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22 December 2011 @ 12:46 pm
fic: Whatever Makes You Happy  
Whatever Makes You Happy

Sherlock BBC | John/Sherlock | PG-13 | 15,900 | beta: lillyankh | disclaimer: the show and the characters aren't mine. Title from Radiohead's Creep.

He was a mutant, a freak, a ‘plague upon the planet’ as he’d once heard it described.  Sherlock struggles for control over his power – X-Men fusion.

Written for sciosophia's birthday.  Extra special thanks to lillyankh  without whom this fic would not have been possible.

In the past, people had disputed the term ‘mutant’.  It was accurate but there were mutants out there who felt it demeaned them, made them sound like monsters.  They preferred terms such as ‘gifted’, ‘blessed’, ‘evolved’.  Sherlock was not one of those people.  

It had taken a while after his mutation had manifested for Sherlock to realise what a curse it was. He knew now that it wasn’t a ‘gift’, wasn’t something to long for. He was a mutant, a freak, a ‘plague upon the planet’ as he’d once heard it described.

He’d always gotten pleasure from using his power, there was no way he could use his particular ability and not. A single touch of skin on skin was enough.  The rush was incredible, better than any drug he had ever tried, and he had tried them all at one point or another.  

Like most people, his power had been triggered by emotion.  Sherlock had met Sebastian during one of the college formals in his final year at Cambridge.  The combination of black tie, alcohol and lust resulted in an interesting night. In fact, it led to more discoveries than either Sherlock or Sebastian had anticipated.

Sebastian had taken Sherlock down one of the more deserted corridors when they’d been unable to hold back any longer.  Mouths attacked mouths, jaws, necks, collar bones; hands caressed backs, chests, shoulders and hair.  It was exciting, it was intoxicating and then it became even more so – for Sherlock at least.  

Sebastian had frozen in shock and pain as Sherlock steadily drained his life, absorbing it right through his fingertips caressing Sebastian’s neck, through his tongue exploring Seb’s mouth.  

He wouldn’t have stopped, couldn’t have stopped if Mycroft hadn’t suddenly appeared with a stocky blond man and pulled him off.  Sebastian staggered backwards into the wall before his legs gave out and he slid down to the floor, grasping at the carpet, trying to crawl away.  Sherlock fell back into Mycroft’s arms, smiling without a care in the world.  He could feel his pulse throbbing throughout his entire body. He had never felt so alive as he did in that moment.  At the edge of his awareness he noticed the blond man take hold of Sebastian’s arm and saw them both vanish in a sudden flash of light.

When the high finally passed several hours later, Sherlock had been thrilled.  No longer was Mycroft the exalted family member, the only one with power.  And that high – that glorious, breathtaking rush – he would have to try that again.  

Mycroft hadn’t been so delighted.  Apparently, Sebastian was in hospital, only he wasn’t quite the same fresh-faced eighteen year old he had been earlier that night.  From what Mycroft’s doctors could determine, Sherlock’s touch had aged him by at least three to four years.  Thankfully, the physical change was so small that most people wouldn’t recognise it for what it was.  There would be no awkward questions to answer – or, more accurately, no documents to forge and sudden desires to relocate to far-off countries.  Sebastian wouldn’t remember anything once one of Mycroft’s ‘specialists’ had moved in and erased the evening.

Mycroft seemed intent on making Sherlock understand the terrible repercussions of his ability. Sherlock didn’t care.  All he wanted now was to experience that surge of life again and again and again.  How could he ever get bored with all that power flooding through him?

At first, it had been casual touches; little and often, keeping him in a constant state of bliss.  Then he began to want more, to need more.  A touch of hands and a friendly caress were no longer enough.  He started to hold on for longer, letting the life rush through his veins as the high overtook him.  He was still careful.  He’d found that whilst he was connected he could sense the life within a person.  It allowed him to judge the number of years he would be taking off the other person’s life, allowed him to pull back when that number began to climb too high.  

That had been enough for years, but just as before the highs began to fade.  That was when the ‘accidents’ started.  Mycroft was willing to overlook the first one – with such a dangerous power it was surprising something like this hadn’t happened before.  After number five had finally caught the attention of the police, Mycroft had had no choice but to step in.  Sherlock was getting out of hand, and in a world where mutants were being locked away and experimented on, he was asking for trouble.  

The withdrawal had not been pretty.  Sherlock had been riding an almost continuous high for nearly eight years by that point and he was not giving it up without a fight.  In the end, Mycroft had been left with two choices – solitary confinement, or sending him to Xavier’s Institute for Higher Learning.  The Institute had better mutant knowledge than anywhere else in the world – if they couldn’t help Sherlock control himself then Mycroft would do what was necessary.  He hoped it wouldn’t come to that; depriving Sherlock of stimuli to occupy his mind would be worse than death.  With that threat hovering over his head, Sherlock had reluctantly agreed to go to America.

He had been assigned a regenerator to guard him.  The idea had been that even if Sherlock gave in and managed to start draining the regenerator’s life, they would survive and be none the worse for it.  It was almost a perfect plan, there was just one small flaw – it gave Sherlock a steady supply of his favourite high.  

It took only two weeks before Sherlock was stealing touches from his guard, Victor Trevor.  Just like his addiction, it had started small.  Victor had refused anything more and, unlike the others, he kept enough strength to fight Sherlock off.  By the third week they were stealing kisses as well.  

