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The Eye of the Beholder

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An exhausted Dr. John H Watson sloggs through the wet streets of London. The sun has already set, making it much darker than it should be. A few days before Christmas and a long shift at the A & E, John was just glad to be walking away from chaos for a few days. He left his briefcase in the office, not planing at all to catch up on any extra reading. The impending holiday had made his night at the A & E a busy one, with a case of child abuse and sick newborn, amongst the broken bones, sniffles and fevers.

John thought he could feel the beginning of a migraine headache starting in his upper shoulder. The very same spot where he had gotten shot in the Army years ago. A dull nauseating ache, starting in his shoulder and going up his neck into the back of his head. John made straight for the bus, no stopping off at shops tonight. For the last few years, he had started to have severe headaches--nerve damage he thinks. 2 paracetamol and a stiff drink is his plan. Oh yeah and maybe dinner.

The bus rumbles though the wet London streets, setting him off a few blocks away from his flat. He gets off the bus, stepping in a cold puddle, his sock full of water. Seems about right. Sighing, he was just glad to be home. Home. 221 B Baker street, his home for the last 10 years. The flat he lived in was small and dingy but there was no place on earth he'd rather be.

He looked forward to a quiet evening sitting beside a warm fire with his feet up and no responsibilities.

Putting his key in the lock and turning the knob, he was met in the front hallway by a frantic looking older woman. Mrs. Hudson the landlady, looked relived to see him, "Oh John! Just the person! I'm so glad you're home! But I,-- I wanted to warn you..." she whispers hesitantly, looking over her shoulder towards the stairs to the floor above.

Just then, he hears a crash from the floor above and another sound much like an expolosion.

"Well that's just what I meant, he's been at it all day--" she started to explain, "John, maybe now that your home, if you'd just-just talk to him maybe..." of course, John knew who she was talking about and why she was so worried, he nodded to her gravely and bounded up the stairs two at a time. He opened the door to his flat.John knew exactly why Mrs. Hudson was worried./p>

Sherlock.

"John!!" Sherlock turned to him with a genuinely beaming smile. The flat was a terrible mess, Sherlock stood in the kitchen, bottles, flasks, Bunsen burners and not one, but two microscopes on the kitchen table. Sherlock stood there with safety goggles on, amid the mess-- looking pleased.

John surveyed the scene, his mouth set in a firm line, the ache in his neck just starting to throb. "Sherlock, what's going on?"

Sherlock looked thoroughly perplexed, eyes wide. "What do you mean? Just..."

John walked over to him. "Can you stop?" he asked, too firmly, maybe, taking a flask out of Sherlock's hands. "We'll be leaving for your mum's house in the morning. You're not starting something new, are you?"

Sherlock pushed the goggles up onto his forehead and spoke slowly. "No. Well, yes, but I was bored...I don't have a case and I had nothing on and I was waiting for you..." the last part of the sentence trailed off and then he was quiet.

"Ok, well, now I'm here." John tried a more even tone of voice as he set the flask in the sink. There was no need for anger, migraine or no. He was just glad to be home, Right?

Turning away from the sink, he touched Sherlock's shoulder. "Dinner?"

"Starving." Sherlock respondes.

Luckily, they have some leftover Thai that they reheated. No sense to leave food in the fridge when they will be away visiting Sherlock's family for the better part of a week. John was quiet all through dinner, his mind elsewhere. It was difficult to keep up with Sherlock's detailed explanation of his latest experiment-- the one that went wrong in the flat just moments ago.

John could not quite lock onto Sherlock's words. He did not finish his dinner. He got up abruptly from the table and cleared his throat. "Sherlock, I need to sleep. I think I'll be better in the morning. I'm sorry."

Sherlock frowned.

There was little he could do about Sherlock's pouting. John went to bed.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Sometime around midnight John woke. He was laying on his stomach in just his pants. He wondered what time it was. With his eyes closed, he inhaled deeply, the 800-some thread count Egyptian cotton sheets with their distinctive smell. No, he thought, smell is really the wrong word. Fragrance is better. He knew that fragrance intimately. Sherlock. He opened his eyes to look towards Sherlock's side of the bed, near the door. Sherlock was asleep, John knew. 10 years of sleeping with someone will cue you in to just those patterns. John could not see his face, but he could hear him breathing evenly, quietly, peacefully. John let his eyes linger over Sherlock's broad, well toned shoulders, his hard muscled back tapering to a slim waist. Not an ounce of fat on him, although he never exercised, well, not formally. John smiled.

