John played the final chords of the sonata, Beethoven’s Waldstein, Op. 53, and sat at the piano, panting, for a moment, before he heard slow applause from the doorway. He jumped, and turned, as he hadn’t heard the door open, but then again, he was practicing in a semi-public location, after all. “Mike,” he said, recognizing the listener. “Mike Stamford. How are you?”
“John Watson,” Mike said. He had been studying for his first degree when John was finishing his doctorate at Guildhall, and while they hadn’t been best mates, they’d been friendly. “How are you? Last I’d heard you--” He gestured at his shoulder and winced. “Sounds like you’re back, though.”
“I am,” John said, “albeit unemployed and, well, lacking an instrument.” He waved at the room around him. “Here by the grace of an old friend.” He’d always made it a point of being friendly with the technicians for various reasons, but this was one of the perks: who else could let him practice in the dressing rooms at the Barbican Centre when the practice piano was already checked out?
“Looking to play again?”
“Well, the ballet won’t take me back,” John said, trying to turn it into a joke. He’d been the rehearsal pianist for the London Ballet Theatre for ten years, touring with them around the world, until the bursitis in his shoulder had necessitated surgery and he’d been forced to quit. “Know anyone looking for an accompanist?” If he had to, he’d teach small children piano until he could land a job at one of the conservatories in town, but he’d rather not. When he’d inquired around last, there hadn’t been any openings, and he didn’t know how long it would be until there was.
“As a matter of fact,” Mike said, “I do. Sherlock Holmes.”
“Sherlock Holmes.” The name rang a bell in John’s mind. “Isn’t he--didn’t he put out that strange version of the Four Seasons a couple years back?”
“That’s him,” Mike said. “He’s um. A bit eccentric.”
“I used to work with dancers,” John reminded him.
“I’m currently working with an oboist,” Mike countered, and they both had a laugh. “Seriously, though: he’s intense, and he’ll likely insist that you move in with him.”
“Does he own a piano?” John asked. “For one that's decent enough, I’d live with a dragon. A hungry one.”
“What happened to your piano?” Mike asked.
“I’ve never owned one,” John admitted. “Well, not a decent one. My parents have an old Kawai institutional upright but the action on that one is a trainwreck. I’ve had access to much better ones through Guildhall and then the Ballet since I got good enough to care. And the last few months . . .” He shrugged. “Didn’t so much need one.”
“True, that,” Mike said, nodding. “Well, I mean, if you’re interested, and you’d like to meet him now, he’s here. When I walked through, he’d just pulled out his violin in the lobby to demonstrate to an unsuspecting child how to play ‘Lightly Row’ properly. You might be able to catch him before he makes her cry.”
John stared at him for a second, shook his head, and closed the key cover while Mike put the lid down on the piano.
Sherlock Holmes was tall and thin, with a head of curly brown hair. Other than the hair, from the rear, he looked rather as John might have expected Paganini to look. If Paganini wore a trench coat when he played, which he probably didn’t as it was not yet in fashion. “No, you see, it’s like this--” Holmes said, his voice rather lower than John might have expected. He played a few notes, and then let down the violin to speak again. “For if you can’t play that--” And here, he played the same few notes, demonstrating something about the angle of the bow--John wasn’t a violinist and couldn’t see the subtle difference. “--you’ll never be able to play this.”
Here, he launched into Paganini’s Twenty-Fourth Caprice, the Aria, which made John smile, considering his earlier observations, although--he didn’t have perfect pitch, but that didn’t sound as if it were in the correct key.
It was also at double speed, but that wasn’t entirely unexpected.
At some point, he appeared to have forgotten that he was demonstrating something for an eight-year-old and wandered off into--well, not into the rest of the Caprice, certainly. John recognized bits of a handful of different violin concertos ranging from Bach to Penderecki, and a couple of sonatas, before he ended with a trill, very high on the E string, in a range that would have been shrill in the hands of anyone other than a master. Which Holmes decidedly was; John had more than enough training to recognize that the man was on a level beyond his own. Then again, there were few accompanists who were even at John’s level, so it was kind of a moot point.
“Well played,” John said, but didn’t clap; Holmes still started, and turned around. The child scampered away, but Holmes didn’t appear to notice.
“Who are you?” Holmes said. “No, wait--I recognize you, I think. The former pianist for the London Ballet, correct? Name, name--Watson. Guildhall, MPerf 1992, DMA 1996, studied with Havill primarily, four or so years of miscellaneous work with small chamber groups, then with the Ballet until a few months ago.”
“Ah, yes, that’s me,” John said, surprised--he was rarely recognized by sight. Unlike Holmes, he wasn’t particularly striking, and despite the fact that his degree was in solo performance, John had mostly done accompanying--excuse him, it was called ‘collaboration’ now--ever since. “John Watson.” He held out his hand, but Holmes didn’t notice--he was plucking out a few notes with his thumb, staring into the distance. “I’ve heard you may be in the market for a--a collaborator?”
Holmes started. “Collaborator? I’ve always hated that term, although I suppose it’s accurate. I’m looking for a pianist. We will collaborate.” His eyes narrowed. “You’re, what, seven and a half months out from surgery? Is that long enough?”
John shrugged, and it was a little lopsided, sure. “I’m not where I was eight years ago, but I’m better than I have been for the past couple years.”
“Yes,” Holmes said. “I wasn’t all that impressed with you last year, but I’ve heard your recording of Cafe Music--that cellist wasn’t much, but you . . . you understood the piece, I think. At least more than the average--” He snapped his fingers. “All right. Where’s the nearest piano?”
John led him back to the piano he’d been using earlier; Mike bid him adieu and disappeared. “Do you have any music?”
Holmes stared at him blankly. “What would I need music for?”
“I assumed,” John said, “that you’d want us to, I don’t know, play together for a moment.”
“You play,” Holmes said. “I shall join in where appropriate.”
John had reams of music memorized, but none of it was piano-violin duets. He asked, “What would you like me to play, then?”
Holmes waved his violin at him. “Whatever you like. Pick something that isn’t boring.”
Not boring. Well. John tended to think very little music was boring, but he started in on Chopin’s first Ballade, in G minor.
“Ah! Boring,” Holmes said, without even looking at him.
Well, it was top-twenty classical music. He skipped a few years forward and started playing Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on the same Paganini Caprice Holmes had been playing earlier, although he started at the eighteenth variation just for his own amusement.
“Still boring,” Holmes said, although he let him get through about twenty measures that time.
John thought for about ten seconds and then started playing one of two five-voice fugues from the first volume of Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier, the one in B-flat minor. Five-voice fugues were certainly not boring, he thought.
“Almost not boring,” Holmes said. “Seriously, Watson, you have to know something less boring than that.”
Less boring than Bach? For a violinist? Fuck it, he thought, and burst into the opening piano part from Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’.”
He looked up to see Holmes looking at him in disbelief. “What on earth is that rubbish?” he asked.
“It’s not rubbish,” John started to say, because it wasn’t, just a bit cliched, but Holmes snapped his fingers at him.
“Go back to the Bach,” he said, “or on to something else not boring, I don’t care. Something you like.”
Something he liked? John liked Bach, and Beethoven (although he suspected that all the Beethoven he knew would get a ‘Boring!’ right away), and Brahms--maybe something twentieth century? He started with a very low tritone and some staccato notes that rumbled out from the bottom of the piano, and then a fluttering, evil trill--Prokofiev’s Suggestion Diabolique.
It wasn’t that difficult of a piece; Grade 8 students played it on occasion. John himself had originally learned it when he was fifteen or sixteen, but it was still one of his favorite pieces to play. He realized, a page or two in, that Holmes had put his violin under his chin and was playing pizzicato along with him. It wasn’t a duet, but that didn’t seem to be stopping him.
Well then. If there was one thing that John knew how to do, it was this, so he watched Holmes; watched him for cues of timing, and tempo, and breaths; watched to see where he wanted to go with the volume. He ceded control while retaining it, guiding Holmes through the piece.
It wasn’t that long of a piece; under three minutes, certainly. When it finished, though, Holmes stood with the violin under his chin, bow at his side, and stared at the wall for a moment. When he finally spoke, he said, “The acoustics are terrible here, backstage, especially with the lid down. Come. I know where it will sound better.”
The place he had in mind was, of course, the main stage there at the Barbican Centre; how Holmes had a key to the piano there was beyond him, and John rather thought that the London Symphony should be coming in to rehearse soon, but he propped up the lid of the piano, opened the key cover, and sat.
“What now?” John asked, even as his fingers found the keys. This was a much better piano; a Hamburg Steinway, if he wasn’t mistaken. (And with the name written above the keys, it was not likely that he was.) The other piano, the one in the dressing room, was an upright Baldwin, and while not a terrible piano, it could hardly compete with a full concert grand.
“Something else. Debussy, Ravel? Impressionist. Not Clair de Lune or Reverie or anything else obvious like that.”
“I don’t have every piano work ever memorized,” John said, but he started with the trills that opened Debussy’s “L’Isle Joyeuse.”
Holmes apparently approved of his choice, but didn’t join in until the unbearably melodic section, a couple minutes in. When he did, though, it was--
--fun. It was fun.
John hadn’t really had fun playing with another musician in a while; practicing wasn’t fun, but performing was. As a rehearsal pianist, he never got to, well, perform. Relearning how to play the piano after the surgery also hadn’t been fun. But this--playing with Sherlock Holmes, of the uncanny green-gray eyes and exacting tastes--it was fun.
Well, hell. He hoped he passed the audition.
When the piece finished, Holmes whipped his head around and said, “When can you move in? Rent’s seven hundred pounds a month, your part.”
“Move in?” Mike had mentioned it, but . . . “Well, this weekend, I suppose.” He’d had to give up his nice single flat due to a much-reduced income but was currently staying at a hotel, had been since he’d been recovered enough to live on his own and could stop living with his sister. Seven hundred a month wasn’t cheap, but it was doable, especially if Holmes lived somewhere decent.
“Not soon enough,” Holmes said. He pulled a mobile phone out of his pocket and said, “It’s eleven-thirty-four now. I’ll be home around two; I expect you before dinner.”
“Well, that’s rather peremptory, isn’t it?” John said. “And we haven’t discussed rates or anything.”
“Rates?” Holmes looked up. “Well, you’ll get half of whatever we make, won’t you? And I must tell you, I am generally paid quite well.”
Well. John knew that, especially if he’d done CDs. And half--that was certainly better than what he’d gotten in the past.
Also, he liked the ‘we.’
“I’ll speak to Lestrade; he’ll let me do a recital here at some point.” Holmes loosened the hair on his bow and removed the chin-rest from his violin before putting his instrument away in the case. “This isn’t my favorite hall in town, but it’s the only one where I can pull strings, so to speak, and get time on short notice. Lestrade owes me one. Well, more than one, really; I filled in once when Rostropovitch dropped out at the last minute a few years ago.”
For some reason, the only response John had to that was, “You play cello, too?”
Holmes directed a look at him, but didn’t otherwise respond to his comment. “Well. Ring the doorbell; either Mrs. Hudson, the landlady, will let you in, or I might hear it, who knows.”
“Ah. Where do you live?”
“221B Baker Street,” Holmes said, as if it were the most obvious thing in the universe.
Well, maybe it was. John put the address, along with Holmes’s mobile number, into his phone, so he wouldn’t forget, and gave Holmes his number.
Holmes swooped out with his coat swirling behind him; John took a few extra minutes to lock up the piano properly, and to ask the ceiling, “What am I doing?” When it didn’t answer, he shrugged and left.
On the way out, John dropped off the key to the backstage piano at the front desk of the library, as he always did; a different man than usual took the key from him, and paused. “John Watson?” he asked.
“Yes, that’s me,” John said.
“Greg Lestrade,” the other man said; he was a few years older than John, maybe ten, and looked a bit worn, as if he’d already worked forty hours that week and it was only Wednesday. “I understand you’ll be collaborating with Sherlock Holmes in the near future.”
“I think so,” John said.
Lestrade gave a thin smile. “Well, since you look somewhat more responsible than Sherlock is, can you give him this, and remind him that ‘collections manager’ and ‘supreme ruler of the Barbican Centre’ are not synonymous?”
‘This’ was a piece of paper, folded in half; John did not inquire about the contents. He chuckled, though, and said, “I’ll do what I can. Thank you, Mr. Lestrade.”
John nodded and turned to walk away, but then turned back. “Wait--how did Mr. Holmes fill in for Rostropovitch?”
Lestrade looked at him blankly, and said, “Oh, that. For a lecture. It was almost, but not quite, an unmitigated disaster. He’ll never let me forget about that, will he?”
“Most likely not.”
