Hello all! Here is the last part of "A Study in Human Nature." Thank you so much to everyone who has read and reviewed and stuck with it despite the Americanisms and such. It makes my day to get your reviews. Hope you like this last part and please let me know what you think.
Once again, thanks to Ariane DeVere for the transcripts! They are absolutely amazing!
Warnings and Disclaimer: Don't own. Bummer. Also, there's kissing in this chapter.
A Study in Human Nature
Sherlock didn't even feel himself storm over to Lestrade. "What are you doing?" he asked quietly, angrily.
Lestrade looked at him calmly, so calmly that Sherlock felt himself grow angrier. "Well, I knew you'd find the case. I'm not stupid."
"You can't just break into my flat," Sherlock hissed.
"And you can't withhold evidence," Lestrade snapped right back. "Besides, I didn't break in."
Sherlock breathed in quickly through his nose and held it there. "Then what do you call this?"
Lestrade looked around innocently. His officers were tearing the flat apart. "It's a drugs bust."
The breath escaped Sherlock's lungs in an angry huff but then John was suddenly by his side, calm and steady, hands on hips, staring at Lestrade.
"A drugs bust?" he asked.
Sherlock turned toward him very quickly. "John," he murmured in warning.
But John just glanced at him and then turned back to Lestrade. "On what grounds?" he asked, very calmly.
"John," Sherlock said, a bit louder, but John ignored him.
Sally Donovan came strolling out of the kitchen. She had a nasty, malicious smile on her face. "Hasn't he told you?" Her eyes moved over Sherlock's face before she leaned toward John and whispered conspiratorially, "He's a junkie."
Luckily, John had the presence of mind not to look at him. He crossed his arms in front of his chest and rolled his eyes. "Uh-huh," he said. "Sherlock, why don't you show the Detective Inspector your arm."
He said it so casually, so off-handedly, that Sherlock complied. He pulled back his sleeve a tad harsher than he should have and revealed the three nicotine patches.
"I don't even smoke," he said, though he would have done nearly anything at that moment for a cigarette. "I'm not your sniffer dog!"
"No, you're not," agreed Lestrade. "But Anderson is."
Sherlock whirled toward the kitchen. Anderson was standing next to Donovan, grinning.
"What are you doing here on a drugs bust?" Sherlock spat.
"Oh, I volunteered," he said, sneering.
Sherlock turned away and felt, through sensory input to the pain receptors in his brain, that he was biting his lip too hard. Perhaps hard enough to draw blood. John was looking at him with a light hint of concern in his eyes and Sherlock wished that he could reach out and grab the Browning that was hiding behind John's trousers and jumper because he really wanted to shoot something and it was just bloody unfair that mere minutes ago he had been about to kiss John Watson (kissing: requires thirty-four facial muscles, one-hundred and twelve postural muscles, the most important muscle involved being the orbicularis oris which is used to pucker the lips) and of course Lestrade and the rest of his team had to come along and ruin all of it and Sherlock was almost positive that traced back far enough it would somehow even originate with Mycroft.
"Are these human eyes?"
Sherlock spun around again and glared at Donovan. "Put those back!"
She looked startled, standing there holding his jar of eyes. "But they were in the microwave."
Sherlock was sure his facial features had contorted into an expression of disbelief at her stupidity. "They're an experiment," he explained slowly.
Lestrade stood up. "Keep looking guys," he said, and Donovan and Anderson turned away. More quietly, and to Sherlock alone, he said, "Or you can help us properly and I'll stand them down."
Sherlock ran his hands through his hair. "This is childish."
Lestrade shrugged. "I'm dealing with a child. Sherlock, this is our case. I've let you in on it but you can't, you cannot go running off on your own. Is that clear?"
"So what, then?" hissed Sherlock, gesturing angrily. "You set up a pretend drugs bust to bully me?"
For just a moment, as Lestrade looked at him, there was something bordering sadness and pity in his eyes. "It stops being pretend if they find anything."