To Sherlock, it was simply an easy way to get his next hit without any of the adverse consequences Mycroft had lectured him about.  To Victor it was the thrill he longed for. With his ability adrenaline rushes were hard to come by. Injuries could be healed within minutes and when you could live indefinitely things just tended to repeat themselves.  To Victor, Sherlock was the perfect solution.  Each time it felt like he was dying, each time it felt like he was alive.  Mutual highs steadily brought them together.

By the end of the fifth week something had shifted in their relationship.  It was no longer about satisfying their own addictions, but more and more about giving the other that rush.  

They managed to keep their kisses and caresses a secret from the others at the school.  There was no doubt in either of their minds about what would happen if anyone caught them, if the hushed rumours were found to be true. But good things seldom last and it was the same for mutants as it was for normal people.  

After two months, they decided to take their relationship further.  Sherlock had never had sex with anyone before; when a single touch can kill, sex had been a foolish idea.  Even when that had begun to matter less, normal people just weren’t able to survive the prolonged contact necessary to begin such an act.  Victor was different.  Sherlock could touch Victor as much as he wanted, for as long as he wanted, and Victor wouldn’t age a day.

It had been the biggest high Sherlock had ever experienced.  Victor’s emotions – excitement, lust, love – mingled with Sherlock’s own as his life coursed through his body.  It wasn’t like a hunger since he would never feel full, but more a sense of energy, a string on a violin that could be pulled tighter and tighter, producing higher and higher notes, and would never snap.  It was thrilling and soothing all at once.  Time seemed to slow, his eyes picked up on more details than he could normally account for.  The smooth, naked torso spread out under him. Sherlock had never felt more alive.

It had been wonderful; the feel of Victor’s hands over his naked body, his lips against Sherlock’s thighs. Victor’s mouth on Sherlock was bliss.  The high that surged through him at that moment was what every junkie dreamed of.  

He didn’t notice how pale Victor’s skin was turning, didn’t notice how hard his heart was working to keep blood pumping through his veins or the dark hair draining of pigment. He didn’t notice the small voice in the back of his head alerting him to a nearly drained body.  Sherlock was lost in his headspace, lost in the sensations assaulting him; even the air felt like it was gently kissing his exposed skin.  Victor pulled off just as Sherlock came, but instead of rolling away he slumped on top of Sherlock, no longer able to find the energy to break the contact that was steadily killing him.  Sherlock rode his post-orgasm high into oblivion.

~ ~ ~

When he came to, Victor was sprawled across his chest.  At first, Sherlock hadn’t taken stock of what that meant; he could still feel Victor’s life pulsing through his veins.  Nevertheless, Victor was heavy and Sherlock needed the bathroom.  With a few gentle nudges, Sherlock tried to rouse him.  Gentle nudges quickly become frantic shoves as he rolled Victor off of his chest.  The motionless, pale body fell limply to the side.

It wasn’t the pure white hair or paper thin skin that frightened him; it was the eyes.  He had never been truly scared before, but staring into those lifeless eyes filled with resignation made Sherlock’s stomach turn in revulsion.  Victor had known, there at the end, that he wasn’t going to live through this.  Had he tried calling out to Sherlock?  Had he asked him to stop, to back away?  He couldn’t remember.  He felt sick.  

He knew he had to leave, but this wasn’t like the others; this was someone he cared about – had cared about.  He grabbed his bags, shoving in what few clothes and possessions he had and ran.  Mycroft would already know what had happened, he always knew thanks to his infernal mutation. The ability to take his mind anywhere with a single thought meant he was always watching Sherlock, the bastard.  He had to admit, even if only begrudgingly, that it did sometimes come in useful. In most likelihood, a clean up crew were already on their way.  

Victor Trevor would disappear – ran away with Sherlock back to London.  The gossip would cover up any suspicions people might have about their relationship and hide their simultaneous disappearances.  Only the higher ups at the school might be suspicious, but with a few suggestions here and psychic barriers there no one would ever need know.  The professor probably knew, but with his ability he’d know it had not been done maliciously.  There was no danger to fear from him unless you counted unwanted sympathy.

Sherlock ran; he didn’t care where.  The only thing he needed was his destination to be far away and devoid of people.  The open grounds of the estate suddenly gave way to the surrounding trees and still he ran.  He could feel the remnants of his high, could feel Victor’s life force pumping through his body.  He couldn’t take it any more, he had to get rid of it.  

Sherlock slowed to a stop, dry heaving.  It didn’t make any difference, of course.  Life energy wasn’t some three course meal that settled in your gastric system; it filled every cell in your body via some mutated form of osmosis.  You couldn’t simply vomit it back out.  Logically knowing it made no difference, Sherlock couldn’t stop the dry heaves from wracking his body.

He had no idea what he would do now.  Mycroft would no doubt be furious, isolating him away from others.  Wasn’t that what Sherlock wanted?  To be locked away from harming anyone else?  Yes, he’d killed before, but it hadn’t seemed important at the time; his high was all that had mattered.  To kill someone he cared for, someone he was possibly starting to love; it could never happen again.  If it meant he had to spend the rest of his life locked away he would take it – if it meant he never had to feel like this again, feel this gut-wrenching despair and self-loathing, he could take it.  

