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07 February 2011 @ 10:32 pm
Fic: Sherlock (BBC); Come and See; R  
Title: Come and See
Fandom: Sherlock (BBC)
Characters: John Watson, Harriet Watson, "Anthea", Sebastian Moran, Sherlock Holmes, Mycroft Holmes James Moriarty, Cameos by Lestrade and Molly.
Rating: R
Warnings: Mentions of slavery, rape, murder, death, MAJOR supernatural themes, Christian mythology (among others), manipulation of the BBC canon to suit my needs
Author's Note: Written for the sherlockbigbang. This is sort of... weird. And based off a prompt in the sherlockbbc_fic meme: here. Beta work done by the wonderful spotsofcolour. So many thanks to the artists who did an awesome job!

Summary: John Watson is Death. He wasn't supposed to kill the cabbie at the end of A Study in Pink, Sherlock Holmes was supposed to die that night. But Sherlock's still alive and now the world is starting to fall apart. The events of the whole series seen in a slightly more supernatural light. Also featuring "Anthea", Harry and Sebastian as the other horsemen of the apocalypse, and exploring what it takes to become a myth.

LINKS TO ART:
Art by Togsos: Here
Art by Venturous: here





Tom Edwards remembered the gunfire and the explosion. They hadn’t been expecting it, just a routine patrol, but you had to keep your eye out, didn’t you. They’d been driving along and then...

Then all he remembered was the noise and the pain. Pain everywhere, so much of it.

And the blood. He remembered that too, soaking him from the legs upward.

The next thing he remembered was the medical corps working on him. There had still been pain, and still shouting voices, but there had also been a hand wrapped around his, so tight, but he could barely feel it, and a calm face looking right into his eyes as he opened them. The face looked familiar, somehow. He thought that he should be able to put a name to it.

“It’s going to be fine, Tom,” the face had said.

And then he had gone back to sleep.

When he woke up again he felt lighter, clearer, and the pain had gone.

He opened his eyes and found himself staring at the canvas ceiling of the temporary hospital tent he had been brought to.

Everything felt calm. They must have had him on some impressive drugs. He hadn’t thought they carried that sort of thing at field hospitals.

There was a man sitting on the end of the bed, right by Tom’s feet. He was wearing fatigues and he was just sitting, still but not in a dangerous sort of way. The presence of someone else was reassuring. If he hadn’t been there then Tom might have thought...

Tom sat up.

“Hello,” he said. The man turned to him. There was a kind smile in a weary face. The same face that had told him everything was going to be fine. Tom smiled back. “Who are you?” he asked. There was still that feeling of complete ease and familiarity about the man, like he was one of Tom’s best friends.

“Call me John,” the man said.

“Right,” Tom looked around. The tent looked deserted, and there was silence all around. That was... wrong. There was never silence, not even in the middle of the night, and the hospital tent should have patients in it after an explosion like that, and nurses and doctors. Not just him and John sitting on a bed in the corner. “Where is everyone?” he asked.

“They’re fine,” John said, looking out over the expanse of emptiness.

“Then why aren’t they here?” Tom asked.

“They don’t belong here,” John said. Tom swung himself into a sitting position on the side of the bed and looked down at his legs.

“Thank God,” he said, running his hands over them. “I thought I’d lost them.” He thought about it for a moment. “They’re fine... they shouldn’t.” His head felt thick and clouded. There was something wrong here. His legs weren’t hurt. There weren’t even bandages. He wasn’t in some ridiculous hospital gown or naked, he was in his uniform. “How...?”

John’s hand reached out to his shoulder and squeezed it gently.

“We couldn’t save you,” he said. “I’m sorry.”

Tom gaped at him for a long moment. The words made sense, but his head couldn’t process them somehow.

“I’m...” he said.

“Sorry about that,” John said again. “But don’t worry. It’ll all be fine, I promise.”

“Who are you then?” Tom asked.

“I’m what comes next,” John said. There was a momentary pause while the meaning of that slowly sank into Tom’s consciousness. Then John spoke again: “look at me.” Tom didn’t know why, but he did. He looked at John, right into his eyes, which were still watching him so carefully. Then he seemed to see something deeper, something right inside them, like a light or a spark. He stared, trying to make out what it was. There was so much darkness there too, but the light was so bright, so very bright.

John Watson sighed and stood up from the bed, looking down at the dead man who lay there. Sometimes he wanted to strangle his sister.

*

John Watson was born, in an entirely normal birth, to Mr and Mrs Watson, who were as normal a couple as it is possible to be.

There were no plagues of toads. There was no thunder, it was in fact a perfectly nice day.

And John, to all intents and purposes, seemed a perfectly nice child.

But inside his head, that was where things weren’t quite so normal.

Oscar Wilde once had one of his characters say that people should know either nothing or everything. John Watson was born knowing everything and it almost drove him insane.

His first words were in ancient Hebrew and roughly translated to “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” It is probably lucky that his parents dismissed this as childish burbling.

It took him another two months to sort the languages that teemed through his small skull out and decide which one was the right one to use.

His next first word was “see” which was, intentionally, a lot less worrying.

John knew, from the first moment he looked at his mother, that she was going to die. For as long as he could remember he knew the precise moment at which her death would come. And he could remember a long, long time before that.

It was like that with everyone. He would look at them and know their lives, their thoughts their feelings and their death. He could see every good part of them and every bad part of them and he could understand.

The mortal part of him almost broke.

His parents and teachers were worried by the pictures he would draw sometimes, grand vistas of stars or huge swirls of colour, which never seemed to stay within the boundaries of the page.

