The best thing that could be said about what happened that afternoon was that Sherlock Holmes was not there. It happened at a crime scene – an older man had been murdered and Lestrade had called in Sherlock. John, because he'd the day off from the clinic, and because that's what John did, tagged along.
It had taken Sherlock only ten minutes at the scene to announce that the man was gay and that Lestrade should look for the younger man he'd picked up at a bar the night before. The killing had been accidental, a blow to the head by an unfortunately placed coffee table whilst engaging in rough foreplay. As sometimes happened, after laying the scene bare (no pun intended), Sherlock swooped away in a haze of bored ennui and that great, bloody coat. John was left to do the boring bit - talk to Lestrade and fill out the paperwork.
John was licking one of Lestrade's damn incompetent pencils to get it to do more than crease the form, when he heard Donovan gasp from across the room.
He didn't bother to look up. Donovan didn't register on the 'worth my time' scale, gasp or no gasp. Instead he applied wet pencil to paper again, convinced that Lestrade was doing this… this pencil thing to him on purpose. He felt like he was wrestling with the bloody self-check machine at Tesco's.
He suddenly became aware that the silence in the room was… thick. Lestrade was no longer standing near him and everyone had gone perfectly still.
He raised his eyes to glance across the room where the lot of them stood, all staring at something in Donovan's hands. All of them - four technicians John didn't really know and 3 people he, unfortunately, did. Lestrade's mouth was hanging open, Anderson's had a look of stunned horror, and Donovan's expression wavered somewhere between utter disbelief, budding hilarity and sexual interest.
And they were all glancing between him and the object in Donovan's hand.
Oh, fuck. It couldn't be.
The way Donovan was holding the calendar, spread out between her top and bottom hands, it's flat side was to him. But he knew. Even before she turned it slightly and he could make out the familiar red velvet backdrop, bare bicep and armpit, and the letters M E, he knew it would be that cover. It was the Men of the British Armed Forces calendar, 2002.
"John!" Lestrade choked out, his mouth only closing long enough to gasp the word, then hanging open again.
"Impressive!" Donovan chortled.
"Gah!" said Anderson, which might have been an attempt at taking someone's name in vain or a gag that proceeded vomiting.
John felt his face flame bright red.
"Right, " John said. He managed to move his numb legs to the door and exit without tripping over himself. As he left the flat the people behind him erupted in howls of laughter.
Oh god, oh god, John thought as he sat in the taxi. This isn't happening.
He had never thought the calendar would catch up with him here, now. It was so long ago. And it had been a relatively small print run. It was his misfortune that the calendar that year had been one of the most 'well received' (i.e. wanked over) on record, and that copies of it were still coveted items on ebay (going for over $500, last time he'd checked).
John's brain was trying frantically to find some way to do damage control. Denial?
It wasn't me, just a look alike. (flat)
Hey, that guy does kind of look like me, doesn't he? Ha! (amused)
That's NOT me, and if you say it is one more time be warned that I WILL punch you in the face. (threatening).
No. It was no good. His face in the photo was too clear. Hell, everything was too clear. It was definitely John Watson, albeit a ten year younger, buffer version of himself. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but 'plausible deniability' were not two of them.
Plan B. He seized his mobile from his pocket. Texted Lestrade.
Get that thing away from Donovan and destroy it. JW
I'll owe you. Anything. I mean it. JW
Then his phone dinged.
Nothing you could possible do for me would be as good as this. Sorry.
Oh, hell, John thought. He was so fucked.