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"darling, you’ve left your mark" for bbakerb! (2/2)
sherlock holmes, mad bad and dangerous to know, keepers of london, sherlock and john
innie_darling wrote in sherlock_remix

They emerge near Hyde Park Corner. It’s fairly quiet now as the morning bleeds itself into early hours, a few would-be revellers stumbling from the arched entry the last vestiges of celebration, but it’s impossible to miss the bright parade of wagons off to one side on the grass.

They’re drawn into a broad circle, the middle a would-be stage. There are tents and booths too, as brightly coloured as the wagons, and there’s debris strewn about, footprints and the remnants of carnival food from the stalls. Sherlock slows the closer they get, suddenly tense.

“Come on,” he says, taking in the look of wonder on John’s face. His own expression is distinctly unimpressed as he tugs John’s hand, starts not towards the circle of wagons but darting off to the side, still in the shadows. His voice is low as he says, “This way.”

“What--” John whispers, but Sherlock just tugs harder at his arm and gives an impatient shush. They carefully avoid the circle of light, the people still packing the show away, but John can’t help but stare at the ensemble, at the colours and textures of the scene before him. A woman with dark, corkscrewed hair is leaning against one of the wagons, cigarette hanging from one side of her mouth as she talks to another performer, and there is a huge python curled lazily across her shoulders, forked tongue flicking out to taste the air every few seconds. John doesn’t want to take his eyes from them.

He has to, though, as he and Sherlock disappear behind a purple wagon placed a little further off to the side, and Sherlock comes to such an abrupt halt that John collides with him hard enough to knock air from his chest. He’s rubbing at the sore spot where Sherlock’s shoulder collided with his sternum when Sherlock opens the little wooden door--light floods out in an elongated rectangle across the grass--and pulls him in.

The inside of the wagon is as purple as the outside and draped in swathes of colourful material, and there’s a little woman sitting serenely in the middle of it all, a needle puncturing great rainbow-coloured pieces of tulle. She looks up as they enter, smiles. John’s thinks that she gives him a quick, assessing look as she does, but before he can be sure she’s already looking back at Sherlock and John doesn’t know if it even happened at all.

“You’re back a bit late, dear,” she says; then, when she sees his wrist, in a tone of unhurried,gently disapproving concern: “Oh, Sherlock, what happened?”

“Nothing,” he replies, but his shoulders have already lost some of their tension. He stands quite still as she gets up, hovers about him, and it’s entirely opposite to how he’d been with Mycroft.

“And who’s this?” she says, not looking up from Sherlock’s sling.

“This is John,” Sherlock replies, and John doesn’t want to mistake the warmth in Sherlock’s voice, the very slight tilt to his mouth when he says John’s name. “He patched me up.”

“Hello,” John says, ingrained manners kicking into gear even as he’s aware that he’s just stumbled into this caravan after a dishevelled Sherlock who is sporting one more broken bone than he must have had the last time this woman saw him.

“Hello dear,” she replies. She finally looks up at him and her face is soft and warm as she gestures to a bright, silken floor cushion. “Sit yourself down. You’ve done a wonderful job with this sling.”

“I’m a doctor,” he finds himself explaining. “Or training to be, at least.”

“Marvellous,” she murmurs, poking Sherlock gently over to the cushion. He sprawls down next to John, suddenly entirely comfortable, and the contrasts between here and in Mycroft’s company are obvious. “I’ll make some tea.”

She draws a pack of matches from somewhere, ignites a tiny hob on the side that has John drawing in a deep, apprehensive breath for the fact that they’re sitting in a wooden caravan, but Sherlock and this woman seem entirely nonplussed as she settles a little kettle over it, lets it begin to boil.

“Manners, Sherlock,” she says. The reminder is gentle, affectionate.

“Sorry,” Sherlock replies, then: “This is Mrs Hudson.”

“Nice to meet you,” John replies automatically, although it’s true. The kettle starts to whistle and as it does there's a curious scratching sound, and to John's eternal surprise a monkey appears from some nook and climbs along the shelves carved into the roof of the wagon.

