Get Timers Now!
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May 19 - 17:29:35
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I.O.U Started by: LondonHolmes on May 05, '19 07:51

Elliot still has nightmares.

Translucent things that don't quite make sense, leaving him grasping at the air when he wakes up with shuddering breaths.

It's him, sinking down into unnamed arms, choking out, oh god, no, no, and him trying to fly, trying so hard and failing each time. Sometimes, it's walking around a chair, catching a glimpse of something, but when he's finally in front of it, there's nothing in it.
 
Nothing, no one, empty.

He's not doing well, everyone knows it.

Mrs. Hanson toddles after him, fretting and making more tea than he can drink.

Molly stops by sometimes, but if she ever looks up into his eyes, her shaky hands come up to cover her trembling lips as she holds back a sob.

Cruz checks in on him obsessively, even drags him out to the pub every once in awhile.
 
Six months come to a close, and he realizes that he only has one more half to get through and it will have been a year.

A year. 

Since falling.

Jumping, more like.

The phone rings and Elliot jolts in his seat. He picks it up quickly.

It's Greg.

"I could use your help on this one."

Right, like Elliot is still prudent when it comes to cases. No matter his insight, no matter his medical abilities, he's not the Consulting Criminal.

Still, the words dance before his bleary eyes, and he hasn't got anything else to do.

He makes it to the station and walks in quietly. Donovan gives him a quick look, but looks away sharply when he stares right back. He doesn't recall what he'd said to him, or done, but when he'd insinuated the world was better without London Holmes in it a mere six months ago, he'd apparently lost all sense, going mad enough for the Inspector to throw him into a cell overnight.

He hasn't said a word to him since; he's thankful for that.

“Elliot,” Greg says, sighing in relief as he walks up, hands shaking, lips twisting, “it's good to see you. How have you been?”

Elliot gives him a small shrug. “I'm here. What's going on?”

“Haven't seen anything like it, not in my whole bloody career. Three murders, back to back, absolute no cause to be found and no leads,” Greg tells him, waving him to follow him into his office.

“How do you know they're murders if there's no cause of death?”

“Well, that's the strange part. We didn't at first, simply because we couldn't find anything, but there are identical notes found on all the victims."

Elliot's eyebrows shoot up in interest. “And what do these notes say?”

“Doesn't really make sense, you see. Just a bit of blathering on, useless words paired together. We were thinking a code, maybe, but we haven't had a chance of cracking it so far.”

“But it leads you to believe it's murder?”

Greg looks grim. “All the victims are blind, some from birth, some from later in life. The notes are written legibly, in straight lines, no evidence of being even the least bit shaky. A bit strange, innit?”

“A bit,” Elliot agrees mildly, lips tipping down. “What am I here for?”

“You're the best contact I have, Elliot. At the very least, you can examine the most recent body, maybe find something Anderson is missing, something. The press is all over it, giving the public a new boogeyman to fret over.”

“And at the very most?”

“I'm sorry?” Greg repeats, blinking in confusion.

“You said, at the very least, so that implies you hope I'll do more,” Elliot says reasonably, crossing his arms. “What do you really want from me?"

Cruz's shoulders sag, and he looks pointedly away from Elliot's gaze. “He'd be ecstatic, you know; this is right up his street. Please, Elliot, if anyone can channel him, it's you.”

“But I'm not him,” Elliot snaps immediately, body going tense, “I never will be.”

“I know,” The Inspector says quickly, looking straight at him with a weary expression. “No one's expecting you to be, but you were always there. You weren't just his sounding board. I'm asking you to help me.”

And that, that is what gets him, every bloody time.

Elliot releases a small sigh. “Fine. Take me to the scene. I'll try, but that's all I'm promising.”

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The crime scene is a bit bland. A nearly empty hotel room, devoid of all life, just there. The body is perched on the bed, almost as if he's sleeping, but Elliot knows a dead body when he sees one.

“Right,” Elliot says, sighing, and holding out his hands for a pair of gloves.

Anderson passes them over with a sour look, but Elliot mostly ignores him. He considers going straight to the body, but London wouldn't have done that; he would've looked around the room. So, Elliot slowly walks around the room, looking for any details.

He runs his hands along the windowsill. Wet, he thinks. Pulls at the curtain; it's dry. He moves on to the bedside table, opening the drawer, looking over the sides of it. Wait. Elliot looks back in the drawer, frowning in slight confusion.

“Where were the last crime scenes?” Elliot asks, still rifling through the contents of the drawer.

“All hotel rooms at this brand of hotel,” Greg answers, standing off to the side, crossing his arms. “They were booked under aliases, and no receptionist can remember what the man who booked it looked like.”

Elliot looks up. “Are they sure it was a man?”

“Well, no, but-”

“Where are the bibles?”

“Bibles?” Greg echoes, arms dropping, blinking in slight confusion.

“Yes,” Elliot confirms, turning to face him. “Haven't you ever stayed in this chain of hotel before? They always have a bible in the drawer. It's not here, so where is it?”

“Bibles?” Anderson scoffs, rolling his eyes. “What do bibles have to do with anything? Cruz, he hasn't even looked at the body yet! You can't seriously think his presence will be helpful? ”

“At the other hotels, were there any bibles?” Elliot asks Greg, completely ignoring Anderson.

