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December 1, 2016 6:10 am  #1


Secret Santa Fics 2016 - Read them here

Here we go! http://cdn.boardhost.com/emoticons/love.png


I am a bit sorry for posting the fic written for me first - but then it is the only fic I've got so far. http://cdn.boardhost.com/emoticons/tongue.png


Please keep in mind that every author is happy to read a comment over at the OTHER Secret Santa thread. And now ... enjoy reading!

Last edited by Schmiezi (December 1, 2016 6:14 am)


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I still believe that love conquers all!

http://i1353.photobucket.com/albums/q666/Schmiezi/f78f2088-06ef-444c-b254-d9efa841bc19_zps435390b3.png      http://i1353.photobucket.com/albums/q666/Schmiezi/140545df-e987-4a67-9272-fa8b2742790c_zpsa8b00ed8.png

"Quick, man, if you love me."
 

December 1, 2016 6:12 am  #2


Re: Secret Santa Fics 2016 - Read them here

This fic is for Schmiezi.

 

Your prompt was: Johnlock, fluff, heartbreaking romance with angst and happy end, getting rid of Mary or Mary being out of the picture

from the start.

You are absolutely unwilling to read: good! Mary, happy Watson marriage, character death, unhappy endings, any other pairing that involve John or Sherlock except when it is used as an obstacle that will be overcome.

And this was to play an important part: Love conquers all, John.

Also, a reference to the Extended Mind Palace theory would be fantastic but not necessary.

 

Sorry, there is no fluff in this fic but lots of other things you wished for. And a little extra: John is pretty damn smart here. So I hope this will make you happy.

 

 


Through a Glass, Darkly

 

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face:

now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.


(1 Corinthians 13)

 

It comes as a surprise. Not that she is clad all in black, holding a silenced gun – Walther PPK, his mind palace willingly provides – small smile playing around her lips. Not that she shoots him. Not that she apologises for doing so although she is not sorry. Not really.

Nothing of this comes as a surprise.

But he should have known. He should have seen it coming.

He opens a drawer in the intricately decorated filing cabinet and takes out his book of lists. He likes making lists. He has one about the shortcomings of his own mother and he also kept the one of people who hated Mary – he really should have seen it coming – and now he looks at a new one, captioned:

What I should have seen and did not see.

Excellent memory. 

Instant recognition of skip code. 

Sangfroid in front of a wedding party, emanating pure hatred.

He remembers his first deductions about her, words swirling in front of his face, dissolving into the darkness until only one of them remains. LIAR. 

He saw but he did not observe. 

 

He is so still. This is so very wrong. He needs to be like quicksilver, talking all the time, running around with his big coat billowing behind him, using his long, elegant hands to emphasise his deductions, letting his voice rumble deeply or smack his lip to stress the plosive at the end of a word.

This is not Sherlock but a statue, attached to monitors and IV lines disappearing into various parts of his body.

John should be able to distance himself, he is a professional after all, but this is different. This time he is just John Watson, not an army doctor, not a GP, just John Watson, a friend.

The friend.

‘I’ve just got one.’


 




After having walked through the various rooms of his mind palace, Sherlock sits down in the chair before the fireplace. It is not the real one made by the French-Swiss designer whose name he has deleted but a classic Chesterfield, bottle-green leather with buttons, sturdily built. A piece of furniture that belongs in, say, a late-Victorian bachelor gentleman’s home.

He stretches his legs towards the fireplace, lights his pipe – no smoking prohibitions here, tobacco not being a forbidden substance then – and starts puffing little clouds towards the smoke-darkened ceiling. Better than any nicotine patch. And there is morphine and cocaine, he thinks dreamily, available from any good chemist, not something to be acquired illegally in filth-ridden alleys or behind rusty warehouse containers.

‘Stop being sentimental’ he tells himself, ‘there is work to do.’

So Mary is a liar after all. Her stance, her cold demeanour, the precision of her shot – not killing him at once, not shooting him in the head because, this way, it would buy her time to escape. John would care for him, try to save his life, call an ambulance instead of running behind the killer – all this tells him she must be a professional, maybe a secret agent gone rogue, acquainted with stealthy operations, changing identities, playing a part, shooting a gun.

 




The doctors are not sure what is going on. Sherlock’s vitals are good, no danger there. He is running a fever, true, which might be expected in cases of massive internal injuries, and there was the flatline and the consumption of hard drugs on the day of the shooting but they still seem to be baffled.

So is John, at least from a medical point of view. As long as there is no brain damage – and John really hopes there is not and actually Sherlock’s heart did not stop that long to suggest such an assumption – he should have woken up by now.

But he does not.


 




His thinking goes fine until suddenly, out of the blue, just like that, John’s face appears before him. He should not have thought of John, not now, not when he is trying to work, to make sense of all this.

But there he is. Brave, sarcastic, tough, caring John who was shocked at Sherlock’s callousness towards Janine, human error and all that crap, assuming that this is how Sherlock thinks about love although it is not but John may never know.

John’s face gets bigger and bigger, blotting out the other chair, the fireplace, the whole cosy late-Victorian gentleman’s room to swallow him whole.

 




Mary comes early in the morning. She is worried, standing beside the bed and carefully touching Sherlock’s shoulder. Biting her lip. Very quiet and subdued. John is glad to see her but she leaves sooner than expected, talking about having to buy some baby things.

There is something he cannot put his finger on, something nagging at him while he watches her disappearing from the hospital lobby.

When he comes back into the room, he realises what it is. The smell, a hint of her perfume. Claire de la Lune.

John sits on the chair beside the bed and remembers the moment in the office, Janine lying on the floor, unconscious, Sherlock running around wildly, deducing the temperature of  a chair. And a perfume. John himself saying, ’Mary wears it’. And Sherlock retorting, ‘No, not Mary. Somebody else.’


 




When he comes to, the fire has gone out and the room is uncomfortably cold; the pipe lying on the well-worn burgundy red carpet. He sits up, remembers what he saw last before he slept, faded, dissolved, whatever describes his condition best.

Ah, yes, John’s face. John.

He gets up and starts pacing the cold room, hands in pockets, no noise from the outside, no horses' hooves on the cobbles, no cries of street vendors, no shrill whistles of the city’s policemen. Must be late at night then. 

He remembers the dungeon-like padded cell and chained Moriarty - how very Victorian - how much he hated Moriarty drooling over him, the horrible stench of his breath, his flamingly insane eyes but, mad as he may be, it was he who gave Sherlock what he needed – an incentive to live.

That wife.

But John married that wife.

There is the rub - no idea who said that but it seems strangely fitting.

John married her and they are expecting a child.

Sherlock suddenly remembers John’s face in the restaurant, not the horrible moustache or the anger but the eyes, dead eyes, not dead like Magnussen’s but empty, without soul, and not even proposing to Mary did change anything about it. He knows that John needs him in his life, needs the adventure and the thrill of the chase, the temptation to dart from the surgery into 221B, leaving behind his GP identity like his white coat.

But this is the only thing John needs from him. Now he will have a family, something Sherlock cannot provide. He has taken enough, two years of John’s life, giving him new lines in his face and grey hair instead. This is something he may never take from John.

On the other hand, there is this nagging fear. Will John ever be safe with her? Will there be people from her past, chasing her, finding her buried deeply in suburbia with her doctor husband and child? Will they take their revenge by killing her? Or taking her baby? Or even … no, he must not think about that.

He swallows, pacing frantically in front of the windows. This is going to be hard, very hard, even harder than the fucking speech and that was a tough one. But he could always rely on his mind, on his big fucking brain, and he will put it to good use. He remembers half-forgotten deductions about different scenarios, how he used to play through various possibilities until he found the only one that made sense. This is what he is going to do.

He takes his gild-edged, leather-bound notebook and a pen and carefully writes down a heading, underlines it for the sake of importance.

Scenario 1

John has chosen Mary, they are going to be a family soon. Therefore Sherlock must find something to exonerate Mary, to make her enormous, boundless, massive, tremendous betrayal palatable to John.

He sets to work.

 




When John goes home in the evening to get some hours rest, Mary is not there. He finds a note on the kitchen table: Sleepover at Cath’s. Girls’ night. There's lasagna in the fridge. Hope Sherlock’s better. XX Mary

He looks into the fridge, sees the foil-covered baking dish and closes the door again. He walks from the kitchen through into the living room, upstairs into the bedroom, feeling restless and agitated.

In the bathroom John notices the perfume bottle on the shelf over the sink. Claire de la Lune. Moonlight.

He sniffs the bottle, closes his eyes, tries to remember the moments in Magnussen’s office, Sherlock’s quick deductions, him going upstairs while John was tending to Janine. He remembers kneeling beside her, checking pupils and pulse, being relieved that there were no worse injuries than a mighty swelling on the back of her head. For a moment he thought he was hearing murmured voices from above, maybe Sherlock talking himself through his deductions.

John allows himself a little smile, remembering how Sherlock used to talk even when John was not there.

But then there was another sound – he would not have heard it except it was so quiet in the room, the penthouse floating high above the city like an untethered airship.

A soft, popping sound, nothing more. Someone not accustomed to hearing weapons fired might not have noted it at all but John was once a soldier and he knows exactly what a silenced gun sounds like.

This knowledge combined with the eerie silence in the room made him run to the stairs, bursting into the room – a bedroom? – and finding a cruel variation on the worst moment of his life.

Not a pavement this time, but a carpeted floor, not a shattered head covered in blood but a red bloom on a white shirt, eyes not open but closed.

But these differences did not really matter. This was Sherlock and he might die again. This time for real.

John clenches his hands and puts the bottle back. He looks towards the wardrobe, shakes his head, returns to the hallway, and pulls down the ladder leading up to the attic.

If there is something to find, he will find it up there.


 




Assuming she was an agent/assassin once, what would Mary do? Try to minimise the threat to herself. Keep Sherlock from giving her secret away, at least for the time being. Would she dare to put a pillow on his face and smother him? Pull out the oxygen feed from his nose? No, John will surely remain at his side all the time, so a sudden death might be suspicious even under these circumstances.

No, she will go for a verbal threat, hoping to placate him until he either dies or gets well enough to negotiate.

No, no, no, this does not work. John must know what is going on. Come on, Sherlock tells himself, you can do better. Which is true. 

Although this is a dreaded scenario, in the end it proves to be fun. John once called him 'a drama queen' and, while Sherlock was slightly insulted in that moment, he must admit that his friend was not that far off the mark.

Imagining boltholes in the most outrageous places and assigning them to people – Lestrade gets the boring ones, Mycroft gets the Gothic ones, greenhouse and leaning tomb. Molly, this is a bit mean but still true, gets the bedroom. Mrs Hudson gets the clock face of Big Ben, a belated comeback for her forcing him to watch a silly cartoon about a mouse detective and his obese friend.

Next the perfume in the flat, the projector opposite the empty houses – he is very proud to have come up with those. Of course, there are no real houses there, just a 5 feet wall and a precipice with two parallel Underground tracks in it, but Sherlock lovingly furnishes his bolthole, adds a little chemistry lab and even an armchair, a bit like the one he has in his Victorian living room. And of course John, with mussed hair and upturned collar, Sherlock-style.

Yes, this is brilliant, well done, of course it hurts like hell, but as long as he gets the work done, it is fine. All is fine. Never better.

 




The attic is dusty and cluttered, full of  useless stuff they just put up there in the hope it would magically disappear. Did not work, though. They have been living together for less than two years and yet they have accumulated so much junk.

John starts searching frantically through boxes, plastic bags, under heaps of old bed sheets and in a sleeping bag no one has slept in for years. He starts coughing, has to wipe tears from his eyes.

He is eager to return to the hospital but he has to seize the opportunity. Had anyone told him only days ago that Mary being with a friend would ever become an opportunity to search his own house … but that was before.

Before Sherlock was shot.

Before John found him bleeding out on a floor. Again.

He does not admit to himself what it is he is searching for. But he is sure he will recognise it the moment he finds it.

Half an hour later he is desperate.  At his wit’s end. He has found nothing.

He starts to descend the ladder, gripping the rungs as if there was a thousand feet drop beneath him, when he sees it.

John starts to laugh hysterically, remembering something Sherlock once said.

Hiding in plain sight.

He pushes his hand into the inconspicuous leather case which is the same colour as the attic hatch and has been carefully tucked between the wood and the ladder.

His hand closes around the pistol.


 




Sherlock gets up, lights his pipe and starts pacing again, enacts the drama, assigns positions: Mary next to the fireplace – there is the knife, she is clever after all - Mrs Hudson in the kitchen, John in the middle of the room, seething with anger which is normal given the circumstances, himself at the door.

Why is he at the door? This is his flat after all. But of course Sherlock has to survey the room and needs a sturdy doorframe to hold on to, especially in case his … best friend threatens to kill him. After John’s own wife almost killed Sherlock before.

No, this is not on. He has to keep calm. They should sit down. Sitting down is good, makes talking easier and it takes the strain from a bullet wound you actually should not have run around with in the first place.

Things will calm down. Sherlock will explain how he deduced Mary’s history, maybe Mycroft could help with that - colossal favour for hurt little brother and all that - how she did not shoot him in the head, killing him instantly, but left him a slim chance of survival which is actually quite generous. Will John buy this crap? Of course he will. Because, after having thought about it long and hard, he will realise that this is what he wants, that Mary will give him all things he ever hoped for in one person.

A female body. Sex. Adrenaline. And a child.

While Sherlock can only provide one of these. Well... maybe two. But this is simply not on. Not now, not ever.

 




‘Tell me,’ John is adamant. Neither the posh interior of the Diogenes Club nor the bunker-like office can intimidate or impress him anymore. He bangs his fist on the desk, sending some papers and a half-drunk cup of tea to the floor.

Mycroft Holmes raises an eyebrow, ‘Shouldn't you be at my brother’s side?’

‘Shouldn’t you be at your brother’s side?’

‘I am quite sure that Sherlock would prefer to see you when he wakes up. The hospital keeps me constantly informed about his condition, so no worry there. But from past experience I can tell you that Sherlock usually does not take well to seeing me when coming out of a –’

‘This is not a fucking overdose! He was shot!’

‘I assure you, John, I am may be nearing middle age but my hearing is still excellent.’

John is breathing hard, he has to close his eyes for a moment to get his feelings under control. ‘Why didn’t you tell me?’

‘Tell you what?’

John gulps and takes another deep breath. ‘That it was my wife who shot Sherlock.’

For the first time Mycroft seems genuinely surprised. ‘John, I assure you –’

‘Shut up! When we entered Magnussen’s office, Sherlock smelled a perfume. Mary wears it. And today I searched our house. Guess what I found?’

Mycroft Holmes has naturally pale skin like most redheads have but now he looks positively ashen. ‘A gun?’

‘Indeed. A silenced gun like the one I heard at Magnussen’s. Unloaded of course. But I am sure it was a bullet from that very gun that got stuck in your brother’s chest.’ The anger makes it almost impossible for John to continue. ‘And that got me thinking. I know, compared to you and Sherlock I am just a brainless idiot, but still. Think of an empty shell of a man, tormented by grief and guilt, drowning his misery in a bottle most evenings. He desperately tries to cling to his work if nothing else. And one day, just like that, a funny, cute nurse shows up, new part-time assistant, cheery, positive, sassy, with a kind word or a smile for even the most tedious patients. Just what the sad little doctor needs, right?’

Mycroft has turned strangely quiet, turning a pen in his hands.

‘She can read the sad little doctor like a book. Always the right words or plans to distract him from what is eating him from the inside. And when his detective friend, the one he mourned, suddenly returns from the dead, she becomes his friend as well. She even helps the detective to save the sad little doctor when he gets kidnapped and thrown into a bonfire. Imagine that! Because. She. Is. So. Clever. Right?’

Mycroft raises both hands to placate but John bangs the table once again. ‘No! You are going to listen to me for once. The doctor does not even get suspicious when there is a list of people who hate her, who for some reason or other dislike the lovely nurse. Maybe he is an idiot after all but so is his detective friend. And then something happens.’

For the first time sadness threatens to overwhelm John and dispel his anger. ‘The doctor realises that he is not happy, not happy enough for a man who just got married and will be a father. And of course, the lovely nurse sees what is happening and it pisses her off big time. And then … well. Then the lovely nurse threatens to shoot a man who has some information on her– this is at least, what I think – and the detective comes in and she shoots him first. Strange, isn’t it? Shooting someone who can fold such lovely napkins for your wedding.’

John presses his lips together but it is too late. He feels the wetness on his cheeks, sees the shock on Mycroft’s face, and even something like shame.

‘Do you really want to tell me the British Government himself did not know that Mary Morstan is a fucking killer?’


 




Everything goes to plan. Well, nearly everything. Sherlock has to go hospital again, relapse due to physical exertion, prolonged recovery. How long? His head starts to hurt and he has to sit down and pull a blanket over himself because it is so very cold in here, no fire burning, just cold ashes and dust.

Think.

Christmas. Oh, yes, this is brilliant. Presenting his parents as the perfect married couple, teasing but in a loving way, just like...well. Do not go there. Here be dragons.

And since Sherlock knows that Appledore is not that far from the cottage and Magnussen has a helicopter at his disposal, he could strike a deal, save Mary once and for all from the clutches of that fucking piece of … Sherlock mentally kicks away the images that start creeping all over him – is it a memory or a dream, Magnussen coming into his room and touching him in ways he never wanted to be touched, breaking down his boundaries – stop.

He will strike a deal and save the world, including Mary, John, and their child, from this man.

It is fun to meet Magnussen bare-arsed in an Italian restaurant aka the hospital canteen. Even more fun to imagine Billy Wiggins, a man he has met only once or twice, drugging his family with the Christmas punch. Outrageous, but he always gets away with the outrageous things. Drama queen all over.

A list of things that do not work for him

Sitting on a park bench talking about ‘feelings.’

Hiding in a crowd on a dance-floor and pretending his heart is still in one piece.

Telling John about … no. Not this. Not ever.

Back to work.

John must take his gun. He always takes his gun when there is an adventure. But Magnussen’s men will search them, like they did in Baker Street. Does not matter, he decides: this is just a scenario, nothing real, nothing anyone could ever believe. Or is it?

Sherlock suddenly remembers the way Magnussen seemed to call up information, said he was reading. Not with the glasses, he does not think it might work. What else could it be?

What if Magnussen was not so very much unlike himself? What if he had a mind palace of his own? Actually, this would be clever because if there were no archives or vaults in which he stores his knowledge, nobody would ever be able to steal it. His assets hidden safely in his own brain. Clever.

Or not so clever, because in order to destroy the knowledge, one would have to destroy the brain. Oh.

This is quite unexpected. True, there were some cases of self-defence during his time away but will he be able to shoot a man in the head, just like that, even if he was not a very nice man? So he imagines what Magnussen could do to John – threaten his wife, his child, his future.

But he needs more, he needs a trigger, something as disgusting as the man himself. Imagine Magnussen humiliating John, hurting him, John turning to Sherlock for help because he must have a plan, he always has. Why did John choose him of all people to trust?

So Magnussen starts flicking John’s face, belittling him, threatening to tear his future to shreds, enticing him to let it happen for Mary’s sake.

This is enough. Sherlock thinks he can do it, he really can. And he does.

 




John walks back to the hospital, wearing himself out in order to overcome his anger. He feels slightly dizzy, his head is pounding, he can fell sweat trickling down his back. His fingernails biting into the flesh.

He feels humiliated, laughed at, despised, belittled.

He remembers Sherlock telling him how Mary spotted the skip code in the text message, how she went to Baker Street, how she made Sherlock save John from the fire. How Sherlock praised her while Mary seemed strangely silent about the whole incident.

And even earlier, the remark about the confidante, a word he would never use himself. A word for spies and agents and people who work undercover, in a world of darkness and deceit.

And Mycroft Holmes? He kicks away an empty plastic bottle, nearly hitting a child on a scooter.

John does not pay attention to the scowling grandmother, walks faster, concentrating on his hatred and nothing else.

He remembers the look of shame on Mycroft’s face. Was he ashamed about his own stupidity, or his lack or care in placing Mary Morstan in John Watson’s life?


 




There is always a downside to saving John Watson.

The first time, it meant going away for two years, coming back and realising he would not be getting his old life back. The landscape had shifted, people were not what they had been before. Maybe he should have stayed away for good.

Sherlock tries to get back to the Victorian living-room with its cold fireplace but somehow he has got stuck.

Stuck in a clean little cell with nothing to stimulate his brain, not even drugs – although he might give it a try, tell the warden with the Financial Times in his pocket about that big upcoming Government contract for this IT company in exchange for a little favour –

Yes, the downside. The downside is that he is alone, locked up with his brain and his feelings and memory of a man falling backwards – not him, not this time, bullet to brain, not the chest, dead as a doornail.

And then Mycroft is there. Sherlock hates being with him in the confined little cell, hates being the target of his compassion, hates being the small brother who has to be comforted over and over again.

And yet.

Mycroft offers him a way out, a bleak one, for sure, but everything is better than getting life for murder. So he agrees.

What follows, is hell. Sherlock knows that this is not real, just a film playing in his head, and yet it is hell. (Because something like this could come to pass. Mary is a killer and John is married to her and Mycroft never did anything to prevent this.)

He is standing with John on a lonely tarmac, Mary a red dot in the background, a sombre Mycroft at her side, a private jet waiting to take him away …

For a moment he allows himself to think that he might say it now, before it is too late, before he will never be able to say it. And stops. He stops before the words leave his mouth and goes for a joke. Tries to leave John with a laugh on his face.

He knows it would not work, John would feel something was amiss, but he would accept it stoically like a soldier. And Sherlock will clench his teeth until his jaw hurts, enter the plane, wait until they are in the air, get out his phone and read about the day they met.

(Distant voices, beeping sounds, feet moving around, but only from far, far away, from a place that slowly fades, becoming mute again.)

 




‘What is happening? His fever is not that high.’ John is looking at Gemma Wood, the consultant, mid-thirties, red hair, pageboy hairstyle, competent and nice, pointing at the heart monitor with its spiking line.

She shakes her head. ‘Nothing physical, John.’ She has started to call him by his first name as if they were friends. Or colleagues. Which they are not but he is willing to let it pass for now. She walks around the bed, checks the IV lines, and turns back to look at him. ‘You told me about this thing he does, this technique. Mind Castle or something like that?’

He nods his head. ‘Palace.’ Vaguely remembering an underground lab, talking to a scientist whose daughter had lost her glowing rabbit, the scientist wondering about the pompous choice of words.

‘Being shot comes as a shock, physically as well as mentally. Tell me about his state before this happened.’

John swallows. He told her about the drugs so this is not what she is getting at. But what else could it be?

‘John, please. Why did he take the drugs? Was he in some sort of distress? Did he feel ill before he was shot? Did he behave in a strange way?’

The laughter is as involuntary as inevitable. She looks at him inquisitively.

‘If you knew Sherlock, you would not ask this. He always behaves in a strange way, it is his default.’

‘John, you keep evading my questions.’

He turns around and walks to the window, leaning lightly against the cool glass. ‘Shouldn’t we discuss this outside? He might be able to hear us.’

They are sitting in a little overstuffed office, teacups between them on the table.

The first words are difficult, John is not really good at talking about this stuff. Feelings. Regrets. Hopes. Fears. But suddenly a dam breaks, giving way to a flood that does not stop until it has run itself dry.

Gemma listens to him, interrupting him not even once, sitting there quietly, hands folded in her lap, head slightly tilted to the right.

When he is finished, she leans back. ‘I see. So what you are telling me is this: Sherlock pretended to commit suicide and left London for two years in order to dismantle a criminal network. He came back and found his former life had irrevocably changed. You had moved out of the flat you shared, taken on a job in a surgery, and met a woman. You married this woman. Sherlock was your best man and did everything in order to ensure you had an unforgettable wedding. On the evening of the same wedding, he left without saying a word. You did not see him for the weeks that followed, until you found him in a drug den, on the morning of the day he was shot in the chest during an investigation. Is this the gist of it?’

John nods his head. Remembers all the things he left out, he could not tell her – dancing in the darkened living room, putting his hand on Sherlock’s knee in front of the fireplace, hugging him for the first time in his life, feeling the tension in Sherlock’s body –

‘ … away?’

‘What? Sorry, I got distracted for a moment.’

‘Do you know what happened to him during the years he was away?’

John shrugs. ‘He never told me. Chasing thugs, I would say. Solving cases in exotic places. Things like that.’

She gets up. ‘Come with me.’

They enter Sherlock’s room. His heart rate is back to normal, the breathing even, his fever not alarmingly high.

She puts her hands gently on Sherlock’s left shoulder and hip and slightly turns him to the right.

‘Do you know about these? There are more, all over his back.’

John closes his eyes.


 




No! Something is wrong. Sherlock slaps his cheeks to rouse himself from his self-pitying trance. Think, he tells himself frantically, just think!

His brain must have turned to mush during his two years of being dead.

How probable does it seem that a woman like Mary Morstan chose to become a nurse and accidentally got a job in the same surgery as John Watson, friend and flatmate of a deceased consulting detective – the only one in the world (that’s me, by the way, hello) younger brother of the most powerful man in Britain, only antagonist of Jim Moriarty, the most dangerous spider in the web? According to his estimate the probability is virtually zero.

Think, he urges himself, imagining the plane flying eastwards, taking him away from England and John Watson forever.

The Woman faked her death. He himself faked his death. So what if – the roof, the shot, the blood and brain matter, he never checked his pulse, assumption instead of assurance …

And then he creates the video.

 




John Watson is not given to self-hatred but there are exceptions. Like the moment when Gemma shows him the scars on Sherlock’s back. Very visible, medical treatment probably came too late for neat scarring, maybe infected as well.

He swallows. Before the fall – he still finds it hard to think of that time, to dress the unspeakable in simple words – he had seen Sherlock’s naked back more than once. No scars then. No new injuries since his return last November, he would have noticed. So it must have happened in between, during what John called, as he now shamefully remembers, ‘playing hide and seek’.

Nothing could be further from the truth and yet Sherlock did not contradict him.

‘So you didn’t?’ Gemma’s voice is soft.

He shakes his head. ‘No. He did not tell me and I … you know … we once have been close but this was before he … went away.’

Of course she knows Sherlock’s story, just as everyone who is not exactly living under a rock does.

‘I see. These scars were probably caused by violent beatings and not treated appropriately or in time. But surely you can see that for yourself. So at some point Mr Holmes has been the victim of one or several attacks. The fact that the scars are only on his back indicates that he had been constrained in some way which, in turn, indicates that he must have been a prisoner. Probably not in a British prison since to my knowledge torture has been forbidden for quite some time.’

John nods, lost for words. Sherlock being shot is bad enough. But to learn that he has been the subject of violence, probably torture, before is unbearable.

‘And you think …’ he has to start again, his voice sounding strangely hoarse, ‘you think that all this might have caused this condition?’

She nods her head towards the door and they leave the room. They find an empty niche with some plastic seats and sit down opposite each other.

‘John, may I ask you a question?’

‘Yes.’

‘What exactly is your relationship with Sherlock Holmes?’


 




Sherlock feels how his scenario is slowly slipping from his grasp. He realises that this is not about saving the Watson marriage any longer. He has to go deeper. There must be a connection between Mary and other people, people who know him and John, who are moving in the dark, stealthily - for now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face-to-face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

Where did this come from? He is not a religious man but his parents took him to church and at school they used to read the Bible; and sometimes Scripture is surprisingly to the point.

He dreams himself into the past: a time in which there is good reason for him and John to not share a flat because people might talk, for him and John to be friends and nothing more, a time in which John will be married and Sherlock will be a confirmed old bachelor.

He digs up a case bearing some similarities to Moriarty’s death on the roof, someone firing a gun and faking their death and later dying again, Scotland Yard baffled...as always. It is full of Gothic drama, blood-red mouths, a cross-dressing Molly Hooper and a Mycroft the size of a mountain made of port wine jelly. It is fun and yet he feels himself slipping, his mind grasping wildly and finding nothing but water running through his hands.

He imagines a nightly conversation with John in a greenhouse – nice one, there is the glass again, through a glass, darkly – and lets John ask him the questions he has always wanted to be asked and has wished to hear for so long and yet, on hearing them, he loses heart and evades the answer.

‘What made you like this?’

‘Like what?’ he should have answered. ‘Like a freak, an automaton, a sociopath, what do you really mean?’

And his Mind Palace John would have said: ‘Lonely, unhappy, withdrawn. Denying yourself what others have: love, romance, partnership.’

But then there is a dog barking and a light moving in the courtyard and the moment is gone.

What follows is a jumbled melodrama: shattered glass, shadows of a bride, a member of the gentry stabbed with a dagger, a message to himself.

Miss me?

 




If he knew the answer to Gemma’s question, John would not be in a situation like this.

He licks his lips, tries to find an honest answer. ‘I am not sure. You see, with Sherlock everything’s different. He is not like …’ He shrugs helplessly.

She leans towards him, speaks in a low, very soft voice. ‘I have watched you since he was admitted. A lot. It is my job to observe the environment of our patients, their family and friends and how they react to an illness or injury. Because this is important for the healing process and … other things but I do not have to tell you this.’

He knows what she is talking about: telling patients and their loved ones that there is no hope left. 

'I have seen friends in such situations, close friends as well, and believe me, I can tell the difference. I do not wish to lessen the meaning of friendship but if someone is truly in love with a patient,  I can see it. Always.’

He swallows. ’And you think I am?’

‘Of course you are, John. I get the feeling that there are unspoken things between you and Sherlock and that it might be helpful if you talked to him.’

He looks up, knowing that his whole heart is mirrored in his face. ‘And if it is not?’

‘Sometimes it takes a leap into the unknown. Uncharted waters. Paths you have not walked before.’ She laughs, slightly embarrassed. ‘Now look at me, waxing poetical while I should have been on to the next ward twenty minutes ago.’

She gets up and looks over her shoulder. ‘Think about it. There is no immediate danger but I would really, really like him to wake up.’


 




Jim Moriarty. In his flat. Talking the usual sexualised rubbish and blowing his brains out just like he did on the roof, presenting a crater-like hole in the back of his head, still very much alive …

Sherlock feels his control slipping, reality bleeding through, no, not 'real' reality but John is there and Mary and Mycroft, and the only thing that matters is the feeling, no, the certainty that there must be a connection between his brother and the woman known as Mary Morstan. Probably not her real name. Not fictitious either, the closer to reality, the better, so a name taken from a gravestone perhaps. He would not put it past her. Nice touch of old-fashioned spy dramas, flickering black and white images, accompanied by dramatic music.

Then he is back in the past, in his Victorian sitting room, his mind mirror of 221B. He conjures up John to pull him from his drugged slumber on the floor. John who is disappointed and angry, demanding Sherlock to be better than he truly is. Painting him in a shining light for his magazine stories.

He always wanted to be good for John. And failed, spectacularly.

Something changes, a telegram from Mary. This is not the way this is meant to go but he cannot help himself. He is trusting her again, coming to her aid, saving her from an imagined danger while all the time she has been working with Mycroft behind his back – where does this come from? Is he still feeling guilty over hurting John that much? Still wishing for John to find happiness in normal life? But why does he want to push John towards a woman who is still keeping things from him, who is still a question mark? Who...

He shakes his head and lights his pipe again, closes his eyes, lets himself sink into the chair.

Deeper, deeper, he has to go deeper still. He finds himself in an abandoned church, there is a crypt with flickering candles. Mary has led him to Moriarty dressed up as a bride, nice touch - it is burning his heart out - this is what Moriarty threatened to do from the very beginning and what he never managed but Mary, Mary did, well, not quite, he is not dead, not yet …

And then everything merges MaryBrideLadyCarmichaelMoriarty, always Moriarty, following him even to the very deepest levels of his subconscious …

 




John sits down beside the bed again. He puts his tea mug on the nightstand and takes a deep breath. Then he covers Sherlock’s right hand, which is still too warm but not in an alarming way, with his own. This is something he has never done before, and it seems strangely intimate, and yet so very right.

John finds himself talking.

‘Sherlock, I just realised we only hugged once. Once in all these years. Which is weird because best friends hug each other all the time. It is something you do, when saying hello after some time or to congratulate someone on a new baby or a new job or when your team has scored a goal or to comfort your mate when life is shit. But with us, it was different.  And you know what? It was me who did not want it, who shied away from it. Never you. You kept touching my arm to alert me to things, had me dig your phone out of your breast pocket or leant closely over my shoulder to have a look at the laptop. You were the one who took my hand when we were running away from the police. It was always me who tried to keep his distance. Because I was afraid of people talking, of maybe feeling something I did not want to feel, of giving myself away’- he laughs sadly- ‘you know, I enjoy sex. Very much and as often as possible. But intimacy, well that’s another matter.’

He absently strokes Sherlock’s hand.’Some girlfriends complained about it. Sorry for bringing this up’- he clears his throat- ‘what I want to tell you is this...’ His eyes have started to burn and he sits there, still stroking Sherlock’s hand and then he can feel the wetness on his cheeks.

‘I touched you when you came back, right? Throwing you to the floor, hands around your throat, my fist in your face, my head … giving you what I thought you deserved.’ The bitterness is threatening to engulf him. ‘You know what you deserved? A punch to the face, and then a hug. But you only got one half of the deal.’


 




There are voices, light shining into his eyes, a sort of hospital and John is there, Mycroft, Mary hovering in the background. But no, this is not right, he has things to do, he is not finished yet. Then everything is getting blurry again, a car, a cemetery with old trees and leaning gravestones.

Sherlock tries to make sense of his story, to keep to the scenario as planned but he is unable to hold down the memories any longer. Memories and suspicions and the one fear he never dared to voice, not even to himself, not even alone in his bed, at night.

John leaving him to his work, going home with Mary, not taking seriously what he does anymore, not being interested in Sherlock’s cases. And the cases are all he is. A hollow man dressed in adventures and a good coat.

After John and Mary are gone, he starts digging desperately, helped by Greg – yes, he knows his name after all – who is always there when he needs someone to lend him a hand with manual labour, and Mycroft shining a light into a grave conjured up from a cheap period horror drama.

There must be something there, this is not the whole story, Mary and Moriarty and Mycroft, there must be a link, a connection which he must find, and then everything will make sense.

He goes deeper still. Free fall. Landing hard on wet rock. A roaring waterfall behind him, the spray soaking him instantly.

 




Sherlock is not moving, the tea has gone cold but John cannot bring himself to stop. Now that he has begun to talk, he will not stop until everything is said.

‘I was so angry when you waltzed into that restaurant, playing a French waiter, for God’s sake, after having put me through hell for two years. I was as good as dead myself, worse than after Afghanistan, worse than before I met you because I had met you and I knew what my life could be like and that it was over and would never come back.

‘There is this old Eurythmics' song, ‘Better to have lost in love than never to have loved at all.’ Bit cheesy, but I could not keep it out of my mind, playing it in my head for months on end. Of course it was not exactly about us, the person lost is still alive in that song, but it comes quite near. Was having had you in my life, and losing you, better than not having had you at all? Or would it have been easier if I had never met you and just found someone else or put the gun to my head one night and ended it all?’

These are things John has never told anyone, has not even dared to voice while being alone.

He lets Sherlock’s hand go and buries his face in his hands, scrubbing away unshed tears.

‘Do you know why I was so angry that evening? Come on, you are the cleverest man in the room, tell me. Because it was not just two years grieving you, feeling lost, getting drunk, talking to a headstone- that was quite appalling by the way and I really hope you did not choose that one yourself, but my bet is on Mycroft, just to spite you. Anyway’- he laughs- ‘by now it seems funny but then I was so fucking angry, because of all moments you could have chosen, you chose this. The moment I thought I was over you, the moment I had decided to move on, the moment I was sitting there with a woman who had caught me when I was stumbling around in the dark.

‘That night I lay in bed, Sherlock, wide awake, thinking of you. My whole brain kept circling around one question. Why now? Why not a year before? Or even six months? Why not before Mary? You see, I am not a good man. A good man would have been happy to have his best friend back and a lovely woman at his side. But I was not happy after that day’ - he hesitates- ‘although this is not quite true. There were some happy moments. The moment I touched your knee in front of the fireplace. The moment you put your arm on the headrest behind me when we were sitting on the couch. The moments you taught me how to dance in our living room. Closed curtains, I know, but still. And when we hugged at the wedding. The collection of John Watson’s Happy After-The-Fall-Moments is quite small but it is precious to me. And you know what? There is not a single moment with my wife in it.’


 




This is rock bottom. He smiles at his own pun. Lying on the hard, wet ground, clothes soaked to the bone, attacked by his own weakness and fear and inability to overcome that very fear. He realises that he has never really fought against a man, but always against himself. He let himself be lured into the game, was flattered to be the object of such an intricate plan, such a work of beauty. Crimes made to measure, puzzles only he could solve.

When he realised what Moriarty had become, a part of himself, it was too late. He realised it the moment he saw Moriarty’s face in Dewer’s Hollow, triggered by a drug that showed Sherlock his own worst fears. A bit like a fairytale, a counterpart of the Evil Queen’s mirror. How fitting. Moriarty was always one for fairytales.

And then he knows it is over. He made a mistake, again, meeting his deepest fears alone, without someone at his side. He should not have started this experiment on his own, should have talked it through with John but no –

There is the wife to be considered.

Sherlock is fading away, he cannot fight the vicious attack any longer, he is close to giving up, to fall again, once and forever, never to come back again. There is a pain in his chest, the bullet wound, Moriarty hitting him in the very place, a breath-taking pain and then –

John is there. There is always two of them.

For a moment Sherlock allows himself the impossible dream of John coming to save him, of John throwing Moriarty over the edge and Sherlock throwing away his stupid hat – the How People Want To See Him hat - and jumps into a new life.

He awakes on the plane. Mary is there. Mary is pregnant. Why was she not pregnant in his Victorian escapade? He made a mistake there, surely, because she is pregnant now and he deduced it himself, he is not stupid, all the signs were there – as was the sign of the liar and yet he did not observe as he should have done.

A last desperate attempt at getting back the happiness, placing John and himself in their beautiful Victorian attire in front of the fireplace, smoking, chatting peacefully, perfectly intimate, him walking to the window and looking out and seeing – the present. The present in which Mary is pregnant and has shot him and John does not know about his wife and Mycroft cannot be trusted and –

 




The heart monitor is beeping, the ECG spiking, Sherlock’s hands suddenly twitching, his head rolling from left to right.

John is up from his chair, leaning over the bed, putting his hands on Sherlock’s face and trying to calm him down but it is no use. Gemma and a nurse are entering the room, checking everything, Sherlock’s temperature which is only slightly elevated- no fever- and yet something is happening to him.

‘I ... I talked to him as you said. He has been quiet all the time, this started only seconds ago,’ John says, feeling terribly awkward. Was it something he said that upset Sherlock? Did he hear him? Did he hear everything he said?

Gemma sends the nurse away. ‘I do not care if you have been pouring out your heart to him or read from the telephone directory,’ she smiles. ‘Whatever you did, you got a reaction. And even if he reacted to something inside himself instead of your words, this is a good sign.’ She looks over to the monitor. The heart rate is slowing down. 

‘No medication as long as his condition remains stable. Keep up the good work.’

She leaves him alone.


 




They are driving into a tunnel, Sherlock and John in the front seats, Mary in the back, moaning, telling him to go faster, then a cry, ‘Stop! At once! I cannot … feck … my water just broke …’

He abruptly stops the car, sends it slithering against the kerb, John jumping out and squeezing himself in the back with Mary.

Sherlock is trying not to hear the moans, the groans, Mary swearing, John talking to her in his best bedside manner, hiding his own nervousness because his daughter is going to be born in a fucking car in a fucking London tunnel, of all things.

Sherlock looks at his phone, trying to distract himself because he knows what this means, he will never have John, not the way he wants him, he will be the uncle coming to tea every second Sunday of the month, bringing funny presents for which John’s daughter is far too young, carrying her around the room in a mixture of awkwardness and pride and then going home to Baker Street alone.

There is some shark graffiti in the tunnel and he thinks of Magnussen and that he is not sorry, will never be sorry for killing him, but why are they here of all places, what are they telling him?

After that everything starts to blur, a jumble of images floating through his brain, John and Mary and the baby in a lovely, pink bunny suit and they all take a walk like a happy family, Mr and Mrs Psychopath and their high-functioning uncle dragged along by an over-eager dog into a crowded market and –

 




‘Sherlock, I need you to wake up. Please. I know you suffered a terrible shock and you are in pain but please, for me.’

John is holding Sherlock’s right hand that has no venous access with both of his own, maybe even clutching it but he cannot let go, he is afraid. He is a doctor and should be able to keep his professional distance but this is Sherlock.

‘I could say sorry and explain why I have been the way I am and that this is not how I want us to be but I know that you are not fond of sentimental crap so I will start again. I need you to wake up because I have a case for you.’


 




At first there is just light. Nothing hard or glaring, more like the sun shining through mist, soft, subdued, muted.

Then there is a sound, a voice. He knows that voice, he could pick it out of a hundred, a thousand, of all other voices.

‘A very important case, Sherlock, and I want you to listen to me. I know who shot you. This is all I have to say for now,’ a pause, ‘and there is something else. I promised to skip the sentimental crap so I will keep it short. I have no idea if you can hear me or if you even want to hear this but, just this once. Let me say it, just once. I love you.’

 




John feels a sudden calm after he has said the words. It is as if he has shed an old skin, like a lizard or a snake, only to find a shining new skin beneath. A skin in which he feels at home.

At first it is just a twitch, feather-light, so light that it could be his imagination. But then Sherlock’s hand starts to move in his and he loosens his grip and looks down at the long fingers that are scrabbling about.

‘Sherlock? Can you hear me?’ John looks at the monitors, everything is fine. Pulse almost normal.

He starts to stroke Sherlock’s hand again and keeps his eyes on Sherlock’s face. Lips starting to move, trying to form words.

‘Just a sec, I’ll be back at once.’

John runs out into the hallway, barges into the nurses’ station, shouting for ice.

‘Mr Holmes is awake?’ asks a young nurse. ‘I will page Doctor Wood at once.’

But John is already on his way back, nearly slithering into the room, shutting the door and bending down over the bed.

Sherlock’s eyes are open. Slightly unfocussed. Lips still moving. John carefully places an ice cube against Sherlock’s lips. He hesitantly licks the cube, water slowly dripping down over his chin and John’s fingers. One minute, two minutes. Then he turns his head away.

John sits down, putting the bowl of ice on the nightstand.

‘Can you hear me?’


 




Sherlock manages a nod. His brain is still fuzzy; he is floating on a cloud of morphine but he is awake. His mouth is still terribly dry but he has to try.

‘Too.’

His mouth does not obey, his lips are numb and it feels as if he has to learn to speak again.

John’s face is very close. ‘You don’t have to speak. Everything is fine, the operation went well, they removed the bullet without any damage to blood vessels or other organs. But you lost a lot of blood and have been unconscious for two days.’

His voice is just a whisper, ‘Mary?’

John’s lips turn into a hard line. ‘This is the case I mentioned, the case for which you have to get well.’

‘He has … things … on her.’

‘Who has?’

‘Magnussen.’ Sherlock closes his eyes, exhausted from a few short words.

‘Magnussen is dead, Sherlock.’

He tries to move but the pain in his chest is excruciating even through the morphine cloud and he has to take some shallow breaths. Another ice cube is placed to his lips. A warm, dry hand is stroking his forehead.

‘He was killed in his office. I found both of you. Him, I could not save. Shot to the head. But you … well, the killer had second thoughts,’ he swallows, ‘and yet, you almost died, Sherlock, it was touch and go. I think they had given up on you.’

He looks away.

 




John tries very hard not to cry in front of Sherlock, ’let’s talk about this when you are better’ - he gets up from his chair- ‘I will look for Gemma, your doctor. She will be happy to know you woke up. You gave us a right puzzle.’

Sherlock looks at him quizzically.

‘There was no physical reason why you should remain unconscious for so long.’

Something like a smile appears on Sherlock’s face. ‘Other reason.’

John nods. ‘I see. Trip to the palace?’

‘Yes.’ Sherlock’s voice is low and tired but not without a hint of amusement.

John gets up and walks to the door. His hand is already touching the doorknob when something makes him stop abruptly in his tracks.

‘I heard you.’

He almost runs back to the bed. Sherlock is looking at him with wide open eyes.

‘I love you, too.’


 

 

Love never fails.

(1 Corinthians 13)
 


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I still believe that love conquers all!

http://i1353.photobucket.com/albums/q666/Schmiezi/f78f2088-06ef-444c-b254-d9efa841bc19_zps435390b3.png      http://i1353.photobucket.com/albums/q666/Schmiezi/140545df-e987-4a67-9272-fa8b2742790c_zpsa8b00ed8.png

"Quick, man, if you love me."
     Thread Starter
 

December 4, 2016 8:30 am  #3


Re: Secret Santa Fics 2016 - Read them here

This story is for NotYourHousekeeperDear, who wanted to read Johnlock (friends to lovers), case fic, fluff, romance, drama, friendship. She wouldn’t want to read too much angst or Mary Sue-type of new characters.

My prompt was five words: Dog, TV, Bachelor, helicopter, Guardian
 
This was a really interesting challenge for me, as I took a while to form a coherent story around those five keywords. Also, I have never written a case before, and I’ve never written friends to lovers before. So this story riddled me with new stuff to sink my teeth into – which I loved. Seeing as I am a professional dog instructor, training my own dog into nosework/scent dog, and “dog” was one of my keywords, AND knowing Sherlock had a fondness for dogs… well, I really couldn’t help myself…

A great thank you to ukaunz for invaluable help and advice as a beta-reader.

Hope you will enjoy the story, as I really enjoyed writing it!
 


Of Decisions and Dogs

 
 
Chapter One
It was Saturday afternoon at Baker Street. Sherlock was busy typing on his laptop, while John was flicking through the channels on the TV, hoping for something that could be deemed at least watchable. The week had been busy at the clinic and he felt tired. After hopping through the channels a few times, he ended up with last year’s holiday special of The Bachelor.

Lovely. 42 years old and I’m spending Saturday night watching a rerun of a dating show.

"You know, if I was ten years younger, I would go on this show. I can’t seem to get any action as it is, perhaps I would have more luck as the eligible bachelor instead of the confirmed bachelor."

Sherlock glanced at the TV before giving John an odd look that he couldn’t quite decipher.

"Really, John? Preselected bimbos are your thing? Or would you try out your bisexual side for once, and go for men as well?"

John frowned. He wasn’t sure how Sherlock had picked up his - somewhat dormant - interest in men, but had stopped being surprised by Sherlock’s abilities a long time ago.

"Not sure I consider myself bi. I usually prefer women, some men are just the exception."

"I see." Sherlock returned to his typing. "What about me, then?" he said without looking up. "Do you think I’m bi?"

John was caught a bit off-guard by this question. Sherlock never spoke about his sexuality. But he quickly recovered, a skill he had learned quite quickly living with Sherlock.

"Nah," he said. "You’re gay."

"And how did you come to that conclusion?"

John smiled a little. "Because of your lack of interest in Irene. You were fascinated by her personality and she was clearly attractive. If you had been bi, you would have gone for it when she practically threw herself at you."

Sherlock looked up at that. "Not the worst deduction, I admit. However, just because I haven’t found any women sexually attractive so far, doesn’t mean I never will."

"Balance of probability, Sherlock," John teased.

"Black swan, John. Anyway…" Sherlock closed his laptop and swiftly got up. "We have a case."

John got up too, turned off the TV, and was putting on his jacket just as Sherlock finished tying his scarf.

"A woman named Sarah Poulson was murdered at the Orchard Theatre. No witnesses, no clues. Well… no clues Scotland Yard can find, which says very little."

They were out the door and hailing a cab before John could reply, though he knew that if Sherlock had any more details, he would be informed in the cab.

The theatre was closed off, but Lestrade and Sally Donovan were there already, and led them in. A woman dressed in a blue skirt and a white blouse was lying face down in one of the makeup-rooms. It reminded John a bit of the pink lady from their A Study in Pink case.

What should he call this? A Study in Theatre? He shook his head. Bad pun. Also, he thought, it wasn’t a good sign that his first thought upon seeing a dead woman was what blog title he should use. He felt a small pang of guilt, and focused instead on Sherlock, who had his magnifying glass out and was crouching down next to the woman’s left hand.

"Ah, yes, there we go," he said triumphantly. With a pair of tweezers he pulled out a small piece of fabric from between the woman’s fingers. The fabric was thin and pale green.

"What’s that?" John asked.

Sherlock quickly produced a small vial from his pocket, dropped the piece of fabric into it and put the lid back on.

"That, I believe, is a piece of fabric from the killer. Most likely a scarf, considering the texture and colour of the fabric. There were fibres of this under her fingernails, her clothes and hair are messy, it’s clear she put up a fight."

"A scarf, you say? Helen has a scarf like that," a voice rang out.

Both Sherlock and John turned towards the source of the voice - a blond man seemingly in his early 30s. He gave them both a friendly smile before extending his hand to Sherlock.

"David Milhouse," he said. Sherlock shook his hand thoughtfully. "Sherlock Holmes, I presume?"

"Yes, good deduction seeing as Lestrade introduced me when we entered the room. Helen, you said?" Sherlock replied.

John cringed inwardly, but the man – David – only laughed.

"Good point.  Yes, Helen, she is one of the other actresses. She used to wear a thin, green scarf."

John noticed that Sherlock’s face fell a little. He tried to hide a smile. This case was becoming too simple for Sherlock’s taste.

Sherlock opened his mouth to reply, probably to complain about the case having fallen to a 2 and was way below what he would bother to spend time on, when Sally walked up to David with a photograph.

"Is that Helen?" she asked.

John leaned over to have a look. The photograph showed a young woman with long, brown hair – and a light green scarf.

"No," David said. "That’s Beth. Elisabeth. She’s also an actress. I didn’t know she had a similar scarf."

Sherlock frowned and looked at the picture. John could see him thinking.

All of a sudden Sherlock twirled around, all coat and long legs, and hurried towards the exit. "Gotta go, have a case to solve."

"Wait!" Lestrade called. "Don’t you want to talk to Helen and Elisabeth?"

"No need," Sherlock called loudly, already out the door. "But do send samples from both scarves to Molly at Bart’s as soon as possible."

Suddenly, David jogged after him out into the hallway. John couldn’t hear what they were talking about, but only a few minutes later David came back in again. Alone, but looking very content about something.

John hurried out the door after Sherlock.

"Where are we going?" he asked, as they were striding down the empty road.

"You can do what you want, but I am going back to Baker Street to get ready."

"Get ready for what?"

"David asked me out for dinner."

John stopped.

"Dinner? For the case, you mean?"

After a few steps Sherlock noticed that John wasn’t following, and so he stopped as well. "No, not for the case. I believe it’s called a date. I thought you would be quite familiar with the concept."

He gave a little smile and turned to hail a cab.

John felt a knot tightening in his stomach, watching Sherlock heading into a cab and leaving. His thoughts went to David. Young, attractive, easy-going. Come to think of it, David looked a bit like himself, when he was ten years younger.

Sherlock was going on a date with someone who looked like a younger, more carefree, version of himself. John wasn’t sure if he should be flattered or disgusted by the idea. Mostly the latter, he concluded, as he walked towards the nearest cab line. At least according to the sinking feeling in his stomach.
 
 
Chapter Two
It was nine in the evening. John was trying not to focus too much on Sherlock who was fussing over his clothes and hair. Pre-date nerves, he never would’ve thought he’d see that from Sherlock.

"I thought you didn’t do dates," he couldn’t help saying.

"I don’t. But you’ve been moping for months about how horrible and boring it is without having a date. So when the opportunity presented itself with someone who is less of an idiot than the rest of them, I thought I would give it a go."

He turned around to John with a flourish. "Well? How do I look?"

John swallowed. Sherlock had managed to tame his curls in a way that looked both stylish and natural - John wanted nothing more than to run his fingers through them. He was going for his purple shirt and black suit, and looked absolutely riveting. He had a slightly nervous energy around him which only added a touch of vulnerability to his usual confident and charismatic persona.

David wouldn’t know what hit him, the lucky git.

"You look fine," John said finally. He waved his hand dismissively before turning back to the TV. "Have fun!"

He couldn’t stand to look at Sherlock anymore without giving himself away.

"Hopefully I will," Sherlock jogged down the stairs. "Don’t wait up," he joked before the front door slammed shut behind him.

John closed his eyes. What was happening? Sherlock didn’t date. He had made that clear the first evening they went out to Angelo’s, and had never shown any interest towards anyone ever since.

And, yeah, there had been a tension of possibilities between them for a long time. Long looks, a brief touch. So much that was felt and hinted at, but it was always unspoken. And so John had always assumed that he had all the time in the world. Because it would either be him or no one for Sherlock, he had naively thought.

Since when had he ever been this full of himself? He had thought Sherlock was this insecure outcast that would never dare to date anyone. John felt slightly ashamed of his own thoughts.

He’d had his chance, for years, and he had spoiled it. And he was not going to sit here and hover like a disapproving mother (or jealous flatmate) until Sherlock came home, he decided.

So John got up, made himself a late dinner that he enjoyed in front of the TV. He spent the rest of the evening watching late night shows and very clearly not thinking of Sherlock. At midnight, he went to bed – he was not going to be sitting up when Sherlock came home.

When John woke the next morning, he padded downstairs to an empty flat. His stomach in tight knots, he wasn’t sure if he was just being jealous or very worried. What if David was some psychopathic killer? Perhaps stalking Sherlock for years?

John shook his head. He was getting paranoid. Sherlock was probably… he tried his best to not think about a just awoken Sherlock with bed-tousled hair and sleepy eyes in someone else’s bed. Nope, not going there.

His mobile phone gave a text alert. His heart skipped a beat when he saw it was from Sherlock. I’ve become a sodding teenager, he thought to himself in disgust as he opened the text.

Meet me at Bart’s at 0930. SH.

Stayed the night, then. John swallowed, feeling as if he had lost something he never had. He typed back an affirmative before heading for the bathroom. Getting ready for a shave and a shower – and to play the role of the teasing and supportive flatmate.
 
As expected, when John entered the lab, Sherlock was already there. Dressed in the same clothes as when he had left yesterday.

John cleared his throat. "So… date went well then, I take it?"

Sherlock didn’t look up from the microscope. "It wasn’t as dreadful as I had expected it to be. David is surprisingly okay as far as company goes."

John turned to look out the window, nodding. "That’s good. So you seeing him again, then?"

Sherlock shrugged. "Probably. Look here, John. I’ve analyzed some of the fibres from the piece of cloth with samples I got from the two scarves. It’s clear that the fibres stem from one of them. I can’t say which one, though, they are remarkably alike in age and wear."

He frowned in frustration.

John came over and looked, although he didn’t know what he was supposed to be looking for. "So no luck there, then? Too bad the fibre is too small to look for fingerprints," he said.

"Yes, that is true, there are no finger…" Sherlock stopped suddenly, his eyes wide.

"John, you are a genius! Of course, that’s how we do it!" He spoke in a hurry as he put on his coat and scarf. "Tell Lestrade to bring the two women to Regent’s Park. Let’s meet up at two o’clock, I’ll text you the details." And before John could answer, or ask what he had said that was so smart, Sherlock was gone.
 
 
Chapter Three
At one o’clock in the afternoon, Lestrade had managed to gather all his troops, and the two women, outside his office at New Scotland Yard.

"You sure you don’t know what’s going on?" Lestrade asked – for the third time since he had got there, John thought.

"No, as I said. I don’t know any more than you do."

A text message beeped in.

Meet me at Griffin Tazza at 1400. Try not to bring Anderson. SH

John frowned at the message. He knew where that was, they had been there once before on a different case. But why couldn’t they have gone together? Sherlock was acting a bit strange on this case, he thought. But only way to find out was to be there. So John showed the message to Lestrade and they headed out.

Half an hour later, they were all stationed near the giant statue - a stone bowl supported by four huge lions. Lestrade, David and a few other officers were there. John tried not to glare too much at David. In fact, he tried his best to ignore his very existence. The two women were there, of course, looking slightly confused. Sherlock was not to be seen.

After ten minutes of waiting, Lestrade was getting impatient. "Sherlock not coming?"

Before John could reply, they finally saw Sherlock strolling towards them. With a dog, John noticed with surprise. Sherlock walked up to them with what looked like a rather large spaniel. Brown and white with long ears and a constantly wagging tail. John wasn’t sure exactly what breed it was, but it was bigger than a Cocker Spaniel, the only spaniel breed he knew.

"This is Toby," Sherlock said by way of greeting.

"You brought a dog?" Lestrade asked with scepticism.

"A highly trained scent dog," Sherlock replied.

John looked curiously at Toby, who greeted him by coming up to him with his greying muzzle and giving a polite sniff. John petted him while looking at Sherlock.

"Where did you get him from? And why have you brought him here?"

"My thoughts exactly," Lestrade chimed in.

Sherlock looked from one to the other.

"Isn’t that obvious?" he asked. "To solve the case, of course."

When he saw Lestrade’s and John’s blank looks, he sighed heavily.

Sherlock got to his knees, petted an eager Toby a bit and retrieved the vial from his pocket. "Toby is trained to track and alert on the scent of a particular person after being given a sample of that person’s scent."

John was finally getting it.

"So if you let Toby sniff the fabric…"

"…he will indicate whether it belongs to Helen or Elisabeth, yes," Sherlock finished, sounding pleased that John had reached the right conclusion himself. John tried to ignore the small feeling of pride that gave him.

Sherlock opened the vial and presented it to Toby, who sniffed eagerly. Lestrade and David looked upon the proceedings curiously. Sally looked a bit dubious, whereas Helen and Elisabeth were too far away to have heard what Sherlock and John had been talking about.

Toby had clearly gotten as much of the scent as he needed, though John was unsure how Sherlock knew that, and he screwed the lid back on and pocketed it. Sherlock stretched his arm out towards the two women and commanded "Seek!"

Toby sped off, his nose to the ground, sniffing loudly. As the dog worked his way towards the women, David came up next to Sherlock. He leaned over and whispered something in Sherlock’s ear, John couldn’t hear what. Sherlock whispered something back and David nodded with a smile.

John felt slightly uneasy. David seem to stand a bit too close to Sherlock, and Sherlock wasn’t moving away.

John shook his head. He was acting like a jealous teenager, and this was not the time nor the place. He smiled grimly at his own ridiculous thoughts, and returned his focus to the dog.

Toby was now walking back and forth between the two women, sniffing eagerly. Suddenly, he lay down flat in the grass next to Helen’s shoes, his nose touching her leg.

Sherlock clapped his hands.

"Ah, and we have found who we were looking for, haven’t we. Good dog, Toby!" Sherlock pulled a tennis ball from his other pocket and threw it across the grass. Toby sped after it at lightning bolt speed, caught it and chewed happily on the ball.

Helen looked crestfallen.

"But I haven’t…"

Sherlock lifted his hand up to silence her and walked over to Elisabeth.

"Could you please tell us why you killed Sarah Poulson?" he asked.

Elisabeth widened her eyes in shock.

"Me? But the dog indicated Helen, didn’t it? It was her scarf, not mine!"

Sherlock raised an eyebrow.

"How did you know about the scarf? The piece Toby sniffed was too far away for you to have seen it."

"I… you…"

"Very well put, I am sure the prosecutor will struggle to put up a counter-argument to such a flawless argument. 

Yes, the scarf was Helen’s. You knew she was well-known for wearing it at the theatre, so you stole it the night before. Wearing gloves, so that your fingerprints wouldn’t be left on it. Which also made sure that your scent wasn’t left on it either."

Toby had wandered over to Sherlock, his entire body wagging with happiness as he prodded his nose towards him to get Sherlock to toss the ball again. Sherlock looked down at him, smiled fondly and tossed the ball.

John looked on in amusement. He didn’t know Sherlock liked dogs that much, it was fascinating to see how his demeanour changed and warmed up as soon as he interacted with Toby.

That little interlude had been enough for Helen and Elisabeth to start arguing between themselves about the whys and hows of the murder and the scarf stealing. Sherlock lost interest and started to walk away.

Lestrade walked up to him.

"Wait! You know that what the dog did doesn’t really count as proof."

"No, but you have what is as good as a confession in front of witnesses. And you can run a DNA test on the piece of scarf." He handed the vial to Lestrade.

"I… yes. Why the dog, though? If we could’ve done the same with a DNA test?"

Sherlock smiled at him.

"Some fresh air, Lestrade. Besides, it was fun. The case was boring and obvious, Toby was the most interesting part of it."

Lestrade shook his head and left with the vial.

John was standing at parade’s rest, smiling at Sherlock.

"You just wanted an excuse to bring the dog, didn’t you?"

"Toby likes to work outdoors in the park. Don’t you, Toby?" Sherlock had knelt down besides the dog, scratching him behind one of his big ears. Toby leaned into the hand, clearly enjoying the attention.

David walked up to them, looking as if he had been greatly entertained. Sherlock quickly got up.

"An interesting display there, I must say. Terrible case, of course, terrible."

"Quite boring, to be honest. But it had its features of interest." Sherlock flashed David a big smile.

"So see you tonight?"

"Yes, as agreed."

David smiled widely, making him look far too young and attractive, John thought.

"Good. See you then." David turned to John and nodded, John nodded curtly back.

Sherlock was already walking away with Toby.

"Wait, Sherlock!"

John jogged after him.

"See you back at the flat later, John. I have to return Toby to his owner."

And with that, he was off.

John was left alone – again. And Sherlock was going out with David tonight – again.

Sherlock could be the biggest git in the universe sometimes. And John himself was the second biggest git in the universe for allowing it, he thought miserably.

