Alternate Posting AO3
Fandom: Sherlock (BBC)
Rating/Content: PG-13. Post-TRF Pre-3.01 and prequel. No spoilers or references past TRF.
Word Count: 2800-ish
Disclaimer: I do not own these characters or their world.
A/N: This is a few vaguely connected scenes from a post TRF story I'd started writing right after TRF aired and was hoping would merge and become something larger, but it never came together and I've run out of time. It's another "Stratagems and Interstices" story that follows in the continuity of "Thicker Than Water" sort of, but there's no need to read that first. I haven't seen the Prequel released on the 25th yet or 3.01 which I haven't got access to yet, so this is all probably AU now, but there's too much of it not to post. Also, John's theory is only partly my theory, which I've partly given elsewhere and is probably wrong. Open-Ended and muddled.
Summary: John knows Sherlock wasn't a fraud but doesn't know how to prove it.
Absence of Evidence
John knew he was making a mistake when he picked up the landline. "Hello?"
"Is this Doctor John Watson, the one who knew Sherlock Holmes?"
The voice on the phone was flat, male and American. John tensed. "Who wants to know?"
"Oh wow, it is you! Do you have any idea how many John Watsons and J. Watsons there are in your frigging country?"
John swallowed several terse responses. "Look, if you're a reporter, I'm not-"
"No, no, I'm a doctor too. Well almost. I'm working on my Doctoral thesis and I was hoping you might let me interview you as a primary source. I need at least three for my thesis and you are perfect!"
John tensed even further. "...You're doing a doctoral thesis on Sherlock?"
"No, see, I need-"
"What's this doctorate in?"
John's jaw clenched. "Right. And you want to interview me why? I'm sure you have loads of bloody raving loonies over there in America you could bother."
"I wouldn't call them that-"
"I know, neither would I normally, but you are getting on my last nerve here."
"I just want to interview you about your experiences, working with Sherlock."
John barked a bitter laugh. "Hate to break it to you, but if your focus is Sherlock's psychology, I won't be a primary source for you. I'd be secondary, and there is no way I'd talk to you about him regardless if you're going to paint him as a deranged lunatic."
"Did I say that? I didn't say that. Look man, I really would love to have you as a primary source for this thesis. I mean, you're the best example of the phenomenon since Patty Hearst!"
A cold spike shot through John and he felt his head go a bit floaty, like it did on the occasions just before he shot someone. In a calm, even voice he said, "What exactly is your thesis topic?"
"Well, you know, Stockholm Syndrome! You're practically textbook-"
John hung up rather harder than necessary. He stopped himself from flinging the telephone across the room, and instead called British Telecom and arranged for a new unlisted telephone number. Then he pulled the phone cord out of the wall and flung the telephone across the room. It clattered satisfactorily enough, but didn't dim the flare of furious pain brought to a blazing head inside him.
Another bloody idiot who thinks he knows who Sherlock- John ran the palms of his hands down his face. For the first month after Sherlock's death he'd left the landline unplugged, until the worst of the tabloids gave up trying to goad him about how Sherlock had been a psychotic criminal mastermind. Which he wasn't, no matter what he'd said.
John had theories. Of course he did. He'd kept them to himself because the media circus was bad enough without waving a red flag to it. It was bollocks though. Sitting in the flat alone while they ran Sherlock down in the media as a fraud. Even though he'd said he was a fraud himself, which was also bollocks.
There was something very not right about all this.
He hadn't contacted Mycroft since confronting him about giving his brother away to Moriarty, but all the possibilities John could think of either lead back to Mycroft or could only be investigated with Mycroft's access.
No matter how angry he was at Mycroft, or how bad the man might feel at being so instrumental in his brother's death, if there was any way he might help clear Sherlock's name of fraud and disgrace, John would utilize it. It was the least he could do.
He pulled out his mobile and dialed Mycroft's number.
A car had arrived outside his flat within minutes of placing the call and whisked him off to Mycroft's exclusive club for mimes, or whatever it was, where John was now sitting in the only room where he'd be allowed to talk. He hoped it was sound-proof because after a long while of saying nothing to Mycroft he felt like doing a lot of very loud talking.
John tried to calm himself a bit, focus on what he was here for. He had a good head of fume on and really couldn't be arsed to care what Mycroft did when he wasn't handing his brother over to his brother's worst enemy. However, Mycroft had knowledge and access. He'd be one of the only people who could follow up some of the theories John had and prove Sherlock was no fraud. Perhaps Mycroft would even have the motivation to clear his brother's name, since he'd gotten him killed. John clenched his jaw, staring at the walls of bookshelves.
He heard Mycroft enter the room and pause by the door before closing it. John didn't look up as measured steps and taps of the tip of Mycroft's umbrella passed him and circled around to the chair opposite, standing beside it. He still wore his overcoat and his loosely furled umbrella was damp. The message was clear; this was an inconvenience to him and he wasn't staying long.
Good. I'd rather not be talking to you at all, the less the better. I just want to state my case and get what help you have access to. John kept staring at the chair, jaw clenched.
