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Sherlock Holmes wakes up with the complicated sensation that he'd managed a truly memorable, first-or-second-week-of-using cocaine high, when in fact the substance only delivers a warm buzz when he's shooting up frequently and a giddy upswoop when he isn't, but without a dry mouth or a sore head or muscles that want to twitch right off his bones and out the door. Uncurling himself slowly, he stretches. At some point he pulled a blanket off the arm of the sofa and he's got himself twisted. As he untangles his limbs, his mobile drops to the floor and Sherlock remembers.

John Watson.

John Watson was here in this flat.

Sleep-mussed and eager, he reaches down and checks the screen. There are no new messages.

Sighing, Sherlock falls back onto the cushion he was using for a pillow.

Soon enough, being the man he is, Sherlock has hatched a scheme.

It takes him roughly ten minutes of searching, by means of finding John's blog (John's right--nothing happens to him, but John has definitely happened to Sherlock, as hard as he'd happened to Abernetty) and then searching medical directories and cross-checking to guarantee his data is accurate, to find out where John works part-time clinic hours. He also, with only a little more trouble, finds John's mailing address (a postal box) and the full name and biography of his therapist Ella. John's name comes up readily enough in newspapers, but they're other John Watsons--divorce cases and low-level politicos and men on the street stopped for quotes.

After a shower, a thorough tooth brushing, a shave, and a visit to his closet and sock index, Sherlock looks himself over in his bedroom mirror. His appearance, he knows, is striking, though he possesses very few frames of reference for fully grasping the repercussions of his tall, dark, and handsome mien in others. He knows he is memorable, and that being memorable often gets him what he wants, and he uses this tool as he uses every other at his disposal--dispassionately. While he isn't specifically thinking, John will like me better well groomed, he does know when regarded with an eye to mathematical averages, I obtain better results in my efforts when coiffed. He pats down curls which never want to go anywhere but in his face, but that's a battle he lost years ago.

His phone rings. Sherlock is already grinning when he sees that it is Mycroft and the glad expression shifts instantly to a scowl.

"What?" he answers.

"Your telephone etiquette leaves much to be desired," his terribly smug elder brother intones.

"What do you want?"

"What I always want. I am concerned for your safety. I worry about you, Sherlock. Constantly."

When Sherlock was eleven years old and began receiving the letters, Mycroft was already away at school. Sherlock, who had the distant admiration of his mother and the cool indifference of his father, had felt a wild rage at the perceived abandonment. Mycroft had been essential, had taught him to observe the smallest things, had explained the importance of trifles, had praised him with candour and rebuked him with honesty, and had ceased paying any attention to Sherlock whatsoever when his life had begun to revolve around the uniformed dullards at his boarding school. Sherlock had loathed each and every imaginary stranger who was callously stealing Mycroft's focus, and had loathed Mycroft for betraying him still more. There was no one in the world like him and like Mycroft, and that was all well and good when they were together, but when they were apart, it hurt terribly. There were no friends who could fill the void, and as he grew older, and more certain of his difference from all the others, he felt like exploding with petulance for every week that passed being ignored by his first and only hero.

Then the Moriarty letters began, however, and suddenly Mycroft was all concern. He insisted upon being sent photocopies, tracked Moriarty's activities behind bars with admirable alacrity. It felt a bit like having his brother back, even if Sherlock never forgave the years when Mycroft had cared more about debate clubs and elementary physics and his horrible schoolmates than about his sibling.

Mycroft's anxiety on Sherlock's behalf always makes the detective want to push back against it for some reason, to see if he can shove it aside, or if Mycroft truly is worried over him. Mycroft is one of very few people who think of Sherlock in any other terminology than freak, and so Sherlock is constantly testing him. It's contrary, he knows, but the habit is fixed and Sherlock has very little interest in self-improvement. He is extraordinary, and that is enough.

"Fine, I'll scan it in a minute," Sherlock sighs. "You're wasting my time."

"Anything of use to us?" Mycroft replies mildly.

"No. Well, he knows what I look like. He's going to burn my lips off with a curling iron now."

