Chapter Eight

Half of the street has poured out to see what all the police cars are for. A mass stumbling of drunks and interested parties coming from their buildings and into the street to further block the traffic along with the police cars parked longways to stop any fleeing villains. John has no idea how long he's been pinned under Lestrade's questioning, but it's certainly been long enough for Angelo to throw off the lights in his club, toss out the last revelers, and shut the front doors firmly.

But Lestrade's questions are absolutely nothing compared to the look he's being pinned with by Sherlock Holmes. It's not the sort of look that Sherlock usually fixes anyone with (that's observation, deduction, close scrutiny that peels apart layers and layers of information to get to the heart of a matter in unblinking seconds). This asks no questions at all. Sherlock is just looking at him, almost like a child seeing something he doesn't quite understand for the first time; there's no attempt to understand, just a careful, appreciative, wide-eyed stare.

And when he's not supplying an answer to the DI in front of him, John looks back.

They've been corralled separately (probably to see how and even if their stories will corroborate), but even John knows they're less interested in the how a murderer is dead as much as the fact that he is dead. That's the way, John thinks with a brimming frown. So long as their work is done, even if they haven't done it themselves, they're happy. Most of them are probably miffed that Lestrade is keeping them out late to question them, and anyone in the surrounding buildings who might've heard the struggle (no one did, or will admit that they did; John's hesitance to cooperate with the bobbies is something shared by most of them, by most everyone).

"And you say he had his gun out," Lestrade asks for what feels like the seventh time. "On Sherlock."

"I told you," John reiterates. And then he feels bold—the whole night has been all about seeing how far he's willing to push himself, so why the hell not? "Why do you care?"

Lestrade's face does something strange. It's not angry or even confused. He looks almost amused, in a tired sort of way. "How long 've you known Sherlock, then?" Lestrade asks. It's not in the same vein of questioning, and it almost throws John off.

"Three days, or just about," John says, almost with a laugh. "Why? This have something to do with the cab driver?"

"No, it's—" Lestrade laughs, devoid of humor. "You already sound like him. Bet he's giving PC Atherton a hell of a time over there."

"So you're not getting anything useful out of us," John goes for the ultimatum. "It's late. Even you've got someplace to be."

Lestrade shakes his head. "I can take the two of you in, if I like. We can make it easy for everyone here if you cooperate."

John's eyes say unlikely, and Sherlock smirks and glances away from halfway across the street when he sees it.

Lestrade moves to Sherlock's side, where John hears Sherlock snap: "Your killer is dead, I can't see what more you want from us." Lestrade pulls PC Atherton away to talk privately, and that's when Sherlock takes a few quick, long-legged steps to arrive rather suddenly at John's side. He's smiling like a kid caught doing something he shouldn't have been.

"He seems properly ruffled," Sherlock notes.

"I don't like stupid questions," John mutters, and it only brightens Sherlock's smirk. The two of them watch the detective inspector and uniformed bobbie going over their notes, and after a moment of silence, Sherlock leans slightly toward John.

"Do…" Sherlock has never seemed hesitant about a question before, so John doesn't say anything to interrupt him. "Do you dance?" he manages at last, and his eyes tick up to John for confirmation or denial.

"Haven't had a reason to," John answers, and Sherlock's eyes deflate. So John amends: "And I've had a limp ever since I got back. So I can't say I'd know any of the steps."

There's a brief smile somewhere in Sherlock's face. "Let's get out of here," he drawls, finding his usual footing. "Leave Lestrade looking for us."

"To where?" John asks, and Sherlock grins even wider that running from the police isn't what John's questioning. "Not Baker Street, you asked me if I dance. But it's past two, all the clubs are shut up."

"John," Sherlock says with a shake of his head. "You have been away too long. Come on." He nods his head away, and, with a careful gap between them, they slip away from the police blockade of the street.

And they end up in the alley behind Angelo's, not a stone's throw from Lestrade and the men John can already hear being ordered to find the pair of them. But John doesn't question his guide, especially when Sherlock throws open the cellar doors and hops down the stairs to where the sound of music is already swelling up to meet them. John unquestioningly follows, and shuts the doors after.

The young man John had run into only hours before, standing in the doorway heaving for breath and asking for Angelo, meets them at the heavy door at the bottom of the stairs. The young man smiles when he sees Sherlock, raises his eyebrows in John's direction. Sherlock assures the man (Billy, John finally grasps) that John is with him. Billy unlocks the door and holds it open for them as a wave of cool blue jazz pours over them.

The musicians are the same John had seen on stage when Sherlock had performed six hours ago (hell, it feels like days ago), but there's some sort of renewed enthusiasm that's running through their fingers. That lady singer isn't with them, only the band, but their beat is thumping (gets right into John's chest and crowds out his heartbeat). It's a smaller affair than the club upstairs, and most of it is stage and dance floor. The bar takes up a sliver of the room, and only four small tables are crowded into the space that isn't filled with dancers.

It's the dancers that catch John's attention. Upstairs, it certainly hadn't been hand-holding ballroom dancing. But those folks upstairs had been white boys dancing with white girls. Even in the dim lighting, it's easy to see that underground, Angelo's takes on another face. White and black, it was a blur down here. Girls with their hands around other girls' waists, one bloke whispering in another bloke's ear—all of them dancing.

