A/N: "221b is possessive and tries to eat Sherlock and John when they want to move out." Scary and/or creepy was the order of the day, something I can't judge in the slightest (ratings go along with that, I believe), so let me know if it worked at all. (Where did all my crackfics go? That's it, I'm taking the next Unicorn!Sherlock prompt.)
There has always been habitation by the river Thames.
The City of London is no bigger than a square mile. London is a different matter, grows and grows, stretches and sprawls, meets other cities and towns and villages and hamlets by the river and absorbs them, takes their names and legends and memory, lets them become London in return - whether they want it or not.
(On the oldest stones of London the wyrm is scribed. Smear it with blood and see what wakes.)
London is like a dragon (is a dragon) and even asleep, the dragon devours.
(people, cities, lives, loves, names, hope, Time)
London lives. London breathes. London sleeps. London Dreams.
Baker Street of Marylebone, City of Westminster, adjoined to the west of the City of London, is young (very young) as London goes, and 221 Baker Street younger still. But it has Lore (like Fleet Street's barber and Bell Yard's baker, like Highgate Hill, turn again, thrice-mayor, Edgware Road and the gallows-dance, Newgate Street, the Dead Man's Walk) buried, waiting.
221b does not have tenants, it has momentary irritations in its (flesh) rooms. Longer-lived than the rats between its walls, but not by much.
221b has dark dreams, has bones in its mortar like a piece of Old London - some would brick in a cat, some would bury stillborn infants, some would wall in a child (the Tower took two princes, and beneath the stair their bones shriek and sigh and turn rat-a-tat-tat against the stone) - and shaped like Old London it demands like a dragon.
Tenants do not stay in 221b. Passing moving pieces of flesh stay in 221b. (They leave after a month, two, three. They cite the wallpaper and the expense of rent and the creak of old floorboards at night as their reasons for moving, but not the dreams, the shadows, the aching sense of discontent, the raking of bone fingers inside the walls.)
221b sleeps uneasily, is Waiting.
(is a house of Lore without that which makes it)
young-male-human-dark-hair enters 221b, accompanied by the hand-wringing old-female-human-grey-hair, keeper of the Deeds. Flesh, sighs the bones in the foundations.
The floorboards note his entrance just the once, sing and then fall silent. 221b stirs itself to take note of this unusual moving piece of flesh, feels his eyes, noting everything that can be seen (nothing important).
A human conversation ensues, and 221b examines young-male-human-dark-hair by his feet on its floor, by his hands brushing its walls, by the pleased curve of his mouth and it stirs, it almost Wakes.
young-male-human-dark-hair sleeps within 221b that night. 221b touches his dreams and finds him dreaming of London, finds knowledge (finds The Knowledge) in his thoughts, finds the City, the City, alive and living in his head.
221b thinks of Lore.
(half, 221b tells its landlady, dreaming of being lost in streets long forgotten. half, where is the rest?)
The next day young-male-human-dark-hair has to look for a flatmate.
"Oh, this could be very nice," says young-male-human-haunted-eyes and 221b Wakes.
young-male-human-dark-hair and young-male-human-haunted-eyes have Names, like Marylebone, like City of Westminster.
All humans have names, of course, but Names are different.
221b has only known of a few humans who had Names, like Henry Mayhew and Charles Pearson, like Dick Whittington; the mapmakers, shapers and guardians of the City. Like Sweeney Todd, like Jack the Ripper and Spring-Heeled Jack, the Lore of the City.
They are called Sherlock Holmes and John Watson and they are Becoming. They are not moving pieces of flesh, they are not humans, they are pieces of 221b, the Lore it has been missing since its foundations were laid.
221b feels them, their lives making marks on its walls, seeping into its bricks and mortar, and soon it cannot even dream of a time when they were not there.
look look listen, 221b sings to London, Sleeping and Awake. living Lore within me, living Lore called Sherlock Holmes and John Watson, 221bBakerStreet-Marylebone-CityofWestminster is living Lore.
SherlockHolmes&JohnWatson whispers London, begins to fold them into its history, its present, its future, its Lore. SherlockHolmes&JohnWatson, of 221bBakerStreet-Marylebone-CityofWestminster, SherlockHolmes&JohnWatson of 221bBakerStreet. of London.
221b holds Sherlock Holmes and John Watson close, safe and precious. Within 221b they are inviolate, within 221b they cannot be touched, cannot be harmed (cannot be changed by anything other than themselves).
It worries when they are gone for longer than a night, groans and sighs and becomes shadowed and dark (old-female-grey-hair will tell them when they come back 'the old place missed you', and never know how right she is), but London comforts it, tells it of where they sleep, tells of daring exploits and how SherlockHolmes&JohnWatson, inseparable to its mind, hunt and hide in its streets, its boroughs and cities.
The times they leave London entirely are a torture on another level entirely. London listens to the gossip, to the wires, to the radio waves, to the data streams, brings back news in wind-tossed papers and homeless whispers, says SherlockHolmes&JohnWatson seek this or hunt that in a place this close or that far from London. The most 221b can understand is that they are Away, they are making lore in cities and towns and at waterfalls that London knows in the speech and customs of its humans but are Not-London; they are making ties (legends, whispers, anecdotes) apart from 221b.
It lets them go, of course, every time, because always, always they come back, even if it takes three years. They come back. (They must come back.) They are its history, its worth, the reason it will always be known to London.
"Sussex," says Sherlock Holmes, no longer young or dark haired. "I've been thinking about retiring. About beekeeping. About Sussex." He looks at John Watson, smiling, mellowed by Time and proof of his worth. John Watson grins back.
221b recognises a Name, even when it knows nothing of human speech. Sussex, it asks London. SherlockHolmes&JohnWatson think of Sussex, what is Sussex?
Not-London, London replies.
221b shudders with rage.
221b closes its doors, its windows, swells their frames to hold them tight and locks them. London closes its communications, ignores electrical screams from within 221b, texts and data streams.
(London keeps its Lore. Buildings can crumble, can burn, can be bombed, but the Lore remains.)
221b shares dreams with its human parts, tells them Lore, you are my Lore, but it does not think they understand, even though they are part of 221b. Perhaps they are too human to share City-dreams.
(But they are 221b, the moving parts of 221b, how can they not understand?)
They keep trying to leave.
Lore, you are my Lore, you are London Lore. not Sussex lore. you are SherlockHolmes&JohnWatson of 221bBakerStreet. not of Sussex Downs, never of Sussex Downs.
Their fingers rake its walls, their bodies (soft, fragile, human) throw themselves against the doors, they try and break the windows.
listen listen listen, you are my Lore, why aren't you listening, you are London, you are part of London, SherlockHolmes&JohnWatson, inseparable from each other, inseparable from me. inseparable from the City.
Within 221b they are inviolate, within 221b they cannot be touched. Even Time cannot touch them unless London allows. (Have they never noticed, SherlockHolmes&JohnWatson, the difference between them and their friends and allies, how much more gradual their aging is, how much easier it is for them to remain in the game, hunting criminals, hunting across ever-changing London?)
listen SherlockHolmes&JohnWatson, stay stay stay, I am home, you are home, you are me, foundations cannot move.
They scream and scream and scream.
SherlockHolmes&JohnWatson of 221bBakerStreet London says, in the graffiti on the walls, in the words carved into stone, chalked on the pavement. bones in the old buildings, blood in the mortar. all living Lore stops being flesh, becomes brick and stone.
mine, says 221b, takes the bones.