Human Error (1/?)Fandom/Pairing:
BBC Sherlock, Sherlock/John (with Mary/John still ongoing; Molly/Greg as side pairing)Genre:
Explicit (later on)Warnings:
Mild (i.e. one-time) drug abuse, murder and mayhem included. Also, I'm not saying anybody's going to die, but I'm also not saying nobody is ;)Summary:
With John settling into married life and Sherlock continuing his work as a consulting detective, things seem to have finally reached a comfortable stasis. Underneath, however, emotions are running high and a drug-induced confession from Sherlock changes everything. Combined with Moriarty's apparent return, Sherlock and John realise one thing: The game is still on.Author's notes:
I'm currently writing the 8th chapter and expect the fic to have about 12-15 in total. I'll be posting a new one every week (though the three first ones in one go as I've been posting them on Ao3 already).
“Shall I turn off the lights or do you still want to read?”
John gave his wife a small smile as he looked over to the right side of the bed. The pages of the book in his lap hadn't been turned for quite a while and he could instantly see in Mary's eyes that she knew his mind was elsewhere. It was infuriatingly hard to keep anything from her, these days.
“I should. After all it's an important publication.”
“But a bit dull and hard to follow,” she replied, brows raised and a smirk on her lips, giving him the chance to ignore that she knew what the real reason for his absense of mind was.
He just shrugged and put another smile on his face as he looked over to her. Her big, round belly was clearly visible under the duvet, and John couldn’t keep himself from automatically reaching out, letting his hand run over the bump in a gentle caress.
He did this more often now, especially in the evenings when he and Mary would be sitting on the sofa, watching TV. Their little girl was most active inside her mum’s womb, then. Despite having treated many pregnant women in his medical career, it seemed like an utter miracle to him that she was kicking and moving about merrily, probably playing with her umbilical cord or her tiny little toes, unaware of the awe these movements caused in the man who couldn’t wait to finally meet her.
Right now, however, she seemed to be sleeping.
John picked up the book and turned his gaze back onto the pages, but he hardly took in more than a line.
It had been five weeks since Sherlock had been called back from exile and five weeks since Moriarty – or someone pretending to be him – had terrorised England with his video message. Five weeks in which there had been no further sign, not even the slightest lead on what the plan was, and it was starting to wear on John. So much that he almost hoped for someone to storm into his flat and abduct him so he, and Sherlock, could finally get to the bottom of this. It was thoughts like these - albeit brief ones, pushed aside and reasoned away instantly - that made him realise he really did crave danger and had got just what he deserved.
There had been no news from Sherlock, either, in those past five weeks. Just one text John had received nine days into the long wait with a possible lead, but before John had even got to Baker Street he had received a second one, telling him it had been something completely unrelated and 'dull'. When he had arrived at the flat he had found it empty, and so he had not laid eyes on his best friend in all that time, either.
If an escalation of the events was the only chance to change that fact then he had even more reason to impatiently hope for something to happen.
He'd often pondered about the possible explanations for the video message. The first that had come to mind was that Moriarty had, after all, survived on that roof over two years ago. John had quickly eliminated that possibility (though not with complete certainty). If both Sherlock and Moriarty had actually faked suicide at each other – ridiculous! Or was it? No, John was much more inclined to believe it must have been someone from Moriarty's ranks that Sherlock had somehow overlooked during his two-year mission to destroy the spider’s web. Then again, with the amount of crazy he had already witnessed in his life, he could be completely wrong, too.
And so, while still attempting to read about the latest methods in treating gastritis, John had not taken in a word while his mind circled back and forth. Moriarty – Sherlock – Moriarty – what does he want? Why doesn't Sherlock call? - who is behind all this?
“Maybe you should try my book sometime,” Mary said.
“Oh? What's it about then?”
Mary never got to reply, however, as in that moment John's mobile started ringing. Stretching to reach for it lying on his bedside table, John squinted at the name on the display.
“Mrs Hudson? What's wrong?” It wasn't a question he even had to think about for a second; at after 10 o'clock his former landlady wouldn't just call for a friendly chat.
“Oh John, dear. Sorry to ring you so late. But it's Sherlock.”
“What is it?” John felt adrenaline rush through his system, his heart beating faster as he had to force his voice to stay steady and urgent, although the woman hadn't sounded like it was something terribly alarming.
“He's been acting odd, making all sorts of noise up there. I think it's drugs”, Mrs Hudson replied in an almost whisper.
“Drugs? God, I'm --” John pressed forefinger and thumb to the bridge of his nose, his heart now definitely thudding with anger, too.
“I think you should better come down here. I haven't got the nerve to go up and check on him. God knows what he's about to throw at me.”
“Yes. Stay in your flat. I'm... I'm coming right over. Don't let him leave the house until I get there, all right?”
