When Sherlock Holmes was thirteen years old and on holiday, Carl Powers drowned in a pool in London, England.
"Carl Powers," Sherlock tells John Watson some twenty years later, "Carl Powers. It's where I began."
The website draws few random visitors who comment -- almost all that he does not have the misfortune of knowing personally are potential clients, and rarely do they manage to say anything beyond the dull entanglements of the average person plodding about their nauseatingly average life.
There are two commenters who post with any sort of regularity and insist on carrying on the farce that they aren't dull, and of them Sherlock has already dismissed one as Mycroft having an ultimately futile go at concern-mongering. Sherlock has little idea why he bothers -- which leads him to suspect that many of the comments are a result of Mycroft's assistant's obsession with her mobile, for when she's run out of other people to annoy on Mycroft's behalf.
The second commenter is, if Sherlock were to use such an adjective, strange. It's unnecessary that he know many of the more detailed aspects of web design, or how and why computers and the internet function -- but when the site was initially set up, he requested that it keep track of commenter's IP addresses. Of course, the only good this has done him is that it's reinforced his opinion of this second commenter: it is someone whose following of Sherlock borders on the obsessive, to a point of masking his or her own location and rerouting it however one does such a thing to that of Sherlock's flat.
It's a pathetic attempt to get Sherlock's attention, and it would be flattering were it not so pedestrian.
Mycroft calls him late in the evening and Sherlock answers only because his mobile's charge is nigh gone and he has a perfect excuse to hang up on his brother if there is the slightest reason to do so.
Mycroft, of course, speaks first: "I've had the pleasure of meeting your Dr Watson."
Sherlock waits, lets Mycroft decide whether or not he will fill the silence himself, and then when it is clear he won't, says, "So I've gathered." John had left a note, tucked under the Rubik's cube on Sherlock's desk, that had explained both the intention of Sherlock's "archnemesis" and John's own tired disappointment at Sherlock being the type of arse who just kept solved Rubik's cubes lying about his flat.
"Then you should also know that he turned down my offer of... assistance, as it were." Mycroft makes the word into both a threat and a personal grievance, as only he can. It must kill him to have done something proactive, something that required he remove himself from the comforts of his many offices and his luxurious car.
"Yes, it is a tragedy," Sherlock replies. "Excess income is something that rarely falls into one's lap. And if that's all, some of us have things to do," he says, and he pulls the mobile from his ear -- there is no last minute protestation from his brother, but if Mycroft has more things to say he will undoubtedly find a way to say them -- and ends the call, sprawling back on the coach with a sigh. John truly hadn't thought Mycroft's offer through. Sherlock texts him: Next time take into consideration how we can split the payout. SH
This is derealization. He's read about it in one of John's books, one that he keeps in his bedroom on one of his shelves, just above waist height so that there's no need for him to raise his arm, to exacerbate the injury in his left shoulder. John's not overly interested in psychiatry, he's had no need to be, that is what his therapist is for after all, but John Watson is the type of man who knows things for the sake of knowing them, doesn't have to go at an idea like a dog at a flea but instead buys books and sits at the desk or on the couch with a book open on his lap as he takes it all in, doesn't pick and choose, lets it all into his brain with no forethought about conserving space for what is truly necessary.
Sherlock stares at the cracks on the ceiling. He did not put them there. John's gun is tucked away somewhere, hidden so that Sherlock won't go about redecorating as he had with the wall. It's almost precious that he thinks hiding it will result in anything -- would keep Sherlock from it if he wanted it -- but perhaps his intention was merely to make the matter of its retrieval more boring than the distraction it would ultimately provide once located. And the ceiling is almost interesting now, appears to distend and curve as though there has been a fire above the living room and the water from the firemen's hoses has damaged the floor, ruined the beams, warped them like the bow of that woman's mouth, what was her name? He so often forgets it unless she's in front of him, letting him access one of the corpses in the morgue. Molly. Molly's mouth, God, but maybe he's put one too many patches on tonight, but it's a four-patch problem and John's gone off somewhere, and Mrs Hudson's been cleaning the flat again.
His head lolls to one side and he stares at the empty space where his skull once sat, where each of its incarnations has sat because Mrs Hudson does not simply clean, she decides what should and should not be available for him to utilize in his day to day existence and God of earth and heaven, he is bored. The ceiling doesn't even look real, two meters away from him, just over one when he points his arms up, perpendicular to his body. How can the ceiling be both unreal and dull?
