Basically, I'm doomed and committed to my doom and I really wish transporters had been invented for this already. It's unfair. I also can't get my server working for people outside my LAN. And my ritalin isn't ready until tomorrow and I have to figure out a way to go and get it. This is like, a day. This is a day.
And this is a wip. I haven't indulged in a wip in a while, and I feel this is the time. Also, my other fic are either in beta or I hate them.
This Is History, 1
Sherlock BBC (Sherlock/John, eventually)
Set after The Great Game. Has not been britpicked, but it has been spellchecked. I think. It's Office 2010, the menu changes are stressing me.
Warnings: descriptions of graphic violence.
part 1, part 2, part 3
When John was a child, his neighbors owned a cat with a distressing tendency to leave its kills on the doorstep, easily visible to passers-by and even moreso to small, curious boys. Over time, John witnessed the deposit of mice corpses by the dozen, any number of small birds, a variety of lizards (green, untyped), and one memorable day, a rat the size of a small dog.
The psychology of cats is not a complicated one; the creatures were an offering to the family to indicate the ability to provide and, if some animal behaviorists were to be trusted, an indication of affection.
Animals are, in general, predictable in their behavior, even if the series of events leading to the behavior in question may be anything but. In the course of his studies, he'd dabbled in psychology and psychiatry with the understanding that he would excel at neither and happy enough that this was the case. On the whole, he thinks he was right in his assessment of his strengths, standing on his doorstep with the quiet of pre-dawn London, grey and misting cold and wet through his jumper, fingers numb in clenched fists and staring down at what had been left on their doorstep.
He's a doctor, a soldier, and the assistant of Sherlock Holmes, private detective and supreme scholar of strange and unusual deaths; this shouldn't be such a shock. His training holds true, even now; he studies and catalogues with the part of his mind that's not frozen--female, eighteen to twenty-two, Caucasian, five feet three inches, ninety-one pounds, dangerously underweight, healing track marks on the left arm, probable cause of death, catastrophic...catastrophic--while the rest of him simply sits, suspended in time and place.
It's worrisome, this.
"...through the open door, the draft is terrible, John." Behind him is the sound of footsteps, a familiar, irritable voice, impatient, and then, more carefully, "John?"
It's odd; living with Sherlock means learning not only there are different qualities of silence, but that they each have a different meaning. John can interpret Sherlock by the heaviness of the air, the sense of growing anticipation or boredom, the heady feel of curiosity, excitement and adrenaline or slowly growing paranoia and carefully controlled anger. John knows this one very well; five parts curiosity to one part irritation that curiosity will win by a landslide.
"Call Lestrade," Sherlock says, pushing by him to crouch by the body, sharp eyes flickering over it and taking mental photographs for future reference. The order helps, somewhat; John reaches for his phone and makes the call, hearing his own voice surprisingly steady as he tells a sleepy Lestrade what is to be found at 221 Baker Street before he hangs up.
Sherlock's murmuring to himself, pulling out his instruments from the pocket of his jacket--does he sleep with them, John wonders inanely--examining the body with the quick, professional detachment of a seasoned coroner before studying the area around them--right, right, their doorstep is a crime scene now. Following Sherlock's gaze, John marks out the plain brick and concrete, a bit of newspaper tumbling by them, an emaciated dog vanishing into an alley; no bloodstains in sight, just like there are none underneath the body.
John snaps his attention back to Sherlock, waiting with all the answers that it's John's place to confirm. Blinking, he kneels awkwardly at her hip. From here, he can see the neatly clamped arteries and veins, as carefully and meticulous done as a thoracic surgeon, incision lines following the line of muscle and flesh the way it takes years for even the most brilliant doctor to truly learn. The belly's been meticulously hollowed out, the ribs wide-spread wings, revealing nothing remained within but the still heart, all four ventricles neatly clamped shut.
His eyes flicker to her wrists, ankles, throat: no abrasions and barely reddened: wide, padded straps, possibly Velcro to reduce trauma. Her face is untouched, newly cleaned and smelling of mild soap, as are her hands, her feet, all visible skin and muscle, even the still-damp dark brown hair braided back from her face so that it cannot impede the view of the wide open, empty sockets of her eyes.
