It was seventeen minutes before five in the morning, November, windy and sleeting. The body was long cold, but the blood hadn't yet reached such a colour and consistency as to agree with Anderson's time of death. The moisture in the air, the chill, the slight shelter from the wind afforded by the skip: "Four hours," Sherlock said. "Not more."
He exchanged his gloves for latex ones and knelt beside the body. "Italian, from northern Italy, perhaps Milan, but not a tourist. He'd lived here several years, close by. He was on his way home. Someone's stolen his shopping, not the killer, at least an hour after."
"How could you possibly--" Anderson started.
Lestrade held up a hand. "In the interest of not freezing our bollocks off, I'll take your word for it this time. At least until tomorrow." He yawned. "Christ. Later today, I mean. Anything else? Like where his head's got to?"
"Nowhere nearby. Either still with the killer or disposed of carefully. The killer had a specific purpose in mind for it, brought wrappings along for it and a bag of the correct size. It was likely the primary motive for the murder."
"He was looking to get a head in life?" John muttered.
Anderson glared. Donovan snorted with poorly concealed amusement, which made Anderson glare at her instead.
Sherlock turned his attention back to the body, but John lingered in his mind: hands in pockets, no gloves, hunched up against the wind that funneled down the alley. John stood, in fact, directly between that wind and Sherlock. It would've been brighter to stand against the wall where he might have some shelter.
"He's a chocolatier," Sherlock added. "Or a pastry chef, but there's a shop a quarter mile from here, Cioccolata, that makes their own truffles." He glanced up at Anderson. "That's chocolate under his nails, not dried blood. You won't find any defensive wounds on the killer." Adding 'you idiot' was probably unnecessary this time. Surely it was implied.
"You've got no evidence of that," Anderson muttered.
"If you can't smell the difference between blood and chocolate--"
"I'm not a dog, I'm a scientist--"
"All right," Lestrade said. "Anything more?"
Sherlock rose and draped his scarf around John's neck. "No, that's--" He paused at John's faint pleased sound. "That's all."
"Get on home then. Come in around nine," Lestrade said.
He nodded and took John briefly by the arm to steer him toward the main road.
"How is this thing so warm?" John said, plucking at the scarf. "It's like you hung it on the radiator. And put your gloves back on, you're still wearing the corpsey ones."
Sherlock raised an eyebrow. "Corpsey?"
"Related to or having to do with corpses, obviously."
John was smiling. Sherlock knew it without looking, but he looked anyway, to see it. He handed John his own gloves and rolled the cor-- the latex ones inside out to shove into his pocket.
"Have you got pocket warmers in there? Tiny space heaters?"
"It's not that cold."
"It's sodding freezing, you lunatic. Do your coat up."
"I'm fine. Get us a taxi."
John yawned. "I can't just pull one out of my arse. I don't keep taxis there. You can't go giving away your scarf and gloves and then walk around with your coat flapping open."
Sherlock sighed. John always needed things spelled out. Well, everyone did. Sherlock didn't mind quite as much when it was John. He stopped walking and cupped John's face with his hands. John's eyes closed briefly, presumably in reaction to the heat against his chilled skin, and then went wide.
"I am, as you can see, quite warm," Sherlock said. He let his hands drop and nodded up the road. "And that is a taxi."
John merely stood there with the same wide-eyed expression and his mouth hanging unattractively open. Sherlock had to hail it himself.
It was a quiet ride back to Baker Street. Sherlock spent most of it reflecting on his recurring theory that people who couldn't keep warm in this sort of weather perhaps simply weren't trying hard enough.
Sherlock had found the head by three that afternoon, which left him two hours for the experiment with the scorpion venom before John got home from work. It took an ungodly number of scorpions to produce the required amount of venom, and it wouldn't do to be distracted while milking them. He'd just finished the last when he got the text.
on my way home, had a shit day, for the love of god and gory murders, make me tea
Sherlock didn't make tea for John. Sherlock didn't make tea for anyone, including himself. Other people, often John, made tea for Sherlock. It was a state of affairs he'd never questioned until now. Still, he was done with the scorpions. He could call down to Mrs. Hudson--
and don't bother mrs hudson, her hip's bad today
That was true. Sherlock had heard the uneven quality of her steps. She would still do it if he asked.
Sherlock frowned at his phone. John could not possibly know him that well. And Mrs. Hudson would have it done long before John got home.
