Pairing: John/Sherlock (pre-slash to become slash)
Summary: John is obviously struggling after the incident at the swimming pool with Moriarty. And try as he might, Sherlock cannot uncover why whilst coming to terms with his own internal issues.
Spoilers: Definite ones post 1.03 The Great Game and very minor for 1.01 A Study in Pink
Not beta'd so probably a few mistakes kicking around. Please read and enjoy.
Sherlock's brain was engaged to its full potential after the encounter with Moriarty at the swimming pool, working almost tirelessly against the mastermind's wishes to catch him. He was up at all hours, barley eating or hydrating himself as the apartment slowly evolved into a disaster scene around him. The wrist pain he had suffered from landing awkwardly from the blast did not phase him; in a fit of frustration he had done away with the wrist support three days later, chucking it into the far corner shouting expletives at a tool forced to restrict his movement. While he winced when his body moved in a way which did not agree with the numerous healing cuts and bruises adorning his body, he did not let it distract him. His sole focus remained firmly attached to his aim of finding Moriarty.
As every alleyway led him to a dead end in unravelling the mystery of Jim Moriarty, the more volatile and unbearable Sherlock became. He was snapping at Mrs Hudson, snapping at Lestrade and against his own better judgement, snapping at John.
John had taken his recuperation in a sensible and predictable way. He rested. He came back home from the hospital (two days after Sherlock discharged himself) and slept for hours on end, struggling up for painkillers and tea with some digestive biscuits when necessary. Sherlock, in his passable knowledge of the (living) human body was aware John was suffering from a concussion and needed supervision, For the most part, Mrs Hudson had been taking care of John's needs when she was around, above all, hydrating him and making sure that he was still aware of his surroundings when waking him up every few hours. Sherlock was content with this arrangement, believing his care-providing services were not up to par and would only serve to distract him from his focus on Moriarty. Sherlock recuperated by working; his brain was unable to convince him that any respite was necessary. Nothing mattered but Moriarty. After all, that was the only way to ensure their continued security and safety.
However, there were times as Sherlock sat on the floor, his back against the armchair surrounded by the precious information he was gathering, that he experienced a moment of complete dislocation. He was aware that he was alone, the flat was dark and completely silent. Then he remembered what happened at the swimming pool after the explosion in vivid detail. Every time Sherlock experienced that moment of dislocation, he remembered how the force of the explosion had knocked them both of their feet. He had landed awkwardly in the water. John was thrown back from where he had been crouched further away from the pool's edge, slamming into the cubicles further down the building which had completely shattered. He lay underneath them as Sherlock pulled himself out of the watery haven;he needed to find Moriarty.
It was only during these moments alone that Sherlock forgot about his work for a moment and got up from the position he had been sitting in for countless hours. With deftness and grace that most people would envy, especially given their involvement in an explosion, he silently bounded up the stairs. He opened the door to John's room, to reassure himself that his flatmate was still there. Every time he was, his breathing low and even with the occasional hitch, lying on his side to ensure that he wouldn't aggravate the back that had made such vigorous contact with the cubicles. His sparsely decorated room was suited to John. On the outside, it was difficult to determine much about him. In those cupboards and drawers Sherlock knew that there were whole worlds of interests relating to John. With such visible proof, against all logical judgement that Sherlock possessed and relied upon, he could be certain that John was still present. Most importantly, still alive.
Because one minute John was under cubicles and that was enough reassurance for Sherlock to bound off after Moriarty; the next minute (or more like thirty) when Sherlock returned to the swimming pool empty handed, John was not where he left him. Sherlock, despite the chaos he sometimes lived in, always knew where he left his possessions and disliked people moving them. By the time he found Lestrade amongst the debris and pointlessly milling policeman, he had reached near panic proportions. Only Lestrade was able to tell him that John was in fact still alive and had been taken to hospital in an ambulance and not to Molly's morgue in a body bag.
That night, Sherlock experienced two emotions so close in timing that it had the effect of knocking him off his logical train of thought. The first was the hurt and betrayal at seeing John emerge from the cubicles of that darkened swimming pool. When that feeling disappeared with the realisation that Moriarty was using John as his latest hostage, Sherlock felt fear. He had rarely felt fear for himself but less so fear for other people. It was difficult to concentrate on Moriarty when his eyes kept flickering to John for assurance that the man was actually in good health and not damaged in any way. To have his normal procedure interrupted by what he normally considered an unnecessary concern over someone's life threw him off balance. For all his self proclaimed sociopathic tendencies, even he could decipher the importance John now held. Seeing his flatmate there had awakened something which made the need to catch Moriarty stronger than ever.
In his mind, his actions and thought processes made perfect sense. John did not see it in quite the same way.
It started with something simple. John emerged after five days of pure resting still with a backache and a headache but with the added benefit of not rushing to the bathroom to be sick as a result. Sherlock considered that a successful recuperation.
"Oh good, you're up!" he said, with far too much energy for this time of morning as John painfully searched his belongings in the living room to find the codeine. Sherlock was sat on the floor, folders amassed around him in a semi-circle pinning new information to the notice board that had found a new permanent home above the fireplace. Any scrap of information Sherlock had uncovered from his underground contacts through the homeless network (and other networks John had no idea existed) were all added to the ever increasing data. Somehow, in this mess, lay the key to Moriarty.
The focus and drive to find Moriarty was so instilled within Sherlock that it was difficult for him to notice anything else and while Sherlock was aware John was getting slightly annoyed by his obsession, he had yet to voice annoyance.
"Are you still at this?" John asked, sleepily. "Have you even slept?"
"I had a nap about three hours ago, it was enough. Sleep wastes time. And you can't waste anymore either now that you're better. Go down to Scotland Yard and find out what you can from Lestrade about the swimming pool crime scene. Even Anderson must be done with it by now. I doubt there's anything there but it doesn't hurt to cover all the bases."
John looked at Sherlock as if he'd grown another head and rubbed his face to make sure he was fully awake. He was suddenly aware of the extent of his stubble, making a scratchy sound as he rubbed it. "Excuse me?"
"Go, quick, I need the information as soon as possible."
"Sherlock…it's five o'clock in the morning. It's not even light outside, I'm not going anywhere." With that, he turned round into the kitchen, desperate for something which would knock him out again for another few hours and help him temporarily forget the life he'd been flung into.
The detective twisted his lanky body round to look at the retreating figure with wide eyes and a shocked expression. "What do you mean you're not going? Why not?"
"Why not?" John repeated incredulously, looking back at him. "Well, let's see, you're asking me to head down to Embankment at a ridiculous time of morning for information you already rightly suspect does not exist. Oh, and I can barely move by the way. I'm not in the mood for a rickety journey on the Bakerloo line."
"But you have to go!" A plea which sounded weak even to his own years. But in Sherlock's mind it complimented the equal failure to understand why John would not help in the investigation to catch Moriarty.
John knocked back a couple of pills and grimaced as he washed them down with the horrible mineral tasting water from the tap. They had run out of juice and taking tea would take too long. "What gives you the impression you can just order me around?"
Sherlock's expression suddenly narrowed in anger at John's growing intransigence. His tone evolved into one of cold, sharp cruelty. "You were doing a good job up until now. I would have thought with your prior role as a soldier, you would have been very good at taking orders from superiors. Apparently not."
It never for a second occurred to Sherlock that he might have said something out of line or potentially hurtful. He never normally cared. Very little mattered at this early stage of investigating – collecting all the information possible so he could start working out patterns and links. Since John had arrived, he'd found the speed with which an investigation moved more exhilarating than ever. Those extra hands and John's occasional moments of logical ingenuity as well as comfortable discussion had become invaluable to Sherlock's never-ending desire for stimulation. The notion that John would refuse outright to aid him in the simplest of steps was a personality wrapped in a conundrum which Sherlock had neither the patience nor the ability to solve as well.
