Sherlock Holmes was either a busy man or a bored one. One or the other in turns, often changing from second to second. When he was bored - because life was dull with no case in sight - he would turn to anything that would give him relief. Sometimes the violin was sufficient, or digging into mysteries of the past, but sometimes… sometimes none of those things were enough.
Thus the cocaine. Or morphine. Or any other number of drugs - illegal and legal - in fascinating combinations.
And sometimes those drugs, flowing through his system like lava or a hurricane, would result in very interesting dreams.
He’d fallen asleep on the sofa. He knew that. Fallen asleep after riding out hours of the toxins in his blood lighting his brain up like Christmas.
In the flat alone.
That was part of the problem.
So when a gentle hand shook him awake, it was… surprising.
“Holmes? Are you alright?”
Sherlock opened his eyes. John stood over him, wearing that ridiculous mustache again. Hair combed back and styled with product. A sniff told him it was… palmade? Another quick scan showed John in a tweed suit, not his usual jeans and hideous jumper.
Oh no, not this again.
“Yes, yes I’m fine.” Sherlock sat up. He wore the same silk dressing gown he’d fallen asleep in, but under it were starched pajamas rather than the soft jersey bottoms and tee-shirt he’d been wearing. “What time is it?”
John pulled out a pocket watch. “Half three.”
“Ah.” Sherlock rubbed his face and grimaced at the stubble on his cheeks. “I’d best shave.”
“Erm, Holmes, we have a client waiting outside.”
“Yes. Actually, he’s an old friend of mine, medical man from the States.”
“Oh.” Sherlock held up a hand. “Don’t tell me anymore. Let him in.”
“Are you certain you’d rather not… dress first?”
Sherlock shook his head. “If he’s a friend of yours, why stand on ceremony? Show him in.”
John gave him a disbelieving look and went to the door. Sherlock got up off the couch, straightened his dressing gown and settled back into his usual chair.
The man that John showed in was blond and well built. Handsome in a standard, straightforward way. A medical man, as John had said, old fashioned - current to the time - black doctor’s bag in his hand. American made clothing, high quality, but not excessively expensive.
John waved a hand between them. “Dr. Alan McMichael, my friend and colleague, Sherlock Holmes.”
Dr. McMichael walked forward, hand outstretched. “Pleased to meet you, Mr. Holmes.”
Sherlock ignored the hand in favor of looking the gentleman over. Misbuttoned shirt, mud on the cuffs of is trousers, hair slightly askew. Calluses on his fingers in unusual places. Interesting. He was a doctor, yes, but not a GP. This era meant that his usual methods weren’t entirely useful. He just didn’t know enough about the times. Not relevant in his usual life. “Please have a seat, doctor. J… Dr. Watson tells me you have a case for us?”
The blond American frowned and sat. “It is quite urgent, I fear for my friend’s life.” His accent was from New York. Upstate. Funny how little that accent had changed over the years. At least some things were consistent.
“More than a friend.”
“I... “ McMichael’s eyes traveled from Sherlock to John and back again. “I had hoped Edith would condescend to being my wife, but she has married another.”
“Ah. And you believe that her husband means her ill?”
“He is a blaggard of the first water, Mr. Holmes, I have proofs of that, but noone will listen to me.”
The doctor reached for the medical bag at his side, but Sherlock waved a hand. “I believe you Dr. McMichael. I shall happily look at your proofs shortly, but first tell me your tale.”
“Edith - Miss Cushing as she was then - has been my dearest friend since childhood, Mr Holmes. Her father is… was a wealthy man, but I’ve never cared about that. She’s a spirited lady, intellectual and quite lovely. I had hoped that she would come to see me as I see her, but…”
“An Englishman seduced her away. A barronet. I’m quite certain that he is only after her money, Mr. Holmes, but he’s a handsome devil and well spoken too. They married a few months ago. Mrs… Lady... Edith sold off the whole of her father’s estate and moved here to be with her new husband.”
Sherlock quirked a small smile at the American doctor’s discomfort at the British titing system and his inability to admit that his lady love had found another. “Does her husband have a name, Dr. McMichael?”
