They slept only for four or five hours.
John only woke because Sherlock sat on the edge of his bed. He'd probably had only four hours as, by the smell of him, he'd been up for long enough to shower. Something was wrong. He was still in his long blue bathrobe. In fact, he was softly rocking back and forth with pain. John had taken meds to his bedside, in fact, and had been resting comfortably. John sat up and turned on his bedside lamp.
Sherlock Holmes had come to wake him because he didn't trust himself for medicines, and because he was, to every appearance, miserable as a thrashed child. John quickly realised he'd omitted setting out medicine for Holmes before he'd turned in… this was his bad work, in large part. He reached out and touched Sherlock's back, lightly. "Okay-yeah. It hurts. Just wait here." John hurried downstairs, got painkillers from his coat and fed them to Sherlock with a large cup of milk.
"You're too thin. You've got no reserves, Sherlock. You should eat." John blasted his flatmate.
"Not a good plan," Sherlock told him with some finality. This was because the pain was making him queasy. He followed John downstairs with slow, careful motions.
In the front room, John got him out of the robe to look at the damage the knuckle duster had done to his middle. The thing had been made of steel. The spans between each finger loop had had a slightly raised point, perhaps for emphasis. The amount of deep bruising was devastating, hand-in-hand with the impact Sherlock had received from the truck. He looked horrible.
"Any pressure? Do you feel pressure inside any of these bruises, Sherlock? It's important."
"No." Sherlock lay on the couch watching all of this curiously. He was in miserable condition, so covered in bruises and abrasions he looked cut of marble and heavily included granite in equal parts.
"So I'd normally say we need to get ice on these… but they're old enough now it might serve us better to get blood-flow out here to heal them."
"Reabsorb the blood." Sherlock blinked as if only just considering this for the first time. He really had no inclination toward taking proper care of himself.
"Exactly." John rubbed his short blond hair and pointed at the kitchen. "I can get the kettle going. Just a towel with some sufficiently warm water will help. About 10 minutes on the bad area. Not for the shot to the belly yet, though. For the next 48, that's a job for frozen peas."
Sherlock's brows quirked up. "Ooh. Love frozen peas." He reached back onto the arm of the couch and pulled his new hat down to cover most of his face. "Peas. Bring it on." His lips gave a soft pop.
"Idiot," John snorted and closed up the top of Sherlock's robe. He also took away the hat.
"What about yours?" Sherlock rolled himself upright with some effort. "Your bruises?"
"Mine are healing," John told him. "Because I eat meals and rest like a sensible person."
"Oh." Sherlock looked away as if – in his opinion – John was being too sensitive on the matter. He checked his phone. "Sarah sent birth records for Vivien and Scarlett, by the way; incontrovertible proof that Vivien Walker exists, and was faking the police out."
"She was in on it?" John put on the kettle.
"Sometimes our siblings are not our 'friends', John." Sherlock snuffled the air and frowned in consternation. "Uhm… do I smell something like… roast?"
"Yep. Flies in the face of everything you know, but I bought a slow cooker. Big one. I chucked in beef and veg with some stock before we turned in."
Holmes looked at the wall beside him and began scanning the bookshelf there. Eventually, he got up and went into his room.
John knew that for exactly what it was – the same sort of thing cats did when they stopped to groom in the middle of a strained situation. Sherlock was hungry. He could eat every scrap of this stew. But John was also ready for that, with cornbread, rolls, an entire tray of date cookies – all store bought. The whipped cream and pumpkin pie he'd found in the fridge wasn't. That was trademark Mrs. Hudson, in fact.
He set out his stew first, though, purposefully taking a large bowl. There would be no seconds.
"Do you know how to make dumplings?"
Sherlock was at the table when John turned, now dressed in a clean pair of pyjamas and the blue silky housecoat he favoured. John finished sucking the tip of a burnt finger, and brought the first bowls to the table. "Nope."
"Can you learn?" Sherlock picked up his spoon and poked at the thick stew. "I like dumplings."
"Did your mum used to make them?" John scoffed at him.
Sherlock's brows went up. "My mother? My mother didn't do cooking."
He was doing well. Sherlock was talking to him about family. John continued to look into his bowl in the predawn dimness of the kitchen. "You had a chef?"
