Fandom: Sherlock (BBC)
Summary: The Adjustment Bureau AU: John is meant to be with Sarah. It is Sherlock's job to ensure it, but John is full of surprises.
AN: Filled my own prompt at sherlockbbc_fic. My first attempt at writing Sherlock fic. Hope you enjoy the adventure!
Path of Most Resistance
Mycroft always said that three made a pattern. Three was the minimum threshold for recognition of intent and precision, and thus a pattern. One, there was no suggestion of potential repetition. Two could merely be a coincidence, a mistake. Book ends. Three, however, that was something dubious.
A flaw in the Plan.
So the first time John Watson failed to meet Sarah Sawyer, Sherlock could only blame Chance.
It was only after much cajoling and posturing from Mycroft that Sherlock finally agreed to the reassignment. Apparently, John Watson’s former caseworker had made the grave mistake of getting caught adjusting the man’s sister and had come clean with John about the bureau’s existence. Mycroft had allowed the young man to keep his memory, as he was such a boring, non-threatening specimen. Instead, he opted to force Lestrade into an early retirement. So, Sherlock was given the case and told to stay a good distance away until pivotal moments called him to the fore.
The first of which was supposed to happen in the university library. Co-eds bonding over moth-eaten pages of textbooks, all the same jokes about how nice it was to have a 'hands on' study partner for anatomy. How tired. Really, sometimes it seemed that Mycroft was running out of original ideas for these little romances he fancied. The two were in their second year and had managed to exist in wholly different social spheres without ever encountering one another. Until the Sunday before exams, at least according to the Plan.
All Sherlock needed to do was drop a book. Any book, it did not matter. Just drop the book and keep walking. No residual ripples, only John and Sarah would notice. Well, it was a bit more specific than that. He had to drop the book while walking past Sarah's desk, neatly situated near the physiological reference section that John would be browsing at exactly 21:34 Sunday night. But, Sherlock could certainly manage such a simple task. The book would fall, loud and dramatic per Sherlock's style, and the couple would glance down, look up, lock eyes and their little love story would blossom. Twenty years, and three children later they would laugh about the story while recounting it over and over again for their three brats.
Only John, noble, quick and nimble John Watson, apparently had other ideas.
He barely glanced at Sarah, briefly meeting her eyes and offering an apologetic smile, as if he had been the one to drop the book. But instead of falling head over heals, he bent to scoop the book up and silently hustle after Sherlock. John’s hand caught the crook of his elbow a half step short of reaching the proper door that would allow him to escape to Waterloo Station.
"I think you dropped this." His expression was bright and surprising as he pressed the tome on apiology back into the pale fingers of Sherlock's open hands. Sherlock remembers a huff of a laugh, tired and full of what was assumed to be common suffering. "Exams, right?" Sherlock could only nod briskly and stare as John wished him the best of luck before excusing himself politely. The young man glanced back over his shoulder and gave Sherlock a look, one he had never seen on a human face, before disappearing once more into the musky stacks.
It reminded him of how other caseworkers would look when they spoke about the ineffable beauty of the Chairman's grand Plan.
So, of course, Sherlock blamed Chance.
It was the only explanation that fit all the known variables.
Thankfully, Mycroft allowed the slight alteration for the time being. Luckily, it was not a total loss. The couple did eventually meet and briefly date a few months after the botched library incident, but their timing was dreadfully off. The spark that was meant to be there seemed to fizzle into ash in only a matter of seven short weeks.
So the Plan expanded to enfold the minor delay. It 'matured' as Mycroft would say.
The second time, however, Sherlock blamed John.
It was the day John was supposed to complete the enlisting process and become a soldier for Queen and country. He had all the proper documentation in order and according to the Plan he would take the Northern line to Old Street. Sarah and Sherlock would already be on the tube. Sherlock would ensure that no one took the seat opposite the woman, saving it for John to plop down into and gaze upon his ex-girlfriend and remember her with all the fondness of a man on the brink of emotional isolation and war. And then he would make one of the biggest choices in his little life. John would get a coffee with Sarah. Skip the final recruitment session and instead catch up with an old ex-girlfriend. He would never be deployed to Afghanistan, would never perform surgery in the desert sand, never kill a man, never get shot through the shoulder and sent home to an empty life of nightmares and solitude.
Mycroft had always been fond of epiphanies.