“Oh, hello Terpsichore,” Sherlock says; the monkey bounces over to him and curls up on the edge of the cushion next to Sherlock’s knee, chitters when Sherlock scratches his head.

“Sherlock chose the name,” Mrs Hudson explains as the kettle's whistling crescendos. She takes it off the boil and John breathes an involuntary sigh of relief. “When he was nine.”

Sherlock goes a touch red, perhaps with embarrassment. “Herodotus,” he explains. “Book five. Mycroft had a copy.”

John’s studied Greek history of course, and the myths, courtesy of an education provided for by middle class money, and of course Sherlock was reading Herodotus at nine, but the story still makes him smile, still makes him want to edge closer on the cushion. Sherlock very deliberately nudges their knees together and stays that way, and John can feel a blush working it’s way across his face. Mrs Hudson seems oblivious, though as she settles mugs of tea next to them John is more and more convinced that’s she’s being willingly unaware.

“Careful with that arm, dear,” she says; it reminds John of the absent reminders that his mum gives him, a pattern of behaviour followed so regularly that it occurs without much thought. Sherlock shifts, sits a little more upright so that he’s in better control of his drink one-handed, and John sips at his own tea to avoid grinning. Mrs Hudson goes back to the great pile of material, which she can obviously fathom far better than John, who can barely tell what ends and begins and where. “Mycroft was looking for you,” she adds at last, and Sherlock scowls, tense. “I told him you were probably just walking back slowly.”

It’s obscenely late at this point--anyone with an ounce of respectability is probably sound asleep, and John doesn’t even want to think about what he’s going to say to Mrs Turner tomorrow--and for all that she looks entirely innocent John thinks Mrs Hudson knows exactly what they’ve been doing. She doesn’t look up from her sewing, just does quick, neat stitches and says, “I do wish the fire eaters wouldn’t singe their clothing so often.”

“We took the long way back,” Sherlock says. He sips at his tea and frowns down at Terpsichore, nudges the monkey with his knee. Terpsichore chitters and jumps onto Sherlock’s shoulder, curls around his neck. “You know what London’s like.”

Mrs Hudson hums a yes and John is once again under the impression that she’s reading through Sherlock’s words with practised ease.

“I’ve known the boys since before Mycroft was born,” she says, as if she’s read John’s mind. “Even brought this one into the world,” she adds, nodding towards Sherlock. “Quite a pair of lungs--”

“Perhaps,” Sherlock interrupts, terse, “you should tell that one another day.”

John shakes his head. “No,” and he grins. “Childhood stories, I like the sound of that.”

“Yes, well,” Sherlock replies. “If we’re going for childhood stories we might start with your--”

The door of the wagon opens, cuts across Sherlock’s voice (though John thinks he might catch words like brother and Harry) and they both flinch up towards it, to the silhouette haloed by light. At first John thinks it must be Mycroft, but the build isn’t tall enough and it’s too slim--

“Sherlock!” and John recognises Elsie’s voice; guilt washes over him at the worry in it as she leaps up into the wagon,crashes to the floor and attempts hugging Sherlock one-armed to avoid his sling. Terpsichore squawks and jumps from Sherlock’s shoulder to John’s, startles him, and clings with little claws to his jumper. “Where did you--do you have any idea--?”

“Yes, probably,” Sherlock replies, trying to push Elsie off with one arm. It sounds like he’s irritated, but the flush has returned to his cheeks, little red blotches of guilt.

Elsie stares at Sherlock for a moment like she wants to say something, caught between fury and relief, and then John has just enough time to realise that she’s wearing a man’s suit, hair pinned tightly to her head and still sporting a fake moustache, before she’s rounded on him, and this time it’s definitely fury.

You--” she begins, but Sherlock grabs her wrist and shakes his head, shushes her loudly and says please over the beginning of the tirade. “No, Sherlock,” she says, “I’ve spent hours worrying about you and now I’ve found you sipping tea in here as though you weren’t obscenely late--” and she rounds on John again, “--and you, you said you’d look after him and here we are, hours later--”

“Elsie, darling,” Mrs Hudson interjects softly, deliberately. “A little quieter, if you could? Only you know how Terpsichore doesn’t like the noise.”