He says it because he suspects Mycroft does love him, and this will provoke a reaction. He is aware of the fact, but can't recall when the desire for affection became the desire to startle his irritatingly unflappable sibling. Once, when Sherlock was seven, he cut his arm rather badly in an adventure up a tree on their estate, and the look on fourteen-year-old Mycroft's face when he saw the blood streaming down his wrist upon returning to the house made the concept of injury almost desirable.

"He will doubtless be most disappointed when that does not happen," Mycroft answers in a pinched tone.

"Possibly not. Possibly he'll go back to the plan of sewing them closed and feeding me intravenously forever."

"That will not happen either."

"How do you know it won't happen?"

"I won't let it happen."

"Thank you for reminding me of your omniscience. So refreshing. Go away."

"I have booked you on a transatlantic flight to New York in a week's time," Mycroft says smoothly.

"No."

"That is not an effective argument."

"I've told you a hundred times, I'm not running. If he can find my digs from gaol, he can find me in America."

"France?"

"C'est le même principe, mais j'aime bien Paris à l'automne. Non."

"Come and stay with me in Pall Mall, then."

This is actually tempting. It is so very tempting, in fact, that Sherlock's instant reply is, "Sod off."

Mycroft's flat in Pall Mall is a few blocks away from the Diogenes Club, and is tastefully masculine in a way that screams old money at the top of its lungs. It's full of books and periodicals and old whiskey and leather furnishings. The last time Sherlock was there, he was recovering from Overdose Number Two, and the entire flat was permeated with Mycroft's disappointment. Sherlock had been aching so terribly, inside and out, that he'd wanted nothing more than a safe hole in which to cry his eyes out. Instead, he had polished mahogany desks and muted chandeliers and his brother's sad disapproval, which felt worst of all, and he'd had to be brave and stoic about everything and keep from whimpering every time his eyes opened because that would only make Mycroft's glances more frequent and more freighted with meaning. But through it all, the shivers and the pains and the overwhelming greyness of the world, he had felt protected. Staying there after Moriarty's release would mean a measure of safety and comfort that Sherlock cannot bring himself to trust.

"Just as you please," Mycroft sighs. "I will ask again in a few days' time. Who did you entertain at your flat last night?"

Sherlock is well aware that Mycroft employs CCTV to keep a constant watch over him, but that does not make the invasion of privacy any less annoying. Still more annoying is the fact that Sherlock has occasionally felt so lonesome in his quiet rooms that he has looked out over Baker Street and the awareness of his brother's unseen presence has been the only force stopping him from falling in graceful silence out the window. That fact is rather maddening.

"Must you be so glib about violating my autonomy?" Sherlock snaps.

"I see no reason to be otherwise. Do you?"

"It's really so pleasant, living in my own personal nanny state."

"If anyone ever needed a nanny, it would be you, brother dear."

"I'll leave the windows open tonight, shall I, so you can fly in with your carpetbag."

"I ask again, and will continue asking, who was your guest?"

"An army doctor," Sherlock answers with a certain degree of pride he cannot suppress. "He tackled a killer for me."

"In an unplanned incident?"

"Yes."

"Extraordinary."

"Yes."

"You have, of course, realized the possibility that Moriarty may wish to set one of his confederates in your path prior to his release."

"Yes."

"And you will treat this new stranger with all appropriate caution while I determine what I can about his background?"

"Yes," Sherlock growls.

"What is the gentleman's name, then?"

"John Watson," says Sherlock Holmes, and feels a strange surge of glee at the words on his tongue.

"Excellent. Come round for dinner at my club tonight?"

"Goodbye, Mycroft," Sherlock says, and rings off.

Sherlock puts his mobile in his pocket and turns out the lights in his flat. He has more important matters to attend to than chatting with his infuriating brother. And in a week's time...well, in a week's time, he will deal with what he must, and that is that. Scanning the letter and emailing it to Mycroft takes two minutes, and then he closes his laptop down. He is checking his wallet for cab fare when Mycroft texts him.

What a charming missive. I will stop at nothing, you realize. MH

The thought is strangely comforting, a warm feeling like being huddled inside his coat, and Sherlock, after tapping out a tart reply, deletes his response and says nothing.

