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The Time Traveller's Flatmate

Chapter Text

Chrono-Displacement is the official name for it. It is a disease of sorts, a genetic mutation, that first begins appearing among individuals across the globe in the 1960s, though it takes almost forty years for it to become public knowledge. The CDP, as they come to be called, tend to be very good at hiding their problem. Very little is known about the cause because there are not many individuals with it who wish to subject themselves to studies, even for the possibility of finding a cure. Those who are willing to be studied suffer from the complication of the fact that nervousness and stress serve to trigger instances of displacement. That is, they disappear from the present timeline and reappear in the past, against their will. They have no control over when it will happen, where or when they will be deposited in the past, or when they will return to the present.

Sherlock Holmes calls it being presently challenged, or The Nuisance.

John Watson calls it the most amazing thing that could ever have happened to him.

---

29 January 2011

John has been home for three months now, and they have been the three dullest, most miserable months of his life. It's not the actual being shot business that has him down so much as the fact that it—it and the limp that persists for no discernible reason, not to mention the tremor in his hands—has effectively ended his military career. The trauma of being a soldier, being shot at, had been easy enough to hide for years because it wasn't really trauma: it was a thrill, something that kept him going on ignoring the monotony of the rest of life. Actually being shot, well, that was impossible to hide. So now he has nothing to do besides go to therapy and promise to up his half-hearted attempts to keep a blog about his boring civilian life, try to ignore the fact that he’s been reduced to living in a bedsit and using a cane, and apparently relive his glory days with old friends. First the boys from Blackheath (they ignore his leg but he’s certainly not getting any invites to play rugby again anytime soon), Bill Murray,  then Mike Stamford who introduces him to—

It's a name that he hasn't said, a face that he hasn't seen in damn near fourteen years (if pressed, he could say the exact time, down to the day and the hour), but there's no denying that it's him. He knows this man—Sherlock. John stares at him, momentarily stunned. Not that Sherlock looks up to notice.

“Er, here. Use mine,” John says as he snaps out of it and offers Sherlock his phone. It finally gets Sherlock’s attention enough for an acknowledgement.

“Oh, thank you,” he says, striding over and waiting to be introduced.

“It’s an old friend of mine, John Watson,” Mike supplies.

“Afghanistan or Iraq?” Sherlock asks, after barely looking at him.

The question catches John off guard and he frowns. “Sorry?”

“Which was it—Afghanistan or Iraq?”

It’s been fourteen years: long enough that John has forgotten what it feels like to be looked at and known. He never had understood exactly how Sherlock did it, though. “Afghanistan. Sorry, how did you know?”

The girl—Molly?—comes in and interrupts the conversation, and Sherlock is… really rather rude. It throws John off because, yes, Sherlock was short with him sometimes, before, but he was never particularly cruel. He doesn’t notice at first that Sherlock’s asking him if he minds the violin—well, that would explain how Sherlock taught him to read music—and telling him that flatmates should know the worst about each other. Well, he’s left a great big thing off that list, John knows. Plays the violin when he’s thinking, sometimes doesn’t talk for days on end, and oh yeah there’s the minor complication of involuntary time travel and the fact that he’s been visiting one John Watson for the better part of John’s life. Which hasn’t actually happened yet, for Sherlock. Of all the people for Mike Stamford to set John up with …

“The name’s Sherlock Holmes and the address is 221b Baker Street,” Sherlock says in parting, and then the final piece falls into place. Thirty years since John first met him, and now he finally knows Sherlock’s last name and where to find him.

“Yeah, he’s always like that,” Mike says with a grin. When John doesn’t respond, Mike begins to look concerned. “You all right, mate? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.

“Yeah, it’s just—it’s fine, just kind of overwhelmed I guess.” John abruptly straightens up and shakes the dazed look from his face. “Ta, Mike, I owe you.” Truth is, he does feel rather like he’s seen a ghost.

John decides to find out as much as he can about Sherlock Holmes before he meets him again the next day.

---

30 January 2011

John has almost convinced himself that it was a dream. He’s had enough of those lately: dreams about being shot at, dreams about lying there terrified of bleeding out from his shoulder, dreams about the rest of his unit carrying on without him. Why not dreams about his—very real—childhood imaginary friend?

But Sherlock’s there, stepping out of a cab as John hobbles up the street. Funny, he’d never had cash for a cab back then—they’d actually taken the Tube together on more than one occasion, though Sherlock claimed to hate it, just because John never had the money for a cab either. It’s going to be strange, getting to know him all over again when he’s not relying on John for everything.

“Mr. Holmes,” he says in greeting. It feels like having a special secret, finally knowing his full name.

“Sherlock, please,” he corrects as they shake hands.

John glances down the street with appreciation. “This is a prime spot; must be expensive.”

“Oh, Mrs. Hudson, the landlady, she’s giving me a special deal. Owes me a favor. A few years back her husband got himself sentenced to death in Florida. I was able to help out.”

“Sorry, you stopped her husband being executed?”

“Oh no. I ensured it.” Sherlock smiles and John’s eyebrows raise in surprise. He’s apparently had a false impression about the nature of his friend’s work.

Before he can ask what exactly it is that Sherlock does they are being welcomed into the building and John introduced to Mrs. Hudson, who disappears into her own flat momentarily.

Sherlock is up the stairs in an instant, but waits at the landing for John to follow behind. “Listen, I forgot to mention the most important thing,” Sherlock confesses as John reaches the top. He opens the door and sweeps inside, and John follows behind. “I don’t like to tell people about it; Mike doesn’t know yet, so I didn’t want to mention it to you in front of him. But if we’re going to live together you ought to know—sometimes I disappear. And I don’t mean that I go running off and forget to leave a note. You’ve heard of Chrono-Displacement?”

John nods as he sweeps his head around, taking in the flat. “Yeah, actually, I had a… childhood friend with it,” he says, turning his attention back to Sherlock. He’s lucky that Sherlock has only just met him, doesn’t know his tells just yet, because it wasn’t his best-told cover up. He never could have gotten away with even a white lie like that as a child.

“Oh!” Sherlock exclaims, instantly intrigued. “It’s quite rare; I’ve actually never met another person who has it even though there’s supposed to be a handful of us here in London.” His gaze on John turns sharper, more calculating. “Interesting for you to know two of us in a lifetime.”

“Trouble’s drawn to me, I suppose,” John says with a laugh. Truth is, he’s never met another one in his life. He thought Sherlock was the only one in the world until mentions of it started popping up in the paper years ago. It at least reassured him that he wasn’t crazy.

“Mrs. Hudson knows about it, of course. She says I started turning up here—a future version of myself, that is—sometime after I helped her with her husband’s case. She takes very good care of me when it happens.”

“You’d have to have someone like that looking out for you, right? Inconvenient to just show up naked and have to fend for yourself.” He gives the room another appraising look. “I think it’ll do nicely once we get all of these things cleared out.”

“Those are mine,” Sherlock says dejectedly. “I started moving in straight away, but I can straighten things up a bit...” He half-heartedly tosses a few folders into boxes.

John looks around again because he’s had a burning curiosity about how Sherlock lives for about thirty years now. Bookshelves already filled, knick knacks scattered about, kitchen table covered in laboratory equipment, boxes filled with papers, correspondence stabbed into the mantle with a knife, and—

”That’s a skull,” he says, pointing at it with his cane.

“Friend of mine. When I say ‘friend’…”

Mrs. Hudson comes to save the day, clearing a cup and saucer away as she moves from room to room. “What do you think then, Doctor Watson? There’s another bedroom upstairs if you’ll be needing two rooms.”

“Of course we’ll be needing two.” His brow wrinkles in confusion.