When his stomach settled – his body finally accepting the futility of the act – he slumped down onto the cold ground with his back against a nearby tree.  He had never felt so lonely, perhaps because he had never really considered just how truly terrible his ‘gift’ was.  Before, he had always been too lost in the high to truly consider the impact it had.  This had been the biggest rush of his life and yet for the first time the consequences outweighed the high.

Sherlock drew his knees up to his chest, and waited for Mycroft’s men to find him.  It was only then that he realised he had been crying the entire time.

~ ~ ~

Mycroft had flown Sherlock back to England and, just as Sherlock had predicted, had placed him in solitary confinement.  

It wasn’t as bad as it might have been.  Mycroft could be a bastard but he still cared about his brother.  There were no white padded cells, just a small flat in London with twenty-four-seven surveillance and guards just seconds away in case of any escape attempts.

For the first couple of days, Sherlock had served his penance in peace, but it wasn’t long until he had grown bored.  He had deduced the origin and history of every item in the flat, knew the intimate details of his guards lives despite only brief glimpses of them – there was nothing to do.

With nothing to occupy his mind, Sherlock found himself reliving his times with Victor.  The memory of the highs was torture.  However, time had dimmed the sensation memories and now he needed more.  Each time he tried to escape, Mycroft’s guards caught him.  Telekinesis was a hateful ability.  

After every failed escape attempt the other memories from his time with Victor would assault him.  Their last night together – the rush of emotions that had overwhelmed him, the feel of bare skin touching so intimately – but it all inevitably ended with the emptiness and fear.  Each time the pleasant memories faded just that little bit more, but the nightmares never lessened.

Mycroft wasn’t oblivious to Sherlock’s plight; he couldn’t be when part of his mind was always with him.  He knew Sherlock needed a distraction, something to stop his mind dwelling on Victor.

For as long as Mycroft could remember, Sherlock had been fascinated with puzzles; following the correct trail of logical conclusions and solving the mystery. As Sherlock got older the mysteries had become more elaborate – crime in particular had always interested him.  It seemed as good a distraction as any.

It wasn’t hard for Mycroft to arrange a deal with the Met.  Mycroft could order them to work with Sherlock, but without trust and respect any answers Sherlock provided would simply be ignored.  

Detective Inspector Lestrade’s profile fit perfectly.  All policemen want to help or else they wouldn’t have joined the force, however for most their duty can fall by the wayside when personal pride is at stake.  Not Lestrade, though.  Lestrade could be proud and he could be stubborn, but he would always put finding the criminals first.  The fact that he was also good at his job without Sherlock’s help was a bonus.

Every week, case files were brought to Sherlock’s flat for him to peruse and study.  They weren’t the most challenging of cases, but they kept the dark corners of his mind occupied.  Despite only seeing the reports of others and crime scene photographs, Sherlock solved them all.  Sometimes he needed more data than the files offered so he conducted his own experiments. The Montague Street flat looked more like a laboratory than living quarters nowadays.

As Sherlock’s mood improved he was gradually allowed visitors.  At first, Mycroft came round to check up on his progress once a week, which slowly became every other day.  Lestrade would be allowed to visit upon occasion, usually when there was a particularly troublesome case that he needed help on.  As much as Sherlock was frustrated by the isolation each time someone visited, the fear of what he could do with an accidental touch reminded him of why it was necessary in the first place.

He promised himself that he would never touch another person or allow them to touch him again.  He couldn’t afford another Victor Trevor incident.  Sherlock’s cravings for skin contact had lessened after the months of being clean, but there was still a risk, there would always be a risk.  It was easy to keep his promise around Mycroft and Lestrade, when both parties were careful the danger was minimal, but it would be a different story outside with the rest of world.

Despite the dangers, Sherlock managed to persuade Mycroft to let him out for a trial period.  It was only to a crime scene and he was monitored closely by guards, but he was outside, somewhere other than the small flat.  He had taken every precaution he could think of – long coat and full suit; gloves, despite the mild weather – the less skin exposed the lower the chance of accidental touches.

The best way to avoid contact with people, Sherlock found out early on, was to not allow anyone to get close.  He didn’t have to try too hard to distance himself from the other officers at the crime scene; just a few observations about their private lives and he was avoided like the plague.  Some, such as Sergeant Donovan, had more steel than the others.  No matter the observations Sherlock made, Donovan stood her ground. Her expression became more fierce but her stance never wavered.  Sherlock grudgingly found himself respecting her, despite his wishes that she would take the hint and leave – he might be over the constant craving, but that didn’t mean that everyone here wasn’t a temptation for him.  Mind over matter.  

At first, the guards followed Sherlock everywhere he went, but as time passed they backed off further and further until eventually Sherlock was allowed to wander around London unhindered.  Mycroft was still keeping an eye on him with his mind, but it was no different to how life had been before.

All in all Sherlock’s life was finally back in his control.  He occasionally missed the highs and when there was a dry spell of cases his mind would take him back to that terrible night, but he never succumbed.  The lack of human contact and the omnipresent temptation made him cold, short tempered and easily frustrated – it was a small price to pay. With no friends there was no one he could hurt.

