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Four Shots

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Chapter 1

 

The sun shined almost mockingly as John Watson made his way slowly but purposely down the pavement. The months he’d been home and the physical therapy he’d endured had done little to cure the phantom pain in his leg and he braced his weight ever so slightly on the cane in his hand as he made his way to his therapist’s office. The weekly sessions had also done little in the way of re-acclimating himself to civilian life, but he still showed up, week after week. He sighed wearily as he shuffled in through the door and greeted the receptionist.

Ella prattled on as he sat in the chair across from her. She talked more in their sessions than he did, which he tended to think was not the way they were meant to go. These sessions had been military ordered in the time between his recovery and his official discharge though, so he wasn’t necessarily here by choice. Talking about his feelings and thoughts with a stranger went against most of his ingrained personal habits and so he rarely said much. Bedsides which, she never seemed to ask the things he thought might actually help him to talk about; not that he would tell her what those were. He was brought out of his reverie when he suddenly realized Ella was staring at him, awaiting a reply to some question she asked.

“I’m sorry, what?”

“A job, John,” she replied in that same maddeningly steady voice she always seemed to use. “I think it will help you, help regain some stability and routine in your life.”

His eyes closed momentarily, “I can’t operate again,” he reminded her roughly, thinking of the cane and the tremor.

“I was telling you about a job I’d heard about. It might seem a bit mundane at first, but I think it might suit you well. I have some connections with a placement agency and this was one they have trouble filling. You need security clearance, and I think your military background will come in handy. I can’t say much, but its service industry–it will at least get you back around people and out and about and I think that could be good for you.”

John looked like he was going to object. “Service industry? I’m a military doctor–was a military doctor!” He exclaimed, fighting the sense of dejection looming on the horizon.

“I know, John. You don’t have to make a career out of it, but it could be a good start. Will you at least go for an interview? I set one up for you this week. You don’t have to, but I think it might be good for you.”

In the end he nodded, unable to think of a convincing enough argument. He took the small business card with an address and a time written on it, and slowly headed out, even though their time wasn’t up yet for the day. Ella seemed almost over the moon with his small acceptance of the card and let him go early with a slight wave.

 

 

***

 

 

The sun may have been shining outside, but inside, Sherlock Holmes was a veritable tornado storming through the corridors of the SIS building on the way to his brother’s office. Sherlock may not have officially been MI6, but having been given clearance to rival any agent years back, it was not unusual for him to storm into the building intent on crossing paths with one Mycroft Holmes. He even technically held an office, as a sometimes consultant, should he have need of it, but was rarely inside of it, especially during ‘normal’ business hours. It was still a cluttered mess of research, paraphernalia, and data however. Sherlock had worked twelve or so cases for MI6 in the last 3 years, and every time refused their offer for a full time position. Most of the directors were pleased by that turn of events, as few could stand to work with Sherlock outside of the few day or week long stints they’d each been subjected to for the cases. He’d proved his worth each time though, to the grudging acceptance of Mycroft’s underlings.

Anthea, Mycroft’s personal assistant (and bodyguard), greeted Sherlock with little more than a nod as he brushed past her and into Mycroft’s office, despite the three gentlemen seated throughout the office.

“Give it back, Mycroft,” Sherlock sneered as he waltzed in.

“Well hello, brother mine.” Mycroft responded coolly. “Can’t you have Anthea schedule your tantrum in later, the grownups are talking now.”

Mycroft may have been aiming for pompous, but he realized his mistake a moment later as Sherlock’s calculating stare took on a more vengeful look and he turned his gaze from Mycroft and swept the rest of the room. Sherlock’s voice cut off any recant Mycroft was formulating.

“If you can call four individuals ‘adults’ whom, in turn, court predilections for infantilism, alcoholism, chocolate HobNobs, torture, daytime telly, unicorns, and cross-dressing.”

Mycroft barely held back his pained look, but Sherlock was startled as one man broke into short chuckles. His eyes zeroed in.

“Ah, Major Smith,” he replied with a small nod, as respectful as Mycroft or Anthea had ever seen him.

“Sherlock,” he responded. “We haven’t crossed paths since that Johnson file last year, good to see you’re still alive.” He stood up to shake hands and Sherlock graced him with an almost smile.

“An interesting case, I’ve hardly been so challenged since.”

“Still wish you’d have taken me up on the offer to be here full-time.”

“I think you are the only one in this building who holds that opinion, possibly in the entire Commonwealth” Sherlock added with a pointed glance around the room.

“What is it you’ve managed to misplace, Sherlock?” Mycroft asked with a sigh.

“One of your minions stole my microscope on their last romp through my flat, I require its return.”

Mycroft waved him away. “I’ll return it as soon as you find suitable housing outside of that hovel. I’ll not have father’s favorite research microscope housed in such squalor. You’re lucky I bade them to ignore the violin.”

Sherlock’s aghast look turned quickly mutinous at the mention of his Stradivarius. He squared his shoulders and turned abruptly from the room and marched out.

 

Muttering to himself as he wandered the halls towards his makeshift office, Sherlock reviewed his options. Yes, his apartment on Montague Street was a disaster, but it was cheap and had fit his needs at present. Perhaps that was no longer the case though. A small rare smile graced his lips as he recalled the offer Mrs. Hudson had made some time ago about a flat she might have available. He’d stop round that afternoon he decided. She’d probably have some biscuits and tea available as well, he decided with another small quirk of his lips. After searching three of his hiding places in his desk, he managed to find a half empty packet of cigarettes he’d left there at some point. He tucked them into the inside pocket of his coat and headed out.

 

 

 

***

 

 

John almost tore the card up twice over the next few days, but every time, something made him simply set it back down on the small, empty desk. ‘Thursday at 15:00’ it taunted him. It gave him something to look forward to, if nothing else, he supposed. His gun sat in the drawer just below where he placed the card, a stark parallel of remembrance. He did need a job soon. Army pensions were enough to survive on, but only barely, and not even barely in London. And he’d have to move out of the bedsit eventually. He wouldn’t be able to afford anywhere else in London without some other kind of income. And he didn’t think he could survive anywhere but London.

And, so, with much trepidation, John began the slow journey to the address on the card at half two on Thursday. Confused at coming off his tube stop in a dilapidated part of town that seemed to house no offices, he opened the file folder containing his CV and the appointment card stapled inside and was just double checking the address when a black car pulled up in front of him. The door opened and a striking and impeccably dressed young woman, only a few years younger than John himself, stepped out. Her eyes were on her phone but she beckoned towards the open car door. John stopped, unsure of what was going on.

“Your interview will be conducted elsewhere, Dr. Watson,” the woman announced shortly, her eyes not leaving her phone screen as she waited for him. Faltering once more, John was finally graced with eye contact from the woman. The look clearly conveyed that he was being an idiot and should simply get in the car before something worse came along.

John sighed, he seemed to be doing that a lot lately though, and climbed in as dexterously as possible while shuffling his cane and the file folder along beside him. The woman climbed in alongside him and the car started off. Tinted windows blocked any view of the outside and John wondered what he had wandered into. They rode in silence for a few minutes, and just as he was about to open his mouth to question the entire situation, the car began to slow down. The woman opened the door again and climbed out, gesturing John to follow suit. Exiting was more awkward than entering, but the woman seemed to pay him no mind.

They were parked directly in front of a door that appeared to be the side entrance to a warehouse of some kind. The door opened mysteriously from the inside and the woman held it open.

“He’s expecting you,” she said, ushering him in.

The corridor was lit and led to a small room that had two wooden desk chairs separated by a table. It reminded John oddly of an interrogation room and it did nothing to ease his heightened awareness.

“Hello, Dr. Watson. Thank you for joining us. Please, take a seat.” The voice seemed to come from nowhere until a man materialized in the corner. He wore a perfectly put together three-piece suit and carried an umbrella, despite being both indoors and that London was going through an uncharacteristically dry spell of weather.

John hesitated for only a moment before sitting on the chair on the side of the table closest to him. The man sat down only after John had.

“Please excuse all the secrecy. This is a fairly delicate position. One, I must add, you came recommended for, and, based on your credentials and the current state of your left hand, seems a good fit. We’ll do a few cursory questions, but I generally feel I’m a good judge of character.”

Placing his folder on the table, John spoke, “Thank you. I think. What’s wrong with my hand?”

“Not a thing,” the man replied with a small smirk. “Your service records were impressive, impeccable one might say. The job you would be working would require security level clearance not too far above what you’d previously been granted and an understanding of why secrecy can be necessary. As well as the ability to be around people.”

“I’m sorry; what is this an interview for?” John finally broke in.

“It sounds quite trite, Dr. Watson, but the SIS building has a Starbucks that is looking for a reliable, personable, and trusting barista. And you fit the bill perfectly.”

John stared for a moment. “Starbucks?” He asked, incredulously. “Security clearance to work at a Starbucks? I don’t know whether to laugh or be offended.” He started to stand, but the man beat him to it.

“Dr. Watson. I know you’re having a hard time adjusting to civilian life, and I know working at a coffee shop probably seems beneath your capabilities. But we pay decent and it is, surprisingly, an important job. We drink quite a bit of coffee at headquarters. I think you might amazed at how much you like it, it will keep you busy. And it could be a good way to integrate yourself back, via a not completely civilian environment.”

John stood for a moment, thinking of his bank balance, his nightmares, the beige-ness of the bedsit, and the gun tucked away in his drawer.

“Alright. I’ll give it a try. I won’t be disposed of if I decide not to do it, will I?”

A small chuckle came from the man, “Only if you screw up certain people’s beverages,” he said with a smile. He straightened completely after that and any trace of lightness left his face. “I do thank you, Dr. Watson. Anthea will take you home and relay pertinent details to you on the way.”

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 2

 

Sherlock was, if nothing else, a practiced manipulator. After his brief encounter with Mycroft and liberating the last of his cigarettes, he’d taken the tube to Baker Street to see Mrs. Hudson about the flat. He was glad now that he’d not deleted that conversation he’d had with her, as trite as it had often seemed taking up space in his head. She was pleased to see him, and, true to form, invited him in for tea and biscuits. He smiled and charmed her as he sipped from his cup and nibbled on the snacks and then asked whether she might still have that flat available she’d mentioned once. She did, and she led him right upstairs and showed him around, obviously keen on renting it out. It was perfect, and a considerable upgrade from his place on Montague Street, enough that he was sure Mycroft would have no objections to returning the microscope to his rightful possession. Sherlock was sure he could even exploit it enough to have him bring along some new accessories. The smile on his face turned gleeful at the thought.

They talked particulars for a few minutes and Sherlock agreed to move in as soon as his current landlord would let him out of his lease. He reassured Mrs. Hudson that it wouldn’t be long. After all, there was no love lost between him and his current landlord, especially not since that small incident with the experiment Sherlock had unfortunately, and quite by accident, blown up the week before.

Even with the discount Mrs. Hudson insisted on giving him, it would be a tight fit for his current budget. But he couldn’t say no, to the flat or her. He’d have to take on more cases, or possibly get a flat mate. There was a second bedroom upstairs that she’d had shown him as well that came with his rent, but he wasn’t sure he could find a flat mate that would put up with him, and vice versa. He figured he’d have a few months at least before that was a pressing enough issue to worry about and maybe a solution will have come to him in the meantime. One that didn’t involve Mycroft.

 

Two and a half weeks later, after tying up a case with Scotland Yard (it was the brother, honestly, how anyone missed the green ladder connection was beyond him), Sherlock was in the midst of moving his things to Baker Street. Mycroft’s minions not only returned his microscope freshly polished and with new slides and bulbs, but also moved the majority of his affects, and delivered a new set of furniture. Sherlock knew that meant his brother wanted something from him, a consult at the very least, but he was almost too happy with his new accommodations to much care. Placing his skull on the mantle was the last piece to settling in, and Sherlock looked around with a sense of accomplishment. He sent a text to Lestrade about a cold case he’d been contemplating and busied himself setting up a new experiment.

Three days later and Sherlock was hoping Mrs. Hudson was not regretting her decision to let to Sherlock. There’d not been a case since the green ladder solution, and Sherlock had moved from bored to dangerously bored. His brain was rebelling and the nicotine patches were a poor substitute for the real thing, but he’d smoked the few he’d found at SIS already and the rest of his stash hadn’t made it past the move. He was just contemplating the merits of changing out of his pajamas and going on the hunt when Mycroft walked in.

Sherlock stared at him from his almost upside down position on the couch, “Brother.” He said calmly as his mind worked to name the five closest shops that sold cigarettes.

“Sherlock,” Mycroft returned the greeting just as calmly as he looked around. “A vast improvement. I quite like the couch in particular,” he said with a slight smirk. He dropped a folder on Sherlock’s chest as he ambled slowly and deliberately around the living room before sliding gingerly into one of the chairs.

“I need you to give this matter your full attention, Sherlock. Is that quite clear?”

“Is it of national importance?” Sherlock countered, a slight lilt to his mocking tone.

“As always, brother dear, as always.”

“If you’re so keen, why don’t you investigate it? I simply can’t spare the time.”

Mycroft pointedly looked around the flat before standing up. “I’ll see you in the office by Friday at the latest, is that clear, Sherlock?”

“How’s the diet?” Sherlock called as Mycroft made his way out the door. He let out a small grunt when he realized he was already gone and slowly sat up, shaking the curls out of his eyes as he popped the folder open and began reading.

 

***

 

 

Training to be a barista was slightly harder work than John had imagined it would be. It took only a little over 3 days for his background checks and security clearance to come through and he had a voicemail from the mysterious Anthea the Tuesday after his initial ‘interview’. He would spend the first week of training at a public Starbucks location, learning the ropes, before integrating into his site specific training.

John, like any good British male, knew how to make a perfect cup of tea with his personal kettle. But, he soon learned that tea and coffee from a Starbucks were a whole different level of beverages. Overwhelmed was an understatement after his first day. His trainers made slight accommodations for his limp (his cane not feasible behind the counter with all the gadgets), but it was still awkward getting used to faltering around behind the counter. He’d been an experienced and highly trained military doctor and to suddenly be a trainee was hard to get used to.

Training on the systems was first. John was not as familiar with technology as most of the other, younger workers were, and it took him almost a full day to get used to the buttons and where things showed on the screen of the POS system. Then, they sent him home with training pamphlets of the menu the first night to study, and he felt almost more intimidated than he did while in medical school.

Learning to operate the espresso machine was on the schedule for the second day and he fought not to be amazed at the sheer speed which some of the other workers could operate it. There seemed to be an innate bit of timing that one had to learn to make the exact perfect result, to push the buttons and turn the knobs just so. John failed utterly at anything even closely resembling perfect for most of the day. By the end, he’d managed to make one near perfect Americano, and was prouder of that than he wanted to be.

The week passed in a blur though as he slowly began to get the hang of the different pieces and parts of the job and equipment. London was apparently more caffeine deprived than he realized as the steams of people never seemed to fully lessen throughout the day. Most people were also quite pleasant. This shop had regulars and the baristas often chatted with them and knew some by name and even more by their drink. It was almost like a neighborhood and John could see why Ella would recommend a job where he interacted so frequently with such normal, everyday kind of people. John had even felt better enough to attempt to chat up a female customer. It didn’t amount to anything, but he felt more like his old self than he had since before he’d been shot.

Wednesday, after his last day of training ended around 18:00, the staff wished him well at his new location, undisclosed to them of course, and he took a deep breath as he exited, hoping he was ready for whatever the next day would bring. He found a sleek black car waiting out front of the coffee shop for him. Anthea stepped out and opened the door for him and he got in without hesitation this time.

They sat in silence the entire ride back to his bedsit. When the cars stopped he didn’t get out, confused and waiting for either information or instruction. When it was obvious that her eyes were not leaving her phone, John coughed loudly.

“Right,” she began, still typing away. “We’ll be back here at 08:00 tomorrow to pick you up. Prepare yourself. Your first week’s wages will be in your account Friday morning. If you make it until next Friday there will be a bonus as well. Sleep well, Dr. Watson, you’ll need it,” she said crisply as she looked up at him and almost smiled. John nodded at her and climbed out, trying to decide if tomorrow would be more or less daunting than Afghanistan. 

Chapter Text

 

Chapter 3

 

Despite knowing he was not being picked up until 08:00, John awoke with near military precision almost two full hours before that. Not quite sure what to expect, he washed, dressed, and prepared for the day carefully. He’d been given a uniform, a full ensemble really, by the head barista at the shop he’d trained at and had washed it in preparation for today. However, the SIS location must have had other ideas as a small brown paper package sat on his table when he went to switch on the kettle.

Alarmed at how it had got there, it was with caution and weariness that he approached. There was a small card propped up beside it with the words ‘Uniform enclosed’ handwritten on it. John was still a bit leery of it and poked it a few times for good measure before opening it up. Inside were two sets of clothing, each consisting of black trousers and a black shirt. They looked nearly identical to the one he’d been given just a week ago until John shook them both out. The differences were small but quickly identifiable, especially to someone with military history such as himself. Extra pockets in both the trousers and the shirt that were concealed well within the fabric and a slightly sturdier make. And on the shirt, where he’d pinned his nametag previously, the word ‘Doc’ was stitched in white lettering. John wasn’t sure whether to laugh or feel a bit degraded, so simply removed his old clothes and folded them onto his bed and put the new ones on. They fit better than the previous ones, as if they’d been tailored to his dimensions as opposed to factory produced. John thought of the man he’d interviewed with (if one could call it that) and suddenly the thought didn’t seem quite so farfetched.

At five minutes of eight, John made his way slowly to the front pavement to wait. Less than thirty seconds after he came to a stop, a different, yet similar, black car pulled up to the kerb. He opened the door and climbed in without hesitation or argument.

“Good morning,” he said cheerfully to the seemingly ubiquitous Anthea and her equally ubiquitous phone. She merely exhaled in reply.

“Is it really your job to escort me everywhere?” He asked curiously.

“Simply a perk,” she replied with a raised eyebrow, eyes never leaving whatever she was tapping away at. John laughed quietly in response and her eyes dated quickly to his before returning to their task.

“Until other arrangements are made, you will be escorted to and from work by an assigned driver and myself or a fellow colleague. We will pick you up each morning at 08:00 and return you each evening at 18:00. As I’ve been informed, your work days will be Tuesday thru Saturday.”

The car slowed to a stop.

“Enter through the door; take a left, then a right, then another left. Another barista will be waiting for you. Enjoy your day, Dr. Watson.”

John gave a cheerful nod as he climbed out and made his way through a fairly ordinary door. He passed through the first door and the stopped short when the second door had a thumbprint pad. He placed his thumb and the door immediately clicked open. The third door was the same. Once he stepped through, a man in similar attire awaited him.

“Doc?” He asked, holding out his hand. John shook it in return.

“That’s me, I suppose.”

The man chuckled slightly. “You’ll get used to it. One of the rules around here is no names. You can call me Sal,” he added, pointing to the stitched on name on his shirt. “We’ll spend the morning briefing and then I’ll take you in and we’ll have you shadow the afternoon shift. Sound okay?”

John nodded before Sal headed down the hallway and entered a room that had two wing chairs and a small table between the two.

“You can read through these at your leisure,” Sal said as he handed him some pamphlets, “but they don’t leave the building. I’ll sum up all the important bits anyway.”

“Our job is to serve coffee and to serve it well. Like most Starbucks baristas, we’re to provide beverages with a side of happy and comforting as a break in our customer’s day. Unlike most though, we do not ask for names, we do not ask or provide personal details, and we do not use loyalty cards or bank cards—cash only. Also, your phone is not allowed on the premises. If you stick to these rules, you’ll do well here. Most people don’t know it, since most people don’t know we exist, but we’re the busiest Starbucks in the nation, and the best paid baristas as well. It can be a great place to be in if you stick it out; I heard you were personally recruited though, so I’m sure you’ll do fine.”

John spent the next three hours reading and signing papers, feeling as if he’d just signed his life away even more than we’d he’d joined the bloody army.

 

Then, the first hour of the afternoon was spent watching Sal and Ducky, a female barista, work. They had an easy camaraderie between them and greeted each customer efficiently and friendly. If John had been impressed by the near constant line at the other shop, this one held no comparison. He’d not even been aware this many people were employed by the SIS, yet alone could drink this much coffee throughout one day. The line literally never disappeared.

Both Sal and Ducky talked him through different tasks as they did them, gave him hints on how to handle certain pieces of equipment, or particular circumstances that could pop up. Feeling comfortable enough, he spent the last hour with Sal working the counter.

The first three orders he faltered with—having been engrained at his training to ask for a name and write it on the cup.

Finally Sal whispered, “You can write the drink order on the cup if it helps you, but it’s best to simply do them in order, then there’s no confusion. You’ll have it mastered in no time,” he said with a reassuring smile.

 

***

 

 

Sherlock purposefully did not show his face at SIS on Thursday, if only to spite Mycroft. He didn’t ignore the case though; reading and researching from his newly acquired couch in his newly acquired flat had its own nice ring to it for now. Kidnapping and espionage—most of Mycroft’s cases were the same. And while generally a slightly higher caliber than the personal or police cases he received, they often were all spurred by the same thing—perceived civic loyalty. An utterly boring motive, in Sherlock’s opinion.

Once he did show, he slipped in, avoiding Mycroft’s usual viewing spots, and was buried in papers at his desk, tacking things to the wall, and generally making a mess as he was wont to do. He was just about to head out when Major Smith knocked on his door a few hours later.

“I was hoping they’d pull you in for this one,” he said as a greeting.

Sherlock stood and made a face, “Mycroft could solve this almost as quickly as I could if he’d do a bit of legwork now and again. Lazy sod.”

“Grab a coffee before you go?” The Major asked.

Sherlock nodded. He could use a bit of caffeine, he wasn’t sure he’d slept last night, and the pseudo calories as well perhaps, if he’d be off on a chase later today like he was hoping.

It was late enough in the afternoon that the line was only slightly more than a handful of people deep by the time they made it to the resident Starbucks. Sherlock minded this Starbucks slightly less than the rest throughout the city. It still had the slouchy chairs, tacky décor, and horribly annoying soundtracks; but the baristas were efficient and their chatter was slightly less inane than elsewhere.

Sherlock wasn’t much for rules, even in a place such as this, and he and the Major openly, if quietly, discussed the case as they waited in line. Sherlock already had a decent idea of how it would play out, but the Major was intelligent and a career agent, so his insight often proved groundbreaking or illuminating. Sherlock respected intelligence and people who were good at their job without being mindless sheep.

“Grande Cinnamon Dolce latte with caramel and 4 shots,” Sherlock relayed when it was his turn, laying down notes without breaking in his conversation.

He was about to grab his drink from the barista when suddenly a connection came to him. He froze, searching his mind palace quickly for something he knew was stored there.

“Oh! Oh, that’s clever. Is it clever? Why is it clever?” He spoke rapidly, sipping the still hot drink without notice before he took off running.

 

 

***

 

 

“Yeah, he’s always like that,” Sal said with a quirk of his head as John stared after the strange customer who had just darted away.

Chapter Text

 

Chapter 4

 

Thursday bled into Friday for John as he continued to slowly acclimate himself to his new schedule. He spent Friday shadowing Sal and Sparks, another barista that was part of their now eight person team. It was another long day—both weary and strangely satisfying. John had been afraid that seeing all the active agents might make him miss the military even more, but so far he’d only felt a vague sense of gratitude towards them and one of accomplishment towards himself.

John trudged slowly up the stairs to his bedsit late Friday evening, his leg throbbing. It had been a long hard week of standing, but it was a good ache—one that meant he was getting out and about. He only wished he could convince his body of that. Still, he took three paracetamol, hoping to dull it slightly. He was feeling hungry and didn't think tinned beans were going to cut it tonight. Being that it was his first payday so he decided to treat himself. Grabbing his wallet he headed back out, intent on hitting up his favorite Indian place not too far away. Checking the balance on his account made his eyes boggle slightly. Sal was right; they must be the best paid baristas in the nation. He wasn't going to become rich off of it, but it’d be steadier income that he’d hoped for when he initially accepted it. At least enough to get him out of the bedsit hopefully and tide him over while he decided what to do with his life.

As he waited for his food, John thought of the enigmatic man he’d seen near the end of his shift. The tall, posh bloke that gulped his still scalding hot coffee as if he didn’t notice it and whom apparently talked to himself. Not to mention his drink order, cinnamon dolce with caramel and four shots was nothing if not memorable. He’d been brusque but not downright rude, hardly noticing him as he ordered, engrossed in a discussion with another man. Most of the customers were friendly and polite, if a bit distant. He supposed it came part and parcel with the environment. He ate in the shop, not ready to head back to being alone quite yet, and it was with a heavier stomach but a lighter gait that John headed back home after eating his whole plate of chicken curry, mango chutney, and naan.

 

After Sherlock had jolted from SIS on Friday, he’d spent the evening tracking the lead he thought he’d discovered. It turned out mostly pointless, other than giving him a few possible leads on a name, but nothing concrete enough. Having left him restless and annoyed, he took to wandering the streets of London and smoking, trying to make the pieces of the puzzle fit. Lulls in the case bothered him, making his seemingly restless energy and mind even more so. At least with cases for his brother, he didn’t have pesky things like working hours to worry about. Lestrade always wanted to sleep for at least a few hours, and the few times he’d tried getting into the Yard at night, had ended in copious yelling and swearing from Lestrade, who’d been called to deal with him. No, the SIS never slept and he could have access whenever he wanted to his office and his data sources. If Sherlock had inherited any of the same abilities Mycroft had of being able to handle mere mortals, he might have been able to make a go of it, working here full time. There were certainly some not so terrible parts of it. But Sherlock never kidded himself—the SIS was no place for him, even if they ever were to truly mean the offers they threw his way.

He wished they still allowed smoking in the building. It was practically impossible to smoke anywhere in the city anymore—half the reason he’d started using the patches so frequently. They weren’t quite the same, but less yelling seemed to occur, so sometimes it was worth the inconvenience.  Reading files was often the boring part of the hunt. He could scan them quickly enough, but it wasn’t the same as chasing a suspect or going undercover. Needs must though, and he tucked into the piles at his desk with a raw determination. He spent the next two days in a similar blur—darting off at odd moments when he thought he’d finally found an important piece and pouring over file after file on the missing person and their affiliations.

 

 

Saturday was only a half day for John, and then he had Sunday and Monday off. He tidied his small bedsit and looked halfheartedly at new flats before realizing he still couldn’t afford anything decent, not yet at least. He lazed around and it reminded him of how passive and near depression he’d been just two short weeks ago. On Monday he did his shopping and laundry and it all felt very civilian, even if it was a bit disconcerting.

Finally, right on the dot Tuesday morning, yet another black car pulled up in front of his building, and he shuffled in to head off to another full week. Somewhat surprisingly, John thought, he was enjoying the work. It wasn’t quite as mind-numbing as he’d been afraid that it would be. There were always at least two of them working and a steady stream of people queuing up, so there was always chatter of some kind or another. It wasn’t always hectic, and there were plenty of small tasks to keep him busy during the slower times—cleaning, stocking, and refilling. Slowly his leg was becoming used to the near constant standing. He still used the cane as much as he could, but often behind the counter he could stay in almost the same spot so it wasn’t always necessary.

The midafternoon rush was dying down and John was watching the few agents and other workers who were milling about, when a man strolled up, talking on the phone animatedly. John remembered this bloke from the other day—hard to forget a posh git like him, especially with a drink order like that. Where he put the calories was anyone’s guess, though I suppose with 4 shots, he probably burned if off through pure energy. There was something about him though, and John was fascinated as he half-listened to the one-sided conversation.

“No, no, it couldn’t have been the brother, Lestrade, don’t be an idiot. There was clearly residue left behind on the victim, traced there by fingertips. Fingertips that were much too large to be from him. Add in the undeniable idiocy that man encompasses and there was no way he could have pulled this off. Did you see the way he made his bed? Not to mention the shoes on the victim. Even you had to have noticed that, Lestrade!” The man cried out in frustration as he made his way to the counter.

 

***

 

 

“Grande Cinnamon Dolce latte with caramel and 4 shots,” Sherlock said, hardly breaking steam on his conversation, and not looking up as he handed over the notes and walked along, well used to the system and efficiency here.

“You getting a coffee?” Lestrade asked through the phone with a sigh, after Sherlock had finished placing his order. “I’ll join you and you can explain this apparent solution in a way I can understand, and prosecute, it.”

Sherlock hedged for a moment, “No, I’m…not available.”

“Ah. Visiting Mycroft are you? Top secret coffee shop again.”

“You really aren’t supposed to know that, Detective Inspector,” he said as he reached over the counter to grab the cup that was being slid his way.

He heard a soft ‘Ta’ and looked up quizzically to meet the eyes of the barista who’d taken his order and handed him his drink. Sherlock gave him an odd look before continuing his conversation with Lestrade and striding off.

 

 

“Is he even supposed to have his phone in here?” John asked Sal in a side whisper as he watched the man in the long coat practically glide away, clutching his phone in one hand and his drink in the other.

“Probably not,” Sal responded. “Some are allowed, but not many. But most people won’t say anything to him—he’s made even some of the seasoned agents cry before. Trust me; it isn’t pretty when he does it.”

Chapter Text

 

Chapter 5

 

Sherlock was distracted and he despised that. Normally able to completely switch his brain to and from what he wanted to concentrate on, to the exclusion of all else, the fact that he now couldn’t was making him agitated. The case, an 8 at least, should have been commanding the entirety of his attention. It was what he did—zeroed his mind in on something and solved it. Instead, his mind was wandering and wondering as he too stalked the streets of London, restless and roving.

“His mind was supposed to listen to him, damn it,” he growled, half aloud. A man walking towards him on the pavement glanced at him, a startled look mixed with concern and wariness. Sherlock ignored him and continued on. He was almost tempted to visit some of his old haunts, just something to take the edge off. But he wouldn’t. He’d fought too hard to get here, to stay here. He wasn’t going to give into it, wasn’t going to be vexed by a random barista. Even if he was intriguing. Ex-military, obviously, and a doctor as well as a soldier. A juxtaposition that Sherlock found himself contemplating with interest.

They’d hardly interacted; Sherlock had glanced up only for a moment when the surprise thank you had come from the barista. But it had been enough to engage his attention and to catalogue hundreds of small tells about the man. It certainly wasn’t odd to see ex-military in the SIS building, but to see one behind the counter of the coffee shop certainly was. There’d been a moment of wonder as to how he ended up there until the answer came to him. Mycroft, of course. As if there should have been any doubt on that front; everything in Sherlock’s life somehow managed to tie back to him.

The small beep from his phone pulled his attention out of his head slightly. Lestrade, another ‘of course’ in Sherlock’s life. He probably still couldn’t figure out the solution, even with the two separate clues he’d given him.

‘This is our last chance to get him, Sherlock. Please.’

Sherlock hesitated. He wanted to ignore him, wanted to scream in frustration at the sheer idiocy that seemed to surround him. But he couldn’t. Lestrade was... he was one of the good guys and Sherlock respected him, despite his somewhat slow nature. And he’d had done a lot for him over the years, even though it was somewhat against regulations to sometimes have Sherlock at the crime scenes.

‘The victim’s shoes were not hers. They were hastily placed on her feet and the wear on them did not match her arch. Find their owner and you’ll find where the suspect frequented. SH    ’

Standing on the edge of Waterloo Bridge staring out over the Thames, with one last sigh, Sherlock looked around at the city that he loved before hailing a taxi and heading home.

 

***

 

 

The days continued to pass for John as he became more and more accustomed to the world of coffee and secrecy and the weird ways in which they coexisted. They had a steady stream of regulars that he began to recognize, not by their names, interests, or hobbies, but by their orders as well as their faces. He and Sal's schedules were often the same and they took to nicknaming some of those regulars based on their drinks. It helped to ease some of the tension that always seemed to exist. He'd also learned fairly quickly how to read which agents would either give him that look or cause a scene if their drinks weren’t exact and therefore how to ensure that they were.

The customers, regulars and not, all seemed to like John, though he hadn’t quite figured out why yet. Sure, he smiled and was generally polite, but he wasn’t overtly social by nature. Sal teased him mercilessly once after two different customers flirted with him in the same day. The first one, a female who looked like she stared at the computer all day, going by the often weary state of her eyes, surprised him and he flustered out a reply, trying not to sound like an idiot. It felt nice though. The second one, a male who was obviously an agent, going by the way he held himself and the slight edge to his eyes, did more than startle him and he almost dropped a hot drink all over himself when the man winked at him after his short parting innuendo. He knew he couldn’t actually date anyone from here–couldn’t even imagine the security nightmare that might cause–but there was something definitely uplifting about knowing people saw you as an acceptable perspective mate.

He felt like he was finally settling into life after war though. It wasn’t what he’d pictured, but he’d never imagined much beyond military life anyway. He was content, if not happy, and slowly saving up money. His limp wasn’t gone, but it bothered him less as each week passed it seemed. He had friendly relationships with the other baristas, and even if they couldn’t see each other outside of work, it made the working hours pass more pleasantly.

 

The third time John saw the mysterious posh man was the day that everything stated to change. It wasn’t life altering, but a slow path, as if plotted out by the universe. He watched him covertly as he approached the counter. It was during a lull in the early afternoon, close enough to lunch still that the mid-afternoon caffeine rush wasn’t upon them yet. The man had a very different attitude and demeanor than the rest of the workers they saw around here–a combination that was both more flamboyant and less social.

“Hello, nice day we’re having, isn’t it? What can I get for you?”

“Afghanistan or Iraq?”

“Excuse me?” John replied, slightly stunned and more than a little confused. His stance had immediately stiffened though and he’d fallen into parade rest, almost as if threatened. The man’s lips quirked slightly at the edges.

“Afghanistan or Iraq?” he simply asked again.

“Afghanistan.” John finally answered after a beat. The man hummed; just a slight noise, but one that seemed to have said, ‘I thought so’.

He stared at John for another moment before he spoke, rattling his drink order off in one breath, “Grande cinnamon dolce with caramel and four shots.”

John nodded, already secretly familiar with the order. It was slow enough that John could scoot over to make the drink and let Sal cover the counter; though he got an odd look for it. They don’t usually switch off mid-order like that. He might get some good natured ribbing later for it if Sal figures out why, but John finds he doesn’t much care.

John goes to hand him his drink, trying to brave himself to look up and meet the full force of the man’s gaze.

“Invalided home, correct? Shoulder?” The man questioned as John reached out with the cup. His hand shook slightly as he registered the words.

He could do nothing but nod and then watch the man twirl away, a mass of coat and bravado heading away from John.

Chapter Text

Chapter 6

 

 

The next few weeks passed and John saw the man four more times. Each time the situation seemed to escalate in strangeness until John could no longer conceal his interest, could no longer hold back his curiosity.

 

Once, the man held his phone out for John to see. There was a picture of a bruised and bloodied neck and upper torso displayed on the screen.

“Jesus!” John had exclaimed, glancing around furtively. He was pretty sure he was not supposed to see whatever that was, despite whatever meager security clearance he’d been granted.

“Honestly, and you call yourself a doctor. I need your opinion on how many hours post-mortem this photo could have been taken.”

“Don’t show me stuff like that around here, I’ll probably get fired. And how do you know I’m a doctor?” John hissed out.

“Oh, this is just Yard stuff, not SIS, no one around here could care less about this man I assure you. And, please, ‘doctor’ is written all over you. Quite literally in fact,” he added with a smirk and a nod towards John’s uniform.

 

Another time, John was handing the man his drink when he leaned in. “Have you done sutures since you’ve been back? Are your hands steady enough, despite the tremor? A good doctor could be a surprising asset I’ve realized.”

At that, John’s hand, the very one in question, jerked back. Thankfully the man had lightning fast reflexes and the drink suffered no harm. A bemused glance was tossed John’s way as the man turned and glided away.

 

It is after the fourth time that John cannot help himself. “What are you?” John asked, not quite a whisper, not quite reverence, as he handed the always constant drink order to him. And the grammar of it seemed wrong, yet John didn’t know how else he would, could, have asked it.

The man cocked his head, a small moue of confusion writ on his forehead. His face cleared a moment later then, blank as it often was. He leaned in close to John, closer than was socially acceptable.

“The name’s Sherlock Holmes,” he responded with a wink, before once again leaving John in his wake.

 

John Googled him, he couldn’t help it. Consulting Detective. The Science of Deduction. Tie pin. Tobacco Ash. It all blurred together into an incomprehensible picture that left John only more bewildered and intrigued. John knew he shouldn’t have, knew he shouldn’t even know his name. This Sherlock apparently may not actually be an official SIS employee but John was pretty sure it still violated practically every document that he had signed prior to employment. For some reason it didn’t seem to be enough to make him want to stop though.

 

 

***

 

 

Sherlock is hooked, addicted; and he knows addiction well. He thinks it is probably obvious, to anyone who knows him at least. Lestrade has asked him twice what’s been keeping him so busy; a look on his face that is part morbid curiosity and part terror. And Mycroft has been full of jabs and insinuations.

“We’ve been seeing you a lot more around here, Sherlock, and I can’t help but wonder why?” Mycroft said it with a smirk on his face, as if he already knew the answer.

Sherlock refused to be bowed by him. “You pay better than the Yard,” he replied tersely, the coffee cup squeezed tight in his hand.

Mycroft’s gaze settled on the cup and his smirk widened. “I’m sure.”

Sherlock had stormed out, coat flapping behind him. He’d wanted to hate Mycroft for pointing it out, for making him feel aware and belittled by it. Sherlock knew it was true though. The SIS did, of course, pay better than the Yard, which rarely paid him for his consults. But it wasn’t the only reason Sherlock had taken to skulking around SIS and taking all the cases Major Smith had thrown his way with near abandon. The data gathering he was doing on the ex-military doctor turned barista was, not that he would admit it to others, playing a large part in his decision to over-frequent the building. Sherlock was always obsessive and meticulous, often to a fault, in his data gathering and he was allowing no differences in this instance.  He rarely felt interest in or an understanding of basic human interactions; oh, he could, were he to put forth the effort, but the atrophy it made seep into his brain was a factor that made him avoid it at all cost. The fact that another person was causing this much cessation of routine—this much interest—was an enigma Sherlock couldn’t ignore.

He couldn’t figure out why–and until he did, the case wasn’t solved.

 

***

 

It had taken days for Sherlock to plan it but luckily Mycroft, and therefore by extension Anthea, was a creature of habit. Anthea was slightly harder to pin down sometimes, and slightly more in tune with human emotions than Sherlock cared to dwell on. It was hardly an effort at all to tweak with their transportation schedule and ensure that no one was scheduled to escort one ‘Doc’ from the back entrance of SIS to wherever it is they left him off 17 minutes later. Well, Sherlock had a fairly good idea of where it was he was left off, but that was beside the point. The point was that Sherlock needed him tonight. He may not know his name yet, and boy had his fingers itched to get themselves on that file, but he knew enough. Enough to know that tonight could be the break in the case, both cases.

And so when John Watson opened the door to the usual black car that took him home, Sherlock put on his most pleasant smile.

“Hello, doctor.”

Chapter Text

 

Chapter 7

 

John tried not to scream, he really did. But when faced with the sudden close and physical presence of the peculiar man he’d been serving coffee to, in the small enclosed area of the back seat of a standard issue assassin car, he was feeling a bit overwhelmed.

“What are you doing here?” He choked out.

“Oh, please, as if Anthea’s schedule was that hard to manipulate,” Sherlock responded with a put-upon sigh.

John paused for a moment. “Her name is really Anthea?”

The odd look that Sherlock threw him maybe shouldn’t have surprised him; it really was a lame question.

“Of course not, but I can hardly go around not calling her anything, so it works as best as it can. I took to calling her other things for a while; but she is trained in almost as many martial arts as true SIS members, and is infinitely more annoying and persistent, so I gave up.”

John hid a small smile at that. “So are you my ‘bodyguard’ home tonight then?”

“If that’s what you want to call it. Actually, I require your assistance tonight.”

“You require my…?” John trailed off.

“You’re a doctor. In fact you’re an Army doctor.”

“Yes,” John replied, “Though I’m still not quite sure how you know that.”

Sherlock waved his hand in dismissal, “Any good?”

“Very good,” John responded decisively. If there was something he never questioned, it was his combined military service and his skill as a doctor.

“Seen a lot of injuries, then; violent deaths.”

“Mmm, yes.”

“Bit of trouble too, I bet. Some excitement.”

“Of course, yes. Enough for a lifetime. Far too much.”

“Wanna see some more?”

“Oh God, yes,” John practically whispered. SIS provided some excitement, but nothing like what the war used to bring. It didn’t matter that he wasn’t sure this man was particularly sane or safe, that he had no idea where they were going or what they were doing, or whether he should even be around him. It was better than sitting alone in his tiny bedsit and simply waiting for the next day.

 

An hour later, and John hobbled off a crime scene in Brixton, alone, and torn between confused and dejected. It’d been amazing to see Sherlock at work. Sure, he’d seen him deduce things about John that had left him astounded, but this was even more fascinating, a completely different level. He’d picked handfuls of small details off the body and turned them into clues. Hair style, clothing color, jewelry, coat…the swirl of data had been incredible. Sherlock was practically his own tropical storm.

The sergeant at the scene had been less than helpful when John had asked after a cab, so he slowly made his way out to the main road. Less than a minute later he heard the sound of a slowing engine as it pulled up next to him. The back door of a ubiquitous black sedan opened and Anthea stepped out.

“Dr. Watson,” she said, inclining her head towards the car. He sighed and climbed in.

“Am I going to go ‘unofficially missing’ now?” John asked after he settled himself in the car.

A small smile tugged at the corners of Anthea’s mouth. “I’m just giving you a ride.”

John’s phone chose that very moment to chime.

‘221B Baker St. Come at once if convenient. SH’

John started and his hands fumbled a bit trying to get a grasp on the phone in order to reply. He resolutely did not look at Anthea whom he was sure could have typed six texts in the time it took him to fumble with his phone. It chimed again before he could even start to tap away.

‘If inconvenient, come anyway. SH’

He cleared his throat. “Well, if you aren’t going to have me killed, could you drop me to 221B Baker Street?”

Anthea’s eyes narrowed at him and she made the oddest little noise in her throat, as if she’d got stuck halfway between amused and alarmed.

‘Could be dangerous. SH’ His phone chimed again.

“Actually would we be able to swing by somewhere first?” John asked with a hint of adventure and excitement in his eyes.

 

 

***

 

The moment of clarity was now. Or, it normally would have been. It was a three-patch-problem and Sherlock had three patches on his arm. And he was in his second favorite position in the flat—laying supine along the couch. These factors should have ensured that he was engrossed in thought on the case—her case. But his thoughts kept straying. John Watson. Doctor John Watson. Captain John Watson. The words, the titles, danced around in his head as he tried to focus.

He needed a phone. A phone that wasn’t his, with a number that wouldn’t be recognized. So he sent a text. Then another. Then he paused, thought a moment, and sent one more. He needed John he’d decided, wanted him, and he wasn’t going to let there be another option. And intrigue and danger were the way to get there. He’d pegged John the moment he’d laid eyes on him fully—adrenaline junky with a side of protector. Sherlock couldn’t have ordered a better companion if he’d tried. But it wasn’t just those things. Having spent even just a limited amount of time within John’s presence, Sherlock felt drawn. From the moment the word ‘fantastic’ had left John Watson’s lips, Sherlock was hooked. And he was prepared to do anything to keep John in his life—including going up against Mycroft and the entire SIS.

 

 

***

 

 

A drugs bust, a hectic cab ride, and a barely saved life later, John attempted to reign in his giggles as he and Sherlock walked. It was, after all, a crime scene, he pointed out. That seemed to only make Sherlock laugh just a bit more. And it probably said something terrible about him, but this was the most alive John had felt since being back from the war. The smile on his face wasn’t forced and his leg felt better than it had in weeks.

The thought of his leg made him notice that he didn’t have his cane and it seemed to break the spell and he suddenly faltered. Sherlock seemed to reach out a proprietary arm, but John regained himself.

“Finally realized it, huh?” Sherlock asked with a smirk.

John shook his head with a smile, amazed at all that had happened in the last handful of hours.

“This whole evening has been the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever done.”

“And you invaded Afghanistan,” Sherlock responded with yet another small smile. John was starting to feel proud each time he made one of those appear.

“Dinner?” Sherlock suddenly asked, despite the late hour.

“Starving.”

Sherlock continued talking as they turned, “End of Baker Street, there’s a good Chinese stays open ’til two. You can always tell a good Chinese by examining the bottom third of the door handle.”

John has just started to laugh in reply when they are both brought up short by the sudden appearance of a black sedan, and John pulls to parade rest in one fluid motion. John watched carefully as Anthea, followed by Mycroft, climbed out of the backseat.

“Dr. Watson.” Mycroft articulated slowly after he’d pulled himself to full height. John responded with a nod.

“You signed some very specific documents when you agreed to the job I offered you...” he continued, trailing off deliberately at the end with a pointed look.

John, unsure of what to say, but ready to defend himself, opened his mouth to talk when he was cut off by Sherlock.

Sherlock himself had straightened to his full height and stepped closer to Mycroft. “Keep your oversized nose out of my business, Mycroft.” He snarled.

John stared at him in shock, trying to understand what was happening.

“Tsk, tsk, Sherlock. Really.”

“What are you doing here?” Sherlock ground out.

“Queen and Country, Sherlock. This explicitly violates multiple statutes in place, and you are well aware of that. Plus, I am, as always, concerned about you.”

John tensed at the entire exchange. He’d known he wasn’t supposed to interact with the SIS employees, but he couldn’t seem to resist the pull of Sherlock. And Sherlock certainly hadn’t resisted.

“Always so aggressive. Did it never occur to you that you and I belong on the same side?” Mycroft said in response to Sherlock’s extended step even further into his space.

“Aren’t we practically already?” Sherlock practically spit back.

“We have more in common than you like to believe. This petty feud between us is simply childish. People will suffer ... and you know how it always upset Mummy.”

John did a double take. He mouthed the word ‘mummy’ to himself.

Sherlock’s entire body had gone even tenser. “It wasn’t me that upset her, Mycroft.”

The cogs of John’s brain had finally caught up. “He’s your brother?!” He exclaimed.

“Of course he’s my brother. What else could he possibly be?” Sherlock added snidely with a glance thrown towards Mycroft.

“Dr. Watson, do enjoy your Chinese. Anthea will escort you to work on Tuesday and we’ll discuss this…anomaly.”  

With that, he and Anthea disappeared once again into the car, leaving Sherlock and John standing on the pavement.

John cleared his throat. “So, Chinese?” He asked.

Sherlock nodded and they turned and headed off down the road, smiles on their faces.

Chapter Text

 

Chapter 8

 

Sunday was one of John’s days off, something he could actually enjoy now that he worked. Days off when you were unemployed were sad, lonely blurs, but now they were semi-happy, relaxing breaks. He was halfway through folding a load of laundry when his phone vibrated.

‘Assistance required. SH’

‘Baker St. SH’ It announced again.

 

John was still cane less—a feat that was making him feel more and more acclimated and upbeat each day. He made his way towards the tube and to the Baker St exit with an efficiency he’d thought he might never find again. After a brief knock, the landlady, Mrs. Hudson, let him in. He made his way quickly up the stairs, more excited about what lay ahead than he’d realized. He knocked gently on the half open door and poked his head in as he started to enter.

“Sherlock?” He asked. “Got your text...” He trailed off and came to a halt as he noticed another man in the room. He was pretty hard to miss–a shock of bright red hair adorned his head. “Oh, sorry, didn’t realize you had company.”

With a slight snort of derision, Sherlock waved him in. “Dr. Watson, this is Mr. Wilson. Mr. Wilson, my colleague, Dr. Watson.”

John’s eyebrows rose slightly at the word ‘colleague’, but Sherlock ignored him. Mr. Wilson had stood and extended his hand towards John. Reaching out to grab it, John was overwhelmed once again by the color of his hair.

“Mr. Wilson here was just telling me about his rather mundane life and existence prior to a somewhat fascinating diversion in the form of a new employee and a fairly dubious offer of extra employment that he has been taking, despite the popular euphemism of being ‘too good to be true’.”

John listened to the man prattle on about just those things for a few more minutes before Sherlock suddenly jumped up.

“We’ll take your case,” Sherlock announced as he herded the man up and towards the door. John starred in shock, first at the blatant use of ‘we’, and secondly at the agreement to assist this man with what, to John, appeared to be a frankly ridiculous story and a waste of time.

 

“Hungry?” Sherlock asked as soon as the man was gone. “We need to check on a few leads and Mr. Wilson’s office is right by this nice little Thai place I like.” John nodded in reply, still somewhat lost on what exactly was going on.

They took a cab to the office and Sherlock spent a few minutes eyeing the outside, before they walked around and inspected the building and those around it. Sherlock randomly poked at places or stopped to stare, even measuring a brick at one point. John couldn’t figure out what he was attempting to prove or locate most of the time, but he stood by him and watched thoughtfully. It was less than a ten minute ordeal before Sherlock stopped abruptly and smiled.

“Mr. Wilson stated he worked for ‘The Red-Headed League’ from nine to twelve every day. We’ll meet here tomorrow at nine thirty. I’d better text Lestrade.”

“Lestrade? And why are we meeting here tomorrow?”

“Lestrade is the Detective Inspector I work with at The Yard every so often. He’ll want to be here; wouldn’t want to miss out on his chance to arrest the notorious John Clay. And you’ll want to be here, and maybe bring that gun of yours no one is supposed to know about.”

“You’ve solved it, huh?”

“Just about,” Sherlock replied with a mysterious smile. A smile that did funny things to John and his ability to concentrate. He decided he might like that smile even more than the other one he’d been trying to induce. John must stare a moment too long as Sherlock nudged him along suddenly.

“Come on; this case is closed enough that I can eat.”

 

 

***

 

 

The Thai place was good, as always. John ordered Pad See Eu, spring rolls, and dumplings. Sherlock ordered his usual Pad Thai and stole bites of John’s extras.  The conversation came easier than either of them could have imagined. Sherlock was used to feeling unsure around others–social conventions usually either escaped him or he just felt no need to lower himself to worry about them. Something about John though made him want to try.

He was retelling one of his more exciting past cases, embellishing only slightly with impressive tidbits, trying to hook John and draw him in, when it happened. It probably shouldn’t have taken him by surprise, but as John reached for his glass, Sherlock was going to steal a spring roll at the same time and their hands collided lightly and their eyes met. It wasn’t the romantic brush of hands often pictured in movies, but it struck Sherlock with the same little electric awareness. He was not necessarily a stranger to sexual attraction; he’d done the whole experimentation thing before, during, and after both college and his descent into drugs. But as he’d honed and perfected his mind and deduction skills, the needs had been filed away and brushed aside. He couldn’t deny however what John brought out in him—but in his deduction skills and in his mind and body. It’d been there since the first time Sherlock had noticed him. Shy smiles were exchanged over the last of their meals and Sherlock began to plot.

Chapter Text

 

Chapter 9

 

It was Monday morning and Sherlock and John were pacing outside the Thai restaurant. They were early for their stakeout and waiting for Lestrade and his team to show. John was still slightly off kilter from their encounter yesterday, and his fists clenched and unclenched as he paced and Sherlock was a bundle of energy as he walked back and forth along the pavement.

“I could use an assistant,” Sherlock spoke suddenly as he leaned against the side of the building, all tight lines and expensive clothes.

John looked at him askance, eyes pulling up his body slowly, for a moment before it sunk in. “Assistant?” He replied indignantly, trying to hold back his anger.

“You find it more or less distasteful than barista?” Sherlock asked in that posh voice of his that reminded John just how much better off he was. And there was a smirk included as well, of course there was. And John was confused, because he’d thought…well, he still wasn’t actually sure what he’d been thinking. Only that it involved Sherlock and possible happiness, and maybe a gun and some running as well; though not necessarily always in that order, or in the same context. But there all the same.

“You misunderstand me.” Sherlock said plainly, before pulling himself up and heading towards the back of the building and an innocuous car that had just pulled up.

 

 

They were still laughing as they entered through the door of 221B. It was the most alive John had felt his whole life he decided. The adrenaline coursed through his veins and a smile erupted on his face unbidden.

“That was amazing!” He exclaimed, chuckling. “How did you ever figure that out?”

“The proximity of the two buildings was too coincidental. The universe is rarely so lazy.”

John shot him a confused look at his wording, but Sherlock simply waved it off.

“Having a doctor and a soldier around really was very helpful. You were quite…inspiring. And that right hook was well-timed. Thank you.”

“Pretty sure I didn’t do much of anything. You figured it all out yourself, talked that guys’ ear off until he was so confused he confessed, and found where he’d hidden the rest of the money. Incredible.”

At his last word, Sherlock turned towards him and stopped on the stair right above him. It made John even more aware of their height difference. The way Sherlock was looking at him was intoxicating and riveting and suddenly whatever it was between them could no longer be denied. John stared up at him from his spot on the step; he was almost two heads taller than him now but the distance seemed to be closing. John started to say something, anything, but stopped, not sure where to even begin. It broke the spell though and Sherlock cleared his throat.

“Tea?” He asked as he turned swiftly and entered through the flat’s main door.

 

John made the tea, which maybe should have been odd considering it was not his home, but that seemed to be how it worked between the two of them—everything odd and bright. Sherlock, putting away his coat and hovering around, watched him with hooded eyes as he’d fumbled around in the kitchen with the kettle. But as John started to hold out the cup to him, he stalked over quickly to grab it. And, as he handed it to him, their hands brushed once again. And it was like at the restaurant except more. Except it wasn’t ending this time; Sherlock wasn’t pulling away and neither was John.

Suddenly, in a movement so quick, John barely had time to register it, Sherlock had him pinned against the counter, arms braced to either side of him, tea cup still in hand. John could hardly breathe as his body responded, filled with tremors, anticipation, and excitement.

“I’m a little like Mycroft, or the SIS,” Sherlock whispered against his ear, practically nibbling on his neck as he spoke. “I don’t share my things. It’s all or nothing with me so say something now if you can’t do that. Because you won’t like the fallout later otherwise.”

John wasn’t sure he could answer; thought about simply giving in and kissing him. But Sherlock’s words, despite their brazen sensuality, were serious. “What did you mean earlier, when you said I misunderstood you?” John asked then, in lieu of a direct answer. He shifted his body minutely though, bringing their hips closer together; a small consolation.

“That you are more than a barista, more than coffee. That I said danger and you came running. My mind lights up when you’re around. Can you imagine what we could be together? We’d be unstoppable,” and he deliberately lowered his voice on the last sentence. It was heady to hear those words, breathed out in rich tones so close to his ear and John didn’t think anyone in the world could have resisted the situation. And so he gave in.

 

 

***

 

 

On Tuesday, Mycroft cornered John while he was on break and heading from the restroom to the small lunch area where the baristas would sit on their breaks. John was tired. He’d overslept this morning—for someone who claimed to need little sleep, Sherlock sure didn’t like to wake up in the mornings.

“Dr. Watson. Might we have a few words?” Mycroft greeted him; all fake smiles and demureness.

John sighed internally, but nodded sharply and followed Mycroft to a small room down the hall.

“Several violations have been committed, Dr. Watson, and we need to discuss them,” Mycroft began in a drone.

Minutes later, John’s mobile vibrated softly as Mycroft continued on his spiel. John had long since stopped listening. He pulled the phone out blatantly and looked at it, a small smile playing on his lips as he read the text.

“Mobile phones by certain level employees are prohibited inside these premises, Dr. Watson.”

John looked up at him and smiled challengingly. “I know.” He said simply.

“I find you are not taking your duties as seriously as you should,” Mycroft added on, stretching himself taller.

John’s phone vibrated again. This time the smile on his face could not be missed.

“Yeah, well, I quit.” He stated.

“I beg your pardon?”

“Thank you, really, because I needed this for a bit; but we’re done now.”

“You can’t just walk out of the SIS.” Mycroft practically spit at him.

“Watch me,” John said as he turned on his heel.

 

And Mycroft was either more of a softy than he’d realized, or Anthea was a genius; but she was waiting for him outside a car when he stepped out of the building.

“I’m to take you to Baker Street,” she said crisply. But John could swear she was smiling. He nodded at her and climbed in. And, as he settled into the seat, he pulled out his mobile and re-read his last two messages.

 

‘Flatmate needed. Serious inquiries only. SH’

‘Could be dangerous. SH’