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Title: Nepal, 1891
Author: [ profile] spacemutineer
Rating: G
Word Count: ~1000
Warnings: none
Summary: A moment in transit, in danger, as Holmes discovers a familiar face.
Notes: Also posted as an experiment with fiction on Twitter.

I drove myself hard those first months. Under a series of names I fled as far as I could manage from the death sentence my own name bore. I ran until a wall of impenetrable mountains finally slowed me enough to gather my bearings. This was Nepal. I was Petter Sigerson.

In the Himalayas I found a new equilibrium. Sherlock Holmes was dead but Sigerson yet breathed deep of cold air & strode over snowpack. Ahead, Lhassa beckoned, a mystical light in the icy distance, forbidden and alluring, farther than any Westerner had seen.

With a sherpa I practised in survival and endurance. In the daylight, I ran in the rocks and drifts to the point of exhaustion. At night, I poured over terrain maps and practised Tibetan concentration techniques to harness pain and weakness into usable energy.

I did not sleep. The crossing ahead would be long, treacherous, and my arrival decidedly unwelcome. Foreigners had been banned for decades.

Preparation was key. I trained my body and my mind to survive.

I worked without worry for I thought I was at an unreachable height where no one could track me. I suppose as I think of it now, no one did. But when I chanced upon Friedrich Dahl in residence at a boarding house ostensibly for an expedition of his own, I felt discovered, trapped. On the far other end of the world, under a name and a life not my own, somehow one of Moriarty's few remaining lieutenants had found me.

I'd been awake for almost eighty hours by then but there was no time to waste. I had to know his intent and who was paying for his service. Dahl was a numbers man as much as he was a garrote man – he did not work for free. As I slathered a second layer of identity atop the one I'd been wearing, I struggled in my haze to imagine who it could be.

Was it Moran's doing? Torvald's? There were so few fish left alive in the rancid pond, and even fewer with the proper means.

I stepped into the inn's dining room with a scowl and an angled scar drawn dark across my cheek. Dahl had his back to the wall. A meagre meal of bread and thin soup sat in front of him in the far corner of the room. I would already have had his attention but he seemed off-center. He swirled his spoon listlessly around the bowl and rubbed at puffy eyes.

A voice, clear and familiar, rang from my left.

"He is not here for you."

I turned my head to see something impossible. John Watson sat calm and casual in a chair by the door. He rose and stepped slowly toward me.

"Look at him," he said. "Headache, nausea, swelling in the hands and face. He is suffering incipient altitude sickness. He needs a doctor."

Dahl and the few others in the room seemed not to have noticed Watson's arrival but I certainly did. I was livid at his taking such risk.

"You shouldn't be here," I hissed at him under my breath. "This man is trained. He will kill you."

"No, but I do believe he'll murder you if you go closer. He's too weak to use his preferred wire but the gun in his jacket would work yet."

Watson's deductions were impossible for him to make. His being here was impossible. How could he have hunted me down and at such a distance? How did he even know I was still alive? It was all beyond his abilities and anyone else's. Impossible. Eliminate the impossible, and…

The waking dream that was not Watson shook his head, disappointed in me.

"It's alarming you didn't figure it out as soon as you saw me. Without sleep, you are dangerously slow. This fellow is not here for you and is quite ill, Holmes. More impaired than even yourself. Besides, your so-called disguise could not even be described as passable. Your drawn-on scar is obvious and your wig is misaligned. You need rest, and Dahl is going nowhere. He will be abed for days, so you can be abed for at least the length of a night."

I opened my mouth to argue with the apparition as I would the real man but simply considering that made me realize that he – I – was right. I was in no shape for this encounter. Hallucination induced by sleep deprivation does not allow for productive interrogation.

Outside, that hallucination tried to console me.

"Dahl was not here for you, you can be sure. The man may be a skilled killer, but he is not a master thespian. This is no act. He came here to conquer mountains, not an escaped detective. He shall fail at both to his peril, unprepared and unaware. The only way he would not is if you walked up to him now and announced your presence with this patently unconvincing disguise."

Only in the safety of my rented room when I was sure no eyes were upon us and no ears could hear did I reply.

"If I failed in impersonation I also failed in imagination. You look the part but are but a shadow. What Watson would say if he saw us!"

"He would see only you, and he would be thrilled. He believes you dead, Holmes."

"Stop calling me that."

"Stop calling you what? Your name?"

"It is not my name, not now. It cannot be."

"It is your name whether it can be or not. I call you Sherlock Holmes because you know yourself to be. You may wear another's name and face but your heart knows better."

"You are nothing more than echoes of a brain craving sleep. Leave me alone."

"You are alone," not-Watson said, and I proved myself right.

Date: 2016-10-27 01:07 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Very well written.
The dialogue is clear and crisp. The emotions cleaning conveyed through descriptions of environment and setting. An interesting concept, this "not-Watson".


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