It wasn’t far from Regent’s Park to Baker Street, so John decided to walk home. He needed some time alone, he needed to think.

Sherlock seemed to be getting along quite well with David. How far it would go no one knew, but if it didn’t work out between them who’s to say Sherlock wouldn’t date someone else later? Now that he had discovered the joys of dating, maybe he was open to meeting more men if this first experience didn’t work out.

And whomever Sherlock ended up with, David or someone else in the future, their relationship would never be the same. John was sure that if Sherlock actually got into a relationship with someone, he would leave. He wouldn’t be able to sit around as the fifth wheel. Just the thought of seeing a picture of Sherlock standing arm-in-arm, smiling, with Blonde McYoungandHandsome in The Guardian made John feel queasy.

He took a slightly longer route home, lost in thought. He walked past the London Business School and headed towards Baker Street.

The reason why he had never seriously tried to flirt, or broach the subject of a potential romantic interest with Sherlock, was the fear of rejection and thus their relationship never being the same again.

But if that were to happen anyway, what did he have to lose?
 
 
Chapter Four
Sherlock wasn’t home yet when he arrived. Good, he needed a battle plan.

John felt almost ashamed for his moping and whining last night. Wasn’t he a soldier? Time to fight for what he wanted instead of allowing someone else to step in from the sideline and snatch Sherlock right from under his nose.

Well… slightly odd way to frame it, seeing as Sherlock was the one deciding who he wanted to be snatched by.

Or something.

John decided to stop that train of thought. He was wondering how this conversation would go when he managed to tangle himself in a mess even in his own mind.

He heard the click from the door and Sherlock came striding up the stairs. 

"Just taking a quick shower," he said and disappeared into the bathroom.

John plumped down in his chair, restlessly drumming his fingers. Now that he was here, he was at a bit of a loss. He knew what he felt, but what would he say? How should he say it? Fighting for Sherlock against murderous bandits would have been easier than this.

Perhaps he should just leave it? Maybe it wouldn’t work out with David, and Sherlock would be convinced again that dating wasn’t for him and they could go back to status quo. Was he rocking the boat for nothing?

Fifteen minutes later, Sherlock was done and came into the living room. His curls were still damp from the shower, and the top button of his white shirt was unbuttoned. He was struggling with his cuffs.

John thought he had never seen anything more gorgeous in his life. He lifted his chin, steady as a rock as always when faced with stress, and got up from the chair.

"Here, let me," he said. He carefully buttoned the cuffs. He then took one step closer as he straightened Sherlock’s collar and brushed his fingers gently through his curls. Sherlock was staring at him, baffled. He didn’t say anything, which was unusual in itself, but neither did he scoff or draw away. John took that as an encouragement.

He cleared his throat and looked Sherlock straight in the eye.

"If you want to go out with David, I won’t stop you. But I want you to know that you have options."

With that, he leaned in and gave Sherlock a very brief and gentle kiss.

Sherlock stared at him, his mouth slightly open. In other circumstances, John would be thrilled to be able to leave Sherlock speechless. But now, it just made him feel slightly sad.

He withdrew his hand from Sherlock’s curls and took a step back. He had said what he wanted to say. As he turned to walk away, Sherlock grabbed him by his arm and tugged him back.

John looked up at him in surprise.

Sherlock was smiling widely. He put one arm behind John’s neck and leaned in for another kiss. This time they kissed properly, their arms wrapping around each other and John couldn’t believe this was happening.

When they finally broke apart, Sherlock gave a huff of laughter.

"Finally," he said, slightly out of breath. "You are slow to catch up, John."

John shook his head.

"Me? What about David?"

"Sod David."

"But… you spent the night with him…"

"No, I didn’t. After a boring dinner and a – from my side, at least – very superficial goodnight peck, I retired to one of my network’s location for the night."

John couldn’t believe what he was hearing.

"You what…?"

Sherlock rolled his eyes, managing to make the gesture seemed fond.

"I knew I was attracted to you a long time ago. I suspected you felt the same, but I wasn’t sure. So I needed more data."

John felt the experiences from the past – was it only 24 hours? – shifting around in his head until nothing made sense.

"You… used David to make me jealous?"

"As I said, I needed more data."

"Sherlock, that’s more than a bit not good."

"You would have wanted me to have sex with David before breaking off with him?"

"No, of course not! It’s just… you shouldn’t…"

Sherlock put his hands on John’s shoulders and shook him lightly.

"You’re endearingly quaint, John. David got to take a selfie with me and brag on Instagram that he was on a date with Sherlock Holmes. He’s thrilled. So it didn’t work out after that – he’ll live."

John was feeling delirious as he felt a wild grin slowly spread across his face.

"So. Sod David?"

"Sod him. Oh, that reminds me. I have to, sadly and with much regret tell him, that this isn’t working out. It’s not him, it’s me et cetera… Perhaps you should type it for me, John, you know these things better than I do."

John swatted him playfully.

"You clean up your own mess."

Sherlock smiled as he was typing.

"So… since I’m already dressed… dinner?"

John beamed.

"Starving."



 
Epilogue
It was Christmas Eve. The snow was falling outside the windows of Baker Street. Sherlock and John were getting into the Christmas spirit for once. The flat was filled with festive and colourful decorations, Christmas dinner had been enjoyed along with Mrs. Hudson’s company, and they were now enjoying drinks while Sherlock played Christmas carols on his violin.

Sherlock ended his final carol with a flourish of his bow, and John and Mrs. Hudson smiled and clapped. Mrs. Hudson, slightly tipsy, gushed over the boys about what a wonderful evening they were having, before she excused herself for the bathroom.

As she walked, slightly unbalanced, out of the living room, Sherlock and John looked at each other and grinned.

"I’m surprised Mycroft hasn’t kidnapped me into his black car and given me the "hurt him and I’ll kill you" speech yet, " John said.

"He’s going for the even more melodramatic approach. This time it will be a helicopter, he just needs time to requisition one first."

The both laughed. John had a sip of his drink and noticed that Sherlock had turned serious.He got up from his chair and approached John in a way he could only think of as predatory.

"I haven’t given you my Christmas gift yet," he said, his voice dark.

John looked up at him in mild surprise.

"Didn’t know you did such trivial things as exchanging Christmas gifts," he teased. "Besides, it’s only Christmas Eve."

"Regular gifts are boring. So are regular Christmas traditions. And so I haven’t bought you anything. However, this year I thought I’d give you…"

He leaned over and whispered the rest of the sentence in John’s ear.

John could feel himself going red all the way up to his hair roots. He stared at Sherlock, shocked.

"But we haven’t even… you would do that?"

Sherlock grinned like a Cheshire cat, his eyes sparkling mischievously.

"Merry Christmas, John."

John hurried to compose himself as Mrs. Hudson came tottering back into the living room. She thanked them again for the lovely evening, kissed them both on the cheeks before retreating back to 221A.

"Oh," John said, looking at his watch. "I haven’t given you your gift either. Sit down," he said and pointed towards Sherlock’s armchair.

Sherlock sat down, looking slightly puzzled.

"But it’s only Christmas Eve, John," he teased.

John grinned. "I know. Won’t be a mo’."

He hurried down the stairs, just in time for the man who was waiting outside as they had agreed. After a quick chat John received the gift, wished the man a "Merry Christmas!" and closed the door.

He walked quietly up the stairs until he could see Sherlock. He was still sitting in his chair, craning his neck to see where John was at.

That’s when John let go of Toby. As soon as the dog saw Sherlock he bounced happily towards him and straight up into his lap.

Sherlock caught Toby automatically. He smiled at the dog and accepted the dog’s eager greeting before turning to look at John in confusion.

"What…?"

John couldn’t help but smile at the sight of them.

"I had a talk with Toby’s owner, Mr. Pitt. Or should I say – previous owner. Toby is retired as a service dog for the police, Pitt is already waiting for a new puppy to train. So he’s yours now."

Sherlock gaped at John for several seconds before quickly collecting himself. He leaned his head into Toby’s. John could see he wanted to hide his face for a moment. He felt himself bursting with warmth towards this lovely man.

"Oh, and one more thing…"

Sherlock looked up as John took out a suitcase and opened it. Inside were rows of vials and boxes.

"Seeing as Toby isn’t in service anymore, there are no more restrictions as to what scents he can be trained to detect. So I got a few vials of blood, could be useful on cases…" He pointed at a small cooler inside the suitcase.

"Also," he pointed again, this time at a row of vials. "We couldn’t get all 243 different types of ash, but we got a good starting sample of 30 different ones. Thought it could make a nice challenge for you between cases – how many different types can you train him to detect?"

He pushed the suitcase towards Sherlock, who was staring at its contents. He looked like a child who had been given the keys to a toy store. He looked up at John, his eyes slightly moist. John beamed at him.

Toby had recognized the suitcase and hopped off Sherlock’s lap and was already sniffing eagerly into it, his tail wagging excitedly.

Sherlock got up. He didn’t say anything, but went over to John and gave him a long, tight hug. John hugged him tightly back.

​"Merry Christmas, Sherlock," he said warmly.

Last edited by ukaunz (December 17, 2016 2:25 am)


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December 8, 2016 6:18 am  #4


Re: Secret Santa Fics 2016 - Read them here

Dear Sherlock Holmes,

Your prompt was intimidating to me when I first received it.  You asked for a story where Mary’s past catches up to her in catastrophic ways (I hope this is catastrophic enough) and in which John must make a difficult decision, along with a plot based on an original canon story.  I still haven’t read a lot of the original Doyle stories, so I was not sure I could find one that was not too difficult to adapt, but I think I found something that I was able to manage.  Merry Christmas, and I hope you enjoy my gift to you.

 

The Wealthy Bachelor


 

John let out a sigh as he started his car to go home from work.  Mary had been on maternity leave for some time now, so he was used to driving home alone, but on days like this, where he felt more tired than usual, he liked to have the company to help him stay focused on the road – or have Mary do the driving instead. He turned on the radio, hoping that it would help.

 

There was not much of interest in the day’s news until John’s ears perked up when there was mention of a missing person. 

 

“Helen Doran, daughter of Alan Doran, American technology firm owner and entrepreneur, has  gone missing after her wedding to Robert Simon this weekend.   She was last seen at her father’s house, where the wedding reception was to take place. Those with any information are encouraged to contact the police.  It is still unclear whether this is a case of foul play.”

 

John expected Sherlock would soon know about this, if he did not already.  He thought about it for a while, but soon found that he was home and it slipped from his mind.

 

He went up the front steps of his house to find that the door was ajar.  He considered that perhaps Mary had accidentally left it this way if she had run inside upon hearing the baby crying, but she had not been planning on going out that day.  John pushed the door open and entered slowly, beginning to shift into soldier mode.

 

“Mary?” he called out cautiously.  There was no answer.  He crept inside and started to look around.  Nothing was majorly disturbed in the immediate vicinity of the front door, though the few papers – unpaid bills – that had been sitting on the table had been scattered.  But that could have happened just from walking quickly past.

 

“Mary?” John called out again.  Again, no answer.  He looked around and found nothing amiss, but Mary was also nowhere to be found.  He went up the stairs.  When he got to the top he turned to go inside his and Mary’s bedroom.  That was when he finally saw what had happened. Or, at least, an index of what had happened.

 

The room was in disarray.  The bedside table had been knocked over, the objects that had sat atop it strewn across the floor.   The dresser drawers were open and had been rifled through. The bed was practically unmade, the sheets wrinkled and bunched to one side.  It was then that John heard a low sound.  He followed it to see that Mary lay on the floor on the other side of the bed, gagged and with her hands bound.

 

“Mary!” John exclaimed.  He hurried over and untied her.  “How long have you been like this? When did they break in?” he asked.

 

“I don’t know,” she said once she could speak.  “Maybe an hour ago?  I can usually get myself out of this, but I suppose even trained assassins have bad days.”

 

“Did they hurt you? Did they take anything? What about the baby?” The words kept sputtering out of John’s mouth.

 

“There were two of them.  They didn’t take anything, including the baby.  I made sure of that.  What I did give them though…”

 

“What did they want?”

 

“Information…They threatened to hurt me…and then they did…when I wouldn’t tell them where the base is located for the operations…that I used to be a part of.”

 

“Did you tell them?”

 

“I had to.  They threatened to hurt our little girl…and I suspect I’ll have a good black eye by tomorrow morning, if not tonight.”

 

“Oh, thank goodness, they didn’t take her” John sighed.  “But do you think they’ll be back?”

 

“I don’t know.”

 

“Well, I hope they’re satisfied with what you’ve told them and that they won’t come back.” He held her tight, relieved that she was alive and in one piece.  “I’ll go check on our daughter.”

 

---

 

Things settled down after the scare that day.  Mary did get a black eye, as well as some other bruises, but she was otherwise fine.  John took a day off work to help her with the baby and the house, finding it unfair that she should be left alone all day with her injuries, even if they weren’t critical ones.

 

Things were getting back to normal when Sherlock texted John, alerting him of a new case.  He responded that he was on his way.  When he arrived at Baker Street, Sherlock was on his laptop.

 

“Took you long enough,” Sherlock muttered when John entered before looking up and smirking.  John smiled.

 

“So,” he said.  “What’s the case this time?”

 

“Helen Doran,” Sherlock replied.  “Went missing after her wedding a few days ago.”

 

John remembered the story he heard on the radio.  “What do you know?”

 

“According to the media, she married Robert Simon, son of the politician Gerald Simon, for the money, but her father was in technology, so even if she did come from a less-endowed family, the difference in their families’ wealth couldn’t have been that great, and would still prove financially advantageous.  But enough about that.  It was a relatively small, fairly private wedding and the bride disappeared during the wedding breakfast at her father, Alan’s, home.  It was a quiet wedding except for the disturbance by an unknown woman who tried to force herself in, spouting unflattering claims against the groom and his father.”

 

“Did she arrive before or after Helen Doran went missing?” John asked. 

 

“Before,” Sherlock said.  “But there is little other information in the papers.  I’m hoping her husband will be able to fill in some more of the details.”

 

As if on cue, there was a knock on the door downstairs.  They heard Mrs. Hudson answer and show the man in.  In a few moments, he was at the top of the stairs in the doorway to the flat, introducing himself to John and Sherlock as Robert Simon.

 

John had expected a younger man, but Robert Simon had thinning hair that was beginning to grey.  He dressed well, but in a way that the effort to do so was too obvious.

 

“You must be Mr. Simon,” John said. 

 

“Yes,” the man replied.  “Nice to meet you.” He extended his hand and John was given a firm handshake.  Simon moved to Sherlock, who declined the gesture, leaving the man in a momentarily awkward position.

 

“Start from the beginning, Mr. Simon,” Sherlock said, sitting back in his chair but his eyes alert.

 

“Right,” Simon said.  “I met Helen last year in San Francisco.  I had heard of her father before meeting her since he’s one of the richest and most active entrepreneurs in technology right now.  He had only recently become rich when Helen had turned twenty.  Because of that, Helen never got to go to university, but to say she isn’t intelligent would be completely wrong.  She is still well-read.  Strong-willed and clever, too.  I was immediately enthralled by her.”

 

With that, Simon pulled his phone out of his jacket pocket and showed the two of them a photograph of Helen.  It was very flattering and professionally-taken.

 

“Did you become engaged shortly after meeting?” John asked.

 

“No, not at all,” Simon replied.  “Once my father’s engagement in San Francisco was over, we returned to London and I didn’t see Helen again until the spring when she was in London with her father.  She would help him with his business, you see.   Anyway, it was during that time that we were engaged to be married.”

 

“You were aware of the financial gains involved in marrying her?” Sherlock interjected.

 

“Of course, I was,” Simon replied.  “How could I not be?”

 

“And you would know how much more wealthy you would become through your union? How much exactly?” Sherlock probed.

 

“I have nothing to say on the matter,” Simon said, shifting his feet beneath him.  “But I will tell you that it was not merely for financial benefit, and certainly not only for my own gain.  The feeling was mutual.  The day before the wedding, Helen could barely contain her excitement, talking of the future.”

 

“And on the day of the wedding?”

 

“The same.  I have never seen a happier bride.  That is, until the ceremony.  She began to feel agitated when she dropped her bouquet on her way up the aisle.  A man who happened to be sitting in the pew where she dropped it returned the bouquet to her.  I’m not sure why it upset her so much.  I don’t think it disrupted the ceremony for even a minute.”

 

Simon paused, then.  John glanced at Sherlock, who had his fingers clasped pensively.  John knew then that this seemingly unimportant moment must hold some detail that he could not fathom.

 

“But despite that, nothing seemed particularly strange before Helen disappeared,” he continued.  “The only thing that stands out to me is that she had a brief word with the maid once we got to the house after the ceremony, but it didn’t seem at all surprising for her to do that, though I thought everything for the wedding had already been taken care of.  I heard her mention something about ‘jumping a claim,’ but I didn’t let it concern me, since the wedding was the most important thing at the time.  And anyway, their conversation didn’t last long.  She joined us in the dining room as we waited for everyone to arrive.”

Robert Simon paused again.

 

“Is that all?” John asked, thinking that perhaps this was everything Simon remembered.

 

“No,” Simon replied.  “After a little while, Helen said she was feeling tired and wanted to take a short rest in her room before we started the party.  She went upstairs.  She still had not come back down by the time all our guests had arrived for the reception, so I excused myself to go make sure she was all right.  She wasn’t in her room.  I looked around and noticed that her wardrobe was open and her coat missing.  I didn’t know where she could have gone, I haven’t seen her since that day.”

 

Robert Simon stopped there.

 

“Are you sure you’ve told us everything, Mr. Simon?” Sherlock asked from his position in his chair.

 

“Yes,” Simon replied, shifting his feet again.  Sherlock stared at him expectantly.

 

“What?” Simon asked.  “You don’t believe me?”

 

“There is something you’ve failed to mention,” Sherlock said, unfolding his hands and leaning forward towards Robert Simon.  “There were reports of an unknown woman who disrupted the wedding party, spewing unflattering remarks about you and your father.  And yet you failed to mention such a disturbance.”

 

Simon shifted in his chair again, breaking his eye contact with Sherlock.  Finally, he gave a sigh of resignation.

 

“Oh, all right,” he said.  “Yes, there was a disturbance.  She wasn’t unknown to me. Her name is Flora Millar.”

 

“How did you know her?” Sherlock asked, still leaning forward expectantly.

 

“I was hoping it wouldn’t have to come to this,” Simon said.  “If possible, I would like to keep this out of the press.  It could damage my career.  Flora’s a stripper.  I’ve known her for many years.  She had an unrequited attraction for me, but I never had any relations with her, not before and not after meeting Helen.  When she disturbed the wedding she was escorted off the premises and we didn’t hear anything about her after that.  Are you happy now?”

 

Sherlock leaned back again.  “Yes,” he said.  “Thank you, Mr. Simon.  Do you have a photograph of her?”

 

“…Yes,” Simon said, taking his phone back out of his jacket.  “Here.”

 

Sherlock examined the details of the picture.

 

“Are you aware that later that day, Helen was seen in Hyde Park, wearing her coat over her wedding gown, walking with a woman fitting Flora’s description?”

 

“That comes as a complete surprise to me,” Simon replied.  “And I don’t know how I wouldn’t have seen them.  We could see Hyde Park through the window of the house.”

 

“I see,” Sherlock said, seeming to dismiss that last fact.  “If that is all, you may go now, Mr. Simon.”

 

“Thank you, Mr. Holmes,” Simon said, rising from his chair.  “I hope you will be able to find her.” He nodded to each of them and left.

 

“What do you think, John?” Sherlock said, turning to his friend.  “A strange wedding day, was it not?”

 

“Not that much stranger than mine was,” John replied.  He noticed that Sherlock reacted with a face that suggested he did not want to remember that day.  John tried to quickly change the subject back to the case.  “But anyway, yes, a strange wedding day, those two had.  Did Mr. Simon’s story give you much to work with?”

 

Sherlock got up from his seat.  “Yes,” he said.  “Or at least, enough to begin with.  I’m still working out a few things, but he was definitely helpful.”

 

Sherlock walked over to where his violin case was resting, opened it, tuned the instrument slightly, and began to play.

 

Sherlock’s thinking took such a beautiful form when he played violin.  He may not have been a professional musician, but that didn’t matter to John.  It was not a real performance, he knew, but it was more intimate that anything you could hear at a concert hall.  John savoured the moment, listening to Sherlock’s thinking music, remembering when he could hear Sherlock play any day, anytime.

 

His thoughts were interrupted by his phone buzzing in his pocket.  He took it out to see a message from Mary.

 

I have something very important to discuss with you.  Please come home as soon as you can.

 

John waited for the piece to end before speaking.

 

“I’m sorry Sherlock,” he said.  “I have to go home.  Mary needs me for something.”

 

Sherlock looked like he was trying to hide the disappointment on his face.  “Right.”

 

---

 

Mary was waiting for John in the living room when he got home.  Her face was hard to read, which seemed intentional, but she was not completely succeeding.  She looked troubled, but there was also a hint of determination on her face.

 

“What is it you wanted to talk to me about?” John asked her, sitting down across from her.

 

“They might come back,” Mary said soberly.  “The men who broke in.  They know where I live now, and that I will give them the information that they want.  Apparently, the location of the base wasn’t enough. Even though I’m not active they might come back for information.”

 

“How much of a chance is there?”

 

“More than is comfortable.”

 

She did not need to say more; John knew what this meant.

 

“How far away do you think you’d have to go?” John asked her.  “Somewhere else in England?”

 

“No,” Mary said.  “America, at least, perhaps to South Africa from there.  I’m not sure yet, but either of those should be safe enough for us.”

 

“Us?” John asked.  No, this wasn’t right.  Why was he asking whether both of them would go? Weren’t they a married couple, supposed to do things together?

 

“Yes, John,” Mary.  “All three of us.”

 

“You expect me to go with you?” John felt his temper rising, though he was not completely sure why.

 

“John!” Mary’s was rising, too.  Understandably so.

 

“You expect me to leave my best friend?” John asked.  He was nearly shouting now.  “Who brought me out of the darkest time of my life? Who gave me something else to live for when I thought there was nothing left for me?”

 

“Didn’t I do the same for you?” She was nearly shouting now.  “When you thought he was dead?”

 

“Well, he’s not actually dead now, is he?” John retorted.  “Do you really expect me to leave him after everything the two of us have been through?”

 

“That’s a choice you’ll have to make, then, John,” Mary said, slowing the pace of her speech in attempt to regain control.  “Your wife and child, or your friend.”

 

He let those words sink in for a few moments.  “I suppose you’re right.”

 

---

 

He barely slept that night.  He doubted Mary did, either, though he wasn’t sure since she wasn’t the type to toss and turn in bed like he was.  He tried not to mess up the blankets too much, though minimizing his disruption of her rest was not exactly much comfort.

 

Both Sherlock and Mary had saved him, in their own ways.  Both had hurt him, too.  Both had given him something he had wanted in his life: purpose.  The thought of leaving any of those things behind tore his heart in two.

 

---

 

He arrived at Baker Street the next morning in a groggy state.  He was distracted on the way there, but somehow managed not to take a single wrong turn on the way, it was so instinctive.

 

Sherlock appeared to be inside his mind palace when John entered, his eyes closed.  It was a few minutes before he opened them.

 

“Ah! John!” he said, rising to his feet.  “You came at a good time.  Lestrade is on his way here now to share what he’s found in his investigation at Hyde Park.”

 

“Yeah, great,” John said, lacking his usual interest.

 

“Are you all right, John?” Sherlock asked, suddenly more serious.  “You’re clearly sleep-deprived.”

 

“Yeah, I am,” John said.  “It’s not important.” Why did he lie like this?

 

A minute later, Lestrade arrived.

 

“Hello, Greg,” John said, trying not to sound apathetic.  He did care about the case, but his mind was full of so many things it was hard to stay in the moment.

 

“John,” Lestrade replied with a nod.  “I’m not sure how much farther this gets us, but we found Helen Doran’s wedding gown in the Serpentine, and her shoes.  We had Mr. Simon come down to confirm that.  She was sensible enough to get a dress with pockets, and inside we found a business card holder with a note inside.”

 

Lestrade reached into his coat pocket to show Sherlock the note. 

 

“It says, ‘I will see you when everything is ready.  Come straight away, F.H.M.’  It’s written on the back of a hotel bill.”

 

He handed the note to Sherlock, who proceeded to examine it.  After a few moments, the corners of his mouth turned up into a grin.

 

“Very good, very good,” he said.  “This helps things along very well, indeed.”

 

“You’re not looking at the side with the note,” Lestrade said.

 

“Right.”

 

“Don’t you think the note is proof that Flora Millar is to blame for the disappearance?  Look at the initials. The back of the note is just a bill.”

 

“Yes, the initials also help.  Thank you, Lestrade.  You may go.”

 

“But…” Lestrade sighed.  “All right.  Let me know when you’ve figured things out.”

 

John watched Lestrade leave before turning back to Sherlock.  He considered the thought of not seeing him again for a long time, how he could barely stand it the last time it had happened.  Could he do it again?

 

“So,” John said.  “What does the note tell us?’

 

“I just need to confirm those initials, but I have just about got it.  The fees on the bill are from an expensive hotel, and I believe whoever is staying there is who will give us the rest of the answers we need.”

 

“Would Millar be able to afford it?” John asked, still puzzled.

 

“No,” Sherlock said.  “No, I don’t believe so.  We would be hard pressed to, as Lestrade has attempted, to prove that Flora Millar is the culprit.”

 

“Then who?”

 

“Patience, John.”

 

Sherlock grabbed his coat and headed out. “Be back soon” was all he said before disappearing down the stairs.

 

---

 

John sat in his familiar chair while he waited for Sherlock to return.  He wondered why Sherlock had not asked him to come along, but then realized that he would not have been much help.  He had barely been able to keep his mind in the present moment when Lestrade had come.

 

He remembered when this very chair had seemed to have disappeared from the living room after he had married, before eventually being restored to its proper position once Sherlock knew that John would never really leave him.  He wondered…if he really did leave, would the chair disappear again?

 

---

 

Sherlock looked very pleased with himself when he returned to the flat.

 

“I suppose you were correct?” John asked him.

 

“Oh, yes, John,” Sherlock said, as giddy as a child on Christmas morning.  He pulled out his phone and quickly typed something out.  “Sit tight, John.  Lestrade will be here in...” his phone beeped, “…twenty minutes, and we will be having some other special guests as well.”

 

“Special guests?” He did not think he had ever heard Sherlock say such a thing.

 

“All will be revealed, John,” Sherlock said.  “But for now, I will tell you I was right.  Flora Millar is not the one responsible for Helen’s disappearance, certainly not as a kidnapper or anything else of the sort.”

 

“Then who?” John asked.

 

“I won’t spoil the surprise.”

 

---

 

As the evening began, a delivery man arrived at Baker Street and lay out an expensive meal.

 

“Ah! Mr. Moulton’s generous gift has arrived!” Sherlock said excitedly.  John wondered who Sherlock was talking to, but did not bother to ask, assuming he would not get an answer.

 

A while later, there were more arrivals.  First was Robert Simon, who was muttering about what his father would say and worrying about whether his family’s reputation was on the line, followed soon after by Lestrade. A few minutes later a man and a woman entered the flat.  The man, John did not recognize, but the woman he did from the photograph Robert Simon had shown them – the woman they had known as Helen Doran.  The man extended his hand to John and Sherlock in turn.

 

“Pleased to meet you, I’m Frank Moulton,” he said.  “And this is my wife, Helen.”

 

She turned to Robert Simon after the introduction.

 

“I’m sorry,” she said to him.  “I know you must be angry.” Simon was standoffish, but said nothing in response.

 

John’s phone buzzed in his pocket then and he turned away to sneak a glance at the message – another from Mary.

 

Have you made up your mind yet? it read.

 

He typed back a quick reply. I have.

 

He turned back to the guests to hear just as Mrs. Moulton – he supposed that was one way to address her – was beginning to speak.

 

“I met Frank at a technology industry conference when my father was giving a presentation there.  Frank had just started a new project which he hoped would succeed.  We kept seeing each other and soon we were engaged.  But Frank’s venture ended up failing, so even though my father initially approved, he no longer wanted us to get married.  Though not together, we both went to San Francisco around the same time and met up again.  I couldn’t stay long, but I promised I would marry him the next time we could meet.  Instead of leaving it at that, we decided to get married in secret, then and there.  My father didn’t know, so I went to live with him.  Meanwhile, Frank went to Silicon Valley to start another project, hopefully to have success this time.  One day, it was reported that there was an office fire.  The papers reported Frank among the dead, though it was a mistake, but I did not know that and so I believed it.  It was around then that Robert came to San Francisco.  We eventually went to London and our marriage was arranged.”

 

John looked at Lestrade, who looked just as surprised as he was at this revelation.  Sherlock, meanwhile, looked pleased with himself.

 

“I told myself I could be a good wife to Robert, if I couldn’t have Frank,” Helen continued.  “But that all changed when I saw Frank sitting in one of the church pews as I went down the aisle.  I didn’t know what to do, so I dropped my bouquet in front of him, pretending it was an accident.  As he bent down to grab it he quickly scrawled a note and stuck it in the bouquet before he returned it to me.  I knew then that I had to leave the wedding as soon as possible, which was after the church ceremony.  I could explain later.  When I finally met up with him, I told Frank I had thought he was dead, and he told me about the mistaken report in the news.  He assumed I would had received a correction once that was cleared up, but I never did.”

 

“How did you know to come to London?” Lestrade asked Mr. Moulton.

 

“I had gone back to San Francisco after the fire,” he said, “but she had already gone to London.  I was directed to her new address here and flew over as soon as I could.  After that, well, you know what happened.  Needless to say, we are very happy to finally be reunited.”

 

“Yes, I can only imagine,” Lestrade said.  John nodded in agreement.

 

After the story was over and Lestrade took note of what he needed to bring back to Scotland Yard so that they knew that no kidnapping or murder had occurred, they all sat down to the meal that Mr. Moulton had generously provided for them. 

 

“There’s just one thing bothering me,” John said, turning to the couple.  “Even if you were married to Mr. Moulton, how are you not also married to Mr. Simon?”

 

“Robert and I had been to the church,” Helen said.  “But we hadn’t signed the papers yet, so we weren’t legally married.  And neither of us are that religious, really, so the church wedding is more of a formality than anything binding.”

 

“Plus, I suppose you can’t get be married to someone else once you’re already married, anyway” Mr. Moulton added with a laugh.  Robert Simon did not seem like he wanted to join in on the humour, but he appeared to be coping.

 

When everyone had left, John finally got a chance to ask Sherlock how he figured out who Frank Moulton was and his connection to the case.

 

“It was not difficult,” he said. “As I already alluded to, his note to her was on a bill for one of the most expensive hotels in London; there are not many with rates as high as those written on it, so I knew it was someone wealthy who she would have already known.  After that it wasn’t much, just had to find out who was staying there with the initials matching the note.”

 

“I see,” John said, “brilliant.”

 

Sherlock, though still clearly proud of himself, was surprised.  “It’s been a while since you’ve said that.”

 

“Has it?” John replied.

 

“Yes,” Sherlock said.  “It’s been eight months, exactly.”

 

“I suppose it has been a long time…”

 

---

 

When John got home that night Mary seemed calmer than she had when he had left the house.

 

“What did you decide?” she asked, giving him a peck when she came in the door. 

 

“That America might not be so bad,” he replied.

 

Before they went to bed, Mary booked them plane tickets from London to America – John did not ask which city, he did not care.  In the morning, they woke up early to pack their bags.  Mary said they should only pack the essentials, but soon discovered that when you know you will never be returning, almost everything seems essential.  She somehow managed to fit everything that she needed, leaving out the few things she could bear to leave behind.  John also did the best he could, folding his shirts efficiently as he had learned to do very on his way to work in the mornings

 

They loaded everything in the car, the baby being the last.  Mary noticed John still looked anxious as they were driving.

 

“I won’t let anything happen to us ever again,” she said to him, reaching one hand over to his shoulder to try to relax him.  “We’ll be safe there.  I know it.”

 

John did not calm down, however.  They got to the airport a little late, though since they were there for an international flight that meant they were still there a few hours before they were scheduled to board.

 

As they were walking to the gate, where they would be waiting around yet again for quite some time, John offered her one of the suitcases – one of hers – that he had been carrying.

 

“Let me hold her for a while,” he said.  “Take a rest.”

 

“Thank you,” she said, handing her daughter over to her husband’s outstretched hands before taking the light suitcase he had been carrying for her.

 

John looked down at his daughter in his arms, bouncing her lightly as Mary had been doing to keep her calm.  He could not stand the thought of not watching her grow up.  He knew he had made the right choice.

 

The gate was at the end of a travelator.  The people were just beginning to form a queue to board.

 

“We’re just in time,” Mary said, before turning to her husband.  She found herself talking to the air.  She turned around to look behind her.  He was nowhere to be seen.

 

---

 

John dragged his suitcase with one arm and his baby daughter in the other.  He struggled to get the wheels up the steps to the door of 221B, be he did it, only stumbling a little through the door.

 

Mrs. Hudson had heard the noise and came to greet him.

 

“John!” she exclaimed, her eyes glowing.  “What a pleasant surprise! I didn’t know you were moving ba-”

 

John put a finger to his lips.  Mrs. Hudson stopped herself, understanding what he meant, before winking at him and gesturing up the stairs.

 

He carried the baby up with him, leaving the suitcase to be retrieved later.  He strode into the flat happily.

 

“We’re home, Sherlock,” John said when he saw his friend drinking tea in his chair by the unlit fireplace.

 

“John!” Sherlock quickly put down his cup and practically leapt out of his seat.  “Mary called this morning, saying the two of you were leaving today for America.”

 

“Change of plans,” John said, unable to stop himself from grinning anymore.  “Well, for me, anyway.”

 

Sherlock let out a breath that was a cross between a gasp and happy laughter, smiling brighter than John had seen in a long time. 

 

“Will you have us?”  John asked.

 

“Of course I will!” Sherlock then turned away for a second, and John heard his breath interrupted by a quiet sob.

 

“It’s okay, Sherlock,” John said.  Sherlock turned back to him, his eyes full of tears.  He saw that John’s were the same, but they were both still smiling.  Sherlock rushed over and, careful not to squish the baby, wrapped John in a hug.

 

“Welcome home.”

 
 

Last edited by Schmiezi (December 8, 2016 6:20 am)


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I still believe that love conquers all!

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"Quick, man, if you love me."
     Thread Starter
 

December 11, 2016 4:42 am  #5


Re: Secret Santa Fics 2016 - Read them here

Dear mrshouse,

you requested that you would like to read Johnlock and case fic, but would also like Sherlolly or Victorian AU. Your prompt was “Southern France”.

Due to some RL issues, I struggled with the request, but I finally managed to create the long Victorian AU which fulfils your conditions, I think. I can only hope you would enjoy it and that this TAB inspired fic would be to your liking. I wish you, Schmiezi and all the other participants a nice Christmas.




Perfect


My readers often associate my presence at the side of great Sherlock Holmes with London and its misty streets. Our daily life and solving of the subtle problems of our numerous clients seems unthinkable without the presence of the friendly domestic hearth at 221B Baker Street, Mrs. Hudson fussing downstairs or little street Apaches known as Baker Street Irregulars hollering under our windows. People would generally not imagine us, or at least not me, in such surroundings as Southern France.

Yet here we were.

Elegant, single-story building of Gare de Montpellier was shrouded in smoky vapours emitted from lazily moving steam locomotives. It was a sleepy Saturday evening and the wan daylight of the late October tinted everything with shades of blue and grey. This probably discouraged people from travelling. For such a populous city, only a few villagers and a handful of well-dressed bourgeois loitered on the open platforms.

Holding a bag full of thin wooden planks I patiently waited near the place where the doors to the first-class carriage should appear any minute. But from time to time, my eyes were inadvertently ranging over the platform, keenly observing the passengers standing to my left.

Accompanied by Inspecteur Principal Ganimard, Sherlock Holmes, the greatest detective of our age tensely awaited the arrival of the upcoming train there. He was Holmes for all of the world and Sherlock for me and me alone. Also, he became my lover as of late and kept this status for ten months and seventeen days for now.

I forgot all about my mission for a while and let my glance run over him hungrily.

His profile, sharper and more defined in the twilight, gave him his usual self-possessed and unemotional look. Yet the wild gleam in his pale eyes betrayed the hunting instinct of the bloodhound pulsing powerfully through his body. Even his garments reflected his change into a hunter chasing a game now, his favourite frock-coat and top-hat being replaced by a deerstalker cap and the Ulster coat. Observing him in his element, I almost became flustered, for something in his aggressive vigour made him irresistible in my eyes. He looked like Mars personified.

The sudden hoot startled me from further reverie.

The train to Perpignan emerged in a distance at last. It swiftly reached the station and with a heavy clangour of its machinery stopped next to the platform occupied by our scattered company.

I hurried up and quickly climbed aboard the first-class carriage through the door placed at one end of it, being dimply aware of Sherlock and Ganimard entering the carriage through the opposite end.

No one else boarded the first class. The train was a bit delayed and so after a little while a sharp sound of conductor's whistle rang outside and with that we were on the move again.

A narrow cave-like corridor running along the individual compartments opened in front of me, silent and peaceful as the Diogenes Club boudoir. All passengers apparently spent their time properly seated on their places or were off to the restaurant carriage. This state of things didn't bother me the least, in fact, these circumstances played right into my hand. I saw how the door of the corridor at the other end of the carriage opened slowly and I glimpsed Sherlock's tall, stately figure behind them, lurking in the small vestibule there. As his fiery eyes met mine through the distance, I mutely signalled him that I'm ready. Then I sprang right into action.

Clutching the handles of my bag tightly, I shuffled forward and carefully peeked inside the compartment placed as the first in the row.

Two elderly ladies dressed in lacy black robes and sporting elaborate coiffures were busy nodding off inside, their gently snoring mouths being opened and closed almost in unison. Unwilling to be tricked, I checked their faces with utmost scrutiny, but they were definitely not my targets. I looked up at Sherlock again, shook my head dismissively and moved on.

The second compartment was quite rambunctious as I approached it. A discreet look into its interior showed me two respectable matrons and the white moustached man caught in a heated debate, laughing five-year old girl engaged in a play with a basket which contained meowing black kitten and the burly baby-boy sitting on the knees of one of the women. The baby emitted the loud shrieks, evidently competing against the adults in this razzle-dazzle tournament. The party was so obviously Italian that I didn't even stop and continued in my course to the third compartment.

Here I stopped and stiffened in surprise. I swiftly raised my right hand, giving a warning to Sherlock who slowly approached me from the other side.

The compartment housed the sole occupant this time. He was a fairly young man, lavishly dressed in an expensive tuxedo and an elegant pearl-grey overcoat and he was sporting a tall top-hat. His lively black eyes intensely scanned the newspaper spread out in front of him as a shield. The sensitive nostrils and neat, but underdeveloped muffs twitched in some triumphant gaiety and the full lips were stretched into a self-satisfied smile. Under his collar, a decorative pin held his bow-tie in place. Beautiful yellow chrysanthemum flower was pushed into the lapel buttonhole of his tuxedo and worn as a luxurious boutonnière, flashing at me like a small sun with every movement of its owner.

There was no doubt – it was him. A decorative pin and a yellow chrysanthemum were a dead giveaway. He looked exactly like last night, during our encounter at Gare du Nord in Paris. He obviously had no time to change into a travelling outfit in between. I carefully examined his figure from head to toe and spotted a portable bag almost immediately. It was sitting next to his polished patent-leather boots on the floor.

I looked at Sherlock sharply and making sure that I have his full attention, I nodded decidedly. His slanted eyes narrowed into blazing slits and he stopped in his tracks, arresting the impatient movement of Ganimard with the imperial gesture of his arm.

With the ground prepared for my act that way, I placed myself in front of the compartment door, knocked on it lightly and entered the small cell right after.

“Excuse me, monsieur.” I tipped my hat in greeting and continued in a gruff tone to conceal my English accent: “Would you mind if I join you? I never expected the first class to be so full today and it seems your compartment is the only one with a bit of place left in it.”

The man stared at me searchingly for awhile. It was a decisive moment. If he would recognise me now, our plan would go awry in a second and I would be forced to improvise… I stood motionless, with a benign expression on my face, but my grip on the bag handles tightened a bit in barely concealed tension. I was like a taut spring, prepared to shoot up at any moment now.

But this was not necessary, thank God. Because the man shrugged his shoulders with disinterest and continued reading Le Figaro, the slightest hint of contempt and malice apparent in the wavy line of his lips.

Shaving my moustache off for Sherlock's case was a hard thing to do, but it worked very well, indeed. Our target dismissed me as a harmless nobody on sight and didn't even suspect who I really am.

“Thank you, monsieur.” I murmured politely and resumed a seat opposite him, placing my bag softly on the floor.

The next minute passed in silence. I took my hat off and fanned myself with it, yawning in boredom and blinking sleepily against the faint light coming from outside. After that, I turned back towards my travelling companion and fixed my glance on the heavily illustrated front page of Le Figaro.

“Oh!” I ejaculated.

The cheeky-looking youth, disturbed from reading by my shout, frowned at me in displeasure.

“My deepest apologies, monsieur,” I bowed my head in excessively polite manner. “Your newspaper caught my eye… I see that this renowned British detective, Sherlock Holmes, was appointed by police to investigate those daring thefts committed in the Louvre… isn't that exciting?”

“Is it?” The young man smiled in haughty amusement. “Personally I do not care for such Saxon horse-face.”

“A true patriot, huh?” I beckoned him with my hat in mock salute. “But the Saxon in question is very useful to France nowadays, isn't he? He works hard to recover some of its most beautiful national treasures, after all. Moreover, wouldn't it be fabulous if that blackguard Arsène Lupin was finally caught and put under the lock? The man gets on my nerves in the worst way possible, to be honest.”

The youth laughed, seized by such mirth that his molars were showing.

“You intrigue me.” He announced after that and produced a cigarette out of his pocket, his playful long fingers twirling it around. “Well, don't you think the thief is very happy now that they consider him a subject worthy of the attention of the celebrated English detective? Just consider what pleasure it would be for him to best the rival of these qualities!”

“Assuming he will win, of course.”

The cheeky youngster smirked: “That's true, but I will bet on our man still, rather than on Le Rosbif. Besides, why side with that stuck up Brit instead of the man of your own land? It's France against England now… Trafalgar will be avenged at last…”

“But, monsieur!” I protested, truly outraged by these claims.

The young man grinned lazily and stuck the cigarette into the corner of his mouth. “No offence intended, my friend… I was just expressing my views on the matter. Don't mind me, I meant well. Do you have some fire, by the way?”

“Sorry, I don't smoke.” I responded with somewhat reserved air.

In that moment a deep, rumbling voice resounded near us: “But I could gladly serve you in that regard, Monsieur Lupin.”

The head of my companion whipped round with surprising speed... and met with the imposing sight of Sherlock Holmes who inaudibly opened the compartment door in between and was now standing in front of it with his hands crossed over his chest.

I won't ever forget the face our would-be Napoleon made when he spotted him. The bouts of mirth are still tickling me in my belly when I remember how his eyes bulged out of their sockets as if ready to pop off and to land on the floor, how his jaw slackened and a cigarette fell from his mouth into his lap.... but as it turned up, the rascal still had some surprises in store for us. Because even in the midst of the mind-numbing scare – which I'm sure was genuine – he had a presence of mind to stretch his left hand forward abruptly.

Suddenly, the brakes of the train screeched so violently that a rain of fiery sparks blew out of them and flew by our window as the meteoric shower. In the next second the train stopped with such a sharp loss of momentum that I was practically ejected out of my seat and ended as the hodgepodge of twitching legs and arms somewhere on the ground. In the corridor outside, a loud thud and a string of juicy French curses were audible, a tell-tale sign that Inspecteur Ganimard fared no better than me out there. Sherlock too staggered dangerously and saved himself from falling only by grasping the door-leaf by both hands.

At this my dastardly travelling companion, now pale as the candle wax, darted up from his seat and wildly hit Sherlock to the chest, forcing him to let go of the door and to abandon his position for a while. He then slammed the door shut, locking it in haste and threateningly brandished a revolver out of his overcoat with the nimbleness of a viper.

“Don't move!” He screamed at me, his eyes dark and wide and bit into his lower lip as he blindly fumbled for the window handle. The door jolted under a heavy blow as the transparent panes slid down.

“Don't move.” He growled at me again as he collected his bag and retreated to the open window. After that he turned his back on me and the moment the compartment door burst open, he jumped out on the rails running parallel to ours, recklessly disregarding his own safety.

I was up on my feet in a second, pulling my own gun out of my pocket in an instant. Through the open window, I observed how the young rascal leapt through the rocky terrain and tufts of dry grass like a spring lamb, fleeing towards the grey buildings of the nearby homestead which was visible behind the shroud of olive-trees. I took a careful aim... but in that moment a Spanish freight train swished by, covering the entire area in front of me, even the very sky, with rattling brown metal.

I cursed and heard my sentiments being echoed in off-colour French by Inspecteur Ganimard who peeked into the coupé from the corridor.

“Wretched!” I murmured helplessly, sinking back into my seat and I stared at the unending line of cattle wagons with a growing sense of disappointment. “I can't believe he escaped like that, God damn it all to hell!”

After the torturous interval that felt like eternity the last wagon finally rumbled by, confirming my suspicion. Behind the window, only the peaceful rustic country stretched to its mountainous background. The fugitive, still at large, was nowhere in sight.

Sherlock, who quickly collected himself, stepped up to the window and looked out inquiringly. An ominous buzz of angry voices droned around us, coming out of neighbouring compartments and the heavy steps of the train crew already resounded in the vicinity, but he didn't let himself to be disturbed by any of those facts and resumed the place opposite me, cavalierly reclining against the backrest.

“Don't worry, he won't get very far.” He assured me, entirely unconcerned. “I know the place quite well. Béziers is not Paris. He will stand out like a flaming torch in his Parisian outfit here. Besides, he has no boltholes in this town. We'll have him tomorrow, I'll bet.”

“That might be the truth... still, it pisses me off he got away when I almost had his collar felt.” I grumbled contritely. “How did he manage that, by the way? It probably wasn't a coincidence the train stopped at the moment most suitable for him, was it?”

“No, it definitely wasn't.” Sherlock responded with merriment sparkling in his pale eyes and inserted his long fingers into the gap between the seat and the window-wall, carefully grasping for some elusive object. In the next second he pulled out one end of the copper wire with little noose on it, something akin to snapped up shoe-string hanging from it limply.

“He had this thing fastened to the wrist of his left hand. The other end was attached to the emergency-brake up here.” He explained, evidently in good humour. “It was an elegant and admirably simple trick, I must admit... too bad all this effort was to no avail eventually.”

Sherlock allowed the wire to fall back to its place and shook his head.

“Trafalgar will be avenged at last?” He chuckled. “What an idiot!”

And his reticence dissolved into a loud, hearty laugh which was so contagious that I joined right in and guffawed until my hips were aching with cramps.

Cough, cough!

Inspecteur Ganimard who just ordered the train crew away wiped his forehead with the white handkerchief and looked at us in reproach.

“Sorry to interrupt you, messieurs,” he said stiffly, not able to hide the dissatisfaction resounding in his voice. “But shouldn't we give chase to the criminal? I know he is out of his element here in this place, but he is an old fox. Who knows what other felony he will perpetrate come the morning...”

Sherlock looked at him slyly and lifted one shoulder in a gesture of mock-helplessness.

“That's entirely up to you now, monsieur le Inspecteur,” he announced, his tone self-satisfied and firm. “As you remember, it was not my assignment to arrest the man but to restore the objects stolen from the Louvre. And this assignment is now finished.”

“Finished? How?” Ganimard dropped his hand and clenched the handkerchief in his fist in visible anger. “Lupin is still at large together with his booty!”

Sherlock just smiled inscrutably – he never could resist those theatrical touches when dealing with the members of the police force – and stretching out his long leg, he pushed the bag from its place under my seat towards the Inspecteur with the sole of his boot.

Ganimard scowled down on it and irritably grabbed it away. He impatiently threw the thing open and mumbling some unflattering things under his nose, he cast a glance inside.

And suddenly... it was as if a Gorgon cast her terrifying glance at him in turn. He blanched, all the way up to his lips and grew absolutely still and rigid as if he was transformed into the statue in this very moment.

“Vatican Cameos!” He breathed out in awe. “They are here!”

His knees gave way after that and he sunk limply onto the seat next to mine. This enabled me to observe that magnificent set of engraved gems, adorned with mythological scenes from late Antique, from my vantage point. Their delicate beauty was striking and I was not the least surprised that Ganimard's hand shook feverishly when he caressed them with a careful touch of a miser.

The train moved slowly in between, a train crew trying to move the train from its position among fields and olive groves into the more savoury area of Gare de Béziers.

During the time in which Sherlock was stuffing his short pipe with tobacco, Ganimard recovered and was now gushing with praise and compliments in a true Gallic fashion.

“Monsieur Holmes, you did a great service to the people of France today! Words can't convey the gratitude our country bestows at you feet just now! Your immense talent....”

“Wait, wait, stop it!” Sherlock interrupted him right away. “Your gratitude should only belong to Doctor Watson. It was he who managed to replace Lupin's bag during that mayhem... I contributed very little to that.”

His silver eyes met mine and a shadow of a smile shivered on his lips when he said: “It was this fearless soldier who saved these treasures for your country. Give praise where it is due.”

Ganimard immediately turned his attention to me, but I barely registered a word coming out of his mouth as blood rushed to my face and my chest swelled with warm pleasure and delight. Lupin who? I would gladly cross swords with ten thousand of thieves like him to hear the same little speech being repeated by Sherlock...

And as it came out, there was more to it.

When we stopped by an unassuming building of Gare de Béziers and Inspecteur Ganimard sprang out of the carriage, guarding the valuable bag like a bulldog, he hurried to the nearest police station right away. Before his departure, he explained that he will try to apply some measures aimed at capturing Lupin there, as soon as possible.

I intended to follow him to the platform, only in a bit more dignified and composed a manner. But in that moment a slender, yet a deceptively strong arm sneaked around my waist, holding me in place and a rough sensuous voice exhaled into my ear: “You are so alluring without that moustache of yours... it's very hard to look at you and abstain from touching you.”

And a pale, cultured hand adorned with long fingers palmed me through my trousers and fondled me in the darkness of a small carriage vestibule with abandon.

The parts I always meant to keep private when in public (with varying success) twitched enthusiastically. I gasped, turned around and tried to repay the torturous treatment to Sherlock, but the detective slithered by me like an eel and laughing silently, he saved himself by jumping out to an empty platform.

“Later, my dear Watson,” he promised, mischievous sparkles dancing in his eyes.

“Oh, you cunning Devil,” I growled and swiftly joined him outside, seized equally by thrill and by frustration.

We found ourselves under the saddle-roof of a large, open station canopy with one edge affixed to the wall of a station building. Sherlock lit his pipe and gently inhaling the smoke, he slowly walked towards the friendly looking premises, surveying the place in his careful, but unobtrusive way. I followed suit, furtively looking around me. However, the place was positively depopulated. Only a train dispatcher yawned in ennui beside the locomotive and some wild-haired artsy type was busy unloading his luggage out of the second class carriage at the other end of the platform.

“You said earlier you know the place quite well?” I inquired. “Then lead me. We must find some lodgings for the night, the sooner the better. Also, the more private and isolated it would be, the more suitable would I find it.”

Sherlock stopped in his tracks and threw a flirtatious side-glance at me.

“Is that so?” He asked, sporting a provocative grin in the corner of his mouth: “And what then?”

I sidled up to him and when my nose was almost touching the side of his jaw, I growled in a low voice: “I won't disclose my secrets but... oh, the things I would do to you...”

Sherlock stared down on me, quite intrigued. His eyes narrowed into slits and his full red lips opened enticingly...

“Guillaume!” A loud voice hollered behind our backs unexpectedly.

And there went my amorous efforts. Sherlock's head snapped up and he aimed a sharp, threatening gaze in the direction the noise just came from.

Incensed about the fact that these pleasant flirtations met such an end, I spun around at once and pierced the shouting madman with a death-glare. Not that it had any effect on him. The man – it was the same artsy type I noticed earlier – abandoned his valise on the nearby bench and surged at us like raging flood, still screeching cheerfully: “Guillaume!”

I took a step forward and opened my mouth to inform the imbecile that none of us has the honour to be called by that name, but he swished past me so quickly he almost knocked me down. He went straight to Sherlock and grabbed both of his shoulders into his bear-like paws.

“Guillaume!” He yelled with delight. “William Sherlock Scott Holmes!”

And before I could react in any way, he kissed Sherlock on one cheek, then on another and finally smacked the biggest of his kisses right at Sherlock's lips.

I felt as if somebody threw a pitcher full of ice-cold water right into my face. I never expected that somebody could touch Sherlock like that in my presence and I was stunned by the realisation that this person just performed the unimaginable.

Still, I trusted Sherlock to reject this nuisance right away in his cold and haughty manner. I keenly observed his eyes peering intently at the man from the shadow cast by the visor of the deerstalker. I saw them widen and darken – in outrage, I supposed – and as his lips opened, my stomach shivered in joyful anticipation of a harsh, cutting speech…

“Marcel…” Sherlock whispered, visibly shaken. “Marcel Vernet!”

And moving stiffly as if he just recovered from a nasty shock, he gently put his hands on the elbows of the other man, inclining as if to kiss him…

In that moment a cetacean-shaped green-eyed monster burst from beneath the surface of my consciousness and her humongous fins tore every rational thought in my head to shreds.

I reached the pair in but the two swift long steps and placed my hand firmly on the shoulder of the Frenchman.

My tactic was successful. Before the kiss could reach his mouth, the man turned his head to me in surprise, eyeing me with bewilderment as if he only noticed me right now.

“Nice to meet you, monsieur.” I managed to conjure the wide smile somehow, although my teeth were almost bursting under strain, they were set that hard. “I see that you already know Mr. Holmes. Let me introduce myself then. Doctor John H. Watson, at your service.”

The man blinked at me at first, uncomprehending, while Sherlock abruptly dropped his hands to his waist and took a step back. He hummed and hawed in an uncharacteristic manner, more flustered than I ever saw him.

“Uh, yes… this… let me introduce you, Marcel. This is my loyal companion of many years, Doctor John Watson. And Watson, this gentleman is monsieur Marcel Vernet, my distant relative.”

At this the man's face brightened and his blank stare transformed into an impish, cheerful expression. He stretched his hand out to me in his customary merry and carefree attitude and he added in English laden with heavy French accent: “Cousin seven times removed, so to say. Nice to meet you, sir.”

I'm afraid I was a bit impolite there. I overlooked that outstretched hand completely and gaped at Sherlock in stark disbelief.

“A relative? You have relatives here?”

And I was once again stuck with the feeling that Sherlock behaves very strangely all of a sudden. He never responded to my question, he just frowned at me, weirdly distracted.

The new-found French cousin, on the other hand, laughed uproariously.

“Secretive as always, isn't he, our dear Guillaume? He grew up here in Béziers, he never told you that?”

With my mouth open in surprise, I shook my head weakly. Sherlock mentioned to me, once, that his grandmother was related to some French painter, but this, this was something entirely new to me. It suddenly occurred to me how little I actually know about Sherlock and his past. It was a very humiliating realisation. To be aware that he allowed me to share his body, but he never felt confident enough, never trusted me enough, to share his innermost thoughts with me…

The Frenchman, however, was no longer interested about me or my inner turmoil. He draped himself over Sherlock's stiff form and proclaimed delightedly: “It is so incredible to have you here after all those years, Guillaume! Come, we must drink on this tonight!”

I started, my fingers clinched painfully into the folds of my coat. This has to be a joke, right?

Sherlock looked to be taken aback by this suggestion too and he had a decency to protest: “To be honest, I'm a bit tired right now and I'm sure Doctor Watson is in a similar state. We were just going to find some hotel and to take lodgings there for a night…”

“What? A hotel?” Vernet recoiled in horror and disgust. “You can't mean that! Of course you will stay in my place tonight and Doctor Watson is invited too! I insist!”

No! This can't be happening! No!

“Besides,” a sly grin appeared on Vernet's face, “I have a big surprise for you. Wait until you see – you won't believe the coincidence! So shall we?”

No! No! No!

Sherlock looked at me helplessly like a deer caught in a snare of the cunning poacher and he lifted his shoulders in a gesture of resignation. He then turned to the exit from the platform, being led along by Vernet who called nonchalantly over his shoulder: “My valise is there on the bench, Doctor Watson! Merci beaucoup!”

Seething in rage, I grabbed two brutally heavy coffers into my hands and followed the dastardly pair out of the station. Their heads were already together and they were chattering in that peculiar Occitan dialect which was utterly incomprehensible to me. They effectively cut me off from joining the conversation that way. Beasts!

As we left the station, we were greeted by the sight of the hansom cabs nicely lined-up next to the entrance to the building. Mumbling swearwords under my breath I headed off in their direction… then abruptly stopped in my tracks when a loud whistle rang behind my back.

I turned around and saw Vernet waving furiously at me. Some shabby hay-wain stood by his side, being tended to by a placid-looking peasant. Sherlock already climbed on top of it, trying to find a comfortable position among the mess loaded on the wagon. Obviously, this was our means of transportation today.

It was getting better and better. Fuming harshly, I dragged myself and the coffers over, flung them on the wagon-floor and boarded the wain. Then I sat next to the ladder lining the sidewall of the wagon, praying for this hell to be over soon.

The driver assumed his perch after that, spurred the horse on and we were off to the town, moving through the streets in a snail's pace.

At least Béziers was nice to look at. It was nothing like London or Paris, of course, but after the constant jostle and jumble and deafening din of both metropolises the atmosphere of this small town felt very refreshing and peaceful for a change. On our short tour through the city, we passed around charming Languedocien houses coated with white or ochre plaster. Some had their facades decorated, others possessed the simple beauty typical for the architecture of Southern France, but all had their roofs covered with reddish roof tiles weathered by the glaring sunlight during long local summers. From time to time, a strange apparition materialised over those roofs, a walled citadel of sorts, some large mass of a palace or a cathedral assumed rather than actually visible on top of it.

The only thing preventing me from enjoying the lovely view was the mouth of our companion, Vernet. It never closed during our journey and the ceaseless Guillaume-this and Guillaume-that started to wear on me, very quickly.

“Why do you call Holmes “Guillaume”?” I once interrupted him, remembering how he addressed Sherlock by some long form of English name when we met earlier this evening.

“Because William is his name, isn't it?” He replied, shrugging his shoulders.

“Isn't it, indeed?” I echoed, barely masking the sarcasm dripping from my voice.

“Well, Guillaume's grand-mère was a great admirer of Guillaume d'Orange called Fièrebras, Count of Toulouse, that famous Aquitanian knight who fought Saracens and ogres in the vicinity and was sainted for it. She had this grand tome full of Chansons de Geste in her library and La Chanson de Guillaume happened to be her most favourite one. She arranged her second grandson to be named after him.”

“But Holmes has an older brother… why didn't she adorn that one with such a name?”

“She did, in fact. Mycroft's first name is Vivien – after La Chevalerie Vivien and Aliscans respectively.”

Vivien Mycroft Holmes! Now, that's some news! Could it get any crazier by the minute?

I pierced Sherlock with an accusing glance. It was incredible that a third party possessed such wealth of information on his family and I was left entirely in the dark in that regard. Cousin or not, this was quite unfair to me!

Still, Sherlock didn't pay any attention to either me or his relative. He sat huddled there in the corner, slim thighs pushed against his chest, wiry arms enfolding his long shanks and he stared right ahead, frowning, lost deep in thought.

The hay-wain stopped in front of some house at last.

“Oh, finally!” exclaimed Vernet and hopped down from the wagon like an unruly goat-kid. “We will wait here for a while, while Pierre takes my luggage to my place. Follow me, gentlemen!”

We descended our unceremonious transport and dusted our garments off, eyeing our destination warily.

The house was on the more decorative side. It was a two storey building with the façade covered by elegant bossage, its horizontally banded rustication giving it the air of a noble abode. Quoins with long and short strips adorned both corners of the façade wall. One corbelled cornice separated the ground storey from the first floor, another, pronounced one, lined the edge of the roof. The roof was of the mansard type, with three gilded dormers glistening in the dark. Stone chambranles bordered four windows placed on the first floor, the top of each window sporting its own, neatly carved, cornice and a suprafenestra in the shape of Satyr's head. The ground floor was a bit simpler, showing us the dark door overhung with dropped keystone to our right – it probably lead to the courtyard – and the store front which monopolised the rest of the façade.

High above our heads, the light was burning brightly behind the heavy curtains in all four heavily decorated windows. It conjured the image of the luxurious saloon illuminated by the friendly hearth-fire in our mind's eye. The store front seemed to be inviting too, hiding the amiable little bistro behind its glass and wooden panels.

Impulsive as usual, Vernet didn't even ask and burst right in. We exchanged glances at that moment, both of our faces mirroring the disappointment and regret about what-could-have-been… but it was not suitable to discuss these things in public, in the middle of the street. So we followed Vernet to the bistro docilely.

As we entered, we found that little place to be empty. Vernet stood by the counter and rang at the service impatiently, but it took quite a while till the young waitress appeared from the adjoining room. She was that healthy, rustic type with endearingly round face, reddish cheeks and the blonde hair worn in a loose bun. She stared at us in somewhat breathless manner, her eyes dark and wide and she wiped her soot-covered hands into the towel convulsively. Sherlock's strange attire probably did that to her. You certainly don't see many people wearing a deerstalker and an Ulster coat in the vicinity of Béziers.

