Welcome back everyone!
My exams are done with and as promised here is the next chapter! I've been listening to a wonderful Reichenbach fanmix while writing this and all my feels just fell out. Enjoy, and expect regular updates again from now on in!
I received some wonderful reviews while I was away and really I just have to say that it means so much to me that you've all been so patient, and even that some of you have subscribed since I've been gone for such a long time! I hope the rest of the fiction doesn't disappoint.
The Return of Sherlock Holmes 10; Fair Trade
It was odd to be waking at this hour; odder still that he should have fallen asleep in the first place. Most peculiar was the absence of body heat that should have been radiating from a source next to him.
Sherlock Holmes was not one for sleep, unless his personal form of Nytol was present. That particular sedative was wrapped in the sugary coating of John Watson, which made it far easier to swallow.
Choking on a sudden dryness that hit his throat at the use of 'sugary', 'John', and 'easy to swallow' in the same mental sentence, Sherlock opened his eyes slowly. The image that came into focus was not one he had been expecting; although the ceiling of their flat's living area did make a nice change.
The question now being; why was he on his back in his shirt and trousers, counting the chemical burns in the plaster – forty six small patches and two large stains – while nursing a terrible headache and a painful shoulder?
"John?" he called out, not really expecting a response. Maybe it was late and Dr Watson had gone to work. A quick glance at the clock coupled with his own intuition confirmed that this was not the case. It was seven am, barely light, and John left for work no earlier than nine am.
Furthermore, hadn't they been sitting on the couch watching prime-time talk shows? Yes, Sherlock was quite sure of that. Then he'd picked John up and - blank. There was a blank there. Why was there a blank there? First there was the unmistakeable turning of cogs and flow of electricity, then there was panic. It was not often that the detective couldn't trust his memory. Without a second thought he was up and taking the stairs two at a time.
Something was dripping on his back, something cold and wet. John groaned and shook the grogginess out of his head. It felt like he had the worst hangover of his life. Trying to recall the events leading up to this point was difficult – it hurt and the memories were foggy.
There was a lot of shouting, a car, someone speaking Russian – had it been Sherlock? A fear set in as the doctor realised he'd been taken; opening his eyes in increments it was soon easy to confirm that he was no longer at Baker Street.
His legs were bound to a chair by some kind of strong – and extremely sharp, he discovered – metal wire, as was his chest, and his arms to his sides. Straining to glance at his watch required him to call on all of his soldier's discipline not to cry out in pain as the wires tightened around him; instead a low hiss escaped his lips. Seven thirty am, the morning of the same day it had been when he was at home. So he hadn't been gone long. A sense of relief came with realising he must still be in London, along with dry amusement when the thought occurred to him that he was making some feeble attempt to deduce his whereabouts as Sherlock might have done.
He was quite used to being taken and held against his will. It was a regular occurrence when you spent your time in the company of a man that had more enemies than the entirety of the British government combined. This time felt different though, they'd been sure there was no cause for concern, that they could enjoy at least a small stretch of peace before some other deranged lunatic, or brilliant mind with nothing to do showed up. There were footsteps, a faint pattering in the distance. Whoever it was had a very small stride, but their steps were sure and resonated purpose. John swallowed hard, this should be interesting.
It was almost comical, how they sat drinking tea as though nothing in the world had changed since before Moriarty ever appeared in their lives. Sherlock and Mrs Hudson, perhaps one would call them old friends, perhaps not. This particular scene, however, was not a pleasant one, and the landlady was almost certain some of her tea-set would be broken today. As if on cue Sherlock stood quickly, knocking his cup flying.
The tea stained the carpet red as it slowly seeped into the fibres and clung to them, like a spreading pool of blood from some anonymous victim.
John wasn't anonymous though. John was important. He was integral to the detective's way of life and he would stay that way now whether time or distance played its part. Mrs Hudson set about cleaning up the mess that he had made in his frustration, and it was silent once again.
Until, that is, his phone began to ring.
Curious. A phone-call; much more personal than a text message – or much more amateur depending on the nature of the caller.
Taking time to exchange a look with a very concerned landlady of his, Sherlock took the phone from his coat pocket and answered, pressing the cool plastic to his ear.
"Hello Mr Holmes." Greeted the clipped, polished female voice on the end of the line.
"Morning." He replied, casually.
"I trust you've had a chance to notice your pet's absence now? Then let's not waste time." There was a pause; the air was so heavy that it felt as though Sherlock couldn't possibly breathe it. "Irene Adler. Where is she and how can I find her? Central London, the warehouse where the trade meets at four pm. If you are late, I'm afraid lost belongings can only be held onto for so long."
"Ms Adler. As far as I am aware, she died abroad." There was no hint of untruth to the detective's voice.
"Perhaps I can give you some motivation."
He could make out the sound of footsteps, and then a new voice came on the line.
"Sherlock? Listen, I'm fine, a bit uncomfortable but fine. They're not very bright I give it about two hours at –
It was undoubtedly John's voice, and suddenly he wasn't so sure he would win this round.
