This will be too easy, Sherlock thought as he raced into the kitchen. He instantly noted the closed doors and knew the time used to open one of them would ultimately lead to his defeat. Going around the main table and back into the living room seemed the only real option. Adding an obstacle for John would be advantageous in such a small space, he decided.
Reaching out, Sherlock pulled one of the breakfast table chairs into the area he had just vacated and continued on. He was confident John would take the shortest route and come directly behind. It stood to reason since John was always following Sherlock. Therefore, he should instinctively do the same now. Unfortunately for Sherlock, he had forgotten the tactical training John had learned whilst in the army.
Being able to think like the enemy had been a practice the army doctor had excelled at and, since joining Sherlock’s business, the consulting detective had witnessed this skill working to their advantage time and again. He had never considered it might be used against him. Yet, as he headed towards the right hand corner of the kitchen, Sherlock saw he had once again underestimated his friend.
John had not followed in his steps once they had entered the kitchen. While Sherlock had moved the chair, John had noticed the closed doors and known his flatmate would need to follow the only natural path available. So, when Sherlock turned to face the living room once more, he came face to face with the one he had tried to avoid. Before he could even begin to consider another course of action, calloused hands grabbed hold of his forearms.
Inhaling in surprise, Sherlock wasn’t exactly certain if it was being caught or John’s hands on his person that had caused his reaction, his mouth dropped as John leaned closer.
“Pieni,” he declared, a smug grin on his face.
“John,” Sherlock answered, while wondering how the skin John was currently touching could feel warmer than the rest of him. It wasn’t rational, he determined, not rational at all.
“Admit it Sherlock, I got you.” John moved forward and gave Sherlock no choice but to step back until he felt the chill from the refrigerator’s metal seep through his shirt. “I caught you fair and square. Now you...”
Sherlock found it difficult to swallow as John rose his face up, his voice lowering to a whisper.
“...have to catch me!” On the final word, John stepped away and took off with a chuckle.
Feeling a bit bewildered, Sherlock pushed against the refrigerator to help him move forward. It seemed John felt confident in his ability of evading his pursuer in their living room. As he stood against the door frame, Sherlock saw his friend was in front of the right window, near the sofa and coffee table. The only movement visible were the crinkles in the corners of his eyes that twitched as he smiled. But Sherlock wasn’t easily fooled. He knew John was only waiting to see how he would be approached before the choosing the direction in which to run.
Which way, which way, Sherlock pondered.
To move towards the middle of the room meant John would slip between the sofa and coffee table. Since any papers and books pertaining to their last case had been cleaned and put away there was nothing to prevent a quick escape. It seemed the best choice for his opponent. However, if he moved between the two pieces of furniture himself, that would only leave space between the corner of their worktable and coffee table. John would have to slow down briefly in order to miss both and Sherlock could reach out and easily snag him. He was certain this was the best course of action.
Decision made, he wasted no time moving briskly towards the man currently grinning at him in a cheeky manner. As he took his first step to the right, he watched as John remained in place. As Sherlock continued, his pace accelerated. When he stepped between the sofa and coffee table, John darted to his right and, placing his hand on the work table, jumped onto it and scrambled hastily across the flat surface. Shock caused Sherlock to slow for an instant, but he pressed on as he threw out his right hand to try and grab for any part of John he could possibly reach.
His fingers met air as they missed by mere inches. Sherlock’s shin hit the corner of the coffee table and he silently cursed as he watched John stand, now on the opposite side of the table he had just climbed over. Watching John manoeuvre himself between the chess table and Sherlock’s chair, Sherlock moved towards him. While cleaning earlier, John had moved his flatmate’s violin to the top of the chess table and he was now slowed by his concern for the instrument and the possibility it might fall. Not wanting to risk damage to the piece, John turned sideways.
This gave Sherlock time to reach the front of the fireplace as John passed it by. Now, when Sherlock’s hand reached for cotton material, it connected. He grabbed a fistful of the back of John’s shirt and did not let go. Being stopped so unexpectedly, nearly took John’s feet out from under him. Neither moved until Sherlock began to lightly pull his right hand back towards himself.
“John,” he taunted, as he deliberately reeled his catch in.
Sherlock was convinced the grin still had not left John’s face and there was a sudden warmth in his chest. Foolishness, he cautioned himself. Yet, even then his hand continued until it was sandwiched tightly between his ribcage and John’s back. He could feel John’s breathing.
Leaning down he placed his mouth beside John’s left temple and whispered, “Pieni”. He heard John gasp before letting go abruptly. Turning around, Sherlock ran swiftly to the open door and tore down the steps.
Five extra inches in height meant that, in a more open space, he should outdistance his friend without any real effort. Yet John had not only been limp free for the past year, but had also been Sherlock’s partner in crime solving. This meant the miles they had run together had helped John lose any softness, or slowness, he might have acquired those first months after returning from Afghanistan. John could keep up with Sherlock quite easily and even, at times, pass him by. This fact was impressed upon Sherlock just as he reached the first landing. John was already clattering down the stairs himself.
Taking the chase outside would not work for three reasons, the detective felt. Two had to do with the people who might happen to see them acting in such a manner. Lestrade was known to show up unexpectedly, at times with Donovan and Anderson in tow, and he could be certain Mycroft’s CCTV cameras were watching his every move as well. But it was the fact that neither he nor John were wearing shoes that made Sherlock choose Mrs. Hudson’s flat as his safe haven.
