Fic: Don't Run Away (It's Only Me)
Warnings: Dark!John and Dark!Sherlock, blood, gore, corpses, paltry attempts at humor, poor canon references, etc.
Additional Notes: A long, long time ago there was a post on the parody blog imagineyuorotp about said OTP meeting for the first time while disposing of their freshly killed corpses. Two days ago, I wanted to write Halloween fic. This is the unholy product. Happy Halloween, folks! Unbeta'd, unbritpicked, but hopefully free of glaring inaccuracies. Enjoy! Title from "Dead Man's Party" by Oingo Boingo.
John swung around, Mr. Milverton's arms thudding anxiously into his back. "Shh," John told the corpse. He narrowed his eyes, peering into a forest saturated by gloom, where the purpling midnight had descended into restless, churning fog. It raced up to play around his feet, nipping at his ankles. John ignored the biting cold, taking a step forward into the mist while his eyes strained to see beyond the inkstain impressions of trees, flora, loamy earth.
An answering not-silence, with the trees creaking like old ships, with the changing tide of the wind. Mr. Milverton's arms were swaying again, pale sails in the gloom.
Something wicked, the thought bloomed in John's mind, incongruous, eerie, fitting, this way comes.
His palm skimmed back, to touch the reassuring metal of his gun at his waist.
Light erupted from the darkness and scythed across his vision.
His gun, immediately drawn and steady in his hand, glimmered in the broad yellow beam. John blinked against the blots of iris purple and harlequin green in his eyes, struggling to make sense of the shadowy figure looming out of the shadowed night.
"Interesting," drawled a voice, black as the night from which it seemed to rise, all cool and bleak.
John cursed the fact that Mr. Milverton's thighs were currently in the way of his own torch. Interesting? "Who are you?" he asked of the darkness.
The light wobbled. Then, abruptly, it vanished: the torch now upturned beneath his chin like a child telling scary stories, the stranger allowed the light to fall over the sharply angled slopes of two lofty cheekbones, a high forehead and curling mouth, while darkness pooled in the sockets of his eyes, the edges of a pale face bleeding back into the dim. He smiled, sharp and sinister, and the faint illumination in ghost-grey eyes glittered. "Does it matter?"
"The gun in my hand says it does," John remarked calmly.
That Cheshire smile grew. "Sherlock Holmes." The light disappeared. There was the stirring hush of dry leaves, a coat shifting like rustling wings, and John barely had time to blink before the blush of heat and soft breaths from that darkness on darkness were standing right before him. The torch clicked on again, but this time, it wasn't John under scrutiny.
Holmes was frowning at Mr. Milverton, following the trail of light across his naked skin with gloved hands. He was close enough, now, and the light just bright enough that John could see when his eyes flickered over to John, something sly tugging at his lips. "Your first time."
John clenched his jaw. "No."
Another long look. "Your first time not a battlefield. How did it feel?"
Awful. Wonderful. Terrible. Magnificent.
Like playing God, except I wasn't playing.
"Who are you?" John tried again, the gun clicking as he raised it to nudge against the man's head. "Not your name," he said tersely. "I know that, but why are you here? Stalking about the woods at night, you're either a criminal or the police, and I very much doubt you're with the police."
Holmes' eyes rolled over to the barrel of the gun appraisingly like twin black pearls. "I'm here for the same reason you are."
John barked a laugh. "How do you know why I'm here?"
Holmes now shot a pointed look at the corpse on John's shoulder. When John remained stoic, he sighed. "I didn't know, I noticed."
John shifted the gun forward, not a bit lightly. "Explain."
"Don't think you have the time to dispose of two bodies," he murmured, same maddening smile playing about his lips. "Not even one, if you're still looking for a spot."
John, and his gun, stayed silent.
"Shoulder hold, dogtags, weapons skill say military," Holmes sighed. "Overcompensation in the shoulder hold says invalided out for an injury. Left one, obviously. Plainclothes say murderer plain and simple, not hired hitman, and the wound on our dear victim here says a good one, too. If it weren't for you stumbling around in the dark like a blind elephant, I might've thought you had some experience."