John took the Tube home; re-packed all of his clothing and music--at least, the stuff that wasn’t in storage at his parents’--into his two suitcases, and called a taxi. He made it over to 221B Baker Street by three-thirty, and rang the doorbell.
An older woman, smartly dressed but with a general air of being harried, opened the door. “Are you John Watson?” she asked.
He nodded. “Are you Mrs. Hudson?”
“I am,” she said, and smiled, taking a step back to let him in. “221B is just upstairs. Sherlock’s home but he’s playing, lord only knows what, so I’d just walk in if I were you.”
John nodded and hauled his two suitcases upstairs, his shoulder paining him enough that it took a while--long enough to hear Holmes skip through the themes to about eight different movements of Bach solo violin works. The man just couldn’t actually stick to one piece, could he? John smiled, and then schooled his face to something a little more composed.
He pushed the door open quietly and rolled his suitcases in first, then shut it behind himself. It was rather a standard flat from the fifties, with orange and avocado trim; there was a couch, a chair, and a footstool shoved in one corner. The kitchen was through one doorway, and through another, John saw the edge of a keyboard, that of an upright piano. The main room of the flat was taken up by a shiny black grand piano, which made him ache to play just by looking at it, and, well, Sherlock Holmes himself. He stood in the center of a triangle formed by three different music stands, one black metal, one wire, and one wooden. Literally every flat surface, and a few that weren’t flat, was covered in sheet music, some bound collections, some loose papers. There were bookshelves on every available wall, and they were full of more sheet music as well as music books, mostly theory and biographies.
It was, well, exactly what John should have expected.
“John!” Holmes called out. “It’s a grand afternoon to play Chopin, isn’t it?”
“Every afternoon is a grand afternoon to play Chopin,” John said, and inched a little farther into the room. “Ah. Where shall I put my things?”
“Oh, the bedroom is upstairs.”
John paused. “Bedroom, singular?”
Holmes frowned. “The flat has two bedrooms but I put the spinet piano and all of my spare instruments in the downstairs bedroom. The other has got a very large closet and I do not sleep very much. I doubt we’ll ever be in there at the same time.”
John ducked his head into the downstairs bedroom which--good lord--contained a spinet piano, a portable keyboard and amplifier, a full set of recording equipment including a reel-to-reel machine, two cellos, a bass, a tenor viola da gamba, and no fewer than eight violin cases, although a couple might actually have been violas.
“Is the bed at least big enough for both of us?” he asked.
“Don’t be ridiculous, John, there are two beds.”
Holmes returned to playing--something; John thought it might be a Kreutzer etude--while John lugged his stuff up a second flight of stairs to a smallish bedroom with, yes, two single beds, both neatly made. One bed was covered in stacks of music, books, and CDs, with a dinner jacket in plastic draped over a chair at the foot of the bed; the other was completely empty, and John assumed it was to be his.
He unpacked some of the more wrinkleable of his clothing, hanging it in the wardrobe or putting it in the empty dresser drawer, plugged his mobile into the charger, took his portfolio of music with him and went back downstairs.
Holmes was playing--actually, he was pretty certain it was Mercury, from Holst’s Planets--as expected when John arrived, but he stopped when he saw him and said, “Good. Sit down; the music’s on the right-hand side.”
John nodded and looked through the stack. The Finzi Elegy, Chopin--an arrangement, obviously, of a couple of nocturnes, Op. 9--the Shostakovich Violin Sonata, Op. 134, and something John didn’t recognize, obviously printed out from a computer. The title was Morceau, French for ‘piece,’ and the composer was . . . ahh, S. Holmes. Obviously Holmes would have something he wrote on his own recital. “So this is about seventy-five minutes of music, then?”
Holmes snorted. “Only if we play at the standard tempi.”
“Oh, we aren’t?”
“We’ll play at the correct tempi.”
“How many hours can you play a day?” Holmes asked.
John shrugged. “Six or so.”
“Hm. Well, since Lestrade hasn’t told us when we can have the recital hall, we’ll have to structure our time after he calls.”
“Oh,” John said, and pulled the folded paper out of his pocket. “This is for you.”
Holmes took the paper and unfolded it. “Tuesday! We can have a Tuesday afternoon in the Barbican Theatre, in three months’ time. That’s . . . well, I’ve had less acceptable offers. Is three months enough time for you?”
John thought. Of course he’d played the Chopin before, albeit in the original versions; he’d done the Shostakovich with a fellow student back at Guildhall, more than fifteen years ago. He knew the Finzi but hadn’t played it, and the original work was new, so yes, likely three months was enough time. “Sure,” he said. “But that’s a massive hall--what, more than a thousand seats? How are we going to fill it?”
“We’ll fill it. I’ll text him and tell him we’ll accept. He can take care of tickets and whatnot; I don’t care as long as I get paid enough to make up for three months of work.” Holmes shoved one of the stands out of the way abruptly; it teetered precariously before settling on its base. “I think the only way for the two of us to learn to play together is to play together, don’t you?”
“Ah, sure,” John said, and watched Holmes dig through a stack of music before he came up with what he was apparently looking for. Then, rather than returning to his spot between the stands, he set his violin in the case on the piano, set the bow down as well, and sat on the piano bench.
“Well?” he said and patted the bench next to him.
John shrugged, joined him, and looked at the music: Debussy’s Petite Suite.
“You’ll have to forgive me; I’m not much of a pianist. You’ll play Prime, obviously. Do you play any other instruments?”
“I played clarinet in secondary school,” John said.
“I believe I’ve got a clarinet in the wardrobe,” Holmes said, “but I’m certain I don’t have any reeds. You can pop down to the shop and find some; we’ll do violin duets that way. Unless you can’t transpose in your head?”
“Of course I can transpose in my head,” John said. “I’ll need a day or so to remember how to play the clarinet; it’s been twenty years and I was never very good.”
“It doesn’t matter,” Holmes said, waving one hand. “We’ll start from the beginning and play on until we reach the end.”
“It usually works that way,” John agreed, and they started.
They worked their way through the Debussy, and then some Brahms, and by the time that Sherlock was banging his way through the Secundo part of the third movement of Milhaud’s Scaramouche from the spinet in the other room, John realized that yes, this was completely ridiculous, but it was still fun.
* * *
When he got downstairs, Sherlock was sitting on the piano bench. “How much time do you think you’ll need to learn your part? I suppose you’ll want me to disappear for some portion of your practicing.”
John frowned. “I don’t know; a couple weeks? I’ve already played most of the recital and the Finzi isn’t terribly difficult, from what I recall. I don’t know about your piece but it’s not that long. And I don’t care whether you come or go as long as you aren’t actually breathing down my neck.”
Sherlock tapped his fingers on the lid of the piano. “Well, all right. I have students from noon to two this afternoon. I don’t know if you teach but you’re welcome to, as long as I’m not teaching at the same time and as long as it’s not tiny children.” He sniffed.
John nodded. “Do you teach every Thursday?”
“Of course not. I teach when I have spare time, and when my students need lessons.”
“How do you keep track?”
Sherlock pointed to his mobile on the piano. “They text me, asking for a lesson. I tell them when it will be. They text me again twelve hours in advance. It works.”
John looked at the phone and blinked, recognizing the name of one of the violinists from the London Symphony. “Oh. Well, I haven’t taught in years. I might start again. We’ll see.”
“Keep me apprised.”
Somewhat before noon, John left, not wanting to disturb Sherlock’s lessons, intending to go food shopping after he’d grabbed lunch. They’d ordered in yesterday evening, as Sherlock didn’t keep much in the way of food around the house, but John’s budget was not unlimited and he could cook enough to keep himself fed. He’d gotten through his curry but not all the way to the supermarket before he got a text from Sherlock.
John, I need you back here now. SH
And then another one: Well, not necessarily you, but I need a pianist, and you are a pianist. SH
And a third, as he was walking up the stairs: I would call Lestrade but he is a terrible pianist and also he seems to have a day job. SH
John shook his head and opened the door to the flat.
“There you are!” Sherlock said. “What took so long? Never mind. Come play this section.”
“Um, hello,” John said to the violinist, the one from the London Symphony, who nodded, apparently used to Sherlock’s hijacking of other people to make a point.
He sat down at the piano, and--ahh, the Spring sonata, Beethoven. He’d played the accompaniment any number of times. Starting where Sherlock indicated, he played for a couple lines, and then stopped when Sherlock said, “Stop! Did you hear that?”
The violinist looked confused for a moment. “It’s a dominant seventh chord,” she said.
“Yes, but which one?” Sherlock set down his violin and whirled around to pull a blackboard out from behind the couch, one with staff lines already drawn in. He sketched out the chord, putting in clefs and a key signature as well. “John, you’ve a doctorate, yes?”
“Ah, yes,” he said.
“And you’re a pianist. What was your dissertation on?”
John knew that Sherlock knew, as there was a well-thumbed copy of it--Sherlock’s, not John’s--sitting on the kitchen counter, next to the microwave, but he said, “Harmonic progressions and chromatic tension in Chopin’s Ballades.”
“So you would say you’re a decent theorist.”
John shrugged. He was well more than a decent theorist--he had almost gone that track instead of performance--but he was arguably out of practice, so he said, “Yes, decent.”
“Would you tell me what this chord is?”
The violinist was turning red. “Sherlock, I--”
“Yes, yes, I know,” Sherlock interrupted. “You’re not paying for a theory lesson. Well, guess what. All that money you spent on a fancy degree in Paris left you with less knowledge of theory than a sixth-form trumpeter at a Birmingham comprehensive. John, the chord, please?”
“It’s a G7 chord,” John said.
“I know that,” the violinist said.
“And what function does a G7 perform in F major?” Sherlock said, ignoring her.
“It’s a V7 of V chord--a pre-dominant chord,” John said.
“I knew that, too!” the violinist said.
Sherlock sniffed. “Obviously you did not, as you did not, and you’ve clearly been playing this chord--” He tapped his chalk on the G7 chord. “--as if it were an actual dominant seventh instead of part of the pre-dominant buildup.” He turned away. “You performers simply have forgotten that every single note in a piece is connected to every single other note in a piece, whether it’s because of form, harmony, or orchestration. This is all three. I expect you not to make the same mistake again. John, I don’t need you anymore.”
John gave an embarrassed nod to the violinist and left.
He came home a couple hours later, arms overflowing with vegetables and pasta and wrapped packets from the butcher; in his pocket was a box of clarinet reeds, although he doubted his ability to honk a few notes would satisfy Sherlock at all. The blackboard was still sitting on the couch, but Sherlock wasn’t anywhere in the flat, so John put the food away in peace and then sat at the piano for a moment. Something about Sherlock’s analysis was bothering him, and he looked back and forth between the chords and the music for a moment.
Ah, he’d written the notes in the wrong order. John fixed it and, while he was there, added the C7 chord and the F major chord that would resolve it properly. There. He looked at it for a moment, and then added a flat, changing it to an F minor chord just to mess with Sherlock.
He sat down to play and was working through the Finzi when Sherlock returned. “Ah, there you are, John,” he said. “I went to see Lestrade. There’s paperwork.” He threw a manila folder down on top of the piano. “Contracts, tax forms, the like. What are you doing--that’s not the correct rhythm.”
“I know it’s not,” John said. “It’s a practice rhythm. This is an odd choice for the program, the Elegy.”
“You think?” Sherlock said. “I like it.”
“Well, it’s very pretty, but it’s still odd.”
“Oh, it’s a decent enough piece; a tad pedestrian and not as brilliant as the Faure, but I like the fact that it’s an odd choice for the program.” Sherlock turned to head for the kitchen, but got distracted by the blackboard. “John! F minor?”
John just laughed.
* * *
Not that Sherlock apparently agreed. “Well, that was an exercise in futility,” he said. “I expect you’ll sound much better next time we try that.”
“We could invest in actual violin-clarinet duets,” John said.
“Or you could learn to play your instrument properly.”
John shook his head. It wasn’t worth pointing out that the clarinet was not his instrument, and that his piano skills were clearly up to Sherlock’s standards or he wouldn’t be here.
“Let’s go out for dinner,” Sherlock said suddenly, and loosened his bow before putting it away.
They ended up at a small Italian restaurant; the owner greeted Sherlock like a beloved son. “I threw together a quartet for his daughter’s wedding the night before the event,” Sherlock said in John’s ear. “We were terrible, of course, but as long as we did the damn Canon, everyone was happy.”
“Anything you want, for you and your date!”
“I’m not--” But the owner, Angelo, was gone already, and returned with menus and a tea light. John gave up and ordered fettuccine.
A couple minutes after their food came, Sherlock looked out the window and made an awful face before turning his collar up and looking to the center of the room.
“What is it?” John asked, after he swallowed his bite.
“Jim Moriarty,” Sherlock said.