"John!" he shouts, and he reaches for the mobile on the coffee table. John has his mobile, he took it with him, and so Sherlock texts him and adds words that he knows will incite John to return quickly: "dangerous", "exciting", and he's trying this one out for size, "invigorating", to see its effect.
It takes him complete moments to notice the vibration against his thigh, because it does not feel like his thigh at all. It feels wholly fascinating. His senses and his mind are warring over what he can feel through the silk of his dressing gown and the cotton of his trousers, and what his own brain is telling him is nothing, is someone else's leg. He reaches down, slips his fingers into someone else's pocket and pulls out John's mobile. John must have left it. He must not have wanted to engage in anything interesting tonight.
There are footsteps on the stairs, coming up from the bottom floor. Perhaps John has been watching terrible shows on the telly -- but no, it's Mrs Hudson, and as she opens the door to his flat he moves his arm, his wrist, lets John's mobile slide from his fingers and through the air in a clean arc. He curls up on his side, face to the cushions of the sofa, and as if through a blanket or bits of candy floss he hears Mrs Hudson's start of surprise. There's no telltale clatter of plastic on wood. Ah. She caught it, then.
"Sherlock, I heard yelling. Is everything all right?"
She is a busybody, but she means well, and he responds with a wave of his arm. "Quite."
"Is this a new phone then?"
She is moving further into the flat, picking things up as she goes. That pause, that's to retrieve the nicotine patch box that he left, empty, near the desk. The next is when she sets it on the desk, and she uses her doing so as an excuse to look at the papers he's laid out, made notes on.
"Sherlock?" she asks, her tone expectant, and he rolls over onto his other side, faces her.
"It's John's mobile, Mrs Hudson. He left it."
She doesn't believe him, he can see that immediately, in the way her mouth tightens and her eyebrows twitch, but she has always been an excellent actress and he must give her that, that were he anyone else she would dupe him fully.
"I'll just leave it here then," she says with a smile that is very nearly not forced, and she begins to putter about the room, picking up loose papers and what she considers to be rubbish and taking it to one of the bins in the kitchen. She's in there for longer than it takes to dispose of any amount of refuse she'd be able to carry, but the flat still looks as though he's viewing it through frosted glass, as though it were some Christmas special starring clay reindeer, and so he stays on the sofa. He hears a cupboard, and then the icebox door open, and he calls out, "Leave the experiments alone. I'd prefer to not start over."
She shuffles back into the living room, her smile now distracted. "I'm glad you've started keeping food in the flat, dear, it was worrisome how you seemed to exist on tea and stubbornness."
Sherlock closes his eyes, turns onto his back. His arms no longer feel as if they're attached, and he'd rather not explain his staring at his own fingers to Mrs Hudson, who would only make some sort of drama of it. He says, "John prefers food, you see, not to discount the importance of either tea or stubbornness," and he takes note of Mrs Hudson's prolonged silence, after which she excuses herself from the flat with something about not wanting to miss anymore of her show.
Sherlock lies still and waits for his arms to come back to him.
He feels alive, regardless of how he's meant to be in shock, meant to be upset by the events of the last hour. The painfully orange blanket they've insisted be draped around his shoulders is someone's idea of a joke, and a dreadful one at that.
"Right then," Lestrade says as he stalks over, his hands in the pockets of his coat. He's slouching. "You're going to tell me what happened."
Sherlock rolls his eyes. "I've told several of your underlings already, surely you could ask them. Though it's possible, perhaps, that you loathe speaking to them as well."
Lestrade seems torn between blustering and sighing and he settles on being demanding, but Sherlock is already tired of it. The cabbie was less of a suffering genius than a man who couldn't be arsed to do anything of note with his presupposed intellect. God, but it would be too easy to get away with murders, Sherlock thinks, and he scowls at the thought. No, were it easy, Mycroft would have taken up blatant crime years ago. Were it so easy, Sherlock would not be sitting with a scratchy blanket and Lestrade ranting about something or another, gunpowder reside on someone's fingers, dull: he would be engaged with someone who took advantage of the leniencies allotted him by such a life of crime. But as fate would have it, in the cabbie's last moments he had let loose the cry of "Moriarty!" and Sherlock's attention has successfully been directed towards him, them, her. It's exciting. And, perhaps, this Moriarty does find crime easy, simple, considers society but a puzzle that one must both work out and manipulate accordingly...!
Perhaps, Sherlock thinks, Moriarty is simply bored.