He stares at her body, feeling the faint façade of objectivity ripping itself away like peeling raw flesh from living muscle; he doesn't know the cause of death. He doesn't want to know--know that--that she could have-- "She bled out," John hears himself say, calm, feeling the faint surface coolness of her skin and calculating the ambient temperature and the rigor mortis and wondering if he's lying and who on earth he's lying to, because Sherlock already knows the truth, whatever it might be. "Time of death was less than six hours ago."
"I concur," Sherlock answers, turning sharply at the sound of sirens. Getting to his feet, John steps back, leaning casually against the open doorway as if it wasn't needed to support his legs beneath him, watching the spill of faceless people and rapid questions at him, at Sherlock, and he realizes as he answers that one of them must be Lestrade--the one Sherlock is arguing with, of course--one might be Anderson--looking at the girl's body with curiosity cut with disgust and irritation, probably at the indecent hour--but he doesn't recognize a single face, blobs of sound and color with no meaning.
….then he's walking back up the stairs and he can't quite remember how that happened.
He's nearly at the door when he realizes Sherlock is directly behind him, one fine-boned hand pressed against his back, touch as light as air and as inescapable as death, then he's pushed into the wall inside their flat just before his leg goes out, tumbling him to the floor.
Convenient, that. Reaching down, he palms the phantom pain, feeling it arrow from hip to instep sharply enough to make him hiss. Sherlock closes the door, turning the lock, and that's strange enough for John to look up, even though he's inviting another lecture on psychosomatic injuries and the power of the mind, which he's not entirely sure he will be able to hear without screaming until he forgets how to do anything else.
That's rather worrisome, too.
He wonders if this is what a psychotic break feels like when you remember it; he'd been evaluated and then warned with great energy, as if he was nothing more than a civilian whose medical knowledge came from the telly and watching too many American procedurals. PTSD flashbacks were far more common, but the frequency indicated the potential for psychosis. He was low on the curve, true, but psychiatry wasn't an exact science after all--
"You were right," Sherlock says sharply, all bright consonants. "He nicked an artery too early and did not clamp it quickly enough; she bled to death before the vivisection was completed. John, are you tracking?"
Sherlock might lie for many reasons, but never for the purpose of comforting anyone, ever. John takes a deep breath and lets it out, surprised to hear the raw sob filling it. Reaching up, he feels dampness on his cheeks, then looks at Sherlock crouched on the floor inches away, coat pooling around his feet, blue eyes evaluating John with the same chill appraisal as the body on the street outside.
John nods shortly, rubbing his thigh one last time before pushing himself to his feet, lightheaded with the fall of adrenaline and tasting it sharp on the back of his tongue, sour-sweet as bile. His mouth tastes of nothing else. Worried, he glances at his shoes and the hem of his trousers and is ridiculously relieved he wasn't ill.
"You should sit down," Sherlock says, on his feet and pointing toward the couch. Before you pass out, he doesn't say, but John knows the symptoms of post-adrenal letdown and makes his way over, just barely managing to sit down and not simply fall, boneless and oddly exhausted. There's a cup of tea, still steaming, within arm's reach, but he doesn't reach for it, despite the perfect steadiness of hands that could do brain surgery with ease at this moment. It feels like a betrayal.
After a moment, he sees Sherlock take a seat in the armchair. "I would suggest this would be the time to consider taking--"
John jerks his head up. "I don't require drugs," he says roughly; he's not sure if there's any insinuation there about Sherlock's propensity for pharmaceuticals, and illegal ones at that, but he rather hopes there is.
"--something to calm yourself, but the fact that there are three unopened bottles that by date were prescribed at the time of your release argues you will refuse." Sherlock taps impatiently on the arm of the chair; a normal person would want to discuss the issue, possibly in-depth, or failing that, wish to explore John's reaction, searching for the reason for it, as if knowing the why could ever alleviate the what. Sherlock, however, has never been normal, and he of all people knows how utterly untrue that is. 'Why' asks as many questions as it has ever, ever answered.
"Lestrade will be requesting my assistance," Sherlock says after few moments, fingers tapping again, anticipatory. "After we're questioned of course." The entire room is filling with it, lighting it up more brightly than even the rising sun stretching pale pink and gold through the curtains, crackling energy that could light all of London if there was only a way for it to be harnessed. John takes a steadying breath and nods. "Not before another body is found, however."