Elsie still glowers at John for a moment, but she does nod and lean back a little, out of his personal space. Terpsichore cheeps as though to prove the point.

“Hours later,” Elsie continues. “And if you’re expecting this back--” and she draws his father’s watch from her jacket pocket and John’s breath catches, to see it swinging so serenely from her fingers, “--you can forget it. I should have known not to trust an outsider--” and this last word practically spat, edged in disgust.

There’s ringing silence as she finishes, broken only by the noise of Terpsichore and of the show still being packed away outside, and John can’t help but focus on the watch instead of Elsie’s face. The warmth of Sherlock close at his side is making him think of Trafalgar Square, of the walk there and back, and he doesn’t want to take those hours back and give them to Elsie even as he’s desperate to reach out and take the watch back, to grab it back.

“I--” he begins, tries to think of some explanation that won’t land Sherlock in more trouble than he’s probably already in, but Sherlock cuts across him, says, “It’s my fault.”

“Oh yes?” Elsie says, raises an eyebrow. She looks very unimpressed.

Sherlock nods. “I took him the wrong way on purpose,” and that part, at least, is true. “I told him we were down at the Southbank. I just--” and here he pauses, looks up at the roof of the wagon, the drapes of bright material, and John wonders if what comes next will be even truer. “A few hours without Mycroft,” he says finally, and Elsie visibly reacts, shoulders lowering. It’s enough to speak of layers to the conversation that John isn’t informed enough to understand, though he thinks he could guess.

“Yes,” she says finally, and her tone is so much softer. “He just worries, that’s all. And don’t think I’m letting you off the hook,” she says to John. She points, and it’s fairly menacing. “I know Sherlock’s got a way with words but there’s no excuse for letting him lead you astray. You’re the adult--” and here Sherlock tries to protest--I’m not a child!--but Elsie ignores him, “--you should have…”

She trails off, looks from him back to Sherlock. It’s an odd mixture of annoyance and affection, and Sherlock takes the interruption as an opportunity to say his piece.

“Not a child,” he repeats in a tone that heavily belays his words, and then: “It doesn’t even matter. I’m safe now, aren’t I? Always was, even.”

He looks to John, just a small flick of his gaze in his direction, but John is already remembering what Sherlock tastes like, what he sounds like when he’s kissed, and he has to cough and puts his hand over his mouth because he wants to smile, already is, even as worry and tension--for his watch, for Sherlock, for the unexpected turn his life has taken today--is thrumming through him. He thinks about I’m not entirely sure you’re right on that last point and remembers the imprint of Sherlock’s fingers wrapped around his.

“You can’t just--” Elsie begins, but defeat has entered her words before she’s even finished her sentence and she shrugs, stuck. “Oh, what’s the use,” she says gently. It reminds John of an older sister, of Harry. “You never listen anyway. Just think, next time?”

Sherlock nods. Elsie reaches out, ruffles his hair, and he jerks away quickly enough for him to hiss with pain as his wrist catches the movement. Elsie stops herself halfway between a giggle and concern, says “Careful,” in that same motherly tone that Mrs Hudson has used so freely. John has the sudden impression of Sherlock as the baby of the fair and remembers that he’s eighteen in the same breath. John’s not much older, granted, but still; he’s got a strict sense of morals and Sherlock seems to have made him throw them out of the window.

“And now, a warning,” she says. “Mycroft’s on the war path, he’s trying to make sure your mother doesn’t find out, so you might want to get rid of this one,” and a jerk of her head in John’s direction, “before he finds you.”

Sherlock scowls; for a moment John’s quite convinced that he’s not going to move but then he sighs, long and irritated, as though feeling this way about Mycroft is a common occurrence, and he nudges John up with his knee. John gets up first, holds his hand out to help Sherlock up, and they don’t let go of each other for a long second after Sherlock is already standing. Elsie glowers and John coughs, turns away, follows Sherlock to the wagon’s door.

“Thank you,” he says to Mrs Hudson. “For the tea.”

