David Karofsky was a successful man. Not yet thirty, and he was already a senior partner in his company, an agency that supplied sports agents to top players in the MLB, NFL, NASL, and NBA. He had a wonderful, gorgeous husband; an amazing son who would be three in a few weeks (where did the time go?); and his future was only getting brighter. All the bad seemed behind him.
Which was why, when the news broke that Tim, the agency's second-most junior partner, was missing, David didn't automatically assume the worst. It wasn't until Rich, another senior partner at the agency, made a comment in the elevator as they rode up to their floor that morning, about how unreliable young people were these days, that David began to suspect. He had known Tim; they had lunched together a few times, Tim starstruck at David's presence, and David happy to make a friend around his age and in his field who was like him, even if Tim wasn't out at work. In fact, there was a lot about Tim that reminded David of his younger self in ways that made his heart ache, and David had tried to be there for Tim the way Kurt had been there for David. After everything, all the bullying and the secrets and the late nights and the bad days and--God--The Attempt--and the acceptance and the comfort and the strength he had drawn from the one person he had never expected--not after everything they had been through, and--
Listening to Tim, being there for him, had felt a lot like Karma.
David was pretty sure he was the only one Tim had told about his new boyfriend, was pretty sure he was the only one Tim could tell. (And wasn’t that way too familiar). He had smiled, and congratulated Tim while Tim had blushed and refused to give details because, he’s not out, either. He can’t be. He’s, well, he’s kind of a client. Not mine! But--yeah. David had laughed and teased Tim about dating the quarterback, ignoring the twinge in the back of his mind that warned of the minefield that was his memories of High School. That had been the last time he had seen the younger man. There had been nothing about him that had hinted at unreliability--he was happy at his job, he had found romance--David guessed he could have run off with this boyfriend, but the tabloids were always quick on athlete’s love lives and there hadn’t been any athletes outed in the last few weeks.
No. There was something wrong with this picture. David waved at Rich as he walked off towards his office, deep in thought. He nodded absently at his secretary as he passed her and went into his office, setting his briefcase down next this his desk and sitting back in his chair. He stared for a moment at his computer screen’s screen saver, scrolling pictures of his family--His wedding with Kacy, Kacy’s red-orange curls bright in the setting sunlight; in the hospital with Vickye, their surrogate, and a swaddled newborn Jake; their first family Christmas card picture where Jake was hanging in a stocking and teething on an over-sized plastic candy cane; last father’s day with three generations of Karofskys (his father had flown in to the city to visit, and spent the entire trip talking about his new girlfriend. David had been happy; the divorce had hit his father hard).
There was a delicate tap, and David startled. He looked up to see Irene Norton, his secretary, poised in the doorway, one perfectly manicured hand still resting against the door frame. David tried to smile at her, but he could feel it failing, doubly so when Irene frowned at him.
She was a beautiful lady, Irene. Even David could appreciate that. Strong and dark like bitter chocolate, and just as poisonous. It was just as well that she didn’t swing his way, any more than he swung hers; she would eat him alive. (Rich had said once, before he knew about Kacy and Jake, when he had tried to include David in the office version of locker room talk, that Irene was his type of naughty secretary; the kind who wore fuck me heels with a stern expression. David had flustered his way through a response, knowing that Irene could hear them. Irene, for her part, had simply smiled a Mona Lisa smile, and tapped her red nails against the screen of her cell phone).
In his head, David referred to Irene as his secret weapon. She was scarily good at her job; the office would fall to pieces without her, and she could, if she wanted, work rings around David, which made her perfect for knowing what was needed, and anticipating that need. And, if David was the only one who recognized that about her, the same way he recognized who she favored in her bed and the same power that she brought with her there--well--Irene had her own reasons to hide that were none of David’s business.
Irene entered the office, closing the door behind her. “What’s wrong?” she said, striding forward. Her voice was deeper than one would expect of a woman of her size, and though her accent placed her squarely in New Jersey, she always sounded more British to David’s ears when she was upset, or taken by surprise. He could certainly hear it now.
David sighed. “Oh, it’s--It’s Tim. Uh, Tim Fielding. He’s pulled a vanishing act and--” David broke off, brow furrowing. “It’s not like him.” He glanced up at Irene. She was staring back with an intensity he hadn’t seen before. “What?”
“Is that what people are saying?” Irene asked, softy. “That he just--vanished?”
“Yeah,” David said. “Rich was on about irresponsible youth in the elevator, but that doesn’t seem like Tim.”
“Has anyone called the police?”
David shrugged. “Didn’t sound like it. As far as everyone’s concerned, Tim just flaked.”
Irene nodded, eyes far away. “You’re right. That doesn’t sound like Tim.”
David felt his eyebrows raise. “You knew him?”
Irene focused on David, smiling with real warmth this time. “I know everybody, Mr. Karofsky.”
David snorted. “And their business, too.”
Now Irene laughed. “Naturally.” She sobered quickly. “Do you want me to call the police for you?”
“No,” David said, shaking himself off. “No, I’ll swing by his place on my lunch break, see if he’s around. If he’s not there, I’ll call then.”
Irene nodded. “Very good. You have a meeting at 10 with Chambers, and 3 with Weston.”
David groaned. “What does Weston want now.”
“More money,” Irene smirked. “What else.”
“Can’t I be sick?”
“Maybe you can get some conveniently timed food poisoning from some iffy tuna at lunch?”
David laughed. “I like that. Pencil me in for some ptomaine.”
Irene nodded and turned to go. “I’ll get you Tim’s address before lunch.”
“Thanks, Irene,” David said, and moved his mouse to wake up his computer. He tried to push all thoughts of Tim aside for now, and manfully ignored the rising unease in his stomach. Secrets hadn’t sat well with him since High School, and he had a distinct feeling that he was sitting in top of a big one.
It had been years since Sherlock had returned from the dead, and still, sometimes, John would wake to an empty bed, half-asleep and nightmare laden, convinced that Sherlock was nothing more than a dream. Then he would hear Sherlock’s familiar frantic pacing, or the skritch-scratching of Sherlock’s thinking violin, or, on one memorable occasion, a minor explosion, and John’s heart would settle and the ache in his leg would disappear, and he’d wander downstairs to make tea. Sherlock would know, the way he seemed to know everything about John, and his pacing would take him into the kitchen to bounce around ideas, or the skritching would turn to one of John’s favorite melodies, or Sherlock would be standing in the kitchen, covered in soot with a surprised expression, and John’s relieved laughter would giggle out of him, and they’d be off, right as rain.
Only once had John woken to an empty flat. Never again.
This morning John woke to Sherlock’s bowing the Imperial March from Star Wars. John sighed, and wiped a hand over his face.
Wonderful. Mycroft was here.
Wincing at the way his spine popped and cracked, John stood and stretched, falling forward to catch himself in a series of pushups and sit-ups that had become part of his morning routine during what he had come to refer to as The Hiatus. He had been walking one day, limping down an alley in the cold damp of early March, when he had seen the first graffiti. It hadn’t made sense at first, and he found the writing blurring before his eyes as he blinked back tears made by the pain in his chest. For a brief moment he had thought he was having a heart attack, but the yellow paint resolved in his vision:
I Believe in Sherlock Holmes.
He had looked around in awe as the slogans--war cries, really--had registered.
Moriarty was Real.
Sherlock was Framed.
And one, down in the corner, nearly hidden in the darkness, that made his breath come
That was the phrase that had echoed in his mind as he had walked home on two solid legs, past Mrs. Hudson, up the seventeen steps, and into 221B. It was as if he had been away for months, for all that he had been there that morning. He had cleaned in a flurry, pushing aside furniture, making room, taking out his gun and cleaning it for the first time since--
He had started his workout that day, frustrated that he had let himself go for so long, but he was driven, finally given a purpose.
Suddenly, it was the most important thing in the world to be ready.
When Sherlock came back, John would be ready.
And he had been. Sherlock had come home to a John in fighting shape as he had not been since Afghanistan, and earned himself a black eye for his trouble. But it had cracked the ice, and they had laughed like schoolboys as they raced off, forgiving and forgiven, Sherlock’s eye swelling and John’s laughter echoing down the alleyways, to wrap up the last of Moriarty’s web of crime.
It was in the wake of that high, victorious and alive, that they had crashed into each other with lips and teeth and grasping hands, panting breaths and wet, red mouths, and John had awoken with Sherlock wrapped around him and had laughed and laughed.
They hadn’t told anybody about the change in their relationship, but Mycroft had still shown up the next day with a gift of a cheeseboard to celebrate their “happy circumstances,” and a case of national importance. Sherlock had surprised John by taking the case, only later explaining that, while his name was still not fully cleared, these were the only cases he was likely to get. And then, when he had told John that Mycroft had known, and helped, Sherlock during The Hiatus, Sherlock had nearly gotten another black eye.
