Yes, you read that right.
Title: The Goodge Street Gambit and the Controversial Non-Holmesian Principle
Fandom: Sherlock (BBC)
Characters: Sherlock Holmes, John Watson, DI Lestrade, blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo by Sally Donovan. (No pairings)
Warnings: Large amounts of crack and silliness. Mornington Crescent (it comes with its own warning).
Disclaimer: Sherlock Holmes is by Arthur Conan Doyle and I take no credit for the characters involved. These versions of them belong to Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat. Mornington Crescent was not invented by me. Its beginnings are forever lost in the dark and backward abysm of time.
Author's Note: Written for rinyula who asked for John and Lestrade playing Mornington Crescent on this week's Make me a Monday on sherlockbbc - here. Betaed by the_gabih who is clearly one of the most wonderful people on the Internet ^_^ (Thank you so much).
You don't need to know about Mornington Crescent to read this fic, but it might help.
Summary: Lestrade and John play a game of Mornington Crescent, Sherlock tries to work out the rules.
It started with the murder, as most things did when you lived with Sherlock Holmes. It happened, of course, at a Tube Station, Goodge Street, and then it went on from there.
John and Lestrade were chatting while Sherlock got on with insulting everyone and poking lots of things that looked particularly unsanitary and Lestrade happened to mention the station name and John would never know what compelled him to say it (perhaps it was just that Sherlock had beaten him five times in a row at chess the night before, complaining how dull it was to have such an unworthy opponent) but whatever it was, he said it quite out of the blue.
“Looks like he’ll be a while, fancy a game of Mornington Crescent?” It was a ridiculous question. The man had probably never listened to I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue, not everyone was a devoted follower of Radio 4 comedy. He probably listened to Five Live... or just switched off the radio altogether.
John blinked when Lestrade grinned at him and cast a decidedly vindictive look at Sherlock’s back.
“Marble Arch rules?” he asked.
“Only if we get to use the West Kensington corollary.”
“Naturally,” they watched as Sherlock turned to them with a rather puzzled look. “Would you like to start?”
“Goodge Street,” John said with a chuckle.
“Ah... Green Park.”
“If you’re going that way, then it’s got to be Embankment,” John said. Lestrade hissed through his teeth.
“That’s not fair.”
“You’re the one who specified Marble Arch rules,” John told him. “The game’s started, can’t go back on it now.”
“Fine,” Lestrade huffed, crossing his arms, still watching the back of Sherlock’s head. The detective hadn’t moved for the last couple of seconds. “Gold Hawk Road.”
“Nice,” John nodded in approval. “I thought you’d go for the Lyttelton gambit.”
“Considered it, but then you’d reach Westminster and we all know what that means.” There was a mutter from Sherlock that might have been ‘what?’, but he was probably talking about the body.
“Clever,” John allowed. “I think I’ll take Elephant and Castle.”
“That’s a dead end,” Lestrade pointed out, “I get three moves.”
“Dammit, I thought…” John gave an exaggerated sigh. “Of course, you were at Green Park before.” He shook his head.
“Yeah, should have been paying more attention instead of admiring my strategy.”
“You lulled me into a false sense of security,” John protested, leaning against the wall with a smile. It was utterly bizarre that they were doing this in the middle of a crime scene, but then again John’s life at the moment seemed to be a series of crime scenes occasionally punctuated by sleep.
“Tell you what; just to be kind, I won’t go the obvious way. Tottenham Court Road, Borough and then on to Bethnal Green.”
“Oh well, then I suppose I’ve got to go to Edgware Road.”
“Interesting...” Lestrade mused. “Give me a second.” A young constable came along and tapped him on the arm, whispering in his ear. “I’ll be right back.”
Sherlock stood up. He looked tense and John couldn’t quite help the smirk that was stuck to his face. He turned and John schooled his face back to complete seriousness.
“What are you playing?” Sherlock asked.
“Mornington Crescent,” John replied easily.
“It’s... complicated?” Sherlock inquired.
“Not really, not if you know the rules,” John paused and looked down at the corpse. “Anything interesting?”
“Human trafficking and possible ties to the government. Wasn’t killed here though,” Sherlock said, still frowning in confusion. “You and Lestrade both know this game. I’ve never heard of it.”
“Grew up with it,” John said quite truthfully, “Harry and I used to play it on long car journeys with our parents.”
“Your sister also plays?”
“Yeah, she always used to win,” also true, but only because Harry had never had the patience. “Would you like to join in?”
“I...” Sherlock paused. “You’re in the middle of a game, I can’t disrupt, and…”
“You must have worked out the rules by now,” John said, making sure he sounded just perplexed enough that Sherlock would believe him.
“They seem a little convoluted,” Sherlock said, pursing his lips. “I may need to observe a little longer.”
John smiled and nodded.
“Piccadilly Circus,” Lestrade announced, making John jump a little. He hadn’t seen the man coming. “Have fun getting out of that one. Sherlock, want to join in?”
