John Watson/Sherlock Holmes, rated nc17
The barista at the coffee shop is flirting with him again. John grins at her when she asks his name, lowers his voice, and says, "Now if I told you, I'd have to kill you."
He's rather relieved when instead of snorting at him for such an uninspired response, she smiles at him and says, "Why don't I just make something up, then?"
"I'll look forward to it."
"I'm Kate," she tells him as she writes a name on the cup and hands it to the barista that's making the drinks.
"Well, thank you, Kate."
John watches her as she talks to the other customers, moving gracefully in such a small space, though he can see that she favours her right leg. She's fluid as she moves, though, and he can only see the slight limp because he knows how it feels. Dancer, John guesses. He doesn't know of any dance school nearby but he'll ask Sherlock when he sees him.
There's something fluid about her movements; it prickles the back of his mind, but he can't place where he might have seen her before.
"Earl grey for... uh, Leopold George Duncan Albert," the barista calls and it takes a moment before John realizes its his tea. He thanks the barista and holds up the cup in a salute to Kate as he walks out of the shop, the cup warming his hand and rather a bit of hope warming his heart.
Several hours later John's home early from his shift at the surgery. He calls a greeting to Mrs. Hudson, then takes the stairs a few at a time and finds himself alone in the flat. Sherlock's had a bit of a dry spell recently, which sees him spending far too much time at home, underfoot, and in the bloody way. This is a nice change.
Maybe he can watch a bit of telly and plot out a way to get Kate's phone number the next time he goes in.
He goes to turn on the kettle for a cuppa and is relieved to find nothing in the refrigerator but milk, eggs, and the odd white box from the lab that's been there for three weeks now. A fridge empty of body parts, John thinks as he grabs the milk and walks to the cupboard above the sink for a mug, how novel.
Then he looks down.
He drops the milk.
There are fingers in the sink.
Fingers. In a colander. In the sink.
As though someone were draining a bit of pasta to have for supper.
John glances upward at the ceiling and takes a deep breath. If he were a better man he'd throw them out. If he were a better man, he'd tell Sherlock that normal people have laboratories for housing hazardous experiments that might put someone off of their food.
But John's not a better man. He leaves the fingers, untouched, in the colander (in the sink!) and grabs a teabag for his mug. The water is boiling by now. When he starts for it he slips and overbalances as he tries to right himself, catching himself with his left hand on the back of one of the chairs and wrenching his shoulder as he does so.
"Bloody hell," he swears. What in the hell was on the floor? He looks down, expecting to see blood or placenta or some other human fluid that he's knocked over.
But no, it's just milk. Milk from the container he himself dropped upon discovering the fingers (in the colander!) in the sink. He swears again, this time in a string of highly descriptive words his mother would have sent him out of the house for were she still alive.
John stands in the middle of the puddle of milk thinking out his next step. In any other flat, he'd simply step out of his shoes to avoid tracking the milk anywhere else, get a towel, and clean the spill. But John knows a great portion of what Sherlock has done with his experiments during his period of unemploy and he's not entirely certain his stocking feet would protect him from the various chemicals and/or diseases that might have taken up residence on the kitchen floor. He sighs, taking a step to reach for a tea towel -- or perhaps two. He tosses one onto the floor and steps on it to clean the soles of his shoes. After his shoes are relatively clean, he kneels down with the second towel and the industrial strength spray cleaner that he bought in a fit of frustration after finding the entrails of several different animals on the kitchen counter one day last March.
Sherlock bangs into the flat a minute or two later with a takeaway cup in his hand and frowns at John.
"Why are you on your knees in the middle of the kitchen?"
John's tempted to mutter under his breath, why don't you deduce it for yourself, but takes the safer road and says, "Spilled the milk."
"Hmmm... that's surprising," Sherlock says. "You've never been clumsy."
"Well, if there weren't bloody fingers in the sink, I wouldn't have spilled the milk."
Sherlock thinks about that. "That doesn't follow."
John breathes through his nose. Several times. "I was holding the milk when I saw the delightfully surprising contents of the sink and dropped it."
Sherlock doesn't respond for a moment, then nods and holds out the cup in his hand. "I brought you a tea. Thought you might need it. You're always a bit wound after you get home from surgery."
John is oddly touched by the gesture and accepts it wordlessly. Sherlock smiles at him. "Dinner? I thought we might get Chinese."
"Yeah, that sounds great."
After inhaling the warm citrusy scent, John takes a sip of tea and then sets it down on the table. "There's that new place that just opened over on-- hang on."
He glances at the name on the takeaway cup and frowns. Leopold George Duncan Albert. Why does he know that name? His mind pauses, rewinds through the day slowly until he alights on the afternoon trip he took to get a cup of tea.
"Sherlock?" he calls. "Were you at the coffee shop today?"
"Obviously." His voice is muffled; he must be reading. "I was trying out a few things to prepare for a future case. I'm surprised you didn't recognise me."
"Recognise you? Why would I--"
"Well, if I told you, I'd have to kill you."
John's heart freezes a moment, then resumes a rather erratic rhythm. "Oh my god," he says quietly. Then, walking into the sitting room, "That was you? At the coffee shop? You were Kate?"
Sherlock looks ridiculously pleased with himself.
John's mind goes back over the exchange: the barista's smile, the way she looked right into his eyes, John's pathetic attempt at flirting. Oh god. He feels himself flush.
"I can't believe I flirted with you."
"I'd hardly call that flirting."
John has no response for that.
"How did you not know?" Sherlock asks earnestly. "I was certain you'd figure it out as soon as you read the name."
John walks back into the kitchen to pick up the cup. "Leopold George Duncan Albert," he reads aloud. "Why would I know that name?"
Sherlock sighs. "Don't you remember when you were watching that special on the telly? About the war?"
John nods. It had been a good special. About a month ago, if he recalled.
"Wait, what does that have to do with the name on the cup?"
"There was an advert for commemorative plates after the show..." Sherlock is clearly leading him towards the answer, but John has no idea.
"The commemorative royal plates honouring each of Queen Victoria's children?"
John knows his face is infuriatingly blank.
