It was a Thursday evening and Detective Marcus Bell was at Sherlock Holmes' door. Marcus tried to knock on the door, but the door dodged. Or, more accurately, it was pulled open by Holmes, who almost got knocked in the face.
"Bell, what a pleasure." Holmes slid around Marcus' fist and then all the way around Marcus, until he was standing on the sidewalk. "I'm afraid I'm busy, must dash."
"Hey, this is important," said Marcus. "I've got a car thief targeting police vehicles, and we need you to-" he stopped talking, because Holmes was already half a block away.
"I'm late!" called Holmes, walking backwards. "You'll have to discuss it with my associate."
"Your associate, huh," muttered Marcus. "I know who Watson is, thanks." He looked at the open door, and then awkwardly knocked on it. "Hey, Joan?"
"She's out," said some guy. Marcus walked into the house, so that he could see a man in a tan puffy vest, sitting on the couch and sipping a mug of tea. "Want to leave a message?"
Marcus rubbed the back of his head. "I'm good. Where was Holmes hurrying off to?"
"Somewhere not here." The man shrugged. "I asked him a personal question, think I touched a nerve."
Marcus sighed. "You'd think he could hurry off to the precinct with me, then. Sorry, Detective Marcus Bell. Holmes works with me sometimes."
The man held out a hand. "Alfredo Llamosa. I'm Sherlock's- friend." Alfredo's hand was warm and dry, and he gave Marcus a tiny smile. "What did you need help with?"
"Just an annoying case," said Marcus. "I don't suppose you know anything about car jacking."
Alfredo's smile got wider.
About two hours later, Marcus was wondering if he should thank Alfredo or arrest him. Man knew just a little too much about breaking into cars, hot-wiring them, and then fencing them.
"Don't look at me like that," said Alfredo, elbow-deep in a recovered car.
"I'm not looking at you like anything," said Marcus. "What did you say you do for a living?"
"I consult for vehicle security companies." Alfredo held up a pair of cut wires. "Look at this. Your boy's an amateur."
"Yeah?" Marcus squinted at the wires. "How can you tell?"
"I mean, the obvious thing is that all of the cars that were recovered don't have any paint on them," said Alfredo. "Can't sell a stolen cop car that still looks like a cop car. But this thing, with the wires? Someone took this off ask.com or something."
"What's the professional way to steal a car?" Marcus hadn't had much to do with stolen cars since he caught the homicide beat. "How would you do it?"
"I wouldn't, officer," said Alfredo, solemnly. "But if I hypothetically were to do such a thing, I'd use a power drill on the keyhole. Much more efficient, much more likely to work. It's not just a matter of taste."
"Amateurs." Marcus pursed his lips. "You're telling me I should be looking for joy-riders instead of thieves."
"More or less." Alfredo slid out of the driver's seat and leaned back against the car next to Marcus. He was a lot taller than Marcus - okay, most every guy was a lot taller than Marcus, but Alfredo carried it off well.
Alfredo adjusted his ballcap, and Marcus realized he was staring. He looked down quickly to jot some nonsense in his notebook.
"So," said Alfredo. "What do I get for helping the police in their inquiries?"
"Handshake," said Marcus, not looking up from his notes. "A thank you card."
"Seriously?" Alfredo nudged Marcus' shoulder. "I bet Sherlock gets a fat paycheck when he consults with you guys."
"All pro bono," said Marcus. "I'll make it a really nice thank you card, just for you."
Alfredo chuckled, and offered his hand for a shake.
At midnight, Marcus was standing on the other side of a one-way mirror, watching a kid sweat in the interview room. Jimmy Dulles. Picked up for vandalism two weeks ago, again last week, and then for attempted car theft three days ago. Everything dropped when the victims decided not to press charges, but Jimmy was getting annoyed with New York's Finest. Three days ago, he'd walked out of holding and into the parking lot, where Marcus was pretty sure he'd gone for the only cop car not directly visible from a security camera.
There weren't any fingerprints in the cars, but there were a couple strands of hair. Now that Marcus had Dulles, they just had to wait for some tests to come back.
Marcus' phone buzzed. He answered it, not looking away from Dulles.
"Detective Bell," said Holmes. "I've completed my errands. Are you still in need of my assistance?"
"I've actually got it from here," said Marcus, smiling at one-way mirror. "You have a good evening."
There was a slightly surprised silence on the other end of the line, and then Holmes hung up.
An officer knocked on the door and beckoned. Marcus went to go get his evidence.
The next day, Marcus went grocery shopping before his shift started. He was half-way to cash registers when he passed the tiny card aisle and he remembered.
"Thought I was joking," he muttered to himself, but he grabbed a pastel-purple thank-you card with a couple kittens on the front.
He took it out again after he put his groceries away at home, and thought pretty hard about what he should put in it. 'Thanks!' was already in there, in large comic sans type. Marcus scribbled 'caught him' and signed it, and then wrote his phone number below, just in case Alfredo needed to contact him. If something came up.
Watson answered the door at Holmes' place.
"Hi, come in," she said. "Something up?"
"I'm actually just dropping something off." Marcus held up the card in its envelope. "You know Alfredo Llamosa, friend of Sherlock's? Can you get this to him?"
"Of course," said Watson. "I didn't know you had met. Are you-"
"Detective Bell!" Holmes appeared behind Watson's shoulder. "Is there a case? What can we help you with?"
"You can help Joan deliver that," said Marcus, handing the envelope to Watson. "Thanks."
"What is it?" hissed Holmes, when he probably thought Marcus was out of hearing range. "Coded messages? Have we become a dead drop?"
"Yeah, spies communicate through Hallmark envelopes," said Watson. "Here, give it to Alfredo when you meet him tonight. And don't steam it open."
"You wound me," said Holmes. "I would never invade a friend's privacy like that. Also, that's a self-adhesive envelope, it's almost impossible to-"
Marcus got into his car, smiling to himself. He was pretty sure Alfredo would get the envelope, even if Holmes spent the rest of the week speculating about it.
Alfredo texted that night, said 'cute card, man' and 'glad it worked out.' Marcus grinned and saved the number to his phone. Just in case something came up.
On Tuesday afternoon Marcus was back at Holmes' door. He knocked. And knocked. He wouldn't have to do this if Holmes would just answer his damn phone. He knocked again.
Then Marcus noticed the shiny new doorbell. He rang it, just to see what happened.
What happened was a silence, followed by a muffled click-click-click and then a very tall, very elegant woman gently opening the door.
Make that a 'lady.' She was definitely a lady.
"Is Holmes at home?" asked Marcus.
The lady smiled at him. "That rhymed. No, I'm afraid he went out with Joan. Something about a book on beekeeping and a German smuggling ring."
"Yeah, that sounds about right," said Marcus. "All right. If you could let him know I stopped by, that would be great. Detective Marcus Bell."
"Oh, I've heard about you." The lady opened the door a little wider. "You're the only detective Sherlock knows by name. Why were you calling?"
"It's sort of a complicated story." Marcus rubbed the back of his neck. "I've got a man and a woman down at the precinct, and the man wants the woman arrested for trying to sell him a forged Greek manuscript. The woman says it's not forged, and she's got three certificates from antiques dealers to back her up. The man says the manuscript is riddled with typos and definitely isn't real." Marcus felt like he was rambling, but the lady nodded along and her eyes widened a little with interest. "I figured I just needed someone else who could read ancient Greek, but it turns out there's the conference in Michigan-"
"Right, the Theory in Ancient Greek Archaeology conference," said the lady. "I was so sorry I couldn't go."
"Yeah, apparently all the Greek-knowing academics in New York cleared out for it." Marcus sighed. "I thought maybe Holmes would know Greek, since he knows everything else-" Marcus paused while his thoughts caught up with him. "You were planning to go to that conference?"
"I'm actually an expert on Ancient Greek." The lady offered her hand. "I'm Ms. Hudson." She looked Marcus up and down, and then smiled. "Martha Hudson. I'm Sherlock's housekeeper."
"His housekeeper is an expert on Ancient Greek?" Marcus took Martha's hand a little awkwardly, because he wasn't sure whether to shake it or kiss it. She was just having that kind of effect on him.
Martha laughed. "It's a part-time job. Would you like me to help? Let me just get my coat."
"Wow," said Marcus, as Martha clicked back into the hall. "Uh, yes. Thanks." He tried to think of something more coherent to say, but all he could come up with was "wow" again.
When Martha returned, Marcus offered his arm and opened the passenger's door of his car for her, because absolutely nothing was too good for his serendipitous Greek expert.
Martha looked at the manuscript for a while, and then said that the misspellings were probably contemporary mistakes.
