Fandom: Sherlock/Life on Mars (incorporating aspects of Ashes to Ashes)
Word Count: 2170 words.
Notes: Sherlock/John overtones, Sam/Gene overtones. About as slashy as both shows, so, pretty slashy, actually. Technically, gen.
Summary: “He’s not good for his ego,” Sam replied, still frowning and pouting and looking out of sorts.
Over the course of two hours, John watched Sherlock become five different characters. At the moment, he appeared to be performing some strange amalgam of Sam and Gene. He had lined up his pens along the table, in a gesture John had recognised in the stationery on Sam’s desk, had co-opted Sam’s posture, but had adopted Gene’s speech pattern. His Mancunian accent was disturbingly accurate, and had John not known Sherlock’s real voice, he never would have guessed he was anything other than how he was pretending to be.
“What are you doing?” John asked after the fifteen year old they had been speaking to left the canteen.
“Together,” Sherlock said, calmly, “they make a brilliant police officer.” He wrinkled his nose. “If such a thing can be said to exist.”
“No, I got that, I wish I hadn’t, but I did. That wasn’t what I meant. Why aren’t you being yourself? But more to the point, why are you being so many other people?”
“Rashomon,” Sherlock said simply.
John had heard enough about Rashomon (and made to watch the film nine times; it seemed to be one of three films Sherlock would tolerate, alongside Rear Window - a film chosen purely for its potential to make him shout at the screen, and, inexplicably, 10 Things I Hate About You; which John was never, ever going to question) that he didn’t need an explanation of subjectivity in recollection. He did need to know, however, how Sherlock thought it was applicable here.
“If you’re giving them each something different to observe, that’s cheating, it doesn’t make any sense. The whole idea is for different people to see the same thing and draw different conclusions, isn’t it?”
“Oh, John. Always so keen on fair play. I want the passengers to question their perceptions. It is only with self-interrogation that true knowledge can be acquired. I want to get the passengers talking to each other, to cancel out their contradictions, confirm their commonalities. I’ve given every passenger we’ve spoken to something to talk about. A complaint, since people are usually so reticent to talk to strangers, unless there’s a whinge to be had. I’m hoping my stimulation fosters discussion.”
Sherlock had been at his very most insulting, John reflected. At the time he hadn’t thought there were ulterior motives.
They, or rather, John on Sherlock’s orders, spent the next hour listening in on the bus passenger’s conversations. As Sherlock predicted, the discussion began with ‘that pasty-faced prick’ (the only ‘commonality’) and continued on in various different versions of the bus ride. At one stage, the vehemence of the disagreement almost resulted in a fight. John took notes.
Of course, these were not all the passengers. Sam, Gene, Annie, Chris, and a few officers John hadn’t learned the names of were interviewing people too. And even more people probably hadn’t even come forward for having been on that route in the day in question. John was a little worried all of their work was for a lost cause. But he was used to that --- he’d fought in a pointless war, after all.
John handed his notes to Sherlock as soon as the bus passengers started to disperse. Sherlock perused them for a minute or more.
“Mmm,” Sherlock said.
“Hmm?” John asked.
“I’m going to speak to Hunt and Tyler,” was the response, accompanied by a dramatic flourish and exit from the canteen. John stared into space, knowing it was futile to wonder what he’d missed.
Sherlock never returned. John was instead joined by Sam, who had a face like a stormcloud.
“Sherlock and Gene went off investigating together,” John stated, thinking Sherlock had taught him more than either of them knew.
“He’s not good for his ego,” Sam replied, still frowning and pouting and looking out of sorts.
John gave a mid-toned chuckle that veered perilously high to his difficult to restrain giggle. “I could say the same.”
“You know when you asked me what it was like, working with Gene? Weirdly, most of the time, I love it. I love tracking down suspects and bringing a bit of justice to the world. I even love the bloody car chases ---“
“--- But sometimes, it’s an absolute unmitigated nightmare. Gene’s boorish and won’t listen to reason. He doesn’t care about etiquette, and offends both major and minor groups with a word alone.” He tilted his head to the side. It was a touch unnerving. “It’s funny, I always thought I was a special case.”
Sam spoke decisively. “Gene collects weirdos like most people collect debts. Wants to forget how disastrous they are, and can’t quite get rid of them when he remembers.”
“You’re weird?” John asked, before realising that if he had to ask the question, the answer was probably, ‘yes’.
“I am to him. I used to be worse. I’ve never quite understood why he’s put up with me, but then, I’ve never quite understood why I put up with him either. And now, look, he’s befriended a private investigator who’s the wrong side of real.”
“If it’s any consolation, Sherlock’s probably sticking to Gene to search out his secret.”
“Why would that ever be consolation?”
“You seem a tad jealous, that’s all. I want to put your mind at rest. There’s nothing to be jealous of.”
Sam stared at him incredulously. “Jealous?”
John opened his mouth and closed it again. Unlike Sherlock, he wasn’t only tactful when he felt it necessary, he had a modicum of concern for other people’s feelings, and he liked Sam well enough not to want to pour salt on his obvious wound.
“You seem to spend a lot of time defending your... friend,” Sam prompted eventually, examining John with ill-concealed curiosity.
“Someone has to.”
“He’s brilliant,” John said, simply. “Truly, utterly brilliant.” He sighed a little, tried to find the right words to articulate his feelings on Sherlock. “I’ll try and put this in a way you’ll understand. You know when you’re looking in a wishing well, and there’s this one coin that’s brighter than all the others, it looks so unique, so you break the unwritten rules and stretch out to grab it, only the water conspires to keep it from your grasp?”
“Not really, no,” Sam said, refusing to play the game. But he looked thoughtful.
“That’s Sherlock,” John said.
“He’s a shiny gold coin?”