“The composer?” John asked, and looked out the window. He saw a dark-haired man in a blue shirt waiting for the light to change at a crossing, but he didn’t recognize him.
“Composer? At the very best, he’s an arranger.” Sherlock sniffed. “He routinely attempts to get me to play his music, or at least he did before I informed an interviewer of my opinion on his, er, attempted work.”
“And what was that opinion?” John asked, already amused.
“That multi-media presentations and prepared instruments merely deluded the less-rational among us into overlooking his absolute inability to write a melody, harmony, and counterpoint. I happen to know he failed eighteenth-century counterpoint.”
“Did he,” John said, grinning. “RCM, I suppose.” It was safe to assume he’d attended the Royal College of Music as John didn’t know him and he wasn’t that much younger than he.
“Yes,” Sherlock said. “As did I, and you don’t see me looking down on you for going to Guildhall, so kindly refrain from commenting that I accidentally attended the same institution as that hack.”
“Who else?” Sherlock said, with a hitch of his shoulder. “Oh, I suppose Boyarski is good; I studied with her for a summer once. Most of her students aren’t complete wastes of space.”
John didn’t even blink; he’d engaged in enough of his own ‘sorry, I study with the world’s expert on X and your teacher is terrible’ blather back in the days when he cared, but he’d come to the conclusion that it was all a crapshoot, anyway. “Besides, I’m sure I went to school with some complete berks, as well.”
“You did,” Sherlock said promptly, and proceeded to eviscerate all of them.
Later, after Angelo had called John Sherlock’s ‘date’ for a third time, John gave Sherlock a sideways look and said, “Bring a lot of dates here, do you?”
“No, of course not, John. I’ve never taken a date here.”
“You have a different date restaurant, then?” He was fishing, maybe, but he really wanted to know how often he’d be kicked out of the room for the night.
Sherlock stared at him. “No,” he said shortly. “Look, John, I consider myself married to my music.”
“And I don’t?” John said. So not all that often, apparently.
Sherlock narrowed his eyes. “Not as such, no, although you are very dedicated. Weren’t you involved with . . .” And he named one of the prominent members of the ballet company.
John blinked. “Not officially, no,” he said.
Sherlock smiled cryptically. “And that is the difference. You cheat on your mistress, and I do not.”
* * *
“Are we playing a trio with one?” John asked.
Sherlock stopped in his tracks and looked at John. “Why on earth would we do that? No, I am in the middle of orchestrating. You know, of course, that the bassoon and the oboe are the only orchestral woodwind instruments without simplified Boehm-style fingerings.”
John just nodded; he didn’t want to get into the Albert system clarinets, so he let Sherlock rail on about the oboe.
“They crack all the time, the conical bore distorts the overtone series such that the high notes are consistently out of tune and have illogical fingerings, the instruments wear out quickly, and there are four--four!--different octave mechanisms for an instrument with a practical range of about two and a half octaves. And the low notes, regardless, are nasal and sound rather like a duck. Really, I can’t understand why anyone ever takes up the instrument.”
“The piano is consistently out of tune,” John said. “I’ve heard that people with perfect pitch are sometimes annoyed by equal temperament.”
Sherlock winced. “That is true. One does get used to it, though.”
“Unwound E strings have been known to be described as ‘shrill.’”
“That is why sensible violinists play wound Es.”
“All instruments have their pitfalls,” John said.
“Yes, but the oboe itself seems to be a pitfall,” Sherlock said.
John was forced to concede his point, and went back to his eggs.
* * *
Other than odd habits, such as practicing false harmonics and other screechy high notes, their musical partnership was working fairly well. The two-single-bed situation made John feel as if he were living in student housing, although at Guildhall he’d had his own room, but he’d yet to catch Sherlock actually using the room for anything but storage, so it wasn’t half bad. Sherlock was sharp-tongued, yes, but unlike many egotists John had known over the years, he could actually back up everything he said with either performance or references, so it was more refreshing than anything.
He dropped the papers off at the actual office, not with Lestrade, and was turning the corner to find the bus stop when a black car pulled up in front of him. “You’ll want to get in,” said a young woman with a Blackberry that she never bothered to take her eyes off of.
“No thanks,” John said, having more than an inkling of self-preservation. He walked a few steps farther, and the car paced him. He ignored it.
His mobile buzzed in his pocket, and he pulled it out. There was a text from an unknown number that said, Get in the car. You won’t be harmed and it will take at most half an hour out of your day.
He shook his head again.
Another text came a moment later: You don’t seem to realize that you do not have a choice.
He looked up, and the car was there again, the window rolled down. “We’ll drop you off at home and you can keep your phone,” the young woman said, still distracted by her mobile, but her gaze flicked to John for just a moment.
He sighed, and reached down for the door handle.
“So what’s your name, then?” he asked the young woman, after a couple minutes of silence.
“Um . . . Anthea.”
“Is that your real name?”
“No,” she said with a smile.
“I’m John Watson.”
“I know,” she said, and perhaps that was obvious, but he’d felt compelled to introduce himself anyway.
“Any point in asking where I’m going?”
Well, also obvious.
Some twenty minutes later, Anthea led him into an alley, and through a back door into the basement of a music shop--Chappell of Bond Street, if John wasn’t mistaken, although no one was there. At that time of the day there should have, at the very least, been a few shop assistants, but there wasn’t.
Well, there was one man, tallish, slightly balding, carrying an umbrella. “John Watson. How is your shoulder?”
“My shoulder?” John said. “Well, it’s all right, I suppose. No pain today. Why do you ask? And why couldn’t you just have called me? I do have a phone, you know. Anthea, or whatever her name is, let me keep it.” He held up his mobile.
“Yes, well. So you’re working with Sherlock Holmes now.”
“Yes, I am,” John said. “It’s been . . .” He counted in his head. “Four days now.”
“And you’re living with him.”
“Yes. Who are you?”
“An . . . interested party.”
“Look,” John said, “we’re preparing for a recital in three months’ time. I should be practicing, or studying scores, or making dinner, or any of a thousand things that aren’t standing in the basement of a music shop. Why do you have me here, and what do you want?”
“I’m on your side, you know. I have a vested interest in Sherlock finding a collaborator he can work with.”
“What, are you one of his previous accompanists?” John asked.
“You could say that,” the man said. “Yes, you could very rightly say that.”
“Well, don’t worry. He won’t be calling you to fill in for me any time soon.” John shoved his hands into his pockets.
“Oh, I’m well aware of that,” the man said. “Here.” He handed John a business card, blank except for a phone number. “In case either of you needs anything, musical or not.”
John took the card and shoved it in his pocket. “Thanks,” he said, and hoped the sarcasm was audible. “Now can I have that ride home?”
* * *
"Oh, good, you’re home,” Sherlock said, when he returned. “The Shostakovitch--what did you do with the end of the first movement the last time you played it?”
“Um,” John said. “This?” He sat down at the piano and played it. “Well, sort of. Maybe more like this.” He tried again, humming bits of the violin part when necessary.
“Yes. Well, that’s wrong, of course.”
“I’m not playing it correctly,” John said, “but no, what we did wasn’t entirely wrong, I’d say.”
“Well, then, either give me a half hour to recreate my analysis or a couple days to go retrieve my old copy from my parents.”
“Please tell me it wasn’t Schenker,” Sherlock said, nose wrinkling.
“Schenker-esque, with a dash of set theory and some old-fashioned metaharmony,” John said.
“Interesting,” Sherlock said. “No, I think I’ll wait for your complete analysis rather than deal with a poorly-remembered version.”
“Well, the basis is--you see that line there?” He traced a few chords. “It’s an echo of this--” He flipped a few pages back. “--and a foreshadowing of this.” He flipped forward to the third movement.
“No, it’s not,” Sherlock said. “It’s clearly--”
“You know what,” John said, “this can wait.”
* * *
It was all right. He’d heard it.
* * *
John looked up from the keyboard. “Berlioz?” he asked. He didn’t stop playing--it was just scales--but he quieted down.
“What about Moriarty?”
“Are you on the mailing list for Wigmore Hall?”
“Probably,” John said, “but I’ve been practicing all morning and therefore not checking my email.”
“Your semiquavers aren’t remotely even,” Sherlock said.
“I’m also talking to you. What is it about the Wignore Hall mailing list?”
“They’ve announced that on Tuesday, May eleventh, at two P.M., they will be hosting the first installment of James Moriarty’s Ecdysis of a Taxi Cab, a multi-media and live-performance event. John, how does that make any sense at all? Multi-media usually includes live performance, and it’s not as if a taxicab has anything to shed. Yes, yes, I know the word is largely used metaphorically, but still.”
“So an hour before our performance.”
“Yes,” Sherlock said. “Well, it isn’t as if the audience for our recital will be the same as the audience for his--travesty of an extravaganza, so I don’t see how it will affect us, except for the fact that clearly he thinks it will or he wouldn’t have scheduled it that day, at that time.”
“Mind games?” John said. He switched from major scales in thirds to harmonic minor.
“Mind games don’t affect me,” Sherlock said loftily.
“Then obviously you’re not affected by Moriarty’s scheduling.”
“Then I don’t know why we’re discussing it.”
“You need to stop beating a dead horse, John.”
* * *
“You’re thousands of quid in the hole,” Lestrade was saying. “You can cancel by midnight and only be out five hundred. Oh, hello, John.”
“Greg? Who’s Greg?” Sherlock asked.
“He is,” John said. “Most people have two or three names, you know.”
Sherlock stared at him for a moment and then shook his head. “Not important. Lestrade is trying to convince me that we should cancel the recital.”
John raised an eyebrow at Lestrade.
“You’ve sold all of five tickets,” he said.
“Five?” John said. “Well.” It was a bit disappointing, really; he didn’t figure he’d be much of a draw, of course, as no one ever knew the name of the rehearsal pianists, but Sherlock should have been.
“We’ll sell more tickets,” Sherlock said. “I am certain of it. The advert on ClassicFM just came out today.”
“Not enough to make up the cost of the hall,” Lestrade said. “Look, I’m a librarian, not an accountant--”
“Yes, why did they send you anyway?” Sherlock asked. He started pacing back and forth in the tiny triangle, two steps in either direction.
Lestrade rolled his eyes. “Everyone knows I’m the only one you’re willing to talk to in the entire building.”
“Yes, well, you’re the only person in the building with half a brain,” Sherlock said sotto voce. “Even if you are a librarian and not a real musician.”
“Also, I’m getting reimbursed for the cab fare,” Lestrade added, obviously ignoring the quip about his job. “Look, talk it over with John; give me a call before midnight--preferably long before midnight--and we’ll work from there, maybe get you another date in a few months.”
“Yes, well.” Sherlock fluttered a hand in his direction. “You can go.”
“Thank you, I’ll do just that,” Lestrade said, smiled at John, and left.
When the door shut behind him, John said, “Look, I don’t know about you, Sherlock, but I don’t have thousands of pounds to eat the cost of a failed recital at the Barbican.”
“Well, I do,” Sherlock said, “but I’m not going to be eating the cost of a failed recital at the Barbican because there won’t be a failed recital at the Barbican.”
“Oh? And how do you guarantee that?” John said, a bit stung at the revelation that Sherlock had money as John had been paying for all the food they ate for the last couple of months off of his Incapacity Benefits. He had savings, sure, but it was rapidly getting eaten up by the rent.
“I’ll do more advertising, today. Call up some old friends. I’m sure you can do the same.”
“I already did,” John said.
“Wait till close of business,” Sherlock said, and wouldn’t say anything more.
Six hours later, Sherlock said, “Ha!” and held out his phone to John.
There was a text from Lestrade on the screen that said, 600 tickets sold. I don’t know how you did it, but you’re running just about even now.
“How on earth--?” John said, looking from the phone to Sherlock’s face.
Sherlock smiled. “I have my ways.”
He wouldn’t divulge any details, though, and John gave up after a few minutes.
* * *
They didn’t quite make it there.
“John,” Sherlock said, “there are men digging a hole on the road in front of the Centre. Why are there men digging a hole on the road in front of the Centre on the day of my recital?”
“Our recital,” John said, correcting him. “And I don’t know, but I bet someone does.”
“Water main break,” Lestrade said a few minutes later. “The good news is that it’s not our water main. The bad news is that traffic will be re-routed.”
“Oh,” Sherlock said.
“That’s fine,” John said, elbowing him. “Right, Sherlock?”
“Well, ‘fine,’ no, but acceptable, yes.” He’d dug out his mobile and was texting furiously. “They’ll be announcing it on BBC London, at least.”
“Well, all right, then,” Lestrade said, nonplussed.
An hour and a half later, though, while they were running through a few last-minute sections, adjusting to the different acoustics of the hall, one of the Barbican’s employees--John couldn’t remember his name but knew his face--came in and said, “You need to evacuate the building immediately.”
