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Sherlock Fanfic: Deeper Silence - CaffieneKittySpace
('i' before 'e' if you're looking for me)
caffienekitty
caffienekitty
Sherlock Fanfic: Deeper Silence
Title: Deeper Silence
Fandom: Sherlock (BBC 2010)
Disclaimer: I did not create, nor do I own these characters or their world.
Beta/Britpick: The inimitable gayalondiel!
Word Count: 2660 words
Rating: GEN, PG-15 (Dark themes, one very rude word.)
Warnings: Discussions and depictions of a suicidal nature. Darker and angstier than my usual fare so please tread carefully. Contains spoilers for Blind Banker and possibly divisive discussion regarding a character from that episode.
Summary: Sherlock works on a crisis line for five minutes. In that time, something he never expected happens.
(A/N below cut)

A/N: Based on a prompt on the meme, title from a quote on listening skills that's otherwise irrelevant. I've tried not to treat the subject matter in this story too lightly, or too preachily. It's a bit of a 'what if' scenario; some will consider this OOC for the characters. The majority of my research are belong to Google. I haven't been this nervous to post a fic since the one with the blood-drinking. If you or anyone you know is suicidal, I don't know whether following Sherlock's example here is advisable or not, but listening and being there is always a good start.


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Deeper Silence
by CaffieneKitty
-


A crisis helpline was the likeliest place the thief would call in. All signs pointed to lapsed Catholicism in the thief, and the recent armed robbery where a bystander was injured for a pittance of a take would put enough stress on the man (or possibly a woman with a very deep voice, but more likely a man) to sink him into desperation and a need to absolve himself to an anonymous ear. A cluster of robberies in Liverpool had been linked to a series of obliquely confessional helpline calls in that region, but only months after the crimes had been committed. Those robberies had stopped, and Sherlock was sure the similarity of method in the recent crime meant it had been committed by the same thief, relocated to London.

He would have been more comfortable sending John to do this call-in centre business. Sherlock certainly had better things to do than listen to people witter on about their woes. John, on the other hand, was kind and seemed to like listening; but he wouldn't hear the things that needed to be heard from the culprit. The thief might have a need to confess, but he was clever in how he phrased things. It would take a keen and aware ear to distinguish that call from others the line was likely to receive. In any case, John had been distracted lately, up in his room more than anywhere else, or out. He had been away from the flat at the start of this case, busy at the surgery Sherlock assumed, and Sherlock hadn't seen the point in bothering him with this inconsequential matter at all. It would be resolved in a few hours.

He'd had to go to Mycroft to bend the Samaritans' admission procedures and allow Sherlock this access. There was a soporific 'refresher of protocols' -- Mycroft's manipulation of data had given him two years of a psychology degree and prior experience with one of the satellite offices in Manchester so they wouldn't run him through the entire training program -- and a supervisor assigned to shadow him for the first few hours.

And so it was that the Marshal Street office of the Samaritans helpline had a high-functioning sociopath sitting at a desk with a phone. A rotund supervisor named Marge smiled gently at him, her unnaturally red curls bouncing as she nodded encouragement and went over the danger signs and procedures. Caller ID was blocked on all lines as per the organisation's ethos of non-interference, a policy which Sherlock found frustrating, but it did add the challenge of having to deduce his quarry's whereabouts from verbal cues and background noise alone.

If his deductions were correct, the man (or deep-voiced woman) would call in the first hour. The thief would be haunting the news services for any word on the person he'd wounded. The news that the person injured in the robbery would lose two toes would reach him by quarter past three, so the call should come in at about twenty past. The sooner Sherlock could leave the better. The Mancunian accent he'd adopted to back up his false background was impeccable, but tiring.

The phone rang. Sherlock looked up to see Marge mouthing, "I'll be right here," and making receiver-lifting motions with her luridly-nailed hands.

Sherlock sighed, picked up the handset and gave the pre-approved neutral-yet-friendly greeting.

