"I'm picking up an extra shift tonight. Last minute. One of the other doctor's had to leave for family reasons, and I'm taking his patients. You don't mind do you?" John asked, pulling on his coat. He flipped down the collar and then wondered if the wind would be too cold for that. Sherlock could see it all play out on his face.
"That's completely fine," Sherlock said, plucking a string on his violin. He turned and kept his eyes on the far wall where the mirror was, covered up by news clippings from two crimes ago.
"Since I'll be late, I have a favor. Sarah's coming over tomorrow, and we need a place to sit and eat. Could you tidy up a bit in here? Just a tad, you know… clear the couch or the kitchen. Just some basics?"
"That's definitely plausible," Sherlock said, plucking another string.
"Good. Good. So I'll see you tonight, then," John said and decided to keep his collar down. He looked over the apartment and sighed, a sort of distressed sound, and then he dropped down the stairs, one creaking step at a time.
As the front door swung shut, Sherlock stilled his fingers and looked to the stairway. What had John asked him to do? Clean? Sherlock looked at the room and slowly set his violin down on the couch beside him. He could tidy up, of course. He'd managed it when John was moving in, and since John did ask nicely, Sherlock would accept the challenge. Cleaning wasn't much hard work anyhow.
He stepped up to the kitchen table, as requested, and fingered some loose papers. Well obviously all these old newsprints could be tossed out. He tapped the cover with his fingertips and peered at the cover story. Perhaps he'd keep this issue. It was rather new anyway, and John wouldn't notice one paper when there was usually so many. Sherlock tossed it into the corner of the room to be looked at with more depth later. Oh. But this second one had a great story. It was all on the case they'd solved two weeks ago. That one was a keeper. Maybe Sherlock should start a scrapbook or something, a way of keeping these memorabilia clippings neat and organized. Well to do that, he'd obviously need a blank book first, and he didn't very well have one of those and he wasn't going to use one of his many filled books either.
Oh well, they would just have to stay stacked for now. Sherlock went through the papers, keeping a good half of them and tossing the rest into a trash bag. Then he lifted a bowl up from the tabletop and frowned. Well this had been here for several days. The milk left in the cereal bowl was curdling. Hm. How many hours would it take to grow mold with milk from different types of breakfast cereals? Did the sugar content change the speed? What about caloric leftover? Did it matter if it was wheat based, corn based, or rice based? What about extra fiber? Sherlock set the bowl on the open space of counter and marked it mentally for the experiment, although it would be best to start from scratch on all of them. He couldn't entirely remember what had been eaten out of that particular bowl.
Maybe the kitchen was a bad choice.
Sherlock moved into the living room and lifted his violin from the couch. He stared at it blankly for a moment and set it gently down on the nearby, just as crowded, table. He frowned at the couch and pulled up a banana peel and a compass. Without any outside show of decision, he turned and re-entered the kitchen. He snagged a jar from the counter and dropped the peel inside. He knew what would happen, but he'd never done it himself – seeing those insects sprout from the peel. He'd always heard it happened, but now he had a new experiment. He took the compass back into the other room and stopped in the center, facing north. The arrow pointed directly ahead of him, as it should. Slowly, Sherlock turned in a circle, watching as the arrow stayed in place. When facing south, it stabbed through him. If it was a laser, it would be a slicing process to turn in a circle, but it was simply a piece of metal contained in something equally metal and completely harmless unless you were stupid, broke the compass, and stabbed yourself purposely with it.
When he was facing north again, Sherlock paused. Then he spun quickly in a circle to see if he could beat the reaction of the arrow. The arrow still won, and Sherlock kicked a chair over in the process, sending the contents of five files scattering across the floor and under the couch. With one simple curse, Sherlock snapped the compass down onto the tabletop and bent to collect the files. These were important case files. He was going to have to reorganize them all.
As he reached under the couch to grab the last of the pages, his fingers closed around something soft and fuzzy. Pulling it out, he discovered a cat toy dangling from a knotted string attached to a stick. Cat. Sherlock held the stick and bounced the toy, causing a jingling noise to erupt from the ball attached to the end of the fuzzy bit. A tiny bell. Cat toy meant cat, but they didn't have a cat, or any pets for that matter. John probably thought this place was too dangerous for a pet. It might get lost in the rubble, just like this toy. But why a cat toy?
Sherlock laid back on the floor beside the files and dangled the toy above his face, making it jingle every few seconds. Why a cat toy? How did it get under the couch? When? John hadn't mentioned one at any time that Sherlock could remember. Sherlock was pretty sure it hadn't been here before John moved in. Had John had a cat previously? Funny. He always seemed to be a dog kind of person. The toy was knotted, which meant it had been stuffed under the couch or perhaps in a box. If John brought it with him then it had gotten tangled in the move. Maybe John had a cat, or perhaps John's old girlfriend had a cat, or maybe even his sister, and it got lost within John's stuff and made its way to its current predicament dangling in front of the lazy gaze of Sherlock Holmes. He was guessing it belonged to John's ex-girlfriend, sister, or ex-sister-in-law. The color was pink, not something typically associated with boys, although that could mean the cat was female, and the stick was metal, which suggested a deep love for the cat. Any normal owner would just buy one with a plastic handle, but this one was bought to last and to look good. Only a serious animal enthusiast would put extra money into a toy so easily tangled and broken by the very creature itself. It was most logically a woman.
Or maybe a gay man.