“You’ve got paint all over the table,” his reception teacher complained. Looking at John’s attempt at drawing his family. John had looked up at her, always a strangely serious child, and told her that the paper was too small.

“Then make them smaller,” she suggested, kneeling down. She was upset, John could see it. He could see her life, stretching out before her and after her.

“You can’t make things smaller than they are,” he said.

“Okay.” She paused, “why don’t you tell me about what you’ve drawn then. Is this your Mummy?”

John looked down at where her finger pointed at a huge smear of red paint.

“That’s my sister,” he told her.

“Is this your Daddy?” she asked next, pointing at the huge black smear on the other side.

“That’s my brother,” he told her again.

“I didn’t know you had brothers and sisters, John.”

“I do and I don’t,” he told her with the sort of grave expression that always makes adults smile indulgently.

“They don’t have any faces,” she pointed out after a second.

“They don’t need faces,” he told her.

“Of course not.”

*

There were always two parts to John, he knew that. There was the one who went to school and went home and ate his peas like a good boy, and there was the other part, the part that was old and saw Mrs Pargeter across the road die surrounded by her cats. That John was so big that there was no beginning to him and there was no end – he stretched out forever, reaching forward and forward until the sun died and beyond that, until the last star in the universe extinguished.

That him, the one that would be there at the end of everything, smiled at Mrs Pargeter and held out his hand to her when she woke up and stepped out of her body.

“John, is it?” she said, peering down at him. “From over the road; the Watsons’ little boy. What are you doing here?”

John, little John who was not big and calm and everywhere, knew that he wasn’t there at all, he was in bed, across the street, curled into a ball. But then... he was also here, and there, and everywhere.

Other John, the John who understood how they could be in two places at once, smiled.

“It’s time to go home,” he said.

“Yes dear,” she told him. “I should think it probably is. It must be well past your bedtime. It’s past my bed time too. Shall I take you back then?” She reached out and took his hand in hers.

John felt calm spread out across every inch of him and then Mrs Pargeter was gone apart from her body. But that lump of flesh and bone wasn’t Mrs Pargeter at all, not anymore.

*

A human brain was too small to handle omniscience. It was too much, it clawed at the sides and ripped it apart. John knew that people before him, people whose lives he could remember living, had gone mad with it.

So he wasn’t surprised when he met himself in his dream. He had known it was coming.

They stood in the chamber of a pyramid. The walls were lined with hieroglyphics, and John read them as he looked around, with the same ease with which he could read the children’s books in the local library.

They told a story, the story of a man who was a god, who was betrayed and torn to pieces, only to be resurrected again.

He knew the story, in the same way he knew everything, but also on another level. It felt... personal.

“It is an aspect of your own story. Every myth of the afterlife is,” his other self said.

He couldn’t see the other part of himself, but he knew he was there. He didn’t need to see him because he was everything.

“You need to rip me up, like him,” he said slowly.

“Not quite.”

“I don’t want to be mad,” John told himself quietly. His voice echoed around the chamber.

“Don’t worry.”

There was a strange sensation then, which John couldn’t find a word for in any of the languages of the earth, not the living ones or the dead ones, and then after that, he felt...

Not empty. Emptiness would imply that there was space left. He felt whole and only whole. He looked at the hieroglyphics going round the walls and he couldn’t understand them so easily any more. The knowledge was there, but he had to reach for it, he had to want it.

“Thank you,” he said. There wasn’t a reply.

*

When John Watson was shot, he could honestly say that he didn’t want to die. There was no peaceful afterlife for him, no gateway to the other side. It was his job to guide the others through and the price for that was to experience death in all its horror and suffering, but never reach the other side.

He had died as a baby and as a child. He had died of old age, half a dozen times and he had died as a young man fighting wars that were not his to fight. And he would die in all of those ways again. He was not spared one instant of the suffering or the pain, he felt as mortals felt and he suffered as mortals suffered.

His brother had always pitied him that. His sisters were just confused.

He was the eldest and the youngest, another little paradox of his existence.

And when the bullet hit his shoulder and he felt it go deep, deep in. He prayed.

Please God, let me live.

Ironic, wasn’t it?

*

Harriet Watson did not exist. Not in any official or true capacity. If anyone had looked for records of her birth or her early life, then they would have found nothing.

The woman in white, who would become Harry Watson, turned up on John’s eighth birthday with a cake. No one questioned her presence and John beamed at her, though everyone headed almost immediately towards the buffet table.

John ignored the sudden rush for the finger sandwiches and hugged his sister round the waist.

She paused, a little taken back, then hugged him back.

“Good to see you again,” she said into his hair.

*

A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny; and see thou hurt not the oil or the wine.

Harry came to visit him in hospital. After Afghanistan (the latest Afghanistan, that was).

Harry was the sort of tiny that was called petite when people are being polite. She had looked exactly the same for the past seven thousand years and more. John knew every quirk of her eyebrow and every swish of her hair.

She too was a paradox. They all were when it came to that. She was restraint and she was indulgence. That was the problem with the drinking.

When she came to the hospital she stood in the doorway and watched him.

“There’s a ward upstairs where they keep the people with eating disorders,” she said. John nodded.

“I know.”

“I’m not going up there,” she said firmly. “Clara...”

“How is she?” John asked.

“The same, always the same. Every day it’s the same. We don’t change, John. I’m so bored.”

“You’ve been drinking again,” he said, sighing. She glared at him.

“You don’t know what it’s like!” She snapped, suddenly seeming to take up all the space in the room. “You’re always so wise, or you think you are, but really you’re just a fool!” The words were spat from her mouth like bullets. “Nothing changes for us, only for you, and you go off and get yourself shot like you don’t even care.”

