The first time it happens Detective Bell thought it was because Sherlock Holmes was being his usual weird self.
"You know, you’re not as bad as the others," Holmes says to him at a crime scene (theft of a rare Monet — painting was found in the janitor’s closet)
Bell looks over at him. Holmes — as usual, looks twitchy, he always vibrates with nervous energy and seems to be one step from leaping out of his skin. “Uh. Thanks. I think,” he replies.
Holmes looks like he wants to say something more, but Watson calls him over, which leaves Bell feeling slightly relieved. After all, it can be exhausting trying to figure out what the hell is going on in the head of Sherlock Holmes.
Two weeks later, at the scene of a bank robbery, Bell shares some of his observations regarding the crime scene with Holmes. For a moment, Holmes looks positively pleased that Bell has picked up some of his techniques.
"Astounding," Holmes says, sounding like a teacher to a student, "A good observation, but wrong. If you observe the ragged cut lines of the gag, it’s a left-handed person trying to use right-handed scissors. Everything else is so neat and precise, so why is this cut ragged?"
Inwardly, Bell sighs to himself. Of course he would be cut down by Holmes and miss something.
Then there’s the third time. Holmes has burst out of a meeting with Lieutenant Gregson, bristling with energy and manic cheer when he stops by Bell’s desk.
"I have to commend you Detective Bell," Holmes says, waving his arms around in an attempt to be friendly — Bell’s seen this before with Watson and it never fails to make him laugh. "Without your assistance this case would have taken much longer to solve. Clearly you’re one of the best in a bad lot."
"Uh, thanks," Bell says, as he watches Holmes shuffle off towards the elevators. It’s not clear whether or not Holmes hears him, but Bell suspects that doesn’t matter.
Of course it would be Watson who figures it out before Bell does.
"He’s showing off," Watson says as the two sip their coffee. The coffee is after questioning a suspect and Holmes has again ripped into another detective, whose was addressed as "Not Bell."
Bell blinks, “What are you talking about?”
"He’s showing off," Watson turns her gaze to him. "He likes you. It’s like his way of trying to get you to like him, but he’s horrible at human interaction so all he can do is these weird compliments that sound like insults, but really aren’t."
"I didn’t —" Bell begins. "And I didn’t think he swung that way."
Watson laughs into her coffee. “Given what I’ve seen at times, he swings all sorts of ways — like a tetherball in a hurricane.”
Before Bell can respond, Holmes has called Watson over and the two of them race towards a crime scene, leaving Bell thoughtful.
"WATSON!" Holmes’ voice rings throughout the brownstone.
Watson sits up from the couch where she was napping and blinks for a moment. Holmes is standing before her, bristling with confused energy and holding a box in his hands. It's been a week without a case and Holmes is getting itchy, pacing around the brownstone, muttering, the usual signs that his brain needs some stimulation outside of the mundane scanning of the police scanner.
"What is the meaning of this?" he thrusts the envelope under her nose and she stares at it. Inside is a ticket to the Staten Island Ferry and a note.
Catch me if you can
Watson grins. She knows instantly who it is, despite Holmes’ blathering on about the quality of paper, where the envelope was mailed from and other things. She also knows Holmes can’t resist the challenge Bell has thrown down for him.
"Well," she says finally, settling back. "I suspect you have a mystery on your hands."
"You’re not accompanying me?" Holmes looks surprised.
Watson flops back down on the couch, failing to hide her smile. “I suspect whoever wants you to catch them doesn’t want me accompanying you.”
Dawn breaks on Marblehead. Holmes instantly understands the meaning behind Watson’s words and races out the door without a word.
"Have fun and say Hi for me!" Watson says, before giggling into a pillow.