Chapter 5 (in which a buttload of things happen. Just a heads up)
"London in 1895!" The Doctor crowed as the TARDIS lurched to a halt. "Full of mystery, you'll love it! The gas lamps, the opium dens, the aristocracy and the beggar class, all mingling together with pickpockets, murderers, secret societies, crimes galore! …all we have to do is see if we can track down Mr. Doyle."
"Do you know where he is?" Sherlock said, letting go of the railing.
The Doctor walked to the door, touched the handle, then stopped. "I have a hunch. …Want to take the first look, Sherlock?"
He stood aside as Sherlock stepped warily towards the door. He expected to see Baker Street as it was five minutes ago, but he was also giddily hoping to be proved wrong.
Sherlock slowly pushed open the door and gaped at the Baker Street before him, which was milling with horse-drawn carriages, people in Victorian clothing, urchins, and carts heaped with produce or coal. The air was thick and foul, but it was definitely Baker Street.
"J-John—" Sherlock blindly grabbed behind him for John, grabbing him and pulling him to the door to see.
"Where did we go?" John asked when he was able to speak again.
"Baker Street, London, 1895," The Doctor said, merrily pushing them out into the street. "Welcome home!"
"This…is definitely not home," John said, turning in a circle to take in everything.
Sherlock was walking around to take everything in, muttering time travel theories to himself.
"Come along! Let's go see who's living in 221B, shall we?" The Doctor said, leading the way.
"Won't we stick out? Our clothes aren't exactly…accurate," John pointed out, hurrying to keep up.
"Just pretend like you belong! That's what I do. Works every time! Well, 9 times out of ten. …Maybe 7."
The Doctor rang the bell of 221B Baker Street, and a young woman answered the door. She took in the strangely-clad men. "May I help you gentlemen with someone?"
The Doctor held up a badge that looked very much blank to John and Sherlock. "Fireplace inspectors, mind if we come in?" He pushed his way in despite the woman's protests. "City mandated, won't be a moment!"
John and Sherlock followed the Doctor uncertainly inside a hallway that was eerily similar to the 221 of their day. "Who lives in the flat upstairs?" he asked the woman, who was knocking on the door that would have been Mrs. Hudson's flat in modern day.
"No one, sir," she said. "Mr. Doyle, sir?"
A preoccupied, blonde-haired man opened the door. "Mary, I told you, no callers, not while I'm writing."
"Ah! Sir Arthur Conan Doyle…fascinating." The Doctor flashed his psychic paper and stepped inside.
"I beg your pardon, sir!" Arthur stepped backwards as the men stepped in.
Sherlock hungrily looked around, finding the flat harder to decipher than he was used to, since so many of the items were out of his historical context. "What are you writing?" he couldn't help asking.
"A historical fiction piece; I'm through with those adventure stories."
"Ever written any detective stories?" The Doctor asked.
"None worth mentioning…I thought you were here to check the fireplace, not poke around my papers!"
The Doctor absently stuck his head up the fireplace for a moment. "Bit of soot build-up, nothing hazardous. Now then…the flat upstairs. Has anyone ever lived up there?"
"Not recently. I'm sorry, who are you?" Arthur asked.
"You don't recognize either of these men?" The Doctor asked. "The name Sherlock Holmes doesn't ring any bells?"
"Well, of course I don't recognize them! Sherlock who?! What is the meaning of this, this flimsy pretense to inspect chimneys so that you can bombard me with absurd questions with no explanation? Clear out at once! Mary, show them the door!"
"Ooh, Arthur, I always imagined you to be a more amiable chap. Good luck on your histories."
Once the three had shuffled back out of the hallway into the street, the Doctor began pacing back and forth on the sidewalk. "Now…this is interesting. Doyle's here, existing where he's supposed to, but he can't write about Sherlock Holmes because he doesn't exist here, which means he'll never ben famous." He pointed to Sherlock, then prodded him in the nose, much to Sherlock's displeasure. "You made him famous, Sherlock, and you're not here. Well, you are here now, but you don't live here, so history is rewriting itself just…on it's own! Why?"
"As intriguing as it is, I fail to see the issue," Sherlock said. "Who cares if he doesn't publish a book of stories? It's not as if people will know what they're missing, and I hardly impact the world for the worse. You've been to 2012, you've seen it. The world is spinning on as happily as it is able, so what exactly is the problem?"
"You're missing the point! Time simply doesn't work this way. It's like…if you were on a case and there was nothing at stake, and the world would continue on regardless of whether you solved it or not, but it was so incredibly puzzling, would you just leave it be because it wasn't relevant?"