“If I can”, she replied heavily.
“And if if the noise stops and I'm not there yet please go up and look if he's still conscious. I'll be there as quickly as I can.” John barely waited for her response as he ended the call, already on his feet and reaching for his jeans on the chair by the window.
“Do you want me to come with you?” Mary asked, having got up herself and helping him find a cardigan and socks. John was grateful that she didn't waste any time on asking him about the specifics.
“I'll be fine. I'll call you when I can, okay?”
She just smiled and nodded, her eyes full of concern and affection for him, but also confidence in his abilities, and it was all he needed then. If there was one positive result he attributed to her past as assassin it was how admirably and calmly she handled a crisis. He grabbed his doctor’s bag on the way out, and, not a minute later, sat in their car and drove swiftly but safely in direction of 221B Baker Street.
Taking two steps at once and ignoring Mrs Hudson poking her head out from her half-opened door, John hurried up to the flat. He found both doors closed but didn't stop to knock. The living room door was unlocked, and he entered with a quickly beating heart that most definitely wasn't from the brief sprint up the stairs.
As soon as he caught sight of Sherlock, sprawled on the sofa but very obviously conscious, he let out a breath he hadn't been aware of holding.
“John, you’re here?” Sherlock asked, and for the moment neither his comfortable posture nor his facial expression confirmed any of John's greatest worries. The state of the flat, however, at least explained what Mrs Hudson had meant by 'all sorts of noise': half the contents of the two bookshelves were scattered over the floor, the microscope untypically stood on the side table next to Sherlock's armchair, and a yellowish liquid was dripping from its edge, poured out from a test glass. Others were toppled over on the ground all around the table, and there was an odd, foul-sweet odour in the air.
“What is this?” John asked calmly, still not sure whether Mrs Hudson's suspicion had even been right.
Sherlock sat up, putting his naked feet onto the floor with more force than would have been needed. Upper body leant forward, he swayed slightly and let out an exasperated sigh. “Obvious, isn't it? I ruined it.”
“Ruined what?” John wanted to know as he was still trying to make sense of the scenario.
“I was testing the substance for Gamma-Hydroxybutyric acid. No use for it now.” He rolled his eyes and then continued to talk, more as if to himself than John. “Stupid. Should have waited and set it up in the kitchen. But the fridge! Why is it buzzing so loudly? Mrs Hudson?! Get an electrician, we have a burglary. An unsolved burglary. Why haven't I solved it yet?” In obvious frustration, Sherlock growled the last words, burying his head in hands.
“Gamma-Hydoxy—What? GHB?” John asked, and he could hardly keep his breath from speeding up with anger and worry. “Don't tell me you've taken it.”
“No! No! Of course I haven't taken GHB,” Sherlock responded in what seemed like amused disbelief. He got up from the sofa and walked over to the remains of the ruined experiment. “Don't be so boring, John. Why would I take liquid ecstasy?”
The relief John experienced then amidst his confusion didn't last very long, however.
“I took something else entirely. Something new! Just... what is it!” The previously displayed frustration resurfaced even stronger this time, as Sherlock strode quickly past John, almost as if he intended to walk right through him, had John not taken a step to the side in the last moment. John watched Sherlock climb onto the chair and reach for the top shelf where the books had not yet been taken out and thrown onto the floor.
“Erratic behaviour. Blackout. Hallucinations. Not LSD, not Ecstasy, much too lucid for PCP. And the hallucinations make no sense for an amphetamine. He wouldn't have blacked out, but he did. Complete memory loss. WHERE IS THE BOOK?”
Even though it was hard to follow Sherlock's ramblings, it became crystal clear to John that Sherlock must have taken a completely unknown drug to recreate a crime scenario. It was the second time within only about half a year that John didn't believe for one second, however, that Sherlock had only done this for a case.
“All right, Sherlock. Just... calm down, okay? Take it easy and sit down and--”
“WHERE IS THE BOOK, JOHN?” Sherlock yelled as he climbed down from the chair, looking around the living room frantically. He shut his eyes firmly and brought his hands up to the sides of his skull, pressing it in concentration. “John. Staircase. Left, no, right. Damnit, where is it. Acids and bases. John hand me the nitric acid. Experiment in the kitchen. The open book. Brown cardigan. Cold inside, November. Where is it, where did I put it. Where?!”
John had often seen Sherlock drift off into his mind palace, and he had also often heard him make deductions out loud, but never before had he witnessed such an onslaught of seemingly unrelated thoughts and images being spoken instead of gone over purely in Sherlock's mind. It was starting to worry him, and he tried to match the symptoms to known drugs, himself. Then again, substance abuse – alcohol aside – had never been his speciality; something he had no more knowledge of than anyone who had once studied medicine and had learned about the most common drugs and their effects.
