The Photography Club
BBC Sherlock fan-fic | Magicbunni
"Looks wide enough you could get a car through." Sherlock said from inside the lot. He sized up the hole in the fence and then looked at the ground around him. "So it was Mycroft who detected the cause of the black-out. He doesn't like people messing with his city, and he's been having us much more closely monitored than before." Sherlock grimaced. "The street I was on went dark, Mycroft's people reported an anomaly, he probably checked for the cause himself. It was suspicious, so he reversed it, and then he texted me. It was less than 10 minutes afterward." He showed John the phone. The text looked innocuous.
It said: 'What mischief are we up to tonight, Sherlock?'
"Oh, so he thought you'd done it. I mean the blackout. But he wouldn't worry about it, Sherlock. There are lots of times you don't bother to reply to him. I think it's more likely you won't respond, in fact." John nodded.
"And there are lots of times he ignores it," Sherlock agreed, "but not this time. He looked into it this time."
"And you think he's gone because the Photographers lured him out alone?"
Sherlock looked at the ground before him, thinking aloud, "No, I did that. I lured him out."
John followed him in through the red front door. Sherlock inhaled the dusty air beyond, deeply. He closed his eyes. "They took me in one of the bays. I was in the car until the door closed behind us." That meant he didn't know his way via this route. Nevertheless, he led on through the dust and abandoned furnishings, until he reached a windowed door. There he paused to look at the darkened room beyond.
John could guess why. "It was in there? Their party?"
Sherlock nodded mutely. Inside of his head, he was watching the car door open off to his right. They roped his wrist and dragged him out of the warm, glowing safety. The shot they'd slammed him with in the car, had been a mix of one of his favourite things, MDMA, and… something else. He didn't know what yet. MDMA had always made Sherlock feel warm and loved. Within minutes, the world was better; there was hope; people were humane, bearable, and he wanted to be among them. This had been his gateway drug. Having taken it young, he could remember lying in a fabric of skin and stroking hands, and shivering with delight. MDMA turned him into an alien: it made him want to be held and handled. And these people, oh, they'd handled him, all right. They'd roped his arms and neck and hauled him into the echoing room beyond. The drugs had ravaged him, left him depersonalized and in an altered state. That was when they'd begun questioning him. It had started before they'd brought out the coke and heroin and alternated comforting him with harming him to see which way he would break.
Because they'd wanted him too, in fact. They'd come to London to collect all three.
Problem for the Club was, Reese rarely left the CIA's or Lestrade's side.
And if Lawrence had failed, what could they use to draw her out?
Sherlock had a sinking feeling he knew the answer.
His head saw the tug-of-war as a Club ritual.
The sort of thing one saw in a Fraternity.
Which side had won him?
That was their nature. There were two sides to Club Parliament. It came clear to Sherlock as he remembered that one speaker had been identified as a Lion, and the other as a Lamb. In other words, there was someone to bang the coke, act like god, and do the highly unpleasant things the Club had to, and there was someone to bang the heroin, love mankind, and save the world.
"Oh my God," Sherlock gasped. It was brilliant.
John gripped his shoulder. That was when Sherlock realized he'd covered the majority of his face with his hands and John read this strong reaction as fear or horror, and had moved to defend. "Yeah. I'm here this time." John said flatly. He chambered a round. "Let's kick the tires, shall we?"
They pushed the door and walked into the near blackness of boarded windows.
"Let there be light," Sherlock said in time with flicking on the overheads.
John looked up. "I expected them to be red."
"I expected the floor to be covered in chaff and puke," Sherlock replied. "But the clean-up crew has been through already. After they dropped me, this place would have been spic and span within the hour."
Sherlock walked to the middle of the empty room and stood. He closed his eyes. His memory filled in the blanks – kneeling with the ropes pulling between one side of the Club, and the other. The strain played across his chest, to break him. Each side slid their needles into his bloodstream, and each side made their case. It was his reaction that they waited for.
This system corralled incredible minds, good and bad, and restricted their activities by way of highly structured ritual. He remembered Reese and her hatred of ape rules.
"This was never supposed to happen to you."
Sherlock didn't have to turn to know it was Mycroft.
Sherlock's older brother stood at the back of the house where Sherlock could remember his questioners: the grey-eyed girl, and the young man. She'd put something acrid in his eyes, so their faces were amorphous and indistinct. He was sure of the genders.
"Afternoon, Mycroft. You should know your girl is waiting back at Home Office, absolutely clueless about where you are." Sherlock said dryly.
"Come now, Sherlock. Calamity aside, try to be reasonable. They have to be turned to the good," Mycroft picked up his umbrella and strolled along through the open space.
"Your good," Sherlock corrected his elder brother. They glared and walked to meet one another.
"What's going on?" John pointed the gun at the floor. "Uh, hello?" He followed Sherlock.
Sherlock nodded in response. "There's a reason that MI6 rebuffed the CIA. Think Tank is the US government's elite program; and the Photography Club…" Sherlock motioned across at his brother.
"No," John drew out the word. "No way possible. They've murdered a man, Sherlock. For God's sake they hacked him apart." He looked to Mycroft, utterly at a loss.
Mycroft set the tip of the umbrella on the concrete floor and frowned. "Ah. They do enjoy a certain degree of autonomy. The problem here is that the Speaker died unexpectedly. There's been a power struggle. Lions moved quickly with candidates hidebound to their credos-"
John blinked, "Lions? There are lions?" He was getting a bad picture of the current situation.
"A power struggle ensued between two of them and the single cleverest of Lambs. She really needs to be Speaker, that girl." Mycroft waggled his umbrella in air. He inspected the handle, "It's been dreadful. I've been back and forth several times to remind them that the Speaker and all of the Speaker's staff need to be impartial."
"They took Sherlock," John swung the gun at the doors Sherlock had been delivered through. He realized he was quivering with anger. "They tied him up, shot him full of drugs, and throttled him around the neck." He reached up his free hand, hooked his fingers in Sherlock's collar and yanked. A pair of buttons actually popped off.
John had only intended to show the rope burns at the younger Holmes' neck, which he succeeded in doing. But Sherlock's glare caused him to drop his hand away quickly.
Sherlock adjusted his shirt with a small grimace at the missing buttons.
Before them, Mycroft shut his eyes and seemed to swear to it. "This was never supposed to happen to you, Sherlock."
Not enough for John, who barked. "Then why did it?" so loudly that both men jumped. His shout roared in echo through the cavernous hall.
Sherlock blew out a mouthful of air to steady himself, and turned to John. "Because the Speaker they want is Mycroft," Sherlock said with a nod. "And the leverage they needed to get him is-"
"I'm sorry, Sherlock, when Anthea told me, I rushed over and-" Mycroft had reached for his brother's shoulder. Sherlock had stepped back. In response, Mycroft's hand balled into a fist and fell to his side. "In any event, the Club isn't official UK policy. It's something I organized on the side with an MI6 grant. I'd considered having you lead them only," he looked his brother over, "you would never be able to maintain the focus needed."
John felt his teeth groan from being gritted so hard. The gun in his hand rattled. Much more, and he felt he might shoot the hell out of his cursed building. "This is… insane. You are insane."
"He's insanely brilliant," Sherlock told John. One long, pale hand floated out toward Mycroft. "I mean, I… I didn't see you in it… not until just…."
John actually snapped, "Don't you praise him. You were violated by these people." A fine aching in the muscles of his arms let John know he was gripping the Browning too hard. So he eased off. All the shouting in creation wouldn't change the past, just like all the anger in the world couldn't put Lawrence back together again. Or undo what had been done to Sherlock.
Sherlock paused…. "Did Anthea tell you which way it went for me? I've recovered much of what happened, but I don't have anything at the end. Apparently, I ended up on the Victoria Embankment. Did she tell you which way it went?"
Mycroft tipped his head to one side, "Sherlock… do you care? Does it matter?"
"The drugs were just a treadle they used to push me over the edge. It was how I reacted that would land me in one House or the other. They were quite smart enough to know your relationship with the Club would change radically if your brother was in the upper echelons of it. As such, which way did I go? When they cut me loose, did I attack them, or did I bargain with them? Tell me, Mycroft, please." Sherlock appeared to hold his breath.
Now Mycroft looked at the umbrella he held, at a glint of light it threw on the dazzlingly clean shop floor. Finally, he raised his head. "They didn't break you."
Sherlock turned away in disgust.
"I'm not lying to you." Mycroft told him quietly. "My squad raided the place. They're all in custody right now. I was told you vanished in the confusion. I suppose you can be counted on to escape, after your years of dodging police raids. I couldn't find you. I didn't know where you were until you were checked in at hospital this afternoon, Sherlock." He put his knuckles to his lips, briefly, containing some strong emotion or other.
