I would try to convince you..." he chuckled, "But everything I have to say has already crossed your mind!"
Sherlock turned slowly, arm outstretched, gun pointed. "And probably my answer has crossed yours."
Sherlock sat at the plastic table top, elbows resting on knees, bright snatches of his face visible between long delicate fingers. His glazed eyes opened as he tangled a hand into his hair.
"Can I get you anything?"
Sherlock sluggishly rolled his gaze towards the figure dithering next to him, whose hands fumbled with a pen and paper eager to take his order.
The look he gave the young cafe worker was enough to send him stumbling back between coffee tables to the relative safety behind the counter.
Sherlock's mind focused itself once more and the tangled threads of thinking began to tug and entwine, twisting and snapping around each other as his brain worked.
He had a choice.
It was all planned, of course. All pre-conceived nonsense.
Sherlock snarled in contempt, ignoring the curious glances he could feel raking his back. Why was he making him choose?
But of course, that last thought was barely to enter his head when he answered it himself.
Because he likes to watch me...dance. Well. He wasn't about to give him, or anybody else the satisfaction.
He stood abruptly, the force of his sudden movement sending the chair scraping along the regular chequered tiles of the cafe floor. He hadn't chosen. Not yet.
The door swung shut behind him and he strode down the busy pavements. He didn't visit this part of London often, but today seemed to find himself aimlessly wondering.
His legs made easy work of the distance. The mess of life swirled passed him in an elaborate smog, his spiralling, brilliant mind confusing the important with the painfully un-so.
A child, of eleven or twelve: The boy wore a short-sleeved red t-shirt and lazily rolled a polished football between his feet. The trainers he was wearing reminded him of...something. Eighty's high-tops? Unusual. He couldn't tell if they were vintage from this distance. God, his brain ached.
The ball: adorned with a faded signature, clearly that of an overpaid, undeserving footballer, the boy's hero perhaps. The looping letters however were practised and precise. Clearly the man to whom the signature belonged wrote a fair few cheques then.
A girl of similar age, though a few pounds heavier than the boy, danced in front of him eagerly, touching the ball with a well-scuffed trainer and sending it towards a makeshift goal drawn in faded blue chalk on the bricked wall. The girl grinned broadly, slapping the boy on the shoulder. A key-ring snagged onto her backpack showed the girl in a small circular photograph, her arms around the shoulders of her mother. He noticed, however, that the woman's eyes didn't match the subtle grey of the girl's, lacking also her delicately pointed ears. Stepmother then. Pedestrian. Obvious. A small badge was pinned on her jacket, a two faced man set against a black background, two pairs of pale eyes staring to the left and right. Something flickered feebly at the back of Sherlock's mind. He made nothing of it.
He thrust his hands deep into his pockets. A hairless cat sat observing him coldly from across the street. It looked un-naturally well looked after for this part of London, and oddly out of place. He crossed the road and sat down in the doorway next to it. Its pale nose wrinkled up revealing sharply pointed teeth like little pincers. Looking up at him disdainfully, it swaggered off around a corner, thin tail swinging rigidly from side to side. Sherlock pursed his lips. He liked cats.
He let his face fall into his hands and pulled them down his face, sighing deeply.
A man in a cheap polyester shirt and trousers, Sherlock had noticed, had set his digital watch at 2.30 a.m rather than p.m. The man walked awkwardly down the pavement, a large bulky case with a zip running down its side was held under his arm. It caught Sherlock's eye, his attention held momentarily. An easel perhaps? A camera tripod was more likely. Or...ah. A telescope. He shook his head and scowled. Stargazing.
An elderly woman in the upstairs flat above a chip-shop awkwardly pulled the grimy window shut. As she leant forward, a baby-blue necklace of plastic pearls swung forwards from her chest and she drew a knitted cardigan of navy wool closer around herself as fat wet raindrops slipped from the heavy sky and splashed into London's dreary streets...
