John first met Sherlock Holmes in a crime scene photograph which depicted the young man nude and peacefully laid out with his throat slashed on his blood soaked bed. His thin arms were crossed below his chest with his limbs tucked close like an open casket viewing with only the wild tendrils of his dark brown curls and the streak of red from the severed Carotid artery to add a mix of chaos to the otherwise precise display of the corpse. No other wounds discolored his pale skin, nothing which the coroner had reported as self-defense or signs of a struggle. Toxicology reports came back positive for benzodiazepines. Ingested, they'd said. He might not have felt a thing.
Not pictured were the man's carefully folded clothes waiting on the chest at the end of his bed, the shoes aligned perfectly under the shadow of the mattress on the floor. Not pictured was the security badge that read "Second Technician" which remained pinned to the left breast of his stacked shirt. These details existed in the accounts of the security team that had found him, classified as strange and ritualistic as part of the overall presentation. Pictured in great detail was the jagged cut made over, and over, and over again until Mr. Holmes' head was nearly separated from his body with sawed marks into the spine proving an ineffectual blade as the only reason they'd found the man intact. And of course, in a separate stack to which the prosecution had rested nearly all of their case, was the picture of John's hands with the crust of blood under his nails that had belonged to none of other than the deceased Sherlock Holmes.
Before the trial, John had never seen the man before. On the date in question he remembered working in the medical bay, reading over patient files to make sure he'd noted everything despite the bustle of his shift. Then there was nothing. Then there was the blood. The memories started and ended in the medical bay with no definite line between finishing his notations and staring down at his red, crusted fingernails. There was no denying whose blood it was nor that the bio-hazard disposal shoot contained traces as well, proving the disposal of evidence. John too tested positive for benzodiazepines. Same drug, same man's blood, and no reason at all to believe being strangers should mean Dr. John Watson did not commit murder.
To be fair, the prosecution was very complimentary in their regard for the intelligence that had to have gone into the crime. By dosing both himself and his victim with quantities capable of inducing anterograde amnesia, neither his nor the dead man's memories could be called on in evidence. No testimony could be made in regards to the actions that had transpired which could prove guilt or innocence and had John not metabolized his way back to sobriety before the clean-up was done, he might have managed to have gotten away with it without so much as a guilty conscious. John had never fancied himself a criminal. He'd lost patients but never been a murderer. But he could not explain the blood. Nor how anyone other than a medical officer could have gotten into the medical supply room to obtain the drug themselves. John had the means and the opportunity. The only thing he didn't have was motive. On the basis of irrefutable guilt, such details were allowed to be ignored.
One count of first degree murder. Indeterminate confinement. Basic rehabilitation-code 087. They fitted him with a one-inch electronic collar and set him in his new home, under lock and key, deep within the less desirable floors of the quasar-class mining ship where the soft hum of the propulsion units was a constant companion to the white-noise of space.
That technically made this the second time John had met Sherlock Holmes. But it was the first time he'd ever spoken to the man.
At exactly twenty-one hundred hours on his first day of incarceration, as prescribed in his sentencing, the collar around John's neck activated. Whatever lights blinked or gears whirled went undetected bellow the jut of his own chin though his eyes remained fixed on the wall opposite the bunk he sat upon in waiting. It was quicker than he'd expected. What had been empty space was nearly instantly filled instead by a specter of light that flashed bright then settled into shapes and varying hues until the life-like body of a man stood before him as though materialized in the flesh. He wasn't, of course. While holographic technology had managed to blur the lines between the living and the dead, it was still just light. It might have looked like the man, but like a photograph, it was just a rendered capture of his visage. It may have his memories and personality, but it was all just basic one's and zero's programmed to emulate the man it replaced. This was his punishment and the court's choice in his rehabilitation: 087-sympathetic immersion. Know your victim; know the outstanding consequences of your crime. John would have to live for an indeterminate amount of time in the constant companionship of Sherlock Holmes until he truly understood the error of his ways. That part was the most daunting considering he still wasn't convinced of his guilt.