"Sherlock!" Lestrade says firmly, and Sherlock glares at him, gestures to the blanket about him at the same time that he reaches into his pocket for his mobile. It so happens that Mycroft is calling. Sherlock ignores him, opens instead the new text from John.
"Ah," he says, glancing up at Lestrade as he reads, "John says I should let you know that I acted purely in self-defense, whatever that means."
Across the car park he can see a sleek black automobile pulling to a halt and he waves a hand at Lestrade and walks away, towards Mycroft and his assistant, who have both stepped out onto the pavement and are looking heavily put-upon and disinterested, respectively. Lestrade shouts something after him and Sherlock disregards it, comes to a stop only once he's within a reasonable glaring distance of his elder brother, who appears to have settled on undiluted stress as his latest dieting technique.
"It's not working," Sherlock lets him know, and Mycroft's lips purse. His assistant smirks down at her mobile.
"You've not been to see Mummy as we discussed," Mycroft responds, and it's a weak but well-executed rejoinder, cutting through any of the nonsense Sherlock could say to divert the conversation to one or the other of them walking away.
"As you can see," Sherlock says, and he doesn't gesture because it would be a wasted action, "I've been busy."
"You've shot someone," Mycroft sighs, and his assistant glances at him before nodding and resuming the tap tap tap of her nails against her mobile's keyboard.
Sherlock doesn't look at his hands -- ah, possible gunpowder residue, was that what Lestrade was bumbling about? -- as Mycroft is doing, because he knows full well what Mycroft is seeing and it's an insult to the both of them for him to pretend otherwise. He is, however, surprised at Mycroft's folly. "I don't even own a gun."
"Yes, it's registered under Dr Watson's name, I am aware." Mycroft takes the notebook that his assistant has produced from within her coat. He opens it, says, "John exhibits trust issues, can't seem to stop himself from reading what Ella has written down..."
Sherlock is distracted by the way it feels as though his head is, quite suddenly, being lifted off of his neck, held above his body by a vice. He swallows, does not close his eyes because that would be obvious -- if Mycroft has not already concluded something is up, already -- and he glances across the car park.
When his attention returns to Mycroft, Mycroft is no longer standing in front of him. He is next to his car, shutting the door behind his assistant.
"John recommends Chinese for dinner," Mycroft says as he turns back to Sherlock. "The restaurant, by your flat."
Sherlock remains where he stands. He feels ill, all of a sudden, a feeling worse than that of his head becoming too light.
"You must tell John hello for me," Mycroft continues. "He seems to dislike speaking to me." With that, he joins his assistant in the car.
Sherlock is still until they pull away, and then, like an elastic that has been stretched and held for too long, shoots off down the road to hail a taxi, to find something to stave off John's hunger for the evening.
Gunpowder residue, Sherlock thinks again later, looking at his fingers in the low light of the lavatory. He washes his hands, scrapes under his fingernails, rubs his skin red and sore around his knuckles, until he hears a laugh, a voice tell him to cut it out before everyone thinks he is in shock.
Sherlock looks from his hands to his whole self, then, stifles a laugh of his own. "I'm allowed," he says. "Look, I've still got the blanket."
Carl Powers is not a kind boy. His meanness is that of children, however, and he will mature out of and look back on it with a sanitized recollection of events and vague chagrin -- but for one moment Sherlock hates him, feels the emotion so strongly that he could explode, taking out the whole of the street with him. He doesn't know what to do with that kind of anger, can identify it clinically as one would describe the weather forecast to a stranger, and so he only closes his eyes against the summer-warm pavement and convinces the whole of his body that he cannot possibly be injured and that he should get up now.
He is thirteen, old enough to know how to make the life of any boy his age hell, and also old enough to conceptualize the dangers of doing so -- that it would result only in painting a larger target on his back, one that would perhaps encourage the unwanted attention of rivals worse than bullies with mates to impress by picking on the queer kid on holiday.
And so he climbs up off of the pavement, touches his face to check for bleeding, and does nothing when presented with Carl Powers' laughing, boorish face.
Later, when Mycroft is holding a shoebox that Sherlock doesn't recognize and is hissing at him, his words rapid, truly angry, Sherlock can only tell him that he did nothing.
Sherlock does not remember how he met John Watson. If he thinks on it, curled up on his chair with his knees to his chest and his violin cradled against his chin, he draws a blank, and it frustrates him in a way that only Tchaikovsky can assuage.