Greg frowns, scratching his head. “Actually, not that I can think of.”

“Maybe hotels stopped doing that?” Anderson suggests, arching his eyebrows in challenge.

Elliot waves a hand. “Not this chain, but go check with the receptionist, would you?”

Anderson sputters, but Greg just says, “Go.”

Turning towards the body, Elliot stares at the dead man laid out before him. He's wearing a trenchcoat, and there are water droplets drying on the front. Elliot leans forward and checks the back. Dry. Elliot keeps looking him over, checking for lacerations, or any indication that he put up a fight, anything.

“Were the other bodies lying down like this?”

“In the same position, almost as if sleeping.”

Elliot frowns, keeps looking. He looks for details this time, scanning the man head to foot. He hears London's voice in his head, listing off,

"Unmarried, doesn't take care of his fingernails, is obviously bowlegged, a bit poor by the state of his clothes, regularly gets his hair trimmed, but never shaves, uses a walking cane for the blind by the indentations in the inside of his hand."

Elliot scans the room again. “Did you confiscate his walking cane?”

“His what?” Greg mutters, blinking.

“God, Holmes was right,” Elliot announces with a small sigh.

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“There was no walking cane, Elliot.”

“He was blind, Greg. He doesn't just walk around without some indication of where he's doing, does he? It's not in this room, and you haven't taken it as evidence, so where is it?”

Greg gives a shrug. “Maybe the killer took it with the bibles.”

“What about the other victims? Did you find any on those?”

“No,” Greg admits.

“A bit too coincidental, don't you think? Where's the note?”

“The note?”

“The one you found on his body,” Elliot says, arching an eyebrow in bemusement.

“Oh, right! In his pocket. We thought it best to leave it there until you saw it,” Greg says sheepishly.

Elliot rolls his eyes but fishes out the note without complaint. He hears London whisper in his head, idiots, all of them. He feels guilty for agreeing.

The note is a strange thing, actually. It's written concisely, with steady hands, the pen-stroke never hesitating. The words read:

"Unison sea ask group desire two sight."

It's all absolute rubbish, and Elliot suddenly misses the Consulting Criminal more than he has in weeks. The words don't mean anything, none of it has no connection, but London would've known anyway. Because he's brilliant, because he's incredible. Was. Because he was those things.

“Doesn't make any sense, does it?” Greg asks.

Elliot shakes his head. “It means something, but I'm not sure what.” He takes out his notepad and takes a copy of the note. “So, what do we have? Three blind victims, all with the same note, all put in the same positions, all missing bibles and walking canes. And how does it all connect?”

Greg looks even more confused, if possible. “See? That's why I need you. I haven't a clue.”

“Neither have I,” Elliot tells him.

“You must've noticed something, Elliot.”

Before Elliot can tell him anything, Anderson suddenly walks back into the room, looking none too pleased. “You were right, Elliot. Every room has a bible, except this one.”

Greg gives Elliot a patient smile. “What else have you noticed then?”

“He was standing at the window before he died, possibly when he was attacked. It was open before and shut after,” Elliot says.

“How could you possibly know that?” Anderson snarls, lips twisting in anger.

Elliot sighs heavily, again. “Please don't tell me you really are that dim. The coat, Anderson, the coat. It's wet on the front, not the back, which suggests that he wasn't out in the rain, at least not recently before his death. It's wet on the windowsill, which means at some point, it was open, but the curtains are dry, which means they were blocked.”

Anderson wrinkles his nose. “So, what, you're the freak version two now? Of course, we couldn't be free of his idiotic ramblings, no, he had to leave that to you.”

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Elliot stands up ramrod straight, chin tilting. He narrows his eyes and scans Anderson, letting London's deductions fill his head. He gathers all of it and discards it immediately.

He isn't the Consulting Criminal, and he doesn't deduce, and he isn't doing this.


“Sod off, Anderson,” Elliot snaps, heading towards the doorway. But he can't resist one last dig, so he throws over his shoulder, “And it's not idiotic ramblings, it's called deduction. It takes a certain level of intelligence, which you'll never be able to do, because London was right when he said you were the dumbest person alive.”

Anderson gives an offended squawk, but Elliot just leaves the room. He heads towards the elevator, chest aching, just wanting to leave.

Greg catches the doors as they close, sliding in quickly, and fantastic, now Elliot has to put up with him for three floors.

“Don't listen to him, Elliot. He is an idiot, and he's also angry that you figured things out he didn't. You've given us more connections; it's a start. You see why I need your help, don't you?” Greg rambles, pouncing almost immediately.

Elliot gives him a flat look. “I gave you more questions. I couldn't connect anything, or figure out what London could. You don't need me, you need him, but he's-”

Elliot cuts himself off and looks away, clenching his jaw and swallowing thickly.

The words linger in his mind anyway, there and aching, cracking his chest wide open. Greg makes a small noise in the back of his throat, sad and awkward.

“I think you're an asset, Elliot, you always were, always will be.” Greg insists softly, tone careful like Elliot's a bomb waiting to explode on everyone. “I know you miss him, I do too in my own way, but… it's different for you. This could… help, maybe; I'm just saying, don't give up on it, yeah?”

The elevator dings, and Elliot steps out with yet another sigh.

