Sherlock had been the one to point it out.
John, seated at his computer, was prepared to reply to a few of the comments that had been left on his latest case write up. Aside from Sherlock uppercutting an embezzling suspect in a rather spectacular fashion, there had been nothing exciting whatsoever about the suspect or the crime he had committed. Still, ever the diligent blogger, John had written up the details of the past few days, using language that was a more colorful than usual to lend the story a bit more glamour. He wrote and rewrote a paragraph describing the state of the alley they’d tracked the suspect to, making it seem as gritty as possible without embellishment.
Best to keep the fans entertained, after all.
Their fans were dedicated and ceaseless, finding something encouraging to say at every turn, wishing to show their support and their awe and their fondness for the pair. There were those whose names John recognized, hanging about his blog enough to be a regular presence. He’d managed to strike up a shaky familiarity with some of them; he knew Joan5175 was a homemaker whose husband couldn’t get enough of the blog and he knew that Billy and Dan were university students who were doing a paper on new forms of media and citing John as a source.
It was all rather humbling, being the center of such frenzied, ruthless admiration, though John noted that he had no one to blame for such attention but himself, really. He had no one to thank but himself, come to think of it. The blog had generated enough interest from the public that the pair were back in regular work and John’s back account had begun to get the padding it so desperately needed.
So in return, he could only be kind and thankful to the fans, the people that had made he and Sherlock what they were, the people who craved the telling of his tales. If he went too long without an update now - a week or more - there was public outcry, and he’d be forced to blog about something inane like the new bistro he’d found or the very interesting man he tried to deduce on the train (and failed at doing so) or bloody weather, they were so desperate for updates from him.
And when Sherlock interjected from his own account, the maelstrom of fan comments threatened to crash the server. The interest in the blog skyrocketed when Sherlock deigned to weigh in on whatever John was blogging about. John watched with equal parts wonder and trepidation; he often wondered how much of a fanbase he could possibly generate just recounting he and Sherlock’s adventures.
John hit ‘reply’ on another variation of ‘thank you’ and leaned back to crack his fingers, watching as Sherlock puttered about, gathered up a heap of newspaper and plunked it unceremoniously on the sofa.
Still in his dressing gown from the morning, he swirled about, tartan cotton flapping over stray papers on the coffee table, sending them fluttering to the floor. Sherlock was still full of restless energy, the rather simple case having not sated his appetite. John watched as he went back to the hallway for another batch of newspaper, admired the curve of his arse as he bent to gather it all up; Sherlock toted the load back into the sitting room and put the bundle on the floor before tossing his long body onto the couch.
John’s lips turned up slowly, leisurely, at Sherlock’s inelegant flouncing.
John didn’t hide his admiration of Sherlock, not anymore. It was pointless to try and hide something from the world’s most observant man, especially after all of the time they’d spent together and all of the things they’d been through. Sherlock would often catch him watching - perhaps enamored by the way a shadow caught the line of his jaw or how his hair would flop over his eyes - and his gaze would become a bit more gentle and they would share the moment in comfortable silence.
They meant a great deal to one another; no words had been needed to confirm that. It seemed that in the aftermath of Sherlock’s death they had shifted into delicate new territory, becoming more casual about touches, glances, the lack of personal space they now required when around one another. It was easier, with the hard-edged layers peeled back, with them raw and open and too vulnerable, to give in to their softer urges. Affection, it bled from John constantly, in the ruffle of Sherlock’s fringe or a passed cup or tea. And it was received with warm thanks, in the quirk of lips or barely-heard sigh. It had happened so gradually, so fluidly that neither felt the compulsion to talk about it, both worried it would somehow disturb the harmony they’d managed to find.
There’s the warmth of endearment there, so much of it that it crushed John’s chest from time to time, made it hard to breathe. There was the desire, too, warring right alongside, an insatiable urge to touch and taste and be inside that was so real and visceral John mourned the idea that he might never have it.
It had to be enough, until the courage welled in him and confessions burst free, to be able to look at Sherlock, to be able to touch a hand, a shoulder, a hip, in passing. And so he watched, watched on as Sherlock flipped through a stack of newsprint and huffed in annoyance.
John’s gaze lingered on the curve of Sherlock’s thigh where it met his arse and noticed a distinct lack of elastic protuberance beneath. How the man managed to fling himself around without pants on was both confusing and frustrating.