“Sir Thomas Sharpe.”
“Ah.” Sherlock shot to his feet and went to the row of books which held the Who’s Who volumes. A poor substitute for the internet, but all that his Victorian counterpart had to offer. He flipped through the tome which held “S” and found his quarry. “Sir Thomas Sharp, of Allerdale Hall, last male of his line. Sister, Lucille.” Sherlock frowned down at the book. It was annoying to not have every record in existence at his fingertips. He felt that there should be more to this. He was missing something. There should be more. This dream self was intrigued and knew something as well. Sherlock closed his eyes and reached in, reached for the mind palace of this Victorian self who seemed to have an existence outside of Sherlock’s own.
He dove down and down and down. This self was an echo. Or perhaps he was the echo? He looked up and saw that the deep well of reality he sat in was lit from above as well as below. That light above him, was that his own reality in 21st century London? Had he come down so far? Or was that a different reality all together? Sherlock shook his head and focused. The name Sharpe struck a chord all along his spine, up and down the well. Should he look up or down?
He chose down.
His hand stole along to another volume on the shelf above the Who’s Who s. Scrapbooks of crimes from the last decades. Eyes open barely a crack, Sherlock turned pages and pages, letting this other mind look for him. This was the Victorian Sherlock’s book, and he knew what he was looking for. Murder. Sherlock opened his eyes and took in the few pages of articles.
“You’re quite right, doctor, your friend is in grave danger.” He snapped the scrapbook shut. “We shall travel at once.” He swept through the sitting room to his own bedroom.
“But… don’t you want to look at the evidence I have?” Dr. McMichael held up his bag.
“On the way, there’s no time!” Sherlock slammed the door behind him.
Dressing took far more time that he’d like. Sherlock was almost tempted to ask John for help with the odd collar and cuffs, but realized it would be a poor idea. These Victorian incarnation had a sense of propriety which would have found that querry offensive in the extreme as well as confusing. Still, he managed, mostly by allowing this archaic self take over during the dressing process.
“Bring your revolver, Watson,” Sherlock muttered to John as he left the bedroom. “I fear we shall need it.”
John nodded and patted his pocket. Of course Sherlock had known that John already had the gun, but it was a good idea to encourage him from time to time. “Good man.”
The trip to Allerdale Hall was interminable. Sherlock hated these tediously slow trains, and ignored John and Dr. McMichael as much as he could. He looked through the papers that the American brought with him, all of which confirmed his suspicions. Murdered parents, missing spouses, commitment to a mental asylum. The most recent Lady Sharpe was indeed in terrible danger.
Something kept nagging at him though, that feeling like he was missing something terribly obvious. He’d had that same feeling before, the last time he’d encountered this antique self. This was different though. Like he’d seen this before and deleted it. Like one of those dull films that John liked, all boring romance and pointless action.
Snow fell as they climbed off the train; found transportation - with the help of a large bribe - and took off for the Hall.
Sherlock knew of the danger that this young woman was in. A slow, painful death awaited her, though not the one that Dr. McMichael feared. That warning from the last Victorian jaunt - don’t ignore women - was fresh in Sherlock’s mind as he’d gazed at the proofs of ill deeds. Sir Thomas wasn’t the killer Dr. McMichael though he was, his sister was the murderer of the pair.
A man of the 21st century knew better than one of the 19th. The 20th century was an infant now, but the values and mores of the previous century lingered. This was still the Victorian age, and that meant far more than the individual year.
The Hall was decrepit. Crimson clay bled up through the snow staining the pristine white. Dr. McMichael pounded on the door to be let in by a slight blonde who looked terribly ill, but pleased to see the American and surprised to see anyone with him.
When the lord of the manner and his true lady - but not his only lady, for he loved them both - appeared, Sherlock was overcome by a wave of dizziness. Disorientation and nausea welled up. He knew this man. Thomas Sharpe, looking disheveled in his askew shirtsleeves and waistcoat. Beautiful contrast of black hair, pale skin, and sky colored eyes. This man was known to him. Nearly was him.
It made no sense.