Ah, John didn't know him that well. Sherlock put his scorpions away and, on impulse, put the kettle on. It was hardly difficult, after all. A brief search revealed teabags, and the milk still had three days to go before its sell-by date. By the time John walked in, Sherlock had even discovered a small cache of chocolate digestives.
"It's horrible out," John announced. "Everyone's ill, and I likely will be too. I took a sneeze right to the face. There's nothing quite like having someone else's mucus on you. A bit got up my nose."
Sherlock gave that due consideration. "That might well be the most disgusting thing I've ever heard, John."
"I'm so proud." John spotted the tea, and his whole face lightened. His smile started with his eyebrows and migrated down to his eyes, where it settled in without quite reaching his lips. "You did do it."
Sherlock thought about telling him he'd been wrong, but John had the mug up to his face, breathing in steam, and no answer seemed to be required. Anyway, he had a suspicion John would insist he'd been right simply because Sherlock had, in fact, made the tea.
"Do we have anything to eat?" John said. "And what I actually mean is, we'd better find something because I'm not going out in that again."
They had instant porridge with brown sugar and milk, more tea, and a large bowl of microwave popcorn balanced precariously on the crack of the sofa cushions between them. Sherlock had wanted sugar on it, but John had given him a look of such horror that he'd given in with little argument.
John put on the television. It was something in the genre of Idiots Shouting at One Another. Sherlock couldn't be bothered to distinguish one of them from the next.
"Thanks for the scarf," John said, when Sherlock was done explaining why the boy was clearly adopted. "I took it to work, I'm afraid."
There was a pause while the show climaxed and reached its denouement of sobbing and hugs.
"How did you know about the dead man's shopping?"
"Sainsbury's bags are distinctive. It'd frozen to the ground in that puddle and there was a bit left behind. Also, the man's hand was clearly curled around the handle before the thief disturbed his grip."
John nodded agreeably and set the empty bowl on the floor. He pulled the sleeves of his jumper down over his hands. "Is the heat even on? S'cold in here."
"I hadn't noticed."
"Because you're your own radiator, apparently. Fireplace. Hot water bottle. Something."
Sherlock glanced at him. His eyes were closed, and he had his head tipped onto the back of the sofa, not a comfortable position, as Sherlock knew from experience. "Are you quite well, John?"
Only moments later, he started to snore. It was a gentle sound, a sort of rhythmic snerk, snerk, snerk, whoosh that repeated every seven seconds. Sherlock recalled that Lestrade had awoken them at half past three, and that John's sleep requirements were far more extensive than his own. Clearly there would be no more mockery of television hosts tonight. John became irritable when Sherlock woke him up and there was no danger to be had.
He was about to stand and leave John to it when the latest whoosh in John's cycle was attended by a slow collapse to the side that left him leaning solidly against Sherlock's shoulder. John made a pleased sound and wrapped an arm around Sherlock's stomach.
This was an unexpected development. Sherlock looked down at John's head, ear pressed into the hollow of Sherlock's shoulder, nose partially flattened against his chest. His hair, damp when he'd come in, had now dried at odd angles. Sherlock touched one tuft in an effort to smooth it down, but it popped right back up again. John's hair would be as stubborn as he was.
He was quite intelligent in many respects, but there were certain things he simply would not see sense about, which was why Sherlock had packed away the scorpions well before he got home. Poisonous creatures were on John's Thou Shalt Not Bring into the Flat list. All sorts, not just arachnids. He'd not been pleased at all about the swamp adder.
Sherlock's coat was draped over the back of the sofa where he'd dumped it when he came in. He pulled it over John and watched him duck his head so that only his hair was visible above the collar. It was mildly alarming when cold fingers found their way between the buttons of Sherlock's shirt and pressed against his skin, but they warmed soon enough.
"What is it about you, John?" He said it quietly, almost a whisper; John was generally a light sleeper, though perhaps not at the moment.
John hummed softly and slid his cheek against Sherlock's chest. John's body turned toward him, pressed into him, made itself quite at home. He was warm enough now, a heavy weight against Sherlock's side, boneless and pliant. Sherlock traced the path of John's spine from the small of his back up to the neck. He let his hand rest there.
In nearly all respects, John was so horribly ordinary it ought to be physically painful simply to be in the same room with him. Here, though, was evidence that he was not: Sherlock hadn't shoved him off yet. Probably wouldn't. One couldn't ignore evidence.