It's hard to pinpoint it, but most say that it started with the earthquakes- that when the fault lines started to crumble and shift like a dropped puzzle the world had officially started to end. Some say it was the uprisings. Some say the bombings. There are those that say it was the sudden scourge of illness, like the stories of old warned about, and there are those, the truly optimistic, that believe it only began to end after the electricity went out. After all communications were cut. All governments toppled. All social order destroyed.
In the end, it does not matter how it started, only how it is now. How the skies bleed red ash like wounded soldiers. How the fires started and did not stop. How people are not people anymore- how they are ants; terrified that the final stomp will come smashing down. They form gangs for protection, they band together in religious sects and hide underground, they fight, they starve, they scurry, they are insects in the wreckage.
And sometimes, in abandoned buildings or in the protection of a deserted car, now useless without gasoline, the remains of a family will huddle, and someone- a child, or a lover- will whisper, "Is everything going to be alright?" And the answer will be, "Yes. As long as we stick together, everything will be alright."
You see, humans like to tell themselves fairytales to make themselves feel better. They've done it since the beginning of time.
Sherlock wakes up with the grime of violence smeared across his mouth and all through his hair. His chest is throbbing (two broken ribs, possible punctured lung… No, not a punctured lung, just feels like one.), the sound in his left ear is slightly muffled (not new, but troubling all the same.), his face is almost certainly incredibly swollen, and his head is banging out Chopin's Revolutionary Etude at a force and volume that's going to make him sick if it doesn't shut up quickly. That's not what's concerning him though, what's concerning him is that there is a roof over his head that undoubtedly doesn't belong to him.
Keeping his movement to a minimum, he assesses his surroundings. The flat he's in is actually held together quite well when compared to most of New London's flats nowadays; there's still glass in the windows- as far as he can tell, the curtains have been drawn and tacked to the wall- and the yellow bruise of water stains creep sullenly only in the corners. The place looks lived in enough that he thinks that there might be some water for him to steal before he makes his escape. (if an escape is necessary, which it probably will be.) Actually, it's bizarrely well kempt- nicer than his own flat, and he's been foraging for years. He's able to scrape together some information (tilt of items means owner is left-handed coat on hanger belongs to a man of average to below average stature there are candles which means he's practical but there are also lamps which are useless and so therefore he's sentimental the blinds haven't been drawn in seven to eight weeks so he's either cautious or just dumb enough not to care too much about it the number of locks on the door points to the former useless items show sentimentality placing of furniture shows thought out escape routes possible military training more information needed.) about the owner of the room with a cursory glance, and it's enough for him to assume that at the very least he hasn't been abducted by a Firefly. (they never live alone, and the man here certainly does. Also, their logo isn't spray-painted all over the place, and God knows Firefly's can't seem to go five minutes without marking their territory. Oh, how I detest gangs.) This could be a very bad sign or a very good one in the long run, but since Sherlock's not as simpleminded as the rest of the godforsaken planet he chooses not to wait around and find out. He rolls onto his side and-
"Don't get up too quickly, your head will start to bleed again." Says a voice from directly behind him.
Exactly contrary to orders, he jumps to his feet and whirls around. Sherlock is contrary in a lot of ways, but a particular pet peeve of his is taking orders, especially from mysterious men he's just met. This rule applies double if said man is pointing a gun at him, which this one so happens to be doing.
"Don't move," The man says evenly, the gun steady in his hands. His face is weighed down with exhaustion and too many days gone by, but his jaw is a blunt, unwavering line. He is relatively free from grime, so Sherlock knows he had assumed correctly when he thought there might be water somewhere. There's a thin scar just above the man's left eye, and another one, jagged and stretched and ugly, sneaking up over his collarbone. He's wearing a beige jumper, frayed from overuse and with the obligatory coat of soot and ash but otherwise passable. Sherlock catalogs what this means while the man begins to speak again. "I don't want to shoot you. The gun isn't necessarily for you if you behave." He doesn't exactly smile but his face looks a bit wry for a second. This man is world-weary, Sherlock decides, well worn, like his jumper. His statement seems a bit farfetched to Sherlock though, seeing as how the gun in question is currently leveled at his face. He certainly intends to point this out as soon as the ground stops spinning. "You're probably confused." The man ventures after a moment. He's wrong, Sherlock's not confused in the slightest- just a little bit woozy and more than a bit lightheaded. Well, his point still remains; men with guns don't sit well with Sherlock Holmes. "I saw you take on that Firefly. That was bloody stupid by the way, if I wasn't arOUN-!"