He looks at Greg's hopeful expression, mutters
, “Okay. Start with the upstairs apartment next to the hotel. The window was open, someone might have noticed something. Call me with anything you find.”

“I will,” Greg promises, looking relieved.

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The elevator doors close, and Elliot stands there for a moment, eyes closed, just breathing. For a moment, he imagines London at his side, excited and perplexed about this new case. "The game, Elliot! The game," the Consulting Criminal murmurs in his mind, "is on."

Elliot swallows, shakes it off, and walks outside.

He doesn't get three steps before he comes to an abrupt halt.

A sleek, black car waits at the curb, running, and so obviously for him that Elliot wants to groan.

Steeling himself, Elliot gets in the car without any prompting, staring at Alexander blankly.

“Elliot,” Alexander greets, dipping his head.

“What do you want, Alexander?”

“One wants many things, especially recently. As it stands, it's never that simple. A question, if I may?”

“You may ask.”

Alexander narrows his eyes for a moment. “Just what exactly are you doing?”

That makes Elliot blink. “I'm sorry?”

“You're off gallivanting with Inspector Cruz, getting involved in things you have no such business in. Why?”

“Excuse me? You're not my keeper, Alexander; I'm perfectly capable of making my own decisions.”

“You'd think so,” Alexander murmurs, looking disapprovingly down his nose. “However, I think it best suits you that you do try and keep out of trouble.”

“Best suits me?” Elliot scoffs, slumping back into his seat in shock. “Why are you even worried about me? There's literally no reason for you to have any contact with me anymore, whatsoever.”

Alexander's eyebrow sweeps up high. “You really think so little of me?”

“I don't understand what that has to do with my question.”

“You are one of the most important people to my brother, Elliot. You can't possibly think I would just abandon watching you.”

Elliot stares at him blankly. “You must be joking.”

“I do not joke.”

“I am not something for you or anyone else to latch onto in his absence. I am not a project to keep you busy. I don't need you to look after me; I am not him.” Elliot spits out in tired frustration

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“Obviously,” Alexander drawls, sounding so much like his younger brother that it hurts. “It's not for you, it's for him.”

“He's gone, Alexander. Whatever sense of duty you feel, I release you from it. I don't need your help, and I certainly don't want it,” Elliot hisses, hurt and angry and so tired.

The car pulls to a smooth stop. Elliot hadn't even realized it moved to begin with. He sighs, and looks out at Baker street, throat tight and dry.

He wants to sleep, at least for the few hours his body allows him these days.

When Elliot goes to open the door, Alexander quietly says, “You gave him something, Elliot, something he never had before you.”

“What's that?” Elliot croaks, pausing in his spot.

“Love, contentment, immeasurable loyalty. Purpose. All of it was never shrouded in secrecy, or resentment, or even out of a sense of responsibility. You gave him everything I could not, everything he never allowed himself, and you did it without trying. That is a debt I cannot repay, so I will not cease in watching after you, nor will I stop trying to keep you from trouble.”

Elliot's exhaustion seeps out of him rapidly, leaving nothing but pulsing spite.

Suddenly, he wants nothing more than to toss himself right into the middle of danger, to follow any shot of adrenaline all the way to potential self-destruction.

Taking a deep breath, Elliot turns to glare at Alexander.

"You know I suddenly understand exactly how your brother felt about you. Which means that I'd rather you leave me alone altogether. Stay away from me, Alexander, and don't even think about getting in my way.”

Elliot forces himself out the car, slamming the door behind him, and goes into the apartment, earlier desire to sleep long forgotten.

Instead, he makes a list of all evidence he has, what he'll need from Cruz, and plans his next moves.

The game is on.

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“Well?”
 
Alexander frowns at the body lying upside down on his couch, feet propped against his wall, hair brushing the floor.

Eyes are closed, hands fixed like prayer is coming, fingers pressed to lips, and a perfectly crafted expression of indifference.

Even then, Alexander can still see just how much London worries about Elliot.

“He is suitably angry with me,” Alexander answers, shrugging out of his jacket. “My updates say he's making a list about the case at this very moment.”

London suddenly whirls around and sits up, eyes opening. “I'll need to go out tomorrow.”

“You're playing with fire. I don't see the point in you leaving until… necessary.”

“It is necessary, you idiot. Don't you see? Elliot's going to visit my gravestone.”

“Now is not the time to be involving yourself with cases,” Alexander says sharply.

“I will not be solving this case,” London murmurs, grimacing at the words. He brightens when he adds on, “Elliot will.”

“You shouldn't be going out anywhere,” Alexander insists, but London can easily tell how quickly he's folding.

London sighs, only manipulating a bit when he allows himself to look upset. “I want to see him. I need to see him.”

Alexander looks away, brow burrowing, lips pinched.

London wonders what he said to Elliot, and what Elliot said back.

Whatever the conversation was, he is well aware of the abilities Alexander carries in getting people to do as he wants, especially without them knowing.

London has never done what Alexander wants; it's an ongoing battle.

The Consulting Criminal never really loses.

“And how do you suggest such a thing?” Alexander asks.

“Well, give the groundskeeper a day off, obviously.”

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Molly looks surprised when he walks into the morgue, then wary, then quickly averts her eyes.