“I... wouldn’t want to intrude,” Sherlock said.
“You? Learning manners?” Sergeant Donovan asked, passing by. “That’s a first.”
“Okay, I see your Piccadilly Circus and I’m invoking the West Kensington Corollary.”
“Damn,” Lestrade exclaimed, “I almost had you there.”
“Sorry, but I think you’ll find I’m at Leicester Square.”
“How...” Sherlock muttered. They both turned to him. He shut up.
“Did you want to ask something?” Lestrade asked. Sherlock just shook his head.
“No, go ahead. I need to have a look at the man’s bag.” He headed over to Sally and snatched the rucksack off her a little more violently than was strictly necessary.
“Charing Cross,” Lestrade said. There was an ‘aha’ from over where Sherlock stood and they turned to see him watching them. His words were almost too quiet to hear, but John could just make out “not the map, street view then, skipping every fourth station and crossing lines but... no... “ It took a great deal of effort not to laugh.
“Euston,” John said.
“Nice...” Lestrade murmured before smirking again. “Baker Street.”
“There’s got to be some rule against using someone’s home against them,” John said.
“Only if you’re using the Lord Fanshaw rule book and everyone knows that was discredited in nineteen fifty five.”
“True... fine. I’ll just go for Victoria then.”
“You’re trying to get points by getting a full station, aren’t you?” Lestrade said with a smirk. “You know that’s no use if I get to Kentish Town first.”
John could see Sherlock mouthing the words ‘full station’ to himself before he strode towards them. He looked a little angry.
“John, if you’ve finished your little game, we’re leaving,” he said.
“Give me a second- we’re in the last few moves,” John said.
“Bond Street,” Lestrade said obligingly. “Got anything for me, Sherlock?”
“He’s got a brother, we need to find him. Older, two inches shorter though and most likely with a beard. They’re supposed to contact each other every two hours. The next contact time is coming up...”
“I don’t suppose you’re going to tell me anything more than that?”
“That’s all I know.”
“I will do another drugs bust, Sherlock.”
“And you won’t find anything,” Sherlock said. John could see this shaping up into an argument of colossal proportions so he stepped in.
“Heh...” he laughed a little. “You know what? We’re playing Marble Arch Rules.” Lestrade groaned. “That means... Mornington Crescent.”
“Should have known better than to play with a military man,” Lestrade muttered. “Fine, but next time I’ll win.”
“You’ll try,” John said with a smile.
“Fine, good,” Sherlock said, grabbing John’s arm. “Your game’s over. Let’s go.”
“What are you looking for?” Lestrade asked.
“His left shoe,” Sherlock shot back over his shoulder. Lestrade looked down at the body.
“He’s wearing his left shoe.”
“His other left shoe,” Sherlock shouted back again.
The taxi was quiet. Sherlock was staring at the back of the passenger seat with the sort of intensity he usually reserved for suspects and bodies. John was biting his lips in an attempt not to giggle.
“So,” he said when he had control of his face. “Left shoe?”
“Yes, yes... The West Kensington Corollary gives the user the chance to switch places and take one move from the opponent’s perspective, yes?”
“Not quite,” John said. Sherlock gritted his teeth in frustration.
“The rules, John,” he said. “What are the rules?”
“You haven’t worked them out yet? I would have thought they’d be obvious.”
“The strategies are bizarre. The routes and moves have no basis on a linguistic or geographic reference system. Numeric coding doesn’t help...”
“No, that only comes into the Cryer equations.” John told himself that he’d put Sherlock out of his misery in a moment, but he couldn’t quite bring himself to do it.
“Cryer equations?” Sherlock asked. He looked completely baffled.
“Famous player,” John said with a smile. “His strategy revolved around five equations that...” he was struggling desperately to keep a straight face. “Why don’t you just look up the rules?”
“I should be able to retrospectively discover the main strategies and systems of game play from the game I just witnessed,” Sherlock told him, beating one hand against the door in frustration.
“What’s this then?” the cabbie asked from the front.
“Mornington Crescent,” John replied. There was a chuckle from the driver’s seat.
“Good game that,” he said, “used to play it with my Nan.”
The look of horror and shock on Sherlock’s face was almost enough to make the next five hours, spent looking for a left shoe that John wasn’t sure existed, worthwhile.
That and the look on Sherlock’s face when John found said left shoe hanging from a drainpipe.
For those unfamiliar with this variation: Lestrade and Watson are playing by the Marble Arch Rules, which traditionally allow banking if the player before you has just spliced. Although they can be played pure, most players now only play by the Marble Arch Rules when using the West Kensington Corollary, which gives a player the opportunity to flip once in any game, thus eliminating the most common problems caused by a splice-bank-splice strategy, but then I'm sure you'd all realised that.
All common rules of shunting, lateral shifts and huffing are still in place.
Hope that clears it all up.
For all those of you who have no idea what I'm going on about and can bear being in the dark even less than Sherlock, try looking for Mornington Crescent (game) on wikipedia.