“Pan golçat, please,” ordered Vernet and chose the wine to go with that dish. We sat to the table by the window and as Vernet poured the dark red liquid into three glasses, the girl swiftly cubed the fresh baguette on the cutting board. Sherlock observed her distractedly for a while, then pressed his lips together in sudden determination and turned to his cousin.

“So, Marcel… what is this surprise you have planned for me to see?”

Vernet took a hefty gulp from the wine, cackled and started babbling something about big coincidences again, refusing to give up his secret. But he forgot in whose company he sits now.

“Please, tell me,” Sherlock narrowed his eyes, “are we waiting here for Professor Julian Authié? Is he the one you were speaking about?”

Vernet opened his mouth in shock and threw his hands up in such a grand gesture that a waitress who carried us the food flinched and a serving tray loaded with bread and olive oil practically fell on the table between us. It didn't flip over, thank God, but it was a close call.

“Dieu!” The Frenchman screamed in outrage. “Is there something you cannot deduce before it actually happens? There goes the surprise! And I believed you will be so astonished to meet your old mentor again! What a pity! How do you cope with this all the time, Doctor Watson?”

“With a great deal of frustration.” I smiled and I rubbed the shaved skin under my nose sheepishly.

And that was our last peaceful moment that night.

Because in the next second, the door to the bistro flew open and a heavy-set elderly woman staggered in, her hand pressed tightly to her heaving breasts.

“Help! Help! Rosalie!” She moaned in the pitifully broken voice. “Give me some water, Rosalie! Monsieur Arnaud… up there… in his drawing room….”

And she collapsed on the spot.

We collectively jumped from our seats and managed to catch her before her head hit the floor-tiles. We settled her into Vernet's seat and I checked her vitals quickly while Vernet was fanning her with the newspaper he grabbed from the nearby stand. Fortunately, she recovered in a minute and blinked at us in confusion, but she was still unable to emit a word and groaned plaintively until we handed her a glass of cold water to drink. Only after that did she wail: “Monsieur Arnaud… Monsieur Arnaud was shot dead! And the murderer…!!”

She shuddered in horror and closed her eyes shut.

“The murderer is still up there… in the room!” She whispered dramatically, her lips grey as if they were completely devoid of blood.

“Marie! Marie!” The young waitress called her name and touched her face gently, full of worry and confusion.

Sherlock straightened and caught her by an elbow with a wild gleam in his eyes. The girl whirled over, affronted by that treatment and I too flinched at this inappropriate gesture, but before we could voice any protest, he pointed his finger at the nearly unconscious woman and barked: “Is this the housekeeper here?”

“Oui.” The girl replied, overpowered by my friend's forceful personality and stammered. “It's Marie… Marie Thibaut.”

“The man she mentioned – Arnaud. Does he live in the flat on the first floor?”

“Oui.”

The bell over the door rang sharply as Sherlock ran out into the night, the darkness outside swallowing him like the inky swamp water.

I hesitated, torn between the need to tend to the fainting woman and the wish to assist Sherlock urgently. Then I remembered that the murderer is still supposed to be around and my wish transformed itself into a pressing concern. I rushed out hastily, slipped into the open gate to my right, passed through the archway with the low ceiling and emerged at the courtyard.

What a terrible sight that was! The house which appeared so cosy and luxurious from outside looked no better than a devastated old ruin after one went past its façade. Joyless and plain wall daubed with rough greyish plaster stretched to the shadows in front of me, the court around me heavily infested with weeds. The wall of the house was entirely windowless at the ground level, but possessed the small, dirty windows leering at me at the level of the first floor. All of the windows were very shabby, with the paint flaking away from them in stripes and with rags hanging behind their glass instead of curtains. A dilapidated gallery fringed the first floor from outside, battered wooden stairs leading to it from the rich tuft of stinging nettle. An ugly bay-window, more like ghastly wooden cage than a lofty construction, hovered right above my head, its side-door presumably serving as the entrance to the flat. All in all, the building resembled the dolled up bride who lifted the snow-white veil only to reveal the ghoul-like face underneath it.

I climbed the squeaky stairs and swiftly approached the repulsive box of the bay-window. Behind its empty door-leaf, the actual door to the flat was visible, embedded deep into the wall. It was wide open and the flood of light spread over the worm-eaten planks from behind it. No sound was audible and that fact was enough to give the scene a sinister atmosphere.

Disturbed to a high degree, I stepped into the room.

I almost rammed into Sherlock from behind. He stood right behind the threshold, rigid like the pillar of salt into which Lot's wife changed at the gates of Sodom. He held his deerstalker in one hand, revealing his pale face to me and I noticed his weirdly numb stare which was pointed at something placed at the far end of these premises.

Calmed down by the discovery that he seemed to be safe and sound, I followed his gaze absent-mindedly.

And I hissed in shock, enveloped in the strong feeling of unpleasantness and disgust at once.

Based on reaction of Mrs. Thibaut, I was already prepared for the worst… but the butchery displayed before my eyes still made me cringe. The bullet hit the old man directly into the left eye and flew out through the vertex, mangling his skull in an incredible manner. Disregarding the ghastly character of the injury, the sheer amount of blood this produced was unbelievable. Its sticky red traces lingered literally on every single object located in that quarter of the room. Moreover, one of the people involved - the victim or maybe the perpetrator himself - overturned the coal scuttle during the fatal encounter which gave a positively hellish tint to the whole scene. The dead man – who lay curled on his side near the heating stove – rested there covered in black dust, the dark blocks of coal scattered among his limbs, around his head, in the ocean of blood spilled on the floor… Nobody could produce more horrifying image even if they tried.

“Oh, God!” An involuntary shudder passed through me.

I instantly looked around to make sure that the beastly creature responsible for this savagery does not hide here inside. But there was nothing to see. The room was sternly furnished, almost empty aside from the drawing table, two chairs, the meagre bookcase and the oaken closet. The only striking feature of its space was the statue of Holy Virgin Mary placed in the little alcove opposite us, simple crucifix pinned to the wall next to it and the painting of some bearded religious figure underneath it. It contained very little otherwise. The thought that I previously imagined this room to be a luxurious chamber equipped with a large fireplace seemed so preposterous now.

Encompassing this desert with one glance and finding it safe for the moment, I turned to Sherlock: “Come, we must notify the police about this. We have no authority to be here now.”

He did not speak to me and didn't move an inch, just continued to stare at the crime-scene, stricken and bleary-eyed.

“Sherlock!” I tugged at his sleeve, irritation rising high in my stomach.

In that instant he grabbed me by the wrist, his grip strong and intense like the grip of the jaw-vice and he tacitly pointed his finger at the door to the adjacent room. The lines of his face sharpened, emphasised by the tension evident in his body.

I blankly watched the said door for a while, uncomprehending. Then I froze.

The door was positioned just a few steps from the heating stove where this cruel tragedy has occurred. It was left slightly ajar and the darkness visible in its gap only revealed to me that no lamp has been lit in the room situated behind it. This and the fact that I heard no sounds coming from its direction was the reason I originally dismissed it as unimportant.

But now that I looked closer at the area lying behind that door, thinly lit by the lamplight burning in the drawing room, I realised that the outlines of an actual, living human face are discernible in the door-gap. The slight luminescence betrayed the position of the eye gaping at us dispassionately, the greyish spot among the dark shadows seemed to indicate the white hair. In the total silence that ensued in the room after Sherlock grabbed me by the hand I was finally able to hear the almost inaudible droning of someone's breath.

Cold sweat drenched my nape and I felt my hair bristle in fright. My hand went to my pocket automatically in search of a gun.

“No! Wait…” Sherlock caught my other wrist too, forcing me to stop. He held me in this bizarre clinch for a second to make a point. After that he released me and turning his back on me, started to slowly walk towards the other room.

My heart jumped to my throat at the sight. I half-awaited a bullet to burst through the wood of the door, doing away with Sherlock as it did with the other man, Arnaud. But Sherlock managed to get to the door unhurt. He then placed his palm to the middle of it and cautiously pushed it in, causing it to open wide.

The light flooded the place at once, illuminating the sitting figure which shifted and shut its eyes at the intrusion.

It was a man around fifty-five, sixty years old, but sleek and fit, looking very active. He possessed a darker skin typical for a Latin race together with milky white hair, which made for an interesting, striking contrast. Similar to Sherlock, he had a thin, oblong face with prominent cheekbones and the thin, nervous, elegant hands. He was clean-shaven and nicely groomed. Pearl-grey, hypnotic eyes glittered under his heavy, half-shut eyelids. His dark suit was cut in a simple style, but it was sewn from a quality material.

Small coffee table was placed to man's right with two objects adorning its surface. One of them was a tea-cup with some liquid residue at the bottom of it. The other was a nasty looking revolver.

Glimpsing a gun, I burst forward in panic and tried to take it away before it could be used against us.

“No, don't!” Sherlock's voice rang behind me, unusually raw and exasperated. I never heard such tone from him before. It stopped me in my tracks and I turned to him with quizzical expression on my face.

Sherlock stood by the side of unknown man now, his eyes red and shiny. He was obviously very moved and so uncharacteristically disturbed, that I would have held him for another person altogether. He raised his hand and to my shock, he placed it on the cheek of the old man, caressing it gently.

“Julian!” He whispered brokenly.

I observed it as in a trance, rigid and unbelieving.

The white-haired man leaned his cheek into Sherlock's palm and blinked sluggishly, as if he was not entirely aware of his presence. Then he replied in a low, enticing tone which was dripping with some surreal, mesmerising quality: “Guillaume… mmm, you returned… my boy.”

He bowed his head forward after this, rocking along sleepily. His hands hung limply between his knees.

Before I could ask any question, Sherlock grabbed the saucer-pad from the table and sniffed the cup placed on it.

“Tisane!” He mumbled, frowning in discontent.

He then sprang back into the drawing room restlessly and surveyed the unpleasant scene of the massacre once more, ogling the corpse and the surrounding mess with hungry interest.

And at that very moment the stomping of many feet resounded outside and subsequently, five members of gendarmerie burst into the room.

“Hey! You two! What are you doing?!” Their officer hollered at us and then swore loudly, doing a double-take, as he noticed the bloody carnage taking place behind our backs. His men screamed in outrage, echoing him and surrounded us quickly, prepared to seize and subdue us.

But sooner than this situation gradated into such a dramatic end, Vernet flew inside and jumped among the gendarmes with flailing hands.

“No, no, messieurs! These men are innocent! My cousin and his friend just entered this place after the crime was already discovered by Marie! They were just trying to help! The real perpetrator must be still….”

He didn't finish his speech. His eyes bulged out and his voice got stuck somewhere in his throat.

“Mon Dieu!” He gaped at the white-haired sleeper sitting behind our backs. His mouth opened in disbelief: “Professor Authié!”

He deflated like a balloon and his gaze oscillated between both of our faces helplessly.

The gendarmerie officer swore again and eyed our small group suspiciously.

“Would someone tell me what is happening here?!” He demanded angrily. “If these men do not have anything to do with the crime, who shot this poor guy then? Was it him?”

He pointed his finger accusingly at the white-haired man, Authié.

Vernet struggled for air like a fish, red-faced and confused. He shook his head and stammered: “No… no! That's… that's impossible!”

“But there is a gun at the table next to him! And these people were obviously messing with the objects left in this room by the criminal! How do you explain that?”

Vernet didn't respond to that, he was just gnawing at the ends of his bushy moustaches mutely.

 


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December 11, 2016 4:43 am  #6


Re: Secret Santa Fics 2016 - Read them here

Still, he was saved from further awkwardness by Sherlock who went past him carrying himself like royalty, his back ramrod-straight and approached the temperamental officer with his self-possession back in place. En-route, he produced a visit-card out of his vest-pocket and as he was handing it to the policeman, he coldly introduced himself: “My name is Sherlock Holmes, the consulting detective and I am currently in your country on the invitation of your government. I arrived into Béziers this evening in the company of Inspecteur Principal Justin Ganimard of La Sûreté. You can check these facts with him, he is to be found at the local Commissariat de Police at the moment.”

The officer, quite cowed and bewildered all of sudden, accepted the card meekly and read it with an almost comic kind of reverence. Meanwhile, Sherlock made a sweeping gesture, encompassing the room with it and continued: “Now let me describe the state of this place as we found it upon our arrival after the announcement of the crime.”

He gave a short summary of our previous actions to the gendarme, indicating a coffee table at the end: “We touched nothing, except the middle of this door and the saucer pad. I was careful to put it back on the table into its original position for you. If you allow me to advice you something, I would preserve that cup together with its content for now and let it be analysed by an expert later. The strong herbal smell of the tisane makes it impossible to tell, but I suspect there was some potent drug administered to this drink earlier in the evening.”

Sherlock narrowed his eyes and nodded in the direction of the stove after that: “I would also like to put your attention to the coals that had fallen all around the deceased. Some of them are certainly not placed in positions into which they should naturally fall at the time of an impact. They are not scattered – the few blocks were probably pushed aside by some instrument and created something like a row right under the stove. Please, note down the fact, it's very important.”

The officer nodded in the bout of obeisance, still, he raised a careful objection right away: “Monsieur Holmes, I would still be forced to take this gentleman, Authié, to the station. He must be questioned on the matter as soon as possible.”

Sherlock pierced him with a stern, steely gaze from the side and replied curtly: “Do what is your duty, captain. You will find me at the house of Mr. Vernet if my presence is deemed necessary.”

He slightly bowed to the gendarmes, placed the deerstalker at his head and beckoning to me and Vernet, he left the room. We hurried after him and soon found ourselves at the street in front of the bistro once more.

Thousands of questions were pushing against my tongue, impatient to get out. I felt hotness pulsing frantically in my chest – jealousy and the sense of betrayal. My hands itched in desire to grab Sherlock, to press him against the wall and to interrogate him thoroughly about the bizarre spectacle I just witnessed in the victim's flat. But neither the time nor the place was suitable for that.

During the time we were away, the street filled with nosy busy-bodies and neighbours. I noticed that Rosalie and Marie were among them, grimly observing the house of the tragedy with the others. The ominous police van stood higher up the street. Its black wagon adorned with tiny barred windows waited patiently for the arrival of the fresh prisoner, disturbing atmosphere of something fatal keenly perceptible in its stillness.

Sherlock mumbled something under his nose, rambling back and forth on the trottoir next to the bistro, his head bowed to his chest in thought, his hands clasped behind his back. No one dared to approach him, people kept their distance seeing how absent-minded and out of it he is.

He snapped of his mental reverie only after few minutes. He hesitated for a while and came nearer to Marie, tipping his cap to her.

“Madame Thibaut?” He addressed her deferentially. “You have told me earlier that you were a housekeeper in the house of the deceased. I couldn't help but notice that your employer was a Jesuit. Therefore, may I ask you…”

Rosalie, who obviously lent Marie her company to shield her from any unwanted attentions, gave him an ugly glance and put her hands on both shoulders of the elder woman. She gently pushed her back inside the shop and slipping right after her, she retorted: “Leave us alone, monsieur! We know nothing about the matter!”

The bell placed high on the wall rang angrily when the door was slammed shut into Sherlock's face. Two pairs of hostile, distrustful eyes pierced Sherlock from behind the glass. The slim female hand let down the blinds after that and cut the bistro from the rest of the world in an uncompromising manner.

The pink-cheeked granny who stood nearby and who carried two live chickens in the basket thrown over her shoulder tut-tutted compassionately. She leaned to Sherlock and informed him in a hushed up voice of a well informed confidant: “Don't bear a grudge against them, sir, they didn't mean it like that. They both adored Monsieur Arnaud immensely. They must still be in shock.”

Sherlock peeked at her from under the visor of the deerstalker inscrutably. Still, he was not bearing the name of the sleuth in vain. He flexibly adjusted himself to a new source of data and asked smoothly and politely: “You knew Monsieur Arnaud then, Madame?”

The old lady nodded slowly: “Oh, he was an absolute angel, sir. A devout Jesuit and a man full of Christian virtue, as you have said. I was his acquaintance from the moment I first came into Béziers thirty years ago, because he served as an aide for the church I used to attend for many years. He was such a great support for the poor of our town while he was still active! Especially children from destitute families and the orphans have much to thank him for, because he frequently organised charities for them and helped them to find some decent work. Not only Rosalie and Marie, but also many others will miss him so…”

Deep sigh rose from her chest. Her voice descended into something resembling a sob and she blinked, overpowered by a sudden bout of nostalgia.

Sherlock hastily handed her his batiste handkerchief. She thanked him plaintively and dabbed the corners of her eyes with it, alarming the chickens by the act.

“Did you see Monsieur Arnaud lately, Madame?” Sherlock asked empathetically.

“Oh, I only met him a few days ago, at this very bistro! I didn't even know he moved here, to Rue de l'Orb, because he inhabited a nice little villa near Les Halles previously. He told me he had to give up his work for the church because of an illness and that he needed some change of the environment… I wanted to pay him a visit and to bring him some wine from our vineyard soon… and now I'm annoyed with myself it never came to that. If I only knew…”

She blinked again and then she blew her nose into Sherlock's handkerchief thoroughly.

Unexpectedly, the assembled mob hummed in excitement. I turned my head after the source of the noise….

And just as unexpectedly, I felt how Sherlock's hand slid into mine. I don't know how he did it, but he suddenly stood by my side, straightened out into his full height and as taut as a violin string. His face turned into stone once more, but his fingers, intertwined with mine, trembled in nervous anticipation.

The gendarmes emerged from the gate of the house, their white-haired prisoner walking sluggishly in their midst. The police van was already opened and its black wagon with barred windows and wide-open doors looked like the mouth of some hungry beast lurking in the darkness, prepared to swallow its prey hungrily. The prisoner was scanning the amassed mob with murky eyes while being dragged to this movable cell and he managed to find Sherlock just before he was forced to board it. He stopped for a second and exchanged a long glance with him. Even through the distance, the sense of their mutual connection was palpable. Sherlock flinched as if he was hit right into solar plexus.

And then it was over. The metal door closed with a loud whack. The coachman cracked the whip over the two black horses and the carriage diverged slowly to the crowded street, taking up speed, until it disappeared behind the nearest corner.

Sherlock squeezed my hand in a vice grip. Despite his outward façade of absolute stoicism, he couldn't fool me. He was shell-shocked there, under the hard kernel of apathy.

Vernet approached us with the rueful face. He put his hand on Sherlock's shoulder and started to apologise: “Guillaume, I'm so sorry….”

Sherlock abruptly let go of me, whirled to his cousin and clutched at his coat, long fingers tearing into fabric like claws. He put his face close to the stunned Frenchman and said to him in a low, urgent voice, his eyes blazing savagely: “Marcel, we must remove the books and papers from Professor's house immediately, lest the police find them! Where does he live currently?”

“It's Rue de la Citadelle, not very far from my own house.”

“Fetch us a cab then, we must hurry!”

Vernet gulped heavily, nodded and mutely made a bolt for the nearest cab stand.

I couldn't believe my ears and this time, I let my displeasure be known.

“Sherlock!” I hissed and grabbed Sherlock's forearm, barely stifling the urge to shake him. “What the hell? Don't tell me you want to make us an accessory to this crime!”

He shook my hand off angrily: “Don't talk nonsense, John! That man is innocent, he could never perpetrate this crime, that's impossible!”

„Really?” My eyebrows flew up to my hairline. “And how did you deduce that? Don't you want to enlighten me on that?”

“Because he's…” Sherlock hesitated and bit into his lip, frowning irritably.

“Because what? I'm all ears!”

“Because he's perfect, that's why!” He retorted in a muffled, but very firm voice.

In that moment the wheels of a cab rattled on the cobblestones near us and the spacious hansom came to a halt at the edge of the trottoir, empty, with Vernet sitting next to the cabbie. Sherlock gave me the last meaningful, dark stare and quickly jumped inside, leaving the door open for me.

Blood rushed into my head and caused my cheeks to burn. Heart thumped furiously in my chest and I felt a bit faint from sudden onslaught of red hot jealousy and pain that enveloped my whole body. I blindly clambered into the cabin and shaking in agitation, I sat next to Sherlock, but avoided looking at him, preferring to stare out of the window instead.

Only after the cab moved and we were riding through the streets shrouded in the night twilight, I asked quietly: “So he's your ideal of male perfection, huh?”

I heard him exhale heavily and he replied, sounding very tired: “I never said that he is my ideal, John. I only said that he's Perfect.”

He weirdly emphasised the last word. I bowed my head in disappointment and obsessively rubbed the place where my late moustache grew a few days ago.

“Please, explain it to me more clearly, for I do not understand…”

“Well… maybe “bonhomme” is a better term? He is bonhomme?”

Bonhomme? A Good Man? I felt as if I was drifting farther and farther to the sea, loosing even the slightest connection with the land.

“Uh, maybe he looks like a good person to you, Sherlock, but I doubt…”

“All right,” Sherlock capitulated. “We will try it the other way around. Have you ever heard of Cathars, John?”

“Cathars?” I shrugged. “You mean that queer sect of heretics that plagued Southern Europe during The Middle Ages? Of course I have heard of them.”

“So that's what he is first and foremost, John. A Cathar.”

I was rendered speechless by that announcement. I caught myself facing Sherlock again, unbelieving and bug-eyed, but now it was him staring out of the window. He observed the lights of the town and continued in a wistful, dreamy tone: “Cathars are the folk which, according to their beliefs, carries within itself the shard of the Divine Light. They are the folk which perceives the human body as a garment of flesh only. The Angelic Soul of an individual is trapped within this garment, forgetting its origin in God and it must incarnate into this world time and time again until it is able to return to that original state. Most individuals therefore go through this long circle of reincarnations.”

“But there are some,” Sherlock's voice lowered “who became linked intimately with God although they were not yet released from the confines of the body.”

He shut his eyes and cited the words he evidently knew by heart: “But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world and the resurrection from the dead neither marry, nor are given in marriage, neither can they die any more: they are equal unto the angels and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection.”

Sherlock raised his hand instinctively and pressed it over his heart: “And such people, John, are called boni homines among the Cathars or Perfecti by the Catholic Church. They live the life of extreme austerity. They do not dress lavishly. They do not lie, nor swear in oaths. They willingly endure strenuous work and all different kinds of hardships. They fast frequently. They do not have a procreative sexual contact with any person, so as to not entrap more Angelic Souls into this garment of the body. They do not eat meat, eggs, fat or cheese, because these too were originally obtained through coitus. Moreover, it is forbidden to a Perfect to inflict pain upon any Soul imprisoned in this world, whether it lives in an animal or human form. And for this same reason, Perfect would never take life of any living creature, John. Never.”

Sherlock pierced me with a look as sharp as a knife, the paleness of his irises hardening into steel: “Spilling of blood in such a manner would do away with his purity at once and would condemn him to the hardest of damnations. Spiritually, he would never recover from such an incident. Therefore, he would rather be killed himself than to slay somebody else. And so this man, Authié, being Perfect, couldn't murder the victim. He just couldn't!”

Short, stunned silence ensued.

At last, I coughed and replied dryly: “You know, that is quite a detailed knowledge of this arcane teaching – from the person who refuses to register that the Earth goes round the Sun.”

Sherlock's lips twitched imperceptibly, but he didn't bother to grace my dig with further remark.

I put my fingers to the sensitive area under my nose and drummed on it, musing loudly: “But weren't Cathars completely wiped out during The Middle Ages?”

“No, there were always small cells upheld by the adherents of the teaching. Among the Perfecti, the Elder Chosen One transferred all his status and power to the Younger Chosen One gradually. And so the movement survived to this very day.”

“And Julian Authié is now the leader of it, here in Béziers?”

“You could say that, yes.”

“But he doesn't preach his cause to the public openly?”

“No.” Sherlock admitted restlessly. “If it leaked to the public that Julian leads Cathar rites in secret, he would lose his position as professor and the scandal would most likely deprive him of both his reputation and his freedom. That's why it's so necessary to remove every damning document out of his house before the police comes snooping and turns it upside down.”

“Still, your cousin, Vernet, knows about it, doesn't he?”

“Marcel is a sympathiser, a credente. He acts coquettish towards Cathar beliefs, but does not take it very seriously, to be honest. Yet he is safe. He knows Julian from a very young age and he likes and respects him a lot.”

And you? I felt this question tickling me at the tip of my tongue. Where do you stand in relation to this man? Why were you so shaken at the sight of him? What post does he occupy in your heart, in your mind?

But I didn't dare to explicitly ask this yet. So I just scratched myself behind the ear as if I was hiding embarrassment and I squinted to the side, thinking aloud: “There is one thing in the whole situation that does not make sense to me at all, Sherlock. If Authié spread Catharism around, why the deuce would he try to visit a Jesuit all of a sudden? They could have nothing in common, for sure. Also, wouldn't it be risky for him to keep such relations?

So why was he in Arnauds flat, I wonder?”

“I don't know.” Sherlock steepled his fingers under his chin, his eyebrows creased up in thought. “Based on what Marcel told us, the Professor intended to meet him at the bistro later this evening. I doubt he bothered to explain his presence at Arnaud's place to him, though. I guess we must wait until we reach Rue de la Citadelle, John. Julian's filius minor will maybe tell us more.”

And with that, we ceased speaking up to the moment when we reached our destination.

We ordered the cabbie to wait and hurried through the badly-lit archway to the small court lined with entrances to the individual flats on all sides.

Vernet climbed three steep steps leading to a battered oak and knocked on it in vehement taps.

“Didier!” He called out. “Didier, open up, I must speak with you!”

Dim light of a lamp flickered in the porthole above the door after some time and the key rattled in the lock. The oak opened hesitantly and a young man appeared on the threshold.

As I glimpsed him, a sharp jolt in my chest made me gasp audibly. It could well have been a young Sherlock who loitered on the stairs above us. The young man had a rich dark curly hair and a pale complexion, piercing green eyes and a dignified presence. He was tall and lithe and very, very pretty.

If I had my suspicion about Authié's tastes before, it now increased tenfold and it soon solidified into horrifying certainty that sunk into my stomach like a stone.

Being informed about Authié's arrest, this young aide, Didier, turned ashen in the face and rocked back and fort as if overcoming an urge to faint. Vernet caught him under the armpit and leaned close to him, whispering some soothing words to him. He then escorted him inside.

And as they disappeared in the dark interior of the house, I noticed a shrivelled old bloke standing at the door – probably one of those credentes Sherlock was speaking about in the cab. That's when I obtained the final proof.

Because the old guy focused his short-sighted eyes on Sherlock carefully and hesitating for a while, he finally bowed to him and started to declaim in a raspy voice: “En aisso sabem quar en lui estam et el e nos quar del seu Esperit dec a nos. Quar esz fil de Deu, Deus trames l'esperit del seu Fil el vostre cor.”

Sherlock just shook his head quietly, his white profile pronounced in the darkness.

“Don't be mistaken, my friend. I may be on the side of the angels, but I am not one of them.”

It was a cleverly evasive answer, but it came too late. The deed was done. One glance at that young chap, Didier and the words of that old guy were enough to tell me what I needed to know, what I already surmised. And the truth appeared in front of me in its naked wretchedness, as clear as a day.

When Vernet and Didier re-emerged from inside, carrying two big bags with them, I barely recognised them through the water that got stuck in my eyes. I retreated further into shadows and breathed heavily, trying to calm myself. Thankfully, I managed to somehow mask my disconcertedness in time to see Didier locking the door and handling the keys to the old guy who shuffled deeper into the court with them, leaving us to our own devices. I was therefore able to follow the others in quite a peaceful manner while we returned to the cab.

I kept my tongue sullenly and Sherlock, walking by my side, was silent too, his gaze aimed ahead of us unflinchingly, his steps noiseless, his face pallid, withdrawn and mysterious in the all-encompassing gloom. He remained like that even as we stepped into the cab. He never once looked at me during our ride.

Our company reached Vernet's two-storey house placed at Les Allées Paul-Riquet, beautiful tree-lined promenade in the middle of the town.

It was too late for any festivities and we were all in the dumps a bit, so Vernet didn't even try to propose any night entertainment. He accommodated Didier in the saloon and then he led us upstairs, to the two-bed guest room. Discreet good-night, softly closed door, the subtle sound of the steps descending downwards – and soon, we were left alone.

Sherlock sighed softly when that happened and started to disrobe. He stripped down to the plain shirt and trousers and hung his coat, cap, jacket and vest on the rack. He remained standing near the wall after that, with his back turned to me.

I shook off my own coat, sat down on the edge of the bed I reserved for myself and I raised my head defiantly, my jaw all stiff and set.

“So…” I cleared my throat, “Julian Authié and you were lovers, if I understand correctly?”

His wavy black hair bobbed up and down as he nodded, once.

“Yes.” He whispered.

I was already firm in my knowledge of the fact. Nevertheless, it was a blow to hear it confirmed from his own mouth. I struggled to continue, my shaking fingers clawing my thighs spasmodically: “How old was you when you first started sleeping together?”

“Seventeen. Julian was my tutor then.” Sherlock touched the rim of his Ulster coat and started to crumple it between his fingers. “He was intelligent, very charming, very… attentive. When we were alone, he was never trying to hide his adoration of me. He called me beautiful, ephebic… so it naturally happened one day. In my grandmother's cabinet. And then it continued for some time.”

“For SOME time? How long a time do you have in mind?”

He exhaled tiredly: “Three years and a few months…”

The casual admission ejected me from my seat as a bullet: “You mean to tell me you allowed this disgusting pervert to defile you for years? That's… preposterous!”

He turned to me sharply, his gaze meeting mine for the first time since our visit in Authié's flat: “Don't call him a pervert! What he did was not proper, I admit, but he didn't abuse me. I had my say in the matter and I allowed it to proceed. Julian taught me many things about my body and I learnt much about myself while we were together. I later split with him, but I don't think the experience harmed me in any way.”

“Oh, what a good soul he was, really!” I laughed hysterically. “The hypocritical swine! Purity, chastity, abstaining from sex… he certainly adhered to his own principles, didn't he?”

“Cathar bonhommes only abstain from procreative sex. Our coitus could not be procreative, therefore it did not break the rules of conduct which Julian had to follow as one of them. Our coupling was not something filthy. It was more like joining of souls, in fact.”

I had a sudden urge to tear my hair out: “Sherlock! What the man did was illegal!”

Sherlock lost his patience with me and began to walk to and fro in the middle of the room: “I can't believe you are talking about legality all of a sudden, John! Did you forget that the thing we do together is hardly legal in our home-country either?”

This lowbrow argument took my breath away.

“Do not ever,” I hissed after a sinister pause, “do not ever compare our relationship to the one you shared with this charlatan! I made love to an adult who was fully conscious of the consequences of the act. He took advantage of an inexperienced young boy!”

“No, he didn't!” Sherlock protested heatedly. “I never felt misused or exploited by him! I was active in that relationship and I sought Julian's attention eagerly. It was a flattering thought that he craves me so much. I felt wanted… I felt like a chosen one.”

Chosen one! The moment he used that term, the sparkle of enlightenment was kindled in my mind and it threw light at the last piece of the puzzle for me. I couldn't believe how dense I previously was.

It all added up. Sherlock's pale complexion and his ascetic lifestyle. His long fasts interlaced with periods of hard work. His constant praise of the spirit and his equally strong contempt for the “transport”. His choice of a partner with which he could never have procreative sex.

How could I be so blind?

“You!” I gasped. “You are one of them, aren't you? That old guy at Rue de la Citadelle identified you correctly! You are of their elite! You are Perfect!”

He rubbed his face with his hands in frustration: “I was one of them while I lived here, yes. But that thing is in the past now. I am no longer a pure one. I chose my own path.”

I clenched my hand into fist and I pinned it against the side of the table.

“I can't believe it!” I gnashed my teeth. “I just can't!”

Sherlock stared at me with the annoyingly clear eyes, probably at a loss for words. Finally, he shrugged his shoulders: “Is it such a big deal for you that I was a Cathar, John? Why does that bother you so much? You know that as the members of the Established Church of England we would be considered heretics here anyway.”

“You know full well this is not the issue!” I retorted, barely restraining myself from screaming. “Your religious experiments do not interest me the least! But I can't stand the thought you played bottom to that creep out there!”

That did it. I angered him too.

“Yes, I have a past. A past I didn't inform you about.” He said in a clipped tone. “But I can't see how I'm so different from you – John “Three Continents” Watson!”

I flared out: “Don't bring my relationships with women into it! I did not seek them out since we ended together!”

“I didn't seek anyone since I first met you, John!” He burst out angrily. “I never desired another after I came to know you as you are well aware! You never witnessed me to behave as a philanderer, so you could be very sure about my fidelity! And yet you married that woman and left me alone, resigning me to cocaine!”

The reproach was worse than a shooting wound to me. I blanched, staggered and I had to sit down at the edge of the bed again, lest my weakened knees would give way on me.

But Sherlock shrunk back too, astonished about his own outburst. He raised both hands in a placatory gesture and apologised quietly: “No, I didn't mean it like that. Please, forget all I just said, John.”

He sat at the edge of the opposite bed, looking utterly devastated and then he lay down unexpectedly, as if all of his strength was sucked out of him at once. He reclined among the duvets motionlessly, faintly trembling with nervous exertion.

In an instant, I felt deflated and cowed like a whipped cur with its tail held low between its hind legs. I slunk through the room and crawled into Sherlock's bed, curling into a ball at his side. He sighed inaudibly and his tremors stopped after a few minutes.

Sensing that he has calmed down a bit, I clasped my arms around his waist and I held him tightly, burying my face into his cotton-clad chest.

“I'm sorry.” I whispered ruefully. “I didn't mean to make such a scene. In a way I'm glad that you are so protective of your former lover. I wouldn't like it one bit if you abandoned him to his fate. It's just… I felt so insecure when I realised you were once intimate with him. Like I should lose you to him.”

He put his hand at the crown of my head, his fingers ruffling up my hair gently. I shut my eyes and leaned more comfortably against him.

“I was always attracted to you, from the moment of our first encounter at St. Bart's, Sherlock.” I confessed. “But I believed you to be unobtainable, uninterested in such things. I also genuinely loved Mary, my feelings for her weren't any shallower than those I had for you. I am aware it's unfair of me to berate you about Julian when I am like that. When I was able to give my heart to two people simultaneously. Still, it's how I am.”

I gulped around the big dumpling that has risen into my throat: “That's the real reason why I'm so afraid, I guess. You already knew some form of perfection, I guess. And I am an utterly imperfect man. I could never be an equivalent of that to you.”

He caressed my cheek, his touch delicate as the flutter of the butterfly-wings. His fiery lips pressed against my temple next, marking me with a kiss.

“I would not give up your imperfection for the world.” He told me. “You should not worry about that. I assure you I was not involved with Julian because of his “perfection” either. At that time, I was simply happy to find somebody who shared my peculiar tastes. I was always aware I am not like others and I believed myself to be abnormal. Then I met a boy, Victor… but that connection never went past friendship.

Julian was a revelation for me. He was charismatic, erudite and mysterious, he belonged to the leading circle of a fascinating movement and he was an invert like me… I was quite dazzled.

But he ultimately wasn't what I was searching for. I have found that much, much later.”

I slowly unbuttoned his shirt and prostrated myself on his naked chest, kissing him with abandon. He reciprocated passionately. Emboldened by this response, I quickly stripped him, leaving the rest of his clothes on the floor and being dressed myself, I claimed him greedily, embracing his lean, firm tights and torso in turns.

Then, while he was slowly recovering, I shed off my own garments and joined him on the bed. I cuddled with him for a while and claimed him again after that.

Following my bold plunder of him, I never bothered to transfer into my own bed. I just threw my arms around him, holding him close and immersed myself into a deep, sated sleep. However, in the wee hours of morning I was roused unexpectedly and coaxing Sherlock out of his slumber too with playful bites to his jaw, I prepared and claimed him once more. I could never have enough.

Sherlock smiled sardonically when we were finished and he remarked: “If I knew what effect the revelation of my past would have on you, I would have told you about Julian much sooner.”

“Oh, shut up, you.” I growled with a smirk and burrowed under the duvets lazily.

A silent scratching sound echoed from the direction of the door at that second. We both stiffened in shock – but it was a false alarm. No one approached our room, the occupants of the house were still asleep. The scratches clearly resounded from behind the wall.

“Rodents, most likely.” I commented and tapped on the plaster lightly, confirming that the resulting sound rang hollow under my hand. “The building is old, it must be full of long forgotten vents and chimneys, I gather.”

I turned to Sherlock and was taken aback by his appearance momentarily.

He sat by the headboard, clutching at his waist as if he had severe abominable cramps. Every drop of blood disappeared from his face, leaving it as white as a bed-sheet and his eyes had a glassy expression in them. His lips moved as in a trance, repeating two words over and over.

“Old chimney. Old chimney!”

He sprang like a lightning flash from his seat straight away and he hollered at me: “John, get dressed, quickly! It's the old chimney, of course! Oh, what an idiot I was! Come on, we must run! Come, lest it'll be too late!”

My ear-drums nearly burst from the intensity of his scream. I wonder to this very day that the rest of the house was not immediately roused by it, thinking the roof is on fire. Shaken by the whirlwind of activity that suddenly took place in front of me, I dressed in haste, throwing clothes sloppily on my body, while Sherlock raced around like a flame, restless, wild, almost frantic with impatient energy.

Thankfully, as we emerged to an almost empty street, we were able to catch an errant cab returning from its assignment immediately. Sherlock would probably sprout wings and fly at our destination, if we didn't.

When we were seated safely inside, our hansom cab racing in the direction of Rue de l'Orb like crazy, I finally managed to ask Sherlock: “You are up to something. Did you get to the crux of the matter at last?”

“Yes, John.” He replied, his whole countenance ablaze with triumph. “The case is now solved, I believe.”

“Is it really? But I'm none the wiser where it's concerned, I must confess. Can you tell me more about it?”

“Just think about it, John!” Sherlock gesticulated in excitement. “Just think what we saw at the site of a tragedy! The house which was neat from outside, but nothing more than a derelict ruin from inside. The poisoned tea. The room where the shooting took place, the dead man at one side of the door, the drugged up man at the opposite side, the door between them completely unscathed. The blocks of coal which should scatter around the victim in a completely random manner but which were arranged into something of a row. Does it ring a bell with you, John?”

“It is all very interesting, but I would be lying if told you I surmised the identity of the murderer from that.”

“That's because no murderer exists, John. The man did it himself. It was a suicide!”

I opened my mouth in astonishment.

“Suicide? But… it can't be, for sure! How would he… why?”

“Because he was ill, John.” Sherlock ascertained grimly and frowned. “Very ill, I think. Probably on the verge of dying. But he didn't want to go like that, to fade away like an insignificant ghostly shadow. He was a Christ's warrior all his life, a devout, ardent Jesuit and he wished to decorate his demise with a deed that would give significance and glamour to all of his previous existence.

And what better deed could a spiritual person like him crave for than a destruction of the heretics, the wiping out of the enemy of his Church?

I don't know how he got wind about Julian, but it's no doubt he hated him with a passion and he intended to uproot him and the Cathar heresy from the soil of Béziers once and for all.

And so he gave up his villa in the centre of the town and moved to the poor house in a significantly less glorious district where he was not so well known. That way he could impersonate another person, a hesitating sympathiser of the Cathar movement seeking the help and the guidance of the bonhommes.

In my opinion he lured Julian there under such or a similar pretext. Then, as they were discussing things inside, he handed Julian the drugged up tea and patiently observed how it slowly transformed his Cathar adversary into a catatonic, barely conscious dummy.

He placed a revolver on the table next to Julian, to incriminate him with a crime. I'm sure he shot one round from that gun in the fields at the outskirts the town previously, to create an illusion that it was this very gun which was used for his murder.

But something had to happen after that and he was disturbed, because he hid Julian's prone figure behind the half-closed door and he forgot to open it wide again, not realising how dumb it would look if he was found shot in such circumstances. I noticed it right away. The corpse could not be dead for long at the time we have discovered it. But if Julian was the one who supposedly killed the man, he was required to be sober just a short time ago and to docilely close the door on himself after he mortally injured his host. Yet he was drugged senseless, only just emerging from the high. It stuck me as very unusual and it was the first clue that led me to the truth eventually.

I presume that as soon as he got rid of Julian and secured that the Cathar would be found sitting in an incriminating position, Arnaud took a second gun from its hiding place, walked to the heating stove and turning the revolver against himself, he looked into the barrel and cold-bloodedly pulled the trigger. The glorious knight died a beautiful death, clearing the land of the pest that was plaguing it for so long.

However, as he was falling down, he overturned the coal scuttle and the resulting mess that ensued from the act constituted another clue against him, pointing me at the right direction in due time.”

Listening with the keen interest, I nodded in affirmative at that statement.

“Fascinating. I admit it could happen that way… but in that case, where is the true murder weapon? We didn't see it when we examined the corpse. Did it fell into some obscure place that escaped our attention?”

“It didn't. It was disposed of more devilishly than that.”

My curiosity reached its peak with that bold claim. Yet at that moment our cab stopped abruptly and I glimpsed the familiar façade of the bistro out of its window. The young man dressed in the leather apron worked in front of the shop, unloading the crates full of meat from his cart parked by the house-gate.

Sherlock practically jumped at me, driving me back into a corner as he leaned out of the window at my side and called at the youngster: “Hey, garçon! Tell me, is Rosalie in?”

The boy raised his head in surprise and removed his cap, answering politely: “No, sir. Rosalie went out for a short walk to the river a few minutes ago. Told me she is not feeling well.”

“Damned!” Using this uncharacteristically harsh word Sherlock plopped at the seat next to me and shouted at a cabbie: “Take us to the Pont Vieux! Quickly!”

The cabbie gave us a responding cry and prodded the horses into a swift ride, turning around and taking the corner into a busy nearby street leading to the old bridge across the river Orb.

I flinched at the mention of Rosalie's name. The outrageous idea flashed through my mind – but I couldn't quite believe it.

“The girl… it was the girl all along?”

“Yes, she was the one who took away the weapon. Some old, unused chimney must be located behind the heating stove in Arnaud's drawing room, with a hole cut into it at the level on the floor, entirely masked by the body of the stove standing in front of it. Arnaud probably fastened a cord to a revolver and as he hid the revolver under the stove, he pushed the end of the cord into the hole in the chimney, so that it reached the ground level. I bet the chimney still has its wicket there, so the cord was practically invisible to the prying eyes of the uninitiated.

At the hour they previously both agreed on Rosalie came to the chimney, opened the wicket and listened closely until she heard the sound of the shot reverberating above. Her sole task was to pull the cord after that and to drag the revolver into the hole, to let it fall down, probably into some container littered with straw to cushion it upon impact. Taking care of the weapon that way, all she had to do now was to close the wicket once more and to wait for a suitable moment to dispose of the gun entirely.”

Sherlock narrowed his eyes. “But one thing the conspirators didn't count with was the coal that scattered all around Arnaud at the time of his death. When the weapon was being dragged through it, it pushed some of the blocks aside and it created something like a row of them which was unnatural in that setting. It was this fact that ultimately disclosed the manner in which this crime was committed to me.”

He leaned against his seat and steepled his fingers under his chin, musing loudly: “You know, I think we actually caught Rosalie red-handed when we entered the bistro last night. I remember how late she reacted to the bell, how breathless she looked when she appeared at last and how obsessively she tried to wipe out the traces of soot from her hands. She also obviously knew Julian by name. When I mentioned him during our conversation, she got frightened for a few seconds and almost dropped the tray full of food into your lap. If I was not preoccupied with my own thoughts at that moment, I would have noticed it much sooner.”

Sherlock shook his head ruefully and glanced out of the window with grim expression on his face.

We managed to catch up with Rosalie when she was already in the middle of the bridge. She was standing motionlessly next to the solid stone edging of Pont Vieux and observed the fiery red glow of the approaching dawn at the horizon, wan mist of October morning enveloping her like a transparent veil. When we stepped out of the cab some distance from her and went to her on foot, she turned in our direction and closely observed us, but she didn't try to flee or to do some other inconsiderate thing. A simple wicker basket lay at her feet, covered with the piece of white cloth.

Seeing the basket, Sherlock breathed a sigh of relief. He bent down and took it into his hand. Rosalie just mutely looked at him, but she didn't make any effort to prevent him from touching it. The detective lifted up the cloth, checked the contents of the basket carefully and after that he showed me what was inside. The revolver, very dirty and bound with the cord from all sides, rested upon the pile of straw at the bottom of it.

Sherlock left the basket in my keeping and viewed Rosalie with amazement, a sense of wonder reflected in his pale, slanted eyes.

“So you didn't dispose of the gun after all.” He remarked, very much surprised.

Rosalie pressed her lips together and turned away from him, putting her hands on top of the stone edging of the bridge. She fastened her stare on the surface of the calmly floating water and replied in a defiant, resolute manner: “Oui, monsieur. I was always very loyal to Père Arnaud. Always. But I can't send that gentleman to the guillotine knowing he is innocent. Even if he is the envoy of Satan as Père Arnaud assured me.”

Sherlock stood still for a little while.

“You are a very good person, Rosalie.” He said to her at last. “But now you will have to follow us to the police so that we can inform them about the matter, you are aware of that?”

Instead of a reply, she reached into the pocket of her dark green overcoat and pulled a piece of paper out of it, handing it to Sherlock.

“Perhaps this will help you, monsieur.”

The letter was battered and badly creased but still nicely readable. It was written in the heavy masculine hand and it depicted the plan of Arnaud's suicide to the minute detail, leaving no doubt about the true course of events in our minds. It figures that Arnaud had still a modicum of conscience in him – he gave Rosalie the letter in case she would be caught with the revolver in her hands to protect her from the possible accusation of murder. Thankfully, he never mentioned the fact that Authié is a Cathar in it. In his dementia he only referred to Authié as “the hell spawn” and so the letter could be later used to acquit Authié of the crime.

And so later that day, we found ourselves in the vicinity of Cathédrale Saint-Nazaire, at the gates of the town prison, accompanied by both Vernet and Didier.

While we were waiting patiently, loitering about the small square bestrewn with sand which was adjacent to the prison-walls, a troop of gendarmes marched to the area from the town, escorting the familiar looking prisoner with them.

His elegant Paris evening suit was in rags now and his face was smeared with muck, but his top-hat escaped the ruin somehow and was still in quite a serviceable shape. When he glimpsed us, he tipped the hat to us and bared his teeth in a cheeky smile, addressing us as if we were meeting in front of an elegant restaurant not in front of a gaol.

“Hello, Mister Holmes, hello, Doctor Wilson. You came to welcome me into my new home? How very nice of you! Don't you want to join me, by the way? There's a plenty of space inside.”

“Thank you, maybe later,” replied Sherlock phlegmatically, not the least disturbed by the jab. I only looked at the thief in contempt, enraged by the deliberate mispronunciation of my name.

Fortunately, the gendarmes didn't allow the man to continue with the foolishness. They seized him by the arms and as the prison gates opened, they pushed him inside roughly, entering the building at his heels. And as they all went in, the white-haired, sternly dressed lithe man was released from inside and stepped out to the square, walking leisurely from the closing metal gate. He halted opposite us and shielded his eyes against the sudden sunlight, staring at Sherlock for a long while.

He smiled warmly then. He came quite near to Sherlock and shortly squeezed his forearm, his fingers long, delicate and frail.

“Merci, Guillaume.” He said softly. His large grey eyes flickered to me after that and crinkled at the corners in amusement: “And congratulations.”

He bowed his head to both of us in greeting and passed us slowly, heading right to Didier and raising both of his hands to him. The young man was at his side in a flash and they embraced amiably. As they separated, they started to walk towards the town almost immediately, never looking back at the huge building which held one of them prisoner a while ago. Vernet intercepted them on their way and engaged them in a boisterous conversation, his ringing laughter reverberating through the place like thunder.

And suddenly I saw these men as they probably really were, stripped of their pretences and their masks, free from all that religious fiddle-faddle – and all I beheld were two lovers trying to excuse their dalliance by sticking it behind the shield of a bizarre cult, which lent a semblance of respectability to their connection.

I glanced at Sherlock pensively.

“May I ask you one last personal question, Sherlock? I will stop bothering you with them after that, I promise.”

Sherlock turned to me, carrying a wary expression in the lines of his face.

“Why did you split with Julian at the end, I wonder?”

He was a bit nonplussed by my inquisitive request, I could sense that. But he just brushed his lips with his index finger and answered truthfully: “It was during one day in the middle of the summer. We strolled with Julian at the opposite bank of Orb. Some peasants tended to their vineyards there, next to the road and the pair of local women passed us by, returning from the market at Les Halles. It was sultry hot, the earth being soft and muddy after the rather violent storm.

We seated ourselves to the grass that covered the bank as the pleasant felt carpet and discussed some metaphysical philosophies, never noticing that the giant black poplar growing nearby was uprooted by the wind and rain the previous evening. And so it toppled over and fell on us unexpectedly, its long branches and twigs hitting me so that I was knocked down in an instant. Julian escaped from the incident unscathed somehow.

Nothing much happened to me, I was just shaken and frightened. Still, there was a lot of blood because my body was full of bleeding scrapes and I also couldn't move, being stranded under the heavy load of leafy branches.

That's what made me decide that I should leave him. Because the vineyard workers, the women of the market – they all gathered there, pulling me from under the tree quickly and they tended to my wounds, transporting me to my grandmother's house at last. The simple, uneducated people helped me the best they could – and Julian never touched me. He was Perfect, after all. My blood would contaminate his religious purity.”

Sherlock smiled wistfully. “Striving for purity is a nice thing, but having too much of it – it is definitely not healthy.”

He exchanged the glance with me, his eyes bright and his face serene once again: “Therefore I decided to only surround myself with simple, imperfect, but reliable things. These never betrayed me in my life. And I hope they never would.”

I slipped my hand into his covertly and I held it tight. We couldn't kiss there, not in public, but everything we needed to tell each other was expressed in that little, inconspicuous gesture. And so we remained standing on the square side by side and we silently contemplated the picturesque plain of the Orb that stretched into the distance deep beneath us. The pale sunlight of the late October bore on us from high and caressed our shoulders like a lover.




25


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December 14, 2016 7:16 am  #7


Re: Secret Santa Fics 2016 - Read them here

Dear dioscureantwins. You asked for no Johnlock and nothing from S3. You mentioned you enjoyed casefics, Mycroft, and clothes porn, so this is a short, fun casefic that involves an element of Mycroft and occasional references to clothes! It’s written from John’s POV in traditional canonical first person style and Sherlock has a starring role (as per your request!) You also gave me some very cryptic prompts. I haven’t included all of them, but there’s at least a couple of references to them and I’ve set it up for a sequel.

