Warnings: Mentions of child abuse
There were three tattoos on John's body Sherlock was aware of. A small part of him told him there might be more, but he could only see so much when he caught the occasional flash of flesh when John walked out from the shower, towel around his waist, to his room.
The first tattoo were the initials, RJ, inked on John's right ankle. Harry confirmed the name was Ronny Jeremiah, John's best friend from his childhood. Ronny had died at the age of nineteen from leukemia.
The second tattoo was predictable: Primum non nocere was etched on John's bicep.
The third… was something else.
The design of it made Sherlock believe the tattoo was an indiscretion of youth: it was a five pointed star, enclosed in a circle of black flames. Except John had placed the tattoo right over his heart, and it was fairly big. This tattoo meant something to him.
A quick internet search revealed the tattoo to be a protective sigil from the 1400's. Supposedly it was to prevent demonic possession.
How stupid, Sherlock rolled his eyes. It was bad enough John riddled his body with useless sentiments, but now it was confirmed the man was highly superstitious. Sherlock should spill salt around him, just to see what would happen.
Out of curiosity sake, Sherlock did exactly that once. John only muttered and brushed the salt away with one hand.
Sometimes Sherlock would hog the sidewalk, forcing John to detour under a ladder or cross his path with a black cat. John didn't react to either experiment, but he did squat down to pet said black cat.
After such incidents, Sherlock supposed the tattoo held some sort of personal importance and was not of actual superstition.
But yet, there were a few things Sherlock noticed that made him rethink his original assessment.
First of all, John tended to get twitchy around the time of the full moon. Not exactly paranoia; but John was on guard during those nights.
Secondly, Sherlock knew very well John wasn't a religious man. Many doctors aren't, but many military men were, and that alone blurred Sherlock's answer. John kept an old rosary in his room, along with a small silver cross.
Presents, Sherlock supposed.
The strangest of all was when Sherlock and John were present during a cross examination of murderer.
Sherlock tended to stay away from rape and child abuse cases. The perpetrator were usually always the father or uncle or close friend and despite what Sally said about him, such cases did leave a black mark on Sherlock's soul.
This was one case he could not ignore as the body count of children began to rise. So here he was, with John, watching the murderer spill his guts out to Lestrade of all his deeds.
And he was laughing. "Oh, you should've heard them scream! Mommy! Daddy! Help me! Oh, so pathetic! God, I love to hear them beg!"
Lord, Sherlock did not need to be here to listen to this. They already had the guy, they were just waiting on the lawyer to show up. Sherlock already knew how the man killed those children, he didn't need to listen to the parts that happened in between.
Just as Sherlock turned to leave, John, who hadn't spoken during the entire time, suddenly hissed out, "Christo."
It wasn't a question but he clearly meant for the word to get some kind of reaction. When nothing happened and everyone gave him a confused look, he coughed awkwardly into his fist, shrugged, and continued his silence.
It might've been an accident. It was probably a curse word or a jumbled mess of collected thoughts spoken out loud. But John wasn't the type of man to suddenly burst out random syllables in a room with a serial killer.
Another internet search revealed 'Christo' meant 'Christ' in Latin.
And John certainly wasn't the type of man to sprout random Latin religious phrases in a room with a serial killer.
Sherlock nearly dropped his flask in surprise. Which would be unfortunate because it contained highly corrosive acid and he didn't want to explain why there was a five foot hole on the floor to Mrs. Hudson. He still had yet to tell her about the giant ash stain on kitchen ceiling.
There was a man standing in his living room.
Sherlock never heard the front door open, never heard padded feet come into the flat. "Hello," Sherlock greeted back slowly, placing the flask down on the kitchen table. He glanced back at the front door. Still closed, still locked.
"Is John Watson here?" The man asked, his voice was so unnaturally deep Sherlock thought he was faking it. American, late thirties, cheap tailored suit and tan overcoat. A professional man in a not-so-professional job, perhaps in advertisement?
"No," Sherlock said. Despite all his deductions, the nagging feeling at the back of his head was telling him he was wrong, wrong, wrong. "He's at the hospital, working."
"Do you know when he'll be back? I need to talk to him."