John doesn't ask how Sherlock knows that; he'll tell him whether or not he asks in his own good time. A few more seconds pass before John reads the singular in the first sentence and feels a shock of something that he's not sure is relief or anger or perhaps both; the relief that he won't be expected to accompany Sherlock mixed with the understanding that Sherlock considers his skills compromised and therefore he's entirely useless even as sounding board, much less assistant.
John straightens. "Anderson won't stay after shift if he can help it. You hate his method; why subject yourself to it when I will do it for you?"
Sherlock doesn't smile, but the anticipation thickens exponentially; John feels the charge of it against his own skin, wiping away the faint, humiliating memories of earlier. Standing up, Sherlock reaches for his own cup of tea, finishing it in a single swallow. "Do get your coat this time, John. I suspect it is going to rain, and I want to examine the doorstep before any potential evidence is washed away."
John nods and obeys, knowing he isn't hiding his relief at all.
It's been three months since he was released from St. Barts, three months since he and Sherlock emerged from the pool, unburned and soaked, to the smells of smoke and debris as strong as the chlorine suffusing their clothing. John remembers it all in the sharp-edged, ultrafocused images, seconds that lasted days, years, feeling the heat of explosion even as he and Sherlock touched the concrete bottom of the pool, the building shaking around them as chunks of old concrete and rotting wooden support beams fell with them. He remembers his quiet room in St. Barts'. He remembers the friendly nurse and Sarah's visit and Harry's. Then he remembers Sherlock pinning him over the side of his bed while people in scrubs rushed around him like frightened birds, the sound of Sherlock's voice in his ear though he could make no sense of the words, and wondering who was screaming so loudly and why they wouldn't stop.
Haldol took care of that quite nicely; when he had woken up, it had been to a different room, cool and white, and a too-friendly doctor told him about delayed trauma and medications and treatment.
"Triggers," the doctor had said sympathetically, but John hadn't been paying attention when he realized the friendly psychiatric nurse had been shagging the man ten minutes before they came into his room to tell him how many diagnostic criteria he'd fulfilled. "Your current activities leave you vulnerable."
It's a very medical way to suggest a hobby involving fish and large bodies of water, all things considered.
Three days and a final evaluation later--perhaps you should consider a holiday, it had been suggested, somewhere far from exploding buildings and sociopathic detectives--John walked into an empty flat with Harry on his heels and watched her pack his bag. A holiday with his sister was closer to chasing murders through alleys than fishing could ever be, but that last round of medication had made it seem like quite a good idea.
While he was gone:
Two of the snipers were located, their various parts found and catalogued; Sherlock had studied them for days, tracking identities that meant very little and far too much. One was retired army, wounded in action and lost a leg; John didn't recognize the man but the medical record has his name, signed beneath--catastrophic amputation--the ink as dark as dried blood. The second was similar to the first, a complicated pregnancy that a new intern had handled as best he could that ended in death for both mother and child. John supposes it should be flattering, Moriarty's meticulous devotion to such a small detail, to have John Watson killed by those who believed he had caused them irreparable harm; it underlines the fact that Sherlock was always meant to walk away from that building, and to walk away alone.
John had spent two weeks with Harry south of London, a holiday spent watching his sister's years-long suicide in progress by way of the bottle and detoxing himself by inches; shivering and too-awake, John counted the hours until dawn as rebound insomnia made itself felt from bennie cocktails and mood stabilizers. He supposes he was lucky it was only three days before they released him and insomnia and nausea were the only things he had to deal with; longer and he'd never have the high ground again when the words 'drugs bust' were used in what passed for casual conversation in the flat.
The human body can't survive without sleep for fourteen days, but John can't remember that he ever did, not until he returned to home and fell asleep in his achingly neat bed, waking to look around the small, bare room that his absence had left impersonal, empty. The only possessions he owned were the ones he carried with him always, and they all fit into a single bag. It was unsettling, like he wasn't supposed to come back; like perhaps, he had never been here at all.
The next morning, Sherlock had been in the kitchen, drinking tea, too still to be anything but manic, with the faint edge of growing withdrawal; the blue eyes had flickered over John, pausing, then slipped away, setting the cup aside and saying that Lestrade had asked for their help and did John think he could manage to be useful now that he's had a holiday? Beneath the cuff of Sherlock's shirt, John could see the nearly-faded stripe of bruises in the shape of fingers; faint, long yellow smudges on his throat when his scarf loosens in the wind as they wait for a cab; John fancies that his fingers would fit them as perfectly as a key in a lock.
