"You went for coffee with Lestrade," Sherlock said when John walked in the door, before he'd even had the chance to unwind his scarf or remove his coat.
Sherlock was lying full-length on the sofa, eyes closed, though that didn't necessarily mean anything. He had a trick of sliding his eyelids up an unnoticeable millimeter or two and observing intently through the small window afforded him.
"I did," John said. "How'd you know?"
Sherlock waved a hand airily, rather than give John the rundown of each clue that made his conclusion obvious, which meant that he'd probably been tipped off by Mycroft. "Why were you meeting with him?" Sherlock said instead. "Were you talking about me?"
John burst out laughing; it was such a self-centered question that only someone as shameless as Sherlock would consider asking it. "Very little, actually," he said. "With a great deal of effort, we managed to find a few topics of conversation that didn't revolve around Sherlock Holmes."
"Oh," Sherlock said icily. He swung his legs over the side and stood up. "I see."
John felt the corners of his mouth tug down against his will. "Problem?"
"With your taking up with Lestrade?" Sherlock bit out. "In a word: yes."
Right, no avoiding the argument then. John felt his body tighten with anger, both like and unlike the calm, furious terror he felt under fire. "Okay, first of all, there are reasons for two men to meet up that have nothing to do with sex. Lestrade and I've known each other for near eight months now. Of course we're likely to have become friendly. And, second of all, if I were involved with him, I don't see that it would be any of your concern."
"Would it not?" Sherlock asked, all clipped monosyllables, and for a moment John wanted nothing so badly as to wring his infuriating neck.
"You're the one who suggested an open relationship in the first place," he said indignantly. "Well, I say 'suggested,' when really it was more of an ultimatum. Only now that I'm the one who's found someone else, rather than you, there's a problem?" And, damn, but he hadn't meant to admit to an actual romantic interest in Lestrade. Just because it was true didn't mean that Sherlock's accusations were any more acceptable.
"No, of course not," Sherlock snapped, somewhat unexpectedly. "But I never intended nor desired you to develop a relationship with the very person who'd prompted my request for an open relationship."
Well. That was slightly more forgivable, even if John disagreed. He shrugged. "I like Lestrade. He seems to fancy me in return, which I'm rather pleased about. And, you know, it's not as though I have many options. I spend all my time either with you or at the clinic, and, unsurprisingly, the people I work with have gone off me a bit. That tends to happen when one drops extra work on them by not showing up whenever I--or rather you--please. Makes it a bit hard to meet people."
"So it's my fault that you've begun seeing Lestrade?" Sherlock said.
John shrugged again, more casually than he felt. "Pretty much, yeah." The tension had coiled in his stomach and he felt his hands steady, his pulse slow. There was a clear shot to the target in his sights. He stepped closer to Sherlock and brushed a kiss against his tight jaw. "Look, if you can't stand the thought of it, then break it off with me or with Lestrade--" He could see Sherlock stiffen and pressed on before he could come to the wrong conclusion. "--or, hell, try to persuade Lestrade to dump me. Whatever you want, as long as we're all still friends at the end of it. I've chosen my course of action. Now it's your turn."
Then he turned and left quickly. He wanted to be safely in his room when the adrenaline rush was over and the shakes set in.
Sherlock entered Lestrade's office without knocking; as far as Lestrade could recall, he never had knocked. He finished writing his sentence and then looked up expectantly.
"Donovan said you wanted me," Sherlock said, sounding half-annoyed and half-distantly amused by the notion.
"I do," Lestrade said. "I wanted to ask why you've been messing about with my day planner."
Sherlock scoffed at him. "What possible interest could I have in your planner? Are you certain it wasn't one of your people? Or that you didn't misplace it yourself?"
"It's not misplaced; it's wrong," Lestrade said. He pulled open his top drawer and took out the planner, thumped it down on his desk.
Sherlock's eyebrows raised. "Intriguing," he said in a tone that suggested that it was anything but. "Again, what do I care for your dentist appointments and departmental meetings...other than to be grateful that you're suffering through them rather than I. It's far more likely that any mistakes you've found were created by yourself."
"Mistakes like this one, you mean?" Lestrade flipped open the planner to the following month and pointed to a block of days marked 'John - GP Conference', with lattice shading on either side of the words to indicate additional days. He tapped the first day. "John and I usually go out on Saturday."
"I know," Sherlock said. "Your point?"
"My point is that John's not leaving for his conference until Sunday."
Sherlock shrugged. "It's a difference of a day, and moreover both of them are weekend days. I've no trouble believing that you might make such a mistake without even realizing it."
"Yeah, possibly," Lestrade said. "Except that September 10th is the opening of the Rugby World Cup. There's no way I'd make a mistake about John's availability on that day."
Sherlock and Lestrade stared at each other in silence for a long moment, and then Sherlock said, "Rugby," in a tone of deep disgust.
Lestrade nodded as solemnly as he could. It really wasn't funny...except for how it absolutely was, now that Sherlock had been caught out. "'Fraid so," he said.
"How many inane sports do you follow?" Sherlock demanded in some frustration.
"Oh, lots," Lestrade said truthfully yet somewhat maliciously.
Sherlock rose to his feet with a petulant air, obviously about to leave, and Lestrade reached across the desk to catch his hand. "Don't play us like that again," he said seriously. "I don't like it, and neither will John when I tell him."
"Fine," Sherlock said with expected ill-grace, tugging his hand away. He shut the door behind himself with excessive force when he left. Lestrade, feeling just a bit cleverer than usual, only smiled.
Put things back where you found them.
A rap on the door preceded Lestrade's entrance; John had tried to tell him that it truly wasn't necessary, that he was as welcome to simply walk into their flat as he and Sherlock were, but Lestrade insisted on preserving the social niceties. John trusted that they'd wear him down in time.
"Where's he hid my IDs now?" Lestrade asked. "They still in the kitchen cabinet?"
"That was two months ago," Sherlock said from his supine position on the couch, before John could answer. "Of course I've found a new place for them by now."
Lestrade's expression soured further. "Lovely. Well, where are they?"
Sherlock maintained an obstinate silence. John had to shrug when Lestrade looked at him. "Sorry."
"Not your fault." Lestrade walked nearer the sofa and loomed over Sherlock. "I've requisitioned a new one--this'll be the fourteenth in six years, by the way, for those keeping score. But for now let's talk a little more about lucky number thirteen. I tried to flash it at a witness today, only it wasn't in my pocket, was it? Sally had to conduct all three interviews by herself, and one of the witnesses was a nine year-old girl." John winced inwardly. Donovan was a more than capable interviewer, but uncomfortable with children; Lestrade, with several young nieces and nephews of his own, had no such problems. "So next time just remember that it's not only me you're hurting by stealing my ID. Any cases we mismanage because of it are ones that you'll not get a crack at."
"Perhaps I'm hoping that your incompetence will lead to more cases falling in my lap when you prove unable to solve them," Sherlock suggested.
"You might be, except that I don't think you actually want me sacked, which is what'll happen if you keep this up. My superiors like results, but they like order even more. Don't make them turn on me, Sherlock. We'll neither of us enjoy the results."
John could see the disdain in Sherlock's face, but somehow Sherlock managed to hold his tongue. He pursed his lips and said, "Behind the fireplace screen."
"Thank you," Lestrade said, his voice perfectly sincere; John didn't know how he did it. He put four or five of the IDs in his coat pocket, however, so his sense of self-preservation must have been stronger than his gratitude.
Clean up your own mess.
John walked into the flat and straight into a crime scene, complete with a harried looking Lestrade standing over the explosion of blood on the carpet. There was no sign of Sherlock anywhere, and the part of his mind that was carrying on despite the cold clutch of terror in his chest tried to decide if that were a good or a bad thing. Sherlock wasn't a corpse lying on the floor; that was good. He wasn't there to be helped, treated, saved; that was bad. John's brain wasn't really up for more complex thought than that at the moment.
Lestrade's head snapped up when he heard the door. "It's not human, I think," he said quickly when he saw John's face.
The pressure in John's chest eased slightly. "How can you tell?"
"Bags on the kitchen table. Looks like pig's blood from the butcher's. He's not answering his mobile, though, so I went ahead and phoned his brother. Still waiting on word from him."
Lestrade's voice was brisk, but John could hear the layers of emotion underneath. He forced himself to let go of the death's grip he had on the doorhandle and push it to, then stood close to Lestrade, both of them staring down at the irregular pool of blood. It seemed wrong to hold him, somehow, but their arms pressed together warmly. "You haven't phoned the Met?"
He could see Lestrade shake his head out of the corner of his eye, felt the corresponding jerk of his arm. "Most likely it's just Sherlock being Sherlock, and I can't afford--he can't afford--for me to get a reputation as the boy who cried wolf. Mycroft will let us know if there's immediate cause for concern, and we'll go from there."
"More immediate cause for concern than the fucking pool of blood on our sitting room carpet," John said.
Lestrade made a sound that was almost a laugh. "Yeah, exactly."
Both of their mobiles chirped simultaneously: either Sherlock or Mycroft, then. They fumbled them out together.
Sherlock seen leaving 221B Baker St alone and unharmed 35 min ago.
Please inform if further assistance needed.
John let out a shaky breath and heard Lestrade do the same. "I came home fifteen minutes after that," Lestrade said, "so I'd say we can definitely assume the best until further notice."
John nodded, then turned and pulled Lestrade into a rough hug. "I couldn't earlier," he mumbled somewhat nonsensically against Lestrade's neck, though Lestrade seemed to understand perfectly, given the strength with which he was clutching John in return.
Eventually they let go of each other and moved into the kitchen by unspoken consent; they couldn't touch the blood until it was certain that forensics wouldn't need to examine it, yet John imagined that neither of them wanted to stay in the same room as that unsettling sight, not to mention the smell. Conversely, it seemed wrong to retreat to one of the bedrooms until Sherlock's safety was assured.
"Tea or beer?" John asked. Lestrade hesitated a moment too long, and John nodded in agreement. "Right, both it is." He put the kettle on, took two bottles out of the fridge, and sat down at the table with Lestrade to wait.
One and a half quiet hours later--they'd talked a bit, and then Lestrade had fetched his briefcase and John his laptop--there was the sound of the door and Sherlock blew into the flat. "Oh, excellent," he said, his voice ringing clearly in the sitting room. He glanced in at the kitchen and noted the two of them sitting frozen at the table, then whirled out of sight again. "Wonderful."
"Sherlock!" Lestrade snapped, just before John could.
"Busy," Sherlock called in response.
"No, you bloody aren't, not for the next two minutes. Get in here."
Sherlock appeared again in the doorway, his face drawn in annoyance. "Two minutes," he said. He meant it literally, but John didn't bother checking his watch. Sherlock would know the exact second the time was up, and his pride wouldn't let him cheat.
"When I came home and saw the blood, I thought you or John had been hurt," Lestrade said quickly, precisely. He must have planned his words in between working on his paperwork. For his part, John felt a stab of guilt; he hadn't even thought about the fact that Lestrade would naturally have worried about him as well as Sherlock. He would've been in the clinic when Lestrade arrived at the flat. Lestrade must've phoned there and been told by Sarah that John was just finishing with his last patient.
Sherlock shook his head, the annoyance on his face now warring with his usual look of smug superiority, and Lestrade continued before he could speak, "I saw the butcher's bags on the table, but that might've been an elaborate ruse by someone who likes playing games." No need to mention that someone's name. No reason to trust that there weren't more men with similar sick senses of humor out there.
"You didn't answer your mobile, so I phoned Mycroft." Sherlock grimaced. Lestrade's voice sharpened. "It was over a quarter of an hour before John and I learned that you'd left the flat under your own steam and without any visible injuries, and even then we couldn't be certain that you were all right until you returned home just now."
"That's absurd," Sherlock said dismissively. "Once Mycroft's information had confirmed your theory that--"
"No," John interrupted. "You can't logic us into unconcern, it doesn't work that way. We saw a great deal of blood and thought it might be yours; we worried until we knew beyond a doubt that it wasn't. And if you'd answered your fucking mobile any time in the past two hours then we'd have stopped worrying a lot sooner."
"Two minutes is up," Sherlock said and returned to the sitting room. Neither John nor Lestrade tried to prevent him from leaving.
"The next time you reenact a crime scene in the flat, give us a heads up first," Lestrade said, his voice pitched to carry. "And the instant you're done with it, clean up that fucking, fucking experiment. John and I've stared at it long enough today."
Sherlock didn't answer, which, under the circumstances, was as good as a 'yes.'
Wash your hands before you eat.
"Stop!" John said when Sherlock's hand was only centimeters away from the garlic bread.
Sherlock froze, though he gave John a look that showed how greatly forbearing he was in being obedient.
"Wash your hands first."
Sherlock's expression became even more longsuffering. "I did wash at the morgue," he said. "And when I came home."
"How about after checking on the lungs?" John asked.
Sherlock frowned. "But they're in the oven. Any bacteria will have been neutralized by the high temperatures."
"Anthrax," John said, his tone rather more snappish than he would have liked. Honestly, though; he was going to be eating from that same loaf. As would Lestrade, if he was able to get away from work; he'd put it at a fifty-fifty chance when John had phoned him earlier.
"Anthrax," Sherlock repeated scathingly.
John's back stiffened. "Or any number of other bacteria, all of which I'm happy to discuss with you over dinner, just as soon as you've washed your hands."
"Right. We wouldn't want to catch anthrax," Sherlock said, pushing up his sleeves with an ostentatious air as he walked to the sink.
John sighed inwardly and snagged a piece of garlic bread for himself.
Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody.
Lestrade couldn't breathe for a moment, the blood rushing in his ears, and he thought inanely that at least John would be there to take care of him if he fainted.
He didn't faint, of course. Instead he closed his eyes tightly, willing himself under control, as John said, "Sherlock!"
"What?" Sherlock said petulantly. "It's only the truth." He didn't repeat what he'd said a moment earlier, though Lestrade half-expected him to do so. He couldn't tell if the omission was due to mercy or economy.
Abruptly, he realized that he didn't care. Sherlock and John were still arguing, but he'd stopped listening; he got off the sofa, evading John's outstretched hand and ignoring Sherlock's resolutely folded arms, and retreated to the upstairs bedroom. He toed off his shoes and lay on the slightly musty bed; all three of them slept downstairs now, though Sherlock still crashed on the sofa more often than not.
It was obvious that your suspect had a second rifle. You should have known that you were sending your officer in to die.
Sherlock's words wouldn't leave his head, circling madly, incessantly.
You should have known that you were sending your officer in to die.
You were sending your officer in to die.
The doorknob rattled a bit as it turned; Lestrade didn't bother opening his eyes. He didn't want to deal with either of them. He didn't know how.
"John says," Sherlock said, sounding almost uncertain, "that you'll be feeling responsible for Wallace's death."
Lestrade snorted; as though there were any other way to feel. Lestrade had felt horrible enough, guilty enough, when he'd thought it was only bad luck and bad information that had killed Wallace. To realize that he'd failed her even more deeply than that...
The bed dipped suddenly behind him, and Lestrade slid backwards slightly until he touched Sherlock's long, warm body. He didn't want it, but couldn't bring himself to pull away, either.
"That wasn't what I'd meant," Sherlock said. "Being wrong isn't the same as being negligent. John's killed men on his operating table who wouldn't have died if he'd been a smarter and better doctor. I've killed people through the mistakes I've made on cases. I didn't mention your mistake so that you could feel guilty. I mentioned it so that next time you'll get it right."
More movement behind Lestrade. Sherlock's mouth pressed against the back of his neck; not a kiss, just a warm, intimate touch of lips and breath. "I'm sorry," Sherlock said quietly.
Lestrade drew in a long, shuddery breath, then another, and another.
"What?" Sherlock called irritably from the living room.
"You're not five years old anymore. Flush the damned toilet after you use it."
There was a long silence, in which Lestrade imagined Sherlock was lying on the sofa focused on his own weighty ponderings and ignoring the petty concerns of every other person in the world.
Only then Sherlock's voice said from the doorway just behind him, "Urine's sterile. It does provide a fertile breeding ground for bacteria, but when one considers its dispersion in the toilet water and the average rate at which you or John uses the toilet--both of you invariably flushing--then the risk of my spreading disease by not flushing when I pee is negligible."
Lestrade gaped at him slightly; Sherlock looked back with his usual supercilious smirk. "That's all well and good," he said at last. "But could you flush anyway? I don't like the smell."
Sherlock tilted his head in consideration and then said, "All right." He stretched one long arm around Lestrade and pushed the toilet lever, the sound of water rushing loud in the tiny room, then strode quickly away before Lestrade could even thank him.
When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.
Sherlock back in London and heading towards Baker St, Mycroft's text read; Lestrade held his mobile tightly and checked the message every few minutes for reassurance. He'd never expected to develop a close relationship with Mycroft when he became involved with Sherlock, but that had perhaps been naive of him. It was useful having someone with Mycroft's resources around, someone who cared for Sherlock at least as much as Lestrade and John did.
John, who was visiting family in Portsmouth and whom Lestrade hadn't talked to all day, since he could only barely justify not phoning John to tell him that Sherlock had gone missing. He couldn't possibly avoid telling him when they were in conversation together without feeling an absolute bastard.
And now everything had turned out well after all, minus the fact that Lestrade was liable to kill Sherlock the minute he walked in the flat.
The key scraped in the door, and Lestrade set down his mobile.
"Evening," Sherlock said. Then, when Lestrade didn't reply, "What's wrong?"
"Where were you?"
"Out," Sherlock said slowly, as though Lestrade were a moron.
"You didn't say you were going."
"Well, of course not," Sherlock said irritably. "I was only gone eleven hours."
"Yeah," Lestrade said, "and that's nothing to worry about if you're just a flatmate. But boyfriends check in more often than once a day."
"Is that set in a rulebook somewhere? Or is it simply one of those absurd conventions that people uphold even though they make no sense?"
"How about, it's one of the absurd conventions I'd like you to follow in the interests of my not having a heart attack before I'm fifty?" Lestrade suggested.
Sherlock shook his head. "There was nothing amiss in the flat. I was following a lead in a case, as I do. There was no need for concern."
"And yet here we are," Lestrade said, gesturing about the flat. "With me phoning Mycroft for help tracking you down and you waltzing in after I've spent the day worrying over whether you were still alive. So obviously something has to change."
"You could pretend to be rational and accept that a grown man might occasionally leave his home without clearing it with someone first," Sherlock said.
"You could answer your fucking mobile when I phone you," Lestrade countered. "Or when John phones you." He considered adding Mycroft to the list, but there was no sense in pushing his luck. Besides, Mycroft was the one of them least in need of that particular courtesy.
"Impractical," Sherlock said dismissively. "I can't be interrupting my work every time one of you wants to ask me to pick some milk up at the store. Which you ought to know by now I won't do, anyway, so one would think you'd stop asking."
"A note, then. Something. You don't need to check in constantly; just let us know you won't be checking in, all right?"
"I'll consider it," Sherlock said.
"You do that," Lestrade said. "And in the meantime, get over here, damn you. I've not had a very good day."
The expression on Sherlock's face was decidedly unsympathetic, but Lestrade put his arms around him and closed his eyes, breathing in the mingled scents of wool and Sherlock's soap, and then he didn't have to see it at all.
Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the styrofoam cup: The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
John woke in darkness, his mouth dry. Better than to wake needing the loo when you were in the middle, but not by much; Sherlock was a light sleeper. He turned his head towards the bedside table with its glass of water and blinked into Sherlock's open eyes.
"Did I wake you?" he asked muzzily.
"Pass me the water."
Sherlock did, and John raised himself to one elbow and drank down several long gulps. He handed it back to Sherlock.
"What're you doing up then?"
Sherlock had a tendency to creep out to the sitting room when John's and Lestrade's adherence to an eight-hour sleep schedule proved too tedious for him. John couldn't imagine why he'd prefer to lie sleepless in bed.
There was a brief silence, and then Sherlock said, "I need to understand."
"You. Him." Sherlock's arm waved about to encompass the wide bed with the three of them snugged into it, Lestrade snoring faintly. "This."
Sherlock snorted impatiently. "Because I don't yet."
"Don't what?" John asked. Then before Sherlock could reply--or roll his eyes in lieu of replying--said, "Oh, don't understand. Sorry, I'm still half-asleep."
Another silence, in which John almost drifted back to sleep, and then his eyes snapped open. "No, wait, that doesn't make any sense. You're not a sociologist, and your interest in psychology is so specialized as to be almost non-existent."
"True, but irrelevant," Sherlock said dismissively. "I study what interests me."
An unexpectedly warm feeling spread through John at the words. "Oh." He took Sherlock's hand in his. "Fair enough. Still, study and analysis aren't necessarily synonymous. You can enjoy something without understanding it." He smiled suddenly. "Just think of us as a solar system in miniature."
"You're babbling. Go to sleep," Sherlock said, his voice irritable. The kiss he gave John right before he fell asleep, however, wasn't.
Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup--they all die.
So do we.
"Do you have your pistol?"
"What, on me?" John asked in some surprise, one foot out the door. Sherlock nodded. "No, of course not. I'm only going down to the shops."
Sherlock fixed him with his intense gaze. "Something could happen."
John spent several seconds savoring the irony of Sherlock saying that to him; he almost pointed it out to Sherlock, but in the end didn't. "I'm not going to carry my Browning around London on the off-chance that someone will threaten my life and I'll have to shoot him. I mean, if nothing else, it is illegal. It's bad enough I carry it on dangerous cases."
"Lestrade will take care of it if you get caught," Sherlock said dismissively.
"Yeah, probably, but I don't like to put him in that position."
"Would you rather put him in the position of identifying your corpse at the morgue?"
Sherlock looked back at him with bland unrepentance.
John sighed. "Look, I know you think that rules are something for people without imagination, but I actually think that my not being allowed to carry firearms in the streets of London is a good thing. And I'm a giant hypocrite, because I do carry one with some regularity, but I'm okay with that.
"Just as I'm okay with the fact that, whether or not I have my Browning in hand, I'm never going to be perfectly safe. It didn't keep me from being shot in Afghanistan, after all. So I think I'd rather participate in a society where we all try to be lambs, than to become one of the wolves."
"Fine," Sherlock said at last, sounding highly unwilling. There was a long silence. "Would Lestrade consider it, do you think?"
And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned--the biggest word of all--LOOK.
Lestrade sat in the warm spill of sunshine at the kitchen table, watching John putter around the kitchen. He'd already made tea for Lestrade and himself--Lestrade took another sip from his teacup--and now he was laying out breakfast ingredients: bread, beans, eggs, bacon.
"Tomatoes for me, if you're sharing," Lestrade said, and John took two tomatoes from the bowl on the counter.
He hummed softly as he worked, and Lestrade smiled to himself. The sunlight picked out the blond in John's hair and made it gleam; his blue-checked robe was comfortably worn looking, with fuzzy pills and several threadbare white patches; John's knifework was quick and precise in a way characteristic of either a professional chef or, in this case, an experienced surgeon. It was extraordinary how much there was to see and enjoy in the simplest domestic scene.
Lestrade wondered sometimes at how little he'd appreciated life before he'd begun to view it through Sherlock's eyes. Not that he had any pretensions regarding his own deductive abilities; Lestrade might observe more--and more consciously--now, but the information he drew from those observations continued to be helplessly prosaic in comparison to Sherlock's mental leaps.
It was for the best, really. For all that Sherlock complained about Lestrade's stupidity, he'd be even more upset if he were to become superfluous, as he would be were Lestrade able to reach the same mad, brilliant conclusions on his own.
"You've been smiling at nothing for the past ten minutes," John said.
Lestrade shook his head. "I've been smiling at you."
A pleased smile crept over John's own face. "Oh. I see," he said and came around the kitchen table to give Lestrade a kiss. John's mouth was sweet and minty, and after a few moments Lestrade made a hungry noise in the back of his throat and pulled John into his lap where he could kiss him properly. They traded kisses for several long, breathless minutes until they were interrupted by the sound of bacon crackling insistently.
John pulled himself away and smoothed down his robe as he hurried back to the stove. "Take this to Sherlock?" he said a little later, handing Lestrade a plate of buttered toast and bacon. (Sherlock was preoccupied with a complicated experiment and eschewing regular meals, but they'd found that finger foods placed in his vicinity had a tendency to disappear after a while.)
"'Course," Lestrade said and stood up.
"You should hurry back," John suggested. "I'm not done with you yet."
Lestrade grinned and gave him another quick kiss on his way out the door, as insurance of his return.