“Oh, don’t worry; there’s all sorts around here. Mrs. Turner next door’s got married ones,” she says with a tone of confidentiality.

John turns to Sherlock, expecting some sort of back up for his denials but receiving none while he goes on straightening up his mess. Interesting, that. With a little shrug John settles himself into one of the armchairs. The walk from the Tube and the seventeen steps have made his leg ache. He tries to engage Sherlock in a conversation about what it is that he does, exactly—looking him up on the internet the previous night wasn’t entirely enlightening. But Sherlock is as evasive as always and the conversation gets steered away by the mention of the suicides and the sudden appearance of a man who is evidently a detective—Sherlock’s desire not to travel by police car finally gave that away. In a flurry of excited hopping about and inappropriate crowing about it being Christmas, Sherlock is gone.

“Look at him dashing about,” Mrs. Hudson says fondly. “My husband was much the same.” John frowns at her but she doesn’t notice. “You’re much more the sitting down type, I can tell. I’ll make you that cuppa, you rest your leg.”

John’s response is instinctive, and quite loud. “Damn my leg!” Mrs. Hudson immediately turns back to him with shock and he feels rather ashamed of overreacting. “Sorry, I’m so sorry. It’s just sometimes this bloody thing…”

“I understand, dear; I’ve got a hip,” she says before bustling off for the tea.

The front page of the paper is devoted to the serial suicides that Sherlock just went rushing after, and a photo shows that the man who was just in the flat was indeed a detective—D.I. Lestrade. The reappearance of Sherlock’s voice in the flat startles him into looking up. He’s back, asking John if he’ll come along, serve as his assistant for… whatever it is exactly that they’re getting into. The flurry of activity begins again and reminds John that Sherlock could always be something of a force of nature when he got excited over something—a puzzle to solve—even though most of their time together was relaxed. It appears that mania is more of his typical state, or at least has been since they’ve met this time. It doesn’t mesh with his own personal data about what makes Sherlock disappear. They catch a cab and John finally has a chance to ask what exactly it is he does—consulting detective—and how he knew everything about John upon seeing him. Well, nearly everything. The explanation is nothing short of—

“That was… amazing.”

“Do you think so?” Sherlock asks with some surprise.

“Of course it was. It was extraordinary; it was quite extraordinary,” John says, practically beaming.

“That’s not what people normally say.”

“What do people normally say?”

“‘Piss off’!” Sherlock replies with a little smile.

John grins. Good thing he’s never been exactly normal. “You did get one thing wrong, though. Harry’s short for Harriet.” And you’ve even met her before, he’d like to say, but of course that hasn’t actually happened yet.

“Harry’s your sister!” Sherlock exclaims. He sounds almost angry with himself. “There’s always something.”

---

Sherlock had told him once, when he was maybe seven or eight and very curious about his new friend, that he was a detective. John took his word for it and assumed that he worked for the police. Even asked him to solve a few personal mysteries over the years—who might have taken his pocket money from his school bag, whether or not his girlfriend was really going where she said she was, what exactly had happened to Harry that one time—with no indication that what Sherlock did was actually something special, something brilliant. Watching him in action, watching him explain his process, is fascinating, even when it’s directed on those police officers at the crime scene. He doesn’t particularly feel any sympathy for them, not after Sergeant Donovan called Sherlock a freak. What Sherlock sees in the body is even more impressive.

John can’t help the praise that slips out for the second time in just a few moments. “That’s fantastic!

Sherlock turns to John, voice quiet. “You know you do that out loud?”

“Sorry, I’ll shut up.”

“No it’s... fine.” The slightest smile, just a little turn up of the corner of his mouth, twitches across his face before he continues with his deductions. Anyone else wouldn’t have seen it, but John does.

When Sherlock suddenly rushes out of the room and down the stairs going on about the suitcase, John tries to follow behind. The leg gives him trouble, though, and by the time he gets all the way down, removes his coverall, and steps onto the street, Sherlock is nowhere to be found. John has a momentary panic, thinking that perhaps he’s hit a time incident, but a scan along the street reveals no piles of clothing left behind.

Sergeant Donovan is still down there, letting people in and out of the crime scene. She sees him looking and is quick to let him know Sherlock disappears like that—and really, who knows better than John—and wastes no time warning John to stay away from him. Before he has a chance to argue, she’s called back inside the crime scene by Lestrade, and John is left watching her go, seething with anger. God, it’s really no wonder Sherlock was willing to be friends with a child whose backyard he popped up in, if this is how everyone treats him here. The thought only serves to remind him of how used he is to the man disappearing on him. “Wonderful. Left behind again,” John mutters to himself as he hobbles up to the main street.

---

John is worried when he’s first carried off in the black car, but there’s also something of a little thrill there. He’s riding the high of once again having a world filled with Sherlock—it’s a more complex one than he had ever realized. It’s dangerous, and John hasn’t been in danger for months. It was Sherlock himself who pointed out how John thrived on danger, many years ago.

It almost feels like being in a spy film when he’s deposited in a near-empty warehouse with an impeccably dressed man who orders him to sit down and tries his very best to be intimidating. John gets the sense that it works on most people—that he is not used to having his word disobeyed.

“Who are you?” John has to ask when the man begins questioning him about Sherlock.

“An interested party,” the man replies with a false smile.

“Interested in Sherlock? Why? I’m guessing you’re not friends.”

“You’ve met him. How many friends do you imagine he has?” He inclines his head towards John but doesn’t wait for an answer. “I am the closest thing to a friend that Sherlock Holmes is capable of having.”

It sets John’s teeth on edge to be told again that Sherlock is not capable of having friends. He knows better. “And what’s that?”

“An enemy.”

“An enemy?” John’s text alert goes off and he pulls his phone out of his pocket to read it.

“I hope I’m not distracting you,” the man sneers.

Baker Street. Come at once if convenient. SH

“Not distracting me at all,” John answers, trying not to smile at the message. Imperious as ever. Then it dawns on him. “His enemy? No… you’re not his enemy.”

“I’m not?” He arches one eyebrow in a smooth challenge.

“No, you’re not. You’re certainly not the closest thing he’s got to a friend, either, because that would be me.” He meets the man’s confused gaze with steady eyes. “You’re Mycroft. Mycroft Holmes. You’re his brother.”

For the first time in their meeting he looks less than perfectly composed. His jaw drops for a moment, before he nods in admission. “Yes, I am. How did you—”

“Do you remember getting a note in the post back in... 1982?” John asks casually, as though this is a perfectly ordinary question. “From Sherlock himself, by way of someone else? Quite unusual to receive a note like that from your baby brother, isn’t it?”

Mycroft narrows his eyes and frowns with immediate understanding. “Of course—that was you.” He straightens up and regards John again, more carefully. “I had forgotten that the correspondence went through someone named John Watson. Thought it was an assumed name, actually.” He has a distinct look of distaste over the fact that he’s forgotten anything in his life, much less the name of the person in care of quite a lot of money meant for his time travelling brother nearly thirty years ago.

“You did a really nice bit of work with that,” John concedes. “Looked just like a pen pal letter, with the stickers and the French stamps. Didn’t raise the slightest suspicion. You were only about… nine, ten, when that happened? Very enterprising, even then.”

Mycroft spreads his hands in false modesty. Holmes trait, then—why waste words when you can convey and read so much meaning in simple gestures and expressions and be completely bloody infuriating in the process? “Fine, Dr. Watson, I will admit that I might have been incorrect about the nature of your relationship. You plan to continue your association with Sherlock, I take it?”

“Nothing you could do to stop it.”

Mycroft raises his eyebrows in unspoken challenge before continuing. “And what would it take for me to have you tell me the details of your relationship with my brother?”

