Dreaming's author's notes: Hello, everyone~ This is a collab fic between myself and aerorolo, a little plot idea she came up with that I wanted to help write. We'll be doing the pattern of each of us writing a chapter, beginning with me. Enjoy!
Aerorolo's notes: Hey hey, everyone! I'm super excited to do a collab fic with my dear friend, Dreaming-Of-A-Nightmare. I'm so glad to have her write this with me. Like what she said, we'll be doing a constant pattern on writing each chapter! Hope you like what we have in store for you all~
Summary: Post Reichenbach Fall. After an accident, John Watson awakes in a body he thinks is his own. But his wallet says that his name is Martin Freeman, and he isn't in his flat on Baker street. And then he meets Benedict Cumberbatch. He does, of course, mistake the man for Sherlock, but after some confusion and clarification, Ben decided to help the man-who-isn't-Martin find his way back home, to his version of modern-day London.
Pairing(s): John/Sherlock, Benedict/John
Chapter 1: A Turn of the Clock
Doctor John Watson has a fantastic memory. He might miss details, but he can recall almost anything if he needs to, because he was trained to be a doctor, and doctors need to remember all they can if they want to do their job properly.
John doesn't remember much at the moment. He recalls, idly, a mugging attempt. He recalls retaliating. He recalls pain, tremendous amounts of pain, and briefly, sirens and the chemical, stale stench of the hospital. Other than that, John remembers little else. Only flashes, mere fragments of memory, and scraps of linger senses. Everything is hazy.
So when he wakes, he is disoriented and confused to the nth degree. He groggily sits up and rubs at his eyes. And he finds, oddly enough, that he is in no pain. He knows he should be; that mugger put up quite the fight, and so did John. But he feels nothing. He feels… perfectly normal.
Frowning a bit to himself, John gets out of bed and glances around. His stomach drops with a sickening cold feeling when he doesn't recognize his surroundings. He panics; this isn't the hospital, and this isn't his flat on Baker street!
He rushes to the window, looks outside. It's still London. London as he knows it, London as it's always been.
Some of the panic in John subsides. This, at least, is a comfort; he hasn't been taken hostage somewhere, isn't in some foreign place. He's in London. That's a constant that is comforting.
He wonders idly if, perhaps, he dreamt the mugging up. Maybe he got drunk, slept it off, had strange dreams. (It wouldn't be the first time. He's been doing it more and more often for the past few months. It's been over two years since Sherlock's fall from the rooftop of the hospital, and John would be lying if he said he wasn't still in a deep-seeded depression over it.) And then, in his drunken state, he went home with a girl? This could be her flat. That would make sense.
But as John looks around, there is no sign of any of his personal possessions anywhere. None of his clothes, not even his wallet. There is a wallet on the dresser, however, and he picks it up, wondering if, maybe, he accidentally went home with a married woman. A drop of guilt taints his heart, clenching it.
Except, when he opens it, he finds an ID with his own picture on it. But the name 'Martin C. Freeman' is written beneath it.
John panics openly.
"Martin?" comes a woman's voice, and John spins around to find a woman in the doorway. "Are you finally up? God, you slept like the dead. You must have been up all night again, haven't you? Excited to be filming Sherlock again?" and she smiles.
Filming Sherlock? What is she going on about? John's confusion grows, and he feels himself beginning to break out into a sweat, his heart racing; early signs of a panic attack. He struggles to clear his throat and breathe properly. He opens his mouth, but the woman says something before he can.
"Oh! I made coffee, it's on the counter. I need to take the kids out with me on an errand, and your cab should be here soon to take you to the set. That all right?" she says, voice as sweet as sugar and her face just as lovely. She tosses her hair with a hand and waves goodbye. "See you later, honey."
John nods dumbly and watches her leave, humming to herself. He can hear children, a boy's and a girl's voice, young, maybe around ten years old. They come into the room and smile at John, and hug him goodbye.
"Have fun shooting, Daddy! Can't wait to see you on the telly again!" says the girl.
"Can Mr. Cumberbatch come over again soon?" asks the boy.
And John is polite, says non-committal things – ("Oh, um, thank you, dear." "Ah, um, I don't know, maybe?") – and awkwardly hugging them goodbye. The woman appears again, takes the kids with her, and kisses John on the cheek as she leaves.