Sherlock has gotten back enough feeling in his arms to palm the man in the nose. At least, this had been his aim; somehow he ends up pinned to the floor, a warm gun pressed up against his temple and his arm jarred forcefully behind him. His ribs creak ominously.
So he hadn't been wrong about the military training.
"So you're going to be like that are you, you tremendous bastard?" The man pants in his ear, griping almost, "I go out of my way to drag you through the sodding streets while there are Firefly's everywhere, and you try to palm my nose in? Is there no decency left in this bleeding city?"
"To be fair you're pointing a gun at me." Sherlock breathes.
The man freezes and then huffs out a surprised laugh. "So you do speak, huh?"
"Alright then," The man shifts his weight and Sherlock makes a concentrated effort not to wince. He peers at Sherlock, searching, evaluating. "If I get up will you lay back down on the couch so I can check you properly? You've gone and made your head bleed again."
"I'm hesitant to believe that it's in any way my fault."
The man squawks indignantly. "You were the one who decided to get into a row with a thug!"
"You're the doctor who just threw your patient to the floor. A patient with a head wound I might add. This doesn't reflect well on the remaining members of your practice."
The man sits up abruptly, though he's still straddling Sherlock lest he make any sudden movements, and Sherlock can feel the twanging pain of his broken ribs again. His gun's still buried in Sherlock's dark hair, but he observes absently that Chopin's banging has hushed. Curious.
"Well there aren't many of us left, how did you know I was a doctor?"
Sherlock sighs heavily, "An idiot could see you were a doctor, and an ex-soldier, now that I can see your hands. The calluses, first off, and you were obviously formally taught to handle a gun. There is a roll of bandages in that open drawer behind you, which isn't overtly abnormal but there are also a few rolls sitting on that chair over there and if you let me turn my head before you put a bullet in it I assume I would find many more. The scar on your forehead is obviously new but well taken care of. There's no one around here with the skill to care for a wound like that, I would know. All of that, combined with your demand to 'check me', and your concern about me bleeding even though you've never met me, all point directly to the fact that you're a doctor."
The man's eyes are wide. (impressed?) Now that he's at an angle where he can see them properly he notes that they're a dark blue. The man's quiet for a second, and then says, "That was extraordinary."
And that hadn't been exactly what Sherlock was expecting. It takes him .5 seconds longer than usual to recover, "It was a simple deduction really. Anyone with half a brain could do it. Though in this city that might be hard to find." The corner of the man's mouth lifts slightly, "Now do kindly get off me."
After a second of apparent indecision the doctor tucks his gun into the back of his pants, slings his foot back over Sherlock's chest, and extends an arm. "Here, easy, I don't want you passing out." After a bit of maneuvering Sherlock is back horizontal on the couch, and the man is headed toward what looks like the kitchen. His steps are short and succinct, a march really. As if the fact he had been a soldier wasn't obvious enough. Sherlock notes that though he appears to be at ease, he keeps his gun tucked into his waistband, just in reach. "My name's John Watson." He throws over his shoulder.
Sherlock raises an eyebrow. "Sherlock Holmes. Though I think pleasantries are unnecessary at this point, seeing as how we were just quite intimate." John makes a noise that can either be construed as a snort or a sigh and returns a moment later with two bottles of water. If Sherlock was a lesser man he might've whimpered in delight. Thankfully he's nothing of the sort.
John opens a bottle and hands it to him, "Here, try not to drink it all right away." The water tastes musty, and the paper logo on the bottle has long since faded, betraying it's age, but it might as well be the ambrosia of the gods. Fresh water is almost a myth nowadays.
John busies himself finding a clean cloth and Sherlock studies the room again. Most of the things he sees are useless: the lamps, yes, but also chipped tea cups, board games stacked in the corner, an old TV set sitting on a tea table. "You get all of this stuff from your patients." He says when he's polished off his water.
John cracks the top off of the second water bottle and glances at him in surprise. "Deduce that too, did you?" He notices the empty bottle Sherlock holds and snatches it from him a bit irritably, throws it on an armchair. "Yeah, well it'd be pointless if they paid me in money. I would do it for free but there's just no getting along that way anymore, so I just take whatever they give me. Hence the junk." He actually smiles. Sherlock wonders vaguely when the last time he's seen someone smile was. "I was on my way home from visiting a family when I saw you. Their little girl had Soot-Sickness though, not much I can do about that." The space between his eyebrows crinkles with muted grief for a moment, but then he wets a towel with some of the water and it's gone. "I was just leaving their flat when I heard that Firefly shouting his head off. Lucky for you I was curious enough to wonder why. Here, tilt your head forward."