Then the war between mutants and humans really kicked off.  It had been on and off for years, but after the mutant battles that had been happening in America, especially after what had happened with the Golden Gate bridge, people were scared.  It didn’t matter that there was now a ‘cure’ or that there was a mutant on the United Nations; people were driven by their emotions and they were afraid.  

When the landlord at Montague Street discovered his tenant was not only a mutant but a dangerous one at that, Sherlock had been evicted.  He could have let Mycroft deal with it, a simple memory wipe would do the trick – or buying the property from the imbecile if one wanted to stick to conventional methods – but Sherlock didn’t mind moving on.  He had fought against his nature in that flat and won, yet it would always be a reminder of why he had needed to fight it at all.

He found a lovely place on Baker Street.  It was a little out of his price range so he’d have to find a flatmate, but it was the clean break he needed.  Mycroft’s surveillance would undoubtedly be insufferable for the first few weeks until Sherlock had proven he wasn’t about to drain them, but it was a new challenge.  It would be an easy test to beat.

He hadn’t anticipated Doctor John Watson.

~ ~ ~

John had always had a knack for knowing how things worked.  Whenever his father’s car had broken down, John had always known what was wrong with it.  He could look at machinery and see how every piece fitted together.  It took concentration to examine a fully functional object but if something broke he could recognise what was wrong instantly.  It didn’t mean he knew how to fix it but he always knew where the problem lay.  

Human bodies were just another type of machine to John.  He could tell you if someone had a weak heart or a cracked rib without any need for tests.  Human bodies fascinated him – the way they repaired themselves without any conscious thought.  Becoming a doctor had been the only career choice John had considered; how could he not with the possibilities his mutation had for healing those in need?

He’d never told anyone outside his family about what he could do and he’d only told them because he was fed up of being blamed for all the household appliances they thought he broke.  He wasn’t ashamed of what he could do, but since no one needed to know there was no need to tell anyone.  It meant that when he joined the army and was shipped out to Afghanistan he was treated like one of the men and not an animal.  Officially the army welcomed mutants – they made invaluable weapons after all – however the reality was that when they weren’t ignored, mutants were treated with the utmost disdain.  

John stuck up for his fellow mutants as much as he could without drawing suspicion to himself. If anyone found out it would inevitably lead to questions as to why he’d never come forward before – as if the reason wasn’t obvious to anyone who wandered the camp for more than ten minutes.  As a medic, John worked alongside several mutants with abilities helpful in healing the wounded.  There was one John got on particularly well with and who the other men seemed to bully the most – Doctor Katy Phillips.  

She was a brilliant doctor with the ability to lessen pain or even take it away entirely; invaluable out in the field.  John never fully understood why the others picked on her more than any of the other mutants in camp, but the bullying she received was painful to watch.  John did his best to protect her, but there was only so much he could do.  

One soldier in particular seemed incapable of accepting Phillips’ presence on the base, Colonel Sebastian Moran.  Moran was the ringleader of the tyranny, never missing an opportunity to ‘put the mutants in their place’.  It all seemed rather stupid to John, personal bias aside, to abuse and mistreat those who would more than likely be saving your life one day.  Then again, no one had ever accused Colonel Moran of being overly bright.

Inevitably the day came when Moran was carried in with a bullet wound to the jaw.  He had been taken straight to Phillips whilst the other doctors, including John, had attended to the other injured members of Moran’s team.  John had gone to check on Phillips’ progress – he knew she was a more than capable doctor, but army policy stated that mutant personnel were to be supervised to ensure the proper use of their abilities.  

It had taken just one look at Moran for John to know there was a problem other than his shattered jaw.  Every organ in his body was slowly shutting down, as if his body had forgotten they were there.  John looked up at Phillips and saw the faint stirrings of a smile behind her mask of concentration.  It didn’t take a genius to put two and two together.  

As soon as he realised what was happening, he pulled Phillips away from Moran and got to work fixing the broken body in front of him.  Amongst the background noise he could hear Phillips’ desperate explanations, but now wasn’t the time to listen to the confessions of a guilty conscience. Right now he had a man whose body was slowly shutting down.

In the end John managed to save Moran’s life.  His jaw would have to be wired shut from the bullet wound but there was no lasting damage.  Part of John thought he wouldn’t have minded had he gone to check on Phillips just a few minutes later, if he’d arrived too late to save the bastard.  He wouldn’t have deserved it – no one did – but John had to admit that there would have been a certain sense of justice to it.  

He had hoped to keep it quiet, between Phillips and himself.  He knew he should report it, but after all the abuse she’d been receiving, John sympathised with her.  He didn’t necessarily approve, but he understood.  The problem was that Phillips had been in full apology mode when the other medics had come in to help John.  By now, the entire base would know.  

To John’s surprise, it took two days for things to come to a head.

John had been walking back from the mess when he’d seen it.  Phillips was surrounded by at least twelve men.  John had missed the first punch and by the time he arrived on scene the crowd was well on its way to beating the life out of Phillips’ petite frame.  John stepped in to protect her before he’d even realised what he was doing.  He tried to drag some of the men off of her, but it was pointless.  For every soldier he dragged back, another took their place.  Changing tactics, John dived straight in, fighting his way through the scrum to get to Phillips herself.  

