After a year living with Sherlock, John was used to all kinds of odd things. For example, he didn't even flinch when a disembodied ear was thrust in front of him, followed by a demand that he inspect it for premortem wounds. And finding a jar of blood in the refrigerator hardly even rated a sigh anymore.
But John still blinked when a pad of drawing paper (good quality stuff, he noticed) appeared between him and the television. "Draw the corpse," Sherlock said.
"I'm sorry, what?" he asked, peering around the paper.
"The corpse from yesterday. Don't be purposefully dim."
Giving up on catching the end of Waking the Dead, John stared up at him. "Why?"
"I need to see something."
Rolling his eyes in exactly the way Sherlock always did, John said "I figured that out. Leaving aside why you don't just bother Lestrade to let you see the corpse, I mean, why would you think I could draw it? I assume you don't want a stick figure."
"The callous on the middle finger of your right hand, the way you hold a pen, the way you look at things, it's obvious. Now draw the corpse. Don't leave out the nearby details."
Opening his mouth to refuse, John paused. Then pursing his lips, he looked at the paper. "Fine," he said eventually, taking the paper and a charcoal pencil Sherlock produced out of thin air, laying them on his closed laptop. Then closing his eyes, he tried to bring back his memory of what he had seen, the position of the body, the blood, the arrangement of clothes...
Surpisingly, Sherlock didn't interrupt the process, seemingly willing to wait. John began to sketch, putting in details as they came back to him. When he was done, he grinned, rather impressed by how much he'd remembered.
Sherlock snatched the picture, stared at it for a long moment, then walked away, holding it in his hand.
John stared. "Ooookay." He watched Sherlock's back disappear out the door, then frowned. "Wait a minute. You took a picture of the scene. Why--"
"No time," Sherlock's voice floated up the steps. "I'll be back later."
John turned back to the television just in time to see the credits roll.
John never did get an answer to his questions about the drawing (which disappeared) and eventually he gave up. He'd nearly forgotten about Sherlock's strange request, but a few days later happened to be passing Cass Art on the way to meet Sarah for lunch at a new restaurant she'd found.
He stopped dead in his tracks and pondered the little kit he saw in the window. It wasn't anything special, just a zippered case with paper, a few pencils, sharpener, and eraser, but he couldn't take his eyes off it. His fingers itched to slide it into a jacket pocket and carry it with him.
He took two resolute steps past the shop before faltering. With a sigh, he went in and bought it. Damn Sherlock and his interfering ways anyway.
The first time people caught him drawing them or a crime scene or a boat on the Thames, they gave him a strange look, but everyone quickly became used to it.
Sherlock looked slightly smug when he saw it and John gave him a look that dared him to comment (which Sherlock obeyed for once). But John never went anywhere without the little kit, which he constantly refilled with new paper.
Many of the sketches he tossed when he was done, but a few he stashed away because he was proud of them--Anderson and Donovan arguing always made him grin, while the self-important young artist trying to capture the crowds in Trafalgar Square was good for a laugh.
"Why did you stop drawing?" Sherlock asked abruptly one night from his dramatic sprawl on the couch.
John looked up from his laptop. "I was tired," he said slowly, trying to understand the question.
"Not tonight," Sherlock said, flinging himself upright with such force he should have kept on going until he landed on his face. "Before you returned to England. It had been at least a year, but not longer than three, since you'd used a pencil regularly."
"I didn't have time."
Sherlock snorted and dropped back on the couch. "That's ridiculous."
"What? You think being an army doctor is a life of ease? I--"
"John, don't bother to lie to me, it never works," Sherlock said from behind the arm he'd thrown over his face. "And why won't you draw me?"
"I--" John closed the laptop and scrubbed his face with his hands. "I'm going to bed now." Putting the laptop down with slightly more than the necessary force, he stood and marched toward the steps. He was not going to draw Sherlock. Even if the man was--never mind.
John had never noticed how often Sherlock seemed posed like a model, from his draping across the couch, to the way he entered a room and stood over a corpse as if he expected photographers to appear from the woodwork and snap his picture.
Huffing out an annoyed breath, John went back to looking out the window at the large garden below. It looked abandoned, something children would peer through the fences at and make up stories about, probably involving an evil witch living in the house behind the tall grass and weeds.
Snickering, John reached into his pocket and started to sketch, which meant he wasn't paying any attention when Sherlock appeared behind him and said "Interesting" in his ear as he peered at the half-finished drawing.
Jumping and nearly dropping his pencil, John swallowed a curse. "Are you finished, then?" he asked when he'd reined in his temper.
"It was suicide. Boring."
"Not to the man who killed himself," John said. "Or his friends and family, one presumes."
"Hmmph." But Sherlock didn't argue and allowed himself to be led out of the room without further insulting anyone's intelligence, ancestry, or fashion sense, so that probably counted as a victory.
It probably said a great deal about his life that it was a victory, but there you were.
It took a month before John realized that Sherlock was taking certain of his sketches, either out of the bin or out of his drawer. Apparently he would study them for a few hours, then return them when he was done.
John might not have ever noticed if he hadn't started picking up odd observing habits from Sherlock. At first he assumed his memory was at fault, but eventually realized that the pile in the bin really had been disturbed.
He began to put specific kinds of sketches out, in order to see what Sherlock might be looking for. (It occurred to him briefly that he might simply ask, but the idea was dismissed almost immediately with the assumption Sherlock wouldn't answer.)
The series of flowers was ignored completely, as were most of the animals. For some reason, Sherlock did briefly abscond with the English bulldog John had sketched walking its owner in the park, but that one was returned quickly.
Vehicles were similarly ignored, as was any scenery. It wasn't until John switched to people that he saw results. For some reason, Sherlock was fascinated by the way he drew people. (And he seemed to request that John draw him at least once a week, but the more he asked, the more obstinate John became.)
John slouched in the corner of the pub, nursing his pint and trying to decide what Sherlock could possibly be doing. His drawings were good, he knew that, but they weren't anything special. They weren't high art, they weren't particularly salable, unless he grew desperate enough to try to make a living drawing caricatures in the park...they were perfectly serviceable sketches that John enjoyed making, but no more.
Idly, he pulled out the pad, the pencil lightly tracing across the page as he thought. It took a moment to realize he'd begun to sketch Sherlock. Scowling, he ripped out the page and tore it to shreds. He glanced around the pub for something to distract him and found...oh!
The brunette was definitely worth a second look and John wasn't one to resist. Grinning to himself, he began to draw, only needing an occasional glance to get what he needed. Hair cascaded across perfect shoulders, surrounding a face full of charm and laughter if he was any judge (and he was).
Back in good humor, he tucked the drawing away and headed home. He walked in the door, smiling at Sherlock, but before he could speak, Sherlock had leapt across the room and yanked the kit out of his pocket.
"What the--" John sputtered. He wanted to grab for his drawings but absolutely refused to get into a childish tugging match.
Sherlock ignored him and flipped a few pages until he found the picture of the woman from the pub. He stared at it for a long moment, face absolutely still. Then he carefully closed the book and handed it back to John. "I see," he said.
"Well, I bloody well don't!" John snatched it back. "What the hell is going on?"
"It was...an experiment," Sherlock said.
"An experiment? You're experimenting on me?"
"Not precisely. It's irrelevant." Turning precisely, Sherlock headed into his room.
From experience, John knew he wouldn't get anything sensible out of him now. "I don't understand," he said to the empty room, sitting down abruptly in his chair, drawing kit still in his hand. Opening it, he looked at the drawings. He still couldn't see what Sherlock was looking for, or at.
He flipped absently to an empty page as he thought about his flatmate...his friend. Bloody mad genius, he was, John thought, deep in gloom and annoyance. (A few lines sketched Sherlock's coat flapping behind him like a cloak or cape.) You had to be half-crazy to keep up with him. (An alleyway was represented by some bricks and a dustbin.) Mad as a hatter, but somehow managing to make things right anyway. (Arms and legs moving as he chased some assailant.) Impossible to live with but...well, impossible to live without, wasn't he? (The lines of Sherlock's face, his unique bone structure, curly hair.)
As he drew the final touches, John came back to himself and looked down at the drawing. "Oh!" a voice said from behind him, and John nearly leapt straight in the air.
Sherlock came around the front of the chair, eyes still on the drawing. "I misunderstood."
Slowly, Sherlock took the kit out of his hands and set it on the floor. With infinite care, he leaned forward and took John's face in his hands for a kiss. "This. I misunderstood this," he said when he pulled back.
Sherlock grinned at him.
"Oh, to hell with it." Grabbing his mad, impossible, genius of a flatmate by the shoulders, John yanked him down onto his lap and kissed him to within an inch of his life.
When the kiss ended, John stared at him. "Why didn't you just ask?"
"Because I should have been able to figure it out. And now I have."