Sherlock sighs again. "Seriously, John. It's obvious. Leopold George Duncan Albert was Queen Victoria's youngest son. He suffered from haemophilia. I can't believe you don't remember. They named all nine children on the advert. I thought you would have picked up on it the moment you held the cup."
"Naturally." John rolls his eyes and takes a long sip of tea. So, he spent his afternoon break flirting with his male flatmate, who was dressed as a woman, and he had no idea. His shoes are still damp from the milk he spilled on the floor after discovering a pile of fingers in a colander in the middle of the sink, put there by his male flatmate. Now they're considering dinner as though this were just a normal day.
He grins, then goes to sit in the chair across from Sherlock.
"So... Chinese, then?"
John doesn't mean to break the washer. But Sherlock is in one of his little snits (he really is like a child some -- if not most -- of the time) and John is fed up with all of the scientific detritus being left on every bloody surface of the flat.
So, he balls up all of the rags, the tea towels, various socks strewn under tables and the sofa, and shoves them into the washer, hard. John ignores the stomp of bare feet going upstairs and simply concentrates on the laundry. He has to jam it all in to fit, but when he stands back from setting the timer and adding the washing soap, he feels a little bit better.
He next attacks the dishes, the canisters he's willing to touch, and old newspapers. Twenty minutes later he's feeling a bit lighter and whistles low as he works (In my life by the Beatles, his favourite). He even grabs a pair of surgical gloves and bins several of the more suspect containers lying around.
The buzz of repeated texts doesn't faze him; he ignores various objects being tossed down the stairs. John's bloody well not going to give Sherlock more attention right now.
However, when the washer jams, sounds a buzzer like a strangled cat, and starts pouring water onto the floor he'd just started mopping, John swallows his pride and calls out for help.
"Fascinating," Sherlock says later as they pile the sodden towels onto a plastic rubbish bag. "I'd never considered the quantity of water that washers use. Have you caused others to overflow before? What can you remember?"
"Sorry," John says, the fight gone out of him. "This was my first time."
A few days later John is at the local laundry again. He had never really thought about the quantity of washing the two of them acquire in such a short time, though John's long suspected Sherlock of either allowing Mycroft to arrange for his own laundering or simply binning clothes when they're dirty and replacing them on a bi-weekly basis through internet purchases. He's never seen Sherlock hold an iron, nor even touch the washer.
But apparently he's decided to start using a laundry basket to hold (god forbid!) laundry.
So John volunteered (or at least he thinks he did) to take out the washing whilst Sherlock busied himself with some very important research into the depth and pressure the pads of his fingers make when pressed against each other whilst lying supine on the sofa.
After taking over four washers, John sits and pulls out a couple of journals that he's been wanting to read for ages. He opens the most recent issue of The Lancet and thumbs through it, waiting for something to catch his eye.
He's halfway through a world report on Healing the mental scars of combat when he feels someone watching him.
The lad across the way eyes him and John smiles back, embarrassed. Sure, he gets the odd look, but rarely from men, and fewer, if he were completely honest, than he might like.
He has an interesting look to him: pale but with clearly bleached hair. It should make him look washed out, but instead invites double takes.
John glances at the washer. He has another twenty-four minutes or so, and he can't decide if he'd like to finish the article or not. After a few moments he glances up and makes eye contact with the bloke across the way. Still looking.
His face heats. John can't remember the last time someone looked at him with such hunger in their (dark, beautiful) eyes. So, he sets down the journal and walks over.
"I'm John," he says. Which is a perfectly logical opener.
"Brian," the bloke says.
"Oh. American, then?"
"Yeah. Chicago. But I heard the men in London were worth checking out."
John laughs and sits down. "Well, I don't know where you got your information, Brian, but there are far better places to meet men than in a laundromat in the middle of central London."
Brian puts his hand on John's knee. "You're far too modest."
"You have no idea."
"So, do you come here often?"
John tilts his head, amused. "Does that work in America?"
"Not even once. Guess it doesn't work in the UK, either."
"Didn't say it wasn't working."
Brian's smile goes all the way through his eyes. "Then, by all means, answer the question."
"Don't come here often, no. This is my first time."
"Lucky for me."
John's a little breathless from the entire exchange. He rarely has such good fortune flirting with anyone and can't believe his inane chatter is working. Brian's hand is slowly sliding up his leg.
Brian mutters something rather suggestive and John's mind skips.
"I'm sorry... what was that?"
Brian leans over slowly, pushes his lips just under John's ear. His breath tickles John's neck when he speaks.
"Would you care. To meet me. In the gents?"
John's mind blanks for a moment. Because... yes. Yes, he would like the chance to get off with another person for the first time in a good while. Brian can't be more than thirty -- not with that hair -- and John's in no danger of falling for him. He just wants to be desired.
He can't quite find the right words, not with Brian breathing against his skin, so John nods -- more than once. Part of him can't believe what he's just agreed to.
Brian grins at him, then stands and heads directly to the loo. John glances around the laundromat. There are a few other people there, but no one is paying him any mind. The washers still have 18 minutes blinking; he's got plenty of time. He counts to fifteen in his head then follows Brian into the gents.
As soon as he pushes open the door John's pressed against the wall with hands tangled in his shirt and warm breath on his neck.
"God, John, your mouth. I kept watching it. You lick your lips, purse them, grin. It was driving me crazy. I want to put my tongue in your goddamn mouth."
And John... John just wants that. He wants to let everything around him fall away, just for a moment. He wants to let go of the world and feel. Tilting his head, he looks at Brian's mouth: his lush lips full of pretty, dirty words. He breathes the air between the two of them; it's sweet and oddly familiar. Brian drags his lower lip over John's cheekbone, his eyelid, under his ear, humming under his breath as he does.
John's mind is sliding into a haze of fuzzy warmth and he's more than happy to let Brian's lips glide over his face for the next hour if he gets to keep feeling like this. It's almost as if he's let go of everything rational, everything filling his mind, just for this.
"Jesus," John breathes. "Your bloody lips."
He can feel Brian smile, his lips are at John's ear again and he's still humming. It's soothing and so fucking erotic all at once. He starts humming along, reaching around to hold Brian's neck. The tension builds inside him and all of this lip foreplay tingles under his skin.
