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Three Patch Problem

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Your lips twitch behind steepled fingers. John Watson is being transparent again. Oh, he always is- meandering around the kitchen with a wrinkled nose and faint crescent-shaped bruises around his right arm which Harriet happened to clutch too tightly in her drunken stupor a few nights prior- but today is different. John has repeatedly adjusted his tea bag's paper label in the past few minutes, indicating slight nerves, despite lack of a date this evening judging by a notable choice in moderately comfortable shoes. A small cut above his upper lip acquired whilst shaving reveals fatigue inevitably brought on by the case you and he have been immersed in as of late, which is absolutely marvellous; the murderer is nearly impossible to trace, considering your prime suspect is Julia's fiancé, who would have no issue cultivating snake venom, but his polished engagement ring speaks otherwise...

John Watson, anyhow, appears anxious for reasons unknown to even the likes of you. Another indication of his nerves is his particular choice in tea this morning: Rooibos, perhaps with vanilla or Earl Gray flavouring, specifically recommended by John's old therapist to aid in the recovery process of his (inaccurately diagnosed) PTSD. The therapist was fired promptly after John moved into your flat, but alas, John continues to drink this particular brand of tea, despite its frankly awful pungency and taste. Your assistant adamantly claims that he "likes it."

You suppose that there are downsides to every flatmate. At least he hasn't attempted to toss out your skull. Speaking of, what has Mrs. Hudson done with it?

"I let her in yesterday to help tidy up a bit," John says suddenly, and you narrow your eyes a meagre fraction. Your flatmate has either taken up clairvoyancy or you've accidentally spoken your thoughts aloud, the latter of which is much more likely and quite concerning. John must be 'rubbing off' on you, as the commoners put it. "The kitchen table was in a right state, and I assumed Lucetta wouldn't appreciate viewing a skull on the mantlepiece and bloody ears in the fridge. I've stowed the skull away in my closet. If you'd like, I'll go and-"

"No, John, don't bother," you sigh, reclining back in your armchair. John's expression twists in confusion, but explaining how you find his translucency fascinating and he must not interrupt the deduction process is a futile practice. He'd figure you're insulting him, and then require some sort of apology, which your high-functioning sociopath entitlement doesn't make easier to accomplish. Wait a minute- "Who is Lucetta?"

"My, er, ex-girlfriend. The one whose nose you insulted last week."

"Is that so?" Noteworthy: John's lack of frown. Practiced expression, perhaps, but odds point to relief. He wasn't acquainted with her long, maybe a few weeks. Person of interest proceeds to fidget further with tea bag label. Subtle lick of the lips. Sip of tea. Nervous, nervous, nervous... why? Surely this hasn't been brought on by the ex, nor the current case. A job interview is out of the question, considering John's casual dress. He isn't out to catch another date, either. "You invited her over last night, then? Hm. Didn't notice."

"You were in your mind palace. The case has been complicated, so I figured you would be making connections for several hours." John sets down his teacup and proffers a rueful smile. "Nowhere yet?"

"Nowhere," you say, letting your impatience reign you. "The puncture holes in her right ankle are small and appear genuine, but the testing reveals none of the fiancé's snakes responsible, seeing as no venom variation causes 'speckles' to dot the skin. Besides, they were imprisoned. No other snakes were in the vicinity, John, so it's clearly a murder, but according to the fiancé's ring and alibi, he isn't responsible. Perhaps the murderer slipped something slow-acting to the victim, but that doesn't explain the puncture marks and certainly doesn't pinpoint the murderer. And what's worse, John, is I'm nearly out of nicotine patches!"

John's expression morphs into something similar to condescending terror. "Sherlock, how many are you wearing?"

You innocently roll your sleeve up to reveal three patches, slapped on haphazardly. John bites his lip. Fingers cease their tugging at quilt threads. Wrinkles form across a moderately smooth forehead. He is concerned now, anxiety completely forgotten. "You do know overdose has the potential to kill you?"

What, does he think you're inane? This insult is barely worthy of Anderson. "Yes," you say coldly, yanking down the sleeve dramatically. "Fifteen milligrams dispersed per patch over the course of twelve hours, equating to forty-five milligrams in total, which is why I've taken the necessary precautions and set a timer for eight hours. John, do you really think I would subject myself to potential death?"

"Well, you are a consulting detective with a former cocaine addiction!" John exclaims defensively, shooting to his feet.

"And you're an apprehensive doctor with no regard for my common sense!"

"You have no common sense!"

Nose to nose. Dark curls nearly touching silver-flecked blonde. Too close, not close enough. Lines, clues, characteristics, deductions. Dark crescents. Cleft chin, virtually indetectable. Furrows. Jawline. Cut above lip. Perfect, far from it. Anxiety, confusion, absolutely infatuated. Dilated pupils. Muffled gasp. His pulse, does it match yours? Married to work. Blog, blogger, relaying thoughts, laptops, keyboards. Fingers itch. Hands, completely still. Teacup. Rooibos. Vanilla. His gaze, his teacup. Just let it fall. Why are you falling? Falling back. Moving away, lips pursed, eyes wide. It never happened, according to common sense. 'You have no common sense.'

Staggering backward into your chair, you shut your eyes. Tension. Apprehension. Diversion, yes, a diversion is necessary. "Lucille, was it?" you ask, grasping at straws.

"Er, Lucetta," John says, clearing his throat. "I was under the assumption that she'd appreciate Mrs. Hudson's cooking. Invited her as an apology, since I gave her dog a chocolate." His eyes flick downwards, away, toward the teacup. He picks it up. Swallows the remainder in three gulps. Much more nervous than before. Notable: Lack of eye contact. Pursed lips. Red tinge to cheeks. Furrowed eyebrows. Grip around teacup is stronger than usual. Talking too much and too quickly; it really doesn't suit him. "She ended up walking out after I went to check on you one too many times. Went off on the closet spiel. By the way, I'm tired of that. Others assuming that I'm gay and we're dating. Why don't you ever deny it?"

Tired of that tired of that tired of that. "John," you say, eyes slowly enlarging. "John, repeat that."

"What? What, that she walked out on me?"

"No. Third to last sentence and on. Repeat it using your exact words."

"Er- 'By the way, I'm tired of that. Others assum-'"

"Fantastic." Your mind reels. Tired of that. The victim had been complaining of lethargy before death. The sister is suffering similar symptoms, possibly unrelated to the case, but probability of coincidence is always outridden by scheme. So, when considering the murderer, it would be someone they were both close to. Age gap indicates they shared few friends, the fiancé is clearly not responsible, so someone close- a relative, obviously. Who did they both live with? Their stepfather. The stepfather was away at the time, returned from an interview in Birmingham the next morning, so the poison was introduced through… what? Proof. You need proof, and you have a plan.

"John, you are brilliant!"

John looks up from his drained teacup, confused, and suddenly you do it. Just do it. Lean forward and close the gap between chairs, kissing him quickly on the cheek, retreating before your brain can process what you've done. His skin is rough. Warm. Disorienting- you take a heavy intake of breath. Ignore it, pretend it hasn't occurred, end this, walk to somewhere you haven't visited with him at your tail, try to forget.

"Call Helen Stoner and set up an appointment for seven o'clock this evening," you instruct, your voice tightening as John stares at you unblinkingly. "We'll be reliving her sister's last moments." Standing up, you walk briskly toward the door, contemplating your destination. Perhaps the graveyard?

But he stops you. "Sherlock. Sherlock!" You turn around- you're in for it now- and there he is. Enraged? Not enraged. Kissing you. Kissing you directly on the lips, and he is fascinating, and you observe. Miniature pockmarks on his cheeks. Tan skin, evidently natural, not from Afghanistan as you originally thought. Crow's feet. Hint of stubble; didn't quite catch all of it this morning. Closed eyes, short eyelashes. One hand clamped around your wrist that isn't shaking at all.

He's yours and he's an idiot and you're an idiot and
Oh, God, yes.

...

You wake up to tangled sheets and the dreaded silence of a vivid dream. Eventually, you'll solve the case. Find the murderer. But you'll never determine the reason for John's original agitation, no matter how many nicotine patches you purchase.

He's what they call a transparent mystery. An open book with inconclusive reasoning.
And he doesn't even know it.