“My pleasure,” she says, and John suspects, from her smile, it probably is. Terpsichore cheeps and Elsie follows them out of the wagon; she sighs as they stop, a little conflagration on the grass, and as Mrs Hudson shuts her door the darkness rushes to fill the space where the light had been. Instead they’re edged by the leftover light of the fair, a few metres off. There’s still movement as people prepare to shut up their wagons for the rest of the night, and John is glad for the shadows, for still being a secret.

“I suppose you want this, then?” Elsie says, holding out the watch. It’s fairly grudging.

John wants to apologise--its in his nature perhaps--but he’s not sure how he’d phrase it, what he’d even be trying to say if he did, so he just nods, says thank you and (finally) takes it. The relief to have it back in his hand is almost palpable, but then he looks up to see Sherlock watching him; he’s trying not to show it but there’s that look again, unease, and the weight of the watch in John’s hand is suddenly less urgent. He wants to hold Sherlock’s hand again, to burn the feeling of their entwined fingers into his head so that he can never let it go, but Elsie is looking between the two of them and he’s conscious of the proximity of everyone else, of the fact that they are no longer alone. It had been different in Trafalgar Square, hidden in the relative darkness as the Friday night masses had swirled about beneath them, drunk and stumbling from pub to pub, but John doesn’t feel that he can pull him close when the crowd is no longer anonymous.

“I’ll need to check on that,” he says instead, points to Sherlock’s arm. “Make sure it’s alright.”

Sherlock nods. “Tomorrow?”

John can hear--wants to, hopes to--the promise in it (I need to see you again), and he [nods], quickly, enthusiastically. “Yeah. Tomorrow.”

“Good,” Sherlock [says], turns towards the light. His profile again, and John’s pulse stutters, like breathing is just that little bit harder for the surprise of beauty. “I’ll see you soon, then.”

John nods, can’t help but be enthusiastic about it, and says, “Yes.”

In the wake of their words the quiet stretches out again; Elsie clears her throat, folds her arms and says, “If you don’t hurry up we won’t have time to think of an excuse before Mycroft finds you.”

It’s an obvious prompt. Sherlock sighs, looks from Elsie and then back to John as though considering something, and then for the briefest moment Sherlock is in his personal space, uninjured arm around his shoulder to pull him close. It doesn’t last long enough for John to really register that it’s happened; Sherlock has pulled away before he can react, though he’s standing closer than before. He coughs, straightens his shoulders. “Bye, John.”

“Bye,” John replies. He half-waves as he begins to walk backwards, still watching Sherlock as he moves away and the darkness begins to steal him back. Sherlock waves too, a gentle sweep of his wrist, and John can see him smiling until the dark swallows him up completely.

John can still see the blazing lights of the fair, the illuminated circle of wagons and tents, but as he finally turns and begins to walk away they start to flicker out, one by one, until all that’s left is the glow of gaslamps as the fair begins to go to bed. He walks to the edge of the park, resisting the urge to look back, and as he goes he puts his hands in his pockets; the air is bitter without Sherlock and his hands are cold. As he does he finds first his father’s watch in one pocket and then Sherlock’s flyer, still crumpled, in the other.

When John gets home the sun has already mostly risen above London, casting everything a watery gold against the flat clouds, and he opens the front door of his lodgings with the exaggerated, slow-motion movements of someone trying hard to be quiet. It proves pointless though; Mrs Turner is in her sitting room playing solitaire, and if it wasn’t for the fact that she’s wearing a different set of clothes to yesterday John would have no idea if she’d even gone to bed.

John is not in quite the same state. Mrs Turner looks at him over the top of her glasses as he creeps into the hallway, purses her lips in disapproval, and John smiles weakly and says, “Sorry, went to stay with a friend. From university,” he adds, but it doesn’t do much to change her expression. “I’ll just--go upstairs--”

He has to try twice to unlock his door when he gets there. His hands aren’t shaking but they’re not steady either and he falls straight onto his bed, stares at the ceiling. It’s the same ceiling it was yesterday--nothing about it has changed--but now John has an all-too-nameable feeling crowding in under his ribs, making his heart beat at double-speed, and when he puts his hand in his pocket he can draw out the flyer from a fair--can look at the names and see the faces, the real ones--and the feeling intensifies until he’s grinning enough that it hurts.