Sherlock closed his eyes and breathed deeply through his nose. "I am clean," he said a moment later, loudly.
Lestrade nodded. "I know, I believe you," he said. "But is your flat? All of it?"
And then, quite suddenly and for the second time that night, John inserted himself into the conversation.
"Actually," he said, appearing out of nowhere at Sherlock's side. "It is. You see, I live here too. In the room upstairs. Sherlock and I are flatmates as well as colleagues. When I moved in Mrs. Hudson and I combed the place from top to bottom, dusting and cleaning and all that. You won't find any drugs. There's nothing here to find."
Lestrade blinked. Sherlock wasn't sure what sort of difference it made to Lestrade that this was John's flat too, but it apparently made a difference. The DI's posture relaxed and he smiled lightly at Sherlock. "You see? We can work together here. Look, we've even found Rachel."
Sherlock's eyes brightened. "Who is she?"
Lestrade turned and waved an arm at the officers pulling apart the flat. Sherlock glanced at John, who was looking at him already, and in the briefest of moments their eyes spoke what their voices could not. John, I – Don't mention it – No, no really. That was… good – You're welcome, Sherlock.
"Jennifer Wilson's only daughter," explained Lestrade, turning back to them.
Sherlock frowned. "Her daughter? Why would she write her daughter's name?"
Anderson strutted back into the room. "Never mind that. We found the case." He pointed to the case that Sherlock had left sitting out before he and John went to Angelo's. "According to someone, we would find the case in the hands of the murderer and here we found it in the possession of our favorite psychopath."
Sherlock's lip curled as he looked over at Anderson. "I'm not a psychopath, Anderson. I'm a high-functioning sociopath. Do your research." He turned back to Lestrade. "Someone needs to bring Rachel in. You need to question her. I need to question her."
"She's dead," said Lestrade.
Sherlock clapped his hands together. "Excellent."
Several officers shot him appalled glances but Sherlock could hardly bring himself to care. He did have time to notice that John didn't look entirely surprised before Lestrade began shaking his head and spoke before Sherlock had a chance to go on.
"I know what you're thinking," said Lestrade, "but there isn't any connection. Rachel died fourteen years ago. She was Jennifer Wilson's stillborn daughter."
Sherlock's entire body stilled. "No that's… that's not right. That can't be right. Why would she do that? Why?"
Anderson snorted. "Why would she think of her daughter in her dying moments? Yes – sociopath. I can see it."
Sherlock turned on him with a snarl. "She didn't think about her daughter. She scratched her name into the floor with her fingernails. She was dying. It would have taken effort. It would have hurt." He began to pace, hardly aware that he was doing it.
"Sherlock," said John, watching him as he paced. "The poison is self-administered. Perhaps the murderer, I don't know, talks to his victims first? Maybe he used Jennifer's daughter against her somehow."
Sherlock stopped in front of John. "Perhaps," he conceded. "But that was ages ago. Why would she still be upset?"
The flat fell completely silent. It took Sherlock a moment to realize that everyone was staring at him with something close to horror in their eyes. He looked at John. "Not good?" he asked.
John smiled tightly. "Bit not good."
Sherlock brought his hands up to his face and looked at John through his fingers. He took a step closer to him, blocking out everyone else in the flat, and dropped his hands. "Yes, but if you were dying, if you were about to be murdered… in your last few seconds, what would you say?"
"'Please, God, let me live.'"
"Oh, use your imagination!"
John sighed. "I don't have to."
Sherlock's eyes flickered over John's shoulder. He knew there was an old wound there and when he met John's eyes again he didn't know what to say. He hesitated. And then John saved him.
"What was Jennifer Wilson trying to tell us?" John asked.
"What indeed," said Sherlock.
He didn't take his eyes off of John even as Donovan and Anderson began talking at once about Rachel, and Lestrade tried to quiet them, and Mrs. Hudson came up the stairs asking about a taxi. There was too much information and too much noise and too many things to see and Sherlock felt a sharp spike of pain at his temple as the sounds washed over him and he finally looked away from John and brought his hands up to his hair.
"Shut up!" he roared and the flat fell silent. "Everybody shut up! Don't move, don't speak, don't breathe. I'm trying to think. Anderson, face the other way. You're putting me off."
Outrage from Anderson and admonishment from Lestrade but Sherlock wasn't paying attention. He was vaguely aware of yelling at Mrs. Hudson but it barely scratched the surface of his consciousness. He stared at John as if the secret to Jennifer Wilson and Rachel was hidden in his eyes that were now blue now brown now green. John looked back calmly. Why would she scratch Rachel in the floor? Why would she do it? She was clever, Jennifer Wilson. She must have known she was dying. She must have known too that her death was the fourth in a string of serial suicides. She would have seen the other cases in the papers. She knew the police would find her and she knew they would see the name and she was trying to tell them something even in death. What was she trying to tell them?
Sherlock stared at John and quit breathing. "Oh," he said after a moment, his breath leaving his body in a murmur. "Ah, she was clever. She was cleverer than you lot and she's dead!"
Sherlock paced across the room, reveling in a mystery that was solved. "She didn't lose her phone. She planted it on the murderer!"
Lestrade blinked. "Okay. But how?"
Sherlock did a double take. "Wha…? What do you mean 'how'?"
Lestrade simply shrugged.
"Rachel," said Sherlock in semi-disbelief. "Don't you see? Rachel!"
They all looked so blank. So so so so blank.
"Look at you lot," said Sherlock in wonder, staring around from face to face. "You're all so vacant. Is it nice not being me? It must be so relaxing. Rachel is not a name."
"It's a password," said a voice, and Sherlock looked up to see John standing by Jennifer Wilson's case, reading the label.
Sherlock felt something hot and glorious flare in his stomach as he smiled and pointed at John. He sat down at the desk where his computer notebook was sitting. "Quickly, John," he said, and John read him Jennifer Wilson's e-mail address while everyone looked between them, baffled. "Her smartphone is e-mail enabled," continued Sherlock as he typed the address into Mephone's user name box. "Her e-mail address is the user name and her password is…"
"Rachel," finished John, coming to stand beside him.
"Thank God I don't have to explain this to all of you," said Sherlock as he waited for the webpage to load. "Come on. Come on come on come on!"
"So what?" said Anderson from the kitchen. "We'll be able to read her messages."
"Anderson," said Sherlock exasperatedly. "Don't talk out loud. You lower the I.Q. of the whole street. We can do much more than check her e-mail. It's a smartphone, it's got GPS, which means if you lose it you can locate it online. She's leading us directly to the man who killed her."
"Unless he got rid of it," said Lestrade.
John shook his head. "We know he didn't." He glanced over at the DI. "We texted him earlier, and he called back."
Sherlock jumped up and began pacing as the computer tried to locate Jennifer Wilson's mobile through GPS. "We won't have long before the phone dies," he said to no one in particular before turning toward Lestrade. "This is going to be big, Lestrade. We'll need cars and helicopters and – "
"Sherlock," interrupted Mrs. Hudson. "Sherlock, this taxi driver, he –"
Sherlock groaned in frustration. "Mrs. Hudson, isn't it time for your evening soothers?"
John's voice was quiet and lilting, but it cut through the quicksilver chaos of Sherlock's mind like the drugs used to and he stilled immediately. His eyes found John and he knew immediately by his stance (tense, flexed arms and thighs, as if about to spring into action) and his face (worried, frown lines, eyebrows drawn together) that something was not right.
"John?" he asked.
"The phone is here, Sherlock," he said, pointing at the computer. "In two two one B."
Sherlock reached the computer and John in two strides and bent to look at the screen. "Here?" he asked. "No that can't be right. How could I have missed it? Me?"
He kept talking. Lestrade ordered everyone to search for a mobile phone. But Sherlock's eyes darted up to John's and then over to where Mrs. Hudson was wringing her hands by the door, an elderly gent in a jumper vest behind her. He was wearing an identification card around his neck that licensed him as a London cabbie. Sherlock noted the exact moment – by the slight widening of John's eyes – that the doctor figured it out.
