John Watson directed his rhetorical inquiry into the wind: Who would miss him, really?
‘My question precisely.’
He started, tripping a heart-stopping half inch. Above raw, tear-stained cheekbones were verdigris eyes staring at him - directly into his own - from three meters to his right. He’d never been exposed this way; his innermost desire, his greatest fear, set on naked display for an absolute stranger. A stranger who kept on talking.
‘Not the first time you’ve come close, but your first time here, ’ the man gestured toward the ledge upon which they were both perched. ‘I ought to know, I’m here enough, I’d’ve seen you. No, it’s always been a gun for you before, but it wasn’t the right fit. Why not… too bloody… too expected… no. Not poetic enough, I should think. Something about this roof then, this building. A building where you learned to be… a doctor. Yes, that’s it. You swore to first do no harm, and this, this, is the most artfully ironic location you could come up with. Clever you. Though a bit unbecoming of a soldier.’
‘How…’ John clenched his fists against the cold; he hadn’t realized the top of London would be quite so forbidding a temperature. ‘How did you know I was a…’
‘Soldier?’ The man hopped down onto the rooftop as if it’d all been a child’s game. ‘Or a doctor? No matter; point is, I know.’
‘That’s… well…’ John glanced down at the man now striding purposefully toward him and suddenly felt ridiculous there on his ledge like an overgrown pigeon.
Surprise flashed across the tall man’s countenance before a gloved hand stretched up into John’s space, as though suggesting he simply not was the most normal thing in the world. Taking the proffered hand, he allowed himself to be led back down, burying his terror for another day. Perhaps…
‘No, you won’t return tomorrow.’
‘How d’you know that?’ John asked, a shiver running through him from the January chill.
‘Because,’ the man began, shrugging his heavy coat off and slinging it onto John’s shoulders in one clean motion, ‘you’ll be moving.’
‘And just who would have me for a flatmate?’ John laughed morosely, eyes falling to the concrete at his feet.
The man wrapped both arms around him as though they’d known each other all their lives, one leather-clad hand wrapping around the back of his neck and pulling him close.
John choked on the desperation welling up within him, not realizing he had clutched onto the strange man’s suit jacket as he focussed on fighting the wetness threatening to spill from his eyes.
‘The name is Sherlock Holmes,’ the man stated far too loudly for a moment so private, ‘and the address is 221b Baker Street. I’ll bring you at once, if convenient.’
John Watson pulled back, staring with confused wonder at the man who had just possibly saved his life, and uttered the only answer he could think of.
‘And if inconvenient?’
Sherlock laughed, a gentle, conspiratorial sound, and guided John toward the stairwell.
‘I should think you’d better come anyway.’