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A Study In Ludus

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4 years later



Sherlock winced as he tugged off his shirt, hissing as he noticed the wound; a thin trail of blood slowly drizzling down his side. A familiar pair of dog tags clinked gently against his chest as the clothing was tossed aside carelessly. He opened the bathroom cupboard and pulled out his first-aid kit, along with a bottle of rubbing alcohol and a flannel. The twenty-three year old scattered the items onto the sink ledge as he searched for what he needed; needle and thread, wipes, scissors.

You should take them off, you know...”

He grabbed some of the sterilized wipes, and began trying to clean up the blood from the bullet graze he'd sustained. The damn suspect he'd been chasing had been armed; something he hadn't accounted for (not that he would make that mistake again in the future). He would have to try and acquire a weapon or two of his own... perhaps revisit the boxing classes he once took when he was younger.


He had lost Lestrade somewhere in the confusion. The detective had slowly begun to include Sherlock in some of his cases. At first, it was merely chatter. He would run into the older man occasionally, and they would feign interest in one another with short greetings. But it was only when Lestrade had begun talking about a particular case he was working on; one that had him stumped... that Sherlock's interest began to pique.

The dog tags.”

The genius took to consulting the other; telling him where to look and what for. After the case had finished - and Lestrade had confirmed (even thanked him for) the help and pointers Sherlock had given him - he began to consult with the Detective on a more regular basis. Focusing on crime and puzzles was keeping him more entertained now than he had been in the past four years.

...No. They're mine.”

Four years. It felt like a lifetime ago when he'd last spoken to John. Sherlock's thoughts were thrown off track a bit as he growled through the sting; the alcohol burned his wound, but he bore through it, and began to thread the needle.

It had been relatively easy to find his ex-professor. It had only taken him five months after he'd graduated to locate where John had moved. Though Mycroft had been no help whatsoever... Sherlock had quickly learned the value of the homeless population in London. They were a reliable network, and if bribed correctly, could be his eyes and his ears all over the city. He'd spent three months simply gaining their trust – and it was a mere two months after that - that the network had located Doctor Watson.

Given what those tags represent, and who gave them to you... you certainly do not deserve to keep them around your neck. Not when you've ruined a war veteran's reputation.”

Mycroft had heard about the scandal, and had been disappointed (perhaps even a tad disgusted) with his sibling's behaviour. When Sherlock had first asked for his help in locating John, the eldest Holmes had refused him without a second thought. He believed it was best that their 'relationship' had come to an end; that clearly, Sherlock wasn't mature enough to engage in such matter.

Shut up!”

It had been a long shot going to his brother for help. He knew that. Mycroft had an insufferable urge to try and protect him from everything while cleaning up what messes he could. But this time, he had placed the blame purely on Sherlock (with good reason). So it didn't matter if John had made Sherlock happy... and it didn't matter that the young genius had been on a good track to stabilizing his life and his behaviour. All that mattered was that Sherlock had brought this mess upon himself.

I cannot- … rather, will not... clean up your mess. Not this time.” Mycroft said sternly from behind his desk, “Losing someone you came to care for is simply the price you pay for engaging in sport with the likes of Jim Moriarty. I suggest you quit while you're ahead... and spare ruining someone else's life just to prove you're clever.”

Sherlock glared at him; teeth clenched so tightly together it was a wonder they didn't all crack in half, “I have no brother.” he snarled defiantly, wanting to inflict some of the inner pain he felt on Mycroft. Who else was he going to take it out on, otherwise?

You also have no lover. No friend, either.” The elder countered calmly, picking up a pen as he began to write notes in a sizable folder, “Which means, you're putting yourself in a difficult spot by severing our ties. I suggest you rethink it.”

The teen didn't answer. He simply trembled with suppressed rage, before storming out of the office. Mycroft glanced up at his younger brother, taking a pause to watch his retreat, before he shook his head – and went back to work.

He missed John's smile. His eyes. His smell. His touch. He missed the flat (their flat, as he still chose to remember it). He missed the jumpers and gentle social scoldings. He missed the praise and the affection.

It was painful to think about. More painful than the wound he was currently attempting to stitching up. He'd lost the only other person on this planet who could tolerate him... befriend him... love him. Of course he and John had never gotten to the 'L-word'. They had been close, but Sherlock had stopped the relationship short with his foolish wager.

The five hundred pounds he'd gotten from Jim had come and gone, and now, he was back at square one. The money seemed so trivial now.

