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Mysteries of the Universe

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"So, where are you from? Clearly not earth."

"Oh -- well, no, as a matter of fact," the Doctor says. "But I like Earth a great deal more."

"I should like to visit your home."

"Must we? There's so many other exciting places in the universe. And, ooh, I just bet you'd love Victorian England."

Sherlock looks momentarily distracted and intrigued, but alas, it does not last long. "No," he says; "your home. Set the controls." He sits down on the bench and steeples his hands. When the Doctor doesn't move, he glances up. "Well? Go on, what are you waiting for? You're a clever man; you know I'm not going to let this go."

The Doctor groans. Sherlock's right. Of all the humans he's ever met, Sherlock is the most insufferable, opinionated, calmly smug bastard of them all, and he doesn't listen to anyone. He reaches out to the console, and out of the corner of his eye he sees Sherlock settle back into his seat, already disappearing into his thoughts again.

***

"Right, here it is," the Doctor says. "Gallifrey, just for you." He opens the door, gestures with his arm, and closes it firmly again. "Now you've seen it, now we can go."

Sherlock looks at him, coolly appraising. "You'll have to face them someday," he says. "You can't keep running forever, not when you love this place so."

The Doctor freezes. "Run away forever?" he says, forcedly jovial. "Who said anything about that?" He turns firmly away from the door, and goes to the console, where he busies himself with buttons and levers (and knobs, and dials, and bits that need to be banged to work properly). He's going to take Sherlock to Victorian England whether he agrees to it or not.

But before he can push the last button (and flick the last lever, and hold on to the TARDIS while he hopes she hasn't taken a notion of her own), Sherlock stands up abruptly, and walks with swift economy towards the door before the Doctor can stop him.

"No," says Sherlock, and opens the door. It's too late, though: the TARDIS has already dematerialized, and all that's visible in front of Sherlock is the bewildering sight of absolute nothingness, so completely nothing that space is crowded by comparison.

"Close the door," the Doctor calls, as he hurriedly jabs at the console. "It's creepy, seeing the in-between stuff." But the door stays open, and Sherlock stares out.

"Close the door," says the Doctor more emphatically. "I can't land her if you won't close the door." When Sherlock makes no response again, the Doctor leaves the console, stalks up behind him, and yanks the door shut. Sherlock turns, protesting, "I wasn't finished yet."

"You are now," the Doctor says. "Don't do that again."

And maybe Sherlock can see the anger (the fear) in the Doctor's face, because he allows himself to be led away from the door.

"I hear you; no mysteries of the universe for me," Sherlock sighs. "It'll have to be mysteries of people. Like always."

"Hey now, people are fantastic," the Doctor points out, slightly hurt. "And with the TARDIS -- with me -- you can explore far more of what humanity is than you ever could stuck in one place and time. Plenty of mystery and challenge for you."

"I'd rather meet whoever it is that you're particularly avoiding from home."

But before the Doctor has a time to react to this, aside from his brain babbling at him that no, there's nobody, he doesn't care a bit about him anyways, Sherlock continues. "But for the meantime, I think I'll take you up on that offer of Victorian London. I can meet him later."

***

But Victorian London was not to be. When the TARDIS has settled, and Sherlock opens her doors again, the Doctor can tell without even glancing outside, from the smell of the breeze that wafts in, that they're in the wrong place. Time. Both, probably.

The TARDIS is like that sometimes.

Sherlock doesn't seem to care, though, stepping outside the little blue box with an intense look on his face. He's taking in everything, paying attention to all the details, the Doctor knows. Probably within five minutes he'll be better acquainted with the place than the locals.

"Where did we end up?" Sherlock asks, eyes flicking about as he attempts to discern the answer to his own question, and the Doctor shrugs.

"Dunno! But we get the fun of finding out, now. C'mon!" He can see what looks like a marketplace up ahead. He loves a good marketplace.

Sherlock seems to disagree, though, if the way he behaves while they walk in that direction is any indication, giving his attention to everything except for what's ahead of them. And before they're even halfway there, Sherlock ducks down an alleyway, apparently fascinated by something he sees, or by some notion in his head. The Doctor sighs and follows. At least whatever Sherlock's after is unlikely to be dull.

***

It's not dull. The Doctor desperately wishes it were.

Both the TARDIS and Sherlock need to learn how to keep their meddling noses out of things.

Because when the Doctor comes out the far side of the alley, it's into the back of a large, silent crowd. And on the platform clearly visible at the front, there stands the Master, raising his arms to the people.

The Doctor can't help but make a quiet, inarticulate noise -- the Master? Here? -- and upon hearing it, Sherlock turns and looks at him.

"Oh, I see," he says.

No, he doesn't, the Doctor thinks. He can't. He's human. He doesn't know what it's like to feel the universe, and orient yourself around the darkly shining presence of another's mind within it. He doesn't know what it's like to share thoughts -- feelings -- everything -- with someone, and have that person end up hating you.

The Master must be up to something no good (when is he not?) but the Doctor can't bring himself to care now, not this time.

"C'mon, Sherlock, we're going," he says, but finds that his companion has slipped away unnoticed, again. Damn.

***

Back on the TARDIS five hours later, out of breath and smelling faintly (inexplicably) of basil, the Doctor turns to Sherlock and glares his best glare. Sherlock entirely fails to quail at the sight.

"I thought that was grand fun," Sherlock says, brushing some stray bits of fur off his sleeve before leaning nonchalantly against the console. "Do you mind if I smoke in here?"

"Yes, I mind," the Doctor says, but Sherlock pays no notice. Soon smoke is curling about Sherlock's head, and the abstracted look of pleasure that spreads across his face means the Doctor hasn't the heart to make him put it out.

The Doctor stands for a moment, lost in thought, and then says, "I suppose you think you have me and him all figured out, then, or you wouldn't have come back aboard yet."

"Oh, yes," Sherlock says, and takes a drag on his cigarette. The Doctor watches as he proceeds to blow a perfect smoke ring, which wafts lazily through the air. Both men watch it until it's lost all discernible form. Eventually Sherlock continues. "But you wouldn't thank me for explaining it. One thing, though, I have to say: he definitely doesn't hate you."

Involuntarily, the Doctor smiles.