“No. He’s the one reaching.”
The telephone rang. Sam answered it, looking more and more furious as the conversation continued. Finally, he slammed the receiver down and turned to John with a curt nod in the direction of the door.
“We’re wanted by your so-called brilliant boyfriend.”
“He’s not my --- oh, forget it. Fine. Lead the way.”
Gene was standing with his foot on the back of a burly man’s neck. The man was getting steadily red-faced as his nose mashed into the vomit green coloured carpet and his arms were wrenched up behind him by Sherlock. Sam let out a groan of clear annoyance at the scene.
“Just in time, Sammy-boy. Cuff him,” Gene exclaimed, baring his teeth as he pushed down again with his whole body.
“Yes, Sammy-boy, do hurry,” Sherlock added.
Sam, seemingly despite himself, went forward, jostled Sherlock to the side, and attached the cuffs. “This is the murderer, is it?” he asked, somewhat imperiously.
“No,” Sherlock said, cheerily. “Are you really as stupid as you look? What an obnoxiously obvious question, of course you---”
“Sherlock,” John interjected. “Not good.”
John was gratified when Sherlock stopped short and looked at him, with an almost innocent confusion that was far more endearing than it had any right to be.
They hauled the man up. It took all four of them, so any wonder how Gene and Sherlock had got him on the ground in the first place. He was far more imposing standing than he had been lying down restrained. He was 6’3” at least, broad shouldered. A decade or so before he must have been solid muscle. Now he was muscle and flab, but still impressive. The words ‘formidable opponent’ entered John’s mind and refused to leave.
“If he’s not our murderer, who is he?”
“I’m innocent, that’s what,” the man bellowed.
“Like hell,” Gene shouted, equally as loud as he nodded towards Sam. “The day I believe that is the day I volunteer to have my knackers resting in a vice and her Ladyship here with her dainty fingers on the handle.”
John was quick to note that Sam looked overall pleased with that proposition.
“This is Carl Palmer,” Sherlock said, “and he was on the bus at the crucial moment we’re interested in. He’s skilled in observation, being a renowned and well-celebrated pickpocket. I’m sure his co-operation shall be invaluable.”
Pickpockets were almost always diminutive and waif-like, as far as John knew. They had to be in order to be effective at sleight of hand. He had never thought it was an unfair or outrageous stereotype. When it came to street thievery, the thinner and smaller, the better.
So he was surprised that the hulking specimen before them was as Sherlock said, and only believed it when Sherlock forced a demonstration (thankful he had no cash, nor genuine ID, to steal.) He never even guessed when it happened, but one minute he had an empty wallet in his pocket, and the next, Carl Palmer had the very same in his hand.
“Palmer is the exception that proves the rule,” Sherlock said, glittering at John with the all-knowing expression John would never get bored of seeing, despite and because of the irritation it provoked.
Presumably because he thought he was going to get a deal, Palmer was now being free and easy with his knowledge and expertise.
“Yeah, so, I lifted eight wallets that day,” he said as he pulled out a rattling box.
“Can you remember who owned each wallet?” Sherlock asked intently, flicking a razor sharp glance over every item.
“Some of them. This green one, I remember the bloke who’d had this, ‘cause he was scruffy as all get-out and it were odd he’d something so unique and expensive.”
John contemplated this. “Was there anyone who particularly stood out from the crowd?”
“Anyone who looked like a murderer, you mean? Nah.”
“You’d be surprised how few people actually look like murderers,” Sam said wryly. “Present company excluded.”
John looked at him sharply. He understood the petty jealousy, and knew only too well how annoying Sherlock could be, but if Sam were to start levelling those sorts of unoriginal and offensive taunts, he’d have to reconsider not wanting to inflict pain. Sam wasn’t looking at Sherlock, his eyes were trained on Gene, who had a vein throbbing in his forehead and tendons clearly working in his neck. It was a fair point after all.
“People are dead,” Gene said quietly --- his quiet was somehow ten times more menacing than his loud. “How much more blood do you wanna have on your hands before you tell us what you know? I can read you like a 10p titmag. What’re you holding back?”
“We can protect you if you tell us,” Sam added. “But if you give us nothing, well, we’ve no real grounds to hold you, so we’d have to let you free, and the conundrum there is that it would look like you’d been speaking to us. You can see the dilemma, can’t you?”
Palmer baulked, then turned an interesting shade of purple. Then he pointed to a deep brown leather wallet partially obscured by two imitation ones. “The bloke who’d had this one got into an argument with another bloke across the bus. They were acting weird. Like this wasn’t the first fight they’d been in and it wouldn’t be their last. I didn’t think much of it, but when I got home and looked in the wallet ---“ Palmer trailed off.
“There was a large quantity of money,” Sherlock supplied.
“How did you know?”
“He didn’t know, he guessed,” Gene answered.
“I inferred,” Sherlock corrected, primly. He rifled through the wallet and came upon a driver’s license. “Do you always leave identification in the wallets you steal?”
“For a few weeks, yeah. Don’t see the point of cleaning them out until I can sell them.”
“And who knows, you might be able to sell the identity,” Sam sneered.
“It wouldn’t hold up to a retinal scan, but I guess that’s not an immediate concern,” John joked. In his peripheral vision he saw Sam’s head whip around towards him.
“There’s an address,” Gene said, ignoring them. “We’d best be kicking in some doors.”
Crammed into the back of the car, Sam peered at him strangely, a little too close for comfort. “Where are you from?”
“Aldershot, by way of London. Why?”
From the front seat, Sherlock spoke up, his voice even more treacherously silky than usual. “He means what year. Aren’t I right, Sam? Not where, but when.”
Amidst the confusion, John watched in horror as Gene, swerving the Cortina wildly to the right, punched Sherlock clean on the nose.
[Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4]