"Mm. Good." Sherlock said in response. He took another spoonful and shivered in delight. "So I made some productive use of my time, seeing as I couldn't really sleep much. I logged in at the Yard and got Sofia's story. You may be interested in knowing she'll be staying with Sarah the next few days, by the way. Might put a crimp in your plans for Sarah's lie-low. Or sofa. Or her, for that matter."
"How do you know?" John shook himself and qualified, "About where Sofia is staying?"
Now Holmes distracted himself with selecting a hot roll and giving it harsh treatment with the butter knife. "Sofia texted me. Sarah went to the loft and got her some clothes. Picked her up from the Yard. Brought her home. Blah."
"Okay," John said noncommittally, though, inwardly, he knew he wore a smile. "How is she?"
"Still jumpy. Sarah is taking tomorrow afternoon off and bringing her to a psychologist." Sherlock said that last lowly. "I told her it would be a waste of time."
"Why a waste of time?" John glanced up curiously.
"They can't prescribe drugs, John," Sherlock pushed a buttered roll John's way, which was uncharacteristically thoughtful of him. Made John wonder was there something wrong with it? "And they can't change the past."
It was somehow pathetic. John took the roll with thanks and settled back in his chair. "So what would you do for her? I mean, if not a psychologist, what?"
"Well, hire someone to clean up her loft, for one, but I see someone already thought of that." Sherlock's smile flickered and died out.
"You could spend some time with her." John suggested moderately. "You make her feel secure."
"Mm. Did you make tea?" Sherlock left the table to pour himself a cup of boiled water and steep a teabag. But at least, John thought, the idea had been planted like a spanner in the revolutionary machinery inside his skull. After a couple of minutes, John checked him.
Sherlock stood by the stove and stared at nothing. John's lips compressed at how truly feckless his flatmate could be. Holmes was often childish, but he was desperately childlike when approaching anything charged by powerful emotions, the sort of things that came of friends, family, much of his past, and the uncomfortable – maybe painful? – idea of companionship. "Come back to the table, Sherlock. Eat your, uh… breakfast, I guess." John rubbed his hands in the legs of his cotton pajamas. "You know… I know how to drop a topic if you say you just can't take any more."
Holmes settled down with his gaze averted. He laid down his black tea, two sugars, "Wouldn't want to be rude."
"You?" John laughed.
"To you." Sherlock added coldly, and then ladled himself more stew. He'd been through the first bowl in record time. "Dumplings."
"Yes. Got it," John chortled. Sherlock was regularly thoughtless and rude to him. He just didn't mean to be. That made all the difference in the world, actually. "Okay. I'm going to say three words, here – 2009; fire; and Ark-Co – now tell me about Sofia."
Sherlock, spoon still in his mouth, walked to the living room and came back with the pink letter. He laid it on the table and inhaled the rest of his soup before setting in on an explanation. John helped this along by topping off Holmes' bowl again.
"We were right about the year. That part took care of itself in the course of her letter to me." He lifted the thing and gave it a soft snuffle, his green eyes narrowing as he set it down again.
"It was clear her issue was regarding the company. Ark-Co is in serious trouble with the City. You know how they are about fraudulent practices and the like. They're also not getting fan-mail from the Met right now. But that last bit – fire – that was the tricky one. First, we were correct in our assessment." Sherlock pulled the slate out from under the morning Metro. John was beginning to see Sherlock hadn't really slept at all yet. Food on top of the pain pills he'd just taken would make short work of that. Maybe while he was out, John could slow-cook something for when he woke up. That point in the day was sure to be 12 to 14 hours out, 8 if the pain started to wake him. But John resolved he would put his phone by Sherlock's bed, with some pain-pills, and wake the idiot to take his next dose. God knew Sherlock couldn't take care of-
"Not paying attention," Sherlock tapped the slate and the display got brighter.
"Sorry. Doctor-stuff in my head. Yeah." On the screen was a letter about Scarlett Walker's job termination. "Signed and dated in the summer of 2009. About the same time as Sofia Rothingham miraculously rises from the dead over in Bedale, I expect."
