As Jim bumped the apartment door open with his hip, both arms filled with grocery bags, he heard footsteps inside. Of course, by the time Blair made it to the door, Jim had already pushed it open and shouldered his way into the loft.
"Jim! You're home," Blair said, sounding pleased. "I called twice, but you didn't answer."
"I was at the grocery store," Jim said, shrugging their granola-crunchy, all-natural, washable and reusable hemp grocery bags off of his shoulders and onto the counter. "Reception's terrible in there."
"And you didn't call back once you were out of the building?"
"Wild Oats is eleven minutes from our house," Jim pointed out.
"Fine," Blair conceded. "Listen, what are we doing tomorrow night?"
Jim thought for a moment. "Nothing," he said, "as far as I know. I figured we'd stay home, watch a movie or something."
Blair was grinning now in a way that made it obvious that something was up.
"What," Jim prompted.
"We're going out for drinks," Blair said, with barely-restrained eagerness in his voice. "They're in Cascade, they're only here for a couple of days, I can't believe this, it's going to be amazing!"
"I need a little bit more data," Jim said dryly. Despite his best curmudgeonly intentions, Blair's enthusiasm was rubbing off on him.
"Sherlock Holmes," Blair said, gesturing wildly. "I've been corresponding with John Watson, his partner. I haven't asked outright, but I'm pretty sure Sherlock's a Sentinel and John's his Guide."
Jim threw up his hands. "Wait, wait, hold on a second. You want us to go out for drinks with another Sentinel? Thanks but no thanks, Chief."
"Come on," Blair wheedled. "Your control is so much better than it used to be. You can handle being in the room with another Sentinel for a little while."
"What if I don't want to?"
"Do it for me."
"So you can, what, sit down and ask in person whether he has enhanced senses? Can't you just do that over email?" Jim crossed his arms and leaned back against the counter. Blair's heartbeat ratcheted up, which meant he'd noticed the way Jim's t-shirt pulled across his pecs. Heh. Good.
"I'll make it worth your while," Blair promised.
"Huh. Okay then," Jim agreed, and grinned. He'd been going to say yes anyway, but if Blair was going to offer sex as a bribe, he sure as hell wasn't going to argue.
Sherlock Holmes turned out to be as tall as Jim himself, though whip-thin. He smelled of tobacco -- something unfamiliar, Jim thought vaguely; either he smoked European cigarettes, or he rolled his own, or possibly both -- and he didn't offer to shake hands.
John Watson made up for it, clasping both of Blair's hands in his own (was that just him being English, or was that the kind of intimate gesture Jim ought to be uncomfortable with? Jim wasn't sure) and then shaking Jim's hand with a firm grip. Jim could feel the rasp of calluses against his own. John Watson knew how to fire a gun.
"I'm so glad you guys were able to make some time," Blair gushed. "I mean, I've been following the blog since you first started..." Jim tuned him out. John was making appropriate noises, and it seemed clear that their two partners could carry the conversation, so Jim paid attention to Sherlock.
The fact that he smoked wasn't necessarily an indicator of anything. There were probably Sentinels who smoked. Jim would bet dollars to donuts he bought the expensive shit, though. Well, if he actually was a Sentinel, of which Jim was not remotely convinced.
His gaze was cool and steady. Jim could practically see him taking in everything. Which wasn't an indicator either way. If he was as good a detective as Blair said he was, he'd damn well better be paying attention to what went on around him.
After a moment, Sherlock pulled out his cellphone and, angling the screen so that only he could see what he was doing, tapped out a message. He paused, evidently waiting for a response, and then slid the phone back into his pocket.
"So what brings you to Cascade," Jim asked.
"Business, of a sort," Sherlock said. "We'd been in Hong Kong--"
"Investigating the massively multiplayer online roleplaying syndicate, right," Blair said, nodding.
"Right," John agreed. "I take it you saw the posts, then."
Massively multiplayer online roleplaying -- on second thought, Jim didn't actually want to know.
Sherlock shrugged. "From there it was a simple hop to Vancouver."
"Of course it was," Jim said. Trying not to sound bitter. Jesus fuck, he'd never been to Vancouver. Or to Hong Kong, for that matter. No, for him it was Cascade and the goddamned jungles of Peru, thank you very much.
"And we had something we --" John began, then paused. Jim heard his cellphone vibrate again. "Er. Excuse me." He reached for his cellphone, saw the number displayed there, and pushed back his chair. "I'll just be a moment."
The moment he was gone, Sherlock leaned forward and steepled his hands together.
"There's something you want to ask. Spill."
"How did you know?" Blair sounded genuinely curious.