At some point or other, the footsteps reached John, and stopped abruptly behind him.
"Hello little man." Came a gruff voice with a heavy Russian accent. "Nikolay will make you very comfy." This comment was followed by a kick of the chair, earning a grunt from the doctor. "Boss' orders, lights out for now."
A sharp blow to John's temple quelled any questions he might have had about his visitor's intentions. He always found dreams visited him in times of unconsciousness. Sometimes they were happy, sometimes they were sad – this time it was more of a memory than a dream.
It took him back to St Barts first, showed him Sherlock's fall, and then straight to the funeral, to his burial. This lingered for much longer.
He hadn't wanted them to cremate the body, some part of him couldn't bear the thought that Sherlock would disappear completely, that there would be nothing left, and the other part was still expecting him to jump up and say it was all pretend, all a game. He never did. There was Mrs Hudson's eulogy, and words from several others. It was such a small gathering that alone was enough to make him cry.
It was so painful seeing so little people there. And yet in that he found his strength in front of the news camera, the one he had wanted to let in, so that he could tell the world what he thought of the man that was Sherlock Holmes, how he viewed him, and how much he should have been treasured by those close to him.
The homeless had gathered as inconspicuously as they could, and he didn't notice them until after the coffin had been completely covered and he had been stood in the rain for an hour maybe more. They were mourning with him, and for an instant John Watson didn't feel so alone.
Next came his final visit to the graveyard before Sherlock's return. Sherlock's return, he came back for me.
It had been a miserably beautiful day. The sun was shining brightest it had all year and it seemed as though everything willed him to be happy even when he knew he couldn't.
"I've been visiting the psychiatrist more frequently." He confessed to the grave he sat next to, embarrassed and laughing as though his friend would hear him and respond. "She doesn't know much, some things I just can't say. She says I'll get through it, that I'll get over it one day." He stopped for a while, watching the summer breeze through the oak trees scattered sparsely around the graveyard.
The bottle in his hand felt heavy, but the doctor took a long drink from it.
"Cheap cider, not that tasty..." he mumbled, pouring a little into the ground underneath which his friend lay – and feeling childish for doing so. "It's a bit shit isn't it?"
After another long pause of quiet contemplation he choked on his own breath, and wheezed; "I just don't think I'll ever get over you."
John's eyes snapped open, someone was shaking him out of his stupor. Had he been crying? He certainly hoped not, that would be fun to explain to his captives; pathetic Doctor Watson.
The face of who he assumed must have been Nikolay stared back at him, grinning wide, his smile glinting with specks of gold from his many fillings.
"Mind chewing a breath mint next time you want to get so close?" he asked, frowning, lips pursed. Nikolay growled but backed away from him, only to hold out a mobile phone.
"Your buddy's on the line. Tell him something nice."
Buddy? He could only be referring to Sherlock, the phone was placed to his ear and John said nothing for a moment. It wouldn't take long for him to be found, really this operation seemed mediocre at best. Deciding that reassuring his partner was a better idea than asking for help he went with that idea.
"Sherlock? Listen, I'm fine, a bit uncomfortable but fine. They're not very bright I give it about two hours at –
The handset was taken away from him with a snarl, and Nikolay waddled his way over to a dark corner of the room. Another figure was there, they took the device from him, judging from their silhouette they seemed female – young.
This suspicion was confirmed when she called out to him, her voice echoing around the large empty warehouse.
"Don't worry Doctor Watson. You're simply a trade item. Once we have Irene then you can go free."
It took somewhere between thirty seconds and a minute for him to realise what she had just said.
"Irene? Irene Adler? She's dead; you can't trade me for a dead woman."
He would swear later that he could hear her smirk.
"Dead? I see your friend has been keeping secrets from you, Irene is very much alive."
The room began to spin and John found himself throwing up to the side of the chair, there were too many people coming back from the dead, too many people, people who Sherlock had been interested in, people who had been interested in Sherlock. The pain in his head was matching the pain in his chest and was not helping the nausea.
"Oh dear." The woman began to speak again. "Was that too much of a shock to the system? Or do you suppose you have a concussion Dr Watson? That would be your profession of course."
There was no response, as unconsciousness claimed him once again.
Mrs Hudson said nothing for a very long time, instead she stared, concernedly, at the back of Sherlock Holmes, who had been facing the wall with the phone still pressed to his ear.
"You should just go find him, dear." She said eventually. There was a long period of time before the response.
"Just go find him...?" Sherlock asked her, visibly shaken.
"Yes. Isn't that what you always do? Honestly, I don't know why it should be any different for John."
She would always have something to say, always kind but stern advice, and he was one of the only people to know her in this way, to know what she was really like. None of that buttered up sweetness she put on for everyone else. "Just stop staring at that wall and go out and get him, you won't find him staying here will you?"
He turned around to face her, a large smile on his features. Planting a kiss on her cheek very suddenly he was up and out of the door, onto the street in the rain. There was time yet, he could find Irene, and they could save John.
They would save John.