She looked terrible.  There was blood running down her chin from hits to the mouth, her nose was broken and her left eye was already swelling shut; she had three cracked ribs and damage to her abdominal region, two fingers on her right hand had been broken and her knuckles were bloodied, probably from where she’d tried to fight back. Her eyes were clear from pain, though. One of the advantages to her mutation, John supposed. As John covered her with his own body the others began trying to pull him off so they could get back to their target.  It was reassuring that they were aware enough not to attack one of their own.

Then some over-eager idiot had drawn his gun.  With a shaking hand he aimed at John, who was still protecting Phillips with his body.  John tried to talk him down, along with half the other soldiers now gathered around them.  Unfortunately the guy standing next to the gun man had seen the soldier’s weak grip and tried to wrest the gun away from him. Clearly he hadn’t considered what such an action might have on a scared new recruit who had suddenly found himself aiming at one of his men.  

John didn’t remember much of what followed.  The gun had fired and there had been a searing pain in his left shoulder.  The shock of how out of hand things had become stopped anyone moving in to resume the attack on Doctor Phillips.  Instead, she reached out for John and, with her hand resting on his ankle, the pain had slowly begun to fade.  There was another shot – someone later explained to him they’d thought she was killing him – and the pain suddenly rushed back with full intensity.  Only now there was a new pain, an agony in his right leg.  With probing fingers he felt for the new wound, but there was nothing there – no entry point, no damage at all.  

Rolling onto his back he had seen Phillips clutching at her leg, blood staining the ground beneath her as she continued to bleed out through her femoral artery.  John’s last thought before succumbing to the shock and pain was that he should have done more.

~ ~ ~

In London John was more thankful than ever that he’d omitted the truth about his mutation.  The army pension he was given wasn’t enough as it was; God knows how he’d have survived with even less.  Still, part of John felt like it was his due.  He’d stood by and watched as day after day mutants were bullied and abused around him.  He’d been a selfish coward to not do more, to not step forward and admit he was one too.  Then again, the self-preservation instinct is strong, and what good would it do to just be another one of the abused?

No matter the arguments that filled his head, the shame for not doing more lingered.  His therapist said it was post traumatic stress disorder, that the limp was a symptom proving her point.  It was hard to keep seeing her knowing how wrong she had it, but it was expected of him.  He wouldn’t tell her of the real reason behind his return to England.  In the files it stated there had been a friendly fire incident, killing Doctor Phillips and wounding Major John Watson.  Only those that had been there knew any differently, and with the official secrets act no one was going to be finding out any time soon.

John’s life had become a dull monotony.  Every night he’d have nightmares about that fight, every morning he’d wake up in a cold sweat with his leg in agony from remembered pain that had never been his own.  John knew that physically he was working perfectly. He didn’t need his ability to tell him that, but mentally he was a broken man and John didn’t know how to fix it.

Then he’d been introduced to Sherlock Holmes.

John had suspected Sherlock was a mutant ever since their first meeting. Surely it wasn’t normal to be able to read that much about a person with one glance? And if Sherlock was a mutant then maybe this was the best way to clear his conscience.

Living with Sherlock was everything John needed.  He had a purpose again, a reason to get out of bed in the morning, a reason to keep going.  His life might be considered mad by others, but to John it was perfect.  The rush of adrenaline and the thrill of each chase helped him forget what had brought him here in the first place.  For the first time in a long while, John felt like he didn’t need to hide.  He still hadn’t told Sherlock about his ability, but he wasn’t scared of being cast out or degraded if he did.  Sherlock treated everyone like an inferior anyway.

As the weeks passed, their friendship grew, and the mutant topic was carefully avoided.  John had no reason to suspect Sherlock knew about his ability and John was far too polite to ask Sherlock directly about his.  Everything John had seen so far suggested that he’d been right about Sherlock from the start.

It wasn’t until three months after he’d moved in with Sherlock that he found out just how wrong he’d been.

~ ~ ~

John was waiting with Lestrade as the inspector arrested the two jewel thieves Sherlock had been chasing.  True to form, Sherlock had buggered off home already leaving John with Lestrade to tidy things up.

Despite working alongside Inspector Lestrade for quite some time now, John didn’t really know that much about the man.  Sherlock was the only close acquaintance John had who knew him, and if Sherlock cared enough about Lestrade’s history he hadn’t bothered to inform John.  You don’t need to know a man’s life story to judge whether or not you like them though, and John definitely liked Lestrade.  He had an air about him, a cool determination to crime solving that worked well with Sherlock’s manic style.  In many ways he was like a father figure to Sherlock; letting him make mistakes when the consequences could be controlled, but using a firm hand when needed.  It also helped that Lestrade was a fine copper in his own right.

“Sometimes I think I’m too old to be chasing criminals all over London,” John said watching the clean up. “I can barely keep up with Sherlock when he starts leaping buildings or climbing fences.”

“I wouldn’t sell yourself short,” Lestrade replied, leaving the criminals for Sergeant Donovan to process. “I could never keep up with him even before the whole...”  Lestrade made a vague gesture towards his face.

“Yeah, isn’t ageing fun?” John said sarcastically.

Lestrade hesitated, confused. “He hasn’t told you?”

“Told me what?”

“Oh God, please tell me you knew he was a mutant before this conversation.”

“Of course I did.” Well, he’d suspected.  He had a feeling the fact that Sherlock hadn’t told him explicitly might not be pleasant news to Lestrade.

“So you know all about what he can do then?”

