Sherlock turned to him, as he entered the room. The violin was balanced delicately under his chin. The bow scizzored back and forth across the steel strings, creating an eloquent, yet mournful tune. Loud clapping sounded from television. John glanced to his right. On the screen, a rather muscular man was drinking a protein shake. Sherlock's melody ceased a moment, before a sharp swipe of arm signaled a final thrill of evocation.
"So a good night was had, I see."Sherlock remarked, placing the instrument back inside its case, at his feet.
"Ah, yes." In appreciation of the overly heated room, John pulled his woolen jumper over his head. "Always good to catch up with an old friend."
"I can see you enjoyed your pub meal. Parmigana." Sherlock sunk down gracefully into the couch.
John looked down at himself, attempting to discern any signs of what he had eaten, and then gave up.
"It was nice, yes. You'll meet him, soon enough. He was a DI in York. Got a transfer here."
"Yes you told me yesterday."
John collapsed on the couch next to him. "Oh really? I thought you weren't…" listening.
On the television, a fake tanned man with equally fake tan was talking very enthusiastically to an equally enthused audience.
"I find the lack of intelligence in our society so utterly unappealing. It's dreadfully depressing." Sherlock said.
"I'm sure a good case will come your way soon." John smiled.
Sherlock sighed sinking deeper into the fluffy cushions. After the Moriarty melodrama, he'd taken to fits of despondency. John had tried his hardest to talk to him about the positives. He had, after all, successfully faked his own death, and, beyond that, managed to clear his name, and move back into 221b Baker Street, reaquiring his old friends, (including his most frustrated best friend). Unfortunately, Sherlock had discovered evidence that Moriarty also faked his death and was now in hiding. John was quite sure he'd resurface at some point, however. Of that he had no doubt.
"Bored…" Sherlock said.
"A really interesting one."
Sherlock, ever given to dramatics, sighed louder and turned himself around on the couch, burrowing his face into the cushions. Taking it as a sign to go into his bedroom, John went to walk off.
"Where are you going?"
He gained some satisfaction in having the upper hand that night.
The house was a drab, squalid affair, settled in between rows and rows of others of its ilk. There was already a small crowd gathered of eager eyed onlookers.
"Oh it's you." She said, as John and Sherlock stepped under the yellow police tape.
"A pleasure, as always, Sally."
"And where are you-?"
He ignored her, striding right up to the main house. John cast an apologetic look. She glared back.
"What do we have, Lestrade?" He asked the harried looking detective standing in the front doorway.
"I'd have to say that this is rather bizarre."
"Toby!" Sounded a voice behind them.
John turned and spotted a familiar figure stepping under the police tape.
"John!" Sherlock said, impatiently. John ignored him, stepping off the leaf scattered porch towards his friend. In his younger days, Toll had been a rather handsome man. However, age had turned his muscular frame to fat and receded much of his blond curls. He still retained the jocularity that sustained him, however. John could see from the instant gathering of people around him, that he was already rather popular. Indeed, he'd never seen Sally or Anderson more upbeat.
"Thanks for the cakes, yesterday. That was so thoughtful!" Sally fawned.
"Toby I checked out 'Mad Men' last night" Anderson said. "You were right. It was bloody fantastic!"
"I told you so." Toll smiled. "John!" He walked over and shook John's hand. "This is my good friend John Watson. We knew each other in school."
John sensed a sudden new appreciation from Sally and Anderson, in their faces.
"Righto. Let's see what's happening, here." He walked with John up to the main house, where Lestrade and Sherlock still stood.
"Ah Detective Toll. This is Sherlock Holmes."
Something came alight in Toll's pale blue eyes. John felt his heart sink. Of course. Toby had always liked pretty things. And John, of all people, certainly couldn't deny that Sherlock was… pretty.
Don't go there John, he told himself.
"Absolute pleasure." He shook his hand. "I've heard so much about you. And I bet you know everything about me." He winked.
Sherlock's eyes flicked up and down but he said nothing.
"As I was telling Sherlock, this is an odd one." Lestrade remarked. "It appears the owner, Horace Harker, interrupted a robbery in process, so had his throat cut. But the only thing that appears to have been taken is the bust of a Mozart head."
"Hm… that's the third in three weeks, isn't it?" Toll asked.
"Yes, how did you know that?" Lestrade looked impressed.
"I've been keeping up to date with unusual occurrences around town."
Sherlock shot Toll a look of extreme irritation.
"Certainly, that much is obvious." Sherlock started. John almost laughed out loud. He knew his friend. Sherlock didn't like to be trumped. "I should like to start by investigating the street outside. I would hope that your team hasn't destroyed evidence, as usual? Really, Lestrade you should have extended the police tape at least down the block."
Lestrade said nothing of Sherlock's outburst. Toll turned to Watson and winked.
"John, if you could examine the body for me and tell me what you find." Sherlock insisted. His eyes flicked to Toll once more, who openly smiled at him.
"Pleasure again to meet you." He stroked his hand down Sherlock's arm, before the man departed. It was a very subtle move. But John caught it. He felt something drop in his stomach.
It doesn't matter, he told himself. Sherlock isn't interested in… well, anyone, anyway.
Lestrade left them momentarily, as they shoved their protective suits on.
"Damn, John. Why didn't you tell me that your brilliant friend was so god damned pretty?" Toll whispered. "So, you shagged him yet?"
John winced. "Toby…"
"Sorry, sorry. It's just if that was my flat mate, I'd be shagging him every chance I got."
"Hm… complicated I like."
John was about to reply when Lestrade stepped back in.
The examination of the body in the next room yielded little clues. The attacker was right handed, had sliced his throat with one quick movement from behind. The poor victim probably didn't know he was even being attacked until the last minute.
Poor bastard. John thought.
"Bloods been cleaned." Toll said. "Looks like the walls been repainted, even. Still, forensics should get a good-"
"Why must I work with such idiots?" Sherlock's voice rang from the doorway. "Lestrade, John and Toll, I guess. If you'd come with me."
John noted that Toll kept very close to Sherlock as they moved out of the house and across the garden.
"Are you going to tell us what's going on?" Toll asked, touching Sherlock again on the arm.
Sherlock ignored him, continuing to walk.
"John. What can you tell me about the body?"
John updated him, as they strode under the police tape and up the street.
"Where are we going, Sherlock?" Lestrade sounded irritated.
About half a block up, they stopped before a street lamp.
"Well, I'll be…" Lestrade said. Smashed under the lamp were the clear remains of a Mozart bust.
"The other two were busted as well." Toll said. Sherlock shot him a condescending look. He slapped Sherlock hard on the back. "Well done!"
His hand stayed on the other's back a little longer than necessary. Sherlock stepped away, a bewildered expression quickly suppressed.
"Lestrade, if you would be so kind as to inform the media that this event was the result of lunacy over deliberate crime, that would be a great help to me." Sherlock said.
"Now why the hell would I do that?" Lestrade said.
"Because it's necessary. I promise you, I should have the case solved by tomorrow."
"You know Sherlock-"
"If the great Sherlock Holmes deems it necessary, then I'll do it. After all, you did call him on this case for his genius, didn't you?" Toll asked.
"God help me, yes." Lestrade muttered.
"Then I'll speak to them now." Toll started to walk towards the gathering of people gawking up at the house.
"Come along, John. We've seen all we need to see here. I fancy a visit to Stepney."
"What's in Stepney?" Lestrade asked.
"Why, the factory that makes the busts is in Stepney. I daresay we'll find our murderer there."
John didn't even bother asking how Sherlock knew this, or what it even meant.
The visit to Stepney proved more than fruitful. Sherlock managed to wheedle information out of the factory manager about the recent firing of a young worker there. In a fit of temper, he'd broken three of the Mozart heads. Nothing had been heard of him since.
"So what do we do now? They said he'd cleared out of his apartment."
Sherlock looked thoughtfully out of the cab window. "Don't worry. We'll bring the killer to us."
"How? How do you even know it's him? And why is he doing this?"
Sherlock said nothing, simply smiled his enigmatic smile. He took out his mobile and tapped on it, evidentially searching for something. His smile grew broader.
"Yes, I think this should be cleared up by tomorrow."
"Oh I forgot to tell you. I invited Toby over for dinner."
"How exciting for me." There was no doubting the condescension in Sherlock's tone.
"Can I borrow your phone?" Sherlock asked, after taking off his coat and scarf and hanging them by the door. John didn't even bother to ask why. He simply handed it over. Sherlock went into the other room.
"So, Toby will be coming at 7.30." He called through the door. Silence greeted him. "I thought I'd make chicken teriyaki. Can't promise it will be any good but… anyway was hoping you'd join us."
No reply. John shrugged and moved to the kitchen, frowning. He wondered how hygienic it would be to cook in there.
"I'm going to the…" shops. He called out again but decided against it. Sherlock wouldn't be listening.
Toll arrived at precisely 7.30pm. John admitted to being impressed. When he opened the door, he was even more impressed by the two bottles of merlot in his friend's hands.
"Been too long." John teased. Toll laughed.
"So, what's on the menu for tonight?" He asked, taking off his coat and looking for a spot to place it, before throwing it over the back of the couch.
"Chicken teriyaki." John wasn't going to tell him that he'd had to clear Sherlock's saucepan of eyeballs off the stove top and give it a very thorough scrub, before he could cook on it.
"Well, sounds good. Cos I'm famished. Should we pop open some wine?"
"Let me." He grabbed both bottles off the man.
"So, where's your great friend?" Toll asked, as they moved towards the kitchen.
"In his room. He'll be out shortly." John placed a bottle on the table, where he'd already set up three places.
"I'll just put this in the fridge." He was hoping not to be followed. If Toll got curious and looked inside, he may not appreciate another of Sherlock's experiments.
Luckily, Sherlock took that opportunity to emerge from his room.
"Sherlock. We meet again."
"Toll." He said, voice somewhat frosty. "How goes your investigation?"
