Five Ways John and Sherlock Could Have Missed Each Other, and One Way They Didn’t.
1. Drugs Bust
Lestrade took the steps two at a time, a mixture of curiosity and concern making his heart race. The text had been brief and to the point: I’ve got something you should see.
The tall form of Inspector Edgar Spaulding, Clubs and Vice Unit came into view as he reached the second floor. Edgar was leaning against the wall, arms crossed, a pensive look on his face. “Well?” Lestrade said, gulping in air.
For answer, Spaulding pushed off the wall and crossed the hallway into a small room. Lestrade followed him, but stopped dead at the sight of the body on the filthy mattress. Tall and lanky, dressed in ratty jeans and a thin cotton T-shirt, with a mop of unruly black curls and the kind of pallor that only came with death. “Christ,” he murmured, crouching down beside the still form.
“Your informant, isn’t he?” Spaulding asked, his voice kind. “Holmes, or something?”
“Yeah.” The word came out as a defeated exhalation. He’d met him only a few months ago. The man had been brilliant in the way he put things together, the way he read a life story from the smallest clues. But he’d known there was something off about him, had sensed the desolation in those pale blue eyes. “Overdose, was it?”
“Looks like.” Spaulding’s hand gripped his shoulder, warm, comforting. “Sorry, Greg. If we’d come an hour earlier…”
“It’s all right, Edgar,” he said, standing and brushing at the knees of his trousers. “It’s not your fault.” If it’s anyone’s it’s mine, he thought grimly. I knew he needed help and I didn’t do anything about it. “Thanks for letting me know.”
“Ta,” Edgar replied. “We’ll get together for drinks next week.”
“Yeah, that’ll be great.”
He tried to talk himself out of his low mood as he drove back to the Yard. A junkie died in London. So what? Happens every day. Sad, but true. You’ve seen it enough.
But he couldn’t shake the sense that something tragic had just happened.
He did the best he could, but the man’s life still slipped through his fingers. Wearily he turned away and stripped his gloves off, plunging his hands into the basin of tepid water, scrubbing the tacky, drying blood off his skin. The dying rays of the sun slanted through the tent and he tried not to look at the body lying on his table, the chunk of meat that just a few hours ago had been full of youth and promise.
There were voices outside the tent, raised in consternation, and then the flap was pulled aside and he heard the sharp inhalation, then the low, hoarse “No” that vibrated with pain.
“I’m sorry, son,” he said, turning as he toweled his arms dry. The young man standing in the entrance was familiar, and he frowned as he tried to remember his name. A nurse, from one of the other units… Murray, wasn’t it? Bill Murray. “Did you know him?”
“John,” the other man moaned. “He was a medic in my unit.”
He nodded. He’d known that from the bright red cross on the white band around his sleeve. “Why wasn’t he wearing a ballistics vest?”
“He’d taken it off – he put it over Thomas, the man we were working on, when the shooting started. I told him to get down, but he didn’t listen.” Murray took a few steps into the tent, hesitant and slow. He looked over at the doctor, his eyes filled with guilt. “I should have made him. If I’d made him duck down the round would have hit him in the shoulder, not the chest.”
“It’s not your fault.” The platitudes came easily now, after what felt like a lifetime in this hell of sand and heat. “You did your best.”
“Can I… I mean, do you mind if I… sit here for a while? I… I just want to say goodbye.”
His throat tightened. There were days, more often than not, now, that he hated his job. “Of course not, son. You take all the time you need.”
The cursor blinked at him tauntingly, black on an endless field of white.
Just write about what you do, Ella had said. Write about your everyday life.
The problem was that he didn’t do anything. And he had no life.
He rubbed a hand across his eyes and yawned, tired. He hadn’t been able to get back to sleep after the nightmare last night. Not that he slept that well generally. It seemed that almost every time he closed his eyes thoughts and memories of Afghanistan would crowd in. And never the nice ones, like the time he won twenty quid from Smithson in poker. Only the ones with blood, and sand, and guns, and fear.
Maybe he’d take a nap.
Yeah, that’ll do wonders for your mood, John.
He should go out for a walk. It was a lovely day, a rare spot of sun in London’s usually dreary winter, and he should get dressed and go outside and do something. He could get a coffee and sit in the park. Maybe he’d bump into an old friend.
His gaze fell on his cane, leaning where he’d placed it against the desk. The aluminum sparkled brightly at him, as if to say, Yes! Yes, let’s go out! Let’s go out where we can show everybody that you’re an invalid, useless, no good!
With a grunt of disgust he shut the laptop and stowed it away in the drawer. He glared at the cane and pointedly left it where it was as he made his way haltingly across the room to the bed, where he shrugged off his bathrobe and crawled under the covers.
A nap it was, then. Maybe he’d go out tomorrow. Or maybe he wouldn’t. At least that cursor wasn’t blinking at him anymore. Now if he could just ignore the slow, seductive tug of the SIG Sauer nestled beneath his computer.
He turned his back on the room and prayed for dreamless sleep.
4. Mobile phone
Mike held the door for him, which annoyed John. He hadn’t done things like that when they were students together at Bart’s. But this damned leg changed everything, and he hated it.
“Bit different from my day,” he muttered crossly, limping into the lab. Which was true – there was a lot more computer equipment than he remembered, and even less counter space than usual.
“Mike, can I borrow your phone? There’s no signal on mine.” The request came from a tall, dark-haired man over in the far corner standing at the counter, adding something to a beaker. He didn’t look like a medical student; he was wearing a dark suit with an immaculate white shirt, and posh shoes, instead of the standard trainers-jeans-and-a-lab-coat uniform of the average Bart’s resident. But he clearly knew his way around a chemistry lab.
“Well, what’s wrong with the land line?” Mike asked, an edge of annoyance in his voice
The corners of the young man’s mouth turned down in distaste. “I prefer to text.”
Mike gave a vague wave over towards the lockers against the wall. “Sorry, it’s in my coat.”
John would have loaned him his, if he’d had one. He wanted to get one of those new smartphones – Harry had been showing hers off to him last week, a present from Clara – but he couldn’t really justify the expense in his current situation. Maybe if he did get a flatmate, he would help with the bills, and…
His train of thought was interrupted by an exasperated sigh from the dark-haired stranger. “I’ll have to go to the computer lab, I suppose,” he said, shrugging into an impossibly grand overcoat and wrapping a scarf around his neck. “At least I can pick my riding crop up from the mortuary on the way.” He swept towards the door, completely ignoring John in the process. “Afternoon.”
John watched him go, then glanced back at Mike, bemused.
Mike shrugged. “Yeah, he’s always like that. Bit of a wanker, really. But he’s looking for a flatshare, if you’re interested.”
There was something about the man that was compelling, John couldn’t deny it. But he seemed far too public school, with that coat and those shoes. And a riding crop? Who the hell owned a riding crop these days? “Thanks anyway, Mike,” he said, shaking his head, “don’t think we would have got along all that well.”
5. You’re a doctor
“Brilliant!” He could hardly contain his excitement as the adrenaline started to thrum in his veins. The game was on. “Four serial suicides and now a note. Oh, it’s Christmas!” He grabbed his coat and scarf from where he’d thrown them over a box of books and slung them on as he strode into the kitchen. “Mrs. Hudson, I’ll be late. Might need some food.”
“I’m your landlady, dear, not your housekeeper.”
“Something cold will do,” he replied. He picked up his leather case of tools from the kitchen table and patted his pocket, making sure his Blackberry was inside. “John, have a cup of tea, make yourself at home. Don’t wait up.”
Except I still don’t have an assistant, he thought, as he swept out the kitchen door and down the stairs, adjusting his scarf and pulling his gloves out of his pocket. He needed an assistant, especially now that he’d told Lestrade so. He hated to think of the looks he’d get if he showed up there alone. And Anderson was a complete idiot; he’d probably completely bollixed up the scene already. Undoubtedly because his ridiculous attraction to Sally Donovan was distracting him.
He stopped on the landing and looked back as a thought struck him. That fellow, John – he was a doctor. An Army doctor. He’d probably make a good assistant.
But in his next breath he rejected the idea. Dragging a man you’d just met who had mobility issues – because John did have a limp, psychosomatic or not – to a crime scene was probably not the best way to get him to agree to share a flat with you. On top of that, John had started asking questions about how he deduced things, and he’d learned from bitter experience that it was best if he didn’t explain how he knew the things that he knew. People generally didn’t respond favorably.
This place in Baker Street was a good deal. He didn’t want to lose it. And he had to have a flatmate. He really couldn’t afford to have anything like what had happened in Montague Street happen again.
No, he decided, it’s best for all concerned if John stays here and settles in. He’ll have a cup of tea, chat a bit with Mrs. Hudson… that’ll make him more likely to say yes. He’d just have to do without someone at the crime scene.
He hurried the rest of the way downstairs and out into the street, where he hailed a taxi.
John opened his eyes to a field of white. He blinked, confused for a moment, and then the familiar smell made the penny drop. Hospital.
The memories fell into place like puzzle pieces. Being grabbed outside the flat, shoved into a car and then a Semtex-loaded vest. The pool, and Sherlock’s, then Moriarty’s, appearance. Sherlock’s brilliant, insane gambit to save their lives.
He took a deep breath, surprised to find that he felt… good. Very good, actually. Warm and relaxed; almost as if he was floating. Must have given me the really high-end painkillers, he thought.
When he turned his head to the side he saw Sherlock, dressed in hospital pyjamas, sitting in one of the hard plastic chairs, his knees drawn up and his arms wrapped around them, staring fixedly at him.
“Hello,” he said, or tried to say. His throat was so dry it came out as a weak croak.
Sherlock unfolded himself from the chair and poured a glass of water out from the carafe on John’s bedside table, then handed it to him. John took it, having to concentrate a bit because his hands felt rather numb and puffy, but he managed to keep hold of it and manoeuver the straw into his mouth. The water tasted heavenly – better, even, than when he’d been shot in the desert – but he limited himself to a few small sips, knowing that he shouldn’t put too much stress on his digestive system so soon after surgery.
“Thanks,” he rasped, handing the glass back. “All right, then?” he asked.
Sherlock nodded, his eyes never leaving John’s face.
“You got shot in the leg and got impaled by a piece of rebar,” Sherlock said. “That was eleven hours, forty-one minutes and twelve seconds ago. The surgery lasted for four hours, seventeen minutes and fifty-three seconds. You coded once on the table.”
His voice was calm, John noticed, but his eyes weren’t. His eyes looked like they had at the pool, wild and lost. At least he wasn’t scratching his head with a loaded gun. “If you’re all right,” he said, carefully, “then why are you wearing pyjamas?”
“I’ve been faking the symptoms of a concussion so I could stay in here with you,” Sherlock replied.
“Sherlock….” As much as he appreciated the sentiment – or at least what he assumed was the sentiment; you never know, it could be that Sherlock was just interested in observing the bodily effects of prolonged emergency surgery, instead of actually being worried about him – it wasn’t really appropriate to--
“You trusted me.” Sherlock interrupted his train of thought. “You trusted me with your life. No one’s ever done that before.” He paused, gaze still on John. “Why did you do that?”
Because I love you was the response that immediately sprung to mind, because apparently the painkillers were making his brain feel as loose and cheery as his limbs. But he managed to hold his tongue on that, and struggled to think of something coherent and relevant to say about Sherlock’s nerve under pressure, or Mycroft’s tendency to swoop in where his little brother was concerned, or something. “Er… um, well….”
And that was when Sherlock leaned over and kissed him.
It was a terrible kiss. John was so startled that he didn’t react much, or close his eyes, and their noses were mashed together weirdly because Sherlock didn’t tilt his head to the side enough. Nevertheless, John knew that the sudden warmth that bloomed in his chest didn’t have anything to do with the excellent painkillers.
“Wait, what happened to ‘I’m married to my work’?” he asked when Sherlock pulled away, flushed pink to the tips of his ears.
“Aren’t you a part of my work?” Sherlock replied, eyes wary, a hesitant smile playing at the corners of his mouth.
“Oh, right. Well, that’s all right, then.” He fumbled at the bed controls until he was a bit more vertical. “Come here so I can kiss you properly.” The expression that spread across Sherlock’s face made him feel as though his heart was about to burst.
The second time was much better, mainly because John was able to sink a hand – the one without the IV in it – into Sherlock’s hair and adjust the angle of his head. It didn’t hurt that he’d had fantasies about running his fingers through that hair, either. Or that he was prepared enough, this time, to respond.
The sound of a throat clearing caused them to break apart, and John looked over to see a nurse standing in the doorway, smiling at them. “Dr. Watson, it’s time for your meds.”
Sherlock had retreated back to his chair, although he kept a hold of John’s hand. “I’m… um, I’m feeling pretty good, actually,” John said. Although now that he’d said that he was aware of something sharp and bright just hovering on the edge of his awareness.
“You know how important it is to keep ahead of this,” the nurse said. “And you need your rest.” She moved over to the IV and injected the medicine into the port.
John turned his head to look at Sherlock, tightening his hand around Sherlock’s long, pale fingers. “I’ll stay right here,” Sherlock promised. “We’ve had too many near misses of late.” His voice was deep and warm and John felt it wrap around him like a coat as the drugs tugged him towards sleep.
“You should tell them you don’t need the bed, though,” he murmured. “Surely you can talk the nurses into letting you stay in here.”
“Especially now that they’ve seen me kiss you,” Sherlock said, a chuckle in his voice, and John smiled. He watched Sherlock walk towards the door, and then it became very hard to keep his eyes open.
But he didn’t fall asleep until he felt Sherlock’s hand wrapped back around his.