Who do we trust, even though we don't know them?
Who passes unnoticed wherever they go?
Who hunts in the middle of a crowd?
The man behind Mrs. Hudson pulled a pink phone out of his pocket and pressed a few keys. A moment later, Sherlock received a text. The man turned away and headed back down the stairs. Sherlock checked his phone.
COME WITH ME.
Everyone in the flat was busy searching for the missing mobile. The only one paying attention was John. Sherlock showed John the text. John looked from him to his mobile and back again. He minutely shook his head. Sherlock shrugged as if to say, I have to. I have to know.
They had a silent conversation, the two of them, there in the busyness of the flat. And when Sherlock walked out without saying a word, no one even noticed him go. No one but John.
John knew he didn't have much time. He didn't think that Sherlock actually wanted to die, but he did know that his burning curiosity, his desire to know how the killer cabbie had made those people commit suicide, would be too much. Sherlock would talk to him. The taxi driver would try to convince Sherlock to kill himself. And John was running short on time. He had to get Lestrade and the others out of here.
He glanced around the flat and pursed his lips. Anderson was still tearing apart the kitchen. Lestrade was pacing, telling everyone else to look for the missing mobile. Donovan was standing close by looking murderous.
And then John knew what he needed to do. If he created just enough discord in the ranks, the problem would likely take care of itself. He took his own phone in hand and dialed the number for Jennifer Wilson's mobile. He glanced at Donovan. "Sherlock's gone. He just got into a cab and drove away."
Her lip curled up at the corner. "I told you he does that."
Lestrade stopped pacing and looked over.
John lifted the phone away from his ear. "I tried ringing Jennifer Wilson's mobile again, but no one answered."
Lestrade appeared puzzled. "Well, if no one has answered then it isn't here," he said.
Donovan snorted loudly and crossed her arms under her chest. "This is just a waste of time. A waste of all of our time."
For a long, agonizing moment, Lestrade and Donovan glared at one another. Finally, Lestrade nodded. "Alright. We're done here!" he said loudly, and the rest of his team stopped searching. They were all out of the flat within twenty minutes. Lestrade was the last to leave. He stopped at the top of the stairs and looked at John before going down.
"Why'd he do it, Doctor Watson?" he asked. "Why'd he have to leave?"
John half-smiled and shrugged. "You know him better than I do."
Lestrade laughed hollowly. "I've known Sherlock Holmes for five years and no, I don't."
"Why do you put up with him, then?" asked John.
"Because I'm desperate, that's why," answered Lestrade with a slightly more genuine, though no less sad, smile. "And because Sherlock Holmes is a great man, and one day, if we're very, very lucky, he might even be a good one."
As soon as he was out the door, John turned back to the GPS tracker that was attempting to locate Jennifer Wilson's mobile. John knew that the taxi driver had it, and Sherlock was with the taxi driver. If he found the phone, he would find Sherlock. It took several minutes, but finally the tracker started beeping, and John scooped up the notebook and took it with him as he dashed downstairs and out of the flat. He hailed the first cab he saw and jumped in.
"Roland-Kerr College, please," he told the driver, who looked at him in the mirror.
"A little late for that, isn't it?"
John smiled warmly. "My brother is on the janitorial staff there. I told him I would meet him so we can go out for his birthday dinner tonight."
The taxi driver probably hadn't actually cared why John was going to Roland-Kerr so late at night, but John could tell by the relaxing of his eyes that the reason given was sufficient. The rest of the ride passed in silence. John knew that it didn't take a long time, but every second, every minute seemed to pass in slow motion. Time crawled.
Eventually they made it. There were two identical buildings side by side. John paid the taxi driver, told him he wouldn't need a return ride, and ran for the building on the right. The GPS map was precise, but not that precise. He had to move. The front doors were open. The building was silent and empty. John ran through the corridors, checking doors and windows.
