"Dr John Watson, I presume"? the pale and slightly odd-looking man says, in a deep voice which seems somewhat comforting to hear.
His piercing blue eyes are, well, piercing, through him as if to read his soul, and John feels a bit un-at-ease. By his side, the floating, minimalistic droid, a model commonly referred to as "the Landlady," is waiting for him to speak his mind.
"I… I remember asking for a female one," John says, still feeling very uncomfortable at the situation.
He had gotten his voucher for free and had, until then, never even considered the idea of purchasing a G.E.H. —they were too pricy, for one. He did not feel at his place in this high class, very posh shop for Animal pets and G.E.H. Companions.
"Your test result shows maximum compatibility with this particular Genetically Enhanced Human, sir", the droid answers in a very robotic, unnatural way.
Ah well, how could a half an hour long questionary and vanilla flavoured cupcakes get it wrong? Especially the cupcakes. They were the only thing that felt right about this —the only thing that felt right about this whole damn day. John was starting to feel a bit sick, and thought about leaving. But the voucher could not be refunded, and it was worth so much, months of income actually, it would be a pity to let it go to waste.
The G.E.H. was still looking at him, or better said, scrutinizing him from head to feet with his glass-blue eyes, which was starting to feel really unpleasant and diminishing even though the G.E.H. was the one sitting on a Levitative Chair dressed only in a buttoned blanket and John was the fully dressed one on the platform; John slipped a nervous tongue over his lips. The G.E.H. smirked.
"I should warn you, I am very demanding", he said while looking at him straight in the eyes. "Last time I got bored it took them months to retrieve me —my last owner, Pr. Moriarty, was furious… And he is no average man."
John felt a bit of a shock at the indirect insult, as he had assumed that Companion Pets had been taught how to behave or at the very least, to not be rude. But then again, his voucher was for a G.E.H. on sales. Maybe this one was… defective, in some sort of way? He really could not have known; Companion Pets were very expensive and mostly bought by the Elite, and him and his acquaintances were certainly not part of it.
"Would you like to see your other choices, sir?" the Landlady asked in his robotic voice.
Well, this one is not very polite, and quite frankly, he is freaking me out a little bit, John thought about saying. He looks so long and pale and cold… And what the hell is he doing with his eyes, trying to read me up or something?
But what he really wanted was to get out of here. After all, the good thing about Companion Pet Shops is that it was more of a renting service than an actual purchase, and that he could exchange an unfitting Companion any time.
"No it's… fine; I'll give him a try," he answered.
"Very good, sir," the robots said as the G.E.H. smirked at him again as if all of this was but a huge joke (which it was, really). "Would you like to go to the dressing-room then?"
John considered the buttoned blanket his newly acquired Companion was wearing and realized he would have to buy him some set of clothes —which would probably be expensive, considering the place. The G.E.H. got up, and he was even taller this way.
"Erm, err… okay then", John said after a little cough. "Maybe… do you have a name, or some sort of thing like that?" He really did not know much about the G.E.H business, that was something one could only witness through the Big Dramas of TV Nights.
"Call me Sherlock," the Companion answered. "And I'll call you John. The dressing-room is that way." He dashed towards it without any kind of regards for John, who started to reconsider looking up his other choices.
"Is he always like that?" he asked the robot Landlady which was floating by his side.
"All our Genetically Enhanced Humans are engineered to fit our costumers' needs and pleasure", the little droid said.
"Yes, I know— I asked is he, if Sherlock, if that's even a name, was always like that."
"All our Genetically Enhanced Humans are engineered to fit our costumers' needs and pleasure."
"Right," John sighed. "Fine."
The Companion was already dressed up when they entered the room, in a purple, very tight shirt and a pair of black pants. He looked at John as he entered and hurried him in by a gesture of his hand. "I am good to go, now; let's get you the access code to my chip and get out of here."
"Hang on!" John protested as Sherlock was already pulling him out by the arm. "Those clothes are not free, you know, and they are quite expensive; I would like to check on them first—"
"I took the cheapest ones," Sherlock said with a bit of impatience. "They'll cost you forty-two FcPounds —now stop that and follow me outside."
"I a NOT following your orders!" John shouted angrily while having him let go of his hand. "And you are letting me handle this, this is my money we are talking about, and we need it to pay the rent."
But as it turned out, Sherlock had picked up the cheapest set of clothes. John turned back to him, feeling a bit guilty about his previous outburst and really tired now of the whole Companion Pet thing, almost wishing he had never gotten hand on that damn voucher in the first place. He had expected the Companion to be smirking mockingly at him as before, but Sherlock seemed merely annoyed. "All right," John said in a kind of apologetic manner, "You were right, I'm sorry. We should get out of here now."
