Benedict Cumberbatch as Julian Assange in ‘The Fifth Estate’
Today’s quickfic is a shortie I wrote ages back, when the first pictures of Benedict Cumberbatch in ‘The Fifth Estate’ appeared. That white-blonde wig and those bleached eyebrows were deeply disturbing to me, but they coalesced along with a line spoken by James Frain as the Spanish Ambassador, Don Alvaro de Quadra in the dazzling film, Elizabeth:
‘Oh, what would a man not do for love?’
Once upon a time, Sherlock Holmes fell deeply in love with a man called John Watson. So deeply in love that he had to kill himself.
Oh, what would a man not do for love?
Sherlock did it. Sherlock did it all.
He saved his lover, but at the cost of himself.
Eight months is a long time when you are mourning. Two men grieving on opposite sides of a door, a wall, a world.
Sherlock turned up again, eight months later, frightened, exhausted, emaciated and with a sniper hot on his tail.
He waited to knock until he saw Mrs Hudson go out to her regular Bingo. He knew John would be up in the flat, settling down to watch the afternoon match with a beer or two. The Irregulars had warned him that sometimes Lestrade had taken to joining John, keeping him company. The Inspector had been seen coming and going regularly. Keeping an eye on him, they said. But he was not there that day.
Sherlock was leaning on the door frame when John opened up. The little doctor let out a cry of shock, and Sherlock slumped forward, no longer able to hold himself up. He was faintly aware of the door closing as John’s arms folded around him, breaking his fall. Then there was just the gloom of the familiar entrance hall, the hideous wallpaper (he had forgotten how much he hated that wallpaper), and John’s sweet smell.
John sat with his back resting against the wall, and Sherlock’s head in his lap. Sometimes his fingers slipped gently through Sherlock’s tragic hair – what had not been wrecked by the bleach had been finished off by hormones and straightening irons. Sometimes he sighed and stared at the wall. And in time, his palm came to rest on Sherlock’s distended belly.
‘How long?’ he whispered, as if he was afraid of the sound of his own voice, when it was really the answer he dreaded.
‘When we were last together.’ Sherlock tried to get up, but his body felt too heavy. He had run too far and slept too little. He had struggled too long alone. He had no strength left in him now.
John’s hand circled a little.
And something underneath it moved.
‘He knows his daddy,’ Sherlock smiled.
Then John turned his sad eyes on him, wretched haunted eyes.
‘Did you know? When you fell, did you-‘
‘If I had, I would never have jumped, I swear. I would have tried to find some other way.’
John’s lip began to tremble. ‘Just tell me why?’
And he did.
The words were halting, sticking to his tongue. He fought his way through the labyrinth, through the remorse and the guilt, through John’s tears too, when they finally came, when he realised his lover had no choice at the last. The leaden weight finally lifted, the burden at last shared. And then he closed his eyes and turned his face to John’s warm body, his home.