The other end of the line was quiet except for slow shuddering breaths.

Sherlock repeated the greeting. Male. Mid to late thirties, emotionally distressed, obviously. This could be my thief.

"I'm listening," said Sherlock, rounding his 'I' out so it was closer to 'Oi' and landing hard on the 't' and 'g' of 'listening'. "Tell me what's troubling you."

Marge smiled and nodded. Sherlock tried not to roll his eyes as well as his vowels.

Fabric rustled, followed by a wet sniff. Sherlock listened for background noise. A clock ticked, sound muffled; the caller was indoors, a room full of objects to absorb and dissipate sound. Not a hotel, it would be a house or a flat, the person's home. The compressor of a refrigerator purred in the spaces between quiet breaths. The caller was in a kitchen.

"Whenever you're ready to talk, go ahead. I'm not here to judge you."

The breathing huffed out in a sudden laugh. "Yeah. I suppose that's true, isn't it?"

Sherlock sat stock-still at the sound of the unanticipated familiar voice.

John?

Marge frowned, leaning forward to take the call away, but Sherlock held up a hand to ward her off. On the other end of the line, John had begun rambling. Sherlock had never heard him sound so tired and defeated.

"It's complicated. I'm- I've got this friend. I suppose everyone says that. He's not coping so well, really. He's back from war. Nightmares. Dealing with that now, not the point. Recently he's- There was this girl. She..." John's voice faltered and fell silent.

"You're calling because of a girl?" Surely things aren't that desperate with Sarah?

"No, it's- I really shouldn't be telling you anything. I know these calls are recorded. I shouldn't have called."

Sherlock spoke quickly, false accent faltering. "If you need someone to listen that badly, you most certainly should call." You should be talking to me, not some anonymous phone line. How did I not see this?

"Yeah, well. There are things I can't just talk about."

"Of course you can."

A so-familiar tired chuckle. "Not with you."

Sherlock barely stopped himself from saying "Of course with me, who else?" Revealing his identity would be a disaster at this point, even though he no longer cared about the case that had brought him here.

"Is there no part of it that you could talk about?" he asked instead. "Do you have any friends with whom you could talk?"

"There's my flatmate. But he- he doesn't want to hear about my problems. Not the listening sort."

Something in Sherlock's chest clenched. "Are you sure?"

"He's fantastic, and brilliant, and... hard to explain really, it's just... he's very busy. I wouldn't want to burden him with my problems anyway."

"If he's your friend, he would want you to talk to him. You would never be a burden." Sherlock swallowed. "He is your friend, isn't he?"

"Yes. I think. Though I corrected him a few weeks ago when he called me his friend in front of someone. Couldn't stand the look of the smug prat."

"Oh."

"My flatmate's not the smug prat, though he can be, the person he was saying I was his friend to was the smug- never mind. This is pointless. I should just go."

There, in the background, a shift of metal on metal. A cold spike pierced Sherlock; John was holding his gun.

"Sorry to have troubled you," John said.

Sherlock dropped the Manchester accent, Marge and cover story be damned. "John! Don't!"

An intake of breath came over the line. "Sh-herlock?"

"I'm coming home. Right now. Do nothing. Wait for me. Say you will."

The line was silent again but for breathing.

"Talk to me, John? Please?"

The line clicked in Sherlock's ear. John had hung up.

Sherlock swore and swirled out the door of the helpline office, snatching his coat as he passed the rack, leaving Marge distressed and confused in his wake.

-

The cab ride to Baker Street had never seemed slower, even though the cabbie could not be faulted for undue adherence to speed limits. John wasn't answering his mobile or the flat's landline. Sherlock debated calling his brother, or Lestrade, but it seemed like a betrayal of trust; not that pretending to be an anonymous call centre staffer from Manchester hadn't been. Sherlock pitched himself out of the cab at the corner of Marylebone Road and ran the remaining distance up the traffic-clogged one-way street.

