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30_losses

I Shall Not Be Thy Refuge Once More, chapter 5/12

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Saturday, November 24th, 2012 | 2:25 pm
mood: accomplishedaccomplished
music: "Prithee" -- the Monkees
posted by: rose_of_pollux in 30_losses

Title: I Shall Not Be Thy Refuge Once More, chapter 5: Thus Would it Be
Author/Artist: Crystal Rose of Pollux (rose_of_pollux)
Rating: PG13
Fandom: Sherlock
Claim: Sherlock Holmes and John Watson (friendship)
Theme: 28B; Suspicion
Genre/s: Drama/Friendship
Warnings: Some violence
Words: ~2700
Summary: Sherlock and John are on the case again, but things are not 100% okay
Disclaimer/Claimer: The characters are not mine (except for the OCs) and the story is
A/N: crossposted to FFN


Notes: if anything seems like a reference to the original ACD canon, it probably is.

*************************************


Despite the doubts that lingered in both the minds of Sherlock and John, there was no denying that, as they walked side by side, it was just like old times… Well, except for the fact that Sherlock had gone from a brunet to a redhead. And John couldn’t help but stare at Sherlock’s new look, much to the detective’s chagrin.

“Will you stop doing that? You’re being conspicuous, John.”

“I’m sorry, but… Your hair… it’s…”

“Look, it was either this, or going as a woman. If you honestly expected me to—”

“No, no, no,” John said, hastily. “This… this is better. Definitely better.”

“Of course it is,” Sherlock said, with such conviction that even John could deduce that he was speaking from experience.

The doctor snarked out loud despite himself.

“There’s a story behind the way you made that statement, and I want to know what it is,” he stated.

“Someday, John. Someday,” Sherlock said, unable to resist a smirk of his own. “But, first things first. And remember, when we’re out here, I am Erik Sigerson, your old army buddy.”

“Right.”

“You haven’t seen me in a long time—”

“No need to pretend as far as that’s concerned…” John muttered.

“—And you’ve generously agreed to put me up for the night as you won’t stand for allowing me to stay in some seedy motel.”

“Right, I…” John trailed off, realizing what he had just said. “What!? I don’t have the space to accommodate you! You’ve seen the flat—how tiny it is…”

“I can manage,” Sherlock said, waving a hand in dismissal. “The couch will be more than adequate.”

“Maybe, but what will you do when my girlfriend gets there tonight?”

“Oh, there’s an easy solution for that; just break the date,” Sherlock replied. “You can do that, can’t you?”

“Not really,” John said. “She could be called back to San Francisco any day now; all it takes is a call from her board of directors, and she has to leave. I can’t miss a date with her, knowing that.”

Sherlock looked to John, hoping that his face wasn’t betraying how it did hurt that John was choosing someone else’s company over his own after he had—for all practical purposes—come back from the dead.

“I see,” he said, at last, which prompted John to sigh.

“Well, I suppose you could stay as long as you stay out of the way when she gets there,” he relented. “I wouldn’t want to lose you again… I mean, well… It’s not safe for you to be in some motel if Moriarty’s network is assembling here in London as you say…”

“Ah, John. There are times when I’m grateful that you’ve got such a soft heart.”

“I’ve also got a fist of iron, and I will use it if I find you getting in the way.”

“When have I ever gotten in the way of one of your dates?”

“When haven’t you?”

Sherlock scoffed in reply.

“Forget that, then. I just don’t see why you would need to entertain this woman at all when I have this case all ready for you.”

John facepalmed.

“You really haven’t changed a bit, have you? You still think that the world revolves around you and your little whims and fancies. You said yourself back there that you knew I was standing on principle—that Aranea was there for me when you weren’t. And that’s true. And, in my defense, you left my life in a way that I was expected to believe that you were never coming back.”

“So you had me replaced. I see.”

No. I’m not like you,” John said. “Most people aren’t. They don’t ‘delete’ things from their ‘mind palaces,’ and they certainly don’t ‘delete’ people once they’ve gone. You’d have still been in my mind.”

Sherlock’s mouth was thin, not because he was upset at John making a new life without him, but because he was shocked that John could think that Sherlock would ever “delete” John from his mind palace, no matter what the circumstances. Had Sherlock really come across as that heartless?

He pushed this thought aside, knowing that he had no right to blame John at all. He had hurt him severely by what he had done—not just the fall, but things before that. If John was distancing himself to prevent any further heartache, then Sherlock probably had no right to try to tear down the wall that John had built.

“I understand,” the detective said, softly. “I have given you more than enough trouble, and I realize I should be grateful that you are accompanying me now.”

John’s eyebrows arched at how genuinely forlorn Sherlock sounded, but before he could make a comment on it, Sherlock had signaled for him to stop outside the front of a familiar building.

