[Fic] An Apple A Day Keeps the Limping Doctor Away: The Yellow Farce (Ch. 1)

Series Title: An Apple A Day Keeps the Limping Doctor Away
Title: The Yellow Farce
Status: 2/7
Fandom: Sherlock/A Study in Emerald
Word Count: 2600ish
Characters: John Watson, Sherlock Holmes
Warnings: A bit of Lovecraftian horror and a spot of murder.
Summary: John could see the battlefield of London even without Sherlock, even if he hadn't been able to join the fight.
A/N: Ahahaha, yeah, name change! Making this a series, seems like, and this is the first part.

Chapter 1: We're Out of Apples

"John,' Sherlock said, not looking up from his cell phone and his voice normal, but also something enough to get John's attention.

"Yeah?"

"We're out of apples. If you're going shopping, get some," Sherlock said, and a muscle briefly tightened in John's cheek and he nodded sharply, the faint tremor that had been making his hand shake stopping before he had even noticed it had begun.

An apple a day keeps the doctor away - they either had a chance at a mark or they were in danger. They used code, even at home, because they both knew there was always a chance of someone watching. And listening.

More than chance, really - closer to certainty.

"How many apples did you want me to pick up?"

"Oh, just two or three," Sherlock said lazily, not looking up from his computer, and John nodded.

"All right. I'll grab my wallet and go now, then. Pretty sure we're out of bread anyway," he said, and headed upstairs. He stuck is wallet into his front pocket, but tucked his soft leather case of tools - delicate but deadly knives and scalpels - against the small of his back, under his jumper.

Two or three apples.  That meant for him to leave the flat for a few hours. Not a bag, which would mean packing up and slipping out in the night and never coming back because their lives were at risk.  Most likely he was being sent out now because a prospective client was coming - until Sherlock checked them over, they did this separately, to ensure that if by some chance it was a set-up, only one of them could be caught. Sherlock's hands were the cleanest in this, and he the least likely to give anything away.

John's tools went with him so they would not be in the flat. Just in case.

John was glad they wouldn't have to leave just yet - he rather liked this place, for all it was something of a hole and this rookery was a part of town very far from what he would have expected he'd end up in back in med school or the army.  But...it was small, and cluttered and a great sight better than what he'd had before Sherlock, and some of the other places they'd had to live since partnering together in the Resistance. Perhaps this set up wasn't nearly so good as the theatre had been, but he got to help people under the table here, paid for his doctoring with money or whatever could be afforded secretly, and Sherlock could easily get to stations to busk and pickpocket when cash ran low, and it was...it felt like...

He knew he shouldn't get attached, but he'd found he couldn't help it.

He'd also found the same held true for more that just the flat.

--

When John got back from Tesco, Sherlock was waiting with his coat on.  "Took you long enough," he said, looking annoyed.  John ignored him and went to the kitchen to put the groceries away.  Aside from a few apples, he'd mostly picked up some non-perishables, since he figured they'd be going somewhere soon, and the shopping had been for show more than anything.

John knew better than to ask Sherlock about his relationship with his brother and how deep the rabbit hole with them went. He didn't even know, for certain, if Mycroft Holmes was on their side or not. He did know that Mycroft was ubiquitous; was both part of the government and outside of it, and could be either their greatest foe or greatest ally.

Sometimes, he wondered if Mycroft was both.

But he never asked. He simply lived assuming both that Mycroft knew where they were and was watching, and precautions had to be taken at all times. So Sherlock spoke in code in case Mycroft was a foe, and John did what needed to be done for plausible deniability in case Mycroft was an ally.  Sherlock talked of apples; John went out and made sure to be seen buying them.

"...Did you sneak in a cigarette while I was gone, you tosser?" John said, stopping suddenly and taking a whiff. Someone had definitely been smoking in the flat, and it would explain Sherlock's current agitation. "And eat," he said, tossing one of the two apples he'd bought at Sherlock. "You know how fast they go bad," he said pointedly. Sherlock made a face, but bit into it, impatiently watching John methodically put the groceries away.

That was one good thing about their little code, John thought. It meant Sherlock had to actually eat something most of the times they used it.