“I went off and got myself shot because I care,” John said. It was impossible to try and explain it to her. There was something too human about the idea. She would never be able to unpick it. Instead, he changed the subject. “Harry, you don’t look good.”

“Liar,” she said, “I look exactly the same as when you left. You look old, little brother.”

“I’m older than you,” John pointed out, wincing as she shuffle of his shoulders moved his IV.

“Only metaphysically.” Harry wrapped a strand of hair around a finger, looking down at it thoughtfully. “I asked the others if they wanted to come and see you but they didn’t.”

“It’s fine,” John said. Harry just glared at him again.

“Nothing’s ever fine,” she said. “We make sure of that.” There was another awkward pause as she looked around the sterile white room and pretended that she needed to breathe. “I’m leaving Clara.”

“What? Why?” he pulled himself upright. “I thought...”

“I’m bored.” Harry told him with a shrug.

“You love her...”

“It’s not the same for us as it is for you. Love. It’s such a mortal thing.”

“You can love too,” John said. He had seen her with Clara, seen her happy and caring.

“What would you know about it?” she asked, bitter, tightening the hair around her finger so hard it looked painful. “You’re practically mortal.” She frowned and the sighed, coming up to take his hand. Her own was fine-boned and tiny. She never put on an ounce of weight. An unrealistic ideal of beauty, that was his sister, making people want. Everyone around her wanted something – or wanted for something – and they never quite realised the difference. “Sorry John. It’s just... I wish I knew what it was like, sometimes, to change, to grow old.”

“Bitter,” he said, thinking to himself. She nodded.

John’s other sister and their brother were completely absent – on the physical plane, anyway. They were never absent really and the hospital smell pressed his brother close in around him, like he could hear his mocking laugh.

*

The crusades had been a family get together, of a sort.

All of them crammed into one place. They had met up in one of the filthy tavern tents and John’s brother had laughed.

He hadn’t been called Sebastian back then, something a little longer and with an air of sticky ichor about it. John hadn’t been called John, either. He had been a foot soldier in King Richard’s army. It was strange, but almost every time he was born British he ended up in the Middle East. Not that it had been Britain back then, not really.

The place had been disgusting and the men had fought desperately over his older sister, one sitting on another’s chest and beating his brains into the floor.

They had looked at Harry, whose name had not been Harry, and they had drunk their fill and drunk it twice over, downing the piss poor ale in gulps.

And Sebastian had laughed, and John had thought this is life, how I hate it. But that had been the 12th century. Things had changed since then, no matter what Harry said.

They never saw their brother, for one. He had sloped off into the shadows back when the dates had changed from 1800s to 1900s. He met up with their elder sister most often though, but she never talked about it. She never talked about much. He and John coincided, sometimes, but they never spoke.

His other sister had changed too in a strange sort of way. She had used to be all about the action, getting down into it, fighting with a fierce smile on her face. She had been at John’s side throughout the years. Throughout the centuries, but recently she had become detached, aloof, clinical. She no longer had that almost savage intensity, but a silent, deadly efficiency.

And Harry had become marginalised. John knew she felt it. Shoved to third world countries and the backs of people’s minds. She wasn’t talked of, often, left out like the unwelcome tagger-on at a birthday party who no one really knew, but no one was quite brave enough to kick out. But that was not entirely true, because somewhere along the way she has also become glamorous and idealised. She was torn two ways more than any of the rest of them were. It was starting to hurt her and starting to show. When you saw her out of the corner of your eye she looked emaciated, when you saw her straight on she looked beautiful.

John didn’t believe she didn’t change, he did believe that she didn’t see it.

Of all of them John knew, he was the one that never changed. He was the same as ever. Same as last year and the same as last century. His face changed, his body aged, he had lived a hundred lives or more, but in the end, after his siblings changed and grew, he remained the same.

Always. Unchanging. Certain.

*

There was a gun in the drawer of the desk. It sat like a song in his mind, made up of the same four chords, like the bass guitar line had got stuck there. It sat and he knew every inch of it, he knew it on levels that not even the man who had created it had known it. Not even the man who had designed it. He knew its history, knew every life it had taken, knew its cold, hard purpose.

Knew that it was peace as well as war.

His eyes strayed to it every day thinking ‘start over, start again, go back to the beginning and maybe it’ll be better.’

He took out his laptop instead, stared at it. That had never existed before: new technology, making life “easier”, and a blog.

What to write… But how to write something new about a world that never changed. He sighed and closed it up again.

*
Italy 1507

Come and see


“The whore in the corner’s got syphilis,” his brother said as soon as John – not John at this point, but as good a name as any - walked in. “I’d give her a miss if I were you.” John looked at her and saw her death hanging over her like a storm cloud. She was leaning towards a young man, nervous and bright, his first time being propositioned like that and John watched his hands tighten and relax on the fabric of his breeches, unsure what to do with his hands.

“Isn’t life wonderful?” his brother said, watching as the prostitute took the young man’s hand and led him out the back door. “In all its putrescence and filth.”

“I tend to think it’s wonderful in spite of it,” John hazarded. “Why did you call me here?”

“You’ve been absent,” his brother said. “We worried.”

“Of all the things on this world that you could worry about, I am the least worth your time,” John said with a small smile. His brother snorted.

“I know, but you know how Harry is. She always wants what she can’t have.”

“And what she can have,” John added.

“Are you going to stay here, then?” Sebastian asked, looking around. “You never have any fun with it.”

“It’s not fun,” John said. “It’s work.”

“So dull, so boring, big brother. Your mortality’s showing.”

