“Wha…” Sherlock stutters. He knows he's staring. His mouth gaping. He glances back to the couch and the snoring mountainous man crammed uncomfortably there. “What?” He turns his eyes back to the thing… The man... Fuck. “What.”
Damage to Broca's area, a region in the frontal lobe of the dominant hemisphere of the hominid brain, is known to significantly affect functions linked to speech production. There are documented cases of individuals capable of expressing a full range of human emotions, while limited to uttering only a singular word or short phrase.
Sherlock hasn’t hit his head. At least not recently. He isn’t suffering from some recent brain trauma, nor does he believe himself to be afflicted with some other ailment of the mind. He knows with some certainty that he was capable of speech merely thirty seconds prior.
Apparently none of that matters, because Jack is here. In his terrible bedsit. Doing his month old washing up.
Water is dripping from Jack's fingers into a tiny, sudsy puddle next to his foot. His socked foot. There's a hole in the toe of the left sock and he wiggles his big toe. Quirky unconscious twitch? Endearing. But this is Jack. The toe pauses a beat then wiggles again. Definitely a calculated action. Maddening. But also… endearing.
Sherlock swallows hard and his eyes follow the stripes of the pyjama bottoms (his pyjamas) up up and up… They're too long and bunched around his feet, fit Jack's thighs -- christ -- more snugly than his own, and he has the waist cinched tight. The black band of his pants is just visible, and Sherlock doesn't have time to figure out if that's his underwear or not before he realizes Jack is shirtless.
“What.” He whispers. He thinks it's a whisper. Maybe a whimper. Someone in the room made a noise that sounded very much like a whimper. There's a distinct possibility he's the guilty party.
Jack grabs a tea towel, dries his hands, and drapes the towel over his shoulder. The right one. The exposed left one reveals, as Sherlock suspected, a gnarled knot of a scar. It's larger than he expected, and lower. Exit wound. Shot in the back. Should have been fatal. Sherlock glances up to see Jack watching him, his smirk shifts subtly into something more wistful. Nearly was, then.
They stare at each other and Jack crosses his arms over his chest. Fucking hell. He really is muscular. Not overly so, but still noticeably defined. Compact. Powerful. Sherlock's attention is drawn to the bandage wrapped around his right forearm. And the one taped to his right side. The bruises littering his torso, painfully across his ribs. The split lip. His left eye will be spectacular shades of purple and green tomorrow.
“Wha-" Sherlock bites his tongue and manages to take two steps nearer. “You're… Why are you… Are you-"
Rolling his eyes, Jack tilts his head toward the table. “I'll explain, but I'm gonna eat. Join me?”
Eat? What is ’eat’? Sherlock thinks he knows how to eat. He does, doesn’t he? He thinks he might… want. Want what? To join Jack. Yes. That. Perhaps it’s the adrenaline of almost dying, but he is actually hungry, and he was dreading coming back to his empty kitchen. Or maybe it’s the adrenaline of something else entirely. Because, well, here stands Jack, with food. Jack is in his flat.
Jack broke into his flat.
A mercenary assassin found his home, picked his lock, and touched his things. Is wearing his clothes. Judging by the scent and dampness of his hair, and the air of the flat (it’s a bloody tiny flat), Jack even used Sherlock’s shower. He… Jack used… He was nak-
“No!” It’s more abrupt than he intended, but it stops Jack from groping through cooling dish water for utensils. Sherlock puts his foot down. Literally. It’s a satisfyingly more effective stomp than the muted time he stomped in the woods. Jack’s shoulders tense and he turns slowly to face him, his left hand gripping assorted mismatched flatware.
The snoring mass on the couch grunts, sniffles, and shifts with a sigh. They both freeze and watch him.
“Not a good idea to startle him awake.” Jack nods to his partner. “Soldiers. You know. It’s…”
Sherlock holds up his hand to silence him. “Stop. You… You have just killed a man. I have just witnessed you killing a man. Twice. And this time…” He digs in the too deep pockets of Lestrade’s terrible workout trousers and fishes out the shell casing. “You left evidence. I can connect you to the scene.”
“In my defense, I did that on purpose.” Jack shrugs and drops his hand to his side. Sherlock is very aware he’s still holding the utensils, including two knives.
Jack does like his knives.
With a boldness he doesn't actually feel, Sherlock takes one more step forward. He's an arm’s length away from Jack and has to shove his hands into his pockets to keep from reaching out. “I have frien… Uhm, colleague… Connections at the Met.” He pulls his mobile from the depths of the hideous trousers and longs for the snug fit of his suit, the way his coat feels like impenetrable armor. “I could just…” He presses the home button just to make the screen light up.
“You probably should...” Jack drops the silverware to the floor. All but a single knife. His mouth quirks into a tight lipped lopsided smile.
Without breaking eye contact, Sherlock pulls up Lestrade’s contact information. “Answer me, honestly, and I won't make this call.”
Jack cocks an eyebrow, nods once, and motions for him to continue.
“Did you follow me tonight?”
“Why would I do that?”
“You told me you had a job to do.”
Squaring his shoulders, Sherlock narrows his eyes and studies Jack. His wide, somehow guileless, fathomless blue -- the color of secrets and mysteries and everything beyond the unknown -- eyes. Jack stares, unflinching, right back. “I wasn’t your target.” A statement of fact.
“We’re having this conversation aren’t we?”