"Sherlock!" he yelled as he ran.
His own echoing voice was his only answer.
He ran, his footsteps loud in the silence, and tried every door as he ran. When he finally found an unlocked door, the force of his weight against it sent him reeling into the empty classroom. He caught himself from falling by grabbing a table and when he steadied himself and looked up, he had a perfect view out the window of the building across the courtyard and into a classroom that was identical to the one he was currently standing in.
Sherlock was in the other classroom, next to an elderly man who looked completely average in every way. Except that both of them were holding something, something small since John couldn't quite see it from this distance. Something small that they were both raising toward their mouths.
"SHERLOCK!" John screamed, because in that moment he understood.
There were two pills. And the murderer took one as well. It was all chance. And Sherlock wouldn't be able to resist.
John watched as the pill moved slowly closer and closer toward Sherlock's bowed lips. He waited, waited until he thought that Sherlock's life was actually in danger, and then he took his Browning from the back of his trousers, aimed through the window, released the safety, and fired. The taxi driver went down immediately. John wasn't surprised. He had aimed for his heart. John dropped to the floor as Sherlock spun around, looking through the window for the shooter. He crawled out of the classroom, dialing Scotland Yard as he went.
"I need to speak to Detective Inspector Lestrade, please," John said, as calmly as he could. "It's an emergency."
"Who's phoning?" asked the woman on the other end of the line.
"Doctor John Watson."
John had made it outside by the time he finally got Lestrade on the phone.
"Sherlock's at Roland-Kerr College," he told the Detective Inspector. "The GPS tracker located the phone. I'm positive that the murderer is there with him. I'm on my way now."
"Okay," said Lestrade. "I'm on my way out the door. I'll bring the whole team. Don't do anything stupid, John."
"See you soon," said John, and disconnected the call.
The police were really quite quick when they needed to be. In no time at all Lestrade had arrived, followed by a fleet of officers and an ambulance. John knew that last one wouldn't matter so much. He would be shocked if they found the cabbie still alive. His aim had been to kill.
John watched closely as Lestrade and a couple of other officers retrieved Sherlock from the building, while still more officers flew in to roll out the dead man. Sherlock looked fine. No worse than usual. Tall and pale with his coat and his scarf and his dark shock of hair. His face looked particularly angular in the misty light caused by the police car headlights. His cheekbones were dark slashes of shadow beneath pale, otherworldly eyes. But he was alive. Lestrade led him to the back of the ambulance where a medic placed an orange blanket around his shoulders. For a moment Sherlock didn't notice. His long fingers pulled absently at the corners of the blanket. Then he realized what it was and took it off, looked at it strangely and set it aside. Less than a minute later it was replaced by another orange blanket.
John swallowed his laughter and put a hand to his lips.
"Hello, Doctor Watson," said a voice behind him, and John turned.
"Sally," he said, and his voice emerged too fast, the way a panicking, nervous man would speak. It was what Donovan expected to hear. "What's happened? Is Sherlock alright?"
She began to explain about the taxi driver and the two pills. John nodded and murmured and gasped in all the right places, and even exclaimed, "But who? Did you catch him?" when she got to the bit about the mysterious shooter from the other building. He kept an eye on Sherlock as she spoke, watched when Lestrade started talking to him, watched as Sherlock began to deduce who the shooter might have been. Sherlock's eyes shot through the crowd, looking for no one in particular, but froze when they reached John. They maintained eye contact for less than two seconds and in a minute more Sherlock was shrugging off yet another orange blanket and Lestrade, waving him away, and making his way quickly toward John.
John turned to thank Sally for her explanation, only to see that she'd gone.
Sherlock lifted the police tape and stood in front of John, tall and thin and implacable. John was only just beginning to grasp the beauty of Sherlock's mind. He was sure there was much still to learn. But what he understood, as Sherlock stood there looking at him, was that Sherlock's undivided, genuine, full attention and focus was a thing so beautiful it actually made John's stomach clench. Sherlock looked at him as if there was no one else to look at. As if he could glance away, see all of these people around them, and still really be looking at no one but John.