When he unlocked the door, Sherlock didn't smell cordite. That was good. No guns fired recently in the flat. John might have left; he might have left after disconnecting, taken himself off to a bridge.... No. No public drama, no traumatising innocent bystanders. Not that a gunshot in the middle of the day wouldn't-

How could I not have known?

Sherlock pelted up all the stairs, pausing only on the first landing to glance into the kitchen (untouched cup of tea, blank notepad and pen) and sitting room (cleaner and tidier than it had ever been since they'd moved in) to confirm them empty before racing up to John's room.

His feet felt leaden. Each rushing step was heading into confirmation. A voice on a phone, inconsequential, ephemeral, anyone could say anything on a phone, that's why he preferred texting. Texts left a record, proof of what was and wasn't said. Heading up to John's room, Sherlock didn't want the intent of that awkward telephone conversation confirmed in any way. He wanted to delete it, wanted it to not be. But John had phoned an anonymous stranger because he wanted to not be.

Fuck bloody Hamlet, thought Sherlock, reaching the landing at the top of the stairs.

The door was open, and John was sitting on his bed, gun in his lap.

"John," Sherlock said, voice barely above a whisper.

"Not fair that." John didn't look at Sherlock but kept staring at the opposite wall. His voice was flat, humourless. "You working an anonymous suicide helpline. Deducing everyone over the phone. Hardly anonymous with you there, is it?"

Sherlock waved a hand. "It was for a case, unimportant. John..." His voice ran out like water.

"It's nothing." The barrel of the gun ticked up a fraction as John's hand tightened on the grip. "Just me being stupid again."

Sherlock stepped over the threshold into John's room, coat brushing the doorframe. "While your current intent to end your life would indeed be stupid, I'd hardly say it was nothing."

"It's all right. I'm past it now," John said, jaw clenching, staring at the blank wall opposite. "I decided not to before I even hung up. I'm fine."

"Then why do you still have your gun out?"

John looked down at the weapon in his lap. "Not done holding it quite yet."

Sherlock breathed the air in John's room, too warm in his coat. Outside, traffic rolled south along Baker Street. The ticking of the clock carried faintly up the stairwell.

"Why?" Sherlock eventually said.

"Soo Lin."

Sherlock frowned. "That was weeks ago, surely you can't still-" He stopped himself. Idiot. Idiot. Not good. Obviously he's upset about her. If nothing else Sherlock was getting better at stopping himself from speaking. "You've never said anything. Why now?"

"Sometimes it takes that long to sink in, not until it's quiet. First we were busy with the case, then there was the business of repatriating the pin.... I've been keeping track of her, though. What happened to her. She was released today to a crematorium. No family of course. Some of her mates at the Museum held a memorial..." John trailed off, and Sherlock wondered if he'd gone to that memorial, lurking on the outskirts; some sad small thing with a cluster of the woman's friends on a rainy afternoon, clinging to each other and repeating how they never really had a chance to know the dead woman.

Sherlock shook his head. "But even leaving Afghanistan aside, John, surely you've had patients die. This can't happen every time, someone would have-" noticed. Just as I noticed. If I didn't notice, me, living in the same flat as John, no one else stood a chance.

"Haven't lost anyone like that in a long while, and it wasn't as though she died of medical complications, is it?" A muscle in John's jaw jumped and the gun shifted in his lap. "It's always been a question: 'Did I do everything I could to save this person?' Soo Lin was the first 'no' I've had in a very long time. A loud, emphatic no."

"Nonsense, John. It was-"

"I didn't do all I could for her," John snapped. "I left her alone and she was murdered."

"You couldn't have known."

"I should have known. I did know. She was the assassin's next target, anything else was a distraction. I had this-" Sherlock tensed as John gripped his automatic. "But I heard the shots and ran off. I left her there, defenseless."

"When you ran after me."