For an instant Sherlock had looked at him with surprise, probably not used to being apologized to, but his face quickly regained an expression of annoyed boredom. "Yes, we should," he said a bit dryly. "This place in unbelievably dull."
At the desk in the hall, a huge Andersonian robot registered John's order by scanning the Companion's chip. He then sent the information to John's own chip, which in turn sent it to the Screen-Wall. Apparently, Sherlock had already belonged to a number of owners, and never for long.
"He's a bit difficult, this one," John said jokingly in an attempt to relieve his sense of impending doom.
"All our Genetically Enhanced Humans are engineered to fit our costumers' needs and pleasure," the Andersonian robot answered.
"Right," John sighed.
"Also," the robot added, "I like dinosaurs."
"Err… right, excuse me, what?"
"It's a bug," Sherlock said from behind him. "I bugged it. It's annoying."
"You… How in earth could you bug a droid?" John asked, astonished.
"I opened it, got access to its program, and bugged it. I was bored."
He certainly looked bored right now.
"But you're… I thought Companions had to remain in some place safe, or something of the sort, like, I don't know… a storage unit?"
"Yes, well, that's boring too," Sherlock sighed. "And robots are stupid. More often than never, a few lines of programming are the key to flying free."
All right, this Companion business was getting really, really weird.
"I hope you won't do that to the droids at home, we need them for… well, everything."
A quick look at Sherlock confirmed what he had dreaded: that the latter was, in fact, considering the idea. "I said don't," John reminded him.
"I heard you," the Companion answered.
Somehow, that did not sound reassuring at all. Still, John could not help but feel slightly amused. "Alright then, if you wreck anything, I'll have you do the chores."
Sherlock frowned, which made John smirk. "We're good to go, I believe," he said happily, glad to have won up on him.
"Purchasing at Pets For All was a very good idea, sir," said the Andersonian robot in its robot voice. "You are a very clever man. You will be very happy with your purchase. We are waiting to hear from you very soon again."
"Yes, yes, right, you can count on that, I'll be back," John answered to dismiss it quickly (commercial droids could get viciously flattering if you did not tell them how much you wanted to spend your money at they store). "Sherlock, let's go."
"At last!" Sherlock exclaimed, jumping in joy first, and then out of the store.
"Also, dinosaurs are saucy," the droid said as a manner of goodbye as they exited.
John felt joyful. Light, almost happy.
Yes, purchasing a Companion had been a crazy idea, and he would have to be extra careful with his electronic wallet (maybe extra, extra careful around Sherlock even), but overall, this had been a good day. He had even talked and smiled a little, which was so unusual his mouth seemed to actually hurt a tiny bit.
The Companion was walking by his side, glancing at everything and, well… everything, as apparently the city was filled with more robots and droids than actual humans beings. Some of them tried to lure them in their shops as their passed by them: "You are very handsome sir. Buy us some perfume"; "Ladies will love you more sir, if you buy those chocolates", "You have to get this cushion, no-one should be allowed to live without such a wonderful cushion, especially not such an clever and good looking person as you who should be allowed to sleep on this cushion."
Suddenly John felt a bit of a tremor in his chip, a tinkling feeling under his skin. He looked around and noticed that Sherlock had stopped at a shop; the tremor indicated that he had reached the maximum distance he was allowed to distance himself from John and had been electrically shocked.
He did not look very happy about it, but neither was John.
"The maximum distance is still set on standard parameters," John told him while arriving by his side. "You shouldn't get too far away from me at the moment. Why would you stop at a shop anyway?"
He looked at it and noticed that a man was standing inside. His own chip instantly transferred information to the Screen-Wall of the shop, telling him that he was also a Companion.
"A friend of yours?" he asked Sherlock. "Well, I say friend…"
"He's called The Skull," Sherlock answered. "Very good listener, very attentive… But maybe because his owner had his tongue removed; quite and egocentric maniac, this one".
John licked his lips nervously. "That's… that's not a very good thing, I'd say. I didn't know owners could do that." He and Sherlock then exchanged a quick glance —"I won't do that to you, if you're wondering," John said, "nor any thing of this sort."
"I wouldn't let you," Sherlock mumbled, looking back at The Skull with a frown.
"He's not going out of the store, apparently," John said. "Maybe we could go on? I don't really want you to get shocked again—
That's when he noticed a scarf in the store window of the opposite shop that looked almost as blue as his Companion's eyes. Buying that would be quite silly, of course, and somewhat expensive, too, as they were still in the Quartier Des Affaires in the Elite district, but he couldn't help but go into the shop and purchase the thing anyway —and then wrap it himself around Sherlock's neck as if this had some sort of deeper meaning. Sherlock did not pay attention to it, he was now looking around and looking quite annoyed that he had to stay still for this.
"Are you quite happy now that you are dressing me like a doll?" he said suddenly, looking into John's eyes, and John felt again, rather silly.