He stands in the bedroom, gaping, not sure what to think. Has he fallen into some sort of alternate reality? Is he dreaming again? John doesn't know. He's not sure he wants to.
But, apparently, he needs to catch a cab. He decides to do so; it might give him more answers.
Outside, he climbs into a cab, and the driver seems to know exactly where to go ("Back on set again, eh, Mr. Freeman? I love your show!"). And yes, John made sure to bring Martin's wallet to pay the man (and he does feel a little awful about taking this Martin fellow's money, but if he's filming, then he must be an actor, and actors make plenty of money, so he shouldn't miss a little cab fare). But nothing feels right.
John jiggles his left leg nervously, heel tapping, and his hands are clenching and rubbing in his lap, fumbling over one another. He makes sure to keep breathing steadily.
The cabbie seems to notice, even over the music and through the traffic. He glances in the rearview mirror and asks, "Nerves, Mr. Freeman? Don't worry; a bloke like you won an award for Christ's sakes. You'll be just as brilliant this year as last year!"
John shakes his head, because that isn't the problem. He's in someone else's life and it's wrong and he's just trying to figure out how and why and if there's a way to get back home, to his life. Because, yes, his life was plain and awful without Sherlock around, and he was in the dumps so deep down that he was drowning, but it was his life, goddammit, and he isn't out to take someone else's (and an actor's no less!).
It might have been a long, slow, painful turn around the clock, but now he's suddenly thrust into a life that's counterclockwise, and it's thrown him off his guard so horribly that John doesn't know what to do.
When the cab arrives at the set, John hesitates. He pays the driver, gathers himself up, and slowly opens the taxi door. And there it is, everything he knew, crammed into a tiny space. 221b, the shop beside it, everything. It's all… fake.
"What the hell sort of world is this? Some place where my life is a show on the telly people watch for their entertainment?" John murmurs to himself, and he feels sick inside. Too sick to move very quickly.
People approach him, whisk him away to where he needs to be, and shakes his hand repeatedly, welcoming him back on set for – what are they saying? Series three? There's already been two series of this bloody show that parallels his life? –John has never felt so lost in his life, not even when Sherlock passed. This is a whole new level of being lost.
Makeup is put on him, and there, John is handed his usual clothes: jeans, shirt, jumper. He changes into them, and they feel familiar and comfortable. They hand him his jacket. They do his hair. And he lets them, because he's helpless to do anything else.
But as he emerges from makeup and wardrobe (he knows a little bit about television programs and plays and how they work; he can at least name a few things), he meets with a man who asks him if John has his script on him. John shakes his head.
Shit. Shit. He needs to know lines, doesn't he? But he doesn't know anything, he can't –
"Oh, well, here you are, then. Take my copy; I'll grab another. Go over them for a bit, yeah? Ben's over there. He'll run them through with you. We still have an hour before we start shooting scene twenty-six." And the man walks off, leaving the packet of papers in John's hands.
John licks his dry lips and flips through the pages. His name is written all over them, as are the names of everyone he knows: Molly, Lestrade, Mycroft, Moriarty… Sherlock. His breath hitches in his throat, and gives pause when he sees that Sherlock has lines. Which mean he's speaking. Which means he's alive. And by the look of it, most of it is between himself and his brother, and then a visit with Molly. In one bit, Molly is angry with Sherlock, cursing him for making her help him fake his death and distract John by lying about Mrs. Hudson.
Memories flood back to John about all of that, and suddenly, those moments are vastly more comprehensible. Why Molly avoided him after Sherlock died. Why Mrs. Hudson was so puzzled over John bursting through the door. And most of all, why he's has this vague sense of Sherlock, as if the man were still secretly alive out there.
Something like hope blossoms within John's chest, and he slowly makes his way over to where the man pointed him, to someone named Ben. He's still looking down at the script, trying to memorize at least scene twenty-six, since that's the one the man mentioned to him.
"Ah, there you are, Martin, my good friend!" booms a cheery voice, and it stops John in his tracks. He glances up. He knows that voice.
It's Sherlock. There, in the flesh, in his coat and blue scarf, hair parted as usual, eyes bright.
John's knees nearly give out. He feels dizzy, his head spiraling and his fingers beginning to tremble as they hold onto his script. His heart seizes in his chest, and while he saw the script, he didn't actually think – he can't actually believe –
"Sh-Sherlock?" he stutters softly, his voice choked.
