|The Seldom Seen Kid
Author: Fool Who Follows PM
Sherlock makes a choice; and makes John Watson the most important man in that pool. They won't see each other again for three long years. SH/JW.Rated: Fiction T - English - Angst/Romance - John W. & Sherlock H. - Chapters: 7 - Words: 19,105 - Reviews: 58 - Favs: 80 - Follows: 145 - Updated: 07-23-11 - Published: 05-23-11 - id: 7015787
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A/N: Once again, thank you so much to those of you following this little story.
I originally intended to do the songs in order, but I'm thoroughly stuck on track 6 "Weather to Fly" so I've posted this instead. I'm now thinking I'm going to shorten this from the thirteen chapters I'd planned to ten, which I think is the minimum I can get away with to finish the plot. There hasn't been much interest from readers and I'd really like to get it done before the new series starts.
"Now I live off the mirrors and smoke
It's a joke, a fix, a lie."
The Loneliness of a Tower Crane Driver, Elbow, 2008.
Track 7 – The Loneliness of a Tower Crane Driver
Sherlock Holmes did not sulk.
He was quite incapable of such a feat; sulks were for adolescents and those without the ability to engage in rational thought. Nonetheless, he gazed moodily down at the city hundreds of feet below him, a sprawling web of orange streetlights that contrasted painfully against the night. Despite the darkness, his eyes couldn't help but pick out every irritating detail that told him it wasn't the one he wanted to see.
Sherlock's current hiding place was rather a good one, if he said so himself. He was sitting in the cab of a vast tower crane in Geneva, where it was being used in the construction of a large office building. Well, nine to five it was; since the local time was currently four twenty three a.m. the building site was quite abandoned save for a couple of security guards (who a man of Sherlock's considerable talents had no difficulty in slipping past).
Those talents had proved invaluable in the past two and a half years; in that time, Sherlock Holmes had managed to bring down over ninety percent of Moriarty's once vast criminal empire.
Well, no; not Sherlock Holmes, per se. I haven't spoken or even heard my own real name since I left Mycroft's car at St Pancras to board the Eurostar with six fake passports and fifty thousand Euros in my overnight bag. I've been Mark and Stephen and Gregoire and Ben and even Sieger, but I haven't for one moment been Sherlock.
Oh, it's kept me alive, for certain. I know Moriarty's last remaining lieutenant, his faithful assassin Sebastian Moran, has his doubts about my death. If he didn't, he wouldn't be keeping such a frighteningly close watch on John.
Fortunately, tracking a master of disguise with numerous impeccable false documents and large quantities of hard cash across four continents would have been a challenge for Jim himself, and his lackey is nowhere near as intelligent. Dangerous, yes, but in the same way a rhinoceros is dangerous; get close enough or loud enough to frighten it and it will savagely disembowel you. But move quietly, draw a trap around it, box it in so it can't charge… and the big dumb beast will be powerless. I can't help but wonder if that's how Moriarty recruited him. The more I've learned about Jim, and by now I think it's everythng there is to know, the more of myself I've seen in him; until I simply started putting myself in his shoes every time I was without a lead.
Would John recognise me if he passed me in the street, I wonder? I don't even remotely resemble the man he knew any more. Can't wear anything similar to my favourite coat from back home, too distinctive in a crowd; I have to make do with hoodies. My hair's too short, bleached blonde and I have to smother it with product to hide the natural curl. I've been wearing blue coloured contacts and latex facial changers for so long I've almost forgotten how I look without them.
And I've travelled the world alone. Odd, how before I met John this expedition would have seemed like my idea of heaven and now… oh, it hurts. It burns in my brain, every waking moment, the cold at my shoulder where he always followed, one step behind. I never had to look to know he was there; to know that he'd follow me gladly into the very jaws of death.
Which was precisely why I had to begin this elaborate charade in the first place.
Sherlock had hoped that the view would help distract him from his lingering depression amid the utter boredom of waiting for Mycroft's call, but having it shoved in his face that he was hundreds of miles from home rather cancelled out the distraction. From that height, he could already see the first blush of dawn beginning to lighten the Eastern horizon, muting the harsh, artificial orange glow of the city.
His heart clenched in his chest as the memory of another dawn unfurled unrelentingly behind his eyes.
The case had been a minor one; an investigation into a rather ingenious money laundering operation which used a charity shop run by some very sharp little old ladies to legitimise stolen goods and drug money.
Really, it was almost a shame to have them arrested; although Mrs Merryweather, grandmother of four, did utilise her knee on a thoroughly deserving Detective Inspector Dimmock in a way that resulted in additional charges of resisting arrest and assault. He's never going to live that one down; he probably still has the drawer full of wool and knitting needles that mysteriously appeared in his office after the incident.