"Toby, please. And let's not talk shop after work. It's boring."
John turned from where he was placing the bottle, amongst Sherlock's various human organs, in the fridge. He grinned to himself, catching Sherlock's face momentarily grimace, before righting itself.
"Would you like some wine, Sherlock?"
"No, thank you."
Toll poured a glass for him and John, and handed it to the man emerging from the kitchen.
"Are you sure?" He took a sip. "Might loosen you up a bit." Toll laughed. "It's ok!" He patted Sherlock on the arm. "I won't bite."
"Would you kindly refrain from touching me on the arm?"
Toll stared at him a moment, then laughed again. "Sorry, I'm just naturally a touchy feely kind of person. And it's natural, when you see something of great awe and beauty, to want to touch." He reached up and touched Sherlock briefly on the chest. The young man instantly drew back. John wanted to tell him not to worry. Toll liked to flirt but was essentially harmless. But, somehow the words died in his throat. No, it was more that he wanted to snap Toll's hand off. John internally shook himself, concerned by his sudden violent thoughts.
"Has anyone ever told you that you're a very beautiful man, Sherlock?" Toll seemed genuinely curious.
"John, is dinner ready?"
"Relax!" Toll said. "Surely the great consulting detective can take a compliment?"
"Ah, sure. I can take it off the stove, now." John was, himself, feeling a little uneasy by Toll's flirtations.
Throughout dinner, Sherlock remained quiet. Toll endeavoured to engage him in banter and, having no luck, seemed quite happy to talk with John.
Finally, the meals were eaten (bar Sherlock, who took one bite and refused to have any more).
"Compliments to the chef!" Toll handed his plate to the standing John. "That was great."
"Needed less salt. More chili." Sherlock looked rather morose.
Toll laughed, reached across the table and grabbed Sherlock's wrist.
"What are you-?" Sherlock snatched his hand away.
"Such dainty fingers. Long, supple." He leant forward and whispered something that John, who by now was placing the dishes in the kitchen sink, didn't catch.
"I'm sure I don't know what you mean."
John looked to the table.
It's fine, John, he told himself. Sherlock is a grown man. He can very much take care of himself.
"I meant things like playing the violin. Whatever did you think I meant, Mr. Holmes? Or, are you coming onto me?"
"You must be joking! I find you repulsive!"
"Sherlock!" John had warned Toll of Sherlock's straightforward nature. Still, he was not happy with the way this night was going. He wasn't even sure why he organized it. He thought, perhaps, that he should introduce Sherlock to more of his friends. Now, he was starting to think this was a bad idea.
"Alas!" Toll mocked a heart attack. "Beauty killed the beast."
John internally breathed out. It seemed, then that Toll wasn't offended.
"I don't have anything for desert…"
"Take the other wine out of the fridge." Toll suggested.
"Yes, please get more inebriated. It's simply fascinating to watch the de-evolution of the simple mind."
"I suspect our mind is simple, compared to yours." Toll admitted. "But I'm not inebriated. I hold my alcohol quite well."
John walked to the fridge and took the other wine out. He, on the other hand, did feel rather inebriated, indeed. He slunk back to the table, to Sherlock suddenly skittering back in his chair.
"What's wrong?" John asked. Sherlock's eyes flicked to Toll's.
"I've had enough of this horrendous evening. I'm going to bed."
"Need company?" Toll asked.
Sherlock said nothing, simply strode off without looking back.
John shook his head, pouring both more wine.
"I'm sorry, John but he's too easy to work up."
"What did you do, under the table?"
Toll put his hands up, pleading innocence. "I may have touched his foot with mine."
"Toby…" John frowned. "I know you love to flirt. And most people are fine with it. But Sherlock… I honestly don't think he likes it. Believe me, best not to annoy him."
"I'm only joking around." Toll protested.
Just don't lay your damned hands on him!
John again internally winced, puzzled by his possessive thoughts.
He forced a smile. "Fine."
The heavy drift of snow forbade Toll from leaving that night. With the knowledge that he was free of work the next day, John insisted he sleep on the couch.
He awoke the next morning to the glorious smell of pancakes. Bounding down the stairs, he tripped at the bottom, landing very badly on his ankle.
"You ok?" Toll asked.
"He's fine. Twisted ankle. Will be fine in a few minutes. "At the kitchen table, Sherlock hadn't looked up from his paper.
"Oh no… you didn't…" John rubbed at his aching ankle.
"Yes, I did see some very peculiar things in the kitchen cupboards. Sherlock explained. Experiments. Still, I did manage to find enough ingredients to make pancakes." Toll said. As though in answer, the fry pan sizzled.
"Oh." John limped over to the table. He could just make out a dark tuft of hair behind the newspaper.
The man in question put the paper down. "I'm going out."
"No pancakes?" Toll asked.
Sherlock didn't answer. He simply left the room.
"He's like that." John sighed. He was somewhat relieved that Toll and Sherlock weren't in the same room anymore, and resolved to apologize to his friend, when he returned to apartment 221b.