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Rough - 2/5

Title: Rough - 2/5
Rating: PG-13
Pairing: Sherlock/John friendship
Word Count: 1,364
Disclaimer: Sherlock belongs to Auntie Beeb and Uncle Moff; Sherlock Holmes belongs to the world.
Spoilers: The Great Game (probably all of them, really)
Warnings: deals with homelessness, street violence, and solicitation
Thanks: to my lovely beta/Britpickers bethia , gayalondiel , oncelikeshari and dreamer_easy ...all lingering mistakes are just me being awkward.
Summary: When John is kidnapped, who can Sherlock trust to help find him?

Notes: In both the books and the series, Sherlock has a rather cavalier attitude towards the homeless people that he uses in his work. I didn't necessarily want to change that with this story, but I did want to play around with it a little bit.

Extras: Screencap illustrations.

Part One

That thing I mentioned, about seeing yourself through other peoples' eyes? Well, it works the other way, too. Sometimes I play little guessing games with the punters. Give them labels. See that young bloke coming up just now? I bet he's a Blanker. Won't even acknowledge me. Here he comes, and...yep! Not even a nod. That older lady across the street, expensive suit; looks like an accountant? She's an Evil Eye-er. Speak half a breath to her and she'll glare at you like you've just thrown up in her handbag. That white-haired bloke on the corner could be a Shouter, or a Jesus Freak...hard to tell. Best avoid him either way.

There's two kinds that actually give me money: the Angels (young or middle-aged women) and the Avunculars (pension-aged men).

The Avunculars are the worst. They look like your dad or your schoolteacher, and for a while at least, you can kid yourself. You can pretend you don't need their kind words and friendly faces even more than you need their money. They take you somewhere warm and dry and feed you and don't treat you like shit. You soak up their warmth and their kindness along with their food...and for a while, at least, you can pretend you don't know what they want you to do to pay for it.

They say we dehumanize people on the street. True enough. But that one works both ways, too. Because after being shouted at and ignored and looked down on and lied to, it's hard to think of other people as human beings anymore. Come on, be honest: could you genuinely not spare 50p for someone who hasn't slept or eaten for two nights running? Of course you fucking could. But what do you say? "Nope, no change, not today, sorry mate."

But you can't get angry. People do remember, and who knows, they might give you something next time if you're polite. So you just think of the punters as robots or androids or some fucking cold dead things that haven't got feelings, and they're much easier to deal with.

Of course, the danger is that after a while, you start to think of yourself that way, too.


"Him? Oh yeah, I remember. Scruffy little bloke. Big soft eyes. Disappeared a while back. Shame, really; he was a bit of alright. Well. For a homeless bloke, anyway."

It's the same story at every shelter, every food kitchen, every charity van: just missed him. Where is he now? God knows. You haven't got two quid, have you? I could murder a curry.

The young man puts the photograph back in his pocket and moves on to the next town, the next city; the next long stretch of empty pavement. Always one step behind.

But getting closer.


I'm not proud of it. Just in case you think I'm bragging. I'm not. I feel sick every time something makes me remember it. Even if the kid probably had it coming...no one deserves what I did to him. Almost did.

It'd been raining all day. The pavement was soaked. And on nights like that, the wet always finds a way in, no matter how much you try to keep it out. So I'd hauled everything to the park to kip on one of the benches.

Now I know that's dangerous. You go to a public place like that, you're risking arrest, or worse. But that night, I'd just reached my limit. Not again. I was not going to wake up shivering like hell, my skin wrinkled and waterlogged like a frog in a fucking marsh. Not tonight.

So I wiped off the bench and laid out my "mattress" - two pieces of cardboard and half a sheet of plastic - and lay down, pulling up the larger plastic sheet that, in an optimistic mood, I like to think of as a “blanket”.

They woke me from a light doze. Three kids, barely out of school: maybe just starting uni. Nice jackets, expensive shoes, catalogue jumpers, the works. Still young enough to have Mummy and Daddy wipe their arses for them.

"Oi Gramps! This is a public park. It's after hours. You ain't supposed to be in here."

"Neither are you." I pulled the plastic sheet closer, hoping they'd get bored and leave.

"Yeah, but we inn't kipping here. We ain't stinking up the benches. Are we?"

"Yeah, kids play in here, man. The mums don't want to put their fannies down on a bench that some shit-smelling alkie's pissed on the night before."

They were drunk. Only a little, but enough to make them bolder. I sat up.

"Look, mate. Why don't you all go back to your mummies and daddies and your nice warm beds, and thank whatever God rained his blessings down on you that you've even got a home to go to? How about that?"

"Oh, I don't fink so." The tallest boy rubbed his fist in his palm. "You're breakin' the law, innit? We got to teach you a lesson."

I sighed. "Do you know how ridiculous you sound? A privileged white kid from the suburbs trying to play gangsta? It's pathetic."

