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.
Instead of snatching up John’s laptop, Sherlock left it exactly where it was on the kitchen table, loaded to the most recent message. With purpose, he padded back to his room and grabbed his own, gliding back into the living room, booting it up as he walked. John followed right behind, settling into a chair across the table from Sherlock.
After a moment staring at the screen he got up, went through to the kitchen and brought John’s computer back, placing it right alongside his own. The two of them sat in a slanted rectangle of sunlight, the cheery atmosphere an odd foil to the grim line of the detective’s mouth and the sharp, icy set of his eyes.
Sherlock spared John one glance before dipping his head towards his computer and setting to work. John watched on, listening to the cacophony of Sherlock’s fingers deftly flying over the keys. The look on his face was one of such determination and concentration that for a moment John forgot what exactly they were working on. Sherlock seemed to be giving the same attention to seeking out the location of John’s admirer as he would with a particularly juicy case, which was a bit startling. The gusto, however, the excitement that usually shivered through Sherlock’s being at the prospect of solving a difficult problem, was notably absent; Sherlock was quiet, abnormally reserved and intent for something John might have thought so menial.
If it had been anyone else, John might believe that he was actually worried.
But Sherlock Holmes didn’t worry; there was no point in it. Worry served no purpose where rational thought was concerned.
John waited and watched, trying to decide how exactly he felt about Sherlock working so diligently for...him. When the silence became too much, he settled his tongue on his bottom lip, and asked carefully, “Anything I can do?”
Sherlock lifted his gaze; his eyes were soft, his brow creased; his gaze narrowed minutely as he considered. “Tea.”
“Right,” John sighed, “not what I meant, but sure.” He pressed against his legs as he stood, going about the soothing routine of making two cups of tea. He stood by the kettle, listening to the water rumble against the glass, watching Sherlock.
“Damn,” the detective cursed under his breath, passing his tongue quickly over his lips, fingers hovering over the keys of the laptop as he glared at the screen. Sherlock brought his face down closer to the display, just inches away, the light glowing off of his face.
The corner of John’s mouth twitched in appreciation of the ethereal sight.
On a sigh, he leaned back against the counter and wondered what exactly he was facing down. He’d met fans who pushed the boundaries of interaction, people who lingered even after John had terminated the conversation. There had been nothing extremely untoward, just people who felt that because he was a bit of a celebrity, they were allowed to come up to him in the produce aisle and ask him questions they had no business asking, telling him things that were far too personal. He’d accepted it all with an easy smile and a gentle rebuff; John would kindly nod, thank the person and move on.
Never had he encountered anything like this.
Crazy fans were Sherlock’s territory, and he knew how to handle them well. While they knew that Sherlock didn’t suffer fools, it was entirely different than being on the receiving end of Sherlock’s ire. He would shut them down with deductions about their darkest secrets, tell them in words entirely too scathing that they were wasting his time and their own. Even the most zealous ones got the hint, dropped away, left him alone. Yet still, even in the face of Sherlock’s derision, they remained ever-faithful, still keeping up with the blog, still fawning over the duo’s most recent accomplishments.
Somehow, even when he was being his absolute and most awful, people would back away but weren’t entirely turned off. It was a bizarre balance that Sherlock had managed to strike with their fanbase. And John, being known as the more pleasant, sociable one, wouldn’t likely have much luck retaining fans if he became a complete and utter arsehole to them.
And why should he? Most of them weren’t mean-spirited, just enthusiastic. Why should he allow one person’s particular, intense admiration turn him off to the whole bunch? That revelation gave him some calm before serving to ruffle his dander again: one person was threatening to make if difficult for him to interact with their admirers.
Perhaps that was the only way to get this person off of his back, though, before things got out of hand. John might have to be ruthlessly mean. But John didn’t think he had it in him to be outwardly awful, even if he were riled to the core. The kettle clicked off, launching John back to the present, and he hastily pulled out mugs and teabags, located the sugar and the milk.
He prepared their cups as usual, granting Sherlock a dash more sugar than normal.
“Pinging star…” Sherlock muttered to himself as he squinted in concentration. John set his steaming mug down next to Sherlock’s elbow and was treated to a nod of thanks. John resumed his place across from him, not bothering to ask questions and invade Sherlock’s concentration.
John didn’t want to think about what he might have to resort to in order to deal with this person, and consoled himself with the idea that he might not have to. Perhaps this was a diversion, someone mucking with them before scheming something larger. Can’t see a Moriarty-type stooping to this, his mind taunted him, and John scowled, both at the unlikeliness that this was a facade for something big and the dead villain’s name. Still, perhaps Sherlock would be able to trace the IP address and would ride his wave of euphoria at solving the puzzle directly to this fan’s house and tell them off, straight away.
He fiddled with the handle of his mug for a moment before bringing it to his lips and swigging a scalding mouthful. Sherlock made no outward sign that the temperature affected him, instead bringing his fingers back to the keyboard and typing faster than John could ever fathom doing himself.
It was long moments spent staring out the window whilst attempting not to think about how lovely Sherlock’s hands were before the detective gave any sign that progress was being made. “Ah, yes, it’s a proxy server!” Sherlock exclaimed; he was far from delighted. Instead, his voice held notes of dismay.
John thought over what he was being told; the words sounded familiar but he was absolute crap with technology, a fact that Sherlock enjoyed goading him about far too often. “A proxy… like an intermediary? But…”
Sherlock smiled wryly and scratched out a few things on the notepad to his right. “It’s unlikely that this person is actually connecting to a server in Indonesia.” Sherlock tapped a few keys in annoyance. “And if that is the case, if this person is purposefully scrambling the IP address then there may be a deeper motive here.”
“What are you saying?”
“One does not obfuscate unless one must,” Sherlock reasoned, steepling his hands beneath his mouth and turning towards John. “Meaning that she has either done something in the past that she is hiding from or intends to do something in the future and wishes to remain anonymous. Embezzlement, wire fraud, kidnapping, it could be any number of things.”
John had a hard time buying that, evidenced by the disbelieving quirk of his lips. “Really? And this is how she wants to… whatever. What’s her purpose?”
“Who knows,” Sherlock sighed, leaning back and working out a crick in his neck.
“Mmm right, that’s all possible but do you think she’s that large scale? You think she’s part of a larger scheme, a syndicate of something?” John screwed up his nose at the unlikely prospect.
“And attempting to make their presence known by sending you flighty little love emails? I hope for that very much, because otherwise…”
John wasn’t sure whether he should be insulted or not. “What?”
“This might be an admirer.” Sherlock said simply.
He screwed his face up in confusion. An admirer trying to get his attention; that couldn’t be so bad, and it didn’t sound too terribly dangerous. “But that would be… the best outcome, right?”
“Tell me, John, if this admirer is going to such great lengths to disguise her whereabouts do you think her intentions are harmless? Hm? Why would a fan of the blog go out of her way to make it well known that she fancies you, that she very nearly stalks you to the Tube, only to disguise herself?”
“We don’t even know it’s a woman,” John said shakily.
“Statistically more probable. Besides, she’s making it incredibly plain that she’s interested in you, even displaying outward jealousy that you work alongside me,” Sherlock huffed. “More to the point, she wants to be the one in control, knowing where you are and not allowing you to find where she is. It’s rather obsessive behavior.”
“You think she’s obsessed with me?”
Sherlock shot back an indignant, “You don’t?”
“Sherlock,” John said, humor evident in his voice. “People aren’t obsessed with me, they’re obsessed with you.”
Sherlock’s eyes flashed. “Don’t sell yourself short John. You are the public voice of my life, it only makes sense that…”
Sherlock waved him off with a brusque hand, huddling back over the two laptops. It was another half an hour of silence, John pacing back and forth across the living room, not bothering to heed Sherlock’s huffs of annoyance at his repetitive behavior. John felt caged, an animal in a zoo, on display. The pacing helped to allay the buildup of the nervous energy.
Sherlock spoke, after draining the last of his tea. “I traced her back to her first comment, and the post of origin pinged off of a proxy server in Norway. I suppose having a starting point is better than… nothing.” He bit his lip, scribbled something else down on the paper and then closed John’s laptop. “I think I’ll see about finding other posts that originated from the number.”
John boggled for a moment, the words going right over his head. “That sounds… incredibly complicated.”
“Mmm,” Sherlock hummed his assent but did not bother to elaborate further.
“That it, then?” If he was being honest, when Sherlock had decided to trace the IP John had been hoping for something a little more decisive and instantaneous, not just a wait-and-see approach. He didn’t particularly want to have this lingering at the back of his mind until it was resolved.
“Until she sends you another message…” Sherlock sighed and closed his own laptop. He thought for a moment and then reached over and held John’s computer, outstretched. “For now, I would block her username on the blog. Oh, and I’d like another cup of tea.”
John tried not to think about it much for the rest of the day, finding himself too caught up in straightening out the sitting room and finally getting around to doing the pile of dirty laundry he’d managed to amass. He steadfastly ignored his computer for the remainder of the evening and went to bed early with a paperback he’d been meaning to start.
In the morning he opened his the email he’d set up to link with the blog and was immediately aware, at the top of the list, of an unread email from WatsonChick, the subject line only a frowny-faced emoticon. John resisted the urge to toss his fist through the screen of his laptop and instead took a calming, steadying breath.
John opened the message quickly, as though he knew he was up to something wrong and didn’t want to be caught doing it.
“I think you blocked me from commenting on the blog. :( That’s not cool, hoping it’s a mistake!”
Not a mistake, please fuck off and thank you very much, John longed to reply but he knew such a response would only fuel this person further.
In lieu of replying, he rolled his eyes, forwarded the email to Sherlock and then shut down his computer.
A moment later Sherlock’s voice boomed up the stairs, “I’m not certain what’s worse, her adamance at contacting you or the blasted smiley faces!”
The next three days consumed all of their attention. A rare manuscript that was to go on the auction block at Christie’s had vanished, and it was forty-eight hours of tracing the thieves’ whereabouts to Croydon, and their affiliation to the IRA. Twenty-four hours had been dedicated to the subsequent paperwork, a quick update regarding the case on the blog, and, a marathon sleep session that John performed fully clothed, lengthwise across his bed.
When he awoke in the morning the flat was silent save for the persistent drip of the leaky faucet. He decided to make the most of the morning, of the peace and quiet that meant Sherlock too was knackered out in his own room. Hopefully the detective would be able to sleep for a few more hours.
John managed to wolf down three slices of thickly-jammed toast and a cup and a half of high octane coffee before he booted up his laptop. Not only had the case gobbled up a precious day off from the clinic, he’d also been forced to switch out of two shifts and was severely behind in his charting. Sarah had promised to keep him abreast of two of his patients and, ever-diligent, he wanted to get to their information first thing.
He didn’t bother opening the blog or checking the public account, instead going straight to his private, clinic-sponsored email. He was just topping off his coffee when the page loaded; he leaned in to check as to whether Sarah had sent his the necessary files. Instead of an email from Sarah he was greeted by one with the subject line “Just checking in!” from WatsonChick143.
John saw red. His clinic email address wasn’t exactly private; it was listed on his business cards and given to his patients, but he rarely if ever gave anyone his business card, and he could count on one hand the number of patients to whom he’d given his contact information. None of the doctors’ emails were listed on the website due to the nature of locum work, and the only others to have that information, aside from his fellow doctors, were the receptionist and Sherlock.
He smacked at the trackpad on his laptop, opening the message.
“Hey there John, read about the latest case! What a nailbiter! It was totally unfair of Sherlock to make you take your day off to go investigating! He pushes you too far; it really bugs me! You need your rest too! I don’t want you getting sick or injured because you haven’t had enough rest, you know? Anyway, you haven’t responded to any of my other emails and I know you’re well because you updated the blog so, just wondering why you’re ignoring me? Just hope you’re okay.”
Without thought, he hit ‘reply’ and opened a blank text box. “I appreciate your enthusiasm, but this is inappropriate. Fuck off!” John set his jaw, went back and deleted the ‘fuck off’ bit. “As you’re aware I’ve provided an email address for inquiries about my blog, and obtaining my personal email address is a violation of my privacy. Please do not contact me again.”
He read it through twice and deciding it was quite more polite than he actually wanted to be, hit ‘send.’
Seething, he downed the rest of his tepid coffee in two gulps and feeling jittery from the caffeine and nerves, decided to take a shower. He scrubbed at his skin with ardor for a bit before realizing he needed to relax; he couldn’t let the bizarre behavior of this woman work him up. He lathered his hair and unwound himself, convincing himself that his polite but firm email was the last of it. Anyone with any social graces would take the hint he had so obviously lobbed.
Once finished, he dressed in comfortable jeans and a sweatshirt and made his way back to the kitchen, only to notice a new email in his inbox. Even from across the room he could see the bolded text and took two giant strides forward, hands balled into fists at his side. Against his better judgement he opened the new mail.
“Oh wow, uhm, fuck you? I’m just trying to look out for you since no one else does? But sure, be pissed at me for caring. Don’t you get that I love you? What you said was out of line and I kind of can’t believe it.”
Don’t you get that I love you? John reread the words and felt his stomach pitch sickeningly. So, this was exactly what Sherlock had feared. The woman wasn’t just enamored, she was treading the line of being personally invested in him. To say she was a fan and liked him was one thing, to profess love was, well, completely insane.
John felt his skin flush hot and then cold, saw the color fade from the edges of his vision. John’s fingers itched to pick up the laptop and hurl it across the room; who the hell was this person to assume that they knew him?
Tamping down the urge, he immediately deleted the message, sucked in a few quick breaths, and opened the next new piece of mail, the information he’d been waiting on from Sarah. He absolutely would not allow this person to derail him, not in intent and not in mind. He opened the document and sat down heavily at the table, cracking his knuckles in preparation for a morning of work.
He attempted to concentrate on the chart but had only managed to make it halfway through when Sherlock’s bedroom door opened.
“Any coffee left?” Sherlock mumbled around a yawn and padded in, feet and chest bare.
“Might be a bit,” John managed to grind out between teeth still tightly clenched.
“Whassit…” Sherlock began and then rounded the table, stood behind John. The offending email was gone from his inbox, but it only took a moment for Sherlock to deduce that it had been there not moments before. “WatsonChick again?”
John rolled his eyes hard and opened his ‘trash’ folder, reopening the email for Sherlock to see; John sat back in his chair, arms crossed hard over his chest.
Sherlock perused the email and then read it again, torso bent over John’s back in order to read. John could feel the warmth seeping off of him, bare chest just brushing the back of his head. John allowed his eyes to fall closed, taking the moment to enjoy brief respite in the warmth from Sherlock’s body as the stress seeped from him. He leaned back, just a bit, just enough to press his head to the skin between Sherlock’s pectorals.
It wasn’t so overt as to cause Sherlock alarm; he simply remained there, behind John, reading and rereading WatsonChick’s message, puzzling over it. After a moment John felt Sherlock shift and then there was the slightest pressure on the top of John’s head. It could have just been the brush of Sherlock’s chin, but John stilled, paid close attention and felt the stirrings of a breath, whether from mouth of nose he couldn’t tell but it turned the uneasiness in his stomach into a riotous tempest of want.
Sherlock was smelling him and John couldn’t quite believe it. There was a beat or two more of silence - Sherlock couldn’t possibly still be reading the email - before Sherlock cleared his throat and pulled back. “Loves you now, does she?”
“It would appear so,” John huffed, and leaned forward, watched as Sherlock swept around and got himself some coffee. “I feel just like McCartney.”
“The Beatles? Nevermind.” John waved him off and held out his own empty mug. Sherlock raised a brow and then filled John’s cup with what was left in the pot. They stood looking at one another over the rims of their mugs before Sherlock severed the gaze.
“What should I do?” John mumbled, and Sherlock paused on his way into the sitting room.
Sherlock stood still and appeared to ponder that, scratching at the back of his neck as he did. “Ignore it for the time being. There’s nothing that really can be done unless she escalates.” Sherlock shrugged and then shivered. “It’s freezing in here!”
John huffed out a delighted laugh. “You could put some actual clothing on…”
Sherlock scowled, moved to the sofa and tossed a quilt around his frame, content to lounge about topless.
John didn’t complain.
Two hours later there was another message to John’s clinic account.
"You know, the more I think about it the more I realize that you're just really in need of someone who understand and cares for you. Sherlock is destroying you, you need someone that nurtures and loves and supports you. I can be that person John and I can see that you're crying out for my help."
Sherlock intercepted the message first, reading it aloud to John.
“Christ,” John whispered, pausing in his preparation of dinner. “That sounds very… stalkerish, Sherlock.”
“It does,” he agreed, eyes widening just the slightest bit. “Perhaps I should investigate what resources the Met could offer…”
John spared an uneasy glance at his idle laptop, blank, black screen looking like a void waiting to be filled with more creepy correspondence. He reached a hand towards it, thought better of it and then felt magnificently ridiculous all over again.
“So they locate the person’s IP and then what? I don’t know much about ‘internet law,’ or what have you, but I’m fairly certain I can’t take out a… virtual restraining order.”
John once again felt silly, as though he was making far too big a commotion about all of this this. He’d been wavering back and forth between feeling justified and f absurd all morning, dearly hoping he wasn’t overreacting, worried that he likely was. If Sherlock hadn’t been the one to spearhead the effort to seek out help, John might honestly have idly sat back and waited for another email. As it was, Sherlock appeared to be on the warpath and that settle some of his qualms.
The glance that was served John’s way was severe, like he was silently reprimanding him for his choice of words; it sent a current of something like shame through John’s belly. “Though it pains me to admit, I’m not actually versed in stalker behaviorisms. We’ve dealt with similar situations before but never anything this… pedestrian.” Sherlock laid sprawled on the sofa, texting with his phone just above his face.
John’s mouth set into a firm line; he wanted to ask, if this was so pedestrian, why Sherlock was concerned at all, why bother give this any attention in the first place. Instead he swallowed the urge, and reclined in his chair, arms crossed loosely across his chest. “Right, if she were some diabolical figure in a large, criminal syndicate this would be old hat for you.”
Sherlock ignored the sarcasm in John’s voice and continued on, sounding bored now. “She continues to contact you regardless of your wish that she does not. I’m not certain that continuing to urge that she not email you any further will do absolutely anything. Besides, she seems to be… escalating. Which is fascinating. You’ve plainly said that you’re not interested in what she has to say and yet she persists. Why would she persist if she’s aware that she hasn’t the slightest chance with you? It’s… odd.”
“And by odd you mean interesting?” John supposed, dryly; if Sherlock was only interested in this because he didn’t understand the reasoning behind fanatic admiration, John wouldn’t have been surprised, though he was rather surprised to find that he was disappointed if that was the case.
Sherlock nodded sharply, a faint gleam of interest flashing to life in his gaze as he turned towards John. “Of course.” He then bounded up off of the sofa, a sudden ball of energy, to get on with his afternoon.
They went down to the Met together the next day, opting to take the Tube instead of a cab. Sherlock spent the duration of the journey mostly silent, not bothering to deduce the lives of their fellow passengers as he generally did when riding public transportation. John kept glancing at him out of the corner of his eye, waiting for the inevitable rude diatribe to begin flowing but nothing came and after four stops John found that he was quite unsettled about the odd shift in Sherlock’s behavior.
“What’s wrong with you?” John finally murmured once they’d reached Green Park and a majority of the commuters had gotten off.
Sherlock glanced down at him, expression thoughtful and replied, brusque, “Not a thing.”
“Right,” John muttered, turning his attention to the other end of the car, “right.”
Their walk from the Tube to New Scotland Yard was managed in silence that John could have sworn was a bit terse, if the set of Sherlock’s shoulders was any indication. John simply followed along, partly annoyed that Sherlock was acting so uncharacteristically worried. There was really no other word for it; Sherlock was worried about this and seemed annoyed that John hadn’t yet decided how worried he should be himself.
Sherlock - per usual - showed up at Lestrade’s office unannounced, tossing open the door with enough force to have it bounce off of the wall. The D.I. startled, rolled his eyes and slammed down the mug he’d been holding.
“I shouldn’t be surprised,” he began banally, though his voice rose steadily as he continued on, “but christ Sherlock, you have to knock! What if I’d-”
“Been on a conference call? Having a wank, doing actual police work, please…” Sherlock huffed his indignation, eyes darting around the D.I’s office in a show of impatience.
“Maybe don’t start out like that when we’re here to ask for his help,” John whispered conspiratorially, gracing Lestrade with a tight smile of apology.
Sherlock glared at John for a long, uncomfortable moment and then emitted a forced, pained sigh. “I… apologize,” he grit out, and went on to explain very plainly the reason for their presence in his office.
Lestrade’s smile grew slowly as Sherlock informed him, rapid-fire, of the situation. When he was finished and staring expectantly, the D.I. sat back in his chair, folding his hands behind his head. “Oh that’s just… John has a stalker?”
A chuckle rocked through Lestrade’s body and John had to admit, it did sound absurd when put so utterly plainly. He felt his cheeks heat, once more believing himself to be overreacting and feeling the fool for it; John managed an embarrassed smile before his lips sank into a frown of discomfort. It was maddening; he couldn’t get a hold on a single emotion before he felt something else entirely.
Sherlock plunked himself down in the visitor’s chair across from the D.I. and served him with a glare.
“May. John may have a stalker. We’re unsure. The person is disguising their location, inundating John’s inboxes with unimaginative declarations of love and complaints that I treat him poorly. I’ve forwarded you all of the relevant messages, they’re all there. Better safe than sorry, no?” Sherlock gracefully cross his legs, leveling his heavy gaze across the desk.
Lestrade scowled at Sherlock for a moment and then pursed his lips, flicked his eyes up to meet John’s. “Might have to agree with the treating him poorly bit…” he said, unwound his hands and turned towards his computer. “Honestly there’s not much we can do, officially or otherwise, really. There’ve been no actual threats to your being. I mean, it’s creepy, that’s for certain but she hasn’t broken any laws. I can have the guys in PCeU look into it but… are you sure you want the boys to know about this? I can’t say they’ll-”
Calmly, Sherlock folded his hands down in his lap and John followed their movement, admiring their dexterity and strength before having to remind himself that now was not the time. “Lestrade, do you believe we’d be here in the first place if I’d not already exhausted my own resources? This is a matter of rather some… importance and I would…” Sherlock screwed up his face and considered his own words, as though he couldn’t quite believe they were leaving his mouth. “We would appreciate some… haste in this.”
“Must be serious if you’re willingly coming to me with this,” he muttered and took a brief minute to click through some of the emails. Lestrade stared across at Sherlock for a moment before flicking his gaze up to John. “You’re actually worried about this then?”
John licked his lips, tightening his arms across his chest. He didn’t want to admit his unease, not to Lestrade and not again in front of Sherlock. The mere thought that it was causing Sherlock a certain amount of distress was causing John even further confusion. “She… I mean we assume it’s a she, she erm… won’t stop. And yeah, my privacy feels rather… invaded.”
“Invaded privacy, I’d say,” Lestrade muttered, regarding his computer screen with wide eyes.. “I have to say, it’s a bit shocking that you’re the one being… well, you know. You’re the nice, normal bloke and he,” Lestrade motioned lazily to Sherlock with the flick of his wrist. “Is the handsome, mysterious arsehole who people seem to - to my complete and utter amazement - fawn over. This is just killing you, isn’t it?”
Both the D.I. and John looked to Sherlock with small smiles, only to find that Sherlock’s face was devoid of any emotion. “Right,” Lestrade continued, uneasily, directing his attention back to the emails. “And you think it’s going to get worse.”
John shifted uncomfortably, feeling more and more as though he was being flayed open and pinned down for dissection. He wasn’t used to feeling violated and felt equally embarrassed and upset, silly for feeling either of those things at all. “Just in the past few days she’s… escalated. I don’t… she hasn’t done anything yet…”
“She’s managed to unnerve you, John, question yourself,” Sherlock clipped, whipping his head around to make blazing eye contact. “I’d say that’s quite enough, don’t you? I can’t have your abilities compromised on a case because you’re worried about a deranged admirer.”
“Right, thanks. Appreciate the concern over my well-being,” John said dryly, attempting something resembling humor and failing spectacularly, allowing his arms to fall to his sides.
“Your well-being at the moment is a great concern to me, or are you forgetting the bit where I suggested we seek out Lestrade’s assistance?” Sherlock’s chest heaved slightly as he gazed at John intently. John, for his part, was flabbergasted. Sherlock not only just admitted that John’s well-being was important to him, he’d also admitted to not only wanting, but needing help. What was more, it appeared that Sherlock himself had become unnerved at the prospect of someone invading John’s privacy. His mind buzzed and whirred annoyingly, white noise filling the office, Lestrade watching on in something approaching tentative awe.
John rolled his shoulders, feeling oppressed by the level of discomfort he was experiencing and shifted his gaze to his own feet. “Right.”
Sherlock continued to stare at him a while longer, but John refused to meet his gaze. He felt agitated and unlike himself for many reasons, having to let Sherlock crusade for his well-being and sense of privacy being the most prominent. When Sherlock spoke again it was to Lestrade. “Please forward this along to the PCeU, we’ll be in touch.”
With that he stood and glided from the office, long coat billowing out dramatically behind him. John sighed, shrugged at Lestrade and tilted his head in the retreating consulting detective’s direction. “Sorry about… well…”
“Mmm, that seems to be your job again, apologizing for him,” Lestrade pursed his lips and looked thoughtful. “He seems more worked up that you are; why is that?”
John honestly didn’t know, but offered the weakest of plausible explanations. “Years of army training?”
“Right,” Lestrade replied dubiously. “Well, I’ll let you know if something comes of… any of this.”
“Ah, yeah, ta.” John hurried from the office, nodding hello at several familiar faces as he went. He managed to catch up with Sherlock in the lobby where he stood by the revolving door, staring intently at his phone as his thumbs flew across the screen; John wondered whether he’d waiting for him or had to stop to attend to something on his mobile.
He looked up as John approached, cool green eyes somehow once again managing to catch John off guard. “Ready?”
The former suspicion confirmed, John simply nodded and followed him out into the cool, early-winter air. He sucked a breath of it deep into his lungs, followed Sherlock around the building and then paused. Sherlock pulled up short, glanced back at him questioningly.
“I feel a terrific headache coming on,” John muttered and steered suddenly around the corner in the opposite direction of the Tube. Sherlock followed at his side, surprisingly silent, pensive.
When John paused to cross Victoria Street, Sherlock spoke up, his arrogant “obvious” tone back; John was glad for it. “Ah, yes, Flat Cap Coffee, you prefer it, but do you think that caffeine will help with your headache? You’ve had a cup and a half today already.”
John paused upon making it to the other side of the road, a swell of fellow pedestrians fanning out around them. “I just… don’t want to be back at the flat. You’re not obligated to come with me, alright? I just…” He shrugged looking in the direction of traffic. John wasn’t exactly certain how to say he didn’t want to be in sight of his own laptop, that he felt betrayed by the device, that he didn’t feel secure sitting in front of it in his own kitchen. John didn’t know how to articulate that he wished to be as far away from technology as possible at the moment given how spectacularly it was currently irking him.
Sherlock stared at him openly for a moment and then began walking once more in the direction of the coffee shop. It took a brief second before John followed, unsure but uncaring as to why Sherlock was so readily joining him. It was nice; he was quite content to allow Sherlock to accompany him. When he was close to Sherlock John felt calmer, more grounded, even when they were tearing through London hellbent on capturing a suspect, John felt sure of himself, bigger than his body, wonderfully alive.
He could do well with a dose of that at the moment. John had long ago acknowledged that Sherlock was the missing facet of his life and no longer rankled when he felt affection or attraction or contentment in his presence. Maybe, just for a moment over a cup of his favorite coffee, he could forget about all of this crazy business.
John sidled up, their arms brushing as they walked, not too fast, just meandering down the street at a pace that John would hazard to guess Sherlock would not call leisurely but rather dreadfully slow. Yet, he was the one setting the pace, his long legs shortening their stride; John said nothing but appreciated it nonetheless, enjoying their unhurried walk, taking silent comfort in just being so close to his flatmate.
They arrived at the coffee shop just as the morning rush was winding down, the line rather long, though the shop otherwise not terribly busy.
Sherlock pressed his palm against the plate glass of the door, allowing John to enter before him, John feeling the ghost of pressure at his lower back, Sherlock’s gentle but solid guidance. John passed through with a nod of thanks, pulling his gloves off as he did. They rounded the corner and found a table in a cozy little nook, and Sherlock threw himself down into the booth with a little bounce. His attention was turned immediately to the street outside, seemingly forgetting that John was there entirely.
John stood and waiting, watched Sherlock watching the world. Sherlock’s eyes shifted, noting John in his peripheral, before he set his gaze even more firmly out the window. John looked to the ceiling, took a breath, calmed the last vestiges of nerves clanging about inside of him and bounced his palms down on the table twice. “Did you want something too, or?”
Sherlock’s eyes were trained hawkishly on the people passing by outside but he shifted against the vinyl booth when John spoke.
“Coffee, one sugar,” he ordered, didn’t bother with a please, didn’t bother turning to John at all. Apparently he’d used up all of his reserves of general human pleasantries in dealing with Lestrade; John wasn’t surprised.
With a sigh, John meandered to the front of the shop, joining the short queue to the register. As he waited he perused the selection of whole bean coffee and gazed at Sherlock surreptitiously, wondering and then not about how close he had been keeping John these past few days. It was all puzzling, and he shook his head, resolving to give himself a few hours of respite. He hadn’t been waiting too terribly long when he reached the counter and placed Sherlock’s coffee order, and was about to order his own when he was presented with a small cup.
The cashier quirked a brow at him, and gave him a secretive little smile.
John frowned first at the cashier and then down at the cup. “Right, sorry, I didn’t order this?”
The cashier winked at him and then very overtly turned his attention to the next customer in line.
John rankled and curled his fingers around the cup, turning his his attention to the young woman expertly working the espresso machine. She smiled up at him, clearly harried in her duties and sparing what attention she could manage. “I didn’t order this, who placed this order?” Sherlock’s coffee order was totally forgotten as his fingers tightened around the waxy plastic.