John twisted his lips into a frown as Sherlock wriggled back into the leather, seating himself more comfortably.
Sherlock went still, one arm flung over the stack of paper, the other picking at the pajama fabric covering his knee. He watched John, seriously, right side of his mouth twitching with the urge to speak. Sherlock held it while John glanced over and waited.
It was a few moments before he spoke but when he did it was through the veil of feigned disinterest. “WatsonChick143 has been rather maniacal in her commenting as of late,” he mentioned as he sprawled out next to the paper, snatching a sizeable bundle into his lap. Sherlock waited a moment and glanced up at John who was gazing at him thoughtfully, hand tapping at the side of his mouth.
“Really? Hadn’t noticed.”
Sherlock rolled his eyes, kicking his feet onto the coffee table in rather dramatic fashion. “She’s left comments on everything you’ve posted John, something so obvious can’t have escaped even your attention.”
“Just another rabid fan,” John said, lazily, not really wanting to continue thanking commenters though seemingly not wanting to do much of anything else either. He tapped at the space bar of his laptop aimlessly, watching Sherlock watch him.
He was obviously waiting for further elaboration but when John gave none he huffed and glared across the room. “She’s left her rather vapid thoughts on other people’s posts,” Sherlock added, tossing an issue of The New York Times in the direction of the windows. “A bit more than rabid, that,” the ‘that’ was punctuated by the snap of another newspaper being pulled hastily open.
John flicked his eyes back to the computer screen, noting the internet handle peppered a few times over the page. True, this particular individual was a fairly regular poster, a regular zealous poster, but it was no worse than the myriad of fans who’d seek them out at Speedy’s or linger around Barts to steal a photograph. It was the sort of attention that came with being C-list celebrities and John said as much. “Comes with the celebrity, I suppose.”
Sherlock grumbled to himself and the matter was dropped for the moment. John stared off into space a bit more before taking up commenting once more, pecking out responses to Sally and Mrs. Hudson and some rugby mates to whom he’d emailed the blog’s address. He felt Sherlock watching him all the while and would choose sporadic moments to glance over at his flatmate, who would look hastily away, back at the newspaper he’d been inspecting.
Refreshing the page, John assured himself that he hadn’t missed replying to anyone of importance. About to ‘x’ out of the window, he caught sight of the WatsonChick143 handle at the bottom of the page, comment truncated due to the volume on the page. John clicked on the name to expand the comment and was greeted with a string of grinning smiley faces and the words, “This one really was great. I just love all of your posts John ;-).”
John blinked, folded his arms over his chest and sat back, sparing another glance at the webpage. Biting the side of his lip, he debated whether or not to mention to Sherlock that the girl had indeed posted once more. But Sherlock sussed it out before he could speak, peeking his eyes over the top of his page and raising his brow. “Her again, I take it?”
“Mmmm,” John hummed, wondering just what to make of it. “Alright, she does seem to have a little thing for me, I’ll give you that.” Though he smiled, John felt a frisson of unease roll through him.
“Please,” Sherlock scoffed, serving an over-the-top eye roll.
John licked his lips and tipped his chair so it was balanced on the back legs. “Oh, people are only allowed to be obsessed with you? The tall, dark and handsome half of the duo?”
“...dark and handsome…” Sherlock tested the words on his tongue in confusion. “And no, that was not what I was implying John. Rather that this person doesn’t know you and therefore couldn’t actually have a very substantial thing for you.” Sherlock sniffed and flipped a page of the paper. “The fans believe they know you because you’re so readily accessible through your blog, your own fault I will say but…”
“But what?” His voice was rife with amusement.
“We’ve very little privacy as it is, be mindful of what you give away on there,” Sherlock tilted his chin in the direction of John’s laptop.
“Sherlock, you’ve posted our address on the web, our lives are pretty much an open book. And forget privacy, you invite potential clients right into our sitting room!” John smiled at him; there was no heat in his tone. “You’re making mountains out of molehills.”
Sherlock smiled mockingly at him. “Spare me your plebeian colloquialisms, I’m simply looking out for our well being.”
“Our wellbeing then, is it?” John pressed his fingers beneath his chin and nodded.
Innocently, Sherlock explained. “Well, if an insane fan decides they want to dismember you to show their love I’ll need to find another flatmate and… assistant-”
“Not your assistant-” John added lightly, unconcerned and listened on.
“And that’s sounds terribly boring and time consuming and I’d simply rather you remain… intact.”