He had always felt so alone.
LON.Dom. was such a big bi-planet resort, and no-one was even really talking anymore, but through cables and net wires and the such, only the Elite and the really wealthy ones had the money to actually throw parties and events where people would come together —or to buy Companions. And he had the chance, unique, to acquire one for himself, even though he would probably struggle to keep it, to both pay for their meals and succeed in paying the rent— but this had been such a crazy dream. Companions were not conceived to fill the holes in human relationships that had grown over the centuries, they were mainly workers, trained to obey, to comply, to lie in order to entertain, probably.
He wouldn't fill the dark hole of his loneliness.
He was going to cost him money —he already had— feed on his food and apparently misbehave, for he had apparently a fondness for rude and cold retorts. This has been such a crazy idea.
"Alright Sherlock, we're going home, now," he said while taking him by the arm; "it's probably not what you're used to, from the Elite city, but it'll still be home, and we'll make it work."
Sherlock looked at him, again, in surprise.
"I don't care if it's small and only has one bathroom which is also the toilets," he answered. "I don't care if the walls are too thin and that we can hear the neighbour's alarm clock go off too early in the morning. I don't even care that the dog pees in the entrance every day. I just want to get out. I don't want to stay indoors. And I won't. Do you hear me? Whatever perimeter limit you assign to my chip, I will find it, and I'll delete it. Now let's move on."
But John looked at him, startled. "How do you know all that?" he said.
"I'm clever, there are evidence of those facts spread all over you, I deduced it; let's go."
"That was amazing! I want to know how you guessed all that."
"I didn't…" Sherlock seemed slightly taken aback by his comment. "I didn't guess, John."
He didn't say it this way, but the way John heard it, he had said: "I didn't guess, John." And hearing somebody say his name felt plain amazing.
"Moving on!" Sherlock said while pulling him by the arm.
"You don't even know where I live!" John exclaimed, not sure if he was now incredibly happy or slightly exasperated.
"Of course I know. You're a second class citizen —recently arrived from planet Earth, I presume?— so you're confined to block number 2. You're apparently male, ("Apparently? Why apparently?" John protested) so there goes a second 2. Now, permissions, tricky one. You've been wounded in the recent bombing of the Afg Han vessel —if you hadn't arrived recently from Earth you'd be more used to our customs and would know what wearing this kind of jumper often implies you're an addict to the Scarlett Drug; and you couldn't have been on the Rak 1 vessel, because the traffic accident that got that one would have never left you wounded but dead —humans don't react too well to open space exposure. As the Afg Han mainly transported class 2 passengers I would have gone for another 2, then, but the fact that you openly use a cane with no fear of being bullied means your limp is not genetic and curable, which makes you a class 1 citizen. The rest is obvious —this is planet B of the Aker , so 221B-Aker Street it is. Did I get anything wrong?"
Baffled, John did not answer right away.
"That was… fantastic", he said. "Absolutely brilliant. Is that what G.E.H do, be impossibly clever all the time?"
"All G.E.H. don't do that, that's just me, I have a defect in conception", Sherlock answered looking slightly surprised.
"A defect in conception?" John snorted. "How could that ever be seen as a defect —that was amazing. It really, really was. So it's just you then, are you always saying things like that?"
"I… do," Sherlock answered slowly. "But people usually get pissed off at me."
John almost giggled. "Well, people are stupid."
Sherlock looked at him, almost emotionlessly, then took his arm again, gently. "Let's go", he said. "Home, to 221B".
"So this is the living-room," John said while looking at it as if he was discovering it himself, small, white, eminently impersonal, "and the eating-room too, actually."
"I can see that, John," Sherlock answered. "Even though you take your meals on the sofa, in front of the Screen-Wall, and not on the table that's facing the kitchen; that, you don't use much. Maybe you'll need another chair."
John looked at it, the only chair in the whole flat, pushed neatly against the small white table. "Yes, we might need one… no, wait, did you mean for me as in…" "As in you're taking it for yourself?" would have been the end of that sentence, but it did not need to be spoken out loud as Sherlock had already taken it as a sit and place of observation of the rest of the flat.
"Dull," he said. "One chair, one table, one sofa, all pointing at the Screen-Wall, and a kitchen almost as good as new as you only use the microwave-oven and the bin. I feel that I'll be having more fun jumping of a roof."
"Yes, well, this is my home" John said, "and it's yours too, at least if you learn how to behave a bit."
"Behaving is boring."
John smiled again, a little. The G.E.H. looked tall before, but now he simply looked plain huge as compared to the tininess of the flat; John saw him as a black leopard laying lazily on the chair of a small white hospital room. With the same, scrutinizing gaze.
"I insist," John said, "that you will have to be good. I don't have the kind of money to bear with a tantrum, so if you intent to be nasty, just tell me now and I'll bring you back to the store. If you don't want me to be your owner—
"I'll have some tea, now" Sherlock interrupted casually. "Milk, two sugars please, I'll be in the bedroom." He then got up and went straight to said room even though John had not told him yet which one of the two other doors lead to it, and closed behind him.
"O… kay," John said, a bit unsure of how to react. He had never owned any kind of pet before, and he really wasn't used to having people around, so he felt a bit at a lost, even though he had a hunch that Sherlock was playing him a little.
He nevertheless went in the kitchen to the beverage machine, probably his favorite piece of equipment in the whole flat. He cleared his throat a bit and told it, clear and loud, "one tea, one tea with milk and two sugars, please."
It really felt good to add something after the usual first order.
The H.K. unit flashed his very bright, white lights to show he had received the order and made it appear in red letters: "1 tea, + 1 tea + milk + 2 sugars, confirm?" "Confirmed, yes" John answered, a bit impatient at how slow the machine was.
A moment later, he was entering the bedroom with two cups of tea in hands, wondering if it should not have worked the other way around, really.
Sherlock was on the bed, typing on his computer, which was very odd as…
"It's password protected" John said.
Sherlock did not even bother to look back at him.
"Are you trying to figure out the password?"
John muzzled for a moment.
"You've already found out, have you?"
Sherlock smirked. John sighed, went to the little table near his bed and put both cups of tea on it.
"It's a personal computer Sherlock, I am not letting you use it. What would you even need it for?
From a glance at the screen, he understood what his Companion was up to.
"You need my personal chip code for modifying your permissions, Sherlock. You won't have me believe that you can guess that—" "I don't guess." "Alright, then, deduce it from the… arrangement of my flat or the fluffiness of my pillows."
"Pillows, yes, why two pillows?" Sherlock asked, "you never invite anyone to sleep over, and it was not intended for me— you would have thought of chairs before pillows, I believe."
"I happen to like… pillows" John said, bemused at how corny this sentence sounded. "Would you stop typing for a moment, you're not gonna guess— deduce my chip code."
"There!" Sherlock announced while typing the enter key dramatically. He then closed the laptop and got up to get his scarf, as if to go out.
"Careful!" John exclaimed when he heard the computer clapping closed. "It's an Anthea model, it didn't come cheap. Where are you going?"
"Out" Sherlock said as he finished to put on his scarf. "Are you coming?"
"Out? No, no way Sherlock, you couldn't have deduced my personal chip code, it's computer generated!"
"Couldn't I have?" Sherlock say in a annoyingly mocking tone.
"No, you possibly couldn't!" John said, while switching on his Anthea, then entering his password, then going to the G.E.H. website and identifying with his chip code to check on Sherlock's permissions.
He pressed the enter key and... the computer froze.
"Thank you very much for that" Sherlock said while swiftly taking the Anthea away from John and having a read at the long and complicated line of chip code that glowed on the frozen screen.
John jumped on the computer and clapped it close, but somehow knew Sherlock had already memorized the code —he sure looked very please with himself.
"The question is" the G.E.H. said, "will you now modify my permissions yourself or would you rather have us play it at cat and mouse? Needless to mention that I'll play the cat; you make a very suitable mouse."
"You exasperating… You're supposed to be my servant, not the other way around!"
Sherlock smirked. "I am more clever and sophisticated than you in every possible way— think again."
John fought back his glance for a moment, but could not help ending up eventually giggling at own impossibly ridiculous the whole situation was; Sherlock seemed surprised at first, but rather quickly joined him in laugh.
"You are amazingly annoying, you know that" John smiled while opening again his rather abused computer. "Come here, we're going to run through your permissions together."
"No need to" Sherlock said, "just check the "all permissions granted" box, and let's go out of here."
"No, no way Sherlock, you're not getting "all permissions granted"—
John looked at him and sighed.
"I did not buy you to run away like some hobo stray cat, but to stay home, here, with me, at B-Aker Street."
"You didn't buy me, you wouldn't have the money for that —you are still using a laptop by alls means, so you got me from a voucher, a "free, first price G.E.H. Companion voucher", and one that you did not even ask for —probably a gift from a self-promoting firm, or more likely from a relative, this Harry person maybe? who had gotten it quite by mistake in the first place, I believe."
"Yes, wait, hang on— How—"
"Obvious" Sherlock stated.
"All right, okay" John said. "Fine. This is not the point, the point is, you are not being granted all permissions."
Sherlock looked cross.
"I want to go out, John, I need to— how can ordinary people not understand that? My brain rots when it's imprisoned, and your little apartment, as charming as you think it is, does not look like a palace for the mind to me."
"You'll be going out" John said, "Only you'll be going out with me. The point of a Companion is for him to stay by your side, and not take off like you'd like to do or rather simply disappear into thin air. I am not letting you do that. I might, however, give you some liberty to wander around, as long as you don't stay out at night and always come back to me."