He heard the tea mug clatter and break as John exasperatedly flung it into the metal sink making a deafening noise in the silence of the small flat. Certainly, it was loud enough to make Sherlock jump, snapping him out of his reverie. As Sherlock looked over, he saw that his roommate was braced with both hands steadying against the countertop surface either side of the sink, taking a few deep breaths. From the way his arms were shaking, there was an element of pain in the action. However, from the deathly glare he was giving the sink and way he bit his lip, Sherlock could tell that there was anger mixed in John's whole persona. Then, without saying a word, John straightened up in the most graceful way possible given the pain and walked out of the kitchen, padding slowly up the stairs to his room. The force with which he shut the door was obviously his non-verb sign that he wasn't happy with Sherlock.
Normally, Sherlock would have chalked such a display to an overreaction. And on the whole he enjoyed John's occasional surprise of character. Except, John never really overreacted.
It had been so quiet in the flat for a while so Sherlock's head snapped up in surprise at a sudden noise. Papers were clutched in his hands and strewn across his body from where he'd been desperately trying to collate all the information. The harsh glare of an office lamp he'd pulled down from the table shone on him with harsh precision, like his mind, focused on nothing but the information. Wincing painfully, he shifted in his position, realising that the stubbornly rigid position he'd sat in for the last thirteen hours was wreaking havoc on his healing body. Then he heard the sound which had distracted him again. An odd muffled thump sounded from somewhere within the flat and for a fearful moment he wondered if he should reach over and grab the antique sword from where it had been kicked under the chair. Surely Moriarty wasn't making his move already…
Then he realised, the sound had come from John himself. He had been very quiet after his storm out earlier that day and Sherlock had debated on checking up on John, having failed in the back of his mind to get to the bottom of John's destruction of the coffee mug. However he knew the action would have been uncomfortable for both of them. Sherlock did not wish to relocate and be distracted from his current train of thought and John was a man who preferred to suffer in silence and mask any weak traits behind a stoic and stubborn personality. It didn't matter anyway; for all the interest surrounding the coffee mug incident, Sherlock was certain it was ultimately insignificant and would pass.
A shaft of light appeared across the landing as John's bedroom door up the stairs opened and the heavy sound of the man himself plodding down the stairs in a gait that screamed exhaustion and weighted down.
The doctor paused in the living room and looked at Sherlock, sitting with his legs stretched out and with papers everywhere and scratched his head. "Still at it then?"
Sherlock quickly composed himself. "Yes, well…someone has to. Scotland Yard have no hope in hell." Bent down looking at one of the papers, his eyes flickered up to watch John enter the kitchen. "You haven't had one in quite a few weeks."
John, rummaging through the cupboards in a desperate attempt to find a glass which had been cleaned or not used for some alternative intent, raised his eyebrows distractedly. "Hmm? What's that?"
"Nightmare. You had them the first few nights you moved in but then they stopped."
John slowly picked up a glass from the back of the cupboard and stared at it intently, almost reflectively. "Nightmares, yes," he responded quietly. He looked over at Sherlock. "Should I even ask? Did I scream?"
Sherlock met John's gaze before his eyes roamed over the man. Even in the semi darkness of the kitchen, he could still make out John's tell-tale features and their anomalies. The military hair-cut which he was slowly outgrowing was mussed; the lines in his face were more pronounced in the dim lighting of Sherlock's one bedside lamp. It was the most unguarded Sherlock had ever seen his flatmate and the easiness with which he could read him was somewhat disconcerting.
"No, you don't cry out during your nightmares, you never did. But your breathing is laboured, as if you were out of breath and still trying to calm down the hitches. You take a deep breath every thirty seconds or so. You've put a dressing gown on to hide the fact that that you've sweated more than normal from tossing and turning. And then there are your eyes which are unnaturally red-rimmed which I suppose could be from lack of sleep but given the other two factors combined, it was a logic conclusion to jump to." Sherlock smiled tightly, almost apologetically. He understood that John was uncomfortable with his weaknesses being pointed out so clearly in public and even in private.
And Sherlock wondered whether it was John's need to prove himself, which constantly made him feel the need to portray himself as strong. "What has brought this on?" he asked gently.
John, with his glass of water, settled gingerly into the furthest armchair next to the TV. "Well, I did have a bomb strapped to my chest. Tends to have that effect."
They sat in companionable silence and Sherlock could feel John relax as the effects of the nightmare wore off him. There were times when John, like Sherlock himself, didn't talk but simply sat and thought, lost somewhere in his own mind's memories. Eventually he snapped out of them but even Sherlock did wonder sometimes what went through John Watson's thoughts during his subdued periods and if they were anything like Sherlock's own. The fact that John was content to simply sit quietly was something Sherlock found invaluable.
"Were you never almost blown up in Afghanistan? I thought it was a prime place for getting caught in explosions. It seems every day Mrs Hudson is coming in to lament about a soldier in a roadside bomb incident." Certainly that had sounded less disdainful in his head.
John clenched his right fist tightly and bounced it on the arm of his chair a few times as he considered the question. This time, he ignored Sherlock's attack on the army. "Once, yes. Once I was almost blown up." He looked at the ceiling for a moment and let out a long breath. "I was part of a convoy heading to a town about forty miles away from Kabul. It was one of my first experiences. We'd almost reached the town when the army truck in front literally just exploded into the air. Roadside bomb. It's a miracle that our driver managed to dodge the falling debris. But after that I felt the same constant fear every time I went out of the house and down any road…the fear I could be blown to pieces and somebody could be picking up my body parts just like I had to that day and lay them out on a stretcher."
Sherlock lifted his knees up and loosely wrapped his arms around them in contemplation. "Do you never have nightmares about that?"
John shrugged. "I was a doctor and I was in the army. Do you think I went to Afghanistan not knowing that I would be dealing with bodies with missing limbs, bloodied and charred flesh? I didn't naively go to into combat, Sherlock."
"That doesn't mean you didn't have nightmares about them," Sherlock said quickly before catching John's eye. "What I really meant was have you ever had nightmares about explosions."
John pursed his lips in thought before he stood up to put the glass on the kitchen countertop. "Well, I suppose some things in life you can't prepare for," he remarked, smiling slightly. Sherlock didn't answer and John scuffed his slippered foot into the kitchen floor. "Well, I'm going back to bed. Don't stay up too late; you need a fresh eye to look over those. I'm going to go down to Scotland Yard to give my statement tomorrow so I'll see if there's anything about that swimming pool scene you asked for earlier."
Sherlock nodded once. "Thank you," he murmured quietly and gratefully, resting his chin on his knees. He watched John walk sombrely up the stairs. Something about John's attitude confused him; he failed to understand how a man plagued by the horrific environment he'd fought in could speak of it with such longing. And all through that anecdote he had watched his flatmate's hand. Despite the fear John spoke about, his shaking hand told a very different story of nostalgia.
So Sherlock did what he could best. He experimented.
John came down the next morning looking much fresher than he had in the last few days. There was more movement and less hobbling, implying that his back had healed enough sufficiently to stay upright for longer than ten minutes. He had changed the dressings on his arms and torso by himself given their crisp whiteness, once again too proud to ask Sherlock for help in the matter. Rest and a long shower had obviously done the man good. Now he came down looking for something more substantial and was greeted with the sight of Sherlock still wearing the same clothes and as far as he could tell, absorbed in work. The mass amounts of paperwork Sherlock had been accumulating were all organised under headings, colour coded and the ones of the wall were connected together by a complex web of multi coloured lines. John didn't bother asking; he had obviously learnt that Sherlock would come to him when he required a fresh pair of eyes to see what he couldn't or a fresh pair of ears to coordinate his thoughts. Moriarty was painfully beyond John's level of comprehension.
