So guys, how's life treatin' ya?
Hopefully my last chapter wasn't too boring for you, I'm really bad at writing balls-to-the-wall action scenes.
Let's play a game; what'll come around first? My next chapter or Series 3? I know you guys get tired of me apologising and promising to upload quicker. Life's really kind of swept me up at the moment and I rarely get time to continue this. While I can't promise quick updates, I can and will promise that I intend to see this story through to the end. Scout's Honour.
John clenched his jaw and flipped a page of the newspaper with undue force.
'That's getting annoying!' He said in a sing-song voice.
Sherlock gave a low chuckle and let loose yet another rendition of Grieg's 'Hall Of The Mountain King' on his violin. It had been fun at first, but after the first fourty-seven times was beginning to get a little grating. John had tried pleading, ordering, threatening Sherlock to just stop. In the end it had descended into a bit of a scuffle where John had gotten up and physically tried to wrestle the damn instrument off him. But then Sherlock had kissed him. Which John considered cheating.
Moriarty had not made another move in almost three weeks. In that time Sherlock had solved two murders, three thefts and one particularly odd case that involved both him and John in ballet gear. Apparently Anderson still had photos.
However, Sherlock was restless, John could tell. There was no other reasonable explanation for the Mountain King binge (well, apart from his normal Sherlockiness) than hidden apprehensiveness. John couldn't deny that he was a little on edge himself. Since the fiasco at the power station he found himself startling at shadows, nervous to open the post in the mornings for fear of what sinister clues he might find.
'John?' Sherlock said sharply, making John jump.
'I said 'anything interesting?' twice. Honestly, you're getting as bad as me.'
John made a face and flipped back to the beginning of the newspaper. He scanned the print, looking for anything that might meet Sherlock's sky-high standards. It was highly unlikely there would be a Moriarty themed double page spread. Blocks of miniscule text morphed into a visual equivalent of white noise so he huffed and put the paper down.
Sherlock made a strange noise that fell somewhere between a growl and a whine. 'Why has he not done anything? Why hasn't he made his next move?'
John blinked and fixed him with a one-eyed stare. 'You want him to?'
Sherlock put the violin down, much to John's relief. He didn't think he could take another go around the mountain.
'I don't want him to kill people, obviously.' Sherlock said defensively, his face haughty, 'But the longer he plays his little game the closer I get to beating him.'
'Stopping him John.'
John continued to look at Sherlock as the latter sunk into his chair. Sherlock suddenly looked incredibly weary, not an expression that suited his face. John hated it when he looked like that.
'It's like a puzzle…' Sherlock began, then cut himself off, 'no, that's not right…it's like…more like a chess board.'
'I see….' John said, not really seeing at all. 'Two masters. Ultimate game.'
Sherlock leaned his head back a tad and regarded John with steely eyes. John braced himself for a monologue about how idiotic his statement was; surprised the word 'WRONG' wasn't floating about his head in big white letters. For a moment, Sherlock looked a little unsure of himself, then steepled his fingers under his chin and continued.
'Yes and no. A battle of minds, yes, But game? I don't think so. A game is done for fun. I do this because I have to. I need the distractions he provides John…'
He trailed off as John mulled over the last words, not exactly a sentiment he could understand or approve of. You needed air, food and shelter to survive. You didn't need crazy Irishmen lobbing bombs at you.
'You haven't seen me when I'm bored John-'
'Bloody well have.' John interjected 'I still haven't got that green off the kettle-'
'I mean really bored John.' Sherlock said emphatically, 'In my late teens….I'm not proud. I felt trapped, suffocated, I contemplated suicide at one point.'
John inhaled sharply, not trusting himself to say anything. Suicide was never something, even in his darkest moments, on his agenda. John was too frightened to die. Concern and shock wrestled within him, but was soothed by the absolute certainty that Sherlock was too stubborn to die. Sherlock was still here.
'I hated everything, hated everyone.' Sherlock continued, almost more to himself than to John. His eyes were fixed to an empty space on the floor in front of him. 'I needed a way out. I met some people when I travelled around Europe. People that could help.'
'Drugs.' John said plainly.
'Like I said, I'm not proud.'
John drew his mouth into a thin line in an attempt to make a reassuring smile. Never before had Sherlock talked so openly about his past troubles. He wasn't completely sure if Sherlock was explaining everything for John's benefit, or his own. It was difficult enough for John to open up and talk about his army days; he could only imagine what it was doing to Sherlock's pride. Silence filled the void between them, all words escaping John. He should say something comforting, something sympathetic and supportive, but nothing came.