Sherlock was frowning, or rather yet, sulking.
"I will be getting my hands on that Anthea or some kind of wired device somehow."
"So why not cut through the chase and grant me all permissions right now?"
John sighed. He had only gotten his Companion, and the latter already wanted to leave him.
"Here's what we're gonna do" he said. "We're first going to drink our tea, because it's growing cold, and then we'll go out, to whenever the hell you so desperately want to be— and that I can afford."
Sherlock was still frowning, but at least he had apparently stopped sulking and came to sit by John's side on the bed.
"All right" he said. "Let's drink our tea. Then we can think about something more… recreational."
He handed John his cup of beverage, then took his own and started to sip it quietly. John did not knew him well (well, not at all), but it still seemed to him Sherlock was being suspiciously nice.
"John?" the G.E.H. asked in a casual and almost polite kind of way. "May I ask you something?"
"Maybe" John answered cautiously, ever so slightly moving in front of the Anthea laptop as if to protect it.
"What are your views on the… physical aspect of owning a Companion?"
Taken aback by the question, John nervously licked his lips, and again once more when Sherlock glanced at him almost suggestively, while adding in a very quiet voice: "That could be entertaining."
"Are you planning to seduce me, handcuff me to the bed, then steal my computer and grant yourself all permissions?" John couldn't help laughing. "Do think I am that stupid?"
"Always worth a try" Sherlock casually answered before finishing what was left of his tea. "So you do have handcuffs then? Kinda kinky."
Now he was smiling too, and John patted his shoulder in amusement. "Yes, and I am afraid I will be using them on you if you ever try to run away, so be a nice Companion and do nicely what I say."
"And what would that be?" Sherlock asked in a half-mocking, maybe half-intrigued kind of way.
"We are now going out."
"Brilliant!" Sherlock exclaimed while jumping on his feet. "Let's go to the docks, I have a visit to pay."
"To whom?" John asked while getting his jacket. "Another Skull person?"
"Oh no, it's sort of an old friend, an G.E.H. on the lose, defective in conception, just like me."
"Right" John said, "Sherlock, err, don't call yourself defective around me, okay? I really don't think you are, even if you're a little… eccentric at time as compared to other humans —but then again, you are a G.E.H."
"My first owner always called me a freak" Sherlock replied. "But she was very average, just a little mean eight years old kid like the whole of them."
"Eight, right. When was that?"
"I was five myself, if that is your question."
"Yes, yes it was —you started young, then."
"Well, you know, life of a G.E.H."
They had walked out to the Street and gotten into a jet-cab to the docks, as walking there would have taken them days.
"Sir Boast-a-lot thinks that coconut migrates" the radio mused while they where on the way. "But brave, brave sir Robin thinks he's high on spotted pills."
"No change in radio programs" John sighed. "Always sound stupid, always."
Sherlock was looking by the window.
"Don't get too far away from me while we're out" John reminded him. "If you show me you can do that, I'll change your permission and give you a wider range of action."
Sherlock did not answer.
"So, how did you know?" John asked. "About Harry?"
"First name on your laptops' contact list" Sherlock said without looking at him. "Last name's Watson. Date of birth says brother or sister, maybe cousin but that's your only "Watson" contact so you're unlikely to have a close extended family. I assume she's a Scarlett Drug addict which you disapprove of by the fact that your agenda showed eleven calls left unanswered by you and because you're wearing this kind of jumper —you're not an addict, I would've noticed, so it was a gift, and you wouldn't have accepted it from anyone but family—people do, tradition— so she gave it to you."
"Harry's a boy's name" John said. "He's my brother."
"Not among the Elite. Damn, I missed that; there's always…"
"Still very impressive" John said. "Fantastic, really."
"Do you think so?"
"Oh, yes! Yes, absolutely. Is that where you wanted us to stop? We're on the docks all right, but maybe not on the right side of Thames Road."
John sighed in relief. Crossing the stream to the other half of the planet charged extra, for Thames Road was crowed with jet-cars and even spaceships.
"This way!" Sherlock exclaimed as he was already dashing out to a flower shop on their right.
"Sherlock, wait—" Too late, John had not been quick enough to catch up with him and Sherlock had received the usual electric shock.
"Run faster!" the G.E.H. shouted angrily at him while scratching his chest, from where the shock had originated.
"Sorry, I'm sorry Sherlock, but you should wait for me, you know, this jet-cab had a driver, so I had to pay manually."
"Right, give me your hand" Sherlock said while grabbing him by the wrist to pull him along.
"Lovely flowers for a handsome date" offered the flower-selling droid from the shop.
"I'm not his date" Sherlock said, already about to jump under a jet-car to cross the road.
