Thank you very much to Just Bob for beta reading this. You were fantastic and really helped add some of those extra little details in there.
Time to Run
Sherlock was having one of those rare moments in life: one where he had no idea what was going on.
He had been minding his 'own' business in a damp, dark alley, the usual kind that runs between buildings, breaking up a long line of typical late 1940's terraced housing. Nothing interesting or remarkable about it, but there were signs, if one were to look close enough; signs of a scuffle which may or may not be of interest to the ex-detective consultant. Whether or not they were, he never found out.
A cry sliced through the air, half panicked, half… bemused (?) which lingered in the heavens, a strong, deep voice; a young male, probably in his late twenties or early thirties. He quickly straightened, spinning on his heel towards the source of the sound as it approached. His eyes focused on the end of the passage, waiting for the source of the confounded racket to appear in three, two, one…
Precisely on cue, the man in question burst into view, skidding round the corner by grabbing the wall as he flew past and swinging himself round onto the new course, running directly towards Sherlock. He wore a dark blue pin-striped suit with tie, though the vintage of the cut and style was unclear, and long brown faux-suede coat, the wear and condition consistent with approximately 5 years' regular use, over the top. Bright red converse shoes, U.K. size 12, completed the outfit as a stark contrast to the office attire: not a professional man then. His brown hair was gelled into a messy, but purposeful hairstyle and he was tall, 6.1 ft to be precise. A small smooth sphere, radius: 2.1-2.3 inches, metallic bronze but without scratches, markings or dirt was tucked under his left arm, creasing of sleeve indicating the object weight was about 2.65 kg. He was a strange man running towards him in panic. Except, he wasn't. While he cried out in 'fright' his eyes told another story. They weren't wide with fear, but excitement, he was enjoying every moment of this.
"Run!" the man yelled, waving his arm like a lunatic. "Run!"
Run? Hardly, where was the fun in that? Nowhere. None. Non-existent. Sherlock Holmes didn't run away from things, he ran towards them.
Fingers suddenly clamped themselves round Sherlock's wrist as the stranger dashed past, jerking him after the man.
"What are you doing?" Sherlock snapped, trying to pull his arm free, but failing. It was well and truly secured.
"Running! It's like walking, only quicker."
He was being patronised. He; Sherlock Holmes, the super-genius. It was a sensation that he wasn't really used to any more, the last time it had happened was in 1987- the 18th July to be precise, just before 7:15pm- at the dinner table by Mycroft, and he no longer knew how to deal with it.
"I know that," he snapped back. "That's not what I was asking."
"Question time comes after. They're not very happy with me and I doubt they'll be much happier with you. Not the smartest things, probably assume you're my assistant."
"I don't run away." This was true enough: he took a step back or ducked behind cover, but he never ran away.
They left the alley, stepping onto a narrow path that would lead them between the backs of the houses, or more specifically the gardens. The walls were far shorter, only a little taller than the two men and the brickwork ended, replaced by wooden fencing instead.
"That's great, but I think you may want to rethink your methods this once, unless you want to be turned to something significantly more gooey and less appealing. So, run now, talk later." The stranger shot back in what was clearly a southern English accent, though Sherlock would need he hear more in order to be more precise.
The stranger pulled him to the right, away from the direction that would take them back to the main road, going further into the housing estate instead. He wanted to avoid being seen then, or avoid crowds. Coupled with the words 'they're not very happy with me' and the object under his arm, he was lead the conclusion that this man had just stolen from his pursuers and wished to avoid drawing any more attention to himself and the potential of passers-by assisting with his arrest. However, he'd grabbed Sherlock as he passed, pulling him out of harm's way rather than leaving him as a distraction. It was an odd move for a robber, but not out of the realms of likelihood. It either meant that his followers were dangerous and he had a conscience or he was stupid. Sherlock was inclined to believe the latter.
"W-" he tried again, but was cut off before he finished the first syllable.
"Run now, talk later!"
A sharp stab of annoyance struck Holmes, but to continue would be fruitless and would waste energy that he'd need if he was going to be pulled along much further. He just hoped he was released soon. A back-street thief was hardly worth the notice of a mind like his… but the stolen object was another matter. It was new, different, unknown, in other words; it was exciting. It was something fun to grab his mind, such a rarity now that he couldn't take cases and was stuck with the same mission day-in and day-out. Though he couldn't deny that there was a certain pull towards the thief as well, there was something not quite right about the man in front of him though he lacked the necessary data to pinpoint what it was for sure. Was it accent? Speech pattern? Motivation? Race/colouration? Fashion sense? Personal cleanliness/hygiene? No. None of these seemed to hit the spot.
