Sherlock stopped to tighten a string, listened to the soft clicking of John’s fingers across the keys of his laptop for a moment before raising the violin to his shoulder again.
John’s rhythm is off.
The note Sherlock drew from his violin was long, low and wistful, in a minor key. The vibration of a string could often convey what air playing over vocal chords could not. Sherlock’s eyes swept over the street outside the window as he played, noted the angle of refraction of the traffic lights on the wet pavement, pictured the way John had held himself on the train from Dartmoor, the tension beneath the seemingly relaxed posture. Nothing so simplistic as arms crossed over his chest for what John was feeling.
Sherlock’s serenade, and without irony, he called it that to himself, had begun with a lied by Schubert, but the lyrics scrolling through his brain had been oddly distracting. Sherlock had filed the reaction away to be examined another time and switched to his own adaptation of Beethoven’s String Quartet in C# minor, no. 14. As he did, he turned from the window to observe John. John wouldn’t recognise the pieces, wouldn’t be troubled by the morbid connection. That would not be the reason the usual half-smile he wore when he wrote up a case was absent.
Sherlock swayed towards the window, continued to watch John’s reflection in the rain-splattered glass as the adagio unwound. Moriarty would have understood all the connections. Duelling with another mind which ran quicksilver like his own was exhilarating. Moriarty’s interest had flattered, despite the violent means employed to express it, until the violence had been turned on John. John, who travelled at a different speed, managed to arrive in very surprising places, taking shortcuts known only to his mysterious heart. Moriarty had been surprised, too. Sherlock had seen it.
The plaintive adagio gave way to the livelier second movement. There had always been Mycroft, of course, part mentor, part rival, able to follow the twists and turns of Sherlock’s mind much of the time, but Sherlock had rebelled against Mycroft taking the lead when still a child. Mycroft had never adjusted to how early in their relationship that had happened. One corner of Sherlock’s lips twitched. Mycroft hadn’t been able to predict John either, hadn't been able to buy him. That hadn’t surprised Sherlock, although the cash would have been useful.
Sherlock saw John glance over the computer screen at him, saw his head move slightly as he followed the movement of the bow for a moment before he returned to writing. The music was drawing John in, his shoulders already less tightly hunched, but the scowl persisted. He hadn’t gauged John’s reaction accurately at all. Since John first offered his phone in the lab at Bart’s, Sherlock had been experimenting on him, intrigued by the way John hid a part of himself behind his apparent transparency. Up until now John had merely been mildly annoyed at some of Sherlock’s efforts, at others mildly amused. Nothing like this. Sherlock’s calculations about John factored in John’s emotions. He had miscalculated before. John's reaction to his impatient punch had been a surprise, but that hadn't been an experiment, merely expediency. Still, emotions were volatile variables and the drug had changed them, complicating the equation further. If he hadn’t known the quartet so well, Sherlock might have paused. The drug had affected Sherlock’s emotions, too, doubly distorting the data.
The bow leapt into the third movement and Sherlock swayed towards John again. John’s brow was furrowed. Sherlock’s eyes narrowed as he considered it. John enjoyed capturing their adventures in words. He often smiled as he typed, his eyebrows lifting when he found a particularly apt phrase, his face lit by the glow of the computer screen, animated by his memories of being with Sherlock. John was not smiling now, his typing halted and limped along, where his fingers usually capered over the keys. John was censoring himself, Sherlock concluded. Sherlock’s bow glided through the fourth movement, the notes delicate and high. John hit the delete key several times. It had not been the hounds in Baskerville that had proved the greatest mystery and John was struggling not to chronicle what was most engaging his mind.