John swallowed. "Okay, you've -"
"But what about this kill of yours?" Holmes mused. "No fingertips, of course," he said, raising an eyebrow in approval. "Nor clothes. But still trace inkstains at the wrist. Newspaper man, then, or photographer. Not just any journalist, though - who wouldn't remember the hideously broken nose he received at the hands of that celebrity in 2008? Well, not 'received,' really, more like 'deserved.' You've killed Charles Augustus Milverton. But why? Oh."
It was like watching mercury catch fire as those eyes widened.
"He deserved that, too, didn't he, for what he said about your unit - the blue on blue scandal that was all over the papers."
John stared at him, hard. Holmes stared back. "Oh, you are interesting," he breathed.
"I reminded Mr. Milverton," John said evenly, "that I only kill those I intend to." And he lowered the gun.
"So I was right," Holmes said, straightening his spine once more. A hand came up to smooth where the gun had mussed the careful chaos of his hair.
"Scarily," John admitted, sheathing the weapon. "Well done." He cracked his neck, for the first time since he'd met Holmes noting just how heavy Milverton was becoming.
Holmes paused, fingers caught in a tangle. "That's not what people normally say."
"What do people normally say?" John sighed, leaning down and rolling the body gently off his shoulder. Milverton flopped to the ground with a muddy squish.
When John straightened, rolling his unburdened shoulders and hearing the fine pop of muscle and bone, he saw that Holmes was looking at him. "I usually don't give them the chance to say anything."
John pursed his lips. "Yeah, getting back to 'not police, possibly criminal'..."
Holmes held out a hand. "Definitely criminal." He smirked, his eyes falling down to Milverton's lifeless form. "Better not leave him there." Something on his face shifted, critical and attentive. "I can help you find a spot for him. I'll just need a few things in return."
John tilted his head. "What things?"
A few moments later, Holmes was dancing from the clutch of the forest into the faint warmth of streetlamps.
"This is not," John hissed, "inconspicuous in the slightest." He reshouldered Milverton for the third time since Holmes had sent them careening through the trees while he prowled along in front, as if night vision weren't typically a thing reserved for catlike predators. Though looking at him now, John thought, as the man leaned against a lamppost in his long spill of oily coat, perhaps there wasn't a real distinction there at all.
One of Holmes' hands came up, gesturing idly before him. "Look where we are."
John looked. A sprawl of hill, a wall of rocks like the guardians of a secret lost to gravity where everything had come crumbling down. Beyond that, through the pockmarked holes in the decaying wall: more stones, rising up from the earth like irritable giants awakened from spellbound sleep. He shivered - here, there were no trees to keep the angry wind at bay.
"Graveyard. Isn't that a bit obvious, burying a body in a graveyard?"
John's lips twitched, but he followed Holmes through the unkept gate with a sigh. They trailed over pockets of broken ground before Holmes suddenly veered off course. He led them away from the simple path, back into the dark, where the streetlamps were too weak to shine. John was once again conscious of the bitter bite of fall evening - though dawn wasn't, he realized, looking toward the disc of horizon staining pink, that far off.
He hurried his steps. Holmes, sensing his haste, smirked again, but his own pace quickened. It wasn't long before he stopped before a fresh grave, the headstone proclaiming it the final resting place of one Lady Frances Carfax.
"'Lady?'" John said dubiously.
"If she's famous, it'll explain the extra foot traffic. I wish I'd come across you earlier, it would have saved us the trouble of redigging."
John, in the midst of yet again shrugging the much-battered Milverton into the grass, froze. "You've been here already."
"I think you'll find Lady Frances Carfax wasn't eager to go to the grave alone. Her burial this - well, yesterday - evening served my purposes. The funeral was quite lovely." Sherlock gave a little sigh, shoving his hands into the pockets of his coat and staring down ruminatively at the spray of dirt and clay.
John rolled his eyes. "You still haven't explained what exactly 'your purposes' are."
"Consulting Killer, only one in the world."
"When murderers are out of their depth, which is always, they consult me."
John snorted. "That's a bit pretentious, isn't it? Sounds like you're just a regular hired hand to me."
Holmes turned stormy eyes to him.
He shrugged. "It'd be like some bloke calling himself a 'consulting detective' when he's really just, I don't know, a glorified PI."
"I assure you, there's nothing 'just' about what I do," Holmes sniffed, and turned away. He peered down the hillside, the thin hum of satisfaction swept away on the wind. But John saw him lift a long arm and point down, down to where a little church sat, nestled like an ivory ship among the inswept indigo tide.
