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Turning point

BBC Sherlock

Rating 12 (violence)

Summary: AU version of A Study in Pink. Inspired by an old The Game is On challenge to make one change to canon.

Betaed by ariadnes string



John Watson’s impulsiveness had got him into trouble before, but he couldn’t regret choosing to work with Holmes, or becoming his friend. Even though it had all come so near to disaster right at the start, when Sherlock had gone off with a serial killer to Roland-Kerr FE college.

***

John didn't know what the place was when he arrived at it. He stood there for a moment in confusion: there were two identical blocks. How on earth could he manage more than a fifty-fifty chance of finding Sherlock and the cabbie? He forced himself to stay still for a moment, to think. Why was his instinct telling him to choose the left-hand building? Because he was left-handed, was that it? But most people were right-handed, so...he headed right.

He ran through the building: endless corridors, classrooms, laboratories. He called to Sherlock, which maybe wasn’t a good idea, might alert the cabbie. But he couldn’t keep quiet, he had to let Sherlock know help was coming, warn him not to do something reckless. Something more reckless, the stupid tosser. It was all going badly wrong: wrong building, missed a room, going to be too late.

And then he opened yet another of the endless doors – today, children, we’re looking through the round window – and there they both were at a long polished table, like it was some bloody meeting. But Sherlock was holding up a pill, one of the sodding suicide pills, a terrifying look of concentration on his face, and he was going to take it, the idiot.

“Sherlock!” he yelled again, desperately, and then he realised that the cabbie had a gun on the table, was reaching for it, bringing it up clumsily. But even a hopeless shot was dangerous this close up, and his hand automatically brought out his own gun and squeezed off a killing shot, straight into the torso.

The cabbie was hurled back against the floor, in a spray of blood. Wait to check he’s dead, the soldier in John thought, but Sherlock was already vaulting over the table, running towards the dying man. John lowered his gun, put the safety catch on. Sherlock was right: they ought to see if they could do anything for the cabbie. But all his own movements suddenly seemed slow, as if he was watching the scene from a distance through glass. And Sherlock wasn’t crouching down to help the cabbie, but to yell at him, waving the pill.

“Was I right, I was, wasn’t I? Did I get it right?” And then Sherlock flung the pill away and started ranting about something else: a fan. What the hell was going on? Had Sherlock taken some drug already that was affecting his judgement? John stepped forward -  he had to help Sherlock, stop him - and his bloody leg buckled, like it had suddenly decided that psychosomatic pain was what he needed right now. He clung desperately onto the edge of the table, forcing the pain down, telling himself that he could move, could do something...

“I want a name!” Sherlock roared, and – Oh Christ, he was putting his foot on the cabbie’s shoulder, crushing the already broken body   - “You’re dying, but there’s still time to hurt you. Give me a name. A name! Now! The name!”

“Moriarty!” The name rattled in the cabbie’s throat and that was it.

John closed his eyes. Breathed, focused on being alive, on the fact that nothing had hit him. His body, at least, was safe, unhurt. When he could stand up again, he opened his eyes, and saw Sherlock looking down at him, a hint of concern creasing his brow. The adrenaline’s worn off now, and he’s realised what he just did, John thought.  

“Not a very clever shot,” Sherlock announced. “You should have got him somewhere less immediately fatal. A bullet in the leg might have given us time to force some more information out of him. Think about it next time.” He paused, and then added: “Are you all right?”

“I have just shot a man,” John replied, because it was something to say. And then he remembered something. “What’s...what’s Moriarty?”

“I’ve absolutely no idea,” Sherlock said, smiling. “The next little puzzle for us. Well, after we’ve finished clearing up this one. I don't suppose you'd serve time for this, but let's avoid the court case. You need to get the powder burns out of your fingers and meet me outside in fifteen minutes. Pretend you went into the wrong building, don’t know anything about what happened.”

He did what Sherlock said, because he had no idea what else to do. How did you explain to your flatmate, that you couldn’t go round hurting people like that? Even someone like the cabbie, who was not a nice man.

***

“Sergeant Donovan's just been explaining everything,” he said to Sherlock, when they met in the car park a little later. For some reason, Sherlock still had a blanket round his shoulders. "Two pills. Dreadful business, isn't it, dreadful?" He knew his voice sounded stilted, unconvincing even to himself. "And then he got shot at the critical moment."

"Yes," said Sherlock, "The shooter was masked, of course, but up that close I got a good look at him, obviously. He was black, below average height, medium build, tattoo of a lightning flash just visible on his wrist. Lestrade recognised the description: Byron Hughes from West Norwood, small-time drug user and dealer, now obviously branching out as a hired killer."

"You're trying to-" John began, and then realised he might be overheard. He whispered: "You're planning to frame someone for this killing?"

"Well, it's possible Hughes has an alibi," Sherlock said, smiling at him, "but it's hardly a loss to society if he did go down for this. Don't worry, John, I'm a very plausible liar, if this does get to court I'll be fine. Are you hungry?"

"Not really," John said. Sick to the stomach was more like it.

"There's a good Chinese down the end of Baker Street," said Sherlock. "If you change your mind, come and find me there, it stays open till two." He turned to go and then John spotted a tall figure emerging from a car.

"Sherlock," he gasped, "that's him, that was the man I was talking to you about."