Everything is as it was before--before a great many things. Before holiday and before St. Bart's psychiatric ward and before the hospital; before the pool and even before suits of bombs to learn the tolerances of Sherlock Holmes for innocent victims: women, young men, elderly and disabled women, children, flatmates who can't quite keep themselves from being abducted off the street. John's not sure what Sherlock thinks of it, if he thinks of it at all; failure to catch the perpetrator tends to put a damper on case discussions, John's discovered. He thinks, though, that whatever Moriarty meant to discover from it, there is one thing that John suspects both of them were surprised to learn.
Sherlock has never said Moriarty's name, the syllables left somewhere in the rubble that was once a building and hosted the death of Moriarty's first victim. John hears it anyway: in the violin Sherlock plays every night, sonatas attacking the darkness as if that alone could drive them closer to dawn; in the thousand crimes that Sherlock tracks through the endless days, newspaper clippings and aggregate online newsfeeds he sorts and catalogues and discards, searching for the pattern; in the quality of the silences that aren't boredom, not anymore--they're fascination. Moriarty's soaked into his skin and bone, the perfect focus for Sherlock's restless mind, as ruthlessly brilliant and almost as sharply detached, someone who is both challenge and goal, perhaps even prize.
Moriarty is mad, yes, impulsive violence and wildly swinging moods; anyone with a modicum of sense would look between them and mark the difference between chaos theory in motion and a living, breathing force of nature. Whatever Donovan says, Anderson thinks, Lestrade fears, Sherlock is not like him, still whole in all the ways Moriarty is not; John's never believed otherwise and confirmation was never needed. No, what he thinks of is the way they faced each other, and John felt the recognition hum between them as sharply as the slide of a stiletto between his ribs, something like shock and something like understanding and far, far beneath both, barely acknowledged and felt so much more powerfully because of it, recognition.
I'm not the only one
John recognizes the ache of loneliness when he sees it in someone else, deeper and unacknowledged, perhaps even unrecognized and unknown until that moment; a lifetime of it felt so habitually it was probable that Sherlock never knew what it was. Moriarty had changed that--you're like me; I know you--and Sherlock absorbed that lesson, learned in a room smelling of chlorine and only feet away from John's bomb-wrapped body.
You're not alone.
Now Sherlock knew; Moriarty had shown him what he lacked and was the solution to it all at once. And that, the least of his crimes, the pettiest, was also the most personal; it's what taught John how deeply hate could run within him, because he would die for Sherlock without a second thought, kill for him without a moment's hesitation, but he isn't and can never be the person who can give Sherlock the simplest, most basic of part of humanity: connection. Pets, John reflects, are good for many things, but that is one thing they can never be.
John supposes that the fact it took a psychopath for Sherlock to understand one of his most basic human needs might very well be a definition of irony.
It's well after a day spent answering Lestrade's brisk, unhappy questions, tracing the probable routes of the body's transportation, and an unexpected tea with Ms Hudson, who unaccountably looks at John with narrow-eyed suspicion over biscuits and attempts to coddle Sherlock with unsettling results, chased with half a night of waiting until Anderson's attempt at a work ethic finally failed before the prospect of sleep that John finds himself faced with her body again.
This time, though, it's like any other, and John tries not to let Sherlock see his relief.
"Serial killer," Sherlock says, watching John complete the meticulous examination of the body. John looks at Sherlock skeptically; while not inclined to disagree, there's only one body. John pauses; Sherlock doesn't often resort to guesswork, but when he does, his grasp of probability is ruthless. Given that--
"There's another body," John says with a sigh, finding the girl's few personal effects and looking through them; a silvery chain that matches the fine line of bruising circling her throat, where the clasp left an impression of itself in purple on her throat, as if she was held by it and the chain pulled too tight; a wallet, empty but for a few quid and several cheaply made IDs that gave her six names and none of them, he suspects, the one she was given at birth. Peeling off the gloves, John looks around the small room and wonders when he became a person comfortable with breaking into the morgue at night. "When was it found?"
"The night you went to the opera," Sherlock answers without interest. "Doubtless you were too distracted that morning by the incessant yawning to pay attention to the papers." The blue eyes flicker up, amused. "Late nights do not seem to agree with you."
John frowns; he was home well before midnight, and Sherlock's endless quest to single-handedly redefine insomnia gives him no room to speak at all.
