AN: And now for something completely different! I'm on a bit of a writing frenzy at the moment, and this little set of events wouldn't get out of my head. I may have been inspired by The Cloud Atlas (completely beautiful film and book, if you haven't seen/read it)... Let me know what you think? Thanks for all the support thus far, it means a lot!
Sherlock Holmes is a concert violinist. John is an unsuspecting patron, coming to see London's newest prodigy. The room is small and smoky and the stage is lit simply, a single black chair sitting in the center. A piano hides in the corner.
When he plays, the music is haunting. It floats through the air. It is beautiful. John sits on the edge of his seat; his breath hangs in his lungs. He cannot move. He cannot even breathe. Faure's Elegie flows from the violinist's fingers and John is moved to tears. In the middle of the up-swell of the music, when the sharp tones leap across the room and twirl around John, as if they are sent directly to him, their eyes meet.
The violinist smiles, just an upturn of corners of his mouth and a spark in his eyes. John feels his heart flutter to a stop.
In this life, Sherlock spends every evening after their meeting coaxing beautiful music from the violin for John, only for John.
He's in a blue bathrobe and his hands flutter around his head as he talks. Many would call him manic, and many have ceased listening to him at all. A violin sits on the windowsill of his private room. Sometimes he picks it up and plays a random stretch of discordant notes, screeches of what should have been music with a melody underneath that only he can hear.
A blonde man opens the door and he turns to catch him in his gaze, "John." He breathes. "There's been a murder, John! I'm glad you're home. We need to get to the crime scene."
The man, called John, smiles a sad smile. "Crime scenes will have to wait, Sherlock." He holds up a clipboard. "Now, Mr. Holmes, can you tell me where you are?"
"What a ridiculous question, John, we're in the flat at Baker Street."
Dr. Watson's face falters and his smile falls. He makes a note on his clipboard.
In this life, there is no Baker Street, there is no consulting detective. There is only a very broken Sherlock Holmes, and the good doctor who tries to fix him.
John is a writer. He sits at a coffee shop and types a staccato rhythm on his laptop. He is working on a novel, he tells the shop girl, a novel about a man who won't leave his head. A man with dark curly hair and bright shining eyes and too brilliant mind…
She smiles politely and brings him another cup of tea. He's not insane, just dedicated. He writes daily, sitting in the same chair, watching the same people pass out of the window. He can write chapter after chapter, but something is missing.
One day he writes of a companion, a sandy haired military man with a wound on his left shoulder. He calls him John, just because he can. With the inclusion of this character the story seems to fall into place. Words flow from him, and he writes the story as if he were living it himself.
In this life, he never finishes his novel. He doesn't know how (or even if) the story of John Watson and Sherlock Holmes ends.
He is walking home from the office. A quiet rain is falling and the sky keeps turning darker. John Watson shoves his hands in his pocket and hunches his shoulders against the cold. The streets are deserted. He is passing an alleyway next to a closed chip shop when it happens.
A man jumps from behind the bins, blocking his way. John startles. The man's face is wild, his pale eyes sunken into his cheeks. He is almost translucent and in his hand there's a gun. John doesn't know what to do.
"Your money, please." The man rattles with a voice rough from disuse. His eyes are shining. "I don't want to have to do this…" He puts his finger dangerously close to the trigger of the gun.
His mugger's hair is curly, plastered to his forehead with sweat. John fumbles for his wallet but he isn't fast enough. Their eyes meet. A spark of recognition flies between them. "Do I know you?" John asks, surprised to hear how level his voice sounds.
"No one knows me." The mugger sounds scared now.
"I swear I know you from somewhere." The man snatches his wallet.
John hears the gunshot before he feels the pain blossoming in his stomach. He gasps, clutches his bleeding body, and falls to the ground.
In this life Sherlock Holmes is nothing more than a drug addict, and John Watson is the unfortunate victim of a robbery.
Sherlock is old, but not too old that he can't get around. He enjoys his quiet and his bees and the occasional chemistry experiment in the kitchen. Sometimes he even allows himself a case, when he's feeling like reliving the old days.
