A/N: I don't usually put these at the beginning, but I think it's needed here. This story is AU. It features a female Sherlock and there will be supernatural elements that do not correspond to either the ACD books or the TV show.
The voices leak through the walls of the old building, drift from downstairs. Mrs. Hudson is trying to be quiet; Lestrade thinks he's being subtle but can never quite manage it.
If this is the quality of police detectives at the Met, Sherlyn reflects, it's really no wonder that the criminal Moriarty—of not-so-blessed memory—was obsessed with her.
It could be said that he overreacted a touch, however. She smiles, a slight twitching at the corners of her lips, dismisses the thought.
Lestrade's voice rises slightly, and Sherlyn tilts her head as she listens. The tone suggests he's asking after her welfare, and that Mrs. Hudson is saying far too much.
His speech really carries. Perhaps Lestrade wishes to be heard? Maybe it's part of a plan?
Sherlyn sighs, already feels put upon. Predictable. Why must she continually have the same conversation? Clumsy. Redundant If John had been there, she would have said her thoughts aloud. But then again, if he had been, the entire painful discourse she was about to endure would hardly be relevant, would it?
John is not here.
She's tempted to bolt the door, but refrains. He'll only come back. None of the detectives know how to take a hint, even at the best of times.
That was one thing about John; he knew how to be subtle. He understood far more than she ever acknowledged.
Sherlyn sighs, takes a clove cigarette from the pack lying on her violin case. The spark from the lit end reflects in the window by which she stands, a burning ember illuminating her pale skin. She exhales with deep satisfaction, watching the mirror image of the smoke dissipate toward the corners of the room. Lestrade hates cigarette smoke, these in particular.
Outside the window, the night seems very dark. For a moment, she closes her eyes. It could be that she is wrong about John. She liked to think it was the spark of understanding she saw in his eyes. But perhaps it wasn't, and she's projecting. An ideal version of an invisible man.
She can't rule it out entirely. That's what the therapist used to say about her father, about the hero worship she had once he'd left. Is she transferring the same framework to another male?
Yes, it's possible John didn't understand her at all. But perhaps he would have, if she had given him a chance.
Irrelevant. He's gone. She huffs at herself, at her entirely too-predictable line of thought. At the pain that makes her chest before she can shut down her unproductive line of reasoning.
Heavy footsteps clomp up the stairs and Lestrade opens the door without knocking. Rude. Typical tactics, boundary pushing to be followed by quasi paternalistic behavior.
Sherlyn stifles another sigh. At least Moriarty hadn't been boring. Unlike this.
Lestrade finds her standing in front of the window, playing the violin and, other than one glance, ignoring his presence entirely.
The slight look tells her a lot, of course: Lestrade is separated from his wife and now living in close proximity to someone who breeds Siamese cats. He's gained weight around his waistline, has had to loosen his belt one notch. He's been drinking too much and working long hours. His lower back is bothering him again.
"Tchaikovsky's not going to put me off, you know," he says, grimacing against the unventilated smell of cigarette smoke that now fills the flat. His tone is falsely jovial, with a slight tension in his tone. He didn't want to be here. Interesting. Perhaps Lestrade has some common sense, after all. "I know you just started playing to ignore me."
What Sherlyn is playing sounds nothing like Tchaikovsky, not even remotely. It is, in point of fact, a modern cello piece she has adapted for the violin.
She glances at him and pointedly says nothing. If he didn't want to come, perhaps he will leave
Lestratde sighs, which means he won't. "Look. I came—"
The music volume increases exponentially. If it hadn't been such a somber piece, Sherlyn would have increased the tempo as well.
But Lestrade won't be so easily dissuaded. He raises his voice. "Sher—If you would only stop for one second—I came because—" He shouts, "John's been declared dead."
The music screeches to a halt. Lestrade's shout echoes inside Sherlyn's head, a meaningless feedback loop. The silence between them stretches.
"Impossible," she says finally. To her horror, her voice wavers. To cover it, she takes a deep drag of the cigarette, blows the smoke just over Lestrade's left shoulder. Sherlyn taps her ash, sets it down. "It takes seven years to declare a missing person deceased." Her voice is steady now. She raises her arms, resumes her playing. If the music is more tentative, she pays it no mind.
Lestrade places a hand on her violin, halting her, and Sherlyn recoils, lurching backward. The detective takes a deep breath, holding up his hands. His voice, when it comes, is deliberate. Cutting. "His family had it expedited. I don't know the details, but from what I could tell, some strings were pulled." He sighs, clearly frustrated. "I had actually hoped that meant that you …" He trails off.
Sherlyn understands instantly, feels a sudden flare of rage. Mycroft. Her brother's been trying to convince her John's dead for months now. Almost from the moment it happened. Probabilities, the statistics of sudden disappearances in cases of violent crime, on and on and on in an endless stream without meaning, all couched in carefully-worded terms that she cannot react to without showing him more than she wishes. Feelings are not done amongst the Holmes siblings. This kind of manipulation is Mycroft all over. It reeks of his touch.
Sherlyn says nothing, allows none of her enlightenment to show on her face. She blows more smoke to spite Lestrade. "You were wrong," she says finally, and now her voice is very firm, but there's a watery feeling in Sherlyn's gut, a weakness in her knees. She needs to sit down, likely to vomit.
She remains standing.
Lestrade is eying her now in a worrying fashion. He licks his lips before he speaks, and she realizes that he believes her irrational. Her. The widow at the crime scene who denies her husband is dead despite having his corpse draped over the good china.
How dare he?
Her spine stiffens further, her face becomes carefully blank. She locks her knees. "I suppose that everyone was in agreement on this, then."
"His sister signed the papers."
Of course she did, but that's not what Sherlyn wants to know. "And everyone agreed?" She asks again.
"Mary agreed, Sherlyn," Lestrade says. She cannot bear the pity in his voice. She turns her back.
It's funny. She'd actually believed Mary loved him. "You've delivered your message, Inspector," she says. "You can leave now."
Lestrade shows no sign of having heard her dismissal. "He wouldn't have wanted your work to suffer for him."
Sherlyn tenses for a fraction of a second. "You don't know what he would have wanted. You barely knew him." She poises her arms, begins playing again. Switches into another piece by the same composer, who is, emphatically, not Tchaikovsky.
There's a long pause. When Lestrade speaks again, his voice is very quiet. "I knew enough."
The music continues. There's no reply.
The detective rubs a hand over his face. He doesn't leave, which confirms what Sherlyn already knew. She refrains from looking at his reflection in the mirror. She goes over the chemical structure of dopamine mentally to keep from flying into a rage. Passion in times of conflict can only ever be a disadvantage.
"There's more than one reason I'm here. I wouldn't mention it now, but there's been some pressure." At least he has the decency to sound embarrassed. A glance in the mirror assures her that he isn't, however, not even a little. There's no face touching, no blinking. He's staring straight at her. He expects her to do as he wishes.
Either his alcohol habit has killed off even more valuable brain cells, or he is under a great deal of pressure, indeed.
Sherlyn plays flawlessly. She doesn't care if the Met, if Lestrade, is under pressure, isn't interested in their problems at all. They abandoned John to their missing persons department, buried him deep and stonewalled her with platitudes and sympathetic noises. Pointed her at Mary, who was always so appropriately mournful.
She doesn't reply to Lestrade's unspoken question, although a very small part of her wants to. She misses the work, misses the cases, the excitement. Of course she does. It would be so easy to take what he's offering, to lose herself in the job of solving puzzles. To let the work fill her.