"It's not contamination from English or another modern language, like you'd expect from a forgery," she explained. "They're phonetic misspellings. No such thing as spell-check back then."
"I'm still pressing charges," said the angry man, who was named Mr. Baxter.
"I'll put that in the file," said Marcus. "Ms Hudson, you can return the manuscript to its owner."
"I am never selling antiques on Craigslist again," said the woman - Mrs. Hua. She took the manuscript in her neatly-manicured hands. Marcus had asked why she wasn't wearing gloves when she came in, which started a ten-minute lecture on why gloves were actually bad for manuscripts.
"Mr. Baxter, I'll let you know if anything comes to light," said Marcus. It was diplomatic code for 'it's lunchtime, please bounce.' Mr. Baxter bounced, grumbling all the while.
"I assume that if Sherlock was here," said Martha, "that he would have deduced that Baxter is a serial-litterer and Mrs. Hua is selling her artifacts to pay off gambling debts."
"And he would have pissed everyone off instead of charming them," said Marcus. "I'm glad you were able to help."
"Charming?" Martha laughed (charmingly). "Mr. Baxter doesn't think so."
Marcus started to say something corny and bit his lip to stop. Keep it together, don't embarrass yourself. "Can I buy you a coffee?" he asked. "As a thank you."
"I'm afraid I don't drink coffee," said Martha. "Tea is better, but-" she glanced at her watch, then back up. "I'm actually late for an appointment, so-"
"Right, of course." Marcus tried not to let any disappointment show on his face - it's not like Martha owed him anything. It was exactly the opposite. He shuffled some papers. "Don't let me hold you up."
Martha touched Marcus' arm gently, startling him. "It's not just an excuse," she said. "Raincheck?"
Marcus beamed at her. Martha grinned back, and then picked up her purse and clicked away. She was already very tall, and the 4-inch heels made her taller, and she was smart and funny and-
Marcus knew he had a type, but at least it was a good type.
"Christ," muttered Detective Diaz, who sat at the next desk. "Put your eyes back in your head, Bell."
"What's a good kind of tea?" asked Marcus, looking down at his desk as Martha rounded the corner.
"Google it," said Diaz, shielding herself behind a case file.
Holmes took the small box of fancy peppermint tea like it was a bomb.
"Can you just give that to Martha?" asked Marcus.
"Martha?" Holmes fidgeted, like he always did, but this time it looked like he was trying to surreptitiously rattle the box.
"Ms. Hudson," said Marcus. "Your housekeeper?"
"Ms. Hudson has a first name?" Holmes actually sniffed the box.
"It's just tea, Holmes."
"I find it disturbing that you are forging relationships with my inner circle for reasons unknown," said Holmes. "You have ulterior motives."
Marcus took a second to parse that out, and then another second to figure out what to say. "Yeah, I guess," he admitted, finally. "My ulterior motive is that your friends are hot, Holmes."
"Oh, really?" Holmes' eyes narrowed. "I'll be sure to pass that along to Martha."
"Hey, don't-" said Marcus, but Holmes was already shutting the door.
"You never bring me anything anymore, Detective," Holmes called through the narrowing crack. "A good bank robbery would not go amiss!"
Holmes pulled the door shut.
"Ask if I can have her phone number!" shouted Marcus, at the closed door. It was not his most dignified moment.
A Friday night a week later, Marcus was at Holmes' door again. Holmes actually looked happy to see him.
"Ah, Bell," said Holmes. "Just the man I wanted. Has there been a murder? Arson? Aggravated assault?"
"I got a Facebook invite," said Marcus. "Some kind of party happening."
Holmes made a face. "Yes," he allowed. "There is... a cocktail party. Being perpetrated in my home."
"Sounds fun," said Marcus. "I brought wine." He held the bottle up for Holmes' inspection, but Holmes didn't look.
"Are you certain there isn't a murder?" Holmes whined.
"Oh my god, let him in," said Watson, pushing Holmes away from the door. "Hi, Marcus, let me take your coat."
Marcus pushed the wine into Holmes' hands so that he could shrug off the coat. Holmes finally looked at the label and made a dismissive noise.
"Be nice," said Watson, putting Marcus' coat on a hanger.
"This wine has enough acid in it to etch the glassware," said Holmes. "Where did you obtain this?"
"Liquor store," said Marcus. "It was recommended."
"The shop attendants swindled you." Holmes shook the bottle a little, frowning.