"Um," said John suddenly, because he was sure he might burst into flames under those eyes. "Sergeant Donovan's just been explaining everything to me. Two pills, then. Dreadful business. Truly dreadful."
Sherlock just looked at him. "Good shot."
He hadn't actually thought he'd be able to hide anything from Sherlock. Of course he hadn't. But it was fun to try. "Yes," he said. "Yes, must've been, through that window."
Sherlock's lips quirked. "Well, you'd know."
John finally cracked a smile and shrugged helplessly, as if to say, you didn't leave me much choice.
"Need to get the powder burns off your fingers," Sherlock murmured, briefly taking John's hands in his own and looking at them. "I don't imagine you'd go to prison, but let's avoid the court case, shall we?"
John was still smiling. That seemed to bother Sherlock more than anything.
"Are you all right?"
John blinked. "Yes, of course I'm all right."
"Well you have just killed a man," said Sherlock.
John blinked again. "Yes. I suppose that's true, isn't it?"
Sherlock was watching him very carefully. Too carefully.
"But he wasn't a very nice man, was he?" asked John, and he was relieved to see that this put Sherlock more at ease.
"No," Sherlock agreed. "He wasn't really, was he?"
"And frankly a bloody awful cabbie," said John, and was gratified when Sherlock smiled. Actually smiled. And then chuckled.
"That's true," Sherlock said. "He was a bad cabbie. You should've seen the route he took to get us here."
The giggles burst out of John before he could stop them, and then part of his brain was euphoric, another part, the clinical, calm, controlled part, was analyzing his body for signs of shock. Was uncontrollable giggling after a traumatic event a sign of shock?
But John knew he wasn't in shock. Sherlock just made him… giddy. Like he was a boy again. Not a washed out twenty-eight year old war veteran.
Donovan looked at them strangely as they passed back under the police tape to escape the crime scene. John apologized hastily, and even Sherlock threw her a quick and half-convincing "Sorry."
Once they were a good distance away, John glanced up at Sherlock. "You were going to take that damned pill, weren't you?"
"Course I wasn't," said Sherlock instantly. "Biding my time. Knew you'd turn up."
"No you didn't," said John. "This is how you get your kicks, isn't it? Risking your life to prove that you're clever."
Sherlock looked down at him. "Why would I do that?"
John smiled fondly. "Because you're an idiot."
Sherlock glanced away and then back again, the smile on his lips unmistakable now. "Hungry?" he asked.
"Starving," said John.
"There's a good Chinese open 'til two down the end of Baker Street. You can always tell a good Chinese by the bottom third of the door handle."
"That's ridiculous," said John. "You cannot."
"Yes," said Sherlock as he waved his hands animatedly. "I can. I'll show you. It's really quite simple. Boring, almost."
"I can also predict the fortune cookies."
John tried to stop laughing. "No, you can't."
It was pointless arguing with him. And honestly, John wouldn't have been surprised if he could predict the fortunes.
Sherlock did try to guess John's fortune based off his facial and bodily reactions alone, but all he had to go on was a slight tightening around his eyes, raised eyebrows, and the thinning of his mouth. Not a good fortune, then. Probably something that reminded him of his alcoholic sister or his time in Iraq. The appropriate thing to do here would be to let it go, to not guess the fortune, to let John have his moment and bring up a different topic of conversation. But Sherlock's curiosity had never been so lenient. It ate away at him in a way that was almost painful, like a scavenger over a carcass.
"It's about your past," he said quietly, only half of his own volition.
John's head was lowered but he peeked up quickly, a dark glance through light eyelashes. A small smile curled around his lips as he brought his head up fully, and he huffed slightly as he stared at Sherlock. "You really are amazing," he said, and handed the little slip of paper across the table.
Sherlock's fingers took it, again without his permission, and he didn't intend to look down, he intended John to have his privacy, but his eyes darted over the words anyway.