John had begun to laugh, silent little shocks rolling through his body. “Right then, I’ll take care not to get dismembered, wouldn’t want to put you out. But if you’re so concerned about WatsonChick why don’t you…” John fiddled his fingers over the keys of his computer. “Do some of that IP tracing or whatnot?”
Sherlock twisted his lips, ceded a point. Rather than admitting to his laziness, he shrugged and pulled his right leg under his left. “Well, no need to go jumping to conclusions just yet.” He waved it off with a loose hand, peeling open another page of newsprint. Sherlock flicked his attention away from John and then back again.
John admired him for a brief moment, his casual concern, his attempt at downplaying his worry over John’s well being. It was sweet and warmed the center of John’s chest in a way that made him feel the slightest bit lightheaded. “Lazy sod.”
Sherlock flashed a sudden and brilliant grin that fell from his face just as easily. “I suppose she can’t be too deranged, adding the one-four-three after her name.” He delivered it with a snort and another eyeroll.
It took a moment for John to suss out that he meant the numbers after the user’s name and his brow knit in confusion. “One-four-three?”
“Really John?” Sherlock paused for a moment, assuring himself that John was indeed in the dark about rudimentary internet speak. He huffed, hung his head in disappointment and then snapped it back up, gracing John with a withering glance. “I love you, one-four-three. I know you have difficulty typing… had you ever even been online before you met me?”
The doctor’s lips twisted in annoyance. “Oi, stuff it. I’m not a sixteen year old girl and that sounds very much like something… a sixteen year old girl would use.” John knew little about webspeak or the unwritten rules of the internet but he couldn’t imagine anyone of mature age choosing such a screenname.
“Too right,” Sherlock agreed, nodding his head once judiciously. “And how harmless could a teenaged girl be?”
A laugh barked out of John, short and disbelieving. “Have you ever been around a sixteen year old girl?”
“Can you imagine I’ve been in the presence of many a teen girl? No John, I have not. Why do you ask questions to which you already know the answer?”
“Well… they can be… terrifying.” John elaborated, biting the corner of his lip as he recalled his sister at sixteen and all of the chaos she caused.
“Noted,” Sherlock accepted testily and then after a beat, softer, “would you like me to trace the IP address?”
John swallowed, and considered the offer. It wasn’t exactly like Sherlock to offer his assistance so readily; the fact that he was offering caused John to smile, briefly. “No, no.” Reaching forward, he closed the lid of his laptop. “No need to go… jumping to conclusions just yet.”
Sherlock shrugged and tossed another newspaper away.
“Hello John! Just wanted to say that I love you and I think you’re fantastic! Is it weird that I hope to run into you when I’m on the tube or out in the street? That would be amazing! I’d totally freak out over you and probably freak you out but I can’t help it, you’re so amazing!”
He screwed up his nose, brought his face closer to the screen and then further away. At long last he picked up the laptop and moved it from his knees to the coffee table.
John read and reread the email, noting the timestamp on the message. Two o’clock in the morning; WatsonChick143 had been awake and emailing him at two o’clock in the morning. John was a person who kept odd hours to be sure, but for some reason, the timestamp on the email bugged him. People were awake and reading his blog at two o’clock in the morning?
What was more, the message had had nothing to do with his most recent blog post. So… people were awake and thinking about him at that late hour?
John scratched at his chin and wondered what to do about the message; his first instinct was to ignore it, sending it to his recycle bin without a second thought. It was only one of about fourteen fan messages that had been sent to the email address he’d associated with the blog and the only one from WatsonChick143.
Mountains out of molehills, he reminded himself and decided to open the other emails to see what they contained. They were all rather benign; requests for interviews, kind words from fans overseas, a suggestion for a new Thai place from someone who’d seen his post about Sherlock not wanting to eat Japanese food ever, ever, ever again.
He answered them all kindly but professionally, until the only email he had left to address was WatsonChick.
He read the words again, carefully. Nothing too strange, but something about it felt instinctually off. It irked him too that she hadn’t signed her email, as every other of the contacts had. It made it seem as though she was being purposefully anonymous; John for a moment wondered if this was someone from the Met or one of his old rugby mates trying to have him on. He thought on it for a few anxious moments but couldn’t honestly imagine anyone being so deliberately immature.