But John fidgeted in the seat, glancing at Sarah anxiously. Unconsciously, he began to fiddle with the cuff of his jumper. From his perch at the end of the tube compartment, Sherlock could see that his man was struggling to screw his courage up enough to speak to the oblivious woman, listening to a Walkman while reading The Sun with a sceptical expression. Valiant as ever, John opened his mouth a few times, just before an old woman stepped on board to grant him a noble exit. He quickly jumped up and offered her the seat before attempting to carefully slip past Sarah.
Sherlock furrowed his brow and the tube shuddered. With minimal ripple effects in the lives of the other passengers, Sherlock calculated that a gentle jolt would send a rather undignified John Watson tumbling into the lap of Sarah. He never thought John would wind up tripping down the short compartment, landing square against his chest.
Though he never admitted it, that instance was the first time Sherlock had made a miscalculation.
"Sorry," John apologised quickly. Sherlock stared with mild surprise to see capable hands smooth down the black fabric of his freshly rumpled three-piece suit. “Sorry,” he mumbled again, having moved away to a more appropriate distance while sorting himself.
When the young man looked up at Sherlock he could feel heat radiating off John in waves, flushed and anxious. It was strange, unprecedented. Sherlock had never been close enough to John, or any human, to feel that kind of warmth before. He wondered if it could glow brighter and considered the merits and repercussions of dragging John’s hand back to his chest.
Neither looked back to Sarah.
At the next stop, John squared his shoulders and departed, already looking the part of a soldier.
Sherlock starts to suspect that John is also to blame for the first instance.
Apparently, and Lestrade or Mycroft or anyone else for that matter really should have warned him. John Watson likes to take the path of most resistance.
Sherlock had spoken with Lestrade just after the man’s retirement. The ex-caseworker said that John Watson seemed to be constantly at odds with the Plan, bucking against the tiny details that appeared inconsequential in the short run but would eventually alter his overall role in the future. But up until now, John had merely been a minor figure in the Plan. Even with the sudden solidification of his soldier status, his overall trajectory remained stagnant. Nothing really to worry over. He had no great ambition after being invalided home, just the quiet life of a general practitioner in the busy streets of London. There were millions of other lives that would have a greater impact. And yet, there was something about the way John tugged and squirmed against the parameters of the Plan that kept Sherlock’s focus. So much so that he did not protest, not too much anyway, when Mycroft pulled him away from working on the wonderful case of a genius mystery novel writer who occasionally dabbled in criminology.
So, the first two times John missed meeting with Sarah, no irreparable damage was done, only a short delay in the inevitable.
This time, Sherlock only has himself to blame.
The pub is crowded and buzzing with human life, inane chitchat and spilled drinks at every wrong turn. Everything aside from John exists shades of shades of grey, narrowing Sherlock’s focus to a single point of interaction. Usually Sherlock avoids being this close, too easy to be mistaken for another human. However, he has found that not many make that mistake after getting a good look at him.
Sherlock unbuttons his suit coat and crosses his legs before leaning back in the dimly lit booth. He glances back and forth between the man and the open pages of his leather bound notebook.
Everything well on track.
John Watson is in his element.
Sherlock has seen him like this a thousand times before. Give the man a pint of lager, a few choice mates and a Liverpool match on the television and he can pretend like everything is just as it used to be back at university.
Innocuous. Banal. Wholly fascinating.
Each time John goes out, he manages to blend in seamlessly, become an easy fixture in a social group that would otherwise never notice his absence but nonetheless cherish his presence. If that were all there was to the man, Sherlock would have asked for a reassignment ages ago. But, he knows the soldier with nightmares and worries and a thirst for adventure lies beneath the mundane guise of dependable Doctor Watson. He saw that man be born in sand and blood the first moment they stepped into the desert of Afghanistan.
John Watson is one of the only truly self-made men who walk the earth. He is an artefact from times of free will and war. Born from Chance and missteps.
And suddenly, John is excusing himself from the pack of lads. Sherlock feels the familiar haze of something like ‘annoyance’ when he spots Sarah arriving at the pub just as his man is limping away. He glances down at the open notebook, the Plan is still on track.
“Do I know you?” John leans on the ridiculously useless cane, presenting Sherlock with a familiar warm smile.
“I assure you, we have never met.” Sherlock reassesses the situation, glancing up at John and quickly checking his body language. It's also familiar. "Oh." Unsettling. Intriguing. But, why? "Does that line usually work?" John laughs and Sherlock remembers the smiling boy in the university library.
"I'm pretty sure I've seen you before." Oh, he's sitting down now. Sherlock snaps the journal closed with one hand before John can peer over to investigate.
"You may have noticed that I was sitting alone. There was a reason for that." Sherlock bristles, slouching farther into the corner of the booth.
"You looked like you could use the company."
