Sticks and Stones

Author: Lady Sam Mallory

Disclaimers: Boys not mine; I just borrow them from time to time when the muse moves me.

Special Thanks to: My exceptional Beta Queen, Zoe, without whom I'd be doomed to a life of grammatical inaccuracy. You are truly my conductor of light. Thank you for thirty years of friendship.

For my beautiful friend, Heather, whose incredible command of the English language allows her to provide me with individually needed words at a moment's notice.

Warnings: H/C, Angst, Smarm, Some violence, and usually a bit of colorful language.

Spoilers: small one for Hounds of the Baskerville.

Author's Comments: This story is a companion piece to "Living in Fear" and takes place roughly three weeks after that one. Reference is made to that story and it would behoove you to read that one first.

Sticks and stones are hard on bones

When aimed with angry art

Words can sting like anything,

But silence breaks the heart.

~Phyllis McGinley

Sherlock actually feels exhausted. He rubs at the grit in his weary blue eyes and cringes when he accidentally touches the bruise and small cut left by John's more than capable fist two nights ago.

John had been very upset by the events at Baskerville. Sherlock thinks about his experiment and how John's safety was paramount, yet he still managed to get it wrong.

John explained things, and then they had tea. Sherlock shakes his head as he remembers dropping the coffee tin out the window. Coffee would be wonderful right now.

He hasn't slept in two days, staying up all night, compelled to watch "John's back." John thinks that he's on a case, but there won't be any cases for a bit. He needs to get John sorted a bit before dividing his substantial attention again but for only a few days, or he risks John becoming suspicious.

His mobile alerts him to a text from John which he reads.

Working overnight

Paul's sick

See you in the morning

Sleep tonight


Sighing Sherlock makes for his room and dresses for bed. He turns out the light and climbs under the duvet. In his exhaustion, he drifts off quickly to sleep.

Sherlock twists in his bedclothes, moaning as sweat dampens the dark curls on his forehead.

"No," he whispers, tossing over onto his side, trying to escape the nightmare.

Moriarty stands in a breathing mask in front of him. Sherlock grabs him, spinning frantically as Moriarty just laughs at his fear. Moriarty morphs into Dr. Frankland. He is spinning, and Moriarty and Dr. Frankland keep interchanging in the mask.

Moriarty laughs. "I'll burn the heart out of you," he sneers.

Moriarty morphs into a vicious dog that growls and attacks them. It snaps at Sherlock before sinking its teeth deep into John's throat. Gunshots sound and Lestrade stands in the foggy field. Sherlock fall to his knees to put pressure on the wound in John's throat using his scarf to clean and absorb the massive amount of blood.

He glances down seeing that John is wearing the Semtex vest. He wants to remove the vest from his friend immediately, but John will bleed to death if he even tries.

John's breath gurgles as he chokes on his own blood. He tries to speak but is unable to get many words out.

John gasps for air before accusing Sherlock, "This…your…fault."

Sherlock shrinks back as if John has physically struck him, his eyes wide with shock.

Another moan escapes from Sherlock. He twists on the bed again, clearly agitated by the nightmare.

John stands in the kitchen making tea. He wears the Semtex vest while calmly pouring the tea into his cup before turning around to look at Sherlock.

Sherlock has a cup of tea in his hand. He drops his cup, china fragments splintering on the floor in a sea of pale brown English breakfast tea. Sherlock dives at John pulling at the Semtex vest frantically.

"It won't come off. Help me or you're going to die!" he cries out, his hands shaking as they pull at the vest.

John laughs maniacally, strangely reminiscent of Moriarty. "That's what people do!" He shouts at the top of his lungs, his words echoing off the walls of the small kitchen.

Sherlock looks around in confusion as John disappears.

Sherlock groans and cries out softly, flopping to his back, the duvet slipping to the floor.

"Where's John?" Sherlock demands seeing Moriarty standing a few metres away.

Moriarty points to a stone bench in the cemetery in Dartmoor, "There. He will die you know."

John sits quietly, a notebook open in his hands. Sherlock analyzes John carefully and bursts into a run toward John screaming his name.

