When John returned home from the war he found himself desperately looking for a place to live. He was in one of the most expensive cities in the world living on a rather small soldier’s pension, but this city was his home. He couldn’t imagine living anywhere else besides London. Unfortunately, finding a flatmate was proving to be a difficult task. He’d met a dozen people this month alone without finding a good match. If it wasn’t a problem with the flat itself, it was the potential flatmate. He wasn’t sure what he was looking for, but college students and drug addicts certainly weren’t it. And those seemed to be the only people currently looking for flatshares in London.
Flatmate hunting was how he ended alone on the streets of Brixton late at night by himself. The man he met that earlier seemed like he’d be a decent flatmate and the flat was in an attractive victorian building, but it was far too removed from the city center. The last underground stop on the Victoria line was still several blocks from where the flat was located. It would be a rather inconvenient place to live. All the jobs he’d applied for were in central London and he wasn’t looking forward to a long commute every day.
As he walked by an alleyway between two housing estates he heard the sound of a woman crying. He paused in his tracks. It was too dark to see anything properly. He wished he still carried his flashlight keychain with him, but all he could do was peer into the darkness and hope that his eyes adjusted quickly. The doctor in him - or maybe just the decent human being in him - couldn’t just pass by while someone might possibly be injured.
“Hello?” The crying stopped and John took a small step forward. “Miss? Do you need help?”
“Yes, please,” the woman sobbed. “I think I’ve twisted an ankle.”
“We should get you to hospital if it’s serious,” he said as he stepped even further into the darkness. “But once my eyes adjust I can take a look. See if it’s twisted. Maybe it’s not as bad as it feels.”
“Stop,” a man’s voice said from behind him. John froze, but before he could think about what his next reaction would be he was violently grabbed and turned around.
“Fuck this,” the woman hissed in his ear. She pulled both of John’s hands sharply behind his back and pressed up behind him as though he were a human shield. “I was warned away from London. Shoulda listened to them. This city is fucked.”
“Yes, you should have listened,” the man agreed. He was standing at the entrance of the alley and all John could see was his silhouette. He was tall with a wild head of hair, but John couldn’t make out much more than that. “Sloppy kills don’t happen here. I make sure of it. You should have known better. Is my reputation beginning to falter?”
“You should expand your vocabulary. At least be creative with your profanity.”
John struggled against the woman’s grip, but she was unbelievably strong. Her nails dug into his wrists and John felt completely helpless in her grasp. When the stranger stepped forward the woman’s grip tightened and she began to twist his wrists. He couldn’t help, but cry out in pain and fall to his knees. The way he twisted made pain shoot through his already injured shoulder and he feared all of his post war physical therapy was about to be completely undone.
In the blink of an eye there was a flurry of motion around him. The woman released him and he fell forward onto his hands on the cool pavement below him. He heard the woman scream just as there was a sharp impact noise that he had trouble identifying. In the war he’d seen and heard many injuries happen. It sounded like someone being stabbed, but he couldn’t see a thing to confirm his suspicion. Then the woman started to scream and curse at them, proving that her profane vocabulary was, indeed, limited.
John’s eyes had finally started to adjust, but before he could look around he’d been picked up and put back on his feet.
“Come along,” the stranger said as ushered him towards the main road. “We’re done here.”
“What the hell was that?” The man was walking briskly away and John followed him without a second thought. He needed answers. “And who the hell are you? What’s going on here?”
John caught up with the man and finally got a look at him. His hair was dark, his skin was pale, and his eyes were the most startling shade of blue he’d ever seen. When the man glanced over at him John’s heart began to race faster. There was an intensity in those eyes that John couldn’t even begin to describe. He felt almost paralyzed in their gaze, but he felt compelled to continue moving forward in order to keep pace with him.
“She was a vampire,” the man said as he quickly looked him up and down.
“Excuse me. A ‘vampire?’”
“Yes, precisely. Do you snore?”
“What? Wait a second, can we focus on the ‘vampire’ thing for just a moment.”
At this point the man had hailed down a taxi and was climbing in. John hesitated for a second, but soon followed him into the black cab. He wasn’t going to let him out of his sight until he got an explanation for what he’d just witnessed... or heard... whatever. He needed answers. He quickly settled into the seat across from him in the cab.
“I’m sorry, but I think I misheard you.”
“No,” he said. “You didn’t. It’s alright. Most people need a few moment to process it. Even people with above average intelligence encounter trouble coping with this. Take your time.”
John sat for several minutes in silence trying to rationalize the whole ordeal. He’d seen his share of violence already. He’d been to Afghanistan. He’d been a soldier and a doctor. He knew the world could be violent and unpredictable. But his experiences had hardened him to any belief in the supernatural. He didn’t even believe in God anymore. No, especially not God. Not after all he’d seen. Humans were frightening enough. He didn’t need monster stories.
But something had happened back in that alley. Something that he couldn’t explain...
“Who are you,” John asked hesitantly.
“Sherlock Holmes. And you’re a Doctor, obviously, but I’d very much prefer a name to go with your profession.”
“John Watson. How did you-”
“You offered to take a look at her ankle as though you knew something about it. You were confident. Too confident for someone who merely had first aid training. Besides, that woman was a poor actress. She obviously wasn’t injured. Any reasonable person could see that it was a trap, but you have the nobility and sense of obligation to help others. Not all doctors have this trait, of course. Only the good ones. You are obviously quite good, poor reasoning skills notwithstanding.”
John wasn’t sure if he’d been insulted or complemented. It seemed like he’d been hit by both at once, but he was too distracted by the ‘vampire’ part to give it much more than a passing thought.
“And you kill them?”
“Sometimes,” Sherlock said. “If I have to.”
John went silent again. He wasn’t sure exactly what he was feeling. Apprehension, obviously. A bit of fear. Excitement, maybe. His heart was still racing even though he’d been sitting for at least twenty minutes, but it wasn’t a bad feeling. He enjoyed it. It’s why he signed up to the military in the first place. But this was a whole new realm of danger. People with guns and bombs he could try to be prepared for at least. But up until now vampires had just been mythical monsters. He had no idea how to protect himself from them.
”We’re here,” Sherlock said, snapping John out of his thoughts.
“Where?” John peered out the window, but he had no idea where they were.
Instead of answering, Sherlock just smiled and stepped out of the cab. John weighed his options quickly and found himself once again following Sherlock. They entered through a door that read 221b went up some steps up to a small second story flat. The main room was littered with books and miscellaneous odds and ends that John wasn’t even going to try to categorize. There was a large plastic globe, a microscope, several jars filled with unidentifiable objects and... was that a skull on the mantle?
”What do you think?” Sherlock was looking at him expectantly.
“What, of your flat?”
“It’s lovely. Very nice,” he said as he scanned the room. Even while cluttered with random items he could appreciate how beautiful the flat was. “Wish I could find myself a place like this.”
“You can have the room upstairs. Fifty pounds per week.” Sherlock tossed his scarf aside and started rifling through some papers on the coffee table.
“It doesn’t come with an ensuite bathroom, but I’m sure you’ll find the accommodations adequate.”
“Fifty pounds per week in central London? You could get twice that. Hell, in a building like this, triple it or quadruple it.”
“Perhaps, but I’m picky about my flatmates.” He moved on from the stack of papers and began fiddling with some equipment on the kitchen table. John recognized the beaker and microscope, but there were some tools that had clearly been pieced together from other things and John could only begin to wonder what their purpose was. John had no idea what he was doing, but he looked purposeful and, to be honest, John had way more important things to be concerned about.
“How did you even know I was looking?”
“Obvious. That’s why you were in Brixton at that hour. That potential flatmate you’d met with has a serious drug habit. No doubt he’ll be short on rent next month. You’re doing yourself a favor by passing that place up.”
“You were following me?”
“I knew you would be attacked. That woman has been attacking gullible kind hearted men with that same trick for weeks. You were to be her fifth victim.”
“What makes you think I’ll move? I don’t even know you.”
“Because if you talk to anyone else about vampires they are likely to think you’re mad,” Sherlock said very seriously. He abandoned his tools on the table and approached John, stopping merely inches in front of him. “And you are far too much of adrenaline addict to try and forget what you saw there tonight. You want more. And by moving in here you can have that.”
John knew he was addicted to excitement, but Sherlock was reading him like a book. It frightened him, which in turn excited him even more. By accepting Sherlock’s offer he’d not only have an affordable roof over his head, but he’d have an entirely new world to experience. He barely knew Sherlock, true, but this was too much of an opportunity to pass up. He had to take it.
“So fifty a week?”
“Perfect,” Sherlock said with a smile. He brushed past John and headed towards what John assumed was his own bedroom. He stopped in the doorway and turned around. “Oh, but if you move in during the day, do keep quiet. That tends to be when I sleep. For obvious reasons.”
“Right, of course.”
Sherlock shut the door behind him leaving John standing awkwardly in the living room by himself. John took a moment to process the whirlwind of developments that he’d just experienced. He wasn’t quite sure how it all happened so fast, but he was pretty sure it was a good thing. Probably...
Sherlock had been asleep when he’d arrived and he hadn’t bothered waking him. He clearly did most of his work at night, which made sense. John didn’t have much to move in anyway. He had a suitcase full of clothes, a box of books, a duffel with his old military gear, and a box of miscellaneous odds and ends that he’d picked up through the years. He didn’t even own a set of sheets, but was grateful to see that not only was the room furnished, but it came with a stocked linen closet as well.
After his possessions had been settled into his new room he dashed to the corner store for groceries. The neighborhood was just as lovely as the flat. Not only was it in a prime location, but it had all the amenities that he could possibly need. He felt supremely lucky to have stumbled into such an amazing opportunity. Even with the extremely abnormal circumstances surrounding him finding this flat, the neighborhood made him feel like he really could live there.
When he returned he began to put his groceries away, but paused when he opened the fridge. It was completely empty. Even a man as strange as Sherlock had to eat something. He opened up the freezer out of curiosity and found that there wasn’t anything there either. There weren’t even ice cubes in the trays. The cabinets revealed the same thing. There was nothing. Not a single bit of food in the entire kitchen. Even if Sherlock ate out a lot, there’d be take away boxes or condiments or something.
“Pieced it together yet,” Sherlock crooned from his bedroom door.
John jumped at the sound of his voice. It took him a moment to compose himself and respond. “You’re a vampire.”
“Yes, good, glad that we’re on the same page now.” He strolled casually across the room towards John.
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“It’s much more interesting watching people piece it together on their own.” Sherlock leaned back against the kitchen counter and folded his arms. He seemed to be studying John’s reaction with great interest and the doctor once again found himself almost paralyzed under his gaze.
“Didn’t you think that maybe, just maybe, that would have affected my decision to move in?”
“Hm. No. Because it wouldn’t have.”
“What? But you can kill me.”
“Irrelevant. A human can kill you too.”
“But... It’s not... Sherlock. This isn’t the kind of things you neglect to tell someone before they move in.”
“Isn’t it?” Sherlock pushed himself off the counter stood directly in front of John. He was studying him again and John was trying his hardest not to look at frightened as he felt. “You have questions,” Sherlock finally said. “Make yourself a cup of tea and I’ll meet you in twenty minutes. Take advantage of this because I loath answering questions. But I’m feeling particularly generous this evening.” He gave John’s arm a gentle pat and left John standing in the middle kitchen.
Sherlock emerged from the bathroom some time later freshly showered and clothed. He casually took a seat on the couch and waited. John was seated in the large chair on the opposite side of the coffee table, hands folded neatly in his lap and a half empty cup of tea sitting on the table in front of him. The tea had done a great deal to calm him down, but he’d forgotten about it when he started to think about what exactly he was going to ask.
“How old are you?”
“That’s your starting question?” Sherlock scoffed. “It’s rare for people to surprise me. I’d have thought that as a doctor you’d have immediately jumped into the biological questions.”
“If you don’t want to answer it-”
“No, I didn’t say that,” he said. Sherlock sighed and shut his eyes briefly. Sherlock looked almost vulnerable in that moment, but when he opened his eyes they immediately locked on John again. “I was aged thirty five years when I was turned in 1850. I’ve been a vampire for one hundred and sixty two years, but I have been in existence for a total of one hundred and ninety seven years.”
“I can do math,” John snapped. When he realized he’d just snapped at a vampire he a shot of panic coursed through him, but Sherlock only smiled at him. Sherlock’s reaction put John slightly at ease, but he was still nervous. “So you’re Victorian?”
“I suppose so.”
“What about all that vampire lore?”
“You’ll need to be a tad more specific. Some mythology is correct. Most is complete fabrication. You’ve already witnessed a stake to the heart. What else do you want to know?”
“That’s what you did to her? It was dark. I didn’t see.”
“Yes, a stake to the heart is fatal.”
“We just left her there...”
“Her body would have evaporated within minutes. Don’t be concerned about those details. I’m much neater than that. Next question.”
“It hurts. Prolonged exposure can kill, but we don’t burst into flames if that’s what you’re thinking.”
“What about religious symbols? Mirrors? Garlic?”
“Ah, and here’s the doctor I was expecting to encounter. Rapid fire biological questions,” Sherlock said with a smirk. “Religious symbols can vary in effectiveness depending on the intent behind them. A cross on its own wouldn’t do anything. A cross wielded by a man intent on repelling a vampire would. Mirrors? We have reflections. That’s a superstition. And garlic has a strong smell. It’s not the substance itself, but the strength of its odor that is repellent. Kimchi would have the same effect.”
“Well, what about blood? If I, for example, get a papercut, are you going to go mad? Would you be able to smell it?”
“I’m not a shark, John. I can control myself,” he said, almost sounding offended. “I do, however, have one rule. If you have to bleed profusely, take it elsewhere. The smell may not drive me mad, but I’d rather not have the flat smelling like it. It’s irksome. I don’t appreciate having temptation just lying around, even if I’m strong enough to fight it.”
“But you drink it?”
“Yes. That’s what that woman had planned for you, John. No doubt she would have drained you completely.”
A chill ran down John’s spine, but he pressed on. “Do you have a heartbeat?”
There was a moment where Sherlock did nothing and John feared he might have crossed some sort of line. “Why don’t you come over here and find out,” Sherlock said steadily.
John hesitated again, but he wasn’t one to pass up opportunities so he quickly made a decision. He stood from his chair and approached Sherlock. He reached out and touched his fingers to the pulse point on Sherlock’s neck. His skin was cool and smooth and absolutely still. There was no pulse at all.
He hadn’t realized he’d been staring directly into Sherlock’s eyes until the vampire began to smile at him. He’d been standing awkwardly with his fingers on Sherlock’s throat for who knew how long. John quickly pulled back and subconsciously wiped his hands on his jeans as though he’d just touched a fresh corpse, but he knew that wasn’t exactly right. Sherlock didn’t have a heartbeat, but he wasn’t exactly dead either. His life was just... different. And on a biological level John was incredibly fascinated by it.
John reclaimed his seat and tried to move the conversation along. “Do you eat? Other than blood I mean.”
“Liquid diet. I can drink. Coffee, tea, wine. Nothing solid.” John wanted to ask a follow up question, but it seemed a bit rude so he bit his tongue. “Yes, John, vampires urinate. Next question, please.”
“Are you psychic?”
Sherlock laughed. “No. That’s another myth.”
“But it seems like you’re reading my mind.”
“I’m merely observing. There’s nothing magical about it. Even you could do it if you tried.”
“Sorry,” John said, though he was unsure why he was apologizing after having been insulted.
There was a buzzing sound and Sherlock quickly pulled out his cell phone. He read whatever message was on it and typed out a hasty response.
“John, get your coat.”
“Wait, why? What’s happening?”
“There’s a crime scene,” he said as he practically leapt off the couch.
“A crime scene? Sherlock, I think you’re leaving some information out here.”
“A crime scene! There’s a body. Get your coat.”
John wasn’t sure why, but he grabbed his coat and once more found himself following Sherlock.