Author's Note: Inspired by my first time watching the unaired Sherlock pilot. The differences are rather intriguing. I do prefer the dialogue at the end of the pilot to that of "A Study in Pink", I must admit, hence why I chose to use a bit of it in this story.
Also, it's amazing what reading only two or three pages of "A Study in Scarlet" will do to one's writing style. Sorta fun to play around with more convoluted sentences than usual.
Anyway, this is sort of a study of "A Study in Pink", delving into Sherlock's mind and how he deals with this new flatmate named John Watson... enjoy!
Sherlock had not begun his half-hearted search for a flatmate with a great deal of enthusiasm, or indeed optimism. He did not move in the right circles, for one thing – in fact it could hardly be said that he moved in any given circles at all. The tendency to look with disdain, and more often than not, contempt, upon the average human being (most of them, at last count) ended up blurring the boundaries of those circles quite frequently, with the end result being that the detective passed through them like a motorboat through water; he left a profound but brief trail, disturbing the prior calm, before the wound in the water's surface closed again and his presence was forgotten. As for Sherlock himself, it was but the work of moments to shake away the clinging droplets and press forward once more to new and more interesting things. He was not a social being, save when it suited his purposes, and so the wake he left among others was preferably and intentionally shallow.
This was all well and good, of course, in the normal course of his existence. But when it came to actively seeking out what was of necessity going to be a long-term and cordial, though perhaps not intimate relationship, Sherlock found himself rather out of his natural depth.
Truth be told, he did not exactly need a flatmate. He had got along quite well without one up to this point, and under other circumstances would have been similarly keen to go on living in the same fashion. But the discovery of a very nice flat on Baker Street, presided over by an old acquaintance, was really terribly tempting. Then came the little snag, with almost malicious predictability – the expense. Even with an apparently charming smile and a few well-chosen words to Mrs Hudson, the landlady, the rate for letting out the appealing flat was still too high for Sherlock to afford on his own. A fleeting little voice had reminded him then that despite his personal financial status, his brother was quite well off – working behind the scenes of the British government always payed well, not even including the bribes – but Sherlock had quickly cut off that line of thinking. He had no intention of crawling to Mycroft for assistance in any matter, particularly not a personal one.
And so, with family completely out of the question, and with no friends worth speaking of, the detective took another step down the unstable ladder of what could only be loosely termed his social standing, and enlisted the aid of Mike Stamford. A mere acquaintance made during Sherlock's frequent sojourns in the lab at St. Bartholomew's hospital, but they got on well enough. Stamford was the sort who liked a good pint and some easy conversation, so he knew an astonishing number of random people and generally had an idea of what was going on. When Sherlock casually mentioned that he was looking for a flatmate, Mike had raised his brows only briefly in amazement before promising to see what he could do about finding a prospective candidate.
Neither of them was really surprised when nothing immediately came to light, however. Sherlock openly acknowledged only a few days later that he must be a difficult man to find a flatmate for, to which Stamford had responded with a bobbing nod and a fervently muttered "God, yes," before heading off for lunch.
What did surprise Sherlock, on the other hand, was Mike's unexpected reappearance not two hours later, and with another man trailing after him, no less. It seemed as though the detective's request had finally reached the point of potential fulfillment.
Sherlock took in the character of Dr. John Watson with only a handful of quiet glances in between his work, and did not pause to bandy useless words before bringing up the subject of the flat share. Watson – or John, as the doctor was likely to be known to him in the future – reacted as Sherlock anticipated. Confusion, disbelief; off-guard as no soldier liked to be and as outspokenly defiant as could be expected from a military man. He was obviously a bit put off by the detective's businesslike manner and lack of any emotional investment in his choice of flatmate, not to mention apparent omniscience about someone he had never met. Nothing unusual about him there, though the doctor's clearly psychosomatic limp, admittedly, was a bit interesting. But there was an expectant, almost secretive little smile on Mike Stamford's face as he watched the proceedings, one which Sherlock was certain could not be directed solely at John Watson, and he resolved to take a closer look at the ex-army doctor at their next meeting so as to determine what it was about his soon-to-be flatmate that Mike had decided would fit snugly against the awkward angles of Sherlock's own character.