Sherlock didn’t think people were beautiful. Ideas were beautiful, things might be beautiful, but people were problems to be solved, not objects of desire. And yet from somewhere deep inside of him there was a remembrance of kissing those lips. And from another direction, a recollection of kissing these women, both of them. He reeled under the sense memories. Neither of them had happened to Sherlock, but Sherlock felt them. Or had he done them and just deleted it? None of this made any sense.
“Holmes, are you alright?”
John’s hand was at his elbow, and Sherlock leaned into him. “I…”
Sir Thomas stepped forward, his pale eyes fixed on Sherlock’s own. “Do I… know you?”
“I… I don’t know.”
“I feel like I do, but we’ve never met, have we?”
Sherlock shook his head. “No.” And yet… Yes. He knew everything about this man, many of the details were obvious from looking at him, observing him and his sister and his wife. The strange love that he felt for both of them. That he felt he was damned, but still needed to prove himself, protect the women he loved. Protect them from each other, from themselves.
Sherlock shook himself. Reality was slipping away from him. But this wasn’t reality; it was a dream. And these dreams existed to tell him something. Echoes of his mind palace, forgotten, deleted things. What was it? What was the message that his subconscious was trying to tell him? That he was one step from being a villain himself? Sherlock knew that. He was a killer - unlike Sir Thomas - and he knew it. He had killed to protect John, and John had killed to protect him. So that wasn’t the message.
His eyes flitted from Sir Thomas to his sister/lover and his wife, the blonde, sunny Edith. That dynamic, that felt closer. Incest aside, a secret lover was hardly an unknown cause of strife in Sherlock’s life of investigating crime. A secret lover who was a killer.
Sherlock didn’t have a lover. He didn’t need such things in his life. His friendship, companionship with John - as fraught as it was - was all he needed. John’s now-deceased wife had been a killer - she had nearly killed him - but that didn’t ring true either.
This wasn’t about Sherlock.
How could it not be about him? These dreams were messages for him, so…
Sherlock dropped to his knees, clutching at his temples. Agony stabbed through his head, a lancing pain as deleted memories came back.
“You’re sure you’re not me from the future faking an American accent?”
“If I was, do you think I’d tell you?”
The strange American who looked so much like Sherlock smiled. “Well there you go.”
“Who are you then?”
“I’m a magician from another universe just trying to get home.”
It was so unlikely, but the stranger’s words fit the facts, and were told without a hint of lie to his demeanor. A quote had drifted up into Sherlock’s consciousness from deep in his mind palace. “There are more things in heaven and earth.”
The stranger in his mind grinned. “Exactly.” And then he’d vanished, leaving Sherlock alone again.
It had happened a while ago, that event, that dream/hallucination/I didn’t actually just talk to a being from another reality did I? And he’d put it out of his mind, deleted it since it wasn’t relevant. How was it relevant now? None of these people looked like himself, other than Sir Thomas’s - and his sister’s - coloring being much the same as his own. That strange American he’d spoken to in his mind had been identical to himself save for his hair and age.
But… no. Another wave of pain swept through him and Sherlock cried out again. He was vaguely aware of John hovering over him. Of a scuffle in the background as the villainess of this little play took advantage of the distraction that his suffering caused. He couldn’t focus on anything but the memories flooding him.
“Tell me, Sherlock, has anything strange happened to you in the past few days?”
“Stranger than waking up in an unfamiliar bed with a naked man that I’ve never met before? Actually, yes.”
That’s what it was. The man called Loki who’d claimed to be a god possessing a human body. He looked like Sir Thomas, but his hair had been blond instead of black. But beyond their hair color, they were the same. Distinctive bone structure, even taller than himself. But that odd incident had been in his own time. The twenty-first century, not some dream of more than a century before. But it couldn’t be a coincidence. Duplication of self. Of body if not of mind. What did it mean?
Secret lover. Killer. Loves them both.
Sherlock shook his head, trying to clear the confusion and pain. Pulled up and out of the dream. Up to his own normal transport, up and up and up and over and up…
Until Sherlock wasn’t Sherlock anymore.