They were at a crime scene, Sherlock staring at a body, when it first happened.
"To draw apart the body he hath kill'd..." Sherlock muttered under his breath. Only John and Lestrade were close enough to hear it. They shared a glance, John shrugging.
"What the hell are you talking about, Sherlock?"
Sherlock obviously wasn't listening. He continued to stare at the body.
Sherlock's face lit up and he stood upright, striding off, calling over his shoulder, "I've got it! For murder, though it have no tongue, will speak with most miraculous organ."
John glanced at Lestrade again, but he could only shrug as he took off to catch up with the detective. There was a murder to solve.
It happened again later that day, and John had to ask that time.
Sherlock was holding his skull, whispering to him, it seemed. John had to move closer to hear some of it. "Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio: a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy: he hath borne me on his back a thousand times; and now, how abhorred in my imagination it is!"
It was then that Sherlock noticed john standing practically right behind him.
"John?" He actually sounded startled.
"Sherlock, what the hell are you doing? I thought you stopped talking to the skull because I was better for that job."
"Oh, you are. I'm going to be in a play. Did I not tell you?" He sounded genuinely shocked.
"No," John replied flatly. "You didn't."
"Oh. Well, I am. Hamlet. Well, an understudy anyway. There's been a suspected murder attempt and tampering so far, so I've got to be there to keep an eye on it, and this is the only-"
"Sherlock," John interjected.
"This is the way it has to be John," Sherlock barrelled on, rather insistent.
John shrugged. "Well, alright then."
Sherlock paused. "You're fine with it?"
"Why wouldn't I be? You're not asking me to be in it."
"Oh!" Sherlock spun around. "You could be the understudy for Horatio-"
John threw the paper down. "Sherlock! I am not being in the play with you. I am fine with you being in one, but you cannot expect me to do that."
Sherlock returned to his violin playing, but the music was obviously more melancholic and minor than before.
Soon it began to happen everywhere.
"It's a crime scene, I don't want it contaminated," Anderson veritably snarled at Sherlock. "So just do what you do and yet it over with."
"Sir, I cannot," Sherlock announced to Anderson.
"My lord," Sherlock muttered before continuing. "Make you a wholesome answer; my wit's diseased: but, sir, such answer as I can make, you shall command; or, rather, as you say, my mother: therefore no
more, but to the matter: my mother, you say,-"
"Sherlock!" Lestrade bellowed.
Sherlock glanced at him, obviously amused.
"Well done, Inspector. You came in at the right time but had the wrong lines. Perhaps next time."
Lestrade looked at John, who was still looking rather bewildered himself.
"It's for a case... I think," he explained, like that explained everything. (Which it sort of did.)
And when Lestrade looked to Sherlock for a better explanation, he found he was gone, already climbing into a cab, John sprinting to get in before it left without him.
"What's the freak doing?" Anderson asked, coming to stand next to Lestrade.
"There are more things in heaven and earth..." he replied with a grin.
That afternoon in the flat, John had a realization.
"How are you going to learn all the lines in time?"
John wasn't too sure about the specifics of the play, but it was called 'Hamlet' after all, so it would stand to reason that Sherlock, being Hamlet, would have a fair number of lines.
"Already done," Sherlock replied, not even bothering to look up from his microscope.
"You're kidding, right?"
Sherlock sighed, but still didn't look up. "No John. Does it really sound like I'm kidding?"
"Well, no," John admitted, "but still, how?..."
"It's been stored. Never got around to deleting it. Which is turning out useful, I suppose..." he mused.
John shook his head. "Not even gonna ask why it was there to begin with," he muttered, still shaking his head and heading back into the living room.
Thankfully, Sherlock didn't comment.
Sherlock would leave for rehearsals that lasted for hours, and still managed to come home with boundless energy to drag John on chases for 'minor projects'. John was pretty sure everyone else in the play hated Sherlock, and would have fallen over with shock if told otherwise.
"How's that case?" John asked one night.
"What case?" Sherlock asked, rather absentmindedly, reaching for his pipette.
"You know. The one for the play."
John couldn't help but doubt that as he watched the drops of liquid Sherlock dropped into the petri dish fizz as it mixed with what looked like blood.
But he didn't push it.
"Here," Sherlock said, throwing little paper pieces at John, and they flittered through the air before landing on his lap.
John squinted at them. "Tickets?" He glanced up at Sherlock. "For the play?"
Sherlock had already turned to head back to his violin.
"Mm hm." He held the violin to his chin and pulled the bow across it thoughtfully. "The lead actor has fallen ill... suspiciously... so I'm going to be playing the part of Hamlet."
"They're two tickets here."
A sharp trill accompanied that comment.
"Well. Perhaps you could bring someone else. Girlfriend... friend... colleague..."
John still stared at them.
It was that night, so it was a little short notice. He ended up taking Mrs Hudson.