"I know exactly who that is," Sherlock said, striding across to intercept the new arrival.

***

The tall man, it turned out, wasn't an archenemy after all, but Sherlock's brother, who apparently ran Britain. And who Sherlock clearly didn't get on with.

"Good evening, Mycroft," he said abruptly, "Try not to start a war before I get home, you know what it does for the traffic. John, I'll be at the Golden Dragon, you'll recognise it by the wear on the bottom third of the door handle." The he swept off, and John watched his slender, black-clad form disappear into the darkness.

"He's always been so difficult," Mycroft announced. Maybe time to check I've chosen the right side, John decided, and looked up as calmly as he could at Mycroft.

"Can I just get this straight?" he said. "Despite the fact that you kidnapped me and then offered me a bribe, you're actually the good brother here?"

"Has Sherlock been upsetting you? There are reasons I worry about him constantly. He finds certain conventions hard to adhere to."

John licked his dry lips. "Like the Geneva Conventions?" he found himself saying. Mycroft gave him a quizzical look and John added slowly: "Earlier this evening, Sherlock said he was a sociopath. A high-functioning sociopath."

"It's a label, as all these things are," Mycroft said, frowning. "But my brother has always been intelligent, charming, perfectly able to give the appearance of friendliness if he wishes to. And willing to sacrifice anyone to his own desires."

John abruptly remembered something. "Isn't sociopathy, anti -social personality disorder, whatever it's called, often characterised by cruelty to other? Not just emotional cruelty, but physical cruelty?" He'd come across a few men like that in Afghanistan.

"I have my suspicions about Sherlock," Mycroft replied, "but I have never seen specific instances."

Whereas I, John thought, have just watched Sherlock torture a man and crack jokes afterwards.

"But his comments about me starting a war are revealing," Mycroft went on. "I see part of my job as preventing wars, though I'm afraid that's something of a losing battle, if you pardon the pun. I fear that Sherlock, in my position, might be tempted to start a war, just to see what happens."

He was wrong, John thought, he had to be. But Mycroft would know about his brother, and it fitted all too well with what he himself had seen of Sherlock.

"You're disappointed," Mycroft said, smiling down at John.

 "Good observation. Yes, yes I am."

"Heroes don't exist, Dr Watson, and if they did my brother wouldn't be one. You, however..." He paused, and then went on: "I think the phrase I used earlier this evening was 'very loyal, very quickly', was it not?"

"Yes," John said, his chin going up.

"You're a man of strong moral principles. Your courage is obvious and you turned down a bribe from me. I presume, as well, that you only shot the serial killer when you or Sherlock were in imminent danger."

"How do you...never mind."

"Loyalty too, is an admirable quality," Mycroft went on, examining the tip of his umbrella. "Provided it's correctly directed. Some of this country's most dangerous opponents are motivated by a fanatical loyalty to a charismatic figure. And Sherlock, I'm afraid, regards an attachment to queen and country as quaint."

"And your point is?" John said, folding his arms.

"You see the battleground, and you miss it, don't you, Dr Watson, but have you considered that you might be fighting on the wrong front?"

"What are you talking about?"

"I'm offering you a job."

"As a minor civil servant?"

"Very droll," Mycroft said. "The work would offer you the danger you crave, and also satisfy your sense of duty. But perhaps without the onerous task of keeping Sherlock on the straight and narrow. You have no need to decide now, let me add. Take my card," he said and handed one to John. It proclaimed that Mycroft worked for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. "Sherlock's invited you to dinner. I suggest you go back and talk to him again. Perhaps get him to tell you more about his cases, or maybe discuss some of the things you've seen in Afghanistan. And listen to him, get a sense of what makes him tick."

"And then?"

"If you decide that the tick is that of a bomb about to explode, ring the number on my card. I can arrange your exit from Baker Street, and, if you wish it, a future in service to your country. But you need time to mull the thing over, I don't believe in snap decisions. Good bye, Dr Watson, or possibly au revoir."

***

Well, he'd made his choice, and left Baker Street, and now six months later, here he was as Mycroft's right-hand man. More than that, perhaps. They were becoming close in a way that John found both exhilarating and alarming. But it would work out, he felt sure.  Because Mycroft might officially be only a minor civil servant, but in fact, he was the greatest man John had ever know. More than that; he felt increasingly confident that Mycroft, unlike his brother, was a good man.

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
fengirl88
Oct. 29th, 2011 05:41 am (UTC)
interesting... I hadn't thought about what might have happened if John had witnessed that. is he right about Mycroft, do you think?
2ndskin
Oct. 30th, 2011 02:11 am (UTC)
VERY nice. Beautifully put together--I like all the dialogue here, and the AU. Deserves a nice long novella!!
sporadic_writer
Mar. 28th, 2013 07:24 pm (UTC)
Fascinating story. Sherlock being a sympathetic character all hinges on his supposed innate goodness...but if he really is a sociopath like he claims, then you really want to stay away from him.
marysutherland
Apr. 4th, 2013 06:32 am (UTC)
The episode sets up to accept Sherlock's torture of the cabbie, because he's a dangerous murderer, but if you look at it in cold blood, Sherlock's behaviour is appalling. I can imagine it might well be a red flag to someone like John's who's been in a combat zone and seen how violence can get out of hand.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )