Sherlock is just about to delve into the second movement of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata. He sways slightly from where he stands in front of the window of 221 B Baker street, features illuminated by the pale, apologetic sort of rain that drizzles in a muffled drone from outside. Other than the distant sounds of central London carrying on with its never-ending thrum of restless energy, his violin is the only thing that can be heard in the early silence of the flat. The notes bend and cascade richly about him like folds of shimmering silk, enveloping the darkly-curled detective as he tilts his head to the tune, eyes closed as his fingers effortlessly weave along the neck of his instrument. A picturesque scene, even if Sherlock is clothed in only his ratty blue dressing gown and a pair of old sweats. Even if his hair isn't neatly combed, instead splaying haphazardly about his ears and yet still managing somehow to glow with a healthy sheen. His eyes still manage to flash a brilliant, cutting blue and his lips are slightly down-turned from concentration, and yet aren't softened at all by the stubble lining his jaw in a dark shadow.
Despite the fact that he should look rather homeless and scruffy, Sherlock Holmes manages to look effervescent and aloof from the rest of the world as he tunes reality out, lost in the depths of his mind as he continues to play.
As he had been doing for more than three weeks with little to no breaks.
At least when he isn't sulking. ("BORED John!")
Or complaining about eating. ("It's just transport...")
Or belittling Lestrade's texts and bemoaning the lack of cases in London ("Honestly, there should be laws that state an interesting murder must take place at least three times a month!")
Perhaps this is why John finds himself ready to smash that stupid violin right over the man's head.
It has been one of those weeks unfortunately.
When he wakes yet again to the sound of classical composition weaving its way up to his bedroom, he sighs and burrows deeper under the expanse of his sheets, hoping against hope that Mrs. Hudson isn't going to lecture him over this later on in the day. He doesn't think that he stands a very good chance though, as he knows that their elderly landlady tended to think of him as Sherlock's partner (which was true) and also his leash (less true). In truth, since their relationship had tentatively started most of the police force look to him like he is some kind of magical wizard, designed specifically to cow Sherlock into some form of good behaviour. The thought of anything, man or beast actually attempting to will Sherlock Holmes into submission makes him snort under his breath, burying his head under the cushions of his bed.
The fact is, most of the time John can't tell whether or not he's leading, or being lead.
He's not sure he minds either way, mind.
He just wishes on days like these that line was more clear-cut.
A fence instead of a sheet of glass.
Groaning, John Watson forces himself to rise, if only to ensure that he get up before noon so that Sherlock wouldn't completely destroy the flat out of a fit of manic restlessness. Shrugging on a light grey pair of flannel bottoms over the bright red pants he wears when he sleeps, he pads silently down the curving staircase.
Breakfast is usually a source of contention for both the detective as well as the doctor.
It is often laced with the scent of orange pekoe tea, the smell of gunpowder, and the sound of horrible violin screeches all building into a roaring cacophony of chaos. Strangely enough, that chemical concoction has become a source of familiarity for John. Something normal and if not sane at least reliable. He knows then that Sherlock is reaching his limit on his capacity for handling boredom when instead he is hit by the sharp tang of unresolved energy, and the underlying scent of formaldehyde thicker than cologne.
John's eyes narrow in suspicion.
In the living room, Sherlock's violin playing carries on, the tune suspiciously light and innocent given the fact that the detective's been playing nothing but sad Beethoven and angry snippets of Für Elise for the past couple of weeks.
The doctor braces himself before stalking over to the fridge, hand reaching out for the cool metal handle and resting on it in pause. He debates with himself for a moment, already half-suspicious of what he'll find if he chooses to move forward. On the one hand, he's fairly certain he can feel Sherlock's gaze boring a hole into the back of his neck, testing to see what he'll do. On the other, John can hear his stomach already grumbling for something to eat, urging him to ignore his suspicions and carry on, to hell with what he might find. Both sides are equally powerful, and for a moment the doctor considers just turning around and joining his partner in the living room. Perhaps; he reasoned, he could just ride today out and some lovely serial killer would show up tomorrow, effectively ending this long dry cycle that has Sherlock climbing up the walls both metaphorically and at times, literally (that is one experiment John never wants to repeat).