He is not happy when some other old man buys the house next door and moves in with a wife and a house full of raucous grandchildren on the weekends. He sits in his garden and glares until finally, one day, the old man stops by his gate.
"Would you like to come over for tea?" There is no pretense, no sharing of polite conversation. "I'm parched." He will never understand why he accepts the offer for tea. Something in the neighbor's eyes is warm and familiar, and alone in the house he can get so cold.
Over tea he learns that the man's name is John Watson, a doctor but no longer practicing. His wife, Mary, was a school teacher. They are around 70, the same age as Sherlock. They moved from London because the city was too loud and this way the grandkids could come and run and have proper adventures in the country.
They have dinner every Sunday, John says finally, and before Sherlock's brain can explain that he's far too busy to be bothered with such a domestic affair his mouth has already accepted the invitation.
John promises to show Sherlock his collection of preserved specimens in his office. Sherlock promises to take extensive notes, and maybe bring his old collection of military history encyclopedias over, if John is interested that is. He could show him the bees as well. John smiles and nods and they make plans to have tea again tomorrow.
In this life, though they don't meet until well into their old age, Sherlock spends his Sunday's telling stories about solving mysteries in London much to the John's constant amazement, and he is in continual amazement of the man who so kindly welcomed him in like he was never a stranger.
His lips capture the other man's as they are drawn with an inexplicable urgency towards one another. Long fingers entwine in his hair and grip him close, refusing to let go. Eventually they release him and allow his mouth to follow path downward across a slim, angular chest. "I know we've only just met…." Sherlock gasps as John's hot tongue ghosts his hipline. "But I feel like I've known you forever."
"Perhaps we have." There is a deep chuckle before the kissing resumes.
In this life they are lovers, and they spend passionate afternoons entwined so tightly neither can tell where one ends and the other begins.
Sherlock's phone rings at a very inconvenient time. He growls and stares at the device as if it has personally offended him. Mycroft. Of course. Who else would have this number? He gives up on actually hearing the conversation Moriarty's henchmen are having in the next room and answers his mobile.
"What is it, brother?" He spat.
Mycroft doesn't answer for a moment, and if Sherlock didn't know better he would say he heard his brother trying to catch his breath.
"He's dead, Sherlock."
His eyes fly open wide and he is now fully listening. "What are you on about Mycroft?"
"We found him this morning in his flat."
"Who?" The detective is bordering on frantic. "Who are you talking about Mycroft?" In his hear he knows. He knows exactly who they're talking about.
"Shot himself in the head."
"He left a note for you, Sherlock."
"Mycroft… please… John?" He feels his heart stop beating, tears on his face.
"You didn't come back, so I'm coming for you." Mycroft's voice breaks.
He yells as he throws the phone against the wall.
In this life, John Watson has killed himself, and the only thing that keeps Sherlock alive is the beating of his broken heart.
John is sitting on the edge of the wooden play structure at the park. He watches the other children run. His sister glances at him and occasionally sneers. She is playing baby sitter today, and though they used to run and play and wrestle together, she has suddenly become certain that John is the worst person in the world to be caught playing with. Mum says it will pass. John hopes it will pass quickly.
A small boy walks in on the arm of an older boy. They look related. Brothers, John decides before he goes back to watching an ant crawl around on the wood near his hand.
"You're on my ship." A voice is suddenly in front of him. He jumps. "This is my ship!" It's the boy that had just come into the park. His brother stands about half a meter behind him, listening. "You have to get off, unless you're going to sail the seas with me… my ship isn't open for visitors."
"Sherlock, that's not nice. It's a public park, and he can sit there if he wants to."
"No one just sits on a pirate ship, Mycroft… sitting is boring…" The way the boy (who can't be more than seven) drawls out the word 'boring' makes John smile. He turns away from his brother. "So what say you, matey? Are you going to join me crew, or shall I make you walk the plank?"
John looks beyond the boy, Sherlock, to the brother with questioning eyes. His sister is still chatting with her friends, blind to the situation. Mycroft nods and smiles slightly before heading over to a bench.