When he stands in the kitchen under the domed light, dissecting the stomach of a found alley cat, he will remember that they came upon each other near the National Antiquities Museum after they had both stopped to admire a bit of tagging done by a local street hoodlum.
He tells Mrs Hudson of his acquiring a new flatmate, and of how John had been at the station working through something or another regarding his PPW license and had snickered at Sherlock's warranted dismissal of the DI's obtuse opinions on a string of burglaries.
When Mycroft asks after the charges made under the name John Watson at a local therapist's office, Sherlock tells him with utmost surety that they met in a lab at St. Bart's. Molly had just removed herself, and when he looked up he expected to see her standing there, having come up with some convenient excuse to return to the lab and hover about as though she was of any help, and instead he was greeted by a middle-aged man in a striped jumper who appeared uncomfortable to be noticed. He was even more put-off by Sherlock's deducing his being a doctor, and one recently returned from Afghanistan -- or Iraq, it was more difficult to tell that.
The incongruences are not something on which he wastes his time.
More often, he simply forgets that he doesn't remember.
Lestrade phones, and Sherlock stares at the face of his mobile and waits for it to stop ringing. Were it something important, Lestrade would be at the front door and elbowing his way past Mrs Hudson and rushing up the stairs to the flat. If it were unimportant but nonetheless interesting, and thus something Sherlock would care about, Lestrade would text him, his ungainly thumbs and impatience resulting in several asinine grammatical errors that Sherlock could later drop into conversation to watch Lestrade's temper go. So Sherlock ignores the call.
John's left his mobile again -- he's done that several times now and Sherlock knows it's because he doesn't wish to be heralded home -- and the fact that next it's John's mobile that goes off and that he's received a text message of all things is grating.
Sherlock grabs the phone from the coffee table and of course the text is from Lestrade, that bastard, what is he even doing: John can you phone?
Sherlock scowls at the mobile and for one moment he feels wrong, he feels as though there is something at the back of his eyes, a pressure that has nothing to do with headaches or detoxification. It feels as though his brain has swelled and is threatening self-inflicted concussion. He lays down, throws an arm across his eyes. He texts, by touch, back: Out. What? - SH
After several boring, throbbing moments the mobile vibrates again. The glow of the screen burns Sherlock's eyes as he reads the text.
Send john to statiom. Need to update ppw license.
Ah, "statiom". That's nearly a good one.
Sherlock tosses John's mobile to the other end of the sofa, watches it bounce off the cushioning of the arm, fall to rest under his left ankle. He fishes his own mobile out of a pocket and texts John's, petty and frustrated: Lestrade wants you. Almost certainly boring. Stay out. - SH
He curls up after hitting send, covers his face with his hands, and trusts that John will find the message when he returns.
There is a single text on the pink phone that Lestrade passes to him, a picture of a room that Sherlock knows he has seen before. It does not take him overly long to determine where it is he needs to go, and it takes far less time to convince Mrs Hudson to grant him access.
Once he knows that he is holding Carl Powers' shoes, his breath quickens and he feels as though he has stood up too quickly. He remembers these shoes, staring at them from the level of the pavement, and he knows how Carl was murdered, that it was no tragic accident.
The emotion that overwhelms him when he updates his website on the lab computer, tells his unknown adversary that he has figured it out, is indescribable. Someone is being interesting, and that someone is vying for Sherlock's attention. "I had expected this," he tells John, and what he doesn't know how to say is that he'd always hoped it would happen. He also knows that it's a bit not good, to think that. He can't help it. He doesn't entirely want to.
John of course remembers the hostage. Sherlock sighs, texts Lestrade the location of the woman strapped into her car with a semtex vest, notifies him that she may now be approached without harm coming to her. He then sets his mobile on the lab table and awaits the next message from his criminal.
He doesn't have to wait long. It's like Christmas.
"I've had to confiscate John's pistol for ballistics," Lestrade tells him, waits for a reaction. Sherlock's not sure what he wants. It isn't as though John gallivants about London shooting up grocery clerks.
Upon receiving silence, Lestrade continues, "Where are we with the dead security guard?"
Sherlock scoffs, waves a hand in the air. "Ages past. It was a cover-up, we know it was, what's left is to determine how to prove it's a fake."
"What's a fake?" Lestrade asks, moving closer and watching Sherlock closely. Sherlock steps back, gestures to the television mounted on the far wall of the station. It's playing local news, as it always does, and while muted the broadcaster is still blathering on about the discovery of the thought-lost Vermeer. Sherlock doesn't see the point, constant media fawning and a man dead for a painting. It's something that clearly anyone, given its forged state, can bring into existence.
