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Cake and Other Sins

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The Signature Bake

Sherlock walks into the Bake Off marquee, coat flapping behind him in the breeze, carrying wooden crates filled to the brim with ingredients and tools. 221b has been covered in flour and baking books for weeks. His homeless network has never been better fed, his bank account is nearing zero from racking up bulk delivery bills and Sherlock has baked everything from the most basic bread pudding to gourmet gold-leafed truffles. He is ready.

He lowers the crates on the counter assigned to him, fourth row from the front, and starts unpacking his tools. Beakers, Erlenmeyer flasks, early nineteenth century moulding tools, delicate pastry brushes, engraved icing spatulas, Russian cutting knives, blowtorches in varying sizes- Sherlock had been insistent about bringing his own materials to work with. He’d been surprised when the organisation agreed: being able to see the gluten strands through a microscope is going to be an invaluable advantage.

A cameraman sets up to film them all dutifully. There are more people entering the large tent, and with every new face the tension builds slightly. Some people are fidgeting, there’s nervous laughter, some timid introductions.

Sherlock glances at everyone’s hands as they walk past. There’s some talent here, judging by their calluses. He has researched everyone in advance of course, tried to classify their strengths and weaknesses, but it’s difficult with amateur bakers since none of them have much of a track record. He has only rarely had a chance to observe others baking live, and he has to admit that he’s a little curious. Some are looking his way too, a woman with a brown ponytail has been eyeing him from the moment he walked in.

Sherlock asks, “Molly, is it?”

She startles and nearly topples her basket of eggs, but her smile is genuine, “Hello, um, Sherlock, right? That’s what they said? What an uncommon name, or well, I mean, it’s nice, it suits you.”

“Pleasure.” Unpacking done, Sherlock takes off his coat, folds it and puts it underneath his counter.

“You have such ah, specific tools.” Her eyes scan his bench and widen. “Is that a riding crop?”

“Helps to beat the dough into submission.” Sherlock’s being serious, obviously, but she laughs and flushes slightly.

In front of Molly there’s a man setting up with a large and friendly face, laughter lines, the hands of a lecturer. He turns around at Molly’s introduction. “Hello, I’m Mike.”

Sherlock has already deleted him off the list of potential finalists, but nods at him, “Sherlock”.

“And I’m Molly, hi, exciting, isn’t it! What are you baking today?”

Sherlock tunes them out as the sides of the tent bulge and straighten out with a gust of wind. It’s chilly for mid-June. Wet. They’re in the middle of a field and the marquee isn’t insulated at all. Cool temperatures, rain, barometric pressure, it’s all going to feature into baking times and Sherlock has never baked outside the confines of a kitchen. He cuts down on a faint thread of worry.

Behind him is Anderson, lining up vegetable oil and cupcake tins. Sally, laying out piping bags, and Angelo, putting a hunk of mozzarella cheese into the fridge. Sherlock looks them over. They might have certain skills or technique, sure, but none of them will have his palate, his eye for detail, his skill at combining flavours. He doubts that any of them have even noticed the temperature.

The room falls silent as Mrs. Hudson walks in, presenter and judge of the Bake Off, renowned for her cookbooks and baking recipes. Incidentally, also Sherlock’s landlady.

She winks as she passes them by and Molly utters a small but impressed “Oh!”

Right behind Mrs. Hudson is the second judge, Greg Lestrade, a master baker with over twenty years of experience in the business. Sherlock has never met him, but from what he can tell his stellar reputation seems to be justified.

The production assistant gives a sign and everybody stands up a little straighter.

There’s a countdown, and the camera lights turn red. “Welcome bakers! The first challenge is the signature bake.” Lestrade sounds professional, although a little forced. He’s not used to being in the spotlight, Sherlock thinks.

“This one is meant to test the home baker’s creativity and individual style. You can pick any recipe you want, something that’s been handed down through your family for generations or just something that you nicked from a tearoom, but bake a cake that means something to you, that will tell us who you are. ”

Sherlock can see Molly wringing her hands. Henry up front is swaying dangerously, sweat appearing on his brow. Mike’s carefully written down recipe is trembling as he holds it.

Mrs. Hudson however smiles into the camera as at ease as if she were sitting in her own kitchen. “All right, dears, on your marks...”

Sherlock takes his apron from the counter. It’s white and perfectly pressed. Right then.

“...get set...”

He pulls the apron strap over his head, ties it in the back and runs his hands down to get the creases out. Into battle.

“...bake!”

Sherlock gets going immediately, ambidextrously pours water into a bowl and turns the oven on, plugs in the mixer, then starts measuring flour. He is going to win.

 

---

 

Sherlock bakes his first cake when he is six. As an experiment, of course.

The eggs have been out in the sun for a week. The cake is only half-baked, both on purpose and because he’s not exactly sure of the right oven temperature. It all goes to plan, Sherlock only burns himself a little and, despite how horribly un-cakelike it looks when it’s done Mycroft, then thirteen, is charmed enough by his efforts to try a piece.

Sherlock spends the whole evening sitting in front of Mycroft’s bedroom door, waiting for him to get sick. And when he finally does and come out of his room at a slight run Sherlock follows him and watches closely as Mycroft vomits into the toilet.

Mycroft kicks him out for the diarrhoea part, but Sherlock can hear enough through the door. It’s a success.

 

---

 

Sherlock has imagined a pecan and dark chocolate cake for his first challenge today, with some added cardamom seeds for flavour, and a touch of orange zest for acidity and colour. It’s his own recipe, obviously, the taste layered, sophisticated and original. He has a fabricated story prepared of how it reminds him of his childhood travels to Asia combined with more traditional English flavours but he is relieved when no one asks him to tell it. He’d much rather just focus on baking.

Mrs. Hudson is obviously holding back, throwing him a comforting smile whenever she thinks no one is looking (they are) and she lets Lestrade do the first walk-through past Sherlock’s counter.

Sherlock is busy opening the green cardamom pods, trying to get the seeds out of them swiftly. If not done expertly, they lose some of their specific taste. Lestrade comes over and heedlessly leans on his counter. “Cardamom seeds, hmmm.”

Sherlock doesn’t reply.

“Good pods too, costly.” They were, but Lestrade does not need to know that. Sherlock traded an elderly Indian woman for them to find out who had been spraying graffiti on her storefront (kids from the local elementary school, boring).

“I have never seen this method being used to open the pods, looks interesting.” Sherlock is using a sharp letter opener so he can switch easily between the cutting and the pulverising. Not specifically designed for this, but he had it lying around 221b and it seems to work well enough.