“Yeah,” the small barista said with a sweet smile. “That woman who just left? She did. Asked me to draw a heart on the cup and everything.”
The barista was barely listening, too busy preparing the next beverage. “Sweet though, totally cute you’ve got an admirer! She was really good looking as well, lucky you!” She turned, graced John with a small, secretive smile and then darted away, back towards the row of syrups.
John spun around, espresso in hand, and made fleeting, shaky eye contact with Sherlock. It took a moment for John to move, but when he did it was with a haste that had him bumping into other patrons without apologies, rage boiling in his stomach, diffusing through his blood. Had this woman been following him? If so, for how long?
Was she watching John, now? That irked him more than anything, caused his jaw to set hard as he ground his teeth together. How much did she know about him and how closely was she watching, where and when? John’s head throbbed with what he didn’t know; his skin itched, felt too tight, constricting.
He made it to the door and burst forth into the cold air, Sherlock suddenly directly on his heel. John spun around on the pavement, movements erratic, some of the espresso sloshing out of the cup and over his hand.
“John!” Sherlock reached out to grip his shoulder, steady him, tether him to reality.
“She was here Sherlock!” John shoved the sturdy paper cup into Sherlock’s hand, stabbing his finger in the direction of the heart. “She was right fucking here, the barista… damn it all.” John’s chest heaved with the force of his ire and he glanced up and then down the street quickly once again, looking for any sign of someone who might be out of place, any sign that someone might be watching him.
Sherlock lifted the cup to his face and sniffed, pulling off with a slight grimace. “Espresso? But you don’t-”
“No,” John confirmed, straightening his shoulders and he huffed out a quick, steadying breath. If someone was indeed watching him, better not to give the impression that he was too thoroughly riled. “Doesn’t know me as well as she thinks she does.”
Sherlock held the small cup daintily between two fingers and held it out to John, who shook his head and started off down the street, arms swinging intently at his sides.
Sherlock deposited the coffee into the nearest rubbish bin and followed right behind.
Sherlock’s first order of business back at the flat was to boot up his computer. He did so in a flurry of movement, not even bothering to remove his coat before throwing himself down at the sitting room table.
John, attempting to rein himself in, removed his coat and calmly hung it on the hook by the door. “Sherlock, I-”
“John, do not speak, not one word.” His fingers flew over the keys, and after a beat of silence, Sherlock leaned back in his chair, slowly. His eyes blazed as he looked down at the screen and began reading aloud.
“Hope you enjoyed the coffee, thought you could use it for your headache. Don’t worry, I didn’t drug it, el-oh-el,” Sherlock read, his teeth clenched together and then slammed the lid of his laptop closed.
John swallowed, hard. So, she’d been close enough to hear when John had mentioned his headache; she’d been right beside them. “Sherlock-” he began tentatively and was immediately silenced by Sherlock’s stern glance.
“Do not,” Sherlock demanded, fingers steepled to his mouth, “speak.”
Lestrade called late the next afternoon, John’s phone buzzing just as he mounted the stairs to the flat. He’d had a frightfully long day at the clinic and was looking forward to the spiciest takeaway he could locate, accompanied by a cold beer. “Greg,” he sighed as he answered the call, trying for pleasant, pushing his shoulder into the partially-open door and entering the quiet sitting room. “How’s it going.”
“John,” the D.I. greeted courteously. On the other end of the line John could hear the clacking of keys, the quiet murmurs of Yard personnel in the background. “You sound knackered.”
Passing a hand over his face, John nodded the affirmative to the empty room. “Flu season.”
“Ah, right, well… Figured I’d ring you before Sherlock since…” There was a lingering unease in Lestrade’s voice. He’d been through a lot with both John and Sherlock, but it seemed that something so obviously personal made him uncomfortable. Lestrade had always been a bit closed off, a typical pub mate, there to lend an ear and a kind word, but demurring to safer topics when the conversation became too serious or intimate.
Many times he and John has shared a pint, the mention of Sherlock’s name causing Lestrade to drum up inane talk about the latest Ministry reshuffle or how pathetically Blackheath was faring this season. Still, he was there when John needed a night out or someone to indulge him in a bit of normalcy, and John was thankful for it.
“Yeah, I appreciate it,” John kept the mobile balanced between shoulder and ear as he shrugged his coat off the rest of the way, tripping over himself a bit in the dimness. “He’ll give you hell for it I’m sure, but.”
Lestrade hummed his agreement. “Yeah, he’s being…” There was a pause, pregnant and obvious in its intent. Sherlock was being adamant, as usual, but was demonstrating overt protectiveness towards John, not bothering with his usual subterfuge. If Lestrade was raising his concern in the covert way that he was...
“Well, sorry to say they couldn’t get much of anything from the emails. Her handle is registered to a free site and the account isn’t linked anywhere except to yours and Sherlock’s blogs and a couple of the fan message boards. IP is scrambled or masked, tech said it looks like this person maybe wrote their own algorithm to throw off the signal-I honestly understand very little of this tech speak-but PCeU basically said they have nothing. But, I can say the last place she logged in to send the email from was somewhere on Victoria. If that’s helpful at all.”
John shook his head, ran a hand over his face. “Flat Cap Coffee?” He took a moment to turn on the lights in the kitchen, bracing himself for the affirmation with a hand against the wall.
There was the shuffling of some papers on the other end of the line and John used the brief pause in conversation to turn on the kettle. When Lestrade answered him, his voice was tinged with surprise. “Yeah, how’d you know?”
He felt the air rush out of his lungs, body slumping with the effort of holding himself up, eons more exhausted than he’d felt five minutes ago. He knew the truth, but hearing it confirmed aloud made it very, very real. “She was there yesterday when we were, even ordered me a cup.” John sank down into his armchair by the conspicuously empty hearth, wishing he had the energy to start a fire. “She was there Greg, she’s following me now, she heard me say… well nevermind. She was there and…”
“That,” Greg said gravely, “is quite frankly scary as hell, John.”
“Don’t I know it.” John felt bone weary, every one of his limbs was heavy as lead. He thought of the kettle boiling in the kitchen, wondering if he even had the energy to make himself a cuppa. “There’s really not much more I can do, is there?”
“Without a warrant they can’t get the IP’s files and until she does something… afraid that’s as far as I can go.”
Head thumping against the back of the chair, John deflated completely. “‘Fraid you were going to say that. Alright Greg, thanks for trying at least.”
“Just… see if you can block her email address altogether. Maybe ignorance is the best course of action?” The way Lestrade spoke made those measures seem as incredibly futile.
His gaze flickered across the room to where his laptop was hidden beneath a pile of magazines. “I don’t know, we’ll see,” he said and with another quick word of thanks, disconnected the call.
John thought of the tea in the kitchen, the beer in the refrigerator and the Indian takeaway he’d been longing for all day. Instead, he shut the kettle, climbed the stairs to his room and settled down on the edge of his bed. He knew he should shower and change into his pajamas, but he simply kicked off his shoes, lay back and pulled his mobile from his pocket.
John was creeped out; even in the privacy of his third story bedroom with the curtains drawn, he felt like he was being watched. His body twisted in an effort to get comfortable but he couldn’t seem to shake the unease.
You were on a fucking battlefield in the Middle East. You saw active combat, pull yourself the hell together, he told himself, but the thought did little good. This person had managed to make herself a priority in John’s life without his permission and it irked the hell out of him. Notion of dinner forgotten, John opened a blank message and began typing.
“Lestrade called. They couldn’t get anything, can’t without a warrant,” he texted, and with only the slightest hesitation, sent it off to Sherlock.
John was startled to consciousness in the morning to the word “no!” bellowed up the stairs. Mind leaping to all sorts of conclusions at the level of ire in Sherlock’s voice, John was already moving before his body fully registered that it was awake. He started, torquing quickly onto his side, back twinging in protest as his hands scrambled at his nightstand for his gun.
John had just managed to get the key into the safety lock on autopilot when the exclamation was followed by a smooth but testy, “oh for goodness’ sake, Sherlock!”
John swallowed, his heart sliding down his throat to lodge safely back in his chest and tossed himself face-first into his pillow. His handgun clattered back into the drawer. “Ugh, Mycroft,” he groaned into his pillow, and then flung himself onto his back, pressing the heels of his hands into his eyes. Red-black supernovas blooming beneath his lids and he shook off the last vestiges of slumber, pushing himself up to sitting on the edge of his bed.
On an annoyed yawn, he resecured the grip lock and shoved the drawer shut, ran a hand through his hair to tame it. Judging by the light peeking around his curtains it was rather early in the morning, and John groaned for the hours of sleep he could have gotten.
His feet sunk into his wooly slippers, and John levered himself up and into a robe, pulling open the door to his room. Halfway down the steps, Sherlock’s voice drifted up to meet him. The words were rapid-fire and low, “-nothing he can do for us and it’s becoming rather-”
“You’re really this worried,” Mycroft asked, his voice harboring a note of surprise, and John paused on the third step down, knowing the creak at the fourth would give him away.
Sherlock sounded pained, and was that desperation in his voice when he spoke next? “Why else would I possibly have contacted you and asked for you assistance?”
There was a brief silence and then the concession, “no, I suppose not,” from Mycroft. “The emails are… troubling. I will give you that, but…”
When John appeared in the sitting room, Mycroft Holmes glanced up from the printout he was perusing and graced him with a small smile. “Ah, John, I take it my brother’s rather vehement and overwrought exclamation has woken you?”
“Yeah,” John drawled, serving Sherlock with a glare. That coupled with his agreement of Mycroft’s suggestion turned the pained look on Sherlock’s face into something decidedly darker. “Ta for that. I could have had another three hours.”
Sherlock said nothing, which was a blessing, but raised a brow, very slowly, as he gazed at John. “Are you making tea?” He asked after a moment, voice pleasantly neutral. John hated that tone, knew it meant he was being condescended to.
“Seems the thing to do at half-six, and seeing as we’ve a guest.” John rolled his eyes and went about making the morning tea quite from muscle memory; the adrenaline that had surged through him upon waking had ebbed, and in its place was the dry, cracked sensation that too little sleep left behind.
There was silence from the living room, and as he prepared the tea, he could feel eyes on him, the stifling gaze of not just one Holmes, but two. “Stop it,” he grunted, putting the sugar bowl on the tray. He didn’t bother to turn around, but a beat later, the conversation resumed as though he wasn’t within earshot.
“As I was saying, there’s not much to be done for this. If she’s been following John we can review some of the footage that you’ve desperately asked me to cease recording. But this is London Sherlock. You’re surrounded by many, many people at any given time.”
Sherlock snarled and tucked his legs up beneath him, causing his pajama bottoms to ruck down a bit, exposing a flare of hip. John tried very, very hard not to glance at it while Mycroft was in the room; more chance of being called out for it. Sherlock growled and glared hard in Mycroft’s direction. “Well then we shall-”
“Yes, look for repeat offenders, as it were,” Mycroft finished for him, glancing up at John where he stood motionless in the doorway, tea tray clutched perhaps too tightly in his hands. “John?”
“Mmm?” he hummed, sliding his gaze away from Sherlock’s skin in what he hoped was a rather deft manner. When he met Mycroft’s eyes he saw amusement dancing there, his mouth ever so slightly quirked in what could have been a smile.
John averted his eyes, shuffling forward to lay out the tea on the coffee table; with his tea he settled into his seat across from Sherlock. The fact that Mycroft was seated in their flat this early in the day wasn’t entirely out of place, but the fact that he seemed to be here due to an appeal from his younger brother, well, that was nearly unheard of.
John tried not to squirm in his chair at the thought, at how terrifically uncharacteristic Sherlock was becoming. And in strides. John both wanted and desperately didn’t want to consider what any of that meant, and it did mean something. There was a flicker of warmth in John’s chest at Sherlock’s sudden obvious protectiveness; in the same moment, a swell of indignation warred with it. There was no doubt in his mind that John could take care of this situation himself, but relying on Sherlock to take care of it for him…
John considered Sherlock taking care of it for him, and realized that while he accepted that he wasn’t in this alone, he hadn’t yet accepted that Sherlock wanted to help him, that he wasn’t doing any of this out of a mislaid sense of duty or friendship, but because the idea of someone going after John terrified him.
John choked a little on his tea and recovered in a series of tiny little coughs, both brothers looking at him curiously.
“As I was saying,” Mycroft said, lifting his own teacup to his nose to sniff at the brew. Finding it satisfactory, he added his milk and sugar. “There’s little we can do even if we locate this...woman.”
“Really,” Sherlock began, predatory. “You. There’s little you can do?”
“I’m neither omnipotent nor am I in the business of intimidating young ladies who haven’t done a thing to circumvent the law.” Mycroft took a dainty little sip and set his cup down on the saucer. “As I see it, there are two avenues which you may pursue. You may choose to ignore her advances completely, which is what I would absolutely advise, or one or the both of you could make a… public declaration that you’re no longer finding the advances to be… innocent, and that they’re not appreciated.”
John’s mouth screwed up in confusion. “But what would that-”
“Your followers incredibly observant, as you’ve well noticed yourself. If there is an individual who considers themselves a fan who is making you uncomfortable, how then do you believe the rest of your fanbase,” Mycroft sneered the word, “would react?”
They sipped their tea in silence, John thinking on what Mycroft had said about their fans, and Sherlock seemingly content to stare a hole through the center of his brother’s chest. “Aside from the coffee incident, there have been no other attempts at contact?”
“What, did you think I’d left them out?” Sherlock suddenly lashed. “Or that I’d forgotten, possibly?”
Mycroft rolled his eyes so slowly and thoroughly that John swore the flat actually rocked with it. “I was simply asking-”
“Well, don’t. I’ve told you all we know.” He bounced in the seat, sitting properly again and managed to snag his tea with a rough hand without spilling it.
Mycroft took another long pull and then set his cup back down, smoothing his tie with his free hand. “I shall make every effort to have something to you by tonight.”
That made Sherlock pause, eyes darting from John to Mycroft. There was a look of awe on his face for a split second before he trained his eyes back to cool indifference. John puzzled at them both for a moment until he realized that, for perhaps the first time, Mycroft made no indication that he would ask for his quid pro quo.
They said nothing as Mycroft gathered up his coat and briefcase. “John, a pleasure, as always.”
John simply nodded and watched as the elder Holmes turned without a word to his brother, and disappeared down the steps.
John kept his mouth shut until he heard the downstairs door close, and then he turned to Sherlock. “You. Called him?”
Sherlock’s mouth twisted in silent acknowledgement and he seated himself on the sofa, elbows on knees and fingers steepled in front of his mouth. John watched him, watched him as he thought and puzzled and with each silent second, John became more and more perturbed.
Sherlock made absolutely no indication that he’d heard John at all, and as the minutes wore on, John finally spoke. “Sherlock? Sherlock!!”
"I halted my life for months for you, don’t you see? Asking my brother for this one favor is absolutely nothing in comparison." His exclamation came with startling immediacy, clipped and heated.
The words stole the air from the room. John said nothing, couldn’t meet Sherlock’s gaze, was terrified and thrilled by what he might find there. He stood on shaky legs and grabbed his teacup, walking briskly into the kitchen to escape.
Sherlock, however, bounded up off of the sofa and followed him, crossing just over the threshold before pausing. “Don’t you understand now, John?”
His voice wavered when he responded, “understand what?”
Sherlock took a step towards him, a slow, intentional movement that brought him within inches of John. "There's very, very little that I wouldn't do to keep you safe.”
John sniffed his wilting indignation and glanced over Sherlock’s shoulder. "I can take care of myself, you know that."
Warm hands suddenly encased his biceps, the grasp loose but undeniably possessive. They stood together in the middle of the kitchen and simply breathed, Sherlock holding John so gently, John allowing himself to be held. "You take care of both of us all the while, John; this is the least I can do." Thumbs swept against his skin, a reassuring pressure.
The breath John released was shaky, rattled through him, shook his bones. He blinked up, meeting Sherlock’s gaze briefly before tearing away once more. There was too much in the man’s eyes, too much pain, too much fright, too much of everything; it was as though his own gaze was reflected back at him and in that moment, John realized that Sherlock was just as terrified of this person as he was.
Sherlock’s feet moved, shuffled closer, until they stood nearly chest to chest. John felt the heat there, the reassuring scent of Sherlock there in a column before him and did his level best not to buckle into it. Sherlock’s hands released him, meandered up his arms until warm, open palms settled on his shoulders. Sherlock’s voice was utterly reverent when he spoke, as though talking to an animal and desperate not to spook it. "You're scared."
John swallowed and felt his body stiffen. John Watson was scared of very little, prided himself on his ability to take things as they came and remain calm under pressure. But this was Sherlock, and Sherlock knew him, knew just how shaken he was. John lifted his eyes and once more met the unyielding gaze before breaking away to settle on a loose thread at Sherlock’s shoulder. "Yes."
Sherlock whispered, so honest and fragile, "Please do imagine, then, how I feel."
John swallowed thickly, could feel Sherlock’s breath ghosting over his brow. It felt lovely and foreign and was something John wanted to feel much more of, that breath, everywhere. “I don’t know what’s happening here, Sherlock.”
“Yes you do,” he replied, voice low and intensely careful, each syllable meted and gentle. “You’re no fool John Watson, and neither am I.”
John licked his lips and momentarily dipped his head, brushing his brow against the soft fabric of Sherlock’s shirt.
“So… what, then?” Sherlock’s eyes flashed and John amended his question. He wasn’t ready to face this, not right now, not when he felt so unsteady and vulnerable. “What do we do about her?”
“A show of dominance, of possession perhaps. You belong to no one John, especially not her, but that seems to be a rationale under which she operates. She believes you can belong to someone, and she needs to be set absolutely straight.”
“I’m not sure what…” His throat felt parched, he was struggling to get each of his words out.
Sherlock lifted his eyes, flayed John open suddenly with the simple shift of his gaze and few words. "I finally understand her motivations. She wants you, plain and simple."
“You… understand.” John tested the words in his mouth even as the truth of them slammed into his solar plexus and stopped his breath.
“Yes,” and Sherlock met his gaze, eyes crystalline and on the verge of fracturing into a thousand shards. “I do.” With that, Sherlock let him go, walked back into the living room and laid himself out on the sofa.
John took a moment to suck a deep breath into his lungs and with a new resolve and a spinning mind, got himself another cup of tea.
John was famished; after having skipped dinner the night before, he found himself popping out to the Indian place a few blocks over and procuring frankly more food than the two of them could ever hope to eat. When he returned, Sherlock was at the kitchen table, laptop open, a small microscope just to its left.
He laid out the containers and Sherlock watched with interest. “I got baigan bharta,” John mentioned, knowing full well that it was one of Sherlock’s favorites, hoping to entice him into eating. As he took down plates, he heard Sherlock poking at the containers, and he smiled to himself. “And chicken razala.”
“Fantastic,” Sherlock breathed and began opening the dishes.
They’d managed to do a bit of damage on the lamb biryani when the front door opened and then slammed, loudly. “Boys! Someone’s left a package for John on the stoop!” Mrs. Hudson called up the steps.
Sherlock glanced across the table at John and then, spry as a startled doe, leapt from the table and pounded down the front steps. John didn’t bother to move, just scooped up a bit of sauce with his naan and waited for Sherlock to deliver the parcel.
When he got back up to the flat, Sherlock was already carefully removing the outer paper, hands encased in latex gloves. Where, in the hallway, he’d managed to procure them, John didn’t have a clue. Once peeled off, he laid the paper down on the table, allowing John to glance the writing on the outside.
‘To: John Watson, From: You know who! ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥’
“Fucking. Hell,” John muttered as Sherlock opened the box and splayed open the glittery, pink tissue paper. There was a note on top, written in clear, flourished cursive on heavy cardstock. Sherlock perused it and with a dissatisfied grunt, and laid it on the table as well for John to read.
“Sherlock always looks so cozy and warm, bundled up and cared for. But you don’t. This is to get you through the long, cold, evenings when Sherlock makes you go out late on a case. Imagine it’s me, wrapped around you! Xoxo!”
Inside the box was a monstrosity of a scarf, starchy and brown and John poked at it with one finger while Sherlock looked on in undisguised horror.
“That…” Sherlock deadpanned, “is atrocious.”
“What…” John began, poking at the offensive garment again. “What do I do with it?”
“Give it here!” Sherlock demanded, and with gloved hands, carefully lifted it from the box. “Is there anything on the paper there, any hair, anything?”
“No-what? You honestly expect to-”
Sherlock stooped and gently placed the scarf back in the box, refolding the tissue on top of it and fitting the lid on top. “I’ll take this to Barts,” he said quickly, and abandoned his meal, shutting himself up in the bathroom with the slam of a door.
John was winding down his lunch by the time Sherlock emerged from his bedroom. Donned in coat and leather gloves, he hurried out towards the sitting room, paused just after passing John, and turned to look back. Brows raised, Sherlock turned up his palms in silent question, eyes darting in the direction of the front steps.
Swallowing around a mouthful, John questioned, carefully, “what?”
“Bart’s?” Sherlock spoke slowly, elongating the word for effect, as though to a child.
John looked back down at the detritus of food, their dirty plates and cutlery, and glanced back up at Sherlock. “No.”
“No?” The incredulity of the declaration rang against the walls and John let the word shift and settle for a bit before he reiterated his prior statement.
His voice was firm and his jaw set in defiant rigor. “No,” he snapped, not at Sherlock but at the absurdity of the situation that was unfolding. “I’ve just finished a really pleasant lunch and… I don’t want her interfering with this,” John gestured between the two of them, running a tongue slowly over his lips. “This, my daily life. She doesn’t get that power. She doesn’t get to have that.”
Sherlock harumphed and then gave a half-hearted glare, rounding the table to plunk himself back down in the seat he’d abandoned, coat and all. There was a brief silence, Sherlock staring at John, John staring resolutely back.
When he could take it no longer, Sherlock huffed an annoyed breath through his nostrils. “When may we go?” With dainty fingers, he plucked off his gloves, drumming the naked digits against the lip of the table.
John considered this, wondering if there was room in his stomach for just one more piece of naan; the butter sauce had been so delightful, and his tastebuds weren’t ready to concede the flavor. “You were eating when we got the package,” John mentioned, and, giving in to his appetites, snagged another piece of the flat bread.
“Hm,” Sherlock hummed shortly, looking nearly disgusted as John spooned just the butter sauce onto his plate.
“Then eat.” There was a slight inflection to his voice, a challenge issued and he watched Sherlock’s face shift to displeasure as he watched John nibble on his sauce-soaked naan. “Eat, and then I’ll shower and then we’ll go.”
“That’ll be ages!”
With a heavy sigh and a roll of his shoulders, John spoke to Sherlock flippantly, knowing how well it would be received. “Yeah, could be.”
Sherlock’s teeth gritted together and the beginning of a growl rumbled up in his throat. John smiled pleasantly and waited a good two minutes before Sherlock gave in and dumped a heap of rice onto his plate. “This will make you happy,” Sherlock groused ambivalently.
“Nothing, at the moment, would make me happier, no.” John confirmed with a judicious nod of his head as he hid his mouth behind a glass of water.
Sherlock shut up and shovelled some food unceremoniously into his mouth, chewed as though it were a race. “Fine. Terribly low standards but… fine.”
John chuckled to himself, dragging his bread back and forth, making little curly-queues in the voids left.
“With you, I’ll take what I can get.”
Sherlock’s fork paused en route to his mouth and he glanced at John with a look of such befuddlement that John peered back down at his empty plate, cursing himself for saying a thing.
Sherlock had carefully slipped the package and paper back into a large plastic garbage bag for easy transportation. “It will have to do. I… acted impulsively opening the box.” They managed to secure a cab in no time at all, and after John had given the cabbie their intended destination, he sat back with a huff against the seat. Across from him, Sherlock had his eyes trained out the back of the cab and appeared to be deep in thought.
Sherlock ground his teeth in frustration at his own impatience, the parcel laid out carefully on his lap, hands hovering just beside it.
The cab took a sharp right and John slid a bit across the seat, while Sherlock curled his hands protectively around the bagged box. “I can’t imagine you’re going to find anything on that,” John murmured gently, not wanting to add to Sherlock’s already heightened agitation, but needing to break the silence.
Sherlock said nothing in return but did torque his head to meet John’s eyes; his were an icy firestorm, a thousand different emotions clashing against one another for dominance. John rarely bore witness to a Sherlock so visibly conflicted that his brow knit in concern; he felt unsteady, as though he was about to have his feet knocked out from under him.
John spent the rest of the cab ride in pensive silence, his bottom lip fixed tightly between his teeth. He was almost certain that Sherlock would find nothing of note on the package; even if he found skin or a hair tag, this person would have to be a noted criminal in the system. Even if they could track down where she had purchased the incredibly generic looking wrappings, what were the chances that any of the numerous shop assistants would remember who bought it?
They were chasing a foolish lead at this point, but John didn’t have it in him to raise that point to Sherlock; he was in no mood or condition to deal with that confrontation. Staring out the window, John resigned himself to a day at the lab, closed in with Sherlock and his own tumultuous thoughts; either way, it beat being cooped up in the flat with his traitorous laptop and a restless and hell-bent Sherlock.
Arriving at Bart’s, Sherlock paid the fare and bounded out, package held tight to his being. John followed him down the halls, pausing to scan the visitors badges that Molly had procured for them some time ago. It had taken some finagling, but Sherlock had promised not to visit anyplace but the laboratory in the morgue in exchange for the pass that allowed them unlimited access during daylight hours.
The room was dark when the reached it, and Sherlock went about turning on the overhead lights with a few quick flicks of his wrist. He said nothing as he stalked to the front of the lab and shucked off his jacket, twirling it to land effortlessly along the top of the stool next to him.
He was aware that there was little he could do to assist, so John went into Molly’s office, and instead of languishing in his inability to find out who his stalker was, snatched up the old, standby laptop that she kept in case someone needed it. The Mac booted up slowly as John made his way back and took up a post across from Sherlock, one, long lab bench separating them.
The detective was busy laying out his necessities, setting up his microscope to his specifications, fiddling with the fine adjustment knobs with careful hands. John watched on surreptitiously, admiring the dexterity that he was exhibiting. Sherlock had turned his attention to the box itself, smoothing it out flat on the workbench, taking first his magnifier to it, then ripping it in two to cut it into small, identical pieces. He slid each one carefully under the microscope with the hope that he would find anything at all.
John knew it was a hopeless endeavor, but leave it to Sherlock to leave no stone unturned.
John sat and watched on, utterly helpless to do anything in the lab other than offer casual reassurances when Sherlock made noises of frustration and go through his blog, updating some of the entries and responding to late commenters. There was no sign of WatsonChick, a conspicuous absence that rather than calm John, unsettled him greatly.
It was rounding on four in the afternoon when the double doors swung quietly open, the rotund figure of Mike Stamford strolling in, head tipped down towards the clipboard he held in his hand. It took him a moment to realize that he wasn’t alone in the room, head snapping up and mouth morphing immediately into a genial smile when he saw the two of them.
“Ah, John! Sherlock! What brings you here today?” Mike tossed the clipboard down on the nearest bench without much care and sidled up until he was close enough to offer John his hand in greeting.
Sherlock, for his part, lifted his head from the microscope and muttered, “Mike.”
John looked back at Sherlock, at the organized chaos of the box and the notebook he had open to take down calculations. He wondered if he should be frank with his old friend or if the truth would seem as insane to Stamford as it had to John at first.
Mike looked at him expectantly, all smiles, as usual and waited for John’s explanation.
“I uh,” John dragged a palm over his mouth and jaw and took a quick little breath. “Someone uh, someone sent me a package and we’re not, er-”
Sherlock’s head cocked to the side and he dipped his head even further over his notebook, scribbling furiously. John couldn’t help but wonder what in the world he was writing down.
Turning back to Mike, he gave him a half a sardonic smile. “Yeah, I uh, I’m not sure, someone’s stalking me.” John admitted, feeling the rush of blood to his cheeks. “Following me or… something,” John finished feebly and then looked to the ceiling as he rolled his eyes, for the umpteenth time wondering why this was all happening to him.
Mike’s brow furrowed belatedly, looking from Sherlock to John to the package and back. “They sent you that?”
“Yeah.” John attempted a laugh but it fell enormously flat.
“What was it?” Mike took a few steps towards Sherlock and leaned in; he spied the scarf, wrinkling his nose as did. “Oi, that’s horrible.”
“Yes,” Sherlock smiled briefly. “It is.”
“That reminds me though,” Mike mentioned, rounding back to where John was perched, leaning back against the bench behind him. “I was out at lunch yesterday, just round the block, ran into one of your friends.”
“One of my friends,” John asked cautiously suspicion quickly sparking, “Who?”
“Girl, young one. Jane? Janice? No, had to be Jane, because, thought in my head, Plain Jane, but she wasn’t plain at all.” Mike sounded a little taken as he recalled what had happened.
John thought through his friends, his acquaintances, searches his memory for anyone named Jane. “I don’t… know a Jane…”
“No?” scratching at his hairline, Mike took his clipboard back up and thought for a moment. “Said she worked with you at the clinic? Was a receptionist a while back?”
“Don’t think… Gillian’s been the receptionist since I’ve been on there,” and it prickled up his arms, along the back of his neck, raised every hair on his body, the realization. “What did she look like?”
Sherlock was up from his microscope now, rounding the bench, descending on Mike as though he were prey. “What, what did she look like and don’t leave a thing out,” he demanded, crystal eyes turning stormy as he loomed over the shorter doctor.
Mike swallowed and glanced to John for help, but John was so flabberghasted that he simply stood there and allowed Sherlock to intimidate. “I, uh, uhm,” he stammered and took a step back to lean against the lab bench behind him. “Maybe, uhm, she was about John’s height and was a bit round in the face. Olive skin, long, dark curly hair… pretty, very uhm, pretty yeah… big brown eyes...”
Sherlock ducked and eyed Mike very closely for a very, very long minute. When he stepped back with a huff, he walked two paces ahead, turned in a circle and then stomped back to his former perch. “This is madness. How did she say she knew you?”
Mike wet his lips, looked very jittery when he answered, “said John mentioned me? Had a photo of-of-of his med school class in his office and… asked how he was doing, said that she’d been away for a few months and wanted to know how you were doing, how you were getting on, the both of you… Christ, I’m a bloody idiot.”
“Yes,” Sherlock said just as John declared, “no!” rather adamantly.
Mike swallowed audibly, clutched the clipboard at his side, “It was her, then. You think, oh god. Can’t you… get the camera footage from the shop or…”
Sherlock stomped back over to his workspace and set his hands hard on his hips. “Yes, I intend to,” Sherlock growled, and, with a sweep of his arm, sent the scarf and the portions of cardboard box and tissue paper flying all over the laboratory.
John started and Mike actually jumped back, clutching his papers to his chest. “Sherlock,” John said warningly and their gazes met, the tension in the air crackling and popping like so much static electricity.
“Well I uh, I… I’ll just be-”
“Do have your mobile on you, Mike? You’ll need to identify her once we get the surveillance.” The look Sherlock served his way was scathing in the extreme and with a strong gulp he nodded and disappeared back through the doors from which he’d entered.
John slumped down onto the stool in defeat, body falling like a rag doll but Sherlock didn’t even turn towards him. Standing with his back partially to John, he was completely still, fingers steepled against his lips. He ran his tongue over his lips and began several sentences in his throat only to lose them on the way to his tongue.
“We’ve a physical description, John, we’re nearly there.”
“And then what? She’s done nothing, not really.” John frustration shook through him, caused his jaw to clench and he slammed tightly clenched fists down on the worktop. “No, no we should stop this. This is ridiculous! There’s nothing we can do, and we’re wasting our time and making her think she’s much more important than she is.”
Sherlock’s eyes narrowed and he turned, set his palms down on the lab table and leaned on them. His gaze towards John was a vicious fire. “I will not sit idly by while someone targets you, is that understood?”
John’s nostrils flared; Sherlock, telling anything at all in “no uncertain terms” always stoked his dormant ire. It remained there, beneath the surface, and was brought to a fury when Sherlock assumed things about or for him. “Listen, you-”
“No!” Sherlock shouted, and at hearing the volume his voice reached, steadied himself. “John…”
Sherlock’s nostrils flared and he closed his eyes, a look of pain passing briefly across his features. “Please.”
“I will… make contact with the homeless network and I will have them keep watch for a person fitting her description, I will, John, I will… I will find her.” Voice still alight with determination, Sherlock swallowed and looked away, hurriedly gathering the pieces of the package strewn about. “There is no other option. There is… no other option.”
Their eyes met briefly as Sherlock packed away all of the pieces and righted the microscope. He swept out of the room without another word and John was left to wonder what in the world Sherlock had been scribbling in his notebook.
Upon returning to 221b, the lethargy that had been lingering in John’s bones seeped out and overtook him. They entered the building and were immediately greeted by a harried Mrs. Hudson, small manilla folder in hand.
“Oh! Boys! Your brother brought this by and was quite adamant I not let it out of my sight until you returned home,” she held it out to them and Sherlock snatched it away, leaving John to thank her without explanation and follow him two steps at a time up to the flat.
Sherlock was already ripping the paper from the envelope when John caught up, huffing with the effort. He reached inside and pulled out a small external hard drive. “The surveillance,” John commented though Sherlock said nothing, simply tipping over a stack of magazines to get at his laptop. They scattered all over the floor but John didn’t advance to retrieve them, simply left them where they fell as Sherlock booted up his machine.
John slipped out of his coat and hung it, pacing the room a few times while Sherlock went about the intricacies of accessing the video. Once set, he called John over with a curt angle of his head. He sidled up just behind Sherlock, and was thankful when Sherlock tilted the laptop’s screen so he was able to view it from where he stood.
They went through the footage of their arrival at Scotland Yard at half speed, but nothing seemed amiss. No one seemed to linger too close in their vicinity or so anything particularly odd. John chose not to comment on just how incredible it was that the footage was so intensely clear and how, for some reason, that it didn’t phase him in the slightest now. ‘Just another perk of living with Sherlock Holmes.’
Sherlock sped through and then rewound, reviewed portions that stuck out to him for one reason or another; he didn’t explain to John the reasons behind the sections he rewound and John didn’t ask. Through it all, he didn’t speak a word, just tapped at his laptop until he was satisfied with a particular bit and moved on.
When they finally reached the footage of their walk from New Scotland Yard to Flat Cap Coffee, John leaned in over Sherlock, settling with one hand against his right shoulder.
Sherlock’s fingers paused the video and then stilled on the keyboard as he elongated his neck. They were still for a long moment and then Sherlock tipped his head towards John’s hands, full lips barely brushing John’s pinky where it was resting.
The air halted in John’s chest, as he felt the warm, humid breath puffing out across his skin. Allowing his eyes to close, he got caught up in the moment, hanging his head until he was slumped into Sherlock, the man’s head pillowed against his abdomen.
There was a delicate flutter in his stomach, and as John settled into the gentle affection that they were sharing, Sherlock’s lips pressed together in something like a kiss and just touched him, above the knuckle. His eyes flew open in shocked and sudden arousal.
But just as Sherlock made the gesture, he snapped out of the reverie, leaning back over the laptop and disengaging, restarting the footage. John let the rush of breath out of his lungs, ruffling Sherlock’s hair as he did. “Sherlock,” his voice was strained and low and Sherlock chose to ignore him, fast-forwarding the video until they were crossing the street.
The pedestrian crossing was crowded with people, but John noticed a young woman hanging closer to them at the intersection of Victoria Street than the others. Sherlock seemingly noticed it too, rewinding and restarting the video, watching as she hurried through a throng of people to hurry up behind them, taking two steps to keep up with their fast pace.
Sherlock tipped in closer to the computer, “There,” he whispered and stabbed a finger at the girl.
Once they’d made it across the street on the screen, the woman reached into her pocket and pulled out her mobile. Though she appeared to be texting, she was inching closer and closer to where John and Sherlock stood. John recalled it as the moment he told Sherlock he hadn’t wanted to be at home.
There was a moment where she lifted her head and stared at John, expression dark; John’s heart tripped, beating double-time.
After a beat more of staring, she hurried off in the direction of the coffee shop, closer to a run than a walk while Sherlock and John remained back. It was a few, long moments before Sherlock started in the direction of the shop and John turned to follow, the both of them disappearing from the screen.
There was a terse, uncomfortable silence that lingered from seconds to minutes. Sherlock broke it, voice icy and accusatory. “She fits Mike’s description perfectly,” he growled, leaning in close to the screen as he backed up a few frames and paused.
He tapped a key and managed to zoom in a bit, the woman’s face large and slightly-grainy on the screen. Her eyes were frozen in that frightening stare, directed solely at John.
It all clicked into place then, the realization slamming into the forefront of his mind and momentarily whiting out his senses. “Sherlock,” John said, stock still behind him, trying to find his voice properly. “That-that’s the barista from Flat Cap.”
Sherlock’s head spun around before he thought better of it and ejected himself from his chair. “What?”
They were standing so closely that John could make out the flecks of color in Sherlock’s eyes, could read each tiny wrinkle in his face. Unhinged. Sherlock Holmes was very close to becoming unhinged.
John swallowed heavily, “The one who said someone bought me my drink… that’s her.”
Sherlock immediately sent the close-up, grainy photo of the barista to the printer with a stab of his finger. The machine purred to life as John crossed the room on unsteady feet and sank into the couch, head cupped by his waiting hands.
He heard rather than saw Sherlock cross to the machine and pick up the printout, proceeding to pace back and forth across the creaky sitting room floor with what sounded like enormous strides. John breathed into his hands and grit his teeth in order to try and maintain some semblance of calm.
Inside, it felt like his stomach was about to shake out of place and batter into his lungs, his oesophagus tight with anger, as though he’d swallowed an egg whole. He squeezed his eyes shut with such force that it was painful, dug his fingers into his eyebrows.
“I’ve sent the photograph to Mycroft,” Sherlock growled, tapping at his mouth. “Who, according to his automated reply is ‘away on business.’” John peeked out from between his fingers, the light from the windows stinging his eyes, to see Sherlock with his mobile to his ear, still pacing the room, bottom lip between his teeth. “God only knows what that means; he’s probably in Dubai or Sydney or somewhere else equally as pointless!”
His mobile sailed across the room and bounced off of the leather of the couch, pinwheeling until it skittered across the table. John’s head snapped up and he served Sherlock with a confused little glance, unfolding to sandwich the discarded mobile in his hands. “Can’t imagine he’d be much more help than he’s already been,” John said carefully, mentally reeling from the fact that he was indeed defending Mycroft Holmes to his brother.
“He knows how much I-” Sherlock cut himself off abruptly, the words dying in his throat. Holding his hands out to the room, he stood absolutely still and allowed his eyes to fall closed. John watched in silence, swiping his thumbs against the case of the phone in his hand; he felt jittery and once more off-center, needing an outlet for all of his nervous energy.
Sherlock’s eyes popped open and he glared into the kitchen and spun suddenly towards the door, hooking his arm around to pull his coat off of its peg. He slung it across his shoulders with his usual effectiveness, pulled his scarf tight around his neck.
“What, where are you-” John sputtered as the detective tugged on his gloves.
“Back to Flat Cap. We’re going to find out who this woman is, and now.” Sherlock tore down the steps, leaving John to race to catch up; with one hand in his coat sleeve, he nearly tumbled down the last few stairs. When he burst out onto the pavement, Sherlock was already climbing into a cab and John scurried to get himself inside before the car tore off. “Jesus, can you wait, please?” His breath came in little huffs of annoyance and John tugged on his cuffs to right his sleeves.
Sherlock, glancing out the passenger-side window, growled, “Your presence is unnecessary.”
John slicked his tongue against the back of his upper teeth and pressed down the immediate response that sprang to mind, instead settling back into the seat and seething comfortably. “This does have to do with me, it is about me,” John mentioned with feigned disinterest. “Whyever would my presence be necessary.”
Sherlock heaved a long-suffering sigh, “The further you are from this, the better.”
John huffed out a disbelieving laugh and shook his head. “What about that sentence would make you think it would be good to say aloud. As though if I said that to you you’d listen.” That granted him a small, half-smile from Sherlock, who shrugged and fell into silence.
They were back at Flat Cap within the half-hour, Sherlock actually managing to pay the cabbie without throwing the bills through the window. He didn’t bound out of the cab or tear off; instead he waited for John to emerge, and together, they walked into the shop.
Sherlock made a beeline for the counter; there was no queue, but the barista was not behind the bar. Instead, a single young man was meticulously wiping down the espresso machines, humming to himself. John cut around Sherlock, much to his chagrin, and sidled up to the counter.
“Excuse me,” he said kindly, getting the man’s attention. He held up one finger and then turned to wipe down the other machine. John huffed a little and thought about giving him a lecture on good customer service.
Eventually, the cashier made his way over and tossed his rag over his shoulder. “Hey, I’m Paul, what can I get you?”
“Actually,” John began, pleasantly enough, before Sherlock shoved an arm in front of him, photograph held out, effectively cutting him off.
“Where is this employee?” Sherlock demanded, hand steady as ever as he held up the photo.
The kid took a step back to get a better look, and nodded his recognition. “Oh, Vinny, yeah sorry, she quit.”
“Wh-what?” John stammered, gripping Sherlock by the elbow and pulling his arm down. It took him a moment to gather his thoughts. “First of all, what’s her full name and when did she quit?”
Paul gave both John and Sherlock a dubious look, crossed his arms and asked, “are you guys cops?”
Sherlock fully stepped in front of John and stared the boy down. “My name is Sherlock Holmes, I am a consulting detective, and it is of dire importance that you tell me everything about this person, do you understand?”
Paul paused and glared back at Sherlock. “Or,” Sherlock continued, “I can inform your parents that you have not only been selling marijuana but are trying to break your way in to the cocaine trade. Unfortunately for you Paul, I know you’re at university, are maintaining an…. average course of study, have a venereal disease that you’ve given to… one? No, two people, and that you live… in Walworth.”
“How did you-”
Sherlock slapped his palms down on the counter, causing a few patrons to turn and gape at them. For once, John didn’t make any apologies for him. “Tell me about Vinny!”
Paul scrunched up his face as though he were in pain and then made a motion to follow him around the coffee bar. They did, and ended up in an alcove by where the loose beans were stored. “Listen man, I don’t want to get her into trouble-”
“She’s already in trouble,” John assured, squaring his shoulders to cut a more intimidating figure. “Nothing you could tell us could possibly dig her in any further.”
“Vinny’s her nickname, her real name is Venessa - Smith, I think. Venessa Smith. She uhm, she was a little weird, not like dangerous weird, just weird. Really quiet, maybe is in university around here because she always had a bookbag, always had a computer on her. She worked sporadic shifts and then yesterday she just dropped off her apron and peaced out.”
“Peaced out?” John asked.
“Yeah, came outta the back room, told me and another employee that she quit and that was it, gone.”
“We need to speak with your manager,” Sherlock demanded, not even bothering to thank Paul for the information.
“She’s on break right now but she should be back in ten…” Paul trailed off as he brought his thumb up and began biting at the nail. “Has Vinny gotten herself into some shit?”
Sherlock barked a harsh laugh and John gave a quick, curt nod. “Something like that.”
Paul took another nervous nibble at the tip of his thumb and then nodded to the empty stools surrounding the bar. “Cath should be back soon, if you wait here I’ll make sure she… yeah, just uhm, wait there.” Paul turned away, back to the small queue that had formed, and John did as told, sliding up onto a stool to wait.
Sherlock stood just to his right, hands in his pockets. Through the fabric John could see him twitching and in a fit of annoyance, reached out to press the pocketed hand into Sherlock’s thigh. “Stop it, you’re making me…”
“What? What am I making you?” Sherlock asked, exasperated.
“Even more on edge. Stop…. fidgeting, Christ.” John’s mouth jumped in what could have been a smile before he turned away, began drawing a sugar packet back and forth against the countertop, not heeding his own demand.
Sherlock turned to rest his lower back against the edge of the counter, managing to keep his hands still though his right foot kept tapping against the floor in half time. John watch Sherlock’s foot just as Sherlock watched John’s hand and they waited together, lingering closer than was strictly necessary.
Minutes later, a young woman came scurrying in, tearing off her coat and rounding the counter in haste. As she tied her apron around herself, Sherlock leaned over the counter and addressed her. “Ah, Cath, we need information.”
“What he means,” John said, standing and tugging on the bottom hem of his coat. “Is that Paul here said that you might be able to be of some assistance to us. There’s an employee here, or was, Vinny- rather, Venessa Smith?”
Cath pushed her hair out of her face and served them with a surprisingly stern, set demeanor. “And who wants to know.”
“Sherlock Holmes,” John pointed at Sherlock and then at himself, “John Watson.”
Cath’s gaze flickered for a moment before she uncrossed her arms. “Thought you looked familiar, great blog,” she said to John and then turned her attention to Sherlock. “Great coming-back-from-the-dead,” she turned and began to work on the coffee order that Paul had slid down to her. “But unfortunately, I can’t tell you anything.”
“Cath, do understand that there are things-” Sherlock began severely.
“Save it. I know what you do and you know I can’t help you, not without a court order, so do your thing, try and wrestle it out of me, give me an ultimatum but I can’t tell you anything else about Vinny.” Her eyes flickered back towards Paul for a brief second. “I should be wringing Paul out for even confirming her last name but seeing as you’re very persuasive and all…”
John frowned but pressed on. “Listen, Cath… she could be… of some danger to… a very many people and we need to know-”
“I can’t, I really, really can’t, other than to tell you that two days ago, she quit, just out of the blue. No standard two weeks notice, nothing. That’s all I’ve got, I’m sorry.” With that, she turned to serve the latte to a customer.
Sherlock growled audibly, spooking the woman who’d sidled up to his right, and then stalked swiftly around the counter, en route to the back room.
“I swear to god,” Cath said, swiftly putting herself between the door to the manager’s office and Sherlock. “Take one more step and I’ll mace you right in the face, regardless of how much I love reading about you.”
Sherlock glared, and after several moments embroiled in a rather intense staring contest, he turned on heel and stalked out of the shop. John hung back for a moment, eyes wide, wondering how in the world Sherlock had believed that would even work. Shaking himself from his reverie, he turned to follow Sherlock out but was halted by a sharp whistle coming from behind him.
John spun to see Cath, holding out a cup to him, “Cinnamon latte for John?” She quirked a brow and shook the cup invitingly.
John quirked a brow back and reached for the cup; Cath scurried away towards the other side of the bar and John puzzled after her for a moment before looking down at the cup. Scribbled in permanent marker down at side read, “She was at university for something to do with computers nearby. All I know. Good luck.”
A moment later he caught up with Sherlock on the pavement, who immediately snatched the upheld cup from his hand and examined it. John gave him a second longer and then snatched it back, bringing the cup to his lips. “Free latte, bonus.”
Sherlock rolled his eyes and stalked off down the street, leaving John to laugh and follow along.
“Venessa Smith, who may or may not be enrolled at university nearby, who may or may not have an interest in computers,” Sherlock mumbled as they mounted the steps back up to their flat. “Helpful,” he drawled sarcastically.
John shrugged behind him, and followed him into the room. “More than we had to go on before, a lot more. Full name, there are only a handful of unis around, could take a while but-”
“We. Do not. Have a while!” Sherlock snapped and rounded on John, as though demanding that John think. With his face that close to John’s, John could more fully see the lines around his eyes, how he swayed ever so slightly on his feet. Preparing to say something, he opened his mouth but Sherlock just stepped quickly back, tipping to the left before righting himself.
“I…” Sherlock huffed and then paced in a tight circle. “I’m not…”
“You’re on a case, you haven’t eaten or slept, you need to-”
Sherlock paused in his manic steps and turned slowly to face John. The look on his face was positively ruthless and he took two large strides until he was in John’s personal space again. “You,” he began through teeth tightly clamped. “Are not a case.”
Stunned, John took a half-step backward and paused. “Sher-”
“You are far more important, far more intrinsic to me, you are not the work.” Sherlock’s jaw shook with the force with which he spoke, his gaze bore hotly into John’s before he broke suddenly away, stomping into the kitchen and shoving his fingers into his hair.
Sherlock spun to face him and across the room, John swore he saw Sherlock’s face twitch with the implications of his statement. “Do you… do you understand?” His expression was pained and open, eyes shining with the need for John to realize this one thing.
The words slithered their way down John’s spine, settled warmly in his belly and lit up his nerves. John swallowed thickly, and took a long breath. He did understand, he understood and it was brilliant and terrifying and lovely; somehow he had managed to become more important to the world’s only consulting detective than his work was and that spoke volumes of what Sherlock felt for him.
Sherlock’s pleading eyes and voice; he didn’t know the words to speak, needed John to suss out what he meant and John did, bit by bit, the realization cresting as a large wave and then smaller resurgences. All of the times John had wished he’d spoken up, all of the times he’d thought of the ‘could have beens’ when Sherlock was away, all of the touches, the glances, the fits of needing this man, to think of what he was being offered and what he’d not again have to do without, it shook him on a cellular level.
All of the breath left John’s lungs as he absorbed, continued to reel with the startlingly crystalline implication that Sherlock’s words held. All of the well-felt grooves that hope had left on his heart smoothed over as the delicate organ felt full to bursting and all John wanted to do was reach out and touch this man, this man who’d taken away but given back, many, many times over.
That told him everything.
“Take off the coat,” John said, fists clenched at his sides, looking very intently at Sherlock’s face.
“What?” Sherlock asked, more confused than angry that John was catching him off guard.
“The coat, take it off,” he gestured with his chin.
Sherlock’s brow scrunched but he did as asked, looking dubious all the while. He hung the coat up on the hook, turned back to John with palms up and open in question. His manic anger had subsided, he was now very obviously interested rather in what on earth John was asking of him.
“Right,” John said firmly. He took one step towards Sherlock and then, after a moment, another. “Right.” His hands went to Sherlock’s shoulders and the detective’s eyes went spectacularly wide.
After a glance down at his own shoes he stepped right up to Sherlock and slanted his mouth over Sherlock’s in a kiss. Sherlock stood perfectly still, allowing John to slide his upper lip gently against Sherlock’s lower. Sherlock stuttered a little inward gasp and John pulled away, chuckled to himself and hung his head.
“I ah, yeah, well,” John said, glanced up at Sherlock almost shyly.
“How… surprising,” Sherlock said thoughtfully, touching an index finger to his lips.
John choked on a low laugh, “Is it?”
“You do keep me on my toes, John.”
“Ah yes, well I-” John’s blush raced up his neck to spot his cheeks with pink. “I’m not a case, I… thank you.”
Sherlock’s mouth flickered, the beginning of a smile, before blooming awkwardly across his mouth. “Come now, John,” Sherlock murmured, sliding a warm palm around the back of his neck. “You must have known, you must have, I…”
John leaned gently backwards into the touch and smiled hesitantly at Sherlock. “That’s what all of this is about then, not the lure of a case, you’re… actually worried about me.”
The fire lit in Sherlock’s gaze once more, the warm affection retreating. “Constantly.”
“Hmmm,” John hummed thoughtfully and stepped out of Sherlock’s reach, needing a bit of distance after the crashing wave of emotion and intimacy that had just taken them. He needed a moment to acclimate. “As shit as it was that all of this this was the catalyst for you telling me - I - you should know you’re the important, the, erm, most important - to me.”
Sherlock blinked over at him, bewildered.
John’s voice choked slightly as he forced out the next bit on a shaky breath. He had to get it out, had to air it now that he had the chance. “Just wish I’d have, before, told you and you would have known before you, you fell. I think, I’ve thought about that for months and months that if you’d known, if I’d bloody well said it…” John passed a hand over his face and he shook his head. “But, enough of that, enough of…”
Sherlock’s head tilted to the side as he regarded John with a careful gaze and then nudged his way into his personal space, slipping in easily. “Yes, enough.” Sherlock carefully leaned in and down to meet John’s mouth.
John sighed into it, reaching up to grip at Sherlock’s biceps, fingertips gripping with a mixture of desperation and gratitude. Sherlock took his time licking in, suckling at John’s bottom lip before dipping into his mouth, teasing his tongue gently against John’s. It was a deep kiss, something that took John under in stages, mouths meeting until John had buckled into Sherlock, his pelvis pressing at Sherlock’s thigh.
John was again the one to disengage, breaking off with a quick kiss to Sherlock’s chin. “I, uhm.”
“John,” Sherlock began shakily, passed his tongue over his lips and the sight he made nearly did John in for good.
“You need to eat!” John mentioned suddenly, brain sluggishly flickering to life. “You do. And sleep, you need to eat and sleep.”
“We need to-” Sherlock stepped back into him, tried to get his hands on John’s hips but John deftly stepped away.
“No, you said I’m not a case, but you’re working this as though it is. You can eat and have a rest and in the morning we’ll see if Mycroft gotten back to you with anything on the surveillance from in and around the flat. There’s nothing more we can do right now. We’ll… we’ll search for Venessa Smith tomorrow.”
“Shouldn’t we-” Sherlock began, face morphing into something distinctly more salacious.
“We should, but not now, not when you’re dead on your feet and I’m nearly there myself.” John couldn’t help himself and settled a warm palm on Sherlock’s shoulder, massing in with his thumb. “I don’t want to cock this up because we’re both exhausted from chasing after this nutter; I don’t want her to take this from me.”
Sherlock blinked slowly a few times and then sandwiched John’s hand between his cheek and shoulder briefly before stepping away and resuming his composure. “Yes, well then, I suppose I’ll have a shower.”
John smiled, thankful. “I’ll call for some takeaway.”
Sherlock waved over his shoulder, “Fine.” And with that, he shut himself into the bathroom.
John sank down on the sofa, passed a hand over his face once more and allowed the slightly manic, hitch-pitched laughter burst out of him. Christ, he thought, sitting back, clapping his hands to his knees. “Christ.”
They ate in silence, John casually sliding bits more of food onto Sherlock’s plate when he thought the detective wasn’t looking. Sherlock saw it all, of course, pushed it around his plate and even ate some of the surreptitiously-added food without complaint.
The telly hummed a susurrus in the background while John attempted to remain collected as Sherlock’s knees bumped his beneath the table. Every time their eyes met, Sherlock’s were cool and calculating and John’s were soft and open but his gaze skittish, as though having Sherlock look at him in this way were somehow new and different.
He couldn’t possibly fathom what the man was thinking; perhaps of the texture of John’s lips and what surfaces in nature were most like it? Was he thinking about what had transpired at all or simply about catching Venessa Smith? Was he as calmly ecstatic as John was about the shift their relationship had taken, as keen to try that whole kissing business again?
Sherlock kicked at John beneath the table and snapped him from his reverie, food halfway to his mouth. “What?” Sherlock asked, placing his fork tines-down on this plate, folding his hands atop the table and staring at John.
It was a few beats before John took a breath and placed his own utensil, food and all, back on the plate. “Trying not to get ahead of myself here.”
“Mmmm,” Sherlock hummed, finally leaning back to recline slightly in his chair.
“If this were anyone else, I’d know what to do, I think, but you’re you and I’m me and this is all a bit… a bit of ‘something else’, innit?”
“One might argue that having known one another for as long as we have, having lived together for the duration, having weathered what we have together, that we might be rather the stronger for it, no?” Sherlock’s voice was light, and it dawned on John that he was truly speculating, that he didn’t know much about the situation into which they’d gotten themselves..
“Perhaps,” John conceded. “Though, that can all wait, until… tomorrow, or after, like I said before, I just.” John ran his tongue over his bottom lip and glanced at Sherlock with a creased brow. “Just want to make it clear that it’s fine that- oh bugger it, before we go to bed tonight, I’d like to kiss you again.”
Sherlock’s shoulders shook in silent laughter. “How gallant, giving me a warning.”
John glared, muttered “shut up,” and went back to finishing his dinner.
When they were through, John tidied up while Sherlock hunkered down at the sitting room table.
Once finished with the rinsing of the dishes, John dried his hands and shut the kitchen light. He went to the bathroom, brushed his teeth, splashed some water on his face and dragged a thumb down the stubble on his cheeks; he’d have to shave in the morning. Meandering into the living room, he shoved his fists into the pockets of his jeans to keep them from doing whatever he supposed they might do if he allowed his nerves to get the best of him. “Well, goodnight, then.”
“Hmmm,” Sherlock hummed without looking up and, resigned, John turned to mount the steps. He paused when he heard the scrape of a chair against wood and looked back over his shoulder at an approaching Sherlock, face softly unguarded, wearing a small smile.
“You went to all the trouble of warning me and you were going to let me off the hook,” Sherlock chided, voice low, silky, only for John.
John tilted his head up, a smile curling his mouth as Sherlock settled a hand along the back of his neck and brought their lips together, gently and tentatively. As his eyes fluttered closed, John felt Sherlock step into him, close enough that their thighs were just brushing, a light, sweet pressure to compliment the easy way their mouths pulled and pleaded.
Sherlock shuffled away, leaving a gentle kiss on the side of John’s nose and the crest of his ear, and stood back, clasping his hands behind himself. His fringe fell into his eyes, and John swallowed at the unabashed loveliness before him, Sherlock, all pink lips swollen and perfect. “Goodnight,” Sherlock said, dipped his head in something like a bow.
John laughed in the way he did when something amusing snuck up on him, shoulders bent in and when he unfolded he shook his head. “So formal.” He stepped back up to Sherlock and kissed him once, hard, on the mouth. There was a sweet little smack when they pulled apart and John left Sherlock to reel on the landing.
“Good night,” he said as he mounted the steps, two by two.
Once in his room, John changed into his pajamas and settled himself in bed. Hands folded on his chest, there was no helping the silly, lopsided grin that took his face. In an effort to see if he was able, John pulled his mouth into a firm, grim line, but a moment later, the smile was fluttering back, and he tossed himself onto his side.
It took some time for the buzzing in his mind to calm down, but when he finally went under, in was to a deep and dreamless sleep.
The next morning John found Sherlock at the kitchen table, cup of coffee steaming before him, fingers flying over his laptop.
“Morning,” John said pleasantly, surprised to find the pot still nearly hot and half-filled.
Sherlock grunted in return, blindly reaching for his mug and bringing it to his lips, right hand keeping up its cacophony on the keys. John watched the play of muscles in Sherlock’s back as he moved and shifted; he wanted to touch now, but felt it would be best to wade gently into this thing with his best friend, and resigned himself for simply taking a seat across from him at the table.
John looked over the brim of his mug, cradled between his two hands. Sherlock’s brow was knitted in concentration and so John didn’t break it, just watched and waited. Surely he’d be working something out about Venessa; surely he’d made some sort of progress if he was typing that voraciously.
“London South Bank, City and Westminster,” Sherlock murmured, glancing sharply up at John.
He was caught off guard, still in the process of waking up, caffeine sliding sluggishly through his veins. “Hm?” John hummed, placing his coffee down to lean into Sherlock on his forearms. “Those the ones in the area, then?”
“The immediate area, but there’s no telling if she was being honest when she said she went to school in the area.” Sherlock hit the enter key twice in rapid succession and then snapped the laptop shut. “Mycroft sent the surveillance of the flat.”
“Nothing of note, though that new postal carrier seems to have taken a shine to Mrs. Hudson,” Sherlock remarked, getting up to refresh his cup.
John frowned. “Nothing of note, you mean you… Sherlock, how much tape was there to review?”
Sherlock swallowed a sip. “A week.”
“You went through a week’s worth of footage? You didn’t sleep, did you?”
The glance he received in answer was all he needed and John huffed, rolled his eyes and stood. “Not surprised, but Jesus, one day you’re going to realize you have to bloody well take care of yourself!” John rounded the table and pulled a pan from the cupboard, crossing in front of Sherlock to get to the refrigerator.
“Why, when I have you?” Sherlock said, plain as day, clear as a bell and John had to force his limbs to continue in their intended movements. He rummaged around until he located a carton of eggs, steeled himself and turned.