“This is Angelo’s restaurant,” John realized.

“Of course it is. It’s an excellent place for surveillance, as I’m sure you remember from ‘A Study in Pink.’” He had used John’s case title on purpose.

“Yes, but isn’t there a chance that Angelo could recognize you?” John asked, as they headed inside.

“Oh, he knows it’s me. I was dependent on him for food and shelter a few days after the fall.”

“He knew!?” John exclaimed. “I didn’t know, but he did!?”

“I had no choice, John; I thought I covered that!” Sherlock replied. “And the only reason I told him was so that I’d have some amount of nourishment and a warm kitchen floor to sleep on!”

In spite of himself, John’s expression softened as he felt pity for his friend.

“You slept on the kitchen floor?”

“Just for the first few nights,” Sherlock said. In truth, the kitchen floor had actually been one of the more comfortable places he had been able to rest his head since the fall, but he didn’t want to have to divulge that fact to John and have him worry and fret needlessly. And John seemed to be doing so already.

“Where else did you—?”

“There’ll be time to talk about that later,” Sherlock said, as they took the table by the window.

John had to admit to himself that it was eerie, sitting in the same seat they had sat in during their first case together. But, here they were again, sitting together after John had been certain they’d never get another chance to. It really did feel like a whole new beginning—and, hopefully, it was going to be the start of something good.

Angelo soon came by; he clearly recognized Sherlock, but did not betray his presence, greeting the both of them with a smile.

“We’ll start with a glass of wine for each of us,” Sherlock sad.

“Ah, actually… no wine for me please,” John said. “Just water will be fine.”

Sherlock blinked as Angelo nodded and went to get the drinks.

“You’ve always enjoyed a glass of wine,” Sherlock said. “You’re not going to work today; you don’t have to—”

“It’s not that,” John said, as the drinks arrived. “It’s… kind of embarrassing, actually, but I haven’t been able to hold my wine lately.”

“What do you mean?”

“Aranea—I told you she was from San Francisco, right? She’s got a friend in Wine Country, so she’s somewhat of a wine connoisseur herself. Every night we’re together, she brings me a new wine to taste.”

“And?”

“And nothing. Wine just makes me really sleepy now—even just one glass. You deduced what happened last night; I fell asleep in the middle of Casablanca. And you just shut up before you say anything about alcoholism running in families,” he added, seeing Sherlock ready to open his mouth.

“No, I know you wouldn’t overindulge in drink, especially not with your sister—”

“Can we change the subject?”

“The bar isn’t your refuge. For you, it’s the racetrack and the casino.”

John froze, sputtering as he drank his water.

“Oh, come on,” Sherlock said. “Did you really think you could hide it from me, of all people?”

“How long have you known?”

“Since the day after you moved into 221B,” the detective replied, calmly drinking his wine. “In several of your boxes, you had old lottery tickets and lists of betting pools—with names circled. A child could have deduced it, John.”

“You never said anything…”

“I didn’t think it was my place, and, besides, you weren’t a chronic gambler—at least, not at the time. Since we parted ways, I will be willing to bet that your bets have increased—an underlying reason why you didn’t want to accept my money from Mycroft.”

“Can we change the subject again? This wasn’t what I…” John trailed off as Sherlock’s hand unconsciously traveled to his arm. The doctor looked up at the detective, his eyebrows arched.

Sherlock understood and rolled his sleeve up to show a pair of nicotine patches on his arm. John sighed, but he had to admit that he was grateful that it was just patches, as opposed to puncture marks.

“You’re not the only one who’s suffered a lack of self-discipline since we parted ways,” Sherlock said, quietly.

John took another drink of water before speaking again.

“Well,” he said. “Where does that leave us now?”

“Right here, waiting for the game,” Sherlock said. “Our weaknesses can wait to be dealt with.”

Angelo soon returned to take their order. Sherlock wasn’t hungry enough to order anything; John had had to coax him earlier just to eat something from the breakfast that Molly had left for them. But John was still going through the menu and making his selections just as Sherlock’s shoulders went rigid as he continued to glance out the window.

“What is it?” John asked.

“One of the network,” Sherlock said. “John, put that order on hold; we’ve got work to do.”

He got up, quickly paying Angelo for the drinks before heading out the door with John by his side. Silently, he indicated a man in a dark coat.

“Is that Moran?” John whispered.

“No, but it’s someone whom I know is in touch with him,” Sherlock replied. “They call him Parker, and with any luck, he’ll lead us right to Moran if and when he arrives in London. There’s also a chance that Moran will be here already; if we get as close as I think we’ll be getting, I’ll need you to call Lestrade . I’m going to assume that you are still on speaking terms with Lestrade, seeing as though Molly told me that you’ve been helping him out with cases on occasion.”