“More than you have to give me. It’s not really your business.” Even if Sherlock hadn’t always told him not to tell anyone about him, he wouldn’t share anything with Mycroft. It is their first meeting, but he’s already well aware of what the elder Holmes brother is capable of.

“Ah, but Sherlock is my business. I think you understand why I worry about him: his little... time problem.”

“Still not your business.”

“I’d be willing to pay you, very generously, in exchange for any information you can give me.” Mycroft gives John an appraising flick of the eyes once more. “It can’t be easy for you to find work, or you would have done so by now. You’ve been back home long enough, but there’s a problem that persists.”

John’s phone chimes again.

If inconvenient, come anyway. SH

“No,” John says, looking up from his phone. “Don’t bother to mention a figure; I won’t do it for you.”

Mycroft presses his mouth into a thin line, the only tell of his annoyance. “Very loyal, Doctor Watson. Just how much do you know about my brother, I have to wonder.” He moves closer to John. “I know that he does not know about you at all yet—”

“And you won’t be the one to tell him,” John snarls to cut him off. He’s been standing on guard, but now his shoulders tense further and his knuckles have gone white from gripping his cane to suppress his anger.

“—which makes me think that perhaps you have a misunderstanding of exactly what he is like,” Mycroft continues as though uninterrupted. “He is a very fine actor, you’ll find, very good at playing a part in order to get what he wants. Sherlock Holmes can be a very dangerous man. I imagine people have already warned you to stay away from him, but I can see from your left hand that’s not going to happen.” He nods his head towards it.

“My what?”

“According to your therapist you have an intermittent tremor in your left hand. She thinks that it’s post-traumatic stress disorder, but that’s not it, is it?”

John looks down, surprised to see that he’s right. He hasn’t been paying attention to it but… well, the tremor might have been gone for some time before he was dragged into a dangerous situation with Sherlock’s egomaniacal older brother. Still, he tenses further at the intrusion on his privacy. “You stole notes from my therapist?”

Mycroft continues, ignoring his question. “You’re not haunted by the war, are you? You miss it. You miss the thrill of having my brother in your life—which you must have done, for him to have trusted you when you were a child. You know that he’s dangerous and nothing that I tell you will stop you.” He’s leaning in close, far more intimate than John finds comfortable, and his words are almost a whisper.

John’s anger flares and he meets Mycroft’s eyes. “You don’t understand me or your brother half as well as you think you do. Just know that for many years he was the most important person in my life, and now it’s my turn to repay the favor. And don’t bother with the ‘hurt him and you answer to me’ speech. He’s already done—will do in the future—enough painful things to make us fairly even.”

“I’ll be sure to remind you of your impression of the score later,” Mycroft says with a terse smile. John breaks eye contact and looks down at his mobile when he hears the text alert again. When he does, Mycroft begins to walk away, casually twirling his umbrella.

Could be dangerous. SH

“Now, if you would—” John begins, but he looks up to see that Mycroft is gone. Anthea is there instead, looking bored.

“I’m to take you home,” she tells him, and he follows her back into the car. She lets him stop at his bedsit and pick up the Sig before taking him back to Baker Street. He’s not sure that he’ll need it, but somehow he feels it’s better safe than sorry where Sherlock is concerned.

---

Turns out that the dangerous business was sending a text that Sherlock couldn’t be arsed to send himself. To a murderer. Whom they’re luring to a location of Sherlock’s choosing so that the murderer will identify himself. John begins to wonder if he possibly should have listened to Mycroft.

But if they’re going to eat dinner together and Sherlock won’t bother to mention that they’re not on a date, he does have a curiosity of his own to settle. “You don’t have a girlfriend, then?”

“Girlfriend? No, not really my area.” Well, that he was fairly certain he already knew.

“Oh, right. D’you have a boyfriend?” When he sees Sherlock’s face he adds, “Which is fine by the way.”

“I know it’s fine.”

“So you’ve got a boyfriend then?”

“No.”

“Right. Okay. You’re unattached, like me.”

Sherlock looks rather startled. It’s a face John’s seen before in a similar context. “John, um... I think you should know that I consider myself married to my work, and while I’m flattered by your interest, I’m really not looking for any…”

“No—,” John interrupts him. “I’m not asking. No.” Well, not really. Just curious more than anything because he’d never been able to get a straight answer before. “I’m just saying it’s all fine.”

“Good. Thank you.”

Further awkward conversation is saved by the appearance of someone who is most likely their murderer, and by the ensuing chase after the cab before heading back home, breathless and laughing in spite of it. When Angelo delivers his cane to the flat, John starts laughing anew, feeling more than a bit manic, because it’s the first day that Sherlock has met him and already he’s done so much, fixed things that time and professional help have been unable to mend. Here he was thinking that he had an unfair advantage on Sherlock, having known all about him for so long, but there’s so much more to Sherlock than he ever realized.

The presence of the police in the flat only adds to the things John wasn’t aware of about Sherlock: apparently a junkie, can’t understand sentiment, calls himself a sociopath, keeps body parts in the flat and doesn’t bother to mention that as one of his worst qualities. It’s all a bit different from the Sherlock he knows. Thought he knew, at any rate.

What he is far more sure of are the signs of a problem. When Sherlock slows his frantic pacing and becomes lost in thought, it makes John instantly alert, even though Sherlock waves him away with irritation when he tries to talk to him. “You’re sure you’re all right?” John asks. He lowers his voice to a confidential whisper. “You’re not going to…”

“No,” Sherlock answers, still distracted. “Nothing like that, just—”

“Just what?”

“Just popping outside for a moment. Fresh air. Won’t be long.”

John watches him go with concern. He wants to take his word for it, but years of experience have taught him that a distracted Sherlock rarely means good things.

---

Logically, Sherlock can’t die yet, because that would mean that John’s entire past effectively never happened. It ought to be reassuring, but it’s not. It just reaffirms for John that it’s his duty to make sure that nothing does happen to Sherlock, just in case the past can be unwritten. He takes chances on lots of things, but not on this. When the GPS signal of the pink lady’s phone beeps, John knows that Sherlock’s gone off and done something foolish, and he doesn’t hesitate at all in running after him.

He’s almost not fast enough. The building is unfamiliar and the GPS too approximate to help him navigate the halls of Roland-Kerr with any accuracy. It’s only sheer dumb luck that leads a frantic John to the building opposite the one that Sherlock is in, looking right at him, and he has to trust that it will be good enough. He does hesitate, has to be sure, but when Sherlock holds up the pill, studies it, looks ready to take a chance on it—that’s enough for John. He holds steady and fires, heart hammering an unsteady beat that fortunately doesn’t make it to his hands.

It’s good; the man drops to Sherlock’s feet.

Sherlock’s head swivels around, looking for the shooter. John carefully stands back and ducks so he won’t be seen, and just as Sherlock bends over to examine the bullet hole in the window, John can see a spasm wrack his body. Sherlock doubles over with a grimace, and within seconds, he disappears.

John takes the time to clean his hands and hide his gun and hide Sherlock’s abandoned clothing in a broom cupboard before the police arrive . They’re all at a bit of a loss with a dead man lying in a classroom, an unknown shooter, and no Sherlock to piece together how this has anything to do with their serial suicides. John decides to fill the Detective Inspector in while they wait on Sherlock to return. It’s never very predictable just how long he’ll be gone.

“He sent me a text after he left the flat,” John tells Lestrade. They stand together outside of the building, and John can see from the way that the man’s fingers twitch that he’s dying for a cigarette right now, despite the nicotine patch he showed off earlier in the evening. “Said that the murderer was a cabbie—people trust them, never think twice about getting into their cars. Made it easy for him to take them out to abandoned places and force them to take the poison.” He hadn’t actually received any messages from Sherlock, but the badge lying on the driver’s lifeless chest helped him figure out the major points of the situation.

