last01standing: ([Psych] Gus is Stealthy)
[personal profile] last01standing
Title: Sun that Burns on a Cloudy Day
Rating: PG-13
Disclaimer: I've got no claims to any version of Sherlock.
Summary: Sherlock and John are rebels in a dystopian world
Warning: drug use
Words: 11,200 (holy crap)
Author's note: De-anoning for a fill on [livejournal.com profile] sherlockbbc_fic. Original prompt by the lovely [livejournal.com profile] supermusicmad in a thread that can be found here


Sun that Burns on a Cloudy Day


It starts when Sherlock is six years old. His brother is sixteen, already through most of university, and they both watch the proceedings on the telly, Mycroft's arm slung over his shoulders. The government collapses on the television screen. It seems more like a movie than reality; these bodies piled high on the streets. "It had to be this way," Mycroft whispers into Sherlock's hair. Their parents died six months ago, victims of political assassinations as the government tried to quash the movement.

(they'd killed the wrong people)

The house has been without heating for nearly three months and Sherlock is shaking from the cold. Mycroft refuses to call anyone because it would betray the fact that he is still alive. He strokes his hand through the soft curls, watching the news out of the corner of his eye. "This had to happen. You'll see. I just had to make it safe for us. The world is going to get better, Sherlock. I promise. I'm doing this for you."

The boy squeezes his eye shut and leans into his brother. "All right," he says. "I trust you."

***


Sherlock trusts him through the uprising and the great reform. He takes his pills every day and lingers on the edges of the Citizens. He's hypnotized when the Knowledge burns.

And by the time Sherlock's sixteen, feeling foggier and duller than he ever has before, a single persistent question has forced its way into his brain.

Why?

He's sick of taking pills. Sick of Mycroft's wary eye.

But most of all he's utterly sick of being bored.

The detox is painful, he finds his fist flexing, reaching for the blue pills and oblivion. But the fog in his mind is starting to clear and suddenly, he can see.

It takes a single missed meeting for Mycroft to realize what has happened but by then Sherlock has been off the pill for seventy-six hours. He disappears into the underbelly of London feeling alive for the first time since he was six years old. Mycroft's men are sent to look for him, but all they find is an empty room, a battered couch and an entire month's supply of pills scattered on the ground, artfully arranged in the shape of the sun.

***


John Watson is every inch the Citizen. He is chosen to study medicine so he studies medicine. He is instructed to enter the army so he enlists. The Empire has elected to spread their ways to the Middle East so he goes with them and is unflinching and unafraid in the face of the enemy barrage.

But then the supply of medication is disrupted for three weeks and the horrors of war snap into crystal clear focus. He's detoxing when the first attack comes, crouched over a dying soldier when the bullet slams into his shoulder. The pain is unbearable. It sends bright splotches shooting across his vision. He feels nauseous.

This is when John Watson realizes he doesn't need the pill to act. Doesn't need his orders, just needs his own instincts, twenty years suppressed.

He grabs the fallen soldier's gun with his off hand, takes aim and fires. He digs the bullet out of his own shoulder, hands still shaking as his body demands the drugs.

Against all odds, he survives the wound, survives the detox and is discharged to London as an army hero, tragic symbol of what every Citizen should sacrifice if asked. He has a medal pinned to his chest and his prescribed doubled. There is enough medication on his desk to keep him in a haze for the rest of his life.

He is the only soldier who had survived both the assault and the detox and he is smart enough to guess his eventual fate.

When the execution squad comes through the door, they find an empty room.

They're looking for a soldier with a busted arm so John affects a non-existent limp. He mimics the same deceptively dull look every Citizen wears. He wears drab shapeless jumpers, sleeps in abandoned flats and offers his services as a medic to those still living on the street. When asked for a name, he gives his sister's, only the barest hesitation between the question and his answer.

It is an act so near to perfection no one questions it. When he's seen on the street he blends into the dulled masses, slipping into the world where he no longer belongs.

It's the only way to survive.

After one glance, Sherlock Holmes can see this man is not quite a Citizen. The look in his is impossibly sharp compared to the dullards drifting drugged through the Empire. He makes it a point to follow the man, intrigued enough to manufacture a meeting. When he bumps into him, there's a moment of surprise in the man's eyes.

"Oh," Sherlock says because suddenly he sees it. "You're not like the rest of them."

John tenses and moves on, leaning against his cane with every step. Sherlock trails him into an abandoned alley and only just manages to duck when John swings the cane at his head with all his might.

"You're a soldier," Sherlock says, out of breath. "You're a soldier and you're not on the pill and you weren't killed the moment you were reintegrated into society. Novel."

John clutches at the cane, brandishing it front of him like a bat. "And who the bloody hell are you?"

"Sherlock Holmes," the man has the audacity to extend a hand. "And you've obviously got no need for the cane. The limp's purely psychosomatic."

"The limp's fake," John retorts. "Squad's out looking for a soldier who was shot in the shoulder and they might overlook one with a limp."

The corners of Sherlock's mouth quirk upwards. "So that makes you John Watson. I've heard about you. They reports say you've gone back to war. A lie, obviously. They've made you into the perfect hero, which mean's you're more use to them dead than alive… But they haven't a body which means you were a step ahead of them. When was your access to the pill disrupted?"

"Afghanistan. Six months ago."

"So you survived both an attack, the detox and reintegration."

"What's it matter to you?"

"You're one of the last free men in a city of the damned."

John lowers the cane, regarding the man across from him. "It doesn't sound nearly so boring when you put it that way."

Sherlock's face blossoms into the first true smile John has seen since watching the revolution on the television two decades ago.

"John Watson," Sherlock says and it sounds like a proposal. "Would you like to assist me in a delicate venture?"

It's the day John meets Sherlock Holmes that he stops surviving and starts living again.

***


"This is mad," John says. His chest heaves as they bolt through the streets of London. John's cane swings carelessly from his right hand, Sherlock's has his violin clutched in his left. "We're never going to get away with this."

"We will," Sherlock promises, indicating a window.

Without a word, John winds up and smashes it with the cane. The glass pane explodes, thousands of shards sparkling like art in the moonlight.

"Come on," Sherlock says, hopping through. The glass shards tear at the frayed edges of his ancient coat and John follows him without question. "The broadcast studio should be this way."

"How long do we have?"

"From break in until the moment it's no longer safe to be here? Twelve minutes and sixteen seconds. The dullards are nothing if not precise. Capture is likely if we exceed fifteen."

The broadcast is simple enough to set up. John could have probably figured it out himself but Sherlock only needs seconds. He hoists his violin to his shoulder, glances toward John and winks at him before launching into a complex concerto John doesn't recognize. He leans his head back in rhapsody as the waves of music wash over him. His watch is running a timer but he loses track until an explosion sounds from outside.

John startles back into the real world but Sherlock doesn't start playing. The watch reads 8:54. They have more than two minutes to go. "Check," Sherlock says quietly. It's very nearly drowned out by the music, his arm stretched taut, his violin screaming out fortissimo. "We may have less time than we thought."

A glance out the window tells John it's across town nowhere near them, the explosion big enough to send dark plumes of smoke up to obscure the star filled sky. "Is that your work?"

He shakes his head and keeps playing for a full three minutes longer than he says it would be safe. They are not raided and it is not until they are safely two miles away in a place that Sherlock swears no one knows about, John asks why he took the risk.

"I don't condone blowing up bits of London for the sake of rebellion," John snaps. "The city was perfectly fine before this all started and I'd prefer it remain as such if we ever go back."

"Explosions are so dreadfully pedestrian," Sherlock says, absently plucking at the E string. It's gone out of tune since the impromptu broadcast but it still sends shivers of pleasure snaking down John's spine. "No, they are not my work. We may disagree on methodology but Jim does appreciate a good concert I must remember to thank him for extending mine."

"That was ridiculous," John says, giggling a bit as he comes off his adrenaline high. "I don't think I've had half as much fun since before this all started."

"While I'm reasonably sure you're not an agent of the state, you understand I must exercise caution in moments such as these and bid you farewell. We shall be far more difficult to locate if we are separate."

"Of course," John sputters. "I understand."

"We will have to do this again."