However, the army doctor is aware of the fact that if he is already dreading the idea of what he might find when he opens the fridge door, then chances are he will despise what he finds even more later on.
He knows that he's going to have to face it.
Taking a deep and patient breath, John sets his shoulders and tugs. The magnetic seal of the fridge makes a brief sticking noise, and then John is assaulted with a smell so strong that he gags and has to blink fiercely to keep tears from blurring his vision.
For a moment he gapes, the final straw breaking as he takes in what in hindsight shouldn't be a big deal, but is given light of recent events.
There is a liver in the fridge.
It sits innocently next to the bread and milk, its container covered only with a thin layer of plastic wrap.
It sits on the food shelf.
Not the experiment shelf (which was the bottom one and filled already to the brim) but the middle food shelf, right next to the bread he has just bought the night before and Christ right next to his bloody jam I'll murder the bastard-
John has to close his eyes, feeling the last of his patience wearing away into oblivion. His voice is coiled and tight as he growls out into the sudden silence (Sherlock has stopped playing his violin).
"What is this?"
Sherlock looks at him carefully, lowering his bow so that it rests on one shoulder. His blue-green eyes are calculatingly blank as they track the bustle of outside, turning from John's accusing glance to the drumming monotony of central London. His tone is flat and bored, as if everything is unbelievably slow and useless. Dripping with dramatic hopelessness as if to try and convey just how dreadfully dull the rest of humanity is compared to his massive intellect.
"It's an experiment. As a doctor, I'd expect you to recognize it. Liver, Advanced cirrhosis - you may want to show it to Harry. Might give her an idea of what she's doing to herself."
He turns as if to resume his playing, but stops as John slams the fridge door shut and pinches the bridge of his nose in frustration. The doctor can feel a breaking point coming on, and it is simmering dangerously close to the forefront of his emotions. He struggles to keep his voice down, though it rises anyway in exasperation as he steps into the living room.
"I KNOW what it is. I want to know why it's on the FOOD shelf. We've had this discussion. No body parts or experiments."
Sherlock looks at him perplexedly, as if John is a child that is throwing a temper-tantrum for some indiscernible or foolish reason. He brushes an errant curl out of his face as he speaks, eyes wide and seemingly unsure about his partner's obvious distress. It seems the detective truly has been distant as of late, as he whines plaintively like a cat that has been left outside in the rain by its owners.
"The experiment shelf is full. The thumbs took up more space than I'd expected."
He shrugs one shoulder, as if such a statement explains everything before he lies his violin back in his case, pulling down his sleeves with a critical eye and buttoning the cuffs (he's up to three patches. Not a good sign).
Some of John's anger fades when he sees just how incredibly depressed Sherlock seems as he rubs at his eyes tiredly with pale fingers, scrubbing a hand over his sharp features as if he was trying to will them into softness. When he looks at John again it's apparent that he's perhaps not firing at full cylinders any more, the stress of boredom literally eating away at the detective's brain and turning him into the strangely manic animal he devolves into when things get boring. Something between an alley cat and a venomous snake.
He suddenly slumps towards John in a startling impression of a koala bear, wrapping his arms around the shorter army doctor and trying to distract him from his annoyance by ghosting soft kisses along the side of his neck. His breath is warm and sweet, and it tickles the fine hairs at the tip of the doctor's spine.
It doesn't work.
Although part of John warms and turns into the equivalent of strawberry Jell-O by the obvious effort Sherlock's making. He tries to be both understanding and firm as he pulls the detective gently along until they're both curled up in John's favourite chair, Sherlock's legs awkwardly folded up so that he's almost but not quite sitting in John's lap. The detective huffs a little, chafing at the domesticity of it all, but the doctor refuses to let him wriggle out of it and just tightens his embrace.
"Logically - and you do understand logic - that means you need to get rid of something from the experiment shelf."
John murmurs against Sherlock's neck, smiling a hidden smile even as he voices his very serious complaint. He wants to make sure the detective understands he's fed up with this long streak of sulking, but truthfully John's not so sure that Sherlock can entirely help it. Even now he can taste the unwritten tension along his partner's spine, feel the knots that are coiled in the small of his back. A part of the doctor wants to turn Sherlock over, use his hands to work the kinks out of the man's neck until he is pliant and relaxed. However, he knows the detective will not appreciate the attempt with the mood he's in at the moment. As it is, he's pushing it with the cuddling, even if Sherlock is the one who had initiated it in the first place.
"I'm not finished with them!"
His partner bemoans, flailing in such a way that John has to be careful not to get his side jabbed by an elbow or knee. With a roll of his eyes, he releases Sherlock to avoid being impaled by him and lets him rather unceremoniously roll onto the floor. The detective does not expecting the doctor's hold on him to stop so dramatically, he tumbles rather fantastically arse over heels.
Lying on the hardwood Sherlock huffs, scowling venomously as John calmly steps over his skinny frame, making his way to the kitchen where the kettle is starting to shriek. He's used to the sulking nature in which Sherlock refuses to get off the floor, but he calls over his shoulder a mild warning, showing that he's not cowed by the detective's stormy rage. He meets his partner's brooding expression unflinchingly.
"I don't care if you are done with them. If you don't get rid of them, I will. And I won't care what I bin."
The look of horror on Sherlock's face nearly makes the soldier laugh, but he maintains his steady glare. The tea is hot and ready as he pours it into two mugs, opting to put a little bit of sugar into Sherlock's, hoping against hope that it will improve his mood. As he carries both cups back to the living room, the detective has managed to splay himself across the length of the living room, his hands tucked under his chin in typical Holmesian fashion as he stares intensely at the ceiling. His eyes are twin smouldering cinders, alight with a brain that is currently trying to smoke itself out into a heaving mess of thought-vomit. His fingers begin to twitch, and with a sigh John grabs the skull off the mantelpiece and places it in Sherlock's hands. The detective cups it protectively under his chin, like a dragon hoarding his treasure. His tone turns contemplative as he eyes his doctor seating himself back in his chair. Almost grudgingly curious.
"Do you think that if I were to somehow convince you to rob a bank, that you could make an interesting enough case that I wouldn't feel so compelled to set fire to the flat?"
John smiles good-naturedly, sipping his tea even as he imagines Lestrade's reaction to that kind of question. It probably involve a lot of head-shaking. Or possibly handcuffs and a walk down to the Yard.
"Though arson is fun in the moment, you'd be complaining that we'd be homeless within an hour. And besides, if you managed to get me to rob a bank, then you'd know who the culprit was already."
His partner scowls mournfully, looking at the skull as if it holds all of life's answers. There is an innocence about Sherlock when he's like this, something childlike and petulant. He pouts.
"Not necessarily. If you make it interesting you could convince others to join, and make a bank-robbing smuggling ring."
"Sherlock, I will only say this once: I will not rob a bank to alleviate your boredom."
John diplomatically continues to sip his tea even as the detective's manic glint in his eyes becomes ashy and sullen. He tosses the skull across the room, listening to the satisfying THUNK it makes as it rattles against the wall. He presses the heels of his hands against his eyes and groans, the sound guttural and pathetic.
John notes that dark circles ring the detective's eyes. He frowns, setting his cup in its saucer before leaning forward slightly and clasping his hands together in thought.
"When was the last time you slept?"
"When was the last time you did something that wasn't dull?!"
Sherlock's waspish quip spoke volumes alone, and the detective knows it from the way his jaw snaps shut as soon as he speaks and his lips tighten into a mulish line of unrepentant scorn. John resists the urge to snap back and instead bats the detective's hand away when he lunges for his cup of tea, shaking his head as he stands and grabs his own now-empty mug.
"Right. Didn't realize how strung out you already were. No caffeine, I'll make a cup of green or peppermint, if you want it."
Sherlock mutters something that sounds vaguely offensive, rolling onto his stomach and burying his head in his elbows. He does his best to refuse to look at John even when his partner is crouched in front of him, gripping his arms in an attempt to get him moving into an upright position.
"Come on you daft git, I've had about enough of this." He grunts as he tugs the limp detective over so that his back is leaning on the couch, stepping behind him until John is seated on the cushions, hands on Sherlock's shoulders. The detective dutifully ignores him, opting instead to stare at his toes as they flex restlessly against the hardwood floor. Curling and uncurling, they look like cat's paws.
