Chapter 1: New Arrivals
Disconcerted, dizzy and barely breathing- that’s how Benedict awoke- feeling like his lungs were on fire and his vision blurred as he whirled precariously on his feet seeing stars. He fell to his knees heaving desperately and was vaguely aware that his hand rested on something warm and alive. He closed his eyes and let himself collapse without a care as to what he was collapsing upon. After what felt like hours of agonizing dizziness and nausea, Benedict finally was able to recognize the voice groaning from under him. It was none other than Martin. He blinked quickly and pushed himself onto his knees holding a steady hand on what he believed was Martin’s shoulder.
“Martin- Alright?” He managed to say.
A string of curses came first and then a hand reached up gripping his shoulder for support and Martin pulled himself into sitting position.
“What in the bloody hell just happened…?”
The world had stopped spinning now and Benedict could feel the dizziness ebbing away leaving a dull throbbing headache in its wake. He looked around to find that he was on the Sherlock set. Bewildered, he closed his eyes, shook his head vigorously and opened them again. Sure enough, he wasn’t seeing things.
“I haven’t the foggiest, but I have theories.”
Martin looked up at him skeptically. “Theories for how we went from being in our respective beds in our respective homes to here?”
Benedict met Martin’s gaze and heaved a sigh. “I never said they were good ones.”
Rising to his feet, Benedict offered Martin a hand up and the two men stood in the middle of the room patting the dust off themselves; Martin was in his boxers and Benedict in a housecoat. The two looked sideways at each other and couldn’t help chuckling. At length, the men grew serious and Martin spoke first.
“If this is Mark and Steven’s idea of a joke-“
Benedict was quiet as he surveyed the space around them. “I don’t think it is…”
“Then how the hell did we get here?”
“My guess is as good as yours, but take a look. Doesn’t something seem different to you?”
Martin looked around, and now that Benedict had pointed it out, he couldn’t help but notice that the set of 221B Baker Street looked less like a set and more like the very lived-in home of two bachelors. There was a scent of Chinese take-out still in the air along with the unexpected and unnerving stench of formaldehyde. There was a lab set up in the kitchen, boxes of books stacked in the living room and papers strewn across the desks and floors.
“Did the set look like this yesterday?” Martin asked.
Benedict shook his head. “Not that I remember, and if memory serves me right, I’m fairly certain that there was nothing in the script about any of this either.”
Martin shifted his weight from one foot to the other uncomfortably. “Let’s just call a cab and go home, Ben.”
“Of course,” Benedict agreed without looking at Martin, but couldn’t help his curiosity as he took silent steps toward the door that led to Sherlock’s bedroom. “I wont be long, I’m just checking something…”
Benedict reached for the handle, turned it slowly and pushed the door open. The lights were off and all was ominously still. He took a step inside seeking the light switch on the wall blindly with his hand. Soon he brushed the switch and the lamp next to the doorway flickered to life just as a shadow descended on him in a flurry. Benedict felt an arm lock around his neck and a strong hand press against the back of his head. He choked against the pressure on his neck and clawed at the arm desperately. Using all the force he could muster, he kicked back on the floor driving himself and his attacker against the wall with a bang. He felt the arm loosen just a fraction and he elbowed the brute in the ribs. The arm came away from his neck and he jumped forward spinning round to face his attacker. He stopped dead when he saw his own face staring back at him with mouth agape and the shock of pain straining his features.
“Benedict.” Martin’s voice was level. Benedict turned to see his friend with a gun pointed at his head. Perplexed, he observed that the man holding the gun to Martin’s head was Martin. It was almost comical to see Martin in boxers with Martin in boxers and a white shirt holding a gun to Martin’s head. Briefly acknowledging how confusing that had all sounded in his own mind, he quickly reminded himself to focus on the problem at hand. A gun. Pointed at Martin’s head. By Martin. And there he was off on another tangent.
It wasn’t long before his train of thought was once again snapped into focus however; Benedict’s own double was rising slowly to his feet, supporting his weight on the wall while clutching his ribs. He watched transfixed as the angles of his own face contorted out of pain and into a smug smirk.
“Oh clever, clever. Moriarty really outdid himself this time.”
Benedict quirked a brow in response.
“Send doubles to take our place while he takes us captive to play his games? Yes, I can see it now.” Benedict’s eyes widened as everything started clicking into place. This was his representation of Sherlock, except in this case it was not him reciting memorized dialogue. No, this man standing before him believed he was Sherlock, indeed he seemed to be Sherlock Holmes.
Suddenly the smug expression on Sherlock’s face slackened. His rapid-fire monologue came to a sudden stop mid-sentence. “No- There’s something wrong. Your expression is all wrong. You’re in shock- in awe? Yes. Awe. Not the response you’d have if you were here to kidnap us. No, you’re just realizing something. What? What is it?” Although Benedict was intimately familiar with this character, he was not prepared for the sudden invasion of his personal space as Sherlock’s face was suddenly inches from his own, his silver eyes boring deep into what felt like the depths of his soul. Benedict held his breath. This may be his face, but he was not used to seeing his own eyes watching himself with such intensity. He knew he was being laid open; he felt Sherlock’s gaze dissecting him and sizing him up.
“Your housecoat suggests you weren’t prepared when you found yourself here- a surprise then. Furthermore, you’re obviously in shock. You have my face but no visible signs of surgery- though these could easily be concealed by your hairline. Though your hair has obviously been dyed to match my own shade, but why?” Sherlock suddenly lapsed into silence and circled Benedict once before huffing and storming out of the room. Benedict followed him with his eyes and glanced in Martin’s direction to find that the gun was still trained at his temple. He was silent as the grave.
“Put it down, John.”
“They’re not here to kill us.”
“I don’t know. I said put it down.”
John dropped the gun to his side. Martin exhaled and Benedict was quickly at his side.
Martin gave him a withering look and he took it as a good sign.
The John Watson version of Martin stood at attention watching the intruders vigilantly; ready to shoot at the sign of sudden movement. Benedict held his hands up peaceably. “I assure you we’re just as confused as you are.”
Sherlock had moved from the kitchen to one of the living room chairs and was now sitting in it like a gargoyle, crouching on the cushion, his fingers steepled under his chin. His eyes were glowing in the dimly lit room. Martin and Benedict could almost see the information being processed by his computer of a brain: analyzing the information, disposing of hundreds of dead-end theories, reassessing, factoring the odds of improbability and impossibility and finally ending with his brows furrowing violently, his eyes shut tight and his teeth grinding in frustration.
“Nothing makes sense!” Suddenly he sprung up from his chair and circled the two men again, poking and prodding-neither dared to protest lest John Watson raise his gun again.
“There’s not a scratch or scar on you to suggest surgery. Your faces… Have never been altered.”
Martin finally had reached the end of his wits and he shouted. “Bloody well right this is my bloody face, and what I’d like to know is what the fuck is it doing on another bloke?!”
Benedict watched John Watson warily to see if his finger had tensed on the trigger at all, but much to his relief the man had remained stonily in position.
Benedict looked up to see his face-Sherlock’s face-with his mouth agape and eyes wide.
“You think we’re the impostors.” He rumbled slowly. Dangerously. The genuine frustration in the tones of John’s doppelganger were steamrolling all of Sherlock’s deductions into the ground- every turn he took in his maze of logic, every piece of information the intruders offered left him with nothing to reasonably explain their intentions or the reason for their being in 221B Baker street. They obviously weren’t working for Moriarty, or now that he thought of it, even Mycroft might attempt a heist of this sort- produce exact doubles of Sherlock and John to take act on the surface while they went undercover to expose and sabotage Moriarty. It would have been perfect, but these men wouldn’t have any reason to arrive at the ungodly hours of the morning were that the case. Let alone wearing nothing but night clothes.
Benedict cleared his throat and spoke at last. “Yes, well- I think this is probably a dream.” He concluded simply.
Sherlock blanched. “A dream?”
Benedict, feeling confident now, stood straight and started to explain. “I’m face to face with my version of Sherlock Holmes- Martin is with me and face to face with his version of Doctor John Watson. I’m fairly sure this can be nothing more than a dream.” Feeling giddy he added, “It’s actually quite thrilling to be able to meet you like this.” He held out his hand in spite of himself. “I’m Benedict. I suppose you could call me the other you when you’re not Sherlock.”
Sherlock, if only out of morbid curiosity, took his doppelganger’s hand and shook briefly before letting go with a shudder. He didn’t know how to feel about the genuine smile spreading across his features-on a face that wasn’t his looking back at him from a mirror. He wondered how he could ever not be Sherlock and suddenly his mind kick started once more, delving into more unlikely deductions. Feeling the hand of his double confirmed that this body standing before him was exactly his body- inch for inch, cell for cell. Sherlock was silent as he contemplated the impossible.
Martin had turned to his own doppelganger now. “Seeing as I’m dreaming, I guess I may as well…” He looked at himself, not himself- John Watson- and smirked. “Well, I can scratch this off my bucket list. Always did want to meet myself face to face, though back then I’d said I’d kiss myself. Much as I like you, mate, I don’t think I want to kiss you now I’m here.”
John gave Martin a bewildered look and stepped back holding up a hand. “I have a gun, remember?”
Martin laughed. “Easy. I’m not coming anywhere near.”
Sherlock sidled up to John, the latter turning his head to look at the detective. “So we’re dreaming?”
Sherlock shook his head. “John,” he paused, his eyes staring blindly up at the ceiling. “I really don’t know.”
Chapter 2: Dream or Reality?
Martin and Benedict sat together on the old couch in the living room while Sherlock and John took the two armchairs across from them. Everyone in the room was fairly relaxed, except of course Sherlock. The sleuth was leaning forward in his seat, his hands clasped and his eyes trained on the recently arrived doppelgangers. Benedict and Martin couldn’t help shrinking under the scrutiny.
“It was bad enough having you look at me like that when you were playing his part.” Martin muttered to Benedict. The taller man glanced sidelong at him with understanding eyes.
“Playing my part?” Sherlock demanded.
Benedict met the gaze of the detective holding his composure as best he could.
“Yes. I’m an actor and I’ve been playing the part of Sherlock Holmes. I’ve been playing you, to be exact.”
John made the connection right away. “And you’ve been playing me, then?” He asked Martin and the latter gave a nod.
“Impossible.” Sherlock said dismissively, but his gaze was still intently upon the men before him.
“I’m not arguing with you.” Benedict said simply with a small shrug. He leaned back into the couch and rested his right ankle on his left knee.
Benedict lifted a brow. “Prove that I’m not arguing with you…?”
“No,” the detective cried in exasperation, “prove that you can be me. Act like me. Be me.”
Benedict thought for a moment. He knew he wouldn’t be able to come up with an elaborate monologue without Mark writing it out for him, so he resorted to the first monologue he could think would be of any help.
“John, would you mind letting me see your phone?” He said leaning forward and uncrossing his legs.
John paused for a moment, but when he looked at this man he couldn’t help but feel the congeniality coming off of him. Sherlock’s double was his opposite. He was charming and friendly.
“It’s in my room. I’ll only be a moment.”
He rose to his feet and padded over to the stairs and up out of sight. Minutes later he was back with the phone and he handed it to Benedict before sitting back down.
“Right-Give me a few minutes?” He directed the question at Sherlock.
“Fine.” Shot the detective and steepled his fingers under his chin once more watching Benedict all the while.
The actor rose from the couch and stood in the middle of the floor with his eyes closed a moment. His lips moved but no words were heard. Martin knew he was going over lines that he had memorized and recited long enough ago that it would be difficult to summon them all back, but if anyone could do it, Benedict could.
Five minutes passed before he opened his eyes again, turning to face Sherlock. “Right, I think I’ve got most of it,” he said with a sheepish smile, “it’s been a while, you have to understand.”
Sherlock remained impassive, silent as the grave. This unnerved Benedict, but he straightened and turned his eyes to John. “Uh, John, would you mind working with me in this? All I need is for you to react to what I’m saying the way you’d react to Sherlock. I think it should feel natural to you even though I’ll be the one saying the lines…” He gave John a look that was slightly apologetic, but hopeful. Once again John found himself unable to deny the man his request due to his sheer transparency. He too rose from his seat and joined the man in the middle of the room.
“Right- here goes. This might be a little shocking, but I’m about to recite lines you’ve already heard from Sherlock, and if all goes well, it should be nearly word for word. I’ll be taking some liberties to accommodate our current situation.”
John nodded his consent and Benedict took a deep breath. One moment to the next he assumed the role of Sherlock- he started firing words at John in perfect imitation of the detective.
“Afghanistan or Iraq?” Benedict quipped.
“Afghanistan. How did you know?”
“I didn’t know, I saw. Your haircut, the way you hold yourself says military. Your age suggests you were trained at Barts - so Army doctor, obvious. Your face is tanned but no tan above the wrists. You’ve been abroad, but not sunbathing. Your limp’s bad when you walk, but you don’t ask for a chair when you stand. Like you’ve forgotten about it, so it’s at least partly psychosomatic. That says the original circumstances of the injury were traumatic. Wounded in action, suntan - Afghanistan or Iraq. You have a therapist.”
John was aware from the moment Sherlock’s double had started out that his was going to be a replay of the conversation they’d had in the taxi on the way to their first crime scene together. He played along.
“How could you possibly-"
“You’ve got a psychosomatic limp, of course you’ve got a therapist. Then there’s your brother. Your phone. It’s expensive, e-mail enabled, MP3 player. You’re looking for a flatshare. You wouldn’t waste money on this - it’s a gift, then. Scratches. Not one, many over time.It’s been in the same pocket as keys and coins. The man sitting next to me wouldn’t treat your one luxury item like this. So it’s had a previous owner. Next bit’s easy. You know it already.”
“The engraving?” John questioned.
“Harry Watson - cleary a family member who’s given you his old phone. Not your father - this is a young man’s gadget. Could be a cousin, but you’re a war hero who can’t find a place to live. Unlikely you’ve got an extended family, certainly not one you’re close to, so brother it is. Now, Clara - who’s Clara? Three kisses says romantic attachment. Expensive phone says wife, not girlfriend. Must’ve given it to him recently - this model’s only six months old. Marriage in trouble, then - six months on, and already he’s giving it away? If she’d left him, he would’ve kept it. People do, sentiment. But no, he wanted rid of it - he left her. He gave the phone to you, that says he wants you to stay in touch. You’re looking for cheap accommodation and you’re not going to your brother for help? That says you’ve got problems with him. Maybe you liked his wife, maybe you don’t like his drinking.”
“How can you possibly know about the drinking?”
Feeling Sherlock’s character taking over him, Benedict smirked triumphantly.
“Shot in the dark. Good one, though. Power connection - tiny little scuff marks round the edge. Every night he goes to plug it in and charge but his hands are shaking. You never see those marks on a sober man’s phone, never seen a drunk’s without them.”
John realized he’d been holding his breath. He was silent for a moment and then without thinking,
Benedict let himself fall out of Sherlock’s character and relaxed. He blushed and smiled. “Thank you. I didn’t think I’d make it through those lines again after so long.”
“So you really are Sherlock? Or Sherlock is you?” John was too confused to properly put it into words.
Martin was the one to reply. “Look at it this way, you’re like the Halloween mask come to life with the personality given it from the wearer.”
John wasn’t sure he liked that, but at least it made more sense than what he was coming up with.
The sudden realization that Sherlock had not yet spoken hit the room at once and all eyes turned on the detective. He sat staring at Benedict with wide eyes. With the attention of the room on him he was shaken out of his stupor.
“I need you to leave. Except John.”
“They don’t have to leave the flat, just put them in your room. I need the living room so I can think.”
Benedict felt like he understood the dilemma Sherlock was experiencing. Not only was everything he knew being radically challenged, but so was his existence. For a moment the actor felt guilty. If this was a dream, he hoped he’d wake up soon.
John looked to the two men apologetically. “It’s better to do as he asks. He’ll just be unbearable otherwise.”
Martin’s brow furrowed and he gave a grunt of disapproval. “Small mercy you’re nothing like this, Ben.”
Benedict couldn’t help but laugh at the comment and clap a hand to Martin’s back. “I actually wouldn’t mind being more like him at times.”
John watched in awe. Seeing this alternate version of himself and Sherlock being so open and normal made him uncomfortable. What was even real anymore? John shook his head and decided not to dwell on the matter. Sherlock would be sure to come up with something and for once he was looking forward to his answers because they felt like the only lifeline he had to save him from lifting off the ground and floating away.
“Right, room’s up there, guess you already know. You can get some sleep.”
“What about you?” Martin asked.
“It’s fine. I can chase Sherlock off the couch. He usually thinks on his feet anyway.”
“I’m really sorry for all this.” Benedict said in earnest.
John shook his head and smiled weakly. “We’ve had worse.”
Martin and Benedict nodded together and headed up the stairs without another word.
John turned to look in Sherlock’s direction. Now that they were alone he could see the shadows of confusion and rising panic coming over his ghostly features. John walked over to him and laid a strong hand on his shoulder. He gave a quick comforting squeeze and pulled away before the contact could become an annoyance. Padding quietly over to the couch, John dropped himself onto it and stretched out closing his eyes.
“Feel free to start anytime.” He said.
John knew that he and Sherlock were in for a long night.
Chapter 3: Rough Night
At four in the morning all was quiet at 221B Baker Street. Or so it appeared. Inside, through the living room and up the stairs in John’s bedroom, two disquieted minds were reaching the same conclusions.
“You ever had a lucid dream?” Benedict asked. The two men were seated on the side of the bed unable to even attempt resting.
“Yeah, a few times. Didn’t feel anything like this, though.”
“What does this feel like?”
“Like I’m awake.”
They sat in silence a while longer. Confusion reigned supreme in Martin’s mind, and it ran rampant through his usually dominant common sense. The more he fought to tame the confusion, the more frustrated he became. He knew he wasn’t dreaming and the panic in his chest arose not only from the surreal state of things, but also at the thought of his family waking up to find him gone. He didn’t believe he could be in a different London.
“I’m going home. I don’t care what kind of bullshit this is, Ben. I’m taking a cab and I’m leaving.”
Martin was resolute. He rose quickly and walked over to the dresser near the bed pulling open the drawers in search of trousers and hopefully a warm sweater. Sure enough he found both and started pulling them on. He could see Benedict watching him with a quirked brow from the bed.
“Oh for the love of- I’m just borrowing this. I’ll get it laundered and give it back to him when I’m done.”
“Not exactly what I’m concerned about…”
Martin ignored him and pulled on the sweater. He grabbed a pair of scuffed shoes from the small closet and slipped them on before finally turning to look at his friend. He couldn’t avoid the obvious for long.
“Alright, yes, I admit everything is mighty convincing, but I can’t just believe that I’ve suddenly woken up to some- some new dimension where I can have a casual chin wag with our modern takes on John Watson and Sherlock Holmes. I can’t do it, Ben. Can you?” Martin inhaled through his nose and exhaled slowly attempting to calm the rising anger.
Benedict shook his head. “I admit I can’t, but…”
But what? Benedict questioned himself. But it was too real? But an elaborate prank, really? Something of this magnitude just felt out of proportion to the typical idea of a goodnatured prank. He realized his imagination was running away with him, but he couldn't shake the feeling that everything here felt like it existed in a sphere of its own.
Martin made a frustrated noise and with a firm but not aggressive hand, he gripped his friend’s shoulder and encouraged him to stand from the bed.
“We’re leaving, Ben. I’m not leaving you here with the two psychotic prats downstairs so I’m taking you with me if I have to drag you.”
Benedict sighed and nodded. “So how do we get past them?”
“I was trying not to think about that part.”
“You think they’ll let us go?”
Martin looked at his friend sidelong. “We could find out.”
Much to their surprise, the only animosity they were met with was Sherlock’s frustration at being interrupted. John awoke immediately at the sound of voices other than Sherlock’s. However, they weren’t shown the door right away.
Sherlock scrutinized them from his seat as he spoke.
“If you’re not working for Mycroft or Moriarty, I would advise against leaving the flat undisguised.”
“If you do know us the way you claim to, then I’d expect you to know the answer to that.”
“We don’t write the script.” Martin argued.
“But you interpret it and interact with the writer. Make an approximation.”
“Mycroft will assume we’re a threat to you.” Martin ventured.
“Obviously.” Sherlock replied. “And?”
“And Moriarty will be watching us..."
Martin stopped himself squeezing his eyes shut and inhaling sharply. When he opened his eyes it was to meet Sherlock's defiantly. “This is mad. I’m going home.”
He turned briskly expecting Benedict to follow. Without a word, he did.
“Suit yourselves.” Sherlock called after them.
“You’re going to let them go?” John asked incredulously.
Sherlock waved a hand dismissively. “Mycroft has eyes everywhere. He’ll be tracking them on the assumption that it’s you and me. That is, if he doesn’t already know you and I are still in the flat.”
John watched Sherlock a moment.
“Any ideas yet?”
Sherlock didn’t answer.
“Right. Do you still want me here?”
“Yes. It helps.”
The words were small, but the way Sherlock said them betrayed more than John had imagined they could. He lay back on the couch. Hanging off the back of it were two blankets, John grabbed one and threw it at Sherlock. Distracted, the detective was too slow to react. It hit him in the face with a soft puff of air and fell into his lap.
“It’s getting cold.” John said simply as he pulled the second blanket down and spread it over himself. He lay on his back fighting the smirk that was forming on his lips. At last he couldn’t help but chuckle. Sherlock grunted in disapproval and John cracked open an eye to see him begrudgingly pulling the blanket around himself.
Sherlock hummed gently in reply.
It took a half hour for Benedict and Martin to finally hail a cab. After making up a story to explain Benedict’s lack of proper attire, they climbed in and Martin gave the driver directions to his home. Benedict then did the same. Neither had their wallets, but they figured they’d pay when they were dropped off. The two were silent during the drive. Benedict wondered if his home still existed and dismissed the question. He wasn’t going to jump to conclusions yet.
A quiet drive later, the cab pulled up to Martin’s apartment building. Asking the cabbie to wait, Martin got out and went to ring Amanda to let him in. Benedict watched from the car as the older man punched in the four-digit apartment number and waited. A voice came crackling through the speaker at last, and although Benedict couldn’t hear the conversation, he was fairly sure the voice that who ever answered wasn't who Martin had been expecting. Benedict continued to watch and judging by Martin’s wide gestures, he knew he was right. He was just about to climb out of the cab to act as a preventor when Martin turned on his heel and trudged back with resentment coming off him in waves. Martin measured his anger, managing to get back into the vehicle without slamming the door. He sat fuming silently.
Not waiting, Benedict simply instructed the cabbie to drop them off at his address. The ride seemed eternal with Martin’s hideous mood engulfing the taxi. To ease the tension, Benedict politely asked the cab driver if he minded playing the radio on low.
Eventually the cab pulled up to their second destination and he felt the blood drain out of his face. He was terrified of what he would find. More terrified of what he wouldn't. Pretending confidence, he stepped out of the cab and strode to the door with as much dignity as a man in a housecoat can and went up to the bored-looking security guard at a small booth next to the doorway.
“Morning,” Benedict said tiredly.
“Mornin’. Anything I can do for you?” The guard asked giving the actor a skeptical once-over.
Benedict blanched. The guard didn’t know him.
“I forgot my key. I was wondering if you’d let me into my flat.”
“What’s your name?”
After a very slight pause, Benedict spoke. “Cumberbatch. Benedict Cumberbatch?”
The guard quirked a brow and Benedict knew that he was wondering if this was some sort of joke. All the same he checked the resident list.
“Unfortunately I don’t have anyone under that name, sir.”
Benedict thought quickly.
“Sorry, what’s the address here again?”
The guard told him.
Benedict feigned frustration. “Damn it. I’ve done it again.” Heaving a sigh and running a hand through his mop of hair he gave the guard an apologetic look.
“Sorry to bother you. Rough night.”
The guard seemed to take pity on him and with a small smile he nodded.
“We’ve all been there. Get home safely.”
“Thank you, I hope I do.”
With that, Benedict quickly strode back to the cab and got in.
“Back to 221B Baker street, please. I’m sorry about this.”
To his credit, the cabbie only grunted irritably before turning the cab around to go back the way he came.
It was seven in the a.m. when the doorbell of 221B Baker street rang. Mrs. Hudson had been awake since six and hurried down the stairs to open the door.
“Oh, hello boys!” She said charmingly.
“Una?” Martin said before he could stop himself.
“What? Una? Dear, are you feeling alright?” She said ushering them inside.
Mrs. Hudson noticed Benedict was in nothing more than his housecoat and blushed in embarrassment.
“Oh Sherlock! Really! You can’t go out looking like that. It’s right indecent, it is.”
Benedict flushed visibly. “Rough night.” He reiterated.
Mrs. Hudson looked at the two of them with concern. “I’ll go make you boys some tea. You poor dears are out of sorts, I can tell. Just go right on up to your room and I’ll bring it up to you in a moment.”
Benedict gave a grateful nod and Martin thanked her before watching her retreat. The two shot upstairs and banged on the door to B. In a moment John was in the doorway with bags under his eyes glaring menacingly.
“So you’re back.”
“We’ll explain later. You need to hide.” Benedict said urgently.
“Mrs. Hudson. She thinks we’re you. Just go to Sherlock’s room. Drag him with you.”
“Why would that be a problem?”
“She’s coming up any minute now.”
John’s eyes lit up with understanding and he quickly went over to Sherlock who had ignored the return of the doppelgangers spectacularly. He was jostled out of his reverie by the strong yank of his wrist and he flew out of his chair as he was hauled away into his bedroom. John released his wrist and flung the bedroom door closed behind them.
“John, what are you doing?” Sherlock demanded.
“It’s Mrs. Hudson. She’s coming.”
Adding things up quickly, Sherlock listened for the sound of gentle footfalls on the stairs as Mrs. Hudson came to the door of the apartment.
Benedict and Martin had left the door open and taken a seat at the counter in the kitchen. Benedict tried to be as in character as possible, but found that being rude to Mrs. Hudson was exceptionally difficult. He tried for a happy middle ground by thanking her without looking her in the eyes when she set the tea down in front of him. Martin had the luxury of being himself.
“Do get some proper clothes on, Sherlock. You’ll catch your death running around like that.”
Benedict gave a curt nod and sipped at his tea, feeling the guilt welling up inside him. His internal and innate English gentleman was chiding him in earnest despite the situation.
Mrs. Hudson patted both men on a shoulder and smiled. She looked at Martin. “See to it this boy takes better care of himself, John.”
“I’ll do what I can.” Martin said with a smirk playing across his lips. He was finding the whole thing hilarious. Benedict fought to hide his blushing face by taking a long sip of his tea.
“Good. Let me know if you need anything.”
“Of course. Thanks again.”
The flat was silent even after the door shut behind Mrs. Hudson. Even after the sound of her steps down the stairs and the opening and closing of her door. After a silent pause, Martin started laughing, and Benedict, in spite of himself, laughed with him.
The door to Sherlock’s room opened and the duo stepped out. Sherlock stopped next to Martin leaning on the counter facing Benedict.
“Appalling performance.” He said smugly.
“Bugger off. It’s a wonder you’re able to be rude to a woman like that in reality.” Benedict shot back, but his heart wasn’t in it.
There was a sudden honk of a horn heard from outside.
Benedict and Martin looked up at each other.
“The cabbie!” They shouted together.
Martin turned to John and hesitated. “Feels weird asking myself this-"
“I’m not you.”
Ignoring him, Martin continued, “But could you lend me your wallet to pay the cabbie? We’ve nothing on us.”
John sighed in exasperation. He noticed for the first time Martin was wearing his clothes. “When did you-?”
John tried to glare but found that glaring at his own face was just too strange and surrendered his wallet instead.
“I expect it back as soon as you pay him.”
Martin nodded quickly and headed downstairs to pay the cab driver. He was sure to tip him extra for his trouble.
The actor was just turning to go back inside when a black car pulled up next to him on the curb. Long legs swung out and polished shoes hit the pavement pulling a man Martin recognized all too well onto the sidewalk before him.
“Hello John.” Mark said with a tight-lipped smile.
Martin said nothing.
“Oh don’t look so serious, John. I’m just here for the usual.”
Martin felt his pulse quickening and the blood rushing in his ears as raw fury seized him.
“Temper, temper, doctor. You do seem extra irritable today.”
Martin couldn’t explain why he was so furious. He just was. He felt like the source of all his problems came from this man. All he needed was Moffat to step out of the car next to Mark and Martin knew he’d either break down into hysterics or kill them both.
Chapter 4: Superstring Theory
Martin came rushing up the stairs and through the doorway.
“It’s Mark. Or Mycroft. I have no idea what to do.” He whispered to the room. Thinking quickly, he moved toward Sherlock who was perched on the couch and stood next to him in an attempt to fall into John’s character. Now that Mycroft had seen him he didn’t have another choice.
All heads in the room spun to look at the doorway. Hearing the slow footfalls up the stairs, Benedict swiftly ducked away behind the kitchen counter, hoping he’d been discreet enough not to be noticed. Seeing Benedict go down made John move instinctively as well. He ducked down next to the taller man and breathed quietly. Mycroft took a step across the threshold into the flat to find Sherlock glaring at him like a discontented cat.
“Oh, well if it isn’t the Queen of England?” Sherlock drawled.
Unperturbed, Mycroft stood with his back straight, his lips still pressed into a tight smile.
“Good to see you’re well. I admit I was worried when I was informed you were on the other side of town in nothing but a housecoat.”
Sherlock’s eyes flashed. “That’s none of your business, Mycroft. I was paying house calls. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m counting the stains on my ceiling.”
Mycroft pursed his lips and crossed his arms.
“Honestly, Sherlock. Must you always be so infantile? Besides, there is no need to play games. I know what you’re hiding.”
The younger Holmes brother challenged his sibling with a silent glare. Unperturbed, Mycroft turned his eyes on Martin.
“You’re not who you appear to be.” He said slowly.
Martin met Mycroft’s eyes defiantly and held his ground. “How do you mean?”
Mycroft broke out into a toothy grin. “Ah, well if the two behind the counter would join us civilly, I could explain it to everyone.”
Benedict looked at John in disappointment and the doctor motioned for him to rise from the ground. Together they stood and walked into the living room. John went to close the door to the flat before dropping himself next to Sherlock.
“Well, this is peculiar.” Mycroft said as he eyed the two sets of identical faces before him.
“How did you know I wasn’t John?” Martin asked.
“Running up the stairs is hardly the doctor’s style. He’s a man of discipline, and especially when under pressure.” Mycroft stressed the last two words in a way that sent chills running up Martin's spine.
“It’s not what you’re thinking,” Martin cried in exasperation, “If you don’t believe me then ask Sherlock.”
Mycroft turned quizzical eyes to his brother. Not in the mood to explain the curious circumstances to him, Sherlock gave as short an answer he could.
“They don’t seem to be working for anyone. They would have tried something by now. Worst this one’s done,” he motioned toward Benedict, “is parade around London in a housecoat.” This earned him a glare from the actor.
“And why were you parading around London in the early hours of the morning, might I ask?” Mycroft said quirking a brow.
“We were hoping to go home.” Benedict replied. “But it would seem that this isn’t the London we came from.”
Suddenly Sherlock’s eyes lit up.
“Not your London…” Suddenly he sprang up from his chair with a clap of his hands and spread them high over his head in illumination. “That’s it! Stupid! How did I not think of it before! A different London!”
Mycroft tilted his head slightly to one side while frowning. “You can’t possibly mean-"
“That’s exactly what I mean. They’ve transcended dimensions. I don’t know how, I don’t know why, but they have.”
Benedict and Martin looked at each other and then at the newly enthusiastic Sherlock. They each jumped back as he rounded on them with intense interest.
“Where were you before you were here?” He demanded of them.
“Asleep.” They answered together.
Sherlock folded his hands together and pressed them to his lips pensively. “It happened while you were in an altered state of consciousness… But there’s more. Martin, when you came up the stairs you said you didn’t know if this was Mycroft or Mark. Is that Mycroft’s name in your London?”
Martin nodded. “Yes, he’s actually the screen writer.”
Sherlock was quiet. “For both of you to be brought here and seemingly no one else thus far… What was different about you? What if there are more of you that we haven’t found yet?”
“I don’t know… I hope not for their sakes. But if it helps, Martin and I were in separate locations before we woke up here. My guess would be that if there were anymore of us, they would have appeared at the same time and place as we did.” Benedict explained.
“Chance, then. But wait- In your London you play us. Is the show about us specifically?”
Benedict nodded. “It’s called Sherlock.” At the words Sherlock’s lips pulled into a satisfied smirk and he looked back at John. “A show about me. Better than your blog, don’t you think?”
John grunted. “You shouldn’t have told him. I’ll never hear the end of it now.”
Sherlock pressed on impatiently, “Then you two play the lead roles. You’re the most involved in this “universe”, for lack of a better word. I suppose you’re both equally involved?”
The two nodded together.
“That would explain your being here over anyone else, then. You both transcended dimensions landing in an alternate reality where our life is more than fictional possibility. According to M-theory, there are eleven dimensions, ten of those are space dimensions while the eleventh is time. The theory goes that the atoms of our universe depend on the frequency of oscillating microscopic strings of energy that vibrate over ten planes of space dimensions. Each dimension is a world of alternate possibility-every alternate reality is believed to exist in these dimensions. Nothing’s certain, but I’d say you slipped through your dimension and into this one.”
The words had come too quickly for the room to digest in their entirety, but it was enough to leave everyone speechless.
