Chapter 1: John Watson
A fifteen year old John Watson rolled over in his bed and pulled his pillow over the back of his head to drown out the sound of his parent's voices. The situation had been a common occurrence since John was nine, and he figured he would be used to the shouting by this point, but he was wrong. He did not even care about what had gotten his parents so angry, anymore. He only wanted the two of them to stop, even if it meant their separation. His mother claimed she wanted to stay for the kids’ sake. His father probably stayed out of laziness.
Things were easier when his father was out. His mother would often cook a small meal and John, his mother, and his sister, Harriet, would all eat together in front of the television. Nights like that were wonderful. On nights like that, John’s father was probably out with some woman he had met at a bar. Sometimes he came home, and sometimes he was out for the entire weekend.
Harriet was four years John’s senior and remembered with more clarity the times when their parents did not fight. She became a safe haven for John for many years. When the shouts became particularly loud when they were younger, John would often crawl into his sister’s bed and cry into her sleeve. She would stroke her younger brother’s hair and tell him stories about what life was like before. John could not remember a time when his father did anything without malice. After some time he begged Harriet to tell him stories about different people. He no longer wanted to hear about his parents’ failed marriage.
Mr. Watson never raised a hand to his family. Despite the yelling, the verbal abuse and the broken objects around the house, he never struck his wife or his children. He must have known how to avoid legal disputes because neither John, nor Harriet, nor their mother could take Mr. Watson to court. They had no cuts or bruises; only bruised egos and damaged self-esteem.
Harriet turned to drinking at a young age, and it surprised no one. She stopped coming home most nights simply to avoid the wrath of her father. This left John alone to defend his mother or to comfort her when his father eventually went to sleep or passed out in a drunken stupor.
His once safe haven of a sister slowly turned into a disappointment. John resented her for leaving his mother and himself when they needed her the most. To John, it seemed like the minute she became of age, she left her family behind.
For nearly a decade of his life John endured his father’s insults. The fights had turned his mother into a weakened shell of a human. All traces of emotion had left her years before. She moved with almost robotic-like movements. The once graceful Mrs. Watson had been reduced to nothing more than an automaton. John took it upon himself to care for his mother. His care kicked into high gear when she became sick. His father found that yelling to a sickly woman on a bed was no where nearly as satisfying, so he switched his attention to his son, instead.
John felt he took his father’s insults rather well. He hardened himself to others. He kept quiet during school and made sure to finish all of his homework between classes in case he was unable to get to it while at home. School projects were nightmares, but he worked diligently and made sure to always meet anyone anywhere other than his own home.
John learned a lot about taking care of the sick in the later part of his High School years. His mother’s health had declined so rapidly, he was almost forced to stay up late studying medical manuals in hopes that he could find something to help his unfortunate mother. Occasionally, a nurse would come around, but only when Mr. Watson was not at home. John took as many opportunities as possible to learn from the nurse. He was a fast learner.
When the situation turned into a hospice, John tried to get a hold of Harriet to let her know her mother’s life was coming to an end, but he had no such luck.
John Watson was nineteen when Mrs. Watson finally passed on. His mother held John’s hand and smiled for the first time in ten years. As she took her final breath, her last smile remained on her lips and John left it that way. He wanted to pretend his mother led a beautiful life.
After a few hours, the coroner came to take the body away. John’s father happened to be coming home just as his wife was leaving in a shroud. John did not care who you were, if you saw your wife of over twenty years leaving your house for the last time—in the worst way imaginable, you were bound to be affected by it. His father, however, was not affected in a way that John found acceptable.
Mr. Watson lashed out at his son, blaming him for his mother’s deteriorating health. He refused to pay for the funeral, let alone attend it, and John found himself swamped with the preparations. In the end, the only solution he could find was to donate his mother’s body. He did not want to but he could see no other option. He could not afford a coffin or a plot and therefore could not give his mother a proper burial. And, seeing as he hadn’t turned twenty, yet, he could not even apply for a loan to help out. He had successfully graduated from High School, but the thought of going to University was a laugh. He could perhaps have gotten in somewhere with a few good scholarships, but his mother’s well-being had prevented him from acting on that. He was paid a very little bit of money to take care of his mother full-time. He had learned quite a bit from the doctors and nurses—but the money was so little, he could only feed himself and there was little, if not anything at all, to stash away for safe-keeping. His mother had a bit of money set aside, but it was not enough to cover even the lower rates he had been quoted for funeral arrangements.
The day John returned from the morgue was the worst day of his life—far worse than holding his mother’s hand as her life slipped from his grasp.
No sooner had he stepped over the threshold of his home, he had to duck a flying tea mug as it sailed over his head, out the door, and smashed in the yard. Carefully, John poked his head around the wall as the house opened into the kitchen. He was not surprised to see his father in the worst rage he had ever encountered.
“It’s all your fault! You let her go!” He opened a cabinet and started to pull plates down, causing them to smash into bits and pieces on the floor. John let his father vent, already trying to plan escape routes in his mind. His father continued on. “What am I supposed to do, now, huh? You killed her!”
John did not answer. He knew better than to refute anything his father said. He had learned long ago to outwardly agree that his father was correct in anything and everything he had ever said or did. This caused much less confusion in the long run, and saved John very many headaches. In fact, this time around, his father was shouting himself hoarse and John had long since tuned it out. His mother’s face had been taking up so much of his mind, that there were no senses left to register anything his father threw at him, literally and figuratively.
Mr. Watson must have noticed how his words completely missed their intended mark. In anger, he grabbed another mug and hurled it directly at his son. John did not have the time or reflexes to duck this time and the mug hit him hard on the side of the head and landed on the floor with a crash. The handle broke off and slid across the floor to rest under the couch. A thin trickle of blood slowly made its way down John’s temple.
He stared at his father. This was the first time Mr. Watson had turned violent enough to inflict physical harm to John, and he did not appear to regret it one bit.
“Filthy boy,” Mr. Watson spat. “Rotten you are, the lot of you. A weak mother, a drunk sister and then there’s you: whining and crying and the gnashing of the teeth. You sicken me.” His face was getting redder and redder with each growing second. “Get out of my sight.”
Gladly, John thought, inwardly. He wasted no time in rushing to his room. He had barely enough time to shove as many articles of clothing as he could into a bag along with a few essentials. Just before leaving, he made one last clean sweep of his room. He would probably never be seeing it again.
Chapter 2: The Circus
John made one last stop to the bathroom to see what he could do about the cut on his forehead. It did not appear as though he needed any stitches, which was a relief. In the end, he only cleaned it up as best he could, taped a bit of gauze to the wound and rushed out of the house as fast as his legs could carry him.
He half expected his father to follow him out the door, and when that did not happen, he expected him to then follow him in his car, but he lucked out in that scenario as well. His father was probably too enraged to have changed his mind, yet, and for that John was incredibly thankful.
He instead turned his attention to the more pressing matter at hand: where was he going to go? At first he thought about going to live with Harriet, but he had no idea where she had gone off to, or if he would even feel safe with her anymore. He doubted that he would.
There were a number of youth hostels in the city, but the more he wandered out of his neighborhood, the more he felt as though going to such a place was a bad idea. None of his relatives lived with a reasonable distance from his family home. His father had basically driven away anyone who had ever been important to John. John had never stooped so low as to hate his father as much as he did at that moment.
Frustrated, John dug his hand into his pack and felt around for the wad of emergency money. His mother had been hording and hiding money from his father for years, and when she passed away, he had taken the stash more to keep hiding it from his father as opposed to spending it for himself. He had quite a few hundred quid on him. He could spare a cab ride to a cheap motel. There was no sense in over-spending, seeing as he had no idea just how long he was going to be out in the world alone.
After some time, John made it out onto a road busy enough for him to hail a cab. Rather than give an address, he asked for a cheap motel within reasonable driving distance. His family lived on the further edges of the city, so he could not ask for a better situation. Cheap motels were often scattered at that edge between the city and the country.
John hadn’t yet allowed himself to accept what had happened. In his mind, he probably already knew this day would come. He even would have left no matter what took place that day when he came home. After his mother had left for good, there was nothing holding him to that house, anymore. His father could deal with everything that happened in that horrible place from there on out.
John swallowed hard and squinted out the window. He could see perfectly fine, but nevertheless, he felt as though his eyes were playing tricks on him. The tall buildings of the city were thinning out and replaced slowly with wider and wider expanses of green. That green was suddenly interrupted by bright strobe lights and the unmistakable sight of a red and yellow circus tent.
John leaned forward in his seat to speak to the cab driver. “Do you happen to know how long that circus has been in town?”
The cab driver managed to steal a glance away from the road long enough to register the circus in the distance. “Oh, you mean Circo de Pastel?”
John did a double-take at the circus. “A Cake Circus?” Who would name a circus such a ridiculous thing? He wondered if it was any good.
The cabbie seemed to have read his mind. “It has gotten some pretty excellent reviews. Turns out they have a genuine psychic, as well as a magician that can do wonders no man can fathom.”
John did not even take more than three seconds to contemplate his decision. The thought of wasting his life away in a dank motel room did not appeal to him. He was escaping the terrible confines of his own home. The very same home that had been nothing more than a prison to him for nearly half his life was now far behind him. To say he needed a change of pace and scenery was a gross understatement. “Take me there.”
“You sure? Don’t you need to get to that motel? You were very adamant on it, earlier.”
“I’ve changed my mind. I’m going to the circus.”
The cabbie looked in the rearview mirror as if that could help him make his decision. It honestly was not even his to make and he simply did as he was told.
In mere moments, John was standing just outside the circus gates. He did not know the first thing about what he was doing, but he figured it would not hurt to take a look around just to see what he was getting himself into.
The circus was beautifully constructed, and it was bustling with activity. Despite the fact that it was already late afternoon, there was a long line at the ticket counter. John pulled his oversized bag of belongings to the line. It felt awkward to be carrying so much on him when everyone else was dressed appropriate to visiting the circus.
The wait in line gave John some time to allow his mind to catch up with the rest of his body. He had been on autopilot for the larger half of the entire week; and even more so in the past few hours. He had yet to really mourn over his mother’s death, and standing in line at the circus was definitely not the right place to do that.
In fact, he was not even sure as to why he was here in the first place. The colors were bright, the atmosphere was cheerful—it was completely different than his norm. He had wanted to have a change of scenery, yes, but surely there were better options than the circus! No, there must have been a real underlying reason for his pull toward this place. He would just have to be patient until he found the source of the magnetism.
When it came his turn to get a ticket, the lady behind the counter smiled at him. She had smooth, dark skin and her wiry, bushy hair stuck out in all directions from under her ticket sales cap. Her name tag read: Sally. “How many?” she asked smoothly.
“Uh, just the one,” John said as he reached into his emergency stash.
“Eight pounds,” said Sally the ticket lady. “Here you are. Don’t lose it. If you want to get into the big top to see the three rings, you’ll need to show the bouncer the stub.” She handed over the ticket as John handed over the correct bills.
“Right.” John smiled back at her and held up the ticket to show he understood. “Thanks.”
The ticket master barely acknowledged his existence as he sidled past her out onto the main circus grounds. The grass had been padded flat by the thousands of feet to the point that it was almost smooth under John’s shoes. He easily weaved himself in and out of the crowd, taking the sights and sounds of the circus in all at once. The air smelled heavily of popcorn and cooking oil, and to John it was magnificent.
Some of the more prominent trolleys stood outside the larger tent, peddling their wares. There were generic Circo de Pastel tee shirts with a circus tent shaped like a cake on the front. John would have bought a shirt for himself, but he figured his money could be better spent elsewhere. He had had nothing to eat nearly the entire day, so he stopped to buy an elephant ear to snack on. The fried dough sat heavy on his stomach. He knew it was the furthest thing from healthy, but at that point, he did not mind. He was at the circus.
He passed the trolleys filled with necklaces and rings and other shining pieces of jewelry, past the bags and clothes and clown paraphernalia, past the noise makers and junk food. He had never seen so many different booths for funnel cakes, sausages, frankenfurters, cupcakes, cotton candy, various meats on a stick, rock candy, snow cones, ice lollies, empanadas, tamales, tortas, frijoles and gorditas. The circus had a Spanish name, so John was not surprised to see a wide variety of fried Spanish or Mexican-themed cuisine.
Some of the attractions the circus held were located outside the big tent as well. While the main show hosted many different feats of strength and performances, some of the circus existed solely as a side show.
The first stall John stumbled upon was for the bearded lady. She stood on a platform and spoke to a few of the patrons as they crowded about her. Beside her stood a massive poster declaring everything the viewer needed to know about this attraction.
Jennifer Wilson –THE PINK BEARDED LADY
Come see the woman with the incredible beard!
Some men can only wish they were capable of growing such a dedicated piece of work!
NO flash photography.
NO offers of food or drink.
Do NOT touch the beard unless given full permission by Jennifer.
Do NOT pull on the beard. It is real and it will hurt.
Do NOT heckle, harass, beat, stress or insult the lady.
Here, someone had written, “Unless you want your face beaten in” in red permanent marker. John suspected it may have been by Jennifer herself.
John then turned his attention to Miss Wilson. Despite the beard, she was an incredibly handsome woman. The owner of the circus must have forced her to keep herself extremely feminine other than the beard to further show the contrast of just how odd the phenomena could be. She wore a form-fitting pink pea coat that reached her knees, stockings and high heels. It was a bit chilly outside, especially for a late October afternoon. Her dark blonde hair fell around her shoulders perfectly. Her beard, however, grew in at a slightly lighter shade of blonde. If anything, John chuckled to himself, she looked like Jesus of Nazareth if he were a woman, and blonde…. and lived in the 21st century. Okay, or perhaps not like Jesus at all.
Jennifer was currently speaking to some children in the front and seemed pre-occupied. That was all well and good because it made John feel less awkward for staring. After a moment, however, she looked up to scan the crowd briefly and accidentally caught John’s eye. Unsure of what to do, John smiled a bit nervously. She smiled back and for a split second John thought he saw something in her eyes—a bit of mischievousness, almost playful and not at all malicious. She tilted her head for a second and John realized she was indicating the strange bandage he had on his own head. He touched it for a moment. He had completely forgotten where his father had hit him with that mug earlier today. He closed his eyes for a moment and shook his head to get his thoughts back to the circus and not on his recent past.
John quickly turned away feeling uncomfortable. He moved onto the next exhibit. The patrons here were making catcalls and hollering loudly. It took a moment for John to register than most of the voices were male. When he looked up, he was delighted to see an incredibly beautiful woman. His jaw nearly dropped to the ground when he saw her. Her wavy dark brown hair was tied back into a taut ponytail, and she had on an immensely bright sequined leotard.
John watched with a mix between awe and horror as she doubled over backwards, touched her wrists to her ankles and rolled forward on the stage to the sound of hoots from the crowd. John looked to find her poster out of curiosity. It read:
Irene Adler – CONTORTIONIST
Marvel in her extreme flexibility!
Watch her bend in ways previously thought humanly impossible!
NO flash photography.
NO offers of food or drink.
Do NOT touch in an attempt to throw Irene off balance.
Do NOT heckle, harass, beat, stress or insult the lady.
John raised an eyebrow in astonishment. This Irene was truly magnificent at her art. He watched her contort her body into the most painful looking of poses for a while and decided it was probably best to move on, seeing as it was a bit late. That, and the catcalls from the other men were beginning to grate on John’s nerves.
He passed a strong man by the name of Sebastian Moran. He had muscles upon muscles and demonstrated this by lifting the heaviest of objects. One barbell looked so heavy, John was certain it was a fake. With a chuckle, John trudged onward.
He wandered about the grounds for a little longer. At the far end of the circus grounds, he noticed a decent sized trailer not unlike the old gypsy caravans. It was decorated in purples and greens and blues to give it a more fantasy-like appeal, probably to attract patrons more than anything. In scrawling, beautiful letters were the words:
Sherlock Holmes: The World’s Only Consulting Psychic
John licked his lips without thinking about it and took a step closer to the establishment. There was no activity about it for some distance, and it looked as though it were closed. John frowned. He had been enjoying what the circus had to offer so far, and he had hoped he could see what this consulting psychic business was all about. He remembered briefly that the cabbie had said the psychic was amazing. He had also mentioned a magician, but John had seen no sign of the latter.
In the distance, he could hear a loudspeaker boom. “Come one, come all! Welcome to the Circo de Pastel! Come feast your eyes on the greatest feat you will witness in your lives! Take your seats, ladies and gentlemen, as the show is about to begin!”
John pulled himself from the strange allure of the consulting psychic and began his trek to the big tent. The bag he had been carrying which held all of his possessions was beginning to get rather heavy and he felt as though having a good sit down would relieve him of the tension that was building in his left shoulder.
With a sigh, John began his journey back to the large multi-colored tent.
Chapter 3: Circo de Pastel
Circo de Pastel
Once inside the massive circus tent, John found a seat near the front. As he was by himself, he had no problems locating a decent seat. The families and children and couples that surrounded him munched noisily on their food and the amount of voices trapped inside the tent was deafening.
John made himself comfortable and looked around breathlessly. All thoughts about his mother seemed very far away. It was hard to think that he had just been delivering her dead body to the morgue only five hours ago—it seemed like a lifetime away. He was glad to be here, away from his drunk and abandoning sister, away from his abusive father and away from his unwelcoming home.
He would never go back. Nothing in this world would make him go back to that life.
Things in the circus looked much more appealing. The bright colors, the happy atmosphere, the screaming children… everything seemed much better in comparison. He looked out over the three rings in the center of the tent and smiled. There was a tightrope, several pedestals, trapeze swings and nets… Everything began a stir in John’s belly that made him feel as though he was going to witness something truly spectacular and that was not just the advertising talking.
After some time, the lights began to dim and the crowd’s voice levels dropped significantly. John leaned forward in his seat in anticipation.
There was an explosion of smoke and a man with silver hair and a top hat seemed to appear in the middle of the largest ring. He had the tell-tale signs of a ringmaster—coat tails and all. He took off his hat and gave a sweeping bow to the members of the audience.
“Good evening, Ladies and gents! Boys and girls! I am Lestrade and welcome… to the CIRCO DE PASTEL!”
The tent exploded with cheers and calls from the audience, with John joining in with full enthusiasm.
Lestrade walked around the largest ring in a circle as he addressed the crowd with his booming voice. “We are the Circo de Pastel, we waste no time in pleasantries. We bring you the biggest and the best right from the start. As you may well be aware, we have the greatest Chinese acrobats on this side of the dateline. May I introduce you to our Spider Acrobats!” The ring leader raised his arms in the air, indicating some figures clad in feathers and sequins that had appeared on the high platforms well above everyone’s heads.
As the acrobats went about their performance, John found he had become star struck. Everything he saw in this circus continued to amaze him. The way the acrobats held themselves with absolutely no fear gave John the chills. They danced about the trapeze swings and along the tightrope as if this were the most natural thing for them in the world. The net at the bottom of the tent almost seemed it was there just to satisfy health and safety codes and less like it was there for the acrobats. They never fell. Not once.
In between acts, a group of clowns dressed as policemen went about their silly shenanigans as they set up for the next act. This circus really thought of everything. There was not one dull moment the entire show.
As far as circuses went, the Circo de Pastel had everything a generic circus could ask for. John had never in his life been to a circus before, so he had nothing to compare it to. To him, everything was new and exciting and perfect. For all he knew, he could never see another circus again, because nothing could be as great or as wonderful as the performance he was seeing at that moment in time.
There was a roar offstage and several members of the audience gasped. In seconds, a monster of a beast bounded onto the stage. John jumped back in surprised when he realized it was a lion. And what a magnificent lion it was! Lestrade kept his distance as another man ran past with a whip.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, behold!” Lestrade motioned toward the lion and the tamer. “Anderson has tamed this mighty beast, and will show you just how much he has accomplished!” The crowd cheered and Lestrade soon held his hands up again to quiet them. “We must all stay very still. This beast of a lion may lash out at any time!”
To demonstrate this, Anderson held out a hefty slab of meat and the lion tore it viciously from his hands. The crowd gasped.
Anderson’s handling of the lion was impressive. He had trained it to behave much like a dog. It could sit, roll over, pass a ball back and forth and shake. Anderson even showed the lion’s impressive ability to hold back its primal urges by sticking his head in its mouth. For a grand finale, Anderson lit a hoop on fire… and just went John thought the lion was going to jump through the hoop, the lion picked up a bucket with its teeth and doused the fire. The crowd erupted into fits of laughter.
The clowns came out again to clean up the mess and John settled back in his chair. Really, this was impressive. He would not mind becoming a part of something like this—but he had no talent. He knew this. He envied all of these great performers with their exceptional abilities. More than anything, John wished he had been given the opportunity to build upon a talent or ability in his childhood, rather than having to deal with everything he had.
What skills had he even possessed, he wondered. He thought briefly of taking care of his mother. He certainly had some admirable bedside manner qualities. He worked well under pressure, that was a given. Why, they could work him so hard here and he would never break. His father had certainly trained him well in that area, even if he did little else to improve John’s quality of life. Perhaps he could work in the background… clean up after the animals or stay after to clean up all the dirt and trash left on the grounds by the patrons. It was possible!
Lestrade’s commanding voice broke John from his reverie. His eyes widened when he saw what the circus had in store for him, next.
“And now, for your mystical treasure, we have the Magnificent Professor Moriarty and his lovely assistant, Molly!”
The audient erupted in cheers so loud, John was afraid the tent would collapse. Clearly the selling point of this circus was this act. The Magnificent Professor Moriarty took the center ring and held his white gloved hands up for all to see. In one swift motion he took off both gloves, threw them into the crowd and then rolled up the sleeves on his suit. It was an expensive suit, too, John noted. Probably from some impossibly expensive company he had never heard of. At least he was proving that he had nothing up his sleeve so to speak.
Molly, however, was absolutely stunning. She had a beautiful smile and her brown hair was pulled to the side in a messy ponytail. Her hair was adorned with peacock feathers and the colors matched her sequin outfit. This circus certainly had its flashy bits down.
Nearly all of the other performers had been silent. Only Lestrade had spoken thus far. Even Anderson with his lion taming abilities only mimed actions and grunted a bit when he instructed the lion to do anything. The Magnificent Professor Moriarty, however, was able to speak.
“Hello, there, little ones…” the magician spoke, his unmistakable Irish accent lilting across the audience like a spell, holding each and every one of them captive. “My my we have such a lively crowd tonight. Have you all been enjoying this little show?”
The audience cheered in response; John cheered right along with them.
The Magnificent Professor Moriarty smiled and pulled his assistant, Molly, closer to him. “We have quite an amazing show for you all, tonight.” His eyes glinted with a sort of mysterious charm.
John wondered if he would do some card tricks or pull a rabbit out of his hat, but it turned out that Moriarty had a more refined and detailed act that really set him apart from other magicians. He seemed almost immune to the fear of death and that gave him a sort of dark edge.
To warm the audience up, he had a bit of a teleporting act where Molly stepped in and out of boxes located within the three rings. John was astonished as to how he could pull it off. Surely there was nothing but solid ground beneath them! There was not even a platform on the stage—just circular rings directly on the grass.
He had a few slight of hand tricks in the interim, just to keep the audience going, and he was surprisingly camp throughout the entire act.
“First you have a bit of flowers here, yes? It’s a trick we all know but—what?” He threw the bunch of flowers into the air. The trick had obviously been one of those wands that flicked out vacuum suppressed flowers in an instant, but the minute the flowers left his hand, they turned into a white dove. “I’m sooooo changeable!” The audience cheered again.
After a while Moriarty had Molly roll in a large chamber and the magician held his hands up to quiet the audience down again. “For my last act, I will attempt a feat of bravery. My lovely assistant Molly here will place me in this straight jacket; tie me in chains with several locks to keep me in place. I will then be lowered upside down in this tank of water. Greater magicians than I have died performing such a feat! Will I make it? Shall we find out?” He flipped his cape off and threw it into the air where it burst into flame and smoldered harmlessly on the stamped down grass in the next ring. Moriarty was clearly no stranger to theatrics.
John watched as Molly helped Moriarty gear up for his show stopping final act. In the moments that Moriarty was being lowered upside down into the tank of water, John did not realize he was holding his breath. It was not until he could feel his heart beating in his throat that he finally let out the air. Moriarty seemed to struggle fruitlessly in the water, trying to get the locks undone.
A minute went by, and then another. John grew increasingly anxious with each passing second. Moriarty appeared to be making no progress whatsoever on his situation.
Then, as if the lights had been turned on without warning, several of the locks broke away. Moriarty had unlocked them somehow, and he was moving then to untie the straight jacket. In seconds, he was undoing the locks at his ankles to free himself and pull himself into an upright position.
Clearly he had been training to hold his breath for a long time. He was under for three or four minutes at the very least. John wondered how long a human could effectively hold their breath, but the thought died quickly as Moriarty emerged from the tank to a round of deafening applause. John stood up just before the entire audience followed in suit, clapping so hard his hands hurt.
He was more than impressed! The entire show was worth the measly eight pounds he had spent on a ticket. Clearly much more when into this circus than he realized. That or they managed to find some incredibly talented people and lucked out. John wondered if they were paid at all, or if they worked here just to get by.
In either case, he stood for far longer than many of the other patrons and was not ashamed to sit down audibly. When Lestrade came out to give the final farewell to the audience, John was nearly ready to give another standing ovation. It did not matter that he was by himself. He more or less had forgotten. He was so enthralled in the performance.
“That is all the show we have for you, this evening!” Lestrade raised his arms for one last time to address the audience. “We will be here for the remainder of the week, so please, come back and see us again! Our show is always changing! And be sure to see some of our side shows just outside the tent. The fun here at the Circo de Pastel never ends!” Lestrade’s voice echoed loudly over the heads of every man and woman, boy and girl in the audience. For a moment, John appreciated the acoustics of the tent.
As people slowly began to file out of the tent, John held his seat. Some of the performers had come out to tear down pieces of the “stage” and to clean up after The Magnificent Professor Moriarty. John watched them with a growing interest. Even just as a cleanup crew, the acrobats still held their agility and grace. John was starting to see himself as more and more prone to mistakes now that he compared himself to these flawless human beings. He began to think it was silly of him to even believe for a moment that the circus would take him.
He stopped himself there. Was he serious about trying to join the circus? Surely there were applications or auditions or something. The days of children running away to join the circus had long since passed. John was nineteen, and he would be twenty in a few months time. He was no run away. He would have to go about this in a professional manner. He was a dignified young adult who had left his home and was now seeking his fortune. He repeated this fact in his head a few dozen times until he was sure that he believed it.
With that in mind, John stood up and hefted his belongings back over his left shoulder again. He swallowed hard and set out to find someone he could talk to. He scanned the tent. The performers and clowns were busy cleaning up the stage, and John felt it would be wrong to bother them. The stands were emptying out quickly as each of the patrons moved outside to see more of the circus. John looked around hoping there would be people cleaning the seats. Spilled popcorn and drinks were everywhere, so surely this was a concern for the circus.
He saw someone, finally: a tall, thin man with curly hair and a serious face. He looked out of place for a patron, but he also was not dressed as flashy as the other circus performers. He had black slacks and a dark purple shirt. There was a grey overcoat and a blue scarf draped over his arm casually as if he were going to leave the tent into the bitter cold any moment.
John quickly scrambled to get out of his row to head toward the man. Something about him seemed odd. This was not a particularly bad odd, either. John felt that same pull toward that man as he had when he first saw the circus from the cab.
Unfortunately, the man looked up at a most inopportune time, saw John coming for him, frowned and turned away. Someone passed in front of John for a moment and when John managed to get by, he looked back to where that tall man had been standing and was astonished to find that he was no longer there. Frustrated, John picked up the pace and began to rush toward where he had seen the other man. There was absolutely no sign of him and John was beginning to wonder if he had even seen the man at all.
Suddenly, a voice with a heavy accent sounded beside him, “Hey there, mate. You a bit lost?”