Lestrade doesn't care about Sherlock's musings on classical art. He merely wants to know how it's a fake. Sherlock asks that he be taken to the gallery, and so he is.
It is there that the world is bathed in soft light, and Sherlock's vision narrows to the field of stars painted across the top of the canvas of the supposed Vermeer.
He once received a text message from John, fondly mocking, about his failing to know that the earth revolves around the sun. His reply had taken up the characters of several texts, expounding on why exactly it was unimportant knowledge for him to have, that nothing in his life had been negatively affected by his lack of knowledge of the solar system and its celestial bodies; and hours later he had noticed a reply that mentioned the condition of savantism in a way wholly detrimental to John's claims to be a medical professional.
He stares at each star in the painting, and then he's pointing to one single speck in the midst of the other specks, and he's saying, "The Van Buren Supernova." He doesn't know why. He can't remember ever hearing about such a thing, and yet the knowledge is there, that the painting is forged because the supernova was in 1858 and Vermeer was not.
Lestrade is talking to someone on the pink phone, a child, Sherlock thinks distantly, the hostage, and the woman who is in charge of the gallery looks stricken, as she should, she's in on it, he knows she is.
John has a book on astronomy that he keeps in his bedroom on a shelf, and Sherlock has never read it.
His mobile vibrates and he pulls it out with white hands to read a text from Mycroft: There is no ballistics report. - MH
Mycroft must be at the dentist, Sherlock thinks, and then his head feels as though it's splitting open.
He's sitting at the kitchen table. He doesn't know how long he's been there, and he doesn't remember sitting down.
He doesn't recall returning to the flat.
The table's been cleaned of all traces of his most recent experiments, and John's laptop is open in front of him. When he touches the keyboard, it prompts him for a password. John is not the kind of man who would choose an overly complicated phrase for a password for a laptop, and in moments Sherlock has determined what it is and has accessed what John last had open.
A single browser window has been maximized on the screen, and it is logged into an email account. Sherlock doesn't recognize the address, and there is no recent mail sitting in the inbox.
He opens the sent mail folder and shortly thereafter is scrolling through every text that has been sent to the pink phone. There are none missing, and the timestamps are correct.
There is also an entry under the drafts folder.
Sherlock does not have past experiences to which he can compare his current emotional state. He fears very little, and he has always found what most consider awful to be what gives life worth. He knows anger, and he understands joy, and neither have ever made his hands shake as they do when he selects the saved email draft.
There is no intended recipient for the email, which Sherlock takes to mean that it is meant for him, and him alone. It reads:
hello :) does it bother you when I type without proper punctuation
Ask Mycroft about where i found carl powerS sHoes hEe haR he sank Like an anchOr
Cuddles & Kisses
There is an attachment, an image, and he has been given an option to preview it if he so chooses.
He shuts the laptop and fishes his mobile out of his pocket.
Mycroft calls him, always prefers to hear his own voice than to simply text, and in place of a greeting says, "For what purpose are you asking?"
Sherlock doesn't reply. He puts the mobile on the the table. He can hear Mycroft, still quiet through the phone's earpiece speaker though his voice has risen in volume, instructing Sherlock to pick the phone back up, don't be dramatic.
Eventually the call disconnects, and Mycroft instead texts: Don't leave. - MH
Sherlock opens the laptop and types in John's password, and stares once again at the message. It isn't even difficult, is it, it's an insult and he opens the attached image at the same time that his mind repeats the letters I-A-M-S-H-E-R-L-O-C-K.
It is a picture taken with the camera of John's laptop, and in it a broad smile is stretching across Sherlock's face and he is waving. It was taken approximately forty-four minutes ago. Sherlock does not remember what he was doing forty-four minutes ago.
He opens a new browser window and posts a comment about a pool to his website.
He shuts the laptop.
When Carl Powers has been drowned for twenty-one years, Sherlock Holmes is standing next to a pool in London, England.
"Carl Powers," Sherlock tells no one, absolutely no one, he is the only one here, oh God he is the only one here, John --.
When Sherlock holds his head, his body shaking, there is no Sherlock Holmes, either. But there is a man who stands his height and wears his well-fitted suit, and he has a wide, crooked smile and the trigger to the semtex fastened to the jacket, lying three meters away. And he says, "Carl Powers. It's where I began."