Lestrade begins to weave a tale of a criminal who uses common office supplies, binder clips, staples—and, interestingly, a laminating machine—to execute ritually displayed amputations while leaving the victims alive. Sherlyn lets him finish (it is, after all, an interesting story) and takes a moment to rosin up her bow. The heated pine and beeswax glides on with smooth sweeps of her arm. It's a ritual that has never failed to calm her. Until now. She hates Lestrade a little bit for that.
Sherlyn could tell him that what he's describing is anything but ritualistic, at least not in the way he's thinking. He's luring her in, painting a picture he thinks she won't be able to resist. And, for a moment, it's tempting. She could solve this. Easily.
She could. She won't.
"There's only one case that interests me currently," she says, and she's proud of how icy she sounds. "And I find that I am working it alone."
Lestrade reels. To his credit, or detriment, he recovers quickly. "Is that what you call getting high every night? John would have—"
Sherlyn doesn't correct him. "Leave."
"I could bring you up on charges."
Sherlyn doesn't bother to scoff. They both know he'll never find anything, and if he does, the charges will disappear.
"I could bring a dog," he says, very quietly. His pupils are dilated, his cheeks are flushed. It's clear he's furious. Sympathy didn't work, so now he'll try intimidation. How disappointing. "And the press, if I wanted to. John would probably approve, you know."
Sherlyn feels her temper slipping. She wants to punch him, stab him with one of the nastier virus-coated syringes she habitually carries on her person. "Get out," she repeats. Her voice is eerily calm.
Lestrade comes closer, stands to one side. In the window, he's the same height as she is in her stocking feet. His jawline is spare, his form stocky next to her own gaunt frame. "John's gone," Lestrade says His voice isn't kind."He's dead. You know it, I know it. We all know it. You need to let him go, Sherlyn."
She looks away. Sherlyn knows that John isn't gone. The fact that everyone thinks he is—it's just another row in the very long column of times that no one else believed in her but herself.
Even if he is dead—for which she has no evidence—he isn't gone.
"I think you'll find the door behind you, Inspector," Sherlyn says. She's every inch the upper crust princess she was trained to be. Dismissive. Cold.
Finally he storms out. Once she hears his footsteps fade, the door at the bottom of the stairs slam, and only once the police car he's parked illegally in front of the building has pulled away, she walks to the front door, throws the bolt so Mrs. Hudson cannot enter.
Sherlyn tightens her dressing gown around her, pulls her heavy curls up from where they were trapped underneath. Her hair's gotten too long. When was the last time she had a haircut? It was before John … it was that day, in fact. She had just come from her mother's monthly hated mother-daughter bonding experience when she got the news. And she had wondered, if she had just stayed …
Sherlyn closes her eyes and rests her forehead against the door. She reminds herself that he was leaving anyway. He and Mary had just set a date and he'd told her he was moving out.
What had she said? She asks herself. As if she doesn't know. As if she doesn't have an eidetic memory that has perfectly catalogued every hateful word with exquisite, cutting clarity.
She had talked about the work, as if he were merely an asset. She had insulted his fiancée. And those were the high points.
Sherlyn blocks the thoughts, prevents the reply of what she said that night. It's done, and feelings are irrelevant now. It's her duty to find John, her responsibility, full stop. Even if she's the only one looking.
And she will, Sherlyn knows. She will find him.
If he could be found, you of all people would have found him by now, Sherlyn.
She ignores her inner voice. The silence of the flat is oppressive. The air is stale against her nostrils as she breathes deeply. How long has it been since she's gone out?
Before Lestrade came, she had been clean one week, a landmark that usually meant she would make it a month and beyond. Because he threatened to bring dogs, she knows that she'll have to use bleach cleaner to scrub the flat, to remove the trace amounts of cocaine and heroin from her hiding places. She might have connections that will help her out, but those with power have their own expectations of her.
So she'll have to make sure it doesn't come to that. But first, Sherlyn thinks, she'll get high. Perhaps she'll think of Lestrade as she's tying herself off, toast New Scotland Yard with the syringe.
After that, she'll play some more of the pieces she'd been practicing. They always were John's favorite.