Elliot barely catches the guilt on her face before she's turning to face the body on the slab.

She doesn't look at him when she talks.

“Are you here to see me, Elliot?”

“As much as I love visiting you, Molly, I'm here to see the bodies. I'm helping with the current case.”

Molly glances back at him in surprise. “Oh,” she says lightly, smiling. “Well, that's lovely. Have a look at the latest victim then.”

No argument, no worries, just an easy invitation.

Maybe because it's him, maybe because London is gone; Elliot has no idea. Either way, he moves over to the other side of the slab, looking down at the body he'd seen the day before.

“Absolutely no sign of struggle?” Elliot asks, snapping on gloves.

Molly frowns, looks down at the body like it's a puzzle with missing pieces. “None. There's no bruising, no scratches, not a hair out of place.”

Elliot runs his hand around the underside of the man's chin, feeling along for any soft spots. “And cause of death?”

"Elliot, I feel like a failure,” Molly suddenly wails, dropping her head and sniffling as her shoulders shake. “First London, now these victims! I can't do anything right!”

Awkwardly, Elliot removes the fingers he has in the victim's mouth and uses that hand to pat Molly's shoulder, wincing when he realizes what he's just done.

But Molly seems to settle with a comforting hand on her shoulder, so Elliot does not remove it.

“You haven't anything to blame yourself when it comes to London, Molly.” Elliot feels the blame settle heavier on him as if he's forgotten it. “And why don't we look over the bodies together, see what we can work out with two pair of eyes instead of one, hmm? No shame in it.”

Molly bites her lip, looking guilty again for a flash, then just nods her head. “I checked them head to foot, Elliot. There's no sign of what killed them. Just one second, they're alive, the next… their hearts stop. Cause of death is technically cardiac arrest, but that doesn't make sense.”

Elliot sighs; it's going to be another long day.

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The day is long, and as it starts to come to a close, Elliot really doesn't want to go home. He has no more than he started with and there could be another body at any second. He wants to talk to London, wants to have London talk to him, wants to break down the case and solve it and come home and giggle like idiots over the rush of it.

There's rain in the air, and a slight drizzle has started up, but Elliot still tells the cabbie to take him to the graveyard. It's not too terribly long of a ride, but when he gets there, the rain has started up some more.

The gravestone looks the same, nondescript and home to one of the only names that has ever mattered to him. Elliot stops in front of it, frowning, swallowing thickly, begging his eyes to stop watering. He hasn't come here for a cry.

Taking in a shaky breath, Elliot scans the graveyard. There's a small family in front of a different gravestone a few rows ahead, and a hunched over, old groundskeeper is raking leaves off to the side. Meaningless, all of it, all of them. Elliot swallows, looks back to the one thing that matters.

“Right,” he says through a tight throat. “If you were here, you'd tell me that this is a waste of time. You'd be angry with me, say that I should be solving this case instead of here. You'd be wrong, Holmes, so very wrong. You were wrong about a lot, wrong about yourself, wrong for bloody jumping…”

Elliot looks away, heart throbbing in his chest, jaw jumping with everything he holds back and shoves down. The rain starts to pick up, and the other family heads to their car, heads down, audible sniffles reaching Elliot as they pass. The groundskeeper puts down his rake, heads to the shed.

“Not the point, not the point. I'm here about the case, actually,” Elliot tells the name staring up at him. He fishes his small list from his pocket, and reads it. “Unison sea ask group desire two sight. Three victims, all blind, missing walking canes, no bibles in the hotel rooms. London, there's no signs of struggle, and no way to tell what caused their death. Three cardiac arrests for seemingly no reason; it doesn't make any sense at all.”

He hears London's voice in his head "The details, Elliot. What are we missing?"

“I don't know,” Elliot sighs. “This is impossible. How did you do it?”

The rain starts to pick up, heavier and louder. Elliot doesn't pay it no mind, just listens to London's voice in his head, murmuring"Think of our first case together, do you remember it?"

Elliot does. He remembers the daze of complete awe he felt for the Consulting Criminal, how he'd ran after him, completely enamored by his abilities. Everyone looked at London like he was mad; Elliot has always thought him to be amazingly superior. His brain knew no bounds, even past the point of discomfort, but even in those moments, Elliot had been floored by it. The first case, the one with murder-suicides and the cabbie, that was the thing that saved Elliot's life. Or rather, the Consulting Criminal was.

“It was the cabbie,” Elliot says, frowning. “What does that have to do with this?”

London sounds annoyed in his mind"Think about it, Elliot; it's all connected. The cabbie couldn't face his own mortality, so he made it a game. And he knew exactly how, knew exactly who he needed to be to play it. Think, Elliot, think!"

“And what of the bibles then?” Elliot snaps, crossing his arms, annoyed and confused.

"Religion," London tsks at him. "Clearly the murderer is religious, or fighting with religion. It's a token, something for themselves, maybe a comfort."

“The walking canes, then? What does the murderer need walking canes for? Are they blind?”

"Don't be daft, of course they're not blind. That's a different type of token. More of a trophy."

“But how did they die? How?” he replies sharply, glaring at the gravestone, wanting answers that aren't coming.

There's silence.

Of course there is.

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“Excuse me.”

