A/N: This was inspired by a picture on Deviantart ( ) of Sherlock sitting on a wall and looking beautifully concussed, and John looking generally disapproving of the mess that his flatmate had gotten into this time. What was originally supposed to be a whumpy, fluffy one-shot somehow mutated, with the help of google, into a full-blown mystery with kidnapping and serial killers. Yeah, I know. My brain scares even me, sometimes.
Disclaimer: BBC Sherlock belongs to, surprisingly enough, the BBC. Just because John and Sherlock decided to take up (highly irritating) residence in my brain until I wrote this does not mean I own it.
It all started at a crime scene. Sherlock was deducing and insulting, Lestrade was looking confused and trying to stop Donovan from clawing Sherlock's eyes out, and John was hovering around, stamping his feet in an effort to stay warm and huffing out clouds of white breath into the cold autumn air, feeling very much like a third wheel. He wished he'd thought to bring a coat like Sherlock, but the temperature had veered downwards with no warning at all, and suddenly his black and white striped jumper was no longer enough to keep him warm.
"Unidentified Caucasian male, around thirty-five-"
"Yes, yes, blah blah blah" snapped Sherlock irritably, circling the body and looking uncomfortably like a vulture with his black coat snapping out behind him. "Please don't state the obvious, Lestrade. Has anyone touched the body?"
"Well, not really-"
"You let the forensics team mess around?" Sherlock was almost snarling now, body taught with a strange tension, different from the usual adrenaline-filled anticipation that filled him at crime scenes. "Honestly! I ask one thing from you, one small thing, in return for my help, that I'm the first one to examine the scene, and-"
"I'm sorry, but the entirety of the Met cannot revolve around the stroppy wishes of a consulting detective that can't even arrive at the scene on time!" Lestrade had evidently had enough of being used as Sherlock's verbal punch bag for whatever was upsetting him. "I asked you to be here an hour ago. I can hold forensics off for ten, fifteen minutes, but an hour?"
"I had difficulty getting a taxi." Sherlock's tone was sulky, petulant.
"Then maybe you should consider investing in a car of your own," Lestrade bit back in an icy voice that signalled the end of his patience. "Now, are you going to help us or not?"
Out of the corner of his eye, John saw Sherlock pull himself up to his full height, trying to tower over Lestrade and not quite succeeding. For all he was smaller, the police officer could have an intimidatingly large presence when he wanted to.
"No. The scene is completely useless to me once your idiots-" he cast a superior look at Anderson, and was answered with a glare of pure loathing, "-have contaminated it with their clumsiness. Keep me informed of anything you find. Come on, John, I'm going home." He made a curt beckoning gesture and swept off, coat flaring behind him and wind whipping his hair around his head.
"Yeah, John, run along like a nice little pet," muttered Donovan from somewhere behind him, voice laced with a loathing John knew was directed more at Sherlock than at him, so he ignored her and hurried after the consulting detective who was skulking moodily in the shadows just past the police tape, waiting for him. As soon as he had caught up, Sherlock started walking again, far too fast, every movement full of that same, agitated tension.
John waited until they were out of sight and earshot of any nosy police officers before finally letting his curiosity get the better of him. "Alright. You've got me. What is it?"
"What?" asked Sherlock, turning to him, eyes refocusing as if he'd been off on another planet entirely.
"You've been twitchy ever since you laid eyes on the body. What've you deduced?"
"Hmm," murmured Sherlock, eyes unfocusing again, feet working automatically to take him along the pavement.
He took a deep breath. "John. Tell me what you noticed about the body."
"Well, it was the same as the other three. The starburst pattern of cuts on the chest. The clothes were undamaged and soaked through, like the others. The burn to the right shoulder and the left palm, done after death judging by the lack of blood. The kind of ritual element to it." He shuddered, not entirely because of the cold. "Whoever's doing it, they're sick."
Sherlock seemed uninterested in his observations. "Yes, yes, it's the work of a serial killer, they're all the same. But what about other senses? Smell?"
John scrunched his nose up as he thought for a moment. "There wasn't much of a smell," he pronounced eventually. "Just blood and... maybe something chemically, although that was probably from the forensics team."
Sherlock stopped walking. "It wasn't. Not unless they've started using chlorinated water for disinfectant or something."
John had carried on walking, but stopped at the word 'chlorine'. "...What? You're saying the killer splashed chlorine on them? Why? What significance does that have?"
"You can't splash chlorine, it's a gas." Despite his condescending tone, Sherlock hunched his shoulders and looked down, even more tense than before – if that was even possible. He rubbed the last three fingers of his left hand against his palm, a sort of nervous gesture (although he'd sulked when John had called it that, and denied it having any link to anxiety) he'd picked up after the pool.
"Think about it, John," he whispered, almost too quietly to be heard. "A wound to the shoulder. A wound to the palm. Chlorine. Water. Put it together."
John frowned, mind struggling against fatigue and the cold to find a link. It took only a few seconds, and then his eyes widened. "Oh."
Sherlock nodded grimly, eyes closing and head tilting back to look up at the sky, baring a pale neck to the moon. "Yes. The shoulder wound for you. Chlorine and water for the pool. The hand wound for me."
He held out a hand, fingers unfurling like the petals of a mysterious flower to reveal a raised line running across his left palm from just below his thumb to the base of his little finger. He stretched the fingers just a little too far and winced, hand dropping to his side again. Of all the injuries they'd sustained from the pool incident, the various superficial scars they'd both received, that was the one Sherlock had fixated on. It had ruined the dexterity of that hand, spelling a temporary end to violin playing, writing and texting.
Thankfully, Sherlock being Sherlock, he'd taken only a week to become proficient enough with his right hand he was now almost ambidextrous; unfortunately, he still didn't always remember that he shouldn't use his left hand, which lead to frequent winces and sounds of dropped objects.
"Moriarty's dead, Sherlock. They found his body," said John, after a moment's pause in which he wished he could comfort his friend in a way that wouldn't end with Sherlock freezing up and refusing to discuss the matter any more.
"They found a body. There's a fairly large difference." He no longer sounded sulky. He sounded tired, angry and – although John could have been imagining things – just a little worried. He began walking again, and once again John had to hurry to catch up with his long stride.
"They- Sherlock, it was wearing Moriarty's clothes. I ID'd it as Moriarty. Case closed!" John knew he sounded exasperated, but it couldn't help himself. "Honestly, sometimes it seems like you almost wish he was still alive."
Sherlock's eyes blazed as he grabbed John's elbow and swung him around so they were face to face. "Do not, do not ever say that, never!" he snarled, some of the tension in his body overflowing into his voice. His hand tightened around John's elbow to the point John's hand began to go numb.
John sighed, looking down at his feet. "I'm sorry," he murmured. "That was... unfair." He hesitated. "But, before, when he was setting you all those 'games', you seemed like you were enjoying it. I just wondered, if, maybe... you were missing the challenge."
Sherlock let go of his elbow and refused to look at him, instead walking slowly down the path, staring straight ahead. "I did. I do," he said eventually, voice heavy. "But... but that was before."
"Before what?" The words were out of John's mouth before he could stop them.
"Before he involved you. The competition was between me and him – you were a neutral person, he had no right to go around kidnapping you." He sounded sulky again now, like a child who'd had their favourite toy taken away.
"I was hardly neutral, trailing around after you and helping," laughed John, trying not to sound too awkward. "And anyway, what about those other people, the ones he strapped the bombs to. Weren't they neutral too?"
"Helping," snorted Sherlock, shaking his head in what seemed to be derisive amusement. "You weren't helping in any manner that he could have possibly considered a threat. And those other people weren't mine."
John, who'd been in the process of breathing in, choked on the cold air and coughed, trying to stop the blood rushing to his cheeks. Sherlock had the alarming habit of saying things that, from other people, would be completely and utterly inappropriate. John had to force himself to remember that he didn't understand the connotations of what he said – or, at least, John sincerely hoped he didn't understand the connotations. The alternative was... highly discomforting.
"...'When the impossible has been eliminated, whatever is left must be the truth, however improbable'," murmured Sherlock, oblivious of the reaction his previous words had caused. He sounded like he was quoting something. "Plenty of people know about the pool incident – it was all over the news, after all. Few people know we were involved in it. I suppose Mycroft is useful for something after all." He didn't sound terribly convinced by his own statement. "Even fewer know about your shoulder and my hand as well as knowing about the pool. Of the people that do know, some such as Mycroft and Lestrade can be instantly disqualified. Others, like your therapist, are highly unlikely. The most likely suspect is, in fact, Moriarty, who has an unfortunate habit of knowing everything." His mouth twisted down in a sour scowl.