 

 

 

The clinic where John works, Sherlock reflects when he arrives there, is boring. It is so boring that he promptly decides he hates it. John Watson does not belong here, in this drab three-story clinic with the potted plants and the concrete benches and the very shiny windows. John Watson ought to have a gun in his hand and the steely glint of danger in his dark blue eyes. Sherlock is puzzled by the exact colour of John's eyes, as the sun had been setting when they met the day before and the light afterward was artificial, but he is reasonably sure that in daylight, today for example, they will be the colour of the mixing bowl in the kitchen of their country estate.

Digging into his pockets for the pack he retrieved from the toe of the Persian slipper, Sherlock lights a cigarette. The taste is acrid and wonderful, and he realizes with a hint of relief as the nicotine floods his system that he has forgotten to eat again. Never mind. Perhaps John will want lunch. People wander in and out of the clinic, none visibly ill but all wearing the resigned look of going about unpleasant business. They are uninteresting. They should not be taking up John Watson's time in this manner.

Sherlock removes his overcoat and straightens the material of the white doctor's coat with the official-looking ID badge clipped to it that he has selected for the occasion.

He takes a last drag. Tossing the cigarette into a metal bin after crushing the end into its lid, Sherlock marches into the clinic.

A pretty fair-haired woman wearing the sort of romantically cut blouse that indicates she wishes to be thought artistic is chatting with the receptionist. She holds a clipboard to her chest and laughs, showing pearly teeth. Bypassing the desk with complete confidence, Sherlock walks through the door leading to the examination rooms.

He pauses to listen, hanging his Belstaff on the tall crossbar of a medical scale. The murmurs of various voices reach him. Stepping quietly down the beige hallway, Sherlock reaches a closed door behind which Dr. John Watson is declaiming something in soothing tones. Opening the door, he steps inside and shuts it behind him.

Immediately, life ceases to be dull.

John, also wearing a white coat, is cleaning the stump of a man's severed thumb. The flesh has been well cauterized, but the wound is still raw and fresh and rather spongy. The patient is around twenty-five years old, wearing a heather grey tweed suit with the jacket folded beside him on the exam table, with a pale, masculine face and an expression of stoic good humour (chemically induced, no doubt) which turns to curiosity when he glances up at Sherlock. John, upon turning around, drops his jaw in astonishment.

"Colleague of yours?" asks the patient, whose name, Sherlock can see on the chart sitting next to the sink, is Victor Hatherly.

"Acquaintance. Erm. I--what are you doing here?" John stammers.

"What happened to your thumb?" Sherlock asks Hatherly, impressed by the wound. "It was done with a very heavy and sharp instrument."

"A cleaver, no less," Hatherly replies.

"By accident?"

"No."

"A murderous attack," Sherlock says, utterly delighted. Of course John would happen to be the only doctor in this awful place who isn't listening to weak coughs or prescribing meds for sinus ailments.

John Watson, Sherlock thinks, is the best thing that has ever happened to me. Please don't let him send me away yet.

"You can't stay here," says John firmly.

"The police are on their way," Hatherly adds. "I'll have to tell them all about it. But between us, if not for the proof of the missing thumb, I don't think anyone would believe a bloody word I said."

"I'd believe it," Sherlock assures him. "Tell me everything. Be detailed. Don't be boring."

"Who are you?"

"Sherlock Holmes," says John, sounding equal parts amused, amazed, and exasperated. "He was just leaving."

"Sherlock Holmes!" exclaims Hatherly. "I've heard of you. You're that detective bloke, the child wonder. A savant. Solved your first case at age ten. I'd be happy to consult you too."

After a quiet knock, the pretty doctor from the lobby sticks her head in the room. "The Met just arrived," she reports, and then notices Sherlock. "Excuse me, but who are you and what are you doing here?"

"Friend of John's, consulting on Mr. Hatherly's case," Sherlock answers readily.

"Medical colleague," John corrects, "from, um, Saint Bart's. And he isn't staying. He's about to shove off, in fact. Sorry about all this, Sarah."

"My expertise will be of great value to your patient, and thus it would be idiotic for you to refuse to bring me in," Sherlock attempts.

"Would it, now." John taps his pen against Victor Hatherly's chart meaningfully.

"It would."

Want me to stay, want me to stay, want me to stay, Sherlock begs in his head.

"I was almost crushed to death in a shrinking room," Hatherly says conversationally.  He really must be high as a kite.

"Oh, how horrid," the woman called Sarah gasps.

"Fantastic," Sherlock exclaims.

John smiles and then quickly smothers the expression. It is astonishing, because Sherlock had imagined that John Watson could not grow any more perfect than he has already proven, but the intoxicating combination of John and new case is almost alarming in its intensity. John cannot throw him out, he simply cannot, the severed thumb is too delicious. Sherlock wants to deduce everything about Hatherly's assault and rattle off the details for John while executing an abstruse chemical analysis, playing a virtuoso solo violin performance, and winning a boxing match simultaneously. Sherlock adores showing off, and he has never wanted to preen as much as he does in front of this man. If he were a peacock, he realizes, he'd be fanning his plumage in a blinding display of vanity. He regrets the fact that his coat is out in the corridor and he cannot pop the collar up. He looks more dramatic that way. Perhaps if they leave together, he will have another opportunity. John, meanwhile, with his lovely lined face and his wry blue eyes, is licking his lips in mild dismay.

Inspector Bradstreet of the Yard appears behind Sarah. Bradstreet, who is known to Sherlock, is far from the worst person who could have arrived. She is severely professional without being rigid, and there is a look of acceptance in her steady brown eyes when Sherlock appears. Her short-cropped blonde hair lays neatly against her skull, and she wears a well-cut suit with a frilly violet blouse beneath that informs Sherlock she has a date planned after her shift. "All right, Mr. Holmes," she says, nodding coolly. "Didn't know you'd been called in. Nice coat."

"I've just been engaged," Sherlock explains.

"He thinks he has," John amends with a concerned look at Hatherly.

"I don't mind him, he's a cult celebrity," Hatherly observes. "Boy genius private eye. How cool is that? Really impressive."

"Extremely impressive," Sherlock agrees.

"Oi, his head doesn't need to get any bigger," says Bradstreet.

"The perfume you're wearing doesn't need to be applied to every one of your erogenous zones in order to be smelled from twenty yards off," Sherlock shoots back. "And why the notion of your breasts smelling like musk rose would be considered appealing is entirely beyond me."

"You want to work with me, you keep the breast remarks to a minimum," Bradstreet says evenly.

"If you want to work with me, and you do if you aren't stupid, which you are not, you'll shut up and we'll both listen to this man's story."

"Sherlock Holmes just said I wasn't stupid," Bradstreet drawls. She pulls out a small notepad and pen. "I'm going to have that fucking framed and hung over my bed."

"At least there plenty of people would see it."

"Modern women just baffle your patrician little mind, don't they," Bradstreet answers, completely unaffected. "My healthy sex life is none of your business."

"Are we going to talk about the case, ever, or stay on the unbearable topic of your love affairs?"

"They aren't love affairs, they're sex affairs, and I didn't bring it up. It's a hundred percent your call, Mr. Hatherly, I can stand this tosser if you can."

Sarah looks from one to the other of them with an expression of doelike wonder. John leans back, crossing his arms with his thin eyebrows raised. Bradstreet waits, expectant. Sherlock stands practically on tiptoe in his dress shoes, heart pounding loud enough for everyone in the room to hear.

"Just as I was about to leave work yesterday, a man arrived with a business card that said his name was Colonel Lysander Stark," Hatherly begins eagerly.

Dizzy with triumph, Sherlock sheds the white coat and risks a glance at John as Hatherly continues. John quirks his narrow-lipped mouth at the edges in an awed, rueful smile, shakes his head with the resignation to fate that Sherlock thinks must have brought him out of Afghanistan with his wits intact, and settles in to listen as he carefully cleans and bandages the wound before him. He wears look of complete absorption when he listens, Sherlock has noticed, and documented, and admired. But despite his apparent focus on Hatherly, John angles his head in a way that Sherlock hypothesizes might suggest, if he is very lucky, if he is the luckiest man in the universe, that he is still thinking about Sherlock. Sherlock wants nothing more than for John to be thinking about him, and about nothing but him, for the rest of his probably short and violently terminated existence.

Thank you, Sherlock says to the nothing in particular that he speaks to when most people would be talking to God, for giving me a whole case with him before it's too late.

 

 

 

 

"That was cracking mad," John laughs that night, sitting in a taxi on their way back from the burned-down counterfeiter's digs. "Like something out of, I dunno, a Poe story. Incredible."

Sherlock, after deducing that Hatherly had been driven in circles by his strange clients, had gathered from the young man's tale that the coining gang he'd been waiting for a chance to pounce upon had fairly fallen into his lap. Between the completeness of Hatherly's wonderfully bizarre story and other indications he had been gathering for some time about missing machinists, he'd had little difficulty in convincing Bradstreet, who was really quite competent if potent-smelling, that the attackers were more centrally located than she'd at first imagined. They'd discovered a hulk of charred Victorian architecture which had romantically survived the Blitz but lost out to an electrical fire caused by the hubris involved in using an ancient relic of a shrinking room to dispatch Hatherly. It had once upon a time been employed to extract fuller's earth.

John is right. It was cracking, cracking mad, and it was glorious, and now it's over, Sherlock thinks glumly.

They are heading back to John's digs in the cab because John said half in jest that Sherlock owed him for dragging him out after only half his clinic hours and Sherlock had readily agreed in order to keep John for another half hour. John was deeply confused when Sherlock entered the cab after him, but he hadn't questioned it. Sherlock counts the neighbourhoods as they carry John further and further from Baker Street with a feeling that is disturbingly close to anguish. Battersea, Clapham, Brixton, all pass in a glow of electric light and darkened windows, cobbled streets and paved ones, petrol stations and fast food restaurants, neon and darkness, street after street, corner after corner, hateful, just hateful, all of it, because it means losing John again.

Sherlock is very aware of John's body next to him in the cab, which is peculiar. He wants to tuck his head under John's neck and breathe him. He wants to trace his small wrists with his fingertips. He wants to rub his palms along John's naked ribcage and count the bones underneath. He wants to know what he tastes like. He wants to curl up, just he and this small army doctor, under a pile of blankets, and whisper secrets to each other all through the long and cold night. He wants to feel his pulse throb under his skin.

Fucking hell, Sherlock thinks, realizing belatedly that he is in a very great deal of trouble.

"You okay?" John asks when the silence has stretched on too long.

Sherlock shrugs. "I always have a bit of a reaction when a case is over."

John nods. "Coming down from the high, eh?"

Sherlock sighs at the all too apt metaphor. "Something like that."

"What were you doing in my office in the first place?"

"I wanted to see you. You never texted me what to read."

"Ah. Okay. That was really, um. Weird. Yep, weird."

"Was it?"

"Bet your life."

"I'm an eccentric person."

"You can say that again," John chuckles. "An eccentric person who is also a master of disguise."

"It's only a matter of hiding in plain sight. A doctor's coat, a police cap, it makes no difference. People don't really see each other. Or they do see, but they fail to observe. I both see and observe, so I have a natural advantage."

"You seem to have a number of natural advantages," John says softly.

Sherlock's throat tightens. He swallows. It doesn't work, so he swallows again. He is going to go home, and he is going to pick cocaine tonight, because cocaine is for remembering and morphine is for forgetting, and he is going to be tortured to death in a week and never have the chance to watch John Watson grow old, assuming John would even let him, which is a snowball's chance in hell, but he never wants to forget a single second of the time they have spent together. It hasn't been enough. They ought to share everything, he knows it, even if he doesn't know why.

"You still haven't told me what to read," Sherlock says, small and quiet.

"Start with Poe, then," John says with a bright smile. "He's right up your street."

The cab pulls up to a terribly shabby block of flats. With a lead ball in his stomach, Sherlock climbs out and pays the cabbie. John follows after on small, silent feet.

Suddenly the thought of Baker Street without John is worse than any torture Moriarty has ever dreamed up for Sherlock.

"Thanks," he says to the cabbie, waving him off.

John stares up in surprise. "Sherlock, you don't live here."

"I know. Let's have dinner."

"Are you actually hungry this time?"

"No. Let's have dinner."

It isn't what he wants to say. What he wants to say is when I'm dying, and it's going to be excruciating, I know it, I'll think of your face and nothing but your face, your face when you admire me and when I surprise you, and it'll have been worth it, being afraid and alone for most of my life, because I got to meet you.

John rubs at his neck and flexes his left hand. He watches as the cab drives off. He seems to want to ask a question, but finally he laughs.

"I made lasagna day before yesterday, and that's always better as leftovers," he says, pulling out his keys. "Come on inside."

Sherlock follows John into his flat, pulse thundering and nostrils flaring with excitement. It's off a central corridor on the ground floor, and when John flicks on the light switch, Sherlock takes in his surroundings with a sweep of his all-seeing eyes.

"Your flat is awful," he says.

"'Ta," John says cheerfully, toeing off his shoes.

It isn't that it's awful precisely, but it's very small and blank. It's a half kitchen with a studio bedroom, just a bed and a dresser and a desk and a little table with an Army logo mug sitting on it, and presumably the loo is through the only door. The place is neat and clean, but completely impersonal. It looks as if John moved in with his clothes and a few books and decided to forget about it. There are no pictures of loved ones or posters of girls or decorative pillows. It's the flat of someone who is marking time. It reminds Sherlock vividly, like a slap in the face, of his Montague Street lodgings, before Mrs. Hudson decided he was too thin and told him that he was moving into Baker Street whether he liked it or not. The bed is military-neat, the kitchen spotless, the entire effect heartbreaking. John goes to the stove and switches it on, pulling a small tray of lasagna from the fridge.

Sherlock realizes, to his own surprise, that this time he is actually rather ravenous. His phone buzzes and he pulls it from his pocket.

I warned you to wait until I had thoroughly researched him. MH

"Who's that?" John asks absently.

"A government executive with a serious sugar problem," Sherlock snarls, typing.

Mind your own fucking business. SH

John busies himself, pulling down two of his four plates and putting the kettle on to boil as the casserole warms. He is economical with his movements in a way that endears him to Sherlock still further. After shedding his coat and hanging the doctor's disguise by the door, Sherlock takes a seat at the table. John walks over with two water glasses with splashes of whiskey in them.

"Tea will be a few minutes. Cheers," he says, lifting his glass and swallowing.

Sherlock watches, rapt. John's mouth is remarkably expressive, and his entire face shifts when he smiles. Sherlock remembers kissing Reggie when they were young, and how it had felt (before the panic set in) like being wanted, and that it was gentle and easy and nothing like sex whatsoever, more like a gift or a sweet sad song, and then recalls how seconds afterward Reggie had hated him. And had never stopped hating him, probably hated him to this very day. Then he recalls other people, mostly strangers, inside him or in his hands, and how there hadn't been any kissing, he'd made sure of it, and that at least, if they hadn't loved him like Reggie might have done, they hadn't hated him either, and that in a sense was better, because it hurt in a different, less all-encompassing way.

Kissing John, Sherlock decides, is a terrible idea, even if for a moment it would be beautiful.

"Penny for your thoughts, wonder sleuth," John says, sitting down across from Sherlock.

"My flat is much nicer than yours," he says, sipping the whiskey. It's not terribly expensive, but it's good quality.

"Now you're being an arse about it," John huffs.

"No, I mean there's an extra room and you could..." Sherlock abruptly stops. "It's just that. I mean, you work closer to Baker Street than here. And I can barely afford my rent. So, I thought. Not if you...never mind. But my flat is..."

"Is nice," John finishes. He sounds shocked again. Sherlock commences inwardly kicking himself. "Christ. What is this? We just met, and tonight you burst into my workplace and then followed me home and are sitting in my chair. Now you're asking me to what, move in with you? What is going on here?"

"I'm not dangerous," Sherlock says quickly, feeling as if he's been slapped.

"Yes, you are," John avers with conviction.

"Not in that way."

"Yes," John counters. He takes another sip of whiskey. "You are."

"I didn't mean to offend you."

"You didn't, but we've known each other for about twenty-four hours and you've completely invaded my life. I can't get my head around you. And you don't know a thing about me."

That doesn't make me any less in love with you, Sherlock thinks despairingly. His phone chimes again.

Everything to do with you is my business, and this is reckless and unsafe behavior. Do not allow that man any liberties with your personal information. Please display a shred of self-preservation. MH

Sherlock grinds his teeth and clicks his screen off again.

"I mean, I have to wonder if you're entirely sane," John remarks, but it sounds teasing and there's no venom in the statement.

"We don't know," Sherlock responds dully. "I was never diagnosed, though I was scheduled to be tested. Probably not."

Sherlock's father, when the detective was ten years old, had in a fit of pique demanded that his younger son be given a comprehensive psychiatric evaluation by a child case specialist. This was due to the fact that Sherlock, he recalls perfectly well, was distant and aloof and unmanageable and brilliant and obsessive and calculating and wild. Then Sherlock solved the Carl Powers case and his father, when bragging about the widely publicized event with his rich friends, decided that word of a comprehensive psych exam would tarnish his son's new elite media reputation, and had cancelled the appointment two days before he was due at a mental health center in London. Sherlock's father forgot about his celebrity son when the news cycles were finished. But Sherlock has always wondered, if he'd walked through the doors of the clinic that day, what the expert might have said.

"Hey," John says, touching Sherlock's trousered leg with his toe.

"Hmm," Sherlock grunts, rubbing at his closed eyes.

"I'm sorry."

"Why?"

"Because that was not very nice of me."

Sherlock's eyes are aching when he opens them again. John looks...he looks very intent. He's searching Sherlock's face for signs of weakness, and then all at once Sherlock can't do this anymore. He risked too much too quickly, and as always happens someone has been put off, but this time the someone is John. Twenty-four hours, he said. So little time. It was inevitable, though, wasn't it? If it's possible to feel more mortified, Sherlock can't imagine how.

"I have to leave. The, um. Text I just received," he says, getting to his feet. "Sorry. It can't be helped. Thank you for the drink."

John regards him with a curious but reserved stare. He's calculating something, but he asked a question, didn't he, and Sherlock can't answer it, he's probably completely insane but unaware of what type, so John will probably never move in or curl up with Sherlock on the sofa or accidentally drink from the same glass of water or make Sherlock tea. But that's not surprising.

"I didn't mean to be a prat," John says. "But I was, and now I regret it. So don't leave on my account. You might be the most interesting person I've ever met. And I invaded Afghanistan."

It's getting cold outside, so Sherlock dons the doctor's coat and his overcoat as well. It's easier than carrying it. He wants to say something, but you're all I have in the world doesn't seem appropriate after all that. The night outside is starless, and the trees losing their leaves. There aren't any cabs on this street. He'll walk until he finds something.

"I'd be angry at me too," John reflects. "But I wish you wouldn't go."

"Thank you for the thumb case," Sherlock manages to say steadily in the face of this bald lie. "Good night."

Sherlock is halfway across the street from John's horrible blank flat when he receives a new message from Mycroft. It says:

Thank you. MH

The sleuth continues stalking the roads in the general direction of cabs, trying not to feel heartbroken when he suspects his heart might in fact be a bit cracked. He doesn't name the streets in his head as he usually does, and he doesn't deduce the lives of the odd pedestrians, and he tries not to think about morphine. When the phone pings twenty minutes later, after Sherlock is nearly back to Wandsworth Road, he comes close to throwing it into the scant midnight traffic. But when he opens the message, it's from John and is fairly lengthy for a text.

I'm dangerous, too. I like that about you. And I don't think you're crazy, but I do know that I'm crazy. And I think if you don't forgive me, it'll be really fucking painful for some weird reason. So I hope you do. Let me know.

Sherlock stops under a street lamp and reads the message over and over again. It's clear enough, but he can't believe it. He leans his back against the cold metal pole and just breathes for a moment or two, holding the mobile against his chest and the message in his mind. He doesn't deserve this sort of consideration, which is why he generally isn't granted it.

He spends three more minutes coming up with a response and then settles on:

Let's have dinner. SH