“Mix that with Murphy’s law- whatever can go wrong, will. By extension, whatever can happen will happen- If there are indeed other dimensions, then it stands to reason that they can be accessed. How? Technology hasn’t reached the point in its development where it can tell us yet. But we know now that they can in fact be accessed, and apparently it is possible to access a dimension when in an altered state of consciousness. You two, being involved in what is to you a fictional world, to the degree you were, then opened the floodgates of possibility of your characters existing as real people. What could happen did happen, and you slipped into this world rather than dreaming of it, which I assume is what would have happened if you hadn’t been transported here. You both were falling into a dream- a possibility- of this world, and in a turn of one chance in who knows how many billion, trillion- gazillion, you were transported here.”
Sherlock was absolutely ecstatic now. He jumped between Benedict and Martin clapping a hand to each of their shoulders beaming at them. “You’re both miracles of science! A revelation!”
He grabbed Benedict and danced with him, stopping and taking his face in his hands. “You! You and me! You’re what I could be! What I am when I’m not me! Your words were absolutely right!”
Releasing Benedict’s face, Sherlock spun around gleefully with his eyes ablaze with possibilities. However, his glee was interrupted when Mycroft cleared his throat. Sherlock’s expression fell comically from euphoria to severe boredom in an almost invisible transition.
“I’m sure I needn’t assure you that I’m as excited as you are at the discovery, dear brother.” Mycroft was fighting to keep his voice level, but there was excitement burning in his eyes as well. Sherlock knew the look and it infuriated him. It was the look Mycroft got when they were children and Sherlock had discovered a new game that Mycroft would eventually take away from him. Sherlock subconsciously moved between Mycroft and the other dimension doppelgangers protectively.
“Might I suggest we make use of them, though?” He looked over Sherlock at Benedict and Martin. “I’ve a proposition for you. You’re hard up, and finding work with your faces will be impossible.”
Benedict and Martin listened, both feeling wary.
“As you probably know, we have a criminal mastermind on the loose.”
“Moriarty.” The men said together.
“Yes. The very one. My proposition is that you pose as the doctor and my brother to lure him out. I assure you no harm will come to you.”
“Liar.” Sherlock snarled.
Mycroft shot a warning look at his brother and then turned an amiable smile at Benedict and Martin that made them think of a fox.
“What I propose is that you, what is your name, beg pardon?” Mycroft asked his brother’s double.
“Benedict.” He replied hesitantly.
“Ah, of course. Benedict, I would have you pretend to be Sherlock and I’d leave you in the care of our good doctor. He makes a fine bodyguard.”
“And you’re expecting me to lure Moriarty out of hiding while Sherlock works undercover?” Benedict guessed.
“On one condition. You have the whole world at your fingertips, am I right?”
Knowing it was futile to deny, Mycroft nodded again.
“If I do this, I want you to do as much as you can to find out how we’re to get back home to our own lives. I don’t want to be kept here for your experimentation.”
“You’ve my word.”
“I expect you to make good on it.” Benedict said sternly. He was familiar with Mycroft’s character and he hoped that he could trust him.
Sherlock cut in impatiently.
“You know how I work. Not with you. I do this on my terms. You can get back to running the world.”
Mycroft scowled a moment but quickly replaced his unconcerned façade. “As you wish, brother. But I’ll be keeping an eye on you.”
Sherlock ignored the comment. “And I’m not working without John.”
“You’ll have to. We can’t leave our Mr. Benedict without protection at all times.”
Sherlock’s shoulders sagged. He knew he was right. He turned to Martin.
“You know how I work. Will you work with me?”
Martin’s expression was strained. “I’ll do what I have to, to get home.”
Sherlock turned back to Mycroft then. “Alright. I’ll find accommodations through my own means. I’ll have the address sent to you through the homeless network. Only you can know. Anyone else is a liability. Keep your guards on standby.”
“Obviously.” Mycroft said with a curt nod. “Well then, I’ll be expecting word from you soon. Good day, gentlemen.”
With that, Mycroft strode to the door and left the flat.
Sherlock turned to Benedict. “You know you’re putting yourself in more danger than you could ever imagine possible.”
The latter nodded. “I’m aware.”
Suddenly Benedict’s vision started to swim. He wobbled on his feet and made his way over to the couch with Martin’s help.
“Easy, Ben. Are you alright?" Martin asked with concern in his eyes.
“Fine. I think it’s the fatigue.”
It was true. Benedict had the bad habit of pushing himself to his limits, much like his sleuth counterpart. Lately he had been running on virtually no sleep, and after this episode it was starting to catch up with him.
John approached Benedict and sat next to him. “Mind if I take a look?”
Benedict shook his head. “It’s really not necessary.”
“I’m sure, but it’s better to be safe.”
Ignoring another weak protest, John gave the man a check up. By the time he was done he was frowning.
“You’re in poor health.”
“No, I’m fine. Really. This is normal for me.” Benedict insisted.
“Then you should seriously start considering a change in your routine. First thing’s first- you need rest. You can take my bed. Get some sleep.” He looked up at Martin who was standing next to Benedict looking concerned.
“You need to get some sleep, too. I’m sorry there’s so little space here, but you have my bedroom for now. I wouldn’t use Sherlock’s room, though.”
“What’s wrong with my room?” Sherlock demanded.
John raised a brow at his flat mate. Sherlock huffed and threw his hands in the air but didn’t argue.
Benedict and Martin were sent to get some sleep by John. The doctor waited until he heard the door to his bedroom open and close before letting himself fall onto the couch with a massive sigh.
“Just when I thought my life couldn’t get anymore unbelievable.”
Sherlock approached the couch and let himself fall surprisingly close to John. The doctor felt the beginnings of the vibrations surging from Sherlock and growing into a giddy chuckle.
“You’re really excited about this, aren’t you?” John asked.
“Why wouldn’t I be, John? It’s a whole new side of science. Dangerous too. Imagine what Moriarty could do with the knowledge?”
John didn’t want to think about it.
“So where will you go?” He said changing the subject.
“I wont be far. I have a lot of favors I can call in. I could be your next door neighbor.”
John was relieved to hear this. He didn’t feel as confident without Sherlock nearby. Not only that, but who was going to protect him if not John? Sherlock wasn’t a pushover, of course, but John had become used to the team he and Sherlock made. It was home for him.
“Don’t take a bullet for him, John.” Sherlock said without looking at him. John’s eyes widened.
The detective met his gaze. “Protect him as well as you can, but don’t go getting yourself killed over him. I need you alive.”
"It's a bit early to be worried about taking a bullet for anyone, wouldn't you say?"
The look on Sherlock's face was somewhere between irritated and something John couldn't quite put his finger on. As he worked to decipher the mystery in Sherlock's face he couldn't help realizing that they really were sitting too close together. John could feel Sherlock’s breath on his skin and the silver eyes boring into his own were too deep for John to make anything out in their liquid mercury. Feeling a rush of heat starting at the back of his neck, John decided to take the fastest way out.
“Time to make some tea,” he declared standing from the couch.
Chapter 5: Reading Aloud
Sherlock didn’t like the arrangement at all. He’d known from the start that John was the only man he felt comfortable with. John worked with him. Martin may have been his alternate universe counterpart, but that didn’t make them the same. In fact, alternate dimension meant alternate John. Martin was his own man, and Sherlock strongly suspected that the dynamic would be very different.
He sulked. And as usual, if he sulked John always had to put up with the worst of it. Sherlock had been pacing the flat muttering to himself under his breath, occasionally grabbing a pillow and flinging it at the spray painted happy face on the wall. John knew from countless experiences prior that Sherlock was most likely imagining it was Mycroft.
The doctor was sitting as far away as the drawing room allowed and sipping his tea. After living with Sherlock for the first year, he’d developed his ability to completely ignore him, even through the most explosive of his tantrums. It was only when John looked up from the paper in his hands to see Sherlock reaching for the handgun on the coffee table that he jumped to his feet just barely snatching the weapon up before Sherlock could. The latter lunged after him half-heartedly before deciding it wasn’t worth the effort. Instead he scowled and let himself fall back onto the couch with a long groan.
“Oh for Christ’s sake, Sherlock. You’re making it worse than it is.”
“Hardly. Mycroft’s getting his way as usual. I’ve half a mind to move us all out of 221B and go to Bermuda.”
“What, so we can all go on holidays to the Bermuda Triangle?”
Sherlock gave John a withering look and John barked a laugh.
“Look, in the end it’s not a bad idea really. Think of this like having two of you; your dream come true.”
Sherlock sighed. “You and I both know he can’t be me. We may be physically identical, but our minds are not.”
John sighed. “Yes, fine. But you’ll be in the background telling him how to think. And for once you’ll have a hand up on Moriarty. This is the chance of a lifetime.”
Sherlock was quiet for an uncomfortably long time before there was the quiet sound of steps coming down the last few stairs.
“He feels like he’s cheating,” said Martin standing on the landing of the stairway.
Sherlock sat up and turned his eyes on the man with a spark of respect.
“What makes you think so?” Sherlock asked slowly; prodding for more.
Martin smirked. “You and Moriarty thrive on playing games with each other. You get your thrills by putting your lives on the line in a battle of intelligence. Suddenly we’ve fallen into your lap and compromised the rules of the game. Ben and I are an unforeseen Ace in the deck that Moriarty knows nothing about. It’s not that you want to be fair; you just want to win for pride’s sake. Using us to lure him out makes you look bad.”
"Perceptive." Sherlock replied evenly.
"It's easier when you're on the outside looking in," Martin explained with a casual shrug.
Sherlock's eyes were riveted on Martin now with and expression that could almost be called pleased. As he watched, John was feeling a twinge of something that was burning in his chest. That was a look of Sherlock's that was seldom awarded to anyone, and it was a look John inevitably strived to receive. It meant approval and maybe just the smallest hint of respect. John felt alarm bells go off in his head. He was jealous. Not wanting to dwell on this discovery, he instead focused on a newly forming concern.
“Sherlock, you know you can’t tell him.”
The detective snapped his head toward John with a vicious scowl. “Don’t be stupid. Of course I know.”
The tension was suddenly high in the room, and Martin figured a change of subject was required. He walked from the stairway to the kitchen and stopped next to John with an apologetic look. “Thanks for letting us use your bed.”
“No, don’t mention it," John said stiffly.
“Mind if I make myself some tea?”
If Martin had noticed the sudden chill from John, he did well not to acknowledge it.
“Not at all. You know where everything is?”
Martin pointed at one of the cabinets questioningly and John nodded. “That’s right.”
Feeling childish, John chided himself inwardly. For Christ's sake, John. Have a little dignity. He was at a loss for what sort of nice thing he might say until he remembered the second best stock conversation starter, right up there with asking about the weather. When in doubt, ask about a significant other. Seeing as John knew squat about Martin's life, he asked about the only friend of Martin's they had in common.
“How’s…” John hesitated. Bugger all. He swore internally. It would have helped to at least know the man's name.
“Benedict?” Martin provided.
“Right. Yes, how’s he?”
Martin’s lips quirked upwards. “He’s alright. Still sleeping.”
That was shortlived, John thought. Better than nothing at least.
Sherlock suddenly cut in. “Benedict? What were his parents thinking?”
“Says Sherlock Holmes?” Martin quipped. “Though still not a match for Benedict Cumberbatch.”
John’s eyes widened and he was unable to contain a laugh.
“Is that really his name?”
Martin was laughing now, too. He nodded. Sherlock only looked appalled.
“Well, it’s half his fame really.” Martin continued casually.
“Popular, is he?” John enquired. Martin nodded. The mood in the room finally subsiding into a comfortable warmth.
“He’s got half the female population swooning over him. I’ve got the other half.”
John laughed again. Meanwhile Sherlock was still on the couch, now leafing through some book or other pretending not to be interested.
Martin had just gotten done pouring himself a cup of tea and offered John one; the sight of each other less daunting now.
“Wouldn’t mind sharing some of your fame.” John joked.
“You hardly seem to need it.”
John responded with a tilt of his head feigning innocent puzzlement.
“Oh don’t give me that. You’re a smooth bastard and you know it.”
Knowing he couldn’t argue, John simply grinned shyly and took a sip of tea. "I'm really not."
"Don't feign modesty, John. Would you like me to list the women you've had on your arm in the last month?" Sherlock chimed in impertinently.
John spun around in his seat. "Oh yeah, let's hear it Sherlock. I'd like to see you remember even three of their names."
Not particularly excited to see John and Sherlock have a domestic, Martin sagely interrupted with the most defusive thing he could think of.
“Doesn’t seem to stop the girls thinking that you two are shagging every chance you get when no one’s looking.”
"What girls?" The look on John's face was priceless.
Now both men had their attention on Martin. The actor couldn’t help but grin. “Back in my London, well, around the world really. It’s true. I’d show you some of the things the fans do, but I don’t think it would be available in this world. Back home you wouldn’t believe what’s on the internet.”
John sputtered incoherently. The thought that anything in any dimension depicting Sherlock and himself doing God knows what had him going into borderline hysterics.
“It’s what the fans like to think.” Martin said simply.
“What? Why?” Sherlock sounded intrigued. This was an interesting social study to him.
“I can’t really say for sure, but the girls like to think you two are an item. Though, I mean, you’re two single blokes sharing a flat and running around together fighting crime and rescuing each other. People were bound to talk.” Martin was smirking now.
“How are you not bothered by this?” John demanded.
“I think it’s funny, really. Also, I have Amanda and the kids back home. I don’t really mind what the fans like to think. It’s not exactly affecting me negatively.”
“What sort of things do they put online?” Sherlock’s curiosity compelled him to ask.
“Have you ever heard about rule 34 of the internet?”
The two men blanched.
“Right. Basically means that there’s porn of everything on the internet.”
“Porn?!” John sputtered again.
“Before you go thinking that Ben and I have stunt doubles going at it for underground films, that’s not what I mean. It’s all fanmade. Drawings, comics, stories. Sometimes they dress up as us and make videos, but nothing too explicit as far as I know. Well, the fan videos at least. The rest of it is pretty racy.”
John was cradling his face in his hands now. “You just had to ask, Sherlock.”
The detective was fascinated by it. The thought that all this existed in an alternate dimension was what mainly interested him. There was an audience in another dimension that was imagining these alternatives, and that led Sherlock to wonder- If this alternate reality existed, with enough energy given to the imagined worlds of the fans, could those exist on some other plane as well? And he couldn't help but linger on the thought of himself and John being involved. What would it be like? How did these alternatives play out in other dimensions? Could it be possible in his own? Sherlock had now receded into his mind palace and there was no getting him out.
“I don’t even want to know…” John muttered.
Martin used the opportunity to change the subject. “Anything I should know about working with Sherlock for future reference?”
Glad to have a distraction, John thought for a moment. “You’ll have to make sure he eats. It’s a pain in the arse, but if you don’t look out for him he’ll likely forget himself and keel over.”
“If you make him coffee, he likes it black with two sugars. I know how it sounds, but again, he’s terrible at taking care of himself.”
Martin was fighting the urge to laugh. He was starting to see where the fans were coming from.
“He usually just needs someone around to hear himself talk. He usually asks me for a second opinion to bounce ideas off of, but I don’t know if he’ll do that with you. He might, so you may as well be prepared for the possibility.”
Martin already knew all this, but nodded anyway.
“He doesn’t sleep on regular hours. He’s generally quiet, but earplugs are a good idea. If he gets an idea for an experiment, it doesn’t matter what time it is, he’ll dive right into it. If he starts playing the violin, it’s sign that he’s not willing to talk to anyone. It’s as close as he gets to being emotional. If you pay attention you can usually tell if he’s just thoughtful or anxious.”
Martin watched John’s face-unsettlingly, his own face, as he elaborated on all of Sherlock’s quirks and habits. His expression was soft and concerned. Martin had seen that look countless times in his life on other faces, and he wasn’t sure how he felt about it. He decided it didn’t concern him and he was staying out of it.
“So basically I’m his househusband.” Martin interjected.
After a pause John sighed and nodded. “Not the word I would use, but essentially yes.”
“How patient would you say you are?” John asked.
Martin paused and looked over his shoulder at the Sherlock now deep in thought.
“Probably not patient enough.” He admitted.
John gave a quick nod. “Yes, well I wish you luck with him. It’s not going to be easy or pleasant. Oh, and I’d suggest demanding a mini fridge if you want to keep something cold.”
“Does he actually keep limbs?” Martin asked eyeing the icebox in the kitchen suspiciously. John laughed nervously. “Unfortunately, yes.”
Martin could tell that working with Sherlock was going to be taxing. Martin was a man who liked to do things his way, and he knew he was nothing like John. While on the set of the show, he was always the one bullying Benedict behind the scenes. He was feeling jilted now, like Benedict had gotten the better end of the bargain. He got to hang around with the patient and caring doctor. Annoyed at imagining the two enjoying a cup of tea together over friendly conversation made him cringe with jealousy. He’d be stuck with the anti-social sleuth who would likely ignore him half the time, and when he wasn’t doing that he’d be talking at him, not with him. Even then it was likely that half of what he'd say would be an insult.
Martin heaved a sigh. He decided he needed to get a phone so he could keep in touch with Benedict. It would be the only way he'd stay sane.
As if on cue, Benedict descended the stairs looking bright eyed and bushy tailed.
“Good afternoon,” he said pleasantly.
“Sleep well?” John asked.
“Yes, thank you. Really. I wish I had the money to rent a hotel room to get out of your hair…”
He looked between John and Martin with growing consternation. "I'm so sorry, but... Which of you is Martin?"
"That'd be me," the actor said raising his hand. "Tea?"
"That would be fantastic. Thank you. John, again, I can't thank you enough for letting us use your bed."
John shook his head dismissively. “It’s fine. I’ve texted Mycroft about a-"
Just then the doorbell rang. “That’ll probably be it now… You two should probably hide yourselves in the meantime.”
With that, Martin and Benedict sat in the stairway and waited. John left the flat and came back with two men carrying a new couch. After a short row with Sherlock, which he eventually won, John directed them to move the old couch next to the far wall and replace it with the new one. In a few minutes the couch was in place and the men nodded their goodbyes. Sherlock had replaced himself on the old couch fuming, now too ruffled to fall back into his reverie.
After Benedict and Martin came back out of hiding, John continued.
“Right. Well, as I was saying, I texted Mycroft about needing somewhere for you to sleep for now. The safest place for you is here until Sherlock finds a flat to move in to. Until then, you’ll unfortunately have to keep sharing a bed.”
“It’s a pull out then?” Martin asked.
“It’s a disgusting excuse for furniture.” Sherlock retorted. Of course he was the only one who thought so, although it did look out of place. The sofa was modern, made of new black leather and stood in high contrast with its eclectic surroundings.
“I really am sorry for all the trouble,” Benedict said to Sherlock. He paused. “God, it’s still so strange talking to you. I’d almost forgotten where I was when I woke up.”
Sherlock stood from the couch massaging his temples and put a hand on John’s shoulder. “John. Tea?”
John nodded and proceeded to the kitchen to heat more water.
“So how long will it be before you find a work base?” Benedict asked.
“I could have found a place the moment Mycroft mentioned the plan, but that would make it too easy for him.”
Benedict laughed. “You’re ridiculous. You really are.” His amusement didn't last long and soon he met Sherlock's eyes seriously, “But Sherlock, please don’t drag this out too long. I’ve already agreed to work with you, and it’s against my better judgment considering the danger this will put us in, but Martin and I need to get home.”
Sherlock’s eyes, though they were Benedict’s, were colder. He watched the actor a long time until John broke the spell by offering Sherlock the tea he’d asked for. Saying nothing more on the subject, the sleuth took the tea and stubbornly went to lounge on the old couch now against the far wall.
“You two should get some dinner.” John suggested as he pulled out his wallet and handed it to Martin.
“What about you?” Benedict asked.
“Just bring us something back. Sherlock likes Chinese, if you can get it. You can take my phone.”
“Thank you. Uh, Sherlock… Would you mind if I…”
Sherlock looked Benedict up and down. “Everything’s in my closet.”
After fumbling through the madness of Sherlock’s room just to get to the closet, Benedict pulled out a pair of jeans and a button up long sleeve. Soon he was dressed and ready to go.
“We’ll text you the options on the menu. See you later.” Martin said as he left the flat.
“Right. Don’t be surprised if you’re given a table in the corner and a candle.” John called after them.
“The warning is appreciated.” Benedict called back and they were gone.
John went to sit next to Sherlock on the old couch.
“I know you, Sherlock. This can’t be good for you.”
Sherlock knew what John was saying, but he played innocent.
“What are you on about?”
John watched him sternly. “You get your kicks solving crime, and now the biggest mystery yet has conveniently fallen into your lap? You solve crime because it keeps you from being bored. What will you do when they leave? Nothing will satisfy you after this.”
Sherlock was silent. Then a small smirk graced his lips.
“Maybe I’d become a science fiction writer.” He joked and John relaxed and smiled.
“You were worried?” Sherlock asked.
John looked at him. “I always worry.”
Sherlock closed his eyes and let his head fall into John’s lap. The sudden action caught John off guard, but he didn’t push Sherlock away. He admitted privately that it wasn't exactly unpleasant. But as usual the sleuth was being winning him over. Exasperated with both Sherlock and himself, John sighed.
“Just promise me you wont give Martin too much grief. He’s not as patient as I am, you know.”
Sherlock hummed his affirmative reply then opened his eyes to look up at the doctor. The detective realized his position was precarious. Emotionally. John had become his grounding. One reason he chose not to engage in Mycroft’s plan immediately was because he wouldn’t be there to oversee the doctor’s safety. As he lay there in John’s lap, he felt a mixture of things. The night had wrapped his usually cold senses in the warm glow of the street lamp, and John’s natural warmth had subdued his racing mind. As much of a revelation as Benedict and Martin were, Sherlock was happy to have time alone with John.
“If you’re intending to use my lap for a while," John's voice interrupted Sherlock's train of thought, "would you mind passing me my book off the coffee table?”
Sherlock grunted, but retrieved the book for him and promptly returned to resting his head in the doctor's warm lap. He was too overcome with comfort to focus on the technical aspects of alternate dimensions and doppelgangers. Soon he grew restless.
“Read out loud.”
John looked down at Sherlock in surprise. “Out loud?”
Sherlock kept his eyes intently on the ceiling. "Yes."
"You're sure? I mean, it's a little unexpected coming from you."
“Nothing I do is expected behavior, John. You should be used to this by now.”
“Oh shut up.”
Turning to the first page for Sherlock's benefit, John started to read aloud.
John was surprised at how easy it was. Having Sherlock this close to him was, well, it was nice. The warm glow of the lamps in the flat as night fell made the flat peaceful. As John read, he eventually felt comfortable enough to rest the hand not holding the book across Sherlock’s chest. The detective didn’t mind as he listened with his eyes closed, occasionally making derogatory comments about the characters or predicting the plot. After the third interruption, John threatened to stop reading altogether and Sherlock was surprisingly subdued from that point on.
Time had gotten away from them as they heard the door to the flat open and Martin and Benedict came in. They stopped dead when they saw John reading a book with Sherlock’s head in his lap.
“Oh. We brought your dinner.” Benedict said awkwardly.
Sherlock didn’t wait. “Yes, thank you. You can leave it on the counter. Also, you can take John’s bedroom tonight. We’ll be occupying the living room again.”
John shot the doppelgangers an apologetic look. “Feel free to help yourselves to any books you find.”
“Right. Thank you. Goodnight then.” Benedict said. Martin gave a nod and followed the taller man up the stairs. When they were gone, John looked down at Sherlock who was watching him intently.
"Least you could have done was let them stay up with us while we have dinner." John chided halfheartedly.
“John, I’m comfortable and I like hearing you read. And it's not just me, I can tell you're happy where you are. I see no reason to trouble ourselves.” He explained.
John shook his head in disbelief. His eyes shot open when a hand was laid over his. He looked down at Sherlock to find him examining the hand with mild interest. The contact was shockingly electric for John. He forced himself to ignore the sensation spreading through him and focused on the book instead.
“Should I keep reading?” He asked.
“Obviously,” Sherlock replied.
So John did, and it was a couple hours later when he realized that the detective had fallen asleep in his lap. More than that, Sherlock’s hand was still over his own. John watched the sleeping face with fascination. This was a side of Sherlock he had never seen. Not willing to contemplate how he felt about it all, he instead attempted to move out from under his friend without waking him, but to no avail. Sherlock awoke at the first sign of movement and then went on to pull out the ready-made bed (nice touch, Mycroft). Sherlock insisted on staying in the living room with John as he wanted to hear more of the story, but when John declared he was to tired to keep reading, Sherlock volunteered to do so instead.
"You'll read to me?" John questioned skeptically.
Sherlock waved a dismissive hand as he settled down on the bed next to John and held the book up to the light. "You just to happened to leave off at a particularly interesting plot point."
"No, you fell asleep." John corrected.
"You were reading too slow."
John had half a mind to challenge the uncharacteristically half-baked logic, but really he didn't want Sherlock to change his mind. The thought of Sherlock reading to him in his baritone wasn't altogether an unpleasant notion. Sherlock, seeing no further resistance from John, found the line he last remembered hearing before drifting off to sleep and began to read aloud.
In time, the doctor had drifted off to sleep, lulled by Sherlock’s silky tones. Noticing this, the detective set the book aside and turned out the lights. He watched John asleep on the pull out and decided to stay there with him. It made sense, after all. There was room enough for them both. His room was a disaster anyway and John was a comforting presence in the room. Sherlock closed his eyes, relaxed into the mattress and in a short time he was asleep.
Chapter 6: Alternates
Sherlock already had the new flat picked out in a high rise apartment building just down the road. As was to be expected, the 221B Baker street residence could be observed by simply looking out the large glass doors leading out from the spacious sitting room. The windows were set with one-way glass. The flat was modern with two bedrooms and two bathrooms, decorated minimalistically. A small painting hung on the wall of the hallway next to the front door. The vast sitting room doubled as a dining room with a square glass table top resting on a metal frame and two cushioned chairs set just next to a reclining La-Z-Boy. A long white leather sofa was set facing a sleek forty-inch flat screen television and a pseudo plant sat uselessly in the corner for ambiance. The tall glass doors loomed behind the sofa leading onto a comfortably sized balcony. The lights in the kitchen were small spotlights hanging from a curved silver frame. Six spot lights in total. The kitchen had a small bar, a marble counter overhanging under which two tall silver stools had been placed. The kitchen opened into the living room, where white tiled floor met soft beige carpet. The bedrooms were off the living room. One door was visible leading into the first room, and a short hallway led to the second bedroom at the back. Both rooms had large windows looking out onto London.
Upon seeing the place, Martin was both pleased and uncomfortable. Sherlock had been plain that this was the product of a favor he’d called in and nothing more need be said about it, but still it bothered Martin feeling like he was only leeching off the detective, much as he might resent having to share quarters with him and cater to his whimsy. Nevertheless, he was grateful for the more than appeasing accommodation.
Martin felt his pocket vibrate and pulled out the new phone Sherlock had given him. He’d received a text.
How’s the flat? –Ben
To put it simply, it’s gorgeous. Better than I’d hoped –Martin
Separate bathrooms? –Ben
Thank God, yes –Martin
You think you’ll be alright, then? –Ben
Room and board wise, yeah. But I don’t know about living with your Sherlock –Martin
Just call me if it gets to be too much and hand him the phone. I’ll shout abuse at him for you –Ben
Martin laughed as he typed his reply.
We’ll see. Sounds like my gig, don’t know if I’d want to let you have all the fun -Martin
What, like nearly punching me in the face? You could always do that, you know –Ben
Except it wouldn’t be nearly –Martin
I can’t guarantee I wont hold it against you -Ben
Laughing, Martin pocketed his phone and went out to stand on the balcony. He looked down at the streets below him and shivered against the cold air. For the first time his city felt absolutely foreign to him and he admitted he was anxious. He wanted to get back to his family and he wished that he knew some way to contact them, but as far as he knew there was no way he could. He didn’t want to imagine the kind of uproar their London must be in. There were probably private detectives and the whole of the police force being sent out over Britain to find the missing actors. Martin skidded this train of thought to an abrupt halt before it could get any worse. His chest felt tight, and shivering once again, he retreated into the warm apartment closing the glass doors behind him.
Sherlock was off solving some minor crime that didn’t involve Moriarty, and apparently John had gone with him. Feeling as restless as he did, Martin wished he could go for a walk to distract himself from the oppressive anxiety closing in on him, but more than anything he wished that Ben could be with him to ease his nerves. The actor was unreasonably calm in the face of all the confusion, and Martin found that without him there to exchange casual banter, he was driving himself to distraction. Frustrated now, Martin snatched up the TV remote and violently rammed his thumb over the power button, desperately flicking through channels and settling on some nature documentary. Good enough to keep him occupied while he awaited Sherlock’s return.
It was dark by the time the door to the flat swung open. Martin was almost giddy when the tall sinewy sleuth crossed the threshold. Martin’s smile dropped the moment he saw the state Sherlock was in: his face was caked with mud and his lip was bleeding.
“Ben- Sherlock, what in the bloody hell-?!”
Sherlock waved him away dismissively. “Criminal was on site. Had to chase him down.” It was all the explanation he would offer on the subject.
“Right. Why don’t you go wash up and I’ll order in some Chinese take out?” Martin suggested.
Sherlock removed his scarf and flung his coat over the back of the sofa. With his back turned, he replied, “Lovely. Thank you, Martin.”
Not quite used to the coldness with which his name had been said, Martin watched the tall, dark figure disappear into the bedroom and it wasn’t until he heard the shower that he snapped out of his stupor and dialed the delivery number on the fridge. He ordered numbers twenty-seven and fifty-three for himself and the same for Sherlock, figuring it should be alright. Feeling compelled by tradition in his own home, Martin pulled out two plates, cutlery and napkins setting the table for Sherlock and himself. Feeling antsy he went over to the La-Z-Boy and plopped himself down, now bored with the nature documentary, and switching the channel to some witty British talk show. Martin relaxed into the chair and shut his mind off while he waited.
Meanwhile, back at 221B Baker Street Benedict had just greeted a ruffled John Watson who had the beginnings of a bad bruise forming around his left eye.
“Do I dare ask?” Benedict questioned.
John heaved a sigh. “It comes with the job, really. You’re lucky you’re just the guy pulling stunts in front of a camera. We take the real damage.”
Benedict frowned. “So what happened?”
“A careless psychopath came sniffing back to the scene of the crime. Murdered a few people who had been unfortunate enough to cross his path. Sherlock and I had to chase him down and wrestle him into submission. He hooked Sherlock in the mouth and gave me this.” He said gesturing to his eye.
Benedict’s eyes were wide with surprise. “You do this quite often?”
John nodded tiredly. “Nearly all the time. It’s not always so violent, mind. Most times Sherlock finds the culprit, makes sense of the mess and everything is taken care of without a fuss. And then there are days like today.”
“A part of me truly envies the life you live.” Benedict admitted with a guilty smile. “Back home I’ve done my share of crazy things for thrills. Much as I like to fancy myself as much a genius as Sherlock is, I think the actor’s life is the only life for me.”
“But you enjoy it, don’t you?” John asked as he let himself fall into one of the kitchen stools.
“Oh, of course. I absolutely love it. I don’t think I would really want to be anywhere else. I just figure that if I had the chance to live an alternate lifestyle, I wouldn’t mind it being like Sherlock’s. Perhaps with less social ineptitude, however.”
John laughed at this and Benedict smiled.
“What would you like for dinner?” John asked the actor at last.
Benedict shrugged. “I’m ambivalent. What did you have in mind?”
“I could go for some Italian, I suppose. Pasta sounds good right about now.”
“Sounds good to me. Dine in, dine out?”
“Of course. Go ahead and get ready. Take your time; I’m in no hurry. I’ve found a new book to keep me entertained.”
John nodded gratefully and set off up stairs to get ready for dinner. Benedict grabbed a book about forensic science and curled up on the couch to wait.
Without realizing it, Martin had drifted off to sleep. He found himself lying in bed next to Amanda and turned to her with a smile. But the smile faded quickly as he noticed that her face was tear-stained and her brows were knitted in distress. Martin reached a gentle hand to her face and caressed the soft cheek. Her eyes fluttered open and widened.
“Martin?!” she cried.
Taken aback, Martin didn’t answer right away. “Well yes, why are you so surprised?”
“Martin! I’ve been so worried. You’d disappeared. We didn’t have any idea where to find you.” She spoke quickly with worry lacing her tones. She held Martin’s hands firmly in her own.
The actor’s eyes widened, and suddenly everything came back to him.
“I thought I’d dreamed it.”
The expression on Amanda’s face went from worry to consternation.
“This is not the time to joke.”
Martin shook his head emphatically. “I’m not joking. I had a dream, or what I thought was a dream, where I woke up in another dimension where Sherlock was real. But you say I disappeared?”
“Yes, you were gone.”
In an instant her face fell away. Before he could begin to register what was happening, Martin felt himself being ripped backward, his surroundings losing focus and streaking past him in long brush strokes of blurred colors.
He opened his eyes to the sound of a loud buzzer, what he assumed was the doorbell. He sat in stunned silence, not quite able to get his bearings before Sherlock emerged from his room in silk pajamas and went to open the door and pay for the delivery. The transaction done, he left the package on the table and turned to the actor who was still in a daze. Sherlock’s eyes narrowed.
“What happened?” He demanded in a low baritone.
The sound of Sherlock’s voice shook Martin out of the daze and he turned his eyes to the penetrating silver ones.
“I saw Amanda; my partner back home. But it wasn’t just a dream-She told me that I’d gone missing and she was worried. I woke up before she could tell me more.”