John turned around to see one of the heavier set clowns giving him a bit of a stare. John swallowed hard. “I was uh… looking for someone, is all.”
“Oh, really,” the clown raised a painted eyebrow and nodded toward John’s bag of belongings. “Going somewhere, mate?”
John followed the clown’s gaze to his bag and shifted it a little bit on his shoulder. “I’ve uh… you’re going to think this is a bit silly…” John trailed off a little bit, swallowed hard and licked his lips. “I’ve just left home for good you see. I thought maybe this place looked interesting and I’m really very impressed with the whole circus. And really, I’m just looking for someone I can talk to about… possibly… working here?” John gave the clown a hopeful glance.
Instead of judging him outright, the clown actually chuckled in good humor and held a hand out to John. “You look strong and decent. The first is a good trait to have around here. The second will be wiped from you soon enough. I’m Mike. Mike Stamford.”
“John Watson.” John shook the clown’s hand and withdrew quickly as he felt a shock on his palm. He rubbed the offended appendage with a scowl.
Mike the clown threw his head back and laughed, “Oh, that trick always gets the best of them!” He held up his hand to show John the buzzer and removed it to put it back in his pocket. “Ah, no but seriously.” Mike’s face went from laughter to seriousness in less than a second. John was impressed. “You’re looking for a job?”
“More or less,” said John as he clenched and unclenched his hand. It still tingled a little.
“Follow me, then,” said Mike. John wasted no time in following the clown through the stands and toward the doors of the tent. He thought briefly that it was strange for him to be following a clown with just a simple name. If anything, Mike could have given him a stage name like Boppy or Mr. Fluffpants or whatever it was that clowns called themselves. John decided not to question it and simply follow Mike.
“Do you really think you could get me a job?” John asked after a while.
Mike turned back to him. “In a way. In this circus, you can’t just go up to the big boss and ask for a job. You have to prove yourself. If we don’t leave you behind when we pack up, things will look up for you.”
“So this sort of thing happens all the time?” questioned John.
Mike stepped out into the cold night air. John hadn’t realized the sun had gone down already. “A bit,” said Mike. “We get loads of runaways. Most of them are crap, to be honest. Hadn’t worked a day in their lives. Spoiled brats from upper class families mostly.”
“I see,” said John, nodding. That gave him a bit of hope. He definitely did not match that description. “What sort of people do you need?”
“We’re always in need of a bit of manual labor if you’re up to it. Waste disposal, errand running, cleaning up after patrons… you know, the dirty work.” Mike said casually as he led John through the throngs of people, past the exhibits and toward the back of the circus.
“I can do that,” offered John. “I can do anything, really, so long as I have a chance.” Life at the circus certainly beat life living in a motel and trying to find a job bussing tables.
“Great!” Mike said. He opened a gate near the back of the grounds. Beyond the gate was a mass of trailers which held what John could only assume were the performers and other members of the circus. John felt a wash of nervousness come over him. Surely he would not be allowed to sleep in a trailer without someone noticing! Would he have to sleep outside? He hadn’t actually thought this far, and he hadn’t even thought he would get a job in the circus so easily.
Not that he even had a job, yet. Mike was giving him a chance, but Mike was also a clown with probably little to no social or political standing in the entire circus. Now, if someone like the Magnificent Professor Moriarty were to offer him a job, the offer would have much more weight. John just wished Mike would take him to Lestrade or something.
Instead, Mike led John to a homely looking trailer and knocked on the door. In a few moments, a kindly older lady opened the door. She wore a strikingly normal purple blouse with a matching skirt. With all the over-the-top costumes going around, John was relieved to see someone looking so normal.
“Mrs. Hudson,” Mike began, “This is John Watson.”
Mrs. Hudson must have known exactly why John was there. After all, there probably was not any other reason for him to be behind the gate in the first place. She smiled warmly and took his hand in hers. There was no shocking mechanism and her hands were warm and inviting. “Why, hello there, dear,” she smiled. “You’re the first we’ve gotten since we’ve come to London. Thought we’d get a few more but it seems like the circus isn’t as popular as it once was…”
“I, uh….” John fidgeted a little. He had never been in a job interview situation, and he had certainly not met very many adults who were so accommodating. “I have no where else to go, to be honest, but I promise I will work very hard.”
“Oh, you poor dear,” Mrs. Hudson tutted. She placed a hand on John’s shoulder and ushered him inside. She turned once toward Mike, “Thank you, dear. I’ll take him from here.”
Mike tipped his little hat and disappeared back toward the gate as Mrs. Hudson closed the door to her trailer. John looked around with amazement.
Mrs. Hudson’s trailer looked like it belonged to a little old lady who was obsessed with tea parties. There was an excessive amount of doilies and flowers everywhere. John almost expected there to be a cat on the premises. It was not unwelcome, however. He found it very comforting and warm.
“You can just take a seat on the sofa over there, Mr. Watson,” Mrs. Hudson said and hustled over to the little kitchenette. “Would you care for a cuppa?”
“Yes, thank you,” John began and then added, “And please, call me John. Mr. Watson is my father.”
He must have said the latter statement with an amount of distaste in his mouth because Mrs. Hudson turned to him just after she put the kettle on. He could feel her eyes resting on the bandage on his forehead. “John, dear, if anything terrible has happened… you can talk to me if you like. I’m a bit of an old mum to many of the employees here at the Circo de Pastel. Well, I say employees. We’re more of a family, if you will. And if you are to be staying with us, you’re part of the family as well.”
John hugged his bag to his chest. “That’s very kind of you, Mrs. Hudson.” He forced a small smile. The excitement of the circus was definitely wearing off and he was beginning to feel the sadness of his situation set in. He was essentially homeless, and he had all but disowned his father. For all intents and purposes he was now an orphan. His father was as good as dead.
He did not know why, but Mrs. Hudson’s presence was so kindly and her tea was so lovely, that after a few sips, John opened up to her. He told her of his father’s attitude and his sister’s betrayal. He told her all about his mother and how he hoped he had made the last moments of her life worth all the terrible moment she had had to endure. He broke down and told her everything that had happened that day: the morgue, the fight with his father, the mug, and the running away.
“I’m not sure why I even came to the circus. I saw it in the cab and just… went with it.”
Mrs. Hudson smiled and placed a calming hand on John’s leg. “It’s all right, dearest. We all have our moments of epiphanies, even when we least realize it. You are here, now, and that is what matters. Finish your tea. Has Mr. Stamford told you much about how things work around here?”
John shook his head. “He told me I might be doing some manual labor… but that’s it.”
Mrs. Hudson stood to clean up after the tea mess. She talked over her shoulder to John as she worked. “The Circo de Pastel is, like I said, a family. Many of us share trailers. Most of the cleanup crew and non performing employees bunk together, but I am afraid there is no more room in that trailer.” She turned toward John with pursed lips. “It’s like I said before. We haven’t taken anyone in for a long while, and certainly not since we came to London. I’m afraid there’s a chance you will have to bunk with one of the performers.”
John felt a bit squeamish. To him that felt like he would be sharing a trailer with royalty. “Won’t that be unfair to the performer, though? Who would want me for a trailer mate?”
Mrs. Hudson giggled and took John’s finished tea mug from him to wash. “Believe it or not, only myself and one other person have our own trailers. I’m one of the oldest members of this family and due to the need for my own workspace—“ She indicated what looked like a spare room that was filled to wall to wall with makeup and costumes. “I look after the wardrobe for the entire circus, and keep up with the catering. I need the space.”
“Who else has the extra room, then?” John asked. He hoped to high heaven it was not the owner. That would be beyond awkward. He could even get a tent and stay outside, himself. It was a bit cold outside, but if he bought himself a thermal one, maybe the temperature would not be so bad. He could make it work.
Mrs. Hudson smiled a bit oddly, as if she were unsure of how to proceed. After a moment, she opened her mouth to speak, her lips curling almost into a smirk as she said, “Have you heard of Sherlock Holmes?”
Chapter 4: Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Psychic
Extra points if you can spot the Hitchhiker reference.
Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Psychic
John had no need to even strain his memory. “Sherlock Holmes, the Consulting Psychic?” he asked.
“The very same,” Mrs. Hudson replied. She briefly held herself in place a moment as if she were debating on whether or not to move or to speak. She settled on the latter. “Chances are he is in his trailer right now. He doesn’t leave for any reason other than to do his job, and even half the time he’s not even doing that. Says it’s boring.” She sighed and shrugged. “But that’s Sherlock, I suppose.”
Watson must have looked as confused as he felt. “Then why is he still here if he barely works?”
“Oh because he’s good,” Mrs. Hudson breathed. “And, for the most part, it keeps him out of trouble.”
“Trouble?” John’s eyed widened. “I don’t want any trouble.”
Mrs. Hudson nearly laughed. She only gave a small chuckle as if to tell John not to take her comment too seriously. “He’s not all bad,” she said with a little wave of her hand. “Once you get used to him, he’s really sweet. Er, well…” she frowned, “maybe ‘sweet’ isn’t the right word. Well, he’s certainly interesting. At least you won’t be bored. I’m no psychologist but you look like a strong man, despite all that you have been through. You can handle Sherlock Holmes.”
John did not feel reassured. If other members of the circus had trouble getting close to Sherlock, then why should John be able to? He had a few close friends at school, but he often felt as though they liked him more than he liked them. He had a tendency to float from group to group and never quite fit in with one, while simultaneously being accepted. He was not an outcast by any means, but he felt that he had more acquaintances than friends. If he found it hard to keep up with normal people, what gave him the right to keep up with someone like Sherlock?
And, if Sherlock could not hold any meaningful relationships with anyone due to attitude or behavior, John was not entirely sure staying with Sherlock would trigger any hidden feelings he had built up about his father.
It was not as though he had survived a war or anything, but at nineteen, he felt as though it was just as traumatic. He was still very much in recovery mode from the stress and the injuries (mental and physical) sustained from his home. Perhaps immediately throwing himself into a stressful situation was not the best remedy for his particular malady.
Nevertheless, John found himself following Mrs. Hudson out into the cold of the night. She had a torch with her to make sure neither of them tripped over anything in the dark as they made their way through the circus grounds toward Sherlock’s trailer.
John figured Sherlock would live in one of the trailers similar to the other performers, but he was mistaken. Sherlock, apparently, lived exactly where he worked. Mrs. Hudson took John back through the gate and onto the main grounds right where the old gypsy wagon sat.
It must have been strange to live and work in the same place. To John, there always had to be a degree of separation. His apprehension grew, however, when he noticed how small and cramped it must be inside. If Mrs. Hudson’s trailer was of any indication, John could not imagine how a sitting room, a kitchen, a lavatory, and two bedrooms could fit into such a place. And, on top of it all, where did Sherlock do most of his work? Was there a separate room for that? John wondered briefly if the interior was decorated in shrouds and crystal balls, incense, strange statues and crystals.
However, John thought just as both he and Mrs. Hudson came to the door of the trailer, he had been to a few mates’ houses in the past that looked as tiny and cramped as could be from the outside, but once indoors, they had proven to be quite spacious. Perhaps he was just a bad judge at space from an outside point of view.
Mrs. Hudson tapped lightly on the intricate wooden door. John had to admire the handiwork. The door had been painted with cool colors to give the trailer that authentic look. Even though its placement was merely for advertisement, John could not help but to feel impressed with it.
Nothing had happened when Mrs. Hudson knocked. She gave John a furtive glance and tried again. This time, an annoyed voice came from somewhere within the trailer. “It’s unlocked. Enter!”
Both Mrs. Hudson and John exchanged a looks of exasperation, possibly for two very separate reasons or for the very same reason. Mrs. Hudson opened the trailer door and disappeared inside with John following her shortly after.
The interior of the trailer looked absolutely nothing like John had imagined. There were no silly crystal balls or rocks of any sort. No multi-colored shrouds adorned the walls, nor did over decorated cloths drape themselves across any tables. No, the trailer looked very… normal. Well, normal for a circus, at least.
The walls were covered in obnoxious wallpaper that reminded John of a fleur de lys. The main sitting room held two very comfortable looking chairs with a small table between the two of them. Bookshelves lined the walls, there appeared to be a sort of chemistry set in the corner, a green couch hugged one wall and every surface was covered in some kind of document or book. One table had a stack of letters with a knife holding them in place. The only surreal or supernatural object in the entire room was a skull perched amidst the rubble of papers and stationary at a nearby desk.
On the whole, the place looked very comfortable and spacious while still retaining its quaint charm. John was impressed.
Sherlock, it seemed, was nowhere in sight, but Mrs. Hudson did not appear to be worried. She made her way toward an archway at one end of the room. It looked as though it led to the kitchen.
“Sherlock?” She called. “I have someone here I would like you to meet.”
There was an audible clang accompanied by the sound of tinkling glass and in seconds Sherlock came into view from the kitchen. “I am not receiving visitors just now, Mrs. Hudson. Can’t you see I’m busy?”
“Oh, but Sherlock… this is important,” chimed Mrs. Hudson. She angled herself toward the sitting room to direct Sherlock’s attention to John. “Sherlock, this is John Watson. John, this is Sherlock Holmes.”
John could not speak. He felt like a fool for standing in the middle of the sitting room with his bag slumped haphazardly on his shoulder. He must have looked tired and unkempt. He hadn’t minded until before but it bothered him that moment because when Sherlock appeared from the kitchen, he had looked absolutely divine.
Although John had never used the word “divine” on a person before, he could not think of any other word to describe Sherlock during those brief seconds. All the air left John’s lungs, and he could not quite place why. His heart thudded so loudly in his chest; he wanted to tell it to shut up. Surely both Sherlock and Mrs. Hudson could hear it. Surely the entire circus could hear it!
The slight tugging John had felt since the drive in the cab simultaneously grew stronger and stopped. If John had wanted to find the source of magnetism or the reason he felt compelled to get out of the cab and experience the circus for himself, this was most definitely it. John recognized Sherlock as that strange, tall man he had seen in the circus tent just after the show. No wonder he had wanted to speak to him, then. They both had somehow gravitated toward this moment without even realizing it.
And, well, John said man, but seeing Sherlock this close, he realized just how wrong he had been. Sherlock could not have been much older than John, himself. He dressed as though he was in his thirties, but clearly he was just a boy, or rather, a teenager, a young adult, a young man. Eighteen? Nineteen? Twenty?
The most incredible aspect of that moment, the one memory that John found the most vivid, was the sight of Sherlock’s eyes. The first time John had seen Sherlock had been from such a distance in such horrible lighting that his eyes looked nothing out of the ordinary. Here in the closeness of the trailer, John could see just how striking Sherlock’s almond eyes were. They had such an ethereal shade of blue to them that John would not have been surprised if Sherlock had told him he wore contacts. John felt shamefully ordinary under that gaze.
John forced himself to move. With great effort he attempted to take a step forward and held out his hand to shake Sherlock’s. He could be civil about this. The shock of actually meeting this strange, enigmatic man for the first time would wear off eventually.
Instead of shaking John’s hand, however, Sherlock stared at it for a moment and then looked up directly into John’s eyes. John could not help but to feel a tiny jolt of electricity at the glance. Finally, Sherlock said in a flat tone, “I’m sorry about your mother.”
A shot of pain began in John’s heart and radiated outward toward his limbs and he felt his knees go weak. “My mother? How could you know about my mother?”
Sherlock paused a moment, as if he were choosing the correct words or as if he were embracing himself to talk for a while without breathing. “You have bags under your eyes, but they don’t look new. They have been there for some time. There is a small lingering smell of formaldehyde and disinfectant on you that can be traced back to a morgue or funeral parlor, either or, but the conclusion remains: someone close to you has died recently. Judging by the hastily packed bag on your shoulder and the clothing choice, that person was very close. Immediate family? Can’t be a brother or a sister, or you would not be here. No, you’re at the circus by yourself—that means it’s a parent. Now: mother or father? The haphazard bandage on the side of your head: no parent would dress their own son’s wound like that, no you dressed it yourself… in a hurry. You knew what you were doing, though, so you must have taken care of the dying relative—enough to learn some first aid. The statistical likelihood on which parent gave you that wound, however, must go to the father. That was a bit of a shot in the dark, I’m afraid, but based on how well Mrs. Hudson has received you, you feel more comfortable around older women. Therefore, your mother has passed away, leaving you alone with a less than pleased father who has wounded you, probably thrown you out and here you are.”
John stared at Sherlock. Sherlock’s eyes rested easily on John. He seemed braced for a certain type of reaction, but John was tired. He was still in a bit of shock about recent events and felt somewhat detached from them for the time being. Instead of feeling offended that Sherlock had deduced his darkest secret, he felt relieved. Sure, it was not fair for Sherlock to know so much about John and for John to know so little about Sherlock in return, but oddly enough, that did not bother John at all. Instead, he said, “Fantastic. That was… brilliant.”
Sherlock actually looked surprised. Mrs. Hudson simply beamed at the two of them. She had looked uncertain when Sherlock had been talking, but the look on John’s face had eased her fears. Sherlock did not bother with masking his curiosity when he asked, “Oh?”
“Yes,” breathed John. “That was… I’m impressed. You got all that from just a glance?”
“That’s not what people normally say.”
“What do they normally say?”
“Boys!” Mrs. Hudson chimed in before Sherlock could answer and clapped her hands to get both boys’ attention. “I’m sorry to speed things along, but I have so much to get done, tonight, in preparation for our busy day of shows tomorrow! Sherlock, do you think you can spare some room for John for a bit? It seems he will be helping out around the place for the time being.”
Sherlock acknowledged Mrs. Hudson with a nod of his head, but he never took his eyes off John. “Yes, of course, by all means. He can take the spare room, so long as he doesn’t touch my experiments.”
“Oh, lovely!” Mrs. Hudson pressed her hands to her heart. “Bless you, Sherlock.” She turned to John and took his hands into her own and squeezed them gently. “Don’t be a stranger, dear. If you need anything, just come and see me. I hope you get settled in nicely. I wish I could help you a bit more but, you know, busy busy!” She smiled widely and John could not help but to feel safe and warm around her. Mrs. Hudson had a way of taking in strays and making them feel at home.
John returned the sentiment to Mrs. Hudson. She said her farewells to Sherlock and was out the door in seconds.
A few moments went by and the silence in the trailer was so profound, John could hear the clock ticking. He awkwardly shifted his bag on his shoulder and the movement seemed to have brought Sherlock out of his own mind.
“John,” Sherlock began in his smooth baritone. John nearly jumped when he heard his named uttered.
“Do you like tea?”
John gave Sherlock an incredulous look and said, “I’m English. I’m made of tea.”
Sherlock merely smiled and disappeared back into the kitchen. John felt himself immediately relax the moment Sherlock was out of sight. Out of the two chairs in the room, John sat down in the chair that appeared as though Sherlock did not use it for himself, much. The other chair had an end table with papers and books around it, while the other seemed rather alone. John assumed this chair was for clients, but as he was so tired from the events of that day, he did not mind that he was not a client at the moment. He slumped down onto the cold leather and sighed audibly.
The trailer really felt cozy to John, and he would have dozed off in the chair right there if it weren’t for the little adrenaline shot Sherlock had given him merely by existing. Just when John felt as though he were calming down, Sherlock came out of the kitchen with two mugs of tea and John’s heart started up all over again. Sherlock offered John a mug and then sat down in his chair. He pulled his feet up onto the seat, his knees tucked up under his chin as he blew lightly over the top of his tea.
John watched Sherlock with growing interest. The exact reason for John’s attraction was unknown. He hadn’t felt a connected with a human being for such a long time, he must have forgotten what it felt like. Didn’t Mrs. Hudson say Sherlock was hard to get along with? John wondered when that personality trait would start to surface. He took a sip of his tea to calm his nerves and it surprisingly worked.
“Thank you, for letting me stay here,” John said after a while. He knew Sherlock’s eyes were scrutinizing over his entire body; he could feel it. It did not seem to bother him, however. He took it in stride. Sherlock obviously noticed things more than the average person. John would just have to be careful.
Sherlock waved the thanks off with the slightest flick of his head. “There is no room anywhere else at the moment. I trust Mrs. Hudson implicitly. She would not have brought you here if she felt you would bore me.”
“Oh, so I don’t bore you?”
“No…” Sherlock narrowed his eyes at John—though not in a malicious way—more out of curiosity than anything. “Why don’t you bore me? I don’t even know you.” Sherlock inquired.
John shrugged. It was all he could do. “Could it be because I saw you earlier? In the big tent, after the show?”
Sherlock frowned. “Hardly. I saw you, noted you as a runaway, and proceeded to go about my business as usual. And here you are. Although, I must admit, I had wanted to have an assistant for some time. Someone to weed through my customers when I have a line. Perhaps this is just as well.”
“I see.” John nursed his tea and stole a few furtive glances up at Sherlock when he could. He finally mustered up the courage to ask what had been nagging at him for some time. “How much do you know about me? I mean, have you picked up anything else?”
Sherlock gave John a mysterious grin, “You are inquiring about my services. I should charge for that.”
“You mean, that’s what people do? They pay you to tell them things about themselves?”
“In a way,” said Sherlock. “They pay me to tell them their fortunes. I honestly just deduce it for them.”
“Can you tell me mine, then? My fortune? I can pay…”
Sherlock looked at John hard, as if he were both studying him and contemplating something complex in his mind. After a bit, he set down his tea and moved his feet to the floor so that he could learn forward. “All right… but no charge. You’re my new flat mate, after all. Consider it a housewarming gift.”
John smiled and set down his tea as well. This was certainly an interesting turn of events! John had no idea that he would be ending his day with a professional “psychic.” Although, now, John had a pretty good idea about how Sherlock made a living, but he did not judge. It was really a very useful trait, and he probably helped a lot of people without realizing. “All right, then. What do you need me to do?”
“You don’t need to do anything,” Sherlock said. He held his hands together, resting his index fingers on his lips in concentration. After a moment or two, he held out his hand. At first John thought Sherlock was going to read his palm, but instead he asked for a personal possession of John’s. Something he carried with him a lot.
“Well, there’s my mobile, I guess.” John held out an old, dying mobile phone for Sherlock to see. It was nothing special. Harriet had given him her own pay-as-you-go mobile before she left, and John hardly ever used it. It could only call and text, and John had to add airtime minutes as he used it. Since the phone did not get much use, it was extra cheap—he just used it for emergencies or to contact anyone on behalf of his mother. He always carried it with him, however, out of habit.
Sherlock took the phone, flipped it open and shut, and rolled it over in his hands for a short while before handing it casually back to John. “This was not originally your phone. Going by your watch and the state of your shoelaces, you take very good care of your possessions. The amount of scratches and knicks on this phone is severe. Someone else had it for some time—probably carried it around with keys or coins. Your father would be a highly unlikely candidate for the donor going by his life choices, and your mother’s current state suggests she has been sick for some time which takes her off that list as well. This leaves another close relative: an older sibling. Someone used to giving out hand-me-downs. It’s a flip phone, no contract, so you just put airtime minutes on it. Probably doesn’t get much use from you—the buttons are warn, but not freshly so. Who carries an old flip phone and never uses it? Someone who does not get close to others. You probably don’t have a lot of close friends. Had to keep it close to home all the time to care for your mother. Or perhaps you were ashamed? Did not like your father’s behavior. Drunk, possibly? So your older brother or sister looked out for you; gave you their old phone. But where are they now? They’ve left you a long time ago. I could probably learn more if I went inside the phone, but I can say this off the bat: the most recently dialed number will be that of your older sibling. No answer. They did not come in your hour of need. You feel lost and betrayed. The only person left for you has driven the rest of your family apart. And that is why you are here.”
John swallowed hard. He would never have to tell Sherlock anything about himself, ever. This man had it all down right off the bat. “Amazing. All of it.”
“Did I get anything wrong?”
“No, nothing. It’s… all true.” John scratched his head in disbelief. “You have quite an eye for detail.”
Sherlock scoffed. “It’s nothing, really. People just don’t know how to observe anymore. You could pick up any of these deductions if only you were trained to see them. To know what to look for and to exploit it: that is the key method. I call it the science of deduction.”
“So, all you did is tell me about myself,” said John with a smirk. “That’s hardly fortune-telling.”
“The distant past is easy, the recent past is a walk in the park. The future takes a bit of guesswork and generalization,” said Sherlock, with the slightest hint of a wink. Clearly he enjoyed John’s praise for his work. John did not mind, either. He actually enjoyed Sherlock’s acute observations. He did not have to avoid these conversations or find ways to word them—Sherlock already knew. Perhaps in the future John would get annoyed with it, maybe, but at this point it was too early to tell and John simply reveled in the fascination of it all.
“Can you deduce my future, then?” John asked.
Sherlock opened his mouth to speak, paused, and then frowned. “I’m afraid your immediate future doesn’t take much guesswork. You ran away—“
“Escaped.” John interrupted.
Sherlock eyed him. “Ran away,” he continued, unabated. “And came across the circus, liked what you saw, and have successfully joined it. I have the only available living space, so you came here. I’m afraid what happens next is very much straightforward.”
“Oh,” John raised an eyebrow in inquiry, “and what is that?”
Sherlock gave John a look that clearly read ‘Don’t be so daft.’
John shrugged and picked up his tea again. It had cooled enough to take the burn off his tongue and he sipped it leisurely. “Well then, can you show me where I’ll be staying?” Honestly, he was surprised at himself for handling his situation so well. He really did feel comfortable here, and with Sherlock. That magnetic pull he had been feeling had softened to a dull tingle. He found he quite enjoyed this trailer, even though he hadn’t even been in it for an hour, yet.
Sherlock looked toward his laptop that was sitting on a table nearby. He had a look in his eye that suggested he would very much like to get up and get that laptop, but he could not be bothered to do it. He did not speak for some time, and John suddenly felt ignored. Sherlock hadn’t acknowledged that John had even asked him a question. Right as John was about to say something to get Sherlock’s attention, the curly haired man turned toward him and asked, “Can you hand me my laptop, John?”
John looked incredulous, “Sherlock, it’s right there! Can’t you get it yourself? And you haven’t even answered my question!”
“I can see it, it’s too far away and what question?” He tilted his head to the side inquiringly.
John gave a huff, rolled his eyes and retrieved the laptop for Sherlock anyway. “I only wanted to know where I would be staying.”
“My spare bedroom is currently being used for my experiments.” Sherlock said casually as he opened his laptop and woke it up from hibernation. “So there is no bed.”
“You’re not suggesting I sleep with—“
“No.” Sherlock stopped John before he could get any further. John pursed his lips. “You can still sleep there. I have extra blankets and pillows, but I think you would find it much more comfortable to lie on the couch in here, rather than on the floor in there.”
“I see.” John frowned. He honestly could have slept on a couch in any of the other trailers. He had been hoping for a bed, but at the same time he could not complain. He had been willing to sleep outside in a tent, earlier. A couch appeared far more appealing than the cold, hard ground. Perhaps, if he worked hard enough and proved himself worthy, Sherlock would accommodate John into that spare room—but this time with at least a mattress. “I can at least store my things in there?”
“Yes, whatever you like.” Sherlock said. He obviously was not listening with his full attention. His face lit up a sickly blue-ish white from the laptop screen and John thought it made him look very alien.
With that thought, John gathered his bag and turned toward the hallway on the opposite end of the room.
There were three doors: one led to Sherlock’s room, one to the spare room and one to the lavatory. Both doors to the rooms were closed, and John felt too awkward to just be banging into random rooms here and there, so he called down the hall. “Which room?”
“The first door. My room is at the end of the hall.” Sherlock called from the sitting room.
John muttered something about Sherlock being an unaccommodating host but he opened the first door, anyway. The room was impossibly small. If it were any tinier, it would be better classified as a closet than a room. Sherlock had a table filled with his so-called experiments on the far wall, and various jars of something littered rest of the available space. John had been expecting to see perhaps a chemistry set or some Petri dishes in the room. When Sherlock had said “experiment,” that was the image that first came to John’s mind. Instead, Sherlock seemed to be growing things in pots and bags and old food storage containers.