He would have rather lost the bet, kept John, and paid Jim the five hundred pounds with added on incentive to never contact him again, and to never mention their bet. Perhaps neither scenario would have worked; John would have found out eventually, and been just as hurt. Of course his pride might still be in tact.

When he finished, Sherlock tossed the needle back into the first-aid box, and lifted his arm to look at the shabbily stitched wound on his side. It would do.




“Right then, I'm off.” Heather popped her head in, giving John a warm smile. “You staying late again?”

He looked up from behind his desk; littered with x-rays, files and books, but there was still an organization to the chaos. “Yeah. I've got some paperwork to finish up,” he smiled back, “then I'm back on. I promised Mark I'd sub in for him tonight.”

“Of course. He's got that big date.” She giggled, shaking her head a bit, “Well. Don't work too hard.”

John nodded, “Have a good night, Heather.” he turned back to his work as she closed his office door again.

He'd been working at St. Mary's Hospital for the past year and a half now. It had been hard starting this 'new' chapter in his life for several reasons. He had to move from a flat he loved. He got chopped from a job he rather enjoyed. His reputation was ruined; more of a laughing stock, than anything else. The relationship (or rather, what he'd thought was a relationship) he had with Sherlock hadn't panned out the way he'd imagined; the teen had betrayed his trust in the worst way, and didn't seem to understand why John had been so upset.

Mike Stamford had heard of course, and was gracious enough to help John land a job at St. Mary's. Shortly after, he was able to find a break in terms of a room, and managed to get into a rent-controlled flat on Craven Road near Paddington Station. Clara had been a lifesaver, and John was thankful he'd always kept in touch with her, despite her troubles with Harry. It was perfect distance from the hospital where he could walk to work each morning and home each evening... and close enough to the tube that if he had to venture elsewhere, it was an easy commute.

It felt almost serendipitous. Everything had fallen into place, and the only thing that felt lost was... Sherlock's presence. It was infuriating. He shouldn't care about the other man; he shouldn't think about him, he shouldn't miss him or his arrogant posh tone, or his deep laugh, or his pout, or the way he scrunched his nose sometimes if something confused him, or the way he would nudge his way into John's lap for a cuddle, or the way he poured over the morning paper with such focus... but sleepy eyes...

John shook his head and stopped those thoughts. Dammit, he cursed. Four years. He shouldn't be thinking about that manipulative son of a bitch.

Closing his last few files, John added them to the to-be-completed pile, and stood up. He tugged and readjusted his white coat, and slipped his mobile into his pocket as he headed out – closing the door behind him. He wasn't really expecting a busy night. In fact the only reason John had agreed to cover for Mark was because Mondays were traditionally fairly dull.

So one could imagine John's surprise when he arrived at reception to see two of the nurses chattering away with a sense of urgency in hushed, quick tones. They stopped dead when they saw John approach, and one sighed in relief, “Oh Doctor Watson... good.” she smiled nervously, “Um... we've a patient. He needs to see you.”

“Ok...” he drew out, quirking his brow, “Is there any reason you're both acting so skittish?” John asked.

One nurse glanced toward the other, and she huffed, “Well he's a bit... difficult.” she hesitated, before continuing, “He's already diagnosed himself. Says it's just an infection, and is insisting that he just be given the proper antibiotics and sent on his way. He doesn't seem too keen on speaking with a doctor.”

“Well.” John huffed, picking up the scribbled paperwork that, evidently, the walk-in patient had half-heartedly filled out, “If he wants antibiotics, then he'll let me take a look. Which room?”

The nurse gestured down the hall, “One-fifteen.”

John nodded and headed down in that direction. Great. A problem-patient was all he needed right now. Probably some arrogant sod who hurt himself doing something incredibly stupid, and didn't want the humiliation of explaining it to a doctor... he concluded with an internal sigh. Reaching the room, John gave a sharp knock, before entering. “Evening.” he greeted absently, still glancing over the messy paperwork the patient had scribbled over. “I'm Doctor Watson. I understand you... have....”

His voice trailed off and came to an immediate halt as he looked up to see Sherlock.

Sherlock Holmes.

John looked back down at the paperwork; the name had been left blank. Naturally. He knew the young man would be too irritated and stubborn to include any vital information like name, severity of the injury, or emergency contact. Sherlock looked just as surprised to see John, but recovered more quickly, allowing a frown of confusion to fall on his lips. “...You don't normally work the night shift.” he pointed out with a small pout.

“I'm covering for someone else.” John answered immediately, “I don't have a shift tomor- … hang on. How the fuck do you know what I normally work?” he demanded crisply.

Sherlock didn't answer, and instead, had the good sense to actually look a bit sheepish. “This is infected.” he muttered quietly, lifting his arm to show John a poorly bandaged up wound on his side.

He wanted to refuse. God in heaven, he wanted so badly to just let Sherlock have it, and then assign him another doctor. But deep down, he knew that wouldn't happen. He would treat Sherlock, and he would remain professional, and prove that he was definitely over him and their past together. John set the clipboard down, and moved closer; pursing his lips together as he tenderly removed the bandage to get a look at the wound.

“...Yes it is.” he murmured in agreement, furrowing his brow in concentration as he went into 'doctor-mode' and grabbed a few tools and some gauze to help him clean the wound, and remove some of the puss. “Hold your arm up.” he instructed, “And stay still.”

There was an uncomfortable silence that hovered around them while John worked. Actually, he preferred the silence. Sherlock was rather adept at conversation – that is, leading and spinning a 'harmless little chat' to get to the topics he was really curious about – and John knew he would fall for the lure once it was baited in front of him.

“How did this happen?” he asked as his eyes drifted over the wound; it was a familiar sight, but certainly not a wound he expected to see on Sherlock. “This is a bullet graze.”

Sherlock's eyes shone a bit as he looked down at John, “Well deduced. I knew you'd get it.” he smiled.

“Answer the question.” John snapped crisply. “It's a bullet graze and deep enough that you needed stitches – and yet, instead of going to a hospital or clinic to get it looked at, you clearly thought it would be a good idea to try and stitch it up yourself. A shite job of it, too.” he scolded.

The younger man didn't seem to deterred, but rather, smiled a bit more. As if John scolding him was something he'd been longing to hear for a while. John tried not to think about what that could mean. Sherlock had gotten taller, and certainly had grown into his looks more. Regrettably, he was stunning; a bit on the thin side, and he had bags under his eyes... but still, stunning. Taller too, which John silently cursed.

“I've been assisting Lestrade with some of his casework. Helping him when he's out of his depth... a... consultant, of sorts.” Sherlock explained smoothly; eyes still alight with their usual, energetic spark.

John frowned, cutting away and tugging out the ragged stitch job so he could redo it. “Lestrade?... You- … you still speak with him?”

“Of course.” Sherlock gestured dismissively, “He's the only 'in' I have with the Yard at this point. He-” the genius hissed in pain, flinching as John finished clearing away the last bit of thread from his sewing attempt. “He's not completely useless.” Sherlock finished, moving his eyes back to watch John at work. It was definitely a sight he'd missed. “You look rather dashing. A distinguished thirty-year old. I knew you would be.”

John clenched his jaw, “I'm thirty-two. And it's only been four years. People don't change that much in four years.” he argued petulantly.

“I've changed.” the genius stated boldly.

“You've grown taller and a bit broader in the shoulders.” John replied tensely, “But I've no doubt you're still as manipulative as you were the day I left you.”

That quieted Sherlock rather quickly. John felt a brief sense of satisfaction from it, but unfortunately, it was followed by a wave of guilt. Fuck, he cursed. Why did he have to feel guilty? Sherlock deserved that, and a hell of a lot more for turning John's life upside down. “Hell of a coincidence. You... showing up here, out of every hospital and clinic in London.”

“It's good to see you.” came the immediate reply.

“If I didn't know any better,” John continued, ignoring Sherlock's evasive answer, “I'd say you knew I worked here. You didn't look all that surprised to see me.”

Sherlock didn't respond to that, which only irked John more. He paused mid-stitch, and looked up to the genius – who was staring right back at him, calm and composed, with something mischievous lingering behind those icy blue eyes of his. John sighed, already working it out for himself. “Christ. And how long have you known?”

“About a year.” Sherlock finally spoke, offering his ex-lover an impish smile. “I'm rather pleased with myself, actually. I had manged to resist the temptation to announce myself to you. Tonight was, of course, purely a coincidence. Had I known you had taken a graveyard shift, I would have tried to walk to the next clinic in the hopes of avoiding confrontation. But it would seem that fate had other plans.”