They solved the case in a week, and Sherlock used the board to dissect a human heart, timing it so that Mycroft would walk in just as Sherlock was finishing his last incision. John went to have tea with Mrs. Hudson until the flat quieted down.
John stood, pulling on a pair of Sherlock’s pajama pants, rolling the waist because Sherlock was part stork, and grabbed one of Sherlock’s old shirts, knowing full well that Sherlock was dressed in one of John’s over-sized jumpers and sleep pants that barely reached his ankle (a habit that Sherlock had started even before they had started sleeping together). John didn’t usually dress in Sherlock’s clothes, and when he did it was usually a shirt, never pants, but there was something about John invading Sherlock’s space that made Mycroft twitch.
They had finished a case last night, damnit. It was their day off.
Sure enough Mycroft was sitting in their living room, in John’s chair, across from Sherlock. There was a third empty chair pulled up, with a cup of tea steaming at it’s side. John repressed a sigh, ignored the chair to place a kiss on top of Sherlock’s head, and was rewarded as Sherlock’s atonal plucking became a sweet melodic run. He sat in the chair, sipped from his tea--steeped slightly too long. Sherlock, then. Mycroft would be too perfect--and smiled at Mycroft. There. Twitch.
“Mycroft was just about to tell us to take a case in America.” Sherlock said. “Someone, who has the potential to cause an international incident, has gone missing.”
“Which would cause a different sort of incident,” John said. Sherlock flashed a smile at him, and Mycroft shifted in his seat.
The years hadn’t been as kind to Mycroft. Where Sherlock remained whippet thin and strong with activity, Mycroft had started to loose his battle with his waistline. He had adapted, taking on a Churchill-esque persona that impressed everyone except John and Sherlock.
“Quite,” Mycroft said. “So will you take it?
John exchanged a look with Sherlock, raising his eyebrows over the rim of his mug. Sherlock screeched his bow and stood, his dressing gown flapping dramatically behind him as he called back of his shoulder.
“Why not. I’ve always wanted to show John, New York.”
Mycroft closed his eyes. John smiled into his tea as Sherlock played the opening strains of New York, New York.
Tim had mentioned, early on, getting a great deal on an apartment in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Apparently the landlady, Ms. Rutledge, was old and well off, and never bothered to change the prices from 1979. Tim rented the top two floors, and the landlady lived on the bottom. In exchange for such cheap rent, Tim had taken to doing chores around the building for her, changing light-bulbs, taking out the garbage, and the like. Tim had laughed when he told David this, saying the woman reminded him of his grandmother. There was pain behind the words, and David didn’t pry. Tim never talked of his family.
As David walked up to the building, he could see why Tim liked it so much. It was an older brick building, looked to have been made at the turn of the century, on a quiet residential street. There was no litter. The cars were newer and more expensive. There were sign of young children, tricycles and toys, all new and clean and waiting on porches and behind decorative wrought iron fences. The flower box (there was an honest to goodness flower box) had fresh daisies in bloom. David thought of his own apartment in a chrome and steel high-rise in Manhattan, and shook his head. He rang the doorbell.
A few moments later, David heard the sound of footsteps, a muffed curse and the screeching of a cat, and the click of a deadbolt being released. The door opened to reveal a woman in her late sixties. She was strong of posture and build, but her hair had gone stark white it was fashionably cut, and she was fashionably dressed, and she was frowning at David like he came to sell her insurance, door to door.
“Hi,” David said, suddenly nervous. “Does Tim Fielding live here?”
“Are you the police?” Ms. Rutledge asked, her voice husky from what must have been decades of smoking.
“No,” David said. “No, I’m a friend from work. He hasn’t been in--there’s been no word and I was worried.” She continued to stare at him and David didn’t fidget. “Is there need for the police?”
Ms. Rutledge sighed and opened the door. “You better come in.” She stood back and David eased his way through the door. Though he had lost some bulk when he stopped playing football after college, and hadn’t developed that spread that was all too common on ex-athletes, he would never be a small man.
Ms. Rutledge lead the way to her kitchen, gentling pushing a small orange cat out of her way with her foot. David looked around as he followed her. The first floor was obviously hers, dark wood paneling and furniture that was at least twenty years old, for all that it was very well kept. Comfortable. The place smelled clean, like fresh laundry and lemons, and David felt some of the tension in his shoulders ease.
The smell of lemon intensified when he entered the kitchen. The room itself was yellow, bright and cheery, with modern appliances and a large window that overlooked the small plot of land that served as a back garden.
“You want coffee?” Ms. Rutledge asked. David started.
“Oh. Yes. Please. Black. Thank you.”
Ms. Rutledge nodded, and started spooning grounds into her coffee pot. “Take a seat. This place is too small to stand around.”
David didn’t think the place was too small. It was cosy; He could see why Tim had jumped at the chance to live here. The cat abandoned Ms. Rutledge and jumped into David’s lap. He petted it absently and tried to figure out how to begin.
"That's his cat," Ms. Rutledge said. "He got her only a few weeks ago. She was a gift, apparently. From that boyfriend of his." She leaned back against the counter and pulled out an electronic cigarette. She smirked at David's surprised expression. "he never came out and said anything, but I'm not blind Mr. Karofsky. That boy was in love." she grinned suddenly. It took years off her face. "He bagged a looker, too."
David laughed. He could see, now that she wasn't glaring at him, what Tim saw in her. "Yeah, he's proud of that, too."
Ms. Rutledge took a drag and said, "Call me Sharon."
David smiled. "David."
"Tim hasn't been home in days," she said. She turned and grabbed mugs for the coffee. "He'd started spending more nights out, with that man of his, but he was good about checking in--getting his mail, taking out the trash. Then, of course, Tigerlilly, there." David looked down at the cat in his lap. She was chewing on the hem on his suit jacket, and he tugged it, gently, from her moth. "He doted on that cat. He wouldn't leave her in the lurch."
"If you don't mind me asking," David said. "if you're so sure something happened, why haven't you called the police?"
Sharon sighed, and placed a mug of coffee in front of David. "I keep expecting to see him walk in that door," she said. David looked away, took a sip of his coffe.
"I think we're going to have to," he said, finally. "Do you want me to...?"
"Thank you," she said. They sipped their coffee in silence. David shifted, overcome by the urge to do something.
"Tim said he used to do chores for you," he said at last. "Is there anything I can do?"
Sharon smiled. "You're sweet. But no. I let him help because I could tell he felt guilty about the rent."
Davis smiled wryly at her, and drained the coffee. He stood, gently sendi Tigerlilly to the floor. "Thank you for the coffee. I better go talk to the police."
Sharon stood and walked him to he door. He paused in the doorway. "Thanks again,” he said. “I’ll keep you updated.
“I know you will.”
David blinked, cocking his head in confusion. Sharon said, smiling sadly. "You talk about him in the present tense."
David swallowed past that implication, and nodded, pulling out his cell phone as he walked away, down the block. “Hello?” He said. “I’d like to report a missing person.”
John settled back into his seat, folded his arms over his chest, and tilted his head back. There was commotion all around him as their plane boarded, businessmen and families and single travelers streaming past them into the back of the plane, sending envious glances their way. John smirked. It was nice of Mycroft to secure them first class tickets.
“He only did it to try and tempt us away from joining the ‘Mile High Club’.” Sherlock said, never looking away from his phone. John huffed a laugh. The knowledge his partner kept versus the information he deleted never ceased to amaze him. As in, Sherlock knew what the Mile High Club was, but not the planets in the solar system. Though, John mused, he knows know. Sherlock had learned simply because everyone else thought he wouldn't, and it enabled him to one up Anderson. Again.
Though, it did make sense for Sherlock to know about sex, regardless of what Mycroft thought, or how long Sherlock had remained a virgin himself. Sex was a great motivator of crime, up there with power and money. And if Sherlock knew anything, even as he dismissed them as dull and ordinary, it was the motivations of crime. For example, just a few weeks ago they had solved a case where a woman had killed her husband by making it look like he had choked to death in a bondage scene gone wrong, because he had visited a fetish club behind her back. Sherlock had cleared the club’s employee by proving that the methods the club employed wouldn’t have caused that particular bruising pattern, and that the death had been caused by an amateur.
And they had certainly had put that knowledge to use, after. John’s smirk grew.
“He does know that won’t stop us.”
“Of course.” Sherlock glanced at him, flashing that grin. “He just doesn’t like to think about it.”
John giggled. Mycroft’s ill ease with their relationship, John knew, had nothing to do with John, or the fact that they were both men, and everything to do with the leverage he lost when Sherlock stopped being a virgin. That was one area where Mycroft had held experience over Sherlock; Sherlock just wasn’t willing to deal with anybody like that just to one-up Mycroft. Until John came along, that is.
