I'm currently smack in the middle of mid-terms. Naturally, I decided to post this instead of studying.
I wrote this to prove to myself that I can write things that aren't violently depressing and despair-filled. About half-way through writing this, The Red-Headed League happened on my notebook page, for no particular reason. So yeah. Hopefully my adaptation is at least a bit amusing.
This was inspired by Moffat's statement that he wanted to re-explore Sherlock when the actors are older.
Also, I hesitate to believe that people will still be sending texts and using regular computers in twenty years. But for the sake of this story, they do. Hopefully it won't be too distracting.
I don't own Sherlock.
Please review! It means so much to me and inspires me to keep writing!
Ironically, John notices first. When he does, it actually surprises him. It's as if one day he went to bed and woke up at sixty. Twenty years passed with the quiet effortlessness of contentment, and he has failed to realize it. The changes occurred gradually enough, with reading glasses and a few extra pounds and the return of his limp—the result of a very real accident this time around-that he shrugged them off. In fact, the first real hint that time passes in 221B like it does everywhere else is Sherlock's hair. He walks into the kitchen one morning and John notices sprigs of silver curls among the usual nest of ebony on Sherlock's head. John smiles fondly at the image as he watches the detective skulk in, find a piece of bread that doesn't look like a mould specimen, and make toast.
Teaching Sherlock that a metal knife is not an appropriate tool for fishing items out of their black hole of a toaster had not been an easy task. Today Sherlock shakes the thing within an inch of its life until the bread falls on to the counter. He pours a cup of tea that John has already made, adds a distasteful amount of sugar, and sits down to eat his Spartan breakfast, alternating between taking delicate bites of toast and glancing at slides on his microscope. John shuffles over to him and kisses his jaw. Sherlock leans into the touch, but does not bother to glance up. John chuckles and ruffles his hair, then begins to pick through it meticulously.
"John, kindly stop that. You are not, in fact, a monkey."
The older man just laughs and continues to search for silver strands.
"I hate to tell you this, Sherlock, but we're getting old."
This gets a response. Sherlock glances up at him, very seriously, then his face cracks into a small, pointed smile. "Maybe you are."
"What, you think you're too clever to get older?" John challenges. Sherlock nods. The look in his eyes is a little too honest-to-God solemn, but John doesn't tell him he is only human. He just ruffles his hair again and goes to pour his own cup of tea.
"Dimmock texted me this morning," Sherlock says casually, testing the waters. John does not like to go out on rainy days anymore.
"Yeah? What kind of case?"
"Oh," Sherlock smiles just a twinge. "Some ginger who's been tricked into something dull," he says. John can tell he is intrigued by some part of the case.
"Any news on those bank robberies this week?"
"Those as well," Sherlock concedes, shrugging. He has not stopped eyeing John hopefully. The doctor rolls his eyes good-naturedly.
"When are we leaving?"
Sherlock grins and shoves the latter half of the toast into his mouth all at once.
Instead, the detective swigs tea to help him swallow his food. John rolls his eyes again.
"Okay. Fine. Come along, Old Man," he teases, grabbing his cane. Sherlock stands and catches John on his way out of the kitchen. For a moment John expects-something. A kiss or an embrace. Instead, the world's only consulting detective runs a hand through John's hair for a moment before casually jerking out a few grey strands and displaying them.
"What were you saying, John?"
They spend the taxi ride arguing over who has more grey. John loses. Granted, he's a good ten years older, but Sherlock is still incredibly smug about the fact that he still has some dark locks left.
All kidding aside, the changelessness of Sherlock is infuriating. He has achieved the youngest 'fifty' that John has ever seen. Even with a few locks of silver hair, he doesn't look much older than late thirties. He can still wear that coat, although it is wearing out and no longer in style, and his face is relatively free of wrinkles. John's weathered face looks ancient in comparison. Sherlock likes it, though. He says he can read John's life story in it.
Then again, Sherlock can read your life story in the dirt under your fingernails.
Dimmock meets them at the crime scene. He's bulked up and grown into both his frame and his position at the Yard. Under Sherlock's guidance he has grown into the best detective inspector currently on the force, successfully fulfilling Lestrade's shoes when a heart attack forced him into retirement.
Although he's missed, John thinks the retired life suits Lestrade. He's calmer and his color has improved. He goes on walks with his grandchildren and takes his wife—his second wife—out to dinner. Sometimes Sherlock and John join them. Sherlock likes to fluster the poor woman by calling her "Molly Hooper," although she took Lestrade's name.
Dimmock introduces them to Jabez Wilson, a fiery red-head who keeps wringing his hands and babbling about how he is a reasonable man, not easily taken in. Sherlock, who has already lost patience with him, informs him that this is obviously untrue. John whispers "hush."
It is an odd case, though. No one has ever heard of a Red-Headed League before. John can barely stop Sherlock from taunting Wilson to his face for accepting an archaic position offered by such an enigmatic group. He doesn't entirely understand Sherlock's aggression or insistence that the poor man is a fool. He is only here to report a theft in his shop. His unusual story is the only thing keeping him at the yard. That and the fact that his "work schedule" with the Red-Headed League coincides exactly with the times of multiple bank robberies across London.