“How about you calm down, take a seat and we'll look for your book, together. Alright?” John tried calmly and approached Sherlock with slow steps. Sherlock, however, seemed to become more and more erratic and disorientated; he swayed with every other step, sweat had broken out on his forehead and neck, darkening the collar of the grey t-shirt underneath his dressing gown.
With another sudden move, Sherlock started in direction of the kitchen, almost knocking over the side table next to John's old chair but taking no notice of it. He stopped at the kitchen table, standing at the same spot where he was usually looking through the microscope, and again, Sherlock appeared to be concentrating and recreating what appeared to be his last memory of the book. John, himself, had no idea when it had taken place.
“Sherlock, please. Listen to me.” John suppressed a frustrated sigh as he noticed that he no longer kept his voice as calm as he had intended. He was angry, very angry, and he very much would have liked to yell at Sherlock for doing something so stupid and dangerous, but there was little chance he'd even get through to his friend like that. If only Molly Hooper was here to slap some sense into him.
“Ah, John!” Sherlock said, as if he only just now registered the other man's presence, which struck John as very odd. “Help me think. I need to solve a burglary.”
“Yes. Yes. All right,” John said with forced calm. “I'll help you.”
“You always do. I can always think better when you are there,” Sherlock replied, now almost charming as he smirked at John. “Now where were we? Ah. The drug. I read something about these combined effects. I must remember the page. I had the page open when you gave me the nitric acid. I can almost see it. But not quite.”
“Okay, from the beginning, Sherlock. So I can follow you. You took a drug, and you have no idea what exactly was in it?”
“And you did that for a case.”
“Yes. The burglary. Timmy saw his father. But it couldn't have been the father.”
John was relieved that he got Sherlock talking normally even so far, but he was still worried as he observed the quickened breath and the cold sweat on Sherlock's skin. And he could still make no real sense of what Sherlock was even saying.
“Slowly, please. Step by step and from the beginning.”
Sherlock looked at him, confused. “Interesting. You've never done this before. But if you think it'll help me see what I'm missing, it's worth a shot,” he said as he quickly scribbled something down on a piece of paper.
“I... don't under--”
“Timmy O'Connell, 22. Claimed he saw his father breaking into the garage of his family home. With the mother visiting her sister, Timmy has friends over and they decide to experiment with what his friend Steven has got from another friend, who cooked the drug up himself. Timmy rushes into the living room after having gone out to get drinks, claims he saw his father rummaging through some old boxes, later passes out and has no memory of anything. And what is missing from the garage is a hidden box with the family's savings that Mrs O'Connell couldn't put into a savings account as it was her late husband's dirty money.”
“So the father couldn't have done it because he was dead.”
“So it must have been someone else, just a random burglar, and the boy thought he had seen his father.”
“You're forgetting the alarm system!” Sherlock replied, an odd alternation of delight and frustration visible on his features. He had started pacing the kitchen back and forth and was now briefly examining the contents of one cabinet before slamming the door shut again.
“But Sherlock... why exactly did you have to take the bloody drug to solve the case?” He could not prevent his anger from becoming apparent.
“To back up whether Timmy had really hallucinated.”
John pinched the bridge of his nose. “Well, one is hardly a large enough sample group for this, is it?”
“Do you want to try it?” Sherlock asked, almost as if he had missed John's sarcastic undertone. “I’m sure I could get some more.” He swayed again and barely caught himself against the counter before he could have fallen onto the heap of dishes on the table.
“Right. You're going to sit down now, Sherlock, because you're sweaty and agitated and you'll let me give you something to take the edge off so you can calm down.”
“You?” Sherlock chuckled. “You're not even real!”
John stared at him for a moment. “You-- Sherlock, you're not hallucinating me. I'm real.”
“No you're not.”
“Yes I bloody well am.”
“Nope,” Sherlock replied stubbornly.
“Do you want me to punch you in the face to prove that I'm real. Because I'm very close to doing it because you were so immensely, fucking stupid to take drugs again. One, on top of it all, that you have no clue about!” His voice had risen vehemently as he'd spoken, and John had to ball a fist to regain at least a bit of his calm.
“Oh, you won't punch me.”
“I think I will,” John replied calmly.
“No. You're a figment of my imagination. Timmy hallucinated his father because he wanted to see him.”
“Okay. Right. You wanted to see me. That's nice,” John said. Somewhere in his gut there was a faint twisting sensation. “I'm here now. In the flesh.”
“No, you're not.”
“Sherlock! Jesus Christ. Stop it already. I AM REAL!”
Sherlock interrupted his resumed pacing and looked at John, head slightly tilted and eyes squinting. Despite the glazed look in them there was also something... sad.
“If you were real then I wouldn't be able to do this.”