“Yeah, but he’s pretty much the only one I’m still in touch with,” John admitted. “Nobody else wants to talk to me, and the feeling is mutual. And Donovan and Anderson have been avoiding me on purpose.”

“How fortunate.”

They fell silent after that, not wanting to draw Parker’s attention as they pursued him. Sherlock sometimes deviated from the direct path, taking side streets and alleys to keep up with him without making it obvious. More than once, John saw members of his Homeless Network along the way, giving nods of confirmation as Sherlock silently asked them with just a glance as to whether or not Parker had just come through.

It was then that John realized that Sherlock must have had the Homeless Network watching over him, as well; every day, on his way to work, he came across familiar faces on the street, but had never given much thought to them.

He exhaled quietly, realizing that he hadn’t given his friend enough credit. If his story about Moriarty threatening to kill if Sherlock hadn’t jumped was true (and John had no reason not to believe him at the moment), and he truly had been spending the following months sleeping on kitchen floors and who-knew-where-else, Sherlock had certainly suffered much just to keep him safe.

And now John began to regret his harsh words from earlier when he had accused Sherlock of playing games. This had been no game; this had been a life-or-death struggle the detective had gone through just for John’s sake.

The apology forming in John’s throat had to be put on hold as Sherlock raised a hand for him to stop in his tracks. Parker had stopped outside a book shop about a yard away from them.

“Well, if that’s where this Moran fellow is hiding, I think it’s safe to assume that he apparently likes to be well-read…” John mused.

“Moran was second in command in addition to being Moriarty’s prized sniper,” Sherlock explained. “Now that he’s taken the top position vacated by Moriarty at the center of his spider web, it’s safe to assume that he’s adopted Moriarty’s methods of trying to stay out of the direct action as much as possible. It’s highly likely that Parker uses that book shop as a place to drop off messages that he doesn’t want to risk being overheard by a phone tap—probably using a book-based messaging system very similar to the one from our Blind Banker case. Moran, like Moriarty, has eyes and ears everywhere; he’ll know how to get the message if Parker leaves one here.”

“Then we ought to see where and how he leaves the message,” John finished. “We can decipher it and break their whole coding system, just like we did with the Chinese number system.”

“Exactly. But there’s a very good chance that the whole shop may be a front for the ring, so we have to be very careful. Now, stay here and be absolutely inconspicuous; I’ll let you know when it’s safe to follow.”

Slowly, he edged his way to the door as Parker entered the shop, a string of bells attached to the door jingling as it swung open and shut. As Sherlock looked through the glass paneling in the door, he could see Parker head straight for the back of the shop, where the shelves of nonfiction books were located.

“Now,” Sherlock said, turning back to John. “You can…”

The detective trailed off, his blood going cold. John’s eyes were affixed with the same cold, murderous expression that had been in them during their first failed reunion early in the morning. And both of the doctor’s darkened eyes were directed right at the detective; their intent was unmistakable.

It was broad daylight. John was wide-awake. And Sherlock was wide-awake, as well; neither of them was dreaming this.

The fact of the matter was that Sherlock had only turned his back on John for a moment, and this had happened; this look of deep-seeded hatred was real, no matter how much Sherlock had been wanting to convince himself that it had all been a terrible mistake… that he had somehow been mistaken about the person he thought had been his dearest—and only—true friend.

John took a step towards him, his eyes piercing into the detective’s psyche with a hurt that felt like nothing Sherlock had ever felt before as he realized that the pain of this betrayal was all too real. Sherlock scrambled backwards to get away, now fearful for his life, for John didn’t even seem to care about the crowd milling past them on the sidewalk.

But as Sherlock tried to back away, a patron of the book shop suddenly opened the door upon her exiting it, knocking him off of his feet as it slammed into his back, the little bells ringing in his ears as he fell to the pavement.

Sherlock cringed, now scrambling to cover his head and the back of his neck to prepare for the imminent attack…

“Sherlock?”

The detective whipped his head up to look at the doctor. John was standing over him now, but the murderous expression in his eyes was gone, replaced with genuine concern and confusion.

“Are you okay? What did you see in there?”

Disbelief was written all over the detective’s pale face. He had not imagined that… not a second time… and yet, how could John stand there, acting as though absolutely nothing had happened?

John tore his eyes away from Sherlock to look through the glass.

“Well, there’s nothing there now,” he said. “I don’t even see Parker. What happened?”

Sherlock didn’t respond, his brilliant mind now completely reeling. With that look appearing on John’s face for the second time in less than 12 hours, there was only one answer to the doctor’s question—an answer Sherlock couldn’t bear to accept: that there was a part of the doctor’s mind that now hated him to the point of wanting him dead, and it was getting stronger all the time.

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