Sherlock’s brow furrowed. “Isn’t it?”
John stepped up to the stove, slid the pan on, and then glanced over at Sherlock. It took him a moment to process how he wanted to touch the man, and eventually John settled for raising his right hand to Sherlock’s shoulder and stroking there for a time, eggs forgotten. “Suppose, if that’s what you’d like. If that’s what we’d both like.”
Putting his mug down on the countertop next to the eggs, Sherlock turned to John and gazed down, clear, endless eyes poring into him. “Is that, John? Is that what you want?”
“Suppose,” John’s hand tightened on Sherlock’s trapezius in a daring little squeeze. “That’d be alright.”
Sherlock’s expression was carefully blank for a beat further until he snorted out a laugh, lips curling just as they covered John’s. It was a brief kiss, light and teasing and when he pulled back, the smile had become a grin. “Good,” Sherlock decided, and slid into the seat across the table that John had abandoned.
John smiled goofily down at the empty pan and then filled his lungs with air, releasing on the exhale all of the apprehension he didn’t know he’d been fostering. “Let’s see,” he said, voice booming a bit, bolstered by the sudden fantastic mood he found himself in. “We’ve got the beans, the mushrooms, there’s a sausage or two left, enough for half of a proper fry up at least.”
Sherlock’s mouth twitched even as he wrinkled his nose. “It’s the chicken sausage you like, and we’ll do the eggs scrambled and… in butter, not oil.”
John prepared the eggs in silence, whipping them with a fork until he’d reached the desired consistency and opened a can of beans to warm.
“Are those low sodium,” Sherlock groused, sitting up straighter in his chair to peer at the can.
“Listen, I am a doctor, have to make concessions somewhere. You’re getting butter so shut your gob.”
Much to John’s surprise, Sherlock flopped down on the sofa and fell to sleep after breakfast. He’d made a good show of eating, too, managing all of the egg, the toast, the sausage, leaving the beans and the mushrooms pushed to the side.
Instead of curling up into a tight ball, Sherlock had fallen flat on his back, left leg dangling off to rest on the floor, one arm flung haphazardly above his head. He looked just like the wreck he was, and John couldn’t help walking to the sofa and flicking at a few of Sherlock’s curls, just to see what would happen. The hair straightened to a glossy little stripe and then sprung back into a swooping curl.
John stood there for a few minutes, just plucking at his hair; Sherlock didn’t move. After he’d had his fill, he went to Sherlock’s laptop, pleased to find it unlocked and queued up to the security footage that Mycroft had forwarded them the night before. He got through what he could, putting the footage on triple speed. Three cups of coffee and an enormous headache later, he was slightly queasy and his eyes felt papery and sore but he'd found nothing of substance in the surveillance.
John stood and felt the tension in his back coil; he cringed, hands on his hips, and tried to work the knot out. It was a bit before he realized that the light in the room had shifted and he turned to glance at the clock, finding it to be half-one.
John goggled; he’d been looking at the footage for three hours. His bladder chose that moment to make itself known and he retreated to the loo, figuring once inside that he might as well have a shower. When he reemerged, towel slung low on his hips in absence of the dressing gown he’d left in his room, Sherlock was sitting upright on the couch, running a hand through his hair, yawning.
When he caught sight of John his movement ceased and his eyes widened a fraction, a response evident even from across the room. “What?” John asked, self-conscious and clutched the towel tighter around himself.
“I,” Sherlock began and then frowned, opened his mouth to begin again and then shut it. He reached to the table and took up John’s mobile, holding it up in his left hand while continuing to stare. “Your mobile. Lestrade called. It woke me.”
“Ah, ta,” John moved forward and took the phone, Sherlock turning to stare at the empty hearth.
Sherlock sniffed, frowned and said, “It’s rather hot in here.”
“Is it?” John spared a quick glance as he unlocked his mobile to find one missed call and two texts from Lestrade.
Sherlock sniffed again, stood. “Yes,” and with that he disappeared into his room.
John just shook his head and read through the messages, indicating not to bother calling back, just wondering if John would be up for a pint around six to get his mind off of what Lestrade had referred to as “this stalker business.” With a glance down the hall at the closed door he typed back his affirmative response and went to find some suitable clothes.
Donned in a black sweater and khakis a while later, John found himself alone in the quiet of the sitting room, Sherlock’s door open. He peeked in to find both the bedroom and the loo empty and was only slightly put out that Sherlock had left the flat without telling him. He located his discarded phone and found a single text from him.
‘Getting supplies, back later. SH.’
John didn’t bother to inquire as to what the supplies were for and instead informed him that he would be at the The Feathers with Lestrade should Sherlock need him; he then shrugged into his coat, patting himself down to make sure he had his wallet and his keys. He set his mobile to vibrate and slipped it into his front, right-hand pocket for easy access and set out.
It was a short ride on the Jubilee Line and a quick few blocks before John found himself inside The Feathers, locating and sidling up to Lestrade with ease. “And how many do I have to catch up?”
Lestrade turned, clapped John on the back as he hopped up onto the stool. “Just the one, mate.”
John ordered up a pint for himself and they settled into the sort of silence that friends who frequent the pub together often found. John made it a quarter of the way through his lager before Lestrade sat back and asked, “So, anything more on this crazy lady?”
John snorted. “Well, aside from finding out a possible name, through completely legal means, I should add,” John rushed. “A photograph and her last known place of employment?”
“You’ve got a photo!” Lestrade started, and John nodded.
“Would have thought Sherlock would have…” He didn’t finish the sentence, wondering why Sherlock hadn’t forwarded the photograph to Lestrade. He could have at least been on the lookout for the woman; he could have done something. “I can forward you the image when I get back. Didn’t even think to bring a printout, thought he would have already sent it through to you.”
“Haven’t heard a word,” Lestrade shook his head on a grim smile, crossing his arms. “Well… with all that to go on, he’ll find your little stalker in no time, eh?”
John rolled his head back and forth as though to say, maybe, maybe. He sipped at his lager and stared straight ahead at the row of bourbon lined up in front of a low mirror. “I hope, it’s just, she doesn’t seem dangerous, more, it makes me feel unsettled.”
Lestrade pursed his lips in thought. “It’s pretty bizarre, right? Never in a million years would I think something like this would actually happen, in real life, but what do I know, people, some of ‘em are just unhinged.”
John nodded and nursed his beer, recounting for the detective inspector the account of an army mate who had simply detached right in the middle of basic training, stopped speaking and had to be discharged. “It’s not uncommon, just, psychological breaks. I mean, it’s not my area but I’ve been around unbalanced people. Not the general stigmatized sort of ‘crazy’ but actual, you know… troubling psychological history.”
Lestrade, engaged, didn’t bother speaking to order another round, just tapped on the bar to get the bartender’s attention. He looked back to John and his eyes flashed, signalling that John continue with the conversation. “If it wasn’t happening to me, I’ve been thinking about this… if it wasn’t me, my first reaction might have been that this person needs help, you know? Find her, get her to see a professional because it’s not healthy, not normal but…”
“You just want it to stop,” Lestrade said, quietly and John nodded grimly and turned away, the slightest bit ashamed.
Again, they fell into silence, the din of the other patrons surrounding them. John was determined to get out of his own head, stop thinking about what loomed on the horizon with this woman, embrace the intent of the evening. His mind wandered for a moment until his attention settled on a group talking animatedly in the corner and John wondered about them. He wondered how they knew one another and why they were at the pub and what their story was.
He wondered how quickly Sherlock would be able to deduce them. Mind shifting, he thought about Sherlock here and how spectacularly out of place he would be at a place like this. Would Sherlock come to the pub with him now that they were…
Now that they were what?
John turned sharply to Lestrade, realizing that something truly monumental had happened in his life since he last saw the D.I., and was this something he should tell Lestrade? Was this something he kept to himself? He’d never honestly had to have a conversation with a partner before regarding when those close to them were told of their relationship status. Was this perhaps something Sherlock wanted to remain private?
Lestrade stared at him as John’s attention focused on what in the world was going on between him and his best friend, and all the while, Lestrade’s gaze narrowed. When John’s eyes shifted back to the present, Lestrade was wearing a slight little smile, head cocked to the side.
“Really?” the D.I. asked smugly, snatching up his drink.
John physically shook his head out of the clouds and sucked down the rest of his drink, signalling for another. “Really, what?”
“That faraway look,” Lestrade grinned, wink, jostled John’s shoulder with his own. “You’re…”
John shook his head vehemently and gave the bartender a nod of thanks when his order was delivered. “No, no. When would I find the time?” It wasn’t a lie but it wasn’t the truth there was an obvious reason behind that faraway look and John’s stomach pitched oddly when he acknowledged that yes, this morning he’d up and told Sherlock that they would basically be spending the rest of their lives together.
That it would be “alright.”
Lestrade’s gaze would not leave the side of John’s face and John felt his cheeks flame and the tips of his ears felt hot. “No time,” Lestrade whispered into the hollow of his glass as he brought it to his lips, “because you’re already…”
“I’m going to pop to the loo,” John said quickly, and with a darting lift of his brow, he hopped down from the stool and rounded the bar quickly in search of the bathroom. He shoved a hand hard into the wood and sighed to find the space empty. He shuffled to the sink and glanced at himself in the mirror, noting that he didn’t look any different at all.
He’d all but admitted his innermost feelings to Sherlock, agreed to spend the rest of his life with him, and snogged him quite thoroughly. Squeezing his eyes shut and willing himself to calm down - convinced that he and Sherlock would work it all out in time - John rinsed his hands and toweled them off quickly.
When he reached his seat again, Lestrade was leaning over the bar and talking animatedly with Walter the bartender. He elbowed John just as he got back to sitting. “Eh? Blackheath’s last match, total bollocks, yeah John?”
“Complete and utter bollocks, actually,” John added and joined in the conversation. He sipped from his new pint eagerly, and it was a few moments before he properly sat up in his seat. John’s head swam violently to the left, his vision going violently blurry. “I,” he slurred, and tried to open his eyes as wide as possible to clear his vision.
“You alright?” Lestrade asked, reaching over to lay a hand on his shoulder.
“I, yeah, yeah, I guess all I had today,” John blinked and blinked but his vision wouldn’t clear. “Was breakfast and that was at half-eleven and… maybe…” His mind swirled as he did his best to recall his breakfast, but all he could remember was a fuzzy mishmash of cooking and washing up. Tongue against his bottom teeth, he tried in vain to produce saliva, to speak, to articulate anything.
“Yeah, let’s get you into a cab, Wall, I’ll be back to close out.” John nodded weakly and resolved to keep it together, wait until he got back to the flat and collapse out on the sofa. Maybe he’d even let Sherlock take a blood sample; Sherlock would like that.
John managed to stand on his own, proud of his ability to do so, but swayed hard to the left and Lestrade thrust an arm under John’s to steady him. “Just lean on me,” he directed and walked them the short distance towards the exit.
They shuffled their way across the pavement and Lestrade took on more of John’s weight as he flung up a hand for a cab. John thought and thought and remembered hazily that he’d only had three beers, just three, but they weren’t what he usually drank; perhaps that had something to do with it. Or the norovirus, he could be in the early stages of the norovirus, maybe; he was having difficulty remembering what the norovirus was.
“You sure you’re alright? Need me to make sure you get home alright?” Lestrade asked, too close to his right ear.
“No,” came the woosh of a word; he’d had a fine morning, John wouldn’t have it end with a police escort home. “I just… must have, hm, I’m fine.”
“You’re sure,” the D.I. asked once more as a cab rolled to a stop in front of them.
John forced himself to standing and said, rather too forcefully, “Greg, I’ll be alright.”
Holding up his free hand in surrender, he then moved forward and opened the door for John; the doctor slumped in hard and Lestrade leaned in briefly. “He’s just a tad off this evening, I’m a cop, he’s fine. Going to Baker Street. Two-twenty one,” Lestrade instructed and pulled back and held out his hand to John who shook it weakly. “Feel better, yeah?”
Lestrade stood back and gently closed the door, watching as the taxi pulled out into traffic. With a wave, he turned back to the pub; if he’d waited a moment more, he would have seen the cab pull up to a red light and a young woman open the passenger’s side door and slip in.
“Oh, it’s so good to see you!” she said, voice upbeat, bubbly, holding no trace of malice or ill will. It still turned John’s stomach, twisting the organ into a tight knot of fear. “Happy that Greg got you into a cab, saw you stumbling around there for a bit.”
John’s shook his head, trying to see through the cobwebs that threatened his vision. This wasn’t happening, this couldn’t be happening. His tongue was thick and heavy but he managed to speak one word, accusing, “Venessa.”
The woman sighed, pursed her lips and then smiled wide. “Sure,” she said, crossing her legs on the bench across from him. “Something like that.”
“Shit,” John swore feebly just as she looked over her shoulder at the cabbie and told him not to worry.
“Old friends he and I, you can keep going,” she continued. “Good of the Detective Inspector to pour him into a cab, but foolish not to accompany him to assure he got home safely.” There was a twinge there in her voice, something deep and dangerous and John shivered, body slipping down just slightly in the seat as he lost control of his faculties. “Glad I saw him get in here or else you would have had a fine time trying to get him out, eh?”
The driver paid them absolutely no mind.
She turned back and winked at him, he could just make out her face; she was pretty and unassuming and he likely wouldn’t have looked at her twice if he’d seen her in a crowd. “Just a little flunitrazepam,” she mentioned conspiratorily, as if the cabbie was even paying attention to them, yapping away in Russian on his bluetooth. “And I do mean a little, didn’t want to knock you out.”
John struggled to sit up or kick out or shout but all he managed was a choked little, “no.”
“Don’t worry, I didn’t incapacitate you to have my way with you,” she leaned forward in the seat, not touching him but getting close enough so that he could feel her breath tickling his face. “I just wanted to breathe you in, John. Just wanted a nice little moment to ourselves.”
John felt his stomach bottom out and a wave of nausea pass over him at hearing her words; he was trapped, right in the middle of London, in the middle of millions of people, he was trapped and alone in this cab with a psycho. “Wha-” he tried, finding his tongue too thick, throat too constricted with bile.
Venessa laughed, light and airy and the sound of it was like a frigid slap to his face. “You must know what a fan I am; you’re the better part of the duo you know. We all think so, well… me more than others, and I just thought you’d want to know of my appreciation. In full.” This time she did dare to touch, reaching out to pat his knee in a manner he assumed she meant to be comforting.
His skin crawled.
As though burned, John recoiled, all of his remaining energy fueling the backwards jerk. Venessa’s eyes flashed and she pulled slowly away, crossing her arms over her chest. “Uhm, right. So, you block me from the blog, send me that terrible email and now you’re not even wearing the scarf,” her voice was low and even but her lips were curled predatorily. “That’s not the kind of man you are, John Watson.”
And John knew, in the hazy recesses of his mind, even as his vision blurred to grey, narrowed to a pinpoint and then refocused, he knew what she was about to say. “This is Sherlock Holmes’s doing, he’s changed you. You’re not this callous man, not really!” Her hand was back on his knee, caressing now and John could only manage a weak loll of his head against the seat.
“No,” she whispered, and the endearing tone had him violently retching in his throat once, twice. “The man I fell in love with is caring and sweet, hard and courageous and has such a way with words.”
“You, you…” he stuttered, ground his feet into the floor of the cab.
“Oh honey, you just relax now, you’re having a bad day. Just sit back and let me look at you.” Her voice was fraught with wonder and she opened her knees, resting her elbows atop them and just gazed at John. “That scarf would look so good with your eyes,” she cooed, slid forward on the bench seat and stared adoringly at John.
Venessa reached out a hand and sickeningly, ran a perfectly-manicured fingernail just around the shell of his ear. “Beautiful man, no one has touched you in ages, I’ll bet,” she crooned breathily and with a hard bite at her bottom lip, wiggled back hard into her seat. “I won’t,” she swore. “Not like this.”
She pressed herself back as though there were some sort of resistance heaving itself into her chest, but John realized dimly, from the wicked light in her eyes, that she was forcing herself to hold back from touching him. He needed to get away from her, out of the cab, and now. They took a sharp left but he was too far gone to estimate how far they’d traveled or where they were; he wasn’t likely to survive a tumble from a speeding vehicle, especially given the state in which he was.
The only thing he could rely on at the moment was that this woman apparently didn’t want to hurt him; she was seemingly playing by her own set of skewed morals, saw him as something sullied only by Sherlock, something to which she wanted to restore the lustre. He was the object of her obsession, something precious and wonderful and hers. Jesus christ, to this woman John was perfect, and if he shut up and didn’t anger her, maybe he’d make it back to Baker Street before he passed out.
He knew he’d been roofied, that much was clear from the way his head swam and vision pulled, his eyelids feeling like leaden curtains about to fall closed. If he could just remain conscious until they got to the flat…
Venessa watched him hawkishly, swayed with the movements of the cab and after a time, her hesitant frown slid into a coy half-smile. With a quick jerk of a movement she leaned forward and very slowly, very intently, turned her head from side to side. “I know how these drugs work,” she giggled again. “Of course, and I want you to remember me.”
She did it again, turning her face from left to right and back. “Focus here. Remember me, John. I want you to. I want you to think about me.”
John managed to keep his eyes trained on her face, both to please her and keep her complacent but also to attempt to be able to recall her later on. He knew too the amnesiatic effects of flunitrazepam and wanted to do all that he could to combat that symptom in particular. He wanted to remember the way her voice sounded and if she gave anything of herself away.
“Good,” she urged, turning her head back and forth, back and forth; a shiver ran down John’s spine as Venessa bared her teeth and grinned. God, this woman was terrifying; so easily could she pass for normal, so easily might he have overlooked her in a lineup or a crowd. She was just so plain and meek in appearance, a classic wolf in sheep’s clothing.
She blinked and softened her grin into a pleased little smile. “Good job, John. Very good. We’re just here now.”
Venessa turned and spoke to the driver and then hopped out of the vehicle. John thought he might be left to his own devices with the cabbie but then his door was opening and just as he listed to the right, there was an arm there to catch him. It was strong and hard and John thought for a moment that it was Sherlock come to save him.
But it was her, and she was rather competently pulling all of his twelve stone out of the vehicle and directing him across the pavement. Wolf in sheep’s clothing indeed.
“Okay,” she singsonged as she let him slump down hard onto the pavement. “Heavier than I expected but there we are.” She gave a sweet little wave to the cabbie and he drove off into the London night, never the wiser that he was privy to an abduction.
“Shall we end the evening with a goodnight kiss?” she asked and then laughed hard at herself, tipping her face to the sky. “Oh, I’m kidding, look at me, I’m giddy.” Venessa patted herself twice on her thighs with her gloved hands and then sighed happily, looking down on John. “Now, I don’t want you to spend the evening out here, god knows your flatmate wouldn’t miss you, right?”
She stepped up and patted him gently on the head and John had never so wished he had his wits about him; just her touch sickened him to the core. After a moment’s caress, she disengaged and he lost sight of her.
John twisted his head with such effort and caught sight of her, just to his left. “Ding-dong-ditch,” she said gleefully and bounced up to the door, pressed the buzzer. “You take care now, darling, don’t let Sherlock take advantage of you in this state like I know he’ll want to.” With that she skipped off across the street, down the pavement and around the corner.
John’s head lolled to the side, supported by the void in between the beams of the fencing, and willed his legs to work. They flailed against the ground but he couldn’t force his knees to bend upward. Palms against the concrete, he pressed to no avail and with a defeated sigh, realized vaguely that his last hope was Sherlock actually leaving the sofa and answering the buzzing at the door.
A moment later and the creak of the front door, heavy wood pulling against hinges, announced Sherlock’s presence. There was one beat more before he discovered John propped against the safety fence around the steps to 221C. “John!” he called and hurried across the pavement, feet bare against the cold, rough concrete.
Sherlock crouched down hard, patellas smacking off of the unforgiving ground as he bracketed John’s face with his hands. “Are you alright?”
John managed a blink and to raise a brow, but shook his head in the negative.
“God,” Sherlock muttered and shoved his hands beneath John’s arms, grunting as he heaved him to standing. “Can you walk? Can you-” First one foot and then the other flattened out enough for Sherlock to half-pull John to the front stoop.
Sherlock shouldered John’s right arm higher around his neck and pulled him the short distance up and through the doorframe.
“Here, she-” John managed, wetly, into Sherlock’s neck, before his head lolled back against the detective’s shoulders and he blacked out.
When John came to, it was still dark outside and the scent of lemon verbena lingered in the air. He peeked an eye gingerly open, acclimating himself to his surroundings, and was only vaguely surprised to note that he was in Mrs. Hudson’s living room. John shifted his head slightly and felt a dull throb there, attempted to open his mouth but his tongue was seemingly glued to his upper teeth.
Behind him was movement; a warm hand came forth to settle in the center of his chest. He knew it couldn’t have been Venessa, as he vaguely recalled speaking to Sherlock, recalled that being the last thing he did before losing consciousness, but still, he started in panic.
“John,” the deep rumble came from behind him, Sherlock’s chest vibrating against his back. “You’re here and you’re safe but unfortunately I must ask you right now for everything that you remember of the evening.”
John sucked in a little breath and managed to work his tongue free. “Water,” he rasped and after some shifting from behind, a glass appeared from over his left shoulder. John took with with a shaky hand and emptied the glass in five strong gulps; his stomach rebelled at the sudden expansion and he sank back onto the pillow of Sherlock’s right bicep, water glass thunking, empty, on the high pile rug beneath.
“Was with Lestrade, went to the loo came back maybe three minutes later. Finished my pint,” John inhaled, coughed, continued. “Started feeling strange after a bit, twenty minutes maybe? Initially thought it was the coffee and that I hadn’t eaten since the morning, but then Lestrade put me in the cab.”
“Was she already inside?” Sherlock asked darkly, hitching his left arm over John’s bicep and holding him.
“No, we pulled up to a light and she got in. Was watching me, obviously. I think she… said she didn’t want to hurt me? Something about smelling me.”
John shivered violently and even as he snuggled back instinctively into Sherlock, Sherlock pulled John into him with an arm around his waist. “She wanted me to look at her face, wanted me to remember her. She must, Christ, she must know that we can’t touch her.”
“Couldn’t,” Sherlock corrected, nestling his chin down against John’s shoulder.
“She administered an illegal substance to you without your knowledge. Up until now we wouldn’t be able to have her held on anything, but as soon as you’re feeling the need we’ll get a urine sample to test and in the morning, track down that cab. I’ve already called Lestrade and… dealt with him.”
“It’s not his-”
“No,” Sherlock said quietly, and John felt Sherlock’s lips on the back of his neck. “I’ve given him all of the information we have. It’s… we must deal with this very delicately.”
“You’re saying we should go through the proper channels?”
“I don’t want to risk her getting away with this.” Sherlock sniffed and shifted away from John, levering himself up and somehow gracefully stepping over John, off of the sofa. “In this case, the more Lestrade is aware of the situation, the better.”
John took a deep breath and nodded, pleased that Sherlock was somehow managing to remain calm and in control of his rage. He knew what the detective looked like when he was on the verge of losing his cool, the light in his eyes gave him away immediately, and if the current hue of his irises was any indication, Sherlock was very close to becoming an inferno of righteous anger. Pressing his face harder into the embroidered pillow beneath him, John watched as Sherlock slowly paced into the kitchen and back, biscuit in hand.
“How do you feel? That should have been the first thing I asked. That should have been-”
John licked his lips and with a gentle hand to Sherlock’s thigh, managed to halt his speech. “Sherlock, you knew I was fine, otherwise you wouldn’t have kept me here on the sofa. If I was in real danger you would have had me at hospital… and I’m fine. She’s not… she doesn’t want to hurt me-”
“No,” Sherlock spat. “She wants you.”
John frowned. “Well. Yes.”
“She does not understand that she cannot have you, you are mine and I haven’t even had you yet!” Sherlock spoke, frustrated, hands in his hair, body outlined in the dim light that filtered in through the windows of Mrs. Hudson’s sitting room.
John rolled further onto his back, the better to look at Sherlock, and gaped.
It was a few quiet moments before Sherlock glanced down at him, lips moving, though emitting no sound. “I, oh, you know what I mean.”
“Do I?” John said, amusement laced the question.
“I do believe we both understand that if this is to be a proper relationship, as we have agreed that it would be alright to spend the rest of our days together…” Sherlock was mocking him now. “That sexual intercourse will be entering into the equation at some point in the not too distant future.”
John huffed in surprise, partly in sudden arousal but mostly due to Sherlock’s deadpan approach. “Listen-” John began but was cut off by Sherlock shoving the biscuit in his face.
“Eat the biscuit.”
“I’m not a dog!” John bit out, quietly, assuming that Mrs. Hudson was asleep a few rooms over. Still, his stomach rumbled at the prospect of food.
“See, you’re hungry. Eat it,” he waved it once more for effect and John snatched it up, scarfing it down, annoyance evident. “There’s soup upstairs, you’ll eat some of that as well.”
“Soup, I- wait, you don’t tell me what to eat and when to eat-”
“Why not? You tell me what to eat and when to eat, and you’re hungry. And! Mrs. Hudson made it especially for you. Apparently any and all traumatic events call for either biscuits or soup, or in your case, both.”
“Oh,” John said, finally sitting up on the couch, his back and limbs protesting as he did. His head swam only the slightest bit, and he held his hands out in front of him to steady himself. “That was sweet of her.”
“I had mentioned that it was my intent to make soup,” Sherlock plucked at invisible strands of thread on his shirt. “She was rather certain I couldn’t manage it.”
Standing, John tried very hard not to allow the grin he felt to creep onto his face, but it was of no use.
“What?” Sherlock demanded.
“Nothing,” John tried for innocent. “I just think it’s sweet is all, you wanting to make me soup.”
Sherlock jostled him gently out of the way and led him through the hall to the front door. “Oh, shut up.” Once in the hallway Sherlock assured that the door was locked and they mounted the steps, climbing up to their flat in silence.
John toed off his shoes just inside the door, feeling suddenly rather tired and sore. He recalled Sherlock heaving him up off of the pavement and felt the strain there, bringing a hand up to massage his bicep. Sherlock hung their coats up on their hooks and bent to undo his own shoes, placing them neatly side by side just next to the sofa.
There was a bit of shuffling as Sherlock disappeared into the darkness of the kitchen. “I was worried,” Sherlock said out of nowhere, turning on the light and moving over to the stove, his back to John.
“What?” John asked, sinking into their sofa with a grateful sigh.
“When I got your text, I…” John could barely see Sherlock tinkering about, but he could feel the tension even from where he sat. “Your text, saying you were going out, I was worried and I felt…”
John waited; Sherlock parsing out his feelings was a rare sight to be seen and he didn’t want to disrupt whatever thoughts were percolating. “Would it have happened if I were there with you? Would it… I wanted to text back and didn’t because it seemed too sentimental, too… overbearing and sickeningly affectionate and so I didn’t.”
“Sherlock,” John began but wasn’t sure what to say. Sherlock had shared something terribly intimate with him and he appreciated it for what it was, Sherlock caring.
“You are a tremendous disadvantage,” Sherlock said and turned to him, one hand on the spoon in the soup, stirring.
“Oh, well, sorry,” John’s lips twisted, feeling the affection that was welling up in his chest evacuate him just as quickly.
“No, I… you know what I mean. Please do not misunderstand me, because… I accept that. And I want… that. You. It’s all rather, well.” There was a pause and in the next beat, Sherlock put his face in his hands and stood over the hob.
“For all of the sense you’re making,” came John’s slow, warm reply, “you’re not making any sense at all.”
Sherlock smiled sadly and stirred the soup again, turning off the burner. “The soup is ready,” he said quietly, shifting to search the cupboard for a bowl. “And I’d like it if you stayed with me this evening.” Sherlock spoke very formally, very stiffly. His body was rigid, face turned steadfastly away from an approaching John.
“In my bed,” he finished quietly, hands gripping the counter too hard.
John smiled to himself and walked up to Sherlock, winding a gentle arm around his waist, standing at his side. “That’d be alright.”
“Yeah,” John confirmed quietly. “That’d be good. And I’d like it.”
John felt the tension drain from Sherlock’s body and he moved to fill John’s bowl with a few steaming ladlefuls. “Good. Good, now, eat this and fill this cup,” he pulled a sterile specimen jar from his left and placed is on the worktop. “With urine.”
John huffed a single, deep laugh. “Eat dinner, piss into a cup and come to bed.”
“Problem?” Sherlock asked.
“There probably should be but no… no, not a one.”
Sherlock’s bed was just as vast and plush as John remembered. He lay in the center of it, legs spread towards the end, listening as Sherlock puttered about in the bathroom getting ready to settle in. John sighed out a long, slow breath and then turned his nose into the pillow beneath him. It was Sherlock here, concentrated, and he spent the minutes waiting for Sherlock to come in trying to break down the individual components of the scent.
Tobacco and clean cotton, and earthy, grassy notes warring with something spicier. John ran the tip of his nose against the pillowcase before pulling away to ponder the scent.
The light in the bathroom was shut off, plunging the bedroom into darkness; John’s eyes adjusted, making out the edges of the room’s furniture in the muted gray light that managed to bully its way through Sherlock’s curtains. There was a flutter of nerves that thrilled through John; he took a deep swallow and pressed his body into the bed, willing them away.
With a sniffle and a little grunt, Sherlock slid onto the bed, pulling the covers up to his chest as he clung to the edge of the mattress. “John…”
John blinked in the darkness, tipping his body slightly back into Sherlock. “Yeah?”
“I’m going to…” Sherlock began, and then shuffled effortlessly over to meet John’s back with his chest. Resting his tongue against his upper lip, John fought back the rush of affectionate laughter that bubbled in his chest. Here he was, in Sherlock’s bed, and the man was hesitant about touching.
In an effort to release some of the pressure in his chest, John smiled and ever so gently shifted his shoulders and hips back into Sherlock’s body. The heat he found there was slightly startling and John guessed that he’d come to bed shirtless. The notion caused another little affectionate thrill to light up his nerves. “Alright,” John murmured and watched as a long fingered hand slipped over his arm to tickle the sheet before him. John’s hand longed to reach out and twine with Sherlock’s; he knew that there was a reason behind it, but at the moment it felt like a compulsion, like a craving. Something held John back, and he managed to nudge Sherlock’s wrist with his naked elbow.
A warm palm cupped John’s skin and it thrilled through him. “John.”
“Yes?” John tentatively questioned and waited. He breathed in the room, the bed, the man behind him. It took a bit of effort to tamp down on the twisting, shocking sense of apprehension that coiled in the very pit of him.
When he spoke, it sounded as though it was coming from just over the crest of John’s ear. It was unsettling in the nicest way and it had John’s imagination struggling to bolt from the gate.
When Sherlock spoke again, his nose nudged the warm skin just behind John’s ear. “You will be able to sleep here, yes?”
“We’ll see,” John hummed even as he felt the slippery tendrils of drowsiness weigh on his eyelids.
There was a long pause and he could feel Sherlock tense up behind him. “Alright. Goodnight, John.”
John yawned deeply and shoved his left hand underneath the pillow he’d claimed. “Night.”
Upon waking the next morning, John found he was in the exact same position as he’d been the night previous. Resting on his left side with Sherlock behind him. Sherlock, however, had somehow managed to wriggled his way up on the bed and had John’s head tucked beneath his chin. Sherlock’s palm rested just below John’s throat, three fingers lingering in the hollow there.
His right foot was tucked in between John’s knees and John found himself shocked that he hadn’t woken up when Sherlock had maneuvered there. He gave himself a moment to acclimate to the room; he was warm, bordering on hot, and if he didn’t manage to get the duvet off of his stomach he would become overheated. As gently as possible, he pushed the heavy blanket down until it was at his hips.
He cracked his knuckles and strove not to nestle backwards and disturb Sherlock. He settled and stared at the far wall, estimating the time of the morning and wondering exactly why he wasn’t finding any issue at all with this. The jitters were there, the normal jitters that he generally got when he slept with someone for the first time.
Sherlock snuffled in his sleep and gathered John up a bit more, still holding him loosely but possessively. John swallowed and experimentally pressed his knee down into Sherlock’s leg; Sherlock murmured something into John’s hair and huffed out a humid breath into his scalp.
John grinned and felt the urge to chuckle. Instead, he allowed his muscles to relax and his bones to settle. he allowed himself to have a bit of a lie in with Sherlock, whether Sherlock knew it or not.
As the light intensified, the sun finally making its presence known in the sky, John began picking up on details of Sherlock’s bedroom that he’d never really paid much attention to before. The intricacy of the wallpaper and the heavy solidity of the floor lamp. There was light filigree work on the dresser, underneath which rested a forlorn latex glove. John wondered idly how long it had been there.
His eyes flitted here and there, his hands pressing down into the bedding and wondering why Sherlock had chosen the color of his sheets and what thread count they were. It was easy to slip back into a light doze, sniffling himself gently awake only to fall back to sleep again.
When he awake fully the next time, the shadows spilled long on the floor; sun caught a cobweb clinging to the distant corner of the room. A large yawn caused him to stretch his upper body and the movement had Sherlock’s fingertips pressing into the warm skin of his belly. It was all rather nice, easy and quiet and lovely, the sort of morning he would often long for..
It felt intimate and stirring and John couldn’t help but wonder what Sherlock would think of all of this, of the very obvious cuddling, of the manner in which he was snuggling into John. There was no way he could prepare himself for what Sherlock would do once he awoke and so he simply slid his fingertips beneath Sherlock’s limp hand and allowed himself to feel Sherlock sleeping, unperturbed, unencumbered.
John wished desperately to turn and see Sherlock’s face at rest, asleep in his own bed; he longed to discover what Sherlock looked like while holding him, if it was any different from the way he looked when he crashed out on the sofa. It was startling to realize that he’d soon have that chance and the same, strange thrill he’d felt the night before reignited in his veins.
“I’m awake,” Sherlock said out of nowhere and John startled greatly in his arms. In response to John’s jumpiness, the detective twined his arms strongly around his body and pulled him into his chest. Eyes closed, John enjoyed the sensation of Sherlock’s naked skin against the flimsy vest covering his back. “Good morning.”
“Mmm, yeah,” John mumbled, pulse finally slowing enough for him to relax back. “Maybe not with the scaring the hell out of me this early in the morning.”
“That,” Sherlock said, and in a rather salacious move, stretched his body out, his groin flush with John’s behind. “Was not my intent. My intent was to let you know that I was indeed conscious and that you should cease in your thoughts and…”
“Pay attention to you?” John asked, sarcasm laced thoroughly in his voice.
“Shut up,” Sherlock grumbled, but nuzzled his nose into John’s neck all the same. “You’re rather warm, you know. It appears you run hot. I need to remember this if you’re ever ill.” John had no idea what to say that to and so he said nothing, acquainting himself with what it was like to simply lounge about in bed with someone he’d been wanting to do just that with for some time.
John’s fingers shifted so that his fingertips were flush with Sherlock’s fingertips; he watched on as Sherlock slid his digits slowly down alongside John’s, clenching vaguely. “This alright?” John asked quietly, feeling so content he was nearly certain that he’d gone a bit boneless.
“Why wouldn’t it be?” There was a gaping roar and a rush of breath against John’s skin and Sherlock twisted his hips as he yawned.
John didn’t answer, simply allowed his right shoulder to fall back into Sherlock’s chest and he ended up on his back, nestled into Sherlock’s underarm and sternum. “Oh, I don’t know.”
Sherlock peered down at him, eyes narrowing as he regarded him. “Your breath is horrible,” he murmured lowly, leaning in to smush his nose against John’s very briefly.
“Yep. Not surprising.”
Sherlock’s eyes narrowed further. “Right,” he said and then leaned in and slanted his mouth against John’s, who accepted the kiss with a surprised little “Oomph!” Sherlock kissed lazily, sliding his thumb gently over John’s shoulder, pressing him down into the mattress, his body draped heavily over John’s.
It was all a bit messy; Sherlock was still waking up and John was so warm and pliant that he couldn’t actually manage to put any real force behind any of his movements. Sherlock trailed off, smearing his lips at the corner of John’s mouth and then falling back like a rag doll against his pillow.
“Not a problem, then,” John mumbled. He supposed he should have expected Sherlock to be rather casual about the less pristine aspects of relationships; he did keep goat kidneys in the crisper, after all. A bit of morning breath wouldn’t phase a man like that.
“Tea,” Sherlock drawled, placing a large, hot palm on John’s stomach.
“You’re asking?” John speculated, Sherlock’s affections rendering him much more susceptible to agreeing.
Sherlock drummed his fingers once over John’s abdomen and added rather belatedly, “Please?”
“Ah, there it is.” And with that, John rolled out of bed and set out to make them tea.
Sherlock was in the sitting room still in his pajama bottoms, typing furiously on his laptop while John finally got around to going through all of the cupboards and getting rid of the items that were past their prime. Sherlock had informed him that he was going to contact various taxi establishments and inquire after their fares. When John brought up the obvious point that he had no authority, Sherlock had simply invoked Lestrade’s name and position, “I do have the man’s badge number. Though even if I didn’t, if I presented a fake badge number they’d probably relent all the same. People are notoriously simple and predictable.”
He’d been making calls for the better part of three hours, with each passing conversation becoming more and more irate towards the person on the other end of the line. John was actually shocked that he’d managed to be civil up to that point, meticulously typing away in a spreadsheet at the conclusion of each call.
“You’re a positively wretched waste of time, thank you!” Sherlock shouted and then tossed his iPhone down on the table and sunk his hands into his hair. “Tedious,” he drawled and then perked up, back ramrod straight. “Stop staring at me.”
John licked his lips, went to turn away and remembered that this was something he could look at now, unabashedly. The whole ‘eventually having sex’ and ‘being together until the end’ meant that he was allowed a bit of ogling of the goods. It was rather a shame if he didn’t, frankly. “Right, uhm, no?”
Sherlock plucked his hands from his scalp and pressed them down onto the table, staring at John hawkishly. “What? What is it?”
“Just you, without the shirt,” John waved at him with a two-year-old packet of crisps. “Bit distracting.”
Sherlock blinked down at his bare chest and then back up at John. “Oh. Right.” He paused and then decided, “Good.”
“Yeah,” John laughed, turning back to the cupboard he was working on. “Good.”
Sherlock blinked a few times more in John’s general direction and then scooped up his phone once more, leaning into the laptop to retrieve another number and resuming his calling, choosing to pace back and forth across the room as he did so. John wondered if Sherlock was doing it for his benefit and finding that he didn’t much care, leaned back against the countertop to watch his flatmate’s arse as it moved beneath the thin pajama bottoms.
To think how close he’d been to that particular arse not five hours ago…
“You’re doing that on purpose,” John accused, turning back to the task at hand.
Sherlock pivoted in his direction and held a hand up to the mouthpiece of his mobile. “John, please don’t be childish, I’m on a call...” He held up and waggled the phone in John’s direction for effect. He went back to his call, walking from the hearth to the door and back. John did his level best not to be distracted by the gloriously naked torso that was on display. He busied himself with attempting to recollect the exact moment that he’d begun thinking of Sherlock’s body as something he desired; he tried to recall when he’d begun finding the male form as something that was appealing to him.
His thoughts unraveled to thoughts of just what Sherlock did to keep his upper body in such fantastic shape, images of Sherlock swimming, cutting through still water while his back worked. “You’re a damned tease,” he muttered under his breath as Sherlock continued to shout at whomever he was speaking with.
John was attempting to read the expiration date on a jar of olives when a triumphant noise startled him so greatly that he knocked his head off of the top of the cupboard.
“Finally!” Sherlock groaned and slipped his hand into his pocket and strode into the kitchen, grabbing John by the biceps and forcing him to stand. “Xeta cabs has a record of a cab from the pub to Baker Street at the time of your… sojourn. We’ll go there straightaway.”
“He wouldn’t give me the name of the driver but once there we can-”
“Ascertain that easy enough-”
John shook off Sherlock’s hands and bracketed his hands on his hips and raised his voice to the appropriate level with which to talk over Sherlock. “We need to call Lestrade!” He leaned in and grabbed Sherlock’s biceps in a direct mirror of how he was previously being held.
“Ah.” Sherlock paused in his diatribe and grabbed John’s hips. “Yes. Yes!” And with that, he pressed his mouth to John’s in an elated kiss. “Yes, we’ll call Lestrade and go over there right now!”
Sherlock spun away, leaving John to process just how delightful it was to have been kissed like that.
It had only taken a bit of cajoling on John’s part to get Lestrade to make the hour long trek down to the garage. He’d even agreed to give them a lift down there if they met him at the Yard. Sherlock had ridden the Tube with a minimum amount of fanfare and John thought that he might want to reward Sherlock in some way for keeping his abrasive behavior to a minimum.
It was too easy for his mind to drift off to very inappropriate fantasies of just how he might show his gratitude; John’s cheeks flamed in embarrassment at indulging in such thoughts while questioning a potential lead and he crossed his arms tighter over his chest.
The owner was doing his best to try and weasel his way out of speaking with them. “Listen, Detective Inspector, I don’t want to get anyone into trouble here…”
Lestrade smiled his best terse smile at the owner and implored him, “Then don’t Mr. Tergsen! Just give us the name of the driver and we’ll leave you be.”
Sherlock paced behind Lestrade and John, heels clicking on the garage floor as he moved. John had made him promise to let Lestrade handle the greasing of the cab company. He’d been shockingly complacent too, managing most of his energy into tapping his fingers restlessly and now, pacing. “Sherlock,” John turned to whisper, “cool it.”
Sherlock paused only momentarily to glare, and then took up his pacing once more. John dragged a hand over his face, figuring if that was the best he was going to get, he could deal with it.
“I don’t- I would, Mr. Lestrade, it’s a matter of…” Mr. Tergesen sighed and twisted his hands. “He’s not here legally and and I can’t see what speaking with him would do. She paid for the fare in cash and aside from the video recording, there’s probably not much-”
“The video surveillance, yes!” With one hand on either man’s shoulders Sherlock burst forth, right into Mr. Tergen’s face. “We’ll have that. And now.”
“Now,” Lestrade reiterated. “If you please.”
Resigned, the man trudged off to retrieve the footage and left the three of them to wait. Sherlock still paced, while Lestrade and John spoke in quiet tones to one another. “Mate, listen, about the other day-”
“No, no, I don’t want to hear a word about it, you couldn’t have known,” John said, shaking his head vehemently. “It was, it was-”
“I’m a detective for Christ’s sake, I should have-”
John held a hand out to cut him off. “Greg, this woman is just not right in the head. Even if you’d gotten in that cab with me, even if you’d seen me home, she would have found a way.” Sherlock paused in his circuit, eyes flashing to John’s; he quickly looked to the floor. “She would have found a way.”
When Tergsen returned with the footage, Lestrade took it with thanks. They piled into Lestrade’s squad car and set back towards the city, everyone caught up in their own thoughts. “Baker Street, I take it?” Lestrade asked and at Sherlock’s affirmative grunt, there was no more speaking.
They turned onto the street and John shifted towards Lestrade. “Greg, listen I know it’s probably not protocol but it’d be really helpful if-”
Lestrade cut him abruptly off by handing him the baggie of footage. “Just… be through with it quickly, yeah?”
John let out a breath he didn’t know he’d been holding. “Yeah, yeah, that’s… thanks.”
“Well, I feel like I owe you, so.”
They said their goodbyes and climbed up to the flat, Sherlock immediately snatching the bag from John’s hand and slipping the first disc it into his laptop even as he shrugged out of his coat.
John said nothing, took his time taking off his coat and shoes, and went to the kitchen to make tea. He allowed Sherlock his space. John watched him from across the room, watched his face go from a blank mask to a darkened visage. He looked on as Sherlock’s eyes shifted from bright to frighteningly void of color, as he leaned closer and closer to the screen.
The tea was done steeping by the time Sherlock pulled back from the computer and slowly, carefully, closed the laptop. “She touched you,” he said as he made his way into the kitchen, steps paced evenly, as though he didn’t want to spook John.
“Is that all you got from the video, then?” John asked, voice wavering slightly.
Sherlock stepped right up to him, narrowed his eyes. “She likely works with computers a fair amount, her wrists and fingers make it apparent that she’s battling early carpal tunnel, so, likely our original lead that she is at university for something having to do with computers proved correct. She’s wearing a rather high-end jacket but not carrying a purse, utilitarian, likely lives close by and doesn’t have to carry her possessions with her. No rucksack so not currently coming from or going to class.”
John could feel his hot breath on his face, Sherlock’s diatribe ramping up in volume and speed. “The type of clothing and shoes - Sam Edelman, fall collection - and no job? Independently wealthy. So, independently wealthy, lives nearby, studies something having to do with computers. She lives in the areas around the The Feathers and likely goes to school there as well, so London Southbank or Westminster. Southbank has the superior technology departments, so most likely there. Lambeth North is a short ride away on the Bakerloo Line; I’m sure that tickles her. But back to the fact at hand, that she touched you.”
“It’s…” John was a bit breathless from the rapid-fire deduction this close; he took a moment to catch his breath. “It wasn’t, it wasn’t anything, it was nothing.”
“No, John, the way…” Sherlock leaned into him, one strong hand around the back of John’s neck. “She put her hands on you, her hands, it’s. It is…”
“Touch me, then,” John invited, moving to take Sherlock’s hand to place it at the gap in his shirt. His heart thumped hard against his ribs and he swallowed the rush of nervous emotion that surged through him.
Sherlock gazed at him in wonder, in lust, fingers pressing greedily into the skin beneath. “John…”
“Sherlock,” John said, voice low and serious, eyes alight with expectation. “Touch me.”
Hesitant; John would never in a million years think that Sherlock Holmes would be hesitant about anything. He was generally one to jump in with both feet, heedless of danger, oblivious to the consequences. But now, Sherlock’s hand trembled as though he was unsure, as though it was all too much, touching John.
The rough pads of his fingers lingered on John’s sternum and John waited, patient, getting acclimated to the scorch of those fingers pressed into his skin, the pure pleasure of it. “John,” Sherlock croaked, sounding parched, wanton, lost to it all.
“It’s alright,” John’s fingers trailed over the back of Sherlock’s hand where it lingered; he took a deep breath, filling his lungs before allowing it shakily out. “I’m here, you can have anything just… take your time. I’m here.”
“Yes, I know you’re here,” Sherlock nearly snapped but his eyes were still soft, still liquid as the back of his fore and middle finger pressed against the pulse at his throat. “I want to…” Sherlock murmured and leaned in, lips ghosting over John’s jaw so delicately that it nearly tickled, that it felt imagined. “I want to,” he said again and then laid his tongue where his fingers had just rested, tasting John’s pulse.
There was a heady rush and John closed his eyes, blew a quick breath out through his nose and willed his body to relax.
“You’ve never,” Sherlock’s voice reverberated against John’s skin and it was so delicious he had to remind his knees to support his weight.
“No,” John confirmed, voice just shy of breathy.
Sherlock stood back, met John’s gaze at his level and stated very calmly, purposefully. “But you want to.”
“Of course,” his voice was warm and low and so suffused with affection that it nearly choked him. “Of course I want to with you.” His fingers moved to twine in the hair at Sherlock’s nape and John brought their mouths together. John somehow found the strength to utter, “You complete twit, I’m head over heels for you,” against the sweet bow of Sherlock’s lips before slipping his tongue just inside.
Sherlock gathered John up in the circle of his arms, pressing their chests together so tightly that John had to torque his neck to keep their mouths against one another. It was sloppy and slightly desperate, the way Sherlock took charge of the kiss, angling John’s head just so. Sherlock took a small step backward, putting space between their torsos, and his hands immediately began working at the lower buttons of John’s shirt.
His coordination was a bit off, which John found endearing, his hands would slow as his mouth suckled and nipped and his lips would relax against John’s when he worked at each new button. It seemed even Sherlock’s brain became sluggish when steeped in lust.
Lips met cheeks and cheekbones, Sherlock’s bumped off of John’s nose once and he pulled back with a surprised chuckle, only to meet John’s lips once more with ardor. John rucked Sherlock’s shirt up and slid his hands beneath, palming over his lower back greedily, finding the heat and texture of his skin an addiction.
Sherlock pressed his mouth to John’s earlobe and then trailed down, lip dragging against the jawline, against the stubble.
“My bedroom, my bed,” Sherlock gasped, slinging his arms low around John’s hips and walking him backwards. “Your smell in my bed,” Sherlock growled into his ear, shuffling them back, back. “Your smell, need more of it.”
John licked his lips and tilted his head back; he couldn’t seem to find the energy to make his limbs work properly. “Possessive.”
“As though there were ever any doubt,” his voice was colored with amusement as they crossed the threshold into the room, Sherlock maneuvering just so to allow himself to both kick the door shut and clutch at John’s arse.
“This,” Sherlock mentioned as he claimed John’s mouth in a deep, filthy kiss, “will go much faster if you’d take off your clothes,” he continued against John’s mouth and then took his bottom lip between his teeth and tugged gently.
John’s head fell forward, their foreheads knocking together. “You know, you’re remarkably good at this.”
“I’m good at everything,” Sherlock assured, unfastening the button on his trousers.
John sighed lazily when Sherlock’s fingertips slid just below the elastic of his pants. “Show,” he sighed inwardly, smiled and peeled open his eyes, “off.”
“Hmmm,” Sherlock hummed in agreement and licked back into John’s mouth. “Everything, off, now.”
“Jesus.” John did as asked, the fog of arousal dampening the swell of embarrassment that had threatened to crop up. Sherlock stood back and watched, positively focused as he always was. Now, his full attention was trained on John’s naked skin and John swore he could feel that gaze on his body, liquid and warm.
Sherlock divested himself of his shirt with ease, leaving the pale expanse of his torso gleaming in the dusky, late-afternoon light. John looked at him for a brief time, appreciating the strong lines and prominent muscle, felt the thrill of anticipation upon glancing the light smattering of fine art that disappeared below his waistband.
When John was stripped to his pants, Sherlock stepped up to him and slid his hands around and back, palms sliding down to cup the warm curve of John’s arse beneath his pants.
“On second thought,” Sherlock glanced down between them, at John’s straining boxer briefs. “Seeing you like this, needy and restricted that,” his teeth nipped at John’s ear, “s’quite lovely.”
John tilted his head and leaned into Sherlock, sinking his teeth into Sherlock’s shoulder; his tongue touched there, lapped at the taste. If he thought kissing Sherlock had been intense, the taste of his skin rivalled it equally. His mouth slipped over the curve of Sherlock’s shoulder and then lingered at the base of his throat, and he rested his tongue in the hollow. It was an easy from there to trail up over his jaw and back to his lips. “God,” he said hotly at Sherlock’s cheek. “God.
Sherlock’s fingers squeezed into John’s arse, a forefinger slipping in between his cheeks, pressing against the skin. “I want to do things to you, John,” his voice was low but somehow came out as a whine; the sound hit John in the solar plexus, stopped the breath in his chest. “Lie back on the bed, please.”
He sank down onto the bed, and Sherlock, in a maneuver that John would never have imagined possible, climbed onto the bottom of the bed and stalked up to him on all fours. John’s hand strayed down to his erection and he palmed it greedily, the sight of Sherlock slithering up to him far too erotic. The way his arse moved beneath his trousers, his back muscles shifting and pulling.
“Jesus, you’re not real,” John cursed and held his free hand out to knead at Sherlock’s shoulder.
“On the contrary,” came his reply, and Sherlock ducked his head to suck a bruising kiss into John’s inner thigh. “I-” a hand clamped over John’s other thigh, “-am very real.”
Sherlock replaced John’s hand with his own, squeezing John’s cock possessively through his pants. John watched on as Sherlock pressed his tongue to the corner of his open mouth and grinned. A moment later his prick was engulfed in a humid heat, Sherlock mouth lapping over the cotton, warm breath diffusing through the fabric to tease his cock.
John’s fingertips skated over Sherlock’s skull gently, as the man’s nose pressed down into either side of John’s prick, mouth sucking and nipping at the damp fabric. His hips shivered and he tried to remain still but his body took over, pressing up into the delicious heat of Sherlock’s nimble mouth.
Sherlock had distracted him; he’d closed his eyes against the magnificent sight of the man going down on him, and so it came as a surprise when he felt wet suction against his cockhead. Peeking an eye open even as all of the breath left his chest in a rush of arousal he could make out the flushed head of his prick, trapped just outside his pants, Sherlock lapping at him delicately.
John swore he could feel himself throb at the contact and nearly sobbed when Sherlock worked his pants off and took his cock into his mouth. John’s right leg was flat on the bed, the left levered up, and Sherlock hooked his arms under John’s legs so his arse was further down on the bed.
Humming in approval, Sherlock slurped off of his cock and pressed his tongue against John’s bollocks briefly before returning to John’s dick, sucking and working him right to the edge of orgasm before easing off. John sobbed his approval, his need, his desperation.
He pulled away with a gasping breath of air and laid his cheek against John’s thigh for one, long moment. John could feel him breathing there and sifted his fingers through Sherlock’s curls as he waited.
Sherlock shifted after a moment, palms moving to splay just below John’s pectorals.“Reach into the drawer there at your left,” Sherlock said and his lips pressed to the underside of John’s prick. John’s hand flailed out and yanked at the drawer, the wood thunking as it reached its limit. Inside, his fingers closed around a smooth tube and John pulled it out without bothering to close the drawer again. “Ah yes, good, John,” Sherlock said against him and John whined with the pure sweet sensation of it.
John sucked deep, heaving breaths into his lungs. His skin felt aflame, his body felt molten, as though he was about to burn entirely away. He’d never felt so positively bright before. Sherlock kissed a smear of precome that was low on John’s belly just as he pressed two slippery fingers down his cock, the cool gel causing a strange sensation that warred brilliantly with the heat.
Sherlock's fingers slid enticingly down the curve of John’s arse, slipping around to slick against the back of his bollocks. “John…”
“Hmmm,” his hand was thrown over his face; he could barely think.
Gentle fingertips slid over John’s perineum, rubbing there briefly before massaging at the ring of muscle just behind. Instinctively, John tensed, but then Sherlock laid sweet lips at where leg met torso. “Hmm, relax.”
“Trying,” John murmured. “Feels good.”
“I know it does,” Sherlock replied and applied a bit more pressure, rubbing at his arsehole methodically. It took him a few torturous moments, but eventually the ring of muscle relented and Sherlock slipped his index finger gently in, slicking inside of John, gentle but insistent. “Does this feel good too?”
John squirmed down against him and bit out a quick, “Yeah, strange but, yeah.”
Sherlock hummed, crooking his finger slightly, adding a second on the next twist of his wrist. “And this?”
“Oh!” John shouted just as Sherlock dragged his mouth up John’s length, slowly. “Oh, that’s-”
The two fingers moved slickly inside of John and on the third stroke pressed against his prostate. Sherlock’s mouth sealed around the head of John’s cock, his free hand working his shaft in time with the passes of his tongue. It was a glorious pleasure, feeling filled and on edge, a powder keg. John slid his legs wider on the bed, shifted his arse lower and Sherlock’s fingers sunk deeper.
John choked on the words that he wanted to shout, that Sherlock was perfect, that John felt fantastic, lit up, cherished. All he could manage was a strangled moan and he came, thick pulses over Sherlock’s tongue. Sherlock worked him through it, easing his fingers out as his sucking became gentle, sloppy laps.
Boneless, John groaned again, wanting to both curl into himself and burst at the seams. All he could manage was to peel his eyes open and watch as Sherlock levered himself up onto his knees and freed his cock from his trousers, fisting himself desperately, head thrown back, tongue against his bottom lip. John was mesmerized and wanting and just as he found the power of mobility again, Sherlock came, thick ribbons of come landing slippery and warm on John’s stomach.
John gasped at it, at the heat of it, the intimate, filthy slipperiness of it. He flailed his arm over the side of the bed in an attempt to locate a shirt, anything to clean himself up, but in the next moment, Sherlock’s hand slid across his belly, huge and possessive, smearing come up the center of John’s chest before dragging his hand back down to John’s bellybutton, swirling around it.
John had to shut his eyes as Sherlock hummed in appreciation, moving back to seat his arse against his own calves and watch as John’s prick softened and he came back to himself. “That enough?”
John blinked his eyes slowly in Sherlock’s direction. “Hm?”
“Enough touching?” Sherlock smirked and unwound himself, stretched out on the bed with his chin on John’s shoulder.
“For the immediate present, yes,” John said, turning his head so his lips nestled against Sherlock’s brow. “But not… for the foreseeable future.”
Sherlock told John he could have the first shower. “That will become uncomfortable,” he waved at the mess on John’s chest, “very soon.”
“Ta,” John returned and moved to get out of the bed, pausing when the muscles in his legs begged a weak protest. “Oh, ohhhh, that’s going to hurt tomorrow.”
Sherlock, lounging against the pillows with his head rested on the arm he’d tossed behind himself, regarded him lazily. “What?”
He pressed his hand against the back of his thigh and stretched a bit. “Haven’t used those muscles in, in years.”
Sherlock raised a brow. “Three continents Watson?”
“Nothing that… enthusiastic in years, I’m afraid.” Sherlock laughed at that and shimmied beneath the bedclothes. “So well done you.”
Sherlock grinned, looking a bit loopy. “Indeed.”
Once they’d both showered and dressed once more for the evening, Sherlock donned his coat and watched as John sat himself down at the coffee table with the morning’s paper. It took a few moments of staring for John to feel the gaze on him and he blinked up. “What?”
“What are you doing?” he asked innocently, eyes wide as he watched John relax back into the sofa.
He paused immediately upon being questioned. His response was meted, careful. “Reading the paper?”
Sherlock shook his head quickly and turned to snag his wallet off of the kitchen table.“No.”
Sherlock tugged his scarf tight around his neck. “Dinner.”
“Yes, well that’s one of those things that you usually ask instead of simply telling,” John said, even as he folded up his paper and stood. The temptation of food was too much and he nearly drifted over to his shoes and coat. “Where are we going?”
“Pizza.” Sherlock said, decisively, with a weight that allowed for no discussion.
John shrugged; he could go for Italian. They’d been eating so much sodium and soy rich food that his taste buds could do with the change. “Angelo’s?”
The scoff was audible and Sherlock’s eye roll was rather over the top. “Good pizza.”
“Angelo’s pizza is fine!”
“Fine, yes, but I want real pizza. None of that flatbread nonsense.” Sherlock’s eye flickered in delight as he spun off towards the staircase.
John hung his head, huffed out a short chuckle and said, “Jesus.”
Sherlock paused on the second step, spinning around. “What?”
“I’ve just never heard you talk about food like that.” John’s grin was a bit lopsided and he saw it mirrored on Sherlock’s face. He ambled up behind Sherlock and found them nearly the same height.
Sherlock surged up, pressing his mouth to John’s for a sizzling second and then pulled away, taking the steps down, two by two. “Shagging stimulates my appetite, it seems. I know just what I want!” he called and John nearly tumbled over the threshold, hoping to god that Mrs. Hudson hadn’t heard that.
They walked to a restaurant a few blocks away, John lost in thoughts of what it would be like to hold Sherlock’s hand in public and what a preposterous thought that was in the first place. Sherlock speculated aloud what toppings he would get, all the while coming back round to onion and feta.
Sherlock turned into the door of the restaurant so quickly that John had to stop short. “Before you ask, no I did not do any favors for the proprietors of this establishment and as such dinner will not be on the house.” John shrugged, following Sherlock and the hostess to a booth by the window.
As he spread his napkin out on his lap, Sherlock said rather delicately. “Dinner is, however, on me.”
John laughed silently, following suit with his own napkin. “Are you romancing me?”
“Do you need romancing?” Sherlock asked, eyes peeking briefly over the edge of the wine menu. “And no, though I do recall being informed that it’s good to feed one’s… partner up, sometimes.”
John grinned at that, hiding his smile behind his own menu; it was rather charming that Sherlock had remembered that. “Girlfriend, I believe I said girlfriend.”