Brian pulls away slightly and looks at him. Their lips are inches apart. It's so quiet now. If John were to move forward in the slightest they'd be—
The quiet. John's mind whirls for a moment. Brian's not humming anymore, but the song he'd been humming—
John's heart drops; an ice cold shudder goes through him. Brian had been humming In my life. He should have realized.
"Sherlock," he says quietly.
Neither of them move.
John takes a deep breath. Then another. Sherlock hasn't moved; they're still just inches from each other.
"You get the washing then," John says. "I'm done here."
He walks out.
Sherlock returns less than an hour later. He hangs his coat and comes into the sitting room. The disguise is gone. John has made a cup of tea and is sitting in his chair with it balanced on his knee. The telly is on, but he has the sound off.
"You're angry with me."
John doesn't say anything.
"You left the laundromat without saying a word. You couldn't have walked anywhere before you returned to the flat. You made a cup of tea, discarded it in anger, then made a second. You've managed to stare at the curls of steam rising above it, but not drink a single sip."
Of course Sherlock has characterised John's approach to tea preparation and consumption. Of course he has. But John is still pissed off at... at well, everything. He doesn't bloody understand why Sherlock would--
And yet, he's still fascinated by Sherlock's remarkable ability to take a cursory glance around and see things. There's one piece of Sherlock's little monologue of which John can't make sense.
"How do you know I didn't go for a walk before coming back here?"
"Obvious. You took the most direct route back from the laundromat."
"Maybe I did," John said, still interested in spite of himself. "How did you know?"
"The most direct route home passes the Chinese restaurant and a bookshop, but no market. Any other possible route passes at least one market. We are in need of milk. There is no new milk in the kitchen, no milk in your tea. Inference: you took the most direct route home."
"Maybe I was too upset to get milk."
Sherlock raises his eyebrow at John, then cocks his head. John can't help but smile. His anger -- well, it doesn't melt, but it shrinks a little. It's not battering around in the front of his mind anymore. Sherlock's right, the bastard. John would never pass a market without going in if they were in need of milk. Bloody consulting detective. Always -- or very nearly always -- right.
John picks up his teacup and takes a small sip, grimaces at the lack of milk, then looks toward the door where Sherlock hung his coat.
"Wait, where's the washing?"
Sherlock blinks, looks around, and then genuinely looks sheepish. "I have no idea."
That night in bed, John falls heavily into sleep. He dreams hard: Afghanistan, explosions, bombs strapped to his chest. Body parts, screams, shouts in anger. When he wakes, John's mind is foggy, heavy. He's tangled in blankets; his mouth is dry and tastes of cotton. The pillow is damp under his cheek; his snug tee shirt is twisted and uncomfortable.
But he feels safe.
He reaches up, stretches his arms up under the pillow and lengthens his body as much as he can, feeling his muscles stretch and his joints pop. After a moment, he rolls over onto his back and bends his knees, lifting his hips up and stretching his back slowly.
From there he rolls his back slowly down onto the bed, one vertebra at a time, breathing slowly and deeply.
He doesn't have to be at work today, so John is tempted to stay in bed most of the day, falling into sleep when he can and existing in a haze of unawareness and denial.
The window's open and there's very little light coming in. It's still well before dawn, but a light breeze gusts over him, sending shivers over his damp flesh. He draws a sharp breath and shuts his eyes. The air feels new... arousing, and god, it's been a long time since he came.
John pulls off his tee shirt, sliding his hands above his head, languidly, just letting the air sweep over his body, arching upward again as though someone were pulling his stomach towards their lips for a kiss. He doesn't think of anyone in particular, not really, just imagines skin against his own, bodies sticky and aflame, and someone just as eager for his mouth as he is for theirs.
He arches again, digging his fingers into the sheets and curling his toes. The pictures in his imagination spread outward and take shape; John can feel hands on his skin now, touching low on his stomach, rubbing his nipples. He breathes out, grabbing the bedposts above his head and planting his feet. He's fully hard now. Rocking his hips upward, over and over, John feels himself tumbling headfirst into his daydream and he's powerless. He hasn't even touched himself.
A low, imagined voice whispers into his ear, telling him to let go, to fall into this desperate fantasy and damn the consequences. And he does.
John slides his hand down his stomach, grabs his cock, and strokes himself along with the rhythm building in his mind. He doesn't know how long he's been here (inside his mind) but he's clearly got to make a habit of this. John feels like he's floating above his bed, in the midst of darkness and breeze and he's... god. Sparks begin to ignite impossible places inside him. With a gasp and a low shout, John tenses, releases, and comes hard. He comes all over his belly, his fingers, the top sheet, then collapses down to the bed, wrecked. Breathing heavily, John smiles, then opens his eyes. He balls up the top sheet, mops himself up, then tosses it toward the laundry basket.
John pulls the light blanket over his body and sighs. He feels boneless and warm -- almost satisfied. A few months ago John would have been aching to get out of bed right now: away from the pain, the memories, the dreams. But it's not the dreams that he can't stop thinking about... it's everything else.
John's regularly haunted by dreams; it feels incongruous to be haunted by reality.
"No, Mrs. Davies," John assures her. "I'm certain that any maladies your past lives suffered from are no danger to you now."
"Are you certain?"
She beams at him. "Thank you, Doctor."
John makes a couple of notes on her chart, pushes back his chair, and walks to the door. Mrs. Davies follows him, pauses at the door, then takes his left hand in her own and examines it for a moment. She kisses his cheek rather messily.
"You are a love, Doctor Watson," she says happily. "If I were thirty years younger, I would snap you up in an instant."
"Mrs. Davies," he says, "I don't think I could ever hope to be good enough for you."
"Maybe one of my future lives will get you."
"One can only hope."
John hands Mrs. Davies her chart and nods at her as she heads to the desk. He's about to walk back into the examination room, but notices a police officer at the desk and pauses. He hasn't seen anything out of the ordinary or heard any commotion, so he waits for a moment, watching. He's not unsettled, not after months of living with Sherlock Holmes -- no one would be -- but he's definitely curious. This is a small office; they rarely have but the most common and mundane of ailments. John can't remember the last time he saw a police officer here.