John doesn’t get much sleep. It’s an unfortunate combination of adrenaline and the fact that he has to get up and go to work, and he spends the afternoon at the clinic trying valiantly not to fall asleep through boring repetitions of minor ailments. Dr. Bell asks him if he’s alright halfway through and John has to nod and say yeah, fine, just didn’t sleep too well and try not to feel too guilty.

He keeps the show flyer in the drawer of his desk, keeps taking it out in between patients to read it over until he’s quite sure he could recite the bill back to Sherlock without making a single mistake. His chest still feels like there’s something sharp lodged in it, like his lungs are at once both under and over capacity, and as the clock ticks closer to the end of the day he finds himself restless, moving to and fro with useless energy. Their last patient takes a little longer, won’t stop nattering on in worried, unbroken sentences, and John does his best to comfort him without seeming impatient, but there’s something thrumming in his head and veins that keeps distracting him.

He’s finally packing his things away more than an hour past the clock, flyer folded neatly into his pocket, when there’s a knock on the door. He’s expecting it to be Dr. Bell and he’s still shrugging on his coat as he turns.


It’s Bill Murray, a university friend who’s local and therefore still around, poking his head around the door, and John’s heart sinks immediately. Bill likes to spend his evening in London’s less-than-finest pubs, and that usually means one thing.

“Harry?” John asks. Bill nods.

“Jenkins is threatening to throw her out of the Crown again. She keeps--”

“Bill,” John interrupts. “You don’t need to exp--look, where’s Clara?” He’s met with a shake of the head. John groans and rubs at his temple. “Right, okay, can’t you…?” What he really wants to ask is can’t you take care of it?, because Harry has a habit of interrupting his life and this is really not the time, more so than usual, but the words die on his tongue. Harry’s his sister after all. Bill’s only the messenger.

The Horse and Crown isn’t that far away from the clinic but it’s in the opposite direction that he wants to walk in, and it fills him with a certain kind of horror when the bar staff greet him by name and point him towards the back without one word as to why he’s there.

He finds Harry slumped in the kitchen over a dirty table and when he pokes her she groans. She’s not enough of a mess that she can’t stand--and thank god, because it’s far too early in the evening for this to be even a little reasonable--and John pulls her arm over his shoulder and lifts her up, apologies to Mr. Jenkins and has to pay for the last five of Harry’s drinks because apparently they won’t let her have a tab any more.

“You still owe me from the last time I did this,” John mutters as Harry slumps against him, wobbles down the street with her eyes closed and still clinging on to him. “You have got to start paying me back.”

Harry’s only reply is to mutter and lean in closer to him, and John avoids the looks they get as they pass by, draped over one another.

Mrs Turner is still playing her eternal game of solitaire [hah] when John closes the front door behind him; when she looks up from her chair in the sitting room her expression turns sour as soon as she sees Harry, and John dumps his sister into a [chair in the hall].

“It’s alright,” he tells her. “She’s my sister.” And he’s lucky, really, that the family resemblance is so strong. “I’m sorry, I know we’re not allowed guests, but--” and as he gestures to Harry she groans drunkenly and slumps further against the chair, arm over her eyes. “She’s not feeling too well and I just. I can’t leave her.” That last part, at least, is true, even if sometimes he thinks she’s more trouble than she’s worth and feels bad for it.

Mrs Turner watches for a little longer, eyes narrowed and lips pursed (and from the way she’s looking between them John suspects that she’s scrutinising the family resemblance). She’d been very clear when John took the room that there was to be absolutely no scandal under her roof.

“Alright,” she says finally, though she doesn’t look happy about it. “But just for one night, and she’ll need to be gone in the morning.”

“Of course,” John replies, already [something arm shoulder thing]. “Thank you so much.”

Harry just about manages the stairs, almost falls down face first on the landing, but it’s the only major incident between the front door and John’s room. This time it only takes one attempt to unlock his door, even with Harry leaning against his side.