“Come now, John, you’re all man,” he deadpanned and then broke into delighted laughter, tapping John’s foot with his own under the table once, then again.
John allowed his head to fall back and Sherlock stretched his arms wide, his right arm curling around the curve in the booth. “God, you’re flirting with me. Sherlock Holmes is flirting.”
“Hardly,” Sherlock said, briefly dragging his index finger along John’s ear before pulling away and reining himself in. “And anyway, enough of that. Where is this waiter, I’m starved.”
John ordered them a bottle of wine and then placed their order; he opted for a paccheri dish with cherry tomatoes and prawns, and Sherlock ordered a pizza that sounded positively dreadful, with aubergine, coppa, feta, garlic and spinach.
They chatted aimlessly as they sipped at their wine, waiting for their food. John wondered aloud if he should go to the dry cleaners tomorrow or wait until the end of the week, and Sherlock made mention of including his garments as well, and it very nearly devolved into an argument, when their food arrived.
Sherlock was three slices into his pizza when he sat back, polished off his glass of wine, and said as he peered into the goblet, “Tomorrow we’ll head to the university and find the identity of your- of Venessa.”
John paused mid bite and placed his fork carefully, tines down, on his plate. “Damn.”
“What?” Sherlock asked, dividing his attention between the wine he was pouring into his glass and John’s face.
“I just… she’s enough, the mention of her is enough to just ruin the whole evening,” John said, picking up his fork again, pushing the pasta around his plate.
Sherlock’s eyes narrowed and he filled John’s glass. “Only if you let it.”
Across the table, John poked mindlessly at a solitary tomato. “Yeah.”
“Don’t,” Sherlock intoned, placing his right hand on John’s knee, lifting John’s hand to the stem of his glass with the other. “Let it.” And with that, Sherlock raised his glass and waited for John to give in and raise his own in a toast.
The walk back to the flat took longer than the jaunt to the restaurant, Sherlock finding the need to clap his hand on John’s shoulder every block or so. They meandered, slightly tipsy, the backs of their hands skimming against one another’s the whole way.
It was bordering on late by the time they made it back, and Sherlock opened the door for John, waving him inside with a gallant arm. The night had been so pleasant, save for the one hiccough at dinner, and John was very glad for it. The sweet, lingering intimacy that they’d forged in the bedroom had carried over through their meal, something John found reassuring.
Upon reaching the sitting room, John hung up his coat and turned to thank Sherlock for dinner. “Can’t believe you weren’t bored.”
Sherlock’s lips perked up in a half-smile. “I know, it’s miraculous.”
“Hmmm,” John hummed and leaned in to press a kiss to his mouth; he lingered there only briefly and then pulled back with a low, “goodnight.”
John had made his way to the steps before Sherlock caught up with what was happening and spoke. “Where are you going?”
He paused with his foot on the third step. “Uhm, to, to bed?”
Sherlock crossed his arms over his chest and frowned. “No, not up there. My bed.”
John huffed and turned fully to face him; his upper body was in shadow, so he took one step down. “Jes- Sherlock. You get tired of things rather easy and I’m thinking it might be best if we-” He moved his hands in between them as though to convey that they should take things slow, put some space between them; with as swimmingly as the evening had gone, John didn’t want to push things. Sherlock ran notoriously hot and cold, and John was positive that he wouldn’t be able to handle it if Sherlock did a one-eighty right now.
He figured he would cut Sherlock off at the pass and not give him the opportunity, instead giving himself a chance to acclimate to the solitude after having such intimacy. It made sense; he didn’t expect Sherlock to change, and he could very easily imagine Sherlock needing a bit of space after having been surrounded entirely by John for the past few days.
Sherlock scoffed again, this time louder. “Preposterous. If you’re not in my bed when I’m through in the loo I’ll be coming upstairs to make sleeping in your small bed rather uncomfortable for all involved.”
With that, he brushed past John and headed to the loo, leaving John to puzzle after him.
A warm, vast cavern opened in John’s chest, tempting him to fall over the edge. It was enticing, surely, and he allowed himself to hope for a long, sweet beat, and then went to his room to retrieve his pajamas.
Sherlock was not a furnace in sleep; neither was he a cool sleeper. What Sherlock Holmes was when asleep was a flurry of uncoordinated limbs and jerky actions. John found himself slipping off only to have Sherlock flip himself immediately over and seize John in his arms. Moments later he’d fling an arm out behind him, torque his hips away, and roll over.
In sleep, Sherlock Holmes was a bloody mess.
John thought that scooting up behind him might help; if he held Sherlock to his chest, vice-like, perhaps that would do the trick. But Sherlock, three hours asleep now, just wriggled out of John’s grip, turned into him and mashed his mouth and nose into the hollow of John’s throat.
John, thinking it was the best he was likely to get, sighed and finally drifted off. It was a dreamless sleep, punctuated by a few instances of waking to Sherlock grabbing his arm or twining their legs together.
When John eventually woke up, it was to a finger right in the center of his vision and, suitably startled, he shifted back on the pillow and regarded the man to whom that finger belonged.
“You have the most ridiculous nose,” Sherlock said by way of greeting, and John slapped his hand down onto the pillow.
“Okay,” John began and, reconsidering, hummed the raspiness out of his voice. “For future reference, not a way I want to wake up.”
Sherlock licked his lips and pulled his clasped hands into his chest. “With me?”
“With your finger in my face,” John clarified dryly, lips pursed in displeasure.
Sherlock smirked and suddenly levered himself up out of bed, leaving John to gather the duvet around his waist and watch as Sherlock puttered about, getting ready for the day.
John’s eyes lingered at Sherlock’s hips, appreciating how the thin fabric of his pajama bottom clung to the swell of bone and muscle there. “What’s the plan, then?” John slid his hands behind his head and decided a few more minutes of lounging about and admiring Sherlock from bed would do him good.
Sherlock hummed, flicked through a selection of shirts in his wardrobe and came up with a cornflower blue choice, laying it carefully out on the bed.
“The university. Upperclassmen generally take the later afternoon and early evening classes, but there’s a distinct possibility that she works on campus, judging by her peers in the department and their inclinations.”
“You know this how?” John asked lazily, hand resting against his stomach. He knew Sherlock had his methods but he did so enjoy it when he deduced aloud for John to hear.
“Called around yesterday; my son is interested in their computer science program, you see.” Sherlock batted his eyelashes coquettishly in John’s direction.
“Ah.” John said an shimmied down the bed in order to stretch his entire body, his bones popping audibly. Sherlock watched him momentarily as he brought his arms above his head and pulled this way and that. “And yeah, I’m feeling last night right now. Christ.” John’s hand strayed to his lower back and he pulled a strained face.
Sherlock grinned sheepishly down at the trousers he’d selected, glancing to John only briefly. “Compliment?”
John swung his legs over the side of his bed and grinned himself, down at the floorboards. He felt himself flush, the sweet rush of new intimacy thrilling through him. “Compliment.”
“Good!” Sherlock boomed, energized now, snatching up his outfit and bounding out of the room. John heard the shower turn on and he took the opportunity to stand and survey Sherlock’s room in the light of day. Utilitarian but well lived-in, furniture very much like Sherlock’s own personality, dark and sleek and sturdy. John’s gaze wandered up the walls, wondering what exactly the symbols in the frame above the bed meant.
He padded over to the dresser by the closet, rubbing the back of his neck, yawning. Sherlock’s watch was there, laid out next to a pile of pence; John found it odd, how completely ordinary the gesture of emptying one’s pockets was, and that Sherlock participated in the same daily rigamarole as everyone else. His fingers ghosted over the change absently as he turned his attention to the display case in the corner.
The insect specimens were strange, but no moreso than anything else in the flat; they were displayed above a selection of ancient looking tomes, stacked neatly on their shelves. John leaned in to make out the titles; at that level he noticed something wedged behind the bust of what John guessed was either a composer or famous serial killer.
Delicately, he reached in and jimmied the object out. It was a frame, rather plain in its decoration, but heavy and clearly of good quality. John moved to the window to better see the picture within and was shocked to find that it was a candid photograph of a young Sherlock and a boy that was unmistakably his brother, leaning over a flowerbed, magnifying glasses in hand.
It was a darling photograph and John wondered what they were inspecting; was it worms or centipedes? Were they checking the growth of fledgling sprouts? Whatever it was, they were clearly in on it together, Mycroft reaching out to touch at Sherlock’s elbow, Sherlock’s mouth and eyes wide in delight.
John’s mind went stunningly blank for an instant and then the questions surged through him: when had the photograph been taken, and were they close as siblings, and what happened between them that they treated one another with such disdain?
A swell of jealousy and hurt threatened to taken him over. Of course there were things he didn’t know about Sherlock; sleeping with the man didn’t automatically change that. He was allowed to have his secrets and his past, but John’s traitorous heart yearned to know it all. Sherlock knew all he needed to about John with a single glance, and John wished to discover the same; he would, he vowed, in time.
John stared at the photograph for a moment longer, burning the sweet moment in time into his memory, the image of the brothers sharing in something and enjoying it, and then put the frame back and made his way into the kitchen for a spot of breakfast. He'd be sure to ask Sherlock about the picture later.
John slotted two slices of bread into the toaster and put the kettle on, meandering about. He grabbed the morning paper from the stoop and tidied the sitting room with one hand, balancing The Times in the other. When Sherlock reemerged, John offered him toast and tea, but was ignored in favor of a laptop.
Sherlock seated himself in the sitting room and leaned in close to the screen, fingers running idly through his damp hair. John left him to it and went to have himself a shower and get ready for the day.
They left the flat a short time later, Sherlock hailing a cab with ease. Their ride to London Southbank was quiet, Sherlock fiddling with his mobile and John staring out the window lost in thought. It was a few moments before John realized he was twisting his hands in trepidation. If Sherlock’s hunch was correct and they could come away from this with actual, solid information about Venessa, he was sure he’d feel more at ease. But still, the possibilities of what could go wrong, of further obstacles they would encounter, of her escalating kept him on edge.
It was bizarre; he felt the familiar thrill of being on a case but dulled by the perpetrator's focus being solely, intrusively, confusingly on him. He still wasn’t sure why this woman had chosen him, not really, and that was the most frustrating bit.
Truth be told, John was exhausted; dealing with the conflicting emotions, being frightened but unwilling to allow that to bleed through, was heavily taxing. The effort of disguising how completely off-kilter he felt was doing him in. Allowing his head to loll back against the headrest, John closed his eyes against the bright afternoon light, wanting a moment of calm before they tossed themselves once more into the fray.
His mind was suffused with pleasant white noise for a time, but he was nearly startled out of his respite when he felt a hand on the back of his neck. Sherlock squeezed gently a few times, nudging the tips of his fingers against his shoulders and then up against his skull before pulling away.
When John opened his eyes, he found Sherlock still as committed to his mobile as he’d been moments before. John smiled to himself, thankful that Sherlock had known that he’d needed a bit of reassurance, even if he hadn’t been aware of that himself.
It still felt odd to have such affectionate touches and glances levelled at him from Sherlock Holmes, but just as he’d waded carefully into the idea of being in a relationship with a man, he too was acclimating slowly to the gentler, more human side that Sherlock was revealing, bit by bit. He was glad for it, though he wasn’t sure that the added time spent mulling and assessing he and Sherlock’s dynamic along with worrying about his stalker wasn’t a recipe for a seriously addled mind.
Still, when they pulled up to their destination, John gave Sherlock’s knee a strong squeeze in thanks.
They found their way to the Computer Science and Mathematics wing easily. It was just as simple to get inside without anyone noticing them, as there were enough people milling about that it made their presence relatively undetected. Sherlock always preferred to enter these sorts of situations under as much of a veil of anonymity as he could muster; since his return, this had been increasingly difficult.
The computer labs were on the second floor and they folded themselves into the throng of students that was mounting the stairs. At the landing they ducked through the doors leading to the computer labs and offices 201-212.
Sherlock pushed through the double doors, his coat floating out behind him dramatically. John jogged to keep up and sidled up beside him, grabbing his arm to halt his determined strides. “Not exactly inconspicuous,” he intoned and Sherlock took the hint, flipping his coat collar down and slipping out of the garment.
John caught it just before it hit the floor. Sherlock took off once more, stalking down the hallway, glancing briefly through the small windows of the doors he passed. He pulled up short in front of one, gave John a dazzling half smile and scanned the hallway for any potential witnesses.
From his pocket he produced his standard, well-used set of lockpicks, and he leaned in quickly to the knob. It was short work to get inside, as Sherlock had become rather adept at picking locks, even going so far as to practice in his spare time. John had caught him more that once, going to work on the flats on Baker Street.
The lock gave after a few seconds of careful jimmying and Sherlock heaved a triumphant sigh as he maneuvered into the darkened room, handing his pick case to John without a second glance.
John tiptoed up towards door himself, realizing belatedly that he looked both ridiculous and likely very suspicious to anyone who might see him. He paused, stood up straight and leaned back against the locker nearest the door, doing his best to look nonchalant while he listened to Sherlock rooting around in the office.
He emerged minutes later, and John did a double take. John was always surprised at the ease with which he changed his appearance with few minor alterations. This time he’d pressed his hair down and back and found a pair of thin, wire-rimmed glasses that sat high on the bridge of his nose. Over his button down he’d pulled on a tweed jacket, complete with elbow patches; John chuckled at the tweed, how completely cliche it was and how entirely different Sherlock looked with few additions. “Professor Holmes?”
He looked every bit the dashing, intelligent professor; John noticed too the C++ and advanced programming books tucked beneath his arm to complete the ruse.
Sherlock pushed a hand through his hair, ensuring that it would lay flat. “I’m very recognizable John; you’d be stunned how anonymous one becomes with a few slight changes.”
“So you’ve said before,” John mumbled, but couldn’t disagree; he was very recognizable.
Sherlock smirked his know-it-all grin and spun on his heel, down the hall to the open but dimmed computer lab.
He pulled up immediately before entering, no longer sauntering, assuming the persona of a meek, studious professor. There were few students peppered about, all deep into their work, computer screens lighting their faces and the pained and intent expressions they wore.
Sherlock moved carefully; the computers were lined up equidistant on long, low rows of desks. Many of the students were at the beginning and ends of the aisles, as though they couldn’t be bothered to move further inward. It was five rows before Sherlock found the outer seat unoccupied and meandered his way down the aisle until he was two monitors away from a gentleman student.
He turned briefly to glance at Sherlock and then turned back to his work. Sherlock eyed him out of his peripherals as he tapped randomly at the keyboard, ensuring that he had the student’s attention. “Oh blast,” he murmured, loud enough for the man to hear, not loud enough to disturb the others. “Log in, log in…”
“Do you…” the man didn’t look up but began turning his head towards Sherlock, “need help logging in professor?” The student’s eyes scanned Sherlock perfunctorily and came to the conclusion that Sherlock had hoped he would. The bumbling professor, trusting and trusted.
Sherlock smiled kindly, nodding and the student turned fully to face him, look of concentration sliding off of his face. “Blimey, you’re… you’re Sherlock Holmes!” the boy squeaked without preamble, eyes lighting in delight.
“I,” Sherlock began and he heard a snort from the back of the room, John’s head poking up from behind a computer monitor just as other students heads perked up at the declaration. “I… keep your voice down!” Sherlock seethed and slid over the two vacant seats, putting himself directly next to the student.
“I can’t believe this,” the man said, slamming his textbook shut, “I cannot even believe this, you’re… I’m such a fan.”
Sherlock pursed his lips, attempting to remain calm, shifting his eyes to John again, scowling when he noted the look of utter amusement on John’s face. “Right, yes, good, but I’m actually here on some rather-”
The man’s eyes lit up and he glanced up and down the row of computers and back at Sherlock; Sherlock rolled his eyes. “Right oh yeah, how can I, I mean, can I? Help?”
Sherlock’s eyes narrowed as he assessed the man and the likelihood that he would actually be able to assist them in any way at all. “I’m looking for a student who I am fairly certain is enrolled in your computer science program.”
“Well, I’m the TA for Dr. Reunger - Mark, by the way,” he held his hand out and Sherlock glanced at it before reaching out to shake it quickly. “Yeah, so I pretty much know most of the students, who are you looking for?”
Sherlock retrieved his mobile from his pocket, unlocking the device and pulling up the photograph of Venessa that he’d downloaded, zoomed in as to highlight only her face. “Her, we believe her to be a junior, at least. We-” Sherlock added when he saw John walk up before the desk. “We need to speak with her relating to a matter of some importance, what do you-”
“Oh man, Yvonne,” the man laughed a little uneasily and plucked Sherlock’s mobile from his hand. “Yeah, she’s a first semester senior actually. Came in with something like twenty credits. She’s half a year above what she should be, bloody brilliant and a little…”
Mark’s voice wavered and he bit his lip, the picture of unease, handing Sherlock back his mobile.
“A little?” Sherlock pushed.
He shrugged and leaned back in his seat. “I don’t know, rumor has it that she got one of our professor’s fired.”
“Fired?” John asked, taking the word right out of Sherlock’s mouth as he leaned in, closer to Mark, attempting to keep the conversation among just the three of them. That was becoming difficult, as more heads began popping up to see what the commotion was.
“Yeah, she was TA for his Operating Systems Class class, maybe? Sun rose and set with that man as far as she was concerned. You could see it on her face it was… weird. Like, I don’t know, it wasn’t like they were having an affair or anything? At least that’s not the way it seemed? She was just kind of… obsessed with him.”
“If she was obsessed with him, why would she get him fired?” John asked, snagging a seat from the desk behind him and plunking himself down.
Mark shrugged again, “Listen, this is all… this is what people are saying but apparently she did the bulk of work for one of the articles he got published in Journal of Functional and Logic Programming but he, I don’t know, edited a lot of it? I just remember her freaking out saying that it wasn’t pure anymore, with his edits. That his writing wasn’t right or something.”
John’s brows perked and Sherlock frowned.”I mean, I don’t know what she expected, he was the primary on the article and he had the right to make any changes that he wanted, so…”
John looked at Sherlock, who glanced back, obviously trying to slot the pieces together in his mind. “Do you know Yvonne’s last name, where she-”
“I can pull up her Facebook page,” Mark said, excited, turning back to his computer. “I mean we’re not friends but I uhm…”
John’s mouth pursed. “What?”
“I don’t know man, sometimes I Facebook stalk people, okay?”
“Facebook stalk?” Sherlock asked as though the words tasted off.
Mark pulled up his Facebook page and tipped his head down toward the keyboard to hide the blush that was rising on his neck and cheeks. “You know… go on someone’s page, someone you don’t know or like… see in the hallway or whatever, just to find out about them? And with the rumors going around, I thought… I don’t know.”
He typed in her name, and up popped her main profile page, just the barebones information: Yvonne Critsley, birthday July 18th, educated at London Southbank University, lives in London, England. The photo that stared at them was of a girl, smiling a smile that did not reach her eyes, leaning against a railing, the Thames behind her. “This is Yvonne Cristley, but all I can see are her pictures. Her profile is set to private.”
John pressed his hand to his eyes and whispered, “Yvonne Critsley.”
“Yes,” Sherlock murmured in return.
“Oh! And she’s doing two independent studies, so…”
“She’s not on campus much?” Sherlock assumed, standing and plucking the glasses from his face. “Yes, any idea what her independent studies are in?”
“I know one of them is about algorithmic game theory? I guess she focused a lot on server identity issues and encrypting and decrypting data at high rates of speed and success. Kinda neat, but kinda…”
“Complex?” John asked futilely; his brain swam with what he was being told and he didn’t understand a word of it.
Mark shook his head, nodded towards his computer screen. “Government scary. Wipe yourself from the books and hide on the net forever scary. Some real 1984 shit.”
“Right,” John said and stood. “Right,” he said again and with a murmured thank you, stumbled out of the lab on shaky legs.
He’d made it all the way to the stairwell, mind swimming, before Sherlock caught up with him.
He felt confused and resigned and awful, more awful than he’d felt at the start. From what Mark had told them they were dealing with a genius. Not just any genius, and not Sherlock’s type of a genius, but one who knew her craft very, very well and was very dangerous because of it. And Sherlock was smart, but he didn’t have the wherewithal to decode and decrypt complex software systems, that, John knew.
“We’re dealing with a fucking computer mastermind here, Sherlock. I don’t know thing one about anything that kid said and I’m betting that you only understand it on a fundamental level.” His voice was raw and deep, resignation setting in quickly.
“We have a name John, a name.” Sherlock said, hands warm and solid and reassuring on his shoulders. “And,” he said belatedly, a little grudgingly, “we do have the British government at our disposal.”
John grimaced, but allowed a frisson of hope to run through him. “That… will take some doing.”
“Well then,” Sherlock responded. “Let’s go and do it, shall we?”
Mycroft arrived early the next morning, much to Sherlock’s very obvious chagrin. He sauntered into the flat with his usual air of importance, umbrella in hand, and Sherlock growled deep in his chest.
“Do tell me, dear brother, just how might I assist you today?” He didn’t mince words, instead standing in the middle of the room, back straight, proper and imposing.
Sherlock heaved in a breath, rolled his head along the back of his chair and pressed himself briskly up to standing. He rounded Mycroft once and then tossed himself down on the sofa dramatically. “Did I not phone you, Mycroft? You could have, oh, I don’t know, phoned me back.” The last word was clipped, bitten out through his teeth.
Mycroft did his best to retain his calm, pressing his right palm down onto the curved handle of his umbrella. “Well, this did seem of some import, as it pertains to the good doctor.”
Sherlock’s head perked up, his face a perfect mask of indignation; when he was like this, John thought he looked very much the petulant child. It was equal parts amusing and adorable. “And what does that mean?”
“Yeah, hi, I am in the room,” John said pleasantly, meandering into the sitting room to drop himself onto the sofa, as Mycroft was standing firmly in front in his chair. Sherlock lifted his legs for him and, once John was seated, laid his legs carefully across John’s lap.
It was bizarrely intimate, sitting with Sherlock like this, and John’s stomach did a daring little somersault and being so obviously affectionate in front of Sherlock’s brother. Mycroft’s eyes were trained on John’s hands where they rested atop Sherlock’s shins, warm and unwavering.
John swallowed audibly and felt Sherlock shift against him, his bottom slipping over the cushions, closer to John’s thighs.
Mycroft sat gingerly in John’s seat and lifted his cool gaze to glance at John, narrowing his eyes at him. “Yes, you are. Apologies, Doctor Watson.” Mycroft inclined his head and John became just the slightest bit unsettled at the sincerity in his voice. John shifted his gaze to Sherlock, who was glaring back at his brother.
“Moving on,” Sherlock drawled, flexing his toes. “Yvonne Critsley: we have a name.”
“Congratulations,” Mycroft said rather properly, his tone crisp, light and only slightly mocking. Crossing his legs, he leaned back in John’s chair and picked at the fabric on the arms for a few moments before digging into Sherlock. “Though I’m rather sad to see that you’ve overlooked the obvious, dear brother.”
Beneath him, John felt Sherlock tense, and he squeezed his calves in reassurance. It took a moment, but miraculously, he relaxed beneath John’s hands. “You see,” Mycroft began, his tone smarmy. “It seems that your… admirer has managed to obfuscate herself even further.” Sherlock growled at him again, deeper and more intently.
Mycroft waited for a moment, clearly allowing for the words to land with the intended dramatic effect but John and Sherlock just stared at him blankly until he sighed, rolled his eyes and continued. “There is no Yvonne Critsley.”
Sherlock sat up slowly, levering himself from his hips without any help from his hands; it was rather alarming to watch. “What?”
“Yes, I managed to… get a look at the academic records and indeed, the woman who is enrolled at London South Bank is apparently a child of South African descent who perished in a house fire in 1989.” One severe eyebrow lifted in challenge and John felt his mouth go completely dry. “Once again, you’ve underestimated your adversary.”
Sherlock’s eyes blazed and John dug his fingertips into the skin just below his knees, tethering him. “Why is she, no, but-” Sherlock had receded into his mind, was speaking to himself, trying to suss out the reasons for a twenty-something, fairly harmless stalker to use a false identity.
John too was running through the possibilities, the reasoning, and kept coming back to the simplest of answers: this woman was more dangerous than they both thought. People used false identities when they wanted to disappear, when they had something dangerous in their past, when there was something darker and more dastardly than met the eye.
“The address she listed on her records does not exist. Her mailing address is a post box,” Mycroft continued on. “Are you both quite sure you know what you’re dealing with?”
Sherlock frowned and pressed his middle and forefinger of either hand to his temples and inhaled slowly. “We are-”
“We’re not, no, no we’re not,” John said quickly, speaking over Sherlock. “We have no idea, Mycroft, do you for moment believe he would have willingly asked for your help if we had clue one about what to do here? And you know that, so stop trying to rile him up,” John gave Sherlock’s knee a little slap. “And Sherlock, can you see it within your nature to just be honest with the one person who might be able to help us?” His voice was heavy, verging on angry, and his palms cupped Sherlock’s knees a little harder than necessary.
Both men looked at him with twin expressions of poorly-veiled shock and John felt quietly proud that he’d stunned them; he swallowed thickly and dropped his gaze from Mycroft, easing his grip on Sherlock simultaneously. “Right, well,” Mycroft attempted to hold his voice level. “It’s inevitable that she’ll escalate, I believe that goes without saying.”
“The cocktail she slipped to John was a fairly pure synthetic flunitrazepam, nothing from the street. She may have a connection to pharmaceuticals,” Sherlock commented quickly and swung his legs off of John’s lap, slapping his feet onto the floor. “She was honest about that. Why would she-”
“She believes herself untouchable,” Mycroft interjected softly. “Which, we all know, is a position in which one is liable to make mistakes.”
“We wait for her to make a mistake then?” John asked, and his countenance darkened. “Considering that mistake would likely have to do with me, I’d just as soon not do that, thanks. I thought you were in some position of power,” he criticized, throwing up his hands in futility.
Silence fell over the flat and John looked from Sherlock to his brother and back. Sherlock was smiling, just slightly, in that way that said he was both impressed and pleasantly surprised. Mycroft wore a much more dour expression and John took a breath, shut his eyes and calmed himself. “Sorry, sorry about that I am… a bit…”
“No John, I agree, we can’t simply wait for her to make a mistake, though that’s not what Mycroft is suggesting. Even he isn’t that simple.” Sherlock sneered and his brother sneered right back. “No, what Mycroft is waiting for is me to ask.”
“To ask? What-”
“Yes, to ask him, with every bit of patience, for him to please use his considerable power and scope,” Sherlock glanced up at the ceiling, withering, even as he spoke the words. “To place maximum surveillance on London South Bank University so we might ‘run into’ not-Yvonne and have a word with her.”
“Just a word?” John asked, impatient. He too stood, paced for a moment and then pulled up in front of Sherlock. “Just a word? She drugged me, Sherlock, she-”
“Yes, I am aware, but we don’t have enough evidence to prove to the proper authorities that she’s a danger to you. At most she would be locked up for an evening until a judge released her. That would give her a whole night to marinate in her anger at you, possibly causing her to escalate further, more so than if we cut her off at the pass, yes? I can be very persuasive, as you well know.” Sherlock spoke rapid-fire, leaving no room for argument. “We have Mycroft’s people apprehend her and hold her until such a time when we… speak with her.”
John took a breath and then another, and then pointed out the obvious. “Right, okay, you can’t just go kidnapping public citizens.”
Sherlock’s eyes flashed, and he took a step right into John’s personal space. “But can’t we? She did poison you, as you said.”
John blinked up at Sherlock. “Right, but… but…”
Across the room came the sound of a throat being cleared and they both turned to look at a vaguely amused Mycroft.
“If you two are through with your charged little dialogue,” Mycroft said, standing and wiping the wrinkles from his trousers, “I have to say that your plea for help was rather moving, brother.” The snide smile he gave Sherlock had Sherlock stiffening in anger in front of John.
Without thought, John brought his hand to Sherlock’s shoulder and swiped his thumb back and forth, soothing, across the soft fabric of the shirt. Mycroft noted the gesture and smiled briefly, before turning and sauntering to the door. “I’ll have surveillance on the computer science building post-haste.
“And Sherlock, please don’t consider my hesitation to grant your request as reticence. I simply wanted to see this,” he gestured between Sherlock and John with the tip of his umbrella. “For myself. Good day.”
John blinked at Mycroft’s retreating figure and didn’t move again until he heard the front door click shut. “Well, that was…”
“Yes,” Sherlock agreed, looking a bit shocked himself. “Yes, indeed, I-”
John brought his other hand up to Sherlock’s shoulder and leaned into him. “Let’s not think about it too much, yeah?”
“Good, yes.” Sherlock shook off Mycroft’s words of approval visibly, loosening his shoulders and tossing his head briskly.
“Though I should thank you for suggesting we go to him in the first place. I know it’s not… very pleasant for you.” John said and on a whim, leaned up to dot a kiss on Sherlock’s cheek. When he pulled back, his cheeks were aflame and he couldn’t meet Sherlock’s eyes.
After a moment, Sherlock spoke, humor infused in his tone. “John?”
“Hmmm, yeah?” he lifted his gaze to find Sherlock’s eyes glittering in delight.
“You’re an idiot.”
“Yeah, thanks.” But then Sherlock was cupping his face and pressing a slow, gentle kiss to his lips. When he pulled away, Sherlock was still smiling and it hit John in the chest hard - again - that this was really happening between them.
He supposed he would get used to it eventually, and basked in the delightful surprise of an affectionate Sherlock. As he marveled, the text alert on his phone chimed and he fished it clumsily from his pocket, a goofy, far-gone grin plastered on his face.
When he read the words on the screen, he could physically feel the color drain from his face. His body tensed, on alert, ready for combat.
“A little birdie told me you’ve been looking for me around campus, silly man. By now you’ve found me out and what a shame. I was enjoying watching you, following you, being close.” The text read; the invasive words sent a cold, sickening shiver down John’s spine.
“She got your mobile number,” Sherlock said, darkly.
John swallowed. “Appears so.”