"A body was found," Sherlock says, sliding off the counter, clothes miraculously falling unwrinkled around him. "While her origin and destination have not yet been clearly established," and Lestrade will hear about this forever, "she collapsed at the corner of King Street. She bled to death less than five minutes later."
One doesn’t need to be the greatest detective in history to have a working knowledge of both geography and the lack of coincidence. "Three blocks away."
"Yes." Sherlock's eyes flicker to the body again, running over it with impersonal interest. "There were no suspects, of course--"
"I think I read about it in The Guardian," John answers, stripping off the scrubs and bundling everything together for later disposal. "It was being blamed on--"
"--the homeless residing near St. Bart's," Sherlock answers, with the faintest trace of an ironic smirk. "Rubbish, of course; there were similar ligature marks found on her wrists, though not on her ankles--"
"Wasn't quick enough tying her down?" John asks, following Sherlock to the door.
"Post-mortem bruising on her left heel suggests she did not leave her murderer unscathed," Sherlock answers, then he opens the door and falls into that perfect silence that seems to envelope even the natural sound of his clothing; he makes John feel his very heartbeat is ridiculously loud. They both know this place too well, and John tries not to think too much of the fact he knows the night routine of the staff, the easiest access points, the quickest way back into the rain-wet streets, coat pulled up over his neck and scrubs tucked into a bag against his belly. They look like any two blokes taking a midnight walk in the rain, provided they were escapees from Bedlam; quite normal, this, for what value of normal there is in their lives. Tucking his hands in his pockets, John takes a deep breath of rain-heavy air and resigns himself to near-catatonia come morning. Despite his early night, he feels like he had no sleep at all.
As Sherlock exercises his talent for finding a taxi in any situation, John thinks of what they learned tonight; there's nothing new he can tell Sherlock that he doesn't already know. The girl had bled out quickly, but not before the y-incision had been complete; she'd been restrained but the preliminary lab reports that Sherlock had helpfully accessed had shown no other chemicals in her bloodstream but partially metabolized flunitrazepam. The dose wasn't fatal, but it was disabling; strong enough for a young woman to be dragged by her necklace to a medical bed and restrained against her will, only coming to when the scalpel began to meticulously take her apart.
Shivering, John finds himself almost flat against Sherlock's back when he stops for the approaching cab. There are times that Sherlock's uncanny talent for bending the basic laws of Murphy makes John consider the beneficial effects of strangulation--Sherlock is not one to downplay his abilities, after all--but right now, John wonders how on earth he ever lived in London before him.
The cab ride is relatively silent; Sherlock lost in thought, or possibly understanding at last that certain conversations should not be had in the hearing of civilians. Some, in fact, should probably never be heard by anyone, but John's resigned himself being Sherlock's living, breathing equivalent of a skull--a pet--and on the whole, he doesn't regret it. Life lived like a procedural crossed with a comic book is not to be dismissed out of hand; John remembers Afghanistan and the long, grey space after far too clearly.
Once in the flat, Sherlock retreats to John's computer without commentary. Knowing this is not a dismissal so much as a holding pattern, John makes them tea; by the time it has finished seeping, Sherlock is sitting back with a faint frown and the blue eyes are fixed on nothing.
Sherlock takes it without so much as a change in expression; seating himself, John considers snatching the laptop away and reading for himself. He might not see what Sherlock does, but a warning is never amiss.
"The first body was found the morning after a heavy shower," Sherlock says slowly; John sips his tea, trying to remember if it had rained on his way home from Sarah's. "As was this one. The weather forecast may be our best indicator of when he will strike next."
To wash away the evidence, perhaps? From the look on Sherlock's face, that's not in itself sufficient reason. Lower visibility, less people on the street; early mornings aren't thick with people at the best of times, but perhaps every little bit helps. Melodrama: John no longer discounts that as a motivator of criminal activity.
"It's supposed to rain all month," John says unnecessarily. Glancing at Sherlock, he tries to think of something to add and surprises himself with a yawn.
Which gets Sherlock's attention. "Go to bed," he says, impatient with the weaknesses of the human body. "Perhaps one night a week you should attempt a proper night of sleep."
John rolls his eyes and gets up. Good advice from any source is still good advice. "Good night, Sherlock."
Sherlock waves a graceful arc in response; Pleasantries are boring.
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