Then, boy they did. With gusto.
John shut his eyes. It would be a seven hour flight to New York, and he might as well get some sleep which he could. Goodness knows that he would need all the rest he could to keep up with Sherlock. He didn’t want to be jet-lagged on top of everything else. Sherlock, he knew, would be up for the whole flight, thinking, pacing when he could, and John learned long ago to sleep through Sherlock’s distemper.
The stream of passengers slowed, stopped, and the flight attendants started their pre-flight rituals. Sherlock poked at his phone, fingers flying, until the last possible second, turning it off just as the flight attendant walked towards him.
“Thank you for flying with us today,” she said, full of plastic cheer and with a smile to match. “As you can see, we’re getting ready for take off. So please turn off--”
“All electronic devices, yes, I know.” Sherlock said. “And if you were to look instead of blindly assuming, you would see that, unlike most of the passengers you get, I am not and idiot, and that my phone is, in fact, off.”
John cracked an eye open to look. The flight attendant’s smile hadn’t changed, but there was a sharp look in her eye that John was sure Sherlock saw. He just didn’t care.
“Further,” Sherlock said, “If you would just open your eyes you would see that the other attendant has been sneaking drinks from the cart, and rather poorly. Probably his first flight. Isn’t it comforting to know that your co-worker is a first-time nervous flyer?” Sherlock plucked the air-sick bag from the pouch on the seat in front of him, and held it out tot he attendant. “Here. This might come in handy.”
The attendant straightened and left, never saying a word and her smile never changing.
“Sherlock,” John said, and Sherlock slumped back, dramatically.
“Oh, what, John?” Sherlock said. “ Sherlock, be nice? ” He snorted. “I was was nice. Besides,” He flung a hand towards where the attendant was whispering and gesturing emphatically at the other attendant, who had gone pale and--yes, John noticed--glassy--eyed. “Did you really want to fly with that?”
John sighed. “No. But they’re going to delay the flight, now. And I’m really not looking forward to staying cooped up in these seats.”
“Oh,” Sherlock said, pulling the blanket out from underneath his seat. “I’m sure I can find a way to make it more--tolerable--for you.”
“Sherlock,” John hissed, and he pinched his nose, but he was more amused than angry, his protests more habit than anything, and--smartaresed bastard--he knew Sherlock knew it too. “And when she comes back to find your hand in pants, what then?”
Sherlock tisked, his smile wicked. “John. Do you really thing she’s coming back? After that?”
John raised an eyebrow at him, trying for stern, but quickly failing. “You,” he said, grinning wide.
Sherlock grinned wide, and spread the blanket over them with a flourish. John pushed the armrest between them back, grateful that they were in the last row at least. He felt Sherlock’s fingers creep over his thigh just as the plane achieved lift, knew his grin would give them away, but couldn’t bring himself to care.
David shifted in his seat; they never made chairs for men of his size. He was in the police station, sitting in a chair next to the detective’s desk while he waited for the detective to return. The Sergent (was it Sergent? David wasn’t sure. His knowledge of police procedure began and ended with reruns of
Law and Order
), had pulled the detective away mid-statement to take a phone call. There was something odd about that call. David ran a hand over his face. He was so caught up in looking for something sinister, he was reading into things.
David’s pocket pinged, and he pulled out his phone. It was Irene, telling him that Weston had been rescheduled for next week. David snorted as he texted his thanks; Weston could be rescheduled indefinitely, for all he cared. He had moved on to checking his email by the time the detective returned. He looked flustered, pink--he had been red--and unsettled.
“I’m sorry to keep you waiting,” the detective, Rodriguez, said. “Let’s finish this in a more private room.” He gestured for David to stand and follow. David did, gathering his briefcase and slipping his phone back into his pocket. It beeped again, oddly insistent, and David suppressed the urge to check the message. His instincts were telling him that he was right to suspect something, but he had no idea what and it was making him uneasy.
Det. Rodriguez led him to a small room down the hall. There was a window and a desk, two chairs, and a large mirror. David felt a moment of panic. He had seen these rooms before, on television and in movies; did they think he had something to do with it? He hesitated in the doorway, before shaking his head and entering the room. He had done nothing wrong. He had nothing to fear. That off feeling was just nerves.
David sat in the chair facing the door, so his back was to the window.
“I’m sorry for the delay,” Det. Rodriguez said. “But apparently we have a specialist on his way. He’s just arrived at the airport. If you wouldn’t mind staying to speak with him?”
David was already nodded. “Yes, fine.” He said. “Anything that could help Tim.” The Detective eyed him for a moment, and nodded.
“Right,” he said. “Well.” He was obviously at a loss. David thought it was safe to hazard a guess that the phone call was this “specialist,” though how he knew to fly in when David hadn’t officially filed the report, was beyond him. “Would yo--like a drink?”
David could think of several drinks he would like at the moment. “No, thank you. I’m fine.”
“Right,” Det. Rodriguez said again. “In that case, we’ll be in with you as soon as he arrives. It shouldn’t be too long.” And with that, the Detective left. David raised his eyebrows at the closed door. Something is definitely up, he thought. Tim, what have you gotten yourself into?
After a moment’s silence, broken only by the low chatter David could just barely hear from down the hall, he pulled out his cell phone. There was one new text message from Irene.
Tell him EVERYTHING.
David frowned at the screen. Who was “him”?
John sat in the back of the taxi, hand covering his mouth, face still red. He looked out the window, both because he’d never been to New York before, even if it was just the ride into Manhattan from La Guardia, and because if he looked at Sherlock he was going to lose the precarious hold he had on his giggles. It was bad enough that he sounded like a hyena on helium; he didn’t need Sherlock encouraging him when they were supposed to be making a good impression in America.
Of course, being held up at customs because you were caught in flagrante on an aeroplane, even if it was first class, didn’t help matters. Maybe Mycroft would spring for a private jet for the return trip.
Sherlock was once again surgically attached to his mobile, either hacking into the NYPD database, or pestering Mycroft. Probably both.
John’s own mobile chimed, and he pulled it out to look.
1 new mssg: Greg Lestrade
Mycroft told me you were in America, and put me in touch with the Detective in charge of this case. Should smooth things over a bit. Try not to let him get arrested; extradition’s a nightmare.
John snorted and Sherlock glanced over at him. “Lestrade,” he said, sounding bored.
“Yeah,” John said. “Called in a reference.”
“Hmm,” Sherlock said, and slipped his phone into his pocket. “We’re here.”
It was nothing like New Scotland Yard. The precinct building was old brick, with faded lights that were at least seventy years old, though the sign was new. Sherlock led his way through the front door, coat swishing dramatically. John followed behind at a more sedate pace, perfectly willing to be unnoticed for the moment. Sherlock was at the front desk, wearing his “playing nice with stupid humans” smile. If her expression was anything to go by, woman behind the desk wasn’t impressed, but she called for Detective Rodriguez anyway. John tried not to wince. American accents could be so grating.
Sherlock stood back, arms clasped behind his back, looking like some sort of department store mannequin in the gritty background of the station. John stood next to him at parade rest and tried to catch Sherlock’s eye.
“You’re doing it again,” John whispered. “Being all dramatic.”
“One must give the people what they want, John,” Sherlock muttered back, and stepped forward as the doors opened and a harried looking man, the one and only Det. Rodriguez, appeared. John looked at him, tried to see him with Sherlock’s methods, but all he could see was a man who had just hit middle age, was tired from lack of sleep (red eyes) and poor diet (waistline, stain on shirt), and had no idea how to take them. John knew Sherlock could tell so much more. After all, these were the obvious ones; all cops lived on no sleep and poor food, and nobody knew quite how to take Sherlock and John.
“Mr Holmes?” Det. Rodriguez asked. Sherlock stepped forward, hand out. Rodriguez shook it, and turned to John. “And you must be Doctor Watson.” John nodded, and shook hands. The detective’s grip was strong, sure and calloused. Also, slightly clammy. John resisted the urge to wipe his hand on his trousers.
“At this point,” the detective said, gesturing them to follow. “You know more than I do about this case. Order came down from above that you’re to be given full access and full cooperation,” John shook his head. Mycroft. “And it’s just as well. I’ve got a hundred other things to do, including other missing persons. The guy who made the official report is room 1,” Det. Rodriguez pointed. “His name’s David Karofsky. He says the guy hasn’t been at work in days, but that while he’s certain something happened to the guy, nobody else at work will.” He stopped next to the door. “Ready?”
“Of course,” Sherlock said and Det. Rodriguez snorted.
The door opened and Sherlock swept into the room. John followed more sedately, exchanging a look with the detective, and took up his position in front of the door.
The man, David, sat at a lone table. He had a briefcase at his feet, and was holding his phone loosely in his hands, like he had been stopped while fiddling with it.
Sherlock stared at David. David, though confused, stared back. John wasn’t sure why Sherlock was staring, but he was pretty sure David just didn’t know what else to do.
“When did you see him last?”
“Little over a week ago,” David said. “We had lunch at work.”
“Isn’t that a bit odd, a high powered individual such as yourself and a young up and comer?”
“How--” David stared, but stopped himself, and said, “Yes, it was. But we were about the same age and had similar interests.”
“And he gave no signs that he was about to run?”
Sherlock paused. “You’re being completely honest with me,” he said, face jumping in surprise. “They’re never completely honest--I don’t have to shock you into--why are you being so honest?”
“Why wouldn’t I be?” David said.
Sherlock raised an eyebrow. John bit back a grin. Or a sigh. Here it comes. “Because you’re a business man, an agent, and if there’s one thing agents are good at, is spinning the truth, they tend to do it even when they don’t mean to, but you’re not even spinning, so it has to be something that deliberately overcomes habits developed at work. You liked him. Not in a sexual way, though you are both homosexuals, and he was clearly your type--a new relationship for him, honeymooning then, not likely to stray, and a long-term committed relationship for you. Married, happily with one young son. So, no romantic attachment. Could be, you were just friends and you could just that nice a person to sit here and put up with me for him, when nobody else seems to believe he’s missing. But that’s not very likely. People don’t like to put up with me, unless they’re John.”
“Ta.” John said, amused.
“So it’s something else. Something deeper. Accent places you mid-west. Build says you were an athlete, size and country of origin means American Football is most likely. Your age puts you in High School in the early teens, not an easy time to be a gay teen in America, let alone in such hetero-normative environments as football and--hmm--Ohio. You’re uncomfortable now, pale, sweating, I’m on the right track. There’s guilt there. A bully, were you? Maybe to another young gay man. There’s atonement here, as well, maybe for what you did to him, maybe to repay what he did for you with another. But either way, it’s enough to ensure you’re involvement.” Sherlock stopped, turned his face back to his phone, but his shoulders settled back for a moment, half-preening, half-braced for impact.
“Like,” David said.
“Sorry?” Sherlock didn’t look up from his phone.
“You said that I ‘liked him.’ It’s like--present tense.”
John felt his eyebrows raise. It was rare to get that type of response so quickly after being intoduced to Sherlock’s particular brand of madness. Lestrade could only do so after having worked with him for years, Mycroft often bested Sherlock in their verbal spars and John himself was an altogether different sort of mad, anyway.
“Yes,” Sherlock said, quietly. “Present tense.” He looked David up and down. “I’d like to see where he worked.”
David stood. He was at least as tall as Sherlock, and nearly twice as wide. “I can show you.” He faltered, looking at Det. Rodriguez. “If, I’m free to do.”
“Yeah,” Det. Rodriguez said, waving it off. “Just don’t skip town.”
Sherlock gestured David to leave with an elaborate bow. David faltered slightly, but his stride was steady as he lead the way out of the room. John fell into step next to Sherlock. He elbowed him gently in the ribs, pleased and the amused huff of air that left Sherlock.
“Show off,” John whispered. Sherlock just grinned.
David wasn’t sure what to make of these
They were British, for one, and David was pretty sure that American police rarely involved foreign specialists. And they didn’t look like any detectives David had ever seen; the tall one was far too tailored and too
. If David had seen him on the street, he would have assumed he was some sort of male model, skinny and vaguely alien-looking without the makeup. It was only when the man’s attention was focused directly on someone, picking them apart like he had picked David apart at a glace, did one really
what he could be...what he was.
The shorter one, David was sorry to say, barely registered at first. Nondescript hair and clothes, shorter but still average height, worn features; he looked like he could be a cop, David thought. Someone used to undercover work and skilled at sinking into the background. David only really noticed him when Sherlock, and what kind of name was Sherlock. It sounds old, brought attention to him.
It was the shorter one that David watched as they left the precinct. His name was Doctor Watson, Call me John, yeah? but he didn’t seem like any doctor David had ever known. For one, he didn’t hold himself like a doctor. David had spent his live around men in peak physical fitness, and he could see when a man was, not just in shape, but in shape with a purpose. John definitely had a purpose; the man was ready for a physical threat.
What kind of detective looked like a model and traveled with a doctor who looked like a bodyguard?
John was looking out the window, craning his neck down to try and see the tops of the skyscrapers.
“First time in The City?” David asked.
John turned and gave David a slightly sheepish grin. It changed his whole face, revealing deep laugh lines and made his eyes sparkle. It was very--charming. David found himself warming to John. “That obvious?”
David shrugged. “Everybody walks around New York looking up when they first get here. You know The City’s lost it’s magic when you see them looking down.”
Sherlock made a noise behind David, and John glared at him over David’s shoulder. It was a worn expression, slipped into with ease and only half-meant after so much time. It was the type of expression David saw in older married couples, the ones who would bicker and complain of each other, and still love each other more than life. It was the type of expression that was starting to creep into his own relationship.
Were they lovers, then? It would explain the way they revolved around each other, constantly aware of the other’s presence. And it would explain why John stuck around--a charming, extremely fit and competent man, could have his pick. If he loved Sherlock, there must be something extraordinary, something to keep John around, because David didn’t think he could put up with the man’s annoyances. Like the way he was perched dramatically in his seat. David didn’t know anyone who could perch dramatically (except, maybe, Kurt Hummel - Diva).
Of course, that didn’t go any farther in explaining why the NYPD had called them in; David was pretty sure there was some sort of anti-fraternization rule. Though, maybe that was the Army.
“You have questions,” Sherlock said, and David startled. He didn’t remember Sherlock’s voice being that deep. “Of course you do. Ask them.”
“Sherlock,” John said, and there was a note of steeled warning in his voice. Sherlock waved it off with a flick of his fingers, but put his phone down.
“I promise, I’ll be nice,” Sherlock said to John, vaguely sing-song. David got the distinct impression that they were flirting around him. He cleared his throat.
“Tim didn’t run. I was right, wasn’t I.”
“That much is obvious,” Sherlock murmured. “What clued you in?”
David could feel John frowning on his other side, but he answered in a steady voice. “I’ve never heard of the police calling in a specialist from another country to investigate a disappearance that could easily turn out to be him running off with his boyfriend.”
Sherlock raised an eyebrow. “Well reasoned, but you knew before we showed up. We just confirm what you had already suspected. Why?”
David looked away. “He had no reason to leave. Even if his new boyfriend wanted to whisk him away, Tim had just settled in. There’s no way he wouldn’t at least tell his landlady.” He paused. “He left everything; open projects at work, his things, his cat .”
“People to get sentimental about their pets,” Sherlock murmured, and pulled out his phone again.
David looked at John, who smiled sympathetically. “Yeah,” He said. “He’s always like that.”
The taxi pulled up in front of one of the skyscrapers, and they piled out onto the curb. John tried to keep his gawping to a minimum. After all, he lived in London. A major metropolis, that had it’s own share of impressive buildings. And the Gherkin. It was just--the scale of Manhattan was enormous. And the people walking by seemed much louder with their New York accents.
David led them into the building, past the security desk (where John signed in for both of them, because Sherlock was off inspecting some little detail that only he could see, the tosser), and to the lifts.
“I’ll take you to his office, first,” David said, pressing the button. “He technically worked for my partner, Rich. I can take you to him next, if you like.”
Sherlock nodded sharply, and put his phone in his pocket, standing with his hands behind his back as they waited for the lift. John eyed Sherlock as they waited. There was something the detective was hiding, deliberately hiding, from John. Nothing bad, John was sure. There was a playful hint about him. Internally, John sighed and prepared himself. Sherlock had a notoriously strange sense of humor.
The lift arrived and they entered, David standing squarely in the door-frame, making it look like just enough of an accident when another man in a suit came running, shouting for them to hold the door, and it closed in his face.
John tried to swallow a smile, but David saw, and flushed, faintly. “Sorry. That was rude, I know, but he eats God-knows-what on his lunches. You don’t want to be stuck in an elevator with him.”
“Ta,” John said, letting the grin show, and David ushered them off when they arrived at Tim’s floor. The office was mostly open, with several desks pushed together so that the employees sat facing each other in clusters. The walls were lined with the doors to the offices.
“His office is this way,” he said. “He earned himself a window just a few months ago. I had to find him here once or twice when he was running late for lunch.” Tim’s door was the only one closed, and David unlocked the door to let them in. “I have the master key,” he said, “because I’m a partner. When the cops took an interest, I had Irene come down and lock the door.”
John saw Sherlock’s head jerk at the name, and bit his lip. John knew Sherlock well enough to know nothing romantic had happened between them, but still--the whole affair was--well--Irene could have been a friend. And goodness knows, John knew how hard Sherlock had taken the news of her death. To this day, little mentions of her name left Sherlock searching, as if he never quite believed Irene Adler had died.
Sherlock swept into Tim’s office. John looked around. It looked--like an office. Still, after years of observing and learning Sherlock’s methods, it takes John a minute to rework the way he looks at things. He took a deep breath and looked closer.
It still looked like an office. The furniture matched the rest of the building--provided by the company then. There were no photograph, no personal touches aside from a non-standard issue palm-rest in front of his keyboard and a mug that read “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead.” In fact, the most telling aspect of the room was that it wasn’t telling.
Sherlock sat at the desk and started rifling through the drawers. David winced beside John. “Sherlock--” John started.
“The man was in love, John, newly in love. There would be some indicator of who he was in love with.”
“Not necessarily,” David said. “I mean, Tim wasn’t out at work, and his boyfriend was a client here. If he kept anything, it would be at his apartment. But I doubt there would be much--professional athletes can go to some lengths to keep their personal lives out of the spotlight. Especially if that love-life involved another man.”
Sherlock slammed the drawer shut. John noticed that he had gone through them all, anyway. “You’re certain he was a client?”
David nodded. “Yes. He said so, himself, when he was telling my why he couldn’t tell me more. He assured me he wasn’t one of his own clients, but that’s all.”
Sherlock drummed his fingers on the table top. “I need to see his apartment,” he muttered. “Can you get me a list of clients?”
John saw David’s eyebrows rise. “This firm acts as agent to hundreds of--.”
Sherlock waved him off. “I don’t need his, obviously. That should narrow it down a bit.”
“David nodded, I can have Irene compile a list. It’s a matter of public record, anyway. Come on upstairs. I can get it for you while you meet with Rich.”
Once again Sherlock led the way, his coat flapping behind him. David gestured for John to follow, and the three pressed once more into the lift.
When the doors opened again, David left them out and to the left. This floor was a lot more ornate, with the flash of wealth and power.
“Irene,” David said. “These are the specialists looking into Tim’s disappearance. This is--”
John stopped stock still as the secretary stood from behind her desk. “No,” he whispered.
“Sherlock Holmes,” Irene Adler said. “And Doctor Watson.”
“Hello, Irene.” Sherlock said. “It’s good to see you again. Though I’m afraid you’ve rather broken, John.”
“You’re dead!” John said, pointing his finger. David stepped back. There was surprise in John’s voice, but something else as well. Something darker, accusatory. “You--!”
Irene smiled at John. David had never seen Irene smile like that before, predatory and utterly confident with a hint of “I know something you don’t know.” Still, David was unsurprised. Of course Irene could smile like that.
“I died in all but body, Doctor.” Irene said. “To escape the web.”
John paled, and clenched his teeth, muscle jumping in his jaw. The stalemate continued, John staring at Irene, Irene smiling at John, Sherlock glancing between them, almost nervous.
John whirled on Sherlock. “You knew!” he said. “You--Mycroft said it could only be you--you--” John stopped and barked out a laugh. He bent over, hands braced on his knees, and his shoulders shook. Sherlock took a step towards John, but John held up a hand. He looked up, face red, and his voice was almost fond when he said, “You idiot.”
David knew he was missing something big, and looked to Irene for a hint. Irene saw him looking, and her smile faded into something he was more used to, but he could see the shadows of that harder woman underneath. He had a feeling he always would, now.
“So,” he said. “I take it you know each other?”
“It’s ancient history,” Irene said. “Sherlock helped me out of a bad situation.”
“By faking your death,” David said. “You know, if it were anyone else, Irene, I would be surprised.”
Irene raised an eyebrow, clearly amused. David heard murmuring behind him, and when he turned to look, he saw John and Sherlock whispering to each other. He looked back to Irene, and saw hew smiling indulgently at them, and David nodded towards her desk. “We need a list of company clients, none that were Tim’s.” He thought for a moment. “Separate them by big boss, then by sport. And put Rich’s at the top. They’d be the one Tim’s most likely to have met.”
Irene nodded and sat at her desk, fingernails clacking against the keyboard. She looked up as the data compiled, her eyes coming to rest, once again, on Sherlock and John. “They’re very sweet, together.”
David looked over. John looked ready to beat Sherlock’s skull in, but his hands, where they were twisted in Sherlock’s scarf, were gentle. Likewise, Sherlock’s hands grasped at John like he was afraid John would disappear, belying his scowl. Irene was right; it was a surprisingly tender sight.
“And good on John,” Irene continues, her fingers flying once more.
“Oh?” David asked, not wanting to be seen prying when the subjects were right over there, but desperate to know just how they happened .
Irene’s look said, “you’re not fooling me,” but she answered as she hit “print,” letting the noise of the machine help cover their voices. “When I first met them, they had been roommates, and partners in crime fighting, for little over a year. They were already the other half of each other; a couple, a unit--even though Sherlock didn’t consider himself a sexual being, and John was clinging to heterosexuality in that way men do when they’re just about ready to admit that, just maybe, they aren’t as straight as all that.” She paused. “I’m actually surprised anything did happen; they were solid before, they didn’t need sex to solidify anything. Something must have happened that made John realize he was already in love.”
“John?” David asked. “Not Sherlock?”
“Look at them,” Irene said. “Do you really think Sherlock would go anywhere that John didn’t lead?”
David saw what she meant. For all that Sherlock had taken the lead on this case, it was clear to see that John was his anchor; it was because of John that Sherlock could take off into flights of deduction.
The list finished printing and Irene collected it from the printer tray. She handed it to David, and he flipped through it briefly. He frowned at what he saw.
Each agent specialized in a particular sport and division. Rich worked with the NASL, and provided agents for the top soccer players. Soccer player, huh Tim? David thought, and his mind flashed to Kacy, who could barely kick a ball in a straight line. Whatever floats your boat.
He turned back to Sherlock and John. It was time to talk to Rich.
John knew, from long years of experience, that he would never actually strangle Sherlock. He’d miss him too much, never mind the mess and the questions. Still, at times like this, it was bloody tempting.
“I thought we were past the part where we kept secrets from each other,” John said, and it only hurts a little. John had so few secrets before The Hiatus, Sherlock plucking them from the air like he was wont to do, that he had coveted the ones he had been able to keep. That ended, and as did Sherlock’s deliberate inscrutability for John, with Sherlock’s return. Now, Sherlock’s wrapped around him--He’s wrapped around Sherlock--they’re wrapped around each other in a way they rarely do outside the sanctity of their flat.
“Not my secret,” Sherlock said, and there’s hurt in his eyes like gets sometimes when he doesn’t believe John’s really forgiven him for The Hiatus. To be fair, John’s not really sure he’s completely forgiven Sherlock, but he’s lived in a world-without-Sherlock and, if there’s one thing he learned, it’s that it wasn’t really *living* without Sherlock there. He needs him, just as much as Sherlock needs him, and at the end of the day, Sherlock is there, alive and breathing, and really--that’s all that matters.
John nodded, and pushed the issue aside--they had a case. “We should get that list,” he said. He tried to pull back, but Sherlock tightened his grip.
“In a moment,” Sherlock said, and John narrowed his eyes.
“How much of this is performing for Irene?”
Sherlock raised an eyebrow, (really, John? Jealousy? Dull.) and John raised both of his in return (I can see right past your bullshit, so don’t even try it). John had a lot of time to think about Sherlock and Irene. He had teased them, then, about what had appeared to be growing sexual tension, had even offered up his middle name for their kid, because he knew the archaic Hamish would appeal to Sherlock’s aesthetic and his link to John, as well as piss Irene off. Irene, however, had taken it for the warning he didn’t know he was trying to send; back off, he’s mine.
In hindsight, it was easy to see the signs of attraction as what they were - performance - on both their ends. Neither had desired the other sexually, they were just playing the game. They had everybody fooled, including each other, briefly. Sherlock always did have a weakness for playmates who would play at his level.
John didn’t count. He and Sherlock played at a level all their own.
Sherlock pulled away after a moment, just as David approached them with the list of players.
“Here’s the list,” David said, and held it out. Sherlock took it, eyes scanning over the page, before he nodded and handed it to John. John looked but, not really know what Sherlock was looking for, could see nothing. He repressed a sigh.
David continued. “Rich should still be in his office,” he said. “It’s this way.” He lead them across to the other side of the floor, and over to another secretary. John looked at the young woman. Highly polished, like shining plastic, she was a cheap imitation of what Irene naturally exuded. Dyed hair. Too much, if well crafted, make up. Fake breasts, if John was any judge. Clothes well made, but too tight. She was one step away from snapping her gum. John smiled, and she blinked at him. John nudged Sherlock, who pasted on a grin of his own, and she startled, surprised and slightly flustered. Tosser .
