There’s a crack. It’s in the plaster of the ceiling. The ceiling above the sitting room of 221b Baker Street. The crack runs lengthwise from the fireplace, extending out to the middle of the room.
It shouldn’t be there. Not after that time with the bomb. And a secret sister. And, no. No. The room, the whole damn flat, was rebuilt new. The plaster is new. Relatively speaking. It’s only been… Well, Rosie’s nine, but still.
It doesn’t belong.
Dividing the room in half. A growing chasm that’s gone largely unnoticed. Until now. Now there is concentrated focus on the crack. And it’s glaringly obvious there’s always been something wrong under the surface.
There’s a man. He’s laid out flat on the stained decorative rug. The rug on the floor of the sitting room of 221b Baker Street. He’s not as tall as the crack is long, but that doesn’t actually matter.
The crack. The crack is what matters.
Because he’s cracked too.
Right down the middle. All thanks to the disabling of the alien biotechnology (hotwired into his shoulder, and grafted to his nervous system, by his own fellow earthlings) using a laser drill that is illegal in at least twelve plural sectors, including Galactic Sector ZZ9 Plural Z Alpha, which is where Earth is. At least he thinks this Earth at this time is still located in this dimension’s Galactic Sector ZZ9 Plural Z Alpha.
And he’s not actually sure if that's where he belongs.
The crack. He’s been staring at it for an indeterminate amount of time.
It’s the only thing that makes sense at the moment.
Like a metaphor.
No. Not a metaphor. An analogy.
It’s a metaphor.
A metaphor is a figure of speech. An analogy is more abstract, a comparison.
Good lord, you’re dull as soup.
That’s a metaphor.
That’s what I’ve been saying.
No. The soup thing. Not the crack. The crack is an analogy.
This is not going to work out. I need to figure out how to get you out of my brain.
My brain. In my head. On my body.
I think I’d know my own brain.
You'd think. But you'd be wrong.
I’m the one who’s been to space. There’s a space apocalypse coming.
I’m a doctor and a soldier…
Was a soldier.
Piss off. I’m as qualified as anyone in a fight. More than most, actually.
I need to have a lie down and think.
Really. That’s your answer? Because it isn’t working so far.
Laying down and thinking always works. Saved my house from a wrecking crew by laying in front of the bulldozer. ‘Course the Vogons destroyed the Earth that same day. But before that, a good lie down and a think saved the day.
How the fuck did you not die out there in space? I’ve only known you ten minutes and I want to kill you.
Ta very much. And you know… I kind of… did.
S’alright. You did too, once.
Kinda. Mostly, yeah.
Yeah. It's not great.
No. No it is not.
Wait. Wait a minute. Got it.
No you don’t.
There’s a river on Betelgeuse Five.
Christ… What are you on about?
The crack. It looks like this river on the planet Betelgeuse Five.
Bloody hell. We’re going to die. You’re going to give me an aneurysm and kill us both.
And it’s clearly the Farah River.
What? Never heard of it.
It’s in Afghanistan. And it’s clearly what the crack looks like. We’re not discussing it any further.
And stop that.
You look like a moron laying on the floor shrugging. Stop.
No, we look like a moron.
That’s it. Where’s my gun.
He struggles to sit up. Head pounding. Shoulder smarting. An old ache in his leg seems renewed. He looks around, and it’s still too much information.
Ford has worked his hands free of the zip ties holding him to the chair, but he’s shamming like he’s still bound, and working on freeing Random. They share a knowing smirk.
He spots Mycroft and remembers to scowl.
Rosie’s asleep, cried out, on the floor next to him.
“John? John, are you all right?” Sherlock crouches in front of him. Hands out but not touching.
Sherlock. Oh. Sherlock can help.
What kind of name is Sherlock? Seriously?
He opens his mouth, and it all comes out at once. “Whasherkinameohs Sherlock sercaslylp.” He covers his mouth with both hands and tries not to panic.
“Breathe John.” He stares intently into John’s eyes. They’re still the eyes he knows so well, but with more complexity, if that’s even possible. “You’re taking this remarkably well.”
With his hands still over his mouth, he shakes his head ‘no.’ He wants to scream.
“How can I help?” Sherlock’s treating him like he's a terrified animal. Or if he gets to close he'll shatter to bits.
He’s not wrong.
Shut the fuck up. I swear…
“What can I do?” Sherlock gently pries his hands from his mouth.
He shrugs because he’s afraid to try speech again. At least he knows he can shrug.
“Tea!” Sherlock smiles. The rare, soft one he saves for John, and now Rosie. “I'll make you tea.”
Oh. Oh it's been so long since I’ve had tea. Real tea. Earth tea.
No tea in space?
From a robotic dispenser.
Bloody hell. That's barbaric.
You're telling me. A good cuppa fixes everything.
At least we agree on that.
Good strong tea. Three sugars. No milk.
That’s… That is blasphemous. Milk. No sugar.
That is… I can't even… Why?
“John?” Sherlock looks amused, as if he's in on the conversation.
You let me talk, yeah?
Just… please. Please. I need to talk to Sherlock.
Fine. I'm talking to Ford next.
Yes. Yes, of course.
He takes a deep breath. Sherlock nods to encourage him. “Thrilkgar nosugilk.” Biting down hard on the inside of his cheek, he breathes in hard angry pants.
What the fuck was that?
I said no milk.
I hate you. I hate you so much.
You're no bowl of petunias, yourself.
Please, please just shut up for one minute. Please.
Hot, frustrated tears fill his eyes and he swipes at them ineffectually with his shaking hands. Sherlock stills him, and gently wipes them away himself, then lets his hands rest lightly on either side of his neck.
“C’mon John,” Sherlock coaxes.