(Of course, as he found out when they arrived, the seat were not next to each other. Typical.)
John settled Mrs Hudson into her seat, which was rather good, and headed to his seat, which was also rather good.
John wondered how Sherlock got these seats.
Sherlock was determined to take his skull. ("For a prop," he insisted.)
John was pretty sure that the theatre had prop skulls, but no... ("Not realistic," he explained.)
John only shrugged, but insisted he put it in a bag to take in the cab. Because that was all he needed.
It wasn't long before it started, and John watched, rather intrigued, as it began.
He knew the general plot of Hamlet, he'd read the play many years ago in school, and he's learned more than enough recently, what with Sherlock spouting lines everywhere, but those were disjointed and he never really got a sense of the story. (Sherlock had gotten that one movie to watch, the one with the actor from Doctor Who, but he'd only watched bits and pieces, allowing John to see even less.)
Sherlock wasn't even in the first scene, and besides, it was rather dull anyway. But then he did appear, and right away, John could tell it was a difficult role.
His first soliloquy had him contemplating suicide after the death of his father. But then he progressed to almost joy, then determination before the scene was even over.
John watched Sherlock confront the ghost and declare his plan of playing mad. (He sure has that one down, John noted.)
And as the play went on, John noted how it seemed like the role of Hamlet was made for Sherlock. He had the voice for it, that was sure. And the body... god he knew exactly how to move around the stage to own it completely. And he had that perfect essence of madness that no one could ever be sure was real or a show. (In Sherlock's case, real, but no one needed to know that.)
John had expected Sherlock to be good, as he was at practically everything, except maybe interacting with people, but he never expected anything like this.
This was fan-fucking-tastic.
Sherlock commanded the stage and John only glanced away for a second to see everyone else completely enthralled.
He returned to see Sherlock begin the famed soliloquy.
"To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life;
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,
The pangs of despised love, the law's delay,
The insolence of office and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscover'd country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action.-Soft you now!
The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisons
Be all my sins remember'd."
John may have forgotten to breathe until the girl playing Ophelia appeared. He was rather lightheaded and dizzy. Because it was just that good.
They broke for intermission after act III, just after Sherlock killed the man playing Polonius.
John was still rather stunned. He only wandered around blankly in the foyer before returning to his seat. Mrs Hudson may have tried to speak to him, but he was really only capable of nodding.
John hadn't remembered how it ended. He watched the final scene, the fencing match, watched the queen die, watched Laertes die, watched Sherlock kill the king, then watched in shock as Sherlock collapsed into Horatio's arms and gasped his last, poignant words.
"If thou didst ever hold me in thy heart absent thee from felicity awhile, and in this harsh world draw thy breath in pain, to tell my story. O, I die, Horatio; the rest is silence."
And John had to remind himself notrealnotrealnotreal because he had seen Sherlock in that position before, and it was all he could do to blink back the tears and the fear that accompanied them. He failed on both counts, and let a few more tears squeak out as the curtains closed and Sherlock came out to bow, perfectly well looking. He didn't realize how worried he was until the weight lifted off his chest as the crowd broke out in thunderous applause. John beamed as Sherlock surveyed the audience, eyes locking on him for a moment before looking away reluctantly.
John was sure Sherlock noticed his red eyes afterwards when he met him at the hallway that led to the dressing rooms, but thankfully, didn't say anything.
"That was... amazing."
"Really?" Sherlock sounded mildly shocked.
"Of course it was you daft bastard."
Sherlock smiled a little at this. He tried to hide it, but John saw it. He was no Sherlock Holmes, but he'd lived with him long enough to see the signs.
John smiled a little too.
"So, when do you think you'll be able to solve the case?"
"The case," John insisted, "You know, the entire reason you were in the play to begin with. That one?"
"Oh. Right. The case. Soon," he added vaguely.
Something dawned on John. "Hang on..." he began slowly, "You ate this morning."
"Your point being?"
"You don't eat on cases."
"This one was different," Sherlock insisted. "It would be no good to collapse on stage."
John shook his head.
"Nope. This one was different." Something else dawned on him.
"I haven't seen you text or call Lestrade at all on this case. Not to mention Lestrade didn't know what you were doing quoting Hamlet."
"I didn't consult Lestrade for this case."
John shook his head. "No, that's not all of it..." John gaped at Sherlock. "Was there even a case?"
"Of course there was." Sherlock called as he began to stride away.
"No, there wasn't. That's why you ate this morning. It's just been an excuse... for the play? You did this all so you could be in the play?" John's mouth hung open and Sherlock was temped to throw something in it. "You bastard!"
"It was an experiment John. An experiment!"
And with that he hailed a cab, John jogging to catch up.
"Though this be madness, yet there is method in 't," he muttered to himself.
"What was that?" Sherlock asked.
But they both smiled.