Another man’s scent clung to John as he walked through the door. Sherlock was up on his feet before he knew it, pressing his nose into John’s neck, along his sleeve and under his jacket. John jumped and protested at first, but eventually just stood there and allowed himself to be sniffed.
“He smelled you?”
“Yours never done that to you?”
“Not so obviously, no. Little comments sometimes, but full on nose in your face, no.”
“He’s not one for subtlety.”
It was a mixture of foreign sweat and an unfamiliar aftershave. It was blended with the wood polish and real ale that always followed John home from the pub. There was a slight cigarette smell too, but not much. John must have stood around outside the pub for a while, where the smokers hung about. It was strong enough that this must have happened at the end of the night. Talking to this mystery man no doubt. Perhaps before they parted ways to go in different directions. Yes, the way the scents were layered it was clear John and the man had embraced before he came home – not a full on hug, the scent was nowhere near strong enough for that, probably one of those hand shake combined with shoulder pats that some men preferred.
Before this, John had had four, no, five beers. More than usual. John tended to nurse his drinks savouring them as if each would be his last for a while. John hadn’t left the flat that evening in a particularly bad mood so he wasn’t drinking away his sorrows. Got distracted then, caught up in some discussion or activity and didn’t notice how many he had been having. None of the football teams John would willingly watch had a match tonight.
Sherlock seized John’s hands and looked at them while turning them this way and that. Then he sniffed them as well. No chalk residue that would suggest a pool game and no sign that John had been holding cards, darts or any writing implement that might suggest a pub quiz. The only remaining explanation was that John had been enjoying the company of the mystery man. So much so they could barely be parted from each other, lingering in the doorway before they went their separate ways.
“How can he tell so much? I mean he can’t, can he? He has to be making some of it up.”
“But he’s always so spot on. It’s like he can take one look at me-”
“Or one sniff.”
“-and tell my whole day from it.”
“Makes you wonder why he asks how your day was at all.”
“No, mine doesn’t either.”
Sherlock let go of the hands and stepped back to examine John’s expression. John’s eyebrows were raised in confusion, his head tipped expectantly and the corners of his mouth were crooked in vague amusement. Keeping his eyes fixed on John’s face, he watched to see if there was any change in emotion as he asked,
“Except when he does ask.”
“Oh yes. Usually it’s just ‘you took your time’ or ‘pass me a pen’, but when he asks-”
“Because he knows something.”
“But he’s not telling you.”
“Wants you to tell him.”
“It’s like an interrogation.”
“No, that’s more when we- never mind.”
John’s head straightened, the smile filled out.
“Yeah, it was… very good, yeah.”
Sherlock widened his eyes at the slight pause. The next question was key.
There it was! Sherlock almost couldn’t believe it as John’s eyes slipped away from his and he knew the next thing out of his partner’s lips would be a lie.
“Just an old friend.”
Sherlock said nothing, just waited for John to realise his mistake, realise how pointless it was to lie to him.
“Coming to bed?”
Sherlock shook his head minutely and flopped backwards onto the sofa, carefully watching John from under his eyelids.
John didn’t look remotely guilty or concerned. He simply took off and hung up his jacket, then walked out the room.
“And sometimes he just gets so jealous.”
“Yeah. Sometimes it’s like… It’s like he wants me all to himself all the time and if anyone else gets a minute he gets… jealous.”
“We’re not like that. I mean we’ve both got really busy schedules. He knows I’ve got my work and he’s got his.”
“Yeah, there’s that, although he doesn’t seem to get that I’ve got work outside of his. I meant time that I could spend with him and don’t.”
“Oh. Oh right. No, he doesn’t like that.”
Sherlock curved his fingers together in his traditional thinking pose and set his mind to the puzzle in hand. John had spent a few hours at the pub enjoying the company of another man. That was one thing.
John had acquaintances and friends outside of Sherlock whom he often liked to see. Sherlock accepted this, even if he didn’t understand it. After all, how could any conversation with them compare to his own dazzling wit? He had pointed this out once and John had not taken it well.
“He gets upset.”
“Yours sulks too?”
“Mine could teach yours the meaning of a true sulk. Probably did come to think of it.”
So, if John wanted to waste his time with the mind numbing ranks of the rest of the population that was his prerogative. But the hug….
John was not usually a tactile person, except with Sherlock. He even flinched when his sister tried to kiss him on the cheek, although that might have been from the stench of alcohol that had permeated her breath at the time. John wouldn’t share even the briefest of embraces with someone he wasn’t very familiar with. But John had been lying when he said it was an old friend.
The only reason why John would lie about meeting a ‘friend’ was if the relationship was in fact something more, or if he was hoping or planning for it to be become something more.
“Does he even have any friends?”
“He has contacts, allies, that sort of thing.”
“No, not really. I think he kind of likes you.”
“That’s actually a scary thought.”
“Oh, come on.”
“No seriously, what does that even mean? Do they even understand the whole friendship concept?”
John wasn’t cheating on him that was obvious. But the thought that he could and soon was driving him mad.
The next morning John was acting odd. Sherlock was already sat at the kitchen table with his laptop when John got up and gave him a cheerful,
Then he ruffled Sherlock’s hair in an affectionate manner before proceeding to make them both coffees.
Then, later when Sherlock was reading the newspaper in the living room John came up behind him, wrapped his arms around Sherlock’s neck then stayed there reading the paper over Sherlock’s shoulder.
John hadn’t acted like this since they first got together. The night after Sherlock had decided to break the, by that point unbearably distracting, sexual tension John had gone about in an insanely good mood. He had spent the day wearing a smile that was rather more smug than Sherlock thought he deserved given how it had been Sherlock who had been forced to lead John most of the way.
Sherlock thought back to the mysterious man. The idea that this man could produce the same kind of high after only one night of talking annoyed him more than he thought possible.
“You know what, it’s because he likes to think he’s in charge.”
“He likes to think he’s the centre of the universe.”
“He acts like he rules the world.”
“He acts like he’s always the most dazzling thing in the room.”
“He’s kind of right though, isn’t he?”
At lunchtime Sherlock was certain John’s good mood would cease as the doctor opened the breadbin and found the four dead mice Sherlock was storing there in an experiment to see the effect of different poisons on rodents. Instead John simply chuckled, mumbled something like, “Oh Sherlock,” and continued to make toast.
Shortly afterwards he asked Sherlock, who had come into the kitchen to check John hadn’t disturbed the mice too much, to pass the butter. Sherlock complied and was rewarded with an unexpected peck on the lips.
This was not normal. It was… good. Yeah, kind of… nice… in a way. But it was certainly not normal behaviour.
Then John got a text. Which he silently read, looked up at Sherlock then giggled as he tapped on the phone keys, obviously replying.
Two minutes later he got another text at which he laughed out loud.
Half an hour after that John was updating his blog and Sherlock had managed to pickpocket him and was looking through the received messages on his phone.
“I just wish he had some sense of privacy.”
“It just doesn’t occur to him.”
“It’s like I’m his so everything I have is his too.”
“I don’t think he’s used to anyone saying no to him.”
“Have you tried saying no to yours?”
“Yes. Have you?”
“Good, wasn’t it?”
According to John’s phone he had received three messages that morning, all between the hours of eight and twelve. Sherlock had witnessed John receiving at least six since then. John must have deleted them. Had they been from the mysterious man? What was he hiding?
Just as he was wondering that his phone went off on the other side of the room. John looked up at the sound and noticed the phone in Sherlock’s hand just as that went off as well.
John’s eyes narrowed but Sherlock decided to ignore him and read the message.
MESSAGE FROM G. Lestrade
Have a case for Sherlock.
“Pass me my phone.”
John laughed – another strange reaction – before getting up and fetching Sherlock’s mobile. He held it out to Sherlock with one hand while holding the other hand alongside with the palm faced upwards.
Sherlock placed John’s mobile into the upraised hand before snatching his own and reading the message. It consisted of an address. Clearly the text to John was to make sure he went to it. He was almost tempted to turn it down, engrossed as he was in the case of John Watson and the potential boyfriend thief, but he was tempted by the opportunity to observe John’s behaviour outside the flat. Besides, it might be a good idea right now to remind John of how brilliant he was.
“Do you… Do you ever… Do you ever wonder… what he’s doing with you?”
“Sometimes. But then I remember how utterly infuriating the man is and I don’t feel so bad.”
“Good point. Who else would put up with him?”
“They should be grateful they’ve got us."
He looked up to tell John they were going out when he was hit in the face with his own coat.
Sherlock was bent over the body examining the thread content of the deceased’s socks when he smelt it again.
Of course he had been aware of the large black car pulling up just beyond the police cordon, but he had ignored it, deciding his brother was not his problem right now. Especially considering the strands of wool around the corpse’s ears. Then Mycroft had moved upwind and Sherlock had been struck by the wafting scent of the same aftershave that had invaded John’s jacket the night before.
He leapt to his feet and marched towards his brother, passing John and Lestrade who were seemingly too distracted in their own quiet discussion to notice him move. Mycroft didn’t react as Sherlock grabbed his jacket and, pulling him down, inhaled deeply.
“Why did John smell of you last night?”
This was impossible. There was no way John had been with Mycroft the night before. Certainly not at the pub, Mycroft had never stepped inside a pub his entire life.
Mycroft tilted his head slightly. “Lestrade’s jacket smelt of John this morning. But I got in rather late, the situation in Mauritius you know.”
Sherlock rolled his eyes. Mycroft was well aware he didn’t know and wasn’t interested.
“So it was too faded to tell quite how… intimate… they had been.”
“Five beers at the pub then a handshake shoulder pat hug at the door,” Sherlock said, looking over towards where John and Lestrade were talking.
Lestrade was wearing a broader smile than he usually had at a crime scene and was gesturing wildly as he talked. John had a hand to his mouth, obviously trying to suppress giggles. They were standing closer to each other than usual.
Lestrade had spent the day before at Mycroft’s. So when he got ready to go out he had used Mycroft’s new aftershave. He had then spent the evening with John, had been texting John all morning, and now the two of them were looking very intimate together.
John and Lestrade. No, it couldn’t be.
“The thing is, he tries to keep constant tabs on me, but that’s only because he couldn’t cope without me.”
“Sometimes I wonder how he survived this far on his own.”
“To be fair yours wasn’t doing that well, consulting detecting aside.”
“Well, you’d know.”
“Makes you wonder what mine got up to.”
“Probably the Falklands.”
“He’d be too young, surely?”
“Did you seriously just consider that?”
“When you’ve been with yours as long as I’ve been with mine you won’t put anything past him either.”
Sherlock looked over at Mycroft and saw the slight set of his jaw that indicated deep worry. The brothers walked over to the other two men. John looked up as they approached and grinned cheerfully.
There was no shock in John’s tone. No embarrassment at being caught. No shame in what he was doing. Just genuine joy at seeing them.
“How’s the toe?”
Lestrade spluttered laughter, bending over almost double at the force of it. Mycroft’s mouth fell open a little in shock. Sherlock found his gaze briefly dragged towards his brother’s foot. John just looked extremely pleased with himself in eliciting such a reaction.
“Oath breaker,” Lestrade said accusingly between gasps for breath.
“It wasn’t like we could have kept it secret forever,” John said. “As soon as they got together they were going to figure it out.”
“But you didn’t have to tell him what I said,” said Lestrade. “How would you feel if I told Sherlock you told me about the radiator thing?”
Sherlock gasped involuntarily and John raised his hands defensively.
“Okay, okay, truce.”
“You were talking about us,” said Mycroft. “At the pub.”
Mycroft somehow managed to put enough distaste into the word ‘pub’ to make it sound as if the place was a den of villainy and disease that no one should dare to enter.
“You could have told me your brother was sleeping with Lestrade,” John said to Sherlock. “It was great to be able to talk to someone who understands.”
“Life with a Holmes,” Lestrade filled in. “We’re going to make it a regular thing. Wednesday; moan about your Holmes night.”
“You were in a good mood this morning,” Sherlock said.
“Because I had a good time last night. Talking about you.” John took hold of the lapels on Sherlock’s coat and pulled him in for an all too brief kiss. “You are an idiot, you know that? Getting jealous.”
“You could tell.”
“Of course I could tell. As if I could ever cheat on you.”
“It was rather improbable.”
John smiled and kissed him again.
“I’m not sure I approve of you two talking about us behind our backs,” said Mycroft as soon as John released Sherlock.
John and Lestrade turned towards each other, their eyebrows raised.
“Do you want to come?” Lestrade asked.
“We are stuck though, aren’t we?”
“Worth it though.”
“No thank you.”
“I’m fine, thanks.”
“Back in a sec.”
“Mycroft, are you still nursing that Sherry?”
“Oh come on, it can’t be that bad.”
“I’m certain it is the finest Sherry the ‘Dog and Kettle’ could provide.”
“And are you going to drink water all night, Sherlock?”
“Alcohol is a distraction.”
“Are you… are you taking notes?”
“For later reference.”
“Let me see that. Oh, so you liked the dazzling thing in the room bit, did you?”
“Here we go.”
“Where were we?”
“Oh right. Now, don’t get me wrong, the sex is great…”