"By the way, in her report, uh, Scarlett confirms Sofia was a friend," Sherlock flipped to the police report on the slate and pushed it across the table at John. "According to her, they used to draw together when they were children. Scarlett felt that Sofia – the original Sofia – would have wanted her to use her identity if it was a life-or-death situation. Scarlett correctly intuited her life was in danger. She vanished for a while and resurfaced as Sofia."
"I can't imagine… I mean, most people would be dead. She's very astute," John said.
"Artists notice things many other people don't. To them, matters may be so clear it can seem contrived, or confusing, when other people fail to notice, or acknowledge, them… or so I'm told." Sherlock ate another spoonful of stew and shrugged.
"By whom?" John asked curiously.
Oh hell. John almost punched air. Finally, he had some tiny and tangible piece of Sherlock's past. He hid his smile by looking down at his nearly finished bowl. He was almost full. The rest of this, tea, and a cookie would do the trick. Sherlock would likely finish the entire crock, all the rolls, the rest of the cookies, and the pie. Total weight gain? Nil.
"So," John looked up, "fire meant that she was ejected from the company. We knew that."
Sherlock's voice rumbled. "Better than that, John. Way, way, better than that. It's why she was fired and it has to do with your burnt Toyota. Scarlett Walker was a nurse on clinical trials of a drug called Prometheum. Want to guess what it claims to do?"
"No clue." John had forgotten about eating now.
"Know who Prometheus is?"
"Uh… god who brought fire to man? Is that right?" John blinked.
"Titan," Sherlock nodded. "Name means 'forethought'. The rest is right. He brought the knowledge of fire from Olympus to mankind. He was ruthlessly tormented for his actions."
John considered Sherlock a moment. If he were a demi-god of some kind, and certain circles acted as if he were, it would be possible to see Holmes in that role – bringing fire, or light, to man. Only to have it rebuffed.
"Mm. It turns out part of the record that was expunged goes into why they bought Ignis Ray Pharma. Ignis was developing Prometheum. There was a leak, you see, and Ark-Co found out. Well, I wouldn't want anyone in the way of billions in profit either. Prometheum was a threat. They bought controlling shares of Ignis over the course of a few months. This happened before Vivien and Scarlett were scouted by Ark-Co. Scarlett, it turns out, was always a bit of a humanitarian. Viv, however, majored in business – she has a degree in some management discipline or other. Not important. What is telling is that they were both hired around the same time, and both brought on in order to work the transition of Prometheum testing and production from Ignis Ray to Ark-Co. Scarlett landed in Ignis Ray as a nurse on clinical trials. Vivien landed in Ark-Co, managing finances."
"What does the drug do?"
"It's not a treatment for ADHD symptoms. Over the course of 5 years, it supposedly modifies for rectifies ADHD. It changes the way the brain behaves for good… or that's what prelim tests began to show. At that time, Scarlett was excited. She and her sister were going up through the ranks of Ignis Ray and Ark-Co quickly. Ark-Co was noticing their successes. All good." He ladled out more stew for himself. "Then something happened to a couple of the kids in trials. They started to fixate, become inflexible, and some even seemed to develop a predilection to violence. Then one of them was released from the study. Only she didn't want to leave London for Wales – as in, decided she was never leaving London again – so she set fire to her parent's car. The girl's name is Penny Folland, and, right now, she's in an institution downtown. Now, before Prometheum… she was normal, apart from the ADHD. Ark-Co said she was an outlier. She'd developed childhood schizophrenia and it had nothing to do with the drug. It wasn't easy to prove one way or the other, given the small sample size of children who developed issues. Then Scarlett blew the whistle, as they say of these things. She threatened Ignis that she'd leak documents to the press, actually sent them to Ark-Co's Board of Directors, and sank years of Ignis Ray's clinical trials. Billions gone. Ark-Co did a review and shut the trial down. Ignis Ray contested the findings, and had Scarlett fired."
"Okay… why run away like she did?" John blinked.
"Because she had a word of warning," Sherlock nodded. "I suspect this was our mutual friend Leiber again, though she doesn't state his name on record. He honestly likes the girl. Somehow, she ended up seeing a document that stated Ark-Co was furious with her interference, and was quite deeply invested in Prometheum. She describes the atmosphere around her as 'threatening' in one line and then 'murderous' a few lines later in the police report."
"So why kidnap her?" John asked.