“Sorry Johnny,” she mumbles as he puts her down on the bed. “Bit of a night.”

John wants to say something like it always is though, isn’t it?, because as far he can tell this is starting to become a habit, but instead he just unlaces her shoes and pulls them off, takes the blanket from the back of his desk chair and drapes it over her. He turns the chair around so that it faces the bed and sits, sighs.

“Are you alright?” he asks eventually. Harry nods against the pillow and the quiet stretches, punctured in between with unspoken question. John feels like starting a fight--he’s still thrumming with energy and anticipation and for the moment it has nowhere to go, and he wants to make Harry sit up and listen because this is starting to get out of order (because he’s worried), but he just sighs and says, “this is kind of inconvenient, Harry.”

She laughs into the pillow, a snorting, drunken kind of sound, and turns her face up to look at him. Her eyes are red, a little blurred.

“What could I possibly have stopped you from doing?” she says. “You never do anything, you just sit over there working,” and this last word said with such distaste that John cant help but laugh, short and sharp and a little humourless. Besides, it’s half-true. John rubs at the back of his neck and doesn’t reply and the pause is long enough that Harry dredges up some edge of coherency, leans up on her elbows and stares at him.

“Don’t,” John says half-heartedly, but she’s already narrowing her eyes and applying drunken logic to his silence.

“Wait,” she says. “Where could you--oh,” and suddenly things that John hasn’t quite caught up to seem to fall into place and Harry grins. “You’re meeting someone!” she crows. “A real person! Oh!” and she looks overly delighted. “You’ve finally found yourself a man, haven’t you?”

Shush,” John says.

Harry’s gaze turns sour and she sits up, wobbly, tries to get up from the bed. “What, that old bag of a landlady?” she shouts, arms windmilling in anger, and John moves from his chair and crashes down next to her on the bed, “Harry, please, not so loud--”

“You should be proud!” she yells, pokes John in the chest. “Proud and out like the rest of us!”

John grabs at her shoulders in an attempt to settle her down, rubs a hand across her back the way he’d done when they were small and Harry needed calming. She makes an angry little noise and leans against him, temple to shoulder.

“Harry, it’s not--” he begins, sighs and stops, partly because he doesn’t want to tell Harry about yesterday and because this must be the tenth time they’ve started this argument. He settles instead for a get-out clause; Harry is too drunk and John is, at this particular moment, too annoyed to make this make sense. “I’m not going to broadcast my life to the whole building,” he says instead. “Especially not Mrs Turner. She’s prickly enough about guests as it is, don’t go making it worse.”

“I still think you’ve got a boyfriend,” Harry mutters.

“No boyfriend,” John says, but he thinks of Sherlock and his heart speeds up again, insistent. He can feel the ghost of Sherlock’s hand in his and he coughs, checks the clock across the wall. Later now, a good chance that he’ll miss the show, but maybe, if he hurries, and Harry can stay here to sleep off the drink while he’s gone--

“I think I’m going to be sick,” she tells him, and John just about has time to grab the bin. He holds her hair back from her face, soothes the spot between her shoulder blades, and Harry leans her cheek on the edge of bin and murmurs, “Thank you.”

“Do you think you can make it to the bathroom?” he asks, pushes a strand of her behind her ear. “It’s down the hall.”

Harry shakes her head and looks as though she might be sick again at any moment. “Not unless--not unless you want me to be sick all over the floor.”

John doesn’t have to be a doctor to know that leaving Harry in this state is probably a bad idea. He feels resentment for a moment, a hot kind of feeling that burns behind his eyes, and he thinks of Sherlock, of his voice and what he tastes like.

He sighs; as he does Harry feels for his hand, curls their fingers together and squeezes as she leans against him, and even as her hand overlays the feeling of Sherlock’s John reminds himself that this is his sister. He can’t just leave her.

“Still,” he murmurs to himself. He gently disentangles himself from Harry--”Back in a second,” he says as she murmurs a protest--and reaches for the clock on his bedside table, sets the alarm to 5.30am. Plenty of time to catch them before they leave, he tells himself. He’ll just sit up with Harry until he’s sure she won’t choke to death, and then in the morning he’ll find Sherlock and explain, see him again, kiss him again.