"No, I did not, and hurry up," Sherlock said impatiently, his fingers twitching. Something had Sherlock's attention, so much that the man was all but thrumming with energy, so much it was almost crackling under his skin. Sherlock let out another impatient sound, and threw himself into his chair, then drummed his fingers against the armrest, the bitten-into apple all but forgotten in his other hand.

When he was done putting the groceries away (just slow enough that Sherlock ate the apple out of impatience and likely needing something to have in his mouth so he didn't go tearing off for a fag), Sherlock jumped to his feet, grabbed his violin case, and gestured for John to follow him as he headed out the door.

He had no idea where they were going or what they'd be doing, but his leg gave a smallest flare of aching cold when he stepped over the threshold and headed down the stairs.

--

It was a fairly sunny day; as sunny as London got in the late spring, with grey clouds misting the yellowed sky. From time to time, the sun, dark amber shot through with clots of red, peeped through the hazy clouds.

The sky had been so different in Afghanistan. The sun had beat down unmercifully, and blue streaks like veins had run through the jaundiced sky.

John had read books, as a child, that said the sky had once been blue, before the Royals came. He hadn't believed it, not until he had gone to Afghanistan, where traces of a diseased blue sky still could be seen.

He wondered about the rest, how true the stories had been, describing a blue sky and a yellow sun, and a moon that shone silver, not green. And the stars...

He wondered if it would be beautiful, as the Afghan sky had been at sunset, when the blue veins in the sky richened and the sun changed from clotted amber to bloodied red.

He wondered what it would be like to look up and see a sky full of white stars instead of drops of glistening red.

His leg almost gave out from under him, and he pulled his thoughts back to where he was, to keeping up with Sherlock. Sherlock was walking quickly, clearly chomping at the bit to talk, but there were too many people here, too many ears on the street, and it wasn't safe.

Sherlock kept his quick pace towards the nearest park, where they would be able to talk. The park was safe - they could keep an eye out easily, and there wouldn't be any bugs. And as cover, since there was CCTV, Sherlock would busk for money whenever anyone drew near, playing his violin until the potential threats had passed.

They had both gotten very good at figuring Moriarty's men. And the Met's. And they had a pattern; it wasn't unusual for them to be out in the park, Sherlock playing for money and John there as protection from anyone who might try to steal from him, or seemingly to keep Sherlock company.

Both of them were old hands at it. it wasn't as safe as the theatre had been, but it was in the open and safe enough, and Sherlock had always preferred to hide in plain sight. No one paid attention to a busker, even one of uncommon skill, not for long. Sherlock's face was a blur in people's minds; all they ever remembered was his playing, and John had always counted on his ordinariness to shield him from view.

They were still careful, and John kept his eyes sharp, constantly scanning the area.

Afghanistan had taught him many more things than just how to kill, and he'd learned those lessons well. With Sherlock, you see the battlefield, Mycroft had told him, the first time they had met, and John suspected that those were the truest words ever to pass Mycroft's lips.

"What did you notice when you got back to the flat?" Sherlock finally said. They were close enough, and John knew whatever he might say was bound to be innocuous, given Sherlock risking asking when they were still a good ten minute's walk from the park.

"You mean besides the stench of cigarette smoke?" John said flatly, giving Sherlock a heavy look.

The corner of Sherlock's lips twitched upwards, just enough that John knew whoever it was that had been smoking in the flat, it hadn't been Sherlock. But John had very little doubt Sherlock had done his able-bodied best to inhale as much of the secondhand smoke as possible.

"Trust the good doctor to notice that," Sherlock drawled, lips still twitching against a smile, and John rolled his eyes.

"Yeah, ta, it was pretty obvious."

"Anything else?"

"Besides you buzzing off a contact nicotine high?"

"Focus, John."

John grinned. "We all have our specialties. People are my focus, remember?"

Sherlock gave him a faint smile for that. "Touché."

"But, yeah, that's all I got. I was putting away groceries, and then you hustled me out the door before I even got in the sitting room," John said pointedly, and it was Sherlock's turn to roll his eyes melodramatically. "Hey, now. I did pick up that it wasn't you who'd been smoking up the flat."

Sherlock looked vaguely pleased. "Yes, there may be hope for you yet. How did you work that one out?"

John gave him a grin. "If you think for even a second I'm letting slip what your tells are, you're barking and I'm revoking your 'genius' status."

John was pretty sure that thwack he got just across the back of his thighs then from Sherlock's violin case was not the accident Sherlock was trying to pass it off as with his "Careful where you're walking."

