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The Gambling Man

John stood on the steps and looked out over the hoards of people trampling the streets of London, his eyes desperately seeking that pair he had come to recognise. It was a Friday lunchtime and people were going about their business, probably clocking off early oblivious to their surroundings, oblivious of the London that John had been awoken to by one man. His heart sank as he looked at his watch again, leaning on his recently re-issued stick.

14.03. He was late. He'd promised.

This was the second time they had attempted this. After that day John had tried to talk himself out of it, but that night Sherlock had begged forgiveness without words and John had watched the next day as Sherlock himself made the call to rebook. John was glad that they hadn't told a soul.

At that moment he noticed a commotion out in the crowd, disturbing the flows of cattle through the street. He watched as Sherlock brushed down his coat and amended his collar as he marched a shorter man, hands obviously cuffed behind his back on in front of him with force.

"No. No. You're too late." John shouted, turning to walk away once Sherlock had started to climb the steps, each time guiding the path of the struggling man in front of him. John suddenly stopped to recognise the other man as the gambling addict they had interviewed yesterday when hired by a high-end London casino to solve a run of elaborate thefts and one murder. That morning at the flat, Sherlock had grabbed his coat and jumped those stairs muttering about "the croupier's left hand".

"1400 hours Sherlock. Don't you dare stand me up again. Sherlock, do you hear me?" He had shouted after him and could only watch from the window and allow the feeling of disappointment to settle in his stomach once again.

"I'm not even going to ask where you picked up those handcuffs." John said starting down the steps.

"They're Lestrade's. And I'm not… by the way." Sherlock shouted after him, out of breath from the obvious chase and with what, to John's trained ear was a hint of desperation.

"You only had two things to do Sherlock; be on time and bring the witnesses." A brief pause. "You're not what?".

"Late. Listen." Sherlock said as he checked his watch then seemingly pointed to the sky, starting to catch his breath as Big Ben chimed out the hour across London.

Sherlock grinned at the tired looking John and dragged the struggling gambler forward with him.

"Its efficiency John. Now we have our witness and our murderer."

John stared in disbelief. "Sherlock, I'm not having you restrain a man in handcuffs during our civil partnership ceremony. Anyway, we needed two witnesses." He said, anger giving way to disappointment, hands in suit pockets and nudging the pavement with the tip of a newly shined shoe.

It was at that point John heard the familiar voice with its usual air of frustration as the individual it belonged to rounded the corner of the steps.

"Okay Sherlock we had a deal, you can hand him over now. Are you going to tell me why here specifically? "

Lestrade glanced at each man in turn, waiting for the explanation. John stared at Sherlock quizzically and watched that sly grin appear.

"There you are, you see? Now we have our two. However, this incessant explanation has now made us late. Sherlock shoved the gambler toward a confused Lestrade and flashed that smile that belonged to John and John alone.

It was the briefest of ceremonies. For the few minutes it took, John realised that whenever he really required it, he would have Sherlock's full attention. It felt like intense sunlight. He was also no stranger to the cold that was such a large part of the man standing in front of him. Yes, it could be awfully cold when that sun went in. That was the gamble. Sherlock was the gamble.

As they exited the gothic building dragging their feet in disbelief, John could feel Sherlock's intense stare. That sunlight washing over him. A hand brushed his and they came to a halt before the steps. John couldn't hear a thing, not the buses, the crowds, not Lestrade's nervous throat clearing nor the cuffed man's confused protests. Those almond eyes burning through his very soul, and just the smell of him.

A phone went off and the sun went in. Sherlock cursed himself visibly and took out the phone, reading the text message. The look on his face changing to that which John now recognised as the resetting of his focus.

"Of course, that's it." His eyes wide. "The Pilkington case, I was right".

Sherlock took a couple of steps backwards, hands in his hair, the realisation in his eyes. He turned and ran down the stone steps.

"Sherlock please, just…. Can't it wait? We were going to have lunch. We just got…."

He was already out of ear's reach across the crowds that, now John looked properly hadn't seemed to thin out at all since they had been inside. He suddenly could hear the sounds of London hammering through his skull once again. He turned once Sherlock was immersed in the crowd, shaking Lestrade's hand saying a brief goodbye and thank you. He walked down the right-hand side of the hard stone steps and on to the side walk, cursing himself for his sense of disappointment on this of all days. He cursed himself for not managing his expectations. He looked down at the 'certificate' in his hand. It felt light, as if it could be lifted by the chilly London breeze and taken away.

He felt two heavy hands on his shoulders, strong enough to turn him around in one swift motion, gentle enough so as to not knock him off his precarious balance. John stared back up into those almond eyes, watching the excited smile in them. John smiled in surprise as hands took his face. Sherlock closed the gap quickly kissing him hard and passionately for what felt like hours. Sherlock pulled back slightly placing his forehead against Johns. Then a step back and a wink and he was back through the crowds.