The Devil Went Down to Baker Street
There was a chill on London that evening. It wasn't too surprising, due to the fact that a thick drizzle covered the entire city. But...there was something off about it. A sleek, black car slowly pulled up along the curb of Baker Street. An assistant leaped out of the passenger seat, and opened the back door for the occupant, holding out a raven black umbrella. A thin man, decorated in the same shade of black as everything else he apparently owned, stepped out, and looked up to the flat in front of him. In one window, he could distinctly make out the silhouette of a man staring down at him. Maybe his sudden appearance wasn't as stealthy as he thought.
Nevertheless, he turned to the assistant and took the umbrella from him.
"Get it," he said shortly.
The very young man scurried around the car to the back, where he opened the trunk and took out a long, rectangular case. His boss took no haste in going over and taking it swiftly from his hands.
"Go on. Who knows how long I'll take," he said, before turning on his heel and going over to the door of 221B.
An elderly woman opened the door, and smiled genuinely at him, "Hello. Is there anything I can help you with?"
"Merely visiting," the man replied curtly. He inclined his head towards the hallway inside, "May I come in?"
There was a faint yell from upstairs, and a loud shuffling against the staircase. The woman grinned, apparently hearing the noise as well.
"You must be a client. Come on in," she gestured him inside.
The man at the door smiled, and crossed over the threshold. Just then, at the landing at the top of the stairs, a very tall man leaped from around a corner, and stared at the man who was now inside the house. His face paled - if it was possible to pale any more - at the sight of the man.
"Hello," he spoke softly, but believe me, my dear reader, the frozen man standing on the landing at the top of the stairs heard.
"Oh, close that door dearie," the woman tutted, moving forwards to shut the door behind him as thunder cracked dangerously outside, "You'll catch your death."
The man smiled, "That's very kind of you ma'am,"
"Oh, call me Ms. Hudson," the woman said. She glanced up to the stairs, where the man would stood there swallowed nervously, "Sherlock dearie, take your little friend upstairs, won't you?"
"We're not friends," Sherlock said, his tone cold and stiff.
"I beg to differ, Sherlock," the man cut in, shaking his head. The grin never left his face, "We've had many great experiences. I was just having a chat with the lovely Ms. Hudson here,"
The man reached forward and patted Ms. Hudson's shoulder gently with a gloved hand. Sherlock's frame stiffened.
"Alright, come upstairs," he snapped.
Victoriously, the stranger said his goodbye to Ms. Hudson, and started up the stairs after Sherlock, who had gone ahead of him. Another staircase later, a door opened into a very messy flat. Sherlock stormed inside, and threw himself into the armchair facing the door. The no-friend-of-Sherlock's stopped at the entrance, and looked around, complimenting with his eyes.
"You've cleaned up," he said mildly. The muscles in Sherlock's jaw worked. No way in hell this man was talking about the flat. The strange man stepped forward, still exploring the home with his eyes. Finally, his gaze rested on Sherlock, and his grin became more sinister.
"Sherlock Holmes, the world's only consulting detective. You've always been one of my favourites," the man said, settling into the chair opposite Sherlock. His rectangular case lay across his lap. Sherlock's pale eyes flickered down to it, but made no comment about it.
"What do you want?"
"A friendly chat with you, of course," the man gently purred, "About that move you pulled at the pool,"
Sherlock smiled for the first time during the man's presence, "Oh. You didn't expect that, did you? It looked as though Moriarty didn't predict it either. It worked,"
"And look where it got you and your flatmate," the man said rather casually, "You're suffering from a concussion, but you insisted on Jonathan's care, very thoughtful of you. Good thing you had those burns treated. Heaven knows what would happen if you didn't. He didn't fare too well, did he? I've heard he's in a coma. Not looking too good."
"What did you do to him?" the consulting detective snarled, his hands clenching on the sides of the chair so tightly that his knuckles turned white.
"Nothing, nothing. He's resting," the man waved the concern away like a fly buzzing around. Sherlock's tension eased slightly.
"Thank God," he sighed, slumping forwards so his elbows rested on his knees as he buried his face in his hands.
"It's time for collection, though," the man spoke up. Sherlock froze again. Finally, he looked up at the man.
"Another one of your games,"
The man smiled, "Not even I can get away with those deducing cogs in your head, Mr. Holmes,"
"I am not a robot," Sherlock spoke, his voice childishly protesting, "I'm not one of your minions either,"
"Of course you aren't. But I still like you," the man never stopped smiling that cruel smile, "You always seem to slip through my fingers,"
"Not my time,"
"Your time was actually, a very, very long time ago," the man informed him, "But you already know that. I told you the day it was supposed to happen."
