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The Case of The Duplicated Detective

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”Drinks are on me tonight.”

Lestrade set three pints on the table and sat next to John, looking overly cheerful. The mundane case they had just solved didn’t really merit this kind of celebration, and normally Sherlock wouldn’t have had any qualms at saying so. However, luckily for Lestrade, this evening was somewhat special.

It was John’s first police case since Sherlock got out of the hospital (well, practically since Mary’s death, but Sherlock didn’t want to think about that.) The case had been barely a five in itself, but when John asked, Sherlock would have taken whatever MET could offer, even a financial crime, and that says a lot. Financial crimes are as boring as they get, unless they are big enough, in which case they have the additional drawback of having Mycroft involved more often than not.

And Sherlock would still take those just to be able to work with John again.

After Mary’s death, their friendship – still damaged from Sherlock’s fake death – had been utterly destroyed. Before that, Sherlock had not realised how much (and often) he had really hurt John, and that realization had sent his own life on a downward spiral.

Sherlock didn’t remember much about those weeks after that.

He watched as John lifted a pint for a toast. His lips were curved in a hearty smile, and when he beckoned Sherlock to do the same, the look in his eyes made Sherlock grin involuntarily.

To have John back after all that was a miracle, and he still had trouble believing it was true.

”So good to see you two together on a case again,” Lestrade said after a long sip and a satisfied sigh. Sherlock took his time tasting the beer, concentrating on the hoppy bitterness on the back his tongue to keep himself from saying anything stupid. Hiding his feelings used to be second nature to him, but now that he saw John so rarely, he wasn’t used to it anymore.

”So great to be back in business,” John countered. ”You were absolutely amazing, Sherlock. As always.”

Sherlock blinked and lifted the glass to his lips again.

”You were the one to catch him,” he said when he got his face back under control. The image of John’s adrenaline filled grin when the suspect was down, pinned under him on the pavement, was clear in his mind.

”Wouldn’t have even found him without you,” John continued, still smiling so genuinely that Sherlock’s stomach fluttered. The post-case high was messing with his self-control, and he felt jittery. He flexed his fingers around his glass, caught between the need to act and the necessity to stay still, almost like being high.

Almost.

And that line of thought needed to die right there.

”Yeah yeah, you were both amazing, and I have missed you!” Lestrade butted in. ”So, was this a one time occurrence, or will we be seeing you again?”

John’s eyes flickered towards Sherlock before he answered.

”Yes, I’d love to help, if Sherlock will have me.”

Sherlock had a distant thought that he would get terribly drunk if he drank every time he needed to stop his feelings showing on his face. He sipped anyway.

”Oh he’d have you, I’m sure,” Lestrade sniggered, earning a humorous glare from John. Sherlock drank again.

”Well of course I would,” he said innocently, when he was sure the colour on his cheeks could easily be blamed on the alcohol.

John’s fond eye-roll proved what Sherlock had already deduced: He didn’t really think Sherlock had got the joke. That was mildly annoying, but also made it easier to hide in plain sight. If John believed Sherlock was completely oblivious about sexual innuendo, he would never notice the occasionally obvious signs of attraction.

The first time Sherlock figured out he was falling for John was when John shot the cabbie for him. He tried to ignore it at first, but when John tried to save him from Moriarty, he realised (too late) that he was already far gone. He had promised himself long ago to avoid that kind of weakness at all costs, but there he was, only a few months later, jumping off a building to keep the love of his life safe.

Pathetic.

Even more pathetic was to get so depressed over John’s marriage. What had he expected, when John kept dating women and repeating that he was not gay?

John had stopped defending his sexuality though. Getting married and having a child with a woman was apparently proof enough that he didn’t feel the need for it anymore. Sometimes Sherlock entertained the thought of a certain other reason for John to stop broadcasting his sexuality, but that was stupid. Sherlock had buried those hopes very deep in his mind palace, and right now getting their friendship back on track was very much enough for him.

After Sherlock got out of the hospital, their relationship had been awkward. They had both been overly careful and polite. John kept apologizing and Sherlock tried to avoid anything that would remind him of Mary, while battling withdrawal and cravings. They just didn’t know how to act around each other.

Sherlock had hated it.

Now it felt like they had finally found some of their rhythm again. They had fun, excitement, they caught the culprit red handed and John was actually planning to blog about it! It was well worth an evening at the pub with Lestrade.

Lestrade, who was currently looking at Sherlock, had the audacity to wink. Sherlock shot back a murderous glare, and John just chuckled, even though there was a soft undercurrent of awkwardness forming behind his smile.

”Any news of the serial murders?” Sherlock decided to change the subject.

”The Merrington case?”

Sherlock rolled his eyes.

”The name is stupid, the third victim was nowhere near Merrington road.”

”That’s still ruled out as a suicide unless you give me proof of something else.”

”Working on it,” Sherlock scoffed, starting to feel more normal. ”Might need a blogger with me though.”

John’s answering smile made Sherlock’s heart skip a beat and he found himself drinking again. Lestrade had ordered a second round.

”So, how have you been lately?” Lestrade asked after the discussion about the murders died down. Sherlock wanted to bite his head off for it, but surprisingly enough, John was fine and even made a self-deprecating joke about graduating from his therapist. He had been able to return to his work at the surgery about a month ago, and everything was going quite alright.

Lestrade talked about his divorce being finally official, and suggested a toast for the new-found successes in their lives. Sherlock rolled his eyes, but joined them anyway.

Soon the discussion moved to much lighter topics, and it wasn’t long until Lestrade got drunk enough to ask Sherlock to deduce the other customers in the pub.

***

It was already quite late when they decided to call it a night.

”Sherlock, do you mind if I kip on your couch tonight?” John asked a bit awkwardly, when they walked off the pub. Sherlock blinked, and then nodded. Of course. Rosie was asleep at Mrs. Hudsons, so John would have to come back in the morning anyway. More convenient to stay than pay a cab fare just for sleeping.

”There’s another bedroom upstairs, if…”

”If we’d be needing two," John completed the sentence, and they both started laughing at the shared joke. Sherlock marveled how much John’s attitude had changed. When Mrs. Hudson had said that years ago, John had denied it furiously. Now it was just a memory to joke about.

Unless…

Sherlock shook his head trying to stop his tipsy mind from wandering to dangerous places. Luckily John continued with the conversation.

”Sometimes I wonder why you never found a new flatmate?”

Sherlock raised his eyebrows. ”Why do you think?”

”Bodyparts in the fridge?”

Sherlock pretended to look offended, and John burst out laughing again. Sherlock couldn’t help but follow him.

”Didn’t need one anymore," Sherlock declared, after they had calmed down again. It’s easier to pretend you are coming back if there is no-one else, he wanted to add, but kept his mouth shut.

”Did you ever?” John asked, sounding weirdly hopeful. Or maybe just curious. Alcohol didn’t mix well with deducing.

”Of course," Sherlock stated firmly. ”Mycroft had frozen my accounts back then.”

John looked surprised.

”What? Why?”

”Apparently I wasn’t suited living alone," Sherlock shrugged, not wanting to go into the details. ”Tried to blackmail me to moving in one of his houses.”

”Why didn’t you? They seem fancy.”

”Fancy with full time surveillance. And I don’t like fancy.”

John shot a pointed look at Sherlock’s clothes, and soon they were giggling again, earning weird looks from a lone dog walker they just passed. Sherlock was feeling light, like floating.

”Anyway, you should be happy," he stated, as John leaned on him. ”This way the bedroom is yours every time you get too drunk to crawl home.”

”You bastard," John laughed. ”I bet you are more drunk than I am!”

”Prove it!”

”I’ll think of something.”

”Well Lestrade was more drunk than either of us.”

”Yeah!," John sniggered. ”I can’t believe he went and asked him!”

Sherlock had deduced multiple patrons at the pub, and one of them happened to be an undercover cop. Lestrade had wanted to confirm that.

”Yes, I’m wounded he didn’t trust my deduction!”

”The guy was so embarrassed!”

”He was new.”

”Well, perfect time to find out who you are then!”

Sherlock grinned.

”Best to teach them young," he joked, even though he would never work with the man. He was clearly from the drug division, and Lestarde would keep him off those cases probably forever.

”Poor boy, he had no idea!," John laughed, and almost tripped over when he stepped on a crack on the pavement asphalt.

”Yes, pray tell me who’s more drunk," Sherlock sneered good naturedly and poked John’s shoulder.

”Well who’s first at Baker Street," John countered with drunken seriousness.

”What?”

”If you are as sober as you say, you can easily outrun me!”

”That’s the most childish… hey!”

John had already started running, and Sherlock lost precious seconds by staring after him in bewilderment. He shouldn’t be running after John! It should be other way around. Or was he actually always running after John? Metaphorically speaking.

His drunk mind found the thought a bit too fascinating, so John got a good head start before Sherlock got his feet moving.

Adrenaline kicked in, and he dashed after his blogger just when he turned around the corner.

Sherlock caught him only few steps before the front door, and they tumbled in together, trying to beat each other on dashing the stairs while also trying to keep quiet.

When the door of 221B closed behind them, the result was a draw. Probably. They sagged on the floor, laughing breathlessly. Sherlock leaned on the door and opened a button from his shirt, trying to calm down his breathing. For a moment the room was spinning. Maybe he was a bit drunk. Well, of course he was, that was never in question.

”That," he started, ”was not scientifically reliable way to measure -”

The sentence was left hanging, as just out of the blue, Sherlock’s world stopped.

Suddenly John was close, very close, and kissing him. One hand behind Sherlock’s neck, the other on the floor supporting him. Sherlock’s unhelpful brain fixated on all the new data he could see, smell and taste - oh god, taste! His body had a distant idea of what he should do, but his mind was busy, frantically going through the evidence proving that this was, in fact, real.

His heartbeat was loud in his ears when he finally managed to move his hands, ready to squeeze John’s coat fabric in his fist and bring him closer.

He didn’t get to do it.

He was interrupted when John suddenly pulled away and scrambled hastily on his feet. Everything happened so fast that Sherlock felt dizzy and slow. He blinked and stared at John, and tried to make sense of the situation.

John looked away, hiding his face from Sherlock.

John was already apologizing.

He hadn’t meant to do that.

He wasn’t really interested, of course not.

He knew of course that Sherlock didn’t want things like that.

He was sorry, more drunk than he thought.

They should forget this ever happened.

He should leave.

The excuses burned on Sherlock’s mind, but he was too shocked to say anything. The carefully constructed walls in his mind palace were crumbling down, and he was sure that if John now looked at him right now, he would practically see how the carefully hidden hope broke free after years of careful confinement just to be crushed again.

John left without looking at Sherlock at all.

***

When he came back the next morning to fetch Rosie from Mrs. Hudson’s, he did not come to meet Sherlock.

***

The radio silence lasted for days, and Sherlock was at a loss of what to do.

Had John noticed Sherlock’s attraction and tried to experiment with it? Was John really
that cruel? If nothing happened during his stag party, being drunk couldn’t really justify this. Or was he lonely, and Sherlock just happened to be there? Not so straight after all.

Well, whatever the initial reason, John had clearly come to the conclusion that the kiss was a bad idea.

And why would he want Sherlock? And why on earth Sherlock was feeling so dejected because of a kiss someone else started?

Sherlock should just forget it even happened, just like he said.

It’s just that with that one act John had nullified years worth of Sherlock’s work on getting over his feelings, and Sherlock didn’t know if he was angry or sad about it. He hated himself for the hope that lurked freely around his mind, and refused to die even if there were solid reasoning against and only few very flimsy ideas for it.

Hoping against all reasoning. How mundane.

Sherlock sighed and grabbed his phone from the sofa.

– Two of the Merrington suspects are at Old Chimney’s tonight. Lestrade says I’m not to go alone. SH

He typed the message quickly, and sent it before he had time to reconsider.

The text seemed completely normal. Three days ago, in a different time altogether, that would have been considered a normal correspondence. Right now, however, Sherlock was feeling all but normal. He had sent the text, sure, but for the first time ever he wasn’t sure if he wanted John to answer.

No. That wasn’t completely true, of course he wanted the answer. He didn’t want to lose John’s friendship again, that was currently the only thing he was sure of. But was he ready to meet John again so soon?

Maybe that’s why he hadn’t posed it as a question. Or order. That would have been more like his style. Used to be, anyway.

The phone chimed and Sherlock stared at it for some time before swiping the screen and reading the message.

– Can’t, sorry. Everything alright?

A completely normal and expected answer. Can’t get a babysitter on this short notice, completely understandable.

- Yes. SH

That was a lie. Nothing was alright, and this show of normality went straight under his skin, making him restless and itchy. John had shaken the very construction of their new normal they had carefully constructed.

Maybe it was good that John wasn’t able to come (whatever the true reason was). Sherlock needed some more time to regroup. However, spending the evening home alone with his thoughts didn’t sound appealing.

Well, there was a murderer waiting to be caught.

***

Sherlock leaned on the bar counter and watched the people around him. Both suspects had arrived and were doing absolutely nothing of interest. If either of them really was a serial killer, he was doing a perfect impression of a normal average British male at a pub after a hard day at work.

It was a shot in the dark anyway, only one of the victims was connected with this pub, and the lead about the killer’s possible working office was weak at best.

Too little data. The killer was clever and took his time, so it could be months until his next move. Sherlock didn’t like the idea of waiting for the next body, but the information gained from the two (possibly three if he could prove the connection) bodies was scarce.

It was a challenge and normally Sherlock would be clapping his hands with glee, but right now his mind was not fully in it. John had shattered the walls around his heart and hateful but true, that had a direct effect on his mind. The fact that he had been clean only for a couple of months didn’t help either.

He craved for something to distract his mind. Instead of giving full attention to the suspects, his mind had unhelpfully spotted two different dealers and a bunch of users. He wouldn’t even need to buy anything, how easy it would be to just pick a pocket. That would be enough, just for this night, and then…

Sherlock closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He should go home, he really should, but suddenly the thought of passing the hallway and spending another night alone was too much. He took a sip from his drink and tried to distract himself by analyzing random pub-goers.

He had only gone through the three most interesting (still fairly boring) cases before he was interrupted.

”Mind if I join you?”

Sherlock startled and looked at the intruder who was now sitting at the end of his bench, nursing his pint.

”You already did," he noted dryly. Normally he would have either driven the man away or left himself, but right now a distraction was welcome. At least Sherlock could deduce the man before he noticed how bad company Sherlock really was. The stranger had a dark ponytail and he was skinny and short. He was obviously coming straight from work, still wearing an IT-company’s name tag. Clearly not a local, on a business trip then. Married happily, at least one child and a cat…

”I’m Nathan," the stranger interrupted Sherlock’s thoughts and offered his hand.

”William," Sherlock lied without a beat. Nathan clearly didn’t recognise his face, but introducing himself as Sherlock led too often to inane discussion about ”what kind of name is that," or about John’s blog, and right now Sherlock wanted desperately to get his blogger out of his mind.

And the name wasn’t really a lie anyway.

”So, how’s your day?” Nathan asked with a polite smile.

Sherlock eyed the man with a surprise and took a sip from his already warm beer. So the man wasn’t just looking for a place to sit after all.

”I like to talk with people,” Nathan explained himself when Sherlock didn’t answer.

Sherlock shrugged. ”I’m alone in a pub on a Saturday evening. What do you think?” he muttered, and grimaced inwardly when his normally scathing sarcasm sounded a tad too pathetic.

”I think you are watching people just for amusement, but some company would not go amiss?”

”And how do you deduce that?”

”You aren’t expecting anyone, you would have told me that when I invaded this booth," Nathan noted. ”And you were watching people, but clearly just watching, not to find company. Yet you didn’t shoo me away, so I think you don’t actually want to be alone. Am I right?”

Sherlock stared at the man. It wasn’t really that difficult a deduction, but the unusual straightforwardness surprised him. Interesting.

Or maybe not.

”Are you hitting on me?” Sherlock asked suspiciously.

”No” Nathan chuckled. ”That would have been a lousy pick up-line anyway. ’Hey you look lonely, how about doing the do?’”

Sherlock grimaced, but Nathan continued without a beat: ”No. I’m actually a bit lonely too at the moment. I’m far from home and my company’s rental apartment is tiny and depressing.”

Sherlock managed just barely to quell his ”I knew that already”-reflex. The man wasn’t wrong, right now Sherlock should not be alone. Whoever Nathan was, at least he hadn’t anything to do with drugs, and was way better company than Sherlock’s own thoughts. Best not to drive him away just yet.

”I watch people, search for clues and deduce their history," he admitted, wondering where the conversation would go from that.

”I do that too," Nathan answered with a nod. ”Sometimes. I write short stories on my free time, and I watch people around me for ideas. Can I try?”

Sherlock looked him suspiciously, but didn’t sense any mocking. ”Whatever," he answered.

”See that couple over there?," Nathan started and nodded to his left. ”She’s pregnant, isn’t she? Her partner doesn’t look happy.”

”It’s not her partner," Sherlock corrected. ”Well, he’s the father of the child, but the ring on her finger isn’t his”.

”Interesting, what makes you think that?” Nathan asked, looking like he really was interested in the answer.

”Look at him. He could not afford a ring like that," Sherlock answered, feeling slightly better. Well, a genius needs audience. Hadn’t John said that once?

”Hm, true," Nathan continued. ”What about that old man over there? Alcohol problems?”

”Yes, but also drugs. Look at his eyes. And that kid with a hoodie just sold him something.”

”Could be. That young man is working part time as a cleaner and isn’t paid well enough to live in London without extra income.”

Sherlock looked at the said man and frowned. ”You are making that up.”

”Of course I am, aren’t you?” Nathan chuckled, and Sherlock’s improved mood dropped instantly.

”No. I observed," he answered sourly and emptied his drink. Clearly it was time to leave.

However, instead of questioning and ridiculing, Nathan turned quickly to look at the old man they had just been deducing. ”So that kid with a hoodie really sold drugs?”

”Yes," Sherlock admitted, trying to figure out what Nathan really wanted.

”Shouldn’t we.. do something about it?," he asked, clearly uncomfortable about the situation. ”I’ve never seen a drug dealer before.”

”You just haven’t noticed.” Sherlock said. ”And he’s just a minor offender, probably sold all he had with him so it’s not worth calling the cavalry”.

”You didn’t know him before?”

”No. I saw the plastic bag."

Nathan looked at Sherlock making him almost squirm. Sherlock could easily spot the signs in himself to recognise the recovering addict he was, but he really didn’t want strangers to see that.

However, instead of awkward questions, Nathan smiled and stood up.

”I’m offering you a drink, if you tell me how you do that," he said with a friendly tone and disappeared into the crowd. He left his coat hanging next to the booth, so it wasn’t a hasty excuse. He was really coming back.

Sherlock stretched his legs under the table. Clearly Nathan wasn’t very good at deducing people, or at least he got too attached to the first deduction instead of analyzing all the possibilities, but he wasn’t stupid either. All in all, the evening could be worse.

When Nathan came back with the drinks, he sat closer to Sherlock and smiled at him very differently than before.

”I thought you weren’t hitting on me.” Sherlock stated flatly, but took the drink anyway. He was actually a bit flattered.

Pathetic.

”I wasn’t. Might have changed my mind though," his companion simply answered.

”Because I spotted a dealer for you?” Sherlock aimed for a dismissal tone, but inside he felt nothing short of indifferent. After the kiss and the following rejection it felt surprisingly good to have someone openly appreciating him. Nathan didn’t really know him well enough to really matter, but still.

Nathan was oblivious to Sherlock’s inner thoughts, and instead just sipped his drink.

”Because instead of a normal loner you are actually interesting," he answered to Sherlock’s question. ”What do you do for a living?”

”I work for the police," Sherlock answered with yet another not-really-a-lie. ”And you work for a software company, and are here only for a business trip.”

Nathan nodded with a grin and rolled the name tag on his fingers. ”Yup. That’s fairly obvious. What more can you tell about me?”

Nathan placed his hand on Sherlock’s thigh, and his body reacted instantly, goosebumps raising on his skin. When had he become this pathetic? Ready for anyone who offered some kind words? On the second thought, maybe this was just what he needed to get the unwanted feelings for John out of his system?

”You are married," Sherlock stated as a first thing that came to his mind, even though he really didn’t mind. It’s not like he wanted to have any kind of relationship with the man anyway.

”Yes, I am, but we have an understanding," Nathan answered with a shrug.

Sherlock nodded, not surprised. He had deduced that the man was happily married after all.

”You are wearing the ring. It’s not new but it’s clearly been cleaned and well cared. Normal adulterers take it off if they are going out, or at least try to hide it. You admitted the marriage easily and nothing indicates you are lying about the rest. Conclusion: You are happy with him.”

”Her," Nathan corrected. ”I love her and we are a perfect team, but we are free to have sex with whomever we please when out of town. And that was quite impressive thinking, by the way!”

”But there is always something," Sherlock answered with mild annoyance. Nathan laughed and the hand on Sherlock’s thigh moved upwards.

”So, you just look for clues eh?”

”Yes.”

Nathan watched him for a moment before leaning closer.

”You must tell me more," he whispered to Sherlock’s ear. ”Want to leave with me?”

Nathan sat back and took his pint, waiting for Sherlock’s answer. Sherlock took a good look at him. Nathan wasn’t bad looking if one looked at him that way, and for the first time in a long time, Sherlock was not stopping himself from looking.

John wasn’t going to want him, but someone else did, and frankly Sherlock needed the distraction.

”I could," he said softly.

Nathan just nodded.

”It’s only a three minute walk," he said with a wink, and then continued with a more serious tone. ”But like I told you, we have an understanding and rules. If I meet you twice, I’ll tell her, if more, I’ll introduce you two, but if you are looking for a relationship, then you should say no.”

”I’m not really a relationship person," Sherlock said and stood up, reaching for his coat.

He hated how sad that sounded.

***

As soon as Sherlock and Nathan got behind the closed doors in the small impersonal flat, they were all over each other, pushing coats off, kissing and touching. Sherlock was feeling unreal, he wasn’t used to this, but at least this time nobody was pushing him away, and more importantly, there weren’t any wayward feelings getting in the way.

”Tell me what do you like," Narhan asked, fingers on Sherlock’s belt.

”Make me believe you want me," Sherlock blurted before he had really time to think for a good answer. He would have been ashamed of the words, but Nathan didn’t let him think too much.

”I can do that," he whispered against Sherlock’s neck.

And that he did.

***

It was already two in the morning when Sherlock arrived back to Baker Street. He was feeling relaxed and had almost fallen asleep in the cab. The evening could have gone worse.

He slipped through the front door and took off his coat before climbing the stairs. It said something about his mental state that he almost reached the door before realizing something was amiss.

Someone was there.

The doormat was wet, someone had been standing there with dripping clothes after rain. Not a man with umbrella then. The crumpled cash receipt on the floor wasn’t Sherlock’s, so probably dropped from the intruder’s pocket.

A pocket where he kept the keys to the apartment.

”Good evening John," Sherlock burst out as he slammed the door open and saw John sitting at the living room table going through Sherlock’s notes.

John gave a startled whelp and dropped the papers.

Sherlock eyed the scene and walked straight to his bedroom to change. John had come after all, and to what? Spy on him? Really?

His good mood disappeared, but instead of earlier uneasiness, his mind went straight to anger. Sherlock had noticed some messages and calls from John when leaving Nathan’s apartment. Well, John had tried to contact him but unanswered texts hardly justified violating one’s privacy like this.

Sherlock changed his clothes with angry moves. He had been wearing his stakeout attire that fit better to the pub scene, but now he put on his normal suit. It was a bit silly to change to the suit instead of pajamas, but right now he needed his armor and he had a feeling that after this conversation he would not be sleeping anyway.

”Sherlock?," John called out from behind the door. ”Can I come in?”

”Didn’t have time to go through my bedroom yet?” Sherlock snarled back while buttoning his shirt.

”I’m sorry!” John continued. ”But I’m worried. Have you taken anything?”

”No.”

”You can tell me, you know, I won’t -”

”See for yourself," Sherlock hissed and pulled the door open with considerable force. ”Or do you want me to pee in the jar again?”

At first John looked a bit awkward, but then he put on his soldier face and performed a short check-up. Sherlock was suddenly very happy he had decided to shower at Nathan’s, when John came closer to look into his eyes. As soon as John looked satisfied with the result, Sherlock brushed past him to the kitchen and put the kettle on before turning around and facing his guest.

”So, you couldn’t come with me but you clearly had enough time to come spying on me and staying for the interrogation," he stated coolly. ”What one should deduce from that?”

”I tried to find out where you had gone!” John answered sounding frustrated.

”Suddenly interested in my company again?”

”Don’t be like that," John grimaced and looked away. Interesting. ”Of course I’m interested in your company, I just thought…”

”Clearly you are interested enough only when you are worried about me," or drunk, Sherlock left out.

John seemed to understand though, because he blushed softly. ”Sherlock, I…”

So they were going to talk about it?

”Lestrade called me to ask if I had left with you," John finally said.

Apparently not.

Sherlock turned around and went to prepare the tea. He should really kick John out, but then again, he really /had/ been unpleasantly close to a relapse, so John’s worry wasn’t that far fetched, as annoying as it was. And truth to be told, he would never be strong enough to be able to push John away. He was preparing tea for him, for god’s sake!

”Lestrade came here and Mrs. Hudson told him you had left," John continued explaining. ”He thought I had left with you, so when you didn’t answer your phone, he called me. I got worried and left to the place you had mentioned as soon as I could. I just couldn’t find a babysitter any quicker”.

”Nobody asked you to do that," Sherlock muttered as he gave John the mug. His anger was subsiding a bit, and he felt almost touched that John had come looking for him.

”You asked me to come with you.” John answered solemnly.

”And you said no," Sherlock reminded him and sat on his chair. ”Which I accepted," he added as an afterthought.

”Well that’s weird in itself, you know," John chuckled a bit awkwardly.

”So, when you could not find me at the pub, you came here to find clues on where I had gone?” he asked, picturing it in his mind. Well, that’s what he would have done in John’s place.

”Yeah," John admitted and sat on his chair opposite Sherlock.

”Addicts are not to be trusted," Sherlock quipped, and watched John squirm.

”Well, that’s not…”

”Well that’s the truth," Sherlock sighed and breathed in the scent of his tea. He shouldn’t drink tea so late at night, but he needed the calming effect.

”But you didn’t…?”

”No," Sherlock took a sip of his tea before deciding to continue. ”I wasn’t alone. And it was a good thing.”