The Holiday

 
John. You need to find Sherlock a case. He took a short cut home last night via a well known drugs den. MH.
DID HE BUY ANYTHING
As of yet, no. He spoke to one or two people and made plans to come back in a couple of days time. It would be advisable for you to find him a case in the interim. And do try to put question marks on the end of you questions. Your English skills are surprisingly poor for a qualified doctor, ex-officer and renowned ‘blogger’. MH.
ITS A TEXT MYCROFT NOT A BLOODY ENGLISH EXAM
And why are you shouting? MH.
BECAUSE I DONT KNOW HOW TO TURN IT OFF CAPS. WHY ARE YOU STALKING YOUR BROTHER AROUND LONDON ?
Because I care. And aren’t you glad I did, given what I uncovered? MH.
IM TRYING TO FIND HIM A CASE BUT THINGS ARE REALLY QUIET. HES TEARING HIS HAIR OUT OVER SOME EXPERIMENT AT THE MOMENT. I THINK HE NEEDs a break.
Congratulations on turning off the intolerable caps lock. It was beginning to give me a headache. A case is preferable, but a break will do. If you need to get him out of the city, then do it. Just make sure he doesn’t go to that drugs den in two days time. I am counting on you, John. There may be a gold tie pin in it if for you if you pull this one off. MH.
I don’t wear ties, but thanks anyway. I’ll get on it.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
It was quite a cold autumn evening in late September when I received a series of worrying texts from Mycroft with regards to Sherlock. I was sat in front of the fire and had just started to relax and read the newspaper, but immediately I was unable to concentrate, my attention now drawn towards how best to help my friend.
A great clatter followed quickly by a curse came from the general direction of the kitchen. I craned my head to look. Sherlock Holmes had been working on some experiment or other for the past three hours without so much as uttering a word, but now it appears he hadn’t got the result he was expecting. It had been a slow couple of weeks. Only one interesting case and three minor ones Sherlock was able to solve within a few hours. As the tedium set in I could tell he was becoming restless and bored, which had now been confirmed by his elder brother, who had, unsurprisingly, been spying on him.
“Damn it, damn it.” He cursed quietly to himself.
“What is it?” I asked.
“Nothing.” Came the blunt reply as he bent down to pick up the petri dish he had hurled onto the floor.
I sighed and went back to the paper. No point in talking to him when he was in one of his moods. And that was when I saw it. It was only an advert, but it gave me an interesting idea and the more I thought about it, the more I realised it was what we both needed.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
“We should go on holiday.” I announced the following morning over breakfast.
“What?” snapped Sherlock, without looking up from the newspaper that lay spread over the table, “Don’t be ridiculous.”
“I’m not being ridiculous. When was the last time you went on holiday?”
“I don’t do holidays,” he replied.
“Precisely my point,” I insisted. “You need a break.”
Sherlock looked up from his reading and frowned, staring at me like I’d just made the most stupidest statement in the world. He retied his red silk dressing gown around his impossibly tight white shirt and shook his head as if he was disappointed with me somehow.
“John,” he said slowly, “I do not….need a break.”
“You might enjoy a holiday,” I said lightly.
Sherlock picked at his toast and grunted. “Doubt it.”
“Might stop you being bored. Stop you…y’know…wanting to take drugs or something…”
“What? Sunbathing?” he scoffed sarcastically, “Really interesting John. Fascinating. Mycroft put you up to this, didn’t he? Typical.”
“No, I’m not talking about that kind of holiday. I’m not stupid.” I was sure I heard him mutter some kind of witty comeback under his breath about the level of my intelligence but whatever it was I chose to ignore it.
“What then?” he asked, a little louder. “What kind of holiday are you talking about?”
“An interesting one,” I said with a smile. “You know…somewhere…historical maybe? Rome? Paris?” Sherlock yawned, expressing his disinterest at the idea.
I grinned to myself. I knew Sherlock pretty well and had already anticipated that kind of reaction, which was exactly why I had another plan up my sleeve. I’d spent a few hours on the internet the previous evening, doing some research, and had managed to find something I thought would pique his interest.
“You like chemistry don’t you Sherlock?” I asked casually.
“Chemistry? What? Yes.” He replied, munching on a piece of toast and staring at the newspaper.
“Well take a look at this.” I took out the printout and slid it across the table towards him, watching his eyes carefully. He was trying to pretend he couldn’t care less, but I could tell he was dying to let himself look. Finally he did. A quick glance through at the information before returning to the newspaper and saying nothing.
I finished off my breakfast and stood up, putting my coat on. “Well, better get to work,” I grumbled, not particularly looking forward to it. I was just heading towards the door when:
“John.”
I stopped in the doorway.
“Yes Sherlock?”
“Where are these places? On this…list?” His hand indicated the printout.
I tried to hide the flicker of a smile that crossed my lips. The plan was working. “Philadelphia.”
“I see,” he said thoughtfully. “Fine. Go on then. Off to work.” He waved me away dismissively, but I knew that by the time I got back that evening he would be more amenable to the thought of a holiday.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
I arrived home to find Sherlock standing in the window playing his violin. He was fully dressed now; still in his impossibly tight white shirt, but that was now complimented by a sharp, tailored navy suit, the jacket hung loosely open as his bow arm moved back and forth. Sensing my presence in the room he turned round and with an air of importance announced:
“John. I have decided we’re going to go away for a few days. You’ve been looking tired recently. You need a break.”
I resisted the impulse to laugh and instead allowed Sherlock to pretend he had come up with the idea.
“Sounds nice,” I replied, taking off my coat. “Thought of where you might like to go.”
He pointed with the violin bow at the computer screen. He’d obviously been doing some research of his own.
“Philadelphia,” he stated. “They have an excellent Chemistry museum not to mention three other museums dedicated to scientific study. I believe there’s a medical museum which might interest you somewhat. Other than that it seems like a pleasant enough place to spend a few days. Nice city break.”
A look passed between us during which I said nothing. We exchanged eye contact and he smiled briefly, silently showing his acceptance of my suggestions earlier that morning. I nodded slightly, then we both went about our business as normal.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Two weeks later and we were checking into The Five Pips hotel in downtown Philadelphia, a multi storey building right in the heart of the city. At first glance it didn’t seem altogether that different from the mad hustle and bustle of London from which we had just escaped. Personally I would have preferred a holiday in the countryside or perhaps by a beach, somewhere a little more tranquil where we could just relax and unwind, but I knew in reality Sherlock would never have accepted it. He was the sort of man who needed to be active, always busy, always doing things but at least coming here got him out of the house as the only time he ever left Baker Street was when he had a case. We were away for 5 days in total and Sherlock had agreed that after spending the first two days looking round the science museums we would hire a car and drive out of the city to see the surrounding countryside and small towns on the outskirts and spend the remainder of the time on a sort of road trip. I had made all the arrangements, including the car hire and we were all set to go.
The museums were fascinating to both Sherlock and myself, although once we got to the Chemistry Museum, Sherlock spent most of the time explaining all the exhibits and correcting the tour guide, much to everyone’s annoyance, and after an incident at the Interactive Section, during which he insisted on showing me a “better” experiment than the one they had on offer and the subsequent explosion that followed that “experiment” we were sadly asked to leave, Sherlock still protesting his innocence and attempting to offer his services as a “consulting chemist.”
Later on that evening I was in my room getting ready to go down for dinner on our third night in the hotel before we set off the following morning for our mini road trip. We started each day with a buffet breakfast downstairs in the foyer, then didn’t eat anything for the remainder of the day until the evening, when we went to the restaurant on the top floor of the hotel, with exceptional views all over the city. Sherlock didn’t have a fantastic appetite at the best of times, and always refused to eat whilst he was working although at least he couldn’t use that excuse here, and I was pleased to see him at least trying to enjoy his food.
I could hear him endlessly flicking channels in the room next to mine and I could tell in the last twenty four hours he’d started to get restless and bored again, his mind itching for a new case to solve as there were only a limited amount of options to keep him occupied and distracted. Then I heard the telly go off and a gentle tapping on my door. I went to answer. It was Sherlock.
“Are you ready yet?” he asked impatiently. I nodded, grabbed my room key, and we left.
The lift was right outside our door and I pressed the button. We stood in silence, waiting. The lift apparently had an agenda of its own because it certainly took its time. Sherlock was pacing restlessly.
“Stairs.” He stated suddenly and stalked off down the corridor towards the staircase. I jogged to catch up with him. A little further up the corridor we came across two members of staff from the hotel, having a hushed but heated conversation outside someone’s room. One of them had a badge on his lapel which read his name followed by the word “manager”.
“We can’t just break in!” the manager cried, to which the other member of staff replied,
“Well what else are we supposed to do?”    
I glanced at Sherlock and saw a familiar glint in his eye that told me he’d heard it too and his interest was piqued. I opened my mouth to remind him of our dinner reservation but he had already come to a stand still and had turned to address the two staff members.
“May I help with something?” he asked innocently.
“We’re concerned about a guest,” said the manager in a loud whisper. “He hasn’t come out of his room for three days.”
“Don’t you have a key?” asked Sherlock.
“We do,” replied the man, “but he has apparently barricaded himself in. There’s something against the door. We’ve tried shouting but…no luck.”
“Excellent. Key please,” Sherlock demanded, holding out his hand.
“Sherlock…” I tried to intervene but he was clearly set on this course of action and I quickly realised dinner was just going to have to wait. I watched as he put the electronic keycard in, released it, then turned the handle as the light went green. He pushed the door and sure enough, there appeared to be something against it, stopping the door from opening.
“John,” he said, “get hold of this handle, keep it in place.” I did as he instructed and kept the handle in the ‘turned’ position. “Now stand back everyone.” The two hotel men moved aside and I rested my back against the wall, leaving only my hand holding the door handle. Sherlock took a running jump and threw his whole body weight into the door via his left shoulder. The door burst open and we were able to reach round and dislodge the chair that had been keeping it shut, open it fully and walk inside.
The first thing I noticed was a suitcase on the bed along with a few other personal effects, a mobile phone, a sim card and a credit card. I thought it a bit strange that the sim card wasn’t in the mobile itself but then I figured some people might have more than one. Sherlock meanwhile had already gone into detective mode and had whipped out his magnifier, inspecting something near the window.
“You brought that thing?” I asked despairingly when I saw him.
“You never know when you might need it,” came the reply, then he moved away from the window and headed towards the bathroom. “No sign of prints but they clearly left through the window.”
“Who did?” I asked.
“Whoever’s room this is.” Sherlock replied, opening the door to the bathroom and walking in.
“Malcolm Holden.” I turned in the direction of the voice. It was the hotel manager, who had followed us in along with his assistant. “He’s a CIA agent apparently.”
“John…” came a familiar cry from the bathroom. I popped my head round the door. Sherlock was stood hovering over the bathtub, in which there was a giant suitcase.
“This suitcase is heavy.” He stated.
“Right…” I replied, unsure where this was heading.
“And it smells.”
“You’ve been sniffing a suitcase?” I asked astonished/
“Why don’t you give it a go?” he invited. “I’m sure you’ll find it most enlightening.”
“Actually I think I’ll give it a miss.”
“Fine. I’ll save you the bother. There’s a dead body inside.”
I took a step back in horror. “There…is…?” I stammered.
“Yes. I can smell it.”
“That’s…that’s…”
“Exciting?”
“I was thinking more along the lines of sick, awful, horrible…but if you really want to go with exciting…” I trailed off, forcing myself to walk towards the case. I saw it had quite a large padlock strapped across the handles. “It’s locked.”
“Wonderful observation John.” Sherlock dug inside his coat pockets and brought out his lock picking tools.
“You brought your lock picking kit on holiday?!” I asked despairingly.
“Aren’t you glad I did?” he twinkled and got to work on the padlock. Within a few minutes he had the thing open and we were nervously unzipping the suitcase, grimly anticipating whatever waited for us inside. It was, as expected, a dead body. A young man possibly in his early thirties, completely naked and curled up into a ball with his knees up to his chest and his arms wrapped round his knees apparently to keep them in place. There was no other feasible way he would have been able to fit inside the case had he not been in that position.
“We should…we should tell someone,” I suggested. “The police…”
“Help me get him out.” Sherlock stated bluntly.
“What?” I exclaimed, “Sherlock we can’t just go messing around with a dead body. We’re supposed to be on holiday!”
“Oh hang the holiday,” he said, waving his hand dismissively. “This is much more interesting.”
And I had to admit he was right. It was. With a sigh, I helped Sherlock lift the body out of the suitcase and lie it flat on the floor of the bathroom.
“The police aren’t gonna be pleased about this y’know,” I warned him.
Sherlock shrugged. “We can say the manager did it.”
“You’re going to blame the manager?”
He must have heard us mention him because a split second later, the manager had popped his head round the bathroom door. He took one look at the body and fell back out of the room with shock. I leapt to his assistance as he seemed quite faint, and led him to sit down on the bed. I glanced around for the other member of staff but reasoned he must have gone back downstairs.
“Oh my God that’s him…” the manager muttered.
“Who?”
“Malcolm Holden. That’s him.”
“OK just sit there,” I ordered, and left him sat on the bed whilst I dashed back to the bedroom to see Sherlock. “This is the…the dead guy…um…this is his room apparently.”
“Yes I heard.” Sherlock murmured, now crouched on the floor examining the body with his magnifier. “Time and cause of death please.”
I sighed and crouched down to offer my medical opinion. There were no signs of a struggle. No bruises, cuts, injuries, marks anything.
“Been dead about three hours I’d say. As for cause…” I hesitated.
“I know,” Sherlock nodded. “No obvious signs.”
“I’d say suffocation but...”
“But?”
I picked up the man’s hand and looked at it. I saw Sherlock smile, already knowing what I was thinking. “Go on,” he nodded encouragement.
“If someone had locked me inside a bag I’d sure as hell fight to get out and…well…there’s just nothing here to say he put up any kind of fight at all. No damage to the nails or hands which you’d get if he was struggling to free himself, so…” I trailed off, unsure.
“So?” Sherlock was looking at me expectantly.
“Over to you,” I shrugged.
“He was drugged. Clearly. We need to wait for the toxicology report.” He stood up and put away his magnifier.
“Well we’re not going to get a toxicology report unless you actually tell someone about this.” I said as I got to my feet.
“Fine,” he retorted. “But I want to finish inspecting the room before they get here and destroy all the evidence.”
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Within half an hour the entire hotel was overrun with police and forensics. After a swift call to London and a recommendation from Inspector Lestrade, Sherlock and I were allowed full access to the crime scene, albeit under the watchful suspicious eye of Parker, the detective leading the enquiry. Whilst the body was being taken out and the bathroom searched for prints, Sherlock turned his attention to the smaller suitcase which had been found on the bed. This one wasn’t locked so I simply unzipped it and opened it up. Inside we found a collection of women’s clothes all folded neatly.
“So…a woman’s case. His girlfriend?” I suggested.
“Except…” Sherlock turned the tag over in his hand. It had the dead man’s name on it. “ Plus it’s the same make of case as the one in the bath, just a smaller model.”
“So it was his case. They could have travelled together then? He carried the clothes for her in his case?”
Sherlock nodded, searching through the clothes.
“You should be using gloves,” came a voice over his shoulder, slapping down a pair of rubber gloves down on top of the clothes. It was Parker. “Please try to stick to the rules.”
I offered him an apologetic smile. “Sherlock never sticks to the rules.” As if to prove this point, he dug out a piece of paper he had found at the bottom of the case and pocketed it.
“That’s evidence!” Parker exclaimed. “You can’t just take it – we need it.”
“You don’t even know what it is.” Sherlock muttered derogatively. “I’ll need these too.” He swiped the mobile phone and sim card off the bed before heading to the door. Parker followed him incensed, but before he could say anything more, Sherlock turned back and said, “Call me when you get the toxicology report. Give me an hour and I’ll have your killer.”
“Killer?”
“Yes. You don’t suppose he got in there by himself do you? Playing Houdini was he?” Sherlock smirked sarcastically at Parker before leaving. I was of course, expected to follow and did so, shrugging to an open mouthed Parker as I passed.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
I followed Sherlock to his room where he set to work on the piece of paper he had found in the case. Leaning over his shoulder I saw it was some kind of ciphered message. A mixture of letters and numbers.
“Check the phone for me John,” he said without looking up from his work. “Write down every single number off both sim cards and find out who they belong to and what their connection is to the dead man. I’ll need half an hour of privacy to crack this cipher.”
“How do you know there’s two sim cards?” I asked surprised. “We haven’t even looked in the phone yet.”
“Are there?”
I opened the back of the phone, removed the battery and looked inside. “Yes,” I replied.
“Well…better do as I say then.” He smiled. I shook my head in amazement and headed back to my own room, giving him the privacy he had requested.
Once inside I grabbed a piece of paper and wrote down all the numbers, as well as checking through the text messages and writing those down too. It was difficult to tell what Sherlock would view as important but I tried to apply his methods as best I could. There was certainly at least one interesting message on the second sim card which read ‘everything is in place. Tomorrow is the night.’
I picked up my coat and headed out with the sheets of numbers and messages I’d written out. I knocked on Sherlock’s door to tell him where I was going but he only answered with a grunt, obviously absorbed in deciphering the message. This was turning into his ideal holiday, I thought with a grim smile as I jumped in a taxi heading to the local police station.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Whilst I was sat showing my findings to Parker, the toxicology report arrived and the results were quite surprising. No indications of alcohol or drugs of any kind, and therefore no further clues as to how this man died. The autopsy was similarly fruitless, with neither the police or the medical examiners able to draw any definite conclusions as to cause of death. The only possible explanation was asphyxiation, but that still didn’t explain why there were no signs of a struggle. Trying to apply Sherlock’s methods I concluded that the man must have got into the suitcase himself, willingly. But then why would he do that? It couldn’t be suicide because he wouldn’t have been able to lock himself in. There must have been a third party. Assisted suicide perhaps? He goes willingly to his death, a friend locks him in, leaves through the window. Having reached this possible explanation in my mind, I turned to Parker and asked,
“Any history of depression at all? Mental illness?”
“Not that we know of,” he shrugged. “We’ve spoken to his family and to his work colleagues. Everyone seemed to think he was a well rounded young man with a glistening career ahead of him, happy family life etc.”
“And being in the CIA,” I continued, “He must have had a few enemies perhaps? Foreign spies? Crime syndicates?”
Parker nodded. “Certainly seems likely.”
“And the suitcase?” I asked. “Was he travelling with a female partner?”
“Not that we know of.”
I walked off and removed my phone from my pocket, speed dialling Sherlock’s number. His phone was ringing out and it finally cut through to voicemail. I rolled my eyes and began to leave a message, summing up the results of the toxicology report and saying I was on my way back. I left Parker to lead the investigation on the phone numbers and text messages and headed back to the hotel to see how Sherlock had got on with deciphering the note we found in the suitcase.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The panic rose in my chest when I arrived back at the hotel to find Sherlock’s door ajar. I pushed it open slowly.
“Sherlock…?” I called inside. No answer. Stepping in cautiously I saw there was no one in. I approached the desk where he’d been working. The hotel note pad he’d been scribbling in was still there, only with the top page torn off and on the desk a red liquid that looked a lot like blood. I dabbed a bit on my finger to confirm and my heart ran cold. What had happened in my absence? I visualised Sherlock the way I’d seen him last, stooped over this desk absorbed in his work. I imagined someone coming up behind him, hitting him over the head. Hurriedly I picked up the notepad and ran towards the light of the window. The indents from Sherlock’s pen could still be seen on the page underneath. If I was lucky I might be able to read what he had written and find some kind of clue as to what had gone on. Holding the blank page in the light I could just about make out two words – ‘Save Strangewood’. I had no idea what they meant. Was Strangewood a person? Why did he need saving?
I grabbed the phone off the bedside table and rang down to reception.
“Hello? This is Dr Watson from room 206. Did you see my friend Sherlock Holmes from room 207 leave the building at all?....No? Are you sure?.....OK….Oh one more thing….I don’t suppose the name ‘Strangewood’ means anything to you?....Really….”
I picked up the pen and made a note on the hotel pad. Strangewood was the name of a disused factory along the river side. I was given the address and some brief directions after which I quickly left the room, noticing the fire door on the other side of the corridor had been left open. I took the stairs two at a time and ended up out on the streets at the back of the hotel, in some kind of alley way. I ran to the main street and hailed a taxi, giving the driver the address of the Strangewood factory. Along the way I got him to stop at a gun store, where I purchased a revolver and thanked God for American gun laws. If Sherlock was in danger I needed something to protect him, and myself.
The taxi pulled up at Strangewood. I paid him and leapt out running to the door. It was certainly in an isolated part of town; overlooking the river and set back from the road on a type of jetty jutting out slightly into the water. There were no cars or people to be seen. As the taxi drove off into the distance I lingered outside the door, gun in hand before slowly and carefully pushing it open. It creaked, loudly, surely giving away my presence to anyone and everyone inside. I cringed at the sound and took a nervous step in, raising the gun out in front of me defensively.
It was dark; the only light coming from a dirty dust ridden window on the left hand side. I stared into the vast emptiness trying to get my eyes adjusted. I became aware of piles of boxes; crates; all stacked up against the wall opposite me. Suddenly to my right I heard a rustling sound. I pointed my gun in that direction and took a couple of steps back, straining to see through the black void. I could just about make out the shape of a man walking towards me. I took a deep breath and made a few hurried steps towards him until we met in the middle and I pressed my revolver directly against his forehead.
“Careful John,” came a familiar voice, and a hand reached out to gently pull down my gun arm. I realised I was face to face with Sherlock Holmes.
“Sherlock!” I cried, relieved. “Bloody hell…you’re all right.”
“Of course I’m all right. I see you bought a gun. Sensible.”
“I could have shot you. What are you sneaking around here for? I thought…I thought…”
“You saw the blood on the desk and thought something had happened to me right?” he asked, smiling.
I nodded. “Naturally I…you weren’t there…”
“Good, that’s what I wanted them to think.” And he showed me a cut on his hand. “I did it myself.”
“Them?” I asked. “Who?”
“Steven Axworthy and Vince Ellis.”
The names meant nothing to me and my blank expression clearly gave that away, as Sherlock merely smiled and continued, “You read the deciphered message – the imprints my pen left on the blank sheet of paper?”
“Save Strangewood.” I nodded.
Sherlock laughed. “Not ‘save’ John. ‘S.A and V.E.’ Steven Axworthy and Vince Ellis.”
“And they are?”
“Once I’d decoded the message I naturally wanted to find out who or what was Strangewood. Just like you did. As soon as I knew it was this place I realised the first part of the message must be initials.” He explained it as if it was the most simple thing in the world.
“How?” I asked, baffled.
“Well, who would want to ‘save’ this place? It’s just a run down old factory, nothing special about it. So I made a phone call to a contact I have at the CIA through Mycroft. Asked him to give me the names of any and all operatives with the initials S.A and V.E recently working out of or near to Philadelphia. And only two names came up – Steven Axworthy and Vince Ellis. Then I ask about our dead man and discover that at one stage the three of them were all working quite closely together, before Malcolm Holden asked to be transferred. So I come down here, just like you did…and things begin to make sense.”
“They do?”
Sherlock headed over to the crates at the back of the room and motioned that I should follow. He lifted the lid of one of them to reveal an arsenal of ammunition hidden inside, then crouched down beside it.
“Bloody hell,” I exclaimed. “And all these are…” I indicated the rest of the boxes.
“Yes,” Sherlock nodded. “Guns, grenades, ammo.”
“Why are they here?” I asked.
“Exactly. Must be something dodgy going on right? Something illegal.” Sherlock got to his feet and jogged towards the door. “Come on.”
“Where are we going?”
“Back to the hotel.”
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
On the journey back I told Sherlock all about the toxicology report whilst he sat and listening silently, deep in thought. Then I remembered what he’d said about
“I knew the killers would come back to the hotel as soon as they found out about my involvement in the case. They didn’t have time to find the note, but they knew of its existence or something similar, and they naturally assumed that I would find it and decipher it. I didn’t know when they would come back and seeing as I needed to go out I made a small cut in my hand and left some blood on the desk, knowing that if the killers were to return they may very well make the same assumption you did, and think that someone had somehow got to me before them. I also knew that if you were to return before I did, you would find the notepad and read the deciphered note on the blank page and come here. I made my way here and just as I arrived a car with two men inside was driving off, shortly after which you got here. If we leave now we may still catch them. I know a short cut.”
“How do you know a shortcut?” I asked, “We’ve only been here two days, don’t tell me you’ve memorised all the streets already.”
But Sherlock ignored me, instead leaning forward to the taxi driver and giving him directions on the new route, seeming to know more about the area than the local cabbie did. The route was exceptionally quicker than the one I previously took and we were back at the hotel within a few minutes, racing up to Sherlock’s room.
Just as he had predicted, the door was wide open and the place had been ransacked, drawers pulled open, Sherlock’s clothes and personal effects strewed all about the floor.
“We’re too late!” I cried breathless, seeing the place was empty.
“This way!” Sherlock darted off down the fire exit and I followed. We dashed down the steps and onto the street just in time to see two men getting into a car in the back alley. I fired the gun and it shattered the rear window. Sherlock ran towards the car just as it was taking off, opened the back door and leapt inside. The car skidded around, trying to throw Sherlock off. I aimed and fired again, this time shattering the glass of the driver’s side window and I saw an explosion of blood as the car spinned over and crashed upside down into a collection of dustbins, sending rubbish flying all over the alley way.
“Sherlock!” I shouted and ran towards the crashed car. Forcing open the now dented back door I reached in my hand and Sherlock grabbed it. I pulled him out and we both fell onto the floor, collapsing into a heap. I could already hear sirens wailing in the distance, getting closer.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Half an hour later we were all sat in the police station. One of the men whom I had shot was in a critical condition in hospital. The other man, Vince Ellis, was sat opposite us in the police interrogation room.
“This is ridiculous,” he insisted arrogantly. “You can’t prove anything.”
“The armoury in the warehouse, your initials on the deciphered note, your presence in Sherlock Holmes’s hotel room,” replied Parker, now thoroughly on our side.
“You can’t prove any of that stuff.”
Sherlock stood up and removed something from his pocket, placing it on the table in front of Mr Ellis. It was a bag containing what looked like coffee beans. I saw him shift in his seat slightly but otherwise remained composed.
“These were found in your car Mr Ellis. Castor beans.”
“So?”
Sherlock sighed. “What if I was to tell you I knew exactly how and why you killed Malcolm Holden?”
“I’d say you were crazy and foolish.”
“Thought so.”
Sherlock glanced at me and we locked eye contact. I knew what was coming and grinned slightly, nodding him on.
“Holden, Axworthy and yourself all worked together at the CIA, all good friends, until Holden found out about your smuggling racket and asked for a transfer. But you didn’t want to let him go that easily. He knew too much, and you were certain he would give the game away. Quite rightly too. He went undercover. As a woman, hence the clothes – ”
Ellis scoffed in disbelief.
“How do you know that?” I asked, also amazed.
“He had a suitcase full of women’s clothes and only one suit, the one he arrived and checked into the hotel wearing. All of the clothes were the right size to fit him perfectly. There were two wigs at the bottom of the suitcase and a bag of make up. Effeminate features, large lips, slight build and according to his work colleagues, softly spoken. Mr Holden could easily pass for a woman. Then there’s the sim cards. One for himself, one for his alternative identity. Simple. He found out all he needed to know and had arranged to meet someone tomorrow at the hotel to pass on your names in a ciphered message.” At this point he dug into his pocket and took out a piece of paper with a name written on it. “Harry Gordon,” he said. “Mean anything to you?”
I saw the man’s eyes widen slightly but he remained calm and shook his head.
“Harry Gordon is Steven Axworthy’s nephew. He works in the kitchens at the hotel. The three of you came up with the plan together. It was necessary to have a man on the inside to do this job. Would have been very hard without one, but this was easy. Gordon slipped a small amount of ricin into Holden’s room service meal that night – a deadly but untraceable poison. Once the poison had taken effect you let yourselves into his room and locked him inside the suitcase. You wanted to make his death as mysterious and unusual as possible, believing it could never be solved. Unlucky for you, I was here.”
Vince Ellis sagged visibly in his seat. Ten minutes later he had written out a full confession, and Sherlock and I were on our way back to the hotel. Sherlock was fired up and full of energy. He booked us on the first flight back to London.
“We’ve holidayed long enough John,” he said with a glint in his eye. “Time to get back to what we do best.”
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
“Enjoy your holiday?” Mycroft met them at the airport, swirling his umbrella back and forth casually as he stood there in his pristine dark grey suit with striped black and red tie. He smirked knowingly.
“Yes, it was excellent,” Sherlock beamed happily. “Most relaxing and refreshing.”
“Good, Sherlock, very good…because I have something for you.”
“You do?”
Mycroft draped his arm around his brother’s shoulders in an uncharacteristically friendly manner as they set off walking together and, surprisingly, Sherlock didn’t object, just looking across at the elder Holmes eagerly as he took a piece of paper from him and opened it up. The two of them had been getting along slightly better in recent months, and it was quite a relief to me not to have to tolerate their constant bickering.
I broke into a little jog to catch up with them and see what Sherlock was looking at, peering round his shoulder and reading the printed message aloud:
“EVEN THOUGH I WALK THROUGH THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW OF DEATH, I FEAR NO EVIL.”
“It’s a…Bible verse,” I frowned, looking up at the bright eyed Sherlock.
“Where did you get it?” He demanded from his brother. “Did someone send it to you?”
“Yes, it arrived at the Diogones Club this afternoon, with no other explanation,” Mycroft informed us.
“Do you still have the envelope it came in?”
“Yes. Back in my office.”
“Well then, that’s where we’ll go. Come along, John, the game is on!” And he looked at me eagerly, full of excitement. I knew in that moment he had no thought for drugs, and Mycroft caught my eye, giving me a sly smile and a very slight nod of his head before reaching behind Sherlock’s back and pushing something into my hand. I frowned, then pulled back my arm to uncurl my fingers and have a look at what was now resting in my palm. A gold tie pin.
 
 


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I still believe that love conquers all!

http://i1353.photobucket.com/albums/q666/Schmiezi/f78f2088-06ef-444c-b254-d9efa841bc19_zps435390b3.png      http://i1353.photobucket.com/albums/q666/Schmiezi/140545df-e987-4a67-9272-fa8b2742790c_zpsa8b00ed8.png

"Quick, man, if you love me."
     Thread Starter
 

December 17, 2016 2:55 am  #8


Re: Secret Santa Fics 2016 - Read them here

I hope the author doesn't mind that I did a quick spell-check before posting




This story is for Vhanja

Dear Vhanja, this is your story. Your wishes were: Johnlock, domestic, Mary at the beginning to be overcome (paraphrasing) is okay. Also you need a happy ending. Your prompt was that Sherlock doesn't like Christmas and doesn't look forward to the season. And John changes that. (paraphrasing again...)

I very much hope that you will like this story. It came to me on an almost sleepless night after this turned out to be more challenging than I initially thought.

Enjoy reading and have a merry Christmas!











Blackbeard

Or how Sherlock stole Christmas








23rd of December 1986




Just in time for the festive days it had become ice cold and clear. A pale but bright winter sun stood on the glacier blue sky. It was early in the morning and the street workers cared for the slippery footpaths. 

A dark-haired, tall but quite skinny boy happily skipped along the street, humming a little tune he just studied on his violin. 

William Sherlock Scott Holmes was excited. Very excited. He loved Christmas. He loved all the fairy lights in the big windows of the shops. He loved the smells of Christmas cookies, plum pudding, roasted almonds and other delicacies. And he even looked forward to Christmas eve, even though Mycroft came home from uni to attend, and he was a true pain lately. 

But before family time began there would be the last day of school today with a little celebration and they wanted to do a secret Santa. Sherlock's heart had begun to flutter in his chest when he had read who his partner would be: Sebastian Wilkes. 

Sebastian...

Sherlock couldn't quite explain it but since the tall blond boy with the green eyes had been introduced to the class this summer Sherlock lived through rapid changing emotions from feeling flying sky high one moment, in the depths of despair the next. Whenever they talked, Sherlock felt a flush on his face and he barely found words. Sebastian had been friendly from the beginning, but with the time he had been a bit more reserved and scrutinizing. He became good friends with a couple of boys Sherlock did not get along with at all and who more than once had shouted names at him whenever he had found out about their nasty little secrets. It was not that Sherlock found them interesting in any way. They were nothing but stupid little boy mysteries like stealing cigarettes from their dads and secretly smoking them. Boring. It just kept Sherlock entertained from time to time. 

But for the moment being Sherlock had never felt a deeper wish but to get Sebastian as a true friend. 

In his school bag he carried his carefully wrapped present. He had spent his pocket money to buy a little book for Sebastian he had just read and that he had found so astounding and touching in many ways: the story of a double murder in the streets of Paris and two very special friends solving them by using the skills of deduction. "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" by Edgar Allan Poe. Sherlock had read it once, twice and he knew what he wanted from his life: deducing, solving riddles and puzzles, and more than anything he wanted to have a relationship like C. Auguste Dupin and his anonymous partner.

When the time came to exchange gifts, Sherlock suddenly felt uneasy. Slowly he approached Sebastian who happily chatted away with a couple of other boys. With shaking hands he handed the little package. Slowly Sebastian unwrapped it. His eyes looked a bit wary. "Oh. A book. Bril. Thanks." he said. "Well, it's really good" Sherlock answered. "You know, it's really thrilling and the two main characters..." Sebastian flipped through the pages. "Hmhm. Maybe I'll give it a try. Those two men, what are they? Are they queer or what?"

Sherlock wasn't sure he knew what Sebastian meant by this. He just had a feeling that it wasn't right. "Well... they're very good friends. They like to spend their time together. They solve crimes. They love being..." Sebastian's head bounced up. His face got all red. "They love?" he shouted at Sherlock "Do they? What do you want from me?? Get away, Sherlock!! Who the hell is called Sherlock anyway??" He turned on his heels, cheered by the boys near them and clapped on the shoulder. The gang went away, the other boys looking over their shoulders and giving Sherlock strange looks. Sherlock stood frozen.

Later he shuffled home. He felt sick. How could he have thought that Sebastian wanted to be his friend? What had he been thinking? Mycroft had always told him and he hadn't listened. Nothing of the Christmassy decoration looked pretty for his eyes anymore. The odours were no longer tempting. It was all a farce. Not even the thought of his violin and the music felt calming. 

When his mother opened the door it took him one glance into her eyes to know that this day was far from being over.




~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~




23rd of December 2010




"God, Sherlock, how did you know?"

Since the day Dr. John Watson had moved into 221b Baker Street his flatmate had given him more than one moment of jaw dropping. Him and Lestrade followed Sherlock on his heels but were hardly able to catch up anyway. A crime always gave Sherlock an outburst of energy that made him positively glowing. John loved those moments.

"John, don't insult my intelligence. It was obvious, wasn't it?". Sherlock pushed the door to their flat open and froze on the spot. Lestrade stepped to him from behind and had a look over his shoulder. "Sherlock, what seems to be the .....?".

"Mr. Hudson!" boomed Sherlock. John pushed his way in, closely inspecting the living room. He detected exactly nothing except.....

Well, Mrs. Hudson had obviously made good use of the time they had been away solving a woman's murder. 

Coloured fairy lights at the windows, thick red candles on the mantelpiece waiting to be lit, fir sprigs and Christmas cake waiting to be eaten. John smiled. That was the most heart warming view he had had for quite a few years, since his army days for sure. "Ah, isn't it lovely." he said, "it truly is Christmas". 

"Mrs. Hudson! I certainly do not wish to be distracted from my work with all this....this ....whole sappy boodle! Who gave you permission to come up here and intrude into my personal tidiness?" "Whoa, wait!" John suppressed a snort and halted Sherlock's outburst with a hand on his shoulder. "Sherlock, I hate to break it to you, but I do in fact live here, too. And I happen to appreciate this homely and Christmassy atmosphere. A lot, to be honest. Thank you, Mrs. Hudson" Their landlady had appeared in the doorframe and now pointed towards Sherlock, who had flung his Belstaff onto the table and had slopped himself into his chair. "Sherlock! You may grumble about my attempts at creating a nice atmosphere for the two of you as much as you want! But nothing! I repeat nothing gives you the right to intrude into my personal tidiness to dispose of all the packages I have prepared already! Where did you put them?" Sherlock rolled his eyes and mumbled something under his voice sounding like "Bin". Mrs. Hudson stalked out of the room and John heard a rummaging out side the window, followed by a loud clang. Obviously she had found the packages just in time. 

John sat down into his own chair and shook his head with a small smile on his lips. It had almost been a year since Mike had introduced Sherlock and him. It had been the best year of his life. His flatmate never stopped being all kinds of exciting and interesting. Well, most of the time that was to say. Sherlock surely had his days off, as John called them for himself, he was moody, arrogant and -as he had announced- sometimes didn't talk but just elicited some melancholic tunes out of his beloved violin. And his sense of housekeeping was an impertinence, to say the least.

But to his own surprise John never really could get worked up about it. They had their minor rows from time to time, true, but before it could get too serious there was always something adventurous to do. That was life with Sherlock. And as soon as he "recruited" John for a new case the untidy sink was forgotten. 

And there was more. Something that was entirely new for John. He felt that he was absolutely fascinated by watching his friend. His outward appearance was a complete opposite from his surrounding at home. Sherlock set high value on his clothing, mostly dark suits with shirts highlighting his slim features. John found himself absolutely fascinated. And that had never happened before, not with another man. He was fascinated by Sherlock's movements, his voice, those unruly dark curls and he had realized with astonishment that the first time he came close enough to smell his cologne his heart began to beat faster. Weird. But still, he felt alive, powerful, healthy and absolutely comfortable in the rooms of 221B. 

"Okay, now if it's not too much trouble, I would like to know how on earth it was possible for you to find the private detective Mr. Simmers guilty of the murder of Mrs. Fletchley?" Greg interrupted John's thoughts. Sherlock gave the twinkling fairy lights a last annoyed look and rolled his eyes. "How is it possible for you to miss which got clear within the first three minutes I spent at the crime scene?" he snapped at Lestrade. "First of all, the murderer had to be left-handed and wearing some kind of signet ring. That much was clear from the cut on Mrs. Fletchley's right cheek. Secondly, she could not have died at the crime scene because one of her ear clips was missing and nowhere to be found. So my theory was that she had been killed somewhere else and transported away with a car to simulate an armed robbery. And thus our little date tonight at Mr. Simmers' garage to find him feverishly searching his car – in which he had transported the corpse- for the earring." Sherlock beamed.

"But... the motive?" John asked. "Boring." Sherlock answered. "Mr. Simmers had been mandated by Mr. Fletchley to find his spouse guilty of cheating. Which she was. But- and that was his mistake- he quieted Mr. Fletchley down and used his knowledge to blackmail Mrs. Fletchley. As you will all know Mr. Fletchley has quite a name in the pharmaceutical research and development. If the rumours are true he made a very important breakthrough on medication easing the symptoms of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Hm, what a nice try to get the formula from Mrs. Fletchley and try to sell it. Nasty man, nasty man..." Sherlock rubbed his hands in glee just until Mrs. Hudson entered the living room again and cheerfully served her freshly made mulled wine to the men. Sherlock refused it vehemently and snatched a can of beer instead. 

One hour later John accompanied Lestrade to the door and watched him leave. He felt warm, fuzzy and tired inside. When he returned to the living room he found Sherlock at the mantelpiece in deep thought. "Hey, you" John said quietly. "That was absolutely brilliant tonight. You know that, right?" Sherlock looked back at him with a hint of a smile. "It was? Thank you, John" "Well, I'll be going to bed now. Quite tired and Mrs. Hudson's mulled wine did the rest for me." "Hmhm." Sherlock answered. It still took a couple of minutes till John managed to break away from the looks the two man exchanged to climb up to his bedroom. He had a very light and superficial sleep that night.

When he came down the stairs the next morning all of the Christmas decoration had gone.




~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~




23rd of December 2012




The day had been grey, way too warm and a fine drizzle had come down till the twilight. A tall man in a dark coat with upturned collar slowly and cautiously walked down Date Street and after walking along Faraday Gardens turned left into Blackwood Street. The people passing him did not seem to notice the man. He didn't care, it was exactly what he wanted and – to be more precise- needed to survive this. He knew it was dangerous and unreasonable. And it had cost quite a lot of persuading. 

"Six hours." Mycroft had eventually conceded. "Six hours, and not one minute more. No personal contact. At midnight precisely you will enter the plane back to Delhi." 

Sherlock agreed to this by saying absolutely nothing. It was better than nothing. Since the fall he had travelled the continents, hunting Jim back and forth, encountering minions of his here and there, had even been caught and abducted by two of them while in the streets of Cairo..... 

Sherlock squeezed his eyes shut. Even thinking about this made him feel the scars on his back. But there had been one realization, that came as a bit of a surprise to him: he had jumped for John, that much had already been clear from the start. A bit for Lestrade and Mrs. Hudson also. Maybe a bit for Molly. But he could not have foreseen how lonely that would make him. When John and him had met for the first time at St. Bart's, Sherlock knew it was special. He just hadn't known by then how very special. They had shared the flat, most of their spare time, even their money. Though John could be infuriatingly thick from time to time he was also a lot of things Sherlock hardly knew he liked: warm-hearted, funny, good around other people and most important of all he could stand being around Sherlock. 

So, Mycroft had given him six hours in London. Back in London. Slowly Sherlock approached the big house built of bricks and felt the lump in his throat growing with each step. 

John had rented a little flat in the basement. Good for him. The windows were lit, John had obviously not bothered yet to draw the curtains. All the better. The front garden was small and a really bad place to play hide and seek. Damn it. He had to do this, he just had to! Slowly, slowly he neared the window. Not head-on, too dangerous, but from the right. He hoped no one would chose this moment to come out of the door. When he had reached the window frame he peered around the corner. My croft had told him that John had rented the flat already half a year ago. Yet the living room looked strangely unfurnished and cold. A pile of boxes were cramped into a corner and clearly did not look as they had been opened since the move. 

John.

Sherlock's heart missed a beat. Maybe two or three. 

John sat slumped into a big couch. His tiny hands were wrapped around a glass with an amber liquid in it. His eyes were slightly red and indicated at once that this was not the first glass. Had his hair become a tad more grey? Anyway, the grey had always suited him so well, it didn't matter. And the jumper.... Sherlock chuckled quietly, it was the same monstrosity in mismatched colours he had worn last year, when they were onto Irene's case... Suddenly the lump in Sherlock's throat made it almost unbearable to breathe. And to his own surprise he felt a sting in his eyes. No, not this, not now! He had to leave again anyway, and quick! "Humbug!" he muttered with a sudden disgust. His eyes fell on a couple of little red poinsettias in pots, the only Christmassy decoration that was to be found. In a sudden outrage of annoyance and grief all together he grabbed them and threw them hard towards the house wall. Jim! Why in the seven hells did he have to put them through this all?

The noise made him come to his own sense's again. He had to rush. 

"I'll come back, John." he whispered more to himself while retreating. "I will. Not tomorrow or next week, not even next month. But I will. Please, wait for me."




~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~




25th of December 2014




"Sherlock, dear, that is so nice of you! I actually came across this lovely fragrance a couple of weeks ago when I did some shopping at Sainsbury's and I really, really liked it!" Mary spun the half-moon shaped bottle of perfume in her hands. Sherlock watched her unemotional. He scanned everything. The blond hair, as always combed tightly to her head, the big eyes, that could actually radiate warmth that could even reach Sherlock, the bright red lipstick, some bulky dress he would delete from his mind as soon as he had sat out this evening.

"Thank you, Sherlock." Mary embraced him tightly and Sherlock hugged back as good as he could. That was the thing with Mary. He could not put the finger on it. He felt like he wanted to pull back at once. He just couldn't really explain why. Her embrace was warm and tender. And yet.... She's nice, he told himself in his head. He looked over her shoulder and saw John watching the two of them, smiling a bit apologetically. Sherlock smiled back at him. John was happy, that much was for sure. He had to be, he just had to. After his return Sherlock had found nothing as it had been. And it had become clear quite quickly that things had changed for John as well. If Sherlock wanted him to stay in his life for at least a bit he had to accept this. More than that: he wanted to help him building his perfect life, no matter the costs for himself. He owed him. 

John hardly spoke during the Christmas dinner. Sherlock carefully watched him while Mary was chatting away cheerfully about the wedding, she laughed about the list of people who hated her, she frowned about the craftsmen that were supposed to finish some reconstructions that had to be done at John's consulting rooms. Plus a couple of other things that Sherlock blocked at once. John mostly looked down at the table. 

Later he accompanied Sherlock to the door. 

"Hey, you." he said quietly. 

"Hey, you." Sherlock answered. 

"I'm sorry" John said. 

Sherlock stared at him. 

"I know you hate this sort of thing. I don't know why Mary and me thought it would be a good idea. Won't happen again."

Sherlock did not answer. 

"Anyway, there's the cab. Come on, you'll just get cold." John clapped his shoulder but didn't remove his hand at once. It slowly, slowly slipped down his arm and like a light feather brushed Sherlock's hand. Sherlock did not move. It would take him just one little move of his fingers to embrace John's hand. This tiny and yet so warm and firm hands. They did not look into each other's eyes anymore, they drowned in them. 

The cab tooted. 

"See you." John said. He turned and retreated into the house.

Sherlock finally turned as well and went down the garden path towards the cab. 

On the way he ripped a big fairy light from a clinically cropped rhododendron bush and disposed it into the bin.




~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~




23rd of December 2016




John rushed out of a small boutique, pulled out a little piece of paper and checked it with a deep frown on his face. In his mind he ticked off the list of names on it and his face looked more and more content. 

"John, dear, so good to see you!" 

Mummy Holmes.

"Oh, why, hello, Mrs. Holmes." John had always liked the elderly sophisticated lady very much. He embraced her warmly. 

"My feet are killing me. You may invite me for a nice cup of tea, love." she announced in a manner that would not tolerate any objection. John smiled. "Very well, at your service." he said a bit mockingly. But Mrs. Holmes understood. Of course she did. She greeted him with a look that was so similar to Sherlock's that John felt a little sting in his chest. 

They had entered the next pub and ordered fresh tea when John noticed that Mrs. Holmes inspected him very close. Too close.

"So, have you finished your shopping?" she asked. It was a perfectly innocent question, but John felt naked to the bones.

"I have, yeah." he answered.

"So, what are your plans?" she insisted. 

"I....I don't know... I..."

"Have you found a replacement for that flat of yours?" she asked.

"I have, yes."

"Well, then there is no reason that you might not be coming to a little concert we will be hosting in a little chapel next to our cottage tomorrow! Sherlock will be there as well."

"Uh? He will?"

"You know that he really hates this sort of thing?" 

"Well...yes. Of course...I...."

"He never told you?"

"Uhm, I'm not sure I know what..."

Mrs. Holmes sighed. "He would never want me to tell you this. He was just a boy, ten years old. Sherlock has never been an easy and sociable child. But there was this boy, Sebastian. To be honest, I never fully learned what happened between the two of them. It was after the last day at school before the holidays 1986. He came home and was shattered, positively shattered. But the thing was.... when he came home.... well, that very morning our dog, Redbeard, he had had a grave accident on the street. The driver had been drunk, too much mulled wine. We.... before Christmas eve, we had to put him to sleep. We had no other way. Sherlock cried and screamed, we should at least care for the dog until the days were over. But we decided it would be best to get over with it at once. Sherlock has never been the same around Christmas."

"I never knew that." John said. "That is so sad, Mrs. Holmes."

"Well, yes. " she said. "But John, love, I know, what you mean to him. Be good and gentle."

"I will give my very best, Mrs. Holmes." John said with a voice, that was suddenly hoarse.

She nodded and left.




~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~




24th December 2016




"God, why do you do this to me, John?" Sherlock asked in a sulking manner.

"Don't be silly, Sherlock, you would have come here anyway. It's your parents, it's Christmas – don't role your eyes on me!- and it's probably nice music. So there."

"What is it anyway?"

John studied the programme. 

"It's the psalm 115 intonated by Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy. Ah, that is nice."

The orchestra began to play the little overture and after a while the choir kicked in with bassos and tenors chanting 

"Nicht unserm Namen, Herr, nur Deinem geheiligten Namen sei Ehre gebracht"

("Not to us, Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory")


And while they continued together with sopranos and altos to sing about "Im Himmel wohnet unser Gott, er machet alles, was er will"

("Our God is in heaven, he does whatever pleases him")


John turned quietly to Sherlock. "I'm going to see Ella again." he said. 

It came rare enough, but Sherlock didn't know what to answer. "Oh...erm...are you?"

"Yeah. That's probably for the best, starting a new year and so on. You know, sorting my life anew and stuff."

"Hmhm." Sherlock muttered. He felt a bit of uneasiness in his stomach. Well, so what, he had planned to secretly throw his mother's pudding into the next bin anyway.

"Ella is great though." John went on. "I need her help with this. You know, Mary, the truth about her, having shot you and all this. She's out of my life now, but I need help to cope with this."

Sherlock still didn't answer. Of course John still suffered. What had he been thinking? That now Mary was imprisoned for her crimes they could get back to earlier times again? The damn they could. And of course John had waited till Christmas eve to share this with him, Sherlock thought, how very fitting! 




He hardly realized that the second part of the cantata had begun with soft strings of the violins. With a tender and clear voice a solo tenor inserted.

"Alles Volk hofft auf Dich, Du wirst sie beschützen in Not."

("All you Israelites, trust in the Lord, he is their help and shield.")


In this very moment a young soprano singer joined with an equally clear and angelic timbre.

"Aaron hofft auf Dich, Du wirst Sie beschützen in Not, Du wirst Sie beschützen in Not. Denn Du bist ihr Helfer, ihr Eretter bist Du."

("House of Aaron, trust in the Lord, he is their help and shield")


John turned to Sherlock again and looked into his eyes.

"There's one thing that Ella could not possibly help with." he continued. 

Now the bassos joined the duet echoing the two soloists

" Israel hofft auf Dich, Du wirst sie beschützen in Not."

"And what could that be for you? Having lost Mary?" Sherlock asked.

"Losing you, Sherlock. Losing you forever. Again. For real." John simply answered.

This was the moment Mrs. Holmes chose to turn around to the men.

"John, love, it is great that you came to celebrate with us, but I would prefer we could all enjoy the music."

The whole choir and solo singers chanted jubilantly

"Wahrlich, der Herr gedenket unser und segnet seine Kinder!"

("The Lord remembers us and will bless us!")

"Und er segnet das Haus Israel"
sang the bassos.

Sherlock slowly reached out for John's hand, searching his face for approval. John smiled and gave a little nod.

"Und er segnet das Haus Aaron" the tenors continued.

Sherlock smiled back and leaned towards his mother. 

"Denn er segnet das Haus Israel" the altos now chimed in 

"Mother," Sherlock said, "John is not your love. He's mine."

"Und er segnet alles Volk, die seinen Namen fürchten, beide, klein und große!" 

("He will bless those who fear the Lord, small and great alike")


John laughed all the way through the last echoes of the bassos "Und er segnet alles, alles Volk". And finally, finally, while the violins played their last chords he pressed a soft kiss on Sherlock's hand.




~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~




25th of December 2016, sometime in the morning




Finally it felt right again. Sherlock sipped a bit of his coffee and looked down on Baker Street, lying in the silence of Christmas day. How had he not seen this beauty of silence the last years? He took another sip, not even thinking of having breakfast to go with it. He wondered when John would be up. 

Then he heard the house door slam open and footsteps on the stairs. So, John had been out and about already?

John entered the living room. He put his jacket on the wardrobe, awkwardly guarding a little bundle while doing so. Then he saw Sherlock. "You're awake?" he said smiling.

Sherlock just smiled back. John was a bit thick from time to time but even for him it would be impossible to overlook the feelings for him on Sherlock's face. 

"Merry Christmas" John said, coming nearer. "I got a present for you. And I hope that from now on you will get to properly enjoy the holidays. With me."

He handled the bundle to Sherlock. Suddenly it started to wriggle and gave a little bark. Sherlock froze. Then he unwrapped out of towels what appeared to be a little coal black puppy. A little crossbreed. He looked at Sherlock with a tilted head and the same coal black eyes as his fur, then he reached out with a big soft paw. Sherlock felt that sting in his eyes again. But this time, for the first time in years he allowed himself to let them flow. A little. Then John was by his side. Wonderful brave John. John embraced him, cradling both Sherlock's curls and the puppy fur.

"Give him a name." he said.

"I have one." Sherlock answered. "I know exactly what to call him. Merry Christmas, John".







The End


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December 20, 2016 9:56 am  #9


Re: Secret Santa Fics 2016 - Read them here

    Dear SusiGo,

    you asked for a Johnlock fic that contains angst with a happy ending and hurt/comfort. Here it is. It takes place some time after S4 (most likely not the
    S4 we will see on TV) and has no trace of good!Mary. As for your other deal breaker: I am sorry about the unborn baby Watson. There are no graphic
    descriptions whatsoever, just mentioning of terrible mistakes.

    Your prompt was that a piece of music or a poem plays an important role, preferably in connection with love.

    Thank you for handing in such a perfect wish. It gave me so much to work with. I hope you like the outcome.





    La Vita Nuova - A New Life

    Chapter 1

    John woke up with a terrible headache. It was already bright outside, sunshine flooding the room. He was disorientated for a moment. The headache was one
    he was familiar with from a long time ago. He was hungover.

    Damn, after staying sober against all odds for nearly two years now! John groaned. Why had he let it slip? There had been a reason, or something that
    seemed to be one, for opening that bottle on the sideboard. What had it been?

    He rubbed his eyes. They felt dry and heavy. With a sigh he sat up and his glance fell onto the newspaper that was lying open next to his bed. And
    instantly he remembered what had caused last night's drinking.

    "Elgin axe murderer caught in London" a smallish headline at the beginning of the local part reads. Beneath it, in black and white, a photograph of
    Sherlock.

    John closed his eyes. Yes, that had been the reason.

    He silent cursed himself while getting up. Two years. Almost two years he had resisted the siren's call of whiskey. And all it took to lose it was taking a
    look at Sherlock's picture in the newspaper.

    In the kitchen, he prepared himself coffee and some dry bread. Hungover breakfast. Last night, with his brain swimming in alcohol, he had been able to push
    away all thoughts of that rotten photograph, and of the man on it, to fall asleep. Now that he was (mainly) sober again, it was not easy to stop thinking
    about the past.

    Sherlock had looked odd in that picture, by the way. Older. Like he had aged during those two years. Gracefully. Well, maybe not older, like in wrinkles
    and grey hair, but more mature. Not unhappy, but not beaming with joy either. There was no hint of the old arrogance, the smugness caused by the knowledge
    that he was better than all of the police. The picture showed a man John would surely like.

    He refused to have another shot of whiskey right away but just barely so. Better drown the rest of the alcohol in the sink right away, he told himself, and
    remained sitting on the table.

    His eyes were only burning because he had had too much whiskey and way too little sleep, John told himself. And he would surely stand up soon to mow the
    lawn like he had planned. He would definitely not get stuck in dark thoughts about the past and where he would be now if that god forsaken night hadn't
    happened. He would not spiral down into another wave of feeling guilty. He was done with that.

    Four hours later, he realized that he was still sitting at the table, unable to rise, and that the bottle of whiskey was unmistakeably more empty than when
    he woke up.

    Okay, no mowing the lawn this Saturday, then. But he would go down to the village to get himself food for the rest of the weekend, and definitely no more
    alcohol.

    ***

    On Monday morning, he called in sick at the clinic for the rest of the week.

    On Wednesday, he kicked the newspaper away. It landed with another page open, which was good. With half-hearted interest, John looked at that page. It was
    the one where you can leave birthday greetings and congratulate your son on his driving licence. Right in the middle of it was a wedding announcement. The
    advert was decorated with hearts and doves and roses. In the middle of it, there was a poem, short but supposedly touching.

    In that book which is
    My memory …
    On the first page
    That is the chapter when 
    I first met you
    Appear the words …
    Here begins a new life

    ~ Dante Alighieri


    John could not help but snort bitterly. He had felt like this once, a long time ago. Memories of lazy Sundays and easy banter came up instantly, the smell
    of tea and some obscure chemicals, the expectation of the next case that just has not come to their flat yet.

    He closed his eyes briefly. A new life. That was how he had felt at 221b, before Sherlock had secretly decided to bring Moriarty and all of his network to
    the fall. Before there needed to be Mary to keep John going, before Sherlock killed Magnussen, before Sherlock had dragged his pregnant wife along to …

    Yes, a new life. That was what John had now. An empty, meaningless life, built upon loss and pain.

    On Thursday, the newspaper was still lying in the corner of his bedroom. There were three empty bottles of whiskey in the kitchen. The lawn was still not
    mown.

    It was only a little hiatus from getting over it all, John told himself. He had allowed himself to get drunk for a few nights, and would forbid himself to
    do so soon. Maybe tomorrow.

    On Friday, he was a little more sober than on Thursday. In that lucid moment, he thought how he had not get drunk even once after it had happened. Not when
    he was spending the first night alone in their empty house, not after the funeral, and not when he sold the crib on Ebay. Not when he had left London.

    Never.

    It was simply not right that taking one look at the face of Sherlock Holmes made him lose it all. No, he would not allow that man to drag him into drinking
    like he did. No, that would not continue. He would stop drinking right now and get on with his life or what was left of it like he did before.

    On Sunday John woke up and realized that he had no memory of Saturday whatsoever, and that he was not feeling hungover despite the whole bottle he must
    have drowned the day before.

    He went into the bathroom and took a close look at himself in the mirror. Deep dark circles underneath the swollen eyes, chin not shaved, skin grey.

    John closed his eyes for a moment. This could not go on like that. Using the disgust he felt over his mirror image as motivator, John went into the kitchen
    and emptied the two remaining bottles of whiskey into the sink. There, done.

    But nothing was done, right? He had to admit it. He finally had to admit that he was not over the past the way he had made himself believe lately. He
    sighed. Deeply. There was only one way to stop himself from spiralling deeper and deeper into self-loathing and despair and alcoholism:

    He had to return to London.

    He had to return, and face Sherlock, and …

    And what? John had no idea. Forgiving Sherlock seemed impossible. Break with him for good? That was already done, and had not prevented John from falling
    last week. Talk about it all to get over it? John had to laugh at that. Sounds like a naïve idea from American movies.

    But one thing was clear, he could not go on like that.

    So the soldier inside him took over once more. He bought a train ticket back to London, booked a holiday home close but not too close to Baker Street, and
    packed his luggage. He would be away for a few weeks, so he asked the neighbours to take a look at the garden and stuff, and then he left.



   
    Chapter 2

    Sherlock knew how John's steps sound on the stairs. Of course he did. He could not only tell John's steps from that of all other people in the world, he
    also used to be able to tell what mood John was in, what he was carrying with him and how urgently he needed to frequent the bathroom, just from listening
    to his steps.

    He knew John's steps, he just hadn't expected to hear them now.

    Or at all, ever again.

    And so he only realized what he had heard a second ago when the door to the flat was opened. Not only hearing John's steps but seeing the man himself was
    overwhelming.

    His brain tried to deduce him, all of him, instantly. Sherlock was unable to direct his attention, information washing over him at high speed, none of them
    really sticking in his mind. Something about his hair cut, his shoes, the shade of the skin underneath his eyes, the wrinkles on his hands and his
    forehead, the absence of his wedding ring, the little spot of dirt on his jacket, but all the details refused to form a big picture, a sound analysis.

    Instead, only one thing kept coming up again and again. John did not come here for a joyful reunion.

    Unable to tell why John had come here instead, Sherlock took four uncertain steps towards him and stopped right in the middle of the room. So did John.
    They stood a few feet apart, too far away for comfort, too close for indifference. But John was here, after all that time, he was really here. For whatever
    reason. Not to give his final goodbye, he was standing too close for that, too many unidentified emotions rolling over his face.

    He was here, and Sherlock knew he needed to say something profound, something touching but not cheesy, something to make him stay. He had imagined that
    moment in his mind for so many times. It needed to be neutral enough not to scare John away, but slightly heart-warming and open.

    “John,” he said, his voice cracking just a little bit. Then he no longer knew what else to say.

    All right, that did not go too well.

    Sherlock's mind remained painfully empty. No words appeared there. John looked at him with mild curiosity, then he averted his eyes for a moment.

    “I did not come here for reconciliation”, John stated flatly, his voice even, his eyes now fixed at Sherlock's again.

    Of course not, that much was easy to deduce. Sherlock nodded, not trusting his voice to speak. He had imagined John's return in head many, many times.
    Somehow, it has never included them standing awkwardly in front of each other for a painfully long time.

    Deductions were still running through his head, too fast to be read. Sherlock tried to ignore them the same way he was ignoring his pounding heart. John
    was here. Maybe for the wrong reason but he was here. But why? After trying to concentrate on at least one of his deductions for a while, Sherlock gave up.

    “Why are you here?” he asked instead, and then hastily went on, “I mean, it is .. good. Really good. To have you here. I mean. It is. You are here and. You
    don't have to... But you are ...”

    He silently cursed himself. Now that was not exactly what he had wanted to say. Damn it.

    John's face remained unreadable. He nodded, but at what Sherlock could not even guess.

    “I need to get over what happened,” John finally said. There was something soft in his voice, something weak. It made John sound pitiful and lost. Sherlock
    fought his impulse to embrace him.

    “Yes,” he answered instead. John still fixed him with his eyes, and Sherlock did his best not to squirm.

    “Yes,” John repeated, bitter. “You got over it pretty well, right?”

    Sherlock swallowed down a remark. There was nothing good he could say now. Because yes, he had got over it. But it had been hard work and very painful, and
    he had needed a lot of people's help to do so. Help John refused by fleeing to … Sherlock checked his shoes for a second … Northern Scotland, by breaking
    up with everybody he knew and held dear once. And he only got over what had happened that night, he only made peace with his part in it, with his
    responsibility. He never got over the fact that John had left him behind like that.

    But now was not the right time to point all of that out. Now was the time to make sure John would stay, so Sherlock would get a chance to heal him as well.

    “You need to get over it,” he carefully said instead, “and you came here for it. I suggest to ...” he chose his words very, very carefully now. It felt
    wrong, to be that careful with John, but at the moment, needs must. “...to establish regular contact so we can ...” become friends again? Help each other
    seal the wounds? Find out that John no longer wants Sherlock in his life after all? “... work on it.”

    His heart was still pounding in his throat. Strange that John did not hear it. Or maybe he heard it but did not care.

    John looked at him for a long time. Then he nodded once more. “Yes,” he said. Nothing more. And with that, he turned around and left the flat without
    looking back.

    Only when the echoes of John's steps down the stairs were long gone did Sherlock realize what deduction had tried to surface again and again. John was
    angry. Underneath all his uncertainty and weakness there was anger.

    Was he up to facing that much of John's anger? Well, he needed to be if he wanted to find out if his John was still living somewhere inside this broken,
    angry man.

    His mobile vibrated. A text message. John!

    “See you on Friday?,” it read. On Friday. The day after tomorrow. Sherlock allowed himself to smile, just a tiny little bit. Friday. They would meet again,
    and he would get his change.

    “On Friday,” he wrote as an answer, and the added, “I am glad you are in London again.”

    There was no answer but that was all right. They would meet on Friday.


    Chapter 3

    The room John had rented was nice and cosy, made for tourists who needed comfortable rest after an overdose of London. There were white needleworks on the
    side tables and meaningless pictures on the wall.

    John sighed when he returned to that comfortable hell. He had taken a detour on his way back. This first encounter with Sherlock had left him raw and
    vulnerable for no apparent reason, and he had felt the need to walk through the streets of London for a while. A long while. He must have walked for hours
    without knowing where exactly he had been.

    He was not sure it would work. They would meet on Friday, all right. And then what? Would they awkwardly stand in front of each other again?

    Sherlock had been eager to please, that much had been clear. He had tried hard to find the right words. He had not always managed to do so but his
    eagerness had been clear.

    There had been a time where John would have been pleased by that. Sherlock was … had been? … very selective about whom he wanted to impress and John had
    always felt a bit special when he had been in the centre of Sherlock's efforts. Now it left him only bitter.

    He had not been able to look at Sherlock without loathing him for all the pain he had caused. John had tried and tried but it had not been possible to
    forget. So what should happen on Friday? He would meet Sherlock again, and he would try and be open for everything, and he would go home feeling drowned in
    bitterness again. So why had he even offered to meet?

    Because being at 221b had touched something, John had to admit. The feeling of being home had washed over him with a force he had not deemed possible. He
    had lost more that night, not just his future. He had also lost his home.

    But it was gone for good, right? He could come to the flat as often as he wanted, try to forgive Sherlock as hard as he might, Baker Street would never be
    his home again.

    Or could it?

    Unsure of what he wanted, John sighed once more and turned on the TV. Better to drown his thoughts in mindless shows than in alcohol.

    ***

    John had intended to spent Thursday by letting himself float through the city. He went out without a goal, just wanted to stroll around. It took him less
    than an hour to abandon that plan. For he tried to stay away from all places he associated with Sherlock one way or another – and quickly found out that it
    was impossible.

    Every corner of London, every district, seemed to be connected to one case or the other. After a short time he gave up and fled back to the meaningless
    room, turned on the TV once more and ignored the world for a while.

    ***

    On Friday morning at nine o'clock sharp, John's mobile chimed. It was Sherlock.

    “Got a client. Want to meet me at 221b to talk to him?”

    A case. John's heart started pounding in his ear instantly. The thrill of a chase, the lure of danger … It triggered John's inner instincts, those he had
    deemed lost until now. Feelings he no longer wanted. There had been too much danger that night.

    Another chime disturbed his thoughts. Sherlock again.

    “A harmless case.”

    John blinked. That feeling, that Sherlock knew exactly what John was thinking about, even though they were apart …

    Well, no matter what John thought of that feeling, the information was an important one. For there was nothing wrong about a harmless case, right?

    “Coming,” he wrote back and left the flat almost instantly. He completely ignored the little voice inside that told him “harmless” was only a cheap excuse
    for getting back things he only pretended not to want any longer.

    John rushed the whole way and only slowed down when he was in sight of 221b. No need to appear over-eager. Because it was just an attempt, right? Just a
    little case to find out if it was possible to make peace with the past. One way or another.

    The green door was not locked, just like two days ago. This time, John did not stop in front of it for nearly thirty minutes. This time, he only hesitated
    only for a second, then opened it.

    When he was halfway in, Mrs Hudson opened her door, apparently expecting someone. She came out of her door beaming. Then her eyes fell on John and the
    corners of her mouth dropped significantly.

    “Oh, it's you,” she said with a peculiar look on her face. It looked like she tried to be angry and compassionate at the same time. “It's good to see you
    here, after all that happened to you, poor soul. But if you hurt Sherlock, I'll surely do terrible things to you!”

    Then she went inside her flat again and let the door slam.

    Well, that was not the kind of reunion with her he had thought about.

    Still frowning, he entered the living room. Sherlock, who must have been preparing one thing or the other for the client, stopped in the middle of moving
    some newspapers from A to B and greeted John with a smile. For a second, and only for a second, John had to admit that he was impressed by how good
    Sherlock looked.

    When they had met two days ago, he had been wearing a brown dressing gown and way too big pyjamas, his hair uncombed. Now he was dressed up sharp, black
    trousers, a deep blue shirt, hair tamed and carefully arranged so it looked untamed.

    Damn, so much time and so many hard feelings, and John was still not immune to the sight.

    He cursed himself silently.

    Fortunately, Sherlock was completely unaware of John's thoughts. “Ah, good morning,” he said while tidying up the sofa so the client could sit on it.

    “Morning,” John answered, and forced himself to smile even though Sherlock was looking at the sofa.

    When Sherlock finally turned around, he seemed to take in John with one close look. He smiled too, just slightly but still. “About the case ...” he started
    but the door bell interrupted him. He frowned.

    “I should have known he would be early,” he sighed. “Well, I will inform you afterwards. Just play along.”

    Before John knew what to make of that comment, there was a young man standing in front of them. He was pale and nervous and definitely not happy.

    “James Winter,” he introduced himself and shook John's hand.

    “You have surely heard of John Watson,” Sherlock chimed in before John could say something.

    James looked at him for a moment. “Yes, um, no, sorry,” he stuttered, and quickly added, “Nice to meet you.”

    How could he have heard of John? It had been nearly two years now since he had left London. The blog had been pretty abandoned ever since the wedding, and
    James looked young enough to have missed the peak of Sherlock's and John's fame before the fall.

    The awkward moment lingered around a bit, then Sherlock gestured towards the sofa. “Please, sit down.”

    James did what he was asked for, and John ...

    John was not sure what to do next. His chair was standing there, where it belonged to, and he should most likely simply sit down on it. Just like old
    times. No big deal, just a chair. But it felt wrong. So instead, he remained standing next to Sherlock's chair instead. Sherlock, who seemed to sense
    John's uncertainty, resolved the situation by not sitting down as well.

    “Well, Mr Winter,” he said instead, “would you tell us why you are here today?”

    James nodded eagerly while playing with his fingers. “My girl-friend is missing,” he explained, and when Sherlock just kept looking at him, he went on,
    “Janette Peters. We met a year ago in Edinburgh where we are both studying. We fell in love, had a wonderful time but one morning she was gone. Just like
    that.” He looked from Sherlock to John. “See, we did not have a quarrel or something, and we were looking for a flat we could move in together, and then –
    just like that – she is gone.”

    His voice trembled when he continued, “All her things were gone from the hall, and she does not answer her phone ...” He sniffed into a tissue. “I was
    desperate, and then ...” He took his mobile out of his pocket and typed something, “...then I found a new facebook profile that said she was in London
    now.”

    He showed his mobile towards them. Sherlock snatched it and showed it to John. He saw the face of a nice young woman on her profile, brown haired, smiling
    into the camera, some exotic beach behind her. “Single,” her relationship status said. John frowned but Sherlock gave James a warm yet not completely
    honest smile.

    “I see why you are worried now,” he assured the young man.

    Really? John frowned even more. The story sounded simple enough. Boy meets girl, girl breaks up and leaves boy. Where was the case in that? Sherlock seemed
    to see something John did not. Or was he acting? He looked at James compassionately. Maybe a bit too understanding.

    James sniffed once more. “Somebody must be forcing her to stay away from me,” he said, tears swelling in his eyes but not falling.

    John could only blink. Play along, Sherlock had said. Well, all right. John did his best to look convinced when James continued, “She would never leave me.
    She loves me.”

    Sherlock nodded. “Of course she does, Mr. Winters.”

    “Please,” James went on, “can you help her?”

    “I will try,” Sherlock promised, and finally sat down. Out of habit, John sat down as well. “Can you tell me who might have kidnapped her?”

    What followed was the most absurd mixture of conspiracy theories John had ever heard. Apparently, there was a group of bankers who secretly ruled the flat
    (or maybe hollow) Earth by poisoning people by chemtrails and /or mind-controlling them by something called HAARP.

    John was not sure whether to be shocked or amused. He glanced at Sherlock who did his best to remain serious.

    “... and they don't want me to spread my knowledge, so they must have taken her to keep me silent.”

    They both needed a second to realize that James was finally done with his strange monologue. “Um, yes,” Sherlock said, and stood up. “We will look for her
    and see what we can do.”

    James got up too and started to shake Sherlock's hand fiercely. “Thank you, thank you so much! I knew you would never be under their control. Thank you!”
    He shook John's hand as well, and left.

    “What the hell!” John exclaimed, no longer able to keep his silence. A hysteric giggle was swelling somewhere inside him, fighting with an exasperated sigh
    that also wanted out.

    Sherlock looked at him, the corner of his mouth twitching. Their eyes met, and for a short moment they both grinned.

    John shook his head. “Oh my, that was ...”

    “...interesting,” Sherlock helped.

    “Idiotic,” John finished, and laughed a little. It felt strange, like something he had not done in two years. Then he shook his head again. “You knew what
    he was up to. Why did you even let him in?”

    Sherlock became sober again. “Jeanette's parents called me. Told me her crazy ex-boyfriend can't deal with her breaking up. They are worried he might be a
    danger.”

    “I can see why,” John sighed. A thought appeared in a dark corner of his head. He would also be scared if his daughter would have … no, don't go there now!

    Sherlock seemed not to have noticed and went on, “I will organize a meeting between them so she can tell him clearly that it is over. She said she had
    tried to soften the impact when she had left him and might not have been clear enough.”

    John shook his head once more. Love, the most vicious motivator of all. Had she expected to start a new life, write a wonderful new chapter into her book
    of life, before realizing she was in a relationship with a crazy conspirator? Maybe that case was the wrong one to get over his own past.

    No, he would not shy away from it. To get his mind on other things, he asked, “Why did you accept a case like that? It does not seem to be too
    interesting.”