He was pulled left, back down another alley, but this time the thief stopped halfway along, letting out a triumphant 'aha!' before finally relinquishing his hold on the other man. His relief was short lived as the man passed him the stolen orb, allowing Sherlock to confirm its weight at 2648g precisely, and crouched down at the man-hole by their feet, reaching into his coat pocket as he did so. The ex-detective watched curiously as the thief pulled out what appeared to be a fat silver pen. That was, until he got a clear look at it. There was no doubt that it wasn't a pen, there wasn't even a place for the nib, and the end that the other man pointed to the metal cover had a dark blue bulb set into it. A novelty torch, he surmised: style over substance, completely useless to find one's way by, not that it was dark enough to warrant the use of a light. He must have another use for it.
Sure enough the torch was flipped on, the light blinking, giving off little light while the device made a strange whirling noise, musical notation: high F. The thief ran it round the edge of the manhole, too quick to be looking for something by the inadequate light, but whatever he was trying to do must have worked as he slid back the cover with some effort.
"Get in!" the stranger ordered, looking past Sherlock. "No time to explain, you just have to trust me and jump down."
A quick second look at the man didn't show any danger signs. No pupil dilation, muscle tension or undue perspiration. He was a little anxious and eccentric, but not dangerous. So he did as he was bidden, the man following directly behind him pulling the cover back into place as he did so. Looking up as his feet touched the ground, he saw the man once again running his device around the edge of the metal. Sealing it, Holmes concluded, or at least, that's what the man believed he was doing.
Jumping down to the ground, the other man held a finger to his own lips, his eyes drifting up. Heavy footsteps beat against the ground, halting at the entrance. The faint sounds of sniffing could be heard and the creature was clearly on four legs, no…that didn't sound quite right…two feet and two hands, but there was no unevenness in the steps, so the arms must be the same length as the legs. The two creatures - he was sure there were two - were heavy, twelve stone perhaps, and stocky. His mind sifted through his extensive store of zoological knowledge. Canine? No. Bovine? No. Equine? No. Large primates?… No. Nothing….
He was sharply cut off when one of the creatures thumped the metal cover with a heavy fist, smelling out where their quarry had vanished to.
His partner in crime looked back down, smiling. "That'll keep 'em occupied until they're called off. Quick, strong and violent, but they're as dumb as a dead cat. Still, means you don't want to be caught by one: they like to punch and it doesn't really occur to them to stop until their master tells them to. I'm rather partial to this face now, so I'd rather not end up as a punching bag." He straightened, shoving his hands in his trouser pockets. "Well, best be off then. Better stay away from the centre of town though, south of the river is probably the best place to end up." He strode past Sherlock, taking four steps before the ex-detective decided to say something.
"The other way."
The other man paused, a slightly bemused look on his face. "Sorry?"
"You need to go the other way if you want to go south of the river."
"Riiight," the other man looked as if was considering the advice, his chin lifting as the word escaped his lips. "Yes, of course. Other way it is then." He marched back past, as if nothing had happened. "I'm sorry to drag you into all of this, does have a habit of happening though. I'll drop you off at a safe distance and make sure you get away safely."
Sherlock stepped after the man, shifting the sphere so that he was carrying it under one arm. "I would hardly say you are in a position to take me anywhere more safely than I could myself. What makes you think I need your protection?"
The man spun round and flipped open a thin leather ID wallet. "Answer your questions?"
Sherlock looked at the sheet of paper dangling before him, the beginnings of regret at following this man tickling through him. "That is a blank sheet of paper."
"It is?" The thief frowned and flipped it round. "It is. Well then," he shoved his hand into his coat pocket and dug about, "how about this one?"
Great. He'd found himself in the company of a man who was either stupid, insane or, most likely, both. "That's the same sheet of paper and it's still blank."
He'd expected a frown or some form of denial at the statement, but instead the man's face split in to a wide grin. He couldn't have looked more happy or smug. "Oh, you are a clever one aren't you? Not fooled by this. You really see what's around you."
"Of course I'm not fooled by it, not even an idiotic five year old could be fooled by a blank piece of paper."
His comment was ignored. "Sorry, I don't think I ever caught your name?"
"That's because you never asked."
"I'm asking now."
"John Watson." It was a bluff, one that normally worked. No one would think that Sherlock Holmes would dare use the name of his ex-partner.
"John Watson, eh?" He shoved his hand towards Sherlock. "John Smith, a pleasure to meet you."
Sherlock felt that familiar wave of smug satisfaction as he, at long last, pinned something for definite on the man. He looked at the hand but didn't take it. "You're lying."
"Your name isn't John Smith."
"Oh, and I suppose yours is really John Watson," and for a moment Sherlock feared he'd made one more miscalculation. "Either you're lying or your parents had a wicked sense of humour."
