Title: An Offense to Logic
Disclaimer: BBC owns this incarnation of Sherlock. Sherlock's attitude is very vaguely based around Ben Elton's book The First Casualty (an excellent novel by the by, do check it out.)
Ships/Warnings: Sherlock/John friendship. Slight hurt-comfort.
Summary: My second-place fic for AU challenge at thegameison_sh. During WW1 ex-army surgeon John Watson finds himself working at Wormwood Scrubs. While there one of the Conscientious Objectors catches his attention.
A/N: This is the slightly longer version that had to be cut for the word count limit on the challenge. Hopefully you'll like the alterations.
John Watson remembered the woman, though he hadn't known her name at the time. Back then, before the war, she'd been Prisoner 02184F.
Anthea, as he now knew her name to be, had been rushed to him when a force-feeding tube had punctured her lung. Today she sat drinking tea in his parlour and bore no resemblance to the gaunt young protester she had once been.
"Even Suffragettes are helping the war effort," she explained. "I'm a secretary."
John congratulated her and she smiled prettily. "My employer is a forward thinking man. It's on his behalf I'm here. I believe you are out of work?"
John swallowed. Losing a foot in No Mans Land may make you a hero but trembling hands make for a poor surgeon when you get home. He was volunteering, but that didn't provide food for him and Harry.
"My employer holds a specific interest in Wormwood Scrubs. He wants a good doctor to be employed there," she explained cautiously. "I… remembered you."
The job was often unpleasant, but easy. Most of it was spent patching up attacked prisoners; frequently the Conscientious Objectors. They were the lowest of the low in the prison hierarchy and the wardens had no desire protect them.
"Makes me sick," Murray had written from the front, "to think of you having to patch up bloody Conchies. They should lick your boots in gratitude."
John didn't hate them, hard to believe as it was. Though he'd never wholly agree with their beliefs he understood the need to do what you thought right.
Sometimes it was harder having nothing to fight for.
There were eleven of them at Wormwood; the ones who had fought the loudest and made the biggest fuss. Wormwood was a place for criminals and only those who had annoyed the war tribunal most were sent there.
John got the impression that the judge would have pushed for hanging in the case of Prisoner 6221B if the verdict was based on how annoying he'd been. In prison he'd caused more chaos than the all of the murderers combined.
"It's his own fault," a warder explained. "He can't keep his mouth shut. Will say his piece."
He was standing over the battered body of Holmes. John set about patching him up.
"Quaker are you? Like Howards?" he asked conversationally.
The prisoner looked at him through two black eyes and huskily replied. "No. Not religious."
John stared. It seemed impossible that a man would go through all that without even God to comfort him. He would have asked more, but the warden dragged Holmes away.
He learned more about Holmes. He was the youngest of the COs; educated and brilliant. Often his wounds sent him there daily, other times he required days of recovery. Their brief conversations fascinated John.
"So if you aren't here on religious grounds, why are you here?" he asked one day.
It appeared to be a question Sherlock hadn't been asked. His reply was thoughtful.
"I suppose I'm here on intellectual grounds. I believe this war is wrong."
"That can't be all."
Sherlock shrugged. "All I have is my intellect and I must follow it regardless of consequence. We defend the martyred Belgium from German attack yet we didn't defend the people of the African Congo from Belgium's brutal attack in 1908. I'm not scared of fighting. I don't believe all war is wrong. But this one offends my sense of logic and I refuse to have a part in it."
The warden arrived for Sherlock before John could reply.
"And I suppose you think I'm - we're - stupid for sticking with our country and doing our bit?" John asked the next time. He couldn't hide the hurt in his tone, he felt foolish for imagining a connection with a man who was so opposed to his beliefs.
Sherlock was full stretch on the table. His serene, slightly put-upon countenance disappeared and his eyes flickered to John's crutches.
"No," he said warmly, "I don't think that. People will always fight for their country. Unfortunately ours has lied to its people. If anything I'm angry that those lies have led to a skilled surgeon losing his living. This job can hardly have been your first choice."
His gaze was like burning and John's hand stilled over his. He wasn't imagining a connection; Sherlock liked his company and wanted to be liked back.
"Maybe..." said John slowly, "I liked being a soldier. Maybe this war gave me a purpose." Their hands were still touching.
"What if I can find you a new purpose?"
John pulled his hand away, suddenly realising that he still had a job to do. He couldn't quite tear his eyes away from the determined ones staring at him in a silent plea.
"I had a life before the war," Sherlock pressed. It was the first time he had mentioned his former life. "I was a Consulting Detective. You'd have loved it, I know you would."
"How can you know that?"
Sherlock's hand shot out to seize his again. If another prisoner had done this, John would have called for the guard, but Sherlock wasn't just a prisoner anymore.
"I know because your hands haven't shook once since we began talking." He carried on, as if apropos of nothing; "They'll let me out of here eventually. My life will still be there. I'm not completely friendless."
They stared at each other. John was sizing up the implicit offer.
"Well," swallowed John, "I suppose it's my job to see that you make it to that point in one piece." He freed his hand, not as a rejection, but so that he could stem the almost forgotten stream of blood coming from Sherlock's temple.
"I trust you," said Sherlock.
"Besides, I really think you need a friend. Someone to stop you annoying war tribunals and so on."
It was as close to an acquiescence as he was able to give. The effect was stunning. It made Sherlock smile for the first time John had ever known. It was brilliant and genuine and made John wonder at how much this man might have achieved in another time, another place.
Hopefully you enjoyed this. Please let me know what you thought!