Sherlock had stopped playing, had put his violin away.
John clicked. The write-up of the Baskerville case posted to his blog. “That’s finished then,” he said aloud and glanced over to where Sherlock had stretched out on the couch, eyes closed. Sherlock didn’t respond, but that didn’t mean he had succumbed to sleep. John studied the pale profile, the glints of lamplight in the glossy hair, on the folds of the silk dressing gown. Succumb. An interesting word choice. Yeah.
John brought his attention back to his computer, opened a new word document and typed:
Sherlock fled the hollow.
John centred the words on the page. Several seconds ticked by. He looked at the couch. Sherlock hadn't moved. John added:
John fled Sherlock.
He made the type bold. Several more seconds passed. John italicised the line. He typed a letter and deleted it. He sighed.
John fled Sherlock.
He could factor in the properties of the experimental drug Sherlock had detected, the aggression it provoked. Frankland had clearly been working on that effect, reducing it from the levels that had caused the project to be abandoned, refining the impact the chemical had on fear alone.
John typed another word and didn’t delete it:
He centred it beneath the other two lines. On the next line he wrote:
He, unlike Sherlock and Henry Knight, hadn't been exposed to the drug in the hollow. John had met with the other two in the woods after they climbed out. Airbourne, the drug could have drifted, been carried on their garments as well. Less exposure, lower dose. It could explain why he’d left Sherlock in the tavern when he’d declared he had no friends. Might even explain why he kept walking away from Sherlock in the churchyard the next morning. Didn’t explain why he’d made the remark about cheekbones and coat collars when they left Baskerville the first day. The timing was wrong.
The chemical magnified fear, even in people accustomed to facing it, overcoming it. John typed again:
The words centred neatly. It was beginning to look like a poem.
John's fingers thumped four keys hard as he typed:
As the fear had closed in on him in the lab, he had phoned Sherlock. Sherlock's voice had taken the edge off the terror. Sherlock promising to find him had helped John hold himself together while he waited. Sherlock had not made him wait long. John did not fear Sherlock.
John’s eyes darted to the recumbent figure on the couch. Sherlock had turned on his side, his hands tucked beneath the cushions under his head. His dressing gown gaped open, a sliver of neck lit by the lamp. John recalled objecting to Sherlock pulling his collar up, looking mysterious.
John's fingers moved over the keyboard. He considered the new line that appeared on the screen:
Fear reaction to Sherlock.
He’d told Sherlock to stick to ice in Dartmoor, derided Sherlock’s experience of fear, belittled his confession of self-doubt. He could blame the drug for the hostility of those reactions, but the underlying fear belonged to him. John remembered leaping on Sherlock's back weeks earlier, throttling him from behind after Sherlock threw the first punch and John had punched back, had warned Sherlock that he knew how to kill people. John noted his respiration changing as he remembered. Some of the aggression was his.
John checked the couch again. Sherlock's curls cast shadows over his brow, his brow over his eyes. His cheekbones caught the yellow glow from the lamp. Sherlock's eyes opened. The colour of the lamplight cooled as they reflected it. And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming. John couldn’t recall where he’d heard Poe’s lines recently, but they fit Sherlock’s eyes. Definitely.
The light from the laptop went out. Untitled document was dutifully saved. John's gaze didn't waver when he stood and walked across the room nor when he knelt by the couch, every motion casting shadows.