With John fast on his heels, Sherlock continued down. Feeling it might gain him a much needed lead, he jumped over the final three steps. Grabbing the very edge of the banister, he used it to swing himself sharply to the left.
“Mrs. Hudson!” he yelled.
Screeching to a halt in front of their landlady’s door, he seized the handle and turned it hard, ready to make a dash around the older woman, and was surprised when it refused to open. He frantically tried again but the result was the same.
“She’s not in,” he heard behind him. “Went out with Mrs. Turner earlier to see the St. Patrick’s Day festival at Trafalgar Square remember? She told us her plans yesterday.”
Sherlock turned his head to see John at the foot of the staircase. No chance of escape, Sherlock watched and waited. This must be how a mouse feels, he thought, briefly pitying the small animal.
John walked slowly towards him while raising his hands in front of him, at shoulder level, his fingers slightly curled downwards. Sherlock recalled the iconic image he had once seen in the silent film Nosferatu Mycroft had shown him when they were children. The thought vanished when John marginally lowered his hands and began to wiggle them while raising his left eyebrow. Sherlock could not help but smile.
Seeing his friend’s expression, John began to move his fingers in a more exaggerated manner. By that point, there was no use for it. The man many believed to be heartless and cold burst out in laughter. It wasn’t the fake or controlled laughs John was used to hearing. No, this laugh was true.
Knowing failure was unavoidable, Sherlock continued to laugh as he turned his head back to Mrs. Hudson’s door and leaned his forehead against the glass. Each creak in the floorboards alerted Sherlock to John’s exact location. But he found the auditory clues weren’t necessary since he was certain he could ‘feel’ him with each step. Every time John’s foot made contact, Sherlock knew the hairs on his arms stood to attention.
“I believe I have a right to say Pieni. Don’t you agree?” John asked.
Sherlock felt a light tap on left shoulder. Not able to speak properly, he nodded his head. Turning around, he found John about to fall into a fit of giggles.
“All right,” Sherlock made his way to the staircase. “All right, you win,” he conceded.
He lead them up the staircase and as John reached the first landing, Sherlock quickly turned, tapped John on the head, yelled out, “pieni!” and continued upwards, his feet barely touching wood. John followed, and if Mrs. Hudson had been home she would have heard her boys laughing once more.
Sherlock reached the top of the stairs in record time and had soon re-entered their living room. This time, however, he immediately took the stairs that lead up to John’s room. Throwing open the door, he moved to the middle of the room, turned and then stopped.
John had slowed his speed halfway up to his room but still managed to surprise Sherlock when he threw his arms around his friend and pushed him onto the bed. Not letting go, John followed his friend. Sherlock soon found his wrists held lightly and his legs straddled, John smiling down.
Sherlock knew his current position should have had him pushing John away and striding from the room but, strangely enough, he was...content. Content to look up at John and wait.
John’s expression faded to one of fondness. It was a look Sherlock had glimpsed briefly in the past but now it was close to him and he felt the need to reach out and touch. Moving his hands out of John’s grasp, he brought them up to the face above. He saw John look confused until the tips of his long fingers began tracing where the crinkles had been a short time before. Sherlock was happy to find fondness directed at him once more.
John hesitantly lowered his head until their faces were only a breath away from one another.
“Small one,” Sherlock murmured.
“What was that?” John queried.
“Small one, it’s what your Nan used to call you. What she’d say when you were young and played the game with her. ‘Pieni’ is Finnish for ‘small one’.”
“Yes, yes it was. Nan called me that until the day she died when I was twenty-five years old. But how did you know?” Sherlock opened his mouth to answer. “Never mind, it was for a case wasn’t it?”
“Yes, jewels belonging to the President’s wife were stolen. It involved a white Bengal tiger and some –“his words were stopped.
Sherlock found John’s lips as soft as he had imaged previously. Not that he would ever admit to thinking such a thing. Now it was not a thought but a known fact. John’s lips were soft and, when his tongue darted out to touch Sherlock’s bottom lip, the detective was convinced that thinking could be done at a later time when such interesting things were occurring at that moment. Despite being inexperienced in such matters, he had always been a quick study and it wasn’t long before both men were pulling back for air.
“So, I guess playing a children’s game wasn’t so terrible after all was it?” John leaned his head against his right hand while his left buried into the curls behind Sherlock’s ear.
“I suppose the idea had merit after all.” His hands dropped to John’s waist and, finding the shirt had come untucked, he slid them over the smooth skin he was now allowed to touch.
John moaned before dropping his head to Sherlock’s right shoulder. “Minun pieni,” being said in his ear brought John’s head up quickly though and a suspicious look to his face.
“What was that?” he challenged, trying to ignore the roaming fingertips currently distracting him.
“Hmm?” Sherlock asked with a sly grin.
“The only person who ever called me that was my Nan as a term of endearment. Let me assure you Sherlock Holmes, that there is –“ a hand massaging one of his buttocks caused John to close his eyes briefly in bliss. Inhaling quickly he forced himself to continue. “There is nothing little about me. And if you don’t find yourself believing that then I guess I’ll have to do something about that won’t I?” He gently ground his hips down onto Sherlock’s.
“Oh John...” with a wicked smile on his face, Sherlock raised his head, “please do”.