cypress_fic: (Wheat Field with Cypresses - Van Gogh)
[personal profile] cypress_fic

Title: This Thing All Things Devours (2/15)
Pairing: Sherlock/John
Rating: Explicit
Word Count: 4,700 for this part
Genre: AU/fusion, science fiction, action, romance

Summary:

(In Time AU) In 2169, time is money—literally. Humans are genetically engineered to stop aging at 25, when the numbers on their arm start counting down from one year. When that time is up, they die. The only way to get more time is to earn it, borrow it, or steal it.

John Watson lives day-to-day in the crowded slums of Zone 13. He never imagined living any differently—until he meets the practically-immortal Sherlock, and helps him on a case to track a local time-thief...



Between Suicide and poker, John ended up winning nearly a whole week.  He collected his time from the referee and walked out of the pub as Sherlock followed a few steps behind.



The city was littered with people, and skyscrapers suffocated either side of the street.  Sherlock followed closely as John led the way through the crowds—past pawn shops and 99-second stores, their windows lit with garishly-coloured signs and advertisements.



They pushed through a queue in front of the bank, and turned down a quieter and more serene side-street.  There was a man curled up under the awning of a grocer.  John did a double-take to make sure he hadn’t timed out, but it appeared he was just sleeping.



“You hold the record for that game,” Sherlock said, breaking the silence between them.



John couldn’t help walking a little taller.



“I do, yes,” he said.   "What did you think?"



Sherlock was quiet for a long time, until John assumed that he wouldn’t be getting an answer.  He thought about the look that Sherlock had given him when he won the match, and suddenly felt the need to show off again.



They turned onto one last street, and John led them up the front steps of his flat.  Sherlock leaned against the door as John typed in his passcode.  When it clicked open, he met John’s eyes.



"I think it was...interesting," he said.



Somehow, John felt that this was very high praise.  He nodded his head and went inside, motioning for Sherlock to follow.


---



John’s flat consisted of nothing more than a bedroom, a bathroom, a kitchen, and a small sitting room.  He closed the door and secured all three locks, then took off his jacket and tossed it onto the sofa.  Sherlock looked around the kitchen, studying the appliances and stains on the countertop.  He ran his fingers over the shallow cut in the slate that John had made on his first day back from the army.



“You want anything to eat?  Or drink?” John asked, trying to divert Sherlock’s attention.



“No.”  Sherlock watched as John filled the kettle and leaned against the counter, waiting for it to boil.  “I didn’t think people still used kettles.  Doesn’t your tap boil water?”



John snorted.  “Not everyone can afford all the comforts of modern twenty-second-century life.”  There was a bite to his tone that he hadn’t intended, and he felt guilty when Sherlock abruptly looked away and started to wander through the sitting room.



John waited until Sherlock was absorbed in examining the wear of the carpet, then pulled a tablet out from under the clutter on the kitchen counter.  He put his wrist to the sensor on its side and paid his water and electricity bills, watching as the numbers on his arm dropped lower.  He felt a shadow pass over him, and looked up to see Sherlock peering at the tablet.



“You can take your coat off,” John said, his voice tight.  “Put it over there.”  He waved vaguely towards the other side of the room, and Sherlock walked away.



When the bills had been paid and the kettle had boiled, John fixed himself a cup of tea and sat down on the sofa.  Sherlock gave a quick glance through the open door that led to John’s bedroom, then sat down at the other end.



Sherlock had rolled up his shirt sleeves during the poker game, and had never rolled them back down again.  John’s eyes were drawn to the bare skin that was revealed between the bottom of Sherlock’s sleeve and the top of his glove.  The contrast was striking—his arm was almost as pale as his white shirt.  John took a careful sip of tea.



“Is this your first time in Zone 13?” he asked.



Sherlock nodded.  “I’d never have come if it weren’t for the case.”



“How did you hear about it?  The case?”



“From my brother.”  Sherlock looked down to brush a piece of lint from his trousers.  “My family owns a bank, and—”



“Hold on,” John interrupted.  “Your family owns a bank?”  His eyes flickered to Sherlock’s arm of their own accord as he thought about how rich Sherlock had to be for his family to own a bloody bank.



Sherlock sighed and rolled his eyes, as if he were used to getting this reaction.



“Sorry,” said John.  “It’s just—I don’t normally have more than three days on my arm, so the thought of anyone...”  His voice drifted off into nothing.



John looked again at the expensive fabric of Sherlock’s suit, and the leather of his shoes.  He wondered whether the people at the pub had known exactly how wealthy Sherlock was, or if they had underestimated him, like John had.  He was thankful that Sherlock had taken up his offer to stay.  Sherlock was practically a walking target for thieves.



When John looked up again, he found that Sherlock was watching him.



“Sorry,” he repeated.  “Go on.”



Sherlock cleared his throat.  “Well, my brother has always been interested in time theft, because of the family business.  His responsibilities have made Darwinian capitalism something of a personal investment.  I heard him talking about this thief, Kyle Walters, one day, and, being a detective, I wanted to see if I could track him down.”



“To impress your brother?”



“No!  Most certainly not.  Just for myself.”  Sherlock started getting flustered, and John hid a smile.  “Anyway, I knew that Mycroft wouldn’t want me to get involved, so I had to hack into the Timekeepers’ records to download their evidence.”



“You stole their evidence?”  John asked, mildly impressed.



“It wasn’t that hard,” said Sherlock.  He sounded flippant, but was obviously trying not to smirk.  “Once I had the evidence, it was glaringly obvious where Walters had gone.  Honestly, it’s appalling that the Timekeepers didn’t notice it before I did.  I crossed through time zones until I got here, which I’m quite certain is his home base, and by asking the right people and visiting a few other pubs in the area, I was able to gather more information.”



He paused for a breath and seemed pleased when he caught John’s look of amazement.  “It’s astounding what people will tell you when you wear the right clothes and say the right things.  I discovered that The Second Hand was his local, so I decided to wait there for him to show up.  Seemed as good a place as any.  Easy to blend in, and he’d have his guard down.”



“You’re really something else, you know that?”  John asked.  Sherlock arched an eyebrow.



“You’re very liberal with your compliments,” he said.



“I could stop—”



“No, no, it’s...fine.”



John chuckled and looked away.  “So now what?”



“I need to review my evidence.”  Sherlock pulled his phone out of his pocket and held it up for John to see.  It showed a long list of files—pictures, spreadsheets, audio, and video recordings.  “I’d also like to check Walters’s bank account to see where he’s spending time.”  He put the phone back in his pocket and stood up to retrieve John’s tablet from the kitchen counter.



John frowned.  “Um, that’s—”



Sherlock unlocked the tablet on his first attempt.



“You know that ‘1234’ is the most commonly-used four-digit pin number?”  he asked, as John gaped.  “Not a good choice.  Anyway, I may be able to narrow down Walters’s location by tracking his purchases.  Ideally, I’ll be able to find where he’s hiding the stolen capsules, but if not, I could probably follow him to wherever he spends them.”



Sherlock propped the tablet on the coffee table and turned on the holographic keyboard.  His fingers started flying over the keys, and he switched between three different browser tabs.



“He spends the time right away?” asked John, feeling slow and dull as he watched Sherlock work.



“Yes.  He doesn’t keep very much.  It’s likely he purchases drugs or weapons or enhancements.  Something like that.”



“Alright...”



They sat in silence for a few minutes, the story behind them.  John took another sip of tea before noticing that Sherlock’s fingers had stilled.  He was watching John—following the motion of the mug every time John brought the rim to his lips.



“You sure you’re not thirsty?” John asked.  Sherlock nodded, blinking twice as if to clear his mind.


---



They stayed up until the flats around them fell silent, and the noise of the city became a quiet hum.  Sherlock began to talk about life in his own time zone, and John found himself enraptured.  Sherlock was from Zone 4, one of the wealthiest zones in the country.  He described a life of extravagance as though it were nothing.  When he told John about escaping his bodyguards while being forced to attend a cocktail party that his brother had arranged, John laughed.



“I’d like to visit,” he said.  “I’ve never been to another time zone.”



Sherlock nodded towards John’s arm.  “You wouldn’t be able to afford it.”



John felt a little insulted, but tried not to show it.



“The tolls alone would wipe you clean,” Sherlock continued.



“What do you mean?  It can’t cost that much.”



“Well it’s a year to get into my zone.”



“A year?” John repeated.  “That’s ridiculous!  Why?”



Sherlock shrugged.  “They don't like zones mixing."



"That's not right, don't you think?  To actively separate us like that?"



"Well it's not as if it's illegal to cross.  You just have to save up a bit to get there."



John gave an angry sigh, rolling his eyes.  "And it costs more to get into the wealthy parts of the country?  They're purposefully keeping out the poor.  It's segregation."



"Everything costs more in the wealthy parts of the country, anyway.  You'd spend all your time getting in and then be unable to afford anything once you were there.”  Sherlock plucked John’s half-empty mug from where it lay on the coffee table, and took a sip from it.  “And it's not like there's anything very exciting there,” he said.  “It's not worth the trouble."



"That's not the point," argued John.  "I don't care if it's a worthless trip.  I don't care if there's nothing out there but a complete wasteland.  It’s the principle of the thing.  I want to have the option to go there if I want to, without spending every minute I have in savings just to get in."



Sherlock nodded, slowly.  "I suppose I can see your point," he said.  "I've never had to worry about time, so it's...difficult for me to imagine your situation."



John laughed, dryly.  He took the mug from Sherlock's hand and drained the last sip.  Sherlock looked at the mug with surprise, as if he hadn't even realized he'd taken it.



"You’ve never known anyone who timed out, have you?" John asked.  Sherlock shook his head.  "Yeah.  Didn't think so."



"I've known people who have died," said Sherlock, defensively.  "There was a Timekeeper I knew who got shot while chasing down a suspect.  And I know two people who died in a car crash."



"But you've never known anyone who literally timed out.  Who ran out of time?"



"I...no.  I haven't."



John watched as Sherlock purposefully avoided eye contact, then he stood, taking his mug into the kitchen and putting it in the sanitizer with the rest of the dirty dishes.  He sat back down on the sofa.



"Both of my parents timed out," he said.  Sherlock looked up at him.  "My dad when I was little.  Too young to really remember it.  My mum will have been gone for about four years, come next month.  She was robbed, actually.  By a gang of Minutemen.  They left her with a little bit, but not enough to make it home before—you know."



If John had expected consolations and condolences, Sherlock wasn’t going to offer any.  He toyed with the bottom edge of his glove, and his gaze wandered as if he wasn’t sure where to look.



“What is it like?” he asked.  “Dying that way?”



John watched Sherlock’s fingers as they found a loose thread on his glove and twisted it against his thumb.  A crease formed between John’s eyebrows, and he took a slow breath.



“Um...”  He suddenly became aware of how much he had said, and how much he had never meant to say.  He bit his lip and looked at Sherlock, seeing the hesitant interest in his eyes.



“Well, when people time out,” he said.  “It’s...not sudden.  You know it’s coming.  And you do everything in your power to stop it.  You sell your belongings and you take out loans.  You offer them your own time, but...if they won’t take it, then there’s nothing you can do.  Natural death is something you can see from a mile away.  It hangs over you like a black cloud, then it creeps in towards you.  It’s an inevitability.”



Sherlock nodded slowly, not meeting John’s eyes.  John wasn’t sure what was making him open up to this man.  Maybe it was Sherlock’s honest curiosity, his desire to know about a life that he was sheltered from.  John was just starting to realize how sheltered a life Sherlock had lived.  It was overwhelmingly a good thing.  He never had to wake up and wonder if he would have enough time to last the day.  But there was something sad and empty behind Sherlock’s eyes, and John couldn’t help thinking that he was haunted in other ways.



When John found himself unable to stifle a yawn, he stood up from the sofa.  "You must be tired,” he said.  “It's what?  2am?"  He stretched his arms to the ceiling, the green glow of his numbers reflecting off of his hair.  He motioned for Sherlock to stand, but Sherlock just shook his head.



“I don’t usually sleep when I’m—”



“I’ve uh...only got the one bed," John interrupted.  "But you can take it.  I’m fine with the sofa.”  He looked down at it with a faint grimace.



Sherlock paused.  “That’s alright,” he said.  “I don’t mind sharing if you don't.”



“You sure?” John asked.  Sherlock nodded, and John’s heart thumped so loudly that he was afraid Sherlock would hear it.  “Right, then.”


---



John rearranged the pillows on the bed, watching as Sherlock walked around the room and examined details in much the same way that he had in the kitchen and sitting room.  He tapped at the touchscreen of John's computer and flipped through the pictures that were displayed in the digital frame that sat on his desk.  He lingered over one—a photo of John in a mechanic’s jumpsuit, holding a wrench and standing on top of a hoverplane, smiling.  John cleared his throat.



“Left or right?” he asked, his gaze flickering from the picture to Sherlock’s face.



“Left,” said Sherlock.  He set the frame back to its default display.



John nodded, then paused.  "You got that just by looking at me, didn't you?" he asked.  "You can tell that I sleep on the right."



Sherlock smirked.  "The sheets are more ruffled on that side.  Your clock is on the right rather than the left bedside table.  The left is actually devoid of any belongings, so you don't really use it, do you?"



John grinned and shook his head.



"Which," Sherlock added.  "Also tells me that you aren't in a significant relationship right now.



John laughed.  "All true.  You make it look easy."  He shuffled through his dresser and tossed a pair of grey-striped pyjama bottoms and an old t-shirt to Sherlock.  “Here, sleep in these.”  He stripped down to his own boxers and t-shirt, tossing his clothes into a basket in the corner of the room.  When he looked back up, Sherlock was pulling the shirt down over his pale chest, and the bottoms were hanging loosely around his hips.  John’s eyes were drawn to a large scar over Sherlock’s stomach.



“How did you get that?” he asked, nodding towards it.



Sherlock tugged the edge of his shirt down further, and ignored the question.  John felt that perhaps he shouldn’t have asked.  He slid into bed, mildly guilty.  Sherlock paused and glanced down at his glove.



“You can leave it on,” said John.  "I wouldn't sleep bare-armed next to someone I'd just met, either.  If I had much to take."



Sherlock eyed John’s numbers.  He got into bed, lying on his back with his arm curled protectively over his chest.



"Shouldn’t you be more worried?” he asked.  “Having less to lose?”



John shrugged and reached over to shut off the light.  He turned onto his side, away from Sherlock, and closed his eyes.



“Has anyone ever tried?” Sherlock asked, after a moment.



John snorted.  “What, to rob me?  I live in Zone 13, of course people have tried.”  Sherlock didn't say anything, but John anticipated the question.  "Didn't end well for them," he said.



Sherlock gave a soft breath of a laugh.


---



John woke up the next morning in an empty bed.  He checked his numbers out of habit, then remembered the events of the night before, and checked them again.  He sat up and rubbed at his eyes.



John jumped when he noticed Sherlock in the corner of the room, sitting at the computer in John's ill-fitting pyjamas and reading whatever was on the screen with intense concentration.



"That was locked," John muttered.



Sherlock typed something quickly, and opened a new window.  "Should have chosen a more secure password," he said.  "I changed it for you.  I'll help you memorize it later."



"Just write it down.  Do you want breakfast?”



“No."



"Fine.  I have to go to work."



"You're leaving?"  asked Sherlock.  He got up from the computer and followed John into the kitchen.  "You're not going to assist me?"



"I've got three days left.  I'd like to have more."



"Three days is plenty.  How can that concern you when you came down to just seconds last night?”



“Completely different circumstances.”  John opened the refrigerator and searched for something that wasn’t either stale or rotting.  When he turned back around, Sherlock was staring at him with intense curiosity.  John looked away.



"You aren't employed, are you?" he asked.



"Well..."



“Right.”  He tried to wrap his mind around Sherlock's existence as he made himself breakfast.   Sherlock turned on the hologram on his phone, flipping through pictures as John ate.



"So why did you need to break into my computer?”  John asked, his mouth full of toast and jam.



“Planning,” Sherlock said.  He twisted a hologram to face John.  It was a map of the district that had been zoomed in to show John's neighbourhood.  Sherlock stuck his finger through the hologram at the location of John's flat.



"We're here," he said.  "I previously narrowed down Walters's flat to one of three locations, here, here, and here."  He pointed, zooming out and shifting the map when needed.  “I’d like to see if I can narrow it down further by taking a look at his bank records and seeing if anything has changed, now that he’s in the area again."  He stole a piece of sausage from the edge of John's plate and popped it into his mouth.  John moved his plate further away.



"Also," continued Sherlock.  "I think I’ll get some new clothes.  I've already worn that suit for two days, and none of your clothing will fit me comfortably.”



"Funny," muttered John.  "I don't recall offering anything."



"Anyway, are you working tomorrow?  I could hold off on actually visiting the location, if you'd like to join me."  Sherlock was fiddling with the edge of his glove again.



John shrugged.  "I’m free," he said.  "I'll help you out."



Sherlock broke into a grin and turned off his phone.  "Excellent.  Genius needs an audience."



John rolled his eyes and brought his empty dishes to the sanitizer.



"Well since you'll be here all day," he said, nodding toward the dishes, "Those will be done in a minute.  You can use your brilliant skills of deduction to figure out where they go in the cupboards.  And if you're going out, you can spare a few minutes for a bottle of milk.  The real stuff, none of that soy nonsense."



"You're asking me to buy you milk?"



"You're staying in my flat for a few days, sleeping in my bed, and presumably eating my food.  I'll ask whatever I want from you."



Sherlock pressed his lips together, his eyes showing the smile that he was determined to hide.


---



The building that John worked in was four stories tall, freshly built of shiny chrome and smoked glass.  It  was easily the most impressive building in Zone 13—an attempt to make the area look more attractive while at the same time keeping it productive.  It employed about three hundred people, split between the programmers and software engineers on the upper levels and mechanics and other repairers on the lower levels.



John’s day was going fairly normally for a Saturday.  He had spent the last few hours putting limbs back on soldiers and discussing the start of major work on a hoverplane.  He was just at the end of his 15:00 break when his phone vibrated twice in a row.



15:28
I was unaware that there were different varieties of milk.  SH



15:28
I got one of each.  SH




John laughed to himself and stuck his phone back in his pocket.



"What's so funny?"



He looked up to see one of the programmers, Molly Hooper, looking back at him from the doorway of the break room.  She tossed him a bag of crisps from her pocket.



"I owe you for last week," she said.



John smiled.  "Thanks.  And it's nothing.  I just got a text.  I sort of...have company right now, and—"



Molly raised an eyebrow.  “Company from the pub?  Jerry told me about the rich boy at poker last night."



"Yeah, well Jerry's a gossip."



Molly smiled and opened her mouth to speak, but was interrupted when a teenage boy came up behind her and tapped her on the shoulder.



"Ms. Hooper, we're having a bit of trouble with forty-five sixty-five.  We can't get it to activate—"



"Okay, okay, I'm coming, shush."  The boy hurried back to the lab at the end of the hallway.  Molly looked at John, who was re-reading the texts Sherlock had sent.  "I expect you to fill me in completely, you know."



"I know."



"The next time our breaks line up."



"I hear you, now go activate forty-five sixty-whatever."



Molly waved and headed back down the hall.


---



When John got home, his flat smelled like garam masala.  Sherlock was cross-legged in the middle of the sitting room, surrounded by electronics.  He was typing on John’s tablet, and seemed to have found and fixed the three other tablets that John had thought were broken.  He had one laptop propped up on the sofa, another on the coffee table in front of him, and he had moved John’s desktop computer from the bedroom.



John raised an eyebrow, and Sherlock pointed to a plastic bag on the counter.



"I bought Indian," he said.  John shook his head and started opening containers of food.



"Any progress?" he asked.



Sherlock shoved the computers under the table, apparently his method of cleaning up.



"Thanks to Walters’s coffee addiction, I was able to trace him to one building," he said.  "We can leave as soon as you get up tomorrow.”



John nodded and spooned a little extra food onto his plate before setting it on the island between the kitchen and sitting room.  He slid a fork over to Sherlock, but Sherlock ignored it in favour of scrolling through files on his phone.



“Is that all you did all day?” John asked.



“All that matters.”



John sat on the opposite side of the island.



“You went shopping,” he said.  “You weren’t wearing that shirt yesterday.”



Sherlock looked down at his shirt as if he had forgotten about it.  It was steel blue, and complimented his eyes.  He put down his phone and shrugged out of his suit jacket as if to show off.



“I needed something to wear that didn’t smell like the pub,” he said.  “I got these trousers, too.”



“Didn’t know they sold that sort of thing around here.”



“Please, this is hardly quality.  And I had to look everywhere to find a tailor.”



“You actually spend time on that sort of thing?”



Sherlock shrugged.  He stood from the table and headed towards the refrigerator, leaning far into to the bottom shelf to get a can of juice from the back.  John couldn't keep from noticing that the shirt seemed a bit tight, and when Sherlock bent over, the trousers did wonderful things for his—



"Do you want to see?" Sherlock asked.  He stood up again, juice in hand, and closed the refrigerator.



John's gaze shot back up to eye level.  "Excuse me?" he asked.



"My numbers."  Sherlock sat back down across from him, and John felt his face heating.



"Oh.  Your—um.  No, no, you don’t have to."  He ate a bigger-than-usual forkful of rice.  When he looked back up, Sherlock was grinning at him as if he knew exactly what John had been thinking.  He rolled his sleeve up to the elbow and pulled off his glove.



“Keep your hands to yourself,” he said.



If possible, John blushed deeper.  He bit his tongue and watched as Sherlock tilted his arm towards him.  John's eyes widened, and he looked between Sherlock’s arm and his face.



"Christ," he said.  "Is that real?"  Sherlock nodded.  "You're fucking maxed out.  I've never met—I've never even seen anyone who was maxed out."



Sherlock looked down at the nines on his arm.  "My brother has...connections," he said.  "My family was wealthy to begin with, because of the bank, but my brother has made sure that we will never have to worry about time again."



John shook his head.  He laid his own arm next to Sherlock’s and scowled, comparing their numbers.  His eyes came to rest over a bruise on the inside of Sherlock’s elbow, and he pulled up the sleeve in order to see better.



“Did Walters hurt—” His eyes widened when he realized what he was looking at.  “Oh.”



Sherlock pulled his arm away and put his glove back on.  He rolled his sleeve down for good measure.



“I get bored,” he said.



“You’ll live forever as long as you don’t get fatally ill, wounded, or overdo—”



“Shut up.”  Sherlock spat.



John looked at him with surprise, and Sherlock turned away.



John thought about the other people he had seen with needle marks on their arms—people from his own zone, unsure if they would live until the end of the week, and willing to act recklessly in order to make the most of what they had.  It didn’t make sense for someone like Sherlock to risk himself when he had a near-infinite amount of time to take in all of life’s pleasures.



“How often?” John asked, tentatively.



“That’s none of your business.”



“I know it’s not, but I have the right to worry.”



“There’s no need to worry, I’m in complete control.”



John nodded.  “Yeah,” he said.  He thought briefly of his estranged sister.  “I’ve heard people say that before.”



The silence that followed was uncomfortable, to say the least.  John found that he didn’t have the appetite to finish his dinner.  He spooned leftover rice back into its plastic container and put it in the refrigerator.



When he turned around, Sherlock had moved, and was sitting on the floor in front of the coffee table.  John sat on the sofa behind him, and watched over Sherlock’s shoulder as he slowly swiped through files on a tablet.



“They found his thumbprint on a door,” Sherlock said, after a moment.  He pointed to a fingerprint record on the touchscreen.  “That’s how they knew it was him.  He had been charged once before for criminal damage, so they had him on file already.”



Sherlock half-turned, looking at John quickly out of the corner of his eye.  John slid off the sofa to sit next to him.



“Show me what else you have,” he said.



Sherlock’s shoulders relaxed.
---

Date: 2013-04-23 03:43 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] call-me-ishmael.livejournal.com
Man, this is really enjoyable. II'm sad every time I run out of words to read.

Date: 2013-04-23 10:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cypress-fic.livejournal.com
Thank you so much! What an encouraging thing to hear. :3

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