Title: The Switches
Word Count: 2,113
Genre: pre-slash or gen
Pairing; characters: Sherlock/John (or could be viewed as gen); Mycroft Holmes, Sherlock Holmes, John Watson
Summary: Sherlock is trapped in the dark and someone has moved the light switches. Mycroft has a theory.
It is dark and someone has moved the light switches. Sherlock makes his way through 221B Baker Street by memory and the shadows that he can see. If he can find the switch, he could turn the lights back on and be able to see better – only, the switch is no longer by the door. Someone has moved it while Sherlock was...what? Sleeping? Out? He can’t remember. Unimportant.
The switch is still in the room. He just has to find it. Maybe it was never by the door. Older flats are sometimes wired oddly, depending when they were built and when electricity was introduced. Maybe the switch was never by the door, and Sherlock erased that fact from his memory – by accident? Sherlock never erases by accident. There must be a reason that Sherlock can’t remember where the switches are. If he could see, maybe he’d be able to work it out.
“You can’t keep living this way, Sherlock,” Mycroft said. He was sitting in John’s preferred chair as though he owned it. His hand was resting on top of that infernal umbrella. There were faint ink spots on his fingers.
“I can and I will,” Sherlock answered automatically, although he didn’t actually know with which part of his life Mycroft was disagreeing.
“You can fool therapists all you like,” Mycroft replied. “But you aren’t a sociopath, Sherlock, and it’s not going to do you any favours to convince the world you are.”
“What do you know,” Sherlock said, immediately wishing that Mycroft was disagreeing with the human head Sherlock currently had in the refrigerator.
“I know you,” Mycroft said.
“No, you don’t,” Sherlock replied.
“You weren’t a sociopath as a boy,” Mycroft said, and he was angry now. Sherlock could see it, even though Mycroft’s voice and posture had not changed. “This isn’t something you can decide to be.”
“People change,” Sherlock replied.
His shin hits the coffee table as he shuffles across the room. The coffee table shouldn’t be there. Someone has moved the furniture too. He needs to find the switch. Only, he doesn’t want to hurt his shin again. It’s not pleasant, bumping into furniture in the dark – getting kicked in the shins just because you can’t find the switch for the light.
Sherlock finds the sofa and sinks down onto it for a rest. Maybe the dark isn’t that bad. Maybe he can just stay on the sofa and not try to go anywhere or do anything, and then it won’t matter if he’s in the dark. You don’t need the lights on to have a good solid think. And Sherlock is so very good at thinking.
Light is overrated.
“You had that pet dog as a teenager,” Mycroft said. “You loved him. Sociopaths aren’t supposed to show love or empathy towards animals, but I know for a fact that you loved that dog. You were inconsolable when he died.”
“Yes,” Sherlock said, because it was all true, “however, the past does not change the present.”
“But it informs it,” Mycroft concluded, and Sherlock looked away. Mycroft’s eyes had gone soft, as though he thought he knew something. Sherlock didn’t like it.
“Go away, Mycroft,” Sherlock said.
“Sherlock...” Mycroft replied – Exasperated? No. Sympathetic. Worse.
It’s not like Sherlock hadn’t tried. He’d gone down to the park and watched people play with their dogs. He’d tried to imagine them being his own dog. He’s tried to love them and not simply been annoyed – but dogs are idiots. They chew shoes and need too much attention – not good for Sherlock’s lifestyle. They cost money, and for what? Perhaps fifteen years of companionship, and then they’ll die. Sherlock has the skull and it lasts forever.
There’s a noise from the darkened hallway and Sherlock thoughts come to a halt.
“Hello?” Sherlock says.
The only answer is a moment of silence and then a creak of the floorboards.
Sherlock’s heart quickens. Suddenly the dark seems a bit menacing rather than comforting, because there’s someone there with him and he can’t see who it is. Maybe it’s John, Sherlock thinks, and the thought calms him. Maybe John can help Sherlock find the switches. He must know where they are. John is good with things like that.
“John?” Sherlock calls.
There is not even a creak of the floorboards this time. Sherlock begins to panic.
“Is it the same with human companionship then?” Mycroft asked. Well, no, Sherlock thought. Humans live longer than dogs. Sherlock glared at Mycroft. It was a question not worth answering.
“Were you ever interested in women?” Mycroft asked. “Did the young girl down the road turn you down, so you decided to swear off the fairer sex altogether?”
Sherlock didn’t dignify that preposterous theory with a response. Really, Mycroft was usually better than that. Oh, but Sherlock saw the corner of Mycroft’s lip lift up. A joke, then. Not funny.
“How about that one woman from the case with the photograph,” Mycroft pressed, serious this time. “You spoke rather highly of her.”
“As a colleague,” Sherlock said. “Even if she hadn’t been married, my interests in her were purely intellectual. You do her a disservice if you believe otherwise.”
“My apologies,” Mycroft replied smoothly. “What about that boy in university, then. Is it him that should take the blame?”
“University was dull,” Sherlock said.
“I know,” Mycroft agreed. “You made your opinion on that quiet clear, though I hardly see how the alternative you chose was better. That is, however, not what I asked, Sherlock.”
“Regardless, it’s the only answer that you will be getting. This whole conversation is pointless,” Sherlock replied, and pointedly opened his violin case. There was a time limit on Sherlock’s patience.
“What did he do to you, Sherlock?” Mycroft asked.
Sherlock isn’t sure who turned off all the switches. Maybe it was him. Maybe it was someone else. Maybe it was a mixture of the two. He can’t remember any more. He’s forgotten where the switches are and he’s forgotten who controlled them in the first place. No one controls them now, because he can’t find them. If he could find them, then it wouldn’t matter who last flipped them – because Sherlock would be in control of them at present, and that’s really all that matters.
Sherlock inches his way around the room by keeping a hand on the wall. He thinks maybe John is in the flat somewhere. Sherlock just has to find him. If the lights were on, it would be much easier. If John would just answer him, that would make things very easy indeed...but John never answers him, no matter how much Sherlock calls for him from the dark. Sherlock wonders if maybe there are lights on wherever John is and so John doesn’t realize the problem.
“Nothing. He didn’t do anything to me,” Sherlock said. “He was just like the others, useless and dull.”
“I see,” Mycroft said. “And so that’s it then? You’ve given up on ever finding anyone who can stand you?”
“I’m a sociopath, Mycroft,” Sherlock repeated. “No one can stand me.”
“What did you do to drive him away this time?” Mycroft asked.
“Get out,” Sherlock said. “I’m interested in neither the case nor this conversation.”
“I don’t care if you’re interested in the case or not, Sherlock,” Mycroft said. “You are to look into it.” Sherlock was relieved and surprised that Mycroft actually allowed the subject change. Though, a minute later when Sherlock heard John’s tread on the stairs, he realized that it had more to do with timing than Sherlock’s wishes.
“John,” Sherlock greeted.
“I saw it on the telly, are you ok?” John asked.
“Me? Oh, yeah, fine. Gas leak, apparently,” Sherlock replied, and then turns back to Mycroft, “I can’t.”
“Can’t?” Mycroft asked.
Sherlock made sure to mention time constraints, just to insure that they were still talking about the case, and not his personal life. At the first opportunity, he picked up his bow and drove Mycroft out of the flat.
Days later, when John asked about the Bruce-Partington plans, Sherlock told him that he’d given them to Mycroft. It was an easy lie and John was distracted by his plans with Sarah – which was, Sherlock decided, probably for the best. Everything was much better this way. Mycroft be damned.
John doesn’t realize that Sherlock is alone in the dark. That’s the problem. It’s why John won’t come help him. John would help him if he knew, so therefore, John must not know.
If the creak of the floorboards had been an intruder, they would have attacked Sherlock by now. No, it must be John. Only, Sherlock can’t see him, because of the darkness, and obviously, John can’t hear him – because of the darkness? Yes.
Yes, this makes sense, though Sherlock is not sure why. The darkness prevents John from hearing Sherlock somehow. Wherever John is, there must be light. Maybe the light drowns out the sound? No. The darkness swallows the sound before it can make it to the light.
If Sherlock could find the switches, then he would be able to see John, and John would be able to hear him. And then...well, Sherlock imagines that it would be good – to be able to see and hear John, and for John to be able to see and hear Sherlock.
Sherlock has made it to the bathroom. This is a good plan. The bathroom is a very small room. There are fewer places to hide a switch. If Sherlock could find the switch here, then he could leave the door open, and use the light from the bathroom to help him find the rest of the switches.
Sherlock discovers that someone has put a refrigerator where the sink should be. Surprisingly, it is only at the sight of the large stainless steel appliance that Sherlock realizes that this is a dream. He’s not sure why it took him this long. It’s the dream with the switches. It’s one of the recurring dreams.
Sherlock doesn’t need to find the switches. He just needs to wake up. He doesn’t want to find the switches anymore, because he remembers now what happens when he finds one. It’s always the same.
If Sherlock finds a switch – and he has before, he knows it – the lights are so bright it’s painful. Very painful. He’s been in the dark so long that his eyes have adjusted. The light is too much, always too much...and Sherlock will panic and close his eyes and not be able to open them. And then it’s worse than the dark, because people can see him, they can see how useless he is - how broken and useless and unable to live with the switches turned on.
Sherlock just needs to wake up, and then he doesn’t have to worry about the switches. John will be there too – won’t he? Sherlock has to wake up to find John. How does one wake up? Maybe if he found the switch it would wake him up...no, no...no switches. Sherlock hates the switches. Bloody switches that he can never find. He hates his brain. He hates it for having dreams about switches. He hates it for not being able to wake up. He hates it, hates it, hates it, for being too much all the time...too much, too much, too much...and why can’t he wake up and why can’t he find the switches. He just wants to find the switches.
No, the switches hurt, they make it painful. Leave the switches. No, find the switches and wake up and find John. No, find John, and he’ll find the switches. Wake up, find John, find the switches – leave the switches, just wake up. Why are dreams so confusing? How does he wake up?
Wake up, wake up, wake up....
The light is too bright.
“Slowly, you’ve been asleep for a long time.”
John. Sherlock wants to see him. He couldn’t in the dark and John couldn’t see him either. It’s why he needed to find...
“The switches,” Sherlock says, but his voice is funny – unused, even though he was just calling to John inside the dream. “I can’t find the switches.”
“Shh, it’s all right, Sherlock,” John says, “I’ll help you look. We’ll find them together, all right?”
“No,” Sherlock says. “They hurt when you turn them on.”
Sherlock eyes adjust and he can see that John is smiling. John is leaning over him, a gentle hand in Sherlock’s hair, and John is smiling. John’s shadow makes the light bearable.
“We’ll be careful then,” John says and laughs a little.
“Thank you,” Sherlock says and smiles.