"You have a squad that conducts raids? Yourself? Just you?" John asked Mycroft. Unbelievable.
Sherlock set his hands on his hips and tugged his suit coat into order. "Deliver the young man who killed Lawrence Waters to the CIA by full dark, or I take this to the police."
Mycroft laughed warmly. "Don't threaten me, Sherlock."
Sherlock stepped up to his brother. "What happened to me… it hurt." He drew out that last word between his clenched teeth. "Give. Me. The killer."
"Fine… yes, I'll send him. If I don't, you'll come take him. I know you, Sherlock. I would only do this for you. You may have him." Mycroft looked contrite, even somewhat pitiful, in his agreement. Then he sighed. "Sad, really, he's only fifteen, and the most calculating, gifted Lion I've ever seen."
"That would be the one in your mirror." Sherlock sneered.
"Or here before me," Mycroft said seriously. He looked at his watch. "Well, it's late. I have to prep Anthea to deliver Rowan down to the Yard. You all right?"
"Fine," Sherlock nodded. "Find out what he gave me with the Ecstasy?"
Mycroft's brows swept up. He looked Sherlock over. "Oh-my. Everything old is new again."
"Find out." Sherlock said slowly. He turned and walked through the empty fire house. "I'd best not see hide nor hair of the Photographers again, Mycroft."
Mycroft Holmes' voice echoed through the room. "They'll be indistinguishable from the common passersby… from now forward."
It was chilling.
John backed up a step. He clicked the safety on the Browning. It would not do to shoot Sherlock's brother over this monumental accident, no matter the temptation. It was best to be civilized about this. His tone was dark as he said, "Good evening then."
"Yes. Good evening, John." Mycroft said.
John followed Sherlock out of the building with a quick glance. Anthea stood texting outside a black Bentley. She looked up and smiled gently as they passed her. "I see we're feeling better."
And of course Anthea knew. Sherlock ignored her and kept walking.
John tried to imagine his sister, Harriet, doing something like this to him. True enough, Mycroft hadn't planned an eventuality wherein he was forced to take over the powerful genius Club he'd built, and hadn't meant for Sherlock to become involved in this, but the risk had always been there. Sherlock had once described Mycroft to John as 'the most dangerous man you'll ever meet'. In the last days, Mycroft had lived up to his reputation.
Now he was in charge of the Photography Club.
"Are we going to cab to the Yard?" John asked.
"No. We're walking home and then we're going to a Hotel."
Oh Lord. Sarah would eat this up. She was convinced of the possibility Sherlock might have stronger feelings for John than anyone suspected. "What do you mean?"
"Don't worry, it will be nice." Sherlock told him. "But do hurry up. We can't be caught here."
He glanced around him anxiously.
The drugs had worn off, right? "What's going on? Why aren't we going to Lestrade?" John asked, "I mean I understand you can't reveal MI6 secrets, but I would have sworn you'd want to meet this Rowan kid, yourself."
"Oh, he'll be just like the rest within six months. He's about to be sucked into the Think Tank for his crimes. Yes, and we should hurry. It will confuse her that the directions put her close to Baker Street. She'll think I tricked her to get out of there. But Reese is careful. She'll hit on the Fire House. Or would you like to wait around for her car so that she can look at me, read my face, and quite properly tell me that I'm lying to her? Hotel, John. A nice, swank one, and I'm bringing the microscope."
John snorted at this. That was bound to be a hot night: Sherlock and the TM3000 Tabletop Microscope of his dreams. Oh, and John.
They hurried into their Baker Street apartment. Sherlock threw a few things in a bag and spent the rest of his time packing up his precious microscope. His last act before the cab was to update to his blog. It read:
Lions, lambs, rowans – interesting exhibition by the local Photography Club. But I'll pass.
It made John grin. His phone had told him Sherlock had updated just as Holmes clapped the netbook closed and they rushed down the stairs to the cab. They hurried into the back together.
"So… you can't see her again this trip." John said carefully.
"Yes," Sherlock sat back from giving the cabbie the address. "Don't worry about the booking. I know the owner and I've sent a text that it's a bit of a predicament. He'll give us a place to lay low for a few days. Upshot, you can see the Royal Mews from there. Do you like horses, John? I know someone. We could go hacking. Quite relaxing. I can't believe I never asked."
"Was I going fast?" He looked up from his phone – Internet searching something about hacking.