“Susan, these are the men looking into Tim’s absence. They need to talk to Rich.”
Susan barely glanced at David, focusing on Sherlock’s cheekbones. John almost felt sorry for her, like he did for anyone getting suckered in by Sherlock’s “charming man” act. He would have, if he hadn’t seen the look on David’s face, the one that said this was not a new snub, that this woman looked down on David, and that David knew. John had a feeling that she took her cues from her boss, and that they were about the meet the American version of Sebastian Wilkes.
The secretary hit the intercom, and said, “Sir, Mr. Karofsky is here with some police to speak with you.”
John felt Sherlock stiffen. He hated being called “police.”
“What?” This Rich bloke’s voice sounded tinny through the intercom. “Well don’t keep them waiting, send them in!”
The secretary smiled at them, fake for John and David, smarmy for Sherlock, and gestured to the door. “Go on in.”
Rich turned out to be an older man, grey at the temples, and in rather good form. He, like David, had an air of ex-athlete about him, and quite a bit more “boys-club”. He greeted Sherlock and John with the typical American over-enthusiasm, saying inane greetings and finally, “I’m always happy to help the boys in blue.”
“We’re not police,” Sherlock said. “We’re working with the police. I’m a private consultant. My name is Sherlock Holmes, and this is my partner, Doctor Watson.”
John smiled at the way Rich twitched. “Partner” was a common enough word for lovers in the states that he could see Rich connect them with David and get the--erroneous but still correct--answer. And he saw how it made Rick pull back, uncomfortable. That, plus the secretary, made John smirk.
He must hate Irene.
Sherlock was looking around the room, eyes not settling on anything. “When was the last time you spoke with Tim?”
“His last performance review. Two months ago.” The answer was given quickly, too quickly not to have been prepared for.
“And how long has he known that you’re cheating on your wife?” John looked at Sherlock sharply, but Sherlock was looking at the wall of newspaper clipping that had been framed and hung on the wall.
“Wha-what?” Rich sputtered. “I’m not--!”
“Of course you are,” Sherlock cut him off. “With that excuse for a secretary you have. She certainly didn’t get her job for her work ethic, or her typing speed, not with those nails. So she obviously got it for her willingness to show of her chest--as recent acquisition too, if I’m not mistaken.”
Rich was spluttering. “Get out!”
“Gladly.” Sherlock said, and swooped from the room. John hot to follow. He heard David close the door behind them.
“Sherlock! What the hell?”
“Relax, John. He’s scum, but he had nothing to do with this. Besides, now David has something to use the next time Rich, or that thing at his front desk, act like the bigots they are.” He sniffed. “I can’t abide bigots.”
John looked back to apologize to David, knowing that Sherlock rarely thought through having to work with someone after something like this. But David was grinning.
“That was amazing.”
“David,” Irene called, and David turned. She had her desk phone in her hand, one fingertip resting on the “hold” button. “You might want to take this.”
David frowned, glancing back at Sherlock and John where they waited by the elevator, and took the phone from Irene. “Hello?” He said, expecting Kacy, or--God forbid--Jake’s preschool, calling to tell him something was wrong. What he didn’t expect was:
“There had better be a good reason why your ass isn’t in this booth with me right now.”
David froze, glanced at his watch. 5:43. Shit.
“I will forgive you,” Kurt Hummel, rising star and Broadway's current sweetheart, talked right over David. It was only years of knowing the man that let David know he wasn’t, actually, as peeved as he sounded. Though, he also knew how quickly that could change. “If you say you’re on your way now.”
David closed his eyes. Ever since he was outed at school, Kurt had been a real good friend to him, helping him deal with his parents and the friends who wouldn’t stay, listening when David needed to rail against the world, and knocked sense into him when he was done. They had kept in touch, making sure to make time to check in with each other. This meet-up had already been put off three times, between their various commitments, and, to be honest, a drink sounded really good right now.
“I--” he said, and felt a hand at his elbow. He pulled the phone from his ear, not bothering to cover the receiver. It was John.
“Look, we’re going over to Tim’s place, have a look around. You’ve been a big help, but I’ve seen that look before. Goodness knows, I’ve worn it enough myself since this tosser entered my life,” John gestured over his shoulder at Sherlock, who was talking with Irene by the elevators. “Go. Relax. We’ll find Tim. And when we do, we’ll let you know.”
“That’s it, then?” David said. He could hear Kurt calling his name, sounding less faux-annoyed and more concerned.
“We do this, because it’s our lives as much as our jobs.” John said. “We don’t expect anyone else to give up their life for it. Besides,” John grinned. “Knowing Sherlock’s methods like I do, we might need somebody on the outside to post bail.”
David laughed, and nodded. “And you’ll keep me informed?”
“We will,” John said. “Go on. Have a pint for me, yeah?”
David nodded, and watched as John and Sherlock said goodbye to Irene, and disappeared into the elevator. The phone was silent, but still connected, when he raised it to his ear. “You’re at the bar across the street, right?”
“Yes,” Kurt said. “David, what--?”
“I’ll explain when I get there.”
David hung up the phone, ducked into his office to gather his briefcase and his jacket, said goodbye to Irene with a promise to “talk about this later, you” ( to which Irene had smiled that same smile she had given Sherlock. David didn’t shiver, but it was a near thing), and left his office.
The “bar across the street,” wasn’t, actually, across the street from David’s building. It was across the street from Kurt’s first apartment in Chelsea, and had been their meeting place since Kurt had lived there. Unlike some of the gay bars in the area, this bar had a quiet pub-type feeling to it; it was a place to meet with friends rather than look for a hook-up. In the beginning, when David was so newly out he was standing with his back to the closet door, this place was a comfort. It was less flashy than Scandals, and allowed for some much needed anonymity.
He knew Kurt preferred the place, originally, because he was able to keep his title of most fashionable in the room, and because as much as Kurt liked to dance, he liked to talk to his friends even more.
When David entered the bar, it took a moment for his eyes to adjust, but he soon saw Kurt waving to him from a booth. The years had been very kind to Kurt. David would be jealous of Kurt’s Hollywood good looks, but he could be honest with himself and admit that he wouldn’t know what to do with them if he had them. Not for the first time, David though Puck was a lucky guy.
And wasn’t that a surprise. Nobody had batted an eye when Kurt got into NYADA and moved to New York. There were a few raised eyebrows when Blaine hadn’t followed (though David and Finn hadn’t been surprised; they had been there for the screaming fights). There more eyebrows when Puck left Lima with a duffel bag and his guitar, and showed up on Kurt’s doorstep at the end of Kurt’s freshman year. There were dropped jaws when Kurt brought Puck home as his boyfriend the very next Thanksgiving.
Puck, who went by Noah these days, had started out performing on street corners and in subways for tips. He had met a few other musicians, and started playing open mic nights. Then, the band started getting gigs. Finally, they had played an after-party for the closing night of one of Kurt’s shows, and had been “discovered.” Their first album had come out late the year before, and Puck had been on the road since. It was one of the reasons why Kurt and Dave kept rescheduling; Kurt had an unexpected break and had traveled out to visit Puck. He had gotten back the day before, and they had agreed to meet for drinks.
David sat down and drank deeply from the beer Kurt pushed towards him.
“Well?” Kurt asked. “Tell me everything. ”
And David did.
“You’re pouting.” John said as they rode the taxi into Brooklyn. It was a bit disconcerting, the yellow cab. Not the right color, not the right shape inside, not on the right side of the road--smelled the same, though.
“I’m not pouting, ” Sherlock snapped, glaring at John.
“Yes you are,” John said mildly.
“You are, because David isn’t here to be impressed by you.” John’s voice was almost sing-song and he couldn’t quite keep the smile from his lips. “You’re missing your audience.”
Sherlock sniffed. “You’re impressed by me.”
“It’s not the same,” John said, quickly. “And you know it.”
Sherlock grunted and folded his arms over his coat. John laughed. He couldn’t help it; it was his normal reaction to Sherlock acting like an overgrown child. “So. Irene Adler is still alive.”
“You enjoyed seeing her, again.” John said. Sherlock shrugged.
“She provided a worthy puzzle. It’s good to see that mind still in action.” Sherlock brightened. “Ah. We’re here!” The taxi stopped and Sherlock jumped from the car, leaving John, like always, to figure out the American money and pay the driver. By the time John had joined Sherlock, he was already at the door with the lockpicks.
“What are you doing?” John hissed. “It’s broad daylight!”
“Nobody’s home, and I have to see his room.” Sherlock said. The door lock popped and the door opened. “You don’t have to follow me, if you don’t wish.” And then Sherlock was inside. John hesitated on the stoop for a moment, and with a muffled curse, he joined Sherlock in the house.
Sherlock was, of course, already up stairs working on the lock to Tim’s room. John moved to follow, but was stopped by the pathetic meowing of a small ginger cat. John paused, and bent over to scratch the cat behind the ears. The meowing turn to rather loud purring, and John smiled. “Hello, there,” he said. “Do you know where Tim’s gone off to, then?”
“I do hope you’re not expecting an answer,” Sherlock said. He was standing at the top of the staring, looking down at them.
John made a face. “That was fast,” he said. “You done, then?”
“Yes,” Sherlock said distractedly, walking down the stairs. His eyes were on the cat. John waited for Sherlock to continue, but didn’t have much expectation of it. That was Sherlock’s thinking face. Suddenly it brightened. “That’s it!” He cried. “Oh, how simple.” He strode forward, past John and the cat and to the door. “Come on, John, he called back. “I’ve got it!” John stood, and then heard. “And bring the cat!”
“Bring the--?” John said. He realized he was talking to himself. With a heavy sigh he picked up the cat, cradling her against his chest, and zipping her up inside his jacket. “Of course, bring the cat. Why wouldn’t I bring the cat. What the the cat have to do with anything?”
“Hold on!” John called back. He made sure the cat the secure, and left the house.
“I don’t say this often,” Kurt said. “But,
What have you gotten yourself into, David?”
David shrugged, and drained his beer. He held it up to the bartender, who nodded at him in acknowledgement. “I wish I knew. That Sherlock guy keeps things pretty close to his chest. Even Irene’s been less forthcoming than usual, and she’s always willing to share gossip with me.”
“Yes,” Kurt waved his hand. “But that’s because she knows you’ll tell me, and then I’ll reciprocate, and then you’ll tell her.”
“Well, that’s true.”
The bartender placed David’s beer on the table, and took the empty glass. When he was far enough out of earshot, David took a small sip and said, “I don’t know.” He said. “Oh, did I tell you they were together?”
“What? Irene and Sherlock?”
“No, Sherlock and John.”
Kurt’s eyes nearly shot off his forehead. “They’re gay British private detectives?”
“No. They’re gay British consulting detectives.”
“Whatever,” Kurt said. “They’re not real. They’re characters out of some--some coded Victorian novel. Or a BBC series.”
“Handsome, too. Well, John’s handsome. Sherlock looks weird until you get him in the right light. Then he’s just--gorgeous.” David stopped talking when he saw the grin on Kurt’s face. “What?”
“Look at you,” Kurt said. “Dishing on some guys you just met.” David, face already flushed from alcohol, could feel his face redden further and he looked down into his beet. “Who’d have thought you’d get to here, ten years ago?”
David looked up and smiled when he met Kurt’s eyes. “You did.”
Kurt smiled back and raised his martini glass to toast. “To proving the past wrong.”
“Cheers,” David said, and raised his glass. He was mid-swallow when he heard:
“So this is your friend from school. The source of that motivating guilt.” David coughed, sputtering beer all over himself. He cursed under his breath and dabbed at himself with a cocktail napkin. He glanced up at Kurt, who was looking at Sherlock--and really, who else could it be with that voice--with a blankly assessing look that David hadn’t seen since High School. David looked and Sherlock stepped closer to the table and into the light.
“And you must be Sherlock.” Kurt sniffed, and turned back to his drink. “You’re right, David. It takes a certain quality of light.”
David could see Sherlock narrow his eyes, and looked for John. He was nowhere to be seen. “Where’s John?” he asked.
Sherlock waved a hand, never looking away from Kurt. “Outside. Cats aren’t allowed inside, so he had to wait.”
“Cats?” David said. “Why would he--you took Tigerlilly ?”
Sherlock finally looked at David. “Who’s Ti--oh, I see. Tigerlilly? Really?”
David grunted. “I didn’t name her.” He took another sip of his beer and said. “Sherlock, you were right. This is Kurt. Kurt, this is Sherlock.”
“You better be.”
Sherlock’s eye narrow seemed almost fond. David knew, at the moment, he either was spending too much time with Sherlock, or he was more than a little tipsy. He suspected reality lay somewhere in between. “Why are you here?”
“To collect you,” Sherlock said. “We’ve cracked it.” He paused. “I say we. I mean I. I figured it out. But John’s got the cat, so he is helping.”
“Oh I certainly see what someone would see in you,” Kurt said, dry as dust.
“The sex is fantastic.”
Kurt paused, as if he couldn’t be sure if that’s what he heard. “Really?”
“Of course. It’s what people always expect to be the reason, and I’ve no time nor inclination to educate people who refuse to be educated.”
Now Kurt grinned. “Okay. So that’s what he sees. Good on him. Everyone needs a Diva.”
Sherlock huffed. “I am not--”
“Sherlock!” John called from the door. “Come on!”
“Right,” Sherlock said, still eyeing Kurt. He cut his eyes to David for a minute. “You need to come with us.”
“Right,” David said, and put his beet down. As he reached for his wallet, Sherlock stuck his hand out to Kurt.
“Always a pleasure to meet such an accomplished person. I had a chance to see you sing when you were last in London. You’re range is impressive, and your performance immaculate.”
Kurt took Sherlock’s hand, looking touched and a little stunned. “Thank you. London was a wonderful experience.”
Sherlock nodded, and with a dramatic twirl of his coat, left the bar. David turned to Kurt. Kurt looked back with wide eyes.
“Always nice to meet a fan,” he said, faintly.
John was officially not a cat person.
By his count, he had no less than two dozen claw marks, three bites, and was most certainly developing an allergy. When Sherlock came back, he taking the blasted thing, no matter how hard he tried to get out of it. Most people thought Sherlock was a cat person, John knew. He also knew that they couldn’t be more wrong. Sherlock was too much like a cat himself to ever get on with cats; he much preferred dogs.
Sherlock wasn’t going to be around much to prefer anything if he didn’t hurry his arse up!
John opened the door, ignoring the look from the bartender, and called sharply, “Sherlock! Come on!” He let the door shut and glared down at the kitten. Never. Again.
The door swung open next to him, and Sherlock burst forth, striding out to the curb to hail a cab. The door closed fully before David followed, tie loosened and jacked rumpled. “Did you really--”David shook his head at John’s jacket, and the cat inside. “May I?” David held out his hands, and John handed over the cat gratefully.
The cat, that had been struggling to get free of John, settled easily in David’s arms.
“Amazing,” John muttered. “He loves you.”
“She,” David corrected, absently. “Tigerlilly and I have an understanding.”
Tigerlilly? John thought. He opened his mouth, but Sherlock interrupted, crawling into a cab. John had to scramble to not be left behind. The cab took off as soon as John shut the door behind them. It was incredibly crowded in the back of the cab, between Sherlock’s height and David’s overall size, John began to wish he had taken the front seat.
“So,” John said. “Catch us up, then.”
“It’s obvious, isn’t it?” Sherlock blinked at him, leaning around David. David leaned back as far as he could, cradling Tigerlilly to his chest. “Tim’s lover was smuggling information.”
John blinked. “Sorry, what?”
“Tim’s lover, the footballer, has valuable information stolen from a foreign power, given to him by a family member whose involved in one of the resistance groups. Military secrets from Iran. No doubt, only the one who lost the information is aware of it, and the rest of the country assumes it was stolen by Israel. Indeed, the information probably was taken to sell to Israel, but disappeared with the lover. When the lover couldn’t produce it, they took Tim.”
“Brilliant,” John breathed. It didn’t matter how many time John saw Sherlock’s mind work, it still amazed him. He smiled proudly at Sherlock, as David gaped.
“And you just figured that all out?”
“Yes,” Sherlock said. “That is what I do.”
“So where are we going now?” John asked.
“To get Tim, of course,” Sherlock said, pulling out his phone. He hit a few buttons, and held it up to his ear. Mycroft, then.
“You got my email. We’re in route.” Sherlock paused, listening. “Yes we have it. And a familiar face. I understand these things are valuable.” He scowled. “I didn’t lose him. My-croft. You did.” Sherlock snarled and ended the call.
“I take it we’ll be meeting Mycroft’s men at the scene?” John asked mildly. “Or, his American branch, anyway.” Sherlock grunted, and stared out of the window. John laughed.
“So,” David asked, “Where’s the information now?”
Sherlock didn’t respond, and John smiled at David, patting his arm. “All in good time. Sherlock likes a bit of drama with his reveal, something Mycroft delights in foiling.” He snorted. “Sibling rivalry at the level of Global War.”
Sherlock sat up, like a dog catching a scent. “We’re here.
David was the last person out of the taxi, and still carrying the cat, to boot, who had decided that
this very moment
was the right time to dig his claws into David’s chest. David hissed, and tried to pull the cat away, and stand, and as a result, when he looked around again, Sherlock and John were halfway down the block, rapidly approaching a man dressed in riot gear, and woman dressed in a smart business suit, who was texting on her Blackberry.