Sherlock broke the silence himself. 'It took Mycroft a whole year to bring me home. That's what real, true boredom is like. If I have something like Moriarty to face, something to force me into protecting others then maybe I don't have to cave in on myself.'
John found his voice. 'And when you beat him?'
Sherlock looked at him sharply and John realised his mistake. To him, it was a question of when. To everyone else it was more a question of if. He'd just added a little pebble to the mountain of stones that made up the pressure on Sherlock to be victorious.
To his surprise, Sherlock cracked a slight smile. 'Then on the next adventure I suppose.'
John returned the smile, the air in the room seemed to have thawed. At that moment, a text alert rang out from John's phone.
'It's Lestrade.' John said, glancing at the screen, 'He's asking if you're coming tonight.'
'What?' Sherlock said, confusion clouding his face.
'Tonight. Pub. We talked about this this morning?'
'No-one asked me.'
John smirked at Sherlock's petulant tone as he stood and crossed the room for Sherlock's phone. Opening all the unread messages he flicked through them.
'Greg did. 6 times by the look of it.' John knew Lestrade had been texting Sherlock all day and was being repeatedly ignored. Watching his own inbox be filled with ever more irate texts had been rather amusing. However, he did assure Lestrade his Lordship was indeed coming, knowing Sherlock would tolerate the outside world if Lestrade and himself were there.
'Will you come?'
'To the pub Sherlock.'
Sherlock seemed to genuinely weigh the pros and cons, John could practically hear the cogs grinding in his head. Whether Sherlock would actually accompany him or not, John was spending the evening out with friends and Sherlock could go sulk on the sofa all night for all he cared.
'Come on,' he said at length, 'It'd be nice to have a night without being threatened, I'll catch up with mates and we'll all have a bet to see how long it takes you to make the bartender cry.'
It took all of three seconds for a smug smile to flit across the pale face.
'Done.' Sherlock said.
The pub wasn't nearly as crowded as it would have been on a weekend, but it wasn't completely dead either. Conversation melded with the low volume radio to create a pleasant hubbub of noise. Lestrade and Anderson were already there. Sherlock greeted both of them with customary detached loftiness. John suspected Sherlock and Anderson had signed a contract to not be so openly catty to one another since they'd reached a tentative understanding. Anderson had even warmed up to John a little since he'd returned from hospital, inviting him here in the first place. John took it as a given he and Sherlock would never be friends, not in the slightest, but at least they weren't itching to get at each other's throats anymore. He greeted the forensics man with a nod and settled down to order a pint while Sherlock strode in with his usual dramatic flair.
'He came then?' Lestrade said cheerfully.
'God help us.' Anderson added, taking a sip out of his pint. Lestrade gave him a playful thump in the shoulder as John sat down.
'Don't worry, he's looking to make the barman cry.'
'I call dibs on fifteen minutes.' Lestrade cut in immediately, to John's wry amusement.
It took seventeen minutes for the poor attendant at the bar to storm off. John pushed the over salted peanuts to Sherlock, who was then too engaged in wrinkling his nose to notice Anderson discreetly passing a fiver over to Lestrade, who pocketed it with well concealed glee. John smirked and pulled the peanuts back, popping a few into his mouth. He sat in the routine, well ingrained into him from years at university, listening to his mates chatter about the issues of the day and only injecting his profound 'Mmm yeah' when asked his opinion. Sherlock drummed his fingertips on the bartop and, despite the fact he's clearly rather not be here, drank his pint in good natured, dignified silence. When asked about things, he just answered with a short 'Boring, not in my interests.' John didn't mind, it was almost normal, drinking with friends.
Time passed, and when night rolled round Lestrade and Anderson had left, blaming their early morning starts. John and Sherlock stayed behind, John finishing his pint. He'd made two pints last for almost four hours so he didn't feel particularly intoxicated; if anything, he felt just as sober as he did this morning.
Sherlock's voice cut in through the lull. 'John?'
'That man's been watching you for over ten minutes.'
John resisted the urge to whip his head around. Slowly he raised his head and glanced at Sherlock, who was staring at him so intently it was a bit unnerving. Sherlock's eyes then slid past him to a spot behind them, then slid right back to his hand on the bartop. John made a play of stretching his arms and turned his head in what he hoped was a casual movement. A bearded man with grizzled fair hair was indeed watching him, a grim expression on a haggard face. As soon as he caught John's movement he hastily hunched over to study what appeared to be a dog-eared notebook. John turned back and downed the rest of his pint.
'What do you we do?' He said under his breath to Sherlock.