Martin’s body was wracked with nerves now. He felt himself shudder involuntarily and willed his hands not to shake.
“Your connection to your world is a subconscious one.” Sherlock explained. “You’re still in tune with your world. Fascinating.”
Maybe because Martin was John’s exact double, Sherlock noticed his distress and felt oddly compelled to comfort him. He reached out a hand and hesitated only a moment before pressing it onto one of Martin’s shoulders and squeezing reassuringly, mirroring the gesture John had done for him on the night of the doppelgangers’ arrival. Martin gave Sherlock a grateful look and gave a decisive nod of his head.
“Right, well it’s a relief to know that I can still see my world. It’s enough for now, so why don’t we eat?” He felt rattled, but he didn't want to show his vulnerability in Sherlock's presence.
Sherlock nodded. “You set the table.” He mused.
Martin scratched the back of his head. “Uh yeeeah, force of habit, really.”
“No, I like it.”
Martin looked up. “Oh. Good.”
Awkwardly the two sat down at the table and served themselves. There was not much of an exchange between them, but it was alright for the first day.
Martin couldn’t help but linger in the memory of Amanda in his dream. He wondered if he could get back home if he managed to dream long enough. For the first time since he was a child, Martin was desperately homesick.
Chapter 7: Let the Games Begin
Sentiment. Sherlock hated sentiment. Primarily because it was boring. There was nothing thrilling about a crime scene when the killer left behind clues due to sentiment. Taking something from the victim that was once theirs, invariably leading Sherlock right to them. Or a crime of passion. Those could be interesting, but there was always some stupid level of irrational sentiment involved that left telltale clues leading to the crime’s resolution. But what disgusted Sherlock the most was that for all his effort, he was not above the disease of sentiment. He wouldn’t admit it, but he knew since the incident when Moriarty threatened to blow John sky high that he couldn’t just reason sentiment away. It was there, and it was there to stay. Worse yet, sentiment implicated the people he cared about. If caring about someone was supposed to be such a virtue, then Sherlock wondered how evolution could have been so careless as to make it a serious weakness in the fabric of the human psyche.
Sherlock was sitting in the Lay-Z Boy recliner with his legs stretched out before him, his arms resting on either side of him and his eyes staring at the ceiling of this new apartment. He’d started wondering about sentiment after seeing Martin in a state after waking up from the dream about Amanda. The fact that Martin was in some ways John made Sherlock uncomfortable. The sentiment he had for John transferred easily to John’s double. Where Sherlock would normally be impassive he found that Martin’s distress was like seeing John’s distress. It was problematic. Sherlock dug into the pocket of his silk housecoat for his cell phone and started rapid-fire typing.
Bored – SH
He stared at the glowing screen in the darkness of the unfamiliar apartment. It was comfortable, but it wasn’t home. No eclectic décor, no Mrs. Hudson and no John.
Sherlock, you do know it’s 3 a.m.? –JW
Sherlock’s lips twitched.
Sherlock knew well enough that it was a problem. John liked his sleep, and when Sherlock was feeling generous he admitted that it was with good reason. He’d never tell John this, of course.
You’re impossible. What’s on your mind? –JW
In a rush of the feeling Sherlock decidedly despised, he answered truthfully.
It took longer for John to reply. Sherlock figured the text would throw him for a loop. Though John often surprised him, as was the case when Sherlock received his reply.
You’re worried about Moriarty –JW
Sherlock couldn’t help but compliment John’s deduction inwardly. He felt the warmth of affection blooming in his chest. Not having to explain the complexities of feeling to John was one of Sherlock’s favorite things about him. John didn’t ask questions about feelings because he seemed to understand wordlessly. John had the emotional brilliance Sherlock lacked. For all of his detached rationality, Sherlock resentfully admitted to himself that he was unable to fully understand the emotions of others because he lacked the ability to understand them within himself. It daunted him to face something that couldn't be understood clinically or subverted rationally. Not knowing how his own emotions worked, he could hardly begin to understand the complexities of someone else's.
In the time it took Sherlock to sort through his thoughts John had sent him another message.
It’ll be fine, Sherlock -JW
It was a lie, they both knew it, but it was a comforting one. Dealing with Moriarty never was fine. Moriarty denied the simplicity that a “fine” situation implied. There would be nothing “fine” about it. Moriarty’s dark promise echoed in Sherlock’s memory.
I will BURN the heart out of you.
Then there was John. Sherlock understood John better than he understood anyone and John somehow managed to come to know Sherlock better than anyone had before. The detective didn't understand it all yet, but he lived emotions vicariously by John. He'd even found himself facing his own emotions from time to time since the doctor had become a part of his life.
The lack of reply must have made John anxious because his next text read:
Hold on. I’m coming over now -JW
Sherlock quickly typed his reply.
Come disguised. Take the long way round to the back entrance. –SH
John’s reply came right away.
Sherlock felt like maybe this was pushing the boundaries of necessity too far, but it really helped him to have John around. Martin was in bed already, and though Martin and John did share some character traits, they were not the same person. This distinction was something Sherlock was painfully aware of as he noticed all the nuances of Martin’s physical demeanor. He was no army doctor- the way he stood suggested he was comfortable, unconcerned with impeccable posture the way John had been trained to be. Martin’s mannerisms were also more relaxed. He had the bearing of a man who did things the way he wanted when he wanted. He was also more susceptible to criticism than John was. More defensive. He had an ego. Of course John had an ego of his own, but not in the same way.
John was confident in the face of Sherlock’s criticism because he managed to understand that Sherlock’s genius didn’t make him any less human. Much as Sherlock hated to admit it, his brilliance didn’t shield him from this human vulnerability. After all, Sherlock admitted to himself begrudgingly that he was just human. But an extraordinary human, nonetheless.
Sherlock was brought out of his thoughts by a quiet knock on the door. He rose from the recliner and went to let John in. The doctor nodded at his friend and walked into the flat. He was wearing a hoodie and sweat pants in an attempt to look like a street thug. He pulled off his hood and looked around the apartment.
“This is really nice.” He whispered. “Doesn’t really suit your image, though.”
Sherlock quirked a quizzical brow. “Image? What image?”
“This is too…boring, I guess. You’re a bit of a collection of things, that’s why Baker Street suits you.”
After a pause, John asked, “Do you have anything to drink?”
Sherlock nodded once in the direction of the kitchen. “In the fridge.”
“You went shopping?” John asked in disbelief.
“Mycroft,” Sherlock replied testily.
“Ah. Should have guessed.” John went to the fridge and pulled out a jug of orange juice. Finding a glass, he poured himself some and returned the jug to the fridge. He then moved to the couch and sat down. Sherlock was standing rooted to the spot lost in thought. John said nothing and took a sip of juice. There had been beer, but it was too late for beer. Finally Sherlock seemed to register that he was still standing and went to join John on the couch. Now that John was with him he didn’t feel like talking so much as just sitting there in the dark. He took comfort in John’s presence. It was enough. He watched John put down the half emptied glass on the coffee table next to the couch and then with a groan stretched and lean into the leather couch. He looked at Sherlock.
“So, sentiment?” He said to finally breech the silence.
Sherlock didn’t answer. Instead he let himself lean into the couch next to John.
“Look, Sherlock… It’s normal.”
“It’s inconvenient.” He retorted.
John’s brows furrowed. “Yes, I know. But it can be empowering, too.”
Sherlock faced the doctor expectantly.
“When I was in Afghanistan I had people I wanted to protect. It helped.”
“Most of them died.” Sherlock said too quickly. John felt a surge of anger shoot through him, but he inhaled deeply.
John thought he'd misheard. The tone of Sherlock's voice was even repentant. John sighed and met Sherlock's silver eyes.
“Yes, but that was a war. The numbers were too great to expect anything less.” He closed his eyes to see the faces of his fallen comrades there. “Yes, many did die. But it was what you call sentiment that had us covering for each other on the battlefield. How do you think I’m here? One of the boys dragged me across the field to a medical tent after I got shot. He risked his life to save me from bleeding to death.”
Sherlock was watching him silently.
“I’m not a hero, John.” Sherlock said quietly.
“I’m not saying you have to be. You feel like you have to work alone, and pardon me for saying this, because you’re an arrogant prick,” John smiled when he said it, “but what you don’t realize is that you have people around you who choose to work with you because they share your sentiment. Whether you like it or not.”
The same warm affection Sherlock had felt for the doctor while reading his texts now bloomed again. Sherlock avoided meeting John’s eyes. He started as he felt a strong arm close around his shoulders and pull him into a half hug. One tight squeeze and it was over.
“In case you were wondering, I’m not going anywhere, Sherlock. I’ve already stuck around this long.”
“John?” Sherlock didn’t like the uncertainty in his voice; everything about it spelled danger. He was vulnerable, but it was too late to take it back. John watched him attentively. He paused now realizing he wasn’t quite sure what it was he wanted to say. Finally he spoke.
John’s lips pulled up into a small smile and he gave a small nod. Then he proceeded to yawn.
“Sherlock, I don’t think I can keep my eyes open much longer. Feel free to bounce ideas off me, but I probably wont be awake to hear you.”
“What’s the point, then?” Sherlock responded indignantly.
“Don’t give me that. You don’t give two cents about whether I can hear you or not. You just like to hear yourself talk.” John said with a smirk. “Also, I’m bloody tired.”
Sherlock grunted in disapproval, but relented.
“Use my bed. I prefer this room.” He said without leaving room for contest. John looked surprised, then grateful. “Sure. Thanks.”
Sherlock hummed in reply as John rose from the couch and headed for the open bedroom door.
“Good night, Sherlock.”
Once the door had been closed after John, Sherlock stretched himself out on the couch. He felt a new exhilaration wash over him. For the first time Sherlock started planning a way to draw Moriarty out that didn’t mean working alone. He began to factor in what he had at his disposal from the people closest to him. He considered individual strengths and weaknesses of Greg Lestrade, what little he knew of Martin and Benedict, and most importantly John. The excitement pulsated through his veins and all he wanted was for Moriarty to surface because now the beginnings of a plan were taking shape and Sherlock was once again excited for the game.
Chapter 8: A is For-
Benedict was vaguely aware that his phone was vibrating. He groaned and turned his back on it pulling the pillow over his head in an effort to drown out the insistent noise. Soon it had stopped, but by now Benedict had been pulled from unconsciousness and his curiosity was more powerful than his sleep addled mind. Abandoning the pillow, he turned over, pushed himself up on one elbow and reached for the phone. He’d received a message from Martin.
Ben, sorry it’s so late. Have a lot on my mind. Can we talk? –Martin
With his fingers still not quite as awake as his mind, Benedict clumsily typed a reply.
Ofcourse. You coud come. Late enouhg that it should be alriht –Ben
Not bothering to correct the many errors in his message, Benedict hit send and dramatically let himself face-plant into the pillow to await a reply. If Martin was awake enough to come over, he figured it would be easier than dragging himself out of his wine-induced slumber. He had enjoyed a nice dinner with John, and since he’d received his first paycheck from Mycroft he felt comfortable spending a portion of it on social drinking. Dinner with John had been easy and enjoyable, but certainly nothing like dinner with Martin would have been. John was far more conservative in his conversation topics and maintained the vestiges of his military background at all times. However, he had a lovely manner and natural warmth that radiated off him. What was more was that he didn’t seem to mind that Benedict was drinking a little more than he should. Benedict suspected that John knew it wasn’t carelessness that had him lisping through slurred conversation by the end of the night. No, the drinking had been planned- the actor knew he wouldn’t be able to get any sleep otherwise and he couldn’t afford to function on a level anything short of his best.
Finally his phone vibrated again. With difficulty he glanced sideways at it.
Heading out now –Martin
Now Benedict forced himself into a sitting position. He felt positively sluggish, but he knew there was nothing for it. Martin obviously had something on his mind and as much as sleep was fighting to reclaim him, Benedict conquered it by standing from the pull out and heading for the kitchen sink. He ran the cold water, cupped his hands under the icy stream and splashed himself awake. He hissed through clenched teeth as the cold jolted his neural system into full alert. Invigorated, he cupped his hands under the water once more and brought it to his face again. After standing over the sink letting the excess water drip away, he pulled a glass out of the cupboard and filled it. He took the glass back to his bedside and picked up his phone. There was another message from Martin.
Nearly there –Martin
Benedict took a long sip of the water and set the glass down to reply.
Right. Be right there to open up for you –Ben
Having sent the message, he left the flat and headed down the stairs to the main doorway. He opened the door to find Martin on the doorstep. Benedict greeted him quietly and the two headed back to the flat.
“I’m really sorry about this, Ben.” Martin whispered once the door was locked behind them.
Benedict shook his head waving off Martin’s apology. “It’s fine, really. What’s on your mind, though?”
Martin locked his eyes with Benedict’s. “I had a dream about Amanda, but it wasn’t just a dream. I think I was home, Ben. For a little while.”
Benedict’s eyes widened.
“How could you tell? Are you sure it wasn’t just a vivid dream?”
Martin shook his head. “No, you know how you wake up after a dream and you know it was a dream? When I was with Amanda, I felt like I was waking up there from this dream, or what ever this is.”
Benedict nodded slowly. “What else?”
Martin paused to recollect his memories. After a moment he spoke. “It wasn’t for very long, but she was upset that I’d disappeared. She said I’d gone missing. I was trying to explain that I was here, but the doorbell rang at the other flat and I woke up.”
Benedict quietly tried to put the pieces together. “Well, we were sleeping when we were transported here. I don’t believe it’s too far a leap to assume that we can connect with home while we’re asleep.” Suddenly his eyes lit up. “Martin! Maybe that’s it! Maybe that’s how we get home!”
Martin nodded. “Sherlock said something similar when I told him about it. Said we still have a subconscious connection with our world.”
“But then, if it’s when we’re asleep, why is it I’ve not dreamed of home?”
Martin opened his mouth to reply but found he was at a loss. His shoulders sagged and he shook his head. “I don’t know. I mean, this is the first time it’s happened.”
“Is there anything else about it you think is important?” Benedict prodded gently.
Martin thought for a minute but shook his head. “Not that I can think of right off.”
Benedict nodded. “I guess we’ll find out.”
Realizing they were still standing, the friends moved to the kitchen. Benedict poured Martin a glass of water and set it in front of him before taking a seat in one of the bar stools. They sat in silence sipping at their water before Martin’s eyes widened and he sputtered into his glass.
“What? What is it?” Benedict asked frantically.
“I’d forgotten to be subtle on my way here. I mean, my face was in plain sight.”
“Did you see anyone on the way?”
Martin nodded solemnly. “Looked like a thug walking the other way. I couldn’t see his face, though. We were on opposite sides of the street, so I don’t think he really noticed me.”
Benedict relaxed. “Then there’s probably nothing to be worried about. I’d forgotten the necessary precautions as well. We can’t be so careless again, though. If Moriarty’s men trace any movement between 221B and the new flat, we’ll be blowing the whole operation before it’s even really began.”
Martin nodded his agreement and gulped down the rest of the water in his glass.
“How did you leave without Sherlock noticing?” Benedict asked.
Martin shook his head. “I just left. I think Sherlock was in his room when I did. I don’t really know if he noticed.”
“Strange that he of all people should miss you leaving. That’s not something to take lightly. I’d be willing to bet he’s just as distracted as we are.”
Martin scoffed. “It’s unlikely, really. You know him. Once he gets into one of his reveries, it doesn’t matter who you are. He loses track.”
Benedict laughed. “I can’t argue with you there.”
Then Martin eyed the staircase. “Do you think we’re keeping John up?”
Benedict glanced over his shoulder and then looked back at Martin. “Maybe so. Probably best to try and get back to sleep. You may as well stay here. I guess we’re bunking again, unless you’re brave enough to try Sherlock’s bed?” Benedict said quirking a brow. Martin raised his hands in surrender.
“No. Not even going there.”
“Good man. I didn’t dare either.”
The friends then climbed into bed and hit the lights. Though still full of questions, they were at ease in each other’s company. The only reminder each man had of home was the other, and that reminder was a comfort.
A click and then the flicker of flame for only a second. Darkness. A click, a flicker, a flame. Darkness. These actions were repeated in a room lit only by a small glowing laptop screen. On the screen was Baker Street, the door to 221B in the center of the frame.
A click, a flicker, a flame. Darkness.
The morning came too early for John Watson as the alarm on his phone bullied him out of sleep. He groaned, but swung his legs over the side of the bed forcing himself to stand anyway. He made his way to the door to find Sherlock distractedly nibbling at some toast and sipping tea as he read the morning paper.
“Sherlock, I’m off.”
John shrugged. “Right then. I’ll see you later.”
Not expecting a reply, John left the flat. He took the elevator to the parkade and was sure to take the long way around the block to reach 221B. It was a warm morning, and John left his hoodie tied around his waist as he jogged the rest of the way home. He arrived at 221B and let himself in. He reached the flat to find Benedict and Martin together in the kitchen preparing an early breakfast.
“Wha-?” John started.
“John? I didn’t know you’d left.” Benedict said incredulously.
“Bet Sherlock’s going to love this,” Martin drawled.
Just as contemplations over the implications of no one being at their proper station were coming into question, the doorbell rang.
“A bit early for visitors…” John mused.
“I’ll get it.” Benedict said pleasantly.
John gave the man a stern look and Benedict waved him off dismissively. “I’m just answering the door.”
That said, Benedict rose from the bar stool and skipped downstairs in an oddly chipper mood. John followed him closely just to be sure. At the main door, Benedict found a member of Sherlock’s homeless network.
“Found a bloke on the street needs work.” He said gruffly.
Benedict remained impassive. “Oh?” He said in Sherlock’s cool tone.
The young man nodded and with a jerk of his head he motioned for someone to approach. A man stepped into view and Benedict felt his voice catch in his throat at the sight of him. Before he could say anything, the man had beat him to it.
Chapter 9: Discoveries
Andrew’s escort quirked a brow and looked between the two men in mild confusion.
“You know ‘im?”
Benedict was about to nod but caught himself.
“No. I mistook him for an acquaintance,” he watched helplessly as Andrew’s expression grew desperate, “you say you need work?” He prompted, hoping Andrew would know to play along. However, his escort interjected.
“Found him wandering the streets a few days ago. Said he just woke up in an abandoned flat and had no money on him,” the man leaned forward conspiratorially and lowered his voice, “I don’t think he’s all right in the head.”
Benedict looked Andrew over with increasing sympathy and motioned for him to come inside.
“Thank you…” Benedict trailed off expectantly.
“Devin.” He supplied.
“Right. Thank you Devin.” He stepped back to let Andrew through and was about to close the door when Devin’s hand shot out to stop it. The other hand he held outstretched expectantly. Benedict looked at the hand in mild confusion before realizing what it was Devin wanted. He sighed.
“John?” He asked. No answer came.
“John?” He asked again now turning to look over his shoulder and found the army doctor staring with mouth agape at the newcomer. Too quickly for Benedict to process, John had Andrew against a wall with his arms behind his back. Andrew cried out and John twisted his arms up behind his back tighter. Biting back another yell, Andrew screwed his eyes shut. Benedict launched himself at John and pried him away from his co-actor.
“It’s not who you think it is.” Benedict whispered dangerously. John looked up at him in confusion and then back at Andrew who was massaging his sore arms. Remembering Devin, Benedict took a breath to calm himself. "John, would you pay Devin for me?"
The doctor gave Benedict a confused look but went to the door and handed the escort twenty pounds. Taking the money and stashing it in his pocket, Devin swept his gaze over the three faces and shrugged.
“Maybe he’s not the only one missin’ his right mind.” He said and disappeared down the street. Benedict watched him go and with a heavy sigh as John shut the door. Benedict turned on his heel to face his friend, dropping Sherlock’s character. He laid a strong hand on each of Andrew's shoulders warmly.
“Are you alright?” He asked with concern.
Andrew raised his brows at Benedict and then screwed his eyes shut shaking his head.
“What is happening?” He groaned.
Benedict dropped one hand to his side and guided Andrew toward the stairs.
“I can’t answer that for you, but if you come up I can tell you what I do know.”
Andrew met the taller man’s eyes and nodded. “Jesus Ben, I’m so glad to see you.”
Benedict nodded and looked over his shoulder at John.
“This is not Moriarty.” He insisted.
John watched Andrew suspiciously but followed the two up the stairs. When they reached the door Martin stood from the barstool at the sight of Andrew.
“Uh… I’m going to hope I’m right when I say Andrew?”
Andrew’s eyes widened and his gaze whiplashed between Martin and John’s faces as utter confusion settled onto his features. “What…?”
Martin moved toward his co-actor. “Shit. You look bad. Where did you come from?” saying this, Martin motioned for Andrew to take a seat. Gratefully he sat at the kitchen table and Benedict went to grab him a beer out of the fridge. He popped the cap and handed the bottle to Andrew. The Irishman took it eagerly and threw his head back for a long swig. He’d nearly drained half the bottle when he finally came up gasping for air.
“Ho, I needed that.” He planted the bottle on the kitchen table.
“So what happened to you?” Martin prodded.
“I’ve been walking the streets for the last three and half days and sleeping in doorways. What I’m wearing,” he said plucking at the hoodie, “was given to me by some homeless guy with a shopping cart full of junk.”
Benedict looked horrified. “I’m so sorry Andrew.”
The Irish actor shook his head. “It’s fine. Just glad you’re here.”
Andrew sipped at his beer again and then he looked up into Benedict’s face.
“Where am I?”
“You’re really not going to like my answer.” Benedict warned.
Andrew looked up at him through tired eyes. “Trust me when I say that anything you tell me probably won’t to faze me.”
Benedict nodded his agreement and took a deep breath before delving into his own account of how he and Martin had arrived and what they knew so far; with occasional disbelieving interjections on Andrew’s part, Benedict managed to cover the whole story in a little under and hour.
“Another dimension?” Andrew repeated. Benedict nodded. Andrew took his beer in hand and sipped at it silently before putting it back down on the table. “Huh.”
During Benedict’s explanation John had taken the second barstool on the opposite side of the table. His doctoring instincts kicked in as he noticed the bruises under the Irishman’s eyes, his unnaturally pale complexion and his shaking hands.
“You need to eat something.” John said at last.
Andrew looked up tiredly from his beer. “I actually wouldn’t mind something to eat. Haven’t had a good meal since I woke up here.”
John nodded. “You should probably lie down. I can make some soup and toast. You need something light to start with. Build up your strength and your appetite.”
Andrew conceded and went to lay on the unmade pull out.
“We need to tell Sherlock.” John said taking out his phone and holding it out toward Benedict and Martin. “One of you text him. I’ll get started making something to eat.”
Benedict was the one who eventually reached for the phone. He took it in hand and quickly shot off a text to Sherlock.
We’ve had another arrival –Ben
It wasn’t even half a minute before the reply came.
Calling Mycroft now. You’ll stay with him this afternoon. Say nothing about the new arrival –SH
Benedict looked up from the phone.
“He says we’ll be spending the afternoon with Mycroft and not to tell him about Andrew.”
“With Mycroft?” Martin asked skeptically.
“I’m guessing Sherlock will wait an hour after you’ve been picked up and come talk with Andrew.” John ventured. “And he doesn’t want Mycroft nosing around anymore than he already is. Just do as he says for now, I suppose.”
The actors nodded together.
It wasn’t even fifteen minutes later that there was a knock at the door and a black car was awaiting the men outside.
“Guess I’ll be seeing you later?” Andrew asked from the bed where he was sitting with a bowl of canned vegetable soup.
Martin nodded. He watched as Andrew’s eyes furtively glanced in John’s direction. Martin chuckled.
“Don’t worry about him. I’d be more concerned about Sherlock.”
Andrew’s expression turned to one of alarm and Benedict quickly interjected raising his hands and waving them disarmingly. “Not like that, no. The most you’ll have to worry about is his face being about an inch from yours.”
Andrew smirked. “Considering previous experience, I think I can handle that.”
Benedict laughed. “Precisely.”
Benedict and Martin were let off at a skyscraper of an office building downtown. The moment they got out of the car they were escorted by two security guards wearing suits and sunglasses to the elevators. The actors shifted uncomfortably as Schubert’s Moment Musicaux played idly in the background. The doors to the elevators closed and one of the guards pressed the button for floor fifty. Martin and Benedict shared a significant glance and Martin let his head drop. Benedict tried to hide an amused smile. In spite of their efforts not to, the two were giggling together boyishly. The guards were unfazed, continuing to stand erect with their shoulders squared, jaws set and hands folded behind their backs. Martin was the first to stop laughing. He rubbed his nose and pulled his hand over his mouth willing his lips to drop from their smile. Benedict followed suit by clearing his throat and pointedly keeping his eyes forward on the elevator doors. Lips twitching against another round of laughter, the actors willed themselves into silence.
Finally they arrived at the fiftieth floor and stepped out with the guards in tow. Martin fought back a sigh of relief as they were led to the door of a lavish office and ushered inside. Here the guards gave a curt nod and left the way they came.
“Ah, good afternoon gentlemen.” Came the voice of Mark from behind a large polished mahogany desk. Well, Mycroft’s voice to be exact. Martin gave a polite nod.
“Afternoon.” He said moving to take a seat in one of the chairs Mycroft was gesturing to. Benedict also nodded and took the chair next to Martin and crossed his legs as he leaned back.
“How are you finding life in our… dimension?” The elder Holmes brother asked leaning forward with his hands folded under his chin.
“Fine, really.” Benedict replied. “But I believe we have a bargain and you’ve yet to fully keep your end of it.”
Mycroft waved Benedict’s words away with a sweeping hand and brought it back to rest under his chin.
“But of course, Benedict. That is precisely why I was glad to make time to have yourself and Martin to my office this afternoon. Although I do wish my brother would be more considerate of my schedule. He really doesn’t have any respect for the constant maintenance the world requires down to every second.”
Martin raised his brows in disbelief and Benedict pursed his lips. Neither was sure how to respond. Mycroft smiled a tight-lipped smile and leaned back in his chair.
“So gentlemen, we know that you arrived here when you were asleep. Have you made anymore discoveries since we last met?”
Benedict turned to Martin and the older man nodded.
“I have an unconscious connection with, um, our world.” Martin said this gesturing to Benedict and himself. “I had a dream where I was back with my partner, but I knew I was awake.”
Mycroft cocked his head. “You’re certain it wasn’t just a lucid dream?”
Martin furrowed his brows. “Yeah, I’m sure I was awake. Amanda was there and she was relived to see me. She was explaining how I’d disappeared and London was in an uproar about it. Look, I know what it sounds like, but I know what I felt. I wasn’t dreaming. I’ve had thirty-nine years’ worth of dreaming. This was different.”
Mycroft nodded then turned his eyes on Benedict.
“He said he has this connection. Don’t you?” Mycroft asked.
Benedict hesitated for a moment and then shook his head. “No, I mean, I don’t know yet.”
Mycroft contemplated this a moment. Martin suddenly interrupted.
“You know, now that we’re on the subject, I had another dream last night where I was home, but that had definitely been a dream.”
Mycroft looked interested. He said nothing, expecting Martin to continue.
“Uh, I was just walking through a park near the house with the kids and then the playground turned into some kind of monster and we had to escape.” He finished his account looking sheepish.
“Interesting.” Mycroft mused. “It would seem that there are rules concerning your connection. Considering the nature of your arrival, it really isn’t at all surprising. Now we only need discover what these rules are.”
Martin contemplated the differences between his dreams and finally spoke. “Well, in my dream with Amanda it seemed like she was as aware as I was that we weren’t dreaming. It was like she was there with me. In the one last night my kids felt like they were just part of the dream.”
Mycroft’s eyes glittered now. “Your dreaming of home is natural considering your current displacement. It is also fair to assume that your partner is likely dreaming about you as she would of course be preoccupied with your disappearance. Our strongest emotions are the ones that transcend most often into our subconscious. I would venture a guess to say that you were both dreaming of each other at the same moment and this opened the connection between you.”
Martin slapped both hands down on Mycroft’s mahogany desk. “Then there’s a way back?”
Mycroft’s expression darkened. “I can’t yet say, of course, but this new information is invaluable. I will have my best engineers on the project starting today. I will require you both to inform me of any novelties you may experience. Anything at all.”
Martin nodded. His mouth was dry now and he forced himself to swallow.
“So this means that there’s a good chance I can make the same connection. I just need to subconsciously connect with someone at home.” Benedict said leaning forward and hoping for confirmation. He almost felt giddy when Mycroft nodded.
“In theory, yes. This seems a likely assumption.”
Suddenly the phone on Mycroft’s desk rang and he smiled at the actors apologetically before reaching to pick it up. It was a short conversation and soon he put the phone back on its cradle.
“I hate to cut our visit so short but you must excuse me. There are very serious matters I must attend to and I have already put them off for far too long. You have all my services at your disposal of course. You are welcome to take one of the cars to get lunch and to take you where you please at no expense to yourselves.”
“Thank you.” Benedict said and the three men stood together. Mycroft led the way out of the office and to the elevator. After the long ride down they waved Mycroft off and as promised had a private car and driver awaiting their orders.
“Feeling hungry?” Benedict asked.
It wasn’t until evening that Benedict and Martin received text messages from John telling them they could return. For the sake of discretion Martin was left off in the alley behind the apartment building he now stayed in with Sherlock. Benedict was driven right to the front door of 221B. He thanked the driver and went inside to find Andrew and John laughing over a cup of tea.
“Welcome back.” Andrew said smiling.
“Thank you. How was your cross examination with Sherlock and John?”
Andrew shrugged. “It didn’t take him long to confirm that I wasn’t actually Moriarty. He just asked me a load of questions and said he’d expect me to work for him like you and Martin are doing.”
Benedict was quiet a moment before he replied. “I realize that Martin and I are probably in the most danger considering who we’re pretending to be, but to think what you might have to do…”
Andrew furrowed his brows. “Yeah, I’m not excited about it either, but what else am I supposed to do?”
John cleared his throat and the actors turned to face him.
“I’ve just received a text from Sherlock. He says to turn the telly on the news channel.”
Benedict moved to grab the remote and switched the television on. He flicked to the desired channel and watched the headline scroll over the announcer’s head.
“Remaining members of the Bee Gees, Robin and Barry Gibb, abducted. Robin Gibb, just recently having awakened from a coma has doctors concerned that he may not survive without proper care. Rewards are being offered for the beloved celebrities’ safe return but no contact has been made.”
John’s phone vibrated again.
Meet me at the police station ASAP –SH
“I have to go. Feel free to help yourselves to anything we have here. I don’t know when I’ll be back.”
Benedict and Andrew nodded.
“Good luck.” Benedict said.
“Thanks. It never hurts.”
The door to the flat shut leaving the newscaster to continue her broadcast in the otherwise silent flat.
Chapter 10: Black
Greg was standing with his hands planted squarely on the surface of his office desk and his eyes boring into Sherlock’s.
“So what are you going to do?”
Sherlock was pacing back and forth. “He wants me there. It’s a game. But what are the rules? He left nothing. Just a note for me.”
“Are you sure you didn’t miss something?” Lestrade dared ask. Sherlock stopped pacing long enough to pierce the detective inspector with a menacing glare.
“Of course I didn’t miss anything. That’s your job.”
Lestrade’s expression darkened, but he kept his head and stood crossing his arms over his chest.
“So what does he want?”
Sherlock was now still in the middle of the office. “I’m not meant to know yet. This is the way he plays. He leaves the clues he wants to leave. It wont be long before there’s another.” Sherlock paused. “Kidnapping celebrities…”
“What’s left of the Bee Gees,” Lestrade provided.
Sherlock waved a hand dismissively. “Yes, yes. But that’s not the point. The point is that this is going to turn into a gamble.”
“He’ll want you to solve some kind of puzzle or they’ll die?”
“Good, you’re keeping up. Precisely.”
Lestrade rolled his eyes. “So we wait?”
Sherlock let himself fall into one of the chairs in the room and crossed his legs while leaning forward, his fingers steepled under his chin. “Hmm. Yes, but not for long.”
Just then John Watson came into the room.
“I’m sorry. I got here as soon as I could. What are we up against this time?”
“Moriarty.” Sherlock replied without turning.
John was quiet as the weight of the name settled over the room in a moment of tangible silence. Finally John swallowed.
“How much do you know?” He asked as he approached Lestrade’s desk.
“Not much. The bastard only left a note saying some rubbish about inviting Sherlock to a birthday party.” The DI explained with brows knitted together in fruastration.
John’s expression went slack. “A what?”
“My reaction exactly.”
Just then Sherlock’s phone went off. He fished the device from his pocket and read the text. His eyes flashed and John knew the look.
“What did he say, Sherlock?”
Instead of reading aloud, Sherlock handed the phone to John and sat in silent thought. John read the text aloud.
“Tick-tock, tick-tock. This is an invitation for my dear Sher-lock. I’ve got a Saturday night fever and only you have the cure. Better have the wings of heaven on your shoes, stayin’ alive’s not easy if you’re gonna lose.”
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” Greg nearly shouted. John looked to Sherlock for a clue but he could see that the detective was perplexed.
“Sherlock?” John asked gently.
The sleuth sprung up from his chair. “I need to think. I’m going back.”
John wanted to protest but knew better. He watched Sherlock leave the office and then turned to face Lestrade with a somber expression.
“Lift?” The DI offered.
“That would be great, yeah.”
Sherlock arrived at the new apartment and slammed the door behind him. He shrugged off his coat and flung it onto the back of one of the dining room chairs. Martin was sitting in the Lay-Z Boy watching telly and sprung up upon hearing Sherlock's return.