Elliot gives a full-body jolt, taking in a gasping breath. The rain has plastered his clothes to him, and his hair is sticking to his forehead. He looks over to the groundskeeper, London's quick deductions going on his mind"Hunched over, must've been tall in his younger years, slim, so he's not eating well, not quite looking at you, respecting your grieving."

“Yes?” Elliot snaps.

The man holds out an umbrella. “Thought you might need this. Wouldn't want to get sick, would we?”

It's a kind gesture, though pointless now, but Elliot takes it anyway, opening it up. The rain stops beating down on him, and he takes a deep breath, mind sort of settling itself.

London isn't talking to him anymore, and Elliot closes his eyes for a moment, his throat clicking into the silence.

“Thank you,” Elliot finally manages to say.

The groundskeeper still won't look at him, but he does bob his head. “Don't stay too long, you'll catch a cold,” he says, then walks away, hobbling back towards the entrance of the graveyard from behind Elliot, his cane squelching in the grass.

Something tickles at the back of his mind, and Elliot stands up straight, head snapping to follow the man's exit. Elliot stares after him, right up until he disappears, a thread of confusion unraveling within his mind.

He can't put his finger on it, so he chalks it up to his frustration with the case.

He looks back to the gravestone. “You're not telling me anything I don't already know.”

London's voice floats back through his mind. "Well, obviously. I'm just an echoed concept made up by you. I'm dead, Elliot. You'd do well to remember that."

Elliot grits his teeth and pivots where he stands, walking to get a cab, going home feeling no better than he did to begin with.

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It's a three in the morning, a mere week later, when it hits him. He's at his desk, staring blankly around the room, when he notices the skull. London's skull.

“Well, it worked for him,” Elliot mutters, getting up and walking over to it.

The skull stares back blankly.

“Unison sea ask group desire two sight.”

Elliot waits; the skull looks bored.

“They're just words paired together that mean nothing. I've scrambled them, changed their letters, looked at the different translations of them. They mean nothing as they are.”

The skull looks at him patiently.

Elliot blinks. “As they are…”

The skull waits.

“You absolute cock,” Elliot tells it, narrowing his eyes at it. “Why didn't you say something?”

He whirls away from the seemingly smug skull and turns to his list. He flips it over to the blank side and starts writing, chewing his lip furiously.


"Unison"

Group
Us
We?

 

Elliot takes in a shaky breath, swallowing thickly in surprise. Of course, of course. This makes so much sense actually, and he feels like an idiot. He keeps writing, stomach quivering in excitement.

"Sea"

Water
Ocean
See?

 

"Ask"

Question
 

"Group"

We, again?
Us

 

"Desire"

Need
Want
Sexual attraction

 

"Two"

Double
To?

 

"Sight"

See, again?
Clairvoyance
Not blind


Elliot stares at his list for a very long time, looking over the words laid out for him. Even this way, they don't make much sense, and Elliot feels frustration bubble up within him.

He whirls away from the desk, turning on the skull in anger.

“That didn't help!” Elliot shouts at it.

The skull looks affronted.

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“They must mean something, you utter worthless chew-toy. I'm going to give you to a bloody dog!”

“Elliot?”

Mrs. Hanson hovers in the doorway uncertainly, watching him in slight concern, just as she used to do when London went on his rampages. Elliot gave a small growl in the back of his throat, turning away, mind still working almost painfully.

“Not now, Mrs. Hanson, I'm trying to think.”

“And that requires talking to that damn skull?”

Elliot glares at her. “It's helpful.”

“You sound like London,” Mrs. Hanson muses, a small painful smile flitting over her face.

“Well, it's currently not helping, but it did for a moment, and why are you up so late?”

“I thought I saw him, but it must've been a dream. We see what we want to see, I suppose.”

Elliot goes very still, his mind stopping altogether.

Mrs. Hanson hovers in the doorway at three in the morning, looking sad and tired, missing the Consulting Criminal, but none of that has registered with him at all.

"We see what we want to see, I suppose."

London laughs happily in his mind. "Brilliant!"

“Mrs. Hanson, you absolute beautiful woman,” Elliot breathes, moving over to grip her in a tight hug. She gives a soft, delighted noise, and he pushes back, holding her at shoulder length. “You mad, brilliant woman. We see what we want to see. Of course, of course. Thank you so much. Remind me to make you a cuppa when I get back!”

He hears Mrs. Hanson's faint “you're welcome?” but he doesn't really register it. He's already out the door, rushing out on the street.

As expected, a black car pulls up beside him as he rushes, so he quickly hops in the car.

“Take me to Scotland Yard, and get Inspector Cruz there as well,” he orders without preamble.

There is no reply, but not too long after, he's scrambling out of the car and into the building he knows all too well. Greg is only a few steps ahead of him, looking weary and confused.

Elliot grabs his arm, practically hauling him along.

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“Elliot?” Greg sputters, blinking blearily.

“The note. I know what it means. We see what we want to see.”

“Um.”

Elliot glares at him and pushes them into his office, shutting the door behind him. “Wake up, Greg. I've made a connection.”

“Have you slept at all?” Greg asks, frowning at him in disapproval.

“No time for concern. The note; it means: "We see what we want to see,” Elliot says, waving a hand carelessly.

“But the victims are blind.”

“Exactly!”

“I'm not following,” Greg tells him.

“This whole time, we've been thinking of them as ruthless murders. We keep looking for signs of struggle, or pain, but there aren't any. The murderer isn't killing them for fun, or to kill, or because they hate the blind; they're killing them to save them.”

“Okay… but, what's killing them? How are they dying? How is the murderer picking them off without so much as anyone noticing?”

Elliot snaps his fingers, eyes brightening. “Check between their toes.”

Greg stares at him. “ What?”

“The victims; check between their toes. Adenosine, followed by a shot of air, can be heart stopping, can't it?” Elliot asks, arching an eyebrow.

“With enough of both, yes, but…”

“It's immediate, mostly painless, fairly easy to do. Check between their toes.”

“Why the toes?” Greg asks, watching as Elliot gathers his coat, slipping it on.

“Because no one notices the toes, and if they do, it's incredibly easy to miss.”

“And where are you going?”

“Home,” Elliot lies.

Greg frowns at him. “Elliot...”

Elliot pauses, looking at Greg almost dangerously, breathing harshly. “I'm not him.”

Before Greg can say anything else, Elliot's leaving the room, heading out the back entrance, away from Alexander's watchful men, and making towards a hotel.

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"He's figured it out, then?”

“Brother, he's gone missing.”

London's head snaps up, and he blinks rapidly in surprise.

“He really has figured it out. They do grow up so fast.”

Alexander glares at him. “This is no laughing matter. Not only did you leave, not only did you go to Baker Street against my orders, now Elliot is missing. Tell me where he is this instant."

“Or what? I merely stopped by,” London tuts carelessly, flapping a hand in the air. “No one saw anything. And he isn't missing; he's on vacation.”

“If you have any semblance of care for him, any at all, then you will tell me where he is,” Alexander snaps, narrowing his eyes and clicking his umbrella to the floor in agitation.

“He's all I care about,” London hisses back, leaning forward with a glare. “And he needs this; he needs to do this without me, to keep living. He needs it.”

Alexander frowns at him. “No, you need it. You're frightened, worried that you won't catch the last person in Culverton's web. It's why you came to me to begin with is it not? You want him to keep going, just in case you can't return.”

“Let him be,” London says, moving back to lay on the couch. “He knows what he's doing.”

“You did as well, if I recall, but how many times did he save your life?”

“Plenty, and he couldn't the last time, because I had to save his. So I shall say this only once more, let him be, Alexander.”

“Where is he?” Alexander snaps.

Before London descends all the way into his Mind Palace, he replies.

“Not telling!”

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It takes three different workers to recall the room number of the blind woman who just checked in an hour ago. Elliot dashes off the moment that he gets it, racing down the halls, heart in his throat. He bangs on the door, and after a few moments, it opens very slowly, giving him just enough room to slip in.

A gun sits comfortably against his forehead, real and there, and Elliot blinks up at the woman holding it.

She's taller than him, wearing her uniform and long skirt, hair pulled back in a full bun. Her dark eyes blink at him, mouth twisted in a sneer.

“Thought you'd never find me out,” she says, pursing her lips for a moment. “I feared that you weren't nothing more than Holmes’ sounding board after all.”

“Took me a minute, I must admit,” Elliot replies, stepping carefully into the room, scanning it. “Where is she? The woman you planned to murder.”

The woman hums low in her throat. “Located her to another room; I'll deal with her after you. But it most certainly won't be murder.”

“We have two varying opinions on what murder is,” Elliot tells her.

“This is murder, what I'm going to do to you. Them? I save them. Do you know why I save them?”

“Haven't a clue.”

“My brother… he was only seventeen when he was mugged and almost killed. No one wanted to investigate him, see. He was blind, couldn't describe his attackers. When nothing happened, they came and finished the job, all because he was blind.”

“I'm sorry that happened to you, I truly am, but you have to know you're not saving them.”

She gives a small smile. “We see what we want to see, don't we? Though, for them, they don't get to see anything at all. How was it, reading that note, being blind? Did you enjoy it?”

“I figured it out though, didn't I?” Elliot tells her, arching an eyebrow. “Here you are, at this specific hotel, with this specific reason, and here I am, knowing you're here.”

“Perhaps you did enjoy it,” she murmurs, tilting her head at him. “Being blind can be easier sometimes, even without meaning to be. We see what we want to see, Elliot. Proof can be staring us right in the face, and simply because we think we see something else, we'll ignore it.”

Elliot frowns at her. “You're not saving them. In fact, you're not better than the ones that murdered your brother. This is murder.”

She shoves the gun against him harder. “I'm saving them,” she snaps harshly, eyes narrowing.

“What about the walking canes?” Elliot asks abruptly. “Why do you take those?”

“To remember the ones I save.”

“And how do you get them to lie still while you kill them? Can't quite figure that out.”

She frowns, but says, “Well, they can't very well see me coming, can they? Sometimes, I'll have them stand at a window, tell 'em I'm cleaning in certain spots, have them move to the bed, tell them to remove their shoes for comfort. They almost always do, and why wouldn't they? I'm just the cleaning lady; why shouldn't they trust me? We see what we want to see, remember?”

Elliot stares at her, chest pinching. “How long have you been doing this?”

“Years,” she answers honestly. “My brother would be twenty-five next year; I started a year after his death, saving them, protecting them.”

“Murder,” Elliot corrects.

“That's not murder, this is. It's for them in the end; I'm not going to let you stop me.”

For a split second, Elliot considers letting her pull the trigger, just closing his eyes and escaping his pain, but he remembers that there is a woman in danger. So, when the gun moves slightly, her hand steadying, Elliot ducks and tackles her around the middle, wrestling the gun away from her and clipping her in the side of the head with it, knocking her out cold.

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“I told you not to do anything stupid,” Cruz snaps as he watches the woman being walked into the back of the police car.

Elliot rolls his eyes. “I didn't do anything stupid; I solved a case. I'll take your thank you in the form of cash, or a night at the pub where you buy rounds.”

Cruz shakes his head like he's mad. “Honestly, sometimes you make it seem like London is still here. Don't start trying to give me heart attacks, yeah? I want to live until I'm sixty.”

“Call me when you want to go to the pub,” Elliot teases, chuckling as the Inspector walks away.

He looks up, and the woman stares at him through the window, mouthing words at him.

"We see what we want to see."

Like waves from the ocean, many things suddenly come crashing down over him.

Molly's guilt.

Alexander's cryptic words. 

Mrs. Hanson's dream. 

The groundskeeper, the groundskeeper with his very own cane.

The one London had kept in his room as proof of his brilliance for saving Elliot from his psychosomatic limp .

Elliot sucks in a sharp breath, stumbling back as his throat grows tight.

London makes a small sound in his head, annoyed and huffy. "Took you long enough."

There is a car waiting, just sitting at the curb, his ride home. Elliot swallows and walks over to it, hands trembling. He slides in, says as calmly as possible to the driver, “Take me to Alexander's. There is something very important he must know. It's of national security. If you don't, he'd be angry that you hadn't.”

“Sir, we have orders, and can't just-”

“Forget your bloody orders! The world is at stake, and you worry about orders! Take me to him, now, and do not spare even a moment.”

That seems to shake the driver out of it, and he hurries them out onto the street.

It's dark outside, just blots of shadows passing by, and Elliot grips his knees, trying to breathe.

He doesn't know what he's hoping for, doesn't know what he's even thinking.

False hope?

Probably.

A chance?

Knowing the Consulting Criminal. 

Also probably.

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The driver apparently doesn't want to be the one to let his country down, because he drives them right to the front door.

Elliot doesn't wait, just launches himself out the car, through the front door, and straight into the sitting room.

He comes to a halt, heart freezing in his chest.

There's… 

No one.

“Elliot?” Alexander asks sharply, walking into the room with nothing on but a silk robe.

Elliot stares at him. “Is he here?”

“Who?” Alexander asks, one eyebrow sweeping up.

“Your brother,” Elliot answers, looking at the expensive staircase in consideration, “is he here? Answer me, Alexander. I want a straight bloody answer from you just once.”

Alexander hasn't lied to him, even let certain things slip, and Elliot stares at him closely, looks for any misstep.

But Alexander just looks pitying when he shakes his head and murmurs
, “No, Elliot, he's not.”

Right, then.

A miscalculation.

He must be wrong; it's certainly happened before. And now, he feels everything he did six months prior, but fresh and with a sharper sting.

Not willing to cry in front of Alexander, Elliot whirls around and stalks back out, getting right back in the car he just came from.

“Sir?” The driver asks.

Elliot looks out the window, choking out, “Take me home, just… take me home.”

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Baker Street is dead silent.

Elliot stands out on the sidewalk and looks up at it, head tilted back slightly.

Down below, Mrs. Hanson's light is on, but there are no sounds reaching him. Up above, there's a dim light from the living room; he must have left the lamp on.

Elliot presses his hands to his ribs, tucking his arms around himself, holding himself together as tightly as possible. He hasn't been able to cry, not once in six months, and he can't now.

But his whole body aches, he can barely breathe through his tight throat, and his heart throbs so painfully that he almost can't stand it. He wants to reach in and scrape everything he feels out, just yank it up and toss it away.

Before London, he felt nothing. He had been numb, just a shell of himself, walking around with a limp and waiting for the courage to find his end.

Then he met the Consulting Criminal, and his whole life changed.

He had adventure, companionship, purpose, a reason to live.

Family, meaning, love.

After London, it's neither of those things. He's floating now, stuck somewhere between feeling everything and nothing at all.

Completely torn between having the will to keep going and aching to give up.

It's worse than anything else.

Elliot doesn't want to go inside, doesn't want to walk into the apartment and find it empty, doesn't want to sit in his chair and stare at the one across from him, just there and pointless, a gaping chasm waiting for London to come back.

He wants to turn around and go to the last place he believed London to be, just lay in the grass beside his gravestone and wait for the day he'll join him in the dirt.

The world, and life, seems so pointless if the Consulting Criminal isn't around to make it theirs.

But he can smell the rain in the air, can feel the hair at the nape of his neck begin to curl, so he does what he always does; he forces himself to keep moving, a bone-deep desire to finally reach the day when he won't anymore.

“Elliot,” Mrs. Hanson greets as soon as he walks in, hovering in her doorway, restless and fretting.

Right.

He'd left in hurry and acting oddly.