Something about the officer tickles the back of his mind. John wonders if he's seen this officer at a crime scene with Sherlock, or possibly seen him at Scotland Yard. The officer is definitely business-oriented: talking very seriously with Prudence at the desk, taking careful notes as she looks up the information he's requested, but with a warmth to him as well. The officer is in his early 30's (a small, tell-tale patch greying his temples), and comfortable in his position. He clearly has been doing this job for a while, or else he's just very talented. Prudence is jumpy and nervous at the best of times, and she's as calm and collected as he's ever seen her with the officer.
"Miss Sc--" he starts to call out, but stops himself. He lets Mrs. Davies do the work for him. She gets to the desk, blinking up at the officer and crowding him away from the desk. He smiles at her, then turns slowly away, his eyes taking stock of the surroundings as every good police officer does. His eyes stop when they get to John, sweeping a long, slow trail up his body that John can feel like a laser. Warmth fills him; he doesn't meet his gaze right away. John does his own investigation of the police officer's body, stopping when he sees the hip holster. His eyes stutter to a stop.
The officer is carrying a Browning L9A1. John's Browning L9A1.
Sherlock took his gun. His bloody gun. To use in an elaborate attempt at pulling one over on him at his own job. John tries hard not to let his expression change; it would be nice to actually call Sherlock on something for a change.
Instead he does another slow once-over of the officer and holds his gaze, cocks his head, quirks the side of his mouth at him. John can flirt with the best of-- okay, that's not quite right, but he'd been rather good at flirting at one time or another. It's just been a while.
Prudence finishes with Mrs. Davies; he hears her embarrassed response to: "That Doctor Watson is a lovely one. Are you married? Because he'd make a fine husband. And I trust you've taken a good look at his arse."
John can feel his face flush but he doesn't change position. Sherlock-as-the-police-officer raises his eyebrows at him and John grins, then shrugs his shoulders in embarrassed agreement. He does have a rather fine arse, dammit. But John's mind races: how can he keep this going without letting Sherlock know that he's figured it out?
Surreptitiously, he reaches into his pocket and presses a few buttons on his phone.
The intercom buzzes and Prudence looks down. She grabs a chart, calls a new patient, and sends them shuffling toward John. He greets the surly teenager; she is frowning at him. He gestures her into the examination room, and turns back to look at Sherlock in disguise. John presses his lips together in a silent apology, but mimes writing something down, raises his eyebrows, and hopes Sherlock will interpret it for the invitation that it is.
John carries the folded paper triumphantly into the flat at the end of the day to find Sherlock frowning in front of an assembled case board above the fireplace.
"New case, then?" he asks as he hangs up his coat.
Sherlock doesn't answer, just frowns harder and puts another pin on the map.
"Ahhh, thinking. Well, I'll just make a cuppa and entertain myself."
John walks into the kitchen to put the kettle on, pointedly ignoring the rows of beakers full of unknown liquids and substances that he really doesn't want to know about until he's got a good start on digestion.
Just before the water boils, John tosses a few teabags into the pot and looks around the sink for clean teacups. There are three facedown on the counter, but he's a little wary of using them. Their dishes never quite make it off the table, sink, or counter, so John resigns himself to washing a few if he's interested in a cup of tea unmolested by arsenic or whatever new bacteria Sherlock is experimenting with at the moment.
Steam curls from the teapot and John breathes it in slowly as he fixes two cups. He carries them out to the living room, puts them on the end table and sits down on the armrest of his chair.
Sherlock hasn't moved, but he's mumbling to himself. "It can't-- but... definitely not cholera." After a moment or two he steps back, satisfied, and turns to look at John.
John hands one of the cups to Sherlock and sits down in the chair.
"Figured it out, have you?"
"I believe so," Sherlock says. "I'm nearly certain I know who, I just don't know why. Yet."
He sits down in the chair across from John, takes a sip of tea, then looks down at it as if he doesn't know how it got there.
"This is good. How was the surgery today?"
Sherlock lifts the newspaper and gestures to a small article on the front page. "There's an outbreak in a few areas of London -- have you see this?"
John nods, keeps the smile out of his voice. "Yeah. There was a police officer at the surgery today."
"I didn't know why he was there at first, but after a few patients, I read the paper and figured it out."
"Ahh, the science of deduction."
"I'm learning," John says. "You know, I am actually a relatively intelligent human being."
"You know a lot, yes. You just don't always see."
John ignores his last, drinks his tea.
"So, who hit on you today, then?" Sherlock asks.
"Why would you think someone hit on me?" John says innocently. He's giddy with anticipation now; he reaches into his pocket and closes his fingers around the folded note.
"You actually hung your coat in the cupboard instead of tossing it over the back of the chair when you got home, made me a cup of tea without complaint, took in the state of the kitchen with naught but a smile, and you have that self-important grin wrinkle in your left cheek."
"And all that means that someone hit on me? Maybe someone hits on me every day."
Sherlock just raises an eyebrow at him.
"You heard Mrs. Davies; I have a fine arse."
"I did, indeed."
"And as someone with such a fine-- wait." John frowns and lets the last lines of their conversation replay in his mind. The giddiness drains out of him.
"... you knew?"
Sherlock looks at him. "Of course I knew. You figured it out as soon as you saw the Browning."
"But how could you--" John holds up the phone number he'd been clutching. "Why did you leave me your phone number, then?"
"That was for you."
"Obviously, Sherlock. I have it. Right here. In my hand."
Sherlock looks at him and cocks his head as if he's summoning endless amounts of patience through his upturned ear.
"That number is not my mobile number. Which you would have figured out the moment you saw it. The number it is, though, should have been your clue that I knew you'd made me as the police officer."
John looks down at the numbers scrawled diagonally across the paper, tries to remember what they might be. His mind is blank; they mean nothing to him.
"You don't recognize them at all?"
"Not at all."
"I'm surprised that I've left such a poor and minor impression on you."
"Sherlock," John says quietly, "could you just explain it without getting all pedantic and childish? For once?"
"Jennifer Wils-- the pink lady?"
"So you wrote down her phone number to show me that you knew that I knew that the police officer that came into my workplace today and harassed Prudence, looked me over like I might make a fine meal, and goaded Mrs. Davies, was actually you. In disguise."
"And I should have recognized the number because I typed it into my phone once four months ago."
"It was an important case."
"Sherlock, how is that one more important than any of the hundreds of others you've had?"
"It was the case where I met you. That should have made an impression on your memory." Sherlock takes a long sip of his tea. "There is one thing I don't understand, though."
John is quiet for more than a moment. It had been an important case. The first of so many, and the first time since he'd returned to London that he finally felt useful, needed. Alive.
"What don't you understand?" he asks.
"How did Prudence know to summon a new patient for you?" Sherlock asked. "I had been quite looking forward to watching you try to extricate yourself from an inappropriate flirtation in the middle of your workplace."
Delight courses through him; John grins. "I buzzed the intercom," he says.
"No, you couldn't have done. You never left the doorway," Sherlock says. "The buzzers are near the windows in all the examination rooms, because the desks are in front of each window and you need to be able to reach it from your desk."
"I buzzed her with my mobile," John says. "It was in my pocket."
"Oh," Sherlock says, "... interesting. You'll have to show me how you can do that."
To John, it feels a little bit like triumph.
The rain is coming down in buckets and John can barely see in front of him as he walks quickly down the street to the surgery. He had been caught unaware this morning, even after Sherlock looked him up and down before he left and said, "That's what you're wearing?"
John had been a bit perturbed by the entire exchange and left without really taking the three extra steps to think backwards from what most people mean when they ask a question to the non-obvious and somewhat tangential (most often what Sherlock means).
Well, he hadn't done that.
Now he's caught in a sudden, bloody rainstorm without his sodding raincoat. Lovely.
He passes the newsstand and notices there's a new attendant. Generally it's a rather fit young woman who, six weeks ago, commented favourably on John's light jacket -- said it brought out the colour of his eyes -- and now he wears it most days. He nods the attendant, who winks at him. Smiling back, John presses for the walk signal with two fingers and glances at the other passersby. After the signal changes, John heads across the street glancing once back at the newsstand and catching the attendant eyeing his arse.
John feels a rush of warmth and thinks maybe he ought to come back on his lunch break and pick up the latest copy of HELLO! (for Mrs. Hudson).
Yeah. He'll definitely do that.
Time drags on like that for a five year old waiting for Christmas morning, and when John finds himself glancing at the clock more than twice in one minute, he remembers back to his interview for this position with Sarah when she told him that it might be a little boring.
While it isn't completely accurate, Sarah was definitely not lying.
He's also rather convinced that after he rebuffed the advances of Tina (the temporary nurse) she deliberately talked Prudence into giving him the most mundane cases. John almost longs for a message from Sherlock, demanding his presence for sending a text or retrieving the fourteen test tubes of an unknown substance (which John strongly suspects to be breast milk) that he left congealing in the bathtub last Thursday.
John makes a few notes on his chart, then doodles on a scrap of paper at the side of his desk. He isn't quite ready to punch the intercom for a new patient if this morning was any indication. Three coughs, two headaches, and a hangnail. It's almost the start of a really bad pop song.
He frowns down at the doodle (a conglomeration of numbers and letters twisted up together) and curses his own bizarre and dual natured ability to throw caution to the wind at any moment when it comes to Sherlock Holmes, but be completely incapable of a moment of abandon when it comes to actually getting a legitimate shag.
Legitimate being a relatively loose term in this case. Tina was drop to your feet and pray to the gods gorgeous. She was probably a complete animal in bed. But she also rather scared the piss out of him, if he were completely honest. Something about the long, dark red nails that matched her ridiculously red hair and the predatory way she looked up and down his body as though she were considering which of his organs might make a fine meal was rather a bit off-putting.
Though, there were a few internal organs that he might be willing to part with in exchange for a mind-blowing shag or two. John's just not too keen on having to thread a needle and administer stitches to his lower abdomen in a post-orgasmic haze.
With fifteen minutes left in his shift, John finishes up a few last minute notes and makes sure he knows when he's working next. He straightens up the top of the desk for the doctor who's got the next shift. Doctor Marvel. Rather aptly named, John thinks; the bloke is far too pleased with his own abilities -- oh, how John longs for an opportunity for Sherlock to put him solidly in his place.
Someone knocks and John calls them in, feeling slightly uneasy when he sees Tina. There's something unreadable in her eyes, a fierce aura that glows around her.
"Doctor Watson," she says, carrying a box and a clipboard. The door shuts with a whoosh behind her. "These were just delivered and Doctor Farrell is in with another patient -- can you sign for them?"
"What are they?"
"Vaccines, I believe."
"We've just had a fresh supply recently," John says, frowning. He's certain of it.
"But with the outbreak..." Tina says, her voice lowering.
"Ahh, yes. Alright then." John takes the pen and signs, reaching for the box, but Tina pulls it out of his grasp.
"I'll take care of it, Doctor; you've enough on your plate already."
She shifts and John's mouth dries. He can see her bra peeking out from the top of her uniform: purple, lacy and suggestive. He glances at her breasts and swallows. Not too large; he could fit each perfectly into the palm of his hand, using his fingertips to...
Shaking his head, John rises from his chair and intercepts her at the door. "Tina," he says, looking directly up into her eyes. "It's my job. I've got it."
She opens her mouth to argue, but her eyelids soften and she looks down at his lips, then back up to his eyes.
"Are you sure?" she says, her voice a suggestive purr. She takes a step toward him, breathing fruity breath all around him. John can feel his body tighten.
"I don't mind," she continues, "Doctor. Really, if there's anything I can do for you..."
She's still staring at his mouth. John wets his lips and takes a slow breath. He could. He could cup her arse, lift her up, and press her hard against the door while she gasped into his ear. It would be so easy...
John blinks more than once, guides his mind back into more professional thought paths and gives her a small smile.
"I've got it, Tina. You can go now, thank you."
He sees her glance at the clock, then down to his lips one last time.
"Alright, Doctor," she whispers (and John has no idea if he's ever heard that word sound so dirty), "if you're certain."
John doesn't watch her walk out, but lays the box on the desk and examines the label. He slides a finger under the adhesive and opens the box to examine the contents. He's positive they've no need of any new vaccine; one of the other doctors logged in a new supply last week. Frowning, John looks down at the small packaged vials, then up at the open doorway for a long moment. He takes a deep breath and tries to let his mind settle.
