"You have a stepbrother? Why did you never tell me you had a stepbrother? "
"You didn't exactly tell me you had a brother, now did you? And how do you know I have a stepbrother?"
"Harry sent you an email about 'Rick' and I emailed back and asked her who 'Rick' was."
"And she told you! Harry! Ugh…It's no wonder we don't get on! Well, I'm making tea. Want some?"
"So why don't you want to talk about him?"
"John, stop it. You may be an idiot, but you're not hard of hearing. Why don't you want me to know about your stepbrother?"
"I just don't, Sherlock. Now do you want tea or not?"
Sherlock closed his eyes, and lay back on the sofa.
"You're embarrassed by him."
"Hm? Could you wait until this is over?"
"Oh please. If you actually care, you can watch it on the BBC iPlayer tomorrow, John. In fact Mycroft could probably get you the whole series right now if you ask nicely."
"Yeah, I'm sure he owns the bloody BBC and is a personal friend of Steven Moffat. But that's not the point. The point is I'm trying to watch telly…and…turn the sound back on!"
"I'm not going to give you this remote or turn the sound back on until you tell me if I'm right. You're embarrassed by him."
"Now you're stalling again. And it's 'whom.' You're embarrassed, and it's not because he's done anything illegal. Richard Holdsworth has no criminal record. Your father married a widow with one son ten years after your mother died—nothing sordid there. So it's got to be something personal. He's not ugly, is he? Or duller even than you?"
"Fine. That's it. I'm going to bed."
"It's a bit early."
"Well, I'm tired! Have to get up early tomorrow."
"Tomorrow's Sunday," Sherlock called after John as he stormed out the door.
Sherlock steepled his fingers.
And he un-muted the telly.
"So you really were getting up early. You couldn't sleep? Or you have somewhere to go?" He heard the front door close, just as he put his jacket on.
It was absurdly simple to follow John onto the bus and get off after him near Crouch End. Sherlock already knew that they were going towards the residence of Margaret Watson and Richard Holdsworth, so he was only mildly surprised when he saw that John was not going to enter the building. Another bad familial relationship, just as he'd thought. The man who stepped out into the street was shorter than John and a bit stouter. From his vantage point several hundred feet down the street Sherlock could not see much, so he followed them as they walked towards a small park. They sat down on a wooden bench, so soon he was close enough to hear them talking.
"You're okay then, John?"
"Really? And you don't need your stick anymore? Your leg is better!"
"Yes it is, Rick. You can see that I don't need my stick. I wrote about it in my blog."
"That's good, John. Very good. That's good it's on your blog. Because then…then…we could walk all the way to COFFEE CAKE, John! Because your leg is better! And it's on your blog! Your blog about your friend."
"Don't you want to eat?"
"Yes. Your friend on your blog. Where is he?"
"Focus, Rick. You want to go to Coffee Cake? Or do you want to get pizza or Chinese?"
"Could we get pizza and coffee cake with your friend?"
"No, Rick, I only have time for one or the other."
"No. Pizza or Coffee Cake. Choose."
"Let's go now, John."
"Your leg is okay, so we can go?"
"Yes! How many times do I have to tell you my leg is okay!"
"I'm sorry, John. But I want to go to Coffee Cake."
"I'm sorry, I shouldn't have shouted. We'll go to Coffee Cake, we just have to ask your Mum first."
"Do we HAVE to, John?"
"Yes. Yes, we do." John stood up a bit faster than Sherlock expected so he had no time to move out of sight. He and John locked eyes for a moment, before John pointedly turned his back to him and then helped Rick get up.
Sherlock had all the information he needed— and he knew John well enough to recognize that he was truly angry—so he went home.
When John did get back he made tea for himself, and didn't respond to Sherlock's request for a cup before walking up to his bedroom.
"Not talking to me?" Sherlock mused. "Hmm… that's a new one from you, John. What do you think?" he asked his skull. "We'll give him an hour at most before he comes back down to yell at me?" He got out his violin and started playing.
Sure enough, forty-nine minutes later Sherlock was enduring John's rant with a look of complete indifference.
"I've put up with a lot from you! Shooting at the walls. Cutting in on my dates. Body parts in the kitchen. But following me! Your brother I could understand—that's what he does—but you're my friend, Sherlock, and you should know better… And that's another thing—you know everything about me…Everything! You just can't help figuring out everything the moment you look at me. So now I have one single solitary thing in my whole life that you haven't deduced. One thing I've kept private—that I WANT to keep private and here you are following me and finding it out! I mean…"
"Are you done yet?"
"Good. First, I fail to see why you are yelling at me, when you are angry with yourself. You say that you have kept this fact private, when in reality you have ignored it. In the six months since you and I moved into this flat you have not been to Crouch End even once, and therefore it is highly unlikely that you have visited anyone who lives there. I think, John Watson, that you are ashamed of your brother and you're ashamed of yourself as a result."
"I'm not ashamed of Rick."
"You were too ashamed to introduce him to me."
John looked mulish.
"You were. When you saw me at the park you could have introduced him to me. He seemed interested in me."
"That is ridiculous. You were following me. And besides, since he is, as you say, even duller than me. You wouldn't want to meet him."
The way John looked at Sherlock, half defiant and half ashamed, made him realize that they had come to the heart of the issue.
"You're angry because I said that, not knowing anything about your brother? You know I think everyone's an idiot!"
"Yeah, well that doesn't make it right. And now you've got me thinking that way."
"Don't try to blame me. If you are thinking like me it's your own fault. But I don't believe you've changed overnight. You say you were ashamed to introduce him to me because you thought I would despise him…and maybe I would, but that's not really it, now is it? No…there's something else. You refused to talk to him about me as well, and you aren't ashamed of me. There's some reason you want to keep us completely separate even in your mind…" He considered John for a moment. "I think you're scared. Am I right?"
John refused to look at him.
"You think that I see you the way you see Rick…that I treat you the way you treat Rick, and you don't like it."
Sherlock knew he was almost there.
"And you're afraid that one day I'll decide you're not worth my time, and just ignore you like you did Rick. That is what this is all about, isn't it?"
John said nothing, and Sherlock stared at him for a few moments.
"You did finally go, you know."
"And…Rick seemed very happy to see you."
"Yes. Yes he did."
Sherlock cleared his throat and nervously rosined his bow for a few moments while John stared at the blank TV screen.
"Well, this is novel. Me being your conscience. Let's try not to make a habit of it. … John?"
"Yes. Is there anything in the fridge that I should know about?"
"Um… I'll get the milk."
One morning, several years later, Sherlock Holmes was standing at the corner of a road, watching as an older, more tired John Watson limped up the steps to his temporary residence at his sister's Kensington flat. The return of the psychosomatic limp—grief. For him? Flattering. Also idiotic. He grinned. Once John was inside Sherlock followed, but another thought stopped him outside the door. The return of the psychosomatic limp—not good? He wasn't sure. John was his conscience. He didn't have one. "What will you think about this, John?" And then he remembered Rick, and buzzed the intercom.