“So is your lack of soul.”

A voice called John by his human name, his Italian name. He smiled at the man but Sebastian sneered.

*

Sherlock Holmes was surrounded by death; it was a strange mixture of intoxicating and shocking. John walked into the room and he could see it, clinging to him but not touching him. He took a second to swallow down the shock. How was the man so immersed in it and yet so-

“Afghanistan or Iraq?” And then John’s mind was taken to other things.

*

John walked into the crime scene and knew everything about the woman. He already knew her better than any person she had ever known. She had not been perfect, no one was, but she was human. Then he watched Sherlock dissect her with his eyes and it was brilliant and insane. Because no human should be able to learn so much from look and touch alone. No human should be able to see that clearly.

He couldn’t help the sense of awe, because in millennia on this planet there had been nothing that surprised him, but Sherlock Holmes did it every second and he didn’t even understand what he was doing

Then he was left in the dust as Sherlock took off, making leaps that even John couldn’t follow. He didn’t know what was so important about the colour pink, and that was amazing.

His leg might not be up to the walk back, but he wasn’t worried. Patience was part of him, and he would catch up in the end, he always did.

*

And there went out another horse that was red: and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth

His sister was a surprise, in as much as anything ever was. He saw her sitting across the car and was genuinely happy to see her, glued to technology as she always was these days. She looked the same, too. Never wrinkled, never faded, always the face that launched a thousand ships.

Christopher Marlowe would never know how right he had got it.

When they reached their destination, John looked at Mycroft Holmes and understood. Through mortal eyes he looked like a well dressed, slightly creepy business man, in John’s other sight, red lightning flickered from his fingers and his umbrella became a sword, sharper than any John had ever seen. But his head was... calm, ordered, logical.

This was how his sister evolved.

*

In the beginning she had been teeth and claws, needing nothing but her hands.

Then she had worn skins, or blue war paint, daubed on in intricate whorls and patterns that meant death to anyone close enough to admire them. She had been savage and she had been beautiful.

Then, for such a very long time, she had carried a sword, a blade which never rusted, broke or blunted. She had carried it for centuries and it had been covered in so much blood that the metal had taken on a reddish tinge.

Then, when the age of swords had fallen, as all ages do, she had taken up a gun: a pistol, a rifle, a revolver. She had carried them and felt the weight of them in her hand and seen the glint of the light on the barrel, as cold as the glint of moon on snow.

These days she carried a Blackberry, and she didn’t really notice a difference.

*

Sherlock Holmes was infatuated with death. That was the fascination right there, he revelled in it, explored it and embraced it. John couldn’t help being drawn to it, tugged towards that adoration like a moth to a flame.

Ask the Greek Gods: worship is more addictive than any nectar or ambrosia.

So John followed after him and went when he called because he couldn’t imagine not doing so.

*

Read Revelation Chapter 6 and you find where they found their names, in the sketched out words of a mad man or a drunkard.

Not really though, because the only one of them called by name was John and he gave up using the appellation years, decades, lifetimes ago.

It was on Sebastian that opinion shifted. Not even his siblings knew his nature, though John sometimes thought that he might.

He called himself the conqueror, loving the taste of the words in the book. The world would call him Pestilence, but he was more than that, so much more. Plague came in many forms, and evil infected more surely than anything else, spreading as quickly as any disease.

There were those who called him anti-Christ. Sebastian laughed and John shook his head, but made no comment. None of it mattered. He would be there at Sebastian’s end as he would be there at the end of everything else.

*

In the moment he looked through the window John could see the next few minutes.

He could see Sherlock and the cabbie standing facing each other, he watched Sherlock hold the pill up to the light. He saw the man put the pill in his mouth and he saw him die.

The next soul on his list would be Sherlock Holmes.

Fate ruled all things, even him. There had been a reason he was sent into the wrong building. This was the end. He had no power to alter what was written down in books written in languages too old for even him to read.

Some things are set in stone and he has never been the executioner, just the basket below the guillotine, collecting the heads.

But he was mortal too.

And mortality had the gift of choice, free will.

So John took the shot and changed the world, just a little bit, and the world shook around him.

*

On another plane entirely, John Watson approached the soul of the cabbie. The man was looking at him curiously.

“Who are you then?”

“I’m here to take you to what happens next,” John said. He held out his hand and waited calmly.

“What?” the man stared at his hand suspiciously. “What’s the game?”

“No game. Not anymore. Now there’s just me.” John shrugged.

“But I’m dead,” the man said, his hand reaching up to his shoulder, his face looking down to where he was lying on the floor.

“Yes,” John agreed, “that’s the general idea.”

“Someone shot me.”

“That would be me,” John told him, raising his eyebrows and drawing in a breath of something that wasn’t air, not on this plane.

“But if you’re...” the cabbie looked him up and down. “What happens now?”

“Don’t worry about it,” John said.

“Is there a hell?”

“Sorry,” John smiled, a little shark like, “can’t tell you that.”

The man reached out and took his hand and John knew every inch of him, he could feel it inside him for a moment, like a bright spike of light and clarity. It almost made him sick, it almost made him sad. It almost made him feel.

*

Anthea wasn’t her real name, her real name was a lot shorter, but Anthea would do for now. They tended to pull on names as easily as they did coats, apart from John, John who was always different, whose names were given to him by mortals every lifetime.

She was unimpressed, he could tell. She was pretending he didn’t exist, which was always a fair sign of disapproval. Although right now it might just be because she didn’t want Mycroft to catch on. But it was more likely that she was angry.

She knew... She was the next oldest after all and she knew exactly what he had just done.

*

Unknown Number:
Universal balance compromised.