Before John could put voice to the text, Sherlock plucked his mobile easily from his hand and read it for himself.
“Likely when you were in the cab, she could have nicked it from you easily and-” Sherlock stopped, fingers flying over the keys as he glared down at the tiny screen.
John leaned over to get a better view of what Sherlock was doing just as Sherlock pulled away, holding the mobile even closer to his face. “What? Sherlock!”
“Taunting you, how juvenile, how positively feeble-minded.” He sent the text with a judiciously tap of his thumb and tossed John back his phone, bracketing his hands on his hips and walking away in anger. John stared after him, his footfalls carrying him into through to the hall until he disappeared into his bedroom.
Only after he heard Sherlock toss himself onto the bed did John look down at the phone in his hand. “While your efforts have been admirably deranged, I assure you, John Watson will never belong to you.”
John’s nostrils flared in anger and he dumped the phone onto the seat of his chair. He marched into Sherlock’s room, anger barely contained. “I thought we weren’t supposed to provoke her.”
“That won’t provoke her,” Sherlock mumbled, face smashed into his pillow. “It will frighten her and redirect her ire.”
“Towards you,” John confirmed, passing his tongue quickly over his lips.
“Towards me,” Sherlock parroted and turned over onto his back.
“You bloody stupid- Sherlock, how’s this going to help things, hm? You going to go prancing about waiting for her to make a move, leave me here, take care of things yourself, because that’s got to be the most brilliantly idiotic-”
“Contradictory,” Sherlock murmured, one hand resting behind his skull against the headboard and the other palm against his stomach.
John pulled up short. “What?”
“Oh my- shut up,” John groaned and sank down onto the bed. “You and your recklessness, I cannot deal…” John sucked in a breath, let it out and slumped forward, elbows on knees.
Sherlock clambered round him, slipped his hands beneath John’s arms and tugged him back with little effort. He pressed John back into the pillows easily and John went with little in the way of complaint. “You need to relax,” Sherlock said, the words landing as more of a demand than a suggestion. John chuckled and peeked his eyes open.
Sherlock’s head was resting against John’s hip and he was looking up at him from under a flop of fringe. “I don’t think it needs repeating but I do assure you that I’ll not let anything happen to you.”
“That’s almost sweet,” John whispered and ran his fingers slowly through Sherlock’s hair.
“Is it? Oh, well, sod that, then.” Sherlock smiled serenely and closed his eyes, lying against John’s lower body. John himself was content to stay there and doze, Sherlock quiet and possessive against him, but after a moment, Sherlock shifted, pressed his mouth to the bare strip of belly between John’s shirt and his trousers.
“I like how you feel here,” Sherlock said, voice even and cool and clinical. “Also,” Sherlock popped the button on his trousers and eased the zip down, pulling the fabric down until he bared the skin where thigh met torso. “And here; you’re quite soft, you know.”
“Your skin,” Sherlock clarified, and ran the cold tip of his nose over his hip. “Pardon my possessiveness,” he said conversationally, “but this is my favorite bit of you.” Sherlock nipped at the slight swell of chubbiness around John’s waist.
John sighed into the pillow and began drawing his nails along Sherlock’s scalp; he felt the purr even as Sherlock pressed kisses to his skin. He hooked one finger into the band of John’s pants and plucked them so they snapped back against his skin.
“Oi, watch it!!”
“John?” Sherlock asked, crawling up his body. “What exactly is the etiquette when one partner wants to ask the other to fuck him?”
A laugh startled out of John and he opened his eyes, curling his arm around Sherlock’s waist. “Hah, well, it’s generally not voiced so formally.” Sherlock glanced up at him, eyes soft, expression open and John felt his chest constrict. “You’re a strange man,” John sighed and pulled Sherlock into his side, pressing his lips to Sherlock’s forehead.
Sherlock nodded silently and began working at the buttons on John’s shirt. Smiling against Sherlock’s forehead, John slid his hand down his back, slipping his fingers beneath Sherlock’s trousers and pants. “Full disclosure?”
“Always,” Sherlock rumbled into his neck.
“Bit nervous,” he said as Sherlock shifted to undo his own trousers.
“Of course you are,” Sherlock observed as he pulled away and undressed efficiently, John’s eyes on him all the while. “Never buggered a man before.”
“Right, okay. In the interest of staying, you know, in the moment, let’s not call it buggering.” Sherlock climbed back onto the bed, grinning, and worked John out of his shirt. “Not very romantic.”
Sherlock smiled and dropped his shirt over the side of the bed. “And you are the very epitome of a romantic,” he said sweetly and began peppering John’s shoulders with sloppy kisses. “It’s sickening, really.”
John settled his hands gently on the swell of Sherlock’s arse. “You’re complaining?”
“Don’t be stupid,” Sherlock scoffed and manhandled John out of his trousers and pants.
John reclined on the bed as Sherlock took his time wandering over his skin; he paid considerable attention to the translucent bits on the inside of John’s elbows and just behind his ears, and turned him into a quivering mess before he even bothered reaching into the bedside table for the necessary accoutrements.
“Now, how would you like me,” Sherlock asked against John’s mouth; when he pulled back they grinned at one another.
John screwed up his face as though deep in thought. “Mmm, every way?”
“Time enough for that, but this time in particular,” Sherlock clarified on a chuckle.
John shrugged and just as Sherlock was in the midst of an impressive eye roll, he flipped them, Sherlock landing on his back with a little bounce. John blanketed himself on top, slotting their cocks together with a firm push of his hips. “How’s like this?”
“Yeah, yeah,” Sherlock sucked in a deep breath. “This is… fine.”
“Fine?” John asked rather darkly and then pulled back to press his cock along Sherlock’s again.
“Good, wonderful, yes, John,” his hands scrabbled at John’s back. “Please.”
John laughed into Sherlock’s neck and then brought their mouths together, rocking lazily against his body as his tongue slid into Sherlock’s mouth. Lazily they pressed and slipped against one another. John pressed his mouth against Sherlock’s jaw, grunting lowly as he moved.
“You want me inside of you?” John asked, nipping at Sherlock’s ear with a bit of force. “Because I want that Sherlock, very much.” John slid his hand along Sherlock’s shoulder and bicep, keeping up his lazy little thrusts as he dragged up his palm.
When he reached Sherlock’s hand, he pried his fingers gently open and extracted the tube of lubricant Sherlock had retrieved.
John sucked a bruising kiss into the side of Sherlock’s neck and then settled back atop him, licking into Sherlock’s mouth slowly, with purpose. There were needy little keens and aborted moans gasped into John’s mouth and John smiled against Sherlock, content to make him pliant with just his lips and tongue.
Clumsily, John managed to flip open the cap and messily covered his palm before closing the bottle and tossing it over the side of the bed. Moving his hand to Sherlock’s cock, he toyed with the frenulum and waited for Sherlock to shiver beneath him. His fingers slipped over the head, circling, before he brought his thumb and forefinger together to slide tightly, hotly, down his cock.
“Work with me here,” John mumbled and he rolled to his side; it took a moment but Sherlock mirrored him, knees to knees, their pricks heavy and full between them. “There we are,” John sighed and lifted Sherlock’s left knee until it slid over John’s thigh; with a hand to his arse, John encouraged Sherlock to scoot forward, cocks once more pressed together as John’s slippery fingers slid around the curve of Sherlock’s arse.
He took the hint and hitched his leg higher, encouraging John to pass his fingers over Sherlock’s hole. He busied his mouth with Sherlock’s collarbone and circled the ring of muscle with increasing pressure, relishing Sherlock’s groan when he slipped inside.
“Not much,” Sherlock sighed heavily and slumped wholly into John, “leverage this way.”
“Hush, you,” John whispered and tucked himself into Sherlock’s chest as he began to slick his finger in and out of Sherlock’s hole. It only took him a few slow minutes of gentle fucking until Sherlock was able to comfortably take a second finger.
John pressed Sherlock onto his back, managing to keep his fingers seated as he slipped down Sherlock’s body, leaving open, wet kisses on Sherlock’s chest and belly. When he took Sherlock’s cock into his mouth, Sherlock arched just slightly and moaned, fisting his hands in the sheets. “Chriiiiiiist.”
“Doing alright?” John asked, giving Sherlock’s cock one long swipe with his tongue.
“Mmm, yes,” Sherlock squirmed on his digits and John took that as good a sign as any to work a third finger inside of him.
John sucked his cock slowly, lazily, without haste; Sherlock keened, huffing out harsh breaths as he both pressed back into John’s fingers and up into John’s mouth. Trapped between the dual pleasures, Sherlock was slowly burning away. When Sherlock was boneless, sweaty, spread across the bed like a banquet and making unintelligible sounds, John slipped his fingers out and stroked up Sherlock’s prick with them.
“Condom?” John asked wide-eyed, a little breathless, a little ambiguous.
Sherlock met his eyes, shook his head with certainty. “No.”
John didn’t ask if he was sure, just trusting Sherlock and knowing Sherlock trusted him.
He shuffled rather clumsily in between Sherlock’s legs and pulled his thighs up and over his own. “Like this?” John whispered, the barest shiver of nerves running through him.
“Yes,” Sherlock whispered back, urgently. “Want to see you.”
John fucked Sherlock slow and deep in the dying light, draping himself over him nearly immediately, unable to abstain from kissing. Kissing Sherlock, being inside of him, having Sherlock around and clinging to him was overwhelming in the best way, and he had to hide his face in Sherlock’s neck for fear that every last affectionate emotion would pour from his mouth in the form of syrupy words.
John’s hips snapped hard and retreated leisurely, teasing the curses and groans out of Sherlock, the sounds directly next to John’s ear. He kept the pace unhurried, both because he was relishing in the delightfully wrecked noises Sherlock was making, and the decidedly irrational lingering thought that this would never happen between them again.
It was too good, the tight heat, their chests pressing together, sliding and pressing. The scent of Sherlock where John had his face buried was so pure that John didn’t want to pull away, but the need to kiss him again was too great.
John dragged his head up, sweat rolling down his temples, and he took in Sherlock’s face, eyes blown wide, surprised and a little lost, mouth open, gulping in air. It was stunning and heartbreaking and John smeared his mouth against Sherlock’s mouth once before pulling back to say, “Look at me, here, here.”
“John,” Sherlock managed, cracked, and secured his arms around John’s shoulders.
Shifting to his side, he settled down on his left elbow and with his right hand took Sherlock’s cock in hand. It took a moment for him to get a rhythm back, fucking into Sherlock harder now, deeper. “Yeah, you’re… Jesus, you’re…”
John twisted his wrist, using the precome leaking from Sherlock’s prick to palm his cock in earnest. Sherlock only managed the faintest slur of John’s name.“Joh, Johhh…”
John couldn’t breathe, couldn’t speak as he felt Sherlock come around him, thick ribbons coating his fingers. It was a marvel, watching Sherlock buck against him, his teeth digging into his bottom lip as he groaned, sounding as though he were in pain.
Redoubling his efforts, John slammed into him, Sherlock curling himself hard up into John’s body, riding the thrusts with pleased little grunts.
When John came, lips pressed to Sherlock’s, he swore he’d never felt anything quite like it before. It was brilliant and somehow different and real and earth changing and more than anything he’d ever experienced.
As he sank his head into Sherlock’s sweat-covered shoulder, and Sherlock dropped exhausted little kisses in his hair, he could have sworn that Sherlock Holmes just made love with him.
John began his day with his face jammed into a pillow and a large, warm palm spread across his arse. It took him a few minutes to acclimate, peeling his eyes open slowly to find the room dark and still. Upon glancing at the clock he was surprised to see that it was two forty-five in the morning and they’d managed to fall completely to sleep instead of just dozing as John had intended.
He shifted slightly, noting that he was sticky and stiff but luckily had not fallen to sleep in the significant wet spot they had created. He grinned, knowing just how Sherlock would react when he woke to the sensation. Blinking a few more times John passed his tongue over his teeth and slipped out of bed to sneak to the loo. Sherlock snuffled down into his own pillow, content, and tucked his hand up beneath.
After John had relieved himself he couldn’t seem to get back to sleep, which wasn’t very surprising having just indulged for an uncharacteristic ten hours straight. While being awake at near-three in the morning wasn’t odd for him, it was rather that he was alone in the warm, quiet sitting room.
He flexed his stockinged feet down into the rug and reveled in the solace, thinking he might take the time to get through some of the more mundane chores he’d been putting off.
For a bit he pecked away at his blog, catching up on old comments and tidying up the spam. He tinkered with his budget in Excel and sent some emails off to Lestrade and Mike, managed to compose a long email to Harry - one that he’d been putting off for ages and felt quite satisfied with upon completing. When he finally looked up, it’d been two hours and he listened carefully, hearing no signs of Sherlock stirring.
His stomach growled and John wasn’t surprised; they’d missed dinner. He dithered over what he wanted to eat, not really in the mood for toast or eggs but something more significant; he took to the cupboard, grateful that they were stocked on dry goods, noting the slight twinge in his back, his body protesting against the vigorous workout he’d given it the night previous.
Snatching up a packet of rice, John was careful when straightening up, as his knees began to creak as well. There was a laugh that escaped him; his body was responding just as it always did when he was out of practice for awhile and spending the evening with Sherlock was no different.
Spending the evening rogering Sherlock wasn’t any different at all, really, he supposed. And then again, spending the evening learning Sherlock’s body, feeling him from the inside was perhaps the most strange and wonderful and humbling thing he’d ever done.
John stood ramrod straight in the quiet of the kitchen and waited for the freight train of panic that he assumed would come after processing that he’d had sex with a man. A minute, two, but the panic never invaded and feeling quite pleased, he crossed the kitchen with his rice, going back to seeing about breakfast. The produce in the refrigerator held promise and he all but whistled as he selected what he wanted.
John hadn’t cooked a meal this late (or early, if one chose to look at it as such) since university and that had been a drunken attempt at fettuccine alfredo. John pulled out some rice, chicken and onions and uncovered a bag of only semi-freezer burned peas.
By the time Sherlock emerged in the kitchen wrapped in a tangle of wrinkled bedsheet, the sun was just peeking over the rooftops across the way, spilling intensely orange over the floorboards of the sitting room. “Dinner for breakfast?” Sherlock rasped as he passed by John on the way to the kettle, dropping a kiss against the side of his head.
John was momentarily stunned by the seemingly mindless but sweet gesture. “Well, there’s always talk of breakfast for dinner…”
“Not complaining,” Sherlock grumbled, poured himself a cup of coffee and sank into a chair at the kitchen table with a bit too much force. He cringed and shifted from one buttock to the other, not able to find a comfortable position. “God.”
John glanced at him over his shoulder and frowned in guilt. “Are you… I’m… sorry…”
Sherlock sipped his coffee and looked over the rim of his mug at John, eyes dark and promising. “Mmmm, no,” he drawled and went for another sip.
“No?” John asked, tossing some diced carrots and onions into the pan.
Sherlock groaned and leaned back in his seat, wriggling as he did. “Don’t apologize.”
John blushed fiercely and turned back to the sizzling pan and worked silently on what he was cooking; he could feel Sherlock’s gaze on him, warm and slightly invasive and he did his best to relax under the scrutiny. He couldn’t help allowing his mind to wander to the evening previous, how sweet the tight heat of Sherlock had felt, how he’d so readily given John his trust, how he’d keened and held and needed John.
He thought too about Sherlock, sitting uncomfortably at the table because they’d been rather enthusiastic the evening before. John wondered if his fingers had left bruises in Sherlock’s pale skin, John wondered what he would feel like if Sherlock had been inside him. It was a tantalizing thought, one that John hoped he would find out about quite soon.
His prick gave a twitch of interest at this train of thought and so John redoubled his effort at cooking, not certain that Sherlock would be up for another go quite so soon. He fluffed the rice and tossed it in with the vegetables and was about to ask Sherlock why he was being so quiet when a satisfied chuckle resonated from behind him.
John glanced over at Sherlock who was holding John’s mobile in his hand, triumphant grin on his face. He leaned over and plucked it from his fingers, reading the text on screen.
“Sherlock Holmes, I regret to say that you’ve toyed with the wrong woman. John Watson’s heart is not yours to have; you’re a fickle, hateful, ignorant man and I’m afraid I’ll have to see to it that you don’t hurt John any more than you already have.”
“Never has someone taken the bait so pitifully quickly,” Sherlock crowed, chest puffing with pride. “Not surprising that a fan of yours is so utterly simple.”
“Yeah, in this case I won’t take that as an insult.” John set a heaping pile of fried rice down in front of Sherlock even as he rolled his eyes. John glanced from the coffee to the rice and thought that while this was rather out of the ordinary for a meal, it wasn’t the strangest thing they’d ever eaten for breakfast, and with a shrug he sat down with his own plate.
Sherlock tucked in with gusto, grinning to himself. “Proud of yourself, then?” John asked, taking a long pull of his own coffee and finding it rather distasteful with the meal, though was too lazy to find a suitable substitute.
John watched Sherlock, waiting for it to dawn on him and when it didn’t, he smiled to himself and took another bite of his breakfast. “Making a twenty-something year old jealous?”
“Obscenely,” Sherlock drawled and John laughed; they finished their breakfast in comfortable silence.
Sherlock spent the better part of the morning looking into the professor that Yvonne had managed to disgrace. The complete opposite of John, he was tall and well-built with thick glasses and mocha skin, and a startlingly well-respected academic. He couldn’t seem to find any leads with which he could run and resigned himself to having to wait for Mycroft, taking a case from Scotland Yard to pass his time.
The clinic called for John and he decided to pick up a shift for an ill co-worker, knowing that if he remained at home his restless energy would get the better of him. Sherlock didn’t bother warning John to be careful or to stay safe, but did share a long, charged look with him as he grabbed his coat.
“I know,” John assured with a gentle pat to the arm, getting himself ready for his shift.
Though he was still riding high on the endorphins from the evening previous John still had a strange feeling of foreboding lingering over him. He knew it was pointless to argue with Sherlock about his strategy, but it didn’t sit well with him that Sherlock was deliberately putting himself in the path of some lunatic yet again. But there was nothing for it; he’d already started what little of a plan he had in motion and though rather simple in its construct, it would have to do.
John spent the day in a fog, treating colds and minor injuries with a sort of mindless daze, churning out his paperwork with such efficiency that he was shocked when the end of his shift rolled around. He looked up, realizing it was dark outside and that he’d been at his desk for the better part of two hours without pausing for a break. John tidied up his desk and turned in his filing with the front desk, making a beeline for the door just as he remembered to check his mobile.
John hoped that Sherlock hadn’t been trying to get in touch with him; he wouldn’t want to worry him any more than necessary and he’d set his ringer on silent as was his habit when going into work. Even as he thought it, John rolled his eyes, knowing full well that if Sherlock was worried about him he would have simply showed up at his office and breezed in without warning.
It took him a moment to unlock his phone while walking but when he did, he was greeted with a text from a new unknown number; he was getting used to the sickening drop that his stomach would take upon finding something from Yvonne and thus it didn’t throw him so wholly this time.
“I heard you fucking him last night and it was disgusting, you deserve so much better.”
John read the words twice before simmering dread suffused his veins and he compulsively put his back to the nearest wall and glanced around, checking if he was being followed. He knew it was unlikely, but he couldn’t be too careful, and when he was sure he was fine he dialed Sherlock and brought the mobile to his ear, keeping his eyes desperately peeled.
“Through already?” Sherlock asked after two rings and John sucked in a breath, calming himself before speaking.
John licked his lips, closed his eyes against the tide of anger that rose up in him. “No, yes, I mean. I got another text and, jesus. She, Sherlock she knows about… last night, she knows, she heard-”
“Slow down, last evening? What about…” Sherlock’s voice was somehow both calm and tense and the tone of it threw John off a bit, leaving him to shake his head of all of the conflicting and confusing thoughts invading his mind.
Sherlock trailed off into silence and John’s mouth set in a grim line. “Yeah. Yes. She must have been, must have been-”
“Where are you? Exactly, where are you exactly, right at this moment?” Sherlock was insistent and John could hear Lestrade calling after him in the background of the call. His voice faded and John could hear nothing but Sherlock’s breathing on the other end.
“A block away from the office, I’m-”
“The Thai place on the next corner, go there, I will meet you in… fifteen minutes.” There was a slight shuffling sound and then Sherlock barking the address of the restaurant to what John could only assume was a cabbie. “Make that ten.”
John hung up with a shaky sigh and shoved his mobile into the pocket of his coat, walking briskly toward the intended restaurant. He took a booth towards the back and ordered a beer and settled in to wait John was hyper-aware of his actions, his right leg bouncing restlessly beneath the table.
He’d finished half of the beer by the time Sherlock showed up, frenzied; he walked intently to the back of the restaurant and slid into the booth so suavely that for a moment John’s could think of nothing but the man’s pure grace.
Sherlock held out his hand and John dropped his mobile into it without a word, watching Sherlock’s face as he read the text. It was apparent when his jaw tensed and his eyes darkened but it was Sherlock’s fingers tightening around his mobile, blood voiding from the digits with the force that had John worried. He placed his own hand atop Sherlock’s and pried the fingers open, putting the phone down on the table and placing his palm flat against Sherlock’s.
Their gazes locked and Sherlock’s was on fire, ablaze with anger and worry and the moment was charged and heavy. With his free hand Sherlock swiped John’s glass and downed the rest of the beer.
Slumping back into the booth, Sherlock steepled his hands beneath his mouth and closed his eyes and John sat back and watched him, eyes drifting to scope out the front of the establishment every few seconds.
“I’ve swept the flat for bugs, twice, it can’t be that, she can’t have possibly… and when would she have?”
Though he was speaking aloud, it was clear that Sherlock was not speaking to John, but to himself. He continued, “We weren’t that loud, to be honest, were we? No, we weren’t, Mrs. Hudson would have had something to say about that; she’s not one to withhold when we’re being less than stellar tenants.”
John considered that quietly, watching as Sherlock ran through other scenarios in his head. The thought of someone being privy to something so intimate had his stomach turning viciously, a maneuver his body had become quite acquainted with over the past few days. This was by far the worst indiscretion of hers; to have their first encounter tainted by Yvonne’s presence was disgusting and made John unbearably sad.
Sherlock stood, so suddenly that John jumped at the movement. “Come,” he demanded.
With a little huff of indignation John too stood and dropped a few pounds on the table for the beer, following Sherlock out of the restaurant.
“Where are we going?”
“Mycroft has constant surveillance on the flat - if she was nearby, he would know.”
“But wouldn’t he inform us if there was anything on the CCTV footage?”
“As much as it pains me to admit, he does have a proper job he’s meant to be doing. He can’t possibly scan every bit of footage himself, perhaps something fell through the cracks.”
“And you’re sure about the bugs?”
Sherlock gave him a withering look and hailed down a cab.
On the way back to Baker Street, Sherlock confirmed with Mycroft that he was going to review the footage with few insults. He tapped his mobile against his knee the rest of the ride, breathing rather more heavily than usual.
John did his best to keep the both of them calm, smoothing his hand up and down the side of Sherlock’s thigh. “-undignified,” John heard Sherlock mumble and he shifted over on the seat, closer, until their hips were pressed against one another.
Sherlock frowned, sniffed and turned his chin down towards John. “Someone… overhearing.”
John considered that, recalled the breathy, needy sounds Sherlock had made, and had to agree that no, it wasn’t dignified that someone else had heard them but John had appreciated them more than he was sure he could articulate. He’d never heard the man make sounds even resembling that and the fact he’d unleashed them due to his own lips and hands and cock, well, it was more than a pleasure.
“Yes,” John agreed quietly, squeezing Sherlock’s knee. “When you put it like that but… please do not for one moment believe that I didn’t revel in every sound you made, yeah?” John squeezed again. “I didn’t even know you could, didn’t know your voice could get so,” John leaned over and ran his nose down the length of Sherlock’s neck. “Breathy, and high. And the pleasure of hearing that was all mine. So, don’t… don’t think about that much, yeah?”
Sherlock’s frown became more pronounced and he turned to glance down at John; his gaze held a darkness that spoke of worry and shockingly, regret. John’s brow furrowed at seeing the latter, shook his head. “Whatever you’re thinking, stop it. Just stop it, there’s nothing… none of this is our fault, nothing we did-”
“How surprising, you comforting me over this matter,” Sherlock retorted, snidely. “There’s nothing wrong with having intercourse with a man, says the man who up until very recently was rather quick to assert his heterosexually to anyone who would listen.”
John didn’t take the bait, sliding his palm higher on Sherlock’s thigh, holding on tighter. “Nice try, and still not gay, for what it’s worth. Very content with just you, with just buggering your arse, so whatever you’re trying, you can stop it.”
“You,” Sherlock said, his voice even tighter but he couldn’t manage anything else because John’s hand clamped around his leg hard and did not relent.
“Yeah, remember what we said about not letting her interfere with this? I know what you’re trying to do and just quit while you’re ahead. You’re probably deciding - once again - what you think is best for me but seeing as how I’m an adult and have made it this far in life making my own decisions I’m going to ask you to shut it, entirely. I might add that what we did last night? Yeah, we’re going to do that again, a lot. Because, for the remainder of our days, remember? You’ve got me, I’ve got you. Yeah, so just, just shut it.”
There was silence for a time until Sherlock sniffed primly and straightened his back. “Got that out of your system then?”
John chuckled humorlessly, “Have you?”
Sherlock shrugged but settled the thumb and forefinger of his right hand against John’s knee for the duration of the ride.
John was paying the cabbie and speculating on what they should have for dinner - if Sherlock would eat at all considering how much he’d managed at breakfast - while Sherlock unlocked the front door.
They mounted the stairs quietly, Sherlock unbuttoning his coat as he went, John lost in his thoughts of what he wanted more: chicken or fish when they stepped through into the sitting room.
She was standing by the mantle, fingers slipping over the curve of the skull. “Oh good, you’re home.”
Sherlock halted immediately, hand out at his side to stop John in his tracks. “How did you get in here?” John asked quickly and took a step towards the kitchen.
Yvonne giggled and tossed her hair over her shoulder, gesturing through the air absentmindedly with the muzzle of the gun she held. “Oh, you know, you know… can’t have eyes everywhere.” John aborted his movement and tensed at Sherlock’s side, eyes trained on the weapon. “And it’s really not that difficult to loop CCTV footage, I mean, when they show it on television? It’s basically that. Really, it is, so easy.”
John was fast but the way she wielded the gun, grip strong and sure, trained right between the two of them as though she hadn’t decided at whom she wanted to take aim, kept him glued to the spot. Not only was she clearly adept with a weapon, it was clear that she had tipped the scales and had gone from harmless to unhinged. Though it was more likely that her emotions would cause her to cock up, it was also just as likely that she would overreact.
The glint in her eyes, manic and somehow gleeful, gave John the sickening feeling that she had nothing left to lose.
“Yeah, no, I see where your head is at and don’t you worry, I know all about gun safety. Shockingly lax gun laws in America, you know? The things you learn when you go abroad, gotta say.” As though to prove her point she ejected the magazine quickly into her hand, flipped it once in the air and then slid it back cleanly into place.
“Dull,” Sherlock mumbled, the muzzle aimed at Sherlock..
“America?” She hazarded with a little laugh.
“Ugh, spare me the bullshit Sherlock Holmes. Jesus, you are the worst.” She rolled her eyes and took a step forward. “You really need to shut your mouth because I’m sick of you and how you treat this man.”
Sherlock sniffed, rolled his eyes and straightened his cuffs. “Do tell me what this man needs, oh please. You’re holding a gun at him. Is that something he needs?”
“Hah! Oh, but really, oh goodness, please tell me more about how you actually care about him and you- John honey one more step towards the kitchen you get one in the kneecap. I loved you, y’know but you… you can’t appreciate that, can you? Jesus, I risked everything for you, do you even get that? Just, just… stop fucking moving.”
John set his jaw, nostrils flaring in rage. “Yvonne, you’re really not on my good side right now.”
“Listen motherfucker, my name is Samantha, okay? Now shut your mouth,” she said coldly, calmly and flicked the safety off the handgun she had trained on them.
“So now you think it’s the part in the movies when I tell you why and how I did it, blah, blah, blah.” Samantha paced to Sherlock’s chair and sat down with a little oof, gun still trained carefully between the two of them. John was becoming increasingly alarmed at how comfortable she was with it in her hand, accounting for its weight as she moved. “Why can’t it be that I’m just a little off my rocker? Why can’t it be that?”
The chuckle that burst out of Sherlock was trite and mocking, and John’s jaw tightened at the sound. “Isn’t it?”
She smiled sweetly across at them and tilted her head from one side to the other, sizing them up. “Oh, god no. I’m not off my rocker. Not at all, totally on my rocker, gents, just kind of fucking fed up with everything, you know?” She sighed as though speaking about it was all quite tedious to her. “You know, you strike out once, get a fresh start with a new name and just get screwed again. Isn’t that always how it goes?”
“Isn’t it always how it goes? People making false identities for themselves? Starting fresh?” Sherlock baited and she rolled her eyes at him. “I don’t know much about what humans do, but that doesn’t sound like ‘how it always goes.’”
Samantha blinked at them. “Hm, okay yeah, whatever. Shut up and sit down, cross your ankles one over the other and interlock your hands behind your head,” she waved at them with the Glock as she gave her instructions.
“And if we don’t?” Posed a calm Sherlock.
“I’ll put one between your frankly gorgeous eyes, okay? That clear enough? Fucking sit.” They had no choice but to comply, Sherlock sinking to his knees and then back, John following along a bit slower.
She sighed even as her eyes flashed dangerously; John wasn’t sure what Sherlock’s intent was in goading her, but he was winding her up expertly and knowing Sherlock, there was a plan. “Oh Sherlock, I swear, running circles around you was fun. Always going for the complicated explanation, searching so far out in left field - that’s an Americanism, you like it? - you don’t see what’s right in front of your face. All I did was mask some IPs, loop some CCTV footage - which is shockingly the easiest - and you know…”
“Oh is that all,” Sherlock drawled, sounding entirely unimpressed.