"Yes."

The beginnings of a strategy hit Sherlock. "Which would make Soo Lin's death my fault."

"No!" John glared up at him.

"And if you had gone through with this, committed suicide because of your foolish need to take responsibility for every consequence, however unforeseen, of every action you take, that too would then be my fault."

John frowned and shook his head. "No, no, no. Sherlock, you can't-"

"What? I can't think like that?" Sherlock began pacing tightly in front of John. "I'm looking at the only person I've truly called a friend in years, sitting with a gun in his hand, thinking of killing himself because he was trying to help me."

"Sherlock, it's not-"

Sherlock stopped pacing, snapping his gaze toward John. "If I hadn't been on that phone today, would I have come home to find your idiot brain splattered across Mrs. Hudson's wallpaper?"

John's eyes slid closed. "Don't."

"Would I have found your gun in your cold hand, John? What should I do with that then, hm?" Sherlock stepped closer. "If I came home, found you dead, because of me? Because I didn't listen, didn't see what was happening to you? Wouldn't that make your death my fault? Shouldn't I then-"

"Don't, Sherlock. Please."

Sherlock crouched in front of John, gripping him by the elbows, trying to make John meet his eyes. "Why not? Tell me John, why not?"

"I-" John slumped, eyes opening, staring numbly down at his own knees. He drew a shuddering breath. "Because you can't take responsibility for my actions."

Sherlock settled his hand over John's, fingers wrapped loosely now around the pistol's grip.

"You didn't kill Soo Lin, John. Her brother did. She'd evaded him for days, hiding in that museum. When you left her, she could have easily hidden herself away again, kept herself safe."

"She didn't, so maybe she couldn't, maybe she was trapped..."

"There are ventilation grates all over that museum, even in the restoration rooms. If she wanted to hide away, she would have. She chose instead to help us solve the case, break the smuggling ring's code, at the cost of her life. Yet even that she could have done from hiding, if she had taken the photo and book with her. Soo Lin knew her brother was coming for her, knew what he was capable of doing, and she chose to take her stand rather than continue running."

"None of that changes that I shouldn't have left her, Sherlock. I knew he was coming for her."

"You can't change what's already happened. Nothing can."

"I know." John rubbed his free hand over his face. "I know all that, objectively, it's just, it hits me -- what I could've done, what I should've done -- and just cycles over and over in my head. It gets to be all I can think of, and I can't see what's happening until I'm clear of it." He looked down at the gun under his and Sherlock's hands and flicked the safety on. "God, I really am an idiot."

"If you ever feel like doing something like this again-"

"I won't."

"If. Talk, John. I-" For all the things he'd said moments before, motive and actions, Sherlock suddenly felt at sea. "I'm not suited for emotional support -- quite honestly, I'm rubbish -- but..."

John eased the gun out from under Sherlock's hand and put it into his bedside table drawer, then smiled and took a shaky breath. "Would I be pushing my luck if I asked for a cup of tea?"

"Perhaps," Sherlock said, smiling back. "But I'll do my best."

- - -
(that's all.)

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Current Mood: nervous nervous

72 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
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ktbean From: ktbean Date: February 1st, 2011 09:00 am (UTC) (Link)
Holy Fuck...