"Oh, Molly, wait!" John seized Sherlock by the arm to stop his running. "That my neighbour, Molly, wait for a moment, I'm going to say hi."
Sherlock sighed but followed him towards the flower shop where a young woman was looking at chrystanthemum.
"Hum, err, hello" John said, "I'm John, John Watson, from 221B, we live in the same building —or at least I think so, I've seen your face appear quite a few times on the Screen-Walls from when you where opening doors."
Molly smiled nicely. "Yes, I recognize you, I've seen your face too, a couple times, it's John, is it?"
"Oh for God' sake!" Sherlock exclaimed. "You live in the same building, just agree to meet tomorrow at four fifteen, after your respective dental appointment and usual cup of tea for John! We're going now. It was nice to meet you, Miss Molly Glen Hooper" he added with a hypocritical smile while dragging a very disturbed John along across the street.
"What was that?" John shouted once they were on the other side of the road. "I, for once, was meeting someone nice, a real girl, from my building, and you—"
"Boring!" Sherlock exclaimed casually. "Now, it's this way John, be careful not to step on the ducks."
Indeed, John got interrupted in his shouting by a dozen ducks walking by his feet, and then by a great deal of running in the streets with Sherlock, who had again grabbed him by the arm.
"Where — are we — going?" John shouted, trying to catch his breath as Sherlock had suddenly stopped running.
Without answering, Sherlock knocked at a green door, which a grey-haired man answered to. Oddly enough, he was wearing a white chemist shirt and holding a riding crop.
"Yes? Oh, Sherlock it's you."
The man glanced at John, then back to the G.E.H.
"I see you've got another one."
"Since this morning."
"I hope he's being nice."
"He's doing fine."
"Fine by your standards? Impressive I might say."
"I am, standing, right here!" John exclaimed, still catching his breath.
"I need to know where he is, Lestrade" Sherlock said to the man. "It's your division after all."
"Honey, you should see him in a crowd" Lestrade answered. "But yes, I know, or at least, I know who can find him."
"Go to Rachel Street, at the Lady In Pink pub, and ask for their G.E.H. Be wary of their hound though, it's huge."
"What?—" John said, but Sherlock had already grabbed back his hand.
"Oh, Sherlock" Lestrade asked.
Sherlock turned back to him.
"Should I tell Mycroft?"
"Mycroft already knows" Sherlock said, while pulling John along.
"Who's Mycroft?" John asked as they hurried pass the corner of the street. "Why do we have to run?"
"Mycroft is a Holmes, like me" Sherlock answered, "Only he's not a failed model and belongs —well, rather owns, a prime minister. And we don't have to run, I just like things being done swiftly. Here! That's the pink lady's bar."
"Do you even know who you are looking for?" John asked as Sherlock pushed him inside the pub. "A G.E.H. is not easy to spot on."
His eyes fall on the meals people around us were apparently enjoying and suddenly realized he had a serious case of the munchies.
"Let's have diner" he said.
"I'm not hungry. Waiter, here! I want to see your G.E.H."
The waiter, a droid which head was covered with a deerstalker, looked at Sherlock in a very robot condescending kind of way.
"You do not have permission to order me, sir. Your command is invalid."
Sherlock cursed and frowned in frustration, then looked at John.
"Fine" John said. "But we are eating first."
Sherlock sulked the whole time John took to eat (he had childishly refused to have anything himself), then started tapping impatiently with his fingers on the table.
"I will ask for the G.E.H. Sherlock, why can't you just take some time to enjoy a good meal?"
"I am not eating anything."
"Well, you said you wouldn't. Would you like something now?"
John sighed, and made a gesture to call the nearest droid.
"How can I be of service, sir?" the waiter asked. He was also wearing a deerstalker; that was probably some kind of uniform in that pub.
"I would like to talk to your G.E.H." John said.
"Droids do not own property, sir" the droid answered, and Sherlock sighed.
"Tell him you want to see the G.E.H. of this establishment" he said impatiently. "Have you never spoken to a droid before?"
John rolled his eyes in exasperation and asked the droid what his Companion had said.
"I will call her immediately, sir" the waiter said, then it turned its robot back to them to go do some other waiter-robot stuff.
"You know, you don't have to be such an arrogant prick all the time" John told his Companion. "I don't exactly enjoy you talking to me like that."
"That doesn't alarm me" Sherlock answered while rising his eyebrows. "Ah, there she is" he added, while watching a woman with beautiful and insanely long dark hair approach them with a smile. As an employee of the Lady In Pink, she was also wearing a deerstalker, but was dressed in battle cloths.
"What can I do for you, sir?" she asked John —she had previously briefly glanced at Sherlock, with some sort of recognition for their shared status in her crystal blue eyes.
"Well" John started, "I suppose you can answer to my Companion's questioning without getting offended by his extremely low ability to behave in a socially approved kind of way."