John looks up at him still wearing the Semtex vest. He smiles and says pleasantly, "Funny doesn't suit you, stick to ice…"

Then Sherlock watches as John explodes, the force of it knocks him to the ground.

"Noooo," Sherlock screams jolting awake and gasping for breath. He sighs as he realizes that he is at the flat in his own bed. Reaching up with a shaking hand, he wipes away the tears that glisten on his cheek, unaware that he'd even been crying in his sleep.

He draws in a shaky breath and watches the door. John has not come running into the room.

Right. Text. Working.

Nightmare? Why?

"You've been through a traumatic experience," John's voice says in his head.

Sherlock knows that if he is completely honest with himself that the incident at the pool frightened him more than anything ever has. He has not been scared like that since he was a small child. John wearing a Semtex vest is more than 'a bit not good.'

Sherlock pushes the covers back and slowly lowers his feet to the floor. He still trembles from the vestiges of the nightmare and rubs at his face, ending the gesture with dragging his hands through his hair.

"Funny doesn't suit you, stick to ice…"

Sherlock hears John's voice reverberate through his memory palace repeating the same phrase over and over. It must have been important. Sherlock files it and begins to get dressed for the day.

"Come along, John," Sherlock gasps, running down the darkened alleyways of Central London. "We're losing him."

Sherlock pours on an additional bout of speed, pulling even farther ahead. Rounding the corner out of the alley mouth into the street, he continues pursuit.

The perpetrator turns again quickly into yet another alley with Sherlock nearly on his heels.

Sherlock smirks, knowing that the suspect has made a critical error. This alley ends in a three-meter high, linked chain fence increasing the probability of his apprehending the fleeing man by 11.38%, he calculates as he dives forward.

John rounds the corner in time to see Sherlock lunge forward without any compunction taking down the suspect with an audible clang into the fence.

Sherlock twists the man over onto his stomach and reaches for the cuffs he liberated from Lestrade several hours ago.

John skids to a stop and bends over double next to Sherlock who is squatting over the man he has just apprehended.

"Nice, Sherlock. Bloody nice job," John commends, patting the hardly gasping detective on the shoulder.

Lestrade's sedan pulls into the alley several minutes later and skids to a stop. He leaps out of his car making his way to Sherlock and John.

"What took you so bloody long?" John demands, still a bit winded.

"I was looking for my…those," he admits, pointing down at his own handcuffs restraining the struggling suspect. Sherlock forces his knee into the man's back, and he stops moving with a loud groan.

"Get him off," the suspect cries out earnestly.

Sherlock stands up quickly dusting off his Belstaff and straightening his scarf. "This man killed Helena Bruce three nights ago. The evidence is in his right jacket pocket- a seven-inch jack knife that is clearly the murder weapon. I see no reason to remain," Sherlock reports, tipping his head to Lestrade and walking out of the alley to flag down a taxi.

Sherlock enters the flat with John following closely behind.

"Goodnight, John," he says quietly, heading to his bedroom.

John glances up at him, confusion written all over his face, "Sherlock?"

"I'm tired, John. That is all," Sherlock replies mildly, closing his door.

John continues to look at the closed door.

It's been three weeks since the breakdown in his room that ended in Sherlock tossing the coffee out the window into Mrs. Hudson's bins two floors below the flat window.

John smiles, knowing that there has been absolutely no coffee in the flat since that day.

Sherlock exists in a perpetual state of moodiness normally, but John cannot put his finger on what bothers him about the detective's current behaviour.

It started several days after what John's been calling "The Meltdown," and John is still at a loss to explain. He tries to think of a single event that could have precipitated the change, but there is nothing. Not one thing. It's as if a switch has been flipped.

John knew there would be landmines of epoch proportions trying to navigate the minefield their relationship has become since the experiment.

John, for his part, is sleeping much better, and his Sig stays locked in the drawer of his bedside table where it belongs. He performs only one perimeter check per day, and he feels much calmer generally.

The late night discussion with Sherlock, as adamant as he felt about being left alone at the time, helped more than he ever thought it would.

Now, he only wishes he could do the same for his friend.

John steps into the kitchen and puts on the kettle. Pulling down the box of tea, he waits for the kettle to boil and steeps the tea in two cups.