“The deductions, right?”  Judging by Lestrade’s horrified expression, that would be a no.

“He hasn’t told you what he can do? You’ve been living with him for, what?  Three months now?  And he hasn’t told you?”  Lestrade was panicked, his eyes wide with fear.  John could only assume the fear was for him rather than a reaction to Sherlock being a mutant and John’s calm acceptance.  Lestrade didn’t strike him as being a mutant basher.

“Well, no.  Not exactly.  I just assumed, what with pulling answers out of midair, that his power was related to his deductions.  I take it I’m wrong?”

“You could say that.”  Lestrade quickly looked over his shoulder at the officers shepherding the two thieves into a police car at the opposite end of the alleyway. “I just need to talk to Donovan and then I’ll explain.  There’s a pub just round the corner, meet there?”

John nodded and made his way to the pub Lestrade had pointed him towards.  So he’d been wrong about Sherlock’s power, very wrong if Lestrade’s reaction had been anything to go by.  Thankfully, he wasn’t waiting long before Lestrade joined him at the small table he’d chosen in the quietest corner of the room.

“John, how old would you say I am?”  Lestrade began without preamble.

“I, well, I don’t know really.  Late forties, maybe very early fifties?”

“But not thirty-seven.”  It wasn’t a question, more of a resigned statement of fact.

“No, sorry.  So you’re thirty-seven?”  Lestrade definitely did not look his age if that was the case.  John knew that some people went prematurely grey, but it wasn’t just his hair.  Lestrade’s face was not that of a thirty-seven year old; there were lines around his eyes and his skin had lost the elasticity of youth.  

“Hard to believe isn’t it?  But that’s what hanging around with Sherlock will get you I suppose.  Guess I thought the risk was worth it since I’m still doing it.”  

None of it made much sense to John.  How had Sherlock taken nearly ten years from the man standing in front of him?  Why would he have taken ten years from him?  John’s lack of comprehension must have shown on his face.  “It was an accident,” Lestrade said. “He doesn’t drain people like he used to, but that’s a story you’ll have to ask him about.  Sherlock is one of those mutants people use to push for the cure being compulsory, while others see it for the curse it is.  Any skin contact, any at all, and Sherlock’s body starts absorbing your life force, for lack of a better term.  It ages you and if he holds on long enough it will kill you.  It’s not his fault, and he takes every precaution he can when he’s out and about, but there’s always a risk.”

John didn’t know what to think, let alone what to say.  He’d figured Sherlock was a mutant, but he’d never thought his gift would be anything like what Lestrade was describing.  He pitied Sherlock.  No skin contact meant no physical comfort, or at least extremely difficult forms of physical comfort.  How long had Sherlock been like this?  All his life?  However long it had been it was enough to explain Sherlock’s more prickly characteristics.  

Sherlock was an idiot, too.  Three months and not once had he mentioned the possibly fatal consequences of living with him.  Lestrade said he took precautions when he was out and about. However, John had seen Sherlock walking around the flat with shirt sleeves rolled up, top buttons undone.  Admittedly, having his top button undone wasn’t going to cause many problems, with their relationship being strictly platonic (Sherlock’s choice, not John’s, and didn’t that make a lot more sense now?).  The rolled up sleeves, on the other hand, were practically a death trap.  How many times had John passed him a cup of tea or a pen or his phone?  How many times had John been millimetres away from having the life drained out of him?  How could Sherlock have been so reckless?

John’s mind was spinning with revelations as each small piece of information he had gathered about Sherlock fell into a new picture.  It was like he’d been spending this whole time trying to put together the jigsaw puzzle of Sherlock’s life, only he’d been using the wrong image as a guide. The pieces were the same, but the final construction was unlike anything he’d expected.

“So...so how did Sherlock,” John gestured to Lestrade, “drain you?”

~ ~ ~

Two Years Ago

Another case and yet again Sherlock had gone running ahead without waiting for back up.  When Mycroft had come to him asking for cases to keep his brother entertained, Lestrade had had no idea that this would become his life.  Chasing after Sherlock, always arriving just in time to save his sorry hide; so far.  There was a first time for everything.

As he ran up the last few steps he could hear the fight waging inside the deserted office. Was that burning he could smell?  Suppressing a sigh, he forced the door open.

The acrid smell of charred flesh was stronger inside the room.  There were scorch marks along the nearest wall in front of which stood Sherlock.  He was hunched over, his hands carefully pressed against his chest.  Lestrade knew the wisps of smoke coming from under those hands were not his imagination.  

Opposite Sherlock stood the man they’d been looking for.  He didn’t look anywhere near as bad as Sherlock did, but he was by no means unscathed; blood was flowing freely from his nose and his left eye was going to be black in the morning.

Lestrade had intended to join in the fray, to split the guy’s focus.  He hadn’t anticipated Sherlock turning to him, shouting for him to leave. With the new angle he could see the exposed skin of Sherlock’s chest, blistered and raw from the fireball that must have hit it’s mark.

