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IV

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Misery Loves Company

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Their rooms were connected by the length of a hallway, and though Watson's was most usually organized in the impeccable manner of a man not used to clutter, one might have used the bad allegory of a bomb igniting on a train wreck which was then swept away by a tornado to describe Sherlock's living space.

When Watson crossed the threshold into this strange new world it certainly wasn't the first time he had been witness to his roommate's disarranged headquarters, but the sheer organized chaos never failed to surprise him. Papers were strewn about the floor, various odds and ends scattered across every usable (and some not quite usable) surface , and had the good doctor not known better, he might have wondered how Holmes got anything done in such a land of disarray.

There was only one spot in the room that could have passed for relatively clean, and even then there was a dead body strewn across the table that simply ruined the entire effect.

Watson paused just inside the doorway and watched as the other man made his way towards the corpse without a care in the world.

"Now that the matter of my payment has been settled," Watson started, eyeing the other warily. "I'd like to know why in the bloody hell there is a dead man keeping you company."

"Because the living one has been holed up in his room all day," Holmes shot back.

"Had I known your loneliness would have driven you to murder, I would have at least locked my own door."

"It isn't good etiquette to kill a doctor."

"How fortunate for me," Watson answered dryly. He was prompted to inch closer into the room, however, and gently shut the door behind him so no one would peek inside and find two men hovering over a lifeless fleshy mass.

It was quite obvious to him that Holmes hadn't killed the man. If the detective had enough good grace to joke about it, then it was unlikely he had the capacity to commit the murder. Still, laughing in the face of a dead man's pale features was not a blow Watson was willing to take to his moral compass, so he shut off the friendliness that was a natural part of his gentlemanlike nature, and affected the air of a cold doctor.

"What do you need?"

"Time of death, and cause."

Watson fished out the measuring sticks he kept on his person and started to exam the body in front of him. The pupils, any skin discoloration, the teeth and toes and fingernails and general skeletal structure. Fractured ribs, broken bones, singed hair. There was a peculiar blister on the side of his face that was red and bothersome and probably quite recent.

"Ten to twelve hours prior," he finally concluded, lifting up but still staring at the body as opposed to meeting Sherlock's intense gaze. "It appears something impacted his diaphragm. The broken ribs hindered his breathing, and there are third degree burns on the right side of his face. Was he a metal worker? The bruise on his left side is about the width of a blacksmith's hammer."

When there was no reply, the doctor couldn't help but turn to look at his companion.

Holmes was watching him in the kind of manner a scientist might watch a pinned and helpless toad as he dissected it. The look was unnerving and made Watson itch. It was sheer analytical, bordering on approval but nearly having tipped over into the realm of uncertainty. Sherlock wasn't the kind of man to stay uncertain for long, so with an affirmative nod to himself, he strode towards the corpse. His hands seemed to naturally clasp together behind his back, the fingers interwoven much like the peculiar way he paced around the room, sparing passing glances at the body and at Watson in varying manners.

"His name was Jacob Hatchet," he began, still moving about. "He died ten hours ago from internal bleeding. Took a rather nasty blow to his side, and ended up falling onto the superheated edge of an iron poker. Hence the burn and the bruise. He was a blacksmith."

Watson paused, took a step away from studying the body, then quirked an eyebrow in the other man's direction.

"If you've already deduced as much, then why...?"

"Call you here?"

"I was going to say 'waste my time', but that is a more polite way of putting it, I suppose."

Holmes ignored the jab.

"Because, dear Watson." He took a puff of his pipe then glanced sharply in the other's direction. "If you are ever to miss the rent again, I must at least know what you're capable of."

"You seem to be doing just fine on your own."

Watson frowned at Sherlock's nonchalant shrug.

"Yes, but misery does love company."


TBC