“Immediately?” John said, and stood up with his music.
“That’s not possible,” Sherlock said. “I don’t know if you’ve heard, but we’re playing a recital here shortly.”
“I’m sorry, sirs, but it’s an emergency. You need to evacuate the building.”
“We’re coming,” John said, and glared at Sherlock.
“But this isn’t possible,” Sherlock said, even as he packed up his violin and bow and music. “The recital is in an hour and a half.”
“You need to get at least 500 meters away from this building.”
“Come on,” John said. “Grab your jacket. I know where there are excellent stone-baked pastries.”
“I can’t eat; I’ve got a recital in an hour and a half,” Sherlock said, but he followed John dutifully out of the building.
On the way out, they saw Lestrade, who motioned them over to a corner. “It’s a bomb threat,” he said very quietly. “Don’t tell anyone. It’s almost undoubtedly a hoax, but we can’t take that chance, not with more than a thousand people in the Centre. I’ll call if I find anything else out.”
“That’s not--” Sherlock started to say, but John elbowed him again.
“Thank you, Greg,” John said, and dragged Sherlock to Coco di Mama, about ten minutes’ walk away.
The cafe was relatively quiet, which meant more than half full, but there were still a couple of free tables and no one seemed inclined to pay either of them the least bit of attention. They ordered coffee and pastries, and after they sat down, Sherlock said, “Call the union.”
“The Musicians’ Union? What would they do?”
“I don’t know. You’re a member in good standing, aren’t you?”
John glared at him. “Of course I am. Aren’t you?”
Sherlock sighed. “The union and I seem to have differences on the definition of ‘qualified local.’”
“Yes. Apparently I’m not allowed to import violists from Ireland when there are violists here. Anyway. Not important. There’s got to be someone we can call. Or, well, there is, but I don’t want to call him.”
“No one you know. D’you know anyone still at Guildhall?” Sherlock said.
“What good would that do?”
“Well, it’s across the street, isn’t it?”
“I suppose, but--” John closed his mouth. “I have a phone number.”
“I don’t know,” John said. “He came for me in a car, and--”
Sherlock closed his eyes and hit his head against the wall behind him gently. “With an assistant addicted to her mobile phone--a man, maybe a little shorter than I am, not much hair, carries a stupid umbrella?”
“Yes, that’s him. Who is he?”
“I thought Moriarty was your arch-nemesis.”
“Well, perhaps,” Sherlock said. “Mycroft is an enemy of longer standing, though.”
“But can this Mr. Mycroft help us?”
Sherlock laughed, and it was more of a bark than anything else. “No, John, Mycroft is his first name. Mycroft Holmes. My older brother.”
John blinked. “Oh.” Well, that explained rather a lot. “What does he do?”
“I have no idea. Government something. It’s not important.”
“Well, if he can help us, then call him,” John said. Remembering a rather cryptic comment of Mycroft’s, he said, “I suppose he plays piano?”
“He used to. I don’t think he’s kept it up.”
“Ah,” John said.
“It’s Moriarty,” Sherlock said suddenly.
“The emergency evacuation. The hole in the road. The sluggish sales.”
“How do you know?”
“Because he came to gloat,” Sherlock said, indicating the door with his chin.
“Sherlock,” said Moriarty. “John. Hi.” He gave a smile that John could only describe, even in his head, as ‘smarmy,’ even though that word was usually reserved for used-car salesmen and particularly annoying politicians. “So sorry about your recital.”
“So sorry about your lack of talent,” Sherlock shot back. “Oh, wait--no, I don’t think I am.” He shifted, slouching a little more toward the back of his chair, and shoved his hands in the pockets of his trench coat.
“What on earth are you doing here?” John asked, as neutrally as he could. “Don’t you have a--an event going on a few miles away shortly?”
“Oh, well, I don’t even have to be there for a while yet,” Moriarty said. “The first half hour is all recordings, and I’ve got someone handling those.” He smirked again and grabbed a chair from a nearby table, flipping it backwards and straddling it in one smooth motion. “I thought I’d like to come see how you’re doing.”
“We’re fantastic, thanks,” Sherlock said. “So good that we decided to come have a pastry.” Not that he’d eaten a bite yet, but he gestured to his rustic apple cake anyway.
“Ah, is that why you’re here?” Moriarty said. “I thought it was perhaps because of the bomb threat.”
“The bomb threat?” Sherlock said; John tried his hardest to keep his face straight, as Sherlock was obviously a much better actor. “What bomb threat?”
“Please,” Moriarty said. “Let’s not pretend you’re here for a quick snack.”
“I’m here for a quick snack,” John said, but Sherlock and Moriarty both ignored him. He ate the corner of his chocolate croissant decisively.
“It’s been announced,” Moriarty said. “Your concert can’t go on. It’s a failure. You, Sherlock Holmes, are a failure.”
“Am I?” Sherlock said. “I must be quite volatile, such that I can manage to become a personal failure by one concert canceled due to a situation beyond my control.”
“Ah, but is it beyond your control?” Moriarty said, and he had that nasty grin again.
“Well, unless I personally know the person who phoned in the bomb threat and can get that person to confess to the police that it was a hoax, I very much doubt it’s under my control,” Sherlock said.
“Oh, Sherlock. Think in the grand universal sense,” Moriarty said, chiding. “Think about how you’ve had chances, chances to share your genius with your fellow musicians, and yet you choose not to.”
“I’m sharing my genius with John,” Sherlock said. “Well, I mean, I’m paying him, obviously.”
Obviously, John thought, and shook his head. Unless they’d sold a lot more tickets at the last minute, they’d be doing only slightly better than breaking even for this concert, but he wasn’t worried.
“And yet you refuse to play works composed by your peers.”
“That’s not true,” Sherlock said. “I refuse to play works by you. You’re a hack.”
Moriarty’s nose flared as he took in a fast breath. “And that,” he said, “is why your concert must be ruined. Because you’ve ruined how many of mine?” He slammed his hand on the table. “I wrote that piece for you, Sherlock, because you’re literally the only person on the planet who could understand it. Who could play it. It was to be my magnum opus, and yet I had to let Moran play it.” He wrinkled his nose.
Sherlock looked at John. “I don’t know if you heard, but that particular piece was a painful failure.”
“I did hear, thanks,” John said, although he hadn’t and he wasn’t entirely sure it was a good idea to provoke the man who’d just slammed his hand on the table.
