Time, the pedagogue, his cane
But his charges all would stray
Truanting in every lane -
Jack with Jane -
If it could be always May.
The first week of May, Sherlock gets a letter: a real honest-to-God, sent-from-who-knows-where on absurdly expensive paper, precious gems probably crushed into the postmark kind of letter. It's from an independent client so wealthy and prestigious that they failed to even give their name for fear of revealing too much.
They missed the mark entirely on that score. John wonders at the kind of pretentiousness that demands someone send an actual message (one that can be traced and considered and deduced) just to arrange a video chat. It's showy to the point of being ludicrous. An email or a text would have served them a bit better, all said, because even though the words would have been just as revealing, the message itself would have held less personality to be picked apart. This note may be typed, but that doesn't give it one bit of anonymity when Sherlock is on the receiving end. He's probably already deduced the sender's age and weight from the grain of the paper.
This person may want Sherlock's help, but they clearly have no idea who they're dealing with. The thought makes John smile a little. No one ever does the first time.
When Sherlock hands him the letter and its envelope, John looks them over and tries to think like a consulting detective without looking like an idiot. A phrase halfway through the note catches his eye. "'We have heard of you good recommendations,'" he reads out, thoughtfully. "That sounds like someone ran it through a translator and pasted it in."
Sherlock's lips twitch into a smile. "Well done. Originally written in German, obviously."
"Obviously," John agrees with a grin. At some point in the last half a year the word has become an in-joke for them. He still remembers that first time clearly: Well, it's not obvious to me. Sherlock's deductions are still a mystery to John more often than not these days, even though he watches them and writes about them and tries to follow lines of logic fast enough to keep up. He'll never get used to Sherlock's utter brilliance, even though he trusts it, and he privately accepts that's probably for the best.
Sherlock would explain if John asked, but he chooses not to this time. He hands the letter back for further examination. Sherlock settles into his armchair and plays the envelope between his fingers.
"The date for the video setup is tomorrow," John points out unnecessarily, just to break the silence.
Sherlock gives him a look that articulates an insult, even though he only says, "I know."
"Are you going to take it?"
Sherlock hums thoughtfully. "What do you think?"
John can't quite believe he heard those words. He clears his throat and shakes his head, as if to dislodge water from his ears. He sits down on the arm of the couch and stares. "Wait, sorry, did you just ask my opinion about a case?"
That earns him a haughty raised eyebrow, which means Sherlock is uncomfortable and doing a bad job hiding it. "I always value your opinion, John."
Really, he wants to say, but the word stops in his mouth at the steady, quiet look on Sherlock's face. Oh. Really.
John looks away to gather his thoughts and shifts on the sofa arm. He notices the sun outside and thinks inanely that it's going to be summer before they know it. It's about time. He's tired of being cooped up. He can't quite manage to collect himself; he turns his attention back to Sherlock and tilts his head. "What would you do," he asks slowly, feeling the words out, "If I said no? If I said I didn't think it was a good idea."
Sherlock tilts his head as well, and they look at each other a moment. Sherlock's gray eyes are narrowed in thought. He leans back in his chair and rests one foot on the opposite knee; his fingers come up and steeple at his chest, and the sunlight from the window catches in his hair. It strikes John quite suddenly that this, this right here, this picture, is the one people are going to think of when they hear the name Sherlock Holmes a hundred years from now.
The notion doesn't surprise him at all. They will hear the name, long after both of them are dead and gone, because John is going to make sure of it. He can't entirely grasp the scope of that thought—it feels bright in his head, hard to hold, and it's already sliding away when Sherlock straightens again.
His words are careful, deliberate, and John can feel him weighing them as they're spoken. "At this juncture, I would be extremely...hesitant...to embark on a course of action which you considered unwise, John."
That...is rather more than John had been expecting. It's quite a lot, actually.
"Do you think it's him?" He doesn't say the name Moriarty, largely because it no longer seems necessary.
Sherlock sighs and slouches in his chair a little, but he holds John's gaze. "I don't know."
John appreciates the honesty in that answer, painful as it was for Sherlock to give. They don't know, and they probably never will, and...well.
That's really not any different than usual for them, is it.
"I think we should take the case," he says, and Sherlock matches his smile.
The next day, John hovers behind Sherlock's shoulder while the laptop boots and the video chat loads. When the dark figure on the other end of the screen appears, it's easy to see that it's a man, but his face is blurred with some kind of pixelating effect.
His voice, when it speaks, is heavily garbled with a modifier. "Mr. Holmes?"
"I had hoped we could speak alone."
John clears his throat and starts to move away, but Sherlock holds up a hand to stop him. He keeps his eyes on the screen. "This is Doctor Watson, my friend and colleague. He's good enough to help me with my cases, from time to time." He glances over at John and gives him the flicker of a smile before looking back at their virtual visitor. John holds his breath.
"Well," the man says at last. "If you will insist."
Sherlock shrugs, as if he has no other option. "It's both or none, I'm afraid." He looks over again and there's definitely a smile there, this time. "Have a seat, John. Now, how can I help your Majesty today?"
John sits abruptly; Sherlock shoots him an amused glance and returns his attention to the conversation.
Both or none. It's true, of course, and it has been since they met, since Nice shot and You're an idiot and Dr. Watson will be taking the room upstairs. But in Sherlock's voice the words seem new, like the beginning of something. John takes a deep breath to let his thoughts settle; he glances at the bright sunshine outside and the long lines of light on the wallpaper.
Enough, he tells himself, and he lets it will be time later—days and months, and possibly even years—to think about all this. At least John hopes there will. Worry can find them another day, through Moriarty or Moran or anything else, and they'll deal with it then. For now, they have work to do. John clears his throat and leans forward, and returns his attention at last to the case at hand.
Author's Note: Well, there it is, completed and done with. This fic proved to be both challenging and fun to write, and I always appreciate the opportunity to delve into the characters given to us by Doyle, and re-envisioned by Moffat and Gattis. Your reading time is always appreciated, and your comments (whether compliment or critique) are always welcome because they keep me on my toes. Until next time, enjoy your spring weather and have a cup of tea. Cheers!