"You'll find a shovel in the shed behind that church."
John opened his mouth. Closed it again. He clenched and unclenched his fists, then went striding off into the murk, Holmes shrinking to a pinprick behind him. The thought occurred to him that he, a murderer, was, at this moment, taking orders from another self-professed murderer, and that he ought to take this chance and run. Saddle Holmes with the blame and get off free.
But something like the absent tremor in his hands and the ore in his blood kept him on course, slipping inside the shed, peeling out again and starting back up the hill.
When he returned, shovel in hand, it was only to drop said shovel in dismay.
"What. The hell," he said.
Holmes looked up from where he was elbow deep in Mr. Milverton. Carefully, he spit out the torch. "What?" he asked.
"By Consulting Killer, you obviously meant consulting black market organ thief."
"Bit of a mouthful, don't you think?" Mr. Milverton's blood shone sticky, livid red on starkly yellow gloves as Holmes withdrew one arm, flapping it around impatiently and spattering the ground with little flecks of gore. "Besides, he's obviously not using them anymore, and at least I use them for science rather than pawning them off to the next idiot."
"Yes, there is a dearth of available fresh human organs," John mused. "I wonder why that could be?"
Holmes shrugged before diving back into the slick, gaping flesh of Mr. Milverton's torso. With a final jiggle and a sharp tug, Holmes made a pleased hum and withdrew the dead man's heart. "I'm testing the ability of the heart to pump even posthumously as a result of electrical shocks. All the others weren't fresh enough. They kept frying," he said, unable to keep the disappointment out of his voice.
John had a hand over his face. He lowered it, just a little, to give Holmes an eye that suggested just how not on any of this was.
Another squelching sound broke from where Holmes was busily sawing away. "Aren't you supposed to be digging?"
John continued to glare at him as he picked up the shovel and broke the earth, freshly turned soil sifting neatly away. John's shoulders strained with the effort, but it wasn't nearly as bad as what he'd had in mind for Mr. Milverton would entail. And, with any luck, this wouldn't end in John getting sent to prison in a few months' time.
Luck, it seemed, as he cast another sideways glance at the madman now rooting around in Mr. Milverton's abdomen, had been on his side.
As they worked side by side, John grunting under each new load of chalky dirt as the ground began to yawn wider around his feet and Holmes exclaiming every so often about some fascinating thing or other in Mr. Milverton's anatomy, it seemed that the cold receded, a careful bay of exertion and adrenaline carving itself around their little hole in the hillside. It was… pleasant, he thought. Almost weirdly domestic.
You know, for two homicidal blokes.
When the grave was deep enough for both his and Holmes' liking - revealing both the coffin of Lady Frances Carfax and Holmes' unfortunate victim, looking none too pleased about having been disturbed again so soon, if corpses could look displeased - John boosted himself back up to level ground.
Holmes had finished up with Mr. Milverton some time ago. His new possessions sat sweating in their plastic bags, and Holmes had, in the meanwhile, busied himself with a cigarette as he lounged against one of the other headstones. He exhaled smoke into the wind, watching it wander its way up toward John like a drunk and staggering phantom. John coughed pointedly, waving a hand to disperse the reaching tendrils.
"Those'll kill you."
Around another charcoal breath, Holmes grinned like something wild. "If nothing else does."
He flicked the butt away and got to his feet again, and gestured to Mr. Milverton. "If we'd had any real time we should have dissolved him. It's a shame, I've been wanting to conduct some acid properties experiments, too."
"Well, since that isn't an option," John said, cutting through what looked to be a sulk that was fit only for toddlers, "mind giving me a hand?" He reached down to grip Mr. Milverton by the ankles, then immediately looked up his body and sighed.
"If you give me one of his hands there will be four corpses in this grave by the end of the night."
Holmes coughed, and there was the suspicious rustling of plastic bags being re-tied, but soon he appeared from around behind John and went to grip Mr. Milverton at the shoulders.
"1, 2… 3."
Together, they boosted Mr. Milverton into the hole, side-by-side with… "Dr. Roylott," Holmes answered with a satisfied rub of his hands in their black leather gloves. "Some men can't hold their snake venom."