"I would prefer--"
"’Least let me buy you a pint." John swipes the half empty pint glass and heads back to the bar before Sherlock can protest. He follows John's movement through the crowd, carefully weaving back and forth, always mindful of his leg, until he steps up to the busy bar. Right beside his Sarah. Alone, Sherlock tugs the page marker, flipping the notebook back open with an agitated flick of his wrist.
Everything has gone haywire.
He flips the page. The green and orange lines never intersect.
Sherlock is baffled. He watches as John completely ignores the woman, opting to chat with the man seated on a stool beside him, motion up toward the television with emphatic gestures and a grin. This is the perfect opportunity and Sherlock’s mind is racing ahead to try and figure out a way to bring them together without causing a thousand unintentional ripples.
“Hope Stella’s alright.” Too late. John Watson is settling down opposite him, tucking his cane against the wall and Sherlock can feel that unmistakable warmth running over him again. “I’m John, by the way,” he adds holding out a hand as he takes a sip from his own pint.
“Sherlock,” he answers, ignoring the proffered hand. No use in a fake name.
“So what do you do, then, Sherlock?”
“I’m a consultant of sorts. Ensure that things happen when they are supposed to happen.”
“Sounds a bit dark and dangerous.” The familiar spark lights up John’s face. It is the same one that lead John to become a noble doctor and then a brave soldier and then a wounded man.
“If only.” Sherlock sighs, staring pointedly at John who had recently become much less dangerous and exciting—more frustrating. The look is lost on the clueless man. “But you like danger, don’t you, Doctor.” He changes tactics easily and a smile that should unnerve John serves to only pull the man further in.
“How’d you know I was a doctor?” A crease forms between his brows, unsure but tentatively interested.
“Guess.” Sherlock brushes it off, turning to scan the pub to check Sarah’s whereabouts.
“Lucky guess.” Doubt. His head snaps back to stare at John.
“Not really,” Sherlock replies with a flat voice. “You smell like latex, there is a slight rash on the back of your neck from where your stethoscope rubs against your skin all day and I don’t think too many people walk around with a pen light in their breast pocket.” He reaches across the table, pushing away John’s coat to pull the penlight from his pocket. “That,” he starts, clicking the light on, briefly shinning it in John’s eyes, “and, of course, the fact that this is the closest pub to St. Thomas’ Hospital and Waterloo Health Centre.” Sherlock tosses the light back; it skitters across the table to clink against John’s pint glass. “A lot of doctors' come here to unwind.” Folding his hands, Sherlock watches the dumbfound look of awe spread over John’s face.
“That was brilliant.”
“Yes. Thank you.” Perhaps removing his scarf would help regulate the spike in body temperature.
“Where did you learn to do that?”
Sherlock considers the question, even considers divulging his secret. After all, John already knows the Bureau exists. Once more, he makes a sweep of the pub. No sign of Sarah. She’s gone. The window has closed.
“You’re like a moth to a flame, John,” he says, grabbing his wool coat and stuffing the hat back onto his head “Excuse me.” Sherlock slips out of the booth, heading in the direction of the toilets.
He should have left twenty minutes earlier.
And of course, this time, it is Sherlock's fault.
At any rate, it was now a pattern, one that Mycroft can no longer ignore.
As soon as Sherlock twists the doorknob counter clockwise, stepping into the Bureau’s main lobby, Anthea appears with a thick dossier bumping against her hipbone. She has a sour expression on her face. Ah, yes, he has been summoned to his brother’s office to discuss the delicate matter of John Watson.
"Tea?" Mycroft asks, his pleasant veneer plastered in place as Sherlock plops into the chair opposite Mycroft. He brushes off Mycroft’s offer with a tired wave of his hand before pulling off his leather gloves. Rising from his overstuffed chair, Mycroft rounds the great mahogany desk to perch on the edge. Yes, so much more intimate like that, less formal when it comes to family. Sherlock can practically hear Mycroft’s thoughts whirling through his own mind. He slinks down further in his seat, long legs kicked out like a petulant child awaiting his parent’s reprimand.
"Why is he important?" Elbows propped on the armrests, Sherlock folds his hands together over his sternum. He cocks an eyebrow, narrowing his eyes as he observes all of his brother’s telling non-reactions.
"He's not. Not really." Mycroft shifts his weight from one foot to the other, adjusting his perch. Sherlock notes the change, filing it away under ‘suspicious brotherly conduct.’ "In the greater scheme of things,” he begins and his tone is nice and light. "But he has potential." Sherlock bites back the urge to outwardly roll his eyes at his brother’s theatrics. "With Sarah he has potential,” Mycroft adds, quickly qualifying the statement.
Cryptic, as usual.
In truth, Sherlock has always enjoyed the slight challenge of not knowing the particulars of Mycroft’s Plan, at least beyond the six pages of blueprint he is allotted. Most caseworkers only get two. It is the only benefit of being the younger, and only, brother of the Chairman. But, in Sherlock’s opinion, it is decidedly not worth the hassle. Sometimes, when he’s bored and tired of stalking the homeless while John sleeps, he’ll try to deduce the next three months of the man’s life and check himself against the extend version of the plan he possesses. However, that game always ends far too quickly for Sherlock’s liking.
But with John, as with everything concerning the man, Sherlock is starting to believe that a whole different set of rules apply. Three months is not enough. It started back in the university library. A ‘need’ to solve the convoluted puzzle, know where each fragmented piece fits and finally be able to see the entire trajectory of the man’s life. Sherlock is sure the feeling might be something akin to human hunger or thirst.
Sherlock needs to know how the man’s story ends.
He needs to know why his smile is still so bright after everything he’s seen.
He needs to know why he clings to the cane when the bullet hit his shoulder.
He needs to know why the man radiates warmth unlike any other human he’s supervised in over twenty centuries of service to the Bureau.
"As they are both doctors, I assume you are referring to some medical breakthrough they will pioneer together." Despite knowing that Mycroft will most likely see straight through his guise, force of habit prompts Sherlock to be cagey. His voice remains even, underpinned with hints of boredom and dismissal. “Is that correct?” It would be nice for John to do something so important, Sherlock thinks. Maybe give the man back a purpose in life. Finally, some adventure for the worn out soldier.
"Are you sure you don't want any tea?" Mycroft could be so painfully predictable.
Sherlock unfolds his hands with a scoff, pushing himself up in the chair before leaning forward in protest to being so rudely ignored. The sharp points of his elbows dig into his thighs as he holds his head in his hands. Mycroft glances down to where his mobile rests on his obscenely large desk, he swipes a finger across the screen.
"Two, sir?" Not missing a beat, his assistant opens the door. Sherlock twists in his seat at the sudden sound to find her face illuminated by the ever-present Blackberry.
"Please, Anthea." Mycroft smile and Sherlock stands abruptly.
"Just the one." His gaze locks with Mycroft’s as he smoothes out the creases in his coat. It’s is best attempt at appearing ‘defiant.’
"I know you don't understand, but John is," Mycroft allows for a pregnant pause, standing and staring to walk back around to settle in his chair. Of course, he’s back to his usual theatrics. "Essential." Sherlock begins to tug his leather gloves back on. "Thanks to your missteps, brother, he has become a much more…" Sherlock watches the wheels spinning in his brother’s brain. Carefully considering his words, Mycroft tilts his head to the right with an unnerving half smile. "Substantial man than I ever originally planned." The smug look seems at home on his face. "But as you know, Plans shift around. And I am nothing if not adaptable." He leans across the desk, reaching for his mobile before glancing up at Sherlock with a warning. "Within reason."
“I’ll try,” he says, striding over to the ceiling high doors.
“It may be less than romantic.” Mycroft voice breaks his stride. “But you know he is aware of who we are…you can speak candidly with him about Sarah.”
The door shuts softly behind Sherlock.
Three days later, Sherlock decides to finally talk to John. It is the man’s day off from the clinic and there is not time like the present when Mycroft is watching. As per the Plan, John leaves his flat at exactly 12:08 to fetch some milk from Tesco. The man has nothing planned for the day except for reruns of Doctor Who, Hollyoaks and toast, so no ripples or adjusting necessary. Timing is everything, after all.
“John.” Sherlock slips along beside him, switching up his gate to match the slower pace of John’s limping stride. John comes up short. Calm, which is more surprising than not, John turns to size up Sherlock. Lips stretched in a flat line, John scans over the pale face and messy hair of his caseworker.
Perhaps, Sherlock reasons, the seasonally cold temperature is detracting from the usual warmth John radiates.
“You know,” John starts and Sherlock takes a half step closer. A challenge. “I quite enjoyed your disappearing act the other night.”
“Would you like a coffee?” Sherlock barely allows the man to finish his comment. He hesitates for a moment before reaching out to grip the man’s elbow, steering him in the direction of the nearest Pret.
“Only cause I think it’s the closest to an apology I’ll get from you.”
