TITLE: "Someone on Whom"
AUTHOR: Cathryn ([livejournal.com profile] catslash)
RATING: PG for implied violence and character death; genfic.
WORD COUNT: Approximately 2400.
SUMMARY: "It makes a considerable difference to me, having someone on whom I can thoroughly rely." Doctor Who/Sherlock crossover, set during the year that wasn't.
SPOILERS: For Doctor Who's series three finale arc; none for Sherlock, as it is set mainly pre-canon, but there are a few lines of dialogue borrowed from "A Study in Pink."
THANKS: To [livejournal.com profile] mmexlibris for the quick beta and [livejournal.com profile] bethan_b_bad for the Britpick. ♥
DISCLAIMER: Doctor Who and Sherlock belong to the BBC; the quotation in the summary is courtesy of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I take no credit and make no money.

EDIT: There is now podfic read by the lovely [livejournal.com profile] pandarus!







It takes months for the package to reach England from South Africa. Smuggling anything is hard enough as it is under the watchful - and sadistic - gaze of the Toclafane; even something simple, food or cigarettes or a bottle of booze, will get a person killed if they're caught.

Doctor John Watson isn't sure what would happen to someone caught smuggling a lightning-fried Toclafane, but he'd bet it would involve a not-very-pleasant trip to the Valiant to meet Harold Saxon in person.

So it has, by necessity, been slow going, a series of short trips with smugglers handing the package off as frequently as possible. It's probably sat in the same place for weeks at a time more than once, until someone thought it was safe. The whispers of its existence reached John long before the package even reached the shores. He wasn't convinced it was even real until now; best not to get your hopes up in this post-Saxon world. Just keep your head down, do as you're told, get through the day, and maybe you'll live.

As a medical doctor, John has certain privileges. He's allowed a vehicle for one, and his chances of survival are higher for another. Saxon - the Master, he likes to call himself, but John won't give him that even in his own head - Saxon is a bloodthirsty bastard, but even he recognizes that he needs a certain number of people to live and maintain a certain standard of health if he's going to meet his goals. The Toclafane are therefore strongly encouraged to leave doctors alone to get on with things. Not ordered, but encouraged.

All of which is why he's been entrusted with this last leg of the package's long journey. He can hide it among his equipment, and while the Toclafane will demand identification more than once, they won't question his claims that he's got patients to visit. Doctors are always busy. There are always, always injuries to see to.

He's making his way into what was once the heart of London. The name of the man he's taking the package to is of course not written down, but he's had it memorized ever since he agreed to take this ride.

Sherlock Holmes.

This Holmes is some sort of genius or something, he's been told. His contact in this particular smuggling organization is a man called Lestrade. Lestrade was a copper before, and he's got any number of outlandish stories about Sherlock Holmes and the impossible cases he's solved by gathering together the tiniest shreds of evidence. Things even the most seasoned DI would - and invariably did - overlook. Holmes is, Lestrade claims, exactly the man they want to take apart a Toclafane and see how it ticks. John thinks maybe someone with a relevant degree of some sort might be better qualified, but he's never argued the point. Lestrade isn't a man given to exaggerating, and in any case, it's not like they've got the luxury of being picky.

John's own role is two-fold: He brings the package to Holmes and sticks around as long as he can, then leaves with whatever information Holmes has found by then. He gives that to Lestrade, and from there it will pass along down a chain John knows nothing about, to ultimately be handled by people whose existence John cannot confirm. Something to do with Martha Jones, maybe, if the woman is even real. She's been seen practically everywhere except Great Britain, after all, third-hand stories from the occasional refugee who believes this island will somehow be better than where they came from. John thinks she's a fairytale.

Either way, he can't be tortured into revealing what he doesn't know, now, can he?

He braces himself for one last Toclafane encounter as he takes the last turn, but it doesn't happen. He's uneasy for a moment, but dismisses it. That kind of subtlety, letting him go to see where he ends up, is far beyond them. If they suspected something, he'd be dead or in pain by now.

