There was definitely something disheartening about being surrounded by people who were covered head to toe in protective gear. John felt oddly naked, despite being warmly dressed in jeans, jumper and jacket. At least he felt a little bit better as he recognised Lestrade among the three men nearest to them. Greg crossed his arms over his chest as John approached them, barely twitching as the man to his right held out a hand to show where John should stop. Sherlock was already there, down on one knee, angrily untying his shoes.
”Ridiculous!” he spat as John stopped next to him. ”Happy!”
”So, what’s the plan?” John asked Greg.
”Well, the basic plan is to find out what makes the Geiger counter go crazy. Easiest way to do so is for you two to get rid of everything that could have been contaminated.”
Sherlock got up and kicked off his shoes. John sighed.
”I take it that means our clothes.”
”Sorry about this. You ran inside before I had the chance to stop you,” Lestrade said. ”This isn’t the usual routine, but we have to make do. We managed to find some blankets for you, at least. Not a very nice time of the year to stand around naked outside. They have been checked, no radiation on any of them. Try to get rid as much clothing as possible before taking them, to avoid unnecessary contamination.”
John tried a polite smile, but it didn’t feel right.
”Blankets,” Sherlock muttered angrily. ”Yes, blankets will always make things better.”
”Sarcasm, Sherlock? Really?” John asked as he got down to untie his shoes.
”Why not? It always seems to work for you.”
It really wasn’t possible to discuss things with Sherlock when he was in this kind of mood. When John had signed the papers for a rental car that morning, he really had pictured things differently. It was all his own fault, for yet again thinking he had made a correct decision, when he should have known by now that the mind of Sherlock Holmes didn’t quite work in the same way as anybody else’s.
Things had been different last Wednesday.
- - -
Last Wednesday had been the day John had packed his suitcase with his best shirts and his only decent suit, getting ready for a wedding he wasn’t really sure he wanted to go to in the first place. (A four day wedding! Which normal person had a wedding that lasted for four days?) Helen was Harry’s and his only cousin, and they had never gotten along. Still, with the amount of living relatives being possible to count on the fingers of only one hand, it was probably best to keep in touch with them, and to show up at their weddings, even if it frankly was bloody ridiculous to have a wedding that lasted for four days, and even if it meant he had to share both a car and a room with his sister.
Last Wednesday had been the day that Sherlock almost hadn’t allowed him to leave the flat. First John couldn’t find his toothbrush, and then the suit (which he knew he had packed) had been back in the wardrobe. Then his entire suitcase had been gone. When he had threatened to leave without it, his shoes had gone missing as well.
Last Wednesday had been the day that Sherlock had dragged him into the bedroom and Harry had been knocking on the front door for ten minutes before John had even noticed.
- - -
The wedding had been a huge affair, held in a castle that had seen better days, and most of the other guests were definitely the kind of people who thought a four day wedding was the least you could do, and why wasn’t the champagne of a better brand anyway?
The only thing that made being away from London bearable was the steady stream of new text messages on John’s mobile. How Sherlock even had found the time to write all of them were beyond him. During a particularly boring speech at breakfast on Saturday, when John had no possibility of checking the messages, he had counted the low vibrations in his pocket. Eight minutes, twenty-two messages. All of them humming with longing. The eighteenth text (Can’t find teapot. Thinking about reporting it missing. SH) was the one that made John make up his mind. There was no way he could stay away until Monday morning. It took some persuading to get Harry to drive him to the nearest rental place (four miles away), but it was all worth it as they drove back to the castle in separate cars.
The bride had just entered the church when John received another text message. (Possible new case. Interesting. SH) One hour and forty-five minutes later, as they met the newlyweds outside the church gates, his mobile was still silent.
He had decided to get into the car anyway. Clearly that had been a mistake.
- - -
”Who does such a thing?”
Sherlock’s angry voice interrupted John’s thoughts.
”Does what?” John asked and took off his jacket. A man in protective suit took it and passed it along.
”Waltzes into a crime scene without the slightest idea of what to find inside! Marches straight past ten officers in uniform and god knows how many in civilian clothing, and steps right into a condemned building!”
John glanced back at the house that they had just left. The building was indeed condemned, and it showed. The roof had long ago given up, and the facade looked as if it was about to fall down any second. The graffiti that covered it had multiplied over time; large, colourful paintings were covered in tags and crude remarks. Things were not better on the inside.
”No, John,” Sherlock said, slowly articulating each word while he took off his coat. ”You did.”
John let go off the hem of his jumper and turned around to face Sherlock.
”Oh, really? You knew you were walking into a radioactive building? You came here and decided that yes, today is a good day to become glow-in-the-dark?”
”Don’t act stupid,” Sherlock spat. ”Of course I knew what I was doing. A calculated risk, small enough that it didn’t matter. I had evidence to collect.”
”A calculated risk,” John repeated. ”Small enough not to matter. Sherlock, have you somehow failed to notice that we are surrounded by people who are not only wearing protective gear, but are also doing their very best not to risk touching us?”
As if to prove John’s point, the man who took his jumper from him almost dropped it to the ground as he recoiled from John’s hand.
- - -
When John had finally made it back to London, his first stop had been Baker Street. He had managed to find a parking spot further down the road, which in itself was a small miracle, and then he had walked the last distance to 221B, just as the streetlights had flickered to life.
The flat had been dark and empty. He had taken the time to change out of his suit and into the more practical combination of jeans and jumper before he sent a text to Lestrade. The address of the crime scene made him decide on a taxi rather than the rental car.
John had seen the flashing lights of the police cars from two streets away. The security had turned out to be stricter than usual, and it had taken Donovan, of all people, to get him past the police tape. When he had finally found Greg, the detective inspector had been intently studying a floor plan that had been spread out over the hood of a police car. John had joined him.
”What’s going on?”
”We’re trying to find out if there are more ways to access this house than we initially believed,” Lestrade had said and pointed at the piece of paper. ”There might be some secret passageway to the sewers.”
John had looked at the plan, which seemed to show a small two-floor building, and then at the row of houses next to them. They all had three floors.
”Right. So which building is it?”
That’s when Greg’s entire body had tensed up.
”It’s further down the road. Down the hill.”
John might not have Sherlock’s deduction skills, but even he had known something was wrong. The police barrier next to them, that one John mistakenly had thought was just the end of the sealed off area, turned out to be a second barrier. His mouth had gone dry.
Lestrade had made a strange noise in his throat.
”John, wait. You can’t go there. It’s not safe.”
He had been gone even before Lestrade had finished the sentence.
- - -
John had hesitated before going inside, but just for a second. The building was obviously not safe, not at all, but that didn’t matter. So what if he had it fall down on top him? He had pushed the broken front door to the side, stepping inside the dark house.
”Sherlock?” The stairs to the second floor were mostly broken, so he had decided to look through the ground floor first. ”Sherlock? Are you in here?”
John had turned around and followed the voice. Sherlock had been standing in the middle of what once had been a small bedroom.
”There you are,” John had said. ”With the amount of police cars outside, I thought something really bad had happened.”
Sherlock hadn’t moved.
”John? What are you doing here?”
He had almost laughed.
”Well, I heard a rumour you were reporting out tea pot missing, so I thought I’d come home earlier to help you find it. Had to stop by a crime scene first, though.”
”No.” Sherlock’s voice had been sharp, wiping away the smile on John’s face. ”You can’t be here.”
”What? Sherlock, I…” John usually didn’t stutter, but now he did. ”I came home earlier. I thought you’d be happy.”
”Are you aware that you’re standing next to a source of radioactivity?”
That had made John’s mind go blank.
”Radioactivity? Sherlock, are you saying that you’re radioactive?”
”No, I’m not. The house is. Do keep up, John. Why do you think the Yard’s finest is outside, cowering until they manage to find someone with a decent Geiger counter?”
That really hadn’t made things better.
”In that case. Shouldn’t we leave?” And do so fast.
”No, John, we shouldn’t,” Sherlock had spat and turned around, coat billowing around him. ”I’m not quite finished. You, on the other hand, should. Get out.”
John had watched Sherlock climb up on the window sill, balancing precariously while studying a dark spot on the ceiling. When he jumped down, John still hadn’t moved. He didn’t move until the unmistakable sound of a police megaphone disrupted the silence. Apparently they were expected outside. Sherlock had swept out the door, John silently following.
- - -
There was definitely something disheartening about being surrounded by people who were covered head to toe in protective gear, especially when you were almost naked yourself. John did his best to ignore Sherlock’s angry muttering as he pulled his t-shirt over his head and handed it to the policeman next to him.
John looked up at Sherlock’s outburst. Sherlock was unbuttoning his trousers, his movements short and twitchy.
”What?” John asked.
”You thought I’d be happy?”
Great. Now they were arguing in front of half of Scotland Yard. Exactly what he needed on a Saturday night. He turned around to face Sherlock and did his best to ignore the fact that they had an audience.
”What’s so wrong about that? You pester me for days when I go away, and then I surprise you by coming home early. Would it be so wrong to assume there would be some kind of happiness involved in that equation?”
Sherlock threw his trousers in the general direction of another person in protective gear before continuing to take off his shirt.
”Really, John? Happy? Is that the best you can do?”