Sherlock looked taller alive-well, switched on. And his eyes were silvery blue. He looked out of place in his beige technicians uniform as he seemed to stand with the stature of one of much greater rank though his hair was just as messy looking as it had been across the bloody pillow. Sherlock stared at John in confusion for a moment, eyes tracking down to the collar around his neck then around the room where there was not much to see. Bed. Chest. Doorless en suite. Everything was white or a shade or two richer like foam on a cappuccino. The thick door with its sliding compartments wasn't exactly standard issue. Scrunching his nose with his nostrils half flared, the younger man looked quite annoyed as his confusion continued to rank highest among the obvious 'emotions' on display. It wasn't real. It was just a program.
"You?" he asked, seemingly jumping ahead a few paces. The voice emanated from the collar rather than from the solid-looking projection. His dark brows furrowed heavily. "But I don't even know you!"
John cleared his throat as he leaned forward, elbows on knees as he spread his hands placateingly, palms up. "Look, I-"
The dead man put his own hand out to stop him. "No. Murderers don't get to talk. Shut up." He grimaced further, pacing slightly. "How am I dead? I don't remember dying. Why can't I remember? Why would they erase that?" Sherlock's scowl deepened as he seemed to settle on there being only one person available to answer any and all questions. The entire situation was rather conditioned to be that way. No easy way out; full victim confrontation. Still, he was taking it a bit differently from how John had expected. Sherlock's glare was more probing than irate; more confused than angry. He settled both hands on his narrow hips and set his jaw defiantly as he loomed over John, casting no shadow. "Alright, fine. Explain what the hell is going on. No apologies-I'll extract those later-right now I just want to know why I'm here."
John swallowed his somewhat prepared speech along with the lump that had formed in his throat. "You're here... because you're dead. You were killed. And I'm the person they decided did it."
The hologram smiled thinly, not looking the least bit amused. "Oh. Still pleading innocence, then?" he asked.
"Pleading ignorance," John corrected. It was perhaps a minor thing to the deceased but John wasn't ready to accept the court's ruling as gospel. Just... possible. "We were both drugged. Lost the ability to log our short-term memory while under the influence. Good news is you don't remember being murdered. Bad news is I don't remember killing you. Or if I even did."
"Then why are you here?"
John shrugged, eyes staring down at the cold protective flooring. "Can't prove I didn't snap and go space crazy. Can't prove I didn't have some sort of psychotic episode that I've since repressed. Can't explain why I'd been found with your blood on me if I wasn't in the room when you died."
The hologram hummed in agreement, pacing slightly in the small room. There was a small halo under his feet where the light-beam cast its glow against the floor. "And how did I die?" he asked.
"Exsanguination. Your throat was, uh..." John mimed with his thumb across his neck, head up to best complete it and watching as the dead man's brows lifted high against his forehead as he did. He cleared his throat. "Anyway, there were no signs of anyone trying to stay the bleeding and I certainly didn't go for help so... Here I am. And here you are. And... I am sorry. I'm sure you were a nice guy."
"Oh, god no," Sherlock said, shaking his head. "I'm an obnoxious arsehole. I'm just surprised it wasn't someone I'd had the pleasure of pissing off first."
John froze for a moment, his brain replaying that last bit a few times as the hologram continued to sigh and float just above the floor with a nervous energy that didn't belong to the recently departed. "Sorry, what?"
"I suppose slitting my throat makes sense but I'd rather considered it more likely to be strangled. Definitely a symbolic gesture in the desire to shut me up with the added power of withholding something I desire. Over too quick just to slit the throat." Sherlock breathed out heavily, his right hand fluffing through the curls at the back of his head. "Though I suppose that does give credence to the idea that as my killer, I was unknown to you. Hardly makes sense, though. As a doctor you'd have plenty of opportunity to kill without going out of your way. So why me?"
"I don't know," John admitted, which only earned him a scowl and a dismissive wave.
"I wasn't talking to you. You've already proven yourself to be completely useless."
Oh, this was going to be lovely. John crossed his arms over his chest as he sat back on his bunk, smiling darkly as he settled in. "Not so useless that the courts don't think I murdered you.," he said, not at all concerned with how it sounded. He was beginning to see the truth to the holographs earlier words. He certainly didn't seem to be overflowing in virtues.
"That's because they're idiots." Sherlock rolled his eyes, gesturing gracefully as he spoke. His voice was much deeper than John had expected and seemed even richer as he rattled on at length. "You're an accomplished medical doctor but you've chosen to work on a mining vessel rather than remain stationed planet-side or with a colony. You go where the risks are; you enjoy the excitement. Psychotic episode? Space crazy? Please, you've been found guilty of murder and you're calm as anything. Rather think you're enjoying this a bit. An average man plucked from his average life and made to face the possibility he may not be who he thinks he is? I imagine half the reason they condemned you was because when faced with the possibility of being a murderer, you weren't devastated, you were intrigued."