Sherlock ignored him and proceeded to pace the floor almost violently.
Martin sighed in exasperation.
“I know you’re hearing me, Sherlock. What did you find out?”
Sherlock was now mumbling at one-hundred miles per hour under his breath and gesticulating wildly with his hands. Martin caught the words “fever”, “Saturday”, and something about the kidnapped celebrities.
“For fuck’s sake, just tell me already!”
Sherlock stopped dead and turned on the actor in a flurry. “WOULD YOU JUST SHUT UP?!”
Martin stood in momentary shock, but he was not a man to back down in the face of hostility. He squared his shoulders and balled a fist while gesticulating with his open right hand.
“No I bloody well wont, you damned git. I’m fucking asking a question and I’d bloody well like an answer!” He bellowed back.
“All you morons are the same. Stupid, boring, dull. Nothing new, nothing unexpected. What good will it do for me to tell you what I know?” Sherlock demanded with a sneer. “What? You think you’ll solve this if I tell you? In case you’ve forgotten, you play the part of John Watson, and even then you’re not even half the man he is!”
A second later Sherlock was seeing stars as pain exploded across his face and he plummeted backwards colliding with the dining room table and knocking the glass top off the frame and onto the thankfully carpeted floor. The sleuth went with it managing to clip his chin on one of the chairs before falling to a heap on the ground.
“Fuck you.” Martin breathed. He felt his rage subsiding into mild concern now, but he made no move toward the detective. He waited the for heap to show signs of consciousness, but when none came he felt a sudden pang of panic. He strode to the detective’s side and kneeled next to him. Martin had been in a few fist fights in his younger years, so he was relieved to assess the damage Sherlock had sustained as easily survivable, but he hadn’t intended to knock him out. He pulled Sherlock’s right arm over his shoulders and dragged him to the couch where he laid him out. Just as he was going for a wet cloth, he heard Sherlock’s phone go off. Martin followed the sound to the sleuth’s coat and fished it out of his pocket. He unblocked the screen to read a text from John.
Anything yet? – JW
Martin didn’t bother to reply, but his curiosity got the better of him. He pressed the back button and noticed a message from a private number.
Tick-tock, tick-tock. This is an invitation for my dear Sher-lock. I’ve got a Saturday night fever and only you have the cure. Better have the wings of heaven on your shoes, stayin’ alive’s not easy if you’re gonna lose.
Martin felt a cold knot in the pit of his stomach and knew that what he was reading was undoubtedly from Moriarty. He stood reading the text absent-mindedly and couldn’t help but remember John Travolta strutting down a street in Brooklyn, New York to the Bee Gees’ Stayin’ Alive. Then it hit him. Hurrying, he dropped the phone on the Lay-Z Boy and went to grab a wet cloth to wake Sherlock. Still feeling a reasonable amount of resentment toward the man, Martin made sure the water was as cold as possible and carelessly dropped the cloth onto Sherlock’s face. After a second, the detective groaned, and upon realizing that his nose and mouth were covered, he sputtered. Grasping blindly at his face he snatched the cloth away and flung it across the room. Martin stood with his arms crossed over his chest waiting for Sherlock to open his eyes. After a few more groans and a tremendous effort to push himself into a sitting position, Sherlock finally did open his eyes to find Martin glaring down at him.
“Does it hurt?” He asked.
Sherlock lifted a hand to his cheek and exercised his jaw, flinching at the pain there.
“Good. You bloody deserve it.”
“Oh yes, all very well you knocking me out when we’re on a case where lives are hanging in the balance. Perfectly brilliant of you, Martin.” Sherlock seethed.
“You know nothing of popular culture, do you?” Martin demanded. The question caught Sherlock off-guard.
“What does that have to do-"
“You don’t, do you?” Martin insisted angrily.
“Of course I don’t! It’s useless information at best. Distraction for the idle of mind.”
“I wouldn’t call Moriarty ‘idle of mind’, I don’t think.” Martin said pointedly. This got Sherlock’s attention.
“Oh, now you listen. You’re a fucking bastard, but I’ll tell you. Saturday Night Fever is a film that was made in nineteen seventy-seven and was famous for using one of the Bee Gees’ best known songs: Stayin’ Alive.”
Sherlock’s eyes widened. “Where was it filmed?” He demanded.
“In New York.”
“He has them in New York!” Now the detective was on his feet.
“No shit, Sherlock.” Martin said this feeling very pleased with himself. Now Martin had given Sherlock not only a physical beating, but he’d managed a right hook to his ego as well. The detective suddenly deflated. He looked at Martin and for once he saw him for who he was outside of his appearance; this was purely Martin through and through. A man with an ego and sensitivity and very much his own man. Martin couldn’t be compared to John in more than the physical sense, and Sherlock had to admit that his knowledge of the film industry had just saved him a world of trouble.
“You can thank me later, you prat. You’ve got the information so what’s the plan?”
Thankful for Martin’s focus on the matter at hand, Sherlock grabbed his phone from the Lay-Z Boy and shot a text off to Mycroft. He needed a plane. Now. Then he shot another text to Lestrade telling him to be at 221B Baker Street with a handful of his best officers in no more than a half hour for a flight to New York.
“Sherlock! What the hell happened to you?” John demanded upon seeing the bruises on Sherlock’s face. Only a few hours before he had seen him bruise-free.
“I was punched.” Sherlock supplied vaguely.
“Punched? By who?”
Sherlock glanced in Martin’s direction. John followed the look and Martin crossed his arms over his chest.
“He had it coming.” The actor said defensively. John let his face fall into his hands and shook his head.
“Sherlock. This is why I can’t leave you alone.”
Meanwhile, Lestrade’s eyes were very nearly popping out of his head upon seeing the doppelgangers. “Wha- What in the hell?”
“Doubles from another dimension.” Sherlock explained shortly. “Now, as for the more pressing matter-
“No, Sherlock! You can’t be serious. What is this? Did you actually get a couple people and have them undergo surgery?” The DI demanded in outrage.
“No. I didn’t. Now as I was saying-"
“I can’t believe you, Sherlock. This… This is sick!”
Benedict and Martin shared a knowing smile and the former cleared his throat.
“As unbelievable as it sounds, we’re actually not products of surgery. You can check for scarring if it’ll help?” Benedict offered. Looking extremely skeptical, the DI stalked over to Benedict and Martin and was shocked to find they were telling the truth. He checked for make-up, the edge of synthetic skin and found nothing.
“You’re bloody serious?” The question went out to the whole cabin.
“Will you shut up already? Your idiocy, beyond severely irritating, is distracting and beside the point.” Sherlock had been interrupted too many times and he looked like he might knock the DI out if he interrupted again. “Sit.Down.” He ordered.
Lestrade turned to Sherlock and gave him a withering look before resigning himself to a seat at long last.
“So he has them in New York?” Benedict asked as he buckled the seat belt and made sure his seat was in the upright position.
“Yes. It’s his idea of a joke.” Sherlock explained.
“And the plan?” the actor asked.
“I’m sending you and John in as a distraction. You’ll play mouse for Moriarty while I blindside him.”
“I’m guessing that’s what you want me here for?” Lestrade asked.
“Most intelligent thing you’ve said so far. Yes, I need you to find and take out as many of Moriarty’s gunmen as you can.”
“And me?” Andrew asked.
“Lestrade can use you.”
“To distract Moriarty’s boys.” Lestrade provided. “Because I’m guessing you’re his clone.”
“They’re not clones, they’re alternate versions of ourselves.” Sherlock corrected. His voice laden with irritation.
“And who’s to say this isn’t Moriarty playing a part?”
“Cross examination. Martin and Benedict know Andrew from their dimension. I questioned him myself. The former confirmed the veracity of his answers. Personal questions were included for further certainty. Things Moriarty would only know if he had a file on Andrew’s life. Impossible under the circumstances.”
Lestrade reserved further comment and nodded.
“So I’m a decoy?” Andrew asked as the blood drained from his face.
“We’ll have you well-covered.” Lestrade assured him.
“I’ll be counting on it.”
Seven hours and forty-five minutes later, the plane touched down in New York. No sooner did the men descend the steps were three black cars brought to them with a private driver in each. Sherlock dismissed the drivers and handed a set of keys to Benedict.
“Good. Get to it.”
Benedict’s lip twitched in annoyance at the order, but he climbed into the driver’s seat and waited for John to climb into the passenger seat. Sherlock was giving him directions through his open window.
“Set the GPS to 1977 86th street, Brooklyn. Also, put this on the inside of your lapel.” He handed the actor a small round metal button. “It’s a microphone and a tracker. This way we’ll know your exact location within the building and know where you are at all times.” Sherlock turned to John. “This is like the pool, John. It’s a trap. You have your gun?”
“Good. You’re looking for a twenty-four hour convenience shop. You can get in by the back street. It’ll likely be upstairs.”
Benedict gave a quizzical look. “How can you know for sure?”
“Martin. The popular song “Stayin’ Alive” was used in the film “Saturday Night Fever”. the location of the film was New York. The moment in the film that the song is played shows actor John Travolta walking down 86th street, Brooklyn. The film was released in nineteen seventy-seven.”
“Martin?” Benedict thought he heard wrong.
“Popular culture.” Sherlock provided reluctantly. Benedict laughed.
“Ah, of course. Anyway, no time to waste. See you there?”
Sherlock nodded and headed for the car with Martin in the driver’s seat.
Benedict punched the address into the GPS system and started toward the destination.
The black car pulled into an empty parking lot a street over from 86th. Benedict and John climbed out.
“Alright?” John asked.
Benedict felt his hands shaking but nodded in spite of himself. John reached out a hand and squeezed Benedict’s shoulder reassuringly. The actor nodded at him gratefully. The two men walked a block to 86th and found the convenience store without issue. It was now the ungodly hours of the morning and the road was mostly quiet. They walked to an alleyway leading to the back and turned to find, as Sherlock had predicted, stairs to a door. John brought out his gun and loaded it.
“I’ll go in first.”
“Right.” Benedict conceded and let John lead the way. The doctor ascended the precarious metal staircase with ease and made little to no noise at all. Benedict managed to ascend without making too much noise, but was not as successful in his attempt. By the tem they had reached the landing, Benedict figured Moriarty knew they were there. It also occurred to him that stealth was pointless considering that Moriarty’s men were likely posted nearby with guns trained on them. Benedict felt his heart racing in his chest at the thought and took a deep breath forcing himself to calm down. Instead he focused on John Watson before him, gun steady in his hand, and he took comfort in this.
John tried the door handle to find it was unlocked. He pushed it open and moved into the inky darkness within. Hesitating only a second, Benedict followed. He squinted in the darkness; the only thing guiding him was the sound of John’s breathing and a low high-pitched monotone coming from somewhere in the room. The men noticed a soft glow coming through a crack that was likely a doorway to another room. Moving together, John ahead with gun held in hand. The former army doctor nudged the door open with the toe of his shoe and moved in scanning the room. Benedict followed John inside and noticed a dull glowing screen at the far end of the room. Sure that John had his back, he moved forward and felt himself bump into something- a bed it felt like. He groped blindly and was sure he felt a body under the covers.
“John.” He said to the darkness. In a moment John was next to him holding out his phone to the face. It was Robin Gibb. A shell of the man he once was; his cheeks were eerily sallow- cancer had chewed him up and spit him out and this was all that was left. He had tubes in his nose and upon closer inspection it was discovered that he was hooked up to an IV and a heart monitor. The flatline of the heart monitor made John uneasy. The doctor gave Benedict his phone to hold and checked the body for a pulse. There was none. Benedict gave him a questioning look and John shook his head.
There was the sound of a blunt object to the head. John watched as Benedict crumbled to a heap on the floor, but no sooner had he realized what had happened did he feel a similarly blunt object connect with the back of his own head and everything went black.
Chapter 11: Over the Edge
Sherlock sat in the driver's seat talking quickly to Lestrade on his cell phone.
“There are multiple gunmen, but the main one will likely be posted at a direct vantage point. He’ll be lined up with the windows to the apartment above.
Sherlock listened and nodded.
“Precisely. There will be others posted around him to track any movement from the ground around the building. They’ll be expecting you. You need to take out the main gunman in order to throw the others off. Have Andrew talk to them through the microphone the gunman will have on him. It’ll cause enough confusion to buy me enough time to go in and catch Moriarty by surprise.”
“Where’s the main gunman?” Lestrade asked.
“Either in the building directly across the street or directly behind.” Sherlock assessed.
“Right. I’m on it.” The DI hung up.
Sherlock dropped the phone into his pocket. He’d parked two blocks away at a 24 hour fast-food joint.
“And now we wait?” Martin asked.
Sherlock hummed. “Lestrade will notify me when they’ve secured the gunman and then I’ll move in. I’ll need you to have the car outside ready to go when I come out with John, Benedict and the hostages.”
Martin nodded. “Fine. I can do that much, but I won't be doing any driving."
Sherlock bristled. "How is it you've never learned to drive?"
"Public transit works out just fine. Private drivers are easy to find, too. Better than going out and getting myself killed."
"Better you than someone else." Sherlock retorted.
"No, not really. I don't trust myself to drive. Better let someone who doesn't get a panic attack every time they have to face the road. Anyway, I’m assuming I’m meant to idle somewhere I can easily see you coming out of the building?”
Too preoccupied with other things on his mind to argue, Sherlock just nodded. He was quiet as he listened to the sound of Benedict’s breathing through an earpiece.
“John.” He heard Benedict's whisper through the speakers. As he was listening, his phone went off. It was Lestrade. He picked up.
Lestrade ordered two of the five men to move to the building across the street and took the remaining three and Andrew to the building directly behind the convenience store. They moved carefully in the shadows along the alleyways and Lestrade stopped at the gap they’d have to cross to reach the door to their destination.
“We need to move quickly. Keep your guns ready.” With that he motioned his men forward as quickly as possible. They went unnoticed and hid in the dark shadow of the cheap brick structure. Lestrade motioned for all to follow him up the metal staircase and led them up. Just then his earpiece crackled to life.
“No sign of any gunman here, sir.”
“Right. Cover the ground around this building in five minutes.”
They drew close to the door and Lestrade stood for a moment counting down. He then kicked the door in and led the men inside. They dispersed and searched the premises only to find a cell phone sitting open on a table. Lestrade picked it up and read the open text on screen.
Sorry! You just missed the party. Maybe next time. xo
“This was a set up!” He yelled jerking around.
“Bingo!” Came the voice through the small speaker. “Catch me if you caaaan.”
“Fuck!” Lestrade shouted. “Move out! Move out! NOW!” He grabbed his phone and dialed Sherlock.
“It was a set up, Sherlock. We’ve been had.”
Sherlock swore into the phone. “Get out. Get out now.” He ordered. He heard the sound of scrambling and boots thundering over the floor. Then he saw a burst of light down the block and dropped his phone as the sound of the explosion pierced his eardrum through the speakers.
Sherlock was already putting the car into gear as fumbled with his free hand between the seat and the door for his phone. He finally caught it between his fingers and slapped it to his ear.
“Lestrade!” He yelled. The line was dead.
The car was swerving up the road full-speed and Sherlock pulled it into the alleyway with a violent turn. He pulled in and slammed on the break.
“What? What is it?!” Martin demanded urgently.
The detective didn't answer as he yanked the seatbelt off himself, nearly broke the handle as he jerked at it and violently kicked the door open. Irritated at being ignored, Martin caught him by the collar of his coat before he could jump out.
"SHERLOCK!" The actor screamed; it worked. The detective paused and turned to face him abruptly. He snapped his eyes to Martin's and the look spelled deadly potential. But Martin was far too pissed to be bothered. He held his ground, gripping Sherlock's collar tighter as he leaned forward to challenge him menacingly.
"You WILL tell me what the fuck is going on." He growled.
"Moriarty has them."
Martin blanched.The words sent an icy chill through him and in his shock he released his grip on Sherlock's collar with his eyes staring blankly ahead. The second Martin had let go, Sherlock launched himself out of the car and quickly disappeared into the darkness of the alley like a shadow.
Sherlock raced toward the building now consumed in flames. He could barely tell the difference between the pounding of his boots on the pavement from his heart hammering in his ribcage. Moriarty knew about the doppelgangers. He knew. They’d been too careless. They’d been noticed. This was the game. He knew it was too easy. This was step one in the plan to burn his heart to cinders.
Sherlock swallowed back the panic fighting to consume him and skidded to a halt in front of the raging fire. He heard a siren in the distance and knew he had to move fast. He grabbed the gun he had in the holster concealed by his coat and removed the safety catch as he ran. He knew that going in the front was pointless now. The fire was too far along for him to hope to go in and come out alive. He instead moved around the building hoping against hope that he’d see John emerge unscathed, or at the very least alive.
Martin sat in the passenger's seat of the car not hearing the endless dinging of the open car door alert. It sounded like a faint ring in his ears as Sherlock's words reverberated in his skull.
Moriarty has them.
What could he do? He was no one. He was just an actor. How was he supposed to make any kind of difference in the face of a real crisis? Benedict could be dying and all he could do was sit tight and hope for the best? Was that really all he could do?
It was then that Martin noticed it. In the rear view mirror, nearly imperceptible, was a black silhouette being guided at what Martin guessed was gunpoint.
"Christ," he breathed. "Shit. Fuck. Bloody fucking hell."
He heard a car engine start and he knew what needed to be done. He needed to drive this fucking car and fuckall if he didn't have a license because he was not going to let this bastard get away.
Martin didn't drive. It didn't mean he couldn't. Everyone knows how to drive on some basic level. He told himself unconvincingly. Yeah, every bloody tosser but me. But now wasn't the time to come down on himself. Now he needed to bite the bullet and take the situation by the balls. Steeling himself, Martin turned the keys in the ignition.
Using what he remembered about his limited experience driving during his life, he reversed the car out of the alley just in time to see a silver vehicle pull out of another alley a block down. He saw three silhouettes jerking back and forth in the backseat and with a sinking heart he knew he had his target. He slammed on the gas and jerked backward into the road, remembering to switch the gear to drive last minute before taking off after the car in a panicked frenzy. Martin had no idea what in the hell he was going to do, but he knew he had to do something. He felt the gun in its holster at his thigh like it was a coal on fire. Sherlock had shown him the basics, and he hardly knew if it would be enough, but now he had no choice. It would have to be.
He sped after the car swerving to avoid the odd pedestrian swearing loudly and repeatedly. He swore as he ran several red lights and swore with particular creative vehemence when he followed the car over an island separating lanes running in opposite directions. He swung into the opposing lane of traffic with suprising success and heard the sound of an angry car horn fading in volume behind him. He wasn’t made for this, dammit. This only happened in action movies. He wasn’t an action hero or a stuntman. Hell, he wasn't even a driver.
“Fuck.” He breathed as he sped in hot pursuit. He started seeing fewer buildings. Following the car out of the center of the city the landscape opened up on one side and there was the river. Martin watched in horror as the car ahead of him pitched sideways driving over the barrier purposefully. He saw the driver door open and a man jump out and roll to the side before running away down the bank. Martin swerved after the car off the road and slammed the breaks. He jumped out with some relief to be on land again and raced for the speeding vehicle watching as it plunged into the water.
Without a moment's hesitation he dove in and swam quickly, reaching for the driver’s door that was still open. He took a deep breath and held it going under. Once in the car he came up to find a small air pocket still left in the cabin of the vehicle. He saw that two of the silhouettes were dummies. The third was Barry Gibb. The car was quickly filling with water, but there was still enough air for Martin to work with. Barry noticed him with a cry of relief and moved forward as best he could with his hands bound behind his back. Martin grabbed him by the shoulders and pulled him into the front seat and through the door. He swam desperately while tugging Barry with him. His heart thundered against his chest exhausted his lungs' air supply quickly and they burned, begging for air. He kicked harder and Barry helped as well as he could by propelling himself with his own legs. Just as Martin felt like his lungs might explode, he broke the surface gasping as lights exploded behind his eyes. Barry’s head broke the surface just a second later and both men gulped down the air greedily.
When he had normalized his breathing, Martin shook the water out of his face and dragged Barry toward the bank and letting him go when there was no more danger of him drowning. Once Martin had crawled out of the water he collapsed on the ground in a fit of total exhaustion. The last remaining Bee Gees member lay floating face up in the water slowly pushing himself onto the dry bank with his legs and resting there in a cold puddle.
Sherlock felt his stomach lurch when he saw a dark heap on the ground just meters from the building. He ran toward it and skidded to a halt falling to his knees. He turned one of the bodies over. It was Lestrade. He was in tact, as far as he could tell. The broken glass around him made Sherlock look up.
“Oh you brilliant man.” He breathed. The window on the top floor had been broken through and Lestrade had jumped with Andrew. The actor lay unconscious by his side. Sherlock checked for a pulse on both and was relieved to find they were alive. He knew they’d have broken bones, but nothing serious. He heard the sirens of the ambulance approaching. He looked around to find only two of Lestrade’s men were passed out nearby. Seemingly unharmed. Sherlock rose to his feet and ran out to the road waving his hands in the air for the ambulance to notice him. The vehicle came to a halt and paramedics with stretchers climbed out. Sherlock led them to the bodies as the fire truck started hosing down the flames.
Martin felt his phone vibrate in his pocket. He could hardly believe it had survived the water. He pulled it out and answered.
“Where are you?” It was Sherlock.
Martin struggled to respond. His breath was ragged.
“Martin. Are you alright?” The urgency in Sherlock’s voice was unexpected.
“I’ve been better.” He rasped.
“Where are you?” He repeated.
“I’m on the river bank just outside of town. Not even ten minutes away. I have Barry.” He let the unmentioned names hang in the silence.
“Understood. Do you need medical care?”
“Don’t think so.”
Sherlock sighed audibly on the line. "Can you drive back?"
Martin thought about it for a brief moment, but he knew his nerves were shot. His hands were trembling with adrenaline and cold. "No."
"I'll be there soon. Wait in the car and turn on the heater."
"Will do. Hurry."
Sherlock hung up. Martin let his hand fall next to him. He looked over at Barry who was shivering against the cold. The actor dragged himself to his knees and stood up on wobbling knees before stooping to give Barry a hand up. When he'd managed to get the man's arm around his shoulders, Martin collapsed under the weight with a groan.
“Alright?” He rasped.
“Fuuuuck.” Was Barry's reply.
Martin laughed weakly. “I second that motion.” But the distraction was short-lived as his mind was on Benedict and as an afterthought, John. God Ben, you better be alive.
Benedict awoke to strong arms around him and a cool cloth on his forehead. He blinked his way into consciousness wishing he could crawl away into a dark corner. He had a splitting headache as he opened his eyes to find two bleary figures fussing over him. His head lolled into a strong chest and suddenly his surroundings came into focus.
“Benedict. Son. How do you feel? Are you hurt?” Timothy asked urgently.
Feeling like a small child again, Benedict’s eyes widened as he realized who was holding him. “Dad?” He rasped.
“Oh thank God, Benedict. Thank God.”
The actor felt hot droplets of water on his cheeks and his neck and turned his head to find his mother, Wanda, crying over him desperately. It was only then that the absence of home, the homesickness he had fought off for the last week finally settled in and he found himself sobbing with his parents.
“We were- We thought that-“
His mother couldn’t finish her sentence and Benedict by this time was holding her in his arms as she cried quietly into his chest. His father had a hand on either of their shoulders holding tight.
“We woke up and you were here.” His father fought to explain. “What… How?”
Benedict looked up with tear streaks drying on his cheeks and shook his head.
“You wont believe me if I tell you.” He said honestly.
“You disappeared, Benedict. We thought you’d been kidnapped. We thought you were dead. No matter how unbelievable, you need to tell us.”
Benedict shuddered a sigh and ushered his parents to sit down. His mother sat on one side of him on the couch and his father in a chair facing them. Benedict opened his mouth to explain but found the words were too unbelievable even for himself. Now he was here he felt like it had all been a dream. He felt his mother squeeze his hand reassuringly and he took a deep breath before beginning.
“Alright, you know I disappeared. The logical conclusion was that I was kidnapped. That’s what I would have expected if there was anymore sense left in this life. I need you to know that what I’m about to tell you breaks all the boundaries of logic and will sound heavily like a bad drug trip. You can have me tested for drug use and find that I’m clean if you need the reassurance.” He paused to let his parents prepare themselves for what he was about to deliver.
“I woke up in another world. I know how it sounds. I don’t believe it either. I didn’t. I woke up to find myself in a dimension where Sherlock existed in my place. The Sherlock I interpret for the BBC.” He held up a hand to stop his father from interrupting.
“Please, dad. I know. I really do. I know it sounds like a cruel joke. It sounds like I’ve gone mad. But it’s true and right now, even if you don’t believe me, I need you to listen and try to understand.”
His father closed his mouth and nodded.
“Have you never… Dreamed of the world inhabited by a character you played on stage or in a film?” He asked. Both his parents nodded. “Yes, well it was like that, except I somehow fell through the barrier of unconsciousness and into a world where the fiction was real. Have you heard of Superstring Theory?”
“Your mother and I have seen What The $#@$ Do You Know?!. That’s the extent of my knowledge in the area.” Timothy replied evenly.
“Right. Look, there’s another theory, M theory, where it’s believed that there are ten dimensions of space and another dimension of time. It’s believed that the oscillating strings that compose every microscopic atom of our world are vibrating over the ten space planes and one time plane and each plane of space presents an alternate reality. It’s believed that these alternate planes are accessible, but science can’t tell us how yet. Somehow I managed to fall into an alternate reality where Sherlock isn’t just fiction.”
The silence that hung over the room could have been sliced with a knife. Benedict shifted uncomfortably. “You have to believe me. And I’m not the only one who will tell you. Ask Martin-"
Benedict’s expression turned to one of Panic. “Martin! Christ! I’d nearly forgotten.” He jumped to his feet and shot for the phone. Dialing the number he knew so well, he drummed his fingers on the counter waiting for the line to pick up. It wasn’t long before Amanda’s voice answered. Benedict wasted no time.
“Amanda. Hi, it’s Benedict.”
He waited as the breathing over the line turned ragged. He heard a choked sob.
“Is Martin with you? Oh God, Benedict. I can’t believe I’m hearing your voice.”
Benedict bit his lip.
Then the world started to spin around him and pull away. It was like the walls were stretching out before him and he watched as his parents ran in slow motion toward him. The room fell into blackness and he felt an icy cold envelope him.
Benedict gasped as he awoke to find he was soaking wet. Everything hurt and he could see nothing through the water dripping off his eyelashes. He blinked the droplets away quickly and squinted before opening his eyes to find a tall figure standing over him. The actor made an effort to move back but found that he was secured to a chair- his hands and feet bound tight. Oh God no. He thought. Suddenly his experience in 2004 came back to him as he remembered coming too close to death for comfort. He willed himself to feign calm. Panicking wouldn’t make it better. Instead he steeled himself and looked up at a man holding an empty bucket. Presumably it had just been emptied on his head.
“Good, good. Looks like you’re awake.” He spoke with a slight Cockney and had a cigarette hanging out of the corner of his mouth. Benedict didn’t recognize him. The actor heard a shuffle to his left and glanced over to find John giving him a steely look. It was a warning not to talk. Benedict suddenly remembered who he was supposed to be and started to adopt the demeanor of Sherlock Holmes. It was hard. He was afraid and the adrenaline distracted from his technique. He settled for a calm façade, attempting to look calculating. This part wasn’t as difficult. It was easier to focus on looking for escape routes or clues as to where they were and what might be in store. It kept him focused on a specific goal and eased the panic aching in his chest. They were outdoors way up high looking out over New York city. Benedict immediately knew where they’d been taken and hoped Sherlock would figure it out sooner rather than later. He remembered Timothy and Wanda who were with him only moments ago and this helped steel his resolve. He needed to survive this. For them.
After dropping off Barry Gibb to the police department safely and soundly with no pretenses to play heroes, the men drove back to the scene of the crime for clues.
“Where are Lestrade and Andrew?” Martin asked through the knot in his throat.
“Alive. In the hospital. No serious injuries.”
Martin heaved a sigh of relief at that.
“What the hell happened?” He asked.
Sherlock felt a newfound rage flare in his chest. He fought it back.
“Did you break protocol?” He asked evenly.
“Were you ever careless when going between 221B and our location?” Sherlock forced the question slowly. Martin felt his heart plummet.
“Shit.” He muttered under his breath. Sherlock wanted to explode. He needed to explode. John. They had John. Moriarty was doing this on purpose. This was all a part of the game. I’ll burn the HEART out of you. The threat resounded in his mind and Sherlock felt himself go slack. He was exhausted. His breathing turned ragged as his chest shuddered under the strain of holding back all his emotion. He felt himself go numb and fell into a thick silence. Sherlock knew that Martin wasn’t the only one to blame. John must have been careless, too. Just forgotten to put his hood up one morning. Then it hit him. Yesterday morning, when Andrew arrived, was when Martin and John were both found at 221B. They must have been noticed. Sherlock fought back his frustration and his anxiety in the interest of rational thinking. He needed to be alert. Now more than ever.
Once inside the room above the convenient store, Sherlock searched the area with Martin’s help. It wasn’t long before Sherlock found the button he’d given Benedict. He glared at it and dropped it to the floor crushing it under his shoe. He wanted nicotine badly. The body of Robin Gibb had been removed and the hospital equipment too had been taken. Sherlock stalked through the small apartment and reached the fridge. A note was left there pinned under a magnet. A note that would have looked innocent to any other, but Sherlock knew better. It read:
After party at the Empire State Building. Top floor. Don’t be late!
Sherlock spun around and headed for the door.
“The Empire state building.” He snapped. Martin didn’t question him and followed in close pursuit.
Benedict and John heard some incongruously cheery whistling come from behind a door and the slight figure of Andrew, no, Moriarty, came into the room. He had his hands in his pockets and a broad smile plastered across his face.
“Oh hello!” He said brightly. “I’m so glad you’re awake. It’s been SO boring without your company.” He rocked back and forth on his heels a few times before striding forward and leaning down so close to Benedict’s face that the actor could feel his breath on his skin.
“You look just like him.” He whispered with a tone of genuine awe. “Exact likeness, cell for cell it would seem.”
A hand shot from a pocket and grabbed the back of Benedict’s head as Moriarty held him fast and inhaled his scent exaggerating the motion. He stilled, savoring. After a moment he let go. He backed away with a little skip and a turn.
“Oh this is exciting! So much more than I’d ever hoped for my birthday!”
John and Benedict shared panicked looks. Both were wondering how Moriarty knew. This didn’t go unnoticed by the consulting criminal.
“Oh John, John. It was you, of course! You and your other you. You told me everything.”
John’s eyes snapped to Moriarty’s demanding an explanation.
“One night John Watson comes from a mysterious corner of the road and arrives at 221B and then again the next morning wearing different clothes? So careless!”
He clucked his tongue in mock admonishment.
John’s expression had fallen slack by now and he could feel the blood draining from his face.
“Oh yes! Yes! I love this part! You know what’s next, don’t you?” Moriarty sidled up to the army doctor and petted his cheek. John tried to jerk away, but Moriarty held his head in place with a firm hand and ducked low. He paused with a smug smirk playing across his lips and took out his phone holding it out to the man working for him.
“Do film this, Sebastian. I want a memento to take with me.” He said evilly. Sebastian raised the phone and held it close to capture both faces in the frame. Moriarty then crushed his mouth to John’s violently and sunk his teeth into the doctor’s lower lip. John gargled a defiant shout and managed to jerk hard enough to knock the chair over. Moriarty was thrown off balance and staggered back with a manic grin on his face.
“Oh come John, it couldn’t have been that bad.” He said with his arms crossed. Sebastian righted John’s chair and hooked him in the jaw for good measure.
“I can see why Sherlock is so fond of you, Johnny boy.” Moriarty said with a smirk. “Always did think I should get myself a live in.”
John’s eyes were alight with blind fury. If he were unbound Moriarty would be dead before he could even think that of the possibility.
“Oh, you think you know it all, don’t you? Well, do you know my story then?”
Moriarty paused. Then he turned to face Benedict with half lidded eyes.
“Well?” Benedict challenged. He wanted to save John from further torture, and he needed to buy himself time. He knew Moriarty would find him expendable and his life expectancy was far shorter than John’s.
Moriarty quirked a brow. “Oh, I do like you. You may not be Sherlock, but you’re not boring.” He pulled up a chair and sat in it lazily. “Well then?”
Benedict swallowed hard.
“Don’t tell him anything.” John growled.
The actor started a rapid fire explanation as he saw Sebastian’s fist ball up for another blow.
“I’m not a product of surgery!” He exclaimed. “I’m not a twin, or a look alike.” He was relieved to see Sebastian lowering his fist. Benedict continued a little more slowly.
“You know of superstring theory?” He asked.
Moriarty quirked a brow in response.
“Right. Then you know about M theory too?”
Moriarty’s lips parted in a grin. “Are you telling me you’re from a different dimension?”
Benedict swallowed hard again. “Yes.”
Moriarty was deadly quiet for a minute. Then, quietly he said, “Tell me more.”
Martin pulled into the parking lot and the two men jumped out of the vehicle. They rushed inside with no plan of action. It was early morning by now and the building was just starting to come to life. Sherlock and Martin strode to the lift and hit the button for the observatory deck. Sherlock could feel himself growing more and more impatient.
Benedict had told Moriarty selectively what he knew about going between dimensions and the process seemingly required. He decisively left out details about mutual dreaming communication and Mycroft’s involvement in trying to find a way back. Suddenly Moriarty held up a hand.