John Watson:
Half-Mortal.

Harriet Watson:
What did you do this time, sis?

Unknown Number:
Not me. John. He saved his newest fling.

John Watson:
He’s not a fling. And I’m half-mortal.
Mortals have free will.

Unknown Number:
That’s only incidental. You don’t.
You could have torn a hole in
the fabric of the Universe.

John Watson:
Universe still standing,
unless I’m really missing
something.

Harriet Watson:
I thought you gave up on
romance after Elizabeth died.
Spill!

John Watson:
That was four hundred years ago.
And it’s not like that.


*

Chinese food with Sherlock Holmes, after shooting a man and possibly destroying the universe.

John had never felt quite like this. It was a strange heady feeling as though anything were possible. There was a part of him (a big, world-crushing part of him) which was trying to remind him that there was more at work here than his petty little life. John ignored it.

He had seen fate and he had changed it. Across the table, Sherlock made some comment about a man’s shoes or a woman’s bag and John couldn’t help but laugh. This was what it felt like to be alive properly, he thought to himself. This was how it must feel to be human.

“So,” Sherlock said after the giggling died down. “An army doctor and a high functioning sociopath walk into a Chinese takeaway. It sounds like one of those mind-numbing jokes.”

“It sounds a little crazy,” John told him, unable to resist the pull of a grin.

“Most interesting things are,” Sherlock told him.

John couldn’t help but agree.

*

Sherlock Holmes was not meant to live.

John hadn’t been back to his home – his real home – for years. It was still there though, as unchanged as he himself. There was a room there with a book, a big book. It wasn’t the book, just a translation of it, everything that John needed to know and no more.

It wrote itself.

He opened it up, lifting the huge cover and the millions of pages as though they were nothing. And then he read.

Sherlock Holmes lifts the pill up to the light...

Then the writing became messy, writing over writing. John saw both layers as clear as day.

Sherlock Holmes dies. One line said, and over the top of it was written Sherlock Holmes lives.

His sister wasn’t going to like that.

*

John Watson:
Fabric of universe might be
slightly frayed.


*

“You’ve been pacing all evening,” Sherlock said from the sofa. He had both eyes closed. “You should take the same approach as I do with Mycroft.”

“How did you know I was thinking about…” John trailed off and shook his head. It was still bizarre and amazing that something like him, even with his mortality, could be read so easily by Sherlock. “What approach is that?”

“Ignore him and let him get on with ruining everybody else’s lives.”

“Yes well,” John drew in a sharp breath. There was no point telling Sherlock that it wasn’t quite that simple. He might be able to read John’s familial difficulties in the way his hand curled around his phone or how many paces he made before he turned around, but he couldn’t possibly understand that in this case ignoring the problem and hoping it went away would just make things worse.

He’d upset the universal balance. It was an elementary error. It was the sort of thing that was so basic that it came right along with learning how to breathe.

“Your agitation is distracting my train of thought,” Sherlock continued. “If you must obsess over your sister’s alcoholism then please take it elsewhere.”

John gaped at him for a long second. Finally Sherlock opened an eye and looked at him, his brow furrowing.

“Was that tactless?” he asked. If John had tried he could have worked out whether it was genuine innocence or cultivated sarcasm, but he couldn’t be bothered. He glared at Sherlock. “Right,” his flatmate said, closing his eyes again and nodding to himself, “tactless.”

The worst part, John thought as he stormed out of the room and up the staircase to his own bedroom, where he fully intended to pace as noisily as possible, was that he still didn’t regret it. He remembered Lestrade’s words: if we’re very lucky, then maybe one day he’ll be a good one.

Sherlock should never have got the chance, and John had given that to him. He felt worried and angry at Sherlock’s complete disregard for him, but he also felt a little proud.

He forgot to pace and sat on the edge of his bed, staring at the wall and remembering how much simpler everything was when he just didn’t care.

*

The Battle of the Somme – 1916

John is called Gregor and he is dying.

He wears the uniform of the German army proudly, or he had when he had been in the trenches that morning, walking through the inches of water on the ground and gulping down what little food they had.

He feels cold and he knows this feeling. He can feel his life slip-sliding away.

She is sitting next to him, looking as beautiful and radiant as ever. The sun is setting and she is painted red by its light.

“Time to start again,” he says. She nods, looking out over the field she has created with satisfaction. The words hurt. “I wish I...”

“What’s it like?” she asks. She doesn’t sound upset. Her brother lies next to her bleeding into the mud, not that anyone would ever be able to tell what was blood and what was mud, not anymore. He feels angry at that, so angry. She can’t possibly understand.

“It’s like hell,” he tells her.

“I’ve never been to hell,” she tells him, finally turning to look at him. She looks perplexed, not worried or sorry or even concerned, just puzzled.

“You’re sitting in it.”

Those are the last words Gregor Eichel will ever say.

His sister looks at his body, still frowning in confusion, before looking out again.

“This isn’t hell,” she says to herself, embracing the strange calm that always comes after a battle. “This is me.”

*

Somewhere out there the threads of reality were fraying and the fabric of time was ripping itself to shreds. Somewhere out there everything was crashing to the ground and beginning to spiral in on itself.

If John let himself, he could feel it, on the edge of his consciousness, like he could feel everything else – the whole of time and space. He could feel it spreading away from him and then there was… nothing.

But in Baker Street everything was strangely normal, as normal as life could be with Sherlock Holmes, that was. There was a dog skull in the kitchen sink, splatters of pig’s blood drying on an old sheet (John’s old sheet) over the fireplace, but there was breakfast (scrambled eggs, bacon and toast, John had cooked in far less hygienic kitchens than that before, after all, even in this lifetime) and there were newspapers and there was a strange companionable silence as Sherlock looked over one of the latest forensics journals and scribbled out the parts that were wrong and underlined the ones requiring further study.