John tentatively cups a palm to the nape of Sherlock's neck, thumb moving soothing, methodical circles at the base of his spine that just peeks out of the collar of his blue bathrobe. A soft, unwilling sound of pleasure makes its way from his partner's clenched teeth, the detective's head lolling back slightly and dark curls bouncing as they brush John's hand. The soldier chuckles at his partner's reluctant happiness, coaxing another small noise by pressing a light kiss to the crown of his forehead.
"See? All it takes is a little bit of work and you can be a thousand times more civil than you've been the past week."
"Less fun this way." Sherlock smirks, his smile turning into an unabashed groan of relief as John's hands swiftly loosen every single kink and knot that's wound its way around the detective's neck. He shudders delightfully as John's breath ghosts the back of his spine, mind and body suddenly and forcefully interested in the promise of possible distraction. However John seems to sense this and draws away, tutting softly and shaking his head. He opts for running talented fingers through his partner's jet-black curls.
"Not now, love. You've been running yourself into the ground, and right now I really need you to get some sleep. Otherwise I'm going to come home to you shooting holes in the wall again, and poor Mrs. Hudson will rightfully kick us out on our asses."
Sherlock rolls his eyes. He very much doubts it to be honest. The sweet old landlady and he had been good friends for years, and though he'd never admit it out loud, Mrs. Hudson was more of a Mother to him than "Mummy Holmes" had ever been. No, she wouldn't kick them out, because much like England would fall without the kind landlady's presence, 221 B would suffer without John and Sherlock.
No space to separate those two names.
It's strange, what his brain chooses to focus on in the most impractical times. He looks up into John's eyes, twin points holding him to Earth when all he felt like doing was floating away. Chains that instead of binding, helped him stay connected to reality.
"I can't sleep. Not like this. Not when there's so much information spinning in my head at a hundred miles per hour. John, you don't understand how difficult it is to dream when you close your eyes and see exactly what your neighbours are doing based on the state of their wedding rings, or when you roll over and feel by the texture of the sheets that your partner has changed the laundry detergent three times over the past month. I cannot sleep because every waking second my mind is looking for new things to analyse, new things to take into consideration. When it's starved it begins to eat at itself, and there is no defence but to find something more interesting to do."
He clicks the sound of the do sharply, somehow managing to put all of his frustration in that one word and displaying it for his partner to see. John bites his lip, concern beginning to truly flicker on his face. Sherlock's not usually open about what it's like inside of his head. He gloats, sure, but he rarely complains with such a bitterness that it drips on his tongue like sugared molasses.
Suddenly, John recalls the moods his older sister would sometimes get in when they were teenagers. Their parents had not been particularly "caring" when it came to Harry's sometimes chaotic emotions, and did not understand her way of thinking. Much like Sherlock, she often was prone to bouts of sulking and yet also bouts of extreme energy, and had often complained of boredom. Though she wasn't and isn't on Sherlock's level of intelligence, John wonders if the same trick might work from when they were kids. Slowly he leans back, carefully manoeuvring off of the couch to look for the object he sought. The detective makes a faint noise of protest, but John is soon back, bearing an unfamiliar tome in one hand. The cover is deep green, the spine laced with a golden border. When the soldier seats himself back down in his chair, he opens it so that Sherlock can see the title of the book:
"I don't think I'm a very good reader... but Harry used to say... She used to say it helped sometimes. When I read to her. I can read to you if you want... If you think it might do something..."
The detective doesn't think it will, but John's face is sad and wanting to please. Sherlock knows that it hurts his partner when he's like this, and a part of him wishes desperately he could fix himself somehow. Make it better.
Sherlock Holmes doesn't have the heart to turn John away, at least not for trying.
When he doesn't respond, John takes it as his cue to begin.
"I like this dragon fellow, pity he'll die in the end..."
"I thought you said you hadn't read it?"
"I haven't, but it's obvious John. The villains in these kinds of tales never win."
"I never really thought of Smaug as a villain..."
Sherlock smiles. It's a wide glow of teeth in the late evening. They've spent the whole day reading.
"That's because you look for the goodness inside even the most terrifying creatures."
John looks up at him and snorts.
"You still have to clean up the liver in the fridge, Smaug."