A/N: Well all, here is a little Xmas based Sherlock fic for you all. Now this has to come with a warning as there will be deaths, talk of suicide and another nasty instances. Also I must tell you that the opinions on the issues addressed in this story are for the plot and not necessarily the author's own so no flames on that account please. This is dark, it is surreal and it is loosely an AU fic so please bear that in mind when reading.
As always the wonderful Sherlock Holmes does not belong to me and I also hold no ownership on the famed work of Dickens upon which you will soon come to understand that this is loosely based on. So, without further ado, onwards…
He let his phone drop to the hard roof beneath his feet, hearing it shatter but it did not bother him, he knew he wouldn't be needing it anymore. He looked down one last time; looked down to John.
John would live, Mrs Hudson and Lestrade would live. His one life given in return for their three. Fair trade. Not that they would know but perhaps that would be better, would ease the pain; the suicide of the ashamed rather than remembering the sacrifice. It was that thought that gave him momentum, pitched him forward from the roof, letting the seconds pass as he plummeted towards the pavement.
He closed his eyes on instinct as impact approached but they flew open as the ground failed to be hard and painful, failed to break his bones, failed to kill him. Instead the surface felt soft, cradling him as a familiar scent hit his senses.
His bed. His room. His flat.
He shook his head, confusion an odd feeling as he sat up, patting himself down to check for the injuries he should have. He ran his hands over his face, logic finally returning to him and he felt the tears in his eyes.
"A dream," he said to himself before he laughed weakly, "A dream but…"
When had he fallen asleep?
When had he stopped to sleep since everything with Moriarty had come to such a dramatic head?
When had reality stopped and his imagination taken over?
John would know. It was no doubt that John had put him to bed; coat, suit jacket and shoes removed but everything else intact. He'd lost count of the number of times he'd woken in such a state, fatigue and overwork leaving him dead on his feet until his friend forced him to rest.
He swung his legs off the side of the bed, toeing off his socks in a need to ground himself, feel the carpets and the floors beneath him as the dream still lingered.
"John?" he called but silence came as the reply.
It was dark in the room and he didn't know what time it was, his friend could be asleep but with the heavy curtains drawn it could just as likely be daylight outside and John would be out. He needed more data, the need to explain stronger than it had ever been in him. He got to his feet, a wave of dizziness hitting him and he could already here John's voice berating him for not eating properly. He opened the bedroom door, finding the room just as dim beyond, the corridor, bathroom and kitchen clearly devoid of human life. He headed to the living room, finding it as black as the rest with all the blinds and curtains drawn. John always shut the flat up at nighttime as though the curtains had some magical power to block out the terrors of the dark.
John would be sleeping but the dream had left him so rattled that he needed the reassurance, even just to look in on him as he slumbered. He went to the door, trying the handle several times before giving it up for lost and trying to find the key. They never locked the door but maybe Moriarty had rattled John just as much and he had sought the comfort of locks and bolts. The key proved elusive even when he had turned over all the usual hiding places, even rooting through the pockets of his coat that had been slung unceremoniously over the back of the sofa. Claustrophobia began to make itself known as he tried the other door from the kitchen and found it locked just as fast.
He pounded on the wood, calling out John's name in a desperate mantra, wondering if something more sinister was afoot. He knew his panic went against every aspect of his character but he knew something was desperately wrong as though the world had spun on its axis and was yet to right itself.
He heard a shuffling behind him and turned, longing to see John and dreading to see Moriarty but neither were there; the kitchen stood silently in its usual disarray behind him. The darkness cast low, terrifying shadows along the walls at once concealing and revealing odd shapes that took on a menace in the low light. He forced his mind to calm, to rationalise; John had put him to bed and he always slept like the dead when persuaded to, he would have continued to do so if it had not been for the dreadful nightmare. John was rattled by Moriarty so he had locked them down tight but had forgotten to leave a key for him. He would call him, call him and wake him and have him come down and open the door.
He rooted through his pockets once more, liberating the phone from the suit jacket that was hung on the back of the kitchen chair. He pressed the seldom-used call button, knowing a text would more than likely be ignored. He held it to his ear but heard nothing, no dialling tone, no error message, no voicemail. He tried once more, cursing the ancient flat that always seemed to eat phone signals regardless of where you stood. Again there was no answer.
He almost dropped the offending phone as he heard footsteps behind him, entering the darkened living room. He smiled, realising that John had no doubt heard him rustling around and had come down to either persuade him back to bed or to the dinner table. He rubbed a fist against his stomach, food seeming the better choice as he felt like he hadn't eaten in twenty years. John would be surprised. Intent on imparting the news when it was fresh he stepped around the kitchen door, the words already on his lips even as he found no on to speak them to.
"John I… John?"
