After the events of The Great Game, John's life comes under Sherlock's relentless microscope. "I can guess if you like. It's not Harry, you've been screening her calls, it's not Sarah because you've tossed the slip of paper with her number and e-mail address - and the i dotted with the heart, how very original - so it's someone else, and I'm only interested in case this somehow plays into Moriarty's game. You're affiliated with me and so your business is mine. Do tell," he finishes, smoothly.
For the Write For Relief Charity Fundraiser for Japan, for the prompt: "John/Molly, asexual!Sherlock; Sherlock is trying to figure out why John and Molly suddenly seem to be spending so much time together." My first finished Sherlock fic.
It's not hard for Sherlock to read the look on John's face when John sees him. It's not a sentence or even a paragraph, it's an snapshot like a Polaroid. It's that instant - Sherlock soaked and poorly dogpaddling in the pool, blood gushing from the graze under his ear and across his throat into the water, and the pain slashing across his mind once he realizes, no, this time it really has got my leg, my god, and their ears ringing from the gunfire and the blast of the bomb.
He hasn't asked John to forgive him, mostly because he didn't do anything wrong. He's probably supposed to, and John's likely waiting for it.
But why start now?
It's only been a week since, and though Sherlock is more than over it and ready to get to the next, John is not. It's not too surprising, since John had only just recovered from the war, but it's something vaguely akin to relief when their unspoken agreement carries on and John doesn't tell him in colorfully terse language to fuck off. John's got a limp from a real injury, it's all his fault, and now it's got Harry's coming at him - at both of them, really - railing and drunk for being so stupid and crossing some sort of madmen.
"With madmen it's cross or be crossed, now you can cross yourself into traffic. Good god, you smell like a distillery," he says.
"Sherlock," John warns, but doesn't say a word to Harry.
"He's going to get you killed," Harry says, all desperate and choked with emotion, and Sherlock really has to wonder what it's like to have all that in the way of clear thinking.
John speaks tightly; Sherlock recognizes the way his jaw tenses, the flinch of his hand against his side. The war, and Harry. John has his share of damages. "Thanks for the insight Harry, you can go."
"John - " she presses.
"Please go," John finally just begs.
That's enough to make her leave, and Sherlock idly begins to text Lestrade.
Any time now.
"Are you coming with me?" he asks John, without looking up.
John gestures at the cast on his leg. "Doctor's orders. I can't."
"You could," Sherlock mentions.
"Well, I shouldn't. Look, Sherlock - "
"I need someone out there with me, don't leave me with Anderson," he says, with pointed emphasis.
"I won't leave you with Anderson. Just wait."
Sherlock can't believe there's nothing new on the news. No bodies, no stories. Nothing yet. Nothing to draw from, just gossip and pointless prattle.
"Yes, fine, I'll wait for the doctor's note," he answers, comfortably deflective.
"You called Moriarty's bluff."
Now interested, he looks up at John, who's all understanding and sober and uncomfortably human. "He has to regroup," John goes on. "You've thrown him off."
Sherlock scoffs. "You think I surprised him?"
"I'm sure you did," John says, and he almost just smiles. "How many men put everyone's lives on the line to prove someone wrong?"
This is where he should feel guilty, but he doesn't. Not even slightly. Because John is right. He won.
A package arrives and the first thing Sherlock does is leave Scotland Yard and head back to 221B. He tears it open and pulls out the dossier on his way up the stairs, and shoves it under his arm to unlock the door.
"We have a case," he announces to the flat, and stops short when he hears a woman's laugh. It's not Mrs Hudson, or Sarah, and he can't smell Scotch so it can't be Harry, and then Sherlock looks around and there's Molly.
In his flat. With John.
"Hello," he greets them, and gives John a plainly quizzical look.
"Hello," John answers, friendly enough, but pointed.
Sherlock tries to put the pieces together as Molly sinks into the couch beside John - that's his seat, no less - and asks a brief preliminary question. "Are you working on something?"
"What? No," John says, confused. "Does it look like we're - "
"John, be nice. I'm visiting," Molly chimes in, all lipstick and smiles.