“Fair enough.” Sherlock presses his fingers to his lips and considers his options. He really ought to call… Call who? Lestrade? He’s already out of his depth. Mycroft? Hmm, no. Sherlock, against all logic, actually wants to see Jack again. But, Sherlock has no rational reason to trust Jack, and Jack, for his part, has no obvious reason to tell him the truth. Jack also has no reason to not kill him where he stands. He actually has multiple reasons, probably more reasons than Sherlock even realizes, to murder him.
Sherlock frowns and pockets his mobile. He’s never turned his back on a good puzzle, and Jack is proving to be the greatest conundrum of his life.
With a smirk -- smug bastard, when was the last time Sherlock let someone best him at being smug? -- Jack makes a decision. He crouches down, and Sherlock watches, transfixed, as his muscles move under his skin. Jack scoops up the discarded silverware, drops all but the knife back into the sink, and rinses off two forks.
“I know what this is, you know.” Jack doesn’t turn to face him as he pulls the tea towel from his shoulder, giving Sherlock a completely unhindered view of his broad -- how is it fucking possible for someone so lean and compact to also be broad, to take up the whole atmosphere of the room? -- back. His eyes are drawn to the puckered entrance wound low on the left shoulder. Nerve damage would have been unavoidable. He frowns as he follow the topography of Jack’s tanned back, his spine, and the road map of scars long healed, the skin gone silvery white. Fresh bruising. Alarmingly recent.
There are dimples just above the waistband of the black pants.
Sherlock swallows hard and reminds himself to blink. Or breathe. Or… or… for fuck’s sake. He just… Please. Explain it to me, he thinks to himself, because he can’t fathom… Can’t deduce, can’t calculate, or reason, or focus worth a damn for long enough to have a bloody idea what this is.
He manages a questioning hum, trying for sounding disinterested, but knowing he’s failed.
Jack chuckles, and finally turns to face him. He’s holding up the knife and purses his lips. “French, if I’m not mistaken.”
“I- I’m sor- What?”
“This knife.” Jack shifts the knife in his hand so he’s holding it like the skilled surgeon Sherlock is convinced he is… was... certainly still longs to be. Jack’s eyes cloud with a wistful haze once more, and it takes a moment for him to pull himself out from the shadows of his own mind.
Sherlock is mesmerized by the journey.
Clearing his throat, Jack shakes his head as he tries to clear the memories. His left hand shudders, he grips the knife in a tight fist, and he drops his arm to his side. Jaw tense, Jack drops his chin to his chest as his shame tinges his ears with the faintest blush.
The gravity of Jack’s mortification is not lost on Sherlock -- he only pretends to be a sociopath so people will leave him in peace -- and despite the fact that it sits ill with him, he catalogs it away with the growing file he’s started for the man in his Mind Palace. Exhaling slowly, he takes a tentative step forward. “Yes, French,” he a confirms with a nod.
Jack looks up at him, equal parts startled and relieved. “French surgical knives.” His mouth quirks up the tiniest bit and some of the light comes back to his eyes. “Nineteenth Century, I’d say.” Holding the knife up once more, still in a tight fisted grip, so they can both look at it. “Please tell me you haven’t been using antique surgical knives to butter your morning toast.”
Sherlock scoffs. “Of course not.” With a dismissive flip of his hand he gestures to the glass lab-ware stacked haphazardly around the tiny room. “I needed to prove a method of murder. I got the kit cheap from a… less than reputable broker for the sake of experimentation.”
Opening his mouth to respond, Jack glances at the knife, then back to Sherlock, and smiles instead. It’s luminous. “Christ. Nothing by halves with you, is it? Did you prove it?”
Rolling his eyes, Sherlock scoffs again. “Obviously.”
“Brilliant,” Jack breathes. He’s still smiling as he takes a step towards Sherlock, still holding the knife, though his grip has noticeably relaxed.
Sherlock feels himself blushing under the praise. It is mortifying. Humiliating. He doesn’t do this. He doesn’t let another person’s proximity affect him.
He doesn’t flirt.
“They’re also excellent fillet knives.” So maybe he does. Sherlock looks Jack right in the eyes and lays it all on the line. “But you of all people, Captain, would know that to be true.” Without the slightest hint of a thought about the consequences, Sherlock winks.
Why wink? Do people wink? Damn. Oh bloody-
Jack’s ears go pink once more, and Sherlock suspects shame has nothing to do with it. His eyes go dark with… with what?
“How the fuck… No, look who I’m talking to.” And then Jack laughs. It’s unguarded, and seems to well up from his soul.
And this? This is gorgeous. Sherlock has never witnessed such beauty. He’s caught up in the moment and drawn by Jack’s elation. His damned traitorous transport acts before he has a chance to react to the alarm bells going off all over the Mind Palace. His hands are on either side of Jack’s face, and he’s tilting Jack’s face up and pulling him closer… closer… Closer.
And he doesn’t do this. He doesn’t.
Except maybe now he does.
And Jack’s apparently no stranger to this sort of thing, because he’s stopped laughing, and his smile becomes something fierce. He drops the knife on the floor and tosses the silverware in the general direction of the table, fisting a handful of Sherlock’s shirt with one hand and his hip with the other. Sherlock shudders as they collide. It’s messy, and frantic, and there are teeth, and they struggle for dominance. Jack tastes like coffee and there’s the tang of blood from his split lip.
This is dangerous. Deadly.
Jack will be the death of him, he just knows it.
And Sherlock doesn’t give a damn. Not a single one.
Behind him there’s a cough as a giant, calloused hand clamps painfully on his shoulder.