A new case fic from me. In my canon this follows The Empty House, but is unrelated to any of my other stories.

Pip xxx


Chapter One

Sherlock turned the screw on the microscope, and the small flecks of pollen on the slide sprang into sharp focus. He could identify most of what he saw as daisy without needing to check with the reference material on the PC on the kitchen table behind him. His eyebrows twitched almost imperceptibly. Daisy pollen could be transferred onto shoes in any of London's green spaces that the shoe-wearer happened to pass through. There was something else there too, and after moving the slide millimetre by millimetre, he was able to pick out daffodil too. There was the smallest twitch of a smile. Otherwise, he didn't move at all.

He heard Mrs Hudson's flat door open, and the sound of her footfalls on the stairs. He was vaguely aware that it was mid-morning and suspected she was coming to enquire about lunch. He tuned his senses to John, whom he could still hear, snoring rhythmically on the sofa.

His mind fixed on the slide in front of him again. There was something else there too. Something red. Red and spiky. He didn't know it instantly and he smiled with the joy of the game.

Mrs Hudson walked along the corridor and paused in the living room doorway, clearly looking at John.

"Don't wake him up," Sherlock murmured.

Mrs Hudson came around the corner, and Sherlock envisioned her looking at him with an exasperated frown on her face. He didn't look up.

"Is he all right?" Mrs Hudson whispered.

"Yes, he just had a heavy night," Sherlock replied. He wondered if she'd make tea while she was there.

"I bought you more milk," she told him.

"Thank you."

She bustled past him to the fridge, and he re-focussed the microscope to take in something smaller, almost hidden among the pollen. He heard the sound of the kettle going on and smiled.

"I've made a chicken pie," she said. "Will you be eating today?"

"Yes please."

"No case then?"

"No."

"Pity."

Sherlock frowned. A number of responses ran through his head.

"Something will come up," he said.

"Hopefully soon," Mrs Hudson responded.

Sherlock looked up now and frowned at the wall. He turned around, but Mrs Hudson was bustling about in the kitchen cupboards. She removed several jars, throwing away any that were past their use-by date and neatly replacing the rest. He waited until she looked at him.

"Was the rent late?" he asked.

"Of course not, silly boy!" She hesitated and looked in to where John was still sleeping. "Sherlock, do you think John's OK?"

"He's fine. I told you, he just had a heavy night, that's all."

"Yes, I heard him come in."

"I'm sorry you were disturbed."

"Oh that's all right. You know it is." There was another hesitation, and Mrs Hudson lowered her voice. "Do you think he's had rather a lot of heavy nights of late?"

"No."

"It's just he's usually so careful, what with his sister and all of that," Mrs Hudson persisted. "He doesn't usually go too far, and it's never too often."

"He's fine." Sherlock listened to more low snoring. "I've done some research and analysing the figures for how regularly men his age go out drinking, and what sort of quantities they consume on average. If we take into account his military past, which affects the results slightly, John is still within standard limits. He's fine."

"You did some research?" Mrs Hudson asked, with a small smile.

"Yes, there's no reason for concern."

"Why didn't you just say 'John, are you OK at the moment?'"

Sherlock stared at her.

"He'd have lied," he shrugged. "This gave me more accurate results."

She shook her head.

"Well I hope you get a nice case soon anyway. That always cheers him up a bit."

"Mm."

He watched her leave and then got up went to look at John. John was fine. He turned back to the kitchen, stopped, turned, and looked at John again.

There were the usual bags under his eyes, slightly larger than usual. The eyes were closed, but Sherlock suspected they'd be reddened. John had managed to shower when he'd got up this morning, for which Sherlock was grateful, but it had washed away any helpful marks. He hadn't shaved, and the last time he had, he'd used the electric razor and done a relatively poor job. Sherlock frowned. He turned his attention to John's hands. The right hand was crushed underneath John's torso, but the left one was showing. There was a small red mark on the third knuckle. Not so clear and obvious to be a deliberate act, but evidence of an uncoordinated knock, perhaps when John had staggered and grabbed at a wall to steady himself but hadn't coordinated the action properly.

John stirred and rolled over. His eyes flickered open and he startled.

"Christ!"

"What?"

"Sorry, I just didn't expect you to be looming over me when I woke up."

