A/N: Because we need a little comedy after...that episode. (I can't wait for the third series.) This isn't the funniest chapter but I think it rounds the story off quite nicely. Thank you all of you for your reviews. You are truly wonderful.
Sherlock stalked angrily across the wooden floors of the shabbily furnished 'B' flat of 221 Baker Street. It wasn't that he was bored exactly (himself and the ever-loyal Doctor Watson were in the middle of a rather delightful little murder case involving arsenic, adultery, and fine cheeses). It was just that without the self-same doctor trailing after him, offering his usually wrong, sometimes marvellously simple suggestions, Sherlock found he didn't have the same sort of motivation.
In short, there was no one to impress.
His sharp eyes flicked over to the skull sitting on the mantelpiece. Its dark sockets seemed to taunt him, to mock his distraction from the task at hand. It was practically yelling, "You used to be able to solve things with just ME for company. Now look at you. Driven to distraction."
In two quick steps he'd grabbed the old cranium and shaking it in a fierce way.
"Don't look at me so Yoric! John has been away for days on end which I think is really rather inconsiderate. What do you mean how do I know? I know because no one has made me a weak coffee, or a lukewarm cup of tea, or a burnt piece of toast and therefore I am tired and irritable and I wouldn't be this way had not a considerable period of time elapsed since my last substandard yet caffeinated drink. You know, at times I wonder if I don't need a more punctual dogsbody. One who wouldn't swan off without a by-your-leave."
In reality John had been away for just over three hours, working his usual Saturday afternoon shift at the surgery. For a self-proclaimed genius it was remarkable how many little things the great detective managed to overlook.
As Sherlock was beginning another heated rant to the inanimate object the stairs creaked, and he span like a ballerina, replacing the skull, taking a seat and switching his expression to an intense, pensive one (fingers splayed, steepled and pressed to his lips) all in a single fluid movement.
When the door opened he faked mild surprise and said, "Oh it's you," in a vacant, off-hand manner, "Are you back already? Goodness I didn't even notice you'd left."
John shut the door behind him, took his coat off and smiled in an odd manner at Sherlock, "Really?"
The detective glanced at John out of the corner of his eye, a rapid stream of thought coursing through his mind in less than half a second; Could he have suspected my distraction? No, no it must be a wild stab in the dark, God only knows he makes enough of them, bumbling around with that tiny peasant brain of his. Life really must be so pleasantly simple in John's world.
"No, actually it escaped my attention. I've been busy with the details of the Claudia Hissen affair - and in fact I've made a breakthrough," Sherlock said with a sudden exulted look. He clapped his hands together in glee.
This statement hadn't been true up until the moment he'd said it. All at once the glorious feeling, that ethereal sixth sense of everything falling into place came over him. The room was alight with clues that slotted one by one into their correct position in the tale.
He turned slowly to the doctor whose presence seemed to illicit some conditioned neurone hyperaction in the detective's brain.
"Oh-ho we've been so stupid John, so uncommonly stupid, absolute dullards! Well, I have - you've been playing your normal role with remarkable continuity and panache. Thankyou."
The doctor wrinkled his nose in a disgruntled manner but decided to let it go for the present. It was always exciting to watch his friend once he got going. Sherlock took a pause for breath and John recognised it as a signal for the denouement. Promptly (and acting on past experience) he took a seat to save himself getting pins and needles.
"We assumed it was Claudia Hissen's lover who had been slowly poisoning her - through presents of hideously expensive cheese with toxic waxy exteriors, correct?" Sherlock didn't wait for an answer, "And that in the process the stupid man had mixed his Brie with his Bitto and accidentally poisoned himself. However there have been three other near-fatal poison-related cases around the Norfolk area this week. Upon further inspection, the gourmet food distribution company Le Petit Chevre has its headquarters based a mere mile from the epicentre of the illnesses, hence a factory mishap and not foulplay on the lover's part."
Sherlock took a deep breath, "While getting ourselves tangled up in this misconception we completely overlooked the most important fact!"
By this point in his performance, Sherlock was crouched on top of the coffee table, bent in such a way that he was level with John. It was only once he'd stopped speaking that John really took in this fact. Mostly it was because now Sherlock rather resembled a skinny but demented toad, and his piercing eyes were boring disconcertingly into John's.
John sighed and humoured him, "...Which was?"
"What that meek little bloke who couldn't stop crying while we were round? I can't believe it would be him Sherlock. Her bit on the side was such a...such a..." John struggled for words which described the oily-haired, hook-nosed, 20-something CEO.
"Complete and utter bastard?"
"And my dear, dear Watson that was precisely the problem!" Sherlock cried, springing like a trapped coil from his squatting position on the table and moving in a spidery fashion from tabletop to armrest, traversing the room as if the floor were not worthy of his feet. "It was too obvious. Think back to her mail John, think back to all those letters from her lover we read. In between her correspondence we found an envelope addressed not to her, but to her husband - presumably grabbed by accident when Mrs. Hissen heard the post arrive and was eager to get at hers. Ah but it wasn't to Mr. Hissen, was it? No, no. It was to DOCTOR Isaac Hissen, CONSULTANT COSMETIC SURGEON!"
John sat there non-plussed. Sherlock sighed and leapt down to the rug, pulling a picture from underneath a stack of ominously tottering journals.
He thrust it under John's nose and pointed with little tact at her chest.
"Yes, very nice." John muttered, then at an incredulous look from his friend, "So she had a boob job. So what?"
Sherlock moaned in frustration, "SO it was performed by her husband, very recently, going on the other pictures in their house. Used to be flat-chested, no more than a B cup, then suddenly BOOM, huge increase in size. Now, the substances used to construct false breasts are usually inert, mimicking real tissue in feel alone. However it would be only too easy for a man of his position to coat the implants in something a little more...deadly."
Sherlock finished this sentence with a flourish of his hands. "This, coupled with the fact that she was a twig of a woman, would never have eaten a large enough amount of cheese to poison her, proves it! One call to Molly and my theory will no doubt be confirmed."
"Brilliant," the doctor murmured. Sherlock bowed.
John couldn't help but be impressed. Even though he'd seen his friend perform these feats of intellect many times it still shocked him that someone could be so unrelentingly observant.
A few seconds passed in which the two men grinned at each other.
Then, "Right, fancy a Chinese?"
"Yes. Now you mention it, I'm starving."
They'd only just finished the dim sum when John decided he really couldn't keep it in any longer.
"Mmm?" he said, tearing his vision from a kissing couple two seats away.
"You know you said you'd not even noticed I was gone this afternoon?"
The detective shot a furtive little glance at his friend, which would have gone unnoticed by someone who didn't know Sherlock like John did.
"Yes well I can't be expected to take into account your every absence John, not when I'm wrapped up in a case. Sorry if that dents your ego," he replied, a little snappily.
"Funny that," said John, smiling through a mouthful of prawn cracker.
"Well it's just that this morning you begged me not to leave."
"I did not!" Sherlock spat, outrage colouring his delicate cheekbones.
"Yes, yes you did. On bended knee. Might not count since I think you were on the ground studying floorboard marks anyway but it was still pretty desperate," smirked John.
Sherlock's face had actually gone puce. "John Watson if you do not keep your voice down I will have to remove myself from your vicinity."
"I've got a video too. Took it while you were pleading."
"I. Do. Not. Plead," Sherlock's voice had taken on a dangerously low tone, his eyes narrowed to small silver slits.
John was enjoying himself immensely. While he might be exaggerating the truth a little (a lot) and playing on the fact that when Sherlock did ask John embarrassing things he tended to repress them completely afterwards (like the time he'd asked in all sincerity if Albert Einstein was the one who invented the light bulb or the microwave).
Sherlock had asked John to stay, and quite nicely too. There may even have been the most miniscule amount of lip-quivering when John had insisted he needed to work so Mrs. Hudson could finally have some rent, but nothing like John was insinuating.
"You do. And now Anderson & co have the video of it and everything. Wouldn't be surprised if it's Youtube's biggest hit by tomorrow morning," John laughed. This perhaps was too far given by the sheer fury in Sherlock's knitted brow and slits of eyes but John hadn't forgotten the whole 'dullard' jibe.
Sherlock stood without another word, and promptly left the restaurant. Definitely too far.
"Shit," muttered John under his breath, and hastily chucking two crumpled ten pound notes on the table he rushed onto the street and legged it after his friend.
"OI!" he yelled to the rapidly retreating scarecrow figure, "I was just kidding, you daft prick! Sherlock!"
The skeletal shadow stopped, turned and slowly walked back towards John, who was crouched with his hands on his knees breathing heavily. There had been no real leg work in a while.
"Look, I," Sherlock said stiffly as he approached, "John you know you shouldn't – I mean it's rather childish to-"
John patted Sherlock's arm awkwardly to let him know the apology (however unlike an apology it may seem) was accepted.
"I'd have thought," panted John, "that with a brother like Mycroft you'd be used to...well, teasing."
Sherlock's face darkened, "Our arguments were rather more underhand. Malicious in fact. Dangerous."
John grimaced at the thought of growing up in the Holmes household and the two began to make their way slowly back towards Baker Street. As they neared the door of their home Sherlock turned to his shorter companion.
His eyes were averted, his gaze aimed at the cobbled ground, the dusk-light illuminating all the delicate features of his sharp, intelligent face. Sherlock took a deep breath, and while exhaling said something so quietly John might have imagined it.
"I do appreciate you, you know."
"What was that?"
Sherlock looked up and bared his teeth in a grin.
"I said Molly texted and you are officially looking at the most perspicacious man this side of the Thames."
John shook his head in disbelief.
"You know when you backtrack you're meant to say something that sounds at least a bit like what you really said," John said, ascending the stairs to their flat.
"Yes," Sherlock smiled, "Social rules are far too boring. I've never followed them,"
John pondered this. It was true. He'd never met anyone like Sherlock Holmes before, and given the amount of time and patience and energy needed to deal with the man himself, he prayed he wouldn't meet another in the near future.
There was no denying that without him life would be almost unbearable.
Sherlock turned as they reached the living room and in his unnerving fashion said, "I'm not going anywhere John."
"Me either," John said, trying to force a treacherous lump in his throat back to his stomach, "It's all fine. All fine."
Later, in bed, Sherlock lay there delicately twanging the strings of his beloved violin. His mind drifted over all the small comforts of his life pre-John. The treasured instrument in his hand, the skull in the living room, his experiments in the kitchen and the mobile phone in his pocket.
He'd give them all up in a heartbeat now if he had to.
There was only one thing he'd ever really needed and he hadn't even known it til he had it. Had him.
His best friend.