"Ah," Sherlock says. It still doesn't make sense. John's been having sex with Sarah, and John isn't the sort to run around, especially if he's got a cast on his leg. Molly's redirecting her lust for him on John, obviously. That must be it. "Well. Enjoy your visit, then," he decides. "I'll just be solving crimes."
"Sherlock," John interrupts wearily once he turns around.
"Bye," Sherlock calls, and shuts his bedroom door behind him.
John doesn't have sex with Molly, at least that night. In fact, there doesn't seem to be any sort of romantic indication at all. Perfectly rational; Molly thought Jim Moriarty, gay or mad genius, was interested in her, she would inevitably try for John.
Poor thing. It's a pity Sherlock can't bring himself to care. Still, it's convenient.
"Are you still seeing Sarah?" he asks John once he hobbles out of his bedroom on the crutches.
"Are you still seeing Sarah," Sherlock pronounces, and glances at him over the dossier. "Dating. Having sex with. Whatever it is you were doing with her."
John stares at him blankly for a moment and Sherlock considers re-asking the question when John finally supplies an answer (at least, of a sort). "Are you actually interested or is this a ploy to make fun of me?"
"If I wanted to make fun of you there are much easier targets than your choices of sexual partners," Sherlock points out.
John doesn't seem interested in answering. "What have you got there? Do you really have a case?"
"I'm only asking because it seems Molly Hooper has decided, in her desperation, that the next eligible bachelor for her to net is you," he says, neatly sidestepping the question to leave for later, "and you don't seem to have noticed the obvious subtext of last night's visit. I thought it best to tell you. And yes," he adds, "this is a new case. But since you're recuperating."
"I was shot in the leg, I can still read," John defends, and comes over on the crutches. "Now let me see."
"No," Sherlock says, easily holding it away.
John sends him a weary look. "Sherlock."
Sherlock snaps the dossier shut. "You're distracted. I'd rather have the skull," he informs John.
"Molly is not - " John grabs at the dossier. "Listen, people can be friendly without - I'm not distracted, now show me the dossier!"
Sherlock shoves the dossier into the couch beside him and rests against it, satisfied. "Make a grocery list," he instructs John. "I'll be shopping in an hour."
John stares at him, then laughs. "You? Shopping?"
"Unless you have a better idea."
He opens his mouth to retort and then turns heel (or, he supposes, crutch) and goes back into his bedroom. It works out well for Sherlock, who continues to read and mull and play the violin, until there's a pounding on the door.
"It's me!" Molly's voice comes muffled through the door.
Molly makes them meals. Breakfast is the muesli and cereals she bought; lunch is packaged into nice baggies and tupperware, and dinners she comes over to cook. Sherlock fervently misses Mrs Hudson and her complaints about not being the housekeeper, and begins to play violin loudly during every meal just in hopes of annoying Molly out of the house.
He's not very good at body language per se, but your attempts to seduce my friend are pointless and unappreciated is a message he's very good at broadcasting.
On the sixth day of meals, once he's finished off a half-remembered Bach in mild irritation, there's applause from the kitchen, and Molly pokes her head out.
"Bravo," she says, beaming and pink. "Encore!"
"This isn't working out at all," Sherlock says, less to her than to himself.
"Dinner is almost ready," she informs him, and goes back to busying herself in the kitchen.
Altruism, Sherlock decides. It's altruism. Molly feels sorry for John, feels culpable because of her involvement with Moriarty, and so is attempting to scrape her sins from the record with poorly made meals with tough meat and tastless sauce.
Now John's cast is off, so it should be over. Such a nice girl, trying so hard to make amends, his mother would say. Bless. At least the limp's in the same leg and he's already got a cane, so he can go straight back to helping Sherlock close cases and everything will go back to normal.
John cuts himself off in the middle of a ramble about something Sherlock doesn't care about (global heating? must be some rubbish about the sun again) and says, "Right, so whatever comes up on Saturday, you're going alone, I have plans - "
"Sarah will understand, she's seen what we do," Sherlock says, but doesn't particularly care if she understands or doesn't. It's just easier for John to say yes that way.