Sherlock's eyes fluttered close as he remembered that day. He was so very young then, only eleven. He had had the worst suspicion that one of his fellow students had stolen the test answers to a very important exam - the first one that Sherlock would take that would actually made an impact on his grade (the others were just for fun.) He was following the boy throughout the school during lunch, when the boy suddenly led Sherlock off the school grounds, and turned on him. It turned out that the boy wasn't alone - five students quickly overpowered little Sherlock. When he had started coughing up blood, the five boys quickly left the scene. Sherlock didn't know that he was dying then, but he kept relaying the symptoms he was feeling out loud. That was the first day he had met the man in the black suit, who looked no different than he did now, settled comfortably in John's chair in present day. The man had helped Sherlock up, and by the time Sherlock was on his feet, he had been healed perfectly. It was then that the man explained what had just transpired to Sherlock.
It wasn't logic. It wasn't science. It was magic. Dark magic. Ever since then, Sherlock devoted himself to the Game. Not many players knew about the man in the suit. Only the ones he liked. The ones that he liked to place bets on. It was a twisted thing, but Sherlock knew he had to act grateful. Play the game.
"What game is it this time?" Sherlock finally asked. The games were little side-along things. Every once and a while, the man would check up on Sherlock, and play ridiculous games. Games that challenged Sherlock. The prize? His life.
The man opened the case for the first time, and took out a violin and bow. It looked almost exactly like Sherlock's, other than the fact that the strings looked like-
"How well do you fare with that instrument of yours?" the man asked, nodding his head towards the violin that was resting against Sherlock's chair.
"Decently," Sherlock said fairly.
"Will it be enough?" the man asked quietly. He whipped out a cloth and gently cleaned the strings, "Let me tell you. You might have not guessed, but I am quite the violinist myself. If you care to accept my game, I'll make a bet with you,"
Sherlock's throat constricted. He knew the consequences of not accepting the game. The man had arrived at his doorstep the night after the first - and last - no. Sherlock had said, and I quote, that he was 'done' with the man in the black suit.
Sherlock's father had answered the door, and the man shook hands with Sherlock's father with a bare, ungloved hand. Sherlock's father dropped dead no more than six hours later.
"You say you're decent. Well, step up to the plate, Sherlock Holmes. I bet that I am better than you," the man in the black suit grinned, "Oh, and I've decided to change the prize this time,"
Sherlock had been hoping the damn bastard wouldn't do this. His mind flashed back to only an hour earlier, when he stood next to John's bedside, listening to his friend's heartbeat. Watching, waiting for some sort of twitch. John had been so much more likely to have a less significant injury, being further away from the explosion that Sherlock. Why the hell was he in a coma - no.
He pointed an accusing finger at the calm man, "You said it wasn't his time!"
"I was supposed to get a soul from the scene that day," the man snapped, his face contorting into a sneer, "Your blasted trick didn't do me any good. You don't understand the complexities of this. You could have ruined everything. If it weren't for you trying to be the hero, I would have one in my clutches. But no, you and your-"
He stopped, regaining his calm composure. He must have realized his overreaction, because he let out a deep sigh.
"But I didn't," Sherlock rushed through the statement, "Ruin everything, that is. There's still hope if you're here,"
"Quite right," the man said, rather ruffled, "But we'll see,"
"You could always just take me if I lose," Sherlock whispered, his voice tender.
"Yes, but you know that would be too easy," the man sighed, leaning back, "So? What'll it be?"
Sherlock's jaw twitched again. Bloody sodding-
"My name is Sherlock Holmes," he said stiffly, going through the formalities, "My soul is yours. I accept your game," Narrowing his eyes at the man, he spoke in a low, threatening tone, "I hope you know what you're doing,"
"Of course," the man replied smoothly, rosining up his bow.
Sherlock narrowed those pale, grey-blue eyes again, picking up his own violin with those long, slender fingers.
With a smirk, the man in the black suit held his bow properly. He pulled his bow across the strings, and it made an evil hiss. Sherlock couldn't help but flinch as the man's violin song began. It was cold, sinister and powerful. Sherlock was thinking fast again. What would he do?