Sherlock didn't have to consider this deeply to know that he wouldn't leave a puzzling case, no matter how irrelevant it was to the larger society.
"Wait, how do we know that you didn't read my blog then make that book up yourself, and bring us here for your own bizarre…alien agenda?" John offered up.
"And how do you know that this reality is wrong and yours is right? Who are you to say which 'universe' is correct?" Sherlock asked.
The Doctor ceased his pacing looked at him with considerable pride. "…Good. Brilliant. Oh, I knew I was going to like you. And maybe you're right, but even if it was the other way…why did you stop being in 2012 and start being in 1895? Either way you do it, it makes no sense. So this is either a parallel universe…an incredibly daft one—no offense—or something changed things for reasons I can't understand yet." They headed back to the TARDIS and stepped back inside. "I might need to drop you home for a while…things need checking."
A few rattles, whirs and shakes of the TARDIS later and they were back in 2012, confirmed by John, who lurched to the door and looked around the much more familiar version of his home street. John must have had a shell-shocked look about his face, for the Doctor stepped over and clapped him on the shoulder. "John Watson! You magnificent man—how are you holding up? 1895 too much?"
"I'm good, I just…I can't quite…that. Was. Incredible."
Sherlock frowned at the two of them, stepping to stand a bit possessively by John.
"Doctor, when will we see you again?"
"I can be back an hour from now if you like," the Doctor said.
"Although I imagine for you, you'll be away for far longer," Sherlock said.
"Quite right," the Doctor grinned. "See you soon, my literary impossibilities!"
He disappeared into the TARDIS, then John and Sherlock watched in silent amazement as the box whirred, flashed, faded in and out of view, then finally vanished from the pavement.
For the next hour or so, John and Sherlock were silent as they trekked back into their flat, sinking down into their respective chairs to process everything.
John finally asked, "…What if we really are supposed to be in 1895?"
Sherlock snorted. "Don't be daft, John. It's absurd."
"So is the fact that we just time traveled with an alien in a police box that's HUGE inside! I don't know what to believe anymore."
Sherlock began irritably leafing through the Sherlock Holmes stories, which he'd purloined from the console before they'd left. "Hm. Some of these quotes are identical to conversations we had." His lip curled as he read a passage silently. "Our discussion of the solar system, for one."
"What, 1895 Sherlock doesn't know that the earth goes round the sun either?" John sniggered.
Sherlock flipped forward a couple pages. "Ha! Wrong." He kept skimming. "Wrong—wrong! Gregson...who's he? We don't know a DI Gregson, do we? Clearly this is a load of rubbish. These stories aren't even accurate. Embellished…falsehoods." He tossed the book to John, fed up. "Ridiculous."
"Look at the publication date…this one's a reprint from the 1960s! How can this be real? So much of it is like our lives…the physical description of you is perfect. How could this book, published before either of us was born, describe us so perfectly? Parallel universe or not…it's giving me goosebumps."
"I don't know…it would seem an impossibility, if we hadn't been in 1895 an hour ago." He checked the time on his phone. "…More than. The Doctor should be back by now." He drummed his fingers on his chair for a moment, then lept up. "To hell with waiting for him! Since when do I need him to work on a case? John, Google 'Arthur Conan Doyle.'"
John skimmed the brief Wikipedia article and related it to Sherlock. It wasn't a long entry; Doyle was a Victorian writer who wrote a great deal of stuff, mainly historical chronicles and a few adventure stories, although nearly all of his works were out of print, more or less vanished into obscurity.
"Does it say anything about any events in his life in 1895?"
"Nothing specific," John said.
Sherlock impatiently glanced at the time. "Why can't this man text like everyone else?
This is why I like receiving texts—because you can notify someone when you are running late. You would think that someone who makes their living in…time…would be able to keep track of it."
"Well, he might be keeping track of his timeline…he could be in 1775 by now, for all we know." It drove John mad. They had been there, 1895…only for a few tantalizing minutes. Who was this alien, who dropped into people's lives, dragged them off somewhere fantastically different, then dumped them back into their ordinary lives minutes later?
"That doesn't make it any less impolite," Sherlock said irritably.
John didn't' understand how Sherlock did it. They had just time-travelled, and now Sherlock looked as bored as if they had popped out for a coffee at a corner shop. "Only you would call an alien who took us to 1895 'impolite.' Didn't any of that...astonish you? I was floored! Even if I never see the Doctor again, I will remember him as fantastic. My life can't be the same again…I've been to 1895 London!"
"As entertaining as all of that was, he still broke into our flat and tried to convince us that we 'belonged' in a different century."
John pursed his lips, considering this. He tapped his fingers on his chair. "D'you fancy a pint?" He offered. "Regardless of how you feel about alcohol, I desperately need a drink."