"Sherlock, it's not about Sarah."
John's hand is starting again. "Old mates, then? A pub and a pint?" he says archly.
"Sherlock - "
"I don't care for guessing games."
"You only care for guessing games."
"Not about things like this," Sherlock answers flatly. "I can guess if you like. It's not Harry, you've been screening her calls, it's not Sarah because you've tossed the slip of paper with her number and e-mail address - and the i dotted with the heart, how very original - so it's someone else, and I'm only interested in case this somehow plays into Moriarty's game. You're affiliated with me and so your business is mine. Do tell," he finishes, smoothly.
John is staring at him as though he's said something completely mad, horrifying, or both. "You rummage through the bin?" he says finally.
"I saw that you tried to hide something by rummaging through the bin yourself, and you didn't do a very good job," he says. "Now talk."
"No," John says instantly.
Sherlock considers that. "All right," he says, and smiles vaguely, holding out the case file. "Let's keep on."
John is wary then but on Saturday he's hardly paranoid at all, which is remarkably stupid of him. Sherlock follows him without the slightest bit of trouble or apparent notice, and waits through thirty minutes of John having a coffee with Molly before he gives up.
There's got to be a woman. Or a man. He'll have to listen more carefully; maybe they're having very quiet sex.
It's a number he doesn't recognize, and he hates talking on phones. Once it flashes into his mind that it might be Moriarty, though, he answers in an instant.
"Is this Sherlock Holmes?"
He doesn't recognize the voice at first, but then it clicks - Sarah. How disappointing. Unless she's an agent of Moriarty, then terribly interesting. He sits up straight. "Yes, speaking," he says, amiably as he can fake. "How can I help you?"
"This is Sarah, I'm... I was seeing your friend John." There's a muffled sound over the phone - god, he hates mobiles sometimes, but she speaks after a moment, her voice suddenly thicker. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't..."
"I remember you. The date, the Chinese circus, he saved your life and mine," Sherlock says, nonplussed. "Go on."
She's sniffling, for some reason. "It's only he hasn't been answering my calls, and I heard that he was hurt. I wanted to make sure he was all right."
"So you called my mobile," he says slowly.
Her breathing's strange, and it occurs to him that she might be crying. It's been some time since he's bothered with actual phone conversations. Damn Moriarty. "Never mind it. Just - god, this was so stupid - is he all right?"
"Yes, he's fine," Sherlock says, but goes on, "so you haven't seen him since the shooting?"
"No - "
Sherlock wanders over to John's laptop and opens it. It takes only a few tries at the password to open the desktop, then hack his phone's schedule. "How curious. I wonder who he's been going to the pub with."
Sarah's voice rises at that. "What?"
"There it is. Never mind, goodbye," Sherlock says absently, and hangs up on her. He has an address to a bar about twenty minutes and some away. This should be easy enough to solve.
It goes without saying that he dislikes pubs. Pubs are for drunks, and Sherlock Holmes is not a drunk. Drunks don't know when to stop, and there's no scientific measurement involved. It's not like pills, capsules tared and filled and measured to perfection. It's a mess.
If John's attempting to drown his sorrows (whatever they are) in liquor, he's gone a long way to do it, most likely to throw Sherlock off his trail. It's an awful lot of effort just to figure out where he's gone, but he does like the rides in the taxi.
He pushes open the pub door and lurks around; it's easy enough for a disinterested person to blend in. A woman tries to catch his arm, but he ignores her, and as he turns he sees the cane propped up against a bar stool. Just like that, he sees John, wearing red in some poor attempt to dress well, at the bar with a woman.
Then he sees the strands pulled out of her ponytail and the too-wide smile. Molly.
One more time, Sherlock resolves, and he might just file an order for both John's protection and his. Molly is clearly mad over Sherlock, or a spy from Moriarty's organization, and John's just too prone to emotional blackmail from those who offer even the slightest bit of help.
"I was thinking Indian for lunch," Sherlock says, interrupting whatever uninteresting thing John was saying. "Do you know a place?"
"What?" John's mind catches up with the conversation and he answers, "I have plans. Were you even listening?"
"Plans with who? We get lunch," he reminds John. "On the case. We work on the case and get lunch. It's multitasking, you said."
"Well, multitask by yourself because I've got plans, and it's none of your business with whom," John adds hurriedly, "so - right."
Sherlock sighs. "We've been through this. Your business is my business - "
"- but it's not!"
"Hi, Sherlock," Molly interrupts, and moves into their personal space with barely restrained joy.
He makes himself smile. "Molly, hello. John and I were about to - "
"Finish up," John finishes the sentence, and pats Sherlock on the arm. "Good work today, really good work, but I've got to go. Molly, are you ready?"
"Yeah," Molly answers quickly, and her mouth stumbles out the best she can, poor thing, "I mean, yes, ready to go, even got my umbrella!" She gestures with it.
Sherlock glances between them. "You have plans with her," he deduces, slowly.
"Yes," John says tersely, and draws Molly aside by the elbow. "Now, if you'll excuse us."
"Bye, Sherlock," Molly volunteers.
This is that awkward moment where he isn't wanted, but that makes no sense in this context. Why would Molly want him out of the conversation and John to stay? Molly prefers him to John. She's one of the few people who does. "Yes, right. Goodbye," he answers, feigning politeness and cordiality through his confusion.
It doesn't make any sense, but he'll work it out, whether John likes it or not.
"You're going to tell me what's going on," Sherlock tells John when they're eating Chinese that night.
"You know what's going on. You know everything," John says, more than a little sarcastic.
"That's inaccurate," Sherlock says plainly. "I know important things."
"Then why are you asking me questions?"
"Don't be obtuse. You're being friendly with Molly Hooper. Why?" he asks, to the point. "Do you suspect something of her? Do you feel guilty because she nursed you back to health? Is she still obsessed with me? Is she asking you - "
"I'm - I'm sorry, are you insane?" John cuts him off, indignant.
"No," Sherlock feels obligated to answer. "I'm pragmatic."
"It never occurs to you that I might be spending time with a woman because I want to? Not because of some case, or some madman who's obsessed with you, or because she's obsessed with you, you - utter narcissist - "
"Come on, John, you know she fancies me," he points out practically.
"Does she though?" John retorts. "The world doesn't revolve around you and your mad little life, Sherlock, especially not mine, so don't start casting the people around you in the roles in a Miss Marple mystery because I know how that ends, with all the rest of us as chess pieces between you and Moriarty."
Sherlock considers that; it's likely supposed to be an insult, but it's true, so he doesn't bother denying it. "That's how it is whether you like it or not," he says, contemplative. "But that doesn't mean you can't tell me the truth about why you're putting up with her."
John raises his head and sets down his fork, and Sherlock just watches, interested. Whatever this is, it's completely mystified him and that's less annoying than it is fascinating - every new puzzle is a new chance to learn.
"I'm not," he says finally. "I'm dating her."
That... was not what he was expecting.
Sherlock doesn't know what to say to that. He'd expected a body, a crime, a blackmail, some sort of case, something to bond the two together, but instead it's simple social etiquette and physical attraction?
"No," he decides.
John blinks once, twice, then his mouth drops open. "What?" he asks finally.
"You're not dating her, that's too simple. Try again," Sherlock instructs firmly.
"But - what?" John repeats, stuck somewhere between indignance and confusion. "I'm not trying anything, Sherlock, I'm seeing Molly!"
Sherlock shakes his head, sighs, and presses a hand to his head. "You said that already."
"Because it's true!"
"Do you have to be so pedestrian, or is it just entertaining to you?"
"That's it. That's..." John stands up, picks up his plate, and leaves the table. "That's it."
Sherlock stands and hands his off to John. "Take mine, it's your time to do washing up."
John takes the plate, and the look that he gives Sherlock this time is less a photo than a very clear phrase: say one more word within earshot for the next ten minutes and I will find a way to kill you with my brain.
Sherlock goes to his computer with a cup of coffee and a scrap of paper of the man he had design his website. It takes only a few tries for him to hack Molly's blog.
If she wants to date John Watson, there are standards to maintain. Not pink is one of them.