"Yes, he'd be the perfect suspect, if he wasn't dead!" snapped John, not even bothering to hide his exasperation.
"How do you know." His tone was flat with disbelief, with no intonation to indicate a question.
"Well, for starters there was the body..."
"How did you know the body was him?"
"Because... well... he was wearing the same clothes, and he had dark hair, and as far as I could tell the same skin tone, and he was the same height..."
"But you couldn't be sure? You couldn't see the face, I understand."
"No. The face was rather badly, ah, damaged." John winced as the memory of the ripped up face, covered in blood and bruises and torn beyond recognition floated in his mind's eye. The rest of the body hadn't fared much better – Moriarty had evidently received a face-full of bricks during the explosion.
"So, in short, you cannot be one hundred percent sure it was Moriarty." Sherlock sounded triumphant, but in no way gleeful about his own superiority.
"No, but- Look, Sherlock, you can't just start leaping to conclusions because there's a few little signs that these killings might somehow be related to Moriarty. Maybe they're being done by another member of his organisation. He had quite a network set up, from what I understand."
"Yes. But still. I am... uneasy." Sherlock shifted uncomfortably, sticking his hands in his pockets, and they walked on for silence for a few minutes.
And then, abruptly, Sherlock turned off the path by the road and down a dark passage that, John suspected, probably lead to a network of unsavoury alleys.
"Sherlock! What are you doing?" he hissed, trying to keep his voice down and his body language neutral. If Sherlock had a reason for doing this, he didn't want to mess up any plan the detective might have.
Sherlock ignored him, instead turning and twisting down a few more alleys before bending his head close to John's and murmuring, so quietly as to be almost inaudible. "Don't be alarmed, don't give anything away, don't look, but I think there's someone tailing us. About ten meters back, staying to the shadows, not being very subtle about it. Walks like a man, probably around our age."
John let out a hissing breath of frustration between his teeth. Nothing could even be simple with Sherlock. "What do we do?"
"Keep walking, see if we can lose him, see if he gets bored."
"And if he doesn't?"
"Confront him." There was a touch of buzzing excitement to Sherlock's voice, an edge of adrenaline John hadn't heard in a long time – whoever he was, this person had taken Sherlock's attention off of Moriarty for the time being.
They walked some more in silence, winding further down alleys, crossing a few roads before plunging back into the tight confines of brick walls and dirty puddles. John was still shivering as the temperature dropped further, the cold biting through his jumper and skin, and he stuck his hands in his pockets and hunched his shoulders over. At least the high walls provided some protection from the bitter wind, although it was very obvious that winter was well on its way.
Finally. Sherlock stopped dead in the middle of an alley and whirled around, making his coat flare. His eyes were narrow, concentrated – dangerous. He scanned the alley, quickly picking up on the shadowed shape of a person at the end of it. John turned a second later and spotted the figure just as quickly. The person, definitely male, seemed unconcerned about being spotted, stepping forward so only his face was still in the dark, leaning against a wall and crossing his arms in a lazy fashion. He wore a dark leather jacket, well-worn jeans, and an incongruous pair of tightly-laced converses.
"Who are you?" called Sherlock. "What do you want?"
There was no reply, other than a flicker in the shadowed face that could have been the lips curving into an amused smirk. And then, ever so slowly, the arms uncrossed and one hand reached out towards the two. John's hand shot towards his pocket, automatically reaching for a gun that wasn't there, but before he could do anything the figure beckoned once, slowly.
And then he turned and ran.
"Well, that was-" began John, turning to look at Sherlock – but the detective was no longer there. He caught a glimpse of the edge of a dark coat trailing around the edge of a corner, and the sound of two pairs of footsteps echoing off the brick walls, and then nothing.
"Great. Fan-bloody-tastic," he muttered darkly, raising his eyes to the heavens in silent anger at whichever god had decided that he should be lumped with Sherlock Holmes as a friend-slash-flatmate.
And then, with a huffed breath of annoyance, he began to run after them.
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