“Ah, there you are,” Sherlock said as David caught up to them. “As you can see,” Sherlock turned back to the woman. “We have everything.”
The woman looked up at Dave, smiled distractedly, and looked back down at her phone.
“Everything seems to be in order,” she said. David wasn’t really surprised to hear that she was also English. It seemed to be the thing with this case.
John nudged Dave’s elbow. “Give her the cat,” he whispered out of the side of his mouth.
“O-kay,” David said slowly, and when he pulled the cat away from his chest, the man in riot gear held up a--was that a cat carrier? How did?
David looked at John, questioning, but John just waved at him to put the cat in the carrier. “It’s what they’re like,” he said, inexplicably. “It’s best just to go with it.”
“What who are like?” David muttered back. He held up the cat, but before he could put it in the carrier, he heard it, yelling from inside the building. He jumped, ready to rush in and do--what he didn’t know. But something. John started next to him, but Sherlock held out a hand, blocking their path.
“No,” he said. “Listen. Observe, John.”
John rolled his eyes, and David was compelled to to the same, but listened like John was doing, eyes shut and face screwed up in concentration. David felt his eyebrows raise. That was definitely Tim, he would recognize that accent anywhere. But he wasn’t in pain, and he wasn’t scared. He sounded almost--pissed.
The muffled yelling sharpened as Tim came through the doorway, red faced, bruised and with a scabbed over cut on his cheek, but lively and followed by a sheepish looking man who was, David was pretty sure, the soccer-player boyfriend.
“And another thing,” Tim yelled. He stopped, seeing the small gathering on the sidewalk. “Is that Tigerlilly?”
David looked at the cat in his hands, looked at the irate Tim storming towards them, and wished he could be anywhere else. Tim opened his mouth, probably to continue yelling, but Sherlock cut him off.
“Your cat will not be harmed, I assure you,” Sherlock said. “But he is a vital witness to the events that led to your recent imprisonment.”
It took the wind out of Tim’s sails. “What?” He said.
“Your cat,” Sherlock said. “Tigerlilly, has pika. I could tell by the plants in your flat.”
“Well, yeah,” Tim said. “My--wait, my plants?”
“Your cat was a gift from your lover, here,” Sherlock said, and David could already recognize the glint in Sherlock’s eye. This is what John was telling him. Sherlock loves an audience. “Who had Tigerlilly for a few weeks before giving her to you, partially because he knew you would like her, and partially because the data chip had gone missing and you wanted the cat cared for.”
“I--” Tim said. He turned around and looked at the player. What’s his face, David thought. Greene? Greene didn’t look so hot, pale and staring at Sherlock like the man had three heads.
“What he didn’t realize, however,” Sherlock went on. “Was that he had given away the data chip.”
“The pika,” John said. “The cat ate the chip.”
“Precisely,” Sherlock said. “When they arrived for Greene and the chip, they found him missing. They knew of you from the surveillance they had on him--don’t give me that look John, of course there was surveillance--and assumed, in a way correctly, that if Greene was going to hide the chip, he’d hide it with you.” Sherlock paused, looking Tim over. “They took you, then, but--ah.” Sherlock said. “Greene took you. He brought you here, explained how this was out of his hands. He kept them from hurting you too badly.” Sherlock looked Greene over. “If I were you, I’d leave him now.” Sherlock raised an eye. “And get tested for Syphilis. It’s on the rise, you know.”
Tim stared at Sherlock, who gestured. “This man is going to take the cat,” the riot-gear man took Tigerlilly from David’s hands and, while David wasn’t sorry to see her go, he was a little worried about the lost look on Tim’s face. “And once they’ve retrieved the chip, Tigerlilly will be returned to you, unharmed.”
Tim looked at Sherlock, then at Tigerlilly, then at Greene. Then back at Sherlock. Then he spun, and punched Greene right in the nose.
“And that’s for Tigerlilly you bastard!” Tim then turned and stomped away to a waiting ambulance while Greene sat on the ground, holding a bloody nose.
David was pretty sure that meant that Tim was, once again, single.
Things moved pretty quickly after that, John thought. Mycroft’s Americans cleaned up the warehouse, so quickly and thoroughly that Sherlock was stumped on details that surprised John. Well. Stumped for a bit. Not much got past Sherlock these days.
Tim was going to be fine; his ego was mostly bruised, and he was riding on a crest of righteous anger. John worried what would happen when the anger burned out, but, well, that was David’s problem now.
David was really a good sport about the whole thing. He was a big help, whether or not Sherlock would admit it. John last saw him talking to Tim, and riding with him in the ambulance.
John and Sherlock had gone back to the hotel, and made use of the feather-top mattress. If there was one thing to say about America, they certainly knew their comforts.
John slept the sleep of the well fucked, and when he woke Sherlock was gone. John wasn’t too worried. He had probably gone to see Irene, again. To say goodbye. There was a note on the pillow.
Mycroft said he wont move the tickets forward. That we’re to consider our stay a “Vacation.” I knew the mystery was too easily solved.
John snorted. Only Sherlock would consider a kidnapping a vacation. It was just as well, he though, leaning back and stretching. If we had tried another “proper” vacation, he would have blown up the hotel in about three hours. Again.
“Really, John,” Sherlock said from the doorway to the bedroom. “It was only the once.”
John grinned at Sherlock, upside down. “One day, I’ll stop being amazed that you know what I’m thinking.”
“And let things get dull?” Sherlock grinned. “Never.”
John laughed, and mock glared. “Why are you still dressed?” He asked. “We’re on a vacation, apparently.”
“And that means we must be naked?” Sherlock asked, but he was already unbuttoning his shirt.
“It does if Mycroft’s footing the bill,” John said. Sherlock paused, and when John looked up from where Sherlock’s pale skin was being slowly revealed, Sherlock was grinning.
“I do love you, John.”
John knew that tomorrow would involve some mad scheme, some crazy circumstance, some wild adventure on new soil; something that would have Mycroft wishing he had let them back to London. He knew that if it didn’t, Sherlock would weak unintended havoc trying to keep from boredom, once their bodies became too sore for sex. They’d probably see Irene, again. And David. And Sherlock would be there, throughout it all, in the middle of it all, the cause of it all, looking back at John, reaching out for John, with John.
John grinned. “I love you, too. Idiot.”
Chapter 9: Epilogue
David sat at his desk, head tilted back, staring at the ceiling. It had been three weeks since Sherlock and John had run into, and out of, his life, and he felt, still, like he was recovering from a bad sunburn.
The greatest surprise, actually, had been Irene. David was the only guy (in his office, anyway) who could have an ex-dominatrix as a secretary and not find it the least bit alluring. In fact, it just added to her status as his secret weapon.
The “Day After Sherlock”, he had taken Irene out to lunch, and asked how they had met. She told him everything, from being The Woman, to the photos, to Moriarty, to the pseudo-seduction, to the Escape. David had boggled at Irene.
“How are you my assistant?” He had said. “Why aren’t you running the world?”
“Who says I’m not?” Irene had replied with that smile from before, and David had, wisely, he thought, not pressed for details.
Irene knocked on his door and poked her head in. “My---protegee is here,” Irene had said. David really didn’t want to think about what that meant, but smiled anyway. “She asked to say hello.”
“Oh,” David said. “Sure, uh.” He stood and Irene stepped aside and David’s jaw dropped.
“Hello, Dave. Long time no see.”
John woke once again to music; this time a rather ambitious stab at the Ride of the Valkyries. John sighed. It had been less than a month, and Mycroft was here again!
Once more, John got up and made his eventual way downstairs. This time, however, when he arrived in the room, Sherlock stopped playing. It was enough to make John sit without his ritual of making Mycroft twitch.
“What’s wrong?” John asked. He had a sudden spike of dread, Moriarty. If Irene’s back then it could be-- But he cut that line of thinking off. Mycroft handed John a folder.
John flipped it open. There were no images, this time, just transcripts. Missing person reports. And a phrase repeated over and over.
“What’s a ‘Weeping Angel’?” John asked.
“The greatest threat Earth has faced yet,” Mycroft said. John looked up.
“That’s a bit melodramatic, isn’t it?” He looked over at Sherlock to find him looking very seriously at Mycroft.
“What is it you need?” Sherlock asked quietly. Mycroft handed John another folder. This one had the words TORCHWOOD and CLASSIFIED stamped on the cover. John opened it and saw a glossy photograph of a blue police box, battered and slightly out of focus. Just emerging from the shadow was a man, fairly nondescript, with a rather large bow-tie.
“The Madman with the Blue Box has gone missing,” Mycroft said. “I need you to find the man they call ‘the Doctor’.”