After a moment, Mycroft sat. "Hello, John."
"We had that case out in Dartmoor," John said without returning the social nicety of a greeting. "You know about it, he used your ID and had you on the phone over it. There was this gas, it made us see things, hallucinate."
Mycroft kept hold of his umbrella, tip planted in the carpet between his feet. "Yes."
"Surely you must know more about it than I do. He used your ID to get in, and then it turns out one of the scientists is doing a personal mind control project with government funding?"
Mycroft grimaced. "The scientists at Baskerville are given a great deal of latitude in the avenues of research they choose to pursue."
"...You're not saying that's been retroactively approved? It was banned! Frankland was experimenting on the public! He bloody well killed-"
"I do know the facts of that case, John."
John stopped himself, put his hands up, backing down from the anger to focus on his point. "Listen. Listen. I don't care about it, all right? But it's something that exists, we were all dosed with it in Dartmoor. We know it can make a person believe things and see things that aren't real, even Sherlock."
John stood under Mycroft's profoundly neutral stare and paced around behind the chair he'd sat in, gripping the back.
"I've been thinking. Moriarty went to a lot of trouble to ensure his story about just being an actor was believable, ridiculously believable, the whole bloody country believes that oily little psychopath over Sherlock's years of proven ability." He took a breath. "What if Moriarty somehow dosed Sherlock with the gas, just before we saw him? Pretending to be an actor, all that background material, he had that ready. That Baskerville stuff, it needs fear and stimulus, the stimulus is Moriarty's load of bollocks about Rich Brook, and the fear, well the fear is Sherlock thinking he's a fraud."
Mycroft raised an eyebrow and smiled microscopically.
"If Moriarty dosed Sherlock with that gas from Baskerville, made him suggestible, loaded him down with garbage and lies and made him kill himself, the authorities need to know because Moriarty's gang is still out there, unchecked and carrying on without him."
Mycroft placed both hands on the handle of his umbrella. "And how is your therapist, John? More perspicacious than before, I would hope. You may want to mention these paranoid delusions you're experiencing."
"I'm not mad! Angry, yes. Fear and stimulus. Nothing scares your brother more than self-doubt, Mycroft. I've seen it."
Both Mycroft's eyebrows rose briefly before a sober expression masked his face. "Scared, I think you mean. Past-tense. My brother is dead."
Nausea twisted in John's stomach. "Please. Just, find out, alright? There must have been blood tests done, given his drug history."
Mycroft sniffed. "I deemed it unnecessary under the circumstances."
"Deemed it-!" A surge of anger pulsed through John, blood throbbing at his temples. "Right. Fine. Dig him up. Run tests. If he had it in him, he certainly didn't get a chance to excrete it."
"I think my brother suffered enough depredation in life, don't you Doctor Watson?" Mycroft rested his hands calmly on the handle of his umbrella. "There is no need-"
"Yes there bloody well is need!" John shouted. "You gave Moriarty everything he needed to do this! You owe this, at least this to Sherlock. Clear him. Clear his name, even if it's too late. Prove he wasn't a fraud. He deserves that, at least that, after what you did."
"Do you think I enjoy being fooled, Doctor Watson?" Mycroft's voice was flat, dull. Lifeless.
"I'm sorry, what?"
"Sherlock was always a troubled boy, but I didn't see..." Mycroft trailed off, mouth tightening, eyes shifting away and down.
"Oh no." John shook his head. "No, no, no. You of all people know Sherlock isn't a fraud! You grew up with him! You bloody tortured Moriarty! "
"We do not torture citizens of the Commonwealth, John."
John waved a hand dismissively. "Whatever you want to call it. You had Moriarty, you interrogated him, and you let him go."
"I questioned an actor. An astoundingly good actor evidently, one who my brother killed before killing himself."
"You can't possibly think-" John's leg weakened under him and he gripped the chair back until it creaked. "You can't. No. That's not what happened. It can't be. Sherlock is-"
"Was," Mycroft corrected.
John's vision flashed red. "Sherlock is not a fraud!"
"I'm sorry, Doctor Watson. He was very convincing."
"Convincing? And this Rich Brook fellow was so convincing at being Moriarty under interrogation you're telling me you actually believe that man was an out-of-work actor?" John snorted bitterly. "If he's that bloody talented he'd never be off the screens! Where's his fucking BAFTA?"
"John," Mycroft said quietly, still not meeting John's eyes. "I do not need to justify any actions I have taken to you."
"Oh, I really think you do," John seethed. "Since it's too late to justify them to Sherlock."
Mycroft's hand tightened, white-knuckled on the umbrella handle. "You have lost your friend, but I have lost my brother and I will thank you to respect that."
"As soon as you respect his memory and prove he's not a fraud. Make amends for how you betrayed him to Moriarty."
Mycroft stood and turned away, umbrella tip pushing deep into the carpet. "Good day, Doctor Watson. You will be shown out."
He wasn't sure where he went after leaving Mycroft's Mime Club. He'd walked straight past the black car and out into the city, just walking. But now he'd come here.
John stood on the roof of Bart's, looking at the section of wall Sherlock had jumped from.