Considering that John Watson's sister was an apparent lesbian, the idea of a homosexual individual owning the cat and toy fit in quite easily. But did John have any brothers? Maybe just a friend. Unless it was John's, which would insinuate that John was gay, but then that went back to the idea that John was most definitely a dog kind of man and not a cat kind of man, so he wouldn't need a cat toy for a nonexistent cat. Nope. Sherlock was going to stick with it belonging to John's sister, and maybe John kicked it under the couch in a rush before Sherlock could see it. Perhaps he had guessed that Sherlock would come to the conclusion of a homosexual cat lover and just couldn't risk being labeled as such – especially after that semi-awkward conversation over John eating before they dashed across the city after a taxi.
Or perhaps Sherlock was doing as he often did and completely over thinking the idea.
The pink, fuzzy, jingling cat toy dangled above his face, and he narrowed his eyes at it. It lowered and poked his nose then returned to its previous position. Sherlock wrinkled his nose… and did it again. He held the toy two inches from touching his face and made an audible thinking noise. What was so intriguing about a cat toy? It was just feathers or cotton or fleece or something similar sewn and glued to the end of a silly stick, and this one happened to have a bell. What made it so interesting and mildly entertaining despite its horrendously pink appearance?
Maybe they should invest in an old fashioned grandfather clock. The ticking would have been a good way to mark how long Sherlock had been lying on the floor staring at a ruddy old cat toy and dissecting its point of origin and quality of appeal. As it was, he had no idea, but he knew he didn't honestly want a grandfather clock. While it seemed fortuitous in the current situation, in any other, it would be simply annoying. All that ticking and tocking and noise making, it simply wouldn't do. Not to mention it would cry out every hour on the hour and probably at night too, and Sherlock really enjoyed his sleeping time – even if he was out most nights doing crazy stunts, and even if John suggested that he was a vampire and never slept at all. Sherlock still preferred the quiet of his humble home above any idea of rampant noisiness.
Sherlock frowned and flicked the cat toy to the side, hearing the bell scream and fall silent as it dropped against the floor paneling. He pushed himself up and sighed. Back to cleaning it was.
He spread the files out around him and began to leaf through each one, checking that all the pages belonged in the files they were currently in and that they were in the proper order so that all the facts were just so and accurate. Then he organized all the loose pages into their corresponding files, organized them within those files, and then set the new and neat files back on the chair. One mess cleaned up and replaced where it belonged.
When John opened the door, he was not surprised to hear utter silence coming down the steps. Sherlock was known for being unbearably silent for long periods of time, plus it was nearly midnight. He climbed the steps to his home and just hoped that Sherlock had kept his word and cleaned up a bit. He found the kitchen door open and the living room door shut, so he turned off to check how Sherlock had done with the kitchen table. He found the half as tall stack of newsprint on one of the chairs, an old banana peel in a jar, and six bowls filled with half an inch of milk and remnants of cereal in them. There were pages of notebook paper torn out and pinned under each bowl with scribbly writing John couldn't decipher without a magnifying glass. It was a wonder Sherlock could write so small in the first place.
John grunted and fought the urge to toss all the bowls into the sink. It wasn't hard. He didn't usually like interrupting Sherlock's experiments… even if a lot of them were disgusting. However, he did feel annoyed and more than a bit upset with his flatmate. Sherlock had removed the previous mess from the table and set up a health hazard in the form of another mess. This was cleaning?
Holding in any final judgment, John moved into the living room. All the items that had been on the couch were thrown haphazardly around the room, perched precariously on top of stacks of books or on the edges of shelves. It was like Sherlock hadn't known where to put them and so he'd shoved them onto the last remaining spaces he could find. A stack of files had dropped from a chair and were half an inch from losing all the papers within them. The couch pillows were lodged under the recliner chair like they'd been kicked there, and Sherlock's jacket had been too heavy and had dragged the coat rack to the ground. If possible, the house was worse than when John Watson had left it that morning, even if Sherlock had 'cleaned up' what had been there that morning.
And John was fully prepared for getting into a row about it all, giving Sherlock a lesson on how to clean, and disposing of the undoubtedly unhygienic experiments going on in the kitchen, but he suddenly couldn't bring himself to be angry this time. On the couch, in place of the papers and the pillows and the junk and trash that usually covered it, was Sherlock Holmes. He was curled up, as he was want to do, but facing out instead of in. His eyes were closed, his breathing calm, the perfect image of sleep. And in his hands he held a pink and fuzzy cat toy with a bell on the end.
John couldn't help the amused snort that escaped him. "Harriett was wondering where that thing went," he mused allowed, rubbing the back of his head.
"I knew it," Sherlock grunted, startling John. The genius didn't say anything else, though. He just continued to breathe deep and snuggle with the couch. John sighed after a few minutes. He fixed the fallen files, glad that none had completely fallen out, and set them neatly by the table leg where they had tried to kill themselves. Then he freed the two couch pillows and set them by the foot of the couch.
"Sherlock Holmes," he said. Looking down, it was hard to tell that this genius of a man was in fact a man and not a teenager. He looked quite young with the cat toy. Maybe John wouldn't tell his sister about where it was. She didn't need it anyway. "You are a great many things, my friend, but you are not a house keeper."
"No Holmes is known for cleanliness," Sherlock muttered, and John was now certain that Sherlock only looked like he was sleeping.
"They say cleanliness is next to godliness," John pointed out, slipping his hands into his pockets.
"And I am not a god, thank God," Sherlock said and let out a long and tired breath.
"That is definitely one thing you are not," John agreed and sat down beside the couch. "If I ever moved out, I think you might die… literally."
Sherlock's wrist twitched and John found his face smacked by a tiny metal bell at the end of a bright pink cat toy. "Then it's a good thing you're never moving out."