Then, of course, the fire alarm sounds.
It pierces his eardrum and he starts badly, almost knocking over the box. But his years as a soldier trained him well and he recovers instantly. John's out of the examination room before he's finished thinking. He guides frightened children and other patients out the front door.
But there's something wrong; he knows it.
The sun peeks through dissolving clouds as people huddle on the street, voices carrying over the din of the crowd. John stands to the side, straddling a puddle and mentally tallying and categorizing the people waiting outside. While he's accounted for nearly everyone he can think of, concern tickles the edges of his mind; he's redone the count six times now.
He glances around: apart from the crowd of people and the screech of the approaching siren, nothing seems out of the ordinary. Taxicabs and cars rush past, adverts overuse exclamation marks to sell the latest products, people stop to buy magazines at the newsstand. John watches the attendant at the newsstand. He's favouring his right hand; it's tucked in his pocket while he uses his left to accept money and give change and then bag purchases. Curious. Every movement is fluid in its awkwardness, which must be why it caught his eye in the first place. John wonders why he keeps glancing across toward John's side of the street, so he turns his attention back to the people still waiting outside the surgery.
A blonde huddles near the side of the building, hastily rearranging something inside a familiar satchel. John watches her for a moment, his curiosity piqued. She appears to be generally confident, but with a definite air of necessity surrounding her. The sleeve of her top slides off her shoulder in a flash of purple lace before she pulls the sleeve back up.
The purple swirls into his mind for a moment; it feels significant. John looks around again. His mind feels foggy, as though the answer is standing right at the edge of his peripheral vision, but he can't quite reach it. His eyes alight on the newsstand attendant, still assisting customers but with his attention across the street. John watches him reach for something with his right hand, flinch, and draw back as if in pain, and, and...
Last night. The kitchen. Sherlock grabbing a pot off the stove without an oven mitt, his eyes watering in pain. Then: running water and a bandage. John's admonishments about bloody hot things and second degree burns and you're lucky you live with a doctor, you bloody idiot. Then a muttered diatribe about how most humans learn not to grab for hot things when they're four years old and don't have to rely on forty-one year old doctors to teach them. And Sherlock oddly quiet through the entire ordeal.
Everything swirls in his mind: purple and red and hot and heady, all together.
John looks up to see a whirl of ridiculous red as the blonde tries to tuck something back into her satchel against the breeze. It all clicks together, almost audibly, and John knows.
The blonde -- Tina! -- catches his eye and drops her gaze just as quickly, then turns and hurries away, her satchel banging at her hip as she moves.
"Sherlock!" he calls across the street, then leaps across the puddle and takes off in pursuit of Tina.
Hours later, Sherlock has finally extricated them from the exhaustive questioning and they've returned home and ordered far too much takeaway for two people. John's ravenous; he can't remember if he ate lunch or not, and Sherlock always eats like an adolescent boy after a case. Their chase had taken them on quite a tour of the back streets of Central London; it was about time they finally got some food. They eat in silence for a few minutes. John is still pleased with himself for actually figuring out that Tina was one of the couriers of the virus, and Sherlock stops eating every few minutes to beam at him.
John polishes off the beef with broccoli, licks his fingers, and sits back with a contented sigh. "Food," he says, "definitely one of the better inventions of modern times."
Sherlock looks at him curiously. "Invention? John, people didn't invent food. It already existed. Eating is a biological necessity."
John rolls his eyes. "Alright, then, biological stickler." He thinks for a moment while Sherlock awkwardly uses his left hand to tear into a container of chicken with cashew nuts. "Alright, how about this: making food taste good. Definitely one of the better inventions of modern times."
Sherlock makes a small noise of pleasure at his first bite and smiles at John. "Alright. I'll give you that one, then."
"Seriously. How would you like to be sitting around a raw deer carcass, ripping flesh from the bones right now instead of licking brown sauce off our fingers and then having a bloody shower?"
Silence looms for a moment and John's mind just cracks open with it. He swallows. A mental image of just that -- Sherlock pressed against him in the shower: wet, pliant, and gasping -- fills his mind and he takes a low, shallow breath. He can feel his cheeks heat and he looks down for a moment.
"Sherlock, I ... I didn't mean--"
"How did you know it was Tina, John?"
"How did you know to follow her?"
"Oh. Well, I--" he thinks for a minute. "It was a lot of things, actually."
"What do you remember?"
"Well, the first, I reckon, was that she just gave me an odd feeling."
John grins inwardly; he failed that one. Sherlock doesn't put stock in feelings. But, then... what would Sherlock do? He would detail all of the little pieces, the facts, then bind them together into a logical deduction. But, John reasons to himself, isn't that what his initial feeling was most likely based upon? Observations, little facts that he noticed, which his brain put together and he recognized as a gut feeling. That's what people do all the time. Sherlock just knows how to slow it all down: take it piece by piece and recognize each single step.
"Okay, hang on, then." John starts ticking things off on his fingers. "Her eyes never stayed in one place when she spoke to me... her eyebrows were too light for her hair... she hit on me far too often--"
Sherlock snorts. John's tempted to pull his tongue, but he's not, in fact, nine years old, so he resists the urge and simply looks at him and shakes his head.
"Also... we weren't in need a new supply of vaccine, so we shouldn't have got one in the first place. The address on the box was from a supplier in West London, and we always get our supply from the one in South... well, and the--" this sounds silly, even to his own ears, "--the vials were in packs of five across, and I know that our supplier always sends them in packs of four."
"Go on." Sherlock is watching him with a bemused expression.
"And outside. Well, you were there, Sherlock, you saw her. I noticed her first as the blonde by the building because she was striking, but then I saw the strap of her bra, which was the same colour Tina was wearing, and she was looking around like she was nervous... then there was a flash of red from her satchel that clinched it. It had to be a wig. It had to be Tina."
"You're learning," Sherlock says. John goes warm with pride.
Something else occurs to him. "Wait, well you were there, too. I think that was my biggest clue. I wouldn't have gone after her if you weren't there."
"My presence clued you in that I was looking for something. Or someone."
