've thought about surgery before, about how much easier it would be to pass for male, how much dissonance you could eliminate on those days when your female body doesn't quite match your mind. The days when you wake up and there is a strange, foreign weight on your chest. The days when you can't bear to touch yourself intimately, knowing fully what your body lacks. But other times, you feel absolutely at peace with your body, and you find yourself beautiful: the roundness of your breasts, the soft skin of your abdomen, the curves of your hips and thighs, the slickness of your sex. Other times, you feel gloriously right.

Maybe you're making it hard on yourself. Maybe it would be easier if you relinquished the struggle, picked a side, stood firmly in one place. You never chose this, and it's never been easy, but recently you've wondered if you might be one of the lucky ones: standing with a foot on either side of the spectrum, straddling the world.


ix

He touches you one night. Just the barest brush of fingers against wrist, light enough to be accidental if he were a less purposeful man, a less calculating man. But if there is one thing Mycroft Holmes is not, it is careless—and the context terrifies you, makes the worry coil in the pit of your stomach. You excuse yourself politely and lean against the other side of his closed study door, panicking for the first time since you first introduced him to your other self. It's Anthea he's touching, your feminine grace and lush figure he wants, not your masculine solidity and flattened chest; the small, simple gesture has upset the balance irreparably.

You stay Anthea for three entire weeks after that night, waiting (hoping, willing, needing) for it to happen again. You take late-night brandies in his office, sit a hair's-breadth closer to him in the back of the car; terrified he'll make another move, desperately wishing he would. You give him every opportunity to repeat himself, and he takes none of them.

Eventually you return to work as Anthony, even more buttoned-down than usual: covering your uncertainty with professionalism, looking sharper and crisper than ever. And that's when he kisses you for the first time, soft and chaste, a half-empty glass held steady in the space between your bodies. You start to protest, to push him away, but he cuts you off. His eyes are very, very blue.

I would not have done this, he says, had I not been fully accepting of all that this entails: of all that you are. And then he kisses you again, full of heat this time, and you let him.

Sometimes there is lace and silk strewn across the bedroom floor; sometimes there is a second dress shirt, a second pair of trousers, a second tie. Sometimes his fingers peel away stockings and garters, sometimes a compression shirt and plain cotton shorts. But it doesn't matter: his hands on your body are always the same. Gentle and reverent, unwrapping you slowly, never disappointed with what they find underneath.


i

John Watson asks, is that your real name, and you pause for a second and say no.

That would imply you only have one.

 
 
 
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( 279 — comment )
Amber: sherlock | a mind like a diamondminttown1 on January 28th, 2011 11:48 pm (UTC)
I love some of the changes you've made, and I love this story, and I love you.
░introductory on January 31st, 2011 05:09 am (UTC)
♥ ♥ ♥

Thank you so much for everything, Amber. For being there.
ᴛᴏ ᴋɴᴏᴡ ᴡɪsᴅᴏᴍ: film; sh09; marysciosophia on January 28th, 2011 11:51 pm (UTC)
You know how I feel about this, but it bears repeating: ♥
░introductory on January 31st, 2011 05:28 am (UTC)
♥ ♥ ♥

Flec, I have the email you wrote about this, and I still reread it, it makes me feel really proud and glad of this, thank you for being so kind.
Liz Pink: coat-sherlock-johnlizzledpink on January 29th, 2011 12:18 am (UTC)
...I pick this fic up, hug it close, kiss its forehead and keep it with me forever.

<3

Introoooooooooooooooooooooooo -clings- It's beautiful.

I... Speechless.

Headcanon. And - just - oh, YOU. YOU, okay? fkadjf;adkfjadflakjdfa If you ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever just - need anything, I don't know everything, I'm always here and I love this and you and I kind of want to stab that one teacher of yours sometimes, quietly. And if you ever want to just talk to me. Really. Short of being asleep, there's always at least one way to yell at me for attention, and you have several.

