'BO-O-ORED.' This childish whine sounds peculiar coming from a fully-grown man, but John knows it well and keeps calm. Well, relatively.
'We haven't started yet. Pick a colour.'
Sherlock is perched on the top of the opposite armchair, toes curled like fingers around the careworn Union Jack cushion; the warm glow of firelight illuminating his face, along with the pitch-black shadows lurking under his cheekbones, gives the John the impression he's negotiating with a haughty, fiery skeleton.
'Oh, I don't know. Red. Yellow. Pink. Rainbows with sparkly unicorns.'
'Red it is. I'll be blue,' John replies, tightly. 'Just…' he breathes in deeply, '…go on and roll the dice.'
'Die. Singular.' Sherlock rolls his eyes in annoyance. 'You do know that this is just a game of luck?'
'Yes.' The doctor can't help but smile. 'Which is why I might actually win.'
John groans as he slides his counter, for what must be the fourth time, down the longest snake of the board.
Square number 98 is a bastard.
His opponent cackles gleefully, snatching the die.
John takes his uninjured hand and drags it slowly down his face in haggard disbelief. He's never known a game go on for so long before. Even worse, he can see that the candles are beginning to burn low and the idea of asking Mrs Hudson for more doesn't really appeal.
'Four! One… two… three…'
'I thought you found this boring,' he grumbles, staggering across the room to retrieve the die from wherever Sherlock has exuberantly – and literally – thrown it.
'Ahh, winning is never boring.' The corners of Sherlock's mouth twitch. 'Not against you, anyway.'
'I suppose I should feel flattered.'
'You just really want to beat me.'
'Wha – no, I don't!'
'Well.' The two men struggle to keep straight faces as they resume play, silence only broken by the occasional snigger or clatter of the die.
It's odd, muses John, to see the detective as happy as this, given the absence of any dead bodies, mass murderers or aggrieved Andersons. It's like watching his inner child – admittedly it's a whiny, bratty, competitive inner child, but it's better than the pyromaniac kid who throws flammable liquid over the cooker.
And the fact that he had no concept of a simple board game… what on earth was his childhood like? True, not every child is bullied into playing with their bossy, obnoxious sister, but he must have passed the long summer holidays somehow. John suddenly has a disturbing thought.
'Did you ever play games when you were younger? With Mycroft?'
'Did you 'get off' with Sarah today?'
John keeps his face carefully blank as he stares at Sherlock's similarly impassive visage. He gives in.
'Fine. You don't want to talk about it.'
'No. Oh, excellent, another ladder.'
'… three, four, five. Ninety-nine!' The doctor shifts his counter along the board with renewed enthusiasm. 'No more snakes!' And he only needs a one to win.
God, he's actually going to beat Sherlock Holmes.
He'll have to take Sarah out to celebrate.
The detective huffs and rolls a three. He's long since dismounted from his aloof position atop the armchair and is bent keenly over the board, hands together in prayer position with the fingertips lightly brushing his chin.
So engrossed are they in the game, it takes John a while to register that there's someone at the door. 'Argh! Mrs Hudson!'
'Oh, I'm so sorry, boys…' Their flustered landlady is backing out of the doorway, 'I hope I wasn't interrupting any –'
'No! No, no, ahah, not at all.' John forces a laugh, heaves himself out of his seat and walks over to his landlady, somewhat stiffly. Sherlock doesn't even flinch. 'What's happened?'
'The electric man's come,' she reports, whilst curiously peering around him to discover the object of their attention. 'He's saying all sorts of nonsense, I really can't understand him. Could one of you come? Actually –' she lowers her voice and John has to lean forwards to hear her ' –I think you'd better come. Sherlock, bless him, is a bit –' she half-mouths the next word ' –funny around workmen. The plumber just refuses to turn up any more and it's awful because my tap never stops dripping –'
'Er, yes, of course.' John leans back into the room. 'I'll be five minutes, Sherlock. Try not to blow anything up.'
The answer comes as a sneer. 'I'll do my best.'
'Hurry up, dear, he keeps asking for a cup of tea, but of course the kettle's not working, is it…'
John isn't entirely surprised to hear Sherlock already tapping away on the laptop as he trudges to the top of the stairs.
'You've deduced that the power's back on then?'
Didn't bother to put out the remaining candles though, he adds mentally; the smell of smoke is so prominent now that if the fire alarm were still here, it'd be having seizures.
'Got to go, Lestrade's left ten messages over the past hour – something's happened!' says his companion ecstatically, leaping off his seat and fetching his scarf. 'Coming?'
'Yeah, well, we can at least finish the game first. I was about to win!'
'Oh. Were you?'
'Yes! You know I was! Look, it's right –' Where John points, there is a conspicuously empty patch on the desk about the size of a 30cm x 30cm square, or, say, a board game. 'Where's –where's the game?' His voice is light, but there's a warning tone in there.
'Game?' Sherlock's brow wrinkles as he shrugs on his coat. 'I don't think I remember –'
'Oh I see,' he says, strolling towards the door, voice dripping with sarcasm. 'That game. See if you can figure it out.'
'This isn't the time for –' John stops. Smoke. 'You didn't…'
'You –you –oh, I can't believe this, that is so –' Fuming, he storms into the kitchen and returns with a smouldering mess of cardboard - sad-looking wiggles of colour are barely visible through the blackened mush. 'Yes, very clever, very mature, Sherlock!'
'We were running out of candles.'
'Couldn't even bear the thought of losing for one second, could you?'
'As charming as this has been, I'm off to play a real game now, John. Are you coming or not?' says Sherlock, shrugging on his coat and turning for the stairs.
'We had more than enough candles!' John roars after the wretched man, who jumps the last three steps and whirls around to shout up at his flatmate.
'Earwax mosaic, John!'
It's all the doctor can do not to bash his own brains out on the banister in frustration. Or Sherlock's, for that matter.
'Oh, and by the way…' The detective continues, pausing in the front doorway and yanking on his gloves. 'Your mobile phone… the one you left at Sarah's…'
'Just a reminder that it's locked up in the top left-hand drawer of your desk, underneath the matches – you might want to bring it.' He winks before bounding down the front steps, onto the street below. 'Do try harder next time!'
It's like their first meeting all over again.
'And you let me –how long have you kno –oh, you know what, never mind.' John grabs his jacket and sighs.
If life is a board game, Sherlock will always be one bloody square ahead.
AN: Eek! Thanks for all your lovely reviews, guys! Sorry if I didn't get to reply to them all – I was a bit busy over the weekend... hope this part was okay?
(Also, just noticed there's another fic with this title. Ohnoes! Bit embarassing. Go read it if you haven't yet though - it's very good :) Funnily enough, the idea to continue this with a Cluedo-based chapter (with Sherlock and Lestrade) came to me halfway through writing, so I suppose I can't really do that now. Darn, beaten to it! XD )