“Lovely taste though, very strong, very special. I’m definitely looking forward to this one.” Lestrade smiles supportively. Sherlock ignores him, he doesn’t need his encouragement, it’s only the tasting that will matter. He scrapes the pulverised seeds into his cake mixture, and starts whisking some egg whites in a metal bowl by hand, which makes a lovely scraping noise.

Lestrade wisely leaves to bother Molly, who sounds overjoyed at the chance to ask for his opinion.

Sherlock whisks the egg whites until peaked, then scans the room to see how the others are doing. Henry is sitting down on a hastily procured chair, pale and shakily sipping from a water bottle, a production assistant and one of the other contestants, John, the army doctor, leaning over him. He must have missed the faint. Pity.

Mike has made a mess already, clouds of flour all over the carpeted floor, bits of butter spread around his counter, but his tea loaf seems about ready to go into the oven. Molly has done some preparation for her decorations but her actual cake seems mostly conceptual at this point. Partly hidden in front of Mike there is Jim, who is doing something with passion fruit and pistachios. Sally is busy pouring several bowls of pink-coloured batter into trays. It looks hideous.

When Sherlock’s mixture is finished resting he adds shredded pecans and stirs in the egg whites. Then uses tongs to hold his dark Belgian chocolate up in the air, and grabs a blowtorch. A Bain-marie takes forever. He sees some of the others throwing him incredulous glances as he starts melting chocolate over an antique Bohemian measuring cup by open flame, the cameraman closest to him immediately zooming in. Sherlock pretends he doesn’t notice.

Mike has started making marmalade, the smell sharp and sweet. Behind Henry there is a Chinese woman, Soo Lin, but Sherlock can’t tell what she is doing except that she has a bag of tea leaves spread over her counter. John seems to be making up for lost time, staring straight ahead while he mixes his batter, everything about him saying ‘I’ve got this under control.’

Chocolate melted and added to the mixture, Sherlock puts a thermometer inside his oven to check the temperature. He never trusts the actual dials to be correct, most ovens run up to 25 degrees off- and puts it all level into the oven. There. Exactly on schedule.

He spends most of the interlaying hour on his knees in front of the oven, he’s never worked with this one before and it’s raining outside now, so he doesn’t want to take any chances. He calculates the point when the cake has to be removed to the second by the amount of moisture leaving the baking tray in the form of bubbles and steam. Sherlock’s not foolish enough to open the oven to check on the cake’s rise, although he can hear that that’s exactly what most of the others are doing. Idiots. Letting in the cold air will make a cake droop near-instantly.

His own creation is an absolute delight of course, Sherlock knows it as soon as he takes the cake out. He carefully listens for singing, the cake makes a soft sound when it is still wet inside. He pokes the sides to test the wobbliness. He bends down over it and inhales deeply. Perfect.

He lets it cool down before decorating, but even still he is done a good ten minutes before everyone else. Molly is still sitting in front of her oven, silently begging her cake to bake faster. Mike’s tea loaf has come out and is cooling now but it has sunk dramatically in the middle. Sally is silently cursing “fuck, godfucking fuck, fuck” while wiping icing off her shaking hands. Henry tells the camera that he had to change his plans because of the time he lost but that he’s still somewhat optimistic. Anderson’s attacking his cupcake tins with a knife because they refuse to come out. Angelo’s cake hasn’t set, the melted cheese sadly drooping from the sides.

Most everyone is still frantically running through the most basic of steps, and Sherlock feels vindicated in his assessment that they’re all truly amateurs. Except for... John. He has a round, two layered sponge cake with a light colour filling standing at the end of his completely clean and empty counter. No decoration besides a light sprinkling of sugar on top, but it doesn’t need it. The bake is an even gold and absolutely perfect, there would be no reason to hide it under icing. Interesting that he seems to be fully comfortable doing nothing else to it though, Sherlock thinks.

John sees him looking, eyes Sherlock’s cake and nods.

Sherlock quickly looks away.

 

---

 

If asked Sherlock would never say, but it is one of his best childhood memories. To lie under those too-hot sweaty sheets with Mycroft, to be allowed to place his hand on Mycroft’s stomach and feel the still-present rumbles. To smell his sour breath, the remnants of stale sweat on his shirt, and to know that it was he who made him sick.

In the months and years after that very first cake Mycroft learns to be wary of Sherlock’s baking of course, wisely so. But he is always willing to play along, to carefully taste and then deduce what Sherlock has baked inside. So Sherlock makes waffles and pies, biscuits and cupcakes with ingredients from the garden, from the garage, medications, poisons, everything interesting he can get his hands on. He spends days in the kitchen covered in eggs and icing sugar, pretending he’s a mad scientist or a pirate, about to outsmart his enemy.

And they all- Dad, even Mummy- seem to think it’s adorable that he’s so fond of baking now, that it’s definitely preferable to Sherlock’s other interests (such as: digging up bird skeletons, stealing, dissecting animals, reading every science book he can get his hands on, general pyromania), it seems more normal, and Mummy even tells her friends that he’ll grow up to be a famous patisserier someday.

She doesn’t know that he’s doing it all to poison Mycroft, of course, but Sherlock doesn’t think it’s wise to correct her.

Mycroft is a very quiet vomiter.

 

---

 

“And that’s it, time! Place your cakes at the end of your tables please.”

Sherlock is pleased that no one besides John finished everything they had intended to do in the allotted time. Molly’s managed to place some beautifully sculpted marzipan doves and hearts on top of her cake, but the cake itself is definitely underbaked. Mike has slathered his tea loaf in marmalade in the hope of covering up the sunken middle but it is obvious even from where Sherlock is standing. It’s slightly pathetic really.

Sally’s pink cake is piped very unevenly, Anderson’s cupcakes look as if they have been ripped out of their tins, Angelo’s savoury cake looks unappealingly bland, and even though he had a whole bowl of freshly cut herbs on his counter he never put them on. The ones more up front are harder to see from where Sherlock is standing: Jim seems to have done well on his passion fruit and pistachio experiment, Henry has a basic one layered sponge and Soo Lin a whole array of small green tea flavoured cupcakes.

The judging is a surprisingly lengthy process. Now that he’s done Sherlock wants to hear what they think and hear it quickly, but instead it takes long boring minutes for the camera people to get the right shots, for both judges to taste and compare and take sips of water in between.