<3
Liz Pink: coat-sherlock-johnlizzledpink on January 30th, 2011 11:24 pm (UTC)
/rereads a sixth time/

(I want to write something in response to this, a sequel or a companion or even just slip in a reference to Mycroft's new male assistant whom John swears he's seen before or something but I feel it would be SO VERY INADEQUATE, whatever I do.)

(♥)
(no subject) - introductory on January 31st, 2011 05:32 am (UTC) (Expand)
I wrooooote iiiiiit - lizzledpink on February 3rd, 2011 07:22 am (UTC) (Expand)
it is enough to drive one madbitterapples on January 29th, 2011 12:51 am (UTC)
I cannot think to say anything except that this is fucking gorgeous in both its strength and its vulnerability.
░introductory on January 31st, 2011 05:36 am (UTC)
Thank you so much for reading and commenting. ♥ I think this is probably the reaction I was hoping for, so I'm glad it came across that way, having been so difficult to write. :)
fairandfeyfairandfey on January 29th, 2011 03:14 am (UTC)
Wow.
I don't usually comment on fanfic. It's terrible of me, I know, but I don't. Except for the times when I find a story that really is gorgeous, that I can't just keep quiet about, and this is one of them.

This was so incredibly personal, and at the same time, incredibly relateable- for me, at least- and it never lost a bit of its impact for all that the characters are just that, characters. This didn't read like fanfiction, but it meshed with the universe in such a way to make it impossible to be anything else.

So. I'm, er, gushing. Sorry about that. But this is wonderful, and thank you.
░introductory on February 2nd, 2011 09:05 am (UTC)
Oh, hey, don't apologize. Thank you for reading, and I'm glad you took the time to tell me what you thought. I was initially apprehensive that people wouldn't like this story because it seemed pretty far removed from the canon, but I'm glad that it's the other way around -- that people think it's instead a viable addition to the canon.

This was somewhat terrifying to write and to put out there, especially owning up to the fact that this story contains so much of me, but comments like yours make me feel good about having put this out there. I appreciate the feedback, thank you. :)
(Deleted comment)
░introductory on February 2nd, 2011 09:07 am (UTC)
Thank you for reading! Actually, it was a (possibly) crack comment on the kink meme that led to this -- it's fanon that Anthea gives out different names, and someone suggested, what if sometimes she gives out male names? and here we are. I'm not even sure this is my personal interpretation of that canon hesitation, but I'm glad I wrote this story and shared it with everyone -- thank you for the feedback! :)
Wickety Witchmeredydd on January 29th, 2011 03:22 am (UTC)
This is *beautiful*.
░introductory on February 2nd, 2011 09:07 am (UTC)
Thank you so much for reading, and I'm glad you thought so. :)
(Deleted comment)
░introductory on February 2nd, 2011 09:12 am (UTC)
Oh, no, thank you for reading and commenting! This is not a story I would have ever expected myself to write, and it was difficult to finish, perhaps because of how personal it was, but I'm glad I managed to put this out there -- so many people have said they can see themselves in this story, or that they've been greatly moved by it -- it's quite overwhelming to hear. I'm very, very glad that you feel this way about the story. It means a lot to me.
R.M.ywalme on January 29th, 2011 03:24 am (UTC)
I just wandered in from sherlockbbc and as a result I was going to say you have no idea who I am, but clearly you do. This is incredible and I want to leave you an appropriately meaningful review, but I think I need to go sit outside and breathe for a while instead after reading this.

Please never stop being this wonderful.
░introductory on February 2nd, 2011 09:27 am (UTC)
Oh, I know I shouldn't apologize, but I'm sorry this hit you so hard! This was a difficult piece to write because I put so much of myself into it, and it's gratifying and humbling to see how many other people have said they've seen themselves in it, too. Thank you so much for reading and commenting, and I hope you've caught your breath by now.