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Elliot waves her off, starts climbing the stairs, head watching his feet carry him each step.

“Not now, Mrs. Hanson; we'll have tea later.”

“But Elliot-”

“Not now, please. Just, just let me be, alright?”

Mrs. Hanson bites her thumbnail, eyes wide with worry. “Oh Elliot, I really wish you'd just listen to me for a moment.”

“Tomorrow, Mrs. Hanson, I promise.” Elliot tells her wearily, stopping at the top step, looking down at her with the best smile he can manage.

His lips barely even twitch, but Mrs. Hanson seems to decide to leave him be.

She wavers in the doorway, eyes jumping from him towards his apartment, biting her lip. Then, she gives a curt nod and goes back into her room, shutting the door with a soft click.

Elliot sighs and walks inside.

“Welcome Home,” A voice says, sitting in his chair, thumbing through one of his books, not even looking up to spare a glance.

For a moment, Elliot's world comes to a halt.

Everything.

Stops.

Just as London saw the world, Elliot does as well.

The setting goes into freeze-frame, pausing the details in place.

"How could you doubt the evidence, Elliot? You disappoint me." London whispers in his mind, then leaves altogether, and Elliot knows, instinctively, that he'll never hear it again, won't need to.

London is alive. 

London is alive. 

London is…

Alive.

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Everything comes back in a rush, and Elliot's legs give out beneath him. He chokes out a breathless strangled noise as he goes down, crumbling to the floor where he is. He ends up on his arse, head between his knees, crying, finally crying.

“Elliot, listen to me.” London is suddenly there, on his knees across from him, staring at him with those steady eyes, face soft and careful. “I need you to breathe, focus on breathing, that's it.”

Elliot's tears halt, his back snaps straight, and he just stares. London blinks, clearly not expecting that reaction. He leans back slightly, assessing him with his serious deduction powers, and Elliot isn't having any of that shit, thank-you-very-much.

“You absolute cock,” Elliot chokes out and lunges forward, all thoughts escaping him.

He lands a few punches, manages to knock London's head pretty hard against the floor. At first, London takes it, clearly thinks he deserves it, but then his natural instinct comes to him once he feels and smells the blood flowing from his nose and lip, and he starts fighting back. He defends himself, no intent to harm, just wrestles Elliot into a strange embrace, locking their arms together between them, their cheeks pressed together.

An odd technique Alexander would use against the Consulting Criminal as a child or whenever he was going through withdrawals.

And the same technique has Elliot just sag against him, sobbing.

Eventually, London lets go of his arms and moves his hands around Elliot, holding him with one hand on his back, one hand on the back of his head. Elliot lets his hands sit limply between them, tucks his face into London's neck, and cries it out. Just cries with all the pain, and loss, and hurt he's felt for the last six months, cries until his body hiccups and his eyes have nothing else to give.

It's a very long time before he moves; he's actually very close to falling asleep, suddenly so exhausted that he could pass out right there in London's arms. But the hand at the back of his head twitches, fingers brushing along hair, an unconscious action no doubt, and Elliot takes in a shuddering breath, pulling back slowly, blinking his itchy eyes.

The Consulting Criminal stares at him. “Do you feel better?”

There's anger, and resentment, and endless questions, and grief, and demands, and accusations, and so much pain just waiting on the end of this moment… Elliot is consumed by it. He yanks away, face flat and harsh, eyes blazing. London just stares at him like he's a puzzle.

“Get out,” Elliot orders firmly.

London blinks. “What?”

Elliot scrambles to his feet, stepping back a few paces, running shaky hands through his hair. “You know what, everyone has a choice. I'm sure you've missed being here. But leave.”

“Elliot, stop,” London says, standing up easily, body swift and springy and alive. “We must talk, there's so much that we need to-”

“I can't stand the sight of you, not now,” Elliot spits, whole body trembling.

London opens his mouth, clearly about to argue, or apologize, or speak at all, and isn't that the strangest thing? London speaking, living. Elliot can't function, can't think, can't breathe. He just turns and rushes out the room, slamming the door behind him, stomping hurriedly down the stairs. Mrs. Hanson opens her door and sticks her head out.

“Where are you going?” Mrs. Hanson asks in concern, touching her hand to her cheek. “Oh, Elliot, I tried to warn you, I did. It's a good thing, isn't it, him being back? Oh, don't go, Elliot, just-”

He slams the door, not even throwing her a glance, sucking in air as soon as his feet hit the pavement. And here he is again, just as he was not too long before, having gotten everything he's wanted for six months, not being able to handle it. He leans down, puts his hands on his knees, and dissolves into shaky laughter, trying to breathe and stop crying while his shock takes its course. When he looks back up, a sleek car pulls up to the curb; he stumbles over to it, sliding in without hesitation.

This time, Alexander waits for him.

“You knew,” Elliot accuses, hands shaking so hard he can't even put on his seat-belt. “You bastard, you knew, and you…”

Alexander gives him another pitying look, just like the one from before. “You'll stay at mine tonight. For your safety and my brother's."

“How long?” Elliot demands.

“You'll have to talk to London if you wish to know all the details.”

“I hate you, I hate him, and I hate everything about these last six months.”

“Only one of those statements are true, Elliot, and we both know it.”

And… Elliot can't really argue that.

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