Fandom: Sherlock/Life on Mars (incorporating aspects of Ashes to Ashes)
Word Count: 2,650 words.
Notes: Sherlock/John overtones, Sam/Gene overtones. About as slashy as both shows, so, pretty slashy, actually. Technically, gen.
Summary: “So, you think the bus driver’s a serial killer?” John asked.
Sherlock sighed. “No, John, not everyone involved in transportation becomes a murderer, no matter how tempting it must be.”
Sherlock was examining a variety of case files splayed out on Sam’s desk, Gene sitting beside him giving him inside knowledge on the people involved. Gene was gruff and no-nonsense, correcting Sherlock’s assumptions where he saw fit. Sherlock, for his part, was taking this in his stride, which surprised John somewhat. He wasn’t used to Sherlock tolerating scrutiny when he wasn’t exhibiting for an audience. Wasn’t used to Sherlock taking kindly to being told he was wrong.
“You’ve not spoken to Cullinan, so how could you possibly know he’s having an affair with his secretary?”
“His shoes. How have you heard of me?”
It was the fourth time Sherlock had asked. He was nothing if not persistent. Gene gave a different obvious lie of an answer every time.
“Saw your number in the gents. You are a naughty boy. Call Sherlock for a cock rock, 496 0469. Tut, tut.”
Sherlock occasionally asked for a second opinion from John, before dismissing it out of hand, and he pressed his fingers to his head as if it might help him memorise text and images --- maybe it did, John didn’t know. Sherlock’s and Gene’s absorption gave John time to talk to Sam, a luxury of which he made full use as they stood with two mugs of coffee.
“Worked here long?”
“About five months, give or take an eternity.”
“Where were you before?”
Sam hesitated --- not for long, but noticeably. “Hyde. It was very different from this.”
John nodded. “Do you like working with Gene? Is Sherlock right, are you good friends? You’re not all that similar.”
Sam raised an eyebrow. “Depends how you define good friends.”
“I don’t mean like that.”
“Then, yeah, I guess we are. Which is not to say I don’t wanna punch him frequently, nor to say I don’t do so. But he’s not quite the brain-dead ogre he sometimes pretends to be.”
At that point, Gene called Sherlock a “prissy-panted-pillock” and received “at least I’m not an obtuse troglodyte” in response. John was a little worried by the gleam in Sherlock’s eyes.
“I’d noticed that. Look, I couldn’t get some advice, could I? It looks very much like Sherlock intends to stay and we don’t have a lot of money. We could use a place. I don’t know of any in Manchester.” As far as John could make out, they didn’t have any money, but he hoped he could volunteer his services in medical care, or Sherlock’s in miscellaneous mystery solving.
“How much is not a lot?” Sam asked, and John belatedly realised he must be a capable detective in his own right.
He cleared his throat, looked at the floor. “None.”
“I’d let you stay at mine, but it’s not actually fit for one human occupant, let alone three. Gene would probably let you kip at his if you promised to solve these cases. They’ve been driving him mental, ever since I pointed out to him that they’re linked. What made you come to a different city with no cash anyway?”
“We had cash. It disappeared.”
“Your friend does seem high-maintenance.”
“He does, doesn’t he?” John mused, choosing not to say that most of the time, he wasn’t that bad, and his moments of genius more than made up for when he was, “you haven’t heard of him, then? Sherlock.”
Sam drained his mug of coffee, placing it on the table behind him. “I’ve heard of the character, obviously.”
“Yeah, you know, ‘elementary, my dear Watson.’”
John frowned. “If you say so.”
“Oi, stop your chinwagging and make yourselves useful,” Gene suddenly bellowed, gesturing them over.
“Pockets,” Sherlock stated authoritatively.
“Pockets?” Sam asked.
“That’s your link between the victims. The contents of their pockets. They each held the remnants of a bus ticket.”
“Yeah,” Sam said patiently, “but we couldn’t tell whether they were for the same line, and thousands of people use the buses every day. It was tenuous at best.”
“They’re for the same line, look at the font, the quality of the ink.”
Sam’s expression became intent. “Font?”
“Typeface, size, style.”
“So, you think the bus driver’s a serial killer?” John asked.
Sherlock sighed. “No, John, not everyone involved in transportation becomes a murderer, no matter how tempting it must be.”
“We had a case,” John explained to Sam and Gene’s looks of confusion, “involving a cab driver.”
“What if,” Sherlock said, “the victims witnessed an event someone didn’t want them to?”
“That’s good, that is,” Gene said. He gestured in Sam’s direction. “Fussypots didn’t think of that.”
“Maybe because Fussypots was too busy during seventy percent of the case trying to convince you there actually was a link between the murders?” Sam suggested, looking distinctly disgruntled.