Sherlock laughs heartily. "That was good, Martin! You should do it like that for the reunion scene, it would be brilliant." But his smile falls when John doesn't change. "…Hey, Martin, you alright? Did you sleep well?"
"Sherlock," John repeats. It's all he can seem to say. Actually seeing his former flatmate in the flesh again… it has more effect on him that he thought it would.
Sherlock rolls his eyes. "Okay, come on. That's enough. I know you won a BAFTA and you're a great actor and all, but is it really so hard to say, 'Hello again, Ben, nice to see you after all these months. Have a good break, did you?'"
"Ben?" John says, frowning slightly. He glances down at the script. There's a Benedict Cumberbatch written on the front, alongside the man, Martin, and a couple other men's names: Rupert Graves, Andrew Scott.
And then it clicks. Those are the actor's names, the actors who play the characters of the people John knows so well. And this man, the one in front of him, must be Ben, short for Benedict. And he must play Sherlock, John's dear friend Sherlock.
It makes John feel icy-hot inside with pain. None of this is real. Everyone is an actor, and Sherlock isn't alive, not really. There's just this man, Benedict, dressed like and looking precisely like Sherlock, and it's disturbing and painful and just a little bit funny. (But only a little.)
John swallows. "I know how this will sound," he begins, and Ben cocks his head at him. He struggles onward, "But I'm… I'm not this fellow, this Martin. I'm. I'm John. John Watson. And there's been some sort of mistake."
Sherlock – no, no, Benedict, John has to remind himself – laughs. "Good one! Sounds like something out of Doctor Who! Body-switching, or life-switching. That's a great way to get into character, Martin, very clever. I should try that. I'm Sherlock, not Ben. Yes, that's a good one."
John clenches his fists and shakes his head. He's a bit angry, now. Frustrated with the situation and the way this man doesn't believe him. He growls, "No! You're not hearing me! I am John! I was in an accident, and now – now I've waken up as someone else, or this is all a dream, and I don't know how to get out of it!"
But John wouldn't believe anyone who said the same thing to him. He wouldn't. He wouldn't look at Mrs. Hudson and believe her if she told him that she's actually some actress with a different name. It sounds ridiculous, were the roles reversed. But this is the truth; the utter, complete truth.
He just needs a way to prove it. Something, anything – hold on. "My wife, if she is my wife; I saw her this morning, but I don't know who she is, what her name is. Tell me, if I was Martin, wouldn't I know her name? Or his children's names for that matter?"
"Quit playing around, Martin. This is getting old. How would Amanda feel if you talked about her like this?" Benedict frowns. "This is taking the joke too far. You're not your character, you know. Did a few months away from the set mess with your head?"
"No, dammit!" John curses again. He thinks wildly for anything else, anything that could be proof –
And then he thinks of when he was in his dressing trailer, changing into his (real) clothes. His scar is still there. The bullet wound, the starburst on his shoulder from Afghanistan.
John tugs down his shirt collar, unbuttoning and pushing it aside. "There, see! My scar. Can't fake this, can I? Did Martin serve in Afghanistan and get the same wound? I bet not, because I'm not Martin."
Benedict stares at the shorter blond man for a long, long time, eyes flickering between the fire in John's eyes and the clearly-not-makeup mark on his shoulder, just off from his collarbone. Then, lowly, he answers, "Well, fine, then. You're John. But if you're John, then where is Martin?"
The doctor sighs with relief. Finally, he's got someone who's on his side who believes him. "I don't know. But I figure if we get me back home, to my London, we can get your pal back."
Ben smiles a little. "That's a relief. I'll help you, yeah? 'Two heads are better than one' and all. But I'd like to get him back soon; he's one of the best chaps I've ever worked with, and no offense, John, but I doubt you can act. So just follow my lead, try to be yourself, and say what they tell you to, got it?"
And Sherlock is the best chap I've ever worked with, John thinks to himself. He will have to settle for Benedict for now, however. The man isn't Sherlock, but at least he will act like him, and in his secretly fragile state, John will take what he can get.
"Yeah, I got it." He laughs a little and walks with Ben onto set. As of now, his goal is to get through being on a television show and find a way to return the proverbial clock of his life to clockwise again.