“See,” he murmurs. “I can multitask.”

Harry starts dry heaving into the bin and John resigns himself to a very long night.

John wakes up very slowly, like breaking the surface of water. He opens one eye blearily; the curtains are closed, dulling the sunlight, and so he opens them both, adjusting to the light. He’s on the floor and leaning against his desk, blanket draped over him, and he thinks densely that he doesn’t remember getting it from the bed, or even falling asleep--

He shoots up fast enough to hit his head against his chair and stumbles upright, blanket falling to the floor as he does.

“Shit,” he mutters to himself, grabs his alarm clock. Seven fucking thirty, and no sign of Harry except for the changes she’s left in her wake. The bin is nowhere to be seen and the bed is still mussed from where she’d collapsed onto it. Curtains closed, alarm off. John groans and grabs his shoes, pulls them on hurriedly. He’s in his clothes from the night before again and he dithers for a moment--we’re moving on, Sherlock had said, to god knows where, and who knows how much ground they were hoping to cover or how early they’d have to leave to do it--and finally he just pulls on a clean shirt and hopes that that’s enough. At the last moment he grabs the flyer and folds it back into his pocket.

“John!” he hears as he stumbles down the front steps of his lodgings, still buttoning his jacket. It’s Harry, wearing some of his clothes--a pair of his trousers, most importantly--and John can already imagine the look on Mrs Turner’s face if she catches sight of her. The street is already packed at this time of the morning and people are watching Harry with faint looks of horror on their faces. “John, where are you--?”

“Did you turn off my alarm?” he almost yells, and Harry looks so taken back that guilt blooms, curled against the rising panic.

“I thought you could do with some extra sleep,” she says, looking faintly bewildered and then increasingly pissed off. “And then I went to get something to eat that isn’t that awful stuff your landlady calls breakfast,” she says, pointing to the bag she’s also appropriated from his room. “I mean, five thirty in the morning, John? Don’t you think that’s a bit excessive? You don’t have to work that hard--”

“Not--oh, for god’s sake, it wasn’t for work, Harry!” h yells. “It was something--something important and now I’ve got to fix it--”

Harry looks stuck between crowing I knew you were hiding something and giving John as good as she’s getting. John’s knows what a pair of lungs she’s got on her from years of arguments and people are already staring.

“Sorry, sorry” he says, “just--” and he’s already walking away, calling over his shoulder as Harry’s bewildered face is swallowed up by the crowd. “I’ll see you later, I’ve got to go--”

He doesn’t run--can’t, in this crowd, and it moves around him so slowly that it feels like he’s walking through water--but he pushes himself forward as fast as he can, panic propelling him. He’s still learning London, still learning to keep a map of it inside his head, and a few times he has to run back on himself, cursing the lost time.

Hyde Park stretches out before him when he gets there, stands under the huge arches and looks across it. It looks different in the day time, now that he can see, and at first he’s not even entirely sure where the show is supposed to be. He walks on, a few stuttering steps along the path. It’s fairly busy, even this early, and there are more costermongers set up at the entrance, attempting a roaring Saturday trade. John walks on a little further, searching--and then he sees.

The patch of grass is punctured with the pattern of wheels and the hooves of horses, looping circles that head for the path, and now that he looks John can see muddy lines across the dirt where they’ve travelled on. There are still a few remnants from the show, some prints--human and animal--and a few unaccounted for bits of litter, but--it’s gone, entirely, and if you weren’t really looking John’s not sure that you’d even have known it was there.

It’s a little bit like the base dropping out of the world, and all of John’s panic turns into cold dread that threads quickly through him, weighs him down so that his shoulders drop, and he stands for a moment, unsure. Perhaps if he runs, he thinks, if he follows the tracks, perhaps he can catch up--

“Hey,” he says, jogs over the nearest costermonger. “The show that was here, the travelling show, do you know when it left?”

“It was gone before I got here, and that was at seven,” the man says, looking John up and down. “You don’t look like travelling show folk. You got a girl, I suppose?”