He wipes the blood off the back of Sherlock's neck with such sensible tenderness that his spine nearly aches with it. It's uncommon to find benevolence in strangers these days, and Sherlock wonders if John Watson is something magnificent, or just incredibly dim. Based on his general consensus of the human race he's leaning toward the latter.
It's quiet for a while, and Sherlock takes the time to observe his new acquaintance. The last man he's talked to that hadn't tried to maim him in some way was Lestrade, and that had been weeks ago if Sherlock was correct. He generally prides himself on not finding human company a necessity, but there's a certain charm about having a conversation with someone who isn't about to put a knife in your eye. John has washed nearly all the blood off Sherlock's face and is working on getting it out from where it has dried behind his ears when he speaks again. "Do you have yourself any family, Sherlock Holmes?"
Sherlock peers up at him for a sign of some hidden meaning in his words, but John's face is carelessly neutral as he focuses on his work. The reason he has to look up is because John is kneeling over him, and has him bending his head so that he's eyelevel with his neck. He's been watching the doctor's Adams apple bob and thinking about all the ways one can impede oxygen from getting to the brain. He wonders if this peculiar man would stay so close to him if he knew of his thoughts. (probably not.)
"I have a brother."
"Do you know where he is?"
"…I have an idea." He actually hasn't heard from Mycroft at all since the bombings all those years ago, but he knows on some primal level that he's alive. There's technically no British government anymore, but there's no doubt in his mind that his brother is tucked somewhere hidden, living in the lap of luxury. Occasionally he'll wonder whether Mycroft ever bothered to attempt to track him down, or at least was curious whether he was still among the living or not, but he long ago decided that he actually likes it better this way. For all of the not communicating or knowing if the other still lives, his relationship with his brother is the best it's ever been.
"Oh. Well- good." John is quiet for a second, and then says, seemingly compulsively, "I had a sister- Soot-Sickness- a long time ago- so, uh- that's good. Good. It's good to have family now." Sherlock's stare must make him uncomfortable because he finally pulls back and pats him roughly on the shoulder. "There, I'm done. Your head's clean now, but don't move, I'm going to go get some disinfectant and a bandage."
Sherlock nearly jerks his head up in surprise, but resists the urge, "You have disinfectant?"
All at once John's face is guarded again. "Not much, just enough for your head. That's it." He stands quickly and heads into the hallway, beyond Sherlock's line of sight. The lie is transparent, but it means that John Watson has a good self-preservational instinct, so that's something. Pointless though, and Sherlock makes a mental note to steal some of whatever John has before he leaves.
He returns with a brown bottle that has the label ripped off. Sherlock easily catalogs its appearance so he can get the right bottle later. "Sit back, but slowly." John orders. Sherlock does so, and the doctor makes quick work of properly cleaning the deep gash on his temple, navigating his bruised face carefully. "Sorry if it stings." He mutters, as he finishes up. He then carefully applies a bandage and sits back with a sigh. "If there's anything else you want me to look at you better show me now."
Sherlock stretches his neck. His head and ribs still hurt, but he feels as though the water he consumed has improved his condition exponentially. "I'm fine."
John stares at him for a second, his brows furrowed, biting on his lip, "Take your shirt off." He decides.
Sherlock looks back- coughs shortly, burying it in his fist. "While I appreciate your goodwill John, I'm not sure you're really thinking through what you're asking. Engaging in anything with me would not be… prudent."
John's face is frozen, his teeth still half-clamped over the right side of his bottom lip- they're unusually white, he must have toothpaste stockpiled around somewhere too- and then he gets it and physically jerks back. "No! I'm not-" He blusters out a laugh. "That's, er, not what I meant. That Firefly probably roughed you up pretty bad, is all." He lurches forward and places clumsy hands on the buttons of Sherlock's collar, swallowing down embarrassment through action. "I'm… not, er, gay." He says flatly, and then bites down hard on his lips again, looking decidedly not at Sherlock. "But if you are it's fine."
"I didn't say that." Sherlock says evenly, watching John's hands fumble.
"Well then- fine. Good, it's…fine. 'S all fine." He seems to come back to himself- recovers from his short bout of uncomfortable mania- and realizes what he's doing. He puts his hands up and takes a few steps back. "You can… take your own shirt off then."
Sherlock deals with his buttons quickly, if not simply to stop John from assaulting him again. As he does so he catches John's disgruntled mutter, "What are you wearing anyway?"