They start from the front too, calling Soo Lin’s approach “well thought out”, and comment on the “original flavours”. Henry gets a little talk about what happened, why he was so nervous, how he was feeling now, yadayada, but when it comes down to it his cake it is too dry and plain. Mike’s tea loaf tastes all right, but it is too dense because it has sunk. Jim’s cake gets praise right of the bat, Sherlock hears “impressive technical ability to combine these flavours”, “delicious”, and “certainly a contender”.

Molly gets told that while the decorations are lovely, the middle is raw and therefore her cake is inedible. John gets a lot of positive comments as well, “perfect golden brown colour”, Sherlock is inclined to grudgingly agree on that one, and “simple, but refined”. They call Angelo brave for being the only one to attempt a savoury cake, but sadly the taste and finish is not there. Sally gets a comment on why her piping has run so much -the cake was too warm still to decorate-, and Anderson gets possibly the worst critique of all, “flavourless”, and “misshapen”.

And then finally, finally it’s Sherlock’s turn.

Mrs. Hudson smiles, “Sherlock! You’ve had to wait the longest.”

Lestrade walks up behind her and says, “Now, before we comment on your work, Martha has been telling me that you two know each other?”

Sherlock nods, “Mrs. Hudson is my landlady.”

“Well, aren’t you lucky, living with one of the most famous women in baking. Did you know this when you moved in?”

“No,” He lies, “It was a coincidence,” and drums his fingers on the counter while the cameramen film a slow circle around his cake.

Eventually Mrs. Hudson takes pity on him and says “Well, let’s have a try then shall we Sherlock?” She slices carefully and yes, perfection, all the layers are neat and visible upon the first cut, the colours contrast pleasingly, the texture is just right, Sherlock has not made this one better, and he knows because he has made it seventeen times in the last week alone.

“Hmmm,” Mrs. Hudson says, “Hmmm, this is good, I can taste the cardamom, very special, an unusual combination.”

“A little bombastic.” Lestrade says. “Conflicting flavours, it overwhelms your palate, I think you tried to do too much. Nice try, but keep it simpler next time, yeah?”

Sherlock takes a sharp breath. The man can’t be serious. He’s never had anybody say that about his work. Ever.

“All right, good work everyone, we are going to deliberate, take a break for lunch, and when we return to the tent it is for the technical challenge!”

The other contestants mingle as soon as they cameras are turned off, but Sherlock is far too irritated to move. As far as he can tell Lestrade has not been bribed, nor was he faking or lying in any way. He tasted Sherlock’s cake and genuinely found it to be overcomplicated. Idiot. That man calls himself a professional? There are real French chefs who could not do what he did. Sherlock is just on his way to working himself up to quitting (and with the way Anderson is bragging to Sally behind him, he is going to go out in spectacular fashion by telling them all exactly what he thinks of them), when John shuffles over to his counter.

He’s using a cane when walking. War injury, that much seems obvious. Sherlock looks him over and asks, “Afghanistan or Iraq?”

John’s stance instantly becomes defensive. “Afghanistan. Why?”

He seems offended. Polite still though, keeping himself in check. Sherlock reaches out his hand. As he thought, John automatically takes it. “I’m Sherlock.”

“John.” John looks slightly mollified. His eyes travel towards Sherlock’s pecan and dark chocolate cake, sliced now.

Sherlock suddenly really wants to know whether John will agree with Lestrade. John, who baked that perfect but simple-looking golden cake. He’s careful to make his tone appear casual. “Care to try a piece?”

“Yes. Yes, actually. Or does that fall under scoping out the competition?” John’s face seems very mobile, up close. His eyes are a warm brown.

“No one here is competition to me.” Sherlock answers quickly, but he does think it’s true. He is better than everyone here. They just don’t know it yet.

“Oh really?” John smiles, “That’s not what the judges said was it?”

“They’re wrong, obviously.” Sherlock means it, but John seems amused. He takes a fork.

John cuts off a generous piece for himself, and does the tasting of it justice. He chews slowly, face serious, he’s obviously savouring the flavours. Sherlock leans closer.

And then John smiles, “Wow. Wow, this is really brilliant. My god, Sherlock, this is amazing.” There’s a little smear of chocolate visible on John’s tongue as he speaks.

“Yes?” Sherlock asks, hating himself for the hopeful tone he can’t quite hide.

“Yes, of course it is, the flavour is so rich, I can’t believe they didn’t give you a better critique. Have you even tasted it yet?”

John’s mouth would taste like it now. Sherlock blinks that thought away. “No, I don’t need to.”

“You don’t?” John licks his lips and digs back in for a second piece, without asking.

“I know the ingredients and the way they are prepared, so I know what it tastes like.” Sherlock doesn’t like eating desserts that much. He never did. Never had to eat them himself, before.

“Really?” John seems confused. He licks off his fork.

Sherlock explains, “A base of multiple eggs, yolks and whites beaten separately for volume and home-sifted flour, unsalted butter browned on a low heat for the nutty taste. Bitter dark chocolate, green crushed cardamom seeds, oven-roasted pecans. The texture would be moist, crunchy, a slight acidity from the orange zest, is that what you tasted?”

“Well yes, basically. Still, that’s… bizarre. I’ve never heard of a baker who won’t eat his own cakes. Hell, I might think something’s poisoned!” John grins at the joke he thinks he made.

Sherlock blinks. It’s odd how that still stings.

John hasn’t noticed. He seems happy, relaxed. Sherlock tries to school his face into something that might be interpreted as a smile, too.

John leans a little towards the exit and says, still smiling, “So... lunch?”

 

---

 

By the time he is ten Sherlock has acquired an impressive array of baking skills.

It’s solely for Mycroft, still. On the rare occasions that Sherlock needs something from Mycroft (like lying to Mummy) he drizzles tarts in honey, bakes dark, sticky chocolate brownies, makes hand-rolled truffles with decadent mango filling and brings them to Mycroft in bed, lies next to him and presses them to his mouth one by one until he gives in.

But more often Sherlock bakes out of annoyance. Mycroft tends to be prickly, mean, insufferable in his superior intelligence so those cakes Sherlock makes as dangerous as he can, imagines stuffing them into Mycroft’s face while baking.

And eat them Mycroft does, every time. He’s well aware of what’s inside, of course. Mycroft can recognise most flavours by now so it’s a game of will, of little clues and deductions, one that gets only more intense over time between them. Mycroft always smells, dissects and then tastes slowly, drags it out until Sherlock’s entire body feels as if it’s vibrating with the tension of it, Mycroft’s sharp gaze on his.

And once Mycroft gives him a clear summary of what’s inside it’s the release of a secret shared, a battle fought and it’s intoxicating. Sherlock can’t stop touching him then, strokes Mycroft’s stomach to feel if he’s having cramps, puts his head on Mycroft’s chest to listen for a heartbeat, presses his face to Mycroft’s to feel his breathing, smell his breath, holds him close while Mycroft pretends that it doesn’t please him to be right, too.

It’s wonderful.

 

---

 

The Technical Challenge

Sherlock eats lunch next to John, or more accurately watches John eat from the corner of his eye, his stomach doing an odd dance while John chats good-naturedly with the other contestants. Sherlock refuses to eat anything himself, he is much too wired for digesting. He can’t smoke either because it would interfere with his sense of smell so he slaps on a nicotine patch or three (John raises an eyebrow at that but doesn’t say anything), and jitters his leg, counts the stitches on the table cloth, plays with his knife, checks his phone again and again until they can go back to the tent.

The weather is still overcast, clouds quickly moving over the Bake Off tent.

Round two consists of a technical bake, meaning that they all get the same recipe to work with but they don’t know which one it will be in advance. The same basic ingredients, sugar, cream, eggs and flour, standing covered with a red-and-white checkered cloth on their counters.

The recipes are lying face-down, although anyone could probably figure out what it says if they lean close.

Lestrade and Mrs. Hudson take up position in front of the tent again, and Mrs. Hudson announces, “Your very first technical bake will be one of my recipes, it’s light as heaven, it’s magical, just put it out at a party and watch it disappear, it’s an Angel Food cake!”

Sherlock nods. He’s never been very fond of the lighter varieties of cake because the flavour is so even and one-dimensional, but it isn’t particularly difficult to achieve. He’s confident he can make one. Some people are visibly worried, namely Angelo who is mouthing “Angel Food? What is Angel Food?” but most of them seem to have baked, or at the very least eaten, one before.

Lestrade says, “We are going to judge this bake blind, so we are not going to watch you prepare these, good luck!” and he and Mrs. Hudson wander off to another little tent outside while the production assistant says, “Ready, set, bake.”

Sherlock scans the recipe quickly. As he thought, it seems to be fairly straightforward. The key will be to preserve the lightness of the bake, which means folding instead of stirring and a careful hand, no overworking the mixture.

Molly looks quite cheery, softly humming while sifting the flour and icing sugar, if having to guess he’d say this cake is one of her favourites. Angelo is still staring at the tin and the recipe with a confused look in his eyes. Most people have started quickly this time around though, probably eager to make up for earlier mistakes. Mike is already buttering his tin, and Henry is preparing his ingredients by arranging them on his counter in the order the recipe says to use them.

Sherlock starts by whisking his egg whites and the cream of tartar. Anderson behind him is making a mess already, and Sally appears to be looking at his technique and trying to replicate it. Sherlock shoots her an angry look but she pretends not to notice.

He meticulously follows the recipe, and once everything is carefully folded together spoons it into the rounded tin, mindful to level the batter but not press on it too hard so not to lose the air inside, and places it into the oven.

Molly is done right after Sherlock, and she turns around as soon as she has her cake in. “This one’s fun, isn’t it? I think I’m actually doing well.” She seems to have forgotten about her hesitancy to talk to him now that she’s really going.

“You’ve made this before.” Sherlock says as he puts his water for the icing on.

She gathers up her egg shells to throw away, wipes her counter and says, “Yes. Well, not that that means I think I’m going to win or anything. But I like Angel Food cake, don’t you?”

Sherlock mumbles “No, not particularly.” and focuses on adding the right amounts of sugar and cream. He can see her looking back a couple times more while working but she doesn’t seem too bothered by his silence, instead chatting with Mike who, yes, loves these cakes and makes them for his kids often.

An hour later everyone’s Angel Cakes are out of the oven and frosted to some degree. Sherlock has opted for a light striped pattern of icing, but most seem to just have smothered it on and hoped for the best. It’s rather entertaining to see how ten different bakers using the same ingredients and the same recipe still manage to turn out ten completely different cakes, he could probably deduce who made what just by looking at them.

Anderson has overcompensated for his previous failure to get his cupcakes out of the tin and has used way too much butter this time, resulting in dark, greasy sides. Sally’s is overworked, smaller than the others and heavy. Angelo has managed a somewhat passable copy of an Angel Food cake, but the frosting on it looks lumpy. John’s looks okay, but it’s slightly underdone and the frosting runny. The colour in Soo Lin’s is off and she confesses to using less sugar than the recipe said. The contenders in Sherlock’s eye are his own, modestly frosted but sophisticated, Molly’s which is cheerfully decorated with powdered sugar and little stars, and Jim’s, which has gotten an impossible rise and looks large and airy.

The judges cut the cakes through the middle, press on each one, turns them over to see the bottom, discuss bake and moisture, taste every one, discuss again, and then eventually -finally- announce the results. From worst to the best, in tenth place is Soo Lin, then Sally, Anderson, John, Angelo, Mike, and Henry. Sherlock comes third on the account of too little icing. Second is Jim, there were some air bubbles inside the cake when cut open. Which means the best is Molly, flushed with pride as she wins the first technical.

Sherlock is annoyed but only somewhat. His cake was technically perfect, they gave the win to Molly only because she had spent extra time decorating and making it look ‘festive’, which is something he can do next time if he has to. If they want gaudy, childish, over the-top-type baking then he can compensate for that.

The challenge finished, the others go explore the grounds and then to dinner. But Sherlock locks himself into the room they assigned him inside the castle and starts going over tomorrow’s bake in his mind. Let the others bother with their getting-to-know-you conversations, tomorrow Sherlock plans to be prepared. With what he knows of the oven he is working with, the general temperature in the tent, the time pressure and the judging process he strikes his entire plan and prepares to bake a completely different cake, one specifically designed to cater to the judges. Then sleeps for an hour or two, and is already wandering around the castle grounds at dawn.

 

---

 

Once Mycroft starts uni he stays away for weeks on end, and when he does come home he’s different. Distant. Even his eyes have become careful, careful not to look at Sherlock too much, careful to give him space.

Which is wrong, of course, so every time Sherlock sees Mycroft he begs him to be allowed to come too, he says the rudest things he can think of, he cries and kicks and crawls into Mycroft’s bed at night and whispers into his skin, “You’re mine, you can’t go.” and then bites him until Mycroft pushes him off and locks the door.

Still Mycroft looks past him. So Sherlock does the only thing he can think of: he bakes.

Mycroft has suffered through the occasional bout of vomiting, diarrhoea, rashes, burns, even passed out briefly but usually he manages to guess what the ingredients are with stunning accuracy, which makes it all the more shocking when he comes down with a rare strand of botulism.

Sherlock has baked in a large dose on purpose of course, he’d taken his rage and loneliness and hadn’t even concealed it very well. Mycroft must have known that it was a bad one, he must have tasted it. Still he ate, ate without Sherlock there and it leaves Sherlock livid on the urgent drive to the hospital, because these are not the rules, this is not what they do! Mycroft was never supposed to nearly die.

Sherlock spends all night next to Mycroft’s hospital bed, refuses to be moved. He strengthens his resolve to skip as many school years as possible so that he will arrive at uni while Mycroft is still there. Eventually he lies down next to him and, in the dark, whispers his guilt into the hollow of his throat. Mycroft doesn’t respond but places a soft hand on his head.

They found long-term liver damage as well.

Mycroft tells them it’s from drinking.

 

---

 

The Showstopper Challenge

Sherlock gets some stares and smiles walking into the Bake Off tent with a large bouquet of wildflowers.

Sherlock’s black leather loafers are soaked through, his socks are sopping wet, even the bottom of his trousers have mud caked to them, but he found what he was looking for. Despite the cool weather and the overly manicured gardens there were plenty of edible flowers blooming around the castle grounds.

He puts the flowers in a beaker and awkwardly balances against the counter, then uses paper serviettes to remove some of the mud on his shoes.

John tilts his head at him. What on earth did you do?

Sherlock rolls his eyes. He’s perfectly capable of walking through grass and soil and puddles. He just hadn’t prepared for it exactly.

They only film him when he’s standing behind the counter anyway, so it’s not like it’s even relevant.

He throws the serviettes away, separates his flowers and spreads them out on a tray with baking paper. Then washes his hands, scrubs under his nails, mindful that he’s been rooting around all kinds of greenery and dirt, and pulls his apron over his head just in time. The camera people have started setting up already, and they want a shot of the whole tent.

Sherlock stands still for it obediently, already preparing for the bake in his head. They shine a portable light on Mrs. Hudson so that she can give the day’s opening speech while Lestrade looms sullenly behind her, and then they’re off. They have to bake a cake to impress, a centrepiece for a party or family event, and they have three and a half hours to do it in.

Sherlock turns on the oven, the hot plate, plugs in the mixer, lines up his ingredients. But Mrs. Hudson, Lestrade and their camera entourage are already making their way over to his counter. Sherlock pushes down on the frustration. How is he supposed to bake when people keep on bothering him!

“Are those for a special someone then Sherlock?” Mrs. Hudson smiles.

For a moment Sherlock doesn’t know what she’s talking about. Then he wishes he would have thought to bring her some flowers, she’s fond of that kind of antiquated gesture. Although that might be perceived as trying to win the judges favour, so maybe not.

“No, I picked them this morning, I am preparing a wildflower cake.” Sherlock observed their judging the day before carefully, as well as watched similar competitions and analysed the winners strategies. Using flowers will make him seem earnest, original, creative, he thought of it sometime past midnight. There is no way they are not going to reward him for this.

“And you’re certain these are all edible?” Lestrade asks suspiciously, prodding the flowers, “They came from the gardens right, so no pesticides or anything?”

“Well, he can wash them, can’t you?” Mrs. Hudson beams at him. She obviously likes the idea.

“Of course,” Sherlock says quickly, “I have worked with plants, even poisonous ones, many times before.” He’s not exaggerating, but they probably don’t know that. Although Mrs. Hudson might, Sherlock has seen her leaf through his encyclopaedias of toxins and uncommon poisons more than once.

“So you know what you’re doing?” Lestrade looks him up and down, “I suppose that’s comforting.”

“Oh I’m sure we’ll like it dear.” Mrs. Hudson shushes Lestrade as she leads him on to Anderson’s workspace. Who is baking a strawberry chocolate cake. Perfectly boring that.

Three and a half hours seem like a long enough time but Sherlock knows he’ll have to be careful to get this one timed right. Despite his knowledge of plants he has only rarely baked with flowers for the aesthetics of it, and they have slowly started wilting from the moment he picked them. He has to keep them as fresh and damp as possible, some in the fridge and some at room temperature, but if he wants to use them at all a couple hours from now is already pushing it.

He decided on the type of cake first, feeling inspired by the lighter, smooth style of cake from yesterday’s Angel Food cake he wants to go with a three tiered sponge cake, some honey and then a soft, sweet icing in between the layers with flower petals mixed in. One layer with the yellow dandelions, one with the blue corn flowers, and then the top layer with some of the more uncommon flowers, some fresh honey drizzled on as well to combat the natural bitterness. If they want simple, then this will be simple, beautiful to look at and easy to understand.

Sherlock tries to listen to what the other bakers are planning while breaking his eggs, separating the egg whites from the yellow, dropping them in a bowl. He’s barely slept but he’s feeling focused. In control. He knows what to expect of this competition now, and he thinks he can do it.

Molly is going for a two tiered “engagement cake” wrapped in white fondant, her eyes sparkling as she explains that it’s something that she might like at her own engagement party someday. Mrs. Hudson happily agrees and asks her to explain her rather traditional flavours and their meaning. Mike is making a winter coffee cake with an assortment of nuts and spices. Jim is attempting the very technical seven layered opera cake, to a lot of ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ from Mrs. Hudson. Soo Lin is trying to create a Chinese steamed sponge cake, glazed with lime and some herbs added to it.

Sherlock gets his first two sponges into the oven, sets the timer so he can switch them two thirds through to ensure that they are evenly baked and starts working on his icing. He wants it to be much softer than the Angel Food cake’s icing, more lush, his will have vanilla, butter and cream whipped with sugar until it’s a smooth, thick layer between his layers of cake that will add moisture and taste to the sponge which naturally runs towards a dry finish.

Angelo has put on a pot of coffee, the smell slowly drifting through the tent.

Sherlock can see Henry working on a white chocolate and raspberry cake, a notable difference in his technique now that he seems a bit less nervous. A lot less nervous, in fact, a little slow. Sherlock looks at him. He seems positively Zen while slicing his raspberries. He must have taken something, maybe someone in the production has slipped him a valium, but that wouldn’t make sense because of the inherent TV value of a good faint… one of the other contestants then.

Sherlock considers it as he whisks the icing, Mike, no, would have the access but wouldn’t steal. Molly, no. So John? Of course. He’d feel inclined to help, would have the pills prescribed by his own therapist but never takes them, doesn’t need them either. Sherlock looks at John, solid shoulders covered with a blue jumper today, apron neatly knotted on his back, hands perfectly steady. Sherlock briefly thinks of presenting with John a piece of the cake that he’s making right now. Maybe he’ll say it’s amazing again...

 

---

 

After a long week Mycroft comes home from the hospital, back to his old bedroom and Sherlock sneaks into his bed that night. Despite his recent illness Mycroft is heavy and solid, fat from eating a constant stream of sugar and butter and it’s the most comforting thing Sherlock can imagine. He reverently touches Mycroft’s round face, his double chin, runs his hands over his broad upper arms. He has put that flesh there. He has created his brother.

Sherlock lies down next to him, and holds on to the thick folds of Mycroft’s belly while Mycroft idly strokes his back. They’ve done this a million times before. Although less, lately. Mycroft doesn’t like to touch him that much anymore.

When Sherlock trails his hand down, lower, into Mycroft’s pyjamas and finds him hard it’s something that he’s guessed at, a little.

Mycroft moves away immediately so Sherlock puts his head on Mycroft’s chest and listens to the hurried thumping of his heart, the fastest he has ever heard it. He spreads his fingers over Mycroft’s hip, curiously traces the creases of his groin, then the crinkle of his pubes. He feels the tension in Mycroft’s muscles, the smoothness of his skin turn sweaty under his touch. Mycroft clears his throat. “Sherlock...”

Mycroft’s erection rises to meet him when he touches it, wet at the tip. It’s like a reflex. Sherlock rubs some of the wetness between his fingers and brings his hand up to smell it. It smells different than his own. When he licks it tastes different too, Sherlock feels it sit bitter on his tongue. He thinks about baking it into a cake.

Mycroft’s breaths are ragged in the quiet. “Sherlock!” He sounds as if he might cry. He’s blushing so hard that Sherlock can feel the heat of it. The muscles in his thighs tense and quiver, and little beads of fluid are appearing on his penis so Sherlock leans down and experimentally licks them away.

Mycroft never really means no.

 

---

 

Angelo’s humming a number by Queen under his breath while he prepares the mixture for his ladyfinger biscuits in the food processor. The coffee machine is prattling along. Sally is counting the drops of lemon concentrate she’s adding to her mix out loud. Soo Lin is juicing a large collection of limes. Molly is searching her cupboard for a rolling pin. Anderson is banging his tins when he puts them down on the counter, using the electric mixer, even breathing loudly.

Sherlock tries to ignore them all, but he can smell the burned cake and smoke behind him, hear Anderson’s frustrated opening and closing and opening and closing of the oven door. He can hear him mutter, "Why would that happen? Why does it rise like that and then collapse, it has never done that at home, something must be wrong with my oven, I bet it’s done on purpose, some of us get a bad oven.”

And Sherlock can’t help himself, he walks the couple of steps behind Anderson’s counter and has a quick look into his disaster of an oven. There’s batter splattered everywhere and black smoke pouring out of it.

“Your cake is rising, overflowing the tin and burning because you have added, I’d say, a full spoon of baking powder, two perhaps?”

Anderson stares at him and then nods reluctantly.

“You need only half a teaspoon at most. You have a science degree, you should know this. Now shut up, you’re lowering the IQ of this entire tent.”

Sherlock turns his back to check on his own oven, but he’s aware that everyone around must have heard that. A quick looks shows him Molly looking slightly worried between the two of them, her rolling pin momentarily forgotten. But Sally looks a little bit vindicated while she mixes dried lemon peel into her alarmingly yellow looking mixture. Angelo winks at him when he catches his eye and John is not looking up from his careful slicing but Sherlock can tell by the stand of his ears that he’s smiling to himself. Not too bad then.

Everyone is remarkably silent for the next couple minutes, so Sherlock gets to focus on getting his two sponges out of the oven, repeating the bake with the third, and getting his icing into the fridge. So far he’s on schedule although he doesn’t have time for any more of this nonsense. He takes a sip of water, realises it’s the first thing he’s drunk (or eaten) today and downs half of the bottle, then starts to carefully pick the flower petals from his dandelions. It’s a time consuming job, they’re cold as they’re straight from the fridge, sticky, and he wants only the perfect ones to add to his icing. He shuffles his feet a little closer to the oven. His toes are slowly regaining feeling, even though his shoes are still soaked. Distracted by the sticky flowers petals Sherlock nearly misses the exact right time for taking the third sponge out, it should have been around forty seconds earlier.

That’s the problem with a bake he hasn’t had a chance to time at home. It’s unpredictable.

Twenty minutes left. Looking around shows that most people still have something in the oven right now. Mike’s cake has come out ten minutes ago and is cooling on the end of his counter, but seeing how it’s only one layer Sherlock doesn’t think it will impress much. Jim is slicing his baked squares of chocolate cake into paper thin layers with a sharp knife and professional grace. Angelo’s tiramisu cake is finished, but only just went into the fridge while something like that needs a good six hours to fully cool. Molly is back to sitting in front of her oven, although she has her first layer, fondant and decorations all ready to go on her counter so she might make it this time. Anderson has started over after the great bubbling cake fiasco but sounds as loud and confused as ever, wisely directing all his comments to Sally now.

Sherlock decides it’s time, touches his first two layers one last time, not cold but close enough, drizzles a thin layer of wildflower honey on top (present from a grateful beekeeper client after finding out who had been poisoning his bees- Sherlock hadn’t expected to use it so soon, but now he’s glad he brought it), scoops his icing into his large-nuzzled canvas piping bag and starts piping the first layer. It would work with a spatula as well, but he prefers the control of piping, working in circles from the outside in. That done he sprinkles the dandelion petals evenly over the layer, making certain to get the edges as well so that their bright yellow colour will be visible still when the next layer goes on. He carefully lowers the second sponge on top of it, pipes the icing again, adds the bright blue cornflower petals and then feels the third sponge, still in its tin. It’s warmer than he would like it to be, like this there’s a chance it is going to melt the icing. He checks the time. Eight minutes to go.

Decision made, Sherlock upends his cake onto a roster and walks it to the freezer. Just for two minutes, more will add moisture, make the cake soggy instead of just cool it down, so he stands in front of the freezer, pacing back and forth, counting down the seconds in his head. He catches John looking at him. John’s finished already again. Jim is currently piping the word “Opéra” in dark chocolate onto his otherwise finished cake. Soo Lin is piping little dots of whipped cream onto her sponge. It looks nicely glazed, although not as set as it could be.

Sherlock takes his cake out of the freezer, runs it to his counter, places it carefully on top of the second layer, not too big of a difference in colour, good, and pipes the third and final layer of icing on top. This one he does have to even out with his icing spatula to get the right finish, and then adds his more ornately coloured flower petals, French marigolds, daylilies and starflowers, and arranges them on top. He manages to get them into a satisfying combination around the one minute mark, and spends the last sixty seconds cleaning up the edges.

And then “Time! Stop touching your bakes!” Sherlock steps back, hair stuck to his forehead, slightly out of breath, and really looks at what he’s made.

It’s beautiful.

Simple, but the bright colours and the originality will appeal to the judges. It just has to.

 

---

 

Sherlock spends years looking forward to uni, but when he’s finally there it’s not much better than anything that came before. He’s lonely and bored, even advanced courses can’t occupy his mind completely, nothing can anymore. Mycroft isn’t even a decent distraction, always holding back, so cautious.

Cocaine is none of those things. The first time Sherlock tries it, he falls in love. It makes him feel alive, it makes him want to go out and dance, have sex, bake naked, stay up for a week straight and write multiple theses at once. He spends days in drugs-addled hazes and feels ecstatic. He ups the doses, looks for more and better and different, tries changing the chemistry himself. His own body becomes the experiment now, a spike always hovering between pleasure and pain, an unreliable subject.

After the second time he overdoses, Mycroft refuses the pine nut pancakes, rum Victoria sponge and rat poison violet macaroons that Sherlock has displayed on the bed for him. He claims he has gone on a diet.

Seeing it as the punishment it is, Sherlock ups the ante, he starts leaving Mycroft’s favourites, delicious cake after cake, at his office, at his club, in his house, even at his local bakers. But Mycroft refuses, shows up in Sherlock’s flat in suits that are suddenly hanging off of him, looking pale and wan and terribly worried.

It takes years before Sherlock wants to get clean, and then a couple more before he does. But Mycroft never eats his cakes again.

 

---

 

The judging is starting from the back this time, so Anderson is up first, and predictably, it’s a mess. While he did have time to bake his second try at a cake into something edible, the strawberries and filling are oozing out everywhere, much too runny. He scoffs at Sherlock but generally seems defeated by the whole experience. Sherlock can tell the judges are feeling for him, telling him every one can have bad luck, but he doesn’t think they’re considering keeping him around.

Sally’s bright yellow ‘Canary cake’ gets some laughter, and she saves herself somewhat by claiming it would be perfect for a children’s party. The taste is very lemony but artificially so, with chewy dried lemon inside that is cut too large, and she is probably in trouble today as well.

Then it’s Angelo’s turn, who was smart enough to take his tiramisu out only at the very last minute to add bitter cacao powder to the top, so that it hasn’t had time to turn soggy. He has also baked his ladyfinger biscuits himself, which impresses the judges a little. Mrs. Hudson especially enjoys the strong taste of Amaretto liquor (and she would, Sherlock thinks, Mrs. Hudson likes her drink.)

And then they’re at Sherlock’s counter. He really went all out on the idea and execution. There is no way they are not going to like it, but then that’s what he thought last time too.

Lestrade says, “So, the wildflower cake. We’re both very curious to taste this one. First of all, visually stunning.”

Mrs. Hudson says, “I would have liked the complete colour combination in every layer perhaps? Although this looks very pretty. Very. One of the nicest ones in the room.”

Lestrade carefully cuts a piece, and shows it to the camera, “And it runs all the way through, nice layers of sponge, icing and then the colour of the flowers.”

He uses his fork to pick off a piece, and tastes it. Sherlock twitches nervously. “I can taste the honey in there. Subtle, but it’s there. Nice sponge too, even bake. Actually, you know, the only thing I have a problem with is the flowers themselves. It’s the texture. You can feel the petals in your mouth, it’s… unappetising.”

Mrs. Hudson nods, “I agree, it feels as if they’re sticking to the roof of my mouth, despite the icing… but it was a really nice idea though Sherlock. Very pretty.”

Lestrade says, “Yes, visually, ten out of ten. But try to think more about the actual eating bit, okay?”

Sherlock nods numbly and looks away from the camera. He doesn’t have to hear the comments of the others to know that he hasn’t won.

But he’s probably done well enough to stay, if he should want to.

Sherlock sees John watching him supportively, and without thinking about it much slices him a small piece and puts it ready on a plate.

The judges move on to Molly, who did manage to finish a very white and pristine looking cake with a ribbon tied around it. If she’d had more time she would have decorated more, Sherlock can see the silver edible glitter and hearts still standing on her counter, but this time it might work in her favour that she kept it simple, he thinks.

The first thing Mrs. Hudson says is “It looks nice, but a little basic.”

“Yeah, did you run out of time?”

Molly nods, “Yes, it’s so difficult to get it all done, I only just managed to bake the top layer, it was a bit of a scramble at the end.”

When they taste it they deem the flavour too basic on the inside as well, and she is visibly disappointed, her shoulders sagging.

John is next, the outside of his cake is quite plain again today, but when they cut into it it reveals a neat checkered pattern, straight lines of vanilla and chocolate cake with a filing of Bailey’s ganache in between. Mrs. Hudson says it’s a lovely surprise that there’s so much more than meets the eye, and even Lestrade admits that it’s executed well and tastes good. John thanks them.

Henry’s white chocolate and raspberry cake tastes okay, although he has lost most of the white chocolate taste in the bake, and because of the high sugar content the edges are a little burned.

Jim’s cake is an absolute marvel, apparently. His Opera Cake is fully finished, perfect sharp corners, all seven layers, it makes a soft breaking sound when cut into, and the tastes are exactly what they are supposed to be. It can go straight into a cookbook, Lestrade says. Sherlock doesn’t buy it for a second when Jim pretends to blush under the praise, saying that it has never worked as well as today. That guy is all pretend, and he is most definitely lying, he knew exactly what he was doing every step of the way.

Compared to Jim’s, Mike’s coffee cake with nuts and spices is only a small and solid thing, and even though the flavour gets some positive feedback, it’s obvious that his execution is not up to par.

Last of the pack is Soo Lin, whose Chinese lime sponge cake gets credit for originality again, the judges trying several bites before they can really comment on the taste, Mrs. Hudson even says it tastes like nothing she has ever eaten before, while Soo Lin shyly smiles.

The judges leave to deliberate on who is going to win star baker and who is going home, and a lot of the tension leaves the room with them. Everyone is deflating, some happy, most not.

The cameraman asks him about what he thinks went wrong with his wildflower cake, but Sherlock ignores him. Most people have gathered around Jim’s table, looking at his cake and tasting, complimenting him some more, but Sherlock ignores them too.

He has never made something that Mrs. Hudson couldn’t identify.

Sherlock gathers up the plate with a small piece of his cake on it, sets it on John’s counter and then walks past him towards Soo Lin’s. He wants to know what she did.

 

---

 

It’s Mycroft who sent the staggering pile of professional baking supplies to Baker Street, Sherlock knows that. He’s been clean for fourteen months. It’s a celebration. He knows Mycroft well enough to know that it’s an apology as well, a bribe if he wants it to be, a question of sorts.

It’s been years since Sherlock’s cared about baking, but he’s bored and he has a kitchen of his own now and suddenly while looking at the strainers and moulds, stainless steel blenders and colourful spices, Sherlock’s hands are itching for it.

By the time Mrs. Hudson comes up to ask about the smell Sherlock has a good fifteen or so bakes standing around the flat and notes for another ten and she looks at him with such delight, tastes them all and says he’s talented, that she’s proud of him, and that’s still a new thing, then, to make someone proud. Sherlock keeps that memory, thinks it over sometimes when he’s aching for a hit, staring at the ceiling for another endless night. Proud.

So he starts baking again. Over the months his mind palace gains a large, gleaming kitchen with multiple ovens and continual piles of hand-written and stained recipes, filled with corrections and additions.

And sometimes it reminds him of something he thought he’d deleted. Like the smell of Mycroft’s sheets. The feel of his lips. The first time it happens Sherlock throws a crème brûlée out of the window. The second time he rips a peach pie apart with his bare fingers, burning himself, uncomfortably aware that he’s aching for that, too. But it doesn’t make him stop. If anything, it helps to have Mycroft’s favourites in the oven when he comes by because it makes him leave near-immediately.

So when Mrs. Hudson asks Sherlock to sign up for the Great British Bake Off he says yes because he thinks he can win, and because he is an exquisite baker. Not for Mycroft.

Never again.

 

---

 

Soo Lin seems a little surprised to see Sherlock, since he hasn’t talked to her at all yet.

She lived in China until her late teens, Sherlock already knew that but it’s even more obvious by the accent. She has done well so far in the competition by relying on her heritage and flavours, so he asks her, “What Chinese ingredients are you using?”

She hesitates, then says, “I don’t know the right English names. But if you want to you can try a piece of my cake?”

“I would.” Sherlock accepts the piece gracefully. He smells it, uses his fork to carefully dissect the layers before he tastes each one separately. Most of the flavours are quite straightforward, nothing he couldn’t find in a good Chinese specialty store, but there’s one that eludes him. “Which one has the dark, slightly smoky flavour? Not bitter, but with some heat?

She stares at him awkwardly. “I really do not know the English names…”

“Do you have them here, the herbs? You must have brought extra, would be unwise not to.” Sherlock looks over her counter, but can’t see anything. “Where are they? If I could smell them I could identify them.”

John comes over, Sherlock’s plate in his hand, looks at Sherlock holding a fork and says, “Oh so you do eat cake! And this was fantastic by the way.”

‘Fantastic’. He knew it was. He knew it. Sherlock pushes the feeling of triumph away. “Not eating, tasting, there’s a difference.” He briefly smiles at John, then looks back at Soo Lin “Where did you buy them? Or what is the Chinese name?”

“Sherlock! You can’t just ask her that.” John seems insulted in her stead.

Sherlock feels confused. “Why not? Why can’t I ask her?” It’s exceedingly rare for him not to recognise a taste, and neither did Mrs. Hudson or Lestrade. The only person he knows of with a better palate than his own is Mycroft, and he’s not exactly going to ask him to come and analyse Soo Lin’s bake. He simply wants to know.

“Because we’re in a competition, if she wants to keep her secrets than she should be allowed to.”

Soo Lin looks between them nervously.

“I told you everything that was in my cake,” Sherlock argues.

John grins. “Only because you think I’m not competition, remember? Feel free to change your mind about that any time by the way.” He seems a little smug.

Sherlock is forced to leave it be when the judges come back into the tent, and they’re asked to line up in front of the tent.

Lestrade steps up. “First of all, I have the honour of announcing this week’s star baker.”

Sherlock already knows that it’s not going to be him, so that’s dull. It might be John though. Or Soo Lin. She’s clasping her hands together rather tightly.

“Our Opera baker, Jim! Congratulations.” Oh.

Several of the other bakers step forward and gather around to pat him on the back. Sherlock stays out of it and is gratified to see that John does as well.

“And now, the moment of truth.” Mrs. Hudson purses her lips. She doesn’t sound fond of this part. “We are going to say goodbye to two bakers today. I know you all did your best, but in the end we have to make a choice. So… Anderson.” Sherlock agrees, besides the fact that the guy has the grace of a buffoon, none of his bakes were executed remotely well.

“And Mike.” A little murmur goes through the group. He was already well-liked, and it’s obvious in the hugs and goodbyes he gets that he is going to be missed. Sherlock shakes Mike’s hand, but as he sees the tears start to well up in his red and earnest face lets go quickly.

The cameramen film Mike and Anderson walking out the tent, some general shots of all of them standing there, and then it’s over.

The first weekend of the Bake Off.

It feels like it has been much shorter than a day and a half. Sherlock’s feet are still uncomfortably wet. His stomach is rumbling mildly. Most people need to go back to their counters to pack up their stuff, but Sherlock is leaving nearly all of it, besides the perishables, right here. John seems to be done quickly as well, and they walk out of the tent together.

“So next week is bread.” John needs to lean heavily on his cane to navigate through the field but he seems fine with keeping up a conversation.

Sherlock hums something in the affirmative. It’s not raining right now, but the clouds look grey and dreary. Yeast is going to be a nightmare to handle if it’s this cold outside again next weekend.

“Not looking forward to that.” John sounds tired, but there’s something in his eyes...

They’re walking close, close enough for John’s sleeve to slightly drag over Sherlock’s jacket on every step. It feels a little odd, but not unpleasant. Sherlock takes a breath, “Yes, you are.”

John looks at him briefly, and then gives in. “Yes, okay, I am. Can’t wait, actually.”

Sherlock feels the side of his mouth curl up.

“Me, too.”