    Sherlock gave him a look John could not read. “James is in love,” he said then, softly. “He is a boring lunatic, yes, but his heart is broken. If I can
    help him getting over it, how can I reject?”

    He had turned his back to John, looking out of the window, so John could no longer see his face. “Plus, Jeanette's parents are really scared for her
    daughter. Nobody else was willing to listen to them. That is not right. Parents should know their daughter is safe. I would have ...”

    He stopped mid-sentence but John knew exactly what he had wanted to say. He would have done the same for John's daughter. A bitter feeling spread in his
    stomach. Sherlock had vowed to do everything to keep his daughter safe, yes. And then he had broken his vow in a horrifying way by allowing Mary to come
    with him that day.

    They both remained silent for a long while, Sherlock staring out of the window, John staring at Sherlock.

    “Well,” John finally said, “what will we do next?”

    Sherlock turned around sharply, as if surprised that John was still willing to work with him on the case. Maybe he was. He blinked for a while, then said,
    “We have an appointment with Jeanette at noon to prepare her for her meeting with James. Then we will wait a few days, so James does not get suspicious at
    our speed and then arrange a meeting between the two of them.”

    John nodded. “It might be difficult not to make a person suspicious that gets suspicious when he sees a plane in the sky.”

    Sherlock's mouth moved a little, just slightly, and a very small gleam was seen in his eyes. “Maybe we can use this HAARP array to manipulate him into
    believing us,” he suggested, and John couldn't help but grin. Just a little bit.

    “I am sure Mycroft can help us with that, he is surely using it on a regular basis,” he said, and Sherlock finally giggled again.

    “Well, let's go then,” he said, swirling out of the room so fast John nearly got left behind.

    ***

    Meeting Jeanette and her parents was a nice contrast to meeting James Winter, Sherlock thought. They were a decent family, with no understanding for James'
    strange ideas but some compassion for his state of mind.

    “I don't want to hurt him,” Jeanette told them over a cup of tea, “but he started to scare me.”

    John did most of the talking, to Sherlock's surprise. That gave him the time to marvel about the fact that John was still there with him. The case was not
    perfect as a first step back to the two of them being together in what ever way. When the talking had come to Jeanette's worried parents, Sherlock had been
    sure that John would simply turn around and leave.

    But he was still here, not only staying, but actively working on the case. Sherlock studied his gestures, his bearing. Not easy, because every now and
    then, John would turn towards Sherlock to change a look, so Sherlock was not able to stare at John the way he wanted. Still, there was enough time to
    deduce him properly.

    He was investing emotions into the case. Maybe because of the parent-child-complex. He allowed himself to invest emotions rather than shying away from all
    the unprocessed feelings for his own daughter. He made eye contact with Sherlock regularly, leaning a bit towards him unconsciously.

    There was hope for them. Hope that John would not only make his peace with what happened but also find a way back to being friends with Sherlock. At least
    friends.

    No, that was the wrong way of thinking. Friends was good. Friends was enough. It was so much more than Sherlock had had reason to hope for.

    When they left the Peters' house, it was raining softly. “Wanna share a cab?” John asked. Such a simple question with such a lot to consider before
    answering. John looked a bit tired, surely worn from being John Watson once more after such a long time. Did he hope Sherlock would decline and leave him
    alone? No, he didn't.

    “Gladly,” Sherlock answered, and mentally bit his tongue. Too enthusiastic. He ignored the glance John gave him and concentrated on summoning a cab. It
    always worked. Sherlock had long ago made peace with the fact that only Mycroft's influence had to be the reason for the fact that he never had to wait
    long. Well, anyway.

    When a cab let them in, he instructed the driver to bring them to John's holiday home. John did not comment on that but was obviously slightly pleased by
    it.

    They talked about the case a little. Nothing profound, just chit-chat about what they had both observed. It was nice.

    Well, not nice. Not just nice. It was warm and comforting. And it would not last. Sherlock was painfully aware that John would not simply slip back into
    his old place.

    When John left the cab, Sherlock got out as well. He needed to walk the rest of the way, maybe even take a detour, to think. Think about John, about what
    would happen next. Oh, had he said goodbye to John before leaving? Sherlock had to check his memory to find out that yes, he had. It had been a bit stilted
    but not bitter. They had agreed to meet again the day after tomorrow to discuss how to proceed with James. John had commented on the rain.

    Oh yes, it was pouring now. Well, never mind. Sherlock had to go through what would happen next. John would go home. He would be in a good mood for a while
    but no longer than an hour. Then he would crash, realizing that he had fallen back into old habits too quickly. He would remember that he hated Sherlock
    for what happened that night and that he hated himself for it, and then he would feel bad because he had forgotten to hate them for a while.

    The next time they would meet, John would be angry and distant again. That was all right, Sherlock just needed to be prepared. And he needed to come up
    with a plan. Now that is was obvious that John wanted to return to what they had, Sherlock needed a better plan than just waiting for things to happen.

    What should he do? He needed to find a way to make John face his suppressed feelings. Yes, that was the only way. Because while John thought he hated
    Sherlock for what happened, in reality John hated himself. He mostly projected that onto Sherlock And that was not acceptable because John would not find
    peace hating Sherlock.

    But how could he make John see the need to forgive himself when John had not even realized that he was blaming himself? That was a conundrum Sherlock could
    not solve. Not now. But there was hope, and that was a good thought to end these musings, right?
 
    Right. With that, Sherlock decided to stop walking through the heavy rain and go home.

    There was hope. It had not been there this morning. He was soaking wet but realizing that there was hope was well worth getting a little cold.


 


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I still believe that love conquers all!

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"Quick, man, if you love me."
     Thread Starter
 

December 20, 2016 10:10 am  #10


Re: Secret Santa Fics 2016 - Read them here

    Chapter 4

    Two days later, John woke from the beeping of his mobile. There was a message from Sherlock. “Am sick. Stay away,” it read. John couldn't help but snort.

    “I am a doctor,” he wrote back, “Sick is the only thing I still know how to deal with!” He hit send before he could over-think his words again and again,
    and left the flat instantly. In the taxi, he checked his mobile to see if Sherlock objected to him coming, but it remained silent.

    He had spent the last day feeling bad about slipping back into his old role too quickly. He did not want to want that old life back, he wanted to be angry
    with Sherlock and get away from him. He wanted to see Sherlock and be reminded of all the pain that man had caused.

    Somehow, that had not worked.

    On the stairs of 221b, John could already hear Sherlock sneezing. It sounded melodramatic, just like John had thought it would.

    But when he entered the flat, all bitter thoughts evaporated instantly. Sherlock looked miserable, sitting on the floor, leaning against the sofa. His eyes
    had a feverish gleam, his cheeks an unnatural shade of red.

    “I wanted to tell you to stay away again,” he said as a greeting, “but I left my mobile in the kitchen and couldn't get up again.”

    There was so much weakness and pity in his voice that John could not stop his heart from melting.

    Just a tiny bit. Not much. Really. Just a tiny little bit. It felt strange.

    Sherlock sneezed again, and winced instantly. John knelt down next to him and touched his forehead. It was burning, just like he thought it would. To his
    surprise, Sherlock seemed to lean into the touch. Well, maybe it was just weakness. Still, that little gesture left a funny resonance in John's soul. He
    brushed that thought aside quickly.

    “Come on, let's get you to bed,” he said and heaved Sherlock up. They both stumbled a bit, and John had to struggle to get them going. It seemed like
    Sherlock tried to follow but could not stand on his own. They found a stable position when Sherlock leaned against John and let himself being pulled into
    the bedroom.

    John gently lowered him on the bed where Sherlock slipped underneath the blanket with a heavy sigh. “Don't want to cause you trouble,” he mumbled.

    “Idiot,” John answered softly and wiped Sherlock's damp curls from his eyes. He wanted to say more, ask how much water Sherlock had drunk today or if he
    had taken any meds, but the sick man's eyes were falling closed already, and he was asleep before John was finished draping the blanket around his
    shoulders. So instead, he closed the bedroom door and tiptoed back into the living room.

    There, he stopped, standing right in the middle of the room. It felt wrong being here alone. The last time he was, it had been …

    God. It had been THAT day. He had stood here just like that, on his own. And it had been wrong to be here alone. He no longer lived here, but that had not
    been the reason why it had felt wrong. He had come here for a reason, determined and nervous, and – Sherlock had not been here. But his laptop had been
    open, and a route had been seen on google maps, and John had instantly understood that Sherlock had ventured off to meet Moran on his own, and John had not
    needed a nano second to decide to follow him.

    And by that, he had sealed his daughter's fate.

    The memory was almost too much. John took an unsteady breath. But he needed to face that thought every now and then, right? If he had stayed away, Mary
    would still be alive, and his daughter would not have died before getting the chance to be born.

    But he could not have known that Mary would be there too. How could he have guessed that his wife would do something so incredibly stupid? How could he
    have guessed that Sherlock would allow her to join him but leave John behind?

    Grief and anger were burning hot in John's throat. He had to concentrate on breathing for a while.

    Why had he followed Sherlock that day?

    Because that was what he always did, a little voice inside him said. Sherlock went into danger, and John followed. So how could Sherlock have left the
    route open? He must have known that John would follow him. And he must have known that John showing up at the peak of the confrontation would set Moran
    off.

    How could Sherlock not have seen that coming?

    Because Sherlock could not have known that John would come to 221b, that little voice said. Because John had made a big fuss over pretending to go on a
    conference that weekend, so Mary would not ask where he had been.

    Because Sherlock could not have known why John had come that day.

    John briefly wondered if crying would cause relief. Or if he wanted relief. Did he deserve it? He had no idea. But then, he was not one to cry anyway, and
    there were things to be done. Like, … John looked around. Like checking the meds, finding out if he needed something in case Sherlock's fever got higher.
    Like placing a glass of water on Sherlock's bedside table. Looking for clean cloths to wipe the sweat away. Something light to eat, some soup or the like.

    All that occupied John for a little more than thirty minutes. Afterwards, Sherlock was still sound asleep and John alone with his thoughts. Should he tell
    Mrs Hudson he was here? She was angry with him, kind of. Well, the last thing he felt up to now was facing an angry Mrs Hudson.

    For no reason at all, he sneaked back into the bedroom and looked down at Sherlock. He felt … something. Not sure what it was. Too many things at once to
    tell. Sherlock looked peaceful in his sleep, much younger than when he was awake. John remembered a time when he had known exactly what he had felt when
    looking at Sherlock in his sleep. Why had everything seemed to be so complicated back then? What an idiot he had been.

    He had already turned around to leave the room when he heard Sherlock mumble something.

    “John.”

    He stepped closer. “I'm here,” he said, with his soothing doctor's voice, but then he saw that Sherlock was staring into the empty space next to John's
    face.

    “John is doing it wrong,” Sherlock whispered. Doing what wrong? John felt like he should leave now to grant Sherlock privacy, but then …

    “What is he doing wrong?” he asked instead. He felt a bit guilty.

    “Healing,” Sherlock answered, still looking at something next to John's ear. There was a great sadness in his voice.

    At first, John thought Sherlock was talking about John doctoring him today but the he realized that this was not what Sherlock meant.

    “What do you mean?” he implored, and to his surprise, Sherlock willingly went on talking.

    “He thinks he needs to forgive me or to finally condemn me to move on but that is bullocks. He needs to forgive himself.”

    John watched Sherlock blink a few times, then his eyes closed again. “I miss him,” Sherlock whispered.

    “But he came back, didn't he?” John could not help but ask.

    Sherlock's voice was barely audible when he said, “Not with his heart.”

    He sighed, and then fell asleep once more.

    And left John standing in the bedroom alone, confused and overwhelmed. For a long time, he could only stare at his sleeping patient. His mind refused to
    think about what he had heard, his heart refused to let it go. His body, trapped between the two, only stood still for what seemed to be like hours.

    When he was able to move again, John sneaked into the living room and slipped down into his chair. His chair. His mind was still swirling without
    getting hold of a clear thought. Feelings washing over him like tidal waves.

    There was a thought that fought his way to the surface of John's mind, a thought he had pushed away again and again for two days now. He missed Sherlock
    too. He missed being his friend, he missed admiring him, taking care for him, laughing with him. He missed the prospect of being more one day. He missed
    everything that had died together with Mary and the baby that day.

    Feeling empty and drenched, John did the only thing that made sense now: he made tea. His body took over, automatically doing everything that was necessary
    to fulfil the task.

    At some point, he realized he was sitting in his chair once more, the cup already half empty.

    There was something dangerous all around him now, something that was luring him into deep waters. Hope. Was it really possible to forgive himself? And
    would that really lead him back to what he had thought he would no longer want? Could it -

    The prospect of all that left John almost numb. His breath was a bit unsteady, he noticed, and it was not completely impossible that his cheeks were a tad
    wet. He closed his eyes. Was forgiveness really a possibility?

    And then there was something new adding to the mix of emotions, something even more dangerous than hope. Longing. He was longing to get back what he lost,
    longing to feel content again, longing for peace.

    Longing for Sherlock.

    Damn. There it was in the open, now. Once he had thought it, he could not stuff it back into the box he had built in his mind. He was longing for Sherlock.

    The words of the old Italian poem came back into his mind, “Here begins a new life”. And for the first time, he understood that even now that could also
    mean something good. A new life. A better one. It seemed to be waiting for him once more, should he only decide he'd want it.

    ***

    When Sherlock woke up from his feverish dreams, he was alone in his bed. His sheets were not drenched with sweat, so somebody must have changed them. His
    pyjamas were not drenched with sweat, so somebody must have changed them as well. His pants … Oh damn.

    There was a glass of water standing on his night table. Yes, better to focus on that one than on the pants that were also not drenched with sweat. There
    were little drops of water condensation on the outside of that glass, so it had not been standing there for too long.

    Who could be there?

    He had a blurry memory of telling John to stay away, and of talking to somebody about John, and about being brought to bed, and about John tending for him
    in the living room. Maybe he got the order of events wrong. Had John really been here?

    It was much more likely that Mrs Hudson had heard him coughing or something.

    Had he coughed?

    No matter how hard he tried, he could not remember more than little fragments that did not fit together. A sound broke through his feeble attempts to think
    clearly. A cup clattering. Somebody was cleaning the kitchen. Moving faster than Mrs Hudson would. Not hesitating, somebody who knows exactly where
    everything belonged.

    John?

    With some effort, Sherlock got up and stumbled into the living room. From there he could see him, clearing away some dishes. The living room was tidier
    than before, the magazines all placed in a nearly perfect stack. So John had spent quite some time here while Sherlock had been sick.

    The changed pants came back to his mind, and he felt himself flush. Well, John was a doctor, right? And he had seen Sherlock naked more often than once.
    So, let's get over that one. The more important thing was that John was here. Sherlock had told him to stay a way and he was here.

    Before Sherlock could dwell upon that thought, John turned around and spotted him.

    “Hey, see who is awake again,” he said, smiling just a little bit, and came to him. “Better sit down, you must be still weak.” And with that, John placed
    him on the sofa, put a blanket over him and made a cup of tea appear on the table.

    There was something strange about him. Something new. Sherlock was still too tired to put his finger on what it was. It seemed to be something good.

    John sat down next to him, producing another cup of tea out of nowhere and sipped it carefully. They sat like that for a while, in almost comfortable
    silence. Almost like they used to do back then. It was almost wonderful.

    When finished with the tea, John started a little examination. Are you feeling sick? Is your temperature still higher than normal? Do you feel up to taking
    a shower? It was nice, being taken care for. Sherlock gave in to it and let John take his temperature, feel his pulse, push him into the bath room and
    leave him there with fresh comfortable clothes to take that shower.

    When the warm water was pouring over him, Sherlock recalled every move, every word John had said, and searched for what was new. It took him a while to
    finally understand what had attracted his attention: The lack of bitterness.

    What had caused that? Sherlock had no idea but that didn't really bother him. John was here, and better than before, and that was all that mattered to him
    right now.

    After the shower, when Sherlock had huddled under a blanket on the sofa close to drifting into sleep once more, with John sitting next to his feet, he felt
    something he had not felt for a very long time. He felt whole again.



    Chapter 5

    They used the time Sherlock needed to get back to his strength to do some research on all the obscure stuff James Winter had mentioned. The hollow or flat
    world, chemtrails, aliens who dealt with American presidents. Weird stuff.

    And yet, Sherlock enjoyed it immensely because John was there. Incredible how much his presence made everything better, more exciting, bearable. And
    something had definitely changed that day when Sherlock had been sick. John was really there now, with his heart. It was so much more than Sherlock had
    hoped for.

    They were skimming through forums and facebook groups, sharing the most ludicrous ideas with each other. Sherlock was telling John about a stupid believer
    who thought he was a super hero because he wallpapered his home with aluminium foil against his wife's wish to protect them from alien observers, when John
    suddenly went sober.

    He did not say a word but started to look to the ground instead at Sherlock, frowned, pursed his lips and did all the other things he always did when being
    on the edge of saying something unpleasant.

    “Please John,” Sherlock interrupted his preparations, “just say it!”

    John's head snapped up. He had not been aware of all the signals he was sending out and felt thrown off his guard now. Well, that was always the best state
    of mind for him to talk about all that feeling stuff.

    “I … “he started, stopped, and Sherlock knew he would go on like that for quite a while. Patiently, he watched him until he finally blurted out, “Why did
    you take Mary with you to that storage building?”

    That question came as a surprise to Sherlock. An unpleasant one. He felt his guts clench in a very unpleasant way. How could John think … had he thought it
    all the time? Damn.

    Sherlock closed his eyes, forced himself to remain calm. To not let the anger lash out. It did not really work, for his voice was trembling with rage when
    he said, “How can you even possibly believe I “allowed” her to come with me?” Something was stinging in his eyes but he pushed that feeling aside. Not now.

    John just stared at him. As always, that only made Sherlock go on talking. “I made a vow, John. A vow! I had no idea she would come to that building. I
    would have never ...”

    He needed to stop, for that stinging in his eyes became more intense. John was just staring at him, open-mouthed.

    “I thought ...” John started saying and fell silent again. He was a mess, that much was clear, but unfortunately that did nothing to soften Sherlock's
    anger.

    “I NEVER thought she would come along!” he went on, his voice shaking even more now. “She made me think going for Moran was a good idea, and just when I
    managed to open up that sealed door, she appeared right behind me.” He closed his eyes for a moment. “I never understood how a highly pregnant woman could
    be that fast and stealthy!”

    Sherlock took a few breaths before he could continue, “She made clear that loudly arguing with her about going away would endanger her a lot more than
    letting her trail behind, and she was right. She was right, John!”

    The memory still hurt so much more than he could stand. John was completely silent. There was sheer horror on his face. Did he regret thinking Sherlock had
    endangered both Mary and the baby like that? Sherlock hoped he was, for it was a terrible thing to believe.

    “I thought ...” John stammered after some time, “I really … Oh god, how could I believe that?”

    They looked at each other, both close to tears. Well, maybe just a little bit beyond tears. John closed his eyes in pain, and Sherlock's anger melted away.
    They were silent for a very long time.

    When John started speaking again, his voice was soft and low, “How did you manage to forgive yourself, Sherlock?” He looked at him so lost that Sherlock
    had to fight the impulse to embrace him, long and hard. “How can I ever forgive me all the things I did and thought?”

    Sherlock shook his head a little. “My way of forgiving myself won't help you, John,” he answered.

    John frowned, and Sherlock went on before he would lose the courage to say it loud, “I worked so hard on forgiving myself because I knew I would have to be
    whole again should you ever come back and need help with healing.”

    After that, Sherlock expected John to leave the flat. To his surprise, he only stared at the ground for a while, then he sniffed, wiped away a few unshed
    tears and said, “Did you know that people like James believe the sun and stars are only projections? They don't think that there is a universe, so no stars
    a s well.”

    He turned his back to Sherlock to continue reading on the internet forum, and Sherlock watched his shoulders relax ever so slightly.

    Well, all right. Let's go on then. Other people would have talked about it more detailed but they were not other people. For now, they had said everything
    they needed to say. Sherlock made a more or less funny comment on that idea, then they went back to researching.

    When John left late that night, he looked into Sherlock's eyes when wishing him a good night.

    ***

    Sherlock's sickness had thrown them back a few days but James Winters did not seem to mind. In fact, he told them that for him, it was the final proof that
    neither Sherlock nor John were bought by “them”, whoever “they” might be. And when Sherlock told him that they had found Jeanette, he was more than
    pleased.

    Of course, that changed rather quickly when they met at a café, closely watched by John and Sherlock. For Jeanette did not fall into his arms, happy to be
    rescued from the reptiloid leaders of the world. She told him she no longer loved him, clearly, softly, but without leaving any doubt.

    John had to admire her. He had ended a few relationships a lot less appropriately. Briefly, he wondered how he would have told Mary. Surely not as calm and
    determined as Jeanette did.

    James did not cherish that, of course. When the woman he loved had left the café, he barely looked at John and Sherlock, murmured a few words of thanks
    anyway, and left, tears clearly visible in his eyes. Poor sod.

    “Well,” John said when James had left, and then he realized that he did not know what else to say.

    Sherlock said nothing.

    John cleared his throat. “Um, do you think ...” He looked at Sherlock who was still staring at the door, “Do you think he'll get over her now?”

    “No idea,” Sherlock answered, avoiding John's glance. Or was he just too lost in thoughts to look at him?

    John sighed, “It is hard when you have to give up the last bit of hope for your love, right?”

    At that, Sherlock looked at him sharply for a second, then seemed to have found something extremely interesting on the floor he kept staring at. “I don't
    know,” he said softly, “I've always kept that last bit of hope.” Then he looked at John once more, “I am not sure that is better or worse than accepting
    the end.”

    For some reason, John had to swallow. Silence fell between them while they were both standing in the middle of the room. John watched Sherlock's feet.
    Sherlock watched something on the carpet.

    After what seemed to be an eternity, Sherlock spoke up again, “John, I need to ask you something.”

    For a second, John expected to hear “Do you love me?” but that was absurd of course. “Yeah, sure,” he said, feeling the need to move closer to Sherlock. He
    remained standing where he was.

    Sherlock seemed to brace himself for something. Then he took a deep breath and asked, “Why did you come here that day?”

    John could not help but close his eyes for a second. He clenched his jaw.

    Sherlock, maybe sensing his discomfort, went on talking, “I mean, you told us you'd go to a medical conference. And you lied. Perfectly, apparently, for
    neither Mary nor I realized you were lying. And you are a bad liar normally. So either you had decided not to go spontaneously, but in that case there was
    no reason to come to 221b instead of going home. And there had been no time for you to do that. No, you came here first. Apparently you had put all your
    energy into lying that well. So there must have been a very important reason. But for years now I fail to understand what that might have been.”

    They were both looking at the other's direction while avoiding each other's eyes. John sighed deeply. He realized that his fists were clenched. Sherlock's
    face was slightly red, and John could see him swallowing. Oh Lord, what to do now?

    With another deep sigh, John stared, “It does not matter any more. I will tell you but it no longer has any consequence.” He was not sure if his voice was
    really trembling. Did he believe himself? He had no idea. Anyway. He fixed his eyes on a spot right next to Sherlock's face and went on, “I came to say
    ...” It was not easy. “I wanted to tell you that I ...” Damn, it hurt, even though it should not. Not any more.

    “I came to tell you that I loved you and wanted to leave Mary for you.”

    Sherlock did not move. At all. He stood perfectly still for a while. Then he nodded, slowly. “I ...” he started and had to try one more time, “I had no
    idea.” There was marvel in his voice.

    He gave John a sad little smile, “See, you always manage to surprise me.”

    The moment hung into the air between them, Now would be a good moment to go, John thought. Instead, he remained standing there.

    After a while, Sherlock took a deep breath and said, “I would have … appreciated hearing that from you that day.”

    John nodded too. He had suspected that, had been almost sure that his feelings had been mutual. “It does not matter any more,” he said quietly. And when
    Sherlock did not answer, he turned around to go.

    He had nearly reached the door when he heard Sherlock's warm, gentle voice, “I still have not given up that last piece of hope, John.”

    Not knowing what to say to that, John stood in the door of the café for a while. Then he left without looking back.

    ***

    When he arrived at his holiday home, John allowed himself to collapse onto the sofa. It had been too much today, he knew that. This terrible roller coaster
    ride. Hope, no hope, love, hate, … He knew he needed to stop that, one way or another.

    Damn, when he had come back from Scotland, he had been sure that he wanted to get over everything Sherlock-related. Now he was almost sure that he wanted
    forgiveness, for him and for Sherlock. And he wanted to share Sherlock's hope.

    There was no way he could find a way to forgive himself, John knew. He had tried for a long time, then he had had to ignore his own guilt to get going. How
    do people forgive themselves?

    Then he had an idea. Maybe he could use a trick. Do what Sherlock did so often. Maybe he could go inside his mind, and talk to the one whom he got killed.
    Maybe he could imagine Mary and see if he could make peace with himself that way.

    He found a comfortable position on that sofa, closed his eyes, and tried to make up the perfect surrounding for their imagined reunion. He wanted to
    conjure up the living room of their old home but ended up in the bedroom that should have been their daughter's. No matter what he did, his mind insisted
    on staying there. Well, so be it.

    Now he only had to imagine Mary being here as well...

    He heard a movement behind him and turned around to face her. But what he saw hit him by surprise. A young woman was standing in front of him, barely grown
    up, with long dark-blonde hair and a smile that reminded him of Harry when she was young.

    He had made up his daughter, he realized, a version way older than she would be now. God, she was beautiful.

    “Hello, dad,” she said, her voice reminding him of Mary when she was still pretending to be that good nurse. “It is about time that you came here.”

    He did not know what to say. The lump in this throat was so big that he could not swallow.

    “You wanted to call me Isabelle,” she said, still smiling warmly, “The only name you both could agree on.”

    She was right, of course. Mary had insisted on choosing the name on her own but John had strongly objected to Tabatha, Deborah and Marylou. In the end,
    they had agreed on Isabelle. John looked at her, knowing his eyes were wet.

    “You are beautiful,” was all that he could say. Then he corrected himself, “You would have been beautiful. I mean, ...”

    Isabelle shook her head, “Don't get lost in grammar, dad. You came here for a reason, didn't you?” Her voice was warm and gentle. There was no bitterness
    in it.

    John nodded. He could not stop to look at her. Suddenly, the full impact of what he had lost that day took the air out of his lungs. He would never see his
    daughter make her first steps, learn how to speak, go to school, meet a boy or girl she loved, get a job, … A whole life was extinguished that day. A
    wonderful person that never got the chance to be.

    In his mind, his legs gave in. “Forgive me,” he said, barely able to speak but needing to finally get it out. “Forgive me for coming to that storage
    building. If I had stayed away, Sherlock and Mary would surely have been able to deal with Moran. He only shot her because he felt threatened by my
    appearance. I never wanted … I wanted to protect Sherlock. I did not know I would … “ He needed to say it, now. “I killed you. I made him shoot you and I
    am so sorry.”

    He was crying now, cowering on the floor, heavy sobs shook his body. He heard steps approaching him, then he felt Isabelle taking him into his arms. Her
    long hair was tickling his face. She just held him for a while.

    “Did you know Mary would be there too?” she asked after a while.

    John shook his head fiercely. “No, no I didn't. I'd never thought she would put you in such danger.”

    Isabelle started rocking him gently in her arms. “Did Sherlock know she would be there?”

    John bit his lips. It was hard to let go of the bitterness he had carried around for so long. After a while, he admitted, “No, he didn't.”

    He pressed his face into his daughter's shoulder. She smelled of body lotion and a fruity shampoo.

    “You had no way of knowing Mary would be there,” Isabelle said softly. “So who is really to blame for her presence there?”

    John was quiet for a long time. It was a thought he had never accepted but it was true. “Mary. It was Mary's own fault you both were there that day.”

    Saying it loud was a strange kind of revelation. He felt tons lighter than before. “Mary is to blame too.”

    Isabelle stopped rocking him. She moved back a bit so she could look into his eyes. “I forgive you, dad. Go and be happy.” She took something out of a
    bagback she had not been wearing before and handed it to John.

    He took it carefully. It was a book, looking new, with a bright turquoise cover. Inside, the pages were empty.

    “A new life will start soon,” Isabelle explained, “and now you have a brand new book to write all of it down. A fresh first page to start again.”

    The very next second, John was back to the sofa, in his empty holiday home. His hands were empty, of course, the book existing only in his memory. But
    there, it existed, and John cherished it. The new day was already dawning.

    His future was out there, waiting for him to grasp it. The new book that was his memory would not start with when he had first met Sherlock. It would start
    today, when he would come back to Baker Street, telling Sherlock that they still had a long way to go but that they would end up facing it together. When
    he would tell him that he loved him.

    Yes, that would be the perfect start. He still had time to get two or three hours of sleep. Not bothering to go to bed, he slipped into a deep slumber
    right there on the sofa. A new life, he thought while slipping away, and it would start today.


   
    Chapter 6

    Sherlock should have known that a nerdy lunatic like James Winter did not have any manners. Threatening Sherlock with a gun, in his own living room, before
    breakfast, was simply rude. And why that early? He glanced longingly at the cup that was standing on the kitchen counter, tea bag already placed inside. He
    sighed.

    James was still babbling but Sherlock had stopped listening when the gist of his sermon had become clear: Sherlock had failed to return Jeanette into
    James' loving arms, hence he must be in cahoots with “them” and Winter was angry about that.

    The way he was holding the gun demonstrated clearly that he had never used one before. Aiming for Sherlock he would surely shoot the lamp or the chair. He
    was used to a higher class of life threatening situations, and annoyed rather than scared.

    Sherlock had spent the night thinking about John, whether he had opened a door by his remarks about hope or closed it. John was still fascinatingly hard to
    predict. Well, the faster he dealt with Winter, the faster he could continue marvelling about John.

    He listened to Winter for a moment. Yep, he was still talking about Sherlock being manipulated by this group of bankers. Or reptiloids. It was ridiculous.
    Sherlock knew exactly who ruled the world in reality. He was related to one of them.

    Suddenly, what had been a mere annoyance became something serious. Steps on the stairs. John's steps.

    And judging from speed, tact and lightness, he was in an extremely good mood. After going home to find a way to forgive himself. After learning that
    Sherlock still loved him. Now, John was stupid enough to get himself shot just when he wanted to make a love declaration.

    For the second that was still left, Sherlock willed him away, tried to send him back into his holiday home by the sheer power of his mind but of course
    that never worked. Instead, John opened the door looking eager and self-assured and found himself standing in front of Winter's gun.

    “Oh, John,” Sherlock said sarcastically, mainly to force Winter's attention back to himself, “finished with being manipulated by the hollow world's secret
    rulers already?”

    “Flat,” Winter said, and both John and Sherlock stared at him so he went on, “The world is flat. Not hollow. That would be absurd!”

    Oh Lord, they were really in the hands of a crackpot.

    “A flat world is just as absurd,” Sherlock could not help pointing out, “at the shore you can easily see how the ships … ”

    “SHUT UP!” Winter yelled.

    Yes, of course. Yelling was so much easier than thinking for yourself. Sherlock sighed again. He caught John's warning glance. Never make the one with the
    gun angry.

    He calculated their options. Winter was standing between the two of them, wildly pointing from John to Sherlock back to John with his loaded gun. John was
    at full soldierly attention, watching both Winter and Sherlock. Winter was so busy waving his gun that he should have no brain capacity left to observe
    them carefully.

    They should be able to communicate silently to coordinate their effort to end this situation. He needed to establish eye contact with John so they could
    start planning. But instead of looking at him, John was fully focused on Winter.

    “Look,” he heard John say, “I know how hard it is when a love affair comes to an end ...”

    Oh, stupid. Very compassionate and very … John, but still a stupid thing to do. Winter was way beyond listening and would interpret every sentence as an
    attempt to manipulate him. Sherlock needed to do something, and quick. He needed to evoke Winter's attention so John could disarm him. Yes, good idea. John
    was better at disarming people. It was a lot safer that way.

    “I am not manipulated ...” Sherlock started, wanting to tell Winter that the reptiloids never offered him enough money to convince him but never got the
    chance. For he took a step forward towards Winter while talking, and Winter saw that, and panicked, for some reason Sherlock would never understand, he
    fired his gun that was still pointing at John.

    John cried out and collapsed in a heap on the ground, and then did neither move nor cry. An eerie silence fell over the flat, and for a second, nothing,
    absolutely nothing happened.

    Then Sherlock snapped out of his shock, leaped at Winter, wrested the gun from him and hit him on the head with it to knock him out. More than once. Out of
    the corners of his eyes, he saw movement. John sitting up, holding his -

    He was alive. Alive. With one fluid movement Sherlock threw the gun away, jumped to his feed and dropped down next to John. John, who only seemed to have a
    little graze on his arm.

    “You are all right,” Sherlock stated the obvious, realizing his brain was not working at full speed for some reason.

    John, who was sitting upright now, nodded, “Yeah, not bad. I thought going down dramatically would give you enough time to ...”

    Sherlock stopped listening, for his whole body started shaking for some obscure reason. His hands seemingly tried to do an impossible mixture of holding
    tight to John and touching him all over to make sure he really was not hurt badly. He realized that John was looking at him in an odd way but could not
    concentrate on it.

    There was a voice filling the room, and it took Sherlock a moment to realize it was his own. What was he saying? Something about his life ending should
    anything ever happen to John. Cheesy. He was making a fool of himself. Why didn't John stop him?

    John was still looking at him oddly, and then, without any warning, without saying a word, he did stop Sherlock from talking nonsense. He leaned forward
    and kissed him. Right there, on the floor. It was uncomfortable, for John was still clutching his graze and Sherlock was still shivering but it was also
    wonderful and perfect and so Sherlock kissed back,

    It was a long kiss, or several long kisses, rather, it took the breath out of Sherlock's lungs and left his brain spinning around in a daze. It was all
    John, strong and sturdy, and warm and just right. It went on forever.

    They only broke away when Winter started to stir.

    “We better tie him up,” John said.

    “We need to take care for your graze,” Sherlock said at the same time.

    John smiled, and the sun rose over London. “You tie him up, I'll take care for my wound,” he ordered then, and Sherlock obliged.

    Explaining the whole thing to one of Lestrade's less stupid colleagues was easy. Explaining it all to Mrs Hudson was a bit harder. There was another bullet
    hole on her precious wall now, and she was still a bit reserved about John. But in the end, all explaining was done, and to Sherlock's pleasure everybody
    not John had left the flat.

    “You kissed me,” Sherlock said, not quite knowing how to handle that special situation.

    “You love me,” John stated the obvious, apparently better at the handling thing.

    “The feeling is mutual,” Sherlock answered, and John started grinning like a teenager. He opened his mouth to say something, the closed it again, came
    closer and kissed Sherlock once more. And once more. And once more. And then they were no longer just kissing but also doing other things instead, and
    nobody talked for quite a while.

    ***

    Later that day, or maybe it was already night, John had lost track, they were lying in bed, John spooning Sherlock, their legs tangled, Sherlock's curls
    tickling John's nose.

    "Here begins a new life," John thought, and pressed himself closer against Sherlock's back.

    "What?" came a drowsy whisper. Apparently he had said it loud.

    "A new life," John explained and started to play with those soft curls just because he could, "A poem I read once that somehow became important to me. 'In that book which is  my memory …/ On the first page / That is the chapter when / I first met you...”

    “Appear the words …/ Here begins a new life” Sherlock continued. "La vita nuova by Dante Alighieri. Written in 1295, and it still fits with our lives."

    He remained silent for a while, and just when John was sure he would fall asleep again, Sherlock went on, "This is not the beginning of your book, John.
    This is not when we first met. Ever since then, there has been ..."

    "Hush," John said, softly caressing Sherlock's back with his fingers just to make sure he got the point: that they were here now, together. That it would
    always be the two of them. That there would always be love.

    "I have decided to start writing a new book that will start today." After giving it some thought, he went on, "Sherlock, love, there are still so many
    things I still need to get over with. It won't be all fluffy and sweet and ..."

    "Hush," Sherlock whispered softly, mimicking John. "We both need to get to terms with so much. But we have all the time in the world. And we have each
    other."

    They fell silent again. Then Sherlock suddenly giggled. "The new book of your life, starting with so much porn? Why am I not surprised, Dr.
    Three-Continents-Watson?"

    How could he possibly know about that nickname? Well, he was Sherlock, right? John had to giggle as well. "I intend to write a lot more trashy chapters.
    And as you are the one profiting from that ..." John let the unfinished sentence linger while quickly demonstrating what he meant.

    Sherlock gave him a pleasant groan. "No objections here," he whispered.

    John smiled to himself. They lay like that for a long time. When John was slowly drifting into sleep, Sherlock's deep voice found it's way into John's ear
    once more.

    "How will you call it?"

    "Hm?" There was something very earnest in his voice so John struggled a bit to wake up properly.

    "Your book of life. What will the title be?"

    He blinked and gave it some thought. Then he nodded to himself. "The two of us against the rest of the world." he answered then.

    Sherlock gave an affirmative hum and underlined his approval with an action worthy to be mentioned in the first chapter of John's porn.

    He had to laugh out loud at that thought, and Sherlock chimed in, most likely knowing exactly what John had been thinking.

    It would not be a fluffy rose garden kind of life that would be described in that book, but it would be a life well worth all the struggle that had led
    them here.

    It would be their life.


 


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I still believe that love conquers all!

http://i1353.photobucket.com/albums/q666/Schmiezi/f78f2088-06ef-444c-b254-d9efa841bc19_zps435390b3.png      http://i1353.photobucket.com/albums/q666/Schmiezi/140545df-e987-4a67-9272-fa8b2742790c_zpsa8b00ed8.png

"Quick, man, if you love me."
     Thread Starter
 

December 26, 2016 7:10 pm  #11


Re: Secret Santa Fics 2016 - Read them here

Heroes for Another Day


Happy Secret Santa, Yitzock. Your prompt basically came down to a ‘write me anything ‘so that’s more or less what I did. It’s always nice to write a non-Johnlock story for a fellow Bowie admirer.

I do hope you’ll like what I’ve come up with.



Many thanks to swissmarg fort he quick and very helpful beta and to Schmiezi for organising the fest and being so very, very patient.




“I… I…” John spluttered helplessly. It was obvious sheer rage had him tongue-tied. His pathetically small hands clenched and unclenched at his sides; the doctor and the soldier warring over the decision whether to drive a balled fist into their flatmate’s face, which – with said flatmate languishing in his chair – for once was conveniently within reach.


Exasperated and by now thoroughly angry himself, Sherlock resolved John’s conundrum by leaping to his feet.


“Please,” he declared in his loftiest tone. “Since my presence bothers you so much, I’ll relieve you of it.” Before John could protest Sherlock had shoved him aside –deliberately barging into him – donned his coat and bundled his scarf around his neck and thundered down the seventeen steps.


Downstairs the door to Mrs Hudson’s living room opened a crack. “Sher—”


Still fed up with her, Sherlock snarled.


Dodgy hip notwithstanding, she’d veritably dashed into the kitchen just as he was peeling himself from the fridge door, into which the force of the explosion had catapulted him. Her face had crumpled in concern but once he’d assured her he was fine she’d quickly changed her tune and started whinging about the damage to her flat and the furniture and threatening she’d really put it on the rent this time. With increasing volume she’d begged to remind him that she’d always been more than willing to put up with his shenanigans, but there were limits, even to her patience.


Now, to remind her he could take only so much, Sherlock slammed the front door shut with a violent thud that reverberated through the building’s façade and send the slats of 221B’s sash windows rattling most satisfactorily within their frames.


There. But the thought lacked its customary zing of mental superiority.


Thrusting his hands deep into the Belstaff’s pockets, Sherlock began to walk, his feet steering him automatically towards Park Road. London bustled by around him, oblivious to the rotten day he’d just spent and which had ended with the first major quarrel with – though he’d never so much as admitted to the sentiment, least of all to the man in question – his best friend.


He’d just hit Park Road when he became aware of the black car trailing at his side. It had, Sherlock only now realised, been idling at the kerb as he stormed out of the house and set off after him like a faithful dog as he stomped down Baker Street. Obviously his irritating brother – alerted by either a hidden camera or a distraught Mrs Hudson – had decided to stick his meddlesome nose where it most definitely wasn’t wanted.


“Go away,” Sherlock growled, flipping a hand in the sedan’s direction, which evoked curious glances from a few passers-by. The vehicle, not unexpectedly, remained in place, glued at a distance of precisely ten metres from Sherlock’s position on the pavement. There was nothing for it then but to head straight for the park and the nearest pedestrian entrance. Sherlock picked up speed, the car trundling along seamlessly. In this fashion, they covered another two hundred metres before Sherlock determined he’d had enough.


In three strides he was at the at the car’s back door, yanking it open to holler a rancorous ‘sod off’ at whomever was in the back seat, not caring whether it was one of Mycroft’s minor minions, his flippant PA, or the bloody nuisance himself. His mouth was already half-open when an arm shot out of the car’s interior and pulled him inside. Taken aback by the swiftness and force of the action, he landed in an inelegant sprawl on the plush carpet lining the floor.


“What the…” he started, even as his ears discerned the loud click of the doors locking simultaneously. There was a sharp sting in his neck. Then everything went black.


***


John sank down in his chair and pressed the heels of his palms to his eyes, exhaling deeply several times. With each breath a small part of his anger dissipated and in five minutes he was ready to face the world again; the sad remains of what had once been a perfectly nice bachelor flat in particular.


Perhaps, he admitted now the red veil of fury had lifted, the damage looked worse than it actually was and the place was salvageable. His chair for instance must have stood directly in the line of fire of whatever it was Sherlock had detonated in their kitchen and yet, like Sherlock’s chair, it was scrupulously clean of the sticky residue coating the floor, John’s little side table and reading lamp, the mantelpiece and bookcases and the display cabinet behind Sherlock’s chair. Even the kitchen, at first glance covered from top to bottom in a smelly puree the colour and consistency of mud, might not be beyond redemption, for a circle around the kettle had been cleared, the kettle itself was clean and a neat footpath led from the door to the kettle and hence to John’s chair.


So, John acknowledged grudgingly, Sherlock had gone out of his way to erase the impact on John’s daily life of whatever the hell he’d been up to earlier. In fact, when John entered their living room Sherlock’s look had been definitely contrite, and he’d been scrubbing the skull with dogged earnest. Penitence quickly morphed into daggers, however, when John enquired what the feck had happened to his flat.


“Your flat, John?” he drawled, letting go of the cleaning rag and drooping into his chair as if John’s mere presence was tiring beyond endurance. After the day John had endured Sherlock’s petulant genius act was too much. He’d gone spare right then and started yelling at Sherlock, calling him by every name in the Fifth Northumberland Fusiliers’ book and a good few that were even worse.


Normally their tiffs ended by John doing a bunk and drowning his irritation in a few pints at his local or a brisk morale-enhancing constitutional around the park. (He’d long since learned seeking solace in the arms of his girlfriend of the month was the quickest route to the end of the budding affair and so he’d ceased making that mistake.) So what did Sherlock’s unexpected voluntary retreat signify?


John sighed. Nothing much, probably, he mused, but relief the dogsbody had returned to clean the rest of the flat.


But no. He pushed himself up and wandered down the path between his chair and the kettle to prepare himself a cuppa. In thinking thus he was selling his friend short. Over the eight months they’d been flatsharing Sherlock’s conduct had definitely changed for the better. He even occasionally made tea for the two of them instead of merely demanding John make his and expecting a complimentary plate of hobnobs besides. The disaster’s absolute profusion must have overwhelmed Sherlock long before John arrived upon the scene. Already seriously shaken, John’s explosive reaction probably was the last drop and he’d gone for the last resort left and scarpered.


John shook his head as he lifted the tea bag from his mug. He would have reacted differently, he told himself, it would have been okay – or not really but this was Sherlock he was dealing with after all – on any other day.


But this morning John had woken to the great-, great-, great-, great-grandmother of all hangovers battering the inside of his skull with a sledgehammer, the result of his previous night out with Mike Stamford. Sherlock might know the best restaurants for a quick and tasty meal, but Mike knew the best venues for indulging in out-of-this-world bitter and a gripping game of darts. Sadly, John had been so far out of the world by the time he got home he’d forgot all about rule number one after a Stamford outing. Once he’d dragged his curiously heavy frame up staircases that appeared to have mysteriously multiplied their number of steps, he’d face-planted into his pillow rather than drinking the prescribed half a litre of water to dilute the alcohol.


At the surgery John’s first patient was a distressed eight-year-old who promptly threw up over his shirt when he examined her. Apparently a freak strain of stomach flu was careering through London’s primary schools faster than the speed of light. Thus, John’s day consisted of trying and failing to dodge sprays of vomit and scraping off the chunky bits and patting wetted paper towels against his shirtfront between calling in the next heaving child.


By midday the mothers of the hapless youngsters were throwing him funny looks and twitching their noses. Thankfully, John had long since ceased to smell anything. Still, he’d decided to walk home after finishing his shift, rather than withstanding affronted glances in the Tube. He was quite certain none of the cabs would take him and reasoned he could do with a swish of fresh air himself.


The last thing John had expected – and needed – to find was his flat reeking like an olfactory exhibit on The Great Stink at the Museum of London. Which was, John realised while downing his tea, why he was still standing here in his fouled shirt and stained trousers. Normally he would have headed straight for the shower the moment he came home.


Which might still be a good idea, John thought as he finished the last of his tea. Freshen up first and decide how to handle the Sherlock situation after. Perhaps by the time John had finished his friend would have slunk home anyway. Unlike John he didn’t have army mates with a lilo to spare, nor was he the type to nurse his grievances over a pint of ale in some obscure watering hole.


The shower felt like heaven descended to earth. For once the hot water didn’t run out long before John finished. He contemplated using Sherlock’s ridiculously expensive shampoo (neither Tesco nor Asda stocked the brand so John had actually googled the stuff and goggled at the retail price) and body wash in a juvenile act of revenge but decided at least one of them should try and pretend they were grown-ups.


An hour later John strode into the kitchen, bodily and mentally refreshed and ready for the task of cleaning the flat. He fully expected to find Sherlock scrubbing his microscope. The thing appeared to have miraculously survived what John now labelled ‘the shit storm’, perhaps because it had been right in the blast’s eye.


To his surprise the living space didn’t contain six feet of consulting detective. Hands on his hips, John considered Sherlock’s bedroom door before tapping his knuckles against the wood. Receiving no reply, he pushed at the door. Sherlock’s bedroom presented itself in its usual pristine state: curtains open wide and the top window opened for fresh air, the bed neatly made, shelves dusted and not a knickknack out of place.


Still in a strop then. It would be no use phoning the man; the git simply wouldn’t deign to answer as soon as he saw it was John trying to contact him. That left John with two alternatives. Either abscond to his local, a prospect that, given the state he’d woken up in that morning, held unsurprisingly little appeal, or set about turning the flat into a habitable space again.


The pail of soapy water Sherlock had left next to the mantelpiece was cold and the water itself an unattractive beige with dubious wodges bobbing at the surface. John took a deep breath, emptied the contents in the sink, dove under it for the bottle of Flash and a cleaning rag and began scouring away at the cupboards.


***


Someone was groaning loudly, which was decidedly irritating as Sherlock was marching through the fields of clover surrounding his mind palace, on his way to inspect the beehives near the garden wall.


“Stop it,” he muttered and then he was wide awake for he realised the person doing the groaning was himself.


Or perhaps he was dreaming he’d woken, for he was covered in a darkness as deep and black as the inside of a vat of tar. He blinked once, and then again with great deliberation, but his surroundings retained their pitch-black hue. Never before had he encountered such inky blackness. Not even as he sat on his knees staring out into the moonless nights at his Surrey childhood home, dreading the arrival of the dawn and another day locked in the schoolroom amongst his cretinous classmates.


“Whaaat?” His vowels slurred and his tongue lolled from one side of his mouth to the other like a dipsomaniac lurching his way along a garbage-strewn back-alley reeking of piss. Which was, Sherlock considered as his nose quivered in revulsion, perhaps a surprisingly apt metaphor.


Surely he wasn’t... The all-pervasive inky blackness didn’t lift and his ears filled with a rushing noise, like water carried along a narrow canal. His olfactory nerves were busily diagnosing and adjusting to the stench, which increased at the same steady rate as his general awareness.


The sodden state of his socks provided him with another clue and the précis of his situation slotted into coherence when he tried to move. Hands tied behind his back, ankles bound to the legs of the chair he was sitting on, the general dampness and that suffocating stink… Clearly he had been dumped and left to expire somewhere in the miles and miles of London’s sewers. It seemed the car door he’d opened hadn’t been attached to a vehicle belonging to Mycroft’s fleet.


Although he had compared Mycroft unfavourably to a sticky toffee pudding the last time his sibling visited Baker Street. The tiny twitch of the left-hand corner of Mycroft’s lips had informed Sherlock that barb had stung as sharply as he’d intended and his brother had stampeded out of the room, brolly poised at an ominous angle.


“One of these days that mouth of yours is going to run away with you, brother mine.”


Sherlock had wiggled his eyebrows at Mycroft’s disappearing back, John had sniggered and they’d ordered Chinese. But the idea of the British government staging an abduction for the mere sake of teaching his baby brother a lesson was preposterous and Sherlock dismissed the notion. Most likely he’d been seized by one of London’s criminal elements, and taking the setup into account, they appeared to be rather well organised.


He wriggled his fingers experimentally. His arms were drawn behind the back of the chair, slotted through slats, and his wrists tied with what felt suspiciously like a length of cable tie. Sherlock detested cable tie. If properly applied, and this particular strip circled his wrists far too snugly, loosening it was virtually impossible. Thankfully the blood flow to his hands wasn’t cut off. With some squirming he managed to brush his fingers along one of the slats. It felt like badly sanded and varnished wood, oak judging by the grooves, which was a pity as oak was a sturdy wood, quite resistant to attempts to smash it to pieces.


Sherlock had published an interesting thesis on the splintering of various woods on his website. As well as an equally fascinating treatise on different types of ropes and knots and the best techniques for securing someone. Obviously, his captors had followed those instructions to the letter; thereby disproving John’s theory nobody took notice of Sherlock’s website. A victory, perhaps, but one Sherlock felt he could have done without. Trust his readership to turn the tables on the author.


Morons.


For all their idiocy he was the one sitting here in a sewer with his feet tied to a chair and getting decidedly cold. The constant flow of chilly water drained them of body heat, and his enforced immobility didn’t help. He tried moving them and had to settle for a restricted twist. His toes still worked, which was something.


The atmosphere’s overall temperature veered towards coldish, especially as there was a distinct draft and his kidnappers – whoever they were – had robbed him of his coat and scarf. Goners, both of them, probably. Unceremoniously dumped in some skip in the back of beyond. Part of his mind bewailed the loss of the beloved items and he rigorously closed the door in its face, trying to concentrate on the faint current brushing his cheeks instead. That ought to help determine in what part of the system he was currently located. The next second both the coat and scarf banged the door wide open and launched a full-blown panic attack.


Stop it, he instructed and repeated the words out loud for emphasis. Hollow and empty, a faint echo ricocheted off the walls. An involuntary shudder slithered down his spine. Cold, he was just cold, he told himself.


Worse was the stifling blackness. At least it suggested he hadn’t blithely walked into a trap set by Moriarty. The consulting criminal had once confessed he liked to watch Sherlock dance, an activity rendered impossible by his present state. Also, he’d have instructed his henchmen to install a camera and a 1,000-watt lightbulb for a full-frontal close-up of every look of discomfort flitting over Sherlock’s face to be broadcasted on Jim’s personal TV channel. Sherlock could easily imagine the despicable miscreant enjoying the show on one of those ridiculously large screens, swigging a glass of overpriced champagne in a penthouse as vulgarly over the top as those Westwood suits he favoured.


Anger at Moriarty, always justified, wouldn’t deliver Sherlock from his predicament and he resolutely shut down that line of thought. Still, the yearning for a gleam of light remained. His Maglite was lost, stowed as it had been in one of the Belstaff’s pockets, but perhaps he could activate his phone’s torch function. His hands, tied as they were and hampered in their range by the angle of his arms through the slats, were able to more or less roam along his back, aided by some careful shifting and lifting of his shoulders.


Sherlock closed his eyes (a ludicrous action given the circumstances) to better concentrate on locating his mobile. Where the heck had he put the thing as he fled the flat? If he’d stashed it inside his jacket any effort at retrieving it was futile but just as often he stowed it in one of his trouser pockets. His senses were off due to the constant assault on his sight, smell and hearing, but he should be able to feel the phone’s rigid corners pressing against his thigh or behind.


He discerned every thread of combed cotton brushing his skin, beneath the rougher weave of his twill wool trousers. Two single pennies sat uselessly in the right-hand corner of his left back pocket but otherwise each pocket was empty.


The realisation dawned slowly on him, together with a picture of his phone’s actual location, which suddenly shone bright as day before his eyes. It was back at Baker Street, lying on the kitchen table, languishing beneath a thick layer of exploded human liver.


***


An hour into tackling the mess, John was no closer to figuring the precise makeup of the brownish sludge. The stench wafting into his nostrils was one of decay, with a worrying hint of dead meat. He’d just cleaned his new Bond DVD, mourning the evening he’d planned for himself where he would sit watching the film instead of wiping the jacket. The alternative, just bin the damned thing and let Sherlock fork out for a new one, had made a brief appearance, and been discarded.


By now John’s anger had dissipated and he was beginning to worry. Unless Sherlock had lighted upon a crime scene in progress he would long since have returned. Sherlock may have perfected sulking on a sofa for no apparent reason into an art form and an endurance test for anyone unlucky enough to be in the vicinity of said sofa, but in general he cooled off quickly enough after the occasional flare-up. John was the one who excelled at bearing a grudge. Not that he was particularly proud of the trait.


In an attempt at stifling his unease John mounted a full-scale attack on the mantelpiece. Three minutes in he recognised the endeavour’s utter futility. Once the idea of Sherlock in trouble and needing John’s help had settled there was no way of dislodging the notion except through an outright denial by the man himself. Swearing under his breath, John dropped the rag into the pail, stripped off the Marigolds and fished his mobile out of his jeans.


Sherlock was one of those people above personalising his ringtones. In the kitchen his mobile chimed the second John raised his thumb from the screen, switching to voicemail at the first ring. Loud and clear, Sherlock’s voice rang through the flat. ‘This is Sherlock Holmes’ voicemail. You have thirty seconds to state your case. Don’t. Be. Boring.’


As briskly efficient as the man himself. This time, John swore at full volume. After all, there were no ears but his to hear the obscenities (the left ears stashed in a Tupperware box in the fridge were long past hearing anything) and he had invaded Afghanistan.


“Yoo-hoo.” Mrs Hudson rapped her knuckles against the doorjamb and took a tentative step into the living room. “Oh dear,” she said, eyes sweeping the room and assessing the wreckage in one glance.


“I’m sorry, Mrs Hudson. My apologies,” John offered, a hot blush of mortification itching under his skin. Mrs Hudson shook her head.


“Don’t, John,” she chided, raising a finger for emphasis. “Believe me, I’ve had worse flung straight into my face by my husband’s so-called business companions. No, I was hoping Sherlock would have returned by now to help you…” She trailed off and trudged up to the sliding doors for a closer look.


“Oh dear,” she repeated, and then, “I may have overdone the shouting a bit but I was absolutely furious. First that dreadful noise, and just as I was sitting down for a spot of tea and Doctors. I almost broke my cup and it’s my second-best one, from my Nan, you know. Somehow I was sure that silly boy had done himself in and then when I came upstairs and saw all this mess…” Here Mrs Hudson shuddered and if John hadn’t known her for the world’s most guileless landlady he would have sworn she had picked up some of her youngest tenant’s flair for dramatics. “…And him acting like it were nothing out of the ordinary, I just blew a fuse.”


“Please, I understand,” John assured her quickly. “Your response didn’t differ from mine or anyone else’s, I suppose. It is… rather distressing, to say the least.”


“Indeed. And the pong. It’s worse than the sewers. What on earth has he been up to?”


“Haven’t the faintest,” John admitted. “But more importantly, where has he gone off to? He left over two hours ago and I just found he left his phone in the kitchen. You know that thing is all but surgically attached to his hand so I’m starting to worry.”


“Oh, dear.” Their landlady’s expression indicated she’d grasped the perturbing implications of John’s discovery. “Know what, love?” Her face brightened. “I’m sure he went over to Bart’s to harry that nice girl. What’s her name, Molly something?”


“Molly Hooper,” John replied automatically. “Actually, that’s a good suggestion.” He swiped his thumb over his contact list. Mrs Hudson widened her eyes and blinked meaningfully at him.


“Molly Hooper,” Molly answered at the third ring, sounding a bit breathless. As Sherlock’s presence generally had a destabilising effect on Molly’s respiratory system John concluded Mrs Hudson’s intuition had been just right. His relief dwindled as fast as it had arrived before Molly’s blazing enthusiasm at the chance of some nonsensical prattle rather than filling mind-numbingly dull spreadsheets for the NHS’ red tape circular-filing system. With Sherlock around those spreadsheets wouldn’t be on display but slumbering somewhere deep inside the recesses of her computer.


“Is he making you ask for another liver now?” she rambled on suspiciously.


This question provided John with plenty of answers he didn’t think he wanted. The substance still coating his Doctor Who DVD collection acquired an even more repellent aspect while Molly continued, “I told him I won’t do it and I meant it. Not if he doesn’t come up with a better method to cook the books. Debby Mortimer threw me a funny look yesterday morning. She can’t prove anything, I’m careful, but I’m not risking my position, not even for him.”


Her voice had grown slightly hysterical during the last sentence. John’s stomach clenched in its familiar reflex of pity and exasperation. Molly was clever, could be fun, and was easily the best pathologist at Bart’s, which explained why Sherlock had laid the charm on her like some otherworldly gorgeous prince straight out of a gothic horror story. Why couldn’t the poor besotted woman grasp her infatuation was wasted on a man whose mind was too trained at dissecting mysteries into tiny unimaginative elements to succumb to the nebulous, unscientific intricacies of romance?


Any other time John would have disentangled himself with as much tact as he could muster, but right now he was too worried about Sherlock’s whereabouts to concern himself with social niceties. He rang off with a brief apology, hoping against hope the conversation wouldn’t leave Molly upset and in a state of heightened anxiety.


A purple-clad arm shoved a mug of tea under his nose. “Thanks,” he mumbled and took a fortifying swig. Of course it was laced with just the right amount of milk and sugar.


Mrs Hudson was cradling her own mug close to her bosom. “Oh dear, that didn’t go too well,” she commiserated. “Poor girl.”


“Yes, well. You know Sherlock.”


“Oh, yes love. But she seems like a sensible girl and the way he treated her at Christmas. Now, in my time—”


“I’d better try Greg.”


John’s brusque interruption didn’t faze Mrs Hudson at all. “You do that, John,” she said and planted her behind in John’s chair in eager expectation of developments.


John checked his watch. At this hour, unless he was acting in his general role as crime scene arbiter for team Sherlock against the Anderson Donovan team, the DI was most likely in the midst of his perpetual war with the IN tray skulking on the right-hand corner of his desk. The man kept ruthless working hours. Small wonder his marriage was a shambles.


“New Scotland Yard, Lestrade speaking.” Greg picked up at the second chime in a tired voice, against a vague whisper of shuffling papers. Not with Sherlock at a crime scene then, nor locked in a battle of wills over NSY territory and the contents of the evidence room. All too ready to listen to John vent his worry and the few lingering tendrils of anger.


“God, sounds like a mess,” he grunted, once John petered to a halt. “And he just flounced off, did he? Typical.” The tiniest trace of a smidge of admiration trickled down the line. Longing almost.


“Well.” It was easy to imagine Greg stroking his jaw as he contemplated the scene laid out before him. “Normally I’d say His Nibs can perfectly well fend for himself and we both know he can sulk for Britain if he has a mind to but he’s unlikely to do so at one of his boltholes and you say he’s been gone over two hours now?”


“Boltholes?” John enquired disbelievingly. During their acquaintance Sherlock had broken John’s preconceived notions of life in twenty-first century London time and again but boltholes sounded suspiciously like the ploy a third-rate spy novel author would fall back on to sustain a cock-and-bull plot.


“Yeah, he has several, nothing comfy, mind. Not like that sofa of yours. Now lemme…oh, bugger.” The rush of an avalanche filled John’s ear. He sucked in a breath in sympathy as he imagined Greg’s office, never the tidiest of spots, submerged beneath a drift of disrupted files.


“Great,” Greg sighed. “That’s a night’s work down the drain. But I’ve got what I was looking for, a list of every person who might bear Sherlock a grudge released from jail this month.”


“You think…”


“It’s been known to happen in the past. Some people don’t take kindly to Her Majesty’s hospitality, and that’s putting it mildly. The Met protects its officers of course, but I keep an eye out for Sherlock myself. But I don’t think… no—”


The DI had obviously flicked through papers while speaking and seemed to have reached the end of his list. “I could check the last half year or so but I don’t remember a name jumping off the page. And it will take some time. I’m still arms deep in the Camden cannibal paperwork but he was a loner so…”


“The Camden cannibal,” John asked, aghast, recalling the diminutive baker, innocuously covered in flour from head to toe, whose pie stuffing definitely hadn’t met the Food Standards Agency minimum requirements regarding health and safety.


“You’re not the only one with a knack for snazzy blog titles,” Greg sniggered, only to turn serious again. “How about you come over and check the CCTV footage. I know Sherlock’s hacked into the system and he could watch it at home but I don’t suppose you…”


“No,” John replied. “Sorry, haven’t the foggiest. I tried ‘dadadada’ once, reckoning it suited the snotty genius act and the thing actually snorted at me in that way he has. How that’s even possible I don’t want to know. And I do have my own laptop.”