It had only taken one night of staking out the back of the shop to collect all the evidence they needed; and then Sherlock and John had walked towards home, laughing and joking in the predawn light. They were halfway across the near-deserted Millennium Bridge when John paused, turning to face the sun just emerging above the crowded London skyline.
The rising sun had caught in his greying mousy hair, turning it into a halo of deepest gold that seemed to glow from within. His weatherbeaten skin, still tanned from the harsh climate of Afghanistan, was smoothed by the kiss of the sunlight into flawless perfection. His eyes slid shut in pleasure as the dawn warmed his face.
Just for that moment, John Watson had been a creature from another world; untouchable, unmarked by the harshness of reality. Sherlock hadn't dared do more than stare for fear his companion would evaporate into mere photons.
And then John had opened his eyes and smiled; the creases had reappeared around his eyes, his boyish dimples ruining the smoothness of his cheeks… but the glow remained. And something in the consulting detective's abdomen turned a somersault.
"Been a long time since I watched a sunrise without a gun or a scalpel in my hands," John said lightly. "Can breakfast wait a few minutes?"
"Of course," Sherlock had managed, after a pause that was slightly too long. "It will be hours before we can report our findings to the police, anyway."
The pair had turned to lean on the railing, John still soaking in the rays as if he were photosynthesising.
"Amazing, isn't it?" He said.
"Hmm? What?" Sherlock managed, certain his brain was experiencing a serious malfunction and wondering why he honestly didn't mind much.
"The sunrise. It happens every day and most of us don't even notice. The Earth turns and whizzes round the sun and we never so much as think about it."
"Does it?" The consulting detective replied absently, distracted by the way the light caught and shimmered in the five o'clock shadow on John's cheeks. "Seems inefficient."
"Oh, come on, Sherlock; I'm not falling for that," The doctor snorted. "You've got a brain the size of a planet; you can probably calculate the radius of the Earth just from looking at the horizon."
"My brain is a perfectly average size; it is merely a significantly more advanced model than most. Besides, I don't need to know about the sun; it's never committed a crime."
"My god…" John's jaw dropped. "You're serious? You honestly didn't know that the Earth goes around the sun?"
"Is it important?"
"Important? Sherlock, it's the solar system!"
The following argument had sufficiently annoyed and distracted Sherlock that he and John were barely speaking by the time they got to Scotland Yard. But he had never forgotten that image of John glowing, so unearthly in the dawn.
The next time he'd seen John look like that, shining silver in the moonlight on a Camden rooftop, so alight and brilliant and John, Sherlock's lips had been kissing him before his mighty brain had even contemplated the idea of doing so.
Lost in his memories, Sherlock was almost too late to avoid the vital phone call going to voicemail. He fumbled it to his ear just in time.
"How's the diet?" Sherlock answered his brother, the implied insult automatic.
"Are you going to ask me that every time you answer your phone, or should I start delegating these calls to Harmony?" Mycroft drawled in response. They never used one another's names in these rare contacts; despite all possible precautions, there was always the chance that someone had found a way to listen in. And unlike 'John,' 'Mycroft' and 'Sherlock' were hardly common or inconspicuous names.
"Only if you want me to tell her all about Sadie Miller and the jelly babies."
"You've been holding that anecdote over my head for a quarter of a century," his brother chided grumpily. "Really; I would expect a little more originality from you."
"But it's such a good one. She'll never be able to look at a jelly baby again without giggling."
"Try it, and I might just let slip to a certain doctor exactly what you did to Aunt Margery's budgerigar when you were seven."
"That was a perfectly valid scientific experiment!"
"I doubt the budgie would agree," Mycroft drawled. "And neither, I suspect, would John."
"Have we proved our own identities sufficiently to get on with this yet, or must we keep up this ridiculous back and forth of embarrassing childhood incidents?" Sherlock snapped back in irritation.
"I think that should do, my dear brother. Our mutual friend has left Shanghai and left no fewer than eight false trails to various cities all over the world. His actual destination is in fact Boston, Massachusetts, but there remain a number of loose ends to tie up in China. Use passport D and your contact's codename will be Zhizhu."
"A bit of a risky one, don't you think?"
"Not at all. After all, who better to catch one spider than another?"
"Any signs of activity in London?"
"Nothing beyond the usual. If you wanted to know how John is doing, you only had to ask."
"I never even mentioned him," Sherlock snapped, just slightly too quickly.
"Ah; my mistake, of course. I merely thought you might be interested in the latest twist in his relationship with the lovely Sarah, but obviously not…"
Sherlock wondered for a second if the crane had broken; his stomach certainly felt like it was plunging the hundreds of feet to the ground below.
"Are they…" His throat felt like it was full of hot cotton wool; he cleared it and tried again. "Did he ask her…"
"No; you may breathe a sigh of relief," Mycroft took pity on his brother and answered before he could finish choking out the dreaded question. "There are no wedding bells in the air. Quite the opposite, in fact; John has moved out, likely permanently, from my observations. I suspect it was a mutual decision, since they seem relatively amicable."
"I always said that woman was an idiot," Sherlock said disdainfully, wondering where the sudden flood of warmth in his sternum had come from.
"I believe she merely gave up on what she had known for some time was a lost cause. The last straw, as I understand it, was the night he played truant from work to wander the streets; it rather disrupted my usual routine to have to pick him up from a cemetery before seven a.m. on a Saturday morning."
Sherlock was silent. Oh, John… if there had been any other way…
"This needs to be over soon, for both your sakes," Mycroft continued, a hint of command dropping into his voice. "He is not dealing well with your absence."
"I'm hardly dawdling for the fun of it," the younger Holmes snapped. "And do you honestly think he'll deal better with my reappearance?" The belligerent tone of the words belied the anxiety behind them.
Mycroft paused to consider before replying, in a voice carefully levelled for Sherlock's benefit. His brother was pathetically grateful; if Mycroft, of all people, had tried to sugar his words with emotion of any kind it would have made them absolutely impossible to believe.
"If there is one thing this exercise has taught me about that man, it is that his devotion to you is truly remarkable," he said slowly. "And if there is one thing I know about you, baby brother, it is that when you want something, you will stop at nothing to get it." Abruptly, he became businesslike again. "I'll contact you again in three weeks, same time. Don't do anything John wouldn't approve of."
"I won't if you won't," Sherlock answered absently. His mind had fixated on a mental image of John, his John, leaning heavily on a cane he didn't need as he stood alone by an empty tomb, while the man he grieved for was alive and well hundreds of miles away. He barely noticed his brother hanging up.
High above the sleeping city, Sherlock Holmes pulled his legs up so that he could hug his bony knees to his chest, unconsciously making him lanky body as small as possible. And he remembered those brief, precious weeks when he'd had someone else to cling to…
John's stocky, solid form was not what would be conventionally considered to be either beautiful or impressive; two assumptions that confirmed for Sherlock that the vast majority of the global population were gibbering morons.
Honestly; I'm surprised they're not all wandering about with their underwear on their heads wondering why people with big pants keep walking under buses. John is glorious.
Broad shoulders, still thick with muscle even though he's not played rugby seriously in years. Firm chest sprinkled with silk-fine blonde hair, belly softening away from army life and close to too many takeaways. His arms, short and strong, fit around my scrawny body like they were made to measure, the left around my waist to hold me close as the right curls around my upper torso to sink his fingers into my hair.
I hadn't been held for the sake of it since I was about three and started wriggling out of Mummy's arms, but John… seemed to relish my proximity. It wasn't about sex, although I wouldn'tve objected; it was both simpler and more complex than that. John Watson is a man of action, so when he wanted to show me he cared, that he knew me and understood me and wanted to be close to me anyway, he just wrapped his arms around me and held tight.
I never got bored in John's arms. Sometimes I actually dozed off; he was always ridiculously pleased when that happened.
And there was that day when those warm arms saved my life…
Another day, another relatively run of the mill puzzle centring around the London 2012 Olympic Park building site and a fairly grizzly murder. What was not so average was the guilty scaffolder they'd been in pursuit of managing to shove the World's Only Consulting Detective off the roof of an eleven-storey building.
Fortunately, Sherlock's wildly flailing arms managed to wrap around a scaffolding pole and he clung to it like a limpet, body penduluming wildly off the side of the building as he searched for a foothold.
"John!" He yelled, with all the breath he could muster. "John!" His partner had been left far behind in the chase as they climbed ladders and scaled scaffolding; being shorter, less agile and with a weak shoulder, there was no hope of him keeping pace with the lanky Sherlock and the desperate criminal they were pursuing.
Sherlock heard an answering shout; but whatever John had actually said was lost in the wind and the blood pounding in his ears. He could feel his grip slipping; this high up, the wind alone felt strong enough to rip his tenuous hold from the pole and send him plummeting to the ground.
His mind, of course, began calculating it's own terminal velocity and the amount of force with which his skull would connect with the solid concrete below. It then went on to assess the likely state of the rest of Sherlock's body when subjected to the same treatment; 'smithereens,'was a fairly accurate summation.
Just as Sherlock felt gravity begin to exert its inevitable influence on his body, a well calloussed, heavily tanned hand shot over the edge and latched onto his coat collar like a vice.
"I just… can't take… you anywhere, can I?" John puffed out, very red in the face from his exertions to make it up the building in time to save Sherlock. He'd thrown himself flat on his stomach to get enough stability to help his partner up.
Sherlock started to smile… and promptly lost his grip.
He dangled helplessly in midair, almost strangled as the wind started to spin his body around the fixed point that was John's hand fisted in the heavy fabric. Sherlock's rescuer jerked violently towards the brink as the sudden weight began to drag him inexorably towards the edge, inch by inch.
"Christ… Sherlock… quick… give me your hand…"
John reached down with his left arm even as the right gripped ever tighter into his flatmate's coat, but the old injury to his shoulder prevented the arm extending far enough over his head to be in reach. Horror and fear and terrible, overwhelming guilt shone from John's expressive features as he realised his disability was about to cost Sherlock his life.
Of course, being John, he completely disregarded the fact that he was equally at risk; because I knew there was no point whatsoever in trying to persuade him to let me fall to save himself. Besides, we wouldn't even have been in that position if I hadn't been stupid enough to let a builder who couldn't even plan a decent murder throw me off a building... It was my fault, and it was going to kill us both...
And then miraculously, as he slipped down, Sherlock's prehensile toes found a foothold at last. He managed to spin himself back against the wind, the foot taking some of his weight and saving himself from strangulation or worse as his hands scrambled for purchase on the smooth scaffold pole. Meanwhile, John had managed to hook an ankle around a support prop and their combined efforts finally halted their slow slide towards the concrete below.
Somehow, Sherlock struggled up onto the platform where John was lying flat on his stomach, his grasp still immovable from the coat as he helped as best as he could. Mostly, he just lay still and held tight while Sherlock climbed over him. At last, they lay side by side on the filthy, splintered planks, pressed together from toe to shoulder to feel one another's presence in solid flesh and body heat. Both were shaking slightly as the adrenaline of their narrow escape wore off.
"Next time I nag you about your eating habits, you have a 'get out of row free' card," John managed. "If you were any heavier…"
"We would both be dead," Sherlock answered, with certainty. "Because you wouldn'tve let me go even if you had to bend the laws of physics to do so."
"Bloody right; and I'd kick Albert Einstein's arse if he said different."
They both considered this image for a moment.
In perfect sync, the pair started to giggle uncontrollably as they clung together high above their city, turning into one another for more contact.
After a couple of minutes, the hysterical tears of laughter became those of relief, soon followed by desperate kisses. Sherlock rolled on top of John and for a while, they stopped caring where they were.
When the euphoria had worn off a bit, Sherlock dared to ask a question as John's fingers combed gently through his wildly mussed curls. "When you were holding onto me, a few minutes ago…" He began cautiously. "Your lips were moving. What did you say?"
"I thought you could lip read?"
"I can; but not when the lips in question are pressed against my neck. Although, if you were willing to take part in a series of experiments…"
"Your neck, my lips? Very willing. Much better than severed heads in the fridge."
"Flattered as I am, you haven't answered my question, John."
"I was saying… When I saw you hanging there from two floors below, all I could think was 'please, God, let him live.' When I finally had you safe, I was just… saying thanks."
"You are aware that I have no belief in a higher power, and indeed find it offensive to my logical, scientific mind that others do…"
"Well, I can't say I'm much of a believer either; but in life and death situations, the words are just… there."
"Curious. It seems a universal facet of human nature to ask, even if we do not believe there is anyone to answer. In that same moment, I was thinking exactly the same thing."
Almost three years later, alone in the cab of a tower crane as the heavenly disc of the rising sun peeked over the Swiss horizon, Sherlock Holmes dared to ask again.
The Loneliness of a Tower Crane Driver
Gotta get out of TV
Just pick a point and go
The ticker tape tangles my feet
As I search for a face that I know
Come on, tower crane driver
There's not so far to go.
I must have been working the ropes
When your hand slipped from mine
Now I live off the mirrors and smoke
It's a joke, a fix, a lie
Come on, tower crane driver
Oh so far to fall.
Send up a prayer in my name
Just the same they
Say I'm on top of my game
Dwindle gentle rose
Send up a prayer in my name.
Did the dangling from scaffolding scene work for you? I thought some of the description was a bit awkwardly worded.
Let me know what you thought.