He scoffed at the weather's irrelevance. It wasn't important. Didn't mean anything. And certainly shouldn't be associated with mood or feeling. Nothing mattered. He still had to choose. Barely aware of where he was or where he was going, simultaneously fully aware of the street he was on and the number of the sickeningly cheerful London bus and how many chimneys silhouetted the swirling sky, he stood swiftly and carried on, his dark coat billowing dangerously behind him.
A decision would soon be required from him, he knew.
The un-familiar streets washed into one as the rain gathered on windowsills and sloshed around people's shoes. Countless people. Countless lives. Just by looking, he knew them. Knew if they were happy, contented with their little lives, or otherwise depressed by some trivial piece of rubbish. He could tell their secrets and their lies, written into their stupid lumpy faces as clearly as though he had snatched up their diary. He could see everything. Sometimes it was too much.
He stopped. Something wasn't - no, something didn't quite -
His eyes widened.
Again he ruffled his hands through his hair; scattering raindrops. His dark curls stuck up in all directions, the ends limp and dripping. He heard his own heart flutter as it missed a beat. He snapped his eyes shut defiantly, refusing to accept what they were telling him.
Impossibly, ridiculously, he was stood outside 221 Baker Street.
His thoughts ran into each other feebly, blurring the lines of reality and insanity and God his brain ached.
He'd been on the other side of London. He'd been miles away, at least a good hour's drive. So why - how somebody, please let him know, had he ended up outside his own front door?
He spluttered, incredulous - helplessly absorbing his surroundings.
Something in the corner of his eye. Something -
He twisted on the spot, utterly confused.
A red t-shirt.
Across the road, the same boy in the same red t-shirt continued to scuff the same football around the floor. Sherlock watched as the grey eyed girl appeared once more, slapped the boy on his shoulder again. The telescope-wielding man gracelessly made his way along the pavement, and Sherlock noticed his watch and the little screen that still said 2.30 a.m. He looked up, knowing what was coming next. The woman in wool with the blue necklace swung a window that shouldn't be there, shouldn't even have existed in this street his Street. The moments that belonged to earlier. And Sherlock could do nothing but stare, and try to ignore the nagging throb at the back of his mind: he still had a decision to make.
Sherlock didn't - he didn't - understand. He couldn't accept this...absurdity. Yes, that is what this was, he decided. Absurd.
Somehow he'd made his decision, though - answered the question.
Oddly enough, the question seemed to have slipped his mind.
The sun shone a brilliant bright white in the sky, scorching the pavements, causing them to shimmer like a mirage in the harsh desert. The deep waters of a swimming pool wavered tantalisingly near in front of his eyes.
"Oh!" his face lit up, his eyes widened.
Realisation didn't wash over him gradually, nor did it hit him abnormally quickly. It simply slotted back into place, a puzzle piece.
He remembered the question. He knew what to do. His brain, so helpless, had simply tuned out like a stubborn, rebellious radio. And tuned back in again with simple distractions it knew he wouldn't be able to resist. It had tried so hard to divert him from the inevitable end and the choice he knew he must make. And so, he had found himself wandering in the middle of everywhere. Every table top he had ever sat at; every cafe he had ever sat in; every rainy day he had ever experienced; every street he had ever walked down, and his own beautifully simple front-door, artfully blended together in the sinister workings of his mind. And the people...had just been his imagination, desperately sculpting them into existence for him to observe, his conscience dropping subtle hints of reality when it could, slowly letting the real details trickle through,
His eyes opened, and this time the cold metal of the gun slipped in his fingers, the softly rippling water spitting shadows at the wall. His throat itched as the tang of chlorine irritated. It wasn't as though it hadn't been there earlier, just that he had...chosen not to notice it. Clever little Sherlock's head.Hearing John's nervous quick breathing coming from somewhere to his left, he remembered the choice he had made. He didn't look at Moriarty; couldn't look at John.
I'm so sorry...
The gun was heavy in his trembling fingers as he lowered it slightly and aimed at the vest lying innocently on the pool-side.