“Wishful thinking,” he would mutter to himself every now and then. “Blatantly untrue.” And, when something was too bad even to merit a two word response he would just exclaim “wrong!” followed by a dramatic scribbling which threatened to tear right through the paper. John found that he was more often watching Sherlock than he was reading the paper.

He didn’t have to do it with his eyes, he could watch Sherlock without the other man knowing a thing about it, but he wanted to because, in a way that nothing else ever has been, Sherlock is his.

It was a rather worrying thought, so he looked back down at his paper again and reread the same article fifteen times, until he had it memorised, and drowned out the sound of Sherlock’s next “Wrong!” by thinking about infinity.

*

The thing about death is that people live with it constantly. Humanity, mortality, can’t put it to one side because it is always there. Death is the reason people change, the reason people fight, the reason people do. Because knowing there’s an end means that you can feel the timer ticking down.

It’s a patch of coldness right inside your soul. I’m not going to live forever. And it makes you act.

Sherlock Holmes knew death. He accepted it, he embraced it. It was probably the most terrifying thing about him. And now, he had cheated it.

Well... he had cheated fate and, if anything, that was a little worse.

*

Harriet Watson:
Hope springs eternal

Unknown Number:
No, it really doesn’t.


*

The first thing you need to understand is that John was (is/will be) everywhere, all the time: ubiquitous, omnipresent and eternal. There is nowhere on earth that can escape him. There is nowhere you can hide. He knows the answer to Schrodinger’s cat, but he won’t ever tell.

This couldn’t be true, obviously, because he had a mortal life and a mortal shape, but it’s only a paradox if you let it be a paradox. You need to know that there are two planes of existence (more than two, but that over complicates matters) there is the plane on which he is John Watson, quietly ordinary doctor and ex-army man, colleague of Sherlock Holmes, and then there is the other plane.

John Watson was standing next to Sherlock Holmes looking down at a body.

The other him was (is/will be) everywhere, of course, but he was also currently standing by Sherlock Holmes, who couldn’t see him even a little bit, and holding out his hand to a young girl who looked utterly terrified.

“He...” she said, looking at John. She couldn’t finish the sentence, but she didn’t have to.

“I know,” he told her, smiling a little sadly. “But he can’t hurt you anymore, believe me.”

“Who are you?” She asked, but she took his hand anyway. She was trembling like a leaf. “You’ve got to tell them, they have to know what he... what he did. He needs to be stopped.”

“Don’t worry,” John said, completely calm. “He will be.”

“How do you know?” she asked.

“You see the man standing next to me?” John asked. She turned a little and squinted.

“Sort of. The tall one with the dark hair.”

“He’s going to find him and he’s going to catch him.”

“How do you know?” she asked again, still staring at the strange ghost of Sherlock that existed on this plane.

“Because I know him. Look at me, Jessica.” She turned and she looked into John’s eyes.

There was a sound like a sigh and Jessica had gone.

On the mortal plane John drew in a deep breath and watched Sherlock begin to pace. His eyes followed him carefully, but he didn’t say anything.

*

Mycroft Holmes’ office was a haven of efficiency. It was all clean lines and clear surfaces.

The top of his desk was the sort of tidy that had two possible reasons for existing. The first reason was that the owner was so efficient that he never let anything stay there long enough to settle, the second, that the owner was so lazy that he never let anything get there in the first place.

People usually assume the second reason at first. The discovery of their mistake was often a terrible shock to the system.

Mycroft could even look the part of the lazy, laid back, bureaucrat, who had found his niche on the promotion ladder – just high enough to delegate, but not high enough for the big decisions. It was a role he played to perfection.

Of course, he had no idea that his assistant had an even deeper disguise.

That might all change, though, if what she thought was happening was happening – and it was, because she was never mistaken about things like this.

The first calls came in at four am. She didn’t sleep, had never seen the point when there was so much to do all the time. This was probably her favourite job of all the ones she had ever had, and she had been Queens and politicians over the years. She had married the most influential men in the world and, without a single exception, they have all died before their time.

But this was the first time that her job had been so... efficient.

Mycroft Holmes would probably die of a ripe old age in an armchair sipping at a glass of brandy. He would die with a smile on his face and the knowledge that he did what had to be done to the best of his ability. He would probably also die responsible for the deaths of hundreds of people. But he would never have even got a drop of blood on the toes of his very expensive shoes.

And she helped him with that.

It was a thing of beauty to watch.

Or it would be if she weren’t absolutely sure that it was about to end.

The first sign came from the deep south of America. People were reporting grave robberies. The strangest thing though, was that the graves seemed to be opening from the inside out.

Mycroft laughed it off as superstitious nonsense, but he was too smart not to keep an eye on it, and Anthea was too aware of the facts not to worry.

This was only the beginning. The balance was... swaying.

*

John Watson:
He caught a serial rapist today.
Tell me I shouldn’t have saved him.

Unknown Number:
You shouldn’t have saved him.

John Watson:
You could do with a little mortality
of your own.

Unknown Number:
And you need to remember the rules.


*

Anthea dreamt of blood.

She saw a world dyed red with it, soaked in it. There was a sword in her hand as she stalked the battlefield and there was the pulse of a drumbeat in her ears. Screams were like symphonies to her.

Harry dreamt of empty bottles.

