Hi! I've never written a fic before, let alone a Sherlock one, so I'm hoping it won't turn out to be a load of gobbledegook! Some feedback would be lovely :)
Disclaimer: I don't own the programme or the characters from Sherlock, which can only be a good thing. I'd've made a right mess of it.
Summary: The skull is once again kidnapped by Mrs Hudson and it reflects on its time spent with Sherlock. Italics for flashbacks.
It had seen many things. Well, metaphorically, that is. When one's sensory organs and brain cells have long since rotted away, it becomes difficult to literally see anything. But on the plus side, it wouldn't need an eye examination any time soon.
It was the closest thing Sherlock Holmes had ever had to a permanent flatmate, and now the skull was sharing a cupboard with Mrs Hudson's 'herbals.' It didn't mind. For one thing, it lacked the glands, chemicals and synapses necessary to feel emotions, and for another, you couldn't afford be choosy in death.
No, maybe it was time to finally have some peace and quiet. The assorted bottles, powders and pills on the shelves didn't appear to be very friendly, but at least they weren't prone to hurling you down the toilet in a sudden fit of frustration, or using your eye sockets as impromptu pen holders.
It didn't remember anything about its previous… life… either - male or female, friend or foe, what difference did it make in death? Yet for an inanimate object, it gained a surprising amount of attention from its owner's human companions, of which there had been many over the years. Some had even given it a name…
The skull was nested comfortably amongst a pile of newspaper clippings on the coffee table when it met the first 'colleague.' She didn't notice it at first – it was only when she was absent-mindedly sifting through the papers, fingertips brushing aside the debris, and there it was, peeping out at her. It smiled. She screamed.
The partnership was doomed from the start; Sherlock and the woman would snipe at each other relentlessly until the tension in the living room became thicker than the bottles of congealing blood in the fridge. She was sickened by his cold, maniacal glee in solving a grisly murder, and he was irritated by the sheer number of cosmetic products that cluttered up the bathroom (although once he'd bought a blender, they proved to be exceptional reactants for his experiments).
But perhaps she had some effect on him. It was she who suggested Sherlock should swap his ferocious chain-smoking habits for nicotine patches. During a particularly difficult case, he would lounge on the sofa, eyes fixed to the ceiling, flicking the glowing cigarette stubs across the room into half-empty mugs of coffee, where they would emit a satisfying hiss. He was a remarkably good shot, never missing a target… and then one day his flatmate came through the door and found her hair had caught fire.
She left that night.
'So that's it. I'm going.' She hovers in the doorway, bristling with anger and shooting daggers at the tall man sprawled across the sofa. He isn't even looking at her – his eyes are screwed tightly shut and his facial expression suggests he's experiencing a severe migraine. 'You've driven me completely insane. I hope you're happy together!' She gestures furiously to the skull. 'You and the bloody Grim Reaper!'
'Yes. Wonderful. Brilliant. Are you still here?' The eyes open to become narrowed slits.
'You are unbelievable,' she spits, turning to pick up her luggage. 'When people said you were unbearable, I thought they were making it up, but-'
'Oh!' Sherlock sits bolt upright, struck by sudden inspiration. 'That reminds me…'
The woman pauses.
'Leave your lipstick behind, won't you? It was an excellent emulsifier.'
'Piss off, Freak!'
The door slams shut.
With no one else to listen, the 'Grim Reaper' was given Sherlock's undivided attention for the next few weeks, carried in dizzying circles around the room as the detective paced up and down, muttering constantly. 'If I ever,' he'd murmured once through gritted teeth, 'make a mistake like that again, remind me to shoot myself.'
The Grim Reaper said nothing.
In the next house, somewhere in Clapham, the skull found itself the lone resident of the kitchen windowsill. The new co-inhabitant - a young, enthusiastic, and hopelessly naive psychology student - would cheerfully wave to it every morning before pouring his cornflakes.
This man couldn't have been more different from the woman. Body parts in the freezer, acid in the kettle, malodorous slime in the smoothie maker – none of it seemed to faze him. But there were problems. Much like Sherlock's fixation on deduction, this student was prone to diagnosing. The two men would sometimes sit opposite each other at the kitchen table during their free evenings, the detective idly plucking harmonics on his violin, the student poring over one of his many beloved textbooks.
'It's your dramatic mood swings,' muses the latter, one autumnal evening. 'It says here that's a sign of depression… have you thought of taking anything for it?'
Sherlock says nothing, but the twaaannng of the strings becomes imperceptibly louder.
'And your frankly aggressive boredom… some elements of a hyperactivity disorder, perhaps?'
The bow is slowly dragged across the bottom string. A warning note.
'But,' the man frowns, flipping pages, 'then there's the severe lack of social understanding -'
A dissonant chord gradually crescendos, bow grating across all strings now. Up… down… up…
'- which I would suggest could be evidence of some kind of high-functioning -'
- notes collide as the bow accelerates… up down up down -
' – spectrum disorder!' he shouts, hands over ears, now struggling to be heard. 'But I can help you if -'
- UPDOWNUPDOWN…The din becomes unbearable; notes ricochet off the walls and rattle around the room as the strings screech and howl like some kind of tormented, hellish animal.
The student shrieks as he launches himself off the chair and trips over his feet in his eagerness to reach the front door, where he can free himself from the ear-splitting cacophony. 'YOU DON'T HAVE TO DO THIS ALONE!'
With the annoyance safely expelled from the building, 'Freud' had watched silently as Sherlock laid down his instrument, seized the confounded textbook and thumbed through it. Then the detective made a phone call.
The student was, understandably, quite upset when he returned to the flat in the morning and found that his key no longer fitted the lock. He could be heard expressing his feelings rather vociferously through the flat's intercom.
'Sherlock, are you insane?'
'No, no, no!' his ex-housemate announces to the empty room with the crazed grin of a mad man. He strides to an open window and forcefully flings the textbook out onto the street below. 'A high-functioning sociopath!' He grips the windowsill and roars, ' Any idiot could have figured that out!'
And so, Sherlock and skull were alone again. Others came and went, none lasting, or surviving, for more than a few weeks. The skull remained, in many ways, the perfect assistant. It couldn't wander off by itself, it couldn't die (again), and, best of all, it couldn't answer back. That wasn't to say they hadn't had arguments, although they were all conspicuously one-sided. It was a strong and trusting relationship, but it perhaps went too far when, after several weeks of isolation, Sherlock began taking his mute companion out of the flat and holding conversations with it in public.
It wasn't right.
Maybe an old lump of calcium just wasn't human enough. And it certainly couldn't help pay the rent. So it followed that, in January, the skull was given a new home and pride of place on the mantelpiece of 221B, Baker Street. Then the doctor came.
'What was that?'
'What?' The man Watson jumps, dropping the skull onto the floor in surprise. He swears and scoops it up hurriedly, turning to face Sherlock, who has suddenly materialised in the living room doorway like a lanky ghost. 'God, don't – don't sneak up on me like that!'
His flatmate snorts. 'I wasn't sneaking – you weren't listening.' He stomps across the room, over the coffee table and drops into an armchair. 'What did you say to my skull? And don't pretend you weren't talking - I could hear you from the stairs.'
'Er…' Watson flaps his arms and smiles awkwardly. 'Nothing. It was nothing.'
'Oh, come on, John,' smiles the detective. Evil amusement glitters in his grey eyes. 'Don't be shy.'
The man Watson raises his eyes to the ceiling and gives a resigned sigh. 'Look, alright, if you must know, I was - ' He looks deeply uncomfortable. 'I was – oh, this is stupid - I was doing the whole Shakespeare thing. You know…' Sighing again, he holds the skull at arms' length. '"Alas poor, er, thingy, I knew him well"? Having a bit of fun. Is that allowed?'
'I knew him, Horatio.'
'Oh, really,' Sherlock drawls, clearly enjoying the moment. 'A common error. What was it? Primary school knowledge. Have you even read Hamlet? Or just seen it on TV?'
This question is ignored. 'And I suppose you've read it?'
Watson looks sceptical. 'You've read Shakespeare.'
Sherlock waves away this insignificant fact like an irritating fly. 'Hamlet, John! There was a murder case. It was necessary for research purposes. Some murderers like to be… theatrical. And thus, incredibly dull.'
'And you're telling me you've never felt tempted?' says Watson, irritable now, and struggling to retain what is left of his dignity. 'You own a skull and you've never once done the Hamlet thing? For a laugh?'
'No. Is that what people do?'
'Most people, Sherlock, don't have the head of a skeleton on their mantelpiece.'
'Well.' The detective sniffs. 'I'm not one for melodrama.' Disappearing behind a newspaper he adds, 'But I'm glad you two have become so well acquainted.'
Watson still holds the skull. He glares at it wretchedly. 'Yep. Great.'
'I wouldn't recommend touching it with bare hands, though. Mrs Hudson found maggots in it last week.'
It thuds back onto the floor.
The man Watson didn't leave. What was more, Sherlock gave no inclination that he wished for him to do so. In fact, the longer the doctor stayed, the less Sherlock spoke to his mantelpiece-bound friend; within two months of arriving at Baker Street, he disclosed only the passing comment or grumble and that was only when Watson was out buying the milk.
Then, one day, the skull was gone.
This was a regular occurrence that usually coincided with visits from Mrs Hudson - a disgruntled Sherlock would eventually reclaim his property from such places as his landlady's fridge, her bathroom and, in one particularly mentally-scarring incident, her underwear drawer - but this time, weeks passed and no one had come to retrieve it.
Sherlock doubtless knew where it was. A rescue mission would have been child's play.
Perhaps he was in some way frightened of Mrs Hudson (she'd made him suffer for the underwear incident). Or maybe, he just didn't need a skull anymore.
Maybe he'd found a better, livelier replacement… by the name of Watson.
Maybe, for this old skull, this was retirement.
And in the gloom of the cupboard, it grinned.