Sherlock’s distraction allowed the fireball toting criminal enough time to reach for one of the wooden desk chairs and swing it at him, knocking him out cold.  With the momentum and the way Sherlock was practically bent double, the attack threw him across the room, straight into Lestrade.  He hadn’t had time to brace himself before Sherlock was on top of him, but he’d instinctively thrown his hand out in a vain attempt of holding Sherlock back.  It hadn’t been enough to stop them both tumbling to the floor in a heap, Sherlock collapsed across Lestrade’s chest, pinning his extended hand.  Normally, it wouldn’t have mattered.  Lestrade was no weakling, he could easily push an unconscious Sherlock Holmes off of him.  Easily, that is, if Lestrade’s hand wasn’t now firmly pressed against Sherlock’s bare chest.

Lestrade had been told all about Sherlock’s ability when he’d first agreed to work with him.  It hadn’t mattered to him what Sherlock could do, just as long as he got results.  However, there was a difference between being told something and experiencing it first hand.

He hadn’t expected the paralysing weakness that settled over him, the tingling of pins and needles throughout every muscle or the sudden surge of adrenaline creating the paradoxical sensation of surging life while it was steadily taken from him by the unconscious form of Sherlock Holmes.  

Initially, Lestrade had panicked.  There was no way he’d be able to push Sherlock away, not in this condition.  His only hope was that Sherlock would come to before he drained him completely, preferably before he took too many years.  He could feel the skin healing against the back of his hand as Sherlock’s body put Lestrade’s life to use. He prayed it would heal fast enough.

Lestrade’s panic didn’t last long; he wasn’t sure whether that was a worrying failure on behalf of his self-preservation instinct or a direct result of what Sherlock was doing to him.  Whatever the cause, Lestrade was beginning to resign himself to his fate.  There was nothing he could do but wait and see what happened first, Sherlock’s return to consciousness or his death.

Just then Sherlock’s eyes began to flicker.  Calling on what little strength he could muster Lestrade tried shouting Sherlock’s name. It came out as a strangled whimper.  Sherlock’s eyes blinked open.  Part of Lestrade’s mind recognised the dilated pupils often seen on drug users, but the vast majority of his mind was focused on trying to get Sherlock off of him.

It didn’t take long for Sherlock’s brain to kick back into its usual high gear, to notice Lestrade’s steadily weakening body, the slight touch of grey in his hair and the deeper frown lines on his face.  Sherlock immediately recoiled, staggering backwards as he fought the almost overpowering desire to feed his high.  

Lestrade was left lying on the floor, too weak to check himself over, to determine just how much of his life Sherlock had taken.  It wasn’t Sherlock’s fault, Lestrade knew that, at the same time he knew Sherlock had just taken years away from him.  True, he could still be killed in an accident tomorrow, but when you find yourself years older in the space of just a minute, logic is not a comfort.  He couldn’t get angry at Sherlock, couldn’t shout accusations or demand his life back; he could barely find the strength to roll onto his side.  Sherlock’s horrified expression would have made Lestrade hold his tongue even if he had been able to shout.

Sherlock’s terror at what he had just done outweighed anything Lestrade had seen before, and in his line of work terror came with the territory.  Lestrade watched as Sherlock pulled himself to his feet, using a nearby desk for support, before stumbling his way to a small heap of dark fabric Lestrade had failed to notice earlier.  Sherlock’s coat, Lestrade realised belatedly as Sherlock beat the dirt out.  With slightly jerky movements he slipped it on and pulled it closed, hiding the charred remains of his shirt and his freshly healed chest.

Sherlock looked back over at Lestrade, still lying on the floor trying to muster enough strength to even sit upright.

“How bad?”  Lestrade asked with a wheeze.

Sherlock’s gaze took in all the details of Lestrade’s face, all the changes it had recently undergone. “Roughly ten years,” Sherlock said.  He couldn’t look at Lestrade as he said it, casting his eyes downwards.  Instead he began pacing the room, at one point sweeping his arm along a desk hurling everything to the floor.  He couldn’t seem to stand still – too wired from his latest hit.

Ten years wasn’t so bad. He’d been imagining horrors, of being grey and wrinkly, looking more like eighty-five than his actual thirty-five years.  Ten years he could live with; it might not be ideal, but it wasn’t the end of the world.  

“Not your fault,” Lestrade told Sherlock.  It was an attempt to calm him down, to show him that it could have been worse, that there was no need for self-flagellation.  It didn’t work.  Sherlock stopped pacing, turning rapidly to face Lestrade, coat swirling out behind him.  Sherlock’s expression was incredulous, but before he could voice his thoughts the sound of back up arriving could be heard outside.

Sherlock cut off his no doubt scathing reply and went back to pacing, muttering under his breath.  He made no attempt to flee despite the questions he’d undoubtedly be assaulted with once Donovan and the others showed up.  It was only then that Lestrade noted the absence of the fireball maniac.  He must have fled as soon as Sherlock had been knocked unconscious.  They’d have to start the search again, only this time he’d add in the bit about fireballs.

When Donovan arrived at the scene, Lestrade had managed to pull together enough strength to sit up.  He still needed a wall to support him, but it was an improvement to lying sprawled on his back.  Sally took one look around the room before rushing over to Lestrade’s side, calling for the paramedics to be brought up.  Fat lot of good they’ll be, Lestrade thought.

“Sir?  Sir, what the hell happened here?”  Sally asked him.  Time for the inevitable questions.  Lestrade rapidly tried to think of an answer he could give without implicating Sherlock.  He knew he needed to stick to the truth as much as possible.  His mind wasn’t exactly working at it’s usual pace right now, and the smaller the lie the less likely Donovan would notice.  