That was amazing. The emotions just roll off and punch you in the gut. Wow. Just wow.
caffienekitty From: caffienekitty Date: February 2nd, 2011 04:35 am (UTC) (Link)
Thanks. My stories are usually a lot lighter, so I'm glad this was effective.
blaidd_drwg From: blaidd_drwg Date: February 1st, 2011 09:37 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm in awe of your awesomeness. :-)
caffienekitty From: caffienekitty Date: February 2nd, 2011 04:35 am (UTC) (Link)
Ha. Thanks. :-)
errantcomment From: errantcomment Date: February 1st, 2011 11:53 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh. Sweetie.
...
Lovely.
Thanks.
caffienekitty From: caffienekitty Date: February 2nd, 2011 04:36 am (UTC) (Link)
Thank you.
willow_41z From: willow_41z Date: February 1st, 2011 12:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
I enjoyed reading this, a lot.
caffienekitty From: caffienekitty Date: February 2nd, 2011 04:37 am (UTC) (Link)
Thanks.
arianedevere From: arianedevere Date: February 1st, 2011 12:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
Wow. I love a missing scene at the best of times, and this was particularly staggering and believable. Great work!
caffienekitty From: caffienekitty Date: February 2nd, 2011 04:38 am (UTC) (Link)
Thank you!
rabidsamfan From: rabidsamfan Date: February 1st, 2011 01:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
Brilliant. Ouch ouch ouch, but brilliant. Oh, so very well done.
caffienekitty From: caffienekitty Date: February 2nd, 2011 04:38 am (UTC) (Link)
Thanks. :-)
morganstuart From: morganstuart Date: February 1st, 2011 02:53 pm (UTC) (Link)
Beautifully done. Just gorgeous.
caffienekitty From: caffienekitty Date: February 2nd, 2011 04:38 am (UTC) (Link)
Thanks.
ascendant_angel From: ascendant_angel Date: February 1st, 2011 03:07 pm (UTC) (Link)
That was kind of amazing.
caffienekitty From: caffienekitty Date: February 2nd, 2011 04:53 am (UTC) (Link)
Heh, thanks. :-)
embroiderama From: embroiderama Date: February 1st, 2011 03:12 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, wow. The tension here is wonderful, Sherlock's shock and John's despair so clear.
caffienekitty From: caffienekitty Date: February 2nd, 2011 04:54 am (UTC) (Link)
Thank you. This was a rough one to write.
catgirlpoison From: catgirlpoison Date: February 1st, 2011 03:14 pm (UTC) (Link)
Extremely well, and I don't believe OOC for John to feel the need to care for everyone. I always thought there should be some fall out from Soo Lin's death, however minor.
caffienekitty From: caffienekitty Date: February 2nd, 2011 04:55 am (UTC) (Link)
I don't think show!canon John would really go so far as to consider suicide, but I'm sure there was emotional fall-out off-screen.
donutsweeper From: donutsweeper Date: February 1st, 2011 04:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
oh, oh oh, this should be canon- not John and the gun, but John CARING about Soo Lin and feeling like he'd failed her.

This is brautiful
caffienekitty From: caffienekitty Date: February 2nd, 2011 04:57 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm sure he did have some kind of feeling like that, whether he shared it, bottled it up or what, it just didn't make it into a scene in the show. But that's what fanfic is for, right? ;-)
lawless523 From: lawless523 Date: February 1st, 2011 05:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
Gorgeous. I don't think it was OOC for John to regret not staying with Soo Lin, and Soo Lin's death was one of the parts of The Blind Banker that made me shake my head.
caffienekitty From: caffienekitty Date: February 2nd, 2011 04:58 am (UTC) (Link)
It was a bit of a script-says-you-die-now moment, yeah.
innie_darling From: innie_darling Date: February 1st, 2011 06:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, John.
caffienekitty From: caffienekitty Date: February 2nd, 2011 04:58 am (UTC) (Link)
He'll be okay. He's got Sherlock.
madder_badder From: madder_badder Date: February 1st, 2011 06:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
Excellent. It's a difficult topic and you've handled it really well. :D
caffienekitty From: caffienekitty Date: February 2nd, 2011 04:59 am (UTC) (Link)
Thank you. I was so worried about this fic not striking the right note.
ciaranbochna From: ciaranbochna Date: February 1st, 2011 08:11 pm (UTC) (Link)
0.0 ....*bows*
caffienekitty From: caffienekitty Date: February 2nd, 2011 04:59 am (UTC) (Link)
*blushes*
72 comments or Leave a comment
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