John cautiously entered the room, well aware from common sense and context clues alone that he should probably not touch anything. He did, however, allow his curiosity to get the better of him and he peered over the edge of one of the containers, just to see what it was that Sherlock was doing. Instantly, he recoiled. Sherlock had halfway submerged some fingers in potting soil. To John, it looked as if Sherlock were literally growing fingers much as someone would grow plants.
Moreover, John thought, where did Sherlock get the fingers in the first place? John was almost positive they were real human fingers, although he hadn’t ever seen any fingers physically detached from a living or dead person for any length of time, so he could not be completely sure.
He sighed and set his things down into a corner of the room and finally began to unpack a little of what he had brought. Most of his bag was filled with his clothing, but he had thought to bring just a few bare essentials with him.
He made sure to pack some everyday items he knew he would need no matter where he went. He pulled out his deodorant stick, some shampoo, soap, a toothbrush and some toothpaste. He hoped Sherlock had some extra towels. John had only packed spare clothes—no blankets or towels or pillows or sheets. Although, in retrospect, he probably should have packed a towel. Towels were completely useful for so many different occasions that John now thought it was absolutely silly to not have packed one in the first place. He made a mental note to always remember a towel; towels were important.
Unfortunately, he could not dwell on that point for too long, because he was incredibly tired, but he felt as though he were in desperate need of a bath or a shower, whichever came first. He made his way back to the sitting room to see Sherlock had not moved from his previous position. He was still sitting on his chair, his laptop open in front of him. He still had that eerie blue glow shining on his face.
A bit unnerved, John cleared his throat to gain Sherlock’s attention. Sherlock did not remove his gaze from his laptop. Instead, he gave a very slight nod in John’s direction to show that he was listening. John took a deep breath, “May I use your shower?”
“You live here now, John. For the most part,” said Sherlock as he ran his finger down the touch pad on his laptop. “You don’t need my permission to take a shower.”
“Right, thanks,” John said and made a bee line for the shower. Once inside the bathroom, he quickly stripped himself of his clothing, located a precious towel, got all of his toiletries ready and finally took the plunge into the shower stall.
It took a moment for the shower to get heated enough for John’s liking. The water probably had to go through an old water heater and it was probably recycled and filtered a few times. He did not mind, though. He was still able to get clean enough. He did not want to waste too much of the water, however, based on the fact that there probably was not much of it. This was a traveling circus, after all. This meant that the trailers all moved with the circus and each time the troupe set up camp, the water had to be hauled or bought or moved along with everything else. It was probably a precious commodity for the performers and the crew. Although, John thought, that did say something for the management and human resources department of the circus for each trailer to have its own working shower.
Once he emerged, he stayed in the heated bathroom to change as he had brought his clothes with him. He did not pack any pyjamas, but he put on a clean shirt and shorts thinking that that would have to do. He then dug through his things to grab his toothbrush and toothpaste and turned toward the mirror. He frowned at his reflection. The bags under his eyes were terrible. He hoped a good night’s sleep would fix that.
When he felt refreshed enough to grace Sherlock with his presence again, he walked casually back into the living room, Sherlock’s towel still on his head. That had been a mistake.
Seeing Sherlock again after the brief intermission had gotten John all riled up again, and this time he was wearing a tee shirt and boxer shorts so he felt incredibly vulnerable. He quickly rubbed his hair with the towel, hoping Sherlock would think he was completely normal.
Sherlock was no longer sitting with his laptop. The computer lay forgotten on the side table next to Sherlock’s chair. John noticed, however, that the mugs were gone. He found it strange that a person as messy as Sherlock would take the time to clean up a bit of tea mess.
Instead, he had found Sherlock standing in the middle of the sitting room, hands on his hips as if he were waiting for John to exit the shower. The strangest expression rested on his face.
John sighed inwardly. Was he welcome, or was he not? The constant worry would give him a headache so he decided that he would not care anymore. He casually held the towel toward Sherlock to indicate that he was well aware of any boundaries he had overstepped. “Thought you wouldn’t mind if I borrowed one.”
This could work. At least Sherlock was not boring. John could tell that already.
Chapter 5: The Psychic Mind
Even more points if you can spot the Rupert Graves reference.
The Psychic Mind
Sherlock Holmes hated his job.
Well, he said hate. To anyone observing from a completely subjective outside view, he probably seemed indifferent to his career choice.
However, Sherlock was only nineteen. He hadn’t yet found his niche in the world and what with his brother’s crazy scheme to start a circus of all things; Sherlock thought his future was rather limited. Mummy had reveled in everything Mycroft had ever done, and Sherlock felt almost helpless in following in his brother’s footsteps.
He did wonder why he could not have gone straight to university after schooling had ended. Mycroft had suggested he come travel with him in the circus. It would be fun.
Sherlock hated fun. Or rather, he hated most people’s concept of fun. His version of fun did not include patrons patronizing him every ten seconds. Most of the time he closed his stall down and wandered about the circus grounds or sat in his trailer experimenting on various ideas that plagued his mind.
For as long as Sherlock could remember, he felt compelled to beat his brother at something. Mycroft always got the better grades. While both Holmes brothers always received such high marks, Mycroft would always take it one step further and add extracurricular activities or social events into the mix. Somehow, Mycroft knew how to function in a normal society and basically deal with other people in such a way that it allowed him to surpass Sherlock intellectually, again from an outsider’s point of view.
In Sherlock’s eyes, he was the smarter one, but of course some people begged to differ and Sherlock had to deal with it in the best way he knew how: to ignore everyone.
Sherlock could remember clearly the day his brother had asked him to join his little circus. Mycroft already had a job working for the British government, but he somehow managed to find time to waste. Mycroft had already been gallivanting about the countryside with his partner in crime: Greg Lestrade and playing circus for a few years by that point, so Sherlock thought he was safe from recruitment.
Sherlock was rarely wrong and when he was, he made it so the rest of the world wished he were right.
Of course, Sherlock tried to blame Lestrade as much as he could, but Lestrade had to be so damn accommodating and nice and not that much of an idiot compared to the rest of the circus employees that Sherlock almost felt compelled to join. At least he would not have to work in the big tent doing any stunts for the audience. That was a relief.
But really, the entire thing was Lestrade’s fault. Somehow, he had convinced Mycroft that this was a good idea, and together, the two of them envisioned this grand circus. Originally, Lestrade had been working for a circus since he was 15, and he had been a clown of all things: a clown named Tomato. Lestrade managed to gather together a few of his buddies, probably from old circus jobs or school, and slowly built his circus empire. With Mycroft’s hands in the government, the circus managed to acquire some fabulous benefactors. This helped a great deal with the budget.
Part of Sherlock’s deal in joining the circus was to have his own trailer. The trailer, however, had to be of much higher caliber than anyone else’s, even the apparent star of the show, The Magnificent Professor Moriarty. Mycroft had obliged probably more for Mummy’s sake than for his own. Sherlock had a hot water heater and a very well adorned kitchen. His flat had a slightly larger floor plan and called for a full-sized shower. If Sherlock was going to help make his brother’s stupid business profitable, he sure as hell was going to get something out of it.
For Sherlock’s entire life, he had had a keen eye for observation. From a young age, he could tell so much about a person based solely on the state of their shoes. As he grew older, he began to research certain aspects of the world (types of cigar butts and the differences between soil samples throughout different parts of Britain) to bring about more accurate deductions about people.
It was Mycroft’s idea for Sherlock to be a psychic. He had argued that it would not be much of a difference than who he was before. Sherlock already told everyone he met everything he knew about them. Now he could do it for a living—and then give the client an educated guess as to how their futures would be.
Not to mention this way, people actually wanted to be deduced, as opposed to Sherlock pissing them off. The only thing he changed was that he never, ever explained how he came to his conclusions. It took the mystery away and stupid people loved to remain in ignorance.
He absolutely refused to wear any of the silly psychic garb that his brother had suggested. Sherlock was very content to wear his usual suits or button downs. He even refused to decorate his trailer according to the usual getup for a psychic. He kept things the way he wanted them. He argued in a fit of passion to Mycroft that people were more likely to believe someone who appeared relatively normal than someone who built up a fake persona. To the outsider, Sherlock looked like a normal person with an extraordinary gift and that brought patrons to his door as opposed to someone with a pompous name like the Magnificent Professor Moriarty.
And yet, Mycroft argued, Moriarty had had much more success than Sherlock. Sherlock could care less, however. He refused to take part in any shows and since half the time his door was not open to receive customers, many people stopped trying to find out when he was open.
Most of all, Sherlock hated his current situation because he had been called a freak all throughout school—and now he was making a living in being one. It was as if he were proving every single one of those bullies right.
The circus had began in London and travelled all throughout the United Kingdom and neighboring countries. They had been to France and Spain and Germany. Spain had not been as welcoming. A British troupe that had a faux Spanish theme had been insulting to some patrons, and hilarious to others, but overall, their welcome was so mixed, they vowed to take Spain off their list of touring countries.
The Irish loved them, but probably for Moriarty’s sake than anything.
Come dreary October, the circus had planted its roots in London once again. Sherlock was more than happy to be home. In fact, he found that he let his consulting hours be a bit more flexible than usual and he even dared to venture out into the main circus to watch the show for a bit.
He hadn’t expected to see John that day, although at the time, the man had been a complete stranger to Sherlock.
He had been alone in his trailer, checking on the progress of some decaying frogs in an enclosed environment when he heard the announcement over the speakers that another show was about to start. The circus had been in full swing and Sherlock had been open to receive customers earlier that day. He had grown tired after telling the fifteenth girl that she was going to meet the love of her life within the next sixteen months and closed up shop.
However, suddenly the circus seemed like a good idea and he silently cursed the loud speaker for reminding him. He had seen the show only a few times, but some of the performances were pretty good.
Except maybe Anderson’s segment. His bit with the lion was a complete and total joke. The lion probably inwardly laughed at the trainer the entire time.
As Sherlock grabbed his coat and scarf he happened to glance out his window and saw a young man staring at his trailer from a distance. It was rare for Sherlock to get male customers. Generally, women came to seek their love fortunes. Men only came if they were accompanying their girlfriends or on dares. He had a sort of dark sand quality to his hair and a he carried an oversized bag with him.
What intrigued Sherlock the most was the look of sadness that engulfed the boy’s eyes. Sherlock could not get a second glance because the loud speaker had inevitably drawn the other man back toward the main tent.
As he pulled his mind back into the trailer, Sherlock pulled on his coat, wrapped his scarf around his neck and headed out into the cold air toward the main tent.
He tried to make himself inconspicuous as he took a seat in a darkened corner of the tent. As he watched the show, he grew bored every so often and dallied a bit with his cell phone. Occasionally he would scan the crowd just to see what type of reactions they came up with. This generally occurred during any of Anderson’s segments. He would rather look anywhere else other than at the stage.
About halfway through the show, as Sherlock ran his eyes over the crowd, growing ever more disgusted at the general annoying quality of humanity, his eyes fell upon that strange man again. He was sitting by himself and it was almost sad to see how much he was enjoying the show. That faraway sad look Sherlock had seen outside his trailer had all but dissipated and was replaced with sheer excitement, suspense, and awe.
For a split second, Sherlock was secretly glad to be a part of something that brought some joy to this man, and he had no idea why.
After The Magnificent Professor Moriarty finished embarrassing himself, Sherlock began to gather his things and leave, but that man had started a standing ovation and Sherlock found himself trapped. He growled and sat back down in his seat. He would just wait for more and more people to leave before he could do so himself. He hadn’t found out why he’d wanted to see this show. No one had performed much better or worse than normal. About all Sherlock got out of this show was to watch that strange, lonely young man gain a bit of joy.
Well, that was stupid and a waste of time. Sherlock hardly cared what happened to other people anyway, much less strangers. What made this sandy haired busy body any different from the rest of the world? Sherlock could tell he was not a genius, but he was not entirely stupid, either. He was, if anything, average. What could Sherlock want with an average man?
He hadn’t even noticed he had been absent mindedly staring until he accidentally caught the man’s eye and the stranger started to make his way toward him. Sherlock panicked. He held quickly donned his coat and scarf and made his exit as quick as possible.
There honestly had not been a reason for Sherlock’s panic. The man could have come up to him any said anything and Sherlock could have blown him off. What was his problem? Why was he here? If he could get a better look at him, he’d know in an instant.
To calm his irritatingly shot nerves, Sherlock lit a cigarette once he was outside. He had to give his brother credit on that one—the outdoors and general devil-may-care setting of a circus had given him the freedom to smoke whenever the hell he wanted, and for that Sherlock was grateful. He took a long drag of his cigarette—allowing the smoke to give him that familiar burning in his chest. He liked the way it felt in the cold hair. Rather than feeling like they were damaging his lungs, which he knew was happening and he did not care, the smoke felt warm and comforting to him, much like hot cocoa on a snowy day.
After Sherlock’s head cleared, he was unaware of how much time had passed. It seemed most of the patrons had cleared the tent by now, and Sherlock decided it would be a good idea to head back to his own trailer. He could hear Mike Stamford’s unusually loud accent behind him. It looked as though he found himself a new recruit. This was nothing new. Mike was always finding runaways after shows. Those he could not get to leave or go back to their own parents, he took under his wing. It hadn’t happened for a while, mostly because they were running out of room and staffing opportunities. A recession did that to a circus. Curiosity got the better of Sherlock as he turned to glance at who he had found this time.
His blood froze when he saw that lonely young man with the sandy hair.
Sherlock bolted back to his trailer. He knew what would happen from that point forward. Mike would take the kid back to Mrs. Hudson. She, in turn, would bring him to the only available living space: Sherlock’s trailer.
He could protest. Yes, yes, he would definitely protest. She had no right to bring him back to his place. She knew how little he could associate with people outside of his profession! His spare room was important to him, anyway. Of course, for the first few months he had let the bed stay in there in case Mycroft decided he would be in need of a roommate, but after a while it became apparent that Sherlock was definitely going to get his way and live alone. He had moved the bed to accommodate someone else in the other trailers and turned the room into an extra room for his experiments. For Sherlock, it was ideal.
And now this snot nosed brat was going to ruin everything Sherlock had going for himself—even if it was not much. Stupid stranger and his sad eyes and his lonely disposition.
By the time Sherlock had made it back to his trailer, he was in a complete rage. The calm the cigarette had given him quickly wore off. Instead, he found ways to keep his brain in check. At first he tried to go through some old experiment data he had been going over, but when that hadn’t sufficiently calmed him down he turned to the kitchen where he had some ideas for growing some cultures. He rarely, if ever, even used the small kitchenette for cooking anyway. Mould cultures seemed like a perfectly normal thing to grow in a kitchen to Sherlock.
He set to work immediately. He took swabs from various places throughout his trailer just to see what type of mould grew where, the patterns for growth and how much bacteria had found a home there. Soon he became encased in the experiment, getting a solution ready to mix with the mould, sterilizing his equipment, and making pre-experiment observations through his microscope to see if any of his test swabs had any growth before the experiment began.
He had been so thoroughly immersed in his work when the knock came on his door that he honestly did not even hear it the first time—and Sherlock usually prided himself on always being aware of his surroundings. He quickly forced himself into a reason to stop his work, and accidentally jingled a few test tubes in the process. After a moment, he realized he probably did not even need to answer the door, anyway. These were not his patrons. This was just Mrs. Hudson and a life-ruiner. He cleared his throat and called for the two of them to come inside.
Having this stranger in Sherlock’s home gave Sherlock a distinct feeling of being invaded. He had had many different patrons inside his trailer before, but he knew they would all eventually leave after Sherlock gave them what they wanted. But this man… he was going to stay, probably.
Now that Sherlock saw him up close, however, his insides churned but in the other direction. Standing before him was a visibly defeated man, defeated but not without intelligence or resolve. He was a man that had gone through so much his entire life and was finally free from the shackles that bound him. He was a hard worker, Sherlock could see that, and he was not even all that unattractive.
Sherlock stopped himself right there. The last thing he was supposed to notice was how attractive or unattractive a person could be. He frowned inwardly, mentally chastising himself. Never before had he even had a remote thought like that. There may have been someone, a long time ago, at school…. But Sherlock wiped that memory from his mind, like he had so many times before (but obviously part of him hadn’t deleted it entirely because the memory always found a way to keep floating back, like a virus).
Mrs. Hudson introduced the man as John Watson and with the simplest movement of leaning in toward Sherlock, he was able to deduce to much more. Without even realizing he was saying it, suddenly Sherlock was apologizing for the loss of John’s mother. He had never so much as sympathized with someone, before.
Obviously the man was taken aback by Sherlock’s deduction, but he did not appear to be angry. That was odd, Sherlock thought. Most people would have been angry at such a sudden invasion of personal privacy, but this man stood solid and accepted the sympathy for what it was. Sherlock was impressed—maybe he had been testing John without realizing it—and without realizing it, John had passed.
As it turned out, John was even impressed with his skills of deduction! Sure, many patrons had expressed their opinion of Sherlock’s skills with wonder, but Sherlock was not using any parlor tricks on John. He exposed all of his secrets by letting John know just how he had come to each of these conclusions. He never exercised that practice with his customers. He made his money off the unknown and awe that inevitably radiated from the entire experience.
No, he put himself out there for John. If this man was going to room with him, he was going to throw everything out at once, and if John accepted it, then he would be okay. Sherlock knew he was not each to get along with. He knew this and he could do nothing to change it. He even wanted to do nothing to change it. To Sherlock, if people could not accept him for who he was, they were not worth his time—which meant that most people weren’t worth his time.
By the time Mrs. Hudson left the two of them alone, Sherlock was certain that this arrangement could work out. John was normal. He was ordinary and average, but something about him screamed a sort of devil-may-care intelligence that perhaps only Sherlock could see. He needed someone to help him with experiments or to maybe observe the little nuances in human behavior that he himself had trouble with picking up. Social interaction was no strong point for Sherlock Holmes, despite his very social job.
Now, if he could be given a chance to use his skills in the real world, instead of this fantasy circus life his brother had concocted for him, he would be much happier. He was not even sure he could be happy, but he would not mind discovering the feeling, if only to record the different changes it would inevitably make on his body, both physically and mentally.
However, he still was not done testing John. John wanted further information on Sherlock’s skills and Sherlock obliged, even giving him a little more than he probably had bargained for. Sherlock could have said a lot more, but he held himself back. For some reason, he wanted to continue to amaze John in little ways. It gave him a sort of mini high and for that Sherlock was incredibly thankful. He wanted John to praise his work for a long time.
He made John get his laptop for him and deliberately kept his outward attention on the laptop and his work. However, he kept his inward attention on John. Every movement, every facial expression and sound John Watson made was carefully documented by Sherlock Holmes.
Sherlock listened long and hard when John had disappeared into the spare room. The sounds John made could only be setting his things down and changing clothes. That was all very interesting. John did not bother his experiments. Sherlock had thought for a moment to shout out to John that he probably shouldn’t touch anything, but John did not without even asking if he could. Sherlock found that pleasantly polite—something Mycroft or Lestrade or Anderson would never stoop to.
In fact, Sherlock had come so far into his conclusion that he wanted John to stay that he became noticeably (for him, anyway) relaxed when John requested to take a shower. Sherlock hoped his retort would let John know that he was to be as welcome into this home as he would be in his own—or, well, considering John had all but runaway, or rather, ‘escaped’ as John had so eloquently put it, from his home, maybe Sherlock’s place of residence would be even more welcoming.
Either way, with John in the shower, Sherlock could focus on his work again. He poked at a few research sites online, wrote a few things on his website and closed his laptop. Depending on how long a shower John took, Sherlock would be able to get a few things done on his experiment—probably write up a few observations at least. For a moment, Sherlock listened in on the shower just to hear about where John was in his washing so he could be a judge of time. John did not appear to be the type of guy to stand for long periods in the shower, and the varying sound levels of water hitting the tub floor indicated he was at least washing his hair. Sherlock would have maybe fifteen minutes tops—that included drying and dressing time.
Sherlock gracefully meandered back toward his little kitchenette, making sure to take the empty tea mugs with him. He had never made so much tea before, but he found he liked it. It was easier to have tea for two people as opposed to just one. Kettles, it seemed, were almost built that way.
He set the mugs in the sink and turned back toward his experiments on the counter. The Petri dishes hadn’t noticeably changed, but Sherlock knew that would be the case and he was not surprised. Instead, he cleaned and sterilized a bit around the area and made sure to move his experiments to a more concealed location. If he had to share his trailer with someone, the last thing he needed was to have his new flat mate messing about with his work accidentally.
Sherlock opened the door to the refrigerator to see what he would need to shuffle around in there. What little food he owned took up such a small portion of the top shelf. He decided that nearly all of his refrigerated experiments were fine just where they were. What did John really need to buy as far as groceries went anyway, right?
The water had long since stopped running from the shower, so Sherlock left the kitchen and allowed his gaze to run over the sitting room. It was a mess, yes. He hoped that John was an exceptionally tidy person. Maybe he could clean up a bit.
Yes, Sherlock decided, if he was going to be nice enough to give John a place to sleep and shower and eat, then the least John could do is clean up a bit around the place. Sherlock felt it fair. John had already proved that he could take orders well when he had gotten Sherlock’s laptop for him almost without question. Sherlock would have to work on that.
To test this, John chose that exact moment to exit from the bathroom. He was using one of Sherlock’s own towels to try his hair. When John turned to see Sherlock nearly staring at him, he held up one of the ends of the towel in defense.
“Thought you would not mind if I borrowed one,” he said, a little sheepishly. “I’ll wash it…” he looked about him in exasperation for a moment and his expression almost turned to defeat but he quickly wiped it clean. “Do you take the washing into town to have it cleaned?”
“Yes,” said Sherlock.
“Ah,” said John. “Then I’ll do just that, tomorrow, I suppose. It depends on what I have to do. What DO I do?”
Sherlock frowned, “That really is none of my concern. You should see the clowns. They’ll direct you from there.” Oddly enough, Sherlock would rather have John stay with him, but as the feeling was generally unprecedented, he decided maybe it was best for John to go about his work far from Sherlock’s curious gaze.
Really, this set up was going a lot better than Sherlock had originally thought. He was going to have John hand him his phone or something, but John had basically volunteered to do Sherlock’s laundry. Sherlock had a lot of washing to do, because going out to wash his own clothes was tedious and boring and he would much rather buy new clothes than to wash the old ones. John would have his hands full.
“All right, thanks,” John said as he tugged a bit on the towel, allowing it to fall across his shoulders. He looked as though he had just gotten back from the gym, but instead of covered in sweat, he was freshly washed and smelled of soap. He must have scrubbed hard because the skin on his forearms was red and raw. What reason would John have to scrub so roughly? Maybe he—
“If you’re deducing something about me from the way I shower, you can stop,” said John, but his words weren’t harsh. Sherlock was astonished to find the man smiling, instead. “I’m tired, Sherlock, and would very much like to get some sleep. Will you be in here on your laptop all night?”
“Maybe. Will that bother you?” Sherlock inquired.
John shook his head. “Not at all. I’ve slept though much worse than a few typing clicks and monitor glow.”
“I sometimes play the violin at odd hours of the night. It relaxes my mind, does that bother you?”
Again, John shook his head. “I love music.”
“There is a difference between violin music and music the rest of the world plagues their ears with,” Sherlock scowled.
Once more, John easily passed another mini test from Sherlock because at that moment he chuckled slightly and shook his head again, “I think it’s relaxing. Sure, I’ll listen to more modern music, but there’s a decent reason music from say, the violin or the piano has been around for as long as it has.” He leaned forward and raised his eyebrows. “It’s actually good.”
Sherlock could not help but smile. He felt the edges of his mouth curl up before he could even stop himself. “Excellent.”
John motioned toward the couch. “May I, then?” He did not even wait for Sherlock to nod. It was as if he had only asked to appear outwardly polite. He took the throw blanket from the back of the couch and curled up on the couch, resting his head on one of the pillows and tucking the blanket up around him.
Sherlock took a step toward John and reached over the other boy to grab his violin case that sat on a shelf behind the couch. He could feel John’s gaze on him as he moved. He threw John’s own remark back at him and nearly smirked. “May I, then?”
“What type of music do you play?” John asked another question instead of answering, but Sherlock took it as a yes.
“Anything that strikes the mood. Have you a request?” Sherlock took the violin from its case and examined the strings a bit, tuning it slightly.
John yawned. “Not in particular. I’m open for anything at this moment.”
Sherlock chose not to explain to John why that was not a good choice of words, and instead brought the violin up to his chin and raised the bow. He took one last glance at John’s still form on the couch, closed his eyes and began to play.
He did not play anything by anyone in particular. Instead, Sherlock allowed himself to play one of his few original compositions. He reserved these songs for no one other than himself, but John’s steady breathing indicated that he had fallen asleep before Sherlock had gotten past a few measures.
Sherlock did not stop playing. The bow slid gracefully over the strings as Sherlock drifted off into the music, himself. He did not know how long he played, but he did not mind the passage of time. John did not stir, but he instead had a slight smile on his lips as Sherlock moved over the bow. Sherlock was almost afraid to stop—in his mind, he somehow had concocted the idea that if he stopped playing, he would disturb John and the serenity of his sleep would be almost unattainable.
Despite his best efforts, fatigue got the better of him and Sherlock finally ended his song. He brought the violin down and carefully set the instrument in his case. He gracefully balanced the case over his outstretched arms and meticulously set it back on the shelf above the couch. John still hadn’t moved.
John was a different person when he slept. The early creases and worry in his face faded and Sherlock’s earlier observation that John had been slightly attractive came back to the surface. He did not allow this idea to get to him, this time. He pulled his gaze from John’s sleeping form.
On a different night, Sherlock would have gotten back on his laptop and spent the next few hours lost in the artificial light. On this night, however, he went to the back of the trailer, where his room lay, and changed into his night clothes. When he sank into his bed he was pleased to find that his thoughts were not a jumbled mess inside his brain. In fact, he had very little thoughts. The concept was so comforting that Sherlock fell asleep before he even realized that he liked it.
Chapter 6: Life at the Circus
Life at the Circus
John woke the next morning feeling more refreshed than he had for years. For the first time in what felt like forever, John woke up almost happy. Sure, he had more than a handful of things to worry about but he did not let a single one of them bother him this time.
He counted his blessings. He had a place to stay, a job, an interesting flat mate, plenty of things to do, places to see, people to meet and best of all, he was part of a circus, now.
The sun shone rather splendidly through Sherlock’s curtains and it gave John even more of a boost to wake up. His muscles and bones did not even creak as he went into the bathroom to freshen up. He grabbed a few clothes from his bag and changed for the day.
He took his time to explore more of Sherlock’s sitting room. He had one wall pinned with different papers and research articles on murders and victims and alcohol levels and decomposing bodies. John did not think anything of it. To be honest, he let Sherlock have his hobbies. John was perfectly content to go into the kitchenette and find himself some coffee.
Sherlock, it seemed, did not believe in milk for coffee or tea. John all but glared at the contents of the fridge. Apparently, Sherlock did not believe in eating anything in general, and John highly doubted Sherlock ate slime moulds or eyeballs or cut-up worms.
Things would not have been so bad if the store were a lot closer than it was. John wondered briefly if he should go to see Mrs. Hudson, but he needed a much better excuse than for milk. Instead John held his breath and prepared coffee for himself and for Sherlock without any milk or creamer. If he needed to run any errands outside the circus grounds, he made a mental note to pick up some milk.
The smell of coffee must have pulled Sherlock from his slumber. John had the pleasure of seeing a very disheveled and unruly Sherlock stagger awkwardly into the kitchenette. John poured his new flat mate a cup of coffee and held it out to him.
“I’m not sure how you take it, so you can finish preparing it yourself, if that is all right?” John inquired as Sherlock took the mug from him.
“Black, two sugars,” Sherlock mumbled and hobbled over to the cupboard to get the sugar. John really should have known. No wonder Sherlock did not have any milk. Sherlock made no movement to prepare his coffee for himself, so John sighed and finished the job. When he handed over the mug, Sherlock took it with half-lidded eyes and swayed on the spot. John watched him with mild fascination.
“I’m about to head out,” John offered up just to break the silence. Sherlock did not answer as he tried to immerse himself in his coffee, instead. John made a ducking motion with his head, trying to see if he could get Sherlock to wake up properly and recognize his existence. “Do you know where everyone gathers this time of day?”
Sherlock mumbled something into his coffee and when prompted again by John he said, “Under the Big Top.” John knew enough about circus lingo to know what Sherlock meant.
“Okay,” John took a swig of his coffee. “Guess I’ll start there.
When John entered the big tent, he was not at all surprised to see that it was filled with the circus crew. It was nearly nine in the morning and John could not help but to feel a little bit late. Sherlock had stayed behind in his trailer. John already knew better than to think Sherlock would come out and actually help with the circus.
John had missed the clean up from the night before, so the major change from one day to the next overwhelmed him a little. Clearly these people had been working on their set skills for a while, now. The crew seemed to work like oversized ants. Each person had a role and it fit so well into everyone else’s role that everything moved like clockwork. John began to feel a bit nervous that he would not find a place to fit in.
Mike somehow managed to see John at the opening to the tent and beckoned him over toward his group. John assumed they were all clowns like Mike, but he could not tell as they were in ordinary street garb.
“There you are, John. Had a bit of a lie-in, did you?” Mike slapped John on the back in greeting, as if they had been friends since birth.
“I didn’t set an alarm…” John hating using excuses. “I didn’t know what time to come out here.”
“It’s your first day,” Mike seemed to give him this one. He motioned toward the guys behind him. “Everyone, this is John Watson. New recruit. John, this is Carl Powers, John Ferrier, Hilton Cubitt, and Tad Sholto. We heard you were rooming with Sherlock Holmes.” Mike looked over at his buddies and they all began grinning strangely at John as if they expected some sort of reaction out of them.
Instead, John raised an eyebrow. “He’s really not all that bad,” he said, knowing full well of Sherlock’s presumed reputation. “He plays the violin very well.”
“Oh, he played the violin for you, did he?” one of the younger men asked. John strained his brain to remember which one he was. The Powers one? He looked as if he never needed to shave a day in his life. A couple of the other guys made high pitched ‘ooooo’ noises.
John chuckled to himself and shook his head. “I like the violin. I asked him to.”
“Come on, Carl.” Mike gave the younger man a shove, “We have work to do. Stop heckling the new guy.”
“Yeah, alright,” Carl muttered and moved to a set of bleachers.
Before John could look properly confused, Mike explained the situation to him. They were moving bleachers to the correct angles along the edges of the tent. This way they could easily pull the bleachers out for the audience when the shows started in a few hours. Until then, there would be ample space around the three main rings for the actors and performers to practice their art.
Afterward, John found plenty to do. With the guidance of Mike and the others, he shoveled elephant, horse, lion and tiger droppings. He swept and dusted every bit of surface he thought possible. He double-checked the grounds for bits of food and wrappers, filled pamphlet stands, hauled water for the animals, and as the time grew closer to the show, he helped set up lights and filled the food stands with condiments.
He interacted with the actual performers very little. He rarely saw any of the acrobats, and the Magnificent Professor Moriarty may as well have been non-existent. He spent most of his time with Mike and Carl and the others. After a time, however, Mike had to go practice with the other clowns: Hilton and Tad amongst a few others, so John was left with the young Carl and a very bitter John Ferrier.
“So… do you two often watch the show?” John asked the two of them they had a break. All three men sat on a wooden bench eating burritos wrapped in foil.
“Nah, I’ve seen it so many times, I don’t bother. I use the time to catch up on some me time, you know?” Carl said.
“And by ‘me time’ he means chatting up some little thing and taking her back to the trailer while the rest of us are working our stations,” Ferrier growled at the younger boy. John Ferrier looked like he was in his late forties and clearly had been working the circus for some time. He may have been very handsome in his younger years, but years of scowling, resentment and anger had turned him into a bitter middle-aged man. John did not much like talking to him.
“I can’t help being a hit with the ladies,” Carl bragged and pretended to brush off some invisible dust from his shoulder. John thought the action extremely cheesy and fake. “What about you, Watson? You got a girlfriend back home?”
“Naw, no, not me…” John said as he nursed his burrito. “I had no one to hold me back, so I left. I’m a free man, now.”
“Free to work your arse off for just about nothing, you mean.”
“Better than what I had before, mate,” John pointed out. He popped the last of his burrito in his mouth and stood up. “How much we have left for today?”
John Ferrier stole a glance at his watch, “Not too much, now. The show is about to start. I’m on backstage duty tonight. Have to make sure that Anderson git doesn’t get his head bitten off backstage by that massive cat of his.”
“Sounds fun,” John said, not even remotely sincerely. It sounded strange, but he doubted fun would be the correct word to describe it. John knew he certainly would be unable to deal with a lion like that. The idea of hanging around backstage and seeing the actual magic of the circus happen appealed to him, however.
“Hmph…” was all John Ferrier would say. He pulled himself up to a standing position and made his way back to the tent. “You working backstage detail tonight, then, eh Watson?”
“I would love to!” The words escaped John’s mouth before he could stop them and he all but covered his mouth with his hand in embarrassment. “I mean, yeah, all right. Should be interesting.”
Both John Ferrier and John Watson left Carl and headed back to the tent. John assumed Carl would be going back to his trailer or picking up a girl amongst the patrons to take back with him, so he did not mind. The atmosphere around the stage had increased exponentially. Sequins and feathers littered the ground. Behind the curtains, John found himself thrust in a world where everyone knew their part but him.
Over the next hour, John became a go-to guy for small items. He ran back and forth, locating and handling bottles of water or favorite combs. He smoothed out collars and learned very quickly how to be handy with a lint brush.
Everything proceeded quite smoothly until it was time for The Magnificent Professor Moriarty to go onstage. Both Moriarty and Molly were standing beside John backstage. John was brushing any stray hairs or feathers off Moriarty’s costume when Molly suddenly piped up from beside the two of them.
“Excuse me,” she said softly, her doe-like eyes giving her shyness away instantaneously. “But are you the new recruit that has moved in with Sherlock?”
Moriarty immediately turned toward John as if he had just noticed him standing there, despite having spoken a word or two to him just moments before. “You? With Sherlock?”
“I uh, yeah,” admitted John. He tore off a new sheet on the lint roller as the other was filled with all kinds of lint bits. “It’s not a big deal. I’m crashing on his couch until I’m moved somewhere else.”
“Sherlock lets you stay in his trailer?” Moriarty’s eyes widened.
“Yes, is that really hard to comprehend? He’s not as bad as everyone says he is.”
“You don’t know a thing about Sherlock,” Moriarty snapped. It did not take a genius to see that Moriarty was obviously jealous of John’s situation.
John was not fazed, but he hadn’t expected someone as amazing as Moriarty to be such a jerk. “I’ve only just met him yesterday. Of course I don’t know a bloody thing about him! What does that have to do with me living with him? It’s only temporary.”
“You don’t know what you’ve got,” spat Moriarty. He then thought the better of it when Molly placed a delicate hand on his forearm. He looked at her for a moment, sighed, and shook his head. “I apologize, John, was it? Yes. You have fun with Sherlock. But don’t think it’ll last. Sherlock doesn’t take kindly to those less... fortunate than him.” John was very certain that fortunate was not the word Moriarty was looking for. John was also very certain that the apology was not sincere.
Before John could answer, Moriarty received word from a stagehand that his queue was up and he would be going on in a few moments. Moriarty gave John one last sneer before nearly whipping John purposely in the face with his cape as he made an overly dramatic exit.
Any respect John had had for Moriarty as a performer left him.
The rest of the show moved onward without a hitch. John watched what he could from the sidelines. It was interesting to see how different a performance was viewed from someone in the back versus someone out in the crowd. Before going out into the rings, each performer did his or her best to get their nerves in order. They practiced lines, stretched, did vocal exercises and mimicked actions. When an act was over, and the performers would make their way backstage, they were always greeted with silent smiles, hugs and pats on the back for a job well done. The circus really was like a family. John found himself wanting to belong.
After the show ended, John headed out with the other members of the clean-up crew. It was hard to imagine that just the night before, he was a member of the audience and just under 24 hours later, he was cleaning up after everyone. He never realized just how messy everyone could be? He spent almost an hour sweeping up wrappers and popcorn. Even though the ground was bare, it was required to sweep up any leftover food out of courtesy to the patrons as well as the park-keepers when the circus finally left.
John groaned when he checked the time on his mobile. It was nearing ten thirty in the evening. He would not have any time to get the washing done for Sherlock. In fact, he hadn’t even seen Sherlock the entire day. It was no surprise, however. John was so busy working the rounds, and Sherlock probably did not want to leave his trailer. At one point during the day, John had stolen a glance back at the place he assumed he should call ‘home’ and saw a bit of a line outside. At least Sherlock had had his hours up, again.
John pulled his old dark coat around him, and zipped it up. The night air had gotten chilly very quickly. He said his goodbyes to Mike and the other clowns, as well as to John Ferrier. The clowns were the only performers to stay behind after the show and clean up. John suspected that maybe they were considered the lowest on the circus totem pole. Even the bearded lady and the contortionist did not need to stay behind.
For a brief second, John wondered if he would get promoted to clown.
With a laugh, he quickly wiped the thought from his mind. He would much rather stay as a lackey or a circus janitor than to be a clown. He had to respect those that could pull it off, though, but it was definitely something John would never have a hand in.
He trudged through the cold grass, letting the cool night air try and numb his cheeks. The night sky was dark and cloudless, and despite being outside of the city limits, it was still impossible to see any stars. The lights of London were unrelenting in taking their hold of the night sky. John did not mind, however. He was used to not seeing the stars, after all. He enjoyed the total blackness of a night sky. To him, it felt as though the sky had wiped its slate clean as it prepared itself for the clouds that would inevitably appear in the daylight.
Because he had been so lost in his thoughts, the scream that shattered the darkness had much more of an impact on him that he would have liked to admit. John jumped about a mile in his shoes and he turned quickly to the source of the sound.
It was coming from the grounds just outside the gate to the main campus, where all the trailers were located.
A flash of fear seized John’s chest and caused his blood to run cold. He thought for a moment that he had been paralyzed, but a few milliseconds later he realized that was not the case. The cold in his chest actually came from the night air around him as he ran toward the sound, unknowingly. His body had acted of its own accord.
John was one of the first people to arrive at the scene—the first being John Ferrier. He had been walking back to the trailer just as John was walking back to his own. Judging by the quality of the trailers, this was probably where all the stagehands and other crewmembers were located. Both Johns exchanged a determined glance and made their way around the trailer in question.
Near the back entrance stood the bearded lady, Jennifer Wilson, clutching her heart. The way her breathing caught in her chest and the way her bottom lip trembled made it obvious that it was she who had screamed. Even though John had barely known her, he dashed to her side and wrapped a comforting arm around her shoulders. Almost immediately, she turned toward him and sobbed into his shoulder.
The beard wasn’t even off putting.
John Ferrier stood next to the two of them, and spoke up in his gruff voice, “What happened, here, Miss Wilson?”
The Bearded Lady took a few moments to sob into John’s shoulder and he let her, while he rubbed her back absent-mindedly. He may have whispered a few words of encouragement to her, but he could hardly remember.
In the mean time, more and more people arrived on the scene, including Mrs. Hudson, and, John’s breath hitched, Sherlock Holmes.
Mrs. Hudson fought her way through the throngs of people gawking at the scene to Jennifer. “I can take it from here, John dear. Thank you,” she said. John let the older lady take over and he relinquished his grip. He felt awkward with so many eyes on him, so he escaped to where he felt safe, if safe was the correct word: with Sherlock.
He did not have to go far because Sherlock was right there in the midst of it. He took one look at Jennifer and frowned. “What happened?”
“I’ll be the one asking the questions around here,” a familiar, booming voice sounded out over the crowd of milling people. John was not at all surprised to see the performers and crewmembers parting to let Lestrade through.
Sherlock let Lestrade take over, but he did not look happy about it.
Lestrade turned to Jennifer and laid a careful hand on her shoulder. “What happened, Jennifer?”
Jennifer Wilson sniffed. The effect was odd as much of her runny nose had mixed up with her mustache. “I came back early from the show. You guys must have noticed. We didn’t have many customers stay after tonight’s show due to the cold, so I retired for the night. On my way back here, though, I heard some noises over there…” She pointed to a bit of shrubbery and bushes behind her. The trailer was near the outskirts of the park. “I thought it was an animal at first, maybe a rabbit. I didn’t think anything of it, until I heard it again: a moan. I thought someone was in trouble…” Her face turned a delicate shade of pink that almost matched her overcoat.
“Go on,” Lestrade coached her.
Jennifer swallowed hard, and continued. “When I went to check it out, well, no one was hurt. I found, er, Carl Powers, snogging in the bushes with some trollup.”
“And that made you scream?” Lestrade raised his eyebrows. He did not bother to hide his annoyance.
Jennifer shook her head. “No, no… I let the two of them be, yeah? So I started back toward my trailer. I think maybe… ten minutes went by, I suppose, and I thought, well, I thought the better of it. I thought maybe I should have given him a piece of my mind—show him that our circus is more dignified than snogging some trollup in the bushes. So I went back… but they weren’t there. That’s when I heard a door slam from the trailer here, Carl’s trailer.” She indicated the trailer in question. “It’s dark, so I couldn’t really tell, but someone ran out and brushed by me and disappeared past our borders. So, naturally, I worried and knocked on Carl’s door. No answer. So I … I opened it.” Jennifer choked back a sob.
“What did you find?” Lestrade’s voice was filled with worry, now.
Jennifer could not speak any more. She was sobbing uncontrollably by that point. The best she could do was simply to point toward the door of the trailer.
Lestrade nodded, knowing what she meant. He stepped up to the trailer door, took a deep breath and opened it. Nearly everyone strained their necks to see inside. John, being as short as he was, had no hope of seeing what needed to be seen. He sighed in frustration.
Beside him, Sherlock stood as tall as ever, and John assumed he could easily see inside the trailer door. Before John could even ask Sherlock what was in there, he felt Sherlock’s hand on his shoulder.
“John,” said Sherlock.
“What is it?” John asked. “Can you see it?”
“It is a body, John,” Sherlock answered. His eyes twinkled far too much for a normal human when faced with this knowledge. John could feel his insides squirming a little. He had dealt with death too much, lately.
“Who else?” Sherlock snapped. He looked at John with a gaze that said more than it needed: that he had a lot of patience for someone as slow as John. “Carl Powers.”
Chapter 7: The Case
Sherlock wasted no time in appearing directly at Lestrade’s side. In fact, Sherlock hadn’t wasted any time since he had seen John outside his trailer. Even though he did not hear the scream himself, he noticed John’s abrupt dash toward the gate.
Of course, Sherlock hadn’t actually been spying on John. It was a bit of a coincidence that he looked out the window at all. At that moment, he had been wondering why in the world it was taking John so long to get back. Sherlock actually could not wait to unload the long meanderings of the day onto someone that wasn’t as dead as the skull precariously perched in his sitting room. The chance moment he had taken to look out the window had also been the moment John heard the scream and taken a gut reaction.
Sherlock could see the entire reaction as smoothly as it had been recorded and played back. One moment John had been shuffling his way toward the trailer, obviously spent, and the next, he was running in the opposite direction. The change had been lightning quick and Sherlock took note of John’s reflexes. Having a gut instinct like that was good. Very good.
And so Sherlock followed John. As it turned out, several other people had had the same reaction as his new flatmate, and it did not take any sort of special deducing to figure out that they were following a scream. Sherlock’s mind immediately brainstormed all the reasons why someone’s scream would attract so much attention and among a few other things, his brain kept coming to the same conclusion: murder.
He cursed himself for not arriving on the scene quick enough. By the time he got there, John was already holding the cause for the commotion in his arms. Sherlock couldn’t help but to feel a twinge of jealousy and he didn’t know where it came from. Surely other people were allowed to interact with John. They had been interacting with John all day. Of course, Sherlock hadn’t been there. It was Sherlock’s turn to have John to himself.
Not that John was his to have.
Sherlock mentally chastised himself and brought his attention back to the case at hand as it deemed itself much more interesting.
When Lestrade had stepped in, Sherlock let him, mostly because he could mentally take down some of the details no doubt the rest of the people would miss.
He scanned the ground discreetly, trying to see if any prominent footsteps remained, but the area had been pounded out by all the recent feet. Due to the scuffle, any evidence had been wiped. That, of course, left the bushes and shrubbery behind the trailer to be checked. No one had tampered with that, as of yet, and Sherlock made a mental note to go over them, later.
In the mean time, Lestrade had opened the door to the trailer where the true mystery was revealed: Carl Powers hanging by a rope in the middle of his sitting room.
Sherlock became very aware of John’s presence at his side. In fact, John’s presence actually did a great deal to help Sherlock think. He had barely any time to honestly get to know the guy, but already he felt better just for having known him. Apparently anyone who managed to sleep on his couch and survive automatically made a very lasting impression on Sherlock’s busy mind.
Therefore, he wasted no time in appearing just behind Lestrade, beckoning John to join him. When Lestrade heard the steps, he turned around and gave Sherlock an incredulous look, but he did little to stop him.
“We’ll have to call this into the police. And… shut down the circus until the investigation is over,” Lestrade gave a great sigh and rubbed his forehead. It did not need to be mentioned that this was the last thing they needed.
Sherlock’s mind immediately went to John. What an unfortunate thing to happen so soon after his initial arrival to the circus. Sherlock doubted Mycroft would let any employees go, even though he had yet to officially receive John into the business. Sherlock did not want John to leave. John was useful.
However, there were more pressing matters at hand. “Then let me in, before the police arrive.”
Lestrade gave Sherlock a look that clearly stated needed no explanation.
Sherlock bounced a little in anticipation, “Come on. You know as well as I do that I can get more from a single sweep of that room than anyone that force sends in.”
Lestrade looked out at all the eyes of the circus. Surely one of them would say something. Lestrade could get in a lot of trouble. Sherlock could see the indecision written all over his face. Complete with a roll of his eyes, Sherlock leaned in to say, just barely above a whisper: “It obviously looks like a suicide. Tell them as such and that we have to collect the body for the police.”
With hardly more than a nod, Lestrade allowed Sherlock access, and nearly blocked the doorway for John, but Sherlock reached behind him and took a firm grip on John’s wrist. He flashed Lestrade a look that told the ringleader he was to have his way, and Lestrade reluctantly allowed John inside as well.
Sherlock closed the door behind him. He could hear Lestrade giving an explanation to everyone outside, but he ignored it. People would no doubt be angry. Why, several of them had started crying the moment they saw the body. Sherlock filed it all under unnecessary data to be deleted. He cared little for everyone’s reactions, here. They were all so human and boring.
“Sherlock,” whispered John, as if he were afraid of being overhead. Sherlock did not acknowledge him. If John wanted to say something, he could say it, didn’t he know that? Sherlock was busy allowing his eyes to devour the room. “Sherlock, what are we doing here?”
“I’m getting clues.”
“Clues?!” John demanded.
Again, Sherlock didn’t answer as the question really wasn’t a question at all. He hopped around various parts of the sitting room on tip toe. Trace amounts of sweat and a few other choice bodily fluids stained the couch cushions. They were fresh. Carl had been here with a girl, most definitely. The same one Jennifer had seen in the bushes with him, no doubt. There was a faint hint of perfume left in the air that did not belong to anyone at the circus, so the girl had been a customer. Carl was known for picking up girls to take back to his trailer and this was no different.
No, the girl was a distraction. Her heavy perfume masked much of what Sherlock’s olfactory senses would normally pick up. It was almost as though she were deliberately wearing copious amounts of cheap perfume just to hide anything else incriminating.
He checked the floor for scratches. The mock hardwood floor was littered with them, but very few had that fresh streak of white that indicated a recent mark. Most of them lingered around the foot of a chair. Sherlock examined the chair but it appeared as though it were not out of the ordinary. It looked worse for wear and obviously sat in, but it was a chair. The scuff marks under it were much more interesting. Sherlock contorted his body to get the precise angle on how these marks were actually made.
Yes, it was very clearly obvious. He checked Carl’s shoes to be sure. He was wearing boots, but they weren’t put on properly, probably due to him getting dressed quickly after his bit of fun with the perfume girl. The tell-tale marks on the backs of his heels told the whole story. It was Carl who had been making those scuff marks in the floor—but why?
Carl was petite, and the type of girl he picked up had a tendency to be more petite than him. There was no way she could have done the deed by herself. She must have played a part in the crime, but only as the accomplice. No, a man had to have done this, and Sherlock needed to find a way to tell who, or at least get more information.
He turned to John, his eyes glinting. He had felt the shorter boy’s eyes on him the whole time, but they only enhanced his performance—as if he were trying harder to locate observations just to impress him. “We need to find a way to identify the killer.”
John looked as though he were going to say one thing, probably chastise Sherlock on his behavior—boring—but he instead threw his hands up, “Okay, what do I need to do?”
Sherlock smiled. He knew there was a reason he liked John. Anyone else would have given Sherlock a hard time, stormed out, or worse, never even come to the site in the first place. “You helped your mother out when she was sick, correct?”
“So you know a little bit about medical expertise.”
“Well I’m by no means an expert.”
“But you know a bit more than I may on the subject. I haven’t bothered too much with it, as of late. My mind has occupied other pursuits of knowledge.” Sherlock hated admitting to something in which his mind obviously fell short, but he trusted John to give him what he needed.
“I suppose so, yes, what do you need Sherlock? The police will be here any minute!”
Sherlock inclined his head toward Carl’s hanging body. “I need to you carefully examine his body without getting your finger prints on it. Use a tissue or something. Let me know if you find any bruising. I need more info on the killer.”
“All right,” John didn’t argue further. He glanced about the room until he found a tissue box, grabbed a few and went to work meticulously examining Carl’s body. Sherlock only observed him for a moment just out of the corner of his eye, but he was very impressed with what he saw. John was thorough, and didn’t even seem embarrassed about what he was doing. Someone like John had already gone through enough shock value, so the dead body hanging from the ceiling fan obviously wasn’t bothering him, at least not yet.
Sherlock went back to his work, and tried to locate signs of the culprit. After some time, he found a little information. The man was tall, probably as tall as Sherlock himself, if not taller. Sherlock reached over his head to make sure. Yes, the murderer was tall enough to fasten the rope to the ceiling fan without having to stand on anything. The ceilings in the trailers were relatively low, but Sherlock could touch the ceiling with his fingertips if he stood on his toes. For someone as short as Carl, this was an impossible feat—so even the act of getting the rope onto the fan would be difficult for him.
If there had been a struggle, Sherlock should have been able to find perhaps the hair of the perpetrator, or perhaps blood, but he could not find any. Either the killer had covered their footsteps very well, or he was strong enough to overpower Carl without Carl drawing any blood—and he was bald.
He could probably get Mycroft to hack into the forensics team’s files to get more information to Sherlock, but that was too far away. The longer they waited, the more the killer had the chance to hide.
“I think I may have found something, Sherlock,” sounded John’s voice. It tugged at Sherlock’s mind and brought him back to the surface from the depths of his observations. “Take a look at his neck.”
Sherlock stood up to examine Carl’s body. His clothes were roughed and wrinkled, partly from their hasty reapplication and partly due to the fact that he had been handled roughly. Sherlock’s gaze landed to where John indicated. Carl had some slight discoloration near the base of his neck and obvious bruising. He hadn’t been dead for long, so the color was fresh. By the time the police arrived, this would look more like a suicide and less like a murder. Clearly, the lowered marking indicated strangling, but in an effort to make it look like a suicide, Carl had been hung from the ceiling fan. At least the killer had made an effort for it to look like Carl had jumped off the coffee table. Bits of mud and the telltale sign of an insole were stamped onto some papers on the table, but the angle was wrong—no doubt, in part by the killer having to hold little Carl up on his own.
“So the killer was clever, but not clever enough,” Sherlock said after a while.
John looked up at him, “Oh?”
“It’s obvious. Carl had been strangled, had fought near the chair, lost, and the killer hoisted him up on a rope and hanged the body,” he rubbed his chin in thought, and then continued, “We’re looking for a man, taller than 6’2’’, possibly bald and very strong. The murder weapon is missing, so it must be something the killer had on his person—not something that would be found in this trailer. This was, therefore, pre-meditated.” He smiled. “That makes it so much more interesting.”
“But who would want to kill Carl?” John asked.
“Why would anyone want to kill anyone? Maybe Carl knew something, witnessed something, or made someone angry…” Sherlock began to pace. No doubt he would have to interview a few people--at least those that had seen Carl last.
John looked completely at awe. “Brilliant!” he ejaculated. Sherlock could feel John’s smile illuminate the room. He spun around to look at John. The look on his face must have confused the shorter boy because his smile faded, “I’m sorry, I’ll stop doing that.”
“No, no!” Sherlock waved his hand to dismiss the matter, “You’re fine, please, do go on.”
John laughed and Sherlock found that he rather enjoyed John’s laughter. He didn’t know if he could laugh after experiencing what John had gone through in the past few years. He couldn’t help but to smile warmly in response.
Sherlock cleared his throat for his own benefit and not for John’s. He had no time to waste on such frivolity. He needed to get more information and fast. They were running out of time.
Without warning, Lestrade opened the front door and poked his head inside. Sherlock felt as though the ringleader knew Sherlock needed more time and purposely refused him such a privilege.
“Wrap it up, you two. The police are on the circus grounds. Wouldn’t want you two caught in there. People may talk.” Lestrade beckoned the pair outside. Sherlock reluctantly exited the trailer with John close behind him.
Sherlock thrust his hands deep in his pockets as he and John began their trek back to their trailer. Sherlock’s mind raced. He knew he was missing an obvious detail, but what was it? Images floated around in his mind but he couldn’t piece them in the correct order and it was frustrating.
“I’m missing something obvious, John,” said Sherlock, well aware that he was exposing himself.
John did not miss a beat. “Could we, maybe, interview Jennifer? She might have seen something other than what she said when I found her.”
Sherlock stopped walking and turned to John with a sharp twist. He grabbed John’s upper shoulders and held them tight. “What did you say?” he asked.
John winced under Sherlock’s unscrupulous grasp. “We could interview Jennifer?”
“Impossible,” Sherlock said with an air of disregard. “She’s a key witness. The police will detain her back at the station for questioning. She’s untouchable. I’m afraid her account will have to do for now. But I must ask you, John, to repeat what you said following the matter.”
“I didn’t say anything!” John tried to struggle beneath Sherlock’s grip.
“Focus, John! You said she might have seen something else. Why would you say that?”
John’s mouth opened and closed much like a fish. “I don’t know! When I found her she was in such a state… I thought her testimony seemed pretty vague for her to be in that much of a shock. I mean, well, she had a pretty weak reason for turning ‘round and coming back, didn’t she?”
Sherlock disregarded John’s obviously inaccurate deductions. Of course Jennifer would turn around to scold Carl. She was the type of woman who herself had multiple lovers. She couldn’t resist the urge to chastise someone who was stupid enough to get caught. John hadn’t known the woman that long, yet. Sherlock himself cared very little about such petty squabbles. What mattered was John. “John, when you arrived on the scene, what did it look like?”
“Well, Jennifer was alone.”
“Think, John! Was it just you two?”
“John Ferrier arrived around the same time,” John explained. “But I didn’t see much, honest. When I got there, Jennifer was trying not to cry and shaking, and the only thing I could think of was to comfort her. I held her, she cried. She was nearly inconsolable. I couldn’t get her to tell me what happened. She saved that bit for Lestrade.”
Sherlock finally let go of John’s arms and rubbed his chin in thought. He would have to talk to John Ferrier to see if he had seen anything, himself. “And you didn’t think to look around for what had caused her to scream?”
“It all happened so fast, Sherlock!” John stuffed his hands into the pockets of his leather jacket and stormed away into the darkness. “You can’t get mad at me just because I actually care about people!”
Sherlock refused let John get far. His long strides were no match for John’s determined march. “I never said that. Don’t put words where they don’t belong. Listen. Do you think Ferrier saw anything?”
“I don’t know. Maybe?” John’s pace continued, unrelenting.
They were back at their trailer in record time. Sherlock took out his key to unlock the front door. He supposed he should make John a key at some point. It was such a tedious task. Maybe John could do it, himself. He had a spare, though, but preferred to keep it as such.
The moment Sherlock unlocked the front door, John pushed his way inside and disappeared into the spare bedroom. Sherlock let him have his little tantrum. He didn’t even know why John was so angry. Sherlock only said what was true—if John didn’t want the truth repeated, then why bother with anything? John should have looked around for a killer—not only because it would have been helpful to the case but also because if the killer had been nearby, John’s life would have been in danger. Surely he could have seen such an outcome?
Nevertheless, Sherlock found himself in his kitchenette, again, going through the data on his experiments. His mind was in full swing by that point. He played out several scenarios and endless lines of dialogue that would contribute to what had happened to Carl. He knew he needed more data and that it was fruitless to explore such options, but his mind did not let up. The experimental data he recovered in the kitchenette helped ease his troubled thoughts a bit. He almost forced himself to immerse himself in his slime moulds.
Despite all of his distraction, a nagging part of Sherlock’s mind kept itself centered on John. John was this new enigma that had entered his life and sewn himself so seamlessly into all of Sherlock’s happenings. They were not just sharing a trailer at this point, anymore. They were most definitely trailer mates. Flat mates. Roommates. Friends?
Chapter 8: The Suspect
After John had taken a shower and changed his clothes, he felt much less angry at Sherlock. In fact, he could hardly even remember why he had been so mad at the taller man in the first place. He knew it had something to do with the case and something about how John was not very good at observation, but John had never had to do something like that in his life, so he knew it would be a miracle for him to be so good at it from the start.
He was in a rather good mood when he came into the sitting room. Sherlock was in the kitchen doing experiments and keeping to himself, and for that John was grateful. He could sit back and enjoy some alone time for once.
John sat down on the couch with a sigh and leaned into the cushions. They were very comfortable. Leave it to Sherlock to own comfy furniture. He probably thought uncomfortable furniture would cause his brain work to suffer or something.
Well, now that John had some time for himself, he figured he could do anything. He looked around the room for the television and frowned because he had never realized just how severely lacking the room was of technology. Sherlock probably did all of his work on his laptop.
John sighed. That was just great. He would have to amuse himself in some of Sherlock’s books, then. He stood up and stretched. His muscles nearly screamed with fatigue. They were already used to his sitting position on the couch. John hobbled over to the bookshelf and scanned its contents.
Sherlock really had some odd preferences in his literature. He had zero fiction. What he did own, however, was everything from anatomy and physiology to Intermediate Chemistry. He owned several books of sheet music, a little bit on biology, geology, and quite a bit on the streets and history of London. Sherlock’s bookshelf looked like it belonged to a professor in a university, not to a nineteen or twenty something kid in a circus. He most certainly had a weird flat mate, but he did not care. He much preferred weird to boring.
Except for maybe the part where in this case, weird was boring. John had no desire to read about rocks just for fun.
“Sherlock?” John called, bracing himself for being ignored.
Sherlock grunted from the kitchen and John’s eyes widened a bit when he realized Sherlock was actually paying attention. John took the opportunity to walk into the kitchenette.
Sherlock was sitting on a stool near the counter, looking into a microscope.
“Sherlock,” John began again, “Do you own any fiction at ALL?”
Sherlock almost looked up from the microscope, thought the better of it, and then went back to his observations. “I hardly pinned you as the type of person to read fiction at a time like this.”
“What type of person did you pin me as?” John asked, curiously.
“I don’t know, I thought you’d go out there and mourn with everyone?” Sherlock wrote something down in a notebook beside the microscope.
John rolled his eyes and made his way to the sink. There was a growing pile of dishes and if Sherlock was not going to wash them, they would probably never get done in the next month. John started the water. “My condolences go out to everyone who knew him as a friend, but I barely knew him, and what I did know of him, he immediately squashed any hope of us being friends when he turned out to be a complete arse.”
John could see Sherlock smirk next to him and it made him smile. For a couple of moments, it was very peaceful in that kitchen. Sherlock did his work in silence and John hummed a soft tune to himself as he washed the few dishes they had.
It honestly felt a little domestic to John. John had lived his life in fear for when his father would walk into the same room. He lived in fear for his mother and despite his sister leaving everyone, he worried about her welfare, anyway. Now his mother was in a better place, he could not give two shits about his father and his sister hadn’t kept in touch long enough for John to care how she was, anymore. Distance surely did not make the heart grow fonder.
In fact, despite Sherlock’s inability to experience real human emotion (at least from how little John had seen of him), his strange tastes in everything and his messy tendencies, he was a much better alternative to John’s previous life. He hadn’t pressured John about his family. It was almost as if he knew John was trying to start anew, accepted it as fact and proceeded to treat John thusly.
And really, he enjoyed Sherlock’s company. Sherlock had interesting points of view. Sherlock could play the violin. Sherlock respected privacy. Sherlock was considerate enough to let John stay in his trailer. John realized he may have been biased, but he did not mind. This was nice.
Suddenly, Sherlock looked up from his microscope and grabbed John’s arm. John had rolled his sleeves up so that they would not get wet with the dishwater, so Sherlock’s icy fingers gave John a bit of a start.
“Do you suppose enough time has passed?”
“For the police to have dispersed, John, don’t be dull.”
John almost retaliated at that remark. He was used to insults, but not generally from people he wanted to like him, but Sherlock caught his remark before he could make it, “Don’t look like that, nearly everyone is dull. What time is it?”
John glanced around the kitchen for a clock, and saw one on the wall behind him. His shoulders fell. Sherlock could have just as easily looked up and determined the time for himself. “Quarter past one.”
“I think we should be able to get past them. They should have cleaned up the body by now. They’re probably not investigating and treating it like a suicide. How fortunate for us.”
It was not very fortunate for Carl, but John did not say that out loud. “Fortunate, Sherlock?”
Sherlock stood up and pushed his microscope away from the edge of the counter so it would not fall. “Come, John. We need to look through those bushes outside. They have been teasing and nagging me at every point of my mind.”
John dried his hands and pulled down his sleeves. “Sherlock… it’s one fifteen in the MORNING,” he called as Sherlock disappeared out of the kitchen.
“Oh,” came Sherlock’s voice from the sitting room. “Do you need to sleep?”
“No.” John’s face twisted into an almost smile and he followed Sherlock into the sitting room so that he could get his coat and shoes on. “I was only pointing that out in case you missed it.”
“I never miss anything.”
“I see.” John was still smirking. He was tired as all hell. His muscles yelled at him in protest. His eyes burned a bit in the back of his head, threatening to give him a headache if he stayed up any longer, but John easily pushed the feeling of lethargy aside. He would not miss investigating with Sherlock for the world. After all, he was incredibly happy for some excitement in his life. Sherlock allowed him to breathe for the first time and he is grateful for the adrenaline rush—especially since it knocked John’s fatigue right out the window.
Once outside, John followed Sherlock around the maze of trailers. Sherlock explained that in order for them to be properly stealthy, they could not be seen by anyone, police, performers and crewmembers included.
It was fun creeping about in the areas between each trailer. John crouched under windows, dashed in between rows and ducked around bright lights. John’s heart beat faster with each passing minute, but he did not seem to mind. He felt more alive that he had ever felt.
Upon finally arriving at the crime scene, Sherlock had been correct in saying the police were finished. There was police tape everywhere, but Sherlock completely disregarded it and John followed suit.
Once the two of them crouched into the safety of the offending shrubbery Jennifer had pointed out earlier that night, John felt it safe to address Sherlock. “What exactly are we looking for?”
“Footprints,” concluded Sherlock. “Careful where you step. Don’t mess anything up.”
John’s looked down quickly, making sure he hadn’t tread on anything that would mess up their investigation and was happy to see that he was in the clear.
The lighting was not very good, but it was enough for Sherlock. John mostly acted as a lookout in case anyone came by. During that time, he tried to look around and notice things that perhaps Sherlock would notice. It was harder than he realized. He knew he would have to open his ears a bit more and did so—but the resulting experience only left him more paranoid, so he turned his attention to that of a meerkat, just to make sure they were safe.
He glanced down at Sherlock. The taller man looked much like a grasshopper. His long limbs made it almost impossible for him to dig around the grass and bushes properly. He was muttering a few things to himself, and John strained to hear what they were.
“Perfume smell… bent branches… pounded ground… here… down…. Lied… across…” He spun in place and branched out his circle to encompass more area. “Someone must have watched from here… or here…” He half crouched, half crawled around the perimeter he made. He all but disappeared into the shrubbery when John suddenly heard a sharp, “AHA!”
John made a quick sweep of the perimeter to make sure no one had heard Sherlock’s outburst and he crouched low, following the direction from which Sherlock’s sound came. “What is it?”
“Look John, a boot print! A large, combat boot.” He pointed to the edge of a toe-print in the mud. The grass was a bit sparse and would therefore not cushion a foot as it normally would. Even in the dim light, John could see the distinct markings of a combat boot.
Sherlock grew even more excited. “Yes… steel toe by the looks of it. The woman would have been wearing heels, and Carl’s boots looked nothing like this, and his footprints would be far too small for something like this. A third person stood here. This is our suspect, no, our murderer.” Sherlock looked triumphant. John suddenly found himself wondering if he smiled like that for anyone else.
“Can you get anything else from this?” John asked. He hadn’t known Sherlock for long, but automatically assumed he could get the make, model and pin the killer down just from this.
Sherlock shook his head, but he pulled out his phone and took a picture of the print anyway. “If I could get a second print around here, I’d be able to get his height and weight based on his stride, but he would not have been walking normally. Not in these circumstances. No, John, this is where I wish I had the correct computer software to cross reference these type of shoes with who wears them in this circus!”
“You mean, you DON’T know what type of shoe everyone here, wears?”
“There’s a lot of people in this circus, John. It would be absurd to memorize all of that.”
John opened his mouth to speak up but shut it again. Perhaps there were limits to Sherlock’s walking computer syndrome.
“Wishing will get us nowhere, John. Come, let us retire. This is an interesting bit of information I much dwell upon.” Sherlock said and stood up entirely. John freaked out a little and brought him arms up to grab a hold of Sherlock’s grey coat, bringing the taller boy back down into the bushes.
“You’ll get us caught, you idiot!” John growled.
“Did you see anyone coming?”
“I rest my case.” Sherlock stood up again and began the long walk back to the trailer. John groaned and followed, but a bit more conspicuously.
When John had caught up with Sherlock, he was out of breath. “Sherlock, if we were so worried about getting caught on the way here, why aren’t we worried about it on the way back?”
“Most people are in bed about now,” Sherlock replied.
“But suppose someone sees us? How are we supposed to explain that?”
Sherlock glanced at John through the side of his eyes and held out his hand. “Give me your hand.”
“Oh, come off it, John.” Sherlock reached behind him and took a hold of John’s hand and laced their fingers together. “There. If anyone asks, we were taking a walk together.”
John could feel the heat rising in his cheeks and his ears. He was thankful for the darkness otherwise Sherlock would see his blush. Sherlock’s hands were cold, but not uninviting. John did not know what type of pressure to apply back. Should he squeeze Sherlock’s hand for credibility or let his hand go limp, to show that he did not welcome the contact?
He needed to say something, anything, to get his mind away from his hand. He was well aware of the silence that fell between the two of them. Sherlock even slowed his long strides down so that John could keep up. John thought that was awfully considerate.
He cleared his throat. He needed to sound composed. Perhaps he should talk about their find? “Surely, um…” he cleared his throat again. His voice sounded a little too high for his liking. “Surely you know who around here would wear combat boots. That’s a little specific for a circus performer. We can rule out all the acrobats, for one.”
Sherlock walked in silence for a few more strides, and John was afraid he was being ignored again when suddenly the grip on his hand tightened. John glanced upward to see Sherlock’s eyes shining. “That’s it, John! In this circus, we need a man who is tall, strong, possibly bald or at least has short or thinning hair. Someone… with combat boots. Who fits that description?”
“I’ve only been here a day, Sherlock, I don’t know if I’ve even met everyone.” John pointed out.
Sherlock stopped and turned toward John. He did not let go of his hand, but instead took John’s other hand in his own. “Don’t you see, John? Moran!”
“Who?” John squinted into Sherlock’s eyes and shook his head slightly to indicate he had no idea as to whom Sherlock was talking about.
“The strong man, John.”
“The strong—Oh!” All the buttons click inside John’s mind. The circus’ strong man was probably one of the stands John hadn’t yet had the chance to see personally, but now that he looked back on it, he could remember seeing the strong man amongst the throng of circus performers. He often wore a plaid shirt and came off to John as a lumberjack, but he most certainly fit the description Sherlock had laid out.
Suddenly John felt himself being pulled in the opposite direction. Before he could even ask Sherlock where they were going, he already knew: no doubtedly the trailer of this Moran guy.
Sherlock only let go when they came to the trailer. John nearly died from holding in his laughter. How come he had never seen this trailer, before?
It was obnoxious. It had been painted with sparkling swirls. The word incognito had never even occurred to this trailer. John wondered if Moran had painted it himself, or if he was sharing it with someone else who had painted it. When John got close enough, he saw the big, 60’s style groovy lettering stating The Magnificent Professor Moriarty in bold, yellow font.
The strong man lived with the magician? John had assumed Molly and Moriarty lived together. Maybe they all lived together? It probably was not important, but John still found it silly. He could not help but wonder if Moriarty had a say in all of this.
Sherlock did not even need to stand on the tops of his toes to see inside the trailer. He did not have to look long, however, when he let out a string of almost silent curses.
“Not home?” John offered.
Sherlock shook his head. “Perhaps it was too much to ask for him to return so soon after the crime was committed. He may be on the run… but why would not Moriarty be home? This is very, very interesting…”
“Do we go after them?”
Sherlock shook his head and looked up at the starless sky. “I don’t have a lead as to where they might be. I’m afraid we have hit a dead end for the time being.”
“Ah…” John rubbed his hands together, as it was still quite chilly. He could feel the absence of Sherlock’s hand just as much as he could feel the hand when it was entwined with his own. “Should we head back, then?”
Sherlock took one last look at the trailer in frustration and gave in. He did not offer to hold John’s hand this time, and John’s heart fell a little. He should have thought better than to think Sherlock would continue such a charade. John rather reluctantly stuffed his hands into his pockets to warm his cold fingers.
He could not help but to notice, however, that as they walked back to their trailer, they subconsciously walked closer and closer to each other so that when they finally arrived home, their shoulders were touching.
John hadn’t even noticed until Sherlock unlocked the front door and the cold hit John’s side like he was slammed into a block of ice.
The following morning, John was not surprised to see that Sherlock had woken up before him. He had fallen asleep in his street clothes as soon as he lay down. Sherlock had barely had time to announce that he would be trying to find Moran’s whereabouts before John had fallen asleep face first on the couch. He had even forgotten to take his shoes off.
He woke when the sunlight reached a point that it annoyed him enough to keep his eyes open. He stretched and felt his bones popping all down his back. Sleeping on the couch was not good for him, he knew it. It had only been two nights, but he felt as though each time he woke up, he was being pulled out of the depths of the ocean.
After a good yawn, John realized the sun was too bright for it to be early morning. With a panic, he grabbed his phone to check the time. The battery was low so he plugged it in to charge. It was nearly ten in the morning.
“Aw, Sherlock, why did not you wake me? I needed to be at the big tent hours ago!” John complained as he sauntered into the kitchenette.
“The circus shows are all cancelled until the investigation settles,” Sherlock explained. He was putting the finishing touches on some work in the kitchenette. His laptop lay open on the counter. John saw that Sherlock was trying to do a mobile search of a certain number—probably one associated with Moran or possibly even Moriarty.
“So, what, we get the day off?”
“Convenient, isn’t it?” Sherlock smiled.
John took a mug from the cupboard and made himself a cup of coffee. Sherlock had been making it in the coffee maker. John thought about possibly getting some beans and showing Sherlock how to make some fresh coffee, rather than from powder out of a can.
“Guess I’ll get the laundry done today, then,” John said absent-mindedly. Despite the case and Sherlock’s eagerness to investigate, John only had a limited amount of clothing. Life needed to go on in the background as normal.
Sherlock made a soft noise in the back of his throat in recognition. John finished his coffee and began to gather all the clothing he could find. He could kill two birds with one stone and get all of Sherlock’s washing done, as well. When he had gotten everything he could into some folding baskets, John realized he was a few supplies short.
“Say, Sherlock, I’m going to do the washing. Do you have a laundry card? Or a key?”
The question was apparently pressing enough for Sherlock to raise his head from the Petri dish. “There is a spare key on the shelf over the couch. Mind the violin. And the laundry takes 50p per load.”
John nodded in acknowledgment and Sherlock went back to his work. John did not want to have to use his own money to be doing almost all of Sherlock’s laundry, but he felt awkward asking the man for a few pounds. Sherlock had been paying for the food, and John felt that perhaps that was an even enough trade for the time being.
Laundry, as it so happened, was an all-day experience. It took forever to get a cabbie to take him to the nearest facility. Once there, John had to wait for a unit to open up and even then the process seemed to take forever. He contemplated going across the street for a book, but he was afraid to leave both his and Sherlock’s belongings. The last thing he needed was to be responsible for stolen clothing.
After a time, his phone buzzed and John jumped at the opportunity to answer it. He rarely received text messages.
Come as soon as possible. There has been another incident. –SH
John fumbled with the keys on his phone. It seemed to take him forever. Texting was awkward and John hadn’t been given enough time or friends to practice the art.
How did you get this number?
From your phone. Come at once. –SH
I have a few more minutes on the machine. I’ll come as soon as it’s done. What happened?
Can’t say. –SH
In the middle of texting back, John’s phone buzzed again with another message from Sherlock. It took a minute for John to delete his message so that he could read his new one, and in the mean time, he received one more.
Actually, it would be more beneficial for me to come there. –SH
Use a locker for the clothing. Pick it up later. –SH
Sherlock seemed to answer all of John’s questions before he could even ask them. He did not want to have to tote the clothing all over London if Sherlock had a notion that they needed to be somewhere.
John spent the next few minutes wondering what possibly could have happened to have Sherlock need to come out to a laundry facility of all places. It made the time go by much faster, in retrospect. John made a note to think about Sherlock more often, but then blushed at the thought. Even his own mind took it the wrong way.
John jumped every time the bell on the door rang; hoping Sherlock would come storming in with his gray coat billowing behind him. Eventually, the clothing was finished and John even had time to fold everything so that it would fit into the baskets easier. He rented a locker from the fragile old man behind the counter and put his clothes inside. He hoped they would be able to come back before they closed for the day.
As if right on time, Sherlock pulled up in a cab just as John was exiting the facility to wait for Sherlock outside. John opened the door to the cab and slid inside. Before he could even ask Sherlock what had happened, the taller man began to explain by leaning toward the cabbie.
“St. Bart’s, please,” he requested and sat back in the comfort of the seat. Sherlock had gotten them a nice luxury black cab. John bounced a bit in the seats, clearly impressed. Sherlock really knew how to arrive in style.
“Did someone else get attacked? Who are we visiting in the hospital?” John asked in a hushed voice, well aware that the cabbie could be listening in. Sometimes cabs unnerved John.
“Once step further,” Sherlock said, “Jennifer is dead.”
John could not stop his jaw from dropping. “But—she was taken into police custody last night! How could she have died?”
“I received news of this via Lestrade this morning, shortly after you left,” Sherlock explained. “She has been taken to the morgue at St. Bart’s, but the coroner’s report has not been released to the public. We’re going to find out how she died.”
“But, we’re just teenagers!” John protested. “They are never going to let us into the morgue! –let alone to see someone who died in police custody!”
Sherlock gave John a smirk that John had learned to associate with finding out an interesting tidbit of information that Sherlock liked to keep hidden up his sleeve. “How do you think I got all of those body parts, John? Don’t look at me like that, I know you’ve seen them and just been too polite to speak up.”
John swallowed, hard. Sherlock was right. Sherlock was always right.
“You need to learn how to get connections, John,” Sherlock said, “that’s the secret to everything.”
“I’ll keep that in mind,” said John, and he looked out the window to watch London pass by in silence.
When they arrived at the hospital, a man every bit as tall as Sherlock stopped them. Despite it being sunny outside and they were obviously indoors, the man carried an umbrella. He had a long nose and a receding hairline despite being less than a decade older than the two of them. He could not have even reached thirty, yet.
Sherlock’s entire demeanor changed noticeably. He had first entered the hospital with a sense of self confidence, pride and determination. Upon seeing this stranger, he assumed a slump, and all previous signs of his aforementioned qualities were replaced with frustration, anger and mostly annoyance.
John’s gaze flickered between the two of them in confusion. They were staring hard at each other, so it was obvious to assume they at least had met before, or possibly knew each other quite well. John immediately felt intimidated by the man with the umbrella. Surely anyone who could have that kind of effect on Sherlock was not someone with whom John wanted to get involved.
The man was the first to speak. “I thought you might turn up here, Sherlock.”
Sherlock did not answer. If his jaw could be any more set, John would become a clown. John felt a strange urge to reach out and touch Sherlock’s shoulder or maybe even hold his hand just to calm him down, but resisted the temptation.
The man spoke again. “I have half a mind to let you get caught in your little illegal bit of escapades. Have you gone detective on me?”
Sherlock still did not answer. John wondered why his own presence was not acknowledged. He wondered if he was nothing more than a shadow to Sherlock—someone there just to stand beside the ‘consulting psychic’ and make him look even more brilliant.
Umbrella man sighed once more and took a step toward Sherlock, using his umbrella as a cane. His voice had a smooth drawl to it that made John feel uneasy—as if anything he wanted to say would not matter. “And you’re picking up strays, it seems.” Suddenly the man’s eyes shot to John and he could feel the gaze shoot all the way through him. It was a piercing, scary sensation, and was most unwelcome.
“John is my friend,” Sherlock snapped, suddenly. John stole a glance at the taller boy from the corner of his eye and felt a wash of pride go over him. Did Sherlock really think so? John hadn’t yet had a real proper friend. He had a few buddies growing up, and he got along with people very quickly, but so far, no one had ever called him a friend—at least not that he knew of.
“Friend!” The man did not appear to believe it for a second. John frowned. He could be Sherlock’s friend. He could be Sherlock’s best friend. After all, Sherlock was his friend, right? The amount of time they had known each other was not long, true, but John did not want to base his feelings off of that. He and Sherlock clicked together in some strange way. He liked Sherlock. He just hated that it took this creepy old man in the middle of a hospital lobby to unknowingly point it out to them both. “I did not know it was customary to put one’s friend in danger.”
Before Sherlock could say anything, John felt it necessary to speak up. “I came along of my own accord. I know what I’m getting myself into.” He looked over at Sherlock to hopefully catch his eye, but unfortunately Sherlock’s gaze was locked on the other man’s.
Somehow, the older man’s eyes softened and his features relaxed, slightly. It was as if he had made up his mind, somehow. On what, John had no idea, but if it stopped making him look so intimidating, John was all for it. “I see…” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a card key. He held it out for one of them to take. “This will get you into the morgue without any trouble. You have clearance through me.”
Sherlock hesitated a moment, and then stepped forward to take the card key without thanks.
“Be careful, Sherlock,” the man warned. “You may not like where this is headed.”
“I don’t need you to tell me to be careful,” Sherlock said, letting his anger seethe into the words. John had yet to hear Sherlock’s voice drip with so much malice. He decided he would rather not like to hear it often. Sherlock’s hand reached out to his side with precision and grabbed the sleeve of John’s jacket. He pulled John with him past the man with the umbrella toward the lifts.
“Don’t make yourself a target, Sherlock. At this rate my entire circus will be killed just to sate your curiosity.”
John did a double take as Sherlock mashed every down button on every lift he could find. “Wait, his circus? He’s the owner?”
Sherlock was silent. The owner of the circus was about to say something to confirm or deny John’s question, but the lift doors opened and Sherlock quickly pulled John inside and hit the ‘close door’ button.
John immediately addressed Sherlock. “Did I just talk back to my BOSS? How am I ever going to keep a job, now?”
“You’ll still have your job,” Sherlock said. He was much more relaxed now that their boss was out of sight, but John noticed he was still a little on edge.
John hesitated on asking, but his curiosity got the better of him. Sherlock was rubbing off on him, already. “How come he’s so worried about you, but still helped you do exactly what he did not want you do to?”
“I don’t like to delve into the psyche of my idiot older brother. I cannot begin to fathom what trifle nuances go on in that head of his.”
That tidbit of information was not lost on John. Sherlock’s brother owned the circus? How come everyone had failed to mention that? Did anyone else even know? John wondered if that meant that Sherlock owned any part of the circus, himself, or if that was why he had such nice living quarters. John swallowed hard. “But that would mean…”
“It doesn’t matter that Mycroft is my brother, or that he owns the circus. What matters is that he’s gone and bypassed all of my connections just to suit his own will. What was he thinking? Showing up like that, just to throw me off my game. He wasted a valuable bit of my time.” Sherlock glanced up at the top of the lift, to where the numbers showed what floor they were on. He tapped his foot impatiently.
“But we can just walk into the morgue, now. Doesn’t that save us a bit of time, Sherlock?” John asked, but immediately regretted it once he saw the look Sherlock gave him.
The lift finally reached the correct floor and Sherlock bounded away down a corridor, forcing John to follow. Sherlock obviously knew his way around the hospital. He had been here more than once, most definitely. John did not know whether to be impressed or mortified.
“Let me do all the talking,” said Sherlock just before he burst into a set of double-doors.
It was cold in the morgue—something John should have anticipated, but he did not realize it until the wave of temperature change hit him. He hugged his arms to himself out of reflex. In no time at all, Sherlock had talked to an assistant and located the body of Jennifer Wilson.
John thought it would be a good idea to start bracing himself to see her, knowing full well that she was just alive last night, but when the coroner’s assistant pulled the sheet off her face, John felt nothing. He had barely known this girl, and to make matters even stranger, they had shaved her beard, so she was hardly recognizable.
“Can you give us a few moments?” Sherlock said to the coroner. For a moment, John could have sworn he saw a tear in his friend’s eye. “If you don’t mind.”
“You have five minutes,” the man sad, and went back to his desk.
Sherlock turned back toward the body, both the tear and all signs of remorse gone. “It is almost safe to say, now, that Moran did it.” Sherlock was back into detective mode again, for sure. Either he was over John’s comment from before, or he had deleted it from his mind. John did not mind either way.
John bent over Jennifer’s left side while Sherlock stood on the right. He had half a mind to put on some gloves and examine the body himself, to see if he could notice what Sherlock did. “But… how do you know how she died? It almost looks like she’s asleep.”
“Because it’s obvious she was poisoned. She has no bruising, cuts, scrapes or contusions of any kind. The coloring is not appropriate for a drowning or a strangling, and, it is as you said, John. She looks to be sleeping. She has been poisoned.” Sherlock put the cover back over Jennifer’s face, himself.
“Brilliant…” John murmured.
“Our main suspect, Moran, has no alibi. He was not at his trailer last night, and that corresponds to her time of death, here.” Sherlock pointed to a makeshift chart at the head of the table with all of Jennifer’s stats on it. “Sometimes, John, there are no coincidences.”