Coffee in hand, Sherlock glances at John as they step out of the bustling Pret a Manger near John’s flat. He seems faintly flushed and anxious, presumably from Sherlock’s strange presence. Humans always did get a bit odd around caseworkers; at least that is what Mycroft had told him when he first started working with the Bureau. But all the others who worked in the field confirmed similar reactions from their cases. For some reason, the thought of John being uncomfortable around him makes Sherlock give the man a wider birth as they walk side by side. Oblivious, John steers them toward a small park, checking for a vacant bench.
“What did you mean the other day? When you said I was like a moth to a flame?” John asks, zeroing in on the perfect location for them to sit and chat.
“You enjoy danger.” Sherlock supplies, remembering a lifetime of data to back up the deduction. John looks away, smiling to himself. Sherlock unbuttons his over coat, fanning it out to welcome the cool fall air. “You always have.” The comment receives a sharp look from John, confusion briefly flitting across his face before settling around the corners of his eyes.
The scepticism is back.
Yes, Sherlock could work with that. Try to carefully lead him to the truth.
“Where did you go the other day anyways?” John stops walking, leaning on his cane in a way Sherlock assumes is meant to be intimidating. And Sherlock is unsure how to react; he has never been properly scrutinised before. It feels strange, as if John can maybe just begin to see the edges of his human guise. He thinks he could grow accustomed to the feeling, if need be.
“Business.” Sherlock’s tone is crisp and curt, discouraging further inquiry while knowing full well that John will take the bait and only press harder. A look of realisation begins to form on John’s face. He takes a half step closer, his voice dropping to a low whisper.
“You’re one of ‘them,’ aren’t you?”
“We need to be much closer to the river in order to have this conversation.”
A short taxi ride later and the two are queued up to board the London Eye.
“Sherlock?” John looks back and forth between the iconic tourist trap and Sherlock with a clearly puzzled expression.
“This is the safest place for us to talk. Near the water and no proper doors.” He explains, pointing to the capsules on the Eye. “I assume Lestrade filled you in on those details.” When John slowly shakes his head, Sherlock proceeds to list off all the salient information while they wait. “Water makes it difficult for caseworkers, or anyone else at the Bureau, to monitor individuals with any real accuracy.”
“Water? Why water?”
“You wouldn’t understand even if I tried to explain it.” A fleeting look of annoyance glares at Sherlock.
“What about the doors? What did you mean?”
Sherlock sighs, bemused by how ill informed the man was given how much more information he knew about the Bureau than most human beings would ever learn.
“It’s how we travel around London. For example, that door over there,” Sherlock points to a heavy backdoor of a café. “It leads straight to the toilets of Victoria Station. And that one will send you to the Pret near Marble Arch. But there was never a door made for the Eye, too conspicuous, too many ripples.”
“Cheaper than the tube, yeah?” Sherlock cannot hide the smile that pricks up the corners of his mouth when John laughs at his own joke.
“Yes. However, a Bureau issued hat is required in order to travel. Otherwise, the door is simply that.” Sherlock removes his black fedora to show the man. John gingerly fingers the brim, running his thumb along the inside. Perhaps he is searching for something in the lining to explain the phenomenon Sherlock is spouting off about. When he finds nothing out of the ordinary he slips the hat on.
“Not just a throwback, then?” John asks, tipping the brim to one side.
“There is a purpose for everything I do, John.” Sherlock snatches the hat back.
"So,” John tentatively begins as the last person steps into the capsule. The Eye starts its slow rotation and the other passengers mill about, snapping photos and taking in the London skyline. Of course, John refuses to sit, preferring to stand beside Sherlock as they stare out over the Thames. “I never got to ask Lestrade this properly, but,” he surreptitiously glances at Sherlock, apparently choosing his words carefully before just blurting out the question. He can feel John’s eyes examining his face, anticipating a reaction. “Are you lot angels?"
“John, please.” Indignant, Sherlock tugs at his scarf. He turns to give John a look of what will be read as mild annoyance, only lightly tinged with amusement.
“Fair,” he responds holding up a hand, a half smile twisting his words. “It’s just, Lestrade said he was supposed make sure I got where I needed to go…” John schools his face, staring pointedly at Big Ben. “Cause that sounds to me like a guardian ang—”
Sherlock whips his head round to level John with a sharp stare. It could only be a quick blur in his peripheral but the movement effectively cuts John off mid-sentence. He shuffles his feet, carefully moving away from Sherlock. A long silence stretches between them and perhaps this is not going as well as he hoped. Blunt and too the point would likely be the most successful way to obtain his goal. As a soldier, Sherlock deduced, John would respond well to a commanding tone and straightforward attitude.