Shadows again, nothing but shadows that seemed to grow deeper and darker. He tried the handle of the door again, finding it still locked but clearly the one downstairs was not as he heard it slam, footsteps thundering up towards the flat but they did not stop, continuing upwards with shouts and curses. Upwards to where John was sleeping. Panic truly stole his soul then, remnants of the dream still hanging over him; John under threat, John's life in danger. He rushed the door, slamming his shoulder into it but it barely even gave and he stumbled back from it in agony.
Brute strength was not his forte and he knew he would need to think his way out. Picking the lock would take too long, precious seconds John didn't have. The window would need to be his answer. Hot or cold, rain or shine, John always kept his window open and he could reach it if he perched on the juliette outside the living room and pulled himself up into John's room. He could take the assailants by surprise, give him a chance to grab John's gun or at least allow the soldier a chance to get a counter attack in.
His action was spurred on as he heard his friend's terrified shout that quickly turned to a pained scream. He threw open the curtains and pushed aside the nets, frowning as they crumbled in his hands like rotten silk. It was the sight beyond the window though that had him questioning his sanity. He slammed the curtains shut once more, squeezing his eyes tight shut before he opened both once more. Beyond the window stood not the familiar buildings across the street, the streetlamps, the bus stop, the occasional member of his homeless network looking for work but instead a rocky, desolate landscape like a parched desert or the surface of some distant planet.
Great dust clouds blew in a rushing wind and all appeared dead and silent. He closed the curtains once more, the sight too much for his galloping mind that longed to analyse and explain but failed him time and time again.
"John!" he called out, his voice hoarse from the tears he hadn't realised he had shed, "John."
The cries from above were once more his answer, cries of pain and anguish so alien to his friend and yet so clearly him. Anger burned in his chest, anger that anyone could hurt his dearest friend, anger that anyone could reach him in the sanctuary of their home, anger that his brilliant mind could not fathom out the puzzle around him. He pounded the door that was locked to him, clawed it, would have used his teeth if he could find purchase but it did nothing, the door refused to give. So caught was he in his shouting and flailing that he did not notice the darkness when it fell, so black he could not even see his hands mere inches from his face.
He froze as silence fell, John's cries quieted and even the house seemed to hold its breath. His own raged breathing was the only sound, cutting through the silence like a knife. If he could see he knew each exhalation would be visible and the air turned icy cold and he wrapped his arms around himself instinctively.
His hindbrain, his animal instinct turned his ears where it could not turn his eyes and each tiny sound was recorded, analysed, tested for a threat. It began as a drip, the hollow sound of a tap leaking drop by drop in the dead of the night.
Drip…drip…drip drip…drip…drip drip drip.
The tuneless rhythm played out without pause. Dampness joined the frigid air, bringing with it the smell of decay, rotting wood and a scent all too familiar to one called to crime scenes. Rotten, cold flesh.
The dragging came next; something heavy and coarse against the old wooden floor. Footsteps lumbered alongside; heavy boots pounding slowly as they took the load.
"John?" he tried weakly once more, longing for some elaborate joke.
Light dance before him as he heard the distant chime of a church bell. Midnight; striking as the light took shape, embracing the sounds to give them corporeal form. Realisation took a moment to come as he regard the man now stood before him but when it came it was both a blow and a relief.
"So I am dead," he said, the fact seeming accepted.
The man before him nodded, "You jumped five storeys my son and failed to sprout wings."
The voice, so sweetly familiar, the voice that had lulled him to sleep with stories as a child. His father's voice. The voice he had not heard since he was eight years of age.
He looked like Mycroft save for a few traits that differed, their mother's genes not yet talking hold of the Holmesian form. He wore a large overcoat that dripped steadily on the floor as though he had been in a rainstorm. As he looked on though he saw also the heavy metal chains that attached his father to boulders that any man would struggle to lift.
"You never believed in an afterlife, did you Sherlock?" said his father, "That was my influence."
"That and the fact that logic would dictate the assumption. Why should there be an afterlife for one species when we hold none for any other? Besides, belief in heaven would denote a belief in a god," said Sherlock, the chill around him making his bones ache.
His father shook his head sadly, "I taught you so poorly if I taught you to stand so emotionless before death," he said, "Even more so if you think this heaven or is it heaven to you when your father stands before you in chains?"
Sherlock frowned, "Hell then, I've been sent to Hell. How am I meant to have any concept of either when both you and mother taught me nothing of them?" he said bitterly, "Am I to be taught of the omnipresence also? Am I meant to believe an ancient book of fairy stories that tells me I am Hell bound for dying to save my friends or is it the fact that I worked on a Sunday? John often referred to that as sacrilege. You're here, am I to take it form that that all suicide must be punished? So be it then."