“Karma!” Moriarty shouted, and the cafe went silent. “Karma,” he repeated, a little more quietly. “You ruin my masterwork, you deserve to have your career ruined.”
John still wasn’t sure how one failed recital would ruin Sherlock’s career; he’d checked the sales figures for Sherlock’s CDs and they were still rather robust, or at least robust enough to keep Sherlock in strings and take-away food. Moriarty clearly wasn’t . . . well. Or perhaps he’d deliberately made a break from reality; John wasn’t sure.
“And perhaps you helped karma along a bit?” Sherlock said.
“So what if I did?” Moriarty said. “Not that I would need to, but it’s nothing more than you deserve.” He stood and started walking toward the door, smirking again as he pulled out his mobile.
John blinked. He knew Moriarty was dangerous, but he also knew that he’d just confessed to the bomb threat, so--He sprang out of his seat and lunged.
A moment later he had Moriarty pinned on the ground, face down, his knee in the middle of his back, the mobile phone trapped under him. “Call 999!” John said.
“I am,” Sherlock said, dialing frantically on his own mobile. “How did you do that?”
“I have an older sister,” John said, gritting his teeth. “Can someone give me a hand?”
Ten minutes later, John and a rather beefy young man finished their chat about rugby as the police arrived; they stood up and let the police take custody of Moriarty.
“I have a recording,” Sherlock said, pulling his minidisc recorder out of his pocket, complete with tiny microphone. He hit ‘play’ and through the rather tinny speakers, they could hear Moriarty’s partial confession.
“We’re going to need that recording,” the DI said, and Sherlock popped the disc out and handed it over.
“You’ll want to note the timestamp,” Sherlock said. “It’s not so much he said, which is vague enough not to be useful, but he knew about the bomb threat before he got here, and the Barbican staff was calling it merely an ‘emergency.’ That should be important.”
“Yes, we might have figured that out,” the DI said.
“Does this mean we can have the Centre back?” Sherlock asked.
“Thank you very much,” John said over him. “I believe now is the time to call your brother,” he said to Sherlock.
“Oh, all right,” Sherlock grumbled.
* * *
That was thanks to Mycroft; he’d somehow managed to arrange the financials such that everyone who bought a ticket to Moriarty’s event was given a free ticket to Sherlock and John’s recital. Both halls and all of Moriarty’s performers and staff were being adequately compensated, mostly due to a bill for thousands of pounds on Moriarty’s head. Mycroft had also commandeered a handful of buses to transport everyone for free.
John really had no idea how he’d managed it, but Mycroft had told him not to worry, and he’d done his best not to until 2:45, when he and Sherlock had gotten word that the recital was a go, albeit a few minutes late.
And here they were, mere minutes from stepping onto the stage and playing.
“Break a leg,” he whispered to Sherlock.
Sherlock glared at him. “Don’t be so banal, John,” he said. He brushed his fingers over the strings for one last backstage tuning, took a deep breath, and stepped onto the stage.
John had his typical moment of frozen fright, when he sat down at the piano, flipping out the tails of his tux. He looked at Lestrade, who’d volunteered to turn pages for him, and received a nod in return. Okay. He could do this.
Opening his music, he stared at the first few notes, trying to remember how to get from dots on a page to a recital. He inhaled through his nose and let the breath out slowly, and looked at Sherlock.
Who was looking back at him. Right. Tuning note. Not that Sherlock’s violin wasn’t in perfect tune already, but still. John played the A, and then a D minor chord; Sherlock puttered with the strings for a moment, and then looked back at John. The right side of his mouth quirked in what wasn’t anything near a smile, but that was enough.
This was just playing with Sherlock. They’d done it literally every day for the last three months. They knew these pieces down cold; John barely needed the music, which was a hell of a thing for a collaborative pianist to say. He gave Sherlock a tiny nod, and they began.
John lost himself in the music, in the performance, in the ebb and flow of the partnership. The languid, lush melodies of the Chopin passed by; Sherlock’s angular, modal Morceau cut through any remaining shreds of sentimentality, yet left a peculiar melancholy behind.
The Finzi’s restrained emotion flowed through his fingers and out, rounding out the first half, and they stood and received their applause before retreating backstage again.
Once there, they stared at each other for a moment. “It’s going--” John started to say.
“No,” Sherlock said, cutting him off with a gesture. “Don’t say it.”
“And you told me not to be banal,” John said, but he knocked on the lid of the practice piano anyway.
The ten-minute intermission was somehow simultaneously relaxing and excruciating; Sherlock paced around, lost in his own head, for nearly the entire time. John checked the news on his phone for no reason and drank a glass of water before he realized he shouldn’t. Lestrade sat in the corner and said nothing, which was probably for the best.
The second half was easier and harder; the Shostakovich was a demanding piece, and Sherlock gave no quarter. John pushed him back, all the way to the devastatingly-abrupt ending.
There was a moment of pure silence after they finished that seemed to stretch, like molasses, into an eternity, but John didn’t need to be told that they’d just nailed the piece. He’d been there, after all. When the audience burst into resounding applause, it was surprising but not, in the least, a surprise.
“Damn fine performance,” Lestrade said before he disappeared backstage with most of John’s music.
John stood, looked over and caught Sherlock’s eye, and felt himself grin, probably dopily, definitely ear to ear. They bowed multiple times; someone threw flowers onto the stage and John chuckled.
After three rounds of bowing, they played the next step in the game; Sherlock shocked everyone by handing his violin to Lestrade, who’d appeared off to one side, and sitting down at the piano with John to play Dvorak’s Slavonic Dance, Op. 46, No. 8, in G minor, for piano four hands.
It was a massively bombastic piece, and Sherlock had practiced his part extensively. It wasn’t particularly difficult, and likely most of the audience knew the piece already, but the point wasn’t to dazzle with technique or interpretation but just to play, and play they did.
The audience clapped explosively again after they’d finished, and this time they bowed out to go backstage. John’s cheeks were starting to hurt from grinning so much, and he felt like he had enough energy to go run around the park like a child who’d had too many sweets. Sherlock seemed to be vibrating with barely-restrained energy as well, and honestly, John thought, if he was in some way unsatisfied with the performance--
“That was fun,” Sherlock said as he loosened the hair on his bow.
“Of course it was,” John said, and burst into delighted laughter, because he’d been thinking exactly the same thing. “Let’s do that again, shall we?”
“Naturally,” Sherlock said, and smiled.