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It's A Wonderful Christmas Carol - 4/7

fandom: Sherlock
word count: 10,148
pairing: gen/friendship
warnings: domestic abuse, suicide attempt
summary: Sherlock meets A Christmas Carol meets It's A Wonderful Life.

part 3

The words were no sooner spoken than the office around them disappeared, replaced by a bustling London street.

"Ah, Christmas!" Jim's ghost enthused. "Gotta love it…everyone's so stupidly full of good cheer they're even more gullible than usual." A frown creased the ghost's brow as he surveyed the crowded pavement. "Not very festive, though. I mean, if we're doing the whole Christmas Carol thing, we might as well tart things up a bit."

The ghost snapped his fingers. A whirlwind of snow moved through the crowd, leaving Victorian trappings in its wake: street lights became gas lamps. Knit caps and hoodies became top hats and winter bonnets. A dark SRV suddenly found itself transformed into a horse-drawn carriage, and reared up in fright as a small blue Vauxhall nearly sideswipped it in the intersection.

"There now! That's better. You've got to admit, that's much better," the ghost cajoled. "That's Christmas…chestnuts; roast goose; Scrooge and Mycroft - sorry, Marley - forging their chains in their chambers; the Cratchitts slowly starving to death in the slum…oh, and look there, who's this? Why, bless me...it's Tiny Tim!"

Sherlock's breath caught.

John Watson - or at least this reality's warped, twisted version of him - hobbled up a side street. A crude wooden crutch had replaced his walking stick, and, true to Moriarty's word, he was dressed in ragged urchin's clothes: a frayed blue cap and jacket, trousers torn away below the knee, and rough shoes held onto his feet with filthy strips of wound cloth.

Something sour twisted Sherlock's stomach. He remembered the swimming pool…Moriarty playing John like a puppet; humiliating him…

"Stop this. Now." Hallucinating or not, dying or not; Sherlock Holmes completely and utterly loathed a bully.

Ghost-Jim quirked an eyebrow. "It's your hallucination, Sherlock. You'd rather I dressed him up as the Christmas goose?"

In the silence that followed, Sherlock extrapolated at least three separate lucid dreaming techniques which might allow him to gruseomely dismember a ghost within his own hallucination.

"Oh, all right," Moriarty rolled his eyes. "Honestly, some people have no sense of humour."

The ghost snapped his fingers. They were now inside a bleak, dimly lit waiting room. It looked like the driver's registration office. John - now dressed normally - limped in and took a number, then took a seat in a row of plastic chairs that had probably been made sometime around the first moon landing.

"He's gonna be here a while," the ghost wrinkled his nose. "Might as well get to the interesting bit."

He twirled a finger at the clock on the wall and its hand sped forwards, the movement in the room hastening to a blur. If he concentrated, however, Sherlock could study John amidst all the commotion. He did not look well. His clothes were uncharacteristically shabby three years old at least wait no four years charity shop most likely and he hadn't shaved in days. He kept jiggling his foot and biting his lip no breakfast then maybe no lunch either skipping meals then wait has he been drinking? as he eyed the clock anxiously every few seconds.

Finally Moriarty's finger came to rest. A bored-looking young woman called John's number and he hauled himself up to her window. Double-reinforced Perspex…must get a lot of angry people in here.

"Can I help you?"

"I certainly hope so." John took a crumpled piece of paper from his pocket and smoothed it out, pushing it under the window for the woman to examine. "My pension hasn't come in this month. There's my bank statement; the payment hasn't gone through."

The young woman turned to her computer screen without looking at him, smacking loudly on a piece of gum. She tapped disinterestedly at her keyboard, speaking to John only long enough to obtain his information. After a few seconds she addressed her monitor.

"Says here recipient is deceased."


"Payments suspended due to deceasement. Inquiries scheduled as to possible overpayment fraud."

John let out a disbelieving breath. "You're not serious." He was starting to smile. John Watson was never more dangerous than when he smiled.

"That's what it says," the young woman stated flatly, with not even the slightest trace of sympathy in her voice.

"Do I look dead to you? The army's been paying my pension for months. Just…check again, could you?"

"This is your record, sir," the woman insisted, without checking again. "It says you were deceased on…the eighth of August last year."

"That's when I was wounded! Wounded, not killed! There must have been a computer glitch…look, please...is there something you can do today?"

The woman let out a sigh, clearly annoyed that someone was actually making her do her job. "You can fill out a grievance application."

"And how long will that take to go through?"

"Three to six months."

"Three to six - ?? Jesus! And what am I supposed to do until then?"

"You could set up an appointment with your unit's liason officer."

John pressed his lips. "Look. You don't understand. My rent was due last week; I'm...I'm getting evicted today."

The woman smacked her gum and gave him a look that asked if she cared. "That's all I can do, sir."

John's smile tightened into a coiled spring. "So, what am I supposed to do...live on the streets? Eat peoples' garbage? I nearly died serving this pathetic excuse for a country, and this is the thanks I get...?"

The woman picked up the phone and pushed a button. "Security." She managed to sound bored even calling for help.

"Security?" John's giggle was high-pitched and shrill, and sounded very unbalanced. "You want to talk about security? By all means, let's fucking well talk about fucking security. Security is what you're promised when you sign up. Your country says they'll look after you if you happen to come back with a fucking bullet through your fucking shoulder, and find yourself with no life and no job, and not. Throw you out. On the street. Like a piece. Of fucking garbage! THAT’s security!"

Two large men arrived and grabbed John by the arms. Sherlock started forwards instictively, his lip curling into a snarl...but found himself stopped by a ghostly hand.

"You're not really here. You'd go right through them." The ghost released him. "Though by all means, do give it a try; I haven't had a good laugh in ages."

He was right. The ghost was always right. Sherlock could only watch the security guards drag a still-ranting John outside and fling him to the pavement, tossing his walking stick after him with a clatter.

John tried to get up. His leg wouldn't let him. He satisfied himself with hurling his cane at the guards just as the door closed behind them. The stick cartwheeled through the air, struck the door with an ineffective bounce, and tumbled out of reach down a flight of concrete steps.

All he could do then was yell. Which he did...until his screams slowly broke into sobs.

"Ugh. I can't watch this; it's embarrassing," the ghost grabbed Sherlock's arm.  "Come on, let's be off before someone calls the cops."

part 5