John had revealed his middle name while sitting in the same spot, irked into speaking by Irene’s palpable attraction to Sherlock. Irene’s brain had been attractive to Sherlock, too. Sherlock’s interest in it had confused her and John. Irene had thought Sherlock wanted her body as most people she dealt with did. They wanted it as part of a fantasy she could invent for them, bringing an addictive flash of creative colour into their drab little minds. The technicolour landscape of Sherlock's mind needed no such additions. She had put her intellect to far less destructive uses than Moriarty. Sherlock had enjoyed impressing her, but not as much as he enjoyed impressing John. Sherlock had stopped Irene's studied words from mingling with his memories of John’s pure exclamations of praise. Sherlock’s fingers flew into the fifth movement. Irene had posed a challenge and Sherlock loved a challenge, loved to win, especially against a worthy opponent. There were so few.
Sherlock plucked the strings of the violin. He had turned Irene’s desire against her, bested her at her own seductive game, consisting of predictable manoeuvres, but requiring delicate execution. Sherlock plucked the strings again. He appreciated her enough to save her, had enjoyed her amazement when he had, savoured that what would have been her last thoughts had been of him. Sherlock’s smile grew. That was evidence of a significant impact on someone. Lestrade and his whole pack agreed with that view. These had been sufficiently sincere compliments for him and the rescue had paid Irene back for her opportune telephone call to Moriarty. Sherlock had been satisfied with his victory.
The sweet notes of the sixth movement sang through the room. Playing the role of a pining lover had convinced everyone, convinced Irene that she could manipulate him, that he wasn’t any threat to her. He had glimpsed John’s face when he said, “Composing?” and had had to turn away. John’s concern was visible on his face, audible in his voice along with exasperation and jealousy. He should compose something for John. Sherlock’s mind latched onto the idea as his fingers danced into the seventh movement. What shape would a composition for John take, a march, a rhapsody? A concerto, a nocturne? Sherlock considered the key. Major would be the obvious answer, but it wouldn’t express the darker elements in John’s nature. A suite of songs perhaps, some necessarily in minor keys.
Sherlock studied John’s reflection. John had paused in his writing again, was staring at his hands. John wanted to do something with his hands other than type, Sherlock deduced. Something he was unsure about doing.
Sherlock lifted his bow and shut his eyes as the reverberations of the last note faded. It was time for the next phase of the experiment. He lay his violin in its case and walked to the sofa, quietly arranging his long limbs over its leather cushions rather than collapsing on them in his usual, noisy manner. He didn’t want to interrupt John’s thoughts. John was thinking of him and the thoughts were not all positive. Sherlock pressed his hands together on his chest, the fingertips resting against his chin.
“That’s finished then,” John said.
Sherlock didn’t move. He listened, eyes closed, as the chair creaked and knew John had looked over at him. He wondered how long it would take John to understand.
A few keys clicked, then silence. A flurry of taps, the rhythm of Sherlock’s name being typed out. Quiet. John’s breathing was deep and slow, careful breathing. Another flurry, Sherlock’s name again. John was addressing the other part of the story and it wasn’t easy for him.
I did not mean to hurt you, John. Trying the drug out on you was the next logical step. Sherlock often experimented on himself. When did you become mine to use, John? Sherlock slipped back through the months to the beginning. In the lab at Bart’s, he’d glanced at John, knew immediately why Mike had brought him there, then John had offered his phone. Sherlock had taken a moment to assess John and decided he would accept his offer. John had protested later, apparently not realising that he had offered more than the use of his phone. Sherlock came back to explain a bit, showing John far more patience than he did most people because he had concluded John was worth the effort. That was it. Offer and acceptance. The deal was done.
Five taps. The last hit slightly harder than the others, a full stop. Silence.
Sherlock waited. For John, he continued to have more patience than for anyone else.
Seven taps. The last a full stop. Quiet. Two words, Sherlock’s name once more. Four keys, hit hard. Sherlock turned on his side to face John, eyes still closed. After a long pause, John typed several more words, the last Sherlock. John’s breathing was changing. Often, John’s body spoke for him when his conscious mind would not. Sherlock opened his eyes. It had taken John a long time to catch up, but he was almost there.
John shut his laptop and stood. Sherlock’s eyes followed John through the shadows as he made his way across the room.