Sherlock tried to steel himself after John's abrupt departure. Things just hadn't gone the way he had intended. But that meant nothing, right? Sherlock Holmes had always worked best alone, hadn't he?
No, he silently admitted.
And the detective's head began to reel again with both emotions and unanswered questions.
John was smarter than people gave him credit for. Sherlock had seen it right away, and though he did snark about John having "average intelligence," the truth of the matter was that John was not so simple-minded to arrive at such a conclusion—that he did hate Sherlock.
Sherlock knew better than anyone; he had been there, after all, on most of the many occasions that John visited his empty grave, including the time when John had pleaded for "one more miracle."
Sherlock realized that he could do with a miracle right now—the answer to all of this, and to find out why John was acting this way.
"It must be an act," he muttered aloud. "Everything he said… His blog post… His casefiles…"
Sherlock trailed off, glancing at the files that John had compiled during their time as a team. John had kept everything—even those ridiculous post-it note conversations, which usually entailed more snarky comments.
It was as he paged through it that Sherlock noticed that one of the post-it notes—one of the ones he had written—had apparently fallen off, the adhesive worn off. John had taped it back in its previous spot, and judging by the look of the tape, it couldn't have been done more than a couple days ago.
He had been reading this again within the last couple of days, the detective realized. And that is completely dissonant with what he just told me.
Sherlock shut his eyes, recalling everything—the blog post declaring that John would always believe in him, the heartfelt words spoken to an empty grave, and now these casefiles, so carefully maintained and preserved…
It didn't make sense. And if there was one thing that Sherlock Holmes couldn't stand, it was something not making sense.
A text alert chiming from the floor jolted him from his thoughts. Glancing at the carpet, he saw John's phone lying where it had landed during the last time John had lost himself and attacked him.
And that was when something clicked in Sherlock's mind. If John's phone had been there on the floor all this time, then his story about calling his therapist could not have been possible.
He lied! Sherlock realized. And then he proceeded to mentally curse himself for not seeing it sooner; John had never been able to successfully lie to him before. Clearly, Sherlock's emotions were getting in the way of is deductive reasoning skills, just as Mycroft had warned him.
Exhaling, the detective picked up the fallen phone. John's passcode for it hadn't changed—not that it would've taken Sherlock long to crack a new one. But that was soon the least of his concerns as he glanced at the message.
Blood tests positive; proceeding to begin work on antidote. Still unsure of method of transfer, but it's not aerosol this time. –Stapelton.
And the pieces proceeded to fall into place.
Drugged, Sherlock internally fumed. Not psychotic—drugged!
John—stupid, selfless John—had put on this entire charade just to keep Sherlock out of it.
"You are an idiot," he murmured aloud. "But you're not so much of an idiot to let yourself get drugged so easily. How on earth did someone manage to slip a drug to you?" He glanced at Stapleton's message again. "'Not aerosol this time,'" he quietly repeated. "Then, was it subcutaneously transmitted? Or…" He trailed off as his gaze fell upon the wineglass on the coffee table—a small amount of the red liquid still inside. "Ingested."
Gingerly, he picked the glass up and sniffed at the wine. He couldn't smell anything out of the ordinary, but John's words from earlier ran through his head again.
"It's… kind of embarrassing, actually, but I haven't been able to hold my wine lately."
It took every ounce of self-control that the detective possessed not to slam the glass down; he was furious with not being able to have pinpointed John's alleged girlfriend as having ulterior motives for being with him. Moran must have put her up to this, which meant that the flat would be under observation.
Sherlock clenched a fist; Moran had probably ordered Aranea to rendezvous John now that he had stormed out—either to dose him up again, or distract him long enough for Moran to dispatch of Sherlock before he could return.
The detective now stood clear of the windows, fuming. He had to find John before that woman did. But where could he possibly have gone?
Sherlock shut his eyes, trying to think of a logical answer within his mind palace. He found none. And yet, John was not the kind of person to wander aimlessly—not when he knew that Moran was out and about.
Almost reluctantly, Sherlock looked into that part of his mind palace that he rarely ventured into—the place where he hid the sentiment that he very often refused to acknowledge the existence of. Mentally, he searched for an answer as to where John would go.
And then his eyes snapped open.
He grabbed John's phone and slipped it into his pocket before heading out the door.
John's fingers absently gripped the arm of the chair he was sitting in—his chair. Well, it had been his chair, at one point. It had been his chair until after Sherlock's fall—in what had once been home.
He idly wondered why his old key had still managed to work the front door of 221 B; he would've expected Mrs. Hudson to have changed the locks. Then again, perhaps she hadn't done so in the hopes that John would, one day, come back.
And here he was—just as Sherlock had been the reason for him first arriving in the flat, the detective was, once again, the reason why he was here, albeit for reasons quite dissimilar.
The doctor sighed, staring absently at Sherlock's empty chair for several minutes—and then suddenly jumped as he heard the detective's voice behind him.
"I've often sat in that chair," Sherlock said. "Wishing you were in this one. I never could stay in London for very long, but I always did try to stop here whenever possible."
John leaped to his feet, turning to face him.
"What are you doing here?!" he hissed.
"Getting out of your flat, as you ordered me to," Sherlock replied, simply. "I would ask you what you are doing here, but I don't need to."