"Well," Sherlock sat back with a smile. "They made some superficial changes and started Promethium up again under another name, as it turns out. This time it's called Vestiam – Vesta or Hestia being the goddess of the hearth, by the way – and, what do you know, for some reason, they become afraid of springing a leak again."
John's eyes widened. "So they already know something's off."
"Then they figure out one last tidbit no one realized, seeing as the departments and companies were so unrelated – the girls are identical twins, and Vivien had been seen logging into Scarlett's laptop using Scarlett's credentials on more than one occasion. This is why Scarlett's alive, or that's what the Ignis Ray official who spoke to her when she was first brought to storage in Ignis Ray told her. Back when she was Scarlett, Sofia saved herself by never admitting guilt when challenged on blowing the whistle. No one could tell who really killed Promethium: Scarlett, or Vivien."
"So they wanted to talk to the pair of them."
"Apparently," Sherlock spooned his stew around. "Vivien maintained it was her sister. She donated several pints of blood for the apartment scene just so Ark-Co could grab her twin and confirm it. Imagine what a terrible surprise it was to find out they hadn't disposed of Scarlett, and were, instead, starting to focus on devious and venal Vivien – who had just proven, by giving up her sister, exactly how devious and venal she could be. I should add that my research since has proven that, when Promethium was killed, a series of firings moved Viv up the chain in Ark-Co quickly. She learned how to position herself, how to use the massive failure of a product as her springboard. If you look at her employment record over the last two years, you can see her angling herself into a good place in case Vestiam died. Which she expected. She may be an unethical viper, but Viv knows her sister is bright. She knew that if Scarlett was right about Promethium, then Vestiam stood a high probability of failure. Rinse. Repeat."
John sat in stunned silence. "So the three men at the apartment spread around blood from Vivien, the stolen bag, and some they must have extracted from Sofia by force."
"Sedation." Sherlock nodded. "Molly found signs of sedative as she made her way through the remaining blood samples. Really stupefying bit of work there. She finished all of them even when I had the information I needed." He spread his hands in bewilderment, and went back to the stew.
John held his tongue on the idea that she might appreciate him enough to pull an all-nighter as she had. His mind's eye saw Doctor Molly Hooper touching Sherlock's skin with utmost delicacy. But this would never occur to Sherlock. Thus, silence endured for the better part of fifteen minutes, with Sherlock pressing toward the bottom of the crock pot and looking for more. John got up and washed dishes, in fact. "So she saw her days as numbered. No wonder Vivien was happy to leave with SIO Charlotte Warren." Sofia had been betrayed by her own twin. Horrible.
"Speaking of which," Sherlock kicked the door to the fridge closed with his heel and sat down at the table with the entire pie and a fork, "it was a hostage exchange with her this morning: my letter for her credit card. I kind of like the SIO's style. See what you miss when you sleep?"
John could only laugh at that. "She does seem rather clever, Charlotte Warren."
Sherlock poised over the lid… his fork wavered. He took a few swallows of his tea and tried again. But still… he didn't lift the clear plastic cover from the pie. Curious stuff. John dried the bowl and spoon he'd just washed. He turned to the sound of the fork clattering to the table. It jerked Sherlock awake again. Holmes blinked, but the sheer lack of comprehension in his expression told the tale. The engine between his ears had put its foot down. He was out of time.
Sherlock made it as far as the couch, in fact, and might have been asleep before he lay flat against the cushions and pulled up the knitted blanket to his waist; medical magic, those pain pills. John cut himself a generous slice of superlative pumpkin pie, drew some tea, and sat down in front of the telly with a sigh. His cell said he had an hour before he had to be at the clinic, beaten and bruised as he was, there were bills to pay.
Before he left the flat, he moved Sherlock's cell over by him, poured up a glass of pulpy orange juice, and laid out another painkiller. As he straightened and stood over the 'world's only Consulting Detective', it felt as if the real world was like a massive telly, now on pause… because Sherlock Holmes was fast asleep.
And that made John smile. He couldn't imagine what drama would be on when Holmes hit play again. But John Watson was one of the few people in the world who hoped he always had a part to play. Last night, he felt they'd done something truly heroic. Today was about the little things that would keep them going. John was good at those. He shut the lights and adjusted the heat, and locked the doors before he went out into the dawn.
~ end ~