“So,” John said in a hushed tone, to be sure the coroner’s assistant would not be able to hear from over at his desk. “Carl takes a girl home, an accomplice of Moran’s, probably. She helps with the cover-up a bit. Moran strangles Carl and makes it look like a suicide. He runs into Jennifer, and she is taken into custody as a police witness. In order to keep her quiet, he poisons her. The trail should end here, shouldn’t it?”
“Well,” Sherlock grinned, “There’s still us, isn’t there? Now we know.”
John supposed he should have felt fear, but that was not the correct name for what he was feeling. He did not quite know if it had a name, “We’re the new targets.”
“Possibly, but Moran has to know we’re investigating for us to be targets,” Sherlock pointed out.
John suddenly frowned. “Why Moran would do this, though? Did he have a vendetta against Carl? I can understand why he killed Jennifer—just to keep the scent off him, but why Carl in the first place?”
“Now, you’re asking all the right questions!” Sherlock grinned and clapped his hands together.
“Ah! So, you know?”
“I have no idea, John.” Despite this, Sherlock looked like he was living on cloud nine. “Moran doesn’t talk much to other people and often keeps to himself. If he is seen with anyone it is Moriarty, possibly because they share a trailer, or possibly for other reasons, but even those are limited.”
“What about Moriarty, then?” John brought up. “He was not at the trailer, either. Could he have something to do with all of this?”
“It is most definitely something to consider,” Sherlock mused. “What bothers me is that Mycroft knew how Jennifer died.”
“He knew what we would find when we came down here,” Sherlock explained. “Otherwise he would not have made an appearance. He knew how she died, and I’m willing to bet he also knows who did it, and possibly why. If that’s the case, why keep it a secret. Why not have the culprit arrested? Surely he has the resources.”
“Maybe he only found out just now?” John offered. It was a shot in the dark. “That’s why he’s letting us investigate—so we can catch him so—“
“So he won’t have to,” Sherlock finished for John and narrowed his eyes. “That lazy, pompous git.”
“Well, it looks like in order to find Moran, we’ll have to find Moriarty,” John summed.
“Yes….” Sherlock stroked his chin in thought; John felt it was more for his sake than anything. He had a feeling this little trip was more to confirm Sherlock’s accusations rather than to gather new information. “Come, Watson. We must make haste if we are to be back at the circus at a reasonable hour.”
John had to remind Sherlock to stop by the laundry facility on the way home. He knew Sherlock would forget, and chuckled a little when the taller boy grew angry to have his trip home lengthened.
John could almost hear the gears turning in Sherlock’s head. His friend was on to something, and John did not know what.
Chapter 9: Moriarty
Sherlock found himself in his first real moral dilemma.
Over the years, Sherlock had prided himself in his solitary existence. He never bothered to meet new people or to make friends. When he pursued an interest with great enthusiasm, he just happened to meet a few people along the way. It was not his fault that these people all seemed to trust Sherlock implicitly after their meetings. Things just so happened that way.
The trust, however, did not go far. Sherlock never would have called any of these people his friends. He had a network, but not a social network. He never saw the reason.
But when John came into his life, suddenly he understood why people had a tendency to place so much emphasis on friends and family.
Because for the first time, Sherlock felt as though he needed to protect someone—and wasn’t that what friends or families did? They protected each other?
And right now, Sherlock needed to protect John. Up until that point, he and John had done everything together, but now Sherlock knew that he needed to be by himself in the next part of his investigation. The stakes were too high. The last thing he needed was for John to be hurt. He didn’t feel as though he needed to take John’s feelings into consideration. He mostly centered his thoughts on keeping John alive and safe and well.
John’s safety was important to Sherlock. Such a concept had never happened before, and Sherlock had no idea if it would ever happen again. He didn’t know what to do with the new information that he need to keep John safe.
At the same time, however, he wanted John by his side. He thought better with John there. John asked all the right questions. He kept Sherlock’s brain on the main road instead of letting it branch off into a million different directions as it so often did. He could think out loud around John and found that it worked better for him.
Not only was John’s presence calming, but it was also invigorating. Sherlock left his trailer more. Sherlock found he rather enjoyed this experiment in becoming a detective. John had inadvertently helped Sherlock find meaning to his life.
So he found that he was in a tight spot. He both wanted John to be by his side and to be safe at the same time. It was, if anything, a paradox. Normally a paradox would have intrigued Sherlock. This time, it did not.
When Sherlock finally reached his conclusion, he was glad he had found a way for John to stay with Mrs. Hudson at the time. It greatly influenced his decision.
He grabbed his coat and scarf and stalked out into the night air, away from Mrs. Hudson’s trailer, where he knew the two people he cared about the most would be sharing tea. His long, even strides were pointed directly toward the big tent where he knew someone would be waiting for him…
A few hours before...
Sherlock and John barely even left the morgue before Sherlock knew what he had to do and how he could get a hold of Moriarty. If there was one person in the entire world that would know Moriarty’s whereabouts, it would be Molly.
He knew time was critical and sent Molly a text as John gathered the clothing from the storage locker at the laundry facility. All throughout the drive home, Sherlock waited for a text back, but received nothing. Molly was generally a chatterbox when it came to Sherlock’s texts, and seeing as the circus employees had the day off, surely she would text back quickly.
When they reached their trailer, and Sherlock still hadn’t received a message, he knew something was up. John was in good spirits despite having just had a conversation over a corpse. He didn’t even complain when Sherlock made no move to help bring in the laundry, and he didn’t even ask Sherlock to help put it away.
That was convenient.
John disappeared into Sherlock’s room to set his folded clothing on the bed, or put it away, or whatever it was he felt like doing. Sherlock couldn’t be bothered with it. He crouched on his favorite chair in the sitting room and opened his laptop. After a few clicks, he navigated his way to a social networking site where he could look up Molly’s page. Perhaps she had updated it. Women liked that sort of thing, right?
Sherlock frowned when he saw that her last update had been the day before, just before the show. Come to think of it, he hadn’t seen her in some time. John was at the performance last night, so there was a very good chance he would know.
“John?” Sherlock called over his shoulder.
After a few seconds, nothing happened, so Sherlock called again. This time a faint response sounded from Sherlock’s bedroom. When Sherlock called again, he could hear much louder this time, “Get your arse in here if you want to talk, Sherlock. I’m busy!”
Sherlock grumbled and closed his laptop so that he could set it to the side. Stupid John making him get up and move when it would be so much more efficient for John to come to him. He trudged back to his bed room where John was putting Sherlock’s shirts onto hangers.
When John looked up, he cracked a wide grin and fought back a laugh, “Don’t give me that face, Sherlock! You had to walk, what, a whole twenty feet?”
“I was busy, too,” Sherlock said. He glanced down at John’s work. He was even buttoning all of Sherlock’s shirts so that they would hang properly. Honestly, the man was more like a maid rather than a roommate.
“What were you doing, thinking? You can think in here.” John smoothed out the wrinkles in a shirt and frowned, “We might have to iron this.”
The idea that John could be worrying about ironing a shirt when there was a case baffled Sherlock—and few things baffled Sherlock.
He decided it would be a good idea to bring John’s attention back to the case at hand. “When was the last time you saw Molly?”
“Molly?” John repeated. He looked upward, as if that would help him remember. “Uh… last night, I believe. I helped her backstage just before she went on with Moriarty. Nice girl.”
“But you haven’t seen her, since.” Sherlock did not ask, but merely confirmed a conclusion.
“No, we’ve been a bit busy,” John admitted. “Why, did something happen to her?”
Sherlock moved to the window to glance outside as he spoke. “There is a small chance something might have. She hasn’t answered any of my texts and her last update on her most frequently used social networking site was early last night.”
“Everyone has the day off; maybe she’s hanging out with friends?” John offered.
Sherlock shook his head slightly. “If she were, she would have answered a text from me. This is not normal for Molly’s usual behavior. I think we should seek her out.”
John had finished with all of Sherlock’s shirts and had folded Sherlock’s clothing into neat piles on the bed. He stretched a little. “All right, but if we don’t find anything, we’re getting something to eat. I’m starved.”
Sherlock glanced briefly at John. “I never eat when I’m working on something. It slows me down.”
“Slows you down?” John looked appalled. “I’m no doctor, but isn’t food supposed to speed the processes of your brain up? How can you function without eating?”
“I manage. Come, John. We cannot waste any more time.” Sherlock settled the matter and rushed back to the sitting room to don his coat and scarf once more. In moments, the two of them were hustling toward Molly’s trailer. She shared a trailer with Irene, the contortionist and Mary Morstan, one of the few female clowns.
Sherlock promptly knocked on the door and a petite woman with her brown hair tied back into a ponytail opened the door. It was Mary. Sherlock smiled at her with a forced politeness. It was no secret that Sherlock did not particularly care for Mary. She blended into the background, mostly. He wished it were Irene that had opened the door, however. It was somehow easier to talk to her. She spoke on a level that was almost on par with Sherlock. Mary spoke like she should move to the states and live in California.
“Ooooh, Sherlock!” Mary giggled and looked deliberately past him. “Who is your friend? Is this the new bloke? I haven’t gotten to meet him, yet. Hi! I’m Mary! Aren’t you just a treat for the eyes?”
Sherlock could feel the heat coming from John and felt a twinge of jealousy welled somewhere inside Sherlock’s chest. John was his friend and he found him first.
“Hi, Mary, I’m John,” John said from behind Sherlock. Sherlock rolled his eyes as Mary giggled some more.
“Mary, will you let us in? We’re looking for Molly.” Sherlock said, irritated.
Mary stuck her bottom lip out in an oversized pout, “She hasn’t been home since last night. She texted me though. Said she was going out with Jim. I knew there was something going on between those two…”
Sherlock and John exchanged a very quick look, and Sherlock dashed off. After a few moments, he could hear John’s footsteps behind him. He must have stayed behind to say goodbye to Mary, but Sherlock was too caught up in his brain to worry about that now.
Moriarty had Molly. Moriarty was Moran’s roommate and the only person with whom Moran had any real contact. Both Moran and Moriarty had not returned to the circus premises for some time…
Molly was either in a hostage situation, or dead. Seeing as she texted Mary that she was with Moriarty pointed to the former. Moriarty probably saw everything that went on in Molly’s phone. That meant that Moriarty had seen Sherlock’s text. Moriarty would see anything Sherlock texted to Molly. That gave him an idea.
Molly, I need to discuss a few things with you. Meet in under the big top ASAP. Come alone. –SH
After he sent the text, he stuffed his phone in his pocket and in a split thinking decision, Sherlock turned toward Mrs. Hudson’s trailer and banged on the door. Mrs. Hudson was there in a split second.
“Sherlock! John!” She stepped aside to let them in. “You’re all out of breath!”
“I need to see my brother about something, Mrs. Hudson.” Sherlock breathed.
Mrs. Hudson immediately moved to make a pot of tea. It was almost a reflex to her. “Yes, okay, but what would you have me do about it?”
“I don’t have any time to explain, but I’ll need your help in a bit. John,” Sherlock turned toward his companion. “I need you to stay here and get Mrs. Hudson caught up. I’ll be back as soon as I can.”
John’s mouth opened and closed like a fish out of water. When he finally got out words, they were simply, “I can’t go with you?”
Sherlock sighed. “I need you here, John. It will only take a moment,” he lied. He knew what he was getting himself into, and he needed John out of it.
Sherlock hesitated outside the tent flaps. He knew Moriarty would be inside, and he needed a couple of seconds to formulate a plan of action. Moriarty could have any amount of weapons at his disposal, and to have a man as strong a Moran by his side, that was something to worry about. Sherlock held a tight grip on his phone. If things got terribly bad, he could have his brother and the police in here in seconds. In fact, perhaps it was a good idea to have his brother on standby already…
No, not his brother. Lestrade.
Sherlock sent a text to the ringleader asking when the circus hoped to re-open. Lestrade would be confused by Sherlock’s enthusiasm and grow concerned. His close relationship with Mycroft would only force him to show Sherlock’s brother the text. There would be a time delay, but Mycroft would get the half-haphazard code. In this way, Sherlock would have a back-up plan just in case.
With renewed vigor, Sherlock opened the tent flaps and stepped inside.
The bleachers were folded and set around the outside edges of the tent. In the center of the largest ring stood another tank, but this one filled with bags of sand. Sherlock made sure to keep his pace calm and collected as he made sure to be one hundred percent aware of his surroundings.
Suddenly, Sherlock heard the sound of one person clapping and was not at all surprised to see Moriarty step out from behind the tank of sand as the person making the sound. He had a wide smile on his face. When he finished clapping, he held his clasped hands together at his chin.
“Good afternoon, Sherlock! Fancy meeting you, here!” Moriarty’s slight accent echoed throughout the tent.
Sherlock narrowed his eyes. There was no doubt that Moriarty was behind the killings, now. Moran was just a pawn, and Molly… “Where is Molly?” he asked.
“She’s safe if that’s what you want to know,” Moriarty drawled. He kicked his feet forward in a lazy walk toward Sherlock. “I have to admit I’m impressed you’ve gotten this far. You see, I thought I had a few more days, at least. It’s a good thing I work ahead.” Sherlock wanted to wipe that sinister grin off his face.
“It was an easy trail to follow. Your wingman could have been a bit clumsier. Or was it Jennifer? She must have messed everything up from the start.” Sherlock could fight words with words if he needed to. Too bad he couldn’t get enough evidence that would hold up in court against Moriarty. His confession to Sherlock wouldn’t hold water unless it had been recorded.
Moriarty stopped walking and stuffed his hands in his pockets. He had also stopped grinning, now and his jaw was set. “The problem with you, my dear, is that if you don’t have anything nice to say, you shouldn’t say anything at all.”
Before Sherlock could answer, he heard the footsteps behind him a moment too late. There came a flash of pain and then everything went black.
When Sherlock opened his eyes, the first thing he saw was a pane of glass. He reached up to feel it, but found that his wrists were handcuffed behind him. He was sitting on a wooden chair with his ankles bound to the legs. Immediately he struggled, trying to see just how trapped he had become. Fortunately, he had not been gagged, but he knew yelling would do no good in this situation.
He looked above him and saw, with a sick realization, just what Moriarty had in store for him. Hanging overhead were the bags of sand that had previously lined the tank.
A tap on the glass in front of him drew Sherlock’s attention back to eye level. Moriarty grinned back at him, his face slightly distorted by the glass.
“Nice to have you back with us, Sherlock.” Moriarty’s voice was loud and clear and almost had a tunnel effect as it reached Sherlock’s ears in the glass tank.
Sherlock glared at him.
“Oh, don’t be like that…” Moriarty frowned. “You brought this on yourself. I would love for this to go another way, you know, for you and me to work together. Brilliant minds like ours are wasted on a dump like this. We have to set our sights higher. You, with your skills of deduction and me with my skills of manipulation—we could have used them to achieve the greatest of means.” He paced back and forth in front of Sherlock’s prison.
“But, no… you have to go and investigate. You have to try and stop me.” Moriarty’s high, lilting voice reached lower levels of anger at this point. “And now you’ve gone and pissed me off by getting in my way.”
“I would get in your way a thousand times, Professor.” Sherlock spat. “I couldn’t give two shits about your greatest of means.”
Instead of answering, Moriarty’s face grew red with rage and in a fit of anger he wielded one of his prop knifes that still had a sharp edge to it and stabbed a bag over Sherlock’s head. Sand poured out of it, pooling at Sherlock’s feet.
“You see that Sherlock? Silicon dioxide. Unfortunately for you, you can’t breathe it. I can stab as many of these as I like.” Moriarty nodded to someone Sherlock could not see and Sherlock heard another bag’s lining puncture. Moran was probably behind him.
Moriarty continued with his speech. “It’s so sad that you’re going to die, now, Sherlock. Really, it is. I sincerely hoped we could have worked together… but now you’ll just meet the same fate as the others. Although I have to admit, this is not as fun as Carl’s death. Now he deserved to die. His entire existence was a thorn in my side. I could care less about all those women he took back to fuck senseless, but he went too far. He hit on Molly. You of all people should understand what it’s like to have one of the few people you tolerate messed with.”
For a split second, Sherlock could see the connection between himself and Moriarty. Neither of them could make lasting social connections. Their intellect prohibited such frivolities. Now that Sherlock had John, would he have gone to such lengths to procure his safety? Would he have killed for John the way Moriarty killed for Molly? Certainly not. That must be where his similarity with Moriarty ended.
“I, Moriarty, will always get the last laugh. Always.”
Sherlock’s blood was boiling, but he could do little to help his situation. He rubbed his hands vigorously over the handcuffs. He was thin enough… if he could just get the cuffs off, he would at least have a fighting chance.
Moriarty had Moran cut a few more holes in the sand bags because the sand was not flowing fast enough for him. The sand had already reached the level of Sherlock’s ankles, and grains were threatening to get into his eyes as they swirled around him in a mini cloud of dust and grit. Sherlock felt as though he would suffocate before the sand even reached him.
He closed his eyes, tight and thought hard. Sherlock would not give up, now. Not for anything or anyone. He felt as though he had so much more to do. And, after all, his experiments in the kitchenette weren’t even finished. Sherlock had perspective.
Moran cut a bag just over Sherlock’s head and the sand poured into his hair. Sherlock gritted his teeth together and held his head down instinctively, trying his hardest to keep the sand from his nostrils.
He thought of John, suddenly. He didn’t know where the thought came from, but it was clear and bright in the front of his mind. He suddenly wanted John to be there. Even if John were in this tank next to him, dying with him, he would feel as though he mattered. He always knew he would die alone, but this time, alone would no longer cut it. He could hear John saying his name. It was quiet, but not at all like a whisper. He felt as though John were calling his name from far, far away.
Moriarty’s laughter stopped abruptly. Something from outside the tank had interrupted him. “And what are you planning on doing with that?” he said coolly—as if he were talking to a newcomer.
And then Sherlock realized that he was not imagining things. John’s voice was real. Sherlock could not open his eyes to look up quickly, but he felt the strain of sand on his hair stop and a loud thump sounded from either side of him. When his vision came to him, he could scarcely believe his eyes.
John stood before him, wielding a mallet he had stolen from one of the circus games. It was a silly game that determined how strong a person was by slamming the mallet down on a platform and trying to ring a bell. He had managed to swing the mallet over the bags of sand and knocked them from their ropes.
All at once, Moran was on John, wrestling with him, trying to get the mallet from his grip. Moriarty was shouting orders that Sherlock could not hear.
John’s face was red with anger. He swung the mallet with a sort of merciless abandon. It was as if he didn’t care where his blows landed. One blow hit Moran square in the chest and did very little. Moran’s lumbering figure caused him to be too slow to catch the mallet, and John was able to pull it back once more. This time, when he swung, the head connected with the glass tank and caused a great crack to appear throughout it.
Sherlock found his voice, finally. He coughed a bit as the sand scratched his throat. “John, aim for that crack again!”
John nodded. He spun in a circle to gain both momentum and speed, and also to put Moran off. It was suicide to jump in front of a spinning madman with a hammer. John was off his mark by a few inches, but it did the trick. The glass shattered around Sherlock with a resounding CRACK.
Moriarty screamed and lunged for Sherlock’s neck. “I’LL KILL YOU WITH MY OWN BARE HANDS IF I HAVE TO!”
Sherlock could no longer see if John was struggling with Moran or not. In the heat of the moment, a surge of adrenaline had cause Sherlock to slip out of the handcuffs without Moriarty realizing. He ignored the sharp stings as the sand worked its way into the fresh wounds on his wrists. Getting Moriarty off his neck was a much higher priority.
The loud struggles of John and Moran died down, and Sherlock thought he was losing his hearing due to the oxygen being cut off from his brain, but Moriarty must have noticed as well, because he inadvertently loosened his hands slightly in order to turn around and look behind him.
John was standing just barely, the mallet hoisted and poised in the air, waiting. He was breathing hard and had a bloody lip, but he was smirking all the same.
“It seems I’ve knocked the wind out of your friend before you could knock the wind out of mine,” John said. Sherlock would have rolled his eyes from the cockiness in John’s voice but at that moment, John was the most beautiful thing in all of existence.
Moriarty scrambled to his feet and backed away. “You haven’t heard the last from me, Sherlock. You and your boyfriend got lucky. Next time, you may not be so fortunate.” He doubled back and ran out the tent.
John set the hammer down with a relieved sigh. “Should we go after him, Sherlock?”
Sherlock reached a bloody hand up to rub at his sore neck. He was covered in sand and blood and it hurt nearly every muscle in his body to move. “No. We have Moran, for now.” His voice caught a little. The sand in his throat and the recent strangulation gave him a bit of a raspy edge to his tone.
And then John’s cold hands were on Sherlock’s face and neck and brushing sand from his hair and from his clothes. “You stupid idiot.” John said, but his voice did not sound menacing. It sounded sadder than anything. “I can’t believe you would run off without me like that.”
Sherlock forced a smile. He liked John’s hands on him. It felt nice. His whole body was screaming with pain, but John’s strong hands kept the hurt at bay. “I couldn’t have you getting hurt on me. See? You’ve gone and bloodied your lip.”
John gave a relieved laugh and shook his head softly. “We need to get you some proper medical attention.”
Sherlock sighed and settled down in the sand. Moriarty had knocked him over, but he was still strapped to the chair. It was a most awkward position. John must have noticed because he began working on the knots at Sherlock’s ankles.
The unmistakable sound of voices filled the tent. Sherlock could make out Lestrade’s above all the others. In a few moments, Sherlock found himself being helped out of the sand and back into the chair so that he could sit properly.
Lestrade put a steadying hand on Sherlock’s shoulder. “You all right? We’ve got an ambulance on the way.”
Sherlock looked around him for John. He didn’t care about anyone else at the moment. He hurt and he needed to have John next to him to take the edge off. He wished he had a few other things to help take the edge off, but John would suffice perfectly at the moment.
He was not aware that he said John’s name until he realized his throat hurt and John was at his side again. John had no doubt been answering questions brought on by Lestrade at the accompanying police force. John did not need to answer questions, Sherlock thought. John needed to be by his side.
Sherlock reached a bloody hand up and found John’s own steady hand and held it until the paramedics arrived.
Chapter 10: It's Not Over, Yet
It’s Not Over, Yet
John settled himself on the luxury sofa that sat in the middle of Mycroft’s London flat. The soft cushions were a welcome change to the horror both he had Sherlock had just witnessed.
It had already been just a few hours after John had been drinking tea and discussing some of the broader points of the case with Mrs. Hudson. Just a few hours before, Sherlock ran out on him. For a few minutes, he hadn’t thought it odd. Surely Sherlock needed to discuss something with his brother.
What bothered John at first was Sherlock’s noticeable absence. He was used to watching the taller boy pace back and forth, rubbing his hands together. John rather enjoyed seeing Sherlock run his fingers through his hair. It looked so smooth despite being so curly. John wondered what it felt like. His own hair was felt coarse to him, and was mostly just boring.
John missed Sherlock’s voice most of all. Mrs. Hudson was kind and her voice had a lovely quality to it, but nothing compared to the soft baritone of Sherlock’s cello-like voice. John had grown accustomed to Sherlock thinking out loud and he found that he missed it, already.
John’s worries were not set at ease even after Mrs. Hudson made him some tea. He thought about taking out his phone to text Sherlock just to see if he made it to Mycroft, but thought the better of it. He couldn’t quite explain why but he had the feeling that if he texted Sherlock, Sherlock would not be truthful about his whereabouts. John, instead, asked Mrs. Hudson for Mycroft’s number.
John felt as though he had just hit the send button when Mycroft’s response came back stating that he had no idea where his brother was and nor did he care at that moment.
Panic flooded John’s system. Before even he realized what was happening, he found himself dashing out the front door without so much as a goodbye to Mrs. Hudson.
He had no idea where to start looking for Sherlock. He could go back to the trailer, or possibly to any of the other trailers they had visited already: Moriarty’s, Molly’s or even Carl’s. Before he could bring himself to find Sherlock, he had the sudden desire to arm himself. If Sherlock found himself in a sticky situation, John didn’t want to just stand there and let him take it.
John quickly scanned his brain for what could be used as a weapon in a circus. It was the fact that Moran was a strong man that gave John the idea for the mallet—and it wasn’t hard to steal the device.
Finding Sherlock turned out not to be hard, either. Moriarty was loud and John happened to be rushing past the circus tent. He could hardly believe his good fortune.
The fear that had seized John gave him a surge of adrenaline, and he proceeded to ride that rush until the very end. Even he was surprised at his prowess over the vastly overpowered Moran. In the end, he had received a few lucky breaks. Moran probably underestimated John’s ability with a hammer—especially when he was fueled by rage and an unbelievable sense of protection. John had pulled the hammer back, not realizing Moran was trying to take John over from behind, and in doing so, inadvertently hit him in the stomach, knocking the wind out of the larger man.
John still could not believe it. The swirl of emotions that had happened next still baffled him. He remembered being afraid for Sherlock, but he could not remember many of the broader details. All he knew was that he needed to get to Sherlock—and fast.
The memories stirred around in John’s head as Mycroft’s assistant (she couldn’t have been a housekeeper, she was dressed far too sharply for that) brought them some tea. Sherlock had been tended to by the paramedics, but at his own request had not been admitted to the hospital. John looked at Sherlock, now, perched precariously at one end of the couch.
Sherlock’s wrists had been bandaged. John absolutely hated looking at them—knowing exactly how they got that way. He had a few bruises and discoloration on his neck from Moriarty’s hands, and still had bits of sand in his hair and on his clothing, and he was dirty, but otherwise quite healthy. John’s own hands and knees were covered in sand from when he knelt down to help Sherlock, and he had a bloody lip from Moran plus a few bruises scattered throughout his body. He would be sore and ache for days, but he was alive—and Sherlock was alive, and for that John was thankful.
Mycroft studied the two of them, and John could feel himself shrinking under that watchful gaze. Lestrade had arranged for both Sherlock and John to be escorted to Mycroft’s flat in a police car which caused John to wonder just how many contacts Lestrade had in law enforcement. Lestrade himself leaned against the wall, his arms folded. He looked at ease in Mycroft’s home.
“I’m not sure if I should be pissed off or pleased with the two of you,” Mycroft said as the corners of his mouth tugged downward. “On the one hand, you’ve managed to capture the man responsible for the deaths of two of my employees, but at such a foolish cost.”
He turned toward his brother and John followed his gaze. “And you, Sherlock. Thinking you could take care of the situation by yourself. Didn’t I tell you to be careful?”
“And didn’t I tell you I don’t care?” Sherlock spat. He looked more than ever like a pouting child.
Mycroft wasn’t affected by Sherlock’s outburst. He casually aimed his lecture toward John, instead. “And you…,” he sighed. “My circus falls apart the day you arrive. If you hadn’t gotten along so well with my brother, you would have been out on your arse yesterday.” John caught every bit of threat in those words.
“If it weren’t for John, you would no longer have a little brother,” Sherlock said, staring at his brother, as if to dare him to counter the statement.
“And that is precisely why John is staying,” Mycroft said with an air that suggested Sherlock should have let him finish. John kept his mouth shut.
“I take it I’m keeping my job, too?” Sherlock asked.
Mycroft raised an eyebrow at his brother. “Of course you are…”
Sherlock set his mug down, the tea untouched. “Then why the hell do I have to stay on as a psychic when my skills are obviously needed elsewhere?”
“What as a detective?” Mycroft said the occupation like it was something horrible to think about, like collecting garbage.
“I enjoy working on cases,” Sherlock began to idly brush some of the leftover sand from his clothing. John watched the grains fall onto Mycroft’s beautiful furniture. Sherlock was most likely ruining the fabric on purpose. He gave John a sort of hopeful look, and John took it that Sherlock wanted him to say something.
“And, I do, too. Enjoy working on cases, I mean.” John stumbled through the words. He really meant what he said, too. Despite the danger, the adrenaline rush was worth it—and he found he wanted to stay by Sherlock’s side. It felt natural and right.