'I'll pretend to leave. Wait for twenty minutes, then follow out back. If he follows we'll have a nice little chat.'
John clenched his jaw. He was not entirely convinced this was a good plan. The uncertainty must have shown in his face, for Sherlock gave his hand a gentle squeeze.
John nodded curtly, squeezing Sherlock's hand back for a second. Sherlock stood up, slapped a few twenties on the counter with one smug look at the bartender, then swept on his navy coat and left. John cast a quick look over his shoulder in what he hoped was careless nonchalance. The bedgraggled man had apparently taken the same 'be stealthy' lessons as his eyes swept the room- resting on John for a few seconds- in one large, 'totally not obvious' inconspicuous movement. The man's eyes seemed a shade of pale watery blue, dull with weariness and whatever secrets he kept in his notebook.
John watched the small television in the corner of the bar, trying to lip-read whatever the glamorous female presenter was saying with such enthusiasm.
John ordered a pint of water to waste time, the warm buzz of beer was quickly extinguished by the cold water and apprehension. Maybe there had been some mistake, maybe the man was just an innocent patron that just happened to look around the room. Perhaps he wouldn't follow when John left, and he and Sherlock could go home without incident. He knew the chances of that happy fantasy were very slim, but he clung to it nonetheless.
People began to filter out of the bar, businessmen and women heading home because of early mornings. John glanced at his watch, it wasn't late in the evening by normal standards, but it made the bar feel so much bigger.
The man never moved.
John chewed the fingernail of his index finger until the surrounding skin got sore. The air felt thick and he had to concentrate to breathe.
John stood up and readjusted his jacket, not daring to cast a final glance at the stranger behind him. The sooner he could get outside-back to Sherlock- the better he'd feel. Slamming the remainder of the money he owed on the table he stretched his arms, shaking out the heaviness of inactivity.
No-one so much as glanced at him as he picked his way through to the exit. Stepping out into the night air he drew in a lungful of cold air to clear his head. Sherlock had told him to meet him around the back, somewhere unsavoury and empty to meet yet another potential psychopath. Fantastic.
Sherlock was leant against a grimy brick wall when he made his way around there, it took John a few moments to see him, in the dark it appeared as though he had blended into his surroundings. The second Sherlock saw John he visibly relaxed and flashed a little smirk.
'What you mean sat there on my own while some random bloke sat in the corner and looked at me a few times? Yeah, Bloody spectacular.' John griped back. Sherlock chuckled lowly.
'You think I'd have left you alone with a violent man? I don't think he means to harm you John.'
'Sherlock do you ever just think that maybe sometimes it's just some random bloke?'
'I couldn't read much of him-well, save for the nervous energy from his posture- I need to know what he wants.'
John opened his mouth to shoot back something sarcastic when a noise caught both their attention. Sherlock's eyes hardened and slid past John to whatever movement he could see in the background. Sherlock quickly pulled John into the deeper shadows and pressed him against the wall, using his arm as a barrier against John's chest. John heard a rustle of movement again.
'Sssh!' Sherlock hissed.
A shadow flitted over the walls as a man of stocky build tiptoed his way near them. It wasn't until the dull lamplight caught his straw coloured mop that John knew it was the man from the pub.
The second the man came into view Sherlock viciously launched himself from the wall until the man was slammed into the opposing bricks, head bouncing with the impact.
'Who are you?' Sherlock bellowed. The man grunted as Sherlock's arm pushed roughly against his chest. John swore under his breath and made to grab Sherlock's arm. Their would-be stalker spluttered and flailed under Sherlock's grip.
'What do you want?' Sherlock repeated voice alarmingly loud and threatening. John felt a flutter of panic at the possibility someone might call the police, he doubted a typical bobby on the beat would be quite so tolerant of Sherlock as Lestrade was.
'I'm-I'm here to help!' the man gasped, waving his hands frantically as Sherlock squinted suspiciously. 'The Sculptor. I know him! Look don't hurt me man, I'm not on his side I swear!'
John and Sherlock exchanged glances, not trusting this unexpected confession.
'Who are you?' John snapped, his voice sounding sharp with unease. The stranger turned to look him square in the eyes.
'My name is Lukas. Please, I can help you. I can tell you everything.'
Betcha thought you'd never see this again did you?
If anyone is patient enough to still be reading this, I can only grovel on my knees for your unending mercy. Life really has gotten in the way.
Next Chapter: The Sculptor's story. What happened nearly three decades ago in Germany to turn a young boy into the monster John knows today?
Godspeed my darlings x