“And where is Sherlock now? I’ve told him that he can’t just go running off from a crime scene without giving me some sort of report.” Lestrade sounds tired and his hair is in disarray from running frustrated fingers through it.

“He didn’t—it’s not like that,” John says hesitantly. He’s not sure how much he knows or how much he should tell him.

“Did he do his disappearing thing again?” Lestrade sighs. “I swear if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes I’d think it was the absolute worst excuse for avoiding police procedure that I’ve ever heard.”

“Oh, you know then?”

“Yeah. He came to bother us at a crime scene five years ago, leaning all over the tape and telling us everything we were doing wrong. I pulled him aside for a talking to and he got so bloody angry that he disappeared in the middle of telling me how stupid I was not to listen to him.”

“Sounds like him.”

Lestrade laughs. “You’ve been his friend for a long time, then?”

“Just met him yesterday, actually.”

---

It’s been almost an hour since Sherlock disappeared. The police haven’t cleared out from the scene yet because there’s an alarming lack of evidence, so they’re stuck gathering whatever they can find to build a case until a certain consulting detective comes around to make his statement. John loiters by the side of the building, waiting just in case he comes back in the same place. He’s not entirely sure how that part works.

An arm goes around his chest and John is pulled backwards into the dark row between two buildings. “Hey!” he manages to get out in surprise before a hand clamps down over his mouth. John stiffens and tries to fight against the person holding him, but the grip is surprisingly strong.

“Quiet, don’t attract attention.” John slackens because he recognizes Sherlock’s voice at once. “I need some clothes; mine were taken, probably for evidence.” He removes his hand from John’s mouth, satisfied that he won’t make a scene. He also lets his arm fall from his chest, but keeps a grip on the sleeve of John’s coat.

“Do you know how dangerous it is, grabbing me like that?” John asks, shaking his sleeve out of Sherlock’s hand and stepping away to put some distance between them. “If you hadn’t talked immediately I would have put you on your back.” He scowls and pointedly avoids turning around to look at him. He hears Sherlock huff dismissively but decides not to challenge him on it. He’ll probably find out soon enough, acting the way he does. “Anyway, that was me that grabbed your clothes; they’ve got them in the back of a police car. Lestrade is holding them as leverage to make sure you talk to him when you turn up.”

“Wonderful, giving an account to the police is just what I want to do right now.” Sherlock grumbles with impatience. “Most of the time I pop right back into the same place or close to it. Always nice to have my clothing still there.”

“Well, how was I to know? I just saw a pile of things that looked like they collectively cost more than two month’s rent on our flat and thought it best not leave them lying around.”

“Our flat? You will be moving in, then?”

“Yes, just need to pick up some things at the other place tonight, then I’ll pop ‘round. Now can we not talk about this while you’re completely starkers?”

“Your own fault,” Sherlock reminds him. “Maybe I should speak to that crackpot therapist of yours, talk about the emotional trauma you’ve inflicted upon me by stealing my clothing and leaving me to deal with sneaking out of a crime scene undetected in order to avoid being arrested for indecency.”

“Keep it up and I’ll make you fetch them out of the car yourself,” John warns. It’s made less effective by the fact that he’s already striding off to retrieve them.

---

31 January 2011

Sherlock is sitting on the desk in John’s bedsit while he packs up his things. John doesn’t have many possessions—so many years in the army led to a comfort with sparse living arrangements. There are, however, enough things that he’s unable to carry the boxes on his own, even now that he’s no longer limping.

“This is terribly tedious,” Sherlock says with a sigh. He opens a folder that sits on the desk next to him, clearly marked ‘Confidential,’ and flips through the papers.

John snatches the folder from his hand. “Not everything is your business. You could help, you know. It would go faster with two.”

“I could,” Sherlock concedes. “But I won’t.”

“Then stop complaining.”

“I’m not comp—” Sherlock’s sudden intake of breath cuts his sentence short and he doubles over. “John, it’s...”

“I know. Do you want me to wait here for you?”

Sherlock shakes his head, takes a few slow breaths to try and steady himself, and then he’s gone.

John sighs. He was really looking forward to taking advantage of Sherlock’s superior abilities in flagging down cabs. When the remainder of his things are packed neatly into three cardboard boxes he lays Sherlock’s clothes out on the bed so they won’t wrinkle and leaves the key to his place with a note for Sherlock to lock up and drop the key in his landlord’s box when he leaves, and to bring the remaining box of John’s things along. It takes some work to balance the two boxes and maneuver down the stairs by himself, but he manages.

It is nearing midnight and John is settled into his armchair—strange, he already does think of it as his after he’s only just moved in, since Sherlock seems to prefer to perch on the other one—with a cup of tea when Sherlock finally comes home.

“Did you wait up for me?” Sherlock asks as he steps inside and drops John’s box unceremoniously onto the floor, next to his own still unpacked ones.

“No, I just happen to still be awake and there’s not much of anything to do in my bedroom just yet.”

“Right,” Sherlock says. He hangs his coat and scarf on the back of the door and swoops in to grab John’s mug, but makes a face when the sip of tea isn’t sweet enough to suit him and places it back on the side table.

“Yes, help yourself.” John rolls his eyes as Sherlock settles into the chair across from him. “Would you care for your own tea?”

“Please. I take it—”

“With two sugars. I know.”

Sherlock narrows his eyes. “Do you?”

“You aren’t the only one who can observe,” John says, padding into the kitchen to turn the kettle on and raising his voice to continue the conversation. “I saw how many of those sweet cream buns you ate last night.” The fact that he made him more cups of tea than he could count after he was tall enough to reach the kettle is left unsaid.

“I only had three!” Sherlock calls back, indignantly.

“You ate five; I counted. After Angelo’s I thought you didn’t eat at all, so I was understandably impressed.”

“Can’t eat on a case, it slows me down. But time travel always makes me hungry after the nausea wears off.”

“And you have a sweet tooth, so therefore I deduced two sugars.”

“You learn more quickly than I expected.”

“I’m not a complete idiot, then?” John comes back and hands Sherlock a cup of tea and a pack of only slightly squashed biscuits that he rescued from his desk at the bedsit.

“Less of one than most,” Sherlock admits with a nod of thanks.

John smiles and settles back into his own chair. “Where did you end up this time? Or is it when did you end up?”

“It’s both, really.” Sherlock frowns at his tea for being too hot to drink before continuing. “I ended up with my ten-year-old self, practicing lock picking. Handy skill to have—I don’t always end up in a place where I’ve stored clothes.”

“Handy method of avoiding helping your flatmate move.”

“Yes, well, I never claimed that The Nuisance was entirely disadvantageous.”

“I always thought that it was triggered by stress,” John says. He takes a sip of his own tea, now grown a little too cold.

“It can be, like last night when an unidentified gunman killed the man who was standing in front of me.” Sherlock gives John a pointed look. “But I mostly find those sorts of situations exciting rather than frightening. In my case it’s much more likely to be triggered by boredom.”

“Must be a real problem for someone with a mind like yours.”

“You have no idea.”

---

18 February 2011

“Christ,” John says when Sherlock comes into the sitting room. He’d heard the crash from the bedroom that preceded it, but wasn’t expecting to find Sherlock striding out within seconds with just his dressing gown wrapped around himself, hand pressed to the side of his head and covered in blood.

“It’s nothing,” Sherlock says, but he is wincing and looks surprised at the rate of bleeding. He pulls the right-hand cuff of his gown over his wrist and presses it against the wound. 

“‘Nothing?’” John echoes. He rises from his chair to grab Sherlock’s free hand and pull him over to the window where the curtains are drawn open and the sunlight makes it easier to see clearly. He pushes Sherlock’s hand out of the way so that he can take a look. The cut is a small but deep gash; it runs through his right eyebrow and wraps around the around the bone of his temple. It is still bleeding profusely, more than expected from something so small. “Christ,” John says again. “Looks like it needs stitches. Lucky for you I’ve done my fair share of them.” He lets go of Sherlock and makes a move towards the stairs to his room, where he keeps a well-stocked medical kit.

“Don’t bother.” Sherlock makes a face at the blood-soaked sleeve of his gown and switches to the left sleeve as he puts pressure on the cut again. “I just need to stop the bleeding, maybe get a bandage on it.”

“‘Don’t bother’? Do I need to remind you that I’m the doctor with the valid medical opinion here?”

“I think you do, otherwise I’ll go on believing you’re just a fool who parrots everything that I say,” Sherlock snarls. “I can’t do stitches. They don’t come with me when I go and they create more damage when they rip themselves out too early.”

John’s face has been screwed up in anger and confusion, but suddenly the refusal of proper medical care makes sense. “Oh… oh, that’s interesting. Wait here, then.” He strides into the kitchen where he keeps a separate, smaller medical kit. After less than a month, living with Sherlock has taught him that you can never have too many. He washes his hands, wets a tea towel, and pulls out a package of cotton gauze from the kit before heading back to Sherlock’s side. “All right, let me see it again.”

Sherlock dutifully lowers his hand and frowns at the blood that now stains this sleeve as well. “This was my favorite robe,” he says petulantly.

“We’ll see if we can save it,” John says as he dabs the tea towel over Sherlock’s brow to remove the smeared traces of blood.

“It’s silk, John, you can’t just wash blood out of silk.” He jerks away lightly at the first touch of the wet cloth, then schools himself to be still while John takes care of him.

John smirks. “Maybe you should think of your propensity for being injured and weigh that against your need to buy ridiculously expensive clothing, then.” Satisfied with his work, he opens the packaging of the gauze and presses the clean material to Sherlock’s head, holding it with steady pressure. “So, how did you find out about your problem with stitches?”

Sherlock’s lips twitch up into one of his barely detectable smiles. “We discovered it when I was seven. I accidentally cut myself with a scalpel while dissecting a seed pod that I found in the garden. Mycroft was supposed to be watching me, so the pain was almost worth his getting into trouble. They rushed me to the A&E to get my finger stitched up, only to have the stress trigger a chrono incident almost as soon as the doctor was finished. We stuck to bandages and good wishes after that.” He holds up the long fingers of his left hand and displays the index one to John. “Scar is still visible, even now.”

John switches his right hand to holding the gauze and takes the proffered finger into his left hand to inspect it. “So it is.” There is a faint pink line scoring down the second knuckle to the third. The cut was deeper, closer to the bone, near to the top of the finger, and the scar tapers to a lighter discoloration where the scalpel made a more shallow drag to the base of the finger. “You got yourself good,” John says with raised eyebrows, impressed that Sherlock sustained something like this so young. Probably didn’t even make a fuss about it, if he was anything like he is now. “Lucky not to have damaged the bone.”

Sherlock nods, then frowns as John fails to move with him. “I’ll hold it myself.” He pushes John’s hand out of the way and presses down on the gauze. “And yes, there was a ban on experimenting with sharp instruments for years after that. Only boring chemical explosions allowed.”

John laughs and shakes his head because he can imagine the ensuing tiny Sherlock tantrums. “I wonder, though, what would happen if it were something more integrated into your body. Say your leg gets mangled because you’re an idiot who goes jumping across rooftops. If it’s necessary to pin the bones together, would the metal get ripped out or would your body consider it a part of itself because it’s more internal?”

“Don’t know and hope to never find out,” Sherlock says with a grimace.

“But that doesn’t keep you from taking senseless risks.” John says it fondly, because, well, aren’t they a pair.

“No. And it never will.” Sherlock gives John a rare full smile, the sort that shows off his teeth and is usually reserved for charming strangers into letting him enter buildings. “I’m just pleased to have excellent teeth because I don’t even want to test your theory on something like a filling.”

--- 

23 March 2011

“How can you possibly be bored?” John asks as he enters the sitting room. Sherlock doesn’t appear to have followed up on his threat to explode any beers yet. He’s actually sitting in his chair using his own laptop for once.

“There’s nothing to do.” Sherlock responds, not bothering to look up. “It’s a simple concept, really.”

John rolls his eyes. “Let’s see. You’ve taken on a new case today, found a body, disproved a suicide. That’s not enough for you?”

“Those were all hours ago, and there’s nothing more that I can do with the case right now.”

“Right then, Bond night it is. Where do you want to get takeaway?” John swivels around, trying to figure out where exactly he stashed his DVDs between all of Sherlock’s things.

“Indian. The good one.” Sherlock snaps his laptop shut and puts it aside. “I’m only agreeing to this on the expectation that if the movie bores me enough I’ll end up in 1987 helping my six-year-old self learn to play the violin or something similar, so by all means please aid my musical education.”

“And I’m only trying to distract myself from a job interview tomorrow and help you get a better understanding of your brother’s career choices,” John says, holding up his Bond box set as he finds it. He’s rewarded by an appreciative smirk from Sherlock.

They make it through one movie before Sherlock pulls out his laptop again to multitask. He doesn’t ask to stop, however, and they end up watching four more before John insists on going to bed—refraining from pointing out that Sherlock has remained solidly in the present the entire time.

---

26 March 2011

Right. So far this case has involved John getting slapped with an ASBO for someone else’s graffiti; chasing after his mad flatmate whilst someone shoots at him inside of a museum, the result of which is the woman he was meant to protect ends up dead; staying up all night slogging through a mountain of books then falling asleep on his first day on the job; having Sherlock misunderstand what exactly a date is and inviting himself along on his with Sarah, where they end up fighting circus performers; and then being kidnapped due to mistaken identity.

The fact that Sherlock’s little time problem kicked in and he disappeared on the way to the museum, barely making it back in time to save them just makes it all worse, somehow. He manages to hold everything in until he’s seen Sarah home and made it back to Baker Street. Sherlock made it home before him and is sitting in the kitchen with the takeaway that was ordered earlier that evening.

“Mrs. Hudson took care of that?” John asks. He peers over Sherlock’s shoulder to see that he hasn’t bothered to heat it up, and is eating the dish that John ordered.

“Must have,” Sherlock says after swallowing a bite. “It was on the table.”

“Yes, well…” John stops, takes a breath, and tries not to sound as tetchy as he feels. “I was knocked out and abducted before it got here, so I’ll have to thank her. Pay her back.” He reaches for Sarah’s order and makes a face, but scrapes it out onto a plate and puts it into the microwave anyway. Better than nothing.

Sherlock remains silent.

That only irritates John further. “So,” he says conversationally as he sits down next to Sherlock and prods at his food with his fork. “Do you make a point to leave at the most inconvenient possible times?”

The look Sherlock gives him is nothing short of murderous. “I don’t ‘make a point’ to do anything regarding my condition. If I did, would I really disappear in the middle of a case? You do realize that it’s an uncontrollable disease, do you not?”

“And that must be very terrible for you, being such a control freak,” John snaps. He drops his fork and pushes his plate away. It knocks a—thankfully plastic—beaker to the floor by Sherlock’s feet.

Sherlock looks hurt and his voice loses its edge. “It is, actually. Not knowing when it might happen, where I might end up, whether or not I’ll have someone waiting there to help me or if I’ll have to fend for myself. It’s certainly not anything I’d do on purpose.”

John sighs and scrubs his hands over his face. “Look, I’m sorry. It’s just—I wasn’t expecting to be kidnapped, or to be mistaken for you, or to nearly get my date, who also happens to be my boss, killed. And I’ve been hit on the head and had a gun waved in my face, which is really never something that sits well with me since—well, you know. But I know it wasn’t your fault.”

Sherlock stands up, backs away from the table and looks away, but doesn’t leave. “You know I wouldn’t want anything to happen to you. I was lucky enough to only go back two years. Found some clothes and got my hands on the London A to Z so I could translate the message, but I didn’t have the picture with me.”

“And you still managed it?”

“I got there, didn’t I?” Sherlock turns back to him, eyebrow raised.

John can’t help but to smile. “Brilliant.”

Sherlock returns his smile briefly. “I thought so. And when I came back it was fairly obvious that they had you, assumed you knew more than you did, so I went there as quickly as I could.”

“Just in time,” John says quietly. “Listen, I really am—”

“Now,” Sherlock cuts him off with a wave of his hand, “are you going to eat and come watch movies with me, or do I need to continue this James Bond marathon on my own?”

John grins. He knows it’s the closest thing he’ll get to an apology for what happened, not that he’s particularly sure that the blame lies on Sherlock any longer. “Yeah.” He looks down at his plate, then at the tray where Sherlock managed to devour all of his meal and sighs. “Yeah, I’ll be there in a minute. Don’t start without me.”

--- 

29 March 2011

John assumes that he’s going to have a normal day. He has a few hours scheduled at the surgery that should keep him out until the evening, but no plans after that. He assumes that Sherlock is off working on a case because he’s not in the flat and there are no tell-tale piles of shoes and clothing to show that he’s disappeared—John even risks a quick look into Sherlock’s surprisingly tidy bedroom to check. When he makes it through his shift without even a text from Sherlock, he amends his initial analysis. Not normal after all, but a day in which his life is not interrupted by the comings and goings of his flatmate. An uneventful day hasn’t qualified as normal in going on two months now.

Some part of him is not at all surprised to hear shots fired when he returns to the flat, because not a day goes by without something happening. He rushes up the stairs expecting some sort of struggle between Sherlock and an assailant, but instead it’s just Sherlock, sitting in his chair and pointing a gun—no, John’s gun—at the wall.

“What the hell are you doing?” John asks incredulously, while Sherlock fires off another shot at the wall. He thinks the response is quite restrained, all things considered.

“Bored!” Sherlock bellows.

What?”

“Bored!” he announces again, and springs up from his chair. He fires two more shots before John snatches the gun from him and unloads the clip. “Don’t know what’s got into the criminal classes,” Sherlock says sulkily. “Good job I’m not one of them.”

John stares at him. “So you take it out on the wall?”

“It’s either shoot the wall or disappear, John.” He makes a spectacularly dramatic flop onto the sofa.

“Then I hope you have a very lovely day with yourself and Mycroft,” John says calmly, and locks the gun away in the safe. “What about that Russian case?” he asks.

“Belarus. Open and shut domestic murder. Not worth the time or the flight. Nothing to do in Minsk so I came back.”

“You—” John stops and stares at him, pursing his lips. “You flew to Minsk? Was that really wise? What if you disappeared on the plane?”

“You’d know if you checked your blog comments and bought that ticket like I asked,” Sherlock says, huffing with annoyance. “Flights are generally short enough not to be a danger. Wouldn’t take the risk of one much longer than a few hours, though.”

“Right. So you just had a case and by all accounts shouldn’t be… shooting up the walls just yet. Or ever, really.”

John is almost certain that Sherlock is trying to start an argument with him, for whatever purpose that might serve. On top of the gun—and he’s only just explained to him how much he doesn’t care for guns, for all the necessity of having one to keep Sherlock safe—there’s a severed head in the refrigerator, and when John complains about it like any normal person, Sherlock starts in on his blog post. John had thought that it would be flattering, seeing his brilliance written up like that, but as usual Sherlock hones in on a small detail—

“Oh, you meant ‘spectacularly ignorant’ in a nice way! Look, it doesn’t matter to me who’s Prime Minister—”

“I know—”

“Or who’s sleeping with who—”

“Or whether the earth goes ‘round the sun,” John says dryly.

“Not that again.” Sherlock sighs. “It’s not important.”

You taught it to me! John wants to scream at him, and he wonders how that possibly could have happened if Sherlock doesn’t know anything about it now. “It’s primary school stuff. How can you not know that?”

“If I ever did, I deleted it.”

“Deleted it?”

Sherlock swings his legs around and sits up to face John. “Listen, this—,” he points at his head, “is my hard drive, and it only makes sense to put things in there that are useful. Really useful. Ordinary people fill their heads with all kinds of rubbish, and that makes it hard to get at the stuff that matters. Do you see?”

“But it’s the solar system!” And French verb conjugation, and how to write in cursive, and long division, and a host of other things that Sherlock helped him do homework on while they sat in his back garden together trying to avoid being noticed.

“Oh, hell! What does that matter? All that matters to me is the work. Without that my brain rots.” 

John says nothing, because it’s the first time that the thought has occurred to him. What if Sherlock’s already gone back, already met him as a child? What if he deleted it all because he didn’t even care—no. He can’t let himself think of it that way, but…

“Put that in your blog. Or better still, stop inflicting your opinions on the world.” With that, Sherlock lies back down and turns his back towards John. He pulls his knees to his chest and it makes John’s breath catch in his throat because it’s just the way he looks before he disappears sometimes.

John’s concern melts away when Sherlock remains in the present. He purses his lips and stands up to grab his jacket.

“Where are you going?” Sherlock looks over his shoulder at him.

“Out,” John says tightly. “Not that it’s important. Feel free to delete it.” He doesn’t bother to grab an overnight bag or wait for a response.

---

30 March 2011

John wakes up feeling distinctly uncomfortable on Sarah’s couch. He couldn’t think of any other place to go after deciding that he absolutely was not interested in returning to the flat. Harry’s was out of the question, and well, that about does it for people other than his sort-of girlfriend whose sofas he could sleep on.

“Told you you should’ve gone with the lilo,” Sarah tells him as he groans and clutches his neck.

“No, no, no. It’s fine. I slept fine. It’s very kind of you.” John rolls his shoulders and makes room for her as she searches around the sofa for the remote.

“Well, maybe next time I’ll let you kip at the end of my bed, you know.” She grins and turns on the TV.

“What about the time after that?”

She raises an eyebrow and doesn’t answer. “So, do you want some breakfast?”

“Love some.”

“Yeah, well you better make it yourself because I’m going to go have a shower.” She flashes another grin, and John watches as she leaves the room, trying to decide if that was an invitation or not. His dating life was a bit derailed by his army service, or at least he dated a different sort of girl then, and before that he was quite a bit younger. Apparently dating works a bit differently in your mid-thirties than it did in the early twenties, and John’s still not sure he’s got it figured out, or if he ever did considering how much Sherlock interrupted his dating life even then.

He’s still considering when the next news story flashes up on the screen: House destroyed on Baker Street. John watches in stunned silence for just a moment, and then he’s up in an instant, grabbing his jacket.

“Sarah! Sarah, I’ve got to run!” he calls out, without waiting for a response.

---

The building across from the flat has a gaping hole in the side and he can see that the windows in 221b have been boarded up. Must have shattered from the force of the explosion. Sherlock was probably home at the time.

“Sherlock!” John calls while dashing up the stairs. No response. “Sherlock?” He stops short just inside the door to the flat.

“John,” Mycroft says, nodding his head in greeting. He’s sitting in John’s chair, umbrella at his side. It’s the first time they’ve seen each other since the night Mycroft had John abducted for a talking-to.

“I saw it on the telly. Where is he? Is he all right?” 

“Yes,” Sherlock says, before Mycroft can answer. He steps through the kitchen and takes a seat in his chair, leaving John looking dazed as he passes by. He reaches one long arm behind his chair to pick up his violin case from its spot on the floor. It’s covered in dust, which he blows off, and he opens the case and pulls the violin into his lap to check it for damage.

“He just came back,” Mycroft explains. “A long one, was it not?”

Sherlock gives a small nod of agreement. “I don’t like the long ones. Disappeared when the explosion happened—just a few minutes after you left, John, lucky you didn’t get caught in it—and just came back about twenty minutes ago. Inconvenient, but on the upside, it was very effective for removing all the glass shards from my skin.”

“They don’t travel with you,” John says, understanding. He’s staring at Sherlock, sweeping his eyes over him to check for damage.

“Right. I’m just fine. 

“I had some of the mess cleaned up before he returned,” Mycroft says with a tight smile towards John. The room is still littered with paper and broken glass, not to mention the dust wafting throughout. “And now he’s not being very grateful for it.”

So much for familial concern. Mycroft’s mostly turned up to convince Sherlock to take on a case rather than to check that his brother is fine after the explosion. Sherlock stubbornly resists, and the case file—along with the duty of solving it, apparently—ends up foisted on John.

“Think it over. Do remember how often you rely on my help with your… situation.” Mycroft looms over Sherlock, one last attempt to intimidate him into doing as he wants. When Sherlock doesn’t rise to the bait, Mycroft turns to John and offers him his hand to shake. “Good-bye, John.” John stands and takes his hand. “See you very soon.” A moment passes between them, and while John can’t read between the lines quite the same way that the Holmes brothers can, he knows that Mycroft expects him to convince Sherlock to do this favor, or Mycroft will be only too glad to spill John’s secret.

John nods his understanding and steps back to watch Mycroft gather his coat and head down the stairs. He waits until he hears the door bang closed to speak. “Why’d you lie? You’ve got nothing on—not a single case. That’s why the wall’s in this state,” he jerks his head towards it to indicate the holes, “and you were so worried about popping out. Though I imagine that was due more to the blast.”

“Self-preservation instinct,” Sherlock admits. “Happens when the adrenaline floods the brain in a fight or flight response.” He curls his lip in distaste at admitting that his reaction might have anything to do with something as mundane as being afraid.

“So why tell your brother you were busy?”

“Why shouldn’t I?”

“Sibling rivalry? Really?”

Sherlock just gives him a hard-edged stare and starts to protest, but his phone begins to ring. He answers and John waits patiently for him to finish the conversation. “Lestrade,” he explains when he ends the call. “I’ve been summoned. Coming?”

John shrugs. “If you want me to.”

“Of course. I’d be lost without my blogger.” He grabs his coat and sweeps out, and John follows behind. He thinks he should be furious still, but that was as good as an apology from Sherlock, and John’s never been very good at not forgiving him.

The case makes John distinctly uncomfortable. It’s obvious that the mastermind behind it is targeting Sherlock, trying to get his attention specifically with that case ripped right from Sherlock’s past, and instead of reacting with caution the madman is over the moon with excitement over the puzzle of it all. Resigned, John tries his best to simply help him solve them in time.

---

31 March 2011

John comes down early in the morning—trouble sleeping, can’t stop thinking about the old woman who was blown up while Sherlock spoke with her on the phone. The person behind this, whoever it is, absolutely terrifies him. The lack of rest makes him a bit bleary-eyed and it takes him a moment to notice that his chair and Sherlock’s are both occupied. It takes even longer—until he’s cleared his throat and both heads whip around to look at him—to realize that both chairs are occupied by Sherlock.

“Ugh, there’s two of you?” John grumbles in mock disgust. “And you both have to take the armchairs? I had enough of sitting on the coffee table yesterday, thanks.”

The Sherlock sitting in his chair quirks a smile and stands up to let John sit. He leans against the arm of Sherlock’s chair instead. John looks at them both together for a while before speaking. “Right, so the one of you who’s sitting down is from the present—you’re wearing the same thing you were yesterday so I take it that you haven’t slept yet.”

“Right,” present Sherlock says with a fond tone at John’s deduction. “I’ve been checking for the next clue, but nothing yet.”

“Then you,” John tips his head at the other, who is dressed in Sherlock’s pajamas, “are from the future?”

He nods. “Two months from now.”

“Fascinating,” John breathes out in awe. “Does this happen often?”

“Not infrequently,” says future Sherlock. “Used to happen more when I was younger. Now there are more people to visit.” He gives John a slow smile that the other Sherlock doesn’t seem to catch.

John snorts softly. “So you ever help yourself with cases you’ve already solved, when you come back?”

Both Sherlocks looks like John may have slapped them. “No!” they say together.

“Right,” John says, suddenly unamused. “You wouldn’t, because the puzzle is the most important thing.”

“Of course it is,” present Sherlock snaps. The one from the future seems to have decided to steer clear of this particular conversation. He would, he does know where it’s going, after all.

“What if someone’s dying? Going to be killed before you can work it out?”

“Even then,” he replies easily.

“Christ,” John says with a humourless laugh. “You’d put your fun above someone’s life?”

Both Sherlocks stare at him, and the one sitting continues the conversation. “It’s not about fun, John. You know why I do this. You know it’s what keeps me here.”

“Right, and your staying in the present is more important than some innocent person’s life.” John stands abruptly and heads towards the kitchen. “I can’t have this conversation with you right now.”

Sherlock snarls and rises from the chair to follow him. The other one stays behind. “To me it is more important than someone else’s life! You treat it like it’s not a big deal, like it’s some fucking walk in the park, a fun party trick, but do you know what it does to me?” His voice barely rises in volume, but the anger is apparent.

John, in contrast, turns on him and begins to shout. “No, I don’t! Because you never fucking tell me!”

Sherlock’s face softens and he steps back. “It’s true, I don’t.” He pauses, considering. “It’s—it’s painful. I think sometimes that it must put a lot of wear on my body, that I must be older than I think I actually am, because time passes at a different rate when I’m gone. And I would do anything to make it stop. And if that means playing a game with a brilliant murderer, then that’s what I’m going to do.”

John listens, hand on his mouth worrying his bottom lip the way he does when he’s particularly distressed. “Look, I don’t—” he pauses and sighs. “Let’s just forget this. Go back, keep yourself company, I’ll bring tea.”

Sherlock is about to protest, but John shoots him a look that sends him into retreat.

John calms himself while he’s in the kitchen alone, considering what Sherlock has said. It is true that he’s never really considered the repercussions of what Chrono-Displacement might do to someone’s—Sherlock’s—body before, mostly because Sherlock never seemed particularly concerned himself. As far as John could tell, it was just a quirk that he had accepted.

It takes some coordination, but he balances three mugs and takes them back into the sitting room. Present Sherlock has settled back into his chair, while the one from the future paces in a tight line beside him. When he sees John he strides over to take two mugs from him. John nods his thanks and sits down in his own chair. They are all silent for a time.

“Just so I know—all of your own issues aside, do you care about the lives that are at stake at all?” John finally asks, quietly.

“Will caring about them help save them?” The future Sherlock is still refusing to participate in the conversation and watches both of them.

“Nope.”

“Then I’ll continue not to make that mistake. 

“And you find that easy, do you?”

“Yes, very. Is that news to you?”

“No.” John smiles bitterly into his mug. “No.” When he looks up they lock eyes.

“I’ve disappointed you.” Sherlock sounds almost disappointed himself.

“That’s good—that’s a good deduction, yeah.” John’s tone is sarcastic.