John did his best not to let his surprise show as his jaw felt heavy and threatened to unhinge. It was somewhat remarkable, really, how the dead man seemed to understand him. It wasn't fake-psychic, generic kind of things that the hologram was spouting. They were very specific and, in some cases, not at all normal. But true. And therefore almost frightening considering there were only a few ways such knowledge could be obtained. "I thought you didn't know me," he said, licking his lips with the taste of old air.
The hologram smirked proudly. "I don't. Honestly, I don't have to. You're as easy to read as See Spot Run. From the terminology you use you're obviously a doctor-unless exsanguination has become colloquial since my demise-and the fact that they saddled you with rehabilitative sentencing says you have a long history of fine service worth trying to reclaim. The rest is all down to your current behavior. You're not scared in the least. I wouldn't say you're having fun but you're not bored either."
"That's.. impressive," John admitted, clearing his throat as greater praise threatened to follow. "Especially for a Second Technician."
"I'm a man of great genius. Just.. limited ambition." Sherlock shrugged his facial features, a petite smile digging into his cheeks in dimple-like fashion. "Besides, I can do much better than that. Just.. off sorts right now."
"Yeah, I uh... I bet. Sort of surprised you're not crying and yelling, honestly."
The hologram raised one eyebrow. "Do you want me to?"
"No. Just... I mean, you have just found out you've died," John reminded him, not quite sure what else to say.
Sherlock shrugged. "And rather like your own incarceration, there's not much either of us can do about that right now. I really rather hope it wasn't you. Not knowing why I was killed is going to annoy me for a very long time."
John nodded, still operating at a loss. This wasn't at all what he'd expected the dead man to be like, nor how he figured most people would cope with death. Maybe there was a program fault, some unforeseen problem arising in harvesting data from a brain whose body was dealing with memory compromising drugs in its system. Maybe. His mannerisms fit with his flippancy, however, and there was an air to him that felt right even when everything about him should have been wrong. A self-professed obnoxious arsehole, maybe he really was this... odd. It seemed John certainly wouldn't have been the first person to find it interesting.
"Maybe they were in love with you," he offered up, trying to give some assistance towards complete death acceptance.
Sherlock laughed, tipping his head back on the rumble of a chuckle before looking down at John and going still. "Oh, you're serious," he said, with genuine surprise arching his brows.
"Well, I mean, you were naked with your head nearly sawn off. Spent a couple hours explaining to the court that I don't have latent homosexual urges manifest as violent passion."
The hologram's eyes went wide, a strange smile pulling at his lips. "Why didn't you tell me that earlier? That's much more interesting than just having my throat slit. Do you have pictures? Can we get the files?"
"You want to look at your own dead body?" John asked, though the question was unnecessary given how plainly the other man spoke.
"That's... Yeah, okay. Given what's supposed to happen here, I think they'd probably allow that." After all, he was supposed to be a repenting man facing the reality of his crimes. They were probably just waiting to give them to him anyway as a cell warming gift once he'd had a chance to settle in. Something nice to put on the walls. A splash of color.
Sherlock clapped his hands in front of himself, no sound emitting in their joining. "Excellent. The sooner the better. Any luck and we can get your appeal case ready before any of this becomes horrendously dull. No offense, I just really don't think it was you."
"None taken," John said, thinking twice about extending his hand to the not-quite stranger as a part of their meeting they'd bypassed nagged lightly at the back of his skull. "My name's John, by the way. John Watson."
"Sherlock Holmes," the hologram returned despite there really not being a need. He smiled and twirled as he took in the small room, eyes searching their cell as he seemed to probe and investigate everything in all ways he could.
He wasn't at all the man John'd thought he'd be. This hadn't gone at all the way he'd expected. And odd as it was to find himself trapped in the company of the strange specter, John found it to be more a perk than a punishment. Whatever his incarceration was going to be, it was not going to be boring. Trying not to smile, he swung his legs across the bed and settled down, not wishing to disturb as the hologram continued to look about and err with each attempt to touch.