"I guess I can play pirates." John says, standing up and dusting off his pants. Sherlock beams. "Who are we going to be?"
"I'm Captain Sherlock Holmes… and you can be my first mate…" He fumbles for a moment and realizes that he never asked for the older boy's name.
"First Mate John Watson." He smiles and grabs Sherlock's hand to hoist him onto the wooden structure. "That works."
"Of course it works, and you have to talk like a pirate, First Mate John Watson. Or else this isn't a real pirate ship."
John starts to say that it isn't a real pirate ship anyway, but Sherlock seems really excited. And since Harry is so caught up in growing up, John really needs a friend… Instead he squints his eyes and growls in his best pirate voice, "Aye Captain Holmes!"
In this life, Sherlock never grows up without a friend or a First Mate.
221 B Baker Street is quiet. John makes a cup of tea and sits down with the morning paper. Sherlock is already searching the internet on John's laptop, turning up new research on topics that John couldn't be remotely interested in. Every now and then, Sherlock will spout off a fact or statement and John will acknowledge him and nod politely.
Eventually he will take the laptop away from Sherlock and force him to eat something before he lets him have it back. Sherlock will laugh, eat a sandwich, and then return to the newest most interesting thing he has ever read. John turns on the telly and watches terrible daytime shows. Still engrossed in the internet but drawn by an attraction that seems to have been around since before time began Sherlock stretches across the sofa and plants his feet in John's lap so that the doctor can occasionally run his fingers absentmindedly along Sherlock's slim feet and calves.
In this life, it's fine…. it's all just fine.
They are old again. This time they have grown old together, but Sherlock still keeps bees.
John is ill. Sherlock doesn't like this, because although he knows all about the science of cancer, he knows all about how John's cells are becoming mutinous and slowly killing him, he can do absolutely nothing to stop it. His best friend, his blogger, his wonderful and amazing doctor is dying, and Sherlock cannot fix it.
"It's okay." John says with his all too kind smile. He grasps Sherlock's hand and never stops smiling. He is frail, but his eyes are still bright. He lies in bed with the sheet tucked up around his chest. It's winter; there's a fire in the fireplace, but John is so cold.
"It's most certainly not okay, John." He reaches up with his other hand and brushes Sherlock's long grey hair out of his eyes.
"I've lived an amazing life, and a longer life than I ever imagined." He takes a deep breath. "Promise me you'll keep living, Sherlock, after I'm gone."
Sherlock shakes his head, stubborn until the end. "I cannot. I'm lost without my blogger." He is old enough to not feel shame when a tear falls from his eye. "You're my… you're my best friend."
"I know, Sherlock. Just try, okay, for me?"
Another tear falls, and John is crying too, but he smiles that brilliant smile and Sherlock can't help but smile with him. "Good. Good, Sherlock. You make sure you do. I can't watch out for you from six feet under." Another shaky breath and John squeezes Sherlock's hand.
"I can't say goodbye to you, John. Not again."
"This isn't the end." John says suddenly.
"What do you mean, John, this is obviously…"
"No, you dolt… it's not. And if you think about it you know it isn't. You may delete it, but I haven't. I've always known you Sherlock." There is a pregnant silence before John continues. "Our lives, they are all tangled up in one another and there's nothing we can do to change it. Life after life I've met you and they haven't all be beautiful but they are us. It's always been us." He speaks with a vigor he hasn't had in years.
It sounds absurd, he knows it does, but John also knows what he is certain of. He brushes tears off of Sherlock's cheeks. "It will always be us. This isn't goodbye, Sherlock. If anything, it's just goodbye for now."
"Do you promise?" Sherlock says, and he sounds like a child.
"Always, my Sherlock... I will always find you." He takes another labored breath. His eyes are heavy and he only wants to sleep.
"I love you." Sherlock whispers one last time, and he is rewarded with a last smile from his beloved John. Then his eyes close, his breathing stops… Sherlock bends his head to the bed and sobs.
After a while, Sherlock stands and covers John's body. He isn't crying anymore. "Until next time." He breathes out, presses a kiss to the older man's forehead.
In this life, the end is only the beginning.