Title: Sherlock Holmes and the Ghost at the Avocado Grove
Fandom: Sherlock Holmes (2009)
Summary: Sherlock Holmes Israeli Kibbutz 1980s AU.
Warnings: Sherlock Holmes Israeli Kibbutz 1980s AU.
Notes: Thank you to my wonderful betas, kisahawklin and monanotlisa, alll remaining mistakes are my own. Cultural notes at the end of the fic.
THANK YOU to everyone who participated in this madness. I wrote this story in 3 hours one night, a long time ago, and then shit happened and life got crazy and I finally pulled it out and polished it off a bit and here it is. I toyed with writing a Hebrew version as well (that would have been a significantly different story because the in jokes would be totally different) but in the end I'm just not a patient enough person to wait that long when I have a fic that's ready-to-post (I... may have impulse control issues when it comes to fic posting).
Please do not think of this as anything but the purest form of cracky crack. Also posted at the AO3.
"I wish you'd stop calling me Watson," Watson said, double checking the syringe.
Sherlock made a face at four year old Yotam, effectively distracting him from the insertion of the needle. "I think it's only fair, since you insist on calling me Sherlock."
"Yes, except that's your name," Watson said, pulling out an apple and giving it to Yotam who seemed a few moments away from bursting into tears despite Sherlock's efforts. Only Watson could vaccinate the entire population of preschoolers in the Kibbutz without having a single one of them sobbing and screaming on the floor, Sherlock thought.
"So, did you see the new volunteer girl?" Sherlock asked once the room was clear. "Irene Adler. She's French, Watson; you know what that means."
"That I can expect you to find new and exciting ways of embarrassing yourself in the coming months?" Watson said, putting away the gauze.
"My God, you're not even married yet and you're already turning into old Yehezkel," Sherlock said with disgust.
"So," Watson said, sitting down behind his desk. "Have you quit your job at the chicken coop – again – or did Hadas actually authorize you to lounge around my infirmary thirty minutes into your shift?"
"So, why does he call you Sherlock?" Irene said, slurring her Rs in a pretty standard French accent, sitting across from Sherlock and Watson in the dining room.
"Because that's his name," Watson said, choking on the last syllable as Sherlock elbowed him in the ribs.
"Why don't you tell us more about yourself," Sherlock said, smiling. "How do you like working at the byre?" He put on his interested expression which Watson knew to mean keep-talking-while-I-analyze-everything-a
Irene didn't seem to be buying it either. "The cows smell, but I like the company." She shrugged. "Where do you work again? I haven't seen you working in the fields--"
And that was when they were interrupted by Clarky, landing, hurricane-like, in the chair next to Irene's. "Did you guys hear yet?" His hair was messy and his eyes wide. It made Watson remember how he'd first got nicknamed Clarky – caught reading a Superman comic, with one hand down his pants. "The night watchman at the avocado grove collapsed. They've got him stable now," he said, reacting to Watson's worried expression. "But he swears he saw a ghost riding a horse through the grove last night."
Sherlock and Watson exchanged looks.
"Guys, it was Ben Gurion's ghost!" Clarky said.
"I can not believe you dragged me out here in the middle of the night to literally watch trees grow," Watson said, fidgeting in an attempt to make himself more comfortable on the hard earth under his stomach. "What would Ben Gurion's ghost even be doing here? If anything, he'd haunt Be'er Sheba."
"I see your point," Sherlock said. "But somehow I don't see incorporeal beings being put off by a trip of less than a hundred kilometers."
Watson rolled his eyes. "You don't really think it was a ghost." He turned to lie on his back. "I could be stargazing with Miriam right now," he sighed. "Or drinking tea in her room."
"If that's all you're missing out on you might as well spend the night here and he useful," Sherlock said.
"The night?" Watson exclaimed.
"God," Sherlock sighed, "Sometimes you make me forget which one of us served as a medic in a combat unit."
"Well, if you ever deigned to tell anyone what your job in the military actually was you might avoid all this confusion inside your own head," Watson supplied helpfully.
"Shh," Sherlock whispered and suddenly Watson could also hear noises coming from the nearby trees.
Sherlock's hand reached out to his, grabbing his fingers, ready to squeeze – indicating a need for rapid action – at the first sign of trouble. They both kept their eyes focused on the paths between the trees, faintly illuminated by moonlight.
"Sherlock, is that you?" came an incredulous voice with an unmistakable accent.
"Woman, what are you doing here!" Sherlock whispered loudly.
"Shh, you'll scare away the ghost!" Watson said.
Sherlock glared at him while Irene came closer and crouched next to them, in the dark. "So, have you found anything?" she asked.
