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The Serial Baker

Chapter Text

John was rubbing at his bad shoulder as he walked through into the flat, weary from his long shift at the surgery. Despite the extended hours he had not had a minute’s break, having to gulp down coffee and sandwiches between patients – all of whom had ridiculous complaints, either because they were completely nonexistent or were strange and extreme. He was very much looking forward to sitting down with a good cuppa, provided Sherlock hadn’t used up all the tea bags again in the name of science.

He walked past Sherlock, who was bent over some strange contraption that John didn’t really want to think about right then, and into the kitchen. The kettle filled and put on to boil, he leant back against the counter and yawned. Then blinked.

“Good evening John,” Sherlock said, breezing past him to wash a bright orange fluid from his hands, “The basket contains twelve strawberry jam tarts addressed to you – well, contained. I took two out to Bart’s, one to test and one for Molly. They are completely toxin free and Molly says they’re delicious,”

Frowning, John took a few steps over to the aforementioned little basket, peering inside. Ten homemade tarts were nestled inside on the purplish-red silk lining. He lifted one, looking at it from all angles before taking a hesitant bite. He hummed in appreciation, going back to his tea-making. “Where did they come from?”

“Not a clue,” Sherlock said simply, flashing him a smile and scrubbing his hands dry, leaving orange smears on the towel. John shot him a look.

“I know full well you can deduce it,” John pointed out, “There’s got to be plenty of clues in there. The basket, the ingredients, the handwriting on the label...”

“The label was printed with a vintage Remington typewriter,” Sherlock said offhand, throwing the towel over his shoulder and grabbing a mug to place pointedly in front of the kettle. John assumed he wanted tea and placed his own teabag straight into the empty mug to fill it. “I don’t have time to deduce, John, I have things to do. Experiments. The tarts were off some sort of admirer,”

Sherlock reached and took the tea while John was still stirring the sugar into it, dashing out into the living room again with his dressing gown flowing behind him. John heard an exclamation of success shortly after, along with some strange clunking sounds. He didn’t want to know. He picked up his mug and the tart, sparing a glance for the basket’s label – curiously, it read ‘James Watson’ and nothing else. Not his name but clearly meant for him. – before going up to his room to rest away from whatever Sherlock was up to now.

---

John’s long shifts were every Thursday. He was surprised to return to the flat a week after the tarts were delivered just as exhausted to find another basket, identical to the previous one and bearing the same label, waiting for him in the same place on the kitchen counter. This time it held nine chocolate brownies and the goo on Sherlock’s hands was green. Sherlock had again taken one to Bart’s and split it in half, some for Molly and some for the microscope. They were just as delicious as the tarts, and John savoured the taste.

Sherlock still refused to deduce anything for him. He just said that they were from the same admirer, who could be termed a serial baker if John received another gift the next week.

He did. Eight miniature Victoria sponge cakes. Sherlock still refused to deduce, throwing a ‘serial baker who admires you, see?’ over his shoulder as he left a yellow-streaked towel behind him.

John sat in his room that evening, enjoying one of his latest gifts and staring at one of the empty baskets with a furrowed brow. His pen tapped against the notepad he had fished out. If Sherlock wouldn’t deduce for him, he would deduce for himself.

Whoever it was knew where he lived. That much was obvious. And if they knew his address, they must have some links to him personally. But why were they calling him James, if they knew him? You couldn’t admire someone well enough to bake for them once a week without knowing their name. IT just wasn’t what people did.

The baskets, then. They were quite simple and mass-produced – oval shaped, smaller at the base, handles on the long edges, made from pale straw. Except for the silk lining. He reached out to finger the material, trying to place where he had seen it before. The colour tugged at some sort of memory. Something familiar...

He cringed as the fabric came loose in one spot, lifting it up to get a better look. It was tucked in place. Not attached. Cheap baskets which were self-customised by their sender, then? What could that tell him?

Sherlock would probably say that the fabric was added to make it more personal, and something about the fabric itself should give away who the sender was. The colour, the material, trying to trigger a memory...

“John!” Sherlock exclaimed happily, bursting into the room with his Triple Murder Grin. He saw the basket and pulled a strange face. “Oh you’re not still trying to work that out, are you, it’s so blatantly obvious... Come on, Lestrade has a case for us. Three missing ferrets and a body off the coast of France,”

John gulped down the last of his tea, got to his feet, and stretched with a sigh. It looked like he wasn’t going to get any rest after all.

---

Their strange case landed them in Bart’s again, like they all seemed to. Sherlock was dashing about running tests on a batch of sawdust, and John was watching him from across the room. Molly came over and handed him some coffee, smiling. John smiled back in thanks, about to take a sip when he noticed something. Molly was wearing a purple silk top.

Frowning and taking a breath, John looked up. “Molly... You wouldn’t happen to have been baking recently, would you?”

Molly kept her smile, but her eyebrows drew together. “I don’t know what you mean,” she said, fiddling with an earring. Odd that she was wearing them at the lab, they looked expensive.

“Ah, it’s okay. It’s just... I’ve been getting these baskets of baked things lately, like cakes, and I was just wondering if maybe-“ he said, trying not to sound too insensitive. He saw her eyes fly open, hand flying from her ear to her mouth.

“Oh! John, I-“ she stuttered a little, going a bit pink as she nervously glanced over to Sherlock and laughed. “Sorry, that’s not me. Really. You’re lovely and all, I just mean...”