Accordingly, when the detective made his way to 221B Baker Street the next evening, his arrival coinciding neatly with John's own appearance, he made rather a point of being a bit more attentive to the other man, as well as engaging in what was sometimes known as "making nice". It would be no good at all if John, due to factors quite obviously beyond his control, continued to maintain the wrong-footed attitude which he had displayed at their initial meeting. As the two men examined the already-furnished flat – a liberty, or perhaps caution, that Sherlock had implemented the previous night immediately following his departure from Bart's – the detective found himself shifting curiously back and forth between two viewpoints of a situation so alien to him. On the one hand, he was naturally inclined to treat John as he did any other person he considered to be an acquaintance – polite, but in no way emotionally or otherwise invested in their exchanges. By means of his observational skills and deductive reasoning powers, Sherlock was usually able to pass right over the "getting to know you" stage so prevalent in the forming of relationships between ordinary people. But under these circumstances, knowing that his forthcoming interactions with John would be based upon immediacy of presence and frequent contact, Sherlock realised quickly that delving slightly deeper might in fact be to his advantage.
The conversation that then ensued was therefore slightly awkward, as each tried to adjust to the sense of the other, but it was more a discomfort of unfamiliarity than of any real clash between them. Sherlock, for his part, found himself already slightly drawn to and intrigued by this ex-army doctor, perhaps because John seemed to be taking in stride his new companion's rather blatant quirks, of which the detective himself was fully aware. The other man was still sceptical, of course, still clearly on the defensive, and it seemed unlikely that those walls would be coming down at any near point in the future. But that was only natural, and in fact Sherlock rather preferred a man who took care in how much of himself he revealed to one who immediately opened his character to anyone who might chance to wander by.
The whirlwind of events following the arrival of Detective Inspector Lestrade, bearing news of an interesting twist in regards to the recent "serial suicides", rather overlaid Sherlock's study of John Watson with a higher priority of its own. The detective wrapped himself within the thrilling cloak of murder and darkest intrigue, revelling in the role of the Huntsman and in the knowledge that no one could follow in the killer's steps as he could. And it was in this last thought that Sherlock actually found himself proved wrong, for whenever he abated his pace slightly to consider the route before him, and in doing so happened to look round, it was to find John Watson still at his heel.
He had invited the doctor to come along, recognising what others had not, that need for action which was such an integral quality of Sherlock's own character and could similarly be found within John's nature, in more moderate quantities. But Sherlock had also expected the other man to tire after a certain point, and so it was that the detective's surprise increased, rather than lessened, each time he resurfaced briefly from beneath the cowl of mystery's garb and found John still firmly attached to the corner of it.
Every emergence brought with it a teaspoon's worth of new information regarding this man whom Mike Stamford had apparently scooped out of nowhere and casually pushed into the path of the world's only consulting detective. John Watson was wary but not distant, curious but not interfering, stubborn but not hard-headed, certain but not adamant. Yet none of that fully or even adequately explained why he had not yet thrown up his hands and let Sherlock carry on without him. The two men had not even had time to formalise the arrangement of the flat share before Sherlock dived into the deep end of a case, with John submerging after him, and the detective was not quite sure if the other had plunged in willingly or had been unceremoniously tossed into the murky depths. What astonished him was that either way, John was not floundering along several yards behind, but swimming strongly just at his back. It was a pleasant change from the imbeciles with whom Sherlock usually dealt, having someone who could not only keep up but also appreciated his work and skills; and so when John finally paused to consider for himself why he was still following along, the detective was swift to reassure him, and even encouraged him to continue.
The unanticipated turning point, the beginning of the slow revelation, came on footsteps so light that it took Sherlock a good while to even process that it had taken hold. The feeling of disappointment that should have washed over him as a result of coming against the dead end of an admittedly slim lead somehow failed to manifest itself, and instead Sherlock found himself standing on pavement with John Watson, both staring down at the abducted ID card of Detective Inspector Lestrade, then at one another, and in that moment when their gazes met, Sherlock saw the walls behind John's eyes fall away.
"Got your breath back?"
"Ready when you are."
The grin of sheer, quiet glee on John's face, clear and tremendously telling, was mirrored on the features of Sherlock Holmes as he acknowledged his companion's response with a quick nod, and in one movement they turned and ran, this time with John matching the taller man's pace stride for stride. John's laughter, when the two men half-collapsed against the blank wall of 221B Baker Street a few minutes later, was nothing less than infectious, and Sherlock was soon chuckling along with his flatmate in between gasping in breaths of air. As the adrenaline rush slowly receded, the detective found himself savouring a heady feeling of ridiculous but undeniable enjoyment of the situation. John's wry comments added a whole new dimension to the already stimulating activity of chasing potential criminals through the alleys and over the rooftops of London. And then, of course, watching the other man's look of dawning amazement at the miraculous and previously unnoticed disappearance of his limp was rather gratifying as well.
It was only hours later, as he sat unwillingly in the open back of an ambulance, with a bright blanket draped over his shoulders and his head still spinning with the echoes of a gunshot and a name, that Sherlock realised how much John had done for him in return. The detective had saved the doctor from a listless existence, but the doctor had shoved the detective back from the brink of no existence at all, had snuffed out the life of a perfect stranger in order to save that of someone who was nearly as much of an unknown. Such decisive action spoke volumes about John's character, though strangely enough, Sherlock could not quite wrap his slightly-numbed mind around exactly what those volumes might contain. He felt curiously helpless in the face of what had happened, or rather its result, which was that the previously tentative bond between himself and John Watson had now been strengthened at least fourfold – in fact so much that Sherlock hardly even had to think about swallowing his analytical outlook, feigning shock and thus managing to shake away Lestrade's investigative questions.
There was very little to be seen in the way of an expression on John's face as Sherlock approached, no trace of guilt or discomfort or even understanding, only the lightest touch of polite interest that was generally to be expected in the manner of a fairly ignorant spectator. Sherlock studied the doctor's features carefully as he put to him several direct questions, indicating that he, at least, had not been fooled, though he took care to keep his voice low. John, somewhat to the detective's surprise, responded quite candidly, and his explanation was nearly as blunt as the queries to which he was replying.
"Are you alright?" asked Sherlock finally, once he had satisfied himself that the necessary steps had been taken to ensure that John would not be implicated in this, the final murder in a string of murders.
"Of course I'm alright."
"You have just killed a man," the detective was swift to point out, and his tone was serious, giving little indication that he was genuinely concerned. He watched scrutinisingly as John seemed to consider that for a moment, looking away with a slight frown as he gathered his thoughts.
"I've seen men die before," said John finally, "and good men, friends of mine… thought I'd never sleep again." His voice was quietly matter-of-fact, a soldier stating the obvious, belying the emotional trauma of those circumstances of which he spoke; and yet as he looked to one side, Sherlock could clearly see how his eyes had become distant, a flicker of sorrow memorialised rising there for the briefest of moments. Then John looked up again, meeting the detective's studying gaze without flinching, and he finished simply, "I'll sleep fine tonight."
Sherlock stared hard at the other man for a long few seconds, taking in the earnest, accepting features before him, and then he nodded imperceptibly in acknowledgement of the real meaning behind those few last words. His soft reply of "Quite right," was accompanied by a faint smile.
He could not deny that John's next question caught him off guard, and spoke almost painfully of the doctor's unexpectedly acute perception of him. "You were going to take the damn pill, weren't you?"
Sherlock's mind flashed backward for an instant, reliving those few dangerous and ecstatic moments, watching as his fingers delicately lifted the capsule, his hand tingling, trembling, with terrible anticipation as he tested the outer limits of his own certainty in himself. Swiftly, he shook away the image, shifting the blanket still huddled round his shoulders as he denied John's accusation in a brisk, careless tone. "'Course not. Playing for time," he said, inhaling, but he could not meet the doctor's steady gaze; and John obviously recognized the truth of it, because he cut in almost before Sherlock had finished speaking.
"No, you weren't," he said knowingly, and Sherlock looked down at him quickly and blinked once before John went on, "That's how you get your kicks, isn't it? Risking your life to prove you're clever…"
"Why would I do that?" asked Sherlock, still feigning skepticism as a rear-guard action; he knew he had already lost this round, though oddly enough, he did not feel particularly bothered by that fact.
John's reply was immediate and nearly deadpan: "Because you're an idiot."
Sherlock stared hard at him, his brow furrowed, feeling for a fleeting moment that he had just been mortally insulted and hoping that his confused frown was able to convey that sensation clearly to the other man. But John merely continued to look up at him, his expression mild and in no way actually accusing the detective of genuine idiocy, and a moment later Sherlock felt his features relax into a broad, understanding smile which was easily returned by his companion.
The detective broke eye contact then, his gaze flickering between John's face and the pavement as his mind turned inward, wondering, considering, trying to determine if the decision now suddenly facing him would be the one in which instinct, rather than logic, should play the key role. Sherlock bit his lip speculatively, glancing up again at John, and then drawing in a shallow breath, he steeled himself and spoke.
Sherlock immediately wheeled around and began striding off, his eyes elsewhere but his senses telling him that John was close at his side, and at that he had to expend a significant effort to keep the smile from returning to his features again.
One simple invitation for a meal, but behind it, endless implications and an offering of something far more than just a flat share.
Reviews are tremendously appreciated - I love reading your thoughts on my work. May the Force be with you.