Death is a distant rumour to the young.
Sherlock first met Death when he was eleven. (What could he say, he started early?)
It was mostly accidental. Andrew had been awful to him at school, repeatedly beating him up with his gang of friends, making his life miserable. So Sherlock had devised a way to get revenge. It wasn't supposed to kill him, just incapacitate him for a while. And disfigure him a little.
And then best part was, that it would look like an accident.
They were doing simple experiments in chemistry. Baking soda and vinegar, child's play really. The vinegar was dilute enough that the resulting foam was disappointing.
So Sherlock added something special to Andrew's baking soda. A little bit of potassium, pinched from the supply cupboard. The math of the reaction was quite basic, and Sherlock was looking forward to the experimental side.
Except Andrew was an idiot, and despite the teacher's instructions, dumped the entire concoction into the vinegar at once.
Andrew suffered third degree burns to his face and airway, and died in the classroom before the firetrucks could get there.
Sherlock knew this because Death told him. Not with words, but in some silent way that only the near dead could understand.
He'd been next to Andrew when he dumped it in, the moron, and he'd been caught in the blast.
He was knocked unconscious, which was when he met Death.
Well, Sherlock wasn't really unconscious, but in some sort of halfway state between his world and Death's, which frightened him at first, but then fascinated him.
Death wasn't what he expected.
Of course, Sherlock had never expected to meet Death.
Ze wasn't carrying a scythe, which was rather silly, once he thought about it, since what was the point?
They were already dead, ze was just coming to pick them up. Death was wearing a cloak though, rather like Sherlock had expected, and as a strange addition, a black fedora. Ze was tall and strangely beautiful looking. Sherlock wondered if he was simply hallucinating.
Sherlock watched as Death moved next to Andrew, and placed hir hands on the boy.
Something faded from Andrew's eyes, which were still open. Death closed them with one hand, while looking back at Sherlock, who ze'd just realized was there.
"Hello," Sherlock said, because he didn't really know what to say to Death.
Death nodded at him. "I haven't come for you," ze said. "Not today." Ze paused, thinking. "It's interesting that you saw me though. Most people don't want to get this close."
Sherlock puffed his chest up a little bit.
"I'm not most people," he said proudly.
Death examined him, then smiled. "No," ze said. "You're rather not."
With a tip of his hat, Death vanished, and Sherlock could begin to hear the call of sirens.
He woke up in hospital with a concussion and second degree burns to his left side, which healed perfectly, leaving no scars. He didn't tell anyone about his encounter with Death, as he wasn't sure anyone would believe him.
Sherlock didn't even know if he believed him.
The next time he hadn't anything to do with it.
He was fifteen, and Mycroft had dragged him to London to get new clothing, since Mycroft was going to be graduating from university, with honours of course, and Sherlock was being forced to attend the ceremony.
He'd been to London before, but not without Mother and Father. He enjoyed the organized chaos that the city presented as, and wished again that they lived somewhere larger, instead of practically in the middle of nowhere.
They were on the way to the third store, still having made no purchases, when it happened.
What Sherlock gathered from bystanders was that an elderly woman had been crossing the road, only to be hit by a bus. He couldn't see the woman for the crowd of people around her, and Mycroft tagging behind him, grabbing him by the arm.
But he could see Death.
Sherlock realized how tall ze was then, a full head above the other people. Ze was still wearing the funny hat, and after ze finished with the woman, probably laying a hand on her like ze'd done for Andrew, ze straightened up and saw Sherlock.
Death tipped hir hat at Sherlock.
Sherlock waved back.
Mycroft look at him strangely, but simply dragged him on to the next store, where Sherlock finally accepted something to wear.
He was mostly just shocked still, and in no state to argue.
The third time it was his fault; him and his stupid curiosity.
He was seventeen and at university. There was a boy that Sherlock knew... He was interested in him at one point, but he wasn't sure why. It might have been his personality, his body, or just something about him that Sherlock couldn't understand.
Or the drugs.
On closer examination, it was probably the drugs.
But then Sherlock realized he was no good, demanding sex for drugs, which Sherlock was not going to do. So Sherlock said no, and Victor got angry.
Sherlock stayed away for a few days, but Victor kept showing up, waiting outside his room, going to his classes, and following him.