“You’re both too young to be playing detectives.” Mycroft said with a finality that tried to extinguish the spark.
“Then let me go to University at least. I’ll get a degree in criminal justice, chemistry, anything.” Sherlock almost had a pleading tone to his voice. Almost. If John could hear it, Mycroft most definitely could.
The tiny plead seemed to work in Sherlock’s favor. Mycroft exhaled long and slow. “I’ll think about it.”
John smiled into his mug. He was glad that Sherlock would be able to continue his education at a University. John could see Sherlock more at home in a place like that—far from the confines of the circus.
And yet, at the same time, John felt a pang of remorse. If Sherlock left the circus to go to a University, where would that leave John? There was no way he could afford to go anywhere at all, and a scholarship was out of the question. He would have to stay at the circus and probably move on to becoming a clown by himself.
If the world was a perfect place, and John could do as he desired, he would have taken that detective option in an instant. He wanted to be able to do a bit more to help others out, though, and thought perhaps a career in medicine would be a good choice. The idea had plagued him for some time, but he couldn’t allow it to come to anything. He couldn’t pay for normal classes at a University! How could he ever expect to pay for medical school?
John decided it was best for him not to bring the subject up with Sherlock.
After a bit more chastising on Mycroft’s part, Sherlock and John were sent home in a private cab. John’s stomach was growling something fierce. He hadn’t realized that they had had nothing to eat that entire day. All he had to snack on were a few biscuits with Mrs. Hudson and a lot of tea. Sherlock had mentioned not wanting to eat earlier, but John knew he would have to find a way to get Sherlock to eat, somehow.
Sherlock was quiet when they first stepped into the trailer. He made a quick line for the bathroom and shut the door. John did not blame him. The poor guy had gone through so much trouble in the past few hours. John himself felt like he smelled so horrible that he wanted to jump into the shower with Sherlock.
John felt the heat creep up to his face before he even realized the reason for his blush.
He liked Sherlock. He cared for Sherlock. He didn’t think that the mutual affection they held for each other had crossed any lines, yet, and he wasn’t exactly keen on finding out. Sherlock was his friend. His very good looking friend—and now that the water was running, John’s very naked friend.
Wow, John thought to himself, he was really messed up. A week hadn’t even gone by since his mother’s death and he already seemed to be moving on. He had left his home of nineteen years to join a circus. He lived with a consulting psychic and just helped said psychic solve a murder mystery in which both of them had nearly lost their lives. And throughout all of this, John could only think about how nice his newfound friend would look naked?
John rubbed his eyes and decided it would be a good idea to get his priorities in order. Teenage hormones be damned. He went into the kitchenette to grab himself a bit of something to eat. There was a little leftover takeaway in the fridge from earlier and John was suddenly very thankful for Sherlock’s low propensity for eating.
He warmed up a few leftovers and despite his fatigue, leaned against the counter to eat. He did not want to sully Sherlock’s nice furniture with sand and dirt and blood. He was certain Mycroft would be sending his sofa to the Cleaner’s that was for certain.
Sherlock sure took a long time in the shower. John had long since finished eating before Sherlock finally emerged from a steaming bathroom wearing a dark blue housecoat. Once more, he did not say a word to John and instead turned to go immediately into his bedroom.
John figured he would talk to Sherlock when he was ready and took the opportunity to take a shower for himself. The water was lukewarm at first and only gave him a few minutes of heat before it turned cold.
But that was alright. After seeing Sherlock in nothing but a bathrobe, John needed the cold shower.
He cursed himself slightly, knowing full well that his brain and his heart were on a one-way track he could not come back from. He would have to pine for Sherlock quietly in his head until the feelings wore off. If they wore off.
John sighed and exited the shower, using one of the now-clean towels to dry his hair. He wrapped a towel around his waist and tiptoed into the spare room to change into some shorts and another tee shirt.
When John mustered up the courage to talk to Sherlock, he found the taller boy in his bedroom, still in his bathrobe and sitting on the edge of his bed. John knocked lightly on the open door to signify his presence, although he was sure Sherlock would not need it.
“Sherlock? Are you all right?” John hated how small and sheepish his voice sounded.
Sherlock would have been staring out the window if his blinds were open, but instead he was staring at the window. “I’m fine, John.”
“Then why do you look as though you have a thousand and one thoughts going through your mind?”
Sherlock gave the smallest of sarcastic smirks and John’s heart leapt to his chest. “I always have a thousand and one thoughts, John.”
“Never this distressing, I’m sure.” John slowly stepped forward to sit next to Sherlock on the bed. “If you won’t talk about it I will.”
“No.” John did not know where the sudden bout of bravery came from, but he was happy it had arrived. “Sherlock you scared me. I wish you would have trusted me enough to tell me where you were going. I would have helped.”
“You did help.”
“Yes, I did.” John stared long and hard at Sherlock. “Promise me you’ll include me in your little escapades, next time?”
“What is it? Why can’t you trust me?”
“I trust you implicitly, John.” Sherlock said, finally pulling his eyes away from the window and looking directly into John’s own eyes. The effect was paralyzing. “I only fear for your safety.”
“And I can’t fear for yours?” John’s voice was rising, and he did not care. “We’re either in this together, or we’re not. I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but I enjoy working with you like this. You are the closest thing to a best friend I’ve ever had, and I’m not losing you, now.”
John could not tell if Sherlock was touched by his words or not, but he found he didn’t much care. He needed Sherlock to hear them. Perhaps his words would influence him to keep John in his life, or at least John hoped.
Sherlock sighed and stood up. John knew the consulting psychic’s brain had to be moving a mile a second and he wished he could read his mind. Especially since Sherlock said something completely unrelated, next. “I hope you left me a bit of food, John. I’d like to eat.”
John took that as Sherlock’s way of saying everything was okay—especially since Sherlock agreed to eat, now. John swelled with happiness and didn’t mind if it was written all over his face. “There’s still some soup we can warm up!”
He gladly rushed ahead of Sherlock into the kitchen so that he could warm up the food. While the food spun around in the microwave, John went into the sitting room to find Sherlock perched on his usual chair.
“While we wait, can I take a look at your wrists?” John asked, moving around to the front of Sherlock’s chair.
Sherlock hesitated for a second, must have thought the better of it, and held his wrists forward.
John knelt between Sherlock’s knees and examined both wrists closely. The wounds had healed a bit from the antiseptic the paramedics placed on it, and the shower. John scrutinized over the still-raw wounds. “I’m going to put some ointment on them and wrap them up, if that’s all right. I don’t want you to get an infection.”
He stood up and disappeared into the bathroom for a second just to check the medicine cabinet for anything he could use. He found some gauze and a triple antibiotic and went back to tend to Sherlock’s wrists.
As he worked, he could feel Sherlock’s well-trained gaze on him, but it didn’t feel as scrutinizing has it had, before. He didn’t feel the same as when he first entered the trailer and Sherlock gave him a good look-over to find information on him. This time, Sherlock’s gaze felt softer and more relaxed.
“There,” John said, making sure the gauze fit securely around the wrists but not tight enough to restrict blood flow. “All finished.”
Sherlock held his hands up and flexed his fingers. He then reached his hand forward and John suddenly had his chin held in Sherlock’s astonishingly strong grasp. Sherlock moved John’s head from side to side.
“Does your lip hurt?” he inquired after a while.
John shrugged. “A little. I can’t properly smile, though. It pulls at the scab.”
“Then I will try my hardest not to make you smile.” Sherlock said.
John shook his head. “It’s hard to control what makes me smile or not, Sherlock.” He stood up quickly and moved to head back into the kitchenette to get Sherlock’s soup, but Sherlock reached a hand out to grab his wrist before John could go any further. John looked down at his friend.
“Thank you, John.” Sherlock said. John did not know how he knew, but he could tell that verbal utterances of gratitude would be few and far between for Sherlock.
He couldn’t help it. He smiled. “Ow! …. Sherlock!”
Chapter 11: The Final Showdown
The Final Showdown
When Sherlock heard the news of Moran’s escape from police custody he immediately kept his promise to John and woke him up. The smaller boy was asleep on the couch, and for good reason as it happened to be five in the morning.
Over the past two days, everything had been relatively quiet on the circus front. Lestrade had gathered a meeting in the big tent the evening before to announce that performances would be given again over the weekend. This meant that practices would begin again the next morning. Some of the circus folk grumbled that they hadn’t been given enough grieving time for Carl and Jennifer, while others were glad to get the show back on the road.
Sherlock was indifferent.
He knew that Moran’s escape could put a halt on the show’s production. Moran would inevitably go find Moriarty’s hiding spot. Neither Moriarty nor Molly had made it back to the circus, and for good reason. Sherlock was still under the impression that Molly was being held captive. Moriarty’s high opinion of her was the only thing keeping her alive at the moment and Sherlock hoped Moriarty was not doing anything to her less than appealing.
The severity of the situation gave Sherlock the excuse to wake John up from his slumber. He knelt down before John’s sleeping form and paused. Surely John would not know if Sherlock sat here and watched him for a second. The smaller boy looked so peaceful when he was asleep. Sherlock admired the way his nose curved at the tip in a much more rounded fashion than anyone else he had met. It set John apart from everyone else and he liked that.
He reached a hand out to smooth down John’s hair. It was sticking up on the one end from his tossing in his sleep, and Sherlock smiled when he could not get it to lie flat. He got so caught up in pressing the hair on John’s head, he forgot that the action would wake John from his slumber.
John’s eyes fluttered open and he gritted his teeth together in an effort to get his jaw back from the throes of sleep. Sherlock knew it would be another second or so before John knew what was happening, and he carefully made a mental record of John’s waking face. He did not know how often he would get to see it. Sherlock suddenly felt oddly sentimental. He pulled back his hand.
John reached a hand up and rubbed his eyes. “Mmm, good morning, Sherlock.”
Sherlock sat back on the balls of his feet and rested his elbows on his knees in a crouch. He would have answered with a ‘good morning’ but it was too trivial at the moment. He had much more ardent information for John—especially since five in the morning hardly counted as a proper morning, even by technical standards. “I’m afraid we have some disturbing news, John.”
John shifted on the couch and sat up, stretching his arms wide and yawning. “Well it’s nice to see you, too. What happened?”
Sherlock stood up, his mind shifting from John-mode back into case-mode. “Moran has escaped.”
John let out a heavy sigh. “Shit…”
“Moran will undoubtedly find his way to Moriarty. We need to get to them before they can get to us.” Sherlock said. He began his usual pace in the middle of the sitting room. He hadn’t the faintest idea as to the whereabouts of Moriarty. He could probably find something at the police station, but he knew it would be impossible to get inside. There had to be another way!
“We’ll need to go somewhere else for a while…” John said suddenly. Sherlock looked down at him in confusion. Why should they need to be anywhere other than here? His question seemed to be written all over his face. Sherlock sometimes forgot how expressive he could be accidentally. “Well, they’ll come to find us here. I don’t want to put the rest of the circus at stake. And if we move somewhere, they’ll be in the same position we are, right? No one knows where anyone is.”
Sherlock’s eyes widened. He grabbed the sides of John’s face in a fit of excitement and shook his friend’s head. “Brilliant, John! Absolutely brilliant!”
John looked as though Sherlock had literally just rattled his brains. He held the sides of his head in disbelief. “It was just a thought…”
“Come, John. Get your things. We’ll be leaving immediately.”
“Already packed,” John said and nodded his head toward the spare room. Of course. John did not own very many things.
“Right, John.” Sherlock smirked. “I said ‘get’ your things.”
John began a grin, but winced as he stretched his sore lip. Nevertheless, he went to change and grab his things. Sherlock moved to his own bedroom to pack a quick bag with just a few essentials.
“Sherlock!” John called out for him from down the hall. Sherlock could hear the shorter boy’s footsteps get closer and he turned around just in time to see John’s head pop in through the doorway. “It’s five in the morning!”
“Yes, it’s best to disappear just before dawn, don’t you expect?” Sherlock zipped his travel bag shut. “The rest of the world is just waiting to awaken, and we’ll be gone before anyone can even think to open their eyes!”
John shrugged to indicate to Sherlock that it was a decent point. When they gathered everything they could they stepped out into the night and Sherlock secured the door behind them.
All at once, a bright flash of light stopped them dead in their tracks. Sherlock shielded his eyes from the source of the light to see if he could see the culprit. To his amazement, there was an entire throng of people outside, which was the exact opposite of Sherlock’s assumed scenery for five in the morning.
“We thought you might be leaving at some point,” shouted a clear voice in the crowd. Sherlock picked it up immediately.
“Irene?” Sherlock squinted his eyes. “What the hell are you doing?”
“We know what you’re doing,” Irene said. Her voice changed as she called for someone in the crowd to turn off the light. When Sherlock’s eyes adjusted, there were more people gathered around them than he could see with the light on. “We want to help.”
“You can’t. It’s too dangerous.” Sherlock protested.
He felt a gentle touch on his arm. Sherlock looked down to see John giving him a small smile up at him. “That didn’t work on me, and it won’t work on them. Let’s give them a chance.”
Well, if John agreed to it, Sherlock would. “If they get in my way, John…”
“I know,” John said, “I can assure you they won’t.”
Sherlock doubted that, but he let John do as he chose, if anything, just to prove he trusted him.
John turned to address the crowd. “What do you propose?”
Irene stepped forward, smiling wide. She looked much prettier without her contortionist body suit. Her hair looked like she stepped out of a fashion magazine. Surely no one looked like that at this hour of the morning. Irene had been one of the few people at the circus Sherlock did not mind existed. “Well,” she said, her eyes shining. “We’re all just as worried about Molly. We want to rescue her. And it looks like you two have all the answers around here.”
“Moriarty has Molly.” John stated.
“And Moriarty attacked you two, we know. And we know Moran escaped.” Irene shifted her weight onto one foot. “Sherlock isn’t the only curious busybody in this circus I’ll have you know.”
Sherlock rolled his eyes, “Just get on with it, Irene.”
“I am, if you’ll just let me finish,” pouted Irene. “Molly lives with me, as you know, and I’ve picked up a few things. I have an idea as to where she might be, but I can’t be certain. I’ll have to have you take a look, Sherlock. I want to see what you come up with.”
“Very well,” Sherlock said. Surely Molly would have left some kind of clue in her trailer as to any outside properties that Moriarty owned or visited. It was an intriguing offer. Sherlock could not pass up an opportunity to investigate.
“But like you said, it’s dangerous,” Irene continued, “So that’s why I’ve got these guys.” She pointed behind her to the troupe of Chinese acrobats. “As you are already aware, they also have some martial arts training. In case that bastard has any more goons to dispatch, we’ll bring some goons of our own. And, speaking of goons, the clowns have agreed to bring in some brunt force. They have a personal vendetta against Moran for Jennifer’s death.” She looked to John to address him. “Jen used to be a clown, you know.”
“Ah,” John said.
“Anderson has offered for us to use his lion,” Irene mentioned casually, as if she were hoping someone would either poke fun at the ridiculousness of the situation or possibly take it seriously.
“Did he, now?” Sherlock raised an eyebrow. “Did you tell him that he’s a total prat?”
“Not in those words, no,” Irene grinned. That was another reason why Sherlock liked her. Their mutual distaste for Anderson made her slightly less annoying than other people.
Sherlock turned to John. “John, gather these people up and make sure they are properly armed. I am going with Irene to her trailer.”
He felt a tug on his sleeve as John shook his head. “I’m not going anywhere without you.”
At any other time, Sherlock would have felt touched, but time was of the essence, here. He placed one hand over John’s and gently pushed his fingers from his coat sleeve. “I promise I’m just going to Irene’s trailer to gather data. I will be back.”
John did not look convinced. He glanced around at the crowd of performers and back at Sherlock. He swallowed noticeably. Sherlock sighed and leaned in close. “You wanted my trust, John, and now I must ask the same of you.”
That appeared to do the trick and John let Sherlock go.
Together, Sherlock and Irene raced toward Molly’s trailer. Along the way, Sherlock gathered some more details from Irene about Molly’s disappearance. Molly had disappeared the night Carl died. Irene, Mary and Molly had all left together to investigate the death of Carl, but Irene and Mary came back alone. Neither of them saw where Molly went, but did not think it bad enough to report since Moriarty was gone, too. They thought they were giving the two of them some privacy by not pressing matters.
“Let us hope that will not be her undoing,” Sherlock growled low in his throat. Irene was silent in response, no doubt thinking the same thing.
When they reached the trailer, Irene immediately showed Sherlock a few pieces of evidence she thought were key, the most important of them being a shipping order from a nearby warehouse. Apparently Moriarty had given Molly a few presents in the past, and this one had been shipped directly to her trailer. She had opened it in haste and left the shipping order out.
Sherlock could have jumped up and down like a child at Christmas. “Irene, this is perfect!” He grabbed her by the shoulders and spun her around. “There’s an address, here. It’s a nearby warehouse. If I know Moriarty, he wouldn’t spend too much if he did not need to. It’s not like he would spend 50 million quid just to get me to come out and play.” Sherlock folded the shipping order and put it into the pocket of his coat.
Irene looked taken aback, “I’m going to admit, Sherlock, I thought it was going to take a bit longer than that. We haven’t even had a proper search about the trailer!”
Sherlock barely heard her. He was already half out the door.
In no time at all, Sherlock reunited with John and let him know of the best possible place for Moriarty’s whereabouts.
John held a hand up in defense, “Hold on, Sherlock. I’m not saying that you are, but what if you’re wrong? We would be dragging all these people around with us just to chase some fancy notion you have.”
“I’ll go ahead,” Irene spoke up. “I’m quick and limber. I can get in there as recon and let you know when it’s clear. One gal can sure travel faster than the lot of you.”
John nodded, and if Irene could have disappeared into a cloud of smoke, she would have. Sherlock was very thankful that she hadn’t. She exited through the door, instead.
While they waited for a call or text from Irene, John and the other members of the circus searched the grounds for weapons to use. Sherlock felt as though he were leading an army, and did not much care for the reigns. He let John assume a commander role. He even conducted his business much like an army general. Everyone listened to him.
Sherlock stood in the background and kept his hand over his phone in his pocket. He watched John from afar. The shorter boy was definitely in his element. He had a strategy all set: the best fighters would go in and distract any goons, while the others did a search for Molly to free her. So long as Sherlock could get a good swipe at Moriarty, he was good. He felt like he did not need a weapon. He was relatively good at boxing in school—he would love nothing more than to give Moriarty a few good uppercuts.
The familiar buzz of his phone vibrating brought Sherlock back to the present.
He’s here. 15+ goons. They’re planning something. ~*IRENE*~
Sherlock scoffed at Irene’s annoying signature and put his phone away. He had no trouble catching John’s gaze. John came jogging up to Sherlock’s side carrying his weapon of choice: a shovel. Sherlock thought it was a good decision—a shovel worked very much like a pike or a spear. Sherlock had seen John’s work with a mallet and felt a shovel would allow for much more damage—especially if he had to fight Moran again.
Sherlock flashed John the text message.
“All right,” John nodded, getting prepped. “I think we’ll have enough force to take them. I hope they don’t have guns.”
Transportation was easy. Mike Stamford came forward with one of the buses the circus used for lighter shows. It was a tight fit, but they made it work. Sherlock found himself pressed up against a window with John at his side at the very front of the bus.
He felt ridiculous. He hoped every case did not end like this. He would have liked to get Moriarty alone rather than deal with this whole getup. He felt as though they were going on a field trip or on a group holiday. He did not care if he outwardly looked like a sulking teenager glaring hard out the window, because he was.
The only good thing out of the entire situation was John’s close proximity. As if on cue, John reached a hand out to pat Sherlock’s knee. “We’ll get them, Sherlock.” He said with a reassuring smile.
“I’m glad to see your lip is feeling better,” Sherlock muttered.
John reached a hand up to the cut on his lower lip. “I honestly haven’t noticed it. The cold must have numbed it. Or the adrenaline. This is a bit exciting isn’t it? It almost feels like we’re taking a trip!”
Oh god, how impossibly dull. John loved this for all the reasons Sherlock hated it.
Sherlock was glad when they pulled up a few streets away from the warehouse. Sherlock would die from embarrassment if he had to pull up to the front of the warehouse and unload like a clown car. The resentment and anger building up inside him from the insanity of the situation was more than he had ever experienced in his life, and it was a frightening amount.
John led the way, much like that army general leading his troops to battle. Sherlock hung back. He wanted to be able to take a back entrance of sorts. While everyone caused such a large commotion out front, he could sneak into the back and get some real work done.
Sherlock was correct in his assumptions. When the angry mob reached Moriarty’s location, all hell broke loose. Despite the organization that went into the gathering in the beginning, the expectations did not meet reality. The onslaught was sloppy, but nevertheless effective. It served as a perfect distraction.
Sherlock found an open window near a fire escape as it was a two-tiered warehouse. In no time at all, he reached the top and stole a glance inside. The second floor of the warehouse did not cover the entire floor plan. Instead, it acted as a large all-encompassing balcony. Moriarty stood at the top of it, alone from what Sherlock could tell but he knew better. Moriarty was busy yelling orders from the top floor down at his minions.
For the first time, Sherlock was glad the attack was so unorganized. Obviously Moriarty’s men had not been caught by surprise so John’s army did indeed have the upper hand.
Sherlock knew that Moriarty would not be anywhere alone. Moran had to be close by. He couldn’t rush in at the failed magician without knowing he would have backup. Surely John would have noticed that Sherlock was not by his side by now. John had been so adamant about staying next to Sherlock that it was a valid deduction that John should be worried.
He stood in silence for a few minutes, waiting for his chance, and then it happened.
John had found a way onto the balcony, brandishing his shovel like a madman. He was covered in grime, the cut on his lip re-opened and he sported a new gash on the side of his head. With a great yell, he lunged for someone in the shadows Sherlock couldn’t see from the angle he was standing—no doubt Moran because Moriarty tore his attention from the fight below him to the fight that came toward him.
With Moran’s attention taken from protecting Moriarty, Sherlock made his move.
He hopped over the open window ledge. He did not need to worry too much about the noise—the deafening sounds of the battle below drowned most of his footsteps. He came right up to the back of Moriarty and poked him hard in the back.
“Don’t move,” he bluffed.
Moriarty stopped yelling at Moran and John and laughed, instead. He turned around to face Sherlock. “Don’t be daft. I know that’s not a gun.” He lifted a hand and hit Sherlock hard across the face before Sherlock could react.
Sherlock raised a hand to his mouth to wipe a trickle of blood that had formed, there and turned back to Moriarty. With one quick movement, he returned Moriarty’s smack with his much anticipated uppercut to the jaw. Moriarty went down fast.
When the mastermind got up again, he brushed his clothing off in the process. Sherlock had definitely punched the smirk off his face. “Do you even know how much this suit cost?” complained Moriarty.
“I could honestly care less,” Sherlock growled as he made a move to grab Moriarty by his tie.
“Ah ah ah, I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” Moriarty was smiling again, but it was strained. He called behind him, “Sebastian! Have you finished with that hobbit, yet?”
Moran only grunted and Sherlock looked past Moriarty to see how John was faring. Both men were more cautious in their fight this time. They were circling each other, both waiting for the other person to make the first move. John held his shovel out in front of him like a sword.
“Seems a bit busy,” Sherlock said through gritted teeth. He shoved Moriarty against the railing of the balcony and bent him backward over the edge. “What have you done with Molly?”
“Why does Molly matter to you?” Moriarty spat. “She never did, before.”
Before Sherlock could answer a female voice sounded somewhere level with them. Sherlock glanced around until he saw Irene brandishing a chain. “Thought you two could use a bit of help.”
Sherlock continued to pin Moriarty down, but he nodded his head toward Irene. He hoped she would get the indication that she needed to help John more so than Sherlock. When she looked like she got the idea and made her way toward John, Sherlock took his opportunity to push Moriarty harder against the railing.
Before either man could say anything else, a loud creaking noise caught their attention. Their combined weight on the railing was causing it to lose its stability. Sherlock could have let go of Moriarty and saved both of them from falling onto the second floor, but that would have given the mastermind an incentive to escape. No, Sherlock could only see one option.
He looked over Moriarty’s shoulder to the ground below. This was a warehouse, and it was not entirely empty. Their fall would be broken by wooden boxes and other various objects. There was a very good chance neither of them would make it out of the situation alive. If the fall did not kill them, getting stabbed through the torso by a massive splintered piece of wood would certainly do the trick.
“Don’t let go, John! Just hold steady!”
Irene’s voice rang over second floor. John had jumped onto Moran’s back and had both hands on the handle of the shovel—which was tucked under Moran’s chin, blocking his air flow.
Sherlock set his jaw. Now was his chance. With Moran going down by John’s hand, Sherlock could finish off Moriarty. He leaned forward and the railing creaked once again. Moriarty stopped struggling under Sherlock at the noise. They both knew what it meant.
“I swear I will take you down with me,” Moriarty growled through a clenched jaw. He reached both hands up, dug them into Sherlock’s hair and pulled.
The movement caused Sherlock to lose his balance and he fell on top of Moriarty, causing their combined full weight to be too much for the railing. Sherlock struggled to regain his balance, and knocked Moriarty out of his way, but could still feel himself slipping. With a resounding CRACK the wood splintered around them.
Sherlock could hear his heart beating in his ears.
This was certainly the end.
Chapter 12: Sometimes, Luck Works
The unofficial song for this fic is "Any Other World" by Mika. It goes best with this chapter and the next. It is most definitely my headcanon song for the Sherlock/John relationship!
Look it up. I assure you, you will not be disappointed.
Sometimes, Luck Works
John’s world spun around him. He could feel Moran’s muscles weaken beneath him. With Irene’s encouraging words, John held on tight to the shovel and held it back with as much strength as he could muster. He had been very thankful for Irene’s presence, as she had single-handedly caused Moran to lunge toward her and given John the opportunity to get behind the strongman.
Two on one was not exactly fair, but he was not complaining.
When Moran sank to his knees, John knew the big man was losing consciousness. Irene reached forward and caught the lumbering man before he fell face first onto the floor. They set Moran down gently. He was unconscious and still breathing, but he would no longer be a threat if they could get a hold of Moriarty.
John whirled around to face where Sherlock had Moriarty pinned, but what he saw caused a cold grip to settle on his stomach.
Instinctively, John struggled to get up and ran in a staggering fashion toward Sherlock and Moriarty. The world moved impossibly slowly.
The railing had split and both men were almost suspended in animation as they fell off the balcony. John knew his legs would not get there fast enough. He knew he would be too late. That did not stop him from trying. Even as he ran, the world blurred around him so that Sherlock was the only clear thing he could see.
He was not aware that he was even screaming Sherlock’s name. He only knew that he needed to reach his arms outward—to try and catch that trailing coat or a leg, an ankle, a foot, a toe—anything to keep Sherlock from falling from that impossible height.
He gave up running and jumped toward the edge of the floor, but when his body connected with the landing, his hands came up short and his fist clenched on air. There was a sickening crash and silence fell.
The cacophony that had once filled the warehouse now left a silence so thick, it was deafening. Everyone stopped their fighting and looked toward the rubble. There was no movement. There were no moans.
John feared for the worst. His heart caught. He stopped breathing.
“…. J… John.”
The voice was quiet and strained. John finally dared to move just to see from which direction it came. He knew that voice. He would never forget that voice. Relief flooded his entire body.
“John, you daft fool. Help me up,” Sherlock’s voice sounded even more strained than ever and John looked under the floorboards.
Hanging from a rafter holding up the second floor was Sherlock Holmes. When he and Moriarty had gone over, Sherlock’s last minute struggle had given him the proper angle to twist and grab onto something and catch his fall. But his grip would not hold forever.
John hastily braced himself and reached both hands down to haul Sherlock up. Even with their combined efforts, it was nearly impossible. What with the damage done to Sherlock’s wrists, it must have been a very painful couple of seconds.
A delicate hand reached down and took hold of Sherlock’s forearms and John knew Irene had come to their rescue for the third time that night. Together, they hauled Sherlock up, over the railing and back to safety.