John nods. "I knew you were working on the outbreak case. It all happened really fast, now that I think about it. I saw you favouring your left hand and flinch when you touched something with your right." He looks pointedly at the bandage that he made Sherlock sit still for as soon as they'd returned to Baker Street.
"Then all the things I'd been noticing about Tina all blurred together and I realised that she must be the one you were looking for."
"Apparently even when someone flirts with you, you don't lose all your powers of deduction."
"Emotions, John." Sherlock speaks slowly. "They can get in the way of reasoning, of logic, of simple, plain facts. Case in point: as soon as I winked at you when you passed the newsstand this morning your behaviours changed."
John's fascinated. He thinks back to the wet morning walk and doesn't recall anything out of the ordinary.
"You're a doctor, John. You're well aware of germs: you always touch the signal with the back of your hand or your wrist, but you touched it with the pads of your fingers. Germs. You didn't look more than one direction before stepping out into the street and you looked back to see if the attendant was looking at your arse."
"To see if you were looking at my arse," John corrects.
"But you didn't know it was me. For all intents and purposes I was a twenty-eight year old failed musician who was working the newsstand to make money. But you're a soldier, John. You're used to scanning with your eyes, knowing everything in your surroundings, but that changes when your emotions come into it."
And that's it, right there. John wonders if that is why Sherlock's been disguising himself, planting himself in places John is sure to go, to test the theory that emotions change behaviour. But, no... that doesn't quite follow. Sherlock would already know the answer to that. He would have explored that theory long ago. No, there has to be another reason for all of Sherlock's disguises. He's so far evaded all of John's efforts to find out.
Which makes John all the more determined.
Three times during the next week John catches out Sherlock's disguise.
The first is in a cab on the way to visit Harry. He's not really focused on anything: looking out the window without really seeing anything. Weariness fogs his eyes, he'd been up late helping Sherlock find an obscure passage in an old Jane Austen novel (naturally Sherlock was little help in that endeavour) to answer a puzzle from the forums of Sherlock's website. Why John agreed to that with an early morning shift looming he has no idea, but John's long accepted that he has almost no willpower when it comes to Sherlock Holmes.
"Long day, then?"
John's startled out of his trance and glances up into the rear-view mirror.
"I said: has it been a long day? You look exhausted." The cabbie's eyes wrinkle at the corners as she smiles at him. Her eyes are lovely: light and wide, and with a dark brown lining her eyelids. She looks back at the road.
"I am, yeah." He remembers his manners. "Thanks for asking. And ... how's your day been?"
"Ahh, you know how it is," she says. "Driving around London, avoiding reckless pedestrians with a death wish and looking for a fit bloke who needs a cab." She flicks two fingers up at the car that swerves in front of her, then deftly manoeuvres around it.
"Shall I help you look for one, then?"
The cab pulls to a stop at an intersection and she captures his gaze in the mirror again. "No need. Already got one."
John smiles widely.
"Then I shall endeavour to make it worth your while."
"It already is."
It's another six minutes before John gets that little prickle inside his mind, the sense that there's something he's not seeing. He's just been regaling the cabbie with tales of some of the more peculiar aspects of being a soldier in the middle of the desert (particularly: sand in, um, interesting places). She has the most uncharacteristic low laugh. Somehow it gets under his skin, fills his blood and rushes through him until he's breathless.
Images, memories, flood his mind and John sucks his breath in recognition.
So far he's never been wrong.
There's a long, measured silence, then: "Was it the laugh, then?"
John considers that. "It was definitely the laugh, but--" he can't put his finger on it. "There's something else. I don't even know if I know what it is."
It's that sense he gets. That feeling that everything is unbalanced and exciting and new, and it's not quantifiable somehow. There's no scientific explanation that John can find, he can't define it. And, maybe... well, maybe he's not really ready to try.
Sherlock looks at John in the rearview mirror and says, "We're nearly there."
"Thanks." Then he looks out the window and another thought occurs to him. "Sherlock, I didn't know you knew how to drive."
"Of course I know how to drive."
"It seems like something that would be ... I dunno, beneath you."
"John, I assure you that knowing how to drive a car is a very useful skill for someone who wishes to learn about people unobserved."
There is that. "Yeah, alright then," John concedes. "Still surprising, though."
Sherlock frowns at the line of cars stretched out end to end in front of them as the cab slows to a stop.
"I just never bothered learning how to park."
John throws back his head and laughs.
The next disguise assaults him in the shop. Well... assault is a strong word, because Sherlock-in-disguise doesn't assault him, per se, but it's an assault on the senses, that's for damn sure. Or at least the imagination.
He's holding a shopping basket filled with essentials (milk, beans, eggs, sugar, and 14 tubes of haemorrhoid cream that Sherlock wants for some bizarre research) and he's got his mind in a general state of contentment that's rather a nice change for the moment.
The shop is pleasantly humming with activity. It's mid-afternoon, so a few lanes are open, several customers bagging groceries, but well spread out, and John's enjoying the everyday monotony of it.
A sudden, but not painful, bump startles him and John turns to look behind him.
The customer is a taller man, in his early fifties or so, and handsome. He's got dark hair, peppered heavily with grey, and it suits him. He's wearing a long sleeved, thin jumper, tight across his chest, and the slightest hint of a belly. He reminds John of DI Lestrade, and John smiles at the man when he apologises.
"Sorry for that, mate. Must not know me own strength."
John grins wider, looks down at his own smaller frame, and says, "Can't say I've confronted that problem myself very often."
The man grins, his eyes almost disappearing.
"Well, Will, best keep your eye on those less fortunately endowed than yourself."
"Will do, John."
John glances idly down into Will's cart, then at the customer in front of him just swiping her card. He shifts the basket up to his elbow and reaches into his pocket for his wallet. Something itches the back of his mind and he looks back into Will's cart.
kumquats, limburger cheese, tinned beets, raw peanuts
"Something wrong?" Will looks curiously at him.
"No, I--" he falters. "You just have a very unique selection of food in your cart."
"I'm a unique bloke," Will says, smiling slowly.
John runs through the list in his mind again. Kumquats -- Harry had pelted him with them when he was four and she was nine, and he's never eaten another since. Limburger cheese just smells foul; John would never eat it. Tinned beets are about the only vegetable in the world that make him gag. The peanuts, well, John's never got it tested, but he suspects that he has a very mild peanut allergy.