***


He meets Sherlock again. And again. John is always close to the end of his rope when he appears, ready to abandon the country he loves for wild parts unknown. But every time he's about to leave Sherlock appears and he delays. His options are closing. The Empire is expanding. On television, Lord Mycroft declares that the entire world will join them before the end of the decade. The thin tendrils of control have seeped through to permeate all facets of the life. Italy, France and Spain fall within weeks of each other and each addition is announced at eight on a Tuesday evening. Sherlock watches them, pressed into John's side as if seeking warmth. "He's found a way to put it in the water," he says. "It can't be as strong as the pills but it will give him means to spread."

The announcement of Spain's fall is the last time Sherlock leaves John's side. The transition is natural. They've gone from meeting once a month to every other week, to every other day and the only logical progression is that they will become constant companions.

The first night they spend together is on the streets, boiling water over a fire to remove all traces of the possible drug. They huddle together for warmth, stuffing newspapers into their clothes for extra insulation. "You know," John says. "You've never told me your real name. You know mine, but you can't possibly be Sherlock Holmes."

"And why is that?"

"Because everyone knows Sherlock Holmes. Sherlock Holmes was the bloody face of the revolution. Mycroft Holmes's family was assassinated. He was the only survivor. He wanted to make sure that never happened again."

"Did it ever occur to you that people lie? Mycroft Holmes is only further proof of the rule."

"That's no reason for you to lie as well. Tell me your name at least. You already know my whole life story. Surely I deserve that much from you. You can't honestly think I would find some way to use it against you."

"Of course not, John. I've no reason to doubt your loyalties, but I don't know what more you expect from me. My name is Sherlock Holmes."

"But Sherlock Holmes is dead."

"I have a lifetime of data that seems to prove contrary to that fact."

"Then—"

"Yes, Mycroft is my brother. No, I've not spoken to him since I was sixteen. Yes, I believe he suspects I am still alive. I expect I am a loose end that he would love to see stitched."

"Surely he wouldn't kill his own brother."

"I've long since come to terms with the fact that I can't presume to know what my brother is or is not capable of. I suspect it is better for him to leave me dead."

Neither of them sleep that night. In the morning, John takes a piece of charred wood from the remains of the fire and uses it to scratch out a message in soot against the pavement.

Sherlock Holmes was here.

***


It becomes a compulsion, becomes something worth almost more than food. It's something tangible. Something that might remain even if he doesn't. So John Watson keeps signing Sherlock's name everywhere he goes. He spends days scavenging spray paint, from every avenue he can find and he plasters it on the walls, uses a pocket knife to carve it into wood. Sometimes, when pressed for time, he just signs SH and a date. But other times he sprays the letters on sides of building, as high as he can reach.

Sherlock leaves John to it. Knows somehow that this is his small act of rebellion. Sherlock is fond of different ventures. He likes stealing from Mycroft's security forces, he likes stealing bodies from the morgue and most of all, he likes playing the violin for all to hear.

Sherlock is mad, brilliant and he deserves to be remembered. So John signs his name everywhere he can and doesn't realize it's become a symbol of resistance until they enter a part of the city he's never seen and the red block letters swirl up in front of him.

"Not your work is it, John? The perpetrator is clearly right handed." Sherlock traces his own name with the tip of his finger. "Handwriting is androgynous but listing toward the feminine."

"This is bad," John says.

"You've been doing the same yourself for weeks."

"It wasn't supposed to be noticed."

"Then what was the point in scrawling it all over London?"

"I wanted someone to know you were alive," John struggles to explain. "You shouldn't have become a story for the Empire when you don't even belong to it."

"Moriarty should be happy at least. Jim's long been looking for a touchstone for the rebellion. I'd rather not be linked to a failing venture but, I suppose it had to happen sometime. It doesn't matter if they use my name, yours or anyone else's. I haven't had contact with Mycroft for more than a decade. He doesn't know what I look like. He doesn't know if I'm alive. We are in no more danger than we were two months ago."

Darkness is about to fall, but Sherlock knows a safe house. Somewhere they can stay warm for the night. John stares at the signature. His fingers clench compulsively around the canister in the inner pocked of his coat.

He can't leave.

"Come on, John. If we have any hope of both food and shelter tonight, we must leave now."

"Hold on a second," John snaps, pulling out his own can of spray paint. "There's something I need to do."

He takes care because this is something different. It's not just a statement it's a message. He's never been one for hope, but he's always liked to the idea that it exists. So under the bricks signed with Sherlock's name, he etches Don't drink the water. –Dr. Watson.

Sherlock pauses to study it, something akin to surprise on his face. "You've elected to use your name."

"Yes."

"They will surely conclude that we are companions in this venture."

John recaps the spray paint, slips it back into the satchel and picks up his cane. "I don't care. We're in this together you and I. For better or for worse."

Sherlock's face remains blank. "This is a considerably more dangerous position."

John grins. "I don't care."

***


The Baker Street Shelter doesn’t exist. There is not a door at 221 B and there is definitely not a false wall that isn't booby trapped with a half dozen failsafes and manned by a computer program Sherlock has affectionately named Mrs. Hudson. It definitely doesn't have most of a working chemistry lab nor does it have two beds and access to uncontaminated water.

"Why aren't we always here," John says, rubbing his hands together as he sinks into his battered chair.

"The shelter remains safe precisely because it is not regularly used. Should our comings and going compromise us, I don't believe dear Mrs. Hudson would ever forgive me."

John acquiesces. It would be a shame to lose this place. It must have taken years to build. It bears Sherlock's fingerprints in style: the vague Victorian air, the chemistry lab and the skull of an old friend on the mantel. There are two bedrooms but they only use one. They're not used to being alone anymore and neither of them can sleep without the other curled into them for warmth. There's nothing sexual about it. Just the comforting knowledge that they don't have to be alone.

It's a haven. The only haven left in the Empire. Piled wall to wall with books, records and everything anyone would need to remind them why life was worth living.

They don't get there often, but when they do, Sherlock wonders to lab, peering at one of the stolen blue pills, trying to retrosynthesize it, muttering about how much easier this would be if he still had access to a mass spectrometer. John sinks down into his chair, a book open on his lap and enjoys a rare night of warmth.

Neither of them want to stay there forever. Three days of tranquillity and John's shoulder will start to cramp, Sherlock will look more and more to John's gun and they'll plunge back into the city that has rejected them.

"It's time to experiment," Sherlock says. He's got the pill in his hand, though John knows it's not the real pill. "We need a subject."

"This might be hopeless if the drugs are in the water. How many people can you honestly expect to sway with just a fake pill?"

Sherlock wrinkles his nose and John gets the distinct impression that his friend doesn't care. That he just wanted to see if he could synthesize a cure. It's pointless to argue about the rebellion so John folds his arms over his chests and puts his foot down on another matter. "You're not testing it on me."

"Don't be absurd," Sherlock says, grabbing for his coat. "We'll test it on Lestrade."

Lestrade is by far Sherlock's favourite of the Empire's police force. John has long suspect that the dose in the pills is lesser for higher ranking members of the government, but Sherlock insists most of them were so dull to begin with that the pills made no difference.

Lestrade has always seemed sharper than the rest. Sherlock postulates that he has a slight genetic deviation that greatly lessens his reaction to the pill.

John thinks it's because Lestrade is the only one who's ever come close to catching them.

***


In the few months he's been with Sherlock, John has learned that it's distressingly easy to steal the supply of someone's pills but remarkably difficult for that theft to have any lasting effect. They play games with it sometimes, picking the stash from people's pockets and waiting to see how long before they're noticed. The greatest lag time was fourteen hours. The least, thirteen seconds.

None of their victims stayed off the pills for long. There are dispensing stations on every street corner not to mention the fact that the water left the same compulsions albeit in a far smaller dose. If the theft is noticed, it's almost impossible to force a detox.

So Sherlock proposes a switch instead. John bumps past Lestrade on the street, sneaking the pills from the jacket pocket. He hands the canister to Sherlock who takes a quick count and exchanges them for a placebo. John takes it back, frowning. "It's too light."

"By less than an ounce. The pills are very nearly identical."

"But they're not identical. He's been taking them every day for nearly twenty years. He's going to notice."