Sherlocl's mouth twitched into a smile. If ever there was day for a drink, this is was it. He had been converted from an utter critic of aliens and time travel into a full-fledged believer.
"At the moment, I think a bit of alcohol would agree with me."
"Right!" John stood up, pleasantly surprised that Sherlock was game to join him. He often made it a point to avoid pubs, especially on those days when a match was on. "Cross and Keys, then? It's just down the road."
"To 1895!" John and Sherlock clinked their pint glasses together. It was a Monday evening and it was quiz night at a neighboring pub, so the two men had an entire corner of the pub to themselves.
"1895…" Sherlock repeated, reflectively looking at the color of his ale as he held the glass up to the light. "God, John, we were there."
"Nobody will ever believe us," John muttered.
"Mmm. Add it to the long list of other things people don't believe about your life," Sherlock said, raising an eyebrow.
John reddened. The first thing that came into his mind, of course, was everyone's assumption or sometimes, insistence, that he was gay. It annoyed John to no end, and it annoyed him even more that every time someone assumed that he and Sherlock were a couple, he felt a deep relunctance to correct them.
He would never, ever tell Sherlock this, of course. Their friendship was invaluable, and if it caused John a bit of private suffering and confusion, so be it. Better than to wreck it by sharing the truth and losing the closest friend he'd ever had.
"And the Doctor…he was—" John changed the subject, trying with frustration to describe the strange man in the box properly. "I felt like I had no way of understand him. And did he seem old to you? He looked younger than us. But…"
"Mm, I know what you mean. It's clear that he's intelligent, but if he's an alien life form with the technology to travel through space and time at such speeds, than that's only natural. As for seeming old…yes, he did. Sometimes." Sherlock frowned.
"And other times he seemed like he was five! I don't think it would be possible to sit down and have a proper conversation with him," John said.
"No, it'd be useless. An utter waste of time," Sherlock said, pausing to drink a large portion of his pint. "I would love to take a scalpel to that man and dissect him. Now that would be fascinating! A bivascular system! Who knows what about his biology is different? Examining the genetic code would be wonderful…"
He caught John's horrified look. "Oh come on, you're a doctor! You must be curious."
"Yeah, but you could always, you know…do an x-ray."
Sherlock gave him a disparaging look before they both finally broke down laughing.
"Nonsense," Sherlock chuckled. "I want to see his actual insides."
John giggled. "That sounds so creepy." He put on a lecherous voice. "I want to see inside of him…"
"What? It would be fascinating, admit it!"
John grinned into his pint glass. "Maybe next time we see him—if he ever turns up—you can ask to vivisect him. Maybe his species is fine with that."
A couple of pints apiece later, both John and Sherlock were pleasantly buzzed, John moreso. Sherlocked noticed how unsteady John was when they got to their feet to head back.
"You know, John, someone of your stature shouldn't have three pints in less than an hour."
"Of my stature? What are you implying?"
"I'm not implying anything. I am blatantly noting that you're short—vertically lacking, if you will." Sherlock bit back a grin.
John stormed out into the street, Sherlock following after. "Oh, right! That's why you keep me around, isn't it? The short, dumpy-looking ex-army doctor makes the tall, mysertious detective look all the more striking by comparison! I'm the Robin to your 'Hat-Man,' the bachelor to your boffin. That's just fine! It's fine!"
Sherlock couldn't help but find it amusing when John ranted. He got so worked up over the most trivial things. "I don't believe anyone ever called you 'dumpy-looking', least of all, myself."
He had hoped this comment would pacify John, but the man was on a roll with his rant. "No, no! Of course you didn't! It's all, 'Adorable blog, John!' 'Shut up and have some jam like an ordinary person, John!' 'I'm not going to tell you when I'm in mortal peril because I have to protect you, John!' I'm not some tiny hedgehog that needs coddling, you know! Sometime you make me feel so…so…so less of a man. Weak."
Sherlock rolled his eyes, annoyed. "I didn't know the idea of me wanting you alive and unarmed would be so offensive to you."
"It's not that…I just don't like feeling…coddled. I was in the army, you know. I'm good at surviving."
"Is it really that upsetting to you that I don't want you to have to survive?" Sherlock unlocked the door the flat and held it open for John.
John stepped inside and sighed. "Well…no."
Sherlock stepped in and closed the door, and for a moment they stood in the hallway, looking at each other.
They finally turned and silently headed up the stairs to the flat.
Sherlock wondered where this rant from John was coming from. Had he been bottling this all up for a long time? Sherlock had several suspicions about John, but he'd never brought them to light for long, in fear that it would put a strain on their friendship, which he deeply valued.