John is a remarkably un-picky eater. Those are almost quite literally the only four foods that he avoids. So for someone to have that exact selection in their cart -- as the only items in the cart -- in the middle of the day, when he's on the way home from his shift...
Snorting a laugh, he looks back up and shakes his head.
"Caught on, have you?" Sherlock smiles at him; John can see that the telltale crinkles at the edges of Sherlock's eyes have been heavily emphasized, but the disguise is almost flawless.
He looks at Sherlock and rolls his eyes.
"It's like you're not even trying anymore."
The third time, well, John doesn't really 'make' Sherlock in the disguise, so much as 'watch him walk down the stairs in it.' But it still counts.
John walks out of the kitchen holding a cup of tea and watches a tanned, spandex-short-and-trainer-clad Adonis walk down the stairs and grin toothily at him. The uniform is clearly from the gym down the street. John's never been inside, but he's ogled -- no, observed -- many a stunning pair of legs walking out. The blue really highlights Sherlock's eyes, and the tan emphasizes the shape of the muscles in his legs. His hair is a sandy-blond and he pierces John's eyes with his own and says, with a faint trace of Irish in it: "Hi."
John swallows. Christ. He takes a full breath and doesn't break the gaze.
"Sherlock," he says, "you do realize that it fully defeats the purpose of trying to fool me with a disguise when you walk down the stairs in our flat wearing it."
"Of course, John," Sherlock says. "Obviously this disguise isn't for you. I'm working on skin colouring and other body enhancements."
"Obviously. What a fool I am."
"It's not your fault, John." Sherlock cranes his neck to look back over his shoulder. He turns and tries to look over the other shoulder.
"What are you doing?"
Sherlock turns his back to him. "How does my arse look in these... these-- what do you call them? These ridiculous shorts? I can't believe anyone wears them and can be taken seriously."
"Spandex? Yeah, that's what people wear. And, yeah, it looks fine."
"You didn't look."
"Sherlock. Of course I did. You're wearing practically nothing. I looked."
"Right. Yes, obviously I know that. I mean: does it look like I might be a personal trainer? Do I need to do anything to make my arse more... sculpted?"
John rolls his eyes and wonders, for perhaps the thousandth time, if someone in the world is actually toying with him: putting him in absurd situations on purpose and laughing at him from above. He can't believe they're having this conversation.
But he looks anyway.
"Sherlock. Your arse is fine."
"Just fine? I've got some ballistics gel moulds upstairs that I can slip into the shorts if I need to make it look more pert."
"Pert, yes. 'Lively, spritely, in good health.' You've heard the word before, one would think."
"Yes. Yes, of course, just--" sometimes John thinks he should just keep his mouth shut "... just not in relation to my flatmate's buttocks and with an academic consideration thereof."
But Sherlock isn't listening. He's bouncing on the balls of his feet, rolling his neck, and clenching and unclenching his fists.
John moves to the chair, setting his tea down and reaching for the newspaper. He's not had the chance to sit for... for the last few days, actually. "Have fun, then," he says.
"Why would you say that?"
"It seemed polite."
"But you're coming."
"To the gym?" John takes a sip of his tea and tries to think what on earth Sherlock might need him to do at a gym. He's a doctor, so perhaps observe fitness levels, blood pressure, something along those lines.
"Yes, of course. After you change." Sherlock looks at him expectantly. "Your uniform is upstairs. Off you go."
John chokes on his tea.
"You want me to wear ... that? In public?"
"Of course, John. How else will we be able to observe the entirety of the gym area?"
John takes a breath, bites his lip to keep himself from laughing. Because he is actually, truly considering this. God help him. Pressing his hands to his thighs, John stands up and looks at Sherlock.
"Alright then. Uniform is upstairs. I assume the requisite ballistics gel moulds for the shorts are up there as well?"
"You don't need them, John. Your arse is well shaped without them."
"... er, thank you."
Sherlock looks at him in surprise. "Why are you thanking me?"
"Never mind." John grins to himself. He takes the stairs two at a time. Upstairs, he pulls off his shirt and unfastens his trousers, humming quietly. The uniform is going to look ridiculous on him; there will probably be some unexpected fiasco they'll have to either solve or run from, and most likely, John won't get dinner until sometime far past eleven-thirty.
And yet, he doesn't care.
Because -- and not for the first time since returning from Afghanistan -- John Watson truly likes his life.
John whistles to himself as he moves around the kitchen, putting away dishes and taking great pleasure in binning various leftover experiments that Sherlock's long abandoned.
Even though he's had maybe four hours of sleep, John feels great. His muscles are pleasantly sentient of their excursion last night and he's well aware that he's got a stupid grin on his face.
The kettle's just started boiling when John hears Sherlock's footsteps moving from his bedroom to the loo. He pours water into two cups and starts fixing them each a cup of tea.
"I've got a cuppa for you," he calls when he hears Sherlock's footsteps. "I wasn't sure when you'd be getting up, but I heard you coming and deduced that you'd want one."
"How maddeningly clever you are," Sherlock drawls.
"Just one of the perks of living with a reclusive genius," John says. He picks up the teacups and turns to face Sherlock in the doorway. "I'm on two shifts today, so I won't be back until--"
John's blood runs to ice. Both cups slip from his hand and crash to the floor.
It's not Sherlock in the doorway. It's someone else. Someone John hasn't seen in a long time. And yet... Sherlock is under there, looking at John blankly. The warm smile slides off his face.
"You're the--" John's anger is a white storm inside him. That face. That smile. That long, tangled hair. And god, all those words, words, words that he'd tried so hard to forget. It's been so long -- so bloody long -- but it all comes rushing back. Rushing back and crowding into his mind with memories, wishes, desires ... all dashed in the blink of an eye. John's vision starts to tunnel and he can barely see anything but the imposter in front of him. He has to -- needs to -- get out of here.
"John? What is it?"
John won't look at him, can't look at him. It's all been a lie. A fucking lie. All those years and now it's happening all over again.
"I can't do this," John says. He moves past the man in the doorway, his skin crawling, and walks out. Leaves everything behind.