“Of course. Well, you could also try his brother. From what I reckon he’s the one controlling the cameras. Way faster than trundling all the way to the Yard. Besides…” Greg stopped meaningfully and the silence alerted John to the thrumming of rain against 221B’s windows. A swift glance revealed it was cats and dogs outside. The prospect of venturing into such weather held as much appeal as scrubbing particles of exploded liver from kitchen cupboards, especially without the aid of the imperious, cab-summoning arm at his side.


If John brought in Mycroft, Sherlock was likely to cut him for a week. But at least he would be doing so from the confines of their sofa, where John could keep an eye on him. You’re an idiot, John told himself in Sherlock’s voice, he managed perfectly fine without you before you met.


“He’ll never let you forget it,” Greg forewarned sombrely.


“I hope so,” John answered.


***

Last edited by Schmiezi (December 26, 2016 7:13 pm)


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I still believe that love conquers all!

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"Quick, man, if you love me."
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December 26, 2016 7:11 pm  #12


Re: Secret Santa Fics 2016 - Read them here

Okay. Think. Here he was, cable tied to a chair several feet below street level. Whoever had put him here had an extensive knowledge of the sewer system, for the absence of light leaking through grates or manholes proved he wasn’t stuck in any old conduit running straight below the surface. Either that or it was night. The street lamps’ ambient glow would be hardly strong enough to penetrate the system.


Not that any of it mattered. What was important was that no matter how vigorously he wriggled and squirmed the cable around his wrists didn’t budge so much as a tenth of a milimetre, and by now his toes were on the point of succumbing to hypothermia. Better accept he’d never manage to free his hands and start finding a different approach to extracting himself from this smelly prison.


Planting his left foot as firmly on the floor as the plastic tied just above his ankle and the slippery tile allowed him, he tried to hitch his right leg up along that of the chair. With the aid of his calf as a measuring instrument Sherlock had already determined the chair leg itself ran straight so – provided he managed to move his leg at all – he wasn’t in danger of running his ankle aground at an impossible height which would add greatly to his general discomfort.


Honing all his senses in on a small slice of his body he pulled with all his might in an attempt to see how much leeway the cable tie afforded him. His plan was to slid the ties down over the bottom of the chair legs. After taking his other leg through the same procedure Sherlock pondered his next move. Standing on one foot while pulling his leg free seemed highly inadvisable. With both legs tied he had very little room for manoeuvring and the floor was slick with a film of unsavoury debris and lichens that thrived in the foetid darkness; every flushed toilet literally depositing food at their doorstep. If he fell…


Sherlock considered attempting to hop to the side. A lot of London’s sewage tunnels had a catwalk running along their sides for the convenience of the sanitation workers. The catwalks also narrowed the channel and increased the flow of the water and sewage. Some of these catwalks towered quite high above the smelly river below them and Sherlock’s career as an escape artist would greatly benefit from their presence in his immediate environs. Which, given his current predicament and the conclusion he’d long since reached that his opponent may be a reprehensible sadist but was also quite clever, was almost definitely – he estimated the chances against at 99.23% – not the case.


Oh, for God’s sake, what was he dawdling for? He’d braved more unpleasant prospects without batting an eyelid. The squid trawler cocaine smuggling case, for instance, which had required jumping straight into a cargo hold filled to the brim with freshly gutted squid.


Pulling as much of the squalid air into his lungs as he could, Sherlock pressed his mouth shut, tipped his chin close to his chest, pushed off with his feet to launch the chair’s front legs into the air, and toppled over backwards.


***


Mycroft answered his phone so quickly John wondered whether he’d been expecting the call all along.


Strangely, he retained a statesmanlike quiet after John had explained his motive for initiating contact. John raised an eyebrow, which got him one of Mrs Hudson’s in return, and was about to disconnect and redial when he thought he heard the soft snick of a door closing, followed by the loud slap of leather soles on wooden flooring.


“John,” came Mycroft’s voice next, all smooth and warm. “You caught me in the Diogenes’ reading room. What time did my brother leave the house?”


John told him.


“Hmm. I’ll have someone look into it. You’ll hear from me. Goodbye.”


“Wait,” John shouted, unprepared for such an offhand dismissal, even from Mycroft, compared to whom the Lord Protector himself must have been the embodiment of frivolous discourtesy. “How long will it take you?”


“Five minutes maximum,” Mycroft said and ended the call.


“Great.” John threw his mobile a disgruntled glare, wishing the device would magically convey his massive displeasure to the uppity git who still chose to believe John’s sole function in life was keeping his baby brother from stirring up trouble.


“Oh dear,” Mrs Hudson commented pointedly.


“It’s fine,” John hastened to assure her. “I just resent the hell out of him.”


“Yes, I can see why you would,” Mrs Hudson replied mildly. “But he truly loves our Sherlock as much as we do.”


“I don’t—” John began before dismissing the rest of the sentence as futile. The notion of her tenants conducting a passionate affair straight above her head simply held too much appeal for Mrs Hudson. Despite her marriage’s gruesome ending she remained a true-blue romantic at heart, quite apart from the ongoing contest with Mrs Turner. Her pair might be married but Mrs Hudson’s pair was more obviously devoted to each other. And in a way, John conceded, he and Sherlock were closer than many a married couple he’d encountered in life.


“Perhaps the Detective Inspector is right and someone has a grudge against Sherlock,” Mrs Hudson proposed. “Someone they forgot to lock up. You know how Sherlock is always complaining…”


Her trail of reasoning was interrupted by the shrill noise of John’s mobile. It was Mycroft. John checked his watch. Two minutes had passed since Mycroft rang off. His minions must be particularly keen to please him today.


“John,” Mycroft breezed in straightaway. “Sherlock entered a vehicle on Park Road eight minutes after he left 221B. We traced the vehicle to a car park at Bowling Green Lane. So far it hasn’t emerged again. My people are checking the garage as we speak.”


“But…”


“Ah, excuse me, there’s an update. – Yes, as I feared the empty vehicle has just been discovered and it seems some of the car park’s cameras were tampered with. Another aspect we’ll examine. Sadly, my people’s investigation will be hampered by the considerable lapse in time allowed to pass since Sherlock’s disappearance.”


There was no need for Mycroft to add ‘by you’ for John to hear it loud and clear. Valiantly staunching his irritation he suggested, “Shall I come over to Bowling Green Lane then?”


“Good heavens, no,” came Mycroft’s instant dismissal. ‘How would that profit our search? Besides, I’m sending someone over to clean up the mess my irksome younger brother imposed upon you and the excellent Mrs Hudson. I’d rather you rummage through the notes for that amusing blog of yours for any clue, however tiny and seemingly insignificant, that will help us uncover who’s responsible for Sherlock’s abduction and where they’ve taken him.”


“Abduction?”


“I’ll have the footage sent to you and will leave you to your own conclusions,” Mycroft answered in the weary tones of a man whose low expectations of the average human being’s intelligence had taken yet another plunge. “Do call if you think I’ve interpreted the material incorrectly.”


Of bloody soddingcourse Mycroft’s reading of the images was spot-on. John and Mrs Hudson watched helplessly as their friend, under the mistaken assumption he was dealing with his meddlesome elder sibling, confronted the sleek black vehicle one moment and disappeared inside it the next.


“Oh dear, the silly boy. What do we do now?” Mrs Hudson asked, hands fluttering up and down in apprehension.


“Now we follow Mycroft’s suggestion,” John replied grimly, unearthing his notebooks from the uncoordinated heap tottering on a corner of their desk. Thanks to the saint guarding the average blogger’s grinding toil through the ages, the pile was located just outside human liver bomb spray range.


“What exactly am I looking for?” Mrs Hudson was already beating a retreat to the comparative cleanliness of the sofa.


“Anything that…” The doorbell rudely interrupted John’s explanation. They shared a look – the mix of hope and apprehension on Mrs Hudson’s face a faithful depiction of the mingled sentiments churning in John’s chest – and then John was setting a new record for tackling seventeen steps and yanking a front door open in one go.


The presence waiting on their doorstep made John blink and check whether his left hand was indeed wrapped around 221B’s doorknob and not around the TARDIS’ door handle. The sight of Hilda Ogden staring up at him from beneath her trademark curlers, half-hidden beneath a headscarf whose hideousness outshone the faint glow of Baker Street’s street lamps easily, teletransported John straight back to his parents’ living room, and the black and white telly on which the woman had presided like a working class Queen.


“Hello luv,” the spectre greeted him in a tone that suggested a mutual acquaintance. Jesus fucking Christ on a bicycle, she even sported a pinny. “Mr Holmes sent me for an emergency cleaning job.”


“Mr Holmes?” John repeated, incredulous. Every single employee of Mycroft’s John had encountered since he and Sherlock started flatsharing filed through his mind’s eye, each of them decrying the frankly outrageous notion this…menial labourer would be one of their number. A loud rattle behind the woman drew John’s attention and he gawped at the pair of men, suited with the sartorial elegance that marked them as Mycroftian minions to even his unobservant eye, struggling to lift what looked like a professional cleaning trolley from the boot of a sleek black car. The curlers on top of ‘Hilda’s’ head bobbed as she threw him a withering look that would have done her alleged employer proud and convinced John she was actually speaking the truth.


“Upstairs, innit?” The woman swept John aside in genuine Holmesian fashion, effectively reducing him to a speck of dust imprudently loitering in the path of her broom and thereby strengthening her declaration.


“Dr Watson,” the men greeted him respectfully as they followed in her wake with the trolley, lugging it up the steps between them.


John shut the door and scaled the stairs in the men’s wake, already dreading the scene his eyes would meet once he entered the flat.


To his surprise and relief Mrs Hudson and ‘Hilda’ appeared to have clicked immediately.


“...Got a soft spot for his brother,” Mrs Hudson was saying. “Now dear, they stock their cleaning supplies in the cupboard to the left of the sink but I don’t know…”


“Never mind, luv. I always bring my own. The scenes I’ve clapped eyes on. Not that I can spill the score. Mr Holmes made me sign a paper.” A snort conveyed the woman’s opinion on the Official Secrets Act. “I could do with a cuppa, though.”


“Of course. Oh, John—” Mrs Hudson redirected the conversation smoothly. “I think I found something. A case you haven’t written up yet. In your notes it says Sherlock had words with the Detective Inspector.”


“They often do,” John said.


“Yes dear, who wouldn’t? But this was special. Sherlock insisted the police had arrested the wrong people, small fry, while letting the brains walk free.”


“Oh, that case. God yes, I remember. That stench—”


“Well dear,” Mrs Hudson said in an impatient tone, clearly wondering why he was still loitering at the premises. Sherlock, naturally, would have been out the door like a shot. Unfortunately, for all the months they’d spent together Sherlock’s genius still hadn’t rubbed off on John.


“You might have a point,” he stalled for time. “Problem is, I don’t have a map. We didn’t really need one, Sherlock had the whole system stashed somewhere in that Mind Palace of his.”


“Oh, really?” This information seemed to daunt Mrs Hudson for a second, but then her face brightened. “Of course. Even in a palace there’s bound to be a loo. Are the taps gold, you think?”


“No, it’s all brass,” ‘Hilda’ butted in.


Thrown off balance by yet another outstanding example of their landlady’s singular line of reasoning, John buried his nose inside his notebook, pretending to read up on what he’d jotted down during the case rather than trying to sustain a serious conversation. This case had been one of their first, unfolding just two weeks after Sherlock had arrived just in time to save Sarah from a thoroughly nasty and unromantic ending by a pointed arrow aimed straight at her heart.


Sadly, it had also been one of those cases where Sherlock’s mental associations and deductions had followed each other with great leaps. They had flown from his mouth as inevitably as wisdom from a mythical fountain of knowledge. To the ears of mere mortals like John Hamish Watson the blurb outdid the Delphic oracle for obscurity. John had counted on Sherlock pointing out the details he had missed – which in this case amounted to about ninety-five percent of everything that had happened to them over the last few days. By then he’d learned there were few things Sherlock relished more than taking someone by the hand and guiding them along the trail his mind had shown him. Until Mike introduced them Sherlock simply never had met anyone willing to undertake the effort, even Lestrade, who certainly reaped the rewards.


But that case had ended badly, with Sherlock maintaining the Met hadn’t arrested the biggest culprit and the Yarders triumphant with closing down the largest heroin-smuggling enterprise ever run in the UK, and their catch of a large number of thoroughly hardened thugs with outrageously silly aliases. When John attempted to comfort Sherlock with the observation that thanks to his efforts a lot of extremely wicked individuals would grow old in the nick Sherlock’s lower lip curled in disdain and he locked himself in his room. Three days later he emerged, dressed to the nines and absolutely refusing to discuss either the case or his response to its outcome.


“They’re idiots, even Lestrade,” was his only comment and at John’s request for further clarification on what exactly they’d been doing before Sherlock’s temporary seclusion he took his violin and began sawing at it so savagely John actually checked on the landing whether Mycroft had popped up unannounced.


John turned the page and felt his eyes widen. Apparently acting as a pawn in a master criminal’s sick game, being snared in a dominatrix’s recreational activities and battling monstrous hounds influenced his mental capacities adversely rather than stimulating them, for he’d completely forgotten jotting down these maps. The brownish coffee smudge refreshed John’s memory. Half-frozen, they’d struck up a temporary camp at Lestrade’s office for revitalisation purposes. Accompanied by derisive sniffs from the corner where Sherlock perched like a gigantic crow with eyes glued to his phone, Lestrade had produced a map of London’s bowels and tacked it next to the city map adorning his cubicle in order to retrace the gang’s movements across London aboveground and underneath. For the criminals’ thorough knowledge of the pathways hidden beneath London’s surface had been the vital key to their success, allowing them to materialise out of nowhere and literally vanish from the face of the earth.


They’d trafficked their harmful wares along one of the Thames’ minor tributaries, long since enclosed and transformed into one of London’s sewer system’s major components. Convinced he was onto something, John fumbled with his mobile for Google maps.


“Have you found something, dear?” Mrs Hudson enquired but her voice sounded far-off. Which wasn’t at all surprising, as it had to travel aeons of sudden understanding.


“You’re a marvel, Mrs H,” John breathed, jumping to his feet.


Mrs Hudson tittered and presented one of Mycroft’s lackey’s with a mug of tea. “Do you want a biscuit with it? Mycroft always declines.”


“No time for that,” John decreed, snatching the mug from the startled man’s fingers. “We’ve got a consulting detective to rake up.”


Dear God, he prayed, please, let him be alive. Please Sherlock, don’t be dead.


***





Fully benumbed as they were from an enforced submersion in dubious, barely tepid liquid, Sherlock’s feet never prepared him for the shock of the chilly, swift river that threatened to close over his head. Panic almost had him open his mouth, whether for a scream of agony or a plea for help that wouldn’t arrive, he hardly knew. Not that it mattered. Its only outcome would be swallowing a huge gulp of wastewater.


Something undefined and insalubrious bumped into his right cheekbone in a gentle reminder he was supposed to wriggle his feet free from the chair legs. Suppressing the urge to gag he jiggled his right leg until he encountered the merest hint of leeway his captors had unwittingly granted. Now all he had to do was lift his leg and move it – smoothly, gently, nice and easy does it – forward along the chair leg, guiding the cable tie as patiently as a mother accompanying a toddler to the playground.


At long last he felt first the heel of his shoe and then his whole leg slip free.


Thank God.


Profound relief skittered wildly through his head, momentarily suppressing the warning signals his lungs transmitted that his supplies of oxygen were running dangerously low.


Focus, Sherlock, he instructed himself in what for a hysterical instant he mistook for Mycroft’s reproving tones. Irritation with his infernal sibling – if only it were his fat arse squiggling in the foul mire currently attempting to swirl up Sherlock’s nose – gave his left leg the final shove it needed.


Both legs free, Sherlock grounded his shoe soles against the slippery bottom as firmly as the thin leather permitted and, fighting the chair, managed to push his body into a standing position. Heaving glorious life-sustaining breaths of unsavoury air deep into his lungs he tottered on his legs like a new-born foal but managed not to lose his hard-fought balance.


Filthy, dishevelled and shivering, his present position was nevertheless infinitely better than the last one – or the one before that. Briefly, Sherlock considered trying his hand (or rather, his whole body) at demolishing the chair by ramming it into a wall but decided such impulse was stupid and definitely below him.


The only sensible approach to his quandary was slugging a course along the pipeline until he encountered a shaft of light falling down a grate. There all he had to do was shout his lungs hoarse for someone to hear him and have the sense to ring the emergency services, who would then proceed to extricate him from his ignominious position.


Insupportable.


Sherlock gritted his teeth. All too eagerly his mind conjured an unwelcome, noxious jumble of images: John’s dismayed honest and open face, Mrs Hudson tutting reprovingly and offering a mug of tea with a rock cake, Mycroft’s cold reproachful glare, Lestrade shaking his head in disbelief, Donovan sniggering maliciously. Bellowing in frustration Sherlock propelled his feet backwards, gaining speed for exactly one quarter of a second before the chair legs smashed into – something, a wall presumably – which launched him neatly across the width of the tunnel. He nearly tripped over his toes and smacked his forehead hard against what he assumed was the other wall. A sharp encrustation that was nonetheless slippery and damp and profoundly unpleasant grazed his skin. Blood seeped into his brows and trickled into his eyes. If he hadn’t already been surrounded by an inky blackness the blood would have blinded him.


So much for the senseless approach.


Gnashing his teeth again Sherlock shook his head, righted himself and started on the long slog through the darkness.


***


One thing Mycroft Holmes definitely had going for him was a seemingly infinite store of eminently cooperative assistants, John pondered as one of the patented sleek black cars hurtled him along London’s streets in hushed luxury.


Agents Peters and Peterson had perked up considerably at John’s order to drop him off at the Bowling Green Lane garage. They were men attuned to danger and clearly sensed John was a surer means of providing them with excitement than passing their evening watching Mycroft’s personal char scrubbing at 221B’s surfaces, no matter the amount of weird and frankly alarming trappings she thus brought to light.


“Just one more minute, Dr Watson,” Peters – or was it Peterson? – spoke up from the front passenger seat. “Mr Holmes’ PA just texted. The auxiliary forces have arrived.”


“Good,” John said. Any pangs of conscience regarding his engagement of Mycroft’s people had long since succumbed to anguish over his friend’s fate. Contrary to the association with some inane teen pop band their name inspired, the Bunsen Boys had consisted of a vicious lot of criminals who held the lives of others all too cheap. What they would do to the man responsible for the lion’s share of the gang mouldering in prison – and John pitied the other inmates – he didn’t dare to imagine. In Afghanistan he’d run into too many examples of the atrocities man was capable of.


Sheets of plastic partitioned off a corner of the car park’s lowest level. In front of the plastic wall ‘Anthea’ awaited them, highlighted like a beacon, fingers dancing gracefully over her mobile. John hitched an eyebrow, which she duly ignored.


“Hello John,” she greeted him, her attention fully focused on the screen lighting her face. “Long time no see.”


Eyes still fixed on her Blackberry, she lifted one of the plastic curtains and stepped inside, motioning with her head for John and agents Peters and Person to follow her.


“Nice seeing you too,” John answered in the most sarcastic tone in his repertoire. He might as well have commented to the fairies flitting about in Regent’s Park or the man in the moon. ‘Anthea’ didn’t bat so much as a single eyelash. To be fair, she probably dealt with worse on a minute-by-minute basis.


Perhaps John’s training at Sherlock’s hands had been lacking in essential aspects. After months of flatsharing with an eccentric genius, John considered himself pretty much inured to the general madness that sprang from interacting with the Holmes brothers. Still, he batted not one but several eyelashes at the sight that greeted his eyes. At ‘Anthea’s’ daintily shod feet rested a pile of gear adequate for outfitting a spelunking expedition to the South Pole. Lined up against the far wall, a squad of Mycroft’s minions stood at attention. Each of the men’s smart trouser legs ended in a – admittedly seriously stylish – wellie and a screamingly yellow builder’s helmet hid their pricey haircuts. Fluorescent Hi-Vis jerkins completed the outfit.


“What is this?” John asked, completely flabbergasted.


“Mr Holmes deemed it advisable you lead his younger sibling’s extraction,” “Anthea’ informed him over the top of her mobile. “He’s unexpectedly up to his nose in a smelly affair concerning the Norwegian prime minister or he would be here to oversee the operation in person.”


Pulling on his wellies (of bloody course they fit like a glove) John thanked the Norwegian prime minister for being such a convenient pain in Mycroft Holmes’ arse. He quickly followed the impulse with a flare of sympathy for the unlucky man or woman – his grasp of Norwegian politics was a close match to Sherlock’s familiarity with British cabinet ministers – bold or stupid enough to cross the path of the British government.


“Isn’t this setup a bit over the top?” he commented, donning his orange jacket and already dreading Sherlock’s massive scowl of indignation.


“Nothing is excessive in Mr Holmes’ opinion when it comes to his baby brother,” ‘Anthea’ replied, carefully screening her own thoughts on the subject behind her Blackberry.


“That’s exactly the point, isn’t it?”


The remark’s bitterness had ‘Anthea’ raise her gaze from her mobile for the first time since John had entered the garage. Her eyes travelled up and down his form, dissecting the various parts with the cold assessment of a butcher estimating a loin of pork hanging from a hook before dismissing him altogether and returning to the infinitely more interesting content of her Blackberry. With her right hand she produced a gun, seemingly out of nowhere, and proffered it to John.


“He trusts you brought your gun. If not, please accept this one with Mr Holmes’ compliments.”


“Nah, I’ve got it,” John replied, swearing under his breath. Of bloody sodding course Mycroft knew about the gun. Did the man really wonder why Sherlock might resent the hell out of his elder brother or did he consider himself above such puerile concerns?


“Here, Dr Watson.” Agent Peterson – or was it Peters? – thrust an unwieldy box at John. “Cave radio,” he explained. “In the tunnels our mobiles won’t work. May I suggest we work in teams? Peterson and I would be honoured to assist you personally, sir.”


“Oh yes, of course.” John fiddled with the knobs and handed the box back to Peters. “You’re head of communications.” Peters looked exceedingly pleased with this easily accomplished promotion. “We do have maps, I suppose?”


“Yes, Dr Watson.” Peterson had accepted a yellow manila folder from ‘Anthea’ and was handing out booklets of plastic-laminated A4 sheets that contained a map of the whole London sewage system.


“Good.” John nodded his approval, spun on his heel and appraised the line of patiently waiting special agents for whom he was now directly responsible.


“Gentlemen. Thank you for helping me look for my friend, Sherlock Holmes,” he began. “Unlike him, I’m not a genius so there’s a high chance we’re chasing the wrong lead and won’t find anything down there. But if I’m right I want you to remember we’re dealing with the remnants or a newly resurrected organisation of dangerous criminals who’ve stopped at nothing in the past. We’ll work in teams and you’ll radio Peters here immediately if you don’t trust the situation. No violence unless absolutely necessary to save yourself or Sherlock. Any questions?” His gaze travelled over the men, who all shook their head. “Right, let’s roll.”


During his speech ‘Anthea’ had opened a door on the left. Murky, dank vapours wafted through the opening and mingled with the garage’s equally unappetising odours of gasoline and exhaust fumes. Moisture beaded on the door’s steel coating, John saw, as he marched past it onto a tiny platform suspended over the tunnel, from the end of which a ladder ran to the bottom.


“Good luck,” ‘Anthea’ bade him farewell but John didn’t heed her. He was too focussed on not slipping from the ladder’s rungs, which were bedecked with some kind of moist algae Sherlock would no doubt have declared ‘fascinating’. John merely considered it a nuisance. Once his feet hit bottom he felt infinitely better. He breathed in relief and coughed into his hand straight after. The air was foul, even worse than he remembered from his last visit.


“Dr Watson,” Peters said and John retreated to make room for the other men descending the ladder as quickly and stealthily as a herd of mountain goats traversing an Alpine summit. The last man shut the door and darkness as deep and impenetrable as a tomb closed over them. John felt for the lamp on top of his helmet.


“Two men into every side tunnel, starting with those at the end of our line. Radio your findings and go back to the main tunnel if there’s a branching or a dead end. And remember, safety first.”


He started plodding down the stream swirling around his wellies. The beam of his head torch skipped ahead of him like a fairy, guiding them along. John huffed at the ridiculous notion. The movement swung the beam along the ceiling and lit the encrustations hanging there, making their crystals glitter like a myriad Milky Ways rolled into one. It was oddly beautiful in its own way.


They passed the first side tunnel. John checked the map. So many tunnels deviating in every direction, the enterprise felt as hopeless and futile as combing through every back alley and mews in Greater London. And Sherlock might not even be down here.


As if to punish such negative musings that second, the floor gave way beneath John’s right foot. Peters’ fingers circled his arm just in time to spare John a humiliating – and definitely malodorous – encounter with the slop eddying around their legs and the distasteful shapes bobbing on its surface.


***

 


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I still believe that love conquers all!

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December 26, 2016 7:12 pm  #13


Re: Secret Santa Fics 2016 - Read them here

Sherlock reasoned it must be night. It had to be, it was the most cheering explanation for the continuing darkness. Unless he was struggling in a loop – round and round the sewer like a bedraggled teddy bear. Some parts of the system ran deep below the surface and lacked a direct link to the streets above. But it didn’t feel like he’d taken any turns.


He groaned in annoyance. What he would have liked was to shout his vexation but silence served his chances of survival better than noise. Until he chanced upon that elusive, liberating grate, that was. Then he’d create the biggest racket since the Fleet River was first covered.


But by now the complete blackness was starting to work on Sherlock’s nerves. Early on – what felt like hours ago, but with his hands tied behind his back he couldn’t check the tritium-painted hands on his watch for confirmation of the assessment – he’d tried dragging the chair along the wall on his right, like a modified white cane. That way he’d discern any turn-offs, and perhaps, by matching the info thus gathered to the map in his head, determine which part of the system he was navigating.


Reality soon clashed with theoretical ingenuity. Holding the chair aloft at an angle with his hands tied behind his back quickly proved a challenge. Doing so while stumbling through perpetual darkness, testing the slick tiles beneath his soles before planting one foot and raising the other for the next step quickly rendered it impossible. The second time Sherlock nearly face-planted in the muck he gave up and released the slats. The chair now trailed after him, as uncooperative as a pampered dog averse to braving the piss-poor weather for his outing and hauled along by a seething master.


Seething being an adequate summation of that contingent of emotions currently not freaking out over the continuing absence of the tiniest glitter of light. A horrible idea flitted through his mind. What if his abductors had blinded him and then left him here to stumble in this foul-smelling limbo until he expired? Sherlock huffed in annoyance. Frightening, actually, how quickly disorientation reduced one to a shivering, gibbering mess without a single coherent thought in one’s head.


Not gibbering though, dear Lord, please no, not gibbering.


Concentration off-line, Sherlock lost his footing. He teetered on one unstable leg for an instant, felt it buckle, and attempted rooting himself to the floor by digging in his other foot, which landed on something squishy that gave way inevitably and send him toppling forwards. Bone-crunching agony shot through his kneecaps at their collision with the sewer bed. Slimy liquid crept up his thighs. His bare fingers brushed something undefinable, which his sense memory identified as a wet pelt . The body beneath was cold and dead.


And then he was gibbering.


***


John checked his watch. Four a.m. So far they’d searched about twelve square kilometres of pipe. Not even one hundredth of the whole system, John realised, resolutely squashing the trepidation the realisation invoked, like a huge rolling wave of bile surging up inside his chest.


Mycroft’s men were working beautifully, like clever, fully automated machinery drilled to function independently of human overseers. Peters was constantly passing forth information to Peterson, who kept score of the different teams’ progress on his map.


Around them the system’s arteries unrolled, like pathways in a poisoned labyrinth through which John travelled; a computer game warrior, his sword drawn to slay the lurking dragon and never recognising the real danger lay hidden in those neat rows of hedges. The rotten air he drew into his nostrils and which clung clammily to the bare skin of his face and hands, combined with the shimmering walls and the steadily swirling ooze they were wading through, didn’t help with getting a grip on himself.


“Dr Watson, sir,” Peters spoke up behind him that moment.


Saved by the bell of banality John pivoted straightaway, lowering his head so his light wouldn’t blind the man. “Yes, Peters.”


“It’s agent Davids, sir. His mate heard splashing in a tunnel branching off from theirs.”


Hope surged in John’s chest, immediately replaced by responsibility for the lives of Mycroft’s men. Chances were they’d located Sherlock but there was an equal likelihood Davids and Co were about to meet the Bunsen Boys, with possible disastrous consequences.


“Tell them to halt immediately, take cover if possible and cut their light,” John instructed. “They can resume their search if everything remains quiet for the next five minutes.”


He waited until Peters had forwarded the command before addressing Peterson.


“Where is Davids located? And what’s his mate’s name?”


“It’s Davidson, sir. And they’re currently walking this section.” Without the slightest hesitation Peterson’s forefinger pinpointed one of the first side tunnels they’d passed. It was also one of the longest, clearly some major artery connecting the Fleet in which they were standing with another important line of the system.


“Damn,” John muttered, eyes flitting in widening circles around Peterson’s digit. They couldn’t have been situated in a more inopportune place for a swift approach if they’d tried. Desperate, John searched for a bypass – with Sherlock a convenient alley always appeared, allowing them to shave off minutes of time and apprehend their culprit when they least suspected it – but the map didn’t obligingly reveal a handy shortcut no matter how fiercely he eyeballed the sheet.


Behind him the radio crackled. As Peters listened, annoyance crept over his face.


“They’re forging ahead,” he said. “Of course they would. Davidson again.” Three minutes had passed since he’d relayed John’s order.


“Give me that,” John ordered, gesturing towards the radio. Peters handed him the device, clipped the earphones over John’s helmet, and activated the microphone.


“Davids!” Bellowing in his angry Captain Watson voice helped loosen the tight valve sealing his chest . “This is Dr Watson speaking, your commanding officer for the duration of this operation. You and Davidson extinguish your lights immediately and start retreating. Over.”


Peters flicked a switch and John’s ears filled with splashing sounds and a strange male voice, breathless and excited.


“Sir, apologies, sir. But we’ve found Mr Holmes’ brother. He’s unharmed. Over.”


Peters’ fingers slipped, flipping the switch. Impatiently, John waved aside the man’s apology as he barked into the microphone: “Can I speak to him? Over.”


“John?” Waves of relief washed over John upon hearing his friend’s emollient baritone.


“Yes Sherlock, it’s John,” he shouted into the microphone, batting at Peters’ interfering fingers. “Are you all right? Over.”


“Yeah, fine. Just a little disoriented,” Sherlock replied. The exhaustion in his voice told a different story but that was a minor difficulty easily overcome by lots of tea and Mrs Hudson smothering Sherlock with biscuits and plumping their sofa cushions just the way he liked them before arranging them behind his head.


“That’s good, Sherlock.” John smiled. “That’s good. Davids and Davidson will accompany you. It’s about—” He estimated the distance. “—two and a half miles at the most. Can you do that for me, Sherlock?”


“Of course, John. I’m not some stupid idiot.” Sherlock’s indignation poured like sacred balm into John’s ears.


“Yes, you are,” John muttered under his breath, but softly, so no one would hear.


***


Except he was an idiot, Sherlock reflected as he staggered along between Mycroft’s men. The mere fact that these were Mycroft’s men was already singularly vexing. His brother would never let him hear the end of it. Another entry on Mycroft’s list of all the stupid stunts his baby brother had pulled off.


Thankfully he hadn’t been down on his knees when those lackeys found him. That would have been the ultimate humiliation. After his breakdown he’d regained his footing and plodded on along the endless arteries draining London’s wastewater. Without any actual plan – that had dissolved with the mortifying tears stinging his eyes before he blinked them away. But moving was better than silently waiting for the end to arrive. Long ago he’d vowed he’d never go down quietly. His farewell to the world would be spectacular, like jumping from a rooftop.


That idea, perhaps, had been the toughest to fight, the dread his life would be snuffed out in these sewers, like the flickering light of a dying candle with John and Mrs Hudson never knowing what had befallen him. He was not merely an idiot; he was the biggest idiot that ever lived. If only he’d kept a close eye on his Bunsen burner and not reached for that petri dish this whole disastrous rigmarole would never have ensued. Instead he’d be spending a quiet evening with John, snug in front of 221B’s mantelpiece and a crackling fire. John’s hands he imagined folded around the pages of one of those silly spy novels his friend preferred while he...


Stuck deep in the mire of bleak meditation, the loud splashing had still been unmistakable.


Wild hope had sprung up inside Sherlock’s breast, followed shortly by a stab of dread straight at his heart. What if these were the people who’d abducted him – and he did have two or three ideas about those, the Bunsen Boys figuring amongst them first and foremost. If only Lestrade had listened—


But why would his captors first abandon him, only to return later and check whether he was still in place, awaiting the grim reaper’s arrival obediently with his behind firmly stuck atop that bloody chair? Surely that was a highly illogical undertaking, even for the average human being, most of whom, as he’d discovered over the years, didn’t generally appreciate a rational approach to life. In all probability it was a work party, sent down to deal with some reported blockage.


Throwing caution to the wind Sherlock started running, the chair skipping along in eager expectation of less morose creatures for company.


“Hello,” Sherlock shouted. A faint glimmer rippled far ahead, as elusive and indifferent as the stars twinkling against the velvet backdrop of the universe. Sherlock was just about to release another cry when it fluttered and died, leaving him cloaked in dismal darkness once more.


“Oh, for Christ’s sake,” he swore and struggled on, denying hope the chance to back off again. “Please,” he called out, “I need help. You have nothing to fear. I know you’re there. I’ve seen your light. Turn it back on again. I can’t see a thing.”


Suddenly the light flared up again, a swivelling beam whose brightness blinded him when it caught his eyes.


“Jesus Christ,” he heard and then he was sagging against a vinyl-covered chest, arms circling his shoulders in support. Another figure materialised and circumnavigated Sherlock and his human prop, the ridge of a helmet digging into his shoulder as the man bent his head to pass beneath the sloping ceiling.


“Apologies, sir,” the man murmured. “Please let me help you.” Cool metal slithered between his wrists and his limp, frozen hands were deftly caught by warm fingers that efficiently massaged the life back into his blood-starved digits.

The man sustaining him shifted his grip, causing Sherlock’s cheekbone to brush the cloth of his sleeve.


Botany wool, superior quality gabardine, Mycroft minion his brain signalled and he groaned.


***


The garage corner had been converted into a temporary teashop, complete with a choice selection of pastries and a motherly attendant ready to commiserate with the men’s hardships and pass them their mugs of tea and a platter with fruitcake and the house’s best compliments.


‘Anthea’ oversaw the proceedings from beside the door, next to a nurse who presented each member of the rescuing team with a shock blanket upon resurfacing.


John thanked the man but didn’t accept one; anticipation tingled in his blood and set it afire. Sherlock would arrive in another ten minutes at the most.


“Mr Holmes convey his gratitude,” ‘Anthea’ told him, fingers flittering over her mobile’s keys. “We have a car at the ready behind the curtain.”


“I’d rather counted upon it,” John answered. “Not many cabs about at five a.m. on a Wednesday morning and it’s highly unlikely one would take us, given the stink.”


Predictably, the woman didn’t quirk an eyebrow, nor lift her gaze. She did raise a hand to brush back a lock of hair that had fallen forward and was impeding her view of the screen. So she was human after all, John mused, and not a sophisticated android designed to suit Mycroft Holmes’ eclectic tastes in personal assistants.


“Care for a cuppa, Dr Watson?” the teashop attendant asked, offering a tray with a cup and a Danish pastry. “No sugar and a dollop of milk, just the way you like it.”


“Thanks.” John accepted the fine bone china cup and the cake, not bothering to comment on her assumptions regarding the way he preferred his tea. Of course her information was accurate; John would have been disappointed if it had been otherwise.


“Sir.” Peters pressed at his elbow. “They’re coming in, sir.”


John spun towards the door. A yellow helmet bobbed into view first, soon followed by a tangled mat of sodden fur. This turned out to be Sherlock’s hair, sitting atop his head like a badly made wig. Blood ran from his forehead into his eyes and trickled across his cheekbones. His lips were blue and his whole frame shivered beneath the shock blanket the nurse wrapped immediately around his shoulders. Death warmed over probably looked healthier but his chattering teeth proved he was alive at least.


“J… J… John,” he managed and John smiled.


“Sherlock,” he said, hugging his friend. “You stupid git, you smell worse than the flat.”


“I was cleaning it, John,” Sherlock protested. “And I was going to get out. There was no need to bring in Mycroft and hand him a field day.”


“My way or the highway,” John answered. “We can lock you in again if you insist. What’s that?” he addressed the man who’d come up last, hefting a wooden kitchen chair onto the platform.


“Mr Holmes insisted we brought it along, Dr Watson, sir. Claims it is evidence.”


“Not evidence but a clue,” Sherlock corrected, haughtily. The shock blanket obviously worked like a treat at restoring his physical and mental capacities. “Chances are the wood still carries some fingerprints.”


“Perhaps. But first we’re off to the shower and Bedfordshire,” John hedged.


***


Every single window looking down on Baker Street was dark except for the pair sitting above Speedy’s awning. Light peeked between the curtains and a shadow could be discerned behind the panes of glass on the right, gliding from one side to the other like a puppet in a Wayang theatre show.


“Mrs Hudson’s still up then?” Sherlock said, clutching the shock blanket a little tighter around his throat.


“Errm, she’s not alone, I’m afraid,” John said, nodding his thanks to Peters, who was holding the door open for him. Another of Mycroft’s cars glided to a halt just as Sherlock alighted from their transport with less than his usual nimble grace. “That’s her coach, I suppose.” He slotted his key into the lock.


“What?” Sherlock enquired and then a thundercloud descended over his features. “Oh, for crying out loud,” he snarled, and with an agility that took John by surprise shoved him into the door and scaled the stairs three steps at a time. Nothing in his movements indicated he’d just emerged from a gruelling interval traipsing the gutters with a chair dangling from his hands tied behind his back.


“Oh hello, Sherlock dear, you’re back again,” John heard Mrs Hudson warbling. “Just in time to thank Tilly here for the wonderful job she’s done. The place looks like new. Best take off those clothes before you sit down, love, or you’ll dirty the sofa cushions.”


“Tilly?” Sherlock repeated, just as John reached the landing. Outrage and disbelief engaged in a firm battle for prominence as he repeated, “Tilly?”


John entered the flat to find Sherlock looming darkly (and very, very smelly) over Tilly/Hilda, who perched in his chair, indispensable mug of tea in her right hand and the remains of one of Mrs Hudson’s rock cakes in her left. Around her every horizontal and vertical surface of the flat sparkled, even the skull on the mantel looked squeaky-clean and all the cheerier for it. The smell of a thousand artificially concocted limes drenched in eucalyptus oil and meshed together with tons of dried lavender nearly knocked John to the ground. Still, it was vastly preferable to many of the other odours that had wafted up his nose during the course of the evening.


Sherlock appeared oblivious to this vast improvement of their living premises. Instead he was drilling his gaze into Tilly’s eyes. Countless times John had witnessed inveterate criminals break down beneath that stare in the Yard’s interrogation room, but Tilly returned the consulting detective’s glare with the same cold disdain Sherlock himself forked out so liberally. For all his height and lofty manners, her curlers and the sweep of her pinny over her ample bosom announced loud and clear the great Sherlock Holmes was no more than a nasty spot of dirt to her.


“If it weren’t for you having a flatmate and a landlady I’d have told Mr Holmes to find someone else for the job,” she informed him. “And now I must be off. Mr Holmes just rang to tell me I’ve got to clean up after a party at Buckingham Palace. Things got a bit wild, it seems. But then they usually do with that lot.”


“Oh dear,” Mrs Hudson commiserated. “I never knew Mycroft was such a slave driver. You must talk to him about it, Sherlock, next time he visits.”


“Don’t worry, luv.” Tilly patted Mrs Hudson’s hand. “He pays very generous overtime and you should see the hamper he sends for Christmas. Those Bolly bubbles are amazing. Some people have all the nice manners, you know.”


With that parting shot she left the flat. “The trolley is in the kitchen, through there, Michaelson,” she could be heard directing and then the sharp rap of her wedge mule slippers rattled down the stairs.


“You know her?” John enquired of his friend, who was glowering at the doorway.


“Unfortunately, yes,” Sherlock replied. “Mycroft sent her over after a minor mishap at Montague Street in an attempt to appease the landlord. The man threatened to sue me for burning down the attic. Which was rubbish, of course.” He sniffed. “For no discernible reason the woman took an immediate dislike to me. The feeling is thoroughly mutual.”


“Oh, I think she’s lovely,” Mrs Hudson interjected. “She was taken with my walnut date cake recipe and she showed me how to clean your lino without getting my hands all wet.”


“I’m delighted to hear it,” Sherlock murmured. “Next time she shows up don’t let her in.”


“Sherlock?” Mrs Hudson threw him a sincerely pained look.


“I think we could both do with a shower, Mrs H,” John explained. “It’s been a long night for all of us.”


“Well,” Mrs Hudson said, but she pushed herself out of his chair nonetheless. “I for one have had a lovely evening. I don’t think I’ve had this much fun since the day Mr Hudson was executed, remember, Sherlock?”


“Distinctly,” Sherlock answered and headed in the direction of the bathroom. Which, John thought, was perhaps the only suitable response.


***


The hands on John’s alarm were poised at a one-hundred-degree angle when John woke. The last time he’d slept this far into the day had been nearly two decades ago, during his partying university days. A sassy ray of sunlight breached the curtains of his west-facing window and skipped over his nose. From below rose the murmur of voices.


John listened but the ebb and flow lacked the tinge of hostility that tended to swamp the flat’s atmosphere during Mycroft’s visits. A bark of laughter revealed their visitor as Greg. In all probability the DI had dropped by to verify his dream team was still alive and kicking and ready for action.


“Morning, John,” Greg hailed him over the rim of his steaming mug from John’s usual place at the dining table when John came downstairs a few minutes later. “Or good evening, rather.”


John wasn’t surprised to find Greg doing the honours to the plate of ginger snaps conveniently placed next to his left arm. The sight of Sherlock tucking with relish into one of Mrs Hudson’s justly famous full English, however, had John quirk an eyebrow. Especially when Sherlock proved he was so intent on setting a new world record for shovelling scrambled eggs and mushrooms into his mouth he merely nodded at John with busily masticating jaws.


“Just a minute, John dear,” Mrs Hudson sang from the kitchen to the accompaniment of toast popping up from the toaster that fell like music on John’s ears. “Did you sleep well?”


‘Like a babe,” John replied. “That certainly smells delicious, Mrs Hudson.”


“Just this once, mind,” she said, planting the plate under his nose. As their landlady repeated this particular incantation three times a week at least, he duly ignored the remark and joined Sherlock in wolfing down breakfast at the fastest possible rate. The succulent aroma of bacon and eggs wafting up his nostrils greatly helped to chase away the previous day’s succession of olfactory horrors.


“So,” Greg resumed a conversation that had obviously been interrupted by breakfast being served and John’s arrival. “We found a smudge on that chair that might be part of a fingerprint and scratches on the legs that seem to match those on the hood of the car, so whoever your kidnappers were they were a sloppy bunch.”


As luck would have it, Sherlock had just taken another bite. His eyes bulged while his molars worked furiously at chomping toast, champing at the bit as he was to correct the unfortunate DI.


“A most accurate self-portrait, Detective Inspector,” he spat when he’d finally swallowed his mouthful. “These men are actually extremely clever. Their mistake was adjusting their modus operandi to your sloppy practices. The vehicle they used bore Mycroft’s number plates or I never would have opened that door. Your incredible laziness and general stupidity led them to believe they could get away with leaving the car next to the entry to the sewage system. If it weren’t for my despicable brother and John here it would have taken me hours to free myself.”


“That’s what I meant,” Greg protested feebly, dropping the ginger snap he’d just picked up.


“They were stupid not to do me in,” Sherlock agreed, “as clearly that was their objective, but if it weren’t for you not arresting Teddy Bunsen when you had the chance—” He broke off in patent disgust.


“Fine, fine,” Greg tried to appease the piqued consulting detective. “Perhaps you’re right…” Sherlock sniffed. “Of course you’re right,” the DI amended hastily. “But they’ve overplayed their hand and you’ll have the Met’s full cooperation catching those wankers. Look, when can you come down and examine that car and chair?”


“Hmm, I don’t know.” Sherlock turned towards John. “What do you say, John? Anything planned for this evening?”


John glanced around the flat, noticing the shiny jacket of his latest Doctor Who DVD on the coffee table. Yesterday he’d looked forward to a quiet evening stuck in front of the telly with Chinese takeaway but as usual Sherlock had decided differently. His body properly refuelled, he could feel the adrenaline rushing through it once again. After all, playing at heroes alongside Sherlock Holmes was far more fun than anything Messrs Moffat and Gatiss devised.


“Give me five minutes,” he temporised. “And I’ll be right along.”


blue

 


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I still believe that love conquers all!

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"Quick, man, if you love me."
     Thread Starter
 

December 27, 2016 10:11 am  #14


Re: Secret Santa Fics 2016 - Read them here

Dear SilverMoonDragonB

I just helped out at short notice and thought to write just a tiny fic with three of wishes, to be ready as soon as possible. Johnlock, friends to lovers (Sherlock and John) and the sister (Journalist) are mentioned. Hope you like it.



Who is Scarlett?

“Who is Scarlett? “ John entered the flat with a letter in his hand, given to him by Mrs. Hudson for Sherlock when he returned from work.

Sherlock looked up shortly from his laptop before he went on staring at the screen. “Not important.”

“Strange. Only the first name, no address of sender. That implies a certain… intimacy? Or one of those “ladies” who offer “special” services. But usually that doesn’t happen via old-fashioned letters.” Amused, John waved the envelope in front of Sherlock’s face.

Sherlock grabbed the letter and put it under his laptop. “You are right. Old-fashioned.” His attention returned to whatever he was researching. Making clear that he wasn’t interested at all to go deeper.

John shrugged his shoulders and went into the kitchen.

---

“Did you read it?” John asked, interrupting reading his book.

Sherlock watched a documentary about forensic medicine on TV. “I’m not an expert on that. But I’m sure the cut they suggested to open the skull is nonsense. Have to talk to Molly about it someday.”

“Sherlock, did you read the letter?”

“Which letter?”

“The letter I gave to you yesterday. Scarlett… remember?”

“Um… that… yes.”

“So?”

“So?”

“Am I allowed to know anything about it?”

“As I mentioned before, it’s not important.”

“Strange that you don’t want to talk about it. I thought… after I split up with Mary… you would have more trust in me… that you and I were more than just friends…”

“To be precise you didn’t split up with Mary. She left you in a cloak-and-dagger operation and took your daughter with her.”
Sherlock turned off the television. “I shouldn’t waste my time watching these poorly researched documentaries. Do you remember the one about mummies? That was even worse. I don’t understand how halfway educated people… What is it?”
Sherlock became aware of John staring at him.

“Sometimes I really doubt that you have a heart.” John answered stony-faced.
He stood up and went into his room without saying another word.

---

On the next morning, Sherlock was already busy in the kitchen and wearing his usual dressing gown, when John came down in pyjama trousers and a t-shirt.

“Sherlock, what are you doing?”

“Making breakfast. I’m not sure… how do you want your eggs… boiled… fried… scrambled? Coffee is ready. And toast as well. Take a seat.”

“Breakfast. YOU are making breakfast.” John pulled a chair from the kitchen table and sat down.

Sherlock shortly turned around to John, smiling, and then continued his work as house husband.

“Sherlock, what happened? Why are you doing this? It’s the first time in all those years.”

Sherlock turned around again with a seemingly guilty face, an egg in one hand, a spatula in the other and John had problems to stay serious because Sherlock looked so funny.

“I had a chat with Mrs Hudson about what happened yesterday. And she said I should…”

“You had a chat with Mrs Hudson? When I left last night it was late already.”

“Don’t worry. She had her sleep. I knocked at her door a few hours later.”

“A few hours later. When exactly?”

“Ah… maybe three or four o’clock. Can’t remember. Anyway she supposed I behaved too rude and it would be…”

“Hang on Sherlock, you woke up poor Mrs Hudson in the middle of the night only to discuss your behaviour that you aren’t able to control? I can’t believe it.”

“It wasn’t that bad, really. In fact she seemed… touched that I came to her. She said things like “I’m so glad” and “Finally you face up your feelings”. Sounds… good, doesn’t it? Well, I wasn’t aware that being frank could be… um… hurtful. I am really sorry, John. You know my brain is full of useful things but being tactful isn’t part of it. But it is fact that Mary… Anyway I want to apologise, I must apologise. In fact I couldn’t sleep after I… you left… Oh, Mycroft would burst of laughter if he could see me now. Mrs Hudson had tears in her eyes when she said I should be honest to you… just once. What I’m trying to say… when you didn’t live in Baker Street anymore and married Mary… inside me something… hurts… my non existing heart, you know… never had that before…”

“Sherlock, would you please put that damn egg away?”

“Um, why?”

“Because of what I am going to do now. It will break.” John stood up, took Sherlock’s head in both hands and pressed a gentle long lasting kiss on Sherlock’s mouth.

The egg burst on the floor.

---

After breakfast John sat in his chair, reading the newspaper, and Sherlock stood at the window, observing life on the street.

“So, you want to know who Scarlett is.”

John immediately folded his newspaper. “Yes… if you want to tell me.”

“Alright then. She is my sister.”

“You have a sister? Why did you never tell me? That Mycroft didn’t is no surprise, but even your parents never mentioned her.”

Sherlock turned around. “She is, well, the black sheep of the family.”

“The black sheep? With brothers like you and Mycroft? That’s hard to believe.”

“My parents and Mycroft haven’t seen her or heard of her for ages. She left when she only was 18. To be precise she eloped with a man who was nearly 30 years older. The relationship didn’t last long. She is a free journalist now, travels around the world. I have contact to her via email again for around three months now. In fact I still… love her? She wants to come for Christmas this year. Do you mind?”

John smiled. “If I mind? I would love to meet her.”

“Good. I will send her an email.”

“And Sherlock?”

“Yes?”

“I have to apologise. You definitely have a heart. A big one.”

 


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I still believe that love conquers all!

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"Quick, man, if you love me."
     Thread Starter
 

January 5, 2017 12:50 am  #15


Re: Secret Santa Fics 2016 - Read them here

Schmiezi has given me permission to post my own story. It is a bit long, and I'll be posting in on AO3 soon but for consistency sake I'm posting it here first. http://cdn.boardhost.com/emoticons/happy.png


(I apologize for how horribly overdue I am, my beta had problems and I wasn't able to get the story back until recently :/)

For nakahara 


You asked for 

"I would like to read a story in which Sherlock is blamed by John for some wrongdoing and later proven innocent, but meanwhile he was already hurts (professionally, physically or in some other way) by John's accusations. John is ashamed and makes it up to him.

Preferably Johnlock, deal breaker being Warstan and Mary being cleverer than Sherlock and Mycroft

And your key prompt was: Rota Fortunae'


Given the short amount of time and the fact that the story I wrote for someone else's prompt was already completed (which was primarily 'Magic or stagelock, but not in an HP verse'), I wasn't able to integrate a lot of the specifics of your prompt as much as I would've liked to, sorry .

HOWEVER, for the most part it fits, it is Johnlock, there is angst between our two boys and really, who is cleverer than the Holmes brothers? xP Aka, no one.

I hope you enjoy! ^_^


Everglow

(warning; multiple references to a past suicide attempt, but not graphic)


Oh Fortune,

Variable as the moon,

Always dost thou wax and wane.

Detestable life,

First dost thou mistreat us,

And then whimsically,

Thou heedest our desires.

As the sun melts the ice,

So dost thou dissolve

Both poverty and power.


















Prologue





Magick is real.

A reality considered both a blessing, and a curse.

People – humans and humanoid cousins, ie; Warlocks, Mages and Enchanters, alike - have pondered the existence of a world without it. Would life be easier? Or made more difficult due to the lack of it? Ultimately, it doesn’t matter. This is the world as it is, and those are questions we will never have answers to.

Magick is such an intrinsic part of who we are that imagining a world without it is to imagine oneself not needing oxygen to breathe. Even those who do not possess Magickal ability themselves reap the benefits vicariously as a natural part of the world’s culture; through medicine, entertainment and day to day life, to name a few. There are few things more diverse in ability and expression than that of Magick.

However, one thing has always been clear; no matter how much further our knowledge of Magick progresses, though years go by and the information grows, it is obvious we will never reach a limit of understanding. There will always be a mysterious element to Magick and how it works with both the physical and metaphysical.

Particularly when it comes to Magick without control; learning to control one’s Magick, whether it presents at birth or puberty, is a natural part of growing – until the individual reaches physical maturity, by which point both Magick and control is fully matured along with the body and for the most part, safe – depending on how one chooses to use their gifts. Once control is achieved, it is exceedingly difficult to lose it. There are many theories as to why loss of control happens, some are primarily psychology based and others hypothesize more physical reasons. All have sufficient evidence to support them. I put more stock in the metaphysical school of thought, in conjunction with the psychology of the brain. Ultimately, because Magick is DNA level unique to the individual; generalized, universal knowledge on the subject is limited and varies in accuracy.

However, what has been gleaned is that deeply traumatic events must occur in order for Magick control to be lost, something that damages both the body and psyche, be it mental or emotional. The trigger for it is typically easy enough to figure out, and even predicting how an individual’s Magick will present in its uncontrolled state – this will be based on their species, abilities and level of power - is not particularly difficult, the true mystery is why recovering from loss of control is so arduous, and often inconsistent regardless of severity.

If there is one thing Magick isn’t, is black and white.



-DR. A. C. Doyle. EN. PHD, MD; Preeminent Psychiatrist, Medical Doctor and Author. (Introduction to VR 1.‘Magickal Minds’ 2010)




~





John Watson could never have predicted how drastically his life would change in the course of a year.

It is a quiet evening for him; his love of an adventure-filled life doesn’t lessen his enjoyment of the smaller moments. In all honesty, there is no doubt in his mind he would go completely mad without the occasional minute to read, enjoy a cup of tea and get a spot of writing done.

John casts a gaze over the room before closing his eyes, much of it is in darkness and only aglow with the light of the fire; cozy, comforting…home. John rests his hands on the arms of his chair and takes a deep breath.

He is tired, and it isn’t long before he dozes off.

His nap is short, John wakes and noticing the darkness of the chill in the room glances over at the fireplace. His jumper, deep burgundy in colour, is barely warm enough in the cold December weather of London.



Bugger. Where is my favourite blanket when I need it? John sighs with a faint smile on his face, unconsciously rubbing his leg.

Enough time has passed for the fire to die down significantly. And so, with barely a movement, John casually reaches out a hand in the direction of the dwindling flames. The tingle along his arm is as familiar to him as the famed Watson nose. Were someone to see John now, there would be no outward sign that anything was happening, yet in a near instant the fire is instantly restored, flames reaching high, cradled in the fireplace arch.

Warmth floods the room. There are times John is exceedingly grateful to be an Augment.

“Much better.” John mutters happily to himself and lifts the book he had previously been reading.

‘Magickal Minds’

John frowns a bit. Why is he reading up on a subject he already knows a lot about? And much of that is from personal experience. Maybe he is reading on the subject for that very reason, not just because Doyle is an Author he enjoys indulging in (both fiction and nonfiction alike), but because he is curious on what someone he admires has to say about a subject he is so painfully, intimately, familiar with.

John is grateful to note that the same memories, once filled with despair, shame, and purposelessness, no longer have the same bite to his mind that they used to. There will always be a sense of bitter sweetness there, but given what happened that seems inevitable. There is perhaps one, very important reason why the sharp turns and changes his life has taken recently have ultimately been for the better.

And it is the reason why John is even alive.

No matter the bittersweet, regardless of what happens, John will always, always be grateful for him.

A small, miniature purple stone on the mantle shines in the light of the fire.



~

 


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January 5, 2017 12:52 am  #16


Re: Secret Santa Fics 2016 - Read them here

Chapter 1



‘Burd Memorial Centre For The Restoration, Rehabilitation And Treatment Of

The Magickally Impaired And Damaged’








Fourteen Months ago…



“John! John! Oh god…John!”


“John Hamish Watson, Fifth Northumberland Fusiliers, Veteran of St Bart’s Hospital in London, Paternal side Human with Magick and Mage maternal, early presentation of Magick at eight years of age, Honourably discharged due to injury-”

Heavy…feels like being weighed down by a million stones…can’t breathe…but what’s the difference? My life is already nothing…nothing happens…never ending days of nothing. Might as well make it official.

“-Class A1 Augment – ah, now that is intriguing. Don’t get many of you through here-”

The grip John had on his cane tightened and the tremor in his left hand caused him to flinch. The nasally voice of the intake nurse barely registered in the wake of the memories his weakened body seemed determined to remind him of.

“John! Stay with me…John…Yes! I’m at….Insomniac, Zolpidem overdose…alcohol, I don’t know how much…barely conscious, not breathing…name Dr. Mike Stamford, healing magic, able to keep him stable for now but - please hurry! Yes thank-you!”

“Suicide attempt via Zolpidem overdose exacerbated by alcohol-”

John had the passing thought that he should’ve used the gun, and ignored the mess that would make…and maybe save himself from this humiliating experience.

As much as John wanted to die, he woke in the hospital to the face of his crying sister and something changed. Maybe it was because he couldn’t remember the last time he saw Harriet cry, or maybe it was the notion that despite their estranged relationship she clearly still cared, whatever it was John felt…regret, and shame. John wasn’t sure whether the latter was because he failed to remember Mike’s impending visit to his pathetic army pension funded flat that day, or that he attempted to take his own life at all. He took those pills with no regrets (what was his life without purpose? He was of no use damaged, useless, he thought).

What John ended up regretting the most was not only did he not succeed; he ended up damaging himself further. He didn’t need the Doctors at the hospital to explain, even if he didn’t notice the Magick restraints on his wrists and ankles John knew, he felt it. Like observing something through a two way mirror, seeing it, unable to reach it, John lost control. His Magick went haywire.

John had the thought that the state of his Magick was now fully reflective of his state of mind and purpose, without direction, broken, damaged.

John Watson, former Solider, former Doctor, former.

Poetic justice? For what? Trying to kill himself? It was his life, and he couldn’t stand it.

“-Hm, with your power you would’ve had to have taken a lot. Even with control, your body’s automatic self defense would’ve kicked in to that level of poison, unless-”

John had no intention of enlightening her. She was clearly not that knowledgeable in this area, or she would’ve realized that committing suicide is not the same as being non-consensually poisoned. The importance of intent is drilled into the minds of Magickal kids from primary school.

John barely resisted the urge to glare at her where he stood and she sat at the guardhouse entrance desk, reading his file with fiendish speed. He wasn’t even in the main building yet, he dearly hoped not everyone was like this.

“-Your caregivers and physicians will discuss the details of your condition and what it means once your inside, but being a Doctor I’m sure you know all about it already-”

Hardly. I specialized in trauma surgery.

“-For now I can tell you, you’ll be given a room in Paget Wing, it is reserved for high level Magick users like yourself with both physical and psychological damage whose Magick in its uncontrolled state doesn’t cause damage to anyone but yourself-”

Small blessings. Since full powered Augments like himself are so rare (typically confined to mixed species offspring with one parent being a Mage, apparently), most can only increase the level of one or two things, like fire or antibodies in human beings, John can augment and amplify the degree, level and amount of anything “alive”, with an energy based power source. Within reason. He couldn’t increase his number of biscuits much to the disappointment of his barely presented nine year old self (his mixed parentage made his Magickal control significantly higher at an early age). It still made him exceedingly useful as a Doctor, especially in the army. John hadn’t personally known anyone with uncontrolled Augment Magick.

It didn’t really surprise him to discover that his Magick in a damaged, uncontrolled state would amplify nearby things compatible with his Magick to different levels at random. Which could be understandably dangerous.

John almost didn’t survive the trip to the hospital because he was told the Ambulance kept stopping and starting again – his Magick affecting the efficiency of the engine. Apparently he also exploded Mike’s watch. He only survived because Mike is a high-level Sorcerer; his healing, touched based Magick kept John stabilized just long enough to reach the hospital. On arrival they immediately put the wrist and ankle restraints on him, thus dulling his Magick completely until they could fully assess the situation.

Once he was awake and out of immediate danger, what little the hospital staff could tell him was that he would have to wear one restraint on his dominant hand at all times until he regained control completely. It would restrain his Magick enough that it wouldn’t affect anything over with a high energy output, at most a few lights risk being turned off when he enters a room, and only if the bulbs are old, but allow him enough freedom to eventually regain control if he was able. A Doctor – John couldn’t remember his name - compared the state of his Magick now to John coming home to find a rave going on at his place, only the locks have been changed and now John has to create a brand new, totally different key from scratch.

John had thought the pain of his wounded shoulder and the limp in his leg was bad, it was nothing compared to being essentially powerless for the first time in his life.

He never let on how much the restraint hurt. He knew it was necessary and quite frankly, his pain was his own.

Grossly unprofessional attitude of the intake receptionist aside, his business was his own and the only reason he was even here was because both Mike and Harriet insisted. He’d only barely managed to get them to agree to let him come here alone.

John has no reason to be happy to be alive. So why wasn’t he angrier to be here?

“The BMC is the oldest and most highly regarded Magickal rehabilitation centre of his kind. Not only that, it is entirely Government funded. You know this John. Your stay would be long term, but I really do think that they could help you, not just with your Magick but-”

“Fine.”