He clears his throat but John is already talking.
“Where were you for this, then?” He still refuses to look at Sherlock, merely gesturing to his shoulder with a subtle tilt of the head. Sherlock has always wondered what the wound looked like now that it had had some time to heal properly. The images of tattered skin and grit and screams come unbidden and he’s sure John can hear the protest of leather gloves stretching across his knuckles.
"It made you stronger." The answer escapes his mouth before his mind can catch up. He knows Mycroft would not agree with his assessment. The wound had been a precaution intended to stunt John’s growth and send him back to the white washed world of London. Back to Sarah. Sherlock could only assume, though it was a very well educated guess, that the injury would be directly related to John’s potential medical breakthrough that Mycroft refused to confirm or deny.
Regardless, it was meant to cripple.
But John, oh John, he was resilient.
"Bitter is the word, Sherlock." John shifts his weight, seeming to remember his limp and leaning heavily on his cane.
“Only if you allow it.” He closes the gap between them, shoulders brushing. It startles John out of his reverie and his eyes slowly drag from Parliament to Sherlock’s placid face. John responds with an almost unperceivable nod. The warmth that couples the look causes Sherlock to completely unbutton his overcoat. He attempts to cover the gesture by distracting John with his words. “Don’t ask me why or how, but I’ve been told that you have a lot of potential, Doctor John Watson.”
“There’s a real ringing endorsement.” John huffs a laugh, causing his shoulder to bounce against Sherlock’s.
“Well, the information did come from my brother.” The disdain is so thick that Sherlock automatically reconsiders being so obvious and so human.
“Sibling rivalry?” John perks up. Yes, of course, a commonality, a long sought after point of intersection: troubled siblings. “Didn’t know angels could have rivalries.” He glances sidelong at Sherlock. His voice sounds suspiciously like a playful tease. “Or siblings.”
“He may be many things, but my brother is decidedly not an angel.” Sherlock sniffs in an approximation of ‘haughtiness’, brushing away his coat to stuff his hands in the pockets of his trousers. “Actually, despite the pain it causes me, he would be the most reliable source on the Plan.”
“What do you mean?”
“Mycroft is the Chairman of the Bureau. He has final say.”
“Your brother is God?” John furrows his brow sceptically, openly staring at Sherlock.
It’s the most ludicrous think anyone, human or not, has said to him in the entirety of his long life.
“What? No, John, h—” Sherlock cuts himself off and lets out a deep, resigned sigh. “If that is the only way your little brain can process the information, then fine.” Stepping closer, he reaches out to pat John on his uninjured shoulder. “Yes, Mycroft, my brother, is ‘god.’” He allows his hand to slip down John’s arm, lingering at the inner crook of his elbow before falling away.
Thankfully, no one on the Eye has yet to overhear their bizarre conversation.
“Well.” John looks well chuffed, drawing himself up to his full height. “I must be rather important to have you as my ‘caseworker.’”
“Troubled is the word, John.” Sherlock parrots back and watches the recognition flicker in John’s eyes. “Deeply troubled and deeply troubling.” A frown creases the skin around John’s mouth upon hearing his own cadence and intonation mimicked by Sherlock. “You’ve been meant to do something for a while now but you keep botching it up.”
“The woman, Sarah,” Sherlock gestures vaguely at John, fingers twisting in an unappealing manner. “You are meant to be with her.”
Mycroft was quite fond of the old romantic notions of fate and destiny. Love at first sight, meant to be, til death do us part—all Mycroft’s doing. Oh, he could be positively hateful when it came right down to it.
“Sarah Sawyer?” John’s face is the picture of disbelief. “No, no,” he repeats, shaking his head. “That can’t be right.”
Sherlock removes the black notebook from his inner breast pocket, snapping the elastic fastener as he thumbs it open. Flipping through the filler pages of notes on John’s behavioural patterns, he finds the current iteration of the Plan nestled safely in the back half of the journal. It is as up to date as Mycroft will allow, displaying the next few months of John’s life. He hands the notebook to John.
“That’s you.” Sherlock points to the pulsing green line running across the page, twisting and turning as it zigzags on crisp white paper. “That’s Sarah.” The orange line juts up from the bottom of the second page, heading straight toward the green line, intersecting halfway across the page. From there, it begins running parallel for the next five pages until the limited edition of his Plan runs out. “And I’ve been informed you continue like that until the end.” John silently stares at the elaborate image and Sherlock can almost see his gears admirably turning.