“We’ll continue this later, Mr…”
The actor scowled. “Benedict.”
“Funny name, don’t you think? Do you want to be the Pope one day?” He apparently wasn’t expecting an answer as he turned to Sebastian.
“Get John ready.” His tones dropped the cheery pretense upon making the order.
“Right away, sir.”
That said, Sebastian unbound John from the chair, but his hands were still tied behind his back and his feet were immobilized as well. Benedict craned his neck to see where john was being taken and felt his heart sink when he noticed an impressive stack of fireworks behind them.
Finally the elevator doors opened onto the observational deck and Sherlock’s heart stopped at what he saw. There was John standing precariously on the ledge wrapped in what appeared to be fireworks. Before he could react the fuse was lit and Sherlock watched in what seemed like slow motion as Moriarty, grinning from ear to ear, gave a nod and John was shoved off the edge of the building. Sherlock didn’t think. He ran. He skidded at the side of the ledge and watched as John plummeted down over the side of the building. He didn’t realize he was screaming John's name.
John watched as Sherlock’s face fell further and further away.
Don’t watch, Sherlock. He pleaded. Don’t. You moron. I can’t have you see me go like this.
He saw a blurry face appear next to Sherlock’s and even from this distance recognized it as his own. Martin…
And then blackness consumed him.
A series of pops and crackles issued from mid air and the fireworks blew in a thousand different directions. Rockets whizzed by in spirals and the crackling fire chuckled cruelly as Sherlock watched John Watson die.
Chapter 12: Brood
The shrill laugh of James Moriarty filled the air and Sherlock felt the fires of Hell burning in his chest. He lunged for the maniac who unflinchingly met his attack head on. Sebastian went for Martin, but he didn’t account for the gun held point-blank at his chest as he turned. Hand shaking, Martin pulled the trigger. Sebastian’s lips formed a small “o” and he collapsed in a heap. Martin stood transfixed; his hand trembled as he let the gun slide from his hand and realization washed over him in cold, merciless waves.
“Martin!” Benedict called from where he was bound. Shaking his head vigorously, Martin quickly made his way to his co-actor and felt some of his anxiety ebb.
“Ben! Are you alright?” He asked as he inspected the knots around his friend’s wrists.
“Fine. We need to hurry.”
Martin was fidgeting with the ropes. “Dammit!” He swore as he fumbled desperately. There was another gunshot and Martin jumped at the sound. He quickly checked himself for wounds and then looked over Benedict and was relieved neither of them was harmed. He looked over at Sherlock wrestling with Moriarty. He looked at the gun Moriarty was fighting to keep out of Sherlock’s reach. He knew it was the gun he’d just dropped and he felt his chest clench.
“Is there anything you can use to cut the rope?” Benedict asked suddenly.
Martin looked around for something. Anything. He nearly cried for joy when he saw a piece of a broken bottle laying just a yard away. He looked over at the two wresting bodies and charged for the piece of glass. He skidded to a halt and scooped it up and ran back. As fast as he could he sawed through the ropes. When Benedict’s hands were free he continued to slice the ropes binding his feet. He was just reveling in his success when he felt an arm around his neck and heavy breathing in his ear.
“How about watching him die twice?” Moriarty hissed as he forced Martin to face Sherlock. He backed up to make sure Benedict couldn’t get a jump on him and held the gun to Martin’s temple. His face had broken into such a wide grin that it looked like his face might split under the strain. His eyes were ablaze with excitement.
“Oh Sherlock, Sherlock, Sherlock.” Moriarty clicked his tongue. “It looks like I’m a man short.” He said this glancing over at Sebastian’s body.
“It’s such a shame! I was hoping to recruit you, but you’re too boring. You like the light, and yet you burn in it. You were made for darkness. I understand the twist of anticipation that comes from a crime scene. Imagine how much more rewarding, thrilling it would be if you and I, Sherlock, lived in the shadows.”
His grin fell to a look of disdain. “But no, no, NO!” Martin flinched as the arm around his neck tightened. “You had to choose the boring side, didn’t you? So many times I wondered what made you choose to burn in the light- exposed where all could see. The side of the angels. So dull! So opposed to what you could be, what you really are.”
He pulled the trigger. A dull click was all that was heard. Just as Moriarty’s expression changed to that of confusion, Sherlock pulled out the gun in his holster and fired. The bullet hit Moriarty in the arm and he staggered back clutching the wound as it bled through his sleeve. Before anything more could be done there was a wild gust of wind and what sounded like humming bird wings but magnified a hundred times over. Within moments a helicopter came into view and Benedict, Martin and Sherlock all backed away.
“Inside, now!” Sherlock barked over the noise.
Not needing to be told twice, the actors rushed for the door and ran for all they were worth. Sherlock opened the door to the fire escape and rushed through with Benedict and Martin on his heels. They fled down ten flights of stairs before Sherlock stopped.
“Will he follow us?” Martin wheezed.
Sherlock stood clutching his side and shook his head. “Unlikely. They’ll tend to Moriarty first.”
There was silence as the three men caught their breath together and all three were thinking the same thought.
“We’re going back to London.” Sherlock said quickly and pushed open the door of the fire escape heading for the elevator.
“Martin.” Said a woman’s voice and he fought to open his eyes.
“Martin!” Now he felt hands gently shaking his shoulders. He groaned and opened his eyes blearily. He jolted when a pair of lips were pressed to his fervently. John’s eyes shot open and he jumped back. A bad idea as he found himself falling to the floor.
“Who are you?” He demanded. “Where am I?”
The expression on the woman’s face was of shock.
“Martin, you know me. Just think. Calm down and think.” She said as she went to help John to his feet. All the memories hit him at once.
“I should be dead.” He whispered.
“What?!” The woman demanded.
John looked around the room and saw a picture on the bedside table with Martin, the woman before him and two children. He then looked up at the woman’s face and thought he remembered a name.
“Are you Amanda?” He asked.
“Oh God.” John felt his legs turn to jelly and eased himself onto the side of the bed. “I passed out and I must have been brought here before-“
He stopped himself and looked up at Amanda.
“I know I look like your husband, but I’m not. I’m John.”
Amanda blanched. “I might believe you. Martin did say something about BBC’s Sherlock.”
“You have a scar where you were shot on one of your shoulders, don’t you?” She asked. John was momentarily taken aback. The surprise must have shown on his face.
“It’s something that’s often highlighted about your character. If you have the scar, then I’ll know you’re definitely not my Martin.”
John swallowed and nodded. He unzipped his jacket and shrugged it off laying it across his lap before undoing the buttons on his shirt. He pulled the sleeve off his shoulder and looked up at Amanda. She cleared her throat.
“You really are John.” She said in awe.
John nodded as he buttoned his shirt and proceeded to pull his jacket over his shoulders once more.
It was a quiet flight back to London; all eyes avoided the seat John had sat in on the way over.
Not everyone was awake. Martin had finally succumbed to fatigue and was sleeping fitfully. His right hand twitching at the memory of the trigger he'd pulled only a few hours ago.
Benedict felt utterly alone. He watched as Martin's dreams plagued him and wondered if he should wake him. Ultimately the actor figured that a fitful sleep was better than the torturous insomnia riddling his own body and mind. And it wasn't only Martin who felt unreachable to him.
Benedict turned his eyes slowly on the opposite row of seats to look at Sherlock's dark silhouette against the plane's interior. He could only see the back of the detective's head as he was facing the dark window where Benedict just knew he was lost in self torment.
He needed to be near him. Proximity seemed the only answer to the conundrum. Carefully and quietly, Benedict rose from his seat and crossed the isle. For a moment he stood staring at Sherlock's back with wavering confidence. He deliberated for a moment before finally lowering himself into the seat next to the detective as carefully as possible. Once settled he breathed a quiet sigh and leaned his head back to stare up at the cabin ceiling.
The events of the afternoon made Benedict feel far away from himself. He felt like he was invisible; bodiless. He felt less than real. Seeing Sherlock locked away deep in his mind somehow transported Benedict as well. A part of himself belonged with Sherlock and though that part of him sat personified and externalized next to him, Sherlock's origins still resided within Benedict. He felt connected to his character on a deep physical and psychological level. In some way he could feel what Sherlock was feeling.
It was agony.
Benedict's eyes watered unbidden and he closed them against the sting. All he could see when he shut his eyes was John falling over the edge of the building. Martin falling over the edge of the building. Martin collapsing at the sound of a gunshot from an alternatively dry and smoking barrel.
The morbid possibilities flooded and suffocated him. The horror of the truth and the horror of plausible alternatives flashed in his mind's eye in uncomfortably realistic detail. He cursed his vivid imagination and snapped his eyes open. It took a moment to regulate his breathing before he turned to stare at Sherlock's back again.
"Sherlock." He'd whispered the name before he could think better of it. Much to his relief the sleuth did not move. Benedict turned his eyes up to the cabin ceiling once more and dropped his arms onto the armrests at his sides.
"I'm sorry." He murmured.
And he was. Not only for Sherlock but for John and for Martin, but most of all, he was sorry for himself. Where was he in all of this? He only wished that he could be as real as Sherlock then. He only wished that he was more than a shadow of himself; that, only this once, he were someone else. Someone not floating in a liminal reality feeling numb to the world around him. Feeling so far away that the mere arm's length between himself and Sherlock felt like hundreds of thousands of miles away. Unfathomable, uncrossable.
Heaving his chest to another silenced sigh, Benedict resigned himself to his isolation and simply stared blindly up at the ceiling for the remainder of the flight.
Mycroft was waiting when the plane touched down hours later. Sherlock said nothing as he descended the stairs to the ground.
“I’ve arranged for you and your guests to stay with me this evening.” He said gently. Sherlock didn’t have the energy to be petulant. He gave his brother a curt nod and climbed into the black car awaiting them. Benedict and Martin nodded their gratitude and got in after Sherlock.
It was the middle of the night when there was a sudden clamor from one of the rooms. The sounds of breaking glass and ceramic rang through the expansive corridor.
Immeidately woken by the raucus, Benedict and Martin emerged from their respective rooms in sleepy dazes. Collecting themselves, they padded down the endless hallway to the door from which the noise was evidently coming.
Benedict, now alert, felt a stab of fear clench his chest as he realized that the man behind this door was Sherlock. He and Martin stood transfixed as they heard a constant rhythm of breaking ceramic, tumbling furniture and the occasional tear of fabric.
Benedict and Martin shared a meaningful look before the former steeled himself and finally turned the handle and pushed the door open.
What he saw shocked him; there was a trail of blood on the white marble floor. The stark contrast of crimson and pearl-white was shocking to the eyes. But that was only a fragment of the spectacle. Before them the room was in the process of being brought down to nothing. The dresser had been flipped on its side and all that had once stood on it was shattered on the blood-smeared floor. And there was Sherlock tearing at the bed curtains, yanking the fabric off one metal rung at a time and Benedict had seen enough.
“SHERLOCK!” Benedict bellowed with as much command as he could muster.
The room went eerily still and perfectly silent.
Sherlock has stopped in his tracks and slowly he turned to the doorway. He looked like a child in man’s clothing. He looked disoriented and helpless. His eyes stared blankly for a small eternity before Benedict and Martin watched in horrified awe as he sank to his knees.
"Sherlock," Benedict heard himself say as he approached cautiously. He stepped lightly, careful to avoid the shards of sharp ceramic strewn across the floor. The detective didn't reply.
“Come on Sherlock.” He insisted, now offering a hand. But ttill the detective was unresponsive.
The actor hesitated before tentatively laying his hand on Sherlock’s shoulder. He waited for a reaction and got none. With new resolve, he pulled the detective to his bloodied feet and pulled a lanky arm over his shoulder to drag him from the room. Swallowing back the knot in his throat, he forced himself to ignore the trail of blood Sherlock's feet were painting on the white surface as they went. Martin followed them into the drawing room and helped Benedict set Sherlock down in a chair. Out of breath, Mycroft emerged from his office and with one glance at his brother he called for a nurse.
John spent the day telling Amanda about everything that had happened up until he allegedly died. When he explained being pushed off the observatory deck of the Empire State Building her eyes were wide with shock.
“And then I woke up here.” He finished.
Amanda shook her head in awe. John had just blown apart her whole concept of reality in one afternoon.
“I’m still just coming to terms with how different you are from Martin,” she said shaking her head. “It’s so strange when you have the same appearance.”
John nodded. “I went through the same shock when I met him.”
“You held a gun to his head.” She reminded.
John coughed. “Yes, well. He was an intruder at the time.”
“You better make up for that.”
“I will, but I have to get back first.”
Amanda leaned forward in her seat. “So don’t you have to be asleep for that?”
John nodded. “I don’t suppose you have any sleeping pills? I don’t think I could slip off without them.”
Amanda shook her head. “No, but that would take too long anyhow. You need to get back sooner rather than later.”
Amanda stood from her chair and disappeared into the kitchen for a moment. John heard her clattering through a cupboard and then she reappeared with a saucepan in her hands.
“This should do it.” She said speculatively.
John looked apprehensive. “You’re going to knock me out with a saucepan?”
“Looks like it.” She said decisively. “I’d knock you out with my fist if I knew I had the strength to do it, but I’m afraid I’d probably just bruise you lightly. I’m pretty sure a good swing with this will send you right off.”
John paled and swallowed, but he nodded.
“What time is it?” He asked.
Amanda looked at her phone clock. “It’s 11:00 PM now.”
John shook his head. “Good enough I guess.” With that said he stood in the middle of the floor.
“Look, as a doctor all I have to ask is that you aim for the hard part of my head. I’d really like not to wake up with brain damage.” He knew even then there was no guarantee, but at least it was a safer bet.
Amanda stood behind him holding the pan at the ready. “Of course. I need you in top shape to get Martin back.”
John opened his mouth to reply but felt the blunt pan hit his head with a loud clang and his vision went dark.
Nothing made any logical sense to his mind anymore, Sherlock realized.
He felt surprisingly numb. Nothing. Zilch.
He wanted cocaine.
He desperately wanted cocaine.
Why hadn't he thought better of Mycroft's invitation? He could have acquired the drug at Baker Street.
His silver eyes landed on Martin and something inside him snapped. With an inhuman roar he jumped to his tender feet and spat poisonous expletives at the poor man until he begrudgingly left the room in a rage. Benedict had practically thrown him back onto the chair and held him there until he had calmed. The actor stepped back to leave as the nurse arrived and Sherlock couldn't help but catch his wrist in a vice-grip. He looked up at his other with cold daunting eyes and Benedict agreed to stay with a short nod. Once his wrist had been released, he crossed his arms over his chest and leaned against the wall to watch Sherlock have his feet bandaged.
Everything in his mind was a muddle. Everywhere he turned he only saw John falling away. The scene was on endless cinematic replay in his mind and he couldn't turn it off.
Sherlock stopped the nurse from using anesthetic on his feet before she started the sutures. He only railed at her when she tried to protest and when Mycroft finally agreed that there was nothing to be done, Sherlock reveled in the delicious distraction of pure, blinding pain.
It was hours before she was done and by the end of it Sherlock was spent. The palms of both his hands were bleeding from the pressure of his nails biting into the skin there. He looked up blearily to see Benedict clutching himself tightly and pressing as far into the wall as he possibly could. He had been present for the whole agonizing event. He had watched Sherlock writhing and gritting his teeth against the pain from beginning to end and Sherlock could tell he was feeling sick.
The nurse had picked up the blood soaked cotton balls and had sterilized and packed up her tools. She left an anesthetic on the glass table behind the sofa on a tray indicating that Sherlock should use it when he finally came to his senses. Excused by Mycroft, she went to her chamber to retire for the moment. Mycroft nodded to Benedict gratefully before turning to go back to his study. As much as he might want to stay, he knew his brother would only be further aggravated by his presence.
The granfather clock ticked loudly from the far wall and echoed eerily off the high ceilings. Benedict had finally relaxed a little, but he refused to approach Sherlock. He admitted to himself that the man was unsettling to him. And what was more was watching and feeling as though it wasn't Sherlock sitting there, but himself.
"How is it?" He asked finally.
Sherlock didn't even blink. his eyes were trained on Benedict almost predatorily. Benedict shifted uncomfortably under Sherlock's scrutiny and uncrossed his arms only to recross them awkwardly.
"Don't look at me like that. If you're about to tell me I'm oversensitive, I swear that your feet wont stop me from clocking you." He said half-jokingly.
It was then that Sherlock's eyes lit up with a new vigor and Benedict felt his stomach squirm uncomfortably. Oh no...
Shockingly oblivious to the state of his feet, Sherlock jumped up with his arms akimbo. “Hit me!” He exclaimed.
Benedict’s expression turned to one of bewilderment. “What!?”
“Yes!” Sherlock said excitedly as he left his face open for the blow. Benedict didn’t move. He stood analyzing Sherlock for the puzzle he was and was surprised to find that he understood. Choosing his next words carefully, Benedict finally answered.
“I’ll need some incentive.”
The corners of Sherlock’s lips twitched upward and in one fluid movement he threw his fist into Benedict’s face. From that point on it was an easy progression into a full blown fist fight and neither man was pulling his punches.
Hearing the kerfuffle, Mycroft reemerged from his study wild-eyed.
“Must you really do this inside?!” Mycroft shouted at them in vain. As he watched the violence escalate he resigned himself to the fact that this was something he couldn't stop, and though he hated to admit it, it was necessary. Mycroft's shoulders sagged sadly as he watched his brother go sailing across the room with Benedict lunging after him only to both disappear behind the couch. He proceeded to hear the distinct sounds of wrestling limbs and the occasional thwack of a fist connecting with some other body part.
“Break anything in this room and I will have it out of your bank account, Sherlock!” Mycroft called into the room and forced himself to turn on his heel to walk away. He cringed at the sound of something shattering but willed one foot in front of the other towards his office where he promptly locked himself upon arrival.
Sherlock’s lip was bleeding and Benedict had a cut above his right eyebrow. Both men were worse for ware, but neither showed signs of giving up. Sherlock threw himself at the actor with as much force he could muster and bowled him over. They wrestled on the ground and Benedict managed to kick him off, spring up and slam a fist across the detective’s face. Sherlock staggered back onto the couch and sat breathing raggedly. The pain in his feet was slowing him down and he finally had nothing left to give.
Catching his breath and coming down from the adrenaline of the fight, Benedict approached slowly. For a moment he towered over Sherlock ready for another round if need be.
Shrouded by Benedict’s shadow, Sherlock looked up into the face of his doppelganger with exhaustion evident in his eyes. Slowly and agonizingly, his facade finally cracked. Screwing his eyes shut he bit back a dry sob as all of the emotion he had been fighting back stabbed his ribcage like a thousand poison daggers and he came apart in a fit of hyperventilation.
Benedict fell on the couch next to him and laid a strong hand on his shoulder.
"I'm sorry," he said echoing himself. "I'm so sorry."
Sherlock didn’t cry; Benedict wasn’t sure if the detective remembered how. But he did sit with his eyes wide dragging in breath after ragged breath. The actor was afraid he might suffocate, but kicked himself. He knew Sherlock’s character well enough to guess that the man would have himself solidly composed in just another minute. And sure enough, he did. More or less.
“The sedative.” Sherlock rasped. “The sedative. I need it.”
Benedict nodded and looked for the tray the nurse left behind. He found it on the glass table behind the couch and handed it to the detective.
“I’m trusting you not to kill yourself, Sherlock.” Benedict said firmly. “John may be gone, but I still need you. Martin still needs you. For fuck’s sake, Moriarty is still breathing. If nothing else you need to live to kill the bastard.”
Sherlock looked up at Benedict gratefully. “I know.” He paused. “Thank you.”
That said, Sherlock took the syringe and injected himself. Benedict watched as the drug took hold and pulled Sherlock under in a matter of minutes.
John felt the hot Afghan sun beating down on him. His uniform was caked with dirt and blood. He was running breathlessly over bodies with a comrade swung limply over his shoulder. He heard the shot, he knew it would come. He felt the bullet and he pitched forward with a silent cry. He expected to hit the ground but instead found the scene change around him as he fell against something, no, someone. He felt strong arms haul him to his feet. He looked up to a face shrouded in dark shadows. The warm colors of Afghanistan had faded to a palette of deep blue, gray and black. The scene lightened into a thin fog and John saw a ghastly sight. Sherlock stood before him looking near-death. His eyes were lusterless, his cheeks were beyond sallow and he wore nothing but thin cotton pyjamas. He watched as the man sank to his knees before him, never disengaging his eyes.
“Sherlock…” John swallowed. He reached out a hand and hesitated as he hovered next to Sherlock’s face. When he didn’t move, John gently cupped his cheek and knelt so they were at eye-level.
“Sherlock. I’m right here.”
Something in Sherlock’s eyes flickered. The scene around them changed to an ostentatious living room. Both men were kneeling on the floor. The dream faded away to reality as John felt the entire weight of his body once more. Sherlock’s eyes refocused as he came to and blinked furiously lest he be seeing things. He stared wide-eyed at John for a whole minute with his lips slightly parted in confusion. His lips moved to say something, but he couldn’t seem to decide on what. He was pulled off balance as John crushed him in the tightest hug he’d ever experienced. All of Sherlock’s pride drained away and he found himself hugging back fiercely and swallowing back another sob. He bit his lip as he felt hot tears slide down his face and tightly shut his eyes to will them away. He reveled in the growing elation as John held him close and didn’t even try to fight the relieved smile spreading over his lips. They stayed like that for a long time before John finally groaned.
“Sherlock, I’m not as young as I used to be. This is killing my knees.”
Sherlock couldn’t help but chuckle and rose to help John to his feet. The army doctor had a feint blush painting his cheeks as he scratched the back of his head and shuffled uncomfortably in place.
“So.” He said finally bringing his eyes up to meet Sherlock’s. Now they were alive with the raw intelligence John knew and admired.
“So I’m not dead.” John said with an awkward smile. He was about to suggest tea when Sherlock descended on him in a fierce kiss. John tensed for only a second in shock, but the moment he registered what was happening he threw everything he had into responding. The kiss deepened as Sherlock pulled John close by his shoulders and the doctor held tight to Sherlock’s arms. John felt Sherlock’s tongue along his bottom lip and he didn’t hesitate to let the kiss deepen. He felt an explosion of feeling spread through him as he tasted Sherlock and felt himself being pulled closer as Sherlock’s arms wrapped around his back. One hand held the base of his neck firmly and possessively. Only now did John realize the full extent to which he had fallen in love with this man. Now he felt heat roaring through him and he wanted everything Sherlock had to offer and only what Sherlock had to offer. He wanted it now, he wanted it forever. Of course he’d take a saucepan to the head if it meant getting back to this manic, insane, beautiful, wonderful man.
“Sherlock…” John breathed. The detective hummed in reply as he bit John’s lip and invaded his mouth again.
Sherlock felt himself coming back together with every passing second he held John close to himself. He felt stronger and unbelievably relieved as he realized that John was there. Physically there and in one piece. John. His good doctor, his friend, his life saver. He’d lost him and now he had him back from the dead. Sherlock felt electricity run through him as John wrapped his arms around his waist and kissed back fervently. Sherlock could taste him and he swore that he would never lose John again. He’d do anything, anything at all. Even if it meant pulling the universe apart string by string and putting it back together again.
The living room flickered around them as they felt themselves being pulled backward. Neither was able to control the pull that acted in opposite directions as they were forcibly dragged apart.
Sherlock awoke with a start to find Benedict sleeping awkwardly in an armchair across from him. The detective sprung to his feet and shook the actor awake unsympathetically. Benedict awoke with a start. He jolted and snapped his eyes open in confusion.
“What?!” He saw Sherlock and jumped to his feet ungracefully. “Sherlock, what- What is it?” He managed.
“John! He’s alive!” Sherlock said shaking Benedict by his shoulders. “He’s alive!”
Benedict was now fully awake and his eyes widened. “How do you know?”
“He was here. He still has a connection with us. He must have transcended dimensions by passing out before the fireworks went off.”
“You’re absolutely positive about this?” Benedict asked excitedly.
“Of course I’m positive!” Sherlock cried in exasperation. “I’m never wrong!”
Benedict thought of arguing but he was too ecstatic about the news to bother.
“This is fantastic, Sherlock!”
“Mycroft. I need to know how he’s progressing with opening the doors between our dimensions.” Sherlock spun around on his heel and ran for Mycroft’s office.
Chapter 13: Come Together
Hello! For the people who have read this far with all the formatting madness, my thanks. I've gone back and done a little editing to make some parts easier to read. All the same, I'm sorry you had to suffer unnecessarily.
John opened his eyes to find the familiar features of Amanda hovering above him. He groaned as he pushed himself into a sitting position.
“You’re either Martin in the same clothing as John, or you’re John back from a failed mission.” She said with the saucepan resting over one shoulder.
John ran a hand down over his face and shook his head.
“Closer to the latter, but they’re safe.”
Amanda arched a brow as she helped John to his feet.
“And why wouldn’t they be?”
It was too late for John to take back.
“We had a run in with Moriarty.” He explained shortly.
Amanda’s eyes widened.
“But Martin is alright?” She demanded.
John hesitated. “I’m sure he’s fine.”
“And how can you be sure? Did you see him when you were out?”
“No, but I saw Sherlock,” John paused and cleared his throat fighting back a blush, “And he seemed fine.”
“Did he say anything about Martin?” Amanda asked.
Again John found himself hesitating.
“Did you even think to ask?” Amanda demanded again. John cleared his throat again audibly and swallowed back a nervous cough. “I woke up before I got the chance.”
“You were out for an hour.” Amanda pointed out.
“You were meant to go and find my husband and send him back to me and you come back with this.” Amanda’s knuckles were white with tension and her eyes burned with ire contained within a practiced calm exterior. John felt his blood go cold. All of his years of military training had never once prepared him for dealing with the force that was Amanda.
“You obviously didn’t try hard enough.” Her voice was level as she hoisted the saucepan above her head and John leapt sideways. He had his arms up to defend his head only to see Amanda lowering the weapon.
“You can only communicate with one person at a time, can’t you?” She asked.
John straightened. “I don’t know. When it happened to me I only saw Sherlock.”
“When Martin was back he was only back as long as we were asleep. It didn’t matter how hard I tried to hold on, he still disappeared.” Amanda left the saucepan on the couch and sat down feeling deflated. John sat in a chair opposite her.
“I really don’t know, I’m sorry. But I know that Mycroft is working on a way to get between dimensions. When I was with Sherlock, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t at 221B. Mycroft probably kidnapped him and the others to keep them at his place.”
“Kidnapped?” Amanda asked quirking a brow.
“Sherlock hates being anywhere near Mycroft, he wouldn’t go there willingly.”
“Oh, right. Sibling rivalry, archenemies, all that.”
Amanda’s eyes drooped and she fought back a yawn.
“It’s after midnight, we might as well get some sleep.” John said with a yawn of his own. “There’s nothing we can do for now. I can almost guarantee you that Sherlock wont be letting anyone sleep now that he knows I’m alive.”
Amanda looked up in alarm. “What exactly happened before you woke up here?”
John felt the memories flash across his mind and suppressed a shudder.
“I was thrown off the Empire State Building with fireworks strapped to me.”
Amanda’s expression went slack. She then scrunched her eyes shut and massaged her temples.
“I can’t digest this on the amount of sleep I’m operating on. You’re right, it’s time for some rest.” She stood from the couch and gestured to it. “It’s a pullout. I can get you some blankets.”
John smiled weakly. “Thanks, that would be great.”
Sure enough, Sherlock had the whole household up and away to Mycroft’s private labs in the course of a few hours. The labs were located on the outskirts of town in what looked like an old warehouse. The old cliché held true in that the appearance was certainly deceiving. Inside was some of the most advanced technology the world had ever seen.
“This feels like I’m back on the set of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” Martin said in awe, “Except real.”
“You were in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy?” Mycroft asked curiously.
Martin nodded. “Played Arthur Dent.”
“Interesting. It would seem that your existence as an actor was replaced by John’s existence in this world. Not surprising, but fascinating.”
Sherlock had run ahead to inspect the lab equipment meticulously. He’d read some of the notes left on operating counters and eyed a large and impressive piece of machinery through what he was sure was tempered glass.
“A particle accelerator.” Sherlock stated confidently.
“A hadron collider, to be precise. Surely you know what for.”
Sherlock glared over his shoulder at his brother. “No doubt to attempt shooting particles through to different dimensions.” He sniffed.
“It looks like a gaping shark’s mouth.” Benedict mused as he looked up at the mouth that contained three concentric cylinders all built of what looked like silicon and bronze.
“You’re shooting particles at high speeds into the mouth colliding the particles in the hopes of creating enough energy to project it through to dimensions beyond our own.” Sherlock deduced quickly.
“Quite correct. I have some of the best physicists in Europe working on the project.” Mycroft explained.
“The technology is still in development.”
“This couldn’t have come about in just a week’s time. You were exploring the possibility of accessing other dimensions before now?”
Mycroft’s eyes flashed. “It should hardly come as a surprise.”
Sherlock’s expression darkened. “Fascinating as this may be, Mycroft, you and I both know this is all redundant now.”
Mycroft smiled a tight-lipped smile. “Obviously. And for that reason I’ve had a small team of the very best work on a project with hopefully better prospects.”
Mycroft led the way to a door at the back of the warehouse and led the crew into a smaller room with what looked like a dentist’s chair contained in a silver pod. The whole top covering was glass.
“I think I might be able to guess this one. You’re experimenting with the subconscious access of parallel dimensions?” Benedict ventured half-jokingly.
“Bravo, sir.” Mycroft said with a mocking smile. “Yes. No need for fancy names, I think. This is what we call the Dream Door, or it will be once we get it to work.”
Sherlock stalked forward and knocked on the glass casing before swirling around with his eyes glowing in the fluorescent light. “This isn’t enough.”
Mycroft cocked his head. “Oh?”
“No. Think about it. The two-way dream communication only serves one purpose. It’s a way to communicate between dimensions, nothing more. When Benedict and Martin arrived, they dreamed of this world and somehow transcended their way here. They had no one to talk to on this side, they just appeared.” Sherlock was pacing now. “And John. John had no connection to the other dimension but he also transcended.”
“I don’t know about Martin and I, but John was falling off a building. If I were falling to a death like that I’d be wishing more than ever that I were somewhere else.” Benedict offered.
That stopped the detective in his tracks. He muttered unintelligibly under his breath while gesturing widely around himself. All eyes were on him as his thought process undoubtedly matched, if not topped, the speed of light. He jerked robotically until his eyes snapped open.
“Yes. That’s it. Energy. That’s what does it. Any kind of energy as long as there’s enough of it.”
“Mind giving us the long story?” Martin said crossing his arms.
“Ah!” Mycroft exclaimed, as he seemed to get it. “Of course! Physical or psychic energy.”
“Precisely!” Sherlock said facing his brother with his eyes alight.
“I hate to ruin a perfectly good brother bonding moment, but physical or psychic energy plays a role how?” Benedict chimed in exasperatedly.
“Don’t you see?” Sherlock cried.
“Well obviously not, so if you’d be so kind as to explain.” Martin said shortly.
The sleuth’s shoulders dropped. “Vapid as always. Energy. Energy is the answer to why you’re here and why John is not. It took psychic energy to get you here. The energy used to create this world; the energy you both expend to bring our characters to life is what pushed you through to this world. In John’s case it was physical energy as well as psychic. As he fell he blacked out and dreamed of your world, which opened the doorway to him that you had already created. The force of the blast is what propelled him to the other side.”
“So why aren’t we back if all we need is psychic energy?” Martin asked.
“All the psychic energy was used on getting you here.” Sherlock explained.
“So we need more energy.” Benedict provided.
Martin shifted uncomfortably. “I don’t like where this is going.”
Sherlock was grinning from ear to ear now.
“You’ll need an explosion to get back.”
Martin slumped down into a nearby chair. “And next you’ll be telling me we need to be thrown from the top of a building.”
“Pointless unless you ever fancied sky diving in your lifetime. No, you’d be put to sleep in protective gear and a harness and then driven forward with a controlled explosion.”
Martin looked nonplussed but Benedict was laughing.
“Sounds exciting if you ask me.”
“You would say that. You’re a class-A adrenaline junkie. The world over knows it.”
Benedict chuckled. “Far be it from me to pass up the opportunity to cheat death once more.”
“You’re an idiot.”
“You love me.”
“Some days more than others.”
Benedict laughed and Martin fought back a smirk.
“Yes, all very amusing but I’d say it’s time I got some sleep.” Sherlock said spinning on his heel and heading for the door.
“No doubt to see John.” Mycroft drawled but Sherlock just kept walking.
“I assume you’ll want to head back to 221B?”
“That would be lovely, yes.” Sherlock called cheekily over his shoulder and Mycroft sighed. He picked up his iphone and shot off a text. By the time they’d reached the entrance to the warehouse there were two black cars with drivers waiting.
Now that the secret was out there was really no more reason left for caution. Benedict and Sherlock walked side by side as they left the car followed by Martin. The shorter actor watched the two men before him and noticed how differently they carried themselves. Sherlock walked straight-backed, chest slightly pushed forward in his usual pompous manner. His stride was quick and rhythmic. Benedict walked with a more relaxed step, back held elegantly straight and shoulders bobbing ever so slightly to the slight spring in his step. Before he could muse further they had reached the door and rang the bell.
“Don’t you have keys?” Benedict asked.
“Forgot them.” Sherlock said simply.
There was a quick shuffle of feet and Mrs. Hudson answered the door. When she opened up to see the identical faces of Benedict and Sherlock she merely stood looking dumbfounded.