John dragged his left hand over his face, briefly pressing his thumb and forefinger across his eyes, and pinched the bridge of his nose. He took his trousers off, embarrassingly enough almost tripping on the end of the right leg before he could get them off completely. When he looked up, Sherlock was down to his socks, his boxers, and that blue scarf.
”What’s so wrong with happiness?”
Sherlock didn’t answer. Instead, he took off his pants, and seriously, John thought, who choses to remove their underwear before their scarf? Not him, anyway. He reached for one of the blankets, wrapping it around himself before he took off his pants. He bet it looked very dignified. When he looked at Sherlock again, Sherlock was unwinding his scarf from his neck, getting rid of the last piece of clothing.
Only Sherlock wasn’t completely naked once the scarf was gone.
John could have recognised those anywhere. The chain had always felt a bit uncomfortable around his neck. It was as if the two small pieces of metal made the chain unbearably heavy. He had gone to war, he had put them on, and at one point he had been sure he would never live to take them off by himself.
John stepped closer and reached out his hand. Sherlock flinched, just a little, but he didn’t move away as John took hold of the two metal disks that were hanging from a chain around Sherlock’s neck. They were warm from the contact with Sherlock’s chest.
”Why are you wearing my id-tags?” John kept his voice low.
Sherlock scoffed and pulled back slightly, but John’s grip on the chain stopped him from really going anywhere.
”I’d thought that would be obvious,” he said, his voice equally low.
”Yeah, well, normally I would say that it was,” John agreed. ”But with you, I’m not always so sure. So let’s try it again. Why are you wearing my id-tags?”
”Because you weren’t here,” Sherlock answered, and even though he still sounded so very angry, it made John forget to breathe. ”I was at home, and I was bored, and I was alone, and you were not there.”
”You must have turned the place upside down to find these,” John said, tugging lightly on the chain. He could feel the raised letters of his own name, the slight stickiness still left on the disks from where he had kept them taped together to make sure they didn’t clink against each other. ”Last time I saw them they were packed away in a box somewhere.”
”I was bored,” Sherlock repeated, as if it was an explanation.
”So you went through my entire room?”
”It seemed like a good idea at the time.”
”For someone who claims he’s not even happy to see me, it kind of looks like you missed me.”
John didn’t let go of the chain as Sherlock twitched up his face.
”Again, with the ’happy’! I hadn’t seen you for seventy-one hours, and then you show up with your hair and your jumper and you, in the middle of a crime scene, and NO, I was not bloody happy!” For someone who was very much naked, Sherlock sure waved his hands around a lot. ”Happiness is such a… pedestrian feeling. It’s ’oh, the sun is shining,’ it’s ’I had such a great cup of earl grey,’ it’s ’I just saw a picture of a kitten wearing glasses.’”
”A kitten wearing glasses?”
John couldn’t help it. His lips twitched up in a smile, and even though he tried to suppress it, Sherlock had already seen it. His eyes narrowed.
”Oh, you know what I’m talking about,” Sherlock said.
”Of course. You are not happy to see me, because I am not a kitten wearing glasses, and I didn’t bring any tea, and the sun is most certainly not shining.” This time, John couldn’t stop his smile at all. ”I’m going to take a guess. You’re… more than happy?”
Finally, Sherlock calmed down. He stood still, and met John’s eyes.
”Yes,” he said. ”Much more.”
This time, when John tugged at the chain, Sherlock leaned forward and lowered his head.
”I was overjoyed,” Sherlock mumbled, his mouth close to John’s ear. ”Except for the fact that you walked straight into a contaminated crime scene. I’d say that part mostly made me upset.”
Right. Crime scene. The id-tags made a small clinking sound as John let go of them and took a step backwards. Sherlock was still leaning forward slightly, but he quickly straightened back up. Lestrade’s cough could definitely be defined as polite, but it still made John’s ears burn.
”Sherlock, we need that thing around your neck as well. And there are some blankets over there.”
”Blankets,” Sherlock huffed. He rolled his eyes, but he did get one from the pile, right after he handed John’s id-tags to a person in protective gear.
- - -
Being carefully examined by a man with a Geiger counter definitely wasn’t on the top of John’s list of fun things, but at least it turned out that he wasn’t radioactive; that was good. Things improved even further when he was led away to an area further away from the sealed off area and people started taking off their protective suits.
”What was that all about?” Greg asked as he took off his breathing mask and ran a hand through his hair to fix it.
”Yeah,” Donovan added. ”Was Sherlock wearing your dog tags? That’s just… odd.”
John cleared his throat.
”No, it was… nothing. Where is he, anyway?” He turned around to see where Sherlock had gone. He was still close to the building, surrounded by three men in that yellow protective gear. ”Is something wrong?”
”They are just being thorough,” Lestrade said. ”He was exposed longer than you were. Sally, can you check on the status of their clothes?”
John leaned back against the side of a police car as Donovan left, his eyes still on Sherlock. He barely noticed when she walked away, or that Greg leaned against the car next to him. At least not until Greg made another one of those polite coughs.
”So. You and Sherlock.”
John crossed his arms over his chest.
”Yeah, well. Me and Sherlock. You can’t say that you’re surprised.”
Greg’s low laugh was all the answer he needed. They both kept their eyes on Sherlock, and finally the three men released him and Sherlock walked towards them, his strides long. How anyone managed to look so comfortable while naked and half-wrapped in a blanket was more than John could understand.
”Lestrade!” Sherlock shouted when he was halfway to where they stood. ”The solution to your problem can be found on the second floor, by the window. I recommend putting that suit back on before you go inside.”
John was impressed by how exasperated Greg managed to sound with just a sigh. Still, he put the suit back on, giving out orders to his staff as he headed back down the hill.
Things felt better with Sherlock leaning against the car next to him.
”Solved the case?”
”Of course. With that level of radiation, and the amount of staining in the ceiling of the room where we were, it was obvious.”
”Yes. Lestrade should find the last piece of evidence without a problem. Case closed.”
John smiled a little and shook his head.
The left side of Sherlock’s mouth twitched up in a smile. They waited in silence as Lestrade led his people to the house and disappeared inside. John wrapped the blanket closer around him. Sherlock might be able to get away with having the blanket just hanging loosely from his shoulders, but John didn’t even want to try.
”I feel I should… apologise.” Sherlock frowned, as if it was difficult to find the right words. ”This wasn’t the way you wanted other people to find out. About you and me. You wanted your sister to know first.”
John looked at Sherlock. He was staring down at his bare feet.
”First of all,” John said, ”I wish I had recorded that, you talking about apologising. Could come in handy one day. And second… Well, I sort of told Harry already. At the wedding.”
It was nice to see that it was still possible for him to surprise Sherlock Holmes. John quite liked the way it made Sherlock’s neck snap up, and how wide it made his eyes.
”You did? How?”
”By accident, mostly. But it was good. We talked. A bit like old times.”
Donovan was on her way towards them, a pile of clothing in her arms and a plastic evidence bag in her hand, but she was still a good distance from them.
”Does that mean… that we’re okay?”
The softness of Sherlock’s voice made John’s heart constrict. Of course they were.
”We had an argument, Sherlock. We had them all the time before we were together, and we’re likely to have plenty more. That doesn’t make us any less crazy about each other. Right?”
John liked the finality of that word. Donovan looked at them with narrowed eyes as she reached the cars.
”Your things, or what they could safely give back. No trousers, no socks, no shoes. The rest should be here. Except for your coat, Holmes. Apparently, it dragged in some radioactive mud somewhere.”
She unloaded her burden and they took their clothes. Getting dressed didn’t take long, but John still felt it was a relief to be able to stand up straight without clutching a blanket tight to keep the entire Scotland Yard from seeing him naked.
”Wallets,” Donovan added, picking them up from the evidence bag and handing them over. ”Mobiles. Keys. And finally— ” she held out her closed hand to John, and he held his left hand out, palm up, ”your id-tags, doc.”
She let the discs fall into his open hand first, the chain following with a small rustle of metal against metal. John didn’t miss the sneer she sent in Sherlock’s direction.
He rubbed the two disks together. They were cold. That was the way they felt every time he opened the small box he kept them in, the same way he usually felt when he saw them. He glanced up at Sherlock. He was buttoning the cuffs of his shirt, and John could tell that he was doing his best not to look at him. He had liked the way his id-tags had felt when they had borrowed their warmth from Sherlock.
If only took two steps to place himself in front of Sherlock. John used both hands to reach up, to put the chain back where it fit best. Around Sherlock’s neck.
The way Sherlock stilled, his right hand still on the button of his cuff, his eyes on John’s face — it was enough. The long chain really was kind of perfect. It didn’t take much effort to use it to pull Sherlock down, to bring his face so close to John’s own.
”I think you’d better hold on to these,” John said. ”So you remember who you’re supposed to be happy to see.”
”Like I’d forget.” Sherlock’s voice was a low rumble, a warm breath, against John’s mouth. His lips were dry and soft against John’s, and on the second kiss Sherlock’s tongue was warm against his own.
”Happy, then?” John asked, their mouths still close together. He liked the way Sherlock’s lips curled up in a smile against his own.
”Fine. Very happy. Can we go home now?”
They definitely could.