He wondered what woke him, it was cold in the bedroom, he had kicked the blanket off. John grabbed his track pants from where he had tossed them on the floor and pulled them on.He got out of bed and walked to the loo. Coming back, he noticed that the bedroom curtains were moving gently in the room, as if there was a breeze. That's why it's so cold in here, Sherlock probably left the window open after the explosion. Let's close that.

Crossing the room to the window, he saw a shadow out of the corner of his eye and jumped and turned. Heart hammering in his chest, he realized that there was a small person--a kid-- in the room. John was shocked, outraged and mortified. 'Jesus Christ!' he said, "Who the hell are you and how did you get in here?"

"Hi, I'm Johnny." said the kid, who did not look at all unhappy or confused or ill at ease to be there.

"What in the name of God are you doing here? Where do you live?" John asked, mind spinning, wondering now if his migraine caused a hallucination. /

'I have been sent here to show you some things." the young boy stated matter of factly,

Still terrified, a suspicion started to dawn on John just at that moment. Sherlock fast asleep. Curtains moving, but no open window. He looked more critically at the kid standing before him. He wasn't dressed like the kids today, but a little more old fashioned. Short hair, patches on the knees of his trousers. No coat. A kid from the past. At that exact moment, John knew he was dreaming. OK, this made much better sense. No it did'nt, not really.

Chapter Text

John looked at the kid standing before him and sighed. He rubbed his face with his right hand and then rubbed at the back of his neck, trying to determine how to wake himself up. His migraine felt a bit better- the paracetamol did help. This was already way too weird.

As if the kid could read his thoughts, he said, "No it's not a dream, John, you are to come with me." John looked over at sleeping Sherlock, who had not stirred at all after his loud yelling and said, "Ok, what the hell, looks as if I have no choice, let's go."

Immediately, they were outside standing on the street below the flat. John was now in a dressing gown, and trainers. He gave himself a mental pat on the back for remembering those, it was winter after all. A coat would have been a better idea, but he wasn't cold.

He looked around. Wait no, this was not Baker street.

"Where are we?" John asked, looking around.

"Don't you recognize this place?" the young boy asked.

Oh yeah, the run down houses, the older model cars parked--his old neighborhood.

"That's my house. My house growing up." John hung his head, his heart giving a bit of an old remembered ache. So many bad memories here. So easy to be maudlin at Christmas time. How much had he to drink at dinner? How bad can this dream get?

The boy waved his arm toward the house. "Shall we?"

Inside the house, it was apparent it was Christmastime here too. In the corner of the room was a little spruce, decorated with paper chains. In the middle of the room was a little girl of about 9 and an older boy of about 15 standing over a sleeping figure face down on the sofa. The little girl had been crying, her eyes puffy and her voice hoarse and the boy stood next to her frowning, looking tired.

The boy, who was apparently teenage John Watson had a resigned look on his face, one full of too much responsibility for a 15 year old. Older John stood there remembering this scene from his past. He had been in bed asleep on Christmas Eve when he heard the front door fly open and bang against the opposite wall. From the upstairs bedroom he could hear his father downstairs, loud, blustery and drunk. < Mr. Watson had always been a drinker, but after the death of his wife, he was frequently at the local pub and often stayed out until very late./p>

His father shouted, "Hey ho! Happy Christmas!!" John had just lay still in his bed, in the quiet of his bedroom, listening. Johns heart was pounding in his chest but he knew better than to answer his father. As he listened, he said a small prayer that his father would not come up the stairs. Then, all was quiet. At least he remembered to shut the front door.

Now that morning was upon them, the children stood there looking at the figure on the sofa, horrified. Teen John shifted from foot to foot, quite uncertain of what to do next.

A small quiet voice broke through the silence and into John's worry, "What about Father Christmas?" John turned to look at Harriet, his sister, but had no idea what to tell her.

Both teen and older John turned to look at the barren tree, not a present underneath. Not a light on. Their father unconscious on the sofa, but still breathing. John knew he would not wake until that afternoon.

Teen John turned to his little sister and said, "Oh right, well, um...hey guess what? I think maybe Father Christmas hid something for you! How about you stand there and hide your eyes?"

"Ok," Harry sniffled, but did as she was told.

Teen John was gone for about 10 minutes. When he got back, Harry was sitting on the floor, apparently tired of just standing there, but still had her hands over her eyes. John could hear his father snoring.