Sherlock sighs with exasperation and looks to his future self for help, then scowls when none comes. “Don’t make people into heroes, John. Heroes don’t exist, and if they did, I wouldn’t be one of them. 

John clenches his jaw and says nothing for some time. He looks towards the uncharacteristically quiet Sherlock of the future. “So, anything you can tell us about two months from now?”

“It’s May,” he deadpans. “And that’s about all, really.”

The first Sherlock snorts in amusement. “He does have something he wants to warn me about, though. I can tell from his posture.”

“But he can’t,” John says. He does remember this part very well, even though he’s never wanted to accept it. There are no warnings, no changing major events. Once something has happened it can’t be undone.

“No,” the second Sherlock agrees. “Something always prevents it. I learned it’s best not to fight it, though I do end up travelling to moments that I wish I could have changed.”

“Well that’s reassuring.”

“Terribly,” both Sherlocks say in unison.

“And that,” John says whilst rising from his chair, “is creepy, so I’m going to leave.”

“Suit yourself,” says the present Sherlock. The one from the future says nothing and does not meet John’s eyes as he walks away towards the stairs to his room.

There’s only one of them when the next clue comes and John, despite his anger, goes with him to help.

---

Having a bomb strapped to his chest was low on the list of things he thought were likely to happen in the company of Sherlock Holmes. Timeline fuckery, that was a given. Some amount of danger was to be expected, or honestly he’s not sure he could put up with the constant sarcasm. Explosives do seem a little over the line, though.

From the way his hands shake as he strips the vest from him, Sherlock thinks so as well.

“Are you okay?” John asks, breathing heavily as he sinks down. He’s scared, but he can’t help but worry about Sherlock because the way he’s shaking—that usually means one thing.

“That, er... thing you, er, that you did, that—” he clears his throat and Christ John really has got to teach him proper trigger discipline because he pays no mind at all to how he waves that gun around, “—that you offered to do. That was, um, good.”

John wants to laugh at seeing Sherlock’s composure stripped away, because this is when he seems most like himself. Feels appropriate to joke at least, because the adrenaline is making everything a bit ridiculous. “I’m glad no one saw that. 

“Hm?”

“You, ripping my clothes off in a darkened swimming pool. People might talk.”

“People do little else.”

Their laughter is pure relief, but within an instant the beam of the laser is back along with Moriarty’s voice. And fuck, Sherlock’s doubled over in a way that undeniably means he’ll be gone soon. Just a little more time, John pleads silently. He straightens up quickly enough to compose himself and face down Moriarty.

They are saved by a phone call, left alone again. Sherlock is still here, but as soon as Moriarty has retreated, he’s slumped down, pulled into a tight ball of limbs. “I can’t—I can’t keep holding on much longer. I’m—” and with that he is gone.

John’s merely thankful that he didn’t disappear a minute sooner.

---

1 April 2011

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Sherlock pads quietly into the sitting room, wrapped in his bedsheet.

“Oh!” John jumps out of his chair, nearly spilling his tea, and makes a move towards Sherlock. He stops when he’s waved off.

“I’m fine. Made it back to my bed a few minutes ago. After spending the day in 1989 with you of all people.”

John smiles because finally—finally—it’s started and he doesn’t have to keep it all a secret any more. “Yeah, that happened sometimes.” The understatement only makes his grin broaden. “I wondered when it would start.” He shoos him towards the couch.

“Sometimes?” Sherlock repeats with a raised brow. He does oblige John’s herding and slides smoothly onto the couch, lying down and winding his sheet around more tightly. “I’d say that the presence of one of my suits in your garden shed means that it happens with some frequency. Which means that you’ve been keeping secrets from me, John.”

“I told you about my friend, just didn’t mention that the friend was you,” John says and shrugs. He lifts Sherlock’s feet to slide under them onto the couch and place them in his lap.

“Oh, so—” Sherlock almost looks ashamed to not have put it together already. “Clever lie, John. Made it easier to cover how much you happen to know about my condition without letting on that you were familiar with me specifically.” He sounds more pleased than most would be at being successfully fooled.

“Just following orders.”

“Disappointing that you never actually knew two people with the condition, though. I was hoping to pick your brain—shut up, you know I mean that metaphorically,” he says when John grimaces, “— and compare experiences based on your memories. What do you mean by orders, though?”

“You told me not to tell you anything about the past, not until after the first time you go back, which means now, right?”

“Did I? Seems like a strange request. Telling me wouldn’t change the past or future, after all. Only make it difficult for you to pretend that you’d never met me before.” He makes a contemplative noise deep in his throat.

John chuckles at that. “You have no idea. I’ve thought about it and I think it’s because you wanted to form your own opinions about our friendship without knowing that I become... important to you later. You’re not exactly the sort who’d want to be told how to feel about someone right when you meet them.”

“You do know me well, don't you?” The look that he gives John is so fond, so much like the Sherlock he knew and will know again later, that John’s stomach clenches and he realizes that of course that is who he will be in a matter of time. This is simply the first step. “Better than I realized.”

“Mm, reminds me that there’s a list that I can give you now. Has all the dates that you came to visit me.”

“How many?”

“Plenty; I think there were more than one hundred dates on the list. You remembered every one of them in that gigantic brain of yours and dictated them to me when I was seven.”

“Seven?” Sherlock is momentarily stunned. “I could tell that you knew me well, but I’ve been visiting you since you were seven?”

“Six, actually. The first time I was six.”

Sherlock pulls his legs away from John and swings so that he’s sitting up and steeples his fingers in front of his face, frowning. “That’s—that’s significant.”

“Having your life threatened tends to put things into perspective.”

“Is that—ohhhhh.” Sherlock breathes out the last syllable in surprise. “Oh, it does, doesn’t it?”

And then he’s on his feet, storming out of the sitting room and into his bedroom with a slam of the door, leaving a confused John in his wake.

---

“Moriarty recognized it before I did,” Sherlock says in way of greeting.

“Hm?” John grunts, still not used to being expected to follow conversations that seemingly start in the middle instead of from the beginning.

“You.” He is using his keep up, idiot voice that only grinds the irritation in.

“Yes, he recognized me. Meeting me at Bart’s probably helped with that, then there was the whole kidnapping bit.”

“Don’t be dense. He recognized that you’re important. Before I did, even.”

“Ta. Glad to know you appreciate my worth.”

“I said don’t be stupid. You know I loathe to repeat myself.” Sherlock shoots John a sharp glare. “He noticed it first, but I did catch up.”

“And?” John raises an eyebrow. “Help the ordinary mind piece this information together, please.”

“You know that the only people I visit when I get sent back are those in my family, correct? Myself, primarily; Mycroft by necessity; Mrs. Hudson, but that might just be an extension of the fact that I’m tied to Baker Street; rarely anyone else. But according to you, I spend a great deal of time visiting you throughout your childhood, into adulthood even.” He holds up the book where the dates are all written in the back pages. “You are anything but ordinary.”

“I didn’t even tell you they were in there, much less where to find it!” John splutters.

“Immaterial. You were going to give it to me anyway, you just became distracted. Which brings me back to my point. Focus, John.”

“On what,” he asks, eyeing the journal in Sherlock’s hands.

“You are important. You are—,” he waves a hand, grasping for the correct phrasing, “—you are more than my flatmate or my blogger. Moriarty told me that he would burn the heart out of me, and there you were.”

John’s breath catches in his throat. “I...”

“It’s all fine?” Sherlock asks. His eyes are intent on John and it’s suddenly very noticeable that the space between them has closed, that Sherlock has crowded into his space with characteristic disregard for social niceties. 

John nods and Sherlock takes it for permission, fully pressing his body against him until John’s back is against the wall and their lips have come together.