You're wonderful, too. You are.
aclararaclarar on January 29th, 2011 03:32 am (UTC)
beuautiful story. Thanks for sharing.
░introductory on February 2nd, 2011 09:27 am (UTC)
Thank you for reading and commenting. It means a lot to me. :)
tartantartancravat on January 29th, 2011 03:33 am (UTC)
Fabulous. I've never been particularly interested in Anthea before, but you made her interesting and real and by extension you also made Mycroft more interesting. This is hereby my braincanon. I'm super glad this exists.
░introductory on February 2nd, 2011 10:32 am (UTC)
I basically only write Sherlock and John, so it took me by surprise when I ended up writing this. I think the reason this story came together so well is because we know nothing about Anthea -- I basically got to use her character as a canvas, while still trying to keep what we know about her, and her interactions with the other characters, true to the canon we've seen so far. As for Anthea herself, I blame fanon for making her so awesome -- I'll be disappointed if she isn't as much of a BAMF in canon as fanon makes her out to be!

Thanks for reading and commenting! I'm glad you liked this. :)
fuzzyboo03fuzzyboo03 on January 29th, 2011 03:34 am (UTC)
This was beautiful, and rang with truth.

Gender is not where I don't conform to social norms, but it told my story anyway, and thank you for that.
fanfic_addict01fanfic_addict01 on January 29th, 2011 04:12 am (UTC)
I loved this so much. It's a lot how I feel, some days I should be a guy, some days I should be a girl, somedays I should be neither and some days I should be both.
(no subject) - introductory on February 2nd, 2011 10:47 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - introductory on February 2nd, 2011 10:44 am (UTC) (Expand)
Misanthropic Anthropologist: BBC Sherlock - John Watsoncall_me_ishmael on January 29th, 2011 03:45 am (UTC)
This....this resonates with me more than I can say. I spent a lot of time struggling before I encountered genderqueer. To have a fandom where people accept and write about trans and genderqueer characters is just amazing. I was tempted to write something like this but have hesitated--looks like there's no reason I should.

Thank you. Thank you so much for writing this. There's a lot I could say here but I feel myself tripping over my words. Just know I adore this to pieces.
░introductory on February 2nd, 2011 11:03 am (UTC)
Thank you for reading, and for your lovely feedback. It's difficult, isn't it? Trying on a new set of names/clothes/personas and thinking, this might fit, this might be the one, and then finding out eventually it isn't the right one? I'm glad you found GQ in the end, just as I'm glad I found GF -- it's such a good thing to know who you are.

And I certainly think there is plenty, definitely more than plenty, of room in fandom for all sorts of stories. I don't profess that the story I wrote is the be-all-and-end-all of stories about gender-fluid/bigendered characters -- much less for all trans* characters, and the people telling their stories. There's no reason for you not to write about being genderqueer -- in fact, I think it would only add, and maybe other GQ-identified people might be able to see themselves in your story, too.

This is the most amazing fandom I have ever been in, and will probably always be.
(no subject) - call_me_ishmael on February 2nd, 2011 06:26 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - call_me_ishmael on February 8th, 2011 12:20 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - introductory on February 8th, 2011 12:48 pm (UTC) (Expand)
never taken a shortcut before?: Sherlock - lower IQreogulus on January 29th, 2011 03:50 am (UTC)
I loved it, oh god, this is just perfect. I love how you fit the pieces together, the events, the discriptions, the inner struggles, the balance and the imbalance. I LOVE EVERYTHING ALMOST AS MUCH AS I LOVE ANTHEA/ANTHONY'S CLOSET.

You never chose this, and it's never been easy, but recently you've wondered if you might be one of the lucky ones: standing with a foot on either side of the spectrum, straddling the world.

This line made me hold my breath for five seconds. Just so you know, darling intro, I <3 you for writing this.
░introductory on February 4th, 2011 04:53 am (UTC)
Reo! Aw, aw, thank you for reading! This story was tough to write but it also felt strangely organic as an end-product -- I'd put in lines as stand-ins and then ended up keeping them. Oh, the organization of this one was hell, though!