He opens the fridge to add a splash of milk to the hot tea only to find the milk's off and dumps it down the sink turning his face away to guard against the spoiled stench.

He adds a spoon of honey to Sherlock's cup, taking his own black. Grabbing up the cups in his right hand, he makes his way carefully back to Sherlock's room and taps gently on the door.

There is no answer, so he cracks the door and seeing Sherlock's form sitting in a chair by the window, he enters quietly.

"Sherlock?" John inquires tentatively, making his way to the window. He hands Sherlock the cuppa, which the man takes automatically, his expressionless blue eyes never leaving the street.

John stands in the stillness for a moment staring at Sherlock's profile which remains unchanged as he drinks the much too hot tea.

John's brow wrinkles up in confusion. Sherlock's top lip reddens from the heat of the tea he continues to sip. His gaze remains fixed on the street below him.

John grasps Sherlock's upper arm firmly. "Sherlock, what's going on?" He questions the detective trying to keep his voice soft in deference to his mood.

"Hmmm?" Sherlock intones, his voice devoid of inflection.

John pulls his hand away to grip his cup and realizes that his fingers are slick. "What the hell?"

He sets his cup down forcefully on the bedside table and turns on the lamp. Sherlock's left shirtsleeve is stained with a mixture of dry and new blood.

"Sod it, Sherlock," John curses as he reaches into Sherlock's closet and retrieves the first aid kit off the shelf there along with a portable tray, bringing them over to where Sherlock sits.

John prepares the tray with all the equipment he will need to do the job efficiently.

Donning a sterile pair of surgical gloves, John picks up his Trauma Scissors.

Sherlock continues to stare outside as John cuts the ruined shirt away.

John picks up the betadine, removing the lid. "This may sting a touch," he warns before pouring it onto a sterile gauze pad and cleaning the wound.

Sherlock neither speaks nor flinches upon contact of the betadine, which ratchets John's worry up another step.

"Bugger me. It needs stitches, Sherlock. Why didn't you say something?" John snaps out, reaching for his size C-14, atraumatic suture needle that comes pre-threaded and does not increase tearing in the skin as a standard traumatic needle might.

"Didn't notice it," Sherlock replies quietly.

"Great, he speaks. Thank you," John barks out under his breath, as he carefully places a sterile surgical drape over the area he plans to stitch up.

"You want a local?" John asks, reaching for the syringe.

"No," Sherlock's short reply should surprise the doctor, but unfortunately tonight it doesn't.

John shakes his head and drops the syringe lightly into the kit. Picking up the suture needle, he gets to work quickly, gently holding the edges of the wound together, checking for wound eversion and making small, neat sutures that will minimize any scarring. The laceration requires 15 sutures, but he finishes quickly and efficiently.

John covers the newly stitched wound with a sterile dressing and bandages it up. "I'll check my work in the morning and change the dressing tomorrow after I return from the surgery," John informs the vacant detective.

"Thank you, John," Sherlock whispers, never once looking at him or turning from the window.

"You're welcome," John answers just as quietly, cleaning up the mess from his A & E work.

John takes the kit to the kitchen and refills it from the supplies he keeps in a cabinet there. He quickly stows the first aid kit in Sherlock's closet and closes the door to Sherlock's room.

He washes the dishes from tea and puts them away before dragging himself up the stairs to his own room where he changes into his pyjamas and drops into bed exhaustedly.

Closing his eyes, he reviews Sherlock's behaviour during the suture session.

John had checked Sherlock's face every few minutes to make sure he was doing fine without the anesthetic. The lanky detective sat sedately, not a single flinch evident as John had sewn him up.

What the hell is going on?

Tomorrow he would find out or die trying, and Sherlock would not make it easy. This he knows with absolute certainty.

John returns from the surgery and trudges through the flat door, only to be accosted by Sherlock and immediately moved out said door and down the stairs.

"Lestrade waits for us in Hyde Park at the Bandstand. He stressed that it was of the utmost importance. As he has texted me four times in the past ten minutes, I would say that he may be correct," Sherlock rattles as they slam out the door onto Baker Street.