"I read your recent correspondence with John," Sherlock rattled off, "and you clearly weren't trying to seduce us as a couple -- don't scoff," he said directly to Jim, "it's happened."
"I'll bet," Jim said as dryly as he could manage. Neither of them was particularly hard on the eyes.
"You alluded to a law enforcement question in two of your messages, but not any of the later ones," Sherlock continued, "and we've been here for seven and a half minutes and you haven't broached the subject."
"Maybe I'm just moving slowly," Blair objected, though it was a pro forma objection, and Jim suspected Sherlock could tell.
"It's something personal. But not sexual. Although it is obvious that the two of you are together."
Jim was startled, though he tried to hide it. Apparently he didn't hide it well, because Sherlock rolled his eyes theatrically. "Do you really want me to enumerate the ways?"
"Thanks but no thanks," Jim said firmly.
"So my question remains: what is it you wanted to ask? Be quick about it; the diversion I arranged won't keep John away much longer."
So Sherlock had orchestrated his partner's convenient phone interruption. Jim had wondered.
"It has to do with the nature of your investigative skill," Blair said, reluctantly. This obviously wasn't how he'd planned to broach the subject. "Have you ever heard of a Sentinel?"
Sherlock's left heel, which had been drumming against the carpet, abruptly stopped. He stared at Jim with undisguised excitement -- an expression Jim remembered from the early days of his relationship with Blair, though he hadn't seen it in a long time. Honestly, he didn't miss it. He was happier being Blair's partner than being his dissertation subject.
"It's true," Sherlock breathed.
John pulled his chair away from their table and sank into it. "What's true," he said affably. "Sorry, I had to take the call, that was--"
"Doesn't matter," Sherlock said, waving a hand in his direction without looking. "I was right."
John's expression was fond and exasperated all at once. "Right about what?"
"He has enhanced senses," Sherlock said, jerking his head toward Jim.
"Not so loud," Blair said, looking around the room anxiously.
"It's okay, Chief." Jim put a hand on his arm. "There's no one close enough to hear us."
"Not with this music playing," Sherlock agreed, and looked the two of them over appraisingly. "You chose this bar with that in mind."
"And a few other things," Blair insisted. "Air that Jim can breathe, for starters."
John stifled a snort. "I don't suppose you go clubbing much, do you."
"Smoke machines and I are not on good terms," Jim agreed. To his surprise, he liked John Watson. For one thing, the guy put up with Mister Cheekbones over there.
"Was that your question? Whether I have enhanced senses, too?" Sherlock asked. His voice had gentled. It had finally occurred to him, Jim realized, that they might be disappointed to hear a negative answer. (Well. Blair might be disappointed. Jim didn't give a shit.)
"It was," Blair agreed with a half-shrug. He'd already intuited the answer. "It wasn't an unreasonable theory. You solve unsolvable cases."
"I pay attention," Sherlock said, more sharply. Jim guessed that wasn't the first time he'd had to say it.
"Fair enough." Blair's hands were raised, placating.
There was a lull in the conversation.
"Their question's answered, my theory's confirmed, and I'm bored," Sherlock announced. "Can we go fuck?"
"Sherlock!" John sounded scandalized, and his cheeks were turning pink. No one else could have seen the blush in the bar's dim lighting, but Jim could.
"Not all four of us," Sherlock amended. His eyes raked over Jim. "John notwithstanding, ex-military's not usually my type."
"Sometimes I think I could kill him," John muttered to no one in particular. Jim empathized.
"If you two want to go," Jim offered, magnanimous, "that's fine with us." They'd make it home in time for the second half of the Jags game.
Now it was Blair's turn to sound annoyed. "Jim! C'mon, man, I've been waiting to meet these guys for a million years."
Jim looked from Sherlock to John to Blair and made a split-second decision. "Are you two still in town on Sunday morning?"
Jim honestly wasn't sure what had possessed him to invite Sherlock and John over for Sunday brunch. Except that Blair was obviously disappointed at the prospect of this long-anticipated meeting ending so soon, and he liked to make Blair happy.
Besides, Jim didn't mind being around John. And at least Sherlock talked to him as though he were a fellow detective, not a science experiment on legs.
"The bagels are from a bakery down the block," Blair explained. "They're not New York bagels, but they're the closest thing we have."
"Speaking as a Londoner," John offered, "I hardly have stones to throw."
"Fair point," Blair conceded. "No smoked salmon, sorry--"
"With his senses, I should think not," Sherlock agreed. "I'm surprised he can stand your aftershave."
Jim had to stifle his laugh and disguise it with a well-placed slurp of coffee. Maybe Sherlock wasn't so bad after all.