She snorted a little laugh. “You know, we might not even be in this little predicament if your landlady hadn’t left her back door open when she went out to the bins. Have to say, that basement flat? Ghastly. Her biscuits are wonderful though-”
“Where’s Mrs. Hudson,” John managed to keep his voice even, though the urge to growl it was very present.
“Oh don’t worry. She hasn’t done anything to me. Far as I know she’s off at Edna’s? Does she know an Edna? There was only so much I could hear from outside her door, you know.” Samantha turned briefly and checked her face in the mirror, dragging a finger beneath her right eye while still managing to hold the gun on the two of them. “God, I need sleep,” she muttered, seemingly to herself and then turned back to face them. “It’s really… you’ve all made it terribly easy!”
“Why, what else? How else?” John asked quickly to keep her talking, calculating the distance from where he sat to the landing, wondering if, when he took a leap into the hallway, Sherlock would roll to the right and cause a diversion. He was quite sure that Sherlock was doing the same thing, considering every possible exit strategy they had. One of them might be able to get the jump on her, but John was quite certain she’d get a shot off before she was incapacitated and he couldn’t take that chance.
“No, John, remember what I said about the movies and the person revealing how they did it? Come on, hon. Come on. Jesus, are you even fucking listening to me?” She stood, advancing on them a few steps.
Sherlock’s eyes narrowed and he huffed in obvious irritation. “I’m sure you’re quite aware that you’re in a bit of a predicament Yvonne-”
“Samantha!” Came the sharp reminder.
“Oh does it matter?” Sherlock sneered.
Her harsh laugh rang out in the quiet and John flinched at it; she twitched, her eyes focusing on him. “Well I think it does, and since I’m the one who can put a bullet through your skull, I would be listening-”
“What exactly is the point of all of this?” Sherlock interrupted, checking his watch.
“Really? Keep them behind. Your. Head.” To prove she was serious, she let off one quick shot, the bullet whizzing between John and Sherlock to thunk into the wall somewhere in the stairwell. “Did you think I was lying when I said I know how to use this? Because I’m not. I don’t lie.”
Sherlock rolled his eyes. “What about your name?”
“Shut up,” she muttered and righted herself, both hands around the pistol now. “But, here we are. I’m basically at the whole ‘nothing left to lose’ phase in my game because John can’t open his fucking eyes and see what’s good for him. Had he been a little less of a prick to me we probably wouldn’t be here. I’d still be in school on full scholarship and John and I would be…”
“We could have been something, Samatha,” John said, and had the good sense to sound forlorn about that. His voice was low and sad and he hoped that she would seize on that. “We could have been.”
“Well that’s all in the past now!” She shouted, flailing about just slightly. “You didn’t even give me a chance.”
John calculated his available angles; he could play her along with Sherlock if he could be the good cop to Sherlock’s bad. Deciding quickly, John hung his head and looked at her from under his lashes. “I just didn’t… Sherlock listen, I’m sorry but… Samantha, I didn’t, I didn’t see it until now. I just didn’t see it fully. We could be something, don’t you think? I see that now.” John laced his voice with a bit of hope, not wanting to overdo it and tip his cards.
Her eyes narrowed dangerously and she considered his words, biting her bottom lip and giving what he said a moment to settle in. “Now? Now you’ve decided that we could… we could be everything,” she breathed. “Now?”
John pretended to consider that and shrugged his shoulders, pulling a bashful face. “I… I’ve never been very good with matters of the heart and-”
“Yeah, no, that’s bullshit.” Her voice hardened and she pulled up on the barrel a bit to ensure she was aimed at the center of John’s chest. “I’m not an idiot, you think I’m a fucking idiot? I’m not!” Samantha shook her head vigorously, hand remaining calm and steady. “After all of this,” she pointed at the gun and then at her head, a maneuver that quite clearly said don’t you get it, “We’re not walking out of here happily ever after.”
“We-” John began but was abruptly cut off when she exploded.
“I’m not a fucking moron! The Yard already knows about me! I can’t go back to school! What the hell is there? You, you… maybe if you’d pulled your head out of your ass a bit sooner, a bit fucking sooner, John, we wouldn’t be here!” She began pacing, scratching at her head with the muzzle of her gun. John thought he might be able to get the jump on her but just as he considered it, she turned back to them abruptly. “No, no, no, just fucking… oh my god, don’t move.”
She tilted her head and her gaze flicked between them, back and forth a few times before she sighed and smiled. “You two. I can’t… John I cannot believe, I really can’t believe that I lost out to him to… to this.”
Sherlock’s lips flickered up into a smile and John did his best not to flinch. Samantha rambled on, “He’s not normal, you know? He’s not even a normal human being. I don’t get it! He’s rude and not even that good looking, aside from the whole tall, dark, detective thing, I just do not get it. I do not get it. He treats you like shit.”
John blinked and laid on a bit more. “You’re… you’re right. He’s careless and heartless and, and cruel. He…”
John trailed off and just as he was about to give it up, he saw her cheek twitch and he knew he’d hooked her. “Sherlock will toss me aside as soon as he’s bored. He will and I… I suppose I hadn’t thought about that, not really. I…”
Samantha bent down, close to John, trying to suss out whether he was telling the truth. “What?” Came her desperate whisper, and John swallowed and pressed his lips together.
“I know he’ll never love me,” John whispered back and hung his head, praying to every deity that she was buying his act. He knew Sherlock wouldn’t, not for a moment, which made it easier to say such awful, terrifying things.
She blinked and sighed, frowning before stepping back. “No,” she agreed sadly. “No, he won’t. But John, neither will I, not any longer.”
“You’re not pure anymore, John, you’ve screwed it all up, you know? And if he doesn't love you because he can’t,’ she screamed the last word into his face and then jumped back, standing in front of the fireplace. Her right hand ran across the smooth wood of the mantle and she brought her dusty fingers up in front of her eyes. She twiddled them until it floated off of her and then took a deep breath and cringed. “But you love him, don’t you? Yeah, you do.”
John gulped, arms beginning to shake from holding them behind him for so long. “No, I-”
“Yeah,” she pursed her lips, “you do.”
The shot barked out in the quiet and John moved to action immediately, shouting and without a thought, launched himself across the distance to Samantha and took her down at the legs. She shouted in rage, and managed to smack the butt of the gun weakly against John’s temple before as she stumbled back, coming down hard on the hearth, her head cracking audibly against the hard brick behind. John heard the gun clatter against the window and then tumble to the ground.
There was no time to secure the Glock and it wasn’t a top priority; John shuffled back, grabbed one of Samantha’s wrist for a pulse and determined that she was out cold; he tossed her arm away with so much force that it smacked back against the fireplace grate and then turned around to where Sherlock should have been standing.
He wasn’t there, he wasn’t there; John could feel his heartbeat in his eyeballs, his throat effectively closing as he made out the crumpled form of Sherlock on the landing to the flat, unmoving on the floor. John moved instinctually, panic causing sweat to bead on his brow and hands. John leapt to his feet and caught his left leg on the coffee table and toppled over, his knees taking the brunt of the force but he didn’t even have the presence of mind even to cringe.
“Sherlock, Sherlock!” He crawled his way across the short distance and hovered his hands over Sherlock’s body. There was no obvious entrance wound and so John peeled back the flaps of Sherlock’s coat. He checked his pulse and his fingers were shaking so much that for a moment couldn’t find one.
His mind whited out and he felt his body sag, a feeling he’d only experienced once before. A sickening buzzing kicked to a start in his head and he tried to swallow against the bile that rose in his throat. Time slowed to a crawl and John pressed harder at Sherlock’s neck.
It was a sickening half beat before John sensed the thud of blood through the veins and he scrambled to confirm the pulse at Sherlock’s wrist. There too he could feel the thrum of the blood in his veins and the breath rushed out of John’s chest in a painful burst. “Sherlock, Sherlock, open your eyes, please.”
Sherlock wheezed and suddenly grasped at his right shoulder, clawing at the fabric there. John ducked closer and tried to find the bullet wound and was confused by the absence of blood, noting the charred entrance hole. “Dreading telling Lestrade he was right,” Sherlock grit out.
“Wha...” John was still catching his breath, hesitant to touch Sherlock any further, though ghosting his hands over him. “What?”
Sherlock propped himself up on his elbows and wheezed again, and then curled his fingers into the void between buttons on his shirt and tore the fabric away, revealing the heavy blue vest beneath. “Lestrade insisted I be fitted for one since I happened to be at… the scene. You were, he wanted you to...” but Sherlock ran out of words and cringed as he sucked in a breath.
John blinked and sunk back, falling onto his arse hard; his back against the wall, his head smacking aginst it, his eyes closed. “A vest, you’ve got a… Christ Sherlock, that’s why you baited…” John sucked in a breath, swallowed and then took another breath. “You could have told me.”
Sherlock managed to sit up, looking dazed, and shuffled on his behind until he was propped against the banister post. “To be honest, I’d,” Sherlock cringed and rolled his head on his neck. “I’d forgotten I was wearing it.”
“Forgotten? It weighs ten pounds!” John opened his eyes and met Sherlock’s gaze and they shared a quiet moment.
When Sherlock severed their gaze, he looked over John’s shoulder into the sitting room. “She’s not dead, is she?” he asked quietly.
“No. No, she’s… no.” Sherlock’s legs stretched out to slot along John’s. “We should call…”
Sherlock sighed and closed his eyes. “Yes, we should.” It was a few long moments before John fished into his pocket and came up with his mobile. “Lestrade, we need an ambulance and someone with handcuffs.” Lestrade swore and shouted at the patrolmen around him to pack up.
John added, rather dryly, “We got back to the flat and she was waiting for us. With a Glock .22.”
“Jesus” Lestrade ground out. “Is she, I mean, did you…”
John rolled his eyes, and let his head loll back once more. “She’s alive and unconscious though we’re not sure for how long so if you could speed things along that would be really helpful.”
He could hear Lestrade huffing and heard the door of a car shutting with a bang. “Of course, of course, where’s Sherlock?”
John’s eyes flicked to him, his long fingers massaging the area where he’d been shot. “Well, he took one in the shoulder; that is to say, he took one in the shoulder of his vest.”
“He was still wearing it? Thank god!” Lestrade said, breathless.
“Would have been nice to let me know he was, scared me to death,” Sherlock grinned over at him and began working himself out of his ruined shirt. “You’ll be needing the bullet, yeah?”
“We will,” Lestrade confirmed. “Best leave him in the vest until we can pry it out. ETA is ten minutes, make sure he doesn’t take it off.” John agreed and hung up the call, allowing the mobile to fall from his hand with a clunk to the floor. Now that the adrenaline had worn off John felt exhausted, like there was cotton behind his eyes; his knees took the opportunity to remind him how hard he’d landed on them and his back twinged in compassion with his patellas.
Sherlock’s eyes were closed now and he looked in a similar state. His shirt was discarded on the top step, the only thing covering his broad chest the heavy blue bulletproof vest; the tarnished brass bullet winked at John from the shoulder.
“Toss you aside as soon as I’m bored with you?” Sherlock cracked one eye, the side of his mouth perking in a semblance of a smile. “Really?”
“I don’t know, I suppose it sounded…” John considered how best to say what he needed to. “The closest thing to the truth. And it’s easier to believe a lie that’s based in truth, isn’t it?”
Sherlock was silent for a time, now staring at John with bright, clear eyes. “You’re an idiot,” he said, very quietly, mouth curving into shy smile.
“Yeah,” John responded. “I know.”
Sherlock chuckled and then John barked a laugh and then they were giggling together, the stress of the situation giving the moment a manic edge.
“You think the spark is gone now?” John asked, his head tilted back against the wall. He was smiling, but it was an honest question. They’d come together under a situation that was infused with tension and adrenaline; it was only logical to question whether it had affected them somehow. John didn’t honestly think that what they’d found would fracture now that the threat had been mitigated but he still felt the need to ask.
“Oh, what, now that we’ve effectively halted the woman who was stalking you and intent on killing me?” Sherlock asked, his position much the same, head tilted back against the banister. “No, I do not.”
“That’s good,” John said sluggishly.
Sherlock blinked at him, “What did you think I meant when I implied forever?”
John leveled his gaze at him and set his jaw, considering that. Sherlock had implied forever, hadn’t he? Sherlock had put forever on the table, he’d put for the rest of our lives on the table and wasn’t that something brilliant. “We never really talked about what that means.”
“I never wish to be without you, what else is there?” Sherlock asked, truly confused what else John could be referring to.
“I don’t… I don’t know. That’s quite intense, coming from you,” John said quietly, affection lacing his voice. “Knowing that the great Sherlock Holmes wants to have me forever.”
Sherlock rolled his eyes hard just as insistent knocking came at the front door. “You’re an utter romantic and I’m rather disgusted by it.”
“Oh please,” John managed as he struggled to stand, gripping at the doorknob shakily as he willed his knees to hold his weight. “It’s just another facet of me you find charming, unique and mysterious.”
“There is nothing about you that is mysterious!” Sherlock called petulantly over his shoulder as John descended the steps to let the Yard and the paramedics in. John chuckled the entire way down the steps, blushing from Sherlock’s obvious lie, cringing at the toll the tussle had taken on his body.
Upon opening the front door he was met with a worried looking Lestrade and two officers, backed up by two harried looking EMTs. “Welcome to Baker Street,” John said, stepping back to allow them entry. “You’ll find the woman who tried to kill us unconscious by the fireplace, Sherlock at the top of the steps with, and if you gents happen to have an ice pack in that kit I would be much obliged.”
“We have to go,” John said, straightening his tie in the mirror and taking a full step backward to allow himself a view of his entire body; he smoothed out a wrinkle in his jacket and gave himself the once-over one final time. “Now.”
Sherlock harumphed and pulled the blankets up over his head petulantly; his body was one long column beneath the rumpled blankets. He’d only crawled into bed four hours previous, flopping down and shimmying until his arse had backed up to John’s. Only then had he fallen into a stunningly deep sleep. He hadn’t woken when John’s alarm went off and it took a few good shakes to get him to crack his eyes open and spit a few expletives in John’s direction.
“Seriously,” John said, rounded the bed and tore away the bedclothes. “We have to get going. Greg wants to meet for coffee beforehand to, you know.”
“He wants to once again attempt to explain to be the intricacies of testifying,” Sherlock sounded exasperated; John could imagine he’d gotten the rundown from Lestrade more than once and with good reason. Sherlock tended to mock and rush on the stand, berate the jury and the judge. Sherlock testifying was a timebomb, really. “I know what to say,” Sherlock continued, smushing his face even further into the pillow. The long line of his back was exposed and John longed to trail his fingers along the swells and dips of his vertebrae; his fingertips hovered in the air just above Sherlock’s neck for a moment and then he pulled away.
John cleared his throat and steered his thoughts to more neutral ground. “No, he just wants to be sure you’ll give the bare facts without the snark. He knows how easy it is for you to self-aggrandize on the stand and wants to avoid it if at all possible.” Pursing his lips and giving in, John sank down to the bed, sitting beside Sherlock’s torso, allowing his palm to stray to the small of Sherlock’s back.
A mumble came from the direction of the pillow but John couldn’t quite make it out. “What was that?”
There was a beat of silence and John took it to give Sherlock’s back a little bit of a rub, hands warming from the skin. “I know how important this is, John. I won’t… be me.”
John’s eyes narrowed, a bit thrown by Sherlock’s observation. “You know how important this is. Moriarty was important too but you couldn’t seem to keep your mouth shut during that.”
“Well,” Sherlock groused, flopping onto his back theatrically; his hair was a complete disaster and his two days’ worth of stubble made him look as though he’d been sleeping rough. Somehow, John found it endearing. “This is different. This is you.” His eyes were focused on the ceiling, as though he didn’t want to hear the words that were coming out of his own mouth.
“This is me. Do you not recall that I was forced into a vest strapped with enough plastic explosives to-”
“Well, to be more precise, this is putting away someone who was out to do you harm. Harm specifically to you. She… her obsession with you.” Sherlock explained, tugging the covers up to his chin. “I’ve no plans to… elaborate on the bare facts. Besides, I’d rather not be in the same room with her for any more time than necessary.”
“Oh,” John said simply, breathing the word. “ Alright.
John’s hand on Sherlock’s belly began to move, just comforting little sweeps, and his gaze settled out the window at the rooftops across the way. The past month had been interesting for them, trying to scrub the residue of Samantha from their lives, finding one another in the quiet and still moments. It had been a bit of an uphill battle; there were moments when John wanted closeness that Sherlock didn’t know how to give, and instances where Sherlock didn’t know how to ask for the intimacy he craved.
A quick hug from behind would - at first - leave him tense and breathless, but over the weeks he’d learn to expect Sherlock’s embrace, the way Sherlock would dip down and leave a kiss at the side of his neck just because he could.
John thought about how considerate Sherlock was, in bed and otherwise and the little things, the things that people would consider insignificant; he’d replenish the tea supply or offer to pick up the takeaway and handle the stacks of bills that John would leave on the side table until the end of the month. He’d tidy, and urge John into the bath with him, knowing John’s fondness for them but also knowing his touch could aid in his coaxing John into the bubbles.
In one month Sherlock had given more than John thought was possible and John had allowed himself to open up, to become more outwardly affectionate, to put voice to his feelings so that Sherlock knew how cherished he was.
It was all a bit soppy when John got right down to it, but most new romances were. He basked in that fact momentarily, that it was a romance and that the luster and thrill of it hadn’t worn or settled yet.
John’s hand strayed lower, petting against the waistband of Sherlock’s pajamas. John smiled to no one, still glancing out the window, as his index finger strayed beneath the band and stroked, tickling. Sherlock jumped at the contact and released a little breath through his nose, causing John’s smile to turn to a delighted grin.
He closed his eyes and then turned, bringing his right leg up onto the bed and gazing down at Sherlock. Sherlock stared back, eyes clear and bright, and John felt his heart give a sweetly painful kick. Licking his lips, he looked down at his watch and decided that he had just enough time.
“What? What’s happening,” Sherlock asked as John slid out of his jacket, folded it carefully and then climbed onto the bed.
“Hm? Oh, I’m sucking you off,” John explained as though it were the most natural thing in the world.
“...What have I done?” Sherlock asked, watching as John peeled the covers from his legs. Sherlock lay perfectly still, raising his head at an awkward angle so he could watch John.
“You’re very sweet, you know, when you don’t know you’re being sweet.” John ducked and placed a kiss to the right of Sherlock’s navel.
“Well, I…” Sherlock mumbled, getting distracted as John’s fingers worked at the drawstring of his pajama bottoms. “Try?”
“No, you don’t,” John laughed in response.
Sherlock frowned, but sighed as the knot was released. “Right, I, oh, we’ll be late.”
“No, we won’t, I said we had to leave by nine because we actually need to leave by ten and I know how long it takes to get you out of bed for anything other than a nine.” John sniffed and sat back, fingering his tie loose. “Are you complaining? Did you… want me to stop?”
Sherlock’s eyes were wide and suddenly watery and John stilled, clasping his hand on Sherlock’s thigh. Sherlock gulped once and then again, blinked the sheen away. “I love you,” he said suddenly in a rush of breath, looking spectacularly terrified and wholly unsure.
John was stunned for a moment and then a brilliant, heavy warmth bloomed in his chest. “I knew that, idiot.” It was true, John did know, had known for some time, but it was something else to hear Sherlock say it, so sure of the sentiment but frightened of how it would be received. “Bit of a cliché to tell me when we’re leading up to sex, but…”
“Shut up,” Sherlock laughed and his head fell back to the pillow. John slid up alongside him, knowing that he was going to wrinkle his trousers and not caring in the least.
John had his cheek on his pillow and he was staring fondly at Sherlock when Sherlock turned to meet his gaze, his chuckles petering out. Half of Sherlock’s mouth quirked into a smile and he settled a warm palm at John’s hip; John plunked at it with his left hand and threaded their fingers together.
“You know I…” John began, and then sighed.
“I do,” Sherlock assured.
John bit at the inside of his bottom lip, closed his eyes, nodded. “I need to say… I love you, too.”
Sherlock grinned and closed his eyes. “I know.”
“I know you know, I just-”
“There was talk of sucking me off?” Sherlock cracked an eyelid and gave John a comically innocent look.
John sat up, laughing, and smacked Sherlock in the middle of the chest just as he gathered John’s pillow and shoved it beneath his head with his own. “You’re spectacular at ruining a moment, you tit.”
Sherlock spoke proudly, “I know.”
“You bloody well know everything,” John grumbled as he rid Sherlock of his pajamas and pants. “Not an attractive quality.”
”Hmmm, yes it is,” Sherlock hummed as John dipped his head to mouth at the glans sloppily. He shut up promptly, John chasing his prick around as it slid against his stomach; he made no move to take it into his mouth, just bathing it in open-mouthed kisses and gentle sucks.
John was patient, content; it was thrilling to hear the otherworldly noises that Sherlock would make when John had him stripped naked like this, pinned, wanting. The way Sherlock’s tongue would work its way around John’s name, all sluggish and steeped in need, was the best sound John had ever heard, and it was a delight to bring Sherlock to that point.
Sherlock gave breathy little sighs but didn’t speak, resting just the tips of his fingers on John’s shoulders. John took his time, mouthing at Sherlock’s perineum and balls teasingly, working him up until he was panting, precome smearing below his navel.
Fingers trailed against John’s scalp, scratching gently when he finally took Sherlock’s cock into his mouth, allowing the head to butt against the inside of his cheek as he glanced up to meet Sherlock’s gaze. The groan that tore from his throat sounded nearly painful and John smiled around his prick and suckled.
He pulled off for a brief moment - noting Sherlock’s displeased whine - and sucked his middle finger into his mouth then slipped it against Sherlock’s hole. He stroked against the muscle in time with the pulls of his mouth until Sherlock was relaxed enough for him to slip inside.
Sherlock choked on his own words as he tried to speak and it took him a breath or two to find his voice, “You look filthy,” he said desperately.
“Good,” John slurped off to comment, and Sherlock’s hips bucked up to follow his mouth.
“Stop stopping,’ Sherlock growled, bringing a hand down hard over his face before he let it settle, palm-up on the bed.
John smirked and hummed his approval, bringing his own hand up to cover it before taking Sherlock back down. It had taken John awhile to get out of his own head while going down on Sherlock; he didn’t know if he was particularly adept at sucking cock, but if Sherlock’s reaction was any indication, he could add it to the list of things at which he was brilliant. More than anything, he enjoyed doing this for Sherlock; it proved Sherlock could be undone, pulled from him sounds that only John would ever hear, brought him quaking out of his own mind. The scent of him there, just on the edge, sharper and more present, was something John longed for at the strangest of times.
It was easy to tell when he was about to come, his fingers shaking against John’s shirt, his breaths coming shorter and quicker, crisp little inhales gathering oxygen into his lungs in anticipation of his brain flickering offline.
John pulled back and brought their twined hands to Sherlock’s stomach before he disengaged. He wrapped his palm around Sherlock and took a deeper stroke inside of him, massaging over his prostate in counter rhythm to his hand.
Sherlock came sloppily over his stomach, tendons in his neck standing out in harsh contrast to the hollow in his throat. With his head tilted back like that John couldn’t help but slip his finger out of Sherlock’s arse and rise up on his knees to taste Sherlock there, at his jugular. As he came back to himself, Sherlock’s muscles twitched and jumped just as he barked out little exclamations at the aftershocks.
John settled against him with his mouth just below Sherlock’s ear; he was sweaty beneath his collar, rock hard in his pants, but somehow more sated than he’d been in quite some time. “Is that all?” he asked after a time.
“‘S what?” Sherlock slurred and peeked his eyes open before dotting John’s nose with a sleepy kiss.
“How I get you to shut the hell up?”
Sherlock smiled and twisted so he could cup John’s face with his left hand, patting him with little smacks. “Yes. From now on. When you want me to shut up you have to suck me off.”
John grinned at him, sighing happily. “Who has the better deal here?”
They lay together, Sherlock getting his breath back, John rearranging himself in his trousers.
He did his best to smooth down his hair and then kicked his bottoms from his right ankle. “Come on, you’ve just enough time to be treated to the world’s fastest handjob while I shower,” Sherlock said, finding his energy and sitting up in the bed.
With that, he padded from the room bare arsed and John watched him go.
“Oh,” he called after he’d started up the shower. “Bring your shirt and trousers, perhaps we can steam out the wrinkles so as to not give away that you’ve been an absolutely lech, fucking me this morning.”
The defense barrister did her best to discredit the entire situation by implying that John, as a man, couldn’t be stalked by a woman, a preposterous line to take and one that was no match for the opposing barrister’s acumen. The prosecutor - a suit hired by Mycroft who had accolades by the stack - swatted each and every attempt away with sharp words, the facts landing clear and unobstructed on the ears of the jury.
Sherlock gave his account of the events crisply, managing to restrain himself to the facts, not offering any commentary on the proceedings that was out of line or superfluous; he reserved his thoughts on judge and jury, but did spare them both withering glances upon leaving the witness box: small miracles.
John gave his testimony in a flat, detached tone. His gaze strayed once to where Samantha sat, prim and proper in a demure skirt and blouse; she looked ever the harmless, dedicated student, save for her eyes, which were lit with a sort of demented determination. Once, it might have unsettled him, but now that gaze only served to bolster his conviction.
He answered the questions posed with as few words as possible, feeling hollowed out and haggard, but managing to keep his spine straight and his chin up, the perfect model of a trustworthy soldier.
There was cross-examination that lasted briefly, but the copious evidence was stacked distinctly against Samantha. Even as the evidentiary material was presented, the prosecutor painting the perfect image of someone completely deranged, Samantha didn’t move or morph expression, just sat there with a blank face; the only indication at all that she wasn’t comatose was the manic gleam in her eyes.
When she got onto the stand, however, she played the sympathetic victim, claiming that John had managed to seduce her online. Her blatant lies were delivered amidst sniffles and sobs; John swore he could feel the force of Sherlock rolling his eyes at each and every emotional ploy. He audibly scoffed when Samantha swore, “He loved me, he told me so.”
John and Sherlock sat in the second row of the balcony, Sherlock’s hand a warm, solid weight on John’s knee as John watched on in a daze. John couldn't help recalling the beginning of the whole mess, how he’d eschewed Sherlock’s concern; he thought of how he’d gone from feeling flattered to being horrified, and every other emotion in between, until he’d sunk into replaying the entire situation over in his mind, wondering if anything about it could have gone differently. He was pulled down into dark thoughts, of what would have happened if Sherlock hadn’t been wearing the vest, of what she really intended to do once she’d gotten John to herself.
He shuddered hard, his jaw setting in anger and uncertainty as his whole body tensed with the force of his rumination. Sherlock felt it and said nothing, instead shuffling as close as he was able, sliding his body alongside John’s, a necessary presence.
Presentation of the evidence took four days. When they left the courthouse at the end of each day of testimony, they were assaulted by the media; photographers had no qualms about shoving cameras into their faces, reporters nudging their way through the crowd to get a quote, their microphones and recorders held in front of them like battering rams.
Lestrade had attempted to keep the whole incident quiet, but like any sensational crime story, someone outed it; once the media got a whiff they were champing at the bit for a soundbite from either John or Sherlock, neither of whom were terribly interested in the idea.
Sherlock walked on ahead, knowing the press would likely favor him, creating a bit of a buffer for John. They walked briskly to their waiting cab at the end of each day and managed to remain on either side of the bench seat until they were out of sight of the cameras. Once away from prying eyes Sherlock would waste no time in taking John’s hand in his own, twining their fingers tightly for the duration of the ride.
Their evenings were spent inside as to avoid the news outlets that had taken to camping on Baker Street. John cooked and read and paced while Sherlock fiddled with his experiments, and they retired to bed where Sherlock wrapped John up so tightly that he nearly protested at the force of it.
On day four they entered the courthouse with grim determination, knowing that though the case was heavily against Samantha, it could take the jury some time before coming to a decision. In the end it was so cut and dried that John thought he’d dreamt the entire scenario; it was only an hour before the guilty verdicts were returned and sentence delivered: twenty-two years.
She turned, her head lolling on her neck and she winked at John just once before she disappeared down the corridor behind the witness box.
Sherlock and John sat in silence, waiting for the courtroom to empty, watching the people slowly trickle out.
“Christ,” John eventually mumbled, his face falling into his hands, the weight of the past months bearing down on him. He’d waited impatiently for the trial date, and now that it was over, he felt as though he’d been taken by a whirlwind, that it had all happened too fast to address everything she had put him through.
That she had put the pair of them through.
Sherlock sniffed and moved to tug his scarf around his neck. “It’s over.”
John chuckled and slumped until his elbows were against his knees, head still in his hands. “Feels a bit anticlimactic, doesn’t it?”
Sherlock stood and buttoned up his coat. “No,” came his definitive reply.
John took one more deep breath and then lifted his head to glance up. Sherlock was peering at him with a soft, open expression that calmed John’s clamoring thoughts. John’s lips quirked in a half-smile and Sherlock mirrored him.
He jerked his head in the direction of the door and John stood and followed behind. “I’ve asked Lestrade to have an escort waiting for us at the back entrance. Can’t avoid all of the cameras, but…” A little swell of warmth ran through John at Sherlock’s forethought, driving away the last of his dark thoughts.
They reached the floor of the court and made their way to the side door that led towards the back of the building, Sherlock maneuvering to open the door for John. “What’s on for tonight then?” John sighed a little dreamily as Sherlock pressed his hand to John’s lower back and led him through the doorway.
“Well, that scarf she sent is no longer evidence and I may or may not have pilfered it from the evidence lockup; I say we have a nice fire.”
John grinned, “Bottle of wine? Takeaway?”
“Mmm, it will be...” Sherlock trailed off for a moment and then grinned. “Romantic.” The last syllable was crisp and sharp and startled a chuckle from John.
Sherlock joined him in laughing, keeping his hand firmly at the small of John’s back as they emerged through the back door into a gaggle of reporters.
My utmost gratitude to Allison for *everything* on this piece; your patience and attention to detail are so, so appreciated.
Felicia, my thanks for your constant support and cheerleading.