“What about free will?” John turns the page, watching the green and orange lines navigating the blueprint in unison. It’s the same for the next page, and the next, and just as Sherlock promised all the way until the end of his copy. He flips back to the first page of the Plan, staring at a future that is about to turn present.
“Man had his chance at free will. That era ended when the Bureau was formed. However.” Sherlock cocks his head, narrowing his eyes as he marvels at John. “I don’t think Mycroft accounted for you having such a wilful spirit.” Oblivious to the scrutiny, John continues staring at the journal, tracing his finger over the pulsing lines. Sherlock tries to imagine all the little thoughts zipping across synapses and firing off in John’s simple little human mind. “I need you to meet with her. Only once, if you like. Just to see how things progress.” He attempts to appeal to John’s inquisitive nature and his high moral character. “We can’t force love, Mycroft thinks it’s too complex, too nuanced for Adjustment. If it feels correct, great.” It sounds like a fair plan, one that a man like John surely cannot object to. One meeting is all they need to fall madly, deeply in love, according to the Plan. It should be no great hardship. “If it doesn’t happen…” He trails off, knowing the likelihood is less than 1% but still toeing the line due to John’s involvement in the arrangement and his current success rate when it comes to adhering to all things Plan related. “Well, we’ll have to address that impasse should we arrive at it.”
Sherlock has come to the illogical conclusion that Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle was actually theorized with Dr. John Watson in mind.
“Couldn’t hurt.” John shrugs and Sherlock approves of his rational thought process—so rare for average human beings. Just as he is about to hand the journal back, he tugs it just out of Sherlock’s reach. “But if this is a deal, I want something in return.” Sherlock’s hand hangs between them, paused in the middle of grasping for the journal. His mind whirls with all the possible trades a man like John would want to make with a being such as Sherlock. There are at least seven different theories convalescing when John finally places the journal in the open hand. His grip is firm, not yielding the ransom until Sherlock agrees to his demands. “I’ve never had dinner with an angel.”
A smile breaks out on Sherlock’s face and he finds that it is mirrored by the small one pulling up the corners of John’s mouth. It has been a long time since Sherlock was wrong. He allows the laugh bubbling up inside him to spill over. The sound rings genuine in his ears.
That weekend John Watson gets a pint with Sarah Sawyer.
Sunday night, when John comes home after the ‘date,’ Sherlock believes the human might be suffering from a mild cardiac episode.
“Bloody hell, Sherlock!” John starts gasping for air and clutching his chest the minute he pushes the door to his flat open to discover Sherlock sprawled on his couch, waiting for him in the dark. Braced against the doorframe, John scans the room for evidence of Sherlock’s break in.
“How—” He barely wheezes out.
“Are you going to see her again?” Sherlock cuts him off, slowly sitting up. Last time he checked, two minutes prior to John’s arrival, the Plan had been on course. But now, being able to physically see John, something feels off.
“Wait!” He throws up a hand in John’s direction. “Don’t answer that.” Jumping up and crossing the room, he wraps his hand around the collar of John’s unbuttoned jacket. He starts tugging the man in the direction of the bathroom. “Come.”
“How long have you been sitting here…in the dark?” John limps along, one step behind Sherlock, with no protest to being manhandled inside his own flat.
“Since you left.” Sherlock tosses over his shoulder.
The content of the date was immaterial to Sherlock. He trusted John to follow through, thus there was no need to chaperone a grown man while trying to ‘fall in love’ with the ‘woman of his dreams.’ After all, there was nothing more Sherlock could do as John’s caseworker. Once the two met the rest was supposed to fall into place, per the Plan, and then they could go on with their little lives and stop bothering Sherlock with all their messy feelings and stifling warmth.
Kicking the door open with his foot, Sherlock hauls John into the bathroom. He pushes open the glass door to the shower stall and steps inside.
“What?” John stands there dumbly as Sherlock stands inside the shower.
“Get in.” Sherlock beckons John to join him, fully clothed and bewildered.
“Sorry, repeat that?”
“Water!” He says in place of a proper explanation. Reaching out, Sherlock grabs the front of John’s jumper, dragging him into the shower. The cane clatters to the floor behind him, useless. John is too stunned by the sudden action to block Sherlock from twisting the tap on full blast.
“Sherlock!” John recoils, his back hitting the titled wall. He nearly looses his balance. Sherlock darts forward to steady him, pale hands braced under his arms until he finds his footing. “This is my nice jumper.” John looks down at the woollen garment, soaked all the way through and hanging sadly off his shoulders. He pulls at it mournfully.
“Are you going to see Sarah again?”
