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Bonds of Blood

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Where are you? – SH

I told you where I was going ten minutes ago. Not my fault you weren't listening – JW

I was listening – SH

Then where am I? – JW

Five minutes later, then...

Irrelevant. Need you back at the flat at once – SH

John sighed and glanced out the window of Speedy's cafe, a smirk tugging at the corners of his mouth. He glanced back at his phone and sent a reply.

Can't. Like I said earlier, I'm meeting someone – JW

The retort came thirty seconds later.

Meet them another time. I need you here now – SH

Tough, Sherlock. I'm turning my phone off now – JW

John tucked his phone back into his pocket with a quiet chuckle, knowing that he was likely to spend the rest of the day with a sulking detective. Perhaps he'd avoid the flat for the next few hours, then.

"John?"

The doctor glanced up at the man stood before him, dressed in army uniform with a duffel bag slung over his shoulder and a wide grin crossed his features. The man returned the smile within seconds and pulled John out of his seat.

"Nick!" he exclaimed, grinning as his old friend pulled him into a fierce hug. John returned it sincerely and laughed as he was squeezed tightly. After a few moments he drew back and studied the man he hadn't seen for four and a half years. His dark brown hair was still cropped into a military haircut, and his piercing blue eyes were as sharp and bright as ever. He was nearly Sherlock's height, though slightly shorter, but still tall enough that when John looked directly ahead of him he was met with Nick's chin, covered in stubble.

"God, it's been ages." John murmured, sitting back in his chair as Nick sat opposite him. "How've you been?"

"Great, great." Nick smiled. "Well, it's annoying to be back here if I'm honest."

"It's too bad." John said truthfully. He could remember how dedicated Nick was to the army and to his fellow comrades. Nick always used to hate being sent home; he was too much of an adrenaline junkie. "Where are you staying now?"

"Oh, in a block of army flats in Putney. I'm there for two weeks." Nick answered. He opened his mouth to say something, but then closed it and rubbed the back of his neck nervously.

"What is it?" John prompted.

Nick regarded John for a few moments, then sighed. "Actually, I was wondering if I could crash at your place for a few days." he muttered, eyes downcast and his cheeks reddening. "It's just that since last week the flat is being renovated, so everyone's had to leave, and I haven't really got anywhere else to go."

John pursed his lips. "We don't have a spare bedroom or anything..."

"Oh, I'll happily kip on the couch, and like I said I'll be gone within the week. It's only temporary."

John sighed. "...I don't know, Nick. My – uh – flatmate isn't really a people person, and he can be a bit rude."

Nick shook his head. "I'll stay of his way, I promise. And he can't be any worse than what we went through in the army, right?"

John nodded absently, remembering days when the horrors of the war had got to some soldiers, and they'd let loose on everyone, shouting abuse and picking fights. He grimaced, then looked up at Nick.

"Of course you can stay, Nick." he said softly. "How could I say no to the man who saved my life?" he grinned.

Nick beamed as relief coursed through him. "Cheers, John. You won't regret this."

John smiled slightly. "It's alright. Did you want to meet him now, then?" he asked.

"Sure, what are we waiting for?" Nick bounced up from his chair and scooped up his duffel bag. John smiled again at his enthusiasm and followed him out the door and onto the street.

"So, where are you living at the moment?" Nick asked.

"Uh, right here, actually." John walked a few metres down the pavement and stopped outside 221B.

"Nice." the soldier commented, looking up at the building.

"Yeah, it is. C'mon in." John opened the door and led his friend up the stairs and to his flat. Once Nick had caught up, John opened the door and stepped aside so that the taller man could see his home. Nick put his bag in the corner and walked further into the room, looking about the living room and the kitchen.

"Cosy." Nick said. John smiled.

"John? I told you to be back here ten minutes ago. What took you so long?"

Sherlock Holmes strolled into the living room from the kitchen dressed in his crimson dressing gown and wearing a pair of goggles. He paused in his steps, though, when his icy eyes met Nick's warm ones.

"You're John's army friend." he stated.

"What gave me away?" Nick grinned, holding his arms out. "It wouldn't have been the uniform, perhaps?"

Sherlock's eyes narrowed. He turned to John. "Why is he here?"

John shifted. "He needs a place to stay for a few days, and I've let him stay here. He won't get in your way, don't worry."

Sherlock glared at the army doctor before turning to go back in the kitchen.

"Wait, I haven't introduced myself yet." Nick leapt forward and grasped Sherlock's arm. The consulting detective shook out of his grip and looked at the soldier expectantly.

"Nicholas Harper, at your service." the soldier mock-bowed.

Sherlock watched him with a disinterested gaze. "Sherlock Holmes." he stated, moving towards the kitchen again.

"Sherlock Holmes?" Nick frowned, quickly looking across at John. "You told me he was dead." he said. John opened his mouth to speak but Sherlock beat him to it, speaking whilst leaning over his microscope.

"Well, it would appear that I am, in fact, alive." he said, and John knew immediately Sherlock was rolling his eyes.