John shot him a sideways glance, but Holmes had directed his gaze to the horizon - while the stars still shone, bright and distant and cold, up in the milky bowl of sky, the pink that less than half an hour before had only begun to bleed through was now an orange bloom of color heralding the sun, and soft day-blue trailed absently behind it. "We'll have to hurry," Holmes was saying, as he leaned down for the shovel.
John looked anxiously up toward the sky himself, frowning. "I don't see -"
He gasped, choking as he was suddenly yanked back against Holmes' chest, the sturdy wood of the shovel's handle digging into his throat. He attempted to twist away and Holmes pressed back, hard, one leg lazily twining around in between John's own to keep him there or else risk sending them both tumbling over.
"Now, now," Holmes was saying in his ear, sounding cross. "Don't struggle. And don't bother reaching for your gun, I pawned that ages ago."
John nearly cursed under his breath, only now feeling the absence at his hip. Slowly, as Holmes forced him down to his knees, he said, "Wasn't planning on it. Though I was planning on asking you what the bloody buggering fuck you're doing."
Holmes hips rolled forward suggestively into the back of his head. "Not a bloody buggering fuck, but I like the way you think. And believe me, that is a compliment."
There was a strange thrill, John thought, that came of a long, lean killer's body snug against his spine, deadly words curving down into his ear. "No one's seen me yet," Holmes sighed. "I can't have you out and about, able to blab my secret to whomever you meet at the bar or the shops."
"Don't tell me you were stupid enough to give me your real name," John chided.
He noted the blunt pressure of the wood pressing just a bit tighter against his Adam's apple. "I was clever enough to plan ahead."
John smirked. He leaned back against Holmes' thigh and stopped. Oh. Was Holmes really stupid enough to - ? He thought the man had been intelligent, at least intelligent enough not to leave John's gun within very easy reach.
But, no, he didn't even think Holmes had noticed what John had noticed to be some very poor planning.
With an effort, John kept his breathing even while his heart beat solid and steady in his chest, but his thoughts were racing. "Why did you help me," he asked, stalling for time, "if you'd already planned to kill me?"
"Ever heard the phrase 'digging your own grave'?" At the pointed nudge of the shovel, John let his hand fly back to grip Sherlock's hip, seeming to struggle for oxygen.
"You'd already dug it," he said, sounding breathless.
"Yes, unfortunately before I came across you," Holmes sighed. "I didn't lie about that."
"What did you lie about?"
"You don't need to lie at all to dead men."
"Right, right, 'dead men tell no tales,' didn't realize you were such a fan of the cliché."
"Boring. Obvious. But they serve a purpose," he ceded. Now John could feel him, the heat at his back shifting ever so slightly, looking at the faint rime of frost dusting the sparse grass about their feet. Searching for something. John tried not to grin - if he could just buy a little more time, just wait until Holmes was more concerned about the gun he'd 'lost,' he could be out of this. Holmes didn't look strong enough to break his neck, though he'd learned not to underestimate any man who could take him by surprise.
"Hmm," John said slowly, evenly, while Holmes continued to look around. "I wonder…"
"What?" Holmes said, sounding distracted.
"Oh, just - did you lie about me? Being interesting?"
"My most interesting kill so far."
"Well, I'm not dead yet."
"No?" Like a cat toying with a mouse, Holmes drawled it as if he had all the time in the world.
But John had other ideas. "Nope," he said, and twisted out from under the shovel, leaping to his feet. Holmes, who'd been looking to the side, suffered a sharp headbutt to the temple. His hands came reflexively away from the shovel that had just second ago been pinning John to his thighs. As he staggered back, John fisted his hands in the navy blue scarf around the man's neck and pulled.
Holmes smiled at him, a manic light in his eyes, as John leaned over where he was splayed out over the ground, fighting for air as John took it away. "More than interesting," he rasped, and John jerked his grip tighter, leaning over him. He planted one foot on Holmes' chest and withdrew his gun with a satisfied smile of his own. Though it wasn't nearly as satisfying as the moment when Holmes' eyes widened again in surprise.
"Never place it in your front pocket. Especially not if you're attacking someone from behind," John said, almost disappointed in how easy it had been, and aimed the barrel at Holmes' forehead.
"Noted." His pretty mouth formed the word, but there was a high, rosy flush across Holmes' cheeks as his fingers had come up, almost of their own accord, to pluck at the wool constricting his windpipe, and no sound whispered into the world.
"We've been here before," John remarked. "Do people point deadly firearms in your direction very often?"