"Hey look, what I found for you!" John presented a brown paper sack to Harry. It was not pretty, but it'd do the trick, he knew.

Harry was delighted to open the package. Inside she found a new doll, the one she wanted, advertised on the telly. John knew his father had purchased it weeks before, but somehow wrapping it (or putting it under the tree) did not become a priority.

"Johnny! Thanks for finding my present!" she said, happiness back in her voice. "But what about yours?" she asked, concerned he had no present to open on Christmas day.

"Right you are, Harry! I'll just have to look harder for mine! Come into the kitchen now. I'll make you something to eat." And they walked into the kitchen.

Back outside, in the snowy yard. John asked, "And what was the point of that?" But he got no answer from his small, silent companion.

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Chapter Text

Back out in the snow, John now hears a sudden roaring in his ears. He puts his hands over his ears to try to block out the sound. The wind kicks up and he can't keep his eyes open. He moves his arms to shield his eyes.

As suddenly as it started, the wind stops and all is quiet. He takes his arms down and is surprised at the blinding sun. Moving his shoes against the ground, he can feel the crunch of sand underneath his feet. He knows this place. He is back in Kandahar.

Usually, dreams of Kandahar are nightmares, of roadside bombs and screaming, rarely are they of routine daily life, as this one seems to be. His small guide leads him inside the mess hall.

He looks over the place, the details are incredible. The color of the tents and semi permanant buildings is as vivid as he remembers. The bustle of army life in front of him, the chatter of the soildiers, brings a kind of almost nostalgia.

"Watson!" he turns abruptly to his name, but no, they don't mean him. They mean that lad over there--that young medic.

"Yes?" the young medic answers, jogging over to a man who appears to be his superior officer, standing in front of him and giving a salute.

"At ease, solider," remarks James Sholto, saluting back and giving the younger man a conspiratory wink. "I wanted to check your progress on the 'Christmas Campaign'.

"I would like to report that the planning meeting for the Christmas Campaign has been a success, sir and all supplies have been, um... acquired and secured."

"Good man! See to it that all supplies and personnel are notified of the coordinates for the rendezvous."

"Yes, sir!" John Watson salutes his superior officer.

"See you at the party, John." Again, James gives John a conspiratory wink, turns on his heel and walks away.

Older John Watson can't help but laugh and the secretive planning going on. Despite all the hardships and difficulties during the tours in Afghanistan, the soldiers made time to have some fun. Tonight's party will be a good one.

But his thoughts then turn sour, he knows what night this is. This is the night before he gets shot.

As if reading his thoughts, his small companion states, "But you can't change the past, John."

Chapter Text

From the sands of Afghanistan to the frigid UK winter, John looks upon another scene.

He can see two dark figures walking against a white background. Walking along the edge of lake on a large estate. It was massive. Massive estate and massive lake. John had never seen anything so beautiful in his life. The air was cold, the trees surrounding the lake also massive, branches full of the new snow that had fallen that day.

Older John watched a very young Sherlock walk along the edge of the lake, sticking his tennis shoe where the water met the land, cracking the ice.

Younger John was up ahead of Sherlock by a good 50 feet. As he had walked along he was listening to the crunch of the snow under his trainers. Walking along the snowy path that lead backup to the house.

Lost in thought, young John turned back around and when he saw that Sherlock had not followed him he doubled back, jogging a bit. John joined Sherlock at the edge of the water, looking thoughtfully down, carefully pushing his foot against the ice, watching the air bubbles underneath and pushing until the ice cracked.

“What are you doing?” John asked, a bit breathless.

“Testing the waters,” was the response from his flatmate. ”I like to put in a toe before I jump in.”

This elicited a shocked look from John, who laughed brightly, “...and we both know that isn’t true.”

Sherlock looked up at John and smiled, “I guess we'd better get up to the house and change for dinner and the Christmas service.”

John remembers that Christmas eve, the church service, the walk home and the first time he kissed Sherlock Holmes in a snow bank, right after he pelted him with a snowball.

Older John watches the two young men trudge up the path to the big house on the hill. As evening falls, the moon is bright and the air is full of tiny glittering snowflakes and anticipation. He glances back at his small companion, silent at his side.

The little boy looks at John and says, “I guess you have to look harder for yours.”

“My what?” John asks, but the wind whips up and makes it difficult to see. John again has to shield his eyes, and everything goes white.