Well-hidden, the people no one else wants to see, the ones folks liked to pretend don't exist.

John has been so busy observing the underground club to notice that Sherlock is watching him expectantly. Because John has to know he can leave. He can leave any time he'd like, he doesn't have to come here with Sherlock at all. It's the choice that Sherlock gives him that makes up John's mind for him. He doesn't turn away from it, shoves his hands in his pocket, and says:

"You gonna buy me a drink, first?"

Sherlock breaks into a smile.

His drinks are on the house. Of course.

They don't dance. Not because John doesn't want to, he'd probably say yes if Sherlock asked him, but they don't. Sherlock's previous assuredness has faded away within the first minute of finding a seat (not hard, most of the feet are on the dance floor).

A quiet piano song takes over, and the dancers slow.

"John," Sherlock says at last. He settles into his chair, finds something very interesting on the table to stare at. John doesn't interrupt. "People have saved my life before. There's no denying that, I have a way for finding myself in more trouble than I mean to. Often."

The doctor smirks, and even though he doesn't see it, it seems to give Sherlock the encouragement to go on.

"There have been several times in which someone has saved my life because it's been his job to do so. Sometimes, it's even been saved on accident." Sherlock looks up, and when John doesn't break in and question this, there's a flare in Sherlock's eyes that gives him away. He's glad John doesn't ask—perhaps even proud that John's sensed as much.

Sherlock rather can't help when his long fingers move tentatively forward to brush at John's. The veteran doesn't stop him.

"No one has ever saved my life because he's wanted to," Sherlock continues, even lower (hardly audible over the sudden flourish of the band).

Oh. That makes John's poor old heart jump, and he feels a bit like a teenager again for no good reason other than he's suddenly incredibly nervous and incredibly excited, and this is obviously new for both of them (not the physical attraction, of course not, they've had that in droves; the hand-holding and the feelings, those are new). So John grips Sherlock's fingers back, twines them together, encases them.

Sherlock sighs (releases the breath he's had pent up, eases back into breathing). "John, I'll understand if you won't take the room. Knowing what it is I get up to."

John laughs, and it's loud enough to distract the nearest pairs of dancers (but neither of them care if they have an audience, not here).

"You need me," John says point-blank. No arguments. "The trouble you get in."

"Yes," Sherlock says, a low smile growing on his lips. "I suppose I do."

They don't dance. Because John has pulled his chair around to Sherlock's side, pressed shoulder to shoulder and linked by fingers stitched together on the table. John leans his head into Sherlock, listens as the detective gleans life stories off of the dancers, just listens to him talk. They hardly drink, the tension of the past few hours is enough to get their heads spinning, to pull loud and jarring laughter from them when it's not especially called for. They fit right in.

Angelo sees them out when they're sure the police have gone from across the street, and he gives John a broad wink and wishes them the best of luck. John almost asks at what? before Sherlock grips his fingers tighter and pulls John up the stairs after him.

On their way to Baker Street, Sherlock lights up a cigarette and strikes up an inane conversation he knows neither of them are interested in, if only to maintain the illusion of two good old boys walking in the same direction, not two almost-lovers wanting to get back to their flat as soon as possible. With Sherlock's help, they pull it off rather well.

Mrs. Hudson's lights are off, she's long asleep. They hang their coats in the foyer, walk quietly up the stairs shoulder to shoulder. And there's a moment where they linger by the stairs to the third floor, toward the second bedroom (John's room, where he'd waited for twenty minutes and felt like a fool). Neither of them say anything, because there's an awful lot of baggage floating around in the air between them, so much that had happened in just this one day, one night. It's almost too much, and they both know it. So they linger, watching one another for one lead or one clue.

John moves first. Up into Sherlock's space, where he goes to his toes. And their faces meet halfway, almost awkward when their lips mash up against each other and their noses don't quite fit. John pulls back, tries not to look skittish, but Sherlock isn't finished with him. The detective leans down and completes their circuit again (because they'll learn the way they fit together, they have plenty of time). Nothing complicated, nothing rushed. Just the long press of mouths, lingering.

John quirks half a smile, peers up at Sherlock (and they're very close, but it's not anything more than closeness, and John likes this more). "Thanks for not killing yourself," he murmurs, and it sounds stupid, but he has to leave it, now.

Sherlock smirks, leaves a long pause, and falls back into close solemnity. "Thank you. For coming."

They go their separate ways, and John settles into a bed that isn't his, throws the duvet over his head, and falls easily into sleep for the first time since France. He doesn't have his nightmares, only smoky recollections of running through the streets of London to a swift jazz beat.

John stirs awake from half-remembered, swiftly-retreating thoughts of a hazy club, to the sound of the violin. Still bleary from sleep, John stretches, wonders what sort of time this is to be playing the violin (the pocket watch he's left on the bedside table says some time past four in the morning, which means he can't have been asleep for more than an hour and a half. He sighs, vaguely recalling something Sherlock had said about playing at all hours. That doesn't stop John from kicking the covers away and getting out of bed to check on him.