They try it anyway, sneaking the pills back to the correct pocket just before Lestrade reaches his house.

He notices the difference but that in itself is enough to set Sherlock's eyes gleaming. "Don't you see, John? None of the others would have noticed something like that. He's got potential."

"I don't know why you're so keen on turning this man from the Empire. How do we know he'd want to live like this?"

"You want to live like this. I want to live with this."

"We haven't had anything but beans to eat since last week."

"Hunger sharpens the mind."

"Tea sharpens the mind, Sherlock. What I wouldn't give for some decent tea."

"I can find you some tea."

John nudges him playfully in the side. "Are you suggesting that we risk our lives for the sake of getting me some decent tea?"

"It's essential. I'm of the impression that all English men require a certain uptake of the stuff for survival. Seeing as we are the only two proper ones left..."

"God, don't put it like that. There's got to be a few others floating about and there's always Jim."

They're loitering outside Lestrade's flat because that is the last place he would ever expect to find them. He'd dashed out to the corner to stand in the queue at the dispensary. His feet tap in impatience as the real person starts to sneak in to fill out the edges. Sherlock keeps lookout as John pulls out his can of pain and sprays Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson on Lestrade's front door.

"You realize you've just signed our work," Sherlock asks.

"It's not like they have any doubt." John shrugged. "Let's get out of here before Lestrade comes back. You've promised me tea."

***


There are bad days. Not so many as John would expect but there are some very bad days. Days when Sherlock is in a mood and refusing to talk. Days when John walks by a place he knows he's tagged before only to find that his message is gone, erased like he never existed, like Sherlock never existed. Days when the beans taste like sawdust in his mouth and his hand shakes so badly he wonders if it would be better to go back to the Empire.

None of them quite compare to the terror on the day when Sherlock spends the morning in the chemistry lab and comes back out with the stolen stash of Lestrade's pills and announces, "I believe they've changed the mix since my detox."

They're in the compounds of 221B which is supposed to he a safe haven. Supposed to be the one spot left in this world where nothing can go wrong.

But when John looks up from his book, Sherlock's got a pill cupped in his hand and flashes the briefest smile before tipping his head back to swallow. John darts toward him far too late. He reaches his friend's side in an instant clutching at his shoulder. "Sherlock, Sherlock can you here me. I have some milk of magnesia in my kit. But we've got to get there in the next few minutes before the drug has a chance to--"

"John," Sherlock says. "Don't worry John. I've been meaning to try this for a while. It's an experiment."

"You're bloody mad. You might never come back."

"'Course I will. I've got you."

John can pinpoint the exact moment the drug takes hold. The tension in Sherlock's shoulders eases and the sharp look in his eye fades away.

He looks at John vacantly and then moves toward the couch. In a panic John runs to Hudson and programs her only to respond to his commands.

Sherlock on the pill seems empty. John can't watch this.

(but he can't leave)

If he leaves Sherlock alone, he might lose him forever. He might wonder onto the street, find a dispensary station and succumb to the compulsion. If Sherlock leaves, John is of no illusion that he won't follow close behind him. So he confiscates the pills, bolts the door and watches. Left to his own devices Sherlock is frightening. Sherlock on the pill is doubly so.

There's a smile on his face for the duration of the twelve-hour dose. He goes about the day methodically, eating a more balanced diet, walking differently and mumbling about the need to do some work. He cleans the entire flat, destroying no less than three experiments in the process. John's skin crawls watching him. He can't wipe that first moment from his mind when Sherlock's eyes drifted. "You're not on the pill," Sherlock says. "This is a situation that must be remedied."

Sherlock makes him dinner, and it's the best John's seen from their meagre stores. He eats his own with enthusiasm but John notes the fine powder hidden in the garnish and dumps his own into the bin. Sherlock's face does not betray him but John knows his friend even masked so severely.

The drugs have stolen his greatness. They've given John the edge he so rarely finds. But even with this advantage, it's a struggle because he is loathe to hurt his friend. At hour six, Sherlock attempts to forcibly dose him. John's military training kicks in and he manages to subdue Sherlock without causing him permanent damage. The bruising around his eye gives John a twinge of guilt every time he looks to it, but Sherlock has size and shamelessness on him.

Before he'd met Sherlock, John had considered taking the pill up again. He'd gone so far as to commission the Pills from the dispenser but there was always a little voice in his head wouldn't allow surrender.

He won't fail now.

At this moment his failure would mean the permanent lose of one of history's greatest mind. He will get Sherlock through this even if he must hurt his friend to do so.

At twelve hours, the compulsion to seek another dose kicks in and Sherlock begins to tear through the safehouse he's so recently cleaned. John has Lestrade's vial of pills in his pocket and keeps them only because Sherlock will need them later. Will use this unspeakable experience for some positive endgame.

At fourteen hours Sherlock attacks him, his movement clumsy and feeble. The drugs aren't completely out of his system yet and he's desperate for more. The potency must have increases from the doses John used to take. Or maybe Sherlock was right about Lestrade. Maybe he required a larger dosage for lasting effects.

John spends the night awake as Sherlock starts to dry heave, the brightness flooding back into his eyes. He can't get close enough to help him through the shakes because each time he does, Sherlock tries to pickpocket the next dosage from his pocket. It's everything he can do not to knock Sherlock out for the worst of it, but he doesn't want to deal with a concussion in addition to the cravings.

It takes a full twenty-four hours for the drug to completely leave his system. John, fearing a relapse doesn't sleep a wink for the next three days.

When Sherlock comes out of it, he doesn't offer John any apology. He simply puts out his hand, a wordless request for Lestrade's pills. John hands them over but trails him to the lab and watches him work. Sherlock keeps a running commentary as he shifts his way the chemistry kit muttering about methylation of the alcohol on the sixth carbon as he sketched molecule after molecule onto scraps of paper, no doubt searching for some breakthrough.

Because if there is no breakthrough, the days John spent in misery would be for naught. John sits in his chair, watching Sherlock's every movement out of the corner of his eye. He twirls an almost empty can of spray paint through his fingers, ignores the ache in his shoulder. They're out of medical supplies. John had used the last of the antiseptic cleaning out the wounds he'd inflicted on his friend and half of the supply of painkillers had gone to getting Sherlock through withdrawal.

"Sherlock," he says. "Sherlock we need medical supplies."

Sherlock waves a hand. The same hand John had needed to bandage only four days prior when he'd been forced to disarm a half drugged attack. He knows this mood, this dismissal, this level of obsession. John flexes his fingers into a fist and back again. "You're not going to try to dose yourself again while I'm gone?"

"Of course not." Sherlock transfers the product slowly from a beaker to the distillation apparatus. "The product is at least a day from purification."

Every part of John's body goes cold. "You're not going to try it again."

"Nonsense. We already have my previous reactions for comparison. Surely as an educated man you can see the benefits."

"No."

"No?"

"No you bloody don't get to do this to me again! Do you have any idea what I went through while you were on the pills?"

"I assume you're referencing the fact that you were forced to stay awake for a full day, supervise my dosage and—"

"Your dosage? Fuck, Sherlock that wasn't you. And I won't do it again. You don't get to—" He chokes on his words, suddenly claustrophobic. 221B seems to shirk around him, flushing the air out of the room until he can't breath. "I've got to get out of here."

He doesn't acknowledge Sherlock's protests behind him, just grabs his coat and plunges outside into the unfriendly world. It's dark, well past the curfew and the patrols on the street are making their fruitless rounds looking for the any dissenters. John walks along rooftops like Sherlock had taught him. He knows the skyline better than he knows the roads and he walks until he can see the Thames poking out through the buildings.

The sun is starting to dawn, drowning the city in red lights. From every street corner plays Mycroft's daily edict, the one the whole world is forced to obey. The paint's a compulsion by now, his fingernails permanently stained with a kaleidoscope of colours: black, gold, blue, whatever he could find that day. Today his paint's red and if fits his anger as well as the sunrise. His hand is steady as he starts to spray his own name onto the rooftop. He usually puts Sherlock's first but he has to remind himself that he can be important as well.

The paint runs out before he finishes and all that's left is JOHN in three foot high letters and the first half of a W. He curses and allows himself his anger. He may be the only one left who lets himself go like this. Even Sherlock doesn't indulge in petty displays of emotion. He's clean because he can't stand to lose his intellect. John's the one addicted to the rush of emotion.