So Sherlock'd had enough.
He told Victor that he would do it, sex in exchange for drugs, invited him to a 'friend's' place (an abandoned building) and then killed him.
Sherlock didn't even have to fuck him.
Death showed up, like Sherlock hoped ze would.
"This is the third time I've seen you," ze commented.
"You're keeping track?" Sherlock asked, raising an eyebrow.
Ze smirked at him. "People can't see me," ze explained. "And even the few that can hardly invite me to come back, time after time."
"The last one wasn't my fault," Sherlock pointed out.
Death shrugged. "Are you going to try and tell me this one wasn't?" ze said, looking pointedly at Victor's corpse, the knife on the floor next to him, Sherlock with his blood on his hands.
Sherlock grinned wickedly. "He deserved it."
"I'm not arguing," Death replied. "Good luck getting rid of the body."
"I don't need luck," Sherlock replied, but Death was gone.
The next one wasn't really his fault, he just happened to be there.
The girl overdosed all on her own. Sherlock just happened to not help.
He was high too, and really, shouldn't have been expected to do anything.
Sherlock waved lazily at Death when ze stopped by.
Death didn't see as amused to see him.
"I'm going to be coming for you if you keep this up," ze said, a definitely hint of disappointment present in hir voice.
Sherlock shrugged. "It's my life," he said, startling the other people in the room.
They'd write it off as hallucinations, but Sherlock knew that he'd never hallucinated, and certainly not hallucinated Death.
Death shook hir head at Sherlock before leaving.
The fifth time, it was almost him.
He was in hospital, having overdosed and been found by a cop.
Death hadn't been to visit him, not that he'd been conscious to see it, but Sherlock felt like ze'd make sure he was awake for that sort of thing. He was fairly certain it wasn't his time.
But he'd been handcuffed to the bed, so he couldn't make a break for it, and was therefore detoxing.
Now that, that might kill him.
But something definitely killed the man on the other side of the curtains.
He must have been doing well, since no alarms went off when he stopped breathing, or his heart stopped beating. Probably unexpected, that he was doing well, maybe even ready to go home.
He wasn't going to be going home anymore. Except for in a coffin.
Sherlock felt Death arrive. He didn't know how, but he did.
And then ze stepped around the curtain to see Sherlock.
"I did warn you," ze said softly.
Sherlock really wasn't in the mood for hir condescending bullshit. "I'm not dead though, am I?"
Hir face did something that Sherlock couldn't interpret and that killed him more than anything.
"No," ze said carefully. "You're not. Yet."
Death vanished, and Sherlock was left alone in the room with a corpse.
He was clean until number six. At least, that was all he planned to stay clean, since the sixth was his dealer, shot in front of him. The blood splatter covered Sherlock's clothes, and he could only stand there for a second as the man fell to the ground and bled.
Sherlock ran, stumbling over his own feet as he scrambled down the alleyway, away from the footsteps that surely belonged to whoever was holding the gun.
He watched from behind a dumpster as the man, face shrouded by a hoodie, took the drugs and the money from the body before running off again.
Sherlock emerged from his hiding place, going to stand by the man.
"I though you'd quit," Death said quietly from behind him.
"I have," Sherlock replied. "I apparently still am, since that was my source."
Death smirked. "Perhaps this was a sign."
Sherlock narrowed his eyes at hir. "Did you have a hand in this?"
Death snorted. "Please. I'm not fate, and do you really think I would do that? You're only a human."
Sherlock blinked, and looked up, but Death was gone before he could reply.
Okay, seven was definitely on purpose. But he'd murdered four people, except the police couldn't prove it, so he was out walking the streets, completely free.
Sherlock had a problem with that.
So he poisoned him. Knocked him out with some chloroform, which meant he was still enough that Sherlock could inject the poison where it wouldn't be discovered, on top of a freckle, or in another wound.
It took a bit longer for Death to show up that time, but it did take longer for the man to die.
Sherlock had time.
Death looked at the man when ze showed up, then back to Sherlock.
"You're making this quite a habit," ze noted.
Sherlock shrugged. "He deserved it," he said quietly.
"I'm not arguing," Death replied. "Sometimes I hate that I can't make the decisions about who I take."
