Even with all the lights out, the flat was never really dark.
The front windows, facing Baker Street, let in the warm yellow glow of lights from the flats opposite and white floods of old moonshine. The back kitchen window, on the other hand, faced what John imagined was some sort of office, or possibly a home. The blinds were now open, at six o'clock in the morning, revealing part of a far wall. John couldn't imagine anyone painting the interior of a flat that sickly colour of lime green. It was only made worse by the strange and unnatural hue of a flickering fluorescent globe.
Strange lights. Strange things - some of the silhouettes in the living room were ghoulish in the half-light. And there were strange sounds, too, in this part of London, though mostly these came from inside the flat. Refrigerator humming in a way John wasn't used to. The kitchen tap dripped, forming a strange rhythm with the clock in the living room: plink-tick. Plink-tick.
John checked the hall. Just in case of… well. Just in case.
The only thing out of sorts, though, was that Sherlock's bedroom door was wide open, and John had no idea whether or not he was a light sleeper and likely to be woken by his new flatmate stumbling about the kitchen. He went softly to the doorway to close the door, then paused.
Sherlock was fast asleep, but even that wasn't stopping him from talking. About purple jaguars, apparently, though John wasn't entirely sure if this referred to the make of car or if Sherlock's dreams had taken on a slightly more surreal note.
Not a nightmare, anyway. Sherlock sounded almost conversational as he explained to a dream-companion all about the jaguars and their abiding love for snails. The dream-answer obviously displeased him, though, because he responded to it by snarling impatiently and kicking the duvet onto the floor.
Sherlock looked pitifully boyish for a moment. Cherubic curls all over the place. He'd been wearing his coat for most of the night and, for the first time, John was really struck by how unnaturally, almost painfully thin he was - the physique of a starved whippet. And just now he was lying curled up on the mattress wearing only a pair of blue silk pyjamas, and nothing on his feet.
John pulled the sheet and blanket up from where it was bunched at Sherlock's feet and over him, then spread the duvet back out over the bed.
Sherlock kicked it off again.
So we're playing this game, then, are we? You may be some sort of weird creature who doesn't need to eat every day, but you feel the cold. You're human, whether you like it or not.
He picked the duvet up again and spread it back over Sherlock, awaiting round three. But Sherlock gripped the bedclothes under his chin without stirring and took it entirely for granted that they were there.
"Thank you, Mycroft," he murmured suddenly.
John smiled. Sherlock was still dreaming, and his words probably had nothing to do with the return of the bedclothes.
And then, for the last, John ran a quick check through the shadowy room. Windows shut and locked. No serial killers hiding anywhere in the shadows. Venomous scorpions, spiders and snakes not really native to London. IEDs extremely unlikely in this part of the world. Under the bed: clear. Wardrobe: clear. And the gun was still tucked into the back of his belt.
Everything quite, quite normal.
But it wasn't normal. It was anything but normal. Two days ago had been normal, and now he was checking the bedroom of a near-stranger for extremely unlikely dangers, only hours after he'd shot…
Well, he'd shot a murderer. His name had been Jeff Hope, and he'd had no mercy on Sir Jeffrey Patterson, James Philimore, Beth Davenport or Jennifer Wilson. And he wouldn't have had any mercy on Sherlock Holmes either.
But I didn't know he had kids.
Ridiculous thinking - unhelpful. Jeffrey Patterson had a wife and kids. James Philimore was a kid. And Jennifer Wilson…
Thinking about Rachel wasn't helpful either. Rachel was dead. So was Wilson and Philimore and Patterson and Davenport and Hope and what a bloody awful world it could be sometimes.
And while he was pondering the subject, he may as well do something useful, like get rid of the evidence that he'd just shot a man.
He knew that there was a made bed upstairs for him, but John wasn't interested in sleep; not now. He hadn't originally intended to stay awake all night. But first the excitement had had to wear off; once that had happened, the pain in his fingers had kicked in.
Stupid. Why didn't you see about this hours ago?
Didn't hurt hours ago. Bloody hurts now though.
Good. It's a good sign when a burn hurts. You know that.
He'd run his hand under cold water in the men's at the restaurant, but even by that time it had been far too late. Doing it again, all this time later, would simply be a waste of time.
No, this was going to require putting the lights on. If he could find the switch.
He hadn't taken note yet of where all the power sockets and light switches were in the flat. Little things like that were going to take time to adjust to, just as he was habitually clenching his hand to grasp the handle of a cane he no longer used. A little white square in the shadows near the sliding door to the living room looked like it might be the thing he wanted. He reached out and flicked it down; absolutely nothing happened.
Wrong switch. Obviously.
Thank God Sherlock hadn't seen that. If he had, he'd probably have given some sort of lecture about how you could deduce which switch was the one you wanted simply by… the phase of the moon, or something.
John looked around him in the shadows and dim glow through the kitchen window. There was a similar square on the other side of the sliding doors, and he fumbled across to it. Flick.
And there was light.
There was also, to John's surprise, just what he wanted amongst the various items cluttering the table - a small pair of tweezers. Evidently part of a scientist's arsenal. A serated steak knife was just as easily procured from a nearby drawer.
Antiseptic? Not so much. Or at least, not in any of the logical places he'd expected to find it. John had a sneaking suspicion that logical places weren't Sherlock's forte, and that if the antiseptic even existed it was probably kept in the toilet cistern or something.
He decided to give the tweezers and knife a once-over in hot water from the tap and hope for the best. After all, Sherlock was incredibly messy, but he wasn't dirty, and John thought it pretty unlikely that he'd pick up anything from using the implements unsterilised- other than a mild bacterial infection. If that. And he'd had worse.
He sat down at the kitchen table and started scraping the knife over the black spots on his fingertips.