Hello all! So I haven't written anything in a while but the Sherlock bug bit me and I just couldn't help myself. I hope you all like it!
Summary: "A Study in Pink" told in three parts from the POV of both John and Sherlock. Features the Sherlock we all know and love with a slightly younger John Watson who isn't so hesitant or confused. Think of him as a good mix between Freeman's Watson and Jude Law's Watson, with a bit of my own imagination thrown in. Pre-slash S/J. This story mainly started out as a way for me to experiment with a narrative form that captures Sherlock's mind. But then John wanted some time to himself as well and I thought, why not just tackle the first episode with a bit of my own stuff thrown in.
SPECIAL THANKS to Ariane DeVere for her absolutely invaluable transcript of "A Study in Pink." Seriously. Go and read her transcripts, they are amazing.
Disclaimer: I do not own Sherlock. I'm like Moriarty. I just want to have a little fun with my favorite boys.
If you take the time to read I would love to know what you think! Please leave me a review. This narrative form is very different for me and is mostly experimental. I would love suggestions or praise, either one ;)
A Study in Human Nature
Molly's footsteps faded, moving faster than the beating of his heart (61 bpm), and he was left in cool silence in the lab. Stop. Rewind. Delete. Information superfluous. Adjust microscope, refresh, proceed from last viable starting point.
Sherlock bent his neck and prepared the slide carefully. Don't touch the glass. Just cleaned.
"Careful," he mouthed, the word leaving lips softer than a whisper, just an exhalation of breath with a suggestion attached.
His ears caught sound, his head tilted, and footsteps (not Molly's) approached the door to the lab. Two people – men. Two men. One heavy slow gait (possibly Mike Stamford), and one slow, lighter, yet – wrong, somehow – a limp? Yes, there was the faint subtle tapping. Cane. Mike Stamford plus guest. Sherlock's lips twitched as he moved the slide carefully toward the microscope.
Seconds later, the door to the lab opened. Stamford came into view first but his guest was more important. Sherlock spared him a glance. Short (172 centimeters), blond (dirty blond, military cut), slender, compact body (definitely military, recent weight loss (injury related) in addition to limp (psychosomatic)), young (between twenty-five and thirty – twenty-eight?), acquainted with the lab (trained as a doctor), tan skin, vacant eyes (blue?brown?green? Dark.). The eyes gave Sherlock pause. They were perfectly and completely vacant. For just a moment Sherlock stared into those eyes. And could read nothing. The man's face, just as slender as the rest of him, was quite expressive. There were faint lines around his eyes and mouth (he was happy once) that told Sherlock this man used to laugh, that his eyes had feeling at one point.
"Can I borrow your phone, Mike?" Sherlock asked, looking away from the young soldier and toward Stamford. "Mine has no signal."
"What's wrong with the landline?" asked Mike, as Sherlock knew he would.
"I prefer to text."
Mike glanced around. "Left it in my coat, sorry."
Mike's companion shifted slightly and dug in his own coat pocket. "Here," he said, removing a mobile (voice: smooth, light, slightly incredulous), "use mine."
Sherlock looked up. "Oh. Thank you." He stood to take the mobile and at that moment the soldier's eyes slid toward Mike's pocket. A smile tugged at the corner of his lips.
Sherlock's interest spiked. He had known all along that Mike's phone was in his trouser pocket. But for this man to know it, and then to offer his own anyway… that was interesting.
"It's an old friend of mine, John Watson," said Mike fondly, gesturing.
"Afghanistan or Iraq?" Sherlock asked as he took the phone and fired off a text to Lestrade.
John Watson didn't even hesitate. "Afghanistan," he said quietly.
Molly Hooper entered the lab. Sherlock looked away from John Watson. "Ah, Molly, coffee. Thank you." He noted something about her lack of lipstick, but his attention wavered and fell back to John. "How do you feel about the violin?"
John's head tilted slightly. "Violin music helps me relax."
Sherlock stared at him. "Sometimes I don't speak for days on end. Would that bother you?"
There it was again. That slight tug of lips. "Why? Is this the worst of you? Sounds pretty good for a potential flatmate."
Sherlock felt his own lips twitch and hastily suppressed a smile. "Let me guess. You have nightmares?"
John studied him. "And you don't sleep."
They both looked at Mike. "What, did you tell him about me?" they asked simultaneously.
Stamford glanced between them and smiled smugly. "Not a word."