"You don't know anything about wine." Watson snatched the bottle away from him. "Don't shake it."
"Shaking is an unorthodox but fruitful method of decanting wine," said Holmes. "I exclude no useful knowledge from my brain, Watson. I might not indulge in the pleasures of the vine, but I am certainly aware of the eccentricities of wine and wine-makers."
"Should I take off my shoes?" asked Marcus.
Holmes and Watson hesitated, obviously having to redirect from argument-mode to host-mode.
"It's fine," said Watson, just a little quicker than Holmes said "if you wouldn't mind." Watson raised an eyebrow. Holmes shrugged.
Marcus sighed and took his shoes off.
"Let me introduce you to some people," said Watson, when he was done. She steered Marcus away from Holmes. "We can put your wine on the bar, and get you some appetizers - do you have any allergies? Carrie brought chicken satay, and it's delicious, but it does have peanuts. And chicken, obviously."
"I'll eat anything," said Marcus, which resulted in a plate covered in really good food. Joan introduced him to a small circle of people, and he tried to make small talk and eat at the same time. It was only mostly impossible.
After a little while, Marcus realized there were basically two kinds of people at the party. There were Holmes' friends and Watson's friends. Watson's friends were funny, interesting professionals, who all had solid jobs and either the beginnings of a family or some kind of big healthy dog. They were solid, dependable, sort of gossipy people. Holmes' friends, on the other hand, were... useful. Pickpockets, journalists, security guards. They were interesting in a conversation because they had great stories about the last time they were in a police chase (which side of the police chase was usually unclear).
Marcus was slowly realizing that he was definitely one of Holmes' friends. He wasn't sure how he felt about that.
"Marcus, my man." Alfredo emerged from behind a knot of Watson's college roommates' sister's ex-boyfriends. He was wearing the same black ballcap and a new blue puffy vest. "Good to see you again."
"Likewise." Marcus juggled his plate and fork so that he could shake Alfredo's hand. "I've been trying to come up with an excuse to call. Uh, to bring you in as a consultant again."
Alfredo grinned. "You don't need an excuse, just call anytime. Is that stuff chicken?"
"Take it." Marcus offered the plate. "Watson gave me three times as much food as any one person can eat. I was actually about to get something to drink. Want to help me find the bar?"
"I'll assist, but I'm not drinking," said Alfredo.
"Designated driver?" Marcus started pushing his way past assorted doctors and ex-cons and financial executives.
"Sort of." Alfredo hesitated, and Marcus looked back at him. He got the feeling that Alfredo was sizing him up. Marcus raised an eyebrow, playing the 'cool cop who's seen everything twice' card in case it got him anywhere.
"Sherlock doesn't drink," said Alfredo, at last. "But Joan thinks a social life is good for him and Sherlock doesn't like the idea of a tee-total party. I'm just trying to keep an eye on things with a clear head."
"Smart," said Marcus, even though he didn't really understand the 'why' of any of that. "Well, I'd keep you company but I want to try some of the wine I brought, so-"
"Don't torture yourself," said Holmes, who was standing right at the bar. "I'm making you a greyhound. You're not on antidepressants, are you? I know you don't have a citrus allergy."
"No antidepressants," said Marcus. "You mixing drinks?"
"I'm being a good host." Holmes stirred a glass. "Also avoiding conversation with Jennifer Sayles for reasons that I would prefer not to discuss. Here."
Marcus took a sip of the greyhound, which mostly tasted like grapefruit juice and a little salt. It was nice.
"Sherlock!" Martha Hudson waved at them, half-a-head above most of the guests, then clicked toward them surprisingly fast for someone moving through a crowd on platform heels.
She waved at Holmes again when she got close, hugged Alfredo (apparently they knew each other), and kissed Marcus on both cheeks. Marcus tried not to smile too much, but it was hard.
"I loved the tea," said Martha. "I usually drink Darjeeling, but the peppermint was very relaxing. I'm sorry we haven't met since - I've been so busy, you have no idea. Maybe we can do lunch this week?"
"That would be great," said Marcus. One of the guests had turned up the volume on their iPad, and a few people were huddled around it, watching a football game. Someone scored, everyone groaned, and Holmes winced.
"I am sufficiently socialized," declared Holmes. "I am adjourning to the basement, if you would care to join me?"
Marcus glanced at Martha, who shrugged, and Alfredo, who nodded. Marcus grabbed the grapefruit juice and the vodka before following them downstairs.