"So you can't see her again while she's in London-" John began again.
Sherlock tossed his scarf down on the seat between them to get it out of his hands. His typing picked up speed. "Ah, that again? I believe I answered you already."
"Yes, Sherlock, but it's just that I think you two need to-"
Sherlock blocked the fading light when he rounded on John. "No, I don't need people. Do you understand?" The quite visceral expression on his face struck John dumb. His green eyes searched John for signs he was listening and could twig.
There must have been some signal, because Holmes settled back in his seat and continued his search of the internet. "Oh, and there are some solid hunter-jumpers. Are you any good, John? It's really quite technical."
John settled back in his seat with a sigh. Sherlock did notice the lack of response, but it was unlikely to bother him. The important thing was to make certain he didn't notice the pity.
They were just in the elevator when Lestrade texted Sherlock. Holmes nudged him, and John leaned in to see.
Who is this Rowan Helling kid suppose to be?
"Supposed," Sherlock muttered and shut his eyes, "God." But he managed not to text about it.
This meant Rowan had arrived at the Yard and surrendered himself there. It was safer in Scotland Yard and/or CIA custody than at the mercy of the other Lions, and much safer than defying Mycroft, de facto leader of the Club until such a time as the transition to a new Speaker was completed.
He just told me check with you for details.
Sherlock nodded at the screen. Yes, he knew that this was also Mycroft getting a finger-hold on the Think Tank – Rowan being his finest Lion, always rampant on Lawrence Water's London map – but sufficient to the day, Sherlock decided, was the evil thereof, and so he texted a reply.
Rowan Helling hired Delov to remove Lawrence Waters. He may be young, but Helling is a core member of the Photography Club. He's your Photographer and your man. Boy. He's your boy. Give him to the CIA. Let them see who he'll give up.
Well, actually see who else Mycroft had told Rowan Helling to give up. Sherlock glanced around the expensive elevator to the operator running the buttons, and typed.
I'm resting up.
Lestrade came back with:
Reese is asking for you.
Sherlock turned off his phone. John held his tongue, but couldn't meet his own reflection in the highly polished elevator doors opposite him. In the hall, John glanced at Holmes, trundling along that ridiculous microscope of his – okay, Molly's. His eyes had diverted to the blue, boxy thing, his expression was disconnected.
On the third night, Sherlock vanished. Only, this time, it wasn't very difficult at all, for John to find him. It took no guess work considering Reese had CC:ed John on her e-mails to Sherlock. Tonight she was leaving for America, and she'd thrown open the gates.
Tonight's my last night. I don't care what you've done, Sherlock. Come see me.
John found Holmes sitting on a bench outside London Heathrow, his coat's collar turned up against a damp wind. He watched planes taking off and landing. John paid the cabbie to wait and walked to stand behind the bench. After a moment, he set a hand on Sherlock's shoulder. There was no change in him at all, until he turned his face away. The gloved hand on the arm of the bench tightened, as did the one around his phone.
A moment later he said. "That one."
John watched the plane streak off the runway and draw further and further into the night. Then it was no more than a firefly light on dark canvas. He looked at Sherlock's inert stare, straight forward at the tarmac, and didn't need an explanation. John took his hand away and stuck it into his pocket. He turned to stare at where he figured he'd last seen the plane. It was out there. She was out there at a rate of about 500 miles an hour. Somewhere.
"Stuff's in the cab." John said at last.
He looked down. "From the hotel? It's in the cab."
"We're going home."
Sherlock got stiffly to his feet. He tucked his hands in his pockets. John followed him to the cab. It was a relatively silent ride back, but he brightened automatically when he saw Baker Street.
"Drop it all off and order some take-away?" Sherlock asked as he stepped out on the curb into the passersby and confusion of early evening that he so loved.
Dear God, he was eating again. They'd have to hit a bank machine. Well… Sherlock would. John would call Sarah for an emergency grocery run.
Again, John was forced to pay the cabby to wait. But, as he watched Sherlock shove the door, stalk in, and nod at Mrs. Hudson, it struck him that it was worth it. In for a penny; in for a pound – it was very much worth it, and John even managed a grin as he carried the luggage up to their flat.
John almost stepped over the note from Sofia, shoved under the kitchen door.
When he saw it, he picked it up and immediately folded and pocketed it.
The man deserved at least one meal between cases.
So John decided it could wait until morning.
~ End ~
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