I'm really glad I had the courage to put this out there, and I'm glad you liked this! <3 <3 <3
Practically everyone islindentreeisle on January 29th, 2011 03:51 am (UTC)
This is kind of really amazing.
░introductory on February 2nd, 2011 11:10 am (UTC)
Oh, thank you so much for reading! I'm glad you found this story amazing!
(Deleted comment)
░introductory on February 4th, 2011 05:24 am (UTC)
Oh, smarms! I'm glad this story helped give you some words for how you feel, and rest assured, it's not just you! In fact, I know at least one other bigendered person in this fandom, and there are tons of trans*folk as well. I didn't know I felt like this until a few months ago -- I've just barely figured it out myself, and I have a long road ahead of me. But you are amazing, and you're strong, and chin up, yeah? You're not alone, far from it. <3 And if you want to talk about this more, you can always feel free to PM me if you'd like. We're unique, aren't we? Like snowflakes!

And of course, thank you for reading and commenting!
aaronlisa: Muchaaaronlisa on January 29th, 2011 03:58 am (UTC)
This was beautiful.
░introductory on February 2nd, 2011 12:07 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much for reading, and I'm glad you think so. :)
kunju: across the tableinnie_darling on January 29th, 2011 04:58 am (UTC)
I really liked this.
░introductory on February 4th, 2011 03:55 am (UTC)
Oh, thank you! I'm glad you liked this. It was a lot of hard work, and I'm glad. :)
Basingstokebasingstoke on January 29th, 2011 05:20 am (UTC)
AMAZING.

John had no fucking idea who he was hitting on, that was clear enough in the episode, but YES.
░introductory on February 4th, 2011 03:59 am (UTC)
Oh, John! For someone who's gotten his leg over on three continents, he's surprisingly awkward at flirting. (His attempts have the potential to be a running gag in the series, I'm sure.) And I'm glad you liked this -- thank you for reading and commenting!
Minim Calibreminim_calibre on January 29th, 2011 05:27 am (UTC)
I love this so much. Possibly with over-identification issues galore.
░introductory on February 4th, 2011 04:01 am (UTC)
Thank you for reading, and I'm glad you love it! Issues are fine, it's all fine. <3
selinablnselinabln on January 29th, 2011 05:43 am (UTC)
Lovely. Simply Lovely. Thank you so much for sharing it with us.
░introductory on February 4th, 2011 04:40 am (UTC)
Oh, thank you so much for reading, and for the kind comment! I'm glad I put this story out there, then!
DarthHelloKittydarthhellokitty on January 29th, 2011 06:03 am (UTC)
This is wonderful.

I love Anthea and Anthony being completely genuine, with no final choice ever having to be made.
░introductory on February 4th, 2011 05:06 am (UTC)
Thank you. <3 I'm glad they came across so well -- it's certainly something I'm still struggling with, trying to give equal credence to both my selves -- and I'm glad both Anthea and Anthony get their happy ending. Thank you for reading, and for the lovely comment!
Mushroommushroom18 on January 29th, 2011 06:12 am (UTC)
I actually really ship Mycroft/Anthea, and this was wonderfully written. Thank you for sharing ♥
░introductory on February 4th, 2011 05:34 am (UTC)
I'd just intended for this to be a story about Anthea, but then the pairing just slipped in and it felt so natural I had to keep it! (I think this pairing is sorely, sorely neglected! Ah, if you'll allow me to rec you a fic -- Water Damage is one of my favorites!)

And thank you for reading, and for commenting! <3
hoc_voluerunthoc_voluerunt on January 29th, 2011 06:42 am (UTC)
I - this - it - how - I - what - this - how did - I -

This is amazing. You have rendered me speechless.

But just - wow. That was - perfect. Thank you.
░introductory on February 4th, 2011 05:37 am (UTC)
Oh, thank you for reading, and for the lovely comment! It was difficult to write, but I'm glad I managed, for comments like this! I hope you've gotten your speech back by now! <3
Teh Choutehchou on January 29th, 2011 06:55 am (UTC)
Oh INTRO This is just. It's perfect. Thank you BB. I love it and ilu.
░introductory on February 4th, 2011 05:38 am (UTC)
<3 <3 <3

Thank you so much for reading and commenting, bb. You know how crazy this was for me to write -- I'm glad you think it's "perfect"! <3
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