Before he realizes he's done it, he chucks the empty can of paint off the roof with enough force to smash through a window on the building opposite him. It shatters, the shards of glass devastatingly beautiful as the scatter the light from the blood red sun. A smile tears across his face. "I'm John Watson!" he screams to the street. "I'm John Watson and I'm the last bloody human left in London!"

There are people on the streets below but no one looks up toward the sound, the drugs narrowing their focus to specific tasks. He realizes he's being reckless—a different sort of reckless than Sherlock but his methods are just as dangerous.

(that doesn't mean he can stop)

"What are you people doing?" he screams. "You can't like this! You can't be happy!"

It takes five minutes for him to yell himself hoarse and six before his sense of self-preservation returns to leave him itching with the need to disappear. Lestrade and his men will on their way. Five minutes of screaming is enough for even the people of the street to notice.

He's spotted getting down from the building and forced to abandon his jacket to blend into a crowded street. He's lucked out and entered the streets during the start of the morning shift. John still looks a little shabby for a Citizen but after he affects a certain posture, he can pass. He leads Lestrade through three neighbourhoods, pilfering bits of a disguise as he goes. He'd learned this from Sherlock, how the slightest change in character could throw off a perspective, could make a man seem a foot taller.

John revels in it. It takes a kind of creativity few possess.

By the time he's lost the police, he's too paranoid to go back to Baker Street so he finds an alley and folds himself into the darkness, clutching a newly stolen jacket to his breast and falls into a light sleep.

He's woken up when it's still dark by the sound of his name. "John?"

Automatically, he reaches for his cane, but he'd left it the day before when he'd left Sherlock to his work. He lashes out with his hands instead, the army training resurfacing with a vengeance.

The attacker fends him off but with difficulty. It's not his lack of skill that slows John's panic, but the fact that the other man is holding back. "Sherlock?" He squints at the shadowy figure. "Sherlock, this had better be you."

"You left," Sherlock says and even in the dark, John can tell how shaken he is. "John, you left me."

"What the bloody hell do you think you were trying to do to me?"

His hand stills but Sherlock does not break contact. His grip is almost painfully tight against John's bicep but John thinks he might understand now.

"I don't want to be alone." Sherlock sounds raw. "I've forgotten how."

The anger drains completely and John pulls his friend into a tight embrace. "Don't you ever do that to me again. I can't stand to see you like that."

I can't stand to lose you remains unspoken.

They spend the rest of night huddled together for warmth. When the wake up the next morning, Sherlock takes a fresh can of spray paint from his jacket and hands it to John with a tentative smile.

John takes the can, his shoulder stiff from a night outside.

"I've restocked our medical supplies," Sherlock says.

It's an offer of peace. John smiles back and digs through his pockets to show Sherlock the details of his disguise.

***


The lull lasts until John is ambushed on a routine supply run. The gun at his back sparks a panic. He fights as best he can, but there are two of them, neither of who seem to fall prey to the conventions of a Citizen's fighting style. John fights like a wounded animal, fights for survival, but eventually he feels the prick of a needle in the side of his neck and he knows it's over.

He wakes up groggy and tied to a chair. His head is in a fog and dimly he realizes this is the end, the drugs are taking hold of him and he's never going to come back. The thought sends a bolt of terror slicing through the haze. He's never been so happy to feel it. As long as the drugs haven't taken hold, he still has half a chance.

A concussion has never been so welcome.

"Johnny-boy," a voice trills: far too much emotion for a Citizen.

"Sherlock?" John slurs. The man coming out of the fog is too short to be Sherlock. Pale, dark hair. A shabby but expensive looking suit hung awkwardly off his slight frame.

"Sorry about the head," the man says. "But this is a meeting long overdue. Sherlock's never had a plaything last so long."

"Plaything?" This doesn't feel like the Empire's work. His head feels about ready to split in two, but the anger is creeping in behind the pain. "You don't work for Mycroft Holmes."

"Oh, very good, Johnny. I can see why Sherlock keeps you around."

"Moriarty," John guesses. It's the only other name John knows that exists outside the Empire. John knows Sherlock used to stay with the man, much in the same way John does now. He knows they'd parted ways due to what Sherlock called philosophical differences.

"Jim Moriarty. Hi." The man approaches him smiling. "I'm so sorry for the inconvenience but it's been far to long since I had any fun. Citizens are so dull."

In another life, John would feel more threatened. He would see the intelligence tempered with madness and know he had someone to fear. In the face of the Empire and Mycroft, John feels somewhat unimpressed. "I supposed you have some sort of grand plan then? I'm a message meant for Sherlock? There are far easier ways to go about this than kidnapping."

"But not half as much fun."

"What would you have me do?"

Moriarty looks thoughtful for the barest fraction of a second. "Oh, I don't need you to do anything, Dr. Watson. I rather thought I'd strap a bomb to you and walk you into a building."

***


The semtex vest is heavy on his chest, Moriarty's gun train on him is even more of a problem. John wonders if this was the manner of all Jim's bombings. If he coerced the officials into walking into their places of business before blowing them to the heavens. "Why are you doing this?" John asks.

"I need a revolution and a revolution needs blood," Moriarty says and for a second he is so utterly serious that John believes him. But his face splits into a manic smile. "Mostly though, I'm just bored."

He sounds like Sherlock in one of his black moods, but when Sherlock is himself, even at his most destructive he's never turned a finger toward John. The thought brings his mind reeling back toward his friend, hands clenching his possessively. God Sherlock. Sherlock who had access to the pill and didn't want to be alone.

(no one in the Empire feels alone)

"It's a game, don't you see? A game of Sherlock and mine. It's been so long since we played. I can only spend so much against the Empire before I need to take a some personal time."

"Which includes blowing me up?"

Moriarty fixes him with a stare but doesn't answer. He checks his watch instead, polishing the surface with his shirtsleeve. "Thirty-three minutes. Almost show time. Come along. I'm thinking the tube."

"And if I refuse?"

"If you don't follow me, I'll kill you right here and you'll never have a chance for your daring escape attempt."

"Is there any possible variation of this plan that does not end with a bomb going off?"

The gun jabs into his back and John zips up the parka and walks out into the streets of London.

The wall across from him is covered in writing, the same kind of paint John uses. He has no idea what it means, but he knows without a doubt that it's Sherlock.

Molly. Powers. Watson.

Moriarty at least seems to know the meaning. His face twists upward in a kind of glee. "Oh, Sherlock," he says. "I knew you wouldn't disappoint."

The crack of the gun against the back of his skull isn't entirely unexpected.

***


When he wakes up again, there's the faint smell of chlorine is hanging in the air. It takes him a second but his eyes adjust to the haze. In front of him is the drained pit of a swimming pool. The walls are coated with graffiti and John feels his fingers twitch. He wants to add his own name to the sea of colours, John Watson, RIP, some memento to ensure this won't be forgotten.

"A hostage exchange," Jim says. There's a smile tearing across his face like a pre-revolution child. "Sherlock, sometimes I'm impressed."

"You changed the game," Sherlock says, his voice resounding off the wall.

"Didn't think you'd have it in you," Moriarty continued. "Kidnapping Molly. And staging it in the place where we killed that traitor, Powers. Masterful."

"I killed no one."

"I did it to keep us safe!" Jim exploded. "He was working for the Empire. He was going to turn us in."

"He could have been turned."

"Then how is your little project going with Lestrade?"

"That is irrelevant to the matter."

"I did what you never could," Moriarty continues. "If you were willing to do the same, the Empire would have collapsed well before now."

A door opened in front of them and a terrified mousy-looking girl stumbled out, her hands bound behind her back, a cloth gag around her mouth. Sherlock followed her, gun carefully trained on her back. "I do enjoy our diversions, dear Jim. But John is not part of our game."

Jim flashes the bomb trigger in his hand. "And neither is Molly."

The girl looks at John with widened eyes. She's terrified.

Which means she can't be a Citizen. Which means she's one of them.

(which means Jim Moriarty is not alone)

"A trade then?"

"That does seem the best option."

It is a well-practiced dance. Moriarty sets down the trigger and Sherlock lowers the gun. John and Molly walk toward opposite sides of the pool, exchanging a look as they passed. Despite the situation John very nearly smiles.

Molly embraces Jim the second she is close enough. Sherlock tears the vest off Jim and chucks it into the pool.

"From now on, John is off limits," Sherlock says. His hand is locked tight around John's wrist.

"As is Molly." Jim agrees, bending to pick up the detonator. "Now if you don't mind, I hate to waste good semtex. I'd advise you to clear the area."

"Of course." Sherlock straightens. "Come along, John."

"See you at the next attempt."

They're four blocks away when the explosion happens and John lets the exhaustion flood back into him. He's not had a thing to eat for more than two days and the concussion is wreaking his coordination. "Sherlock, Sherlock, we've got to slow down."

"We've got to get back to 221B. You're injured."

"Your friend Jim is mad," John retorts. The world is spinning. He's stalling for time because he doubts Sherlock has the strength to carry him back.

"I no longer classify Jim as a friend."

"But you used to? Until Powers?"

"Carl Powers was one of Mycroft's spies masquerading as a revolutionary. I discovered his treachery. Jim ensured his demise. I did not agree with his methods."

"But you stay in touch."

"We attempt to kill one another about once a month."

John regards him in horror.

"Oh, it's quite civil. It's by far the best way to keep on one's toes."

"The entire Empire would see you both hanged."

"So we're both on our guard. There is no chance of success."

"You're mad."

"I'm bored. Jim for all his faults can alleviate that at some points." He pauses and puts a hand on John's shoulder. "I won't let anything happen to you."

John wants to believe him, tries to believe him, but ultimately can't. They live in a dangerous world.

And sometimes, when he closes his eyes, John can feel them both careening to a brutal end.

***


It takes a week before the signs of post concussion syndrome clear completely. Sherlock spends most of it strangely quiet, listing between the laboratory in the kitchen and John's perch on the couch. They've scavenged fifty-one cards of a playing deck, missing only the four of clubs and John teaches Sherlock how to play poker. Sherlock says it's an absurd game and cheats shamelessly, counting cards and running through probabilities but he still loses two of every three rounds because John's has near superhuman powers of bluffing even when concussed.

The time still passes slowly. Sherlock has scavenged an organic chemistry textbook from two decades ago, pouring over synthesis steps, but in a rare show of thoughtfulness, he's also found John a copy of Catch-22. By the day John wakes up without nausea, his thoughts are full of Yossarian and hope.

"I have an engagement today," Sherlock says as John eats the meagre portion of his breakfast. "Are you well enough to join me?"

John nods, all too eager to leave their steal cage of a shelter. He's not built for infinite time inside. He misses the sky.

"The meeting's not with Jim, is it?"

"Someone who is at the moment rather more interesting."

John follows Sherlock, weaving through the city, as far away from Baker Street as possible. His nerves about the meeting start to jangle. He finds himself looking for a man in a shabby suit or a dark haired girl with huge eyes.

But it's not Jim or Molly who meets them, glancing over his shoulders every few minute in paranoia. It's Lestrade. Something in John's gut shifts. He feels lighter. "It worked."

"Yes it bloody worked," Lestrade snaps. "And no, I don't have any desire to go back to the old way but that doesn't mean I can just skip off and work with you lot."

He shifts again, shoving his hands into his pockets. John wonders if he's like this at work or if he indulges in these ticks only in the presence of non-citizens. He hopes it's the latter or else the Lestrade experiment will be short lived.

"Do you have the names?"

"It's dangerous for you to know these, you realize. If they catch one, they'll be able to topple the lot of you."

"Nonsense," Sherlock says. "The names are not new. The only thing I would be doing is networking."

"It's still bloody dangerous. The two of you like you are now--you're hardly a threat. The idea is there, but security is more interested in the fellow setting up the bombs."

"I still want the list."

Lestrade holds out the tiny slip of paper, which Sherlock takes eagerly into his hands. It's a list of about fifteen names and their most recent locations. He folds his arms over his shoulder. "If this is going to work, you're going to have to give me something as well. I can't just fail to bring in any of the deserters without having something better to go off."

"Moriarty," John says before Sherlock can reply. "The bomber's name is Jim Moriarty."

When he meets Sherlock's eyes, the man is smiling. John wonders if he's been somehow indoctrinated into this game between madmen. He's no doubt contributed to an assassination plot, but he can't bring himself to care.

It's almost fun.

"Yes," Sherlock agrees. "Moriarty has been bombing tactical places in London for almost a decade. From my best intelligence, he plans to take out a dispensary."

"I'm sorry but why are you telling me this?" Lestrade's voice sounds like it has been dragged across sandpaper. "I was under the impression you would support the revolution."

Sherlock lets John answer. "We'd really prefer it if this kind of revolution not come in blood."

Lestrade nods tightly. "You got any more of those placebo pills? One of the intervals has to happen during my shift and I'd rather not call suspicion on myself."

Sherlock hands over a vial. "I can get you more if you need them."

Lestrade examines the contents with a grim smile. "Enough here to go around for a few days. Are they water soluble?"

"If you ground them up first," Sherlock answers. "It should counteract even the agent in the water."

Lestrade tucks his hands in his pocket, a pensive look on his face. "Until next time then, Sherlock."

They shake hands and then Lestrade turns to John. "Dr. Watson," he greets. "I'm a follower of your works."

There's a can of spray paint in the inner pocket of his jacket and John feels his face colour. "But not a fan?"

"You two are both brilliant, slippery as hell and quite possibly insane, but I think this sort of world could use some hope." He takes his hand back and snaps into the rigid posture of a Citizen, product of twenty years of muscle memory. "Good luck to you, doctor. Sherlock."

***


It's another month before they go back to Baker Street. Instead they spend the time tracking down Lestrade's list of names. They belong to misfits. Every one of them human. Every one of them surviving. Every one of them brilliant in their own way. A woman called Irene Adler, shrewd and beautiful steals two day's rations and leaves Sherlock dangling over the Thames with a rope looped around his ankles. Victor Trevor introduces them both to an elaborate distillation apparatus he'd made to purify the drinking water in a small section of the city. Soo Lin and her brother are working on a frequency scrambler in hope could supplant Mycroft's endless lists of edicts.

None of them are organized, all of them are paranoid and very few of them want to take risks.

When they finally make it back to Baker Street, they have an intricate list of people and abilities. "Do you think it's possible?" John asks. He's breathless with excitement. There are others out there extraordinary enough for the Empire and Lestrade to take notice.

They are not alone.

"I think it is highly improbable."

John's fingers twitch against the cane, the pain in his shoulder flaring up for a single second. "And why not?"

There are a million reasons to lead a revolution, but looking at Sherlock's face John can suddenly see the reasons against.

In many ways, Moriarty is right. There cannot be a revolution without bloodshed. Without loss. John remembers the war, remembers the cold-blooded way some troops were classified as acceptable loss.

His definitely of acceptable has changed since the detox.

There's a moment of clarity shooting lightning quick through his bones. Sherlock would be an unacceptable loss.

And become a nominal leader of the resistance would all but guarantee his loss.

"You see," Sherlock whispers, clutching at his arm. "Fighting could cause…"

"Why get the names then?" John demands. "Why spend days stalking them?"

Sherlock's face is utterly raw before he turns away. He doesn't say a word but grabs his violin and immediately begins to saw away out of the strings. The melody is indecipherable but angry enough for John to deduce the conversation has ended. John throws up is hand in frustration and retreats to his chair, spinning the cane absently through his hands.

It's only an hour later when the tune from the violin hits a chilling note, changing to a minor tonality that reeks of grief that John suddenly gets it.

Connections. In another world, John might mistake Sherlock for a sociopath, but this is a world that strips people bare, demanding their needs be brought to the surface. And if John is ever caught, Sherlock needs someone else.

He supposes it's an upgrade from Sherlock returning to the pill if John dies.

He stands abruptly and grabs the list from the table. He may be a reckless adrenaline junkie, but he has principles.

An hour later, he's seated in a bustling Citizen café with Molly Hooper.