“The blackmailer you were after was a mutant,” Sherlock said, saving Lestrade from answering.  He was still pacing back and forth, he hadn’t even acknowledged the others’ arrival.

“He did this?  How?”  Lestrade could see the silent horror in her eyes as she noted the small yet distinct changes to his physical appearance.

“I don’t know!  It doesn’t matter, does it?” Sherlock yelled.  The sudden change in volume startled everyone, Lestrade included.  It seemed Sherlock was still riding his high.  This was bad, this was very bad.  Sherlock sober was a force to be reckoned with.  There was not a doubt in Lestrade’s mind that a sober Sherlock could come up with a perfectly plausible explanation for Lestrade’s sudden ageing.  A high Sherlock was less predictable.  There was a very real risk that he would inadvertently give the game away

“It’s alright, Sherlock.  It’s alright,” Lestrade tried to reassure him.  “Concussion,” he muttered to Sally. “Hit with a chair.” Sherlock’s usually eccentric behaviour combined with a supposed concussion would hopefully lay any suspicions to rest before they had time to fully form.  The dried blood from the blow was still congealed in Sherlock’s mussed hair; even if the wound itself had disappeared, it would help sell the concussion story as long as no one looked too closely.

Sally nodded, stepping aside to let one of the paramedics in to get a proper look at Lestrade.  He wouldn’t find anything, Lestrade already knew that, but it was important to go through the motions now more than ever.

Lestrade watched Sherlock fend off another paramedic.  Sherlock was babbling, his speech erratic and repetitive as the poor paramedic tried to ascertain the extent of Sherlock’s injuries.  Eventually, if reluctantly, Sherlock allowed the paramedic to gently probe his scalp with gloved fingers.  Lestrade had never seen someone so uncomfortable or afraid of being checked over by a medic. Then again he’d never known anyone to have such a valid reason for it.

The paramedics had realised that Lestrade wouldn’t be able to make it out of the building under his own power – something Lestrade had realised before they’d even arrived.  He refused to be wheeled out on a gurney, though – he wasn’t actually injured after all, just weakened and he’d be damned if he had to go through the indignity of being wheeled out of the building.  Thankfully, Sally and one of the other officers she’d brought with her offered to help carry him.  With an arm around each shoulder, they helped him up.

Sherlock came over, stopping them just before the door.  “I’ll find him again.”  His eyes said everything that he could never express with words – the horror at what he’d done, the self-hatred and, most importantly, the all-consuming remorse.  If Lestrade had ever been in doubt about Sherlock’s emotions, or supposed lack thereof, he wasn’t any more.  

“It wasn’t your fault,” Lestrade told him.  Sherlock shook his head, refusing to accept Lestrade’s forgiveness.  “You were unconscious, it’s not like you could do anything to help.”  With that Lestrade let himself be led out.

~ ~ ~

Present Day

Throughout Lestrade’s story John had sat in silence.  What was there to say?  Everything seemed rather pointless and defending Sherlock was unnecessary since Lestrade hadn’t even blamed him at the time.  Accusing Sherlock, running from him, had never even been an option.  

As Lestrade finished he watched John expectantly, waiting for some kind of response.  John just took a long gulp of his beer.  He’d never been overly enamoured with his power; yes it had helped with the medical degree and come in useful from time to time, but there was little he could do with it that any skilled human couldn’t.  Nevertheless, he was happy with it, it was a part of who he was, but to have a power like Sherlock’s?  John honestly didn’t know how Sherlock did it.

“How long has he been like this?” John asked eventually.

“From what I could gather he was a relatively late starter, about twenty-one or something.”  So not all his life, then, John thought.  He couldn’t imagine what it must have been like, to one day suddenly be unable to touch anyone.  He wasn’t sure whether it was a blessing Sherlock hadn’t been like that as a child or whether it was worse to be able to remember the warmth of someone’s skin and know you were denied.

“No wonder he’s so cold with people all the time,” John said.  Lestrade nodded in agreement.  “Look, uh, thanks for telling me.”

“Figured you had a right to know,” Lestrade shrugged. “Plus you seem like the reliable sort.   You’ve stuck around with him this long, can’t see you fleeing now.”

“It’s not quite the same as finding random body parts in the morning though, is it?”

Lestrade laughed. “Fair point.” He glanced at his watch. “Oh Christ, I need to get back to the office and make sure those two are processed properly.”

“No problem,” John said with an amicable smile. “I should be getting back as well; there’s a few things I need to discuss with Sherlock.”

“I still can’t believe he didn’t tell you.”

“Yeah, well, that will be one of the many questions I have for him.”

“Best of luck,” Lestrade said as he stood.  “Don’t be too harsh on him, even if he was an idiot.”  With that, Lestrade made his way out of the pub.  John lingered for a little while longer as he thought through what he was going to say to Sherlock.  It needed careful consideration; mutations were a sensitive subject to start with and with Sherlock’s ability he was bound to be more defensive than most.

He couldn’t put it off forever though, and with a sigh he made his way back to the flat.

Part 2
lenap_traplenap_trap on February 26th, 2012 04:53 am (UTC)
very nice au, dear))
wordquandary: Baker Streetwordquandary on February 27th, 2012 02:15 pm (UTC)
Thanks. :)