There was a couch in the basement, which Marcus claimed. Martha and Alfredo sat down on either side of him, and Holmes pulled up an armchair. A couple other people had joined them - an older man that Holmes called Alistair, and a woman in a tube-top that Holmes didn't introduce. Holmes didn't introduce anyone. He just produced a pack of cards.
"Does everyone know how to play pinochle?" asked Holmes.
"No," said Marcus, but he was drowned out by a chorus of yesses.
"Good," said Holmes. "Don't worry, Bell, you and Felicia can sit out this round. Take the opportunity to learn the rules."
Marcus sighed and mixed himself another drink. It figured that one of Holmes' parties would involve learning complicated things.
Pinochle had partners and a weird deck of cards and an auction and then everyone started handing cards to each other. Marcus was completely lost. In the next round they got him to play as Alfredo's partner, but honestly Marcus just sat back and let Martha run his hand for him. She murmured the right bids in his ear, reminded him what a trump was, and stole sips from his cocktail glass. Marcus was actually pretty happy with this. Then everyone swapped partners again - Holmes with Alfredo, Felicia with Martha, Alistair out - and Marcus relaxed back into the couch again, nursing his drink and watching the people more than he was watching the game.
Marcus was getting to be a little buzzed. Adult buzzed, because he was drinking greyhounds instead of natty ice, but still buzzed. And he was sitting between Alfredo and Martha on the couch, and wow, they were really warm and wow, Marcus liked them a lot. He didn't know them very well yet, but he definitely wanted to get to know them better. Martha was laughing at something Alfredo had just said, and Alfredo's arm was draped easily across the back of the sofa, right in position for Marcus to lean his head back on it.
Holmes had looked up from his cards to stare at them in horror.
"Is nothing sacred?" he asked the room at large. "Must all my dearest friends become the subject of incestuous entanglement?"
"Dearest friends, huh?" said Marcus, absently. He'd just noticed that Alfredo had an earring, which was really distracting. "Didn't know you cared."
"Knock it off and make a bid, Sherlock." Alfredo moved a card in his hand. He didn't take his arm away from behind Marcus to do it, just brought his hand up and moved his arm so his bicep and forearm curled around Marcus' head. And he gave Holmes a big smile. Marcus chuckled and patted Alfredo's thigh.
"Thirty," said Holmes. "Well, Ms. Hudson?"
They kept playing, and Marcus kept sinking into the couch. Martha was leaning sideways against him now, her hair brushing his face. Marcus closed his eyes.
When he opened them again, the game was over. Alistair and Felicia were gone, and Watson had taken one of the vacated chairs, slumped back in it with her eyes closed. Martha was chatting with Alfredo and Holmes, and Holmes was waving his arms to help explain something.
"Awake again, sleepyhead?" Alfredo smiled. "We were just wondering what to do with you."
"Sorry," said Marcus. He'd fallen asleep with his head on Alfredo's shoulder, and he wasn't very inclined to move. "Lot of late nights recently."
"Catching criminals and saving the day," said Martha. "Isn't that right, Holmes?"
"Bell is an invaluable ally," said Holmes. "And a pleasure to work with. When he deigns to bring me work."
"You've been busy," said Marcus. "Alfredo and Martha have been picking up your slack. Which reminds me, uh, can I get your phone number?" He tried not to blush, because he was being professional and it suddenly seemed really important to deal with this right now. "In case I need your help with police business. Not for any other reason. I mean, not for personal reasons. Unless you don't mind personal reasons."
"Man, I hope you didn't drive here," said Alfredo. "You are lit, huh?"
"Took the bus." Marcus straightened a little in his seat, which pulled his head off Alfredo's shoulder but pressed him closer to Martha's side, which was a fine trade-off. "'m very responsible."
"Whose phone number did you want?" asked Martha. She was leaning into Marcus, her hands on his shoulder. "You weren't very specific, Mr. Responsible."
"Yours. I've got Alfredo's. Which is good. Alfredo, you're the best. Hey, would you go out with me?"
"Talking to me or talking to Martha?" Alfredo laughed.
"Um." Marcus bit his lip. "Do I have to decide?"
He'd meant it as a joke, but Alfredo looked thoughtful and Martha looked pleased. "I don't think so," she said. "Why should you have to decide?"
"You mean you'd date me?" said Marcus, just to be clear. "Both of you? People can do that?"
