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Sherlock Holmes placed his keys down on the wooden desk, and began to shrug off his coat. He looked down at the desk, littered with photographs carrying information that hours earlier was still a mystery to him. There on the page was Soo Lin's delicate writing, written in haste moments before her death. Beside it was his larger writing, scrawled in a rush, though not through fear but through realisation and excitement. The yellow symbols stood out against the dark background, glowing almost in the minimal light from the landing. Sherlock heard a click and the room was flooded with light. He blinked at its harshness, and placed the photograph back down.
The man behind him stood rooted to the spot, and Sherlock could feel the man's eyes in his direction. He turned around. John Watson wasn't looking at him, however, but at the windows to the living room. Yellow paint covered the glass. Sherlock recalled the moment he'd arrived in the flat to see the message. His stomach had lurched with a quick realisation that something had gone horribly wrong. And that John had been in danger.
John cleared his throat and headed slowly for the kitchen. With a trembling hand he reached for a wine glass on the kitchen table, its contents untouched. He tossed the liquid into the sink and watched as the crimson drained away. He then began to run a bowl of water. Sherlock stood in the sitting room, observing his friend in the kitchen, watching the energy drain away from him as the night's events became an unwanted memory.
Finding energy from somewhere, John carried the bowl of water into the sitting room and placed it heavily on the desk. Rolling the sleeves to his jumper, he soaked a cloth into the water, feeling pleasure from the warmth. He began to wipe at the windows with slow and deliberate movements.
Sherlock cleared his throat.
"John," he said quietly. His friend didn't respond. "John. You don't need to do that now. It's 1:30 in the morning, you're exhausted. It can wait."
Although John did not turn to regard his friend, Sherlock knew that he was being watched in the reflection of the darkened window.
"No, it can't."
"I think even you would find it hard to sleep with a death threat still smeared across your windows," John pointed out sharply. "So please, let me just get on with it."
"Fine," Sherlock said quietly. John heard his flatmate move behind him, and assumed he'd gone to sit down in his chair. He was startled when Sherlock stood beside him and took the damp cloth from out of his hands. Slowly, he ripped the cloth in two, and handed half back to John. John tried to offer him a smile, but couldn't quite manage it.
The two men scrubbed at the window in silence for a long moment.
"I guess that's you and me even now," John spoke, his voice penetrating the stillness of the room.
"Hmm?" Sherlock mused, his eyes fixed on the window in front of him.
"Well, if it wasn't for you, I'd be lying on a slab in the morgue tonight." John said this in such a matter-of-fact way that Sherlock stopped and turned to him.
"So we're even?" he questioned. John nodded. "Is that how it works?" Sherlock frowned. John simply shrugged. "So you're saying that I only saved your life tonight because you'd saved mine previously? That if you hadn't saved my life then I wouldn't have bothered?"
John dropped his cloth into the water, and began to wring it out again.
"Well, it sounds stupid when you say it like that."
"It is stupid, John," Sherlock replied. John managed a smile that time. He regarded his friend; his mouth open slightly in indignation, a puzzled expression knitting his eyebrows together. He'd offended Sherlock Holmes. John opened his mouth to speak, but Sherlock cut him off. "I can think of two reasons why you mention this," he pointed out, scrubbing hard at the window causing the cloth to squeak loudly against the glass. "The first being that you see this as a perfectly good time to escape from this inconvenient way of living that I've dragged you into, or secondly that you just happen to be grateful that I saved your life."
John let out a long breath, looking dazed. He ran a hand over his tired eyes.
"Well? Which one is it?" Sherlock inquired.
John said nothing, but moved to the window again, studying his friend's expression in the reflection. A little smile played on John's lips.
"You've missed a bit," he pointed out.
Sherlock laughed suddenly and loudly, and John felt almost re-energised by it, as if it had smashed some inner window that was masking his thoughts about the entire evening.
Sherlock placed a hand on John's shoulder as he turned and headed for the kitchen.
"I'll get you a drink."
John examined the window. It was smeared, but threat-free, and he let out a sigh. If only it was as easy to wash away the memory.
"So do you think you'll see her again?" came Sherlock's voice, muffled by the open fridge.
"Hmm? Oh, Sarah? I don't know. She's nice but I think she finds me, well..."
"What?" Sherlock asked, looking up from behind the fridge door.
"Dull," John said casually and Sherlock laughed again.
"Tonight, my friend, you were anything but dull. Tonight you were Sherlock Holmes," he replied with a grin. "How did it feel?"
John considered the question as his friend handed him a cold glass. How did it feel being knocked out, tied to a chair and have a gun pointed in his face? For a brief, unexplainable moment, John couldn't think of anything else he'd rather be doing of an evening.
"It was ok," he replied simply. Sherlock raised his eyebrows.
"Only ok? That won't do at all. We'll have to work on that."
John smiled to himself.
"So, how would you describe me John? Now we don't have a gun-wielding audience."
John thought hard about the question. He sipped his drink to buy him time, and lowered the glass to the table slowly.
"Odd," he replied. "Brash, intelligent, inquisitive, reckless, rude, tiresome –"
"Brilliant," Sherlock interjected. John ignored him.
"Modest! A pain in the ass. Lazy–"
"Oh come on," Sherlock protested. John laughed.
"But a good friend...A great friend actually. The best I've ever known."
A meaningful silence passed between. Sherlock leant forwards in his chair, with purpose.
"Oh, Sherlock! You ruined it. I was trying to be nice."
Sherlock chuckled and rose from his seat.
"I...I just wanted to thank you. For saving my life...and I don't just mean tonight."
Sherlock stopped in his tracks and spun on his heels. As tempting as it was to ruin John's moment with one word, something heavy inside his chest made him stop. His friend sat there in his chair, looking flustered and grateful, and Sherlock began to feel something swell inside him. Pride. A great sense of pride at the fact that he could call John Watson a friend.
"You're really very welcome." He smiled tightly and left the room.
John let out a breath he hadn't realised he'd been holding and smiled to himself. He felt a wave of closure wash over him, and he had a feeling that, finally, he'd be able to sleep tonight.