His black button-up is perhaps not completely practical, and the barely hidden bloodstains and impossible wrinkles speak of better days, but it's Sherlock's and it covers him and so that's the end of it. It's not as if he's sentimental about it, (god forbid.) it's just that clothes shopping hasn't been exactly high on his to-do list. His coat and scarf protect him from the cold anyway, if that's what John's griping about. He tosses the shirt on the ratty old couch, every bit of elegant as he can be.
"Jesus." John murmurs, drawing out the e as he inspects the damage. He moves purposely back towards Sherlock, his hands outstretching automatically to check the damage, but never quite touching as he ghosts over Sherlock's ribs. He's quiet as he catalogs Sherlock's injuries, hovering just for a second when he passes the already flowering bruises and an old stab wound that had healed badly. "That needed stitches," he comments crossly, as if disappointed in Sherlock's lack of initiative, and then he adds lightly, "Bad year for you then?"
"Bad year for New London."
"Hmm." John nods ever so slightly, his lips pursed, but it's clear he's focused on Sherlock's ribs again. "These will heal slowly, but they're not broken. These two though," He touches them lightly, just barely, with the pads of his fingers, to indicate, "are cracked I think, judging by the bruising. If I could get an x-ray I would be able to tell."
"There's no point in what-ifs."
John looks a bit peeved, "I know." He snatches Sherlock's shirt up and hands it back to him. "There's nothing I can do for you." It clearly bothers him to say it, to not be able to properly do his job because he doesn't have the right supplies, but he covers it up quickly. "Try not to move around too much? As much as you can I mean. You should probably be confined to bed-rest, but," He makes a vague motion with his hands and turns away. "Do you… want something to eat?" John probably see's it as the best he can do for a patient, but it still surprises Sherlock. (and that never happens.) Camaraderie, pleasantness- it all seems so strange and foreign now.
(it had been foreign then too.)
"You shouldn't offer up food so easily." Sherlock advises.
John ignores him, "I hope you like beans." Sherlock is curious to know if John will ask him to turn around while he retrieves the can from wherever he stores his food, but he just ducks beyond the kitchen door so Sherlock can't see him and doesn't say anything.
"So do I want to know what you did to the Firefly to deserve that? Or am I supposed to believe he just didn't like your outfit much." He calls over his shoulder.
Sherlock shrugs smoothly, doing up his buttons. "I may or may not have killed his brother at an earlier date."
John peers back around the kitchen door and cocks an eyebrow, "May or may not?" He echoes.
"I couldn't be sure of his identity, he grabbed me from behind. Besides, all Firefly's look alike- repulsive, filthy, low IQ. If it really bothers you doctor, it may sooth your mind to know that the brother's death probably would have counted as self defense."
The tilt of John's mouth intimates that he's suffered some sort of personal offense, and as he reenters with a can and hand operated can opener he says, "I'm not opposed to killing."
"Oh?" Sherlock drawls, and then he stills as something dawns on him. John suddenly finds himself the unlucky subject under Sherlock's microscope eyes, and he licks his lips compulsively as Sherlock squints down at him. "Interesting… you killed him didn't you, the Firefly that was attacking me? Why? I'm a complete stranger, you hold no ties to me."
John looks uncomfortable and wiggles out from under his gaze by sitting down abruptly in his armchair, fiddling with the can opener. "I'm just not a fan of gangs is all." He deflects, and then jerks his chin at the couch. "Now sit back down you idiot, before you manage to injure yourself again."
Sherlock bristles like a tomcat, and with a huff and a flourish flops down and digs his feet in between the cushions, the rough material abusing warmth back into the skin. He then proceeds to sulk all through dinner (if you can call it that.), ignoring John's incredulous stare and refusing to meet his eyes.
Sherlock expects John to throw him out once they've finished eating and John's tossed the can into his bin, but he merely peers out his window, making sure to open the curtain as little as possible, and sighs, "Well I suppose you'll be needing a place to sleep then, won't you?"
Sherlock finally looks at him again; momentarily baffled in the only way he's ever been, perplexed by human kindness. John glances over at him and mistakes the confusion in his eyes as a need for explanation, "Oh, it's raining out there. You're coat may be pretty thick but it won't do much for your face. It'd be better if you just stayed inside for awhile." He purses his lips, "So, better find you some blankets I guess. I know I have some buried around here somewhere." He flaps his hand at Sherlock as he starts to rummage through some of the clutter that's built up, "I forgot to apologize for the mess, though if you were really offended by it I'd have to say you were a bit of a twat- oof!" John manages to unearth a rather cozy looking blanket, but in the process upends a vase, some books, and a rather battered looking violin.