Gene ignored Sam. He clapped Sherlock on the shoulder, which in turn made Sherlock wince, and John felt cruelly pleased, though couldn’t and wouldn’t analyse why.
“Alright Jack, alright Stan, it’s on the buses we go!”
John hadn’t thought they’d be allowed to tag along to the interview with the bus driver, but they were. They had been given his address from the bus company, a little bedsit not that far away from the Portico library, where Sherlock and John had been several hours ago and several decades into the future. It was strange walking past it again and realising how it managed to be simultaneously alike and disparate; sort of like looking at the same object as it was sitting next to you and then again through opaque glass --- the size, colour and form were roughly the same, but the effect was not.
Gene knocked on the door to the bedsit and they waited. He knocked again, more forcefully. They continued to wait. He started banging on it more aggressively, voice stentorian as he told Herbert Collins to let them in. From somewhere above another voice told them to pipe down or get hosed down.
“He must be out, let’s leave him a note,” Sam said.
Sherlock sniffed. “He’s not out. The stove is on.”
John had learnt to stop asking Sherlock how refined his senses must be for him to pull such conclusions seemingly from thin air, and actually, now that he was paying more attention, he could smell gas.
Gene charged at the door, but it wouldn’t open. Sam pulled back and they tried together. Sherlock clearly wanted in on the action, but there wasn’t enough room for three bodies. He was getting a little overexcited for John’s liking. There was no mistaking the hint of a smile on his lips, the frisson of anticipation in his gait, and John was quite glad neither Gene nor Sam was looking in their direction at that moment, because he had no idea how he’d explain that --- ’It’s not that Sherlock’s overjoyed by the senseless killing of innocents, it’s just that he really likes tucking into a good real life murder mystery.’
The door gave way with a thunderous splinter of wood, almost sending Sam and Gene to the ground. They all walked into the bedsit, shielding their faces, John joining Sam at the front. Lying with its head in the oven was the remains of a person. Sam hurriedly turned the knob, and John knelt down to the body, with Sherlock joining him a moment later. The ignition in the oven had been lit; it wasn’t a case of this person --- potentially Herbert Collins --- gassing themselves. The flames had been raging, leaving crusty burnt skin peeling off muscle and bone. It was a minor miracle there hadn’t been a more extensive fire.
There appeared to be a contusion at the back of the skull. John would bet the person before them had been attacked before being placed where he was, which was of little comfort. Broken fingernails and the position of the legs suggested he hadn’t been completely unconscious the entire time. The body was a nauseating sight for a military doctor, John reflected, let alone anyone else.
Sam was opening all of the windows. “We should get out of here.”
“Couldn’t agree more.”
Once outside, Gene radioed for assistance.
“It’ll take weeks to determine if that was Collins,” Sam said dejectedly.
“It was,” Sherlock replied. “John, did you take note of the ring on his right hand?”
“It had an eagle, didn’t it?”
“Hmm. There was a photograph on the wall in which he was wearing the same ring.”
Sam shook his head. “If Collins was the killer, he could have slipped it on the victim.”
“It was too tight.”
“Bodies bloat when they’re heated during decomposition, you know that, Sherlock,” John said reasonably.
“Yes, this is my point. It was too tight for the rate of decomposition. There’s no way the killer could have squeezed that ring on that finger, especially if the victim was putting up a fight.”
“Forensics are on their way,” Gene said, interrupting. “You know, I do believe I’m never eating crispy fried duck again.”
Sam ignored him. “Any other evidence?” he asked Sherlock, which John thought was probably a mistake. No, on second thoughts, John was positive, it was a mistake.
“Hair colour and style match, as does attire. The physique of the victim tallies with that of a bus driver --- flabby lower extremities but sinewy arms. There were calluses on the pads of the fingers, and on his right heel. There are two stamp albums on the bookshelves, the residue of adhesive on two fingers of the left hand, an odd detail to plant, don’t you think? Collins had a girlfriend, this man has clearly had sex within the last forty-eight---“
Sam broke into Sherlock’s seemingly endless train of speech. “You think you’re God’s gift, don’t you?”
Sherlock gave an irritated snuffle. “That would require a belief in God.”
“Now, now, kiddywinks,” Gene said. “Leave your petty squabbling for the playground. We have work to do.”
John might have laughed at the identical looks of betrayal on Sherlock’s and Sam’s faces had it not been for the circumstance from which they were provoked.
They left shortly after the Scene of Crime Officers arrived, Gene driving at speeds that were surely criminal. With Collins more than likely dead, they were back at square one, which meant going back to the station to think up new leads. Without the luxury of CCTV, they were faced with what felt increasingly like a dead-end.