“Yeah,” John says, already half not listening. Disappointment is crushing his lungs, making him draw in deep breaths that aren’t really doing any good. “Yeah, you could say that.”

He feels frozen in place, numbed by the sudden certainty of having no idea what to do. It’s like Sherlock is suddenly completely lost, as far away from John as he can be because John has no idea of where to place him in his head, and the bright morning and John’s lack of sleep over the past few days makes it feel like some sort of bizarre and lengthy dream. Standing feels harder than before and he takes a deep breath, stumbles to a nearby tree and leans against the bark. From the wintery shade he watches people walk by without really seeing them, and this time when he curls his hand into his pocket he knows what he’ll find there. The feel of the paper, the creases and crumples, is oddly comforting now and he pulls it out, unfolds it.

There’s nothing to tell him where they’ll be next, no clues in the lines of the text and names, but it’s something, some solid, real reminder that Sherlock was ever here, and when John folds it back up it’s with more care and consideration than before. The disappointment is settling into something more resolute, into the familiar resolve that had made John decide I’m going to be a doctor and then, later, I’m going to be a soldier, and already that known process--not sitting idle, not letting things pass by because life is too short--is taking over, and he finds himself thinking of the best way forward.

John is not going to let this go.

And for now, dear audience, this is the end of our show. As the lights go up and the curtain falls, remember that the story of Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson is a long one, and you’ll need more than one visit to hear the telling of it--to hear the tale that we’ve told.

[Exeunt, stage left]

Don't forget to leave feedback for both authors!

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I love this so much. I love the atmosphere and the dynamic of the traveling show.

I'm already clamoring for more, it's beautiful.

I'm so glad that you enjoyed the atmosphere of the piece and the travelling show :) This is actually part of a longer story which I will eventually be posting, so there's more to come. Thank you so much!

I shall look forward to it! Where will you be posting? I don't keep up with fandom much these days.

I'll be posting over at my fic journal (lovingthevolume), but I can always come back and comment here if you want me to let you know when it's up :)

so I've read this once fast and once slowly and I am SUPER DELIGHTED, I hope you can tell this from the slightly hysterical tone of my comments - in particular the massive problems I got myself into when I tried to write this you have ELEGANTLY solved, e.g. the issue of to what extent this is an AU, to what extent it's like Victorian music hall & all that stuff. Also the fact that you've taken something that was mostly kind of vague and sketchy and fleshed it out such a great deal.


(also when I said in the comments on the previous part that I couldn't deal with it, I meant IN A GOOD WAY, worried now, hope I've cleared that up)

Okay so, yes, your remixer is me. The minute I saw this piece in your masterpost I just knew it was the right one--it's a completely amazing idea and I adored it (plus I am addicted to AUs). Re: solving The Issues, it was both a pleasure and a pain (and more answers reside in the rest of this story, which is much longer and will be posted in its entirety at some point soon). I paid as much attention as possible to all of the links and information in your author's notes too, I wanted to craft a world that fitted in with your original vision. I had So Much Fun writing this and I can't thank you enough for the fics that sparked all of this, I really, really love them. There is more to come at some point (and this time 100% typo free, I vow never to do a final read through at 3 in the morning again) so, yeah. This is a bit of a monster, really, this fic.

Thank you soooo much and I'm so, so glad you enjoyed it.

This was some pretty awesome writing, I only hope you finish the story soon as I would really like to now how it ends ;-)

Thank you so much! Yes, there is definitely more, this is actually part of a much longer story which will be posted in its entirety at some point soon. Thanks so much for reading and commenting and I'm so glad that you enjoyed it!

This is so gorgeous and vivid and I want this to become a verse, with many more stories about this Sherlock and this John.

Thank you so much. I am especially glad that you, as our frankly stupendous mod (seriously, amazing), enjoyed this. This is actually now a much longer fic (I've continued writing) and it will all be posted at some point soon. Thanks so much for reading and commenting on this, it means a lot. So glad that you enjoyed it!

Thank you! (I just friended you so that I can't miss the full version - it really is amazing work.)

This was absolutely fantastic! Is there more from this verse? I'm dying to know what happens next!

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