'Your Past Is Only What You Make Of It.'
"Hmmm," said Sherlock as he released the paper. It fluttered above the table for a moment and then landed gently between them.
"You finished?" asked John, nodding toward his plate.
"Yes," said Sherlock without even looking down.
They dropped a handful of notes on the table and left, walking side by side down a very quiet and dark Baker Street.
"I need a taxi," said John, and Sherlock saw the slight shiver go through him at those words.
"Why?" asked Sherlock.
"All of my things are still at the bedsit, Sherlock," said John. "I don't have any clothes or my toothbrush or anything."
Sherlock shrugged. Unconcerned. "No matter. Borrow some of my clothes tonight. You can go in the morning to pack up."
John looked him up and down and Sherlock resisted the urge to shiver himself. "I definitely won't fit into any of your clothes," said John, grudgingly.
"You will in the ones from my childhood," said Sherlock simply.
John reached over and shoved him, hard, directly in the side, and Sherlock surely had underestimated the force in his wiry, thin arms because he sidestepped and almost tripped and caught himself only by spinning in a little circle and then looking at John with a raised eyebrow as if he had meant to do all of that anyway.
John was smiling. "Just this once," he said, and yawned widely. "I'm knackered."
Two two one B was still and silent, and John and Sherlock moved up the stairs quietly, so as not to wake Mrs. Hudson. Their flat looked awful. Sherlock's things were strewn about and he had to contain his anger at Lestrade for doing this, for coming in and making a mockery of his home and his science and his past regrettable habits.
John touched his arm lightly.
"Tea before bed?" he asked, and then moved toward the kitchen without waiting for an answer.
Sherlock's arm felt both tingly and numb where John had touched him. His stomach felt warm but he knew his skin was cold from the night air. He took off his coat and jacket and scarf as John bustled about the kitchen, opening cupboards looking for mugs and tea and setting the kettle on the stove. Sherlock leaned against the wall and watched him and wondered at the strangeness of this, of how quickly he had come to think of this as their flat and how it was strange simply by not feeling strange.
"John," he said, quietly, and then stopped to think for a moment as John looked over. "That thing you did, with the cabbie, that was good."
"You mean killing him?" asked John, turning around fully and leveling Sherlock with a dark gaze.
"Yes," said Sherlock, simply and without wincing, because John had killed him, and that's all there was to it.
John nodded. "Yes, well, he was going to kill you."
And that answer was so plain, so true, that Sherlock rocked forward on the balls of his feet and felt the tingle in his arms spread down his body and into his legs. "No," he said. "No, he wasn't, I was going to –"
"Don't you dare finish that sentence," John's voice cut in, quick and harsh. "He was going to kill you, Sherlock, no two ways about it. He was playing to all of your weaknesses. Don't interrupt! Yes, you have weaknesses just like everyone else. He knew he had to get you so curious as to become careless. You were going to take that pill just to see if you were right."
"I was right," said Sherlock.
"Maybe," said John. "Maybe. But it was luck. Chance. And you could've been wrong."
Sherlock knew that John wanted something from him. John, who was small and thin and had been in a war, who had been shot in the desert (in the shoulder. The left one) and had killed a man, tonight, just to save the life of another man who he had known for little more than a day.
"I could've been wrong," Sherlock agreed, though the words tasted bad leaving his mouth and though he knew these next words would taste bad too. But he had to ask. "John. Why did you kill him? You're obviously a crack-shot. You could've hit him anywhere. But you didn't."
John crossed his arms defensively and frowned at Sherlock. "He murdered four people, Sherlock. He was about to get a fifth. And you… you're too important. If I had shot him in the arm, or the shoulder, he might have been able to convince you to take that bloody pill anyway." John shook his head angrily. "My aim was to kill. I killed him. It's over. It's done. You're alive, and for that I. Am. Not. Sorry." He shook his head again. "The past is only what you make of it," he quoted, quietly.
