Exception to the Rule

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Chapter One


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The resonance of rain was a gentle overture compared to the noisy rattle of the window pane - strident testimony to the horrible weather that plagued London in the early spring. To the sullen detective pressing his face to the glass, the present state of the world seemed like a metaphor for the turmoil thriving within his highly developed cranium. Outside, the sky and the sea had switched places - water flowed without end, pouring into a receptacle with unlimited volume. Occasionally bright flashes of lightning fractured the heavens into what looked like shards of a dark mirror. In the intermittent illumination, small black and white figures appeared on the slick pavement below – city people darting frantically for cover, like cockroaches in the light. Accompanying rolls of thunder were deafened in the sound of splashing cars and the flickering television glowing in the reflection of the window. Sherlock didn't even know why he kept the thing on; currently all channels offered nothing but static.

It was white noise for a black mood.

A child murdered by the river - a politician's daughter missing - stolen baubles belonging to some mystic man from the far east. His mind was full of cases that left nothing to the imagination. It was as if the crime in London had no spirit left for Sherlock to chase.

Ever since that damned night at the pool.

The man moved away from the window as if stricken. Those events were something to best be left forgotten, and yet they still plagued him when nothing else would. His mind was starving and if he didn't get something to chew on then insanity was eminent.

Desperate, his eyes strayed to the bookshelf, lingering on A Brave New World by Huxley. The detective had gutted the book months ago in order to store his personal toxins away from inquisitive eyes. He hadn't touched any of them since before John's arrival into his lifestyle.

It was a stroke to Sherlock's pride that Lestrade's team hadn't discovered them in his 'drugs bust' last month.

Sherlock tilted his head in thought, wondering if he would dare play the needle against his arm. Would the euphoria be worth John potentially finding him in such a state? As a medical man it would only take him seconds to figure out what he had done. Would he risk the weeks of silence?

He could barely stand the silence now.

He sat down heavily on the sofa – a defeated man. The mere shadow of John seemed to tame the storm brewing within the man's core, and some part of him hated it. The doctor was an anomaly – an impossibility; and yet he got himself beneath Sherlock's skin. Him, Sherlock Holmes, the world's only consulting detective now infected by John Watson, an ordinary man. It was… annoying.

As if beckoned, Sherlock's violin found its way into his hands. It was a mahogany marvel, used for ruminating or chasing fat siblings from the establishment. With a twitch of his lips, Sherlock set a sweet melody dancing into the stale air of the flat. It was a suitable distraction. Bloch Nigen - the walls would weep had they eyes.

The song died on a flat note when Sherlock heard the front door swing open wide. Instantly the violin was unceremoniously cast to the sofa as a familiar voice mixed discordantly with one that was a deep tenor.

"Yo ho… blow… blow the man down…"

The lyrics were ripped apart with hiccups and laughter as John and another man tromped their way up the stairs. The smell of alcohol greeted Sherlock far before his flat mate's presence did. There was some stumbling and an awful lot of giggling before the twin forms emerged in the doorway and looked around blearily at the room.

John's eyes floated to Sherlock's and stayed there a moment. The consulting detective took the moment to roam over his friends figure.

Wet clothing. Very wet clothing. Laces of his trainers stained reddish around the aglets where they were dragged through loose dirt; his soles were also caked with rich soil mixed with a strange combination of debris that could only be from a careful gardener's compost. John's shirt was more expensive than his usual wardrobe, though buttoned sloppily, indicating it had been removed then put on again - likely due to the humidity of the pub they attended. The quality of John's clothing drew Sherlock's attention to the person his friend was likely dressing up for.

The man sported a tan much like the one that was slowly fading around John's wrists and stood just a little too flatly on his arches to indicate he was a civilian. A military man then – obviously from John's regiment, most likely a subordinate since Sherlock didn't sense any rigidity in John's stature… though they were both thoroughly plastered. There was a ring on his finger – married, newlywed judging by the way the ring sat loosely off the knuckle and the tan which persisted beneath the gold. If the detective had to hazard a guess, he would say this man was Bill Murray, the orderly who had been texting John over the last month to meet for some drinks. Looks like he got what he came for. The stains on the man's trousers indicated that he had fallen twice on route to the flat.

"Evening gentlemen."

"S-sherlock…" John slurred, the smile slowly crawling across his face causing one of the detective's eyebrows to quirk. "Do you mind if Bill bunks here t-tonight?"

"As long as he does not upset any of my experiments." Sherlock's head tilted slightly to match the angle of the stranger's ruddy face - his eyes were unfocused and a curious shade of brown. Absently he wondered if Murray's silence was out of shyness, insobriety or nausea.

Just as the thought crossed the detective's mind, the man hiccupped wetly and Sherlock kicked a bucket filled with miscellaneous biological components towards the orderly's feet.

It was most definitely nausea.

