Rachit Jain looked exhausted. John couldn't exactly blame the not-quite-man, because John wasn't entirely sure what he'd have done if his flatmate had died halfway through his second year at uni leaving him with a rent he couldn't afford by himself and the mournful aftertaste that always followed someone you cared about being murdered in the place you both called home.
"This is your girlfriend's flat?" Sherlock asked, glancing around the room with his scarf still fastened tight round his neck. John thought he looked a little better since his trip to buy cigarettes with John's card (he'd have liked to chalk it up to Sherlock appreciating the level of trust, but it was probably just the nicotine) but he still wasn't the same Sherlock that John was used to seeing on cases.
"Kiran," Rachit Jain said in his lightly accented voice, nodding. "I have been staying here since."
"You were good friends with Vince, then?" John ventured.
"Yes," Rachit said, glancing at the floor for a few minutes before turning his gaze to meet his again, "we were in the same block of flats in halls in first year. We were… good friends."
"Was he an easy man to live with?" Sherlock asked. John privately wondered what Sherlock classified as easy to live with – his attempts at being straight up with him when relaying the 'worst about each other' hadn't even been semi-close to the crap John willingly dealt with on a daily basis… but he certainly wouldn't have agreed if relapse and recreational drugs had been mentioned along with the incessant violin playing (which, really, he only disliked when Sherlock was decimating the instrument rather than playing – because when Sherlock played John wondered how the hell the man could ever claim to be bored). John, himself, had thought himself a difficult man to live with just on account of the PTSD and the nightmares. He'd never dream of claiming such a brash title as 'difficult flatmate' having lived with Sherlock.
"He was messier than I would have liked," Rachit said, smiling slightly, "but he was my friend and we liked living together. And he would always do the washing up eventually."
"The night he died?" Sherlock demanded, still pacing back and forwards across the space in Rachit's girlfriends kitchen.
"I was working on my group project with one of my course mate," Rachit said, "we emailed our report to our lecturer just before midnight and we were working on it until then."
"The memory stick?"
"He… Vince… he never took his memory stick out of his computer. He lost his A level coursework, I think, but I never saw his laptop without a memory stick in it. He was very careful about… backups."
"What if he had to print a piece of work at the library?" John suggested, glancing up at him.
"He had another memory stick for that purpose which he kept in his wallet. I checked that memory stick and that was still there, but I looked everywhere for the other memory stick. I thought maybe it had just fallen out of the laptop but…"
"You don't know who Vince was planning to see that night?" Sherlock asked, stopping pacing for a few minutes to stare at the other man.
"I did not know he was going to be seeing anyone."
"And would he normally tell you if he was having visitors?"
"Most of the time," he said, "he did not have visitors very often. He would always warn me if it was near exam time, or if they were to be staying the night, or if there were to be multiple visitors."
"Did the police take the other memory stick?" Sherlock asked abruptly. Rachit nodded. "Fine," Sherlock said, glancing at his watch, "what day is the rubbish collected?"
"Tuesdays and Fridays." Rachit said slowly.
"John," Sherlock said, impatiently and was already heading towards the front door.
"Thank you for your time." John said, hurrying to pull back on his jacket and head out after Sherlock, offering awkward condolences before dashing out down the stairs and finding his flatmate, predictably, lighting up a cigarette and staring out into the road. "Sherlock," John muttered, "are we going to have to go over that conversation about manners again?"
"I sincerely hope not."
"Then it would be just great if you stopped deleting everything I said about treating people with respect, Sherlock, because that teenager found his best mate dead in their kitchen. He's miles away from home and -"
"- hundreds of miles," Sherlock interjected, not looking at him and still staring out into the street, "he's an international student. And he's not a teenager, he's twenty."