She had drunk it all already and there was nothing else. She remembered deserts and pharaoh dreams; years of plenty, years of starvation. She dreamt of nothing, but she wanted everything and hunger clawed at her rib cage. She lifted one of the bottles up and drained the tiniest final drop out of it. It hung on the lip of the glass, clinging on stubbornly. It never dropped.

Sebastian, wherever he was, dreamt of darkness.

It spread out in front of him, oozing forwards, swallowing up the light. It was glorious, rich and black. There was no shine to it, no reflection, though if you looked carefully you could see every colour of the rainbow, like the iridescence on an oil spill. He walked through it, ran his fingers through it and he was it. He always woke with a smile on his face.

John dreamt of everything.

*

Sherlock Holmes had danced with death since he was old enough to understand the metaphor. There was nothing so sweet as the taste of living, and there was no better way to taste living than to see death.

He loved its mystery, its completeness.

When he was four he found a dead hedgehog in the middle of the road. The tyre tracks of the car that had squashed it were still visible on its entrails.

When he was nine he saw his first dead human.

When he was twelve he saw his first murder victim.

When he was seventeen he watched someone die for the first time.

He had built his life around those events.

John knew this. He kept it deep inside of him like a secret, because in so many, many ways. Ways which made the mortal in him so bloody terrified, Sherlock Holmes was his. He had belonged to John since he was born.

John Watson couldn’t leave if he wanted to.

It was not fun to be born as he was, to have everything inside your head. Everything is the biggest word there is, bigger than universe and eternity and infinite. Everything is everything, everything that ever was and is and ever will be; everything in this universe and the next universe and the one after that. It’s enough to drive a human mad. So he tried not to think about it. He had so many levels of thought. He didn’t let his mortal mind dip into the deeper levels, the ones that knew the end of every star. That was the only explanation he could think of for why he never saw Sherlock coming.

And now he couldn’t look away.

*

Sarah was the sort of woman John fell for in every lifetime. She was kind and no-nonsense and she reminded him of them all.

He didn’t think anyone else would appreciate the fact that she reminded him of a dozen dead women, but he did. He smiled at her and knew that this was what had been supposed to happen.

He had to feel every aspect of life to understand it properly. He had to know love, laughter and happiness to understand how it felt to have it dragged away. His wives always died young.

Sherlock shouldn’t be there. But John saved him and he was.

He felt strangely like he was living two lives and then he remembered the words written over words in the book and knew: he was.

Something had to break.

When he managed to redirect the arrow he thought, for a second, that it was over, that everything was over. But then his human brain caught up with his other brain and he knew that Sherlock Holmes’ heart was still beating. Sarah was alive too. And John was not sure whether to laugh or to cry.

*

And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour.

The whole of the city of Tokyo went silent for half an hour.

It was not the sort of thing that you could cover up, though Mycroft Holmes was putting up a very good fight.

It wasn’t just the people either, it was everything. True, pure silence. She couldn’t even imagine it. Noise was in her nature and a world without it was...

She shivered and smiled politely as Mycroft inquired as to whether the office was too cold.

“No, sir. I’m fine,” she said, before turning back to running interference.

“What could possibly have caused it?” Mycroft asked to himself as much as to anyone else. He had never expressed a lack of knowledge before. It was almost worrying. If she could feel worry.

*

Unknown Number:
Family meeting. 12 noon.
Usual place.


*

Pompeii - 79 AD

The ash cloud was growing as they walked the streets; just John and his brother – or Marcus and Titus as they were at this moment in time.

“You can taste it on the air, can’t you?” Titus, who would later call himself Sebastian, said. He smiled at some small children in the street. They were playing a hopping game. Marcus saw the past time echo through history. “It’s coming. We’re coming.”

John sighed. They were only here in their metaphysical forms. Marcus’s life did not end at this eruption. Marcus was in Rome at the moment, listening to orators in the forum. When the volcano erupted in four hours time, he would fall to his knees with the shock of it, and that night he would cry himself to sleep.

“They’re so blind to it,” Sebastian said. “So stupid. It’s going to be amazing.”

“It is what it is,” John said. His face did not even flicker with emotion. “Nothing more, nothing less.”

“They’ll call it a tragedy in years to come,” Sebastian continued.

“Words,” John said... except he wasn’t John yet, he was so far from John. At this point he just was. “Meaningless.”

*

No one had seen Sebastian in over a century.

Personally John was grateful. Thousands of years of his brother’s company were thousands of years too many. His brother didn’t just do his job, he loved it. Anthea embraced her work, she had a taste for it, but she didn’t relish it the same way Sebastian did.

Harry, well Harry was Harry and she no doubt always would be.

There were two scenes here and to understand properly you need to see both.

On the mortal plane John Watson sat down opposite Harriet Watson in a café. At a table nearby a familiar woman in a perfectly cut suit was sipping espresso and typing never-endingly onto a BlackBerry.

On the other plane, there was a table which expanded to seat anyone who needed to sit at it. At the moment it was quite small. There were four chairs pulled up to it, though they would be better referred to as thrones.

The first throne was made of bones, all bleached to a shade of white that didn’t exist in mortal minds. The woman sitting on it, if woman it was, was the definition of the word ‘want’. She had a curious androgynous beauty and she was dressed all in white, pure, brilliant white which would hurt the eyes of any human who could see it – not that any could.

To the right of her there was a throne of metal, its back was spiked, like the teeth of a saw or the points of a spear. Looking at it you could hear machines working, clanking, and at the very tips of the spikes the metal was rust brown. Just looking at it leaft a nasty taste in the mouth, metallic and dusty, like old blood.