"Any food?" John asked, carefully stepping over the organised chaos into the kitchen. He threw up his hands in exasperation at how the work had also migrated into the cooking area, carefully weighted down by the cups of coffee Sherlock had used. A new one each time. "Could you not have used the same mug?" he asked with useless exasperation.
"We only have the leftovers of that Indian we ordered when you returned from the hospital."
John looked at him in disbelief. "That was five days ago! It's probably gone off now."
Sherlock only shrugged distractedly. "I haven't really needed to eat but now that you mention it, we probably should do a shop quite soon."
He waited for John's reaction for the man, with one hand on his hip, staring at the fridge he couldn't even reach. He was probably too scared to look inside. "Oh, I can't be bothered. Not sure my back is up to carrying bags across the street and up the stairs. Especially because I'm sure you won't help."
Sherlock, pretending he hadn't heard, lifted his head. "Hmm?"
"I'll just do it online. Tesco can deliver."
Looking back down, Sherlock frowned to himself. "Well, if your back can manage to go down the street and get some milk…I'll need another coffee soon if I plan to continue working without your help."
"I'm not your fucking maid," John snapped good-naturedly and Sherlock couldn't help but smile despite the tone. It was a moment's like these that he remembered why he found John interesting. With all that military training instilled into him, John was generally a well-mannered, patient and polite man. Even at his most frustrated and annoyed, he refrained from swearing outwardly or insulting people like most people who Sherlock met who acted like they thought they were supposed to. Social convention bored Sherlock. So it always made Sherlock somewhat giddy inside when John did something unexpected or unpredictable. Those little moments of surprise that Sherlock longed for in all the people he found in John and were occasionally visible to those who spent enough time with him.
With careful neutralism, Sherlock inquired again without giving away that he was curious to John's reaction. "So you will go out quickly?" he asked.
He observed as John puffed out his cheeks and let lose a huff of breath in one go and then shrugged. The doctor picked up his jacket from where it was buried under mounds of papers that Sherlock had yet to sift through and place under an appropriate heading. "Fine, I may as well. I could do with some air after being cooped up in here. Besides, it's musky and you need to shower soon before you start to smell like one of your experiments."
"Showering is unnecessary until this is complete."
"Sherlock, showering is never unnecessary."
Sherlock looked up at him from the floor. He was certain he looked a mess with his still cut face and rumpled clothes. "Why? I have no intention of going anywhere. It's not offending anyone except you and you're asleep most of the time upstairs anyway avoiding me."
"Oh, I'm definitely going," John muttered. Like a long suffering wife, John sighed again and jogged down the stairs to go and get the mundane necessities like milk and undoubtedly some toast, beans and baked potatoes to make sure they didn't starve before Lestrade chased them down for their statements about that night at the swimming pool. With the close of the door, Sherlock put down his folder and rested his elbow on his knee and chin in his hand. Apparently John was not afraid of leaving the house, he had barely protested. His kidnapping of Moriarty had obviously not effected his confidence of braving the world again. It was a long shot and Sherlock was hardly surprised that this was not the issue but it didn't hurt to cover all bases.
It still left John's curiously detached attitude unanswered.
"You were right," Sherlock said, as he dragged John out of the house a few days later. Finally, he had reached that point where it was necessary to discuss what he had uncovered with his flatmate. However, John had been curiously absent from Sherlock's world in the past two weeks, finding reasons to leave the house and showing a surprising disinterest in Sherlock's strides towards Moriarty. He asked questions here and there and sometimes sat on the floor with Sherlock when it didn't feel like his back would aflame. However, that sparkle for danger which Sherlock adored in John had faded and it wasn't long before John got up, citing pain and faking tiredness. What Sherlock at first pinned down to recuperation had evolved into something more complex.
"I can be sometimes," John said, with his subtle sarcasm. "About what exactly?"
Sherlock smiled to himself as they walked down Baker Street. John looked around in confusion, surprised that the detective wasn't looking to hail a cab as usual. "I've spent so long looking at the information about Moriarty that I'm stating to trip over my own thoughts. The web of connections between Moriarty and the crime syndicates of London is vast; more than I could ever have imagined." In reality, he was in awe of Moriarty, that much he could give the man. His skill and mastery rivalled anyone he had encountered because the beauty of his craftsmanship was not motivated by the moment but with calculated intensity. He created in the same way Sherlock solved, with precision and finesse.
John walked beside him, hands in his pockets against the cold and hunched over slightly to prevent the pain in his back from slowing him down. "How vast exactly?"
Sherlock stared straight ahead, putting his gloves on. "Well, out of the 120 cases I worked before you arrived, 93 of them, I suspect, were orchestrated somehow by Moriarty. The rest were random actions."
John whistled in appreciation. "How exactly do you plan on stopping all his crimes then?"
"We have to go the source, Moriarty himself. All everyone's been doing, including myself, is attacking the problem one case at a time. I've been trying to collect all the information on the cases I have solved which I suspect were orchestrated by Moriarty and find connections between them. Somewhere in all that must be a pattern or at least a slip up. Nobody can be that perfect all the time."
"So…where are we going now?" John asked in confusion "I assume you have some lead then?"
Sherlock looked over at him and smiled. "Lunch, actually. I know a great place the other side of Regent's Park." With that, he walked off in determination through the park. It was quiet at this time of day. The lunchtime bustle and traffic had died down. The park, which during the warmer months would have been filled with ordinary people sitting on the lawn, was practically deserted. Only a few tourists roamed the area, remarking pleasantly at the scenery as they used it to cut through the surrounding roads. The air around them was so cold that puffs of air billowed out and disappeared with each exhale. The eerie feel of the park was punctuated by the crunch of gravel on the ground beneath them.
And John, who had still not recovered from being smashed against the wall, was not faring well at suddenly being thrust into the cold December weather. "Sherlock…Sherlock!" he cried after a few seconds, as the taller man walked off with his long purposeful stride carrying gracefully ahead of John. Sherlock turned and paused watching John hobble over to the nearby bench. "Can we just sit for a minute…my back can't...?" John sat down heavily and let out an unmasked breath of relief.
Sherlock walked back slowly. In most cases, John would continue walking if possible to the other end of the park. After all, it wasn't very far now. John had an admirable ability to ignore most of his physical pains in the same way Sherlock could ignore hunger and thirst. However, with a slight pang of what Sherlock could only attribute to guilt, he had a moment of clarity where he realised the majority of John's pain were directly because of Sherlock's own doing. He had, after all, gotten John involved in this game and the man had been hurt far worse as a result. The perfect opportunity had been presented to Sherlock for this experiment but it involved some shame on his part.
"John," he said, gingerly sitting down on the bench with his hands clasped in front of him and staring at them intently. He waited a few seconds to formulate his words carefully. "I just wanted to say that…given your condition after the swimming pool and my current preoccupation with Moriarty I haven't had the chance to…apologize for what happened."
John looked over at him with a curious expression, that youthful but bruised face hinting at that old sparkle. "What, almost getting me blown up?"
"Well, yes, there is that. I was…actually referring to the moment where I left you under the cubicles after the explosion. I was more concerned with making sure that Moriarty couldn't get away than checking for you. In fact," Sherlock added, with what could only be described as embarrassment, "I was absent for a whole half an hour by my calculations. When I came back, Lestrade told me they'd found you and had taken you to the hospital. I…assumed you..." Sherlock sighed with annoyance, not at having to apologise but his seeming inability to flawlessly do so.
"You know I was all right."
Sherlock did. He hadn't just run out of the crippling swimming pool in the heat of the moment. He'd seen John under the cubicles, seen his legs, checked a shoulder, an arm and the side of a cut and bruised face. He had bent down to check John's pulse and look him over. He hadn't seen too much blood; undoubtedly there would be some broken bones. John's pulse thrummed underneath his hand, strong if a bit fast and Sherlock closed his eyes and almost willed the man to continue on that beat. When he came back home from the hospital and experienced those periods of dislocation, he tried to remind himself how John's pulse yet underneath his fingers. But even though Sherlock knew it should be a terrible thing to think, he couldn't help but wonder if those precious seconds he'd spent checking over John had cost him the capture of Moriarty.
He cleared his throat when John didn't answer, presumably out of shock at this sudden and unexpected admission of guilt. "I knew. But I realise it wasn't right."
"Yes, not your finest moment, especially after your fantastic duel with Moriarty," John agreed, good-naturedly and nodded his head. He rubbed his hands together and blew into them to warm them up.
Sherlock frowned in confusion. "You're not angry at me?"
John looked back at him for a moment in contemplation and then shrugged. "No, not angry. Not even surprised, really. I know where your priorities lie…they lie with the work."
Sherlock nodded uncomfortably as his words to John all those months ago in Angelo's restaurant came back to haunt him. "I would make a very poor soldier," he replied weakly.
"A terrible soldier, actually," John agreed, laughing slightly, seemingly not noticing Sherlock's discomfort. It was the first genuine laugh Sherlock had heard from him in the last two weeks. He was unaware of how much he'd missed the more light hearted side of John's personality until now; apparently John had been dour for longer than he'd originally thought.
"It was strange, really. I was lying on the ground and it was pitch black and I thought I was back in Afghanistan. It was hot, I could feel the air practically simmering, and there was falling debris and awful clanging which sounded like mortar fire or something. And I couldn't see anything from under the cubicles but I could smell smoke. It really felt that I was back there." After a moment, John shook his head and looked embarrassed at himself. "It was probably just the concussion, though."
Sherlock remained silent throughout John's confession. The doctor rarely spoke about Afghanistan but so far, he'd heard two references in a very short space of time. Once again, it was with fondness. And Sherlock always found it bizarre that what most ordinary people would call a horrific environment would be somewhere that John seemed to forever drawn to. Afghanistan was exotic and exciting and the war promised something new every day. Even Sherlock could not obtain that level of excitement in London and spent some days wallowing on the sofa in languid boredom. He completed understood the reasons behind John's aching need. Sherlock reached over and lightly clasped John's wrist where that faint tan line remained, trying to steady the slightly tremor running through the limb. It contrasted magnificently with Sherlock's own translucent un-gloved hand. He was rewarded with immediate stiffening, John's instinctual aversion to foreign touch only noticeable because Sherlock was touching him. "You still want to go back, don't you," Sherlock remarked quietly.
John only smiled with shocking mirth only a present on a man who had come to terms with the regrets in his life. "You may have abandoned me under a pile of rubble, Sherlock. But I abandoned my command."
At this, Sherlock paused and let go of John's wrist. He stood up and put his hands in his pockets, circling the area in front of the bench, the crunch of gravel beneath his feet so loud in the silence of the park. In confusion, he looked back at John and was about to reply before pausing and turning away. Then, "You didn't abandon your command, though," he commented as if it was obvious. "You were relieved from duty due to a serious injury in your shoulder and some misdiagnosed psychological ramifications. It was a justified discharge."
John rolled his eyes and got up himself and Sherlock could tell the sudden movement caused pain in his back despite John's good attempted at hiding the stiffening posture. "That's not the point, Sherlock! You can't understand what you haven't experienced from your distant pedestal. It doesn't matter the reasons are logical or true. What matters is that I left people, good people that I cared about, behind in Afghanistan to continue the fight, doing serious work. And I should be there helping them. Not stuck here getting involved in dangerous crimes which you simply use as pastimes to engage your brain. You could never understand the level of guilt I feel being here instead helping you…"
Sherlock stood perfectly still and narrowed his eyes at John as if inspecting him. The man was panting, little puffs of air let lose at increasing faster pace the more agitated John became. Sherlock found himself becoming increasingly angry towards John's disparaging attitude towards his work and new drive against Moriarty "Why have you been so antagonistic lately? I thought you were angry that I left you. I've apologised."
"Yes, yes, you did. And I said that wasn't the issue. Why do you think I don't care about you leaving me at the swimming pool? This isn't the army; we don't have that kind of relationship where we look out for each other. That's why I don't care!"
Sherlock still found himself failing to understand. Of course he couldn't understand the level of bonding that exists between men in the army but he had hoped that in dangerous climaxes to their own past few cases, a small understanding may have developed between himself and John. The doctor had, after all, killed a man for him. And for his part he certainly hadn't left John at the swimming pool due to lack of caring, whatever John may have thought. He'd seen John smash into the cubicles and tried to call out but the force of the blast had knocked the wind out of him; when Sherlock got up, he could see that John was still moving as well. It was just that in his mind, ensuring that Moriarty could never come after them again, and use John again, was more important than lifting a few plastic doors and confirming what he already knew. He could have finished it there and then, once and for all…He could have killed Moriarty just liked John killed the taxi driver. Without remorse.
"So you speak of Afghanistan out of regret," Sherlock remarked carefully. "Not regret for going; but regret for coming home. And that has only increased, has it, since we began working together?" John didn't answer and Sherlock felt that strange feeling of hurt hit him again. Quickly, he squashed it down, panicking momentarily at its implications, over the hold John had over him. "Would you go back, then?"
John threw his hands up in the air of frustration. "Don't ask questions you already know the answers to. Do you think I miss the explosions, the bombs, the bodies? No, but at least those are issues I can tackle and work through because that was my job. I was scared, all the time. But at least the job only made me scared for my life."
Sherlock shoved his hands deeper in his pockets and glared at John. He pondered this statement over but could come to no conclusion about it. Somewhere in that was hidden the key to John's sudden attitude transformation and what was bothering him. Cataloguing it for future reference, he went down a path more directed by his own annoyance and frustration at John's intransigence.
"And you think Moriarty doesn't deserve your fear? One single man who kills innocent people on a whim for fun as opposed to an extreme ideology does not merit your taste for adventure and involvement. I'm sorry he doesn't satisfy your insatiable appetite for danger and comradeship," Sherlock snapped, stepping forward so he was in John's personal space, looking down at the man. "Would you feel the same guilt that you do for your army command if Moriarty is to go through with his own threat against me?"
John shook his head as if he didn't want to listen to Sherlock anymore. "Of course I would, Sherlock. But this is your fight, not mine. This is not my job. I don't want to be dragged into your tussle with Moriarty." John walked about ten steps before he turned around and shouted at Sherlock whilst still walking backwards. Apparently lunch was off. "He will consume you. And there's nothing I can do about it."
Sherlock stood on the path in Regent's Park watched John storm off and once again, away from him and angry with him. He was even more confused by his friend's reaction. It was evident John wasn't angry at him for leaving him in the swimming pool. But he was angry about something and it was beyond Sherlock's power and knowledge of the human mind to work decipher the true problem. "What are you afraid of then, John?" he murmured to himself.
It was a good three weeks after the incident in the swimming pool before Lestrade became frustrated enough to threaten to assign Sherlock to another inspector (and worse yet, have Anderson present at every scene) before Sherlock decided to go down and offer his statement to Scotland Yard. John had given his quite a while ago but Sherlock had been far too busy conducting his own investigation into Moriarty to succumb to the banality of partaking in the Yard's required red tape. Sherlock did know when to give up but as punishment for taking so long had to go down to Scotland Yard himself instead of have Lestrade trek to Baker Street.
"This whole investigation would have been a lot faster if you'd just come on your own initiative," Lestrade had badgered him, like an overbearing mother, as Sherlock stubbornly recounted in detail the moments of the encounter in the swimming pool. Every time he thought about it, it became harder and harder to become detached from the incident. In front of him, Lestrade put his feet up on the table and ignored the smirking look of Donovan from the other side of his office window.
"What good would it had done?" Sherlock asked calmly without looking up. "I told you what was of most relevance at the scene. Moriarty is targeting me that much we already know. Who could possibly have more information about how he and I think and act than myself?"
"That's beside the point, Sherlock. The investigation in to Moriarty is still a police matter which means you don't withhold information and go gallivanting off like an excited puppy! I do not want to see another public building destroyed because you decided you could take matters into your own hands."
Sherlock stared at him piercingly with an expression that implied the Inspector was trying his patience. "What would be the point? I was the closest one to catching him and still I failed. What makes you think that the Yard is going to be able to catch a man who until now completely unheard of and went about unnoticed? No…he wants to play with me and at some point, he will slip up. And when that happens I will bring him down."
"At what cost?" Lestrade remarked icily leaning forward. It was the first time Sherlock had heard the Inspector sound so dangerously angry at Sherlock as opposed to exasperated. "Yourself? John Watson? More innocent civilians who accidentally get caught in the crossfire of this feud?"
"Any cost will be mine!" Sherlock shouted immediately, slamming his gloved hand down on the table and glaring at Lestrade with glittering grey eyes. For a few moments there was silence and the tension hung thick in the room, electrifying it. Sherlock blinked and looked back down at this statement to compose himself. His sheer need to catch Moriarty did outweigh most thoughts in his mind. He knew Lestrade thought this was a petty but dangerous affair between two prodigies acting like children; Sherlock knew it too but to deny the game would risk defeat. And endanger him and John further. "What makes you think that the few dozen Scotland Yard squad men that you would offer me wouldn't fall into the pit of casualty if that's what Moriarty wanted? He knows how we act and how we will act. Procedure will not work here."
Lestrade didn't say anything. It took patience but Lestrade had acquired much of that since his association with Sherlock Holmes and deep down, he thought the irony of fate was trying to make him a better person in its own twisted way. Sherlock was manipulative; arguing against a man who cannot be persuaded was completely futile. Deep down, he was aware that catching Moriarty was beyond the Yard's capabilities but he was bound by the law and wished Sherlock could at least co-ordinate with them and not just use them as and when he fancied. The police were not there simply for Sherlock Holmes' convenience. So he let out a breath and learnt back in his chair. "How is Doctor Watson anyway?" he suddenly asked instead.
"Fine," Sherlock murmured distractedly, finding Lestrade's new track of polite conversation unnecessarily pointless. Disturbing him this asinine task would not help him complete it any faster and get him back to his data.
"Funny, the guy looked like he'd been run over and then reversed over again when I found him at the swimming pool. And to be honest, he didn't seem much better when he gave his statement last week."
Now Sherlock paused in his frantic writing and looked up from his tightly crafted statement. "Why the sudden interest, Lestrade?"
"No reason," the inspector replied with a casual shrug, putting his hands behind his head.
"Yes there is, you've never asked about any associates of mine before."
Lestrade scoffed. "That's cause you never had any. Someone who's willingly stuck with you for this length of time – especially after being blown up and abandoned – should be checked up on from time to time. You've just made it clear he's expendable in this game of yours."
"You gave me the 'bollocking' as you so put it at the swimming pool. Don't continue to comment on matters you know nothing about," Sherlock remarked angrily. "You called me four days ago and you didn't ask after John then." Lestrade didn't answer but looked at Sherlock, waiting for his response with a small smile. "So why now?"
Sherlock knew that his ability to read people by observing them was astounding. However, even he had to admit that human beings were not logical creatures and were governed by emotional laws sometimes beyond the realms of logical understanding. Sherlock knew that on this finer, more intricate level what was evidently troubling John was more complex than simply the fear resulting from the encounter at the swimming pool. He could admit that he did occasionally require help from people with finer experience in certain areas. Lestrade was a man with basic human understanding, with an ability to connect and see matters on a more personal level. Inwardly, it annoyed him that Lestrade should dare to claim he understood his and John's relationship better than Sherlock himself; yet Sherlock knew Lestrade had his own ability to read people from a distance with the benefit that Sherlock discarded: with empathy. Amazingly, Sherlock thought that if there was a possibility to understand John's abnormal attitude recently, he was at the mercy of Lestrade's good nature. Given the small smirk on the man's face, Lestrade had information and it would be best not to aggravate the man.
Sighing, he changed his tone to a kinder one. "What do you know?" he asked carefully, in a careful attempt not to sound like this information was the most important thing to him in the present moment.
Lestrade paused before pulling his legs off the desk and bringing his chair forward. Sherlock ignored the sigh coming from the man which obviously hinted at how tiresome this conversation could be. "Sherlock…it's not my place to say. In fact, I'm surprised you haven't gotten to the bottom of this yet…"
"I have had a few things on my mind lately. Trying to understand a man who is acting outside his emotional boundaries is a very arduous task at present."
Lestrade shook his head. "I think it's more than that. Sherlock, you treat your cases and the people involved in them with a sense of distance because, well, you don't know them. And that's fine, that's good. You have a sometimes enviable ability to not get bogged down in empathy and sometimes…sometimes I wish I didn't care either. But John Watson, he's different, isn't he? You've spent so much time with the man in more than just geographic proximity that observing from an emotional distance, like some specimen in your kitchen, is difficult. The man has gotten under your skin, hasn't he? And now you can't read him. You care, Sherlock. I'm impressed." Lestrade sat back, looking rather smug at Sherlock's obviously confused expression and the tight grip the man was holding the pen. "It's not fun being the specimen yourself, is it?"
Sherlock's dark eyes flickered up to Lestrade, the smouldering iris' giving away his annoyance. Instead of answering, he flicked his hand dismissively. "It's irrelevant to my question anyway."
Lestrade rolled his eyes but was evidently enjoying this too much at Sherlock's expense. "All right. I'll give you a hint if you want your puzzle. You were with John pretty much the whole time throughout this case. I'm sure you've tried to work out based on what you know of John's whereabouts and actions during those few days what could have happened to make him so distant. However, what about the time you didn't know? At what point in those few days did you not know exactly what John Watson was doing?"
Almost instantly, Sherlock's eyes widened, and his gaze snapped back to Lestrade, annoyed that he hadn't come to this conclusion earlier; annoyed that Lestrade was the logical one, for once. The answer had been so beautiful in its simplicity. "The statement John wrote last week let me see it."
"Come on, Sherlock!" Lestrade cried, throwing his hands up in the air in a commendable display of fake exasperation. It didn't require much effort, Lestrade seemed to spend his entire time in the presence of Sherlock exasperated "You know I can't do that, it's against the law. My job would be on the line."
Sherlock stood up and leaned over the desk to speak in a low tone. "Yet I've done far worse under your supposed "supervision" and your superiors haven't thought to demote you yet…"
He couldn't help but smile to himself when Lestrade after a bout of ineffective and indignant spluttering, got up and went to the filing cabinet to locate the statement. In this case, he could forgive Lestrade for manipulating him, even if it was completely transparent.
John was upstairs rifling through a book on poisonous plants when Sherlock burst through the front door, slammed it shut and practically bounced up the seventeen stairs. He swung the door open, probably a little too dramatically but John had become used to his theatrics when entering a room. "What did he say to you?" he asked sternly, not entering the living room.
John simply looked confused for a moment but then his expression neutralised, turning into one of trepidation. "What…are you talking about?"
"Moriarty," Sherlock spat, whipping his scarf off and then flinging his coat into the chair violently, before putting his hands on his hips to stare down at John. "Now what did he say to you?"
In fairness, John refused to be intimidated by Sherlock's supreme height and piercing eyes and lifted his chin to stare at Sherlock steadfast. "I don't think it's necessary for me repeat it all. You obviously already know otherwise you wouldn't ask me. What did you do, compliment Lestrade on his new haircut." Sherlock didn't answer but cocked his head to the side. After a few seconds, John rolled his eyes and snapped the book shut with a muffled thump before flinging it away. He walked away and then turned around aggressively. "You had no right to go through my statement! It's confidential. Lestrade should know better."
Sherlock waved it off. "That's why you've been acting so strange the last few weeks. You weren't scared by that whole thing with Moriarty. In the same way you aren't scared about Afghanistan. You're not afraid to go back out there and you're not afraid to go back out the streets of London. It's not what he does that scares you and gives you nightmares; it's what he said to you."
"Yes, yes, all right," John muttered, dumping the dishes in the sink to wash later and trying to push Sherlock out of the way and ignore the conversation. It was apparent he was livid at Lestrade and doubly so at Sherlock. If it had been the reverse, John would have known to simply leave the detective alone until he emerged out of his funk. Sherlock was not as perceptive and subtle when he was on the verge of cracking something that had been mystifying him. Never one to approach sensitive topics with tact, Sherlock tackled problems at the source.
"No, it's not all right!" Sherlock continued, stalking John into the kitchen and standing right behind him. "You don't think he's just spinning you a story? You don't think he spoke to you to deliberately in that time you were waiting for me? He could have gotten anyone to strap a bomb to you but he did it himself because he wanted your reaction. He wanted to talk to you."
"Maybe! He likes to play games with people, we've seen that. But maybe he's speaking the truth, Sherlock! You didn't know anything about me when we first met and still you managed to "deduce" that I was an army doctor with no money and barely any family. If Moriarty is supposed to be your equivalent in crime then I'm sure he's able to extrapolate much the same but he has the added benefit of regarding our relationship as well. And my role within it."
Sherlock sneered at him in an unattractive way, as if he considered John's thought process and insecurities inferior to his own logical ones, unaffected by internal struggles. "So what is this? He talked you into a crisis of confidence? I don't appreciate you enough?"
John laughed sardonically and in disbelief flinging a tea towel he had used to wipe the mugs to the side. "Yes, yes, because it's all about you! It's all about you and Moriarty, nothing else matters outside this little world of yours and it hasn't for the last three weeks. You're bloody obsessed with the man. So what am I, huh? What am I, Sherlock, in this game you two are playing? Your glorified bloodhound? The guy who you order around to do the boring and mundane work that you can't be bothered to do whilst you go off to risk your life? Your personal soldier in this army of one?"
Sherlock paused, unable to answer effectively because he knew deep down there was truth in those words. He had numerous times told John to go off on tasks and whilst the other man complained that he couldn't sit down for a moment and enjoy a nice cup of tea, Sherlock was never under the impression there was some deeper problem to this. John had never acted like he'd felt exploited or used up until this moment. In his own mind, he couldn't work out the complex avenues of thought an ordinary person went down and reach the real crux of John's problem but he was so close. He'd read it in the statement but it was not a confession; only an abbreviated version of a long and painful conversation John had with Moriarty as the other man manoeuvred him physically into a bomb best and psychologically into self deprecation. For the second time that day, since Sherlock read the statement at the station, he wondered how John felt in that agonizing hour before he arrived at the darkened swimming pool. How long had it taken the poisonous ideas that Moriarty fed into his mind to take affect?
He was not surprised at Moriarty's ability to wheedle his victims into personal crises. He was surprised at how much John believed them.
"He is just using you to get to me."
John nodded solemnly. "I know. I know, Sherlock and that is the problem. There are roles here whether you like it or not. In this completely crazy scenario, he's a criminal mastermind – your arch nemesis, because they exist in your world – and you're the hero."
Sherlock flapped his hand and turned dramatically in rejection moving away from John in disgust. "I've told you before, heroes don't exist."
"In this instance they do!" John spat back with equal venom, anger glittering in his eyes and vibrating throughout his body. For a man of small stature, he gave an impressive display of ferocity. "You may not believe in the traditional nobility of the term because you only do this for yourself not for the good of others. You're a selfish hero. I still think…." He paused, taking a deep breath and when then continued, defeated, as if all the energy had been sucked out of him. "And Moriarty singled you out as the only one with the mental ability to beat him. That makes you in some twisted form, a hero. I'm no different to Moriarty's minions, his snipers or those other people he strapped bombs to that he tells where to go and what to do. They're just…useful. But not essential."
Sherlock glided back over to John and spun the man round, grabbing his wrists to hold him in place. The man was trapped between himself and the kitchen counter that he had backed himself into. In reality, even with John's bad shoulder, he knew the doctor could twist free from his grasp. There was a hidden physical strength underneath those jumpers and cardigans. There was mental strength somewhere there too, which Moriarty had been trying to stamp out of him. Sherlock couldn't help but think that being this close to John was actually pleasing to his mind and rubbed the inside of the doctor's wrists. John remained deathly still and glared at the detective with eyes that resonated with Sherlock as despair and defeat. His breath came out in short and shallow puffs. And it terrified him to think that the soldier that Sherlock saw in the man was dying inside of him. Even if John's view were completely irrational to his own logical chains, he would have to try to understand. "Is that what he said to you? That you're expendable," he asked slowly and darkly, unable to contain his own anger at Moriarty's manipulative actions. "And you believe him?"
Of course, he didn't realise that his tone, to John, could be construed as disregard. John, returning to that insatiable anger that Sherlock had grown to love and wrenched his wrists free of Sherlock's grip to move to the side of their small kitchen. He took a few deep breaths and ran his hands through his hair in agitation.
"Moriarty pointed out a few things to me while I was having that bomb strapped to me. I went from being a soldier, Sherlock, a soldier. I went out to Afghanistan because there was nothing for me here, no family and no adventure. And even if I don't agree with why we're out there, I felt like I was doing something to help people. I was with groups of people who I identified with. It was a joint effort by all of us, working towards a goal, working as equals and helping each other out. I was part of something wonderful, Sherlock. And I miss it so desperately. You could never understand that collective purpose, you don't even see yourself as working alongside the police half the time!
"And then I got shot and do you know what my thought was when I woke up? I was happy I wasn't dead, but I didn't want to go home because here I'm neither a soldier nor a doctor. And look, now I'm back where I started! Somewhere I don't belong. This is your city, Sherlock, your battlefield, it's not mine. I feel…detached when I'm wandering round here. Even Lestrade and Donovan ask the same question I do of what I'm doing at these crimes scenes and what exactly I'm contributing to anything in the investigations. And Moriarty can see that too."
"This is just a period of readjustment, you know you've contributed plenty," Sherlock replied dismissingly.
John nodded in agreement. "I thought so too. I thought that this," he remarked, flapping a hand between them, "with you, would be better therapy that an overcharged session in a chair." He turned his back again on Sherlock again, staring at the window in the kitchen leading outside into a dark December sky. "But you know what Moriarty said when he told me to get into that cubicle, just minutes before you arrived? He said I was a pawn. Those exact words, he used. In this game between you and Moriarty, nothing else matters…to either of you. You will use any resources at your disposal to destroy each other."
"That's not true," Sherlock retorted sharply, his voice slightly hoarse.
"Isn't it? This is what my life has become, Sherlock! I do your bidding so you can solve these cases and I'm used as bait by Moriarty to throw you off your game. And he'll do it again, you know he will. My life should be more than this, Sherlock, more than a damned chess piece!"
Sherlock threw up his hands in frustration, stalking back into the living room and flopping down on a chair to pick up his bow. With careful practise, he ran his fingers up and down the taught strings as if the repetitive gesture could calm him. His attempt to understand John was falling short because all he could see were the self pitying comments made by a man who should know better.
"Do you think you are different to all the other people in the world? People who sit doing boring jobs in their boring offices, getting paid far too much for too little effort but essentially living their safe, comfortable and unexciting lives? At some point people always ask if this is all there is to their lives. And yes, maybe there is! However, pondering and wallowing on the philosophical will not change the situation. At least when you went to Afghanistan, you took the opportunity and acted on this desire to do something 'meaningful' with your life, whatever such an arbitrary concept even means in your romantic mind. At least you had the courage. But since you came back from Afghanistan, you've just stopped, thinking you're purposeless. That's the weakness Moriarty saw, not a brave individual who met a set of unfortunate circumstances; just someone who gave up."
John's jaw clenched tightly and for a moment, Sherlock wondered if he was about to be punched in the face. It wouldn't be the first time. Whilst anger smouldering off John in waves he had yet to show the capacity to physically hurt someone with his bare hands. Sherlock almost wished he would just so he could be rewarded with those unpredictable moments from John that he loved so much and remind him again that the man was, in fact, unique. Either that or maybe he should apologise again. For once, Sherlock despised the silence. "John, I…" he began quietly.
"I'm going out," his flatmate interrupted instead, grabbing his coat. "If I'm not back, don't assume that Moriarty has snatched me up to use against you. Assume I've left for good."
He turned quickly and marched out the door, his feet thundering on the wooden steps. Sherlock cursed harshly at himself and flew out after him. "John. John!" he shouted urgently, but was rewarded with the slam of the door as he reached the ninth step.
He was about the follow the man out of the door to continue the discussion on the street if it was necessary. However, something stopped him. "Sherlock," Mrs Hudson said, from the bottom of the stairs, hidden in the shadow of the corridor leading to her ground floor apartment. It was evident that she had been listening the entire time but Sherlock did not have the energy to be mad at her as well for her blatant eavesdropping. She sounded terribly upset, almost on the verge of tears. "Leave him," she insisted, grabbing the detective's arm. "He will come back."
As Sherlock felt himself gently pushed into Mrs Hudson's apartment, no doubt to indulge in some over sweetened tea, he couldn't help but think he'd been waiting for John for a long time. He was beginning to realise that when John was not present, time seemed to slow to glacial level.
John did come back - six hours later. He smelt of old varnished wood, beer and stale smoke, a sure sign to anyone that he had spent his time in the pub. What an amateur would have been unable to decipher was that the smell came from the pub only down the road, the one that specialised in world ales. A particular German brand, Sherlock recognised. He himself didn't indulge in alcohol (except on an experimental level relevant to a case) finding that level of brain numbing to be ineffective even during the long boring days in between cases. On John, there was a sense of familiarity about the smell, as if it suited him. He looked as the man stopped in the entrance of the living room, and noticed Sherlock sitting in a chair reading book instead of hunting Moriarty like a man deranged. Tiredly, he flopped down on the seat next to him and rubbed his eyes tiredly. Sherlock noticed not for the first time the energy that seemed to have been drained from the man; the sad coloured pallor of his face enhanced ringed black circles around his eyes and even eyes themselves were bright from exhaustion rather than intrigue.
"What are you reading?" he asked quietly and Sherlock quirked slightly at John's apology masked as a question of interest. He closed the book and showed John the front cover, aged and worn from years of reading.
"Wilhelm Dilthey, philosopher – German, of course but this is a fairly decent translation – a man who tried to unlock the philosophy of history."
John raised an eyebrow as he looked over. "Sounds like a difficult job. I thought you said you didn't take the whimsical questioning of philosophers as productive."
"I have a holy bible on my shelf too, that doesn't mean I take word for word the book of Genesis in the creation of the universe. However, it's always necessary to keep a well stocked library when engaging in a conversation with people on the subject to be particularly brushed up on the area."
John sat back in the seat. "Does…this have anything to do with Moriarty, then?"
"No," Sherlock replied, still sitting straight in his seat but turning his head slightly to regard John with a wry smile. "It has everything to do with you, though."
It was worth it, the look of confusion on his friend's face as the eyes widened slightly. "Okay…I'm listening. Is Mr Dilthey going to tell me my place in the world?"
Sherlock smiled slightly and sat back in his seat. "Not so much, like you said, I don't believe searching for that question is a worthwhile exercise when, like yourself, you could be finding something productive and personally worthy in the time you're given. No, Wilhelm Dilthey, tried to drag history away from its purely scientific form and the idea that you could use events from the past, observe, analyse and experiment on them to predict how the future events could play out. That an economic depression could automatically lead to unemployment and maybe even war. However, the world doesn't always run this way. And Dilthey attributed it to the human element of history, the unpredictable thoughts and emotions which govern humans and direct the course of events. It is because of the human agent that we can use history as a rough guide but unfortunately, it can never be one logical and foreseeable sequence like in science, like in physics. Logic…logic amongst man is rare."
He was rewarded with John's confusion as he spread his hands as if to say 'so what?'
Sherlock smiled in response. "So he was right."
"Moriarty, of course," Sherlock said and got up from the chair to walk to the window and the scene outside.
He caught the roll of John's eyes as he continued with his new obsession. "So it is about Moriarty, then." he asked carefully.
Sherlock looked at the scene outside, the bustling of taxis taking people from A to B; the couples wandering down the street hand in hand oblivious to anyone but themselves; the old woman trying to ensure that her dog wouldn't rush her off her feet; and the shop owner down the road who was trying to push the threatening number of school children out of his shop. All people self involved in their little lives. "Inevitably at the moment, but not for the reason you think. You said, as I believed myself," he continued, looking out of the window, "that I had no heart worth mentioning of or in his case, worth threatening. And I don't deny that I have often regarded it as a positive trait of mine, to not become so involved with what is at stake which could distract me from unravelling the puzzle.
But Moriarty, oh he's clever, and he's more observant because he saw what I failed to up until that night three weeks ago. What introvert analysis of myself could never uncover. That the human agent of emotion, compassion – even love – has in fact effected my judgement and my actions. He knows my hunt for him is not driven solely by the need to satisfy my love for the puzzle. And he exploited it. And he will again." He turned his head slightly and watched John listening with rapt attention.
"He could have gone for Mycroft because for all our rivalry I do not want him to come to harm. I do share DNA with him, after all," he added disparagingly. "But Mycroft is too eel-like in nature so it would be too difficult for Moriarty to use effectively. Provided he could even find him." He swivelled from his position to lean against the wall, and folded his arms across his chest and grinned wildly. "That leaves you."
"Me?" John asked, raising his eyebrows in disbelief.
"You, John, you!" Sherlock cried with enthusiasm. He turned back towards the window placing his hands either side of the wall. "Don't you see? Of all the mundane, mind numbingly dull people that wander the streets beyond this one, I met you." He leant his head against the wall, the joy dissipating from his voice and suddenly became sombre. "And that has knocked me off my logical stride and made all the difference to what I do and how I do it. And how Moriarty can use you."
John sighed, tapping his fingers on his knee and watching them in fascination except at Sherlock. The detective could see the cogs turning madly in his friend's mind as he processed Sherlock's rather expressive admission. Still, it was hard to follow Sherlock's train of thought, often ten steps ahead as his own. "So what, I should be happy that for more than just practical convenience, Moriarty snatched me up because you've suddenly developed the capacity to care about one human being?"
Sherlock sat cross legged on the chair opposite John and smirked. "One is all it takes. You are a romantic at heart, John, I thought this would have pertained to your sensibilities. Think of all the dubious actions, including crime, that occur place because someone has placed the one they love above all else and is prepared to do anything for them. Husbands, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, it's a sad and plagiarised story that fills books, films and real life. And to a certain degree, I unknowingly fell into the same pattern the moment I saw that bomb on you…where making sure you were out of harm's way was more important than the case itself. But unlike other people I am simply aware of the lengths I could go already."
John let out a huff of breath. "I feel flattered, really. But even those who are not sociopaths in the world would admit that if it came down to it, they would pick the person closest to them above strangers. It's not a bad thing to feel. It is, as you say…human."
"I know. It was its unoriginality that took me by surprise. This caring lark is rather exhausting."
Slowly a small smile graced John's face and Sherlock knew he had gotten through to him the enormity of the issue and John's place within it. "Try being a doctor," was the response he got.
Sherlock laughed sharply. "So you agree to a certain extent: you are a pawn in this battle of ours. But for the reason, John, the reason…he never told you that reason you are the one he used and still might. Some might say that was quite an impressive feat given the type of person you are dealing with."
"Does that worry you?" John asked calmly. "You're remarkably – articulate – for someone who has difficulty expressing emotion."
Sherlock considered it for a moment, picking up the book and turning it over and over in his hands. "Mrs Hudson aided me in some techniques," he said, as if he dismissed her input when in fact, he found it undeniably helpful. For one, Mrs Hudson was able to point out that their previous argument had, in fact, been a fight, not a minor squabble. It seemed that everybody else was better at interpreting the dynamics of his and John's relationship but himself. Mrs Hudson had been more informative than Lestrade in unlocking John's true nature. "And Moriarty helped as well."
John couldn't help but laugh slightly, although it sounded strained. "Yes, odd that, coming from a man who has no human element himself. None that we can expose, anyway."
"No," Sherlock agreed, putting his hands together and rubbing them slowly in concentration. "And that is what makes him so much more dangerous. More dangerous than the Islamists you were fighting because at least they felt primal passion for their cause." He looked at John straight in the eye and hoped that the man understood that what he lacked in emotion, he made up for in intensity. "People who have lost everything or who have nothing to lose view the world in such a narrow focus. There is no weakness for them."
What he wanted to say, and what he would never be able to, was that John had saved him and undone him. He hoped John understood; that it was his compassion and his unique Hippocratic expression of the sanctity of life that made him realise the difference between himself and Moriarty. Sherlock may not have the ability or the capacity to care for everyone at stake. Just John was enough and he was coming to terms with the idea that this dangerous element in Sherlock's life was worth it.
John looked uncomfortable for a moment and looked down apparently overwhelmed by the conviction with which Sherlock had spoken. The man never said anything he did not believe. And although he was looking at human emotion in a logic way, it was still enough to affect the man's judgement. "You…err…still haven't answered my question," he responded quietly. "Are you worried?"
Sherlock looked away up to the mantelpiece. "Would you be disappointed if I said I was? Emotions have the ability to cloud judgement. But do not underestimate the value your presence and input now has in my daily life. I grow accustomed to certain things…your company has become one of them. So I don't regret that you have aided me in understanding that sometimes there is more at stake than losing the game." He stopped, realising that his voice had grown louder and louder. "This has become more than a just game to me now." Sherlock put the book down firmly to emphasize this point.
John sighed and rubbed a hand over his forehead and looked at Sherlock. The detective could see the concern in his friend's eyes. "I don't normally over-evaluate my place in the world…I've never needed to until I lost the one thing that defined me."
Sherlock shuffled closer to John in his chair, their knees almost touching. It was a beautiful paradox, his John held within him. He found it endlessly fascinating that John could find no fear in explosions and life threatening situations, so long as he was contributing to a greater cause. So long as he had a sense of purpose. "You are two things, though. A soldier and a doctor. You are still both, if not in action, so do not talk about them in the past tense. They will forever define you, in my mind's eyes anyway; that is what I saw you when I first met you. I'm sure Moriarty did too. It is just how to adapt those qualities to a new environment." Sherlock spread his hands. "Our environment."
John nodded solemnly, picking at a thread on his trousers which meant his hand inadvertently brushed Sherlock's knee repeatedly. "I'm tired of fighting. With you, that is. And myself. I didn't mean to make it personal."
Sherlock steepled his fingers together and brought them to rest on his nose, sliding them up and down in contemplation. "But you did. Or rather, Moriarty did. This was his intention all along because he is very good at finding people's weaknesses. You…err…shouldn't feel bad, you know…about falling into his trap." Sherlock had up until this point barely been able to admit to himself never mind John that he himself had fallen into so deep into the well it was impossible to get out. With every hour he worked, he felt himself be drawn into the darkness of how Moriarty operated and how much danger lay ahead for John. This seemingly endless preoccupation, with Moriarty, which filled his mind every waking moment and which was inextricably linked to his need to protect John, would drive him to the edge of madness. But as he looked at John, their faces so close that it was possible to examine each other's features in close detail, he felt for the first time, it didn't matter. Moriarty had correctly diagnosed Sherlock; he was wrong about John.
"Don't let Moriarty manipulate you in the same way he can me."
John raised an eyebrow but then looked down, unwilling to meet Sherlock's intense gaze. The doctor looked down at their knees, almost touching. "You…err…seem to be under the impression that I don't share any of these same feelings and inhibitions. After all, I did grab the guy from behind with the bomb strapped to my chest so you could get away. Which, by the way, you completely failed at."
Sherlock let out a sardonic laugh, grabbing the remote control for the TV and switching on Countdown before flinging himself back violently into the comfortable settee. He lifted his knees and wrapped his arms around his legs again, the position he felt most comfortable in when using daytime television as a source of relaxation. Somehow, he felt as though it had comforted John, to know that the great Sherlock Holmes did not function like a cold-hearted machine, devoid of feeling and compassion to show others. He hoped, as the doctor got up to sit next to him, John realised the important role he played.
"I get the impression, John," he said quietly, "that we are, therefore, both in serious danger."
John hummed in agreement like he'd known all along. He paused as if struggling to come out with the words that he so wished to say. Glancing slyly at him, Sherlock could see an internal struggle raging through John again. "You could stop," the doctor said quietly, his voice barely audible over the monotonous sound of Countdown.
"I could what?"
"Stop hunting him, Sherlock. Neither of us wants the other to die. And he will kill both of us if we carry on."
Sherlock paused himself, taken off guard by John's comment. The man had actively been involved in his investigations and although he sometimes disapproved of the reasons behind them, never believed Sherlock should stop all together. This sudden change of track by a man who searched for the adventure in life surprised him. "I….I ca…" He himself found he couldn't formulate the words properly.
"Can't? Yeah, I thought so."
"He will kill us anyway, John, whether I am hunting him or not."
John turned back to the TV. "Yes," he said distractedly. "Yes, I suppose so." After a few moments, he looked down and saw Sherlock's hand was touching him again.
And instead of continuing the seemingly endless conversation on Moriarty, John went down that wonderful predictable in timing yet unpredictable in manner route Sherlock adored in him so much by asking whether he would like some tea. And when he came back with the two cups and Sherlock spent the rest of the evening with his hand laid gently on top of John's, gently rubbing his palm with a cautious thumb, the doctor didn't say anything. He just let Sherlock sit close and monitor and comfort him in a peculiar but satisfying way.