" – yes, well, the point is, Sherlock, you were barely in there for ten minutes and that poor kid wants to help and you just disregarded the fact that…"
"Vincent Harper wasn't a heavy drinker." Sherlock said, stubbing out the cigarette under his foot. John swallowed back his nagging for another point, because apparently Sherlock was still making mistakes which were not only not good on the case front but also a definite negative reflection on the state of his mental health. Damn.
"But you said about the bottles?"
"Jumping to conclusions," Sherlock said, hands in his pockets and turning away from the flat they'd just existed and onto the road, "making conclusions without sufficient data."
"Yes, John, the recycling. There were not a sufficient number of bottles to suggest a sustained drinking habit throughout the week, meaning that our victim drank an uncharacteristic amount of alcohol on the day he was murdered."
John was trying not to think about Harry, but all this talk of empty bottles and alcohol wasn't really helping matters: he couldn't seem to get that bottle of beer Sherlock had thrown away out of his head, kept remembering that awful occasion when Harry had first met Sherlock and was trying not to be affected by it lest Sherlock noticed. Whilst, at the same time, very much wanting Sherlock to notice.
John shook his head slightly. He didn't need Sherlock to deduce all his emotional issues. Really, he didn't, because John had been coping with Harry for years.
"And what does that mean?"
"Why do people normally drink?" Sherlock asked, turning to face him with his electric case-eyes that John always thought were about to start sparking with thought. "Yesterday you, albeit briefly, ventured outside your normal drinking habits."
"Sherlock," John interjected, not sure if he was in the mood to rehash the almost argument they'd had the day previously.
"Stress, most likely, although obviously it was ineffective and an illogical solution given the fact that heavy drinking and relying on drinking to navigate yourself through a problem is an issue and cause of stress in itself from your perspective… but there are other reasons. Dutch courage. Celebration. A distraction. Something to do."
"Which is it for you then, Sherlock?" John asked without really meaning to.
"I don't… ah." Sherlock said, finally turning to look at him with one of those looks which made John feel like he was the worst person on the planet. John squared his shoulders against the decision and stared him down: he'd had a god awful few weeks and an even worse couple of days, his distraction in the form of a case turned out to have far too much alcohol related deduction in it for it to be working properly and Sherlock had refused to talk about the whole thing properly since John had taken him off cases.
"Because if you wanted something to do there's a lot of ironing."
"You banned me from using the iron."
"You can use it to iron."
"I was –"
"- to iron clothes," John corrected, "Sherlock, I'm serious here. We need to talk about this."
"I'm not angry. I'm not exactly over the bloody moon, but I'm not angry. I'm frustrated because I'm trying to help you blind as you're as tight lipped as ever – and I get that Sherlock, I do, but I want to help – and your sodding brother's just disappeared. On an occasion that could actually be useful he's just buggered off. And I'd like to talk about that, too, but you obviously don't want too and that's fine but I just…" John trailed off, "I'm worried about you." John could almost hear Sherlock repressing the I'm fine (which was good thing given John probably would be angry if Sherlock continued to lie to him about this stuff). "Now's not really the time, but we're going to talk about this later. So why was Vince drinking? Lost his precious memory stick? Flatmate bullying into talking about his emotions? Couldn't face the prospect of washing up?"
"No idea," Sherlock said, stepping forward and hailing a cab, "need more data."
John sighed and pressed his fingers to his forehead for a split second. He wasn't entirely sure what it was going to take to drag Sherlock into the conversation that they'd needed to have for weeks, but he imagined it was going to ardours and involve a lot of bribery and thinly veiled threats. And body parts in the fridge.
"After the case," John said, following Sherlock into yet another cap, "I'm serious about this."
"Please don't provide more reason to leave Lestrade to struggle through this without my help."
"You've been complaining about being off cases for weeks." John muttered, rolling his eyes at the window and internally beginning to plan his drugs are bad speech all over again.
Thanks to marylouleach, kellie, and TooLazyToLogIn for reviewing the last chapter! Sorry this one is a bit short compared to the others, but I figured I'd taken long enough :)