"I'm not looming! I'm… standing."

John rubbed his face.

"OK. What's up?"

"Nothing. There's nothing up."

"Oh." John heaved himself upright. "Sorry. Didn't mean to fall asleep."

"It's fine."

"You should just carry on as normal when I do that," John said. He sniffed and made a lazy attempt to flatten his hair. "Or kick me awake and move me on so you can watch the telly or something."

"I did carry on as normal. I didn't want to watch the telly."

"Well, play the violin or something."

"I didn't want to do that either."

John rubbed his face again and stretched his limbs out. He looked at Sherlock, who looked back.

Sherlock glanced at the yellow smiley face on the wall above the sofa.

"I was thinking of going out tonight," he said.

"A case?" John's head bobbed up eagerly.

"No, not a case."

John sagged again.

"Rachmaninov's piano concerto in D minor is playing in Wigmore Street," Sherlock said. "I was thinking of going along. Did you want to come with me?"

"I can think of few things I'd enjoy less."

"It should be a good performance," Sherlock said. "I know the soloist."

John grinned. "Still no. Don' t worry about me, I'm sure I can make plans to entertain myself. Do you fancy a cup of tea?" He pulled himself up, groaning as he did so.

"Mm. Mrs Hudson boiled the kettle but she didn't stay to finish the job. You really should come tonight. The pianist is an old friend of mine." He watched John walk into the kitchen. "She's very good."

John's head lifted as he put the kettle back on.

"She?"

"Yes. Andrea Thackery. We met when we were teenagers and we had the same piano tutor for a while."

"Did you date her?"

"No. We crossed paths as she was leaving her lesson and I was starting mine. Sometimes I arrived early to listen to her play, sometimes she'd stay late to hear me."

"I didn't know you played piano."

"I prefer the violin, but I can play both. I'm not as good on the piano."

John found cups and added teabags, and then he took the Tupperware box of medicines from the top of the cupboard and helped himself to a couple of paracetamol. He filled a glass with water and swallowed the pills.

"Mrs Hudson's made us a chicken pie if you're up to food," Sherlock said.

"Of course I'm up to food! I have a slight hangover, that's all."

"It didn't sound that slight last night," Sherlock said quietly.

"Didn't mean to wake you up." He turned around. "Is Wigmore Street the ones with those hard wooden pews to sit on?"

Sherlock's phone beeped with a text alert and he quickly grabbed it.

'Holiday Inn off Regent Street. Able concierge. Need to understand connection with Moran. M."

He deleted the text and looked up to find John watching him, expectantly.

"Anything interesting?" John asked, nodding at the phone.

"No, nothing." Sherlock dropped the phone into his pocket and smiled at John. "St Martin's in the Fields is the one with the wooden pews. Wigmore Street has nice comfortable theatre chairs where you can sleep soundly to your heart's content. Don't worry though; I know it's not your sort of thing. I'm happy to go alone."

"No, I might come actually. I'm happy to come and watch this old girlfriend of yours."

"She's not an old girlfriend."

John smiled. "We could go out for a drink afterwards if you want."

"It'll probably finish quite late."

"How late is late?"

"About ten."

"That's the perfect time to go out for a drink you old fuddy-duddy." He turned to finish making the tea and he put Sherlock's on the kitchen table. He frowned.

"Why are my shoes on the table?" he asked.

"No reason." Sherlock picked them up and dropped them on the landing just outside the kitchen door. He turned back and smiled brightly at John who was frowning at the microscope.

"I think I walked through Regent's Park on the way home," he said, looking at Sherlock. "Pub in Holborn, another pub in Soho, then possibly back to Holborn again, but it's a bit fuzzy, then back through the park." He frowned. "I think I remember listening to a lion roaring. Good geographic marker that, the lion enclosure. And you could just ask where I went, or better still, come with me."

Sherlock shrugged. "I was just passing the time."

"Fine. Well consider time passed." John yawned extravagantly and leaned against the kitchen worktop.

"I'll go and book two tickets for tonight then," Sherlock said.

"Fine, marvellous. I'll go and sit down quietly somewhere, I think."

John took his tea and staggered off through the kitchen and up the stairs, leaning hard against the bannister.

Sherlock watched him go, and he took out his phone to text Mycroft.