"Hand me that." Sherlock demands, staring at it.
John looks at him a bit oddly but does as he's told, and then attempts to restore order to his piles of junk as it becomes clear that Sherlock is entirely captivated by the item in his hands. The violin is old and unkempt- the gloss faded, the brown paint peeling away- and there is a nasty scar ripped down the side. All of the strings remain pristine however, protected by good fortune. He plucks one experimentally and then physically recoils, it needs to be tuned.
"Do you have the bow that goes with this?" He asks.
"Um, yeah, probably somewhere." John says distractedly, and then is struck with Sherlock's haughtily expectant stare long enough to jump a bit. "Oh! Yeah. Ummm." There's much crashing and clattering for a few moments, almost certainly effectively undoing whatever organizing he's just done, but he emerges a few seconds later with the prize. "Here we go." His self-satisfactory smirk probably won't be so broad once he realizes he's just been ordered around by a stranger, but Sherlock suspects that won't happen for another 14 minutes approximately. He inspects the bow carefully as it's placed in his palm; it's battered, but it'll do.
"So you play then?" The question is decidedly ignored for being too obvious and Sherlock spends the next 7 minutes tuning the violin. John, understandably, doesn't have a tuner at hand and so Sherlock has to do it aurally. It's less an inconvenience than it is a way amuse himself, he's always preferred to do it aurally, if merely to show off the fact that he had memorized the sound more than anything else. By the time he's done tuning and then plucking at the strings experimentally John has rolled through his indignation at being used as a servant (13 minutes, not 14. An excusable mistake.) and has started to go around and light candles to combat the dying light.
Rising swiftly, Sherlock moves to stand by the windows, swathed in the orange light that bleeds in through the pale colored cloth. In his peripheral's he watches John track the movement keenly. The violin knocks against his collarbone and he leans into the familiar sensation the way a grown man might bury his face in his old mothers dresses, as close to nostalgic Sherlock will ever be. He slides the bow across the violins strings and listens to it sing for him. From across the room John watches him, thoroughly enraptured.
He turns to the window and starts to play.
The drumming of rain is loud enough to cover up the sound of the music, and will ostensibly prevent it from catching anyone's attention outside. (though those stupid enough to risk the acid rain probably shouldn't be labeled as much of a threat.) If the building has any other tenants then they can probably hear it, but presumably John does not live with people who would want to kill him upon being alerted of his presence, if there's anyone there at all, and so Sherlock will risk it.
He doesn't know how long he plays for, only that when he stops- his shoulder aching and his ribs hissing their complaints- the sun has set completely and the chill of the rain and the night air has settled comfortably into the flat, filling any nook and cranny it can find, invasive and persistent. It feels nice when he realizes that he hadn't noticed. It feels good to turn his brain off.
When he turns around again John is sitting in his armchair, a blanket wrapped snug around his shoulders, grinning. "That was brilliant." He says, and Sherlock sniffs delicately, caught off guard again but nowhere close to admitting it. "Absolutely brilliant. I haven't heard music in ages. You should keep that- the violin. I'm not going to use it."
Sherlock shakes his head and sets the violin down abruptly, a rejection. "No. It would be a hindrance." Sentiment is pointless, he knows this to be true, but leaving the instrument with the rest of John's rubbish seems like a tragedy.
This seems to amuse John, but he shrugs. No skin off his back. "Well, the couch is all yours then." Sherlock notes that aside from the pillow and blankets laying there, John has also set up a place for himself to sleep, just at the couches feet, even though there's no doubt that he has his own room just beyond the hallway. John doesn't outright say, "I'll feed you and I'll bandage you, but there's no way in Hell that I'll trust you," but the sentiment's there. Sherlock almost sighs in relief; general suspicion marks a return to normalcy in his book.
The light in the room gradually dies as John makes the rounds and blows out the candles. As he passes by the door he snatches Sherlock's coat from off the rack where it had been hanging and tosses it onto the couch. "You might want to sleep with this on," He says, "Even with all those blankets it gets a bit nippy in here." Sherlock shrugs it on gracefully, habitually popping the collar to protect his neck. "Oh, and," He's smiling kindly but when he speaks again it's obvious by the steel in his eyes that the threat is real. "If you try to sneak out with any of my stuff, I'll have to track you down, alright?"
(as if you scare me.) It earns him an indignant huff and a shrug of indifference, but John seems to think that he's gotten his point across well enough because he snuffs out the last candle and says cheerily into the darkness, "Well, night then."