"May I ask who you are?"
"I'm-" the man suddenly paused, thinking. "I'm… Bobby."
"You just lied to me."
"No I didn't."
Sherlock nearly giggled at the blatantly bad lying. Nobody was that bad, not even children. "You could wait. I'm sure he'll be back soon."
'Bobby' nodded just once. Without prompt he sat down on John's favorite chair (coincidence, maybe?), readjusted his trench coat over his knees, chose a wall and just stared at it.
It's not boredom, nor is it social insecurity. There was no fidgeting in his hands, no downward cast of eyes. Bobby was confident in himself, just chose to stare because the wall was there. An indication of mild autism?
It irked Sherlock to realize he can't read this man. His clothes, hair, and shoes say one this, but his actions and small mannerism say another. There was something artificial about him that made the hairs on Sherlock's arm stand up.
Not in excitement, in apprehension. It felt as if the other shoe was going to drop soon and Sherlock wasn't sure if he wanted to be here when it happened. He kept telling himself that it was silly for such emotion, and yet every time he glanced over to Bobby, his arms tingled uncomfortably.
Suddenly he couldn't work. Not with this anomaly in his flat.
What questions could he ask that wouldn't result in a lie? The man (thing?) already lied about his name, had shown he was ready to lie more if needed.
So Sherlock did what he did best. He pushed. "What's your real name?"
Bobby turned to look at him, gaze so strong Sherlock had to fight the urge to flinch. His own instincts were screaming at him and Sherlock kept them at bay. He was not going to bow down to them.
"Bobby," said the man again, this time with a bit more confidence.
"Yes, I suppose I am. You may be very intelligent, Sherlock Holmes, but you will never deduce me."
Oh ho! A challenge? Fine then. "John has talked to you about me."
"No," Bobby said, turning away as if bored with him. "I have not talked to John in five years."
Truth. "Then why are you here?"
"To talk to him." Bobby said as if it is the most obvious thing in the world.
This wasn't going to get him nowhere. Either this man was brilliant- more than Sherlock will ever be- or he was truly ignorant. Sherlock was not going to get much until John got here.
And as if on cue, the familiar steps of John Watson were heard.
"Sherlock," the good doctor cried from downstairs. "I got Italian for dinner," he began to climb the stairs, his steps heavy. "It's from this new place that just opened-"
They always kept the door to their flat opened because Mrs. Hudson loved popping her head in every so often. It also allowed to Sherlock hear the footsteps better on the stairs and it was better if Lestrade ever decided to visit unexpectedly.
John was all smiles when he entered the flat. The moment he caught sight of Bobby, the Styrofoam containers of food he held fell out of his hands and splattered onto the ground without care. "Castiel," he breathed.
His mouth twitched for a smile, but kept its shocked gape. 'Castiel' rose from the chair. "Hello, John."
"Jesus Christ," John said, suddenly stepping forward, hand outstretched for a shake. "It's good to see you again."
"Yes, it's been too long." Castiel's eyes raked John's face. "You look old."
"Fuck you," John said with a grin. "Has Dean taught you nothing? Five years and-"
John suddenly stopped, realizing Sherlock was still in the room, watching them. John cut himself off, coughed, and said, "Um, it's probably best if we talked in my room."
No explanation, no introductions. As they passed Sherlock to get to the stairs that will lead them to John's room, John shook his head once at him.
'Do not follow me' was what it said.
Of course not, Sherlock nearly scowled at him. At least, he wasn't going to follow so blatantly obvious. He was going to wait a minute or two, then follow up the stairs. In the meantime, Sherlock whipped out his phone and googled 'Castiel.'
It was an unusual name, most likely a code name, and a general search should give results.
There wasn't much. "Castiel," said one generic website. "Angel of Thursday." And that was it.
Without a proper last name, there wasn't much Sherlock can go on. This wasn't the first time one of John's old friends visited the flat without warning, snatching the good doctor away for drinks and nostalgic remembrance.
But this was the first time John refused to introduce his friend to Sherlock.
Two minutes had already passed and curiosity gnawed on him. In his own room, John was not a light footer. He'd often stomped, unintentionally slammed his dresser drawers, refused to step over the squeaky boards. At the moment, no noise was heard from his room.