Still, he does his best not to look paranoid as he gets out of the car, sad excuse for a medical kit in one hand and the package under his other arm, and crosses to the building he's been sent to. This is the most dangerous moment, out in the open; there's only so much he can do to disguise the fact that he's carrying something extra. He knocks on the door, preparing to give the password Lestrade told him, but it opens almost immediately.

No one these days is overweight, but the man on the other side is gaunt even by those standards. His thinness gives his face a decidedly snakelike appearance that the hungry look he gives the package under John's arm does nothing to contradict.

"At last," he hisses - no, John thinks, let's not get carried away with the metaphors here - he breathes, and snatches the package before John can do much more than blink. Without another word, he turns and walks off inside, the speed of his long stride just barely short of running.

John gapes after him for a few startled seconds, password effectively driven from his head, then hastens inside, pausing only to close the door behind him.

"You're Sherlock Holmes?" It's half-question, half-statement. Lestrade had said Holmes would be alone, but he can't let just anyone walk off with that package.

"And you're John Watson," Holmes tosses back over his shoulder, taking an abrupt right turn into a small room. John follows him in. The room is full of equipment, some of it things John hasn't seen since before, all of it forbidden to anyone without prior approval. Never mind the package, the contents of this room are enough to get Sherlock Holmes killed a dozen times over.

"They told you I was coming?" he asks distractedly, looking around. They wouldn't have known for sure until today, and it wouldn't have been wise to be in touch with Holmes so soon before the drop-off.

"Who else would you be?" Holmes has set the package down on a cluttered table and is lighting lamps. John refocuses his attention.

"I could be anyone," he says.

"Hardly."

"I could," John persists. "You didn't even wait for the password. I could be someone who's heard about this lot here" - he gestures around the room - "and thought he could get in good with a full report."

"No you couldn't." Holmes talks just like that, with no commas. Lamps lit, he's opening the package. "Lestrade told me a month ago that I might expect a Doctor John Watson with a package of importance and here you are with your car and your medkit with an extra package no doctor has any business carrying. Not a difficult deduction by even the loosest standards. . . . ohhh, would you look at that." The ohhh is more of an exhalation of delight than a vocal sound, and his eyes light up with a happiness that seems out of place as he slowly lifts the sphere from its packaging.

John knows the thing is completely and thoroughly dead or deactivated or whatever a downed Toclafane becomes, but he can't help tensing at the sight of it, half-expecting it to lift itself right out of Holmes's hands and take both their heads off. Holmes, conversely, looks like he's just been given the best present he could ever ask for. John swallows, saying,

"Yeah, well. You can't be too careful."

"Careful is boring." Holmes lifts the sphere to eye level to examine it, murmuring, "I'm so tired of being bored."

John eyes the sphere, which continues to remain inert. "I could do with a bit of boredom lately." Life has been crushing, soul-deadening, exhausting, but certainly not boring.

"Not true." Holmes turns the sphere slowly on his fingertips, not looking away from it.

"Sorry?"

"You wouldn't be here if you wanted to be bored."

"All right, not bored, exactly. But don't you miss things like - like flipping through the channels on the telly on all night, because you can't . . . be arsed to . . ." He trails off. Come to think of it, he doesn't miss that sort of thing much himself. "I just don't find loads of homicidal pinballs to be conducive to a state of boredom, that's all."

"No," Holmes says, "you wouldn't." He puts the sphere down and moves a lamp closer. Then he selects a long, slender instrument and uses it to prod a spot near the top. The top half of the sphere cracks open, quartering itself into four loose sections.

Holmes, John can't help noticing through his own astonishment, looks almost disappointed.

"It's not even trapped," he says. "How -"

"Boring?" John interrupts. Holmes does look at him now, a faint smile appearing on his thin face.

"Boring," he agrees. John exhales a laugh, and that's when they hear the sound of the front door banging open.

There is time only to exchange a look, and for John to move himself between Holmes and the room's door in some sort of futile reflexive attempt to keep the Toclafane - and his partner in crime - shielded from view, before that door too flies open and things get interesting again in a hurry.