Sherlock Holmes, the world's most brilliant overgrown toddler, he thought.

By then, they had gotten to the park, and Sherlock beelined for a spot he routinely used when he was playing his violin for money.

Patterns: they could be both the most dangerous thing or what saved them, and they both knew it.

John stood at parade rest, scanning around them as Sherlock set up. It was the middle of the afternoon, too late for lunch and too early for people to be leaving the obelisks and improbabilities of the towering skyscrapers they worked it. It was a wretched time for busking, with the park full of only older people and mothers or fathers with their toddling children, but perfect for talking and not being overheard.

As Sherlock set up, he began to talk. "A man named Grant Monroe stopped by while you were out. He was the one smoking, so all blame for the smoke and contact nicotine high can be laid at his flat."

"Cheers, I'll be sure to give him a what-for," John said, nodding once and raising his eyebrows in amusement, and Sherlock chuckled briefly.

"He had quite the interesting story," Sherlock said as he tightened his bow. "He married an American woman about a year ago. And every had apparently been appallingly normal and boring. Until two months ago."

"What happened then?" John asked. Sherlock didn't answer at first, instead pulling out his rosin and rosining his bow liberally. When Sherlock did next speak, sounding as he returned the rosin to a compartment for it in the violin case, John felt himself going more alert, paying more attention both to Sherlock and everything around him, feeling both the weight of his tools and his service gun against the small of his back.

"His wife asked for two thousand pounds."

John choked at that amount of money. "Two thousand--!" he began, then gave up as Sherlock raised his violin and began to tune it.

He knew there was more there, there had to be. That alone, not even with the mystery of someone from Lord Dagon's protectorate coming to Albion, wouldn't be enough.

The rest of the story came out slowly, between songs and occasional people dribbling over alone or in twos or threes to listen to Sherlock play before they went on with their day. They still had the sunlight, casting a faint, reddish pall over everything, so it was fine for Sherlock to be cautious, to take his time.

John had been a soldier; if he knew anything, he knew how to wait. Especially in enemy territory, and London would always be both home and battlefield, even if he hadn't known that until he'd returned, broken and scarred, and his eyes finally open.

He saw the battlefield with Sherlock; but then, he'd seen it before, the first time a Royal had crossed his path and his leg had burned flames of ice. The only difference was, now he knew his orders; now he knew he was part of the fight.

"He gave his wife the money, of course, because he trusted and loved her," Sherlock had said after he finished tuning.

"Then, about two weeks later, the nightmares began," he said, after playing his first song. "And his wife began creeping from the house at night. Who goes out at night, John? We all know how risky that is. And yet she did, and tried to keep it a secret, waiting until her husband was asleep. Only his nightmares meant he slept fitfully enough to hear her leave."

When the small child and her grandmother, who had stopped to listen during Sherlock's second song left, he continued. "And his wife told him that someone had moved into the cottage next to their property, but they were quite adamant on not being visited, well, it only stood to reason Grant would become a bit...curious."

"'Course," John said, then glared at a kid sneaking over who looked like he was about to try to steal the five pound note someone had left in Sherlock's open violin case. The kid buggered off, and Sherlock went back to playing.

"Then came the interesting part," Sherlock said with a wolfish grin after two more songs. "Grant went to the cottage. And he saw a face in the window, John. A 'livid chalky white' face that was 'rigid and shockingly unnatural' and he was 'chilled to the bone' at seeing it."

"And when he confront his wife about all this, the nightmares, the strange face, her sneaking around...she started crying and said there'd be nothing but misery if the went back to that cottage," Sherlock said, lowering his violin from his shoulder.

Everything about him changed; it was suddenly obvious the "busking" was over, and the Work had come.

Sherlock's eyes were blazing, and energy was almost palpably cracking around him as he quivered in excitement, packing up his violin. "A mysterious request for several thousand pounds? An inhuman face peering from a cottage on the edge of their property? Changes in sleeping habits and a creeping wife with a terrified expression, and saying 'nothing but misery' can come from her husband trying to discover what she's hiding in a cottage? Nightmares that began just before said unnaturally stiff face appeared? Now, what could these things be?" he said, with an almost maniacally childlike grin. "We have a train to catch. The Royals are about and the game is on!"
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