The sound of stomach contents hitting pulpy post-dissected organs made John turn pale. Sherlock grinned disdainfully. He was about to take a step forward to assist John in removing Murray's soaking coat when his smart phone vibrated within the confines of his shirt pocket. Quickly he withdrew the device and accessed the text with practiced fingers – hoping for a truly unique murder to get his mind in motion. In the background, the pair of drunken military men were momentarily forgotten.

As Sherlock had assumed from the awkward hour, it was a message from Detective Inspector Lestrade, complete with a picture of a body sprawled on a drenched lawn. What was interesting about the corpse, was the gaping hole where the man's heart should be; not to mention the building engulfed in flames behind him. Sherlock noted it was taken less then a minute ago.

"Sherlock, are you all right?"

"Hn…?" The man's pallid face was sporting a peculiar expression; his eyebrows had knitted together and his eyes gleamed in the light of his touch screen. John couldn't tell from his perspective if the man was excited or terrified. It took the detective a whole minute to realize the doctor was waiting for an answer to his question.

"Yes. Yes… I suppose I am. Your friend Murray is welcome to the sofa… I don't plan on sleeping tonight."

John gently maneuvered his friend to the furniture offered, taking a moment to nudge Sherlock's violin out of the way; the pail full of biological components soon followed. Every so often John's eyes would flicker to his flat mate's face as Sherlock studied the picture on his mobile. The task almost made John fall on his face twice.

"G-going out, in this weather?" He hiccupped, then blushed slightly. The thoughts came slowly, but John knew should not have drank as much as he had. He was going to regret it tomorrow when he was due at the clinic.

"Yes. I believe I am." Sherlock pivoted on his foot, the movement making John feel dizzy just looking at him. "And you could do with some water. I can't have my blogger getting dehydrated on the eve of a big case!" He gave one of his charming smiles before disappearing into the cluttered kitchen.

John peered curiously after his friend before shrugging off his coat and throwing himself into his chair. He hadn't remembered feeling this tired in a long time. It seemed like seconds before Sherlock was back with a mug of water in his hand.

"You do realize you're soaked all the way through…?"

The doctor nodded wearily, "The chair will dry by morning… I'll clean my muddy prints tomorrow as well - before Miss Hudson g-gives me the evil eye." He hiccupped again, making Sherlock grin. John stuck his tongue out childishly and took the mug of water off his hands. As he sipped it, he watched Sherlock wander around the room collecting various items. The man seemed far more energetic than before…

"So that was a case then…?" John commented on the earlier text, his voice was becoming more and more slurred; which was strange since he had been feeling so much more sober upon entering the house. Maybe he was more tired than he thought.

Sherlock started to mix up some strange chalky solution in a bowl, which John had earlier labeled 'for science purposes only' after a horrible incident involving oatmeal and pureed viscera.

"I suppose you could call it that." The man paused to look at the ceiling for no particular reason, making John follow with his eyes curiously. There was nothing there - at least, nothing that John could see. Just the light fixture, which was a lot brighter then the doctor remembered…

"Though, a threat may be more accurate."

"I see…" The room was starting to slide. It was a peculiar feeling, and it took John a moment to realize that in actuality, it was just his head sinking of it's own accord down towards his shoulder. With a frown, he looked at the mug now slipping through his fingers before glancing back to Sherlock with a bit of concern. There was some strange words on the tip of his tongue meant for the eccentric genius, but the doctor couldn't remember what they were. They died unuttered as his eyelids drifted close and the mug hit the carpet with a dull thud.

As if cued, Sherlock moved to John's side and took a hold of one of the doctor's wrists. Withdrawing some putty from his pocket, the detective applied it around John's thumb and index finger. Once he molded it perfectly around his knuckles, he removed the putty and set the rough moulds into a near by test tube tray that had some other curious, yet unrelated, concoctions evaporating within. He then poured the solution he mixed up earlier into the drying fixtures and let it set while he worked on untying John's shoes.

Another text made Sherlock reach for his phone. It was Lestrade asking if he was on his way.

Sherlock ignored it and ran his hand through John's hair, keeping any stray strands that came off in his hand. Then, the detective went back to his moulds and fetched the fresh false fingers he had made. After checking the plaster for any flaws, he dipped them in a thin coat of wax which he had started to boil earlier - back when he had fetched John's 'water'. As he waited for them to cool, the detective cast a wary glance to the sleeping Bill Murray; satisfied the man wasn't stirring, Sherlock moved on.

Once the cooling process was completed, he coated the fingers in a very sparse amount of animal fat and rolled them in tin foil. Finally he placed them in his pocket and cleaned up his materials. Finishing that, Sherlock plucked up John's shoes, John's jacket and lingered at the light switch, sparing a glance at the cluttered room and the sleeping men within. It was unnervingly quiet, even with the storm and static of the television still resonating in the background.

Like a ghost, Sherlock turned off the lights and donned his coat, slipping out of 221B Baker Street into the heavy rain. The thunder masked the sound of the front door snapping shut and lightning cast a long shadow that was quickly swallowed up by the night.

For the first time in weeks, Sherlock's mind was burning.

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