“It’s fine, it’s fine!” he rushed to assure her with a smile, seeing her cringing as she dug a little hole. “Don’t worry about it. It was your top that made me think, is all. I’m useless at this deduction business,”

Molly smoothed down the top, looking at it for a moment. “Does it look okay? I’ve got a date tonight, I’m not sure about it though...”

“You look amazing, Molly,” he told her truthfully, hoping that this date wouldn’t continue the streak of criminals and alcoholics and bastards who just wanted to use her. He sipped from his coffee wearily.

“Thanks, John. You’ll work it out. I’m sure you will. You’re on the right track,” she suddenly broke off again, cringing, reaching for her mouth as though she could pull the words back in, “Oh! I mean... I don’t...”

John frowned and was about to question her, beg her to tell him who it was, when Sherlock shouted out something or other in French and started running for the door. John followed with a curse, determined to follow up with his questioning later.

---

Next Thursday, it was seven large cherry and cinnamon cookies. Eight originally. One for testing and Molly, who still knew more than John could hope to guess, and still refused to tell him anything about the baker. It wasn't her place, apparently.

“James...” he muttered to himself the Thursday after, stacking up the baskets. He had removed the tags and one piece of silk, and was writing on the back of one of the tags: thank you very much, these have all been delicious, do you want the baskets back? John. He had resolved to leave them just outside their door before he went to work, not knowing what to do with them. He kept the silk and three tags for himself, but he had decided a little communication was in order. It wasn’t Molly or Mrs Hudson (“oh no dear, I don’t bake” she said with a knowing smile) and it certainly couldn’t be Sally or Anthea, who else could it be? He needed more of a clue.

He returned home that night to six cherry pies. The baskets were gone; he presumed his mysterious admirer had taken them back.

The pattern broke one week later. John was ill. He wasn’t sure whether to blame his patients, the world or Sherlock’s getting-more-bizarre-by-the-day experiment, but he had a fever and could barely move. They gave him the day off as soon as he croaked out a ‘hello’ over the phone, and he rolled over to fall asleep again. He half woke up a few hours later with a start when a quiet thunk was followed by a cool hand touching his forehead, looking up blearily and painfully to see Sherlock’s frown.

“It’s not severe,” Sherlock muttered, “Tea, water, some painkillers and vitamins on your bedside table. You’ll be better by Saturday, just a two-day thing. Get some rest,”

John tried to speak but it came out as a groan, pushing himself up on one arm in time to see a pale arm with a purple sleeve rolled up to the elbow pulling his door closed. Purple...

He managed to choke down the tablets, and prop himself up to sip at the tea until the exhaustion was too much and he had to put it down and roll back over to dream of tumbling through purple silk.

The fever broke early, leaving him aching and tired but otherwise well on Friday. He made his way downstairs to get a fresh glass of water, surprised to see a small purple box tied with a black ribbon in place of a basket. He had forgotten all about his serial baker. The typewritten note was different, too:

Get well soon, Hamish.

Inside, nestled in purple silk, were ginger biscuits. John felt like he’d had an epiphany.

“Feeling any better?” Sherlock asked, not even looking at him as he walked straight past the kitchen. John turned and paused in the doorway, box still carefully cradled in his hands.

“Hm. When I was a kid, my parents always gave me ginger biscuits to make me feel better when I was ill,” he commented, nonchalant.

“I know. You’ve bought them the last three times you were sick, two colds and a stomach bug,” Sherlock was reclining on the sofa in his favourite position.

“Yeah. My middle name is Hamish, which is the Scottish version of James,” he picked up one of the biscuits, but didn’t bite into it.

“Don’t be obvious, John,” Sherlock had his eyes closed, brow furrowed.

“You never told me you could bake,” John said at last, looking up. Sherlock didn’t answer for a long moment, but John knew that he had heard.

“Of course I can bake,” he said at last, with his usual arrogant air, “Baking is science. Put the right amounts of the right chemicals together and apply the catalyst of heat. I can cook anything if I feel the need,”

“And you felt the need to bake for me every Thursday while I was at work,” he paused for a second, “Or in bed ill and wishing for some biscuits. Why?”

“It made you happy, didn’t it?” Sherlock sounded a little defensive, rolling to his feet and going to stand by the window. His fingers twitched, wishing for their violin.

“Of course. You said they were from an admirer,” John pointed out, his lips twitching into a slow smile. Sherlock’s movement inspired some of his own; he placed the biscuit back in the box to be eaten later, and the box went down on the desk. He stayed a few metres away from Sherlock, whose lips were pressed together tightly.

“Why would I lie?” Sherlock asked, answering him in a roundabout way.

“What sort of admirer are they, then, Sherlock?” John’s fingertips rested on the wooden desktop, his eyes were locked on what he could see of Sherlock’s face. Sherlock turned his head to look at him.

“Do you really need me to answer that, John?” he asked, halfway between exasperated and amused. So this is what Sherlock Holmes looked like when he was embarrassed... “And to think I was half impressed with your deduction,”

“Only half?” John asked, grinning and taking a step forward.

“Oh please, it took you six weeks! I was expecting you to get it in three at the most!”  Sherlock turned to face him fully, looking just as smugly amused.

“Well excuse me if I wasn’t expecting the Serial Baker who admires me to be the man who never eats and mocks my intellect!” John said, taking another step forward. There was a moment of silence in which they stared each other down, before they burst out laughing and John embraced him.

“Thank you.”

---

On the seventh Thursday, there were two strawberry and cream tarts, two glasses of red wine, one candle and one serial baker waiting for John in 221B Baker Street.