The nervous demeanour of the pool is gone from her slight frame and her act is so good, John nearly believes it. They both order the dish of the day which is recommended because of high protein values. It also happens to be one of the foods John loathes the most but he needs to avoid suspicion.

"They're going to think we're this month's copulation pair," Molly says conversationally. "It's about the right time and the Empire encourages a healthy vitality to maintain their numbers for future generations."

She's testing him, John realizes. Moriarty has rubbed off of her but after Sherlock's endless attempts to shock him, his reaction is easily hidden in a sip of his coffee. "Surely you don't find the option too repulsive."

Her reaction is subtle, the smallest twitch a the corners of her mouth. "Jim might have something to say about that. But I'm sure you and Sherlock would be invited if you like."

John wishes he hadn't chosen to have this conversation in public, but the weight of the semtex vest on his chest is not something soon forgotten. Moriarty trust her which means John cannot. "I hear you and Jim are looking for change."

Molly's face is a mask. There are words they don't say in public if they want to survive. Revolution is one of them. "When change serves the good of the Empire."

The waitress puts the food on the table but does not stop to chat. Small talk is an inefficiency. John takes a bite, the food ash in his mouth. He does not touch the tainted water. This time of the month it's also spiked with aphrodisiacs, encouraging propagation of the race. He would rather not face that tonight.

John slides the list across the table. "I have some mutual friends with some similar goals. Provided of course Jim does not plan to terminate."

Molly narrows her eyes, taking a perfectly sized bite of her own food. She chews for exactly the required amount of time. Her movements are controlled and her knowledge of how a Citizen works is so complete that John thinks, research scientist.

(working with Sherlock they could accomplish so much)

But Sherlock isn't interested in revolution. Sherlock is interested in keeping John safe.

"Mortality is a fact of life, John," Molly says. "We try to avoid it as much as possible but…"

She leaves the question hanging, staring at the list. John doesn't move. Molly nods and slips the paper into her pocket. They finish their meals in silence, both glasses of water untouched.

When the waitress comes back, John pays her the exact amount of the bill. John stands but Molly, flashing him a wicked grin grabs the glass of tainted water and downs it in one go. Shocked, John lets her take his arm and manoeuvre them both through the door and into an abandoned alley. She pins him to the wall with a firm kiss and it's all John can do to stop her.

"The water's tainted," he says. "Sherlock has these pills that can--"

"I know all about the pills," Molly said. "It's fine. I like the effect this time of month and so does Jim." She pats her pocket where the list of possible revolutionaries is safely out of sight. "He's going to want to celebrate. Nothing says revolution like sex on a rooftop."

Despite himself John snorts out a laugh.

Molly smiles, slow and genuine and only slightly influenced by the water.

"Let me walk you to your meeting point then," John says. "We can't have you strolling off to a dispensary."

Molly acquiesces, tucking herself into John's arm as they move back into the streets. They look like any one of a hundred other couples they pass, muted desire flickering through the world at large. When they reach the rendezvous Moriarty looks at John with something like respect. "Johnny," he greets. "I see you've looked after my other half. I hope you've been looking after yours."

Molly giggles and lunges herself at him, snogging him for all he's worth.

John turns away, walking back onto the street, feeling better than he has in a long time. He wants a revolution but he won't lose Sherlock to it. This is the better option, the middle ground.

He's happy until a black limousine cuts him off and three men subdue him and shove him into the back seat.

***


John fights it tooth and nail. There's a single other occupant in the back of the limo who barely glances up from the screen of her phone. John's not subdued so he lashes out, bashing out the windows with his cane. The glass is tempered. The lock is immovable. John would throw himself out of the car if he could, would risk his body to the pavement far sooner than he would trust it to the Empire.

It's a full ten minutes before he sags back in exhaustion and frustration. "There's no way I'm getting out of this is there?"

"No," says the woman across from him. She's dark haired, condescending and very beautiful. "Not a chance."

He can't see the road through the windows so he pulls the can of paint from his pocket and scrawls John Watson was here against the door. It looks terrible against the contours of the car but the phantom pain that had been building in his leg eases just a little.

"Childish," the lady says.

John sticks his tongue out at her. He will be childish. He will be stubborn. He will be a fighter. No one can take that from him.

(except for how they can)

He forces himself calm until the door opens again and then he springs back into action. John is every bit as deadly as the trained soldiers in the military with the added bonus of both creativity and desperation. It works for about three minutes until the crack of a gun pierces the air and everyone freeze. "Leave us," a voice says and a single red dot appears over John's heart. "I would like to have a word with Dr. Watson."

The fight over, John's legs try to give out. It's only the cane that holds him up. He's in a dim warehouse surrounded by Citizens. The man in front of him wears a perfectly tailored suit and holds a gun.

"Kill me then," John spits. "It's better than going back."

"I'm not going to kill you," the man says. He takes a step forward, the light spilling over his face. He's not an overly descript man, older than John himself with a slightly receding hairline and a slightly hooked nose. "At least not now. I simply want to ask you a few questions about Sherlock Holmes."

John shifts. "Why?"

"Because I worry about him… constantly."

The phrasing sound off. The situation is absurd. John should be dead or drugged by now but he's neither. Realization sneaks up on him. "You. You're Mycroft Holmes, aren't you? You look nothing like you do in the news reels."

The reels smooth out his face, fill out his hair. They turn him into something impossible, the paragon of man. The person in front of him seems almost human.

"Very good, Dr. Watson. It not often I'm recognized on the streets."

"What the bloody hell do you want?"

"I understand that you've been running with Sherlock Holmes since your return from war."

"Sherlock wants nothing to do with you."

"Sherlock leads a very dangerous life. And I fear your presence has made him worse than ever. You're making quite a name for yourself, Dr. Watson. You've ensured every rebel in this city knows of you and my erstwhile brother. Even some of the Citizens are starting to take note."

John feels a perverse sense of pride. He may not last through the next hour, but he made an impression.

(and ideas cannot be killed)

He looks down at the laser sited against his chest.

He wonders if he'd make an impression on the warehouse floor. He wonders if they'll leave the blood or wash away the last impact of his life.

"Surveillance has informed me of much of your recent movements, but I am at a loss as to what you think you will accomplish."

"Maybe I just want to see your empire fall."

"But it won't fall, Dr. Watson. And do you know why?" He takes another step forward. In the hand opposite the gun, he holds an old fashioned umbrella which he twirls without apparent malice. "Because I see everything."

"Yeah?" John breathes. He has nothing to lose. "Then why don't you stop us?"

"When this revolution started, I had hoped for my brother to stand beside me. As time passed I realized that this would not be the case. My brother wanted more than the contentment. He needed more than I could offer."

"He beat you. He got off the pill. He survived the detox."

"I fed him a placebo. Not unlike his trick with Lestrade. I let him get bored and I let him leave. You see, my brother has a place in my world, albeit not the one I had originally intended. I'd wanted him to be a leader but he's become so much more."

"And what's that?"

"An enemy. There are two reasons every revolution before mine has ultimately failed. The first is that the citizens were not kept content. This one is easy to combat. I can easily see that all my promises are met and even if I fail… chemical euphoria is dreadfully pedestrian to produce." He smiles, his lips curving into a thin line. John feels like he's about to be devoured. "The second is that other leaders have sought to eliminate all of their enemies. But I've found enemies to be endlessly useful."

"Funny how I've not found the same."

"People need something to fear," Mycroft says. "Not even the pill can take that away from them. And they fear you, Dr. Watson. You and my brother. You are my monsters in the dark. That is why I have allowed you to continue. But John, I must stress this fact: You will not win."

The weight of the knowledge settles over him like a noose. Across from him, Mycroft smirks and asks after his brother's welfare. John launches into a diatribe of curses.

"You're very loyal," Mycroft says. "I count myself luck to know my brother is in such capable hands."

The he lets John go. The assistance usher him into the car where John sits, staring at his own signature on the frame of the door. Without him saying a word, the drop him off at Baker Street. The car leaves immediately behind them, but John can't go into 221B not if this is one of Mycroft's tests.

He takes the block, wondering through the winding streets and eventually making his way to the rooftops. The moon is hanging huge on the horizon. John sits with his feet dangling over the ledge, watching the stars.

