Warning: This story contains graphic depictions of violence, rape, abusive relationships, torture and war trauma.
It was supposed to be a solution for just a few days. Despite Sherlock's help in the search for flats, they hadn't found anything suitable that John could afford before he could leave the hospital. In his own pompous way, Sherlock had suggested that he could stay with him for the time it took them to find a place for John, and John had accepted gratefully, glad that he didn't need to spend money on a hotel. Going to Harry hadn't been an option, as he had still not spoken to her after their row, and it felt ridiculous to decline the offer after Sherlock had come to visit John almost every day (the only exception was when he had been on an extremely juicy murder case) and they had gotten comfortable with each other's presence. Still, John had felt a little awkward when they had arrived at the flat. It wasn't so much the poison on the kitchen table, the body parts in the fridge or the mess of books and petri dishes. It was just as if he couldn't remember living outside a hospital or war zone, and simply taking a seat in a soft chair with a cup of tea made him feel awkward and itchy, almost nervous.
Fortunately, they hadn't been sat down for long before a grey-haired man, that Sherlock addressed as Lestrade and John only knew from the papers of the last few days, rushed in with news about serial suicides.
It had become a day of running around far too much for someone who had only just healed from a severe war wound, giggling at inappropriate moments and John shooting a man to, maybe, save Sherlock's life.
And when they next returned to the flat, John had felt at ease. At home. He was back on the battlefield.
Of course, that little action of killing a cabbie had caught Mycroft's attention. It turned out that it was almost impossible to get Sherlock to do some decent shopping, so the next day, John got on his way. And was kidnapped. He had been prepared after long emails and Skype chats with Sherlock complaining about his brother's meddling, and the fact that Mycroft hadn't approved of Sherlock's contact with him in the first place. In only slightly more polite terms, he told Mycroft to stuff it at his offer to make John spy on the detective for money. Back in 221B Baker Street, Sherlock's reaction to the events made John chuckle, and then he was dragged along to another crime scene and the days had become a blur.
It was more than a week later when things finally became calm enough to sit down and look for flats again. Sherlock lay on the sofa, moaning that he was bored, but even then it was nice to have company. John had started to learn by now when it was worthwhile to listen to the detective and when he could simply ignore his voice.
Yet after a while, he got distracted from his laptop. Sherlock had stopped whining and was reading something with a very uninterested expression on his face, but now the inactivity had begun creeping into John's mind too, stirring thoughts he would rather have kept below the surface.
Mary. Moran's victims in Afghanistan. The fact that if he had told Mary to stay out of that basement, she would still have been alive. That if he hadn't pulled her into the bullet's path, she would have had a chance. It were all impossibilities, there was nothing he could change about what had happened. Even if he could go back, Mary would never have allowed him to go into the basement on his own, so that Moran would only have come after him. And in a twisted way, their friendship would never have grown as strong without sharing the experience of that horrible discovery. But she would have been alive. If he had known what would happen on the night she died, he would have ordered her to stay behind and get more rest, so she wouldn't be in the jeep Moran attacked. He could have saved the two other men if he had just gone on his own. Of course he couldn't have known, and there was no way to go back in time. But if he could, he would.
The worst thing was that there was still no trace of Moran. No trace of a chance to have revenge. The witness Sherlock had set his hopes on, Jane Levington, had never been found again. That was slightly worrying, but somehow Sherlock seemed confident that she was alright and had simply found a good way to hide. And after everything Moran had done to Sherlock, they didn't really need her anymore. They just needed to find Moran.
The problem was that there was no way they would get any help. After all, Mycroft wouldn't allow Sherlock to get in touch with the colonel again after everything that had happened, and in a way, that reassured John too. But as the two Holmes brothers wouldn't help each other, nothing really happened to the case. The police wouldn't let Sherlock in on it. Maybe Moran was even making other victims somewhere, terrorising them like he had done to Mary and Miller and all those others - and nothing was done about it. At least Miller had made it through his injuries. He was now invalided home, just like John, and as expected they hadn't gotten in touch.
John sighed, trying to focus on a description of a flat, but it was no use.
Sherlock groaned in frustration as he sat up and ruffled his hair.
"I should get a job," John mumbled. "There's no way I'm going to live in something like that." He waved at his screen.
Sherlock frowned and looked over at him. Then he shrugged. "It's a fake anyway," he said. "The guy who made the ad will accept deposits from as many hopeful people as he can and then take the money and run before someone realises he does not own the flat and the building is condemned."
"Oh. In that case he could have tried to make it a little more attractive," John said, closing the window and turning away from his laptop.
"No, John," Sherlock said, smiling at him. "Overselling it would have made people suspicious. He's only looking for those, desperate enough to not be careful."