“John-”

“Fine.”

“John, you need to talk to some-”

“Thank-you Mike, I’d rather be alone now, please.”


That conversation happened barely a few days ago. To John it felt like a lifetime.

“Well Dr. Watson, Hooper is the lead Doctor in the wing you’re being assigned to. She will be here momentarily to give you a tour and escort you to your room. Please, walk through those doors, down the path and take a seat in the area immediate to your left when you enter the main building. You should only have a five minute wait at most. Have a pleasant day!”

A pleasant day? Bloody hell, this is already a nightmare.

John forced himself to smile politely and took the now filled out intake forms the receptionist handed to him.

The receiving room is small, and not a part of the main complex. Because of the sensitivity exuded by Magick users who are damaged in some way, it is safest for everyone to be as protected as possible.

John couldn’t even see beyond the high brick wall that greeted him when the cab dropped him off. The slight distortion in the air above it told John that more than physical barriers were protecting it. The receiving house looked like a small stone cottage and sat right in front of what must be the main gate, the only entrance to the facility is through the unremarkable building.

Overall, it rankled. But John was never one to avoid a situation because it might be dangerous, so, cane in hand, he walked across the mostly empty parking lot, ignoring everyone he passed, only peripherally noticing the tall trees blocking the main road from view and entered the house; which is where John began the uncomfortable conversation with the receptionist.

Thank god that’s over. John took whatever he could get.

Papers in his free hand, he gave the receptionist – Kathy, according to her nametag – a nod and walked down the hallway towards the tall double doors, passing more than one guard on his way.

When John reached out to open the door the sleeve of his army green coat pulled up revealing the thick leather bracelet, decorated with multiple symbols, on his wrist. Its purpose is not only to restrict his Magick, it is irremovable by him and would alert any nearby medical staff if he were of a mind to make a second attempt. He very purposefully ignored it and prayed to whatever God may be that this place wouldn’t sap the last of John’s dignity.

John opened the door. Holy….Christ.

He isn’t easily shocked, but his pace did slow upon seeing the sheer size of the place. There wasn’t just the mansion sized main building, architecture centuries old, but in the distance John could see others, equally as big on the property. The wall disappeared from view into a forest on either side; the only disturbance was a pair of metal doors John assumed were for vehicles. In front of John was a wide open lawn dotted with gardens and fountains. With winter around the corner, neither of those were at their peak, and the lawn had mostly turned a dull, shriveled brown with only spots of green.

The only thing that gave away the purpose of it all was the few patients, therapy animals, nurses and Doctors, outside walking with patients or talking in groups, all wearing similar non-descript uniforms and coats.

That was of course until John reached a large metal sign attached to two, similarly metal stone posts overarching the main, large stoned path wide enough for an army tank to traverse.

‘Welcome to the Burd Memorial Centre for the Restoration, Rehabilitation and Treatment of the Magickally Impaired and Damaged. Circa 1895’

Brilliant. John frowned and kept walking, body aching hatefully the closer he got to those imposing double doors. He wondered then if this would be futile. Even when or if his Magick recovered, John would be no better off than he was before.

With a sigh, John pressed on. Nowhere to go but forward.



~



John approved of Dr. Hooper (“Call me Molly”). Not only was she obviously a capable Doctor, knowledgeable and professional without being condescending (a trait unfortunately common in his occupation), she didn’t show him pity; that more than anything made John respect her immediately, perhaps a bit enthusiastic for his state of mind but she was very matter of fact and didn’t treat him like a child. It felt like chatting with a colleague, a feeling John greatly missed.

What really surprised him though was when she told him she came from a long line of Witches, but that she was born without any Magickal ability whatsoever. There was still a substantial amount of stigma surrounding people like that, many referring to them as “duds”. John threw his first punch at age thirteen when a fellow classmate teased his friend Sarah for being such.

He didn’t feel all that sorry.

In a place as highly regarded as the BMC, job positions are difficult to get and it is a sad truth that seeing someone like Molly in such a high-level position is rare. It made John feel a bit better…though not by much.

After introducing herself, Dr. Hooper and John walked out of the large entrance hall – which had been bustling with activity, mostly staff and only one or two patients, none of whom paid them any mind, the area greatly resembled a large foyer, an effort to make the Centre more appealing probably – and through a door on the left. After that it was a maze of rooms and halls, and John definitely had no trouble believing the building belonged in the 19th century. The mix of new technology with the atmosphere of an old world manor was interesting.

Each time they entered a new area, Molly would scan the pendant on the end of her necklace and be let through. It didn’t matter that the restrictions were largely for safety; John couldn’t say he relished the idea of being restricted to a specific area, like a gilded prison.

Molly told him that each Wing acts like its own unit; Magickal barriers which allow all known residents and workers in a specific Wing to pass through it unimpeded, each with its own staff, both medical and otherwise; treatment programs tailored to each individual’s need, with a lead Doctor that reports to the main office, and sits on the BMC board. And unless a patient is unable, everyone has access to the outside.

“As I’m sure Kathy told you, you will be housed in the Paget Wing. It’s small; we try not to crowd too many in one place. Too much inhibited Magick in one area, well-” Molly commented after a few moments of silence.

“Not good.” John finished, flexing his bound wrist.

She nodded and gave him a genuine smile, mousy brown hair bouncing a little. It wasn’t long before they stopped outside a pair of metal double doors that towered to twice his height. John and Dr. Hooper stood at the end of a long, red-carpeted hall, the entire left covered floor to ceiling in windows while the right sported multiple wooden doors, John had no idea where those led.

For the last time, Molly unlocked the doors with her pendant and pushed them open.

Almost immediately John collapsed.

Whoa! What the… Dizziness, the room swimming around him, John braced himself against the wall to his left and tried to breathe through his suddenly constricted windpipe, a loud humming buzzed in his ears and the band around his wrist felt like it was tightening enough to bruise.

John thought he vaguely heard voices, and felt hands guiding him…somewhere.

“Dr. Watson! John, can you hear me?”

Molly.

Feeling some support below him, John opened his eyes (when did he close them?) and looked around. He was sitting on a nearby chair, Molly kneeling at his feet and a couple of people in ivory scrubs John didn’t recognize stood close by. All were watching him with concern.

As soon as John started to focus on his surroundings, the humming, the dizziness and tightening on both his wrist and throat began to lessen. Instead he just felt drained.

That was…bizarre. What the hell? The feeling kind of reminded him of holding your breath underwater for too long.

It wasn’t rational, but seeing the concern on all their faces made John feel worse.

“I’m fine, just got…a bit dizzy.” Determined, he pushed himself up, consciously telling himself to not bloody fall over like an old man.

“Are you sure-”

“Yes. Let’s just…continue please?” John interrupted Molly, perhaps a bit curtly.

He felt a bit bad, but Molly didn’t push since it didn’t seem like he was going to keel over again. It was probably just exhaustion. It didn’t help knowing that there was no way they would allow him to take his sleeping pills, since that’s what he OD’d on in the first place. Very little else has helped his insomnia since coming back from the War.

“Alright.” Molly turned and dismissed the two orderlies. “We just entered Paget Wing, your room is nearby. It’s late so all the other residents are asleep. Tomorrow someone will come to your room and show you the rest of the wing, ok?” Molly looked at him a bit more searching than before.

John sighed. “Sure.” If only.

The two orderlies returned to their station and for the first time John noticed the room.

So…this is Paget Wing.

It was surprisingly cozy, in a way no other part of the facility was. Up until then it had been overbearing and opulent at best. Now…John wondered if all wings were like this. They were standing on the outskirts of a large rectangular room, one side curved with window seats, and directly across from that was a large half circle desk area against the opposite wall, upon which the night orderlies were sitting and conversing.

The lighting was muted, but the room was by no means dark, though the sky had faded to deep, navy blue outside, the moon raised over top the trees. The walls were wood; the ceiling was criss-crossed wood, slightly curved and not overly high. The floor was wood also, nearly completely covered by a large, circular, red and brown embroidered rug. Other than a few sets of chairs against the unoccupied walls there was no other furniture. There were two doors, and two hallways branching off from it.

A big sign hung above the desk saying “Paget Wing”.

John couldn’t decide which emotion to feel in that moment. All he truly wanted was to sleep (if he could, he might just be exhausted enough to do it), and deal with…everything tomorrow.

What could he say? Nice place you have here, wouldn’t be right.

So John simply followed Molly when she made for the door (bypassing the two branching hallways) directly across from them.

“The first hallway there leads to the shared resident rooms, the second leads to the activity room, gardens, the Wing therapist and communal kitchen. Your room is private-” Thank god, John couldn’t help but think “-and those are through here, there are only three currently available-” Molly continued to talk as she opened the door. John half expected to collapse again, but was grateful when he didn’t. This hall had five doors, all with a significant amount of space between them, and was of décor very similar to the opening area; long carpet, all wood, there was a small sitting area off to the left with two sofas and a television. “-Your friend Dr. Stamford said you had a fondness for the colour green, so we gave you this room here.” Molly’s eyes were kind as she stopped at the first door on the left, waiting for him to open it.

John appreciated the thought, while at the same time wondering why Mike would tell Molly his favourite colour.

John tried not to feel a sense of impending doom as he opened the door.

Well, it was definitely green. The floor was beige carpet, but the walls were a deep, forest green, along with the shelves lining the wall opposite to what must be the loo. John liked the room’s simplicity, a singular bed, with beige bedspread, two pillows both with pale green casing, a wooden nightstand, a deep gray recliner sat by the window and a small pine dresser with a vase of lavender roses on top.

It felt too homey for a medical facility.

John pushed his discomfort aside and turned to address the patiently waiting Molly. It wasn’t her fault he was in this situation after all.

“Thank-you Molly, really I appreciate it.” He might’ve been trying too hard, but Molly seemed to like his words all the same and smiled.

He assumed she would leave now and he could collapse – on purpose this time – on the bed and attempt sleep.

She didn’t, not right away.

“It’s no trouble. I know it won’t be easy, but everyone here genuinely wants to help. If you need anything, there is always someone at the desk out in the main room, and you can page me or the Wing therapist, her name is Ella Thompson, anytime. We are both on call tonight. Only staff and you can enter your room, unless you personally allow someone else to do so. We try to encourage contact with other residents whenever possible, it does helping the healing process, but we recognize privacy is just as important. Which is why each room is coded to the residents living in them and only they can allow someone else in, with the medical staff exception as I mentioned.”

John was not used to being on the patient side of medical care, but he admired the thoroughness and dedication most of the people he met so far seemed to show.

“With the exception of the door at the end of the hall, all other doors are resident rooms. If you are hungry, you need to exit this area and head to the hallway on the right.” Molly gestured back in the direction they came.

John, curious, cast a glance at the last door at the end of the hall. It looked different than the others, older, and thicker, almost industrial.

“What is that room?” John asked.

Molly’s expression didn’t change, but there was definitely new tension in her shoulders.

“A patient died there years ago, before I came to work here. He was quite powerful I’m told and left a dangerous amount of Magickal residue behind when he died, no one has been able to clean it enough for a new resident so it’s been abandoned.”

Hm. There was no doubt in John’s mind that she was lying, for the most part. In the morning John would probably wonder why, but at the time he was too tired to care all that much. So he let it go and nodded.

Molly seemed too relieved that he didn’t ask any more.

“I’m going to…” John waved to the bed.

“Oh! Of course. I’ll leave you to it. The nurse is a lovely man, and he’ll be ‘round to wake you at eight for the tour and group introduction. Try and get some rest.”

“Ok.”

Molly lightly patted John on the shoulder, smiled and walked back the way the two of them came.

John exhaled a weighted breath the moment he was alone. Please God let me sleep.

He was about to enter his room and try and do just that when he felt a tingle on the back of his neck, similar to how he felt when instincts in the army told him he was being watched. Completely calm, John turned around.

A…dog?

Sitting directly in front of the very door Molly talked about was a dog, long-haired and red.

John smiled, but felt a bit confused.

John knew animals were a part of the therapy program at the BMC, but as far as he was told no one was using it in this Wing, so what…?

“Hello boy, you lost?”

As soon as John spoke, the dog barked and he heard a loud smash off to his right, and then what sounded like running footsteps. Heart pounding John whipped his head around, hand automatically going to his waist, though no gun has resided there for months.

Nothing. Odd.

John turned back around to the dog.

It was gone.

What the hell?



~


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January 5, 2017 12:53 am  #17


Re: Secret Santa Fics 2016 - Read them here

Chapter 2



‘Sherlock Holmes’





John barely slept that night.

And it wasn’t because of the bizarre dog incident – maybe he really was going mad and hallucinating. In any event it was barely a blip on his radar at the time.

John could barely even sleep before medication, nightmares of being shot keeping him awake, but without it…he’d almost forgotten that particular difficulty.

At that point a decent, undisturbed night of sleep was a far, distant realm of possibility.

John had only managed to sleep four, restless, hours, at which point the feeling of a bullet tearing through his shoulder woke him abruptly and ended up staring at the unfamiliar ceiling for the rest of the night. His undershirt and pants were soaked with sweat, his body tense, and heart hammering in his chest. He consciously tried to force his breathing to slow; ashamed of the tears he felt building in his eyes. John wouldn’t let them fall. He wished he’d never gotten shot, he wished he really had managed to kill himself; John wished he never felt that way in the first place. And most of all, he wished that his life made sense again, like it did in the army, the challenge, sense of duty and purpose made him feel so alive. John had the passing thought of how fucked up that was.

What kind of person feels more comfortable being in danger than being safe? John snorted aloud, the sound echoing in the empty, quiet room. Me, I guess.

The night passed into morning, and John didn’t go back to sleep, just laid there in the foreign bed trying not to think. This was made all the more difficult by the restraint on his wrist, the leather a constant reminder of the full extent of his brokenness.

Because that was the truth, John felt broken. He hasn’t felt himself for a long time. Adrift. And then he was supposed to regain control of his Magick when he couldn’t even control the sheer amount of his self-pity? Not bloody likely.

John could hear the distant sounds of the BMC waking up, outside his room doors open and closed, the faint humming of voices joined the morning cacophony.

He glanced at the clock on the nightstand to his left; 7:30am. That nurse, whoever he is, will be coming around soon. Fantastic. John groaned and rested his hands briefly on his face before beginning his morning routine, which was the same no matter where he was; brush teeth, use the loo, shower, get dressed and make his bed. John’s devotion to routine and neatness was one of the few things he was able to carry over from being a soldier.

John slid out of bed, noting for the first time the abnormal softness of the sheets, and grasped his cane.

He finished his morning ablutions, dressing himself in one of the patient uniforms provided (A lose pair of dove gray lounge pants, a white t-shirt and blue slippers. John suspected the idea had more to do with convenience than anything else, regardless John couldn’t exactly complain), by 7:55.

John was putting the finishing corners on his bedcovers when there was a knock at the door.

John used to be quite the social butterfly, recent events have dimmed his enthusiasm for people (just like everything else) somewhat and he couldn’t say he was necessarily looking forward to today – Molly did mention he would be meeting the rest of the Paget Wing residents. John couldn’t deny he was none-the-less curious.

Cane in hand, John braced himself and walked over to open the door.

When he did, a pleasant enough looking young man not that much taller than he was stood in front of John; wearing the medical personal garb, his name tag identified him as Nurse Henry Knight. His Warlock status was immediately apparent. They are the only Magickal species with instantly recognizable features; pointed ears with darker skinned tips, and eyes one shade from being black, not only that, they are also the only Magickally inclined people born with two different forms, which they can begin shifting between by age five. John had only ever personally known one, a fellow army comrade named Bill. His secondary form, non-corporeal which John would describe as appearing like fast moving smoke that glows (which apparently comes in different shades of colours unique to the individual), made him a near impossible enemy target for conventional bullets.

Nurse Knight’s short hair made the ears obvious, but his eyes were a slightly lighter shade than is typical.

Everyone here is punctual I’ll give them that.

“John Watson?” The man smiled.

John nodded, a bit sardonic. “Guilty.”

“Nurse Henry Knight, but you can call me Henry, everyone does.” He reached out to shake John’s hand. John obliged, and their hands dropped after a short shake. “I must say you are the first person I have ever seen answer their door fully awake and ready. I enjoy a good sleep in as much as anyone, but hey, whatever, management says we must all be early birds, never mind that it makes most into half zombies. Not the best introduction to the Centre I know.”

He was clearly trying to be welcoming and casual, emphasis on trying. John suspected Henry wasn’t a naturally outgoing person, he seemed nervous; dark gray eyes a bit too wide.

John got the impression that a not so amenable patient had reacted unpleasantly in the past.

Poor state of mind or not, John liked to think he wasn’t a bastard. He set to put the man at ease. “Not to worry, the army cured me of any aversion I had to early wake up calls.”

John wondered if this man knew he had Insomnia. Either way, John wasn’t an early bird by choice and decided not to apprise the man of this fact.

Henry seemed relieved.

“Oh that’s right! You were a lieutenant yes?”

“Captain.” But not anymore…not really.

“Shite, sorry. Of course, I knew that.” Henry laughed nervously. John attempted a reassuring smile and shrugged.

The awkwardness didn’t last long before Henry seemed to remember his purpose for being here.

“Anyway, I need to go wake the other residents and then your introduction to the patients and rest of the staff will be in the main activity room at 8:20, I’ll meet you in the foyer in a few minutes. As one of two day nurses for Paget Wing I will give you a tour of the rest of the Wing and go over some basic ground rules after the initial meeting. After that some breakfast before your first appointment with Thompson at 9:30. Sound good?”

Not the word I would use. John couldn’t say he relished his problems being known by so many people.

“Aye.” John tapped his cane with a tight-lipped smile.

“Excellent. I’ll be seeing you shortly!” Henry nodded and without another word and a slight popping sound all too familiar to John, Henry morphed into his second form – nearly translucent teal green – and sped out the seam of the hall door.

Warlocks have always fascinated John.

John turned back to look at his room and sighed. He didn’t bring anything personal with him, the BMC provided clothing and items for self-care, other than his gun – which was in no way allowed in the facility, John didn’t have any material possessions worth taking with him. There must be some way I could at least get something to read around here. Otherwise John suspected he truly would get bored out of his mind.

He didn’t notice it at first, but as John moved to leave his room fully a feeling that reminded him of being gently electrocuted – like a shock from an outlet plug – hit him.

First his looked down at the band on his wrist, wondering if it had got damaged some way.

Then he looked up and around.

…oh.

That was when John first saw Sherlock Holmes.

But he didn’t know that at the time.

All John knew was that, quite seemingly out of the blue, there was a man leaning against the wall across from John opposite his door; wearing a high collard dark, gray coat, all the way unbuttoned revealing a black suit with a white shirt, no tie.

The man was…striking, to put it mildly; curly, short hair darker than his coat; high smooth cheekbones accentuated his piercing steel grey eyes, perhaps not conventionally attractive but handsome none-the-less.

He looked utterly out of place, and yet John found himself staring (he could already hear his Nan thumping him on the head).

John knew that if it were a different time and place, if he saw this man at a pub, he probably would’ve turned on the Watson “charm” and flirted his way into a date. Although John genuinely preferred male companionship, the world retained judgement and John felt unable to fully pursue this aspect of his heart.

Abruptly, John mentally smacked himself. Don’t be an idiot; this is not the time to be a horny bastard.

Who was this man? What was he doing here? How did he get here? He was dressed neither as staff nor as a patient, and John was positive he didn’t hear any doors open so he had no idea where this man came from.

Perhaps he should stop gaping and actually talk. For all he knew this man was a burglar.

“Afghanistan or Iraq?” The man quite suddenly spoke, voice deep with an unusual echo.

John only just noticed the man had been intently watching him in kind, with a sort of detached curiosity.

What?

John froze. “Um…sorry?”

The man barely blinked and gave, what sounded to John’s ears, an exasperated sigh.

“Stance and bearing says military.” He shrugged.

John blinked. Who the feck is this guy? He must’ve read his file somehow. “How could you possibly-”

“Even with the restraint covering your wrist there are quite obvious tan lines on both, but nowhere else which suggests you spent a significant amount of time abroad in an arid, sunny climate. In all likelihood you were discharged due to injury, you favour your right side but are quite obviously left handed, in addition to the fact that you unconsciously tense your left shoulder as though feeling numbness or pain, you were wounded in your left shoulder. You’ve been standing for the past ten minutes without sign of discomfort otherwise, even though you carry a cane…psychosomatic limp then. But you’re not simply a solider are you? You were high-ranking, Captain probably, and a Doctor, so probably a Sorcerer, going by the scarring and calluses on your hands and the current ease with which you are confronting a stranger, you specialized in trauma surgery. And no, I didn’t read your file, and before you ask I am not psychic - I merely use my brain unlike most people, and observe.”

The man cast off his words with a casual wave of his hand, like it was no big deal that he just read John like an open book, and apparently didn’t read his mind in the process. John had no reason to, but he found himself, among other things, believing this man on that last point.

The stranger spoke fast, without taking a break, utterly confident, a bit dickish and more than arrogant and just…Wow. Seriously, who is this man?

At the moment John didn’t even care if it was fucked up that he found himself more intrigued than offended, like most sane people would be, by this stranger’s quite invasive words (however true) and insane mental acuity.

John’s mouth parted. “That…was brilliant.”

Up until that point, the man gave the impression of utter boredom; hands in his pockets, ankles crossed, eyes distracted and seeming to focus on what John had no idea.

However, when John spoke that changed instantly and once again John felt that tingle of energy all over his skin…was he causing this?

John had no time to contemplate the feeling further. The mysterious stranger’s hands fell away from his pockets and he abruptly straightened, his face losing most of its haughty expression and falling away to something different…those eyes became softer, gazing at John with a certain childlike innocence, the crunch of his eyebrows made him appear confused.

“You think so?” The words were uttered quietly.

There was no lie in those words, he wasn’t searching for a good ego-stroke, and to John he sounded entirely genuine. And then John was confused.

“Yeah, of course it was, bloody mad and quite extraordinary.” John couldn’t be sure, but he might’ve been smiling at that point.

The stranger grunted, his cupid mouth curled in amusement and eyes alight with humour. His hands clasped behind his back.

“That’s not what people normally say.”

John guffawed.

“Yeah, I imagine something along the lines of ‘go feck yourself’ is more common.” John casually scratched the back of his neck.

The man seemed more relaxed than he had thus far. He snorted. “Piss off actually, but the sentiment is the same. My nose has been broken more than once.”

John smiled. “Seriously?”

He shrugged. “I observe and tell the truth. If people don’t like it it’s their own fault. People are idiots.”

John frowned. “You’re a bit of prat aren’t you?”

When the man stood closer John noticed for the first time exactly how much taller he was than him, not all that difficult really.

He looked down at John, eyes twinkling.

“So I’ve been told.”

Shameless. Utterly shameless.

John snorted, amused despite himself. “Still amazing-”

“I know.”

“-Yeah yeah I get it, you’re really humble, but seriously, who are you?” John finally asked the question he’d been wondering since he first saw the man.

The stranger opened his mouth.

And the odd bubble that had formed from their strange encounter popped with the abrupt reminder of where they were, and what John was doing there, as a small crash and flurry of apologetic voices sounded outside of the hall door.

John looked in that direction. Right, I still need to go to orientation.

John turned back around to explain and get the man’s name, but when he did the man wasn’t there and there was no sign he ever was.

“What the h-”

Ok, this is getting ridiculous.

John looked down both ends of the hallway, even walked into the small sitting area. Nothing.

He must’ve vanished in a room somewhere but…John was sure he didn’t hear a thing. And when John thought about it further he realized the feeling tingling along his skin disappeared as soon as the man did.

His sanity must be off having an amazing vacation, maybe far away in New Zealand somewhere.

John was torn between feeling disappointed and confused. This was the second time he’d seen something, someone, that seemed vanish into thin air, and the third time he felt strange Magickal energy affecting – because that’s what it was – him. Other than the intensity of the first time, John didn’t sense anything inherently threatening about it just…off. Something was off.

He shouldn’t have been feeling anything like this, not to that degree, because not only was his Magick restrained, the barriers the staff have put in place here should prevent errant or residual Magick from effecting anyone.

John had heard of some people, with their Magick out of control, hallucinating, but John’s Magick had nothing to do with projecting and his Psych evaluation at the hospital didn’t reveal anything unusual in that regard.

Could John have really…imagined him?

No. John was sure he didn’t (mostly). Not just because despite the truth of that man’s observations he did get his Magickal designation wrong, and if he was coming from John’s mind…wouldn’t he haven known it? There was an odd echo to his voice John couldn’t place, but still…

There was something so…real, so alive about this man.

Shock swarmed him as he realized during the few minutes spent talking to this mysterious man John laughed and smiled in a way he hadn’t for months.

And the man might just be a product of his twisted mind. Brilliant.

John sighed.

He had no other logical explanation other than the fact he must’ve imagined him, no matter how real he felt.

His stay clearly wasn’t off to the best start.

John composed himself to the best of his ability and left to meet with Nurse Knight. In the corner of his mind, he tried not to think about the man with the most stunning eyes John had ever seen – imaginary or not.



~



Nothing and everything changed in the following weeks.

On the first official day of his stay, John did end up meeting his fellow patients in Paget Wing. Only one of them lived in the same hall he did, the others, of which there were three, were in shared rooms.

John quickly discovered he was the oldest there, a fact which honestly saddened him; no one went to the Burd Memorial Centre for any good reason.

The first thing he noticed about each person however was that they each wore a band similar to his, one even wore an additional one around her neck – Janine her name was, a Wizard with offensive elemental based Magick. The reason for that was because the effectiveness of the band on her wrist was fading, before it did completely they put one designed for more long term treatment around her neck – Janine told John she had been there for a long time. John couldn’t help but admire her for her apparent ease with her situation.

John’s closest neighbour, a man named Philip Anderson always sported a thick, scraggly beard and seemed to be perpetually anxious, the occasional bout of angry tears weren’t uncommon. No one, not even Philip, had to offer any information for John to figure out the primary reason his Magick being out of control (Witch, defensive based) was psychological. It only took a few days for the man to approach him, John had been reading in one of the sinfully comfortable chairs (his leg and shoulder thanked him for it) in the small sitting area between John and Philip’s rooms (John tried to spend as little time in his room as possible, but wanted to put himself under the eye of the staff her as little as possible). Philip had walked up to John and told him that he’d unintentionally driven a co-worker to suicide for bringing false accusations against him which led to him getting fired.

John had sympathy for him, but he wasn’t all that fond of the man.

There was also Soo Lin, a young woman and Janine’s roommate. She never spoke much, then again neither did John, but she was always polite and seemed most content when left to her own devices. Because of this John didn’t see her at group the first time, and only once or twice afterwards, both times were in the kitchen where she had been drinking an herbal tea out of what looked like a very old ceramic teapot.

The kitchen was undoubtedly John’s favourite room. They were allowed and even encouraged to cook for themselves if they so wished, and outside of personal therapy sessions (which were twice a week) and group (every other day) the residents in Paget Wing were left to themselves, free to interact if desired. No matter how much John wished things were different, he was grateful for the amount of freedom they were allowed – even if he did miss his own clothing. Even though it was getting colder, winter an ominous presence around the waiting corner, John enjoyed the short sojourns outside. He often felt a kinship with the withered autumn gardens.

And finally there was Andy. It didn’t take a genius to see that he was hopefully infatuated with Soo Lin. Andy was nearing the end of his treatment and re-training, a week after John first met him his restraint came off. He would need to remain a few more weeks though. John wouldn’t have been surprised if Andy found a way to stay in order to be close to Soo Lin.

The whole thing made John feel even more like his age.

John didn’t see anyone outside of the wing, during the beginning of his stay he was supposed to remain there. The only thing that kept him from going completely stir-crazy was the small library attached to the main activity room (which acted more like a glorified living area than anything else), even them John often found himself feeling bored.

Even though he continued to sleep horribly, if anything it got worse, John didn’t feel a particular desire to off himself. John was far, far from feeling happy, but his therapist Dr. Thompson called the fact that he wasn’t suicidal progress.

Ok then.

John never enjoyed talking about his…problems, but as he was repeatedly told he could not begin serious practical work into regaining control of and therefore access to his Magick, until he got a handle on his state of mind.

John left each appointment feeling the urge to kick himself. More than once he desperately wished for a glass of Scotch, even a pint would’ve been a Godsend, which was exactly why he couldn’t have any, he understood that.

Overall, three weeks later, the experience was both worse and better than John had been expecting.

John never told anyone, not even his therapist (he wasn’t even really sure why he didn’t, to be honest), about his encounter, real or the product of his own fucked up head whatever it was, with the strange man outside his room that first day.

John thought about it constantly.

If he was dreaming about the War, he was dreaming about curly hair or deep, piercing eyes dark with mystery.

It was all rather pathetic, but John couldn’t help but be more than simply curious.

What made it worse was that John saw him again. In the distance, out of the corner of his eye, it was like being haunted or stalked by a mirage. John could never reach him in time before he disappeared. The first time he actually saw him vanish John stood frozen on the spot for several minutes, his image had flickered out like bad reception on a Telly – at least John could cross stalker guest off his list, delusion seemed all the more likely.

The logical part of his mind told him this wasn’t normal, and he should tell someone – still he didn’t. John’s instincts told him that the tingle of Magick he felt only whenever he saw the man, even though the restraint remained strong on his wrist, wasn’t a coincidence.

John didn’t see the dog again.

All of it was a definite mystery. John wondered if the room and the man were related in some way, but even without the uncontrolled Magick and restraint John didn’t have any ability to communicate with the dead and that was assuming Molly was even telling the truth about what she told him, which John still suspected she wasn’t.

In the end it gave him something to think about, and he would take any distractions he could get.

So John continued on, always prepared in case he saw the man again.

It wasn’t until the end of the third week of his stay at the Centre when everything changed.



~



The first snowfall of the year blanketed the ground that morning, finally eclipsing the gardens in snow.

John couldn’t remember the last time he saw snow like this. London didn’t always allow it. The benefits of being outside the city John supposed.

This was what John was thinking as he gazed out the window. Every Paget Wing resident, including Dr. Thompson and Henry, was sat in a circle of chairs near the far wall of the main activity room.

It was the second and final group meeting of the week, where they caught up with each other and talked, and those who were at the step of applied training with their Magick could practice with others who were willing and at the same step.

John never participated much. He found it all very cliché.

“How is everyone this morning?” Thompson addressed the group; her outfit was of colours similar to the uniform worn by the patients, but with a skirt instead of trousers.

The question was routine and obligatory, still, everyone answered, some less enthusiastically than others. The only one who looked more tired than John was Philip, the latter was half laying half sitting in his chair, and he desperately seemed like he needed a bath.



“Guilt is poison, John.”

John frowned. “You say that like you think I feel guilty.”

Dr. Thompson said nothing at first, merely watched John from her spot across from him.

“Don’t you?”

It was a ploy, John knew it. He just didn’t know what she was getting at. Two sessions in and John didn’t give her much in way of conversation, trust isn’t easy for him to express – especially when he’s in a vulnerable position, a thing he hates.

John tilted his head. “Why would I feel guilty? I haven’t done anything to anyone.”

“Guilt isn’t restricted to actions against another.”

Logically John knew that, of course, he also realized what she was getting at – and it was ridiculous.

“You think I feel guilty for trying to kill myself.” John said bluntly, tense. He leaned back in his sitting position on her office sofa, unconsciously distancing himself from her.

“John, what I think doesn’t matter. However, if you want to get better, there will be truths you may not want to admit, at the very least I urge you to work on admitting them to yourself.”




John tightened the hold he had on his cane and turned his gaze away from Philip, adjusting his leg in the process.

At that point John would’ve given anything for a good night’s sleep, running on barely half-fuel made dealing with these meetings even more difficult.

“How you can stand this circle of hell is beyond me.”

Jesus Christ! John, who had been leaning on his fist and nodding off, jumped up in his chair upon hearing that deep voice, clearly exasperated, directly beside his ear; for the first time in weeks.

Everyone had been focused on Soo Lin at that point, who was sharing that her brother was coming for a visit and that she may be able to begin practising with her Magick again soon, and so no one saw John leap in surprise like an idiot.

Heart still pounding, John kept his body as casual as possible and looked around to find the source of that haunting voice.

Clearly if the group could see him their focus would not be on Soo Lin and her words, for the man John had been seeing was at that moment walking – or rather strutting, around the outside of their circle of wooden chairs; he passed Nurse Knight and paused directly across from John behind Dr. Thompson; giving her a calculating look.

God how John wanted to ask questions, but he doubted standing up and speaking to what appeared to be air would not go over well. And John didn’t know when this mystery would disappear again.

The man seemed to observe the poised Soo Lin and then shrugged with a muttered, “Orphaned at a pre-pubescent age. Stasis based Magick. Perfectly aware of that young man’s intentions, but ignoring them on purpose. Hm, boring.”

He resumed walking around the circle. John watched him with building curiosity.

John wondered if it was coincidence that he showed up right when John couldn’t possibly speak to him without looking even more like a nutter.

Oh who was he kidding; of course he’s a nutter! John is seeing a man with statuesque Grecian like features and far too much attitude and intelligence to be normal.

John grasped the arch of his cane tightly. What the hell is going on?

John tried not to watch him too closely, but it was impossible when the stranger entered the circle and planted himself directly in front of John’s chair.

John very purposefully met his eyes. The man raised a single eyebrow.

Up until that point John had been too distracted by the man himself to notice what he was wearing; the coat was still present, as was the suit, but the shirt was now a soft baby blue accompanied by a darker blue scarf.

“Hm…”

John narrowed his eyes slightly at the man. “What?” He mouthed.

“No one has been able to see me before, and I find myself wondering why you can. It is…frustrating. Your Magick, even if it weren’t restrained, shouldn’t allow you to. Though you show slightly more intelligence than most I’ve observed here, you’re still an idiot. I must be missing something…”

Dick. It figures John would conjure a bastard, or that he would be haunted by one – or whatever was happening here.

John glared and crossed his arms. The man rolled his eyes and waved him off with a single, gloved hand.

“Oh don’t be like that, practically everyone is.”

Oh ok, no problem then. Clearly John’s subconscious hates him.

“If you’re going to insult me, I think I deserve a name don’t I?”

The man’s other eyebrow rose to join the first. “I believe your name is John Watson, or have you forgotten?”

Oh for f-

“I’m not even going to bother asking how you know that-”

“Good. I hate stupid questions-”

“-plus if I am hallucinating the fact that you know my name makes sense-” The man let out a large sigh, mumbling something unintelligible, and John tried not to get further frustrated by the situation. “-Well if I’m not, then who are you?”

John didn’t notice his voice had now risen to audible levels and everyone in the group was staring at him.

“I suppose I’m the reason you are further questioning your sanity, which I can assure you isn’t all that terrible. You’re not insane John; you clearly just need a reminder.”

“Of what and - you’re just fucking with me now aren’t you?”

John swore he saw the man’s eyes sparkle. “Perhaps.” He shrugged; noncommittal.

“Christ you’re an annoying genius.” John huffed and all tension drained from his body; feeling far too tired to argue further.

“Thank-you.” The man looked far too pleased with himself.

John snorted. “That wasn’t supposed to be a compliment you know.”

“Oh but you meant it as such, didn’t you?”

John doesn’t even know anymore. Arrogant sod.

He had been about to speak again but stopped when he noticed the man had vanished again...and everyone, including Thompson and Henry were staring at him. Janine looked torn between feeling confused and amused, all the others, except for Phillip – who was now napping in his chair, wore varying expressions of concern.

Shit. He really was losing it.

John tried to brush it off, not knowing how much they actually heard. “What? A man can’t talk to himself?” Nice John, good way to sound convincing. John felt further annoyed with himself when that inner voice sounded an awful lot like the man who just disappeared.

Dr. Thompson clearly didn’t buy it. John tensed defensively when she leaned forward.

“Are you alright John?”

The question was well meaning, and John knew were he in her position he would ask it too. Still, the feeling of being condescended to was sharp.

“Absolutely.” He responded.

And he was. At least he didn’t actually feel any worse than he did before.

John could see the follow up “Are you sure?” on her lips but before she could speak John saw the dog again, and this time it was running…running fast from the other side of the room, running straight towards him; long, red fur flying out beside him like wings.

Bloody hell! Without thinking John threw himself out of the way and onto the floor, dropping his cane and knocking over his chair in the process.

The resounding crash was loud and as soon as John looked up again, the dog was gone.

Of course.

And of course now everyone was looking at him like he really was crazy. Janine, who was beside him, had jumped out of the way and was now standing at a fair distance. The crash woke Phillip, but he just looked confused by what happened. Andy was holding onto Soo Lin, and Henry looked more than a little concerned; eyes glazed over – another bonus to Warlock Magick, short distance telepathy, probably notifying someone of John’s blunder.

Obviously no one saw the dog but John.

“John, I need you to stay still.”

Dr. Thompson looked more controlled than anyone else, but the concern was there in her eyes as she kneeled beside John, a faint red aura emanating from her hand poised close to but not touching him, an easily recognizable action to any doctor. Magick can’t do everything, but for a basic on the spot diagnostic tool – it is invaluable.

John felt embarrassed, and he would’ve forced himself back to standing but unfortunately he wasn’t thinking at the time and had thrown himself onto his bad shoulder. It was all he could do not to scream out in pain.

John flopped onto his back, grasping his aching shoulder. Shit. Shit. Shit.

Out of the corner of his eye John noticed the red coming from Dr. Thompson’s hand turn purple before vanishing altogether…that was unfamiliar. She looked equally as surprised by the sight, but it was clear she was trying hard not to show it.

“John, are you alright?” John felt another presence by his side and noticed Janine standing above him.

John started to massage his shoulder in effort to relieve some of the pain. “I’m fine.”

Neither Janine nor Dr. Thompson looked convinced. How could they? Even John knew that was a blatant lie.

The latter placed a hand on his wounded shoulder and almost immediately warmth inflamed the area, the pain was almost completely dulled.

“Ta.” John groaned.

When he tried to get up Dr. Thompson held him gently, but firmly down.

What? John momentarily stopped his effort and turned to look at her.

John didn’t think she’d ever looked so serious before. He felt hairs rising on the back of his neck and that time he was sure it wasn’t due to Magick, but his instincts telling him she knew something he didn’t.

It set John immediately on edge.

“John, I need you to answer me honestly.” She was barely a tone away from whispering.

He frowned. “Wha-”

“Please, I know trust is not easy for but you’ll get to ask your own questions later I promise. You just need to answer mine first.” Dr. Thompson focused on him with unblinking eyes.

John narrowed his own.

So there was more going on than hallucinating some random individual; going by what little the man said and what John had gleaned from those around him.

He felt he had no choice but to nod, curious despite himself. John had a feeling he already knew what she was going to ask.

“Good. What did you see?”

Bingo. The red to purple must’ve let her know something.

Should he tell her the truth?

Some of it anyway, best to play along until he could figure more out.

“A dog, red setter I think.”

She cocked a brow. “You saw something before didn’t you? You weren’t just talking to yourself.”

John shrugged her hand off. “Why is this so important?”

Dr. Thompson sighed.

At that moment another Nurse and one of the orderlies John saw on his first night arrived. Dr. Thompson raised a hand to stop their advance.

John suddenly wished he were at peak physical condition. The energy in the room was more than a tense, in the far corner the sound of a lightbulb filament exploded. Everyone but Dr. Thompson and Henry Knight jumped in surprise – except of course John himself.

“Alright. Just answer me this, was what you first saw a man, and did he have dark, curly hair?”

John shuddered; suddenly feeling cold…how could she-?

“A patient died there years ago, before I came to work here. He was quite powerful I’m told and left a dangerous amount of Magickal residue behind when he died, no one has been able to clean it enough for a new resident so it’s been abandoned.”

John remembered Molly’s words. At the time he was convinced she was lying, but maybe she wasn’t…?

Was he seeing a Ghost? But that didn’t make sense! Even if he were, the dead didn’t interact with anyone to the degree this man did with John.

John carefully watched for her reaction as he nodded.

She closed her eyes briefly and exhaled; a mask falling over her face. John continued to observe her as she – for the first time – looked away from John and towards the other occupants in the room.

“Henry, please escort everyone to the kitchen for now.”

“Wait-” Janine.

“But what about-” Andy.

Ella Thompson had a glare to combat even John’s. She stared everyone down and it barely took more than a minute for everyone but herself and the orderly and extra nurse to leave, during which time John pushed himself – somewhat unsteadily – to his feet. He tried not to feel like he was under a microscope when he reached for his cane.

In that moment he felt seriously older than he was.

John cursed under breath.

Dr. Thompson stood close to John, but wisely didn’t touch him.

“I know you’re confused, and understandably so-”

John snorted and rolled his eyes.

She ignored his response and continued on. “-but for now I need you to go back to your room, and someone will call for you in a few hours.”

Hours? What the hell?

All of this was rubbing John the wrong way.

“Not going to tell me why I’m seeing things are you?” John asked, or more stated, perhaps a bit snappishly.

“I’m not, no.” Dr. Thompson shook her head.

John reined in his frustration and turned towards the room exit; pointedly ignoring the presence of the nurse and orderly that appeared at his side.

What did they think he was going to do? Escape? Cane, limp and all?

Might as well go back to his room and think, or sleep, John suddenly found himself feeling exhausted – again, instead of feeling keyed up and awake like normally John would be after something like that (not that he’d experienced anything like it before). Big surprise.

Dr. Thompson’s last words kept bouncing around his mind all the way back to this room.



She wasn’t going tell him, but who was?



~



Miraculously, John fell asleep within minutes of collapsing (still in his day clothes, cane haphazardly leaning against the wall) on his bed – something that hadn’t happened for weeks.

The last thing John thought before falling into slumber was how a part of him was almost grateful for the mystery cropping up around him. It gave John something else to think about (apart from his own fucked up Magick and recent suicide attempt, and all the baggage that went with that); like what the hell was going to happen in a few hours (according to Dr. Thompson), the dog he saw, the man and it must be connected somehow, and how – going on Thompson’s reaction – whatever was going on, it wasn’t just delusions brought on by his damaged Magick (which was a relief).

Given the situation, it wasn’t fair, and it was certainly mad, to realize that no matter how much of a prick the mysterious man was, John found him quite charming and more than a little interesting.

Forget challenges, John quite clearly has a thing for the impossible.

He must’ve been really out of it for those thoughts to park themselves in his head.

The last thing John heard before losing consciousness was what sounded like a barking dog, and an indistinguishable, resonating scream.



~



John couldn’t save him.

He should’ve been able to.

There, in the desert, hot, sticky, blood everywhere, the wheels and engines of tanks and arriving helicopters swirling the sand around them. John didn’t even care that grains of sand like tiny needles were burrowing themselves in his eyes, all that mattered was him.

There, a few feet away, he lay – unmoving, face obscured from his helmet.

John knew blood was soaking through, knew he’d been shot, biting pain like a hot white poker piercing his skin.

John didn’t care. He had to – he had to get to him. Had to save him. He had no choice.




In his sleep, growing increasingly restless, John’s face distorted into painful lines of intense distress – something about this wasn’t right.



Ignoring the chaos surrounding him, John dragged himself across the rocky sand towards the prone figure.

As he did, new wounds began to form all over his body, his chest, his head, even his feet, he couldn’t see them but John knew they were there…wide, gaping maws leeching far too much blood for John to still be conscious.

Still his heart kept pumping, miraculous.

The pain was unimaginable.

The edges of John’s vision became blurred as he reached him.

Tears poured down John’s face – but John didn’t cry like this when he was shot. He remembered this moment, praying for life, it was there, but this nightmare…it was different.

Now, he couldn’t care less about his own life – all that mattered was saving this man; still, in dusty blood-soaked fatigues much like his own.

John reached out a shaking hand and grasped the man’s shoulder; wanting, desperately hoping to see the man’s face.

But he was cold, stiff.

John screamed, there was no sound.

That is when John saw his hand.

It wasn’t his. The fingers were long, far too thin to be his.

John wasn’t himself – this was his nightmare, yet it wasn’t, John wasn’t John but he was…

John – not John – tried to pull away from the…the body. He had to. He couldn’t be here anymore.

Pain ripped through his retreating hand, keeping him there, sharp, pointed teeth digging…

He needed…He needed…needed…

John couldn’t see. Everything was fading. But, no, not everything…




John woke – he knew he was awake; the dark green walls of the all too familiar Centre room were there in front of him.

But…something wasn’t right. John could still feel the nightmare; flashes of sand, and places unfamiliar to John flashed like sunspots across his vision.

And the pain…Oh God, the pain, not just in his shoulder, but his head, heart, legs, God…it was everywhere.

Tears pinpricking his eyes, John screamed into his pillow.

The Magickal restraint glowed and tightened painfully enough that even in his current state John noticed.

What…what’s going…

John bit his lip hard enough to bleed as he squeezed his pillow, curling into a fetal position atop his covers.

The pain continued to rage.

Nothing, not getting shot, not flooding his body with pills, not losing his connection with his Magick, nothing, not even the depression that invaded his life every day since returning from War, nothing could be more painful than this.

It took whatever strength John possessed to not continue screaming, and even then John knew he was screaming inside.

And then, all of the sudden, John knew what he had to do. John didn’t know where this knowledge was coming from, but everything in his body was pulling him away.

He had to leave. Why, John didn’t know, but he had to leave his room. There was no other option.

The Magickal restraint on his wrist continued to glow, becoming hot, burning.

John tumbled out of bed, and felt pulled by some unknown force as he rushed to leave his room.

In the distance John thought he heard raised voices, but that didn’t matter.

All that mattered was he had to get there.

John flung open his door; sweating dripping, breath ragged and heavy, eyes glazed over, he could still see sand, blood, stones of a house he’d never seen before…

His cane lay forgotten behind him, on the floor in John’s rush out of bed.

His eyes frantically searched the hall.

John was…so much, so much was in his mind and body he couldn’t even distinguish which feelings were his own and which were...whatever this was.

Have to get there….have to get there…there!

The door. The door. Double doors. Apparently unused. Impenetrable.

That is where John has to be.

So he ran, faster than he had since before his battle wound. The loud bangs behind him, and those of his footsteps barely registered in his haste. The doors were growing larger in his vision, and as John came closer to the end of the long, long hall he could swear the restraint on his wrist was emitting smoke.

John reached the door.

Instinct told him to place both hands on the door and pull with his Magick.

So that’s what he did.

The instant he touched the aged, metal doors, the restraint on his wrist burst into ash.

Lights exploded around him. John thought he felt tremors beneath his feet. Voices and banging became more insistent. His vision rippled as Magickal barriers disintegrated before his eyes.

John had to hurry.

The Magick guiding him wasn’t his own.

He pulled. The doors creaked, groaned, Johns palms felt as though they were on fire.

All the while John knew he could pass out at anymore moment. The pain, the feelings, everything became more intense.

Suddenly, all John felt was desperation.

At that moment the doors swung open, not just in front of him, but behind as well.

“John! Dr. Watson! Stop!”

Dr. Hooper – Molly.

He couldn’t let them stop him – at that thought a translucent shield erupted behind him, blocking out all sounds and voices not in John’s immediate sphere. Instinctively John knew it was unstable at best, he didn’t even wonder where it came from, and he had to hurry.

There was another set of inner doors; they looked much like the regular ones along the hall, a small gap between the main doors and the wooden ones in front of him.

John did the same thing he did before, hands out, touching the doors; this time the door’s wood scorched around the outline of his hands.

As they opened the metal ones behind him closed with a loud, resounding clang.

John barely took in where he was in before something pulled him to where he needed to be.

He ran around a corner and…there. There it was, there he was. A man, on a bed much like John’s, chest barely rising, dark hair a halo on the pillow cradling his head.

“I know you.” John whispered.

The dark room, illuminated only by the moon, made it impossible to see much more.

Everything in John stopped, the pain, the overwhelming emotion, everything. John knew he was on the edge of losing consciousness, it all narrowed down to one thought; move. Now.

So he did.

All seemed to slow.

One step. Two. Three.

John’s previously Magickally restrained hand rose.

He was a magnet and John was powerless.

What felt like fire tinged his fingertips, but there was no flame.

John collapsed on his knees when he reached the bed, vision already fading.

He reached out, grasped and –

Skin. Cold, skin.

No, hot…hot, too hot.

What was - what’s happening…

John felt something inside him implode. The desperation faded, but once again he felt – everything. John compared it to being crushed from the inside out.

This time he couldn’t contain his scream.

And he was gone.

~


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January 5, 2017 12:55 am  #18


Re: Secret Santa Fics 2016 - Read them here

Chapter 3

Mycroft Holmes





Before John even opened his eyes he knew he wasn’t alone.

The squeezing pain in his head, dryness in his throat and mouth, along with the feeling that he’d been beaten repeatedly with a stick – no, a metal pipe – reminded John of the worst hangovers he used to get on occasion back in Uni.

He did not miss the feeling.

It didn’t help that there were people near him in his room speaking, obviously trying to be quiet about it – but the ringing in John’s ears made it seem like they were screaming, even though he couldn’t tell what they were saying.

Wait, I’m not in my room. Christ, what happened? A nightmare, I had a nightmare, nothing new there but there was something odd –

An entirely new sensation of his chest constricting engulfed him as the memories rushed in.



…flashes of sand… places unfamiliar to John…pain… everywhere…He left his room…sweat dripping…barely breathing…he could still see sand, blood, stones of a house…Then he went - he couldn’t even distinguish which feelings were his own… Lights exploding…tremors…voices…banging…Magick, barriers disintegrating…running…Magick guiding him not his own…He felt Magick, deep, overwhelming Magick for the first time in weeks, but it was different…doors…hands on fire…John clenched his hands, he felt a tugging sensation on his left hand, expecting to find the pain of burns but there was nothing…dark hair a halo on the pillow cradling the head of –

Him. The man, the man, he saw -

“Christ...” John’s voice came out a quiet croak.

The voices around him went silent. At that moment he ignored them.

John opened his eyes. The ceiling was the same as he saw every morning in his own room, he even felt the familiar feeling of a soft, supporting mattress beneath him, but the walls were a pale sky blue.

When John moved, just a little, that odd tugging feeling on his left wrist pulled him to look to his left.

God.

Feelings of confusion and shocked warred within John – it wasn’t a dream – as he stared at the man beside him, laying on a bed and with daylight casting prisms of light all over the room the man, the man he thought a hallucination or apparition of some sort John had seen and spoken to, John could see him clearly.

Johns mouth parted, heart pounding, only his determination and training as both a Soldier and a Doctor kept him from losing it.

The man…he looked horrible.

The fingers of John’s right hand, hidden from view, clenched the silky sheets beneath him in his fist, in effort to keep from shaking – still feeling very raw from the night before. John consciously kept the rest of his body completely still through pure will alone, internally pulling on his Doctor’s ability to be objective.

The man – whoever he was – was unconscious. If John couldn’t see the, however faint, rise of his chest, at first glance John would suspect the man (in a bed directly level beside him, why? ) to be dead.

His skin was faintly yellow, indicative of a malfunctioning liver and likely multiple other organs going by the state of him; the sunken, tight, extremely pale quality of his skin showed he was severely dehydrated. Only his upper torso, arms and face were exposed, John could see, painfully, the defined lines his bones, from the emaciated stomach to shrivelled fingers. There was also scars, scattered all over his body and face, all of various levels of severity, and all healed enough to be mostly white with only tinges of pink, they looked to be a combination of old knife wounds and scars left behind by Magickal torture (a thing he had seen far too often in Afghanistan).

There were no IVs or any other obvious form of nutrition and regulation of the man’s waste apparent, physical or Magickal, which alone was odd. Especially since going by the disturbed sheets (some of that probably from John last night) and obvious physical signs of bed sores, the man had either not been there very long or was moved often, and therefore had actually been there a while. What John could immediately see indicated he had not moved on his own, or had been conscious for quite some time.

He looked like a man who had been locked in a room and slowly starved for years.

Whatever happened to him, it was clearly hell.

John’s heart and mind ached with sympathy.

He was nothing like the man John had seen and spoken to.

What happened to you?

John’s instinct was to get up, move closer and examine him more thoroughly, but before he could do so was when he noticed the restraint – a new one (the old one, tightening, dissolving into ash…), significantly thicker and wider than the one he wore previous, was linked via a faintly glowing strand of crystal to a matching restraint on the right hand of the man in the bed next to him, the man he’d just been looking at.

Their hands weren’t touching, but resting parallel to each other on the seam between their two beds.

(…Skin. Cold, skin.

No, hot…hot, too hot…)

What on earth –


“Are you quite finished observing my brother Dr. Watson?”

John turned his head around to face the source of the brand new voice.

It was apparent to John almost immediately why this man said brother, the similarity between the apparition (even with this new, shocking revelation of the reality of that very man, John was still no closer to figuring out what the hell was going on – and why he saw him, apparently healthy, in the first place) of the man John saw compared to the very real presence of the man standing at the foot of the bed John was lying in, was very real – if not in physical appearance, than in presence.

His short, dark hair, trimmed to a perfect seam, face empty of any facial hair and overall excessively groomed appearance, from his neatly pressed gray suit, dark, black long coat and polished wood handled umbrella held casually at his side by black, leather gloved hands, gave him the appearance of a posh aristocrat. His eyes were small, and held none of the adventurous curiosity of his brothers but the same, superior intelligence was definitely present. His nose, and face, was thin, slightly pinched and significantly more wrinkled than the man beside John – older brother then.

Overall, John got the impression everything about him was designed to be intimidating; put whoever he confronted at a state of unease, except John wasn’t intimidated. Gathering by the vaguely amused look he cast in John’s direction, the man standing opposite him knew it.

Nothing about him seemed trustworthy, if anything John felt as though he was lying at the feet of some privileged supervillain. John felt none of the similar feelings his brother gave him on the few encounters he’d had, and he wasn’t sure if the controlled expression he wore indicated concealed distress or if that was just how he looked. If it were Harriet in that bed, looking like that, John knows he would feel more than distressed – despite their estranged relationship, she was his sister.

Still, there was something about him that put John on the defensive.

John determinedly pushed the feelings of his aching body and mind aside, and sat up on the bed (he noticed for the first time he was still wearing his clothes of yesterday) with as much dignity he could muster in the situation.

With the new change in perspective John noticed Dr. Hooper was in the room, standing silent and close to the window, near to the only other occupied bed in the room; her distress was easy to read. Beside her stood another stranger, the lines of his face were drawn in obvious concern, and his graying hair was a mess – as though hands had been repeatedly run through it. He was pointedly not looking at the man beside John, but his continence was significantly more pleasant than the one at the foot of his bed.

All of them were silent; waiting for John to speak.

Why do I feel like I’m on trial here?

The whole thing was a mess of confusion and questions. Maybe he would finally get some answers.

“Who are you?” John asked, a simple enough question to start with.

“Who I am is not important, what I need from you is.” His voice was hard, and far, far too monotone to be anything but a façade.

This was a man with many secrets.

John didn’t like secrets, no matter how necessary they sometimes were. With the deathly condition of the man lying next to him, secrets right then seemed dangerous.

“Really? Well, you won’t mind telling me who you are then, since you clearly already know my name and who I am, I’m not giving you anything until I know what is going on here. Why did I go completely berserk last night?-” The mountain of ‘what the bloody hell’ questions felt like they would surely crush him. “-Why am I here?-” John gestured to the room with his unbound hand, the reminder brought him to his next question. “Why am I connected to your brother? How did he pull me here? And what the hell happened to him? And why does he look like he’s not receiving any basic treatment?” John’s voice rose.

When John thought about it, the hangover like feelings fading the more he was awake, the more he spoke, the more John knew instinctively the Magick that pulled him to this room last night, like a force unwilling, everything he felt, the sheer desperation, was a result of the man lying on the edge of death beside. John wasn’t sure if he knew that because of whatever happened last night, he still didn’t know how, or if it was a result of why John had been seeing him at all.

The fact the man was unconscious only made those circumstances more mysterious and confusing.

John hated the sheer amount of unknown surrounding him. The only upside seemed to be that he didn’t have time to think about his own problems.

“And if you, whoever you are, give me that ‘need to know’ shite I swear you’ll find out why I don’t need a gun to knock a man on his arse.” John glared, Watson determination rearing its head.

John was bound, weakened in more ways than one, at that moment the threat was only symbolic in nature. The man didn’t appear to give any outward response to John’s comment, save for the singular brow that rose toward his hairline.

John thought he heard a barely restrained snort of amusement, unsure if it came from either Dr. Hooper or the new stranger. It was only a blip though, and soon enough the room returned to its overall heavy feeling of solemnity.

“If you could reign in your anger, it would be much appreciated. There is no need for violence Dr. Watson; I assure you the answers you seek will be given momentarily.”

John’s tension didn’t release, and honestly, he didn’t feel all that reassured. If anything, John felt more suspicious than he had been.

The man’s voice when he spoke John’s name was filled with its own form of mistrust. He moved away from the bed on which John was sitting and pulled a lone, wooden chair away from against the wall and positioned it precisely in the middle of the ends of both beds, angled towards John.

John glanced at the emaciated figure beside him, stomach rolling, heart panging at the sight, before looking once more towards the man now seated and level with John; legs crossed, umbrella leaning against the edge of his alleged brother’s bed and hands resting lightly on the chair arms.

“There is no time for ‘beating around the bush’, as some would say, so I will present the situation to you as it currently stands. All I ask is that you listen, is that too much to ask, John?”

John really didn’t like how this man already knew his name, and John still didn’t know his. What caused John to refrain from asking again, for now, was that as soon as the man sat down his shoulders fell as a though a weight greater than the world rested on his shoulders. The man then barely glanced at the man he called his brother, but in that moment, if John hadn’t been watching so closely, he doubted he would’ve seen it; a few emotions – desperation, pain, worry to name a few – seeped through cracks on the cold, emotionless mask upon his face, which soon replaced itself. Maybe he didn’t show that small amount of feeling, maybe he did, but it gave John pause – he wasn’t as unfeeling about all this as he appeared to be.

And so, John nodded and waited for the man to start talking.

“Thank-you.” The man nodded. He then turned around, giving a brief nod of dismissal to Dr. Hooper and whoever the other man was.

To John’s surprise, they listened (seriously, who is this guy?), though neither looked eager to leave. Molly left first, giving John an attempt at a reassuring, apologetic smile – which failed horribly. The other presented John with an awkward smile before following Molly out the door, but not before casting one last, long, worried look at the other bed. Another relative maybe?

“I asked our dear Dr. Hooper and D.I Lestrade to leave only momentarily, you’ll get to meet him after our discussion. What I have to say is private, and sensitive, even they only know little.” The man briefly rested his palms together under his chin, observing John carefully.

D.I? That man was a police officer? Huh.

John didn’t say anything, merely leaned back on the wall beside the bed – in effort to relieve the aching bruise on his back that must surely be there from where he landed on the floor last night – and waited.

In his peripheral vision, John noted the glowing crystal bond between the two restraints flicker for a moment before returning to its previous state.

“My name is Mycroft Holmes, attaché to the British government, owner and founder of The Burd Memorial Centre for the Restoration, Rehabilitation and Treatment of the Magickally Impaired and Damaged, and elder brother to Sherlock Holmes, the man lying in the bed right next to yours.”

John suspected ‘government attaché’ was a gross understatement, but he wasn’t surprised by the mention none-the-less.

Wait…the Centre was founded in 1895, how could this man – Mycroft Holmes- be the founder? Unless…

John blinked. “You’re an Enchanter?”

The man – Mr. Holmes, dipped his head.

“Yes, along with my brother here.”

John was amazed despite himself. Enchanters were exceedingly rare, often kept to themselves and weren’t known to present their designation in public. Not only were they the most powerful Magickal species, they were always guaranteed Magickal power at birth and are believed to be the first existence of Magick in any Earthen species. What has been most notable about them however, was not their known wide range of multiple Magickal powers, but their lifespan. They are not immortal, but they on average live longer than any other species on Earth. As far as John was aware the oldest known Enchanter in history lived to be 520yrs of age.

(At the time John thought it could also be an explanation as to why despite appearing near death, Mr. Holmes’ brother – Sherlock – was still alive, Enchanters do not die easily)

Because of this they are either regarded with great suspicion or awe.

John had never met one personally – well, not until that moment.

John had always been peripherally aware of the Burd Memorial Centre for most of his medical career, but he’d never heard of this Mr. Holmes – let alone his brother.

Secretive indeed.

“Our species is of little consequence to this situation however, at least, it is not a major part.” Mycroft Holmes took a deep breath and reached to somewhere out of John’s line of sight, he then proceeded to lift a black, rectangular briefcase and place it quickly on his lap. Swiftly flipping opening the buckle and lifting the lid of the case, Mr. Holmes removed two cream coloured folders. He placed one on his lap and held the other out to John.

John frowned, but took the file with his free hand. He laid it down across his legs and flipped it open. Immediately it became apparent it was a medical file, and John wasn’t surprised to find the patient was one ‘Sherlock Holmes’, full name ‘William Sherlock Scott Holmes’, date of birth – January 6th, 1854.

Suddenly John didn’t feel quite so old. Enchanters do often have physical markers such as significant height, dark hair, vaguely elfin features, all of which Sherlock – and Mycroft – had in abundance, maybe John had a stereotypical idea of old in his head but he just had a hard time picturing the man he’d seen (aloof, a childlike air concurrent with that extreme intelligence, eyes bright with youth not age) as an old man.

Then again, not even 200yrs old is hardly “old” for an Enchanter.

John quickly moved on from that piece of information to what the file contained…Oh god.

It was a detailed account of all injuries sustained and diagnosis of the patient upon his admission to London General Hospital on December 23rd 2005.