"What's wrong with John Watson?" Indignation crept into his voice. It was a dull name, but there wasn't anything else wrong with it, well, not per say.
"You know, 'Elementary my dear Watson'? 'Cause, he never actually said that. I really have to watch what I say at dinner parties, but at least it didn't end in a fight that time… or a space invasion…that was a bad party."
"What are you wittering on about?"
"The greatest fictional detective of all time…and space, though I also have to admit that I'm also rather partial to Hercule Poirot and his 'little grey cells'. Give me a good, old-fashioned detective who uses their brain any day, not all this high-tech nonsense that goes around now and you have no idea what I'm talking about."
"Don't you read crime books, or hear about them at all?"
"I don't read or pay attention to pointless rubbish."
"Pointless rubbish! At least tell me you've read Harry Potter?"
"Why would I do that?"
"Because it's fun! Honestly, the youth these days, wouldn't pick up a book unless it's a TV guide or attached to a games console." He turned and continued walking, a rather annoyed Sherlock following behind him.
The youth? That was rich coming from a man who didn't look much older than him. 'But he's older than he looks', his brain dutifully told him, 'much, much older.' There was a quality about him that reminded him of Irene Adler; that Sherlock would be able to read what the other man wished him to see and that would be all.
"I don't waste my time with video games and TV."
"What do you do then?"
"I find ways to stop being bored," he replied vaguely. It was the story of his life, just trying to stop himself from becoming painful bored.
"Stories are a great way to kill time."
"I don't waste my time with rubbish." This man was utterly frustrating.
"Okay, okay," the thief accepted defeat in a tone that clearly stated that he thought 'Watson' was being far too touchy about this entire matter. "So, what were you doing down that alley?"
"Nothing of interest. Why do you want to know?"
"Just starting a conversation."
"Why walk around in silence?"
"Then tell me what you were running from."
"They didn't sound like normal henchmen to me."
"They aren't, they're very stupid."
"All henchmen are, that's why they're henchmen."
"True, but these ones are particularly stupid. They're designed to follow orders and not to think for themselves."
"And be quadrupedal? What do you mean, 'designed'?"
"Oh," the man tilted his head back to look at him without stopping. "You noticed that?"
"Both," he grinned, falling silent.
Sherlock waited… Five...four…three…two…one… No answer. Looked like he needed to prod again to get one. "What are they?"
"A bit of this and a bit of that."
Which was the last straw; he didn't have to deal with this, the edging around the truth and trying to grasp at the facts of his companion as well as the situation. One mystery, in one place at a time. He'd had enough of these mind games with Moriarty, and they all knew how that had turned out. "Fine, I have no interest in the affairs of thieves."
"That's a little rude. Who said I was a thief?"
Sherlock snorted. "It's obvious, a toddler could work it out. You were running from them with an object under your arm, and you stated yourself that they weren't very happy with you. It's not a huge leap to make."
"Suppose it isn't. What else have you figured out then with that beautiful brain of yours?"
He nearly did it, falling back into old habits and spilling out everything he had deduced from the man's clothing, but he drew himself short in time. He was trying to stay under the radar; spilling into an observational study was not the way to keep up the pretence of being dead, no matter how much his ego was begging for a massage.
The thief suddenly stopped and spun around so quickly that Sherlock nearly ran into him. "Come on, you can do better than that. If you can see through psychic paper without any training then you're smart enough to notice all kinds of things about me. I want to hear what you've got."
The taller man brushed past him. "I'm not a jukebox, I don't take requests to sing and dance."
"It's fun, like a horoscope; complete rubbish, but it's fun to give it a whirl."
Sherlock froze in place, the jibe biting deep. How dare this man, this imbecile, compare his science of deduction to some fanciful, make-believe bunk? One of his problems was that he could never resist bait: an insult or ignorant comment had to have a clever and witty come back from him to send the offender tumbling back into their place. He realised that such behaviour was at least part of the cause for his current predicament, but this was one lonely stranger in a sewer who evidently wanted to avoid drawing attention to himself as much as Sherlock did. Besides, he had asked for it. He may not be able to read this "John Smith"s face much, but there was so much else he could read into.
"You're a traveller," he began before spinning round to face his intellectual prey, "but not the poor homeless kind: you have fresh hair product in your hair showing that you've been back home, or at least some place of residence, in the last few hours. Your suit is mid-range but well-tailored, nothing overly expensive, but not cheap enough that you could afford to waste it by throwing it away if you are prone to having money problems. The fact that you go running through the backstreets of London in it and wilfully jump into sewers without a thought to your clothes means that the cost - and money in general - is not an issue for you. A little worn, but not to the extent they look tatty, and certainly not in need of repair, so you haven't simply 'fallen on hard times'.