*

The trip up to the Valiant is actually less unpleasant than John would have expected; then again, his expectations weren't very high. Even so, when he and Sherlock (because if you can't be on a first name basis with someone when you're about to die with him, when can you be?) are shoved onto their knees before Saxon in the ship's main room, John has a bloody lip and Sherlock a rapidly-forming black eye.

Saxon looks at them with a sharp frown, then looks to the guards that brought them in.

"What is this? I told you I wanted them treated with respect, or did you think I was talking because I love the sound of my voice so much?"

That, John suspects, is probably exactly what they were thinking. God knows it's what he's thought more than once during Saxon's intermittent transmissions. He can see Sherlock at the edge of his vision, watching Saxon with composure and even slight amusement. It occurs to John that he must be thinking the same thing, and he has to fight back the mad urge to laugh.

Something of that urge must cross his face, because Saxon's gaze abruptly snaps back to him. Saxon smiles, and John doesn't have to keep working not to laugh. It's not funny anymore.

"The would-be-legendary duo," Saxon declaims to the room at large. "Sherlock Holmes and Doctor John Watson. " He paces as he speaks, restless energy pouring off him. "I've been on the edge of my seat, wondering if you would manage to find each other. All those tiny little ways time tries so hard to reassert itself. And in spite of the worst I can throw at it, here you two are. Together. The universe just won't let you be kept apart. Isn't that sweet?"

He drops into a crouch in front of John, so sudden John flinches in spite of himself. The smile is gone.

"Just think," he says, slow and hushed, "of all the stories you'll never get to tell."

There is an endless echoing moment in which John forces himself to hold eye contact; he thinks he can hear the beat of drums, far away or very close by. Then Saxon stands, and the faint sound is gone.

"Of course, I can't keep you," he says. "Sherlock - can I call you Sherlock? What am I saying, of course I can - how many escape routes have you worked out already? No, don't tell me, that's not the point. The point is that you have an answer. You know you'll never get to use it, but you do it anyway. Couldn't stop yourself if you tried, but you wouldn't try, would you? You wouldn't be you if you did. So I can't keep you, but what I can do is -

"You." He points at one of the guards who escorted them in, still standing behind them. "Give me your gun." The man complies immediately. Saxon shoots him, then aims the weapon at Sherlock and continues,

"What I can do is give you and your . . . companion . . . a quick and painless death, and my personal assurance that, next time I tell my men to treat someone with respect, they will do it."

Saxon's grip shifts on the gun in readiness to shoot again, then he pauses. "How many?" he asks.

Sherlock smiles. It is, despite the fact that he is seconds from his own death, infinitely self-satisfied. His composure hasn't wavered once. It must be catching; John finds that he himself is surprisingly calm as he thinks that whatever it was about him and Sherlock and their great partnership Saxon was ranting about a moment ago, he's sorry he's going to miss it.

"One," Sherlock says.

"One? What do you mean, one escape route?" Saxon frowns at him, puzzled. "There are several, it wouldn't be any fun if there weren't." He shrugs, face clearing. "Ah well, we can't all be on form all the time," he says, and pulls the trigger.

He turns the gun on John immediately after, and in the split second before the bullet hits, John thinks, But you never said anything about escaping alive.

*

"Come on, who'd want me for a flatmate? . . . What?" John Watson asks, surprised by the answering chuckle.

"You're the second person to say that to me today," Mike says.

John thinks about this for a couple seconds.

"Who's the first?"

Mike doesn't even try to answer the question before he suggests a meeting, and it's not long before John understands why.

"Afghanistan or Iraq?"

John stares. He means to say Sorry? but instead he finds himself asking, "Have we met before?"

Sherlock Holmes looks up, studying John for a long moment; there's a slight sense of hesitation in the look that, John will soon learn, is highly uncharacteristic of his new flatmate-to-be.

"No," he says finally. "I would remember." His eyes narrow for just a second, though, before he turns back to his texting.
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