Chapter Text

Aware now that he is lying on his back, John opens his eyes. Back in his bed, he looks at the ceiling. He is laying in bed with no blanket on, wearing a dressing gown, t shirt and tracks pants. Sherlock is still asleep at John's side; the flat is quiet.

John sits up, seeing a flickering movement at the foot of the bed. He can’t believe his eyes. This night can’t get any worse. Terrified at the apparition, his voice is hoarse as he tentatively asks,

“Mary?”

There she is, visible at the foot of the bed. Dressing gown tied at her waist. Arms crossed over her chest, staring right at him, looking indignant.

“Mary, what are you doing here?” he asks hoarsely, knowing full well that of course, it wasn’t really Mary.

The person/ apparition that was not Mary waved an accommodating arm. “I am to take you on a journey.” Was her crisp, slightly irritated, business like statement.

Yeah, sounded like Mary.

John knows that he is meant to participate in this exercise, but it’s getting mighty tedious.

“Ok, let’s go then.” Get this over with, he thinks. John swings his feet off the bed and reaches for his trainers.

Immediately, they are back out in the street. This time, they are in front of 221 Baker Street.

“You could’ve waited until my shoes were on.” He complained, shoes half on his feet.

John watches the scene that occurred just this very evening, as he follows himself up the steps to the flat. 'John' coming home to find the flat a mess, Sherlock in the kitchen, so happy and relieved to see him, just to get scolded. An abrupt dinner and then John off to bed.

But what he didn’t see before, he is privy to now.

Sherlock cleaning the kitchen after John had gone to bed. Putting everything away. Washing the dishes, sweeping the floor, quiet, calm and contemplative.

Then Sherlock walking down the hallway to the bedroom, lingering in the doorway, watching John asleep in bed. And then Sherlock getting ready for bed, changing into track pants, brushing his teeth then coming back into the bedroom.

John watches Sherlock cross the room, to his side and reaching for the blanket at the bottom of the bed, gently, tenderly pulls it up to lay across John’s shoulders. He then goes over to his side, gets in the bed and turns off the light.

John turns to Mary-not-Mary perplexed. “I’m, I’m afraid I have more questions, for you—for someone” he begins, holding up his hands, looking helplessly around no find no one there. Blinded by a bright light, they are moving again. Not sure where he is just yet, he is blinking.

Looking around, John sees that he is in a kitchen of a big house, 'Mary' again at his side. They both might have looked strange here, in dressing gowns in a stranger's kitchen, except for all the other people in the kitchen are wearing night clothes, too.

A group of people sit at the breakfast table chatting, eating and having tea. He sees Mary, the real Mary this time, her hair no longer blonde, but light brown- her true color, he knows. She is not smiling, just sitting there quiet, drinking tea.

This does not look much like a jail to him. By this time, almost 10 years on, Mary may have served her time for attempted murder of Sherlock, shooting him at Christmastime, but just grazing his abdomen. John knows she had a trial he was a witness and then after being convicted, she went to jail.

But here she is not in jail anymore.

He watches a tall, older man who appears to be in charge, come over to the group with a big tray. “Ok everyone- morning meds. Mary, you first.”

Mary looks up and smiles. She reaches out and he hands her a small paper cup. Mary empties the paper cup out into her hand and John can see about 3 small pills there. Mary swallows them with her tea. John watches the rest of the people each get a small paper cup and do the same. A woman taps Mary on the shoulder, “Mary, I think it’s your turn for shower.” Mary nods and gets up.

John realizes now that Mary is in some kind of residential treatment facility, where she is being monitored and medicated. More of a half way house rather than a proper jail, he realizes.

As Mary gets up from the breakfast table, John Watson, ever the physician, makes a mental note of her slowed gait and a bit of weight gain. Antipsychotics, he realizes. Side effects would cause motor slowing and weight gain. As Mary gets up from the table, she turns her head and looks up at John, meeting his eyes. John freezes. He knows Mary can’t see him, or can she? John thinks she looks at him briefly with some kind of recognition, and then she looks away, no I guess not.

John is saddened by the scene.

Chapter Text

Back in bed, John feels fatigue pressing down on him like a lead blanket. He is asleep for what feels like hours when again he feels a cold breeze in the room.

Opening his eyes he sees the curtains billowing out into the room. He turns his head left and right fearful of what type of new companion will show up.