The man in the black suit's violin was starting to hit frightening notes, sending chills down his spine. Sherlock didn't let any of this discomfort cross his face. It would only give satisfaction to the man in the black suit. The man's melodies flowed from one to another, a black river of song. His talent was relatively similar to Sherlock, which puzzled him. He could probably use some of that black magic to cheat, the man had cheated before when he was bored, so why wasn't he trying harder? Was there something he was trying to prove? He knew there was a superior motive, but, as Sherlock realized, was irrelevant. He should be concern about keeping John alive. The only thing keeping John alive was Sherlock passing this test.
The man in the black suit's song relaxed into a whine, and he pulled his bow away from the instrument.
"I've heard better than that," Sherlock said dully, positioning his instrument under his chin.
He closed his eyes, wishing himself good luck. The same question that went through his head every single time the man appeared ran through his head. Why him, all those years ago? Why was he chosen to stay alive?
The image of a blond man's smile filled his head. You can do this. Sherlock struck his first note. The melody was improvised, but he glided from one line to the next smoothly. He did his best to wrap himself in the music, he really did. Wasn't that how musicians described how they got the perfect tune? But he couldn't grasp that. There was so much thinking in that brain of his. He wasn't playing a game for himself any more. He was fighting against the world. He was fighting for John.
The scent of chlorine fills his nostrils as he remembered the scene at the pool. The violin song became a wordless narrative.
He had been so confident then. He finally got Moriarty. Then, John stepped out. His John wrapped in that horribly clunky parka. His flatmate spoke, very formally. Like greeting a stranger who he had heard nasty rumours about.
A horrible feeling had spread through Sherlock, his first impression telling him. John's been lying to you. But John wasn't Moriarty – the games that Moriarty played if he was in John's position could've been so much worse. And besides, John was a rubbish liar. So what could it have been then? Stiff posture, not putting weight on that leg. John's leg was acting up again. How? What could have - and it clicked, like two pieces of a puzzle. Sherlock had always hated puzzles when he was younger. They were too easy. Not fun. Reaching the conclusion of case, now that was fun. Getting it was fun. Getting it wasn't fun right now.
Sherlock remembered that cold feeling in his chest as he whispered his friend's name in horror in disbelief. The instrument's melody was low.
Gottle o'geer. Where the hell did that come from? A random high, quick note made its way into the song that Sherlock played.
The bomb vest. Sherlock winced, his eyes squinting, even though they were already closed. Remembering John's crestfallen face was too much to bear.
"I can stop John Watson too. Stop his heart."
And Moriarty. Jim Moriarty. In the flesh, grinning a Cheshire Cat grin. The smug bastard.
Sherlock's jaw tightened as a monster unfurled itself in his chest.
The all-too-casual banter. Sherlock couldn't help admit that Moriarty was clever. Consulting criminal - hell, it was something he would do. The slim man's singsong voice was like fingernails on a chalkboard. Sherlock remembered John's defeated face. Had he already given up? Had he given up hope that Sherlock couldn't save the day? The snarling monster's head drooped. The tempo was slowing down…but Sherlock's song was far from over.
One of the worst parts…Moriarty didn't even care. He didn't even want the damn plans.
And then John. John. Rushing forwards like a knight on a horse. Had he figured that Sherlock didn't know what to do?
John was willing to sacrifice himself for Sherlock. Sherlock heard the whine of the violin as he drew the bow across the strings improperly. He winced. Damn it.
John's fallen face when he realized Sherlock was in danger. Damn Moriarty. (Maybe the man in the black suit should play games with Moriarty. The criminal did ever so much enjoy games.)
Moriarty wanted to burn the heart out of Sherlock. Sherlock had wanted to laugh then, the idea was so ridiculous.
"I have been reliably informed that I don't have one."
Why did Sherlock want to laugh then? Why?
"But we both know that's not quite true."
Hell, Moriarty was right. And Sherlock hated it. Of course, he had emotions like every other human being. He had been worried before. He had been cheerful before. Sherlock had even been scared. He had always had emotions. But it didn't affect him this much before. He felt like he was going to be sick. Like every second was an hour, and every minute was a year. And every hour was a lifetime. His John was still in danger.
Sherlock felt like he was Atlas, and he had just been relieved of carrying the world when Moriarty had left.
Get the bomb off. Keep John safe.
Sherlock was half aware that he was just going up and down the same scale on the violin, but he couldn't help it. There was no barrier between thought and sound. His thoughts were repetitive at that point. He was going through all the motions of the memory.