Sherlock stared at him in annoyance, and John could not help smirking.
"Oh" the woman said with a smile of her blood shaded lips, "having a little domestic?"
"Well, he is being very naughty" John answered, amazed at how amusing it felt to tease Sherlock and see him frown.
"Lestrade said you know where Jim is" Sherlock said, still frowning.
"Oh, looking for trouble, apparently" the woman said. "What a great game to play."
"Indeed" Sherlock answered. "Where is he?"
"Last time I heard of him, he was walking by Bluebell Street, dealing Black Lotus with the B-Askervilles."
"Hang on" John interrupted her. "Black Lotus is a drug —you are looking for a drug dealer— a drug dealer that frequents the B-Askervilles gang?"
Sherlock looked at him attentively.
"Well yes, John, I somehow tend to do that, has I have chosen this as my job —running after criminals on the lose by being a detective…"
"Your job as a Companion is to stay by my side!"
"No, my job as a Companion is to die of boredom; this is far more exciting."
"Well, you are certainly not leaving me to run after some sort of criminal from the B-Askervilles. I am not granting you permission to run alone on the streets, and that's final!" John exclaimed with a wide gesture of his hand, accidentally splashing the left-overs of his yellow curry rice into the eyes of an unfortunate banker and his lovely wife. "Sorry, I am so sorry, I'll help you out with that…"
"It's all right, I'll do it" said the G.E.H. woman; she then bit into a piece of white napkin and took another one in hand to take care of the mess.
John stroke his forehead with his hand, half covering it in shame. Sherlock took his other hand over the table, in what John mistook a moment for a comforting gesture; but then he noticed Sherlock had actually gone for his wrist.
"When did I say I would go there alone?" he whispered, then grabbed John's wrist firmly and pulled him out of the pub. "Bluebell Street is this way!" he exclaimed while pointing at they right dramatically. "Let's go John!"
They rush pass the Itive bank, a monumental blue box-shaped building adorned with the gigantic logo of the famous FcPound provider, a vertical line inside a circle inside the bottom half of another circle. They pass by the infamous white fountains of the Virgin and the Ice Queen by R. Brook, trip over a homeless person who was entertaining himself by crafting little men out of mud, make a large detour to avoid a reporter fangirling all over the news of yet another James Bond film being aired.
Suddenly, they are at Bluebell Street, a dark, covered alley only lightened by greenish glowing neons.
Sherlock looks around, but does not seem satisfied.
"I didn't think he'd be there, that would not be like him at all" he says.
"That Jim dealer?" John asks. "Sherlock, I don't want you to go into this kind of danger."
"Danger? Ah, John, but danger is exciting!"
"Yes" John whispers, "that's what I believed."
Sherlock grips harder his wrist and have him follow him into one of the building of the alley, then going up a emergency staircase, spiraling over the city. Where the stairs ends, they are on a roof with the sun in their eyes.
"Reichenbach Hospital, what a marvelous place!" a man exclaims grandiosely from behind them.
John turns around to look at him and notices first a top hat, then a very classy suit, and eventually that the man is carrying around a long, black umbrella that he uses as a cane.
"Sherlock, how I've missed you" the man says with a smile. "But can you really run away from me?"
"Successfully" Sherlock says.
"And yet, here you have come back again, to me. Who is that doofus tagging along?"
"Well, that was... very rude" John says. "Do you always welcome strangers with such amiable words?"
"Only the average ones" the man answers. "And you, my boy, are very average."
"John's my new owner" Sherlock says.
For a moment John had thought he was standing in his defense, but the man's reaction proves him wrong —he looks at Sherlock as if startled, then begins to laugh.
"Ah, Sherly, Sherly, is that why your chip had stopped showing on my little chessboard? Because you'd hacked the system and had it made believe that you weren't mine anymore? But dear, here you are, still, on the roof of my building."
"What does he mean" John asks, trying actually to not understand. "What does that mean, Sherlock? Who is that person?"
"Professor Jim Moriarty" the man answers in a theatrical tone. "The one, the only, the unique and ultimate owner of our dear Sherlock Holmes. Has he not told you about me?"
"Moriarty" John repeats, "Professor Jim Moriarty… Sherlock, hang on… Sherlock, is that… is he your previous owner? Why have you taken me to your previous owner, Sherlock?"
"Oh no no no no NO" the top hat man says, "don't be like that, Johnny boy! This is but a regular game of chess, where you are merely a peon, expendable, as always."
"Our very own game of destruction" Sherlock whispers for himself. "I am serious now, Jim" he says in a louder tone, "John is my companion, and I have come to say, don't include him in our little games of chess play."
This isn't right, John thinks. We shouldn't be here, we should get out of this place. He can already feel sinking in the dread of impending doom.