"Pathetic? We ain't the ones sleeping on a fucking park bench, Gimpy." So, they'd spotted my limp. I must have looked like an easy target.

I stood up as best I could. "Look. Whatever trouble you're looking for, go find it somewhere else. I'm really, really not in the mood tonight."

"Not in the mood?" The shortest one, a pale, skinny kid with freckles all over his face, gave a dirty giggle. "Your first time, is it, Spaggy? Don't worry, we'll be gentle wiv ya. Not!"

If any one of them had been on their own, they'd have let me be. But they were in a group. A pack. They all wanted to look like a big man in front of their mates. The short kid threw the first punch, and then the others piled in.

You know when things kicked off with those three blokes in the alley, the ones who took my money? I said I was doing alright for a bit. Well, I was actually doing better than that...I was winning. It was like something just took over. My body knew exactly what to do: where to hit, how much force to use, where my enemy opponent was weakest. Whoever I was, I sure as hell knew how to fight; and knowing that should have scared me a lot more than it did.

The same thing took over now. Two of the kids turned tail and ran off shouting for a copper. Like all cowards, they hadn't reckoned on my fighting back. I managed to catch the little freckled one, though, and threw him down onto the grass.

If I said I didn't know what I was doing next, I'd be lying. Sure, that weird something else had taken over, but...I knew. It was like all the anger and pain and humiliation I'd been choking down for the last few weeks finally came raging up out of me like vomit. I pinned the kid with my knees and started punching him, over and over and over, ignoring his hurt cries and his pleading, feeling nothing but disgust when the tears streamed from his eyes and mixed with the blood and the snot running from his nose.

And then…it felt like a heat mirage in my head. The edge of things sort of blurred, and the wet park grass was suddenly dry desert sand. I wasn't fighting a kid anymore, I was fighting an insurgent intruder, and God knew how he'd got into camp with three men out on point, but if I didn't contain him he'd take down the whole unit.

I didn't even think about what came next. It was automatic. My arm swung down like a computer following a programme, breaking the kid's nose, then drew back ready to thrust the splintered cartilage into his brain with the heel of my hand.

That's when one of his mates caught me round the ear with the two-by-four.

Thank God.

On to part 3

Note: screencaps are from the ITV series Boy Meets Girl - you can see a clip of the first three and a half minutes of Episode 1 here (worth it just to hear Freeman doing a Northern accent, imo).

EDIT: Hooray! Some kind soul has uploaded the whole series to YouTube - hurry and go watch before it gets taken down.




( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 17th, 2011 10:53 am (UTC)
Awww, I'm really enjoying this. I love the story :-) And how adorable does MF look in the fourth pic down. I just want to give him a hug. I may have to 'aquire' some of this Boy Meets Girl ;-)
Feb. 19th, 2011 03:36 am (UTC)
Freeman is quite huggable in BMG, even though a) he's hardly in it, and b) he looks like utter hell throughout most of it, which must have annoyed him.

Very glad you're enjoying the fic.
Feb. 17th, 2011 08:16 pm (UTC)
Good second chapter. And again, a lovely job of incorporating screencaps from BMG into your story.
Feb. 19th, 2011 03:34 am (UTC)
Feb. 18th, 2011 11:39 pm (UTC)
This is fascinating. I've just tuned in at chapter 2. To be honest, I think I saw the summary for the first part and skipped over it because most fics I've begun reading about homeless people have put me off by "over-romanticising" homelessness. But yours doesn't seem to do that. And I'm really intrigued by how you are going to resolve it. And the use of screencaps from the other show is really well done.

Looking forward to the next part.

Feb. 19th, 2011 03:34 am (UTC)
Thanks! Yeah, I know exactly what you mean, and it bugs the hell out of me. I remember Neil Gaiman talking about his commission for Neverwhere ("tribes of nomadic homeless people travelling around London"), and resisting the impulse to glamourise it, because he didn't want some fifteen-year-old kid running away from their abusive family to go be homeless in London because they'd seen how "cool" it was on television. As far as I can tell, the only people who think there's anything remotely "romantic" about being homeless are well-fed upper middle class people who must imagine that it means having fewer worries and responsibilities. 0_ô

Re: the pictures - it was making screencaps of BMG that put a lot of this story in my head, actually: "Hrm...what if that were John instead?"
May. 6th, 2011 07:32 pm (UTC)
amazing XD can't wait for more... if you're still writing it that is XD

Link to park 3 doesn't work btw, to let you know in case you have posted but it was a bad link or anything.

Update soon! The Power Of FUNK compels you!!!
May. 9th, 2011 05:07 pm (UTC)
D'oh! I meant to do an update and then promptly forgot about it. Sorry about that...the link should be fixed now. (After all, who am I to argue with The Power of Funk?)
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )