Sherlock texting at a crime scene wasn't unusual.
Sherlock texting, then throwing back his head and laughing fondly, was a bit more out of the ordinary.
"Huh. He's finally cracked. That's a shame, I had him down for three months from now." Donovan cocked her head thoughtfully. "Who won the pool?"
Pointedly ignoring her, Lestrade cleared his throat and asked, "Sherlock, who are you talking to?"
Sherlock's eyes never left the screen. "I'm not talking to anyone."
Oh, for the love of- "Who are you writing to?"
The resulting silence was so poignant that even Sherlock noticed. He looked up, blinking in confusion. "Problem?"
"Your boyfriend," Anderson said incredulously.
"That's what I said," Sherlock snapped back irritably.
"You. Have a boyfriend."
"Anderson, did your remaining brain cells finally decide to make a run for it? You are repeating yourself. Incessantly."
"How much did you pay for him?" Donovan interjected. "You didn't get one of those mail order grooms, did you? You can't trust those, they'll take your life savings and run off to the Cayman Islands."
"All right, that's enough," Lestrade said loudly, interrupting before it devolved into a hissy fight - complete with hair-pulling and biting. There were times when he sorely empathized with his grammar school teacher. "Good on you, Sherlock, but you're at a crime scene. You can text your boy-" His throat seized. His brain refused to use the words "Sherlock" and "boyfriend" in the same sentence with a possessive pronoun. "You can text him later."
"Hardly." Sherlock sniffed. "I'm asking him about the rate of decay of human livers. It's vital to the case."
Donovan's, "Why would he know about decaying body parts? Oh god, you've found yourself a serial killer boyfriend, didn't you?" was drowned out by Lestrade's bellow of, "Sherlock! You can't just give out details of an ongoing investigation!"
"I'm bending enough rules as it is letting you here-"
"It makes a horrific kind of sense-"
"-just because I let you in doesn't mean you can bring along a playmate-"
"-he'll kill people and bring you bits of them to experiment on. He probably does the shopping too, because he's a provider-"
"-there are rules, you daft git. You may not believe in them, but the rest of us have to follow them if we want to get a conviction!"
"-then you'll snuggle on the sofa and talk about your day. He'll tell you about all the people he murdered, you'll tell him about the most gruesome crimes you solved, and it will all be horribly, horribly domestic."
Sherlock glowered at them both. "John's a doctor," he snapped at Donovan. To Lestrade, he said, "And I doubt the Canadians care about a simple inheritance scandal gone wrong."
Lestrade blinked slowly. "The Canadians."
"Oh wonderful, now you're repeating yourself." Sherlock glared at Anderson. "Congratulations, Anderson. You actually performed the first case of human-to-human transmission of stupidity."
"Sherlock!" Lestrade nearly shouted. "What do the Canadians have to do with anything?"
Sherlock looked at the sky, the why-must-my-brilliance-be-saddled-with-these-tiny-minded-mortals expression set firmly on his face. Lestrade was very familiar with that expression. They met frequently.
"John's Canadian. And while he's quite talented, I doubt he can affect the British judicial system from Richmond."
Everyone exchanged looks.
"Sherlock," Lestrade said carefully, "exactly how did you meet, uh, John?"
"Over the internet."
The poignant silence from before was back, along with its friends Awkward and Holy Fuck.
"Oh god," Donovan moaned. "Why couldn't you have found yourself a nice serial killer?"
"How is your penpal, dear?"
"He's not my penpal, Mrs. Hudson, he's my boyfriend."
"Of course, dear."
You can't date someone over the internet. Mummy won't approve. MH
Piss off. SH
Lestrade had hoped Sherlock would get bored and abandon the whole internet-boyfriend-from-Canada business.
He didn't. If anything, he got even more infatuated.
"You lot cannot possibly be this stupid!" Sherlock threw his hands in the air. "If John was here, he'd have figured it out ages ago!"
They heard that a lot now. If John was here. John said this. John said that. John would smote the ground and out would spring their murderer, already handcuffed and paperwork complete.
It had been going on for months. It was getting to the point where Lestrade twitched every time he heard the name "John."
Donovan, however, had reached the end of her tether. "Oh, will you come off it!"
Sherlock sneered at her. "I wouldn't get on it if you lot would do your jobs! Honestly, John-"
"John's not real! He's never been real! He's someone you made up so the rest of us think you're more human or something!"
"Oh, and what led you to such a brilliant deduction?" Sherlock practically snarled. "Do share, Sergeant Donovan. I do so enjoy listening to your attempts at logic."
"Enough!" Lestrade barked. "Donovan, secure the scene. Sherlock, with me."
Lestrade led Sherlock to a quiet corner. Sherlock glared at him, an odd mix of defiant and apprehensive.
"John's real. He has a blog. That's how I found him."
"Yeah, I believe you. I'm sure John exists. But Sherlock," Lestrade took care to gentle his tone, "do you know him?"
"Of course I do! He's a doctor, formerly of the Canadian Forces Medical Services. He's terrible with technology and he-"
"Have you met him? Do you even know what he looks likes?"
Sherlock made a disgusted sound. "I like him for his mind. I couldn't care less what he looks like."
"Sherlock," Lestrade sighed. "I know this might be hard to hear, but John may not be who you think he is."
"I know exactly who he is."
"Are you sure?" Lestrade pressed. "Are you absolutely positive that you know him? The internet can hide a lot about a person. No one can deduce everything from some e-mails and a blog. Not even you."
For a split second, Sherlock looked stricken. He quickly regained his usual impassivity, but Lestrade could see the beginnings of doubt flickering in his eyes.
"Look, John might be who he says he is. Or he might be some kid playing you for fun, or a lonely old woman. The point is, you can't know. Not in this sort of situation."
It was a much more subdued Sherlock who returned to the crime scene. He solved the case with his usual efficiency and without his usual acerbic wit.
He didn't mention John again.
A week later, Lestrade stopped by 221B Baker Street to check in on Sherlock. Mrs. Hudson answered the door.
"Oh, I'm afraid you just missed him, Detective Inspector. He left for a case abroad."
A prickle of alarm crept up his spine. "It's not in Canada, is it?"
"Canada? No, I think I heard him say something about Belarus."
"Oh. Well, good. When he comes back, could you tell him to give me a call?"
"Of course, dear."
Lestrade made his way back to New Scotland Yard, feeling a small swell of relief. It looked like Sherlock had actually listened to him for once and was getting his life back on track.
Brilliant. The sooner they put the imaginary boyfriend debacle behind them, the better.
Lestrade didn't see Sherlock for another month. Not until a particularly strange triple homicide had him texting Sherlock with, "Get your arse over here or I'm handing the entire thing over to Dimmock."
"Don't you dare touch that, Anderson!"
Sherlock bounded on to the scene, coat flapping dramatically behind him. Lestrade's greeting died in his throat as a short, stocky blonde man followed him in. He was dressed in jeans and a canvas military jacket, and was watching the goings on with mild interest.
"Sherlock, what did I tell you about crime scenes not being your personal playdates?"
Sherlock gave him a scathing look, but the stranger responded before he could.
"Oh, sorry. I figured I wasn't supposed to be here. I'll just wait outside, Sherlock."
Sherlock frowned. Donovan looked up from where she was crouched over the body, surprise evident on her features. "You're American?"
The man flashed her a grin. "Canadian, actually."
"Canadian," Lestrade finally said, voice a bit faint. "You wouldn't happen to be called John, would you?"
The bloke smiled, somewhat confusedly. "Uh, yeah. Dr. John Watson. Hello." He held out his hand.
Lestrade shook it, more out of reflex than anything because his mind had conveniently crashed like a shoddy Microsoft product.
Sherlock just looked monstrously smug.
All activity had stopped. Everyone was too busy staring at the man to do their jobs. Lestrade would have yelled at them, except his brain still had yet to reboot. From the amount of time it was taking, it was probably running Windows Vista.
John looked back at them bemusedly and jabbed a thumb over his shoulder. "Should I go?"
"No." Sherlock was suddenly across the room and standing right in front of John, their chests just shy of touching. "Stay. I'm going to need you."
John smiled up at him, the corners of his eyes crinkling. Sherlock didn't smile back, but his face visibly softened.
As Sherlock poked around the body, Donovan sidled up to the man. "So you're the infamous John."
"I'm not sure about infamous, but yeah."
"Are you a serial killer?"
"The Freak over there might be." Donovan gave him a once over, taking in the checked shirt and woolly jumper. "You seem normal enough."
"He's been telling us that you're his boyfriend, you know. For ages."
"Really?" John frowned. "That's weird."
Donovan had the vindicated look of someone who knew that the rules of normalcy and rationality would reassert themselves over the world. "Yes, it is."
"He proposed to me months ago."
The reassertion was short-lived.
John called across the room. "Hey, you haven't changed your mind, have you?"
"Don't be an idiot," Sherlock scoffed. "We're waiting. Mummy wants a summer wedding."
"Yeah, well, just remember my visa runs out in a few months."
"Hardly. Mycroft's already getting your dual citizenship confirmed. He'll have the papers by Tuesday."
"Huh. That's...nice." John wrinkled his nose. "What does your brother do again?"
"Never mind that, John. Come take a look at the body."
John glanced at Lestrade for permission. Lestrade mutely waved him over. He needed a lie down, and maybe a cold flannel. Or scotch. Lots and lots of scotch.
Donovan stepped up beside him and silently handed him a Mars bar. Lestrade finished it in two bites.
"There are so many ways it could have gone wrong. It should have gone all wrong," Donovan mused.
"Leave it to him to beat the odds. And get himself a cute boyfriend." Donovan sighed. "There's no justice in the world."
John was murmuring something to Sherlock, gesturing at one of the bodies. He pointed at the fingernails of one hand and then the head. Sherlock whooped, seized John by the collar, and kissed him thoroughly.
Donovan watched avidly. "Oh my."
"You got something, Sherlock?" Lestrade asked with the air of someone who had been so traumatized that he had simply accepted living as a scarred shell for the rest of his life.
"Twins!" Sherlock shouted as he ran past them. "Come along, John!"
John trotted after him, waving cheerfully at Lestrade and Donovan as he passed by.
Lestrade pinched the bridge of his nose. "God help us. There are two of them."
Donovan made a thoughtful sound. "I wonder if we'll be invited to the wedding?"