Once Sherlock was safely on solid ground, again, Irene stepped back to give him room, but John continued to tug on Sherlock until the taller man fell directly on top of him.
John did not let go.
He did not mind Sherlock’s weight on him. He could not feel it at all. He wrapped his arms around his friend in an embrace and buried his face into Sherlock’s navy blue scarf. Sherlock smelled of dust and soap and sweat.
“I thought I lost you forever.” John did not care if the words sounded horrible and cliché and straight out of a dramatic romance novel. It was the honest to goodness truth.
Sherlock chuckled next to John’s ear and said softly, “I wouldn’t dream of such a thing, John. I have no intentions of dying just yet.”
John was very thankful Sherlock did not pull away from him. He was well aware as to how he was acting, but Sherlock had given him the scare of his life—more so than the scare he had given him just a few days ago. If Sherlock was going to spend the rest of John’s life scaring him to death, well, John did not want to think about that at the moment.
Instead, he was too busy trying not to let the relief wash over him in large amounts at a time. The emotional overload was a little bit too much to bear and he almost caught himself sobbing. He hadn’t meant to start crying. He hadn’t cried in years.
He also hadn’t felt this close to anyone, including his own mother.
“I’ve lost everyone important to me,” John said, trying to keep his voice even, “I couldn’t lose you, too.”
“I’m important to you?” Sherlock sounded genuinely surprised. John could not imagine why.
“Of course you idiot. You’re the most important thing in my life.” His words were muffled slightly against Sherlock’s scarf, but he knew Sherlock could hear the words perfectly fine.
Sherlock was silent and thoughtful and simply let John hug him.
The moment would have been perfect, but John could hear the tell tale signs of Moran stirring. Such a tough man could not stay knocked out for long. Both John and Sherlock pulled away from each other and scrambled to sit up.
It did not take long for Moran to assess his situation, spot both Sherlock and John and make a lunge for the two of them. John braced himself to pull both himself and Sherlock out of the way at the last minute—much like a bullfight, but Moran’s charge suddenly stopped cold.
Irene stood behind the strongman, holding a two-by-four that had broken off from the wooden railing. She had hit Moran on the back of the head in an almost comical fashion. John would not have doubted it if Moran saw actual stars before he fell to the ground, knocked out once again.
Irene frowned at the now still body of Sebastian Moran. “Poor guy must have nearly ten concussions by now.”
When Sherlock and John came home, John said rather loudly that he thought his shared trailer with Sherlock was the most amazing place in the entire world. Everything looked comfortable. Everything looked cozy. Everything looked like a place John could curl up and sleep. Sherlock could not have agreed more.
And so John did not waste any time bothering to shower or take off any of his clothes. The moment he was out of his shoes and his coat, he collapsed onto the couch and fell asleep immediately.
Sherlock was not so lucky. His mind raced over the events of the evening. Some memories stood out more than others. He was very grateful for John’s embrace after everything was said and done because John’s touch had helped Sherlock blot out the wide-eyed look of horror on The Magnificent Professor Moriarty’s face that had burned itself into the back of his eyelids.
In the end, they were saved by Lestrade who had been tipped off by a member of the circus crew. In order to avoid the police, they had to move quickly and leave a lot of evidence behind—evidence that Mycroft would no doubt cover up.
Most of Moriarty’s men had fled the scene, anyway, so by the time the police arrived, it looked as though there had been a gang fight, and the police treated it as such. Mycroft urged the media to press that story, instead of the truth. That was the exact reason Sherlock did not meddle in politics.
Sherlock did wonder, however, how the circus could survive after a scandal like this. Surely Mycroft would have to throw in the towel, now. Not only did several of his crew get murdered, but they were murdered by the circus’s poster boy. Moriarty was supposed to be a role model to children, not the stuff of nightmares.
And then there was Molly. Her nightmare was long from over. She had a look to her that suggested she would never be the same again, even after the physical wounds had healed.
No, the Circo de Pastel was ruined.
But, like so many other things, that was not Sherlock’s problem. No, Moriarty was gone and Moran was behind bars again. Molly was rescued, Carl and Jennifer were avenged. The case was solved. So why did Sherlock still feel as though he had work to do?
He let his mind race as he changed out of his dusty clothing and into a nightshirt. He knew he needed to get some sleep. If he could sleep everything would look different when he woke up. He crawled under his covers and pulled them up to his chin, but it was no good. Every time he closed his eyes, he saw Moriarty’s last facial expression.
When he opened his eyes again, his first thoughts always went back to John. He had enjoyed that impromptu embrace in the warehouse. After skiving off death, Sherlock had wanted nothing more than to hold onto John just to remind himself he was still alive and he could do it.
A more sentimental man would say that Sherlock had seen death and therefore realized life was too short for regrets. Sherlock was no sentimental man, but he was a man who acted on urges simply because he could. He threw off his covers and marched into the living room with gusto. He just knew, somewhere deep inside, that if he held John again, his mind would stop pounding off into a million different directions. He would have peace. He would have John.
He knew John would be sound asleep, but his presence alone had become a comfort to Sherlock.
At first, Sherlock sat in his usual chair and watched John sleep. Then, he decided that was not enough. He decided he needed to be closer.
Very carefully, Sherlock stepped over John’s sleeping figure on the couch and slipped his slim body behind John’s. He effectively sandwiched himself between the shorter boy and the back of the couch. John’s back was warm, and Sherlock knew he would have no need for a blanket.
He tentatively placed one arm around John’s waist in a proper embrace from behind. He was pleasantly surprised with how well his arm fit in the grooves of John’s jumper, and settled his head down just at the back of John’s neck. John had an earthy smell to him, and something else that was distinctly John and Sherlock loved it.
This time, when Sherlock closed his eyes, all he could see was John. John, who always grinned at him as he told a joke. John, who would follow Sherlock wherever he led. John, who made sure not to disturb any of Sherlock’s experiments. John, who had saved his life, twice. John’s hair, John’s eyes, John’s nose, John’s smile.
John, who had said Sherlock was the most important thing in the world to him.
Finally, Sherlock relaxed and welcomed the arrival of sleep.
John woke with a start. He had been having the oddest of dreams (mostly involving a certain detective-type), but he had been in such a deep sleep that he hadn’t moved an inch on the couch. The first light of morning crept along the floor from the windows and John thought maybe he should get up, but he was just too comfortable.
He could not feel Sherlock behind him at first, but he noticed the heat right away. The couch had a warmer, softer feel to it, and he swore had been bigger, before. Then he heard Sherlock’s even breathing.
John really did not want to move, now. He did not know whether he should get up and disturb the sleeping Sherlock, or simply go back to sleep. He certainly did not want to ruin the moment.
He tried to remember the night before. Had he gone to bed with Sherlock like this? He could not remember. He remembered them leaving the warehouse together, and he remembered walking into the sitting room, but he could not for the life of him remember saying anything to Sherlock, let alone fall asleep. Had he and Sherlock done anything? A quick check that his clothing was still intact gave him peace of mind.
Well, whatever had brought Sherlock to hold him like this, John certainly wished it would happen more often. He had let himself go the night before. In the light of Sherlock’s second near-death experience, John had let all inhibitions go and nearly blurted out that he was in love with Sherlock.
And he was. He knew he had been attracted to the taller boy right from the start. Hell he was nearly head over heels for him since the moment they accidentally held hands. Looking back, he saw this, now, but had no idea it was happening to him at the time. John enjoyed it—the surge of emotion that hit him in waves from head to toe. It made him feel more alive than chasing criminals around circus grounds.
He decided to shift himself so that he could rest more comfortably against Sherlock’s chest. Sherlock gave a soft murmur in his sleep that John found endearing. He closed his own eyes and pretended they were detectives together, living in a flat in London. By day they solved crimes and by night, they had each other.
Before he knew it, he had fallen back asleep.
When John woke up again, his back felt empty, bare and cold. The sound of clinking glass told him that Sherlock was in the kitchen. How had John not felt him get up? He rolled over on the couch and buried his face into the cushion. Now he really didn’t know how to act! Did he go into the kitchen like nothing had happened? What was his relationship with Sherlock? Did anything happen at all? What were they? Did Sherlock treat all his friends like this? John doubted it, but he could not bring himself to any conclusions about which he was certain.
In the end, John pulled himself from the couch, stretched, and lumbered sleepily toward the kitchen. At the very least, he could pretend like nothing ever happened. That was the easiest conclusion.
Sherlock was making tea. There was milk on the counter. It was a smallish container, because they probably would go through it quick enough, but John was touched by the gesture that Sherlock would get some milk.
When Sherlock noticed John’s presence, he gave him a quick nod that really did not answer any of John’s questions and poured him a cup of coffee. “How much milk do you take?” he asked.
Apparently Sherlock was going to play it off like nothing happened, either. The coffee gesture was nice, but John could easily attribute that as a ‘thanks for saving me from dying’ move. John shrugged and answered, “Not much. Just a small amount, enough to take the bitterness away,” and add a creamy edge to his morning cup, he added silently.
Sherlock took his time making the coffee and John felt an awkward silence between them. He was not entirely sure that the silence was awkward to the both of them or only to him, but it was almost too painful to bear. He let Sherlock brew the bitter liquid and instead retired to the sitting room again where he began to absent-mindedly pick up a bit of clutter.
When Sherlock finally brought the mugs into the sitting room, John had stacked nearly all of the loose papers he could find. Sherlock eyed the straightened mess with some secret sense of humor and handed John his mug. John took it with an air of defiance.
“You know, it’s hard to believe that just a few days ago you were making me tea for the first time,” John teased, trying to break the ice that he felt was there. Sherlock looked like he was enjoying every minute of watching John squirm.
Sherlock brought his cup to his lips and spoke over it. “It’s not that hard to believe, John. It happened. You don’t need to romanticize everything.”
John’s jaw dropped with the hint of a surprised smile. “Sherlock are you using sarcasm?”
Sherlock responded by taking a sip of his coffee.
John pretended Sherlock was serious and shrugged, “Fine, you’re right, Sherlock. It was silly for me to bring it up like that. I was only recounting my amazement for how far we’ve come in such a short time.”
“Do you regret it?”
John felt as though he were undergoing some kind of investigation. Sherlock’s eyes were sizing him up. He felt a little small. “Not a bit. You?”
“Very nearly the best decision I ever made was to allow you to stay in my trailer,” Sherlock said.
“Very nearly?” John teased.
Sherlock smiled a small smile, took another sip of coffee, and ignored the tease in John’s voice. “Perhaps even the most important one.”
John caught that. He felt the heat rising to his cheeks when he remembered how overly emotional he had been the night before. “I thought you had forgotten.”
Sherlock gave him an incredulous look. “I never forget anything worthwhile.”
John was quiet. He did not know what to say next or how to proceed, so he smiled to fill the pause. Then he checked the time. It was getting late. “Well…. We should probably get dressed. We’ll have to deal with the aftermath of this whole event.”
He downed his coffee as quickly as he could without burning himself.
When John made his rounds, everyone in the circus treated him like a hero. He no longer felt like he was a stranger, watching everyone as if through a window, but instead he felt more like a friend. Both he and Sherlock had done the circus a great favor, and even though Sherlock was not letting himself take the credit, John basked in it for the both of them.
John’s medical skills were very limited, and some of the performers had sustained a number of injuries from Moriarty’s gang. He took it upon himself to take a look at those he could help, but in the end he felt more like a big brother caring for the skinned knee of a small child. During a particularly grueling fight between Hilton Cubbit and some peroxide, John found that his duties had been relieved by an actual doctor.
Her name was Sarah Sawyer and she had one of those smiles that lit up the room so bright, no one needed to pay for electricity. John liked her immediately. He shadowed her around for a while, in a way that he thought was very inconspicuous.
She seemed to think otherwise. At one point, she stopped stitching up a very pretty Chinese acrobat to turn around and look at John and asked, “You interested in medicine, or something else?”
John turned around to make sure she was talking to him. He even pointed to himself and made the ‘me?’ gesture. Sarah rolled her eyes. “Well, I uh….” John stammered, “In a perfect world, I’d like to be a doctor someday, yes, but that’s just not in my future at the moment.”
“I’m not supposed teach anyone. I am not qualified for that,” she said slowly. John wondered for a moment why she even bothered talking, then. But she added, quickly, “However, I am fully entitled to think out loud and have no control whether or not someone can hear or see me.”
John grinned. He liked Sarah even more, already. He felt better having unpronounced permission to watch her work. Her hands moved over the skin quickly and efficiently. She did not need to worry about causing pain because a local anesthetic had been applied.
“If I may ask…” John said after some time, “Why are you here? I mean, how…?”
Thank goodness Sarah knew what John was trying to ask. “My firm has worked with the Holmes’ family for years,” she said with a laugh. “If you have money, you can bend the rules.”
John knew exactly what she meant. This entire escapade was being hidden under the careful planning and strategy of one very influential Mycroft Holmes. John wondered just how many other strange plots and cover-ups were made every single day. Now that he had just been part of something secret, he wondered how spectacularly ignorant he had been about some things his entire life. He vowed to look at the world differently from that moment forward.
John spent the entire day learning from Sarah. She helped him quite a lot without putting her job on the line. The much less serious jobs like disinfecting and triage were given to John so that Sarah could place more of her attention on the more serious of injuries.
John was in the middle of wrapping a minor skin abrasion when Sarah leaned over to admire his work. She smiled. “You would make a fine doctor, you know.”
“Me? Really?” John was floored.
Sarah nodded. “And your bedside manner is impeccable.”
John flushed with pride. A real doctor had complimented his amateur work. He wanted to tell someone, and knew that the only someone that really mattered was Sherlock. Sherlock would be happy for him, surely. And if not happy, then perhaps slightly pleased or something of the sort.
When their work was finished, John made his way back his trailer to wash up when he ran into a very sullen Sherlock. All thoughts about gushing over his newfound friend and perhaps even job or school or even scholarship reference vanished in a hazy fog when he saw the look on Sherlock’s face.
Sherlock wasted no time in getting right to the point—something that John had come to love about him, but in this case, he did not quite like it. “If you like her so much, why don’t you ask her out?”
The question was petty and childish and usually reserved for school-grade children. John also did not much appreciate the tone of Sherlock’s voice. He frowned back at Sherlock, wondering how Sherlock even knew John had been with her all day. “She’s a friend, all right?”
“You two seemed quite chummy for two people who have just met,” Sherlock countered.
John furrowed his brow. “Oh, and we’re not ‘chummy,’ Sherlock? I’ve known you, for what, a week? And already I—“ John caught himself mid sentence and turned a bright red. That would have been embarrassing.
Sherlock did not miss, it though. He did not miss anything. His voice was unreadable. “You… what, John.”
“I think of you as my best friend,” John rolled his shoulder in a circle to brush off his comment as casual. “So… Sarah is just a mate, but you’re my best mate, okay?”
The corner of Sherlock’s mouth turned upward and he relaxed considerably. It was almost as if he could read beyond John’s words, but John was not ready to say anything. He was barely comfortable with saying it to himself. Sherlock just had to go and be impossibly interesting and appealing and wonderful.
“All right,” Sherlock said, as if he was giving in to something completely horrible, but his facial expression said otherwise.
John had the strongest urge to reach down and take Sherlock’s gloved hand, but he held back. Yes, he had woken up with Sherlock spooning him, but he was convinced that had meant a lot of things other than what he had wanted it to. If John could not be in denial about his own feelings, then he would be in denial about Sherlock’s.
“Let’s just go home, yeah?” John said, and stormed off toward their shared trailer.
He could tell Sherlock was following him because when they reached the trailer, Sherlock placed a cold arm on John’s shoulder and gently moved him aside to unlock the door. John tried to storm inside, but Sherlock stopped him.
“You don’t have to be so visibly angry all the time, you know,” he said softly.
John growled and shoved past Sherlock. He never knew why Sherlock made him so angry. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that John felt like he could not properly act on his actions, but maybe it was because Sherlock’s strange possessiveness was so infuriating. Either way, when John went inside, he shut himself in the spare room with his things and did not come out for a long while.
To give himself something to do that did not require thinking too much about Sherlock, John folded and re-folded the clothes in his bag. It did not help, however, because his mind stayed tuned to his friend, no matter how hard he tried. He sighed and thumbed the seam of a pair of jeans.
He was hopelessly lost in the feeling. He felt flattered that Sherlock was so possessive of him, but the thought that anyone could come to have feelings for John in such a short time was impossible. John wondered what it would be like to kiss Sherlock. He wondered if Sherlock would be able to deduce all the ways in which John wanted to be kissed. He wanted Sherlock to care so much it hurt.
Chapter 13: Loose Ends
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Sherlock thought John was being phenomenally stupid.
Any man with eyes could tell that John liked Sherlock. John’s facial expressions and body language basically screamed in invitation to Sherlock. Sherlock wondered if John even knew it was happening, himself.
The problem was that Sherlock did not know how else he could spell it out to the short boy. He had allowed John to hug him for more time than was decently necessary. He had fallen asleep with him on the couch. He had shown an adequate amount of jealousy at Sarah’s sudden arrival, and still John pouted and moaned and whined that Sherlock did not love him—that Sherlock did not care.
It would have pissed Sherlock off if he didn’t find it so amusing.
He thought, maybe, he should tease John a bit more. He should say something endearing, or touch John in a certain way that would send him reeling, and then the next minute, pull back and do something utterly platonic. If John were a volcano, he would lose his lid and erupt spontaneously, and Sherlock would have loved to see it happen.
He knew it probably wasn’t a good idea to be mean to someone he cared so much about, but Sherlock didn’t properly care. John wouldn’t mind, in the end, if Sherlock ever cared to explain his actions, so long as the end result was favorable.
So while John sulked in his bedroom, Sherlock put his plan into action. He began to pick up his own bedroom a little bit. He did not completely clean the entire room—that would have been absurd. Instead, he tidied up a little—made sure all trash was thrown away and gathered loose articles of things into neat stacks.
He then made the bed, because that was paramount to his success in tricking John.
Although, he hoped his little game would end up in his favor, it was in his experience that every joke, even a sarcastic one, had a little bit of truth in it, otherwise the speaker would not have told the joke. Sherlock hoped he was not giving John too much credit in hoping he would figure that bit of information out.
When John finally came out of the room, Sherlock had grown tired of waiting and brought his laptop into his bedroom and set it up on the bed. It had taken another round of annoying bits of effort on his part, but it was worth it to see the look on John’s face when he realized Sherlock had not only picked up his room but got his laptop by himself. If John had told Sherlock he was proud of him for being a big boy at that moment, Sherlock would have been expecting it.
“What’s all this about then?” John asked as he leaned against the doorframe. His arms were folded and he had resumed his sullen look.
“I knew how to function before you were here, John,” Sherlock said casually. “Don’t tell me you were enjoying waiting on me because I could very easily ask you for a cuppa—“
“No,” John held up a hand, “that’s quite all right, Sherlock. I’m good, thank you.”
“Great!” Sherlock said and pulled himself into a more perpendicular sitting position. He had his pillows propped up on the headboard so that he would be more comfortable. “Come over here, I want to show you something.” He made a show of patting the bed next to him.
If anyone could fight a blush, it was John. Sherlock could almost see every tiny fight the smaller boy was having in his head. The woolen cable-knit jumper he was wearing threatened to rip from the back due to the amount of pressure John was placing on it as he grabbed the material in his folded hands and all but hugged himself to keep himself from going anywhere. “I’m supposed to be mad at you,” he said.
“Nonsense,” came Sherlock’s rebuttal. “You’re over it or you wouldn’t have come out. Now sit down, or I’ll have to make you, myself.”
“Oh?” John raised an inquiring eyebrow, “and how do you propose that happen?”
Sherlock honestly hadn’t thought that far ahead for once, but he gave John such a look that the shorter boy felt as though he had no choice but to climb into bed with Sherlock.
John’s hesitant form tentatively crawled onto Sherlock’s full-sized bed and he sat a bit cross-legged a good distance from him. “What is it that I need to see?”
Sherlock frowned, but inwardly he was smiling. John was playing his part beautifully and making this so much easier. “Come closer, John.”
“But Sherlock, I—
“—CLOSER.” Sherlock reached an arm out and pulled John toward him. John fell awkwardly toward Sherlock but managed to catch himself on his arm. In his haste to regain some dignity, he happened to catch sight of Sherlock’s open laptop—just as Sherlock had hoped.
John froze in place. He rested his upper body on his elbow and had to lean his head into Sherlock’s side in order to see.
“What is that?”
“I thought I should make an account any cases we work on, in case I decide I should like to pursue a career in this path in the future.” Sherlock explained. “And then I realized that I should probably start a website considering the technology age and all—and here we are. What do you think?”
John leaned in toward and squinted his eyes to see the font over the harsh light of the monitor. “Sherlock, you’ve given the bare minimum of details.”
“As it should be, John. Nothing else is necessary,” Sherlock explained with an air of enthusiasm and pride for having performed a job well done in his eyes.
John sighed and rubbed his eyes before sitting back up, “I can rewrite it, if you like, Sherlock. I can turn it into a proper novel, complete with suspense and all the right action scenes. Somehow, ‘and then we caught Moriarty in the warehouse and put an end to his crime spree’ doesn’t quite cut it.”
Sherlock tried not to feel offended. John was only offering constructive criticism. It didn’t work. “There you go romanticizing again.”
John reached for the laptop. “Let me re-write it!”
Sherlock pulled his computer away from John’s grasp and held it high in the air, “No! Maybe on your own time and in a place where I can’t see it.”
John continued to grab for the computer and Sherlock quickly snapped it shut so that he could hold it in one hand and grab John around the waist with the other to hold him back. John was determined to get the laptop, then, probably more out of principle than anything, and caused Sherlock to fall sideways on the bed as well.
With the two of them lying on their sides, with their arms over their heads—John reaching for the laptop and Sherlock withholding it from him, they were completely unaware of how close their bodies had become. Sherlock set the laptop on the ground because his long arms could set it down without causing any damage.
John rolled onto his back and started laughing, his hands resting lightly on his stomach. His jumper and shirt had been pushed up in the struggle and a small strip of skin was visible. Sherlock didn’t move from his side-lying position and continued to watch John laugh. His original plan and been to tease John to the best of his ability on the bed.
He had wanted to experiment to see just how far he could make John blush before either one of them had had enough.
He wanted to see if he could convince John of his feelings with only his actions and thereby cause John to make a move.
He wanted to ask John to stay in the bed with him that night, instead of the couch. They could face away from each other if felt too uncomfortable. Sherlock slept much better with John in the room with him.
John had finished laughing and caught Sherlock staring at him, so he stared back. Sherlock did not know how long either of them held the gaze, but he knew that he did not mind how many minutes had passed.
John was the one to break the silence. “You all right?”
“Hmm,” was all Sherlock would say. Moving his mouth to form words was too much work at that moment. He was content to just watch John for a while. All sabotage plans drifting from his mind as if they had never been created.
John propped himself up on his side again, and rested the side of his face on his hand. “Care to elaborate?”
John was not going to let Sherlock stay quiet, apparently. Most of Sherlock did not mind, though. He thought of about a trillion and one different things he could say, mostly because that amount of thoughts and more were dancing in his head.
In the end, his desire to tease John won and he blurted out, “Do you really think my writing is rubbish?”
John’s face fell and Sherlock took great delight in it.
“Sherlock….” If John would ever get close to whining, that right there would have been it. Sherlock felt the soft stare of John’s gaze searching all over his face. It swept over him like a feather duster, bouncing off his cheekbones with a light tickle. He swallowed, hard. “Can we talk about the pink elephant in the room?”
Sherlock furrowed his brow, confused. “Pink elephant? Honestly, John do you make up words?”
John smiled into the palm of his hand, then glanced over to Sherlock. “You’ve never heard the term? A pink elephant is a topic two or more people are aware of but is explicitly avoided during conversation.”
“I can’t imagine what kind of topic you’re trying to avoid,” Sherlock said casually. He could keep playing ignorant all night if it were possible. It was fun mostly because of the faces John made. Sherlock could tell the rage was building up again. He really shouldn’t get off on something so cruel, but he knew the moment he gave in, he would never have the chance to carry on with it, again. “You just don’t want to say out loud that you cannot stand my writing. I’m afraid I must inform you, my dear John, that I do not consider myself an artist by any means. I fail to understand the importance of poetry and prose for entertainment. If one must make something lyrical, one should compose music. If one must write, one must write to inform. If it were up to m----“
John cut Sherlock off by reaching forward with his free arm, pulled Sherlock toward him by the back of his head and mashed their lips together.
By kiss standards, it was mediocre. John did not know how to apply the right amount of pressure and Sherlock felt like his lips were being smashed against his teeth as if they had done something wrong.
Sherlock did his best to try and pull John back to prevent any further bruising, but John’s hand fisted in Sherlock’s hair and held his head in place. It was a horrible thing to break a moment as intimate as the one John no doubt was playing in his mind, but Sherlock was growing increasingly uncomfortable and he finally placed a hand on John’s chest and began to shove him away. “Mmmmfffohn! John!”
Sherlock managed to break free and John finally pulled back to let them both breathe. John’s cheeks were flushed, his hand was still buried in Sherlock’s hair, and his lips were parted slightly as he caught his breath. Visually, it was an incredibly appealing sight to Sherlock, and he did his best to mentally record it.
His lips, however, needed some tending to, and he widened his mouth to stretch them out a bit and get some feeling back. “You kiss nearly as well as I write, John.”
Sherlock had meant the comment to be amusing, but John did not think so. He removed his hand from Sherlock’s hair and sat up on the bed. “I don’t know what I was hoping for, but that sure as hell wasn’t it,” John muttered. He made a movement to get up.
“John, wait,” Sherlock sat up with John and reached a hand out to stop him from leaving. He exhaled loudly. It was time to stop teasing John and just claim him already. In his mind, John had been his for days, now, but he needed to make it outwardly official—especially due to the benefits he would no doubt receive from the union.
The two of them were sitting side by side on the edge of the bed. Sherlock took John’s hand in his own and laced their fingers together. Surely John would understand that non-verbal. John’s features softened and Sherlock knew his message got through.
“John,” Sherlock started. He needed his words to not sound cheesy but he also needed them to not sound rehearsed. “John, I can’t work with anyone else.” He took a deep breath and tried to elaborate. He wanted to give John a full discourse on exactly how he felt, but the words would not come.
John gave Sherlock’s hand a squeeze. Finally, finally he understood the sentiment. “I can’t work with anyone else either,” he grinned. “Including female doctors who are way too old for me,” he added, his lighter, joking side finally coming back.
Sherlock was very thankful for John gracefully handling the situation after failing so miserably only moments before. John seemed to just get Sherlock. He understood Sherlock’s need for privacy and inability to express emotions, and he just dealt with it. John’s massive capacity to care for Sherlock no matter what the cost touched Sherlock more than the fact that John had saved his life, already, on multiple occasions. That very same trait caused Sherlock to fall for John, hard.
In a moment of clarity, Sherlock reached upward to run a hand through John’s hair and down his cheek. He had wanted to really feel John’s hair beneath his fingertips for a long time, and now he could. John’s hair had the rough quality of velvet and the smooth quality of silk all at once. John closed his eyes and leaned into the touch, so Sherlock took that opportunity to press in forward and hover slightly over John’s lips and tickle them with his own, causing John to freeze.
“We’ll try this again, then, shall we?” Sherlock whispered against John’s still lips. John made a noncommittal noise in the back of his throat. There was no doubt from either party that the response was a positive one.
This time the kiss was softer, with just the right amount of pressure. One kiss led into another and another until Sherlock could no longer tell when one kiss ended and another began.
While this is the end to THIS story, I am open to writing one-shots based on different time lines in the future. I have also had several ideas for an epilogue.
I am also working on a Molliarty side-fic based in this universe.
So, if you want to know what happens one month, six months, or even one year down the line, let me know?