"A companion?" Jim repeats mockingly, "but Sherlock, dear, you have no friends! Alone protects you, and me, and the likes of us, everywhere. It protects us from people like him!" he adds by pointing at John with the tip of his umbrella. "Those tiny little mediocre people that need us to survive through the Great Boredom, the likes of him, Sherlock."
"I'd rather be with him, now" Sherlock says nonetheless.
"And yet you've come to me."
John is shaking his head in disbelief. "We have to go, Sherlock" he says. "I don't want to stay here, this man is dangerous."
"This man is insane" Sherlock replies with bitterness.
"This man is a genius!" Jim exclaims. "A brilliant, madly brilliant genius, and you know it Sherlock, and that's why you've come to me."
"He's not going back to you" John says, suddenly standing for himself. "He's with me, now, and even though I'm not brilliant like you two, I still know better, because I care."
Sherlock turns back is oh so blue eyes to him, and John realizes how true his words just were, and how much he does cares.
"Oh, bravery!" Jim laughs. "He's only known you for what, the likes of a few hours? While he's wanted me all his life."
"I'm not playing anymore" Sherlock says. "You're insane, there is nothing I want from you."
"And yet, you came!" Jim sing-songs loudly.
John steps forwards, reaches Sherlock to take his arm. "This is nonsense, we should go."
"Ah, the frailty!…" Jim says. "He needs an audience, you know that, John. And I am the best one that can be. Here, Sherlock, come, look at that." He taps the tip of his umbrella against the edge of the roof, where he stands. People in the street, passing by unknowingly…"
He is only a few feet away, and Sherlock joins him there rather quickly. "Don't—" John whispers.
He knows it is too late already.
"Why did you go to this man?" John asks softly.
Jim turns his head to look at him: "Because he knows I'm better. I'm more fun, I'm exciting! People like you, they create us for entertainment, and then they die, because that's what people do. But we don't die, not really, and we're left to live on alone, towards infinity, with no-one left to understand our genius. You want us to entertain you, you want us to be better, and stronger, and yet, when you see us wandering in the streets you throw us stones, scorn and insults! Well then, who's feeling hurt now, of you and me, Johnny boy?"
John is feeling hurt. But when he looks at Sherlock he does not see a freak, he does not see someone to be scared of, or to despise, not a G.E.H., or a figment of human's imagination; he just sees Sherlock.
"I don't want you to go" he says, and Sherlock looks at him. He does not look moved, or shocked, or anything, but still he is going to step back, away from the edge of the roof, to John, and Moriarty sees that.
"Oops, too late, Johnny boy!" he exclaims, and with that, he grabs Sherlock with the hook of his umbrella and pulls him with himself over the edge of the roof —John is running, but too late, his hand stretching and reaching hopelessly for his, catching a last glimpse of the glass-blue colour of those eyes, and even though the one who has gotten over the edge of St Bart is Sherlock, he feels like he is the one falling, and then…
He wakes up.
The room is dark, but for the first rays of sun piercing through the blinds. He can hear his clock ticking, ticking, ticking, and Mrs Hudson downstairs, trotting gently in the kitchen at that early hour as she often does.
His room is cold, and silent but for those noises, familiar and usual, almost painfully real.
He suddenly rises up and grabbing his cane goes through his room to the corridor, as if running away from it, from its silence, and his dream.
"John? Are you up yet?" Mrs Hudson asks from the bottom of the stairs. "There is a man at the door who wants to see you. And I've made tea, with biscuits, if you want some."
Oh, sod off the tea, he'll have a beer. He rises his head, catches a glimpse of himself in the mirror hanging on the wall, the looks of a man tired and unshaved that just got out of a painful, nonsensical nightmare. Not the looks of a doctor, or of an ex-soldier, not even the looks of a man about to get happily married to a lovely woman as soon as they'll set a date and place for the wedding —no, none of those.
John Watson doesn't look like John Watson anymore.
"There is a man waiting downstairs," Mrs Hudson reminds him, "a librarian; he says he's found something that belongs to you!"
My soul? John thinks. An actual reason for making the ridiculously tedious effort of waking up every morning?
"What library, I didn't—"
He sighs and grips his cane and starts going down the stairs, mumbling incoherently about misplaced librarians and still, he is lost in a world of remembrance.
For it's been years now, three bloody years, but he is still waiting, hoping every second of every minute of every single day -still hoping for a miracle, still waiting for him- please don't be dead, Sherlock, please do this for me, Sherlock, just a miracle, just this once, one ultimate magic trick on your part —and waking up every morning with this single, illogical, maddening wish that gets him through the dullness of the day
—that he's not dead
—that he'll come home
—that the reason he still gets up and gets dressed is because he knows, he simply knows, that this is not over, and that he had gotten up this one morning, as always, because as always he is, in fact, getting himself ready for the return of Sherlock Holmes.