John looked a bit surprised, and then nodded. It wasn’t the first time he was dealing with an addict, so he understood what Sherlock left unsaid.

”You didn’t stay at the pub though? Where did you go?”

Sherlock closed his eyes briefly. Should he tell the truth, so he could observe John’s reaction? Should he just ask directly about the kiss? Was he ready to for another dejection? Maybe not tonight.

Coward.

”High Wycombe," Sherlock finally answered, staring at John challengingly. It wasn’t exactly the truth, but John would get the reference and hopefully cease with the questions. After all, it was him who had encouraged Sherlock to take the chance and now he had, even if not that specific chance.

John’s shocked face stirred Sherlock’s anger a bit.

Was it really so weird that Sherlock had met someone? Sherlock entertained briefly a thought that John was jealous, but quickly dismissed it. John was just surprised. After all, he had readily believed Mycroft’s untrue comments about Sherlock’s virginity.

Sherlock is not like that. Sherlock doesn’t care about things like that… He had created this role to keep himself safe, but now he seemed to be it’s prisoner.

John was muttering something about it all being fine and good, and Sherlock gritted his teeth. John had never actually asked, he had always just assumed. Serves him right to realise that Sherlock was human too. Why to kiss him, if it was this shocking!

”Let’s change the subject, shall we," he muttered. He wasn’t brave enough to confront John about this yet.

”Yes. Of course!” John accepted quickly. ”But just…you can always ask if you need… company, you know? I may not be able to come at every case, but if you need.. you know…”

”I know John," Sherlock interrupted his awkwardness. ”Now, tell me why Lestrade wanted to meet me? Another body? Completely new case?”

That was the right thing to say, because John stopped his stuttering and gave a wide smile.

”You are going to love this!” he said. ”The police caught a shoplifter close to Baker Street this evening. Not really Lestrade’s case, but when the culprit introduced himself as Sherlock Holmes -”

”What?!”

”I knew you’d be interested," John sniggered. ”They called straight to Lestrade, because the poor policeman really thought it was you.”

”Oh dear… Let me guess, he was wearing the hat?”

”He attempted to steal a bunch of those," John corrected, smiling widely. ”And yeah. He had a sidekick who ran away. Lestrade asked if we could help tracking down one John Watson.”

”I don’t know," Sherlock smiled. ”He’s pretty difficult to catch”.

”Too difficult for mighty Sherlock Holmes, huh?”

”Mighty Sherlock might need some help with that," Sherlock quipped, ignoring the double meaning of the conversation. John seemed oblivious. ”Where’s Rosie now?” Sherlock changed the topic.

”Downstairs," John grimaced. ”Mrs. Hudson was worried about you too, so she volunteered when I called.”

”Want to stay for the night then?” Sherlock asked carefully, wanting to observe John a bit longer. He may still lack the courage to ask directly about the kiss, but he had made a career out of observing after all.

”I… Well…," John muttered, clearly remembering what happened the last time, but then the practicality won. ”Sure. I was prepared for that anyway.”

”In case I…”

”Yeah," John interrupted. Clearly didn’t want to bring up the drugs anymore.

”Well, Mrs. H. doesn’t have anything on tomorrow, and you don’t do weekends at work, so… How about catching that sneaky Watson in the morning?”

***

The next day Sherlock woke up to the sounds in his kitchen. His morning tea was brewing itself, by the sound of it. A soft giggle and thumping of small feet told him that Rosie was already up too. Sherlock could not hear any signs of John yet, but smiled anyway. He could get used to this, having them around. Best to get up to look after Rosie though. His apartment wasn’t exactly child proof. Not yet, anyway.

Sherlock sat up and fished the belt of his dressing gown from the floor. He felt yesterday’s actions in his muscles, and didn’t really know what to think of that. It wasn’t a new feeling, but it had been years since the last time he had… Sherlock grimaced at his own weakness. Just for a few kind words… But it hadn’t been unpleasant.

The man had given his number afterwards. The crumpled paper was probably still in Sherlock’s coat pocket, but he didn’t have any intent to contact Nathan again. He had got what he needed: a moment of distraction. If that also indirectly caused John to meet Sherlock again and gave them a chance to talk, that’s a good bonus.

Well they hadn’t exactly talked about /that/, but at least they were talking again.

Rosie’s steps came closer, so Sherlock pushed the thoughts away and wrapped the dressing gown around himself before standing up to open the door. When Rosie saw him, she squealed and ran behind Mrs. Hudson and peeked from there.

”Sherlock dear!” the landlady greeted while pouring water. ”Good morning. Everything alright?”

Sherlock just nodded, not caring to explain. Mrs. Hudson had probably came to eavesdrop sometime during the evening anyway, she wouldn’t have brought Rosie if she wasn’t already sure Sherlock was in a good enough condition to meet a child.

Mrs. Hudson didn’t seem to expect an answer either, instead he ruffled Rosie’s hair.

”Say hi to your godfather," she said sternly, and Rosie did as told, even though she was clearly shy of him. Sherlock knew that children often had a phase when they were shy of strangers, so her behaviour was completely normal. However, being a stranger to John’s child felt surprisingly unpleasant.

It should be expected though. Rosie didn’t really know him after all. John didn’t bring her around much, and if he did, he often dropped her at 221A before meeting Sherlock.

”Hello Rosie," he said awkwardly, just wanting to do something. Then he remembered. ”I have something for you," he added and slipped to the living room. His hands found the colourful book quickly from the shelf, and he blew the thin dust cover off it before getting back to the kitchen.

It was a ridiculous children’s book, called Bee & Me. Sherlock had bought it sometime after Rosie’s christening, but there just hadn’t been right moment to give it. And then Mary had died, and… Well.

Rosie’s face lit up when she saw the book, and she grabbed it shyly from Sherlock’s hands, staring at the cover. After a moment of hesitation, she crawled under the kitchen table to leaf through the pages and look at the pictures. Sherlock watched her, and his lips curved to a smile. In a spur-of-the-moment he decided to sit on the floor too.

That’s where John found them when he came downstairs: sitting under the kitchen table, Sherlock reading the book and Rosie listening carefully. Mrs. Hudson stood at the kitchen counter watching them and smiling. The tea was forgotten.

”Good morning John," she greeted as John stood at the kitchen door, staring at the scene.

John’s answer was drowned in a loud squeal and hasty rumble, when Rosie scrambled up and ran towards her father. John caught her in a mid-jump and lifted her up with a wide smile. Sherlock stood up awkwardly from the floor, watching them and feeling out-of-place in his own kitchen.

He turned his back towards them to make tea, just to have something to do.

***

”Sorry about this morning.”

It was the second time John had said that during the cab ride. He was embarrassed and a bit defensive, and Sherlock didn’t know what to say. The excitement about the case had disappeared, and now they had returned to the awkwardness Sherlock absolutely hated.

”I should have woken up earlier, so -”

”I didn’t mind," Sherlock repeated tiredly, not wanting to continue the conversation any further.

”I know you don’t like children, and -”

Finally Sherlock had enough.

”John, stop. Just stop," he snapped and turned to stare at his companion, who looked satisfyingly startled. ”What is your evidence of that?”

”What?” John looked puzzled.

”You are saying I don’t like children, so I assume you have some evidence of that," Sherlock continued coolly. ”Have you maybe asked me about that?”

”What? No, but I thought…”

”Yes," Sherlock hissed, and realised that he was suddenly very irrationally angry. ”You just thought. Made an assumption, just like you always do. Sherlock doesn’t understand this. Sherlock doesn’t feel like that. I wonder why you even bother following me around, if you have so high opinion of me.”

John stared at him, mouth opening and closing.

”I… But you’ve never showed any interest!”

”I remember watching her multiple times when you two were sleeping on my couch," Sherlock snapped back. ”Or do you mean later, when you explicitly told me that anyone else’s help is more appreciated than mine? Should I have insisted? Or hey, maybe you mean the time after that, when you finally decided you could talk to me again and I was sick with withdrawal -”

”Sherlock," John interrupted, inch of desperation in his voice. ”Stop! You are right, I… I’m sorry.”

The anger vanished when Sherlock saw John’s shocked face, and suddenly he felt utterly tired and numb. What was wrong with him? He shouldn’t have said any if those things.

”You bought that book to her, didn’t you?” John asked with a sudden surprise before Sherlock had time to apologise.

”Obviously” Sherlock answered defensively. John hadn’t realised that before? ”Not old enough to be from my childhood, and not of the usual princess theme Mrs. Hudson buys. Should have been obvious.”

”That’s… That’s actually very sweet," John said, looking a bit bewildered. The small feeling of success warmed Sherlock’s mind, but he didn’t let it grow.

”I’m sorry about my harsh words," he muttered awkwardly. His temper was a bit short these days.

”I deserved them," John answered a bit roughly and looked out of the window. ”You are… I… I just keep thinking that you will get bored with me," he continued with a self-deprecating laugh. ”Nowadays I’m the epitome of a boring single father from the suburbs. Doesn’t really fit into what we were.”

Sherlock stared. Did John really think that? As if Sherlock could rip himself away from John’s orbit, even if he tried. And he truly had tried.

”Neither of us really fits to what we were," he said quietly.

John looked at him, puzzlement clear on his face and Sherlock realised he might have admitted too much. ”The story got interrupted," he blurted to change the subject.

”What?," John looked even more puzzled.

”The story got interrupted," Sherlock repeated. ”I want to finish it, if she wants.”

Apparently that was the right thing to say, as John chuckled fondly and nodded. When the cab reached the yard, they were already joking about The Case of Duplicated Detective, and Sherlock was so happy about the possibility of a new blog post that he forgot to insult the title.

***

Lestrade greeted Sherlock and John happily from behind his desk. ”So, ready to look for a lost doctor?” he chuckled as he opened the brown cardboard box on his table. The fake detective’s belongings, obviously. ”Your namesake will be released soon with a fine, so you have to be quick with these”.

Sherlock nodded and made a quick assess of the items before taking a closer look on man’s coat.

”Can we interrogate him?” he asked absently. The pockets were empty, but there was a wallet in the box as well. Some cash, pub receipts (might be interesting), a condom in worn-out foil (expired), no ID or driver’s licence…

”No. He’s already been heard. Confessed everything," Lestrade answered with a shrug. ”I’d say it was just a classic case of drunken idiocy. Apparently he didn’t even know the other guy, met him at a pub on that same day”.

”Names?”

”Our guy is called Jeff Broman, but we have no idea about the other one. He got away.”

”Seems like the Doctor was smarter," John said, and Sherlock could sense the smile in his voice without looking.

”Or just lucky," Sherlock quipped with a wink. ”The officer in duty believed to have caught me, so the most probable reason for not catching the other one was that he didn’t want to lower himself to a pointless chase. After all, he could just ask Lestrade where John Watson lives.”

Lestrade answered something, but Sherlock ignored the conversation. The impostor's phone was in the box too! Password protected, of course, but not for long.

The phone opened on a second try, and with just a quick look on texts and browser history told him enough. He didn’t even need to check the location history. Sometimes technology made it too easy.

”I know where he is," Sherlock stated.

”What, how?” Lestrade asked sounding baffled as always. ”You cracked his phone?”

Sherlock would have loved to give a detailed explanation of a complex deduction process, but this time it had been pathetically easy.

”Obviously," he muttered, the said phone in his hands. ”The fake doctor panicked and sent a stream of texts to Mr. Broman, mostly to beg that he would not expose him.”

”So they knew each other after all?” John asked.

”Probably not," Sherlock shrugged. ”Broman hasn’t saved his number and there’s no record of previous texts or calls.”

”He could have removed those.”

”Possibly, but the first messages suggests otherwise: ’Got this number from google. If you are the Jeff I met last night, please, don’t tell, ok? Dan.’, and second one: ’I know it’s your number, found your pic! Did they get you? Please answer!’.”

”So, a guy called Dan?”

”Daniel Wright, a florist from Sutton.” Sherlock corrected and showed John his google search results.

”Amazing, as always," John stated with a smile that made Sherlock’s cheeks warm. What had became of him? The case was barely a four, and basically already solved. Normally at this point he would have thrown the evidence at Lestrade and left, but now he was actually looking forward to chase a panicked first-time-offender. He was chasing drunken thieves just so he could spend more time with John. How lovely.

”Well he does look a bit like me," John chuckled, oblivious to Sherlock’s emotional confusion.

”No he doesn’t” Sherlock snapped, annoyed at himself. ”And he’s taller.”

”Hey!," John laughed. ”How can you say it from just a portrait?”

”Statistics," Sherlock grinned.

”Jerk," John muttered, still smiling, and gave Sherlock’s shoulder a light nudge before turning towards Lestrade.

”So, to Sutton then,” he stated. He had already slipped his notebook back to his pockets, ready to go. ”You coming?”

”Nope, sorry," Lestrade declined. ”It’s not my case and I have my hands full with the Merrington murders. I’ll just call Barton to make the arrest, but I’m not going to hurry," he continued with a wink. ”Figured you’d want to do the honours, eh?”

They were almost out of the door, when Lestrade remembered something. ”Sherlock! Can I have a moment?” he called after them.

John looked at them both before nodding. ”I’ll get the cab," he said and disappeared through the door. Sherlock was left alone with Lestrade, and he mentally prepared himself for a reprimand of his last night’s decision of going alone to the pub.

However, that wasn’t what Lestrade had in mind.

”So, how is it with you two?” he asked with a suggestive grin.

Sherlock stared.

”Come on! You and John!”

”What about us? He’s still speaking to me," Sherlock answered slowly. He really didn’t know where Lestrade was going. He had never before teased them about their supposed relationship, like virtually everyone else had done at the beginning. On the contrary, during the months after Mary’s death, Lestrade had suggested Sherlock should forget about John completely.

”Huh? Are you telling me nothing happened after you left on Tuesday?”

Sherlock blinked.

John had kissed him on Tuesday.

”No," he said.

”Damn!” Lestrade lamented. ”I was sure he would do something!”

”Like what?”

”Didn’t you see how he was looking at you during the evening? I’ve never seen anyone with that much longing on their face! And after all that beer he still didn’t say anything? Really?”

Sherlock stared at Lestrade. His mind tried to fit the pieces together. After all, John HAD done something, and then backed off as quickly as possible. Did he realise it was a bad idea, or did he just panic?

”No," Sherlock said absently, trying to analyze his memories of that evening.

”Damn. I swear watching you two going around each other is more irritating than anything they offer on telly.”

Sherlock grimaced inwardly. Apparently his own feelings were so obvious that Lestrade didn’t even question them. He could only hope that John was still oblivious. Well, of course he was, after all, Sherlock had practically admitted spending a night with someone else!

What if Lestrade was right though?

”Sorry mate, shouldn’t have said anything. He’ll come around, I’m sure," Lestrade apologised, looking annoyingly pitying. ”You should go, he’s waiting!”

Sherlock turned around left.

***

”Anything important?” John asked the moment Sherlock sat in the cab. Sherlock glanced over, but didn’t see any signs of the warmer feelings Lestrade claimed to have witnessed. John looked like he always looked, harmless on the outside, but the fierce soldier was there if you knew how to look. And nobody knew better than Sherlock how to look at John.

”Just an update on Merrington case. Nothing new," he dismissed. It wasn’t really a lie. It was very informative that Lestrade had time for that kind of useless gossiping, he couldn’t have any new information. And he wouldn’t have sent Sherlock after a stupid thief.

Sherlock watched as John nodded and turned to look out of the car window. There was some undercurrent tension in him, but that could be anything.

John clearly believed in the cold facade of personality Sherlock had hidden behind when they first met. Sherlock had faked his death, failed to protect Mary, and more importantly, Sherlock was an addict. In the light of these facts it was a miracle John still wanted to know him, let alone work with him. Why would he want anything more?

And yet, there was the kiss.

And something else.

”I expected Lestrade to lecture me about yesterday," Sherlock said slowly, watching John carefully. ”He didn’t even mention it.”

”I didn’t tell him," John answered simply, before turning to look at Sherlock again. ”He assumed I was with you when he called about the case, and I didn’t correct him.”

Well, that was surprising.

”Why?”

John looked a bit awkward.

”I didn’t want you to get into trouble," he finally said. ”Wanted to check you up myself first.”

Sherlock looked at John with a surprise.

”Thank you.”

”That’s what friends do, you know," John shrugged. ”And well, I would have blamed myself if something had happened.”

”For not dropping everything and coming with me on a moment’s notice?”

”Well no, but…”

Sherlock looked at John. He was blushing and avoiding Sherlock’s eyes, he almost licked his lips, which is one of his nervous ticks, but this time he interrupted that. Clearly thinking about his lips.

”You were worried that your drunken antics shocked me too much," he finally said, keeping his tone light enough to be easily interpreted as joking, but not mocking.

John’s cheeks went red instantly, and he slapped his palms on his face. Sherlock frowned, how was he supposed to read him if he didn’t see his face? Of all the possible reasons for the kiss, Sherlock had dismissed only one: John wasn’t cruel enough to tease him about his feelings. So, drunkenness, loneliness or panic? Sherlock’s overly hopeful heart refused to dismiss the possibility of mutual feelings, even though the evidence pointed otherwise.

”Jesus!," John squealed, sounding utterly mortified. ”So you do remember that”.

”Yes.”

”I have no idea what got into me! I’m so sorry! I should never have-”

”Well, you were the more drunk one," Sherlock quipped, stopping John’s stream of apologies. They were almost at the Flower shop, and he didn’t want to make this any more awkward. John was clearly embarrassed and sorry, but he still hadn’t commented on his sexuality. That was a good sign, wasn’t it? At least new data to analyze.

”Yeah, I guess I lost that one," John chuckled with a mixture of relief and embarrassment.

Had he really been worried that Sherlock would do something stupid because of that kiss?

Well you almost did, Sherlock’s unhelpful brain added but was ignored.

Sherlock waved his hand. He needed more data, but now was not the time.

”Never mind that. Let’s find another lost Watson”.

***

The bell chimed softly when they walked into the flower shop. Young woman was making a bouquet at the counter and Daniel Wright was talking to a customer about wedding flowers at the other end of the shop. He nodded to Sherlock and John, clearly not recognizing them, and continued with the bride-to-be.

Sherlock winked at John, and walked closer to them, pretending to look at the different coloured carnations on the vases, but actually following Mr. Wright’s reactions through the mirror behind the flowers.

”What colour do you think Dr. Watson would like?” Sherlock asked just loud enough for Mr. Wright to hear. John bit his lip, clearly to stop himself from laughing.

”I think something light coloured would suit his pale complexion," he said, looking at the mirror as well.

Indeed, Mr. Wright had gone very pale.

”What would you say about tulips? They symbolise forgiveness.”

”Well, Dr. Watson might need some forgiveness after doing stupid things drunk.”

Sherlock looked at John, his mind oscillating between anxiety and excitement. John wasn’t talking about the case.

”But he wasn’t alone," Sherlock managed to utter, his heart thumping wildly in his chest. He heard John draw breath, but didn’t dare to look.

”Yes, but he ran away like a coward.”

Sherlock swallowed. ”It’s not like Dr. Watson to run away.”

Their game got interrupted as the bride left. At the same second Mr. Wright stormed away towards the backroom, clearly trying to escape.

”Apparently it is," John yelped, and ran after him. Sherlock blinked a few times before dashing out of the front door.

Just as expected, Mr. Wright ran away from the backdoor, and tried to reach his car. When he noticed that Sherlock had blocked his escape route, and John was jogging behind him, he gave up.

”I’m so sorry! I didn’t know what he was going to do!," he cried out.

”Dr. Watson rarely does, but that’s not a reason run away if his Holmes is caught," John said solemnly and took a hold of the man’s shirt. Sherlock threw his handcuffs, and John caught them with a swift movement.

”The real Sherlock Holmes wouldn’t have gotten caught in the first place!” Sherlock commented, as John clicked the cuffs in place. He had gotten quite good at that.

Mr. Wright was a sobbing mess when the Police arrived and took him to custody. When the police car pulled away from the car park, both Sherlock and John burst out laughing.

”That was a bit weak performance," Sherlock noted between the giggles. ”Mighty Captain Watson.”

”I guess we are used to better class criminals. ”

”You would be a better class criminal.”

They were still joking and laughing when they took a cab. Sherlock watched John and quickly went through his theories about the kiss. This time John had blamed it solely on drunkeness, and was clearly embarrassed. The lack of any other excuses fed the hope Sherlock tried to keep under the lid. Did he mean drunk as in bringing feelings he didn’t in reality have, or drunk as in acting on feelings he was otherwise too shy to show?

This was too close to home. Sherlock could not be objective no matter how he tried, so the only real option was to ask. His shortsighted decision to throw Nathan at John’s face made it obvious that John wouldn’t make another move like that anymore, even if he wanted to. If Sherlock wanted anything to happen, he would need to be the one to take the initiative.

He just needed to be completely sure about John before he did that.

Sherlock’s stomach fluttered unpleasantly, but he ignored it and drew deep breath before opening his mouth.

”Lunch?," he finally managed. Not really what he meant to say, but a step to the right decision.

However, John stopped smiling, and his eyes snapped up to look at Sherlock. Suddenly he looked very uneasy, and Sherlock was, again, at loss of what had just happened. Had his face betrayed his feelings?

An unpleasant thought rose to his mind. What if the sexual attraction was real, but instead of assuming Sherlock didn’t want it, it was other way around? John had realised that he didn’t want a relationship with Sherlock.

And who would blame him?

John straightened up, like preparing to battle.

”Sorry I… There’s something I have to do in the afternoon, so I should probably go to fetch Rosie," he said. Awkward, but clearly trying to act normal. He was hiding something, and suddenly Sherlock connected the dots his hopeful mind had refused to see before.

”You have a date.”

The flutter had disappeared, and it felt like his stomach had disappeared altogether. John looked like he was going to deny it completely, but then thought better of it.

”Nothing serious! I mean, it’s practically a playdate with our kids.”

”No need to explain," Sherlock said coolly, and turned to stare out the window. No use getting angry at John, and fairly quickly Sherlock realised that he really wasn’t. He was angry at himself for his inability to squash that ridiculous hope, for being coward and not asking for the reasons sooner, for imagining that John could actually want him. It shouldn’t have been any surprise, but still he suddenly felt utterly stupid and worthless.

The rest of the cab ride went in silence.

***

John and Rosie left quickly afterwards, leaving Sherlock alone.

He stood at the living room window for a few seconds after he heard front door closing, and threw his phone at the door, where that stupid kiss had happened. The door was ajar, so the phone went through it. Sherlock heard it land on the stair’s carpet with unsatisfactory thump.

Stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid.

He went to close the door without retrieving the phone, slid down on the floor, and felt completely lost with himself.

His eyes prickled.

Only fools still hope when all hope is long lost, and he was apparently the biggest fool there was.

***

Sherlock didn’t know how long he had just sat there before Mrs. Hudson came upstairs, but it had already gone dark.

”Sherlock? What are you doing, sitting here in the dark?," she asked and put the lights in. ”Your phone was on the stairs. It’s been vibrating for ages!”

Sherlock glanced at her.

”Probably broken," he muttered.

”No it’s not, I checked. Just some cracks on the screen," Mrs. Hudson said determinedly and handed it over to Sherlock. ”John has called multiple times.”

Sherlock grimaced, but took the phone. Why would he call from a date? A quick look told him John had indeed called and texted, but so had Lestrade.

- Found a body at Old Chimney’s. Interested? -GL

Sherlock took one look at the images Lestrade had sent, and was out of the door before Mrs. Hudson had time to blink.

He didn’t ask John to come.

***

”Where the hell were you?” Lestrade greeted him, when Sherlock arrived to the pub’s backyard. The body was in a rubbish bin, and Lestrade’s team was all over it, taking pictures and samples.

”You need to stop calling John every time you can’t reach me," Sherlock muttered. ”We don’t live together anymore, and he’s on a date.”

”Yeah I heard," Lestrade eyed him suspiciously. ”Here I thought good old murder would cheer you up, and then you don’t even answer your phone!”

”How nice of you to arrange dead bodies to keep my spirits up.”

”Any time dear," Lestrade winked, but then got more serious.

”The bartender found the body from the bin this evening," he started. ”According to his staff, it wasn’t there last night when they closed up, and according to you, this pub had a connection with the Merrington cases. Now, there’s a dead guy in the bin, so feel free to start explaining any time now.”

Sherlock nodded and walked towards the body. Lestrade’s new team scattered quickly out of his way, eyeing him suspiciously but letting him work. Sometimes Sherlock actually missed Donovan and Anderson. At least they were open with their dislike.

Luckily he wasn’t here to talk with the technicians.

Sherlock peeked into the bin, holding his breath against the smell. White male, age 20 to 25, possibly a truck driver… no, definitely a cabbie. Multiple stab wounds, obviously bled a lot considering the state of his clothes but no blood in the bin. It was obvious from the blood patterns that the man had been sitting when attacked.

”Search for missing or abandoned cabs, the killer took a cab and stabbed the driver," he stated. ”He has been dead at least for a day before he was dumped here. Makes it difficult to determine the exact time of death…”.

Something caught Sherlock’s eye from under the body.

”He’s been dumped here in broad daylight," he said after looking more closely. It was quite common that the ad delivery employees dumped the leftover advertisements to the closest bin after they were done with their area, and the victim was lying on a pile of those.

”How do you know that, the security camera gives us nothing!”

”The ads have today’s date, so the bin has been free of dead bodies at least till midday. The security camera is not pointing at this direction and the walls are high, so it’s surprisingly easy place. Nobody looks twice if a cab stops around a pub.”

Lestrade nodded, but didn’t seem satisfied.

”What about yesterday?”

Sherlock sighed. ”Nothing," he muttered. He really didn’t want to explain to Lestrade that he had actually been here, if John had kept that secret. He had seen absolutely nothing of value anyway.

”Yeah I don’t believe you” Lestrade snarled. ”You were onto something, and now this happened.”

”I had very far fetched clues regarding of two regular customers of this pub.”

”Like what?”

”Nothing that would explain this, just a possible connection between the body found in Thames and the second one from Merrington.”

”You still don’t believe the Thames guy was a suicide?”

”Are you saying this is a coincidence?” Sherlock asked, nodding towards the victim.

”No, and that’s why I’m asking you.”

”If you’d just let me work, and maybe I’d get some answers for you," he stated turned on his heels and left the scene.

Time to be a detective again.

***

The rest of the evening and night went quickly. Sherlock spent the time revisiting the old scenes and interviewing possible witnesses (no luck there) until it was too late. People tend to be angry if they are woken up by a stranger… Sherlock returned home with a lot of useless information and started to pin clues on his living room wall.

Two bodies at Merrington Road, killed at the same time, found two weeks apart. Both knocked out with blow on the head, and then stabbed afterwards. Why not dump them at the same time?

One body found in Thames two weeks after the second Merrington victim was found, cause of death was drowning, but had also a head wound. Could have happened while he jumped into the river, but something was off.

The second Merrington victim had visited Old Chimney’s on the night he died to meet his friend who was there with the group of colleagues. The Thames guy wasn’t there but he was working in the same company as the said friend. Possible connection there, but rather far fetched.

And now a cabbie killed and dumped at Old Chimney’s. Why so public dumping site?

Sherlock dived head on to the case, and started to go through all he knew, pinning some pieces of information to the wall, and discarding a lot of others.

This was his world, this was what he was good at and this was the love of his life.

On a times like this he actually almost believed that.

Sometime around two in the morning Sherlock got a message that the police had found the cab, but they wouldn’t let Sherlock take a look until morning.

Sherlock huffed with frustration. The cab would surely give some information. It was the first murder place police had found, others had been just a dumping sites.

He contemplated on going to the yard anyway, but decided against it.

Instead he sat on the floor to stare at his wall.

That’s where he was sitting, when Molly dropped in the next morning. She greeted him briskly and dropped a bag of croissants on his lap.

”You should eat something.”

”Since when you have started to mother me.”

”Since when I heard John has started dating again.”

Sherlock startled and looked at her. His feelings weren’t apparently a secret to anyone.

”Yay, a pity party. Please make yourself home," Sherlock muttered venomously, and turned back to stare his wall.

”Nope.” She said sternly and sat next to him. ”Eat.”

She had unwrapped one croissant and was now pushing it towards him. Sherlock took that reluctantly.

”What if I told you it wasn’t a serious date?”

Sherlock sighed.

”Does it matter?”

Molly was one of his closest friends, and she was also one of the few who might have some inkling of what he felt.

Unrequited love.

Oh how pathetic that sounded!

”I think it does. Anna - she was John’s date - is my friend, and she wasn’t very happy about it.”

”And I repeat, does it matter?”

”Well, maybe John really wants you and is just too much of a coward to say that out loud.”

Sherlock was in the middle of swallowing, when Molly’s words made him draw a quick breath, sending him into a coughing fit as the the croissant crumbles went down wrong way. Molly slapped his back.

”You don’t know that," he finally managed. ”And I don’t appreciate you for spreading false hope. You for one should know that”.

”It’s not necessarily false," Molly said carefully. ”I mean… Mary told me some things.”

Sherlock stared at Molly in shocked silence, eyes still watering from coughing.

Molly looked back solemnly.

”She told me that she was lucky you left when you did because otherwise their relationship wouldn’t have really even started.”

”I was here when he married her!” Sherlock objected, still remembering how that had felt.

”That’s not the point," Molly explained calmly. ”You weren’t there when they met! He always chose you over those girls before.”

”He didn’t choose me, he chose the cases, which is understandable, by the way, and -”

”Sherlock!," Molly interrupted with a shout. ”Just… What if it was you? Because I don’t believe that’s all there was.”

”I have hurt him, I faked a suicide in front of him, I practically killed his wife, I’m an addict, I -” Sherlock stopped to draw a breath, but then decided not to continue. Molly knew all that anyway. ”It does not matter whether or not I had a chance back then. It matters, that I don’t have that anymore.”

Molly looked sad, but didn’t look away.

”He also hurt you," she said quietly. ”And he knows it.”

Sherlock eyed her suspiciously, ”Have you talked to him?”

This time Molly looked down. ”You forget I babysat Rosie quite a lot after Mary died.”

”And he talked to you?” Sherlock asked skeptically. John wasn’t really the type of person to talk about his feelings.

”He talked to himself," Molly sighed, looking even more sad. Sherlock felt awkward, but concentrated on her words.

He had noticed that too: John had talked to himself, or more likely to Mary, few times at Sherlock’s presence too. The most memorable time was last year on Sherlock’s birthday, when John admitted to cheating Mary.

Why had he done that? Sherlock had buried that memory deep in his mind, never dared to deduce it.

”Maybe you should talk to him?” Molly continued quietly.

”And how do you think that would go?” he asked snidely. ”I’d rather have this than the pitying awkwardness.”

”Or maybe you two could once be fully functioning adults?” Molly exclaimed, lifting her hands up. Sherlock rolled his eyes.

”Oh, like you have talked to me about your feelings?”

That was a low blow, but Molly just laughed it off.

”I never had to, it was obvious anyway. And the first time I saw you with him, well... There was a spark, and if I’m not blind, it wasn’t just on your side.”

Sherlock wanted to ask more, but the sound of the front door opening interrupted him. John was coming, the steps were easily recognised.

Molly heard him too, so she stood up and brushed some crumbles off her lap.

”You might be surprised," she whispered and lifted her bag back on her shoulder.

”Morning John," she greeted when he stepped in. ”I was just trying to get some breakfast into this one. Oh, and I have the report of the yesterday’s victim!”

She pulled a file from his bag, and handed it out to Sherlock, who grabbed it swiftly. ”Why didn’t you say it sooner," he muttered and opened it, thankful of the distraction. He pushed Molly’s words out of his mind by force, and gave a full concentration on the file.

John greeted Molly and they exchanged some pleasantries before she left, giving Sherlock just enough time to get himself back in control. John acted completely normal, talked about the traffic and and asked about the case, and Sherlock was thankful. He needed time and peace to think things over.

Sherlock refused to deduce John, and started to explain the case.

John walked behind him, and looked at the clue wall as well.

”That place looks familiar?” he asked after a moment.

”It’s the riverbank of the Thames," Sherlock rolled his eyes. ”You might have seen it before.”

”No… Wait a sec…”

John typed something on his phone and then shoved it at him.

It was The Times article from about a month ago with a picture of Sherlock himself walking on the riverbank. The article was about Scotland Yard, but it had a sidenote about him being the most famous consultant. The article itself was complete drivel, but Sherlock noticed instantly what John meant.

The picture had been taken in the exact spot where the body had been found.

Sherlock dashed to his laptop and did something he rarely did anymore, and googled his name. He found loads of articles about himself (he decidedly ignored the old ones speculating his and John’s relationship), and selected some of the newer ones.

The results were interesting, and debunked all of his previous theories.

He found two pictures of himself at Merrington road. In one he was walking right past the bin where the first victim had been found, in the other he was standing next to the gate to the basement stairs, where the other had been dumped. The other article was about Sherlock’s apparent return to work after a long sick leave, the other was about increased gang violence rates in London and the picture was completely unrelated. It was also a lot older than the other one.

”Someone’s following you," John stated the obvious.

”Yes!," Sherlock exclaimed and rubbed his palms together. ”Interesting!”

”Interesting?” John snapped, making Sherlock turn around in surprise.

”Have you already forgotten about Moriarty?," John asked coolly. The worry, anger and even disappointment were clear in his posture. John was angry.

Sherlock blinked.

”Don’t be an idiot," he answered hastily. ”Moriarty knew things that were known by very few people. This? This is public knowledge.”

John looked dubious, and it was obvious that he didn’t trust Sherlock’s words.

”There’s nothing in the papers about Old Chimney’s," he pointed out as a proof.

”There were dozens of patrons present," Sherlock said, trying to aim for calming tone. ”He could have been there himself for all we know. But you are right, that’s a change in the pattern.”

John drew breath audibly.

”Is that all this is to you?," he asked. ”Patterns?”

Sherlock looked at his friend, trying to figure out the best thing to say. John’s worry and distrust were direct blows to his heart, a clear example of what Sherlock had once had and then destroyed.

”I’m a detective, that’s my job," he answered quietly, not wanting to argue.

John sighed.

”Yeah, sorry," he muttered and sat down. ”I just keep thinking… and you are now running on this kind of cases alone.”

Sherlock didn’t know what to say to that. Part of him expected John to forbid him on continuing with the case. Would he stop if John asked? Despite what media implied, this kind of clever serial murders happened once or twice in a century.

Would he leave this for John?

No. This was who he was, and if John really asked him to stop his work, it would not matter what kind of feelings Molly or Lestrade claimed to have witnessed, there would never be any future.

Maybe that’s why John had realised the kiss was a bad idea?

John didn’t ask him though. ”Lestrade called me again to find you," he said instead, changing the subject entirely.

Sherlock blinked.

”He needs to stop that," he muttered, and tried to concentrate on the present and not the depressing thoughts that threatened to swallow him. ”I was at home," he added when John still looked like he wanted to ask something.

”You didn’t answer your phone.”

I was having a breakdown because you have started dating again, Sherlock thought bitterly. ”I was in the middle of an experiment," he lied instead. ”So you came here to check up on me? Why?”

John looked a bit awkward, like he wanted to ask something, but didn’t know if he should, and instead looked around like searching for clues. His eyes stopped at Sherlock’s bedroom door.

Sherlock joined the dots.

”You were curious if I was with someone?," he asked, surprising even himself.

”No!," John exclaimed, but Sherlock had clearly been spot on and John quickly realised that lying was stupid. ”Well, that’s where you were last time.”

Sherlock opened his mouth to poke John about being jealous just to see how he’d react. Molly’s words echoed in his mind, and Sherlock had to push them back. Not a good time for that.

”I was not," he ended up muttering.

John looked relieved. Interesting?

”It’s just…," John scratched his head and looked at his toes. ”I can’t picture you on a date, that’s all.”

That hurt.

From the objective point of view it should not have, but it did.

”Just like you cannot picture me with children," he snarled back, shocking even himself by the anger in his voice.

The mixed signals of the whole conversation made his head spin. The signs of awkward curiosity and following relief could easily be interpreted as jealousy, and that would go well with Molly’s and Lestrade’s observations.

When you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.

The only possible explanation to everything was that John really had some pent up feelings for him.

The realization hit him so suddenly that he completely missed John’s answer. Could it really be? Could he be objective enough about this? Were Molly and Lestrade observant enough for him to base his deductions on their words?

And yet, what of it? The interrupted kiss was still there and John had asked him to forget about it. Obviously he did not want Sherlock, not enough at least. Or maybe he thought Sherlock didn’t want him? That was highly improbable, but he couldn’t eliminate that just yet. Didn’t want to.

”Sherlock, are you there?” John asked, interrupting Sherlock’s thought process.

”Yes, never mind, let’s go to the yard," Sherlock stated and walked out, not looking behind. John let out a surprised sound, but followed him anyway.

The case should be a priority.

Combining Lestrade’s and Molly’s observations to John’s own actions, the theory was plausible, but he needed more data to confirm the hypothesis, and right now the case came first.

***

The rest of the day went with the case.

Sherlock concentrated mostly on that, as catching a murderer was of course more important than his pathetic love life. He tried to give subtle hints at John when possible though. Stood just a bit closer, gave him longer looks and stopped avoiding accidental touching.

John seemed oblivious, but didn’t shy away either.

Molly’s report had just confirmed what Sherlock already knew by looking at the victim.

”He was killed before I even decided to go to to the pub," he stated as they walked out of the front door. John nodded absently and hailed a cab for them.

”So… he’s killing and then waiting for you to appear somewhere in papers?” he asked.

”Yes," he nodded. ”And as the papers have not been interested in me this week, he had to break his pattern and dump it somewhere before it was found elsewhere”.

John nodded as they sat in the car.

”He still managed to dump it in a place you had visited though. He’s following you," John said and looked around the street from the car window, as if searching for someone.

”Luckily I have you watching my back," Sherlock noted.

John startled a bit, but then smiled warmly.

”That sure needs watching," he joked.

”Just don’t stare too much, people might talk.”

John snorted. Sherlock took it as a positive sign, but didn’t continue pushing.

”It’s good to have you back," he added more seriously, remembering John’s self-deprecating words from the last cab ride they shared.

John looked at him curiously, but agreed with him.

They continued in companionable silence, and Sherlock had some time to think. If John really was interested, but just didn’t think he had a chance, what could Sherlock do about that? He didn’t know how to flirt, and asking directly would probably bring back the hateful awkwardness regardless of what John felt. John didn’t like to be deduced.

Sherlock glanced at John a few times, but he just stared steadfastly out of the window. No secret looks then.

The cab couldn’t have reached the yard too soon.

***

”Anything new?” Lestrade asked the moment they stepped into the lab. He obviously hadn’t slept last night either, though the coffee stains and the creases on his clothes indicated he had napped behind his desk.

”The Merringtons, the man in Thames and this are connected. I seem to have made myself a fan," Sherlock stated, already looking at the car where the latest victim had met his end.

”Care to explain," Lestrade growled. The lack of sleep made him even more short tempered than usual.

”John, explain," he commanded. ”You made the connection anyway.”

He tuned out the conversation and concentrated on the vehicle. It was a terrible mess, and the smell of rotting blood was everywhere. The victim had indeed been killed while sitting behind the wheel. A bit impractical, but the killer had clearly planned it well. The overweight cab driver didn’t have enough space or dexterity to resist the attacker.

”The killer is less than six feet tall and he’s physically strong," he said as a timid young technician appeared next to him with a notepad. He started writing. ”Look at the stains, he pulled the body out of the car afterwards and pushed him into the trunk.”

The technician looked at the stains with puzzled face, clearly not observing the signs, but still tried to look like he understood. Stupid.

Sherlock looked at John and Lestrade, who were still discussing animatedly. He needed an audience, preferably with a brain.

Lestrade caught his eye.

”Sherlock, you realise I should take you off the case because the killer targets you, right?”

”I’m also the best option you have of catching him.”

”We do solve cases by ourselves too” Lestrade muttered indignantly, but listened anyway. He knew when to push his pride aside, and that was one of the reasons Sherlock liked him.

”Yes," he continued, ”but our killer has most likely killed his next victim already. He’s waiting, and we can prepare a perfect trap for him.”

”No. You aren’t using yourself as a bait," John said sternly.

”Well, no. But you are," Sherlock stated and pointed at Lestrade. ”Make a press release about the Merrington murders, and include a suitable picture of me.”

”Oh.”

”Yes John, I’m not an idiot.”

At least not anymore, he added mentally. John seemed satisfied by that, which was good. Making him worry wasn’t good for Sherlock’s current plans.

”He will come drop the next body, and the police will be waiting," Sherlock continued his explanation by snapping his fingers. ”Oh, and don’t mention the Thames victim, and instead add a line about how even Sherlock Holmes hasn’t been able find anything useful.”

”Don’t annoy him unnecessarily," John warned him, but Sherlock dismissed it.

”He’s clever and confident. He’ll believe that.”

”What else you know about him?” Lestrade asked, fully in a working mode. Sherlock was thankful for that.

”Well now that you asked…” Sherlock winked and turned back at the car.

”He took the cab, most likely late at night, and told the driver to drive to this address," Sherlock stated, pointing at the car navigator system he had just started. ”Then he killed the driver and kept the body in the trunk for the days between the murder and dumping.”

”Any idea what we should be looking for?”

”Get me Old Chimney’s CCTV tapes," Sherlock demanded. He was feeling more and more like himself again.

”They didn’t have any from that angle," Lestrade reminded unnecessarily. Sherlock sighed.

”Not from the back yard, inside. Two days ago.”

”Why?”

Sherlock rolled his eyes. Well, it had to come out eventually.

”Because someone knew I was there," he stated.

”So you think he saw you there?," Lestrade asked without batting an eyelid. ”And I know now that you went there, by the way.”

Sherlock glanced at John, and then back to Lestrade. ”Yes mother, I was. I’m alright. Move on," he snapped.

”He was on a date," John added, and Sherlock mentally slapped himself.

”It wasn’t a date," he hissed. It had been a mistake to even hint John about Nathan. Did John really think he was in a relationship?!

Lestrade was staring at him with barely contained disbelief, but suddenly John looked very stern.

”Are you are sure your date wasn’t the murderer," he asked with a hateful mix of pity and worry. Sherlock was already rolling his eyes, when he suddenly stopped and started to think.

Nathan hadn’t batted an eyelid when he had introduced himself as William. Was he that good of an actor? No, his story was solid, and Sherlock had seen his body, so he was 95% sure he lacked the kind of physical strength needed for these murders. He felt a bit annoyed that he could not dismiss the idea right away.

”Of course not," he finally said, hating how unsure he sounded to his own ears. John looked at him searchingly, and Sherlock felt wrong-footed. This wasn’t going as he had planned.

When Sherlock was unsure of what to do, he did what he knew best, turned back to the case.

”The murderer had left the car as is, he had only protected his clothes by setting plastic bags on the bloody seat, otherwise nothing is cleaned. He’s confident, he didn’t try to destroy the car to hide the evidence. His victims don’t have any pattern, they have just been in wrong places at wrong times. He just needs bodies to attract my attention. He could have killed off homeless addicts from the streets for that, but he chose not to. His sole purpose isn’t just trying to get my attention. He’s showing off.”

He stopped to draw breath. The car gave him annoyingly little to deduce on, it told him a lot of the driver, but next to nothing about the killer.

”Jesus mother fucking Christ," Lestrade remarked. ”If this ends up with you doing something heroic again, I’ll kill you.”

Sherlock rolled his eyes at Lestrade. ”I can’t really fake death anymore," he muttered unthinkingly. ”Nobody would believe that.”

John looked like he wasn’t sure if he should laugh or be angry, and Sherlock mentally slapped himself for bringing that up. John ended up laughing, but Sherlock noticed how he tensed up, and there was something dark in his eyes.

Sherlock swallowed. What was he doing? Why would John ever want him after what he had done? Maybe John had once wanted him, but that ship had sailed long time ago. It was clearer by every minute, and his hopes for anything else were just childish dreaming.

One drunken kiss made no difference.

Except that it did. For Sherlock that kiss had made all the difference in the world, and now it prevented him from solving the case.

”Send me the tapes," he ordered and left the lab as quickly as possible.

***

He went to investigate both the murder scene and the place where the cab had been dumped afterwards, but found nothing significant. John had followed him and tried to ask if he was alright, but he had dismissed his questions.

He was on a case, and he needed to stop this murderer. That was all that mattered.

***

When the evening came John went home and Sherlock was left alone, tired and restless.

Lestrade hadn’t been able to get the tapes, and Sherlock’s plan with the press would only ensure that the man killed again, if he already hadn’t. Sherlock hadn’t any real clues of who the killer might be, and while he had been obsessing over one kiss, more people would die. Pathetic!

He needed to focus, he must have missed something. But god he was tired, he hadn’t slept in two days. He should sleep, and then look at the evidence again.

He needed sleep. Would he be able to fall asleep?

No.

The case and the kiss ran around in his mind, always hiding behind each other, impossible to sleep.

He’d need to stop his mind’s squirrel wheel.

Sedatives?

No.

But did he still have Nathan’s number? He could at least make sure he hadn’t anything to do with the case.

Sherlock was on his feet in an instant, and found the number from his pocket.

- Still in the city? W

- Yes. Wanna come over?

- Yes. W

***

Sherlock’s sleep ended abruptly as Lestrade’s voice shook him back into reality. Slowly and reluctantly he pushed the sheets away, wondering who had let the detective inspector in.

He felt around the floor next to the bed blindly to find his dressing gown, when he suddenly was completely awake.

It wasn’t his room.

What time was it?

How long had he slept?

What the fuck was Lestrade doing at Nathan’s door?

Sherlock sat up and searched around for his clothes, but it quickly dawned to him that most of his clothes were scattered outside of the bedroom. He swallowed a string of curses.

”Did you see anything suspicious last night?” Donovan’s voice echoed behind the door, and Sherlock closed his eyes. What was she doing here? Had Lestrade somehow found that Sherlock was out here?

No. Stupid. He wouldn’t have come with Donovan just to check him up. Something had happened for him to need another DI for the case.

Sherlock had a nasty feeling he knew what it was.

”I went to sleep rather early. What is it?” Nathan asked, sounding worried and a bit defensive, just like a man who didn’t meet police often, and didn’t know if he was being accused of something.

”No need to worry," Lestrade continued calmly. ”There has been an incident, and we are just looking for witnesses. Have you seen or heard anything out of ordinary yesterday?”

”I… No, sorry sir," Nathan answered, and Sherlock held his breath trying to hear the muffled conversation. If Lestrade and Donovan were here together, something serious had happened. And it must have something to do with him. It was too much of a coincidence otherwise, so a conclusion: the killer had seen him come here, and now there was another body dumped somewhere close to Nathan’s flat.

It couldn’t have been Nathan, could it?

Sherlock willed Lestrade and Donovan to hurry up with their questions and leave. He wanted to see how Nathan reacted, but he really didn’t want to be found here.

The luck wasn’t on his side though.

”Isn’t that the freak’s phone?” Donovan asked, and Sherlock did a mental facepalm. His phone wasn’t anywhere at the bedroom, and he had a distant memory of dropping it on the couch.

”What?” Nathan was understandably confused.

”Sherlock Holmes, does that ring a bell?” Donovan continued with more steel in his voice. Sherlock pressed his palms in his eye sockets. This was not going well.

”Um, who?," Nathan stuttered. ”Sorry, I’m not from around here.”

”Is that yours then?”

Sherlock sat quietly on the bed and held his breath, but Nathan wasn’t one to lie to the police.

”No, it’s William’s.”

”William?” Lestrade repeated, sounding suddenly very suspicious.

Sherlock sighed heavily at that and stood up. Luckily his trousers were in the room too, so when he stepped out of the bedroom, he was relatively well clothed, even though he was wearing Nathan’s shirt.

”Well spotted Donovan," he said at her confused face. ”Where’s the body?”

”A body?” Nathan squeaked, but was ignored. Both of the detective inspectors stared at Sherlock with wide eyes.

”William?” Donovan finally managed to get out.

Sherlock grimaced. ”You have arrested me multiple times," he drawled. ”Did you honestly never look at my ID?”

”Arrested," Nathan squeaked, but nobody cared.

He refused to be embarrassed as he collected his clothes from the floor with all the dignity he could muster.

”Well, William, not to be rude or anything, but… What the flying fuck are you doing?” Lestrade exclaimed after a short silence, which he had most likely used to take in all the evidence of Sherlock’s private life. Sherlock didn’t bother looking at him.

”Well, Graham, what does it look like," he said, aiming for indifference. In truth he was far from that, but he was really good at pretending.

Lestrade was baffled, and it took some time before he managed to get his voice back.

”If you are having an affair with a murderer, I -”

”Murderer?” Nathan repeated, and finally they remembered he was also in the room.

Sherlock took pity on him.

”Sherlock Holmes, nice to meet you," he said and extended his hand. Nathan looked completely flabbergasted, and Sherlock would have felt sorry for him if he himself wasn’t so embarrassed about the situation.

”No, I’m not here to investigate you. Yes, there has been a murder, no, I don’t suspect you, and if you can prove them you have been in London for only a week, you are off the hook," he explained the basics, but that didn’t seem to help much.

Nathan stared at him like he hadn’t understood a word. He would be a first class actor, if that was just an act.

”Oh, and William is my first name," he added as an afterthought. ”I just prefer the middle one.” That last one he directed towards Donovan, who was staring at him like he had grown a second head.

”Yes Sally. Now please close your mouth or use that for telling me where the body is.”

”What makes you think there is one?” she snapped.

”Oh, back in suspecting me, I see," Sherlock countered snarkily. ”I hate to disappoint you, but it’s fairly obvious why you’re both here. Now, should we go?”

While saying that, pulled his coat on and was ready to go. Luckily the game was on!

***

Sherlock felt a bit bad for Nathan. The poor guy had been left with Sally at his apartment, as Sherlock and Lestrade walked into the hallway.

”So…," Lestrade tried for a third time, but didn’t seem to find the right words.

Sherlock knew what he wanted to say but refused to help.

”How about John," Lestrade finally asked

”How about the case," Sherlock countered, trying to keep himself from thinking about what John would say when he heard about the situation. Donovan would not keep his secrets.

”Well here we are," Lestrade shrugged, as they had descended two sets of stairs. There was indeed a body, this time a young woman, lying in front of the elevator door.

”Another break in the pattern. She was killed here," Sherlock stated, pushing the unwanted thoughts away and kneeling next to the body.

”Yes, she lived here.”

The girl was 20 to 25 years old, and wearing comfortable clothes. Keys on the floor, phone in the pocket. No purse. The wound in the head was peculiarly shaped. Where would she go without a purse or wallet?

One look outside told him enough. Sherlock hopped down the last stairs and grabbed the metallic lid of a trash bin. It was dented from the side, and had some blood in it. Bingo.

”I present you the murder weapon," he stated and shoved that to one of the mindless technicians who were staring at the scene.

”The victim was throwing away the trash, our killer followed her inside and hit her on the head. Then he just dropped the lid back on it’s place," he continued and pulled on gloves before continuing to inspect the body.

The killer didn’t have any specific type and he most likely didn’t know the victims beforehand, so unfortunately there was really nothing much to be gained from the body. However, something had caught his attention in the girl’s pocket. A piece of paper.

Sherlock drew it out and grimaced. It was a receipt from the Old Chimney’s from the night Sherlock had met Nathan, and there was a messy scribble behind it.

I KNOW YOU.

Sherlock stared at it. Had he seen this before? It wasn’t his own, nor Nathan’s receipt, as the drinks on it didn’t match. This was a message.

He had seen enough.

”Any success on Old Chimney’s tapes?” he asked as he pulled his gloves off.

”Yes, I sent the memory stick to the Baker Street this morning," Lestrade answered. ”Are you -”

Sherlock lifted his palm up to silence him. He didn’t want to talk about John, nor Nathan, nor anything else not related to the case. Another person had died because he had wasted time on frivolities.

”I’ll text when I know more," he informed and left.

***

The Friday night at Old Chimney’s had been busy. Sherlock tried to forget the morning had ever happened, and busied himself with the CCTV records.

One camera was pointed at the the front door, so Sherlock got a good idea of who went in and out. The other was set to record one of the bar counters and the toilet corridor next to it. Unfortunately the receipt the murderer had left him was a dead end. If the cash machine’s time was correct, the buyer was a young woman, who could not have done the murders. It was easy to steal a piece of paper from a bin though.

Sherlock made a mental spreadsheet of all the customers, and tried to track their movements with the two camera angles.

He saw himself too, restless and glimpsing at the dealers. Pathetic.

After this case he would ask John directly what he had really meant by the kiss, so he could start truly forgetting it. John wouldn’t like to explain, but this could not continue. Sherlock had spent way too much energy on futile hoping and constant disappointment already.

He was analyzing a tall bald man who was clearly a musician, when heard the front door open.

”You’ve got a client," Mrs. Hudson informed from the downstairs, and suddenly Nathan walked in.

Sherlock paused the video and stared at the intruder, mentally analyzing him. Just out of the cab, some ball pen ink stains on fingers that weren’t there in the morning. Signed some papers or written notes?

”To what do I owe the pleasure?” he asked coolly. Going to him last night had been a mistake, and this was just another proof. He tried to avoid thinking how fast the rumour was already travelling around the yard and when John would hear about it.

”I looked you on the internet," Nathan answered and Sherlock sighed mentally. Suddenly increased interest because Sherlock Holmes was some kind of celebrity. Fantastic.

”Doesn’t answer the question.”

”Yeah, no," Nathan admitted, staring at Sherlock with the mix of curiosity and awkwardness. What did he want? A selfie and autograph? To blackmail?

”I just…” Nathan drew breath and started his explanation. ”This morning I found out my neighbor had been killed at my doorstep, and the guy I had just slept with turned out to be a detective. And then I was dragged to NSY as a suspect.”

Ah, of course, the stains. He had written and signed his testimony. And was cleared of all suspicion of course. They had obviously checked his alibi because Lestrade had set him free.

”Still doesn’t explain why you are here.”

”I…," Nathan visibly pulled himself together. ”I think I’m allowed some questions, don’t you think?”

Sherlock sighed, but nodded anyway. He just wanted Nathan to go away. If the price was some inane questions, so be it.

Nathan seemed to look for words, before bursting: ”God you look different!”

Sherlock twitched, but didn’t let it show. The situation got suddenly increasingly awkward. William was a role, a person who didn’t care what others thought of him. Someone likable and normal, capable of casual sex without feeling too vulnerable.

William was not Sherlock.

”You came here to say that?” he asked, trying to act as indifferent and cool as possible, even though he knew Nathan had already seen completely different side of him.

While he tried to pretend otherwise, he couldn’t be as confident when being just himself. Nathan was currently looking at him, combining the information he had of William and now Sherlock, and knowing far more than Sherlock felt comfortable with.

”No," Nathan continued, oblivious to Sherlock’s mental state. ”Did you suspect me when you agreed to have sex with me?”

Sherlock winced at the directness, but answered anyway.

”No.”

”Then why- ," Nathan started, but Sherlock stopped him gruffly.

”Why do people normally get involved in sexual relations?," he snapped. ”Don’t read too much into it.”

”Of course not," Nathan answered swiftly. ”Rules, remember?”

Sherlock rolled his eyes. He itched to stand up and do something to calm his nerves, but the same time he didn’t want to give Nathan any more changes to deduce him. At least the man had the decency to not mention John, even though their supposed relationship must have been very high on his google search results.

”That murderer… he’s after you right?” Nathan continued, obviously finally getting to the point.

”Yes. Me, not you. And you will be completely safe as long as you stay away from me.”

Nathan looked a bit disturbed by his words, but the relief was also obvious. He didn’t take a hint though.

”Are you… okay?” he asked carefully, making Sherlock almost throw something at him. Why couldn’t the man just leave? He had a murderer to catch, for god’s sake!

He almost said so, when he heard the front door close and familiar steps on the stairs. A bit hesitant, but still going on like a soldier. A conclusion: someone had told John.

Fantastic. Could his day be any worse? And it was barely noon!

John knocked the door and waited (he never waits!), and Sherlock didn’t have any choice but call him inside. He felt suddenly terribly guilty for absolutely no reason. He and John had never been together for god’s sake! Why would it matter who he spent nights with?

”I’m John Watson, Sherlock’s friend and blogger," John introduced himself as soon as he got inside, abnormally emphasizing his position at Sherlock’s life.

Nathan clearly knew who John was, and had obviously read the articles. He looked quickly at Sherlock, before offering his hand too, introducing himself as just Nathan. Thank goodness for small mercies.

”Great, now that you have exchanged the pleasantries, could you remove yourself from my presence. I have a murderer to catch.”

John seemed to think the order wasn’t directed at him, and Nathan looked like he still wanted to say something. Sherlock tried to stare them down, but they just stared at each other. John was showing all signs of being unnecessarily protective, and Nathan seemed slightly amused.

Sherlock battled the urge to laugh hysterically.

”Are you alright?” John broke the silence.

”Yes John," Sherlock snapped.

”So he’s your -”

”He’s my nothing, and in fact he was just leaving," Sherlock stated firmly.

Both men ignored him completely, and John continued with his questions.

”But you two… how did that-”

”Well I asked and he said yes," Nathan countered with a wink. ”Maybe you should have too?”

John chocked. Sherlock looked at the window, wondering if he could escape that way.

”I’m not… I just wanted to -” John tried, but Sherlock stopped him.

”That’s quite enough," he snapped and stood up. With one swift movement he pushed Nathan out of the door and followed him downstairs, leaving John alone.

”You should leave," he stated the obvious as he walked Nathan to the front door, unable to hide the awkwardness that had slipped into his voice. ”And if you tell anything to the press I have ways to make you absolutely miserable.”

To his surprise, Nathan laughed warmly.

”Blabbing is not my style," he chuckled. ”But he is jealous, and you are embarrassed.”

”Yes thank you for your deduction," Sherlock answered flatly. ”Let’s agree you have no idea -”

Nathan truly didn’t take a hint.

”You love him, don’t you?” he continued without missing a beat.

”That is absolutely not your business," Sherlock snapped back trying to keep his voice down. Getting overheard by Mrs. Hudson would be the cherry on top of today’s cake. And how could even Nathan read him in such a short time?!

Sherlock didn’t have to ask, because Nathan was still talking: ”You talk to him in your sleep.”

Sherlock froze.

His face was suddenly burning. Perfect. Just absolutely perfect. Well, at least he hadn’t called John’s name during sex!

”Maybe you should talk to him?” Nathan continued.

”Please leave," Sherlock muttered and opened the door, feeling totally mortified. Thank god he would never see Nathan again.

Nathan stepped out, but turned around for the one last time.

”Should we give him something to think about?” he whispered mischievously and nodded towards the stairs, where John was apparently trying to spy on them.

Sherlock tried to resist, but Nathan gave him a soft peck on the cheek before waving his hand and stepping down the road, disappearing in the crowd.

Sherlock stood there for a moment breathing softly and willing his blush to abate before closing the door and walking slowly back upstairs. When he stepped back to the flat John was standing next to the fireplace trying to look innocent.

”What on earth was that?” Sherlock challenged and crossed his arms on his chest.

John stared right back. ”He’s your boyfriend?”

”No," Sherlock grimaced. ”And he’s married.”

That seemed to be a wrong thing to say. John drew breath and straightened up, looking entirely too outraged.

”So he’s what? Toying with you?”

”I believe it is called a one night stand, you might have heard about the phenomenon," Sherlock answered. He was unable to decide what to think of John’s protectiveness. On the other hand John clearly cared (could it be jealousy?), on the other…

”I’m not a child," he added when John seemed to be speechless for a moment. ”And I wasn’t a virgin.”

”Well, yes, but…” John hesitated before continuing. ”What about Irene?”

Sherlock sighed. Was John really this thick?

”Assuming again?” he asked. ”Have I ever said -”

”Well not directly, but you said you answered her texts, and..”

”I answer your texts!," Sherlock groaned and lifted his hands up in frustration. ”And Lestrade’s! God forbid sometimes even Mycroft’s!”

John didn’t seem to listen though. His mind had already wandered forward: ”So… you are gay?”

Sherlock blinked and hesitated for a split second before answering. ”If you want to use labels, then yes.”

After Nathan’s visit it wasn’t really a secret any more, but nevertheless saying it out loud to John felt monumental. A conscious step towards bigger truths. Sherlock felt he was on a slippery slope, and unable to slow down.

John was quiet for a moment, and Sherlock tried to read him. However, John’s face uncharacteristically expressionless and Sherlock didn’t have any idea what he was thinking. He was flexing his hand. Stress? Why? Why would John be stressed out? It was Sherlock who was tight as a wire, ready to snap.

”Are you in love with him?” John finally asked, calmly, as if just talking about the weather or London traffic.

Sherlock let out a hysteric chuckle.

”No.”

”You can be honest with me.”

Sherlock closed his eyes and drew breath through his teeth. John didn’t trust him even in this, and clearly he worried about that poor naive Sherlock who in the reality didn’t exist. Or maybe he still believed in the cold uncaring facade he had met years ago?

Well, if John wanted honesty, that’s what he would get.

”Honesty, huh? Let’s see," Sherlock drawled and stepped closer. ”No. I’m not in love with him, and I’m completely sure of that," he continued. John shrank back, like he regretted asking. Serves him right. Sherlock was suddenly shaking with anger.

”Do you know why?," Sherlock hissed. No turning back now.

”It’s because I am utterly and pathetically in love with YOU!”

He almost shouted the last bit. The words came easier now, powered by all frustration and disappointment he had suppressed. He drew a quick breath and realised he had stepped closer to John. John stepped backwards and slumped in his chair. ”Don’t get me wrong, I was happy I got your friendship back. I wasn’t expecting anything more.”

”And then," Sherlock continued, before John could say anything. ”You just had to ruin everything and kiss me! You shouldn’t have asked that of me. I should be working, catching the murderer, and instead… instead…”

Sherlock swallowed hard. He felt like crying. He felt like shouting. He felt like…

”Instead I’m just thinking of doing this.”

He took a quick step closer, placed his hand on John’s armrest and leaned to kiss him softly on the lips. It was just a peck really, his courage left him and he stepped back, shaking from head to toe.

He had already grabbed his phone and coat when John finally got his voice back.

”Sherlock," he gasped, looking like an epitome of shock.

Sherlock ignored him and left.

***

When Sherlock got into a cab he was shaking all over. The adrenaline was gone, and he was feeling lightheaded, bordering on hysterical. He was giddy with relief and sick with dread, but he had finally done it.

What now? Was it all over? Was it better this way?

Now everything was up to John. No more hiding, and if their friendship suffered irrevocably because of this, it was more because of John’s kiss than Serlock’s words.

What if John was really interested some way or another? What would happen then?

No more what ifs. He would soon find out.

Sherlock’s heart lurched, and he almost called for John on the spot before deciding against it. If John was interested, Sherlock needed him to be completely sure before they talked, and if he wasn’t, well, John might need time to think how to tell him that.

He had waited for years, he could wait a bit more. At least this will soon end the maddening uncertainty once and for all.

Sherlock’s musings were interrupted by the annoyed cabbie who wanted to know where he should drive. Sherlock gave him a random address and sat back to the seat.

He took his phone in his shaky hands and continued browsing through the CCTV records.

His concentration was in shreds, so when the cab stopped he hadn’t found anything useful. He slammed the car door shut in annoyance and started to walk in random direction. He tried to collect himself by memorizing the newest roadworks and how those affected the traffic.

He didn’t know how long he had walked when his phone chimed.

He froze. John. Was he breaking their friendship by text? Or asking him to come back? Sherlock’s fingers shook so much that he failed to open the lock screen pattern on the first try, but the dread he felt before opening the message was nothing compared to the feeling of absolute terror after he read it.

- YOU LOVE HIM. I HAVE HIM. WELCOME TO THE PARTY.

Sherlock tried immediately to call John but the call went directly to the voicemail. He was already running towards the main road to get a cab, when the call connected to Mrs. Hudson.

”Is John there?” he asked without a greeting.

”Heavens! What’s happened?”

”Did John leave?” Sherlock shouted, as he ran over the street, earning annoyed honks from the surprised drivers.

”Yes, he left home. Did you have a fight?” Mrs. Hudson finally answered, sounding oddly innocent. A clear proof that she had heard their conversation, but Sherlock didn’t care. He ended the call without answering, and tried to call John again without any success.

The murderer had invited him to party, so they had to be somewhere Sherlock would be able to find them. The bastard enjoyed showing off and wanted everyone to know how well he knew Sherlock Holmes, so the place was somehow related to Sherlock’s life, not the murderer’s.

When he finally got into a cab, he gave the driver John’s address.

Sherlock gnawed the side of his thumb and hoped John wasn’t doing anything heroic and reckless before Sherlock got there. Rosie was in day care, thank god.

The cab was driving slowly as the traffic picked up. Sherlock sent a couple of desperate texts to Lestrade, and when the minutes passed by, also Mycroft. Images of the victims flashed in his mind, but this time it was John.

Just after he had told John everything!

This couldn’t be the end. He wouldn’t let it happen.

When the cab stopped, Sherlock lunged out of the car leaving the driver shout after him. John’s house looked quiet and normal, no signs of fight or forced entry. Sherlock ran towards the front door, keeping his eyes on the windows, looking for any sign of John. He was so concentrated on deducing the house that he bumped straight into someone on the street.

A glass bottle shattered on the pavement, and Sherlock almost shouted something foul to the disturber before he realised it was John. Unharmed, carrying a shopping bag and standing next to the remains of a cheap whiskey bottle he had been carrying before Sherlock walked on him.

Cheap whiskey was a clear sign of stress, but otherwise John was fine. Fine, but also stunned and surprised.

”What?” he squeaked, staring at Sherlock with wide eyes.

”You didn’t answer your phone!” Sherlock said as the first thing that came to his mind. It was a stupid thing to say, as the quick look at John’s trouser-leg explained it all. ”Oh. You took the tube," he continued, feeling wrong-footed and terribly awkward.

But what about the…

Oh!

Shit.

”Nathan," he exclaimed, swirled around and ran back to the cab. John shouted something after him, but Sherlock didn’t have time to listen. The cabbie was still waiting for his money and wasn’t happy to get his suspicious client back. One look from Sherlock shut him up, and soon they were on their way.

Sherlock could have kicked himself. He had always been right, love impaired his ability to do his work properly! It was all very clear now. He and John were old news, John had married, moved to suburb and was now a father. Nobody except Sherlock speculated about them any more. The murderer didn’t know him, not really. Conclusion: he wouldn’t know about his feelings for John.

Nathan was a completely different story. The murderer had followed Sherlock to the pub and even to Nathan’s doorstep. The murderer could have easily been spying on him at Baker Street when Nathan kissed him on the doorstep. He had made a wrong assumption, but so had Sherlock.

Nathan could have been in the hands of the murderer for over an hour, and Sherlock had been too engrossed in his own pathetic love life to see the obvious. He had ran head first to John without a single coherent thought.

”Idiot," he snapped at himself, earning a nasty look from the cabbie. As expected, Nathan didn’t answer his phone, and the cabbie refused to go any faster. Sherlock informed Lestrade about the change in situation, but decided to ignore Mycroft. He would just gloat because of the mistake, and especially the reason for it.

When they stopped in the traffic lights two blocks away from Nathan’s flat Sherlock thew all his cash at the cabbie and jumped off the car. He would be there faster by foot.

The signs of last night’s murder had been cleaned from the corridor as Sherlock stepped in, still panting from the short run. The only things reminding that something had happened were the missing trash bin lid and the Police announcement on the wall. Very formal and short, including contact information for possible witnesses and for those in need of support in case they had been shaken by the death of their neighbour.

Boring.

When Sherlock reached Nathan’s door, he noticed the black marks on the wall next to the door, close to floor. Someone had kicked it. There was also a small piece of plastic on the floor, a piece from a broken keychain. No signs of broken entry.

Sherlock did the only thing possible in the situation.

He knocked the door.

For a short while Sherlock feared he had made another mistake, but then the door opened and Sherlock was face to face with the murderer. The man was less than six feet tall, and muscular. His hair was dark and thick and he was smiling broadly - and holding a knife to Nathan’s neck.

Sherlock did a quick assessment of the situation. Nathan was tied up and gagged, and he had an angry bruise on the cheek. Otherwise he looked physically unhurt but almost paralyzed with fear. The murderer looked almost happy as he was holding Nathan in place.

”Well well, you took your time," he greeted and motioned Sherlock to come inside. Sherlock didn’t have any choice but to follow, but with one swift finger movement he made sure the door wasn’t locked behind him when it closed.

Just in case.

Nathan seemed to be relatively okay as the murderer pushed him on the sofa, so Sherlock gave all his attention to the man with a knife.

”So, you are my new fan," he drawled as he tried to deduce the man. In his thirties, athletic, single. Had he seen him before? At the pub? He wasn’t any of the people Sherlock had suspected though. But still, eerily familiar. Someone he had deleted from his mind? The man was obviously a garbage truck driver, perfect cover for spying people and dumping bodies. Why hadn’t he figured that out sooner? Stupid.

”Oh no. I’m not your fan!," the murderer exclaimed as he sat next to Nathan, clearly enjoying the situation. ”And this pretty boy isn’t either, I’m afraid. He has done nothing but squeal how he’s not your lover and you are not together.”

”He’s right.”

”Don’t lie to me, I know you," the man countered. ”And now, drop your phone and coat on the floor and come here.”

Sherlock complied. He considered throwing the coat at the man for distraction, but the knife was still pressed against Nathan. What would be worse, to tell the truth and make Nathan a much less interesting hostage, or to keep up with the lie and play the game?

”Well I seem to be at a disadvantage then, since I don’t know you," Sherlock decided.

The murderer laughed. He actually had a disturbingly warm and contagious laugh, but Sherlock ignored it.

”Oh I love this! You really don’t know? I left you clues, I even made a little visit to the NSY!

Sherlock listened only half of what the man had to say. His attention was focused on a phone that was on the kitchen counter. He had seen that before.

Stupid.

Unforgivably stupid.

”Jeff Broman," Sherlock finally muttered, more to himself than to the murderer, who nodded and fell into complex explanation of the hows and whys, and how fun it had been to steal the deerstalkers.

Sherlock ignored him. His thoughts ran circles around the fact that the murderer had been impersonating him, and he had not given that a second thought. The press had been quiet about him, so Broman had tried to attract their attention by impersonating Sherlock. As that failed, he had decided to drop his recent victim at the pub where he had seen Sherlock last. That most likely changed the pattern, and instead of the press, he had started following Sherlock himself, and hence the victim at Nathan’s flat.

It was obvious. Anyone with decent brains should have realised it, or at least questioned the ”duplicated detective” better.

Instead, Sherlock had been too occupied with one single kiss to notice a murderer flirting with him.

That had to stop, now.

Sherlock looked at Nathan, and it was immediately clear that he would not be of any help. He was tied up too well, and too frightened to function even if he wasn’t. The flat was spartan, just a place to sleep. No vases or other decoration to use as a weapon, the kitchen was too far, and the knife in Broman’s hand was swinging uncomfortably close to Nathan as he continued with his story.

”I always knew you and Watson were a tad too obvious. Tabloids see romances anywhere these days! But I was not fooled! And I was right.”

”You will be caught. I called the police and they are on their way.”

”No you didn’t. That’s not your style. Now, sit down so I can tie you up.”

Sherlock blinked, but decided then to just nod and pretend being caught lying as he sat on the chair. The man really thought he knew him? He had heard about people who thought they knew celebrities just by following their public personas and knowing some personal details, but had never seen one.

An interesting phenomenon.

The man was partly wrong though. The police was coming, but given the time and distance, they were still stuck in the London traffic, so Sherlock was on his own regardless.

Broman tied him sloppily to the chair, and continued chatting.

”And I don’t mind the police anyway. I have already proved everyone I outwitted you, so my work is almost done.”

”Almost?” Sherlock asked, even though he knew exactly what the man was planning. He just needed to keep him talking.

”You don’t think I caught this one just to show you I have him?," Broman asked, and pushed Nathan on the floor. ”No.”

”Of course not," Sherlock agreed. He moved his wrists to get his hands free, but it was slow, and the man seemed to already make plans on where to stick the knife first. Nathan was trying to squirm away, but by doing so he was only tightening up the ropes holding his hands and legs.

The next events happened fast. Sherlock got his hands free and threw himself at Broman. His legs were still tied to the chair and his attempt was a bit short, but he managed to get a decent hold of Broman’s knife-hand. Nathan was so shocked that he managed to roll away from the murderer only when Sherlock shouted at him. Broman got his hand free in the process, but he dropped the knife and Sherlock was able to slap it away.

They were wrestling on the floor, when suddenly the door opened. Sherlock had just enough time to think that the police should not be here yet, when he saw familiar hands grabbing Broman in a steady hold.

”John?," Sherlock sputtered, panting from the exertion and adrenaline rush. A quick glance at the door told him that instead of policemen there were two Mycroft’s men. Of course. Sherlock had never told Mycroft about the change of plans, so they had gone to John’s, and then…

”Could you give a hand?” John grunted interrupting Sherlock’s thoughts, and together they tied Broman up and handed him over to the agents who clearly disapproved John’s head-on strategy instead of careful planning, but handcuffed the murderer anyway.

Sherlock stood up from the floor. Other than the bruised knuckles and a sore knee he was physically all right, but didn’t have time to think about his mental state: As soon as the murderer was dealt with, John walked straight back with rare determination, and their eyes met.

This time Sherlock saw it coming.

John looked at him with parted lips, as if asking for permission, and Sherlock could just give a helpless nod. As an answer John grabbed Sherlock behind the neck and kissed him softly on the lips. When he started to draw back, Sherlock grabbed his coat and pulled him closer. His heart was drumming in his ears, and when John didn’t resist, he kissed back completely forgetting the time and place.

It was Lestrade’s voice that distracted them.

”Okay what the ever flying fuck is happening here?!”

They startled away from each other, and Sherlock turned to look at the annoying distraction. Lestrade and Donovan stood at the doorway with a couple of other policemen, staring at the scene in front of them. One of the agents was looking after the murderer, who was staring at him in clear disbelief. The other was untying Nathan, who they had completely forgotten.

He looked back at John, whose face made an interesting mix of embarrassment, pride and uncertainty.

”You just outed yourself at me, NSY and Mycroft at the same time," Sherlock blurted. For a moment Sherlock feared he would regret the kiss just like the first one, but instead John burst into giggles, and Sherlock, still in a shock, could only join him.

***

The aftermath of the case took the whole evening. Nathan had been tediously upset and shocked about his near death experience, Donovan had wondered openly about Sherlock’s sudden love life, and Lestrade forced them to give their statements at the yard immediately after the ordeal.

It was already late evening when Sherlock and John were able to sit down and really talk about what had happened.

The adrenalin had left them both, and when they closed the door behind them at 221B, the awkwardness was palpable.

Sherlock went to brew tea, as John walked into the living room to wait. Sherlock listened as he sat down to his chair, and then stood up to walk around restlessly while the kettle was boiling.

The kissing had been easy in the end, but talking had never been their strong suit.

Sherlock tried to figure out how to start the conversation that needed to be had. The tea was soon ready, and then Sherlock would have no reason to hide in the kitchen anymore.

He was startled from these thoughts when he felt a soft touch on his back. John had walked behind him, and looked just as awkward as Sherlock felt.

”Is this… okay? Are you okay?” he asked, when Sherlock just managed to stare at him.

”Yes.”

”I… I’m sorry.”

”For what?”

”I didn’t know. I thought you didn’t -”

Sherlock had to interrupt that: ”Do you know why Broman’s plan failed?”

John blinked.

”Why?”

Sherlock carried the tray to the living room and sat on his chair. When John followed and sat in front of him, he continued.

”He based his plan on assumptions he had made without any proof.”

”So you are comparing -”

”No. Just… Ask me instead of assuming.”

”I… ," John stared into his mug. ”You said… I mean, how long have you-”

”Years," Sherlock interrupted.

”So before-”

”Before I left, yes.”

John went quiet, clearly wondering the implications of that, and blew at his tea. Sherlock took a sip to not say anything stupid, but burnt his tongue.

”I’m sorry," John continued.

”Don’t be," Sherlock muttered, and laid the cup back on the table. He looked at John, trying to form a question, but John seemed to read his mind.

”I… I realised it when you left. A shitty way to find out, it was. Afterwards it was just… Never a good time!," he exclaimed and looked miserable. ”At first I was too hurt, then I was getting married, and then Rosie… And then… I was suddenly a boring single father, and had hurt you so much that I was happy you even wanted to see me any more.”

”But you kissed me," Sherlock asked, wanting to finally know what had truly happened then, and why.

”Yes," John chuckled awkwardly. ”I was drunk, I… And you went absolutely tense, and looked so shocked I… I thought I was taking advantage of you, and… Well, panicked?”

Sherlock sighed. It was so clear now when he had said it.

”Well I was shocked," he admitted now. An understatement of the century, but still true. ”I thought you were straight.”

”I though you might be a virgin!” John blurted, and then blushed quite heavily.

Sherlock blinked.

”No.”

”A recent development?”

”No.”

”But Mycroft said -”

Sherlock snorted. ”Should I believe everything Harry tells me about your sexual experiences?”

”Well no, but…," It took a second before the other shoe dropped. ”What?!”

”She called me a few times after your wedding," Sherlock told dismissively.

”What did she tell you?” John looked shocked and even a bit scared. Interesting.

”Nothing significant. She was drunk.”

She had been drunk and called them ”John’s rejects," and Sherlock had actually liked talking to her. Two addicts depressed about the same wedding. One had been too drunk to attend, and other was getting high because he had.

John was rubbing his face with his palm.

”Sorry about that, she’s…”

”Well she didn’t ask about my sexual history," Sherlock muttered.

”Yeah, sorry…I just… had wondered…”

John was looking so pitiful that Sherlock had to save him from the awkwardness.

”So, basically you thought I would not want you because of what you did, and I thought the same because of what I did. That, and my gender, which I can’t do anything about.” He summarised.

”When you say it like that…”

”We have both been idiots.”

”Yes.”

They shared a short laugh, but then John sobered, and asked the question Sherlock had wanted to ask since the moment John had arrived to the crime scene.

”Well, we have established that, so… What now?”

”What do you want?”

”We could go on a date," John suggested slowly. ”Let Angelo bring that candle this time.”

Sherlock blinked, but John wasn’t done yet.

”Or… We could stay here and talk… And I could kiss you again?”

Sherlock didn’t answer. Instead he stood up, crossed the floor to John and pressed him to the backrest of his armchair with a kiss, trying to express everything he could not find the words for.

When John pulled him on his lap and answered like he could not get enough of him, Sherlock knew his message was well received.

Words weren’t the only way to communicate.