His father laughed, "You are something, I'll give you that, all bravado when anyone else would be cowering but then you always loved an audience," he said, "I can't tell you if there's a god Sherlock, if there is I haven't seen him. In fact I've met no one in almost thirty years, you're the first person I've seen. Look around you, tell me what you see."
Sherlock frowned but acquiesced, "My flat, 221B Baker Street with everything as it was before I left it last except…"
"Except, that's the word," said his father, "Except. Those little changes that make all the difference. You always felt safe in this flat; safe and warm but now you're shivering despite the fire in the grate and the doors are locked around you. To keep a horror out do you think or to keep one in? Then there's John, I know you heard him, John's screaming and you can't get to him. That's your purgatory, this is the afterlife you've created for yourself; eternity fearing soon unseen enemy, eternity of everything being not quite right, eternity of John's screams to keep you up at night in torment."
Sherlock wanted to argue but the very world around him defied him and he was unable to form the words. He looked up at his father's haggard, dripping face and asked a question he had asked of none but himself for years.
"You're a suicide Sherlock, doesn't even your meagre knowledge of every religious text tell you what happens to suicides?"
"But I…I did it so they'd live," said Sherlock, "I did it for them, I killed myself for them."
The words tumbling from his own lips seemed to bring the reality of the situation home to the detective and he slumped down in the nearest chair.
Dead. Dead and in Baker Street with the ghost of his father as John screamed upstairs, for all eternity because he had tried to save them.
"I did it for them," he said, "Moriarty he…there were snipers and I couldn't take the risk, the thought of John…I had to act, I had no choice but to act. Nothing would save them but my suicide and now I am to be punished for it."
"You are not being punished for your suicide Sherlock," said his father, "Your life is your own to do with as you please. This purgatory is for the others you have destroyed."
"But I've never…"
"Taken a life?" said his father, "Maybe not yet but you will."
Sherlock frowned, his brain feeling pulled every which way, "But I'm dead, how can I kill someone when I'm dead?"
"A suicide kills more than one person," said his father.
Sherlock groaned in frustration as he tugged at his hair, "Enough riddles! Tell me why I'm here."
"Because everyone you died to save will de anyway."
"Everyone dies," said Sherlock, "I just stopped it happening too soon."
"maybe it did not happen in that precise instance but they will die because of you all the same," said his father, "All those you believe your saved will have their lives ended Sherlock, before their time and because of you."
Sherlock felt the tears leap to his eyes but he blinked them away harshly, "Then it has all be in vain," he said, "And if I have to be punished for it then so be it."
A cold laugh met his ears and he looked up to see his father holding the chains that bound him, "That's what I said," he said, "When I realised why I was here and what it meant. I died because I thought it would be better for you all; replace one scandal with one that could be blamed on stress or illness. I never realised what it would do to you all. Your mother was so ill all the time and you and Mycroft were so afraid to love because of how much I hurt you. Until now my existence here has had me drowning, every moment the crushing pain of water filling my lungs but now and then it stops, stops so I can see how you all are now. I see your mother, struggling with that old house, still wearing black every single day. She was a beautiful woman, she should have stayed so even as she aged but grief has eaten her, eaten my Violet's bloom. Then there's Mycroft, so cold and cruel and alone. He should have married, filled your mother's arms with grandchildren but instead he spends every waking hour working, trying to be perfect at every moment because I failed to be. Then there's you, my bright bonny boy. Your laugh could melt the heart of the worst of mankind when you were small and your energy would rouse anyone from their lethargy. You could have been anyone then I did what I did and you died. Now when you laugh its cold and your energy you spill into one foolhardy quest after another until you found the one that led you here. You're here because my death made you what you are."
Sherlock raised a hand as though to reach out to the man before him but he let it fall once more to his side, "Whose to say we wouldn't have ended up this way anyway?" he said, "And I'm here because of you. If I'm here because a man who dies for his friends deserves purgatory then I'll serve it with you or if it can release you I'll swear that I hold you to no blame. I am what I am through my own choices and actions."
"This is not some fairytale where all is solved with a few words Sherlock," said his father, "You can't free me but that doesn't mean that I can't free you but only if you truly realise what your death means. Even now you don't believe that what I did changed your history but it did as yours will change the history of others. We don't have long, only until the sunrises. Once its up you'll have crossed and there will be no going back."
"Tell me what I have to do then," said Sherlock.
"Listen," said his father, "Three will come who will show you what I mean. If you listen and you understand, you may yet save your friends."
"Three, what three?" said Sherlock, rubbing his eyes as the room around him seemed to mist, "Why can't you give me a straight answer?"
"No one can tell Sherlock Holmes anything, you need to learn it for yourself," said his father, his form seeming to blur as Sherlock looked on, "Just listen…"
A/N: See you all tomorrow.