They settle into their respective beds, guided only by touch and the need for warmth in the sudden smothering darkness. Sherlock listens to John sigh into his pillow and thinks about how he's going to get around him once he's asleep. No doubt ingrained wariness and his military training will have taught him to be a light sleeper, and Sherlock really would rather not find himself pinned to the ground again so soon. Then again he has long since learned how to make as little noise as possible when moving- drawing attention to yourself could be the death of you in New London- and so if he lifts himself over the arm of the couch and avoids stepping on John he should be fine. He's confident in his abilities, anyway.
Or, well, there's always the option of killing John. He already knows what the most effective way of subduing him would be; John has made the mistake of putting himself on the lower ground. It would be quite simple to, in an hour or so, when John was sleepy and complacent, simply roll over and land on top of him. He would fight back, but Sherlock has the advantage of being a lot bigger, at least height wise, and could probably keep him pinned long enough to snap his neck. Then, with John dead, he would have access to all of his resources.
There's a strange sort of pressure in his chest, a tension behind his eyes, as he pictures how that would play out. John, the impractically benevolent doctor, limp and useless on his floor- the snarling, exhausted energy in his eyes gone, his warm, practical hands cold and stiff. No longer shooting Firefly's or cleaning up wounds or handing easy kindness to strangers (fascinating.), just a body with the life snuffed out of it- pointless, a waste.
He won't kill him, he decides; John Watson is more useful to other people alive then he would be to Sherlock dead. Curiously enough the strange feeling abates shortly after that.
Sherlock has conditioned his body to wake up every three hours- on the off chance that he ever sleeps that long- and so he doesn't worry about sleeping for too long and waking up after John. He wraps the blankets closer around him and wills his body to shut off, knowing that he should take advantage of the comfort of the couch.
He falls asleep listening to John's breathing.
In approximately three hours he opens his eyes again. If he didn't know better he'd say that no time has passed because the light in the room hasn't changed, but he trusts himself more than he trusts anything else, and so he knows that it has. He stays perfectly still for a second, listening to John's snuffling; it's been long enough for him to hit REM sleep, and apparently he has, so Sherlock tucks his blankets underneath him and slithers over the arm of the couch. The chill of the air is a shock after the warm cocoon he had slept in, and he makes quick work of grabbing his shoes from where he had deposited them before dinner and shoving them back on. He then glides through the flat almost silently, collecting what he needs.
Sometime during the night he decided that he needs water more than he needs anything else, and so his first trip is to the kitchen. Unsurprisingly, John's hiding places are really terrible, and a few minutes search reveals a cabinet stacked full of packages of water bottles. Sherlock unfortunately never has taken up carrying a bag like most people nowadays, and so he just take four bottles and stuffs them in the overlarge pockets of his coat. It barely makes a dent in John's stores, and Sherlock knows that people would kill for a third of these supplies. Actually, they've probably tried; it would explain the scars.
He then takes two cans of what looks like vegetable soup and sticks them in his other pocket- Ms. Hudson has started to look a bit bony recently- and slips down the hallway, where, yes he was right, John's room is. It's also where the bathroom is, and as Sherlock has assumed, where he stoops to open the cabinet under the sink and finds three bottles similar to the one that carried the disinfectant (john must use them only when strictly necessary, he cleaned my head with water until he got to the wound itself.), a plethora of pill bottles with names he can't make out clearly in the dark, and several more packages of rolled bandages among other things. He manages to pocket one of the bottles of disinfectant and a roll of bandages before he runs out of room and decides it's time for him to go.
He stops in the door to hover for a second. The violin just barely catches the muffled moonlight, gleaming at him dimly from across the room. And in the muted darkness- it's not too bad now that his eyes have adjusted- he can just barely make out the crest of John's hair as he dreams silently, the blanket pulled up over his nose.
John Watson is interesting; Sherlock hasn't been interested in a while.
He doesn't take the violin. He wraps his scarf around his neck, pulls on his gloves, and leaves.
Even during the throes of winter, New London always gives off the impression of heat during the day. The clouds that hang heavy over the city speak of fire- brown and red and black around the edges, and on the rare occasion that they do part the sky is more of the same, a brown haze, dirty and ugly, like a bruise.
However, at night, with nothing to illuminate the sky except the campfires of those desperate enough to light them, the oppressive chill and velvet darkness has the tendency to remind those who still remember of times past. Of safety and comfort and happiness. If you stand in the quiet streets of New London at night, and you close your eyes, you might find yourself at home if you try hard enough, if you really wish.