As it turns out, Wilson owns a small shop tucked into one of London's numerous side streets. From the outside it looks average, but inside it is crammed full of high end, top-of-the-line specialty computers, all extremely complicated and painfully expensive. Wilson matches the shops eccentricity. He is every bit the absent-minded master of this technology. He bumbles brilliantly, and his flaming red hair is an easy coincidence with his excited, indignant personality. Everyone calls him a genius. Sherlock calls him a fool. He has recently taken a job with The Red-Headed League, a previously unknown collection of men who seem to be fighting for ginger rights, or something like that. They put out an ad online advertising a position and Wilson's shopkeeper, a young fellow named Vincent Spaulding, encouraged Wilson to apply. He met the criteria, which was to be naturally, violently red-haired, he received the task of typing out collections of information, dictionaries, phone books, and encyclopedias, on a very old computer, in exchange for a sizable allowance. Sherlock makes a dry comment, something about a monkey typing Shakespeare. John pinches him.
The next thing anyone knows, banks are getting robbed. Each robbery coincides nicely with Wilson's schedule, so he has an alibi. Or he should, at least. He shows Sherlock a note saying that his services are no longer needed. The League has disbanded or gone missing. So has one of Wilson's supercomputers.
When the story is finished Sherlock berates Wilson and Dimmock for their respective incompetence before bolting off. John follows, cane in hand, and feels an acute sense of déjà vu, limping behind Sherlock, trying to keep up with his brain and his body. It feels just like the first time. In a way, it always does.
They hail a cab and go to the shop, empty except for the young shopkeeper, Spaulding. Sherlock makes up some grand story about them being professors—do they really look old enough to be professors?—who need a computer system that will accommodate their study. The boy asks for specifics. Sherlock grins amiably and shrouds his accusation in technical terms, laying out theoretical numbers and probabilities regarding the recent robberies. Spaulding is dumbfounded for a moment, but not incapacitated. He runs, and Sherlock follows. So, of course, does John.
The bloke turns out to have asthma ('cliché,' Sherlock pants afterwards), so they manage to apprehend him quickly. But not before Sherlock has wrenched his knee again. John has to give him something for the pain before he can relay the story.
Spaulding-whose real name is John Clay-managed to write a computer program that would allow him to open bank vaults—God, that sounds familiar—remotely. Unfortunately for him, he needed one of Wilson's computers to run the program. The Red-Headed League was a clever if eccentric way to get the shop owner, who could always use a few extra pounds to help pay the rent, out from underfoot. During Wilson's working hours, Clay robbed banks, with the help of an accomplice. At first he kept a low profile, and everything went well. But stories of the robberies spread and suddenly banks all over London were increasing security measures. The program needed to be altered, and in the future it might take hours to perform the heists. When he determined that he could not keep Wilson out of his own shop forever, he stole the computer and conveniently disbanded the Red-Headed League.
Wilson is beside himself. He had sworn on Spaulding—Clay's—honor. Sherlock looks smug. Dimmock takes the bloke in and John helps Sherlock limp his way to the nearest cab.
Back at 221B, he carefully examines the swollen, inflamed area and prescribes rest and yet another brace which Sherlock will stubbornly refuse to wear. The great detective is surprisingly pensive throughout this familiar process. "What's wrong?" John wants to know.
"Nothing," Sherlock insists, cringing slightly as John's hands touch a particularly sore spot. John curses at himself.
"Sorry about that," he tells him, then continues "You're not talking. I told you that you weren't allowed to wander around this flat for the next three days, and you didn't complain. Something is wrong," he helps Sherlock stand, and together they limp to the bedroom, so Sherlock can lie down. John goes to the kitchen to find an ice pack. He returns moments later, carefully applying the ice to the swollen area. Afterwards he lies down next to Sherlock, who heaves a quiet, hopeless sigh.
"What's the matter?" he questions, watching the detective's brow wrinkle in deep frustration.
"I am getting old, aren't I, John?"
John smiles and snuggles in closer to Sherlock.
"No you aren't. You've just got a few grey hairs and some laugh lines," he reaches up and gently touches the crow's feet around those ice-water eyes. Sherlock twitches ticklishly, but then relaxes and allows John to explore the thin lines that have appeared on his face without invitation.
"Oh," he murmurs. The white noise of quiet rain on the window and the warmth of John's body are making him sleepy, for once. "Well then," he drawls, "Thank you."
"For what?" John asks, his hand creeping back up to that tempting mop of curls. Sherlock sighs contentedly.
"For the laugh lines," he purrs. John's hand stops its course through the dark mass of springs.
"Hm?" he questions, hesitating on the edge of breathlessness.
"You are the reason for the laugh lines," Sherlock tells him with typical blunt honesty, the type that makes those occasional compliments mean something. John swallows and gently turns Sherlock's face towards him for further examination.
For once he understands how Sherlock reads people's stories in the lines on their faces. In Sherlock's sleepy face he can easily read those missing twenty years, all of the joy and the pain. It is beautiful.
"You're welcome," he whispers, tracing the lines with the tip of his finger. "Thank you, as well."
"You're welcome," Sherlock repeats, although he is now more asleep than awake. John knows he will be dead to the world for the next few hours, and then will wake up ready for another week without rest. John, of course, will reprimand him for bad habits, but comply with Sherlock's eccentricities.
No matter how old they get, he suspects that some things will never change.