Sherlock finds him within fifteen minutes, his near frantic movements a complete contrast to the dullness John feels. "What did he do to you?"

"Who? Mycroft?"

"Yes, Mycroft! Did he dose you? I have the counteragent. We could just—"

"It's over, Sherlock," John says. "He knows where we are. He knows what we've been doing and he's allowed it. Everything we've done has just played into his hands. So why do we even bother?"

Sherlock sits downs next to him, close enough so that their knees are bumping. He can feel the man's warmth through his tattered jeans. When Sherlock finally speaks, his voice is low and urgent. "My brother is not infallible. He only seems to be. He has eyes throughout the city. He watches everyone of importance. He's undoubtedly known of our involvement since the moment we first met."

John shivers, his coat insufficient to stop the chill.

"He's made a mistake," Sherlock says. "He should have never let us continue."

"And why's that?"

"Because we will beat him." Sherlock's voice brokers no argument. Sherlock can adapt any persona, can fool almost any enemy but he could never do that with John. He can read Sherlock's conviction in his every syllable.

John smiles at him and pulls the spray paint out from his pocket. With a steady hand, he etches a single word in six feet letters onto the rooftop.

Sherlock rolls his eyes when he sees it. "I'm not overly fond of sentimental gestures, John."

Shrugging, John pockets the can, picking at the old paint dried onto the sleeve of his jacket. "Then do you fancy a dramatic one?" He hoists his cane over his shoulders like a bat. "Weren't Soo Lin and her brother ready to test their transmitter?"

Sherlock smiles. "I'll get my violin."

They scramble off the rooftop, taking care not to step on John's work, the four letters traced into the rooftop in red: HOPE.


(before)



When Sherlock is born, Mycroft is ten years old and already as sharp as most adults. His mother's labour is long and hard and it takes almost thirty hours before a squalling rat-faced little thing is produced. Sherlock's seven weeks premature and they place him in a tiny glass box because of underdeveloped lungs. No one is allowed to hold him for almost a week. Logically, Mycroft thinks he shouldn't be able to scream like that if he could barely draw a breath but Sherlock's fondness for the impossible had started early. Mycroft spends as much time as possible away from his newborn brother, camped in the hospital waiting room as the man from the government on the telly rails against his political dissenters even though his ideas are so clearly wrong

It's two weeks before Sherlock is discharged and another week before the family stops flinching every time he cries. Sherlock is almost two months old when his mother sets him in Mycroft's arms for the first time.

"You're going to have to protect him," his mother says. "He's seven weeks old and he's nearly died twice. He'll need looking after."

Sherlock's eyes are open, still the newborn blue and for the first time in weeks, he isn't crying. He's just staring into Mycroft's face, eyes not focusing on one point for more than a second. Mycroft breathes out and extends his opposite hand until it's just a few inches from his brother. Sherlock snatches it in an instant, pulling it closer so that he can examine it as well.

His mother smiles at him from across the couch but Mycroft doesn't see her. He can't see anything but his brother who finishes with his examination and begins to gnaw on the digit. The television across from him is playing news of the latest London bombings. Forty dead in the blast, six of them children. That will never be Sherlock, Mycroft pledges. He can see his brother's brilliance even from that infant stare and knows he is something to be protected.

Mycroft will keep his brother safe in every way he can.

If he has to change the world to accomplish that, so be it.
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(no subject)

18/4/11 22:45 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] wallhaditcoming.livejournal.com
This was fantastic. Everyone was perfectly IC and the AU was so believable...wow. Just wow. This is one of the best fics I have read in this fandom. Just absolutly fabulous. I am in awe.

(no subject)

19/4/11 20:20 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com
Wow *blushes.* Thanks so much for the praise. It was a blast to write. Sherlock is kind of a fandom that's made for a Dystopia.

(no subject)

18/4/11 22:46 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] ktbean.livejournal.com
Wow. This is amazing.

(no subject)

19/4/11 20:20 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com
Thank you so much.

(no subject)

18/4/11 22:55 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] ladygrendel.livejournal.com
Oh, this is good. Reminds me a great deal of 1984 and that book was fantastic.

(no subject)

19/4/11 20:21 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com
1984 meets Brave New World meets Sherlock. It's just a shame I could sneak the Equilibrium references in there too. =)

Thanks for reading.

(no subject)

19/4/11 01:22 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] perriotoi.livejournal.com
Creepy and fantastic!

(no subject)

19/4/11 01:43 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] karadin.livejournal.com
Great fic! thanks for posting.

(no subject)

19/4/11 20:21 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com
And thank you for reading.

(and is that a Tommy quote in your icon? Because that wins)

(no subject)

Posted by [identity profile] karadin.livejournal.com - 19/4/11 21:41 (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com - 19/4/11 22:36 (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

Posted by [identity profile] karadin.livejournal.com - 19/4/11 23:29 (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com - 20/4/11 00:01 (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

Posted by [identity profile] karadin.livejournal.com - 20/4/11 00:33 (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

19/4/11 05:55 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] etharei.livejournal.com
I LOVE dystopian society stories, and this one is exquisitely done. I love how the characters all work, and I adore the dark twist of Mycroft's motivations, because it makes sense in an extreme, surreal way. John's version of blogging/memoirs is fitting and contributes to both his character and the dynamic between him and Sherlock.

Excellent pacing. I appreciate the way you unraveled this universe - through the eyes of the characters, without tedious lengthy exposition. And great comparison in how Sherlock is as much an outsider here as he is in canon or any other 'verse, but his role is also somewhat relative to the society he's in. One of the beautiful things about fanfic is when you end up seeing familiar characters in a new light, which you've definitely done here.

Thanks so much for writing and sharing, am adding it to my memories ♥

(no subject)

19/4/11 20:28 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com
Dystopias are a guilty pleasure of mine. When a prompt for one cropped up on the meme, I couldn't not write it. Especially when it wanted to know what happened to Mycroft in the world and my brain went, clearly he's the one who made it happen.

Playing with character dynamics are part of the fun of AUs and they always have been. I think some variation on that pool scene in TGG is a staple of the AUs in Sherlock. Jim was definitely my favorite twist to play with. =)

But yes, this is a long-winded way to say thank you for reading. Your comment really made me smile.

(no subject)

19/4/11 06:10 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] itsthewa.livejournal.com
Da-YUM, that was amazing.

If you ever feel like a writing a sequel, please consider me first in line. :)

(no subject)

19/4/11 20:32 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com
Thank you so much.

(I highly doubt a sequel as there would be no plot. Though I did end up posting an extra snippet of the sex OP prompted in this comment)

(no subject)

19/4/11 07:13 (UTC)
ext_129022: (elementary)
Posted by [identity profile] introductory.livejournal.com
This is amazing. Reading, I was caught in a constant push-pull of hope-despair-hope-despair, and I imagine it must be very close to what John and Sherlock feel, too. I love the way you've brought in the canon characters (Molly! Soo Lin!) and twisted all the relationships just so -- it's so much less black and white, so much more grey. And that ending -- oh, you've killed me, oh, Mycroft.

This is going on my recs list for sure, and I'll probably be coming back to this time and time again.

(no subject)

19/4/11 20:34 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com
Mycroft is so grey to start with, it's absurdly easy for me to see him going from running the free world to taking over the free world. I'm really glad it worked for you. It was a blast to write.

(no subject)

19/4/11 08:21 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] sheffsfic.livejournal.com
Oh excellent fic! Thank you!

(no subject)

19/4/11 20:34 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com
You're quite welcome. Thanks for reading.

(no subject)

19/4/11 09:59 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] supermusicmad.livejournal.com
OP from the meme here. Just dropping in to say thanks again, I still can't quite get over how much I love this. :D Thanks so much for posting the link, it's great to reread it all together like this, and if you ever wanted to write any more from this verse I would devour it with relish *hint hint*

Srsly though, thanks so much for writing this, it's marvellous :)

(no subject)

19/4/11 20:31 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com
It was such a fantastic prompt, I couldn't help but go with it. (and I kind of needed to post it together to get rid of typos. Man there are a lot of typos when you just type straight into the box. Thank god for the squiggily red line spell checker or it could have been so much worse)

As for more in the verse... here's the sex I missed from the original prompt.