Once inside their flat, John dropped onto the sofa. "Y'know, it's not fair, you running around trying to protect me. What do you think I'm trying to do?"
Sherlock frowned. "I knowingly put myself in dangerous situations, John. You don't have to try to protect me."
"It's the same with me! And yes, I do have to protect you. Do you know how many times you've needed your ass saved? Let's take a tally, shall we?"
"John, can we not? Perhaps you should get a glass of water and go to bed."
"I'm not that drunk! The point is…I would do anything to save you, Sherlock. If you died, Sherlock, died for real…oh, hell, we've been through this before. You know how I care about you." John leaned over and rubbed his forehead with his hand. He wanted so badly to tell Sherlock, to release the overwhelming, churning emotions inside of him, to bring them out of him so he could make some sort of sense from them.
Sherlock watched him, silently tapping his hand against the wall it was resting against. "John…I need to ask you a strange question."
John looked up, waiting.
"Do you love me?" he burst out. "I mean to say…are you in love with me?"
"Am I…am I…what?" Sherock opened his mouth to repeat the question, but John hurriedly said, "No, no…don't." He forced a laugh. "No! No. What…why do you…uhh…" John clenched his eyes shut for a moment, then looked at the carpet. "What made you think that?"
"Well…" Sherlock cleared his throat, which felt unnecessarily tight, and John hastily got up to fetch a glass of water from the kitchen. "There've been…signs…"
John walked back into the living room, looking at Sherlock incredulously. "Signs? What signs?"
"Listing them all would be a tedious process for both of us, John. Remember, on that first day, I asked you…"
"Yeah, and I told you I wasn't!" John said. His heart was hammering. Sherlock had suspected this whole time, and hadn't said anything? "I've had how many girlfriends, Sherlock? What will it take to convince you that I'm not lying?" What would it take to convince himself that he wasn't lying?
Sherlock continued to tap his fingers on the wall, not looking at John. "There is…one way. A physical reaction. An experiment."
John was finding it difficult to breathe.
"Wh-what? How will that prove…anything?"
Sherlock took a somewhat hesitant step towards John. "If I'm wrong, consider the whole episode forgotten. I'll never bring it up again."
And what if he wasn't wrong? John thought, backing up until the backs of his knees hit the couch. "Why…why do you have to prove it? Why can't you…take my word for it?" His voice grew lower as Sherlock stepped closer.
Everything John had noticed with fleeting glances about Sherlock seemed magnified now; the tendons at his neck, leading down to the dip of his collarbone, his nearly iridescent pale skin, his piercing eyes, which were now locked with John's.
"Why are you so against proving it?" Sherlock took another step towards him.
John blinked rapidly, his heart hammering. Sherlock didn't care about him like this. Why was he tormenting him? "That's not a fair question…either way I answer, it looks…bad." He licked his lips, equally wanting and dreading for Sherlock to continue moving closer.
"I already told you, if this isn't right, it's forgotten." They were now toe to toe. Sherlock noted John's quicked breathing. "Your pupils are dilated."
John swallowed. His lips were so close… "They dilate when I'm drunk," he murmured desperately.
"You said yourself, you're not that drunk."
John was whispering now. He knew he was blantantly staring at Sherlock's mouth, but he couldn't pull his eyes away. "Sherlock, we can't, we're not actually going to—"
Sherlock cut him off with a soft kiss, wrapping a hesitant hand around the back of John's neck to pull him into the kiss.
John inhaled sharply, and it took all of his control to keep his hands from wrapping around Sherlock's neck and pulling him closer. Instead, he forced himself to pull away and stared up at Sherlock. "See? It's all fine. You should trust me."
Sherlocked pulled away, surprised. "Oh." He backed up a bit more and nodded. "You're right, John. I'm sorry, I didn't—I wasn't. I should go to bed."
He turned to leave, but John grabbed his arm, feeling injured. "Why did you have to do that? I mean…you don't feel anything for me…do you?"
Sherlock avoided John's question and said as coolly as he could, "As I said, it's forgotten, John. I should have taken your word for it. Won't happen again."
John's heart sank. "Okay.I mean…good. Goodnight."
They stood where they were for a moment. "John…you're still holding my arm."
John dropped it as if it were made of hot iron, then backed away. "Sorry! Goodnight."
John trudged up to his bedroom, replaying the kiss over and over, the feeling of Sherlock's lips, the closeness of him. Although he reimagined it over and over, it hurt the same amount each time.
He was entirely and completely in love with Sherlock. It seemed so obvious a statement now, but the kiss had sealed it. The only kiss he would ever have with him. This thought haunted John until dawn.