Sherlock flags down a cab, and they hop in. Within ten minutes, they arrive at the Bandstand to see yellow crime scene tape strung about it. There is a body lying in the center of the Bandstand on reddish concrete. Black and gold pillars topped in rich lace metal latticework reach up to the ceiling holding the ornate rooftop in place.

Sherlock circles the bandstand with a dramatic flare of the Belstaff. He steps onto the stage and turns by degrees, cataloguing every nuance of the environment before analyzing the young girl lying there. He orbits the girl discerning everything about her that can possibly be known in a matter of seconds.

"John?" He calls, waving the doctor forward.

John steps up onto the stage, taking care not to tread anywhere he sees visible footprints. He kneels down next to the body, conducting a cursory examination like he has done so many times since partnering with Sherlock.

There's not a mark on her. She looks like a perfect angel fallen from heaven and gently placed in the center of the stage. John's face draws up in concentration as he checks her eyes for petechial haemorrhaging.

He looks up at Lestrade, his eyes dark, and proceeds with his analysis. "She's approximately 14-16 years of age, no sign of assault, trauma or petechial haemorrhage. She's appears to be physically fit. You'll need an autopsy to determine cause of death. Sherlock?"

"I concur. Although I can add that she was traveling by bicycle, most likely…" Sherlock stops suddenly and leaps of the edge of the stage and takes off running. John takes off after him as does Lestrade.

Sherlock catches a young man within two minutes and pushes him to the ground on his stomach. John and Lestrade are there to back him up within seconds, although it is unneeded.

Lestrade pulls the kid up to his feet after cuffing him. It is obvious the kid is terrified.

"Look at his face. He didn't kill her," Sherlock spits stalking around the suspect making him very nervous.

"No, I would never hurt Abigail," he shouts unsteadily. "She's the best."

"What happened?" John asks gently, placing a compassionate hand on the boy's shoulder as Donovan walks up.

"We rode our bikes here to have a picnic. We ate our lunches then left the bikes in the trees so we could walk over to the Bandstand. She loved to spin 'round, so I was spinning her, then she crumpled to the ground. I tried to help her, but she wouldn't wake up so I ran to get help, but when I got back you all were here…" the boy rambled, his voice pouring out quickly, thick with emotion.

John squeezed his shoulder. "You got scared. That happens," John comforts, then asks the boy a question. "Was Abigail hurt or did she fall at any time in the past few days?"

The boy looks over at John. "I don't know. She plays rugby, though and she had a game day before yesterday," the boy answers quietly.

John turns to Lestrade. "She may have taken a bad fall. If she hit her head, subdural haematoma would have killed her without treatment if it was substantial enough. You'll still need to do an autopsy, but…" John finishes, shrugging his shoulders.

Lestrade retrieves his cuffs off the boy. "Donovan, let's give his parents a ring, alright?" The boy nods thankfully.

John takes the boy by the arm to lead him back towards the Bandstand. "We can wait over here," he says quietly.

Lestrade, Sherlock and Donovan walk several meters behind them. Lestrade says something that John misses, but Donovan's reply carries over the distance.

"Really, Freak, lighten up. A sense of humor might do you a bit of good," she sneers mockingly.

"A reliable authority informed me that funny doesn't suit me; ice does, therefore, I have no need for humor or feeling," Sherlock states emotionlessly causing Lestrade to turn toward him agape as Donovan pulls out her mobile to ring the boy's parents.

"Who the hell told you that? Anderson?" Lestrade demands, keeping his voice down so as not to cause a scene.

"I did say reliable, Lestrade," Sherlock reminds him then continues to walk.

John stops suddenly, closing his eyes as he realizes who Sherlock is talking about.

A reliable authority…

"Oh my God," John whispers, turning towards Sherlock in realization. "Lestrade, it was me, and it was a miscommunication. Do you need anything else, because we really must be going?" John asks quietly, his brain finally engaged in complete understanding of the problem at hand.

"Should be fine. Stay outta trouble, will ya?" Lestrade asks waving them towards the main road.

John lengthens his stride to hail a taxi and in his upset hardly smiles when one actually stops for him. Sherlock follows unsuspectingly as they get in and ride to Baker Street.