He lied. He said he was a fraud, he lied about everything I know for a fact to be true about him. And then he jumped.
He looked at his own feet, less than eighteen inches away from where Sherlock's had last been.
"I have an urgent and special request of you, Dr. Hooper."
"Is it about... the thing?" Molly asked the now-familiar voice on the phone.
"John Watson is on the roof."
Molly gaped. "Oh, god, I, I-"
"Go up and let him know that he isn't alone?" Mycroft's voice was uncharacteristically pained.
"You, do you want me to tell hi-"
"No. Absolutely not."
"But I can't go talk to him, I'll give away-"
"You are very bright Molly. I'm sure you'll think of something."
The line disconnected. Sherlock's brother was just like him.
She headed quickly for the roof.
Molly's heart lurched as she pushed the door open. John wasn't on the ledge, but still too close.
"Hi! Um, John?"
John half-turned. "What? Molly? What are you doing up here?"
"I just..." Molly floundered before deciding to use something true, even if it wasn't the truth of the moment. "I come up here sometimes. Um. It's silly, but sometimes I bring a coffee. For him. It's-"
"No, no, I understand."
"Don't usually see you up here though," Molly tried to smile, but felt ill. "Is, um. Everything all right?"
John exhaled. "Right as it can be, under the circumstances I suppose."
"It's just, when I came out I- it's just- You-"
"You thought I was gonna jump too?"
Molly swallowed. "Yes. A bit."
"I wouldn't." John's eyes were like flint. "Not like that. I'm not that cruel."
A pang of pure guilt went through Molly at the broken tone to John's voice.
"Just trying to get my head around it." John squinted into the light breeze on the roof, mouth compressing for a moment into something a person who didn't know him might mistake as a smile. "He lied. He stood up here and told me nothing but lies. About how he was a fraud. And then he made me-" John closed his eyes and turned his head away. "Christ."
"That was horrid of him," Molly said, quietly, sincerely. "Making you watch."
John shook his head, wordless, looking out from the rooftop. "I suppose I thought if I stood where he stood, something about what he did might make sense."
Molly stood next to John and looked down. She saw the building between where John had stood and where Sherlock had fallen, blocking the line of sight. She opened her mouth to comment, but snapped it shut. Sherlock's instructions echoed in her head. "You can't let him suspect. You have to dissuade him, for my safety and his."
John rounded on her suddenly. "You are certain it was him though, the body? One hundred percent certain? Because everyone was certain about Irene and look how that turned out."
"John!" Molly took a step back from the intensity. "I- I- He-" Her hands shook badly and she clasped them together to stop them and back away from the need to tell John the truth.
"Oh, God. Of course you are. I'm sorry. I'm sorry, Molly. It's-" John rubbed a hand down his face, "I should go."
"No, it's fine. I mean. Well, maybe we should get down off the roof, but I don't-"
"It's like hope, you know?" John looked back toward the edge of the roof. "That it wasn't him. That he might still be alive. It's the worst part, that bloody hope."
Molly swallowed hard and kept her hands clasped together.
"I mean, I know he's- Even though I get these feelings like he's still- But everyone does, don't they?" That not-smile again, bitter. "The person is gone but still there, somehow, watching. Like if you open the right door fast enough, you'll catch them there lurking and everything will be fine. Everyone who's ever lost someone they care for feels that way."
"Yes." Molly answered, glad of a question she could answer, even if it wasn't a question.
"There were things I wanted to say, things I wanted to tell-" He bared his teeth, a non-grin. "But you don't, do you, with him? He's there all cheekbones and disdain and you can't just burst out with heartfelt accolades when you hand him a tea or you're picking his severed feet out of the crisper. It's sentiment, it just confuses him or makes him all sarky and- I just. I can't help but wonder, if I'd said them, the things I wanted to say, the things I wanted him to hear," John's voice went croaky, "I can't help but wonder if he still would have done this."
Molly's mouth dropped open. "Oh, God, John, no, you can't think-"
"Christ." John wiped at his face. "Sorry. Never mind me. I'm sorry, Molly. I shouldn't have dumped on you like that, that's what I've got a therapist for, right?" He smiled wanly, his complicated smile with the crease of a frown, looking at Molly. "Hey. Um. How are you doing?"
"I- well-" Molly was finding it hard to breathe under John's concerned gaze. "I wasn't as close to him as- but I-" She glanced over at the ledge again, wishing so hard she could just tell John that Sherlock was alive, and that he'd had a reason for doing what he'd done, and that unless things went horribly wrong while he was away, Sherlock would be back.
Molly wrapped her arms around herself, and squeaked uselessly, "I bring him coffee." She then broke down in tears of sheer frustration at not being allowed to alleviate John's pain.
"Molly." John's arms wrapped around her, holding her close in a gentle hug. She felt so much worse.
"Come on, let's go get a tea or something. My treat."
Molly nodded hopelessly and left Bart's roof with John, heading back down the staircase.
(that's all, and once I've done posting and linking this I'm off the Internet until I've seen 3.01, laters!)