As it turns out John's flat is halfway across the city from Sherlock's, and so the trip will take at least forty minutes if he's efficient. His head feels fuzzy (from the head wound presumably.) and the weight of the provisions stuffed in his jacket makes him feel heavy and off kilter. There aren't many people out this late- most people avoid going outside if they can, sending only the strong or the hopeless out to find supplies, and even they would most likely have sought shelter from the earlier rainstorm- and so Sherlock doesn't really bother to keep an eye out for them as he navigates the wreckage in the darkness. He always takes the main streets, which are generally avoided due to the vulnerability they give and so are logically the safest place due to the lack of population. (if only people would really use their heads.) Occasionally he'll catch movement in an alleyway out of the corner of his eye as its inhabitants see him and then freeze like rabbits, as if it somehow makes them invisible. They must think he's a lone Chosen in his long black coat, and though he's definitely not he doesn't mind encouraging the idea; anyone with sense stays away from the Chosen. Parading around in black, preaching of salvation from the end of time if only you will join them, their mass hysteria cloaked in peace is mind warping. They're almost worse than the Firefly's in that sense.
It starts to drizzle again. He's only walked about ten minutes so far and at the rate he's going he's not going to get back to his flat in another fifty. Moving forward isn't worth risking the possible infection he could get if the rain got into the cuts on his face, and so he ducks into a bombed out building for a bit of shelter. It's unlikely that there's anyone hiding there, Sherlock thinks, because, for one, it doesn't have much of a roof left, and for two, there's the off the main road rule again- people too stupid to understand that it would be better out in the open so they could defend themselves rather than holed up where they can be cornered.
But of course there is an exception to every rule.
He's just walked in and given what's left of the building a cursory glance before he's slammed up against the near wall. For a second all he can taste is blood and starlight, but when he blinks the encroaching darkness out of his eyes he finds himself pinned to the ground. A lanky young boy straddles him, about seventeen, his fists balled up in Sherlock's scarf, the rain and moonlight glancing off his pale hair. He's filthy and scrawny and terrified, absolutely terrified, so much that Sherlock can smell it on him as he quivers and snarls and says, "What are you doing in here?"
Sherlock's quite tired of having his head knocked into things, and he's also feeling a bit drunk because of said getting knocked into things, which is probably why he sneers in the boys face and drawls, "Evening."
"Shut up!" The boy shouts again, shaking Sherlock roughly so that his head bounces off the broken cement. Yes, he's really tired of that, "I said tell me what you're doing in here!" He must have been sitting by the door when Sherlock walked in, waiting to jump any intruders, which makes him quite smart. However, he's seriously miscalculated, which makes him quite dumb; he's left Sherlock's hands free, which is an obvious mistake seeing that no matter how subdued he may be- his head ringing and his vision fizzing and popping- he's still perfectly capable of killing a boy half his weight. In fact he's about to do just that when the boy starts screaming at him again, flecks of spittle landing on Sherlock's face. His legs have just started to jerk upwards so that he can pin the boy and crush the breath out of him when a voice rings out, loud and clear and utterly confidant.
Sherlock does. So does the boy, his fingers stilling where he had been wrapping them around Sherlock's throat. From the shadow of the crumbled roof, a man steps out, tired and steady and toting a gun, John Watson. "Stand up." He orders the boy, the gun aimed for his heart. The boy's pale face turns slightly green and his fingers spasm against the soft flesh of Sherlock's neck, panicked. "I said do it!"
The boy scrambles off of Sherlock, his hands jerking upwards, "I'm not doing anything! What's it have to do with you?"
John doesn't answer, "I don't want to shoot you." He says. (doesn't that sound familiar.) Sherlock can taste the rain in his mouth-it's getting in his eyes too- and he wishes that John would just kill the kid and get it over with. "If you leave I won't have to."
"But- this was my space first!" The boy complains, because even though he's seventeen he's too young- much too young for this. He's shaking. "I was here first!"
"If I shoot you it won't matter whose it was. Now get out." John has that steely look in his eyes again. He means it; he'll kill that boy for Sherlock. (which… makes no sense.)
The boy sees that too, and says, shrinking away, "Okay! Okay! Just- please- just don't shoot me!" He inches toward the door, John letting him go until they've moved full circle and the boy has is back towards it. He throws one last fleeting glance at Sherlock and then runs for his life, limbs flailing and breath rapid. John stands with the gun pointed at the door, his back towards Sherlock, until neither of them can hear the splash of the boys feet anymore. He lowers his gun and takes a deep breath, turning around and walking until he's leaning over Sherlock.