And Sherlock stopped breathing because he had been wrong, he had been convinced, he had been sure that John was thinking about his sister or his war wound when he read the fortune. But he had been thinking of the man he just killed. Of the guilt for doing it, and of the guilt for not being sorry enough. And he wondered if this was how it was going to be between them, this dance that kept Sherlock up up up on his toes because John was not normal. He was surprising. And he thought things that Sherlock couldn't guess and he was motivated by things that Sherlock couldn't understand and it was beautiful.
Sherlock moved forward silently and John watched him come.
"John," said Sherlock. "I'd like to try something, now."
John looked up at him and Sherlock leaned down, just slightly, and let his eyes flicker across John's lips.
"Like an experiment?" asked John.
"Mmmmm," hummed Sherlock.
"You don't have to ask," said John, whose eyes had fallen to Sherlock's lips as well, and that was really all Sherlock needed to hear.
He moved his hands behind John's neck and up into his blond hair and leaned down and brought their lips together. And it was different than he expected. Because Sherlock almost always attacked things, ferociously, as if to conquer with his whole body and the entirety of his mind. But now he let his lips just sort of ghost over John's, like they were asking, seeking permission, and it felt more violent than anything he had ever done. Because he couldn't breathe. And his stomach hurt.
Once, as a child, Sherlock had been punched in the stomach. It was at school, and Robbie Witherton had been making fun of him again for knowing just one too many answers. And Sherlock had never said anything to him before. But for some reason, on that particular day, he turned round and told Robbie that he was just a jealous nutter, and that it wasn't Sherlock's fault that his mother didn't love him, and that his father ignored him, and then Robbie's fist had slammed so hard into Sherlock's stomach that he fell over and his vision swam with black stars. He hadn't been able to breathe.
That was what kissing John felt like. It felt like he'd been punched in the stomach. He couldn't breathe and his lips sought something, something that he couldn't find until John opened his mouth, just slightly, and then he could breathe again. John's air became his air. John's pain became his pain. He was holding John's head too tightly, and John had curled one arm around his back and had laid the other, palm flat over his heart. And they stumbled sideways and backwards through the kitchen, bumping into the table once, until Sherlock fell heavily onto the couch and John stood over him panting and Sherlock reached up and tugged on his arm (the right one, not the left) and John fell in a tangle of arms and legs onto the couch next to Sherlock and the angle was awkward but they were impatient, much too impatient to adjust anything.
And Sherlock's mind went completely and blessedly blank. He kissed John first slow and gentle, and then hard and fast, because he needed to breathe and he needed John's air. They sat slipping kisses back and forth, exchanging breaths, like it was vital to them. The flat was quiet. The sounds were those of tongues and lips and teeth. And hands rustling clothing. And breathy, almost non-existent moans.
This will ruin me, was the only thought that entered Sherlock's mind.
Because he could feel himself beginning to crave John like he had craved cocaine, and then heroin, and then a cocktail of things that had made the chaos manageable. He could feel himself slipping into that space where this would become necessary and he worried that John couldn't handle it, that it would scare him away, that this side of Sherlock would be too much.
But then John bit his lip gently, and sucked lightly on his tongue, and the last of those thoughts flew away as John's hands gripped his shoulders and his hair and pulled and oh that was good, that was exquisite, and he didn't think anymore. Couldn't have even if he'd tried.
When his brother and John Watson fell onto the couch in a not-so-innocent heap of limbs, Mycroft Holmes frowned, turned off the live-feed on his computer, and shut down his laptop.
"Turning in?" asked Anthea from the corner. She was sitting in a wingback chair staring at him and her BlackBerry was nowhere in sight.
"Yes," said Mycroft. He leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes and rubbed his temples absently. "Interesting, that soldier fellow. He could be the making of my brother – or make him worse than ever. Either way, we'll have to upgrade their surveillance status. Grade Three Active."
"Sorry, sir," said Anthea politely. "Whose status?"
She knew very well whose status. But she liked her little games, and Mycroft liked letting her play them.
He smiled. "Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson."