“There’s another bedroom upstairs, if you’ll be needing two bedrooms?”
Footsteps thudded above her head and then rattled noisily down the stairs. Mrs. Hudson smiled indulgently as the front door of 221b Baker Street slammed, cutting off a rallying cry of “Come on, John!” Sherlock obviously had new case, and it was about time too, as far as Mrs. Hudson was concerned. The poor dear did get so dreadfully bored without a case. Which did tend to put her nicely wallpapered walls in danger of bullet holes.
She was glad that he’d taken that nice Dr. Watson with him again, too. It was lovely for Sherlock to have a companion. He didn’t have many, and as much as he might protest he didn’t need them, Mrs. Hudson knew it was always better not to be lonely.
And Sherlock and Dr. Watson seemed to get along so well. The doctor seemed such a nice man, and more than willing to put up with Sherlock’s quirks and habits.
They were quite the pair, and they seemed very happy together.
Mrs. Hudson smiled to herself for a moment, and then rose stiffly from her armchair (her hip twinged a little, but she ignored it – it wasn’t quite time for her herbal soother yet). She would put out a little snack for when they came back from their jaunt. She knew Sherlock pretended to disdain the idea of food while he was on a case, but he never could resist a cup of Mrs. Hudson’s tea. And chocolate digestives were Dr. Watson’s favourites.
“Oh, don’t worry, there’s all sorts round here. Mrs. Turner next door’s got married ones.”
“They’re off again,” Ralph commented, looking out the window.
“Who are?” William asked.
“Those two from next door.”
William sighed. “Honestly, you’re obsessed with them. It’s almost creepy.” But he nonetheless joined his husband at the window – just in time to see the hem of a dark blue greatcoat whisk into a taxi on the other side of Baker Street, and the taxi drive off.
“They both went, did they?”
“Yep,” Ralph replied. “The other one tagging along as usual.” He shot a sideways look at William. “So, are they or aren’t they?”
“Are they or aren’t they what?”
“You know.” Ralph made a rude gesture.
William sighed again. “Who knows?”
“They’ve got to be,” Ralph decided. “He wouldn’t tag along after the other one at all hours if he didn’t have an incentive. Plus,” he added slyly, “I totally would.”
“What?” William wrinkled his nose. “Would you?”
“Of course! Have you seen those cheekbones? And he does wear that coat with such panache, darling!” Ralph struck a camp pose and William gave him a shove.
“Stop being such a stereotype. And stop perving over our neighbours. Mrs. Turner will hear you, and then she’ll tell Mrs. Whatsername next door and he’ll find out about it.”
“So what if he does? Maybe he’d like it. Maybe we’ll have a torrid affair.”
William laughed. “Yeah, and if tag-along found out, he’d probably shoot you.”
“Ah ha, so you do think they’re shagging!”
“Oh, shut up.”
“He’s with me.”
“But who is he?”
“I said, he’s with me.”
“Amazing,” John said. “Just…amazing.”
The customary split second expression of pleased surprise (that he obviously didn’t even know he was letting slip) crossed Sherlock’s face, and then the smug superiority was back as he said, “Of course.”
Lestrade wondered whether, by this point, John really did still think Sherlock’s deductions were amazing, or whether he was now just saying it to pander to Sherlock’s ego.
Then he decided it didn’t matter, since the end result was the same. Sherlock got his ego boost, and John got – well, Lestrade assumed he must be getting something out of it, although he didn’t particularly want to speculate as to what that something was.
He watched as Sherlock rattled off yet another string of information that he clearly thought should have been obvious to everyone in the room, and then…Lestrade blinked. Had he really just seen that? Had he really just seen a request for approval in the look Sherlock had thrown John?
Did Sherlock Holmes, who never cared what anybody thought of him, really now require validation from John Watson, of all people?
John grinned and rolled his eyes, albeit in an obviously affectionate way. “I’ve already told you you’re amazing three times in the last hour – do you really want me to say it again?” he asked Sherlock.
Sherlock gave a sniff, although his disdain was fooling no one. Then he grinned (actually grinned – Lestrade suddenly felt like the world had shifted on its axis slightly) back and said, “It couldn’t hurt.”
John laughed and rolled his eyes again. “You’re amazing,” he said, with every appearance of sincerity.
That settled it. John Watson was definitely getting something out of this.
And Lestrade strongly suspected that Sherlock was getting more than just an ego boost.
“You’re not his friend. He doesn’t have friends.”
Sally Donovan couldn’t quite believe it. She had warned John bloody Watson to stay away from the freak, and yet here he was, trailing along behind again, mooning after the Sherlock in a way that Sally quite frankly found pathetic, and slightly nauseating.
The guy needed his head examined, in her opinion. What could he possibly see in Sherlock Holmes that meant he hadn’t yet run screaming for the hills, and indeed, meant that he apparently even liked the freak?
She shared an eye-roll with Anderson while they waited for another dramatic and belittling proclamation. Were they really the only ones who could see it? Even the D.I. appeared to be buying into the whole situation, and he was normally a lot more sensible about things. Although, she reflected, he’d always seemed to have a bit of a soft spot for the ‘great detective.’
She repressed a derisive snort.
It would all end in tears, Sally was sure of it. One of these days John would have his eyes opened, and he’d suddenly realise that he was making an idiot of himself and that Sherlock Holmes only cared about Sherlock Holmes, and that John Watson came an extremely distant second, if he even featured on the list at all.
And Sally was damn certain that she wasn’t providing a shoulder to cry on.
“You’re very loyal, very quickly.”
It was regrettable, the way things inevitably turned out. And this was inevitable. One of them was going to die (probably John, Mycroft reflected, with an unfamiliar twinge of something in his chest that he steadfastly ignored), and leave the other one a broken shell of a man.
Oh, Mycroft had no doubt that Sherlock would hide it well (and with that thought he mentally upgraded John’s decease from probable to certain). He’d always had a talent for masking what he saw as messy, unnecessary emotions. But he wouldn’t be able to hide it from Mycroft. Big Brother was always watching, much to Sherlock’s annoyance.
It was the sheer abnormality of their situation that put them in danger. Or rather, the sheer abnormality of Sherlock’s situation. Mycroft was certain that John had had other close friends, colleagues, lovers before, whereas Sherlock…well, Sherlock had never really played well with others.
To tell the truth, while Mycroft liked John (as much as he could assign the emotion ‘like’ to anyone), he was almost continually surprised by his presence (not that he’d let anyone know that – Mycroft Holmes was much better at concealing his emotions than his sibling). Most people would have given up on Sherlock long ago, but John Watson was proving to be surprisingly…tenacious.
Of course, it was that tenaciousness that was going to get him killed. When people like Sherlock deigned to acquire a significant other, that significant other would almost certainly become a target for someone.
Mycroft wondered if he should warn them.
But then, they probably already knew.
“I will burn the heart out of you.”
Things had gone exactly according to plan. Jim liked it when that happened.
The memory of the look on Sherlock Holmes’s face when he’d shot the bomb and nothing happened was one that Jim would treasure for a very long time. The surprise, the relief, and then the fear. The fear that he and his charming little pet would end up riddled with bullets after all, leaving Jim to walk away scot free.
Of course, Jim had walked away, but not without leaving Sherlock and John Watson a little present. A present of their lives. He had warned them about his changeability, they shouldn’t have looked so shocked.
And besides, things were so much more fun this way. This way he got to manipulate and torment some more. This way he got to play.
He could imagine the two of them now, in their little flat, celebrating their very aliveness, and it brought a gleeful little smile to his face.
They thought they were safe now. How very wrong they were. There was a weakness here to exploit, and it would be a shame – a crime – not to take full advantage.
Jim Moriarty had made Sherlock Holmes a promise after all, and he intended to keep it.
“I’m glad no one saw that.”
“You, ripping my clothes off in a darkened swimming pool. People might talk.”
“People do little else.”
“Have you noticed the way people look at us?” John said, apropos of nothing.
“No,” replied Sherlock absently.
An frsutrated rustle of the newspaper and an annoyed snap of his name indicated that this was a conversation he was supposed to be paying attention to. Sherlock suppressed a sigh, pasted an interested look on his face, and turned to John.
“How do people look at us, John?” he asked.
John scowled at Sherlock’s condescending tone, but answered anyway. “Like they’re thinking things about us.”
“Ah.” Sherlock paused for a moment, and then smiled slightly. “It seems I was wrong to despair quite so thoroughly of the deductive powers of the rest of the human race.”
“Sherlock, I don’t want people thinking things about us!”
“But they’re almost certainly not thinking anything untrue, John.”
“That’s not the point! For Christ’s sake, Sherlock, even he was thinking it!”
There was no need to explain who he was. There was a moment of tension.
Then, “I don’t see how we can stop them, John,” said Sherlock. He smiled again. “Unless we did something to make them think something else.”
“A staged fight, perhaps?” Sherlock mused. “I’m sure it wouldn’t be beyond the bounds of your acting ability to feign anger with me. I, of course, would have no problem.”
“Hark at the frustrated Oscar hopeful,” John muttered. Then he laughed ruefully. “I’m being stupid, aren’t I?”
“Far be it from me to comment on your level of intelligence…” Sherlock began.
“Oh, shut up,” John interrupted, although with a certain amount of affection in his voice.
“Believe it or not, John, I do understand. I too would rather not have people speculating on my personal life. However, I also understand that it really doesn’t matter what other people think.”
“It only matters what you think, right?” John said, amused.
“That’s is not quite true, John.”
“Oh. Oh, right.”
“Although at the moment I am thinking some things about us that I believe do matter.”
“Yes? And what might those be?”
Sherlock stood up. “It’s time for bed, John.”
In her sitting room down below, Mrs. Hudson smiled as she heard footsteps and closing doors again.
Really, those boys did fit together so well.