And, Sherlock was still finding it hard to believe, but John had made a joke. Now? At a time like this? How insanely mad of him! And yet Sherlock giggled like it was the best joke in the whole bloody world.
And then that red dot appeared on John's chest again. Like a flower blooming at a sped-up pace. The horrible, terrified look John gave him meant he probably had three of his own targets. If Sherlock's life were a novel, it would be the climax. He struck his violin faster, his notes becoming louder and louder.
Moriarty had appeared again. The bomb was closer to him than to Sherlock and John. The consulting detective looked back to the doctor.
"I'm his doctor."
His John. John knew. John knew what Sherlock was thinking (was John learning how to observe?) John had nodded. Sherlock remembered that he had taken that one moment he had to memorize John's face. There was no more fear. It was preparation. Preparation for what John knew was the inevitable.
The music built up quickly. Sherlock's heart was literally pounding as he relived the memory.
Sherlock didn't remember much after he fired the gun. Darkness. The inability to breathe. Breathe. But he couldn't. His song was a nearly silent quiver, like the ode of a hero's death. No. A hero was not going to die.
"Don't make people into heroes John. Heroes don't exist, and if they did I wouldn't be one."
Sherlock was right. He wasn't a hero. John was a hero.
Flashing lights, but no ambulance sounds. Lestrade might have been there…yes, he was. He was trying to talk to Sherlock…but the consulting detective didn't - couldn't hear. Ah, temporary deafness. Where's John? he had kept wondering. More darkness. Blinding hospital lights. Stiff beds. An ache in his head. (It still did ache.) Molly visited him. She had even given him a teddy bear. ("Dull.") And, he went and scared Mrs. Hudson off with his short temper.
Sherlock was so involved with reminiscing that he could hardly hear what he was playing any more. It was like trying to listen to a song that was being quietly played in another room. He had never opened his eyes, so he didn't know what the man in the black suit's face was saying. Was Sherlock playing for too long? He couldn't stop now. In a way, he was finally telling someone. Even if it was the man in the black suit, who was probably the least likely person anyone would talk to. Ever.
The song was growing more and more powerful, but Sherlock never opened his eyes.
Emotions are a distraction. Emotions are not going to save John, Sherlock scolded himself.
He couldn't help it though.
Why me? Why hurt me through him?
John didn't deserve the things he received. Sherlock deserved those things.
After one last crescendo, Sherlock finally lowered the violin. Had it been minutes? Had it been hours? Sherlock couldn't tell. The man in the black suit was no longer smiling. Instead, he was staring at Sherlock with some sort of, was it pride? Did Sherlock do something that reminded the man in the black suit of himself? The idea of being anything like him made Sherlock feel like he was going to vomit. The man in the black suit bowed his head over his instrument case. Just then, Sherlock's phone buzzed. The consulting detective looked to his pocket, then back to the man. The man in the black suit was already packing his violin away.
"Go on, answer it," he said without looking up.
It surprised Sherlock himself how quickly he whipped out his phone and opened the text.
John's awake! He's asking for you. -Sarah
Sherlock couldn't help the relieved laugh that escaped his lips. He was okay. John was okay.
Sherlock looked up to the man in the black suit, whom had stood up.
"I think I've given you plenty to think about," the man in the black suit huffed, "I'll be heading off. So long, Sherlock Holmes."
"Wait!" Sherlock Holmes called out, reaching his head towards the man, "You haven't done anything but tease me with nonsense!"
The man turned back, already halfway towards the door. His wicked smile had returned.
"Sherlock Holmes, for every horse in the race, there is a strength and a weakness. Your strength and weakness happen to be one and the same." The man sighed, rocking back on his heels, "Sherlock, I do like you. Take care to keep that up,"
With another nod of his head, the man in the black suit left. Sherlock was frozen in his chair, considering every word that the man in the black suit had said. Maybe…No. He would consider that later.
Sherlock swiftly moved to the window, where he saw the same black car waiting for the man in the black suit. He heard Mrs. Hudson say goodbye, and the man in the black suit politely said it back. There was the opening of the door, and Sherlock watched as he was accompanied to the car. He stared as the car started, and rumbled down the street. It didn't even make it around the corner before it vanished into a shroud of darkness.
Promptly, Sherlock turned on his heel and grabbed his coat and scarf, all while texting back to Sarah.
I'll be there right away. SH
AN: This definitely wasn't inspired by the song "The Devil Went Down To Georgia" by Charlie Daniels Band. I'll deny it if you say otherwise.