He took a long, deep breath, calming the nerves that had kicked to life in his stomach. “Making too much of this,” John muttered to himself and typed out a quick, “Thanks for your interest in the blog! Hopefully we’ll have a new case to tell you about soon!” and sent it off with a click.
John x-ed out of the page and shut down his laptop for the evening not wanting to give WatsonChick a second thought. Hopefully his decidedly generic response would clue her in that he wasn’t really in the market for any overzealous fan attention. He didn’t bother mentioning it to Sherlock; it was probably nothing.
John didn’t check his public email for a few days. Between work at the clinic and getting bogged down with paperwork for the Met -- dotting i’s and crossing t’s took a surprisingly long time as far as law enforcement bureaucracy went -- he simply didn’t have the time.
John didn’t think about the email account until Friday evening, upon which he was so tired that he actually toted his laptop into bed with him. After changing into pajamas and brushing his teeth, he booted up his computer and logged in, the inbox packed with forty-two new messages. There were a few spam emails that he weeded out and several thanking him for his prompt response to earlier inquiries.
And then there were four new emails, one per day, all from WatsonChick.
“I’m a fan of more than just the blog! You’re the most handsome person I’ve ever met!” John scrunched his nose at the exclamation; he’d never actually met the girl (woman? Female? He didn’t even know if this really was a woman that was emailing him) and she was speaking as though he’d made an actual impression on her, in person. “I do really hope I didn’t freak you out with that bit about the tube. :-P”
Deleting the email with a quick strike of his forefinger, he moved on to the next with slight trepidation. I guess you don’t check your email every day, hope I didn’t scare you off, lol! Sometimes I’ll hang around the Baker Street Tube station and see if I can spot you. I try not to get too close, don’t wanna be creepy, hahah! Hope you have a great day (and that you’re not responding because you have an amazing case!)
John swallowed; that she would admit to hanging around Baker Street Tube station was a bit… bizarre. More than bizarre, did this woman want him to be flattered by her behavior, because that seemed to be what she was driving at. It was reading more and more as though he was dealing with a young, overzealous fan. This behavior was more appropriate for teen pop stars than for him and he’d done nothing really to warrant such overt, flirtatious attention. For a split second it made him feel a bit good, wanted, but a moment later the feeling was replaced with one of growing unease.
He felt perturbed, as though the email alone and the words on the page were invading his privacy. John pressed a hand to his cheek and deleted the message, pondering for a bit whether he should even bother to open the final one. The subject line simply said, “Soooo…”
Biting down hard on his bottom lip, John sighed and closed his eyes, clicking the email open as he did so.
When he felt sane enough to open his eyes, he was greeted with a bolded, capslocked sentence. “WOW, THAT’S RUDE. Hahah, jk. It’s been four days, just wondering why you haven’t responded. Hope all is well over at Baker Street and Sherlock isn’t making you get up to anything too crazy! But of course he is, he’s Sherlock, right? Hogging all of your time and running you ragged? :D I miss your blog posts and was hoping that you’d email me back so I didn’t feel so lonely without them. I really like you John and miss you when you’re not around. :( Hope to hear from you soon, soon, soon!”
John’s brow knit in confusion and after a moment, he tossed the laptop away in disgust and anger. Twisting his body, he ejected himself from the bed with such force that he nearly tripped over his own feet. John stumbled down the steps and into the kitchen, wanting water, wanting tea, wanting something to distract him.
A part of him didn’t understand why he felt so violated and upset; it wasn’t as if this person, this woman, had told him what he was wearing yesterday when he went to the shop for milk or had called him on the phone or had really done anything harmful at all. He felt on edge, at high alert. Still, an inner voice tried to soothe, You’re overreacting, just overreacting.
John bent over the sink, head dipping low and dug his fingers into the porcelain of the basin, attempting to stop the swirling in his head. Footsteps, even and measured, pulled up behind him. They paused just to his right and John heaved a harsh breath through his nose.
“Take it you hacked my email?” John said, not bothering to look over his shoulder.
The reply was immediate and without a trace of regret, “Of course.”
John nodded once, twice, lifted his head and turned to meet Sherlock’s steady gaze.
“I don’t know what I…” John began and trailed off; Sherlock’s eyes narrowed at him and he took one step closer. He placed a palm on the counter next to his flatmate and leaned in, mouth set in a hard line
The detective’s next words were spoken with a grim determination, “I think I’ll be tracing that IP now, if you don’t mind.”
John sniffed, swallowed, looked away and nodded his assent.