John suddenly finds himself on the front stoop of the Holmes family estate in Devon. John has been here many times before. Although, after 10 years of being made to feel just as much a part of this family as his own, there are times, right in the middle of it all, when he still has to pinch himself to make certain he is awake.

But right now, he is very, very certain that he is not awake.

As he looks around, John realizes that guests are arriving for the Holmes family annual holiday party. Lots and lots of guests. John thinks back to the first year that he and Sherlock had been flatmates. Sherlock had recently been discharged from hospital right before Christmas. Sherlock recovering from being injured during a very difficult case. That Christmas had been very quiet, there was no party at the Holmes estate that year. That had been a very special Christmas to John, as he first realized what he felt for Sherlock. Looking back, he was again glad there has been no bloody holiday party, getting his mind around his new relationship with Sherlock as difficult enough, he didn’t need extended family to negotiate.

John looks around as the guests are welcomed in. He can see Mrs. Holmes and Mycroft, laughing and smiling. Various aunt and uncles that John had recognized from years past. And a few young children running about. Who do these children belong to?

There appear to be quite a many children at the party. But no, John realizes, just two little boys, it just seems like more, as they jostle about and carry on amongst the adults holding canapes and highball glasses.

It looks like a great party, the kind he’d be sure to enjoy. John finds himself smiling as he hopes that he and Sherlock are here somewhere…

John walks through the party, the guests unaware of his presence. In the front sitting room, the one with the big Christmas tree, John sees a very pretty woman talking to Mrs. Holmes. The woman is holding a baby girl—in a frilly Christmas dress.

The boys barrel past, almost knocking into him. John side steps them before realizing he does not have to, he is not really here.

All of sudden, the older of the two boys is shouting behind him, “Uncle John! Uncle John! There you are! I’ve been looking all over for you!!” And turning, John sees himself, laughing and smiling, scooping the little boy up in a great big hug.

John turns back again to see Sherlock, of all people, on the floor, wrestling with the younger of the two boys, who is squealing and laughing and turning red. John watches Sherlock jump up from the floor with a frightened look on his face. He turns to John with an imploring look, “It’s ok Sherlock really-- you can’t hurt them that way, they are really quite sturdy at this age.” John watches himself call out. Thus reassured, Sherlock and the younger one immediately return to the pretend wrestling match. As John watches the spectacle, he isn't sure who is having more fun, the 4 year old or Sherlock.

The pretty lady walks up to Mrs. Holmes and hands her the baby. Mrs. Holmes hands her drink to Mycroft to turn and take the baby. The pretty lady kisses Mycroft on the cheek.

The baby is chewing on Mrs. Holmes pearls, and she doesn't seem bothered by it in the least. .

John overhears Mycroft and his wife discussing plans to fly to the US, as she is going back to Harvard for a semester, to be a guest lecturer on dead languages.

In a cold sweat, John wakes up to find Sherlock had tossed his arm over John’s chest. The sun showing tiny pink rays through the curtains. Sherlock opens his eyes and looks at John, “Are you alright, John? You tossed and turned all night, mumbling in your sleep.”

Relieved to hear Sherlock speak rather than be dead asleep, John says, “Honestly, Sherlock I got no sleep at all. I feel like I have been on a journey.”

Sherlock gives a quiet chuckle. “Well, where did you go?” he asks, swinging his long legs over the side of the bed as he gets up to go to the loo.

“Kandahar, Devon, London…” John says slowly, dreamily, turning over, folding his pillow in half.

“Well, that is quite a trek, no wonder you are tired.” Sherlock responds, absentmindedly. “Are you ready to go to Devon today? Mycroft has someone he wants everyone to meet. A dried up old colleague, no doubt.”

“Maybe it’s the girl from Harvard? That should be fun. You can tease him.” John says as he lays back down on the pillow, closing his eyes and smiling to himself.

Popping his head around the doorframe of the loo, Sherlock laughs derisively, “What are you on about? What girl?”

“Oh, the girl that he…. never mind. Sometimes, you have to look harder…” John begins, mumbling to himself mostly, closing his eyes, breath evening out.

By the time Sherlock gets back to bed, John is fast asleep. As the early morning light creeps in to the bedroom, Sherlock gets back in bed, pulling the blankets up around them both and curling himself around John.

“Yes, I know. Sometimes you have to look harder for your present.” Sherlock says, arm around John as they both fall back to sleep on a cold London morning.

Devon can wait, a bit.