"Yeah, well, my therapist suggested coming here to vent my feelings," John lied, quickly jumping back to his story.
"Kind of hard for your therapist to tell you anything when you never had your phone on you," Sherlock said, pulling the device from his pocket. "It was on the floor the entire time—ever since you ran out after the last time the drug took effect on you."
John's mouth fell slightly open, and then he facepalmed.
"I really must give you credit, John," Sherlock went on. "You did have me believing that you had developed a deep hatred for me. But now I see what this is about; you lied to protect me, just as I did for you. Exactly how long did you intend to keep me in the dark?"
"You have no right—absolutely no right—to ask me that!" John snapped, pointing an accusatory finger at the detective. "At least I didn't fake my death and force you to watch it!"
Sherlock opened his mouth, but, once again, he found himself at a loss for words. He hadn't even been ready to admit to himself how hurt he had felt, thinking that John truly wanted nothing more to do with him. How could he possibly tell John that?
But as he doctor glanced at him, it soon became clear that Sherlock didn't have to say anything. John's ability to read people was, indeed, different than Sherlock's, but this ability was still very astute.
"…You believed me," John realized. "You actually believed I was being serious! If I hadn't dropped my phone, you wouldn't have figured it out, would you?"
Sherlock looked away, which was the confirmation that John needed.
"I didn't think I'd have been able to fool you more than a minute. Either you're really out of practice, or you really do think that you've given me reason to hate you."
"I suppose you have," John admitted. "It was cruel, what you did. You could've at least told me somehow, after it was all over. Instead, you left me to pick up the pieces and try to clear your name."
"And yet, you never did believe my lies—not even once," Sherlock said. "…I regret that I allowed myself to believe yours, even for a short while. I use logic to think, John; you know that. And I led myself to believe that you did intend me harm or ill will based on what I was seeing—and what you were telling me."
"That was my intent," John reminded.
"As it was my intent for you to believe that I was a fake," Sherlock said. He gave a quiet scoff as his reflection in the mirror. "You didn't fall for it, but I did. How, John? How did you succeed where I failed?"
"Because I don't always use logic," the doctor replied. "Sometimes, logic isn't the most helpful thing. Maybe if you'd realized that when you were dealing with Moriarty, you might not have put me through dealing with the aftermath."
"We can deal with that after we've dealt with this," Sherlock said, holding up John's phone again. "Doctor Stapleton is working on the antidote, and—"
"Excuse me; I believe you said that we are going to deal with this?" John asked, silencing him by raising his hand. "We are not dealing with this. You are not a part of this."
"Considering that this entire plot is to get you to kill me, I would think that I am very much a part of this!" Sherlock countered.
"And that's exactly why you can't be anywhere near me until that antidote is ready."
"Sherlock, you cannot be a part of this!" John insisted. "I promised Mycroft—"
"Forget about him!" Sherlock retorted.
"Even if I do forget about him, I'm not about to let you be a part of this," John said. "I will not take the chance of being responsible for your death! You had me in the dark for my own safety; now I have to return the favor."
"So is this really you insisting on trying to protect me, or is this your way of getting revenge?"
"A bit of both," John admitted. "But you'll be alive. We still don't know how the drug is being slipped to me, or what the method of suggestion was, and until we figure it out—"
"But I have figured it out, John," Sherlock said, the familiar spark of deduction blazing in his eyes. "When I first entered your flat and tried to awaken you, the suggestion had already been given to you. You stopped attacking me the moment your silverware drawer spilled. You next had that look in your eyes outside the bookshop—just after the bell upon the door rang. You snapped out of it almost instantly—when the bell rang a second time. The third time, you attacked me after you received a personalized text alert that sounded like a ringing bell, and you stopped when I spilled your jar of coins in the struggle."
"High-pitched metallic ringing," John breathed. "It was as simple as that, you mean?"
"…Obviously," Sherlock replied, before he could stop himself.
John glanced sharply in his direction, but, to Sherlock's relief, the doctor's expression relaxed.
"Are you certain you still want me not to be a part of this?" the detective asked. "I can help you, John; now that I know what's going on, I can be of assistance."
John's mouth thinned, and Sherlock's eyebrows arched.
"Now it looks as though you're the one trying not to give into logic," the detective accused. "You know the logical thing to do is to order to me go, just as you threw me out of your flat. But you don't want to, do you?"
"I never wanted you to jump, either," John reminded him. "So, it's not as though I can force you. But you really should go into hiding again—we know the trigger now, but we still don't know how I got drugged."
"Actually, I know that, too," Sherlock said. He had been avoiding this revelation for John's sake.
"John, you have to understand that I'm not saying this to dissuade you from your choice of company," Sherlock began. "What I said earlier about your girlfriend seeing someone else is true. Whether romantically or not, she is connected to Moran."
"What?!" John exclaimed. "You mean to tell me that she was the one who drugged me?!"
"I have no reason to lie to you about it," Sherlock said, calmly. "Even though you seem convinced that I do. It was your comment about not being able to hold your wine anymore that made me realize that she had added something to it."
"But the bottles were always sealed—"
"Injected through the cork with a syringe," Sherlock responded.
John opened his mouth to respond, but his blood ran cold as a third voice spoke instead.
"Very clever, Mr. Holmes," Aranea said, stepping out from her hiding place with a gun in her hand. "Very clever, indeed."