John loosened his hold, just a bit, so Holmes could respond. Heaving in gasps of cold morning air, Holmes said, "All the time. Not just firearms, either."
"Somehow, that doesn't surprise me."
Holmes' next move, however, of jerking on the scarf, did. His sharp tug upset John's center of gravity and he went flipping headfirst over where Holmes lay on the ground. Almost immediately he heard Holmes get up, planting a heel into the small of his back.
John gritted his teeth and flipped over, that same foot forcing the air from his diaphragm. If he hadn't already gone breathless in shock, however, with the gun glittering in Holmes' grasp.
But no, he thought beneath the pang of surprise, that wasn't his gun sitting like a deadly spider in Holmes' palm. He looked down, still checking to see that his own gun was still there - and it was, as black and intent as ever, while Sherlock's silver stared him down from above.
"Double bluff," John ascertained with a tired sigh. "Why?"
"Triple," Holmes granted. "Had to test you. Had to be sure, you understand."
"Not in the slightest," John panted, but his grip didn't waver.
Holmes snorted. "Did you think for a second you'd be able to get the better of me if I were really trying?"
"I don't just think it, I know it," he retorted.
"Hmm," Holmes murmured, something complicated flitting through those eyes like silent moths.
The both of them locked in a stalemate under the rapid rise of dawn.
Holmes tilted his head to the side, assessing, feline. "You wouldn't really kill with so little provocation."
"You did just try to kill me, you realize? That's fairly large provocation."
Holmes waved his other hand dismissively. "Not me. I mean others. You say it was your first, but was it your last?"
John gave him an assessing look of his own, even as the taste of gunmetal and ash rose beneath his tongue. "Are we about to find out?"
A soft wind was beginning to sigh over the treetops, far different than the anxious cries of a bitter night breeze. Slowly, ever so slowly, while behind him clouds of peach and ocher began to skirt across the sky, Holmes shook his head. He didn't drop the weapon, but John saw the intent drop from his eyes like a curtain, something satisfied at last curling in their depths like little licks of silver flame.
"I think I'd like," Holmes purred, "to see you again." He stepped back, allowing John to get to his knees and then come to a shaky stand on his feet. Together as one, they lowered their guns.
"You don't even know my name."
"I don't have to." Holmes was grinning again, flint bright like a sun of his own. "You'll kill again," he said, sounding certain this time. "You'll need me."
John shook his head, ever so slightly. "Who says?"
"Says the man in the grave." He stalked back to the resting place of the corpses three, never once taking his eyes from John, even as he crouched down to begin gathering up his plastic packets. "That was a noble killing. London has plenty of need for a Robin Hood like you."
"What, steal life from the rich, give organs to the poor consulting killers?" John laughed.
Holmes smirked. "If that's the way you want to see it."
John was shaking his head. "What?" Holmes asked, as John continued to chuckle.
"How did we even find each other?"
"I think the question now is how do we do it again," Holmes said calmly, padding the last of his organs in the deep pockets of his coat. He drew himself up to his full height, gave John a soft smile. "You'll have to cover them quickly. There's an afternoon service at the church on Fridays."
"And just where are you going?"
"221b Baker Street," Holmes sighed, as he began to walk away through the maze of graves. "If you're curious, you should come and see, Doctor Watson."
John gave a start. He looked sharply over to Holmes, who was grinning. "You did. Christ. How did you -"
"You asked how we found each other," Holmes laughed, turning back around and spreading his arms wide. "I don't believe in fate, John, but I did believe in you. Thank you for proving my suspicions correct."
"What suspicions?" John called after him, his head reeling, his heart pounding, suddenly giddy with all he didn't yet know - and all he soon would.
"That this is the start, to use another of our deplorable little clichés, of a beautiful partnership."
John could still hear that deep, baritone laugh echoing like thunder over the cradled hills as he packed the last of the soil over the bodies now slumbering peacefully within the earth, returned his shovel to the church shed, and readied himself to head home. For just a moment though, John looked back.
The quiet, somber sadness of a church graveyard greeted him, even the sunrise seeming watered down as it broke over the hills at last. Utterly calm. A place where the dead could rest and the living mourned in peace.
Electricity pulsing in his veins as if he'd been struck by lightning and happier than he'd been in months, John set back along the road to London, whistling as he went.