2005…five years? Has he been like this for five years? Christ, no wonder…



‘Patient arrived with deep lacerations and contusions covering over sixty percent of his body. There was evidence of past and more recent scarring, due to needle injection on his arms – history of Patient provided indicated a long history of Cocaine and Heroin abuse. Outside physical damage was minimal however in comparison to his mental state. Medical personnel at the scene of rescue before arrival at the hospital applied immediate restraints to neck, wrist, ankles and waist - due to the patients’ extreme level of Magickal power now out of control as a result of extreme physical and psychological trauma. Injuries to recovery personnel occurred. Luckily, restraints were applied before a more serious incident. Further examination proved that Patient had been in a coma for a minimum of three hours before rescue, there is no physical indication for his state – Magick reasons exclusively. No staff present with compatible Magick is able to assess the severity and reason for the Magick induced coma. Suspect this is due to the extreme mental shielding emanating from the Patient himself. Recommend follow up in accordance with Class AA2 Enchanter procedures, as Magick restraints will only hold for a minimum of twelve hours at best against this kind of chaotic activity. Our hospital isn’t equipped to deal with the inevitable long term specialist treatment Patient will need.’



AA2? A1 – which is John – is considered a relatively high class; AA2 is the second rarest power level worldwide.

John wondered what these follow up procedures were, even before joining the Army and deploying, John had never come across a situation anything like this. John suspected they almost never happened.

“I imagine you are wondering how all of this relates to you, in order to do that however you’ll need to know how my brother came to be in this position in the first place.” Mr. Holmes placed a single hand on the other folder still in his lap – John wondered what that contained.

John looked up from the folder below him. He didn’t notice at first the state of his hands; one clutching the folder white knuckled, the other his own fingernails digging into the depth of his palm. After the explanation of Sherlock Holmes’ injuries, there pictures of some of those very injuries that were sustained, his Doctor side needed to see those for himself, to judge what happened, but a part of John had been growing steadily angrier the longer he looked at them; torture, that was what he – Sherlock, had to have experienced. And according to the file the physical injuries were minimal in comparison?

Goddamnit.

At that moment John couldn’t care less about himself, he needed to know what happened – and if whoever was responsible was dealt with, otherwise John would have to find a way to do that himself, he found he was especially missing his gun in that moment.

“Tell me.” John’s eyes flickered to Sherlock beside him, before coming to firmly rest on the Holmes brother sat upon the only chair in the room.

Mycroft Holmes nodded gravely.

“The first thing about my brother you should know he was – is a Consulting Detective, he took great delight in the term, which he invented himself.” There were traces of a familiar, almost fond exasperation in Mr. Holmes voice, often present in siblings. His face showed nothing. “I won’t go into the details, I’m sure you can glean the sum of what that title implies. All you need to know is that my brothers’ occupation repeatedly led him into the path of dangerous people, usually, his intelligence in combination with his unique, multifaceted Magickal power made him invincible in comparison to the rabble of the world. However, my brother is only human. Approximately seven years ago, he gained the attention of one James Moriarty. The world moves too slowly for people like my brother and I. Moriarty was…A true Criminal mastermind, dangerous menace to society, power to level that of my brother, and myself, and Sherlock saw him as the first real challenge to his own intellect. Sherlock solved case after case connected with Moriarty, everything from fraud, kidnapping to Warlock trafficking and murder, all of this worldwide. He had been on our Most Wanted list for quite some time, but we were never able to touch him - his power and influence ran deep. My brother and I have a…contentious relationship at best, but in the end it became apparent that neither of us could stop Moriarty alone. We joined together to conceive a plan to take him and his Criminal Empire down. We made the biggest mistake people in our position can make. We became overconfident.” Here Mr. Holmes paused; face contorting with barely concealed distress. He rested his face briefly in his hand, as if to cover his reaction to his own words.

John was a smart man, but even without the knowledge of the resultant condition of Sherlock, he didn’t need to be smart to recognize what Mycroft was telling would lead nowhere good. John has seen evil many times in his life, combating it was his dream as a child and eventual reality as an adult, and all the gritty, grey areas that came with it. Sometimes though, there were clear cut decisions, and this Moriarty – the name caused a chill down John’s spine, though the man was unknown to him personally – was someone who obviously needed to be stopped.

John still had questions, if possible even more than before, but he remained silent.

“We were lulled into a false sense of security flawlessly engineered, and my brother ended up paying the price.” Mycroft, having regained his control over himself, resumed speaking. “Again, details at this juncture aren’t necessary. We were able to dismantle the vast majority of Moriarty’s web, even with the man himself in the wind and nowhere to be found at the time. We did find him, eventually; it soon became obvious it was because he wanted to be found. James Moriarty ended up somehow bypassing our measures and traps and kidnapped my brother. I wasn’t exaggerating when I said Moriarty had power to match that of me and my brother, Class AAA Illusionist-” Jesus Christ. “-With one particular gift, he could sense a person’s deepest pain and build it up in their mind and heart, make them relive it over and over, he could strip down any physical and mental defences we have to deal with trauma and make a person feel it without end. With no fading or petering out, and it was impervious to mental shielding. Death is almost always the outcome to something like that, and he had my brother for at least two weeks before we found him. Moriarty was killed and my brother recovered. However…” Mycroft breathed deeply, now staring unwavering at his brother. “Moriarty wanted to destroy Sherlock’s mind, when we arrived to retrieve it seemed that he had succeeded – at least, that is how it appeared. He was comatose; it was initially assumed that it was a result of what Moriarty did to my brother – and he was, partially.”

John frowned. The report mentioned that Sherlock had already been unconscious for at least several hours before being rescued, if Moriarty wasn’t the sole reason for Sherlock’s condition than who was? Without the whole story, John could only theorize little.

Mycroft released a long exhale and opened the second file, not yet looking at it.

“Once I moved him from the hospital to this facility and a secure room tailored to him-Now that John knew that’s what this was, the report made sense. Sometimes Magick restraints weren’t enough to hold a person’s Magick uncontrolled, whether it was because the person had a quirk to their ‘Magickal anatomy’ so to speak, or they were too powerful for them. The latter was more common, but still rare. “- there was no reason to suspect Sherlock wasn’t safe, for the moment. I requested an individual with the proper tools to deal with this kind of trauma, to give me an estimate on the damage and when Sherlock would awaken. They weren’t able to get much further than those at the Hospital; however, they were able to diagnose the reason for the coma itself.”

This was when Mycroft turned his piercing gaze back towards John and handed him the final, open file.

“Most people who came under the unrelenting force of Moriarty’s power either died or entered a permanent vegetative state. With more a thorough examination, it was discovered Sherlock’s mind itself was mostly present. His current state is a result of what Sherlock himself did, albeit the coma was probably unintentional, and we still don’t know if it was a conscious decision on Sherlock’s part or a defensive mechanism on the part of his Magick. Either way Sherlock’s actions are why he is neither dead nor vegetative, because of you however, that is now likely to change.”

John held onto the file with one, firm grip, still not looking at it. His mind deeply caught in what Mycroft Holmes was revealing to him. There was no way to be sure if Mycroft meant the latter statement in a positive or negative way, or how John could even begin to help – especially with his Magick the way it was.

John caught onto one part of Mycroft’s words in particular.

Defensive Mechanism…like supressed memory maybe? John was no expert in the Magickal mind, but he thought he knew enough to theorize the implication of that, and with what Mr. Holmes said of James Moriarty’s power, John felt he was beginning to understand what had happened – at least partially.

“You said that Moriarty could pinpoint a person’s greatest pain and magnify it, right?” Mycroft nodded. John still didn’t know the breadth of what Sherlock’s powers were, but given the fact that he was a Class AA2 Enchanter, there was no doubt in John’s mind they were diverse. “Did Sherlock…as a result of what Moriarty did-” John’s fists clenched. “-in the midst of that did he repress whatever that pain was, is, and block it off somehow? Make Moriarty’s power less effective?” But why would Sherlock still be in the coma then?

For a moment Mycroft appeared almost impressed. He adjusted himself in his chair and gestured towards the filed in John’s lap.

“For the most part yes, you are not an unintelligent man Doctor Watson. I believe the statement of the man who examined my brother – you just saw him actually – will answer and clarify any remaining questions you have.”

Just saw…the D.I?

John heard a familiar beep, and Mycroft retrieved a lit phone from his pocket; attention momentarily on whatever information he just received.

Finally, John looked at the file; there were two pieces of paper inside, handwritten. John lifted up the first.



‘I never want to be in this position again. God, I hope we’re able to find a way to fix this soon; I actually miss the annoying bugger buzzing around my station calling us idiots and solving our cases for us.’



John found his lips quirked into a small smile, despite the gravity of the situation, somehow he found that not a difficult image to imagine.



‘My mental abilities as an Illusionist aren’t all that high really – ‘



He was an Illusionist too? Like Moriarty? They hadn’t even properly met yet, but John didn’t get the impression this man was like Moriarty at all, John doubted he would let him within a mile of his brother if he was and by the sound of things, they knew each other personally. Illusionists powers are always mentally based, and can often involve making a person believe something to be true when it wasn’t, or create very real looking visuals that aren’t actually there, feelings that don’t exist – as the name ‘Illusion’ implies – all from reading a person’s mind and emotions. According to what John had read in the past, they are the only ones apart from Enchanters who can do so relatively easily, unless a person has significantly powerful mental shields. Just because a person has that power though, doesn’t mean they’ll use it negatively or at all. Still, a lot of people hold a prejudice against them because of it.

And this man became a Detective Inspector in the police? Impressive.



‘- but I suspect Mycroft believed his brother would subconsciously recognize me as familiar and hoped that would allow me to delve a little further past those bloody shields of his (relentless even in the state he’s in) to see what happened…Obviously Mycroft doesn’t know his brother as well as he thinks he does. I’ve never done this before, for this purpose at least, but I was able to get somewhere…I don’t see how it helped all that much. We’re still stuck at square one. Ironically, the person who could most help us now would be Sherlock. From what little I was able to see, before I was rather forcefully ejected, rather painful I might add, Moriarty (evil bastard, wish I could’ve shot him myself) attacked Sherlock relentlessly for days, but wasn’t able to find his deepest pain until the day Sherlock was rescued. And then…God, I couldn’t see anything specific, but I could sense Sherlock’s mind was a mess. Sherlock had been trying to block as much of himself from Moriarty’s influence as possible, and he succeeded, just not for long enough. I can’t even imagine what would constitute a deepest pain to a man like Sherlock Holmes, a man many unfairly assume to be emotionless.

From what I could gather, I doubt Sherlock would’ve been able to do this consciously - the pain Sherlock felt was so immense his Magick went independently haywire on the spot and locked away the source of that pain within his own mind, and not just in a way that would make it impenetrable to Moriarty but to himself as well. In essence, if Sherlock has any awareness in there, even he wouldn’t know what it was. He basically performed self-amnesia, but thanks to Illusionist tailored training I received during the academy, I was able to deduce – Sherlock would approve – that the source of the pain itself, memories, were still there and them being locked away as they are is what is causing his coma. If the finest Doctors couldn’t get this far, there’s no way I’ll be able to unlock that block in his mind. If it caused him that much pain this happened…a part of me doesn’t want to give him back those memories, whatever they are.

I have no idea where we’ll go from here. Hopefully time will change things.’



That was the end of the first page. Christ. John wasn’t far from assuming this man had been through hell.

Everything surrounding John became inconsequential. He immediately dropped the paper he’d been holding and picked up the yet to be read one, written in the same handwriting John noticed and much shorter.



‘Four years. How has nothing changed in four years? If Sherlock weren’t as powerful as he was, and clearly still is even with his Magick out of control, he would be dead. Somehow his comatose state is acting as hibernation; he might as well be cryogenically frozen. He doesn’t need food or water or anything physical, people tried to get close enough to give him those things but even those that know him, like me, can barely touch him. It’s like he knows, in some way, that we’re trying to unblock that pain and it’s preventing us from even getting close enough to do so. Deathly determined, literally.

He looks…God, I almost vomited. He looks like he should be dead, his body is giving the appearance of what must be extreme dehydration and starvation, but his Magick is somehow keeping him alive despite all that. This shouldn’t be possible. We’re all mystified.

Only one thing has changed. His Magick has, for the most part, healed itself. Sherlock still has to stay in his room, of course, but I noticed every time I visited him and examined his mind that the stability of his Magick was changing, even without outside help. And now, it has all but healed and no longer unstable the way that it was. I’d hoped that would mean he would awaken, but he hasn’t and shows no signs of doing so. This block is, quite literally, the only thing keeping him from waking.

A strong and unwavering part of him would rather die than remember.

What do we do? I hate feeling this useless.’



John dropped the paper and rested his head in his hand. He has never felt this invested in something so quickly before, and this D.I, he hate’s feeling useless – which is how John felt.

This is all insane! Impossible; none of this should be possible. Mycroft Holmes obviously thinks I can do something, but what? I’m a discharged Army Veteran with a limp and a tremor, who attempted suicide and whose Magick went out of control. Clearly I make terrible decisions. Or I have the worst luck in the world.

Everything John has been told and read explains a lot, but it doesn’t explain everything.

“Alright. I can’t even begin to express how sorry I am that this happened to your brother, but…how am I of any use to you?” John replaced the papers into the folder and looked up at Mycroft.

The man seemed to contemplate something, watching John carefully with a finger resting on his chin.

John met his gaze; unrelenting.

“The answer to that Dr. Watson, lies in this.” Mycroft Holmes pointed towards the bound wrists of John and Sherlock.

John looked at Sherlock for the first time in several minutes. With all the new knowledge in his mind, John is, if anything more confused about his connection to this man than he was before.

Sherlock Holmes has been in this Magickally sealed room for years, comatose, Magick uncontrolled, and according to this D.I, has recently mostly healed. Even if John weren’t messed up the way he was, and knew Sherlock personally, there was no way he should be seeing him walk around healthy – and the dog. Mycroft had yet to mention that in anyway, though he must’ve been told.

John’s eyes were drawn once again to the mysterious cuffs binding him and this still very much unknown to him.

He had never seen cuffs like those before. John had over the course of his life seen examples of restraints for dual use, but never in practice. He was almost positive those he had seen did not have a crystal like material between them.

“What you and my brother appear to have is a very distinctive Magick bond, one that typically occurs between two Enchanters, and only once in each life time. It is most…unusual to see this with you being a Mage. As far as I am aware, mixed species within this bond has only happened twice before.” Mycroft paused to replace both files securely in the briefcase. After setting it on the floor beside him, Mycroft then returned his severe, calculating eyes on John. It all seemed needlessly dramatic. “Coniuncti Sumus.”

Johns jaw dropped. That’s impossible.

“What?”

Mycroft quirked an eyebrow. “Ah. So you have heard of it then.”

“Of course I – that, how is this, I’ve never even met-this is insane!” More insane than what’s happened so far? It would explain a lot.

John desperately wished he could punch his inner voice.

He exhaled painfully and collapsed against the wall, torn between absorbing the information and fighting the desire to pinch himself, to make sure he wasn’t still dreaming.

“Prior contact is not always necessary, connection can and most often will occur merely when two peoples ‘Magickal boundaries’ coincide.” The man hardly seemed affected by the almost casual way he had suggested that John and his brother share one of the rarest and most revered of bonds.

John felt like he’d gotten mistakenly tossed into one of those movies about love at first sight involving this bond, Harriet watched them a lot when they were growing up.

Didn’t John note how particularly attractive the man he saw was? The man he now knows to be Sherlock Holmes.

“Before you work yourself into a coma of your own, despite what popular culture would have you believe, the Coniuncti Sumus bond is not inherently romantic in nature – the possibilities of the bond merely lend themselves to the deeply sentimental nature of humankind.” Mycroft sounded more than little exasperated, if not outright annoyed.

John rolled his eyes. “Contrary to what you, and your brother apparently, seem to think I’m not an idiot.”

It’s true. While John was aware, even though he hadn’t known anyone personally involved in a bond such as the one they were discussing, that a Coniuncti Sumus bond could be romantic, it wasn’t intrinsic.

In Afghanistan, their commander in chief - James Bartholomew Sholto, spoke of his parents best-friends to John, two Enchanters; a couple, who had the Coniuncti Sumus bond. Sholto was always an interesting man to talk with, reserved, but highly intelligent. John may have harboured an infatuation towards him at one point, though at the time he would hardly have admitted it to himself.

James Sholto told him the basics, mentioning first that the bond is unique to each person and some things aren’t necessarily universal to each bond, a few things are though. Coniuncti Sumus; Latin for ‘we are united’, in essence means two people share a complete capability of Magick, like two puzzle pieces fitting, or magnets of opposite poles being continuously drawn to each other. The two halves increase the power of the other through mutual support, and are often capable of great strides in their Magick that they wouldn’t be able to achieve otherwise. And they will always, always know when the other is in physical pain, or, worst-case scenario, dead. Not only that, they often are able to reach each other through any Magickal hindrance. All those realities will only increase in strength the stronger the emotions between the two people are.

So yes, John knew there wasn’t anything inherently romantic in Coniuncti Sumus, but that didn’t stop remembering how his mind, and body, lit upon seeing Sherlock Holmes that first time, even when he didn’t even know who he was – he still didn’t, not really.

“I’m sorry? You said my brother; you have actually spoken with my brother?”

While John had been remembering what he knows of the Coniuncti Sumus bond, Mycroft froze to utter stillness at John’s words; for the first time appearing genuinely surprised.

John wasn’t confused by his reaction for very long, he quickly remembered that he only ever told Dr. Thompson he saw a man, and a dog, not that he’d actually spoken with him.

The wide-eyed look on the man sitting opposite him reminded John that despite the professionalism with which Mycroft Holmes held himself, this was the man’s brother they were discussing.

“Yeah, twice actually. Deduced my whole life the first time, then when I saw him…well, yesterday, he kindly explained that I was an idiot, but that’s ok because everyone is – like it was supposed to be reassuring.” It was annoying, but part of John had felt like laughing.

Mr. Holmes blinked, slowly.

“Indeed. My brother could never be called a tolerant individual. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised you’ve had contact with a part of him in some approximation. With enough focus, my brother was occasionally able to project himself a short distance away from his physical location. Even in this state, especially with the majority of his Magick healed, some of him would be – in lay terms – leaking out beyond this room.”

John had wondered if maybe this bond was why he’d been seeing him, it would make sense in a way, but maybe not?

“So this isn’t because of the bond?”

“Yes and no. Always when my brother projected himself, it worked much like a two-way mirror. He could see out, but no one would see him. That you saw, and spoke with him, is the part that is a result of your bond.” Mycroft, all previous evidence of distinct emotion gone, gestured towards the briefcase at his side. “As you very well know, my brother’s mind is still fractured, with the knowledge you have just given to me, I now suspect he may very well be aware to a degree, at the very least within his own mind. Regardless, I doubt he is consciously aware of what is going on.”

John looked over at the aforementioned man; chest rising in the same, slow, pattern, face lit further by the rising sun, accentuating the decrepit condition of his body.

John ached, and for the first time wondered if that was the bond or him.

“Because of whatever memories he locked away?” John asked without turning his gaze away. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Mycroft nod. “Do you know what they are?”

“I have my suspicions, but no, I do not know. It is not in the Holmes nature to share information about our lives unless absolutely necessary.”

John hummed. Somehow, this knowledge did not surprise him.

“What about the dog I saw? Was he, or she, a product of Sherlock’s mind?”

Mycroft appeared to ponder that for a moment. “That seems probable; I can honestly say however that I do not know why that image was significant enough that Sherlock, intentionally or not, projected it. We never had a dog growing up. Dr. Thompson mentioned you said it was red?” The last sounded slightly more emphasized than the rest.

Was red significant somehow?

John nodded. “Yeah, Irish Setter I thought.” He should know, his Nan had two all through his early life.

Mycroft took a deep breath, eyes distant for a moment before coming to rest on John once more.

“I wish I had more answers for you John, truly.”

John ignored the many ways that response could be interpreted, knowing he would probably find out the truth some way or another – regardless, there was a more pressing concern.

John took a deep breath. “What now? You still haven’t said how any of this is of help. Or why I was drawn here last night for that matter.” Something John would really, really like to know, especially now.

Quite honestly, the full gravity of it hadn’t quite sunk in yet. John was running on adrenaline.

Mycroft made a grunt of acknowledgement, and for the first time during their long conversation, he ejected himself from the chair he had been sitting in.

“That, Dr. Watson, is what we shall all explain to you.”



~


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January 5, 2017 12:56 am  #19


Re: Secret Santa Fics 2016 - Read them here

Chapter 4

The Plan





John thought that he’d reached insanity’s terminus before, which proved just how far gone he really was.

He could believe a lot, with a world full of Magick and ultimately endless possibilities in the form and shape it can take, pretty much anything was possible.

That didn’t mean John wasn’t having trouble digesting what Mycroft, Dr. Hooper and D.I. Lestrade (whose first name is Greg he’d learned upon proper introduction) just told and summarily requested of him.

Oh ok, I’ll just go waltzing into some blokes head – whom I am apparently bonded to via Coniuncti Sumus – do away with whatever is mentally blocking him from waking, once I actually find it, no big deal that doing so will make this man remember his greatest pain and that I have no bloody clue what I’m doing, more likely I’ll feck up the poor man even further…Absolutely no big deal, at all.

Perfect.

The truth was, for a few important reasons, John genuinely had no choice but to comply with what he’d been told and requested of. However, John knew that even if he did have a choice, there would be no way he could turn away from helping this Sherlock Holmes, or anyone in that condition for that matter. If John were the only one who could do something, his conscience wouldn’t allow him to ignore that, no matter how dangerous.

And this was dangerous.

When Mycroft called Molly and Lestrade back into the room (apparently they were waiting right outside), after introductions were made (The D.I seemed a pleasant enough man to John, certainly nothing threatening about him – despite his power), Mycroft proceeded to fill the rest of the gaps in John’s knowledge of the situation.

What it all boiled down to was this: Sherlock could not live in his current state forever, mind fractured in who knew how many ways. It was a miracle he had survived as long as he had already, they were dealing with many worrying unknowns at the time. No one knew how much longer it would be before Sherlock gave out in both mind and body, Mycroft theorized though it would be soon – this based on John’s actions the night before. Once he explained his theory, it made sense.

Sherlock had no conscious awareness of his actions, the subconscious soul of his Magick and damaged mind reached out in desperation because it knew it was near death, latched onto John through the bond, because it knew John was the only one who could help. The Magick John felt that night, felt overwhelmed by, was indeed Sherlock’s. Because, as both Mycroft and Lestrade put it, with some guidance Coniuncti Sumus would allow John to interact with Sherlock’s mind in a way no one else could, and ideally bring him back.

With the new restraint on his wrist John hadn’t been able to tell until he was told (by Molly), but apparently when John initiated physical contact with Sherlock (which he managed to do before passing out) while the latter was subconsciously initiating a shared power connection he regained some control over his own Magick. John didn’t know until Mycroft told him that loss of Magick control between two people bound by Coniuncti Sumus was near impossible, so it made sense to him that John would receive a boost of healing so to speak from the closer contact.

(Unaware of his actions or not, John had a feeling that if they both came out of this in one piece – mostly – John would have a lot of thanking Sherlock Holmes to do.)

Molly told John that the restraint he and Sherlock shared wasn’t just for the benefit of keeping their own individual Magick under control, but the crystalline allowed currents of their Magick to stay connected to each other – which helped stabilize, and would continue to do so, Sherlock for the time being, especially considering that he weakened further after expending the mental energy it took to draw John to him. Overall, John got the impression that their unique Magick restraint acted much like a bizarre form of dialysis.

Since John didn’t have any inherent mentally based Magick, it would make the initial contact between his and Sherlock’s mind slightly difficult but with their bond it would not be impossible. Both Lestrade and Mycroft, each with their unique set of abilities would dually act as a bridge to guide John into mental contact with Sherlock’s mind. Neither would be able to observe or hear what John did, but all three of them would be under something similar to a trance the entire time this went on.

Molly was there to keep an eye on them. If enough time passed she would either signal for help to keep their bodies healthy or do what she could physically.

Lestrade emphasized to John that doing something like this, especially for one as inexperienced as he was, always carried a risk of mental damage to their own mind.

To which John replied he was already half-way there. He acknowledged the risk, but found he didn’t care all that much what happened to him – or rather, the risk was inconsequential in comparison to the reward.

After John agreed to venture into this unknown (while thinking it would probably be helpful to know what he was looking for exactly, but Mycroft, and Lestrade too – after John asked him – didn’t seem to know what memories Sherlock’s mind locked away) and ultimately attempt to save this man’s life, Mycroft – Lestrade as well – explained a few things about Sherlock’s power itself and how it would manifest once John made contact.

John remained seated on the bed, unable to move being bound (literally) to the man lying in the bed next to him. John observed a minority of Mycroft Holmes’s power with some fascination when the man replicated two additional chairs (with barely a twitch of a finger) identical to the one he’d resumed sitting in once Molly and Lestrade re-entered the room.

After they’d explained what would be required of John, and asking him if he would undertake this risk (again, John could hardly say no – didn’t want to), was when they began to explain the logistics, which included some things John suspected he wouldn’t be able to fully wrap his head around until he was actually in the position – if even then.

Sherlock Holmes continued to amaze.

“I feel like Alice going into goddamn wonderland.” John sighed after they – primarily Mycroft – explained it to him.

Molly, who was closest to John, reached out a comforting hand; faint smile on her face, she looked nearly as exhausted as John felt.

John smiled at her reassuringly and patted her hand.

Mycroft hummed and Lestrade looked vaguely amused by John’s comment.

“That’s actually pretty accurate, now that I think about it.” Lestrade muttered from his chair, sat beside Mycroft.

The D.I. appeared more tired than any of them, lines of pain clear on his face only barely covered by his too calm attitude.

Though they showed it differently, it was apparent that both Mycroft and Lestrade had deep personal stakes in the life of Sherlock Holmes.

And now, so did John.

Mycroft nodded towards Lestrade. “Indeed. My brother held much pride in his adaptation of the Mind Palace memory technique in concurrence with his own mental capabilities, in practice this ended up acting much like inward astral projection – quite singularly unique and ingenious.” Mycroft breathed deeply and glanced at his comatose brother. “Not that I said that to him.” He added so quietly, John suspected he didn’t mean to say so. Louder, he continued. “Gregory here was never able to get far, but connecting with Sherlock’s mind while in this state, however briefly, afforded him the unique experience appearing to physically be in Sherlock’s mental construction of a Mind Palace.”

“Before I got thrown out the front door – literally.” Lestrade yawned and scratched an errant spot on the back of his neck.

“So it’s like Virtual Reality in a sense?” Molly asked, obviously intrigued despite the obvious stress in her features.

Lestrade nodded.

“I’ll grant you that interpretation, yes.” Mycroft added.

“Fascinating.” Molly was worlds more knowledgeable in this area than John, but even this was relatively new territory to her.

Insane. Bloody insane.

John exhaled, still vaguely disbelieving. So apparently this man, Sherlock Holmes, when his Magick and mind fractured, he and all disconnected, uncontrolled parts of himself retreated into this mental construction of his. Something he initially created to facilitate his eidetic, if selective memory – according to both Mycroft, and Lestrade. Molly hadn’t known him before he was comatose.

They suspect that the block of repressed memories keeping Sherlock comatose was somewhere in there.

In essence – John would have to break into this man’s mental, and apparently very real, house and find repressed memories, all the while encountering who knows what and likely facets of the man himself.

John thought after this he would willingly submit himself to heavy doses of therapy.

It was all very confusing.

“One other point you should know Dr. Watson.”

John has never been afraid of danger, but he would admit to being fearful of failure. John didn’t think he’d ever felt this unprepared for something in his life. Mycroft had mentioned that the Coniuncti Sumus bond would help, though he didn’t say how – perhaps he didn’t know himself.

John sighed inwardly. He looked at Mycroft.

“What?”

“The way you experience the passage of time while connected to my brother will be different. It could very well feel you are in there for days, though in actuality only a few minutes may pass. We simply don’t know, and won’t know until this is over.” Mycroft appeared frustrated much like John at the amount of unknowns here – it was clear Mycroft Holmes was a man not used to not possessing all possible knowledge of various outcomes.

Brilliant. John couldn’t decide if that was a good or bad thing.

“Is that always the case with things like this? Or is it exclusive to him?” John had the passing thought of reading more up on mentally based Magick after this, maybe even pursue once he was fully healed, assuming this all worked out, a bum leg and hand tremor aren’t hindrances in that avenue of medicine.

It was the first time John had seriously thought of a future since attempting to kill himself. It may have only been a passing thought, and John may not fully recognize the importance of it at the time, but it meant something vital – John was not ready to die, not yet.

“It varies.” Lestrade interjected. “In this case, I suspect it has much if not all to do with him. You didn’t know him before, but…the speed at which his mind worked, it was unbelievable.” He looked off as if in remembrance for a brief moment. “Makes sense it would translate into something like this I guess.”



‘…no, I didn’t read your file, and before you ask I am not psychic - I merely use my brain unlike most people, and observe…’



John inwardly smiled at the memory of his first encounter with Sherlock Holmes. “I can believe that.”

Lestrade gave him a faint smile and nodded – in their conversation the fact that John had actually spoken with Sherlock, even if what was only a small part, came up more than once.

John did ask about the dog, Lestrade didn’t know what it was either – John felt more inclined to believe him about that than Mycroft.

“Do you have any other questions before we proceed?” Mycroft stood out of his chair.

“How will I know what to do? Or how to find these…memories for that matter?”

Give John a Sig Sauer P226R and he wouldn’t need to be told how to use it, but this…he’s been told and had a lot explained to him, but John still has zero clue what to actually do once he finds these repressed memories, or what form they will take, let alone how to find them in the first place.

“I wish I could tell you more, but I fear this will be an undertaking we will largely have to take blind. Perhaps your Soldier history and experience will indeed be of use once again.” Mycroft gave John a knowing look.

The dig was subtle, and once again John wondered how much Mycroft actually knew, but he ignored it for the time being.

This entire plan reeked of desperation, but even though John has only known of it for all of a matter of hours, it was the best one they had – which wasn’t saying much.

No point in prolonging this, John supposed.

“Then let’s do this.” At that point John felt he knew as much as he could without actually being in Sherlock’s head.

“Are you sure Dr. Watson?” Lestrade asked, as he too stood up and moved his chair closer to John.

John appreciated the consideration, unwarranted though it was.

“Yes. And call me John.” He gave Lestrade a commiserating nod before laying down, making sure to get comfortable; the increased pounding of his heart and adrenaline coursing through his body wasn’t an unwelcome feeling.

“Very well, good luck John. Call me Greg.”

John felt a warm, rough hand grasp his ankle; the first point of contact for the bridge between himself and Sherlock.

“Ta Greg.”

John clenched a handful of sheet in the palm of his right hand; staring at the ceiling. Waiting.

“I’ll be right here.” Molly said from off to his right.

John nodded.

Head resting on the soft cotton of the pillow, John turned to look to his left; he could see Mycroft sitting beside Greg in his own chair, hand now on the exposed ankle of his brother much like Greg’s with John; between them their free hands were resting palm to palm.

Their eyes closed.

John immediately focused on the gaunt man lying beside him –Sherlock – and hoped that emaciated, fractured state of the poor man would soon be a thing of the past. John found he wanted to see those eyes again, he wondered if they were just as full of life as they were when John saw him before.

And most importantly, John hoped this wouldn’t be an exercise in futility.

The last thing John saw before he felt a Magick wave of tsunami-like proportions wash over him and he abruptly fell unconscious, was the crystal binding between his wrist and Sherlock’s glow in a blinding, purple light…


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January 5, 2017 12:57 am  #20


Re: Secret Santa Fics 2016 - Read them here

Chapter 5

A Meeting Of Minds





At first John thought he was asleep because it was so dark, then he realized he could move, breathe, blink, he didn’t need a cane and he reached his hand out (though he couldn’t see it) there was no tremor. It all felt so real – the most realistic lucid dreaming could not possibly compare.

It was then John saw a door; several stories high, in the middle of a black, and thick, almost tangible fog; literally all around him appeared to be a night sky without stars – the contrast made the door, a deep, cherry red, with gilded carvings scattering across its surface, all the more striking.

The sheer grandeur of it had a part of John wanting to laugh – Sherlock Holmes’s ego must be the size of England itself.

John could barely see a foot in front of him, but with a step that was at first tentative – John moved towards the imposing door. It wasn’t like there was anywhere else he could go.

This is so bloody bizarre.

He wasn’t floating, there did appear to be something solid beneath his feet, yet each step he took was silent. That was perhaps what the most unsettling thing was; John couldn’t hear anything, not his breathing or any movement he made.

He had a feeling that would be changing soon.

John had heard of the ‘Mind Palace’ memory technique before, though only in passing. As John came closer to the door, it was obvious this man clearly took Palace to literal proportions.

It was also obvious that those gilded carvings John noticed before were actually thousands, upon thousands of musical notes, and all of them were moving, most in a very controlled and sinuous movement.

John’s eyes widened.

Is he a musician?

However, the more John looked the more he noticed there were some that appeared jagged, broken, jerking around almost angrily.

He also noticed the door had no handles.

“Of course not.” John mouthed to himself, silent. “Well, here goes nothing.”

John reached out with both hands, visually seeing his hands for the first time since arriving here (John noted with some confusion that they looked less marred), and prepared to hopefully push the door open.

The moment John’s hands came in contact with the gilded wood he felt a very familiar burning sensation. It was significantly more intense than it had been before, like touching hot embers.

“feck.” He swore.

John pushed.

He’d barely exerted any pressure before the door was falling open, but before he could register anything a light that shone like a thousand fluorescents flooded his vision and John quickly covered his eyes with both hands.

“What-”

A loud, overwhelming swooping sensation, interrupted his exclamation as it surrounded him, a sound that must’ve been hundreds of voices rose steadily louder.

John felt as though he was forced ear first against a speaker turned up to maximum.

The dual sensations of light and sound caused John to scream in shock and pain.

It was then John felt a tugging sensation in his gut, pulling him forward - and John fell.



~



Christ goddamnit shit arse –

Well, he landed. And to him it felt like he’d done so from some interminable height, hit every obstacle on the way, landed on a pile of rocks and miraculously survived.

In short, he hurt everywhere.

How is all this so real? At least whatever those voices were are gone.

John almost didn’t want to open his eyes and see where he was.

“Ah, John Watson I believe?”

At that John did open his eyes. There was no way to mistake who that voice belonged to.

Sherlock Holmes.

John was lying splayed on a carpeted floor of some kind, and he felt…itchy.

A pair of feet encompassed by grey slippers entered his field of vision.

John looked up, and into the face of a much healthier looking Sherlock, only this time he wasn’t wearing the suit and coat John had seen him in before, he wore a pair of ratty pyjama bottoms, a white t-shirt and a long, silky, deep red dressing gown hanging slightly off one shoulder. His hair looked even wilder, and his eyes were staring piercingly at John; alight with what could only be curiosity.

It was not fair that John found him more attractive like that.

John moved his legs and groaned. Yeah. Definitely fell.

“And you’re Sherlock Holmes.”

“Obviously. You’re in my head.”

So he’s clearly aware to some degree.

John rolled his eyes. “You never know, might’ve stumbled into the wrong mind by mistake.” He spoke with surprising steadiness, while pushing himself onto his knees and to standing.

John was immediately assailed by a draft once on his feet. He grimaced and looked down…

“I’m naked.” John sighed. Brilliant.

Explains the itchiness at least. While army life had a way of curing ones modesty, dropping into a guy’s head in the nude wasn’t exactly a great impression to make – how did this happen anyway?

“Hm, yes. I would never have guessed.” Sherlock gave him a look that clearly told him what he thought of that obvious statement, mouth twitching as though restraining a smile.

John snorted.

Still nude, he put his hands on his hips and glared at Sherlock.

“You’re a bit of a twat aren’t you?”

Sherlock shrugged. “You’re the one who dropped onto my living room floor bare arsed, Dr. Watson.” His eyes flickered at John’s aforementioned nudeness for the briefest of moments, any indication of what he might be thinking hidden behind an indeterminable mask, before turning away without further word.

John did not turn red like a bloody teenager. Nope. I’m a 40 something year old man; I can and will control myself. I will not think about being naked inside Sherlock Holmes’s head…Christ.

“Right, sorry about th-oof!

John’s vision was suddenly blocked as some sort of clothing was thrown at his head. What – John pulled the offending garment away and realized it was another robe similar to the one Sherlock wore, except this was cream coloured and cotton. “Oh, um, ta.” While John wrapped the gown around himself and tied it securely (far too long in both sleeve and hem, but John was none-the-less grateful) he looked around the new area he had appeared in for the first time.

Huh. With the grandeur of the door John saw, he certainly never expected anything like this; it was probably only a small part of Sherlock’s Mind Palace or wherever he was. It was obviously a flat; eclectic, small and cozy. John felt oddly drawn to it.

He wondered if it was a replica of a real place or a facsimile.

The only thing John recognized was Sherlock, sitting on a chair at a long, plain wooden table (in what could only be a kitchen, separated from where John was by an open glass door) covered in slides, paper, old used teacups, and a weathered laptop among a menagerie of other things. His focus was very intent down the line of a microscope, long fingers (John noted the stark, disturbance between them and the body of the actual Sherlock) turning the dials on its side.

John blinked in surprise. Detective, possibly a musician and now a scientist of some sort maybe?

Sherlock Holmes was quickly becoming the most fascinating man he’d ever met.

John breathed deep and took in the rest of the environment with interest.

He’d landed in what seemed to be a very well lived in sitting room, not dirty, but certainly disorganized; each piece of furniture unique.

There were two armchairs, one was black leather, the other a pale red tartan, in front of a fireplace, above which hung what looked like a mirror – but the glass was solid, not reflecting anything, odd. As John continued to look around, he noticed anything that should’ve reflected in some way, a window, a smooth table surface, the edges of the wooden floor bordering the large embroidered rug, a laptop screen etc., but didn’t; it was like a thick grey coating was blocking anything that could possibly allow a person to see themselves.

John knew, there was a psychoanalyst’s symbolic wet dream in there somewhere.

The more John observed, the more he came to realize while at first glance everything appeared normal, at a second, or third, the more bizarre and distorted things became.

There were no shelves, piles and piles of books and various oddities (a human skull, a half decomposed bison head, an old school uniform that could’ve only been worn by a child, bits of old newspaper, a single, lone slipper, music sheets everywhere…it went on and on) were scattered all over the room, and seemed to warp before John’s very eyes; an effect similar to looking at something underwater.

And the more John tried to focus, the harder it was to distinguish what things were. However, there were a few things that remained crystal clear (and that actually became easier to see with the various distortions surrounding them); a large, scorched, wooden wheel spinning at an incredibly fast rate, the sculpted figure of a half-naked woman, barely enveloped in cloth, making wide motions with her arms – as though she were in control, even though her hands didn’t come into physical contact with the whirling circle. She had no face, yet John felt as though she were staring at him…it was more than little unsettling.

The wheel began to slow as musical notes began to emanate from all around John; vaguely familiar – but John couldn’t quite pinpoint why.

Suddenly, the woman and the wheel were gone; between the blink of Johns confused and startled eyes.

(What the hell?)

In its place, John saw a cherry red violin ripple into existence and actually float in the centre of the room above a metallic music stand – ah, a violinist.

Not many would guess it to look at him, but John always had loving appreciation for violin music.

There was an oddity however; one of the strings was broken, making it unplayable.

Focus John. He didn’t come here to gawk at the man’s subconscious/mind palace.

John doubted the block was here. That would’ve been too easy, wouldn’t it? And he had absolutely no idea where to go from that point – the only source of guidance he had was Sherlock himself, what must be a part of him anyway.

The fact that he’d gotten that far however, further proved the validity of a Coniuncti Sumus bond. John suspected he wouldn’t have gotten past those loud, piercing voices and overpowering lights otherwise. He wondered if that was what ejected Greg before, only with John, it ended up doing the exact opposite and obviously brought him in further.

Now what?

John turned around to face what he first suspected to be a kitchen.

Sherlock hadn’t moved from his position, only now he was wearing black trousers and a purple shirt, robe absent. The kitchen was entirely empty, save for the table and its contents, with the addition of a single counter with an electric kittling bubbling soundless atop it.

The other major difference was what looked like various bits of torn paper moving around Sherlock’s head, moving far too fast for John to glean what was written on them.

John walked towards the table, intent on speaking to Sherlock and asking him…what? So hey, mate, any idea where you keep your most painful memories? In the fireplace or one of those wooden crates over there? Maybe in the slipper.

He reached the table and sat across from Sherlock in the only other chair. The latter appeared not to notice or simply ignored him.

John clasped his hands together and rested his arms on the tables’ surface, abruptly reminded that he was still wearing the man’s robe.

John began to feel exceedingly awkward about the entire thing; still he resolved not to show it.

“Mind if I ask you something?” He asked, perhaps overly casual. There’s nothing casual about this, why am I even trying?

John blinked in surprise as all pieces of paper which had been zooming around Sherlock’s head vanished in puffs of smoke, all save one…which, much to John’s bewilderment, folded itself into an origami lotus and fell into Sherlock’s head. Into it! Though there was no…hole that John could see.

He tried very hard not to gape.

Otherwise, Sherlock didn’t move.

“Interesting choice of words given our situation, but yes, you can – no guarantee I’ll answer.” Sherlock muttered with a vaguely exasperated sounding exhale. His gaze continued to be focused down the sight of his microscope.

John wondered what he was looking at.

He didn’t ask his questions immediately; because when Sherlock spoke it became clear it wasn’t only his clothes that had changed. John couldn’t pin point his finger on it, but this Sherlock seemed more…dismissive, less warm than the one that had greeted him. And John was sure there was a more unnatural pallor to his skin.

John shook it off and leaned forward.

“How did you know my name?” Probably not the most productive question to start off with, but John was curious. Sherlock had called him by his name the second time he saw him, at the time John wondered if the man had overheard him being addressed by some member of the group, but maybe not.

“Your cane, obviously.”

At his words, though bored sounding, Sherlock seemed to ripple and suddenly he was wearing exactly what he had the second time John saw him; suit, coat, scarf and blue shirt – he never so much as moved.

This is so weird.

“My-” Oh. Right, course. When John came to the centre his cane had been labelled with his name in case it got misplaced somehow, Sherlock must’ve seen it.

“Mm. Now that we’ve got that fascinating detail out of the way – why don’t you ask me what it is you really want to know?” Sherlock moved his focus away from the microscope for the first time, almost immediately it disappeared and Sherlock rested his elbows on the table, palms encased in dark leather pressed together and resting in front of his mouth.

Sherlock was then, very pointedly, observing John with calculating eyes. It was more than a little unnerving to be subject of that gaze, John felt like every secret and every thought he’d ever had was laid bare before him.

It bothered John less than he thought it would’ve (he wondered if it was because those eyes that were staring at him were also hypnotic – otherwise why would John be suddenly speechless like an idiot?). Still, Sherlock’s expression gave nothing away.

John coughed offhandedly and opened his mouth to do just what Sherlock said but paused – his instincts told him that asking this man point blank about what was going on, at least at first, was a bad idea. He may have the Coniuncti Sumus bond working in his favour, but this man’s subconscious had kept himself in a coma that will eventually kill him if he doesn’t come out of it, all to avoid remembering what it was Moriarty had found and exploited.

It would probably not be a good idea to risk shooting himself in the foot before he could really get somewhere.

“Do you know why, and how, I’m here?” John figured it would be helpful to find out exactly how much Sherlock was aware of, and then John could decide how to approach the rest of this.

“I know you’re not a figment of my mind. I know you do not possess any mentally based Magick power yourself, or if you do it is not significant enough to warrant you being able to come here yourself, you had help. I know you are uncomfortable being here, not out of fear in being what is obviously an unknown for you, no, if anything you relish the danger of this disruption to what had become a monotonous life you despise, you are uncomfortable because you are a man who despises feeling useless, which you feel right now but are obviously trying not to. None-the-less, you are deeply intrigued and fascinating by what you see in a way I find…surprising, much like your decision to become a soldier, a profession wrought with destruction, while also holding deep commitment to your being a Doctor, further highlighted by your Sorcerer based Magick.” Sherlock narrowed his eyes at a very wide-eyed John, seemed to contemplate something before tapping his fingers against his mouth once and bring them to rest flat on the table. John found himself worrying Sherlock was going to deduce his suicide attempt. “I also know that you find me superficially attractive.”

Now that John hadn’t been expecting. He only passingly allowed himself a moment of awe, if discomfort, at how bloody personal – and accurate – Sherlock’s deductions were, in favour of focusing on that last one.

“What-no I’m not, I wouldn’t, you’re completely off-” John exhaled and rested his head in his hands. Fantastic, this couldn’t get any more awkward – then John remembered violating this man’s mind by dropping naked into his living room. He sighed. “Look, I do not know why you think that-”

“You-”

“And I’m not asking!” John quickly interrupted. “Look, this is neither here nor there, but you are way off.” It wasn’t a lie, not completely, which was probably why Sherlock’s expression changed from exasperation with John’s pathetically bumbling denial to confusion. Technically John was telling the truth, in his head John could admit he found Sherlock exceedingly attractive and adept at pushing buttons John didn’t even know he had, but it wasn’t just superficial – as Sherlock seemed to think.

Then suddenly Sherlock’s expression went completely blank and his eyes were hard as he stared at John.

“Don’t tell me you hold idiotic societal views of sexuality-”

No! God no, of course not! I’m not that kind of arsehole. All that – it’s all fine.” John gestured towards Sherlock.

At that Sherlock abruptly shut up.

“I know it is.” Sherlock’s hands came to rest once more in front of his mouth. He continued to watch John curiously for a moment before he seemed to look through John; almost absent.

Jesus Christ, John certainly didn’t mean to imply that he was somehow prejudiced with his half-arsed denial. A couple decades or so ago he might’ve seemed that way, more than one near death experience tends to put certain things in perspective though.

Sherlock didn’t say anything more. As John looked at him, he was abruptly reminded of the fact that Sherlock was born in 1854. The world wasn’t exactly accepting of gay people back then, still isn’t now in many places. John wasn’t sure what Sherlock defined himself as, but due to the way he reacted John doubted he was heterosexual.

John sighed again. “Ok, how did we end up talking about this?” John muttered quietly to himself. He was already way off track here.

Resolving to put this conversation way, way back into some black hole in his mind (it really couldn’t have happened at a worse time), John re-focused back on Sherlock and his goal; getting the man out of this coma.

So he knows I’m real, and that I connected with this mind – pretty sure he also knows he’s unconscious, but doesn’t appear to know why.

His focus still seemed to appear elsewhere.

“Mr. Holmes?” John called out his name loudly in effort to get his attention.

The second John spoke to him Sherlock closed his eyes and twitched. Then his appearance changed again. He was back to wearing the silky red robe John saw him in before, and he felt more…open, for lack of a better term.

“Sherlock, please.” He answered with a minute smile.

The amount of pleasure John felt at seeing him smile, so different to the hardened expression he wore before, was probably a little more than unnecessary. Thanks brain.

“Alright Sherlock, call me John then.” John nodded.

“Yes, John.”

John reciprocated his smile gladly.

When John realized that they were both just sat there smiling at each other, the pause that followed quickly became awkward for an entirely different reason.

This is not exactly helping my “not attracted” to him case.

“You have more questions.” Sherlock broke the silence, watching John with a curious eye, as if what just transpired was inconsequential.

At the moment, John was relieved. He really didn’t want to continue that conversation and risk embarrassing himself further.

“Yes.” John nodded. He breathed deeply. “How much are you aware of what’s happening here, with you?”

“I know I am unconscious, and that I am not dreaming – your singular presence confirms as much. I have to be in a coma, though not of the traditional sort since I retain a manner of self-awareness, clearly as I am able to communicate with you, a part of my mind is at any rate. If things were different I would almost call this fascinating. As such, I dislike being unable to use all of the amenities of my Mind Palace.” Sherlock tapped his fingers gently against his chin. “I know that is because my abilities were damaged by major trauma causing the Magick I possess to become uncontrolled, which seems to have had the unfortunate side effect of affecting how I regulate my mind. I have spent decades perfecting the efficiency of my shields – only an event, or person, of noteworthy power could collapse them. My last, clear memory was of testing the textile strength of Albanian sheep wool in a lab at St. Bart’s against increasingly high levels of ethanoic acid-” At this John noted with some surprise the scent of wet wool and vinegar perforating the air. Sherlock’s appearance changed again; this time he was wearing a black suit with a white shirt. “-After that…nothing is clear. I cannot remember how I came to be in this position, nor do I have any recollection of how long it’s been – something I have been trying to figure out, along with a way to…wake up. The only use tedium has ever granted me was time in which to install various fail safes and triggers to protect my mind from this exactly kind of damage! I should’ve been able to wake myself up, when I discovered I couldn’t I tried reaching out.”

Sherlock threw his arms up in the air, his expression morphed into one of deep frustration. John noticed the longer Sherlock spoke, the angrier he became. “Something I have been, annoyingly unable to do! I’m missing pieces of the puzzle, I can’t figure this out. I should be able to. My mind is not a useless sieve, I collect all and save what is useful, surely this would’ve been useful! Even damaged there should be something, more evidence, more…”

John jumped a bit in surprise as Sherlock leapt out of his chair and began pacing around the kitchen table, muttering to himself and running angry fingers through his hair. John had to use significant metaphorical neck muscles to follow him with his eyes on each lap.

Up until that point, Sherlock had appeared largely controlled and casual – seeing this frustration and anger was only to be expected, still John was surprised at how fast it appeared.

What he wasn’t surprised by was Sherlock having no conscious memory of Moriarty and the events that led both of them to this point. If Sherlock really was triggered into a form of amnesia, John half-expected he would know even less than he seems to – despite how clearly angry with himself the man is, like he sees it as his own fault and personal failure, the fact that he is aware at all seems like a miracle to John.

John wondered how much of this Sherlock actually knows. Either way; miracle.

He spared a moment to be grateful for the fact that he encountered the part of Sherlock’s mind that wanted to heal himself, and didn’t have to do deal with whatever it was that was keeping him like this – not yet anyhow.

God this is all so bloody strange. A relatively ordinary person’s mind would probably be trouble enough for John, the mind of Sherlock Holmes…well; this was going to be interesting.

“That’s why I’m here. I know how to fix you.” Sort of. John tried not to cringe. “At least, I think I do. I want to.”

Sherlock stopped pacing and whipped around to face John, his eyes immediately went to darting all over John’s features before finally settling on John’s face.

Sherlock blinked. And it reminded John of when he called Sherlock amazing after the man deduced him short of his penchant for red tartan underwear; like he couldn’t believe he heard – or in this case, saw.

John wondered what Sherlock saw in his eyes.

Determination? …Nothing to lose?

“Why? What could you possibly gain from what you’re doing?” His gaze narrowed at John as if he suspected an ulterior motive; and John decidedly met that gaze head on.

All around them faint violin music began to play.

Beneath the suspicion in his eyes, there was genuine curiosity – only, John wasn’t even sure of the answer to that question.

Because I have to? True, but that didn’t sound right to him.

Because I want to feel purposeful again, because I know, if I didn’t try I would hate myself – not just because it would feel like abandoning a man in need when you alone hold the ability to help him, but because it’s you. You, a complete stranger, whom I haven’t met – not fully, and all I know is I need to help you. I don’t even care if the Coniuncti Sumus has something to do with this or not, for the first time in a long time I feel alive.

I have to.

…yeah, no, no way, not saying that out loud.


In all honesty? John wasn’t sure he was technically gaining anything. So that’s what he said.

“Nothing.” John shrugged.

Sherlock snorted in disbelief. “Nothing?”

John stood up and nodded, hands briefly in the air with nothing but sincerity bright in his eyes. (John had the half thought that the effect he was going for might’ve been a bit more dignified if he hadn’t been wearing the man’s dressing gown)

“Nothing.”

Sherlock frowned, lip minutely curled. “Hm.” He didn’t say anything more, but there was something new in his eyes as he looked at John – it was indefinable, John quirked a smile.

Sherlock shook the moment off however; his posture straightened, his hands clasped behind his back and he walked to stand directly in front of John, closer than he had yet to be.

John’s short stature only made the man seem even taller than he probably was, and it only added to his enigmatic appeal.

John didn’t move.

“Tell me all you know.”

John exhaled. “Your brother-”

“Mycroft.” Sherlock bit out, he appeared to briefly flicker to an image of a child – but it went by so fast John wasn’t sure. “I should’ve known he’d be involved, always insisting on rubbing his fat nose in my life, would’ve thought he’d find someone more qualified and slightly less bumbling to deal with-”

“Oi!-” Sherlock’s mouth abruptly closed. “Do you want me to tell you what I know or should I take my bumbling self out of here?” John scowled and crossed his arms.

Certainly no love lost there between those two. From what Mycroft told him though, they had been able to put aside their dissension when it mattered.

Sherlock looked away from John briefly. His shoulders fell, and he exhaled a long sigh. When he leaned against the wall directly behind him, he remained silent and waiting.

Small mercies.

“Thank-you.” Perhaps best not to start off with Mycroft this time. Don’t feck up Watson. “I don’t know all the details of this but as far as I know you were tortured, Magickally, into reliving your deepest pain over and over. Your Magick and mind…self-destructed in a way, and your mind then reacted in self defense, we’re not sure if you did this consciously or not, but you apparently purged the memories from your conscious mind causing the pain and-”

“It was the finite blow to what even an individual such as myself could bear. I inadvertently locked the source of the pain permanently out of mind, causing myself temporary amnesia of any and all events surrounding it, and putting me into a coma of my own making from which I will only awaken if I retrieve the memories of this pain. I obviously wasn’t able to delete them completely, which suggests not only was the action an unconscious one taken by my Magick, but that whatever the memories contain is intrinsic to my individuality. If they truly were entirely gone I wouldn’t be here talking to you. And now you’re here because, for whatever reason, my brother has run out of options in trying to revive me, years must’ve passed since I first went under. As much as I hate to compliment him on anything, my brother is not without Magickal talent, he had to have tried waking me – and failed. As did everyone else that followed. Lestrade would’ve tried as well. No one had any success, and yet…you are here, interesting.” Sherlock had started pacing again, hands in front of his mouth, while he spoke; obviously deep in thought, the very physical manifestation of a mind racing, once again pieces of paper with indistinguishable words zoomed around his head.

John couldn’t even find it in himself to care all that much about being interrupted, yet again. Sherlock was all so very blasé about it, if anything he seemed excited by the new information. John believed him when he said he didn’t know much about what happened, so he had extrapolated all of that from John’s words alone.

John liked to think he was pretty good at reading in between the lines, but this…it was another in a quickly growing list of proof that Sherlock Holmes sees novels of information in the most seemingly insignificant detail.

And a part of him was able to do all that while still in turmoil.

“That’s brilliant.” John suspected he was gawping.

Sherlock stopped his frantic movements and looked at John curiously. “Do you know you do that out loud?”

Now I do.

“Sorry I’ll shut up now.”

“No, it’s…fine.”

Sherlock resumed pacing, continuing to absorb all the information he could, but John could’ve sworn there was a new, faint but very real smile on his face.

Yet again John praised Sherlock’s deductions and the latter seemed both surprised and pleased, like this was new. How is that possible?

Sherlock did one more lap around the kitchen before coming to an abrupt stop a few feet away from John.

“My shields attacked anyone who tried to enter my mind, they probably assumed this was resulting from the part of me keeping the memories buried – but no, it wasn’t, even in a chaotic situation there is some measure of predictable order…which means…Oh!” Sherlock gasped and his hands clapped together once in front of his face. “Yes!”

John had seen Sherlock smile before, but this was something else. His entire being came to life. It took all of John’s energy not to smile – but wait, what did Sherlock mean?

“My mind as the adversary…definitely fascinating.” All of the sudden, Sherlock’s long, dark coat appeared on his shoulders and his hands became enveloped in black leather; there was a faint redness high up on his cheeks. “The game is finally on. Come along John.”

Sherlock whizzed out of the kitchen before John could react.

Shit!

John rushed after him (peripherally noting that the living room looked exactly as it did when he first entered it, only the violin was nowhere in sight).

“Bloody hell Sherlock, wait!”

Sherlock had his hand on the doorknob. He turned to look at John, seeming confused by John’s call. Of course.

“What?” He said, very clearly impatient to get moving.

But moving to where?

“Where are you-”

We, John. Obviously you’re coming with me.”

For heaven’s sake-

“Yes, I know.” John briefly rested one of his hands on his forehead. “But where are we going? What did you figure out back there and why, did you say we probably assumed the shields you have that were keeping people were because a part of you wants to keep the memories buried, aren’t they?”

“Is this really necessary?”

John sighed. “Yes! I may be in your mind, but I can’t bloody read it.” Now there’s a sentence he never thought he’d say.

And then, Sherlock did something he was definitely not expecting.

He laughed; full bodied, infectious and utterly captivating.

At first John was confused, but that didn’t last long as John couldn’t help but join in too.

They didn’t stop. John hadn’t laughed that hard in months, for Sherlock, John suspected it had been years. He thought it was probably due to adrenaline release more than anything else, still, it felt good.

Sherlock’s giggling had tapered off, but he continued to watch John with amusement.

John was still trying to control his reaction, so he reached out to steady himself on something, and realized it was Sherlock’s shoulder.

Then he stopped laughing, suddenly realizing how close he allowed himself to get. Sherlock didn’t seem to care, simply watching John. He cared though. Feeling decidedly awkward, John pulled his hand away, feeling hot and intending on brushing off the moment to focus on what was actually important.

John opened his mouth to speak, Sherlock got there first.

“My mind may be fractured, but clearly many of the safeguards I mentally put in place years ago are still functioning, which means my Magick wasn’t so severely damaged I couldn’t heal – at least to a degree. The shields in place now are not the same as those I possess when conscious. These ones are to prevent outside sources from violating my Mind Palace when I am, cleaning it – for want of better terminology, of unnecessary information. Nothing can, or will wake me, until I am finished – except for myself of course. All of me, Magick and all, is focused on the one task when I am decompressing my Mind Palace. The damage to my Magick is keeping part of my ability stuck in this loop, which is what is making it impossible for my Magick to heal completely – which if it were able to may have been able to unlock those memories automatically. It is only a side issue however; waking up from the coma will ultimately solve both issues. What is most important is that whoever tortured me into this position was intelligent, but clearly inexperienced in the mental landscape in comparison to myself; his damage was thorough, but not thorough enough. I’m still alive. It is amazing what a century or two under ones belt can do.”

Oh only a century or two. No big deal.

John frowned, trying to think his way through Sherlock’s words.

“Let’s see if I got this…what is blocking others from entering your mind now, is your Mind Palace janitorial caught in a loop because a part of your mind tried to delete these painful yet apparently important memories and failed, which as a result caused them to be locked away in some far corner instead, which made you all but forget them, but because you didn’t actually there is some residue of them behind and because your mind now doesn’t know where they come from, or what they are, it assumes they are unnecessary and is trying to delete them, but can’t because they are connected to these blocked memories the rest of you can’t actually remember, so it’s like trying to delete something that ‘doesn’t exist, not possible and you practically jumped out your trousers just now because you realized the existence of this residue may lead us to the source of all this? And recovering the memories will stop this…loop, allowing your Magick to heal completely, and will wake you up from the coma?”

Sherlock looked pleasantly surprised. “Essentially, yes.”

Well, that’s something then.

John felt grateful that the evil bastard who did this was just incompetent enough to not actually kill Sherlock. He probably would’ve anyway, if Sherlock weren’t as obviously capable as he was.

“Alright then.” John wondered if being connected with Sherlock’s mind was rubbing off on him in some way.

It may be half-arsed, but it was a plan, and a plan made John feel better about this whole, confusing and maddening thing. The more he thought about it, the less he understood it.

(John had a feeling one could spend an entire lifetime trying to understand the mind of Sherlock Holmes and still get nowhere)

The only reason why John didn’t ask, with what Sherlock said, why he was able to go through those shields, was because he knew why. The thought didn’t stick, but inwardly John wondered why Sherlock didn’t ask or seem to wonder why himself. Maybe this part of Sherlock was unable to for some reason.

John was brought out of his thoughts when he saw Sherlock was smiling once again at John, his hold on the doorknob somewhat loosened.

“You’re not all that unintelligent are you?”

John snorted. “I did tell you I’m not an idiot.”

“Perhaps.” Sherlock turned away and twisted the door handle; it opened slightly with a small, quiet creak. He looked at John once more. “Not completely at any rate.”

It wasn’t traditional, but John suspected that was actually supposed to be praise of a sort.

John rolled his eyes.

“That, is a horrible compliment.”

Sherlock looked almost offended. “I thought it was rather good actually.”

John wasn’t sure if Sherlock was being serious or joking.

“John.” Sherlock continued speaking before John could wonder further. “Since it is obvious you do not share my penchant for robes, I assume you’ll want your clothes back.” Sherlock gestured at John; in the too long, too skinny dressing gown.

To be honest, John had completely forgotten what he was wearing – wait a sec, ‘back’?

Before he could respond, Sherlock – the pratwinked at him, swung open the door and left the room. The door shut behind him before John could follow or see what lay beyond – not that he would’ve been able to follow, since he had frozen momentarily because of that wink.

“Bastard.”

He suddenly felt decidedly less airy. John looked down. He was wearing what he had been when he entered Sherlock’s mind, namely the drab BMC staple white t-shirt and grey trousers.

John wanted to ask Sherlock why he showed up nude in the first place, but for that and many other things, he would have to find the bugger first.

What was it Sherlock said? Ah, the game is on.

John opened the same door Sherlock did and followed.



~


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