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Rough - 3/5

Title: Rough - 3/5
Rating: PG-13
Pairing: Sherlock/John friendship
Word Count: 1,464
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, solicitation, and suicidal thoughts
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

Part Two

"So, how is he?"

"Oh, fine. His eye's still a mess. Poor kid looks a lot better than when we brought him in, though, that's for sure."

"Yeah, I'll bet."

"What about the other bloke?"

The reception nurse eyes the young man in the paramedic's uniform. "You mean the homeless guy?"

"Yeah. I know he beat up a kid; but I feel a bit sorry for him. No family, no friends...I just feel like someone ought to visit him."

She checks the database. "Ah. Transferred. Yesterday afternoon."

"Really? They would've called us, surely?"

"Nope. Private hospital; private transport service."

"I see." The young man leans forward - he's not bad looking, really, though his pale blue eyes are just a little too intense for her comfort - and lowers his voice to a velvety murmur. "Doesn't say which hospital, does it?"

Her finger hovers over the mouse. "Why do you care? You know this guy or something?"

The young man pulls away, removing himself from her personal space, and she's almost sorry. "Not really. Like I said, I just feel bad for him."

She hesitates a moment longer. Then... "St. Anthony's. Arrived 3:34pm."

The young man's voice suddenly chills about twenty degrees. "St. Anthony's closed down eight months ago."

"Well...that's what it says here." She turns the screen round so he can see it, pointing defensively at the entry. "We can't receive a transfer confirmation except from the receiving hospital."

The young man studies the screen. "Right you are. My mistake." He smiles like a cat who's just nabbed a mouse, then turns on his heel and heads for the door. "Thank you, Nurse, you've been most helpful."

It takes her a few seconds to realise that she's just shown a confidential patient file to a complete stranger, and wonders what her job would be worth if her supervisor ever finds out.

Outside, the young man heads for a smoking shelter next to A&E. The transfer rouse was pathetically obvious: the hospital named for the patron of missing objects St. Anthony St. Anthony, please come around, something's lost that can't be found and the admitting doctor with a duck's name: Rouen Mallard. A quack. Another decoy. His best hope now is getting one of the EMTs currently partaking of nicotine to remember a strange vehicle pulling up in the bay - a limousine, or perhaps a white van - to receive a patient. Knowing which direction it departed would be helpful as well. He'd rather do as much of this as possible without the aid of his brother's CCTV cameras.

He is still one step behind.

But getting closer.


I don't recognise myself in the mirror.

This isn't me. I don't belong here.

I remember them putting the stitches in my ear: the antiseptic sting; the stabbing needle. From the way it's healed and the ugly subconjunctival haemhorrage in my eye, I can tell that the injury happened four to five days ago. I have no idea how I know this. I also remember the awkward questions from the police and hospital staff. When the Agents came for me that time, it was almost a relief.

But I don't recognise the person staring back at me. The person who almost killed a boy with his bare hands.

This isn't me.

A big hefty bloke appears in the mirror behind me. I didn't hear him walk up: the two-by-four gave me a perforated eardrum, which is still packed with gauze from the hospital.

"Hello mate...looking for some company?"

No. I'm not. I don't do that. I think. But if this mirror-stranger with my face is a cold-blooded killer, then maybe he shags blokes in dirty toilets for a few quid, too.

No. He doesn't. At least, not today.

I walk past the bloke and out the door. If I spend one more minute looking at that imposter in the mirror I'll put my fucking fist through it.

I wander the streets, not seeing, not thinking. Not hearing either, and maybe that's good...maybe a car will speed up behind me and I won't hear it in time to get out of the way.

Finally after dark I come to a bridge. I watch the city lights shimmer on the water. It's beautiful. Soothing. Hypnotic. I wonder what it would be like to slip inside the darkness under those lights and never come up again...the cold black water closing over me, cooling the fire in my head...

"...Excuse me!"

It's at least the second time the girl has said it, judging from her tone. I jump and she jumps too, like she just accidentally startled a rattlesnake.

"Sorry." I sniff and wipe my face, ashamed of how I must look to this pretty young woman. My own voice sounds weirdly muffled in my head. "Didn't hear you. Because...well." I point to my gauzed ear. She nods.

"Yeah. I guessed. I didn't mean to startle you. It's just...you're not...?" She takes a deep breath and then comes right out with it. "You're not going to jump, are you?"

I look at her for a long time. She's afraid for me. Afraid for someone she's never even met. I almost smile.

"Nah, just taking the view. It's lovely this time of night. Can't sleep; helps me think."

She nods. Maybe she even believes me. "Good. I'm sorry for asking, it's just...I saw someone jump last Christmas. Not the kind of thing you forget in a hurry."

"Oh, God." Someone might have seen me. I didn't even think. I wonder if this girl's nightmares are still full of lost souls plunging into icy waves. "I'm so sorry. Are you...? God, that must have been awful. No, it's fine, I'm not jumping. I'm just...thinking. Meditating."

"Right." She nods. "Well...I'll leave you to it." She moves off in an apologetic sort of way, and gets a couple of yards before I call her back.

"Miss?" She turns round, and I know my smile is real this time. "Thank you. For asking."

She nods again, then walks away, not knowing that she just saved a total stranger's life.

Even if it might not be worth saving.


"So he never turned up, then?"


"Your John Doe. The bloke with the ear."

"Oh, right - hang on a tic, Gertie love, we just need a few more blankets in here. Cold out tonight; we're gonna be packed - no, he didn't. Shame, I wish he had. Told him I had a bed for him if he gave me his name, but that just made him laugh. Like his name was a big joke or something. I don't know."

The shelter worker finishes the corners of another camp bed, then takes fresh linens from the pile in her friend's arms.

"Ah well. Nice of that girl to call you, though. At least there are still some decent people in the world."

"Yeah. Said she thought he was a jumper for sure. I hope he didn't do it. Didn't hear anything on the news, so - can I help you?"

A tall ginger man, staggering and reeking of cheap wine, has wandered from his assigned cot. The shelter worker leads him back to his own bed for the night, sitting him down as she turns back to her friend.

"He said he'd keep my card, though. So at least if they find him...well, like I said. I haven't heard anything yet."

"Umm...bridge," slurs the ginger man.


"'Bridgetown! Bats and tramps and trolls, trip-trap!"

"Oh, no, love, the bridge eaves aren't a safe camp anymore," the worker tells him, deftly parsing his drunken-ese with the skill of long practice. "The police raided it last week. Blocked it off."

"Uuuhhhnn." The ginger man nods dozily. His eyes are a startlingly intense shade of pale blue in his otherwise ruddy face.

"Bastards. All gone…where now?"

"Well, I hear the empty grocer's and the sheds round the docks are still alright if you can't get a bed here."

"Uhhhnnn." The man makes no further comment. He appears to be asleep. The worker leaves him to it.

"Anyway," her friend continues, "if you've not heard anything yet, then I think that's a good sign. Things always look better in the light of day, don't they? He probably just had a kip and felt better this morning."

"Yeah. You're probably right. Hope for the best, eh? Now if we can just get Ellis to stop drowning the linens in…bleach…"

The woman trails off, gazing at the cot where she just left the ginger man. The blanket shows the crumpled outline of a tall thin body, but nothing else. She looks around the room.

The ginger man has disappeared.

On to part 4

Note: screencaps are from the short film Inseparable and 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.