Sherlock is in the sitting room, right in front of the window that looks down onto the street outside, down to his dressing gown and pyjamas, and he's playing. Violin tucked softly under his chin, head tilted and then he sways with the movement of the bow. It's slow and syncopated, hitching on the eighth notes. Quiet nighttime jazz.

John leans heavily in the doorway and he watches.

Sherlock's eyes are closed, half-turned away from the window so John can see him in profile. When Sherlock hits those high, sad notes, he smiles, grins wide, and it all drops away when he leans back, takes the run of notes fast and fluid. John's heart in his ears is all the backing he needs, low thump of a beat. Sherlock's hips sway, shoulders bend, fingers race each other up the neck of the violin, and it sings.

It's just jazz he shouldn't be so excited, but it's Sherlock and jazz, and he's making that instrument cry like a woman. And it's the right sort of mesmerizing, the kind he has to reach out and touch.

"Christ," John mutters, really can't help himself.

Sherlock looks up, the bow skittering off the strings in surprise.

Before he can even think, John cuts in: "Don't stop."

And after only the briefest pause (not even a smug smirk flickering to Sherlock's lips, just eyes locking), he starts to play again. Even slower, somehow it's possible. But the notes are just as strong and vibrant and they're practically shining in the air and Sherlock is looking at him. Eyes locked over the varnish of the violin, over the humming strings. And John is looking right back.

John approaches slowly, dragging his eyes over Sherlock's fingers on the neck, the bow, up long arms and down the open V of his dressing gown. And Sherlock knows well enough to remove the bow in time to allow John access, and he takes it. Stepping right in, and Sherlock just has enough time to yank the violin from under his chin before John is pressed up against him and they're kissing again.

This one is so different. The press of lips is more urgent, and Sherlock bows slightly and tilts his head and suddenly his tongue is in John's mouth. John doesn't argue. Sherlock's wrist, wrapped around the neck of the violin, digs into John's back, and the instrument thumps against him. So John's fingers dig into Sherlock's dressing gown and he yanks them even closer together.

And then Sherlock mutters a protesting: "John."

"What?" John asks, pulling back and slightly frustrated.

Sherlock grins languidly. "Let me put down my violin so I can touch you properly."

John fixes his hanging jaw. "Oh. All right."

He gives Sherlock the room necessary to step back and place the violin and bow down in his armchair by the fireplace. There's a bare moment when they manage to lock eyes again, and there's not even a sliver of doubt there. Sherlock steps in again, fixes his mouth on John's, and it's just as effortlessly that he lifts John and shoves him back onto his cluttered desk (pencils and newspaper clippings tumbling to the ground in his wake). John's sure he likes this angle even better.

(Especially the way Sherlock can stand between his legs, grab John by the thighs, the lower back, hitching them together to a drum beat of two hearts and scattered breath the brush over the cymbal. And Sherlock hums into John's open mouth when John wraps a knee around Sherlock's hip and pulls him closer, and it's just the sort of noise Sherlock can pull from his violin.)

Sherlock breaks back, fixes John with a stare that even he can read.

"Yours?" John breathes.

"Mrs. Hudson," Sherlock warns. "Old walls, bit dangerous."

John doesn't bring up that dangerous is precisely what brought them together. "Mine. Needs to be broken in, anyhow."

Sherlock rolls his eyes. "As does your sense of humor."

John stops Sherlock's mouth with his own.

It's hardly light, but the city is awake long before someone comes knocking on their door. Sherlock rolls over, shoves John out of the bed first with one of his feet, and the soldier can only grumble in acquiescence. He grabs enough clothing to be respectable and inconspicuous, cinching a dressing gown over all of it.

There's a pretty young blonde woman at the door, and she looks sad and lost. "I'm sorry to bother you so early, Mister Holmes," she says quickly, clutching her purse, "but someone told me this is where I could come for help."

It takes John's sleepy brain a moment, then he laughs. "Sorry, no, I'm not Holmes." At first she looks embarrassed and crestfallen, but John cuts back in. "I'm his doctor. I can get him up, if you'd like. What sort of trouble is it?"

"It's my father," she says with a long, miserable pout. "He's missing."

John is about to tell her that it seems like the sort of thing the police would look into, when Sherlock's voice is suddenly in his ear.

"For how long?" Sherlock asks the girl.

She must make the connection—this one is Sherlock Holmes, the one and only consulting detective—and she answers dutifully. "Ten years."

A smile curls slow like smoke across Sherlock's lips. "Won't you come in?"

AN: And so ends A Study in Blue! It's been one heck of a trip and I've learned a lot-learned what to do for NEXT TIME! Because there WILL be more Jazzverse (you all thought you were off the hook HAH). I had been asked if I'd write anything decidedly smutty for this, but I couldn't bring myself to (I have never published smut before, so it'd be awful anyway~). I'm really glad to have had you all with me for this journey, and I hope you decide to stick around for whenever I pick up the baton again and direct my band of jazzporn. Thanks so much for reading and sticking with me, leave us some love, and most important of all, STAY AWESOME!