"Like what?" Sherlock coughed, in what Watson took to be a particularly ineffective attempt at being inconspicuous.
It was Irene's turn to roll her eyes. "Like evidence of what this nonsense is all about."
"We're just here…" Sherlock contemplated for a moment, utterly dooming any explanation he might have come up with in the process.
Irene raised an eyebrow and, looking from Sherlock lying on the ground to Watson lying next to him, said, "Ghost-sighting?"
The way she said it made Watson think she hadn't meant ghost-sighting at all.
Some time around two a.m. they heard a different kind of noise. At first it sounded like something loud happening far away – like the sound of an engine. And then, out of the darkness, a figure began advancing at them. It passed through the trees, taking seemingly random turns, and with every second all three of them could see more and more clearly that it was a man sitting atop a horse.
Irene lifted up her head, about to call out to it but Sherlock put a hand over her mouth, which made her hit him over the head, indignantly. And then the grove was filled with sound.
It was Ben Gurion's voice all right. Telling them all to be vigilant and proud, to stand up for their country when the occasion called for it and ignore any and all hurdles in their path. And also to keep out of the avocado grove under pain of death.
The vision was gone in less than twenty minutes, according to Watson's watch, but after the experience Watson could safely say he understood why the night watchman – an old man with a bad heart – had collapsed at the sight.
They waited for about twenty minutes, silent, not daring to look away from the trees or make noise, and then Sherlock was suddenly up, sprinting into the darkness of the grove and returning a few moments later, slightly out of breath.
"What was that?" Irene demanded.
"Nothing," Sherlock said, rubbing the spot on the back of his head where Irene had hit him. "Come on, let's go back. I don't think we'll see anything more tonight."
"Why is it you turn into a complete idiot around that woman?" Watson pondered out loud the next morning. "I mean, you're not usually particularly suave – you like being right too much to be charming – but I've never seen you lose your wits like you do around her."
"Shut up," Sherlock said grimly, picking up another egg and putting it into his sack.
"The Head of the Kibbutz wants to see you," Hadas said from behind them.
"I'll come with you," Watson said. "Miriam won't be done at the kindergarten for another hour."
It turned out Lestrade – it was the Head of the Kibbutz's original surname, which Sherlock had managed to dig up somehow, and he delighted in calling him by it behind his back so much that it became Watson's name for him as well – wanted to speak to Sherlock about his poor work ethics. It was hardly surprising; Sherlock had a habit of staying up half the night working on some new experiment or research project in his room and demolishing his alarm clock in favor of waking up in the morning.
"Yes, absolutely, I'll try to do better," Sherlock said in the most disingenuous voice Watson had ever heard him employ.
Lestrade took this about as well as could be expected. Sometimes Watson forgot he wasn't a total idiot. "Yes, well, Shlomi, perhaps if you made a real commitment for once in your life," he said.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Sherlock asked with an icy calm.
"You know I don't listen to gossip, Shlomi," the man leaned back in his chair, crossing his arms. "But it's a well known fact some people just have a hard time fitting into a structured environment."
Hearing people allude to the rumor that Sherlock had never spent any time in the IDF but instead spent three years waiting tables and living in a commune in Tel Aviv made Watson's face flare up with anger. Someone in the Kibbutz must have started the rumor – it was easy to propagate since Sherlock's military service was largely a mystery even to Watson himself – but he couldn't imagine who'd be despicable enough for such a low blow. It didn't help his impression of Lestrade, to hear him viciously try to sneak it into a discussion like this.
Sherlock, however, remained perfectly calm, already accustomed to dealing with such insinuations. It made Watson want to put his fist through something solid.
After the end of Sherlock's shift they picked up Miriam and went to the pool. Watson kissed Miriam on the cheek before they parted.
"Did you remember to bring your slippers, Yoni?" she said.
Sherlock nearly rolled his eyes but Watson only smiled and said, "Of course I did, sweetheart."
"Come on, let's go see if the holes in the walls of the girls' changing room are still there," Sherlock said once they were alone.
"You are unbelievable!" Watson said walking into the men's changing room. "I'm not going to spy on Miriam and her friends!"
"Oh please," Sherlock said, "You were the one who helped me drill them in the first place."
"Yes, Sherlock, some of us grow up," Watson said, taking off his shirt and hanging it on the wall.
"Some of us become old and boring before our time," Sherlock corrected, taking off his shorts.
Once they were about to put on their bathing suits they heard a quiet whistle coming from somewhere outside followed by a frantic "Shut up!"
Sherlock crouched down and examined the wall, sticking his finger in a tiny hole Watson hadn't noticed before.
"That was Irene's voice we just heard, wasn't it?" Watson said, struck by the realization.
"You've got to be kidding me," Sherlock moaned.
"I don't understand," Watson said the following afternoon over lunch at the dinning hall. "What does this tell us, exactly?"
Sherlock ran his fingers along the sharp edges of the broken piece of mirror. "This tells us we're either dealing with a very narcissistic ghost or a very clever set-up."
"That involves character defamation of one of the nation's greatest heroes and makeup accessories?" Watson said, putting another forkful of mashed potatoes in his mouth.
"Not quite," Sherlock said. "But you're definitely on the right track." He pocketed the reflective shard.
Sometime after midnight Sherlock managed to catch Irene Adler in the act of trying to pick the lock to his door. He'd really been hoping his theory would prove itself false.
"Looking for this?" He pulled out the piece of the mirror he found laying in the grove after the departure of the ghost.
She looked confused. "Uh, no."
"Of course not," he put the shard on the bedside table. "I suppose you're going to tell me the pocket mirror you always carry with you is undamaged."
"It fractured a few days ago," she said with increased annoyance. "Which is why I don't carry it anymore. But even if it had broken, why would I look for pieces of it here, in the middle of the night?"
Sherlock blinked. "Why did you come here, exactly?"
Her eyes narrowed. "You think I'm behind the business with the ghost, don't you? What, did you think I came to steal back some kind of evidence?"
"Well why else would you be sneaking into my room after midnight!"
"Goodbye," she said, shutting the door loudly.
Sherlock swallowed and decided to go see Watson immediately.
"This narrows it down to only one suspect," he told Watson once Watson was done cursing him out and attempting to kick him back out into the street.
"I'm sure I'll find your conclusions riveting," Watson said, suppressing a yawn.
"I think this is the work of our favorite hooligan," Sherlock said.
Watson couldn't remember a time when Sherlock and David Etz had gotten along. Watson had of course known David since childhood – everyone had started calling him Black after he introduced Blackjack and popularized it at the Children's House. He'd always been one of the kids who very few people liked but who managed to fool the adults into thinking he was well-adjusted. He and Sherlock had never cared much for one another; they'd even gotten into a fistfight one memorable Passover Seder when they were all on leave from the military.
"I don't know," Watson said. "Do you really think Black would be capable of something like this?"
"It can't be anyone else. Only he has motive, opportunity, and means."
Watson sighed. It all made very little sense to him, but then Sherlock's reasoning often did and he always turned out to be right in the end. "You know, Miriam's best friend volunteered for the Mossad during her service, and I know more about her time in the military than I do about yours."
Sherlock took him to the grove again, this time avoiding the ghost's usual route.
"Come on," he said, leading the way to the fields located behind the grove. As they stepped beyond the line of trees, Watson realized the loud sound they'd heard that first night had indeed been a motor – the sound of one of the Kibbutz's tractors driving away into the fields.
"So you see," Sherlock said, putting the files in front of Lestrade's nose. "It was Black all along. He's been dealing drugs for months now. He must have found a chance to supply to a more serious buyer, which is why he had to steal the tractor and drive to the edges of the Kibbutz's territory to set up a meeting." He flipped a few pages until he found the relevant material. "He couldn't do it without someone noticing, and walking all that way would have taken him too long – someone would have suspected if he'd been spotted coming back from the fields at dawn. So, he orchestrated the ruse with the ghost, trusting it to distract the watchman, while also trusting everyone at the Kibbutz to be dismissive of it." He closed the files and smiled, smugly. "It's why he made that recording – pasting together bits of Ben Gurion's speeches – to drown out the sound of the engine."
Lestrade wrinkled his nose and shifted his glance from Watson to Sherlock to Irene.
"How did you say you found his marijuana stash?" Lestrade asked.
Irene coughed, clearing her throat. "I happened to notice it when I was visiting his room."
"You're telling me he kept it right there, in plain sight, when he invited you to come over?"
"Really," Sherlock said blithely, "If you're not going to do anything about it I might as well call the police myself. I'm sure they'll have fewer questions for us and a few more questions for David Etz."
"So you see," Sherlock said, "I found the piece of broken mirror in the grove that day and assumed it was yours. But really it was part of the rig they used to set up the ghost and intensify the light from the projectors."
"Apology accepted," Irene said, standing at the bus station outside the Kibbutz with a pile of packed bags. "But I still don't understand," she turned to look at Watson, "why he calls you Watson?"
"It used to be my nickname in the military," Watson explained. "One of the Russian guys in my unit couldn't pronounce my real last name, and it stuck." He gave Sherlock a stern look. "I'm pretty sure he only insists on calling me that to annoy me; we never spent so much as one day serving together."
"And you," Irene said. "Why do you call him Sherlock?"
"It's his real name," Watson grinned.
"Must we?" Sherlock scowled at him.
"You know he wasn't born here?" Watson said. "His parents made aliyah after his birth and then moved to the Kibbutz right before he was about to be drafted--"
"And they refused to change my name legally to something less European sounding and so I grew up an outsider among my peers, the end," Sherlock said in a rush. "Let's talk about your hobbies, Irene! Anything you like to do in your spare time? Cooking? Knitting? Herding goats?"
"Well," she said, amused, "I used to play the violin back home. I kind of miss it."
"Oh, what a coincidence!" Watson grinned again. "Sherlock also has a certain skill with--"
"Watson I would urge you to consider your words carefully," Sherlock said with a menacing glare.
"What!" Watson said. "I was only going to tell her about how beautifully you played that one year when they convinced you to participate in the Independence Day ceremony for the children--"
"Really," Sherlock interrupted him. "My hatred for you knows no bounds."
"You can come visit, if you want," Irene said, getting on the bus. "I mean…" For the first time since Watson had met her she seemed unsure of how to phrase her words – which was odd considering she was a relatively recent immigrant who wasn't even fluent in Hebrew. "It's not that far. Maybe an hour on the bus, to my new placement," she said. "I feel like we should get to know each other a little better, oui?"
"Do you think she was talking about my detective work?" Sherlock said after the bus pulled away.
"What, that one? I honestly don't know," Watson said.
This story came about as a result of Miarr, toxic_hedgehog and I sitting at a coffee shop one evening and talking about Sherlock Holmes.
Me: but you know what really needs to happen? A Sherlock Holmes Kibbutz AU. *watches horrified faces* He could work at the byre!
Miarr (who actually works at the byre in a kibbutz): Why is it always the byre with you! There are other things people do at the kibbutz, you know!
And so a monster was born. An hour later we had the plot and some of the jokes figured out. Miarr provided all the relevant kibbutz content because wow I am a city dweller and an immigrant and my knowledge of kibbutz life pre-Miarr (who is both a kibbutz resident and the child of kibbutz residents) was probably not more significant than yours.
So, cultural notes in case you somehow stumbled onto this thing and kept reading all the way to this point without having a clue about what the hell goes on in a kibbutz.
1. A kibbutz is a form of agricultural community which was created in Israel at the beginning of the 20th century and was largely founded on socialist ideals. Some of these included equal distribution of labor between all members of the kibbutz and between men and women, communal life and an equal distribution of wealth among all members. The wiki entry is a wonderful place to start for information on the subject. It's important to note though, that the things described here do not apply to the modern kibbutz; it's a structure that very much exists in Israel to this day but has undergone great changes in the last 20 years.
2. Children's Home - in the classic kibbutz set-up (which was largely abolished about 20 years ago) children were, pretty much from birth, housed in a special communal house for child rearing. They would see their parents for a few hours (or sometimes less) a day, in the afternoon or evening, sometimes at the parents' home and sometimes at the Children's Home. This freed both parents to work full time and was considered good socialization for the children. Much literature, research and media exists the topic of growing up in Children's Homes. Some adults had a very happy childhood, some had a miserable one.
3. Military service - part of the values of kibbutz dwellers, since the kibbutz was basically the cradle of early Zionism in Israel, is unwavering patriotism and (strictly secular) Zionism. In the 80s, military service meant a great deal to kibbutz residents – and was generally a marker of various social positions in Israel – and the thought of someone evading their mandatory service on purpose was pretty much the worst black mark imaginable for a person's character.
4. Names - for most of the 20th century large groups of European Jews in Israel changed their names and, most importantly, last names to Hebrew ones when they immigrated to Israel. Most of the Ashkenazi Jews in Israel today with 3-5 letter surnames are the product of this trend. At various times – and especially in kibbutzes – it was considered shameful to have a European, unpatriotic sounding first or last name, hence all the endless teasing and angst over these issues in this story.
5. In the original/Hebrew version of this story, Ben Gurion would was Alexander Zaid, Irene was Irena, the Russian volunteer, as Russians were a more significant group doing this sort of stuff, then. Poor word games/name changes on my part include: Hadas standing in for Mrs Hudson, Miriam for Mary and, the most difficult to figure out: David Etz for Blackwood, "etz" being the Hebrew word for wood. Finally, the peeping scene at the pool is an homage to Bourekas films that regularly featured this trope as part of Israeli adolescence.
This was tremendous fun to write, and I would like to thank everyone who participated and indulged this bit cracky crackness.