Sitting on it, there was a woman, as beautiful as the first but in a very different way. She wore red like the colour was made for her, a femme fatale of the oldest kind. Her eyes were red too, and if you looked at them for too long they seemed to burn. Her fingernails were long and the same brilliant red shade as her dress. When you were not looking at them directly, they looked more like talons.

To the right of the metal chair, going round the table, there was a black throne. It stood empty but the chair itself had such a large presence that you couldn’t imagine it not existing. The black was true black and it seemed to suck in light. It also seemed to be coated in some form of oil, which drip – drip - dripped from the arms, making a puddle of pure darkness on the floor. It was impossible to even glance at this chair without going cold, and the ooze of the oil turned the stomach.

Completing the circle, to the right of the black throne, another chair sat. It was made of plain wood, the varnish of which seemed to have worn off with use, leaving it smooth and unmarked. It was nothing more or less than an old chair and it gave every appearance of being terribly comfortable. Looking at it would bring back memories of your favourite armchair, or your godmother’s rocking chair.

John Watson sat in it, looking no more or less remarkable than he had ever done. Except, when you looked into his eyes, you could see the universe.

In the cafe in London, Harry Watson poked her brother in the arm.

“So, tell me about your boyfriend,” she teased.

“He’s not my boyfriend.”

In the throne room, the red lady held up a hand and silence fell.

“It is not our place to change the fates of men,” she said, and in her voice there was the sound of every dying soldier’s final prayer.

“I couldn’t let him die,” John Watson said angrily.

“Our brother would say that your human side has corrupted you,” she went on.

“Well he’s a prick,” the woman in white announced. Her siblings turned to look at her. “What? Just because we’re not on the mortal plane doesn’t mean he’s not a prick.”

“Whatever your opinions of our brother, that’s not what we’re here to discuss.”

In a cafe in London, John sighed deeply and looked down into a cup of tea. He liked tea, it was soothing and brought back memories of a dozen lifetimes. Tea was uncomplicated.

“So when do I get to meet him?” Harry asked.

In the throne room there was the sound of thunder.

“You know how it works,” the lady in red said across the table, leaning forward towards her brother. “You can’t change one thing and expect everything to go on as usual. Sherlock Holmes is supposed to be dead.”

“Look, I’ll sort it out,” John said. “It’ll be fine.”

“If you don’t, I will.”

“And what will your employer think of that?” John asked.

“He will never know.”

In the cafe, the woman in the corner stood up and walked out, her eyes never leaving the screen of her BlackBerry. Harry Watson grinned a little wider than was necessary.

“Must be a really impressive person if he’s making you mess things up,” she said.

“How’s Clara?” John asked her, and that was the end of that.

*

Might need a little help.
SH

John Watson:
Where are you?


*

Sherlock ran into a man’s fists. Or rather, a man ran his fists into Sherlock, again and again and again.

They limped back to Baker Street and John was wondering what on earth he thought he was doing. He shouldn’t have stepped in, he shouldn’t have fought those men off. He should have just let Sherlock be beaten to death in that alleyway. It might not have been too late, yet.

But instead he had shouted out and then run in all guns blazing. He’d taken the two thugs down as efficiently as he could and then turned to Sherlock, who was leaning against the air and concentrating the majority of his immense brain power on the task of breathing.

He tried to tell himself that he was running on automatic. His brain had seen a fight and someone being hit and he hadn’t thought that this could be the solution to everything.

But that was a lie, it was not even a very good lie because John could think of an infinite number of things in a second, if he put his mind to it, so he had known as soon as he saw what was happening. In fact he had known as soon as he got that text from Sherlock. He could have taken his time, he could have got stuck in traffic. He could have done a million and one different things and saved the world by not arriving in the nick of time.

But he did, and now he had Sherlock Holmes’ arm draped around his shoulders and he was half carrying him, half dragging him up the stairs to their flat. He could leave him alone, lay him down on the sofa and accept Sherlock’s protests that he was fine, he didn’t need medical assistance. After all, Sherlock upset the balance and there was more than a good chance that nature would find a way to sort it out if left to her own devices.

But he didn’t do that. He didn’t let Sherlock push him away, he pulled up the man’s shirt and he checked his ribs over, he sat up half the night to make sure Sherlock didn’t stop breathing (and he almost did once, just once, but it was the longest minute of John’s life).

He needed to stop this.

But he couldn’t.

*



Part 2

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(Deleted comment)
kirihana527: lovelykirihana527 on February 9th, 2011 04:05 am (UTC)
GUH. It's like Good Omens and American Gods at the same time, and I'm loving it. *goes to read the rest*
nathcoelhonathcoelho on February 10th, 2011 03:44 am (UTC)
omg!
really great fic!!! i love how u did this prompt!
very awesome fic!
and poor John! life as death, and be immortal is sure difficult
laura_trekkie: Holmes BBClaura_trekkie on February 10th, 2011 11:14 pm (UTC)
Well, this is all terribly intriguing and interesting. I like how John is John, yet also not and how you've explained his fascination with Sherlock. Will John finally let Sherlock die somehow to reset the balance, or will the universe collapse?

Laura.
cherrybee5 on February 25th, 2011 04:53 pm (UTC)
*screams*

*flails*

This is soooo amazing!
claralamoraclaralamora on February 28th, 2011 09:28 pm (UTC)
I am in awe.
Brilliant.
Just...brilliant.

There are so many tiny little hints and mentions in this story that I can't possibly mention them all. I probably didn't notice them all either.

I keep coming back to brilliant, because I can't find a better word to describe this story.
I'm so glad there's a second part!

Laura Michellelauramichelle13 on August 2nd, 2011 06:20 pm (UTC)
Fantastic! And so original