“You managed to resist the temptation to announce yourself to me?” John repeated in disbelief. “And how exactly do you think that would have gone over? ...'Oh hello John! I know you changed your number, left your job and moved out of your flat to get away from me, but I was in the neighbourhood and thought I'd pop in to let you know I've been stalking you, even though you said you never wanted to see me again'.” he mimicked.

Sherlock frowned, “Well... 'never' is quite a long time. Bit extreme.”

“No. No, it's really not.” John snapped, shaking his head as he finished re-stitching Sherlock's wound. He clipped the thread, and gave it another once over, before he moved away and tossed his medical gloves into the garbage. “You should be alright now. I've cleaned it up, and re-stitched the wound. I'm going to prescribe some antibiotics just to be on the safe side.” he explained, writing some notes on Sherlock's paperwork.

“Well done.” Sherlock hummed in approval as he pulled his shirt back down and slipped on his coat, “I always knew you were a competent doctor. Much better than any of the others I've encountered in London. Rubbish, the lot of them...” he began to rant, taking a few steps toward John. “Since, predictably, helping the Yard with some of their cases is going to get me into a number of scrapes... perhaps I could make you my official doctor. I don't trust anyone else to do a good job of it.”

John shot the younger man a glare, “Not happening.” he stuck his pen back into the pocket of his coat, “And if you're going to be helping the Yard, I'm going to have a word with Greg. He clearly doesn't understand how close of an eye he needs to keep on you. Stop getting into 'scrapes' that involve bullet grazes.”

“But then I won't have any excuse to see you.” Sherlock pointed out simply, grazing his fingers over John's hand as he moved closer.

The doctor batted his hand away, “I'm not your doctor. You're not my patient.”

“John.” the deep baritone purred.

“No, Sherlock.” he continued, trying to put a bit more heat behind his voice, “You came close to ruining my life the last time we interacted with one another, and I was perpetually lied to for nearly a year. Finding out where I work doesn't mean you've won the prize of being able to befriend me again.” John adjusted his med coat and opened the door. “Go to the reception desk and they will give you the antibiotics. Have a good evening.” he nodded crisply, before disappearing.

The genius huffed, and followed – looking up and down the hallway until his eyes landed on John, who had quickly retreated to a safe distance, and soon, disappeared around the corner. Sherlock smiled a bit, and headed back toward the reception desk to get his meds. That interaction had gone better than Sherlock expected. He was pleased to see there was still a lingering hint of fondness in John's eyes. Or at least, what he perceived to be fondness. It could be sadness... but he'd rather not think about that. It would just take time. Everything could be fixed, or made right, with time.





You'll be happy to know I'm healing nicely, thanks to your medical expertise.


Oh. That's good to hear. JW


Sorry, who is this? JW


… SH


Sherlock. JW


John. SH


How the hell did you get this number? JW


It certainly wasn't easy. SH


I had to utilize my homeless network and find a woman who could act convincingly over the phone. SH


She called the hospital under the guise of your sister and asked for your mobile. SH


Jesus Christ. JW


Well... you wouldn't give it to me. SH


There was a very good reason for that. JW


I don't want to interact with you. JW


We don't have to interact yet. SH


Just texting is fine. SH


No, not 'yet', Sherlock. Ever. JW


It was four years ago, John. SH


I told you I've changed. SH


You understand I find that hard to believe when you deviously get some woman to call the hospital pretending to be my sister with an emergency, JUST so you can get my mobile number. JW


...I thought maybe you'd find it clever. SH


I don't. I find it intrusive. JW


Noted. SH


I won't do it again. SH


I've some good news. SH


You're going to leave me alone? JW


Well... no. SH


I've some news, then. SH


Lestrade has informed me he's got some perplexing murders surfacing. SH


Well, I say murders, but... SH


Two suicides. SH


Suicides aren't murder. JW


Yes, but if one or two more occur in the same fashion, it's murder. SH


Fingers crossed. SH


...Fingers crossed ?! JW


I realize how horrid that sounds, but you get what I mean. SH


The sad thing is that I do. JW


And I'm done speaking with you. JW


Very well. I'll text you if I hear something. SH


Don't bother. JW


I'm not involved. JW


I'd like you to be. SH


I don't care, Sherlock. JW


We're not together. JW


We're not friends, we're not lovers, we're nothing. JW


[no reply]


Sorry, but... I can't trust you. Not after what happened. JW


I'm determined to make it up to you. SH


To prove that you were always more than a foolish bet. SH


Not necessary. JW


Goodbye, Sherlock. JW


Have a good day, John. SH