Opposite the Empire's mating cycle, they have sex on rooftops. It's nothing like how it happens for the Citizens. John remembers those ways back from before the war. The artificial lust suddenly infusing to their diet causing most of the male population to walk around half hard for days. It had never seemed out of the ordinary but now the violation makes John's skin crawl. He has flashes of faces sometime. Clinical touches like it was a medical procedure capped by a gasping anticlimax. Not even the feel of skin on skin made it feel the slightest bit intimate. No one ever stayed the night and very seldom were words exchanged past the perfunctory agreement.

John doesn't know the outcome of these encounters. He was only sixteen the first time he took part in the cycle. He knows that it is highly improbably that he didn't add to the propagation of the Empire during the parade of faceless women. Odds are there is some unknown Watson spawn who will never know a world that sparkles with emotion.

He hates the Empire for stealing this intimacy from him. From stealing the future out from the next generation.

So in a way, what he and Sherlock do is take it back.

The encounters are nothing like the ones under the influence. They're spur of the moment proposals, sloppy kisses after moments of extreme danger and sex by the light of the moon.

It doesn't happen more than once a month but John finds himself craving these moments. craving the warmth, the feel of Sherlock's body under his hands, the shape of his mouth as they kiss with eyes wide open. It's a rebellion in itself, just as good as the violin over the loudspeakers. It's a mark, just like the paint smears John sometimes leaves on Sherlock's shoulders. John and Sherlock etched into the rooftop like a beacon for all to see.

(no subject)

Posted by [identity profile] supermusicmad.livejournal.com - 20/4/11 06:55 (UTC) - Expand

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Posted by [identity profile] the-tire-swing.livejournal.com - 25/4/11 02:41 (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

19/4/11 12:54 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] lbmisscharlie.livejournal.com
Loved this over on the meme, so I'm definitely bookmarking to re-read now that it's in one place. So glad you de-anoned! :D

(no subject)

19/4/11 20:36 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com
The typos were a bit of an enormous issue when I'd peak at previous parts. I'm surprised you put up with my first draft grammar at the meme. =) Happy you found your way over here though.

(no subject)

19/4/11 15:47 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] redrikki.livejournal.com
I loved this over on the meme. Somehow I'm not shocked to find it was written by you. Your dystopias are always the best dystopias.

(no subject)

19/4/11 20:38 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com
...
...

Yeah dystopias are kind of a thing for me, huh? Dystopias and zombies.

(also, are you in every single fandom I'm in? It's kind of ridiculously awesome.)

(no subject)

20/4/11 20:24 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] ningen-demonai.livejournal.com
Oh, this is so amazing, I almost can't stand it. I just. The bonds between all of these characters (John and Sherlock, Molly and Moriarty, Moriarty and Sherlock, Mycroft and Sherlock) are so beautifully rendered and believable. I love it! And I love you for writing it, thank you! ♥

(no subject)

26/4/11 03:03 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com
One of the most fun things about Sherlock, especially the most recent version is how grey everyone is. It's delightfully easy to tip the scales just a little bit. I'm glad you enjoyed it. It was a blast to write.

(no subject)

21/4/11 04:16 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] geeky-apple.livejournal.com
Wow, this is amazing. More than amazing, it feels classic. (Also I've had quite a bit of class reading on London dispensaries lately and this is a cool and unexpected way for them to show up again)

(no subject)

26/4/11 03:06 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com
Hey, you. Been a while. You read sherlock now? Isn't the whole thing delightful?

(Heh, the dispensaries were a lucky guess for me. I know next to nothing about London and have gleamed most setting out of Brave New World and Equilibrium)

(no subject)

Posted by [identity profile] geeky-apple.livejournal.com - 28/4/11 02:39 (UTC) - Expand

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Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com - 28/4/11 14:24 (UTC) - Expand

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Posted by [identity profile] geeky-apple.livejournal.com - 2/5/11 02:44 (UTC) - Expand

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21/4/11 22:07 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] probablyhuman.livejournal.com
Ah thank you for renewing my love for dystopias. this was brilliant absolutely brilliant and so in character to. I love the fact that it's fairly unique but very familiar at the same time.

(no subject)

26/4/11 03:06 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com
Dystpian love should be nurtured. Glad I could help.

(no subject)

25/4/11 02:40 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] the-tire-swing.livejournal.com
Wow. This. I love this.

(no subject)

25/4/11 13:30 (UTC)
ext_3669: bodie (from the wire) against a cloud texture (Default)
Posted by [identity profile] attempt-unique.livejournal.com
This is amazing. I love love love what you did with Mycroft.

(no subject)

26/4/11 03:07 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com
Thank you so much. (I'm just glad more people than me can see this version of Mycroft. )

(no subject)

25/4/11 17:41 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] etoiledunord.livejournal.com
This is awesome. I honestly don't know what Mycroft's role in this really is, but the suggestion that he created this world to give Sherlock purpose and keep him safe by having him occupy such an important role where he can't just be replaced--that's an incredible combination of creepy and sweet. And if Sherlock and John et al. wind up winning, then even better, because, yeah, going too far there, Mycroft.

I especially love how you included everyone and kept them recognizable despite the change in setting. The way the relationships were tweaked but still genuine made me happy, especially the bit with Lestrade.

Well done. =)

(no subject)

26/4/11 03:13 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com
Heh. Mycroft's role in this (at least in my head) is a bit like this: Mycroft was always the political activist but had published most of his papers out of his parent's name and they were killed because their names were on his ideas. Mycroft decided at that point that he wouldn't lose anymore family so he pushed for the reform, the pills and set himself up as big brother. Sherlock was on the medication but Mycroft started to realize more and more that his brother's brilliance suffered. He decided to ween him off the drugs in hopes that he would join in the rule. Sherlock of course found the prospect remarkably boring and flounced off to make trouble in the city. Mycroft, after the first few weeks, realized that his brother could be of even more use as a figurehead enemy for the Empire.

It's part him wanting to keep his brother happy and part that the arrangement genuinely works for Mycroft's benefit.

(Wow, I put waaaay too much thought into this. Apologies for the comment. It got away from me. Thank you so much for reading.)

(no subject)

Posted by [identity profile] etoiledunord.livejournal.com - 26/4/11 03:55 (UTC) - Expand

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Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com - 26/4/11 04:53 (UTC) - Expand

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26/4/11 02:05 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] lady-ganesh.livejournal.com
Man, that's amazing.

(no subject)

26/4/11 03:14 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com
Thank you so much!

(no subject)

1/5/11 20:26 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] bugeyedmonster.livejournal.com
Yeah, you've reposted this! Loved it (even in spite of the typos) when I read it on the fill. I'm glad that you posted it here so I can add it to memories.

(no subject)

1/5/11 21:42 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com
Glad you found the proper version. It's so much less cringe worthy when I don't type things directly into the box. =)

(no subject)

3/5/11 20:01 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] eightnoon.livejournal.com
This is wonderful! Well done!

(no subject)

4/5/11 00:37 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com
Thank you so much!

(no subject)

4/5/11 01:24 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] therese-chan.livejournal.com
This is one of the best Sherlock fics I've read so far. Your characterization are amazing and this is simply beautifully written!
I didn't want it to end! XDD

Thank you~

(no subject)

7/5/11 04:38 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com
Thank you so much! It was a blast to write.

(no subject)

11/1/12 01:54 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] aplenacalle.livejournal.com
THIS IS FUCKING GLORIOUS

(no subject)

25/1/12 03:21 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com
YOU ARE FUCKING GLORIOUS (And I shit at commenting on time, but thank you. )

(no subject)

27/1/12 17:04 (UTC)
Posted by (Anonymous)
I saw this recced on ffa and had to check it out! I hope you don't mind me leaving an anonymous comment. I thought this was fantastic. The characters were spot on, you created a amazingly bleak atmosphere, with such minimal and subtle language. I loved revolutionary Moriarty versus sort of revolutionary Sherlock. And Mycroft makes a fantastic villain of the piece - although the part at the end really had my heart breaking for him. Beautifully done :)

(no subject)

29/1/12 21:30 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com
Anon comments are always find by me. I had a ball writing this, one of my first experiences on the meme. I'm glad you enjoyed it!
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