“Sure, she’s great.” John squints up at Sherlock as the shower pelts him in the face, spitting out mouthfuls of water with every word. His hair is plastered too his skull and he has to keep on pushing it out of his eyes.
It’s less than convincing.
“Do not lie to me, John.” A hand curls around John’s chin, tipping his face up. John bats it away when water starts splashing in his eyes.
Sherlock already knows a meeting with Mycroft is unavoidable.
“She’s sweet,” John starts, wiping at the water in his eyes and Sherlock can almost taste the bitter black tea Mycroft prefers during his more ‘intensive’ meetings. “But, it doesn’t feel right.” They’ll have a grand row for sure. “Maybe we would have worked before, but I’ve changed too much since uni.” John squints up at Sherlock again, hair a mess and jumper soaked, the soles of his dress shoes squeaking.
“Precisely the problem.” Sherlock slumps against the cold glass of the shower as the water continues to run over them both, seeping into the heavy material of his overcoat. He runs a hands through his drenched hair, slicking it back in a tangled mess.
“Can I still take you to dinner?”
Anthea, who now wore a nametag reading Charlotte, waits for Sherlock as he steps across the threshold, into the third floor hallway of the Bureau. There is no point in protesting. She escorts him through the familiar labyrinth of corridors, lifts and two separate spiral stairs to the heavy, full-length doors of Mycroft’s office.
Just as he suspected, a cup of bitter tea is already steeping on the edge of his brother’s unnecessarily large desk.
“I hear you have a story for me.” Mycroft says in place of a proper greeting. He motions for Sherlock to take up his usual seat as he slips a second mobile into his topmost drawer. A thin smile distorts his perpetually calm countenance. He remains seated, already beginning the tiresome power plays. Sherlock does not give his brother the satisfaction of responding to the obvious invitation to divulge the most recent details of his ‘unique’ case. Instead, he refuses to either speak or sit. He elects to stand just to the right of the proffered chair, leaning against its high back. Slowly, he pointedly directs all his attention to peeling off his leather gloves. “I must say.” A change in tactics. Obvious. “The boy has some strange attachment to you.”
If Sherlock looks up just a fraction too quickly, Mycroft will know. He already knows each and every thoughts filling Mycroft’s brain. Sherlock steadies himself, eyes sliding along the carpet, up the front of the desk before settling on the patch of skin between Mycroft’s eyes.
“I cannot account for his ‘feelings,’ Mycroft.” Cool and detached, his usual tenor. He wraps himself in the familiar sound and waits for the response. At first, it’s nothing but the slight raising of an eyebrow.
“And neither can you correct them.” The frown is light, barely creasing the skin about his mouth with disappointment and pity intermingling. “No matter,” he says, brushing the troubled expression away with a flick of the wrist. He opens the topmost file on his desk. “I’m removing you from his case. Jim will be taking over tonight.” Mycroft begins scratching away with a silver fountain pen.
“Moriarty?” Sherlock is no longer nonchalant, back rigid and straight as he stands.
“I know you disapprove of his methods but it’s the results that are crucial this late in the game.” Mycroft barely glances up from where he is finalising the paperwork, making the transference of cases official.
“Have you ever considered there may be a flaw in the Plan?” It has been a long time since Sherlock could be bothered to have a proper go at his brother. But John Watson seems as good a cause as any, perhaps the best one, if he is being honest with himself. After all, John’s case is the first one Sherlock has witnessed that legitimately calls the Plan in to question. As well as Mycroft's authority.
Sherlock steps forward slowly, making his best attempt at looming over the desk. A slight tremor causes Mycroft to sputter a few drops of red ink across the crisp white document.
“My Plan is infallible,” he responds, his voice several degrees calmer than his penmanship suggests. “And if there is a flaw it is the direct result of your mistakes.” The pen hits the desk with a quiet clunk. Mycroft glares up at Sherlock, allowing the silence to fill the space between them. “Do not forget who Mummy left in charge, dear brother.”
A low blow and Sherlock knows he has pushed too hard, too quickly. There is no reasoning with Mycroft, especially when he gets this flustered. It is best to leave the minute 'Mummy' is brought into the debate. Reason failing, Sherlock’s priorities immediately shift.
John must be protected and only Mycroft knows the full roster of despicable things Moriarty has engaged in while crusading on behalf of the Plan.
“Of course,” he nods, stepping back and turning toward the door. Behind him, the scratching resumes.
“Oh, and Sherlock,” Mycroft’s voice freezes him to the spot. “It’s best to stay away. I trust you do not want Dr. Watson to be reset.” The pen continues etching away John’s future, his chances for survival dwindling with every stroke.