John races from the cab and up the stairs to Baker Street, turning on Sherlock as soon as he's through the door.

"Sherlock, this stops now," John announces pointing a finger at Sherlock accusingly.

Sherlock gazes at John, his face a mask of confusion, "John, what are you going on about?"

John tilts his head to the side to read Sherlock, and the confusion in the man's eyes and on his face is the only thing that saves him.

"You, Sherlock Holmes, are an idiot, but…" John spouts angrily, his arms gesticulating wildly in the air.

"I am an idiot?" Sherlock interrupts, pouting slightly and trying to understand what's on with John, before John finishes with "but so am I."

"What did you say to Lestrade and Donovan? The very last thing you said to them before I yanked you out of there," John demands, his voice shaking.

Sherlock closes his eyes, accesses the memory and repeats, "A reliable authority informed me that funny doesn't suit me; ice does, therefore I have no need for humor or feeling."

"That's what I'm talking about. You've been off since we got back, but I was too wrapped up in my own crap to pay it any mind. That's on me," John states plainly.

"I'm fine," Sherlock responds, his hands in his coat pockets, his face drawn into confusion.

"You most certainly are not fine," John explodes, his anger at himself rising.

John sighs and counts to ten in Dari, just to give himself a bit of extra time.

Sherlock glances at him as John explains saying, "I was angry…. and a bit hurt when I said that, Sherlock."

Sherlock tilts his head to the side, "Said what?"

John's face flushes red with anger, "Are you putting one on? In Dartmoor, when you found me in the graveyard. You tried to make a joke, and I told you that funny doesn't suit you and that you should stick to ice."

Sherlock looks at John, reading the embarrassment and shame in his face.

"I forget sometimes that an innocuous statement made in anger can be taken to heart by your overgrown brain. I know we're working on trust again, but Sherlock that goes both ways, understand?" John asks, leaning towards the detective.

John continues when he's sure that he has Sherlock's full attention, "It means that you have to be able to trust me too."

"I do trust you, John. That's why I deleted the emotions, the feelings that were causing the row in the first place. Our friendship is…. important to me," Sherlock states logically.

John closes his eyes."No one, not even me, should expect you to delete who you are, Sherlock. I'm sorry that I didn't realize what was going on much sooner. I understand that you feel you must sever your emotions to do the work," John forces out on a remorseful breath rubbing his forehead.

"Reason dictates that to be true," Sherlock replies causing John to smile.

"Fine, but when there is no case, especially here," John distinguishes with a wave of his hand. "I want you to be who you are and that is not always the cold unfeeling bastard, but sometimes the overgrown child who does a happy dance when he gets an interesting case. Understand?" John explains to the detective, now perched in his chair.

"I do not…. happy dance," Sherlock reminds his friend seriously.

"You so do," John argues, his face lit up in a smile.

Sherlock's eyes shift to the side as he considers this…. happy dance.

"Sherlock, tell me you understand what I'm saying," John redirects quietly, his smile soft.

"I understand," Sherlock replies thoughtfully.

John's blue eyes rake over him critically before he nods, his smile growing.

"Tea?" Sherlock asks making his way towards the Stradivarius violin in the corner.

"Would love some," John says, rolling his eyes, knowing that Sherlock expects him to make it and diverts into the kitchen to put on the kettle.

John smiles broadly, turning when the dulcet sounds of Sherlock playing the violin begin to play. He watches as Sherlock walks the sitting room with the violin tucked under his chin, playing a cheerful melody.

The kettle sounds and John makes tea, absurdly happy and even relaxed as one more damaged piece of the cluster fuck that was Dartmoor falls away.

He carries the tea in to Sherlock, who sets down his violin, keeping the bow in his hand to swing around as he drinks his tea.

John sits in his chair to enjoy his tea when a sudden thought occurs to him.

"Sherlock?" he asks, waiting for the detective to turn his attention back to him. "Remind me to pick up some coffee at the Tesco later."

Sherlock's sharp blue eyes take on a pleased glint, then he goes back to his tea and bow swinging.

John grabs up the paper and begins to read, the turmoil of the past few weeks settling into something far less threatening. Hell, maybe tonight he won't even need to do a perimeter check.

The End