“It’s too much,” John whispers.
“What is? What's wrong?
“Both of us. We're both…” He rubs his forehead with two fingers and then cards his hand through his hair pausing on the back of his head. “Here. In here”
“Who, John?” Sherlock looks well and truly confused. And supremely intrigued.
The others gather closely around them, no one caring that Ford and Random aren't tied down.
“John… me.” He puts his hand on his own chest. “And,” he glances at Ford, “Dent. We're both here. In my head. And…” More tears fall.
“John,” Sherlock whispers. “Please tell me.”
“I,” he sighs, “I don't know how to take my tea.” He shrugs. He's rather well coordinated at it now. “He doesn't even take milk.”
Sherlock huffs a laugh. “We'll figure it out.” He uses his thumbs to wipe away more tears.
“I don't know who I am.”
“We'll figure that out too, John. ” Sherlock is still holding him so so gently.
“Fascinating.” Mycroft scrutinizes him with an intensity he usually reserves for Sherlock when he's in a particularly dangerous mood. He takes out his mobile and starts tapping away at it.
“Arthur… Arthur, buddy.” Ford drops to his knees beside him. “You have to tell me something. Anything. I have to make sure.”
Ford. It’s… C-can I?
I'm not a complete bastard.
I know. I'm sorry about before.
Sherlock watches the change as it happens. John's features remain exactly the same, but his demeanor changes entirely. Sloppier, less controlled. And his eyes. Physically the same, but still wrong. It’s hateful. He drops his hands abruptly as Arthur turns to look at Ford.
“It was a Thursday. That we left Earth, that Earth. You tried to get me drunk and made me eat peanuts. I still haven't got the hang of Thursdays.” He grins and Ford pulls him into a hug.
“I didn't know if I'd ever find you.” Ford’s swagger falters briefly. “And the kid,” he jerks his head toward Random, “was worried about you.” He pulls back. “They been treating you okay?”
“Ford, it's so strange. I…”
A commotion downstairs interrupts them. Mrs. Hudson shrieks and is shouting up the stairs as someone storms their way up. The door to the flat is thrown open.
“Sorry to crash your little reunion party, cousin, but there's a Grebulon battle cruiser on its way, and I'm going to be gone when they get here. Oh! Hey Arthur! Where you been, kid? It's been…” The intruder counts the fingers of one hand, then the other. And then the third. “How long has it been?”
Fuck. What the actual fuck. Does he have two heads?
And three arms.
The worst mistake ever. That's who. Let me talk.
“This? This is the ride you got?” He pushes Ford away and stands. “Zaphod.” Nodding once he steps toward him. “I'd hoped you were dead, you annoying arse.”
“Good to see you too, kid.” Zaphod ruffles his hair like a child and turns to Ford. “Seriously, man. We gotta go.”
What a cock.
You have no idea.
Well… same brain.
Right. So you see it too.
“Galactic President Beeblebrox,” Mycroft inclines his head and his stance exudes ‘British Government.’
“Myc!” Zaphod grabs one of Mycroft’s hands with two of his and shakes it heartily while clapping him on the shoulder with his third hand. “How the hell are ya? Besides knowing you're about to die.”
“WHAT is happening?” Sherlock jumps to his feet and drags Ford up with him. “What is this? What is he talking about? Why do you all keep talking about the world ending? How does he have two heads?”
“And three arms?” Rosie adds. She's taken Sherlock’s hand and is standing just behind him, her curiosity getting the better of her.
“That too,” Sherlock nods, then turns on his brother. “And what the fuck, Mycroft?”
“There are perfectly sound explanations to all of your questions.” Holding up his hands in an attempt to appear placating, Ford takes a step back. “Unfortunately, we don't have time for any of that right now. So, the three of us will go,” he motions to Random and Zaphod, “and we'll just take Arthur with us, and you'll never have to see us again.”
“Like hell you will,” Sherlock snarls and grabs a fist full of Ford’s shirt. “ John is staying here.” Random jumps on his back to tear him away.
“I might have something to say about all this.”
Oh good. We agree on that too.
I'm not staying here if the Grebulons are coming.
I'm not leaving my daughter! Or my… Sherlock.
I'm not staying.
I'm not going.
“I'm not sgoiaying! Fuck.” With a growl of frustration he grabs his head and collapses to his knees.
“Quite.” Mycroft dislodges himself from Zaphod’s hands and clears his throat. “I am sorry to say, you're all wrong. In accordance with Treaty GWP 653.290, signed by both myself and Galactic President, at the time of signing, Zaphod Beeblebrox, along with the leaders of other nations and planets, the only individuals permitted to leave Earth’s atmosphere in this particular time of crisis are the former Galactic President himself, accompanied by John Watson.”
“What the hell did you do?” Ford shoves Sherlock -- whose focus seems to be warring between shielding John and killing his brother -- and Random away, and takes a swing at Zaphod.
“I don't know, man. I've done a lot of crazy shit I don't remember.” With a laugh, Zaphod shakes one head and grins with the other. “Sounds like something I'd do though.”
Sherlock kneels and wraps himself around John. He motions Rosie over and she drapes herself over the both of them. She has somehow found a fresh reserve of tears. “Mycroft, you fix this. He can't. He can't go.” He's actually pleading. “John can't leave us. I won't allow it.”
“He's my father too,” Random stomps, her own angry tears falling. She's picked up that damn laser drill again. “And I'm not letting him go without a fight.”
“I do apologize. I never imagined this precise set of circumstances would ever manifest.” Mycroft brushes imaginary lint from his sleeve. “But, the universe is rarely so lazy, hmm?”
Oh, that bastard.
I really don't like him.
So, what? Do we kill him?
Oh look. Something else we can agree on.