"Normally, given the attire, I'd say you had an office job or professional occupation, but everything else points elsewhere. Your coat and trousers have dirt on them, a couple of days old: probably about time you changed them. So you didn't have time to change clothes when you stopped off but you restyled your hair: you're at least partly image conscious. Whatever you spend your time doing, it's outdoors: your skin is more weather-worn than any office worker I've ever met. Calluses on your hands indicate someone who works with their hands, too many from and not just on the fingers just typing or writing. There is also the most obvious fact that you're wearing bright red Converse shoes, not really up to scratch for most dress codes, but great for running away from people, and the scuff marks clearly show that you do a lot of that.
"Today isn't unusual for you: judging from how you deal with all this it must be the norm. You wear glasses regularly, and you're long-sighted. You are also significantly older than you look and undoubtedly mentally unbalanced."
There was a moment's silence before the man gave him the most unexpected reaction that he'd ever received after one of his analyses; he laughed. A short ecstatic laugh as he brought his hands together in a loud singular clap. "Oh you are good. Brilliant in fact, smarter than anyone else on this world I've met. You've got me down better than anyone else has after just ten minutes, but you've only barely scratched the surface and you didn't get everything right."
"I'm not really stealing this, it's not really theirs to begin with and at least some of the stuff in this belongs to me. So, it's not really theft. Can't really call myself mentally unbalanced either. A little crazy, yeah: crazy balanced. Too much of a genius to be unbalanced, if I do say so myself."
"You, a genius?"
"Yeah," he said with a smile, "and you want to know something else; I'm even smarter than you are." The man turned back around and continued walking. "But, you are the only one who's come close to matching me. The only human that is," he said the last part under his breath, so that Sherlock almost didn't catch the words. Before he could wonder if he heard it right, the self-proclaimed genius continued on. "That's a pretty big compliment though. I've travelled a very long way: I'm far from home, further than you could imagine."
"Further than I could imagine and yet you still have a middle-class, southern English accent?"
"Well, it's not really a British accent, just how it comes across to you, though that stint I had in London right at the beginning probably doesn't help there."
They arrived at another ladder and 'Smith' quickly scrambled up, abruptly ending the conversation, twisted the lid up and pushed it aside. Climbing up, he waited for Sherlock to follow before replacing the lid while he looked round at the park they'd come up in. "Well, it's been fun 'John', but I'll take that back now." Smith reached forward to take the object he'd given the other man at the beginning of their sewer journey and Sherlock reflexively tightened his grip slightly on it.
He would've been lying if he'd said he wasn't tempted to run off with it to conduct his own experiments on it. To finally have something so interesting back in his grasp and then just hand it over without even trying to find out anything was maddening. Not that it would have done him any good. His equipment was all at Baker Street and he couldn't just wander in and start playing about when he was supposed to be dead... although it might be worth it for the look on John's face.
The other man noticed his hesitation. "Of course, you could tag along. I can always use another head, but it will be dangerous."
He was curious, yes, but did he really want to spend more time with this non-thief? Firstly…well, the man himself. Secondly, his dealings with the last two people whom he had had trouble reading had ended badly for him. This man seemed so … open though. There was a warm friendliness about him. Sherlock nearly pulled a face: 'warm friendliness'? He really had been spending far too much time with John. However, as open as the man seemed to be, he still couldn't read past that cover; he was shut out to only look at the surface of the river, not feeling the currents that coursed underneath, and the other man was doing it on purpose. Yes, he would have to amend his earlier thoughts; this man was no idiot but a complicated puzzle and he did so love puzzles.
"I don't work either with or for people whose names I don't even know. It shows a lack of professional courtesy, and besides, causes more problems than it's worth."
"I wouldn't really call it work, more like dangerous-problem-solving." The phrase tickled at a deep itch. "Come on, I know you're interested."
"What makes you think that?"
"You're still here, aren't you?" John Smith stepped forward. "Let's try this again: I'm The Doctor."
"That's not a name."
"It's my name." No lie there.
"Then I'm The Detective." He put just a hint of a sneer in the retort, unable to resist sarcasm.
The Doctor grinned, shaking his head in an entirely approving manner, "I bet you are." The man spread his hands wide. "So, what do you say, Detective; wanna kill a few hours?
The End (and dear God this really has to be the end before I take up another multi-chapter fanfic)
Or should I turn it into a multi-chapter fic? I'd really love to know everyone's opinion on this. How was it? Too much detail? Not enough detail? Too OoC? This is my first time writing for Sherlock and Doctor Who, so I would really love the feedback.
Also, because I'm shameless, please check out this challenge community (not just for fanfiction) http : / / fictunes-lj . livejournal . com/ If you wanna pot up on LJ, but don't have an account you can just contact me and feel free to go back to past song lists and use them as well.