Sherlock breathed an almost non-existent laugh and pulled on his greatcoat. He wrapped his blue scarf around his neck and looked at John. "I've got my eye on a nice little place in London. Together we ought to be able to afford it. We'll meet there tomorrow evening – seven o'clock."
John nodded. "I don't know the address. Or you name."
Sherlock moved toward the door. At the last moment he turned around and winked at John. "The name's Sherlock Holmes. And the address is two two one B Baker Street."
The last thing he saw before leaving the lab was a spark of something in those vacant eyes.
SH – SH – SH
John approached the door of 221B Baker Street slowly. As he lifted his hand to the knocker, a cab pulled up to the kerb alongside him and Sherlock Holmes stepped out.
"Hello," said the scientist as he moved up to join John.
In his mind, John thought of Sherlock Holmes as a scientist – he had looked him up, found his website, Science of Deduction – though he thought the man had other employment as well.
John nodded. "Mr. Holmes."
"Sherlock, please," said Holmes, his voice low and smooth, and extended his hand.
John shook it. Sherlock's hand was cool and thin, with long fingers, and a grip that conveyed strength and certainty. If Sherlock spent his time deducing everything around him based on observations, John's time in the Army had taught him to deduce a man's character by his handshake. Sherlock wasn't nervous about their meeting. Lack of sweat on his palm and the cool temperature of his skin told John that Sherlock perceived himself to be very much in control.
"This looks like a prime spot," remarked John, dropping his hand. "Bit expensive."
"Oh, Mrs. Hudson, the landlady, is giving me a special deal. Owes me a favor. A few years back, her husband got himself sentenced to death in Florida. I was able to help out."
John felt his eyebrows go up. "You stopped him being executed?"
Sherlock's lips twitched. "No, I ensured it."
While John was deciding whether to be surprised – and adding detective/consultant to his list of jobs defining Sherlock – the door to 221 swung open. An elderly woman stepped out and opened her arms wide.
"Sherlock, hello," she said, and John watched in slight amazement as Sherlock actually bent marginally down to hug her.
"Mrs. Hudson," he said upon rising, "Doctor John Watson."
There went John's eyebrows again. He hadn't mentioned to Sherlock that he was a doctor. But then he remembered deduction and didn't comment. "How do?" he said to Mrs. Hudson instead.
They moved into the flat and up the stairs. John took them slowly but steadily upward, and did not think about the time not so long ago when he had been able to take stairs three at a time. Sherlock pushed the door open at the top, glanced at him, and said, "It's psychosomatic, you know, your limp."
John tried for a bland smile and simply followed him into the flat. It was… nice. He took everything in slowly, and felt himself grinning. The walls were relatively awful and none of the furniture matched, there were boxes and papers and books and stacks of things everywhere, the kitchen looked like a laboratory and there was a skull on the mantelpiece. But it felt like home.
"This is nice," said John aloud.
Next to him, Sherlock nodded. "Yes, I thought so. My thoughts precisely. So I went on ahead and moved in."
John's facial muscles were beginning to ache with the amount of smiling he had done in just the past five minutes.
"There's a second bedroom upstairs, if you'll be needing two," said Mrs. Hudson politely as she picked up a cup and saucer from the table in front of the sofa.
John thought of all the things he could say to that. But he once again settled for nodding. "Yes, please."
She smiled and nodded and mumbled something about "all sorts" and moved into the kitchen. "Sherlock," she clucked, and began tidying. "The mess you've made."
John gestured toward the mantle. "That's a skull."
"Friend of mine," Sherlock said, and then tilted his head. "Well, when I say "friend," what I mean is…"
Something a lot like laughter bubbled up out of John's throat before he could subdue it, and Sherlock glanced sidelong at him. John moved to an armchair and sat down carefully. He studied Sherlock for a moment, and then decided to be frank. "I looked you up on the internet last night."
Sherlock turned toward him. "Oh? What did you think?"
"The Science of Deduction. Very impressive."
"You think so?"
John nodded. "What have you deduced about me?"
Sherlock brought his fingertips together under his chin as he looked at John. "I know you're an Army Doctor invalided home from Afghanistan. I know you've got an older brother but you won't go to him for help because you disapprove of him – possibly because he's an alcoholic; more likely because he recently walked out on his wife. And your therapist, rightly enough, thinks your limp is psychosomatic, as I've already pointed out."
John didn't say anything, but a question must have been in his eyes because Sherlock answered anyway.
"I can read your military career in your face and your leg and your brother's drinking habits in your mobile phone."
John had to stop his mouth from falling open. "How?"
But Sherlock just smiled secretively and didn't respond.
Mrs. Hudson shuffled back in and mentioned the suicides. John's ears pricked and he glanced at Sherlock when Mrs. Hudson said that three identical suicides seemed to be right up Sherlock's street.
But Sherlock was looking out the window. "Four."
As John watched him, the subtle glow of flashing police lights illuminated his face. For just an instant, his face appeared inhuman.
"There's been a fourth," he said, in his deep quiet baritone. "And there's something different this time."
John cocked his head to one side. "A fourth?"
But just at that moment footsteps were heard on the stairs and a man came through the door to 221B, his silver hair a mess and his deep eyes anxious. He and Sherlock exchanged a rapid fire conversation that John could barely follow, though he understood the bit about a fourth suicide and Scotland Yard requesting Sherlock's help.
"Who's on forensics?"
"Anderson won't work with me."
"Well, he won't be your assistant."
"I need an assistant."
John decided to ignore the way Sherlock's eyes flickered toward him as he said that, but after another moment, and a quick curious glance at himself and Mrs. Hudson, the silver-haired man left and Sherlock turned his full attention on John.
"I need an assistant," he said again, slowly.
John got to his feet but didn't say anything.
"You're a doctor," said Sherlock in that considering drawl. "In fact you're an Army Doctor."
"Yes," said John, nodding.
Sherlock's eyes glinted eerily as he peered at John. "Any good?"
For the first time in a long time, John felt something smooth and warm and smug uncoiling in his stomach. "Very good."
"Seen a lot of injuries, then; violent deaths."
"Bit of trouble too, I bet."
"Of course, yes. Enough for a lifetime. Far too much."
"Want to see some more?"
The heat in John's belly exploded outward, so forcefully he was surprised he didn't pitch forwards. "Oh God, yes."
And then right before his eyes this tall, skinny, barely controlled force of a man clenched his fist and leaped into the air. "Brilliant! Yes!" he shouted. "Ah, four serial suicides, and now a note. Oh, it's Christmas."
He grabbed his coat from the stand and wrapped his scarf around his neck. "Mrs. Hudson, we'll be late. Might need some food."
Mrs. Hudson smiled fondly. "I'm your landlady, dear, not your housekeeper."
"Something cold will do," said Sherlock, as if she hadn't even spoken. He looked at John, who hadn't moved. "Hurry, John!"
And just like that John sprang into action. He was still wearing his own coat, so didn't bother with anything but moving steadily to join Sherlock at the top of the stairs.
"Perhaps some tea tonight as well, Mrs. Hudson," added John over his shoulder. "And some biscuits too, if you've got them."
Mrs. Hudson's voice floated out of the kitchen, softly admonishing. "Not your housekeeper, dear!"
Sherlock had reached the bottom of the stairs and was rocking back and forth on the balls of his feet. He stared up at John impatiently. As John began descending the stairs to meet his new flatmate – and colleague? – he hardly felt his limp.
In the back of the taxi Sherlock stared at his mobile phone and knew that John had questions. He let the doctor ask them, and he answered, and in his usual precise manner he quickly outlined for John just how easy it was to discover someone's secrets. And as he spoke he took in John's expression and his body language and demeanor. He watched the astonishment shift to speculation and then shift again to disbelief and then one final time to a quirk of eyebrows and a tilt of the head and a bobbing of the Adam's apple that he couldn't quite decipher and he found himself just staring and staring at this man who was the first in almost ever who had managed to keep Sherlock guessing about what an expression could possibly mean and he tried to understand the fine crinkles around those color-shifting eyes and the upturned corner of the thin lips and
the wrinkle of the nose which must mean something and… what? Amazing? He stared at John.
"Do you think so?" he asked, and knew he wasn't quite successful at keeping the genuine curiosity out of his voice.
John smiled at him. "Of course it was. It was extraordinary; quite extraordinary."
Sherlock thought he should probably look away. It must be one of those social customs that eye contact be maintained for only a certain period of time. He was sure he had prolonged the staring for quite long enough. But there was just something about John Watson.
"That's not what people usually say," remarked Sherlock finally.
"What do they usually say?" inquired John.
And John's slight breathless laugh was probably his imagination. Except that he knew it wasn't. Because no one had ever said that to him before. No one. He felt himself smiling tentatively, but he turned his face toward the window and stared at the streets and the signs and the traffic and the colors until his eyes swam and fell shut, and he mapped each turn and bump and sound behind the blackness of his closed lids and counted down to the second the time it took them to arrive at Lauriston Gardens. And when the car stopped he leaped out and John followed and somehow, this time, it felt different. More exciting. Because someone was walking next to him who might actually be impressed. They approached the police tape and Sherlock began to feel the pre-case numbness, starting in his toes and working upwards, a sensation that almost let him leave his body, as if he was nothing more than his mind in that moment and his flesh and bones carried him, weightless, toward that place where his mind reigned supreme.
But he was still aware of John next to him and couldn't help but ask, "Did I get anything wrong?"
But of course he didn't. John confirmed his deductions and Sherlock was just in the middle of congratulating himself when John managed to once more surprise him.
"And," said John with a little pause, "Harry's short for Harriet."
Sherlock was sure that for one second his entire body stopped functioning. He was aware only that he stopped walking when John turned to look at him. "Harry's your sister."
John nodded and continued on. "So, how am I meant to be assisting you?"
Sherlock's body came back to life. "Sister!"
"Because, you know," John kept on, "I don't think you actually need my help."
Sherlock shook his head. "Nonsense, John. I need an assistant. You happen to be a highly trained and qualified doctor who is now conveniently my flatmate. It's a perfect arrangement."
They reached the police tape. Sally Donovan was there, and she seemed completely unwilling to let either Sherlock or John pass.
"Hello, freak," she snapped, a slight wicked light in her eyes that had been there since the first time they'd met and still had no effect on Sherlock at all.
"I'm here to see Detective Inspector Lestrade," said Sherlock smoothly, ignoring her barb.
Sherlock bit back a sigh. "I was invited."
This time he could not hold back the dripping sarcasm. "I think he wants me to take a look."
Donovan sneered at him and lifted the tape. "Well, you know what I think, don't you?"
Sherlock ducked under and caught a whiff of men's deodorant and didn't even have to see the dust on her knees to know she hadn't been home last night. It was so easy he felt the numbness slipping away, his weight coming back, boredom and chaos closing in on him once more.
"Who's this, then?"
Sherlock looked around. "Colleague of mine, Doctor Watson." He quickly made the introductions.
Sally looked gob smacked. "A colleague. How do you get a colleague?" She addressed the next question directly to John. "What, did he follow you home?"
But the John Watson that Sherlock had glimpsed in 221B and in the taxi cab had disappeared, and the John Watson from yesterday morning at Bart's was back in place. He stood like a soldier; deceptively loose limbed and with those vacant, expressionless eyes.
"Actually," John murmured, "I followed him home."
Sally looked between the two of them with a slightly horrified expression, and Sherlock could read the words of her thoughts as if they were scrolling across her face in bold print Oh, God now there's two of them it was just too easy and he raised the tape for John and said lowly, "After you, doctor." And he made sure to insult both Anderson and Donovan at least three more times as they moved toward the crime scene and it actually bordered on tedious but the look on John's face was worth it and then they were inside and Sherlock could practically smell the mystery and he almost didn't wait for anyone before heading up the stairs.
But Lestrade wanted to know who John was.
"He's with me," Sherlock said, as if that should be enough even though he had to say it one more time.
But that once more was enough. And Lestrade didn't ask again.
John put his mental blinders on when they started climbing the stairs. He took a deep breath and retreated to that place in his mind that was full of sand and sun and Move, soldier, now! He climbed the stairs. He managed it better than he thought he would. But then they made it to the actual crime scene and though he had seen more than his fair share of violence and death and destruction, there was something completely disarming about the dead woman on the floor. Because she was wearing pink. Because she had blond hair and manicured nails and was wearing an absolutely garish shade of pink. Because she was a civilian.
He had seen civilians die. Of course he had. But those deaths always managed to reach a place inside him that he tried desperately to keep hidden away. Because civilians weren't trained on how to die properly. Not that anyone really could be trained on how to die, but John sometimes thought that he had been. He and his comrades both. Civilians didn't know what to do when death came for them. They were never prepared. And it made John's heart hurt.
But Sherlock had asked him to come. And John had agreed. Because despite the death, the mystery and the danger and the thrill of the chase were what got him. And watching Sherlock move toward the body, so lightly his footsteps didn't even make a sound, pulled something from that primal, adrenaline packed space in John's mind that had his focus so narrowed he actually saw spots for a moment.
It was like a dance. If examining a dead woman could be called dancing. It was as if the dead woman was leading Sherlock in an intricate waltz, and Sherlock was following brilliantly, taking every turn, every step, every move that the lady in pink placed before him. When he told DI Lestrade that he hadn't discovered much from the body, John knew he wasn't lying per se, he just wasn't willing to go into detail until pressed. This was part of the game for him. He was perfect in this place, using his mind, solving riddles and puzzles and figuring things out. This was where he was meant to be. But John was realizing that for almost everyone else, including DI Lestrade, Sherlock's presence was a constant reminder of their own inadequacy, and they suffered him to be there only reluctantly.
It took John a moment to realize that Sherlock was talking. He was explaining what he had discovered and it was more than slightly unfair that one man could have a mind like that. John had known some very intelligent people and was generally considered to be one himself, but he had never known anyone like Sherlock. Lestrade had called him in because he had known that Sherlock could discover in mere seconds what an entire police force couldn't even begin to see. And it was obvious.
"Sorry," said John suddenly, as Sherlock's last words caught up with his brain. "Obvious?"
It was as if hearing his voice alerted Sherlock to the fact that John was still in the room, because those ghostly sharp eyes were on his face and John felt his breath being stolen by the power of that gaze alone.
"Doctor Watson," said Sherlock, gesturing toward the body. "What do you think?"
John glanced at the woman. Jennifer Wilson, Lestrade had said. He looked back up at Sherlock. "I'm not a Medical Examiner, Sherlock. I don't typically work with corpses."
"Right," said Lestrade. "And I have a team, anyway. I'm breaking enough rules letting you in."
Sherlock didn't take his eyes off of John. "I won't work with anyone else."
John sighed and turned to look at Lestrade.
The Detective Inspector rolled his eyes and waved his hand in a way that spoke of suffering and acceptance. "Go ahead."
His leg was a bit stiff, but John managed to kneel next to the body and take her wrist to look at the skin and lean down to sniff at the hair by her face. Through wet strands of blond he could see dried and cracking foam around her pink lips. He looked up at Sherlock and slowly got to his feet.
"Asphyxiation," he said. "She passed out and choked on her own vomit. Could have been drugs or a seizure, but…"
Sherlock tilted his head. "But?"
John glanced between the Consulting Detective and the DI. "But," he continued, "I would say poison is more likely. She's got foam on her mouth and bloodshot eyes. She doesn't smell like alcohol and her skin shows no signs of habitual drug use. She's not a user. She took a small dose of something very concentrated that acted very quickly. Poison."
He definitely wasn't imagining Sherlock's smile, though the edge to it made John think he had just been used more to prove a point than to help out. But even that feeling beat days and days of sitting in his bedsit, alone, doing nothing because nothing, nothing ever happened to John Watson.
Sherlock was alive with the idea that they were dealing with a serial killer. Something about a missing case. He bolted from the room and down the stairs yelling at everyone he passed and by the time John made it down and took off his crinkly blue crime scene suit the Consulting Detective had disappeared.
"He does that, you know," said Sergeant Donovan. "Just takes off without telling anyone."
"Hmmm," said John. "Well, is he coming back?"
Donovan just raised an eyebrow.
"Right," said John. "Where can I find a cab?"
Donovan hesitated for the briefest of moments before lifting the police tape for him to pass under. "Try the main road."
"Thanks," said John. He ducked under the tape and made for the road.
"He's not your friend, you know!"
John turned around. Donovan looked angry. Her hands where on her hips.
"Sherlock Holmes," she clarified. "He's not your friend. He hasn't got any friends. So who are you?"
John thought about telling her that he was nobody. But he remembered Sherlock's eyes when he had said he wouldn't work with anyone but John.
"I'm his assistant," said John. "His colleague."
Donovan leveled him with a considering stare. "You know why he's here, don't you? He's not paid or anything. He likes it. He gets off on it. The weirder the crime, the more he gets off. And you know what? One of these days it won't be enough. One of these days we'll be standing round a body and it'll be Sherlock Holmes that put it there."
John swallowed reflexively. "And why would he do that?"
Donovan smiled as if she'd been waiting for him to ask that question. "Because he's a psychopath. And psychopaths get bored." She laughed nastily. "One day he'll get bored of you, too. Better for you if you get away and stay away now."
John turned and walked away. He wondered briefly what had happened to make Sally Donovan hate Sherlock Holmes so much, but he figured it was a mixture of jealousy and unrequited attraction. It hardly mattered either way.
What did matter, however, was that John Watson was being followed. He knew it as soon as he reached the main road. And then phones started ringing. And the man he finally talked to didn't sound as frightening as some of the people John had spoken to in his life, so he got into the car with very little fuss, but with a plan to take out the girl and the driver, if need be, just in case.