"Yeah, well, I'm getting pretty desperate and even I wouldn't want to go for it," John shrugged, getting up and stretching.
"Even if you were staying at a hotel, eating up your limited funds day by day? Or with a troublesome family member, the atmosphere growing increasingly toxic? Would you still not be interested?" Sherlock observed him as he spoke.
"Is this your subtle way of saying I should get a move on and get out of here?" John asked, smiling a little.
Sherlock paused, looking almost perplexed. "No..." he said. "I was actually saying that you are not in such a rush as having to take anything you can find. You have not posed any kind of inconvenience. Yet."
John chuckled. "Thanks. I'll try not to let that happen, though. But I really need a job if I don't want to end up in a dump."
Sherlock nodded. "I suppose so," he said. He was headed for the kitchen when suddenly his phone, that was still on the table by the sofa, buzzed. He spun around and squinted at it, then launched himself towards it.
"Yes!" he exclaimed as he read the text.
John smiled. "A case?"
"Murder!" Sherlock said, as he ran towards his bedroom. "A really bloody one."
John shook his head at his enthusiasm, though he was still smiling.
A moment later, the detective returned, buttoning a fresh shirt, his trousers still undone and sliding a little off his hips as he grinned at John. "Let's go," he said eagerly.
"Are you sure you want me to come along?" John asked hesitantly. "I mean, it's not like I can be much help to you. Maybe I should use the time to look at some job ads."
Sherlock frowned. "I... I suppose so. But I was kind of hoping you could come. You being a doctor and all. There'll be lots of blood. It's really quite ghastly."
For a moment, John's gaze shifted between his jacket and his laptop. "Yeah, alright, I guess it can wait for a few hours." He stepped towards the door and shrugged on his jacket.
"Sherlock..." John took a step back, almost bumping into the doorpost. A gruesome crime scene, okay. This? Very much not okay.
The whole floor was splattered with blood. The remains of the woman's body lay in the hall - all over the hall.
Cautiously, adjusting his protective suit, he went closer to the body and took a steadying breath, immediately regretting it as the smell hit him.
He looked up at Sherlock, who nodded.
"Okay..." The young woman lay on her back, her stomach ripped open and bloody. The vital organs lay spread around it; liver, lungs, it was all there. He kneeled to study a small bit. "It's like there are... tooth marks," he said softly. He looked over at the other, similar bits, spread around. "It's her heart. They ripped up her heart." He swallowed difficultly, giving Sherlock an almost pleading look.
Sherlock nodded, smiling a little. "Yes. So it would seem. I wonder what he did with the eyes."
"Yes. He... clawed them out, it seems." John stood up again, looking very uncomfortable. "Tell me this isn't normal to you, Sherlock."
"I have never seen anything like this," Lestrade said, shaking his head and looking pale. "Are you sure the one who did this was even human?"
"No, of course not," Sherlock said, walking over to a small bloody pile and crouching down to examine it. "We obviously have a werewolf loose in London. Or possibly an expatriate wendigo."
"I meant that it could have been a wild animal," Lestrade said, rolling his eyes. "Who does this?"
John shook his head. "At first sight, it seems like this was really caused by human teeth and fingers."
"So at least we have traces of their DNA, right?" Lestrade said.
"Probably," Sherlock said. "But if this... creature... had killed before and therefore was already in the system, don't you think we'd have heard about it?"
"Maybe... it... didn't let itself go like that before," John said.
Sherlock sort of nodded, then froze as he stared at the mutilated body. Then he turned to Lestrade. "Have you identified her yet?" he asked, sounding slightly agitated.
"Not yet," Lestrade said. "I was going to ask if you had any clues to her identity."
"Maybe," Sherlock said. Without another word, he turned and stormed out.
"Sherlock?" John called, but the detective had already run down the stairs and Donovan gave him a look that very clearly said "told you so". He rolled his eyes and turned back to Lestrade.
"What's he on to?" Lestrade asked, looking confused.
"No idea," John shrugged.
"Right," Lestrade said, waving his arm so John would get out of the way. "Time to get the forensics in and clean up this mess."
As there was nothing left for John to do, he finally decided to return to the flat, hoping that Sherlock would be back there too. Yet he found the flat empty and Sherlock didn't answer his texts. With a sigh, he took his laptop and started looking at the job ads.
Once John finally managed to focus, it all went rather quickly. The hospital had been in urgent need of a doctor, and the next morning he was having an interview. Afterwards he felt rather confident that he had got the job, and they would let him know soon. Only when he was back at the flat, did he start to feel worried again. He hadn't seen Sherlock since the crime scene. Before John had temporarily moved in with him, Sherlock had warned him that sometimes he didn't talk for days on end, and their first case together had already shown John that he sometimes simply disappeared. But so far, he had always returned after a few hours. Now it had been almost 24 hours and John started to get worried. And it would have been nice to share the good news about his job with someone. A small voice in the back of his head told him that that kind of news was perhaps a good start of a conversation with Harry, but he still didn't feel ready to contact her. He grabbed his phone and called Sherlock, but apparently the detective had turned off his phone or perhaps the battery had run out by now.
In the evening, John began seriously considering whether he should contact Mycroft. But on the other hand, that was exactly the sort of spying the elder Holmes had asked for. Sherlock wouldn't forgive him if he walked in five minutes after John had finished a call with Mycroft, and John wasn't exactly looking forward to another chat with the British government either. Maybe that Scotland Yard inspector then. He seemed to work with Sherlock more often, so there was a chance he'd know where he was off to, and he had saved his number just in case.
Yet it turned out that Lestrade had no idea either, and that he was stuck on the case without Sherlock's help, so he asked John to kick Sherlock his bloody way as soon as he saw him. John was starting to like that man. Yet he also heard a hint of worry in Lestrade's voice, and he was rather convinced that he would contact Mycroft after all. Maybe it was for the best. It had become clear enough that Sherlock led a dangerous life and that someone needed to keep an eye on him. Perhaps Sherlock had even realised that himself. It might have been the reason for inviting John to stay as long as he wanted.
As Sherlock still hadn't given any sign of life the next morning, John began to get increasingly frustrated. Either the man really had done something incredibly stupid again, or he just didn't care that people might worry about him.
Then, in the late afternoon, there was a sound downstairs. A kind of thud, followed by a grunt.
John frowned and got up to stand by the door, ready to attack whoever tried to come in. Then the door opened and he took a step back in shock. If he hadn't seen this side of Sherlock before on Skype, he wouldn't immediately have recognised him.
"What on earth have you been doing?"
"Working," Sherlock slurred, staggering inside. As he passed, a powerful stench of sweat, beer and cigarettes assailed John's sense of smell. It almost made his eyes water.
"Working," John repeated. "So that's what you mean when you say that the work is the most important thing to you. And there I thought you meant you needed the brain activity."
Sherlock glared at him. "I was working. I have been checking in with Moran's old network. To see if he had resurfaced. Or if there was any news about his boss."
John stared at him, silent for a long moment. "You were looking for Moran on your own? After all this? Are you crazy?"
Sherlock seemed to ignore this as he headed for the kitchen. "Do you remember what I told you about Moran's boss?" he asked as he got a bottle of water from the fridge.
"Sherlock, I don't care. Right now I just don't care about Moran's boss. You were away for two days. No one knew where you were. And now you come in, drunk and smelling, and act like nothing happened."
Sherlock closed his eyes. "Think, John. Think. What did I tell you about Moran's boss? About his methods?"
John sighed. "Right. Just ignore me. Why not? I'm only your friend."
Sherlock groaned with frustration. "Never mind," he said and pushed past John, heading for the bathroom.
"No." John grabbed his arm and looked up at him. "You can't go on like this. On your own, keeping everything hidden. I want to help, but you'll have to trust me. We've seen where doing everything alone has led you."
"I would be happy to have someone help me," Sherlock snapped, taking a step closer so that he was looming over John. "Someone actually equipped with a long term memory and the ability to make simple connections."
John gave him a very cold look. "Do you really think I hadn't made the connection with this case by now? That doesn't mean you had to go risk your life again."
Sherlock turned away. "I haven't been risking my life. I have been having a couple of pints and a lot of second hand smoke. Stevenson is back in town and if I am going to prove that it was Moran's boss who took out Levington, it will be by putting myself out there."
"That was Jane Levington? The witness?" John asked, shocked. "Did you tell Lestrade?"
Sherlock frowned. "No," he said. "Not yet. It wouldn't help him anyway. She has no next of kin and her friends have assumed her dead for several months."
"It might help to find the killer," John said, feeling that he sounded a little weak.
"How? We know who killed her and I can't find him. Do you really think the police are more likely to?"
"I think together you're more likely to," John answered with a shrug.
"Then why don't you inform him?" Sherlock snapped and then stalked down the hallway and into the bathroom, slamming the door unnecessarily hard behind him.
John sighed and took his phone out of his pocket, just to stare at it. Lestrade had to know. And yet it felt wrong to inform him while Sherlock was so reluctant to do so, and while he would probably get in trouble after disappearing for two days. But then of course, he could honestly say that Sherlock had asked him to deliver the message to the police. Sort of. He sighed again and turned away from the bathroom door as he made the call.
Sherlock didn't talk to him when he came out of the bathroom for a cup of tea and a piece of toast, and after that he disappeared into his bedroom for more than ten hours. John was up again and had made breakfast, and now Sherlock was willing to acknowledge his presence in the flat again, although it was clear he was still brooding about the case. For the first time, John began to wonder if he shouldn't find his own flat for the sake of his own mental health, rather than to avoid being a bother to Sherlock. The problem remained that he didn't have the money for any decent place in London, but the feeling did motivate him to start another search on his laptop while Sherlock was folded on his chair. Around noon, John got a call from Dr Sawyer that he had the job he had applied for, and to ask if he wanted to talk about it over a drink that evening. Happily, he accepted the offer, and as he put down the phone, Sherlock finally looked at him.
"I won't be available tonight," John announced, in case the detective had tuned out.
Sherlock frowned. "No," he said. "I need you."
John raised an eyebrow. "What could you possibly need me for?"
"Company," Sherlock said. "There are places it would be less... conspicuous to go as a couple."
John sighed. "And you couldn't have asked me earlier? I mean... Unless I'm mistaken, this very nice woman is hoping to do things as a couple with me tonight. I don't think I want to let that chance pass."
Sherlock frowned. "You're never busy," he said. "You always come with me."
"Yes, well… Then it isn't so surprising that I want one night off, is it?"
"But you just had two nights off. And then you complained about me going out on my own." Sherlock looked genuinely confused.
John sighed. "Yes. That made me believe you didn't want my help, so I can better move on, right?"
"Move on? Oh... You mean move out." Sherlock shrugged. "Have you found a place?"
"Not yet. But I did find a job, and Sarah asked me to go for a drink, so that could very well turn out to be a date." John hesitated. "I don't think it would make a good impression if I cancelled it now."
"And that's important? Making a good impression?" Sherlock got to his feet and began pacing the room.
"For a job? Yeah, I'd think so," John shrugged.
Sherlock raised an eyebrow. "So you're just going on the date to secure the job?"
John smiled a little. "Of course not. It's a nice side effect."
"But is it a good idea?" Sherlock asked, getting out his phone and searching through the contacts.
John frowned. "What do you mean? Why wouldn't it be a good idea?"
"Because you'll be working together?" Sherlock said. "Maybe getting involved isn't such a good idea. If you knew the number of clients I've had because an office romance ended in embezzlement, vandalism or murder..." He found the number he needed and, just as John was about to respond, held a finger to his mouth, listening. Then he smiled before turning away sounding quite different from his usual crisp tone. "Hi... So glad I caught you. I need to ask a favour."
John frowned at his change of demeanour and then rolled his eyes. If Sherlock thought he was the ideal person to give relationship advice... Well, it was not even that. All he had planned was a nice night out, without it having to mean anything close to a relationship. Just a drink and a friendly chat that could lead to more, like it had done so often when he had had time off in Afghanistan. Sherlock just saw it all too serious. John simply wanted to have something else to think about when it came to sex than all the guilt which memories of Mary brought about. Obviously he didn't want to forget about her; he did respect her. But he had to move on. There was no other option, really. And all of that was none of Sherlock's business.
"Perfect. Pick you up at eight?" Sherlock asked as he turned towards the window. Then he giggled and hung up.
John looked back at Sherlock and raised an eyebrow. "Who was that?"
Sherlock looked confused, as if he had almost forgotten John was there. "Oh." he said, smiling. "Just a friend. Well... An acquaintance."
"Ah," John said. "So you just replaced me. Well, I'm glad there is someone you trust." He almost felt like telling Sherlock that he had changed his mind and would come with him after all. Almost.
Sherlock shrugged. "He will do. And he'll fit in better anyway. Seem more... believable."
"Great," John said, stomping off to the kitchen to make tea.
Though it had started out nice, it soon enough became clear that John had read too much in Sarah's invitation. She had indeed just wanted to brief him a little about the work and perhaps start a friendship between colleagues, but that was as far as her interest in him reached. Not being used to this course of events on a sort of date, John had perhaps even pushed it a little too far - subtly, but still, their evening had ended rather awkwardly and earlier than expected. Clearly, Sarah shared Sherlock's opinion on relationships between colleagues. Three Continents Watson had lost his magic, he thought grimly, and it hurt to think of how Mary would have laughed if he had said something like that.
He considered sending Sherlock a text so he could go help him after all, but he didn't feel like letting him know that his evening had been a small disaster, even though he would no doubt deduce it as soon as he saw him. Besides, Sherlock had other company. Suitable company for what he was doing. John's help would probably not even be appreciated.
Arriving at the empty flat made him even more irritated. Just knowing that Sherlock was probably being successful at whatever he was doing right now. He didn't need John. How could he even have made himself believe that a broken army doctor could be of any use to the only consulting detective in the world? He made a cup of tea and put on the telly, but nothing could captivate him in his foul mood and he ended up going to bed early.