"Yes, something for which we are all eternally grateful." The doctor said with an indulgent smile. "Tea?" he asked Nick.

"Please." he answered distractedly, moving over to sit on the sofa. John walked into the kitchen and started preparing two cups when he felt Sherlock behind him.

"What is he doing here?" Sherlock hissed.

"I told you – he's here for a few days, just until his flat is finished being renovated." John answered, turning to look at his flatmate. "He's never been much hassle, and he probably won't even be in the flat all that often. I'm sure he's got people he wants to see and all that, so just behave."

Sherlock scowled at him before stalking back to his chair and sitting down, focusing on his microscope again.

"Here you go," John said, handing Nick his tea and then sinking down onto his chair at the desk.

"Cheers." Nick replied, taking a sip. "So," he began, "Have you been able to see Rachel recently?" he asked John with something akin to hope in his eyes.

John shook his head. "Not for at least two years, sorry. Ellen refuses to let me see her."

"Bitch." Nick mumbled into his tea, as if knowing this was the answer he was going to get. "Who does she think she is?" he asked absent-mindedly, his eyes resting on the skull on the mantel piece.

Sherlock appeared in the doorway. "Rachel is your daughter." he said confidently.

Nick looked up at him. "I'm not even going to ask how you knew that, but yes, Rachel is my daughter. And John's goddaughter."

"I didn't know you had a goddaughter." Sherlock said with a frown, looking across at John.

The doctor shrugged. "And now you do. She's, what, six now?"

Nick nodded. "Her birthday was last month. I can't believe Ellen doesn't let you see her. What does she say to you?" he asked.

"Ellen is your ex-wife–" Sherlock interrupted.

"Yes, yes, she is." Nick cut off, brushing Sherlock away impatiently. The detective visibly bristled and crossed his arms. "Well?" He watched John expectantly.

"Uh, well usually when I go and visit her, she'll open the front door a few inches and tell me she's busy, or Rachel's with her grandparents. She doesn't let me in or anything; just gives her excuse and shuts the door in my face."

"Lovely." Nick said, draining his cup. "I'd better... er... go see them, actually. Be back in a few hours?"

"Sure, see you then." The soldier got up from the sofa and placed his cup on the table before walking out the door. The front door sounded a few minutes later.

"I don't like him." Sherlock announced.

John smiled, despite himself. "And why would that be?"

"Because he interrupted me."

"You interrupted him first." John countered, getting up from his chair and bringing the two empty cups with him to put them in the sink. Sherlock followed him and glared down at John.

The doctor sighed. "And the other reasons you don't like him?" he asked resignedly.

"He's hiding something."

John rolled his eyes. "Aren't we all?" he retorted.

Sherlock blinked. "You're not, are you?" he asked.

"Am I?"

"Stop answering my questions with questions!"

John chuckled as he filled the sink with water and began to wash up the dishes. "Sorry, it's funny winding you up, though."

"You're not winding me up, John. That's a stupid thing to say."

"It's just an expression. I wasn't implying that I was physically causing you to... never mind. Look, if you can just try to get along with Nick then the days will fly by much quicker and he'll be gone before you know it."

"I still don't understand why he's here in the first place." Sherlock grumbled.

"What is there to understand?" John asked. "He was looking for a place to live temporarily and I offered it to him."

"Why, though?"

"Why what? What's so difficult to comprehend? He was my best friend when I was in the army, and we looked out for each other. Hell, he saved my life when that bullet struck my shoulder. So when he comes asking for a place to stay, who am I to say no? At the moment you're being childish, and I'm not going to make him leave just because he interrupted you when he was trying to find out why I haven't seen his daughter who he hasn't seen for God knows how long. Give the guy a break, for crying out loud." He huffed as he scrubbed at yet another one of Sherlock's dirty experiments, which seemed to be permanently waiting to be washed up.

"You know, it wouldn't kill you to wash these once in a while." John grumbled, putting a beaker on the draining board.

"Why don't you ask your best friend to do it?" Sherlock uttered, walking away.

"Oh, you're jealous now?" John turned and leant against the sink, watching Sherlock pause and stiffen.

"No, I am not jealous." Sherlock seethed, spinning on his heel to glare at the army doctor.

"Then stop acting like it." John said firmly, throwing aside the dishcloth. "I am sick of you keeping me at your beck and call and then throwing a tantrum whenever one of my friends distracts me from you. It is immature and extremely rude, and I am not going to tolerate it, especially when it's aimed at a man who's just come home from Afghanistan to practically nothing. I was in his shoes once, I know how he feels, and I know that your attitude is the last thing he needs."

"I do not throw tantrums, and I most certainly don't care what you do when you're off playing with your other friends. I don't require you to constantly look after me; I can do it perfectly well on my own. Like I said once before, alone protects me." The second he said that, Sherlock knew he had gone too far.

John's jaw tightened and he looked at the detective coldly, moving to the door. "That was low, Sherlock. Even for you." he murmured, walking out.