"I told you I'd track you down if you tried to take anything." He says grimly, and then, instead of raising his boot and stomping on Sherlock's face like he was expecting, he leans down and tries to prop his head up. "And now you've gone and made your head bleed again you sodding idiot! What's with you? Do you just attract people who want to kill you?"
He looks extremely put out and Sherlock is light-headed enough that he replies, "Yes, probably. You didn't kill the boy."
John gives him a wary glance as he sheds his green jacket and presses the sleeve up against the back of his head. It stings, but Sherlock doesn't complain. "Uh, yeah. Good observational skills. Do you think you hit your head that hard? Because I don't want to bother patching you up if you're going to turn into a vegetable."
"Ha." Sherlock considers rolling his eyes but decides that that would probably hurt. "But you would have killed him."
John shrugs, hesitant. "I guess so."
(fascinating.) But he might say it out loud because John adjusts so that he can look him in the eyes and says, "We should probably get you out of the rain. Can you stand?"
"Yes." Sherlock says, because, yes, obviously- but he doesn't.
John breathes out what might be a laugh and hooks his arms around Sherlock's. "Okay, up we go." There's a lot of grunting and "steady, steady"-ing until Sherlock can see clearly and doesn't feel like vomiting. He tries to give John his jacket back but he just ties it around Sherlock's head- which probably looks extremely silly- and tells him that if he ever needs to stop and sit down then he should let him know. "Back to my place then," He mutters, and it's almost cheery.
"Okay." Sherlock concedes, because he certainly doesn't feel like going back to his anymore, and then he turns his head to look at John as he huffs and semi-drags him across the street, where they'll be mostly hidden in the shadow of the buildings. Sherlock considers telling him the main road rule but doesn't, what he does say is, "If we're going to live together then I'm going to have to bring my landlady."
John looks bewildered, but he doesn't stop walking when he turns to stare at him. "Who said anything about living together?"
Sherlock sighs like John's being petty, "Well it's obviously the natural course of things. I'm just speeding up the process."
John mulls this over, and then finally says, "You have a landlady?"
"She owes me a favor."
"There's room for her, I noticed that there were plenty habitable flats in your building when I was leaving."
"Yeah, okay." But it's more of an agreement this time.
They walk in silence for a little while, slow and stumbling but moving forward. It's still drizzling, and John doesn't have a jacket on anymore, and they're probably both risking their good health, but neither of them mentions it. There is the silent but shared knowledge that they are both going to be wet and miserable and freezing when they get back to John's flat, and probably for a good while afterward, but it's easily accepted. The night seems so much calmer now, which doesn't make any sense to Sherlock because it hadn't been all that chaotic before- well, besides getting attacked- but it's a feeling that's there all the same. They're almost back to the flat when John suddenly snorts out a laugh. "I can't believe this." He shakes his head, an incredulous grin spreading across his face, "I can't believe I just dragged your arse all over the city again. What is with you? Do you know how much you weigh?"
A strange sensation spreads in Sherlock's chest- blossoming, bubbling- filling it until it slips through his throat and over his bottom lip, and it take him a second to realize that it was a laugh. John must find his bewildered expression funny, or else he's still amused by the strange hold Sherlock somehow has on him, and he giggles, actually giggles, until Sherlock is giggling too because his head hurts and he's dizzy and it's such a strange noise that he wants to hear it over and over and over again until he figures it out.
Eventually John runs his free hand over his face, stifling his laughter and breathes, "Ahh, I could use a pint. How do you feel about a pint?"
"I don't drink much."
John snorts again, a cackle slipping out like a hiccup, "Yeah, okay, that's fair. And what about this then?" He makes a broad gesture with his arm, encompassing the street, the city, everything. "Do, ah, you think we have much of a chance? Of survival?"
Sherlock looks at him very seriously, and says deadpan, "Yes."
And then they're at it again, two madmen giggling in the dark on a street that's riddled with people who'd love to kill them both and it's absolutely fantastic, just absolutely brilliant, because it's the end of the world and everything is shit and that's okay, just for a little bit, that's okay.
There is no doubt among most that the human race will not survive for very much longer. In fact, it's a widely accepted idea that they won't even manage another twenty years. They are not made to breathe the polluted air, or drink the polluted water, or brave a cold so bitter or a heat so pure. Many know these facts and accept them and despair, frightened and useless. But there are some- a chosen few, but they are growing- who know a different path.
Because, if you can find hope in a lie, or a fairytale, or a friendship, sometimes it's not so terrible. Sometimes, it's not so bad at all.