Sherlock looked at hir with intrigue. He'd never thought about that.
"Is it hard?" he asked.
Death glanced at him. "Of course it is. For every man like this I take, there are a dozen others that deserve to live, suffering children, young boys fighting wars, beloved parents..." ze trailed off. "But I'm just doing the deliveries."
There was something in hir eyes that may have been sorrow. Sherlock couldn't tell.
Death was gone before Sherlock could ask.
Eight and nine were much the same. Both criminals that the police couldn't prosecute.
One of them, number nine, had raped and murdered his own daughter. There were recordings of her begging for him to stop. Somehow he was acquitted.
Sherlock really hated the justice system sometimes.
Death didn't comment on his choices, just took them. Ze waited a little while longer each time, maybe waiting for Sherlock to say something profound, but Sherlock found he had a bit of difficulty coming up with any words at all.
Ten was a little bit different.
Death seemed almost angry with Sherlock.
"Do you like doing this?" ze demanded. "Is this something you get off on? Do you enjoy the suffering and pain that you cause?"
Sherlock was shocked. "Of course not. I've relieving suffering. These people will never be able to hurt anyone ever again! I'm doing the right thing here!"
Death stared at him.
"You tell yourself that," ze whispered. "But that's not why you're really doing it."
Ze took his hat off and examined it before replacing it on hir head.
"Why don't you think about why you're really doing it, before you kill anyone else."
And with that, Death was gone, leaving Sherlock speechless.
Sherlock did think about it. For months, he pondered what Death had said. It wasn't that he liked the act of killing, and he certainly didn't get off on it, like Death suggested. In fact, he'd be fine if he never murdered anyone again.
But that wasn't really it.
"Perhaps," he said out loud, in case Death was somehow listening, "It's not about the death, or the murder. It's about what comes after."
He paused. "Who comes after," he whispered.
Eleven and twelve were in self defense. Mostly. He probably didn't have to kill them, but how often did he get an excuse like that?
They'd taken him because he was helping Lestrade on a kidnapping/murder case, and was getting too close.
They'd handcuffed him to a chair and were torturing him, looking for answers he didn't have, or didn't care to share. He didn't mind, it gave him time to get out of the handcuffs and grab a gun from the one man, shooting him point blank in the chest, and strangling the other man with the handcuffs he'd been restrained with.
Lestrade showed up shortly after Death left, having come and gone without so much as a word to Sherlock, just a strange sideways glance that Sherlock couldn't interpret.
He didn't like not knowing.
It seemed the thirteenth time was the charm.
Death sighed when ze saw him. "Again? I should have a frequent flier card or something. Kill twenty people and win a fruit basket!" ze mocked.
"Perhaps I just like seeing you," he said cheekily.
Death studied him and the body of the old man that had been suffocated to make it look like a heart attack.
After a moment, ze grinned, a wonderful sight to behold. "You are making my job much more difficult than it needs to be, Sherlock Holmes. We could just go out for a coffee or something, and save everyone all this trouble."
Sherlock frowned. "You can do that?"
Death rolled zir eyes and sighed. "I'm Death. I can do whatever I want."
Sherlock tilted his head and considered it. "I suppose so."
"I won't look like this though. I'll be different." Ze sounded slightly disgusted. "I'll have to take a human form."
Sherlock shrugged. "It'll still be you though."
Death nodded. "How about it?"
Sherlock grinned. "Sounds good to me."
"Should we set a date, or do you want me to just... show up?"
Sherlock's eyes sparkled. "Surprise me."
Two days later, Sherlock Holmes met John Watson.
Alternate title- Kindly Stopped for Me (after a few not so subtle hints)
AN- This was my first time using gender neutral pronouns, which I thought would be good, since Death personified, is not really either, and I didn't want to have to decide.
Thing that inspired me- MOVIE ABOUT A PERSON WHO FALLS IN LOVE WITH DEATH AND CONTINUOUSLY COMMITS MURDER IN ORDER TO SPEND MORE TIME WITH THEM UNTIL DEATH IS FINALLY LIKE "YOU ARE MAKING MY JOB SO MUCH MORE DIFFICULT THAN IT NEEDS TO BE LETS JUST GO OUT FOR A COFFEE OR SOMETHING JESUS FUCK"