Something was wrong.
Sherlock couldn't explain it. No noise was much, much worse than screaming. Silence gave him nothing to deduce, nothing to rationalize.
At three minutes, he had enough. Privacy be damned.
Sherlock stomped up the steps, not caring the sounds he was making. It sounded good in his ears, and he didn't care if it meant he was announcing his approach to John. It was his fault for being too quiet.
"John?" Sherlock stopped right at the door. He waited to hear the familiar footsteps. "John, open up, I need to talk to you."
Nothing. John wouldn't be that petty and ignore him.
Sherlock tried the doorknob. Eyebrows raised when it turned easily.
Of all the scenarios that ran through his head, this was not one of them. John's room was empty.
More than empty, abandoned.
John had emptied his drawers, took clothes and socks and spare shoes. His duffle bag was gone, as well as his gun. He'd left behind his laptop, his wallet, spare cash, and his mobile.
John was gone. And all evidence pointed that he wasn't coming back.
"Is this the man you saw at the flat?"
Mycroft handed him a single photograph. Sherlock knew his brother probably had a lot more than a single damn picture but was withholding it from him. Sherlock doesn't know if it was because of privacy laws (highly unlikely) or Mycroft wanted confirmation before dropping the metaphorical bomb.
The photo was clearly a driver license picture. Castiel was younger in the photo. His hair was combed in one direction, wore a blue flannel shirt and he was smiling lightly. He looked nothing like the disheveled man at the flat. "This is him," Sherlock confirmed.
"Jimmy Novak," Mycroft then announced with a sigh. He dropped an extensive file down in front of Sherlock. "Disappeared from his home nearly eight years ago. Wife said prior to his disappearance, Jimmy was expressing a possible mental breakdown. He was having hallucinations; kept saying he was talking to an angel of the Lord."
That explained the name Castiel. Mycroft continued. "Besides a few speeding tickets, Jimmy had no prior criminal record. Paid his taxes, went to Church on Sunday, and helped his elderly neighbor take out her trash."
"He apparently became partners with a Mr. Sam and Dean Winchester."
Sherlock frowned at the names. They were familiar… "Winchester. They're on the FBI's most wanted list."
Sherlock only checked the FBI website once a month. The most wanted list rarely changed and most of the criminals were either computer hackers that cost the American government millions of dollars or war lords that were near impossible to touch. The Winchesters were an unusual case as their crimes were scattered across the North American Continent. Their crimes consisted of murder, kidnapping, weapons dealing, smuggling, assault, breaking and entering, grave robbing, grave desecration, arson, and mild terrorism.
Sherlock had been rather interested in hunting them down. The Winchesters were notorious escape artist and it sounded like quite the challenge Sherlock had been hoping for. But just as he was making plans to travel to America, Sherlock heard the Winchesters died when a gas explosion took down a whole police station.
"Since meeting the Winchesters, Jimmy has racked up quite the body count himself," Mycroft continued. "There has been rumors he's been seen as far as China."
"What does John have to do with him? With the Winchesters?"
"That's something you're going have to ask for yourself," Mycroft said as he dropped one more photograph. It was a security cam still.
In the picture, Sam and Dean Winchester walked down an unknown hallway. They each held a shotgun and had extra ammo strapped around their waist. Behind them was Jimmy/Castiel. He held no weapon and wore the same clothes when Sherlock first met him.
Behind Castiel, barely seen through the grainy image, was John. His head was slightly turned like he was looking over his shoulder. In his own hands he held a gun- not his own- and in the other, a machete.
Suddenly the conversation with Harry made a lot more sense. When explained John had gone missing, Harry simply huffed and said, "John's known to do that. Did you know he never told me he was joining the army? Found that out when he was deployed."
Harry's sin was drinking. John's sin was the inability to tell his family of his coming and goings. Sherlock knew John had spent two years in America before college. "Road trip," John explained with a little wry smile. Sherlock never bothered to ask about his adventures because, frankly, it sounded boring.
Now Sherlock knew John spent two years in America with Sam and Dean.