Back at the station, Gene had been summoned by Superintendent Rathbone, so Sherlock had found a captive audience in a young, good-looking, female officer. He was talking about his science of deduction, detailing cases he had solved using his reasoning skills and logic. In John’s considered opinion, he’d hardly noticed she was there, until she started asking the kinds of pertinent questions most people never considered. Then he’d become more intent, though still dismissive. He certainly hadn’t seemed to realise that the person he was talking to was beautiful --- or he had, in an objective, calculating way, the same way Sherlock noticed everything, but not to the point of attraction.
This didn’t stop Sam from looking over at them with barely disguised resentment. John felt he had to smooth things over soon, or the next however many days they’d be stuck here would be even more nightmarish.
“He isn’t doing any of this just to annoy you.”
Sam scowled. “He so is.”
“No, believe me, the annoyance is an added bonus. If anything, he’s probably trying to impress you.”
“He thinks I’m an idiot, why would he try to impress me?”
“Sherlock thinks everyone’s an idiot. And compared to him, most of us are. He still wants to impress us.”
Sam narrowed his eyes, and John was about to say something else, but another young officer, male this time, sidled up to them. He continually glanced from John to Sam as he handed over a manila folder.
“It’s finished, Chris?”
“I did everything you asked,” Chris affirmed. Instead of immediately leaving, he hovered a moment.
“Well it’s just... Ray and Craig and Derek and me, we’ve been talking-like, and we were wondering why you never told us you had a brother.”
Sam blinked, looked quizzical. “I don’t.”
“Oh, cousin, then?” Chris asked, gesturing towards John and giving a strangely gormless smile.
John, this time, picked up the thread of conversation. “We’re not cousins.” Chris opened his mouth to speak again and John continued. “We’re not related at all.” He thought some more about the possibilities, whether he did not, in fact, have a distant relative called Sam. “... as far as I’m aware.”
“Right,” Chris said. He continued to loiter. “Bit weird, isn’t it? Like looking in a mirror. Saw that on Star Trek once, dead strange. Good thing neither of you has a goatee.”
Sam either took offence or was already on a hair-trigger. He firmly pushed Chris away by the shoulders, back towards the other members of CID, and returned with the grumpiest and most sour expression John had seen since the last time he told Sherlock to keep appendages out of the toaster.
Sam came up with the idea of doing a short radio bit to ask for witnesses around the same time Gene came back from visiting Superintendent Rathbone. This was how he made it appear, at any rate. He argued vociferously on the point of the police needing to identify the bus goers in the name of public protection. This won an initially recalcitrant Gene over. They disappeared together, Sam looking happier than John had seen him since they’d met. In the meantime, Sherlock solved nine of CID’s ongoing cases and John stood around feeling entirely useless.
“You shouldn’t feel so sorry for yourself. Imagine what it would be like being an officer of the law and still being completely ineffectual,” Sherlock intoned, studying the casefile of a five year old homicide investigation.
John ignored his personal barb in favour of the general one. “Why must you insist on antagonising the police no matter where we go?”
“They antagonise me.” Sherlock peered at John sideways --- an expression John had never quite got used to. “You seem to be making friends.”
“So do you.”
“Have you noticed, yet?”
“Ah, that’s a no, then. Interesting.”
“If this is about me and Sam looking alike, Chris pointed it out earlier, thanks.”
Sherlock studied John for a couple of seconds, but didn’t say a word. He looked back at the casefile, seemed to settle a troubling point for himself, closed it, wrote a note (’it was the sister’), and pushed it away with a dramatic flick.
John began to weigh up the dangers of a purposeless Sherlock. It didn’t take long to come to a decision.
“I’m hungry, follow me to the canteen.”
They sat in the canteen together, Sherlock looking at the other patrons, John eating what was purported to be shepherd’s pie. Every now and then, Sherlock would tell him something about the people around them. Apparently, one of the PCs was a cross-dresser, and another had recently lost their brother to a car accident. John marvelled at how Sherlock could impart his knowledge on these completely incongruent situations with the same uncaring tone.
Eventually, Sherlock sighed. “I do so hate when murder is mundane.”
“We could go exploring?”
“You’re obsessed with exploring. No. We wait. We need to solve this case, John.”
As if in answer, Sam and Gene strode into the canteen. Gene hauled both of them up by their collars as Sam babbled insistently about a breakthrough.
“Another murder?” Sherlock asked, face brightening.
“No, several more witnesses,” Sam said. “And we need all the manpower we can get. Since we’re already bending the rules to let you help, I figured we should use your assistance in all facets of the investigation. There’s pens and paper just waiting for your indelible mark.”
[Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4]