"Polyamory isn't exactly a new idea," said Holmes. "Don't act like it's such a shock. Unless vodka makes people gain sexual inhibitions instead of losing them, which seems contraindicated."
"Be nice," mumbled Watson. Marcus could have sworn that she was asleep. Maybe she just said that stuff automatically by now.
"So you did want to call me for personal reasons after all!" Martha chuckled. "Let me get my phone, I'll put you in my address book-" She tried to stand, wobbled on her tall heels, and fell back onto the couch. She was as graceful as a cat who meant to fall all along. "Whoops."
"Tipsy?" Marcus patted her shoulder. "You hide it pretty well."
"Not really," said Holmes. "Her pupils are dilated and her cheeks are flushed."
"All because of you," Martha told Marcus, and winked.
"Because she's been stealing your drinks," clarified Holmes. "After you fell asleep, she finished off the grapefruit juice, with a healthy dose of vodka."
"Anyway," said Martha. "We should go on a date. I know a lovely little bistro." She leaned on Marcus, who leaned on Alfredo.
"How about it?" Marcus asked him.
"I'll dig out my nice vest," said Alfredo. "Yeah, why not? I'll give it a shot."
"You hardly know each other." Holmes jittered in his chair.
"That's why you date," explained Marcus. "To get to know each other."
"You're such a cute couple," said Watson. Her eyes were still closed. "Couples. Trio. What time is it?"
"Time, I think, for bed." Holmes stood up. "You three appear to be the last guests remaining in the building, so I declare this party at an end."
"Oh, yeah, uh." Marcus tried to stand up. "Thanks for a lovely evening. Are the buses still running?"
Alfredo glanced at his watch and whistled. "I'm going to say no. On the other hand, only two hours until they start back up again."
"I drove," said Martha. She made it to her feet this time with minimal trouble. "But-"
"Your car has two seats in the front, and a back seat full of boxes," said Holmes. "And Alfredo would have to drive, and you hate it when other people drive your car."
"It makes it feel odd," said Martha. "I never get the mirror adjusted right."
"Futon," mumbled Watson.
Holmes sighed. "We have," he admitted, "a futon. And several couches. You are welcome to stay."
"I don't know," began Marcus.
"Couldn't impose," said Martha.
"Would that be all right with you?" asked Alfredo, sharply.
Holmes opened his mouth to give a quick answer, and then closed his mouth, thinking about it. Watson straightened up in her chair, rubbing her eyes.
"Yes," said Holmes. "I would be much happier if you stayed instead of waiting at a bus stop for two hours or wedging yourselves into Ms. Hudson's lamentably tiny car. Ms. Hudson's and Detective Bell's state of minor intoxication is not troubling me, and my home is large enough for guests. Alfredo, you shall have to help me retrieve the futon from the second floor. It's a little difficult to maneuver down the stairs."
For the next few minutes, Marcus concentrated on getting himself, a tired Watson, and an unsteady Martha upstairs. At least Martha had taken her shoes off, so she wasn't wobbling almost at all. She was still taller than Marcus.
There were breaks to use the bathroom, and to drink some water (a lot of water), and then to use the bathroom again. Once everything was settled, Holmes and Watson had retreated upstairs, Marcus had decided that sleeping in his khakis wouldn't kill him, and there was a big futon mattress spread out on the living room floor.
Marcus stood in the room with Martha and Alfredo, surveying the options. There was the giant futon, with a couple quilts thrown on it. There was one lumpy couch. There were three people.
"If Martha wants the mattress," said Marcus, "I can-"
"Don't be silly," said Martha. "I'm tired, you're both tired, and we're adults. Let's all take the mattress." She flopped down onto it, then stood up when she realized she had to move the quilts first. Then she flopped again.
Marcus looked at Alfredo. Alfredo shrugged, and flopped.
It didn't take Marcus long to join him. And it didn't take long after that for him to fall asleep, even if he wanted to stay awake to listen to Martha's breathing and Alfredo's little chuckles.
Marcus woke up with light shining in his eyes from the windows. Alfredo was on his left side, with his arm slung over Marcus' hip, and Martha was on his right side, curled up and with her spine gently pressing into Marcus' stomach. Holmes was sitting on the couch above them, glaring.
"We didn't even do anything," croaked Marcus.
"I am not glaring because of sexual escapades which may or may not have taken place in my living room," said Holmes. "These things happen."
"Don't worry, I always put a sheet over the couch first." Holmes rolled his shoulders. "I am glaring because my circle of acquaintances is tightening, becoming more claustrophobic and self-referential. Once, you were three independent and fascinating individuals, each with your own rich lives. Soon you'll be sharing a Facebook profile."
"You know," said Marcus, "not everything's about you. Also, I am never sharing a Facebook profile, that's just asking for a messy breakup. We haven't even had our first date yet."
"You sound like Alfredo," said Holmes. "Perhaps you are suited to each other after all. The three of you."
Marcus smiled. "Alfredo spend a lot of time talking about Facebook?"
Holmes stared at Marcus some more, fidgeting, and then got up abruptly.
"I am making eggs," Holmes announced. "And bacon. You probably have fifteen minutes before I inevitably set off the fire alarm. Watson refuses to let me disconnect it."
"Probably a good idea," murmured Marcus, as Holmes stalked away. He pushed at Alfredo's shoulder. "Hey, Holmes is making breakfast."
Alfredo made a noise like 'grnnnfzt.' Marcus poked at him some more, then gave up and started poking Martha.
Martha woke up fast and then slow, like a morning person who maybe has a bit of a hangover. Her bed-hair was terrifying and impressive. She blinked at Marcus, and smiled.
"Did you actually ask me out? And Alfredo?" Martha propped herself up on one elbow. "Or was that a dream I had?"
"No," said Marcus. "I'm pretty sure that happened."
"Good," said Martha, and leaned in to kiss him.
The kiss was close-mouthed, which was good on two levels: one, they hadn't actually had their date yet, and Marcus wasn't the kind of guy to go around french-kissing all of his crushes. Two, his morning breath was awful and he didn't want to scare Martha away. Okay, third level - the kiss was really good just as a kiss. Martha's lips were soft, and she ran one hand over Marcus' hair as she pulled away.
"Damn," said Alfredo, sounding awed.
"Decide to wake up after all?" asked Martha. She straightened up and reached out to Alfredo, and then they were kissing over Marcus' head, which was a little annoying but a lot hot. It got even less annoying when Alfredo broke away from Martha and gave Marcus a kiss. This one was open-mouthed, and it turned out that Marcus was pretty easily distracted from morning-breath. Beards. Beards were very distracting. Also Martha breathing in his ear.
"So," said Marcus, hoarsely. "How soon can we do that date?"
The fire alarm inevitably went off.
Marcus flinched, because he'd thought he'd made it without a hangover but nope, there it was, jesus. Martha whined a little and clapped her hands over her ears. Alfredo looked like he was trying not to laugh at them.
"Is something on fire again?" yelled Watson, from upstairs.
"I'm cooking bacon!" shouted Holmes. "If you would allow me to disconnect the fire alarm, this wouldn't be a problem!"
"If you wouldn't burn the bacon, you wouldn't need to disconnect the fire alarm!" Watson appeared at the top op the stairs. Her bed-hair was pretty much her normal, perfect hair. Marcus hadn't realized that you could do that.
"I'm not burning, I'm cooking!" Sherlock emerged from the kitchen, waving a spatula. "How many times has there been a deadly fire in this brownstone, Watson? None! How many false alarms have there been? Fifteen!"
"Maybe if you stopped setting things on fire-"
"There's a good diner five blocks east," said Alfredo. "If you want to have that date now."
"I think that's a good idea," said Martha.
"Let me get my shoes," said Marcus.
They got out and onto the street in about five minutes. Marcus tried to say goodbye to Holmes and Watson, but the argument had progressed from bacon to the proper way to scramble eggs and Watson had seized the spatula, so... he would catch them later. Like, after the weekend.
Marcus offered Martha his arm, and Martha took it. Then she grabbed Alfredo's arm, and they walked down the sidewalk like that. It was a good thing that it was early and no one else was walking around, because they were basically talking up all the pavement. Also, Marcus had a silly grin on his face that he couldn't seem to get rid of, and he was pretty sure it would ruin his street cred if anyone saw it.
"I'll write Holmes a thank you card for introducing us," said Marcus. "I'm sure he'll appreciate that."
"Give him one of those pastel kitten cards," said Alfredo. "He'll be as confused as hell. Make it three kittens, at least."
"Oh, definitely," said Martha. "You can tell it's sincere if there are three kittens."
The fire alarm finally stopped when they were halfway down the street.