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Skullduggery (Chapter 9)
atlinmerrick
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Sherlock makes a very large, inelegant chicken, I'll have you know.

I say this because he proceeded to run around London like a headless one almost the instant he left 221B and while I only learned all of this later, again, I could have told you how it would go. And I could have saved him so much trouble if he'd just asked me for advice.

I could have told him where John was. Because I knew. I just did.

But some things you just have to find out the hard way, I guess.

*

There were some places and people Sherlock dismissed almost instantly when he went to look for John: Mycroft, the Yard, the pub 'round the corner from their flat. None of these had special meaning for John, and Sherlock knew that wherever the good doctor was it was somewhere…right.

Even if it was actually wrong.

He stood at the foot of the stairs in that cold, vacant house and it was a safe bet that a place where a felony murder had been committed would be considered wrong by most. But this? This had been their first crime scene together and so even though Sherlock knew the chances were slim John was here, he ran up the stairs of that empty house and into the low-ceilinged room where the Pink Lady had perished. And though he expected (and was rewarded with) nothing, Sherlock's heart still fell precipitously when that's exactly what he found.

"Think."

Instinct took over then, because that's what it's there for and so Sherlock did what he always does when deducing, he unfurled the fingers of both hands, ten little vanes aching to feel a whisper of wind, a hint, direction.

What they felt instead was chilly in that sad, silent place. There was nothing to look at here and so nothing to see, touch, smell, feel and so as quick as he had flown here he fled, without knowing where he would go next, without so much as glancing around the room as he left (like an artist gazing critically at their own work, the detective often enjoys returning to crime scenes when things are slow).

Back down on the street he turned without thinking toward a quiet park nearby and as he walked he tugged out his mobile, looking for a number John had programmed into it and one he never thought he'd call.

*

"Thank you. Yes. I will."

She had been remarkably civil, he'd give her that. Sherlock knows down to his marrow that had Harry called him under the same circumstances it would have been all he could do to not verbally flay her to the bone. And even if he resisted that he'd certainly find some way to remind her that she did not deserve John, didn't merit even sharing his bloodline.

Then again, maybe not. One curse of loving John Watson was that it had made Sherlock god damned empa-fucking-thetic, and now it took just seconds to put himself in another person's shoes. And while empathy had certainly been a liability when he was young, still burning up with the crazy brilliance in his own head, he'd been so surprised to learn it wasn't a handicap any more, that it actually made him a little better at what he did.

And it apparently made him hold his tongue even when Harry didn't, even when John's sister jabbed in a minor barb amidst the commiseration.

And commiserate was all she could do. In the end he was left standing in the quiet park with no more idea where John was than before. But his feet had a plan and so he let them move him and they moved him to…

*

…St. Bart's.

Standing just inside the door he knew this was wrong, wrong, wrong. He'd known it even before he came, known that this place, with its morgue stuffed full of dead bodies waiting to tell tales, meant something to him, not to them, that he was resisting logic and that for John—

—oh wait. Oh, of course. Of course.

Suddenly Sherlock knew why he'd come here, why it made sense that he came here, why John would come here. Why this place had to be the place.

Heart in his throat Sherlock moved right with casual slowness toward the ridiculously ancient, decrepitly slow lifts, then gave up all pretense and veered left, running like a bat out of hell up the stairs to the fifth floor, not even registering the sound of his own footfalls or heavy breathing.

He burst into the lab where he and John had first set eyes on each other, also not registering the details of the dozen heads that lifted from microscopes and turned in his direction.

Gazes raking fast over those faces, Sherlock registered only that none of the eyes staring back at him were dark, dark blue, that none lit with recognition. That none of them were John's.

*

Sherlock knows he's a genius. No, Sherlock knows he is a genius at this: He can look and he can see. More than that, he knows where to look so that he can see, he always has. So why was he not looking in the right places now? Why, despite open eyes was he blind?

The answer was simple, so simple: John was gone. Of course he was. Really, why wouldn't he be.

On the stairs between St. Bart's fifth floor and fourth Sherlock tripped, stopped himself from falling with a grab at the railing. He froze there, in that stairwell, and stared at the beige walls, brain ready to either take another step toward brilliance or to break apart—

A man like Dr. Watson…

—because you do know it's impossible to find what isn't there, no matter how fucking clever you think you are—

does not say find me…

—run all you like, make all the calls you can think of—

and then make the finding all that hard.

Very suddenly, like a storm crashing into itself and bringing a rare calm, Sherlock hearkened back to the words of the third-smartest person he knew: Elizabeth Ariadne Westminster Hudson (yes, Sherlock really thinks this way, and yes the order is like so: Mycroft-Sherlock-Lizzie—only Sherlock doesn't call my BAMF girl Lizzie, only I do, and usually only after she's had an herbal soother because otherwise she gets a little tetchy when I—oh good lord someone stop me. Okay. Fine. Stopped.).

Moving on.

Anyway, Sherlock thought back to perhaps the second wisest thing Mrs. Hudson had ever said in his presence: A man like Dr. Watson does not say find me, and then make the finding all that hard.

And it was true. Of course it was. John rubbed off on Sherlock, Sherlock (the old version) did not rub off on John, ergo John would not be petulant, sarcastic, or ironic. He would not write a perfectly lovely letter and then send Sherlock on a wild goose chase at whose end he would find only heartbreak. If John was going to leave he would have the courage to simply leave.

And so that meant John was out there. Waiting to be found. Waiting somewhere logical. And that logic should be clear even to someone as emotionally dumb as Sherlock (yes, Sherlock sometimes really thinks this way).

So that meant…oh. Ooooooh.

The reasoning was indeed so clear as to be anti-climactic. The detective was amazed he didn't think of it instantly. Well that was fine. It was all…fine. He'd thought of it now.

*

Sherlock's pretty sure his heart has been everywhere but in his chest for the last three hours. It's migrated to the pit of his stomach, dropped with a desperate plunge to the soles of his feet, choked off the breath in his throat, and now—

With shaking hands he pushed open the door to Angelo's and the front table, the one by the window? There he was, just as he had to be.

—and now Sherlock's heart was on his sleeve.

The old Sherlock might have actually walked up to that table and casually uttered the idiotic words, "Well that really wasn't much of a mystery," but this was not that Sherlock. Mercifully that man was long dead, and frankly no one missed him, including the man who used to be him.

This new Sherlock, the one that had always been there really, right now all he had was just that raw and beating heart. There were no words at all, no pride, no shame, and no desire to drag this whole thing out one second longer and so he dropped to his knees on that black and sticky restaurant floor and he laid his head in John Watson's lap, wrapped his arms around the man's knees and he damn well cried.

There are dozens of things John wants Sherlock to do:

Slow down a little when they're running. Never abuse the violin again. Fight crime only on weekdays. Quit bating Anderson. Eat regularly. Stop shouting at the telly. Make sure he knows how to use a fire extinguisher if he's going to set the dishes on fire.

But John never, never wants Sherlock to cry and if he could go back in time and undo all of this, go back just a few days and—what? Take it slower? Give Sherlock some warning? Listen to what their friends were trying to tell him?—well he'd do all of those things and more because right now feeling Sherlock's body shake against him hurt so damned bad John could barely breathe.

To stop the pain, to make things right, the old John might have responded on instinct just then, let his gut lead him. Yet despite what the self-help books may say, that's not always the wisest course. How the hell do you think John got here in the first place?

So this new John, he closed his eyes and, though he wanted to slide to that floor and make grand declarations, he instead put himself in Sherlock's place and thought, Why do I weep?

He didn't have to think for long, no of course he didn't. He's known from the first time this man kissed him that Sherlock's tucked away in some part of his great brain each and every kiss thereafter, storing them up, hording them for a time when there will be no more. For the time when John leaves him.

How can you not know…how can you still not know that I will never, never go?

More than anything John wanted to say those words but he's said them before, so many times. Why should Sherlock believe him now?

John lifted his gaze, away from his own fingers weaved into Sherlock's hair, and to the scattering of other diners, every last one of them watching the drama at the far-from-private front table. Tell me what to say to him please, he thought as he met each eye, tell me the right words at last.

Some of those people looked back at him with pity, others indifference, still others surprise, but in Angelo's eyes, as he stood tucked back in the corner by the cash register, the tips of all ten fingers pressed to his mouth, there was hope and encouragement and quite possibly tears.

And that's when John knew, apropos of nothing, that there was nothing. Nothing he could say, nothing he could do that he hadn't already done. It was up to time now to do the heavy lifting. Time would offer the proof words couldn't seem to. All John could do was exactly what he'd always done. Love Sherlock, day in, day out. When it was easy. When it was hard. When he wanted to. When he a little bit didn't. That was all.

Finally John leaned down, curled his body around the head in his lap, as if he could protect the man there from his own pain. And he kissed Sherlock's temple, and despite himself thought about things to say, new things, better things, things that would say everything but no, he just couldn't find the words, not the right ones. And then he heard them, clear as day, low and ragged and hoarse because the man speaking them was still crying.

"You're perfect."

John had to close his eyes and wait long seconds so that his brain could tease through the sounds of cars outside, his own breathing, Sherlock's breathing, and tell him exactly what he'd heard, and when it finally did all he did was let his thumb stroke behind Sherlock's ear.

"We're both perfect."

Maybe all the cars in the entire city of London had had the common courtesy to go silent all at once, and maybe John was holding his breath at this point, because this time he heard the soft words easily and the pain in his chest eased just enough so that he could feel his heart beating again.

"For each other."

Those last words were just so much white noise for awhile, washed away by the sound of John's own blood suddenly pounding in his ears. So at first he didn't respond, didn't say or do anything. Then, when he finally heard the words clear as a bell in his head and thought he knew what they meant and was about to say or do a great deal, Sherlock lifted his head and looked at him.

"Eight words." The consulting detective, the one who sets fire to things (including himself now and again), who fights crime at all hours (probably even in his dreams), gets stroppy with the people on the telly, is often unkind to violins, the one who runs too fast, thinks too fast, thinks maybe too much…that man grinned up at John and said, "You told me I could have ten."

John didn't know what to say so he didn't say anything, and then he couldn't say anything because Sherlock rose, tugged him to his feet, then the tall man went again to his knees on that floor that's just a little too much like the one in their flat and so doesn't bear too much close examination, and taking both of John's hands he looked up at him and said softly, clearly, and very carefully, "John, will you marry me?"

It would be nice if I could tell you my BAMF little soldier had profound thoughts just then but he didn't. No. There were just two things going on in that beautiful head and they were: He believes me. Finally he believes me. The other thought was very simple, very elegant and it was this:

"Yes."

For the span of one heartbeat everything—perhaps the entire planet—was silent in delighted awe. Then off in the far corner of the restaurant Angelo squealed like his two year old granddaughter and did a victory lap around the cash register.

      Next chapter

 


One more chapter coming.

But first, thank you Caroline, Caroline, Marie, Kimber, and Britters for sharing your ideas on where John might be. It so helped. And thanks Bluetehanu, Squashbee, Nessa Atalanta and a dozen others who answered when I asked in chapter four: "What should John do now?"


Oh, this almost made me cry! When he dropped to his knees and cried in John's lap, oh good grief that was so heartbreaking...but in a good way. Epiphanies hurt sometimes, I suppose. Just beautiful and the perfect amount of angst, and they love each other so much and it's gorgeous. This comment is a meandering mess, but what I'm trying to say is that I love this and it is wonderful.

May I gather you in close and give you a hug? That's kinda what I would like to do right now...

Thank you my dear, thank you.

YES YES YES YES YES YES YES!!!!
IT'S ABOUT BLOODY FLIPPIN' TIME, YOU BIG BEAUTIFUL DOOFUS!!!!

Ahem.

You rock. Can't wait to see the final chapter, but be sure that this one was entirely spifftacular.

Tee hee. Thank you! I have a sweet something planned for the final chapter. It's gonna make Sherlock cry. This time in a good way.

Daaaaaaaaaaawwwwwww.*hugs this fic* So,so beautiful.
I love you.You know that,don't you?You're fantastic.

Awww, thank you! Thank you very much! I am so glad you enjoyed it! Thank you for your ideas which made the writing of it possible, too! *mwa!*

*BWA!* You rock so hard it hurts.

Oh my god that was brilliant. You're brilliant. This whole story is brilliant. I have tears streaming down my face, and that's brilliant. You're brilliant. I may have mentioned that.

*sniffles, wipes eyes*

Such a beautiful chapter and a gorgeous mix of angst and pain and love and adoration. I am so, so jealous of the boys, and could only dream of being loved that much. Gorgeous.


Edited at 2011-04-24 06:16 pm (UTC)

Thank you so much, how sweet you are. I'm glad the story touched you. Good lord it's delightful writing about these boys...

Thank you Sherlock for finally coming to your senses. You were killing me, dude!!!


Tell me about it...

Then again, if he wasn't so stupid (as super-geniuses go), we wouldn't have a squeal-worthy story, would we?

Fiction: It's a harsh mistress.

(Thanks for the comment!)

Oh my goodness! This is so lovely... of COURSE that's where he was. And yes, they are perfect for each other, the only kind of perfect that matters. I love this SO MUCH.

"...the only kind of perfect that matters."

Oh that was sweet and lovely. Yes.

I could see him running up the stairs at Bart's, floundering the in the stairwell, kneeling on the floor...such wonderful descriptions. And the crying, that broke my heart. G-d, I love this story so much.

Ok, no more clever/smartass comments from me.

I love this story; I love all of your writing, really, but you know that already. I'm in awe of how you can write something that can be so clever and humorous on one hand, then turn it around and make it so heartwrenching the next.

Thanks for sharing your immense talent with us. Always looking forward to the next.

You may be clever and smart-assy to your hearts content, my dear. And also you may say such sweet things as "I love this story" and "immense talent" any time you damn well please.

Excuse me while I toddle off all glow-y and stuff.

*flails

GUH

I love the image of Sherlock running around London trying to find John (trying to find himself, really), and ultimately settling down and finding him (them). *happy sigh

His sobbing, his vulnerability, his proposal... Angelo's victory lap. OMG. gorgeous gorgeous... all of it. Every last bit.

Awww, thank you, it feels very good to know I made you feel the same why I was feeling when I wrote it! P.S. You look fabulous when you flail!

I played the game of guessing where John might be and sadly Angelo's was my second guess, but I did get there before Sherlock did, though not by much. It was a better answer than my first guess.

But some things you just have to find out the hard way, I guess.
I like this at the start because it goes so nicely with the tears when they finally get together. It was a hard journey, but they're both better off for it.

*Psssst!* What was your first guess?

P.S. Thank you for the comment.

*hugs this fic to her chest and never lets go*

so, so lovely.

So lovely. Silly fellow, Angelo's should have been the first place!

(Deleted comment)
*Snicker* I think it counts! And you knew where he was going to be before I did...

Yay! Happy nearly-ending :d I want to hug Sherlock, can John do it for me please? :P

I'll get the brave and good doctor right on that for you katead! He's always happy to help...

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