“Good evening Mrs. Hudson.” Sherlock said curtly before pushing past her into the flat.
“Sherlock!” Benedict called after him angrily before turning to the kind old girl with a smile. “I’ll explain later. I’m Benedict.” The actor held out a hand and Mrs. Hudson took it with a dazed expression on her face.
“Oh yes, of course dear. Nice to meet you.”
Benedict smiled apologetically and released her hand to follow Sherlock upstairs.
“And there aren’t two of you, dear?” She asked Martin as he came in smiling at her.
“Not at the moment, but I am the second one.” He said with a grin.
“Oh don’t tease an old lady, love.”
Martin laughed. “Of course, I’m sorry. But really, I’m not John. My name is Martin.”
Mrs. Hudson shook her head. “Oh what has Sherlock gotten himself into now? Well dear, it’s a pleasure to have you here. Make yourself at home.”
Martin didn’t have the heart to tell her that he already had, so with a nod he too followed the others upstairs. He arrived to find a confrontation.
“YOU LEFT ME IN NEW YORK!”
It was Andrew.
“What?” Benedict said with confusion.
“You bastards took off and left Lestrade and I in the hospital in New York without so much as a note!” Andrew was livid.
“Well you’re here safe and sound. I don’t see what you’re going on about.” Sherlock said dismissively as he removed his coat. Just as Andrew was going to retort, Sherlock suddenly whirled around and descended on the shorter man in a flurry.
“Were you discovered?”
“Were you discovered? Did Moriarty see you?”
“I-I don’t know-“
“He didn’t.” Benedict supplied and the sleuth turned on him.
“How do you know?”
“He knew about Martin and I but I don’t think he’s seen Andrew. He didn’t mention him.”
Sherlock’s eyes widened and an impish smile pulled at the corners of his lips. ”Oh this is brilliant!” Then Sherlock glared at his doppelganger. “How much did you tell him?”
“Honestly? Quite a lot. He knows about the other dimensions, he knows that Martin and I aren’t from this one.”
“Did you tell him anything else?”
Benedict shook his head. “No. I didn’t tell him about the dream communication or about Mycroft.”
Sherlock was quiet for a moment.
“But he knows that Superstring Theory is real. This is dangerous. Very dangerous. It wont be long before he discovers how to get through to the other dimension, but we have you.” Sherlock said this rounding on Andrew once more. “You’re our trump card.”
“I nearly died and you’re expecting me to go head to head with Moriarty again? Forget it. Count me out.” Andrew said this throwing his hands up over his head and heading for the kitchen to pull a beer from the fridge.
“It’s that or risk losing a lot more than your life.” Sherlock said uncharacteristically grave. Andrew paused mid-swig and put the beer down on the counter with a heavy sigh. He looked up under his lashes at the three men in the room and shook his head.
“Oh for the love of Christ. Fine. I’m due for some fun anyway. I’m getting cabin fever having been cooped up here for the last few days with no one but the lovely Mrs. Hudson for company.”
Martin and Benedict broke out into wide grins and closed in on Andrew to clap him on the shoulder.
“Good man, Andrew.” Benedict said chummily.
“Ah fuck off.” Andrew said half-heartedly while swiping up his beer and taking another swig. “I swear that I’ll haunt you bastards till the end of your days if I don’t survive this.”
The actors chuckled but soon grew serious.
“None of that. We’re doing this right and we’re all going home alive and in one piece.” Benedict stated. “And I’d bet my life that Sherlock already has a plan that will make it possible.”
Sherlock gave a curt nod. “Yes. It starts with getting John back. He’ll need someone to help him with the controlled explosion. Is there anyone in your world who can help him?”
“Tell him to call Steven. He’ll give the man a heart-attack, but once that’s all over it should be easy.” Martin said with a laugh. “I wish I could be there to see the look on his face.”
“Steven, who’s Steven?” Sherlock demanded.
“Steven Moffat. He’s one of the creators of the show.” Martin explained.
“So he’ll have access to stunt equipment and special effects staff. Brilliant. Well then, I’m off.”
“Better hurry. It’s already half past three.” Martin urged. Sherlock nodded and disappeared into his bedroom.
“I’m expecting a full account of everything that happened after I was sent to the hospital tomorrow.” Andrew said pointedly to his co-actors. Both men gave a nod.
“I’m glad you said tomorrow because I’m actually exhausted.” Benedict said with a yawn.
“I second that.”
“Sharing again?” Benedict enquired.
“Looks like it.” Martin said stretching. “If I wake up to find you hogging all the covers again, I will kick you off the bed.”
Benedict flushed a deep crimson. “Separate blankets might be a good plan.”
Sherlock felt warmth next to him and a gentle hand on his shoulder. He opened his eyes to find John watching him.
“You’re back?” the doctor asked.
Sherlock snapped out of his sleepy stupor and sat up. “Yes. John, the way you’re going to get back is with a controlled explosion. No, don’t look at me like that, just shut up and listen. You need to find Steven Moffat. Ask Martin’s wife about him, I’m sure she knows him. You need to be discreet or else you could be taken in for questioning and right now it’s imperative that you get back as soon as possible. I know how to stop Moriarty, but I need you with me.”
John listened patiently and nodded when the detective was done doling out instructions.
“I’ve got it. What about the controlled explosion? I need more information.”
“You need to be asleep and preferably having dream communication with me at the time. The explosion will take place giving you enough energy to transcend dimensions again.”
John nodded. He had become used to his odd new circumstances and now nothing could surprise him anymore.
“Right. I understand. I’ll find Steven tomorrow.”
Sherlock relaxed. “Good.” He then looked around at the room he was in. “Looks like we’re on your side of the subconscious.”
John nodded. “Yeah. This is Martin’s flat. Nice place.”
Sherlock seemed uninterested in the quality of Martin’s living accommodations and leaned forward pressing his lips to John’s gently. Sherlock was never at a loss for words, but tenderness was something he could only convey with actions. John swallowed his surprise and closed his eyes also leaning forward to capture the detective’s lips. The doctor slid his hands over Sherlock’s forearms and pulled back.
“Sherlock?” He breathed.
The detective’s eyes seemed to glow like a cat’s in the darkness as he watched John expectantly.
“This… You do want this?” John asked carefully.
John quirked a brow, “Apparently? It that the best you can do?”
Sherlock smirked. “I didn’t realize I wanted this until a few hours ago, John. You could say that for once I’m operating on a heart over reason basis.”
John chuckled. “Coming from you that’s as good as anything. You’re mad and I love you for it. God help me.”
“God has nothing to do with it.” Sherlock said before curling a hand behind the doctor’s head and pulling him into another kiss.
Chapter 14: There and Back Again
Sorry for the delay!
Amanda didn’t bother telling Steven that she had John Watson currently abiding in her flat. She simply called him to ask if she could drop over for a bit and ushered John down to the car as furtively as possible so as not to have anyone notice his face and throw the whole city into an uproar.
“Should I worry about the actual possibility of giving this man a heart attack?” John asked from the passenger seat.
Amanda laughed. “It’s a possibility. But you are a doctor.”
John smiled and looked out the car window. He wondered what it may have been like living in Martin’s world and having his life.
“I know it’s none of my business, but where are your kids?” He asked remembering the picture on the bedside table.
“I sent them to live with some relatives just after Martin disappeared. My first thought was to keep them safe from any harm. When a celebrity goes missing, first thing you do is hide the rest of the family.”
John nodded. “And you stayed in case he came back?”
Amanda nodded. “And to keep the police on their toes; we’re not so lucky as to have our own Sherlock, so someone’s got to harass them to get the job done.”
She wasn’t smiling now and John felt the thickness of the silence coil around his heart and tighten.
“I promise I’ll get him back to you.” He said pointedly looking out the passenger window. He couldn’t bear to look at her because he was afraid that somehow the look in her eyes would make him doubt his own words. It was a promise he was making himself as much as he was making Amanda. It wasn’t just Martin he was concerned about, it was himself. Sherlock had been confident about the instructions he’d given, but John’s good fortune quota had surely been met by now. He was alive, and to the doctor’s mind, he still had no right to be. Somehow he’d woken up on the other side and wondered if it wasn’t death he’d woken up to. He wondered if the life he’d known was something he could only revisit in dreams. For a moment John worried that Sherlock had been nothing more than his imagination playing tricks on him.
The army doctor was shaken out of his reverie when Amanda pulled into a private driveway and put the car in park.
“Ready?” Amanda asked as she pushed open her door.
John heaved a sigh and shook his head. “No.”
“Well I am, so just let me know if you need me to hold your hand.” She said this with a smirk pulling at the corners of her mouth.
John laughed and pushed his own car door open. When he stepped out he watched as the front door to the opulent house revealed a portly man who looked to be in his late forties, early fifties. He had graying hair, dark brows that lay over intelligent brown eyes glittering in a round face. His expression went from casual curiosity to bewilderment and confusion in the drop of a dime. He jogged down the three front steps and over the driveway to stop only once he had one hand on each of John’s shoulders squeezing tightly.
“Christ Martin! Is it really you?”
John swallowed and glanced over at Amanda then forced himself to look the stranger in the eyes.
“You might not like the answer to that.” He said choosing his words slowly.
Steven released John’s shoulders and turned to Amanda. “What in God’s name’s gotten into him?”
Amanda shook her head. “I think it’s best we talk about it inside.”
Steven Moffat looked between John and Amanda suspiciously before finally turning and leading them inside. He ushered them in, closed the door and led them into a large kitchen with marble countertops and glass cupboards. Without asking he pulled out a bottle of whiskey and served all three parties a glass.
“Seems to me we’re all going to need this,” He said as he poured. He slid a glass over the island counter in the direction of each guest and downed a shot for himself before pouring a second.
“Alright, I think this is as ready as I’m going to be, so spit it out.”
John took a sip of the whiskey and hissed through his teeth as the alcohol burned down his throat. “Oh, I really did need that.” He said taking another sip before looking up to meet Moffat’s eyes.
“So, I know who you think I am, and I know that I look just like him, but I’m not Martin.” John said this squaring his shoulders and holding the glass resting it on the black marble countertop. He licked his lips and let his head fall. He shook his head and looked up. “Look, no matter how I put this, it’s going to sound mad. But I’m John. John Hamish Watson.”
Moffat looked from John’s face to Amanda’s and was quiet for a moment. He picked up his glass of whiskey and sipped at it before setting it down with a smirk plastered on his lips.
“This your idea of a homecoming joke, Martin?” His tone was not amused. “You disappear for a week, we’re all sure you’re bloody well dead in a ditch somewhere and this is how you choose to come back? Not so much as a phone call or a warning? You come waltzing in here telling me you’re John Hamish Watson like it’s not a fucking big deal?”
Steven’s grip on his glass was so tight that the clinking of glass on marble reverberated through the kitchen with the force of his shaking.
“No. No, that’s not- This isn’t a joke. What I’m trying to say is that Martin is with Sherlock and Benedict. I’m here.” John made a frustrated noise and downed the whiskey. He slammed the glass against the marble countertop and pulled off his jacket. He started undoing the buttons on his shirt without looking up to see the flabbergasted look on Moffat’s features. Before Steven could demand an explanation, John had his left shoulder exposed leaving the angry red scar in plain sight.
“If you really have written the screenplay, then you should know what this is.”
Moffat’s jaw had dropped open. He inched around the counter and stopped in front of John with his eyes fixed on the scar tissue. He raised a hand and hesitated. John saw the question there and nodded. Moffat gingerly brushed his fingertips over the skin. John could tell that he was checking for an edge to pull up in case it was no more than synthetic skin. Steven moved around the army doctor and inspected the bullet’s exit point with similar curiosity before coming back around and slumping into a barstool resignedly. He then reached for the bottle of whiskey distractedly.
“Fucking hell,” He swore as he poured himself another glass.
John quickly redressed and reveled in the comfort of modesty feeling his dignity restored.
“I need your help.” John told Steven at last.
“I don’t know if I’m in any condition to help you, really. I have the strongest suspicion that I’ve finally gone and lost my mind.”
“Look at me. Just think for a moment of Martin and then look at the man standing here in your kitchen. Do we really seem like the same person to you?”
Steven held John’s gaze evenly before inspecting the doctor for things about him that were incongruous with his memory of Martin. The man before him stood straight-backed with both feet planted firmly on the floor. His eyes were harder and his mouth was set in a tight line. This man had seen death and survived. His bearing was indeed military. Martin could have faced horrors unspeakable in the week he was gone, but by no account could he have possibly developed a scar such as the one this man bore in only a week.
“You really are John fucking Watson.” Moffat finally muttered.
“Yeah, I’m afraid I am.”
It was a whole hour and a half later when John had finally finished telling Moffat the story of Martin and Benedict’s sudden arrival in 221B Baker Street and the progression of events up to present day.
“You were thrown off the empire state building with fireworks strapped to you?” Moffat drawled suspiciously.
John’s head fell as he forced a quick nod and looked back up with a dire expression on his features. “Yes. Yes I was.”
Moffat massaged his temples and heaved a sigh.
“And Martin and Benedict are with Sherlock?”
“That’s right, yes.”
“And they’re safe?”
“They were the last time I talked to Sherlock. That’s exactly why I’m here, though. I need a controlled explosion to get back and I was told that you’d have the necessary equipment to make that happen. The sooner I get back, the sooner I can help Martin and Benedict do the same.”
“A controlled explosion?” Steven looked even more skeptical than when John had revealed his true identity.
“According to Sherlock, with enough energy I can jump between dimensions. I need to be unconscious and propelled forward with the energy of the blast. The point is to open a subconscious communication with home and then the blast will do the rest of the work.”
“And you believe this is going to work?”
“To be honest, no. But Sherlock was dead set on it and I’ve learned better than to second guess him.”
Steven looked at his watch. “Well, it’s still early. I’ll get the team together. I’ll call Mark over, too. He’ll be like a kid on Christmas morning when he meets you.”
“Is that strictly necessary?” John asked hoping Steven would relent.
“Strictly necessary? No, not really. But Mark and I are the creators. With everything you’ve just told me, it sounds like you’ll need as much energy as you can get. When
you put Mark and I in a room together, I’m sure that if our collective imagination could be converted to electric energy the whole city could run on it for the next century.”
Amanda laughed from her seat. “I’ll toast to that.”
They clinked glasses, downed the whiskey and Steven was on the phone in seconds.
John’s eyes were so wide when the bear of a man had wrapped him in the tightest of embraces that he thought his eyes may fall out of his head. Mycroft was hugging him. And not just the conventional “oh, hello, how are you?” hug. No, this was a full-on rib-cracking hug that could only stem from the bottom of a very large heart. John groaned under the pressure and his assailant finally jumped back looking apologetic.
“For the love of God, Martin! Where have you been?! It’s a miracle that you’re standing here. Are you alright? What happened to you?” The questions were shot one right after the other with no pause in between to allow for an answer.
John was about to answer when Steven stepped in. “Mark, meet our very own John Hamish Watson.”
Mark’s expression was that of confusion and near outrage.
“How can you have a sense of humor at a time like this?” He demanded.
Steven gave John a knowing look and the doctor heaved a sigh. How many times would he need to undress in front of strangers before the day was done? Regardless, he once more pulled off his jacket and unbuttoned his shirt to reveal the old scar on his left shoulder. Mark stared with fascination for what seemed like an eternity before finally standing straight and rubbing his eyes with his thumb and index finger.
“So you expect me to believe you’re actually John Watson?”
John shook his head. “I don’t expect anything more than your help. I can’t prove anything more to you with the way things are. But if I can get through to the other side then that’ll be the best proof that I’m not just some mental bloke lying through his teeth for a little attention.”
Mark bore his eyes into John’s a long time before he seemed to decide that he could do nothing more than trust the man and his word for the time being.
“We’ve already got staff working on the conditions of the blast. It’ll take some time to put it all together, so you may as well go ahead and explain how it is you’re here.”
John couldn’t help but heave a sigh and look pleadingly at Amanda. She gave him an encouraging nod and the doctor begrudgingly retold his account of meeting Martin and Benedict all the way through to his near death experience off the top of the Empire State building.
“You were thrown off the Empire State building with fireworks strapped to you by Jim Moriarty?” Mark reiterated skeptically.
“Why does everyone feel the need to repeat that detail?” John groaned.
“Maybe because no one believes that you could be here alive and telling the truth.” Amanda said pointedly.
When Mark and Moffat nodded in agreement John fought back the urge to roll his eyes.
“Alright, fine. But I am standing here remarkably alive and I’d like to forget how close I came to dying for the second time since Afghanistan.” It wasn’t a subject John was comfortable bringing up, but he felt strongly enough about it that he wanted to say something.
A tense silence fell over the group and Moffat finally spoke up to break it.
“Right. That aside, you said you needed to be out for this procedure. You said ideally you should have the dream communication open when the blast happens. If I were you I’d be having a hell of a time trying to focus on home with all the shite going on around me. How would you feel about watching some old memories? It’ll be like watching home videos but just slightly more elaborate.”
John looked up questioningly. “Old memories?”
Moffat stood from his chair and stooped to pick up a briefcase he’d carried with him and pulled out a laptop. From the case he pulled the first season of BBC’s Sherlock and inserted the first disc into the DVD drive.
“Because I’m a firm believer in keeping order in a chaotic universe, I’ll only show you the first episode. Best not to tempt fate. It’s enough of a bastard as it is.”
John watched mesmerized as he saw himself awaken from a nightmare about the war, meeting Sherlock for the first time, being dragged to a crime scene and chasing a cab halfway across London only to find it was the wrong lead. He watched Lestrade and his team rummaging through the flat on a pretend drugs bust to turn up clues and he watched Sherlock willingly get into the murderer’s cab and drive away. He watched himself shoot the cabbie when Sherlock was lifting the pill to his mouth and he relived the moment when he realized Mycroft really was Sherlock’s brother. John caught himself chuckling at some of the witty dialogue between Sherlock and himself. When it was over he felt exhausted. It was like he’d relived his first couple of days with Sherlock Holmes all over again and he didn’t believe he had just watched it on a laptop screen.
“I do have to say that now I’ve met you I’m quite proud of our creation. Don’t you think, Mark?” Moffat said smugly as he looked John up and down. “He’s our baby.”
Mark raised a brow and then laughed. “That he is, isn’t he? Maybe we really are geniuses after all, eh Steven?”
“It’s what I’ve been saying all along but do you ever listen?” Moffat said leaning back in his chair with a smirk on his lips.
“Ah, but unlike you I am a humble man.” Mark said dramatically.
Moffat chuckled. “Oh sure, as humble as they come. The man who makes a video on youtube to intimidate the Pulitzer board by promising them the cruelest of tortures if they don’t succumb to his demands. Yeah, humility personified.”
The men started laughing aloud together.
Feeling out of the loop, John cleared his throat when the laughter felt as though it would go on forever. The writers looked up still smiling and Mark apologized.
“Just the odd things I do for fun is all.” He explained briefly.
For reasons John couldn’t begin to figure, he started getting an idea.
“If you two are the creators and the ones who write what happens in our lives, maybe you could help us…”
Both Mark’s and Steven’s eyes lit up as they quickly caught onto John’s line of thinking.
“Of course! We could write the whole thing out. All we need to do is add Martin, Benedict and Andrew in as characters.” Mark said excitedly.
“Sounds too easy.” Steven said quietly. “But it’s worth a shot. At the very least we might influence something enough to give you an edge.”
John nodded. “I’d be grateful even just for that.”
“Then consider it done.” Mark said amicably. “How much time do we have?
“It’s nearly 7 pm now.” Amanda replied. “How do you think the explosion is coming along?”
Moffat and Mark rose from their seats and went to talk to the tech staff a few minutes before returning.
“They’re running tests for safety. It should be another couple hours.” Mark explained.
“Enough time for us to throw something together. Meanwhile you should take something to start getting you groggy.” Moffat said to John.
“Do you have anything on hand?” The doctor asked.
“No, but I can have one of the staff run to the drug store to buy something.”
John nodded. “Thank you.”
“Don’t thank me yet.” Moffat deadpanned.
John tensed but nodded all the same. He stepped back and sat next to Amanda in uncomfortable silence as he waited for the runner to arrive with the sedatives.
Two and a half hours later John Watson was strapped into a slingshot-like contraption and sleeping peacefully.
Mark and Steven shared a significant glance before giving the tech team the green light to begin.
John was dreaming. He knew he was dreaming because he was definitely flying. Unfortunately it wasn’t a lovely blue sky that surrounded him but never ending gray walls and he was fast approaching the tall dark figure of Sherlock Holmes. At the speed John was going he was certain this could only end badly.
He felt himself collide with the sleuth and they were both propelled backwards. They hit the ground and rolled a fair ways before finally coming to a stop and before John knew what was happening, Sherlock was on him sawing away at the tethers that still connected him to Martin’s world. The remaining force of the explosion disappeared into thin air sucking the severed tethers into oblivion with it.
Sherlock quickly came round to hover above John and pull him into a sitting position.
“John. Can you hear me?” The detective demanded. “I need you to focus, John. Can you hear me? How many fingers do you see?” He was shaking John hard by the shoulders. Now sufficiently awake, John swatted Sherlock away.
“I’m fine, Sherlock!” He shouted as he freed himself from the detective’s strong grasp and pushed himself to his feet. “See? Fine.”
Sherlock stood. The look on his face went from worry to realization as a smirk formed on his lips and the beginnings of a chuckle rumbled in his throat. John was about to demand an explanation when it hit him. Of course, he was back. He’d made it. The plan had worked. He felt all his agitation dissipate as he broke into a smile and chuckled alongside his friend and companion. The chuckling quickly escalated to giggling and both men were gasping for air by the end of it. Finally a calm hush fell over them and Sherlock pointedly looked John in the eyes.
“You’re absolutely sure you’re alright?” He asked.
John grunted in exasperation. “Yes Sherlock, I’m sure. Now shut up.”
With that, John grabbed Sherlock by the shoulders and pulled him down to his level. He held no reservations as he kissed the detective aggressively as though his life depended on it. Feeling Sherlock’s lips molding to his was better than it ever had been in the dream communication. He could feel every tingle of sensation shooting through him and he felt as though he might melt.
“For Christ’s sake, Sherlock…” He breathed.
Slightly shocked by John’s forwardness, Sherlock stood in bewildered joy before urgently wrapping his arms around the doctor and pulling him closer to respond in turn. He was just starting to get ideas when he heard a chorus of gasps from somewhere in the room.
“Mother of God. The fangirls were right.” Came Benedict’s voice.
Sherlock and John jumped apart. John was blushing visibly as he cleared his throat. Sherlock was only irritated by the interruption. But before he could open his mouth to complain, Benedict had rushed past him and had his arms tightly around John.
“I’m so glad to see you alive.” Benedict said in earnest. Behind him came Martin.
“I’m still feeling a bit queasy about the state I just saw you in, considering looking at you is like looking into a mirror, but I am bloody glad to see you.” Martin awkwardly held his arms akimbo and John hesitantly hugged what felt like himself. Not even a second later the two broke apart.
“Okay. Too weird.” Martin declared.
“Yes, definitely. Never again.” John agreed.
Next Andrew walked up with a grin on his face. “Good to have you back, Doctor.” He said warmly.
“Good to be back.” John conceded.
Sherlock pushed through the gathered group and stood between them and John with a stern look in his eyes.
“There will be plenty of time to catch up, but if you’ll excuse us we have some as of yet unresolved business to attend to.”
Martin looked like he might be sick. “Do you still have the keys to the other flat?”
Sherlock dug in his pockets a moment and flung the keys in Martin’s direction. “Yes, brilliant Martin. Why don’t you all spend the night there?”
He said this with disinterest as his eyes were on John the entire time. Without one word of discontent, the trio made their way out the front door of 221B. When Sherlock heard the door close behind them, he turned to John.
“I suppose you’ll have a lot of questions.” John said expectantly.
John felt his face flush as Sherlock gently ran his hands under his jacket and pushed it off his shoulders. He folded it neatly and left it handing over the back of the nearest chair. He ran his fingers over the buttons of John’s shirt undoing them smoothly. Slowly he pushed the fabric away and that too was folded neatly and left to hang with the discarded jacket.
“Sherlock-“ John protested weakly. The words died in his throat as Sherlock’s cold hands ran gently over his back, his shoulders, his neck, his chest and his abdomen.
“You seem to be in tact.” Sherlock observed with relief.
“It takes a lot to make me otherwise.” John grumbled. Sherlock nodded approvingly and motioned for the doctor to take a seat on the sofa.
“What was it like?” The sleuth asked taking a seat next to him.
“Martin’s world?” John asked.
Sherlock nodded, “Yes.”
John chuckled. “Pretty much the same. Just that life seems less exciting on their end. Did you know our lives are mostly created with computers and green screens?”
Sherlock looked fascinated at the thought. “To think that we really are just actors in another reality. What were the writers like? To us I guess they’re something akin to gods.”
Martin scoffed at that. “Not much godliness about them, then. Bit like Miguel and Tulio, actually. Moffat’s a pleasant old cantankerous man with an imagination that could power a whole street block given the chance. Mark Gatiss seemed more light-hearted. Bit like a boy in man’s clothing, really. Put them together and they’re a creative force to be reckoned with, according to Moffat.”
Sherlock looked thoughtful as he steepled his fingers under his chin with his eyes staring unseeing into the empty room.
“You’ll get a chance to see it, Sherlock. A day ago I would’ve said it was impossible, but after what I’ve been through I’d believe anything was possible.”
Sherlock looked back at John with a small smile gracing his lips.
“When everything possible within reason doesn’t lead to an answer, it’s time to turn to the impossible.”
John scoffed and shook his head. “Yeah, so I’ve noticed.”
A peaceful quiet came over the two friends as they lost themselves in their respective thoughts.
“John.” Sherlock said abruptly.
John felt a smile spread over his lips and he reached a hand out to rest it on the detective’s shoulder.
“Thanks. It’s good to be back.”
John pulled gently at Sherlock’s shoulder to turn him in his direction when he remembered something important.
“Oh! Sherlock! I nearly forgot.”
Jumping to his feet, John scrambled for his discarded jacket and fumbled with the pockets until he fished out some folded pieces of paper. Once in hand, he padded back to the couch and handed the papers to the curious sleuth.
“Mark and Steven wrote it. This could help us get an edge on Moriarty.”
Sherlock unfolded the paper and started to read. What started as vague interest quickly grew into insatiable curiosity. In a matter of a minute he had managed to read all ten pages of the hand written creation. His eyes snapped up to John’s.
“This is brilliant.”
John looked taken aback but his lips turned up in a smirk.
“I would bet what little fortune we have that Steve and Mark would go into seizures of egotism if they’d heard those precise words out of your mouth. I can also think of a few others who might be jealous enough to brave a controlled explosion to track them down and kill them both.”
In a surprising show of glee, Sherlock burst out laughing. His guffaws were far too contagious for John to hold a straight face and soon both men were giggling madly together.
“This will be like war but with more particle science involved.” Sherlock managed breathlessly as he gradually calmed his giggling.
“I haven’t read it yet, so I’ll take your word for it.” John gasped as he joined Sherlock in the aftermath of their giggle fest.
Sherlock jumped up from the sofa and pumped his fists once triumphantly. “Oh yes, this, this John is Christmas!”
John’s expression feel from contentedness to skepticism in less than a second.
“Oh no.” He groaned.
Sherlock turned on John grabbing him by the shoulders tightly and planting a fast kiss on his lips before pulling away with his eyes glowing with excitement.
“Oh yes, John! Oh yes!”
Chapter 15: Three's a Crowd
I'm sorry for the delay!! I'm finally done with the block! Thanks for sticking with me!
Sherlock stood in the middle of Mycroft’s lab with all the current residents of 221B Baker Street and Mycroft seated around him and watching expectantly.
“We need to throw off the balance.” He started.
“Balance?” Andrew questioned.
“Yes, balance. Keep up.”
“This has nothing to do with keeping up. If you’d just lay out everything so we could get the whole picture you wouldn’t have to repeat yourself. If you’d just stop being so damned cryptic you might notice an increase in your reception.” Benedict shot back with frustration. The room was quiet for a moment as all eyes fell on the actor.
Benedict noticed the sudden mood in the room and looked around to meet everyone’s eyes.
“Not every day we see you being agitated.” Martin said with a smile.
“Is that really why-“ Benedict hung his head a moment and lifted his face with his brows knit. “It’s not every day you have the chance to tell off Sherlock Holmes. I may as well take the chance while I’ve got it.”
Sherlock huffed impatiently and began again.
“The balance of this world. We need to throw it off.”
“How?” Andrew asked the question all were thinking.
“There are a plethora of ways, but the best has been suggested by the writers.” Sherlock stuffed a hand in his pocket and pulled out a fistful of crumpled notebook pages. “We need another Moriarty.”
The room was quiet now with its attention completely captivated.
“And we need Andrew for this.”
Before Andrew could so much as get his head around what Sherlock was telling him, he was strapped down into one of the space age pods in Mycroft’s labs.
“But what exactly am I supposed to do?” He demanded angrily from the open pod.
“We need you to connect with Moriarty. You need to call to mind the character you created.” Mycroft explained. “You lay there doing that and we do the rest.”
“And what exactly does the rest entail?” John chimed in skeptically.
“We’re using Andrew’s mind to open a door to dimensions related to Moriarty. We need to pull him through to our dimension.”
“And what, pray tell, happens when we do this other than complete and utter mayhem?” Martin said furrowing his brow.
“Ah, but mayhem is the goal. Or more accurately, chaos.” Sherlock said with a smirk and an excited fire glowing in his eyes.
“I can see how this will break the balance now, alright. It’ll destroy any kind of cards that were stacked in our favor. We’re bad enough just up against one Moriarty, what makes you think bringing in another is going to help?” Martin questioned angrily.
Sherlock didn’t reply right away. His eyes fixed somewhere in space as he watched something on the 3D imax of his mind unfold.
“I’m not saying it’s going to make things easier.” He said distractedly. “But it’ll certainly make things vastly more interesting.” He said the last words with a smile spreading wide across his face.
“Sherlock,” John said from his armchair, “let’s say we do bring another Moriarty here. What then?”
“We let him loose.”
“WHAT?!” The chorus of voices resounded in unison.
“We let him loose and watch from there. We know that he’ll immediately start planning a game with me. Inevitably he’ll contact the criminal syndicate he’s the head of and our Moriarty will catch wind of him. That’s when we make our move.”
“I really don’t like this.” Andrew said nervously as Mycroft started closing the Plexiglas covering to the pod. “There is an oxygen supply in here, right?”
Mycroft nodded. “That’s the least of your concerns right now, I think. And one less that you need to think about. At this moment we require you to focus on Moriarty’s character. You must channel him through yourself. This machine will help amplify your consciousness and open the connection with other versions of Moriarty.”
Andrew shook his head wishing he weren’t in the pod but closed his eyes and concentrated. He shut out his surroundings and dug down into his memory of playing Moriarty and felt the dark tendrils of the nefarious character coiling into his mind. The thrill of Moriarty’s passion and drive filled him and he let his mind relax into Moriarty’s character and lost himself to his imagination.
The rest of the gang was standing around the pod, save Sherlock, Mycroft and a few engineers manning the controls just a few steps away.
“There’s no guarantee this will work.” A young female engineer informed quietly from the controls.
Mycroft nodded solemnly. “All we can hope for is a little authorial magic.”
Sherlock looked anxious. “It’s the man who is currently writing Doctor Who.”
Mycroft’s brows almost jumped off his face. “Steven Moffat? He’s the creator?”
Sherlock kept his eyes on the monitors as he replied, “Strictly speaking some sir Arthur Conan Doyle is to thank for our coming to be in the first place. Seems Moffat is the one to thank for our updated lifestyle. Really should send him a thank you note. Don’t even want to imagine the tedium of crime fighting without today’s technology. Scotland yard is useless enough as it is.”
Benedict had moved from the gathered faces around the pod over to the controls.
“Any ideas how long this will take?” He asked.
Mycroft shook his head. “Keep in mind this is the first time we’ve done anything like this before. We’re still trying to find the tear in dimensional fabric left by Andrew when he first came through. We can only go from there.”
Benedict looked up at the plasma screen and could make no sense of what he was looking at. A screen filled with statistics he couldn’t even begin to comprehend and what looked like a blue print of what he thought might be dimensional fabric in fluorescent green lines overlapping over a black background. The line map rolled and curled at different angles until a quiet blipping started sounding from the speakers.
“We found something.” The female engineer declared excitedly. “There’s a tear in the fabric.”
“How is any of this happening?” Benedict found himself asking aloud.
“A high powered compound satellite projection from multiple units in space is what we’re seeing on screen. A tear in the fabric of the universe is something a satellite would be able to pick up, assuming the universe is indeed an entity wrapped up in itself. At the risk of sounding like something out of Doctor Who, the power of Andrew’s imagination is being transmitted to the satellites in the hopes of creating an energy response.”
Benedict stood in stunned disbelief as he watched a spot on the map come into clear sight. The way the screen showed it was like a hole torn in a metal fence.
“We’re transmitting the signal now.” Stated the same engineer.
“Good. Find us Moriarty.” Sherlock’s knuckles were white and his teeth were gritted.
“Uh, Sherlock?” It was John. Sherlock wasn’t listening. The doctor tore his eyes away from the manic expression on Andrew’s face and jogged over to the sleuth.
“Sherlock. Andrew… He doesn’t look right.”
This got Sherlock’s attention and he bounded over to the pod looking in.
His brother was next to him with inhuman speed and the two shared a look that made John go pale and slightly light headed.
Before anyone could say anything, the power controls started sparking.
“It’s overheating!” The engineer shouted. “We need to pull the plug!”
“Get Andrew out!” Mycroft ordered.
“The pod’s jammed, sir!”
“Jesus!” Martin swore.
Mycroft wedged the tip of his umbrella under the plastic sealer until he could feel it nudging at the edge of the Plexiglas. “I need you all to push at the glass to help it give. I’ll lever it back meantime.”
Sherlock, Martin and Benedict all moved to push at the glass casing as Mycroft put all his might into wedging the tip of the umbrella under the clasp to force it. In a moment the mechanism snapped open and all hands dove in to drag Andrew out. The manic expression on his face fell instantly and was replaced by one of disorientation.
“It’s not shutting down!” came the anguished cry of another engineer.
“Shut it all down!”
The engineer sprinted across the floor and flipped a large emergency switch. In an instant the power in the building was off. There was an eerie quiet that came over the building as everyone listened anxiously.
Finally Mycroft cleared his throat. “Turn the power on but keep the machine off.”
In a matter of seconds the lights came flickering back on and everyone stood around Andrew.
“Andrew, are you alright?” Benedict demanded anxiously.
Andrew fought to focus his eyes on his co-actor’s face and nodded weakly.
“Just a bit dizzy.” He slurred.
The tension in the room diminished almost tangibly as Benedict and Martin helped pull Andrew to his feet and sit him in a chair.
“Fuck.” John swore suddenly.
“John?” Sherlock enquired.
Sherlock’s eyes and those of the others in the room immediately looked around to find two pairs of eyes staring out of different but equally malevolent faces. They stared back and then at each other.
“My, this is interesting.” Said one Jim Moriarty wearing a formal black suit, a top hat and cape. He looked around curiously with cold dark eyes.
“Sherlock?” John barely breathed the question but it was loud enough for the newcomers to hear.
The two men looked up together. The man wearing a fitted black suit with a neck tie smiled wickedly before reaching into his pocket and throwing down a smoke bomb. The smoke was thick and acrid. The room fell into choked coughing fits as two like-minded psychotic criminal masterminds were set loose in Sherlock’s London.
Chapter 16: Who is Sherlock Holmes?
I really do apologize for my absence, but here's my repentance.
When the smoke had settled enough for the gang to navigate their way outside, they gulped down breaths of clean air gratefully.
“Martin,” Benedict wheezed, “was it just me-“
“No. Eric Porter and Daniel Davis, right?”
Benedict nodded as he coughed quietly, purging his lungs of the last of Moriarty’s smoke bomb.
“Fucking fantastic, this.” Martin said flatly.
“What?” John demanded.
“We have two more Moriartys to contend with.” Benedict provided with a scowl. “As if it hadn’t been bad enough with one.”
Now all eyes turned to Sherlock. It was clear from his expression that he was the only one not surprised by the recent events. He paid them no mind and instead lunged for Andrew and put a tracker in the pocket of his trousers.
“Mycroft, get me a driver, now!” Mycroft nodded and dialed a number from his cellphone without a moment’s hesitation. In just a few seconds a black car skidded to a halt before them. Sherlock opened the driver door and ordered the chauffeur out, then he threw Andrew in.
“I need you to go after them and pick them up. Tell them you’re Moriarty in this world and explain how they came to be here. Pretend you were kidnapped by us for this purpose and see where they lead you. Despite different times, they’re still Moriarty. They’ll lead you to where we need to go and we’ll be right behind.”
Too beguiled to disagree, Andrew simply shouted back, “Which way?”
“See the fence? Drive along it until you run into them. We’ll give you a ten minute head start to send a car chasing after you. Don’t lose character!”
With those last words shouted at him, Andrew slammed the car door shut and sped toward the fence. He watched as the figures in his rear view shrank into indistinguishable blots as he gained some distance. Finally reaching the fence he yanked the steering wheel to the right and heard the tires screech along the pavement behind him. He was starting to get nervous thinking he might not catch up with the men he was after but just as he was coming up to the next turn he caught a glimpse of a coat fluttering around the building. He skidded around the corner and slammed the breaks. Quickly he steeled himself and put on a smug face as he rolled down the passenger window.
“Well hello darlings.” He flashed a dark smile. “Need a ride?”
The two Moriartys wasted no time in hopping into the vehicle. Andrew silently thanked the advantage of their disorientation. As soon as they were in the car he slammed on the gas and booked it for the fence. He knew Sherlock would have another car sent after him and he’d be too easy a catch if he wasn’t fast. He couldn’t ruin the plan. With that in mind he saw the chain fence and gave the car all the gas it had. He laughed hysterically as the car bowled toward the fence and successfully pulled it down around them. The other Moriartys shared a worried look and craned their necks to watch the car coming after them in the distance. Andrew was howling with triumph now as he opened the sky light with the gas pedal floored and wishing that he could curl into a ball and sob for his mother.
Sherlock barked at Benedict to slow down the car, he was gaining too quickly.
“Yes, fine, would you just shut up and let me drive?!”
The decision of who would drive was an easy one. The only two men with sufficient driving experience were Martin and Benedict and Martin had had enough Hollywood car chases to last him a life time. Benedict, always up for a challenge and a thrill wasn’t hard to convince. He only wished that he didn’t have Sherlock for a backseat driver.
“You’re still going too fast!” Sherlock barked again. Then he reconsidered. “No. No, go faster.”
“What?! I thought you said-“
“Yes, I did. But now I need you to STEP ON THE GAS!”
Benedict floored the gas angrily pretending it was Sherlock and was momentarily rewarded with the newfound speed before he noticed too late the gravel that he would be driving over in three, two, one.
The car skidded on the pebbles violently and spiraled out of control.
“Leave the breaks!” Sherlock ordered before Benedict could move his foot to the break pedal. “Let go of the steering wheel!”
The actor did as told and let the steering wheel loose in his grasp. The car careened wildly until it ran smoothly into a shallow ditch. Breathing heavily Benedict watched as smoke rose from the hood.
“That was your plan?” He asked dangerously.
“It was perfectly sound.” Sherlock said shortly as he pulled himself together, pretending not to be fazed.
“I hate you.” Benedict said breathily.
“Get in line.” Sherlock retorted as he twisted in his seat and fought with the door handle to force it open. He threw it open and sprinted after the other car for a few meters before standing in the middle of the road dramatically in contrast with the rising dawn. It’s pale light throwing gentle shadows over his sallow features.
Benedict jogged up next to him and stopped a bit out of breath.
“We regroup and we follow their movement.”
Benedict heaved a sigh. He stood next to Sherlock in the morning light and shivered.
Andrew wasn’t sure where he was going, but he figured getting back into downtown London was a good place to go. It was a place he could easily disappear into the crowd and leave the bug planted on one of the men with him. Andrew had spent the drive cryptically and charismatically telling the criminal masterminds where they were and how this had come about. He had to spend some time explaining the mechanics of the car, too. They were curious and hungry for knowledge.
“When I get back to my world I can use this knowledge to take over the world.” The man who looked suspiciously like Eric Porter said with barely contained glee.
“Why not the universe?” Andrew provided with a lift of his eye brows. He wished he had gum that he could chew to give him the extra edge. Instead he took out his cellphone. Why not play with these two a little? He’d already come this far. He went through the play list and hit play on the Staying Alive. Sherlock had downloaded it for him for the sake of “authenticity”.
The two men stared in awe as the song rose from the speakers. Andrew tapped along to the beat with his fingers on the steering wheel.
“You say we’re in London, sir?” Daniel Davis asked with the dignified manner of a true professor. The man could have come off as congenial if not for the calculated calm in his cold eyes.
“No place like London.” Andrew replied with his eyes on the road. The tall buildings of the city were looming over them as the car came closer. He could see the London Eye in the distance and felt somewhat more at ease.
“Dammit.” Benedict swore as he missed the target again. The gun felt awkward in his hands. Props were one thing, the real deal was quite another.
“You have to hold it stead and keep both eyes open.” He heard John through his earpiece under the mufflers. He took aim and inhaled as he did. He kept both eyes opened and steadied his hand pulling the trigger. The recoil from the shot threw off his wrist again but at least this time he grazed the target at the end of the range. He sighed and took aim again. He could hear the muffled shots from the stall next to him where Martin was practicing as well and Benedict hoped he was having more luck than he was.This wasn’t even a moving target. What he would do when confronted with an actual enemy was something he didn’t want to think about. He leveled the gun and held tightly as he breathed. The head, he told himself as he exhaled and pulled the trigger. He didn’t hit the head, but he did manage to hit the chest.
“Good enough,” he muttered.
“You have fifteen more minutes. Make use of them.” Benedict heard John warn through his earpiece. He nodded and took aim again.
Andrew was driving by an alleyway near Baker Street when he saw a familiar face crossing the road in front of him. The disheveled face looked his way and their eyes met. The figure stopped dead in the middle of the road and Andrew thanked his lucky stars. The actor stood up through the sun roof and called out to the pedestrian loudly.
“Devin!” he called, “a word.”
Devin motioned to the side of the road and Andrew dropped down into the driver’s seat pulling the car over by the sidewalk and parking. Devin sauntered toward the car looking over his shoulder cautiously.
“Boss.” He greeted. Andrew took a second to understand but he wrapped his head around the scenario quickly.
“I need my men.” Andrew said conspiratorially.
“They at the Bourne n’ Hollingsworth,” he informed dutifully. “Twenny-eight Rathbone Place.”
“Good.” Andrew drew his wallet from his pocket and handed Devin a fifty pound note trying to conceal a grimace. Devin gave a nod and slouched away across the street.
Benedict was again the driver, but this time he was suited up in protective gear and had a gun holstered by his thigh. It felt like an awkward appendage strapped to his person. He tried unsuccessfully to ignore it as he concentrated on the road and the task at hand. He drew courage from the look he shared with Martin before they left. It was a look that sealed a promise. They were going home and they were going home alive. The car was quiet without Mycroft here. He had stayed behind to attend to urgent matters. Sherlock swore, breaking the silence.
“What is it?” John inquired.
“Lestrade’s men refuse to move under my orders again.” Sherlock seethed.
“Can’t say I blame them after last time,” Martin said flatly.
Sherlock pounded the keys of his phone and hit send in a flurry of long flying fingers. His phone dinged in reply only five seconds later. Sherlock relaxed into his seat and shot off another text.
“Everything alright?” John asked.
“Fine.” Sherlock replied shortly. He refused to say more.
Tensions were high as was the stress. This was the final stretch and the last stand off. The last one standing was the winner and the winner took the world. Benedict quietly berated himself for his dramatic imagination but he knew that in spite of the theatrics, he was undoubtedly right. He suppressed a shudder and focused on the road all the more.
Andrew pulled up outside the bar and motioned for the Eric and Daniel lookalikes to get out of the car and to follow him. He concealed the bug in a palm and swung his arms around each of the men’s shoulders as he walked them toward the entrance of the bar and let the bug slip into Eric’s breast pocket. As he walked toward the entrance he felt his confidence weaken. If he met the actual version of himself here, there was no guarantee that he’d live to tell the tale. He stopped just before the door and looked inside to see, much to his relief, only two men sitting at the bar nursing a beer each. Andrew gestured to them.
“See those two gentlemen at the bar? They work for me, and now for you as well. I’ll grab my phone from the car and you can go and introduce yourselves.” That said, Andrew patted each man on the back and flashed a smirk before pirouetting half-way round to dance a jig back to the car. He kicked the pavement with his heels and pushed his hands into his pockets as he did. He felt the car keys in his hand and waited until both Moriartys were through the door before diving into the car and heading straight for Scotland Yard; his hands shaking violently on the wheel.
Following Sherlock’s instructions, Benedict parked the car in an underground car park and bought a ticket for the day. Mycroft had provided them all with informal attire to hide the bulk of the protection gear. All except Sherlock who preferred to be unrestricted despite John’s insistence, but the doctor had managed to convince Sherlock to wear a bullet-proof vest.
“John, I need you here a moment. Benedict, Martin, move ahead but don’t let yourselves be seen.” Sherlock ordered once they had all climbed out of the car. The actors obeyed and went ahead. John stayed behind with an expectant look on his face and was surprised to see Sherlock’s mask of calm collapse. The detective had rings under his eyes and in the dimness of the car park he looked like a ghost.
“We must be careful, John.” He warned in his smooth baritone.
John nodded. “I know. You especially.”
Sherlock waved his words away. “I’m a better shot than you think.”
“That’s not what worries me.”
Sherlock’s expression went from petulant to somber. “John, I-“
“Not now Sherlock. Later.” John said evenly.
Sherlock looked minutely surprised and then his lips twitched into a smirk.
“Of course, you’re right. There will of course be later. But there is one thing for now.”
John shook his head while smiling and stepped close to his detective. He gently rested a hand on the back of Sherlock’s neck and pulled him down for a kiss. It was short, but it was what they both needed. Sherlock awkwardly wrapped his arms around the army doctor and rested with his lips against John’s gently before pulling away.
“Time to get going,” John said stepping back, but leaving one hand in Sherlock’s. The detective nodded and letting go of John’s hand, he fell into step with the doctor to catch up with their doppelgangers.
The Daniel and Eric lookalikes stepped inside the bar and were very surprised to see the same man who had just brought them here step out from the men’s washroom in totally different attire. The men at the bar nursing beers turned to look at the newcomers suspiciously eyeing their strange clothing.
“You’re Jim Moriarty,” The Daniel lookalike said dubiously. The eyebrows of the round face raised in surprise.
“And how might you have known that?”
The two professors began to explain how they came to be here and it was only once they were done speaking that Jim realized what was happening and before he could so much as lift a finger, Sherlock came through the door followed by John, Benedict and Martin. It was then when suddenly things started to look out of focus. The images of Sherlock and John started looking fuzzy, like transmission static. They looked confused for a moment. One moment Benedict was looking at his doppelganger and the next he was seeing Jeremy Brett in a deer stalker. The image flickered only a moment and then Benedict was looking at himself again. His doppelganger looked over at John only to find a beautiful Asian woman standing in his stead.
“John?” Sherlock demanded.
“Joan. What’s-“ Sherlock’s image flickered again and Benedict nearly felt himself fall over when he was replaced by the bulk of Johnny Lee Miller. Lucy Liu stood next to him and both looked bewildered at each other and then around at their surroundings. Benedict noticed the flicker traveling around the room. Flickering in and out of existence was a house with peeling paint, an old wooden stair case and Benedict recognized it as the Elementary set. It too flickered into a black and white rendition of the classic 221B Baker Street apartment and again Jeremy Brett flashed into existence looking utterly puzzled and next to him his Watson. Benedict noticed out of the corner of his eye one of the men at the bar holding a gun and it was aimed at Sherlock. Benedict acted too quickly to realize what happened. The mayhem of the changing scene around him seemed to move in slow motion as he heard the gun fire while he was in mid-air. The last thing he knew was a blinding pain that spread through his chest and then nothing.
Chapter 17: IOU
Hey all, I read over the last chapter and Jeeze, c'mon. That was horrible. You all deserve better from me and I vow to give it to you. I want this story to go out with a bang, not a sizzle and spark. No my friends, you have supported me too long and too kindly for me to leave you with something so unsatisfactory. So here is the new and improved chapter you DO deserve!
When Benedict’s body hit the ground in a heap all hell broke loose. John fired two quick shots in the direction of the bar hitting one man in the chest and disarming the other. Sherlock tore his eyes away from the body lying at his feet and went to draw his own weapon only to see himself flicker again.
Martin was livid. He pulled his gun from its holster and kneeled next to Benedict shaking him by the shoulder. No response. He had passed out. Martin noticed that just a meter away was a table and thinking quickly, he dragged the limp body as carefully as possible in that direction. Once there he flipped the table on its side to use as a makeshift shield. A poor one, he knew, but better than being an open target. He heard another gunshot and looked around the table to see the second man go down. John had fired the shot, but he dropped his gun as his own image flickered again. As Martin watched in horror he noticed that each Moriarty’s image was also shifting with a convulsive flicker. The actor realized he was now the last line of defense and offense, but as he looked around the room he had no idea how he could help settle the chaos happening around him. He squatted next to Benedict and bit his lip nervously.
“Don’t you dare die, Ben. You made a promise and you’re bloody well keeping it.”
Suddenly a black point opened up in mid-air that looked like a piece of night sky. Very gradually it expanded and all flickering faces turned their attention to it like it was a fire in a jar of flies.
Sherlock was concentrating hard on keeping himself still. The world around him was fighting to survive against other adaptations of his story and other portrayals of his character. He felt the vice grip of panic and disorientation paralyze his body but never his mind. His world still existed as the platform of projection because this was part of his storyline. He knew he had to use that. He knew that at this moment there were people seeing all of this unfold and they had followed the progression of this account from its beginning. He knew they had to be here now and they were absorbed in this storyline, their investment was the energy he needed to draw on to ground his identity threatened by his alternates. Sherlock concentrated on the energy he knew was there. Not only the energy of those invested but the energy of the one telling his story. Somehow it had to be enough.
Sherlock looked down at himself to see that he had managed to stop his flickering, but something was amiss. Although he had stabilized his image he felt weak for reasons he couldn’t understand. He felt himself losing substance, like a fading photograph. His thoughts were convoluted and consistently interrupted by intervals of unnerving blankness. Suddenly the panic returned. is mind was racing faster than it ever had. Was he ill? Had the stabilization weakened him? No. No, suddenly he knew. Understanding rode over him in a wave of exhaustion.
It was then that Moriarty flung himself at the Detective and caught him in a vice-grip. Already weakened, Sherlock was easily overtaken. Moriarty, still changing faces, seemed to have imposed his will throughout his changing figure as his body didn't cease its attack.
“What do you think throwing you in will do?” Moriarty hissed in Sherlock’s ear holding his head inches from the hole. He'd expected more of a fight and for a moment he was confounded by Sherlock’s lack of response. He held Sherlock’s body aloft with his manic smile slowly fading into a line as realization dawned on him. Moriarty dropped Sherlock and turned with eyes staring wide with sudden comprehension.
John was powerless as he couldn’t control his changing body. His thoughts kept getting muddled with strange interruptions like a bad radio signal. Half the time he didn’t know who he was supposed to be. What year was it? Where was she? Joan. John. Watson. Always Watson, but everything else was a question.
The detective was fighting with unconsciousness. He felt leaden in body and mind; he only felt Moriarty suddenly release his grip and the sleuth fell to the floor in a heap. With every ounce of strength he had left, he forced his eyes open to watch the maniac swivel to face the table Martin was hiding behind with a dark smile. His face changing as he did.
Moriarty easily picked up a free gun on the ground and practically danced over to the table. Martin watched with the gun shaking in his hands. Why did Moriarty have to have Andrew’s fucking face?
The criminal mastermind shot the gun out of Martin’s hand easily. Martin gave a yowl of pain and in his moment of distraction, Moriarty flung Benedict’s body over his shoulder with surprising ease and walked calmly to the portal.
“It’s a stabilizer, isn’t it Sherlock?” Moriarty said squinting at the portal with his teeth bared in a Cheshire cat grin. “It’s a door to take you home, Benny.” He teasedthe body over his shoulder. He stepped over Sherlock’s body laying in his path to the portal.
“Toodles!” He said as he gave a final wave in Martin’s direction and he was gone.
The two Moriartys left were still flickering images and looking utterly terrified. In this setting they were nothing more than genius Neanderthals.
Martin’s hand was still in pain, but the wound was nothing but a graze. Having heard Moriarty’s words, “a stabilizer”, he suddenly understood what needed to be done. He quickly rose to his feet and charged at the paralyzed Moriartys, once upon them he pulled each toward the portal and pushed them in one at a time.
The room was eerily still and silent for what felt like an eternity and was only broken by a loud curse from John. Martin started and swiveled to face the doctor.
“John! We need to go after them!”
John ignored him and was immediately at Sherlock’s side. The detective was now barely awake.
John quickly examined Sherlock’s body to find the undoubtedly serious wound. After a full-body check he was starting to panic when he could find nothing to explain the detective’s fading pulse.
“Sherlock,” John said pleadingly, his voice cracking unbidden. He closed his eyes and forced himself to think hard. He thought back to medical training. There had to be something he was missing. Anything.
He nearly jumped out of his skin when he felt light fingers on his jaw. His eyes snapped open to see a barely conscious Sherlock trying to pull him down to himself. John immediately leaned forward with his ear to Sherlock’s lips.
“Find Benedict. He’s dying.”
“You need help.” John said firmly, only to keep himself from breaking down.
“If he dies, so do I. He doesn’t have long.”
Understanding dawned on the army doctor’s face as he was struck by a wave of panic.
“But what do I do?!”
Sherlock’s eyes slid closed. He sighed with exhaustion and with a great effort he forced himself to speak.
“Take Martin and I through the portal. It’ll take us to Martin’s world. That’s where Moriarty has gone.”
John wasted no time heaving Sherlock’s body over his shoulder and gesturing to Martin to lead the way into the portal.
“Hold onto me.” Martin ordered and John gripped his doppelganger’s wrist firmly, then together they stepped into the portal and were gone.
There was utter chaos at the Bourne and Hollingsworth as Moriarty stepped out of the portal with Benedict’s body over his shoulder and a gun in one hand. He looked around at the crowd of faces and laughed triumphantly as the people nearest him instinctively ran for the door to leave. A few seemed to recognize the pair but prioritized escaping as soon as possible over sticking around to see the show.
Not waiting for the crowd to disperse, Moriarty dumped Benedict on the floor unceremoniously and lostn himself in the moving stream of panicked patrons while playing with the gun in his hand boyishly.
“So this is the other London, is it?” He pulled a stick of gum from his pocket and leisurely popped it in his mouth. “Let’s have a look-see.”
It felt like they’d simply walked through a doorway. They stepped in on one side and appeared on the other. John and Martin checked to see if everyone was all in one piece and confirmed much to everyone's relief that all was there and working properly.
“Ben!” Martin shouted as his eyes landed on the bleeding body on the floor. He reached for his cell phone only to find it had ceased functioning after coming through the portal. He swore and saw nothing for it but to get outside and hail a goddamn cab.
“Find Moriarty, I’ll get Benedict to the hospital. This London is no different than yours. You’ll be mistaken for me, but he’ll be mistaken for Andrew and he’ll be all over the news. Just ask anyone on the road to direct you and I’m guessing you’ll be led right to him.”
John nodded. “Take Sherlock with you. Like this he’ll only slow me down.”
“Right. Just carry him to the curb so I can get him in a cab.”
The two pairs were a sight to behold. Mirror images of each other- one Martin Freeman with Benedict Cumberbatch flung over his shoulder and one Doctor John Hamish Watson with Sherlock Holmes over his. It wasn’t long before a cab practically screeched to a halt beside them.
“Get in!” The driver said as he seemed to recognize the severity of the situation.
“Good luck, John.”
“I’ll need it.”
Lestrade was done waiting for a signal from Sherlock to come in with back up. He was going in, and he was going in now. Andrew was with him, suited up and positioned behind the rest of them. The DI led his group of men to the entrance of the small bar and after looking in and seeing what looked like an empty room, he stood and motioned for his team to be at ease.
“There’s no one here.” He observed perplexed.
“What? But how?” An officer, Andrew, demanded to know.
“Your guess is as good as mine.” Greg said lowering his weapon and walking into the empty establishment. He jumped back immediately at the sight of the black hole floating in the middle of the room.
“What in the hell is that?!”
Andrew came to stand next to Lestrade and shook his head. “A black hole?” He ventured.
“It couldn’t be.”
Andrew pulled a hand over his face in frustration and groaned. “I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if it were.” He said flatly.
“Fair enough,” Greg agreed.
“I’m betting they went through here.” Andrew said with heavy dismay. “And I’m betting that if we wanted to find them, we’d need to go through here.”
“Are you kidding? There’s no way in hell I’m going through that thing.” Andrew exclaimed in outrage. “Jumping into black holes was not part of my contract.”
Andrew glanced wearily over at the DI. “Well?”
Lestrade heaved a sigh while shaking his head. “The things I do for these idiots never ceases to amaze me.” He stepped up to the black hole and closed his eyes. He put one foot forward and walked into it. When he opened his eyes he was facing the confused faces of his men.
“Wait, what the-?”
Lestrade turned back to the portal and stuck a hand through tentatively to see it floating disembodied next to his shoulder. With a yelp he jumped away and was relieved to find himself in one piece. He looked up to see Andrew approaching the portal and reaching his own hand through, but it simply disappeared into the void. He willed his feet forward and through the portal. Where he expected the trip of his lifetime, he found an unexpectedly anti-climactic transcendence through dimensions. He stepped out on the other side of the portal like it was an adjoining room and looked around to see John Watson on the sidewalk in front of him and waiting to cross the street. Andrew called out his name and he stopped abruptly and turned.
“John!” Andrew called again.
The army doctor squinted at Andrew for a moment then rushed back toward him.
“Andrew,” he acknowledged with surprise, “how did you know how to get here?”
“I didn’t, it was a lucky guess. How did you come through? Lestrade tried and couldn’t.”
“I think he needs to be holding onto someone who is originally from this dimension.”
Andrew rolled his eyes. “I feel like I should’ve been able to guess that.” Dragging John with him, he stepped back through and returned with Lestrade and two brave volunteers from the back up team.
“Greg.” John greeted belatedly.
“John. Well, lead the way.”
“We need to be fast. Ask people where they’ve seen Andrew Scott’s stunt double.”
They set out with John in leading them through the masses. They went up to smiling passersby asking if anyone had seen Andrew’s double and a few people nodded and pointed them downtown London.
Martin was sitting in the waiting room of the hospital when he heard a voice he had been afraid he may never hear again.
“Martin!” It was Amanda. She had jumped in her car the moment she’d hung up the phone after Martin had called. She threw herself at her husband joyfully and he held her tightly with tears in his eyes.
“Amanda,” Martin whispered into her shoulder.
“I missed you.” She said earnestly.
Martin was too choked up to reply, he just held her tighter and finally pulled away composing himself as best he could. He dried his eyes on the back of his sleeve and laughed.
“It’s so good to be back.”
“How’s Benedict?” Amanda asked gravely.
“I don’t know. He’s still in the ER.”
“Where are they keeping Sherlock?”
“They have him in a hospital bed somewhere. They’re trying to stabilize his vitals. I didn’t have the heart to tell them that nothing they do for him short of curing Benedict will help.” Martin was exhausted. He had bags under his bloodshot eyes and stress lines now existed all over his face. He had lost weight in the last two weeks too. Amanda kissed him, folded his hand in hers and they sat down together to wait anxiously for news.
John led Andrew, Lestrade and the two officials through downtown London towards the Thames river, following the indications of casual onlookers. Many asked for autographs and pictures but were roughly denied. Andrew flinched every time a fan was rudely told off and knew that Martin’s public reputation would be on the rocks for a little bit until he could make amends. They had already been asking around for hours and they were afraid the trail was getting cold. What was worse was the press that had begun to swarm about. With the recent goings on the city was in an uproar and the team was desperately trying to wade through.
Two hours had passed since the doors to the ER had closed with Benedict put under. Suddenly there was a raucous from beyond the doors to the patients’ rooms and Martin swore he heard a voice not unlike Benedict’s firing off rude comments at unbelievable speed and he knew it had to be Sherlock. He didn’t have to wait long to see the man himself burst through the doors into the waiting room with a frazzled nurse close in tow begging him to stay put in case he relapsed. Sherlock simply waved her away and upon seeing Martin he dashed toward him.
"Sherlock, you're alright?" Martin asked quickly as he moved to meet the newly resuscitated detective halfway.
“Yes, fine. Where are they?”
Same old Sherlock, John though. Apparently even near death couldn't impress the man.
“They headed off after Moriarty. Does this mean that Benedict is alright?”
“Where is Moriarty now?”
“I don’t have the slightest idea, but Ben-”
“He’s fine. If I’m alive then his vitals have probably been stabilized. Why must you all be so useless?!”
Martin was about to retort, but Sherlock’s eyes fixed on the telly in the waiting room when the screen held a close-up shot of the Eye of London. A small figure was scaling the structure with no concern for onlookers and Sherlock knew where he needed to go. Without a word he turned on his heel and ran out the hospital entrance into the street and hailed a cab.
"Charming." Amanda said flatly.
"You should try living with him."
“Would someone tell me what the hell he thinks he’s doing?” Lestrade demanded.
“He’s fucking Moriarty, the only ones who can make any sense of his madness are himself and Sherlock.” John said shielding his eyes to look up at the shrinking figure.
“He’ll be trapped up there.” Lestrade observed.
“But he’s armed. If any of us go after him, he’s not going to be stingy with his bullets.” John pointed out.
“We need Sherlock.” The DI sighed.
“Wait, uh, someone’s climbing the Eye-” Andrew interrupted.
“Is that who I think it is?” Lestrade strained his eyes to make out the man now climbing after Moriarty.
“It’s Sherlock!” John exclaimed. He was just a skip short of clicking his heels in the air for joy.
Sherlock scaled the Eye carefully, confident that Moriarty wouldn’t shoot him. As long as it was him, it would always be a battle of the wits. The madman had managed to climb a quarter of the way up and was straddling an iron beam swinging his legs jovially. From the way he was bobbing his head, Sherlock guessed he was humming a tune as he waited.
The sleuth climbed with determination, stopping every so often to take a break and catch his breath before continuing. The climb was arduous and though Sherlock would never admit it, absolutely terrifying. In spite of that he felt the adrenaline pumping through his veins giving him the rush he needed to continue his climb. It took him a small eternity, but he made it.
“About time.” Moriarty said looking out over the city. “Hoped you’d be dead by now.”
“You underestimate me.”
Moriarty laughed at that. “You’re right. I should just end you the simple way.”
He pulled the gun out of his waistband and held it at Sherlock’s head without looking away from the cityscape.
Sherlock’s eyes were hard. Moriarty was cornered here and he knew it. Pulling the trigger would be the equivalent of a wild animal’s final strike before being overtaken by its captors.
But Moriarty was more than an animal. He was nothing if not relentless.
“You may have won this time,” He said lowering the gun and emptying its chambers, “But I owe you a fall and I always pay what I owe.”
Sherlock watched the maniac suspiciously but resolved that there was nothing left to do but wait until Lestrade sent his men up after them. He sat on the same beam and felt the wind at his back as he and Moriarty sat overlooking the city in a moment that could almost be called serene.
Chapter 18: Inception
Well my friends, this is it. This is the last chapter. Thank you so much for those of you who have been with me throughout this journey and who have supported me and kindly guided me through my blocks, my errors and my editing. I wouldn't have been able to do any of this without you.
Here is the final chapter.
A special dedication to ShortlockHolmes for being a huge pillar of support for me and a great beta reader. Thank you so much for all your help and support! This goes out to you.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“Why didn’t you kill Benedict?” Sherlock finally asked.
“Boring.” Moriarty singsonged in reply. “It would have been too easy.”
Sherlock was now looking over the cityscape as evening shadows were thrown across streets and buildings.
Moriarty turned his head lazily to stare at the detective quirking his brow. Then his expression darkened, shadowed by his widening grin as he shook his head, “Oh no, Sherlock. You know better than that.”
Sherlock said nothing as he felt a chill run through him that had nothing to do with the chill wind at his back. After a long pause, he finally spoke.
“There’s nothing here.”
Moriarty glanced over in Sherlock’s direction. “There’s plenty here, if you use your imagination.”
“It would take time.”
Moriarty said nothing.
“Time you don’t have."
"Andrew already has a following. It would only be a matter of time before I turned that into a foundation of power.”
“A following of people who see you as an imagined character.”
“Hitler, Sherlock. Or have you forgotten?”
Sherlock was silent.
“It all starts with an idea, it starts with an act and grows through performance and persuasion. You know this as well as I do, Sherlock.”
“Yes, but this isn't our world.”
“It could be.”
Sherlock looked over his shoulder at Moriarty sharply.
"I could make this world my own within a week of proving my capacity for genius. But you? No. You'd be met with much more adversity. You may be a genius, but this reality operates differently. To build the same network of power under your control would be impossible given Andrew's status. Hitler may have pretended to be one man while he was another, but he was from another generation. You know as well as I do that even if you did manage to find a way to begin spinning a new criminal web you'd be thwarted by countless interruptions and roadblocks primarily thrown up because here you couldn't be the invisible man you were. In what is to this world our fiction you are powerful because you were created that way, but in the world you were conceived you are merely a powerless creation."
Sherlock watched as the muscles in Moriarty's jaw twitched almost imperceptibly. He'd struck a nerve. Of course Moriarty would have realized this, but to hear it aloud from the detective threw him into a deathly silence. But his expression changed instantly as he smiled a cheshire-cat grin.
"Ah, but a man can change Sherlock."
"I'll stop you before you can."
“You'll never return here. And even if you did, I'd follow you.”
Moriarty chuckled. “Like a tail-wagging puppy.”
“No? You’d miss me.”
“I’ll miss your puzzles. You? No.”
“You will, then? Not a shadow of doubt, not a lurking demon gnawing at you from the darkness of your mind? A warning, Sherlock. It’s there, I know you can hear it. We’re old enemies, we know each other, we keep each other close. You know there’s more.”
Sherlock watched Moriarty with an icy calm.
"You need me, Sherlock."
"On the contrary, I believe it is you who needs me. I'll admit that you are by far the most thrilling mind ever to challenge me, but there are more where you come from. I may be bored once you're gone, but there will always be more." Sherlock watched as Moriarty's grin fell slowly and settled into a thin line. "But without me you'll have no one to play your games with. You'll go mad. As a matter of fact, if you did ever beat me, you won't of course, but if you did, you'd kill yourself the same day. There'd be no challenge left for you with me gone. What's more is that although I may not function normally within society, I am undoubtedly capable of functioning well enough to live what I predict will be a long life. You, on the other hand, are insane."
Moriarty laughed shrilly making Sherlock flinch at the sound. “You say that like it’s a bad thing! Sherlock, Sherlock, SHERLOCK. Have you learned nothing? Insanity is my trump card, it’s my winning hand, it’s my poker face and my medal. With it I will burn you. I will end you.”
Sherlock feigned a yawn.
“All talk, now if you’ll excuse me I have more important things to attend to.”
Sherlock could feel the cool gaze of his nemesis on his back as he swung his legs over the bar and in a flash Moriarty had his hands over the detective's, digging his nails into the skin. Sherlock flinched at the pain.
“I could end you here.” He hissed.
Sherlock glared defiantly but said nothing. His mind racing for alternatives, but it was too late. Moriarty had dug his hands under Sherlock’s grip on the metal bar and the detective fell backwards. He bent his knees and managed to catch himself with his legs. With a small sigh of relief he hung upside down with his arms swaying in the wind. Moriarty wasn't really trying, but the threat was clear nonetheless. As Sherlock hung there he was surprised to see Greg’s men scaling the structure together. Lestrade was on the ground training his gun on Moriarty from below. A bullet whizzed past the mastermind's head- a warning shot from one of the officials’ guns. Moriarty raised his hands in mock surrender, grinning down with condescension.
“It’ll never be that easy, eh Sherlock?” Moriarty laughed.
Ignoring the comment, the detective swung himself upwards to clutch the bar he his knees were hooked and pulled himself upright. Once balanced, he focused on climbing down. He knew that Moriarty was merely biding his time now. The final stand off between them would be much more severe and merciless.
After a long and terror filled climb, Sherlock was finally back on the ground with his hands trembling. He shook them vigorously and craned his neck to see the progress of Lestrade’s officials at escorting the criminal off the Eye.
“You alright?” Greg asked.
“Fine. Need to go.” Sherlock asserted.
“Where?” Andrew asked standing on the DI's other side.
“I’m going with you.”
“You can handle him from here?” Sherlock asked Lestrade almost dangerously. The DI gave him a careful look.
“Any surprises we should expect?”
Sherlock stared up at the three descending figures distractedly.
“What the hell does that mean?”
“It means what it sounds like.”
Lestrade heaved a sigh. “Fine. Then go ahead, we can take it from here.”
With that, Sherlock turned to leave with Andrew at his heels.
Benedict awoke groggily to the faces of his parents. Their voices quieted beside him as he blinked his eyes to focus his vision. They were smiling down at him and he smiled back.
“Fancy seeing you here,” He said casually as he fought back his urge to jump out of bed and into their arms. He swalled back the growing lump in his throat bravely but his efforts were soon thwarted. Both Timothy and Wanda broke down then and there. Tears started streaming down both faces. Wanda hugged her son from her awkward angle next to the bed and Timothy gripped his shoulder tightly as though afraid he may disappear again at any moment.
“We’ve been worried sick.” Timothy said with a weak smile.
At the sight of his parents’ display, Benedict was absolutely powerless against his own overwhelming emotions. He too broke down into tears and soon into sobs that shook his body. He cried for joy, relief and for the leftover fear of his experience; as he did, he gripped his mother's and his father's hand tightly to remind himself that he was home, he was alive and he was safe.
It took a few minutes for him to pull himself together enough to speak again. His throat felt dry and in spite of himself he really wanted a cigarette. He cleared his throat to speak and his voice cracked on the first words.
“I- I’m so sorry.”
“There’s nothing for you to be sorry about, dear,” said Wanda holding his hand, “we’re just so glad to have you back.”
“I missed you. I was numb while I was away; it felt like the only way I could cope.”
Timothy squeezed Benedict’s good shoulder gently. “I can relate,” he said, “but how extraordinary, really. I still don’t quite believe any of this.”
Benedict laughed merrily. “You’re not alone. Being back now I can hardly believe I was gone at all. I’m still struggling to understand it as more than a lucid dream.”
“But you were gone, dear. Physically gone; your absence was real.” Wanda said in a half whisper.
“I know, mother.” Benedict said feelingly. “I know.”
“Martin’s been filling us in on all the details,” Timothy said more cheerfully, “Bloody unbelievable, all of it.”
Benedict barked a laugh and it was then that the door to his room opened and a parade of familiar faces filed inside. Now standing around him were Martin, Amanda, Andrew, Steven and Mark. They were all smiling widely.
“What is this? I don’t remember it being my birthday.” The actor said with genuine surprise.
“Martin gave us all a ring and we came running.” Steven explained.
“We were worried sick about you.” Mark added severely.
Shame-faced, Benedict closed his eyes. He felt his face heat up as he glanced down at his bandaged shoulder. He’d been ignoring the elephant in the room until now, but with all eyes upon him he couldn’t pretend any longer.
“Sorry I got shot.”
There was a brief silence and then a cacophony of laughter bounced around the room. Benedict looked around in mild bewilderment.
“Only you would apologize for getting shot. You’re a noble prat, you bastard.” Martin berated good-naturedly.
Suddenly comprehending, Benedict smirked back. “Sod off. I saved Sherlock fucking Holmes.”
“Yeah, and nearly killed him in the process.” Martin shot back.
“What? How?” He demanded jerking himself forward with eyes wide and questioning.
“If you die he dies. It makes a weird sort of sense if you think about it.” Andrew explained.
Realization colored Benedict’s face as the revelation hit him. “Shit.”
The door to the room swung open again and Sherlock strode in like he owned the place.
“He’s right, you did nearly drag me down with you,” the sleuth said as though he’d been there the whole conversation, “But having said that, had you not taken the bullet for me, I can’t say I would have survived at all.”
Yet again the door opened, but this time only a jar and John peeked in apologetically before glaring a hole in the back of Sherlock’s head.
“Get your arse out here you inconsiderate son of a-”
“John, it’s fine. You should both be here. I want you to meet my parents.” Benedict said warmly.
Helpless against Benedict’s disarming smile, John let himself into the crowded room and closed the door quietly behind him. He stood trying to shrink into himself and wanted nothing more than to sock Sherlock in the jaw.
“Sherlock, John, these are my parents, Timothy and Wanda.”
John nodded politely in their direction and nudged Sherlock to do the same.
Both Timothy and Wanda stood together transfixed at the men before them. They were like apparitions in the room. Like 3D projections of their son and his co-actor.
“Now imagine having to wake up to that sort of strangeness every day for two weeks.” Martin said breaking the awkward silence.
Timothy tried to speak, stuttered and tried again.
“Right, terribly sorry. It’s very nice to meet you at last.”
“Oh yes, a pleasure! We didn’t mean to be rude, it’s just all so daunting.” Wanda explained quickly.
“No, of course, it’s quite understandable,” John said disarmingly. “I’m sorry that we alarmed you.”
Steven cleared his throat loudly and all eyes turned to him as he took careful steps in Sherlock’s direction. The sleuth watched him suspiciously and tensed visibly.
“Sherlock Holmes?” Steven asked.
The man was in awe and next to him Mark couldn’t help but stare with mouth agape.
"He's our Sherlock, alright." Steven said smugly.
“And to think I’m not hallucinating,” Mark observed in utter disbelief. Shaking himself out of his stupor he stepped forward with a new enthusiasm and extended his hand to Sherlock excitedly. The detective gave him a once over and quirked a skeptical brow at him. Mark stood with a facing smile before understanding dawned on him.
“Oh, of course!” He laughed, “How could I forget? I’m Mark and I would be your brother’s double in this dimension. If it’s any consolation, I promise you that Mycroft and I are quite different in reality.”
Sherlock relaxed and finally took the extended hand.
“Pleasure,” He deadpanned.
Mark laughed. “You’ll grow to like me if you stay around a while.” Mark said confidently as he dropped his hand to his side.
“Good to see you alive and well, John Watson.” Steven said with a smile in the doctor’s direction.
“Good to see you again too. Thank you for all your help.”
“Think nothing of it. It was a fascinating privilege for us to meet you.” Mark said earnestly. “I would organize a thousand controlled explosions for you if the need ever arose.”
John blushed and dropped his head to hide the burn in his cheeks. “Yes, thank you, really.”
“Ah yes, how rude of me; I must thank you for sending John back to me safely.” Sherlock said coolly, but with just enough feeling to convey his genuine sentiments. After all, John mattered more to him than he could ever hope to explain.
“Forgotten about me already have you?” Amanda said with her arms crossed over her chest. John turned to her and smiled.
“Amanda. No, I could never forget you.”
Martin quirked a brow, “Easy doctor, she’s taken.”
John laughed. “You’re a lucky man, Martin.”
“I know it.” He said this giving Amanda a warm peck on the cheek.
“Thank you again, Amanda. Really. For absolutely everything. I wouldn’t have kept sane had it not been for you.”
“You brought my husband back to me safe and sound. I’d say that about settles the score.” She winked at him conspiratorially.
“If you don’t mind my asking,” Timothy interrupted, “what will you do now?”
“We’ll go back,” Sherlock replied. “The portal that brought us here will take time to decay. Meanwhile it needs to be closed off from the public until it has fully decomposed.”
Benedict nodded, “Should be easy enough to make the premises off-limits, what with it being a crime scene.”
“Oh and what’s more is that in the event someone does try to go through it, they’ll just be spit back out by it.” Andrew said with a smile. “You should have seen Lestrade’s face when he tried it.”
“What about Moriarty?” Martin asked with concern.
“Lestrade took him into custody with the help of the two officials. They don’t have enough to convict him. He’ll be out roaming the streets again.” Sherlock said this with a mixture of irritation and excitement.
“But they’ll keep him away from dimension hopping, I hope?” Martin asked pointedly.
Sherlock shrugged. “Mycroft will have to destroy the technology he created. In fact I’d be surprised if he hasn’t already.”
A thought suddenly struck Benedict, “Speaking of dimensional hopping, I’ve been wondering all along about the papers that Steven and Mark wrote. What was even on those?”
“Oh yeah, how did that work out?” Mark asked Sherlock curiously.
The detective fished the rumpled pages out of his coat pocket and handed them back to the writers.
“It only worked in so far as the plan to bring about the portal was successful. Seeing as you didn’t detail how the unbalance would occur, that was left as an open variable. Your outline of the events to unfold with the easy closing of the portal and capture of Moriarty did not come to fruition for lack of enough creative energy, I can only assume. Benedict was shot, despite your outline distinctly stating that we all managed to come out unharmed. Your writing exercised no influence over Benedict, Martin and Andrew because they are from your world. The lack of effect on us to completion I would imagine has to do with the fact that the actions had not been completed through the usual process of filming, editing and most importantly, releasing the footage to the public. The public’s creative energy is what gives your creation its power. Without it, the influence you exercise is not nearly as strong.”
Just then a light knock came at the door to the room and a nurse came in. Seeing everyone in the room she politely asked all to leave but Benedict’s parents. The gang filed out into the waiting room obediently and sat down to wait once more.
The nurse informed Benedict and his family that the wound itself had been treated and stitched up. The trauma to Benedict’s shoulder was fairly mild as he was shot with a hand gun, but still significant. He would need physiotherapy until the wound healed entirely to prevent stiffness and early arthritis in the joint. Other than that he was free to go home with his shoulder bandaged and advised to keep a sling on at all times except when bathing.
“Take it easy for a few weeks. If the wound starts to bleed again, come straight here.” The nurse advised before chasing Benedict’s parents out of the room to rewrap his shoulder and put his arm in a sling. Soon he was fit to go with a prescription painkiller that he was meant to take three times a day at meal times.
The actor walked out into the waiting room as the nurse held a door open for him and all rose as he walked in.
“I don’t know about everyone else, but I’m famished. John, Sherlock, you should stay for dinner before you go. Also, I want to see you off when you leave.” Benedict said walking over to the addressed pair.
The sleuth and the army doctor shared a glance and smiled.
“Yeah, I could go for some Italian right about now.” John said.
“Then it’s settled. Off we go.” Timothy said kindly and ushered everyone to the parking lot.
On the way Sherlock came up beside Amanda. “John tells me you knocked him out with a saucepan.”
Amanda laughed nervously. “Oh, did he?”
Sherlock barely hid his smirk. “He did. I thought it was very resourceful.”
Martin looked at his wife with shock on his face. “You did what?”
“I wanted you safe and sound so I sent the good doctor off to sleep to help him with dream communication.” She explained simply.
Martin laughed. “I love my wife,” he said as he kissed her passionately on the mouth.
“Damn right you do.” She said giggling once Martin pulled away. She gave his hand a squeeze and smiled back at him as they walked on together.
John was grumbling grumpily under his breath next to Sherlock. The detective looked at him sidelong.
Well yeah, it’s all very fine when you’re not the one getting hit in the head with a saucepan.” He said testily. “’Course it was necessary at the time. Little sympathy’d be nice though.”
Sherlock slowed his pace to let the others get ahead and John slowed his to match. Just as he was going to ask what the matter was, Sherlock put a hand on each of his shoulders and pressed his lips to his gently. It lasted only a moment and then Sherlock pulled back and continued walking.
“Come along, Watson. We’ll be left behind.”
Pink in the face and feeling a little light-headed, John trotted after the sleuth smiling dreamily.
Sherlock and John stood facing Benedict and Martin in the darkened bar.
“Well…” Martin said scratching the back of his head. “Guess this is it.”
“Yeah, I guess it is.” John said shifting awkwardly in place.
Martin held out his hand and John took it.
“Thank you, for everything.” Martin said warmly. “I think I’m going to miss having you around.”
John laughed. “It was a good time.”
Sherlock wasn’t even able to get a word out before Benedict had his good arm around his shoulders in a bear hug. The detective held still as a statue not sure what to make of the arms, not unlike his own, strongly looped around his shoulders. He stuttered and Benedict pulled back smiling widely.
“Take care, alright?” The actor said warmly. Still disconcerted, Sherlock could only manage a nod in reply.
“Benedict…” The name felt odd coming off his tongue now. It felt like saying his own name somehow. “For the night at Mycroft’s and for today, what you did, it was good. Not good; very good. Thank you.”
Benedict smiled. “You owe me big time.”
“I do.” Sherlock agreed. The weight of his words weren’t lost on Benedict. Sherlock was acknowledging not only what Benedict had done for him, but also acknowledging him as his source of life.
“You make a good other.” The detective said genuinely.
“Means a lot coming from you.”
“Sherlock, we should go.” John said from beside him.
“Yes, you’re absolutely right.” With a flurry of his coat, Sherlock turned with John close behind and both stepped into the portal without looking back.
Martin and Benedict walked out to the sidewalk where Timothy’s car was idling.
“Things will never be the same, you know.” Benedict said looking up into the foggy night sky.
“I know,” Martin agreed.
Sherlock was laying on the old familiar couch in the living room of 221B in his silk bathrobe and his pajamas. His hands were folded on his chest, his eyes staring at the ceiling blindly as he listened for signs of John’s activities in the flat. Sherlock heard him come out of the shower, climb the stairs to his room to dress and then heard his steps coming down into the living room. The prospect of his arrival made Sherlock’s heart skip happily. He’d never admit it, but he found that any moment when John wasn’t in the room with him would drive him near crazy.
John stopped when he saw Sherlock unmoving on the couch.
“Is everything alright?” He asked as he headed for the kitchen to undoubtedly make tea.
Sherlock didn’t reply. He merely turned on his side to watch John shuffling around the kitchen. The pale silver eyes watched affectionately as John filled the kettle with water and put it on the stove to boil; watched as he reached into the cupboard and pulled out two large mugs and a tea bag. Sherlock smiled at the way the doctor carefully dipped the teabag into the kettle and waited for the water to boil with his arms crossed over his chest. Sherlock particularly found John’s patience while waiting for the water to boil fascinating. He stood relaxed and grabbed a discarded Newspaper off the counter to peruse it meantime. Sherlock observed his drooping shoulders and his crossed legs as he stood leaning against the counter and smiled to himself. When the pot began to whistle John poured equal amounts of tea into each mug and faithfully remembered to add two sugar cubes to Sherlock’s before carrying them into the living room. As he placed one cup on the coffee table in front of Sherlock he noticed the silver gaze on him for the first time. The intentness of Sherlock’s stare made John blush and he brought the tea to his lips to hide his embarrassment.
“I missed this.” Sherlock said finally.
A warm smile lit John’s face at the words.
“I did too.” He said taking a short sip. Just as he was moving to sit in one of the armchairs, Sherlock sat up and took the mug from John’s hands and set it down next to his own on the table. He gestured toward the couch and John, not sure what to expect, sat down slowly.
“Lay down, John.” Sherlock prompted gently as he went over to flick the light off. He listened as John adjusted himself on the couch and heard him swallowing harder than usual. Sherlock stifled a chuckle as he returned and crawled gingerly over John’s frame to straddle his hips. He hovered over him a moment before lowering his face a breath away from John’s. He could feel the drumming of John’s heart through his chest and smiled.
John swallowed. “Yes.” He admitted.
Sherlock breached the distance between their lips quickly and firmly. It was slow at first as he moved his mouth over John’s seductively.
Feeling his pulse quicken, John wrapped a hand around each of Sherlock’s forearms and massaged gently, willing the kiss to deepen. Understanding John's body language, the sleuth ran his tongue along John’s lower lip and into his mouth. The doctor tried to stifle his moan. Sherlock smiled against his lips and coyly rutted against the doctor’s growing interest earning himself a pleasing growl from deep within John’s throat and felt the hands tighten around his arms. Sherlock gasped as he felt his self-restraint unhinge and abandoned himself to all passion as he tackled John’s lips feverishly. He delved into John’s mouth with his tongue as he rocked himself at a steady tempo over his lover’s body.
John was moving with him, frustrated by never getting as close as he wanted. The restriction of their clothing made John want to scream. Biting Sherlock's lip to put an abrupt end to their kiss, John pulled away panting for breath.
“Sherlock,” he breathed, “your bed.”
Not yet ready to surrender his position above John, Sherlock stooped to entice his lover's lips in another long and breathtaking crash of their mouths. He held John's wrists down over his head and increased the tempo and force of his thrusts. John grunted beneath him, kissing back almost angrily and Sherlock felt the doctor asserting his dominance in the dancing of their mouths. John invaded his mouth, sucked on his tongue and bit his lips as their bodies begged to be closer.
With great effort, Sherlock finally rose to his feet and pulled John with him. They clumsily blundered their way to the bedroom giggling. However, the moment the door was shut behind them the laughter died.
In one languid movement, John had Sherlock against the wall in another fiery kiss. He helped him shed his bathrobe, then his night clothes and his boxers until he was standing vulnerable and naked in the pale light of the room. John, already struggling to breathe, nearly choked at the sight of Sherlock bathed in moonlight.
The cliché to end all clichés John thought sarcastically but he couldn’t deny that this man was one of the most marvelous sights he’d seen in all his life. Sherlock was trapped against the wall, chest heaving and the sheen of nervous sweat on his brow. His eyes were dark with desire and his breath tickled John’s skin.
The doctor leaned in and nipped Sherlock’s jaw and moved down to kiss his neck. The detective groaned blissfully at the contact and bared his neck bidding John to continue his ministrations. The doctor understood this language and laved his tongue over the sensitive skin. He nibbled gently and ghosted butterfly kisses over his shoulders, back up his neck and finally on his chest. As John did this, he ran his fingertips over Sherlock’s pectorals sweetly and tentatively. He tempted him with a feathery touch- barely grazing the skin and making Sherlock crazy with desire.
“John…” Sherlock moaned.
John kissed his way over Sherlock's pale chest and closed his lips over one pert nipple, swirling the tip of his tongue over the pink nub and revelling in the deep growl of approval rising in Sherlock's throat. John massaged the other with his thumb as he laved his tongue over the sensitive area and took the nub between his teeth gently, biting trasingly. Sherlock pushed against the wall with his head, exposing the muscles in his neck to the light. John looked up under his lashes to appreciate the display and then pulled away to admire the beauty of Sherlock's arousal.
At the loss of John's warmth, Sherlock cracked his eyes open, lowering his chin once more. His face was flushed and his pupils were blown wide with lust. John's heart nearly stopped at the sight, the effect of which shot stright to his already wanting groin. Licking his lips, the doctor moved his hands to either side of Sherlock’s face and pulled him down for a deep and unforgiving kiss filled with fire, passion, lust, desire, adoration, gratitude, friendship and love. It left them both breathless and flushed as they came up for air holding onto each other for support and to anchor themselves to each other.
John then guided Sherlock to the bed and gently laid him down. He crawled after onto the mattress next to him and pulled off his tshirt. Sherlock helped him remove the rest of his clothes, his long violinist fingers moving deftly and precisely. Soon John had joined Sherlock in vulnerable nakedness.
Now the tension in the room was tangible. Though he tried to suppress it, Sherlock’s hands trembled nervously.
“You’re shaking.” John whispered.
Sitting up, Sherlock ran cool fingers over John’s chest and met his eyes. “This all terrifies me.” From the way he said it, you’d never know.
“I understand.” John said kissing Sherlock’s shoulder. The detective shuddered at the contact.
“John, I- I want you- would you?” He stammered.
Sherlock reached for something in his bedside drawer and drew out a small bottle of lubricant. He took John’s hand and pressed some of the substance into his palm and left the bottle on the night stand for later use. He held John’s hands together to warm the gel and leaned forward to bring their lips together again.
John felt his heart leap as Sherlock guided his hand to his erection. He reveled in the deep moan that reverberated in his lover’s throat when his hand was wrapped firmly around Sherlock. The detective then threaded the fingers of their free hands together while John touched him tentatively. For all his experience with himself, John felt like he was treading foreign waters with Sherlock writhing under him. His eyes shot open when the sleuth pulled his newly lubricated hand away and wrapped it around John’s own erection.
“John,” Sherlock breathed again. John knew at this point that Sherlock would lead and he would follow, as he did in all things. Trusting Sherlock completely, John gave himself over to his lead. He followed his prompts and ministrations, mimicking them in turn. Sherlock supported his weight with his left arm and pumped his fist over John's length rhythmically with his right. The doctor moved with him, starting to see stars as he pressed his lips desperately to his lover’s, pumping simultaneously.
It was like a ballad of their bodies. They moved in unison; kissing, touching, moaning. It felt the way it ought to feel, John thought.
Their passion climbed to a frenzy and Sherlock finally threw back his head in a silent moan as he reached his climax. He released John in his distraction and the doctor held him as he shuddered through the waves of ecstasy, pinprick tears glistening in the corner's of his eyes from the intensity of it.
After a final sobbing moan, Sherlock's head felt too heavy for him to lift and he let it fall forward to rest on John’s shoulder, closing his eyes.
"I have you, Sherlock. It's alright. I've got you." John whispered as he kneaded his fingers through the dark unruly curls.
Sherlock wanted nothing more than to let himself fall to the bed and pass out with John in his arms, but in this position he could see John's still quivering erection. Despite his exhaustion, Sherlock forced himself to focus. Once recovered enough, the sleuth laid a firm hand on John’s shoulder guiding him to lie on his back; he then descended on John in a soft kiss; he kissed a trail down over John’s jaw biting and sucking as he went. He lingered on his neck, then descended over the scar on his shoulder. He examined it, touched it, kissed it and licked it-earning grunts and groans of approval from John for his effort. Encouraged by this, Sherlock continued moving down John’s chest, over his stomach and finally between his legs.
John felt hot tears spring to his eyes as Sherlock kissed his way painstakingly over the insides of his thighs. He nuzzled John's lower stomach and kissed down into the blond curls of his pubis. Opening his mouth, Sherlock ran his tongue down along the length of John's cock and sucked on the tip, using a hand to pull back the foreskin and lave at the tip.
"Fu-uck," John swore as he dug his fingers into Sherlock's shoulders to steady himself. Sherlock smirked at his lover's tortured desire and finally took him into his mouth.
The pleasure exploded behind John's eyelids in a display of colorful fireworks that left him reeling. He bit back a scream and willed himself not to buck his hips. Sherlock held him down firmly and swirled his tongue over and around him as he sucked and John feared that being past his prime in life, he might be overwhelmed and pass out.
John curled his fingers into Sherlock’s dark hair to ground himself. He didn’t pull or push, he simply needed to feel Sherlock, to reassure himself that he was really there. He needed to know this wasn’t just another dream, or another world.
“Sherlock!” He hissed as he could bear no more and saw an explosion of white light behind his eyes as he climaxed long and hard. Sherlock took John’s hands in his own and held them tight through his orgasm. He swallowed for the sake of practicality and cleanliness, feeling John softening in between his lips. He waited a couple minutes for John to calm before he pulled away at last. He watched John's chest heaving and smiled at his flushed face and his slightly parted lips. He realised he missed John's lips and crawled up so that he was level with John before dipping his head to kiss him tenderly. John responded pathetically in his exhausted post-coital bliss, draping his leaden arms around Sherlock's neck. The detective chuckled and sluggishly pulled the comforter over their bodies before curling himself around John like a cat.
“I love you, John,” Sherlock said gently, facing the doctor on the pillow they shared..
John searched Sherlock’s eyes with thinly veiled astonishment and had to choke back the knot forming in his throat.
“I-I love you too.” He managed to croak. His mouth felt like sandpaper as his tongue grated over his teeth to form the words. “God help me, I love you, so much.”
Sherlock propped his head up on one hand, never breaking his gaze into John’s eyes. He said nothing as he watched John's expression and the subtlety with which his emotions could be read in the slightest twitch of his lips and the look in his eyes.
“Is this really what it took to get us to admit it?” John asked.
A rare genuine laugh rocked Sherlock’s body. It was so mirthfully contagious that John found himself laughing along with him. They laughed together for a long time before finally calming themselves and catching their breath. John pulled Sherlock as close to himself as physically possible and kissed him for the umpteenth time.
“If interdimensional chaos is what it took for me to admit that I was in love with you John, you won’t hear me complaining.” Sherlock then leaned down to bite his lover’s lip playfully before resting his head on John’s shoulder.
John chuckled and muttered a sleepy “I love you” and the men drifted off into unconsciousness, following each other into their dreams.
Well everyone, thanks very much for making this long trek with me through often uncertain territory. BUT it's not totally over yet. I have some tying up to do so look out for the upcoming epilogue.
See you all soon!
Chapter 19: Epilogue
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Martin almost flew through the doors to the High Class Afro-Caribbean Restaurant upon arrival. Once inside he saw a waitress who he was fairly well acquainted with; a nice girl who he occasionally shared comfortable small talk with when he came round. This time she saw him and gave him the cold shoulder.
Oh no, Martin thought, Not you too.
“Right this way.” She said as she led him inside without sparing him another look. She took him to a table in the back room where Benedict, Andrew, Steven and Mark were seated and left the menu on the table before turning on her heel and leaving. Martin watched her go and then sagged into the seat next to Benedict.
“They hate me…” He whispered with bewilderment. “What in the hell did John do?”
“If it makes you feel better, they’re not exactly happy with me either.” Andrew said sympathetically. “This is one of the first times I’ve been able to walk down the street without hearing someone muffling an excited scream. I swear I got the grimmest looks on my way here.”
“You think you’ve got it bad?” Benedict interjected with feeling, “Sherlock managed to piss off half of London. Unfortunately I have press coming after me from every side wanting to find out why I had scaled the Eye with no cameras rolling and I’ve been receiving complaints about running into traffic, denting the hood of a semi that was parked under the Eye- and there’s more. You’re at least left alone.”
“Fair enough,” Martin said resignedly. “I’d toast you to it, but I doubt I’ll be getting a beer unless I beg for it.”
“Did you get a fine for climbing the Eye?” Andrew asked.
“God no, you too?” Benedict said exclaimed.
Andrew nodded. “Fucking big bill. Three figures and well bordering on four.”
Benedict nodded. “It’s bloody outrageous.”
“I never thought I’d live to hear myself say this, but I hate Moriarty.”
That broke the gloom around the table and sent everyone into guffaws of laughter.
“It really isn’t such an awful price to pay for all the excitement you went through. Most are green with envy; myself included.” Mark said taking a sip of wine.
“Cheers to that. Besides, it’s not really much skin off your backs. You can handle a fine for disturbing the peace, can’t you?”
“That’s not the point,” Martin protested, “I mean, how long will it take before people forgive me?”
Steven waved a dismissive hand in the air.
“Don’t let it bother you, Martin. Soon the masses will love you again. Really, most seem to just be relieved that you’re alive and well. After all, while you were all gone the press went mad. You should have seen the fuss that went up over your disappearances.”
“But that’s only made it worse,” Andrew pointed out. “Here they were worried sick we’d been abducted and held for ransom and then we’re suddenly back on the streets like it’s all a big practical joke. No wonder they hate us.”
The conversation paused as the waitress came round to take their orders and then rush off to the kitchen again.
“And you should see the kinds of questions being asked online about you, Ben.” Martin said emphatically.
“Christ, don’t remind me. Everyone is wondering why I was in hospital. My case is under strict confidentiality, of course, but my face was seen there nonetheless. And I’m eventually going to have to get surgery to help smooth out the scar from the gunshot.”
“How’s the bad wing, by the way?” Mark asked.
Benedict twitched his bad shoulder experimentally and winced.
“Better, but still quite painful.”
“We’ll have quite a wait before we can film the next season.” Steven said smirking. “People are going to asking for blood.”
“What, because they aren’t already?” Martin scoffed.
“Oh no, it’ll be much worse as time passes. Benedict’s going to have to heal up pretty fast.”
The conversation was cut off as food and drinks were brought to their table. As they ate, the conversation turned to the every day, future filming plans, potential projects and the more commonplace. Of course this train of conversation didn’t last long at all.
“So, have you been in touch with our other dimensional friends?” Mark asked.
Benedict’s face brightened. “Actually, yes! Martin and I managed to communicate with both John and Sherlock last night.”
“I was starting to worry when I first saw you there, Ben. I thought my subconscious was trying to tell me something.”
Benedict laughed awkwardly. “God no. No, no. I love you, Martin. But I think I’m leaving the romance to our fictional counterparts.”
“You won’t hear me argue. Plus, I’m quite happily spoken for.”
“So you spoke to them?” Andrew prodded with interest.
“Yeah. Well, mostly to John. They seem fine. Things on their end are less hectic. Their public lives are mostly in tact.” Martin replied enviously. “They’re off on some kind of honeymoon at a cottage in the country.”
“You know what my worst fear is now?” Benedict asked the table.
“Finding them in the middle of something?” Andrew provided impishly.
“Yep. I really don’t need to see that.”
Martin nearly choked on his beer as he had a coughing fit, his eyes filled with tears. He shuddered.
“Unwanted mental images!” He cried.
“Let’s just hope they stay mental images.” Benedict said patting Martin on the back.
Steven turned to Andrew then.
The Irishman paused with his drink half way to his mouth.
“Thankfully I haven’t had any kind of communication with Moriarty. I’m hoping that because I never officially met him we’ll never meet in dreams.”
“Fair enough, but even if you do it might be interesting. At least dream communication is relatively safe.” Benedict said.
“You’ve jinxed it,” Andrew deadpanned. “I’m doomed.”
“I’ll ask Sherlock about it for you the next time I see him.” Martin said honestly.
“Thanks. I may need it.”
“Well,” Steven said lifting his pint, “here’s to an adventure of a lifetime.”
The rest of the table also raised their glasses to the toast.
John blinked blearily to the warm afternoon sunlight coming in through the cottage window. Struggling to understand where he was, the memories returned to him in small fractions. Mycroft had offered the cottage to them as a private getaway to celebrate their successful return from their greatest battle with Moriarty yet. Sherlock had managed to put Moriarty behind bars for a month for disturbing the peace and to keep under observation for potential insanity of mind. Sherlock had known that the claim wouldn’t hold up, but it at least gave the duo some time to unwind from all the excitement in the last two weeks.
The doctor started when he felt a hand snake around his waist under the covers.
“Christ you’re freezing.” He complained as he rolled over to face Sherlock. His face was covered in mischievous smugness.
“It’s because you’re on the other side of the bed, John.” He said pulling John closer and nuzzling into the dip of his shoulder. John sighed contentedly.
“So are we just going to spend all day in bed?” He asked lazily.
“For once I might not be opposed to it.” Sherlock admitted.
John rested his arm over Sherlock’s waist and ghosted his fingers over the small of his back. Sherlock reacted with what John could only think to describe as a purr.
“Sherlock? Last night we did dream communicate with Benedict and Martin, didn’t we?”
The detective nodded. “Yes, that wasn’t just a dream.”
“Just wanted to make sure. You know, I miss having them around. It was good to see them again.”
“It wasn’t the worst experience.” Sherlock said noncommittally.
John rolled his eyes. “Admit it, you've missed them.”
“I’ll admit nothing of the sort.”
To put a stop to John’s teasing, Sherlock decisively sealed the doctor’s mouth with his own in a slow and lingering kiss.
“I will however admit that I would like nothing more than to continue last night’s activities.” He whispered in John’s ear.
“I think I could handle that.”
Sherlock stopped to smile down at John lovingly.
“Well then, there’s no time to lose.”
Thanks so much for following me, everyone! It's been a blast. I appreciate all your positive reinforcement, your investment, observations, comments, encouragement and support. I wouldn't have done this without you.
Till next time!